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May Album Reviews

26 May 07 words: various
Maccabees, Modest Mouse, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Manic Street Preachers, Lardpony, Maximo Park, F**k me USA, Kings of Leon and more

The Manic Street Preachers
Send Away the Tigers (Columbia)

The media has been buzzing about this for a while now and with reason: The Manic Street Preachers are back! Bringing with them their eigth studio album: ‘Send Away the Tigers’, a work that when taken out of the shadow of the Holy Bible and other earlier albums, stands on its own as a very high-quality piece of work. There are many new bands out there today who would gladly surrender their own limbs (or at least their drummer’s) to be able to create its equal. Throughout the album there are heavy layerings of the recognisable Manics guitars, supporting James Dean Bradford’s voice which is as strong and enticing as ever and when coupled with that of Nina Persson of the Cranberries on the single ‘Your Love is Not Enough’ the result is a brilliant pop song with some powerful harmonies. Other stand out moments on the album come in ‘Underdogs’, an anthem for the freaks, reminding us that the band are still champions of the social rejects, after all Nicky Wire is still a bit partial to jumping around onstage in makeup and his gran’s best dress; whilst ‘The Second Great Depression’ and ‘Imperial Bodybags’ show that they’re still not afraid to get political in their songs. Musically the album is impeccable from Bradford’s screams in ‘Renditions’ to the wailing guitar solos in ‘Autumn Song’. Although slightly lighter in content than some of the earlier material, the Manics still have it, a strong album filled with some huge songs that anyone can get into even the old die hard fans.
Manic Street Preachers website

Lardpony
The Greatest Invention Ever (Cowboy Democracy Recordings)

Local band Lardpony present us with their second album ‘The Greatest Invention Ever’ a sparkling slice of indie-pop goodness filled with clever songs that deal with the important issues of the day, such as the weather, telly addiction, unrequited emo love, maths and, erm, robot children. On this album the Derby based band have created a light and airy sound that’s slightly rough around the edges especially in the vocals in a way that is endearing rather than shoddy, reminiscent of the early Ash material. All the songs on the album create their own tales of strangeness; opening track ‘Teenwolf’ tells the tale of an adolescent with a bit of a problem. ‘I used to be a werewolf but I’m alright noooooooooow’ howls singer Tom Morton, while ‘The Gog’ is a somewhat comical, yet pretty accurate portrayal of the trials and tribulations of an emo in love. Throughout there are some great one liners to be found such songs as ‘Who Loves the Sol’; the first line laments: ‘Feeling under the weather is no joke when the weather is this fat’.
Overall a promising album filled with original topics and witty lyrics that paint entire stories for the listener to create fun and intelligent songs, light hearted genius.
Lardpony website


F**k me USA 
F**k me USA (GM Records)
F**k me USA could be big! I remember seeing Six By Seven a few years ago at Leeds and to be blatantly honest, no lasting impression was left on me. But this, well this is hypnotic, vacant, and echoes back to a darker age of electronic tribal vibe. There’s certainly an Iggy feel to Chris Olley’s vocals which I really like. I can imagine the Glastonbury pilgrims of 2007 having a real good stomp to this one.
Each track rightly blends into the other to give the album that continuity and mixture that any stomp album requires. It’s not overdone or complicated. The songs have balance, both vocally and musically. A comparison to Underworld is also fairly easy to understand, especially on the track American Boy, a techno layered rhythmic beat that kicks into a nice biting guitar finale. Do these guys have a grudge against the USA I wonder? Well they wouldn’t be the first.
Sit down and play the tracks Go Go Chicago or Southside Johnny in conjunction with a film like Natural Born Killers and you can feel the synchronicity, the ‘fuck you’ vibe. A heady fusion of electronica, drums and reverby guitars. Perfect for any road journey-come killing spree.  Simon Hinchley
F**k me USA website


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Baby 81 (Island)

Baby 81 is a dirty, rebellious revolt to the senses, at times evocative, sometimes brutal, but always staying close to that garage-come-psychedelic source. And there certainly is an enigmatic source to this trio, with out doubt the wonderful vocals provided by Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been, not to mention their post-apocalyptic guitar sound.
Most of the songs appear to be a heavier fusion of the first and third album, slightly more adventurous in places, maybe smacking of a band that’ve already made it, but so what? And that’s exactly my point!
We’ve come to expect much more from a band who six years previous delivered a debut album of such brilliance and depth. Many of the songs on Baby 81 really do lack a sense of depth. There are some sparkling individual tracks nevertheless as an album I hate to use the word commercial, but unfortunately it’s an apt description.
The dirt can be felt immediately in the opening track Took Out A Loan. This song is true BMRC guitar sleaze and filth. Killing The Light is a hauntingly gritty kaleidoscope of vocals and sound which demonstrates originality. This is followed by American X, a shoe-gaze tour par excellence. This is what BMRC is all about, and comparably as impressive as to anything they’ve written.
The rest is pigeon feed, and I’m sure Weapon Of Choice and All You Do Is Talk will be played by radio DJ’s everywhere.  Simon Hinchley
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club


Hayseed Dixie
Weapons Of Grass Destruction (Cooking Vinyl)

Some bands cover versions simply wreck the original songs that they were meant to represent. Others perform a hint of alchemy, re-interpret the music and Hayseed Dixie (a rock/blue-grass tribute act to AC/DC) do this to a point where they practically invent a sound that is addictive and fun. If you are a fan of bluegrass then go and buy it. If you aren’t, then Weapons Of Grass Destruction is a good introduction.
This album demonstrates how a bunch of Southern guys, who can actually play their instruments, transform a bunch of random songs into something that you just want to listen to again and again. Put it on whilst you’re pulling into a dusty back-water lay-by at one of those crummy greasy spoon caravans where only desperate bikers seem to eat, and you’re guaranteed a comment or two. Hayseed Dixie can be taken seriously,…. seriously!
Their version of Strawberry Fields Forever is surprising; you will not hear anything else like it all year. A rather somber rendition of Paint It Black is also offered. Believe me, the Dixie’s have done no collateral damage to this little gem, rather giving it a latino-roots vibe.
If like me, you got tired to the point of cerebral asphyxiation by Scissor Sisters I Don't Feel Like Dancin', then the Dixie’s provide a valuable alternative antidote to this number, and easily out-do the original. Poison by Alice Cooper is another that gets some hillbilly treatment. For me however, the Hayseed’s own compositions are pure Daisy Duke, in particular Walking Cane and Hungover Breakdown. Just get out the fried chicken and bottles of moonshine to this one. Bona fide bluegrass it is, and yes, that’s right, I am a ‘Dapper Dan man’.  Simon Hinchley
Hayseed Dixie website


Modest Mouse
We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank (Columbia)

It doesn’t take long for Isaac Brock, yelping like a demented vagrant you’d avoid making eye contact with in the street, to signal Modest Mouse’s return. From the first fifteen seconds Brock plunders your stereo and, like a frenzied Sea Captain, steers his ship through sharp stabbing guitars, thumping rhythm sections and soothing strings. Each song strews casualties in its wake but the end result is fourteen tracks that stand out on their own merits without any sense of detachment. The album flows like waves crashing over one another.
Modest Mouse have come a long way from their indie roots. This album debuted at #1 on its US release, in no small part thanks the upbeat groove reminiscent of ‘Float On’ in single-fodder ‘Dashboard’ and ‘Florida’. In these waters of pop-sensibility the influence of ex-Smiths Johnny Marr’s addition to the crew does not go unnoticed. The strength of this album lies however is in the songs that old-school Mouse’ fans will call their own. The awkward, in-your-face songs that build up from rippling verses to stomping choruses of tidal proportions. This album will latch a hold of you somehow, and have a lasting effect long after the ship sinks.  Robert Macpherson
Modest Mouse


Rob McCulloch
Escaping Times (Gladrag Records)

Escaping times is the debut album from Northern singer/songwriter Rob McCulloch. Born and bred in Bolton, the Lancaster lad creates musical melodies that are of an acoustic, chilled out genre. His relaxed sound compliments his quintessentially English sounding voice and his vocals sound like a blend of Luke from The Kooks, Richard Ashcroft and Liam Gallagher’s voices. Great musicians such as The Jam, The Small Faces, Oasis, The La’s and Johnny Cash, (who has clearly influenced Rob with his county sounding tracks) inspire McCulloch’s music. “Valediction” has a strong country feel with repetitive guitar chords and strong emotional vocals and “Disrepair” shows the more Mod influence that has helped mould and tune Rob’s musical ear. “Golden Boy” is also a quite catchy tune and has the sort of melody that I can see people singing along and swaying to in concerts but here has been one major fault when listening to this album that has greatly offended me. Three of the thirteen songs I have endured sound like a song I have already heard before from another artist! “Out Of My Skin” opened sounding very much like The Kooks hit “She Move In Her Own Way”, “Footsteps Of The North” completely ripped off the rift from The Fratellis classic “Whistle For The Choir” and Track 9, “Infernal Paradise” sees poor Ray Lamontagne’s hit “Trouble” basically sang over with new lyrics. Now its always expected out of the million billion musicians out there that at least one song on their album might be recognisable to somebody else, but three! Its pure copyright!
There is one word that rhymes with the “lloch” part of robs surname that I could attempt to use here but I think that would be a bit of an insult to his work as there are much worse artists out there and he has got some talent but before I give him any credit he needs to cheers up a bit and stop pinching other peoples work. Leanne Gardner
Rob McCulloch website

The Maccabees
Colour it In (Fiction)
With their band name originally being used to describe Jewish rebels within a Jewish liberation movement, The London bred 5 piece are finally releasing a debut album. Their Debut “Colour It In” features 13 songs from the Macca boys and carries all the usual mix up of their quirky, youthful sound. The album includes all the well known classics such as previous single “About Your Dress”, “X ray” and first single and live favourite “Latchmere”. One of the most outstanding singles “About your dress”, is a post modern version of any Paul Weller Jam style sounding classic. The strong London English vocals, against the edgy guitar melodies and repetative drum beat almost make it modern mod music for the new generation of the 21st century. Another classic on the album “X-Ray”, starts with build up of fast guitar rifts, that lead to an inclusion of a pounding drum beat and hypnotising sharp vocals. It is a song that leaves you feeling like you are about to voyage a mystical superhero mission and makes you want to go out and do something. “Toothpaste Kisses” is also another winner from the boys. An acoustic, heart warming and easy listening song that can remind you of lazing around, with a gentle breeze, within the summer sunshine. Listening to it took me on a journey of walking through a sunny pathway through the cooling shade of trees and a loved up feeling in my heart. It is a song that could help warm the coldest of people and has a beautiful Mediterranean feel, with the spanish acoustic guitar the song is played on.
The Maccabess debut album through all honestly took me quite a while to get into at first and I was dissapointed that the affect they had on me when seeing them previously last year, seemed to melt away when hearing them on cd. But after listening through their music and separating their sound, I’ve found that their album has really took hold of me and the blank spots I just didn’t get at the time, I now understand. Similarly to the title of the Maccabees album, you have to “Colour” them “in” within your mind to make it a full picture and to truly understand what The Maccabees are all about. Leanne Gardner
The Maccabees website

Natasha Bedingfield
NB (Sony/BMG)

The second album from Miss Bedingfield to appear after her much acclaimed ‘Unwritten’ released in 2005. Her new album, N.B is to be released at the end of April 2007. This album has a lot to live up to after over 6.5 million sales of ‘Unwritten’ but I cannot see as many hit singles coming out of this new album. I liked the feisty Natasha Bedingfield that could be heard in her debut album and seems to be missing in her second album where she is more contemplative of relationships, settling down and having babies. Maybe we are just keeping her company through her journey through life and love.
‘I wanna have your babies’ was a recently released tune from the album and is catchy (play it on repeat to freak out your boyfriends, girls!), I can see a couple of other tracks such as ‘Soulmate’ and ‘Still Here’ appealing to the romantics. She has also thrown in a hip-hop style track featuring the talents of Eve called ‘(No More) What Ifs’ to add just that little bit of variety to an album where the tunes seemed to merge into one a little. If you like the general Natasha Bedingfield sound then this album will suit you down to the ground but if you are looking for a more experimental varied album of thirteen interesting tracks then look elsewhere.  Heycupcake

Maximo Park
Our Earthly Pleasures (Warp Records)

This is the second album after their hit album ‘A Certain Trigger’ and has been a test to see whether the band is a one album wonder or can keep up with rivals of the likes of Bloc Party and Kaiser Chiefs. This album has been produced by Gil Norton, who has associations with The Pixies and Feeder.
With the first two songs on ‘Girls Who Play Guitars’ and recent single ‘Our Velocity’ maintains the old Maximo Park sound. Later tracks have a slightly synth-thrash sound to them and some of the songs seem to merge into one. I have to say that the start and the end of the album were the best parts to listen to, as I just felt lost in a wall of noise during the middle of the album. The album as a whole is energetic, with catchy tracks that will undoubtedly be playing on Radio 1 soon. I would recommend a hearing but if you are a big fan of the last album I think that you maybe disappointed. Heycupcake

The Bird and the Bee
The Bird and the Bee (Regal)
 
This is not a band that I was at all familiar with before listening to this album but I found this self-titled offering from The Bird and the Bee eclectic, to say the least. Vocalist and songwriter Inara George (The Bird) and multi-instrumentalist Greg Kurstin (The Bee) put together an interesting collection of ten tracks that incorportate a variety of styles.
The voice of Inara George is one of the highlights of the album. Her style was very reminiscent of that of Bjork’s with Kurstin adding interesting rhythmic beats, harmonies, and an often jazzy sound. A few songs stood out such as the first track ‘Again and Again’ which encouraged me not to just throw the album to one side but give it a go. But the limited range and sameness from song to song gets a bit tiresome by about track four. My favourite track being the more haunting final track ‘Sparks’ sums up a lot of the tunes on this album, that the music is rather simple, but it is worth a listen. Heycupcake

Artist: The Horrors
Album: Strange House
Often a band will adopt an image or almost a uniform to try and boost their image and distinguish them from other bands out there. With The Horrors it does seem like a bit of a case of style over substance mind with the modern Goth, Russel Brandesque group just not really doing anything worthy of much note.
Their style is quite fast and punky with the lead singer sounding a little like The Dead Kennedies’ Jello Biafra with his shouty, snarly, mocking voice. Many of the basslines are quite heavy and electronic sounding a little like those of Muse while the keyboards, which are probably the best bits of many of the songs, give the songs more interesting melodies than they would have otherwise.
The best song is probably ‘Count in Fives’ where the bands style actually seems to come together to make a track which has some direction which many seem to lack. The guitar riff is catchy and the vocal parts are quite immediate and grabbing with the backing chants of ‘hey’ making it an allround infectious song.
‘Count in Fives’ aside I generally just found the album to be a little bit dull and repetitive with shouting and noise compensating for lack of melody and for any real substance. The Horrors aren’t exactly awful they just aren’t particularly great; another scene band which in a few years time myself and many others will have forgotten existed.


IV Thieves:
If We Cant Escape My Pretty (One Little Indian)
Noel Gallagher has already acclaimed them to become “One of the biggest bands in Britain” so with that I introduce you to the IV Thieves. Their new debut album “If We Cant Escape My Pretty” is pure Rock and Roll and has all the good elements of the decent Rock and Roll Indie sound we have often heard from Oasis, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Kasabian. From listening to their album you can’t help get an excited feeling within your belly that this new band might be the start of something special. The bands album has a nice balance of heavy indie tracks to the softer, gentler rock and roll melodies. ‘The Day is a Downer’ shows the bands softer side and contains powerful rock and roll rifts, blended nicely with a sort of Beatle-esque 60’s sounding melody and ‘Take This Heart’, one of my personal favourites on the album, shows their more powerful rockier side. The track contains a sort of cool Jimi Hendrix type sound and includes a strong, funky guitar rift that makes you want to put on your sunglasses, grow your hair and smoke a cigarette. Anyone who enjoys bands such as Oasis and Black Rebel Motorcycle club are advised to have a listen to what the IV Thieves have to offer. Leanne Gardner.
IV Theives on myspace

Arcade Fire 
Neon Bible (Sonovox)

In a musical landscape where the NME praises bands like Fall Out Boy as the saviours of rock and roll and people see The Arctic Monkeys as practically the second coming of Christ; Arcade Fire’s debut album Funeral struck me as the real thing, an album that was both beautiful and passionate.
Their follow up ‘Neon Bible’ is a damn good album but for me falls slightly short of the high standards they set themselves with their debut. The focus instead of being internal or like little tales, (the four ‘Neighbourhood’ tracks), is more external and worldly with the opening track of ‘Black Mirror’ being an apt description of this albums aim and direction.
Whilst for me protest like albums can seem quite contrived, at times pretentious or in the case of Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ just not very intelligent, Neon Bible is very well executed and their blend of folk instruments with a rock style similar to that of Patrick Wolf makes Arcade Fire different and quite refreshing.
Standout tracks include ‘Intervention’ with its powerful organs at the beginning, elated backing vocals and trademark string sections and then ‘No Cars Go’ with its escapist lyrics and whirring synths that sound like the Killers might if they were better than they are.
Whilst not quite ‘Funeral’, this is still a great album and in fairness the main reason I may criticise it is for being too concerned with politics and not as personal as the last album . This is just personal preference though and it has to be said that ‘Neon Bible’ does what it does well, restoring some faith to someone who is frequently disappointed by the next big thing which if they continue performing to the level they do Arcade Fire surely will be. Samuel Rogers.

Gary Numan
The Complete Peel Sessions (Maida Vale)

John Peel was one of the most influential men in music, his famous ‘Peel Sessions’ have captured live material from some of the greatest artists of recent decades. Here is a collection of recordings taken from three of Gary Numan’s Peel Sessions. Recorded over two eras, the 1st half of the cd around the release of ‘Replicas’ in 1979 at the peak of Numan’s earlier career and the 2nd are the ‘Pure’ recordings of 2001.
All the songs are clear and excellent examples of Numan’s live performances filled with some pretty much perfect renditions of some of his most well known songs and a few lesser known ones all filled with the space age paranoia that made him great.
The earlier recordings although sounding incredibly dated now, show why Numan has been crowned the King of Electro, a true pioneer in his field. It is obvious that without Numan’s work there would be none of the bands who benefited from his influence such as Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson.
This is definitely one for the die hard fans who may relish being able to compare the Numan of 1979 to that of 2001 especially on tracks such as ‘Cars’ and ‘Down in the Park’, where you can hear how the evolution of technology has allowed the songs to evolve also. However for those with a passing interest it’s probably best to stick to the albums already available. Helen Weldon
Gary Numan website



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