Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Cellophane Flowers – Yes I am/If I Was A Girl (Double A-Side Single)

Reviewed by James Tabbinor

The Cellophane Flowers return! Or so I’m led to believe. Never bloody heard of ‘em. The press release would also have me believe that these guys have their own unique sound, which they don’t; their ‘catchy but merciless guitar riff [...] will not soon be forgotten’. All lies, I tells ya. Can’t remember it already, and I don’t care enough to attempt to.

Anyway, enough about yet another boring band with yet another boring single that I’m always FORCED to review (sort of), because I really can't be bothered talking about the music anymore. It’s time to take the label (Blurb Music PR, hello@blurbpr.com) to task on their press release. Specifically this particular sentence: ‘Italian leading lady Francesca Corradini joined the band after auditioning on the day of the 7/7 bombings’. Exsqueeze me? Baking powder? In what way is that relevant? It really wound me up, because there’s no reason to mention that she auditioned on that particular date. I don’t get why the press release would include that titbit of information at all. Unless it’s just to make the authorities aware she was in the country on that date?

I think you all know what I mean. Case closed (and the world’s worst review with it).

Monday, 26 April 2010

Coheed and Cambria - Year of the Black Rainbow

Reviewed by Chris Render

This latest album from baffling prog-metal group Coheed and Cambria is exactly what fans have come to expect. For those familiar with the band’s conceptual oeuvre, Year of the Black Rainbow acts as a prequel to Second Stage Turbine Blades. For everyone else, it forms another part of the band’s almost incomprehensible science fiction storyline that pervades every album they have released. However, none of that is particularly important. What is important, however, is that Year of the Black Rainbow is awesome. Screaming guitars, pounding drums and Sanchez’s characteristic high pitched vocals combine to make an epic, cinematic and powerful album. Single release Here We Are Juggernaut is singularly impressive, and an album highlight. Though maybe not quite as good as previous albums like Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness (and with a substantially more concise name), Year of the Black Rainbow shows Coheed and Cambria on top form.

The special edition of the album also includes a full length novel by the same name, written by band frontman Claudio Sanchez and author Peter David, and whilst some may consider this a somewhat pretentious move, it is indicative of the band’s dedication and the expansive nature of the world Sanchez has created.

5/5

The Butterfly Explosion - Lost Trails

Reviewed by Chris Render

I’d been looking forward to reviewing this debut album from Irish outfit The Butterfly Explosion, and I was not disappointed. Anarchic, eclectic and absolutely inspired, Lost Trails is everything a debut album should be, putting the band firmly on the map. The Butterfly Explosion clearly have no scruples about bucking conformity and trying new things, the album itself an experiment in music, combining beautiful music and deep, emotion-wracked vocals to create something ethereal and dreamlike. Lost Trails is truly breathtaking, a refreshingly unique exercise in sound that needs to be heard to be believed. Every track is a highlight, but if I had to pick favourites then Sophia and Chemistry are the real greats. But it is difficult to choose just a few tracks from an album like this. If you’re a fan of experimental music and shoegaze, or if you just want to check out something a bit different, I’d definitely recommend The Butterfly Explosion, and expect to see more from them in future.

5/5

Band of the Eye - Contagious Ignorance

Reviewed by Chris Render

In the simplest and briefest of terms, Contagious Ignorance, the debut album from Bristol alt-rockers Band of the Eye, isn’t bad. Hardly a contender for my album of the year, or even of the week, but it can’t be denied that tracks like Why Are You So Awful and Wasting are quite enjoyable. And “quite enjoyable” basically sums up Contagious Ignorance in its entirety. There are no particularly bad tracks on the album, and some highlights, like Dress-Down Day or the somewhat REM reminiscent Bye, are particularly good. It is difficult to know what to say about Band of the Eye: as musicians they are more than competent, as an album Contagious Ignorance is more than satisfactory. However, they don’t really manage to stand out. The only remarkable thing about the album is the welcome but somewhat quaint declaration that This Skin I’m In is unsuitable for airplay due to the use of profanity. Though I hope to hear more from the band, it would be less than surprising if they were to fade into obscurity, which would be a shame, because although not particularly unique, Band of the Eye are a group of fine musicians. I’d recommend having a listen, but don’t expect to be too astonished by what you hear.

3/5

Black Soul Strangers - Animate

Reviewed by Chris Render

This debut album from Irish pop-rock four piece Black Soul Strangers definitely positions them as a band worth keeping an eye on. It’s skilful, inspired and thoughtful stuff, everything you’d hope for from up and coming artists like these. The album opens phenomenally with Panic Sets Direction and Lies, both catchy and memorable tracks, before proceeding with a ten track display of raw talent. Tracks like Leave and Monster show the band’s more measured and calm side, whilst never losing their catchy, entertaining appeal, whilst Gallows and Wichita, both album highlights in my opinion, are somewhat more conducive to a club atmosphere, catchy, upbeat, fast and intense. With Animate, Black Soul Strangers have created an album that it’s hard not to fall in love with. Granted, their brand of pop-rock may be nothing new, but they manage to stand out from the crowd simply because they do it so well. Believe the hype: Black Soul Strangers could very well be the next big thing.

4/5

The Destructors - Politika

Reviewed by Chris Render

I’ll say one thing in The Destructors’ favour, they’re prolific. In the last year or so, I have encountered no less than three albums from the Peterborough punk band. It’s just a shame that none of them have been very good. And Politika is no exception. Tracks like To Vote or Not to Vote and F*** EU well exemplify The Destructors’ approach to injecting meaning into their music: loud, brash and poorly conveyed. Someone needs to sit down with the band and explain to them that there is more to having a political agenda than just shouting “f*** the EU!” over and over again. Politics is a particular lowlight. Even the album “highlights” like Looks Like Rain and Politics is Politics, which near the dizzying heights of competent punk rock, are far from good. The album also contains a cover of Alice Cooper’s Elected, about which the less said the better. The Destructors, it would seem, reached rock bottom a long time ago and liked it so much they decided to stay there. This review may sound overly harsh, but if you doubt me, please, feel free to see for yourself. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

0 out of f***ing five.

Depeche Mode - Fragile Tension / A Hole to Feed

Reviewed by Chris Render

No surprises here, really. Depeche Mode have been at the forefront of British electro for years, and this 8-track CD is no exception. Featuring tracks from their latest album Sounds of the Universe and a selection of remixes from artists like Peter Bjorn and John and Laidback Luke, this CD is a musical tour de force, suitably exemplifying why Depeche Mode have been met with the critical acclaim they have enjoyed over the years. Both Fragile Tension and Hole to Feed are highlights, catchy, skilful and instantly memorable. The second portion of the CD, the remixes of tracks from Sounds of the Universe is as varied as it is entertaining, shifting from a catchy and upbeat Roger Sanchez Club Mix of Perfect to a decidedly more laidback mix of Come Back by Sixtoes flawlessly. Of these remixes, the arguable highlight comes from the Roger Sanchez mix, but even the less enjoyable tracks, like the Popof Vocal Mix of Hole to Feed, are still triumphs of electro. Once again, it would seem, Depeche Mode have succeeded in creating a fantastic, enjoyable electro masterpiece.

5/5

The Foals - Spanish Sahara

Reviewed by Chris Render

Spanish Sahara is a great new track from Oxford indies Foals, moving from a sedate and progressive beginning into a more lively indie style as the track continues. Catchy, skilful and fun, Spanish Sahara is definitely worth a listen.

Frank Turner - Isabel

Reviewed by Chris Render

We all know what to expect from Frank Turner by now. Infectious, thoughtful and skilfully crafted, Turner has gone from strength to strength throughout his career and Isabel is no exception. A great song from a great musician.

Razmataz Lorry Excitement – A Year Short on Surprises

Reviewed by Chris Render

The new single from this Geordie electro artist is a synth triumph. A Year Short on Surprises is vibrant, cheery and catchy, and with a name like ‘Razmataz Lorry Excitement’ I would expect little else. Hope to hear this in clubs across the country soon.

The Delays - Unsung

Reviewed by Chris Render

I wasn’t completely sold on Unsung. That isn’t to say that it isn’t competently performed, however, more that it simply wasn’t to my tastes. If you like what the Delays have done so far, you’ll like Unsung, if you’re not a fan, this will do little to change your mind.

The Rebs - Don't Fool Yourself

Reviewed by Chris Render

Unashamed indie pop, Don’t Fool Yourself displays the musical skill of The Rebs, which is perfectly complemented by their upbeat and catchy style. The Southampton four piece are looking at a bright future, and it isn’t hard to see why Don’t Fool Yourself won ‘best pop song’ at the Exposure Music Awards.

Eugene and the Lizards - Bug Juice / I Want Action

Reviewed by Chris Render

This alt-rock single from Eugene McGuinness is one of the most refreshingly original things I’ve heard in a long time. With Bug Juice Eugene and the Lizards have thrown out the rule book and created a single that leads me to believe they’re a definite one to watch: I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the album, Glue.

Will and the People - Mr Sketchy

Reviewed by Chris Render

Mr Sketchy is undeniably likeable. Upbeat and infectious, Will and the People’s latest endeavour is a blend of indie pop and ska influences that doesn’t fail to deliver. Competently performed and catchy like the plague, keep an eye on Will and the People.

The Sunshine Underground - Spell It Out

Reviewed by Chris Render

It is important for me to say that Spell It Out is skilfully performed and altogether enjoyable. There is nothing about it that is bad. However, it fails to really stand out among hundreds of other indie tracks. I would recommend checking it out, but there are a fair few bands you might want to discover first.

Thea Ford - You Got Me

Reviewed by Chris Render

There is no shortage of female singer/songwriters like Thea Ford at the moment, but to disregard her prowess as a musician would be foolhardy. You Got Me is a catchy and thoughtful single, and Ford’s debut is refreshingly upbeat. I dare you to listen to it without smiling.

Dirty Weekend - Time

Reviewed by Chris Render

Stockton-on-Tees indie group Dirty Weekend’s debut single puts them on the map as a band to keep an eye on. Although hardly particularly revolutionary, it’s competently performed, catchy and enjoyable, with somewhat darker undertones. Imagine a somewhat more downbeat Maximo Park and you’ll be along the right lines.

80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster – Love Turns To Hate / Sushwep

Reviewed by Chris Render

Love Turns to Hate is the long awaited (by some people, anyway) return of psychosis rockers 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster, and whilst their particular sound may be a little niche for some, I personally love it. Catchy, skilled... just downright entertaining, I am genuinely looking forward to their upcoming album Blood and Fire.

Goldfrapp - Rocket

Reviewed by Chris Render

This new single from British duo Goldfrapp is exactly what we’ve come to expect: enjoyable, upbeat synthpop with an excruciatingly catchy chorus and 80s sensibilities. Suffice it to say, I liked Rocket about as much as I like the rest of Goldfrapp’s oeuvre which is to say a lot.

Keane - Stop For a Minute

Reviewed by Chris Render

I’ve never been a huge fan of Keane, and sadly their new single Stop for a Minute has done little to change that. Featuring rapper K’Naan, this new track is a disjointed display of middle of the road pop and RnB sensibilities that fails to satisfy.

The Elizans - You Lost Me

Reviewed by Tom 'born in the 80s' Waldron

Haha the synth sounds like something off a mid-70s Black Sabbath record I wonder if that's intentional? Anyway it would seem that the synth and the suprisingly ripping guitar solo were the only things that grabbed my attention. Very well played and put together but lacking anything that would warrant (remember Warrant they were a great band: 'she's my cherry pie' etc.) repeated listens. Also it would seem they are fond of wearing hats. Wow.

Ghostfire - The Last Steampunk Waltz

Reviewed by Tom 'off the hook' Waldron

Yep this sounds like something off a Tim Burton movie. Definite Goth rock going on here but not in a cool way like Bauhaus or a self deprecating Type O Negative fashion. 'The last steampunk waltz' is undoubtedly very cheesy but nonetheless features some cool harpsichord and jangly guitars that remind me of the Damned's 1986 album Phantasmorgia but much less cool. If you wear milky contact lenses you'll probably dig this... if not maybe stay clear.

Hole - Skinny Little Bitch

Reviewed by 'smells like' Tom Waldron

Note: The following review will not contain the 'G' word anywhere! GRUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNGGGGGGGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fuck.

It's 2010 and it would seem that the flannel rock revival is in full sway so grab your shotguns and party like it's 1994! (Yup that's right Courtney Love did infact kill Kurt Cobain as well as shooting J.R. (ED.: These are the reviewer's words and are in no way associated with NSR)). My only previous experience with Hole was their debut 'Pretty on the Inside' which I found unfocused and ultimately rather annoying. I have to admit I really wanted to hate this but whilst it's not a great song and doesn't really go anywhere it is kind of fun and irritatingly catchy very basic and stripped down but retaining a popiness. It makes me wanna form a riot Grrrrrl band and throw tampons at the audience or something. On a side note the new Hole L.P. features our dear sweet Courtney collaborating with Uncle Fester from the Smashing Pumpkins that's two of the most hated people in rock for the price of one! To Summarise this isn't great but if you liked Hole before this surely won't disappoint.

Mindflow - Switched (Original and Cutline remix)

Reviewed by Helen Stephenson

Mindflow's track 'Switched' is a superb dubstep track, once again revealing dubstep as one of the most exciting genres of the 21st century. It is a genre that is rapidly expanding its boundaries and innovating its sound, not only making it more accessible but also more interesting. 'Switched' is a fine example of this, mixing dubstep with faster beats and piano riffs reminiscent of old house music.

There is also a killer remix from Cutline. I have no doubt that both versions will be mashing up dance floors across the country in no time at all.

The only small issue is that the track offers nothing we haven’t heard before. This does not detract from it being a good piece of music, but this remix gives off an air of being the sound of the moment, not the sound of the future of dance music.

4/5

Groove Armada - Look Me in the Eye Sister

Reviewed by James Fairfield

Whether you want to use this track to dance to or to just chill out it works well on both fronts, like a lot of Groove Armada’s material. Slickly combining their synthetic grooves and beats with decent vocals makes this single evidence that there is still much to come from the electronic group.

Mister Jack - My Girl Sharon

Reviewed by James Fairfield

Combining the vocal cheekiness of Madness with a heavier rock/reggaeish sound, Mister Jack’s single My Girl Sharon is a fairly amusing track to listen to, a guy informing the world about how proud he is that his girlfriend is a bit of a slag, but not hilarious enough for repeated listening.

Mirrorkicks - Podium

Reviewed by James Fairfield

Podium is another typical rock/indie single from London band Mirrorkicks that is likely to see them supporting many success full bands of the genre however it offers us nothing new and isn’t catchy or fun enough to become a guilty pleasure or even easy listening. Which can also be said of the B side track, Stand Up which may be a little more energetic that the title track however it suffers from all the same problems.

Band of Skulls - Death by Diamonds and Pearls

Reviewed by James Fairfield

After itunes gave them their initial exposure by picking their song I Know What I Am as the free single for the week, Southampton alternative rock trio Band Of Skulls’s latest single Death By Diamonds and Pearls from their excellent album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey is another quality dose of old school sounding rock. Guitarist Russell Marsden and bassist Emma Richardson vocal duets are tender and the instrumental is raw and brilliant. Making the second album an eagerly awaited release.

The Pretty Reckless - Make Me Wanna Die

Reviewed by James Fairfield

While you may approach The Pretty Reckless with caution as the band’s fronted by Gossip Girl star, Cindy Lou. Their single ‘Make Me Wanna Die’, featured on the Kick Ass soundtrack, is a decent and ballsy offering from the band that demonstrates that they’re more than a tv starlet’s failed attempt at music. In fact Cindy Lou’s vocals are top notch and the instrumental core of the group is powerful enough to leave us wanting more.

Audio Bullys - Only Man

Reviewed by James Fairfield

The electronic duo Audio Bullys return with their new single Only Man, which is slickly packed full of dynamic beats and breaks that sees them on top form and is most likely going to become a regular track heard on nights out, especially the superior remix from Jakwob.

The only problem is that even though the CD comes with three remixes it’s missing the best version of the song, which is the Rok remix that can be found on their new album, Higher Than Eiffel.

But overall a great single with a edge that becomes sharper the more you listen to it.

The Keyz - Overcomplicated

Reviewed by Tim Thackray

I wasn’t aware people still put wrote names stuff like ‘Keyz’ apart from 5 year olds and N-Dubz of course but this band obviously thought it would add a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to proceedings. It doesn’t. Singing like a man with pinecones in his mouth over a backing track that even Keane would get a bit bored at, this song drifts makes you shudder like a Gordon Brown smile. It’s another painfully dull reminder of the state of mainstream rock of the moment which insists on ‘soaring’ choruses which have a about enough emotion in them as a Gordon Brown smile, oh wait I’ve already said that. Like a Gordon Brown smile (three times a charmer) this song will definitely not be remembered by the end of 2010.

Jimmy and the Sounds - Sounds

Reviewed by Tim Thackray

If this music is razor sharp indie then the razor is well and truly blunted, rusting a bit on the side with a slight tinge of dry blood. Sounding like a bloated Reverend and the Makers, this lad rock affair about dancing at a disco leads to some pretty uninspiring lyrics which actually ruin the only positive aspect of the song, the melody of the chorus. Maybe I’m being too harsh though, while this may not be ‘quirky indie’ they strive too, the band definitely has the knack of writing a catchy melody so the potential is there for development, and that means never using an underwater vocal affect in a song ever again, hear me?

Blackgold - Shine

Reviewed by Tim Thackray

Apparently this song appeared in the soundtrack for the movie “Valentine’s Day” – The American attempt to recreate the magic of Love Actually by piling in as many stars as possible and letting the drivel commence. It is easy therefore to imagine such Hollywood’s darlings as Ashton Kutcher and Jessica Alba showing their emotional side, wind blowing through their hair, a single tear in the eye as this pop rock blasts out. The track itself is stuck in generic ‘anthemic’ pop of the moment, like ‘Take That’ with added guitars. With lyrics such as “Wont you shine tonight, in the face of the light” this will undoubtedly be a radio 1 daytime hit but this is just uninspiring poppycock to attempt to add emotions to actors who can’t act.

Faithless - Not Going Home

Reviewed by Helen Stephenson

Faithless have done it again with ‘Not Going Home’. Once more they have produced a dance classic that just sounds effortless. The hook is catchy, the song builds beautifully and, as with all Faithless music, I found myself blown away by their unforced ability to produce a hit dance track. The remixes included are also stellar, particularly HervĂ©’s distinctive, eardrum destroying, bassy mix. If you’re already a fan you won’t be disappointed. If you’re not a fan yet, get listening.

5/5