record reviews april 2018


6 STRING DRAG

Top Of The World (Bloodshot)

6 string drag

A guitar slinging outfit from Raleigh, North Caroline formed in 1993 and fronted by Kenny Roby, while they have their roots in American punk, their overriding influence is firmly the British New Wave/Pub Rock explosion, marrying catchy melodies and riffs with a pop sensibility. As the opening track, Never Turn My Back On You Again quickly makes clear, they have a deep affection for Elvis Costello and the Attractions, something also evident in the likes of Let’s Fool Around Until The End of the World (albeit with a dash of Tom Petty) and the slower, moodier Waste of Time. Elsewhere, Wrong Girl nods further back to the first British invasion, Small Time Punks is as urgent and musically aggressive as the title suggests while, by contrast, driven by handclaps percussion, Every Time She Walks On By has hints of Graham Parker and Jennifer Wren & The Crow I Know has a lope-along horns embellished air that harks perhaps to Sgt Pepper. Closing with the rock n roll drive of Robert and Lucy, this may not rewrite any rulebooks but they well be this year’s favourite bar band.

Mike Davies


CRIMSON BLOOM

Crimson Bloom (Self-released)

CRIMSON BLOOM

Hailing from Teesside, fronted by Andrew Johnson, the four piece’s debut takes its cues from the first Stone Roses album with its sherbet effervescence chiming guitars and blissed out vocals, laying out their stall with album opener Through The Clouds and proceeding through the cascading chords of Fall For You, The Sweetest Kisses and Holy Blood. The funky, dub-inflected psychedelia of Love and Madness suggests there’s some Happy Mondays in the mix too and In All The World finds them stretching into a seven minute head trip that moves from the immediacy of the jangly guitars to a lengthy cosmic psychedelic instrumental work out underpinned by a bass drum thud. They may be a little too in retro thrall to their pin-ups, but there’s no denying this often evokes the same tingle as hearing Waterfall or I Wanna Be Adored for the first time.

Mike Davies


LAISH

Time Elastic (Talitres)

laish

A vehicle for London-based Yorkshire singer-songwriter Danny Green, this is his fourth album and his second for the French label, his often fragile tenor delivering introspective and reflective songs, taken at a generally slow to mid-tempo pace with sparse arrangements. There’s folk and country influences at work, the latter evident on the slow waltz, organ accompanied Listening For God, its overall quiet nature punctuated by sudden sonic guitar flurries. Green says the album, a follow up to the heartbreak steeped Pendulum was originally intended to explore the relationship between time and memory and of how the themes of our lives repeat themselves in a stripped back context, playing with the balance between tension and action. However, as is evident, that didn’t quite work out as intended, with horns, strings and even gospel singer backings getting in on proceedings.

It opens with the watery minimal guitar pattern feel of Sand Is Shifting, gradually fleshing out to embrace piano and warm brass, plangent guitar notes introing the confessional optimism of the bass led Love Is Growing, Blink Of An Eye hinting at Morrissey-like jangle, his influence along with that of Postcard label pop also to be heard on University (“I’ve been to university, what good did it do me”) while Dance To The Rhythm is a playful, chugging tongue in cheek 80s indie pop song about writing a catchy pop song to make your fortune and retire to the country and, in contrast, album close The Fox is an unadorned brass burnished, slow guitar and piano waltz love song about the other sides to ourselves. The title track was written after watching the Nick Cave’s One More Time With Feeling in an attempt to capture the feeling of living with overwhelming grief that keeps resurfacing and, like the rest of the album, repays listening over with the heart and ears both open.

Mike Davies


ETHAN GOLD

Live Undead Bedroom Closet Covers (Gold)

ETHAN

While recovering from an injury and between prepping the official follow up to Songs From A Toxic Apartment, LA-based art-rock singer, decided to make a home recorded collection of covers of 14 of his favourite songs, though perhaps transformations and mutations would be a better description. They’re all recorded live with the exception of the opening number, Balloon, where the instruments and loops involved proved a phsycially impossible task. Built around echoey vocals, bass throbs and percussion clicks, it’s by Ramases, an obscure British psychedelic artist who, before eventually committing suicide, released two albums back in the 70s and believed himself to be the reincarnation of the Egyptian Pharaoh.

The other selections will be more familiar, even if you may sometimes be hard pressed to recognise them from Gold’s idiosyncratic interpretations, such as, for example, a sludge rework of Born Under Punches from Talking Heads with a heartbeat drum line and syth frills, although the guitar riffs and bass line stay true to the original’s hypnotic dance, or, even more extreme, a sparse, sepulchral doom metal one minute take on The Byrds’ I Am A Pilgrim, followed by an industrial disco deconstruction of Nirvana’s Floyd The Barber.

Noting a chord similarity, he pairs Empire of the Sun’s Walking on a Dream with Tom Petty’s Learning To Fly for what, along with New Order’s Age of Consent are the least transfigured numbers from a set that also includes Bauhaus goth classic Bela Lugosi’s Dead that becomes a sort of speak-sing cross between Suicide and Johnny Cash, a spacerock Gut Feeling by Devo with Tornados-like guitars and keyboards and even The Flesh Failures from 60s counterculture musical Hair.

Following a naggingly infectious six minute krautrock version of The Past is A Grotesque Animal by From Montreal it ends revisiting Bauhaus for the skittering synth and squelches if Bela Lugosi’s FunMachine is Undead . If this is what he comes up with to pass the time, that second album should be pretty something.

Mike Davies

roots-and-branches.com 2017