Anna of the Gods

Some more reviews by Anna Claxton

BUDDY AND THE HUDDLE- Monument for John Kaltenbrunner

This album is allegedly the soundtrack to the book of the film that was never made. If it ever was, it would definitely be directed by Baz Luhrman or John Waters, as in it freaked me out beyond belief but its irrepressible kookiness meant I ended up enjoying it regardless. A perfect concoction of desperate sadness, humour and uplifting joy, Buddy and the Huddle fuse influences of jazz, lo-fi rock, the ever-popular alt-country and a whole other host of styles and instrumental accomplishments to amaze and enthrall.
From the traditionally German "Isabella" (which, quite frankly, was so oompa-pa it was frightening) and the sinister chant of "Blue Leather Mining Coat" to the floatingly drop-dead gorgeous "Covered with Hill Snails" (I love snails and vibraphones and this song encompasses both), whilst this is almost certainly something which can only originate from the very gut of Deutschland, it also embraces sounds reminiscent of the double-bass-picking lounge bars of Las Vegas or the simplicity of the lonely wilds of somewhere further North. In short, don't ask me to compare this to anything because I can't. Apart from sometimes it sounds like My Morning Jacket. That's as much as you're getting.


Once upon a time I wrote that Cambridge heroes The Mono Effect were the little brothers of Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro and so it shall pass that, in turn, Eight Lives Left must possibly be Brand New's or Thrice's. Although the singer has definitely been taking lessons from Hundred Reasons. And they have obviously been to see Right Turn Clyde many times and taken some of their melodic metal antics on board. Not to mention that they have also provided live support to near enough every up-and-coming punk or hardcore act which passes through these here parts, which has got to have had some influence.
Either way, despite the fact that this recording is a bit rough around the edges, the enthusiasm, ambition and raw talent of these five young whippersnappers can't help but launch an impressive attack on an unsuspecting listener, screaming at them to ignore any such comparisons; catchy shout-a-long mantras about the bitch that broke their hearts the other week just distract you long enough to ease the pain after the punch in the gut received from the all-important punk-ridden backing track. And the best thing about it is that they do all this without a hint of a fake American accent. Which makes them my new favourite band.

MONKEY ISLAND- Some of What You Need and Don't Need To Know

I think this short LP is the karaeoke version of Nirvana's "Bleach" with a pretentious amateur dramatics student providing vocals, and the added surprise of "Well, I've never heard a harmonica do THAT before!". Sure, it cannot be denied that these art-school punks with the blues have vast amounts of energy and pride themselves on being pretty much unique but quite how rock and roll they actually are is, for me, debatable. I don't know how much I buy the hype about the fact that they are strangely taking garage rock to a new extreme, all messy guitars but still the same old strut of those gone before. What's more, I scream with terror at any mention of "urban poet" lyrical content. I don't want to hear about the significance of cutlery. I don't think it's clever singing about "Mussolini's Teaspoons". Give me a tune, for crying out loud.
Still, regardless of what I think, most of London's underground, and the senior music press, will still have you believe that Monkey Island are amazing live, a fact I cannot dispute because I a) haven't seen them for myself and b) could actually understand due to afore-mentioned band enthusiasm (I mean, it works for Rude Mechanicals). And once you have heard them, and no doubt loved them, checked your eyeliner is still perfect (boys) and pulled up the stripey socks on your arms and flattened your angular fringe (girls), then you can congratulate yourself on your DIY musical education and stick your head right back up your jacksy. I'm sorry but I just don't get it. And now I have a headache. No hate mail please; you know who you are.

HIDING PLACE- At one time or another EP

Hiding Place have been likened to emo, prog rock and post-hardcore. I believe this five-piece could actually be the next Silverchair. They are only a little older than the Oz beauties when they began their career, spitting attention-grabbing teenage angst at the world stage, and the strong and rich vocals are particularly just as much to die for. Although, swapping golden sands and surfboards for the gritty streets of Glasgow means that they have significantly better lyrics.
Fiercely passionate and intense melodies complement the powerful hit of a new generation of grunge guitar riffs and amazingly mature musicianship, ensuring that their obvious ambition is realised; having supported the likes of ThisGirl, CKY and Slipknot of all people, and gone down a storm at this year's Download festival, their live performances are already gaining reputation for being both exciting and manic, whilst their fresh approach to songwriting also tells me that we are going to hear a lot more about Hiding Place in the near future.

INME- Faster the chase

It has been a good couple of years for Kerrang luvvies, InMe, and now they release this, the first single from their acclaimed second album which was produced in L.A. by Josh Abrahams (he's worked with Courtney Love and Korn, to name a few). Selling out gigs left, right and centre must mean that people can't get enough of this Essex 3-piece, loving every minute of their melodic emo/post hardcore glory, as they deservedly win award after award from the rock heavyweight press.
But there is something not quite right and Anna is unsatisfied once more because she doesn't understand why, when usually she revels in the fact that English folk sing in their own accents, especially Essex men (my fate was sealed when I heard Johnny Depp speak in the film "From Hell"; no, he doesn't sing and, yes, I know he's an American doing a cockney but it is too sexy not to mention) does something about this now cause her such unrest.
Actually, maybe that's it. The guy sounds like an American doing an English accent but it is not remotely sexy; in fact, think Dick Van Dyke heartfeltedly replacing his broom with a guitar and leather trousers and growling at Mare-y Pawp-ins to provide a comforting spoonful of sugar to the grown men on this emotional rollercoaster ride to Southend pier and back, after InMe bring back memories of their failed relationships. After which, wiping a final tear from their eyes, the listeners eventually do a step in time when they now see that at least they are still in touch with the girl that went off down the seafront and came back with a few sprogs by their best mate and, raising a metal salute to the sky, the closing lyric is symbolic and touching stuff indeed. "You were my enemy, now you're my friend". Chim-chim-er-ney.

THE FEATURES- There's a million ways to sing the blues

Bloody hell. Franz Ferdinand have a lot to answer for. Because this is yet more dark-Friday-night-at-the-disco indie pop. The problem is, as much as I hate the fact it has taken over my life, not to mention most of Britain, and there is nothing new to say about it because it has all been done before, I do actually like it. There is no-one that loves a good ponce around to some stomping, swaggering, jive-talking, bottom-shaking tunes more than me. I am, in fact, hankering after some massive platforms, emblazoned with silver stars, and this song justifies why I should have them and this makes me glad.
A million ways to sing the blues? Pah; don't be fooled because The Features clearly don't know any of them. This is simply happy music. Sprinkled with glitter, fairy dust and all things merry and bright, I think it is therefore strange that they have been compared to the Kings of Leon without the beards. Apart from sounding not the slightest bit like them, I've seen a picture of them and two of them have beards. What they really do is use cheerful melodies straight out of the Dandy Warhols and Elvis Costello end of their record collection, whilst jumping on the bandwagon with current favourites, The Killers and Stellastar, to name but a few. And they are coming. For you. All of them. Sounding the same and swinging their bad-but-hip schoolboy flared pants like there's no tomorrow. Be afraid, be very afraid.


Really something of an alt-rock supergroup and sounding pretty alt-rock indeed, Austin-based Friends of Dean Martinez feature past and present members of Giant Sand, Calexico and Naked Prey, no less, fusing together their best bits (without vocals) to produce something which you could, on first listen, mistake for a huge movie soundtrack, say James Bond or something maybe slightly more obscure. With a little Godspeed and Mogwai thrown in for the indie snobs, or at least what they both might aspire to be, but just as trip-invoking all the same, not to mention a bit sexy.
Using feedback to make your head spin one minute, accompanied by huge waves of lush organ and string arrangements, it is often as experimental and complex as the likes of Tortoise, but the landscapes created are much more desolate this time, as melodic steel guitar flutters in the breeze of the lonely Arizona desert this music transports you to, brooding as if threatening to rage a tornado and tear down your house, or sweep your dusty old car off the long road ahead. In hindsight, I would leave the ruby slippers where they are.

LILIUM- Short stories

The rhythm section of Denver-based 16 Horsepower have stolen other members of dEUS and Morphine, to name but a few, to produce their second release-on-the-side through Glitterhouse Records; a melancholy yet dreamy saunter through all things predominantly alt-country, "Short Stories" is at times sinister and haunting, at times heartrending, yet always guaranteed to make you sigh with wonder at its simplistic beauty, although is definitely not, I repeat NOT, to be used when operating heavy machinery. But in a good way. Or, for that matter, if you have just gone through a particularly messy break-up. The lyrical content alone will make you blub with despair into your lonely microwave meal for one.
For those of stable mind, however, this album is a triumph of all things breathtakingly mellow. Yearning instrumentals, such as final lament, "Angels", will massage your shoulders for you at the end of a hard day's graft, whilst the more courageous tracks, the sullen "If they cheered" (featuring the splendid vocal talents of Tarantella's Kal Cahoone) and the Thelma and Louise-esque "Lover", for example, may even rub your stinky feet. But, seriously; for the more mature and discerning indie fan, this collection is one for you to use as the soundtrack to the pondering of your existence, whilst gently stroking your beard in satisfaction when you have noted all of afore-mentioned band references and debated with yourself how much some tracks sound like Nick Cave. Whilst for the rest of us who can merely enjoy music, lie back, soak and absorb. And don't forget to do behind your ears.


Well, slap my thigh. You don't really get more country than this. Don't worry; we're not talking Dolly Parton, but further up the hill and into the woods, where the people smile at each other with blackened teeth and it is not considered strange if you are still slightly, er, furry. Apart from when Burt Reynolds calls to tea. But, be not afraid, as there will be no squealing here, much as you may shiver at the sound of the much-used banjo. Because Mark Olson (of the legendary Jayhawks, don't you know) and his mismatched family are just too kooky and laidback to lift a finger to harm you. Either that, or they're simply busy entertaining by showing off their infectious cotton-picking hillbilly style, set against an admirably melodic blues and folk backdrop. Which is a relief, as I dare say they may hum a bit (refer to the playful ditty "Bath Song" in which Mrs. Olson, AKA Victoria Williams, declares that, even though everyone wants her to have a bath, she simply won't). Perhaps best if you don't get too close then.
Although, personal hygiene aside, listening from a safe distance is made very difficult as it becomes apparent that each song is as welcoming and warm as a personal supply of camp-fire stories; I imagine toasting marshmallows whilst playing the meltingly beautiful "No Water, No Wood", pointing out the full moon, ignoring scary howling wolves, after hearing the contented "Wood In Broken Hills" (not all the songs are about wood, by the way, just the ones I seem to like best) and climbing into a sexy man's sleeping bag to the seductive tones of "Thirty Miles of Petrified Logs" (damn, there's that wood theme again). Or, at least, mildly squeezing someone to the sound of "Bells of St. Mary" (I really only threw that one in because there is no mention of wood, but it is a lovely tune).
In fact, you can't help but feel that, if you were lost and stranded in the wilds of America, you would be more than a little grateful if you were to stumble across this group. Having said that, if you're easily scared, probably best to keep your torch handy should you hear any twigs snapping outside your tent in the dead of night, just to be on the safe side. After all, there are a few songs where the ole fiddle gets a bit frantic. Brrrr.


Apparently this, Jet Johnson's second single from critically acclaimed debut LP, Micropolitan, was inspired by TV coverage of a woman losing the top of her head in a train crash. So you may be forgiven for assuming that it would be macabre and slightly sick sounding. But I think that this song was written to gently lift that woman up to heaven because it is, quite simply, beautiful and angelic. It lolled me into a trance; at times psychedelic, this band fuse together Sigur Ros, Emiliana Torrini, Lamb and the laidback Brit vibes of The Sundays, to provide the perfect fluffy lo-fi antidote to the recent influx of same-old-same-old guitar bands. Music that seems to put the world to rights, this is great for those lazy summer days when your neighbours think that, with warm weather, should come DIY. And breathe. And relax.

CATHY DAVEY- Clean and Neat

I should really hate Cathy Davey because, at only a year older than me, this Dublin girl has already toured with old faves Supergrass, is currently touring with the luscious Mr Graham Coxon and has doubtless other things up her sleeve. Grrrrr. But, as expected, this is unfortunately good stuff. Claiming to be influenced by the likes of Kate Bush, I hear more PJ Harvey without the sinister edge, although still bearing the hallmark of stamping-feet-at-men shenanigans, just slightly sedated with a cup of sweet, sugary tea and a shoulder to cry on.
But not for long. Fighting back with the ballsiness of Elastica thrown in for good measure, all certainly backed with a White Stripes drumbeat, this is guaranteed to have you swinging your partner round and round within seconds, with a big smile on your mush. Or kicking him in the goolies. If indie chicks these days still have their Doc Martens and cropped black hair a la Justine, then they've no doubt got their boot polish out as we speak.
I warm to the fact that Cathy Davey blatantly grew up listening to the same music as me, relishing every moment of the Britpop explosion of '95, determined that, when it's untimely demise arrives, that she will be responsible for bringing it back one day. I think her time has come.

SYPH- Essential Recordings 1978- 2003

This is German punk. Sung in German. Personally, I think that says enough. For those of you who have made a choice to successfully avoid German punk at all costs, you know what I'm on about. But for those who may not have heard any, I'll give you a little bit more to chew on. First thing's first, I have often misjudged Germans. I feel they often seem a little uptight about something, bless 'em. This was before, of course, I heard Syph. Now I completely understand as, after enduring their awful musical torture for 25 years, then I too would feel a little angry at the world. So now I'm not surprised. This surely can't be what they call music.
I mean, what is the point in releasing this anywhere but Germany? Maybe not everyone is as narrowminded as me when it comes to foreign tunes but I have no idea what they are shouting about, nor do I care. Sure, I got my GCSE in the language but the only thing I remember is "Ich habe eine lange schlange" and only because it made me laugh at the time. Although the second track does sound very subtly like Franz Ferdinand (OK, I was using my imagination, but it wasn't as bad as the previous one) and I wonder what the German is for "And I'm on BBC 2 now, with Terry Wogan…" Or maybe it just sounded like that because I had, by this point, (yes; by the second song), lost all will to live and soon after used one CD as a frisbee and let my cats play with the other.

TERRA DIABLO- Terra Diablo

At first glance, Terra Diablo could be mistaken for a Glaswegian hardcore outfit, so hardcore that there is little doubt that all five members do not wear anything under their kilts. What's more, their name means "Devil's Earth" and they're playing the mighty metal fest that is "Download" this summer. Scary. And then you listen to this, their first album release through Zuma Recordings, and breathe a sigh of relief that you were wrong all along. Because this is better than that. I should have known; they can't be metal because they supported Snow Patrol. Silly me. What they begin as, ignoring the fact that, during the first couple of tracks, the singer has the slurred drone of Liam Gallagher after a heavy night on the bottle, is the energetic indie-esque nemesis of Foo Fighters. Sure, I may be talking later Foo Fighters (and without the dreaminess of Mr. Grohl's vocal) but the sing-a-long harmonies and catchy melodies remain the same, not to mention the unmistakable distortion which heralded the dawn of all things post-grunge.
And then this all goes out the window and, as the record progresses, they really start as they mean to go on by doing a good take on Cooper Temple Clause (indified guitar-based tunes), The Pixies (lo-fi guitar-based tunes) and The Strokes (yeah, you know what I'm going to say), amongst others (they even nicked some cute keyboard parts from Donderevo- to complement the guitar-based tunes), creating what I can only describe as a reviewer's nightmare all-in-all, or at least this reviewer's nightmare, because there are so many bits of other bands in there, each song having a slightly different style, that I can't possibly pinpoint them all to tell you about them. Although it is safe to say that they are guitar-based. So, this once, I'll just take the easy way out and say that, although they really should have called this "Tonight, Matthew, I'm going to be… (basically, nothing new but nice all the same)", I still advise you, if suitably intrigued, to buy a copy and vote by pressing the corresponding button on your own keypad… God, I love "Stars in their eyes". Nurse; bring me my little pink pills. Phew.

MODEY LEMON- Thunder and lightning

Can I make up a new phrase to describe this band? Yes? Alright then. They are most certainly Retro Slinky. Which means that, although claiming to be uninfluenced by definitive rock and roll, I beg to differ, because I can definitely hear some of the best bits from the last four decades in this, their first LP release for Mute Records. And they're slinky, slinkier that Sheer Khan in "The Jungle Book", slinkier than a "Slinky" (one of those springs that walked down the stairs; admittedly, this wouldn't be hard because they never worked). Shoop, shoop… I'll get on with it.
If you are anyone who is anyone, then you will have seen this lot supporting The Icarus Line during their recent touring shenanigans. Don't worry; I didn't either. Which I'm upset about. They are gorgeous. But the main reason that this Pittsburgh trio appeal to me so much is because I always wanted to have been born in the 60's, in fact hoping that it will be revealed one day that I am Janis Joplin's reincarnation (without the fabulous singing voice or penchance for whiskey, but this would still be cool). And, now with the power of music, I am transported back in time and frankly it makes me want to get naked.
Because this isn't your average Austin Powers "yeah-baby-yeah" business. No sir; not a chest wig or frilly shirt in sight, because this sticks two fingers up to the "swinging" sixties, hitches it's mini-skirt up higher and embraces the stuff in your parents record collection that you would never have been allowed to listen to in a million years (with a bit of boogie beat, and guitars so dirty and grungey you could smell them a mile off, occasionally chucked in for good measure: please refer to recent single "Crows" for just one example of this).
All sex-in-the-bushes-and-wherever-else, free-love-for-all, shake-your-ass-show-me-what-you-workin-with, Modey Lemon sometimes sound like The Who, sometimes like The Cramps, whilst using their own sparkle to remain gloriously trashy throughout, and you know you are listening to what is sure to be the next big garage rock sensation. Thank God. Take that, you indie schmindie, be-blazered kiddies. And that. And that.