INDIE ROCK MUSIC Reviews

Album Review: Protomartyr – Ultimate Success Today

Posted on 14 Jul 2020 at 8:16am

There is an argument that almost nowhere is more punk than Detroit: home of The Stooges and the MC5, its deep industrial throb gave the world a kind of primitive noise which threatened to shake civilisation to its foundations, before the city plunged into a terminal, savage decline which backdropped another generation of bands spearheaded by Negative Approach and L-Seven.

It should come as no surprise then that one of America’s finest punk bands of now calls the city their home. Lead by the phlegmatic Joe Casey, Protomartyr have spent the last decade constantly reshaping themselves, from their outstanding one take debut No Passion, All Technique to 2017’s uber-taught Relatives In Descent.

Casey prophetically sees Ultimate Success Today as the symbolic closing act of a five-album cycle in which the band’s macro environment has taken a toll on them, an American dream which his home city revealed as tarnished decades ago. It’s the sort of mindset that could be destructive or maudlin in the hands of many other songwriters, but Casey has fused the bare wires tension and paranoia into the band’s finest work yet, from the raking sax that punctures the bug eyed tension of opener Day Without End to the raw boned but loveable closer Worm In Heaven.

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Review: Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – The Non-Stop EP

Posted on 13 Jul 2020 at 10:08am

Tom Rees has already managed to divine at least one essential truth in his role as writer and guitarist in Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – that as the group’s bio perceptively declares (yes, in capital letters): YOU CAN LOVE OLD ROCK WITHOUT PASTICHING IT.

This is important, both because navigating the byways of tribute bands, throwback acts, back-to-their-roots collectives and ageing stiffs milking the heritage circuit is impossible, and because the Welsh quartet play rock and roll which sounds quite old, but also isn’t a pastiche.

BBB first arrived in 2018 with the prancing retro-boogie of Double Denim Hop, a song which, had it been delivered without lashings of insouciant tongue-in-cheek, would’ve resulted in the band being chased around their native Cardiff by a posse of irate Mojo readers. Unperturbed, they then repeated the trick with Late Night City, a vintage Mick n’ Keef jam about the ‘Sermons’ they run as club nights; hedonistic sprees that Rees without seemingly blinking says are all about, ‘trying to create a reality out of rock, religion and cultism’.

The quartet are hardly the first outfit in history to operate under the belief that they have the old gods of rock on their side (indeed, one of them is invoked on the stomping John Lennon Is My Jesus Christ), but rather than zipping up their jumpsuits and hoping for the best, The Non-Stop EP does enough to win over both cynics and zealots.

Album Review: JARV IS… – Beyond The Pale

Posted on 13 Jul 2020 at 8:10am

Standing at the apex of popular culture is something you can’t plan for: for Jarvis Cocker, this moment came in 1995 at Glastonbury during Pulp’s headlining set, the band’s rendition of Common People one of the decade’s most spontaneously blissful experiences.

Despite the whiff of class tourism around their song about class tourism, and the fact that they were late subs replacing The Stone Roses, for five minutes at least the Sheffielders and their bony ringmaster were all of us, a temporary force of unification.

This Icarian chapter had fracturing results, as the subsequent album Different Class topped the charts but the stardom it afforded ultimately lead to the band’s demise. Cocker then pivoted from ledge to ledge, finding settlement eventually with a radio show, and he has recently announced that a book is due at some point in 2020. But an invitation to play a festival in Helsinki from Sigur Rós led to one of those odd yet obvious epiphanies – that he had plenty of new songs to air, but no band.

Having recruited Serafina Steer and her Bas Jan bandmate Emma Smith, the James Taylor Quartet’s Andrew McKinney, All Seeing I’s Jason Buckle and Three Trapped Tigers’ Adam Betts, what would become the core of Beyond The Pale were songs road-tested in a number of unlikely locations, not least of which was a Derbyshire cave complex popularly known amongst the locals as The Devil’s Arse.

What emerges from a process which began semi-live is a record which – similar to Baxter Drury’s The Night Chancers – is about dislocation, libido and growing older, one free from bitterness and observed as ever from the peculiar, perceptive view of a natural storyteller.

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Album Review: DMA’s – The Glow

Posted on 07 Jul 2020 at 8:18am

When Noel Gallagher sang Half The World Away he wasn’t thinking about DMA’s – the Sydney-based trio of Tommy O’Dell, Matt Mason, and Johnny Took didn’t form until 2012 – but it’s always sounded like, even from that distance, they were listening intently to him.

As proof, their first two albums (2016’s Hill’s End and For Now, released two years later) owed an obvious debt to Britpop-era ennui, a trait that in the UK especially has made them arena fillers and much loved by a tribe who identify less and less with what indie rock comes up with for them.

Given that here noticeable musical progress has always been another scene’s problem, the Australians couldn’t have been blamed for some voluntary inertia of their own. But whilst The Glow doesn’t tear up history, it infuses their sound with enough club inspired difference to keep the idea of making new friends a possibility.

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Album Review: Paul Weller – On Sunset

Posted on 01 Jul 2020 at 8:03am

It’s fast becoming one of the more common clichés in British rock, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth highlighting: Paul Weller has been on a rich vein of form for fifteen years, his solo career redeeming itself (at least in his own eyes) over the course of the 1990s before becoming slightly rudderless at the turn of the century.

Buoyed by the success of As Is Now in 2005, with an energy and vitality that had been missing, Weller has since felt no obligation to return to the mod/soul formula he long since mastered.

On Sunset is a reaction to his last album – the reflective, pastoral True Meanings. Where that 2018 effort was restrained and simple, this new slice reveals itself to be more of a challenge, but with better rewards over time.

The opening track, Mirror Ball, was the catalyst that inspired its development, which is hardly surprising as it’s a mini-album in itself. Covering several different movements across seven minutes, it opens with dreamy effects and choral voices before Weller’s own echoes across a mountain range. The track then evolves into something a bit more glittering (reflective of the title) and we are moved into some abstract noise which has an unsettling feel akin to his experimental In Another Room EP earlier in the year, before a quick sojourn into some muffled sub-bass and then back to where we came in. In days gone by, the track would have been the result of a remix by Prof Kybert or Amorphous Androgynous. Now, Weller is adventurous enough to remix himself.

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Album Review: Khruangbin – Mordechai

Posted on 30 Jun 2020 at 8:18am

When you make music that comes from nearly everywhere, having a sense of place, it seems, is even more important.

Khruangbin (Thai for plane or make up your own truth) are unlikely Texans who’ve been building global momentum around multi-hued tunes, their sound a Bacchanalian sort of funk that’s always pleasing on the soul. But to get to this inner space, they first had to go home.

Years on the road touring their first two releases – 2015’s The Universe Smiles and 2018’s Con Todo El Mundo – to ever increasing crowds left them road-weary, empty vessels. With the sort of shared bond that only months together can forge, bassist Laura Lee Ochoa, guitarist Mark Speer and drummer Donald ‘DJ’ Johnson returned to their barn recording facility in Burton, Texas and intuitively recognised that some taking stock was needed. Whilst out on a trip to a local waterfall with a new friend, Laura jumped into the pool and had an epiphany; the friend’s name was Mordechai.

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Album Review: HAIM – Women In Music Pt. III

Posted on 29 Jun 2020 at 7:39am

Occupying odd spaces in music rarely pays off.

For instance, are HAIM a rock band sometimes playing pop, or vice versa? The answer is far more nuanced, as Women In Music Pt. III illustrates; an album on which the trio of Californian siblings follow the emerging twenties’ trend of artists pleasing themselves first and everyone else later.

Following on from 2017’s Something To Tell You – and co-produced by Danielle and two of the group’s long time collaborators, Ariel Rechtshaid and former Vampire Weekender Rostam Batmanglij – there’s a, to be expected, polish and maturity here, but the girls are pushing back at some familiar topics: Man From The Magazine deals openly with an early interview in which bass player Este was asked if she made her characteristic onstage faces in bed, while I Know Alone explores the feelings of emptiness which flood in when tour camaraderie fades to missed calls and silent rooms.

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Album Review: Pottery – Welcome To Bobby’s Motel

Posted on 25 Jun 2020 at 8:06am

You know with a title such as this you’re going to be entering a world unlike any other.

Montreal’s Pottery gave us some glimpses into their heads on last year’s slightly less-mysteriously titled EP No. 1, but while previously it was a work in progress, here we have a definitive look.

First impressions? Welcome To Bobby’s Motel is likely to be a sweaty place. Never sitting still, we are welcomed via a largely instrumental title-track which, at only two minutes, may be brief but squeezes a lot in. The guitars have a striking balance between glam and art rock, while the bass takes prominence in the mix (as it will throughout much of the album). There are some distorted vocals alongside spluttering synths which act as smeared narration and return later in the album.

Recent single Hot Heater, featuring elements of samba and African music, is a jerky, stop-start slice of chants and grooves. Singer Austin Boylan channels a smooth mix of David Byrne (indeed, much of the album owes a debt to Talking Heads) and Josh Homme on his more louche moments, delivering said chants in staccato fashion. Like following track Under The Wires, which is equally quirky before morphing into something more urgent (with a powering final third), it’s tailor-made for festival crowds (sigh).

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Album Review: Bob Dylan – Rough And Rowdy Ways

Posted on 23 Jun 2020 at 8:10am

The greatest troubadour in town is back.

He also turns 80 next year. He won’t be the first of the 1960s generation to do so, but it will feel significant – albeit probably least of all to Bob Dylan himself, as he’s been ruminating about death for over twenty years.

Ever since the ‘return to form’ album Time Out Of Mind, the spectre of Father Time has been prominent in Dylan’s work. So, unsurprisingly, it plays a big part on Rough And Rowdy Ways, his 39th studio album. Yet, where he once addressed mortality, here he takes a step back and views how the world has changed and how it also repeats itself.

The best example of this is Murder Most Foul, released as a 17-minute comeback single (remarkably his first No.1 on the Billboards), the lyrics commence at the assassination of JFK (the titular murder) and thereafter become a potted history of pop culture. It’s quite an undertaking, and wisely the track is left for last on the album. As insightful as it is (and worthy of its run time), for any listeners opting to succumb to Dylan’s genius for the first time it would be off-putting.

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Album Review: LA Priest – GENE

Posted on 22 Jun 2020 at 8:03am

History is sometimes a thing you can escape from easily, but Sam Eastgate’s relationship with the past keeps following him around, despite his present.

The man once known as Sam Dust, and more recently LA Priest, is now presenting his second album under the latter’s name, but the legacy of his first band Late Of The Pier remains stubbornly visible in the rear view mirror.

Four school friends barely out of their teens, the group’s Erol Alkan-produced debut and only release, Fantasy Black Channel, was at the time met with some bewilderment, a maverick bookend to the patchy and short lived nu rave movement. Over the last decade however, it’s gained the sort of rabid cache applied to Slint’s uber-cult foundling Spiderland, a constantly maturing reappraisal which could overshadow many a further career.

The first LA Priest album, Inji, had none of LOTP’s mania but plenty of arty discord, for GENE though Eastgate has again shifted his focus, this time from experimental funk and electronica to just experimental everything. Alkan joins him in the chair – the first time the two have worked together since the band split – but perhaps more tellingly the singer spent a year of between-record-downtime building his own drum machine from scratch, the name of which is the name of the album.

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