Music Reviews

Pill Fangs: Pill Fangs (PF1) – Album review

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

Released: 6 October, 2017

08/10

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

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Music Reviews

The Eyelids: Cosmic Dust – Album review

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Cosmic Dust (Half Human Recordings)

Released: 21 July, 2017

08/10

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

Music Reviews

Shilpa Ray: Door Girl – Album review

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Door Girl (Northern Spy Records)

Out: September 22nd, 2017

09/10

Shilpa Ray sends us songs from New York on her new album. 

It isn’t often that I feel the thrill of anticipation of my teenage years when a favourite artist releases a new record. Shilpa Ray can still give me that thrill. For those of you unaware of her (and you should rectify that immediately) she works out of Brooklyn, and is in a long line of NY artists who chronicle the cities life in all its glory and decay. Like Lou Reed before her, she has the ability, whilst singing about NY, of making her themes universal. Indeed, I will put my neck out and say that Shilpa Ray is one of the two greatest songwriters living and working out of NY at this time, the other being Jeffrey Lewis. She makes music that few are today: intelligent, funny, subversive, concise, and a little crazy. She is a modern-day blues singer, aligned to a rock back beat and punk attitude, for the Binary Generation. Her intelligent and concise lyrics rip through the body of NY like a chainsaw going through paper, with a voice that channels blues-singers, an ancient voice coming to us down the ages of singers; it is distinctive, heartfelt, angry, passionate, waspish and sounds like it could crack at any moment. It’s conversational with many depths of emotions. Both strong and fragile. At times like we are eavesdropping on her thoughts, and at other times she’s like the weirdo screaming on the corner the truths that we are too dumb to hear. She can make me laugh and cry.

The album cover for Door Girl shows Shilpa Ray standing in a club, she remains the only point of focus, as figures move in blurs around her. She is the solid centre, the observer, whilst the people move and come and go and live and argue and love all around her. But she is not the aloof observer, she cannot but be affected by the maelstrom, but she is the one with the artists eye, who can chronicle it and try to put the chaos into some sort of understanding. The artists sending notes back to us from the frontier of our deepest, darkest and banal hang-ups. Above her is a sign that says Girls Are Free. Girls set free? Or girls free for patriarchal men to use and abuse. And girls? Shouldn’t it be women in a club?

Ray has done time working the doors of Lower East Side/New York bars and the album treats us to a dissection of that time, the people who passed through her life and the sights and sounds of a people always on the move, always looking for the next big thing, the next score, the next love.

The album opens with a chime, like an alarm clock, with NY Minute Prayer. It’s an overture to the day ahead, and it harks back to a 50s rock sound, which many of the songs on this album do, combined with a crooning male backing chorus, which creates a great juxtaposition with Ray’s sublime, broken blues voice. Morning Terrors Nights of Dread is a jaunty little tune describing the horrors of anxiety attacks. That Ray can turn the lonely despair of mental anxiety into a melancholy, toe-tapping little number, is testament to her talent. When she sings ‘I wanna fit in the picture of someone else’s dream’, you can sense the angst of being trapped inside yourself. But it isn’t self-piteous, as Ray sings that ‘no-one gets it easy’. It all builds up to a frenzied finish. Revelations of a Stamp Monkey is reminiscent of Prince. In rap form it conjures up vivid, psychedelic images of street life, with a backbeat hard and resilient. This is the imagery of detritus spluttering around a wind-blown city street, where, in the end, nothing matters except making money to pay the rent. Add Value/Add Time starts with the refrain ‘work, work work. Die, die, die.’ It has a reggae beat, a sunshine sound spilling across a daily journey to work on the MTA, and the drifting thoughts of our narrator. The vocals are a soothing curse, lulling you into a smooth groove; you can imagine her, head against the glass, dreams of a broken future as she rattles along tracks taking her to work and thinking about the journey she will take when she dies. EMT Police And The Fire Department is the lead off single for the album and it’s a fucking scorcher. Up until now the music has been more restrained than normal for a Ray album, but all hell breaks loose now. It opens with her channeling Jim Morrison and Patti Smith, spiritual noises providing the undercurrent for Ray’s beat poetry, building up to an explosion of music and screamed lyrics that will make you want to get up and smash something or join in with a primal scream of your own. It describes a club full of losers and chancers where things get so bad that all the emergency services are called. There is anger here, attacking the wasted lives: These are not the best minds of my generation. Destroyed by madness. Hysterical naked. These are not the best minds.

After Hours is a beautiful song with the emotion of an old blues singer imbued with the decay of an affair, the continual goodbyes.  A melancholy lament for another wasted love affair. It sounds like she is propping up a bar after hours, telling the barkeep her troubles and woes. Shilpa Ray’s Got A Heart Full Of Dirt is a song about the dreams of youth that crumble into dust, the horrible realisation that you’ve reached that point of no return, where you’re an adult and those dreams of the good life have faded. It’s the dreadful epiphany that ‘No one needs to know why I wake up and where I go. No one needs to know where I’ve gotta be’. Manhattanoid Creepozoids is reminiscent of a show-tune, but here it is subverted into a tale of women being beaten and raped. The singer says she’s ‘not crazy for that kind of love’ in a mastery of understatement. The last verse states: ‘And they all say “She was asking for it”. Crawling through the meat markets in some slutty outfit on a Saturday night. When the ground feels frozen and tight. But I’m not crazy bout this kind of love.’ It’s a song that hits as hard as a fist to the stomach. Rockaway Blues, another great piece of 50s rock, tells the tale of the dream lover, but finding only dust and shit where the man should be. It’s like a subtle Ramones song.

The album ends with two epic songs – interspersed by a musical interlude – that, on their own, would illuminate any album. You’re Fucking No One opens with a piano and guitar intro, a melancholy sound blowing through NY streets. Ray’s voice, all thoughtful, wistful, deep, dark, mournful, kicks in, dragging the listener into the streets with her, so we see through her eyes, through her mind, her vocals deep inside us. It’s a song about the gradual decay that is effecting all our cities. It’s a decay caused by gentrification, as money consumes, divides and reduces to nothing in a few years the communities that took decades to build.

My World Shatters By The BQE brings the album to a close. It’s an uplifting song amidst the noise and the decay of the city. ‘I’m looking forward to the sunlight laughing, behind your pollution of noise,’ she sings as trucks scream past her door. In a small apartment caught between arguing couples, rent to be paid, bodegas, and no big plans, she waits for the good times to come. Waits for the sunlight laughing. Sticking around for the good times to come. It’s a despairing hope. A reaching out with your hand through the window, into the smog and the grime, trying to feel the city, to grab a dream, and you pull the hand back and you have a can of coke and a pack of cigarettes. Looking forward to the sunlight laughing. The album ends to the sound of a subway train. And tomorrow it will all happen again.

The music is more contained and controlled on this album, compared to Ray’s previous albums, but there is an increased sense of world weariness, of melancholy, though seasoned with wit and venom. It is rare to find such intelligence coupled with great tunes. The overall effect conveyed by this modern-day blues god is as though we are listening to the singer’s innermost thoughts, which opens up our own minds to our own thoughts. She anchors her blues voice to raw rock and punk sneer, deepened with self-doubt and understanding: vulnerable yet strong, but always brave in the face of a panic attack inducing world. Often despairing, often angry, but always stunning. It is a shaky beauty, a dark glory, a sleazy cabaret of city life.

In the city decayed by gentrification, the spreading disease of corporations gobbling up the real inner cities, the bodegas and the delis, there is still a light that shines through the poet’s, Shilpa Ray’s, words.

~

You can find Shilpa Ray on line here, and are on Facebook and Twitter.

Mark Ray is not related (as far as he knows) to Shilpa Ray.

The review first appeared on Louder Than War

Music Reviews

nTTx: Of Beauty and Chaos – EP review

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Of Beauty and Chaos (WTII Records)

Out Now

08/10

nTTX release their latest EP. Is it Beauty or Chaos? 

nTTx combine industrial, trance, dance and synth-pop into an alluring mix of beats. This latest EP clearly showcases how successfully the elements are fused into a musical whole.

The EP opens with Move Dark. It has a pounding, frenzied beat. Imagine a dark club with stroboscopes disrupting the vision and turning everything into monochrome. Arms flailing at the sky, as the music takes on a shamanic quality, stripping the dancers of their inhibitions. Prey has an industrial beat, with simple structures disguising an interesting beat that yields itself to repeated plays. There is a dark melody to it.

True has a trance like sound, a modern edge to an older form of music. The lyrics state: it might not mean anything, but it’s the truth. A perfect statement for all art that comes with honesty from the artist. A slower beat introduces Earth. Drums beat like machines which are overlaid with a more intensely melancholic vocal. There is a sultry feel to it, like warm rain falling into an abandoned factory. It’s a gorgeous song. Falls Beautiful has discordant sounds, building up to a release of emotions. The final track on the EP is a cover of Survivors’ Eye of the Tiger. Now I remember when this was released and I hated it but this is a fun synth-pop version that even had me nodding my head along.

nTTx have produced a thrilling EP with an overall theme of liberation though the beauty and chaos of music. Shed your repressions and social mores and give it a spin.

 

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

 

Thus review first appeared on Louder Than War