Tuesday, 29 November 2011

King's Daughters & Sons - If Then Not When

King's Daughters & Sons - If Then Not When
Genre: Post Rock/Alternative
Rating: 10/10

Few record labels can boast a roster of such importance as scottish label Chemikal Undergrounds. With some previous alumni including post rock giants like Mogwai, Aereogramme and Arab Strap it would be hard to argue that they don't have the midas touch. New to their ever expanding roster are Kentucky based band King's Daughters & Sons who are releasing their debut If Then Not When on the 21st of this month. The band first caught my attention very recently when I recieved an email from Chemikal Underground about upcoming events, whilst most record label chainmail goes directly from inbox to my bin Chemikal Underground's newsletters are written with enough poise to make them feel quite personal and interesting. They announced signing King's Daughters & Sons and with interest at it's peak I decided to head over to myspace to have a listen prompted by their comparisons with Nick Cave and Led Zeppelin (which together makes them sound like some sort of freakshow). What I actually heard was quite unique and brilliant.

The easiest way to describe a new unknown band's sound is normally to make comparisons between their sound and more famous bands with King's Daughters & Sons though this is pretty damn hard. The musical style is varied and has hints of Nick Cave as well as post rock titans Gregor Samsa. The band's sound is made up of some pretty simplistic elements like guitars, pianos and drums the main thing you notice is the way each track is constructed. Each individual element comes in individually making the whole thing seem effortless and each track slowly leads on from a few stray chords into a sprawling epic. Lyrically the each track tells a story it is this and the classical elements of piano is where the similarity between King's Daughters & Sons and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds is drawn. Whilst this is quite a favorable comparison to make the vocals that come from different people throughout If Then Not When are much less over the top and dramatic yet still very evocative. The music is sparse and melodic, the guitars move from more serene melodies to more rabble rousing strumming in places but are hypnotic throughout. The grim narratives add a bleak yet enthralling depth to the record making it a true stunner from start to finish. Highlights come thick and fast without a single dull track, opener "Sleeping Colony" is a great example of the band's dynamic as what appears as a simple narrative slowly develops into a sprawling epic where each individual element grasps at your heart strings. Other highlights include the hugely powerful "Lorelei" and the shorter, punchier "Dead Letter Office" which has a fiery anguished stomp that is truly infectious. The whole damn thing is so catchy I've been humming it all week at work.

Overall King's Daughters & Sons have delivered a stellar debut. It's powerfully emotive and brilliantly concieved yet more evidence that below the torrents of pretentious post rock there is still much life and potential in the genre yet. Not just recommended a true contender for the best album of 2011.

Download: "Dead Letter Office" "Lorelei"

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The Birthday Suit - The Eleventh Hour

The Eleventh Hour
The Birthday Suit - The Eleventh Hour
Genre: Indie/Folk
Rating: 8.5/10

The Birthday Suit is the latest side project to spring from indie veterans Idlewild. When Idlewild first formed in the mid nineties there was a lot of interest in them mainly because rather than just sticking to one genre they fused two together. This is nothing new in the music world but normally helps build expectations for a simple idea turning into the next big trend. Idlewild's early material clearly demonstrated their own unique fusion of dissident punk and softer more emotionally adept indie sensabilities seperating them from the pack as it were.  16 years on and several records down the line the original harsh energetic punk attitude has mellowed and these days the band have more of a folky sound as both lead singer Roddy and lead guitarist Rod Jones have both established solo careers in this vein. The Birthday Suit however is quite different from  the other projects that have sprung from Idlewild in two ways. First of all it is not a solo project in which a random ensemble of players have filled in the necessary gaps and secondly it is not pure folk.

The Birthday Suit are fronted by Idlewild's lead guitarist Rod Jones who takes position of lead singer of a full band for the first time. After years of being a background singer and producing his own solo album I guess Rod has finally built the confidence to front an outfit and the results are more than pleasing. Whilst many have grumbled and moaned at Idlewild's more recent releases as losing the impact and power of their earlier raw works The Birthday Suit is oddly reminiscent of Idlewild's seminal album 100 Broken Windows. Combining the power of simplistic but emotive guitar, catchy chorus structures and a sense of occasion with dramatic orchestral flourishes the album immediately grabs you. Rod's vocal delivery, whilst not as consistent as his Idlewild counterpart Roddy's, adds extra character with his thick scottish brogue supplementing the punchy tracks whilst beautifully dual harmonies and backing is provided by the other members of the band throughout. Whilst it is decisively heavier than Rod's solo work there are still some softer moments and this does nothing but make the whole thing feel more varied and enjoyable. Highlights include the powerful "World Gone By" which is supplemented by some beautiful strings making it a truly heartwrenching ballad the heavier tracks like "On My Own" and lead single "Do You Ever?" also provide plenty some high points with their high octane driving guitars. The only criticism that of the Eleventh Hour is really the similarities between this and Idlewild's early work which is no criticism at all considering that Idlewild are no longer putting out music that sounds like this, and this sounds bloody brilliant.

Overall The Birthday Suit's debut is a surefire winner. Packed to the brim with catchy tunes the record oozes all the enthusiasm that made Idlewild great. A definite must have for any Idlewild fan and also anyone who's into indie for that matter. Highly recommended.

Download: "On My Own" "World Gone By"

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Chris Connelly - Artificial Madness

Artificial Madness
Chris Connelly - Artificial Madness
Genre: Alternative/Post-Punk
Rating: 7/10

Chris Connelly is probably best known for his work with Ministry, Revolting Cocks and more recently the High Confessions rather than his solo career. The main reason for this would have to be the transient nature in regards to his solo work, whilst most of his more notorious projects have centred on quite dark themes and areas of music his solo work is much more diverse. Previous efforts have seen him experiment with everything from pop to new wave with varying levels of success so unlike many solo artists his work normally has no relation or common ground with his other more lucrative projects. This also means however that even at best his output could be described as patchy so whether or not you'll be on to a winner remains to be seen. Luckily with Artificial Madness Connelly has made the decision to play to his strengths blending elements of post-punk and industrial genres.

Whilst Artificial Madness bares some resemblance to Connelly's more recent work with The High Confessions there are still a lot of determining factors that ensure the two are not one and the same. The music on offer is mostly fast paced and their is a real sense of urgency throughout most of the album, the album is also less experimental which makes it instantly more appealing. Whilst the overall tone is one of darkness there is less effort to make each track an epic slow building masterpiece. The guitar playing is a lot more pronounced and schizophrenic with its impressively fast scales and scratchy vibe imbuing the whole record with more traditional punk sensibilities. Connelly's vocals, whilst not at the frightful snarl of some of his other work, fit the tunes well and the album is quite lyrically diverse touching on a broad spectrum of themes. Whilst areas of the record seem quite claustrophobic there are also some softer moments that help the album avoid being to repetitious. Whilst Ministry stood more prominently within the industrial genre there is not that much in the way of electronic and machine like beats here with most of the music having a more organic feel overall. Highlights include the frantic opener and title track "Artificial Madness", that surges with a volatile pace with inspired guitar work throughout, and the softer "Compatibility" that sounds like an eerily distorted Clash-esque tune. Other great tracks include the gentle and almost poppy "The Paraffin Hearts" which whilst contrasting strongly with the rest of the record provides it with one of the most notable moments. The majority of the album is good and accessible the only downside to all this is that it lacks the power of muxch of his other work. Whilst consistent in its dark themes the music doesn't quite capture your imagination enough to make this a true masterpiece. It is still thoroughly enjoyable though.

Overall Chris Connelly's latest effort is fairly impressive, especially when compared against the rest of his patchy solo work. Whilst it hardly redefines the rule book it is an enjoyable listen and easily more accessible for the mainstream. Recommended.

Download: "Artificial Madness" "The Paraffin Hearts"

Monday, 14 November 2011

Spotlight: Make Sparks

Whilst 2011 has seen no real change in pace in terms of musical trends this year has produced some fine examples of underground talent. Whilst the charts are still swamped with Beyonce and Gaga clones beneath the surface some new players have begun to emerge who prove that music isn't completely bereft of hope. This is certainly the case as far as Make Sparks are concerned.

I first found out about these plucky young Scottish gents last week when I saw them live supporting fellow Scotts Sucioperro. Whilst very few support acts rarely win genuine applause this year I've come across two or three support acts that have not only won my applause but also won me over completely. Make Sparks are one of these bands. The bands trademark sound is characterised by accessible rock guitars beautiful three part harmonies and lovely melodic reverb sections. The bands soft tracks are very reminiscent of american emo giants Jimmy Eat World yet at the same time some of the bands material is more fiesty and raucous with a swagger completely of their own.

After about five or so tracks the band soon departed and at the end of the night I was lucky enough to bump into the lead singer and buy their independently released album Rewound at the merch booth. Since then in spite of the other new acquisitions to my extensive music library I keep going back to Rewound. The album is full to the brim with talent and ideas and rarely have I seen such a fledgling act produce such a coherent debut. Rewound is available from the band's bandcamp that I have linked below for the amazing bargain price of £2.99 and I would highly recommend giving it a bash. Definitely a band to watch.

Make Sparks Bandcamp:

Make Sparks Facebook:

Make Sparks Website:

Thursday, 10 November 2011

David Lynch - Crazy Clown Time

David Lynch - Crazy Clown Time
Genre: Experimental/Alternative
Rating: 6/10

Music is not the first thing that comes to mind where David Lynch is concerned. A prominent director for most of his career so far an album without a movie or short film to accompany it seems like a strange move for the 65 year old. Lynch's first dabbling with the music industry started way back in the late 80's with him contributing to various different projects and making a few odd compositions for some of his films this however has mostly been overshadowed by his accomplishments as a director. Most recently he contributed to the final Sparklehorse colloborative effort Dark Night Of The Soul before leadsinger Mark Linkous tragically committed suicide. This brings us to Lynch's debut album as a solo artist Crazy Clown Time which is one of the biggest surprises this year has had.

Lynch's sound is quite similar to the one he adopted on Dark Night Of The Soul, the music is fairly minimalist and simple in structure but none of the material is particularly conventional. Throughout the album there is a blend of different styles with folkier elements sometimes presenting themselves from time to time. Lynch also employs a lot of distortion to warp the songs simple nature into a more eerie and abstract place and the metronomic simple beats, sometimes synthetic whilst at other times organic, move the process along at a steady pace. Vocally Lynch is quite interesting and he even dabbles with auto-tuning to add further distortion giving off a creepy robotic vibe. Whilst the music on offer is very experimental in nature the overall sound is not so overly complex that it is unaccessible and most of the material has enough creative flair to sustain the listener's interest. The main detracting point really comes from the odd dull tracks which, whilst perfect for background music to one Lynch's stranger movies, provide very little get excited about without the context of a greater narrative. Still overall the album is quite an impressive feat and whilst not a corker from strat to finish definitely has it's moments. Highlights include the sparse opener "Pinky's Dream" which features Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs providing a haunting ominous vocal over a sparse and dark tune and the more straight forward electronica lead single "Good Day Today" which sees simplistic beats and fuzzy distortion meet to create an almost ambient dance track. Tracks like "Strange And Unproductive Thinking" however seem to just be mindless filler and noise.

Overall Crazy Clown Time proves to be a very ambitious release for Lynch. Whilst it has its flaws it also has a strangely hypnotizing charm about it and proves to be quite an engaging listen. Although this will definitely not prove to have a wide appeal due to its abstract nature I would definitely suggest you at least stream a little of it.

Download: "Pinky's Dream" "So Glad"

Puscifer - Conditions Of My Parole

Conditions of My Parole
Puscifer - Conditions Of My Parole
Genre: Alternative/Rock
Rating: 8/10

Out of all of Maynard James Keenan's musical projects Puscifer is easily the most experimental and baffling. More famous for his critically acclaimed work with progressive metal outfit Tool and rock group A Perfect Circle Maynard left many of his fanbase scratching their heads in collective confusion when the band released their first album back in 2007. With a new Tool album speculated to be released next year and the reformed A Perfect Circle also doing tours it is a very strange time to release a follow up to 2007's V Is For Vagina regardless of this the album saw general release on 18th October this year. Being the idiotic purist that I am however I ordered it on cd from the bands online store hence the lateness of this review.

Whilst Maynards's other musical projects are easily categorised Puscifer's output is a lot more diverse and free form. The band in Maynard's own words is a revolving door project with multiple contributors and see's him express ideas and songs that wouldn't work within the confines of his other bands. Whilst this ensures the band aren't a carbon copy of his other projects this does unfortunately lead to mixed results and their debut was a strange mix of gimmicky smutty tunes and more serious gothy tinged industrial material. The bands latest album seems to have dropped the smut in favour for a more restrained mix of electronica and rock. The end result is generally more consistent and more enjoyable and makes for a much stronger album. Whilst Conditions Of My Parole sticks to a stricter format and isn't as eclectic in some areas as its predecessor it still has subtle hints of different genres throughout like the use of banjo on opener "Tiny Monsters" which soon fades away behind a wall of synthesizers. Highlights come thick and fast with tracks like "Green Valley" reaching the same transcendal heights of A Perfect Circle with its restrained electronica leading to a powerful chorus. It's not all soft and cuddly however as tracks like "Telling Ghosts" and "Toma" hit the listener hard with fierce synthetic beats and heavier guitar tones. The variety and odd flittering experimental nature ensures the album keeps your attention and with very little to complain about it almost effortlessly trumps Puscifer's first effort.

Overall whilst the "hardcore" Tool or A Perfect Circle fan may scoff at Maynard's Puscifer project Conditions Of My Parole asserts itself as a great addition to Maynards broad catalogue of work. The album is fun, fresh and entertaining and is more consistently pleasing than the projects debut which wasn't awful by any rate anyway. Recommended.

Download: "Tiny Monsters" "Toma"

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bush - The Sea Of Memories

Bush - The Sea Of Memories
Genre: Alternative/Rock
Rating: 3/10

2011 seems to have been the year of rebirths with many defunct bands reforming after long hiatuses. The latest addition to this swell of bands is nineties post grunge band Bush who return this year after a decade of silence with their new album The Sea Of Memories. Bush were formed just after the grunge explosion of the early nineties and unlike many of their peers chose to take on a more standard rock sound. In the gap between 2001's Golden State album not much was heard from the members of Bush apart from frontman Gavin Rossdale (who is essentially more famous for marrying Gwen Stefani than anything else). Rossdale formed Institute a short lived rock band and even tried going solo more recently under his own name both endeavors falling short of the exposure and commercial success of Bush. Now it seems the band have reconvened without their original bassist or guitarist.

The music on display on The Sea Of Memories differs quite a lot from the simplistic primal rock Bush began producing at the start of their career and favours a more mellow tone. Whilst acoustic and piano ballads became more frequent on their later releases The Sea Of Memories is almost entirely composed of soft tracks. The main issue with the record as a whole is the mixing, whilst Rossdales singing is adequate the music in the background is so low down on the mix it's hard to work out what the music is actually doing. If anything The Sea Of Memories owes more to Institutes electronic sound than Bush's straight forward guitar driven rock. Whilst some technical flourishes on some tracks are quite well employed the album from start to finish feels quite tired and sombre. The bands debut Sixteen Stone rippled with energy, Sea Of Memories of however feels like a band playing it so safe that the whole experience is devoid of excitement. Whilst the music shouldn't have to be upbeat or in your face you would assume that after a ten year hiatus when the band agreed to come back they would've done it as a result of having something spectacular. Unfortunately Bush do not and Sea Of Memories is merely a lacklustre collection of crooning dreary ballads. The solitary highlight of the whole album is the single "The Sound Of Winter" which shows some interesting distortion and the same depth as the band's earlier material. Unfortunately the rest of the album is fairly shambolic especially the cringey over the top closer "Be Still My Love" which is so pedestrian and mainstream it could be used as elevator music.

Overall Sea Of Memories is by far Bush's worst album to date. Lacking in imagination and having little impact at all it proves to be nothing more than a collection of indentikit ballads that show no flair or passion that made Bush an interesting band. Whether this reunion is purely a money spinner is debatable whether the album is a worthwhile purchase is less debatable, it just isn't worth buying. A contender for worst album of the year.

Download: "The Sound Of Winter"