Don’t call it a comeback, we’ve been here for years. Was LL Cool J talking about The Pit? Maybe. We know you’ve been baying for new reviews and that’s why we’ve got this bumper edition of The Pit ready for you. If you like punk, we’ve got it. Indie, got it. Rock, got that too. Whatever you’re into, Crossfire has it covered, so get your eyes locked on the reviews below and get ready for the music!
Jane Hawkes recommends:
Album Of The Month
GOOD CHARLOTTE – Good Morning Revival.
I dunno about you, but I love surprises. Take Good Charlotte for instance. Many have rubbished them over the past few years, but having notched up 9 million albums sales they must be doing something right mustn’t they? And they are. ‘Good Morning Revival‘ is an album that will surely push the band on to reach a wider audience than 2004’s ‘Chronicles of Life and Death‘.
Full of sophisticated, radio-friendly and highly polished tunes, there is evidence that band have grown slightly. The chunky chimes of ‘Victims Of Love‘ and raucous pop bomb ‘Broken Hearts Parade‘ are well thought out and as a whole ‘Good Morning Revival‘ never loses the dancefloor appeal. It’s an undisputed joy-ride of an album which based on the single ‘Keep Your Hands Off My Girl‘ would have been easy to ridicule, but after a few listens the massive, anthemic grooves really get under your skin. So what, Good Charlotte are not ‘cool’ or ‘scene’ but everybody knows being cool is so overrated these days. If you haven’t already, go and get this album ‘cos quite frankly its ace.
THE VINCENT BLACK SHADOW – Metro
Vancouver based band The Vincent Black Shadow have, despite nicking their name from the bike out of “Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas“, picked up quite the following stateside. Its only a matter of time then before their genre cris crossing efforts wheedle their way into our hearts and minds over here too.
New single ‘Metro’ provides the perfect foil for their enchanting ska-pop albeit very much akin to No Doubt circa 2000. Even so, there is charm to frontwoman Cassandra Ford’s chirpy voice and enough originality in their songs so’s not to lump them into the pile of aping acts looking to score commercial success. Although, they indefinitely will if they keep rolling out tunes like this and having just wrapped up a UK tour with trip hoppers Kosheen, TVBS could well be one of 2007’s one’s to watch.
THE PINK SPIDERS – Little Razorblade
This ‘quirky’ pop rock never really goes away does it? Which then begs the question, does the world really need another generic fashionista band? Hell, why not when a song sounds this good.
‘Little Razorblade‘ is hardly dynamic, nor is it about to win any prizes for most intelligent lyrics, but it should be celebrated for what it is; a dumb pop-punk stomp which is guaranteed to get even the most die hard rocker tapping a foot a least. Ok, so we may not remember Nashville’s The Pink Spiders in 5 years time but for the moment play this loud in your car when the sun is out and you won’t stop yourself smiling.
THE CONWAY STORY – Landing Light
Combine the depressingly earnest vocals of Coldplay with the inherent drone of Snow Patrol and all the positivity of a Trent Reznor song and you have ‘Landing Light‘ taken from The Conway Story‘s debut album. The band are obviously trying to be arty and emotionally engaging and failing dismally with their plodding guitars and echoing vocals.
This spectacularly average wail may appeal to people your mum, or your dad or those of you who drive a Lexus or Mondeo but the sheer abomination of this song is so derivative that the prospect of listening to it again about as appealing as scurvy.
FROM GRACE – Frayed End Network
Yes, the guitars crunch; yes vocalist Alex Augustyn has a blood curdling growl and yes the band are touted as the next big thing but oh, we have heard all of this a million times before. From Grace hail from London but to be brutally honest, there are other metalcore bands from overseas putting these boys to shame. There really isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with this record at all; the production is good, the musicianship flawless, it’s just there is just nothing to set From Grace apart from any other band of the genre.
Getting to tracks 6 and 7 you almost feel like the band ran short of the ideas required to make this album an absolute killer, but in its entirety ‘Frayed End Network‘ is the sound of a band forcefully finding their feet. Who knows, with a few years experience behind them From Grace may just be able to put their own stamp on planet metal. Time will tell my fair readers, time will tell.
Dee Massey recommends:
Record Of The Month
HELL IS FOR HEROES – Hell Is For Heroes
Well, it’s been a long time coming, but post hardcore mainstays Hell is For Heroes are back in the ring, and their third studio proves that good things comes to those that wait. Following on from their Henricsson/Lovstrom produced ‘Transmit Disrupt‘, this third album makes good promises laid down in their recent live performances. ‘To Die For‘ opens the proceedings, gently welcoming the listener in, but you can’t really relax as you listen, you’re on edge knowing it’s all about to kick off at any moment. And kick off it most certainly does, as the tempo lifts and explodes with HIFH’s turbulent mix of anger, love, passion and crunching guitars.
‘Arcades‘, new single ‘You’ve Got Hopes‘ and ‘My Protector‘ stand out on the album, especially the latter, which has all the right ingredients to blow you away in a live set. The punching guitars and thumping bass line drive the tracks onwards with Schlosberg’s vocals clean and slick. Hands Up has an almost downcast feel to it, an almost lovesick washes over it but the tempo’s immediately picked up by the smooth, sultry ‘Into The Blood‘.
‘Only The Ridiculous Will Survive‘ is drama filled and exciting, with a full broad sound, unleashed with searingly aggressive hooks and slamming riffs. ‘Once and For All‘ brings our journey to an end, soft and gentle at first then picked up as we’ve come to expect. The album is a journey, from start to finish, every twist and turn has HIFH’s stamp all over it. Fans will be happy they’ve stuck to what they know best; still offering the hooks and passionate choruses that make their live shows so emotion fuelled, but the sound is maturing into something slicker, with the overall sound on this album much more polished and rounder than ‘Transmit’. The inclusion of some mellower sounding tracks is another string to their bow and the end result is an album that’s built on the foundations laid by its predecessors and explored new ideas. With a Kerrang tour kicking off shortly Hell is For Heroes seem to be really getting into their stride – and this album …well it was worth the wait.
THE VIEW – The Don
Dundee indie pranksters The View are back with another single from their No 1 album ‘ Hats off To The Buskers‘. Having sold out their headline tour last month within 5 minutes of the tickets going on sale, and scooped ‘Best Track’ at the NME Awards for their debut ‘Wasted Little DJs‘, the new single comes as a bit of a disappointment. Whilst it is a fun slice of indie, with an upbeat and happy vibe, it never really goes anywhere, and is lacking the effervescent choruses that made ‘Same Jeans‘ and ‘Wasted Little DJs‘ so addictive.
‘The Don’ is relaxed, lacking the energy from earlier singles but the overall feel that of contentedness, a shimmery glow, upbeat and almost….sprightly? A completely inoffensive but not that memorable single from The View, here’s hoping the next offering has a little more clout to it.
FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND – Into Oblivion
When I first heard ‘Into Oblivion‘ I thought it was Lost Prophets. Wrong band. Right country. Wales emo heroes Funeral For a Friend are back for another bite of the cherry with their third studio album. The overall sound with this first single is much ‘safer’ than their previous offering, this is a drama fuelled and passionate sure fire radio hit, Davies’ emotion filled vocals soar above wailing and crashing guitars.
It’s mainstream enough to help their cause, but still maintains that edge that we’ve grown accustomed to. ‘Into Oblivion‘ was reportedly played over 14,000 times within 24 hours of being uploaded onto the band’s creep space page, which shows just how highly anticipated this single’s been.
WAZ – Home (EP)
Hailing from California, Waz has worked his way up, gigging and plugging away with Pete Yorn until Yorn signed his major deal with Columbia. Now going it alone, Waz recorded in fits and starts by Will Golden and Al Sagro ‘Home’ is a beautifully written and recorded showcase of this singer/songwriter’s talents, and whets the appetite for his full length album out later this year. Available through iTunes, ‘Hardly Enough‘ starts gently, and as the guitars flourish through, it’s both involving and enjoyable.
Slivers of Josh Witter, Damien Rice and Ryan Adams filter through, but the tracks on ‘Home’ are stand alone works, ‘She’s Gone‘ is both touching and raw. With singer/songwriters as popular as ever, this EP stands out from the others, with beautifully written lyrics, with uplifting hooks. It’s refreshing real, there’s no sugar coating, and that perhaps is why it’s such an impressive introduction. With a support slot with Jesse Malin this May, and his full length album on its way, Waz could be one to keep your eye on.
ENTER SHIKARI – Jonny Sniper
What do The Chuckle Brothers, Mrs Mangle from Neighbours, Stephen Hawkins and Enter Shikari have in common? Sod all actually, apart from that they’re all from St Albans. Hertfordshire’s finest nu-rave export are back with a surprisingly radio friendly single ‘Jonny Sniper‘, taken from their top 5 debut album ‘Take to The Skies‘.
According to internet murmurings ‘Jonny Sniper‘ takes it’s inspiration from the sex education cartoon the guys were subjected to at school, but whatever the real meaning this track’s a softer, less abrasive single that stills maintains the screamo tactics coupled with riffs lifted from Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ – it’s upbeat and exciting, and even better live than on CD. Following their successful slot at Give It A Name where, despite Rou’s frazzled voice, they blew the American bands off the stage, Enter Shikari maintain their assault on the airwaves, and with insane touring schedule planned ‘Jonny Sniper‘ is just another step up for a band who’ve taken the best elements of rave and trance and meshed them nicely with hardcore punk. Lovely stuff.
Alex Gosman recommends:
Record Of The Month
DINOSAUR JR – Beyond
It’s not a pretty sight when a classic band reforms purely for the sake of milking some extra cash from their legacy; but thankfully ‘Beyond’ is just about everything we could have hoped for from the reunited Dinosaur Jr, who still sound fantastically lazy after all these years.
J Mascis’ none-more-languid tones could still soothe the worst of hangovers, and they’re put to fine use on tunes like ‘Almost Ready‘ and ‘This Is All I Came To Do‘; all subtle melodies and fuzzed-up guitars, it’s as if the past fifteen-odd years never happened. So go dig out your old plaid shirt and faded jeans, because ‘Beyond’ is definitely worth it.
ATTACK! VIPERS! – The Mirror And The Destroyer
To simply label Portsmouth-based quartet Attack! Vipers! as a hardcore band would be to sell them short; because ‘The Mirror And The Destroyer‘ is probably one of the most ambitious and inventive records you’ll hear in 2007.
Granted, there’s no shortage of raw thrash n’ bludgeon on songs like ‘Our Shark‘ and ‘Group Therapy‘ but later tracks reveal a more progressive edge to their sound; with intricate instrumental passages that are reminiscent of Pelican or even Mogwai. Beautiful in its brutality (and vice versa), ‘The Mirror…‘ not only helps to restore hardcore’s much-sullied name, but takes it to places where few other bands would venture. Brilliant stuff.
BRIGHT EYES – Cassadaga
The enigma that is Conor Oberst has gone for a more alt-country direction this time around, and sounds all the better for it. ‘Cassadaga‘ is essentially a record themed around conflict – in both a personal and universal sense – and indeed, explorations of mortality (‘No One Would Riot For Less‘) and tales of marital infidelity (‘Hot Knives‘) resonate far deeper than your average singer/songwriter fare.
Oberst’s cracked voice sounds wonderfully fragile throughout, and against a background of acoustic guitars, rustic violins and subtle harmonies, it makes for an expansive yet somewhat understated record that reveals new dimensions with every listen.
LUCKY SOUL – The Great Unwanted
The UK’s highly anticipated ‘early summer’ seems to have taken a turn for the worse lately, so thank goodness for Greenwich sextet Lucky Soul and their none-more-sparkly debut.
‘The Great Unwanted‘ is something of a homage to the greats of 60’s soul – the likes of The Ronettes, Dusty Springfield and Phil Spector all spring to mind – but lovelorn songs like ‘Lips Are Unhappy‘ and ‘Baby I’m Broke‘ are strong enough to lift Lucky Soul high above the realms of mere parody. Just listen to singer Ali Howard’s voice on the string-laden chorus of ‘One Kiss Don’t Make A Summer‘ and you’d struggle not to smile. Come on sun, this is your cue for a re-appearance.
THE WILDHEARTS – The Wildhearts
Strange to think that a decade has passed since the Wildhearts released ‘Endless Nameless‘; a record that reflected a band on the verge of collapse from excessive drug use and in-fighting. Thankfully, the Wildhearts of 2007 are in far better health and spirits, although this self-titled effort does feature a fair few ‘EN’-style raw edges to contrast with Ginger and co’s trademark sun-kissed melodies.
And why not? The propulsive grind of opener ‘Rooting For The Bad Guy‘ the epic chorus of ‘Slaughtered Authors‘ and the sing-along genius of ‘The Revolution Will Be Televised‘ all suggest that there’s still plenty of life left in these Brit-rock veterans.
Joe Moynihan recommends:
Record Of The Month
BIFFY CLYRO – Puzzle
(14th Floor Records)
At the dawn of the millennium, Scottish 3 piece, Biffy Clyro propelled their angst-fuelled rock against an unsuspecting nation with their acutely titled E.P, thekidswhopoptodaywillrocktomorrow. 7 years onwards, and after influencing countless bands, and even more listeners with 3 glorious, genre bending, thought provoking albums, Biffy ambitiously take on the mainstream with their fourth studio album, Puzzle. Something the lads have been getting closer to solving since the bands inception.
Talks of the fourth album first circulated after the blistering gig in King Tuts in 2005, in which Le Biff showcased all their new material in one unforgettable night for all those in attendance. And this was when I first listened to a song that would thrust one of my favourite bands into the limelight, Semi-Mental. For a song to remain mostly untouched since then, and still sound as energetic, and passionate as it did back then is a rare occurrence in music. But somehow, they’ve done it. And on first listen to an album I’ve been waiting for ages to hear, I can imagine I won’t grow weary of this either.
What makes this album so special, is that it grabs aspects of the albums beforehand, and moulds them together to create a Biffy sound that arguably we’ve heard before, but not like this. The eerie choirs and haunting strings heard on ‘Living Is A Problem‘ sound reminiscent of the closer on Vertigo Of Bliss, where as ‘Who’s Got A Match‘ dwell on the band’s poppy, sing along persona, demonstrating James Johnston’s ability to bring the funk. Stand out track for me has to be ‘Get Fucked Stud‘, which takes us right back to the bands golden age of Blackened Sky, with a chorus so powerful it evokes a tingly feeling that tells me that Biffy have really done it this time. Three albums exploring different pathways, and now Biffy have finally found that golden sound. The Puzzle, is complete.
EDITORS – Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors
On the 25th June, Brummy indie kings, Editors release their follow up to the fantastic Back Room, an album which redefined the standard for real ‘indie’ music. Not the garbage we’re currently receiving from the barrage of bands that are persistently setting up accounts with the Maccabee National. Lead single for sophomore release, ‘An End Has A Start‘, is entitled ‘Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors‘, and the gritty British imagery doesn’t stop there either.
Tom Smith’s dark edged vocals cut in slyly with his superb thespian quality to his well-toned voice. Backed up with his companions’ melodious guitars that swell, engulfing the listeners’ ears with a parade of joyous melancholy. While this track is nothing like the Back Room‘s stunning single, ‘Munich’, the similarities to other such brooders like Interpol and Joy Division are thankfully still in force.
It seems as if the absolutely fantastic Arcade Fire has caused a fair bit of influence this time round, and it does the boys well. This is grown up indie at its very best. Tell those Maccabee kids who keep going on about some bint’s dress to jam their hype, letting Tom and his gang overshadow them with sheer musical brilliance.
FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND – Tales Don’t Tell Themselves
When Welsh rockers, Funeral For A Friend announced that their upcoming third album was the most exciting thing they have ever conceived, there were unsurprisingly a few eyebrows rising. So much so that a few people even looked a few centimetres taller. After bursting onto the scene with such a unique take on the post hardcore genre with debut, Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation, many fans were disappointed in the distinct change in follow up, Hours. Third studio album, Tales Don’t Tell Themselves is their biggest step yet; almost abandoning their hardcore roots that numerous fans hope they will once again embrace.
TDTT cannot be approached with a closed mind, as it’s nothing like you would expect. Both Casually Dressed and Hours began by throwing you straight into a gritty, head throwing riff, whereas debut single and album opener, Into Oblivion starts with real atmospheric strings and echoes, before sinking into those superb guitars, welded by Darren and Kris. Matt’s voice soars high above the more gently enforced riffs, this by no means implying that they are not as powerful. No sir. This is something else.
As the album steers into live favourite, The Great Wide Open, influenced from Brad Delp and Boston are clear. This is real rock music, not watered down (although arguably the theme of the album may suggest otherwise), but untouched emotion. Funeral have shaken off that emo tag now, booted it across the floor, and into a blazing fire. This is an entire new band. And it’s fantastic.
The construction of the album shows a great deal more thought than the albums prior to it. Each song follows neatly from the other, and helps amplify the concept album as a whole. From flowing along pleasantly in tracks like ‘On A Wire‘, the album really captures the strength of a storm at sea in the more aggressive tracks such as ‘Out Of Reach‘. And by closing on a song backed by a 26-piece orchestra, this album is a statement as to how the bands have matured over the years. It’s a bold album, in which many fans will loathe. Not that it would affect the band in any way. This is the music they want to make. And this is the music I want to listen to. Belting.
Pete Craven recommends:
Record Of The Month
RESTLESS YOUTH – Light Up Ahead
This Dutch band has sure made some serious progress with “Light Up Ahead“, their second, and unfortunately it turns out – final album.
They seamlessly fuse urgent and buzzing Bad Brains styled hardcore, with a darker rocking beat, certainly The Misfits and TSOL come to mind, and even kick in with a few MC5 and Stooges inspired moments of proto-Punk.
It’s a winning combination, highly recommended.
THE STOOGES – The Weirdness
A journalist for Circus magazine, reviewing a live set by The Stooges back in 1970 was left somewhat perplexed by what he’d just witnessed… “”What does it all mean? Is it just a hype, an exercise in theatric weirdness?” Well, not-so-fast-forward 37years later and certainly one of the least expected releases in modern musical history is with us – Iggy Pop reunited with Ron ‘n Scott Ashton… The Muthafuckin Stooges.
I’ve given this disc repeated end-to-end spins and feel qualified enough to say that it’s Nothing Special. If this was a review of the latest Iggy solo outing, then that verdict would in fact not have been too negative. And trust me – I’ve intermittently been listening to his solo output since the late-Seventies.
But “The Weirdness” finds Iggy back in the studio with his Stooges brothers (plus Mike Watt on bass) for the first time since nineteenseventyfuckin’three and expectations are quite rightly – High. Way Too High. The reality is that Iggy’s vocals are at times deflated and lyrically lacking. But even more criminal is the lack of hi-energy kill-o-watt guitar from Big Ron, a big disappointment… especially as I’ve been listening a lot recently to his late-Seventies outfit Destroy All Monsters where he also turned in some sterling fret work.
Sure, The Stooges always said they were one of the slackest bands in history, but given this golden opportunity to shine one last time you’d have thought they’d wanna give it that extra shot of adrenaline. It wasn’t to be. Like I said – it’s not that bad an album, there are a few choice tracks, but overall it rarely rises above being an ordinary grind.