Tea at the Test Match, and I've a cup of the stuff on my desk: just time enough to run through some of those pesky releases that so nearly slipped through the (albeit small) critical net. I make no apologies about the petite nature of these 'reviews'; I'm a busier man than you people give me credit for.*
All the records below are out now.
*Acoustic Ladyland *(website)
Last Chance Disco
Wut? Four guys from London play jazz pretty quickly, to the extent where one could almost call it 'rocking'. Certainly not acoustic in any way, but your dad'll like it all the same, providing he's got the murderous mindset and eccentric barnet of Sideshow Bob.
Why? 'Cause the broadsheets love stuff that's slightly left of centre for no good-slash-apparent reason. They’ve already enthused about this outfit to the extent where I needn’t bother, thankfully.
Gud? So-so: the shit is among the stinkiest smelt this year, but just sometimes the frantic trumps and admittedly pretty decent drum work converge to have one's dancing gear detaching itself from the know-better brain.
Bubbles Two and a half, sir.
The Blackfire Revelation (website)
Gold And Guns On 51
Southern Reconstruction Records
Wut? Two men, big music: The Blackfire Revelation are New Orleans metalheads without any metal mates, so they're doing all the riffin' they can while short on company. This five-track EP contains three ear-busting originals and a couple of covers, The Troggs' 'I Want You Right Now' and Blue Cheer's 'Second Time Around'.
Why? I'm not certain music like this needs a motive. It just exists to keep guitar sales up and basements full of scabby punks pissing their days away into a bucket marked 'excess'.
Gud? Oh heck yes, providing pop melodies aren't atop your requirements list. If growlin', booze-blued r'n'r jams are, then buy and blow your eardrums open.
Bubbles Three and a half this time, squire.
Dressy Bessy (website)
Transdreamer Records (website)
Wut? Power-poppin' quartet from Denver whose hooks are peppered in stardust and silvery sparkles.
Why? 'Cause the kids need to dance, man, and these tunes demand such activity. Dressy Bessy's clean guitars and front gal Tammy Ealom's silken tones should see that asses are shifted with absolute abandonment (okay, albeit after a few jars). 'Side 2' and 'She Likes It' are quasi-retro rock-poppers guaranteed to deliver good times.
Gud? Yeah, pretty much. The title track's fuckin' annoying, though.
Bubbles We say three, m'lud.
Dropkick Murphys (website)
The Warrior's Code
Wut? Boston's premier (only?) punkers what reckon they're Irish. If you've not heard them by this stage in their career you never will.
Why? Indeed. I guess folk still need pipe-propelled punk rock for an evening's drunken entertainment. It's sing-along stuff, granted, but that doesn't mean the sober have to tolerate it.
Gud? Put it this way: if you're into the Dropkicks, as so many are, then an emphatic yes; if you've never liked 'em before this won't swing your opinion. Me, I fall into the latter category. Sorry, guys.
Bubbles Gotta be a straight-up, no-nonsense two outta five for these dogged veterans.
Wut? Aging skankers get MOR-ed up via a little spit and polish from guitarist John Feldman (whose CV includes stints in the producer's chair for Good Charlotte and The Used). Still sound shit.
Why? 'Cause unexpected cult hits like 'Superman' have established them a sizable fan base that needs placating; thankfully said followers don't demand all that much from their heroes. One thing in their favour is that the band's collective heart is in the right place - their work for organisations like PETA is well documented.
Gud? Honestly? This makes the aforementioned Madden brothers sound as tough as fuckin' nails. The song 'Uncomfortable' sounds like The Police gone pop-punk, fo'fucksake.
Bubbles One and a half. This one-trick pony needs to find itself a retirement home.
*Koolarrow Records *(website)
Wut? Einstürzende Neubauten man Hacke makes hellish noises for nearly an hour, calls it a debut album and has ex-Faith No More man Billy Gould release it through his Koolarrow label. Features contributions from a wealth of alternative talent, including David Yow, Vinnie Signiorelli and Andrew Chudy.
Why? So The Wire has something to review? Nah, seriously: Sanctuary is a pretty engrossing listen once the nonsense has been successfully filtered out. 'Sister' is a fine instrumental, combat instruction samples interwoven with dramatic strings and drums, and the ten-minute 'Sugarpie' is a genuinely sinister penultimate number. It's something akin to what a film score composed by Tomahawk might sound like.
Gud? Certainly, provided your musical mind is as open as they come.
Bubbles We, the jury, say three and a half for a record that does reward persistence and patience.
Like Trees We Grow Up To Be Satellites (The Backwards America)
*Something In Construction *(website)
Wut? William Lazarus calls San Francisco home and this his second solo record after spending a time in Tarantel. The man's no slouch touring-wise: he's just recently finished a lengthy US trek alongside revered post-rockers Explosions In The Sky and has previously shared stages with Bright Eyes and Joanna Newsom, to name but two.
Why? This is the UK's first official exposure to the man's talents, which are both hushed and epic. These songs seep slowly into the system, initially sounding derivative of a host of other singer-songwriter acts but ultimately standing independent of comparison. 'Fashion/Murder' wheezes its chorus like the last breaths of an exorcised spirit while the music of 'The Poet Of Emptiness' chimes beautifully away in the background of Lazarus' pleas for another to go their own way regardless of his feelings. Sounds trite on 'paper', but this really is an album of magical majesty.
Gud? Sure is. Lazarus may fit neatly into the current psyche-folk deck of movers and shakers, but there's a wonderful depth to this record that his peers seem bereft of. Turn the lights out with this for company and it'll tear your heart out and burn it to dust before your dying eyes.
Bubbles Four, easily.
Motion City Soundtrack (pictured, website)
Commit This To Memory
Wut? Moog-y melodic punks return with album number two of sub-Get Up Kids hooks and pre-teen poetry, all produced by Blink-182's Mark Hoppus.
Why? Dunno: bands like this are two a penny, aren't they? Motion City Soundtrack's songs are paint-by-numbers affairs of faux feelings and polished pop choruses, as sincere as a birthday card from Hitler to a Jew.
Gud? If you're 13 and new to this emo thing, yep. To anyone else, well, the band cut to the chase themselves: "I can't fuckin' stand it when you're around".
Bubbles Two, 'cause you know the girls at their shows are gonna be hot even if they are utterly jailbait.
Wut? DC duo Mick Barr and Joshua Blair play a loud guitar and louder drums with no apparent direction for over 44 minutes. Tracks: one. Ears: numb.
Why? I dunno, but this is so fucked I'm not asking them. Make it ten minutes in and you'll need a sit down; reach 17 and you'll need painkillers (riff change: result!); make it to 30 and you'll need an ambulance on standby.
Gud? Are you shitting me? This is_ insane; it transcends simple good or bad summarisation. It's like Lightning Bolt gone Krautrock and forgetting to actually write any _songs. It makes me sick to my stomach.
Bubbles Zero. Unless you're a total sucker for tech-metal repetition ('til your senses die), in which case it's a maximum five.
The Sinking Citizenship (website)
Sweet Nothing (website)
Wut? Melbourne trio matching massive post-grunge riffs with the forever frail vocals of a front man obviously in tounge-lashing debt to Ian Curtis and John Lydon. This is their first album after a self-titled EP.
Why? The current glut of bands referencing Joy Division, PiL et al are in need of new blood, and why discriminate against our Southern Hemisphere friends? These Aussies are a welcome addition to the fold. The Sinking Citizenship's sound is nothing new - the musicianship is brutally accomplished and every instrument is amplified to max - but frontman Kristian Roberts possesses an unholy voice, like the quivering whisper of Death uttered seconds before he strikes down the next in line. It is both horrifying and haunting, yet utterly appropriate in the context of this unsubtle and ugly music.
Gud? Yes, even if a song like 'Ways To Meet Ends' does stick rather too close to the band's influences rather than harnessing any uniqueness of its own. The positives do outpunch the negatives over the course of nine songs, though, never more so than on titanic opener 'Safe In The System'.
Bubbles Three and a half, and every one (and a half) wears a sad face.
Thrones ** Day Late, Dollar Short**
Southern Lord (website)
Wut? Joe Preston, innit, he of The Melvins (then) and High On Fire (now). Day Late, Dollar Short is a collection of rarities, old 7" tracks and a few previously unreleased efforts.
Why? 'Cause Preston is an icon to individuals raised on music at its most monstrous. Thrones is basically him alone, with a revolving door of collaborators, but the music contained on this beautifully packed CD (the design comes courtesy of Sunn 0))) man Stephen O'Malley) is often as full-sounding as any band proper. A notable exception is the grizzled opener 'The Suckling', from a 1994 Kill Rock Stars 7".
Gud? In places - at 19 tracks this will test the patience, but unusual takes on The Who and Ultravox provide pick me ups amongst the fuzzy bass-heavy noise. Preston's liner notes will be of much interest to fully fledged geeks, too.
Bubbles A three from me.
* This is obviously toss - I just wanna get back to the cricket, so LEAVE ME BE.