INDIE ROCK MUSIC Reviews

Album Review: Tourists – Another State

Posted on 26 Nov 2020 at 8:18am

The debut Tourists album is out now on Modern Sky UK.

It’s not clear whether Tourists named themselves ironically or not.

From the sleepy retirement destination of Torquay, about as far as you can get from the music industry’s zeitgeist as possible, under normal circumstances in the summer months of the year it’s overrun with just those kinds of visitors, celebrating the rustic paraphernalia of an English seaside town.

Perhaps the truth though is a little more complicated. A quintet who have gradually evolved into something quite musically striking, the overriding impression from their debut album is that of innocents trying to escape from themselves, their work layered and enigmatic, whilst in singer James Coile they possess a frontman with a dream-giving voice.

Tourists have made themselves a composite of well-thumbed influences – The Cure, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Stone Roses, The Wild Swans – but whilst in some ways this is familiar sonic territory, it’s often hard to see where the old times are lost and the new era begins.

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Album Review: The Jacques – The Four Five Three

Posted on 23 Nov 2020 at 8:42am

The Jacques spread the net wide on their debut album.

Five years is a long time in any field of the arts, but some transformations still happen slowly even if they’re away from the light.

When in 2015 we last featured The Jacques, covering their Artful Dodger EP, the influence of mid-noughties’ indie rock was there for anyone to hear, leaving the quartet in amongst the indie landfill cynics and those who still had a weakness for young fashioned traditional virtues.

Half a decade later, their debut album is set to confound anybody reading old reviews eager to apply some labels – they’ve been described as ‘gritty, distorted, lush, dreamy, discordant, infectious, inventive, evocative, romantic and ludicrous’, all terms which could variously be applied with arrow-like accuracy where certain passages of it are concerned.

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Album Review: Cabaret Voltaire – Shadow Of Fear

Posted on 20 Nov 2020 at 8:00am

Richard H. Kirk returns with Cabaret Voltaire for a first new album in over 25 years.

Depeche Mode’s September 1981 Top Of The Pops performance of Just Can’t Get Enough was one that cemented their reputation as unlikely synth-pop heartthrobs.

But it also sent a clear message to an admiring nation that this ‘new’ instrument was not only here to stay, but could make happy, joyous music that even the stiffs could totally endorse.

In Sheffield, things were different.

Cut off by more than just geography, the region was still heavily industrial, its teetering prosperity held in steel, coal and manufacturing; the mills clanked all night and it was long rumoured that on some days an acrid smell hung over the city, released from unidentified chemical by-products.

Cabaret Voltaire began in 1973, well before punk, in the guise of a multi-media art project that took inspiration from Dadaism, literary dystopians like William Burroughs and other lysergic nightmares.

By the start of the next decade, the now duo of Stephen Mallinder and Richard H. Kirk had also begun experimenting with samplers and keyboards, their work – a clattering, paranoid overture at the fringes of dance music – a long way away from daytime radio accessibility.

Notwithstanding, albums like The Crackdown earned them a significant trans-Atlantic cult following, one loyal even after they shifted towards house music with 1990’s Groovy, Laidback & Nasty.

The last album under the CV banner was released four years later, after which Mallinder departed.

Album Review: The War On Drugs – LIVE DRUGS

Posted on 19 Nov 2020 at 7:46am

‘Over 40 hard drives of recorded shows’ have gone into The War On Drugs’ first live album.

Whether you gamble or not, you have to admit that the post-millennial odds of acts like Tame Impala and The War On Drugs becoming some of the planet’s most successful would’ve been pretty long.

Yet here we are, TI’s Kevin Parker the global king of the sad banger, and whilst Adam Granduciel’s had to take his share of critical lumps – Direr Straits, Springsteen lite etc – the last word has unquestionably been his.

We’re in a momentous era however where the live album (the clue being in the LIVE DRUGS title) is something of a double conceit, moments ripped from an event that you probably weren’t at and, for the latter part of the year, something most could only experience remotely on a screen.

Granduciel neatly side-steps this though by relying not on one performance but many, the ten tracks here offered up from different shows stored amongst the 40 hard drives that make up a personal chronicle across continents and years.

Review: Tim Burgess – Ascent Of The Ascended EP

Posted on 18 Nov 2020 at 8:06am

Tim Burgess keeps his band ticking over with new solo release.

For reasons initially beyond his control, Tim Burgess has had quite the year.

By now, you’ll surely be aware of his Twitter Listening Parties which, it’s fair to say, have taken on a life of their own. As well as giving other artists good exposure, on the official website one can now purchase art prints with links to recommended record stores.

In addition, all year Burgess has been vocal and pro-active in his support of music venues, and even aided in securing bailout packages for the Gorilla and Deaf Institute in his (near) hometown of Manchester.

As if all that wasn’t enough, he’s also released a (solo) career best album, I Love The New Sky, and is closing out the year with this Ascent Of The Ascended EP. It consists of two new tracks and recordings from a session at Paste Studios in New York, just before the pandemic took its vice-like grip on 2020.

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Album Review: The Cribs – Night Network

Posted on 13 Nov 2020 at 8:06am

The Cribs are back with a bang on their eighth studio album.

Although hailing from the fiercely independent nearby city of Wakefield, The Cribs know that whilst the distance between Leeds’ now defunct Cockpit venue and its arena might only be a couple of miles in real life, in practical terms for most bands it might as well be measured in light years.

The Jarmans, however, can look back on making that journey, from the time of their first gigs spent in the dingy subterranean environs beneath a railway arch, to headlining somewhere many times the size in 2017 (and still turning up in a van).

If that naturally marked something of a career apex and full stop, what happened afterwards was the opposite as legal wrangles following a split with their management company effectively left The Cribs under an embargo which nearly caused them to stop working altogether.

Enter the world’s nicest frontman Dave Grohl, who agreed to let the trio use his studio to make fresh music, and following a Christmas family get together during which the brothers wrote songs to record we now have Night Network, a rocket ship with its nose pointing straight out of the trauma, one that emphatically yells: ‘We’re back’.

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Album Review: Pole – Fading

Posted on 12 Nov 2020 at 8:09am

Pole returns to Mute for first album since 2015’s Wald.

Of all the many rabbit holes to go down when venturing into the world of electronic music, few go deeper than the burrow that leads to dub techno, the floor-rattling hybrid of scenes built in Detroit, Michigan and Kingston, Jamaica.

As a sound in Britain, Alex Patterson and The Orb commercialised it, whilst the late Andrew Wetherall predictably bent out new shapes from the bleeps and bass on several criminally underrated albums, recording as Two Lone Swordsman.

Not many countries have embraced techno more enthusiastically than Germany, however.

As an example, the influence of Stefan Betke’s twenty-five-year-plus career as Pole – named after a broken Waldorf 4-Pole filter that gave his earliest music its distinctive sound – was recognised earlier this year with the reissue his first three albums as one vast tract of retro-minimalism.

If more recent output has seen a shift from this glitchy pop and hiss-filled base, Fading partially retrieves it, diligently using, Betke says, threads from those older works, retaining connection.

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Album Review: Katy J Pearson – Return

Posted on 11 Nov 2020 at 8:09am

Katy J Pearson justifies the long road on debut album Return.

The word ‘indie’ has gone through many re-evaluations over the years; from its origins as music released on an independent record label to becoming a catch-all phrase for anything with guitars. Katy J Pearson can lay a claim to being ‘indier’ than most.

Nearly four years ago, Pearson and her brother had dalliances with the music industry after the pair were picked up by a major label. Yet they soon fell foul of the machinations and pressures required to work with a music behemoth.

Chastened by the experience, she honed her craft as a solo artist and wrote a catalogue of songs between her parents’ house in Gloucestershire, her own bedroom in Bristol and a local community arts centre, all the while touring as a support act to Cass McCombs and Olden Yolk among others.

These wares caught the attention of Heavenly Records, who financed the release of this album (hence Return) and gave Katy J Pearson the space to develop at her own pace. If nothing else, she deserves kudos for buckling down and finding her own voice (hence indie). Happily, there is much else to praise.

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Album Review: Kerbdog – Kerbdog / On The Turn vinyl reissues

Posted on 09 Nov 2020 at 8:01am

Autumn, 1992. Seattle outsiders Nirvana’s second album Nevermind – a high octane mix of hardcore, punk and buried strains of ironic pop – is not only the biggest selling album in the Western Hemisphere, but has also with it ushered in success for a phalanx of loosely associated outfits such as Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains.

At a stroke, most British guitar acts are either wiped out by this dinosaur comet or forced to rethink their approach; if you weren’t acting like you were a nobody, you couldn’t be a somebody.

It wasn’t that the UK lacked an indigenous noise-rock scene, far from it, but whilst Kurt Cobain openly professed his undying love for Scottish C-86ers The Vaselines, the likes of Silverfish, Leatherface and Mint 400 just didn’t have his pretty blue eyes or songwriting hooks. In a peculiar twist of fate, the two bands who arguably profited most from the attempt to sell grunge back to its perpetrators were both Irish: at their peak, Therapy?, a trio from the north, sold over a million copies of their second album Troublegum whilst from the south, Kerbdog signed to a major label amongst an unseemly scramble for bands who could credibly see themselves as noise-rock.

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Album Review: The Slow Readers Club – 91 Days In Isolation

Posted on 03 Nov 2020 at 8:13am

It seems prescient to be reviewing this album in the week the UK enters another lockdown.

For those of us old enough to remember the first lockdown, it was a time of great uncertainty and fear. Others took the bull by the horns and made the most of the opportunity – as you will have gathered by this album’s title.

They may have released an album only in March, but as The Slow Readers Club’s avenues for promotion were all closed off, the Mancunians weren’t as idle as many of us. In tandem with using social media to their advantage for listening parties and livestreams the band also, using the wonders of modern technology to their advantage, shared ideas and wrote songs online before taking to the studio once restrictions were eased.

As one would expect with an album written during an unprecedented (sorry) period, themes of isolation, anxiety and reflection pervade.

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