Vic Allen is a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Norwich, making a name for herself in the flourishing UK new-country/folk scene. This set of four songs is a follow-up to ‘The Missing Piece’ EP from 2016. Opening track ‘Quit’ is a melancholy tale of the end of a relationship, woven through with resignation and reality. The gentler guitar work in the verses steps up into the sweeping but controlled chorus and the video partly filmed on the vast and strangely empty beaches of the Norfolk coast symbolises better times now gone. ‘Bittersweet’ is affecting in its deceptive simplicity, with some subtle vocal harmonies.
The title track is all about escape into the wide open spaces and an unknown future, a preferable alternative to a life trapped ‘Between The Lines’, set to a more conventional US country sound of instrumentation and vocal stylings than the rest of the EP. It is a fine soundtrack to the road-trip video that accompanies the music. ‘Kids’ is Vic’s best vocal performance, full of heartfelt mellow nostalgia for lost time over counterpointing guitar figures and a haunting hookline.
It is an impressive EP, four contrasting tracks that showcase Vic Allen’s expressive voice and songwriting potential.
Laura Mardon describes herself as a ‘softly spoken Australian folk-punk songwriter’, so the titles of London boroughs on this EP may at first be disorientating; but she was born and raised in Kentish Town before she eventually embraced a new life on the Gold Coast. Her earlier experiences form the lyrical backbone of these very personal confessional songs, underpinned by sensitive acoustic guitar work.
‘Borough’ features minimalist accompaniment and a lyrical reminiscence that stops and starts the musical backing. Never has ‘…took a bus towards Deptford…’ sounded like such an inviting proposition as on the next track but the bleak words ultimately reveal an empty experience. She then slows down to the waltz of ‘Camberwell’, with a bitter and ambiguous lyric giving an extra emotional weight.
Worthy of a novel opening line ‘Brighton’ begins with ‘… I stole a bible from my hotel room when I ran away from London…’ then the disillusioned narrator escapes the traumas of New Cross to seek a possible destiny at the ocean side. Laura says “Living on the Gold Coast is like living in a permanent holiday vortex”, and the final track Gold Coast is much more optimistic, with positively upbeat guitar picking and a sparkling inflection in the voice.
An EP of spiritual and physical odyssey; it gains in depth with every repeated listen.
An EP of four top-quality new songs from Cambridge band Motor Tapes, moving into a more synthesiser based sound but as always paying meticulous attention to all aspects of the final production. The distorted tower block imagery on the CD sleeve reflects the simmering tension behind the façade as in the novel and movie ‘High-Rise’.
1. Shine The lead track is a deep synth stomp with dominant vocal and despite the doomy portents has quite an optimistic lyric about shining lights from mirror balls (I saw one of those at a show recently, it is such a timeless, simple special effect..)
2. Get On The drum machine and solid bassline drives this one along as the husky vocal urges and cajoles. Lots going on in the instrumentation and then brilliant guitar fireworks in the closing bars.
3. Storm Bouncy 80s electronic keyboard pulses give way to some smooth melodic lines and a great earworm chorus. Keep listening, one of the great strengths of the band is there are always some subtle musical twists as the songs progress.
4. Burn The band are currently playing a storming version of ‘Personal Jesus’ in their live show and this track lets the Depeche Mode mode of their current direction run free. Dense, deep and dark, with sampled panicking voices(?) at the end this is a dystopian nightmare, but is probably my favourite on the EP.
There is plenty of musical talent in the area not directly in the city of Cambridge; St. Ives, Haverhill and from Ely come Elma , named after singer Ellie Gillett and multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Mark Ellis. Tapping into a sixties revivalist sound, this duo comfortably inhabit several styles and contrast with the many current performers who pursue pure psychedelia from that era. For a concert advert they say ‘see us!! We’ll make you laugh, then cry, then we’ll put you back together again’ which seems a fair assessment based on these four fine songs.
1. Slo-Mo. Co-written with highly regarded songwriter Boo Hewerdine, this end-of relationship waltz builds well with repeated listens.The mostly acoustic instrumentation ebbs and flows and somehow the direct lyric really nails the emotional idea, (‘…I read your letter, the black and the white and suddenly everything’s grey…’). Check out the video, filmed at the Cambridge Union café/bar, all good fun.
2. Butterfingers. Another collaboration with Boo, this is my favourite track on the EP. With hints of Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love and Eric Carmen’s All By Myself it is a plaintive piano ballad with a stunning vocal performance from Ellie; heartfelt, vulnerable yet still powerful. I love it.
3. September. I usually quite like this month but may have to reconsider after the traumatic lovelorn reminiscences described here, set to a full-on Phil Spectorish backing with handclaps, multi-tracked vocals and a proper middle eight section.
4. Settle Down. A quiet end to the EP, both of the duo get to sing here, gentle verses and a catchy hookline underpinned by acoustic guitar.
The band are regularly gigging around the area, on the evidence of this EP I look forward to a full LP too….
Named after the most misunderstood of UK amphibians (often blamed for holding up infra-structure projects, with Ken Livingstone and Wodehouse’s Gussie Fink-Nottle as famous keepers) Cambridge power-trio Newts release a blasting new EP.
1. Losers. A mighty guitar riff, stately bass and drums, sorrowful vocal, it is like a strange industrial folk-tale to match the video of sinister doll heads and limbs being assembled. Crazy, disturbing but addictive.
2. Remains. The bass leads this more up-tempo track, with a distant vocal sounding a bit like goth-rock supremos The Mission, which is no bad thing.
3. Mission Creep. At five and a half minutes the longest track on the EP, the first slow section featuring a good build up of moody guitar picking and ultra deep sustained bass pedals. The drummer knows how to leave space between the flourishes. The song stops in true prog rock fashion then follows with a neat strummed bridge into a powerful descending line and heavy fuzz, my favourite bit of the EP.
4. Bone Wars. As summery as grunge rock could be, a short and sweet garage pop anthem, with added guitar solo.
Recorded with an on-stage sound, on the evidence of this EP the three-piece sound like they would be a bold live attraction….
This EP from Broadway Danny Rose is called ‘Passive Aggressive Post-Its’ and according to the band is the distillation from 14 hours of music; that sounds like plenty to choose from, which is not surprising given the range and scope of the music made by Joe Bell and his cohorts.
‘Rabbit Foot’ is an out-and-out rocker, it sounds like Wilko Johnson has temporarily joined the band to play along with the riff for a tale of gambling, debt and low-life deals. Worth the price of the EP on its own, it is a great opener.
We then go over to ‘Jeffrey’s Place’, a strange concoction of loud loping bass and driving guitar; also it includes the lyric ‘….For Jeffrey knows what’s wrong, haunted by mistakes… Rupert Brooke’s can charm but the sentiment’s misplaced….’ and other cryptic delights.
‘Organised Sport’ is a short blast of punk pop energy, with an opaque cut-up lyric where it is the sound of the words that count. I am lucky to own an early acoustic version of ‘Carrie Simmons’, on this release it is now filled out to form a swirling mini-movie murder ballad,‘….There’s something about the way you use that knife….Together in death as in life…’. Disturbing stuff; this is also a track of musical contrasts and shows the impressive versatility of the band.
I look forward to the album….
This EP is called ‘A Rum Old Do’ and is a refreshing dose of folky blues from Ricky Boom-Boom, a Cambridge guitarist named after the enduring song by the late great John Lee Hooker.
The opener ‘It’s Snowing In Hell’ has a driving acoustic riff with a lyric of bitterness capped off with the unlikely meteorological notion of the title line. As the singer sinks into despair (‘…Good will has jumped out of the window to a hundred storey fall….’ ) the blistering slide guitar of Tom Colborn bursts breathlessly into the mix.
‘Trouble Will Find You’ is a great blues title and the song is more mellow as the slide guitar rolls across the top of the chords. While the narrator is full of foreboding and warning on this song, the next track ‘Eyes Of Strangers’ is a lyrical sequel, a sinister and oppressive musing that there is no escape from destiny (‘…now you’re getting sleepless nights…You’re getting paranoid and won’t switch out the lights…’) , these words contrasting with the intricate guitar work from both musicians.
Beginning with the neat lyric ‘….wandered lonely in the crowd.. Until some eyes stared out aloud…’ the final track is the distinctive ‘Barbara’; a stately amalgamation of dense guitars and a lyric and vocal delivery reminiscent of Syd Barrett’s later solo material. A high quality finish to a stylistically rare and satisfying addition to the current Cambridge musical cornucopia.
https://rickyboom-boom.bandcamp.com/album/a-rum-old-do (Proceeds to National Autistic Society)