It’s that time of year again – it gets dark earlier, the nights are drawing in, the cold creeps through your bones and the rain showers down on you… OK, well the rain has been here all year, but the rest still stands. So to help you through this dark and dreary time, we’ve got some reviews of the best guitar-led music has to offer. Get ready for the carnage:
Pete Craven recommends:
BAD RELIGION – “New Maps of Hell”
Studio album #14 from Bad Religion and 16 brand new cuts of their trademark compact melodic Punk with socially conscious lyrics and those infamous “oozin aah” vocal harmonies.
Greg Graffin’s lyrics are like no-one else, he really is the Punk Rock Nutty Professor… “Lacerate eviscerate and perforate and mutilate (We all fall down, all fall down) Deprecate repudiate ameliorate adjudicate (The wisdom found, wisdom found)”… the Graffin’s must hide the scrabble when Greg comes around.
Following up their 2 cracking EP’s, and the Knugen Faller debut album is finally out. And to this listener it doesn’t disappoint one bit. Super melodic ’77 influenced Poppy Punk, complete with saxophone (that gives it an X-Ray Spex push) and Silvia Sate’s fine vocals.
With a drastic swing to the Right in Swedish politics, these Umeå radicals have plenty to sing and dance about at the way they see their country headed.
PELIGRO SOCIAL – “No Religion”
Ay Carumba! A most ass-kicking album from these SanFran East Bay Hispanic spikey tops. It’s a winning formula, with a crunching blend of UK82 (Blitz, Partisans) mixed with a classic snotty SoCal beach sound (Social D, Adolescents) and old Spanish Punk like Espasmodicos and Eskorbuto. Absolute fuckin’ smoker.
RED DONS – “Escaping Amman”
From the ashes of The Observers comes the Red Dons, and yes it sounds a heck of a lot like The Observers, and yes – I like these 4 songs a heck of a lot – even if the production is a little muddy.
There’s a Middle Eastern theme throughout, with the futility of the Arabic and Jewish divide given the ‘Dons attention. Hope I get to see ’em when they tour Europe.
THE HARD-ONS – “Most People are Nicer Than Us”
Finally out, this is the accompanying Noise disc to the previously released Pop album “Most People are a Waste of Time“.
And this is indeed a whole different beast… with Ray, Blackie ‘n Pete flicking the detonation switch and letting rip with breakneck guttural hardcore rage and full tilt wrought iron rock. It’s a ferocious offering that bears little if any semblance to their better known material, but for me these guys are improving with age.
Alex Gosman recommends:
CHUCK RAGAN – Feast Or Famine
(Side One Dummy)
The Draft’s superb 2006 debut, ‘In A Million Pieces‘, was undoubtedly comfort to those still mourning the demise of Hot Water Music…but what of the one ex-HWM member not involved, Chuck Ragan? He’s grabbed his acoustic guitar and headed in a folk/country direction, creating a record that resonates with genuine warmth and emotion whilst retaining the rough edges so beloved of his former band.
There’s a wealth of traditional folk instruments present on songs like ‘California Burritos‘ and the violin-driven ‘Do You Pray‘, but at the heart of it all are Chuck’s trademark gruff vocals and insistent strumming; a troubadour who’s been there, seen that, and has plenty of stories to tell. Believe me, you should be listening.
WE START FIRES – We Start Fires
Could your life use a little extra sparkle? Then you’d do well to check out We Start Fires; three girls and one guy who, on their debut album, have created the best Geordie(ish) sexy pop-glam-punk experience since the first Kenickie album.
Stripped-down guitars, squiggly synth and dual vocals are the orders of the day, and they arrive in form of catchy mini-anthems like ‘Hipshake’, ‘Trouble’ and ‘Play You’ – the ideal soundtrack to getting ready for a night on the tiles. And when it’s all over, the beautifully melancholic finale of ‘Lullabies’ should help ease the comedown.
THE BONES – Burnout Boulevard
Crank this one up loud, and you can almost hear the flame tattoos, leather jackets and low-slung guitars. Yep, the Bones play unashamedly gutter-level rock n’ roll, and they play it as if their very lives depend on it.
Marrying terrace chant choruses and squealing solos to melodic punk rock riffs, singer/guitarist Beef Bonanza (!) and his crew certainly aren’t reinventing the rock n’ roll wheel, but there are enough catchy tunes and hell for leather attitude on display here for ‘Burnout Boulevard‘ to warrant repeated listens.
FUELED BY FIRE – Spread The Fire
The cover of Fueled By Fire‘s debut album depicts a long haired, leather-jacketed thrash aficionado strangling an emo kid with his studded belt. No, it’s not big or clever, but it is pretty damn funny – rather like FBF themselves, who gleefully reference many of thrash’s leading lights (Metallica, Suicidal Tendencies, etc.) and traditional lyrical topics (destruction, warfare, and the general awesomeness of thrash) on tracks like ‘Thrash Is Back‘ and ‘Dreams Of Terror‘. More overtly metallic than their former tour buddies Municipal Waste, FBF are a welcome addition to the current thrash revival.
MEET ME IN ST LOUIS – Variations On Swing
(Big Scary Monsters)
Ridiculously long song titles seem to be all the rage these days; but alas, the songs themselves are rarely as interesting as said titles might suggest.Meet Me In St Louis are an exception to this; an utterly warped post-hardcore troupe that have recorded one of the most schizophrenic and volatile British debut albums since Yourcodenameis:milo (RIP) first leapt from the trenches.
Constantly twisting and turning, the likes of ‘I Am Champagne, You Are Shit‘ are fast, slow, loud, quiet, energetic, melancholic – and also eerily addictive. They’ll be touring almost non-stop for the next couple of months; you know what to do.
THE MENZINGERS – A Lesson In The Abuse Of Information Technology
If you thought Against Me’s recent ‘New Wave‘ album was a bit over-polished, you could do a lot worse than check out The Menzingers. Hailing from Scranton, Pennsylvania, these guys specialise in a mix of melodic but aggressive punk rock anthems, huge sing-along choruses and even the odd acoustic folk number here and there.
It’s smart, propulsive stuff, with an enjoyably rough production job that doesn’t stop songs like ‘Sir Yes Sir‘ and ‘Even For An Eggshell‘ shining through as proof of a band with a fire in their collective belly. And let’s face it, we really need more of them these days.
SOHODOLLS – Ribbed Music For The Numb Generation
Sex and music are hardly strangers to each other, but it’s a particularly strong aura of sex that pervades Sohodolls’ debut album (just check that title, ferchrissakes). This London electro crew make the ideal soundtrack to an evening of S&M delights, and if that sounds mildly unnerving, you could happily just get your groove on to the likes of ‘Prince Harry‘ and ‘Trash The Rental‘ (essentially the sound of Blondie meeting Depeche Mode in a fetish club). Overall, ‘Ribbed Music…’ is the equivalent of a velvet-gloved hand stroking its way down the inner thigh of musical banality; and for that alone, the Sohodolls deserve kudos.
DROPKICK MURPHYS – The Meanest Of Times
The Dropkicks have been flying their Irish-American folk punk flag for over a decade now, and it seems that all those years on the road have only made them stronger. ‘The Meanest Of Times‘ is their sixth album, and it burns with all the raw honesty and everyman spirit that the band have long since made their trademark.
They may have sacrificed some of their variety for sheer pace this time around, but there’s no arguing with anthems like ‘God Willing‘ and ‘Flanningan’s Ball‘ – bursting as they are with Celtic charm and fists-in-the-air choruses. Let’s Go Murphys!
Ryan Bird recommends:
COHEED & CAMBRIA – No World For Tomorrow
Already a sure fire contender for album of the year, the fourth album from New York’s Coheed & Cambria sees the band moving away from their previous ‘concept’ angle, instead choosing to write a deeply personal and entirely non-fictional record. With Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins occupying the stool, ‘No World For Tomorrow‘ is utterly sensational, representing possibly the best album of their career thus far.
Though the conceptual element to the band’s sound may have taken a back seat, absolutely none of their song-writing and technical abilities are missing in action. Songs such as ‘The End Complete‘ even feature thrash metal grooves, while ‘On The Brink‘ sees them delving into the twisted, psychedelic world of Tool during its explosive climax. Unpredictable and never less than riveting, Coheed & Cambria are your new favourite band. You just may not know it yet.
DOWN – Down III: Over The Under
Given that this is only the third album in almost fifteen years by one of rock’s favourite super groups, when Down announced that work had begun on ‘III’ in late 2006 the anticipation alone was enough to convince you that one of the albums of the year was on its way.
Twelve months later and proof is at hand, arriving in a bellow of suspicious smoke. Their first effort in over five years, each track is a Sabbath-worshipping, Moonshine-guzzling triumph that will you leave you in little doubt as to the necessity of such a stellar band.
AVENGED SEVENFOLD – Avenged Sevenfold
Self-titled albums are a bit of a dodgy quantity these days. They’re either a firm statement that the music contained is a perfect representation of a band’s sound, or merely a sign that they couldn’t be arsed to think up a better title.
Thankfully the latest effort from Avenged Sevenfold is the former. Blending traditional metal with classic rock and their own distinctive, ever-present twists, Avenged Sevenfold – both band and album – sound nothing less than vital.
ALTER BRIDGE – Blackbird
Ok, so three of them used to be in Creed, but the truth is that the second album from Alter Bridge is nowhere near as much of an embarrassment as you may fear.
In fact, ‘Blackbird’ is everything a decent hard rock album should be: crunching, melodic and utterly soulful. Opener ‘Ties That Bind‘ even features the type of busy opening riff so often seen in bands Lamb Of God, suggesting that their future may indeed be an interesting one.
EVERY TIME I DIE – The Big Dirty
Throughout the remainder of the year, chances are you won’t see many album titles quite as apt as this bad boy. Over the years the New York quartet have undertaken a slow but steady evolution, gradually merging their already unique hardcore sound with traditional rock and roll.
Their fourth album thus far, ‘The Big Dirty‘ is exactly as its name suggests – fucking filthy and featuring more blinding riffs than you can shake a stick at. If you want a little ruckus with your rock, look no further.
HIGH ON FIRE – Death Is This Communion
Over the past seven years, two things have been certain in life. Night always follows day, and High On Fire are always nothing less than brilliant.
‘Death Is This Communion‘ is absolutely no exception, further enhancing their already uncanny abilities to sound like the best bits of Slayer and Motorhead simultaneously. Fire may not be your chosen narcotic, but if such activities are your bag then is undoubtedly your new recreational soundtrack.
Charli Russell recommends:
THE SONIC HEARTS – Hold On
The debut single from Liverpool quintet The Sonic Hearts, “Hold On“, is a perfectly melodic showcase of the newest indie talent. Lead vocalist, Sean Francis Butler, demonstrates how a lazy summer should sound, with backing vocal help from Kirsty Donaldson and John Sealey.
Listening to “Hold On“, it is possible to imagine The Sonic Hearts as an almost Magic Numbers-esque band, however, they are so much more. Currently recording their debut album at The Chapel Studios, Lincolnshire (other bands to have recorded their debuts here include Arctic Monkeys and The Automatic), The Sonic Hearts have the potential to become much more than a one hit wonder festival band.
GOOSE- Bring It On
“Bring It On” is the latest single from the Belgian electro indie band Goose. Signed to Skint Records, Goose began as an AC/DC cover group, “Bring It On” shows how far they have come from then. Though they have been together since 2000, the path that has been laid out by the new rave bands of 2007, such as The Klaxons and CSS, leads them towards a hit single.
Their style of electro rock music together with striking vocals seems as though it was perfected for the new rave phase, however they have been performing like this since before the Klaxons were around. “Bring It On” treads the delicate line between indie and electronic genres, and does it perfectly.
THE GOSSIP – Jealous Girls
Still known as that band with the fat female singer who sung “Standing in the Way of Control”, The Gossip have produced an unpretentious follow up single. “Jealous Girls” certainly has a lot of similarities to “Standing…”, the strong, repetitive staccato bass line with the amazing vocal talents of Beth Ditto, though “Jealous Girls” is a strong song in it’s own right.
Perfectly understated with a clear message throughout, The Gossip have yet again come up with a catchy, sing along single. Whether the majority of the record buying public will also realise, this is unclear – however what is clear, listening to the live track included on the single, is that this is definitely a band who need to be seen and heard live to be completely appreciated.
MR HUDSON – Picture Of You
Taken from the debut album “A Tale of Two Cities”, “Picture of you” is the latest single from Mr Hudson and the Library. The song itself is a testament to the ability of a picture of a loved one to comfort and inspire those who carry them. A beautifully written and tender single,
listening to “Picture of you” can take you away from life, if only for a short two and a half minutes.
The piano melody throughout the song, especially poignant in the instrumental version available on the single, is perfect for the lyrics. “Should time bring me fame or a touch of bling, imagine that – getting paid to sing” sings Mr Hudson, the lines just adding to the simple delicacy of the song. Truly beautiful.
KINGSOMNIAC – Language Of A Lady
Touted as “proper guitar pop”, Kingsomniac are a Brighton based foursome whose debut single “Language of a Lady” is released 13th August. “Language of a Lady” is a suave, ska like single that almost seems to promise that there is so much more to come from this band.
Kingsomniac manage to both sound like so many different bands currently on the scene, yet also to sound like something completely new and not heard before. A band with a playful debut single and a band to look out for, Kingsomniac come across as not only a breath of fresh air on the indie circuit, but also a simply a likable group of people. Definitely keep an eye on these boys.
JAMIE SCOTT – When Will I See Your Face Again?
The debut single from Jamie Scott and the Town, “When will I see your face again“, is a delicate balance of classic ballad and indie pop. Jamie Scott is a part of the recent breed of singer-songwriters all fighting to make their mark on the charts and the record buying public.
“When will I see your face again” is the first single released of Jamie Scott’s debut album, “Park Bench Theories”, which is set for release on September 3rd this year and if the rest of the album tracks are as beautifully written as this, then the album is a sure fire hit. The beauty of “When will I see your face again” lies in not only the strong vocals, but also the meaningful lyrics that lend a sense of longing to the song.
JOAN AS POLICE WOMAN – Real Life
Another summery single from Joan as Police Woman (Maine-born Joan Wasser), “Real life” is a touching record that, on first listen, appears nothing more than a typical ballad single. However, once the lyrics have sunk in and been understood, the song is taken to a different level.
Lyrics such as “It’s true what they say about me, that I’m out of my mind but i think that you like it, so take the chance, be reckless with me” show that in this instance, Joan is allowing the listener to delve just that little bit more into her private lives. A gorgeous single from a woman who gives as much as possible to her audience.
KATE NASH – Foundations
The first release from Kate Nash after having signed to Fiction, “Foundations” is an honest and full of attitude retelling of a typical nightmare boyfriend story. Having seemingly taken tips from Lilly Allen and Mike Skinner, Kate Nash boldly narrates the song with her distinctive London accent, including such lyrics as “You said I must eat so many lemons ’cause i am so bitter” and “My finger tips are holding onto the cracks in our foundation”.
Her novel, witty song writing and harmonious vocals make her not “the next..” anyone, but simply Kate Nash. She is a new type of singer-songwriter, not yet seen and experienced.
LIGHTSPEED CHAMPION – Galaxy Of The Lost
The debut single from London based Lightspeed Champion, “Galaxy of the Lost”, is somewhat of a slow burner. The lyrics are cleverly written by Dev Hynes (formerly from Test Icicles) and after having played the song on repeat, it becomes more than another mellow indie track. The semi-acoustic, folk sound couldn’t be more different from Dev’s Test Icicles days, he seems much more suited for this type of catchy, chilled, almost country-esque music.
Backing vocals appears courtesy of Emmy the Great and just add to the atmospheric record. B-side to the single is “Waiting Game”, featuring Derek Pressnal from Tilly and the Wall, which is a slightly more upbeat song along the same vein as “Galaxy of the Lost”. Worth buying if just to see what a difference a decent band can make.
LITTLE DRAGON – Twice/Test
“Test”, taken from the debut album of Gothenburg band Little Dragon, can only be described as a “happy” song. The vocals of Yukimi Nagano radiate from the speakers whilst listening to the track, and you can’t help but think of the summer.
An upbeat and lovely single which could be described as verging on nu-rave “Test” is released as a double A-side single with “Twice”. “Twice” is a much slower paced and more poignant track, a beautiful song with Yukimi’s vocals appearing so strong and able to rival any female fronted band in the spotlight currently. A gorgeous new soulful band that need to be checked out.
JARVIS – Fat Children
With a melody that could have been taken from any generic indie song, “Fat Children”, the latest offering from Jarvis Cocker, on first listen seems unremarkable. However, on closer listen to the lyrics depicting the modern youth, “Fat Children” becomes more than an average song.
It describes an altercation between the song writer and a group of children, who steal his phone – cleverly written lyrics such as “maggots without the sense to become flies” let the single evolve beyond the melody.
THE CORAL – Who’s Gonna Find Me
After having taken a two year break since the last album release, “The Invisible invasion”, The Coral are back with a new album “Roots and Echoes” and new single “Who’s gonna find me”. “Who’s gonna find me” is an easy-listening, vintage piece of song writing, with the smooth vocals from James Skelly making the single just that much better.
The song could have been taken from the Brit pop era of the nineties, with the trademark confidence of The Coral. Judging by this one single, the new album “Roots and Echoes” will no doubt be a fantastic album. The Coral are back, and are ready to reclaim their place in British music.
THE SHAKER HEIGHTS – Magna Doors
The debut album from Aylesbury band, The Shaker Heights, “Magna Doors” is a mixed bag of songs, none really reflecting the band’s talent.
Album opener “All about white out” has a 1 minute 45 intro which shows off the instrumentals of The Shaker Heights, particularly worth noting is Emily Coole on keyboards. Though once the vocals kick in, the song appears no more than that of a generic indie guitar band and things don’t seem to get any better with the next track, “Waiting on me”, which is another keyboard based ballad, almost indistinguishable from the first song.
Title track “Magna Doors” increases on the previous standard, rather than being a Keane sound-a-like, it is an individual track which ebbs and flows beautifully with the vocals of Vincent Coole. “Magna Doors” is the first track on the album worth listening to all the way through.
“Write to me Buccheimer” takes the tempo down again, and, though an improvement on the first third of the album, still leaves you thinking that The Shaker Heights could have put together an album so much better than this. There are hints in “Buccheimer” and “Pigment in the Rally” that The Shaker Heights are, in fact, much more than a generic indie band and, unfortunately, their talents are just not coming across.
“We are old baby” is definitely one of the few highlights on “Magna Doors”, a track which appears to take influences from Belle and Sebastian and Arcade Fire, and mixes them together to form a track too good for this album. “Guillotine” and “Intimidation” also come in as strong tracks, worth paying attention to.
All in all, the first half of “Magna Doors” is an average guitar-ballad album, with no real inspiration or confidence appearing. >From the title track, “Magna Doors”, onwards, the album picks up pace and starts to become something really worth listening to. The Shaker Heights talent begins to shine through, but, sadly, not enough before the album comes to an end.
THE PIGEON DETECTIVES – Wait For Me
(Dance To The Radio)
“Wait for me”, the debut album from The Pigeon Detectives starts off with single “Romantic Type”, the kind of song which has shown that this Leeds band deserve all the hype they are receiving. “Romantic type” is one of many highlights of “Wait for me”, which could propel this album into the best albums of 2007 category. “I Found Out”, another recent single, showcases more of their indie-boy talents, with “I’m not sorry” and “You better not look my way” further confirming the Pigeon Detectives’ status as one of the best new indie bands around.
“Caught in your trap” and “I can’t control myself” are the only songs that don’t have the same charisma as the other ten tracks and are the only noticeable dips in the quality of “Wait for me”.
“Don’t know how to say goodbye” and “You know I love you” are the tracks that could be described as the closest things to ballads on the album. Both still retain the charm and cheekiness that you come to expect from a Pigeon Detectives’ song. The surprise song of the album, “Stop or go”, is a slow burner. At first listen, it appears to be nothing special, at least compared to the rest of the album. However, on repeat, “Stop or Go” becomes one of the highlights.
New single, “Take her back” encompasses all that Pigeon Detectives are, the lyrics are tongue-in-cheek and typical of the laddish band, put together with a catchy, singalong chorus and melody that any indie band would kill for, and you have the best song on the album.
Overall, the songs are short, with an average song length of under three minutes, but the majority of the 35 minutes on “Wait for me” are top class songs with the potential to all become indie classics.