Club Smith
Alan Smith joins the club

Club Smith – The Loss EP
Opener “Lament” is a soaring hook laden clone of every other anthemic indie tune, the kind belted out to adoring fans by Snow Patrol et al every year. The second track, “Courtyard” is much better in that it actually has some individuality attached. And therefore, it’s less likely to be successful. This is the world we live in. It’s understated and gently charming, adding synths to the mix rather than relying on simple chord structures as the opener does. The third track, “Connected” is somewhere in between and the best yet. It has a big sing-along chorus, but doesn’t drift into sickly lighters-in-the-air territory. It’s very close in sound to The Sunshine Underground, whom they have recently supported.

The dark edge displayed here, “I haven’t got an axe to grind, just a razor in my pocket”, is the most intriguing aspect of this release, and I hope they have a secret desire to head in this more Interpol direction than sticking to inventionless Killers happiness. “No Friend Of Mine” is the being-a-bit-dancey track, but has the unpleasant whiff of Kasabian about it. Whilst it is good to showcase a variety of sounds, this final track is a step too far. Every indie band going seems to think that they need to go a bit dance to succeed at the moment, here’s hoping that trend dies out in the coming months and I can once more wallow in miserablism.

Hexicon – Something Strange Beneath The Stars

“For fans of Camera Obscura, Super Furry Animals, Yo La Tengo and Elliott Smith” apparently. That’s a lot to live up to. And unsurprisingly it doesn’t, but there’s nothing wrong with ambition and those are worthy footsteps to try and follow.

This single does have the upbeat happy element of Camera Obscura, the gentle vocals of SFA, and the quirkiness of Elliott Smith that is so dear to my heart. It’s a daydream in a song, but with more handclaps and French horns than your average daydream. The b-side “Still Here” is truly charming. It’s simple and doesn’t really go anywhere, but it doesn’t need to. It’s just so perfect and relaxing to listen to and proves that less can often be more. It’s the concept of The Thrills, except with significant musical and songwriting ability. From the first track alone, I wasn’t really sure what to make of Hexicon as a band, how much talent they have up their sleeves. But the b-side excites me, and I look forward greatly to hearing more from this band.

The Alfa Binding Theory
From the sublime to the ri-dreary-lous. The mistake here was to think words are the same as a song. This just goes on and on, monotone, without attempting to build up to or execute a chorus. That is other than occasionally an apparent lack of ideas means resorting to repeating “keep ‘em to yourself” over and over again. The second song is the same, but a bit quieter. As is the third. The final track is better, more upbeat and less likely to send the listener to sleep.

But this too, drifts off into nothingness too often. It comes with an explanation spouting such bollocks as saying The Alfa Binding Theory is “predominantly an experience-based collection of notions and concepts that is described more efficiently through sound”. Still reading? Thought not.

Delayed – Cold December
Originally from South Africa, but now relocated to London, Delayed are a punk rock three piece. “Impossible Dream” deals in Offspring chorus harmonies. Currently unsigned and on the hunt for some backing, there is a lot to like about Delayed. Second track “What Do You Know” is more Sum 41, and it’s hard to not like any song with the lyric “what a f*cking arsehole”. Final track “Cold December” showcases the requisite ability of any pop punk band to hit the drums repeatedly and hard. The next step for Delayed is to try to turn their mastering of their influences, and catchy songwriting, and create more of a distinct sound to make them recognisable as Delayed rather than those who inspire them.

The Half Rabbits – From The Horizon To The Map
For some reason the singer seems to think it necessary to imitate Editors when his voice really isn’t the same. It comes across as false, unnecessary and slightly odd. It seems like he’s putting it on, and I wonder whether he’s hiding a more interesting singing voice with greater variety behind the mock-baritone front. The vocal hindrance is a shame, as they’ve put together a well-written and executed debut album here. Their sound seems naturally geared more towards Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins the closer you listen and the more you block out the lyrical style.

A promising act, with a release sadly ruined by the unconvincing vocals. Must try *LESS* harder.

Flies Are Spies From Hell – Red Eyes Unravelling
You’re interested already aren’t you? “Piano-led instrumental post-rock” informs the promo bumf. Not sure anymore are you? Me neither. This is certainly unique, with the gentle piano in the foreground backed by a cacophony of noise that comes and goes. This Chichester band do their best to provide suitable variety within their songs, but fail to do so due to making each song on this seven track album twice as long as necessary.

Although I found the first track “Swimming In Streets” interesting and exciting, and listened carefully, I realised midway through the second I was putting the kettle on and hadn’t been paying attention. Added concentration reveals it’s too samey for my liking. But then I struggle to listen to Mogwai And Godspeed! without zoning out (don’t tell the owner of my musical credentials) so perhaps I’m being too harsh. If you like the aforementioned and reckon you can cope without lyrics then give them a go.

The Active Set – EP
This is rather good – refreshingly free of ego and over-acting. I’ve heard this sprightly bouncing indie rock many times before, but I think they know it and therefore concentrate on making lively happy songs that are fun to listen to, if not exactly memorable. The vocals fall slightly flat at times, especially on third track RNRG, but other tracks show this is evidently a growing pain rather than a fatal illness. Fourth track I’m Not Coming shows they can do gentle and endearing as well. My favourite, fifth track Truth Hurts, is similar in style but somehow darker.

The EP as a whole shows remarkable versatility, a promising sign. Time will tell if they can push on to greater things, but all the parts are here, they just need time, more tunes, and some production money and time spent ironing out the weaknesses.

Alan Smith