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Wednesday, 30 April 2014

EP Review: Tourist Attractions - Dusk

The beauty of running a blog like this is the fact that every day is different. I receive such a wide range of music it not only keeps things interesting for me but also for you people out there in reader land. For example yesterday I brought you a review of the current record from metal band Driven and today I have a review of the brand new EP from indie outfit Tourist Attractions.

Straight out of Blackburn Tourist Attractions are Daniel Walsh (Lead vocals/guitar) Connor Synnott (Backing vocals/bass) Rory Gilsenan (Guitar) and Oliver Bradshaw (Drums) The band formed back in April of last year, playing their first gig on 20th July and releasing their debut single ‘Heartless Man’ last December. And now almost a year to the day from the bands formation here they are with their debut EP ‘Dusk.’

Opening track ‘Silhouette’ is a brilliant way to start things off. I like the idea of using drums as an intro; you don’t get that too much at the minute. The central guitar riff is the main driving force as well as being nice and catchy. The vocal delivery from Walsh is reminiscent of Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner. Sometimes the similarity in voice really is quite striking but there is enough distance between the two so that it doesn’t come off as sounding like a cheap imitation.

It’s a slightly geeky thing to say but I really like the structure of the song as well. The first half is pretty much as you would expect but then things get interesting. There’s almost a breakdown and the track becomes nigh on an instrumental with just a ‘far away’ sounding vocal occasionally drifting in and out. It’s a nice touch and something a little bit different.

‘Heartless Man’ has a touch of Razorlight about it. (Remember them!?) The track has a lighter feel to it and really skips along. I love the guitar work and the vocal style isn’t just copied and pasted from the first track, so there’s a bit of versatility. This song definitely goes down as one of the highlights of the whole project.

The following track ‘Blazing Sun’ is a bit of a throwback to the heady days of the mid 2000’s when there seemed to be an absolute plethora of quality indie bands coming through. The Radio 1 playlist was dominated by catchy little indie tunes, and had this track been released back then it would have been right at home among them. The vocal suits the track perfectly, the bridges link everything together seamlessly and guitar work is simple enough but compliments everything so well. I listened to this song with the sun beaming in through my window and with a cold drink in my hand and you know what, it just felt right. This is probably my favourite track on the EP.

Final track ‘Lovers & Dancers’ is much the same as what went before it, and that is high quality indie music. I’m an old romantic at heart and I just love the title of the song, it just fits the sound and there is something warm in its simplicity. The song itself is the longest on the record but I think it suffers for this a little bit. It’s not as compact as the other songs and seems to lose its way slightly as it wonders towards a conclusion. It’s still perfectly fine as a song and it may well grow on me in time but I think that the tightness that holds the rest of the tracks together so well is missing here and that is to the detriment of the song as a whole.

As far as debuts go ‘Dusk’ really is a fine effort. If like me you look back upon the indie bands of a decade ago with a certain nostalgic fondness then this is the band and the record for you. It has got that classic indie feel but manages to sound current at the same time. All the songs stand alone as great tracks but also flow together really well as body of work; the production is also top drawer.

Up until a few days ago when I thought of tourist attractions I saw rubbish leaflets encouraging you g to go and visit a grassy hill in middle England while stopping in at the local tea rooms for scones. But now I have had to readjust these thoughts. It turns out that Tourist Attractions are 4 talented musicians from Blackburn, and they are very very good. 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

EP Review: Driven - A Breakdown Of Character

Driven are Adam (Vocals) Rory (Guitar) Dave (Guitar) Fazz (Bass) and Hov (Drums)They first came to my attention when I saw them play at the Mitre in Stourbridge about a month ago. The venue isn’t exactly conducive to great sounding live music but these guys put on a really good set regardless.

A Breakdown Of Character is the band’s debut EP and it is big, and it is heavy. The type of record that after listening to it will leave you in need of a lie down and some paracetamol.

I would be lying if I said that opening track ‘The Fool’ broke you in gently. It’s a perfect introduction to what the band are all about. The riffs are huge, the guitar work is fantastic and the vocal blends between a more traditional heavy rock sound and more of a metal type scream.

After such a good opening track ‘Silver Lining’ is a bit of a let-down though. The track opens with the ‘scream’ vocal and at 300 mph with a thundering guitar riff, but vocal wise starting off so aggressively leaves the song with nowhere to go. You can’t build to a crescendo if your crescendo has already been and gone. The screaming just seems to be a little overdone, which is a shame because on a purely instrumental level the track is incredibly impressive; there are numerous progressions and the riffs are fantastic. The song did grow on me the more I heard it but it just feels like they are trying too hard.

The opening to ‘Ghosts’ couldn’t be more of contrast to what has gone before, it’s incredibly low key and stripped back. But contrast and variety are good. That’s not to say that this is some sort of ballad it isn’t long before everything kicks back up to full throttle, and the guitar solo towards the end is sensational, and as I have said before as musicians they are really impressive, you will struggle to find better.

‘Vacant Throne’ is the other track off the record that I couldn’t warm to. I just don’t get it. The fast switching between the singing and the screaming take away from the flow of the song and at times the scream feels unnecessary. Again I think the central riff is great and there is a brilliant little interlude but as a whole the track really didn’t do anything for me.

The EP rounds out with ‘Uproar’ which is my favourite track by some distance. I think it’s the most well rounded and makes the most of the bands talents. Much like ‘The Fool’ this is what could potentially make the band so brilliant. Progressions, fantastic vocals, simply awesome guitars and a false finish, it’s all there, it has all the elements to make these guys a great band and does make this a great song.
Turn the volume up while you’re playing this record in your car and you’ll be testing the accuracy of the local speed cameras in no time. There is no time to breathe as the 5 tracks hammer by, but at times I do think it is almost a little too full on. I wish more was made of frontman Adam’s singing voice as he can clearly sing and I don’t think that it is utilised enough. As I mentioned above as musicians these guys are first rate, but I’m just left with a feeling of what might have been. As a body of work it’s just too inconsistent, the highs admittedly are very high but there are those couple of tracks which let it down.

There is the potential for something brilliant here, but right now sadly A Breakdown Of Character is a story of nearly but not quite.

Monday, 28 April 2014

EP Review: If You Like To Dance - Vices

I know I’m not the first person to say this and I’m sure as hell that I won’t be the last, but it really is amazing what you can find on the internet. I say this because a few weeks ago totally by chance I stumbled across a track from Chis Gibson and Andy Hoskinson, the duo better known as If You Like To Dance. (IYLTD)

Fast forward a few weeks and I have sat on my hard drive a copy of the band’s new EP ‘Vices.’ Since having had one of their previous tracks played on Radio 1 these guys really have been gaining some momentum all over the internet and on social media, so my expectations for this record were pretty high. The fact that I reviewed the lead single from this project a couple of weeks ago only served to raise expectations even further.

I wrote in a review a few weeks back how some tracks, EP’s, albums are just instant and this is the perfect example. I hope I’m not doing the actual music too much of a disservice saying that but everything just clicks straight away.

Opening track ‘Wasting Time’ serves as the lead single for the project and it’s a perfect fit for the role. The song builds from a slow keyboard intro into a great anthemic chorus. Lyrically it’s simple enough and has that ‘every man’ style to it, but as a single that’s exactly what you want. You hear the song on the radio at work and straight away you’re going yeah I know that feeling.  (I look at the track in a bit more depth in the review wrote not long ago so go and check that out)

‘Missing Parts’ sees proceedings kick up a gear, there’s a real weekend vibe to this track. Think anything that Example has released in the last few years but better and a bit more sophisticated. The strong drum track keeps the song pounding along at a good pace, and again the hook will get stuck in your head.

The next track ‘Gold & Silver’ should come with a nice big neon sign that has ‘SATURDAY NIGHT’ written across it in huge letters. If you wrote ‘produced by Calvin Harris’ on this track you would be hearing it in every bar and every club you set foot in for the next 6 months. The strong beat and melody kick everything along nicely and will get stuck in your head in no time. And lyrically… ‘This is the highlight of my life. I think I love you babe but only for tonight.’  Let’s face it who hasn’t peered through the flashing lights and alcohol induced mist at their local night spot and thought that?

Final track ‘Sleep’ will make you do anything but. The opening verse and the bridge later on feel all a bit Daft Punk (High praise trust me) and this is interspersed with an absolutely thumping chorus. There are echoes of garage in the drums, but like everything has been turned up to 11.

‘Vices’ is an absolute triumph. I have previously described IYLTD as ‘pop with a slight edge and real musical credibility’ and I totally stand by that. Front to back the production is flawless, the vocals are spot on. This is a band who know what they are good at and have found their lane. It’s original, its fresh, its electro-pop at its very best. Like I said it’s amazing what you can find on the internet. 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

NEW! Sister Shotgun - For The Love Of Hate (Plus Video)

I first came across these guys probably around 5 months ago not long before they appeared on the same bill as Musical Outcast staple Out Of Sanity. The few recordings that I heard really impressed me and on the night in question they were opening the gig but put on a great show. So basically ever since I have been keeping a bit of an eye on their progress, and the hype has slowly been building on social media over the last few weeks over this project but now the wait is finally over.

Sister Shotgun are rock band from Stourbridge *Cheers* (Sorry Stourbridge is my hometown) and they are Chloe Ozwell (Vocals) Martyn Bullock (Lead Guitar) Niall Willis (Rhythm Guitar) Michael Wood (Bass/Keys) and Adam Yeardley (Drums) Now as you will notice that they are fronted by a young lady called Chloe, but frankly if I see the term ‘Female fronted rock band’ again I’m going smash my laptop to pieces. I don’t care if a band are fronted by ET it’s all about what the music is saying, gender is totally irrelevant. So with that in mind what is the music saying?

First up this isn’t the original version that I heard on Reverbnation, the track has undergone a little of tweaking since then and if I am being perfectly honest it’s all the better for it. The track itself is a slow build, the vocal floats almost hauntingly over the top of some stripped down guitars for the most part and that really puts the emphasis on what the song is saying lyrically. There’s also an element of suspense, this may be totally unintentional but while the track is building you get the impression that there is a big drop and a guitar solo coming but we are just being teased until the time is right.

Lyrically the song treads the well-worn path of a tale of suicidal despair but there seems to be a real sincerity here, I don’t know if it’s the delivery of the lyrics or what but it feels ‘real.’  Although most of us have not had these extreme feelings the lyrics are still easily relatable as the central themes of despair and helplessness are feelings we have all felt to some degree.

I would save you but it’s too late.’

The track kicks up a gear towards the end with a great guitar solo, before things return to a more sombre tone as song fades out. The accompanying video is pretty simple but is very effective and compliments the song well, which despite what label executives will tell you is actually the point.

In short this is a very very good track. Everything is totally on point; there is a real polished feel to the song without taking away the raw emotion and that is particularly impressive. The band have a great look, they have a great sound, they are great live and they can really write a song. The future is bright for rock music in the Black Country and the future could well be Sister Shotgun. 

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

NEW MUSIC: Auctioneers - You Got It Bad

I have been bringing you quite a few live reviews over the last couple of weeks (Not that there is anything wrong with that) but I now have something brand new for your little ears. The band will be new to many of you, so by default this tune will be too.

The Auctioneers are a 4 piece rock band coming out of Glasgow Scotland, and what I have here is my thoughts on their 2nd ever recording a song going by the name ‘You Got It Bad.’ The band themselves are Kev Murray (Vocals, Guitar) Greg Leighton (Guitar, Backing Vocals) Suv Sutherland (Bass) and Steve Hughes (Drums) As I say this is their 2nd ever recording and it dropped within the last couple of weeks so it’s still fresh ladies and gentlemen.
The track itself opens with what for all intents and purposes is a guitar solo, nice and understated though. The tone is great, think Slash ‘Appetite for Destruction’ era. For that matter in certain places the song does have a bit of a Guns and Roses feel. It’s maybe not as epic but I think there is definitely a touch of their influence in there.

There’s something of a classic rock feel to the whole thing, something very honest. The vocal is good and strong but resists the temptation to try and totally take centre stage and the song benefits as a result. The riff from the intro makes a return towards the end of the track as it leads into a nice solo, before a classic rock n roll finish rounds things off.
It’s impossible to judge a band off one track but there is definitely something likable about the Auctioneers sound. It’s uncomplicated and almost understated which in my book can certainly be a good thing as it is here. There’s plenty of replay value, and if you’re anything like me you’ll be keeping an eye on these guys to see what’s next.


Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Crimson Star Live @ The Victoria - 18th April 2014

The Victoria in Birmingham isn’t exactly the biggest venue I have ever been to in my life; I think the room upstairs where the bands perform would be described in the brochure as ‘Intimate.’ They do a great pint of beer though; this is of the upmost importance I’m sure you will agree.

Before I really get into the review I think I need to issue and apology. I know that there are some of you who only check this blog for the nice pretty pictures but I’m afraid that today I am picture less. This is because Justclairepotography has wandered off to Weymouth for a few days. Personally I think that having a life outside of traipsing around the West Midlands taking pictures of random bands is frankly selfish and unprofessional. I hope that didn’t come across as me being bitter about someone going on holiday because I’m really not… nope, not at all… honest.
That’s the house-keeping done, so now let’s get down to business.

This weekend actually marks a special anniversary for The Crimson Star; on this weekend exactly 1 year ago they played their 1st ever gig. *Cheers* I first came into contact with the band when I saw them back in December and they were great that night, one of the slickest live bands I’ve seen. I saw them again in about January I think it was and again they were impressive so I was really looking forward to reviewing them.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with their work I think the best way to describe the band is ‘all-action.’ Let’s put it this way, if you’re looking for heartfelt acoustic ballads The Crimson Star aren’t really your thing. With that in mind they launched into opener ‘Hey You’ at 300 mph with the sound of thundering guitars and crashing drums smashing off the walls. There was no hint of nerves or needing to bed in, the band just went straight in, total commitment.

Next up was another live staple ‘Some Other Way.’ This was one of my favourite tracks from the band’s debut EP and it didn’t disappoint. This is despite the band being beset by technical issues on stage. However, instead of letting it affect them and falling to pieces they showed a tremendous level of professionalism and steel to just carry on playing.
We were then treated to the debut of a brand new song called ‘A Darker Shade.’ The track is very much in a similar vein to the bands older material, but it all feels a little more refined. It features a great little breakdown/interlude and as always with these guys some fantastic guitar work. The opening riff on ‘Coercion’ is just classic hard rock. Like the rest of the bands catalogue it’s fast paced and it’s hard hitting. The set as a whole is just relentless.

I’m not a massive Led Zepplin fan but I do love ‘Rock and Roll.’ Who doesn’t? Unfortunately for the band the rock Gods still weren’t smiling on them as they had to play most of the song without a bassist as he had had to replace a broken string. But again instead of bitching about it the band just got on with things, and huge credit must go to bassist Chris Rowley as it did to Dave Musson earlier for remaining brilliantly calm under pressure and just dealing with the issues and getting on with it. The band rocked the song brilliantly, performing a fantastic rendition of a classic.
‘No Ordinary Love’ begins with a real curve ball, with the band throwing in some harmonies on the vocal. Trust me if you would have heard the rest of this hard hitting, no nonsense set you would have been taken slightly by surprise too. Don’t get me wrong there was still a deliciously thick guitar riff playing underneath but still you get my point!

The band close the high energy set with my favourite tack of theirs ‘The Greed Effect’ which means they end things as they started, with heavy hard rock riffs at 300 mph. Every head in the packed room was nodding along and the loud and sustained cheer that greeted the final crash on the drum kit showed what a set it had been. It had been fantastic.
The bands energy on stage was brilliant and that really helped bring the songs to life, there is nothing more off putting for an audience than seeing the band on stage in front of you and they are very obviously lost as to what to do. The musicianship was top notch and the rapport between the band, especially frontman James Shaw and the crowd was great. But probably the most impressive aspect of the night was how they dealt with adversity. With the various technical issues they had (Through no fault of their own) they could have easily let their heads drop but they didn’t, they carried on determined to put on a good show and as an audience you’ll get behind a band no matter what if you see that kind of willpower.

All last night did for me was confirm why The Crimson Star are one of the top three or four live bands on the local circuit right now. I really do mean that, they are fantastic. Trust me on this one I see a hell of a lot of bands. They are slick, well drilled, and determined to put on a show for those of you who come out to see them. Frankly, what more could you ask for?

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Single Review: The Sonic Revolvers - Loco Lifestyle

Sometimes you press play on a tune and it just hits you there and then. You know this track is going to dominate your head for the next two weeks. It’s just a classic song straight from the outset; there is no question and no debate. It just is. However, you and I both know that not all tracks are like this, some require a little more patience.
‘Loco Lifestyle’ definitely falls into the second category. After the first couple of listens it was ‘alright.’ A solid 6 out of 10 but nothing I could really see myself listening to for any period of time but then after a couple more spins I got it. Whatever it was came and grabbed and shook me by the shoulders. I understood.

The Sonic Revolvers formed back in the summer of 2010 and they have been on an upward
trajectory ever since. Made up of Darrell Tinsley (Vocals) Richey Jones (Guitar) Phil Mealing (Bass) and Mike Jones (Drums) these guys have really got the attention of the right people. This track alone was produced by Greg Haver who has worked with the likes of the Manic Street Preachers. That’s not a bad pedigree for a non-established band I’m sure you’ll agree.

The track itself is a ‘grower.’ That’s a stupid music industry term but that’s exactly what it is. The band lists Foo Fighters as one of their influences and you can definitely hear that on this track. The song maybe doesn’t have the anthemic quality of the majority of Foo Fighters singles but stylistically it really isn’t far away. It maybe lacks a killer hook but the guitar solo is totally on point and the almost acoustic breakdown /bridge is a really nice touch. It flows together very well and the production is as you would expect very strong.
Overall it’s one of those tracks you need to just give a chance. It’s got good replay value and it really will grow on you, just don’t rush it. Give it chance. Some things in life are worth waiting for, and that moment when you understand what a good little rock tune that this is, is definitely one of them.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Single Review: If You Like To Dance - Wasting Time

Completely by accident I seem have developed a reputation for reviewing the best hard rock music around. As nice as this is that was never my intention. The aim was always to bring you the reader the best MUSIC full stop. No genres and no limits. Don’t get me wrong I love a real soaring guitar solo more than I love some relatives but there is a hell of a lot more to music than that. So with that in mind I introduce to you a duo who goes by the name ‘If You Like To Dance.’(IYLTD)

Comprised of Chris Gibson and Andy Hoskinson IYLTD are already making some big waves on the pop landscape in this country but I have a feeling that there is plenty more to come.
The Manchester based partnership started out on their musical journey back in 2009 with their debut single ‘Skin & Bones’ receiving airplay on Radio 1 no less. That’s the history lesson out of the way now for the real reason that you’re all here; I have some new music for you.

‘Wasting Time’ is the 1st single taken from the band’s brand new EP ‘Vices.’ (I’ll have a review of said EP up around the end of the week) The track itself is a slow build; the keyboard intro really brings the song slowly to life almost setting the scene. The lyrics are simple enough but they tell a story that everyone can relate to.
‘So you wake up in the morning after another wasted weekend, in the town that you were born in. Where you drink til you forget about that girl you’ve been missing.’

There’s no need to try and be clever when you can say what you want to say in a way that will make everyone go ‘Yeah I know that feeling.’ Oasis made a career out of it! It’s what made them so successful, and in my eyes the brilliant band that they were.
The sparse sounding drums on the track set a tempo that is quite slow and deliberate but that means that you can take everything in. This also helps give the song a great sing along quality, which every great pop single needs. And that’s exactly what it is, a great pop single.

From the slow building intro, to the lyrics, to the drum led bridge it will get stuck in your head, and its tailor made for mainstream radio play. If this track was by an established artist with a ‘name’ it would chart top 10 no problem. It’s pop with a slight edge and real musical credibility, not something you get all too often these days, and for that reason if nothing else IYLTD and this track deserve your attention.



Saturday, 12 April 2014

Hightower Live @ The Actress & Bishop - 11th April 2014

Up until a couple of weeks ago the only Hightower that I had heard of was the character from the 80’s cult comedy film franchise Police Academy. I’d love to be able to provide a link between said character and the band that I saw last night but I’m sorry to tell you I’ve got nothing. Lord knows I tried, but yeah, it’s not quite come together. Sorry. Anyway back to the matter in hand.
The biggest crowd of the night had assembled within touching distance of the stage by the time the band had finished set up and were ready to begin, and they were ready for a party. And when lead singer Matt Smith took the stage with bottle of beer in hand it looked like they were going to get one.

Opening track ‘Stand Up’ was the first thing that I heard from the band and it took all of 20 seconds for it to become blindingly obvious that the recording I heard really hadn’t done the song justice. When I first listened to it two weeks ago I quite liked it, at 20 past 11 last night I was in love with it. The riff will be in your head for days, and the energy of the performance really brought it to life.

Things went down a gear for the more thoughtful ’79.’ The standout here is the melody; it carries the song along in brilliant fashion. The band had settled into the gig really quickly and everything appeared to be flowing really easily. (Including the beer) You can’t underestimate the positive impact that seeing a band enjoying themselves on stage can have on the audience. It just gives everyone a lift.

‘Mind Away’ is again driven by a catchy little riff, something that is a feature of the band, and a great feature at that. Once more the alcohol fuelled audience lapped up every last note and the resounding cheers as the song came to a close showed that the band were on top form.
The next track ‘Revolution’ saw a slight move away from the melody driven opening tracks, it’s just a straight up rock song. It’s short on frills and subtlety but high on quality, something which is epitomised by the brilliant guitar solo towards the end. ‘Born on A Star’ is Brit-pop 2014 style. The song structure and the tone of the guitar especially is reminiscent of early Oasis, think along the lines of ‘Live Forever’ and ‘Supersonic.’ It’s not like the track is stupidly similar but there’s a definite similarity there.

‘Don’t Tell Me’ is again characterised by the great musicianship on show. Out of the band and the crowd it’s hard to tell who is feeding off who but the energy in the room is fantastic. In a set packed full of highlights penultimate song ‘Enemies & Friends’ was probably THE highlight. The song has an athemic feel and great sing along quality. It certainly has the potential to be single and really shows the band at their best. The passionate vocal really brought the lyrics to life, it was fantastic.

The band brought the curtain down on the night with the straight rocking ‘Everything in Place.’ But as good as the song was the stage invasion will be the thing that sticks in the memory, and in a strange way it’s a brilliant thing that it does. I say this because I think it demonstrates why Hightower are such a brilliant band.

All night the audience sang along and the connection between them and the band on stage was obvious. Hightower make music that people can relate to, you can understand it; you can feel it and you can sing along to it to your hearts content. The band aren’t up on a pedestal, they are at the bar with you, and when they perform you are on the stage with them. (Literally it seems)
Hightower are uncomplicated rock music for the masses, and on last night’s evidence the masses love it.

(As always all photography comes courtesy of the brilliantly talented justclairephotography. Check her out on Facebook!)



Tuesday, 8 April 2014

EP Review: Sisteray - She Likes The Drama

There are some things in life which are simply amazing; the smell of freshly cut grass, waking up after the biggest drinking session of your life without a hangover, you and your partner having an energetic morning… er… run. You get the picture.

But one of the most amazing feelings has to be that moment when you hear a song for the first time and you feel like everyone needs to hear this. The world needs to know how brilliant this is and I’m going to bore my mates to death with it until they agree with me. On the 3rd of April at about half past 10, while on my third cup of tea of the day I had that feeling.
That was roughly the moment that through the wonders of social media I discovered Sisteray.

Sisteray are Niall Rowan (Lead vocals, guitar) Daniel Connolly (Guitar, backing vocals) Michael Hanrahan(Bass) and Ryan Connolly (Drums)And with a bit of luck I really think that this little 4 piece indie band could go far. They are gigging all over the place and are building up quite a following as shown by the fact they have previously sold out the 100 Club. Yes that 100 Club. (If you don’t know what the 100 Club is do a bit of research and you’ll see why that’s a pretty big deal)

Now after a few emails back and forth I got sent this, a record called She Likes The Drama which is the band’s latest EP release, and it’s really very good.
The title track gets things underway and not only is this the lead single it’s also my favourite track off the record. To start with everyone can raise a smile to this one because we’ve all known that girl who loves the drama a little bit more than she should! Anyway, it’s catchy; it’s slick and will be going round and round in your head for hours. Basically as far its singles go it’s pretty flawless.

‘Rollin’ Over’ follows a similar pattern. It hasn’t quite got the same catchy guitar riff but does include a nice little solo towards the end. Again the band have put together a hook that will get stuck in your head, and that is something that really can’t be underestimated when it comes to putting tracks together.
The penultimate track can be summed up by one word. FEEDBACK!!!! More specifically guitar feedback. The idea of using feedback to drive songs is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Hendrix, and that use of feedback and the slight distorted sound it gives off is why ‘I’m Free’ is a great track.  It falls somewhere between Oasis and T-Rex, and shows that there is a little bit more to the band than just happy go lucky indie tunes for teenagers in skinny jeans.

Final track ‘Coming Up’ sees the boys return to more familiar territory, with more understated vocals and catchy guitar riffs and drum rhythms. Another good chorus will have you humming along in no time, simple and incredibly effective.
I knew I was going to love this record from the moment I saw the cool retro artwork. This is the old school being presented for a new generation. There’s a real classic British indie and at times almost Brit-pop feel to the music while at the same time it retains a certain freshness. The vocal is distinctive without being flashy and the guitar work is often quite simple but keeps the songs skipping along incredibly well.

Sisteray haven’t reinvented the wheel here, more put nice new tyres and some shiny new alloys on the wheel that was already there. This record is like meeting someone and the pair of you enjoying the night of your life because you’ll never get the chance again, except you know that not only will both of you still be there in the morning, you’re to be doing this for the next 20 years. It’s fresh and exciting yet familiar and reassuring.
In short, it’s simply brilliant.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Single Review: Thirteen Shots - First American Sweetheart

Thirteen Shots describe their sound as ‘B-Movie garage rock n roll.’ No, I’m not 100% sure what that means either. I hate trying to put labels on things anyway especially music but in my role as reviewer I think I’ve got to try and give you an idea as to what the track sounds like but I don’t know what this is!
It’s not rock n roll and it’s not punk, so I’m going to christen it ‘Punk n roll.’ I’ll let you have that one for free ladies and gentlemen. This is what would happen if Bill Haley was sacked by His Comets and replaced with Johnny Rotten. The music and rhythm is definitely rock n roll in origin but the vocal leans far more towards punk.
The track itself acts a tribute to actress Mary Pickford who during her life and career was known as America’s Sweetheart. The hook laments the fact that maybe she doesn’t get the recognition she should do as well as the fickle nature of the film industry and how it treats its stars.

‘You were the first American sweetheart but nobody knows your name. As soon as you died, you got replaced...’
Musically, as I said it manages to retain an old school rock n roll feel, but it doesn’t sound dated. More updated if anything. It’s unspectacular but will definitely get your feet tapping. You aren’t going to see the track launching itself heard first onto the radio 1 playlist either but in truth I don’t think the band even care.

Is it mainstream? No.
Is it unconventional? Certainly.

Worth a listen? Definitely.

Friday, 4 April 2014

EP Review: Crystal Seagulls - EP-1

A couple of weeks ago Claire Trojnacki (Official photographer of The Musical Outcast) made a rather impressive discovery. That discovery was a band called the Crystal Seagulls. So following strict instructions I checked them out and I haven’t stopped playing their stuff ever since. Now hopefully you will know by now that if something is the proverbial shit on a stick I will tell you and not pretend otherwise. So when I say I’ve had this band on repeat I mean it, they really are that good.

Crystal Seagulls are a four piece indie rock group made up of Jim Lawton, John Armstrong, Elliot Whitty and Ben Heliczer. Released on February 1st of this year and produced by Sam Miller this little record should be the basis of the soundtrack to your summer.

The band describes themselves as ‘Everything and nothing you’ve heard before,’ and that perfectly sums up their sound. It’s a delicious mix of familiarity and originality that will put a smile on your face.
‘Heart Won’t Beat’ gets things underway in fine style, with a brilliant catchy little melody and a bass line which  pays homage to ‘The Jam.’ The vocal is prominent without being overstated giving the rest of the song room to breathe. The balance is completely on point.

Next up is my favourite track from the EP ‘Time.’ The main melody is the sound of summer will get stuck in your head without fail. There’s also a little surprise in store here as the song drops into a more rock driven section. It adds a nice variation without ruining the flow of the song, and taking away the feel good factor.
The brit-pop inspired ‘Hands In The Dark’ allays any fears that the band might be a bit of a one trick pony. There are echoes of Blur here as the track winds through a tale of infidelity in slightly more rockier fashion which for me is no bad thing. It shows that there is potential for the band to develop a few different styles in the future and provides some good variation.

Final track ‘Toetapper’ has the most apt title for a song that I have come across for quite some time. I’m sure a certain company specialising in fence based products would tell you it does exactly what it says on the tin. It has a slightly more traditional indie feel, and would sit somewhere between, The Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes and The Fratellis.
All in all this is a fantastic little record. You’ll be left longing for those seemingly never ending summer days spent in beer gardens drinking cider because it’s a summer drink. Or more accurately that one afternoon in June where the sun comes out and you gravitate towards a patch of grass with an alcoholic beverage like an addict gravitates towards cocaine. Either way however you plan on spending your summer  I promise you the experience will be all the better for having the Crystal Seagulls playing in the background.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Throwback Thursday: Alice Cooper - Poison

Like many of you my music collection is absolutely huge. Silence doesn’t exist is my house. There is always music playing somewhere and if for some strange reason there isn’t a tune of some description filling the air you can guarantee the conversation will be linked into music in some way. Now for me this is amazing, my life runs to its own handpicked soundtrack.

However there is one downside to this melodic heavenly picture I have just painted and that is I have so many songs that some of them sometimes get forgotten for months at a time. But this does mean that when I stumble across a song that has dropped of my radar, it’s almost like I’ve just discovered the song for the first time all over again, and that is exactly what happened earlier this week.
I have owned this track for years but due to the amount of mew music I have been sent recently I had totally forgotten about it until the ‘shuffle’ on my iPod thought it was time I got reintroduced.

Released in the greatest year ever 1989 (The year I was born) it has been reminding men of the ghosts of girlfriends past ever since. Taken from the album ‘Trash’ it peaked at number 2 in the UK and is my favourite Alice Cooper track of all time.
The moral of this story? God bless the ‘shuffle.’

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Why Doesn't The British Mainstream Respect Black Sabbath?

If you go out onto the streets of Great Britain and ask passers-by to name the greatest British band of all time they will no doubt mention, The Beatles (The most overrated band to ever take a stage) The Rolling Stones, Queen, Led Zepplin, The Clash, The Smiths etc. But very few will mention Black Sabbath and I would like to know why. We should be shouting from the rooftops about the band and their legacy but instead the majority of the British music industry treat them like that Uncle who always drinks too much at family functions, they are tolerated because they are family but shunted into the corner.

It’s generally accepted that for a band to really hold a place amongst the greats they need to have at least one ‘classic’ album, a string of memorable songs, longevity, be brilliant live and have created a legacy that influences bands and artists that come after them. And in my view Sabbath have all of these. Plus and probably most amazingly of all they created a whole new genre!
When people think of Sabbath all they think of are the huge dirty riffs that characterise heavy metal but there is a lot more to them than that. The beautiful subtlety of songs like ‘Fluff’ from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Played at the wedding of guitarist Tony Iommi) and ‘Planet Caravan’ from Paranoid is often criminally overlooked. And while we’re on the subject of Paranoid as far as hard rock/heavy metal albums are concerned it’s nigh on flawless. They have numerous other very good albums but that one is undoubtedly a classic.

However the main thing which should place Black Sabbath up there with the very best is legacy. When the band emerged with their debut album in 1970 they came out with a sound which had never been heard before and the legacy of that sound and their early albums is still being felt today 44 years on.
The whole idea for this blog came to me while reviewing the new EP from and up and coming band called Khaos Theory. One of the songs on this EP is called ‘Never in the Sun’ and it has all of that Black Sabbath style, the riffs, the progressions and the key changes. How many other bands can say that their influence can be heard in the music of a band breaking through 44 years after they did?

So the question is why despite all of this why are Sabbath still looked down upon? I think it comes down to a few factors and I think these factors are all in their own way ridiculous. One of these factors is the music itself and the bands image. The band and their style aren’t exactly photogenic for a mainstream audience and their music can’t really be marketed at the music buying masses. (12 year old girls) Then there are the songs themselves. I will grant you that some of their songs aren’t filled with the sort of lyrically dexterity that will win awards but let’s not forget that The Beatles who are praised to the hilt recorded ‘Yellow Submarine.’
The final factor however I feel is the most important and is thus the most ridiculous of all. Geography. Black Sabbath are from Birmingham; and the Midlands and more specifically the West Midlands just isn’t cool enough. In terms of music, London is everything. Liverpool and Manchester are also deemed cool, but everywhere outside of that in the eyes of record labels is invisible. This was backed up this week when someone high up in the musical chain (A suit, probably in London who hasn’t been to a gig since The Smiths were in the charts) declared that despite having one of the most vibrant music scenes in the country ‘There’s no buzz around bands from the Midlands.’ You simply can’t make it up.

See, sometimes you can’t win. Not even if you’re last album went to number 1, you recently sold out arenas all over the world, you created a genre and your band includes one of the best guitarists in history. And you know what? It’s a damn shame.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Marvin Gaye (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) 30 Years On

30 years ago today the greatest soul singer of all time passed away aged only 44. I know the whole ‘who’s the greatest’ debate is totally subjective but for my money everyone is fighting for 2nd place behind this man. He rose from chaos to become one of the most celebrated and famous singers in the world.

His childhood took place to a backdrop of serious beatings from his father until he was 17 when he walked out of his childhood home to try and make a career for himself. What followed was a real rollercoaster of a career and indeed a rollercoaster of a life. He battled depression and serious drug addiction at various points before being shot by his father, a shooting which lead to his untimely death.
Musically what he left behind was a legacy that stands up against the very best not only in soul and R&B but in music full stop. His voice was silky to the extreme, but his song writing at times boarded on remarkable. I urge everyone to go and listen to the What’s Going On album, its social commentary at its finest.

I’m going to leave you with my favourite song from the great man. ‘Heard it Through the Grapevine.’ The vocal, the groove, everything is just totally on point. I urge everyone to take a minute and let this tune wash over you. Ready? Now let’s get it on…