Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Northwestern - Ghostrock

For alot of music lovers, it was a dark day when Hope Of The States confirmed their split in 2006. With their albums "The Lost Riots" and "Left", they had subconsciously taken an MTV2 friendly indie sound that had been done to death and made it interesting, grandiose and for most part interesting. Hope Of The States were epic, often backed by choir vocals and orchaestral instruments whilst led by the political and emotional angst of Sam Herlihy's lyrics that made Hope Of The States so inspiring. So when Hope Of The States confirmed their split in 2006, it was for me as a music lover, a huge loss to a British music scene that seemed on the up at that point(with the success of bands like The Cooper Temple Clause and the continuing success of The Coral, etc).

Luckily for me and other Hope Of The States fans, 2009 sees the entrance of The Northwestern and their debut EP "Ghostrock". Fronted by Sam Herlihy with the backing rhythm of former Hope Of The States drummer Simon Jones, The Northwestern are much like you would expect them to be. Vocally and lyrically they sound very much like Hope Of The States and opening track "What Did I Do" confirms this with lines like 'I went to church once to get some answers but Jesus he had nothing to say, he's got his reasons, I'msure he's got his reasons but I won't bother again', very much business as usual with trumpets hounding the chord sequences in the chorus. Where The Northwestern do differ however, is in their guitar work. Once again "What Did I Do" marks as the best example of this, with a gloriously dirty guitar hook scything through the middle eight just when you thought you were listening to Hope Of The States. Follow up track "Ghosts On Vhs" also shows difference even from "What Did I Do" with a mainstream MTV2 friendly sound brilliantly underpinned by a wonderful guitar melody on the chorus that I quite frankly expect to hear in an advert soon. "House Of Bees" is probably the most understated song on "Ghostrock" relying heavily on an organ and Herlihy's original vocals which at times on this track, resemble Chris Martin of Coldplay but not in a bad way.

Basically, if you liked Hope Of The States, you will like The Northwestern. If you liked Hope Of The States but found them abit samey, you'll find that you'll like The Northwestern that bit more. Ultimately, "Ghostrock" is the sound of a band whos musicians have learnt from the past and used that to push their music to the next level. Now all they have to do is make a full length.


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Cue The Moon - Thought Forgotten Spoken

Bands may not realise it, but artwork can and does have an impact on how their record is viewed. My example is Cue The Moon with their album 'Thought Forgotten Spoken' which is so strange in its indie-esque ways, that I knew straight away that it would be one of the first going into my record player and if I was in a store, buying at a whim (does anyone else do that?), this is the sort of album art that would catch my eye and make me purchase it, even if I hadn't heard previously.

Buying albums due to the art, can be disastrous at best most often, luckily for Cue The Moon though, this isn't the case for them. 'Thought Forgotten Spoken' is perhaps one of the weirdest albums I have ever listened to and I say that as a huge compliment. It starts off with 'Its Me, Oh Lord', a lo-fi recording of a child singing something that I remember singing at primary school and from there it just gets weirder with 'Pox' and its weird keyboard melody and general Sparklehorse sound. It isn't all quirky fun and games though, Cue The Moon also know how to write something charming. 'Choose Your Weapon' is grandiose with a beautiful guitar melody backed by a wonderful nursery rhyme esque chorus and absolutely phenomenal sounding violins. 'Skin A Devil' picks things up, driven by a funky Beck bassline and a vocal delivery that we have probably become familiar with via Porcupine Tree. 'Thought Forgotten Spoken' really is a genre jumper of the best kind, just when you think you think they sound like Sparklehorse, they turn into Radiohead, then Porcupine Tree, then The Cooper Temple Clause and it never seems to end, I could list literally a hundred bands who Cue The Moon sound like but ultimately, they are just hugely original, highly talented and 'Thought Forgotten Spoken' is them at the height of their power showing off the fine craft of their art.

So take some advice; Be like me, look at the artwork for this record and pick it up without even hearing it, you won't regret it and you'll have found one of the best albums this year.

Shelley Short - A Cave, A Canoo

Shelley Short isn't a name I have come across previously, in fact, I’m not sure if hers is a name that many music lovers have come across previously but that isn't because she releases absolute rubbish, no, that would be a lie and in all honesty Shelley Short is something of a revelation. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, Short has been steadily releasing albums and touring with the likes of M Ward (Who you may know from the works of Bright Eyes), which you would think would have gained her a bit of recognition, but as I’ve not heard of her, I’d argue that she isn't a folk star yet.

That is all set to change with the release of 'A Cave, A Canoo', which is full to the brim of beautiful guitar melodies and Laura Marling sensibilities just minus the quirky lyrics but plus an experimentation that makes Short far more interesting and European sounding at times. Mainstream and predictable this isn't but at times, you can imagine Short fitting in nicely on an episode of Jools Holland. Tracks like 'Racehorse' build up and sooth back down to brilliant effect alongside the eerie lo-fi qualities of the beautifully vulnerable 'Tap The Old Bell'. If you don't listen to this album carefully, you miss out, car music or doing the housework music, this isn't but I don't think anyone will better this effort when listened to through headphones, staring out of your window on a rainy day.


Saturday, 10 October 2009

The Cinematics - Love And Terror

After The Cinematics first album 'A Strange Education', released on TVT records, hit the shelves, there was a buzz in certain circles, a buzz that these guys would be a band who could achieve some mainstream success; this band could really do this. Fast forward and you have the same old story for most bands currently; the label receives financial trouble and the future for The Cinematics and the release of their second offering 'Love And Terror' looks bleak and unlikely at best but luckily, The Orchard stepped in and despite most on the TVT roster becoming homeless, The Cinematics retained a record label and 'Love And Terror' has finally seen the light of day.

'Love And Terror' isn't the rousing swansong I expect it to be though, after such a potential breakdown, I expected The Cinematics to come out, all guns blazing, full of urgency and a new lease of life, I’d even heard rumours that their new material contained a more raw sound that you'd expect to hear live more than on record. Where these rumours came from I do not know but I don't think the Editors-esque offering of 'All These Things' with its Bloc Party drumming is reminiscent of any rough and raw band. The Cinematics are clearly a band that wear their influences on their sleeves with 'Lips Like Yours' sounding akin to Echo And The Bunnymen and 'Wish' containing The Cure-esque guitar sound from the 'Boys Don't Cry' era, it would be obvious if you said that The Cinematics have just listened to great music from the past and looked at what has been popular indie-wise in the last five years and basically copied that formula.

Although not hugely original, there are some fine moments in 'Love And Terror', the title track for me, is its main stand-out, with a groove orientated riff supported by a rousing bass line and dark eighties tinged vocals, this is the sort of track that could easily have worked on the oh so brilliant Donnie Darko soundtrack. These moments are few and far between though and on a ten-track album, you really shouldn't be wishing for the end after track four.

Finally, in an attempt to not be completely negative about this record, I will say this; 'Love And Terror' is a slab of that dark brooding Joy Division MTV2 indie that bands like Editors have achieved mainstream success with and I can't see why any fan of Editors wouldn't necessarily buy into this, especially when Editors new material sounds so wrong.

2.5 - 5

Monday, 5 October 2009

Reuben - We Should Have Gone To University

'We Should Have Gone To University' is a double CD and DVD that marks the indefinite hiatus of underground alternative British rock band Reuben. After their initial EP, Reuben exploded onto the British music scene with their debut album 'Racecar Is Racecar Backwards', a brilliant slab of alt-rock that showcased a sense of urgency alongside a beautiful melodic output, adding a freshness to the quiet-loud dynamic that had since become stale since Nirvana and spawning such great songs as 'Freddy Kreuger' and 'Lets Stop Hanging Out', both with a relate-able quirky element to them. Two albums followed, 'Very Fast, Very Dangerous' and 'In Nothing We Trust', both showcasing a different sound to Reuben fans, perhaps simpler and maybe heavier but none-the-less, still very Reuben, containing the DIY spirit they had since become renowned for. Reuben continued to tour constantly in-between working daytime jobs garnering more fans and better reviews becoming an underground band that you admired, perhaps you were even proud of; a band that worked so hard that they deserved to have a huge break through and it is a shame they have become yet another victim of the music business.

Essentially this is a b-sides cash in but obviously has an emotional attachment due to the fact that Reuben are no longer with us. On this release it is sadly quantity over quality really with the release spanning a massive forty seven tracks, some of which are single versions, live versions or remixes of the same songs which is disappointing as you find yourself skipping through tracks you've already heard twice before and if you haven't heard them before, you find the occasional few substandard ideas or just badly recorded songs in general.

That isn't to say that there aren't any gems on this release because there are. Songs like 'Shambles' and 'Lissom Slo' showcase a different side of Reuben, a heartfelt emotional vulnerable side with Jamie Lenmans vocals sounding like they could crack in two at any point but in a good way. 'Victim' harps back to the days of 'Racecar Is Racecar Backwards' but with a sound more mainstream than anything they have achieved previously. Also included is 'Scared Of The Police' which has always been a live favourite with its kooky lyrics and sing-along chorus. Note-ably, some cover versions are also included such as 'Feel Good Inc.' (Gorillaz) and 'The Hand That Feeds' (Nine Inch Nails), which despite looking like they could be disastrous on paper, actually work to great effect.

Ultimately, 'We Should Have Gone To University' is a fan boy/girl release. If you haven't heard Reuben before, then I recommend 'Racecar Is Racecar Backwards' however, if you are a huge fan and have all their other albums then you need this to add to your collection.