Wicked Man's Rest
Alan Smith reviews finds out pain is pleasure
(or should that be vice versa?)

Passenger - Wicked Man's Rest
Passenger are the artist formally known as Mike Rosenberg Band. The name change makes sense to me as they are very much a band, not just a one man effort. Their first single under their new moniker proceeds in the same musical direction as before, namely that gentle acoustic and vaguely electronic feel that the two singles I have reviewed here before had. This is the best yet, as they continue to evolve as a band, and sounds like they are now ready to put together a valid debut album, confident in their own sound and ability. It's catchier, more tightly produced, and generally a BETTER song. It's very downbeat with a depressing nature, but enjoyable as a song. The album when it comes should be well worth a listen. www.passengermusic.co.uk.

My Device - Nervous System

Last year Brighton's My Device won the NME Breaking Bands competition for unsigned artists, which is both a sure sign of future success and a sign that they might not actually be that good, simply picked due to their ability to fit into whichever pigeonhole NME is currently promoting. Happily they turn out to be more rough and ready than you might expect, full of passion for music and remarkably un-pigeonhole-able (is that a word?). No longer unsigned, they've taken a good choice and plumped for the Shifty Disco label, who have put out this debut album. 12 songs in 33 minutes ensure boredom is not likely; they take no longer than is strictly necessary to say what they want, with only one song hitting the 3 minute mark, and this gives them the opportunity to show off all their abilities. Single I Was Brave Today is one of the highlights, shouty, distorted and freewheeling; it is the perfect example of their ramshackle approach. So it's definitely an NME-gets-it-right shocker, you can now feel free to enjoy them at your leisure. www.my-device.co.uk.

Dead Or American - Ends
Dead Or American are both "FIERCELY independent" and "fundamentally" a live act, which would explain why I've not heard any music from them up until now. That and the fact they are unremarkable in the extreme. Routine guitar music with unexceptional vocals throughout. When there is so much amazing music out there, I'll find it very hard to spend any more time on this generic rock band. But as usual, I must admit it's a matter of taste and if American MOR is your thing, this band can't be much worse than many other bigger names out there. www.deadoramerican.com.

OPM - California Poppy
Yes, you read right. OPM are STILL going, some years after their ubiquitous one hit wonder "Heaven is a half pipe". Needless to say they haven't undergone a dramatic reinvention into a post new rave techno folk jazz act, and are still peddling the same jolly punky poppy fare. The press release claims this contains "13 catchy songs", which is unlikely given that two of these "songs" clock in at 30 seconds each. But the rest are surprisingly pleasant and inoffensive. Their desire to deal with issues doesn't quite work. For example hitting back at "so many of their generation being locked up for growing and smoking weed" with the line "I've committed no crime" is hardly a revolutionary political argument winner. Whilst this album on a small label shows that their a-list days are well and truly behind them, they are still making the same listenable and enjoyable music that I'm sure their actual fans will greatly enjoy. www.opmden.com.

Xmas Lights - Enron Ate My Baby EP
Strangely this EP was recorded way back in 2004 which begs the question what have they being doing in the years since, and have they progressed on from these 6 songs? I would assume they are still on the hunt for a record deal and have no opportunity to record a debut album. The first track rumbles on for a tediously long 9 minutes, producing little more than the same gentle riffs and background wailing, with an annoying shouty bit at the end. This, as Pulp would say, is hardcore. The art of screaming incoherently the same sound repeatedly and calling it music. The remaining tracks (excluding a pointless interlude) are more traditional hardcore, with a faster pace and screaming throughout, thus making the first track with its passable first two thirds the best of the whole rubbish lot. www.xmaslightsrock.com.

Seagull Strange - Better Angels Of Our Nature
Seagull Strange are a band whom you might love or hate depending on your tastes. You won't find anything original here, and the album is certainly very samey. So it just depends whether you enjoy the trick they deploy repeatedly in similar ways throughout the album. The nearest comparison I can think of is Ryan Adams, who can also divide opinion. Lead singer Dan Tellings vocals are similar, but with less angst and more poppy chorus'. The album as a whole is quite downbeat, and the lyrics dark and depressing. I think they can find an audience who will adore their tunes, but fail to attract universal appeal thus creating the perfect niche audience. Having said you will either love or hate this, I find myself realising I could take them or leave them. The more judgemental of you will certainly pour scorn on this, but those easier to please will find much to enjoy.


New Rhodes - Songs From The Lodge
New Rhodes gained much attention a couple of years ago as part of a number of up and coming new British bands touted as ones to watch. Whilst some of those bands (Razorlight, Bloc Party, Morning Runner etc.) have moved on to gain varying degrees of success, New Rhodes have fallen by the wayside. This is probably due to the slightly less commercial sound of their music, and their inability to create a specific angle to sell themselves with. Plus of course, it's taken them 4 years to release this debut, in which time the music world has moved on to "newer" things. Whilst you feel their chance has surely past them, they are still very much worthy of your time. This is an album of classic indie songs, where they have not sacrificed their ideals for success and have written songs akin to the likes of The Futureheads. A very enjoyable piece of music. www.newrhodes.com.

The Somatics - Dynamo Mercurial
I previously called The Somatics single Elemental "a dull disappointment", so I'm afraid the omens aren't good for this new album review. As explained before, they aim for an indie/psychedelic crossover which manages to be truly good at neither. The songs on the single all dragged on repetitively for no reason, and the same is true of this album which manages to cram an amazing 7, yes 7, songs into its 53 minutes. This would be fine if they were magnificent tunes which traversed the entire musical spectrum, but they don't. It's bland, lacking in both "tunes" (you know, with such crazy things as verses and chorus') and any real examples of psychedelia. In my previous review I asked them to please go away. They didn't, and sadly I can still only repeat my feelings, they bore me beyond belief. www.the-somatics.com.

Alan Smith