The Good The Bad: From 001 To 017

Danish instrumental trio The Good The Bad seem to be getting name checked everywhere you look at the moment with The Killers and MC5's both coming out as fans. The guys play sub 3 minute surf grunge tunes that also touches on everything from flamenco to punk and mariachi to rock. Imagine if Duane Eddy joined the Hives and they re-recorded the sound track to a Quentin Tarantino remake of 'Once upon a time in Mexico' and you get some idea of the sound these guys make... or not.

This album has been floating around for sometime, having first heard it in 2007 as an import, but it is just getting its full UK release now off the back of an explosive show at this years SXSW extravaganza. Judging from the album cover it is not only the band's music that is testosterone fueled. A bevy of naked beauties bedeck the cover in poses that leaves nothing to the imagination and the band carry this theme on with their new video which also stars a naked young lady having 'relations' with an electric guitar. The spirit of rock 'n' roll is alive and well.
I wonder if these guys own a Ten Years After album!

I never quite understood the need for song names on all instrumental albums and it looks like these guys share my point of view as the 17 tracks are simply listed as 001 to 017. Genius if you ask me. Despite the number of tracks contained on here, it is still only 32 mins long which is probably the right length given the limitation and repetitive nature of this album. I did enjoy this album but you do get the feeling that The Good The Bad really come into their own in a live environment. If you are looking for an album to stick on when you and your mates are getting ready for a night out, then this will surely get you in the mood. Enjoy this album for what it is... a record that will put a smile on your face. With From 018 to 033 already available on import, you will be hearing a lot more of them over the coming year.

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

~ Thursday, 30 September 2010

Bada Badoo: Conceptual Love (Single)

When Bada Badoo appeared on this years X Factor, Simon Cowell was heard to say 'this is a joke' when Bada walked on stage. Perhaps it was a joke as he played the geek to perfection, claiming that he wanted to see if he really could sing. He can indeed sing and left the assembled judges open mouthed. I personally detest the X Factor and its talentless freaks as they parade their wares for a crack at obscurity all the while pouring millions of pounds into Mr Cowell's bank account. So is Bada just another one of these sad deluded puppet laid bare for our voyeuristic entertainment? Well perhaps not as this guy really can sing.

Conceptual Love is a chilled slice of radio friendly R'n'B with some serious pop overtones, and a video that has its tongue firmly in its cheek, that provides the perfect vehicle for Bada's soulful and pure voice, and you know what.... he may just have a hit on his hands. There is a place in UK music at the moment for a truly great soul voice and if he can live up to the early promise of this single, then he will certainly have a career that lasts a lot longer than that of Leon Jackson, Shayne Ward or Steve Brookstein.

~ Wednesday, 29 September 2010

50ft Woman: Ménage á Trois (ep)

London 5 piece 50ft Woman make punky pop that sounds like they have been influenced by the B52's in the same way No Doubt had. Fronted by the demure Minki, a lady with high heels that could induce vertigo, the band showcase their sleazy sound on this 3 track ep.

Pick of the bunch is the first track,
(Strictly) Only Swinging. A tale of no strings sex and suburban shenanigans behind closed doors that plays to a soundtrack that brings to mind The Damned and the previously mentioned B52's. Psychic Hygiene probably works better live but here it sounds formulaic and uninspiring, but they get back on track with You're In Love With Love (But You Ain't in Love With Me) which has a chorus that sounds a lot like the Psychedelic Furs Pretty In Pink and is a damn fine piece of noizy pop.

There is enough here to suggest that Minki and the lads are worth keeping an eye on. Ménage á Trois is released on the 1st November.


I, Ludicrous: Clerking 'Til I Die (single)

Clerking 'Til I Die sees I, Ludicrous back to their ironic best with a self deprecating tale of the fame hungry and those content with their lot. The comparisons to The Fall will never go away but unlike the dour faced ramblings of Mark E Smith, I, Ludicrous have no illusions of their own self importance. As usual humour is their best weapon.

The track itself is a slow chugging piece of indieness that brings to mind The Pixies with Will Hung's semi spoken vocal delivery showing no hint of the humour in the lyrics until the very end of the song. If you have not checked out the band before, then do yourself a favour and discover one of the great undiscovered bands of the last 25 years.


Michael Lee: Face Forward

Michael Lee is a singer songwriter from Buckinghamshire who cites, among his influences, Sting. That aside I still tried hard to give it a good listen despite my fears at seeing yet another English middle class troubadour on the cover, with blow dried hair and ubiquitous raincoat stare longingly at a cowpat just off in the distance. My notebook said egregious, remarkably bad. But I listened 4 times to see if I could be positive.

Lose the drummer, he’s too busy. Oh sorry you’re the drummer. And the fancy fretwork from the guitarist is getting in the way, oh sorry that’s you too. You want to show off don’t you? Michael Lee is clearly a Jack of all trades but a master of none. Only Jimi Hendrix and Prince could truly play at the level required to convince as multi instrumentalists and sorry Michael, this just sounds like a huge vanity project.

On Tired, a Rufus Wainwright style song where Lee keeps it simple with a nice string arrangement, he is actually quite good. Mystery of Life also shows that less is more.

Like most men his age who’ve probably tried for years in previous groups to make it, Michael Lee should be applauded for still trying but for me this is just poor. This is what happens when musicians forget to listen to records and prefer to read guitar magazines. Someone should’ve said, listen to some records. Listen to structure, start with 60’s garage, listen to Motown records some Northern Soul, listen to some punk records. Everything is about structure, melody and excitement and all with the aim of adding to the song. Sadly Face Forward does none of this.

[] (1/5)

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Thursday, 23 September 2010

InMe: Phoenix - The Best Of InMe

This is a 'best of compilation' by English rock band InMe, from Brentwood, Essex. My first impression was why aren’t they massive by now? I was immediately won over despite never having heard them before. This album should be viewed less as a best of and more of an introduction to the band to win over new converts and after hearing Phoenix, they’ve a new fan in me.

Maybe the reason why they aren’t household names could be down to marketing. They shouldn’t be chasing the mainstream, just stick to the alternative indie scene and eventually the mainstream will, like they did with Nirvana and Pearl Jam, wake up and smell the coffee.

The songs sound fresh and current; it’s a cornucopia of rifferamma and great drumming but should be listened to in the context of alternative indie rock bands like Biffy Clyro and Pendulum and not poppier bands like Feeder. The opener Safe in a Room is heavy but melodic. We venture into the heavy rock spectrum with loads of intricacy and enough fills and riffs to keep the Kerrang fans happy but also, and more importantly enough angst, melancholy and indie sensibility which will please the NME fans. Myths and Photographs rocks out majestically. Bury Me Deep Beneath Your Skin, All Terrain Vehicle and Cracking the Whip sound like InMe could be massive in the States.

Who will love this? Fans of Nickelback, Limp Bizkit, Bush, Staind, Pendulum and Baroness. Let’s hope that Phoenix; The Best of InMe helps relaunch them to their rightful berth and they rise from the flames. Sorry I promised myself I wouldn’t be that predictable with the phoenix from the flames analogy but there you go.

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

Review by Charlie Brown


Po' Girl: Follow Your Bliss - Album of the Month - September 2010

Follow Your Bliss is the 5th studio album from the much venerated Canadian roots band Po' Girl and is packed with songs of love, longing and desire that swing from Americana to jazz and folk to pop with all the usual flair that you have came to expect from this talented four peice. From the very first moment you put this record on you know that you are in for something special. Opener Kathy is the perfect vehicle for the wonderful vocals of Allison Russell, resplendent in its breathy dusky tones, and shows a progression in the bands sound from last album Deer in the Night which is carried on through out the other 13 tracks contained here.

The country blues of
When We Are Love is a soulful and joyous affair brought to life by the dobro of Benny Sidelinger and the guitar of Dan Abu Absi. A great deal of the credit for the likability of this album must go to the outstanding production of Zack Goheen who has provided a warmth to the new found maturity of the bands songwriting. Highlights are many. From the accordion and brass driven title track to the Parisian zydeco of Maudite Guerre and the understated beauty of Go Easy to the haunting Benediction, this is an album that delivers constantly with each listen drawing you in further.

There are many other bands playing similar stuff out there but few manage to capture the emotion and joy that Po'Girl have etched into their soul. This is a great record that the band may find hard to better.

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

~ Wednesday, 22 September 2010

aM: Belong To The Galaxy

Japanese two piece aM make electronic soundscapes laced with rock sensibilities as this all instrumental album shows. The duo of Kodai and Miyuki have been regular faces on the Japanese electro rock scene with the band Supercar, Kodai being drummer in the band and Miyuki being their producer. The duo claim they wanted to create a sound they describe as 'the imagination of the galaxy'. I'm not sure what that means but it is a million miles away from the twee pop of Supercar.

The sound is at time brutal with an industrial approach to the production which only serves to make the ferocity of their songs all the more intense. This ain't no subtle album. Opener I've God Them tricks you with it's spiraling arpeggiator before erupting into a mash of sonic feedback with layered synths and guitars. If Mogwai went down the electro route you kind of feel they would sound something like this.

The rest of the album follows the same pattern of gentle intros followed by all out mayhem. There is a distinct air of predictability to the whole proceedings which means the
repetitiveness of the songs does become tiresome as the near 18 min long final track The Universe Is Alive (One Huge Sinewave) pays testament to. I understand what the guys are trying to do and that the repetitiveness is part of that but it is difficult to see who this album will appeal to or how they will be able to develop their sound for the future. More of a curious oddity than a post rock masterpiece.

No Website available

[][][ (2.5/5)


Jon Thorne & Danny Thomson: Watching The Well

Double bassist Jon Thorne has always pushed the musical boundaries especially with his band Lamb and with the musicians who make him their bassist of choice, whether that be Robert Fripp or Badly Drawn Boy. Much admired by both musicians and music fans for his undeniable skill, it is easy to ignore the fact that he is also an amazing composer. This whole album was inspired by his hero and mentor the legendary folk bassist Danny Thomson and serves as a vehicle for Thomson's virtuoso playing.

Watching The Well is an all instrumental suite written for double bass and orchestra with some interesting choral flourishes giving a haunting and sometimes medieval feel to proceedings. The 12 parts/tracks have been split into three movements, The Light That Guides, The Generous Heart and The Tie That Binds and loops seamlessly from track to track. The album was initially conceived as a performance piece commissioned for the Manchester Jazz Festival and this is evident in the structure and feel of the whole record. While Thompson is undoubtedly the star of the show, Thorne has brought together a formidable supporting cast in the shape of jazz saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and Cinematic Orchestra guitarist Stuart McCallum but it is Thorne's compositions that shine brightest.

From the opening track
The Light That Guides you are transported to a sound scape of atmosphere and surrealism that is deeply relaxing and ethereal. With the length of tracks ranging from 40 seconds to over 7 minutes, this is a record that is meant to be listened to as a whole and certainly works best from that perspective. The instrumentation is faultless throughout with Victoria being perhaps the best track to showcase Thompson's awesome bass skills.

Thorne's willingness to embrace both modern technology and beautiful acoustic instruments like the harp, cello and piano make this a fascinating musical journey. You won't walk away from this album humming any of the tunes but you will be richly rewarded by the experience.

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

~ Thursday, 16 September 2010

Paul Heaton: Acid Country

Paul Heaton will be best know to most as the former front man with the Beautiful South and the Housemartins but this is not his first foray as a solo artist with the album Fat Chance released under the name of Biscuit Boy and 2008's self titled release The Cross Eyed Rambler. Both these albums failed to capture the public imagination, so will his new album Acid Country fare any better?

The songs on here will appeal far more to fans of the Beautiful South than any Housematins aficionados. It is pop with a bit of Americana and folk thrown into the mix. Heaton's voice is as distinctive as ever and his ability to write witty, cutting and intelligent lyrics is stronger than ever and it is this that makes this album for me. This is a record that Heaton sounds like he enjoyed making and it has been some time since that could be said.

There is a feel to this record that hankers for times past. Opener The Old Radio reads like a snippet from an American history book and It's A Young Man's Game laments to what used to be 'Up North'. The vocal interaction with Ruth Skipper on Even A Palm Tree is biting, perhaps even auto biographic, and shows Heaton to be at the top of his lyrical game. On Welcome To The South he fires a condescending shot across the bow of the South of England and all its ideal and personality sapping negativity with all the jollity of George Formby. There is a theme developing here.

If you are looking for a life affirming and uplifting album then this is not the record for you. Then again even at his most commercial days with Beautiful South, Heaton was never one for the happy song. His trademark songs, of sorts, of marital strife are here in force with the swooning This House being the pick of the bunch. When he sings 'This house needs a cat to kick instead of poor old me' you know you are in reassuringly familiar downbeat territory.

The standout track for my money is the epic title track Acid Country which is Heaton's take on modern Britain, our preconceptions and stereotypes all backed with a constantly changing soundtrack ranging from Americana to Eastern European folk to electronica and back again.

This album is grower that requires a few listens before it's gloomy charms are unveiled and having the accompanying lyric booklet on hand will certainly help. Heaton proves he has all the abilities to challenge Morrissey for Britain's most cherished miserable old bugger. Don't expect to hear this on the radio or reams of column inches in the national press as it is unlikely to happen. Pity, as Heaton needs to be cherished for the bard that he is.

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

~ Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Snakes: Sometime Soon

If subtle country rock with a British twist is your bag, then The Snakes Sometime Soon is the must buy album of this or any other week. Maybe it’s just been a bad week at The Music Critic HQ but when this album was slipped under the door it made me smile and feel happy. It’s a refreshing X Factor-Simon Cowell- music industry-free kind of album. It’s not rocket science, get together with some mates and make an album, an album with a distinctive, live, natural feel which adds to the charm.

The Snakes have listened to decent records. You can hear the obvious influences, post Exile On Main Street Stones and The Flying Burrito Brothers (if they hailed from the Thames Delta), Dylan and The Band. Though we also verge off into Captain Beefheart and Jon Spencer territory with Refrigerator Blues and Jesus in a Box, on Tin Foil Town we would excite fans of Steve Earle.

The stand out tracks are Promised Land and Come My Way and both could be hit singles. On Promised Land, we are in an America the world dreams of; the open road, hot deserts, Arizona, an orange sunset, the ghost of Gram Parsons all around, a full tank of petrol and hope. The optimism continues on Come My Way with more spacey, big and gloriously choruses, unapologetic nods to Tom Petty at his best.

Last week the Mercury Music prize was awarded to someone whose name I’ve forgotten already. The Snakes should be nominated for next years prize right now. In fact let’s all just buy it. It’s released on Red Eye Music on September 27 2010. It would’ve been a perfect five apart from the track Cumberland Breeze, a shame it was out of place.

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

Review by Charlie Brown


Love Deuce: It Takes Two

It Takes Two is the new album from Bedford’s, in their words, pop Europop dance trance Eurodance techno music act Love Deuce. As a grumpy old musical snob I’m hardly the biggest authority on pop Europop dance trance Eurodance acts. I know it’s not Nick Drake or Nirvana or The Ramones but it’s not meant to be. It’s what the kids are into.

When pop Europop dance trance Eurodance techno music comes on the radio after the football on a Saturday night and the young people are getting ready to go out, this is what they’re all listening to. I usually switch on Radio 4. Surprisingly, I do this job because I do know about music, particularly pop and this is a good debut album full of great pop Europop dance trance Eurodance techno music. There, surprised you all.

They’re doing their thing, it sounds current, fresh and upbeat with loads of catchy pop hooks and the ones that stuck out for me were I Never Loved You Anyway, Miss Dangerous and Satisfied. There’s some good pop writing clearly evident on the stand out track Hero. I can imagine them going down a storm in Europe where the pop aspect to dance music is much stronger. There are also some nice vocal performances throughout, reminiscent at times of Madonna, no bad thing at all.

It’s not something naturally aimed at my demographic but I appreciate any artists who do their own thing and try to make things happen. So if this old grump is relatively impressed by it, then just think what the kids will think? If the band are reading, my 13 year-old niece has a birthday coming up and I’m sure her and her pals will love it. Is it ok to give her the promo for a pressie?

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

Review by Charlie Brown


Conchitas: Burn Baby Burn (single)

Conchitas are an electro rock outfit by day and if the prestigious gigs they’re playing is anything to go by superstar DJs by night.

Burn Baby Burn itself is a decent enough pop song, well performed, rattling along with singer El’s throaty decadence. Released on Delicious Records it contains the forthcoming album version and 4 other remixes. Singer El reverts to her DJ job to do a decent enough remix.

The Man with the Mane, Superstar DJ Ricky Birickyno, Mono, Italian producers Alex Vani and Tony Barbato who’ve worked with Roger Sanchez and London and Hong Kong’s Megaphone Sista also do their work on Burn Baby Burn. The stand out version is the Ricky Birickyno Remix.

El and Ed Sonsino definitely have star quality but the problem they might face is that to get to the next level and gain stardom they have to decide if it’s worth becoming The Ting Tings

Review by Charlie Brown


Bellowhead: Hedonism

No matter what your musical persuasion, you can't help but look at Bellowhead with a certain amount of fascination and admiration. For those of you not in the know, Bellowhead are an 11 piece folk collective that have firmly established themselves as festival favourites due to their energy packed live performances. This is the third album from the group founded by the respected duo of John Spiers and Jon Boden and is an eclectic mix of folk, music hall, sea shanties and theatrics that is highly enjoyable and undeniably infectious.

The bands sound is helped in no small part by John Leckie on production duties, giving the album an earthiness and live feel that really allows the musicianship to shine through. Album opener is the much covered traditional New York Girls. It is a joyful uplifting ode to the working ladies of old New York with brass and strings weaving an intricate dance led by the fantastic percussion of Pete Flood. With the odd exception, all the 11 tracks on here are arrangements of traditional folk songs that have been passed down through the generations and will be recognisable to most folk fans but it is where the band tackle something different they shine brightest. Their cover of Jacques Brel's Amsterdam is sublime and outshines Scott Walkers version, which is no mean feat.

Some of the arrangements given to the trad songs contained here are inspired. Take A-Begging I Will Go. While it is still recognisable, it at times sounds like a cross between the theme from The Professionals and The Sweeney mainly due to the stabbing brass and funky wah wah guitar. Bellowhead drag folk music into the 21st century but it ain't screaming and kicking. It is quite happy to come along for the ride. Pick of the pack however must go to the stunning The Hand Weaver and The Factory Maid. The arrangement is fresh, funky and is everything that Bellowhead are about. You simply won't be able to keep your feet still.

This is folk music for people who never thought they could like folk music. One listen to Little Sally Racket (another song about ladies of the night) with all the punk sensibility of The Damned and Ska infectiousness of The Beat should be enough to convince.

Bellowhead are a band that deserve your attention and this album is one of their best. Buy it.

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

~ Monday, 6 September 2010

The Quails: Masters Of Imperfection

The Quails Masters of Imperfection is an entertaining album. It cracks on at a pace delivering radio friendly pop tunes which should see the band become a fixture on the festival circuit. The downside is that they sound like loads of other bands did, two years ago.

They wear their influences on their sleeve, a sleeve full of Killers like imagery and on That Other World and Princess, Brandon Flowers spirit looms large, in fact it sounds like he’s dropped by the studio to help with the vocals. On the opener Games With The Devil we hear the band doff their musical cap to the vocals and guitars of Franz Ferdinand.

Tracks like Shining Star and That Other World prove the band have a future but it will be a lot brighter once they find their own voice. It’s a decent second album but if they get to make a third, they need to stop thinking about the Killers, Arctic Monkeys and The Kaiser Chiefs and start concentrating on their own songwriting ability. They certainly have the musical talent and at this point let’s hear it for Chris Prentice’s drumming, but just concentrate on making an album like The Quails and the huge following in the South West will translate into UK wide success.

Songs like Argentina and Fever prove they can do it.

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

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Saturday, 4 September 2010

Momo:tempo: Sweetseeker (ep)

Momo:tempo is the moniker for composer and producer Timo Peach who has his feet firmly rooted in the electro dance field. Peach scores big points for staying clear of the easy money chart fodder and brings us tunes that owe more to acts from the 80's like Thomas Dolby, Yello and Blacmange.

Sweetseeker has a quirky energy with a full on wall of sound production that will appeal to the electo heads as well as the indie kids. The other 4 tracks (including a brilliant remix of Sweetseeker) confirm Peach's experimental nature. The Golden Age Of Exploration jumps from sample to sample with effortless ease while held together by some impressive production while the chilled beats of I Saw You Get On, Would You Like To Get Off would grace any Ibiza sunset.

Closer Al Hamdu Li Lah, the Arabic for 'Praise To God' for all you fact fans, is no less tongue in cheek than the rest of this ep but again the production and clever use of samples makes this a classy piece of electro pop.

If you get the Chemical Brothers then you'll definitely love this. I know I do.

~ Friday, 3 September 2010

Chancery Blame and the Gadjo Club: Tokyo/Where Is My Mind (single)

This double a sided single from the London based six piece is like a breath of fresh air. The lead track Tokyo is a heady mix of Jazz, Gypsy Folk and Punk played with a considerable amount of energy while Where Is My Mind is a cover of The Pixies track that is as downbeat as the original and no less beguiling.

Front man Phillip Granell's vocals are reminiscent of a young Nick Cave while their sound bares comparison with the likes of Les Négresses Vertes, Gogol Bordello or a Parisian Pogues, yet they still manage to make music that sounds unique and fresh.

As a taster for their forthcoming debut album Come On In, this is a mouthwatering appetiser.


Jonas Shandel: Jonas Shandel (ep)

Jonas Shandel is best known as a member of the renowned Canadian roots outfit Headwater and the music on this 7 track ep, Shandel's first solo outing, is pretty much in the same vein as the band. Indeed, with the exception of Pat Metzger, the band all feature. The overall sound on this record is more polished and commercial sounding than Headwater but in a good way.

Shandel has a fine voice and it is pushed to the forefront throughout and backed by some fine playing from the assorted cast of musicians. Time and Morning in particular are perfect vehicles for Shandel's lazy warm singing style and show him as a consummate songwriter and storyteller. The uptempo Rolling Like A Stone has a quirkiness to it that is reminiscent of a countrified Nick Cave and is perhaps the closest Shandel comes to the sound of Headwater.

The cover of Peter Gabriel's Mercy Street closes the album in atmospheric style and is a fantastic interpretation of a brilliant song. This is a record with considerable crossover appeal and a worthy showcase of Shandel's talents.

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

~ Wednesday, 1 September 2010