Mamas Gun: The Life and Soul

There’s something of a timeless quality to The Life and Soul, the second album by Mamas Gun. It moves along in a bright and breezy way. It’s a fitting follow up to their critically acclaimed 2009 album but on The Life and Soul, there’s also a bit more of a mainstream pop edge. The funk soul quintet aren’t reinventing the wheel here, they appear to be just doing their thing and it’s a great sounding album, almost a perfect summer soundtrack full of great, well crafted songs and a cool vibe.

The album has been co-produced by Grammy Award winning team Martin Terefe and Andreas Olsson who have worked with Train, James Morrison and KT Tunstall and you can hear a clear, polished pop effect which brings out a more commercial radio friendly pop feel.

On a String in a perfect world, should be a hit single, a sweet blues soul feel in the Holland Dozier Holland envelope and the band’s self deprecating video is worth a view on You Tube. Sending You a Message is also another perfectly executed standard. The title track The Life and Soul and Heavy Hands show singer Andy Platts at his best. Only One is a duet co-written with Platts and Beverly Knight and is a great song.

I’m still a bit dubious over the cover of Queen’s Bicycle Race, always a risky tactic, which they just manage to pull off despite copying the original instead of bringing their own skill and musicianship to put a different slant on the song. At this point, an honorable mention should go to the rhythm section; in fact all the band’s playing is terrific.

This a great album, with loads of catchy hooks and with the right handling, some luck could give them the major breakthrough they deserve.

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Review by Charlie Brown

~ Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Coffins: Live and Unhinged

Here at The Music Critic, it’s not only about reviewing artists with big PR operations and press officers behind them. Sometimes someone shoves a CD in your hand and you give it the same chance. You listen, expecting the usual boring stuff but every so often, an album comes along that resonates and connects.

Live and Unhinged by The Coffins is a live recording of their first ever gig. I was trying to work out why I liked it. Why is this music making me feel like this? Then you realise, it’s music like it should be. It’s exciting, raw, invigorating, pulsating, dark, funny and full of energy.

The Coffins are fronted by charismatic Joe Bone, who leads the way like the bastard son of Frank Black, Alex Harvey and Nick Cave. On tracks like Bloody Mary Massacre and Bring Me the Head of a Boy Band Member, there’s clearly a sense of humour but when you hear the band play, you get the impression that they might mean it. Songs like track 2, Dangerous State of Mind backs this theory.

The band are guided by Bill Gilchrist’s assured guitar work, a punk blues feel sometimes redolent of Wilko Johnson’s Dr Feelgood and the garage angst of The Cramps, best featured in Live and Unhinged’s tense stand out track, Garbageman. One thing that comes across is that The Coffins enjoy what they’re doing. I’m always reluctant to make comparisons but if pushed I’d say the sound like Sensational Alex Harvey Band meets Dr Feelgood.

The album is available via the band. Check out their Facebook page for gig news. Fortunately they play just about every night, catch them live and check out this CD and tell me I’m wrong.

The Coffins facebook

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Review by Charlie Brown


The Amsterdams: Electromagnetica

The Amsterdams are a band from Bucharest who sound as if they’re from Brighton or Cleethorpes. They also write fine indie songs. The type of songs you can imagine thousands of fans singing along to at festivals. Their uplifting and anthemic songs, have already made them stars in Romania and much of Eastern Europe.

Electromagnetica opens with Kids in the Garden, coming with its very own Arcade Fire catchy refrain. There’s loads of lazy summer pop melodies on tracks like Island of Love which shows a quirkiness and a song that XTC would be proud of. The album is underpinned with a fuzzy guitar and catchy synth sound which intertwines and hooks you in.

The Amsterdams can rock out on the huge stage and I feel, with a bit of luck it’s only a matter of time before they get their breakthrough. Instead of Beyonce and Coldplay being on for hours on your national TV’s festival coverage, one chance and a song like This Burial Ground’s For Two would give them the breakthrough their talent deserves.

There is a negative and I feel bad bringing it up but it really is important. As a music reviewer, the first thing you do is pick up the CD and look at the cover. The artwork of the album is the first introduction to the band. This sleeve, a pink and black affair doesn’t give the right impression or image. You’re expecting a dance trance album and not a commercial indie rock album. Perhaps there were budget constraints but it’s a shame such a good album is presented in such a poor way.

If you like Arcade Fire, Interpol, British Sea Power and Radiohead, you’ll love this.

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Review by Charlie Brown