Rocky Horror Show

Music Reviews: September 2015

16 September 15 words: Music Reviews
With I Am Lono, The Age of Stella, Ben McElroy, Blackmail Box, Blunt Mountains, Dirty Scroungin' Bastards, Garton, John Hardy and Tom Wardle
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I Am Lono
I Am Lono
EP (Louder City Records)
Welcome to the world of I Am Lono, a world before Robert Smith smeared his lipstick and where the best pop music only existed in monochrome and was made by factory workers from places like Sheffield. Infra Red is tasked with setting the mood – all wailing synths and brittle, ice-cold drums that spiral skywards in a way not heard since The Cure’s early eighties goth classic, Faith. Things come a bit more gnarled around the edges on Why Everything is Made of Fives – a droning cacophony with ruptured guitars puncturing the mix with menacing intent, creating a real panic at the disco. The stark Only Love adds bass guitars that are heavily indebted to Peter Hook’s low-slung swagger to the I Am Lono template of swirling synths, relentlessly driving drum machine, and Matthew Stephen Cooper’s high camp, yet murderously garbled vocals. It’s an intoxicating mix that gives the first set of songs their high-powered, dramatic drive. If the A-side kneels at the altar of gloomy eighties synth-pop, flip it over and the change in mood is palpable. The B-side starts with the disarmingly creepy I Wanted To, Once, which segues into the David Bowie-in-Berlin glacial chill of Waltz, where the sense of dread continues. Eventually, A Macquette appears out of the murk, full of desperation and despair as the synths, pounding drum machines and howling vocals that typify this EP all come to a head in an epic showdown. Paul Klotschkow

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The Age of Stella
Flux
EP (Self-released)
This young, alternative rock band have released an EP with three new tracks to prove their status around Nottingham as the freshest band on the block. Displaying their versatility as songwriters, the first couple of tracks, Call It The Morning and Behave Yourself, toy with a heavier indie-rock sound in the mould of bands like The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys. Final track, Got Blood, brings the pace right back down to earth with an introspective vibe, proving that these lads are no one-trick ponies. The well-constructed melodies, along with the band’s tighter-than-tight playing, highlights The Age Of Stella’s potential, and fills you with the burning desire to give your head a good bop at one of their gigs. They may be wet behind the ears, but they’re certainly making an impression on the local music scene already. These lot are definitely a band to watch out for. Hannah Parker

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Ben McElroy
Cetology EP
EP (Self-released)
Cetology is a brilliant spiritual story: it’s driving with the top down through B roads, coming of age, and breeze up your skirt on a summer’s day. Filled with too many instruments to recognise, they all blend into an amalgamation of light, ambling tunes. It’s easy to identify a range of influences: a child’s music box, the sea, birds, foreign lands and people. Even if the detectable toad croak is slightly distracting. The Clouds Were Like Lace is the most delightful track, probably because it’s more tropical and clean than the rest and has a familiar plucky guitar intro. The lack of words across the EP is refreshing, a reminder that catchy lyrics aren’t always needed to create good music. As such, it’s never going to be a sing-into-the-hairbrush hit, but it is a jolly happy gander around the streets of Ben’s imagination. Rachel Lewis

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Blackmail Box
Blackmail Box EP
EP (Self-released)
Proudly proclaiming that they’re influenced by both The Cramps and Can, they don’t quite conjure up the shamanic energy of those two bands, although they do manage to capture a little something from each. While Lux Interior and Poison Ivy and co. can be clearly heard in the rockabilly, echo laden, surfy guitar licks of the opening two songs – eponymous tune Blackmail Box and the rollicking Shakedown. It’s not until the third track where the chaotic spirit of the German krautrockers starts to seep through. Fuzzy, free-wheeling guitar and that half-talking, half-rambling-like-a-drunk-lunatic style of singing makes Burning Chrome the most exuberant offering here. This spirited approach carries over into Nothing for Something, the fourth and final song on this short and snappy debut EP, with its wailing guitar and repetitive garage-rock riff keeping the toe-tapping, teeth-clattering, bone-rattling fun going until the very end. Paul Klotschkow

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Blunt Mountains
The Chapel Tapes
EP (Self-released)
Simplistic melodies, repetitive drum tracks and synth harmonies. If that’s what you take in your tea then stir a little Blunt Mountains in your cup for maximum pleasure. Featuring a mix of analogue synthesisers, electric guitars, and drum machines that are mangled together to produce short, layered tracks that pack a punch. The Chapel Tapes features five distinctive electronic arrangements, all recorded and mixed entirely on a four-track tape recorder; Les Paul would be proud. One notable aspect of the EP, that isn’t immediately apparent, is the lack of vocals – Story of My Life happens to be the only track with consistent lyrics, although I doubt it’d be classed as singing, more of a repetitive chant. Personally, electronics and synthesizers don’t float my boat, however, if you like to isolate themselves in your bedroom with only an old stereo to keep you company, Blunt Mountains will rock your world. Thomas McCartney

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Dirty Scroungin' Bastards
music to root through bins to: vol I
EP (Self-released)
Ever woken up in the middle of the night to a right racket coming from your bin area? Turns out, it might not just be foxes shagging, but more than likely a local punk-blues band. On music to root through bins to: vol I, Notts’ Dirty Scroungin’ Bastards provide the perfect accompaniment to a night’s bin diving. Opening track, all about the benyamin, is a riotous, sweary ska-punk assault on your earholes that could easily soundtrack a Georgia bar fight. modern feminism is a rally against misogyny, extolling the virtues of face-sitting and getting your “tits out for equal rights,” while the last two tracks take a more mellow vibe, bluesy guitars providing a nice backdrop for the sorrowful vocals. Next time I find SFC bones, a chewed-up Reebok Classic or discarded steel guitar strings round the bins, I’ll give a knowing nod to the ‘Bastards. Shariff Ibrahim

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Garton
Class of 2010
Album (Hoodtapes)
The opener to this thirteen-track UK hip hop album comes in the form of May 28th, a lively space station of a tune that crams in confident lyrics. Garton’s smoldering flow is typically Notts, straight out of Out Da Ville territory, but with lyrics that occasionally come ready-chewed. That being said, the emcee’s versatility can be found among myriad textures – bona fide romance one moment, and underground shape-throwing the next. A Walk Through Eskdale Park uses a slowed-down Xxplosive-sounding sample and works its way up from careless childhood days to the harsh reality of adulthood, while Watch Me has the feel of a massive Ibiza club. Still The Same is where lyrical ability works its arm harder, with rainy piano and realness to boot. Garton’s delivery is impressively dextrous, and this storyteller of an album sounds like the beginning of gargantuan things to come. Bridie Squires

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John Hardy
Our Mate John
EP (Self-released)
Built on a melodic acoustic guitar, Our Mate John features harmonic ballads that base themselves on tales of life’s struggles. Each track distinct in itself, with a lilting violin accompaniment featuring on the opening track Growing Up and a xylophone tinkling its way into I Hear, the second song on the EP. Comparisons to Damien Rice can be drawn throughout the EP’s simplistic, raw song structures. Do not be alarmed, though – there’s no copycatting to be found here, each song screams originality. John Hardy is a crafty songsmith, neither distinctly influenced by overproduced pop or indie, rather keeping to a simple format, which works. Some may criticise it as being underproduced, too raw for an EP, but the jury’s out on this one. As a fan of old-school blues, country and rock ’n’ roll, I’m all for being able to distinguish each and every instrument. Big up, John, you’ve done good. Thomas McCartney

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Tom Wardle
She Kissed Me
EP (Parloscope Recordings)
For most people, the word pop conjures images of manufactured X Factor wannabes who can’t play their instruments and cash in on some ITV2 reality show. Tom Wardle is a musician keeping true pop alive. Each of these four songs are designed to bring a warm smile to your face, and while they could be enjoyed during any season, summer suits them best. A Singing Bird Will Come brings Jungle Book’s Bare Necessities to mind, with its beautiful harmonies and playful retro lyricism. She Kissed Me hints at McCartney’s songwriting, with a simple yet enticing structure. Latest single, Summer in Bloom, is the perfect soundtrack to bright, romantic nights. And Welcome to the Family is one of the most uplifting pop songs I’ve ever heard – period. There aren’t many musicians making pop like this anymore, but Tom proves it’s not quantity you need, it’s quality. Sam Nahirny

You can hear a tune from each review on our Sound of the Lion podcast.