the mike davies column march 2017

SHALFONTS

Born from the ashes of Shocked Elevator in 2008, THE SHALFONTS have been around a while, quietly pursuing their singular path with a series of downloads, EPs and albums, most recently a series of singles under the Power Totems banner and the culminating album, Totem Power, Totem Life, which surfaced towards the end of last year on their own Giant Manilow label.

SHALFONTS ALBUM

Fronted by singer Bryn Bowen and Ralph Morton on guitar alongside Lloyd Bowen, Catherine Martin and Basith Uddin, they might best be described as engagingly off-kilter, with Modest Mouse being one of the frequent comparisons. The album, a 20 track affair, kicks off with the bass dominated Joe Chung’s From Outer Space, swiftly followed by The Soul Cry, a psychedelic swirl that suggests a night out with Robyn Hitchcock and The Nightingales, and the brief folksy Outpost, underlining that the band are not averse to melodies, while the walking beat Planetary Feeling has an infectiously offhand indie groove. That said the 59-second Song to the 7” Bully with its backwards tapes, the kissing krautrock influences to Mystery Laptop, the rumbling disorientations of Cowlick and The Hackers Group show they’re just as likely to go off on an arty experimental tangent as they are to strike up something like Musk Boy, a dance floor New Order bass throb mingled with Sebadoh and Pavement, or the headily hypnotic psychedelic miasma of Janine. It’s about time they moved out of cult obscurity into the cult spotlight.

MAYBE DONT

Birmingham trio MAYBE DON’T describe themselves as a hobby-grade indie pop band and this month sees the release of a new EP, At Owl Mansion, via Odd Box Records. It’s a rough round the edges three track and the vocals can be a bit off at times, but it’s not without its indie charm, opener Torridge and Daw all familiar scratchy guitar, but with an unexpected bouncy chorus with whooped up backing vocals. Certain is snottily poppier with a shifting tempo, one moment jerky, the next a slow chug, and what might loosely be described as a mutant shanty chorus, the third cut being Mansion Owls, the strongest of the three with its walking beat rhythm, chiming guitar riff and more experimenting with pace changes as it heads for the wind down repeated guitar phrase finale.

Championed by Brum Radio, beatboxer ED GEATER has been making waves of late. He’s recently released the Unseen EP, an impressive four track showcase that embraces the moodily propulsive dance track The Message with its staccato guitar riff and hissing beats alongside the poppily stridealong Symmetry where the vocals suggest hints of Seal and Sting somewhere in the mix. Rainbow In The Sun is an acoustic based instrumental, the sort of thing the crowds are lilely to chill out to between festival sets, while If I’m Being Honest, the most obvious lyrical outcome from a break-up, brings in strings for a folksier, echoing vocal ballad that shows the man has real soul.

MOURNING SUNS

Featuring the twin vocals of Rosemary Wilkes and guitarist Anthony Williams, THE MOURNING SUNS are a Birmingham six piece whose Facebook page describes their music as 60s influenced Cosmic/Psychedelic/Folk/Rock. They released a six-track mini album, Dreaming Of An Island, back in 2015 and are currently working on a follow-up, which, if things like the smokily waltzing Shy No More, the banjo dappled spooked Appalachia of Mike A Dog and the heady five-minute quiet-loud swirling title track are any indication, should be well worth the anticipation.

MORRELL

Comprising Anoop Ghataora on guitar and rhythm section Jazz Ghataora and Cory Mangan, MORRELL are another interesting excursion into psychedelia, theirs more Eastern influenced and blissed out as evidenced by their current instrumental album Sonic Manifestations of Ineffable Experiences, a title that should pretty much tell you what to expect from lengthy tracks such as Love, Golden and The Glow of the Sun.

shallows

SHALLOWS, singer guitarist Christos Makarounas, bassist Jonathan Ash and drummer
Brogan Hartney-Mills, are a post-punk trio citing influence that range from The Cure and The Smiths to Pixies and We Are Scientists. They’ve got a new single, Speechless, distorted guitars and echoey vocals underpinned by a steady driving drum beat and a hint of New Order in there, available for free download from https://shallowsband.bandcamp.com/

HUMDRUM

Following up last year’s album, The Day My Career Died, Ian Passey, aka THE HUMDRUM EXPRESS returns with a new EP, Lookalike Bond (Cynical Thrills). Due at the end of March, featuring belting brass and a lurching almost reggaefied percussive rhythm, the title track’s a bouncily surging tale of a chap who, resembling a Bond actor, joins a lookalike agency only to find his career ruined when his celebrity doppelganger faces jail. As per usual, Passey manages to squeeze in any number of puns and references, including to the Living Daylights, Miss Moneypenny and Dr. No.

There’s another nod to pop culture with If Only I’d Watched Blue Peter, a mid-tempo jog about an underachiever who gets caught nicking lollipops (after a Telly Savalas reference, obviously) and includes a typical wry Humdrum line about mass produced t-shirts saying I’m Unique. And, yet more pop culture comes with the scurryingly hectic Fading Stars On Social Media, a John Cooper-Clarke like spoken dig at, well the title pretty much says it all. The fourth track’s a cover of Painting By Numbers by late 70s post punk kindred spirits Television Personalities.

roots-and-branches.com 2017