What do pigeon-holes matter anyway? All this talk of rock & roll is running the risk of getting myself put in an uncomfortable little box, along with all the bands I've been ranting about over the past few months. Now's the time to put my cards on the table: the truth is, when Honeycrack split up, I cried with genuine grief. When I first heard the SugarPlumFairies album, 'Fruit Karma', I lay on my bed with my eyes shut and immersed myself in the terrifying, headfucking noise that was pouring in through my ears. Then when The Celebrity Squares appeared last year with their debut single, I could often be caught bouncing around the place looking just a little bit silly. The man behind these extremes of emotion is Willie Dowling, and with the latest Celebrity Squares offering, 'Happy? (Dumka)', he's done it again. It's a dreamy, quasi-Beatlesy piece of indolence, showcasing Dowling's immense skill at structuring a ballad, peppered with what sounds like a glockenspiel then, later, a cascade of descending brass scales. It makes me quiver with God knows what, and is mentioned here above all else because there's no reason why Dowling's genius should not be proclaimed to the world just because he's not flavour of the month in anyone influential's office.
Rock & roll roundup
Thunder, Silver Sun and Apes, Pigs & Spacemen
At the rockier end of things, the year of comebacks continues as classic rockers Thunder (never officially gone) release their single, 'Loser', sadly just missing out on a Top 40 chart placing. Following our earlier reports, DiS was proud to reveal exclusive details about Silver Sun's forthcoming album, probably to be called 'Disappear Here', according to an interview which recently appeared on www.silver-sun.co.uk. At the opposite end of the spectrum, the new Apes, Pigs and Spacemen album can now be ordered here, and is well worth the money. Where their earlier albums lacked direction slightly, this is their most cohesive effort yet, still boasting the monstrous riffs which have led to arguably inaccurate comparisons with The Wildhearts, but with none of the turgidity which marred 'Transfusion', and ample evidence that Paul Miro's singing voice is that many years wiser, and more versatile. The highlight, at least at this early stage in my listening experience, is 'The Wrong Pill', where Miro's crooning is at its most expressive and the guitars teasingly sparse in the verses. But it's full of potential classics, and will hopefully set the band back on track where their previous disastrous record deal temporarily de-railed them. Download samples here.
A new dose of Therapy? and an old dose of Baby Chaos
It's always nice to see bands fighting back and showing resilience in the face of horrendous adversity, and in this respect it's a constant joy to see the likes of Therapy? producing consistently brilliant material. Their new album, 'High Anxiety', is being hailed by fans as a return to the style and quality of 'Troublegum', and it's possibly for this reason that the vast majority of songs played on the band's recent tour were taken from these two records. They haven't been asked to play any UK festivals this year, and Andy Cairns has expressed his annoyance at this fact, but despite the lack of attention from the men in suits the fact is that this is probably the best rock album of the year so far, showing off the darkly melodic style that has transcended and survived the many musical trends that Therapy? have lived through.
The completely unexpected news this month was that Baby Chaos, one of the bands who sadly haven't survived into the millennium (although they continue as Deckard), have released at a very affordable price two albums of rarities and b-sides, available here. Naturally for albums of this nature, nothing instantly emerges with as much bite as, say, 'Ignoramus' from Love Your Self Abuse' or 'Buzz' from 'Safe Sex, Designer Drugs and the Death of Rock & Roll', but it has the same energetic venom to it as their two official albums (now deleted) and, as I seem to keep on saying round here, it's a hell of a lot better than what's being offered in the rock mainstream at the moment. I may be beginning to sound like a cracked record, but fortunately Baby Chaos aren't, and at just 14 quid for both albums, there's no reason why they shouldn't be a part of everyone's collections.
Re-inventing the rules we rock & roll by
Meanwhile, if you want to see a band stick its tongue in its cheek so violently that it comes out the other side bleeding, then probably whacks itself over the head with a microphone for good measure, you could do a lot worse than try AntiProduct. Their live shows have always been unique, but their new album 'Made In USA' is an improvement on their previous offering by a long way. As with the AP&S album, it's a more cohesive record than previous offerings, with Alex Kane screaming his way through the whole thing, constantly threatening to push things a little too far before being rescued from a potential case of overkill by the calmly refreshing female harmonies, which are the most original thing that this band has to offer at the moment and make this record the gem that it is.
Five Miles High on rock & roll
Anyone waiting for their next dose of The Wildhearts, whose forthcoming album will be released some time after the summer, would do well to check out some of the bands featured on Five Miles High. My current favourites are Kitty Hudson who, after a bit of probing, have revealed details of their second album (and the first one was only out in January!). It'll be called 'Junkies, Winos, Pimps & Whores' and once a new permanent lineup is secured (they're temporarily performing as a three-piece with Robin Guy on drums after the departure of their guitarist and drummer) will get it recorded 10 times faster than most bands out there can be bothered to. Song titles include 'Another Party', 'Past Imperfect' and 'Girl With The Red Hair'. An ideal opportunity for rock & roll lovers to check them out will be the Five Miles High Fest at London's West One Four venue on Sunday June 22. Also playing are B-Movie Heroes (whose debut album, 'Anthems for the Underdog, is out on June 16 - you can buy it when you go to get your copy of the Celebrity Squares single), Loose Thread, Sinnerstar, Zen Motel, V8 Pack, 3 dBs Down and Careless. Sadly The Cherrykicks, who were due to headline the event in promotion of their 'Radio Tokyo' EP, have had to pull out for personal reasons.
So in the week that Evanescence hit the top of the charts and Marilyn Manson makes the top 20, it has been my great pleasure to demonstrate that as ever, there is always an alternative to the mainstream.