March of Indifference
Alan Smith Takes Aims and Fires ...
from his seat on the Fence

Ghostlight – Breathing Underwater
The cover of this self released debut single from Ghostlight features the feet of a person making his way through some sort of blizzard. You could say he’s on a snow patrol… oh that’s handy (and in no way forced), what we happen to have here is potential pretenders to the kings of radio themselves. In fact, if I told you it was the car chasing lads themselves, you might believe me. Which is quite a compliment, they have perfectly crafted instantly familiar pop songs that many of their more successful peers struggle with. This is halfhearted praise, as Ghostlight lack the bite required to make me actually want to own, or in fact listen to, their music. And the lyrics aren’t exactly original; they are not the first to sing about a faltering relationship and thus seemingly not having enough air to breathe, which is the premise of the song. But rarely do I listen to a new band with such a finished product as this, and Ghostlight are well worth a punt as a genuine “next big thing”.

The Brent Flood – Katy McCain EP
While we’re in indie territory it’s worth a revisit to The Brent Flood, who I reviewed back in January 2008. Back then I had similar thoughts as for Ghostlight, good structure, accomplished production, but not for me. I also declared them gifted with the power of “complusifootappy”, a term which inexplicably has yet to catch on. This is their first EP to actually be released, and provides more of the same, but a little bit better. It’s difficult to find something new to say about a band that sounds so similar to the last, but perhaps that’s the point. It’s a tough old music industry these days, and even for two very solid new bands the levels of competition makes the prospect of success seem to be down to little more than chance, there are only so many bands of this nature that can be sustained at one time. There, I’ve completely contradicted my last review. To summarise; The Brent Flood are undoubtedly very good at what they do and will definitely definitely be a great success. Or disappear without a trace. I’d put money on it being one of the two.

Stylusboy – Fingerprint EP
This plods along nicely enough but with little progression and no change of tempo. The lyrics don’t really say anything, but at the same time they are well structured. The lack of development during the songs, or for that matter between the songs, is unquestionably what makes them a little dull. He can write, he can sing, and he can play guitar, which is a good starting point, but his “intimate” sound brings problems. If Stylusboy wants to set hearts on fire perhaps its time to mix it up a little. His voice is also too reserved, I keep waiting for him to let go and really pour out the emotion, but it never happens.

Onlookers – Canterbury Tales
A bit more upbeat this one. Onlookers bring to mind early Supergrass, with a sense of carefree fun injected into this, their debut single. The singer’s voice is sort-of slurry and stretched-out, giving a distinctive style, although it does make it nigh on impossible to pick out exactly what he’s saying. Repeat listening adds no clarity, nor does it improve my enjoyment. It’s certainly entertaining as it bounces along jovially, but it still screams 6/10, albeit in a slightly odd way.

Take Aim Fire – EP
We’ve got a bit of a gem on our hand here in the shape on a mixed sex three piece that manages to mix in many of my favourite elements of quality bands. Firstly, the switching between male and female vocals works well, and builds to charming overlaid vocals. Next, they’ve gone for the overused but never tiring Bloc Party jerky guitar sound. This is mixed with traditional fast strumming as used by every decent guitar band ever. Throw in some lyric imitating electronic sounds (by which I mean where the keyboard follows the structure of the chorus line), classic quiet/loud dynamics and you’ve got a charming package. For a self produced effort it sounds remarkably professional (without sounding over polished) and the fact it has picked up repeated 6 Music airplay comes as no surprise. It certainly echoes a large number of new bands that have come through recently, but they do what they do just as well, if not better, than a lot of established acts. Highly recommended.

Witchers – The Big Top EP
Witchers are a promising new young band from Norwich. This is their first three-track recording as a band, although they’ve since made a “proper” EP. Muse are a clear influence, which, as I’ve said in reviews before, is a tough act to follow. They acquit themselves admirably, managing to create the “crazed” guitar sound without ever sounding out of control. Whilst you could argue they stick too much to Muse in terms of song structure, instrument and vocal sound, they are still developing their sound. With a solid base like this, they can feel confident to try new things and develop their sound. I’d really like to see Witchers live, as I’m sure they must create a great atmosphere with such a crowd-pleasing (and moshable!) sound.

Aviators – Comatosed
To say I was apprehensive after reading they describe themselves as a cross between Mcfly and “The Foo Fighters” would be an understatement. But it’s actually pretty apt, they’ve managed to combine the Foo’s guitar riffs with the bland two-dimensional approach to music of the Busted wannabees. Their band, EP and song names strike me as trying too hard to be “cool”, third track “Stagedrugs” being a case in point. It’s bland, generic, populist, boring, and forced. But then, I think that’s what they were aiming for. So… A success of sorts.

The Wookies – Sparks
Winners of this months unofficial Best Packaging award, “Rural psychedelic rascals” The Wookies are fantastically fabulous in every way. Fun, fast, bonkers, and most definitely unique. Like if Arcade Fire met Billy Bragg and decided to form a Gogol Bordello tribute act. They mix in a wide variety of techniques, chanting, jazz, plinky-plonky (official music term) piano, silly voices, and, somehow, actual tunes as well. Opener In The Forest is classic Mystery Jets. Second track How Good Dies If Feel sounds a bit like a prog version of the Red Dwarf theme tune on acid. Every track is different and novel, The Wookies are a much needed breathe of fresh air in an increasingly stagnant music scene.

Alfonzo – Blind As Faith
Although they are making their own music, Alfonzo are basically a 70s tribute act, trying to write The Who songs decades after anyone wanted them. It’s exactly the sort of music I never really understood. And if you did understand it, surely you’d be happier listening to the “real thing”. But I suppose if you want to go see a band sounding like Stereophonics as their most retro, you’d definitely enjoy Alfonzo. I wouldn’t.

March Of Anger – Age Of Hate EP
I love it when a band & CD name reviews itself. Yep, set guitars to rock, set hair to either long or bald, set singing to angsty. Of particular note is the centrefold image of the last supper, but with images added of war, Coca Cola, McDonalds & Carlsberg added to really “say something”. I say: “cheer up lads!”

Above Them – For Those Who Paved The Way.
This is very slick by-the-numbers punk rock that I’d have perhaps loved about 10 years ago, but that I find irritating and sigh eliciting today. Just me getting old? Possibly, but surely there is enough of this kind of dirge around already? This is a bit on the Biffy Clyro side of thing, which bores me, whereas Green Day excites me. I think it’s something to do with the needlessly draaawwwwnnnn ooooooooout lyrics, and the unnatural American sound that these Pontefract boys have conditioned themselves to produce.

By Alan Smith