Thursday, 28 April 2011

CKY - B-Sides & Rarities

CKY - B-Sides & Rarities
Genre: Rock/Alternative
Rating: 3/10

When a band releases a compilation album it is more often than not an attempt to fulfill a record contract that ties them to a label for 5 albums or an attempt to raise money for future recordings/touring. Whilst this is a good way for bands to avoid legal battles with record labels and can help avoid lengthy periods of non-activity it doesn't necessarily lead to the greatest products. Another issue with compilations especially those that group together b-sides and rarities is the quality of material. Essentially bands are best placed to decide what works and what doesn't anything that doesn't work will be scrapped or maybe put on the back of a better single making B-sides and rarities often a disorganised jumble of half baked ideas with little artistic value. Unfortunately that is exactly the problem we have here.

CKY as a band have produced four solid albums on major labels each with their own merits and strengths. The bands sound mixes together complex metal inspired guitar work with simplistic accessible song structures and melodic vocals. This has worked well on all of their studio albums to date. Alongside this the band have also put forward several alternative mixes of tracks for Jackass affiliated movies and Dvd's. A lot of this material wasn't included on the bands albums as they were merely the band goofing around playing stupid crass comedy backing tracks that fitted in with stunts and skits from the CKY dvd series.  "Fat Fuck" and "Santa Clause Is Coming" are perfect examples of this sort of material, whilst they may provide a cheap laugh once or twice without the visual slapstick provided on the dvd's the songs are dull and lifeless. It's not all bad though, tracks like "Halfway House (Original Take)" and the acoustic version of "Don't Hold Your Breath" are welcome additions to any completist's collection. For the most part the collection seems very lazy with several tracks simply seperated out from the long hidden track at the end of the bands first album. The main issue with this album is that not only is there a lack of coherent flow but the majority of these so called rarities have been widely available on itunes and other reissued releases.

Overall the album is one that only the die-hard CKY fan will appreciate. Even with that in mind it's hard to imagine a devotee wouldn't class many if any of the material here as "Rare". My recommendation would be to avoid this or simply cherry pick the best bits via itunes.

Download: "Halfway House (Original Take)"

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Sucioperro - The Heart String And How To Pull It

Sucioperro - The Heart String And How To Pull It
Genre: Alt. Rock/Indie
Rating: 8/10

Sucioperro are a three piece band from Ayrshire Scotland who produce dynamic angular rock mixed with the powerpop sensibilities of bands like Weezer (before they started to age ungracefully). Whilst admittedly they aren't the most famous or successful band from their neck of the woods (Biffy Clyro ringing any bells?) their hardworking ethic and mesmerizing live shows have provided the band with a strong cult like following throughout the UK and rightfully so. The band have just released their third full length album "The Heart String And How To Pull It" initially funding the album through new independent music portal Pledgemusic whilst offering a wide array of special items and bonuses to their loyal fanbase. The album is now out on general release through legendary UK underground label Xtra Mile (which has been home to many great acts like Frank Turner, Million Dead and Reuben).

The music offered up on this new effort has taken a distinctive shift from the bands last album "Pain Agency". Whilst "Pain Agency" offered up frantic guitars and angst driven audio assaults the new album takes a more calm and poppy approach to heart. With such a huge change a great deal of risk has been taken by the band who no doubt have seen many of their peers villified for making this same decision (see Biffy Clyro for evidence). However the bands earliest work cemented their power pop foundations into the bands make up making the transition here smooth and organic and all together very palatable. The addition of group vocal harmonies and several vocal guest spots from the angelic voiced Lauren Hazlett make for uplifting summery listening. Second single "Reflexes Of The Dead" provides a massive smile with its gentle glockenspiel and soft acoustic guitar tones before stomping along into a powerful emotional climax. Other highlights include the outrageous dance rock of "Is That Why You Pull Me In" which borrows more than a little from the bands side project Marmaduke Duke's last funky hedonist LP Duke Pandemonium, and the huge sing along "Invisible Monsters" which sees the whole band work together like a choir.

Overall the album is filled to the brim with positive energy that is so genuine it is impossible to ignore. This is a beautifully endearing happy go lucky LP packed with potential singles and harmonies that will resonate with you all summer long.

Download: "Reflexes Of The Dead" "Invisible Monsters"

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Guillemots - Walk The River

Guillemots - Walk The River
Genre: Indie/Pop
Rating: 8/10

Following Fyfe Dangerfield's successful 2010 debut "Fly Yellow Moon" the Guillemots are back with their third album "Walk The River". The band first came to prominence with their critically acclaimed debut "Through The Windowpane" in 2006 which not only won the hearts of the music press but also landed them a mercury prize nomination. Their unique blend of upbeat pop sensibility, use of traditional and non traditional instruments (typewriters and the like) and ostentatious over the top string sections made them a critics choice instantly. However like many bands who start off with instantaneous success the critics turned on the Guillemots by album two (2008's "Red") with many branding the band one hit wonders doomed never to recapture the magic of their first efforts.

After playing through this album just a few times it is obviously clear that the critics may have been too soon to judge. Unlike previous efforts "Walk The River" see's the Guillemots strip back to basics with astounding results. Whilst previous outings proved sickeningly sweet and twee at times "Walk The River" highlights a much darker side to the happy go lucky foursome. Opener and title track "Walk The River" for example is a huge sparse soundscape unlike anything else the band have ever created based around echoey guitars and Fyfe's beautifully powerful vocal performance which evokes a truly heartfelt response. It's not all doom and gloom however as tracks like "Ice Room" demonstrate the bands keen ear for beautifully uplifting pop with a soaring chorus complimented by Cure-esque guitar sections and a very base heavy rythm. The overall impression you get from the album is that with the stripping away of over the top strings and quirky sound effects the band have had time to focus more on the songs and the emotions that drive them. This works massively in their favour making each track feel more honest and affecting. Other highlights on this diverse and long album (overall play time of approximately 65mins) include the anthemic "I Must Be A Lover" and the brooding "Vermillion".

Overall the Guillemots have pulled out all the stops with their third album producing interesting yet accessible indie pop with credibility. Not only is their most consistent album it is also their most accomplished and I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Download: "Walk The River" "I Must Be A Lover"

Radiohead - King Of Limbs

Radiohead - King Of Limbs
Genre: Alternative/Rock
Rating: 5.5/10

Few releases create as much interest as a Radiohead album in the world of music. The band rose to fame and glory in the early nineties and haven't slowed down in their expansion and growth since. The band reinvented themselves from a basic guitar rock band into something almost other worldly as they began to experiment with electronica in the early noughties. They shook the music world to it's foundations again with 2007's critically acclaimed album "In Rainbows" which they released independently using a "pay what you want" strategy that left big record labels shaking in their boots. So what does their latest effort the "King Of Limbs" have to get excited about? Primarily mystery is the answer. Radiohead purposefully kept all details regarding this album a secret up until a few days before its release. Even by only announcing its release a few days before it arrived on the net shook things up massively.

Now the "King Of Limbs" is out on cd and available pretty much everywhere so now I thought would be a good time to review it. Overall Radiohead have always had a keen ear for experimentation in their music and this new album lands somewhere between their work on "In Rainbows" and "Kid A". For the uninitiated this means they have blended all the drum loops and ambient electronica aspects of "Kid A" with the immediate and accessible rock of "In Rainbows". What you are then left with is a blurred experimental elctronica/rock record that seems all a little too unintelligible in places. The album isn't a complete loss "Little By Little" would fit in nicely on any of the bands LP's with it's rattling rythm eerie guitar work and falsetto plaintiff howls. "Lotus Flower" again proves a worthy listen with its sparce haunting qualities. Unfortunately these highlights are too few and far between. Other sections of the record like "Feral" feel like interludes where blurry overdubbed synths battle with purposefully off beat drum loops providing nothing more than padding. This wouldn't hinder the record if it wasn't just eight tracks long. Still the record has recieved mixed reactions from critics and fans alike. I personally feel that after a 4 year wait King Of Limbs feels almost unfinished and is a bit of a disappointment in that regard.

Many fanatics have poured hours into development of theories surrounding the release of the much covetted Newspaper album (a deluxe package with a newspaper cd and vinyl combo) which is still yet to be released with many convinced that extra content will be included. Whilst Radiohead may be holding things back as another marketting ploy the mainstream version of the album that the majority of people will recieve unfortunately lacks more than it delivers.

Download: "Little By Little" "Lotus Flower"

Rival Schools - Pedals

Rival Schools - Pedals
Genre: Post Hardcore/Rock
Rating: 9/10

When a band that reached cult legend status a decade ago reform automatically alarm bells begin to ring. It's easy to jump to the conclusion that those involved are attempting to cash in on a legacy that will assure commercial success regardless of the new materials artistic merits. Luckily this is not the case with Rival Schools whose second album provides nothing but class from start to finish.

As ever the creative driving force behind Rival Schools remains lead singer Walter Schreifels who has won a place as a cult hero for his involvement in the New York hardcore scene. In the space between the bands dissolution and reformation Walter fronted several different projects releasing his debut solo effort just last year. The time away has in a sense altered the band and "Pedals" is deffinitely not "United By Fate version 2.0". The main change is a greater focus on melody and poppier ideals. Singles like "Shot After Shot" maintain the Rival Schools identity with the frantic and heavily distorted guitar sections and fast driving rythm yet prove more accessible than the heavier hardcore laden riffage of many tracks from the band's debut. "Wring It Out" also provides another pop rock gem that could rival previous efforts like "Good Things" a song so anthemic and summery that even to approach it's standard twice in a career is noteworthy. Walter's lyrics and compositions are as heartfelt and affecting as ever and whilst the layered fuzzy guitars provide stand out moments on tracks like "Small Doses" the solo's and other tweaks don't feel grandiose.

Overall the album stands up to it's predecessor's quality whilst not just being a tired rehash of an idea that did well 10 years ago. It is very rare a band can keep fans waiting for ten years for an album and not disappoint ( see Guns N Roses Chinese Democracy) and yet this album manages it. In many ways this album even flows better than it's predecessor which flitted between heavy and soft rather clumsily. Overall the Rival Schools boys have done it again and provided you with some of the most brilliant summer music you'll get all year.

Download: "Small Doses" "A Parts For B Actors"

Spotlight: Antlered Man

Many people are too quick to spout that tired phrase "there's not really any good new music coming out at the moment". The defeatist attitude is not lost on myself in some cases. The world of music is overpopulated and oversaturated and the modern music charts churn out more recycled bubblegum pop than a single mind can take. However, if you take the time and have the patience to sink below the waves of tedium and start looking around you'll be amazed at how many gems you find hidden in the rough. One such band are London based quintet Antlered Man.

I first found out about this band about a month ago when I saw them supporting Sucioperro. Upon first impressions I was more than a little sceptical as they set up their gear. The two support acts that preceded them had put on an adequate performance but showcased nothing new or interesting. It was round about 1 minute into their first song that I realised what I had in front of me was something special. Their music is made up of thick fuzzy baselines, angular and complex guitar work, schizophrenic drum work that changes time signatures frequently and unhinged vocal's that twist and mutate through the chaotic groove of each track. To make things even more interesting some songs incorporate extra instrumentation on slide guitars and flutes. If you had to pigeonhole their sound as anything it would probably end up as Progressive Punk or the ever ambiguous genre Alt. Rock but ultimately labels are useless and circumstantial when faced with this much talent.

The band belted out some amazing tunes at the gig impressing more than a few dreary eyed impatient Sucioperro fans. Personal highlights were the bipolar "Platoono Of Uno" which and ebbs and flows through ambient minimalism into full blown vitriolic chaos and their debut single "Surrounded By White Men" that has a bass groove and swagger that is brilliantly conceived.

The band have recently had some major publications take interest in them and have received a number of glowing reviews for their brand new debut single "Surrounded By White Men" from magazines such as Kerrang! and Rocksound and rightly so. With an album landing sometime later this year this band are deffinitely one to look out for.

A Free Download of"Platoono Of Uno" can be found at their website here:

Watch the video for their debut single here:

"Surrounded By White Men" available now through itunes and also available on their website with a Ltd Edition T-shirt.

For tour information search Antlered Man on facebook.

Blog Reshuffle

After what seems like a mammoth gap in blogging (not that theres really anyone here to notice) I have decided to mix things up a bit. Whilst the blog will remain a music themed blog the types of thing i write are going to be less structured and more free form.

Hopefully this will help make the whole thing easier for me to do and more fun for anyone who happens to find the blog. The reviews will stay but may be less rigid in format.