Album Review: Super Furry Animals – Guerrilla (reissue)

Posted on 17 Oct 2019 at 8:11am

There’s something reassuringly vast about a Super Furry Animals re-release, like hearing the thwack of a big Sunday newspaper landing on the mat.

It’s as if the Welshmen feel a little bit guilty for asking you to part with hard earned money for stuff you already own, but there’s equally little doubt each volume is done with far more sincerity than 99% of other similar projects, although Guerrilla has been out again once already in 2005, but let’s gloss over that.

Two decades ago it was billed as the band’s straight ahead pop album after their opening salvo – 1995’s Fuzzy Logic and 97’s Radiator – had wowed but also confused drunk Britpop audiences.

It’s worth remembering however that, although it was recorded in 1998, Guerrilla wasn’t released until the year after, a time when half the population thought they were going to die at midnight on New Year’s Eve. This meant that often things weren’t as advertised, and besides you always knew that Gruff Rhys and co. saying they’d hit the mainstream switch was a little like Brazil reckoning they were going to play conservative football – they might want to, but it was never going to happen.

Album Review: MNNQNS – Body Negative

Posted on 16 Oct 2019 at 8:11am

Many things get lost in translation but music usually has the reverse effect, which is why you’ve got punk bands in Peru, metal bands in Manila and Ska bands in Skopje.

MNNQNS (pronounced Mannequins) are from the medieval French city of Rouen, and have a bold and unambiguous declaration for us which language cannot confuse: they hate rock n’ roll.

Lead singer Adrian D’Epinay has provided some much needed elaboration on this pretty comprehensive philosophy: “I like pop, punk or experimental electronic music a lot more…This is why there are these strange sounds and transitions that come in and out during the album: drones, ambience, drum machines etc.”

D’Epinay also draws inspiration from his experiences whilst studying in Cardiff, and Body Negative to this extent is a Franco-Welsh blend that veers between the atmospheric and the confrontational. It could certainly not be accused of fitting inside anyone’s box.

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Live Review: Inhaler at The Exchange, Bristol

Posted on 15 Oct 2019 at 9:00am

The island of Ireland (because apparently it’s law to use that moniker now) is a hotbed of talent at the moment.

Fontaines D.C. have had a very impressive year and are likely to continue to go from strength to strength with their forthcoming autumn tour (seeing as the whole UK leg is completely sold out they’d have to spectacularly mess it up) and The Murder Capital are following suit. Coming a bit further down the line and sure to have a big 2020 are snotty punks Touts and The Clockworks who, having signed to Alan McGee’s Creation 23 label, are already generating buzz by virtue of the industry legend heaping praise upon them.

And in the middle carriage, so far album-less but with a raft of strong songs, sit Inhaler.

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Album Review: Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

Posted on 15 Oct 2019 at 8:31am

Confusion. Indecision. Fear of change. These more problematic elements of the human condition will likely be familiar to many at certain junctures of life.

Whether it’s moving to a new city to start afresh or picking up the pieces of a broken relationship, grappling with an internal dialogue about what the hell it all means and who you want to become once you reach the other side can be challenging, if not impossible, to articulate.

This hasn’t stopped Angel Olsen giving it her best shot on All Mirrors, her fourth LP and follow-up to 2016’s My Woman. My Woman saw Olsen continue her steady journey into the gaze of the mainstream with the help of breakout hit Shut Up Kiss Me, signalling a foray into a more direct alt-rock driven sound ahead of the previous explorations of contemplative folk.

If Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours expertly captured the tempestuous aftermath of embittered break-ups within the all-too-close-for-comfort confines of an L.A. studio, Olsen took a very different approach after the realisation, mid-tour, that her own relationship couldn’t be rectified. An isolated writing process ensued in the remote climes of Anacortes, Washington, as Olsen doubled-down on her bid to reconnect with her emotions in attempting to find answers within the depths of some of her darkest, most introspective and revealing songwriting to date.

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Album Review: Shed Seven – Going For Gold (20th anniversary reissue)

Posted on 14 Oct 2019 at 12:36pm

The show must go on: for Shed Seven it’s barely stopped, a roller-coaster of sorts which began in the heat of Britpop and, with barely a four year break at the beginning of the century, has seen them complete the sort of comeback that Lazarus would be proud of.

Ask chief Shed Rick Witter whether he feels that his band were ever given a fair critical hearing back in the day and he’ll tell you that any of the Cool Britannia glory always went the way of Pulp, Oasis or Blur, where as the York quintet usually found themselves at the back of the queue for praise, portrayed as cred-dodging interlopers which the scene queens treated with disdain or disinterest.

Witter grew up with The Smiths and latterly The Stone Roses, influences never far from the surface of a trail of chart riding singles (15 in the Top 40 when that still meant something) before a brief intermission between 2003 and 2007, after which initially a new line-up took to the heritage tour circuit.

Growing in confidence and popularity, in 2017 they released Instant Pleasures, an album of new material which fans loved and, even if nobody makes money from selling music these days, spoke loudly to new ambitions. It also reinforced a truth: what their detractors don’t realise is that Witter doesn’t need telling that there’s no equivalent to Animal Nitrate, Girls & Boys or Common People in their repertoire; Shed Seven’s popularity was never in the shake of a hip or brute force, but forged in songs that had no cost of entry and came without a requirement for taking sides.

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Album Review: 808 State – Transmission Suite

Posted on 14 Oct 2019 at 8:39am

We’ve all seen our eighties nights ruined by someone dancing to ancient tunes like Pacific 202 or Cubik, doing the big-little-fish-cardboard-box thing, shouting stuff like “‘ave it!” or “get on one matey” whilst simultaneously gurning like a two year old.

Transmission Suite thankfully isn’t for those people. This is because 808 State – now just a duo of Graham Massey and DJ Andrew Barker – have used it to both experiment and take electronic music to its ingenious outer limits.

Now relocated to the site of the former Granada Television studios in Manchester, they’ve channelled source materials like Kraftwerk’s noodling, the bubbling underground techno hiss of Detroit and the BBC’s classic Radiophonic Workshop output from the 1970s, creating by design a hybrid that’s both danceable and thrillingly leftfield.

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Album Review: Starcrawler – Devour You

Posted on 10 Oct 2019 at 7:51am

As music fans, we expect a lot from our acts.

We pin our hopes on them and more often than not fall for the press headlines, ironically allowing ourselves to be set up for disappointment when they turn out not to be life-changers. We should be savvy enough to see such manipulation coming from a mile off, but the wheel keeps turning.

Feted as saviours of rock a few years ago, Starcrawler certainly had some advantages. Singer Arrow de Wilde’s parents are a drummer (Aaron Sperske, formerly of Beachwood Sparks) and a renowned rock photographer (Autumn de Wilde – it won’t surprise you to learn that the band were formed in LA). To top it off, they were able to enlist Ryan Adams on production. Yet it would be churlish to say that the band is a product of fortune; their self-titled debut album last year was a riot, the sound of Black Sabbath playing Ronettes covers. It was pop-punk at its finest, and that most underrated yet important of musical experiences: huge fun.

Thankfully, they haven’t reinvented the wheel for this sophomore offering. Glee oozes from the speakers, with added glam rock glitter. On Lizzy, de Wilde screeches like the love child of Bo Diddley and Courtney Love over furious party rock, while recent single Beat My Brains is almost literal, a marauding beast containing a key change any ‘pop’ act would be proud of.

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Album Review: King Nun – Mass

Posted on 09 Oct 2019 at 10:12am

Starting on their musical journey as punks, west Londoners King Nun have already come a long way.

Signed aged seventeen, their most immediate dilemma was how to play in venues when they themselves were underage. As tales of teenage angst go, of which this album contains many, it’s one of the more unique. Sadly, we don’t get an answer to that specific question.

Otherwise, Mass is steeped in subject matter that bedevils all of us at a certain age: melancholy, anxiety, jealousy, lust and aspiration are all universal issues but manifest themselves uniquely. King Nun take the defiant approach, wrapping lyrics around said issues in uninhibited indie rock. The influences are keenly felt throughout, but this works for them in that they can simply focus on the key messages.

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‘Comfort is not on the menu, naked emotion and catharsis is’ – The Murder Capital live at The Exchange, Bristol

Posted on 08 Oct 2019 at 10:52am

The idea of a band being a gang is the one of the oldest principles in music.

In the past it was outlined by literal uniformity; think The Beatles in their Nehru jackets, or the chain gang aesthetic of punk. The compulsory dress code isn’t so prevalent nowadays, but the gang mentality is still hearteningly rife.

Whilst generally dressed as if they come from different bands, The Murder Capital appear to have a ritual of locking foreheads in what is found to be an aggressive action in pubs and clubs throughout the land (and much like Pete ‘n’ Carl did back in the day), but tonight (7th October) is a telling insight into their intensity.

Live Review: Richard Hawley at Bristol O2 Academy

Posted on 04 Oct 2019 at 7:54am

The Sheffield cowboy rolls into town on the back of yet another accomplished album.

Released earlier this year, Further didn’t tread much new ground for Richard Hawley but nonetheless was another fine collection of songs that sat well alongside his older work, many of which are now being dusted down for this tour.

Before a note has been played tonight (October 2nd) Hawley asks the audience if they plan on being as good as the crowd in Dublin the night before. It’s the oldest trick in the book, but wryly asking when he has their maximum attention shows his experience. Needless to say, the crowd reply in the affirmative so he duly rips into the gonzo fried rock of Off My Mind.

Later on he further gets the crowd on side by recalling the story of why his daughter chose Bristol University: ‘You only have to pop to the shop and you’re wasted’. At another point he mentions his yearning for a Guinness and a member of the crowd obliges.

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