Music Reviews

Ha Ha Tonka: Heart Shaped Mountain – album review

Ha Ha Tonka bs246_hht_cover_0_0-350x350

Heart Shaped Mountain (Bloodshot Records)

CD/Vinyl/DL

Released 10 March, 2017

08/10

Ozarks band spreads their wings.

Heart Shaped Mountain is the fifth release from the band formed in Springfield, Missouri, and it shows a maturity, both in terms of song craft and in themes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, since the years have seen some band members marry and have kids.

There seems an effortless ease about the songs, which only comes from years of honing their craft. They sit somewhere between Springsteen’s Americana and the wistful indie of college rock, with the added spice of post-punk sensibilities.

The songs have a common theme of landscapes and weather, showing off a wider palette of the songwriter looking beyond their own fears and insecurities to the wider world beyond. But it all starts from within. The album opens with Race To The Bottom, a chugging, driving song. Everything, track 2, is more contemplative, with a looking back at the past and wondering if everything had turned out the way you thought it would. All With You sounds like crisp winter, a song about desire and wanting everything. Height Of My Fears is a great song about flying over landscapes, plagued by doubts, nightmares and what-ifs. The Party is a foot stomping great indie-pop song. The sort of song that would have been a break-out hit back in the days when people still bought rock singles. A song about other people growing up, leaving the party early to be with wives and kids, whilst you hang out at the party until the sun comes up. The album ends with Telluride. It’s a delta blues brought up to day. A mournful lament for things gone and a looking forward towards a new phase.

It’s a metaphor for Ha Ha Tonka’s musical journey. A musical journey that’s well worth listening to.

 

Ha Ha Tonka is on Facebook and Twitter.

 

This article first appeared on Louder Than War.

Music Reviews

Anarchistwood: The Nasty Album – album review

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The Nasty Album (Ex-Gratia Recordings)

CD/Vinyl/DL

Out Now

08/10

Anarchistwood prove there’s still life in anarchy.

You would be forgiven for thinking that anarcho-punk, as epitomised by Crass, had its death throes sometime in the late 80s. But, just as dissent and rebellion have become a hidden, ignored or just plain ridiculed by the capitalist owned media who have their own agenda to stupefy the general populace with reality television and demonise difference, so subversive art still thrives, if you only make a little effort to search it out.

Anarchsitwood are from London and they’re a fun bunch of subversives.

Crass are an obvious influence. But, where so many bands took up the Crass torch of anger and noise, few saw the sheer intelligence and humour. Anarchistwood aren’t a screeching anti everything band, they take that hippy/punk union of subversive chaotic love and peace and ally it to a musically proficient and tight sound that can veer between out and out punk to a Gang of Four funk or a Zappa style shift of rhythm. Add to this a clever use of sound bites and vocals that switch between anger and beauty, and you have a whole record that is bigger than its parts.

Rats Live On No Evil Star is rollicking fun with vocals shared between members extolling the virtues of anarchy whilst questioning the use of colonoscopy. Bomb In A Luggage Rack is a great punk song, and was rightly released as a split single with Flowers In A Dustbin, playing on the fears that plague Western society to keep people blind to the crimes of their own leaders. There’s dub here and a version of Minor Threats Straight Edge. Bucketae Cuntae looks at the role of women and men and Wake Up Marie is a homage to the killed American journalist Marie Colvin.

At the end of the album you feel you have been on a journey on a path less travelled, through a news report from the fringes populated by court jesters and insane clowns. But, as in Shakespeare’s King Lear, it is the fool who is brave enough to speak the truth to the king and the fool who is the one who sees the real truth.

 

Anarchsitwood is on Facebook and Twitter.

 

This review first appeared on Louder Than War.

Music Reviews

Scott H. Biram: The Bad Testament – album review

Scott H. Biram: The Bad Testament – album reviewScott_H._Biram_-_The_Bad_Testament_2017

Scott H. Biram

The Bad Testament (Bloodshot Records)

CD/Vinyl/DL

Released February 24th, 2017

08/10

The Texas Blues Punk Rocker one man band continues his (un)holy journey.

With the battle for America’s soul being fought, there can be no better artist to listen to at the moment than Scott H. Biram. Nobody sings about the dichotomy of the soul and raging demons better than Biram. And he’s been releasing albums since 2000, a Texas blues man for the new millennia, rampaging through show after show like a man possessed of an (un)holy spirit, laying down licks that Lightin’ Hopkins would appreciate, mixed up with the demonic growl and attack of a Lemmy. He’s a one man band tornado.

Bad Testament, his latest album, is aptly titled. This is music for sinners who long for redemption. It’s the conflicting allure of Christ and whisky. It’s music for the dirt poor whose lives stumble from tragedy to despair and who pray for a better life in the next world. Biram is the real deal, his voice coated with experience, world weariness and that hope that keeps him going. As he sings on Set Me Free, he can find no reason for the pain, he is searching for redemption, something to set him free, something to unite the sinner with righteous ways. But later, on the track Righteous Ways, he declares that with all the drinking, gambling and suffering in mind there is no time for righteous ways. He travels through tortured days, but when he declares that he is Still Around, you better believe it.

Biram mixes up blues, folk and punk rock with the soul of an outlaw. Train Wrecker is a stomping rocker like The White Stripes on amphetamines. It’s as though Biram has let loose the demons and can barely control them; they run away from him with chaos and abandon.

That Biram can produce such beautiful, fresh music from one of the oldest forms is testament to his powers as a tune and wordsmith. This is dark blues Americana rising through the Texas swamps, fecund backwoods and the forgotten shacks of a people left to rot, with their dreams thrown by the side of a dirt road. Biram writes with an ear for their stories, channelling forgotten and celebrated blues men and creating his own legend. He is a one man dynamo of blues punk and country metal. A folk troubadour examining his soul, and by extension his country’s, with brutally honest lyrics that raise the mundane into poetry. He might sing that he has no time for righteous ways, but his is one mother fucking good testament.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War

Scott H. Biram is on Facebook and Twitter.

Music Reviews

Nightingales: Become Not Becoming EP Review

Nightingales 162930

Become Not Becoming (Tiny Global Productions)

Vinyl/DL

Released January 27th, 2017

08/10

Nightingales continue to release great records.

The opening track of this 6 track EP, B-Side at Best, bursts upon your ears like a classic punk song, all urgency and energy and you could be mistaken, if you didn’t know the Nightingales, that not much has changed since they were formed out of the ashes of the first Birmingham punk band The Prefects. But if you do know the Nightingales amazing back catalogue then you won’t be surprised to hear that the punk intro soon distorts into something akin to Frank Zappa meets the B-52s.

Robert Lloyd, leader of the band, has led the Nightingales through 30 odd years of musical experimentation and delight, never quite achieving commercial glory, but picking up critical acclaim at every release. Become Not Becoming is another groove in an oeuvre of wonderful, inventive music.

The music is Devo, Beefheart, Zappa, Industrial, Jazz, avant-garde and Nick Cave all mixed up with a spice of punk mischief and a knowing wink. The band is tight, holding down the discordant rhythms and changing time signatures so tightly that one nods away barely noticing the changes. Lloyd’s voice is like a demonic vaudevillian actor on acid.  Lloyd is the crazed conductor holding it all together so that even the chaos feels controlled, though never constrained. This is music made for the sheer joy of it, with nothing to prove to anyone.

The Divorce That Never Was blows me away with its scorching buzz saw guitar and drums pounding into my brain. Too Posh To Push descends into anarchy before resolving beautifully. Booze and Broads and Beauty is a descent into a weird world and Drown wraps it all up beautifully.

Become Not Becoming is available on 10” vinyl and download.

Nightingales  are on Facebook and Twitter.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War: http://louderthanwar.com/nightingales-become-not-becoming-ep/ 

Music Reviews

The Last Shadow Puppets: Dream Synopsis EP review

THE LAST SHADOW PUPPETS the_shadow_puppets_the__dream_synopsis_ep_packshot
DREAM SYNOPSIS EP
DOMINO
EP of favourites and covers
7/10

The EP, recorded live in a day, includes new versions of album favourites Aviation and The Dream Synopsis, with covers of Jacques Dutronc, The Fall, Glaxo Babies and Leonard Cohen. Whilst this may sound a diverse bunch The Last Shadow Puppets cover them with a sleazy mix of garage 60s psych-rock and louche drag-hounds. It comes across as a mix between Naz Nomad, Lux Interior and Bryan Ferry. The Fall’s Totally Wired is a blast. Cohen’s classic, Is This What You Wanted, is turned into a morning after the night before song. The singer slumped over the piano, cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, tie askew, wondering where it all went wrong. By the sound of it the group had great fun recording these tracks and they’re great fun to listen to.

This review first appeared in Louder Than War magazine, issue 8

Music Reviews

Mick Harvey: Intoxicated Women album review

MICK HARVEY MickHarvey_IntoxicatedWomen_Packshot-262x262
INTOXICATED WOMEN
MUTE
Harvey translates Serge Gainsbourg
8/10

This is Harvey’s fourth, and final, installment of his translation versions of Serge Gainsbourg. This one is mainly male/female duets from the 60s and Harvey is joined by such chanteuses as Andrea Schroeder who provides a thrilling version of ‘Je T’aime… (Moi non plus)’ rendered into German as ‘Ich Liebe Dich… (Ich Dich Auch Nicht)’. Harvey brings a cool, no nonsense approach to the songs (some of which will be new to even French ears), providing a lush soundscape that conjures up a melancholy of sorts, a nostalgia for our own dissipated dreams and romances. Prévert’s Song, for instance, is redolent of Autumn Sundays, watching leaves falling whilst recalling the past. It’s music to wallow in. Intoxicated Women is a great end to a great series. An album to discover new passions, and remember lost ones.

This review first published in Louder Than War magazine issue 8.

Music Reviews

Buzzcocks: Spiral Scratch/Time’s Up Review

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SPIRAL SCRATCH/TIME’S UP
DOMINO
40th anniversary of classic release
10/10 9/10

Forty years ago Spiral Scratch was the first truly independent release and pointed the way forward for the DIY punk bands to follow. But the original beats them all; it still crackles with vitality and arrogant swagger. Devoto’s voice drips with world weariness, backed up by Shelley’s pop sensibilities and interpreted by buzz saw aggression. They could never have guessed that a hundred wannabes would be learning the riff to Boredom for years to come.

Time’s Up was a demo recording from 1976, with Devoto still on board, including early versions of classics such as Orgasm Addict. Much bootlegged, and never meant for official release, it stands testament to a moment in English musical history when disunited elements joined forces to create a revolution. Buzzcocks went on to craft perfect pop songs, whilst Devoto invented post-punk.

This review first appeared in Louder Than War magazine, issue 8.