Treasured Memories of Alan Smith
In which our reviewer hot knives some sounds
Tin Man - Parallel Lives
This is cyber indie apparently, which is a dance/guitar
crossover. I'm confused, as I thought this was what new rave was. No
matter, this is neither. This is indie of the slightly above average
variety. The catchy lyrics and frantic in-your-face-pace does enough
to make it stick in your head. The title track is a little too repetitive
really, with "parallel, parallel, parallel, parallel lives"
the constant refrain and it doesn't really progress. However the b-side,
Elephant, "there's an elephant in the room, and she's smashing
up the furniture", is much better and would work better as an attention
grabbing single. But it's still nothing much to shout about. www.myspace.com/thetinman.
Larsen B - The Treasured Memories Of Cecil Element
I'm hoping this band named themselves after the lovely British Sea Power
song, but I doubt it. This is like BSP if they went sailing, bought
a banjo, stole the singer from The Flaming Lips and introduced harmonies
and a little extra jollity to their songs. So not really much like BSP
at all, except for the same sense of randomness, bizarre originality
and carefully crafted alternative songs. It's pleasant enough but has
a slight sense of being background music and little more. I can't imagine
anyone saying "I know! Let's listen to Larsen B!" unless they
were on exactly the right drugs. But they do leave me in two minds as
there is something quite beautiful about their songs that I can't quite
put my finger on, with Old Rope in particular being more than a little
pleasant. So perhaps there is more to come from them. Time will tell.
Bright Eyes - Hot Knives
Bright Eyes, you probably already love him or hate him. I love him,
although not quite enough to actually go out and buy his albums. I probably
would if there weren't so many to choose from. This is the new single
from yet another (his seventh I think) new album, Cassadaga. This is
one of his "loud" songs and is inevitably wonderful. I suppose
it could be pretty easily labelled as somewhere between Dylan and Arcade
Fire, but if you've heard Bright Eyes before you'd expect this to be
the case. And the slower b-side If The Brakeman Turns My Way is good
enough to be a single itself. The single does enough to convince me
I really should get round to buying some Bright Eyes, and if the rest
of the album is as good as this single, which it probably is, it's probably
a good place as any to start. www.thisisbrighteyes.com.
Simon Kent - Spaced Out Refugee
From the first chord I just know this is going to be horrid. And when
Simon's voice comes in all my worst fears are confirmed. It's so MOR
it hurts. Actually it's worse than that. His gentle and monotone voice
is SO irritating as he never puts in any effort at all and he just allows
the song to drift by in a wave of nothingness. Appalling.
First Among Equals - T.G.I.F
This is pretty reasonable, mind you after the last track even Hard-Fi
would be a relief. Quite what T.G.I.F, the repeated shouted chorus of
the title track, stands for I'm not really sure. But I like a bit of
mystery. Is it Thank God Its Friday or something different or maybe
even rude or naughty? Actually I don't think I care. I'm rambling, this
lot sound like a youngish band still finding their way, but their pictures
suggest this isn't the case. It's not bad but it's unlikely to take
the world by storm. But if they already know this then that's fine,
they'll probably be playing toilet venues forever, but the people they
play to will probably have a good time as they thrash out respectable
rock music that probably only really works live.
BC Camplight - Lord, I've Been On Fire
This is a bit of a quirky one from the not entirely stable Brian Christinzio,
the awful and amateurish cover of which meant I'd be avoiding giving
it a listen. But the music is quite polished albeit a bit too Beach
Boys shiny-happy for my liking. That's shiny happy as in high pitched
and jolly sounding, however the lyrics are actually much much darker
which is an interesting combination. It doesn't have a memorable chorus
or any real hooks which would be fine if the music still managed to
be at least slightly hard hitting but it isn't. It's just too sugary
sweet for me to enjoy as there isn't really any depth or warmness too
it and there are simply too many bands of this genre I'd rather be listening
to than this.
Paperlung - Balance
Balance is the not exactly highly anticipated return of The Boo Radleys
singer Sice with his new band Paperlung. And it's pretty much what you'd
expect, fairly unadventurous but perfectly enjoyable. It's probably
too stuck in the 90s to generate much success but for those of us who
can see through music fads and fashions this is well worth picking up.
If you're too young to remember The Boo Radleys, they were a bit like
The Bluetones. Who you won't remember either. Basically you're looking
at Britpop without the unique selling point that made other bands such
as Blur so huge. The tunes are upbeat, melodic and above all "nice".
Naturally there's no huge hit a la Wake Up Boo on here but times have
changed and although this is a new band they are already very much in
middle age, peddling pop gems to a select audience who wonder why you
just don't get this type of music very much any more. It's certainly
refreshing to hear something devoid of aggression or excessive emotion
for a change. www.paperlung.com.
No Machine - EP
iTunes seems to think this is a CD by The Black Eyed Peas which couldn't
really be much further from the truth. A distinctly American band, No
Machine produce vaguely dark music complimented by a strict black only
dress code for the band. The single is Tell Me, one of the more gentle
and ballady tracks on here. Generally their music is a bit too earnest
and showy for my liking but I can see the appeal and I'm sure many people
will lap this up. It's all been well structured and carefully delivered,
a bit too much for my liking as there doesn't seem to be much attempt
to break the mould. To be honest this is probably best suited to the
American market than to us snobbish and hard-to-lease English folk who
always demand that little bit more that I don't feel this really delivers.
Hyperbubble - Airbrushed Alibis
Hyperbubble are the bastard lovechild of Goldfrapp and Ladytron, which
I'll admit doesn't produce a unique offspring but still one of some
inbuilt credibility. This sort of hypnotic electro isn't really an area
I'm very familiar with, and I can't really tell the difference between
this and some of this crazy modern funky stuff I've heard on the wireless.
Which may mean it's really good, or I'm just out of my depth and its
big pants. But the album is fairly varied, with catchy lyrics with a
robotic feel that nobody could help but enjoy. It's also filled with
humour and maintaining it's tongue in its cheek means that you never
go weary of the music or feel like they are trying to be anything other
than what they are. www.myspace.com/hyperbubble.
Silverfall - Sampler
This is deceptively enjoyable. The opening track, Don't Cry Michael,
is a slow and gentle and really not very complex at all but works quite
well despite dragging its heels a little by passing the 5 minute marker.
Perhaps too mushy for some, but singer Jenny's voice is certainly impressive.
Hey Now is more upbeat although a bit whiny. It does showcase their
musicianship better and coupled with the preferably vocals from the
first track would be quite impressive. I think I'll be in the minority
amongst the Repeaters liking this band as they are so pop it nearly
hurts, but I think this sampler shows some talent. www.silverfall.info.
Ben Lee - Ripe
This is possibly the most inoffensive CD of all time and he is so radio-friendly
they probably taken their relationship to the next level. Second track
repeats "I'm watching American television" as a chorus which
is utterly devoid of any real message and slightly nauseating. Despite
this, the more the album goes on the more you become accustomed to it
and you find yourself almost enjoying it, but luckily I managed to snap
out of this malaise and escape with my credibility almost still intact.
Literally bog-standard this is shit, but dangerously listenable shit.
Please ensure you don't get sucked in.
50 Hz - Here Goes Everything
I really really want to say this is so good it Hertz. Or that I hear
this kind of thing with great Frequency. Sadly neither of those statements
are quite true, but this is a good piece of music. They are currently
being groomed for success by EMI, having recently appeared on a compilation
alongside big hitters Radiohead and Coldplay. This has a similar sense
of atmosphere to those bands, but they are more of an archetypal rock
band with Panic Attack a polished and formulaic (in a good way) worthy
lead single. They flit between piano driven ballads and guitar based
indie numbers like a down to earth Muse or a less depressed Interpol
simultaneously reminding me a lot of the underrated The Stills.
Zaum - I Hope You Never Love Anything As Much As I Love You
Clearly this won't win catchy album title of the year, and neither will
the songs win any catchy music accolades. It's kind of improvisational
jazz, although jazz is probably too strong a word for music that has
a very slow tempo and is remarkably freewheeling with songs trundling
along for up to 15 minutes without much sense of purpose. It's a sparse
instrumental piece far removed from anything else reviewed in this batch.
Sadly as someone who finds anything even remotely drawn out in a Pink
Floyd way rather dull it isn't my kind of thing but minimalist fans
(if they exist) will no doubt lap it up. Slowly. www.steve-harris.info.
Pieta Brown - Remember The Sun
Oh dear. How very depressing it is to find myself enduring another dreary
faux country turd incomprehensibly shat out into public despite having
nothing original, unique, exciting or emotional to offer. You can't
help but wonder what she thinks she is giving the world. Even more depressing
is the thought that their may actually be people out there who'll enjoy
this. It's a bit like KT Tunstall but without the pop hooks. www.pietabrown.com.
Low In The Sky - We Are All Counting On You, William
This has been lurking at the bottom of my "to do" heap for
some time mainly due to its impenetrable plastic wrapping and unappealing
artwork. It's another one of those layered-percussiony-instrumental
entities which seem to be cropping up more and more. This is frustrating
as they can be somewhat hard to distinguish and identify, and therefore
hard to review. There is nothing here to pick out particularly, but
it's far better than Zaum as it does at least have a sense of direction
in its songs. I'm using the word "it" as it really feels like
a "thing" rather than a band, which I guess it a good thing
in this single driven world. It comes across much like the more low-key
instrumental Sigur Ros songs and is generally a pleasant experience
albeit an impactless one. www.myspace.com/lowinthesky.
12 Stone Toddler - Candles On The Cake
New favourites 12 Stone Toddler are back with their second single which
is thankfully another thumping tongue in cheek faux-prog delight. It
swaggers like Queens Of The Stone Age if they were to ever lighten up
just a little bit. It's not as immediate nor as daft as debut Twang
and is all the better for it as it still manages to be light-hearted
but being less daft makes it less of a novelty tune.
By Alan Smith
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