This is what just hit our inbox this morning from someone who obviously knows what our ears respond to: “MF Doom just released a punk song, the track is called Air Crimes off of the surprise release “Black Bastards”, out on 10/31.”
They call it punk but you can’t ever take the C from the CRUST of the OG UK Doom band. Birmingham’s riff masters have had their stomping ‘War Crimes’ track re-fuzzed with MF Doom’s snazz rap on the upper tier. It will either make you smile or shit. Regardless, this blew some old cobwebs out this morning.
Get a grip and a bag of slags and dive the fuck in. Black Bastards though?! Too much even for Woodstock mate. Conflict collab next?
From the ground and in the air…everything is easy.
Well not exactly. Some things are downright tricky, and it’s fair to say that Sea Nymphs’ second album has made its way into existence via a somewhat tortuous but nonetheless rewarding route.
Sea Nymphs were/are an offshoot of the wondrous and sometimes baffling punk/pop/prog/kitchen-sink band Cardiacs. The world of Cardiacs can, to the outsider, seem a little daunting. The in-joke chanting at gigs, the symbolism, the ever so slightly intimidating stage presence; it can all be like being presented with a cult to the uninitiated. Then, there’s the music. First impressions can lead to the conclusion that it barely makes sense. There are ridiculous time changes and key changes, wonky little fiddly bits and heaps of ungodly noise. After a little time and immersion something will click and everything becomes blindingly clear or a strong antipathy will arise. It’s a love/hate thing, there is no middle ground.
Except, maybe there is, the works of Tim Smith were not merely confined to Cardiacs output. There was his wonderful solo album Oceanlandworld, and then there was The Sea Nymphs, a project with Cardiacs cohorts William D Drake and Sarah Smith. Whilst there could be some delightfully gentle and beautiful moments in Cardiacs songs, they’d usually be surrounded by carefully crafted chaos (if such a thing can actually exist). Sea Nymphs comes from a different place altogether. The Big Ship might have been sailing on the high seas where the wind and rains is cold, but under the surface, in the depths, there was something far more quaint occurring.
The original Sea Nymphs album appeared back in 1992 and the trio created a series of creaky yet catchy shanties that were far more delicate than perhaps might have been expected. For those put off by Cardiacs’ usual output, Sea Nymphs offered a new way into their world. Drawing on folk and pastoral classical music, Sea Nymphs were still a strange proposition, but they were dreamy, sprite like and utterly charming.
Their second album had been recorded around the same time as the first, but for some reason best known to themselves it has taken until now to see the light of day. Its appearance now is worthy of celebration. Firstly, it is always a pleasure to hear new material from any Cardiacs related project. Secondly, it sees the return of Tim Smith to the creative arena since becoming unwell in 2008. Over the last year he has taken to the studio in order to add the finishing touches to the album, and the notion of his return to music in any form is something to be cherished.
As might be expected, this album occupies a similar sonic space to its predecessor. Whilst the title suggests that the band is resting their seafaring legs for a while, the call of the sea is strong and there is still that strange sense of oceanic depth and mystery that pervades almost every song.
The opening seconds of After set the tone for what is to come. Sarah’s altered vocals hang spirit like, fading in and out over delicate tinkling chimes. It’s almost impossible to grasp such is its barely there nature. Eating A Heart Out is a little easier to grasp, but retains a soft-focus feel. Like a naïve nursery rhyme, there’s a beguiling innocence to it that would break the heart of even the sturdiest (which would make it easier to eat). Big River, effectively an acoustic guitar and vocal performance from Tim is more straightforward, it’s a stark reminder of his ability to draw emotion from even the sparsest arrangements. Sea Snake Beware meanwhile finds William D Drake taking the lead with his piano and vocals and it sounds very much like his own solo work: dainty, precise, and surprisingly complex by the close.
The first four songs might represent the individuals and their nuances, but Sea Nymphs most definitely operate as a band within the band as can be seen on the likes of the jaunty folk of Cut Yourself Kidding or the sci-fi tinged meanderings of Bye Bye Spirit. It’s on The Black Blooded Clam that things really come together however. Its chaotic structure, classical motifs, and slanted whimsy are absolutely perfect. Sounding like a scuttling mouse trapped within a wicker man, there’s a slightly sinister side to it.
As the album draws to a close, there are a couple of songs that might have found their way onto a Cardiacs album. That’s not to say that they don’t fit into the Sea Nymphs’ ethereal oeuvre, but it’s possible to imagine The Sea Ritual finding its way onto On Land In The Sea as elements of it sound not unlike The Everso Closely Guarded Line. Similarly,Liberated And Handsome’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it interjection could easily have nestled in the behemoth that was Sing To God.
This then is a welcome return to the vaults and an absolute gem of a record whose depths and delights deserve to be heard. It is encouraging to see the wheels turning in the Cardiacs camp again.
There’s nothing like the news of a new Descendents album to improve a summer in advance –and, with a particularly slow start to the good weather, their short, sweet blasts of melodic punk are exactly what is needed to counteract the strangely unseasonal Seasonal Affective Disorder caused by leaving the house at least three days a week to find South London rain-drenched and storm-swept.
Hypercaffium Spazzinate, of course, would be a cause for celebration regardless of the weather; the band’s first release since 2004 sees them return to Epitaph, the label under which they recorded 1996’s ‘Everything Sucks’. Does this mean we can draw in depth stylistic comparisons between the two albums recorded under Brett Gurewitz’s label whilst at the same time contrasting them with ‘Cool To Be You’, the Fat Wreck album sandwiched between? Does it bollocks. Bill Stevenson has always had a keen eye to which side his punk rock bread is buttered on and Hypercaffium sits comfortably amongst the band’s previous efforts, offering 16 sometimes deceptively sharp blasts of what can be termed ‘pop punk’, but only once you mentally eschew the taint of saccharine awfulness which the late 90s and early 00s bought to that term.
Opener ‘Feel This’ sets the general pace at 1:14 in length, with only half the songs exceeding two minutes and a grand total of three that get past three. I found myself having to stop the album when I needed to go down and get a beer out of the fridge, in case I missed anything vital. That’s what you get with me, quality professionalism. Anyway, ‘Feel This’ drives full speed into ‘Victim Of Me’, the song which pre-hyped the album to the world and while it may not quite reach ‘Milo Goes to College’ speed, it definitely offers Karl Alvarez’s fingers a workout on a breakneck bass line on a tune which will have you skipping the needle back more than once (or moving the mouse and double clicking like the horrible nowadays bastard you are). ‘On Paper’ slows things down and brings into the mix the self-deprecating humour that Milo’s soulful, very slightly snotty, very slightly roughened voice is so perfectly suited to – the sound that so many vocalists took as a template to fall far short of.
From then on in and for 16 songs the band take the sound which they’ve perfected so well and throw in a number of variables, still keeping hold of their core formula like a control variable in one of Milo’s lab tests. ‘No Fat Burger’ harks back to the band’s earliest days musically, as Bill Stevenson’s lyrics bemoan the doctor’s orders which have stopped him scoffing whatever he wants due to health issues covered in the killer 2013 documentary ‘Filmage’. Just remember as you listen to the primal but supremely controlled beat underpinning every track that the man playing it has survived health issues which would kill five other people at once.
Elsewhere, this may not be a change in style from previous releases but that doesn’t mean that the Descendents are ploughing the same furrow in any way. On the contrary. The hooks which made the likes of ‘Bikeage’, ‘Silly Girl’ and ‘When I Get Old’ such instant classics do the same for much of Hypercaffium. Whether it’s the full pelt race of ‘Human Being’ or the mellower, hook laden likes of ‘Shameless Halo’ or ‘Comeback Kid’, the band sound like they don’t even know what the term ‘twelve year album gap’ means. Closer ‘Beyond the Music’ is a potted history of the band, a microcosm of the personal lean of their lyrics which has definitely played a massive part in them becoming such a worldwide phenomenon.
Despite having almost 40 years of history, and a major place in the history of punk music and numerous musical milestones, they are still writing songs of awkward love, caffeine obsessions and flatulence which strike a chord the world over…and long may they continue doing so.
Serious Sam Barrett Sometimes You’ve Got To Lose YaDig? Records
Sometimes You’ve Got To Lose is Serious Sam Barrett’s first release since 2014’s AnyRoad, and sees the same heady swirl of love, life and skateboarding occupying its subject matter as his previous output has ever done. Sam’s blend of genres, Yorkshire-cana is the closest description currently put to it, incorporates healthy doses of folk, blues, country and rock n roll into a sound which, despite the previously listed elements, still sounds undeniably birthed from The Ridings. Sam’s music is as powerful as it is because, despite being deeply personal, it takes from the aforementioned genres their accessibility and universal appeal. Whether you’ve loved, lost, sat at a petrol station in a strange place drinking coffee at sunrise, put in the blood, sweat and tears to build a DIY skate spot, gone out for a quiet drink and suddenly found yourself dancing on a sofa at 3am clutching a bottle of bourbon, put yourself in hospital skateboarding and counted down the days before you could next feel the sensation of truck on coping, sat in a van for hours talking nonsense with your mates – any of those things, then Sometimes… will be an album you relate to.
It’s music with soul – much like the punk and hardcore bands whose influence is visible, if not in Sam’s sound itself, then in a DIY approach to his craft. The songs on this newest album see a lean back towards the folk and blues end of the spectrum, closer to his early releases than his last and more country influenced LP. This is undoubtedly due in part to a return to recording songs live in the same style as his first couple of records. A 12 string, vocal chords and the occasional banjo are the instruments of choice, creating a rich wall of sound much more than the sum of its parts from the get go. The title track might reference breaking a wrist before tour last year and ably sum up the recovery process, not being able to play guitar or skate, but it is from the start that we see love being the overriding theme of the album – whether that be to his other half (who produced the killer zines which accompany the first couple of hundred records), to the particular satisfaction to building and skating your own DIY spot or to the joys of being on the road, this is distilled PMA at its finest.
‘Sailor’s Song’ opens proceedings and sound-wise, would not be out of place on 2009’s Close to Home. A rolling pace and finger-scorching 12 string lick, as well as a melody which defies the listener not to be drawn in, are a formula bought to bear both here and on the title track. These two songs, with their respective themes of love and of absolutely wrecking yourself taking a good, solid slam, book end the yearning post tour blues of ‘Drive Your Way Home’. The title track is followed by ‘Shoals of Montana’, the one banjo-picking track on the album with a haunting melody that sounds like it could have been written any time between now and 1900. ‘The Last Thing’ and ‘My Last Sad Song’ are the closest nods to straightforward country songs on the album, while in between them the brawling folk stomp of ‘Single Drop of Rain’ leaves its mark strongly. ‘Me and you Tonight’ is a tender love song which sees the first appearance from another musician, as Sam is joined by Frosty AKA Squeezebox Bob on the accordion. LBP represent…
Frosty’s able assistance continues into the album’s closing tracks; ‘I’ve Been Trying’ and DIY spot ballad ‘New Bird, Needle and the Dustbowl’, Sam’s ode to one Liverpool and two Yorkshire skatespots built guerrilla style under the council radar by locals for the love. This celebration of what can be achieved with DIY ethics and a community of people on the same page is a fitting end to the record, running pretty much parallel as it does to Sam’s own method of recording and releasing records. Run from a label created by him and Matt Bradshaw, with artwork by Sami Graystone and the previously mentioned zine courtesy of Kate Bristow, Sometimes… slots perfectly into Sam’s catalogue of releases and shows just how music flourishes away from the industry and big record labels. This one is pretty much guaranteed to not leave the record player for weeks and leave you wanting to experience his music in a live setting – which he proved on the tour for this album that he can power through even with an unexpected re-broken wrist, showing no signs of the injury having slowed him.
Apart from during the writing of this review, I last listened to the album a couple of days ago on the train back from Yorkshire, following on from a two-day-heavy session at a DIY skate spot, stoned and half drunk on a fast diminishing bottle of wine as I watched the sun set over the countryside. If possible, I can’t recommend this environment for listening to this album highly enough.
King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
Paper Mâché Dream Balloon
King Gizzard & Co. are a band that know no sonic boundaries. Flitting between solid garage rock, kraut-driven wig outs and potent swamp-boogie’s alike on their previous six records, there’s only one theme throughout and that’s to take your mind on a psychedelic trip to remember, every time.
Whatever instruments they find themselves tooled up with, be it warped organ tones or screaming harp riffs, this seven-piece promise to take you on a joyride. And they’ve delivered the goods again with Paper Mâché Dream Balloon. As opening track ‘Sense’ glides in you’re greeted by softly focused clarinet lines and beautiful piano chords, altogether creating something unexpectedly mellow, and far removed from their standard 16-minute psych-out fare, see ‘Head On/Pill’ or the recent Quarters EP, with each of the four clocking in at 10 minutes 10 seconds a piece.
Here you’ll search high and low for a track that barely crosses the four-minute line, there’s only one, ‘The Bitter Boogie’, and it’s a total gem. Albeit curiously un-bitter as it rolls and tumbles past pleasingly familiar swamp-blues territories, with a hefty tip of the hat to their Californian forefathers as they segue into yet more harmonica-honking goodness on ‘N.G.R.I (Bloodstain)’. Is that a sitar noodling away in the background too?
With each of the album’s twelve offerings recorded using nothing but acoustic instruments, this LP is a justification, not that one was ever required, of why King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard repeatedly warrant your ear. Strip away the cooking tube amp distortion and there’s marvellous, accessible song writing to be found, yet remaining forever psychedelic. If you thought the flute was just a fad, you were so wrong.
A two-piece making serious noise isn’t so rare these days but the power to keep you gripped for the full length of an album is really something of a treat. Reminiscent of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s bruised blues and Death From Above 1979’s hardin-your-guts riffs, Aphelion takes the listener on a multi-paced journey through a desert of brooding intensity, with raw fuzzed-out energy and tender desperation leaving you bloodied and beaten but feeling all the better for it.
Highlights include ‘Shoot The Moon’ with its opening riff sounding as gritty as worn boots trudging through gravel, this dusty opener sets a hypnotic pace for the rest of the album to grind along to. The title track’s spaciousness and sluggish pace conjuring images of scorched earth and desperate lips begging for the first rain on arid plains, though ‘Blood’ stands out as the ultimate peak. With its ternary structure of polar paces, the second half of the bridge takes a beautifully dark tumble into madness before plummeting back in to close with lightening force.
Aphelion is an exceptional collection of formidable tracks that evoke epic imagery throughout with The Noise Figures’ attention to detail being the catalyst. All music was recorded to tape in the short space of an intense five days and, instead of settling for universal tuning, the band experimented at 432Hz. A fairly uncommon method (aka Pythagorean tuning) giving the album an undeniably fresh edge.
The Noise Figures certainly give other dynamic duos a run for their money and without doubt they are one to watch out for with this awesome addition to their catalogue. They’ve built their launch pad, so here’s hoping they’ll use their third release to shoot these Greek titans into the sky.
Out now on Inner Ear Records, purchase a copy of Aphelionhere.
Somehow, already five albums in, the LA noise-pop ensemble Wavves delight us further with their latest release V. A genuinely electrifying record, it would fit effortlessly into a plethora of different environments – a gloriously sunny festival afternoon or the cramped crevices of a serotonin-soaked house party, Wavves’ latest release, simply put, is pure magic.
Stepping away from their earlier material, V sees Wavves refine their sound down, cutting back to something with much cleaner edges. Blending indie pop and noise rock seamlessly with lyrical flashes drenched in angst, the smart song-writing and impressive studio work (from the help of Woody Jackson – Beck, Primal Scream etc.) is incredibly addictive and does more than enough to ensure it doesn’t blindly blend with other artists attempting similar things.
The album opens with ‘Heavy Metal Detox’s chewy opening riff swirling us into great expectation. Once V sets off you immediately know what you want, and that you’re going to be getting it just thirty seconds in. The incredibly relatable ‘Way Too Much’, the speedy, Dookie-era, verse chorus pattern of ‘Wait’, and album-closer ‘Cry Baby’, all offer up a cacophonous capsule of creativity mixed with sombre underscoring.
Said to be conceptualized from drawing positivity out of negative experiences and “realistic optimism”, V is undoubtedly the band’s most focused work to date. Wavves have managed to create something warmly familiar but with a fresh, familiar honesty that draws you in even further than before.
‘Waiting At Your Door’ / ‘Little Flame’
Ciao Ketchup Recordings
West London’s Night Dials are set to drop their new AA-side single this month and its sun soaked psych vibes are downright riveting.
Sounding reminiscent of Cosmonauts, Night Beats and The UFO Club, via West Coast-surf scuzz, ‘Waiting At Your Door’ is a lo-fi melancholic daydream. With gushing keyboards and lead guitar rumble and fuzz, jolly, ska-esque rhythms ensue, puncturing the surface with every other beat to keep you bouncing along ‘Obla Di Obla Da’ style. A brilliant metaphor of quite literally waiting at someone’s door, the monotonous, foot tapping, ticking-clock guitar repetition is a nudge in your back every other second just to remind you it’s still there.
Nosediving from the optimism and youthful notion of ‘Waiting At Your Door’, ‘Little Flame’ provokes a darker corner of Night Dials’ musicality. Here we’re treated to a new depth. Gone is the fun and fuzz of the aforementioned track, giving a sharp thrust into the reflective keys showing that Night Dials have the ability, and sensibility, to add a new dimension to their sound and exist beyond the general “psych/garage” scenes.
‘Waiting At Your Door’ / ‘Little Flame’ is due October 30th via Ciao Ketchup. Pre-order here.
‘For Those Who Graced The Fire’ EP
In the mid-eighties, iconic Californian hardcore demons Bl’ast took Black Flag’s menacing heavy-fusion template created on their ‘My War’ album and ran with it, unleashing three albums from 85-89 on SST Records that blew minds, and the genre, apart. In 2013, with Southern Lord having just reissued the bands back-catalogue, Bl’ast took to the road again with original vocalist Clifford Dinsmore and guitarist Mike Neider playing alongside Nick Oliveri and Joey Castillo from Queens Of The Stoneage and the results, unsurprisingly, were devastating.
Re-inspired by the power of the music, the band hit the studio and have now recruited Dave Grohl and ex-Black Flag bassist Chuck Dukowski to fill in for Nick and Joey who had touring commitments, to record two new tracks for a new 7” EP. Now, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work out that that little combination can only be one thing, utterly explosive!
Sure enough, when first track ‘For Those Who Graced The Fire’ kicks in, Grohl’s unmistakable pounding drums detonate into life and the band lurch through a weird, contorted time signature that jars and splutters, uncomfortable and unsettling but powerful and addictive. ‘The Pulse’ is next, igniting with a churning signature Dukowski bass run before kicking into 60 seconds of prime nasty hardcore. Perfect.
It’s so good to hear Grohl back behind the drum kit and in good company, rather than the mainstream pap he churns out in his day job. His involvement will shine a lot of light upon this release. It’s deserved. The world needs to hear Bl’ast.
The Northern hardcore scene has a strong DIY history and background of producing killer music. Perhaps it’s something to do with the lack of a heavy music industry/major label presence, perhaps it’s just something in the water, but the crop of bands coming out of Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool etc. recently has been uniformly fucking brilliant.
Obstruct are continuing this tradition from the small town confines of Huddersfield, with their new album Loss of Blood harnessing their furious straight edge hardcore punk to create the gnarliest record of 2015 so far. With influences apparent from early Voorhees, Walk the Plank and Creem, the band don’t let up as they storm through 11 tracks which rarely break the 1 and a half minute mark.
Listening to track after track of blistering hardcore, you get the sensation of being punched repeatedly in the head by a fist of sound as the pace and energy refuse to let up, though this isn’t to say there is no delineation between songs. While the formula never strays far from full speed ahead, with distorted basslines and pounding drums to the fore, a sense of melody emerges from somewhere within the chaos and helps to make songs like ‘Infection’ and ‘Instigate’ stand out through the Blitz-style guitar.
This is music that goes straight from ear canals to adrenalin gland, a shot of aural caffeine which will probably fuel skateboarding missions for some time to come for yours truly. Add a hint of darkness to your summer and get hold of a copy from Carry The Weight Records.