Friday, 28 April 2017

Review of 'DAMN.' by Kendrick Lamar

Loyalty. Pride. Love. Fear. God.

You don’t have to dig far to work out the themes on this new album by Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar - the track titles are a bit of a giveaway. But that isn’t to say this is a surface-level listen. Kendrick? Surface-level? Don’t be silly.

To Pimp A Butterfly – the rapper’s last record if you ignore the untitled unmastered b-sides release – was a jazzy epic that tackled external issues of race, sex and class. DAMN in contrast focuses on internal issues of pressure to succeed and fear of losing creativity. And it’s definitely not for jazzheads. ‘DNA’ swiftly establishes that with its 808s and seismic beat shift, certain to even have gold-grilled ganglords in their traphouses wincing.

We’ll return to the sonic side of DAMN in a moment. Lyrically, let’s discuss these internalised lyrics first. Whilst previous albums have been told through characters and allegories, this record is all delivered from the perspective of Kendrick himself (with the exception of ‘DUCKWORTH’ – the surprise story of how his dad was almost killed before his birth). And yet whilst the themes are signposted in big bold capitalised lettering, the message behind these songs isn’t so clear this time around. It’s as if he simply wants to vent his feelings and let us make sense of them this time: ‘And I can’t take these feelings with me so I hope they disperse/ within fourteen tracks, carried out over wax/ wondering if I’m living through fear or living through rap’.

Hearing Kendrick sounding so lost and vulnerable was unexpected – you’d think a dude with Kendrick’s level of success would have no concerns. But clearly fame isn’t everything. If anything, this vulnerability and self-consciousness only adds to Kendrick’s relatability and likability.

Back to the sonic side of DAMN. It’s not all trap bangers like ‘DNA’. In fact, it’s a mixed bag – the likes of ‘LOYALTY’, featuring vocals from Rihanna, show a more poppy side, whilst the likes of ‘XXX’ meander experimentally all over the place boasting police sirens, detuned pianos and guest vocals from Bono. Kendrick’s delivery meanwhile constantly and creatively shifts to match each song, singing soulfully on ‘YAH’ and then dropping mean bars on ‘XXX’.

There are points where, unusually, Kendrick does seem to be picking up styles that don’t quite suit him. ‘LOVE’ ventures a little too far into generic love balladry – not helped by the Bieber-like sung hook from Zacari.  ‘GOD’ meanwhile sees Kendrick using a horrible vocal tone that sounds like a bad Fetty Wap impression.

These dud tracks don’t ruin DAMN, but they do prevent it being the masterpiece that its predecessor was. For its lyrical content, there’s no faulting it. Kendrick’s more personal and introspective approach makes it standout from other records in his discography, and proves his further knack for conceptual albums.


BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 28/04/2017: Gorillaz, Sufjan Stevens, Danzig and more...

More music for hardcore audiophiles, casual listeners and mugwumps alike.


‘The Apprentice’ - Gorillaz ft. Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, Zebra Katz & Ray Blk

After a slew of massively mediocre singles from their new album Humanz (which is out today), the cartoon collective have finally come through with a gem titled ‘The Apprentice’. The track contains three guest vocalists (including UK soul hitmaker Rag ‘n’ Bone Man) and a smooth electrofunk beat that’s as feelgood as a warm bath whilst eating Haagen Dazs. But wait – there’s a catch. It turns out this is only a bonus track on Humanz. Why you gotta leave the best single off the album?

 ‘Mercury’ – Sufjan Stevens ft. Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James McAlister

Singer-songwriter sensei Sufjan Stevens and his newly acquired gang of musical ninjas are releasing an album themed around the solar system. After experimenting with T-Pain vocals and synthesizers on ‘Saturn’ much to my displeasure, Sufjan seems to now be cutting out the electronics and embracing the emotive frailty of his voice on this new single ‘Mercury’. He then hands the track over to the instrumentation at the end, consisting of some dazzling strings and pianos. And to all you devout Sufjan followers, yes I agree the live version from five years ago has more grandeur, but oh well this version is still pretty.

‘GOD’ – Amique

This maximalist mindfuck doesn’t give you much of a chance to warm up. As soon as you hit play, you’re assaulted with layers of loopy vocals, frenetic funk and stuttering noise grooves. The song deserves a straightjacket, but then so do I. All in all, I’m curious to hear more from this mysterious Amique character.

 ‘Silent Witness’ – S.O.S

EPILEPSY WARNING! To be honest, I doubt most you guys even read these descriptions before hitting the play button. Anyhow, now you’ve recovered from your seizure, let me introduce you to Bedford-based electropop artist S.O.S. Her new single ‘Silent Witness’ sees her singing bouncily over a glitzy shuffling dance beat, even throwing down a surprise rap verse at the end. Creepy strobed art-dance music video aside, it’s very fun and bubbly stuff.


 ‘Devil on Hwy 9’ – Danzig

Things have clearly gone so downhill for the heavy metal veterans that they couldn’t even afford a producer to do the mixing. Why do the instruments sound like they were recorded in a studio, whilst the vocals sound like they were recorded on a plastic cup and string?

‘All the time’ - Young Thug

At this point I don’t expect Young Thug to ever learn how to ride a beat, but come on, this is sloppy even by his standards.

Friday, 21 April 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 21/04/2017: Bent Knee, Pool Art, Young Dolph and more...

The threat of nuclear war is in the air. My Easter eggs are almost finished. At least we have music to fall back on. And yes, the Kendrick Lamar review is coming.


‘Land Animal’ – Bent Knee

If these Boston art rockers didn’t sound bombastic I’d be worried. ‘Land Animal’ switches between jazzy, proggy and theatrical, all the while remaining utterly over the top. It rises and falls like an acrobat, changing pace and direction fervently. And just when you think you’re prepared for anything, the group chuck in some electronic ambience to show that they can do hypnosis on top of their other circus tricks. I loved their album Shiny Eyed Babies – will their new record be as bonkers?

‘Misery Porn’ – Pool Art

Mmmm, MY FAVOURITE TYPE OF PORN. According to the noise rockers themselves, the title is influenced by gritty TV shows such as The Leftovers and movies such as The Lobster that have been described as ‘misery porn’ by critics due to being so relentless in their portrayal of human suffering. It suits Pool art, who have proven on previous tracks that they’re a lugubrious bunch. Yes, this may certainly be their most uptempo track to date (the percussion is nuts), but the cavernous reverb and dingy distortion remind us that Pool Art aren’t about to turn to bubblegum pop any time soon.


Mmmm, MY FAVOURITE PRESCRIPTION DRUG. The opening vocals and bright guitars had me expecting Alt-J-esque indie, but then the gurgling synth bass erupted from nowhere and completely threw my musical compass into disarray. Several progressions after and I had no clue what I was listening to anymore (all I can tell you is that I enjoyed it). I’m not sure where a band like MUX fits in – at an alt rock bar or a rave tent? I guess it’s the fact that they don’t fit in that makes them so exciting. Put your pills away and let these London lads be your serotonin rush.

‘Sinner’ – Philip Morgan Lewis

Consisting of just vocals and drums (with the odd squeal of dirty guitar here and there), this bluesy anthem feels mighty in spite of its minimalism. The way it’s chanted has an almost gospel feel to it. But whilst its sonic roots may be from a century ago, the production is ultra-modern allowing every sound perfect space to breathe.

‘100 Shots’ – Young Dolph

How the fuck you miss a whole hundred shots!’ I wouldn’t ordinarily call myself a Young Dolph fan, but when someone shoots your car with a hundred bullets and you come out unscathed and respond with a mean track like this, you earn my respect. Plus, that beat is the teaser of all beats. When the bass finally dropped after two and a half minutes I felt like I’d finally released a sneeze that wouldn’t come out.


 ‘Good Goodbye’ – Linkin Park ft. Pusha T and Stormzy

You’d think Pusha T and Stormzy might be able to elevate this beyond generic club pop. But at this point, Linkin Park are such masters of mediocrity that they could invite anyone to feature on this track and it would still be a snoozefest.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Review of 'Memories... Do Not Open' by The Chainsmokers

‘Do not open’ is good advice. If someone bought you this album and it’s still in the polyethylene wrapping, politely return the album and then disown that friend forever.

When US EDM duo The Chainsmokers first broke the mainstream with satirical dance track ‘#SELFIE’ in 2014, their humour was entertaining, even if the crappy K-pop synth drop was an anti-climax. Since then, the Chainsmokers have grown to a star status that rivals Calvin Harris. They’ve also reached a level of blandness that rivals Calvin Harris. But rather than simply posting a video of paint drying like I did for my review of ‘Motion’, let’s get to the bottom of what makes these dudes so remarkably dull.   

How about the fact that almost every track on Memories…Do Not Open uses practically the same processed glossy pianos, the same vaguely tropical percussion and the same template chorus-style synth drops. Skipping through the album, you can barely tell when one track ends and the next begins.

But that’s not the real crime here. No, the real stinker is the fact that they’ve now lyrically become those same vapid nightclub drones that they once mocked on ‘#SELFIE’.

I could excuse a bunch of deliberately brainless bangers about twerking or Barbara Streisand. But instead we get songs that are actually trying to be ‘emotional’. I use inverted commas here because quite frankly a plank of wood has experienced more emotions than the narrators of these club drama anthems. The first song is about not getting invited to a party. And that’s supposed to be emotional?

Maybe it’s because I’m no longer sixteen years old. Maybe it’s because I’ve just arrived from Mount Eerie to this. I can only imagine that if you get thrills from this, you’ll get thrills from anything. 


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Review of 'A Crow Looked At Me' by Mount Eerie

This might just be the most powerful record I’ve ever listened to. And trust me, I’ve listened to a lot of records.

I’m going to refrain from being my usual jokey self for this review. Centred around the recent loss of his wife to cancer, this new album from singer-songwriter Phil Elverum (aka Mount Eerie) is predictably a heavy listen. Any music that directly tackles a real life personal death is going to be a heavy listen. Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell and Sun Kil Moon’s Benji are two recent examples of albums that engaged in such subject matter, both of which I rated highly on this blog. But this album has taken things one bold step further.

Death is real,’ Phil opens the first track ‘Real Death’. ‘Someone’s there and then they’re not/ And it’s not for singing about/ It’s not for making into art.’  Phil’s voice seems calm and there’s a warmth to the guitars, but there’s something immediately alarming about how stark the production is and how direct the lyrics are. Immediately, you realise that this song is set barely a week after his partner Genevieve died – most likely written a week after. Phil sets out describing his grief, walking into rooms only to be met by emptiness, and most heart-wrenchingly, collapsing on the doorstep after receiving a parcel delivered to her, by her, for their baby daughter.

Whilst many singer-songwriters have mythologised loss, twisting it into something profound but ultimately abstract, this album lays out loss and all its personal torment in gritty detail. The tracks that follow are just as raw and insistent in their detail. It eventually becomes apparent that they are taking on a diary form, with each new song set a little longer after the death. But Phil’s grief does not subside, but only take on new forms of pain as he recounts the pain of clearing out her stuff, and later the realisation that real life memories are being replaced by photographs. Death even hangs heavy in the background as he describes in passing the burning of a nearby forest and, in a sick turn of events, the death of his counsellor.

Most striking is Phil’s refusal to give us any life lessons regarding the subject. As he states at the end of ‘Real Death’: ‘I don’t want to learn anything from this’.

This is not a fun album. It betrays all the criteria I’ve ever looked for in an album, not just through its unrelenting depictions of grief, but by relying almost wholly on context as opposed to content. Musically, the album is as basic as it gets. Having previously experimented in genres from ambient electronica to black metal and having always shown a flair for poetry, A Crow Looked At Me is contrastingly stripped back to a bluntly delivered diary of events with often nothing but an acoustic guitar to provide company – his wife’s guitar to be exact (as if this wasn’t intimate enough, the whole thing is also played on her instruments).

I spent much of this album clinging onto any glimmer of positivity and hope that I could. But Phil simply delivers blow after blow of tragedy, so much so that after a couple tracks I considered throwing in the towel. I didn’t want to hear any more, because it was real, and we spend too much of our lives avoiding the harsh reality of death. One can only hope that Phil is now slowly finding relief – his final line ‘and there she was’ may be the only glimmer of self-reassurance here, even if he is seeing an apparition, or at the very least convincing himself that he has.

This album may well be the closest you can come through music to experiencing the first-hand pain of a loved one dying. In many ways, it transcends (and that’s a word I use sparingly) the very purpose of music – although make no mistake, these are still very much songs by the very token that they are sung and set to instrumentation.

Ordinarily an album this stripped back might feel underdeveloped. However, the lack of time put into these songs is essential to the impact of the album. Phil wanted these songs to feel raw and to capture the immediate grief – had he given himself any more time to produce this album, he might have also given himself more time to fine-tune it and reassess the lyrics. By allowing the lyrics to stay raw, we are given grief without a filter – an exceptionally daring thing to do when so many men might otherwise bottle up such feelings. He is letting us into the most private pain one can experience. And yet he has turned this pain into something positive – a piece of art by all accounts and one that is revolutionary. 


Friday, 14 April 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 14/04/2017: Machinedrum, Frank Ocean, Wavves and more...

This week’s been a drag. Just like your life – a drag. Just like your dad – a drag queen. Just like that doctor that got dragged off that United aircraft. What the fuck was all that about? Anyway, enough personal insults and dragging talk. It’s time to talk music and liven this week up.


‘U Betta’ – Machinedrum

THIS NEW RUSTIE TRACK’S PRETTY GOOD, AIN’T IT? Alright, so Machinedrum may be sounding a little less like himself on this new EDM banger and a little more like a certain other electronic producer, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is good stuff. Those squealing synth chords and stupendous drops are like chewing on a mouthful of popping candy.

‘Go Down Dancing’ – Soliterre

There’s a reason disco has persisted so long. Every time I think the genre’s run its course, a new artist like Soliterre comes along with a tune like ‘Go Down Dancing’ and shows that there’s still life in the old dog yet and that funky grooves will always have a time and place. In a brave move, the Vancouver producer even manages to throw in a trumpet solo, piano solo and guitar solo all whilst somehow remaining tasteful.

‘Biking’ – Frank Ocean ft. Tyler the Creator and Jay Z

Frank has teamed up with Odd Future buddy Tyler and rap tycoon Jay Z to sing about … bikes? It turns out to be mostly allegorical, as each member cycles through bicycle metaphors whilst putting their own symbolic spin on it (puns intended). Frank’s hybrid sung-rapped vocal style and the morphing soulful beat give the track a dynamics that propels it along, even if the lyrics stay centred on bicycles. Hova seems to be largely coasting if I’m honest, but Tyler’s verse makes up for it.

 ‘Million Enemies’ – Wavves

I wasn’t sure where this track was going at first until the big fat hook hit: ‘I got enemies/ a million enemies’. It’s the garage rockers’ most singalong anthem to date, accompanied by satisfyingly scuzzy guitars, powerfully punchy drums and a glam rock themed video harking back to the days when guitarists could get away with wearing capes.

 ‘Still Young’ – Sunspots

From the 10CC-esque washes of synth vocals in the verse to the psychedelic splashes of guitar in the triumphant chorus, everything about this song feels absolutely euphoric. The message is basically YOLO but with a bit of soul behind it. Live whilst you’re young, not whilst you’re old. Kill yourself when you reach 60 (okay, maybe I’m interpreting it wrong). Whatever the case, these Leeds rockers have a uniquely mesmerising sound as invigorating as climbing a mountain.


‘Wake and Bake’ – Hennessy Fyah

  1.    A weed anthem in 2017. Aren’t there enough already?
  2.      She’s white – why is she singing like that?
  3.     Turd eye’? Probably another good reason to drop the accent…
  4.      She sounds neither awake nor baked. If anything, she sounds dead.
Shall I go on?

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Review of 'Automaton' by Jamiroquai

Crazy-hat-wearing high-flying Jay Kay and his crew of funky instrumentalists have returned to the studio after seven years. Was the return of the space cowboy necessary in 2017? Or are there already enough disco/funk revival acts out there?

This decade has already witnessed the likes of ‘Uptown Funk’ and ‘Get Lucky’ topping the charts. And the underground scene already has its fair share of funk revivalists such as Thundercat and Anderson Paak. If Jamiroquai were going to jump back on the bandwagon, they’d have to come out with something a little more exciting than their 2010 adult contemporary album Rock Dust Light Star.

Automaton sees Jay continuing to deliver his signature croons, sounding slightly more worn than on previous records – probably from years of public tantrums. The lyrics are as goofy as ever, consisting largely of space babble, boogie talk and relationships with femme fatales straight out of a Bond movie. But it’s all innocently fun – if Jay  was singing about death and politics, I’d be worried.

Fortunately, the band have stepped up their game since their last record. These instrumentals are ridiculously funky and feelgood – up there with the band's Virtual-Insanity-era work. In fact, they make you realise most modern funk is more watered down than service station coffee. ‘Hot Property’'s diving bassline and outro of layered synths is audial sex, and the groove of ‘Something About You’ is enough to get a deaf man tapping his foot. There’s also clear signs of progression – ‘Automaton’ adopting robo-vocals and some sharp futuristic synths that sound like they were engineered by Martians.

‘Nights Out In The Jungle’ is really the only dud in the mix – an attempt at funk-flavoured hip hop that’s tasteful but seems to just plod on aimlessly for four minutes. All in all, this may not be a ground-breaking album, but if you’re looking for cartoonishly-vibrant dance music without the pop filter or Hiatus Kaiyote-esque noodling, this album is your lifeline.


Friday, 7 April 2017

BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 07/04/2017: Alt-J, Liana Banks, Sufjan Stevens and more...

This week, I give you horny music courtesy of Alt-J and auto-tune courtesy of Sufjan Stevens.


‘In Cold Blood’ – Alt-J

Few bands can get away with reeling off binary code at the beginning of a song. But Alt-J have always been charmingly nerdy (I still haven’t got over the Yamaha DJ samples on their last album). The fact that the instrumental is also distractingly nuts also helps. There are big fat horns and synthesizer arpeggios, and just when you thought you’d heard it all, the band hit you with a climatic key change.

‘Whispers’ – AbiChan

AbiChan is the new project by Abi Harding. She sings and plays sax – although not at the same time. She also used to be a member of noughties rock band The Zutons. Remember them? Mind you, I wouldn’t entering this song expecting Zutons-esque rock. Abi’s new direction is distinctly soul-flavoured, although seems to uniquely draw soul influences from multiple generations. The twangy guitars and smoky saxophone feel retro, whilst the glossy synths feel current.

‘Marske Woods’ – Dome Hall

This Newcastle-based band are a hard bunch to categorise. They’ve got a saxophone and a keyboard in there, but they’re more indie rock than soul. And their vocalist sounds like Father John Misty. It’s a wonderful broth of rustic flavours they’ve got going on and I’m intrigued to hear more.

‘Ghost’ – Liana Banks

This unsigned New Yorker’s new r&b jam is about hooking up with someone, having a good time and then both ‘ghosting’ one another. For the oldies that don’t understand modern slang, ‘ghosting’ means ignoring and cutting off all communication. Or perhaps she’s literally singing about transforming into a ghost. In any case, this track is brilliantly catchy and surprisingly effective given how simplistic the instrumental is, consisting of a couple chords and the occasional splash of 808s.

'My Lover Cindy' - Marika Hackman

Last time I checked in on this singer-songwriter, she was writing sinister folk songs about drowning. She seems to have taken on a more bouncy alt-rock style since then, but the lyrics are still not exactly sunshine and rainbows, sung from the perspective of a toxic partner whose only interest is to use: 'Cos I'm a greedy pig/ i'm gonna get my fix/ I'm gonna keep my eyes on the prize and suck you dry, I will'.


‘Saturn’ – Sufjan Stevens ft. Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly & James McAlister

Sufjan, what in Hell’s name is this? Leave that auto-tune alone.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Review of 'Emperor of Sand' by Mastodon

For the first four tracks, Mastodon had me worried.

The belting choruses were catchier than ever. Devilishly catchy. But where was the artsy creativity and chest-pummelling aggression? After already becoming more toned down on Once More ‘Round The Sun, had these dudes finally decided to pack in prog metal for full-on Foos-esque arena rock?

Fortunately not. Emperor of Sand is as album that needs time to warm up and stretch it's muscles, because once it reaches fifth track ‘Roots Remain’, it finds its stride. The songs stay terse, but become more dynamic - juxtaposing fleshy distortion with light spacey twanging. And then like a round of shots ordered at the end the night, they leave their heaviest tracks for the album’s finale – two riff-laden bruisers ‘Andromeda’ and ‘Scorpion Breath’ and an eight-minute leviathan ‘Jaguar God’ that builds slowly before plummeting into a mean thrash section topped off with a melancholy axe solo.

At this stage, Mastodon seem to be juggling their crowds well – catering to the fans of their more hooky new stuff and their heavy old shit. Personally, I’d like to see the singalong choruses of the first half and savage instrumentation of the second half of this record melded together more. Regardless, this is still a hard-hitting gauntlet of tunes. 


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Review of ‘S T I C K € R S’ by All Hail Hyena

Listen up. Limber up. Lube up. Pyjama-wearing sexually-frustrated psych rockers All Hail Hyena are back and they’ve got another batch of infectious twangy guitar anthems to rock out and knock over other people’s drinks to.

Last year, the Burnley band released Damp Detector – an EP selling on Music Glue for a million quid, whilst alternatively streamable for free for all the non-multi-millionaires (check out my interview with the group here). Twisted sexual lyrics and erratic vocals that shifted between airy singing and metal growling in an instance proved that this was not just another boringly sane indie band. However, neither were they just a bunch of fun-loving fruitcakes, showcasing a serious ear for songwriting and some inventive instrumentation.

With this new instalment S T I C K € R S we get three new songs, and two pieces of old material ‘Man Up’ and ‘Complicate Tu’. Other than some buffed up production and a newfound love for drum fills, the group haven’t done much to alter their sound on this record – which is a good thing. The new tracks all feel like worthy additions. Opener ‘Way Ho!’ gets off to a slow start, although its humorously dark lyrics make up for this, alongside its catchy ‘Way ho’ chants in the latter half and following guitar outburst. ‘Sabbathian’ is a raucous bluesy jam that makes you want to freak out or have a seizure or both. Final track ‘Debbie Loves Her Neighbours’ meanwhile kicks off with some Pixies-esque strumming before tying off the album with a stomping and epic instrumental climax.

It’s all creatively composed, each song darting off on its own wild trajectory but always remaining terse and tuneful. A full record might allow these demented UK rockers to really push their sound to its full potential. For now, this canapé does well to satisfy my appetite.  


Monday, 3 April 2017


Meet Cloud Tangle.

Cloud Tangle is the impressive solo work of Brisbane singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Amber Ramsay.

Her latest EP, Pocket, is a goose-bump-inducingly raw depiction of heartbreak.

Sombre organs, fragile guitars and lurching percussion make up the four melancholy tracks on offer. Amber’s vocals meanwhile are sighed out and soaked in bleary-eyed reverb creating a feeling of sadness that is truly intense.

Tracks such as opener ‘Always Falling’ build slowly in a suspenseful fashion whilst the likes of closer ‘The Feeling of You’ take on a more ambient and cloudy form like a painfully nostalgic memory threatening to fade away.

Whilst there’s no shortage of gloomy artists out there, Amber’s approach feels truly distinct through its lo-fi instrumental textures and longing vocals. This concept of sadness even extends to her visuals, which are just as relentlessly bleak.

Below I interview Amber herself about the EP, her favourite sad movies and songs, as well as pizza toppings.

If Cloud Tangle was a pizza what toppings would it have?

Rain drops and fairy floss.

POCKET is an absolutely beautiful EP. The songs are all very melancholy. Do these sounds and feelings come from a personal place?

Not necessarily from a personal experience but more just ideas of stories that stem from a certain feeling.  A lot of the lyrics on the EP are metaphorical or highly elevated to make the mood darker or more intense. 

You play all the instruments on this record. Which instrument did you learn to play first?

I first learnt the piano when I was about 8 and began to learn by ear. From there I began learning songs on my own and picking up instruments like guitar and singing which was influenced by my musical exposure and tastes at the time. 

Favourite sad song and favourite sad movie?

My favourite sad song of all time would have to be Videotape by Radiohead. The track is perfectly produced and despite Radiohead's overwhelmingly sad sounding songs, this one seems to hit me the most. The saddest movie I have seen recently would be American Beauty. 

Great choices! The Brisbane music scene seems to be buzzing right now. Any unknown local groups/singers that you think the rest of the world ought to know about?

Brisbane always seems to have new bands popping up all the time. My personal favourites include Twin Haus, Dream City, Soviet X-ray Record Club, Sweater Curse, First Beige, Heir Fuller, In Real Life, Bid Dead, McKisko, PYNES, FOREVR, Vulture Circus and heaps more...

What does the future hold for Cloud Tangle?

No solid plans as of yet. I am hoping to travel overseas for a while and record an album somewhere secluded. In the short term I will be writing some new material and planning an east coast tour. 

Follow Cloud Tangles at: 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Review of 'Brutalism' by Idles

What happened to all the rock bands that used to talk about real issues? Enter Idles.

Next time your old man goes on a rant about the current state of rock you can shut him up once and for all by showing him these Bristolian hardcore punks, although he’ll probably dismiss them as too nosiy – they’re a bit louder than Status Quo. Their new album Brutalism is what it says on the tin, sporting plenty of screeching, swearing, guitar squealing and other assorted sounds from the extreme end of the musical spectrum.

However, there’s brains to back the brawn. Pretty much every track on this record is a call-to-arms protest statement. No hot topic is left untouched, from class to gender to race to religion. It's music to get you picking up your torch and pitchfork, marching into your local council headquarters and signing a petition (because, you know, violence is bad).

Thankfully, Idles also understand that music has to be entertaining and that being just another bunch of preachy dudes with guitars won’t cut it, and so packed into these terse tunes there’s also a lot of humour and personal tragedy. ‘Well Done’s random assault on Mary Berry is a good example of this light-heartedness, whilst ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ is a hilarious attack on those that ignorantly attack art: ‘Did you see that selfie what Francis Bacon did? Don’t look nothing like him – what a fucking div’. The likes of ‘Mother’ meanwhile seem to be very personal, frontman Joe Talbot starkly screaming angrily at how his now-deceased mother had to work ‘seventeen hours, seven days a week’ due to a lack of government support. 

Not all of the album is so direct however, and much of the messages are left up to interpretation, Idles not quite letting you know which side they’re on. I still can’t tell if ‘Faith in the City’ is an attack on religious supporters or a plea to let people have what little belief they deserve. This combined with Talbot’s emotionally-unstable yo-yo persona, give the whole album a brilliant suspense. You’re never quite sure when the band are going to fly off the handle and say something outrageous. They could target anyone. Even Mary Berry wasn't safe.

And yet at the same time you know that all this erratic behaviour is all ingeniously calculated. The instrumentation - made up of demented tremolo-picked axework, meaty bass and razor-sharp percussion - is as tight and tuneful as it is rugged. Meanwhile, when Talbot isn’t screaming his organs out or slurring slovenly like a drunkard, there are glimpses of true melodicism in his voice such as on downtempo closer ‘Slow Savage’.

Deep beneath the punky rawness, Idles are clearly a talented bunch of musicians that can actually sing and play their instruments. They may be operating rather brutishly with a rusty kitchen knife for a scalpel, but their ability to pull it off with surgical precision and aptitude makes up for it, writing some of the catchiest hooks, tightest rhythms and wittiest lyrics you’re likely to hear on a rock record in 2017.