This week: the fantastic new album from The Crookes, and the split LP from Thought Forms and Esben And The Witch. New music from Echo And The Bunnymen, The Diaphanoids, Cherry Ghost, The Juan MacLean, The Amazing Snakeheads and Johnny Cash (OK, so THAT one isn’t exactly new). All that plus the pick of this year’s Record Store Day releases from Paul Weller, Temples/Jagwar Ma, Django Django and the insane King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard.
Last year, Wiltshire-based post-rock trio Thought Forms joined Esben And The Witch and the mighty Teeth Of The Sea for a triple headed tour around the UK. At the Bristol leg of the tour, Charlie from Thought Forms revealed to RW/FF that they were planning a split LP with Esben, a prospect that left me waiting for this with much anticipation. Its arrival doesn’t disappoint, as both bands deliver sides that compliment the other brilliantly and fit together cohesively as a whole.
The first side of this Invada-issued piece of vinyl belongs to Thought Forms, who begin with the patient, intricate drumwork and ghostly ambience of ‘Your Bones’. Sullenly atmospheric guitars ring through an ethereal mist as the icy glide of carefully applied vocals ascends throughout, before erupting into heavier moods. Going off with a bang from the outset is the excellent ‘For The Moving Stars’, where the thriving energy, zippy riffs and MBV flavours provide a brilliant moment that’s as accessible and immediate as this band have ever sounded. They switch to a lower gear for the tortured, downbeat Sonic Youth-meets-Nirvana vibes and howling guitars of ‘Silver Kiss’, rounding off side A in bleak fashion.
Turn the record over, and it’s apparent that Esben And The Witch aren’t fucking about. From the moment it bursts in, it’s their astonishing ‘No Dog’ that provides the record’s highlight, a deep, intense blast of ferocity and claustrophobia, pushing forwards with menacing momentum and awesome melodrama. Although it’s length and split LP status makes it feel a bit like a gap-bridger in places and perhaps a warm up for what’s to come next from both parties, if you’re a fan of either band, you’d be an absolute fool not to add this to your record shelf. For everyone else, I’d say this is a great place to start. Read my full 8/10 review HERE.
Combining 50s era romance with vibes from the indie disco is something that Sheffield four piece The Crookes have been doing rather well for the last few years. They’ve produced some very promising moments, yet stretching the magic out over the course of a whole album seemed to prove a challenge for them. So while 2011’s ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ and its follow up ‘Hold Fast’ certainly had a few high points, neither felt consistent enough to really hit the mark. With their third album the band realise their potential and move themselves up to a new level. A sense of isolation emerges every so often, maybe due to the LP being recorded in an old abandoned church located in the Italian Alps.
The pacey ‘Before The Night Falls’ glistens with chiming guitar hooks and comes charged with vitality and vibrancy, storming into a powerfully emotive chorus. Towards the end, another spellbinding melody arises and knocks you off your feet once again. An exciting highlight that displays The Crookes at the very top of their game. ‘Outsiders’ puts forward magnificent melodies that set the heart racing, and exemplifies the spirit of these bright underachievers who revel in being out of step with popular fashion, taking great pride in doing things their own way.
Proof of just how far the songwriting has come is demonstrated with the beautifully resigned elegance of ‘Howl’, one of those songs with a melody so good, it’s hard to believe nobody thought of it before. Something has happened to The Crookes. They’ve moved up more than a few notches to the point where they are no longer a promising indie band, but a great one. Read the full 8.2/10 review HERE.
Quite often, the quality of posthumously released albums from well-loved artists can vary wildly. After all, most unreleased material stays unreleased for a good reason, certainly the case with the terrible Michael Jackson rejects that have been issued since his death. So when it was announced that a long lost Johnny Cash album that was recorded in the 1980s had been discovered and was being prepared for release, it sounded a little bit iffy to me. Luckily, ‘Out Among the Stars’ is a most enjoyable listen indeed and a fine addition to his back catalogue. Cash did some sessions in the 80s with famed countrypolitan producer Billy Sherrill, and the results were shelved by Cash’s record company Columbia. Cash also recorded the 1981 album ‘The Baron’ with Sherrill in an attempt to turn around his dismal album sales but the strategy did not work, leaving his record executives eager to dump him. Many years later it’s rather a different story indeed. God Is In The TV remarked that “Not surprisingly, there are no classic gems to shine out and it contains just two self-penned songs. It is, however, a worthy release, so here’s the title track for you.” I’d agree with that. Here’s his version of the darkly amusing, tongue-in-cheek ‘I Drove Her Out Of My Mind’, which was written by Gary Gentry and Hillman Hall. “I was really upset when it didn’t come out,” says Gentry, “when Cash did that song, it was like God saying, ‘You did good getting off cocaine and whiskey, so here’s a little gift from me.’ I was there the day he cut the song, so I knew he’d done it, and I just wanted to hear it…
Excellent new track from the legendary Echo And The Bunnymen, taken from the upcoming album ‘Meteorites’. The LP is the band’s first material in five years and follows 2009’s ‘The Fountain’. Anthemically psychedelic and seven minutes long, it’s an epic that sees Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant back on tremendous form. Mac says: “At long last we’ve made the worthy successor to ‘Crocodiles’, ‘Heaven Up Here’, ‘Porcupine’, and ‘Ocean Rain’. ‘Meteorites’ is what Echo and the Bunnymen mean and are meant to be…up there in Heaven…untouchable, celestial, beautiful, and real…it has changed my life.”
I went to see Echo And The Bunnymen last year when they were on tour with James. See a review of their Bristol gig HERE.
OK, I’ve managed to wait a few weeks before featuring anything from this record, but I can wait no more. ‘LSME’ by The Diaphanoids is a seriously good album that has been ruling my world over the last month or so, and I am very excited to introduce the group’s music to my readers. Consisting of eight trippy instrumentals, ‘LSME’ is described as “an acid psychallucisergic album full of seventies’ kosmische flavours fuzzed-out guitars and motorik rhythms.” Psychallucisergic? It has to be good when only a made up word can sum it up. The Diaphanoids also have a VERY interesting background, one of them (Andrea Bellentani) wrote songs for Pavarotti, and the other half of the duo (Marco ‘Simon’ Maccari) is an Italian dance producer who worked with ‘Ride On Time’ hitmakers Black Box! Dipped in cosmic funk and eastern instrumentation, the title track is like an intergalactic downwards rollercoaster speeding in constant motion, punctuated by low, meaty stabs of bass, effective use of repetition and guitars that glide across the surface. Sounding not unlike an orchestra being shot into space, the term psychedelic big beat comes to mind. Astounding. A slightly edited version can be heard below… ‘LSME’ is released through Tirk Recordings on April 28, which is looking like a bumper day for new releases…
Quite simply an essential resource for any true music lover, BBC 6Music continues to guide me to some incredible stuff. The man who introduced me to a lot of the music I bought in the late 90s is still doing his thing on air, with 6Music his residence. Yes, I’m talking about indie scene legend Steve Lamacq, who played this superb tune on his show last week…
A band I’m still completely unfamiliar with, The Amazing Snakeheads are due to release their debut album ‘Amphetamine Ballads’ next week on April 14. They are signed to Domino Records and are from Glasgow. Imagine if Joy Division and The Stooges formed a supergroup and then boarded a rocket to space. Raw and energised intensity.
Here’s one that was actually released a while back, but which has only come to my attention recently after receiving some airplay from Lauren Laverne on BBC 6Music.
Seriously infectious disco-shaped excellence coming out of New York, featuring the vocals of Nancy Whang (ex LCD Soundsystem), whose savvy tones make this chunk of dancefloor gold even more irresistible.
Released on DFA Records, ‘Get Down (With My Love)’ precedes a full length album, which will be coming later in the year.
Tomorrow (April 19) music fans, collectors and opportunists will be queuing outside record shops up and down the UK for Record Store Day. I feel a strong need to remind people that the yearly event shouldn’t just be about buying overpriced and often unnecessary reissues or snapping up rare items to flog for a profit. In my opinion it should be just as much about digging through the crates, scanning the shelves and finding something that appeals. Even if your budget and financial priorities limit your choices to a browse through the bargains section, even that’s enough to do your bit. A couple of weeks ago when I visited Weston-Super-Mare, I discovered a brilliant little vinyl shop called Revolver. I liked it so much, I wrote an article about it and interviewed the shop’s owner Andy. Read that HERE. Since its Record Store Day tomorrow, I have also been re-publishing some old features, including this one HERE about record shops in Wiltshire and Bath past and present. You can also see what RW/FF got up to when RSD came to the city of Bath for the first time last year in this article HERE. In fact to save you some time, just go to THIS link and you can read every single RW/FF post related to record shops.
Record Store Day may mainly deal in re-releases and pricey collectors items, but each year there are also always a number of undeniably special records on offer, one of them being a beautifully coloured picture disc that features two of the most exciting bands to emerge in recent times. On one side, Jagwar Ma give the Temples treasure ‘Shelter Song’ a bassy house makeover while reinterpreting the psychedelic moods in a contemporary, dancefloor-friendly fashion. Alternatively you can opt for the flipside where the Kettering-based four piece put their big drums and 60s flavours on to Jagwar’s fantastic ‘Man I Need’…
Another track being released on stunning multicoloured vinyl by Heavenly Recordings, available tomorrow. You can also find this on an album entitled ‘Float Along – Fill Your Lungs’ which was released last year in 2013. The brilliantly named King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard are an Australian band who are described as “Completely fried theremin-wielding psychopaths.” Sounds like a recommendation if there ever was one.
Beginning as a heavy, lumbering sitar-powered drone, the vocals enter at a surprisingly early point for such a lengthy track. But this is pretty much a two-parter as the title suggests, and although the latter bit kicks in under four minutes into this crazed 16 minute celestial epic, it doesn’t peak too early and seems to be running on some sort of musical superfuel. Astonishing sounds will fill your head and you might feel a touch overwhelmed after being taken on such a demented journey. Listen now. You’ll be glad you did.
I suppose I’d better cram in more RSD releases before the big day. Here’s one from the brilliant Django Django, their first new material in two years. Excpet technically it’s not, since the song is a cover. A cover of a Monkees track! Don’t worry, it’s a good one. Although best known as a made-for-TV boyband, the soundtrack to their 1968 movie ‘Head’ is regarded as a psychedelic classic in many quarters. I still haven’t ever heard it, but one day my curiosity will change that. Django Django’s version of ‘Porpoise Song’ can also be found on the upcoming ‘Late Night Tales’ compilation which the band have compiled. More info on that HERE.
Tomorrow will be the fifth year that I have taken part in the event, but this year has seen a bit of negativity surrounding the event. I agree completely that out of the 700+ releases hitting the shops tomorrow, most of them are pointless and completely inessential in every way possible. Which means that all the best stuff is going to be buried in amongst all the junk. To be honest, as a music buyer, I am only interested in buying music that I don’t already own. So the stream of overpriced reissues is of no interest to me. Instead, I am going to do what music lovers should be doing on Record Store Day… Buying records. Records that I actually need. I buy records all year round, and tomorrow is going to be no different. However as well as the Temples/Jagwar Ma 12″, I am still tempted to shell out some cash on this brand new and rather ‘White Album’-esque Paul Weller track, which is also going to be appearing on his upcoming ‘Modern Classics 2’ compilation, an album that rounds up the highlights of his career from 1999 to the present day. Because I own all the tracks on that compilation, it would make more sense for me to purchase the single instead, hence why The Modfather’s RSD offering is at the top of my list.
After trying to decide which I was going to queue outside on the day, my mind has been made up for me by the folks at the original Raves From The Grave shop in Frome. A little while ago, the highly recommended Somerset record shop announced that the legendary Billy Bragg has agreed to play an instore gig for this year’s Record Store Day. Bragg will be performing at 3pm (giving him time to buy his RSD vinyl first!) Recommended local singer/songwriter Jordan Whatley will also be playing a set at the Warminster store at 11am. Copies of his debut EP ‘The Shadowed Planet’ will be available for sale, and a review of that release can be found HERE.
If you live in or near Bristol, the fantastic Rise Records has a whole day of live music planned, including the amazing East India Youth at 8.30pm. More info HERE.
Yes, I know I’ve been promising the next instalment of my musical memories for ages now. Since Christmas in fact! It WILL be coming soon, do not fear…
Back next week. Or possibly the week after.