Monday, 28 March 2016

Review of 'I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It' by The 1975


Rather impressively, UK rockers The 1975 play with almost every genre under the sun on this new sophomore LP. Even more impressively, they somehow manage to make it all exceedingly dull.

I had assumed this band were nothing more than One Direction with guitars. The nauseatingly mushy title of this album did nothing to convince me otherwise. A couple weeks ago, I decided to put my suspicions to the test and expose myself to the 1975 for the first time.

What a fool I’d been. Listening to ‘Love Me’ with it’s INXS-inspired funk strums and punchy drums and spiritedly theatrical vocals, I realised that these dudes weren’t a three-chord skinny-jeans-wearing boy band for lonely teenage girls. Sure, they sounded like they’d been ripped straight out of the eighties. And sure, the shirtless singer visually comes across like Harry Styles trying to impersonate Anthony Kiedis. But otherwise this was a groovy, catchy, slick piece of pop-rock.


I had broken my 1975 fast, taken my 1975 entry drug, popped my 1975 cherry, and now I was hooked. Why had I blindly dismissed them this whole time? Suddenly frothing at the mouth with excitement, I knew I had to hear more, and so I scrambled to The Pirate Bay iTunes and downloaded this shit.

I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It turns out to be a record just as lengthy as it’s title, running over an hour. The marathon ahead doesn't seem too bad, given the album kicks off to such an encouraging and energetic start. The record’s epic intro track is just enough of a teaser to give aforementioned funk jam ‘Love Me’ that extra oomph, followed by the equally groovy  and infectious ‘UGH!’.

After this, it swiftly and rather alarmingly becomes apparent that the album has burnt all its energy in the first ten minutes. Downbeat electro-ballad 'A Change of Heart' is the first glimpse of things to come. ‘She’s American’, which comes directly after, briefly picks up the pace. But then it's all slowjams.

At first the band's experimentation with genre seems enough to spice things up – but then you realise there isn’t much variation inside each track to keep the different flavours tantalising. ‘Lostmyhead’, the group’s attempt at a shoegaze song, might have been more impactful if it were mixed correctly, but the guitars hang in the background instead of overwhelming the listener the way a shoegaze song should, and the lyrics are left entirely buried, encouraging nothing but clockwatching. ‘Somebody Else’ meanwhile aims to be a funky Weeknd-esqe I-Can’t-Feel-My-Face pop anthem, but its bassline soon becomes tired, plodding on with no variation to it, encouraging nothing but yawning.

Me listening to this album

By the time the second half of the album comes along, it becomes genuinely hard to stay awake. 'The Sound' does its best to pick up the momentum, but it too drags on. Slapping myself and downing black coffees and peeling my eyelids back I eventually made it to the final track ‘She Lays Down’, which turns out to be the biggest tranquiliser of them all, the dreaded acoustic number. Snorting five lines of coke and gnawing my own arm off, I just about managed it. Myths exist of listeners making it through the bonus tracks. I refuse to believe them.

Clearly this album did not live up to my expectations. But this is not simply an issue of pacing. There are many other factors to blame. Firstly, Healy’s vocals, which are lively on ‘Love Me’ and ‘Ugh’, decide to settle for a soft and soppy whining for the remainder of the album, a British-accented take on Justin Bieber.

It’s ironic that Healy isn’t a fan of the Biebs, criticising him for ‘talking about nothingness’ in an interview, when his lyrics are arguably just as uninspired, if not more vacuous. Most of the tracks here are love ballads made up of sentimental crap that sadly does prove the 1975 to be a band aimed at teenage girls as I originally feared. ‘She’s American’ is probably the most creative song here, commenting wittily on how Americans think all British have bad teeth amongst other stereotypes. The rest are all generic love songs, all of which are made worse by how prim and mawkish they try to be. I actually hoped ‘Please Be Naked’ would be a naughty and raunchy sex anthem, but it instead turns out to be a soppy instrumental, the like's of which could easily accompany a sad romance movie. I mean, I get modern music is sometimes a little too sexually-obsessed, but The 1975 seemingly go out of their way to avoid the topic. Some forlorn female fans may adore their prudishness, maybe even believe it. Personally however, it makes me want to gag.

As already elucidated, I do like a couple tracks from this album – namely the upbeat openers ‘Love Me’ and ‘Ugh!’. And there are some brief moments, mainly in the first half, that did tickle my eardrums – the shimmery instrumental and lyrics of ‘She’s American’, the smoky sax solo of ‘If I Believe You’, the bouncy piano chords of ‘The Sound’. However, the album’s preference for soppy, prissily-sung slowjams seems to override their wild sense of creativity. The result is something unexpectedly drab. 


 TRACK TASTER:

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Review of 'untitled unmastered' by Kendrick Lamar


To Pimp A Butterfly was a bloody phenomenal album. But hell, even I’m starting to get sick of all the sycophancy. I kind of wish Kendrick would just slip up so that I don’t have to keep writing these grossly glowing reviews.

But no, the Compton rapper continues to deliver annoyingly impressive music, dropping this latest album, which isn’t really an album – more of a selection of odds and ends that didn’t make the final cut of TPAB. All the tracks are titled ‘Untitled’ and are supposedly unmastered (although suspiciously well-produced with the deliberate exception of Untitled 7’s second half, which is a raw recording).

The lack of song titles complicates things somewhat – not only is it more tricky for me to reference tracks in this review, but I’ve never been skilled at deciphering song themes despite an English degree, meaning I’m practically lost without a big bold title to point me in the right direction. Kendrick seems to further encrypt the process by offering some of his most impenetrable lyrics to date: ‘Get God on the phone/ said it won’t be long/ I see jigaboos, I see styrofoams’.

Using Rap Genius as my Rosetta stone, I’ve since been able to translate most the verses, and there are song themes present, most of which appeared on TPAB (e.g. Kendrick coming to terms with his success, issues of race). The lack of fresh topics does make this album feel less crisp, but that’s to be expected on an album made up of leftovers.

Besides, how Kendrick raps seems to make up for what he raps. His inflections on Untitled Unmastered are some of his most engaging and inventive yet, acting as props to the characters he plays, as well as contributing whole new added meanings that his lyrics cannot provide. Untitled 2’s doo-lally delivery reflects the loopy lyrics which paint a man on the edge of sanity (or perhaps he’s trying to play a codeine addict, hence the ‘I see styrofoams’ line). Untitled 4 meanwhile features some wild whispering from Kendrick in the background, ‘tell em when you went to the park and everyone came back and…’ perhaps a representation of his conscience trying to interject with guilty suppressed thoughts.

Accompanied by some of his most imaginative instrumentals yet, Untitled Unmastered proves Kendrick is a man at his creative peak. The jazzy horns and keys of TPAB make a return, a few more 808s weaving their way in, the result being the most sophisticated bangers you’re likely to ever hear.

Of course, being a selection of demos, there are moments where the absence of editing shows. The record is low on hooks and some tracks outstay their welcome. Whilst I love the smoky lounge groove of Track 5, it runs on an extra minute longer than it needs to, and Track 7’s lo-fi ending is an interesting feature but not interesting enough to sustain nearly four minutes (plus Kendrick’s chuckling makes me feel like I’m frustratingly left out on some inside joke).

That being said, an unfinished product though it may claim to be, this compilation record still feels a lot more polished and cohesive than most full-bodied hip hop albums. Part of his ability to blow his contemporaries out of the water on a raft made of flotsam and jetsam may be due to the fact that he’s still riding on the wave of TPAB’s success. In this sea of hip hop artists all fighting to be top dog, will this Top Dawg signee still reign supreme by the time he drops his next album? Is it humanly possible for him to top TPAB? We will have to wait and see...

Friday, 25 March 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 25/03/2016: M83, PHON.O, All Saints and more...


In this week's track-hunting travels, I take you all beyond the stars to a land of CGI fish and bands christened after galaxies. I've really got to work on these introductions...

THE BEST:

'Solitude' - M83


You dudes and dudettes have all seen Gravity right? The beautifully calming and equally smothering solitude of space seems to be perfectly captured in this new slightly-cheesy-but-glamorous cosmo-ballad from M83. Maybe it's just the starry-backdropped visuals that give this impression. Or the fact that this French synthpop band are named after the galaxy M83. Whatever the reason, this song makes me think of space and shit. 

'Amber' - Orca


Commencing with some Tool-influenced ambient progginess, this track unexpectedly dives into some meaty metal riffage, including a brilliantly brutal chugging section that’ll make you want to slamdance around your office. It’s a beautiful mix of artful atmosphere and skull-crushing heaviness.

'Mercurial' - PHON.O 


Sporting some intricate percussion and gut-rumbling sub-bass, this brooding electronic instrumental from Berlin producer PHON.O will swiftly lure you into it’s icy depths. If not the computer-generated fish making up the hypnotic glitchy video most certainly will.

'The Cool Kids' - BVRGER



I don’t know who BVRGER is, although I have a feeling the mystery's intentional and that the vocals are deliberately pitch-shifted down to conceal his/her identity. A cutesy house instrumental made up of sparkly keys serves as a backdrop.

'Can’t Get No Relief' - Switch Violet


It may only be a live demo, but this new funky jam from Bath-based band Switch Violet has burrowed itself in my brain and I’ve just got to share it with y’all. There’s no denying the groove, plus I’m loving the singer's vocal tone.

THE WORST:

'One Woman Man' - All Saints



If I wasn’t already totally unenthused by the news of an All Saints reunion, this big bold sterile comeback single has totally killed any slither of curiosity.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Review of 'This Unruly Mess I've Made' by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis


The Seattle rapper is done wearing your granddad’s clothes. His new obsession is mopeds. And self-doubt.

Macklemore is either extremely brave, or highly insecure. Perhaps both. Whatever the case, he’s decided to spend this album getting open about all his anxieties. Coming to terms with what he’s become, he questions his newfound celebrity status, his role as a father and his privilege as a white rapper. He even lets us know about his fitness and dieting qualms on ‘Let’s Eat’.

There are no solutions offered to his woes – he kind of just spills them out like a man visiting his shrink. This makes for an enjoyably unpreachy record. Those who like their rap songs to sound like TED talks though are welcome to dismiss it as a load of petulant whining.

Personally, I find Macklemore’s self-awareness and humble indecision relatable and refreshing. To me this dude is the anti-Kanye – the perfect counterweight to hip hop’s arrogant side.

'the anti-Kanye'


And it’s not like beneath his moaning he lacks a sense of humour. Whilst there are some wholly sombre numbers on here such as ‘Kevin’ and ‘White Privilige II’, there are an equal amount of goofy, fun songs like funky moped-anthem ‘Downtown’ and bizarre Footloose-tribute ‘Dance-Off’ to maintain balance.

It’s up for debate whether Macklemore intends to be as corny as he is. Judging from the self-awareness he displays elsewhere on the album, I’d like to think ‘there’s layers to this shit, tirimasu’ is a deliberately poor line. The 'Brad Pitt’s ugly cousin' concept doesn’t come across too well, but the quip about every white dude in America wanting his haircut makes up for it (as well as showing Macklemore has the confidence to jokily brag about himself and not just self-deprecate). Other moments, particularly those on the more sincere tracks, are less forgivable. ‘Growing Up’ starts sweetly with Macklemore coming to terms with having a daughter, but hearing him giving life advice like ‘Listen to your teachers, but cheat in calculus’ makes me want to stick my finger down my throat.


Producer and sidekick, Ryan Lewis, carries on his work from The Heist, rustling up an exciting smorgasbord of different flavoured beats. There’s a trap beat in the mix, some DJ-Premier-co-produced-boom-bap and an acoustic ballad featuring a passionate chorus from Ed Sheeran. Combined with the lyrical cocktail of comedy and seriousness, this diverse instrumentation can make the record feel a little messy. However, it’s not ‘an unruly mess’ as the title suggests. The album flows well and stays engaging, the change in tone sometimes jarring but never awkwardly so.

Arguably, the back-end of the album is where things start to slip, both Macklemore and Ryan Lewis running out of ideas. ‘Bolo Tie’ and ‘The Train’ don’t seem to carry an inspired beat or lyrical theme, settling for rambled thoughts over pretty but plain pianos. The closer ‘White Privilege II’ makes up for things somewhat by having the most daring lyrical concept on the album, Macklemore examining the way in which he and other white rappers appropriate black culture. However, the clumsily meandering soul in the background stops it from really functioning as a song (it's pretty much an essay dictated over instrumental noodling).

Even if the delivery isn’t always right though, Macklemore’s heart seems to reliably be in the right place, and Ryan Lewis’s production seems to be largely on point. Yes, Kendrick probably should have won that 2014 Grammy. And yes, dressing up as a Jewish caricature wasn’t the best idea in the world (I’d like to believe it was accidental). However, I fail to see any other legitimate reason to actively dislike this duo unless you’re blindly following the masses. Corny though he may be, there has never been a more humble and self-aware rapper than Macklemore. And whilst the quality of this album dips towards the end, there isn’t an exclusively bad track in sight. It’s time to cut the flak, and give the Mack some slack, cos he's back and he ain't wack (give me a record deal, I blatantly should be a rapper…) 

TRACK TASTER:

Friday, 18 March 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 18/3/2016: Deftones, Jameszoo, Woozy and more...


What’s on the menu this week? Black gunk. Your grandmother. Also some brand new music. Bon Appetit.

THE BEST:


'Doomed User' – Deftones



Ace alt-metal artists, Deftones, have a new album out on April 4th titled Gore and have dropped this fast-paced riff-laden beast of a single. Sirius satellite radio station seem to be the only site hosting a stream. Check it out here.

'Flake' - Jameszoo


Have patience my friends. The intro may seem a little abstract and all over the place – I almost entirely dismissed the track myself – but then things start to pull together excitingly at 1:23, the meandering instrumental making way for some cutesy and bouncy synths before segueing into some beautiful jazzy pianos. Clearly, the Brainfeeder signee takes some influence from Flying Lotus. However, there’s also a charm to this Dutch electronic producer that’s uniquely his.

'Sleeping Dogs' - Lucky Punks


Think Muse minus the melodrama. Think Duran Duran devoid of datedness. That’s pretty much the sound that this Newcastle rock band have achieved with this catchy new song, ‘Sleeping Dogs’. It’s fresh and it’s mighty fun.

'Venom' - Woozy


Is the dude in the video okay? What’s that black gunk he’s putting in his mouth? Tar? Ink? Even worse, God forbid, MARMITE? Watching him eating that shit is making me woozy, although it is a fittingly mental set of visuals given how mental the song is, shifting schizophrenically from soft to loud.

'Sink' – Let’s Eat Grandma


Although not nearly as terrifying as their band name, there is something quite spooky about this Norwich electropop duo’s sound. The sparkly synths have an icy quality to them and the way in which the vocals creep up in volume at the end is a little disconcerting. 


THE WORST:


Chocolate Shake - Madeintyo



 HotNewHipHop needs to stop plugging crap new claptrap. This dude makes Rae Sremmurd sound sophisticated.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Why do pop stars keep singing about work?


It’s all a conspiracy! In a desperate attempt to tackle mass unemployment, world governments have been teaming up with songwriters and brainwashing the public to get off their collective asses and work more. It’s like living in Soviet Russia - pop stars are being turned into Stakhanovite role models. As predicted in the Bible, the first stage of the illuminati is upon us. Our only solution? Quit your jobs, throw away your radios, dig a bunker and wait until the lizard people run out of human flesh and are subsequently forced to starve to death.



Perhaps there’s another reason why pop stars keep singing about work. Partying and drinking and sex has all become clichéd whilst singing about owning lots of money and women and designer material goods lacks relatability. The only way pop stars can connect with everyday people now is through the unhackneyed and accessible topic of work.


But isn’t listening to music supposed to be a form of escapism from all that? Most people listen to music in their free time to unwind and help them forget the gritty trials and tribulations of daily life. Nobody wants to go out clubbing on a Friday night after a hard week’s graft only to be reminded of their miserable weekday existence – exchanging hours out of their life in order to obtain digital tokens most of which automatically go into the pockets of landlords and insurance companies and loan sharks and, yes, those darned lizard people too.


Even those able to listen to pop music at work do so largely to distract themselves from the banal duties of the workplace, whether it be the overflowing inbox, the skyscrapers of paperwork, the endless queue of customers, the constantly flowing supermarket conveyor belt or the landfill of dirty dishes. Also, let’s not forget the dude whose job is stand guard at the staple bending factory. He may well listen to pop music at work to.


Have we lost sight of our hopes and dreams, our sense of fun, and settled for an existence of all work, no play. Have Rihanna and Lunchmoney Lewis convinced us that we should live to work rather than working to live. Am I looking into this too deep? Shouldn't you be working and not reading this article? Get back to monitoring that staple-bending machine! You blink and you're fired.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

INTRODUCING: Shifty Chicken Shed




Throw your radio in the skip and surrender all sanity. It’s time to get acquainted with yet another bonkers band, Shifty Chicken Shed.

Hailing from Oswestry, Shropshire, UK, Europe, Earth, this six-piece happen to be pioneers of their own unique genre dubbed ‘Charity Shop Pop’.

Utterly unglamorous and yet excitingly eclectic, their sound is a tawdry-£5-rail-second-hand-selection of frayed funk, ragged rock, booze-stained blues and vintage vaudeville. A saxophone and a cornet serve as a lively addition to the usual line-up of vocals, bass, guitar and drums.

 Mr pergolas Ever Creasing Shirt is their latest album, themed around the tale of a drunken gambling addict going through marriage problems. That may sound like dark and depressing subject matter but I remind you that this is a band called Shifty Chicken Shed. ‘We’re doing a deal on Wellington boots/ Buy four pairs and get the soles free!’ is about as sombre as the lyrics get.




Amused and bemused by this brilliant band, I decided I would get to know them a little more by hosting an interview, the tone of which I predicted would be an equally serious affair. Read on for an earnest explanation of the group’s band name, gritty details of future movie plans and an austere answer to the long-debated chicken/egg causational dilemma that has baffled philosophers and scientists for decades…


Okay so first off, I’m curious about the name Shifty Chicken Shed. Fill me in.

SCS (Shifty Chicken Shed): SCS (Esh She Esh) started with Innes Reid, guitar and vocals and Stewert James former bassist/gob-iron-ist back in 2008. Undoubtedly Shifty characters. They chose to hone their combs in a chicken shed. The chickens moved house. Esh She Esh were home to roost!

Which came first the chicken or the egg?

SCS: The bear!

I’ve watched videos of your live shows and they look pretty demented. I need to attend one. What can people expect from a Shifty Chicken Shed gig?

SCS: Don't expect, accept the unexpected. This is... 'charity shop pop'!  Barry Bazmatron Edwards summons the spirits of Animal and Tony Williams, fusing drums and pizza and taking it home to groove in Hermon Chapel. A raucous bass, Michael Cusato, rumbles deep. Mixing the funk of Larry Graham with the work hardened matter that is Pete Entwistle. Innes Reids guitar slashes and slides to render a hypnotic state of affairs, from Beefheart to Dr Feelgood with a Tom Waits holler sporting a farmers jig. The mood is set, for the master of ceremonies, Dean Murray Newton, to vent spleen and question? Hand in pocket an unsuspecting Preacher man. But wait! There's more! Wot? A wailing sax or two, that never comes up for air, Deborah Harris domineers the affair. When she's done with the horn, she'll serenade with a velvet tone with the occasional 'OH FUCK IT LETS BELT IT OUT '. Mr Dandlion Dewi Griffiths with his grey Funkadelic hair and mellow cornet vibe completes the hotch potch tribe that is Esh She Esh!

You’ve played with the Blockheads three times now. What’s that like?

SCS: When you're a big fish in a small pond like us, it's all in a day’s work. It's alright for the third time as long as you're on drugs with a hangover. It gets a bit tiresome when The Blockheads are trying to get photo opportunities with the band. Posting them up on Facebook just minutes after quoting, this is us with Shifty!.....etc etc

Ian Dury and The Blockheads


I'm sure you've got some great gig stories. What's your funniest?

SCS: Once upon a time on arriving at The Cavern in Liverpool to unload about 6 years ago, we shunted our gear through a crowd of men dressed in just g strings and 30 year old women cat fighting. The band were verging on splitting up after starting a riot in  McFood when one of our members was found to be pissed out of his head with a bottle of gin in his inside coat. When we finally got on stage our bass player projectile vomited into his hat through nerves, the banjo player was playing the right chords but alas he was playing a banjo. The drummer decided to play a trombone so the drunk got on the drums. And they all lived happily ever after.

You have a song called ‘Where’s that fucking bear?’. Have you found that fucking bear yet?

SCS: Have you got any leads? He owes us money!


70s psychedelic prog rock band Gong are an influence on you guys (I discovered that through your Facebook page). Thank you for introducing me to them, they’re quite the trip! Are there any other quirky bands that have influenced you that people ought to know about?

SCS: Well actually they're not, that was just another shite review. Jason Donnovan, circa 'Too Many Broken Hearts' and Jon Bovio, WHERE'S YOUR BREAD, BON JOVIO WHERE'S YOUR BREAD.

Sorry, what was the question?


You’re planning a film to accompany your new album, Mr Pergolas Ever Creasing Shirt. How’s that going?

SCS: The Bear has been spotted in act 2 Scene 2 but he shot off on a bicycle to the words Fat Arse. None of our friends can act, neither can we. So if you think you'll like a movie with bad acting, all shot in our homes with copious amounts of drugs and booze, then this ones a 8.2 on IMDB! Sundance here we come! 



I expect tickets to the premier! What else does the future hold for Shifty Chicken Shed?

SCS: As Eckhart Tolle said, 'The Power of Now' and bed before Ian Jones turns up with Stella and wine on a Monday.

Follow Shifty Chicken Shed on Twitter at @ShiftyChicken

Friday, 11 March 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 11/03/2016: M83, Anna Wise, Melvins and more...


Noise rock and nineties-nostalgia make up the bulk of this week’s gnarliest new tunes.

THE BEST:

'Do it, Try it' – M83


Corniness works when there's a self-aware sense of humour to it. With it's nineties-rave piano rolls and Seinfield slap bass and drunkenly distorted vocals, this track is certainly corny. But judging from the singing cosmic disembodied yorkie head in the video I don't think it takes itself at all seriously. Embrace the cheese, buy some fluffy dice and bump this in the whip.

'May Peace Be Upon You, Brother Part iii' - Charivari



Dissonant guitar leads snake their way over a swamp of fuzzy bass to the racing pace of a pounding d-beat in this noisy rock instrumental from Bath-based band Charivari. The title may promote peace, but sonically this makes me want to slap on some warpaint and charge into battle.

'BitchSlut' – Anna Wise


If I say no I’m a bitch, say yes I’m a slut’. This bouncy pop song from Kendrick Lamar collaborator, Anna Wise, has a feisty feminist message behind it whilst remaining innocently cutesy. I can’t decide whether to burn a bra or bake a pretty cake in support.

'High on Hope' - Microglobe & Machinedrum



This old-skool-flavoured EDM instrumental cycles through synth stabs, rolling piano chords and a speedy Space-Jam-esque breakdown, keeping mainly to the same chord progression throughout but never offering a lull. There's barely time to breathe. 'High on Hope' is scheduled to be a bonus track on an upcoming posthumous DJ Rashad album titled Afterlife.

'Hideous Woman' - Melvins


US rockers Melvins practically invented sludge metal and here they show off their sludge skills in this mucky, bustling riff-fest. A new album, Basses Loaded, is scheduled to drop soon sporting six different bass players although I don't think they all play at the same time (that's more bass than my bowels can handle).


THE WORST:


'Work' - DNCE


Rihanna’s recently-released repetitive pop single 'Work' gets a cringeworthy cover from Joe of the Jonas Brothers and his new band DNCE. His choice not to appropriate the singer’s Caribbean accent is wise, but in his flat white male tone it just ends up sounding like bad karaoke.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Review of 'Eraser Stargazer' by Guerilla Toss


Noise rock is, by its very nature, rather unmelodious and can therefore be a lot of hard work. 

These Boston brain-curdlers and their signature din of dissonant guitars, squealing synths and screechy vocals have always appealed to me in small doses. They’re like a storm – exciting for the first few minutes, but then the fence panels start flying off and your wheely bin is halfway down the road and the house is shaking like an arthritic rattlesnake and you’re under the duvet unable to sleep reciting that Thunder-buddies song from Ted.

Me during a thunderstorm. 

In simpler terms, the thought of a whole Guerilla Toss album intimidated me. I expected it to be uncomfortable, disorientating and unforgiving. But alas that was not the case at all. In fact, if anything, the band seem to have settled down a little for their debut.

Maybe it’s the departure of their long-serving bonkers bassist, forever losing his underpants and playing live shows bollock-naked. Maybe the band are all out of crack. Maybe they’re just preserving their energy reserves for future freak-outs. Whatever the case, they’ve decided to ease off on the sheer noisiness, each song adopting a structured sense of groove and hence a sense of direction. Previous EPs felt like being air-dropped into Dehli’s chaotic streets during rush hour and being expected to drive. Eraser Stargazer feels very much the same but with a satnav-wielding-professional-chauffeur at the helm, giving the listener the chance to gaze out the window at the passing crazy surroundings without feeling totally lost.

Guerilla Toss

The newfound calmness on this record after all is relative. Guerilla Toss aren’t about to start writing lounge music for sit-down audiences any time soon. The Mr-Bungle-esque sour melodies and Kassie Carlson’s demented sing-shouting are still very much a part of their identity. The difference is that the songs feel more cohesive this time around and therefore more enjoyable. Dissonant though they may be, many of the songs also feel infectious, my favourite moments being the groovy guitar of ‘Diamond Girls', the cowbell-driven funk of ‘Grass Shack’ and the dancey outro of ‘Perfume’.

Clearly, some moments still also demand patience. Although there is a definite riff driving ‘Eraser Stargazer Forever’ it becomes swiftly swamped in acrid disharmony by the end of the song turning more endurable than enjoyable. And there are moments when Kassie Carlson’s oddly-pitched shrieking gets a little grating as on ‘Diamond Girls’. However, these challenging moments never reach levels of Behold-the-Arctopus-inaccessibility maintaining some respect for melody. The breakneck pace also ensures these moments don’t linger around for too long to become tiresome. They're just the right level of unhinged without making me want to rip my ears off, which doesn't sound like a complement, but as an equally unhinged listener, I assure you it is.

TRACK TASTER:

Monday, 7 March 2016

INTRODUCING: Limbs


In this brand spanking new section of my blog I’ll be introducing and interviewing unsigned up-and-coming artists. I’d like to kick things off by presenting to you balmy Bolton band, Limbs.

Making up the group’s line-up are Martin Roscoe (drums), Mark Jones (double bass) and Michael Chadwick (piano and mouth). Described on their Facebook page as ‘Plinky Plonky Pop’, their sound is one-third piano-rock, one-third dark comedy and one-third fuck-knows-what. Imagine Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and Blur all meeting in an dimly-lit pub-cum-bingo-hall with a dusty piano and you’ve got the vibe.

‘Pencil Shavings Pop’ is their latest EP, available to stream on their Bandcamp page. It’s a gritty sonic journey involving sterilised test tubes and crisp packets poking through the snow, capped off with a spoken-word surrealist trip on the elevator of life.



The imagery throughout is hilariously vivid. I was particularly amused by the description of the old lady complaining about the ‘gyrating interactive filth she keeps seeing when her fingers wonder up the dusty end of the remote control’

Eager to delve deeper into the warped minds behind this project, I decided to interview the band about their new EP, amongst other logical topics such as pizza and amputation. Frontman Michael Chadwick was happy to take part...





Okay, first off, imagine that your band is a pizza. What toppings would it have? (hopefully, not pencil shavings…)

Michael: I think if you're launching a new pizza into an already saturated market you have to really go for it to make sure you stand out from the crowd. So a Limbs pizza would have to be topped with severed limbs. Hamster, mouse, wasp, cat... any limb under 12 inches. You have to go in hard and let customers know that you're not messing about. Owl too, leg not wing.

Delicious.

Mark: Well I always have a margherita with jalapeño and anchovies. A classic format with some curve ball twists, much like the band, oh and with peppers for crunch, because Martin always needs a bit of crunch on his pizza.


Describe the meaning behind the title of your new EP, Pencil Shavings Pop?

Michael: Its how I describe our style of music. Pencil shavings go straight in the bin, nobody has ever found any use for them, they're a by-product, like nuclear waste. There's not much in the world that can't be re-purposed so pencil shavings are pretty exceptional. I think our strange little songs are like pencil shavings. I like to think there's someone out there who collects pencil shavings in little jars and has thousands of samples displayed on shelves, all different colours and wood types. I like to think that person listens to Limbs.



I think I may be that kind of person... let's talk about your track ‘The Elevationist’. It's brilliantly surreal. How do you go about composing a song like that?

Michael: I was in a lift and there was a lift guy and I was going to the top so I had a lot of time to think. In that situation you can either break the tension and chat about the weather or stay quiet and wait it out. Being British I stayed quiet and that tension made me think about what he was thinking and I started to realise that this was just his everyday job, I was probably his 100th passenger that day, to him this is mundane, not horrendously awkward. I'm the same when I get my hair cut, I go in thinking the hairdresser is looking at me thinking “what the hell is that? You want me to cut that? Is he for real?” but really they don't care, my hair is nothing to them. Anyway, after thinking all this I said to myself, stop being silly, relax, say hello. So I came out the corner and looked over at the porter... he was terrified! He was sweating, holding his breath and not blinking. He just wanted me to get out. That led to the idea for The Elevationist. I wondered what would someone would be like after working such a high pressure job for 20 years?

Have any of you ever been stuck in an elevator before?

Michael: I was actually born in a stuck lift, lodged between the 1st and 2nd floor of Bolton Hospital, in legal terms that's what they call a “no mans land” so there were serious issues when it came to filling in my birth certificate. No one knew what to do. It was great for my Dad though, he was a fireman at the time and got the call to come and break us out, he said it was like he delivered me into the world. There's a picture in the paper of him pretending to cut the cord with a fire axe.

That's incredible! What are your gigs like? Any funny stories?

Michael: Gigs are always a lot of fun, recently we were playing a pub and suddenly the police burst in with sniffer dogs and blocked the exits. Everyone got frisked and sniffed for drugs as we had to just carry on playing. Being clever bastards we started playing the theme tune to The Bill, but it was too hard so we quickly tried to segue out of it. One of the policemen came up to us at the end and showed us the chords, he was actually very sympathetic and said it was a brave effort as the tune uses “police harmony” not the conventional harmony we knew. Apparently they are taught in police bands to voice chords differently so other policemen can recognise them as police. Did you know that? Its secret communication useful in many situations when they are undercover. I sold him a C.D.

Arms or legs? Which limbs could each of you least live without?

Michael: Sorry legs, you gotta go. I'd just have to get help with the piano pedals. There was a guy in America I heard about who played piano in a freak show and he had no body. I think that's where we belong. Someone once described us as a Belgian circus band.

Mark: Has to be legs, only need them for keep fit and mobility issues ... plus wheelchair basketball is cool.

Michael: He's really keen to get rid of them, they have held him back for too long.

I'm reminded of this album

Haha I'd probably lose the legs too in all honesty. I can't imagine typing out blog posts with my toes (I guess I could still use voice software but that would be too sensible). Let's talk influences. On your Facebook page you list Radiohead as an influence (I’m also digging that you mention Tom Waits and Flanders and Swann!). On the theme of limbs, what’s your opinion on Radiohead’s last album The King of Limbs?

Michael: Flanders and Swann are the British Tom Waits, are you a fan? 

Yes!

Michael: Mark our bass player looks like Flanders and our drummer looks like Swann. It's something we are very proud of. Tom Waits, Radiohead and Flanders and Swann are all experts at combining music and humour without straying into the toe curling “comedy song” minefield. The King of Limbs is fantastic! As always with Radiohead you have to put the effort in and let it grow on you like a beard. It's itchy and feels weird at first but then it blossoms into something you can't imagine being without. I've never had a beard, but thats the impression someone with a big beard gives off.

'let it grow on you like a beard'


Agreed - especially the beard analogy. What exciting plans can we expect from Limbs in the future?

Michael: A new musical, our second. It's called “Idle Hands” and is about angels meddling in business on Earth. It's written by Dick Perkins who is Bolton's premier ideas goldmine. We have written the music and we are at the early stages of assembling a team of people to help get it staged. I'm really looking forward to that, its not your typical musical, it includes a big angel choir and no dancing. Plus we are recording a new E.P of songs too, it should all be done in the next couple of months.

Follow Limbs on Twitter at @MichaelChads. 

Review of 'Star Wars Headspace'


I have a bad feeling about this’ was my initial thought on this album, to quote my dad on his wedding day.

 A Star Wars themed EDM compilation album? There have been too many desperate attempts to cash-in on this sci-fi franchise in the past, including some astronomically awful Star Wars themed albums. At least I was safe in the knowledge that nothing could be as awful as Christmas in the Stars.

Christmas in the Stars

Mastered by Rick Rubin and boasting some big names in its production credits including Flying Lotus and Baauer, Star Wars Headspace is an assortment of trap bangers, house anthems and ambient electronic pieces with some Darth-Vader-breath-noises and R2-D2-bleeps thrown into the mix in order to stay topical. Nothing is overly left-field here – even Flying Lotus feels like he’s holding back on the experimental front. However, there are some surprisingly fun tracks here nonetheless that feel like they were made with some heart and soul.

‘Force’ by Troi features some warm bouncy chords, the likes of which I could see accompanying a Mos Eisley summer barbecue, before descending into a jaunty drop that may well be made out of lightsabre samples. Rustie’s ‘EWOK PUMPP’ meanwhile is a mass of springy synth splurges that could easily fuel a woodland rave on the forest moon of Endor. Then there’s Rick Rubin’s ‘NR-G7’, a cinematic pastiche of soaring sounds, bold and mighty as a Star Destroyer.

Ewoks raving it up 

There are some Jar-Jar-Binks-scale disappointments along the way. ‘R2 Knows’ is cheap acid house with some rambling lyrics over the top (‘Luke meets a little green man on Dagobah’) altogether about as corny as Anakin’s script in the prequels. ‘Jabba Flow’ meanwhile is a disaster in mixing, the volume plummeting during the drop, carrying about as much impact as Anakin’s acting during the prequels. And given the amount of trap-flavoured tracks here, why did no-one think to sample ‘it’s a trap!’?


Clearly this album could have had more thought put into it. Most of the people involved feel like they’re cruising on their talents rather than entering hyperdrive. However, not everyone’s here to make a cheap buck either as I feared. There is a sense of playfulness on this record – even the slower and more serious tracks feel like they’re paying tribute to the Star Wars universe rather than simply serving as recycled b-sides. It's certainly more listenable than C3PO singing Yuletide hymns. 

TRACK TASTER:

Friday, 4 March 2016

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 04/4/2016: Jodie Abacus, Eskimeaux, Fortunes and more...


I've had to do a lot of digging to find these underground gems. Love seems to be the big theme, even if February and all it's Valentines-Day-associated-mushiness is now behind us.


THE BEST:


'Space Buffalo' - Jodie Abacus



Sporting the vocal swagger of Stevie Wonder and an instrumental that competes to be as funky as Jamiroquai, this groovy number is ridiculous amounts of fun. The lyrics even manage to carry some  depth – this isn’t some goofy song about an intergalactic bison as I expected, but a sorrowful observation on the struggles of finding love. ‘In this lonely league of love simply wondering what’s wrong with me’ he sighs in the hook, a sentiment that anyone who’s been a dejected singleton at some point can relate to.

'WTF' - Eskimeaux



What the fuck is a kiss anyway?’ Kissing is a bit strange when you think about it - the whole bizarre act of pressing lips together and sharing someone else's saliva. And yet, after time spent apart from your loved one, a kiss can be the most beautiful thing in the world. This breezy indie anthem explores this peculiarity.

'FKWTU' - Fortunes



WTF is it with all these sweary acronyms? Use real swear words FFS. Melbourne act, Fortunes, deliver this smooth r&b babymaker and OMFG it's heavenly (alright, I'll STFU now).

'Boomerangs' - Sam Carter



Even if the percussion is very messy, you’ve got to admire the way in which this dude is able to seamlessly segue smooth jazz sampling into rave stabs.

'Little War' – Spy From Moscow


I’ve got a new genre for all you folk out there – ‘Choirboy Grunge’. Introducing this serious new genre is this serious new song in which singer-songwriter Declan Feenan (AKA Spy From Moscow) sings hypnotically over a slow-burning instrumental. It ends epicly with flugelhorns. The hairs did rise on the back of my neck. I never even realised how hairy my neck was until this song came along.

THE WORST:


'No Dubbington' – Matthew Dickerson


Time for some Australian politics. Matthew Dickerson happens to be the mayor of New South Wales town, Dubbo. Outraged by recent plans to amalgamate Dubbo and Wellington council, the mayor has decided to release this jokey protest track. It’s intentionally awful (that’s what they want us to believe anyhow!), but sadly not funny enough to make it so-bad-that-its-good.