The Undefeated Champion
Anna C shows why she's the queen of Songpop...


HELLO BEAR- 64 Hit Combo

I play 'Songpop' on Facebook and I always win the games based on 2000's rock. It's pretty much my era. And, listening to this, you could assume that it's probably Hello Bear's too. After all, they're quite emo, or I'd even go so far as to say 'pop rock'. Tight, spiky guitar work heralding back to a golden age, '62 Hit Combo' is the final single taken from their well-received debut album 'This one girl…', a trio from Narrrrwich, who are apparently here to bridge the gap between make-up wearing boys and pint-drinking girls. Where does that leave us then? With Rylan from the X-Factor presenting Daybreak with Lorraine? Fortunately not (although I do love him).


No, what we actually end up with is something akin to the indie-fied cousins of another East Anglian band, 'The Jorneta Stream', at least with the same English harmonics and a bit of a romp through some man-rock. And maybe even the same short legs. Anyway, the other songs on this release sound a bit like Weezer (at least the same sort of goofy feel, just with some slightly dodgy amateur lyrics) and the main tune is about looking back at your life, seeing how many times you've made the worst choice and how it makes you feel hopeless but feeling safe in the realisation that there are things to help you out of those things. What more do you need to know really? Like everything else, it's been done but that doesn't stop it being fun; still, I prefer my men a bit more mature these days. That, and I don't believe anyone enjoys a pint of rum. Especially three lads that call themselves Harvey Bear, Blyth Bear and Fox Bear. Ahem.

Released 12th November, 2012.

KAV- King of the world
(The undefeated champion)

When I hear the now immortalised phrase 'King of the world', it's inevitable to reminisce of Leo and Kate on the bow of the Titanic, chewing each others faces off. I watched the film a monstrous three times when it was first released at the cinema. And this single from one-man-band Kav is equally as catchy. Not in a cheesy over-hyped way though, as my impressionable 17- year-old self would have been- drawn in by Leo's floppy fringe and bad Irish accent- but instead being primal and urgent, punchy and insistent, maybe more like Leo and Kate's romp on the back of that car as the old boat sank.

All messy and fuzzy guitar solos and fashionable flat out dirty rock and roll, as well as young rampant lovers Kav also sounds a bit like Iggy and the Stooges, in that he is sloppy in all the right places, cool in the way that it was almost obvious that this would have been produced in LA and mastered by the bloke responsible for The Stones, Macca, Johnny Cash and Nirvana, to name a few. They also supported Kasabian in the summer at Brixton, another band to make you jump to within an inch of your life. Retrospective enough to be liked by several age groups and enough to mean 'ver kids' won't remember it first time round, the debut album will follow next year apparently. Whoot. I like.

Released 29th October, 2012. Sorry didn't get it written then; I was in Morocco.

THE CUBICAL- Arise conglomerate

'Arise conglomerate' is live. In fact, it's a-live. It's also shambolic; in short, it's complete reality, which also makes it about half an hour's worth of clarity. And it takes me out of the dull town I live in Monday to Friday. Which is ultimately why I love it. By rights, the growly vocals should be unlistenable but they are delivered by the towering Dan Wilson in such a way as they sound masterful, powerful even; indeed, a stomping, storming smack in the teeth if you're not expecting it. Which is probably why Noel Gallagher loves this too and why he thinks The Cubical are 'f*ckin' mega!'. The Guardian and Mojo have also given them a favourable plug. La-de-da-de-da.

Anyway, Scouse by nature, 'Arise conglomerate' is an LP born after a four-hour reel-to-reel session turned into an intense 12-hour jam, fuelled by cheap wine in Berlin. Like all good rock LPs then, there is a dangerous, reckless principle underlying it, a basic and shabby sound that has a glorious soul about it too that renders it inexplicably and utterly hypnotic. Using raucous guitar courtesy of Alex Gavaghan and Johnny Green and a driving rhythm section of Mark Percy and Craig Bell, whilst the stand-out tracks definitely include recent single 'On the weekend'- a cheeky nod to Primal Scream's 'Riot City blues'- and the shamelessly sleazy 'Old idiot', there is an equally captivating part of the five-piece that is perfect in contrast. More melancholy and meaningful arrangements such as 'Daily grind and 'Blue blue sky' (where a wobbly warble is not unlike a savage version of Devendra Banhart) are, again, nothing short of real life, in the most desolate and bleakest sense yet in a way that makes its stark truth a comfort. Unashamedly frank, Wilson's throaty gurgle is often then like a death rattle and, if nothing else, The Cubical's songs are the wine-stained teeth when you've drunk too much red, the mascara-streaked cheeks and the deep red lippy used as warpaint as you go down fighting in the seedy underbelly of a city.

Still, when we're not getting all deep and meaningful about it, this is retro rock in all its finery. What with The Stones' recent exhumation, The Cubical simply hanker after the same boozy, bluesy sound as dear old Mick and co. They even incarnate the exciting feel of Jim Morrison's slovenly and promiscuous liberation in 'It ain't human' and 'Horrible conglomerate'; and a drunken Elvis in 'The dividing line' or 'Prisoner of our love', reaching to put one more note in the panty of the disgusted-looking stripper, despite crooning something far more sensitive than would first appear. Often teasing and slightly sexual without seemingly really meaning to be, The Cubical will regardless leave even the most cynical fan panting in their wake, not sure whether you've just witnessed something wonderful or tragic but totally compelling. They could start their own cult. Yum.

This was released on the 19th November, 2012 (but you can still get it in time for a loved one's Xmas stocking). Grrrrrrrrowwwwllll.

MALONE- Retro EP1 Demo disc

Malone is a man called Matt. Matt, er, Malone. He falls into the category of 'stuff I get sent to review that sounds like Biffy Clyro or The Mono Effect'. It's a hazard of the job in hand as a) I like to profess to liking Biffy Clyro (a lot) and b) I am married to someone that used to sing in The Mono Effect. Actually, Malone sounds more like The Mono Effect than Biffy in that he has a familiar sounding rock voice that could sound good in any rock band and writes songs with a steadfast belief and passion that is admirable even at a local level. It is also no surprise that he is inspired by Simon Neil, the collective of Nirvana or just Dave Grohl on his own merit. What man holding a guitar isn't??

That said, Malone is notably more dated than the afore-mentioned, or, at least, perhaps more predictable. That's not to say this demo is bad but there is a formula to the heavy hitting rock that features on opening tracks, 'Savvy' and 'Now I know', the latter being about being spurned, documented lyrically in really what is a fairly generic way, whereas third song, 'Date', is just slower and more whiny. Again, the lyrics leave a little to be desired and are fairly unimaginative but there is some nice orchestration here and undeniably good musicianship. And, when paired with that raw self-belief I mentioned before, this slightly cancels out that Malone's songwriting is still some way to being as developed as he might think. He looks quite hot though so best of luck to him.

Anna C