Archive for December, 2007

Albums of 2007: #3 – 1

#3
White Stripes – Icky Thump

White Stripes - Icky Thump

Jack and Meg return with this absolute cracker of an album which never fails to be boring. It culminates the influences of the previous 2 albums and rounds them perfectly into a fine lesson in blues, pop and experimental. Jack still can easily transform the simplist guitar licks into distinctive White Stripes melodys all with the resoundingly massive drums of Meg providing the backbone.

Title track Icky Thump is a beast of an opening track and is amongst the heaviest on this album. The simple yet catchy as hell riff laced with stangely compelling organ solo’s throws down the gauntlet for all to come. Another fine classic track follows in the shape of You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As Your Told) with more bluesy stripes coming from their top draw. I’m not going to forget to mention tio sheer guitar brutality of Bone Break with rapidfire jack vocals adding the enegy and enthusiasm. So many are the top tracks i’ll just mention the rest… classic stripes blues on Catch Hell Blues, eardrum crashing Little Cream Soda and the celtic flavoured St. Andrew (This Battle is in the Air).

Never to be dull a couple of tracks are very different and experimental. My favourite of these has to be Conquest which is more of a soundtrack to a Mexican Western more than a song with its latino horns, towering bass drums and storytelling lyrics. More storys are told between Jack and Meg on Rag and Bone with multiple vocal breakdowns between the thumping thrashed chords.

This is one of the most distinctive and essential works The White Stripes have produced to date. The rock is back with avengence and has incorperated the organs so prominant on Get Behind Me Satan with fine grace. Miss this album and most definitely miss out!

#2
Black Stone Cherry – Black Stone Cherry

Black Stone Cherry

Black Stone Cherry are a new band and their eponymous debut album is a classic rock well… classic! Hailing from the southern states of america, thier homeland blues influences are all worn on the sleave and given a reworking with some hard hitting guitars with bounding adolecent energy.

Lead track Rain Wizard sets the standard and this awesome riff drives the track which is matched in its awesomeness by the firecracker drumming and vast vocals. So many of the tracks on this album reach these standards with the fearlessly amazing drum-fest on Crosstown Woman, vocal heroism on Shooting Star, the metal inflexed effect drenched Blackwoods Gold and hard hitting frenzied Maybe Someday.

There is not a poor song on this album and listens like a homage to all things blues and hard rock! The blues makes appearances on the album too with a fantastic cover version of The Yardbirds Tired Of The Rain and also the melodic almost Thin Lizzy-esque riffing on Hell & High Water.

Musically each member excels from blisteringly awe inspiring rythmn guitars and solos, pounding bass guitars and some of the finest drumming this side of Dave Grohl. Seeing these guys live was a treat like no other and this album is exactly the same. Fantastic right from the start these guys truely deserved their Classic Rock Magazine award for Best New Band 2007!

Sit Back throw the amps up to 11 and revel in the Classic Classic Rock of Black Stone Cherry!!

#1
Kings Of Leon – Because Of The Times

Kings Of Leon - Because Of The Times

Three albums in and they have risen from little known us southern rockers to fully fledged kings of indie who are on course to become one of the biggest bands in the world. On the strength of this album this global invasion is not far away!

Because of the Times is beautifully melodic and has some amazing atmospheric ambience without sacrificing the songwriting. Opening track Knocked up has one probably the simplist guitar riff of 2007, but those three harmonic notes haunt the downbeat track and echo perfectly over the rambling rhythmn guitar. Lyrically it covers a pregancy and the reluctance to listen to parents and keep the child, quite heavy stuff really, but its so poignant that this has become a firm favourite of mine. Keeping on the downbeat mellow track for a while the lead single On Call is another graceful track with its own dramatic eerie lurking vocals and minamalist Pixies-esque bass riff. When the guitars strike they are murky and steeped in charm. Fans see’s vocalist Caleb on his strained southern best with his amazing vocals acompanying yet another understated but deftly crafted guitar sections.

KoL not only apply mood and evoke emotion like kings but they havent lost their swagger either. Proving they can still rock with the best, McFearless employs effect heavy melodys wedged between crunching power chords. Charmer takes another leaf out of The Pixies book of songwriting of soft soft loud and simple bass lines mixed with throat shattering vocals and exploratory guitar breakdowns. Black Thumbnail is probably the most rocking out there is to be had on this album, and believe me it’s a whole lot of fun! Slowly chugging guitars wind up into a burning fire of fuzzed up noise made to get your head a bopping.

Because of the Times is the Kings of Leon’s best album to date and sits deservedly atop of this list…truly amazing record which hasnt left my playlist all year with it’s subtle mix of mellowness, atmospheric melodic guitars, deep south vocals, driving bass and rawking riffs.

Roll on 2008!!

Albums of 2007: #6 – 4

#6
LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

LCD Soundsystem - Sound Of Silver

I am not usually the electronic music fan, but this year there have been some cracking dance albums with this outing being the best of them. The second album from mega-producer James Murphy is a classic electronic album. Sound of Silver is a perfect mix of loop based band driven electro, funky samples and pounding bass. Each track has a cracking melody which really draws you in and takes you on an high octane ride of danceable rhythm’s.

North American Scum is one of the great modern dance tracks, taking scuzzy guitar and driving keys all loaded with superb vocals. More highlights come in the form of the huge looping melody of Us Vs Them the deep dirty bleep riddled Something Great and the piano led frenetic frolic that is All My Friends.

Dance music never sounded so great with LCD Soundsystem’s collection of fantastic adrenaline pumping energy fuelled anthems! Played live these tracks are transformed into rave anthems and should definitely be the electronic score of 2007.

#5
Frank Turner – Sleep Is For The Week

Frank Turner - Sleep Is For The Week

I will admit that I’m not the biggest folk fan in the world, true the odd outstanding lyricist will catch my attention, but on the whole great rock guitars and catchiness is where I lay my musical hat. This maybe why I’ve fallen for this anti-folk album from the ex-hardcore punk front man of Million Dead, Frank Turner. His honest lyrics all seem to hold a sensitive and translucent feel to them with stories of him starting out on the road The Ballad Of Me And My Friends, the aftermath and fallout after a party The Real Damage and being a punk rocker on the fast paced strummer Back In My Day.

More than anything else this is full of cracking upbeat pop songs. The backing musicians push this album to greater heights with the superbly melancholic violin driving the melody on one of the tracks of the year Fathers Day. His vocals are far from an x-factor winner, but that is surely the point! Their strength is in their swaying from driving rousing chorus’s of Once We Were Anarchists to the sweet charm of Romantic Fatigue.

Frank Turner has produced a fine album of simple acoustics’, layered instruments and compelling storytelling lyrics you just want to sit and follow the lyrics sheet to.

#4
Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Modest Mouse

We Were Dead… Is the latest chapter In the already pretty long story of Modest Mouse and for me one of their finest. After hitting slight mainstream spotlights with Good News For People Who Love Bad News, the pressure was on to keep the band on top form.

By heck did they succed! Their brand of american indie pop has been spruced up with the addition of Ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr adding his axe slinging skills and a whole lot of publicity. Lead single Dashboard is as good a indie pop song there has been this year with understated tricky guitar melodies and layers of multi-intrumental genious. Florida is another contender for indie pop song of the year with floating guitars and subtle sonic soundscapes making for beautiful listening.

We Were Dead… retains the charm and quirky oddness of previous albums and is showcased on chillout track Fire It Up and strking stomper Education. The mellow on this album is amazing, how they make quiet rock so loud, is amazing. Still when they put their mind to producing great rock tracks again they come up trumps, exibit A We Got Everything.

Albums of 2007: #10 – 7

It’s that time of year again when we look back on the past 12 months and all give opinions and more importantly… write lists! Of course this is only my opinion, but I hope you find your favourite album of 2007 in this list. If not then at least pick one of these fine LP’s and give it a spin, you never know you might be surprised!….

Albums Of 2007

A most definitely different list not bounded by Indie Snobbery or Personal Credibility…

#10
The Hives – The Black And White Album

TheHives -  Black & White Album

The Swedish Garage Rock band with a deft hand for a rocking riff and an infectious melody return triumphantly with an album packed with both rock and oodles of roll. The surprising part of this album is how with the addition of hip hop producer Pharrell Williams, The Hives have added a rhythmic stomp to their already frenetic swagger. The slight slowing of tracks such as T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S., Well All Right! and You Dress Up For Armageddon give a second layer of depth which is usually the missing element in any Hives album.

This is of course not saying that their original craft has been forgotten. The Black And White Album has tonnes of huge pop hooks rapid fire vocals on tracks such as Tick Tick Boom, You Got It All Wrong and the future classic about leaving for home Return The Favour.

Did I mention that these songs sound even better when performed live!!!

#9
Roadstar – Glass Mountain

Roadstar

This is probably either the most underrated classic rock album of the year, or sheer favouritism from the author. Agreed I will confess a bias towards this now deceased band but still this is without doubt one of the uncovered gems of 2007. After winning Classic Rock Magazine’s Best New Band in 2006 they abruptly split following the release of this, their 2 full LP causing literally zero promotion. Which is a total shame as this album is chocked full of towering power chords, classic rock riffs, 80’s cock rock stylings and breathtaking solo’s.

Roadstar have the accolade of producing some of the finest hard rock for years without sacrificing the pop element, with skyward soaring vocals and catchy lyrics. These tracks are destined to be played live and it’s the biggest blow to know that I wont get to hear them in this setting.

Standout tracks are aplenty with the racious romp of Steam, the hard rocking vocal driven Rays and thumping album opener Feel Me Come Alive. All their craft is accumulated into the reworking of their early classic Last Survivor from their debut EP Get This. This maintains all the energy of the original bursting out through the mammoth melody with frightful power. The guitar solo’s total facelift is where the track really excels, a duelling guitar section followed by an amalgamated tapping frenzy is inspiring, and still runs chills down my spine.

A great album with towering chorus lines and crafty riffs aplenty!

#8
Coheed & Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow

Coheed & Cambria

An extremely long and overblown album title for this band of prog space cadets. This is the final installment of their 5 concept albums which each outline the plot of a sci fi epic story which is documented with it’s accompanying comic bok. Geeky you ask? hell yes indeedy! But their obsession with the wierd and wonderful has packed this album with an ether-worldly mix of pop and prog, all bound with melodic classic rock/metal guitar breakdowns and Claudio Sanchez’s childlike vocals.

No World For Tomorrow draws from the very edges of the scales of pop and metal and prog they have ever attempted before! The pop is great and this had meny surefire instantly accesible hits, namely The Running Free with its flowing riffage and catchy vocals, Feathers a mid tempo number which takes a riff straight from Eddie Van Halen’s top drawer and delivers another infectiously soaring chorus, not forgetting the huge atmoshperic, sweeping, overblown to the core, true rock ballad Mother Superior.

The epic title track rudely smacks the listener in the face following the bittersweet customary acoustic melodic album opener. No World For Tomorrow is brimmed with excellence featuring complex solo breakdowns, textured bridging sections, insane metal melodies and more unique vocals.

Coheeds final goodbye to this series (yet the first hasnt been released yet) is five tracks which amalgamates to form their parting swansong The End Complete, a mix of pop on Radio Bye Bye, haunting instrumentals The Fall Of House Atlantic, genre bending prog colosuss The End Complete all rounded off with the ever beautiful On The Brink.

This is a superb album which draws froma wide berth of styles and songwriting styles which when forged into a single collection of tracks is simply brilliant!

#7
Motion City Soundtrack – Even If It Kills Me

Motion City Soundtrack - Even If It Kills Me

The return of Motion City Soundtrack was most definitely one of my highlights of 2007. This, their third album has followed on pretty much the direction of the last album moving in the realm of pop. The production is very clean and rough edges of earlier albums are nowhere to be found, opening the door for MCS to hit the charts. This is no bad thing, in fact its up there with some of their best tracks to date.

Even If It Kills Me is crammed with great radio-friendly songs and yet harbours enough lyrical gems and crafty hooks to keep the hardcore fan tuned in. Their punk-electro roots are still prominent especially on upbeat punky numbers whose hooks are big enough to land Moby Dick. Broken Heart and the vocally immense This Is For Real and Where I Belong being top of the pops. The opening track Fell In Love Without You is great old style MCS with a new paintjob, as it mixes great electro noise punk and crunchy guitars in another fine sing along tune.

The lyrics and song writing again is top notch. With tongue firmly in cheek Pierre’s throws out infectious rhyming lyrics which can’t help but put a smile on ones face, yet if taken individually are striking. My top track Point of Extinction is packed with memorable lines which sets them way above any other pop-punk band,“All dressed up with some medicine for luck”,“With all my dreams hooked to hospital machines” and “I can figure out the point of anything” hitting the right notes for me. The boldest track on this album is the faintly masked mellowness of Hello Helicopter. A splattering of wavy guitars, sweet acoustic strumming, piano interludes melded with superb dark themes lyrics drive a bittersweet tune of sizable force.

These guys are no longer the fresh faced band that burst out into the pop-punk scene a few years back and they have grown and matured their sound while keeping the old faithful fans happy too. There’s a lot here for both new and old fans, MCS have made yet another giant of an album just this time its a bit more grown up!

Monthly Mixtapes: Nov/Dec Round up

My Mixtape

Seeing as December is such a slow month for decent new record releases and I was too busy to post November… here’s the finest tracks from the both those months rounded into a single neat package just in time for christmas!

Mixtape#9 - November/December 07

1, Liars – Plaster Casts Of Everything … Electrock thumper with crazy drums and bounding crescendos
2, Streetlight Manifesto – Down Down Down To Mephisto’s Cafe … Ska Punk at its poppy tops, uber catchy and full of brass
3, The Living End – Living For The Weekend … Aussie rockers show the way in melody, attitude and infectious rocking
4, The Blackout – Prepare for a Wound … Screamo angst punk with just enough pop to ensure plenty of snap and crackle.
5, Band Of Horses … Is There A Ghost … Beautiful Indie rocker with a grandeur sound and amazing atmospheric vocal prowess
6, Against Me – Stop! … Bostonian celtic punks lay back on this little gem
7, Les Savy Fav – The Year before the Year 2000 … Super track from the newly reformed and latest indie buzz heroes
8, Dashboard Confessional – Where Theres Gold … Dashboard never fail to pen a decent acoutic pop anthem or two
9, A Wilhelm Scream – The Horse … Where punk meets metal, this is an axe slinging stonker with endless energy and racious melodic guitar riffage
10, Holy Fuck – Lovely Allen … Sweet melody wrapped up in an evil electro groove
11, Justice – D.A.N.C.E. … French electronic dance music which has cut a groove right next to daftpunk with their sample loaded bass heavy floor filler
12, High On Fire – Fury Whip … New challengers to the prog metal throne
13, Buckethead – Brewer In The Air … Gun’s & Roses temporary guest guitarist playing his own metallic melodic guitar intrumentals
14, The Rumble Strips – Alarm Clock … Fun Fun Fun from the band who are not so dissimilar to Dexy’s Midnight Runners
15, The Starting Line – 21 … Punk-Popper to brighten the short nights.

A.K.A. I-D-I-O-T

The Hives @ Hammersmith Apollo
23rd November 2007

Friday night in the capital, so what’s a better to spend it than heading to the pub followed by a trip to see the self proclaimed “Greatest Band In The World”? I don’t think there is one personally. After endless excitement from fellow gig goer Steve it the expectations were sky high for my first time seeing them headline indoors.

Quit Your Day Job!

To wet the crowds appetite opening act whom those who read this review will be familiar with, Quit Your Day Job brought more swedish silliness to London. Somehow they were not well received by the extremely static and hostile crowd. They are a damn stupid, half-naked, electro-trash, comedy band… whats not to love? (well actually the half nakedness in all honesty)

Dan Sartain

I was really eager to watch Dan Sartain as his previous records have been excellent. Something wasn’t quite right with his performance… maybe it was his lack of a bass guitarist, maybe the lacklustre body language and movement, Unimpressive vocals, or possibly a lack of respect for a crowd who dislike Quit Your Day Job. Who knows? but the wow factor was missing for sure! A huge disappointment on the whole bar 2 back to back blues-by-numbers riffed guitar greats.

The Hives

Clearly all the drunk louts who I had to shove through to get to the bar earlier were here for one thing! I could tell as they all started to pile into crowd central for the brilliantly ego’d bonanza band that are The Hives! When Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, Nicholaus Arson, Vigilante Carlstroem, Dr. Matt Destruction and Chris Dangerous took the stage to a huge roar they wasted no time in getting the distinctly older crowd of Hammersmith pogoing like a bunch of teeny blink 182 fans on a bouncy castle! Literally each track which piled out of the amps was a true pop classic with the unmistakable hives sound and their infectious garage rock/punky riffs all bundled with mega adrenaline pumping power.

Howlin' Pelle

With so many highlights I struggle to name the best, here’s a few off the huge list. Walk Idiot Walk with its stompable strut, racious riffing on Hate To Say I Told You So, stop start sing-a-long Main Offender and Supply & Demand. Yet where they impressed me the most was the delivery of tracks form the latest album which i was a tad quality dubious about before this evening. Clearly with the mellowed out tracks clearly influenced by the hip hop producer Pharrell Williams they added a second string to their mighty bow, T.H.E.H.I.V.E.S. being a great example of this!

The Hives

Ending the evening on what is sure to become a surefire hit if ever released, the massively hummable tune of Return The Favour. The Hives retreated and the crowd whose spent enough energy to power a small Swedish town for a month straggled out the Apollo well and truly satisfied/shattered (or bruised and limping in Steve’s case, hehe) after a epic performance! The Hives definitely peaked above expectations, if Steve could keep up with us he would probably have said “Hate To Say I Told You So……Alright!“, “No Pun Intended” of course…chuckle chuckle.

The Hives

Is Anyone Going Anywhere?

Stereophonics @ Wembley Arena, London
16th November 2008

Gathering a sizable group of gig goers is a big job, especially this evening where people had to travel from as far afield as Sheffield to the home of football in North London! This factor and cheap beers in the pub both contributed to our late arrival at the newly renovated Wembley Arena. The lateness turned into our/my favour as it happens as we timed it brilliantly to miss the opening act The Enemy, which I was greatly relieved about.

Now, it’s been a while since I’ve been to see a band big enough to warrant an arena tour and the Stereophonics have been one such band for a long while. Having a back catalogue of 6 albums, 2 of them classics, 2 Average and 2 Horrid you would be slightly nervy of a mismatched set list. Nevertheless right from the get go they mixed the old with the new rotating the obligatory new album material around the highlights of their previous hit singles. The newer material was pretty flat and it was clear the crowd were only here for the hits. With so many to chose from they played most of my personal favorites ranging from The Bartender & The Thief, Vegas Two Times, A Thousand Trees, and Local Boy In A Photograph .

Stereophonics

It was a pretty routine run through of the hits, but from one cracking moment mid set when front man Kelly Jones stood alone with his guitar strumming through a melody of acoustic treats. Have A Nice Day blended into Maybe Tomorrow which quickly morphed into a superb stirring rendition of Traffic.

Rounding off the night in grand fashion with their stellar track Dakota they faded into the night after championing another bout of their knockout greatest hits!

Stereophonics

Black Stone Nightmare

Black Stone Cherry @ Astoria, Soho, London
31 October 2008

It was All Hallows Eve….The street were lined with zombies and vampires but I decided to take another trip to the Astoria, this time to see one of this years brightest new classic rock shining lights. But before we get to the main event Serpico, a Glasgow post-hardcore, punk/metal band were warming up the place. Some seemed to think they were doing a fine job of this, moshing away like there’s no tomorrow. Yet i couldn’t help but feel that they have a long way to go in the live stakes. Overblown guitar noise attempted to mask their flaws, but by drowning out some speedy solo’s it didn’t work, plus the lead singer was virtually a non-entity!

Black Stone Cherry are like myself in the fact that by no means are they old enough to remember the days of classic rock. Yet the fresh faced bunch of young twenty-somethings have a massive grasp on the core of the genre. Wailing blistering soloing, skull caving drumming, dual guitar assaults all with a twist of metal and oodles of wah-wah thrown in for good measure. It is the classic rockers dream combo, and add to that a taste for the deep south influences of Skynyrd and old school blues and you have one amazing recipe on your hands.

Black Stone Cherry

On stage they only prove to astound! The lead singers deep American booming vocals were crisp and rank among some of the best I’ve witnessed live, not to mention his mad guitar slinging skills. Teamed with the other almost pubescent looking guitarist they create one hell of a rocking roar. Tonight they stormed through the majority of their debut album with the standout tracks being set opener Rain Wizard, true deep south inflected rocker Hell & High Water, high octane strutting of Maybe Someday and an amazing extended jam of the classic blues number Hoocie Coochie Man.

Black Stone Cherry

To show that they con not only just write good rock songs, they proved themselves to be fantastic musicians in their own right here tonight, after leaving for the encore the drummer decided he wasn’t finished. He then plundered the drum kit and beat it to within an inch of its life, the crowd standing in a stunned trace as the flailing arms raided each skin with incredible precision and flair. Joined by the twin guitarists who continued the flair showing their talents for blazing the fretboard in perfect harmony.

Black Stone Cherry

Just when you thought it was all over, these guys re-emerged for their second encore which received an almighty roar for the crowd! To top the set which came before was tricky, so BSC decided to throw in another cover, this time the classic Jimi Hendrix track Voodoo Child. So assured was the performance that all three guitarists, fed up with playing their guitars in the usual frontally slung format, raised the roof by arching the guitar behind the head to complete the great solo. Not content with that, lead singer decided to become the his dentists worst nightmare by playing a cracking melody with his teeth! Incredible! These dudes rank up with some of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen!

Black Stone Cherry

A fond farewell to the London crowd was greeted with a huge roar and as the lead singer explained

” theres more people in here tonight than the total population of our town”

shows how far they have come and lets hope they go on to bigger and better things. A live album was recorded here this evening as well which goes to show just how many of the stops they pulled out. I cant wait for its release of this awesome evening of Classic Rock!!!