ALBUM REVIEW: Gold Class – Drum

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12686/Album/Gold-Class

The chest-beating Drum follows 2015’s shortlisted Australian Music Prize It’s You.

2017 A.D. A post-post punk break-up album from Down Under’s Australia. It might as well be called It’s not me (it’s YOU) such is the rancour at its core.

Formed in 2014 Melbourne’s Gold Class head-voxer Adam Curley – like Editors’ Tom Smith and White Lies’ Harry McVeigh – has a refined monochromatic baritone seemingly culled from Ian Curtis and a yearning yelp derived from Stephen ‘Comsat Angels’ Fellowes. So far so good.

Channelling a broken heart into art is a tried and tested means of overcoming and recovering, some stick to cryptic digs others go on an all-out assault. These song titles tell their own story (‘Get yours’, ‘Bully’ ‘We were never too much’ and the below the beltisms of ‘Thinking of strangers’) all suggesting the separation averted M.A.D. (Mutually Assured Destruction).

‘Twist in the dark’ is all angles and points, abrasive and angry, the lights are off and ‘you’re’ out.

‘Rose Blind’ adapts Strangler JJ Burnel’s throttling, pummelling bass sound (re)deploying its potency as the song’s spinal chord. From uptight to upright.

The anti-love letter ‘Get yours’ is vengeful and vicious, the guitars lacerate, the drums echoing the feel of defiance as this ice cold dish is served.

‘Bully’ channels The Cure, a black/white (no grey area) remedy melody riposte rife with rift riffs.

This album deftly looks back while seeing ahead: superior gloom with a view.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Ron Pope – Work

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12683/Album/Ron-Pope

America the brave, the good ol’ US of A, Land of the Free, Uncle Sam, the Wild West, all creation myths behind an amalgam of (faltered) states that has long substantiated its own ‘histories’ through movies and music. The aspirations and dreams of downtown heroes and failings and railings of uptown zeroes long the artistic palette of many a ‘country’ star.

Into this breach steps Ron Pope with his seventh album Work another collection of hometown vignettes encompassing the booze, the blues, some flooze and sung tales of stung tails.

Pope’s success is an anachronism: he records in analogue (some of his band comprised of emigres from the Gregg Allman Band, Glen Campbell and The Banditos) and yet much of his success has come from ‘modern’ means of distribution/consumption (downloading/streaming/Youtube): the past and present combining to = $$$$. The medium IS the message.

Ron’s the Pope of Dope in ‘Let’s get stoned’ a languid drag on the bush-weed replete with a hazy bliss of saxy horns.

Ron’s the Pope of Mope in the mortality reminding ‘Someday we’re all gonna die’; that point when you realise that ‘time’s a thief’ so the only remedy is ‘pour me a drink’. All been there, Ron.

Ron’s the Pope of no-hope in ‘Work’ a philosophical-autobiographical evocation of ‘working to live beating living to work … anytime’, the simple fact of self-worth paying more than money ever could. Freedom worth every cent.

Ron’s not the Pope of Elope in ‘Can’t stay here’ a brusque brushing off to A.N. Other, whose ‘noise’ needs to go elsewhere, ‘out of sight’ somewhere the ‘tears’ might work. Don’t’ call him, he’ll … call … the police.

With chooglin’ boogie-woogie country and western sounds all the rage right now – commercially and artistically – it wouldn’t be a surprise if this is the album that catapults Pope’s (Vatican) broadsides into the hearts of the ‘papal’.

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Hypochristmutreefuzz – Hypopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12675/Album/Hypochristmutreefuzz

No, your eyes do not deceive you, the cat hasn’t run over the keyboard. Nor is this an optician’s test board.

Belgian mouthful Hypochristmutreefuzz (named after an avant garde jazz composition by Misha Mengelberg) release second long-player Hypopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (‘the fear of long words’). Head-wrecking tongue-twisting out of the way, what does it SOUND like?

In a never-ending epoch of disposable, hyper-consumptive indigestible crap-pap this is the antidote. Strange sonics, eerie vocals and a mish-mash of styles that as a whole make up the most original release I’ve heard this year. Songs stop and twist, drop and persist when you least expect, equally confounding and astounding.

Opener is the cackling, crackling, sneering and fearing ‘Finger’; a manic nightmarish derivation that evolves into a maelstrom und drang with the haunting ‘Why don’t you love meeee?’ retorted with ‘with her face down in the gutter’. Not your usual ‘girl meets boy’ (or girl etc) origin story.

‘Music of the spheres’ is in the vein of Edward Ka-Spel’s mysterious outré mainstream avant garde prog-rock auteurs The Legendary Pink Dots. An unsettling clash-crash of chaos and descending dissent. The disorienting din of ‘Elephantiasis’ changes tack midway whereupon the beguiling refrain ‘It’s ok … it’s so gay’ leads onto an electro-epileptic fit of pique.

‘Clammy Hands’ is a dubby trancehall of smoke and mirrors, nothing is as it seems, sweat free palms the stuff of daymares/nightdreams.

‘One trick pony’ is anything but. A lolloping bassline leading to a mental breakdown of heavy-thrashing turmoil. A strait(jacket) to hell. ‘The Spitter’ is like a Dr Moreau production of Wild Beasts and Nine Inch Nails: mutant music.

No your ears don’t deceive you, the cat hasn’t been run over. This synesthetic album will make you (in no particular combination) think (run), feel (anxious) smell (fear), touch (mortality) and see (the whites of your own eyes).

ALBUM REVIEW: Dengue Fever: Dengue Fever/Escape from the Dragon House

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12573/Album/Dengue-Fever

Consisting of a heady brew of infectious psyche-diaspora rock of filtered histories and channelled customs AmeriCambodian ensemble Dengue Fever dig into their treasure trove and re-release their first two LPs.

In these times of hyper-abundance, info-gluttony, mass cultural appropriation and outright legacy larceny spiritual salvation is at hand with these aural postcards from shores afar and times passed. If the past is a foreign country that country is Cambodia and they do things different there.

2003’s self-titled debut consists of seven ‘reconstructions’ of esteemed protest-totem Ros Serey Sothea’s oeuvre (who disappeared under Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime), possessor of spectral sonic-tonics including the ever-effervescent ‘I’m Sixteen’, the sucker-punching ‘Pow Pow’ and the kaleidoscopic rush of ‘New Year’s Eve’, comprising a veritable 60s inflected spree-for-all.

DF’s own ‘ghost voice’ Chhom Nimol affectingly (re)captures Serey Sothea’s enrapturing essence with the band’s own ’22 Nights’ a soaring, swooning highlight: ethereal and haunting. The eponymous ‘Dengue Fever’ itself is a saxy organ stirrer.

Follow up 2005’s Escape from Dragon House sees the group forge their own path with 14 of the tracks self-penned. Opener ‘We were gonna’ continues the mood and aesthetic with a spacier surround-sound. ‘Sui Bong’ is a disco-go-go-get her, a dancefloor trance-prance off. The gushing ‘Tap Water’ is crying out for a police procedural to soundtrack; oozing in mystery and know-it-all-knowing as guitar finger picking combined with horns and Joe Meek(ong) organomics reaches a beat-crescendo par excellence. Case closed.

The looming menace of the arachnid permeates ‘One thousand tears of a tarantula’; a web spinning wall of wail. Who knew spiders cried? ‘Lake Dolores’ is a surfin’ safari in the vein of The Ventures.

Both reissues get the redux-deluxe treatment, bonus tracks, remixes, live renditions and liner notes: a completist’s dream.

Feed your fever with these timeless and exquisite Kampuchea-worms.

ALBUM REVIEW: Blood Command – Cult Drugs

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12506/Album/Blood-Command

Citing such disparate influences as Swedish hardcore ensemble Refused and German-Caribbean disco-doyens Boney M is an oh-so-po-mo-manner of now-fact and a historo-challenge that requires a lot of living up to. are Blood Command cool daddies or trickbags?

Thematically provocative and topically incisive Cult Drugs addresses those rigid and dogmatic belief systems that wreak havoc on the individual/collective psyche: religions, cults, gangs and secret societies that all act similar to drug dependency with narco-bliss replaced by the (al)lure of the esoteric, the unknown, the transgressive yet still restrictive and constrictive, a bind is a bind. Systems of fear structured to limit, inhibit and control.

The role-playing of the ‘fame game’, the compromises and falsity fostered and its attendant erosion of self is exquisitely articulated on ‘CTRL + ART + DELETE’ an eviscerating and lacerating ear-battering soundscape.

‘You can’t sit with us’ adroitly discusses the literary merits and fantasy realms of Tolstoy and E.L. James and the blurred cinematic lines between fact and fiction, reality and surreality. A thumping thwack round the senses.

This isn’t an easy listen by any means and it depends on your tolerance for gut-wrenching screeching and passion for emote-rock. At times evoking echoes of Kathryn Hanna’s Riot Grrrl angernomics, fillets of Faith No More and occasional JJ Burnelesque asphyxiated-bass (especially on the punk-funk ‘Quitters don’t smoke’) this is an album that reveals greater depth upon repeated airings.

If I’m honest I can’t hear any trace of the Boneys here, but, osmosis is an ethereal thing. Nevertheless, follow these sanguine orders and comply.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Black Angels – Death Song

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Some records act as time-signifiers, articulating the socio-politico-emoticomplex so deftly that they will be seen as para-psychic texts for millennia to come. ‘Death Song’ is one such objet d’art.

With sonic sculpting from Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Shins) these eleven songs observe, absorb, feel the pulse and take the temperature of the dis-ease and unease prevalent in today’s cosmos then promptly prescribe a protective remedy racket of fuzz and buzz.

Opener ‘Currency’ is a head against the Wall Street crash-bang-a-thon articulating the everyday demands and losses wrought on the working drone, the fealty ‘you pay with all of your life, a slave from 9 -5’; its mantra that money’s omnipotence is the root of all malevolence and worry not ‘one day it’ll all be over’. No ambiguity in that threat.

‘I’d kill for her’ is a wailing and flailing murder anti-ballad worthy of Black Francis.

The self-doubt and mistrust intrinsic to fractured relationships embodies ‘Half Believing’, where the person once (en)tranced is now awake, as ‘he’ cries in vain ‘it’s like my spell on you is useless’. The magic has gone, the spark is snuffed, the potion of devotion slaked dry.

‘Comanche Moon’ is lunatic asylum rock, an indigenous promise to ‘reach into your socket, rip back your scalp as you crrrry’. No half measures here, no prisoners there. ‘Hunt Me Down’ is what shuffling anachronism Noel Gallagher thinks he’s hearing when he’s spewing his sonic gut-rot up, but, where his audio chloroform sedates this is a thumping plodding masterclass that follows your every step, hears your every breath, your shadow is shadowed. No place is safe from trace.

‘Grab as much (as you can)’ lifts the bass from Can’s ‘Mother Sky’ to maximum effect with a guitar lick nod to ‘Shakin’ all over’ resulting in a surfin’ safari-ot to the apex of the vortex.

Standout ‘I Dreamt’ is a Clinic-al hypnotic tock of the sleep clock. The time elapsed during the (a)wake-state, is it real or am I dead?

The pulsating ‘Medicine’ is a spoonful of sugary melody threnody. Feed your head.

The interstellar story-telling ‘Life Song’ deploys Jeff Lynne’s appropriated Beatles drum sound to delirious space-rock effect. Aspiring, desiring with an ultimately expiring exhortation of ‘I’m dying to say, I love you anyway’ the end result a dramatic finale to a funereal time. This rebirth and revengeful reincarnation ultimately uttering ‘I am your warning from the other side’, the last cry of an album of controlled rage against the machines of control.

ALBUM REVIEW: Imelda May – Life.Love.Flesh.Blood

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http://www.music-news.com/review/UK/12496/Album/Imelda-May

This deeply emotive and cathartic rock and soul-searching fifth album from Imelda May is regretful and rueful, a ‘chin up, love’ letter to herself.

In 1962 Neil Sedaka wrote ‘Breaking up is hard to do’ an ode to the parting of the hearting, the (dis)union and separating of the ways, an artistic avenue that numbers albums from Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye and ABBA. Heartache for art’s sake. L.L.F.B. is an aural autobiographical skin-shedding and a musique metamorphosis so bare, raw and visceral that outlines the re-emergence of a ‘self’ through the power of (re)creation.

The titles personify a tense past in the past tense (‘The girl I used to be’, ‘Should’ve been you’) with themes of solitude and vulnerability prevalent (‘Human’, ‘Leave me lonely’). However, a morose misery memoir it isn’t as redemption and salvation dominate as initial glum self-introspection becomes May’s trademark glam outré-flection. Better out than in: demons banished as her man’s vanished.

Produced by T Bone Burnett Life. Love. Flesh. Blood. features Jeff Beck, Jools Holland and Tom Waits’s go-to-guitarist Marc Ribot as erstwhile foot soldier-shoulders to cry on. Opening with the plaintive ‘Call me’, a cry for a simple message (or sign) that can signify the world as May pleads ‘if our love means anything call me’ encapsulating the waiting, berating and hating that concludes in the restless woes and deathless throes of ‘can’t sleep, too scared to dream’.

Jeff Beck-ole! brings his own fretting and sliding on the ‘Santo & Johnnyesque’ ‘Black tears’ the mascara running freely the giveaway of distress as a gut-searing eye-tearing ‘inside I’m dying, outside I’m crying’ is salvaged by a superior show of strength from May’s buono vox.

The reaching and bescreeching ‘Should’ve been you’ is a masterly barbed assault on ‘he’ whose absence is felt yet the last laugh will be dealt (only not by him).

The extra-sensory emotion comes to the fore on ‘Sixth Sense’ a premonitory warning sign detecting foreseen feelings of soon-to-be-revealed dealings. This woman’s intuition (She S. P.?) coming to fruition.

Musically ‘Bad Habit’ evokes ‘Sixteen Tons’ itself a song about being enslaved to the MAN, as penury is the price for not submitting to servitude. Make of that what you will.

On this showing Imelda’s not a ‘rockabilly no mates’ anymore. Her loss is also her gain.

Undermined

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http://www.theatre-news.com/review/UK/2309/Theatre/Headline

In the famous poem ‘First they came …’ by Pastor Niemöller specific groups are identified, targeted and destroyed one by one leaving no else when ‘they’ came for him. That stark message of an absence of unity and blind eyes being turned to terror rings true in this important, informative and unsettling play.

Based on true stories and events from the 1984 – 1985 miners’ strike, this visceral one-man show (written and performed by Danny Mellor and originally titled Shafted) outlines the brutal impact collectively and individually on a mining community, where principles are challenged and compromised, friendships are made and ultimately shattered by circumstances and state sanctioned blood-letting is deployed.

Mellor powerfully delivers a monologue as ‘Yorkshire Dale’ (backed contextually by pop hits of the time e.g. ‘Relax’, ‘The heat is on’) that charts these tumultuous two years of adversity and the systematic destruction of a working community. A community that believed that striking was a fundamental democratic necessity and a long-sighted plan of action as echoed in the chant ‘Enough’s enough, we’ll always need the black stuff’. Through his eyes and expressions we hear of the fates of others’ and how solidarity and harmony fall prey to divide and conquer tactics aided by a pliant media, strong-armed law enforcement and secret surveillance. Mellor inhabits and (re)lives the travails of all the characters, you feel the anguish and despair and in spite of the spite humour always shines through.

The Sun ‘news’-paper, that toxic organ of officialdom had the temerity to call the miners ‘lazy’ and ‘the enemy within’ a label most associated with the paranoid propaganda of World War II: colonise the consciousness, control the outcomes. All depressingly relevant today.

This framing of perception saw miners played off against each other and even derided as ‘scabs’ by those who had no understanding or involvement in the struggle: the media is the messenger and the message is ‘Thatcherite neoliberalism is here to stay’. The ‘publically’ funded BBC fared no better, fostering the view that the miners were workshy layabouts whereas the horse mounted police were knightly heroes on overtime oiling the wheels of tyranny. None more so than during the infamous Battle of Orgreave where police brutality indiscriminately attacked all and sundry including ex-servicemen who had fought in World War II.

As we have seen more and more often, there are several reasons why media studies should be on the school curriculum (despite the mocking tones of Boris Johnson et al). The pernicious role of the media throughout these two years is but one.

The lives of the characters go from ‘LIFE is’ to ‘life IS’, an upheaval that shifts the emphasis from living to struggling to exist as typified by the refusal of money for a new-born’s funeral as punishment for striking. There truly is NO such thing as society.

In these times of slacktivism and clicktivism this is a reminder of people power and how that notion scares the authorities, therefore, it must be crushed either violently or scandalously.

The overall and ever contemporary message is ‘what we do in hardship is more measure of man’. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.