Music Reviews

The Last Shadow Puppets: Dream Synopsis EP review

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EP of favourites and covers

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

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Harvey translates Serge Gainsbourg

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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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.


Music Reviews


SLEAFORD MODS sleaford_mods_english_tapas_grande
The Mods first release for Rough Trade

Andrew Fern walked into a pub and saw “English Tapas” scrawled on the menu board. The components of this dish were: half a scotch egg, a cup of chips, a pickle and a mini pork pie. “It says everything about this fucking place. It’s comedy, it’s make do, it’s ignorant and, above all, it’s shit.”

Sleaford Mods rise has been slow and steady, built on word of mouth rather than spin. English Tapas is their first album on Rough Trade – almost a major label in terms of clout. The album cover has a view from the gutter, staring up at the band as though they had just knocked you down with their aural assault. Beyond them is just the void.

They mix rap and mod culture to create something that is both universal and very English. Jason Williamson provides the venom, spitting out his attacks against all and sundry. His first person narratives, as on the opening track Army Nights, of the underclass are both funny and frightening. The music, often undervalued, is provided by Andrew Fern. The music sets the body swaying amongst detritus strewn high streets, abandoned by shops, and given over to dog shit and dog ends. It’s a dark underbelly rhythm to Williamson’s words.

Those words are always on the verge of tipping over into so much anger that the poetry collapses into profanity. As he chants on Snout: Rubbing up to the crown and the flag and the notion of who we are…Fuck off! And then there’s the surreal and commonplace: The future is a flag pissed on in a king size bag of Quavers. The terrible isolation and abandonment of modern Britain is described as: Human beings are just adjacent lines, like a Tube map, or whatever, a mass of lines that occasionally cross each other but never say anything ever.

It’s not all vitriol, there is introspection too on tracks like Time Sands and I Feel So Wrong.

They are the chroniclers of a life in Britain as lived by the majority. A life of mostly tedium, alleviated by the inertia of fags, booze and cheap drugs; of repression and suppression and a nostalgia for an illusory past of a Heritage England.

Sleaford Mods are the saviours of rock, and they aren’t even a rock band.

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


Music Reviews

Dead Can Dance: Garden Of The Arcane Delights/Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun/Toward The Within Album Reviews

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The dead dance again
8/10 9/10 8/10

4AD continue their sumptuous re-issues of Dead Can Dance with another three releases. Garden of the Arcane Delights (1984) is their only EP, here packaged with contemporary Peel Sessions. Within The Realm Of The Dying Sun (1987) is a major progression in their work with a grandiose, epic feel. Toward The Within (1993) is a live recording from Santa Monica. The band were renowned for showcasing new music live and this contains 12 previously unrecorded tracks. Too often discarded as gothic or new age, Dead Can Dance have been woefully neglected over the years.  These recordings highlight the range and scope of their talent, creating a miasma of beautiful and mysterious music that stands the test of time. An experience of aural delight.

Review published in Louder Than War Magazine Issue 7 Nov/Dec 2016

Music Reviews

This Becomes Us: Album Review

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Debut solo album from Julia Ruzicka

This Becomes Us is the first solo project from Future Of The Left’s Julia Ruzicka, who has co-opted nine different vocalists for the album, including Guy McKnight (The Eighties B-Line Matchbox Disaster) and Black Francis (Pixies). The bass is blistering and, though the vocalists each bring something unique to each song, there is a cohesiveness to the album which is interwoven with a heavy darkness that alternates between melancholic melody and downright evilness. It’s a mix of hardcore, noise and post-punk anchored by Ruzicka’s thundering bass. That it is at times also beautiful, is testament to a songwriter who knows how to add nuance to aggression and use emotion other than screaming. The album has been doing heavy rotation on my stereo since first hearing it. This is what grooves were made for.

Review published in Louder Than War Magazine Issue 7 Nov/Dec 2016

Music Reviews

Megaflora: Redwoods album review

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Mini-album from indie-punks

Punk, like most genres, fell into the trap of cliché. But punk was always more than aggression, violence, and speed, so it’s refreshing when a group of London punks release an album of jangly indie-pop. What punk was about was protesting and rebelling and lyrically Megaflora tackle issues of modern day anxiety and social and environmental pressures. The guitars strum and jangle in indie style and the vocals often call and respond between male and female to make a perfect indie pop sound. Anxious is like a punk song written by Orange Juice and Progress, with its bass and drum led sound, could be early Pixies. There is a 60s sensibility mixed with 80s indie that works very well and soon has you nodding your head and singing along. More shoe gaze than boot stomping. A band to watch.