Tag Archives: album review

Static Alice – Warrior EP

Static Alice - Warrior - coverStatic Alice have spent the last few years carving out their own niche in Guernsey’s music scene including festival headline slots at Chaos and The Gathering as well as countless gigs at most of the island’s venues.

Along with this they have previously released two records, an album The Ghost of Common Sense and EP Beautiful Mystery and now they’ve returned with a new EP, Warrior, that they launched with a show at The Fermain Tavern.

My review of the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 27th May 2017

Static Alice - Warrior review - 27/05/17

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Of Empires – See You With The Angels Kid

Of Empires - See You With The Angels Kid cover artAfter a bit of a break making their reputation on the live circuit, Of Empires have released the follow-up to their debut EP Stranger Sensations with See You With The Angels Kid.

Originally formed in Guernsey the four-piece rock ‘n’ roll outfit are now based in Brighton and have supported the likes of Highly Suspect and Adam Ant while also appearing at The Great Escape festival in their now hometown.

My review of See You With The Angels Kid was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 20th May 2017.

Of Empires - See You With The Angels Kid EP - Guernsey Press 20/05/17

(Note: No intent was meant to imply producer Ian Davenport wrote the songs, to my knowledge the songwriting is all the bands work!)

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Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

Mastodon - Emperor of Sand coverFor the best part of the last two decades Mastodon have carved a path through hard rock and heavy metal that is all their own. Often combining conceptual themes with crushingly heavy sounds they have gained a formidable reputation across six albums and have now release their seventh, Emperor of Sand.

From the off everything one would expect is here as the four-piece build from a clear influence from metal originators Black Sabbath to create a sound that marries thrash, doom, stoner and prog into a unique package.

Within all of this the band find a core that is remarkably accessible and this really comes to the fore on Show Yourself that has a sing along type streak and hook laden feel that almost takes it into pop metal territory.

Precious Stones meanwhile brings elements of the concept, based around time, to the fore in impressive style before Steambreather shows the band’s groovier tendencies excellently and that’s followed by several moments that I can’t help but think current Metallica is ironically striving (and largely failing) to emulate.

Mastodon

Mastodon

Across the record as a whole there’s a feeling that Mastodon are doing their best to fill every space  with a sound of some sort and, while in the hands of some this could be unbearable, they balance it out so nothing is overriding something else and, while it can be claustrophobic at times, it never feels like this isn’t the band’s intent.

That said there are moments where it feels like Brent Hinds might be heading slightly too far into guitar histrionic territory but it stays just the right side of being over the top and just feels like guys who can play and aren’t ashamed to hide it.

As the record goes on it builds in power and intensity with largely clean vocals giving way to more abrasive sounds and the soaring solos are matched by swirling riffs escalating it all into a maelstrom of sound that could easily derail things but comes with a smoothness often not present in more experimental metal (not that it always needs to be, but here it fits perfectly). This all reaches a bracing crescendo on Scorpion Breath.

Mastodon liveThis is all brought to a point on final track Jaguar God that seems to do everything the preceding 10 tracks have done in seven and a half minutes as it weaves its way from a piano and acoustic opening to an astral plane tripping climax that, like the rest of Emperor of Sand, continues to stake Mastodon’s claim as one of the most interesting heavy bands coming out of America this century.

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Vorlon – False Sense of Security

Vorlon - False Sense of Security coverHaving made his name as drummer with bands like Earthcorpse and Darker Shores and playing guitar and bass for the likes of Mechanical Lobster and Maiden Guernsey (amongst others), Daz Carre has now released his solo debut, under the name Vorlon.

False Sense of Security was recorded and produced by Bob Klein of Noizemonkey Studios in Guernsey and is available now via Bandcamp.

My review of the album was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 22nd April 2017 and you can read it below.

Vorlon - False Sense of Security review

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Ginger Wildheart – Clout EP

Ginger Wildheart - Clout EP coverA couple of years ago Ginger Wildheart released the four track Clout EP as a bonus for those pledging on his Songs & Words autobiography project. Now a physical, vinyl version has been released to mark the 10th Record Store Day on Saturday 22nd April 2017.

While I wasn’t able to get my hands on a copy of the physical EP I have had the tracks floating around my iPod since their original release but not had a listen with my reviewing head on until now.

While he is, in an explicit sense, generally an apolitical songwriter, the four tracks of Clout present Ginger at his most political.

Opener Nelson is as eccentrically abrasive as your likely to hear from Ginger away from his Mutation project and is an intense and deep sonic assault throughout as it presents the conflict between the image of men & masculinity and the perception of heroes.

Benn then switches gears into something that sonically is loosely reminiscent of the second part of The Wildhearts’ All American Homeboy Crowd.

With the only ‘lyrics’ being samples of speeches from late long-standing Labour politician Tony Benn exploring the position of the workers in the capitalist system, this is the most overtly political I remember Ginger being, though, while its point is fairly obvious it is presented without comment which is refreshing given the constant binary side taking of most political discussion.

The second half of the EP goes into more scientific territory but, given the current direction of discussion, particularly that coming out of America, even this has a political angle given the subjects chosen.

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

The two tracks are loosely linked as Darwin, as you might expect, tackles evolution and humanity’s place in the grand scheme of the natural world while You explores the ‘common miracle’ of our individual existence.

Away from the intense opener the other three tracks are slightly more musically relaxed but still retain the wall of sound approach. This makes it reminiscent in many ways of Ginger’s early solo work, particularly moments of Valor Del Corazon and Market Harbour, but even then, sonically, Clout stands apart from the rest of his back catalogue with You being the closest to his classic pop-rock sound.

While each track has its own message and sonic experience Clout comes together as an ultimately uplifting whole, challenging and probing masculinity, politics, science and humanity in a way that makes it a complete work that presents a world view in a noisily expressive way that stands apart from Ginger Wildheart’s other work.

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The Crowman – Ladies And Gentlemen… The Crowband

The Crowman - Ladies and Gentlemen The Crowband CD coverThe last few years has seen Mark Le Gallez, the man who fronted The Risk in the 1980s, The Sacred Hearts in the 1990s and Thee Jenerators since the 2000s (amongst other bands), find a new angle on his music in the form of steampunk-folk alter-ego The Crowman.

This has led to two previous albums, Songs From The Three Eyed Crow and The Resurrection Of Blind Jack Lazarus, as well as highlights around Guernsey, at several Sark Folk Festivals and steampunk events in the UK.

Now his third album, as the title suggests introduces us to ‘The Crowband’ filling out his lo-fi sound with a range of extra instrumentation.

My review of the album was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 25th March and you can read it below:

Crowman album review 25/03/17

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Ginger Wildheart – Ghost In The Tanglewood

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

Having heard his brief journeys into the world of folk and country music in the past with the likes of Georgie In Wonderland and Sky Chaser High (and, somewhat differently, the alter-ego album World of Filth) I was intrigued what a complete album in this genre from Ginger Wildheart might sound like. Ghost In The Tanglewood then (released via Pledgemusic) had me interested from the off and, for the most part, it is one of the most consistent and enjoyable of Ginger’s albums in sometime.

Daylight Hotel picks things up in many ways where recent single Fuck You Brain left off but obviously in a rather different style and the opening pair of tracks feel very much like acoustic versions of standard Ginger tracks, but with added folk and country-style instrumentation.

From there though it really delves into the kind of folk of the north of England that make it feel something like a cousin of the music being made by O’Hooley & Tidow, with Golden Tears being a particular folky highlight.

Throughout the sounds on the album are impressive combining, to various degrees, folk, country and Ginger’s usual pop-rock sensibilities with big hooks and a kind of vocal style that almost gives it a family band feel with some great harmony work and a real honesty only helped by Ginger’s natural accent coming to the fore even more than on past releases (taking what he started on Valor Del Corazon to a natural conclusion).

Ghost In The Tanglewood - Ginger Wildheart coverPhantom Memories takes things in a sonically darker direction and gives us the album’s title, before Remains continues the themes of living with depression that run through the album in one of the most honest and real ways I’ve heard. In general Ginger’s writing here does this very well not overdramatising or underplaying anything but making it feel real with highs, lows and the ‘mundane’ in-betweens all getting included like few others manage.

My Old Friend The Blues (a cover of a Steve Earle song) gives the record its most totally country moment before it closes on possibly the most tender song in Ginger’s back catalogue, Don’t Say Goodbye, with the songwriter addressing his young son about having to be away on the road (or elsewhere), but without a lot of the cliché that it probably sounds like that might have.

While the song writing and arrangements on Ghost In The Tanglewood don’t have the breadth and expanse of most of Ginger’s other solo material in many ways this is what makes it. These are more simple songs (though still excellently produced and arranged) and with that are more easily digestible and allow the honesty and warmth of Ginger to shine through which, in the worlds of folk and country, are an important aspect.

While the question of genre is one that has been raised, not least by the artist himself, after a couple of listens this drifts away as, while it undeniably mixes things up as Ginger is renowned for, what it leaves is the fact that this is a great album. It might be something of an aside to the likes of 555% and Albion, rather like the Mutation and Hey!Hello! records, but if this is the direction Ginger chose to take for his music going forward, based on this, I certainly wouldn’t be complaining.

I always like to include a video with my album reviews but there isn’t one yet for Ghost In The Tanglewood so here is one from Ginger’s Year Of The Fanclub that gives an idea of him in a more country/folk kind of mode:

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Blink-182 – California

Blink-182 - California album coverIn summer 2016 two of the biggest bands in the world of pop punk released records that had something of a comeback feel to them. I’ve already taken a look at Green Day’s effort, Revolution Radio, so now I’ve had a listen to Blink-182’s California.

Originally forming in the wake of the pop-punk explosion caused by the likes of Green Day back in 1995, Blink-182 became arguably the biggest band of the following wave of American pop-punk with their 1999 album Enema of the State and 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.

Since then something of a direction on their self-titled 2003 album was followed by a lengthy hiatus and then a change of personnel before California with Alkaline Trio leader Matt Skiba joining in place of founding guitarist and vocalist Tom DeLonge.

So to California. As the name suggests this is a partial concept record about the band’s home state, particularly the southern part of it – Blink originally formed in and around San Diego – and it is the three tracks that most obviously provide this theme that are three of the highlights. Los Angeles, San Diego and the title track all present different aspects of the band at their most mature and inventive sounding.

Blink-182 circa 2016

Blink-182 – Hoppus, Barker and Skiba

This is balanced with the kind of songs that made the bands reputation with pop hooks, singalongs and catchy choruses aplenty, that had me singing along after only a couple of listens. Particularly in this group are She’s Out Of Her Mind and Kings of the Weekend.

On top of this Built This Pool and Brohemian Rhapsody show the band still have their juvenile streak with these two 30 second skit-songs very reminiscent of several from their back catalogue.

What sets California apart from Blink’s past efforts is, I think, something that Skiba brings to the table. Alkaline Trio are known for adding gothic elements to their pop-punk and dealing with darker themes and that sneaks through here. Sober is a song that while upbeat and still has the Blink thing going on suggests something deeper as do the Californian tryptic.

Admittedly Blink have headed in these directions in the past as well with the likes of Stay Together For The Kids and Adam’s Song but Skiba’s presence adds an extra level to it as well as making for a more digestible sound than DeLonge ever managed.

Blink-182 playing live

The band playing live

With a lot of variety for a pop-punk record California still falls together like a complete package of an album including some moments of the more modern style of pop-punk with heavier guitar tones along with the upbeat feel.

It’s not just Skiba who’s on top form either, but founder member Mark Hoppus (bass and vocals) and long time drummer Travis Barker are both clearly at the top of their game as well, and as ever the drums are a big part of what elevates Blink-182 above the rest of the pop-punk pack and California certainly shows this longstanding band can still be a cut above the rest.

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Chris Catalyst – Life is Often Brilliant

Chris Catalyst - Life is Often BrilliantFrom the much maligned Robochrist to Eureka Machines and with side detours in The Ginger Wildheart Band and Sisters Of Mercy amongst many others, Chris Catalyst has been a familiar face in the British rock scene throughout the last two decades.

Now, via Pledgemusic, he has released a solo album adding a more personal angle to his usual musical endeavours.

As a whole Life Is Often Brilliant mixes up everything that Catalyst has become known for throughout his career with jagged metal guitars standing alongside 90s style psychedelia a good dose of pop-rock (of the best kind) and even a hint of prog.

With these styles coming together its understandable that the album feels like a bit of a mishmash, but its one that always leads to pleasant surprises. While it starts with high gain guitars on the youthful rock ’n’ roll cliché baiting No Regrets but the end of Able Seaman it’s all soaring psyche.

What holds it all together is Catalyst’s voice that is packed with the kind of warmth one often encounters coming out of the more reasonable quarters of the north of England combined with something of Dave Grohl’s knack for rock that’s not too much for a pop audience and all with a bit of nod and wink behind it.

Chris Catalyst

Chris Catalyst

Most of the album takes a more personal view of things than his other output.

Cracking Up is the most overtly political I can recall hearing from Catalyst as he shares his views on England in the era of Brexit, but without getting too divisive.

Then How Do You Sleep takes a swipe at someone (or someones) he’s encountered in the music industry but this a rare moment of less positive stuff amongst the bouncy tones.

As it goes on Distance Over Time brings some Pink Floyd-ish prog to proceedings while Sticks And Stones and You Die At The End up the psychedelia some more with both 90’s ‘Madchester’ and 60’s elements coming out before Able Seamen rounds it off on a slightly low-key but still nice note.

In the end, like all solo albums of this sort, there are a few moments that verge on the self-indulgent but as a fan, as I would imagine most listeners will be, that’s kind of what these things are all about. As the rest sounds a bit like The Beatles, Suede, The Stone Roses and Foo Fighters are having a big old jam its safe to say there’s a lot to like, so Life Is Often Brilliant is often very good.

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Green Day – Revolution Radio

Green Day - Revolution Radio album coverBack in 2004 Bay Area punk trio Green Day reached something of a milestone moment in their career with the release of their George W. Bush baiting concept opus American Idiot.

While that launched them into being one of the most commercially successful punk rock bands of all time (despite causing something a rift amongst long time fans) with arena tours and festival headline slots aplenty, they have since struggled to live up to the impassioned, firebrand strength on record.

Follow up album, 21st Century Breakdown, tried to relive the glory of its forerunner while a trio of albums in 2012 (Uno, Dos and Tre) seemed to slip out somewhat under the radar with less of the hype, but still sold well.

Following that Revolution Radio then looks and sounds like another attempt at returning to the American Idiot idealism, but, despite being written and recorded during the rise of now-President Trump, it doesn’t seem to have such a targeted focus.

While Bang, Bang and the title track are serviceable numbers with some good upbeat sounds the first half of the album feels somewhat too clean and over overproduced, demonstrating their arena rock credentials but losing much of the band’s spirit.

Green Day

Green Day

From the sixth track, Bouncing Off The Wall, onwards though this seems to change with a far more straight forward punk rock feel to things – faster, harder and more based around the core trio.

While it’s still not the focussed assault it sounds as if it should be there’s a lot to like and here Green Day sound like a band refreshed before closer Ordinary World takes it back to the start a little too much.

As a whole Revolution Radio is a mixed bag but shows there’s still life in Green Day yet, even if they are now very firmly more an arena rock outfit than the young punks who came out of 924 Gilman Street in the early 1990s and I can but hope they return more emphatically to their more political leanings now there is something worth shouting about again.

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