Archive for February, 2011
Mega-hyped British classic rockers enter the fray with their debut album.
The Black Spiders – Sons Of The North
The Black Spiders have been making waves in the underground for the last couple of years, so their debut arrives to the jubilation of fans who have been eager for this LP to drop. Needless to say it was worth the wait!
Each track is a blast of machismo guitar power and energy which does great honour to the Rock Gods.. Not a song goes by without at least one uplifting vocal line, bluesy beer swilling guitar lick or addictive melody. There isn’t a great deal of originality found on Sons Of The North, but they stick to their guns, doing it classic rock style better than almost anyone else in the current rock crop.
Album opener Stay Down sets the tone of what’s yet to come. It’s a brutal all out air-raid assault with it’s unrelenting, uncompromising rock muscle played at breakneck speed. Easy Peasy showcase their poppier side with a female guest vocalist adding some flair to its mid-tempo melodies. Blood Of The Kings is about as varied as they come. During its 7 minute stay we get some pounding head bop friendly crunching riffs, dual guitar solo’s, dramatic halts, bold bass melodies, epic crescendo’s and even a short vocal skit aside to fade. This and St. Peter‘s slow groove heavy blues shuffle, with its simple but effective vocals, loud soft dynamic and a wicked wah-waaaahhhhed solo shows they are anything but one trick ponies.
The fact they still have their sense of humour intact sees a band loving what their doing and having fun with it too, as seen with lyrics such as “Eat Thunder! Shit Lightning!” on the rousing album curtain call What Good’s A Rock Without A Roll all the while KISS Tried To Kill Me proclaims “It was Gene Not Paul” and “It Wasn’t Ace’s Fault”… apparently.
Through all their touring they have clearly refined these tune to the perfect hard hitting rockers they are today, displaying some excellent song craft and a gift for incessantly catchy hard rock. Every songs demand your attention and wills you to stand up and salute each and every one them (preferably wearing your favourite classic rock T-shirt, beer in hand, down the front at one of their live shows)!
The Black Spiders have arrived!
Mr Flowers Says:
Sons of the North apes classic rock forebears like AC/DC and Black Sabbath like it’s going out of fashion… oh, I see. Luckily given the rumblings this band has been generating in the “underground” classic rock scene, Black Spiders show themselves to be fine exponents of the genre. There’s riffage galore throughout the album; really, you couldn’t get away from them if you wanted. Stay Down which starts the album at a ferocious pace sports a simply monstrous solo to finish.
A light-hearted approach on KISS Tried To Kill Me gains approval as it neatly side steps that age old problem for bands of this ilk taking themselves too seriously. Other songs of note include Easy Peasy, which feature guest female vocals for a, now sadly rare, rock duet. St Peter starts slowly, builds to a plodding pace before a bit of quiet finally bursts into a cool solo and riff mid way through, a good song. The curtain closer, What Good’s A Rock Without A Roll, shows the band do have some craft by cutting the guitars over the verses without making it less rocky (that was a reference to one of the lyrics, in case you missed it), only to increase the effectiveness of the guitars when they bring them back.
Some songs err on the forgettable side, like Just Like A Woman, Medusa’s Eyes, the Metallica-esque Si, el Diablo and… I forget. Whereas Blood Of The Kings‘ shortcoming is that it’s just plain too long amongst all the short blasts of rock the album offers, while not quite capturing the essence of a great Black Sabbath song. All though, despite their foibles, are flush with excellent solos so if that’s a key criteria for you, you’ll be more than happy having bought this album.
DoesItRock Overall Score: 8/10
Listen to Black Spiders – Sons Of The North now on Spotify!
Texan rockers with the hideously long name are back with more rocky goodness…
..And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Tao Of The Dead
AYWKUBTOTD make about as much sense as their acronym. but that’s exactly what we have come to know and love about these epic rockers. The title of the opening song says alot about whats to come Introduction “Lets’s Experiment”, itself a meandering build up with no grand rock-out moment, leaves only more desire to listen on.
The fireworks do soon arrive in the shape of the uptempo driving rock numbers Pure Radio Cosplay & Summer Of All Dead Souls, both combining a loud/soft ethos with synth melodies and hard hitting guitars. The main issue I have with Tao of the Dead is that for every moment of euphoric rock bliss, there is an awful long time spent in melancholy enroute to arriving them.
Cover the Days Like A Tidal Wave comes in with a mere 2:07 mins before blast off, with Fall Of The Empire and Spiral Jetty being entirely engulfed by these gentle moods. Despite this, the comparitavely short tracks maintain interest with their ever morphing spectrum of sounds.
Towards the end of the album Weight of The Sun and The Fairlight Pendant bring back some level of volume equilibrium, upping the stakes once more with some epicly huge riffs. The greatest suprise of this album is in the extented prog leviathon, 16 minute album closer Strange News From Another Planet, which is an ever changing melody machine of nonsense, thats totally addictive!
Tao of the Dead is an impressive album of genre bending rock, which both dazzles and wanders in equal measure.
Mr Flowers Says:
The album itself starts with a 2 minute instrumental, only briefly interrupted by the voice of Conrad Keeley suggesting to the band,
It might have been obvious that Trail of Dead were about to turn up that dial marked “Prog”.
Against that expectation though the first song proper, Pure Radio Cosplay, is actually more like a classic Rolling Stones rock song, or even something Primal Scream or Oasis might have done in the ’90s. The progressive stylings start bleeding through as the album continues: Cover The Days Like A Tidal Wave starts with an almost whispered spoken 2 minute intro until it explodes into a massive rock riff for its final seconds.
There are a few missteps on the album, such as Spiral Jetty which sounds like it’s the intro to another Trail of Dead rock out which unfortunately never starts. Lucky that it’s followed by Weight of the Sun then; a set of swaying verses that burst into a rousing chorus of shouts, guitars and drums, a slow-fast mechanic that’s emulated by the similarly great Ebb Away.
The Fairlight Pendant gives us one the more progressive songs on the record which sadly lacks any of the hooks of the other songs that make the long pretentious prog bits bearable, but it seems they were all saved for the album’s coup de grâce – the 16 minute behemoth that is Strange News From Another Planet. It’s almost like 5 songs in one which all flow into each other seamlessly. Each act alternately serving up rock songs, slowed-down melodic anthems, prog outs until we’re given one final burst of energy to finish the album where it started. It pretty much sums up the sound of Tao of the Dead – epic.
DoesItRock Overall Score: 7.5/10
Listen to And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Tao Of The Dead now on Spotify!
For the second night in a row, I’m back in Kentish town, but this time it’s for the Last.fm festival. This was one of the oddest “festivals” I’ve ever seen, for starters only 4 bands were playing, it was all on one stage and it lasts as long normal evening gig. With the packed in line-up proceedings were kicked off early, by Bones.
These spritely indie rockers put in a solid if slightly generic performance. I especially liked the tradeoff between the female vocals and the sharp guitar riffs which clattered along to their pop centric melodies. Enjoyable, but not likely to set the world on fire.
The next band up Chapel Club had been hyped up in the indie press so much that in my mind, they were this gargantuan indie rock titan, set to steal the show. Somehow I fell foul of wise words I’ve written here many a time before…don’t believe the hype! If you like your music with a streak of angst (the depressed kind, not the angry kind), monotone vocals ala Morrissey and an obsession for Joy Division, this is right up your street. This set left be thinking what other things I could be doing instead…like sleeping.
Young Knives returned to the place where me and Mr. Flowers saw the nearly 5 years ago without their preceeding “The” (They must have mislaid it down the back of the sofa or something). Far from becoming industry standard, Young Knives have always remained true to their full on pop experience. The dual front men are perfectly in sync, bopping out vocal harmonies to rival any glee club while picking out some of the finest, nifty little guitar licks this side of franz ferdinand. The only disappointment was the fact they only had 30 minutes to play, causing a very new album heavy setlist. But when the classics arrived in the shape of jerky strutter The Decision and the epic indie anthem Turn Tail it had the whole crowd up on their feet singing along. A massively impressive set from this unlikly combo whom encompass everything that’s great about true britishness (that’s being a little bit eccentric but just about getting away with it).
Here is where I have a right old moan at the organisers! As much as its great to see 4 bands in one night, everyone knows that any festival, no matter how small, must have a headliner. With only a 10 minute difference between set lengths of band 1 (25mins) and band 4 (35mins) this was beyond acceptable. It was tough to see Young Knives leave so soon after they arrived and with the next bands calibre this set length was unacceptably short. Their best bet would have been to drop Chapel Club altogether!
Despite the restrictions The Futureheads set about whipping up a frenzied edged punk outpouring of thumped guitars and equally harmonious vocal hooks. In the Live setting these guys really live to crank up the volume, upping the punk ante, putting the amps through their paces with 3 guitars bursting out massive riffs left right and centre. I was surprised by this as their studio material is always very measures and slickly produced, live they are an altogether harder beast to tame.
It was good see that they still loved to perform their old material, pulling plenty of old classics such as Alms, the riffing terrific Decent Days And Nights and set closer, the Kate Bush cover Hounds of Love. Thankfully for us all, The Futureheads didn’t was to leave either as they ploughed on 10 minutes beyond curfew because, as lead singer David “Jaff” Craig put it “35 minutes is not enough” Their final flurry was met with rapturous appreciation, estatic moshing and crowd led harmonies. This was a cracking high energy set from a band I seem to have missed live thus far. Something I am sure to rectify, again and again and again etc….
21st January 2011
After gaining tickets to this absurdly eclectic BBC staged new music event at The Forum ensured that we arrived down the the Forum, in plenty of time to catch all of tonight’s acts. Seeing as there were far too many bands to be healthy on a single nights line-up its somewhat of a surprise that we had support dj’s spinning the discs before proceedings kicked off. BBC Heavyweight new music champion Zane Lowe was the first of such mix masters who did a decent job of kicking up an early evening dance party.
All of tonight’s bands are being championed right now, with the first band Funeral Party having just released their debut album which has generated it’s fair share of buzz and pre-spectacle. Sadly as with most bands tagged Next Big Things… (there are over 50 more currently on a NME Gig series, btw) they fell somewhat short. From where I was standing, their guitar riff based dancy electro-punk with indie ambitions barely got started. Vocals were remarkably weak and with fewer hooks than I dare recall, this set really didn’t do justice to their quite impressive collection of studio singles. A few glimpses of brilliance were scattered here as there as their funky disco melodies had feet a tappin’ & grooves a bustin’, but they were over far too soon.
During the stage roundabout, the DJ Double Act of Nero took to the balcony and pumped out some fast rhymes and hedonistic house tunes. Some more successful than others this was most definitely a great antidote to the mid-changeover bores.
The tempo slowed and an air of calm descended as Jamie Woon took centre stage. His soulful grooves were pleasant enough, but carried no real enigma or special ingredient which would propel him to stardom. Yes, he had a decent voice, Yes he was so laid back it was a wonder he could even stand up…but his lack of character and slow delivery left us all a bit laboured. Good job we were all stood up, else we wouldn’t have heard him for the snores. He would probably say tonight wasnt the right crowd, he’d be right. In a jazz club, this would have been …niiiicccceeee!
Our next guest DJ was BBC Radio One’s Nick Grimshaw. Now I have no idea how this man makes a living from being a DJ. Seriously anyone who thinks that a crowd waiting for new music would want to hear a pop mash-up with an Adele song thrown in to the mix is barking up the wrong tree. In fact Nick was in the wrong forest altogether! A glee club member dress sense, an ever greatening ego and a bravado laced persona did little to improve his status in out eyes either.
It was will great relieve then, that the tables stopped turning and the small family of Marshalls (2 Amps powering no less than 8 Cabinets!) who had assembled on stage were powered up by the electo-noise poppers Sleigh Bells. For a double act, they really are chalk and cheese these two. vocalist Alexis Krauss is a sweet sounding with an almost childlike twang to her voice bringing sugary melodies to the massive sound generated by guitarist Derek Miller. Miller has his guitar set to over-over-overdrive as he picks out some shrilling guitar licks which cut through the air with all the grace of a drunken elephant. It is this polar collaboration which is both the strength and the downfall of their live performance. Swinging from jovial poppy vocals to crashing waves of noise was alluring and impressive. But It was all to easy to drown out the vocals with the intense guitar racket, and leave the general onlooker wondering if Alexis had lost her voice, or was it we who had lost our hearing? Still this was a good performance, packed with innovative edgy pop music.
It’s a long shot to call White Lies new music, but we were all glad they were here to soak us all in gloriously rousing gloom rock. This is a band of huge contradictions (happy sad music anyone?)which is why I enjoyed them more than I probably should. I’m not generally one for sad, doom impending depressing lyrics a la Joy Division, The Smiths et al… But tonight their electro fused soaring indie rock was by far the most accomplished set. All dressed in “we’ve just left a wake” suits they set about producing the most anthemic indie rock of the night. Throwing in some older gems helped proceedings, although newer material was too shabby either.
This downbeat set closed out the night. One, which to our ears did not herald the start of a new music revolution, but gave a decent leg up the ladder to moderate success.
Debut album from a promising Welsh indie band
The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar
In The Big Roar, the Joy Formidable have do doubt created a massive indie rock record, one of the most impressive debuts for some time. Guitars clatter and glide with agression and finesse in equal measure as they show they can conjour up a thumping monster riff as easily as a stunning noise-rock progression.
Tracks 2 & 3 highlight this with the former “The Magnifying Glass” with its’s reckless punky feeling and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club slant, with the latter “I Do’t Want To See You Like This” being a vocal driven noise pop epic which rivals any Arcade Fire track for granduer.
It’s this combination of ubiquitous power, exhuberant melody making, noise-pop surrounds which are The Big Roars great strength.
No doubt this huge record is doused in pop with its sweet fuzzy female vocals and big hooks, but it’s when they crank up the feedback and blast out indie-fied hard rock riffs that the true genius of this album appears. Where all the great ideas collide is on “Whirring“, an near 7 minute whirlwind of swirling fuzz, mammoth riffs, infectious chorus and jubilant crecendo’s (The outro is worth praise alone).
Given it’s dreamy like qualities, there is a tendency on occassion for the Joy Formidable to crank up the drama and ramble on a tad too much, leaving lethargy outstaying its welcome.
The Big Roar is one UK press hyped-up release, which worthy of every word of praise it receieves…a rare thing!
Mr Flowers Says:
The monstrous The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie that opens The Big Roar is a statement of intent for the indie hype-machine that is The Joy Formidable. Led by the angelic vocals of the brilliantly named Ritzy Bryan, they take that popular wall of sound approach, give it a healthy spoonful of pop and finish it with crashing guitars and symbols.
Following it up with some actual rock-riffage on The Magnifying Glass and the pop gem that is Austere, with it’s lady squeal sound effect, twangy guitar and rolling drums building up to a thudding ending, we might just start to think that some of that hype could be justified.
However, it’s the bits in between the superstars like the indulgent end to Whirring and the drifting Buoy that bring the album down. Sure, they’re quite pretty but those walls of sound soon start to stack into one and another, and without the killer pop hooks you end up with 3 minute rock-outs without the rock. It’s all a bit… unremarkable.
While things pick up with the spectacular Cradle with it’s toe-tapping intro, driving melody and drumming, you get the sense by then that this is an album that, while blessed with some great pop moments, just lacks that bit of bite.
DoesItRock Overall Score: 7.75/10
Listen to The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar now on Spotify!
12th December 2010
Our final live event of 2010 was another trip down to south london to the Brixton academy to see a man who we have championed from the very beginning. Between tiny tents at Reading Festival, Bristol’s Dot2Dot festival, Shepherds Bush Empire and Glastonbury this will be the fifth time of seeing the punk turned acoustic troubadour Frank Turner. Tonight his coming of age is complete, filling the largest non arena venue in London town. I have to say, it is totally deserved!
He had an impressive set of support bands as well tonight, kicking off with his old pals Dive Dive who for a long time formed his backing band during his earlier years. It is a same to report that we only managed to catch the last 5 minutes of a set which was clearly energising the early arrivals. From what I caught, they were a lively bunch of indie rockers with a dash of punk on a bed of pop. Set closer Liar was a rampant rocking tune which was both infectious and pumped up. Ones to keep an eye on.
Now Mr. Flowers was looking forward to the next act as much as our headliner, the irrepressable indie man and acoustic/folk stalward Ed Harcourt. The performance was enjoyable, but contained few highlights and was a rather drab, somewhat sombre affair. In this gigantic venue, Ed’s indie folk style, outstanding musicianship and unique vocals did not quite have the power to match the poignant lyrics or the grand venue. Focusing almost exclusively on new material, this was a slightly disappointing set which failed to really grab the crowds attention. I can’t help but feel that in a smaller venue, Ed will reap much greater success.
Conversely Frank Turner is made for the larger venues, his anthemic acoustic rock tunes gave an immediate adrenaline hit to those left a bit vacant after Ed’s set. His honest punk-folkster appeal and his enigmatic stage presence combined to instantly win over this huge crowd. Tonights setlist was a true greatest hits set with all his highlights bundled in, including the triumphant rousing ode to a lost friend Long Live The Queen, the fixating storytelling of I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous, the family tensions of Father’s Day, the gig circuit tales of The Road and the tribute to travel, experiences and companionship with The Ballad Of Me And My Friends. As seems to be customary he threw in another folk acappela english folk song, this one was called The English Curse and showed his full blooded english character to the fullest.
Frank intersperced his hits with songs from his latest Rock N’ Roll EP which was only released a few days previous. This is a bit of a disappointment as there probably wasnt as many people familiar with these songs before they got a live airing, Despite this this new material was instantly lovable. Honest and heartfelt lyrics sung with conviction and passion which not only have mega catchy vocal hooks, but damn good pop melodies too. The standout from these new songs was definitely I Still Believe, another one of Frank’s songs which resonates with the rock and roll heart beating thoughout each and every one of us. It’s this passion and former anarchic tendencies which found more than usual comon ground tonight what with a more politically motivated set choices getting full rousing support from the packed in ensemble.
This was by far the most accomplished performance Ive seen from Mr. Turner, I put this down to that fact that he actually has a full time band now. So instead of a lievly band playing another guys songs, you had musicians who are dedicated to makeing each night better than the last. This energy and excelling in musical showmanship set these renditions apart from their predecessor airings. Ed Harcourt appeared to signal the end of proceedings as he played Mandolin on an epically uplifting version of Photosynthesis, which rounded off the night in jubilant style.
So another year another triumph and with a new album due out in 2011, expect this year to be even bigger than the last! Where next? Arena Tours? Stadium Gigs? Who knows? But we’ll be there to chart it.
Tree hugging environmentalist UK indie band British Sea Power release their 4th full length album:
British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall
The first thing that hits is the sheer scale of these BSP’s latest tunes, their ambition seems especially grand this time out. Many songs tower above the clouds with their trademark soft vocals always providing a warm backing.
Early album highlights Whose In Control & We Are Sound are the musical equivalant of sinking into an comfy chair putting your feet up in front of a log fire. Its just as warm as the radiator, but it feels special somehow. It does this without really pushing boundaries, familiar…but not generic.
There are brief glimpses of their long forgotten pizazz and drive on Stunde Null & Mongk II with attack & urgent exhasperated vocals. Recent years have seen BSP’s sound too easily overtaken with their more recent staple of grandiose compositions. The greatest offender on this ‘epic’ front is Cleaning out The Rooms, which is a failed attempt to create Hoppipolla Pt.2.
The moments of greatness are matched with pockets of overindulgence, with consecutive tracks Luna, Baby & Living Is So Easy drifting far too effortlessley in one psychadelic ear and out the other. It feels they have been eating too many field mushrooms for their own good.
Valhalla Dancehall is a strong album which is mainly melancholic, always grand, briefly superb and occasionally comatose.
Mr Flowers Says:
The jangly pop guitars which open the album in Who’s In Control promises yet another triumphant return for British Sea Power with all the hallmarks of a great BSP song; a rousing chorus, layers of guitars, and replete with a weird scream sound effect to top it off.
Unfortunately it does mark somewhat of a decline as the album starts taking on murky water. A series of drony, forgettable songs are only really broken up by the squealing guitars of Mongk II, drinking from that Joy Division fountain more than any other song on this album.
If you successfully survive the suffocation of Luna and Baby without drowning, Observe The Skies provides a little bit of respite from the wistful ennui, before the album reaches Cleaning Out The Rooms – pretty much the epitome of everything wrong with Valhalla Dancehall: long, drony, hookless boredom with a few whispered aaaaaahhhaha ahhhahahhahaas thrown in case you hadn’t fallen asleep by the end of its seven minutes.
Out of nowhere, Thin Black Sail seems to have stowed away from some other album and found itself in the crew of Valhalla Dancehall. Completely out of place but a welcome break from the tedium, Thin Black Sail is a bluesy, gothic punk song which could easily have been found on the floor of a recording studio used by fellow Brighton-based indie-rockers Eighties Matchbox B-line Disaster.
Valhalla Dancehall is a difficult listen with few stand outs to make it worth revisiting too many times. Let’s just hope that once-seemingly ironic first album title doesn’t turn out to be some kind of prophetic albatross, eh readers?
DoesItRock Overall Score: 6.5/10
Listen to British Sea Power – Valhalla Dancehall now on Spotify!
As with each and every January, I spend most of my time checking out what I missed last year, which in fact is quite alot. here are the some of the gems I’ve found and some belters from month one of 2011.
Listen now >>> DoesItRock.net – Jan 11 Mix
1) The Joy Formidable – Whirring … Beautiful mammoth of indie whirrings, noise rock feedback and pop vocals with greater rise and falls than the Peak district.
2) British Sea Power – Who’s In Control … BSP have gone massive and this chirpy stadium sized indie is testament to its success,
3) Dive Dive – Liar … Speedy little punk inflected number with a super catchy chorus from these oxford lads.
4) Gang Of Four – Who Am I? … Legends of the post-punk party are back to show how its done! Razor edged guitar riffing and social politics galore.
5) Glamour Of The Kill – Lost Souls … GoTK have gone the pop route to fame producing an “accessible” metal record which spawned this nify tune.
6) Cold War Kids – Flying Upside Down … Beautifully uplifting and infectious indie rock which knows its place. An honest and ace tune.
7) Social Distortion – California … Punk old boys still prove they can mix it up with some hard rocking Americana
8) PM Today – Progress Is A Lemon … Prog rock never sounded quite as angry as when its being played by PM Today, superb instrumentation and cracking guitar work.
9) Hardcore Superstar – Moonshine … Scandenavian sleaze rockers returned with even bigger hard rock riffs…barely seems possible1
10) Motörhead – I Know How To Die … Lemmy and Co are back to kick your ass! You better believe it!!
11) Fake Problems – ADT … Jangly American inde rock from these ever consistant pop rockers
12) Kylesa – Crowded Road … Metal rumblings and overdrive plunged into sublimly euphoic depths.
13) Six Gallery – Bermuda Triangles … Minus The Bear are not the only band who can pull off massively skilled indie rock musicanship.
14) White Lies – Bigger Than Us … Swirling indie radio rock from the ever depressed white lies
15) Maps & Atlases – Living Decorations … Math Pop with one of those nagging riffs which get lodged in your head all day!
16) Tides Of Man – Echoes … Indie Rock gets a Prog overhaul and guitars beefed up to bring a packed tune full of eclectic guitar licks
17) Trophy Scars – Nausea … Classic rock and blues reign on this Prog bands latest Album Darkness Oh Hell
18) The Flatliners – Carry The Banner … Angry punk rock which never relents its passionate onslaught of vocals, drums and guitars.
19) Off With Their Heads – Trying To Breathe … Pop Punk Anthem for January. Just so damn catchy!