Friday, 27 January 2012

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I have to admit, I am a huge fan boy of Trent Reznor. I have been since hearing Nine Inch Nails' Downward Spiral and even their dodgier albums (anything after With Teeth in my opinion) have done little to change that, especially as Reznor seems to have come back stronger than ever with new band, How To Destroy Angels. I was as surprised, yet elated, as anyone when awards were won for his soundtrack to The Social Network, so despite the potential for this review to be biased, I have to say, that as I view Reznor as a modern day music icon, and with his ever increasing mainstream popularity, there is a very high standard that needs to be lived up to on this, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Soundtrack.

It starts well enough with a cover of Immigrant Song with Karen O on vocals. Such a cover could be sacrilege to many but I actually think that like Johnny Cash did with Reznor's Hurt, he and Atticus Ross have managed to put this dark, gothic twist on it that makes it completely unlike the original (although I'm sure many will argue with me over this) and I personally think Karen O does a fantastic job vocally where many definitely would have fallen short.

The rest of the soundtrack, well, it's hard to review. Firstly, it's completely vocal-less. Secondly, it's nearly three hours’ worth of music (which if you are buying the album for ten pounds is really some bang for your buck) and thirdly, well, I haven't watched the film. I can say this much though, there are some very obvious Reznor touches, stuff that harks back to the sonic atmosphere that was created on The Fragile album and chord progressions that are so obviously Nine Inch Nails that it hurts. It's often quite low key, sparse even, haunting, putting you on a constant edge, and when it does pick up it becomes an even more thrilling listen and I think a lot of this can be put down to Reznors’ more deep set gothic tendencies.

After hours and hours of listening to this release I'm not so much wanting to see the film (although I do), but more so dark, desperate images being flickered on some screen behind my CD player, the soundtrack evokes that sort of feeling, a brooding sense that something is wrong and I almost want or need to know what that is, but yet if this is the music to that image, I'm scared to. So in many ways, I think that this soundtrack has accomplished more than most, because it can stand alone, it doesn't need the movie to conjure up a relationship with the music because it creates its own story as such.

There are some very good, young, more alternative musicians creating soundtracks for the Hollywood industry like Clint Mansell or John Murphy, and that isn't even mentioning the continuing greatness of the likes of old favourite John Williams. Trent Reznor isn't quite in the league of Williams (and probably won't ever be) , nor can I ever see him writing iconic songs like Mansell did for Requiem for a Dream and Murphy did for 28 Days Later but still, he is clearly onto something with this soundtrack malarkey and if he could perhaps leave his roots behind him he might really surprise himself, and us.

4 / 5

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Gunning For Tamar - Time Trophies

I've decided that Oxford must have some pretty fertile ground. After all, Radiohead have continuously succeeded all of these years, and not only that but art-indie band, and one of my favourites, now de-funct youthmovies hailed from Oxford. It's no coincidence that intelligent bands very much like youthmovies are starting to spring up from Oxford then. First I noticed the brilliant Spring Offensive and now come the equally ace Gunning For Tamar (signed to the equally brilliant and ever innovative Alcopop! Records).

Time Trophies, Gunning For Tamar's first release on Alcopop! Records is an EP comprised of three tracks (and two remixes) filled with soft melodies, often epically erupting old school Biffy Clyro style into cutting distorted riffs but none the less, always maintaining a sense of jagged unpredictability (much like the earlier Biffy material). At times it's unashamedly art indie like the title track that recalls the guitar tones of (a cool band in my mind anyway) Secondsmile, while second track Chocolate Hooves relies on melodies that you wouldn't be surprised to see on Minus The Bear's brilliant Menos el Oso and final track Astronaut/Abort is just in a world of its own with a deep brooding bass line and a jaunty piano melody moving the track along while vocally Gunning For Tamar hit the youthmovies notes where it's flawed, but that's why you like it.

In all honesty it's hard to describe this EP, it's filled with that many ideas. The fact that every comparison I've made has been to a band that I have at some point in my life absolutely adored should go some way into explaining how much I rate Gunning For Tamar. Yes it's a bit Biffy Clyro, a bit youthmovies, a bit Minus The Bear, a bit Secondsmile, hell it's even a bit early Foals. So what it isn't necessarily instant, but it's intelligent, inspiring, musically thought provoking, and that's before you even see how they are packaging the product (basically it's a nifty watch with a download link to the EP, how cool is that?!).

Poppy art indie might not be everyone's cup of tea, hell, I'm sure it isn't NME's cup of tea these days so that instantly makes it uncool right? But I have to say this; It's releases like this, and the imagination behind the packaging of the product that make me proud to review up and coming independent bands.

4 / 5
Angels And Airwaves - Anxiety

Angels and Airwaves are a super group of sorts. A member from Blink 182, a member from 30 Seconds to Mars, one from Boxcar Racer, and their newest drummer was previously of Lostprophets and Nine Inch Nails. Okay, forgive me, not quite a ‘super’ group but still, a group of people with enough experience (and musical talent) to expect something.

When they first came out, they were billed as some band of epic proportions, whether this was something they actually believed or not I don’t know, but I came away feeling that this was just a serious Blink 182, a straight-up pop punk band with a lot of potential but nothing to set them apart, a lot of things to say but not the balls to say it. Yet, obviously, they must have done something right, because they are hugely successful and me, well, I’m not, so I must be wrong right?

Latest single, Anxiety, is the first single from their fourth album, Love Pt. 2 (yeah, I didn’t think it was an imaginative album name either) and to me it very much does exactly the same as what the band have done before. You have the typical Tom DeLonge vocals along with his terrible rhyming lyrics (example; “Faster, I dream in speeds of ashes, my heart it beats and crashes”) that is mediocre high school poetry at best, while musically it’s your standard pop song structure with the bass player following the root notes while the guitar does, well, we’ve heard it in Blink before, only this isn’t as good, or imaginative (and that’s saying something as I don’t like Blink 182 at all).

It’s quite frustrating as a music ‘critic’ to see bands like this getting people’s attention. I see hundreds of small bands, talented musicians, pushing the boundaries of music and my idea of music, and they get zero attention from people, yet these guys can go out, churn out this nonsense and sell records just because of who they are (or were). Guitar music isn’t dead, but its listeners need to change if any of us want it to become as important as it should be.


1 / 5

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Craig Finn - Clear Heart Full Eyes

The Hold Steady have had a productive career with five albums (the last in 2010) since their inception in 2003, each giving the band more and more popularity. I must admit, I've checked out The Hold Steady a few times before, a song here and there, but never a full album as it didn't seem to grab me. So the debut solo album from Craig Finn, The Hold Steady's front man, has a lot to do if it is to impress me.

Firstly I want to make the point that I think solo projects are vastly pointless, not unless you have something vastly different or new to say from your usual project, otherwise you just end up doing a Conor Oberst (writing a solo album when ultimately, Bright Eyes is his voice anyway). When done right though, you can end up with something like Frank Turner (because going from a band like Million Dead to a solo project like he has was a touch of genius really).

To me, 'Clear Heart Full Eyes' is a pointless record. It doesn't say anything that I haven't heard from The Hold Steady. It's less immediate than The Hold Steady, it has its feet in some alt-country sand, but aside from that it feels like ground already tread and I don't even mean that in a good way. Lyrically, Finn is clearly in a story telling mood but he's hardly Bob Dylan, and because of this, none of this album has any hooks, lyrically or musically for the listener to bite into. Half the time it sounds like Bruce Springsteen drinking whisky and chewing on some straw after maybe a big night out with too much debauchery. Maybe that's what Craig Finn was going for with this record, if it is then I'm sorry, but it really is uninteresting, dated and dross to the point where I can't even pick out one song that I can remember after many hours spent trying to do just that.

The reality of this release is that this is a record that Craig Finn knows The Hold Steady die-hard fans will buy it. Here's the sad thing though, there are so many struggling unsigned artists a billion times better than this who will never get to release a record, especially not on a label as cool as Vagrant.

Not a fan of The Hold Steady, then avoid this, and even if you are, approach with extreme caution.

1 / 5

Monday, 23 January 2012

Auction for the Promise Club - One EP

Auction for the Promise Club, a three piece from St Agnes Cornwall, comprising of Zoe White-Chambers, Perran Tremewan and Toby White-Chambers seem to have been promising their debut EP for such a long time that I was wondering if it would ever actually arrive, but here it is.

Recorded at Abbey Road studios, the first thought on this four track EP is that production wise it is slick, glossy and obviously professional. While for most this is a great thing, there is a part of me that thinks Auction for the Promise Club might have benefitted from letting a live, rawer sound touch upon the release but that’s me being lo-fi and picky I’m sure.

The two opening tracks, Dancer (Running in the Dust) and fan favourite Under China show the band at their best. It’s shoe-gaze, it’s indie but still unashamedly glossy pop as deep gravelly bass lines make way for huge sickly sweet mainstream chorus’ with bright driving guitar work sometimes reminiscent of Bloc Party and tight vocal melodies that were clearly written with radio play in mind.

I say this in the nicest way possible because it really isn’t a bad thing, especially as Under China is such a good song. It’s on If and Liquid that the band fall flat for me though. If was clearly the bands way of showing a slower more thoughtful side of themselves, when in fact, all it shows is a lacklustre half paced U2 (and by U2, I mean their newer, shitter material) song at best. While Liquid takes some Gwen Stefani does Depeche Mode turn; It’s strange, it’s quite eighties, it doesn’t fit or work on this release and it really doesn’t do the band justice. And if it wasn’t for the typically (for them anyway) fantastic chorus, it would be unsalvageable.

I desperately want to say that this is a fantastic release, after all, Auction from the Promise Club are literally twenty minutes drive away from me but I just can’t. Fantastic chorus’, a fantastic single in Under China, but clearly still a lot of work to be done if the band are going to create some form of a career from music.

3 / 5

Friday, 13 January 2012

Veils - Clarity

Veils independently released debut demo EP, Our Enlightenment Is Dead, ended up having to be re-issued several times. This, its follow up EP and Veils first EP proper, Clarity, the first for new record label Tangled Talk Records, must be hoping to be even half as successful.

I recently saw an interview with post-hardcore band Thursday talking about their debut album Full Collapse, and why they thought it was so popular with fans. They claimed that it was down to the little touches in the album, such as the many lead breaks that their new guitarist had input into the album, which sort of sums up how I feel about Veils Clarity EP. From the bleak stand-alone guitar that opens the EP on Alone (Isolation), to singer Chlo Edwards passionate scream in the same song “Why are we still standing alone in the dark?”, to the brilliant drum induced introduction to Stallions (Adrenaline), to the build-up in the bridge of Caves (Anxiety). They are all small touches but they sound fantastic, showing a vast amount of growth for a band who haven’t actually been around that long at all and helping to set Veils apart from the more relentless (or one dimensional, it depends how you look at it) bands that they might call their counterparts.

I bought Thursday’s Full Collapse ten years ago, and still to this day, play it almost religiously. Like Full Collapse, Clarity is far from perfect but it has enough passionate emotion, great musicianship and balls to ensure that it too, should stand any test of time. If you are a fan of hardcore then I recommend this EP greatly. And if you happen to be one of Veils counterparts then watch out, it looks like they are about to steal all of your fans.


Friday, 6 January 2012

Katie Malco graced the Preaching From The Pews page on this website late in 2011 as one of our hot tips to look out for in 2012. This was hot on the heels of a year spent touring, as well as her new release, Katie Malco and the Slow Parade, the first release on new record label Alcopop Records gaining huge positive reviews from music press. I caught up with Katie to pick her brains on her music, whether there was any added pressure after a fantastic year and what she really thinks of the comparisons to Laura Marling.

Hello Katie, firstly, I hope you had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

What inspired you to pick up a guitar, start writing lyrics and ultimately start playing shows on your own?

I remember that I started learning guitar because I wanted to write songs. I used to go around singing to myself all the time but I never wanted someone else to be in charge, I'm a bit of a control freak like that - not much of a "collaborator"!

I already played piano, and I used to try to write on that, but I was only young so the songs were mainly about farmyard animals. Then, when I got to 14, I wanted to be Alanis Morrisette and Chrissie Hynde. I thought they were so goddamn cool, and the guitar was half the reason for it so I taught myself a few chords on my dad's old guitar. Then I wrote a song that was literally the most depressing thing anyone has ever written or heard. I hadn't really attempted lyrics before that, I used to write jokey poems for my family growing up, but I always shied away from anything too serious. I suppose because of that reason, writing the long depressing song felt like a bit of a release, and so I wrote songs nearly every day, just for me, and I never showed them to anyone.

Then one day I joined an angry girl rock band, played some shows, and it kind of went from there......

All very clichéd!

How would you describe your musical journey up until now, from when you first started out, to your first EP on Skyeyesea records, to the release on Alcopop Records and your plan for the future?

I would say it has been very slow and steady moving, and I feel like I've learnt a lot between the two EP's. I don't feel like I've changed too much in my attitude towards it. I've never tried to write for any particular reason, I've never tried to write for anyone else, I'm not trying to be anything I'm not, I'm just writing songs to make me feel better, the way I did when I was fifteen.

There was definitely a point where I went from just writing for myself, to feeling like I wanted people to hear the songs. It wasn't enough to just play for myself anymore. When that change occurred, I started recording Four Goodbyes, my first EP, at home on my own. And now I am trying to figure out how I should record the next release, whether it should be another home project that I can kind of run with and not answer to anyone, or whether I actually have some set ideas for the new songs that can really only be executed in a studio. I haven't figured it out yet to be honest.

You recorded your first EP on Alcopop Records with Iain Archer of Snow Patrol fame, what was it like working for him in comparison with recording by yourself previously?

It was strange for me, to move from having complete control, to working with someone on songs that were really personal. It was hard to let him in at first and I was pretty sensitive to any criticism, but I loosened up after a couple of days. Obviously, I have recorded in studios before and worked with producers, but that was when I was in bands, and the songs weren't necessarily my babies. The whole recording experience as a solo artist was very different.

Obviously Dave from Tubelord and Sophie from My First Tooth came in to the studio to record their bits too, but unlike recording with a band, they weren't there the whole time, so it was kind of lonely and I got very stuck in my own head during recording.

Iain was great though, he has a very honest, efficient and to the point manner, which I think I needed. I had to battle my corner a bit sometimes, and Iain certainly had to battle his, but I think I needed to have someone tell me; "No, that take was not good enough, you can do it better." So it was a learning curve because it made me a lot more critical of my own playing - like I can hear Iain in the back of my head telling me to do it again whenever I play now!

If you had to sell your EP in five words, what would they be?


The EP has led to you being on many blog lists as a great upcoming artist. Does that put added pressure on you for the next release?

I think it does a little bit, but I also think that the key is to just make sure you write first and foremost for yourself. If you don't write from the heart then people pick up on that, and you come across as phoney. The next release will just be songs that I've written that are for no audience in particular, they are just songs that I felt the need to write. If people hate it, there's nothing much more I could have done, it is what it is.

That train of thought, for me, cancels out any pressure that I might have felt before.

Musically I think the EP owes a lot to the likes of Joni Mitchell with a fresh twist on it, but do you feel that the ever growing in popularity folk scene, especially with acclaimed singer songwriters like Laura Marling has helped or hindered you in terms of plying your trade?

I just write what I write, and I have been doing this for a long time - before Laura Marling was ever in the public eye. I do tire of the comparison, particularly when, in my mind, we are very different songwriters. I know that my friend's band, My First Tooth, get compared to Mumford and Sons a lot - and it’s a very easy, dare I say lazy, comparison to make, and I know they tire of hearing it. It’s hard for us, because the minute folk started to become "uncool" as it got bigger, we get accused of jumping on the bandwagon. As I say, I just write what comes naturally, and I can't change it to fit in with the cool kids again.

I would like to say, for the record, that I love Laura Marling's music, and I think it’s amazing that she has done so well. I do feel like we've come from a similar background or perspective musically, but I also don't feel like we're writing music in the same way. So I don't feel that this has helped nor hindered me, I think it’s just one of those things, if it wasn't Marling, it would be someone else. I don't think Laura Marling has "paved the way" for lots of aspiring female singer songwriters, I think Laura Marling is just the one out of all of those female singer-songwriters in the underground indie folk scene that made it big.

Since joining Alcopop Records you've been able to play with a band comprising of ex-members of the likes of Reuben. I know that you already class bands such as Refused as an influence but do you think that playing with these members will further influence you to incorporate different styles into your future releases?

Well, I do love Refused, and I really love Reuben, but I don't think I could ever pull off that kind of music! I only wish I could.

It’s really interesting playing with guys from a background in 'heavier' music, because they interpret my stuff very differently to musicians that are from the same musical world as me. Chris, my drummer, is in a grunge alt punk band called Hold Your Horse Is, and I find that he comes up with some really great stuff for my music, that isn't so "folk-by-numbers", if you see what I mean. I think this is because he doesn't listen to that kind of music really, and he is used to blasting out the heavy rock!

So it’s really cool and makes it really interesting to play with them. The new as-yet-unheard songs we've been working out together are a bit different to what I have released in the past, and I think this has a lot to do with having a different foundation to work rather than just being left to my own devices.

You seem to have been on tour everywhere throughout 2011, have you noticed your popularity grow as the year moved on, and what are your plans touring wise for 2012?

I think touring in 2011 certainly did help get the word out a bit, and I especially loved the little Cornwall tour we did at the end of the year. Mainly because it was like a nice holiday!

The band tour was great too because it meant we could play bigger venues and other places where a solo show might not work. It was also a lot of fun and made a change from travelling around on my own feeling lonely!

At the moment all my plans for the start of 2012 are centred around recording, and I will just do a few gigs here and there. But there will certainly be a full band tour very soon.

I played a gig with you in Penzance, Cornwall and you seemed to thrive on the small intimate crowd. Do you prefer the small intimate gigs, or the bigger ones?

Yes I recall! That was a good night, and that pub was awesome! I think I do thrive on a smaller crowd, because I feel like you can actually have a chat with them, and get some banter going. I know it sounds clichéd, but it brings everyone together a bit, and makes for a more friendly and relaxed atmosphere. The situation can sometimes be a bit intense and awkward, so it’s nice to be able to have some connection with the audience rather than just stand in front of them and expect them to pay attention.

Having said that, I've played to a crowd of 1000 people before, all of whom were absolutely heart-wrenchingly silent throughout the set. And we still managed to have some laughs in between songs, so, it felt kind of intimate on a bigger level. That was cool.

Statistics have recently been released for album sales showing that CD sales have decreased again. Is this something that you think about or something that worries you in terms of trying to make a living out of music?

It does and it doesn't worry me really. I know that music lovers will still buy vinyl and CDs, and when there are labels like Alcopop and BSM who like to do something different with their products, and give the buyer another reason to buy it which gives me some faith in the physical format of music.

I think we're in an age where bands and artists need to be creative about their merchandise, and give the listener a reason to want to buy it other than just the music. Unless you're Coldplay, and will sell a ton of CDs to a middle-aged audience no matter what, then you will have to accept that people expect music to be free now, sad as that is.

The only thing we as musicians can do is work with that and try to find another way.

Last question: If you could recommend one band for people to watch out for this year, who would it be?

Well, my friend's band, Veils, are doing good things, and are definitely one to see live this year when they're touring. Also, Hold Your Horse Is are releasing an album very soon too, which, between you and me, is AWESOME. (I am sorry that's two bands.)

Thank you for your time Katie, I hope 2012 is a great year for you.

Katie Malco’s and the Slow Parade EP is out now and can be purchased via

For all other information visit