Alternative, Indie, Pop, Rock

Everything Everything- “A Fever Dream” Review

In 2015 Everything Everything released a superbly inventive pop album entitled “Get to Heaven”, which received infuriatingly little attention and soon sunk back into the mire of quiet, docile reputability that seems so oddly unbecoming of the band. This was obstinate, often luridly colourful and wryly brazen music that didn’t belong in the back lanes of British “indie”, even though the lumping of the band into this category at all strains credulity. After the opulent blowout of “Get to Heaven”, “A Fever Dream” feels strangely like an incidental epilogue, irrespective of its contents. If their last album didn’t have the requisite boldness to break them, what will?

The band don’t seem to have an answer either, merely dimming the technicolour glare of “Get to Heaven” into muted blacks and oranges, Dante’s inferno via grainy polaroid. “A Fever Dream” is aptly named, a murkier and subtler work that eschews the punchy bombast of their previous albums in favour of more uncertain, introspective tones. “Good Shot, Good Soldier” emerges from beige aimlessness into a weary, rotating grandeur, while “Run the Numbers” buries a superb vocal melody beneath a down-tuned riff and Tom Morello-aping solo. As always, the unusual intonation and dynamism of Jonathan Higgs’ vocals dominate, as he gently wrings sympathy from the likes of the tender “Put Me Together”.

Despite the floaty moodiness of many of the tracks, much of the songwriting here is noticeably more conventional. “Desire” bludgeons its listener into submission with dreadnought synths and the belted brashness of its chorus, although it redeems itself with a superb bridge. Some sort of newfound fuzzy rockism tramples the intricacy of “Big Game”, with a dash of Rush or even Dream Theatre slashed into the proggy riffing of “Ivory Tower”. Although perhaps momentarily diverting, the allure of Everything Everything is their genre-bending and oddball vim, and they are far more unremarkable as a conventional rock band.

Unsurprisingly, there are scattered moments of transcendent beauty here, such as the swell of brass midway through “Good Shot, Good Soldier”, the complex arpeggios “Big Game” breaks into around the 2-minute mark or the entirety of the enveloping stateliness of “New Deep”. However, a faint air of anti-climax pervades the album, which was perhaps inevitable when it was tailing the cocksure cohesion of “Get to Heaven”. For the first time in their career the band feel suspended in aural stasis, treading water, with little here that they haven’t already attempted elsewhere. Unsure of how to progress, they have concaved slightly into the (by their standards) conventionalism of their second record, “Arc”. It’s a real pity they took the rather self-consciously “credible” path on “A Fever Dream”, because there’s a phenomenally strange pop band in there somewhere, nibbling at the walls. CO

B-

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LR3nXuBwGcI

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Acoustic, Alternative, Electronic, experimental, Psychedelic, Punk, Rock

Johann Sebastian Punk ‘Phoney Music Entertainment’ Review

Anyone who’s been called “A bewildering lunatic” is probably a genius in my book, especially when you’re called a lunatic by Rolling Stone. Johann Sebastian Punk (great name) has just done a UK release for his new album ‘Phone Music Entertainment’ after bewildering audiences with it’s original release in his native Italy lets how it fairs to more developed (obviously) English Ears.

The album starts with a wash of synthesizers and trumpets, a clear sign of an artist who is striving for experimentation and to make something new. This sets the tone for album. By the time Johann’s voice comes in with some beautifully crunchy produced electronic drums, you know this is going to be no ordinary album.

‘Confession’ one of the singles taken from the album takes you on a slow dark journey through Johann’s mind, with cuts of wit (very characteristic of this strange, experimental punk) e.g ‘I don’t need a high graded school’. All this before reaching a beautifully pleasing crescendo.

My personal favourite ‘Manifest Destiny’ feels like a strange mixture between Radiohead, M85, Blur with Adam Ant on the vocals. Actual genius, enjoyable, creative, perfectly imperfect. Finishes the Album on a high. There’s something about Johann, he has a sound, if all falls into place he could be another David Bowie. Hes obviously a very talented writer and multi-instrumentalist, and an immensely interesting and slightly mad character.

Through experimentation, multiple instrumental experimentation, sampling and general madness Johann has created something rather magical. This is not everyone’s cup of tea and don’t get me wrong, Johann’s theatrical style is at danger of wearing thin, however the experimental instrumentation and sheer joy and charisma of how its done is what carries it through.

Listen to ‘Phoney Music Entertainment’ here.

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Alternative, Emo, Rock

Weezer- “Pinkerton” Review

For a while, the NME ran a series called “Sacred Cows” in which revered albums would get cut, often sardonically, down to size as the victims of hype and the critical circle-jerk. A 2010 entry of “Sacred Cows”, with numbing inevitability, concerned Weezer’s “Pinkerton”: the album was derided as “fucking creepy”, “cringeworthy” and “pathetic”, and embarrassingly large quantities of lyrical ammunition were deployed to support this. The piece, with an admirably comprehensive understanding of its detractors, concluded “Bring it on, nerd boys.” Well, here goes.

Although far from perfect, the whole allure of “Pinkerton” is its unsettlingly candid confessionalism. Subtract that and you have an album of catchy, if a little generic, power pop with a thin veneer of grit. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when Rivers Cuomo first sang these songs in front of his bandmates. The drunken stumble of “El Scorcho” opens “Goddamn you half-Japanese girls/You do it to me every time”, while the fragile “Butterfly” implores in a whisper “If I’m a dog, then you’re a bitch”. Yikes.

With the critical consensus drifting leftwards, the lyrical indiscretions of “Pinkerton” have unsurprisingly, and often reasonably, had just about every “ist” and “ism” levelled at them in recent years. On elephant in the room “Across the Sea”, Cuomo describes, in uncomfortable detail, sniffing and licking the envelope of a letter sent to him by a Japanese teenage girl who is a Weezer fan, and imagining her masturbating. Immediately and almost comically there is a pile-up of content euphemistically considered “problematic” by most music writers: the fetishization of the female minority as the exotic “other” and idealised dream girl, the skirting of paedophilia in an adult pining after an 18-year old schoolgirl, the general air of creepiness in having gone to the effort of writing a song about what would have been a grisly embarrassment for most.

However, on some level even the harshest critics of “Pinkerton” must surely bear some admiration for Cuomo, however recalcitrant and grudging it may be. To not just do this, but to write a song about it and release it to the listening public, requires an enormous or perhaps just enormously stupid amount of courage and faith in one’s audience. Indeed, it would famously backfire spectacularly, with “Pinkerton” getting panned and a burned Cuomo retreating into the inoffensive, impersonal safety of “Blue Album” clones for the rest of his career, although that’s another story. The nervy rowdiness of “Pinkerton” transcends its proto-emo placement in history with the genuine vulnerability of a character on full display, ugliness, darkness and all. Cuomo is the drunk guy ranting about his ex at the party. It’s uncomfortable and after a while you just want him to stop. Is it “fucking creepy”, “cringeworthy” and “pathetic”? Yeah. But somehow you can’t look away. CO

B+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okthJIVbi6g

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Alternative, Rock

Smashing Pumpkins- “Adore” Review

In a 2013 retrospective of the Smashing Pumpkins’ career, their frontman Billy Corgan remarked of “Adore” that “What you’re hearing is basically a funerary march”. For an album superficially revolving around the splendours of love, it is certainly permeated by thoughts of loss and regret. Death saturates everything here: the death of Corgan’s mother to cancer, the death of touring musician Jonathan Melvoin to a heroin overdose or more broadly the death of the band as a collaborative unit, with powerhouse drummer Jimmy Chamberlain being ousted and Corgan assuming ever more totalitarian creative control. The combined effect of these and other pieces of salacious gossip, the album’s muted critical and flatlining commercial responses and the band’s subsequent messy disintegration have forced that misnomer of a title, the Interesting Failure, upon “Adore”.

However, the album’s underperformance is more attributable to confused marketing and the discontent of fans craving another “Siamese Dream” than “Adore” itself. Variously described by band members as an acoustic and a techno album, Corgan helpfully specified its genre as “arcane night music”, which did little to steady the listing Pumpkins ship. Another point of contention was the band’s newly gothic aesthetic—all windswept hillsides, faded glamour and monochrome cheekbones—which was another whiplash-inducing yank from the palatial futurism and yowled angst sported by the “Mellon Collie…” tour.

Crucially, “Adore” also differs vastly in sound from the band’s past work. “Ava Adore” is the album’s sole concession to rock, but even then its grimy industrial sheen and Corgan’s Nosferatu affectations in the video lob it some distance from “Today” or “Disarm”. The general mood of the album is one of swooning wistfulness and melancholy: all chirping crickets, twilit stillness and lovers reclining in the grass. On opener “To Sheila”, Corgan’s nasal mewling slips into a guarded, bruised tenderness, cushioned by richly luminous music—a distant boom of drums, a hushed backing chorus, a piano playing in the next room. This is sustained by the chain of soft, opalescent ballads that thread the album: “Perfect”, “Crestfallen” and “Blank Page”, whose hegemony is punctured by the jagged discordance of “Pug” and the brooding menace of “Daphne Descends” or “Behold! The Night Mare”.

Although not devoid of maudlin fillers like “Annie-Dog” or “Shame”, the dreaminess of “Adore” jars with its bracing realisation of a band in transit, unafraid to take risks. Notably, the glittering chug of “Appels + Oranjes” unearths a very different iteration of the Smashing Pumpkins, even if it has been lost to obscurity. Famously, bassist D’arcy Wretzky implored Corgan to release “Adore” as a solo album, and she was probably right. This is only barely the work of a band. However, even as the death rattles of one of the titans of ‘90s rock, this is a surprisingly coherent, ruefully sultry gem awash with richness and subtlety. A funerary march perhaps, but one wholly worthy of the Smashing Pumpkins name. CO

A-

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHlFr4_hvos

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Alternative, Indie

The National- “Sleep Well Beast” Review

Towards the start of the newly digitised barroom balladry of “Carin at the Liquor Store” on the National’s seventh album “Sleep Well Beast”, the band’s singer Matt Berninger mumbles the name of one John Cheever. Cheever is an interesting point of reference. His Lynchian obsessions with the murky undercurrents of respectable middle-class life defined his work—as his contemporary John Updike once remarked of his suburban fascination, “Only Cheever was able to make an archetypal place out of it.”

In some ways, this mirrors the development of the National from a particular kind of nocturnal New York ennui into a more expansive, heady Americanism. As steeped in the band’s old themes of regret and lost love as “Sleep Well Beast” is, it’s also a product of the current volatility of American politics, albeit as obscurely as is to be expected of the National. The clearest admission of this is the dry evocation of “just another man, in shitty suits… this must be the genius we’ve been waiting years for” on “Turtleneck”, which unsurprisingly debuted on the eve of Trump’s inauguration.

The band’s thematic growth on “Sleep Well Beast” is paralleled by at least cosmetic musical evolution; although flurries of electronic bleeping at the start of tracks often give way to songs that still wind up sounding like the National, there are flashes of transgression. “Dark Side of the Gym” blooms from plodding mundanity into a gorgeously lush final verse, and wistful highlight “I’ll Still Destroy You” equally spins into an exhilarating, wind-in-the-hair climax.

Part of the album’s idiosyncrasy stems from the oaken, earthy grain of Matt Berninger’s voice, which is the National’s most distinctive instrument. Mumbling and murmuring his way through the album, there’s perhaps a little of Michael Stipe in the finely detailed opacity of his lyrics: “Here the sky’s been falling white flowers, and there’s ice in the trees” he croons on the juddering “Empire Line”, and references “another teacup with gin in your secret postcard life” on the richly textured title track.

Although easy to put out to pasture as latte-sipping, inevitably Democratic Brooklynite hipsters, “Sleep Well Beast” makes a persuasive argument for the canonisation of the National as a serious™ American band. Whether reeling from the tumult of relationships or national political discourse, “Sleep Well Beast” is an unambiguous microcosm for Middle America; about as unambiguous as the wooden edifice of a suburban house containing only the band that adorns the album’s cover. As John Cheever wrote in “The Country Husband”, “The village hangs morally and economically, from a thread. But it hangs by its thread in the evening light.” CO

A

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71xmrULJ-ms

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Alternative, Funk, Indie

Luna Blue Delighted Fans With EP Launch Competiton, And It Was One Not To Miss.

Brighton based band ‘Luna Blue’ have just released brand new EP ‘Nightjar‘, and they were celebrating.

The Indie-Rock funk fusion scene now has a new addition in ‘Luna Blue’, and to start their engines, they have just released a 6 track EP. Accompanying the release of their EP, they had a Launch night in Brighton’s very own venue ‘Hope and Ruin’.

The competition however is the real gem of an idea from the boys from Brighton. The competition was a genius idea, and the prizes were even more of a treat. For the lucky one’s, the band were giving away 5 copies of the new EP, 5 limited edition Luna Blue t-shirts, as well as free entry for all winners to the EP launch that was held on August 25th.

The band have recently been active promoting the EP, and have been playing live to do so. Here is a list of upcoming gigs they have pencilled in:

September 29th: Glasgow, The Buff Club
September 30th: Leicester, Pi Bar
October 4th: London, New Cross Inn
October 28th: Reading, Pavlov’s Dog

As well as this you can also find them on all of their social media sites, so check it out!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/weareLunaBlue/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LunaBlue_Music
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lunablueofficial/
Luna Blue Website: https://www.lunablueofficial.com/

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/lunablueofficial
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/71jXlesSMotAtJXLCWpvzo
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVkV54sLs9_A9tc93CzIx9A

 

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Alternative, Singer-songwriter

Eels- “Electro-Shock Blues” Review

In a 1999 CNN interview Mark Oliver Everett, the creative motor and sole permanent member of Eels, described “Electro-Shock Blues”, with dry gallows humour, as “the party album of the year”. This was perhaps gently over-stating things by a light-year or two. Following the critical and commercial success of Eels’ 1996 debut “Beautiful Freak”, the band’s nascent fame was promptly derailed by a string of personal tragedies for Everett that are far too deeply saddening to delve into thoroughly here, basically comprising of the deaths of his remaining immediate family.

It was this deep well of sorrow that Everett was to plumb on “Electro-Shock Blues”, its title a reference to his sister’s electroconvulsive therapy. The album catalogues virtually every facet of human suffering, from the giddy paranoia of “Going to Your Funeral Part I” to the hideously pretty and almost unbearably desolate title track. On a musical level, the use of plinking xylophones and tinny music boxes—for instance, on the Beach Boys-esque “Baby Genius”—signifies a regression into a numbed, distorted childhood, which jars incongruously with the natural weariness and grain of Everett’s voice.

Although its intimately personal idiosyncrasy is inherently resistant to placement in a wider musical context, “Electro-Shock Blues” is truly the “difficult second album” amplified to almost farcical proportions. Everett, who surprisingly and laudably retained his self-deprecating sense of humour, is prone to droll, blackly funny quips about this. On “3 Speed” he remarks, dry as the Sahara, “Life is funny, but not ha-ha funny/Peculiar, I guess”. This deepens into the hard-won, utilitarian optimism of “Last Stop: This Town” which opens, with wonderfully deadpan flatness, “You’re dead, but the world keeps spinning”. The song is the album’s triumph, spinning pure, joyous pop of abject dejection. Especially in contrast to the songs that precede it, “Last Stop: This Town” attains a glorious transcendence, both physically and emotionally: “Why don’t we take a ride away up high through the neighbourhood? Up over the billboards and the factories and smoke?”

“Electro-Shock Blues” is an album inseparable from grief, but one that is ultimately about progression. As Everett enthused with startling candour in the aforementioned interview, “I started to get excited about it creatively, because I felt I could tie my own experience together and make it meaningful to everyone.” Whether you’re just on safari or know the sleepless nights and vodka bottles first-hand, the album is an uplifting assertion of the essential durability of character. From the maniacal samba of “Hospital Food” to the wistful lushness of “Going to Your Funeral Part II”, “Electro-Shock Blues” is a lost masterpiece of unflinching introspection. Drink it in. If he can stand it, you can. Perhaps it really is a party album. CO

A+

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0TfqbuTBqX8

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