Tag Archives: LP

Tom Williams : What Did You Want To Be?, LP released April 2019

A track by track review of the new LP from singer/songwriter Tom Williams, a varied collection of anthems, ballads and late night musings. A formidable live performer (see my older review https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/tom-williams-and-the-boat-29th-may-2014/) with a fanbase that continues to grow, this is his sixth album of original material, produced by Tim Rice-Oxley of Keane.

1. Run Down A big live show opener, with full band backing and a chorus that pushes all before it as musically it travels down an open highway. ‘… I’m a bit run down at the moment…I let the days get away from me….’

2. Rock & Roll A bitterish tale of the pitfalls of life in the lower echelons of the music ‘business’, the downbeat thoughts boosted by another anthemic chorus with dominant keyboard chords underpinning ‘….I don’t believe in rock ‘n’ roll no more….’.

3. Dawned on Me This one is a bit special, a relaxed ballad with some jazzy textures of various acoustic instruments and quickly arriving at an addictive hookline sentiment reminiscent of a latter period John Martyn song. Lovely.

4. Graveyard More of a pacey country-rock feel to this track, the band pounding along relentlessly driven by the key line ‘…there’s a graveyard in my head where all my dreams are dead…’. A thoughtful middle eight takes the song in another direction ‘…you’re kicking down the door…you’re living in a constellation….’

5. Stay Afloat A change of tone here with many delicate guitars filling the mix, synthesiser tones and a subtly urgent drum track. Tom’s vocals and harmonies drift along as light as air.

6. Keeping It In Moving along at a smooth pace, with short lyric lines and the instruments drifting in and out like a song by The War On Drugs, there is a ringing guitar solo at the end to add to the atmosphere.

7. Early Morning Rain One of the first songs written for the album back in 2016, with a hint of darkness in its chord sequence and a big chorus hookline as ‘…the early morning rain washes your pain away…’

8. Some Time A pure, compact song, accompanied by gentle acoustic guitar and a cello sound. Returning to the key line ‘….some time in the future none of this will last…some time in the future all of this will pass…’ It is a moving, emotive vignette.

9. It’’s Dark Now A preview single for the album, this is a punch-the-air big anthem, built around percussive guitar and piano with a call and response chorus. The narrator is suffering the tribulations of late night excesses and broadening it out into wider social commentary.

10. Crying at the TV This is a dissonant nightmarish rocking workout, with a guitar simulating sirens, Tom’s voice filtered and distorted and generating an atmosphere of paranoia and ennui.

11. Real Slow Back to the country-rock pace, a jaunty song but with a serious intent and lingering message ‘….depression its a new low… days are drifting real slow….winter’s coming in and my windows are broken…’

http://www.tomwilliamsmusic.net/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/tom-williams-and-the-boat-29th-may-2014/

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Various Artists : This Is The Sound Of Sugar Town, Vol 3, released March 2019

Another excellent compilation from the musical cauldron which is ‘rock city’ Bury St Edmunds, also known as the ‘sugar town’ of East Anglia.

1. Gaffa Tape Sandy – Water Bottle Premier Bury trio start the LP with one of their best, exploding and distorting from the speakers.

2. Tundra – Walking Stick Noisy opening leads into loose grungy punk guitar topped with an angry rant ‘…shut your mouth, stop talking, I’ve heard enough and I don’t want to hear any more…’

3. Sun Scream – Extract Sinister introduction soon gives way to some heavy fuzz guitar and a mind-bending lyric. The psychedelic tones include some synth-type bubbling and a general good-time atmosphere.

4. Sam Eagle – The Things You Taught Me Multi-instrumentalist/singer Sam with a small-hours jazz groove, coaxed along by smooth guitar, languid brass and a counterpointing vocal.

5. Kulk – Fix Me With only vocals, guitar and drums Kulk produce an all-enveloping sound that is so heavy it generates its own gravity field.

6. Stretch Soul Gang – Earache Jazz-funk from six-piece combo, not afraid to give each instrument some space to contribute to the tight sharp mix.

7. The Interesting Times Gang – Wayward Navigator With a theremin giving its usual mysterious sound this is a mix of proper prog and folkrock. It is a tale of roaming the cosmos on some strange quest; by the end of the second middle eight I was completely under its spell.

8. Kyanos – Lost In Blue Peaceful, playful psychedelic jazz with gleaming, ringing guitar figures leading the sound. The instrumental break is a thing of beauty leading into a thoughtful, fading coda.

9. Druids – Up To Mars The spirit of Hawkwind classic ‘Silver Machine’ lives on in this space-rock extravaganza, featuring countdowns, voiceovers, a driving riff and a ruthless instrumental break. Get on board!

10. The Catch – Tie Dye Short and to-the-point power rock from this trio, featuring a strong hookline chorus and neat lyrical rhymes around the title, with a decisive blast of rhythm at the end.

11. Amethysts – Wreckers Beautifully created electropop, with stately but delicate synthesisers descending the scales and floating beneath the exquisite vocals. Gorgeous.

12. Thy Last Drop – A Rake’s Tango Great fun here as this hybrid of Divine Comedy, Tom Waits and the Pogues tells its tale of lurid woe. You keep expecting to speed up and it does to great effect, driven by a sparkling featured mandolin.

13. The Glitter Shop – Fizz This one moves along like a road movie, with pace and energy. There is a big catchy chorus and an effects-drenched guitar solo too.

14. B.U.H. – No More Lines First recorded song (apart from a seasonal ‘butchering’ of Fairy Tale Of New York on YouTube!) from Bury’s leading noise exporters. A calm intro then with two vocalists, frenetic guitars, bass and drums all hell is let loose on this environmental epic.

15.Enterlude – British Dream Full-on indie rock from energetic five-piece. Big chorus, swirling keyboard, punching bass and drums; a fine end to this compulsive summary of the local scene.

Many of these musicians can be seen at the Hunter Club alternative music nights run by local promoters ‘Washing Machine’, see you there!

https://repeatfanzine.bandcamp.com/album/this-is-the-sound-of-sugar-town-vol-3
http://www.washingmachinebse.co.uk/
http://www.hunterclub.org.uk/

Moonstrips : We Love You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, LP released January 2019

A recently released album from Cambridge quartet Moonstrips; a follow up to ‘Glimpses’ from 2016.

1. Heading For Dust Kicking off the collection is this riff-driven burst of rock energy, motoring along like a late 60s Who single. A brilliant effects drenched guitar solo kicks in near the end.

2. Suzette Previously released as a single this sublime two and a quarter minutes of garage rock has the constantly frustrated narrator detached from the mysterious Suzette ‘….you have so many faces, I always see them in many different places…’. There are plenty of instrumental and melodic twists and turn crammed into this compact track.

3. Ride To The Centre The original trio has now added a saxophone to the line-up and on this medium-paced track its plaintive theme line punctuates the vocal and threads effectively through the whole song, finally letting loose at the end.

4. Out Of Phase A lyrically dense, thoughtful piece with a riff reminiscent of Bryan Ferry’s twisted version of ‘The In Crowd’. Lounge music with sharp edges as the sax snakes subtly into the song.

5. Had To Find Out This is my favourite song; heard live it is a tour de force as the slow waltz time is pushed to its limits. Starting with just guitar and sax and a suppressed drum beat, the bleak lyric gradually builds up the tension of the narrative. Finally the guitar jumps to the front of the mix with a strident solo, counterpointing with the sax.

6. WLYYYY
The title track is as strange and striking as the cover art, where a giant hare bestrides a motorway blocking the transit of an ice cream van following a sign directing it to moonstrips airport. It is an instrumental spectacular; busy bass and drums, yearning saxophone notes and guitar using all the tools and noises in the box to thunderous effect.

7. Reasons To Be Fearful Back to basics riff for this one, the faster tempo giving it a lighter, funkier feel than the rest of the album. Enigmatic lyrics keep an atmosphere of paranoia ‘…don’t read that book, throw it on the fire, its message hurts you and the author is a liar….’ The sax punctuates the track with a jazzy solo, before the big finish.

8. Think Happy Thoughts
A pastoral, relaxed end to the album, built around a repeating guitar figure and pedal bass note. Never straying far from this structure the track eventually drifts off into the ether.

A formidable live band, Moonstrips have attempted to crystallise the energy and intrigue of their stage performance into these grooves. I think they have succeeded…

https://www.moonstrips.com/

BansheeVa : debut album, released February 2019

The debut long player from BansheeVa, one of Cambridge’s premier live psychedelic bands finally arrives. The album starts with the pacey fire of ‘F.O.Y.C’, a short burst of instrumental power built around staccato drums and a stop-start guitar figure. Clocking in at less than two minutes ‘Woman From Mars’ is more of a retro piece with full-on late 60s sound. It is ‘Space Invaders’ when the trio go into controlled power-drive with a full band propulsive riff and the welcome appearance of some indecipherable shouted vocals blended into the mix.

‘Janus’ is the god with two faces, looking into the future and back into the past and so represents a perfect manifesto for the psychedelic genre; on this track the core musical idea is a repeated single note but adorned with complex drums, a manic guitar solo and ultimately bludgeoning the listener into submission. In a good way.

Every Cambridge band that inhabits this musical territory is going to be aware of the ghost of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd and I have seen BansheeVa play ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ as a feature of their live set. I sense that the languid ‘Sleep When I’m Dead’ is a spot-on tribute to mid-period Floyd with its laid-back instrumental colours, distant vocal and loose but always interesting guitar touches.

The final fourteen minute track is a widescreen, cinematic epic – the solo guitar arpeggios introducing the piece are gradually blended with a stately bass then the thunderous laying down of solid metal chords builds an effective platform for some more otherworldly vocals. Over this first third we get a guitar solo and dive-bombing synchronised with the bass. The track does not let up; the doom-laden bassline sounds like a portent to Armageddon and a deceptively quiet section allows some contemplation before it all kicks off again.

This is a loud and louder unrestrained debut, well worth the wait.

https://www.facebook.com/BansheeVa

The Twilight Sad : It Won’t Be Like This All The Time, LP released January 2019

The fifth album from The Twilight Sad, prime exponents of big sweeping soundscapes and playing out of emotional traumas. Describing themselves as a ‘…Scottish band who enjoy making miserable music…’ they share some musical territory with the Cure, including support slots on their tours and a Robert Smith vocal cover on one of the Sad’s best songs ‘There’s A Girl In The Corner’.

Everything is in place on this new collection; illustrated perfectly in the first song (10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs) from the opening line ‘…we’re hanging on by a thread and you keep bowing your head…’ to the big glorious sound when the full band kicks in. There are many cryptic titles along the way such as ‘Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting’ with one of the heaviest introductions to a percussion driven piece. ‘The Arbor’ is dark and thoughtful, with a repeating guitar triplet figure and super deep bass. ‘VTr’ was a trail single for this album; an uptempo almost optimistic sounding song with one of the best vocal performances on this album.

‘Sunday Day13’ is a slower impassioned track ‘…will you always be mine?…please don’t ever change your mind…’, heart wrenching lines over mixed keyboard backing.
The echoing piano drifts away to herald another previous single ‘I’m Not Here (Missing Face)’, an epic, unrelenting pulsing rhythm, sustained guitar notes and a catchy but pessimistic hookline with various versions of ‘…I can’t stand to be around you any more….’. The sentiment continues in ‘Auge/Maschine’ ‘…I can’t believe you’re happy…’, a brilliant song powered by huge skysaw guitar. ‘Keep It All To Myself’ is a lighter, quick waltz and probably the most immediate song on the LP.

And there are three more excellent tracks too; it is a superb collection, an intense, demanding listen in one go but unearthing treasures and extra depth as you accept it into your consciousness.

http://thetwilightsad.com/

Lizard Brain : Stray, LP released 18th January 2019

The third album from Cambridge band Lizard Brain is a refreshing cornucopia of a dozen tracks where each one is completely different in style and substance; lovingly crafted in their studio by the perfectionist quartet.

Opening with an electronic sequencer pattern ‘Lost In Sound’ is a poppy song drenched in effects and frequently returning to the hookline of the title, referencing Bowie’s Space Oddity along the way. ‘Gannets’ is a guitar driven rocker with a neat descending chord sequence. Then to surprise the listener we have the loping reggae of ‘Am I Just A Name Now?’, with a lyric of resignation regarding the digital world ‘…I’ve got more friends now…than I’m ever gonna need…’.

‘My Thing And Your Thing’ is a cryptic folk-rock prog piece, needing extra listens to untangle it. ‘Red Dress’ is a standout. As deep industrial electronic slabs of sound drift in and out the surreal words are darkly comic. It is an excellent song; a hybrid of Robyn Hitchcock meeting mid-period Depeche Mode.

‘Nothing To Say’ rocks along solidly then a tight 80s jazz-funk feeling pervades the next two tracks; ‘Should I Tell You?’ is a catchy pop single then ‘Never Felt So Good’ is nearly seven minutes of laid back goodness featuring flute, saxophone, bar chimes, synthesiser, languid vocals and some of the instrumental unpredictability of later Steely Dan.

My current favourite is the unexpected blast of Northern Soul of ‘Back To You’, a perfectly formed confection of upbeat lyric, blaring horn and Hammond organ sounds, pounding drums and bass and the biggest hookline chorus on the album. Brilliant!

‘Are Your Hands Any Warmer Yet My Dear?’ is a medieval psychedelic waltz with beautifully played classical guitar, recorders, crickets and a gothically sinister lyric about a strange relationship featuring imagery such as ‘….I buy a guitar cut out from cardboard…see I drew on some strings…’. This is a track to treasure; unusual and satisfying.

Finally we hear the insistent pulsing patterns of ‘Freedom (Summertime)’, a gradually building anthem of escape and optimism. As the album reaches the end you realise that you have never heard anything quite like this celebratory and stylistic collection of excellent songs.

https://www.facebook.com/LizardBrainBand/

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.