Tag Archives: LP

Enderby’s Room, LP released April 2017

Dan Mayfield is a songwriter and folk-influenced violin player; after many years playing for other musicians he is now releasing a collection of his own compositions with a five-piece incarnation of his band Enderby’s Room. Mr Enderby is the name of a character from the pen of Anthony Burgess, of ‘Clockwork Orange’ fame and I must highlight the sleeve artwork, drawn by artist Jonny Voss in one continuous pen line.

This is a gorgeous album with the guitar, double bass and other acoustic instruments blending perfectly, often underpinned by a pedal harmonium to add a different tone. The opening track ‘Lakeside’ showcases the dual harmony lead vocals as those waves of sound roll onto the shore. Likewise ‘Stars’, these are evocative pieces with no need for over-embellishment, the sentiment and music flow together.

‘Birds’ is a delicate fragment, the ornithological observations are followed by a chorus that could easily be used over again but the song is just left hanging there. Also around the 2 minute mark and leaving the listener wanting more is ‘Grey Stones’. Delicate ukulele introduces ‘My Old Friend’ an up tempo track which reminds me a bit of the late-lamented thoughtful indiepopsters Allo Darlin’. ‘Tiptoe’ has a strong hookline and ‘I’ll Find You’ (‘..dance with me to our love songs…’) is an emotion-filled finale.

The musical arrangement is minimalist but sounds lush and full, like an antique watch you don’t need to take it apart to realise its beauty and intricate workings…

http://enderbysroom.co.uk/
http://jonnyvoss.com/

Moscow Circus : Resounding LP, released June 2016

Music and lyrics can be many years in the making; this album from Nottingham-based four piece Moscow Circus was mostly written and played live during 1987 to 1991. Finally it has been recorded by the reformed band, giving a neat ambiguity to the title, is it ‘resounding’ down through the years or re-sounding for this new era? The good news is the album sounds fresh and relevant, as well as drawing confidently on its many influences.

‘Timebomb’ is the strong opening song, a mix of unrelenting bass, insistent guitar line and paranoid lyrics. It all motors along like a hybrid of late 80s Bunnymen/Cure/REM which is a good combination. ‘Bleed For You’ is densely worded, as is most of this album, this lyric cleverly showing the power balance in a relationship but not in a direct narrative. There are many well-crafted lines from twists like ‘…you ate my words like you always do…‘ to surreal ‘…I should have worn my other shoes, I can’t reason in these they give me the blues…‘. The track rocks along with a repeating guitar figure. ‘Clarity’ is a quieter piece, with spoken ending ‘…on the continuum between wrong and right…’

My favourite is ‘Princess Rainbow’, a lyrical confection about an imaginary relationship (or is it?) and a hook chorus, reminding me of Robyn Hitchcock on top form. Seeming to usually be the outsider appearing within the song, lead singer/composer/guitarist Jonathan Beckett comes up with some good lines in ‘Snapshot’ (…I need to know I’m not the only human in the race….’).

There are plenty of words to get absorbed in but the music is good too; a sensitive keyboard sound at the end of each section in ‘Wintersong’, blazing rock in ‘Ex Genius’ and swirling psychedelic organ in ‘Coconut Shy’ and ‘Between The Lines’. The album ends with the reflective mood of ‘Chances’, fragmented words over six minutes of dark, brooding drums and guitar.

Patience is a virtue, this album was worth the wait…

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Dexys : Let The Record Show, LP released July 2016

‘Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish And Country Soul’ is the full title of this new CD, the follow-up to their 2012 magnum opus ‘One Day I’m Going To Soar’. The title may be slightly misleading; I was anticipating a majority of new interpretations of the likes of ‘Carrickfergus’ but many of the songs included are much more recent, all given the unmistakable vocal insights of Kevin Rowland. The rest of the band play carefully blended acoustic instruments ; no over-lush strings or brass extremes.

The pastoral and mostly instrumental ‘Women Of Ireland’ is followed by the Bee Gees’ hit ‘To Love Somebody’ and the track list jumps around in a similar way for the whole album. There are many recurring Dexys features: a spoken introduction (to ‘Curragh Of Kildare’), the drum sound that could be in the room with you, personal asides added in the middle of the lyrics and the ability of the songs to grow in stature with repeat listens.

‘How Do I Live’ (1997 mainstream mega-hit for Leann Rimes) is a highlight and would have slotted in nicely onto the last album , ‘Grazing In The Grass’ is an up-tempo hallucinatory brassy blast. Best of all for me is ‘The Town I Loved So Well’, an understated but potent story of how a youthful idyll is changed beyond recognition by conflict. The song has a similar feel to ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ (as covered by The Pogues) and it is equally powerful. Several reviewers have focused on the song ‘Both Sides Now’ and just as the Joni Mitchell re-recording in 2000 expresses a lifetime of reflection, Kevin Rowland delivers a similar retrospection.

And who can resist the waltz of ‘I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen’, sounding as if the immaculate band are playing on the small stage in your favourite pub?

http://www.dexysonline.com/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2015/03/18/dexys-then-and-now/

Atomised : Virtual Strangers LP, released 17 June 2016

Cambridge indie rockers Atomised (named after the edgy French novel by Michel Houellebecq?) release their new album ‘Virtual Strangers’, a follow-up to ‘Dreamlands’ from 2008. They are an accomplished six-piece band, producing an intense and multi-faceted sound.

The opening track is the curiously named ‘Tinselhead’, a guitar driven relentless blaster, setting the agenda for this varied collection of songs.
‘Slipping On Tightropes’ is more mellow, sounding like it could belong comfortably in the Suede back-catalogue. As on many of these tracks the many and subtle guitar effects are meticulously crafted. A title like ‘Fading Polaroid’ is suitably evocative for probably my favourite piece on the album, with a piano line underpinning a touching love song, strongly vocalised by Andrew Ashworth.

‘Virtual Strangers’ is the epic cinematic title track, at nearly seven minutes the different sections describe how our life is driven by modern digital technology ‘zeros and ones…changes our lives’ . It is all a bit bleak lyrically but strangely powerful and addictive (and just when you are feeling alienated a trumpet line soars across the mix to give hope..). In these days of bland lyrics from so many performers it is always refreshing to hear something more reflective/incisive/political.

‘Why Can’t We Be Lovers?’ is the impassioned vocal plea on the next track over a dense but well-balanced backing. ‘Impossible World’ is a quieter contrast, until an explosive drum break takes the sound into a different direction. The album closes with the acoustic country-rock of ‘We’re OK’, an optimistic counterpoint to some of the themes that have come before.

Overall, a very impressive achievement, with some of the 80s and 90s influences distilled into a bold set of ambitious well-produced songs.

http://www.atomised.eu/

https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2016/02/01/beach-sessions-waterbeach-cambridge-30-january-2016/

Wolf Girl : We Tried, album released March 2016

London quartet Wolf Girl release their debut album ‘We Tried’, following on from their 2015 EP ‘Mama’s Boy’.

From the opening riff of ‘Don’t Ask Me Questions (I Can’t Even Answer The Phone), this is an addictive slice of garage punk with a great title and some neat lyrical imagery of the difficulty of meeting and sustaining communications (…notes go rotten in your pocket forgotten…) , but it is that fuzzy guitar that steals the show.

‘Middlesexy’ continues this groove then ‘Are You Reading A Dirty Book?’ is a tale of a coldly disintegrating relationship over jangly guitar and 1950s backing harmonies. ‘Sourpuss’ is a smartly constructed pop song, and so the album sustains its momentum; the next track clocking in at 1 min 17, always a treat to find. A change of vocalist for the list of persecutions in ‘Rotten’ (..Rotten tomatoes slide down our windows and somebody lobbed a pineapple into our lounge…everybody hates us in this town…) .

The surreal flourish of ‘The Maybe’ leaves a lasting impression as the lyrics float over a persistent bass line.

I’m sure this album would sound great live, as their banner said at the launch gig (featuring the brilliant Chorusgirl too!)… ‘Congratz! It’s a Wolf Girl’..

http://wolfgirlband.tumblr.com/

Gavin Chappell-Bates : We Are The Ones, LP released 8 April 2016

A track-by-track review of ‘We Are The Ones’, the debut album by Cambridge singer/songwriter Gavin Chappell-Bates.

1. Church Of Rock ‘n’ Roll. This is a blasting punchy rocker. The meticulous care and attention to detail that Gavin puts into his music is evident from the start and we get an early reference to his favourite band (Manic Street Preachers, a band whose cult status and influence continues to grow).

2. All Ways. A sort of ‘you and me against the world’ feeling, over some ringing guitar and hefty bass and drums.

3. 95. See my earlier review of this standout anthem, making 1995 sound like a good place to be.
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2015/08/23/gavin-chappell-bates-95-single-released-july-2015/

4. Refugee. The musical centrepiece of the album, an abstract lyric over a gentle beginning then full-on guitar (check out the scenic views of Cambridge on the video for this one).

5. We Are The Ones. The title track is a companion piece to ’95’, less specific in its references but similar sentiment. And very catchy.

6. Writing In The Sand. An acoustic ballad with increasing layers of backing, as Gavin can show to good effect when using his looping techniques in live performances.

7. Black Holes. Improbably low bass riff underpins a tale of regret as life’s moments succumb to the gravitational inevitability of the title. Definitely one of my favourite tracks.

8. Dead End Disco Streets. A big sweeping song, the lyric populated with a cast of lost characters whose only escape is music. Good strings on this one.

9. Follow The Light. Simple optimistic sentiments, evolving into another catchy chorus.

10. The Finest Hour. A rarity amongst current music, a political protest song. Some sharp commentary about unfulfilled promises over a nice Celtic riff, and possibly the first time I have heard Neil Kinnock mentioned in a lyric.

11. Last Angel. This is a heartfelt and uncomfortable track about despair with a sung note of goodbye ‘…tonight will be my last night on Earth’ featuring a guest vocal from Kathryn James.

12. Starlight. As a contrast to the previous song this moves from the individual to the universal with astronomical contemplation linked to a touching tale of love. And another big chorus.

This is an impressive collection; I recently caught a warm-up show preparing for the album launch on 8 April at The Portland Arms in Cambridge and these songs work very well with a live band….

http://gavinchappellbates.com/

Wave Pictures : A Season In Hull, LP released February 2016

Something special from the Wave Pictures, a vinyl-only album recorded around one microphone in one day with all-new songs. Despite this back to basics technique as far as I can tell the sound quality/mix/balance etc seems to be absolutely fine (so why do most bands spend ‘months’ in the studio?).

Lyricist David Tattersall is on top form, the low-key instrumentation of finger-picking guitar, acoustic bass and percussion lending a poignancy to his lovelorn tales, cryptic references and imagery. Highlights include ‘Remains’ (‘a whooper swan fashioning his neck into a noose…’), ‘The Pharmacy’ where never has the ‘soft green light of the pharmacy cross’ sounded so nostalgic and the bitterness of ‘Hot Rain Riding On The Salt Lake’ with gems such as ‘You hung me upside down on a meat-hook..‘ and ‘you ripped the last page out of every book in town..’

In the subtle ‘Thin Lizzy Live And Dangerous’ that raucous masterpiece is playing in the loft as a tongue-tied love is declared.
One of the best tracks is the playful and addictive ‘David In A Field Of Pumpkins’. While crawling around amongst the orange gourds David sings a daydreaming speculation of ‘if I could fly straight over the town I would knock upon your window…’ ; somehow it all makes perfect sense.

They are playing many of these songs live on the current tour and they slot perfectly in with older favourites. With another new album due later this year the brilliant Wave Pictures go from strength to strength.

http://thewavepictures.com/