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The Pit – 03/08/06

August 3rd, 2006 by Crossfire

Yes people, the raging, stinging scorpion of a jugganaught that is The Pit is back, ready to blow those little socks off that your mummy made you wear.

This time round we welcome new writer Cathy Reay, who joins us this week and whilst you’re reading The Pit, why not do it with the new Crossfire Indie Show or the latest Heavy Shit Show coming out of your speakers? You know it makes sense…

Delightful Dee Massey is bugging out to:

RAZORLIGHT – Razorlight
(Vertigo)
www.razorlight.co.uk
www.vertigorecords.co.uk

Despite the fact that Johnny Borrell is looking increasingly like a human tampon (head to white attire is never a good look when you’re that svelte) Razorlight‘s follow up to their hugely successful ‘ Up All Night‘ sees the band make good the promises laid down in the first album. Building on their signature guitar sound, the four piece have produced an upbeat, engaging array of tracks, albeit with a softer, perhaps more commercially appealing sound.

Tracks like ‘America’ and ‘Before I Fall to Pieces’, whilst endearingly melodic and summer filled, don’t have the same bite as tracks like ‘Vice’ or ‘Somewhere Else’. The band have taken a new direction, which might not appeal to all, but this album is definitely a grower, give it a few listens before casting judgement. ‘Who Needs Love’ and ‘Los Angeles Waltz’ stand out, but it’s the first single ‘In the Morning’ which has the kick and verve in it, which is lacking in the rest of the track listing.

MY AWESOME COMPILATION – Awake
(Sore Point Records)
www.myawesomcompilation.com
www.sorepointrecords.com

The third single taken from their debut album ‘Actions‘ see the Leicester based four piece My Awesome Compilation notch it up a gear with their infectious brand of pop punk. Upbeat and starting to sound a little like Blink182, Chris Driver’s vocals pave the way for swirling, smiling beats – this is a perfect summer track from a band of brothers who’ve been plugging away for years.

Whilst previous offerings have been punk driven and higher octane, ‘Awake’ is a short lived, mellow sun soaked track, the perfect soundtrack to a balmy evening, the sharpened points of the surprisingly emotive lyrics padded by the warm guitars and upbeat vibe. ‘Awake’ prove My Awesome Compilation are more than your archetypal good time band- catch them on tour over the summer.

MONEEN – If Tragedy Is Appealing, Then Disaster’s An Addiction
(Vagrant)
www.moneen.com
www.vagrant.uk.com

Rumour has it that when Moneen recorded their album ‘The Red Tree’, the session was so intensive and so stressful that the amps and pedals in the studio quite literally went up in smoke – and the first (downloadable) single from that combustible album ‘If Tragedy Is Appealing, Then Disaster’s an Addiction’ is crammed full of pent up energy just waiting to explode out of your speakers.

It kicks off with a tumbling beat, heartbeat quick, levels rising, months of touring have produced a vibrant, engaging and jagged arrangement, and the first single combines all their best attributes into a high octane explosion of sound. Their intense live show has been perfectly captured by producer Brian McTernan (who also produced the equally spikey Thrice). They’ve managed to sidestep the ‘emo’ tag with a fast paced, heart in your mouth single – Moneen are the best thing to happen to the Canadian rock scene since…well… ever?

BIG HAND – Day & Night
(Self Released)
www.thebighand.co.uk
www.myspace.com/bighandmusic

When a band’s recording their debut album in the legendary Air Studios you know they must be doing something right. When Chris Nutall caught some of one of their notorious live shows at The Barfly, he was so impressed he offered to help them out, and so the four piece found themselves recording in the hallowed studios of Air.

Big Hand are a band who have universal appeal, whether rock, hip hop or indie schmindie is your bag, these guys have an uncanny knack of plastering a smile onto your face and lifting your spirits, and their EP ‘ Day & Night’ does just that. Five tracks of good time ska, the opener ‘ The Trumpet’ lulls you into a false sense of security before the Caribbean vibe waves in, gentle reggae tinged velvet vocals and a bouncing rhythm.

This EP just makes you want to dance; it’s laid back with a feel good vibe to life you out of the lowest of lows. ‘Pirates’ stand out, the tempo kicks up a notch – it brings in the sunshine with every trumpet call. It’s easy to understand why Big Hand have gained such a huge following, this is food for the soul, who needs Prozac when you’ve got these guys?

DASHBOARD CONFESSIONAL – Don’t Wait
(Vagrant)
www.dashboardconfessional.com
www.vagrant.uk.com

Dashboard’s a strange conundrum, when once just a side project from Further Seems Forever’s ex frontman Chris Carrabba, he took to the stage sandwiched between bands on the Florida hardcore scene, with his acoustic guitar and produced tracks to melt the coldest heart, takes of heartbreak from a relationship breaking down to betrayal and infidelity.

The tracks took wings and he slid uneasily into the mainstream, and suffered the same backlash cries of sell-out that many have taken on the chin before him. There’s no denying the guy is a talented writer, the hooks he spins out, the raw emotional twirling on every line, that way he can capture a certain feeling, a depth of spirit – without being bland. The first single of the new album ‘Don’t Wait’ is a slice of soaring melody, urged along by a reassuring bass, Carrabba’s familiar vocals coaxing the listener to ‘lay your armour down..’, let yourself be swept along from chorus to chorus, the guitars washing over you.

He’s moved on from the raw hurt of ‘Screaming Infidelities’, the vitriol of ‘Saints and Sailors’, and the overwhelming joy of ‘Hands Down’, to a more mature sound, a dramatic track with an epic soaring quality. Forget your preconceptions about Dashboard and enjoy some truly talented songwriting.

Cathy Reay has hopped, skipped and jumped into the Crossfire crew to the following sounds:

HUMANZI – Tremors
(SFR)
www.humanzi.com

They certainly do what it says on the, er, album title… or do they? Humanzi may have gotten too big for their boots with their startlingly samey debut. Who said loud is always a good thing? ‘Diet Pills and Magazines’, the first single to be ripped and also the opening song is a choice tune to begin with. It’s fiery; pop but dirty (and not in the Christina Aguilera way). Nothing radically new for the indie scene, which is obviously what these kids want to be at the forefront of, but presented by such an edgy, loud, spell-binding voice that you can’t help but want to either dance or sing along – or both.

Unfortunately it all goes a bit downhill after that. The following tracks have such a similar beat to each other that it’s difficult to distinguish where one ends and the next begins. But none of them are able to match up to the firestarting intro – perhaps if that’d been left until the end I would have had nothing good to compare the rest to, but then again I doubt I would have listened for the duration of the disc anyway.

A definite dancefloor hit for visitors of indie rock clubs, but nothing here to prove any hint of staying power. They’ll be a feature band in NME next week, in the listings a month after but a year down the line NME won’t even remember who they are. Will you?

JAMES MORRISON – You Give Me Something
(Polydor)
www.jamesmorrisonmusic.com
www.polydor.co.uk

Many music critics have already lumped this 21 year old bright-eyed Derby fellow in with the James Blunt crowd, but no self-respecting, eager young voice deserves that sort of diminishing label. When Blunt finally retreats to one of his stately country homes and a work schedule filled with regular slots at Mecca Bingo, Morrison‘s marketing campaign will continue to thrive, focusing on the boy’s aesthetically charming sound and appearance.

One of the major differences in the James’ is that the annoying one was posh before he started making music, whereas this loveable creature is branded as more of an “I worked hard to get where I am” story. Couple that with the fact that his small, fresh-faced physique automatically classes him as vulnerable, impressionable, naïve etc and I guarantee people won’t be able to stop themselves from falling under his spell.

The song is, admittedly, heavily laden with cheese. Soulful as it may be, Morrison is obviously counting on a loyal female fanbase as it’s extremely unlikely that members of the opposite sex would even dare admit to enjoying his music. But there’s something so sincere, captivating and inescapable about this young man’s music that the fact that he could probably woo the entire female population of Great Britain into bed with him suddenly doesn’t seem like such an outrageous idea…

ORSON – Happiness
(Mercury)
www.orsonband.com
www.mercuryrecords.co.uk

Having failed to make a mark in their native land, generally assumed by us to have the only worthwhile opinion of music (ever) – the big ol’ US of A -, it’s surprising that Orson would be able to glide right into chart success in their native’s mini replica. But they have. Debut album ‘Bright Idea‘ hit number one here in the UK and the first single to be lifted from it, ‘No Tomorrow‘, was more than difficult to avoid on Radio 1′s rotation. The burning question is: what have they got that’s made them into such an overnight success?

The answer? Still trying to work that one out. ‘Happiness‘ is the second single from the record and is of a lower tempo than most of the other material. The singer sounds a bit like a cross between Bon Jovi and Spiral of the latest Big Brother, although veering dangerously towards the latter. His ability to actually sing is restricted to the chorus which is catchy, but nothing outstanding. The verses and bridge are when his Goldie Lookin’ Chain influences kick in and he seems unsure of what direction to push himself in. Settling for flatness, this is ultimately what makes the song such a let down. Though he’s not completely to blame, the music is pretty hollow and uninspiring too. Not a bad song per say, just sapped of powerful direction and taken over by fear and self-restriction.

RACONTEURS – Hands
(XL)
www.theraconteurs.com
www.xlrecordings.com

Boasting five tracks (four of which are previously unheard mixes) instead of just the one, this single release appears more like a rare EP than anything else. Though it’s obvious which of the five is about to tear up commercial radio-ah, or maybe not. The Raconteurs-say that name to your friends and they probably wouldn’t be able to hum a line, despite the fact that the album garnered a #2 spot earlier this year.

So, ‘Hands‘. Introduced by a simple little drum solo that catches you completely off-guard, effectively grabbing one’s attention from the offset, it develops with a sturdy, formulated pace of mellowed verses and a crashing, powerful chorus. The chorus is quickly signalled by faster drumming and, er, a bit more guitar work, creating the impression that the fuel behind this band is consistently very basic. Coupled with the fact that the vocals are a little monotone, this ensures that ‘Hands‘ might be a nice enough song, but definitely won’t be the groundbreaking, catchy-as-hell anthem the Raconteurs are searching for.

Our lovable punk Alex Gosman has been planning his holidays to these records:

THE AGGROLITES – The Aggrolites
(Hellcat)
www.aggroreggae.com

At first it’s hard to believe that the Aggrolites come from Southern California, an area hardly renowned as a mecca for traditional reggae, when their sound is more reminiscent of late 60′s Jamaica. Songs like ‘Time To Get Tough’ and ‘Work To Do’ are awash with soulful vocals, laid-back grooves and swirls of organ; the band creating a sound that is simultaneously fresh and vital, but also respectful of early reggae pioneers like Toots And The Maytals and the Wailers.If this current heat-wave is getting on your nerves, then try relaxing with a cold drink and ‘The Aggrolites’ on your stereo.

ADEQUATE SEVEN – Here On Earth
(Breaking World)
www.adequate7.co.uk

Having revived the legacy of bands like Fishbone and Bad Brains in fine style on their 2003 debut ‘Songs Of Innocence And Experience’, Cardiff’s Adequate Seven have pumped their hardcore funk to new heights on ‘Here On Earth’. Quite simply, the likes of ‘Head Up High’ and ‘King Leopold’s Ghost’ are gonna make you bounce; a feast of smart lyrics and grooves so tight and fat that you’d swear George Clinton himself was at the controls. If you’re getting impatient for the next Capdown record, then ‘Here On Earth’ should tide you over nicely. Brilliant Seven, more like.

HEAVENS – Patent Pending
(Epitaph)
www.heavensband.com

Given that one half of Heavens is none other than Alkaline Trio vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba, it’s perhaps unsurprising that his distinctive voice and darkly romantic lyrics lend his side-project’s debut album a certain familiarity. However, he’s left the music itself to multi-instrumentalist Josiah Steinbrick, who has forsaken speed and power chords for programmed beats, understated Cure-esque melodies and a twisted art-pop nous. Not an immediately addictive record; but given time, ‘Patent Pending’ will reveal many a subtle delight.

THE PIPETTES – We Are The Pipettes
(Memphis Industries)
www.thepipettes.co.uk

The songs of the Ronettes and other 60′s girl group favourites evoked an innocent, wholesome image. Not the case for Brighton trio the Pipettes, who add a humorous feminist slant and some Blondie style punk-pop energy to these classic influences on their debut album. Gems like ‘Tell Me What You Want’ and recent single ‘Pull Shapes’ are drenched in Spector-esque strings and sweet harmonies, and with fourteen songs over 33 minutes, ‘We Are The Pipettes’ doesn’t outstay its welcome. Oh, and for the record, my favourite Pipette is Riotbecki.

WILLIAM ELLIOTT WHITMORE – Song Of The Blackbird
(Southern)
www.williamelliottwhitmore.com

Having dealt with the death of both his parents as a teenager, William Elliott Whitmore could be forgiven for indulging in morbid self-introspection à la Staind. Instead, he’s found solace in the music of his rural roots; a mix of country and bluegrass that often resembles the work of Johnny Cash and Ralph Stanley. Most of the songs on ‘Song Of The Blackbird’ feature Whitmore accompanied solely by his trusty banjo, but his soulful rasp shines through equally well on full ‘band’ efforts like ‘The Chariot’ and ‘Red Buds’. Truly, this is music to soothe the soul.

Jane Hawkes has been uncontrollably dancing in the street thanks in no small part to:

AUDIOSLAVE – Original Fire
(Interscope Records/Epic)
www.audioslave.com
www.epicrecords.com

Audioslave return with new single ‘Original Fire’, taken from their forthcoming third album ‘Revelations‘. To be fair, listening to this isn’t much of one because you know what’s coming before you even hear it. Chris Cornell’s raspy vocals, habitual Tom Morello solo and consistent but dull drums and bass from Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford all make for a dreary come back. It’s likely that in the just over 3 and a half minutes it takes to listen to Original Fire, you may have fallen into a deep coma. Desperately disappointing.

PETER BRAME – Wake Up
(Double Impact Management)
www.peterbrame.biz

‘Whoooooooooooo?’ I hear you cry. Cast your minds back some time to BBC 1′s Fame Academy. He was the loony one that was often seen swaggering around trying to emulate Liam Gallagher and Mick Jagger and rolling about on the floor. This continued after leaving Fame Academy too, with Brame being photographed worse for wear falling out of every party going. But now, a few years on, it seems he has decided to sober up and shake the label of reality TV wannabe to pursue a career as a credible musician. ‘Wake Up’ is spurred on by the spirit of 90′s rock and recalls early Primal Scream and Smashing Pumpkins with Brame sounding eerily like Billy Corgan and although it’s not earth shattering, it’s glossy chorus and slinky guitar is screaming for masses of radio airplay. There are aspects of promise and there could be more to this boy than the chart-friendly tag suggests.

ESCAPE THE FATE – There’s No Sympathy For The Dead
(Epitaph)
www.escapethefate.com
www.epitaph.com

Escape The Fate hail from Vegas, home of The Killers, Panic! At The Disco and class entertainment like Siegfried & Roy but thankfully they bear no resemblance to any of them. In fact their debut mini album is good. So good in fact it barely matters that this has all been done before. Much of this impressive debut is redolent of Senses Fail & Underoath with its thick guitars and soaring choruses and needs to be played at brain rattling volume for best results. Roll on the full length album…

VARIOUS – Unsound
(Epitaph)
www.epitaph.com

Anyone who calls themselves a punk fan will probably own at least one of the legendary compilations that were Punk-O-Rama. But now as Epitaph, well known for being a punk label have broadened their horizons somewhat and started to sign more and more hip hop and hardcore artists Punk-O-Rama, after ten years has been revamped to reflect the change. Which aint a bad thing, so me ole ma says ‘a change is as good as a rest’.

So now called Unsound, you get 19 tracks on the CD and a 10 track DVD which is good value for your beans. Featuring the likes of Pennywise, Bad Religion and Bouncing Souls alongside Converge & Some Girls who nestle between Dangerdoom and The Robocop Kraus its all pretty diverse. Also featuring some less well known bands like The Matches and Youth Group, who do a natty cover of Alphaville’s 80′s classic Forever Young, all are worth investigating. So what are you waiting for? Buy, buy, buy.

SNOWDEN – Anti Anti
(Jade Tree)
www.jadetree.com
www.snowden.info

Sensitive and packed with enticing tunes, Atlanta’s Snowden tick almost every box with their Jade Tree debut ‘Anti Anti’. Their sound is slightly 80′s inspired with hints of early Cure and New Order mixed with tinges of more up to date bands like Placebo, Beck, Coldplay and the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs it’s and unpredictable yet beautiful album. Actually, there isn’t much else around at the moment that sounds quite like this, which is an absolute godsend. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re looking for something to get angry to or thrash about to, this isn’t it. It’s more your at home with some friends, chilling and having a beer music, which appeals greatly. Delicate guitars weave in and out of the albums fluent percussion and although not instantly catchy, give it some time. It’ll grow on you like mould.

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