Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat. They’re not the only ones – we’re going to get you so full of great tunes that you’re gonna be stuck listening to them well after the chocolate has gone from your advent calendar. Screw you Santa, Crossfire’s the place to go for all the best presents. On with the recommendations!
Rebecca Geach’s playlist:
Record Of The Month
THE ALTERKICKS – On A Holiday (single)
Alterkicks have turned the concept of a holiday upside down in their zesty debut single. Far from sun and fun, the song is a dark satire and better for it. Expectations of bubblegum music (as might be suggested by the title) are instantly dispelled when Martin Stiwell’s voice creeps in slow and enticing, drawing in the listener and pleasantly surprising him. The lyrics are wonderfully bizarre and catching.
Yet only Martin with his flexible vocal chords could carry them so well and blend them effortlessly into the fantastic instrumental behind the song. It is not all Martin’s work though. The all round talent of the band is clear by the energetic beats of the drums and the strums revealed through the odd solo here and there. So much momentum is gathered throughout that there is no way that On A Holiday could just simply wind down. So it dramatically closes with its hit line “Oh mother, look what’s become of us”, and don’t you ever forget it.
RICHARD SWIFT – The Beautiful Heart
This is a solid piece of music far away from the steely road of indy-punk which is unfortunately popular with too many bands these days. Listening to songs like the Beautiful Heart is a revelation that there is more to music than opulent drum and bass. Yes okay, the lyrics are a bit soppy and the rhythm is unchanging but at least it’s steady.
This is not supposed to be a dynamic masterpiece but a gentle tune that’s easy to listen to. It has a lot of creativity behind it but why over-analyse a nice piece of music? The important thing is I am happy to listen to it, and I would like to hear more of Richard Swift’s stuff.
THE MACCABEES – First Love (single)
You will fall in love with “First Love” by the Macabees. It won’t be your only love when they bring out more music, but you will always remember this track as your first Maccabean love. “First Love” is an upbeat little tune with a lot of bounce to it. I could imagine happily dancing to it in a club or bar, and giving a squeal of delight every time the DJ picked it out. It’s clear the band enjoyed playing it and so the listener enjoys hearing it. The hit line “First love, only love” may not be the most original to grace the music scene this year, but the Maccabees are not about poetry. Instead they are one of the funkier indie bands to emerge from the mists of talent.
BAT FOR LASHES – Trophy (single)
(The Echo Label)
Tragic. Not the music, well not entirely. The song is a tragedy about a woman who has lost her trophy, the meaning of which is entirely subjective as most lyrics are. It is dramatically relayed in this song, and though the lyrics may not have exactly appealed to me I can not fault Natasha Kahn’s voice, the vocalist whose performance of the desperate lady was so poignant. Her strong voice brewed in Caveman like supportive vocals, simple percussion and dour strumming was a spell for mystique. Though it does not satisfy my taste in music it maybe a godsend for those who like a little romantic theatre in their lives.
Record Of The Month
THE MAGIC NUMBERS – Those The Brokes
The West London foursome are back with a multi facetted album – which at first appears to be the musical equivalent of comfort food – heart warming and embracing – but on closer inspection shows an intriguing darker edge. Recorded mainly at Allaire Studios, high in the hills of upstate NY, the brother/sister quartet holed themselves up for months with producer Richard Wilkinson, and the end result was clearly worth their dedication. Opener ‘This is a Song’ has a captivating introduction, which leads into a flurry of upbeat pop, first single ‘Take a Chance’ stands out, the charming ‘Undecided’, slides us into the slower, most pensive atmospheric area of the album, Romeo Stodart’s lyrics of lost love carried on from their debut. Angela’s vocals are stronger than the previous album; she seems to have grown in confidence.
‘Carl’s Song’ and ‘Let Somebody In’ are simply beautiful, the 60’s vibe and feel good factor belying the heartbreak in the lyrics, whilst ‘Runnin’ Out’ picks up the tempo. ‘Goodnight’ is the perfect mellow closing for the album. The album is one amazing journey, from the mesmerizing introduction up to the heartening first few tracks, until the emotive lyrics reveal the almost mournful tones of the latter stages of the album. It takes the listener on a real journey, a exploration for the emotions, and makes you realize how important the order of tracks actually is when an album’s played as a whole. ‘Those The Brokes’ is a simply beautiful offering, which exceeds expectation. The Magic Numbers play from the heart and it shows in this multi-dimensional album – and whilst little can dent their reputation at a great summer festival band, it’s intriguing to see they’re not just a one trick pony.
THE ZUTONS – It’s The Little Things We Do (Single)
Liverpool’s finest are back with the third single from their top ten album ‘Tired of Hanging Around’, firing on all cylinders with an infectious hook laden track relaying the price of partying hard the night before. “I had women, wine, party time and everything that mattered .And when I woke up today you know my brain was all in tatters”. Remorseful lyrics are echoed in guilt laden almost mournful guitars, Dave McManus’s voice is gritty – not unlike someone’s who’s been on a bender the night before!
Whilst it’s as upbeat and catchy as previous offerings from this album ‘Valerie’ and the upbeat ‘Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love?’, ‘ It’s the Little Things We Do’ shows a different side to The Zutons, a mature and almost haunting edge to their character. This single combines the best of The Zutons, the infectious pop swirls working stunningly with Dave’s voice, and lyrically this piece is short and very sweet indeed.
NIKOLA SARCEVIC – Roll Roll And Flee
Millencolin’s front man shows his softer side with his second solo album ‘Roll Roll And Flee’ – which couldn’t be further from the Sarcevic we’re used to, thrashing it out as frontman of Sweden’s premier punk act. ‘Roll Roll And Flee’ was recorded at Svenska Grammofon Studio, where he chose to record live onto analogue tape rather than digitally, hence this album has a glorious free flowing, intelligent and spontaneous feel, the tracks roll into one another with the kind of relaxed cajoling vibe that embraces the listener.
Sarcevic is really coming into his own as a song writer, and tracks like ‘Soul For Sale’ and the stunning title track are a cut above. The horns in ‘Let Me In’ are a great moment, and despite the comparisons with Bob Dylan and other classical singer/songwriters, Sarcevic argues that actually “..a lot of these songs have the similar chord patterns as Bad Religion songs – a lot of minor chords.” Roll Roll and Flee shows reveals Sarcevic as a great musician, growing and changing with the times. This second solo outing is already a huge progression from his first release, and whilst it’s reassuring that he’s not turning his back on Millencolin, it’s a out and out pleasure to hear this side project.
THE HOLLOWAYS – So This Is Great Britain
If was just a matter of times before indie upstarts The Holloways were picked up by a good label, and with two singles under their belts, the Nambucca regulars are back with their debut album ‘So This is Great Britain‘.on TVT. It’s a somewhat bleak view of the state of the nation to be honest – winos, drunks, ASBOs, STDs and the like – but stand out tracks ‘ Generator’ and ‘Two Left Feet’ give the proceedings a lighter note. ‘Happiness And Penniless’ ponders whether it’s better to be skint and happy, or a slave to the grind, whilst ‘Re-Invent Myself’ takes a stab at the powers that be.
Reknowned for their electric live performances, this album doesn’t quite capture the thrill of those sets. Whilst NME and the scene kids will be creaming their panties over this – is misses that rawness and the sounds a bit too polished for it’s sleazy contents. The Holloways still blast most of their contemporaries out of the water with their sets, so whilst this album doesn’t quite do them justice, this’ll still have you dancing, and single is ‘Generator’ is undoubtedly one of the most upbeat tracks you’ll trip over this year.
+44 – Lycanthrope
With Tom Delonge having enjoyed critical success with his post Blink offering ‘ Angels & Airwaves’, it’s now turn for the other two thirds of the arguably most successful pop punk band of our generation to step up to the plate. Frontman Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker have teamed up with Craig Fairbaugh (who already played with Barker in Transplants) and Shane Gallagher (The Nervous Return), and bought onboard bought Blink producer Jerry Finn as executive producer, to create an album that maintains the best elements of Blink, but is slashed through with a darker, most progressive electronic sound.
Debut single ‘ Lycanthope’ was debuted on Tony Hawks Project 8 Xbox game, and whilst there’s no escaping that Hoppus’s vocal will forever bring you back to Blink tracks about banging the neighbour and the girl at the rock show – this is like Blink all grown up. Hoppus remarks “We’re not divorcing ourselves from the past, but we are pushing beyond..” The sound is more mature, Jerry Finn’s concocted a masterpiece of a mix, with keyboards, electronic drums and a gently throbbing bassline caressing a catchy but not cheesy chorus. As Barker himself puts it “If Blink was the daytime, Plus 44 is the nighttime.”
This is in exciting debut from a band who are moving and growing, Hoppus and Barker have maintained the accessibility of Blink, but +44 is darker and edgier. If you thought you’d outgrown Blink shrug this on for size – after all, what’s not to love about a band named after the UK dialling code?
ENTER SHIKARI – Sorry You’re Not A Winner
You’ve got to respect Enter Shikari – despite the bun fight of labels after them they’re sticking to their roots and releasing their debut single ‘ Sorry You’re Not A Winner’ on their own Ambush Reality label. Having had to recently upgrade their Mean Fiddler show to the Astoria, enjoyed a nomination at the Kerrang awards and killer shows at the Reading and Leeds festivals it’s not bad going for group of guys who were relatively unknown this time last year.
Having released their first offering ‘Mothership’ digitally, ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’ is being released on CD and limited edition colour 7″. It’s a heady mix of metalcore and trance like beats, lyrics screamed out so hard that the rising tension is palpable. The lyrics are too blurred to create images for the listener, so it’s down to the guitars and effects to draw up feelings and emotions – and that’s where Enter Shikari step into their own. The disco vibe layered over heavy riffs and biting guitars mesh with the wonderfully incoherent lyrics, barked out by frontman Rou. This is what The Automatic try to be – this raw, jagged offering is the real deal, fresh, vicious and very very exciting.
Enter Shikari are home-grown talent at it’s best. Progressive, innovative and something different from the endless indie bands that all merge into one another after a few drinks. Full of an acidic zest, ‘Sorry You’re Not A Winner’ is the real deal, it’ll grab you by the scruff of your neck and enthral you – turn up and the volume and enjoy, this is a sheer delight.
Joe Moynihan’s playlist:
Record Of The Month
GETHIN PEARSON AND THE SCENERY – Hang On, Hang On
(TPF Records/Split Lip Recordings)
The Welsh music scene is somewhat hit and miss these days. With almost every other little boyo recording something or other in their bedroom it’s harder and harder to find any genuine musical talent. That’s what makes Gethin Pearson and his crew of merry men and women all the more enjoyable. Representing the Zooport massive, Gethin shares his personal view on life with the help of a backing ‘scenery’ of musicians. A cocktail of folk and country riffs that really waken up the senses, more so than your herbal essences shampoo could ever dream of.
Despite unfortunately only being a 4 track EP, there is not one dodgy melody, and the variety is unfathomable. Opening track “Lost At Sea” captures the listener in a head tapping, finger clicking, folk trap, while the following “Shatterproof” offers a chorus worthy enough to be chanted at Wembley with lyrics as thought provoking as major metaphor heads, Thursday. Though, as said by the man himself, the words are about ‘nothing, something, no-one, someone, anything and everything all at the same time’. Which is a blessing in itself; creating songs that allow a listener to interpret the song however they wish only underlines the talent this little boyo has. Live, the band is stunning, each set resulting in their merch stall being surrounded before even Linford Christie has left the start line. Without a doubt, this is one of the best debut EPs I’ve heard in a bloody long time. Get in.
VARIOUS ARTISTS – Digital Penetration (Vol.1)
Musical bandwagons trundle through scenes on a regular basis these days. With the emo one finally veering out of sight, a funkier, yellow painted Volkswagen comes rolling around the corner, and it’s got a big fucking smile on it. New Rave has shat its internal goodness all over the UK indie scene recently, and by the sounds of it, the constipation only made it better. Digital Penetration is a wickedly cool compilation album from the guys at Alt-Delete that takes samples from the freshly spawned pioneers of the genre that’s currently getting a thorough brown nosing from the guys at NME. Each track is a glorious burst of fresh air. Delectable twangs from out of tune guitars, combined with Nintendo beats and vocalists that spit lyrics at you like they couldn’t give a toss. Fantastic.
The album deserves a good listen, or three. By avoiding the almighty Klaxons, who prove themselves once again to be the principal noise makers in New Rave, you stumble across the odd little gem, like the lesser known, but Klaxon recommended Crystal Castles. The variety within this little shiny disc is mind blowing. Tracks like “Are You The One” by Aussie shape throwers The Presets will no doubt be filling floors at the KOKO in Camden with colourful Topshoppers armed with glowsticks, while Cut Copy serve up a plate of droned out, boppy goodness that would make the likes of Beck drool.
The New Rave bandwagon has parallel parked itself firmly between the Indie and Dance rides, I’m hoping its paid for a long stay.
TO MY BOY – theGrid
Being a record company conceived by one of the major indie clubs in the big smoke, we can only presume scousers To My Boy’s follow up single to schizophrenic toddler on a keyboard smash ‘I Am X-ray’ will be another XFM and MTV2 hitlist anthem. But why should that be a problem? It’s hard to fault the tripped out electro nerds on another floor filling, shape tweaking banger.
It looks like 2006 is the comeback of the robot! This is news coloured with 8 shades of ‘fuck yeah’ to us rigid honkies who have secretly been dying for a dance, now’s the chance ladies and gentlemen! TheGrid is an instantly appealing nouvel rave gem that places the band right up there with the Klaxon hegemony. The duo sound like an infant pounding away at his honky-tonk alongside his stuttering, well pronounced thespian of a father reciting the words to another sing-along chorus. Which, funnily enough, works like a wee leprechauns bag of charms. Whether you hear this track at the disco, or watching MTV2 on a comedown, get up, move your feet and bop around like you were a born again epileptic. Nostradamus predicted these to be the future of pop*, and since when was he wrong!
Alex Gosman’s playlist:
Record Of The Month
P. PAUL FENECH – The F Word
(People Like You)
That web address isn’t just an arrogant boast, y’know. As singer/guitarist and founder of the Meteors, P. Paul Fenech effectively invented psychobilly (the bastard son of punk and rockabilly), and this record – his sixth solo outing – is a typically high-quality affair. Whether turning his hand to the eerie atmospherics of ‘Scarecrow’ or unleashing squalling solos over the rollicking ‘3 Minutes To Dead Time’, every track is laden with the horror-movie aesthetic and gallows humour that has long been Fenech’s trademark. Oh, and if you’re still not impressed, check out the title track.
THE LOST PATROL BAND – Automatic
Considering the hundreds of UK bands currently looking to the leading lights of 1970s punk for inspiration, it seems odd that it should take four Swedes to make a decent job of it. That said, when said Swedes include Dennis Lyxzen – of former Refused and The International Noise Conspiracy fame – you know you’re onto a good thing. ‘Automatic’ is joyful in its simplicity; a record bursting with punchy punk-pop tunes that owe plenty to the likes of the Buzzcocks, Undertones and The Jam. You’ll be singing along to the choruses of ‘I Don’t Understand’ and ’30 Something’ before you know it.
ME FIRST AND THE GIMME GIMMES – Love Their Country
(Fat Wreck Chords)
The history of punk rock cover versions may stretch back to the days of Sid Vicious massacring Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’, but successful punk cover bands are few and far between. Californian quintet Me First…, however, are an exception. Having previously reworked 70s, 60s, R&B and Broadway hits, they’re now focusing on Country & Western music; beefing up songs from the likes of Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton and the Dixie Chicks with the kind of melodic, turbo-charged guitar action that you’d expect from a band featuring members of NOFX and Lagwagon. Highly entertaining stuff.
WALLS OF JERICHO – With Devils Amongst Us All
It’s no surprise that Walls Of Jericho are a savage musical beast, given the mental and physical trauma that has dogged their career; but ‘With Devils Amongst Us All’ is still breathtaking in its sheer sonic brutality. Frontwoman Candace Kucsulain’s voice is as raw as sandblasted skin as she vents her fury over metallic hardcore gems like ‘Plastic’ and ‘And The Dead Walk Again”; songs that boast a more anthemic edge than previous efforts, but nevertheless hit home like a sledgehammer to the senses. It’s a shame that they felt the need to include the mediocre power ballad ‘No Saving Me‘; but otherwise, ‘With Devils…’ is metalcore at its most potent and punishing.
WESTBOUND TRAIN – Transitions
Boston septet Westbound Train deal in a soulful, rootsy ska/reggae hybrid, and in ‘Transitions” (the band’s third album) they’ve created a record with the perfect balance of variety and accessibility. Like their labelmates the Aggrolites and the Slackers, these guys don’t so much plagiarise as pay homage to ska’s rich history, infusing old sounds with a fresh shot of vitality and irresistible grooves. Check out the likes of ‘Good Enough’ and ‘The Runaround’, and be sure to have your dancing shoes at the ready.
Pete Craven’s playlist:
Record Of The Month
VARIOUS ARTISTS – American Hardcore
You’ve read the book, seen the film… now here’s the CD soundtrack to Steven Blush’s historic recollections of the early Eighties American Hardcore scene. I understand a range of porcelain figurines and souvenir plates are to follow. Any self respecting (elitist) follower of the genre will have most, if not all, of the material featured on this 26track CD, but as compilations go this is excellent and to have all these songs in a handy compact format sure makes for great listening.
This is evidenced by the opening salvo – Nervous Breakdown by Black Flag, Out of Vogue by Middle Class, Play to Cum by Bad Brains, Fucked Up Ronnie by DOA, Circle Jerk’s Red Tape, Minor Threat’s Filler and MDC’s I Remember – you can’t argue with that!!!
Elsewhere it’s a who’s-who of heady sounds from ground breaking times including The Freeze, Jerry’s Kids, SSD, Void, Scream, Negative Approach, AOF, 7Seconds, Big Boys, Really Red, Adolescents, DRI, closing with the classic Flipper twister “Ha Ha Ha”. Fantastic. And I picked this disc up (new) in Fopp for a fiver, who’s laughing now huh?!
UK SUBS – Original Punks Original Hits
If you’ve been living feral on a South Pacific island for the past 25+years, or some similar backwater fate, and the UK Subs have not registered on your radar, then this 46track double CD compilation is a cracking showcase and at a fiver a pop (thank you again Fopp) it’s an absolute bargain.
This collection hits you up with prize numbers from their debut 7inch “CID” and the subsequent releases on the Gems label, with virtually all the singles A and B-sides, plus a few choice cuts from the “Another Kind Of Blues” “Brand New Age” and “Diminished Responsibility” albums. The only obvious omission is the A-side of their final single on Gems “Keep on Running (’til You Burn)” although the B-side “Perfect Girl” is included. Without a doubt ‘Subs frontman Charlie Harper is Punk Rock Royalty, they guy has never stopped, never relented, never slowed down, and is gonna be hollering out his hoary anthems ’til he drops. Charlie, we salute you!
James Sherry’s playlist:
Record Of The Month
AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF THE DEAD – So Divided
Has the whole world gone fucking deaf? First, last years utterly brilliant ‘World’s Apart’ album was almost universally ignored when it should have been heralded an instant classic and made compulsory listening for the whole damn world. Now the follow up comes out and what happens? The press don’t give a shit. Every review I’ve seen has been average beyond belief. People just don’t seem arsed by it. Maybe it’s me but I just don’t get why people don’t get the genius song-writing and epic sounds this band create on a whim. Fuck ’em all. This Trail Of Dead album is yet another classic from the depths of Texan depravity. Fuck the lot of you.
THE MELVINS – A Senile Animal
How could the combination of Seattle grunge legends The Melvins and Hydra Head recording artists Big Business be anything less than absolutely fucking incredible? When word got out that The Melvins had teamed up with Big Business (who, in case you don’t know, delivered one of last years most powerful albums ‘Head For The Shallow’ and were equally jaw-dropping live) no one was quite sure how the end results would turn out. Chances are it was going to be a typically Melvins slab of impenetrable noise, but instead, the newly born Big-Business-Melvins have turned in the most commercial album of their long careers.
‘A Senile Animal’ is undoubtedly the band’s most straight-up rock album for years, but done, of course, in the trademark Melvins lurching doom-drenched noise. Rhythmically, it’s incredible – the combination of Dale Crover and Coady Willis on drums is utterly earth shattering. Combine that with a double lashing of fuzzed-out bass and this is the sound of planets exploding. Yet all the way throughout, the vocal and guitar hooks are utterly addictive and some of these songs wouldn’t sound out of place on a Soundgarden album.
Quite how, over twenty years into their careers, The Melvins have delivered what could be their best album so far beggars belief. But then again, this is The Melvins we’re talking about. Worship them!
CRASS – Stations Of The Crass
Yeah, it may be hard to believe that there was a time when punk was a genuine threat and not a fucking fashion parade but Crass at their peak were a real thorn in the side of the establishment. Welding sixties idealism with hard line anarchist politics, they created true independence in music, building a radical cottage industry of art, music and politics.
This month sees the release of two books that centre around the world of Crass. ‘The Story Of Crass’ by George Berger (Omnibus Press) tells the whole story in detail for the first time, whilst Ian Glasper’s brilliant ‘The Day The Country Died’ (Cherry Red Books) tells the story of Crass and the bands that followed in their wake, inspired by their ideas and sound. Subhumans, Rudimentary Peni, Conflict, Icons Of Filth, Omega Tribe and a host of others tell their stories but all refer back to Crass. And while much has been made of what Crass achieved politically (read all about it in the book!), to these ears at least, the music has stood the test of time. Always harsh and biting, viciously angry vocals mix with scratchy, abrasive guitar noise (pre-Steve Albini!) as military drums push the tempo to near breaking point.
‘Stations Of The Crass’, their second album, is a good starting point. But ‘Feeding Of The 5000′, ‘Christ – The Album’, ‘Penis Envy’ and ‘Best Before’ are equally deserving. It’s your choice. Like Crass said, here is no authority but yourself.
THE WHO – Endless Wire
It’s been some twenty-one years since the last Who album. After Keith Moon spun his last drum roll and fell of the end of the kit into the stars, they recorded two dreadful albums – ‘It’s Hard’ and ‘Faces Dance’ with Small Faces drummer Kenny Jones, both of which are pretty much dreadful despite a couple of good songs. Both albums were victims of dated eighties production techniques, uninspired song-writing and the loss of the ‘Greatest Drummer In Rock, Ever’.
So what’s changed twenty-one years later? Well, despite the loss of both Moon and then bassist John Entwistle, The half-a-Who have still been cranking out impressive live shows. With such a wealth of classic material to draw from how could they not? With Ringer Starr’s son Zac on drums (who himself was taught by Moon as a young kid), The Who finally had a drummer that could do justice to Moon’s classic rhythms and once more, even as old men and half the band dead, they still rock live. Which is where the problem comes in with this new album.
Unfortunately, due to Zac being busy playing with Oasis, he only plays on one song on this album. Because of this ‘Endless Wire’ doesn’t rock as hard as it should. Many of the songs are morose and slow, leaving Roger Daltry’s voice, already irreparably damaged from years of shouting and screaming over the noise, sound like he’s got a Kermit The Frog in his throat. This really shouldn’t be called a Who album. It is, in essence, a Pete Townshend solo album with Roger singing in it. Half a Who is still better than no Who and an average Who album is still better than no Who album as there are some good moments here, but too much of ‘Endless Wire’ is bogged down in old man crooning and not enough rock action. Shame.