Last Of Our Kind – The Darkness album review

The arrival of a new album from The Darkness will always bring something unexpected, no matter how much has been heard, seen live or written about it. It creates a little aura of mystery around the package that arrives on the doormat. As this is the first album produced by Dan Hawkins, it’s even more of an enigma. What have they done? How have they done it? Where’s the air guitar? WHAT THE… cor blimey, will you just listen to THIS…

There’s plenty of that last statement to go round. Open Fire (read more), and I can say that it fits in this album perfectly. Last Of Our Kind is a jigsaw – distinct and different pieces of a carefully fitted whole. Layered tracks – blended subtleties vying with bright rippling counterpoints, ridden by the usual virtuoso solos – are often driven by deep, heavy rhythms so solid you could break a chunk off and eat them. Some songs have gone over the wall of sound and are more of a 3D model of it. 70’s influences add to that sublety of contrast, especially where vocals belie the words. There’s no particular order to what follows:

Barbarian has oft been discussed. An East Anglian history lesson, it is crammed full of blood stirring primal war screams and dastardly deeds,probably destined to be a cult fan favourite forevermore. Open Fire is also much cherished already, offering just about everything the diehard craves with an alternative weave providing extra earworm potential.

The two most identifiably Darkness tracks (to the world outside fandom) are the current release – Hammer And Tongs (would it have been even more Darkness to spell it Tongues?) and Mudslide. The first is a joyful bouncy romp about the finer things in life, sexy in TD’s innocent yet earthy way. It’s a belter live, too. ‘Mudslide’, in comparison, is TD’s other forte – crazy, dirty rock to mosh your way round the room too. Or fall off your office chair to whilst headbanging. Ahem. You might almost expect to hear a ‘woof’ at the end.

Last of Our Kind is something that’s had unprecedented fan input, both with vocals and with a video that has yet to be seen. It deals with the inevitability of some kind of defeat but always fighting your defiant hardest – Darkness to a T. A comment on the vagaries of the music industry, perhaps? A choral, uplifting anthem to suit many of life’s situations, anyway. It’s Frankie Poullain’s favourite, if that helps…

Further on, Roaring Waters‘ soft vocals deceptively deliver some pretty brutal lyrics over a hard musical throb. Don’t be lulled – it’s metal, not a wander through some nice sharp riffs. In complete contrast, Wheels Of The Machine is the closest The Darkness have come yet to a straight love song, but with a hint of trademark fearful doubt in it. Brightness pulses through rockily dreamy almost ballad. That brightness shared with Sarah O’Sarah, which spangles at the beginning and continues with that pop singalong good time feel hook. Watch out for those lyrics again, though. Well–honed anxiety bubbles through a dogged determination to carry on in the face of perceived pending disaster. Ending on a plaintive note, it leaves a feeling that defeat has been snatched from the jaws of love victory, despite everything – it’ll get you, if it’s played live acoustically.

Conquerors – the last track – is sung by Frankie. It’s a very welcome surprise

for fans of the coolest pirate bassist on the planet. The persuading and arm twisting done to accomplish this was very much well worth it. Frankie’s soft speaking voice gives no hint of the throaty vocals on this track – a little growl and a sting of contempt thrown in for good measure. It’s as slow and serious as a rock ballad, but heaven help you if you’re ever the cause of these words. Whatever has been conquered may or may not of been worth holding on to, maybe? It’s all in the delivery. Nailed.

Finally, here’s the glory. In one song, The Darkness combined Abba, Queen and pure heavy rock to produce an almost elegiac masterpiece. Flicking from tempo to tempo, between genres so fast they blur, Mighty Wings is stupendously flamboyant yet tightly controlled – not a note of any kind is wasted on the operatic flight through octaves. ‘Soaring’ doesn’t cut it – satellite technology is needed to catch the outer reaches of Justin’s vocals. Whatever his voice has been eating, it works. Effortlesserer than usual, by far.

This is an album with a concept – stories of pillage and plunder instantly to the fore. This ain’t no re-enactment, though. Pain is the main impression, whether ancient or modern, physical or mental, real or feared, communal or deeply intimate. It’s the reactions to it that vary wildly in treatment and timbre. The Darkness go much deeper than ever they have into emotional crises and cris du coeur, with a hefty dose of death and sex to round it out. Mixed with outrageous riffs and balanced with Mudslides, they still manage to uplift and encourage. Neat trick. Listen attentively, because as the band have said, they’re the ‘gift that keeps on giving’. Delve as much as you like, there are little discoveries to be made from all angles and at odd times. Everyone has a relationship with certain songs, so there a whole lot of new couplings to be formed over the next few weeks.

There is a certain amount of frisson gained from being a Darkness fan, as the unexpected (good or otherwise) happens at regular enough intervals to be normal. The tension of waiting for the next one to arrive causes a somewhat masochistic pleasure on occasion. There’s no need to beat yourself up unless you really want to… Last Of Our Kind is a very good Darkness album indeed. Better than both Hot Cakes and One Way Ticket… in terms of depth and breadth, never mind style and delivery. There’s so much to explore and say about it that 1000 words is not enough – you can paint your own picture of what it suggests to you.

Enjoy.

Anti-Nasty League – Pop Will Eat Itself

There are few bands who offer solace, social commentary and sober reflection all at once, but Pop Will Eat Itself manage to do so with polished aplomb with their new album Anti-Nasty League.
Solace is maybe an odd choice of word, but it comes to me in several forms. There is the comfort of intelligently vocalised shared views with which to identify. There’s a power current of gloriously blended chaotic sound which will strip away your tensions and affirm your belief in right. Not least, there’s the welcome visit from long admired musicians who believe in what they say and how they say it.
Whatever the society Nasty you dislike most, PWEI combat it in this album with humour sly and dry. Lyrics with a needle sharp point may leave you breathless, but they will make you consider whether you already agree or not. ’21st Century Civil War’ sets the tone with an anthemic list of bigotries and elitisms guaranteed to stir the blood. ‘They Can’t Take (What You Won’t Let ‘Em Have)’ continues the message for a crowd that will be moshing within seconds. ‘Middle East Street Party’s dig at the puppet masters of corporate globalisation is perfectly aimed and balanced. ‘Watch The Bitch Blow’ from the EP will leave you in little doubt of political leanings. You’re assaulted by sound as much as the lyrical target is assaulted by beautifully worded disdainful contempt  – always a strength.
The words are backed by the relentless synergetic communion of samples and instruments – as relentless as the sentiments ‘Digital Meltdown’ is head banging heaven, whilst Mental Pollution becomes hypnotic in the treatment of the vocals. Here and there those vocals lend a calm surreal counterpoint to the music – ‘(War Inside) My Stupid Head’ and poignancy to ‘Set Sail for Death’. ‘Sacrifice and Pain’ has a Kinks/Small Faces influence, with an intro that made me smile – that’s as near as you’ll get to a PWEI ballad. ‘King Kisser’ is the one that struck me most for its change of mood, and if you want a brilliantly evil song for an earworm, ‘Director’s Cut’ is going to do all sorts of things to your memory banks.
PWEI, for the uninitiated, have a history of the highest calibre, which has morphed and turned over the years from 80’s pop grebo to combine more genres and influences, lives and experiences, technology and reality. They’ve never been purely political, but always keenly relevant to music and issues.
So… drown yourself in politics, observations, and fathoms of sound, and retune your social crusade soul. You’ll have fun while the bits of you shrivelled by the world finally die and drop off.
And come to some gigs this month. They are WELL worth it.

Buy all yer albums, Tshirts, and gig tickets here. 

 

Open Fire – The Darkness Release First Single From New Album

The Darkness have today released their first single from the album Last Of Our Kind, due out on 1st June this year. The recent issue of ‘Barbarian’ was described as an ‘amuse-bouche’ which indeed it is. It has whetted untold appetites in different ways, to the detriment of several thousand pairs of undercrackers and a few chairs.
None of that quite prepared us for ‘Open Fire‘, though. A 13 second burst of intro at the weekend created a buzz loud enough to set off alarms  at Monsanto’s head office. All Culty and jangly, it promised very many things of the whole.

We’re delivered a bit of an epic musicmeld. Guitars weave over and under each other, both driving and sparkling across the surface of dark rhythms to provide a  classic and more alternative rock synergy. One moment there’s a little bit of indie, the next, adding full on glam, and then, the rockest of solos – it works. They sit and create together like the oldest of friends, giving and taking prominence. Bursts of bright riff fireworks explode every now and again, setting up and enhancing searchlight strength solos. These vocals are not those of Darkness stereotype, though there are moments of finely controlled rock scream. They are lower, different to the extent that Justin’s involvement was questioned, but it is undoubtedly him. The breadth of range and ease with which Justin sings drips versatility and hints at still more unknown vocal powers to come on this album.
We have what looks like a love song – who doesn’t want a hug on a sheepskin rug before an open fire? – but listen. It’s not light and sequins and glass slippers. It’s desperately but willingly holding on to what you have, in the face of what there is without it, and knowing that even that last bastion could destroy you. Opening fire on a heart already damaged almost to oblivion might give bliss, mercy or horror. Take your pick, depending on your mood.
The Darkness do ‘almost love songs’ very well. Just look out for the bite.

When all was revealed today, there was the obligatory ‘shhh, listening hard’ silence – for a few seconds. Impossible to keep up. First the foot, then the air guitar  (what’s it called when you sing it, not airplay it?), first chorus joined in (badly), the odd WAAAAH when deemed necessary, and a full throated warble of any available chorus note and lyric after that. By the end of the first 4 minute round, I was exhausted, because I haven’t mentioned the dancing. You can’t help dance to this. It’s infectious, as Darkness songs so often are, but containing many more infections. It’ll getcha, one way or another. Embracing the darkness is quite easy.

A final note, on Emily Dolan Davies – she has captured the hearts and loyalty of fans during the Eire tour just finished. The Darkness were wise not to replace Ed Graham with like for like, for many reasons – it just wouldn’t have been ‘right’. Emily has a different influence within the Darkness sphere and a different place with the fans.  Memories remain intact with us, and the present and future is emerging to shine in her own unshadowed light.

The Horn – New Single from The Darkness

The Darkness. The Horn. You just know it’s not going to be on a car insurance ad anytime soon, without even hearing it. One or two latex clothes sites I know of might be interested, maybe…

The Horn is one dirty, relentless little slice of heavy hard rock action. Rhythms drip pornographic grind and everything else adds the slick of oil for a shinier finish, guaranteed to leave stains everywhere it touches. The lyrics are exactly what you’d hope – sexy, naughty, funny and descriptively detailed, laced with little touches of affection.  The sense of a certain wide-eyed gobsmacked innocence lurking at the back  – I don’t know whether to chuckle or raise my eyebrows, as I can’t do both together.

I’m in love all over again. They do this so damn well. I like The Horn far better than other recent releases (which doesn’t mean I don’t like them, far from it) just because the whole song is so darned wonderfully Darkness.

God help us all if there’s a video. There are enough Juslings in the world who have keeled over today, and I don’t think the NHS could cope. You know damned well they knew that was going to happen!

Released today on iTunes, Google whatsit thingy and other places. Played on this tour to popular acclaim, plenty of videos of live performances to view. Oh, and there’s a new version of Christmas Time too, which was released on the 18th of this month (November).

Saxon release new album ‘Sacrifice’

Saxon? The name jumped out at me like a hit from the past. It’s been a long while since I listened to any of their stuff, and the band are most linked with memories of school and my best friend. He was a metalhead, I was an ex-mod goth – we covered a lot between us. Anyway… my good friend Andy was a big fan and it’s down to him that I ever heard them at all.

A new album, their 20th, is being released on 4th March. Sacrifice was produced by frontman Biff Byford, who has plenty to say about the back to Saxon basics approach. ‘I wanted to focus on the raw aspects which made us great in the first place’ he states. Indeed, if you were a fan back in the 80’s, you’ll find a lot that’s both familiar and classic to rediscover. If you weren’t, then you do need to be a metalhead to appreciate it fully. It’s steeped in traditions of lyric, legend and guitar that have wound themselves round several decades and albums. Listen, and ye shall find. New fans should find everything you need to know about the genre right here, given a fresh lick of amp power for the now generation.

Some release formats have extra acoustic/orchestral and re-recorded tracks, so look out for these. Saxon are on a UK tour in April and May – check out their  website for more details. There’salso an offer on there to go on tour with them. Interesting…

 Sleeve Saxon Sacrifice lo res 2

 

The Darkness – Hot Cakes Album Review

2012 in the UK has had some momentous moments, one way or another. One of the more startlingly wonderful ones is due on 20th August – a new album from The Darkness. Previously a thing of Darkling dreams/longing, it’s now a thing of reality. REAL reality won’t happen until I have the precious bits of plastic/vinyl in my hands, but they’re so very nearly here!

Whilst the interminable wait ticks by, minute by minute, I cheated. Thank the Lords of Rock for Rolling Stone’s stream, which is on (manual) loop.

YouTube, streams and the official releases have been your friend over the last months. Fans are familiar with the thrust of the whole new thang, if not with the fine detail. By now, Hot Cakes has become a favourite acquaintance with whom you are about to become very much more intimate. You’re going to delve and explore what you thought you knew, savour the discovery of the unknown, slowly peel away layers of sweet rock to uncover more enticements.

Back to Darkness basics. This is a far cleaner and stripped back production than OWTTH…AB, as promised. Nick Brine’s expertise comes in very handy when applying clarity and restraint to the natural Darkness leanings to excess. It works beautifully – controlled musicianship with the underlying promise of glorious chaos highlighted. There’s a delicacy of touch, in Forbidden Love particularly, that’s delightful to witness.

In fact, that song’s a treasure. Seems like a slip of a thing, but it has plenty of strength. Living Each Day Blind is an epic rocker made for the stage, easy to get lost in. Classic rock lives on in Keep Me Hanging On, which was the personal surprise of the album – great vocals. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us brings its normal moshy anthemic  joyousness, rising to the trademark crescendo of sound and voice. Concrete – a crowd favourite for over a year – wonderfully headbangy with stupendous rock screams to finish. With a Woman has a damnably catchy chorus and great lyrics and should be a live hit with the way it builds. She’s Just a Girl, Eddie is another crowd favourite already. Street Spirit has long been a little Darkling treasure, and fully deserves its inclusion. The original is fairly iconic, but this version will become the definitive version for a different audience. It’s a song that asks to be screamed out with frustration, despair and longing, and pretty much gets it.

The two releases – Every Inch Of You and Everybody Have a Good Time have intros that instantly mark the songs as TD’s own brand – no mistaking them for anyone else’s. Very different in tone, as a pair they are TD embodied. Fun, serious, defiant, feelgood, loud, potty mouthed and utterly relative to everyone’s lives. With some nice dirty guitar solos and falsettos thrown in, whom else could it be?

The stream includes the long version of Cannonball which has some more delicate touches than the full blown live extravaganza, but is brilliant in its own right. There is also an acoustic demo versionof I Can’t Believe It’s Not Love, which quite frankly is one of the best songs they’ve ever done. It could be performed in any version and still stand up, and the lyrics are some of the most adept.  The other demo version is of Love Is Not The Answer, which is on the album ‘proper’ in the final cut version which shows off Justin’s vocal prowess beautifully – but I think that this acoustic version actually suits the song and its sentiments better. Or maybe just suits my temperament? I prefer it anyway.

Pat Pong, one of the more bizarre things TD have done, is happily there as a mastered version. It’s such a great thing to listen to – ‘with both sets of genitalia’ is a lyric I’ll not forget – just so wonderfully TD. It was great live at the 100 Club, and deserves to be heard live again!

The album, as always, is about life and love, and sticking your two fingers up at both of the buggers because even when it’s going right, disaster is not so far away. Or vice versa. Especially that Love stuff – should be approached with caution as it can get you into a whole lot of joy/mess/trouble (the path of true love never runs smooth, so if it’s less than true love and more of a eye for a roll in the hay, take care. Just in case,  like).  Thank heaven, though, for the spirit that bore Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us ten years ago, because without it, there would be no Darkness – this time OR last.

Whatever your Darkness preferences, they are catered for. Slow and seductive, hard and fast, enthusiastic, bouncy and energetic. You will have in your hands something that you can enjoy over and over again, alone or with likeminded individuals. Just don’t try and keep quiet during the process.

Fan bundles are still available, and  iTunes, Amazon etc also all have lovely things ready to ship to you.

The Rite of Spring EP – O.W.L.S.

O.W.L.S. have an EP out today. Their first. It’s available almost everywhere, so you need to go and get it.

There’s a wonderfully controlled wildness about O.W.L.S., which is rather apt, don’t you think?  I recall saying that I like a little bit of dirt and scratch left on my soul by music, when I reviewed their first gig, and I stand by that. There’s enough grunge grate in vocals, feedback scrape of strings, to do that job admirably. There are some delicate touches here and there, little bits of bright guitar and beat slipping in and out of the heavy storm. Not any old maelstrom, but one that morphs from relentless assault to full-on attack, the manic of Kibosh to the laid back (relatively) Vitamins. Hurt Janine has a smoothness to the delivery that belies the slight sneer I can hear. Only Joking gives a darn fine idea of what is and what will happen to your ears through the whole Rite. Every now and again a ghost of wholesome american 60’s pop sweeps by, but it’s given a thorough grunging over until it feels as dirty as the rest.

Everything was recorded live, which is how this really needs to be heard to get everything from it, so let’s hope there are gigs near us all soon. Tight band without being anal about it, well crafted and honed songs, rock in spades and grunge in bucketfuls. That’s a bloody good deal, and this is a bloody good debut EP.

Track listing:

Only Joking

Hurt Janine

Leave a Light Over My Grave

Vitamins

Kibosh

One In The Chamber

A Day At The Beach

(Stravinsky’s ballet ‘The Rites of Spring’ caused a riot at its first performance. A good hard mosh is much more sensible, kids.)

Foxy Shazam – The Church of Rock and Roll

Foxy Shazam. What, you may say, is all that about? Well might you ask. For those who haven’t been baptised into this Church, settle back. Those that have, you’ll know all about the strangely off-sweetness of Foxy’s being.

You might have seen them supporting The Darkness during their UK tour last November, or have seen them moons ago at the Camden Barfly. I can bet  that wherever it was, you won’t forget it. There’s ALWAYS something happening, when they’re on stage. ALWAYS. A band that never stands still, never rests, never loses a chance to entertain. Eyes take time to rest on Skye playing keyboards with his feet, and you’ve missed Alex playing his trumpet whilst doing a one handed, thrusting crabstand. Look away for a second, and Eric is on shoulders, as if he’s apparated there. Photographers can’t keep up. Eric’s voice tears at your ears and psyche both as he delivers powerful, sometimes shatteringly high notes from a slender frame that seems too frail to contain such richness… but don’t be deceived. The man’s made of steel – hard, unforgiving, sharp, bright and flexible – especially where hecklers are concerned.

Given their well known association with Justin Hawkins (Eric and Justin have long been songwriting together, Justin produced this album, support slots on Darkness UK and USA tours), it’s tempting to look for another embryo Darkness. Forget that. Foxy Shazam have been around for a good long time. This is their 4th album and they have live experience that bands would sell their shoes for. Last year, the two bands complemented each other perfectly while contrasting starkly. Foxy Shazam are far darker than The Darkness in tone and presence. They have levels of sleaze and storytelling methods that would not suit TD.  To describe more fully, try hard rock disco (dickso?☺) 70’s frenzy with cool blues dirty trumpet under/overtones. It works equally well at whatever tempo, whatever emotional level.

This album, out a week ago, is all that. Start with the get down dirty title track and I Like It, move through pop twists to Last Chance at Love. I Wanna Be Yours and Wasted Feelings have hypnotic repetitions, vocal treatments and rhythms. Forever Together will give sweet chills with an easy, cool summery feel – but beware of this and the deceptively simple treatments given throughout. This is not music that trips happily through love and life. It digs far deeper than that. You’re never far from that dirty little edge of voice or instrument, crafted by men who know how. Power is seldom absent, whether it’s lyrical, vocal or instrumental. Foxy Shazam do indeed give a little enigma back to rock and roll, and a little enema is gifted, too – so it should be.

I want to see all this on stage, because I want to see/hear these songs with the raw passion of performance pulsing through. When you leave a gig with wide eyes and ‘What the FUCK was that?’ on your lips, you’ve seen something special. Had an epiphany, even. The Church’s services aren’t for the fainthearted or closed-minded, and I like it. A lot.

Foxy Shazam – out on USA tour with The Darkness starting 1st Feb in Toronto. See the tour dates page for more info, but move fast for tickets.

The Church of Rock and Roll is out now on iTunes, or see the band’s Facebook page for further info on album/tshirt/artwork bundles.

 

Anders L.A. – ‘In Unison’

By Lucie.

The last time I reviewed Anders’ music, he was a child. Two years later, he’s still a child, but with an increasingly and impressively adult view on the world; you feel it in his music, and In Unison is the most grown-up melodic mission he’s ever been on.

I’m put in mind of another newish (but like Anders, having steadily worked on his craft for a fair few years now) young artist by the name of Streebeck – indeed, Anders’ debut album feels very similar to Streebeck’s Without a Baedeker, that delicate balance of songs on happiness and on loss, with the two themes occasionally merging.

Anders’ themes are more heartfelt than ever, his voice having settled in his tender years to suit the mood of this beautiful record and its nine poetic tracks. The rough edges of his previous EP’s have been smoothed and, such is the faith in this aural collection, it’s now available to buy on iTunes.

‘You Should Smile More’ was instantly my favourite track – I’m always swayed by the bounciest song first. The subject matter (the title says it all) is simple, yet something nobody else has written about before. This is Anders’ strength, discovering new themes (generally various branches of the feelings that come with love), surprising when love is the most well-worn musical subject of all; it’s astounding to find that somebody is finding new ways of exploring it.

I’m loving ‘Under The Sun’, ‘The Hard Goodbye’, and ‘You’re Always There’ too, songs that span emotion, as the entire record does. The album sounds effortless and clean yet deep and soul-searching, an odd and enticing mix that surely is the stuff that makes the best records. Anders rules, forevz.

www.myspace.com/andersla

ROCKAGANDA – Parlor Mob

by Lucie Walker

Once in a long while, a truly impressive band comes along. I know, they’re horribly few and far between these days, but Parlor Mob is one of them. Their album ‘And You Were A Crow’ has accumulated a cult following as they sucked up fans with their heady cocktail of dirty rock and tender blues. It’s no wonder they’re a hit with wavy-haired 70’s-lovers such as myself.

Earlier this year I saw the video for the opening track on AYWAC, ‘Hard Times’, and I instantly thought to myself: “is this one of the great oldie bands? Surely nobody sounds like this anymore!”. But no, these kids were young and serious, and after shamefully forgetting about them for a few weeks I bought AYWAC on a whim, which I very rarely do on the back of hearing one song unless they really are THAT good.

The album is an instant classic from start to finish. It would be so easy to compare them to Thin Lizzy and Led Zeppelin, and I’m afraid that’s exactly what I’m going to do. The dual guitars have the unmistakable vibe of Lizzy, and the strained vocals of a frontman who is singing at a higher pitch than his larynx wishes to allow him to is reminiscent of both Lynott and Plant. It’s the bluesy element that reminds me of Zep, particularly on my favourite track of the album, ‘Can’t Keep No Good Boy Down’.

However, I’m not going to fall into the trap of implying that they’re an entirely retro and nostalgic band, that wouldn’t be fair. Their sound is fresh at the same time, by which I also mean refreshing. This stuff hasn’t been done before, not even by the old greats, despite the fact that this bunch were clearly born out of their time.

Songs like ‘When I Was An Orphan’ and ‘Angry Young Girl’ are proof of this, where both lyrics and style are completely original and touching. The only comparison I could give for the latter, for example, would be the rather obscure Real Tuesday Weld, with their tapping drums and similarly cooing and melodic velvet vocals – stark contrast to Mark Melicia’s harsher and higher tones on the rest of the album.

The epic 8.5 minute long saga that is ‘Tide Of Tears’ is a deeply emotional musical journey, and provided you have the patience to take the time to listen to such a lengthy track, it will touch you with its dark, slow tendrils of blues-rock.

Tracks like ‘Carnival Of Crows’, ‘Dead Wrong’ and ‘Real Hard Headed’ are the ones that will have you headbanging, while the slower songs will have you swaying or dancing, depending on whether they’re in major or minor.

Another thing about this album and this band is that you get the distinct impression that they’d be an absolute rocking joy to experience live, in all their long-haired boisterous glory. I see them flicking sweat across the audience as they deafen with wailing riffs already, and personally, I’ll be all over a gig of theirs as soon as they bless our fair land with a visit.

Quite simply, this is British rock with an American lilt, and I think Parlor Mob must be very aware of the country that inspired their style. For once, a singer in a classic rock band has the RIGHT to sound like a Yank when he sings.

Hot Leg – Red Light Fever

Tongue tied is not my normal state. I do rabbit on, and when I’m reviewing something I get all flowery. I like words – but this time, they haven’t liked me and this particular review has taken AGES to write. Knowing what you want to say and not being able to do it is just the pants… Got there in the end!

 

Hot Leg. Début album. Doormat. Mad rush to electrical appliance – open the envelope, stupid girl! Insert contents, turn power on, settle back for ten intense bursts of bliss. Repeat as necessary.

 

I’ve got, in my hands and ears, songs to melt to. I’m lucky – I’ve heard all of them more than once live, except for Kissing in the Wind. I know them, recognise them, they’re virtually godchildren!  Wasn’t at their conception, of course, I missed out on the messy bits. It’s very different when you have a nice undistorted sound. Nobody’s shouting in my ear, I’m not trying to take photos and I don’t need to worry about being able to see. I can just relax and truly listen. And yes – to those who asked – I like it. Love it. 

 

There’s more layers than I’m used to hearing, both instruments and voice. Some vocals are startlingly choral, like in Chickens, and there are layers of Justin’s voice everywhere. His singing swoops and soars as it ever has done, more easily I think. It sounds more assured. There’s more mid-range singing, which I’ve always liked.  Kissing in the Wind and Ashamed are prime examples. Speaking of Ashamed – the nation’s future anti populist tv protest song – there’s a glorious brief moment when Beverlei Brown’s voice slips in beside his, and the two are inseparable until she takes off on her own. Her smooth depth of tone match his beautifully – it was a surprise first time to realise it wasn’t Justin. I want more of that! She makes it sound so easy, dammit.     

 

I suppose you expect me to eulogise about the guitar playing? Quite right too. Well, it’s as brilliant and beautifully executed as you’d expect. Whatever the flavour – rock solos, bluesy intros, delicate fingering in Trojan Guitar – it’s spot on. Keyboards are prominent – lovely synth in Chickens made me smile – and piano in Kissing in the Wind. You’re not going to get an album without those in!  There’s often a heavy pounding rhythm, bringing Man Rock down to deep and dirty under those deceptively catchy bits that are more Velcro than hooks. You’ll find changes of tempo within songs rather than across the album as whole, but there’s plenty of variety.

I’m not going to dwell on The Darkness. If you hear TD in this from time to time, why should it be a surprise? Some songs were written in 2002, right back in the hard slog days. Justin wrote and recorded this album, working on it for months before Hot Leg were finalised. The future writing will be interesting, collaborating with the rest of Hot Leg.

 

Have a very careful listen to the lyrics. Ponder them. Draw your own conclusions where you need to. Love songs have realities embedded in them – you can’t have slush without slipping on it sometimes. Prima Donna and Trojan Guitar have their own histories and meanings. However you read them, it’s obvious that Justin’s lyrical adroitness isn’t a flash in the pan. A word or two can change the entire point, feel and thrust of a sentence or song. In Kissing in the Wind, it’s one consonant. That song could be as much about Justin’s fans as the lover it addresses, to my mind. Can’t wait to hear it live.  

 

Apart from I’ve Met Jesus, which has been top banana since I first heard it, I can’t pick out songs to put above others. They all have something that delights or intrigues. Any disappointments? No. I think I might have preferred to have Extraordinary Woman rather than Chickens, I rather like that song. And Come Into My Arms – mmm, yes, then Cupboard Love and Automa… can’t have too much of a good thing. Albums should have B-sides!  The main problem with the whole album? Listening to it in comfort, I’ve discovered I’ve been singing lyrical bollocks of my own devising all these months. Oops *blush*. 

 

Red Light Fever inflames the senses, it’s true. Drives one to sing and dance, headbanging (can you airheadbang?), and if you’re DEFINITELY alone in the house, striking silly poses at the same time as the above.  Are these not indicators of truly good music? No? Then music’s not fun any more. I want Rock with a bit of life about it, some humour, reality and one or two things to ponder. And some Man, just to spice it up a bit.

 

Red Light Fever is  out on 9th February 2009, and  available from  www.play.com , www.amazon.co.uk, and   www.townsend-records.co.uk/artist.php?artist=hotleg . Townsend have a bundle offer on the next single Cocktails, out on 23rd February. They also have the red vinyl LP version.

 

Track Listing:

1. Chickens
2. You Can’t Hurt Me Anymore
3. Ashamed
4. I’ve Met Jesus
5. Trojan Guitar
6. Cocktails
7. Gay In The 80s
8. Prima Donna
9. Whichever Way You Wanna Give It
10. Kissing In The Wind

Nemo: Your new favourite band.

Listen up Electro fans, you can get your hands on a free track from the geniuses that are Nemo. Some of you may already know them from The Mighty Boosh as lead singer James Cook has appeared in a few of the episodes, you also may have heard of them if you know anything about proper Electro. So past, current and future fans head over to Nemo’s website www.nemointernational.com to get your hands on a free track, and there’s one a week! Be sure to sign up to the news letter so you don’t miss out.

Future fans be wary of awesome electric sounds, fabulous vocals and the fact that these guys might just become your new favourite band.

 

Jet

Hot Leg tracks – Trojan Guitar & Heroes

I know, I meant to do this earlier – but real life gets in the way of my love affair with all things begat by Darkness.  However, I have a few spare minutes before setting off to see the very first Hot Leg gig tonight, so it seems appropriate to do this now.

Anyway. Let’s start with ‘Heroes’. A free non-album track offered when the tour tickets went on sale – I first heard a small 12 second snippet of this ages ago on dothegreenthing, and the damn thing managed to stick in my head even with such a short burst.  So when the full version arrived, it was boogie time – i defy you not to jig about to it. Hand jive is good…   Every part of this sinks into your consciousness – guitars, beat, chorus, backing vocals. There’s nowhere to hide.   And who could resist a Superhero wiping the floor with Zeroes left right and centre? Doesn’t matter if you’re EcoBoy or the boy next door. Everybody’s heart drives them on to a dream, everyone has their own future in their hands. It’s not easy, but you don’t have to  do it on your own.  Not nearly as much falsetto as people would expect from Justin, here. Sounding good – fast, confident, and not a syllable of superfluous lyric.

Moving on to ‘Trojan Guitar’, which arrived whilst I was on holiday and then wouldn’t play for days thanks to the laptop sulking. Still, I got to wonder about the title, and the idea of Justin and his merry men sneaking back into musicland and destroying it from the inside with the sweet blasts of rock. This is an epic, a saga and work of guitar/lyric art. It’s for you decide what the story is, but for me it’s the rise and fall of TD, and Justin’s subsequent rise from the ashes. Apologies all round if that’s not the case. More progressive rock than anything that goes before it, and the beginning reminded me of ABBA’s ‘Fernando’. Never a bad thing.  As I said, the guitar work on this is just amazing. Listen a couple of times, it’s well worth it.  ‘Trojan Guitar’ is the first single, watch out for release dates.  

Talent will out, as they say. You can’t miss it here – it was never lost, just took stock of itself for a while.

Stone Gods – ‘Silver Spoons and Broken Bones’ (album)

By Lucie

There’s a little rockpocket full of people waiting for this album; the ones who diligently paid to see Thin Lizzy last year for a few minutes of their support, the ones who strived to attend as many nights of the January tour as possible to witness them leading the show, and the ones who caused the EP to sell out as soon as it was released – really, do any of you expect to be disappointed by ‘Silver Spoons and Broken Bones’? Didn’t think so. Expectations are high, but justifiably so. The Metal Gods DVD of the Nottingham gig was ordered by the bucketful, many fans buying it to tide them over until the release of this record on the 7th of July, instantly proving that the music is valued. There are plenty of people that Stone Gods don’t have anything to prove to at this point, but for those who have doubts, the rule is to dive in with an open mind or don’t bother at all – this is a fresh new 13-track fat juicy rawk album, no comparisons of the past necessary.

‘Burn The Witch’ was made to be an intro tune, hence it being the opening song for every gig during the January tour and the title track for the EP. It’s a song to grab the rock fan’s attention with a bowel-quaking force – it’s no wonder this band in its infancy managed to get the crowd singing “we’re gonna burn the witch” along with them even on their first headline tour. The next song is ingeniously placed, ‘Don’t Drink The Water’ being entertaining and jumpy and the antithesis of ‘Burn The Witch’, encompassing holiday fun with an unexpected ska-ish hint of steel drums after the second chorus. ‘Defend Or Die’ switches focus again, and is a favourite of ours here at OI HQ. I defy the hairs on the back of your neck to lie still during the gruff, layered vocals, and I expect all of your hairs to shift violently when the pounding musical backdrop kicks in. This song is pure metal (in the good way, not the Metallica way), a growling, vicious creature.

‘You Brought A Knife To A Gunfight’ is a much-loved favourite from the EP, a show of laddish aggressiveness combined with infectious riffs and an always winning use of the term “fuck you” – that will always prompt popularity. ‘Magdalene Street’ has gained huge esteem since the band made a video of them performing it acoustically and lobbed it on YouTube, causing volumes of people to know the words even before seeing them live. The album version has a wonderfully Brian May-eqsue intro, a haunting theme shot through all aspects of the music, and to me, it’s the song where Richie’s voice sounds the best – clearer than usual, powerful, with a pleasantly surprising amount of vibrato. ‘Where You Coming From’ is crammed with distress and double guitar solos to prepare you before the ballad hits, ‘Lazy Bones’ softening the album and plucking the heartstrings in a love song about compromise, gentle and acoustic, a lighters-in-the-air track.

It’s easy to guess what ‘I’m With The Band’ is about, and it includes a long build-up before the licks turn filthy and the vocals get callous. ‘Start Of Something’ is a song of air-punching defiance, one that’s knowing of the criticism the band do/will receive. It also includes my favourite Dan Hawkins solo of the whole album that connotes optimism for the future and is fantastically elaborate. ‘Makin’ It Hard’, another favourite of mine is fast, dirty, and best played immensely loud or not at all, swinging straight to the only song that hasn’t been performed live yet, ‘Wasting Time’. The song is about much preferring to party and do bugger all than be responsible and grown-up, and who can argue with that? It’s straightforward liberating rock that give you the irresistable urge to enjoy yourself. Preferable at a Stone Gods gig. ‘Knight Of The Living Dead’ is the heaviest track on the record, bitter and jilted, made for headbanging, but it doesn’t deserve to be sullied with the use of those dirty words “heavy metal”. Eurgh.

Just as ‘Burn The Witch’ needs to start a show, the anthemic ‘Oh Whereo My Beero?’ is a finisher, and not since Lizzy’s ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ has laddish social life been so brilliantly observed in song. The theme of this tune encompasses many of the outstanding themes within the record; Englishness, undeniable masculinity (but not in an offensive way), and singalongability, adding subtle politics to the mix.

The album is, with the possible exception of the ‘Burn The Witch’ (which is arguably metaphorical) a testament to real life, the product of four blokes sitting around the room with a few acoustics, writing about what they know. It’s solid and human in feel, empathetic, and fun. Aside from that, it’s also brilliantly done; the mixing subtle and echoed where it needs to be, and aggressive elsewhere. For the faithful fans that have seen them live, you’ll be glad to know no major changes have been made to any song; a word change here, a tone alteration there, and some added vocal harmonies (YES!), all products of getting an explosive live act onto disc and making them slick, powerful and raw at the same time.

Listen to it on headphones. I guarantee that it sounds better coming in your ears.

Track list:

‘Burn The Witch’

‘Don’t Drink The Water’

‘Defend Or Die’

‘You Brought A Knife To A Gunfight’

‘Magdalene Street’

‘Where You Coming From’

‘Lazy Bones’

‘I’m With The Band’

‘Start Of Something’

‘Makin’ It Hard’

‘Wasting Time’

‘Knight Of The Living Dead’

‘Oh Whereo My Beero?’

For more information on Stone Gods, visit their fansite (partially run by three Optimum Impact writers) at www.stonegods.org or the official website www.stonegods.co.uk.

Phantom Lacuna – Keep an ear out!

http://www.myspace.com/phantomlacuna

Upon hearing this band with their heavy guitars you automatically think, ‘Oh no, not another metal band’. Then the screeching guitar kicks in and makes you feel guilty for thinking this band are something that they are not. They are not a metal band with horrible shouting vocals or repetitive guitaring, they are pure rock. Proper rock. Fantastic guitaring is constant throughout all their songs, catchy riffs that complement the very raw vocals. They are no Mariah Carey but why would they want to be when accompanied by guitar riffs that are able to dominate every song. This is music that will get you jumping, singing and playing air guitar along with everyone else that hears these sounds.

A band for the future, keep an ear out.

Jet x

The Darkness -‘Platinum Collection’

It’s out now, then, this… *Best Of* ? As if by magic, 18 months after the demise of The Darkness, this arrives. Both albums and the Christmas single are on it. Question is, WHY? Lots of questions, actually.

  • Who is it aimed at? Not the faithful. It’s not a collectors’ item, not got anything unusual on it, nothing special. If it was aimed at us as a moneyspinner, it missed, big time. If it was aimed at Joe Public – well, who knows what they’re going to buy, but I have my doubts. In any case, there’s been no marketing, we found out by accident about this one, and spread the news ourselves.
  • What could have made it WOW? B-sides. Bareback. Fan’s favourites. A bit of thought? Special inserts? ASKING what we’d like? Although, of course, if not aimed at us then that’s a bit irrelevant. Actually, as someone pointed out, we’re still waiting for the Live DVD that never made it. THAT would have been massive!
  • Front cover? No logo. Why? Legal reasons? Or because Justin’s gone and he designed it? And WHY, for the love of rock, would you put TD posing as the iconic Queen image on the front of a TD celebration CD? Something very wonky with THAT. In fact, it reinforces the feelings of those out there who only ever wrote them off as a Queen rip-off. Plus it isn’t actually the best photo of them.
  • No PR/Marketing? Well, that we know of. Why not? Am I missing something? Why would it be kept quiet?
  • Whodunnit?Prime suspects are Atlantic/Warner, to recoup (written off) losses. However, if this is a money making thing, then there’s no sales push. Can’t see that the record company would give a monkey’s about Stone Gods’ feelings on intruding on their nascent fame… so no need to keep quiet on that front. Do they not have approval from those four lads? Would they care? Is it necessary? Who was asked, if anyone? If it isn’t the record company – that leaves the TD lads. They might be tied in to doing this as part of a losses deal. Money? There might be other reasons of which no one will ever be aware, on both sides of the coin. Legal ownership of the songs is another issue. If Party A owns them, then does Party B then have no say? And if Party B owns them, then some sort of deal between the two is likely. Where do Justin and Frankie fit into agreements?

All as clear as mud – headache on its way. Whatever’s going on, it’s not a very popular move, from what I see and hear. I’m loath to buy anything official that hasn’t got TD’s logo on it.

Serpico review

by Lucie plus guest writer Paula

To go with our divine little interview with the Serpico boys, we’ve had a listen to the music they have on their pretty little MySpace page and decided to make a little song and dance about it. This is a band that any self-respecting metal fan needs to listen to, put simply. Everything you want in your slice of morning rock is there – heavy licks, thunderous percussion, a gravel-voiced singer who sounds angry even when he isn’t… Come on, does it get better? In OI HQ, ‘Kultura’ is our favourite track on the page, fast-paced with an anthemic chorus, jumpy and fists-in-the-air. Plus I’m a sucker for a rolling drum intro. ‘Glasseye’ will appeal to those who like a good bit of angsty emotion with their rawk, while ‘400 Blows to The Head’ and ‘Alkaline Nights’ knock ones head off with more vicious guitar work than you could ever want, with ‘Feelin’ Minnesota’ and ‘Los Perros’ giving a very encouraging indication of what’s to come in the live show. There’s no denying that this is a kick-arse group, one that gets you excited about hearing it all live, if you’re lucky enough to do so.

I’ll pass over now to someone who knows a little more about metal then me, one of our guest writers, Paula:

After many repeated listening to the songs Serpico have on their myspace (much to the dismay of my child). I have come to the conclusion it is difficult to try to describe their sound other than good old style rock with a load of heavy riffs & pounding drums, that you can but help tap along too (which is always a good thing)

It is a bit hard to pin point any one particular influence (apart from the obvious Slayer -Reign In Blood opening riff at the start of Feelin’ Minnesota live), Think AC/DC meets Nirvana and throws some mid 80’s thrash bands such as Megadeth & Metallica into the mix and you might just have an taster of how they sound.

Just because we’re generous, have some tour details (all supporting Stone Gods):

17 Jan 2008 Fleece Bristol
18 Jan 2008 Academy 3 Manchester
19 Jan 2008 King Tuts Glasgow
20 Jan 2008 Academy 2 Newcastle
22 Jan 2008 Corporation Sheffield
23 Jan 2008 Barfly Birmingham
24 Jan 2008 Zodiac Oxford
25 Jan 2008 Rock City Nottingham
27 Jan 2008 Wedgwood Rooms Portsmouth
28 Jan 2008 Concorde 2 Brighton
29 Jan 2008 Camden Underworld London
30 Jan 2008 Waterfront Norwich

El Policia – Future Delights

by Jo

Ok, that’s 2007 out of the way. Let’s have a ponder about 2008, shall we? What’s in store?
Aha! Here we are… El Policia. These teen rockers are already making a name for themselves on the Manchester circuit with both headline and support slots, they’re tipped for the top. Live TV sessions with The Thrills on Channel M, airplay time from both Steve Lamacq and Huw Stephens, and plenty of press attention. Not many bands can claim that they’ve played gay clubs AND appeared on NUTS TV in the space of a month – heavens! How on earth did they pull those two off? Blimey be blessed, even NME like them.

They look good, the looks match the sound, and they serve up the goods with gusto, energy and plenty of noise. Plenty of punkpop determination. No nonsense. Forget dour though – this is good honest fun to hear. I can only imagine the sheer joy of their mosh pits! I found it impossible not to want to jump up and down and BE at a gig when I heard them.

All in Your Head is the thrashier, punkier of the two tracks I heard, and I must admit that the first snippet made me think of ‘C’mon Everybody’, but the Sid Vicious version. Always a good thing! That repetitive rhythm gets you! We’ve got honest, unpretentious music here, with simple but effective lyrics that relate to your life -up to you to decide how meaningful they are for you. ‘You Love Me Too’ – mmm yes. More of that dark hard bright fuzz in my life, please. A different sound, different vocals.

If you’re after new stuff to freshen things up, give El Policia a chance. And have a bit of an unashamed pogo at the same time. There’s an EP being recorded, and there are a good few gigs in the pipeline round the Northwest and hopefully further afield. Catch them supporting Dragons at Academy3 on February 27, and Death To The DJ @ WA1 on February 9th, for starters.

There’s plenty of varied tracks to listen to at www.myspace.com/elpolicia . Enjoy!

Do it in the Dark – Justin Hawkins

by Jo

Justin’s latest work for charity took us by surprise and the goolies – he kept this fairly quiet, but now it’s up on his myspace. It’s all in aid of a brand new green issues collective that gives people easy targets to help cut down their carbon footprint – nothing too tricky and things that are likely to turn into good habits. The whole thing with illuminating video is at www.dothegreenthing.com – cocks can dance, y’know, but if I saw that in my bedroom, I’d either assume it was Superman in trouble, or call an ambulance…
It’s got those unbelievable vocals and soaring rock riffs that we expect from the boy HawkLord, along with some smashing sound effects – the BBC had better check their archives, methinks. The whole experience startles, but it’ll make you laugh yourself wet. What did you expect?
The myspace and dothegreenthing versions are different, so listen to both – Myspace is a straight(er)song version. Justin says in his blog, just clearing up a few things:

”The Green Thing website is slightly misleading in that it names me as the sole writer of Do It In The Dark. In truth I worked with a formidable songwriting partner, Naresh Ramchandani who not only came up with the title, but wrote most of the lyrics for the piece.
As always, I wrote the melodies and music and played everything apart from Ramchandani’s trademark cowbell in the verses. My partner also joined me on BVs.”

He also says that he did it in the dark. Let’s all join him!

www.myspace.com/barbecuerock

Dolls Eye Weaver – ‘Shaving Cuts’ EP

by Lucie

This record reads like a working class pop-rock Bible, the fast-paced riffage sounding like a grown-up version of Sum 41, with the vocals giving away the very English theme. Some seriously ace and elaborate guitar work seems at odds with the gruff lyrics, but that’s not a bad thing – I for one am very open to a good paradox, as long as it works. Dolls Eye Weaver aren’t trying too hard, they’re having a good time. Each song on this EP is deliriously fun in its beat, turning heavy with the personal stand-out track ‘One Of The Pack’, rebellion against conformity. I’m also rather keen on ‘I Won’t Back Down’, with its layered chorus and firmstanding attitude; it’s good enough to be a single that would immediately let the listener know what kind of gaggle these boys are.

I get pretty sick of bands feeling they need to squeeze textbook ballads into their records, so I’m pleased to find Dolls Eye Weaver don’t care about that kind of shtick. Their punk ideals have to be respected, their defiance and the sense of upheaval… A winning combination for all who are waiting for a break from sparkly fake pop, wanting something real and dirty back.
I think this band and their stance can be rounded up in a line from ‘Absolution’: “I love rock and roll, I’m a simple soul, I’m not looking for absolution”.

www.myspace.com/dollseyeweaver