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Lou Barlow: Reason To Live – album review

Lou BarlowLou Barlow: Reason To Live

(Joyful Noise Recordings)

LP | CD | DL

Released 28th May 2021

Louder Than War Bomb Rating 4

 

Lou Barlow, fresh from the release of the latest Dinosaur Jr. record, returns with a new solo album full of crisp lo-fi folk. Stripped, sparse and barren, yet full of acoustic gems that sparkle.

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The beginning of the end of that first inspired era of Dinosaur Jr. may have come to a violent head on stage, Lou Barlow shielding himself with his bass after inciting a reaction from J Mascis, the two creating what must have been a clashing drone-fuelled racket. Inspired by the mash-up college tapes that Barlow had taken to playing between songs, seeping into the songs themselves to render his parts unrecognisable, anyone who’s not heard his recent solo work would be forgiven, after thinking back to that sonic meltdown, that that is exactly what they would get from a Lou Barlow solo record. It couldn’t, however, be further from the truth, although the DIY stylings that characterised his early career are still on show. On his new album, Reson To Live, Barlow works again through the lo-fi folk that has characterised his solo output of late, but this time around it shimmers with optimism and a true love of life.

Opening track, In My Arms, lays out the theme to perfection with its loping rhythm, a backwards guitar riff adding a subtle psych swirl as he recalls a drifting away from something that cannot break, two forces that are intrinsically linked and that will always return to one another. This is a song of pure love, love of music. The song, sampling a cassette recording that he made in 1982, layers sounds that build with sugar-spun grace as he ruminates on the first inspiration to play music, a romanticism that comes through much like it did decades back on Sebadoh III.

There’s a feeling of reconciliation that pulses from the depth of the songs, one that really shines out on the album title track. Having returned from L.A. to his home of Massachusetts, Barlow has settled. Despite his position, there’s no urge to escape again to the long and open roads, but rather to reflect on what really drives him emotionally, internally. “From my heart to my home girl, talk about a reason to live.” The inspiration comes through in spades, his heart worn clearly on his sleeve. The more bruising self-reflection of his previous album Brace The Wave, which delved deep, has returned with dividends, a rekindled fire that burns for all the right reasons and lights the darkness that once seemed to reach out to self-destruction. On songs like Over You, he seems to be yearning to reconcile the past that can’t be changed, accepting that scars may never heal, but rather that they can be learned to live with.

There’s a playfulness to songs like Love Intervene, the two acoustic guitars skipping over one another as Barlow’s voice gleams with joy, while Clouded Age skirts close to the simple melodies of Sixto Rodriguez, a juxtaposition of plaintive optimism over winding and intertwining acoustics, riffs flutter out before dropping back again. While the album is full of wonderful melodic folk, Barlow will always be known for producing music of driving sonics. On Reason To Live he only cracks the curtain slightly to that world on Thirsty. It’s stripped and simple, a song that is easy to hear cracked to 11 with cutting fuzz-fuelled guitars.

Despite the focus on his own internal state, he’s not always to be found in self-reflection mode. All You People Suck couldn’t be a more direct venomous attack within the record’s confines. “All you people lost/ And the light that draws you in/ Be it torch or burning cross/ Your beginning and your end.” It stretches out into a damnation of those who refuse to see that we are all connected, those that wander through self-obsession, blinded by misdirected hatred.

Reason To Live is a fantastic return. On the release of the latest Dinosuar Jr. album, there were questions from fans. While a great record, why so few contributions from Barlow. Now we know. His new album feels to be reaffirming a joy for music, love and life that, at one point, was on the brink of being lost. It’s a record that brims with optimism and one to go back to again and again.

Reason To Live is available now from Sister Ray.

You can follow Lou Barlow on Facebook and Twitter.

~

Words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.

 

The post Lou Barlow: Reason To Live – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Mush: Lines Redacted – album review

MushMUSH

Lines Redacted

Memphis Industries

LP | CD | DL

Out 12 February 2021

Louder Than War Bomb Rating 4

 

Leeds trio Mush return with their follow-up to last year’s 3D Routine and engulf us again in another blast of surrealist slacker post-punk art-rock.

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It’s easy to reel off the influences of those that are defining the current crop of British guitar bands. Their punk-post-punk influences are worn clearly for all to see as they draw on the well dug deep by the likes of The Fall and Gang Of Four, but, despite their angular art-punk sounds coming back around and influencing many rising bands, Mush, who also clearly draw on this, are able to distinguish themselves from the pack through the way that add a slacker groove to the jutting rhythms. At times sounding like an inebriated Bryan Ferry fronting Pavement in tribute to Andy Gill, the trio have hit on an identity that is equally complexing and engaging on this, their second album.

They kick things off wonderful Drink The Bleach, a woozy stagger of lo-fi drawl, barely able to stay upright as it weaves through the air, the lyrics clearly a reference to Donald Trump’s insane rambling thought process through the beginnings of the current pandemic. It’s a song that wouldn’t have been out of place on Blur’s self-titled album, or 13, those moments when Coxon took the oars and steered their ship towards the US lo-fi underground. Their opening salvo of the album is followed directly by the riotous Blunt Instruments, which we previewed back in November. It’s a great track of twisted guitar parts that at times call to mind the zigzagging frenetic post-punk of the likes of Minutemen, Punishment Of Luxury, and Monochrome Set.

Clean Living rides a surrealistic carrousel, rising and falling, spinning and grooving on a sliding guitar rhythm while the recent single, Seven Trumpets draws on their lo-fi influences more and more, as though Stephen Malkmus is pulling the knotted strings of their climate emergency dystopia-fixated puppets. “There’s no sense of urgency. We’re going to die down in the water. We’re going to die down in the sea.” cries singer Dan Hyndman at the close of the song. “If we let these buried phantoms master us as we reappear, we’ll be swept back helplessly in the floodtide like pieces of flotsam.” wrote Ballard. A drowned world is a preoccupation that the band draw on here, and many of the songs on Blunt Instruments appear as though pulled by a tide not of their creators’ making, as though there is an underlying current that they are at once trying to control while simultaneously resigned to it leading them on its preordained path.

The album is a pure ride through their paranoic musing. Hazmat Suits, written in part by their guitarist Steven Tyson, who sadly died last year, is a zany and dizzying combination of the type of funk-infused post-punk of Minutemen and is a late delight in the second half of the record, crashing in before the muzzy Bots slurs out of a vertiginous haze with its musings on the CIA and KGB-controlled algorithms, basements of servers watching over us, influencing and controlling.

On Lines Redacted, Mush have turned their sights on the darkness behind the curtain, where the world’s stagehands are turning the cogs at the behest of the catastrophe directors while we, as actors, spectators, seem unable to do little more than play our scripted parts or look on in horror. The fact that they do this while simultaneously writing songs as entertaining as those here, never once going in for the obvious kill and ramming an easy metaphor in your face simply for effect, is a credit to them.

Blunt Instruments by Mush is available now from Sister Ray and from the band’s Bandcamp.

Follow Mush on Facebook and Twitter.

~

Words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.

The post Mush: Lines Redacted – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Nancy: The Seven Foot Tall Post-Suicidal Feel Good Blues – album review

NancyNancy

The Seven Foot Tall Post-Suicidal Feel Good Blues

B3SCI Records

DL all available platforms

Louder Than War Bomb Rating 4

Nancy has arrived on the scene with a blast of wobbly acid glam that stands out from the rest. Keith Goldhanger was first on the scene for LTW back here when he reviewed the glorious first single lifted from this fuzzed up gem of a debut mini album. Wayne AF Carey is loving it…

Last year was not normal so why try be normal? Warping into psychedelia land from the ashes of Brighton band Tigercub, two EP’s in and he’s nailed it with a mini album that drags you into an Alice In Wonderland of wobbly warped sound that is weird and wonderful as fuck. He explains…

“7ft Blues is bi-polar”, NANCY explains. “The tracklist swings from suicidal, to cartoonishly happy, to self-deprecating, back to Alan Partridge pretentious (my spiritual home)… I think it’s a full portrait of me in that particular moment of my life, warts an’all. Before NANCY my main thing was writing songs for a rock band called Tigercub. In Tigercub I feel I had a tendency to hide my true self under a borrowed alt-rock, slacker introversion. It’s a pose that is easy to adopt and can easily trick you into a false sense of security when expressing yourself, wearing Kurt Cobain’s angst as a mask if you will. Striking out on my own has given me nowhere to look but inside, I think with 7ft Blues I’m really being myself, I’m actually talking about me now, what it’s like to be me, and I have never done that before, and it’s terrifying”.

Kicking in with the brilliant single that was in our top ten singles of the year, 7ft Tall just wobbles like a warped vinyl being played under water. Proper glam with a twist, a hint of MGMT and an amazing chorus straight from the bible of 70’s pomp, with a modern slant that excites. Pleasure Pen is dark and mesmerising with it’s swirling keyboards and drum mantra that hypnotises you. This guy is on a serious trip. Check the video below where he looks like the bastard brother of Jesse Hughes from Eagles Of Death Metal. Happy Happy Happy sounds like a woozy trip and the lyrics are a dark loop of coming up and down in a matter of minutes from reading social media.

The whistling kicks in with Leave Your Cares Behind, a proper step into Bolan territory that takes you back in time to those strange T-Rex times. I’m just loving that trippy warped sound throughout. It’s fuckin’ brilliant stuff that gets better with every listen. Genius. Never Gonna Wake (Up) is a one minute stomp of lo-fi fuzz that swirls full of psychedelia and and swamp rock.. Dear Life Give Me A Sign That I Am Not Alone is a mellow affair that glides along. A floating love song that flirts with dirty romance and has a Mark Lanegan at his best feel.

Don’t Pass Me By is back in Bolan territory, an amazingly written glam tune that has a killer chorus which floats in and out. A spine tingling piece of work full of fuzz and some great guitar work that has hints of Santana without the noodling bollocks. Class. Clic Clac is a speeded up lo-fi bit of madness with dark lyrics I presume are about suicide? I may be wrong. It’s a fuck off slab of pysch madness that resonates. Psycho Vision is an acid tinged slice of madness yet again. Insane whistling, loads of fucking about with that wobbling sounding. It like listening to glam rock when you’ve necked 100 mushies and having a 50/50 good/bad trip. I keep thinking a clown’s gonna fucking jump me from behind the telly! Deathmarch ends the album in style. He’s defintely influenced by Lanegan on this one. Funereal keyboards with some great guitars and dark lyrics of the end of your life. An excellent foreboding track that is dark yet sounds fuckin’ massive. A song that Lanegan would easily put his name on if he heard it. Duet in the future? We hope! A great album that raises the bar.

 

 

NANCY    Facebook / Twitter / Spotify / Website / Instagram

Words by Wayne Carey, Reviews Editor for Louder Than War. His author profile is here

The post Nancy: The Seven Foot Tall Post-Suicidal Feel Good Blues – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Goat Girl: On All Fours – album review

Goat Girl - On All FoursGoat Girl

On All Fours

Rough Trade

Out now (all formats)

Three years on from their debut album, Goat Girl return with On All Fours, expanding their sound and their horizons without losing any of their distinctive lo-fi appeal.

Gone (mostly) is the warped country-tinged sound of early tunes like Cracker Drool, referenced in a song called Sad Cowboy, and in come drum machines, cheap Seventies sci-fi synths and instrument-swapping among band members.

Gone too is the observational perspective on the minutiae of London life – creeps on the Tube, forced jollity at parties – to be replaced by a wider world view that takes in lockdown anxiety, social injustices and the state of the planet. The personal becoming the political.

If you want to put a punk perspective on their musical development – and irrespective of their sound Goat Girl were always the essence of punk in attitude – then if they started out as the Slits, then they’ve grown into The Raincoats or The Au Pairs.

If the first album was sonically all about space, the second is more about the embellishments – synths and drum machines, with flashes of violin, viola and trumpet – that fill it.

It’s also about expanding their palette, dabbling in new mediums, with elements of funk and EDM, soul and RnB; even influences of folk and jazz creeping into the songs.

Written and recorded during the pandemic in their natural habitat of South London, these songs started life as demos and developed during sessions in producer Dan Carey’s home in South London.

There’s plenty of evidence of pandemic paranoia in these songs: a sense of claustrophobia and befuddlement in the woozy soundscapes behind those crunchy guitars and solid grooves. And a new ingredient.

Bass player Holly Mullineaux (aka Holly Hole), replacing Naima Redina-Bock (aka Naima Jelly), brings a warm musicality and stylistic versatility to her playing that subtly alters and often dominates the sound of Goat Girl.

Once again singer Lottie Pendlebury (aka Clottie Cream) adopts a listless style suited to the languor of the grooves, but injects a sweetness that’s not always apparent in the lyrics (“I have no shame when I say ‘Stay the fuck away’” she warns ominously in the opener, Pest).

Ironically (or deliberately), she sounds sweetest at her most vulnerable: the almost conventionally pretty Anxiety Feels features smooth, soulful harmonies and a stuttering, suffocating rhythm.

Written after Ellie began suffering serious panic attacks, it’s a plaintive cry for help: “Please don’t leave me alone staring out of the window / I know I should get out the house do something useful… I find it hard sometimes / I don’t wanna be on those pills.”

Closing In focuses even more strongly on Lottie’s depression and anxiety, the theme of loneliness and indecision more openly explored in Anxiety Feels and They Bite On You, in which she uses the experience of contracting scabiers as a metaphor for parasitic corporations.

Bass and drums take centre stage in many of the songs, such as the laid-back funk and stop-start rhythms of Once Again, while dancefloor synths drive Sad Cowboy – another song driven by that sense of isolation from the outside world – before its galloping rhythms and Western twang take it off in a new direction.Sad Cowboy

In the warped and far-from-jazzy Jazz (In The Supermarket), her wordless vocals carry the melody through what is by far their most adventurous song to date. There’s an almost reggae undercurrent to the bass and guitars, while trumpets blast over rattling percussion.

Then the song starts to disintegrate and melt into itself, slowing to a languorous crawl amid unhinged trumpet and viola, as if suffering from some sort of sonic malaise. It’s many things, but it’s not jazz.

Listening to the whole album, it’s clear that On All Fours is not so much a change of direction as a natural evolution. The one constant is the gritty guitars and enervated vocals of Lottie and Ellie Rose-Davis (aka LED).

There are few songs that you could imagine being included on their debut three years ago; perhaps The Crack, with its big guitar riff that wants to be White Wedding when it grows up, though its big environmental theme is very much a feature of the new widescreen Goat Girl of 2021.

Perhaps too, Badibaba might have been on that first album, with its swaying rhythm and crackling guitars and ad-libbed chorus, though once again it shifts and shuffles and its overlaid harmonies and softly squelching synths lend it a richness and sophistication that would have seemed out of place back then.

Never Stays The Same combines both sides of Goat Girl, beginning with an erratic, skittering pace (inspired by Ellie’s family pet, a greyhound called Tigerlily), before switching to a dreamy, spaced-out sound with violas on the chorus, mimicking the ssense of stasis we’re all feeling in lockdown.

As the album progresses, its style becomes more diverse: Bang could be a slice of Eighties electro with its waves of synth and dreamy vocals, while Where Do We Go From Here? has a descending synth melody that might have been borrowed from OMD and a burbling bassline beneath.

The glitchy electronica that underpins the plangent guitar motif and violin melody of the closing A-Men seems to suggest the future direction of Goat Girl lies in this area. It brings things to an anthemic close with a refrain that perfectly encapsulates the philosophy of the album itself: “I never thought that it would change / I never thought it would stay.”

Goat Girl’s website is here and they can also be found on Facebook and Instagram.

~

All words by Tim Cooper. You can find more of Tim’s writing on Louder Than War at his author’s archive. He is also on Twitter as @TimCooperES.

 

The post Goat Girl: On All Fours – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Synths, Sorrow, and Reverb in Australian Post-Punk Act Static’s “When I’m Falling”

“Drown your sorrows in reverb.”

Melbourne’s Joseph Ling needed a change. After spending years fronting punk and grunge bands, the synthesizer began calling for his attention, and he changed gears. In late 2019, Ling formed Static, focusing more on a “proudly DIY” post-punk approach.

Originally a vehicle for learning how to mix and to keep himself going when his main band had downtime, Static has now become Ling’s full-time focus. Still, he has not entirely shed the influence of punk. Lurking beneath the bleak soundscapes, the sense of energy and momentum courses throughout his music through bold basslines, minimalist drumming, and atmospheric synths.

Describing Static’s sound as “Stranger Things meets The National,” the outfit does indeed have that nostalgic twist: a synth construction similar to S U R V I V E, a revisitation of the oeuvre of vintage sci-fi scores, Ling’s soaring, earnest vocals bringing to mind The The’s Matt Johnson with a twist of Peter Garrett lite.

The result is When I’m Falling, four tracks of 80s-inspired, lo-fi post-punk songs that trigger latent memories in the guise of sonic retrofuturism. The band cites Black Marble, Molchat Doma, The Cure, Joy Division, and Discography as their biggest influences. Turn the Light On, Static’s latest full-length album, came out in July of this year.

Static is passionate about creating inclusive and diverse music scenes. All digital sales of this EP will be donated to Minus18, helping to support LGBTQIA+ youth in Australia. The band also acknowledges the songs were made on the lands of the Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation and note that they pay their respects to all indigenous peoples and their elders, and acknowledge their ongoing sovereignty of Australia. It is indeed a touching gesture.

When I’m Falling is out now on all streaming platforms such as:

Bandcamp:

And Spotify:

The post Synths, Sorrow, and Reverb in Australian Post-Punk Act Static’s “When I’m Falling” appeared first on Post-Punk.com.

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Half Japanese: Crazy Hearts – album review

JapaneseHalf Japanese

Crazy Hearts

Fire Records

Out 4th December, 2020

Louder Than War Bomb Rating 4.5

 

Half Japanese return with album nineteen and prove that 40 years on from their debut, they are still as vibrant and essential as ever.

BUY HERE

The last time we took a look at one of Half Japanese’s albums it was 2016’s Perfect. Since then, Jad Fair and his now solid line up have hit on a spree of releases, one a year right up to this year’s Crazy Hearts. As a band, not only are they on a prolific run, but are also on inspired form and this new album is a lesson in the twists and turns of lo-fi experimental post-punk that has made the band so influential since their inception at the tail end of the 70’s. It’s no surprise to hear how important Jonathan Richman’s Modern Lovers were to the initial formation of Half Japanese and, on this new album, Fair and his band draw on their influence like never before. Songs like Undisputed Champions and the wild-eyed opener The Beastmaster harness the Lovers spiked rhythms and lyricism like few of Fair’s previous releases have.

As with many of their previous releases, it’s his fascination with monsters and love that dominate the lyrical themes. The loping Late At Night picks up where The Walking Dead from last year’s Invincible album left off, with it’s focus on night crawling zombies, while the hypnotic title track is a blissful trip full of almost nursery rhyme lyrics.

Listening back through Half Japanese’s back catalogue, it’s clear to see just how much impact they have had on the indie landscape. Without their warped lo-fi sounds, the likes of Violent Femmes, R.E.M., Pavement, Eels and others that followed the path they ploughed may never have found that lyrical guile that Fair excels in. He almost pays it back on early album highlight, Wonderous Wonder, on which his phrasing recalls early Stipe, the influence coming back round in full circle. It’s also a song that brims with a life-affirming positivity that is impossible to resist.

Throughout the whole album they flit and shift, never staying still and settling into one groove, yet always cohesive in the overall style that they have crafted. Right up to the end, on the joyous bouncing summer psych-pop of Let It Show, they keep you guessing. Crazy Hearts feels like a realisation of Fair’s dream to follow in Richman’s footsteps. While it may seem too polished for those who prefer the crazed deshevelment of their first recordings, it is a must for those fans of the band that have traced their development of the last forty years, and the perfect record for new fans to dive into their back catalogue from. A triumph!

For further information on Half Japanese, please check out their Facebook.

~

Words by Nathan Whittle. Find his Louder Than War archive here.

The post Half Japanese: Crazy Hearts – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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