Everyone Must Win - You Were Right Again
Like The Smiths attempting to apply positive thinking principles learnt on a group therapy course but not quite managing to feel it, Everyone Must Win are a cross between melancholic indie jangling and determinedly forced smiles. The melancholy side of things wins quite easily, but the poppy energetic notes creeping round the edge of the misery add a polished sheen which dampens the emotional impact and makes it all feel very predictable and formulaic. Will probably do very well indeed.
Bone Box - Do You Feel You've Been Warned (3/9/07 Fat Northerner Records)
A picture of a guitar playing skeleton in a coffin, the gloomy name and the slightly threatening song title led me to suspect this would be METAL. But it's actually a soft semi-acoustic number with a gravel-voiced singer trampling all over some lush strings and brass and the inevitable acoustic guitar. It's always nice to be surprised, which is why I didn't bother reading the press release and finding all this out in advance like most sensible people would've done.
Anyway. With this song Bone Box are aiming for the Tindersticks-loving market, and they are pretty much in the ballpark. But, well, Tindersticks have already been Tindersticks - and they were better at it. If you want something heartstring tugging and miserablist, why would you go to the imitators? I would be intrigued to hear a whole album from these guys and see whether this song makes fuller sense and feels less derivative in context - but even then, I don't think I would be able to overlook the ridiculously corny brass solo, which cuts in all over the low-level beauty in a totally inappropriate and, well, brassy manner. Pleh.
The Sundown Sinners - Absolute Absolution (Worried Man Records)
I'm not entirely sure I'm the target market The Sundown Sinners had in mind when they were putting together their skanking pop-rock exhortions to share the joy. They were probably envisioning some carefree happy-go-lucky soul all but exploding in a epiphany of ska-induced spiritual positivity but I'm just getting pissed off.
My Side of the Mountain - Bad Wizard
This is quite pleasant, in a Flaming Lips' quieter moments/Grandaddy kinda way. Distracted, ambient synth lines and some pleasingly unusual and un-drum-like rhythms under spaced out vocals add up to a videogame soundtrack type-ambience, except that instead of fighting mutant robots Sonic the Hedgehog is seeking The Point of It All. I suspect that the two-track single format is something of a saving grace for this record, as over a whole album the meandering feeling and the lack of any sort of bite would probably wear a bit thin and start to grate, and I must admit I can't really imagine playing this much more - but still, it's certainly not without merit.
Oh, dear - listen to me. I really am getting a bit jaded. "Hmmm, this is interesting, but a band who nobody's ever heard of and who only played half a gig before spontaneously combusting and leaving no trace behind except for one unlistenable bootleg tape did it better back in 1973 and I'm therefore unable to wholeheartedly endorse this record". I sometimes think they ought to forceably retire all reviewers after a maximum of seven years and put 'em out to pasture or something, only letting them near a keyboard when they discover something wonderful about which they wish to tell the world.
Not that I'm actually volunteering to stop - I enjoy this too much. Plus I'm power crazed. Anyway: Mysideofthemountain.co.uk
Idiot 3 - Reasons/Alive in Blue
Whoop-de-fucking-do: it's grinding clunking hyper-emotional chant-along polished and professional powerrock! The vocals have been cloned from a thousand other "pained but powerful" stadium-ready rock frontmen; the loud-quiet-loud-quiet bits are totally textbook and it has the depressingly common aura of a song which wants to be soaring and uplifting but is too dead and clumsy to have any hope of ever attaining that end.
Even if you've never heard of this band, you have heard this song about a zillion times before.
Asobi Seksu - Thursday (Dream pop)
Jesus, those bell effects are weird. They're behind the main tune, and they don't quite fit in with it, and every time they ring I move to get the door, even though this house doesn't have a doorbell.
Anyway. This has a lot in common with Blonde Redhead's more recent stuff: the sweeping uplifting pop noises with a sweet-yet-unearthly female vocal drifting over the top of the tune in a way which implies the singer's not actually listening to the music and only complements it so well by happy accident. The b-side does pretty much the same thing, only the drums are louder and it has drive rather than starting quietly, getting louder and then just tripping along until it's time to stop.
And there are some quite pleasant noises on here, but overall the whole thing just kinda merges into itself; although it does have emotional peaks and troughs, they're all created by cranking much the same noise up or down a bit. Which means it all kinda fades into the background quite quickly - a bit of a flaw in something so clearly hinging on hooking the listener through a sense of beautiful melancholic uplift.
For a moment there I thought they'd sent an empty CD case and that I wasn't going to be able to review this. Must've been wishful thinking, as on looking again the CD was quite clearly evident. Bugger.
Anyway. If this album is meant to be funny, it's not. If it's meant to be genuine, it sounds like a bad joke. Either way, it's a tragic and offensive waste of our planet's fast-depleting oil and mineral resources and should not be encouraged - or, indeed, allowed. Surely we've now heard quite enough Urban Realism half-rapped ostentatiously accented dullardry from wanna-be streetwise poets and should round the perpetrators up and shoot them? I'm not averse to the idea of folk talking about real life if they actually have something incisive to say about it, some debate they want to spark, some trace of poetry in their souls which sheds a different light on the accepted state of things. But none of these redundant fuckers even try anything like that: it's all just face-value description. And I don't need to listen to someone describing going to the cash point or being hit on by a tosser or finding their job annoying - I can already experience all of those things for myself first hand on a regular, indeed daily, basis. You are adding nothing to my life by telling me in exceedingly pedestrian language what it's like to do something mundane. Where's the analysis, the evaluation, the undermining, the attempts to transcend the subject matter even a tiny little bit? Where's the hint of better things, the yearning, the anger, the rejection of life's tendency to be utterly uninspiring and the wish to create some better form of escapism than spending three hours in the pub and pretending that a bit of fleeting drunkenness is sufficient to negate the part of you that imagined making something meaningful out of your life?
Nowhere. "As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly" - and as much of this sort of gubbins involves drinking too much and being sick and then reliving the experience in stereo sound, we get two halves of the cliché for the price of one. How bargainous.
Asobi Seksu - Citrus (One Little Indian, 13/08/07)
An entire album of Asobi Seksu makes rather more sense than a mere single; it gives them far more time to stretch out within the confines of their MBV-esque guitar fuzziness mixed with pretty pop vocals and thus allows the listener to better appreciate their sound. And, indeed, to become aware of the fact that Thursday was apparently chosen just 'cause it was the most obvious and not because it's in any way their best track. Inevitable, but still kinda sad.
Anyway: Asobi Seksu put enough emphasis on the sweet vocals and the more pop aspects of their sound to make them fall firmly into the more accessible end of the guitar-noise-with-tunes spectrum. For my tastes there's just a little too much saccharine and slightly too little unexpected noise; which means that on most days I'd far rather listen to MBV, or maybe Electralane, if I wanted some beautiful yet challenging guitar-noise-based listening. But there are still some moments when my attention gets pulled back to the album, when it all comes together and jumps out of the background and makes me sit up and listen. It's another one of those "They don't do this badly, but other people do it better" numbers - but still a pretty good record for all that. I'll probably listen to it again, but not that often.
Soho Dolls - Ribbed Music For the Numb Generation (03/09/07, Filthy Pretty Records)
Lumbering electro-glam stomp which wants to be sexy and debauched but is too clichéd and desperate to manage it. Must try less hard
Teenager - Thirteen (24/09/07, Godlike Records)
This is more interesting than most of the stuff so far. Teenager do fairly minimal riffs and they fuck around with 'em a bit, make them murky and scratchy and generally play down the listener friendly aspects of their sound. They've chucked the vocals through some reverb which makes it sound like the singer's hollering over the vocals from the other side of the Grand Canyon, and there are some nice melancholy reverberating riffs and a general sense of budget-gothic attitude.
However maybe it's just the whole "not coming across on record" thing, or maybe it's a deeper malaise, but these should-be-good ingredients are utterly scuppered by the flailing OTT posturing and general melodramatics which are plastered over the top of the music and drown the whole thing in bathos. It might well work better live, or with a different recording style - but as is, the whole stylised "Shock! Horror! Grottiness!" thing is too heavy a load for the instrumentation to bear and the whole artifice buckles under the weight. A shame, as this was almost good - it's just too hammer-the-point-homeish to ever really come alive.
Coffeekillers - Coffeekillers
I get the impression these chaps would be absolutely delighted to be described as Wacky: this album mixes in jokey effects (farm animals, Woody the Woodpecker samples etc) and sneering silliness with grinding metal beats and more tuneful electro elements. Sadly, the resulting music isn't as interesting as that makes it sound; instead the wackier elements are just annoying and the more "classic" meat of the songs tends towards the repetitive and melodramatic. And when you put the two sides of the thing together, you don't get a particularly edifying musical experience.
Rubble and Shit #6
Bloody hell, is this really the first issue since 2002? Surely it can't have been that long since I read an issue of Rubble and Shit? It's good to have it back; and also good to see that despite only having half the original editorial team left, it's still got much the same cut'n'paste messed-up ethic and the reviews of and interviews with small bands interspersed with random thoughts and points of interest format that always did the job so well. The music tends towards the punk rock/hardcore/classic rock end of the spectrum: Send More Paramedics, Hyperjax, Therapy, AFI and many more loud bands, and as well as current favourites there's a Where Are They Now section dedicated to bands R&S have championed in the past. A good mixture of remembering why the zine was good in the past and pushing to be as good in the present - the music covered isn't my thing, but I've still muchly enjoyed reading this.
Rossithepunk [at] hotmail [dot] com
About 50% music/reviews based and 50% random rantings and opinion columns, Debunk is a very neatly put together A5 zine with a somewhat scary horse on the front cover. Again, this focuses more on the loud punk/hardcore scene, meaning that I was never going to read this and come away with a list of bands to check out - but the silly, chatty nature of it means it's a pleasantly distracting read even if the musical front leaves me cold. There's a pleasing randomness to the subject matter of the opinion pieces, too; the transcript of an MSN conversation with someone who reckons there are still dinosaurs living in Africa is a particularly mindblowing read, though not in a ppsitive way. How can someone that stupid still remember to breathe?
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