Tag Archives: album review

Le Quesne – Love And Death

Last of the Light Brigade

Tyler (and Stu) of Le Quesne

Tyler Edmonds has long been known as frontman of Last Of The Light Brigade and more recently for being one of the founders of the School of Popular Music but he has now released his first solo record, under the name Le Quesne, Love And Death.

Featuring long time band mater Stu Carre on drums and produced by Mikey Ferbrache the EP/mini-album sees Edmonds taking his known indie-rock sound into more acoustic and thoughtful territory.

The album is available through iTunes and on Spotify.

My full review was published in the Guernsey Press on Saturday 19th August 2017 and you can read it below.

Le Quesne - Love And Death review - 19/08/17

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CJ Wildheart – Blood

CJ Wildheart - Blood - album artworkOver the last few years CJ Wildheart has broken away from the band that has given him his ‘surname’, as well as the band’s he’s been a member of outside of that, to create material that is genuinely his.

While Robot and before that Mable (named after his favourite chicken… and why not) began to explore a palette away from The Wildhearts it’s with his latest offering, Blood, that it really feels he’s found himself in his music.

Released and funded once again through Pledgemusic probably means most of his die-hard fans have already brought and downloaded the album, but there is plenty in it for more that just those dedicated few to like.

For a fair chunk of the record the sound is the fine mix of power pop rhythms and melodies married to the crunching, metallic, riffery we’ve come to expect.

In this CJ clearly references his namesake band but there’s very much a feeling to it that this is his version of that sound away from Ginger’s often more experimental leanings.

So, while we don’t get the abrupt tempo changes and extended sequences that The Wildhearts often headed into, we do get songs that you can bounce along to just as well – for those who are familiar with the band, I found some strong references in the sounds made by SugarSlam.

CJ Wildheart

CJ Wildheart

As well as this though there are songs where CJ goes into the heaviest territory he has explored yet.

Here we get intense riffs and rhythms, combined with CJ’s generally slightly cleaner style of heavy vocals – this isn’t shouting and screaming metal but still has a heavier and more abrasive edge than elsewhere.

At their heaviest moment it hints that CJ might have a side, like his former bandmate, that could lead to something like the lighter Mutation moments but in the context of this record he never fully commits to that (it would be somewhat out-of-place if he did).

While the sounds are a development on what we’ve come to expect from CJ it is in some of the subjects he deals with and the way he delivers the vocals that it feels things have really developed. Obviously all his songs have always come from his point of view in the past, but on Blood it’s the first time I got the feeling of CJ getting really personal in his lyrics.

CJ Wildheart - Blood artworkThis can be heard across the whole album but it is maybe most obvious on Fifty Percent Indian.

It’s not for me to say whether this is based on CJ’s own experiences or not but it has a strong ring of truth in the delivery that both grounds it in his experience growing up and living in England and also places it within a wider current sociopolitical discourse growing from the ongoing immigration, Brexit, etc debate.

Once again with Blood CJ Wildheart has created a strong set of songs that further remove him from his history with The Wildhearts while continuing to build on the strong sense of pop-rock that were that bands call sign, particularly during his times with the band, making for his strongest solo outing to date that has plenty on offer for both long-term fans and people on the look out for something new.

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Burg And The Back Porch Band & The Electric Shakes

Burg & The Back Porch Band and The Electric Shakes album coversIn July 2017 two albums of rather different styles were released by Burg & The Back Porch Band and The Electric Shakes.

While one is a roots and Americana live album and the other a powerful example of heavy garage rock ‘n’ roll what links them is their frontman, Burg aka Steve Lynch.

Originally from Guernsey and now based in Bournemouth the prolific Mr Lynch also recently played both Chaos 13 and the Sark Folk Festival.

My review of Burg & The Back Porch Band Live At The Anvil and The Electric Shakes’ Electrohypnosis was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 22nd July, you can read it below:

Burg and The Electric Shakes album review - 22/07/17

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Mura Masa – Self-titled

Mura Masa album coverWhen I first encountered the person that has become Mura Masa (aka Alex Crossan) he was the shy and retiring lead guitarist for deathcore band So Cold The River at one of the Rock of Ages events at Guernsey’s Carlton Hotel.

Since then things have changed slightly from a few demos made in his bedroom which first came to my attention in early 2013 to a Soundcloud mixtape that gained international indie distribution on vinyl under the name Soundtrack To A Death to signing to Polydor Records, setting up his own imprint (Anchor Point Records), selling out tours of the US, Europe and Japan and now the release of his self-titled debut album.

The album opens with a funky scene setter, Messy Love that throws together many of the aspects to be developed as the record goes on.

Along with rhythmically satisfying dance beats that combine classic funk and disco with more current electronic sounds, Mura Masa’s lyrics provide an interesting take on fairly well trodden formula for young musicians dealing with angsty, post-teen life in a refreshingly direct way.

Mura Masa

Mura Masa

From there the first half of the album heads into more hip hop inflected territory and the first batch of collaborators make their appearance. Regular performance partner and label mate Bonzai is first of these on the rantingly intense Nuggets followed by A$AP Rocky, Charli XCX and Desiigner.

While all their tracks have their own spin on the style Mura Masa’s writing and production style threads them all together. While Love$ick (a reworking of earlier track Lovesick Fuck) and 1 Night are both single style numbers, All Around The World provides the album’s most intense moments before another track, almost an interlude, without collaborators, provides something of a transitionary moment that feels very much like an intentional ‘end of side one’.

The second half of the album then heads into more ambient territory with the alt.pop feel coming further to the fore (though 1 Night lands in that area too) and once again gets going with a track featuring Bonzai that is one of the record’s highlights.

With Nao, Christine & The Queens, Jamie Lidell and more it’s fair to say the record is an impressive who’s who of current alt.pop but it is Mura Masa’s music and production that makes the album a whole. At first I thought it might sound a bit like another mixtape but it does coalesce into a collection of complete songs with an obvious through line to become a full product in itself.

Mura Masa and Bonzai - David Cabrera - 305.772.7543

Mura Masa and Bonzai (David Cabrera)

Nothing Else, featuring the aforementioned Lidell, brings an extra bit of soul to the record before it all comes to a conclusion on the magnificently genre defying Blu.

This has an extra surreal quality given the presence of Damon Albarn (frontman of Blur and founder of Gorillaz) who, for music fans of my vintage, has been one of the top names in pop for the best part of three decades.

All of this comes together to make for a very impressive debut that sets out Mura Masa’s place as a defier of convention and creator of a vein of alt.pop that borrows from many places to create something his own that can connect on several levels to wider audience than one might at first think (it even got me moving as I listened).

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Ministry – Psalm 69 (The Way To Succeed And The Way To Suck Eggs)

Ministry - Psalm 69 album cover25 years ago industrial metal band Ministry unleashed what is arguably their magnum opus launching them into the hard rock mainstream and making them one of the cornerstones of the sounds that were to become a large part of heavy metal in the mid to late 90s.

While still credited as the duo of founder Al Jourgensen and longtime collaborator Paul Barker, Psalm 69 (aka ΚΕΦΑΛΗΞΘ) saw Ministry develop on the sounds of The Land of Rape And Honey and The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste with Mike Scaccia’s electric guitars coming to the fore over their previously established bed of harsh synths and distorted vocals and samples.

This is demonstrated from the off with NWO, an abrasive statement of intent that sets the scene for the first half of the album.

Along with the developed industrial metal sound the song’s subject matter is something that has been a mainstay of Ministry’s music before and since as it openly attacks the American foreign policy (in this case the Gulf War and George H. W. Bush) and hints ideas of conspiracy theories, a formula that saw the band reach their second peak in the early 2000s during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Ministry - Al Jourgensen and Paul Barker - 1992

Jourgensen and Barker in 1992

Just One Fix, a partial collaboration with Naked Lunch author William S. Burroughs, as the title suggests, deals with another of Ministry’s long-standing preoccupations, extreme drug use.

There are many stories about the band’s drug consumption during the production of this record (with one Jourgensen himself saying they were spending in excess of $1,000 a day of the record companies money on the pass time) and its strongly reflected here.

The combination of militaristic rhythms and distorted, swirling vocals and samples hurls the listens down a dark and twisted rabbit hole like little else, and that if we believe Jourgensen, is a first hand account of what was going on in his and the rest of the band’s heads at the time.

TV II and Hero continue the sociopolitical themes before the album’s highlight arrives in the form of a demented slice of Americana, Jesus Built My Hotrod.

With a near gibberish vocal performance from Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes, it has a quality that is oddly revelatory in an entirely inexplicable way with slide guitars added to the mix creating an undisputed heavy metal floor filler that has become something of a deranged classic.

Ministry - Jesus Built My Hotrod - Gibby Haynes

Haynes in the video for Jesus Built My Hotrod

After this Scarecrow slows things down from the manic first half of the record and begins a descent into a kind of apocalyptic reverie that is highlighted by the (sort of) title track that combines the intensity of the first half with the later heaviness in the best of ways.

The record is then rounded off by Corrosion and Grace that pull things into a kind of hellishly enjoyable black hole of noise.

While Psalm 69 is a highly enjoyable album purely on its own merits (especially when played at extreme volume), hence its place in music history as a defiantly underground album that crossed over into mainstream consciousness, its place in the history of heavy music is one that, 25 years on, marks it out as a classic.

In many ways it defines the mainstream industrial metal genre which was developed, in various directions, by contemporaries Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie and more with only NIN ever reaching a similar level of intensity and power (the others were unashamedly more pop).

Ministry live 1992

Ministry on the 1992 Lollapalooza tour

On top of this it sits alongside the work of Rage Against The Machine, System of a Down and their ilk in reintroducing a truly subversive streak into the heavy metal mainstream following the self-absorption of 80s glam and the nihilism or internal depression of grunge.

This all comes together to make Psalm 69 an album that set the scene for a lot of the music that was to follow, even reaching as far as nu-metal (for its sins), and marking Ministry, who have had a patchy career before and since, as one of the most influential metal bands of the past three decades here if nowhere else.

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Blue Mountains – Hummingbird EP

Blue Mountains - HummingbirdAt the recent Sark Folk Festival Guernsey based folk band Blue Mountains release the follow-up to their Refusing To Die album, the four track EP Hummingbird.

Recorded at Stretchy Studios in Guernsey the EP marks a development for the band expanding to a four piece from their original duo line up and being made up predominantly of original songs rather than the traditional material heard on their debut.

My review of the EP was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 15th July 2017.

Blue Mountains - Hummingbird review scan - 15/07/17

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Against Me! – New Wave

Against Me - New Wave album cover10 years ago as I write this Floridian punk rockers Against Me! released an album that was, for better or worse, to become a landmark one in their career, New Wave.

Following something of a falling out with indie label Fat Wreck Chords over their Searching For A Former Clarity record the band signed a deal with a major label, Sire, for their fourth (and then fifth) albums.

This instantly set them apart not only from the anarcho-punk scene they originally came from (though to many there even Fat Wreck had been too big a move) but also from their fans who had followed the band’s first three albums to whom a major label was seen as a hugely controversial move.

The whys and wherefores of all of this (from at least one perspective) are covered in Laura Jane Grace’s autobiography, Tranny, so here I’m going to focus more on the record itself.

From the moment it begins its clear that New Wave has a bigger production side to it, and with Butch Vig behind the desk that’s not a surprise. What it does though right away is hint at the difference between the outlook of the band and the plans of the Sire executives.

Against Me! circa 2007

Against Me! circa 2007

While the band, led by chief songwriter Grace (then known as Thomas Gabel), kept at least a semblance of their sociopolitical outlook, they had added to that an embittered streak focussing on the aforementioned punk ideals, the notion of ‘selling out’ and the criticisms they had gained from longstanding fans, there’s a strong sense that what Sire were looking for was the next generation of Foo Fighters.

While this gives the whole record something of a conflicted edge the dangerous side of the music gets lost in the deeper production, stifling what could have been a very impressive set of songs highlighting the ever-present clash between art and commerce. Title track New Wave, Up The Cuts and the supremely catchy Stop! particularly vocalise this, but it is a theme bubbling under throughout.

Politics remains a strong aspect of the lyrics, possibly in a slightly more abstract sense than in the past, but White People For Peace and Americans Abroad both have political overtones with the first dealing with war and protest singers and the second feeling like a very aware look at global Americanisation from the point of view of the band on tour.

Against Me! live 2007

Against Me! live in 2007

What all this suggests is that there are some good songs on the record and, in many ways it does continue where Searching… had left off two years previously, with the band developing a slightly poppier and more accessible tone while still having plenty to say, it’s just this came across far better with a slightly less ‘over produced’ sound.

That said a couple of tracks really stand out. The first is Thrash Unreal, the album’s second single, that takes the kind of topics often dealt with in teen pop punk but throws them askance issuing something of a warning of increasingly youthful excess but finally standing up as a celebration of teenage rebellion (with a very dark edge).

The other stand out track is the albums closer, The Ocean, that uses the advanced production for all its worth to create a deep and atmospheric piece that delves deeper than ever before into the Grace’s psyche and feelings in a way that has since become something of a premonition for not just the future of the band but her personal life as well (loosely anyway).

Thomas Gabel/Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! in 2007

Gabel/Grace live in 2007

This all leaves New Wave as something of a transitional record in Against Me!’s career, lacking some of the danger of the past and hinting at a possible more ‘corporate rock’ future that never really emerged (thankfully).

The follow-up, White Crosses, while also featuring some great songs also felt somewhat disconnected and eventually almost led to the collapse of the band before their next landmark moment on Transgender Dysphoria Blues that saw them take many aspects of what they were before but become something new and certainly become about as far removed from being the next Foo Fighters as a band could get while still playing pop-tinged punk rock.

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Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – Optimist

Get Cape Wear Cape Fly - OptimistGiven the fact that Ed Sheeran has recently almost filled the entire ‘singles’ top ten with songs from his latest album it’s hard to escape the fact that when Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly (aka Sam Duckworth) released his debut album The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager back in 2006 he was more than slightly ahead of his time.

Following further albums (including Maps which I reviewed a few years back) Get Cape called it a day to be replaced by solo albums from Duckworth and, more recently, the Recreations EP and album. But now he has returned to the original moniker and sound with two-track single Optimist, in a way that not only feels current with the content of the charts but also timed expertly to go with what’s going on in the UK’s political sphere.

While the Get Cape sound evolved over the years it’s clear from the start that Optimist is firmly heading back into classic territory with Sam’s acoustic guitar and voice leading the charge backed by an array of beats, samples and brass.

The title track continues in Get Cape’s ever-present vein of people politics, focusing on the individual, generally in a way that feels autobiographical, but lacing it through with a message that can be taken into a wider context.

Sam Duckworth, aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.

Sam Duckworth, aka Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.

Meanwhile the B-side, National Health, is more obviously pointedly political but presents this in a double meaning manner that helps make its point all the stronger. Given the title and Sam’s famous political leanings I don’t think I need go into too much detail.

As with all ‘protest music’ (for wont of a better description) all the messages would be for nought if the tunes weren’t there too and I’m very pleased to report that, while not as exciting and new as this was a decade or so ago, Get Cape has lost nothing in his musicality leading to a pair of tracks that certainly come with a purpose but are also highly listenable and, given their beats and rhythms, danceable in an indie disco kind of way.

Welcome back Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. I hope this is the start of a new chapter as it certainly feels like the pop music world really needs a firebrand actually saying something important at the moment.

While there’s not a video for either of the tracks from the single since their release Get Cape has posted another new track, Alibi, to his YouTube channel, so I’ll put that as the video for this post…

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Rancid – Trouble Maker

Rancid - Trouble Maker album coverThe better part of three decades into their career it’s fair to say Rancid have slipped into the territory of being, at least to a degree, elder statesmen of the Californian punk scene and the wider global punk scene with it, possibly even more so than relative contemporaries like Green Day (another band to release a new album in the last 12 months) due to their previous lives in other bands and generally maintained credibility throughout.

Now, with Trouble Maker, their ninth studio album, they continue a trend that began after 2003’s Indestructible of creating something enjoyable and generally satisfying but hard to remove from something of a ‘by the numbers’ feel.

Within that though there’s still a lot to like, kicking off in their usual upbeat mode with a short, punchy number, Track Fast, before lead singles Ghost of a Chance and the acoustic tinged Telegraph Avenue, that bears strong hallmarks of Tim ‘Timebomb’ Armstrong’s solo side project.

From there it twists and turns through the usual sounds we’ve come to expect from the dancefloor filling ska of Where I’m Going to the more hardcore influence of All American Neighborhood to the positive pogoing material of Goodbye Lola Blue along with (sort of) title track An Intimate Close Up Of A Street Punk Troublemaker‘s shout along chorus.

Rancid 2017

Rancid (Steineckert, Armstong, Frederiksen and Freeman)

As ever Armstrong’s slurred and intentionally lose delivery is counterpointed by Lars Frekeriksen’s precise and barked vocal and guitar parts while Matt Freeman’s bass playing brings the rock ‘n’ roll and relative newcomer (this is his third album with the band), drummer, Branden Steineckert keeps the punk rock power pounding throughout.

As with Honour Is All We Know as the album goes on there are points where the tracks begin to run together somewhat, but it has to be said that where this happens Rancid’s sound is enough to carry them through, particularly for a fan.

While its far from musically revolutionary what Rancid continue to do with Trouble Maker is something that I think is a strong part of their longevity as, while they don’t sing directly about politics or protest, their portraits of characters and life in and around their original base in the East Bay reflects something larger and more universal in many ways, while also generally being supremely engaging, charismatic and entertaining.

Tim Armstrong - Rancid 2017

Armstrong/Timebomb live circa 2017

With all this in mind there is something of a sense that Rancid may have become a little like the punk rock AC/DC or Motörhead, releasing albums that, while maybe not surprising or ‘classic’ in the way …And Out Come The Wolves was, are involving and enjoyable in just the right ways and remain packed with songs made for the live environment with the potential for singalongs, skanking and pogoing galore.

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Milk Teeth – Vile Child

Milk Teeth - Vile Child coverLast December I caught Stroud based four-piece Milk Teeth supporting Against Me! as part of their UK tour and was suitably impressed by the young band’s punk rock sound and attitude and their debut album, Vile Child, released earlier in 2016, certainly impresses as well.

Kicking off as it means to continue with the blunt and sudden Brickwork, Milk Teeth set out their stall early with grunge sounds mixing with more current punk rock to create something, that if I didn’t know better, would sound totally American and also entirely current and powerful.

The first half of the record continues this with key touchstones clearly coming out of Seattle, and Nirvana in particular, though bassist Becky Blomfield and (now former) guitarist Josh Bannister’s vocals, that range from the subtle and melodic to the raging, give Milk Teeth their own strong identity.

Milk Teeth 2016

Milk Teeth (early 2016)

A stand out track of the album marks something of a shift in the sound of things. Swear Jar (Again) is unique on the record with a slower tone and was also a standout of their live set last December.

From there the grunge style is developed with something akin to the likes of Reuben and Therapy? being added to the mix giving it a more post-hardcore flavour including some genuinely raging moments that serve to give the album a great sense of dynamic.

While in the hands of some these shifting sounds could make it sound disjointed this all holds together nicely and, while it does in a way, sound like simply a bunch of songs stuck on a disc (there is no immediately evident theme), it does still have a feeling of being a complete piece of work.

Milk Teeth

Milk Teeth (live late 2016)

This leads to it being one of the stronger debut albums I’ve heard from a band in some time, with a lot of promise of great things to come from this band who more recently seem to have become a favourite of Kerrang! magazine (for what that’s worth in this day and age).

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