Artrocker Magazine’s Single Reviews for the week commencing June 7th
This week we've got singles from The Unkindness of Ravens, We Are Scientists, Local Natives, Tweak Bird and more...
The Unkindness of Ravens
Any kid that's watched the Daleks exterminate their slightly crap human counterparts over the last few decades knows one thing: that the future belongs to evil metal creatures. Assuming you want your band to be in the charts around 2040 then, the rational thing to do would be to align yourselves with the robot bastards as soon as possible.
This has seemingly already occurred to Crystal Castles, whose cyborg-like eyeballs makes them a dead cert for being on the side of Pac Man when he comes to munch us all up.
Less easy to read are The Unkindness of Ravens; another boy/girl duo, but this time ones who acknowledge something known as 'the soul' in amongst all the wires, UFOs and barbequed cities that the future has in store for us.
Their new single 'White Road' starts off with frontgirl Nina singing what sounds like a plea for mercy before her brain gets switched off; it's candle-lit, quietly moving and the last thing we'd expect from a band notorious for their buttock-grillingly distorted riffs.
The soulful meditation only lasts so long however, and before we know it Nina's become a sort of Darth Vader mid-metamorphasis, screeching into the night sky while, presumably, her brain gets re-programmed. It's strangely terrifying, rather like watching your best friend suddenly convert to the Tories, or perhaps your uncle dancing to Lady Ga Ga.
In summary then, 'White Road' is a dystopian song of two halves, a lament for the doomed future, and a sort of willingness to boogie in the flames where and when it occurs. Will they side with the machines? I wouldn't bet against it.
The Good Gods!
Lying On Our Bright Red Backs
One of the highlights of the summer season – and by the time you read this, we’ll hopefully be having one – is the sight of overweight men falling asleep in the sunshine, completely unaware that their ‘cockney neck’ and ability to Lambeth walk will not protect them against the sun’s harsh glare. No sir.
The Good Gods! have clearly shared this experience and, like all good troubadours, committed themselves to writing a song about sunburn.
‘Lying On Our Bright Red Backs’ is a slow-building track that creeps up on you and threatens to happy-slap your already sore skin, before the Frank Turner-esque vocals and soft guitar lines slip in like a massive vat of aloe vera to soothe the burn. A truly lovely little summer track.
Our Lost Infantry
Just incase the tourist information center of Aldershot hasn't done it's job properly, here's a few words about the place. Or rather, a few letters: W*A*R! Yes, Aldershot is a W*A*R town, with statues of massive guns positioned to greet the tourists as they drive naively in.
Our Lost Infantry may come from Aldershot, but they sound less like dogs of war and more like indie-pop puppies. Their music acts like a school play soundtrack, with pianos, pianos and yet more pianos dancing round the vindicated weed of a singer.
'Epic indie' usually has me reaching for the mace, but Our Lost Infantry are just the right temperature of DIY to pull off something a wee bit special.
I'm told by various authorities that vampires don't have shadows - but vampire 'weekend' seem to cast a fairly tall one over this band! Ha ha! See what I did there? No? Oh nevermind.
To be fair this is also me being Mr Lazy Journalist; aside from the vampires, 'World News' shares some of its DNA with Mumford and Chums, building as it does to a spiritually liberated climax on a wave of pounding drums, celtic violins and handcuff-destroying vocal howls.
I'm not entirely sure that I need yet another band 'releasing' me from whatever it is that's chaining me down, but this is a fairly un-pompous attempt at it, so fair dinkum.
Kids Love Lies
Hopefully encouraged by a lead single in this magazine a while ago, the kids that love fibs are back and sounding more urgent, combative and voodoo than ever before.
Lead track 'Star' is the Sporty Spice of the bunch; hyperspeed indie rock with singer Ellen Murphy kung fu kicking her way outta the speakers. 'Stop' is more like Scary Spice, with Ellen crooning darkly and seemingly casting spells on bastard ex-boyfriends.
Unfortunately my cunning Spice Girls metaphor fails miserably from here onwards. 'White Flag Down' is a medium-exciting punk-pop number, while the prettily acoustic version of 'Star' almost beats the pants off its more hardcore brother.
A Sun (Ahh Ahh)
It's lovely how a couple of people can make such a huge amount of noise. Every now and then a two man band comes along, armed with a random assortment of instruments and some seriously dirty, overdriven bass riffs, and it reminds you how lame and rubbish some of our so called musicians are.
Tweak Bird are a bad ass duo that are very much making this noise, except they've got a sax as well. And I know what you're thinking, but this ain't no Baker Street, sunshine. This is motherflippin' jazz-metal. Or something. Oh gimme a break!
Despite sounding like a song title intertwined with an orgasm, 'A Sun (Ahh Ahh)' booms in with a busting bluesy rock riff, swiftly followed by some Ozzy Osbourne-inspired vocal abilities and a crunching build up, leading us on to the much anticipated sax solo itself. It's enough to throw anyone off the scent, but it works in a surreal kind of way. Apparently they smashed it at ATP, so it's best to keep a keen eye on these two.
A Piece of String
Moments of genius, ultimately disappointing. An engaging first 20 seconds of percussion and twangling bleeps have just begun to grate when the song is saved by the vocals kicking in. Unfortunately, the lyrics are utterly banal and delivered with that irritating, meaning-laden, ‘These are the Hidden Secrets of Life’ tone.
The harmonies give the track a bit of a lift, but the snaking, fractured bass line is the real redeeming feature here. Having said that, once the song begins to build to a crescendo (the last third or so), it becomes interesting enough to sustain your attention. It is a polished piece of work, there is evident skill at work here. As it stands, though, it is overly long and, more to the point, just too repetitive. All in all, it strikes me as a little lazy, but intriguing. Highly intriguing.
We Are Scientists
“If you want this, I want it more than you,” runs the chorus of ‘Nice Guys’. With a deceptive little line like that at the centre of your bash-along pop song, then all the better, and thanks for the invite.
New York residents We Are Scientists, previously of not much repute in the purely pop world aside from a couple of medium-sized singles, might find their star rising slightly with efforts like this. Rattling verses and constant tension and release do their job nicely (even though it sounds like it could’ve been recorded ten years ago) and will ensure that, if nothing else, their live shows will now have a real centrepiece.
Wake Up And Pay Your Overheads
‘Wake Up And Pay Your Overheads’ creeps in with a light blues riff, then builds itself up in the direction of a cool, if slightly falsetto-led song.
But rather than explode with energy, it suddenly strips everything back - laying the average vocals bare over a piano melody before turning back to the bluesy sound the song began with.
This throws you right off track but in such a bad way, you could almost go as far as to say that this band have no idea how to write a song. It may be forgiveable if the blues lines were any good, but there's a soul-shaped hole in the middle of things here.
A brief but entirely welcome appearance from the-band-who-used-to-be-unwashed-vagrants-but-are-quite-hygienic-and-also-pretty-great-these-days.
'Old Man' would make a pretty good soundtrack to a pirate movie; you can imagine Errol Flynn prancing across the decks of a ship and flicking off someone's whiskers with his sword to its heroic melodies. In other words: raaather dashing!
(This is Music)
Ladies and hussies! Prepare to get fresh, prepare to bounce your booties, prepare to kiss my golden teeth, flash some cash and have your tanned hides photographed to the latest sounds from.... er... Edinburgh?!
Well zoiks, that would appear to be the case here. Young Fathers are a Scottish hip hop trio who sound every bit as squelchy, 3D and sneakily amusing as Gorillaz.
"If you don't like it then sue me!" they boast on 'Automatic'. Trust me folks: no legal action required.
6 Day Riot
All I Need
With a name like 6 Day Riot I think I could be forgiven for thinking I was about to get my head mashed by some new noise-rock band. In actuality 6 Day Riot turn out to be a London based band specialising in a unique form of folk-pop.
Accordingly, ‘All I Need’ reveals itself to be a rather lovely, irrepressibly charming, summery slice of calypso tinged pop, utilising violin, ukulele, double bass and melodic alongside the more traditional guitar and drums. Add to the mix the gorgeous, laid back vocals of Tamara Schlesinger (reminiscent of Aussie popsters Frenté) and we have the soundtrack for a summer of weekends lying in the grass sipping Pimms. Splendid.
We Are Animal
(Too Pure Singles Club)
They say they're animal and I'm not gonna disagree: these Welsh newbies sound like they're rampaging though a forest having sniffed some particularly tasty prey.
The rhythm is a relentless woodblock pounding, with a vaguely Rastafarian vocal alternately meditating and babbling over the top. It's a feisty beast; both natural and supernatural.
Pony Pony Run Run
Walking On A Line
Somewhere between the icy discoclash of Neon Neon and the unhealthy cheese of Alphabeat you'll find this French three-piece, chinking glasses of chilled lemonade and tanning themselves on zebra-skin beach towels.
There's no direct harm in joining them for a quick tan - perhaps you might even like to try on a pair of mirrored sunglasses while you're at it - but be warned: three minutes of their gibberish and you may well zone out.
False Lights from the Land EP
With his gateaux- rich Roy Orbison baritone, Sheffield crooner Hawley could probably sing the contents of the Conservative Party’s election manifesto and turn it into a work of impossibly romantic genius. The fact that his voice is matched by a rare knack for writing heartbreakingly gorgeous tunes means that among contemporary British solo artists, the man is practically peerless.
Anyone seeking proof should check out this EP’s opening track ‘Remorse Code’, which previously surfaced on his 2009 album ‘Truelove’s Gutter’. Clocking in at over 10 minutes, it’s a work of epic beauty.
All four tracks included here contain a seafaring theme; ‘Shallow Brown’ is an angelic cappella rendition of a West Indian sea shanty, whilst ‘The Ellan Vannin Tragedy’ (also a cover) is an uncharacteristically dark slice of atmospheric pirate-folk.
As with most Hawley records, it all amounts to a deeply stirring, timeless brew.