steampunk

Professor Elemental - School Of Whimsy

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Review by Liam Taylor. This month sees the release of School Of Whimsy from Chap-Hop MC extrordinaire, Professor Elemental. Along with guests, frequent collaborators and Mighty Boosh-esque comedy skits, the Professor guides new students through the finer points of being whimsical.

In the opening rap of the opening track, Words from the Headmaster, what strikes me the most is the Professor's flow. He's never been a slow or unskilled rapper, by any means, but the skill with which these vocals are performed makes an impact very early on. A short track, but impressive nonetheless.

Downside Up is a summer romp in which Ella Jeans's vocals put me in mind of Lily Allen / early Sia -style pop. Especially in the vocal harmonies, skanky guitars and horn section, all of which contribute to the summer vibe. The Professor is great at creating lyrics that make you think for a moment: "like Clark in a crisis, time to go change" (really now, I can't spell it out for you).

Now we're on to my favourite track from School of Whimsy - One Too Many. The combination of humorous concept, catchy chorus and deft vocal performance make this track for me. Lyrically the track is about the trials of being on tour, the logical solution is to clone oneself. In a whimsical twist, the Professor ends up dueting himself. The pacing of the chorus is particularly fun - it feels like it's on the cusp of going too fast, but that's most likely intentional to suit the mood of the track.

Track 7 is essentially the British, more accurate version of Macklemore's hit - especially given The Spoken Herd's similarity to Macklemore's vocal style. Jumble Sale features a jaunty piano loop, horns, organ and lyrics that imply this lyricist has actually attended a jumle sale, (or been in a Thrift Shop), at some point. Our guest rapper's flow is particularly impressive and entertaining.

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It's become a fad in recent times to embrace your anxieties, or at least to publicly declare them, (or maybe that's just my snowflakie echochamber?) It can get a bit gross after a while, but the subject is elequently handled in track 8, Nervous. A swinging romp through the Professor's apprehensions, which could be a nascent theme on this album.

Make Good Art pt2, (the follow-up to a track on the most recent Menagerie album, which we also reviewed), is similar in tone and rhythm to it's predecessor, but is more of the timid, younger brother. Timid isn't a bad thing, it's still "Good Art".

SQRL is a down-tempo whodunnit, (well, it would be if the title wasn't a massive clue), where the Professor awakens to find one of his shoes missing and his cuppa spoilt. Storytelling is one of Professor Elemental's strengths and this is a track in which he's able to create an immersive and engaging world in only a few minutes.

Tom's House is a sweet track, ostensibly dedicaed to Tom Caruana. Sabira Jade's simple but catchy chorus elegantly compliments Elemental's descriptive rap and the summer reggae vibe of the track.

Track 16, (and the final vocal track of the album), Good Morning is another example of Professor Elemental's rapping ability and punneriffic lyrics are certainly enough to get me out of bed in the.... well, maybe not the morning. Equally skillful is frequent collaborator, turntablist Nick Maxwell, who lends his aid to close the track - no baby scratching here though, these skills demonstrate precisely why Maxwell is on the Professor's roster. Good Morning got it's own video as well, embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

Sunskip, is an instrumental number by Tom Caruana featuring sampled vocals that get inside your head despite being hard to decipher, along with a driving rhythm, subtle but acid-like synths and charming flute, (or clarinet?), loop.

Overall, School of Whimsy is a fun, witty and unique album, which you can stick on repeat and still find engaging. Trust me, I have tried. The timing of the release is impecable, being as this is the first sunshine I've seen in months and the album perfectly matches my current mood. This will be my 2018 summer album, I'm sure it'll be yours too.

You can enroll in the School of Whimsy yourself through Elemental's website,

Links


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The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing - Double Negative

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Review by Liam Taylor. Fantastical Victorian Steampunkers, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, are releasing their new album Double Negative this Friday, (March 9th). Pre-orders can be acquired through Bandcamp, where you can also stream the lead single and opening track, Supply and Demand.

This collection of tracks are all focused on the grim realities of life in Victorian Britain - track 1 is no exception. Supply and Demand puts vocalist Andy Heintz into the shoes of bodysnatchers Burke & Hare. Musically, it's a punky shout-along which is self-aware enough to not last longer than 2 minutes.

Our 2nd track, Baby Farmer is about Amelia Dyer, infamous for drowning unwanted babies in the Thames. The vocals are reminiscent of classic English punk - Sham69 and the like. The guitars here lie somewhere between traditional punk and NWBHM, especially the edgy intro riff.

Hidden focuses on guitarist & vocalist Andrew O'Neill's Magick obsession. It even features O'Neill performing The Bornless Ritual towards the end of an instrumental section.

Disease Control features a jarring coutnerpoint between "normal" and shouty vocals. It grows on you though, it's just a bit unexpected at first. Lyrically, the track looks at one of the Victorian period's scientific advances: John Snow's discovery that 1854's Soho cholera epidemic was waterborne.

Track 5 focuses on the gluttony and depravity of Prince Bertie, Queen Victoria's massively overweight son. The humorous lyrics in Obscene Fucking Machine appeal directly to the anti-monarchist in me, who doesn't get as much air time as he should.

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Occam's Razor remains prevalent in some way throughout the track. The track becomes even more intriguing when we reach a fast-paced vocal section, almost rap-like in it's deftness. Perhaps surprisingly,  this is is the first track the band have released about Jack The Ripper - although they're not fantasising about the mythos, rather pointing out the grossness of it being used to sell books.

God is in the Bottom Line is about child labour, which was commonplace during Victoria's reign. Fittingly, this is an aggressive track, especially with Jez Miller's frantic, hardcore punk drums.

The hillariously on-the-nose title of track 8 gives some hint as to it's content. There She Glows is a dissonant love song addressed to scientist Marie Curie, who pioneered experiments with radiation. Bassist & Vocalist Marc Burrows tells us “Her actual recipe book is still radioactive. You have to handle it with special gloves.

It's hard to work out whether the impassioned finale, There's Going to be a Revolution, is about historical unrest or the alleged Commie uprising we're, (apparently), living through. It's an odd choice to close the album - ending with a cavalcade of distorted guitars over a very repetetive riff and electronic-sounding drum loop. Maybe that's the point, they're making some kind of statement? A rare miss judging by the rest of the disk.

Overall, there's something on Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing's new album for punks, metalheads and anybody who's sick of the rose-tinted glasses through which Steampunk views a pretty unpleasent era. Musically, we're not breaking any boundaries but that's fine - the tracks are well-written, well-constructed and well-produced. They do much more than support the lyrics, which are compelling from both a poetic standpoint and a comic one. Worth a listen: 8/10.

Tour Dates

  • MON 12 MAR - Nottingham, Rescue Rooms

  • TUE 13 MAR - Newcastle, Trillians

  • WED 14 MAR - Edinburgh, Bannermans

  • THU 15 MAR - Birmingham, Castle & Falcon

  • SAT 17 MAR - York, Fulford Arms

  • SUN 18 MAR - Milton Keynes, Craufurd Arms

  • MON 19 MAR - Cardiff, Globe

  • TUE 20 MAR - Chester, The Live Rooms

  • WED 21 MAR - Leicester, The Shed

  • THU 22 MAR - Exeter, The Cavern

  • FRI 23 MAR - London, The Dome

  • SAT 24 MAR - Southampton, Joiners

  • SUN 25 MAR - Bristol, The Exchange

  • TUE 17 JUL - Detroit US, Motor City Steamcon

LINKS


Oh, hi! Still reading? Well, that's helpful actually, because we have something to tell you: Stabbed Panda is an independent music blog, run by a handful of people for whatever trickle of ad money we can get. We hope we can keep uploading stuff here for a long time, and keep access to it free without resorting to hideous, intrusive adverts. If you'd like to show some support and help us do that, please take a look at our Patreon Page and unlock some rewards. Ta.

The Menagerie - Odd Beast

Odd Beast album cover by The Menagerie

Odd Beast album cover by The Menagerie

Review by Liam Taylor. Quintessentially British rap super-group, The Menagerie, have returned with a new album on Tea Sea Records. Crickey. Their 4th album, Odd Beast, contains witty lyrics, dizzying turntable, and odd beats, (oddness is to be embraced, as we'll learn whilst listening). The Menagerie comprises of MCs Professor Elemental, Dr Syntax, producer Tom Caruana and DJ Nick Maxwell, who have all met with success in their own right. We also have some guests along for the ride, including Al, the Native of Rizzle Kicks fame, Clev Cleverly and vocalist Sabira Jade. Odd Beast opens with a short but jaunty track, Walking With Canes. It's hard to listen to without imagining our MCs already walking with said canes. We learn of their adventures between this release and the previous, Irregular Spirits back in 2013, before progressing to the 2nd track. Dr Syntax's lilting flow, reminiscent of Aesop Rock and Gorillaz-era Del TFH, takes centre-stage for Make Good Art. Syntax leads by example here, as does DJ Nick with his exemplary scratching.

Stand-out jauntiness by producer Tom Caruana in Stampede, which may be a more familiar tone to Elemental fans out there. Syntax takes over at a mid-track tempo change, which descending into a minor quarrel between our MCs - an actual laugh-out-loud moment, even the 7th time listening to the album. It's a bit soon for Brexit references though chaps, some of us are still a bit sore.

An old school horn loop signals the start of Come On, (featuring Clev Cleverly). A jovial and energetic number, with a Goldie Lookin' Chain feel, references to dad dancing and H.P. Lovecraft. Seriously though, if you're not sold on the album with that sentence alone I don't know if we'd really get along.

Image of Dr Syntax & Tom Caruana

Image of Dr Syntax & Tom Caruana

Rappers Don't Want To Be Our Friend is softer, much more solemn, which puts me in mind of some of the more serious Scroobius Pip / Dan Le Sac numbers. The track itself is "LeSacian", (new term, I hope it catches on), opening with an oddly endearing glissando synth melody, (like a robin swallowed an elastic band), and gritty drum loop. It's evident that our MCs have, many times, faced the dichotomy of wanting to "fit in" whilst not wanting to conform to uncomfortable social norms. I feel like we have some shared experiences. I'd like readers to remember it's possible to be a hip-hop fan without being a prick. The same goes for rock subcultures by the way... and jazz...

Track 7, She's Gone, explores our MC's relationship difficulties, and opens with a drunken sing-along refrain. If I take nothing else away from this album, I'll certainly never shift the mental image of the Professor throwing up on himself, Rick Sanchez style.

I've tried to understand football. I swear, I really have, but I just don't get it. Luckily, I can always count on nerd-core and steampunk subcultures to back me up. There's a lot of talk about "echochambers" these days, so perhaps I should be more open to opposing views... No, no... It's the footballers who are wrong. Anyway... Only A Game, is a Madness-esque dig at football, hooligan culture, and the questionable behaviours of sportspeople. This is a hugely enjoyable tune, especially if you enjoy certain episodes of The IT Crowd.

Image of Prof. Elemental

Image of Prof. Elemental

TheRain,stands out with it's pleasantly sung chorus from guest vocalist Sabira Jade, which is in contrast to the bulk of the vocals present on this disk. We're not actually talking about the weather here are we chaps? If you're the kind of person who can't handle politics in music, feel free to skip Track 11. Accompanied by repetitious piano and a haunting horn sample, our hosts point their fingers directly towards British politics and make their problems clear.

I have no words to describe Bears, the closing track. "But Liam, you're writing a review, why would you tell about a track you're not going to tell us about?" Because I want you to buy the album.

I don't want to re-open any old hip-hop wounds, but I always felt that Professor Elemental had the lyrical edge over his chap-hop contemporaries. Odd Beast "professorie" enough to keep chap fans engaged, whilst embracing that part of the rap fan's brain that wants to hear some harsher language. Syntax, on form as ever, stands out with his skillful flow, catchy rhymes and sing-along choruses. There's elements of Britpop and British Big Beat to my ear, along with the humour, groove and social commentary we've come to expect from The MenagerieOdd Beast is funny, intelligent, and worthy of your attention.

The Menagerie elsewhere:


Oh, hi! Still reading? Well, that's helpful actually, because we have something to tell you: Stabbed Panda is an independent music blog, run by a handful of people for whatever trickle of ad money we can get. We hope we can keep uploading stuff here for a long time, and keep access to it free without resorting to hideous, intrusive adverts. If you'd like to show some support and help us do that, please take a look at our Patreon Page and unlock some rewards. Ta.

GadZukes - Fight The Silence

Gadzukes Review by Mickey Nicholas,Photography by Jean-Louis Fressier at Bobital 2016

It’s cold, dark and wet. It’s nearly winter. Heavier coats, thicker jumpers and scarves aplenty. People practically mainline hot chocolate to stave off the winter blues. It’s not what I would call appropriate weather to be listening to cross-channel folk-rock family group GadZukes’ E.P. Fight the Silence. I don’t mean to say it can’t be listened to in the bitter months, rather that it deserves to be listened to in warmer weather, with bluer skies and shorter trousers. Maybe flip-flops. It’s made up of five tracks, and is an excellent showcasing of GadZukes’ musical talents, foot-tapping their way into ear-worm status with folk-rock anthems, edgy pop-rock hand-crafted for top-down driving and acoustic-fed dream-weaving.

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The first song, Ignite, is an indie-rock song that needs a little scene setting. Imagine, it’s spring break, you and four friends have decided to spend the holidays taking a road trip to an old hunting cabin. It’s a hot day- not unpleasantly so. You all climb into a sporty number with an open top, don your sunglasses and crank up the radio and feel the breeze running through your hair. It’s the song that comes before the creepy gas-station attendant gives you an ominous warning. It’s a driving song. It’s upbeat. It’s what happens when T-Rex and The Libertines have a holiday romance. It’s got a catchy hook, and has bits you can sing along to. A good, solid opener.

Gadzukes ReviewThe next song Getting It On, stars with a hard rock riff before moving into a catchy female-led track. It’s a little more country-rock than the first track. It moves like the tides, sweeping from mellow moments and building into foot-tapping territory with rapid fire lady-vocals.

Now for something a little different. Track three, In my Dreams is ethereal, atmospheric, a kind of semi-psychedelic folk track with haunting female vocals. It’s a pretty track, sweeping up from gentle to powerful, adding layers over the course of the song. It’s like watching someone build a puzzle, the colours, the shape is easy to see to start with, and as they go the larger picture takes shape. At first listen it comes across as a simple song, but that’s only because it’s so seamlessly structured.

Funk basslines and sing-along “yeah-yeah”s and “ooh”s mark out the fourth song on the E.P. Sweet Aroma. It’s probably the highest energy song out of the five, with it’s clean riffs and harmonising vocals. Folk rock put on it’s anthem suit, and took us out dancing.

Gadzukes Review

Before reviewing Fight the Silence, I was told GadZukes were 40% steampunk. Pirates in the Sky, the last song on the E.P., is a folky, pop-esque rock track that contains that 40%. It’s not any old acoustic track with gears glued on. It’s a story for the most part. Folk-pop swerves into a sort of dream-like narrative, gently winding it’s way into your head with a catchy chorus and acoustic guitar. It’s a good way to end the E.P.

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