Gym Class Heroes
Chris Chinchilla sends another postcard home

Voxtrot - Voxtrot
I think my main problem with this release is its press release, it's almost as if it's describing the wrong band, I find it very hard to hear a lot of the supposed comparisons and descriptions. I know it's the job of a PR to ensure a band sounds good, but this one makes them sound like the best band on the planet. It's a fine album and Voxtrot are a perfectly competent Indie-Rock band, but fairly generic jangly American Indie, the clean type, very sharp, clear and precise, full of carefully constructed and catchy melodies and hooks, the sort that would sound ideal on American College radio, and prove very popular on it, but personally the album floats somewhat into the background after a few tracks, good but not groundbreaking.

Jeff Strong - Jeff Strong
Jeff describe his music as "City and Western" which is the best description for the genre of Americana tinged mellow rock that Jeff Strong purveys, so I'm going to stick with it and probably borrow the phrase, if he doesn't mind. The album is home recorded with a lovely warm and familiar feel, which suits Jeff's, comforting and gentle voice down to the ground. Some tracks are pure Jeff, strumming his acoustic guitar, others feature additional instrumentation, and all ten tracks are calming influences on a crazy modern world.

Tilly and The Wall, Toff in the Town
It's hard to mention Tilly and the Wall without mentioning Tap Dancing, they have no drummer, the tapping of toes and heels on a specially constructed "Tap Board" produces the only percussive rhythm, and generally only one pair of lithe and active ankles is doing all the work. The lack of solid beats reduces the potential drive and danceability of their songs, there are a lot of bad jokes about extraneous drummers, but as the adage goes, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." However the missing skin basher at the back doesn't phase tonight's crowd and after a little encouragement the area in front of the stage is cleared of tables and chairs and a small but gentle group of dancers emerges, resulting in an ordered and well mannered stage invasion towards the end of the set.

Tilly and the Wall's music is aimed squarely at the fey Indie kid, the bullied, struggling against oppression kid, who shyly stands in the corner turning the other cheek, either disappearing into the cracks of society or one day deciding that enough is enough, following their dream and becoming successful. Tilly and The Wall are trying to turn the former into the later; it's just a shame that for the most part their songs are rather bland, they even make a Rage Against the Machine cover (seriously!) sound like Bright Eyes with girls and Tap Dancing.

Because beneath the swearing and the shouting and the rallying calls Tilly and the Wall are a band that America excels at producing, a Coffee House band. A band that sits nicely in the Background without being to intrusive whilst the cast of the OC or Buffy sit around with Cappuccinos or mysterious drinks in coloured plastic cups discussing their emotional and relationship problems. Of course to some people this kind of music is the idea of heaven, and it obviously is to the throng at the front of the stage, to the people in the room mouthing along to every word of every song. A lot of happy, smiling people leave the Toff tonight, it may not be your kind of music but you can't fault artists that have that effect on people.

Institut Polaire - City Walls and Empires
It's always hard to review one track single samplers, especially if you like what you hear and want to hear more! "City Walls and Empires" is a jaunty and radio friendly ditty, the 9 members of the band creating a complex interweaving of melodies and counter melodies, complete with a rousing unison of vocals in the chorus. Radio friendly, upbeat, a good tune, what more could you want from a single?

Ninetynine - Worlds Of Space, Worlds Of Population, Worlds Of Robots
Ninetynine's live show is a stupendous feat of intense musicianship and song writing craft, so how a band takes such a show, commit it to record and lose none of the live buzz is a challenge. "Worlds Of Space, Worlds Of Population, Worlds Of Robots" makes a determined effort, and is twelve tracks of finely constructed, arranged and played songs of epic proportions, some beautiful, some inspiring, some fast and frantic, others slower and brooding. The production of the album lacks some sparkle that would have really brought out the songs in their entirety, Laura MacFarlane's vocal sometimes not quite possessing the punch and clarity they deserve and a general desire for a little more 'oomph'. Slight niggles with production quality aside the band's energy and passion for what they play still shines through, with tracks like "Monster" grabbing you and hurling your ears against the wall and the sincere, heartfelt strains of "At the Backdoor" pulling you into a melancholic world and bringing the slightest tear to your eye. A fine album from a fine band, it sounds cheesy, but it's not just an album, it's an experience.

Gym Class Heroes, Billboard
Gym Class Heroes are perhaps one of the oddest, biggest bundle of contradictions, confusions and concerns you may ever witness in a music venue, which is a bold statement considering how screwed up a lot of Hip Hop generally is. The 'backing band' is a bunch of highly proficient musicians with very decent equipment, which always smacks of 'manufactured' session musicians, despite what the bands biography might tell you. Travis on vocals bounds around the stage attempting to perfect a sort of cutesy little boy lost image, whilst simultaneously churning out lyrics about women and how much he wants to have 'relations' with them. This same desire also applies to the female members of the audience, bearing in mind that most of the audience are under 18, you can't help but feel that encouraging them to all make out with each other (and him) is slightly in bad taste. He also goes out of his way to inform the audience that a song containing the lyrics "Glamorous White Girl" and "Razor" is not about an (rumoured) addiction to Cocaine, but an addiction to music. Frankly the whole set up is all a little perverse, but the kids love the big marketing machine behind the band and aimed squarely at them, infiltrating their media sources and ways of thinking (i.e. MySpace, the band have a song called "Friend Request"), whooping in the right places, dancing throughout and playing along with all the bizarre and vaguely obscene games thrown at them, e.g. "Hands up who's not here with their Boyfriends?" receives a worrying response.

The music is generally in the minor key so prevalent in modern Hip Hop, giving the songs that slightly sinister and ominous feel that again contrasts with the lyrical content, creating yet another concerning contradiction. However the music isn't bad, the songs are funky, tight and live which is a nice novelty in the genre, providing a good solid musical bed for the lyrical tomfoolery and for the kids in their best frocks and oversized tracksuits to shake their booties to, hopefully without quite thinking about why they are.

Eddie Current Suppression Ring, Dead Farmers, Roxanne Parlour

Eddie Current Suppression Ring (Henceforth ECSR or this review will go on for ever) do things their own way. Despite rising to the heady heights of 'buzz band' status, they book their own gigs, promote their own gigs, manage themselves and still find the time to write some damn good material. Roxanne's is packed tonight with a crowd biting at the bit and raring to go, Dead Farmers, resplendent in checked lumberjack shirts (Grunge dead? Never!) don't quite seem to ever get going, stopping and starting and making adjustments to gear and when they're finally getting into the swing of things and the set is beginning to take form and take shape, they have to finish. However the crowd are up for anything that's thrown at them and love it.

After a brief changeover with the room and the crowd bustling ECSR take to the stage with an unceremonious and unassuming manner, just sort of slowly appearing there and starting as opposed to any great entry. No sooner have they emitted the first note of the first song does the crowd starts jumping, dancing, smiling and flying about the room, eventually some security appear, and as usual for venues such as Roxanne's, don't really know what to do apart from stand there and look imposing, but no one cares anyway. Brendan Suppression (vocals) paces the stage in a pair of curious fingerless black gloves, looking almost awkward to be there, Eddy Current on guitar just sort of hovers on stage looking equally out of place thwacking out jangly, garage riffs over Rob Solid's massive bass sound and Danny Current's frantic drumming. It doesn't make any sense, ECSR are a great band, but the music isn't that fast and danceable, at times it's even a little slow, and yet the crowd go wild for the band's entire set, never relenting. The band look somewhat uncomfortable on stage, rarely making eye contact with the crowd and even discouraging them from becoming too raucous, but the crowd is hanging off their every word and action, ready to fly off into a frenzy at any given moment. How do the band do it? Do they even know themselves? ECSR are a band for the rejects and the outsiders of the music scene who have somehow managed to trick the cool kids into thinking that they're part of them, they don't look right, they shouldn't be, but are, the best sort of Rock stars.

Chris Chinchilla

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