record reviews november 2017


STEREOPHONICS

Scream Above The Sounds (Parlophone)

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Hard to believe, but the Stereophonics have been going for a quarter of a century and this is their tenth studio album, not surprising them to find them in a reflective mood.  This is particularly the case on the piano ballad Before Anyone Knew Our Name on which Kelly Jones looks back to the days before they found fame, “driving round in a scrapyard van”, the song serving as tribute to drummer Stuart Cable who died in 2010 as he sings “I miss you, man.”

Musically, it’s pretty much business as usual with punchy, melodic FM rock peppered with catchy choruses and big riffs, getting things underway with the suitably soaring Caught By The Wind and the chugging guitar line of the driving Taken A Tumble, which calls to mind early Rod Stewart. This. Like the pub stomper Cryin’ In Your Beer,  is staple stuff, good for the moment but unlikely to linger once the CD’s over, but there are tracks here that carry more weight, the downbeat narrative of All In One Night with its strung out rhythmic groove, the forlorn mariachi trumpet the colours What’s All The Fuss About, the gospel hints of Would You Believe? and the simple strummed acoustic reflections of Boy On A Bike. At a time when their peers of 25 years ago have either fallen apart or fallen from favour, no longer on a  major label, the Stereophonics continue to prove that, while they may never get critical acclaim, they have what it takes to survive. Mike Davies

 

HOWIE PAYNE

Mountain (Full Stack)

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Having been mostly missing in action for the past eight years, the former frontman of The Stands finally resurfaces with his second solo studio album, a collection of musically laid back, largely acoustic collection with a strong but never crass pop sensibility, the melodically tumbling Quick As The Moon with its Bee Gees echoes making a very impressive start to proceedings. There’s a waltzing folksy touch to All Of These Things, the soulful groove of Some Believer, Sweet Dreamer nods to Oasis and with its pizzicato strings, The Brightest Star, originally written for Ren Harvieu,  has, perhaps a touch of the McCartneys.

Elsewhere, After Tonight is pure folk troubadour strum, Thoughts On Thoughts comes with a handclap backing, Spanish guitar and a 70s California feel and the anthemic High Times ripples with Lennon influences, the album closing with a tambourine and strings-backed revisiting of the chimingly lovely Evangeline (Los Angeles), one of the stand outs of his debut.  Nice to have him back. Mike Davies

 

 

THE BURNING HELL

Revival Beach (BB*Island)

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An end of the world concept album told over 13 tracks, the Canadian outfit consider a variety of different ways to go out when the apocalypse comes, as a drunken wedding crasher throwing up over the groom’s shoes on Canadian Wine with its hurdy gurdy intro, nursing  a drink in some deserted, run down piano bar on the carnival waltzing The Last Night, holed up in a nuclear bunker like some survivalist in the talkk-sing Jefferson Airplane-tinted The Troll with its Morricone twang guitar, or finding romance with a police gunshot wound patient down the hospital in the Lou Reed channelled Nurse & Patient. Or then there’s those echoes of Jonathan Richman on the global warning The River (Never Freezes Anymore).

It’s interspersed with three title-related  instrumentals as, Neville Shute style,  the assorted characters make their way to Revival Beach, gathering for  Supermoon’s end of days  big party as the old world gives way to the new. If you’re going to go out, you may as well go out dancing. 

Mike Davies



THE BARR BROTHERS

Queens of the Breakers (Secret City)

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Joined by harpist Sarah Pagé, Brad and Andrew Barr use their third album as a sort of musical trampoline, bouncing from one style to another. Song That I Heard (which references a Montreal carnival strongman back in the 50s) is pure early Simon & Garfunkel, then Kompromat (meaning compromising material and inspired by claims about Trump and Russia) is psychedelic krautrock, Queens of the Breakers (about an old gang of teenage friends) is tumbling, jangly Springsteen meets shoegaze pop, while Hideous Glorious conjures the lysergic bliss of The Church and Stone Roses and  It Came To Me is firmly in debt to Led Zeppelin’s heavy folk groove.

Designed to emulate two hearts beating, the echoey, pulsing Defibillation, which features vocals by Lucius, stems from their mother being taken to A&E for stitches after a fall, while the title of the six-minute narcotic acid-folk closing track,  Maybe Someday is a Nathan Moore cover with the reflective Velvets-ish Ready For War bringing things to a muted but widescreen close. Mike Davies

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