The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing: Now That’s What I Call Steampunk! Volume 1

This is a really entertaining album. It sounds as if the band are enjoying it too. My only gripe with the whole concept of the genre of steampunk, a gothic Victorian style genre, is that I don’t think it’s that new or original. There’s a splattering of Dead Kennedy’s, The Cramps, The Melvins, The Damned and seems highly influenced by the Mighty Boosh. Having said that you could imagine them being cover stars of Sounds in 1981.

From the opener Etiquette though to Bolier Plate Daniel, we are taken to a dark world of sewers and wild bull dogs and almost expect The Artful Dodger and Bill Sikes to face off in a Victorian grunge riff off. We are transported to a world of empire, lunatic asylums and hot air balloons. The full on a punk rock and steam powered metal continues on A Traditional Victorian Gentlemen's Boasting Song and by Blood Red we get on the full metal jacket.

For the trivia buffs The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing named themselves after chalked graffiti scribbled above the blood stained apron left by Jack The Ripper as he fled a murder scene. There’s an idea for a show; Victorian CSI.

By the way, if anyone from the Mighty Boosh are reading this and looking for an opening act for the next tour, then they could do worse than booking TMTWNBBFN.

[][][][] (4/5)

~ Saturday, 19 June 2010

Andy Lucas: Weekend Millionaire

Lucas is a bit of a musical nomad who has been plying his trade as a session musician and pianist for hire for several years now while putting together the songs that make up this album. His skill on the old Joanna is a formidable one and it is this that links this album together. Musically he seems to have found his own voice. The sound is not unique but it is hard to pigeon hole. I can hear shades of Elvis Costello, mainly in the voice, along with Duke Special, Ben Folds and even Michael Bublé. The thing though that sets Lucas apart from any of these other guys is his lyrics. This is a deeply dark album. The subject matter is self deprecating and often delivered with wry humour.

There is a schizophrenic quality to this record. Why? Well, you could play it to your Granny and I'm sure she would like it. You could also play it to your indie loving next door neighbour and I'm sure he would love it as well. It is the type of record that you could hear play listed on Radio 2 and then banned once they figure out the lyrics. If you can't tell already, I like this album.

The title track and Supergeeks are indicative of the humour that Lucas packs into his lyrics. He has an inherent ability to paint little postcards in your mind, like dirty little secrets, while never losing focus of the music. For a debut album it is a pretty rounded affair. On The Miserable Musical Prostitute he takes on the perspective of a lounge piano player and the world of hotel lobbies, playing for drunks and knickerless women while trotting out an endless supply of turgid cover versions and sinking into depression.
It's one of those songs that we can all empathise with.

Einstein and the Taxi Driver is a clever idea. A fictional conversation on a fictional journey that could quite easily have happened. Lucas looks at things differently, that is obvious. If you tune into his wavelength then this album will reward you by the bucket load. My personal favourites are the wonderful Sleeping and Talk of the Town. The former is a mini masterpiece with a swirling string arrangement and the latter another of Lucas's little storyboards of small town life and what ifs.

This is a record that deserves your attention for so many reasons. It's clever, witty, dark and mysterious but most of all it's good. Very good. One of the finest debut albums I've heard in a long, long time.

[][][][][] (5/5)

~ Tuesday, 15 June 2010

GTAA: The Time,The Place

When I heard the opener of The Time, The Place by GTAA, called Football World the first thought in my head was this is why god invented Call Centres. So delusional artists like GTAA can go and be a manager in them. I don’t understand why people indulge guys like this in the studio. I’m sure he thinks it’s wonderful but honestly it’s not. The songs aren’t good, the production is rubbish. There are no redeeming features in this whatsoever. It’s unoriginal. It’s not good.

If pushed Rising Sun is OK but only if someone else was singing it. That’s as good as it gets I’m afraid. This is the downside of everyone being able to make music. Self indulgence and a bio that borders on mental illness with a comparison to Bowie and Julian Cope. This is a concept album we are told. Here’s a concept, just go read a book, preferably about poetry or songwriting. Listen to some records and if you really want to continue releasing music of any kind, at least know your trade. This is poor, uninspiring, horrendously self indulgent and just bad. At one point I maybe thought I was being duped and tricked and part of a practical joke. Sadly, GTAA (what sort of name is that? even the name is crap), are serious.

If we are being kind we’d say if the guy isn’t right in the head, then it’s a good attempt at doing something creative but for me it’s two words; call centre. I’m sorry this is so bad. I really tried so hard to be positive and listened to it three times and feel ill now.


Review by Charlie Brown

~ Monday, 14 June 2010

Bix Medard: Y Dress?

Bix Medard are a Brussels based electropop duo. At times trip hop, post punk, new wave, electro, the initial feel of their album Y-Dress? is that they are dabbling in all music bases without actually grabbing any particular genre. The album is still entertaining and moves along in fine style with Bix Medard‘s very breathy euro pop, sweet soft vocal feel with the added edge of Peter Clasen on bass and monophonic synths giving a stronger rounded edge to the sound.

There are some songs that stand out in terms of cross over appeal, the opener La Photo en Noire et Blanc sounding a bit like Visage. Parking 58 and C’est Si Bon are also stand out sweet Euro pop. It’s never easy taking on a cover, especially a John Lennon song but the version of Imagine is quite brave. It’s also a clever idea as it sounds like it could be fresh in a commercial and bring Bix Medard into the mainstream.

There’s a lot of charm on Y-Dress?. Nice melodies, a few catchy europop songs, quirky French vocals and great bass playing. There’s also something missing. Something lacking and it may just be that the rest of the songs aren’t strong enough and tend to meander into sounding like Kraftwerk collaborating in Bristol with Portishead. Stylistically it is cool and Bix could a big star. She is a painter, performance artist, poet and also a singer. It may be harsh to say this but she is perhaps a jack of all trades and a mistress of none. With more focus and a definite musical direction, she could be a European star in the style of Alison Goldfrapp.
Y Dress? is released in the UK on July 5th

[][][] (3/5)

Review by Charlie Brown


The Amazing: Wait For A Light To Come

We were big fans of The Amazing's 2009 self titled debut album. It was packed full of dreamy jangly guitars and songs with more hooks than a fisherman's bunnet, so we were delighted to see the release of this six track mini album and you know what? It is even better than their debut. The sound has changed. It is softer, more polished. The psychedelic influences are still there but more folky than before.

It's a short one at only 26 minutes but it is about quality not quantity here. The album opens in fine style with the dreamy
Evil. The relentless drums really do make this track and the flute overdubs pull the whole thing together. It really is a pretty amazing song. You may think that after opening with such a strong track it would be down hill all the way but no, it just keeps getting better. Islands is a masterpiece. Seriously, this is one quality piece of music. It has a kind of chilled dance quality about it yet it isn't dance. It's folk. It's just a different kind of folk. And It Looks Like Today is most definitely folk, like a long lost Nick Drake recording brought back to life. There is a tweeness to it which may be in part due to the male/female dual vocal approach.

Head Beaches has an epic sound. The production is magnificent. The song has an ethereal quality that is all the more striking given the sparseness of the arrangement. Beautiful. Wait For A Light To Come has a similar feel about it but uses layered harmonies to build an atmosphere that wafts over you like a warm summer breeze. Defect is one track that is a reminder of their debut album as it has a harder edge and a dis-jointed feel that brings to mind bands like Cream and Moby Grape.

If you are a fan of 60's influenced psychedelia then this record should be top of your wanted list. Just make sure you get it on the limited edition vinyl and enjoy it the way it should be heard. I'm already looking forward to what these guys come up with next.

[][][][][ (4.5/5)

~ Saturday, 12 June 2010

Larkin Poe: Spring - An EP

Larkin Poe is the name adopted by The Lovell Sisters, Rebecca & Megan, after the departure of their elder sister, Jessica, from their family group. The sisters have already had some considerable success on their side of the Atlantic under their former guise and the sound has moved on slightly from the Country/Bluegrass they are known for. The sisters always had a pop edge to their music but with the name change has came a more embracing attitude towards that side of their music. They have often been compared to the Dixie Chicks and on the evidence of this 9 track ep (surely it's an album!), you can see why.

It's not one of these records that grabs you and makes you pay attention. It's the kind of music that you can put on at a dinner party without disturbing the conversation. It's not that it's bland, just not memorable. Having listened to this record many times over the last two weeks I still can't remember any songs on it. Songs like
Long Hard Fall, To Myself and Nothin' But Air are pleasant enough but fall flat when compared to someone like The Indigo Girls who do this style of music so much better.

I neither like or dislike this record. I wouldn't buy it but I wouldn't turn it off if it came on the radio. If you like the poppier side of The Dixie Chicks or Keith Urban then this may indeed be the album for you but personally I prefer my music with a bit more heart and soul and this is passionless music, plain and simple.

[][][ (2.5/5)


Kevin Welch: A Patch Of Blue Sky

Welch is a name to be reckoned with in songwriting circles. Some of Country music's biggest names have came knocking for his services while he has remained fairly anonymous outwith America, retaining a cult status in Europe. This is Welch's first solo release since 2001 and one that has those in the know wetting their lips in anticipation. The 9 years between solo releases have not been barren with Welch teaming up with fellow songwriters Kieran Kane and Fats Kaplin for several award winning and critically acclaimed albums on both sides of the Atlantic which also saw the guys become regular visitors to these shores when touring.

Welch took on the production duties himself and he has delivered a wonderful sounding record with some moments of real beauty that prove the demands for his talents are fully justified. The wonderful opening track Come A Rain is lyrical roll call with the great and the good like Elvis, Buddha, Hendrix and Jesus all being name checked on this humorous skewed take on life. Inspired stuff.

Welch has also called in an impressive supporting cast for this album with the wonderful Eliza Gilkyson adding her breathy vocals to the lilting Ardaman Sea while his daughter, Savannah, pops up on a few tracks alongside her band mates in The Trishas. While Welch flirts with country, his sound has a more bluesy edge than many of the acts that have recorded his songs, which gives this album a far more rootsy feel than many of his contemporaries. The Great Emancipation is a perfect showcase for Welch's voice and lyrical dexterity. A dark tale that sits in contrast with the beautiful melody, but as with most of this album, it just works.

My own personal preference is when the songs are stripped back and restrained, and for me this is where Welch excels, producing what are arguable the albums two finest moments. New Widow's Dream and That's How It Feels are both breathtaking in every aspect, a masterclass in the art of songwriting. It took a few plays to get into this album, some records are like that, but the rewards are worth it as each play reveals something new. I can heartily recommend this album.

You can catch Kevin live when he visits the UK & Ireland in October.

[][][][] (4/5)


Kings Go Forth: The Outsiders Are Back - Album of the Month - June 2010

This is good. No, this is amazing. Kings Go Forth are a 10 piece funk collective hailing from Milwaukee that is made up of members from numerous other bands and are brought together by a love of soulful funky music. The guys have captured perfectly a sound that I thought I would never hear again except for digging out my old Stax vinyl. This has the heart of Curtis Mayfield with the soul of Gil Scott Heron and the attitude of Rufus Thomas.

These guys really have nailed their sound. From the production to the arrangements they have got the authenticity down to a tee. They also feature 3 vocalists up front giving them a real depth and a looseness that exposes a raw edge.

The album opens in fine style with the fast and furious One Day which bares comparisons with the funk classic 'Move On Up'. Perhaps it is the stabbing brass or the seriously hyper percussion but its there. There is a good balance between the more upbeat and the mellow with tracks like Get A Feeling, I Don't Love You No More and Now Were Gone keeping the tempo to the max and guaranteeing full dance floors at Northern Soul nights the length and breadth of the country. The mellower side of this band shows itself in the luscious High On Your Love. The vocals are simply faultless making it quite irresistible.

A surprise is 1000 songs which moves away from the funk soul sound on the rest of the album and is a classy piece of Ska. This album works from start to finish and is a tribute to the skill of the musicians who made it. If you sit still through any of this record we suggest you go and see a doctor as you may indeed be dead. This is funking good music and no mistake.

[][][][][] (5/5)

~ Thursday, 10 June 2010

Amari: Poweri

This is the 7th album from the Italian band with a penchant for funky beats that are both dance floor and radio friendly. Some records have a feelgood factor about them and this one works it to the max with a strong summer vibe and some great retro samples. It has a similar feel to bands like Hotchip and Air but there is more depth to their sound. The same can't be said for their lyrics which are more or less nonsensical throughout.

The album kicks of with the highly infectious Kisses, a sun drenched 70's throwback that resurfaces again at the end of the album in the shape of two remixes. The first, a remix by Tuzo, strips the song of its charm and renders it as nothing more than club fodder while the second, a remix by Blatta & Inesha, gives it a two step makeover that is beyond annoying. A totally pointless exercise in banality that can't hold a candle to the original.
Tiger, the first single from the album, is a curious one. It has an inspired tempo change that comes totally out of the blue and some seriously funky guitar going on. It even has a distinct chilled thing going on in the mix. Seriously good.

Lost On The Sea shows that they are not afraid to experiment with pushing the boundaries of what is considered dance. This wouldn't fill any dance floors but it is an extremely clever piece of pop and this is where this album gets its brownie points. They take risks and mix things that most bands wouldn't touch. Not everything using this philosophy works. Italo Tourist comes across like trashy euro pop and Girls On Vodka tries to flirt with both pop and punk but succeeds at neither.

Standout track for me is the short and sweet Acqua Di Joe. At only 1 min 40 sec they really missed a trick in not developing this one further. The 80's retro synths really do sound great and the addition of the dirty guitar licks make this one track I just wanted to go on and on.

I get this album. I see what they are trying to do and for that I applaud them but it is to hit and miss to be essential listening. Hopefully they can get the balance right with album number 8.

[][][] (3/5)


David Celia: I Tried

This is Canadian Celia's 3rd album, a self produced collection of songs that pay homage to a wide range of influences ranging from The Beatles to Randy Newman and Neil Young to Ry Cooder. I personally never understood the status that The Beatles hold in peoples affections but Celia obviously holds them dear. So much so that the first two tracks, Turnout and Severine, sound like outtakes from Sgt Pepper. There is a fine line between originality and plagiarism. A line which Celia comes too close to for comfort on these two songs.

I nearly gave up on this album then and there but I'm glad I didn't hit the eject button
as Celia goes on to prove that his musicianship and songwriting deserve to be taken on their own merits. The beautiful title track shows Celia to possess a sweet and pure voice as well as consummate finger style skills on the guitar. This track is really two songs in one starting out as an ethereal folk song of cinematic proportions before morphing into a country tinged piece of Americana that Crosby, Stills and Nash would be proud of. The country sounds continue on the humour packed I'm Not Texan, a wonderfully crafted tale of things not always being what they appear. A bit like this album. If you take the time to let this album work its magic you will be well rewarded.

Tracks like
Crush and Marcus really are works of true beauty that blur musical genres and are worth buying this album alone for. Standout track however for me is the incredibly infectious Instant Puppy Love which is littered with some stunning guitar work outs courtesy of both Celia and the wonderful Gruf Morlix.

This would easily have been a 5 out of 5 album if it were not for the first two tracks. Given the fact that Celia is a bloody great songwriter and musician, he didn't need to do The Beatles pastiche. Shame.

[][][][ (3.5/5)

~ Sunday, 6 June 2010

Jane Weaver: The Fallen By Watch Bird

I feel like I really shouldn't like this record. It's a concept album and lets face I don't think anyone has ever made a good concept album never mind a great one. The production borders on amateurish and the instrumentation relies on repetitiveness rather than melody for its focus yet I do like this album. In fact I really like this album.

Weaver has been an illusive figure of late taking a step back from being the darling of the Manchester indie scene and the time away has been put to good use resulting in this wonderful album of new age folk psych that embraces electronica and cinematic grandeur for an ethereal and magical ride through a tale that touches on death, re-birth and witchcraft.

The first three tracks on this album flow continuously into each other as part of a musical 'suite' that is high on atmosphere as it builds into a Hawkwindesque conclusion on the title track but it is the tracks that follow that really make this album. There are definite comparisons to be garnered here with American Joanne Newsom and Swede
Lisa Issaksson (otherwise known as Lisa O Piu), particularly on the hypnotic Turning In Circles and the mesmerising Hud a Llefrith, resplendent in all its harp based glory, but Weaver's sound and voice still retains a definite Englishness about them that sets her apart.

Weaver has an obvious grasp of what she wanted to create here and on every level you have to say she has produced something beautiful. It looks like there is now at least one great concept album after all. It's good to have her back.

[][][][][ (4.5/5)

~ Thursday, 3 June 2010

The John Henrys: White Linen

The John Henrys are an interesting proposition. They sound familiar. Part Tom Petty, part Elvis Costello and part Rolling Stones. They have an ear for a country lick in the same way Keith Richard does. It is rock 'n' roll enough to be cool and free spirited enough to be different. They are the type of band that you feel would have been at home on stage at Woodstock sandwiched between Joe Cocker and Country Joe and the Fish.

Album opener Little One wears its Heartbreaker influences on its sleeve with lead singer Rey Sabatin Jnr sounding uncannily like Tom Petty. When they decide to crank it up a bit this album works at its best like on the wonderful Hit The Floor and Empty Pockets, the former sounding like a recently uncovered Lynyrd Skynyrd classic.

They show their country credentials in some style with the lilting Edge Of December and the rasping Dawson City but lose their way somewhat with the cliched and cringing Good Man which sounds like a poor mans Wild Horses. That aside they have found a good balance on this album with a mix of ballads and country blues tinged rockers that makes this an enjoyable 43 mins. The one thing that this their 3rd album does do, is make me want to see them live. You just know these guys put on a blistering show.

[][][][] (4/5)

~ Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Suzanne Vega: Close Up Vol 1, Love Songs

Since Vega first appeared in the 80's she has established herself as one of the most respected singer songwriters of her generation, never afraid to tackle subjects that many would consider taboo. Vega is set to release four albums over the next 2 years where she revisits her back catalogue reworking her songs in a stripped back format. On this, volume 1, she focuses on what she describes as her love songs although perhaps not love in the conventional sense of the word.

The songs that would be most familiar to the casual listener would be her 1985 hit Marlene On The Wall, which has lost none of its simplistic charm and is as fresh sounding today as it was 25 years ago, and 1996's Caramel with its unmistakable bossa nova beat. Vega has a voice that is instantly recognisable and it is this that carries this album as without the slick production that brought such warmth to her albums, some of the songs feel a bit flat. Having said that both Stockings and (If You Were) In My Movie work gloriously in their nakedness.

This is perhaps one that is more for the fans than something that is likely to ignite a new generation to succumb to the charms of Ms Vega as picking up her self titled debt album or 1987's Solitude Standing would be a far more rewarding experience for those looking for an introduction to this iconic songwriter.

[][][][ (3.5/5)


Buckman Coe: Latest Waking

When I put this cd on for the first time it had me there and then. I was sold. Coe's music comes from a different decade. His voice has shades of Stephen Stills as does his songs, which is no bad thing in my book, yet he brings a freshness, a naivety even that is heartwarming and completely captivating. This is Coe's debut album, an album which he recorded and produced himself in his flat yet you would never know as the sound quality is excellent and the production warm and full.

Having been born in London and raised in Canada has certainly had an influence on Coe's music as he draws influences from both sides of the Atlantic. Album opener Give Up The Fright carries the ghosts of many an American classic. I can hear Tom Russell and Jeff Buckley alongside Stephen Stills here on what really is a classy piece of music. This is a fairly laid back album that brakes into the occasionally cantor in the shape of the quirky Disappear Into Love but it is the mellow vibes of tracks like And Love Again, Soldier and Off The Beaten Path where Coe excels. Off The Beaten Path in particular shows Coe's skill as a songwriter and for me is the strongest track on an album that is packed with quality songs. The addition of the strings allowing the atmosphere to build while the harmonics from the guitar add depth and anticipation.

I hope this album gets Coe the attention he deserves for he stands head and shoulders above the pack when it comes to originality and passion.

[][][][][ (4.5/5)


Danny Mitchell: A Little More Fight (ep)

Mitchell makes his living as a session musician in Nashville but as this classy ep shows he is more than capable of making a name for himself in his own right. Mitchell inhabits the same territory as the likes of Harry Connick Jnr, Joshua Kadison and Michael Buble. Certainly his voice shares the same tones, phrasing and diction as Buble but he is definitely no copycat.

The title track is a poppy little tune that is reminiscent of Marc Cohen or Bruce Hornsby with a great arrangement and faultless vocals. A Love Song starts out as a laid back jazz tinged ballad but builds and builds ending up sounding strangely like Take That's A Million Love Songs. All the six tracks contained here flow together perfectly and show Mitchell as a formidable songwriter. The production is wonderfully bright and warm and only adds to the overall quality of this hugely impressive piece of work. Definitely one to keep an eye on.