No one could ever accuse the Black Angels of shying away from their influences.
Over the course of their nine-year career, these stoner rock scions have incorporated everything from Jimmy Page’s electrified blues riffs to Ray Manzarek’s introspective vamp into their own unsettling take on the bad-trip brood of late-sixties psychedelia. Their last two albums presented slight variations on the theme, as 2008’s Directions To See A Ghost was lacquered with the hallucinatory drone of the Velvet Underground while 2010’s Phosphene Dream featured more tightened-up compositions that hedged towards the acid-fried garage styling of fellow Austin freakniks like the Moving Sidewalks and the 13th Floor Elevators.
Long Beach blues rockers Cold War Kids release their fourth album at somewhat of a career crossroads.
Early industry buzz gathered pace in 2006 with the unveiling of debut album ‘Robbers & Cowards‘; containing a soulful, guttural blues tinged collection of tracks which announced the band as worthy White Stripes-era contemporaries, where edgy indie rock still featured prominently amongst the hipster blogosphere and music charts either side of the Atlantic.
A solid follow-up in ‘Loyalty To Loyalty‘ arrived two years later, although it was the release of 2011′s ‘Mine Is Yours‘ which appeared to rile critics and sections of the band’s fanbase alike.
There was perhaps an unsympathetic focusing on the influence former Kings of Leon producer Jacquire King had on the noticeable shift in direction of the band’s sound into unfamiliarly clean, arena rock territory. Initially, this was seemingly a far cry from the grassroots aesthetic forged earlier, but after repeated listens it failed to mask the affecting sum of its parts, including the adept songwriting craft and distinct, expressive vocalisation of lead singer Nathan Willett.
They may sport skinny jeans in press shots, but if their debut album is anything to go by, Peace are bringing back baggy.
There’s enough funky drumming, pounding keyboards and surreal lyrics about love to thrill anyone whose top musical moment from last year was seeing the Stone Roses reunite.
But it’s not just the dance-influenced anthems of the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses who Peace look to for inspiration. There are also inevitable echoes of Britpop and, in particular, the anthemic choruses and universality of that movement’s two leading lights – Blur and Oasis.
There are hordes of road-dogged and battle-tested bands that flourish under the one-night-after-another pressure cooker of intensive touring, yet still struggle to find their comfort zone when the crowds are gone and the tape is rolling.
Belfast indie rockers And So I Watch You From Afar have developed a reputation over the past few years as circuit-hopping veterans, bringing their dizzying, punk-indebted instrumental compositions to dingy basements in Brooklyn, packed festival fields in Belgium, obscure music-deprived burgs in Russia, and sold-out arenas in their Northern Ireland hometown.
What is perhaps more significant than their passport credentials is the way in which they have consistently managed to avoid the aforementioned lightning-out-of-the-bottle letdown. From the laser-beam march that set off their 2009 self-titled debut to the thunderous tribal percussion that closed out 2011’s breakthrough ‘Gangs‘, these guys have approached each recording with the same sort of off-the-rails intensity and clenched-fist grit that they determinedly bring to the stage.
What is your initial thought when you think of the sprawling megatropolis of Los Angeles and Southern California?
One might think of the surf culture of Venice beach; The Doors playing The Whiskey A Go Go; Iggy Pop getting arrested by the LAPD along Sunset Strip (in a puke stained mini skirt) during the implosion of The Stooges, and all manner of musical poets, down the ages, making tripped out, sunshine daydreams on wax about bikini-clad babes and hot rods.
Such an environment has also been partially responsible for sculpting one Davis Fetter, and the unique place he is currently carving for himself in the musical landscape.
There’s something about Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, you know. They shouldn’t be this cool.
Sometimes they play like angry, dirty punks; sometimes they play like they’re in a psychedelic space trance.
They sing about the ugliness of war and the sweet release of death, like a trio of ghosts who happened upon Black Sabbath and close harmonies in the same afternoon. By all the ordinary rules of the music world, they ought to be a heavy metal band with pretensions up to their eyeballs.
But they aren’t. They defy convention. They defy genres. It’s hard to fathom them. It was hard to fathom that first record of theirs some 12 years ago, and ‘Specter at the Feast’ isn’t going to be fathomable either. Another 12 years from now you’ll still be playing it, wondering how music like this actually, physically came to be.
After weaving subtle psychedelic nuance through thick layers of lo-fi thrash and brute-force sludge on 2010’s ‘Immaculada‘ and 2011’s ‘Leave Home‘, these unassuming New York lifers pushed their experimental post-hardcore template past the concept of classification with last year’s critically-acclaimed breakthrough ‘Open Your Heart‘.
Their third record in as many years was a lesson in genre-defying ambition, as it somehow managed to synthesize the last four decades of guitar music into one solid statement. Shoegaze, punk, garage, alternative, indie, and straight-up classic rock all shared the spotlight, while still leaving room for a few brushes with barroom country honk.
With this year’s ‘New Moon‘, The Men have continued along their own ever-evolving path, this time careening further away from their basement noise beginnings and heading more and more towards full-blown hillbilly Americana. The immediate touchstones are no longer the muscular swirl of Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr., but instead the countrified distortion of Neil Young & Crazy Horse and the heartland freedom rock of latter-day Tom Petty. Acoustic, lap steel, mandolin, harmonica, and piano are each just as prevalent as electric guitar, and the screams, shouts and pleads of previous efforts are replaced with easy-amble melodies, sober meditations, and four-part vocal harmonies.
Bastille are named in homage to Bastille Day – the French National holiday celebrating the storming of Bastille prison in Paris on 14 July 1789 as a symbolic moment during the French Revolution, at a time which saw the oppressed peoples of the nation rise up against an autocratic government.
This political reference presently appears aptly aligned, in terms of the London quartet’s ability to disrupt the flow of largely auto-tuned vocals and uninspired dance floor filler dominating the modern day chart soundsphere, utilising a welcome cultured blend of powerfully affecting vocals and melodies that continue to linger long in the mind upon exposure.
Promising EPs have slowly trickled into the public consciousness to create an increasingly deafening buzz of music industry hype since the conception of the band in 2010 moved away from the initial solo project of lead singer and songwriter Dan Smith.
Their sound was carefully moulded to allow long awaited debut LP ‘Bad Blood’ to surface as a refined, in-depth musical equilibrium which marries character analysing darkened subject matter with instantly accessible pop hooks, potentially pleasing hardened purists and summer festival crowds alike.
It’s hard not to feel a little sorry for Palma Violets. Four London lads who – like The Vaccines, Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines before them – have been anointed as the saviours of British guitar music.
It’s a familiar story. There they were earnestly going about their business when suddenly someone decided their (admittedly excellent) garage pop would be the next game-changer in British indie music.
With this in mind, it’s to Palma Violets’ credit that ‘180‘ doesn’t suffer from any sense of exaggerated self-importance.
Universal healthcare, low levels of violent crime, easy access to higher education, and general economic stability are all social realities that contribute to the fact that it is consistently considered to be one of the happiest places on the planet.
Combine that with the lack of religious fundamentalism and an overall atheist-leaning ideology, and the small Scandinavian nation couldn’t be a more unsuspecting breeding ground for the angry anti-establishment ethos usually associated with punk rock.
So it was understandably surprising to see Copenhagen emerge as a DIY hotbed of punk-indebted activity in the past few years, and it was even more surprising to see how quickly the word spread about a scene that at first seemed destined for insularity.
This rise in popularity is a direct correlation to the emergence of Iceage, a group of four Danish teenagers whose 2011 debut ‘New Brigade‘ took the unharnessed energy of early-80’s American hardcore and fused it with their own blend of chilling post-punk rhythms and subtle no-wave dissonance. The record was more of a stepping stone than a statement; it felt as if each member was so bottled up with ideas that together they played like they were ready to write the next release during the recording of this one.
You can subscribe to Live4ever Ezine by e-mail address to receive news and upates directly in your inbox. Simply enter your e-mail below and click Sign Up!