Back in 2006 – before the recession, bankers’ bonuses and a coalition government – England were looking forward to the World Cup in Germany and the band of the moment had ‘the world at their feet’.
Embrace, the five-piece Yorkshire outfit with Coldplay’s ability to churn out melodic pop-rock anthems but with a rawer, more authentic edge had just had their most productive year yet, giving some compelling elements to a year of everything English.
They had hit No. 2 with ‘Nature’s Law’, scored a number one album with ‘This New Day’ and had been asked to create the summer anthem that would propel England to World Cup glory.
‘World At Your Feet‘ did well in the charts but you suspected all along that Embrace’s hearts weren’t really in it. Now, at last, they have decided to poke their heads back above the parapet with a new album and tour.
To describe the new material from Danish psych-rock duo The Wands as ‘typical’ of them is misleading.
It would suggest they are somewhat one dimensional, or that they opt not to push their musical boundaries. But this is the antithesis of The Wand’s musical ethic; a plethora of influences collaborate within the group’s expansive taste in experimental soundscapes to create a track which continues to cement their place in the evolution of psychedelic popular music.
Spotted by Fuzz Club Records in August 2012, they released their debut EP ‘Hello I Know The Blow You Grow Is Magic’ the following November, and are now said to be ‘working hard’ on a first full length album, on which ‘The Dawn‘ is set to appear.
Nine Black Alps are a band that captures a release of angst and anger whilst maintaining a sense of precious melody; a combination of cradling before the crush, splitting atoms and severing heads during the course of eleven tracks.
‘Candy For The Clowns’ encompasses all things sinister and serene throughout its audio journey. The band has retained their distinctive, sludgy grunge-rock sound, but with a tighter and more dynamic style; opening number ‘Novokaine’ is an absolute punch to the stomach, with a screeching guitar and droning backing vocals, allowing obsession to possess in highly melodic and infectious fashion. The bass and drums pummel along in unison, keeping the song messy but in the most organised of ways.
It is the awakening of the beast as ‘Blackout’ unleashes the angst, guttural shrieks tuned acutely to be recognised as something to sing along to. Ears are split as the chords combust into a chorus of infectious licks; the vocals sinister in their stretched innocence.
For your average band, what would constitute a bad, even disastrous, live performance?
False starts? Forgotten lyrics? Interruptions? Guitars cutting out? Mobile phones ringing at inappropriate moments? Seriously overrunning on time? Any one of these would send most into a frenzy, a combination causing a complete seizure.
Yet for Augustines, these incidents are merely amusing asides that surely left the Leeds audience stunned, and certainly extremely late home.
Since 1991, three things have occurred that are instrumental to the very existence of this article.
Firstly, the writer of this piece has developed from a mewling foetus into a prattling adult. Secondly, the growth of the Internet has been a runaway success and now currently permeates almost every aspect of our lives.
And finally, Boston alt-rock legends Pixies have gotten round to releasing their first album in 23 years.
The band’s reformation in 2004 allowed for some sporadic touring, but bassist and vocalist Kim Deal’s reluctance to head back to the studio clearly held back the production of any new material. With Deal’s departure from the band in June 2013, it was a mere two weeks before first single ‘Bagboy’ arrived on Pixies’ website as a free download.
Less than a year later, and after oddly sacking another bassist named Kim, ‘Indie Cindy’ is set to hit the shelves and online marketplaces on April 28th.
Furious, angry and unrelenting, OFF!’s latest album ‘Wasted Years’ bursts out of the gate with an energy rarely seen since the height of the punk era.
Their self-titled debut album established a distinctive sound, and this latest effort continues exactly where the first left off.
Punk itself has changed drastically since its height in the 1970s and 80s, a scene that the founder members of OFF! were key players in, having themselves been members of such seminal American bands as Black Flag and the Circle Jerks.
Keith Morris and Greg Hetson are now single-handedly trying to return punk to its true hardcore roots; there are no tricks or gimmicks, this is hardcore at its most, for want of a better word, ‘hardcore’. Which is not to make light of the music. Morris and Hetson’s songs are rallying cries against the modern world, the likes of which haven’t been heard in decades.
It only seems like yesterday when Blood Red Shoes’ debut album ‘Box Of Secrets‘ soundtracked walk-backs from college in the spring of 2008, announcing the band as one of the most exhilarating in the halcyon days of the contemporary indie movement during the latter half of the last decade.
Some ten years on after formation in 2004, vocalist and guitarist Laura Mary Carter, alongside seasoned drummer and joint vocalist Steven Ansell, are still steadfastly traversing through the international gig circuit, having amassed a significant core audience thanks to their concoction of abrasive alternative noise pop through an unrelenting cycle of album releases and extensive touring.
The old adage of hard work paying off has certainly proved dividends where this band are concerned, now at the enviable stage of releasing their fourth studio album when their contemporaries of yesteryear have become mere forgotten components of a genre which has visibly faded in popularity.
Much of this is of little concern to Ansell and Carter, having shut themselves away in a Berlin studio to self-record and produce their new self-titled effort, unmoved by the changing musical landscape outside and any effect it may have on the shape of their sound, something effusively exclaimed by Ansell when he stated there was, ‘No producer, no engineer, no A&R people, just us two in a big concrete room in Kreuzberg, jamming and recording our songs whenever we wanted, how we wanted with nobody to answer to except ourselves’.
The Crookes are a band that show what happens when pop music goes right.
The Sheffield four-piece, three albums in, shunned the creature comforts of South Yorkshire and instead drove their gear and recording facilities to the Alpine wilderness of Italy at the start of last winter – thus, the sound of isolation, desolation and solitude can be heard in each of ‘Soapbox‘s ten tracks.
It’s indie yes, it’s pop yes, but it’s also punk, post-punk and electro; it can’t be confined to one genre despite all the dark undertones that swim beneath the surface of a band constructing songs which speak of intelligence and should have Morrissey’s haircut and Brett Anderson’s waistline.
In case the curious rookie listener, who hasn’t been exposed to this trio before, is wondering: Band Of Skulls don’t create plastic pop tunes.
So turn back, now, if that is what’s desired, for in no uncertain terms do this band make anything close to an apology for their take on the type of rock music that has been made since The Kinks‘ guitar hero, Dave Davis, slashed the cone in his guitar amp with a razor blade in pursuit of a darker sound – inadvertently inventing heavy metal in the process.
Not that they exactly forge a sonic maelstrom akin to the industrial noise havoc of Alec Empire compadres Panic Drives Human Herds, but they still reap a mighty whirlwind that could be sighted as making distinctive nods towards artists such as The Black Keys, Queens Of The Stone Age and old illuminates Mark Bolan and T-Rex. Now they unleash the aptly titled ‘Himalayan‘ with enough time to galvanise an impact on the psyche before doing battle on the festival circuit this coming summer.
In recent days and weeks, popular music has seen two heavyweight mainstays alter their sound greatly.
Coldplay’s latest release, ‘Magic’, barely relates to the ‘Parachutes‘ days for its Clubland feel and, perhaps even more strangely, The Black Keys’ ‘Fever’ contrasts the raw tones of ‘Thickfreakness‘ by replacing them with synths. We all expect it from Coldplay; but not from the Ohio rockers. So where does this leave us now?
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