record reviews 1-8-19


Carver’s Law (MeMe Records)


Jones is Trevor Jones. Sometimes 50% of (the group you’ll kick yourself for not discovering much sooner) Miracle Mile alongside Marcus Cliffe and sometimes, as here, solo and co-producing with the aforementioned Marcus Cliffe. The hallmarks of both men are present;literate, melodic, heartfelt music and a beautifully engineered recording with spacious production though, this being a Jones album, the material is of a more personal focus.

Carver’s Law refers to writer Raymond Carver’s belief that, to paraphrase, every creation should use everything available to the creator in the moment of creation so that it is the best it can be. How this applies to this record is more fully realised in Jones' generoussleeve note.

And the record? It’s moving, thought provoking and really rather lovely. Jones’voice is like a particularly fine western isles malt, smooth but with the tang of peatiness that adds soul; the songs are melodic, meditational to a degree yet universal in concern. They are also songs you’ll want to revisit to both bathe in the melodies and to ruminate on the lyrics a while longer.

Best thing you can do is listen; it’ll mean that you can stop kicking yourself for one thing whist surely enhancing your life for another.

Steve Morris


Magic Johnson (Atom)


Following frontman John Andrew Fredrick’s chance encounter with the legendary LA Lakers basketball player, he and the band set about crafting a conceptual album that paid tribute to the influential sports icon through a celebration of triumph over adversity. It’s an album of ringing guitar and pop-infused catchy melodies that would seem to suggest such influences as The Church, Psychedelic Furs and Robyn Hitchcock among others.

They kick off with the instantly infectious Mad before heading into shoegazy rebern guitar ballad territory on April Fools, a number inspired by an anecdote from Simon Schama’s A History of Britain, a similar musical haze enveloping the fizzing tremolo chug of Get Me Out Of Echo Park which conjures the sounds of the first Soft Boys album with Hitchcock and Kimberley Rew.

Given that Frederick is a professor of English, it should be no surprise to find the lyrics highly literate, indeed the airy synths-based Eustacia's Dream is based on a passage on Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native. It’s back to 60s psychedelia guitars for the train-rolling rhythm of Me & You & Me, while Upsy-Daisy nods to Beatles and early Floyd trippiness with the underwater effect vocals before the acoustic guitars of the similarly retro Arcane Constraints, though it does get all a bit freakout towards the end. The title track is a brief 75 seconds that opening sounding like an orchestra tuning up before its acoustic strum tribute. The album comes with a bonus four tracks in the form of the Paper Boats EP, again paying testament to those late 60s influences of The Who, Bowie, The Kinks and their peers. Mike Davies


Strange Chemistry (Mile Wide)


The Tampa Bay quintet return with their first new material in four years, a collection of melodic heartlands guitar rock, the chiming opening number Blood On The Stage channeling Tom Petty as Matt Burke sings “if the drinking don’t kill me, the anxiety will.” Against The Grain is more of a strings-enhanced, rolling easy going rhythm that goes down smoothly but doesn’t really leave any scars to mark its passing, whereas, on the other hand, Infinite Traveller opens with a chugging bass line borrowed from Wreckless Eric’s Whole Wide Worldit started with a choir of angels and ended with a murder of crows before the striking first line “.” Bringing in a hint of the sort of 60s bluesy rock Manfred Mann mastered channelled through 80s college rock, Tidal Wave is another standout while the acoustic, walking beat Mystery of Mine lays down a path to the horns pumping American History where Gaslight Anthem’s brand of Springsteen rock runs up the flagpole for a salute.

Mid-90s Americana guitar bands fuel the spirit of Any Place But Here, the acoustic countrified scamper of Justified followed by a return to Pettyland for the riff-driven groove of Born In The 70s with its fierce guitar break midway in. A pulsing heartbeat and lap steel underpin the closing Byrds sing Dylan-like The Dark and the Light, a track so good it makes you want to play the album all over again just to antipate that final tingle. Mike Davies 2020