Music Reviews

Various Artists: Bloodshot Records’ 13 Days Of Xmas – Album review

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Bloodshot Records’ 13 Days Of Xmas (Bloodshot Records)


Released: 17 November, 2017


Bloodshot Records get into the festive spirit. Is it humbug or a sack full of goodies? 

Christmas and popular music have a rocky history; sometimes sublime, sometimes ridiculous, often vomit inducing. Once upon a time having a Christmas number one was a very big deal but, as interest in the charts has declined, so the kudos of a festive number one has diminished like the wine come Boxing Day. Record companies also used to get in on the act, using the season to be jolly as an excuse to issue a compilation of their artists slaughtering Christmas tunes. The most famous example is probably the now classic A Christmas Gift From Phil Spector. Now, Bloodshot Records have revived the tradition with their 13 Days Of Christmas collection.

Chicago based Bloodshot have an enviable roster of artists on their label and have built up the reputation of a company that actually cares more about the music than the dollar bottom line. So, here we have their first Christmas album, and it is bursting with sleigh bells, whistles, snow, heartbreak, joy, tragedy and great tunes, both covers and originals. All the joy and tragedy of Christmas are covered here. It opens with Murder By Death’s beautiful, straight, rendition of O Holy Night, which is a great scene setter and makes your feet tingle with the promise of a full sack. There is the rock ‘n’ roll Christmas of Barrence Whitfield and the Savages, Papa Barrences’s Christmas (this is a Santa with soul), the Nick Cave-esque ballad of Jon Langford and His Men Of Gwent’s Christmas Carol, Christmas Ray (which has great lines like: for those in peril on the settee), the folk of James Elkington’s Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand (which has the sound of a cold, brittle winter morning), the contemporary rock of Ha Ha Tonka’s The List (which has whistling. Every Christmas album has to have whistling), Devil in a Woodpile’s, The Pagans Had It Right, is a banjo jug band delight and then there’s the happy trails sounding version of White Christmas by Ron Gallo, that evokes the image of a cowboy making his way home across the prairie for Christmas. Enter the dark rockabilly of Dex Romweber Duo’s Dark Christmas that isn’t so much a Riders On The Storm as Santa’s Sleigh on the Storm. It’s a crazed drive through a stormy night. The Yawpers provide their more laidback rockabilly with their Xmas In Oblivion.

But the bleaker side of Christmas, the flip side that is heartbreak and loneliness, is well represented too. Ruby Boots’ I Slept Through Christmas is a classic rendition in the pop form of that first Christmas without the lover blues. Blue Snowfall by Kelly Hogan opens with an echoing piano like snowfall falling down. She has a beautiful voice, expressing the melancholy of a lonely Christmas. You can imagine her singing this in some Holiday Inn with the guests sipping martini, an open fire crackling and the band all in tuxedos and the singer singing softly at the mic that she barely holds with her fingers. The country of Zach Schmidt’s I’m Drunk Again This Christmas, skilfully brings to mind the need to get drunk in order to spend time with family at Christmas. And How To Make Gravy by All Our Exes Live In Texas, is the classic prison Christmas song that would bring a tear to the eye of the most hardened law enforcement officer.

The grooves of this record are cut from snow and tinsel and the CD version is made from the wishes of orphans, mixed with a ho ho ho and the tears of the lonely. It’s a record for life, not just for Christmas!

Thus review first appeared on Louder Than War

Music Reviews

Penny Rimbaud: What Passing Bells, Album Review

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Ex-Crass founder reads Wilfred Owen

With the recent centenary memorials for WW1, Rimbaud was moved to offer a different voice to the jingoism that so often accompanies such anniversaries. The voice he chose was the poetry of Wilfred Owen. Rimbaud brings an evocative, vibrant timbre to the words and is backed by the discordant rhythm of jazz cello and piano, that make a jarring counterpoint to the horror, beauty and dark comedy of the words. It is an elegiac album that introduces, or re-acquaints, you to Owen’s poetry, and should be required listening for anybody who believes there is glory in war. Rimbaud brings his humanity to the work, exposing, as Owen wished, the utter pity of war. Owen was dead at 25, and what future poetry was lost in those bloody French fields, we can only imagine.

This review first appeared in Louder Than War magazine, issue 13, Dec-Jan 2018

Music Reviews

Lydia Loveless: Boy Crazy and Single(s) – Album review

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Boy Crazy and Single(s) (Bloodshot Records)


Released: 13 October, 2017


A new collection of Lydia Loveless’s summery 5-song EP Boy Crazy plus six non-album singles and B-Sides released for autumn.

Lydia Loveless is making a name for herself in the States with a mix of country, punk and alternative Southern rock and lyrics of scorching self-awareness. Boy Crazy was originally a 5 strong EP released in the summer and is now given a full album release with 6 songs added that have been recorded over the period 2012-2015 (which includes covers of Kesha, Prince and Elvis Costello). If you haven’t heard Loveless yet, then this is a great place to start, showing off her song writing skills and a voice that conveys emotion straight to the heart or gut. She sings about yearning, loss and desire with a voice strong enough to convey every word, every breath with the gravitas of meaning and emotion.

The album takes us on a journey through the various stages of love. The good and the bad. Loveless sings about that all-consuming desire that lust or love can have over you. All I Know, a great raw-pop sound, describes that feeling of knowing you are being a fool but unable to break free. On All The Time we feel the yearning and the pain of that moment of admitting that she can’t have him and to move on. And the dreadful hurting of knowing that it will never happen, but that it’s the first step towards recovery. Lover’s Spat describes the feeling of actually enjoying, and thinking it’s normal, to be in an abusive relationship. Boy Crazy is a great pop punk sounding song about that teenage feeling of desire and love that consumes a teenager’s hours. Water is a more mature song with a slower back-beat and Loveless’s voice so full of emotion that it settles into your brain and sends shivers down your backbone. It’s a genuine singer exploring genuine emotions; a true voice drifting over the music to places where we cannot escape the emotion of memories, the auto suggestion of sad songs, until, we feel, like Loveless, that ‘it all comes back like we’re losing them again’.

Mile High raises the mood with the exuberance of a new relationship when everything is fresh and exciting. Of just enjoying the desire and the time spending it with someone who drives you crazy. Blind is a great cover of Kesha’s song, describing that moment in a bad relationship when you just can’t take any more and the realisation that they are worse off without you than you are without them. Loveless turns a cold electronic pop song into a beautiful alternative country song. She makes it her own. Come Over describes the affair and the awful dichotomy between what the body wants and what the mind knows it should do. But it has great humour, as Loveless sings: I don’t wanna wreck your home, but could she have an accident? I mean something small, to get her out of the way. Just a little one? Falling Out Of Love is a great country song about suffering at the hands of a lover who treats her bad. She knows he’s bad for her but can’t let go, and the voice breaks with emotion because she knows she never will be free.

The album ends with two great covers. I Would Die 4 U is a stripped-down version of Prince’s Purple Rain era song, and reminds us how much the man is missed. Alison is the Elvis Costello song from his first album. I’ve always considered it a stone-cold classic so it was with some trepidation that I listened to this. But Loveless does it supreme justice, just a guitar and her voice, making the song sound fresh and infusing it with raw feeling. There were tears in my eyes by the end of it.

Lydia Loveless is an emerging talent who has found her own voice and isn’t afraid to lay herself bare. Backed by great musicians and great tunes, she’s a talent to watch.



You can find Lydia Loveless is online here, and is on Facebook and Twitter.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War.

Music Reviews

The Jazz Butcher: The Wasted Years – Album review

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The Wasted Years (Fire Records)


Released: 20 October, 2017


4CD retrospective from those witty purveyors of indie rock, The Jazz Butcher. 

The Jazz Butcher were one of those undervalued indie bands that proliferated in the 80s. Fronted by Pat Fish, with a perfect guitar foil in Max Eider, and joined for a while by a Bauhaus, they sounded like a Monochrome Set/Smiths/Everything But The Girl mash up. Between 1983 and 1986 the Butcher released four albums and a string of 45s for Glass Records. The four albums, long out of print, have been released in a deluxe box set by Fire Records. It feels long over-due, like welcoming back a much loved eccentric uncle who you last saw popping out for some ready rub twenty years ago.

Bath of Bacon, their first album for Glass, has the feel of a confident band knocking off songs inspired by long drunken nights and parties involving too many illegal substances. It feels like a band not quite fully formed. But there are great songs here. There’s the happy hour in the abattoir of the Jazz Butcher Theme, the wonderful mellow guitar and clever lyrics of Party Time, the rockabilly vibes of Bigfoot Motel, the dangers of Zombie Love, and the wonderful Girls Who Keep Goldfish, which is about…er…girls who keep goldfish.

For their next album, A Scandal In Bohemia, the Butcher are joined by David J. of Bauhaus, and it hits the ground running and never lets up. I hadn’t listened to the album in many years and had forgotten just how bloody good it was. This is a band on top form, with a great mixture of clever, quirky, moving songs that once heard, always remain in the mind. It opens with the glorious smooth pop of Southern Mark Smith; a song that in any other universe would have been a smash hit. Maybe it still is. Real Men is a cutting indictment of the male sex. When Fish sings: ‘They ask punk rockers if they’re queer’ and ‘Real men beat up blacks and faggots’, you can’t help but wonder if anything has changed since this classic was first cut. Soul Happy Hour is possibly the greatest song written about drinking ever. Marnie is a stupendous song, falling down like heavy snow on the steppes of mother Russia. A big band back beat to a song about Marnie who is going a little crazy. Alternative songs of the 80s were replete with slightly off kilter, if not crazy, women. Will the snows never cease? Marnie wants to keep wild cats in her room. And why not? Caroline Wheeler’s Birthday Party is a hard rocking, heavy sounding pummelling of the brain with some crazy man rumbling, mumbling ‘Esther’, whilst Fish propounds on ‘big’ things. It’s a song made entirely from the skin of dead Jim Morrisons. Mind Like A Playgroup is a perfectly reasonable philosophy, which features Danny Hopkins, of post-punk band Isolation, on rubber duck. Girlfriend is another perfectly crafted little pop song, with a tune that raises you up and drops you down. It’s moments of teenage love perfectly recounted.



Sex and Travel, their third album, continues in much the same vein, but with a sense of the songs being better constructed and more thought being put into the actual process of writing and recording. It’s a mesmerising mix of sophisti-pop and indie, with a dash of cynicism, weirdness, and a cutting sense of humour. The Human Jungle is sultry, clever pop. Big Saturday is a cross between Everything But The Girl and the Monochrome Set, with lush arrangement and production by John A. Rivers. The typewriter driven rhythm of Holiday recounts the adventures of an Englishman abroad, whilst Only A Rumour is a stunningly beautiful song about how to cope, or not, around other people after a break-up. Walk With The Devil has an excellent opening and build up, until you can almost feel the winter weather in your face and the coldness of your heart. A bitter, beautiful break-up song. The guitar line is as brutal and clear as the vocalist’s brush-off. The album ends with Down The Drain. It’s a quirky little number about drinking, which is funny, and then devastating.

The final album in this set is Distressed Gentlefolk. Here we find the Butcher producing more polished pop songs that pillage the decades to try and create an instant classic. It’s not quite that, but it’s still a forgotten beauty. It opens with the country rock of Falling In Love. Still In The Kitchen has a melancholic, psychedelic sound akin to the Velvet Underground. There’s the jaunty rockabilly of Hungarian Love Song, and the jazzy late night feel of The New World. Domestic Animals muses on those pets who don’t get sex in the spring like their wild cousins. Nothing Special is a lively pop song about doing nothing special. The album is closed by Angels, a melancholic song that sounds like the morning after the night before when something really bad happened.

The Jazz Butcher existed in that part of our lives which was always student digs, disappointing parties and long nights wondering about the meaning of it all with a wry, quirky sense of humour. The songs are full of nervous love affairs in elevators going nowhere and parties of the mind where everything slips into chaotic reality. They are a band well worth re-visiting or discovering for the first time. A release very much recommended.


You can find The Jazz Butcher on line here, and are on Facebook.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War

Music Reviews

Julie & The Wrong Guys: Julie & The Wrong Guys – Album review

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Julie & The Wrong Guys (Dine Alone Records)

Released: 8 September, 2017


Canadian super group fronted by Julie Doiron unleash debut album. 

Julie & The Wrong Guys blast out of your speakers  from Canada, and what an excellent noise they make. They are fronted by Julie Doiron, something of a Canadian rock hero who was in the band Eric’s Trip at the age of eighteen, backed by the Cancer Bats rhythm section of Mike Peters and Jaye Schwarzer, and with Eamon McGrath on guitar. This is a return to a grunge, garage based rock that uses Doiron’s beautiful voice as a foil, a juxtaposing, against the fuzzed out, heavy beat rock of the band. It works best when the heaviness of the music anchors you in place whilst the vocals soar and swirl; a light yet strong vocal counterpointing the harsher edged band.

Many of the songs are about lost loves and relationships floundering on the rocks of boredom and a missing sense of direction. There is a nostalgia, a longing for the excitement and shared sense of direction that the relationships had at the start. The harsh, often brutal, but sometimes mesmerizingly uplifting music, acts as a counterpoint to Doiron’s vocals that often sound as if they might break under the emotional strain. Images of water also permeate the lyrics (perhaps not surprisingly for a New Brunswick native), like memories eddying and pulling her down, or holding her back. The water acts as a metaphor for the fluidity of life, of love, of memories.

The album opens with Love and Leaving and sets the scene perfectly. It has a distorted, fuzzy, heavy sound with the vocals soaring over it all in a breathless, relentless beat. Lead off single You Wanted What I Wanted has punk attitude in spades, with the lyrics, about a relationship gone bad, as sharp as barbed wire. It pummels along with a great beat, building up into an optimistic finish about fresh starts.

Condescending You originally appeared on a Doiron solo album of 1997 which, in the hands of the Wrong Guys, becomes a towering rocker that hits every mark with a brutal punch. Heartbeats is a great break-up song. The lyrics heartbreakingly describing the moment when the future you thought you were going to have is ripped away with just a few words from your lover. The song builds up with unrelenting tension and anger – but the heart must go on. Tracing My Own Lines is a slower song with an ominous, almost psychedelic feel to it. Call My Own Shots is a song about all the self-doubts that can hold us back, can even stop us getting out of bed in the morning. It’s about finding the energy and the belief to go on, and not be ‘bullied by yesterday’. Farther From You is a heavy, pounding rocker that was originally written during a Cancer Bats’ session but never used by the band. Calm Before The Storm is a beautiful song, the vocals like an elegy to the sea, about that moment that we can look back on and see as a brief moment before everything went crazy. Broken Pieces/Barely Cold is another song about a broken love affair. The singer walks away with nothing to show for the time given to the relationship. The album closes with Hope Floats. The song has a disconcerting sound to open it. There is a sense of being lost, of wandering, of water spinning you out of control. It all builds up to a majestic, operatic, ending to the song and the album.

Julie & The Wrong Guys have crafted an album that is a perfect garage band album full of nuances that reward on repeated play. Recommended.


You can find Julie & The Wrong Guys on line here, and are on Facebook and Twitter.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War

Music Reviews

Pill Fangs: Pill Fangs (PF1) – Album review


Pill Fangs (PF1) (Sunstone Records/Suppressed Records)

Released: 6 October, 2017


Acoustic/folk wordsmith revisits his youth to re-create the NY 70’s sound. 

Dan Haywood, Pill Fangs guitarist/singer/songwriter is a Black Country wordsmith, more accustomed to working in the acoustic and folk circles on such acclaimed albums as Dapple (2013), New Hawks: Field Notes (2012) and Dan Haywood’s New Hawks (2010). For the group Pill Fangs he is joined by Richard Turner (of Three Dimensional Tanx), Rob Daniels & Simon Fletcher, to create a glorious, thrilling homage to New York rock of the 70s. In particular the nervous, jittery, amphetamine driven rock of Richard Hell & The Voidoids, and the simple yet surreal blistering of the Velvet Underground/Lou Reed, with hints of Talking Heads.

The album sounds like a liberation for Haywood, something that rock can offer from the chains of a folk scene that can still be precious. Do we hear anyone shouting Judas as they listen to this record? It’s recorded in mono which in itself shows a bloody single-mindedness, but it works perfectly. This is a band having fun with the creativity spurting out in a rush of adrenaline. This is music that is angular, jerky and nervous. The guitar solos are edgy, pulled and bent like a nerve stretched to breaking point, or like a stuttering, spasming teenager on a first date. There are false starts, false ends and pauses. The rhythm is a cardiac arrest waiting to happen. A melancholic paranoiac nightmare of tension trying to break out into creativity.

However, Haywood does not succumb to a NY drawl, his vocals have a distinctly Black Country twang and lyrically he lets his mind wander to create surreal images, street smart cool and a dreaming scenescape.

The opening track, Bison Grass, sets out the premise with a blistering wall of sound and lyrics proclaiming a change from folk to rock. This is followed by three songs that are quick, nervous and short assaults on the brain, sounding like Richard Hell spliced with Lou Reed. We then get Surface, an eight minute long Velvet Underground influenced song. It builds up the tension with pounding, bestial drums, a heartbeat getting faster and faster in a city full of too much noise and pressure, filled with crazy eyed mad men, the hands of grasping beggars and the fading away of beauty. The vocals are edgy, sounding on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and lyrically its a stream of consciousness that mentions Blackpool and Sharon Stone. Mary Rose reminds me a bit of the Modern Lovers and I Turned A Corner has a more funkier sound. Material Girl has a simple, savage beat. This is Rock and Roll distilled to the agitation of young males – all jerky, spasmodic, energetic, sexual energy sublimated through guitars, bass and drums. It’s the classic prom girl put down conjuring up the American mores of John Hughes flicks that gave us the stereotype of US colleges where even the poor kids had cars. After another heavily influenced Lou Reed song – Ax and Luggage – we get a blistering version of Cohen’s Tower of Song. It’s a glorious, back to basics version that substitutes Lou Reed for Hank Williams in the 100 floors above me line. It’s all finished off by the song Exodus, which has a great funky rock riff which finally descends into feedback for a few minutes.

Though it wears its influences on its sleeve, Pill Fangs do it so well that it just makes you want to re-visit the source material. This is a love letter to NY alternative rock. It’s music for neurotic nerds, paranoiac paramours and wired weirdos.

Put it on your stereo and tell your friends it’s a long-lost bootleg of an unreleased Richard Hell classic, and see if they call you a liar.

A release very much recommended.

You can find Pill Fangs on line here, and are on Facebook and Twitter.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War

Music Reviews

The Eyelids: Cosmic Dust – Album review

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Cosmic Dust (Half Human Recordings)

Released: 21 July, 2017


Sophomore album from garage Cornish band keeping rockabilly fresh and rockin’.

Over the past few years there has been a garage punk roots rock renaissance coming out of Cornwall that is reminiscent of spontaneous music movements of many years gone by. Cornwall, if you’re a music fan, is clearly a great place to be at the moment. One of the leading luminaries of this movement are The Eyelids, who have just released their second album.

The Eyelids are a four piece with the Fowler twins of Louise on upright bass and Michelle on drums, Sharon Mitchell on guitar and Kelly Green on vocals. They combine the psychobilly of the Cramps, the attitude of the Slits, the garage punk of the Seeds and the salty sea air goodness of Cornwell. The album artwork is a classic 60s garage-psych pastiche, with our heroes standing on a mysterious planet’s rugged coastline with some swirling sea monster tentacles behind them. The album delivers exactly what the cover shows. The Eyelids have a great rhythm section, which all good psychobilly bands need, and the double bass gives it that hard thumping sound and which gives license to let the guitar run raged and crazy. The vocals come across as a cross between a nicely spoken Charthouse girl and the spitting fire of a hellcat.

The album opens with Cosmic Dust which has a heavy rockabilly riff and a surfing fuzz guitar solo. We Always Want More is a bar room guitar boogie sliced up with American rockabilly. It’s racing down the highway to the next bar, the next one-night romance. Things slow down a bit on All Roads Lead To Hell. There is a heavy beat rumbling away with scatter gun guitar spitting across the rhythm. Things get very pirate-a-billy on Custom Of The Sea, a great jaunty sing-along-a-shanty. Go Johnny Go has a classic rockabilly guitar intro. It’s a great rocker that reminds me of Vince Taylor’s Brand New Cadillac. There’s a touch of The Meteors on You Can’t Lie To Me. It’s all jerky guitar and rumbling bass. There’s a bit of gothabilly on Vampire and a sleazy swamp style on Your Own Worst Enemy that shows they aren’t just a one trick pony. The standout track on the album is Louise. This is classic rockabilly and sounds so authentic that I had to check it actually was The Eyelids who wrote it. The drums and the bass are in pounding rhythm heaven and the guitar is like a rattlesnake twisting and turning, whilst the vocals drip with desire.

The Eyelids take a classic form and give it a modern edge, keeping the sizzling flame of rockabilly alive for a new generation. Check ‘em out!


You can find The Eyelids on line here, and are on Facebook and Twitter.


This review first appeared on Louder Than War