Navajo Ace - Five Turnings

Review by Si Pettit. Worcester isn't a place people normally associate with any particular genre of music. That's not to say that the musical output of the city itself has been lacking. Rather, it seems harder for any bands to really stand out there.

I've never been, so for all I know there's a thriving indie scene that is just waiting to be taken advantage of by the ears of thousands, if not tens of thousands. The only two notable musicians to hail from the county that spring to mind, (or are the first two people on Google), are Dave Mason of Traffic, and Karl Hyde of Trance duo Underworld. If, however, and this is a relatively big if, there is a new act out there that can show the rest of the country that, yes, they do have a scene and it's just as good as anyone else's, then Navajo Ace are most likely to be the band that does it.

Navajo Ace describe themselves as a "new dynamic indie rock band from Worcester, UK". Boldly sallying-forth with their claim that they're "garnering themselves a reputation as an interesting underground band that make music with power and soul". I can't personally verify this, given that I don't live anywhere near Worcester, but I'll happily take their word for it (for now). Remember kids: Self-belief in your own brand is crucial. Today we're listening to Navajo Ace's 5-track debut E.P. Five Turnings.

As soon as first track, Tiger in the Tank, starts I'm struck with how much vocalist Adam Barnes sounds like head Decemberist Colin Meloy in the first 14 seconds. Consisting of Adam and his guitar, before drummer Crag Sharpe informs the rest of the band that the song has started properly now. As soon as Alex Stobart and Christian Burton chime in, (guitar and bass respectively), I was instantly recalling the subtly tempered rawness of British Sea Power. In particular, the breakdown at roughly 2 minutes in being very reminiscent yet not derivative, as the band make good use of dynamic changes to accentuate the energy with which the track had started, including a very self-reflective outro normally only heard in the music of established indie stadium acts from 2008.

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Navajo Ace have managed to tap into a particular thread of post-millenial Indie rock acts like Abandoned Pools and The Tender Box , whilst retaining a little bit of the early 90's angst that recent Alternative Rock was all too eager to shed, deciding instead to try and 'mature'. Both Underneath Cars and Awkward Places take me back to 2006, (specifically 2006). Both tracks seem to be to halves to the same overall theme, though with their own unique configurations.

Even the music video for Underneath Cars (which is helpfully embedded at the bottom of this article), is reminiscent of the era it's emulating so well, even going so far as to set fire to Ernie and Elmo toys from Sesame Street. Either way, they directly connect with the angst that all of us have coursing through our veins whether we like to admit it or not. These songs perfectly capture that bittersweet prelude to adolescence, too young to care, old enough to know better, and everything's just happening around you all the time regardless of your input.

Five Turnings, for me at least, is the stand-out track, and that's not just because it shares its name with the E.P. It has a wonderfully triumphant-sounding vibe that you'd be forgiven for thinking was a lost My Vitriol track from 2003. The vocal line sounds almost nursery-rhyme-like as it follows the main guitar riff. The band have chosen to use a lot of elements often found in other acts of their ilk, including but not limited to the rhythmic patterns found on albums like Bleed American by Jimmy Eat World or British Sea Power's Do You Like Rock Music?, and riffs that would feel at home in a Doves setlist.

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The final track, Drop The Needle, seems to follow on quite well from Five Turnings. That may just be the fact that they're in the same key, not unlike Underneath Cars and Awkward Places,  whilst Drop The Needle seems to relate well to its predecessor, it doesn't really distance itself enough to stand out. Especially after having heard the anthemic nature of Five Turnings once already. It does, however, end the E.P. on a high note, almost as if to say "yeah, things can be difficult, but pain is always temporary, and things do get better". That, or I read far too much into these things. Look, music is subjective, alright?

Overall, Navajo Ace's first E.P. is a well-constructed debut release, and the band themselves show a lot of promise. They seem to take themselves just seriously enough to write music reminiscent of the Power-Pop renaissance some of us experienced in the late 00's. Like any band just starting out, they're quick to show off their compositional ability, and they showcase it well. My only real gripes are that, whilst there's plenty of varied compositional elements in each song, they all share many of the same qualities that make it difficult for any of them to stand out on their own individually.

Despite that, the E.P. is well mastered, not succumbing to the same kind of overproduction that so many casualties of the loudness war have suffered in recent years. Regardless, Navajo Ace are well worth keeping an eye on whilst they navigate their journey through the Indie scene, and those of you that are inclined to do so can check out the links below.

You'll like this if you're a fan of: British Sea Power, My Vitriol, Doves, Jimmy Eat World.

Overall score: 7.5/10 - Shiny


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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:


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Empty Lungs - Don't Get It

Review by Mickey Nicholas. Commonly espoused by short people with inferiority complexes, the old saying that good things come in small packages tends to be spotty in it’s applicability- you end up with a plethora of creations made by people who heard the idiom and decided to focus on the "small" rather than the "good".

Belfast-born Empty Lungs have, with their new E.P. Don’t Get It, bucked the trend and gone down the less-travelled route of quality over quantity. It’s only three tracks, and was released by Canadian label Hidden Pony Records earlier this month. Despite it’s brevity, it’s an album packed with indie-rock, angsty punk and nineties pop influences- after having given it a listening to on repeat for an hour solid, it still hasn’t gotten old. It sounds like what would happen if Britpop legends Pulp married Rise Against, and together they produced a musical lovechild that had just come out the other side of puberty and wasn’t best pleased with what it had encountered thus far.

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The first song Don’t Get It, has an excellent intro with hard punk riffs and pounding drums, a shouty chorus and lyrics about the benefits of clear communication between the sexes. The boys know their way around their instruments, and the vocals are excellent. It’s a short song, but a fantastic one to introduce themselves with. We’ve got Kev Jones on guitar, Mykie Rowan on drums and Conor Langan on bass. All of them contribute vocally, lending to a layered sound that’s pretty fun to air guitar along to, if you don’t know how to actually play a guitar.

The second song Losing It. Finding It sounds like something I would have listened to when I was younger, in the distant green summers of yore. The song is brilliantly structured, moving from slow to fast in nice smooth transitions- it doesn’t sound jerky or poorly timed. Also, the song has "woahs" in it, and everyone and their mother knows that if a song has "woahs" in it, it’s probably a winner.

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Fragile, the last track on the E.P. starts with a nice dirty bass-line running underneath some pretty dark lyrics- dark, but not pessimistic, it may sound at first like an angst-ridden track, but it’s not. There’s some excellent guitar on this track, taking from the bass and running with it, adding a whole new dimension of sound to the song alongside the vocals. It’s the slowest song out of the three, not really one for jumping around to, but still good for a groove.

It’s a fantastic E.P. that shows off the band’s talent- three different songs with similarities, but not in anyway samey. Empty Lungs are on the last stretches of a UK tour, but if this E.P. is anything to go by, I’d put money on them being back soon enough.

Links and that


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Energy - Apparition Sound

Review by Mickey Nicholas. Energy are an across-the-pond punk quintet from Massachusetts, formed in 2006, with a relatively prolific body of work for such a young band. Their latest album, Apparition Sound, released in early February 2017, holds eight tracks for your listening pleasure.

Review of Energy's album

Review of Energy's album

The first track is Renascentia, which opens with a heavy metal sound, hard bassline and a repeating hook. It’s short, being an intro track, but it’s mood setting, it’s a brief but dark and energetic piece.

New Worlds of Fear has a very metal opening, ripped through with a harsh growl followed by the most surprising vocals- It’s a good singing voice, but given the general feel of the intro to the song I was not expecting what I heard. I was expecting screams and growls, but instead got smooth, clean, vocals. There’s a little bit of screaming, but the transitions between the two are flawless. It’s a good solid track to really open the album with.

Another Yesterday, track number three, has distortion running through it’s intro, but it may be the poppiest sounding track on the whole album. It has melancholy lyrics, but the catchiest riffs and a good chorus for singing along to. The guitar-work from both guitarists is fantastic.

Track four is Dead in Dreamland, which has a slow start- almost reminiscent of The Used, (if anyone still remembers them), but the song quickly picks up in tempo, the pace really well set by the rapid fire drumming. It’s a catchy tune, with a decent use of sound effects to augment the vocals.

Energy

Energy

The Infection starts with lonely piano, but leads into the drums and guitars. The vocals jump in with a new shift in pitch that takes you by surprise again. It’s got a kind of sombre sound, but it speeds up about half way through, with the guitars throwing riffs like shuriken. Its my favourite track from the whole album.

Pet Semetary, track number six, is a very pop-punk song with upbeat guitar, solid drumming and dark lyrics. It’s a fun little track, with a catchy chorus and a good melody to hum along to. A good example of the variety of sounds the band are capable of producing.

Number seven is The Shadowlands which sets the seen with a moody intro, marked by heavily distorted guitar and a heavy bassline. The guitar flips into a sharp riff and the drumming picks up and the whole thing starts to come together. It feels like a continuation of Renascentia and is probably the best song on the album to really hear the guitarists skill.

Final track, They, has a slow intro on the guitar gently easing into lonely vocals. The song stays slow for nearly two minutes before slamming into fierce shredding. The song sounds almost hopeful, at least compared to the previous tracks. It has a fantastic solo too, about a minute from the end, and nearly a minute long. An excellent album from start to finish.

LINKS & THAT


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blanket - Our Brief Encounters

Blanket Review by Mickey Nicholas. Hailing from Blackpool, Lancashire, shiny new four-piece blanket emerge into the purview of the musically inclined with their new LP Our Brief Encounters.

Ambient, atmospheric, weird. All these can tidily sum-up the five-track LP, and can tidily sum up each track. It would be wise not to interpret this as meaning it’s a bad LP, far from it. It’s a marvellously organic-feeling attempt at a kind of post-rock interpretation.

Review of Blanket

There’s a sense of scale, something big and grand underpinned by themes of human intimacy running through Our Brief Encounters. The whole thing feels like it’s trying to tell a story about human interaction in the form of a film soundtrack, if the whole film was the soundtrack.

Like all stories, you have to set the scene- establish the general tone of the narrative. The first song on the LP, Acacia, does exactly this- an atmospheric intro intertwined with a little piano, which forms the heart of the whole track as haunting guitar echoes over the top, gradually building, layering sounds onto each other into a coalescing crescendo, before delicately falling away, piece by piece.

Blanket Review

The second song, Tethered, starts with ambient sounds that rise and fall, layered with gentle guitar and a section of dialogue taken from the 2003 Sofia Coppola film Lost in Translation. It took me a little while to figure out where I knew it from, but the interaction between Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson’s characters kind of sums up what the whole film is about. The guitars build and sweep, the drums filling the background like a heartbeat.

Track three, Discoveries and Beginnings, opens with male and female vocals in harmony, cutting quickly to soft guitar that grows to fill the whole song, the same hook repeating, a little faster, a little louder. It’s the kind of song you’d expect to be included in a documentary about the environment as seen from space.

Starlight Filled Our Minds has it’s own music video, (below)! It starts big, vocals and guitars harmonising into a multi-layered choral sound. Gradually, gentle vocals come in, and the guitars rise up and fall away into a powerful piano hook. The whole song explodes around the three minute mark, every component crashing together harmoniously before the guitar steps up to the front to lead almost until the end of the song, before suddenly cutting away back to the starting harmonies, book-ending the track.

To the Skies comes in bright and loud with echoed piano and upbeat drums flashing in like sunlight through clouds. A guitar hook slips in, simple but effective, slowing the tempo a touch before picking it back up again with the drums in tow. The instruments slip away, the vocals come in, and the song layers up again into a grand sweep of sound, heavy guitar over soft piano and crashing drums rising and falling like waves.

blanket's debut album, Our Brief Encounters, is released on February 10th and is available for pre-order right now.

LINKS & THAT

 

Blunderbuster - The Legend of Hywel Evans

Blunderbuster Review by Mickey Nicholas. I’ve never been one to actively seek out folk music and it’s modern iterations. It’s not an active dislike of folk, but more of a passive disinclination. When I was younger, I always thought the only people who liked folk music to any degree were those kinds of people who talk about pre-industrial society as if it was infallibly better than nowadays. It was only better if you happened to enjoy hot and cold running typhoid, with free tapeworms for every subscriber.

However, as I’ve grown older and hopefully, wiser, I have taken some time out of my usual musical schedule to actually listen to folk-esque material, and I’m not as unimpressed with it as I expected. Most recently, I have been impressed by Staffordshire / Derbyshire quintet, Blunderbuster and their new album The Legend of Hywel Evans. The eight-track album constitutes folk-punk at it’s finest- earnest, loud and full of character. Blunderbuster ReviewThe singing across the board is enthusiastic, powerful and unique in it’s style, variations in pitch and tone give a rawer vibe to the music. I’m a big lover of violins and being a folk album I’d have been disappointed if the fiddling wasn’t up to par, but I wasn’t. The same can be said of all the band-members, who show a fervent proficiency in their selected instruments. You can hear the love that went into the playing.

The first song is Raggle Taggle, a steady intro into high energy story-telling. A good strong start out the gates for the album. It’s the kind of song that gets people stamping their feet and wondering if they should take up cider-fancying as a hobby.

The next song I’ll highlight opens with an accordion, and various sea sounds to build atmosphere, because it wouldn’t be a folk album without a fun pirate-themed song. It’s called Black Bart and it’s an interesting mix of paces and energies, moving between slower and softer traditional style instrumentals to fast punkier segments with explosive vocals.

Blunderbuster Review

Hywel’s Song is the heart of the whole album. It’s in this song you can really get to grips with the influences of the band, and the singer really flaunts his voice. It’s got a kind of Frank Turner kind of feel to it, with acoustic guitar, but there’s also a Dropkick glaze over the top. It’s a fun song.

The last one I’ll write about is the band’s own take on a traditional drinking song, Wild Rover. Kind of adopted by the Irish and the Scottish as a drinking song. Which it definitely is. It’s a fun way to end the album.

Links & That

 

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.

Links & That

 

Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer - There's A Rumpus Going On Review

Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer review Review by Liam Taylor. I'm only 10 seconds in to There's A Rumpus Going On, new album from chap-hop superstar Mr. B The Gentleman Rhymer, and I'm reminded what a pitiless worm Michael Gove is. How many albums released this year can claim to do the same? Spineless politicians aside, there is most assuredly a rumpus going on. If you're unfamiliar with the concept of chap-hop I'm going to let you take a moment to get up to speed, then I'll meet you back here shortly, yes? Finished? Grand.

13782189_10157116335000307_7066975891992065892_nSo Many Reggie Perrins In The Arse End Of Space has the kind of chorus you find yourself humming without fully understanding. It also includes the kind of jaunty bass-line and "rom-bom, bobbity-bom" hook you'd anticipate from a Chap-Hop L.P. with the seamless addition of an almost psychedelic bridge.

I get the impression that track 4, Hitler Gifs, was composed with the express purpose of having a a crowd chant "I love Hitler...  ...  ... gifs." You will find yourself chanting it as well after a sherry or five, so best be sure the curtains are drawn before striking that play button. Broadly these lyrics are about relaxation, and the inevitability that some will spend the small hours stuck in that part of the internet with all the memes.

Ollie And Stan opens with a Tom & Jerry-esque bombardment of sampled effects, beats and piano. Ostensibly, this is a track about Laurel & Hardie, (Ollie and Stan being their forenames), and even includes some sampling of their arguments, which makes the sound designer in me turgid with joy. This is a fast-paced stomper with a squishy bassline - can you imagine acid-dancehall-chap-hop? Well you don't have to anymore, because this is it.

We Need To Talk About Kanye is a tune which needs to be played from the highest rooftops, from the loudest of boomboxes. Aside from being a daringly accurate re-creation of a well-known Queen harmony, it also makes a necessary point about those creating "art" in the 21st century.  Is it art, or did they simply misspell "ego"?

National Trust is about as punk as a chap can get, whilst maintaining dignity. It also demonstrated that Mr. B isn't afraid of getting political, and displaying his vocal flow whilst doing so. Is that a distortion pedal on the banjolele? Well, why not.

Mr B the gentleman rhymer reviewTrack 9, Still Can't Play The Trombone, is a reminder that we shouldn't let lack of skill be a barrier to personal enjoyment. It's also at this point that I realised this album hasn't relied so exclusively on the banjolele. We have the occasional visitations from upright piano and double bass as we've come to expect, but they're now complemented with trombone, and a greater variety of  synths, basses, beats and effects.

I don't mind confessing that Last Of The Unknown International Flâneurs forced me to Google a phrase or two. Here we have an endearingly sloppy bassline, which reflects the wandering,  sauntering nature of the tune.

The Happy Song is scantily-clad compared to others on this track, comprising of double bass, banjolele and a simple beat behind Mr. B's vocal, later joined by piano. This allows for a bit of a light-hearted breather between other tracks which are a tad dense at times. It's much the same for this song's lyrics which suggest we should reflect on what we have rather than what we think we need and that maybe life isn't as terrible as it seems to be at the moment. It's possible that I'm putting my own feelings onto this song's meaning, but good music is supposed to make you think, dammit!

Ennui seems to be a reoccurring theme withing this album, but takes centre stage with Boredom. The track isn't boring however, spurred on by Mr. B's fast-paced vocals and compelling backing track.

The Secret Ingredient, as it turns out is "giving up" at least, that's what this self-proclaimed "defeatist anthem" declares. Although it's a perfectly satisfactory and entertaining tune, the simple rhythms and sparse sections seem to reflect the subject matter. This is a pleasant sway-along breather many seem to employ towards the end of albums.

The album closes with Youth, Truth, Gin, Vermouth and yes, I'm sure there are parts of the planet in which that title won't rhyme. Dark at times, this has a bit more movement to it than the previous track. You might still find yourself swaying, but you might also find yourself really fancying a Martini.

Mr B the gentleman rhymer review

I suppose you want some kind of summary now, don't you? Well, fine.

For a while, I'd not enthused about Mr. B as much as I had with the release of 2011's O.G. Original Gentleman. In my mind, the musical quality of 2012's The Tweed Album and 2013's Can't Stop, Shan't Stop was greatly improved, but at the expense of humour. There's A Rumpus Going On, you'll be glad to hear, is a great comedy album which doesn't, as they often do, sacrifice musicality. My advice is that if you've ever enjoyed Mr. B, for any reason, you should give this album a ruddy good try.

Links and that:

 

Jake Martin: We Take Them At Dawn

Jake Martin joined us in the Panda Shack again to record a few songs off his new album, We Take Them At Dawn.

Go over here to see our 2014 interview with Jake Martin: Link!

Jake Martin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jake's website: Website Jake's Facebook: Facebook More about Aaahh!!! Real Records: Real-Records.co.uk

Rusty G's - Low

Review by Joey StoateCheck out Joey’s awesome music blog right here.

After a brief stint supporting the seminal GUN last year, Milton Keynes based two-piece Rusty G’s are preparing to unleash their debut album, Low, upon the world this May, and the band were lovely enough to send us over a copy to review. Have the duo delivered on potential found on earlier releases?

Rusty G’sLow Review of Rusty G's Debut Album Low

1. Oh Yeah 2. Crawl 3. Taking Over 4. I Don’t Want This 5. Don’t Belong 6. The Killer 7. Waiting 8. Static 9. So Low 10. Losing You

Wasting no time, the record hits straight away with Oh Yeah, a perfect embodiment of the band’s style and overall mission statement. With the pompous alt-rock tones oozing all over the record, fans of bands like Superheaven and Dinosaur Pile Up will feel right at home here. The riffs on display are infectious, opting for a sleazy, run down feel that totally captures the more grunge-oriented leanings of the record in tracks like Crawl, and the subtle notes of psychedelia add an extra dimension to stave off familiarity for too long.

The sound here isn’t entirely perfected, however. Whilst instrumentals are strong, vocals can seem forced and begin to grate when hitting the higher notes. The hammy, artificial impression they unfortunately put across hampers the sound of several tracks, more notably those taken from the band’s E.P. Taking Over.

To find another criticism in the album, the most obvious issue here is song structure and length. Each of these songs kicks your ass for the first two or three minutes, but when they reach the four minutes plus mark, fatigue starts to set in and I find myself skipping to the next track, especially coupled with the uniform song structures utilised throughout the release.

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The band’s intricate and considered use of distorted ambience adds some much needed grime to the otherwise fairly lo-fi production, keeping proceedings from ever getting too neat and tidy, too clean. Instrumental performances here are absolutely stellar, with particular praise going to the tom-work throughout the record, accentuating the punchy, stomping elements of each track, especially the superb Static. When they’re found, solos are short, punchy and incorporated seamlessly, such as their use on songs like Crawl.

In Low, Rusty G’s have delivered on the promise given to us in the past and then some. With an album full of alt-rock delight, issues like vocals and song structures become lost in the positives. Powerful, catchy, and dripping with yet more potential, Rusty G’s deserve the mainstream attention they’re so inevitably braced to receive.

8/10

Links and that: Rusty G's Website Rusty G's on Facebook

Low  becomes available on 9/5/16

 

Flying Vinyl Subscription Review

This is an intriguing music subscription service, which will deliver a handful of specially pressed vinyl to your doorstep every month for £20. Check them out over here: Flying Vinyl

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Review from Joey Stoate

Whilst I’m a big supporter of the idea of the service Flying Vinyl are looking to provide, the tracks found here lack much in the way of variation. Whilst this certainly doesn’t condemn the collection, fans of other genres will unfortunately left out in the cold as the companies’ focus on fairly bog-standard electro-Indie seems to prevail throughout the ten songs offered.

However, as I mentioned, that’s not to say that some of the material here isn’t of high quality. Tracks such as The BelligerentsVoices & to a lesser extent, both offerings from Asylums provide some of the variation the collection so achingly desires, and the package’s physical representation is a true novelty itself. Otherwise, many tracks here will leave the listener with a fairly strong sense of deja-vu, as they’re treated to a relatively monotonous selection of tracks not quite suitable for the Drive soundtrack.

Sadly, given the steep asking price, this collection is out of the range of those looking to discover new music on a budget, and many will soon cease their subscription should the offerings continue to remain so one-note. An idea, perhaps, could be to curate specific boxes each month with themes much like those employed by other monthly box companies like Super Loot and the Z Box. But for those with a very strong love of Indie and a couple of quid to burn, you can’t go wrong here.

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Michael Robshaw - Replacements

Review by Joey StoateCheck out Joey’s epic music blog over here.

With his second E.P. Replacements,  Cambridge- / Leeds-based Michael Robshaw strives to expand on his repertoire of indie-rock inspired acoustic material. After months of teasing and an impressive performance on Leeds Local Radio, Mike will unleash his new offering on the 17th of February. However, does Replacements deliver for Robshaw?

Straight off the bat it's clear that Mike has a clear understanding of his genre, pulling off the almost ethereal-like, effortlessly floating soundscape many amateur artists of his ilk struggle to perfect. From the Gaslight Anthem-esque introduction of first track, My Friend Called Jai, to the ivories tinkled throughout Nine Lives, the E.P. captures that acoustic environment brought to mind by artists such as Frank Turner and his band The Sleeping Souls.

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With soft instrumentals and even smoother vocal ability, the songs found here flow wonderfully, despite being a little paint-by-numbers in certain sections. To illustrate, To Wake Not Feeling Guilty features one of the most interesting opening lines of any song on the release, incorporating a darker sound in it's riffs and running with it throughout the track, whereas a track like When I Say could arguably be seen as more generic, shiny acoustic fodder we see every day, despite a strong delivery.

Writing wise, each track here stands alone as it's own three to four minute experience, working as a perfect encapsulation of concise acoustic rock. Lyrically, Mike puts in a good showing with memorable sentiment, and the musical accompaniment features catchy melodies and sharper-than-expected tonality, often performing deeper than expected.

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One of my biggest gripes with the E.P., however, comes with Robshaw's vocal delivery. Whilst it can't be argued that he has an incredibly silky, impressive voice, this proves to detract from the experience in several tracks. Whilst the aforementioned When I Say & Nine Lives are both perfect examples of Mike's delivery suiting the proceedings to a "t", tracks like My Friend Called Jai suffers from an almost diabetic, overly gentle set of pipes. His soft tone contrasts a little too far with scattergun stabs of distorted guitars laying in the background, and this could well turn some people off, creating a somewhat jarring listening experience.

As somebody not frighteningly familiar with the genre, Michael Robshaw's Replacements has impressed me greatly. An acute understanding of what makes acoustic rock so great and strong songwriting ability allow Robshaw's talent to shine through a few minor issues, and when all is said and done this E.P. is a collection of fairly memorable music that I'll be playing a few more times once I'm finished with this review, and that's saying a lot.

Score: 7/10

Links & Ting: Michael Robshaw on Facebook Replacements on iTunes

 

Rootwork - Gallows Humor

Review by Joey StoateCheck out Joey's epic music blog over here.

Back in late November of 2015, I described Rootwork as a Queens Of The Stone Age-esque stoner rock band, and a very interesting one at that. Having caught the tail end of their set supporting Black Peaks at the Guildford Boileroom, the band impressed me within the short time I was fortunate to catch them. Now, entering the new year, I’ve had some time to come to grips with their latest E.P., Gallows Humour, and boy, is this a strong start to 2016.

Kicking off the record with the crushingly heavy Code Talker, I realise that my earlier comparisons in past reviews to bands such as QOTSA may no-longer apply. Opening the record with a riff not unlike something you’d expect from tech-metal titans Meshuggah, the sheer power behind the guitar work on this track is exhilarating, even playful in it’s groove-laden bounce, and the band’s use of clean vocals only prove to highlight their uniqueness. The Farnborough trio’s evolution into proficient technical metal has been incredibly elegant, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t start the song over again as soon as it ended the first dozen times.

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Continuing on, we come to arguably the most radio-friendly track, Burning Shame. This time, we’re treated to what sounds like echoes of bands such as Lower Than Atlantis in the instrumentals, and even shades of Foo Fighters in the song’s vocal delivery. However, it’s very difficult to pick out specific bands when speaking about Rootwork, and that’s one of the best things about the trio. However, don’t let those comparisons fool you, Burning Shame isn’t afraid to bring the riffs back once more, and this time it’s just as heavy.

When we come to the third track on the record, however, the influences here are clear, in the best way possible. Dead Man’s Jacket has Mastodon written all over it, straight down to the song’s haunting verses, climbing chorus and fuzz-laden guitar lines. The song’s major interlude around the halfway mark adds a psychedelic tinge to proceedings, leading the track to probably end up the most intriguing on the record, once again leaving the audience with another chaotic crescendo.

Review of Rootwork's E.P titled 'Gallows Humour'

Closing the E.P. is final track Nothing’s Left For You. Taking the haunting, ethereal verses the band seem to write so well and melding it with gentle, finger picked guitar lines, creating an atmosphere thick enough to envelope the listener completely. Harmonised vocals add another layer of intricacy to the already rich soundscape before coming to a head with a cacophony of absolutely earth-shattering riffs throughout the piece. Clocking in at nearly eight minutes, the song absolutely justifies it’s extended running time with a plethora of riff variations, keeping the listener on their toes, stopping them from getting too comfortable with the way the track is ticking along.

Rootwork have delivered something truly special here. Whilst borrowing from some genre-spanning names, the band have served up a completely new take on the tech-metal scene. Hell, I’m not even sure what to class this as. One thing I do know, however, is that if there’s one thing you should be doing in 2016, it’s keeping an eye on the boys in Rootwork. Don’t expect this E.P. to be such a hidden gem for much longer.

Score : 9/10

Links, etc: Rootwork on Facebook Rootwork's Website

Some Skeletons - Vigils

Review by Joey StoateCheck out Joey's epic music blog over here.

After the release of their previous E.P. And Sings And Ampersands back in 2012, Nottingham based trio Some Skeletons are set to unleash their debut semi-concept album Vigils unto the world this Friday, citing influences such as Deftones and Brand New. Is Vigils the right step for the boys on their road to success, or are Some Skeletons best left in the closet?

(I am so, so sorry.)

Opening the record is soft, contemplative opener The Mouth, a Wonder Years-like introduction to the band’s melodic, emo-rock sensibilities. As an introduction, it sets the listener up well for second track, To Exceed, To Achieve. With a powerful, punchy intro and catchy, Biffy Clyro-esque chorus, the song features one of the most interesting vocal lines of the record, one that grabs the listener straight away and ultimately stays with them for days.

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Moving on to Indoor Meteors, we come to the first inkling of the aforementioned Deftones influence, albeit in a lighter fashion than the band’s peers such as Black Peaks. The song really shows off the immeasurable talent of drummer James Housley and his brilliant understanding of subtlety and dynamics, as well as focusing on an incredibly catchy bassline courtesy of Simon J Curd. Unfortunately, this is also the first taste of the album’s fairly poor lyrical content. Whilst the line “There’s no place a ghost can’t go” might make contextual sense given the album’s conceptual sights, sonically the words come across as frankly, a bit silly, cheapening what is otherwise a great track. Track four, Up On The Rocks once again trips up on it’s lyrical content, but manages to maintain the listeners interest with a bigger emphasis on strong, impressive melodies, as well as showcasing scope that’s really commendable for a band of their size.

It’s with that, we come to the real tragedy of the record. Beach Party, a few days ago, was far and away the best song on the album, showcasing a fantastic distorted intro that really packs a punch, along with a punk rock atmosphere that really stands out amongst the album’s more sedate offerings. However, it’s the lyrics once again, only this time it’s sadly unforgivable. Only when listening to the album on a train a couple of days back did I realise just what I was hearing, and to list the song’s many vocal flaws would require an entire review in itself. To put it simply, the song’s mismatched lyrical attempt at sentimentality with lines about, well, ‘dinner’ make the track downright laughable, contextually associated with the album’s conceptual themes or not. A catastrophic shame.

Let’s not dwell on that though, shall we, as No Respite serves to be yet another stand out on the album, with even more Biffy vibes oozing from the song’s melodies as well as its intricate structure. Off-kilter verses hang on yet more intuitive stickwork, and the guitar noodling is particularly effective here. It’s the same case with the wonderfully titled Hi, Give Me Disease, with another great vocal performance blending with the punchy, ska-bounce like second verse. Penultimate track Ex-Sceptics features one final great opening riff, and is another true stand out on the album with a fantastic chorus. The album comes to a close with a re-tread of album opener The Mouth, bookending the record nicely with an ascension to an appropriately understated crescendo to see the listener out.

Review of Some Skeleton's debut album titled 'Vigils'

This review is a little longer than I’m sure you’re used to, but this time around I feel the need to really convey my feelings more than ever. Please let me stress this; Vigils is not a bad album, in fact it’s quite the opposite, and really I have a lot of time for Some Skeletons. Hell, this is the first album I’ve reviewed for Stabbed Panda that I’ll still be listening to a few months down the road, if only to understand. The album holds so much ambition and drive, I’m incredibly keen to see them play the material live, because played right I’m sure they’ll destroy any bill they’re placed on. It’s wonderful to see that in a time where more tracks are mistaken as value for money, a band still understands that it’s quality over quantity, that trimming the fact is necessary to make a real impact on the listener. However despite this, the album’s lyrical content is downright unforgivable in places, and I could see the record being accused of becoming pretty samey in places. With some work, Some Skeletons really do have the potential to become truly massive, but for some people, those hammy words could be a real turn off, and it’s that aspect that holds me back from giving this record a great score. Please check out Some Skeletons, because this may be just what you’re looking for.

 Score: 7/10

Links, etc: Some Skeletons on Facebook Some Skeletons' Website

WhiteMoor - Pause And Effect

Review by Joey StoateCheck out Joey's wicked blog over here.

Derby-based band Whitemoor’s third album is ambitious, thought provoking and well written. However, whilst there’s a strong selection of stand out tracks here, the album unfortunately feels the need to pad out its slightly too long running time with underwhelming, generic indie-pop. To use an incredibly annoying phrase, Pause And Effect is an album of two halves.

The album starts incredibly strong, with epic opener Hollywood striking all the right chords with it’s spacey guitar tone and vocal lines, even if the track outstays it’s welcome ever so slightly, it’s a great song and it’s length doesn’t do anything to detract from it’s quality. Lead single, A Cage For The Animals is yet another fantastic song, with infectious choruses and an incredibly memorable vocal line, the song could happily sit alongside anything on Radio 1 today, production aside. Dark Sparks has single written all over it, with an effectively funky bassline permeating reverberated guitars and vocals.

Review of WhiteMoor's album titled 'Pause And Effect'

Be The Last starts with a promising intro, with an interesting almost gallop like feel to the percussion leading us into an intriguing first verse. Granted, the track would benefit hugely from another guitar line and bigger production, but the song carries on at a good pace, with a superb middle eight rounding off another strong piece. However, if there’s one piece of criticism for the track, the jarring full band stop before the first chorus is horrible, and can really throw the listener, almost to a point where it really wrecks the experience. It might work in a live environment, but not here.

The haunting Codes is another interesting song, proving to be both eerie and upbeat in feel, and really giving off the vibe of an unofficial title track. The band’s experiments with melodies really pay off here, achieving a sound that is both calm and claustrophobic. Unfortunately, here is where we reach the more problematic portion of the album. Whilst Ghosts certainly isn’t a bad track, it sadly highlights the album’s more generic qualities, especially in songs such as Only Human and God Help The Queen, both seeming unremarkable and frankly a bit dull.

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However, it’s not all doom and gloom. She Makes Me Fly proves to be one of the album’s best tracks, with it’s prominent use of keys really injecting a new life into proceedings, and Masquerade picks things up once again as a fun, more energetic track with memorable synth lines and a stronger hint of aggression. The album creeps to a close with the album’s best slow track, the quiet, thoughtful closer Until Tomorrow.

In summary, the album is a good effort from a band with a lot of potential that’s yet to be fully grasped. Several strong tracks, and a few pretty weak songs turn this album into a real mixed bag. Whitemoor, you could be great. Just take the catchy melodies of She Makes Me Fly and Hollywood and run with it!

Score: 6.8/10

Links, etc: WhiteMoor on Facebook WhiteMoor on Twitter