Shibuya Crossings: DOYA (Depend On Your Alter Ego)

Shibuya Crossings are a London based three piece. London based three piece? Sounds like a suit from Saville Row. Anyway they deliver glorious pop with catchy hooks and joyous melodies and if you like your indie pop close to the Teenage Fanclub envelope then this one’s for you.

At Eight in a Spanish Bar is the stand out track and along with If It Isn’t Getting Better reminiscent at times of the American indie pop of The Posies and Velvet Crush. Another track that caught my ear was Gamla Stan and thought it might be a better choice of single, reminding me of The Gigolo Aunts. I know it’s irritating if you’re the band reading this but it’s our job to try and place it musically. Where would we put it in the record store? What am I like, record store? Remember them?

On You Know it Anyway we doff our indie hat to the likes of Pavement and on the moody last track Silver Nails That Haunt Me we have echoes of Sparklehorse.

The vibe and feel on the album is nice loose and live sounding. I like bands who just do their thing, letting the music speak for itself, not prepared to be part of a scene just doing it irrespective of fashion or trends. However if I was an A&R man I’d tell them to change their name and the name of the album. Call yourself The Magic Markers, or The Paperbacks and call the album Cartoons or Cheesecake.

Shibuya Crossings DOYA is released on Typically Magic records on June 13th…

Or maybe that The Paperbacks ‘Cartoons’ is released on Typically Magic records on June 13th, see the difference? Market yourself in a more nuanced indie way, these things are more important than you think.

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

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Saturday, 23 April 2011

Bix Medard: Take A Deep Breath

Bix Medard, the idiosyncratic Belgian/Norwegian duo return with another great album of atmospheric grooves and cinematic, trippy beats. They’re a talented bunch this lot. Not only are they skilled musicians but even better cunning linguists, singing as they do in English, Japanese, French, Norwegian and Italian. Take a Deep Breath is edgier, darker and more stark than last year’s excellent Y Dress.

Despite being more heartfelt and personal, this album, in terms of actual feel, is colder, like a broken-hearted machine. Peter Clasen has excelled himself with his bass playing and guitar riffs most notably on
Are You Ready? the stand out track, clever, cool, dramatic and inventive.

The title track Take a Deep Breath sees them at their most quirky and weirdest. Apart is a gothic love song, the sultry vocals have an esoteric almost Portishead feel. There’s some nice touches throughout especially the garage psychedelic guitar and haunting flute which really add to the modern city soundscape. Fans of Bix Medard won’t be disappointed with Take a Deep Breath as Bix and Peter continue to sculpt the sonic landscape. But sadly Bix Medard don’t play gigs like most bands, they tend to be so hip they only do fashion shows or art instillations, so unless you know some arty supermodels you’ve no chance of seeing them. I think that’s quite post modern and I like that.

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

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Black Circles: Final Straw (single)

The Kent based ‘power trio’ Black Circles have just released their second self-financed single ‘Final Straw’. The music is of the pop/thrash type thang and the music of Muse and Metallica springs to mind on the first listen. Probably more the latter, as it is very well done and is bombastically correct in all the right places. But here’s my problem. I’ve yet to hear one of these combos better their American originators.

Thrash came from a shattered and bastardised American heavy metal scene and this shit seems to come as second nature to adolescent white youths of the Northern Americas. When the Brits do it, it reminds me of footage of British Hells Angels drinking cups of tea at The Stones Hyde park concert, compared to the carnage caused by American Angels at Altamont. It just ain’t in the genes Mr Cooper. It’s the same when the yanks try to do ska, it sucks.
I’m not saying it’s time to start wearing bowler hats and sing about boiled beef and carrots but it maybe is time to look at how Muse have become so big. Sheer English/British eccentricity. With this type of music it really is the case that to quote the legendary Ricky Bobby, ‘If you ain’t first, your last’. The final straw? Nah just shake and bake.

Review by Captain Dhilin Kunderan


Night Noise Team: Slow Release

Night Noise Team are an eclectic mish mash of nationalities and musical influences. This is certainly an entertaining album if at times a bit everything but the kitchen sink. In fact that would be a better name for the album. The initial impression is one of a band who haven’t quite found themselves musically yet.

There’s a point were singer Sean Ormsby sounds like a mix between Tom Verlaine in a Buzzcocks tribute band. On
Burning, we look out the Interpol and Bravery albums and sound like a happy Joy Division tribute band, Enjoy Division? What about Joey Division? That’ll work. Once you get over the initial barrage of a group sounding like every band from the last thirty years, on listening to a third and fourth time to Slow Release you do succumb to their spell.

The Gift and You Won we tread very close to Franz Ferdinand and mid period Orange Juice but the experience isn’t a bad one. In fact this is what Night Noise Team do best, that Postcard indie pop sound. Doors are Closed and Menolick show a dark taught indie rock side but instead of something new it’s a bit too familiar.

There’s a good ear for the pop tune and the playing is fantastic throughout. If you stick with Slow Release, you get your reward and overall it’s a decent debut and I look forward to more from them.

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

Review by Charlie Brown

~ Monday, 18 April 2011

The Savage Nomads: The Magic Eye (ep)

The Savage Nomads are named after a multi-racial teen gang from the late 1960s Bronx area of NYC. This version hail from South London and have been playing since 2008. They boast none other than Clash main man and Humphrey Bogart look alike, Mick Jones and his BAD partner in crime Don Letts as vociferous supporters of their music and have recently played support to Big Audio Dynamite at their April London shows. Their press statements describe them having been, “Always interested in....everything”, comparing their lyrics to T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ and describe listening to this forthcoming single The Magic Eye as ‘much an experience in action art as a musical excavation’. Big words from small boys or unashamed ambition and confidence from future giants?

The Magic Eye I have to say is disappointing. After their previous EP featured the tracks What The Angel Said and An Empty Seat, which arguably used Television as a musical bedrock, The Magic Eye sounds like either Then Jericho’s Mark Shaw or Adam Ant singing over This Is England era Clash b-sides. The vocals are strong but dull and there is no hint of the art fantastica imagined earlier. The aforementioned What The Angel Said EP was much stronger and arguably a route that this quartet should follow as this desperate attempt at becoming the new Strummer/Jones ain’t up to scratch people. You can’t become them, you can’t buy it, Joe had balls you know!

All in all it feels a bit like somebody buying a ‘How to be like The Clash’ kit from Amazon and I’m praying they have no connection with the Brit school. Oh and they look like The Inbetweeners. Must do better.

[][][] (3/5) (Mainly because their previous ep was so good)

Review by Captain Dhilin Kunderan

~ Friday, 15 April 2011

Ghosts Of Progress: Exchange Your Problems For Dope and Whisky

Exchange Your Problems For Dope and Whisky is the debut album from Montrose’s very own garage rock duo Ghosts of Progress. It’s a rocking punk blues, full of raw energy from Lew Palgrave, on guitar, vocals, ‘busker styled drums’ and Callum Christie on guitar. Kind of one man band, plus his pal.

The limited drum sound makes it musically close to White Strips but with a kind of Alex Harvey meets The View snarling blues vocal and a guitar sound close to Morphine. It’s actually good and full of tales of hedonism about birds, booze and drugs, enlightened but of course since it’s the garage punk blues of eh…the Montrose Delta, it’s all just irony. On Bitch in Heat, we open with all guns blazing and Offshore Syndrome is among the decent tracks we could mention. Track 3 and 7 are also stand out tracks but you’ll have to buy it to see what they’re called, what with the boys being ironic, not one for the feminists.

Lew Palgrave is pretty much a busker who plays ‘busking style drums’ with a foot pedal, by the fifth or six song you’re wishing he’d form a band and bring a new dimension to the band’s sound. That said, it’s actually a good collection of songs and works well enough but the overriding feeling is that Ghosts of Progress are more a visual experience and something feels lost capturing it in the studio.

They play live all the time, in fact are probably playing a pub or a record store right now as we speak. Personally, I enjoyed this album, particularly the dark sardonic lyrical content and the great guitar work. The Black Keys it isn’t. Thankfully.

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

Review by Charlie Brown


The Undertones: True Confessions (Singles=A's+B's) - Album of the Month No2 - April 2011

There’s something incredibly comforting and familiar about this new collection of hits and B sides from Derry’s finest, The Undertones. Like bumping into a long lost friend, maybe an old girlfriend, Teenage Kicks and I’ll Never Get Over You, bring it all back. It’s simply music that makes you feel ruefully upbeat.

There’s all the songs you forgot about like Jimmy Jimmy, Here Comes the Summer, and the sublime post punk bubblegum of You Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It!) and My Perfect Cousin.

At the time The Undertones just seemed to naturally churn out these fantastic pop songs. We became used to seeing them on Top of the Pops every few months, it was just the way then. Bands like The Undertones are generally seen through a rose tinted haze of nostalgia. Listening today, this collection reaffirms their rightful place in pop history. Their industriousness and acerbic, perfectly crafted punk pop output, suggests they should be judged alongside The Ramones.

The odyssey continues on CD2 and you can hear a distinct change. It’s more commercial, less of a punk edge and more mainstream but still with great songs such as Wednesday Week and It’s Gonna Happen along with the excellent Julie Ocean.

This is an excellent compilation, appealing to both old punks and pop fans finding the band a second time around and as an introduction to a new generation willing to seek out a band who had a tremendously important impact on these shores between 1978 and 1983. The Undertones True Confessions (Singles=A’s+B’s) comes with a terrifically informative 16 page colour booklet with liner notes from Paul Lester.

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

Review by Charlie Brown


Terhi: Diaries Of A Mending Heart (ep)

You need to have your wits about you around April fools day. There is always some joker trying to catch you out. We hoped this was the case when the debut ep from Finnish singer Terhi arrived at Music Critic HQ. When we popped Diaries Of A Mending Heart into the cd player it did appear that this was those crazy Fins idea of a hilarious joke but sadly there is no hint of irony or tongue in cheek.

This 4 track ep reeks of midlife crisis, an ego massaging or someone with a large bank balance trying to buy some sort of fame. By her own admission she is not a songwriter or a musician. Something else that is obvious is that she is not a singer either, as she could not hold a note if it was in her hand. Her hackneyed lyrics roll of her tongue with the results sounding like the chef from the muppets while the music, courtesy of musician and producer Steve Redfearn, sounds like it was recorded on an old 4 track using a c60 cassette.

First up is
Don't Even Go There, which should have followed its own advise. There is nothing about this song that is remotely likable with off tune vocals and musicianship that verges on the point of parody. Next up is Screw You. Yup, I know what you mean. I refuse to believe that anyone with even the smallest amount of sound engineering skill could produce something this bad. Recorded at Berkshire's Rockhopper Studios, the studios website proudly boasts '4 song EP and a HD video for £249'. Says it all really.

By this point I am contemplating prozac. A34 continues the pain and I'm now thinking that Rebbecca Black is a f##king genius. The title track Diaries Of A Mending Heart comes as palatable relief. Not because it is any good but because it is the last song and confirms to me that this is the worst record I have ever heard. Terhi is blessed with a voice that only the deaf could appreciate and the production is what you would expect a £249 recording would sound like. I'm off to call the Samaritans.

~ Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Dave Arcari & Lee Patterson: Plastic Jesus (single)

The gruff voiced blues bastard Dave Arcari and sweet voiced country folkster Lee Patterson may not seem the most comfortable of bed fellows. Lets face it, they make totally different types of musical sounds but you know what... it bloody works!!! Plastic Jesus has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. A homage to dashboard shrines where the oncoming traffic is a backdrop to nodding little figures bedecked in the finest colours that plastic manufactures can produce.

The combination of this unlikely pairing sounds like old friends having some fun and inviting you along for the ride. The sweet country balladry is intersected by some nice slide guitar and disjointed harmonies, all topped off with some brilliant and memorable lyrics. When they sing 'Comes in colours pink and pleasant. Glows in the dark cause it's iridescent' it is hard not to smile broadly. This is a great wee ditty. Ohh yes... they're going to hell.

~ Monday, 4 April 2011

Button Up: Listen To Your Heart [Beat] (single)

Button Up make a soulful sound. The brain child of songwriter Gary John Kane (who plays bass with The Proclaimers), it is evident he must have a might fine record collection. There is Motown, Stax and the ghosts of a hundred Northern Soul classics on the lead track Listen To Your Heart [Beat] with some meaty vocals from Sara Kerr and a guitar hook that is gonna have you humming it all day long.

The b-side Sweep Out The Trash is an instrumental Hammond fulled retro workout that brings to mind James Taylor Quartet. It you are looking for an antidote to all the manufactured chart drivel that commercial radio seems to think we all want to hear, than this is like liquid oxygen for your ears.

~ Saturday, 2 April 2011

Martin Allen: Rational Anthem

Martin Allen’s press blurb states that he’s a well known litigation lawyer and that he has waited half a lifetime before writing his first song. So it was with the fear of an injunction hanging over my head that I waded through his collection of musings that at times sounds like an expensive hobby that is tax deductible from his exuberant lifestyle.

The CD starts off with Disciples Of Nero which comes across like a 1970s ecological concept album by The Damned and Al Stewart gone wrong (could that ever be right?) and is too lyrically cliched to be taken seriously. “A hurricanes brewing, it’s going to devastate the land and the waves are getting high.” Michael Fish must be quaking in his boots. Out Of This World sounds like the genre breaking and critically acclaimed Manhattan Transfer, which swings along quite nicely and I like it nostalgically as it’s quaint and cute, but the lyrics do sound like a rich man having a mid-life crisis or an attack of conscience. This is repeated on Back Here which is a good song but Martin’s starting to sound like a wedding singer.

And then came Something Missing. Martin, with no hint of irony, hits us with a lame 50s pastiche of the disenchantment of the man who has everything. Poor chap. He’s got a brand new car that’s ‘Got a brain and talk and see, same metallic blue as the 4 x 4 and the Maserati 8GT’. He goes on, ‘Got a Harley I can ride when I want to get a high, chopper out the back when I need to fly’. Now wait for it, ‘But there’s something missing’. Lord bless us and save us! Please let me go on. ‘My sons flying high, he’s a city star, my girls married rich, I’m a proud grandpa’, there’s more, ‘Member of La Manga and a yacht in Port Venus, top of the business, chairman of the board and dosh stashed away where it won’t get taxed’. Yes you guessed it! ‘But there’s something missing’. Only Eric Idle could have got away with this and into the bargain, Martin sounds like Syd Little doing the monster mash.

Another one for the Conservative tea dance is Private Tune which harks from the ‘Shine on Harvey Moon’ era but the last song is still killing me. Dead Simple is the sort of song that would break the heart of the session musicians who have to play such material. Think Phoenix Nights but in Newton Mearns or Surrey as the drummer takes the money and runs.

Credit where it’s due though on Lonely Paradise Waltz. It’s all surreal and psychedelic and I like it, as you can imagine it in the forthcoming Boosh movie with Noel miming along. I’ve found the solution, give Martin drugs! That’s it he’s an acid pioneer! But it becomes a bad trip on Lost For Words which goes from Burt Bacharach to Burt Reynolds in two bars. An arrangement in a latin/mexicana stylee of the quality of Nando’s starts you shouting ‘AndrĂ© AndrĂ© ARIBA ARIBA’ so it ends quickly and Something Missing is still driving me nuts. The Dance Has Only Begun is filler, which is harsh on an album like this and Boy In The City is social conscience and nice sentiments in the way Phil Collins does it. Arguably better to have donated the money to Shelter instead of making this album.

So hopefully I won’t be served the injunction but this album helps verify just what pop music/rock’n’roll/indie has become. A plaything for the rich, young and old and somewhere for the kids to take a gap year and sow some wild oats before they take a seat on the board, courtesy of cute accounting on tax free outings like this. You never know, maybe Martin Allen will pop up as Minister For Arts as David Cameron finally stops working class people from ever making music again.

Where have all the good times gone?

[] (1/5)

Review by Captain Dhilin Kunderan

~ Friday, 1 April 2011

Twilight Hotel: When The Wolves Go Blind - Album of the Month - April 2011

Twilight Hotel make an intriguing sound. Described by some as 'Americana Noir', their sound is expansive and uncluttered while guitars twang and accordions dance like a Zydeco band at a Mexican funeral. When The Wolves Go Blind is an album that will probably divide musical opinion. There will be those that think this is a work of wayward genius, and I'm in that camp, while there will be those who see it as a soundtrack waiting for a movie. There is definitely something David Lynchesque about this album.

The music is quirky, perhaps it is Brandy Zdan's sultry voice or Dave Quanbury's twanging guitar, but it is also cleverly arranged and skillfully played. Those who loved their debut album Highway Prayer will not be disappointed with this latest effort. The title track kicks things off with repetitive and hypnotic percussion overlaid with wistful accordion, mysterious organ and a hushed dual vocal for a song so laid back it needs a pair of slippers and a smoking jacket. Quanbury takes on lead vocal duties on the sublime
Mahogany Veneer, a meandering narrative that tracks the duo's musical travels. This is a song of real character and definitely one of the best songs I have heard in a long time. On The Master you feel that Quentin Tarantino would just have to write a movie to have this song on its soundtrack. It would have to be a modern day Spaghetti Western with Johnny Depp playing a Lee Van Cleef character out to avenge the death of his secret lover. It is just that type of song.

One of the most beautiful moments on the album comes in the shape of Frozen Town which congers up images of desolate winters and isolation. Zdan's voice is particularly fine here and brings a warmth to the proceedings. The Darkness squeezes it as the outstanding track of the twelve wonderful songs on this album. There is something rather soothing about the sparseness of this song while the interjection of various instruments ranging from trumpet, banjo and guitar act as features on the barren landscape. The tempo is lifted (only slightly) on the rockier sounding Golden Eagle with some fine slide guitar licks and robust drumming before normal service is resumed with Poor & Hungry and When I'm Gone.

This is an exceptionally good album that delivers from start to finish. If you want music that is soothing, intriguing, challenging and charismatic then look no further.

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