Thursday, 28 April 2011

THE CLICK FIVE - TCV

tcv-lojinx

Round about 2006, my friend Dave started raving about a power pop band he’d heard called The Click Five. He recommended checking out their debut disc ‘Greetings From Imrie House’, since they reminded him of a largely ignored power pop band from the mid-90s called The Loveless. By a strange coincidence, The Click Five were discovered by talent scout Wayne Sharp, who back in the 80s had discovered a power pop band called Candy, who would later evolve via Electric Angels into The Loveless. [Candy also had the distinction of launching the careers of sometime Guns n’ Roses man Gilby Clarke and power pop icon Kyle Vincent.]

Personally, though, despite my love of The Loveless and the sole album they released, I cared not The Click Five or ‘Imrie House’. While I could hear a vague similarity to The Loveless, The Click Five seemed far too lightweight – more Busted and McFly than the power pop which often appealed to me. The hooks were there, but they were really sugar-coated. Factor in Eric Dill’s vocals, which appeared horribly auto-tuned throughout huge chunks of the album and...well, let’s just say it wasn’t for me. The Click Five definitely seemed more in tune with the world of teen-fodder than destined for a place in the pantheon of power pop cool. However, despite my misgivings, the album made a few waves in the US, eventually shifting over two million units worldwide (with about thirty copies sold in the UK). All seemed to be going well until Dill quit the band.

They found a replacement in vocalist Kyle Patrick, a man who personally knew the band, but allegedly didn’t care for their music (see, I wasn’t the only one!). 2007’s ‘Modern Times and Pastimes’ ushered in a new phase for The Click Five. While they retained the knack for the kind of hooks that’d always been part of their music, with Patrick on vocals, they dispensed with the auto-tune elements somewhat and brought in better, stronger arrangements. Music with – dare I say – a broader appeal, a shift away from the teen market. As I’d always been a sucker for keyboards that sounded like they’d been lifted from ‘Candy-O’ by The Cars, the slight new wave influences that crept into The Click Five’s music was a welcome addition. Things definitely seemed to be improving.

Produced by Mike Deneen, whose previous credits include the fabulous ‘Flippin’ Out by Gigolo Aunts, this third Click Five release takes the promise of ‘Modern Times’ and ups the stakes even further. Within minutes of the opening number ‘I Quit! I Quit! I Quit!’, it’s obvious the band have finally found their niche. Kyle Patrick’s vocals are so much better than those of Eric Dill, and everybody appears far more confident with the slightly tougher, Fountains of Wayne-esque sound they first experimented with on ‘Modern Times’. The rhythm guitars posses the best kind of power pop punch, against which Kyle Patrick’s effortless vocal delivers a stupidly catchy hook. The power pop greatness carries through ‘Fever For Shakin’, albeit in an even harder way. The harmonies and hooks are prominent, but somehow, Joey Zehr’s drum kit maintains a bigger presence. The guitars are chunky, occasionally lapsing into slightly raucous rock ‘n’ roll soloing near the tracks end, while the keyboards really round out the sound. Easily one of the album’s best numbers – especially after it rather cheekily throws in a few unexpected Beatles inspired riffs during the bridge. ‘Nobody’s Business’ is another number which goes squarely for a feel-good approach, chock-full of new wave keyboard lines and handclaps. If you’re a power pop fan, you’ll certainly have heard it all before, but The Click Five deliver these hooks in such an infectious way, it’s a track that’s almost impossible to dislike.

The softer side of The Click Five presents itself on the acoustic based, ‘Good as Gold’, a mix of power pop and Americana. Gentle shuffling drums pave the way for an easy vocal, slightly retro twanging guitars and an arrangement which evokes Ryan Adams at his most syrupy. While there’s a definite difference between this and material like ‘I Quit! I Quit! I Quit!’, The Click Five show they’re equally adept both styles. Sharp harmonies and rhythms drive ‘Way Back To You’ and while a simple chorus provides another highlight, take a listen to the arrangement - it’s impossible to not smile at Ben Romans’s keyboard line which comes straight out of the Greg Hawkes school of playing.

Big harmonies swamp the chorus of ‘Be In Love’ which turns the feel-good factor back up to 11; against the memorable hook, there’s a string sting and horn sounds which come straight out of the 1970s. As the track falls apart at the end with in-studio clapping, there’s a sense that The Click Five know they’re onto something special. In terms of seventies inspired pop gems, this may just equal parts of The Silver Seas’ 2010 masterpiece ‘Chateau Revenge!’. ‘Just Like My Heart Falls’ is full of crisp rhythm guitars and features yet another great chorus. Perfect for radio, this summery tune presents nothing complicated or fussy - the band really tune into their knack for arrangements; something which becomes especially obvious once the counter vocal harmonies kick in at the end.

Seriously, ‘TCV’ is an album which aims high throughout and barely misses. Occasionally, there’s a lapse into teeny inspired power pop a la ‘Imrie House’, but generally speaking, this album showcases the work of a far sassier Click Five. The sappy ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ gives the nod to the likes of Maroon 5 and in doing so, possibly presents the album’s weak link – but even then, that’s solely down to personal taste, since (as far as the arrangement is concerned) it’s great at what it does.

Since I enjoyed ‘TCV’, I returned to ‘Greetings From Imrie House’ in the hope that it would sound better – that what I missed previously would now fall into place. Halfway through the opening track ‘Good Day’, with its overuse of auto-tune and general sugariness starting to grate, I remembered why I gave the album a wide berth in the first place. The Click Five have come a long way since those days. Maybe you didn’t like them either back then. If so, maybe you ought to forget the band that made waves with ‘Imrie House’ and try this “other” Click Five too. On ‘TCV’, they get it just right.

[The UK issue on Lojinx rearranges the tracklisting and omits two songs from the original US release. These are replaced by two new tracks.]

Visit Lojinx Records here.


April 2011

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

“Nothing Art-I-Ficial: Poly Styrene: 1957-2011”

Often seen to be a figure who ushered in punk feminism, Poly Styrene (aka Marianne Joan Elliott-Said) has lost her battle with cancer. She revealed she had been diagnosed and had been receiving treatment for her illness in February 2011.

Styrene will be best remembered for her work with X-Ray Spex, a band whose debut album ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ (released in 1978) is seen as one of the greatest albums to stem from the British punk movement. The album was preceded by a single, ‘Oh Bondage! Up Yours’ (arguable the band’s best known track, although it was not included on the original album release). The album itself spawned three other singles – ‘Identity’, ‘The Day The World Turned Day-Glo’ and ‘Germ Free Adolescents’, all of which were successful, breaking into the UK Top 40 singles chart. The band broke up prematurely, after Styrene suffered hallucinations on stage. She was originally misdiagnosed with schizophrenia, but was much later diagnosed as being bi-polar. The band reformed seventeen years later and released a second album, which was not a commercial success.

Outside of X-Ray Spex, Poly Styrene stayed largely out of the spotlight, but released solo material sporadically, none of which ever gained the level of success achieved by X-Ray Spex. Her last work ‘Generation Indigo’ was released on March 28th 2011.

Poly Styrene remembered in video:



X-Ray Spex - Identity (promo video)




X-Ray Spex - Art-I-Ficial (Old Grey Whistle Test)




Oh Bondage! Up Yours! (Punk In London documentary)





Poly Styrene - Virtual Boyfriend (official promo video, 2011)




Poly Styrene talks about her 2011 album, Generation Indigo


April 2011

Monday, 25 April 2011

THE FALLEN DRAKES - Death Of An Actress EP

drakes

Formed in 2009, the Dublin quintet The Fallen Drakes may not break any new musical ground with ‘Death Of An Actress’, but thanks to an easily accessibly sound combined with top notch production from U2 and Kasabian producer Ger McDonnell, their EP is still a strong debut. Musically, it finds a space at the soft end of stadium rock, lighter than U2, but with a quality that’s often reminiscent of Coldplay and Snow Patrol.

During the opening number, ‘Masquerade’, Brian McGovern’s vocals are solid, but the best moments are provided by Michal Bartolen’s lead guitar work, which utilises a ringing tone and a delay. Things toughen up slightly near the song’s close, but without losing any of the commercial impact. ‘Don’t Cry’ is noticeably weaker at first, but the upfront guitar sound gives the number a great momentum; Hyder Ali’s bass work is punchy throughout, providing a great counterpart to Nabil Ali’s drumming which, as with the previous number, relies a great deal on hi-hat and sharp snare work. After a few plays, ‘Don’t Cry’ sounds equally as strong; a number which presents The Fallen Drakes in good form, with top performances from all concerned.

‘Lights On’ presents The Fallen Drakes at their punchiest. The guitars take on a more angular approach, before bouncy, bass dominated verses become reminiscent of The Kaiser Cheifs and Frankie & The Heartstrings. The musical performances are okay – Hyder Ali turns in a couple of simple but effective bass runs - but a chorus which relies far too much on one line shows the song writing here is in need of sharpening. ‘Love Again’ takes a similar approach to alternative rock/pop demonstrated during ‘Don’t Cry’, but ups the stakes, giving The Fallen Drakes a tougher sound. Michel Bartolen’s lead guitar work maintains a strong presence, while Nabil Ali drumming leans farther in a rock direction, favouring a pounding approach with fewer quirks and intricacies.

Despite their very generic approach, The Fallen Drakes brand of jangly, guitar-based rock/pop is very professional and often enjoyable. You can stream the EP from the widget below or download it for FREE here!




April 2011

Friday, 22 April 2011

“Easter Exclusive from Real Gone!: Free Unreleased Power Pop!”

There’s a special giveaway at REAL GONE to celebrate this Easter weekend. To say thank you to all our regular supporters over the past year or so, we’re offering a few unreleased power pop gems.

FREE legal mps from Mark Bacino, Mick Terry and Edward O’Connell, never before available anywhere!!!


First up is a demo from Mark Bacino; a track recorded during the ‘Million Dollar Milkshake’ sessions. Mark has three superb albums out at the time of writing, but any new bits are always welcomed! Download ‘So Does Mary (demo)’ here.

Edward O’Connell has kindly offered a stripped back, alternate version of ‘I Heard It Go’, a track featured in its original form on his excellent ‘Our Little Secret’. Grab it here!

Finally, Mick Terry has given us three demos to share. Each of these tracks can be heard in their finished versions on his debut disc ‘The Grown Ups’, which is well worth checking out.
Hoxton Song (boggia)’ ‘The Usher’s Tale (2009 demo)’ ‘Ringing Like a Bell (demo edit)


REAL GONE would like to say a big thank you to Mark, Edward and Mick for giving these tracks so they can be shared with you all. If you like these songs, please take the time to visit each of the musicians at their respective websites (links below) to say hello – and maybe consider buying their albums if you haven’t already.


What do you mean “but I don’t like power pop”?!

Okay then. Here’s something for the rest of you.
Here’s the legendary Tom Jones, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus through the medium of dance:




www.markbacino.com
www.edwardoconnell.com
www.mickterry.co.uk


April 2011

Thursday, 21 April 2011

SHADOWMAN - Watching Over You

shadowman

For those unfamiliar, Shadowman presents the union of four musicians already very well known on the UK rock circuit. The band combines the talents of FM vocalist Steve Overland and Heartland guitarist Steve Morris with the Thunder rhythm section – Chris Childs and Gary ‘Harry’ James on bass and drums respectively. Their fourth album, ‘Watching Over You’ sounds exactly as you’d expect for an album featuring those musicians, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The album begins with ‘Across The Universe’, which is a decent mid paced rocker. Its opening bars centre around a powerful drum arrangement from James, before settling into a punchy groove. Surprisingly, it’s not especially reliant on guitar riffs (though Morris throws in fills wherever he can); the main groove of the number is provided by a clavichord funkiness, which naturally gives things a 70s edge. An organ solo paves the way for Morris to deliver an understated guitar solo full of multi-tracked qualities. It’s a strong opening track, certainly. ‘Renegades’ swiftly follows and here Shadowman adopt a more straight ahead hard rock approach, where Morris gets to play the kind of riffs and solos he’d denied himself during the opener. Even though Overland’s vocals are strong and some other elements are enjoyable, it’s a noticeably weaker number in terms of song writing.

The first of the album’s truly standout moments is ‘Cry’, a huge bluesy power ballad. The vocals are strong, presenting Overland in good form, but it’s the other musicians whom really stand out, especially Steve Morris, whose guitar work is top-notch throughout, particularly both guitar solos which have a great tone. The second of these, coming at the close of the number is very subtle, as Morris lays down vibrato-edged notes sparingly over some excellent clean rhythms work. On the quiet moments, it’s also worth listening out for a few great bass runs from Childs – though due to the production values, he’s far too low in the mix.

With a shift away from hard rock towards the more AOR sound of the early FM albums, the semi-acoustic ‘Whatever It Takes’ has all the hallmarks of radio-friendly rock. The chorus is one of the album’s strongest despite having a very much by numbers quality and the use of backing vocals is effective. For the last chorus, Overland’s voice sings a lead over his own harmony vocals to predictable – yet still pleasing effect. ‘Whatever It Takes’ follows suit and even though it doesn’t offer any great musical difference, it’s a great example of melodic rock being played well with all of the necessary ingredients firmly in place. The pairing of FM’s Steve Overland and Heartland’s Steve Morris rarely sounds stronger than it does on these numbers. More semi-acoustic vibes provide the heart of ‘Heaven Waits’, but this time there’s a slightly darker tone which occasionally leans towards an eastern musical motif without embracing it fully. By the time Morris breaks into an almost Brian May inspired solo that’s full of chorus pedals, it’s obvious this number is a winner.

‘Are You Ready’ is a great mid-paced rocker, full of harmonies on its chorus. While the band sound great on this style of Bad Company inspired hard rock, there’s a gut feeling that says no matter how good Steve Overland’s delivery is here, Thunder’s Danny Bowes would absolutely wipe the floor with him vocally. A Thunder-esque vibe also runs through the swaggering rocker ‘Waiting For a Miracle’, a number which features a solid performance from Overland, a strong chorus and an another old fashioned organ solo.

While most of ‘Watching Over You’s twelve melodic rock songs are of a good quality – and certainly feature the musicians playing to their strengths - the album is let down somewhat by a thin, extremely trebly production sound. Throughout most of the disc, especially on the rockier numbers, most of Chris Childs’s bass playing barely registers, being drowned out by loud rhythm guitars and Overland’s equally loud vocal. However, if you’ve picked up the previous Shadowman albums prior to this one, you’ll certainly want this one too, although first time listeners may be wise to check out 2008’s slightly fuller sounding ‘Ghost in the Mirror’ first.


[You can catch Gary and Chris performing with Thunder at their one-off reunion at the High Voltage festival, Victoria Park, London - July 24th 2011]

April 2011

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

KING KOBRA - King Kobra

KK2011

For some people, Carmine Appice will be most famous through his work with Vanilla Fudge, followed by a shortlived Blind Faith-eque collaboration with Jeff Beck (a collaboration which, aside from not being especially good, also featured Vanilla Fudge’s bassist Tim Bogert). For others – and mostly those whose musical tastes favour a more metallic approach - Carmine will be known as the older brother of Dio/Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice and founder of the cult melodic metal outfit King Kobra.

King Kobra’s first two albums -‘Ready to Strike’ and ‘Thrill of a Lifetime’- are cult classics. Granted, they’re a little hit and miss, but the great moments on both albums are among the best that 80s melodic metal has to offer. This is, in no small part, due to the then unknown Mark Free being the featured vocalist on both albums; a performer whom would go on to become one of the melodic rock scene’s best-loved voices, achieving greater accolades with cult AOR bands Signal and Unruly Child. Sadly, by the time King Kobra issued their third album a couple of years later – the appropriately titled ‘III’ – bassist Johnny Rod had joined W.A.S.P., Mark Free had moved on, King Kobra’s sound had toughened up...and new vocalist Johnny Edwards just wasn’t up to the job. [Edwards would face a similarly hard task replacing Lou Gramm in Foreigner a couple of years later]. King Kobra threw in the towel after that third album, with Appice joining ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist John Sykes to form Blue Murder. Appice left Blue Murder in 1992 to move on to other projects.

Thirteen years after King Kobra’s third album, Appice resurrected the band name and released ‘Hollywood Trash’ – a King Kobra album in name only, with Appice being the sole original member. For this third incarnation of King Kobra, Kelly Keeling was enlisted on vocals (a man, whom coincidentally, had also been Blue Murder’s frontman sometime after Appice’s departure). While ‘Hollywood Trash’s material was patchy and had the audio quality of something recorded in a shed, Keeling did his best to deliver decent vocal performances. The end result, unsurprisingly, wasn’t really any better than ‘King Kobra III’; it seemed that no matter how hard they tried, this band were never going to match their early days with Mark Free.

A decade later, King Kobra announced they were to make a comeback. With Appice gathering together most of the original line-up (excluding Mark Free, now Marcie), it would certainly be seen as a step in the right direction. The resulting self-titled album – their first to be released on Frontiers Records – is marginally better than the worst bits of ‘King Kobra III’ and better sounding than ‘Hollywood Trash’, but in reality, that’s not difficult.

The riffs are chunky and the choruses are suitably big and the energy on show could possibly equal parts of ‘Ready To Strike’, but the album lets itself down with average song writing, full of absolutely brazen clichés. Their attempt at making a deliberately feel-good record is hampered throughout by an average vocal performance, courtesy of ex-Rough Cutt/Quiet Riot man Paul Shortino. A quick look at the track-listing ought to give you some indication of where the disc is headed: ‘Tear Down The Walls’, ‘Turn Up The Good Times’, ‘Screamin’ For More’, ‘This Is How We Roll’ – and even worse – ‘Rock This House’.

On the plus side, the band turns in some solid, if predictable, musical performances. A few of David Michael-Philips’s guitar solos really hit the spot and, naturally, Appice’s hard rock drum style is great throughout. It seems a shame that the decent moments are often let down by Shortino’s slightly rough delivery and even rougher lyrical content. ‘Top of the World’ is helped by some solid harmony vocals and a cracking guitar solo, only then to be let down by a lazy one-line hook, but even so, it at least hints at the better material from King Kobra’s early albums, while the Whitesnake-with-an-average vocalist approach of ‘You Make It Easy’ surprises with the inclusion of a nifty acoustic guitar solo.

The best track on offer is certainly ‘We Got a Fever’, where King Kobra attempt to put away their “rock clichés 101” bible and mix their brand of hard rock with a gentle bluesy tone. The slower, slightly more brooding feel allows David Michael-Phillips and Mick Sweda an opportunity for their playing to stretch slightly beyond King Kobra’s usual melodic metal confines, and the end result is far more sympathetic to Paul Shortino’s vocal style. Even though the big ballad ‘Tears Turn To Rain’ is an improvement over most of the material here, any passion it could have had gets flattened by Shortino’s approach – his husky tones are really at odds with the kind of huge, effortless delivery it really needed.

While some will praise this return of King Kobra after a decade away, this release is little more than okay at best, while at worst, it could possibly rival Paul Sabu’s 1995 outing ‘In Dreams’ as one of the most embarrassing, clichéd offerings imaginable. If you’re an undemanding rock fan who’s never really let go of the past, you may still be happy to “tear down the walls” or “turn up the good times”, but for everyone else, this album is about as fresh as Carmine Appice’s leather trousers from 1989.


April 2011

Sunday, 17 April 2011

THE PAINS OF BEING PURE AT HEART - Belong

POB

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s self-titled debut was an album I discovered by accident and one which took me by surprise. The more time I spent with it, the better it got with its summery alt-rock sounds casting me back to the mid 90s. It’s understandable, therefore, that I would approach their sophomore album with some caution, since second albums are often a little weaker, having been put together in a fraction of the time.

The opening bars of the title track sweep away any misgivings, as Flood’s lavish production brings out the absolute best in the New York quintet’s sound. The drums have great presence, even once they find a space behind Kip Berman’s guitars (which appear in both crisp and fuzzy forms) and the bass sound that tips the hat to Simon Gallup of The Cure with its rattling nature. Berman’s voice is surprisingly wistful considering the full sound the band has adopted, but it’s the music which does all the talking here. With the opening number combining most of PoBPaH’s strongest features, it’s surprising the album doesn’t fall at the next hurdle. ‘Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now’ has moments which lean farther towards 90s jangle; its lead guitar riffs are simple and yet so effective. While Berman sticks to his usual aloof vocal approach, the music has a toughness which, in places, wouldn’t have sounded too out of place on either Buffalo Tom’s 1992 breakthrough album ‘Let Me Come Over’ or Teenage Fanclub’s ‘Bandwagonesque’.

The mechanical bass at the heart of ‘Heart In Your Heartbreak’ recalls the best sounds from the band’s debut. With the hushed vocals of Kip Berman and Peggy Wang melding together on its chorus, the feeling is one of familiarity. It feels a little throwaway after the weightiness of the opening pair of tracks, but clearly highlights how, for all of their multi-layered tendencies elsewhere, this is a band that possesses a knack for a good pop hook. For fans of the spikier elements of the debut, ‘The Girl of 1,000 Dreams’ should appeal, driven by Kurt Feldman’s hard drumming, overlaid by a wall of fuzzy guitars; as with a couple of their debut’s tracks, this has a musical edge which hints at the softer end of the 90s shoegaze movement.

‘The Body’ sounds rather like a New Order cast off from the mid 90s. While Berman doesn’t sound especially like Bernard Sumner, there’s a definite influence in the way the track has been constructed around a layer of keys, upfront bass and quirky drumming. The chorus here isn’t as strong as perhaps it could have been, but the other elements are top notch - and with the band’s delivery sounding so easy, it still ranks as one of the best numbers. The band aren’t above borrowing from other 80s alternative stuff either, as the upbeat approach of ‘My Terrible Friend’, recalls The Cure circa 1985-87 with its cheeky keyboard riff combined with jangly guitars (backed by a busy acoustic line). That’s as far as any similarities go, mind, since Berman’s breathy vocal keeps things really light and chipper. While it’s Wang’s keyboard line which lodges inside your head, Alex Nadius’s busy but uncomplicated bass work isn’t without merit here.

While its rhythm maintains a steady pace, with an almost unflinching mechanical vibe, ‘Strange’ closes the disc with something oddly beautiful. A track which recalls lots of alternative music from the early 90s, the way Wang’s keyboard layers shine through the multi-tracked guitars is just superb. Berman’s vocal is almost redundant; the multilayered sounds work in such an effective way they almost completely absorb the listener.

With ‘Belong’, Berman and co have delivered a release which is stronger than their debut and one which makes the art of the “difficult second album” seem so easy. The band sound confident throughout, and while their song writing hasn’t moved on a great deal, their arrangements have a smoothness which wasn’t always consistent before. Sounding stronger with every play, this is an album for iPods on long journeys – an album to take with you to bring a spark to crowded places. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have matured as a band – and it shows.


March 2011

Thursday, 14 April 2011

FOE - Hot New Trash EP

FOEtrash

Why is it that every time a female artist with alternative leanings begins a career, they’re never accepted as just being themselves? It seems the knee-jerk reaction is to liken the artist in question to either PJ Harvey or Kate Bush. Foe (aka Hannah Clark) has been likened to both – but in reality, has little to nothing in common with either. It’s hugely unlikely you’d find Harvey or Bush delivering anything quite as rocky as the music offered by Foe, and you certainly wouldn’t find either of them donning a luridly coloured wig willy-nilly.

It would be so easy to dismiss Foe as a novelty, but once you get past her penchant for wearing day-glo headgear and oh-so-deliberate kookiness, her debut EP ‘Hot New Trash’ has a definite charm. If you’ve not given up after the first track, chances are you’ll enjoy Foe’s trash-filled musical aesthetic.

That opening number, the rather short ‘Ape Song’, is based around a waltz time signature played on a harmonium, creating the kind of carnival atmosphere which might please Kurt Weill and Tom Waits. Foe’s vocals are strong, but not especially user-friendly with their slightly sneering nature. The track falls apart fairly quickly, descending into ugly electronic drones and backward loops. ‘Tyrant Song’ combines a hard edged electronic punch with a fuzzy guitar riff, over which Foe’s slightly distorted voice works excellently. Where there should be a chorus, she spits “are you ready for the next big thing / are you ready for a clown in a g-string”. It just about passes as a hook; but the mood of the track seems more important than its sing-along qualities. If you like chunky riffs overlaid by electronica, this is a number should hit the mark. Even the jarring keyboard lines don’t interfere with the solid grooves.

‘Genie In a Coke Can’ is much slower and a fair bit darker, with its brooding riff clashing with electronica in a way which recalls the best work by cult 90s artists Snake River Conspiracy and Jane Jensen. The lyrics are full of anti-media messages and spite directed at record companies who spend “millions in marketing for pop star trash”. Once again, the ugly keyboards play against the mid-paced rock elements in a way that sets out to unnerve, but there’s enough bottom end and fuzz here give the track a proper edge. ‘Merry Go Down’ features a heavy use of keyboards, overlaid with upfront bass. Foe’s vocals avoid being twee by being slightly distorted via some studio trickery, but while her voice is loud in the end mix, it’s the instrumental arrangement which provides the greatest strength. The harmonium, combined with very measured drumming and retro guitar twang lends a slightly unsettling atmosphere; the kind of twisted spookiness you should expect from someone who claims that Oompa Loompas often invaded her bedroom at night via hallucinations.

‘Hot New Trash’ presents the sound of a raw talent refusing to be moulded and pigeon-holed by her record company. While it starts out on shaky ground by trying slightly too hard, by the mid-point, Foe’s mix of alternative pop, ugly electronica and chunky rock becomes more than endearing. Forget what you may have been told: she isn’t PJ Harvey, Kate Bush or any other female singer-songwriter you care to lazily pin on her; she’s just Foe – making her own music, and even better, she’s doing it on her own terms.


April 2011

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

DEMON'S EYE - The Stranger Within

demon's eye

Demon’s Eye, as their name suggests, are a bunch of chaps who are more than a bit fond of the classic era of Deep Purple. In fact, for over a decade, they plied their trade as a Deep Purple tribute act in Germany – eventually being given the chance to work alongside actual Deep Purple members. This release teams them up with Scottish hard rock vocalist for hire, Doogie White, best known for his stint with the last line-up of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in the mid 90s. Aside from that, White also found cult status as the vocalist with Midnight Blue, a much hyped AOR band, whose album was scheduled to be released on the UK label Now & Then. Eventually that album was given a belated Japanese only release. Over the years, White also performed with Axel Rudy Pell and Yngwie Malmsteen, as well as releasing albums with his own Deep Purple/Rainbow-esque hard rock band Cornerstone. Given both parties’ history and general musical bias, their work on this collaborative album ‘The Stranger Within’ offers absolutely no surprises, sounding exactly how you’d expect.

A wash of Hammond organ opens ‘Stranger In Us All’ before a thunder of drums breaks into an arrangement full of Eastern motifs a la Deep Purple’s ‘Perfect Strangers’ or Rainbow’s ‘Stargazer’. While the old school bombast of the arrangement should not be overlooked and White’s vocal style –a cross between a poor-man’s Ian Gillan and bad Glenn Hughes impersonator – is well suited to the task in hand, it’s not long before this is shown up for being no more than a second rate homage. Similar traits can be heard during ‘Sins of The Father’ which melds moments of ‘Burn’-era Purple with Doogie White’s wail which, in places, manages to resemble Saxon’s Biff Byford. This number has the distinction of having a better chorus, but musically speaking doesn’t push either Doogie White or Demon’s Eye’s collective talents. ‘A Foolish Man’ is a fast hard rock workout, the kind which held a strong place on Deep Purple’s classic ‘In Rock’; but while it’s musically spot on as far as imitation goes (the ‘Highway Star’-esque guitar solo particularly charming), the spirit is squashed under the weight of White’s vocal, which clearly attempts to imitate Gillan throughout. It goes from being questionable to flat-out embarrassing at the end, as White bravely aims for something resembling Gillan’s screaming in “top A”. Gillan may have impressed by screaming in tune during the early 70s, but when given a similar task, Doogie White really doesn’t. As the music stops, he exclaims “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” Oddly, you may find yourselves thinking the same thing...

The lengthy ‘Far Over The Rainbow’ gives an even more obvious nod to Demon’s Eye’s Blackmore obsession - and White’s previous employment - but while Mark Zyk’s guitar riffs evoke The Dio-era Rainbow rather strongly, the vocal doesn’t always do the music justice, and the hook is weak. An ugly keyboard solo stretches out over more bars than is necessary, but things then take an up-turn as Zyk steps forward for a lengthy guitar solo. Throughout his piece, plenty of string-bending and whammy-bar captures the mood of Ritchie Blackmore’s work during those early Rainbow years. The huge instrumental passages definitely present Demon’s Eye at their strongest and by the end of Zyk’s showcase, it’s obvious ‘Far Over The Rainbow’ is this album’s obvious highpoint. Once White steps back up to the microphone, the greatness ends; the spell is broken and we’re reminded that this isn’t a lost Rainbow outing after all...

White’s voice is somewhat of an acquired taste even by old-school rock standards, but he fares better on the softer stuff. The power ballad ‘The Best of Times’ provides one of those all too rare moments where his gentler side shines; it’s such a great pity Demon’s Eye couldn’t afford a proper string arrangement to lend it a more epic quality. Naturally, Florian Pritsch hammering string sounds from his keyboard is a poor substitute for the real thing– if indeed it can be regarded as a substitute at all. The only time ‘The Stranger Within’ stretches beyond overtly macho tributes to Blackmore, Lord and Paice is during the short acoustic instrumental ‘Le Vent Lament’, where Zyk gets to air his prowess on a classical influenced piece . Beautifully played as it is (despite a brief moment where it almost lapses into ‘Greensleeves’), it feels a little tacked on to the end of the album.

Both Jon Lord and Ian Paice have gone on record praising the quality of Demon’s Eye as a Deep Purple tribute act. That’s as maybe, but although Demon’s Eye’s musical chops sound as authentic as possible, it’s not enough to stop most of their self-penned material on ‘The Stranger Within’ sounding a bit tired. Despite the best musical efforts of everyone involved, the songs themselves seem unable to muster up anything greater than workmanlike Purple-isms. ...And if it’s workmanlike Purple-isms you wanted, you probably own Deep Purple’s ‘Slaves and Masters’ and ‘The Battle Rages On’ anyway.


April 2011

Monday, 11 April 2011

COLDSPELL - Out Of The Cold

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The second album by Coldspell ticks all the right boxes for a great sounding melodic rock release almost instantly. The Swedish five-piece don’t offer anything that could be described as cutting-edge, but certainly have a firm grasp of hard rock in the Heaven’s Edge/early Dokken vein.

Opening with a chunky riff, ‘Run For Your Life’ is a great example of Coldspell at their best, especially once the riffs get a bit of extra weight from some old fashioned slabs of organ work. Niklas Swedentorp’s vocal is strong throughout the number, with the almost obligatory slight European twang to his voice. The rhythm section are solid, but it’s Michael Larsson’s guitar work which really gives Coldspell their slightly harder quality. His featured solo near the track’s end, although fairly short, has a great tone and feel - particularly during a brief multi-tracked section. A similar punchy riff drives ‘Time’, although here, parts of that riff are accompanied by some very old-school keyboards (courtesy of Matti Eklund) which have a dominant sound which wouldn’t sound out of place on any given number of Euro melodic rock discs. Of particular note are the moments where Larsson opts for a cleaner guitar tone on the verses; while Coldspell’s music doesn’t always offer much in the way of respite from solid hard rock riffs, there are some welcome moments where the vocals get more room to breathe.

‘The King’ also offers something a little softer, at least to start off with. Beginning with clean guitar work and a superbly delivered, gentler vocal, Coldspell sound very comfortable when allowing their music room to stretch out in this way. While Swedentorp’s doesn’t especially sound like any other specific vocalists, the softer end of his voice features a great soulful vibe – one which he ought to have been given opportunity to use a little more. Musically, it’s another decent number, where at first the drums are used sparingly while retaining a presence; the arrangement here is joined by a layer of keys with a orchestral sound. The opening of this track offers one of the album’s strongest vocal performances and even once the hard rock riffs kick in, Swedentorp’s voice sounds like the kind found in many a great rock performance. On another mid-paced hard rocker, ‘Angel Eyes’, bassist Anders Lindmark gets a brief chance to step into the spotlight; during the verses, Larsson’s guitars take a backseat, allowing the rumble of Lindmark’s bass to cut through. Aside from that, it’s business as usual though, with melodic chugging riffs and plenty of harmony vocals.

‘Seven Wonders’ doesn’t move too far away from Coldspell’s melodic rock blueprint, but features a slightly bouncier feel throughout. The rhythm section hit the mark without offering anything outstanding, while Swedentorp plays up his role as rock vocalist. The chorus isn’t as strong as some featured, but Larsson’s ringing guitar work leading into his solo more than makes up for any shortcomings. The title cut opens with an unexpected use acoustic guitar before launching into one of the album’s heaviest riffs. The main riff is driven by a great chug, over which Swedentorp’s voice is typically strong. A few of the instrumental bridges concentrate on the heavier aspects of Coldspell’s sound, with the drums breaking into brief bass-heavy flourishes on occasion. Melodic rock fans need not be put off at all, though, since the chorus brings some decent vocal harmonies with a strong hook and Larsson’s guitar solo provides another standout moment (with both elements bringing things back towards melodic rock territory). For great mid paced hard rock, ‘Heroes’ also delivers, thanks to a chunky guitar sound and gang vocals, but just when things begin to feel a little too metallic (in a Heaven’s Edge style), Eklund chimes in with a very old-school, Don Airey-esque keyboard solo.

One review claims that ‘Out of the Cold’ is a metal album as opposed to AOR, before going on to say that those who can’t tell the difference between the two rock subgenres are idiots. Harsh words, indeed. Fact is, while it’s not AOR per se, most of this album absolutely would not pass muster as a metal disc by most people’s standards in 2011. Based on Coldspell’s core sound, it’s obvious that particular reviewer has been ignorant of anything which could be categorized as “metal” since about 1989. Swedentorp’s vocal style is far too clean to be a metal singer; the rest of the band seems content to settle into very melodic, mid paced grooves, which certainly makes Coldspell far more in keeping with melodic rock. There’s nothing here that’s remotely edgy enough to be classified as metal. Other reviews, though, rightly praise the quality of Coldspell’s brand of melodic rock - and in all honesty it’s hard to argue, since each of the songs here are very well crafted.

It may feel a little old fashioned to some, but what Coldspell do, they do extremely well, making ‘Out of the Cold’ a really worthwhile listen for melodic rock buffs.


April 2011

Friday, 8 April 2011

RETURNING WE HEAR THE LARKS - Proud England EP

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For something recorded in a bedroom, this 2011 EP by Returning We Hear The Larks has a great amount of oomph behind it. The band isn’t a band at all, but the work of multi-instrumentalist Jak Noble, chiefly a seven stringed guitarist - but listening to this release, he’s gifted in most other aspects of his music too. Granted, the drums are programmed, but when constructed as well as they are here, it doesn’t matter too much. [See also Devin Townsend’s ‘Ziltoid The Omniscient]. Noble’s chosen style fuses progressive metal and alternative metal; naturally his recordings feature a bias toward the “djent” sound at times [the onomatopoeic sound made by heavy riffing from seven or eight stringed guitars]. For fans of the more aggressive end of progressive metal, Returning We Hear The Larks is a project with a great appeal.

Kicking off a quartet of numbers inspired by The War of The Roses (though the concept appears to be rather loose; a theme rather than a strict narrative), ‘Uprising’ begins with an off-beat rhythm. Its intro builds until the guitars crunch through and Noble’s vocal makes an initial impact. His vocal has a sound somewhere between Devin Townsend at his most shouty and a throaty growl, which although takes a little tuning in, works well throughout the number. It is especially effective when counterbalanced against a clear alternative rock vocal which carries a tiny hint of Faith No More. The heavy bass which runs through the short instrumental ‘Unrest’ has a fantastic presence, while the guitars lay down a repetitive hypnotic riff. For a self-produced, self-financed release, the bottom-end has a great sound.

‘Vendetta’ opens with a piece of music which is the polar opposite of ‘Uprising’, as Noble offers atmospheric, clean-toned guitar lines over a blanket of keyboards and a chugging bass, which naturally gets joined by a similarly aggressive guitar riff. The main riff sustains the next couple of minutes, before falling away to reveal an echoed vocal. Before long, the chugging riff returns with a complimentary heavy vocal. The lighter atmospheres aren’t completely crushed through, and the ring of the clean toned guitar adds a pleasing atmosphere. While the track still falls into the heavy end of progressive metal, there’s a hint of Mushroomhead about its overall construction. The closing moments, with pneumatic drum sounds and screaming vocals present the heaviest aspect of Noble’s work. The muddy tone driving the main riff of ‘Conquest’ has a grinding nu-metal edge due to Noble’s use of seven string guitar. The down-tuned sludge is joined by a similar vocal to that used during ‘Vendetta’s closing moments. However, before long, a choir of clean vocals and keyboards provide an expected contrast, after which Noble returns things to a Pain of Salvation meets Meshuggah vibe, before closing things with a full-on, classic sounding progressive metal riff.

‘Proud England’s only real weakness is its short duration. By the time the last notes of ‘Conquest’ have faded, chances are you’ve just started to really enjoy what’s on offer. There are moments here which aren’t quite as atmospheric as parts of 2010’s predecessor ‘Ypres’, and obviously ‘Proud England’s main difference is the inclusion of vocals. Despite venturing into new territory, those already familiar with Returning We Hear The Larks should not be disappointed.


March 2011

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

STILL SPARK - Still Spark

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Bringing together Boston musician Seth Freeman (previously of Little John) and songwriter/engineer Dan O’Leary, this debut release by Still Spark is a sum of many influences. Across ten cuts, the duo – augmented by several session musicians – deliver moments of power pop, straight up adult rock/pop and occasional rootsy numbers. While it promises a great deal, unfortunately their slightly sporadic mix of styles doesn’t always hit the mark.

‘Love Comes Calling’ is upbeat and summery, with chiming guitars, handclaps and quirky harmony vocals. It makes a decent opening number and lead single with its feel-good nature, but misses out slightly due to a slightly wobbly lead vocal. His untrained vocal style kills most of the spirit during ‘Caroline’, despite the musical having some decent moments (which once again, are delivered to the listener by way of chiming guitars and sunny vibes). ‘The Way I Am’ starts out in a similarly punchy power pop mood, driven by Cars-esque staccato rhythms and big chords, but once you’re convinced we’re headed for an equally big chorus and key change, it softens and wanders into jangle-pop territory, with the electric riff complimented by acoustic guitar work. The chorus itself isn’t far off being a one-liner, sadly, but some good backing harmonies go some way to making it memorable.

The gentle acoustic vibes and the wordiness at the heart of ‘Still On Your Side’ seems far better suited to the slightly drawly vocal. Once the backing vocal harmonies are added alongside a few guitar flourishes, it provides one of the moments where Still Spark shine a little brighter; but as before, when Freeman attempts to hit bigger notes, things fall more than a little flat. The Gin Blossoms styled jangle-pop of ‘Best Times’ features some excellent ringing guitar work and pleasing harmonies, pulled together with a great hook. Topped off with a slightly raucous solo, it’s a track which clearly presents Still Spark in good form.

Over the course of the last few tracks, there’s a definite upturn in the album’s fortunes. The doo-wop meets power pop of ‘Careless Thing’ is, without question, the album’s best number. What could have been a typically flat vocal is given a boost by a female lead courtesy of Gaby Moreno, whose slightly quirky, expressive voice is given a chance to really shine when accompanied by sharp guitar chords and an upfront bass. The chiming guitars opening ‘Good Woman’ at first lead the listener into thinking we’re headed for Teenage Fanclub/Big Star territory, but soon, the grooves recall The Connells in a rather chipper mood. A few layered harmony vocals on the chorus pick things up even further, creating a track that’s nothing short of being a three minute ray of sunshine. It’s a great pity Still Spark couldn’t have tapped into this feel-good style a little more often.

The mid-paced ‘The Limelight’ showcases simple rhythms and a natural sounding vocal, augmented by some clean toned electric guitar fills, presenting Still Spark in a relaxed mood which evokes The Jayhawks. It’s a great way to finish the disc, leaving the listener with a strong memory of Still Spark in good form. The female backing vocals are slightly overdone (maybe even unnecessary), but do nothing to spoil what’s essentially a great roots-rock number.

With this self-titled disc, Still Spark have delivered a release that’s not always rootsy enough to deserve the roots rock tag, and with regards to occasional their power pop tendencies, these are often not quite breezy enough to hit their stride with the devastating effect deserved. However, as evidenced on the last few tracks, it’s not a release without merit. With regards to the lesser moments, even when the material doesn’t always work as well as you’d hope, Kay Hanley’s production brings a great sound. Worth checking out for a couple of tracks, but listening is certainly advised before making a purchase.


March 2011

Monday, 4 April 2011

FOO FIGHTERS - Wasting Light

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The second and third Foo Fighters albums (1997’s ‘The Color and The Shape’ and 1999’s ‘There Is Nothing Left To Lose’) really raised the bar for radio-friendly alternative rock, with both releases absolutely loaded with fantastic songs. Across the two albums, Dave Grohl more than proved his well rounded talent. In contrast, the handful of albums which followed were predictable, a bit formulaic and as a result, rather lacklustre. None were awful of course, but there was a strong feeling we’d heard it all before. Even the acoustic second half of ‘In Your Honour’, which seemed like a great idea on paper, in reality, didn’t translate into something which could set the world of acoustic rock alight. Given then that Dave Grohl and company had appeared to have been going through the motions and playing it safe too often, there was little reason to think that their seventh studio album, 2011’s ‘Wasting Light’ would do anything to break the cycle.

However, a few bars into the opening number, something feels different somehow. This may or may not have something to do with Pat Smear’s presence on second guitar, making his first full-time appearance since ‘The Color and The Shape’. Smear’s return is not the album’s only nod to the past either - the disc also boasts a guest performance by Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic and was produced by Butch Vig, who had last worked with Grohl on Nirvana’s multi-million selling ‘Nevermind’ back in 1991.

‘Bridge Burning’ opens with some discordant guitars swiftly joined by a crashy drum part, where Taylor Hawkins sounds like he’s channelling Dave Grohl’s 1990s drumming style. After the verse settles in, it’s chock full of the muted string riffs Foo Fighters have incorporated into their signature sound. The noisier parts are counterbalanced by a pre-chorus featuring Grohl in particularly fine voice, before the chorus itself uses a few great harmonies over a simple hook. There’s an energy at play here, the kind you’d hope to find driving most of the great Foo Fighters numbers, which makes it a strong opener. For those looking to the Foo’s for another blast of high octane rock, ‘White Limo’ is also hugely appealing, with a carefree, almost Nirvana-ish edge. The fast-paced riffing and general vibe is a definite throwback to the Foo Fighters’ earliest work, with its speed and vocal distortion recalling both ‘Wattershed’ and ‘Weenie Beenie’. [See the video clip featuring Lemmy!]

With an approach to the verses which sounds a little like early Joe Jackson, ‘Dear Rosemary’ shows another side to the Foo Fighters. The spiky rhythm is complimented by some great playing from everyone concerned, particularly Nate Mandel, whose bass sound has a great presence. The track also features ex- Hüsker Dü /Sugar frontman (and legend) Bob Mould, who contributes guitar and vocals. Clearly the guitars offered by Smear and Chris Shiflett would have been adequate enough, since Mould’s work remains indistinct. When you consider how distinctive Mould’s shrill guitar tone has been, particularly during his Hüsker Dü years, it wouldn’t have been so hard for him to add something similar here, to really make his presence felt. It’s not until the close of the number, when Mould can be heard clearly on second vocal, his contribution is really obvious.

Naturally, there are still moments where the band retreats to the safety of their stadium rock stylings. The weakest of these tracks, ‘These Days’, is a dull retread of something which sounds like it belongs on the Foos’ 2002 outing ‘One By One’. Also with a focus on big riffs and a radio-friendly chorus, ‘Miss The Misery’ features some crisp rhythm guitar work and decent vocals; but despite being extremely well written, it’s a number which could do with a little of the energy that’s in abundance elsewhere. Lead single ‘Rope’ fares a little better, thanks in no small part to a slightly quirky rhythm during the verses and big rock section near the end. Taylor Hawkins’s drum work throughout the number creates enough interest to sustain momentum. Neither ‘Miss The Misery’ or ‘Rope’ are bad enough to skip, but there are better examples of this style in the Foo Fighters’ back catalogue.

Sometimes, though, familiarity isn’t a bad thing, as proved by ‘Arlandria’. With quiet verses full of muted chords, building to a sing-along chorus, it could be described as Foo Fighters by numbers. However, by having a chorus which lodges firmly inside your head after two or three plays, it’s an instant classic. Well constructed with enough oomph to make a decent rocker, yet with a commercial edge that’s meant for radio play, ‘Arlandria’ is one of ‘Wasting Light’s absolute crackers. Almost equally appealing, ‘Back & Forth’ moves almost into power-pop territory on occasion, with a chorus that has a slight Cheap Trick influence. Shiflett’s muted chords may raise a smile, since they sound exactly like those Shiflett used previously on the Me First & The Gimme Gimmes version of The Cars’ ‘Just What I Needed’. On the negative side, the vocals on the pre-chorus seems a little droney, but hang in there, since the harmony-fuelled pop/rock chorus which follows is one of the album’s best.

‘I Should’ve Known’ is a slow number which presents the band in a more reflective mood. Grohl’s vocals are heavily filtered, but this is balanced by the clear quality of Shiflett’s guitar. Krist Novoselic’s guest performances on bass and accordion seem, at first, understated. To begin with, his bass part appears particularly pedestrian, but it’s deliberately misleading... Near the track’s end once everyone starts to rock out, the bass is full of anger; a fuzzy sound partly recalling Novoselic’s Pixies-inspired style from way back when. The bass work is definitely the high point here.

Granted, ‘Wasting Light’ is an album which brings few musical surprises, but it captures Grohl and company on good form, often playing with a renewed sense of vigour. Since it features a handful of terrific numbers and little in the way of filler, while it still doesn’t quite live up to those standards set by the early albums, it certainly comes close.


April 2011

Saturday, 2 April 2011

JOHN WESLEY - The Lilypad Suite

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Beginning his career as guitarist with the largely unknown band Autodrive in the early 90s, John Wesley gained wider recognition when he supported Marillion in 1994 on their ‘Brave Tour’. His debut album, ‘Under The Red and White Sky’, released earlier that year, is a strong work with a superb rock/pop sound, showcasing Wes as an emerging talented song writer. While the songs speak for themselves, it can’t have hurt that the album had a great supporting cast of musicians, including Marillion members Steve Rothery, Mark Kelly and Ian Mosley. A few years later, Wes gained even more recognition when he became touring guitarist for the legendary progressive rock outfit Porcupine Tree.

Over the years, it’s been possible to hear Wes grow as a musician, each of his albums exploring different avenues, but always with strong song writing at the core of his work. His sixth studio release, ‘The Lilypad Suite’, isn’t a concept piece, though each of the songs are inspired by the struggle of a young girl coming to terms with the absence of a father.

‘A.M.W.’ opens things rather bleakly. The guitars make grinding noises like a train pulling into a station and scraping on the rails. Against the grinding and droning noises, Wes adopts a husky tone to his voice and states he’s “going to California” and those left behind “will have to find their place”. This leads swiftly into ‘Walls of America’, opening with a full compliment of reverb, over which Wes lays down a guitar line which has plenty of atmosphere amongst the echoed drones. Mark Prater’s drum sound has a live quality and Wes’s lead vocal has an edge which is suited to the slightly alternative hard rock. The track is lent an element of softness by some rather pleasing harmonies on the chorus vocal, but overall, it sounds like a work half a lifetime away from the young singer-songwriter who shared a stage with Marillion in the 90s. The semi-acoustic poppy vibes at the heart of ‘A Glittery Nothing’ leave no doubt that this is the very same musician though; Wes’s softer vocal stylings are joined by clean toned guitar work and a sunnier, more optimistic vibe. The guitar solo reverts back to a distorted sound -almost drowned out by a sheet of reverb - but once that’s over, it’s a quick return to the beautifully played acoustic edged rock/pop. Those whom found a great deal of enjoyment from Wes’ ‘Under The Red and White Sky’ debut will undoubtedly find this number one of ‘The Lilypad Suite’s stand out cuts.

While most of ‘Still Waiting’ centres around elements which are in abundance elsewhere (chiefly the dominant guitars and dark atmospheres), the opening riff is brilliantly heavy – sounding not unlike something which might at the core of the heavy parts of post-‘In Absentia’ Porcupine Tree. The best moments come near the song’s end, though, when multi-tracked guitars offer not only the heavy opening riff, but also some reverbed atmospheres overlaid by a cleaner lead. With three distinctly separate guitar lines, both Wes and Dean Tidey deliver an interesting arrangement, without resorting to overt showmanship. The ringing guitars and hushed vocals which drive ‘Lost’ have a haunting quality; the chorus refrain has an element of simplicity, but Wes’s emotive voice brings out the absolute best in the arrangement, while his slightly distorted guitar work brings with it another great atmosphere. The softness of the opening of ‘Firelight’ is reminiscent of Wes’s early work, but this soon gives way to yet another wall of heavily reverbed guitars, over which, Wes’s vocal builds gradually. Mark Prater’s simple, pounding drum riffs carry weight and appear sympathetic towards a number which could have ended up sounding somewhat leaden. The close of the number features some rather furious playing over an already powerful arrangement.

Although only comprising five new songs and an intro, ‘The Lilypad Suite’ is an accomplished work and well worth investigating. While fans will undoubtedly continue to sing John Wesley’s praises, first time listeners may want to check out a couple of his earlier works first, with both ‘Under The Red and White Sky’ (1994) and ‘Chasing Monsters’ (2002) being strongly recommended.



Buy ‘The Lilypad Suite’ here.


March 2011