Soho Dolls - No Regrets (Filthy Pretty, Oct 30th)
Ah, a new Soho Dolls single - and one which indicates they might be something of a one-trick pony, and what is more that their one trick was of the kind which only impresses once.
Their last release, 'Stripper', had a simplicity and crudeness similar to this, but got away with it by dint of having a beat you could dance to and a general sense of balls and brashness. 'No Regrets' is a lower-speed affair, a sway-to-the-beat rather than stomp-the-dancefloor number. As such, it doesn't have the overwhelming sense of pulsing disco fun that provided Stripper with its saving grace - and so the listener has nothing to distract them from the fact that the attitude this track ultimately relies on is kinda unremarkable. It's a Marilyn Manson-esque, gothic love/masochism come-on, wrapped in a pretty straightforward drum machine/bleepy synth package and with some "Ahhh-oh" backing vocals: the kinda music which, if it's to hook the listener, needs to be either presented with particular panache or done with a slightly more impressive attitude than "Take me take me oh oh oh". And as Soho Dolls here fulfil neither of these criteria, their offering falls somewhat flat.
Dartz - St Petersburg (Xtra Mile Recordings, Oct 23rd)
This punk rock with added squidgey noises and high pitched vocal deviancies has quite a sparse sound - as you'd expect, Dartz being a three-piece - and has very trebly guitars and a general sense of excitable, elastic energy. Dartz sometimes add a tiny bit of Madness (as in the band, not a clinical diagnosis) to the mix; they rip things up a bit and jerk about all over the place; they switch between shouting and aching; they generally run at things full-tilt and flailing.
Personally, I can't help seeing this lot as a poor man's Love! Ends Disaster - they do the same punk-with-whiplash-elastic, except that Dartz do it to a far lesser extent and, well, just aren't as good at it and have fewer exciting, liquid-electric, shiver-inducing noises. They're less coherent, less eccentric and possessed of more of a tendency to irritate me with lamely self-conscious attempts at wackiness. However: their sound does at least speak of some energy and drive - which puts 'em ahead of a lot of the crap around. It's just that they ain't quite stretched out the best aspects of this song sufficiently to cover the whole track in merit.
Take a Nick Cave who's been listening to Flamenco rather than Gospel; chuck in the odd hint of Black Heart Procession and Dawn of the Replicants - and use the result to soundtrack the more maudlin type of Tim Burton film. All sounds pretty cool, does it not? If that kinda subdued, aching anger (but please, no melodrama ) floats your sea-going vessel, you might well like this American four-piece.
Murder By Death take the wilder, more elemental sort of folk music - the kind which really is about sex and death, rather than innuendo and morbidity - and integrate a rock'n'roll element into it so seamlessly that you hardly notice the change in material. With scraping violins, a dark backwoods depressive threat and plenty of thwarted energy embodied in a frustrated howl of a vocal, they're a sepia-toned yet driving outfit who've got plenty to recommend them - and this still in the first throes of their existence Yes, we like this lot.
Oh, hallelujah: irritating funk-strut moaning about relationships with people who're complex and uncertain. Not that relationships with people who're complex and uncertain (which two descriptions, last time I checked, encompassed about 98% of the human race) aren't difficult, but I'm not sure Mr Fanous' simplistic and dismissive approach is adding much to the debate on the compelling frustrations of love.
And when his somewhat fatuous observations are riding on the back of drudging funk rock which hasn't the gumption to take its influence and run with them and which is subordinate to the lyrics in a manner which only serves to emphasise the arrogant mundanity of the observations being made Oh, it's all just strutting soft-rock gubbins. Except for the ballad, which is even more stuffily drudging than my currently cold-stuffed sinuses - although the ballad admittedly boasts more violins than the inside of my head.
Sound Team - Born To Please (Parlophone, Sept 18th)
Not one of Sound Team's better efforts, this. While reviewing their album for these very pages, I remember being stuck by a frustrating balance of good and bad points - so that just as you thought it was safe to skip a song, it'd suddenly develop an interesting aspect; whereas every great drum intro would shortly descend into something disappointingly dirgey.
And I suppose it makes pretty much perfect sense that a band so clearly unable to maintain good taste for any length of time would choose one of the most consistently dreary numbers on their album as a single. Kinda like Coldplay covering So Why So Sad, if you can imagine such a thing.
A lot of things seem to sound like Coldplay at the moment, come to think of it. Maybe I should get my ears tested, or something.
IV Thieves - The Day Is A Downer EP (One Little Indian, Oct 9th)
Another day, another record whose already initially few interesting elements are eroded by repeated listenings until the listener slips into a state of opinion-catatonia where they can't imagine anything ever being interesting enough to spark more than a passing disinterest ever again.
However, this attempt to bore the casual reviewer into handing out a passing grade will not cut any mustard round these parts. Despite a (just about) adequately loud descent into noise at the end of the last song and a general perky tunefulness, this record cannot escape the fact that it sings about the depressing emptiness of modern life without ever managing to raise enough ire to actually sound depressed or angry about this state of affairs. It just kinda 1-2-3-4 2-2-3-4's its way along, never dragging itself out of the groove of vague noise-making - never, in fact, bothering to make anything that could really be called a loud noise. It just washes itself out. Goddamn it, what the hell happened to passion? Or even to irony - in the face of a total lack of actual anger, I'll settle for the blank cheque of an ironic sneer if no hard emotional currency can be raised. But this drudging competence? No, we will accept this as meaningful or sufficient.