The Scissors : Look Good In Cheap Clothes, LP released December 2018

This excellent third full-length LP from Cambridge four-piece The Scissors pushes their sound into new territory musically and features words and ideas that chime with modern day concerns…

1. Plug Me In Kicking off with a chord from the soundtrack of a western, the sinister guitar of the verses is balanced by the organ-drenched chorus and it all ends very abruptly.

2. Parking Cars More of a rocker, driven by a pulsing bass riff. Not sure how the title line fits in but it is certainly catchy ‘…parking cars…you got to do it right…’

3. Death Engineer A moody song about built-in obsolescence, suggesting that it is the responsibility of the title character. Around this lyrical resignation a Doors-sounding electric piano and rolling cymbals ominously threaten.

4. Look Good In Cheap Clothes A surreal monologue, spoken by frontman Stewart Harris as the band play freely with the structures and sonic textures. This is a companion to the disturbing artwork of the album front cover (which itself brings to mind the notorious Beatles ‘Yesterday And Today’ sleeve?)

5. I Dream In X-Ray Vision In case you thought the Scissors of old had disappeared this impressive track is a pounding reminder of their trademark sound, with unrelenting unified riff, dissonant guitar and even the theremin gets a look-in. The lyric of course has enough ambiguity and imagery to satisfy the diehard fan.

6. Edgelands Picking up the ‘edge of the world’ theme from the end of the previous song, this loose psychedelic americana is echoing and atmospheric, driven by a roving guitar and accordion.

7. When Is A Boy Not A Boy? A cinematic, sweeping track; a guitar solos plaintively over exciting drumming weaving in with a strong vocal performance.

8. Ufotopia This mid-tempo song is the longest on the album and features a subtly uplifting band sound with the questioning and resigned reflections from the narrator. A guest saxophone solo steals the show at the end.

BONUS TRACKS
9. Glossy Magazines (EP ‘b’-side) This noisy staple of their live set is given a more introspective feel here, piling on the paranoia as the music moves in all sorts of unpredictable directions.

10. Electric Line Terminus (EP ‘b’-side) Another previous release and storming live track, this again has a Doors feel, a sort of doom-laden cataclysm of blues-based garage rock.

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Luke James Williams : Drove, EP released November 2018

A new EP from Cambridge singer/songwriter/guitarist Luke James Williams.

1. From The Drove A short, multi-textured introduction to the EP, an array of acoustic instruments resolve into a welcoming chord.

2. Snares & Traps This is an intense, poignant ballad of relationship ending, delivered with characteristic emotion and commitment over a sparse, steadily repeating guitar figure. There is a neat waltz time middle eight as lyrical resignation takes over ‘…what have I got to show for it but a box of my broken pride…’

3. Speak To Me A mid-tempo uplifting celebration of affection; catchy chorus too, with a double tracked vocal. Ambiguous imagery pervades the lyric to reflect the positive feelings ‘… I want to hear the rush of life through every melody.. from your thoughts in the hills out through your mouth to me…’

4. Rabbit Hole The previously released single from the EP, this track has more of a band instrumentation. It features an impassioned vocal with a lyric of pleading and desperation always leading to the key line ‘…No I can’t watch you fall down that rabbit hole again and again and again….’

5. Still In Bed Beginning with the haunting lines ‘… I lay trapped in amber.. and you say that I don’t care…’ this very impressive song is the finale to his current live set. Sung with passion it is a standout track; a simple but stunningly effective ascending and descending guitar line is the only accompaniment to the emotionally raw lyric, coupled with a very attractive melody. Towards the end of the song suddenly a distant echoing piano drifts in and then subtly plays along.

6.You Are The Captain A slowed down folk ballad, this wistful, dreamlike piece uses timeless imagery of the sea as the narrator drifts away on the tide. Over the strummed chords and marching drumbeat the resignation and yearning is poetically described ‘…You are the bloodline, I am just bleeding…..all that I wanted was to be there… ‘

This debut EP is an excellent introduction to his music, as evocatively described on his website….‘Light and dark, ugly and beautiful, happy and sad, fearful and brave, the music of singer songwriter Luke James Williams reflects the opposing forces and wonderful chaos of the world around us’

http://www.lukejameswilliams.co.uk/#about

Bouquet Of Dead Crows, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 24 November 2018

Live at the Blue Moon, this was the launch show for the second long-player from Cambridge rockers Bouquet Of Dead Crows, with the promise of playing the whole album in order for the first and only time….

1. Faultlines An epic track probably destined to be the band’s permanent ideal show opener with the long build-up introduction, Eno-esque synth textures, a stately guitar/bass prelude (reminding me of Pink Floyd’s ‘In The Flesh?’) then finally the bass kicks off a blazing, simple but effective riff and the soaring vocal enters. With much more to come that’s just the first two of the seven minutes of this epic piece, definitely one of my favourites.

2. The Devil’s In The Detail Sounding great live, see full review of original release at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/09/09/bouquet-of-dead-crows-the-devils-in-the-detail-single-released-september-2018/

3. No Tomorrow With the smoke machine activating the venue alarm, things were clearly hotting up; this track starts off deceptively lightly but has a big chorus and a reflective vocal with some guitar fireworks at the end.

4. Slow Motion Ghosts This new album has the feel of a concept piece; the very different sounding tracks seem to slot together into a coherent whole and the title ‘Motus Octo’ (eight movements) gives a clue towards a linking theme. Possibly. This pivotal track is a grand anthem with dense, textured instrumentation and a show-stopping vocal, built around the phrase ‘…time passes by so slowly…’

5. Fragments (Black Hole Eyes) A concise all-out rocker, a jumpy time signature in the main riff and the telling discomfort of the line ‘…I’m suffocating in your black hole eyes…’

6. Cold Inside With a spectacular performance so far, it was time to debut the complexity of this superb prog-rock flavoured eight and a half minutes. There was so much going on here; stealthy and sinister bass-driven verses alternate with an addictive chorus. Finally the track resolves into a guitar (and piano on the recorded version) arpeggio instrumental which would fit well on an early Genesis album. High praise indeed.

7. Incessant Desire Another pre-released taster single, this punching rocker has a spiky signature line which the whole band play to fine effect. At this hectic pace it all gets a bit steamy musically and lyrically ‘…incessant desire…I can see the whites of your eyes…it drives us wild…’

8. Undone This cinematic, heavyweight finale is a bold showcase of the instrumental and vocal might of the band in an unforgivingly intense lyric and unrelenting steady and powerful backing.

After this excellent performance of the album the enthusiastic crowd of course wanted more so the celebratory tick-tocking pop-rock of earlier single ‘Bunched Up Bradley’ rounded the evening off satisfyingly. (See review at https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/05/22/bouquet-of-dead-crows-bunched-up-bradley-single-released-may-2018/)

https://www.bodc.live/

With support from War Waves https://www.facebook.com/warwaves/
and Burning Codes https://www.facebook.com/burningcodes2018/

Anna Hester : Towards Today, EP released November 2018

A long awaited second EP of original songs from Milton Keynes guitarist/singer Anna Hester, following up her four track release ‘In The Meantime’ from 2014. An entrancing live performer with just vocals and acoustic guitar; on these tracks her empathetic backing ensemble enhance her pure folk voice.

1. We Can Get Lost A mellow opener, the relaxed backing of the band is a foundation for a lyric celebrating the uplifting optimism of a promising new relationship. Anna’s vocal soars and floats along with some neat self-harmonies.

2. Have We Met A slow ballad, starting with the elegant line ‘…I found your tapestries there in my eyes…’ the listener is invited into a world of abstract melancholy, (creating a similar mood to ‘The Byrds’ on her previous EP, a song that when I first heard it I wrongly assumed it to be a folk standard, such was its timeless resonance). The lyric drifts towards disappointment and betrayal, with some clever musical nuances along the way. A sublime track, my favourite on the EP.

3. Watch The Clock The lead single from this collection, a highlight of her live set. On here Anna embraces an easy jazz/folk styling for a late night middle tempo song of questioning and hope. Combining the seventies instrumentation of ‘Solid Air’ era John Martyn and the lyrical yearning of Nick Drake this standout song is propelled by a loping, sensual double bass and echoing piano hauntingly moving in and out.

4. Towards Today A more conventional song structure with a catchy chorus line. The gentle vocal interweaves with sparkling acoustic guitar arpeggios and a cello counter melody. A subtle end to an EP of quality and richness.

http://annahester.com/

Indiepop All-Dayer, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 10 November 2018

The Blue Moon was the venue for the sold out and highly anticipated Cambridge Indiepop All-dayer, now in its third year. With a tasty line-up of nine bands; songs of relationship angst and elation, protest and politics, set to a DIY soundtrack of jangly guitars and spiky drumming.

Opening the proceedings to an already sizeable audience were Doyouthinkhesaurus?, a four-piece featuring staccato drums and creative bass patterns weaving around fuzzy guitars with fragments of lyrical ideas added to the mix ‘…you’re so underwhelming, how long is a piece of string…‘. ‘Lipstick’ resolves into a singalong chorus while ‘Cross-Words’ is based around one lyric line, noisy interludes and general unpredictability. Excellent sounds at 3pm on a rainy afternoon and all strangely addictive.

Last minute additions to the bill were duo Panic Pocket, a minimal mix of harmony voices, guitar and the only keyboard of the day (a retro mini-Korg) that seemed to produce some mighty, echoing tones. The songs addressed modern life concerns of internet dating, the tedium of the workplace and disappointing relationships; the lyrics were brimming with ideas and references. ‘Don’t Get Me Started’ was a standout track among many others.

Next it was short songs played quickly from exciting Leeds trio Nervous Twitch. With a tight uncluttered sound they are not afraid to draw on great 60s and 70s retro influences, especially on the surf guitar of instrumental ‘Tarantino Hangover’. They pushed the standard three piece instrument line-up in all sorts of directions, featuring fantastic vocals from bassist Erin; energetic but tinged with melancholy on ‘You Don’t Want Me’ and ‘Torment Me’. For me, this band was one of the big highlights of the day.

I fell for the irresistible low-fi jangle of Charmpit when I saw them before at the Leicester All-dayer; and as then their easy stage manner and crowd interaction earns a lot of love for their new summery tracks. You can’t resist a song based around the line ‘I’m in love with the world through the eyes of a squirrel’…

Also previously seen and reviewed on this site, Wolf Girl have a new album out and it made up most of their set. The quartet make an excellent sound with strong, uptempo songs and I particularly like the 60s folkier sound of ‘Dream Partner’.
Named after an amusement park ride, Witching Waves make a big noise (despite no bass player for this show). Opening with the relentless ‘Disintegration’, Emma sings and pounds the driving drum patterns while Mark extracts dense textures and spikes on the guitar.
I have reviewed Mammoth Penguins many times and they never disappoint; songs like ‘Cries At The Movies’, ‘Played’ and especially ‘Strength In My Legs’ sung with feeling by multi-talented Emma Kupa are indiepop perfection and there is a new album due very soon…

Another highlight for me were the excellent Happy Accidents , a power pop trio with an intense, sharp sound that belied some of the wit and comment in the lyrics. Opener ‘Wait It Out’,’Chameleon’ and ‘Different View’ motored along and bristled with energy while ‘Nunhead’ was more of an anthem with the repeated request to ‘….meet me by the cemetery…’.

And finally headliners Colour Me Wednesday, beginning with the majestic ‘Sunriser’, a distillation of many of their distinct facets; world-weary feelings of frustration with a relationship delivered with style by Jen Doveton, fascinating and endlessly varied guitar phrasing from Harriet Doveton and a tour de force drum performance from Jaca Freer. With excellent second guitar and bass the sound is full and rich. Transports of delight driving songs ‘Boyfriend’s Car’ and ‘Edge Of Everything’ sound great too and older track ‘Shut’ is a real crowd-pleaser.

All this and then an indie music disco into the small hours, this Cambridge institution is now a firm fixture on the music calendar….

https://www.facebook.com/doyouthinkhesaurusband/
https://www.facebook.com/panicpocket
https://www.facebook.com/nervoustwitchband
https://www.facebook.com/charmpit/
https://www.facebook.com/wolfgirlband/
https://www.facebook.com/witchingwaves
https://mammothpenguins.bandcamp.com/
http://www.happyaccidents.band/
https://www.colourmewednesday.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeIndiepopAlldayer/

Goldblume, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 8 November 2018

Peterborough trio FES uk (aka Flat Earth Society) were the first act at the Portland, bringing the room to life with their angular, sparse indie rock. The ever-changing time signatures, stops, starts and complex patterns on bass and guitar (sometimes labelled as the genre ‘math rock’?) were given support by razor-sharp drumming. Strong songs from previous EP ‘You Do You’ and recent single ‘Microwave’ contained numerous musical ideas, with vocalist Pollyanna Holland-Wing binding them altogether. A great opening set, highly recommended!

Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam are a noisy five-piece from Birmingham, with a new LP, heavily featured in their set tonight. With a raucous, exhilarating sound, rarely dropping from fast, intense rock the three guitars and bass blend with fiery drums on cryptically titled songs such as ‘Meatloaf To The Camera’, ‘Mrs JR Hartley’ and the title track ‘Blackout Cowboy’. Some good interaction with the crowd and well-structured set primed us nicely for the headliners…

I first saw Cambridge rockers Goldblume in 2015 (supporting Tellison) and they are much reviewed on this site. Frequent live performance has honed their sound to tonight’s peak; the launch of their debut album ‘Husk’, with the opening six-track salvo showcasing this excellent new release. I especially like the relentless chords of ‘Razor’ and the way that some of the tracks like ‘Fiendish’ start off deceptively quiet until a sudden explosion of sound.

Frontman Jethro sings and roars as he plays complex unpredictable guitar parts; add animated bass and drums and in full flight they show how powerful and varied the basic rock trio continues to be. Older songs ‘Bleach’ and one of my particular favourites ‘Wisconsin’ still sound energetic, then the newer ‘Alice’ calmed the mood down. The darker, atmospheric, three parts of ‘Loose Fruits’ closes the album and was the epic, cinematic end to the show.

There were many Cambridge musicians and fans in the full venue, showing support for undoubtedly one of the best live and recording bands on the flourishing local music scene.

https://www.facebook.com/goldblumeband
https://www.facebook.com/sunshinefrisbeelaserbeam/
https://www.facebook.com/FESuk/

Fightmilk : Not With That Attitude, LP released November 2018

Following on from two tasty EPs recently collected with bonus tracks onto the compilation ‘Both Types Of Hay Fever’, feisty London four-piece Fightmilk deliver their first full album of guitar power pop…..

1. How You Move On A recent single to preview this new album, the teasing guitar intro heralds a big band crash-in and a tale of relationship failure where the dominant legacy is an ill-judged tattoo. The clever and surprising lyrical trick here is that the inked ‘stupid tree’ design becomes the complete theme of the song, with a fade out of ‘…lasers are painful but I think you need it…’

2. Get A Grip Neat twisty bass work on this companion piece to an arrogant character in an earlier song (‘Jesse’). I greatly enjoy the stop-start middle eight (‘…you’re Twitter famous…whatever that means..’)

3. Lucy Driven by a sustained riff à la ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ this is the shortest track; a compact blast with belting chorus and melody, one of Lily’s best vocal performances.

4. Summer Crush It’s that bass again, jumping around under plenty of guitar tricks in this summery anthem with a bittersweet lyrical undertone ‘….a six week sugar rush….‘ that implies it is not all good.

5. Dream Phone ‘… I fell in love at the dial tone…’; beginning with that evocative sound, yes, I probably have fallen in love with this track already, recalling Blondie Hanging on the Telephone and ELO(!) on their Telephone Line. The third of the trilogy of pre-release singles this is a real grower, with pacey backing, great hookline and a strange dreamy atmosphere due to some adventurous electronic drum patterns and echoing guitar.

6. Not Going Anywhere With a superb descending chord sequence, this seems to be an irony-free evocation of childhood insecurities and family life. As on many of these tracks the guitars do so many nuanced but loud twists and turns to make this a great listening experience.

7. Four Star Hotel Trying to rescue a relationship by holidaying in Amsterdam is turned into a tale of regret and paranoia ‘….and all the cyclists were staring…’ (should have come to Cambridge, the cyclists are too polite and reserved to stare…). The nihilistic sentiment is set to a rollicking tune with excellent drumming. This also features another trademark of the band’s vocals, the ‘Greek Chorus’ call and response at the end for emphasis.

8. Over An anthemic love song, straight into ‘…I’m gonna fall for you, over and over…‘ with dense layers of backing, a bit of guitar solo and enormous drums. The repeated overlapping hookline makes the meaning very clear.

9. Solving Crimes In Sweden With acoustic guitar and piano, it is a bit of a contrast on this imaginatively themed opus. Cold climate ‘…five hours of sun a day, we stay in anyway…‘ and escaping into neverending detective work make this scandi-drama sound like an attractive date;‘….this time I’m not coming home, I want to see the snow…’

10. Your Girlfriend Previously released but re-worked for this new album, this musical tour de force is a superb song, stealthy and sinister with minimal verses giving way to a singalong chorus. Dissonant guitar, caustic lyrics in a turmoil of mixed emotion and another fine middle eight, ‘..I don’t have a pencil case but if I did I’d write our names…’. The band are on top form for this epic with another great vocal too.

Currently touring with these excellent new songs (and some oldies too!) the band are a formidable live attraction…

https://www.facebook.com/fightmilkisaband/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/06/01/fightmilk-both-types-of-hayfever-ep-collection-released-may-2018/