Music Reviews

Love & Rockets: Seventh Dream of a Teenage Heaven – re-release review

LOVE AND ROCKETSR-386618-1417632015-8214.jpeg
SEVENTH DREAM OF A TEENAGE HEAVEN
BEGGARS BANQUET
1985 debut release gets Blu-Ray Audio treatment
9/10

If the legion of Bauhaus fans who bought Love & Rockets debut were expecting dark goth from David J, Danial Ash and Kevin Haskins, then they must have gone batty when they heard it. This was psychedelia from another world, more Syd Barrett than Bela Lugosi. It stands outside of time, a glorious, otherworldly listen, with beautiful soundscapes produced by John Rivers. The rhythms are relentless, such as on the classic Haunted, that create a trance like ambience. It shimmers and drips with colour. The band would conquer America on College Radio but, for some reason, failed to set the UK on fire. Listening to it now it sounds like a forgotten classic.

Trivia note: Danny Hopkins, credited for Tea and Sympathy, was renowned drummer for post-punk outfit Isolation.

This review first appeared in Louder Than War Magazine issue 9. 

Advertisements
Music Reviews

Barry Adamson: Love Sick Dick – EP review

Barry Adamson sl-113794

Love Sick Dick (Central Control)

CD/Vinyl/DL

Out Now

08/10

Adamson unleashes Love Sick Dick on the city.

To quote Barry Adamson of his new record: The blues is the blues and if the heart aches then that’s the sound that will come out whether you are playing guitar, a synth, a piano or playing futuristic guitar solos on your iphone.

Adamson is a man who should know, having earned his stripes playing with Magazine and The Bad Seeds, he embarked on a solo career of much artistic integrity and experimentation, taking in jazz, blues, rock and using all manner of instrumentation. It says much for his talent that he plays all instrumentation on this new EP. It’s a concept recording of sorts, following a desperate loner through a night in the city.

I Got Clothes opens proceedings with a booming drum and bass creating tension and excitement. A piano melody floats over the top and the vocals are breathy, soulful. It could be a soundtrack to a gangster flick; the sound of a guy getting ready for action. It’s heavy, pounding, driven.

Sweet Misery starts with a blues guitar, before an electro backbeat kicks in. This is modern blues, blues for a fractured world. There’s a feeling of oppression and darkness as the hero is dragged down by the city whilst vultures circle him. He prods at his demons like a tongue probing a broken tooth. The guitar solo soars through dark alleyways and claustrophobic nightclubs.

People Like Us is more upbeat, like some 90s track. The ego is now on fire. The clubs pulsing, pounding, smashing you into oblivion, into one single organism, one single ego.

On Golden Square is 80s pop, sultry and yearning as various forms of nightlife swirl around our hero. When things go bad he calls for his mom and his momma says it’s alright. But I’m not sure it is.

They Walk Among Us sounds like a John Carpenter score. It’s neo-goth full of  horror and tension. This is vampire blues with an unseen, silent horror stalking through the neon lit city streets. And there’s a great bass solo.

One Hot Mess brings the night to a close with dark techno rhythms. There is tension and exuberance, as disco beats swirl around our hero, enveloping him in a haze of ego and forgetfulness. He smothers a proposed conquest with his ego and bullying persistence. She’s got his number, but under duress. All that’s left is a walk home alone. In the rain.

Love Sick Dick is a lovelorn journey through the neon cities underbelly in search of desperate love and a redemption that is always out of reach. The morning will break with squalid efficiency in an embrace of smog and the detritus of the night creatures, that will be swept away with the stars, as Love Sick Dick faces another day.

A release very much recommended.

Barry Adamson is on Facebook and Twitter.

 

This review first appeared on Louder Than War.

Music Reviews

Dead Can Dance: The Serpent’s Egg/Aion/Spiritchaser – album reviews

Dead Can Dance587643aeb60a2-350x350

The Serpent’s Egg/Aion/Spiritchaser (4AD)

Vinyl

Released 17 March, 2017

09/10 09/10 09/10

The dead dance again.

4AD, over the course of a year, have been re-issuing their entire catalogue of Dead Can Dance’s albums. The final three will be released in March. All the releases have been beautiful re-issues from 4AD and the final three are no different. They showcase a band who took from the past to create beautiful, timeless music.

The Serpent’s Egg was released in 1988. It’s a sparse album. Minimalist sounds create a backdrop to Perry and Gerrard’s vocals. But less is more. Gerrard’s vocals ululate across desert sands, a cry of the soul in the void or echo in a cathedral, rising up, searching the heavens. Perry is more modern vocals and the dichotomy, rather than creating tension, creates a symbiotic whole.

Aion, released in 1990, relies heavily on Renaissance and Middle Ages musical forms. What is astonishing is that it’s impossible to tell which are traditional arrangements and which are Dead Can Dance’s. They resist the urge to modernise the forms, thus creating something that is timeless, and show that a popular art form can transcend categorisation. Again there is a sparsity to the music, with the vocals to the fore.

Spiritchaser, released in 1996, moves the focus to African and Caribbean tribal rhythms. But this is done with such consummate skill that there is no real sense of a change of direction, just a change of beat. Percussion comes more to the fore on this album with a sultry, sensuous back beat that drips with sun and heat, whilst the vocals chant and rise and fall across the grooves. Devorzhum, the albums closing track, sounds like the origins of the blues, Africa calling down the years. It’s a beautiful, elegiac, end to the album.

It would be sixteen years before Dead Can Dance released their next album, Anastasis.

This is music to sit down to and contemplate with. 4AD should be commended on re-issuing these wonderful records.

 

Dead Can Dance is on Facebook and Twitter.

This review first appeared on Louder Than War

 

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

Anarchistwoodcover-300x288

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/