What's Your Poison?
Oom - Poison (Series 8) oomroom.co.uk
Oom write electro pop songs with an arty, fuzzed-out taste to them, blending laid back, off-beat sensuality and electro-scratch oddness. These noble characteristics are then welded to a radio-friendly tunefulness and accessibility which on occasion veers close to being somewhat bouncy. An odd word to be able to apply to a single which contains so much in the way of sweeping, whiteout walls of sound and squelchy computer-glitch effects, but nonetheless it does seem disconcertingly fitting. Especially on incredibly ear-drum friendly second track "Coming Alive", which starts really dark and distorted before adding a rhythm so strong you could almost skank to it, were you so inclined. Unexpected, non?
So yes: there's a lot of the likable to this, and Oom are definitely very accomplished in the art of grabbing the attention with sweeping electro noise. But Oom ultimately end up being kinda frustrating, because they keep almost acquiring an Edge and then losing it again. And one feels they aren't quite pushing themselves as far as they can go. That said, this is still a very enjoyable listen and manages to be both arty and stick in the head. Even if it does keep mentally segueing into Bjork and back again
Ruby Tombs - Those Who Can't (art goes pop) rubytombs.com
Like The Slits dancing on DFA1979's grave, this is a truly beautiful aural spectacle. Sludgily sexy, knowing yet enthusiastic and fantastically full-on, this is intelligent disco dirge of the highest order. Drowning the suspicion of a tune under a jerking clockwork rhythm and guitars which sound like they crawled out of recently irradiated swampland, it also features a theremin, cowbells and handclaps, three of the finest musical accompaniments known to man.
All these rather fine ingredients are thrown together into a delightful punk-thrash disco mess with a hint of Hammer Horror miswired robotics and with more energy and virulence packed into two songs than most bands manage to scrape together over the course of an entire album. It wears its influences with a stubborn pride, but it's also inventive, surprising and packing with idiosyncratic, jeering flashes of personality. Those who like their hideous noise with a fortifying dose of intelligence, humour, substance and discomforting sensuality should not let Ruby Tombs pass them by.
Little Joe Zero are from Essex. That's the whole of Essex: this metallic punk trio clearly bestride the whole county like a whooping, riffing colossus. Or something. And some natty arcade game effects, right-on sentiments and the afore-mentioned high-pitched vocal enthusiasm don't change the fact that this is, at root, pretty much two-a-penny punk metal stuff. Ho hum.
They Drove Me To It - Save Me Sinner/Bulletproof (Positive Impact Records) theydrovemetoit.co.uk
Melodic, emotional alt-pop-rock. Blah blah tunes blah blah retaining a hard rock edge blah blah real evocative pain blah blah And after all that, still simply unaffecting. Just too clean cut, too scripted, too - despite what the press release might have to say to the contrary - close to the beaten path. Emotions writ large in brightly coloured letters and evocative-by-numbers music: chick flick soundtrack fodder. 'Tis a shame, because I suspect there may actually be a heart beating in here somewhere. But, well, that doesn't change the fact that this isn't much of a listen.
Demeter - Addict (Post Modern Records) demeter.tv
What is it with all these bands comparing love approvingly to addiction, death, infection, cockroach infestations and other, similarly unpleasant afflictions? Is this attitude representative of the emotional needs of the populace in general, or do bands just have a statistic-skewing tendency to attract that kind of person? I feel some kind of research needs to be carried out on the subject - but not by me, because I don't really care that much. And I suppose it doesn't overly matter anyway: there'll always be a sufficient flood of the newly and wistfully broken-up keeping the market lucrative.
And if you haven't yet guessed what Demeter sing about, you're fired. Get your coat. The style in which they chose to pontificate on the subject is a low and languorous rock drawl, which gets the point across adequately in its unremarkable way. Epic and stadium-esque, made to wave lighters in the air to or sway about to with your eyes closed in an emotionally transported manner. Manages to talk like a risk-taker while simultaneously making the whole rock'n'roll experience seem utterly thrill-less. How strange.
God - that was double-take inducing. Action Directe used, I'm sure, to be a slightly foppish, feather boa and eyeliner bedecked electro duo. They are now a leather and chain bedecked quartet, and though they've hung onto the drum machine and samples they've found another guitarist and gone, well, a bit metal. The political rage is still there - the press release is largely taken up with info on the Morning Star, "Britain's only socialist daily newspaper" - but it's packaged very differently indeed.
And is it any cop? Well, it's better than it would seem from the intro - once it all kicks off properly the crunching Iron Maiden guitars at the beginning are tempered somewhat by the machinegun speed clicking of the drum machine, making for a rather more palatable whole. But it's nonetheless over-bombastic and screamingly obvious, and one can't help wondering whether it's really so impossible to meld musical merit and political rage that this sort of aesthetical compromise is quite necessary.
There being plenty of bands out there who pack this kind of intellectual manifesto punch with grace and style, the answer has to be no.
And also: four remixes and no real b-sides? Stop it!
David Irving - demo EP daveirving.net
'Tis a man with an acoustic guitar, a piano, some samples and some quite nice sweepy ambient effects behind him. He focuses heavily on song structure and carrying a tune. There's some nice low-key inventiveness with samples used as intros, faded in and out of the songs as part of the structure and stuff. He has a good voice. I am not usually a fan of the Man With Acoustic Guitar brand of music, but Mr Irving seems a reasonable sample of the genre and those who like this sort of thing should maybe contact him and ask whether he has any gigs coming up etc etc. 'Cause they might like him.
Heartwear Process - Mean Season (Velocity Recordings) theheartwearprocess.com
It's the choruses that let this single down. At its best, Mean Season is half gospel sway and half bleak shoot-out in rattlesnake country and is intriguing, atmospheric and refreshingly different. But in the choruses Heartwear Process drop oddity for inappropriate hooks, and the impressive misanthropic quirkiness feels like it's conceded to an attempt to get people to holler along. Which is quite clearly a massive error. A better tactic is to divide the world into a) people who'll sing along with their sound because they like it and b) people who'll only sing along with your sound if it sounds singalongtoable, and then to dismiss the affections of the second group out of hand. Thusly does one walk the path of righteousness.
But the good bits of this are actually pretty good. HP (sauce! Ha sorry) have a decent - if kinda simplistic - line in apocalyptic lyrics and back them up with some fine atmospheric grooving and a bassline that keeps the feet tapping, and I can well imagine picking up their next single or their album or seeing 'em live and being completely won over. Just not yet, my friends.
Autons - Snakes/Ice Major (Big Badger Recording Co) autons.info
I have no idea what the hell this lot are going on about, but I'm nonetheless rather enjoying them. They may be singing about election rigging and the low life expectancy of turncoat politicians, or they may just be off on some insane sci-fi parallel universe kick. Or maybe they just like the way the words sound.
Either way, the results hit the spot: this is the kind of attitudinal disco hardcore which leaves one torn between the urge to dance Proper Like and the urge to just hurl oneself round the room like a flailing whirlwind with rhythm. Mixing laser electro effects, pop sense and an apparent saxophone and turning the resultant sound-tableau up to Rock, Autons are fantastic, leftfield fun and have more Beat than the Ramones Brat. In fact, this is on occasion so jerkily uber-rhythmic as to be almost techno, which fits quite well with the atmospheric tranced-out breakdowns - and, indeed, with the space invader arcade effects and the sense of dance floor aneurysm invitation. Highly enjoyable chant-along thrash-pop noise: go get.
Killing Joke - Hosannas From the Basements of Hell (Cooking Vinyl) killingjoke.com
I'm not quite sure how they do it, but Killing Joke manage to take most of the things I find so laughable about so much metal (growling twinned with bombast; a wish to be simultaneously epic and well metal) and make from them a noise which leaves them with their dignity intact. I suspect it's the intelligence behind the sincerity. It's rather easier to listen with more than half an ear to a band who've found more to say about life than "Woah, blood, woah, death, woah skulls/crypts/demons/oh, yeah, WAR." The fact that the soaring/epic aspects come twinned to crunching riffs of the kind which frankly don't let up for long enough to allow a sense of absurdity to seep through also helps. It won't, I think, ever be my kind of thing, but nonetheless Killing Joke are good enough at what they do to overcome the fact that I don't think much of what they do.
Deadboy and the Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
I might need to rethink my policy of offering to review bands because their name intrigues me, because this is just really annoying: one drummer, one guitarist and far, far too much sub-Springsteen drivel. I probably shouldn't be laughing at the man's chosen format of catharsis in this way but then again anyone who vocalises his pain in the form of going "How long the night weer-ooooh-waaah-oooh-wa-aaaaaaaaaaaaaaas!" has hopefully already come to terms with the fact that he's going to induce a certain amount of disbelieving giggling.
In summary, then, not my thing.
Ken Parsons - Life's a beech 1 (Little Elf Records) nuclearkazoo.tk
Track one: an acoustic number about a man who eats loads of muesli and is a bit of a health-food preaching fascist, but his plane to India gets hijacked by Al Qaeda and he ends up eating - not only meat, but human flesh! The songs are presented with spoken word guitar-tuning bits between them to give the impression that you're actually watching Mr Parsons perform. If you think that sounds hilarious, get in touch through the website and give the rest of the CD a try. I'm afraid I personally didn't make it any further than the first song - my sense of humour just ain't tuned to that frequency.
The Church - Uninvited, Like The Clouds (Cooking Vinyl) thechurchband.com
This is initially interesting, with sweeping walls of sound and fuzzy noises with an edge to them which make one think that something unusual is about to be done. And the odd moment of interesting, dark tinged atmosphere continues to rear its head throughout. But between those moments - and, indeed, at root - this is damply feel-good and kinda unformed transcendence-esque stuff with spiritual leanings of the kind which call the listener "my child". The Church do this kind of thing in a competent and eclectic way, but nonetheless: No.
AB/CD - As easy as AB/CD? (Big Badger Recording Co) bigbadgerrecordingco.co.uk
One of the mix'n'match bits of artwork drawn by the kids at the school for which this CD is raising money says "Music, music everywhere, But nowhere is the tune". Which is, actually, rather unfair: every song on here is quite easily recognisable as itself. The artistic kids in question are the pupils of the members of this "guitar-toting punk-pop covers band", which the initiated will know includes one Richard Rose, and the money raised will go towards buying more music equipment for Histon and Impington Junior School so that more youth can be initiated into the world of disrespectful three-chord indie terrorism. I'd vote for that.
The choice of covers - Leaving on a Jetplane, Mrs Robinson and Should I Stay or Should I go - is a fine one: anthemic chant-along numbers which, crucially, allow plenty of room for energy over fidelity, for crunching distortion bits, for hollerings and whoopings and, most importantly of all, inappropriate yellings of the word "BADGER." This is, as you may have guessed, a disrespectful though loving rendering done in the name of fun rather than of Artistic Integrity; and that, frankly, is the way it should be. If you wanna hear the songs done Exactly Perfectly Truly, bugger off and buy the original artists CD. If, on the other hand, you're down with the idea of having a record to hand for when you want to put on something daft and grin like a badger on 'shrooms, you need look no further than AB/CD. It's as easy as that.