Thursday, March 29, 2012

New : The Men - 'Leave home' / 'Open your heart'

I haven't really been paying much attention to what's been going on in Stateside indie circles recently unless girl groups have been involved, so this viril bunch of Brooklynites were a real wake up call. The Men (good name!) use garage punk as a starting point but prang off in all sorts of directions over these two records that dropped within months of each other in late 2011/early 2012 - I'm not sure if their 'Leave Home' is a nod to the Ramones record of the same name but if they're capable of cranking out a stonking album every six months then they're already in the right bracket. These dudes have been touring for a while I think but have only just shown up on the radar outside New York so keep your eye out for them on the road cos this shit is going to sound GREAT live. 'Leave Home', probably the beefier of the two albums, kicks off with woozy opener 'If you leave' before racking up greasy garage nuggets that'll spill your drink from across the room, matching facemelting scuzz guitar with atonal brass and some full-on throat martyr vocals - 'Think' sounds like Jesus Lizard in a wind tunnel and blistering freak-out 'LADOCH' almost reminds me of Khanate's suffocating black metal filthfest. Though it gets weighty in places, track titles like 'Shittin' with the Shah' suggest that these guys aren't all doom and gloom.
The more upbeat and varied 'Open your heart' still kicks your butt from the get go but mixes in brighter influences than its predecessor - if 'Leave Home' was recorded during an all-night Melvins & reefer session, they definitely laid down 'Open your heart' with the sun out. There's a a spot of surf rock on here à la Midway Still/Swervedriver ('Please don't go away') and even some mellow country acoustic stuff ('Candy'). They don't even bother with lyrics for some of the tracks, just lock down and bang out a big greasy riff until they run out of ideas of what to do with it ('Oscillation') or meander of into drowsy psychedelia ('Presence', 'Country Song'). How much forethought goes into putting these records together is debateable, but that's perhaps part of the charm - these two LPs are brimming with enough good ideas and arse-kicking riffs to suggest that The Men are cranking out killer material quicker than they can lay it down in the studio. Watch out for tour dates and another one of these before the end of the year, they're on a great run of form right now.

Check out : 'Bataille' from 'Leave Home' and 'Oscillation' from 'Open your heart'.

New : Tribes - 'Baby'

Indie seems to be in pretty rude health these days - whilst there isn't the same glut of British guitar bands that we've seen in previous years, the ones that do make it through are pretty bloody good. If you filled your nappy with excitement over the Vaccines' rollicking debut last year then Tribes' own arrival on the album market should prompt similar results. Less punked up and frantic than their forebearers, this lot are more laidback and grungey but with a brutally infectious pop edge to their songwriting. I'd go as far to say that they don't really sound British (which they are), not because they're pretending to be anything else but because 'Baby' lacks the weighty UK-centric social realism that's bogged down a lot of other bands - and, more importantly, there's way too much sunshine on this album for it to have come out of Britian. I can't put my finger on who this lot sound like, the closest I can get is the Atlantic-facing Scottish indie of the Vaselines, Teenage Fanclub and 'Good Feeling' era Travis (before the drizzle set in they were actually quite a lively lot). Tribes aren't Jocks mind you, they're straight outta Camden which is kinda surprising as their record appears blissfully free of scene-conscious posing and comes across as honest, good-natured sunshine indie. Like the Vaccines, these dudes remind me of the Britpop era when you couldn't move for cracking debuts from guitar bands across the British Isles - perhaps it's no coincidence that lead single 'We were children' references that very period (you were CHILDREN in the mid 90s???? I was watching Menswear get pelted with beercans at the Leeds Heineken festival!). Those times may not quite be upon us again but for now this is more than enough - sky high choruses, scuzz-drenched riffs and tunes that will decimate the festivals come summer, in the meantime this is your soundtrack to the springtime sunshine. Stonking stuff!

Check out : 'Sappho'. It's about lesbians! BRILLIIIIANT!

Monday, March 19, 2012

New : A Place to Bury Strangers - 'Onwards to the Wall'

Fuzz pedal fetishists return to the fray with a new stopgap release. Wooo! These guys have been keeping it pretty quiet since their face-melting second album 'Exploding Head' back in 2009 so it's good to have some new shit to wreck your eardrums again. 'Onwards to the Wall' hits the ground in much the same way the more accessible bits of their last record did, opener 'I Lost You' matches 'Keep Slipping Away' for psychedelic slipstream and the title track has a cool female vocal part to sweeten the mix. If you're not familiar with these guys already then think Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on warped vinyl with vocals recorded at the bottom of a swimming pool. As it the case for most of the new guitar music I like these days, this sort of stuff gives me a nostalgia boner for primetime shoegaze back in the early 90s - you can imagine these guys on the ITV Chart Show's indie rundown gazing menacingly from a publicity still while their music throbs in the background. Infact, I think the EP format probably suits them better than the full album alternative - as addictive as this stuff is, eking out 10-12 tracks with enough variety isn't always easy and it's probably a safer bet to crank out a 15-minute fuzzbomb every so often to keep things sounding fresh. These guys still slay live too - I don't think I've ever been so glad that I brought earplugs to a gig as the first time I saw them lay waste to La Maroq. It was positively seismic, I nearly shat my brains out via my trouser leg. Remember kiddies, plugs aren't always necessary but keep a pair in your jacket just in case! Health warnings aside, APTBS still put a foot up in that ass and Dr Sykes recommends you get on this quickety quick.

Check out : 'So far away'. I don't know what the deuce is going on in this video but the song rules.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

New : Weezer - 'The 8 bit album'

After a lifetime searching I have finally found the geekiest album of all time in the shape of this little gem, a tribute album dedicated to reworking the back catalogue of dork rock denizens Weezer via bleepy 8-bit music software. This should be agonisingly irritating, especially to the hungover shadow of myself that found it here whilst poking around online this morning but it somehow manages to eschew the trappings of hipster nerd culture and comes off as a decent collection of catchy bleep tracks. Nordloef's manic rehash of 'Buddy Holly' will put a smile on your face and Bitshifter's Europop take on 'The world has turned and left me here' would slot nicely into any DJ set with the likes of Crystal Castles, Teeth etc. What's more, it prompted me to revisit 'Pinkerton' and 'The Blue Album' for a reminder of what a good songwriter Rivers Cuomo was before his band turned into a corporate soundtrack for nerd culture and Threadless T-shirts. Despite my better judgement, I think this is ace. Scott Pilgrim would certainly approve.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New : Christian Mistress - 'Possession'

What can I say? It's just all about the metal the moment. After a rush of surprisingly diverse heavy releases over the last few months, Christian Mistress popped up on my radar with this rather fine slab of female-fronted trad metal. I don't really know much about this lot, I think this is their debut and if so it's certainly a promising start - musically they've got a lot of NWOBHM in there, think the first two Maiden albums when they were still basically a pub band rather than a stadium act writing galloping heavy metal epics. The guitarists get to noodle away a fair bit but their solos don't slow the songs down, these guys have a real aggressive motor to them and a singer whose voice fucking RIPS. She sounds like a mix of Janis Joplin, the chicks from Heart in their 70s heyday and the guy from Bad Company if someone jammed his nuts in a cutlery drawer. Without her upfront this would still be good but it'd probably get lost in the fog of stoned retro-metal groups already doing the rounds, whereas with her onboard they've got something really potent going on. This fits nicely in with the new wave of occult rock bands gaining popularity at the moment - if you caught last year's bitchtastic 'The Thousandfold Epicentre' by Dutch kooks The Devil's Blood (check out 2011's best of list for more on them) then you'll probably like this, likewise if the last Ghost record floated your Satanic boat. As the name suggests, Christian Mistress are more irreverant than genuinely Satanic but this is still a serious kick in the balls and they're not messing around with their delivery. Line this one up against some classic Diamond Head and Di'anno era Maiden, get your sweaty denim on and start annihilating beers and banging your head to this slab of stonking modern metal.

Check out : 'The Way Beyond', starts slow but you'll feel the weight soon enough.

Monday, March 05, 2012

New : Napalm Death - 'Utilitarian'

I was indulging in my typical float around the online music sites this weekend and chanced upon Napalm Death's unfeasibly great new album 'Utilitarian' which came out about a week ago. Their charming bile-spewing vocalist Barney gives the record a track by track guide here and most of the album is up on YouTube too if you fancy having a listen yourself. And as if that weren't thrilling enough, I noticed during the interview that their promotional tour for the album was coming through Paris on Sunday night so I had the pleasure of hearing most of the record live at La Maroquinerie too! I'll admit to having paid relatively little attention to what these guys have been up to over the last few years but a glance at the banker-baiting cover art for 'Utilitarian' made my prick my ears up and check this out. And I have to say I was pleasantly surprised - Napalm have lost none of their savage delivery and the current political backdrop in the UK couldn't be better suited to them returning to the fray with another potent dose of extreme metal bloodrush and politically-savvy thematic dissection. If you're unfamiliar with Napalm, let's just say they picked up where political punks like Crass and Discharge left off in the mid 1980s and fused their energy with the emergent extreme metal trends of UK Grindcore and, further down the line, the global Death Metal movement of the late 80s. Fast forward 25 years of playing in toilets, cranking out over a dozen stonking albums and steadfastly refusing to compromise and that gets you to 'Utilitarian'.

In truth I wanted this to be the blisteringly angry record that the whole 'Occupy' movement needed to shock itself into cohesive action - 'Utilitarian' doesn't quite address the matter as directly as you might hope, veering off into a diverse range of anti-establishment topics such as social exclusion, sexuality and the arms trade but the band stick to their guns as they always have and Barney give it both barrels like an angry pitbull trying to shout over a carrier jet during takeoff. They played a fair chunk of it on Sunday too and it sounds fucking great live - I last saw these guys in about 2000 and they're still as relentlessly savage as they were back then, only this time I got right down the front for a proper facefull of it all. Barney' still loveably furious onstage and bassist Shane Embury seems to be straddling the same stage of pattern baldness that he was at 12 years ago which is impressive to say the least. My pint got spilled all over my shirt in the first song and I even ended up losing my wallet getting tossed around in the pit, although one of the stewards very kindly fished it out from the post-gig swamp and gave it back to me, albeit covered in black crap and smelling of lager and footsweat. Still, my cards still seem to work. The fact that nothing got nicked surely acts as proof that these guys are still the vanguard of modern musical socialism. Anyway, 'Utilitarian' is as potent and pertinent today as 'Scum' was back in '87 - get the album and check out the tour if you get the chance, Napalm are still flying the flag for angry fucking punk rock after all these years and this is as a savage as they've ever sounded.