16 February 2009

The Rakes - Klang!

The curse of the third album has affected a number of bands as of late. The Kaisers have pretty much fallen from their position of golden boys of indie disco after "Off With Their Heads", My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy have become the targets for all hatred of emo, Bloc Party's "Intimacy" dropped under the radar about a week after release as did Razorlight with "Slipway Fires" and The Futureheads with "This Is Not The World". Of course, the "curse" used to be for the second album, but it appears that with so many bands upping their game for their sophomore effort, they fall at the hurdle for their third. The Rakes' debut "Capture/Release" is an undeniable modern classic, follow-up "Ten New Messages" was harshly criticised upon release but was still distinctly average. Now, with new album "Klang!", recorded in and influenced by Berlin, it remains to be seen whether the band is back on track.

Any album that begins with the line "Sometimes you can't smell the shit 'til you're in it" is on to a winner straight away, so the signs are good with opener "You're In It", which sounds a bit like "Violent" from "Capture/Release". But from here for a good few tracks, The Rakes turn into caricatures of their former selves. The songs in particular aren't bad, just indistinguishable from the rest of the crowd. The only hope is that they somehow burst into life when played live. The album's lead single "1989" is definitely the highlight up to now. A bonkers burst of energy to throw yourself around the room too along with a "la la la" chorus puts it amongst the best of The Rakes' arsenal. "Shackleton" is just as mad and just as good. "The Light From Your Mac" is built around what sounds like an Interpol bassline and oh-so-modern lyrics about a Mac that will most likely be dated in a few years, though that doesn't stop it from being a tune. "Muller's Ratchet" is possibly the worst song on the album, coming off like The Libertines if they got real and stopped dreaming of Albion and Arcadia, but much, much better. Album closer "The Final Hill" is quite an ominous-sounding anti-institution rant that is the best example of The Rakes' "Jam-meets-Joy Division" sound and shows they still have ideas left.

After a minor slip-up with "Ten New Messages", it would appear that The Rakes are back on their way to the top of the indie pile, even if "Klang!" is just half an hour long. Sure, there are a handful of below-par tracks, but in the age of shuffling and iTunes, they can easily be ignored. They may never hit the heights of "Capture/Release" again, but as long as The Rakes keep churning out nuggets of indie-rock madness then they'll have a long future ahead of them.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "You're In It", "1989", "Shackleton", "The Final Hill",
FOR FANS OF: The Jam, Joy Division, The Maccabees, Franz Ferdinand, The Streets, Arctic Monkeys


14 February 2009

Mongrel - Better Than Heavy

A star-studded cast of The Rev Jon McClure, Andy Nicholson, Matt Helders, Drew McConnell, Jagz Kooner and Lowkey joined together to create Mongrel last year, which is, in their own words "a coalition of the willing. A force of nature based on musical artists who want to say something about the world they live in and be free of the merry go round of make record release make record release." The Kooks they are not. You've got to give them credit for having the balls to this kind of brave move especially when speaking out and super groups aren't exactly in vogue at the minute. Although it isn't commercial suicide for those involved, as there are enough hooks to reach a wide audience and even get into the charts. Even if that isn't the point of the album.

Despite this good cause, for the most part "Better Than Heavy" feels like being set upon by a group of right-on, left wing buskers in a dark alley. Opener "Barcode" is highly grating despite a very catchy chorus. "Lies" is an okay song but the point of it is nothing new, especially to anyone who's listened to a Bill Hicks routine ("The whole country is full of lies/you're all gonna die and die like flies/I don't trust you anymore or what you're saying") although it does have a great line in "Gordon Brown's a proper gangster". Somehow I can't imagine him in da ghetto wearing Boxfresh gear or even in Little Italy in 1930s NYC, but that'll probably do more for his yoof approval rating than any spin doctor.

"Hit From The Morning Sun" is quite bland considering it's the second single from the album, just a run-of-the-mill indie ska tune. There may be method in this madness but I can't see it. Debut single "The Menace" is a standout track, a great example of the band members individual talents, even if the sentiment of the track is nowt new. The eye-opening (well, for me anyways) "Art Like That" features a plethora of rappers, who I'm not even gonna pretend I know who they are, spitting more syllables in three minutes than I've said in the past week. As the album goes onto it's seventh track it mellows out and gets less in-your-face, but loses something. The remaining tracks are by no means poor; "Alphabet Assassins" in particular has a clever concept and turns out to be a great song. But the anger and vitirol suits Mongrel much better than the laid back ska-pop of album closer "All Your Ever Afters". Musically "Better Than Heavy" is spot on, mixing indie with rap and bits of reggae, dub and ska with great aplomb. But lyrically, McClure comes off as a little deluded and too right-on in some issues, which makes the album seem like a bit of a vanity project, one for him to say "I'm reet liberal and all that "voice of a generation" stuff, me". Still, it's better than another Reverend & The Makers album.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Barcode", "The Menace", "Art Like That", "Julian", "Better Them Than Us", "Alphabet Assassins"
FOR FANS OF: Public Enemy, The Clash, The Specials

Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You

The newly Twitter-addicted princess of pop has returned after two years of being a "celebrity". After exploding on to the pop scene with "Smile", Lily Allen has gone from ska-inflected blogger to the tabloids own version of Paris Hilton/any random party girl to a proper pop star. But the ska influence has disappeared from her sound, and it's for the best.

"INM,IY" begins with the big electropop sounds of "Everyone's At It", surely the best use of sirens since Klaxons' "Atlantis To Interzone". Okay, the lyrics aren't exactly subtle about ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE USING DRUGS apparently. It's sure to get right up stuffy Daily Mail readers' noses, but to everyone else, this kind of shock tactic is a little on the weak side. Coupled with the superb Number One that is "The Fear", it seems like Miss Allen is vying for the title of the "Voice Of The Nation". Based on the first two efforts, she's in pole position. But from here on in, "INM,IY" falls a little flat. Lily certainly knows her way around a couplet or two, for example on the countrified pop of "Not Fair": "There’s just one thing that’s getting in the way/When we go up to bed, you’re just no good, its such a shame/I look into your eyes, I want to get to know you/And then you make this noise and its apparent it’s all over". If you were on the end of that putdown, then I feel sorry for you.

The lyrics and Allen's voice are pretty much the two best point of the album. The music varies from electro pop to Eurovision-esque to music hall, but it's just not that interesting as "Alright, Still". "Who'd Have Known" is just a simple pop ballad of longing, but the melody is taken from Take That's "Shine" and despite that being a classic song, it does nothing to help lift this. "Fuck You" is a pretty obvious attack on George Bush/The BNP/basically anyone right wing. Whilst it's a great sentiment, the excessive swearing is just attention seeking, however catchy it may be.

Apart from a few dashes of brilliance, "INM, IY" is average for someone of Allen's talents. Although she's a better pop star than she is a socialite, she may want to spend a little more time on album number three. Obviously the fact that the album is below Allen's rather high standard won't affect any chart success, but we can live in hope that her next album will be a proper pop classic. Perhaps.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Everyone's At It", "The Fear", "Fuck You", "Not Fair"
FOR FANS OF: Kate Nash, Ladyhawke


10 February 2009

TRACKS - 10.02.09 - The Maccabees, Flashguns, Hatcham Social

The Maccabees - No Kind Words
"Colour It In", The Maccabees debut album, was one of the best British debut of recent times (which mean it was pretty damn good going on the quality of many other first albums that have been released in the last five years). Despite every song having the potential to be a chart hit, the band never hit the heights of, say, Kaiser Chiefs. But now they return, with "No Kind Words" taken from their yet-to-be-released second album. "Wall Of Arms". It's a definite change from the sound of debut, coming on Joy Division; all low bass, prominent drums and a spacey echo on both the guitars and Orlando Weeks' voice. But where The Maccabees differ from Curtis, Hook, Sumner and Morris is the amount of hooks throughout, as well as the typical Maccabees racket that ends the song. It's also a free download, so what have you got to lose really? Get it and be enlightened.
FOR FANS OF: The Futureheads, The Cure, The Rakes

Flashguns - Locarno and Ro Shambo
This young London-via-Brighton mob are almost like a melting pot of a selection of some of the best bands over the last 30 years. There are elements of The Smiths, The Cure, The Killers and so many more in these two songs, and the future looks bright for them. "Locarno" is a jangly, jittery slice of smooth, synth-infused indie, which could become a big hit. "Ro Shambo" on the other hand, is the perfect vehicle for Sam Johnston's plaintive yet soulful vocals, with the band restraining themselves, whilst demonstrating their talent for creating something as danceable as it is melancholy. They'll go far if they keep to this standard.
FOR FANS OF: The Killers, The Maccabees, Cajun Dance Party

Hatcham Social - Murder In The Dark and Mimicking Me
It's been 22 years since The Smiths officially split. Whether you're looking for something to fill the void or you can't stand Morrissey, but like Marr then this lot are for you. Comprised of three of the best-named people ever in Tobias & Finnigan Kidd (ex-Klaxons drummer, don'tcha know) and David Javu, Hatcham Social are inspired by children's fiction and 1980s indie, and it certainly shows. "Murder In The Dark" could be taken straight from "The Queen Is Dead". The drums gallop relentlessly throughout the track, the bass is funky and elastic, the guitar sound is as jangly as a bin bag full of 20ps. To add to this, the song has a distinct air of melacholia and its subject matter is straight from the "Morrissey Book Of Songwriting". "Mimicking Me" is pretty much more of the same, and makes for a great listen.
FOR FANS OF: The Smiths

9 February 2009


This appears this morning on Blink-182's website
New album? New tour? Possible Reading/Leeds spot?
Goodbye to Angels & Airwaves and +44?
This former pop-punk enthusiast can only hope....

8 February 2009

Spider And The Flies - Something Clockwork This Way Comes

With an album title that alludes to "A Clockwork Orange" and made by Rhys "Spider" Webb and Tom "Tomethy Furse" Cowan of The Horrors, you know you're in for something that is more than a bit out of the ordinary. For the most part, the album sounds like it's from the soundtrack of a sci-fi/horror flick from the 60s or like sounds you'd expect to be eminating from a mad scientist's lab.

"Clockwork" is greatly influenced by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and its retro-futuristic sounds. It isn't something you'd really wan played on a night out, and it's not chart-topping indie-pop. But it is experimental, it is instrumental and represents the confidence and talent of its two creators. And what's more, "Clockwork" is infintely more listenable than The Horrors, which is always a plus...although not exactly a hard thing to be.

ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Jungle Planet", "Metallurge", "Teslabeat" FOR FANS OF: The Horrors, Holy Fuck
Red Light Company - Fine Fascination

You know Snow Patrol right? Those well known purveyors of mum-rock (like dad-rock, but not angry, dangerous or ballsy)? Even though they're not cool or rock 'n' roll doesn't mean they're a bad band, just a bit vanilla. But luckily Red Light Company are here! Like a good/interesting version of Snow Patrol, with more indie cred. Tipped by some as a big band for 2009, their sound is pretty much your basic radio-friendly indie rock. There is a question mark whether they will be overshadowed by White Lies, what with all their hype and a Number One album.

There isn't too much that stands out immediately, apart from the singles which include "With Lights Out", "Meccano" and the future classic "Scheme Eugene". When "Fine Fascination" is good then it's very good. Most songs could be big hits, with their big hooks and easy on the ear sound. But when it isn't so good then it's just a bit samey. But the album does pick up for the final three tracks. "Meccano" is just as good as anything around at the minute in a similar vein. "When Everyone Is Everybody Else" starts off a bit like "Be Safe" by The Cribs but turns out to be actually quite epic, a world away from the scuzzy indie of the Jarman brothers. The final track "The Alamo" is the best on the album, just as epic as the preceding track, and sounds like the younger sibling of Biffy Clyro's "Mountains".

The album could turn out to be a grower, but at the minute the lack of variation blocks off any real feeling of greatness that could come through. This won't stop them from getting huge though, and if they're not headlining V Festival by album three, then I shall eat my hat. After going out and buying one first.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Scheme Eugene", "Meccano", "The Alamo"
FOR FANS OF: Snow Patrol, White Lies, The Enemy


Okay, so it's still just about winter. It's snowing and the wind is as bitter as a Liverpool fan on Thursday morning. There's a recession going on. Things aren't looking
too brilliant at the minute (unless you're an Evertonian). But there is one certified antidote to any seasonal blues in the form of Wilmington band The Love Language. Just under 30 minutes long, it packs enough joy and sprit into its nine songs to eradicate even the worst winter woes.

Quite a few comparisons have been made about TLL already. "Deerhunter & White Rabbits listening to lots of the Phil Spector Christmas album and soul." "The Beatles....Stevie Wonder.....Thin Lizzy". Whilst these may be a bit wide of the mark, TLL are a great lo-fi indie-pop band with a whole lotta soul. There's a few similarities with Cold War Kids and Wild Beasts (just without the falsetto and weirdness), but the band are definitely on their own in the current musical climate. Such is the quality of the songs on the album that if TLL were on "Tips for 2009" lists then they would certainly top a chart or two.

The album deserves repeat listenings, if only for pop gems such as the infectious "Sparxxx" and lilting "Nocturne". Album opener "Two Rabbits" is the kind of song that makes you want to spend a night sitting in front of a roaring fire, doing absolutely nothing and loving it. "Lalita" is a highlight of the album and already a contender for pop song of the year. The album may be short (with only one song going over 4 minutes), but it's definitely sweet and however much you spend buying it will be money well spent.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: The whole album
FOR FANS OF: Wild Beasts, Cold War Kids, Guillemots, Jens Lekman


4 February 2009

TRACKS - 04.02.09 - Pete Doherty, Ida Maria, U2, Dananananaykroyd

Pete Doherty - Last Of The English Roses
It was a little obvious that old Pete would have something patriotic-sounding, some "dreamin
g of Albion" schtick somewhere on his solo album. But it ain't what you'd expect from the tabloids second favourite crackhead (the first being Winehouse), which I'm guessing is soft acoustic strums and a couple of lullaby strings. "...English Roses" has quite a dubby feel overall, sounding more like Franz's "Blood" than Doherty's previous efforts, but that's the only point of interest in the whole song. The chorus is nowhere near as catchy or anthemic as Pete would like to think, and the song ends up as a dirge. Stick to the day job mate.

Ida Maria - Oh My God
Nope, not a Kaisers cover (like I thought at first) and a world away from the plastic pop-punk of "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked", which is all the better. Ida Maria is yet another Scandanavian popstrel, she's the slightly more dangerous alternative to her contemporaries, such as Annie and Lykke Li. Catchy as a STD covered in glue, this should have you joyously pogoing around wherever you are (although I advise against doing it in school/work). If you don't, you have no soul...either that or have no taste for good old rock 'n' roll fun.

U2 - Get On Your Boots

Yep, they're back. Just as the world has gone into recession, Labour stumbles from crisis t
o crisis once again and many many other things to worry about, U2 return to heap more MOR rock misery on us. Maybe I'm being a little unfair, as they have made some great songs and provided a soundtrack for so many TV adverts with "Vertigo" and "Beautiful Day". I'm guessing they're trying to reinvent themselves as camp glam-rockers this time around, although they're a bit late seeing as the Manics did that two years ago. Musically it's average for a band as talented as them with The Edge chucking out a second-rate Jimmy Page riff, presumably with his eyes closed. There is one sign of hope though, with Sir Lord Saint Bono proclaiming "I don’t want to talk about wars between nations". Thank fuck for that.

Dananananaykroyd - 1993
Try saying that when you're pissed. Or even sober. I'm just about getting my head around it now. One of the big names being tipped by those on the alternative side of the the music spectrum to make it relatively big this year are a shouty and loud bunch. "1993" seems to be like they've gone through a pick 'n' mix of some of the best music of the last couple of years going from the choppy guitars of Maximo Park to pounding drums The Hold Steady and a hell of a lot of elements of Biffy Clyro's sound. It ends similarly to Grammatics' "The Vauge Archive", slowed down, much calmer and softer before one last crunch of distortion. Promising, if not entirely original to these ears.