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Derrick Harriott – Greatest/Reggae Disco Rockers – album review

Derrick Harriott – Greatest Reggae Hits/Reggae Disco Rockers

Doctor Bird

2CD/DL

Released 11 June 2021

Reissue of two popular 1970s compilations of singer/producer Derrick Harriott’s singles. Greatest Reggae Hits is followed on disc one of this set by a selection of dub versions and Reggae Disco Rockers on disc two is enhanced by nine bonus tracks from Del’s back catalogue…Ian Canty rocks out with the king of soulful reggae…

Despite more than keeping himself on his toes with a hectic production schedule at this time in his musical career, Derrick Harriott did not neglect recording in his own right all through what was an already very busy period. He specialised in the early to mid 1970s in easy-going (if not quite easy listening, but close) pop reggae, giving a number of soul favourites a cover and more often than not a reggae refit too. His work in this style would prove influential on lover’s rock later in the decade, with Derrick’s high vocal pitched, soulful delivery and smooth production helping to provide the template. 1975’s Greatest Reggae Hits, a compilation of his recent at the time singles, appeared at a crucial stage in the form’s development.

The original incarnation of Trojan was on its last legs when it issued Greatest Reggae Hits in the UK in 1975. This LP collected some of Derrick’s single sides drawn from the three year period prior to the album’s release. Even the fact that it was a good seller for the label didn’t help to stave off Trojan’s imminent demise. Even so it is a really good collection of modern reggae with a large side helping of soul. The swinging groove of Face Dog, an updated version of Derrick’s 1960s mento-flavoured hit, gets Greatest Reggae Hits off to a good start and it is immediately followed by a warmly rendered reggae/soul crossover version of the Chi-lites Being In Love.

There’s a fine clavinet sounding off on Let Me Down Easy and Look Over Your Shoulder, also recorded by The O’Jays and a 1974 hit for The Escorts, expertly harnesses electric piano, elegant guitar and the merest smidgeon of a reggae beat. Though probably better known by the covers by both Robert Palmer and Rod Stewart in the early 1980s, Some Guys Have All The Luck was originally by r&b act The Persuaders and Harriott’s version trots along gamely in a jaunty pop reggae manner.

In addition to being dubbed the king of soulful reggae, Harriott was also always capable of cutting a convincing pure r&b ballad. The self-penned Bucketful Of Tears and Trial Of Love are both done in a straightforward soul fashion and they are breezily played and sung too. The fact that there is barely a hint of reggae in either did not hinder my enjoyment a jot. The album ends with a neat reggae reworking of The Temptations’ Since I Lost My Baby.

On this first disc Greatest Reggae Hits is followed by dub takes of some of the album’s tracks. To be honest they are on the whole pretty standard in their versioning, with the mix going down to drums and bass before bringing selected elements back in as was the default dub setting of the time. However, on Love Version the times when the song and organ comes back are well-judged and helps to emphasise the quieter sections all the more. Some Guys Have All The Luck Version has the vocal just about there very low in the mix to start with, just a ghostly whisper as the clavinet buzzes purposefully out front. Bucketful Of Tears Version is understandably just an instrumental take, but I did like Why Do Fools Fall In Love Version, where the squelching synth line moves forward to take centre stage.

Reggae Disco Rockers, which opens up disc two of this set, originally emerged on Lloyd Charmers’ label later in 1975 after Trojan finally went belly up (to be reborn as an oldies imprint a while later). This collection was different in that it was made up of all new recordings. A version of Pete Wingfield’s recent UK hit single Eighteen With A Bullet starts things off with a big doo wop bass-vocal and is enhanced by the delightful organ sound that is achieved. Fly, Robin, Fly has Derrick exploring funk ably and Wish On A Star is an undiluted rhythm & blues slowie. Reggae Disco Rockers even throws in an alternate take of Bucketful Of Tears and DH does wonders on the creamy soul number of Castles In The Air.

Back in a more reggae mode his voice really soars on the ebullient Caught You In A Lie. This tune was previously recorded in the UK by Louisa Mark, a key proto-lover’s rock recording masterminded by Dennis Bovell. The addictive drive of Reggae Train may retrace a few well-worn moon-stomping steps for Derrick, but its feelgood momentum soon overcomes any feelings of overfamiliarity. The album itself ends with an up-tempo All Day Music, which has some nice brass touches.

Among the bonuses on disc two Derrick revisits his first recording from way back in the 1950s Lollipop Girl, a pleasing mid-paced gallop and also there is a different Eighteen With A Bullet take. The playful Don’t Rock The Boat and Day By Day both impressed me, the latter a really good example of Derrick’ flawless high voice in full flow. The packed arrangement of Have You Seen Her?, another Chi-lites number, helps give it enough individuality to pull it away from being just another cover and Harriott finishes the set with Medley In Five Parts 1 & 2. It’s fun if inessential, this was part of the brief medleys craze that occurred in Jamaica during the first half of the 70s.

It has to be said that the production style and musical approach employed on Greatest Reggae Hits/Reggae Disco Rockers is very commercially minded, we’re a long way from the militant roots sound of later in the same decade. As reggae music struggled to adapt after the boom time of 1969/70, the pop route was one well travelled. Derrick Harriott at least did it with a touch of quality and his sweet vocal talents were ideally matched to soul-inclined and sometimes pure soul material. This 2CD set shows him on good form and hard at work, making a successful stab towards the middle ground. His own songwriting even manages to stand up well alongside the quality cover selection, with the musical arrangements and crafted performances bringing each tune to life vividly.

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

The post Derrick Harriott – Greatest/Reggae Disco Rockers – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Dissent: Knee Deep In Scheisse – EP Review

Dissent Knee Deep In ScheisseDissent – Knee Deep In Scheisse (Dissent)

CDEP

Out Now

The new EP from Deptford denizens Dissent draws on various punk rock influences to take a cheeky look at life.  For fans of early punk rock and Oi.

Dissent – or alternatively D!ssent – play mid-paced to fast chunky punk rock and take a cheeky, good humoured, look at modern life. They like drinkin’ but they hate rumour mongers and annoying feckers glued to their mobile phones. Even when they cover more serious subjects such as depression (Dark Days) they manage to seem flippant and cheery.

Dissent are fans of the call and response chorus which tends to make for catchy tunes. Whist it would be tempting to lump them in with latter day faster Oi, this collection of songs drinks deep from the well of original punk – I am particularly thinking The Drones and The Lurkers. They take an even deeper sup from the “second wave” of punk around 1979.  This puts them very much in UK Subs territory but if you listen carefully there are shades of the songwriting of bands such as The Outcasts and even Buzzcocks in places.

The 6 track EP kicks off with a homage to their spiritual home of Deptford and New Cross with “SE14”. The dirty, rowdy streets they love.  The almost deadpan vocals give this an Oi! vibe coupled with a tuneful chorus. They’ve gigged extensively in the area including at the practice space they use, Overdrive, which has been responsible for helping keep punk alive in an increasingly gentrified capital with fewer venues and affordable rehearsal spaces. It would be criminal not to mention the  Overdrive crowdfunder to keep this vital space going.

SomebodyMcSomebody switches pace between mid-paced and fairly speedy and is a punky number, taking aim at rumour mongers. Flailing cymbals, buzzsaw guitar and chunky bass.  Dark Days and Kiss Kiss are fairly standard punky numbers.

Drinking rattles like a crate of empties with its chorus “Drinking to survive…drinking to feel alive”. It’s an anthem for drunk punks everywhere, bottle in hand, fist raised, staggering around on the dance floor in front of a band. On this song in particular and also on Zombie with it’s “can’t live without it” chorus, there is a something of a similarity to Runnin’ Riot (something of a gold standard for your Oi aficionados). This may just be me tuning in to singer Eric’s Belfast brogue, but it’s there in the songwriting style and the guitar licks too.

“Sarf East Landan” punk scene stalwart Gonk’s guitar is mostly a wall of buzz with occasional lead breaks and harmonics to provide variety to the songs (and no doubt to prove to the naysayers that he can actually play!).  The competently played drums have a clipped feature to them at times which reinforces the Oi! comparison but then at other times cymbals abound and they become more fluid and frantic. The chunky bass mostly underpins everything but occasionally pushes through the mix with a growling flourish.

Dissent occupy the sweet spot where they are fast enough to interest the younger crowd and not so fast they piss off the older folks for whom punk stopped in 1979. If they were a bunch of hipsters they would no doubt be an overnight sensation but they are the real deal.  Grizzled veterans steadfastly hanging on in the streets they know in the face of gentrification.

The CD hasn’t made it onto their currently sparse bandcamp page yet.

Contact the band via Facebook for details of how to order the EP.

~

All words by Nathan Brown. You can read more from Nathan on his Louder Than War archive over here.

The post Dissent: Knee Deep In Scheisse – EP Review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Garbage: No Gods No Masters — album review

Garbage: No Gods No Masters

(Stunvolume/Infectious Music)

CD | LP | DL

Released 11 June 2021

No Gods No Masters is the record everyone needs in this infernal landscape of 2021, offering explosive battle cries for smashing the patriarchy and resisting the politics of the present.

In Garbage’s seventh album, Shirley Manson is on fire (but really, hasn’t she always been?). She sings, whispers, chants, and bellows all the things we’ve wanted to scream as we’ve watched the world devolve into petty megalomaniacal power plays by the dunces at the top. No Gods No Masters works as a concept album that brilliantly develops a multifaceted retort to the godheads and monsters we’ve never wanted to worship. Before you recoil at the notion of a concept album, I say it here with high praise and reverence. Garbage shows us a way to assail the social and cultural structures that ultimately seek to marginalize and destroy.

Indeed, we must “destroy the violator!” This directive resounds across the first track, The Men Who Rule the World, and serves as a unifying motif across the album. The opening song establishes a framework for No Gods No Masters, with electronic beats reminding us of our entrapment in a digital moment of seeming despair as we relate to being “stuck inside my head all the fuckin’ time.” Yet the introspection of the track is overpowered, both conspicuously and necessarily, by the immediacy of its outward looking political commentary. Manson sings, “The men who rule the world/ Have made a fuckin’ mess . . . . Make it a crime to tell a lie again/ And watch those haters bleed.”

The next song, The Creeps, integrates elements of the past with a contemplative present fury that’s set up through the opening track. The lyrics that start and close the song feel like a smart homage to Bush Tetras’ glorious single Too Many Creeps as Manson rasps, “When I get like this/ I give myself the creeps . . . . I give myself the creeps.” It’s as if Pat Place’s observation of all the creeps swarming around New York City in the early 1980s, and Cynthia Sley’s vocals that breathed life into those post-punk impressions, has become even more reptilian in the modern age. The Creeps is my favorite track on No Gods No Masters (and one of Garbage’s all-time best).

As the album moves into Uncomfortably Me, it’s clear that Garbage have made albums before and know how to craft a record with undulations of speed and timbre. This song brings about a softer shift before moving into the loud and ferocious single Wolves. Waiting for God to Show Up and Godhead, the following tracks, cement a key trope within No Gods No Masters. They illumine the contradictions inherent when those in positions of power perform religious devotion while engaging in brutal acts of sexism. “Look what they did to her boy/ And nobody’s blinking an eye/ She’s choking on sadness with no hope for justice/ Just look what they did to her boy.” Such devastating language gets followed quickly by a fierce recrimination in Godhead. Manson growls in spoken-word form what so many women want to scream out, “Would you deceive me?/ If I had a dick/ Would you know it/ Would you blow it?” The song’s grungy electric guitar, white-noise fuzz, and forceful percussion tie it back to Garbage’s eponymous album in sound alone, allowing the lyrics to transcend time and demand a reckoning for the pervasive misogyny that hasn’t changed much in the last 25 years.

Shifts between the personal and the political occur across Anonymous XXX, A Woman Destroyed, and Flipping the Bird, back-and-forth transitions mirrored by waves of volume and rhythm. In the penultimate song that shares its title with the album, No Gods No Masters condemns the politics of the present in which devious minds offer prayers for the violence they’ve wrought: “The future is mine just the same/ No gods or masters to obey . . . . Save your prayers for yourself/ ‘cause they don’t work and they don’t help.” By the time the album reaches its end with This City Will Kill You, I can’t help but feel as though Manson offers a valediction. The song circles back to Garbage’s early single Only Happy When It Rains, itself a reflection of pastness in its Jesus and Mary Chain homage: “Everybody’s praying that it rains/ it’s been promised now for days.” Perhaps it’s not a swan song, but an elegy that marks the losses of the twenty-first century—both those occurred and those to come.

As if you needed more reason to buy No Gods No Masters, the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition are killer. Can Shirley Manson, Exene Cervenka, Brody Dalle, and Marissa Paternoster please form a supergroup?

Garbage is Shirley Manson (vocals), Duke Erikson (guitar, bass, keyboards), Steve Marker (guitar, keyboards), and Butch Vig (drums, production).

You can buy No Gods No Masters from Sister Ray Records or your favorite local shop. Follow Garbage on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

~

Words by Audrey J. Golden. You can follow Audrey on Twitter and Instagram, and you can check out her personal website to learn more about her writing and her archive of books, records, and ephemera.

The post Garbage: No Gods No Masters — album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Viktor Orri Árnason: Eilífur – album review

Viktor Orri ArnasonViktor Orri Árnason: Eilífur

(Pentatone)

CD | DL

Released 18th June 2021

Pre-order on Bandcamp 

Louder Than War Bomb Rating 3.5

 

The unbearable heaviness of being. Viktor Orri Árnason’s debut is an existential journey that hypothesises about the inevitability of eternal life. It’s centred around Árneson’s sumptuous compositions and his magnificent viola and violin. Oh, did I mention that there’s also an astonishing choir? Gordon Rutherford reviews for Louder Than War.

Great art is all about storytelling and Eilífur, the debut album from Icelandic composer, conductor and producer Viktor Orri Árnason, tells a story. Like those ancient and epic Scandinavian sagas, it’s a tale that is a deep, philosophical reflection on life itself. Put succinctly, Árnason posits the hypothesis that rapid advances in medical science will ultimately eradicate death by natural causes and Eilífur is his bold attempt to musically narrate this seismic shift in life (and death) as we know it. K-pop it ain’t. Clearly, given the solemnity of the subject matter, this is a heavy piece of work. It’s heavy in its textures, heavy in its moods and heavy in its meaning. This is a collection of compositions that arrive draped in their winter cloak. For the most part.

Árnason emerges from the same Berlin studio as the brilliant Rutger Hoedemaekers, whose outstanding album, The Age Of Oddities, was reviewed by yours truly on these pages earlier this year. In fact, Árnason featured on his contemporary’s album. In recent years, this studio has been a hub of experimentation and creativity, a place where younger up-and-coming composers like Árnason and Hoedemaekers could rub shoulders and collaborate with such giants as Jóhann Jóhannsson and Hildur Gudnadóttir. Like Hoedemaekers, Árnason now emerges as a composer in his own right, and, just as Hoedemaekers’ did with his debut, he has created a body of work that is hugely impressive. There is another commonality between both albums that it would be incredibly remiss of me to fail to mention. All orchestral parts on Eilífur were performed by the brilliant Budapest Art Orchestra, conducted by Árnason. They sound just as good as they did on The Age Of Oddities.

To use a football analogy, Eilífur is an album of two halves. In contemplating the music in the context of the philosophy that sits underneath it, the first half appears to be influenced not by eternal life, but by death itself. Those early tracks are almost funereal, held together by the most beautifully tragic, mournful strings. Like all good stories, it is vividly and dramatically told. Árnason’s innovatively sepulchral viola and violin sweep across these tracks majestically, occasionally heightening the drama by becoming slightly discordant.

The stand out feature of the album’s first half, however, is the voices. That’s what hits you right between the eyes. We first encounter the choir, conducted by Árnason’s father, Árni Hardarson, on the opening track, Var. I’m sure the Fóstbrædur male choir haven’t had many mentions in Louder Than War before now, but, hey, perhaps choral music can become the new rock n’ roll. There is something tragic, something gothic, in those voices. They evoke images of hooded figures emerging from the shadows of spectral cloisters and silently weeping women. If Arthur required a soundtrack for his last journey to Avalon, it would be perfectly provided by Árnason’s Var. Whilst they are not quite so prominent, voices play a role throughout the remainder of the first half. They are haunting and sombre, drifting between the sweeps of Árnason’s mournful viola on the sumptuous minimalism of The Thread and clashing against the dissenting strings of Maiden.

But then the album transforms, as though time has accelerated and delivered us from the bleak midwinter into the rolling meadows of late spring. We are no longer contemplating death. Instead, the mood alters, becoming more optimistic, as though the prospect of eternal life may be worth celebrating after all. This transformation is ushered in by The Vision, a gorgeously melodic track that is starkly different from anything that has come before. Based around a beautiful melody provided by Stefan Baumann’s bass clarinet, it ushers in a lightness and relief from the immensity of those choirs. This theme continues with the minimalism of Nectar. A piano picks out a delicate and fragile line before being joined by graceful and airy strings. Anima Mundi completes a trilogy of lightness before the choirs return to close the album on the final track, Var-Er.

In his existential classic, Milan Kundera wrote about the concept of ‘lightness’. With Eilífur, Viktor Orri Árnason has created his own existential story, except he has come at it from a quite different direction. The unbearable heaviness of being. Eilífur is a serious album; one that demands your attention and consideration. For a debut work, it is incredibly ambitious and Árnason’s ability to conjure up vivid images in your mind through his wonderful music is quite special. I genuinely hope that he has many more stories to tell.

~

Photo credit: Yvonne Hartmann

Viktor Orri Árnason can be found here. He is also on Facebook and Instagram.

Pentatone can be found here. They are also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

~

All words by Gordon Rutherford. More writing by Gordon can be found in his archive.

Gordon is also on twitter as @R11Gordon and has a website here: https://thedarkflux.com

 

The post Viktor Orri Árnason: Eilífur – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Dave Huntriss: Bewilderness – single review

HuntrissDave Huntriss: Bewilderness

(Afraid of the Radio Recordings)

Out Now

DL

“This year’s been so unkind to us,” sings Bristol-based multi-instrumentalist, Dave Huntriss in his second recent single release, Bewilderness.

You can’t argue with the premise. It’s been odd at best since early 2020. For Huntriss, the lack of any structure or certainty in his musician’s life pulled the rug out from under him so profoundly that at the start of lockdown #2, he basically had to seek a new rug to stand on. That rug was not in the previously-thriving creative hub of Bristol, but at his parents’ home in Dorset. Therein lies the premise of this single: going from a state of Bewilderness, isolation in the city, to seeking some sense of solace amongst nature and with family.

It starts with the mournful, “Autumn leaves whisper to me,” the year decaying and life seeming, at best, muted. But you can also tell straight away that this ‘beginning of the end’ scenario is in fact a tentative, optimistic beginning. Those opening words come with full, rich, expansive guitar chords. There may be a slightly weary, fuzzy sound to the guitars and a hint of breathlessness in Huntriss’ vocal. His inner and his external world may seem initially jaded, but the track certainly has a steady, stoical rhythm and a brightness that suggests the gradual recovery that ensues.

So a potential plot of ‘Grown man voluntarily marooned in parents’ attic in the middle of nowhere’, becomes a tale of retreat and recovery. It’s a mini-love story to Bristol. He bids it an understated farewell, “Time to leave./ City’s asleep./ Tiptoe and leave a note for you:/ Be back soon;/ No need to fuss,” with a sense that parting, although painful, is only temporary.

The simple healing powers of the ocean and home feel inspiring. Even the negatives, “There’s nothing left here for me but bewilderness,” feel powerfully honest and productive – a fixed point from which he can move forwards.

As the song progresses from then (autumn) towards now (spring), what seems a little frayed and frazzled at the start becomes hardier, with layers of instrumentation and some triumphantly warming brass (such as you can hear Huntriss play with the fabulous Nicholson Heal). There are two brief periods of intensive quiet in the song. One precedes the brass blast and contains the idea of staring at “Bristol rain” and “living in fear of giving up” – a fear that is overcome.

The ending is the other moment of peaceful repose. Not only does the song take a deep breath, but it feels like the incessant ‘big noise’ of the world and the resultant emotions that can overwhelm are no longer dominant. We are left with the “Birds of spring” in the lyrics and in the soothing ambient noises of the outro.

Last year definitely felt unkind. This year hasn’t necessarily made its mind up yet. One of the best aspects of 2021 has been the feeling that creativity is once again starting to flourish. Bewilderness captures that feeling in four uplifting minutes.

You can find Dave Huntriss on Facebook, Instagram, and Bandcamp

~

All words by Jon Kean. More writing by Jon on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. He tweets as @keanotherapy.

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Dany Laj And The Looks: Ten Easy Pieces – album review

Dany Laj And The Looks: Ten Easy PiecesDany Laj And The Looks

(We Are Busy Bodies/Rum Bar Records)

CD | LP | DL

Released on 11 June 2021

Dany Laj And The Looks bring us some real sunshine and quite possibly the sound of summer 2021 with their third album. Ten Easy Pieces is a melting pot of classic pop influences which is bound to put a smile on everyone’s faces.

Whilst Dany Laj is the product of a remote gold-mining town way north of Toronto, Canada, there is little doubt from his recorded output to date that he has channelled much of his time in exploring the musical world that sits outside of this seclusion. As a consequence of this, any attempts to put a label on his sound will ultimately prove to be fruitless as he crosses so many boundaries often within each song he writes. And that is what makes the release of his third album, Ten Easy Pieces, such an exciting prospect. With strong driving power-pop leanings at the forefront underpinned by the spirit of post-punk and a penchant for memorable catchy hooks, anything could happen.

Dany’s love of music was harnessed at an early age through a love of the Beatles and clearly his head was turned again when he discovered punk and other forms of underground music. But his musical stylings and harmonic backdrops suggest he has absorbed so much of what came in between all these genres. And with his band The Looks, he has spent much of the time touring the vast landscapes of North America, that is until the pandemic struck.

Undeterred, Dany seemingly started to focus all his time on songwriting as well as revisiting many much older songs which he already had in his considerable locker. With lifelong mate and bass player, Jeanette Dowling, and also drummer Dusty Campbell by his side, together with a bunch of friends from his own locale, the band worked through a whole batch of songs which eventually became their third album to date. And for those with an eye for detail, Ten Easy Pieces became twelve songs with a couple of bonus tracks added for good measure.

Opening song, Smile, has all the charm and vibrancy of the 60’s beat generation and is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face even in the face of any adversity you may be facing right now. Well, it certainly worked for me. I can really feel the influence of the Beatles here and all the great sounds that inspired Dany towards a career in music.

You & Me stays within the boundaries of the ’60s but takes us on a pop-infused rhythm and blues trip through the Stones and the Kinks accompanied by the distinct vocal harmonies of Jeanette Downing which have become such a great feature of the band’s sound. As Dany himself comments, with more than a nod to the accompanying video, “It’s a vacation on your favourite pure-pop island”.

Following on from You & Me, Don’t Keep Me Guessin’ continues the theme of finding ‘the one’ you have been looking for and doing your damnedest to make it work. As the lead single from the album, this has a more alternative country feel in the vein of The Replacements who feature throughout as more than a strong influence on the sound, but which has always got Dany’s own stamp on it. It’s another feel-good sound which completely overtakes the uncertainty running through the narrative right up until the end of the song.

Pick It Up is nothing short of a classic power-pop anthem as it leaps from the amps. Starting with a driving bass line which never lets go, this is an all-out rocker that will make you get up on the dance floor if you haven’t made it there already. I Play Guitar follows and is like the Velvet’s Waiting For The Man re-imagined by T-Rex with shades of early Who and The Pretty Things thrown into the heady mix.

Painting My Face is another song which owes more than a nod to Paul Westerberg with a tale of someone who clearly has not found his place in life. Till Jockey’s Lament is more Buzzcocks than Beatles with a hard-driving edge and an infectious chorus that I have kept coming back to long after hearing the album for the first time.

One More Hole is a more sombre offering seemingly telling a tale of despair and drudgery, albeit with an uplifting and infectious beat. In Other Words is more a lament for difficult times which may not be as bad as you think, delivered with a truly heartfelt and moving vocal. Smoke In The Sun follows in haze of psychedelic rock with a punky edge, conveying a sense of freedom that runs right through the narrative.

Who’s Pickin’ On You is a song by John Barra focusing on repression but with a strong sense of reassurance from a loved one. Starting off like a classic from the back catalogue of The Jam, it again features a strong hook in the chorus line. Closing song, Wanted To Be Loved is pure out and out rock’n’roll with the clear message in the title. And for those still in any doubt, I am now in love with this band!

Dany Laj & The Looks

Ten Easy Pieces proves to be a melting pot of classic influences all thrown into a set of three-minute pop anthems. It’s an album fit to brighten up any day with authentic 60’s beat generation melodies fused with country, folk and post-punk influences. I just hope that Dany Laj And The Looks can venture further than North America in the post-pandemic world and bring some welcome sunshine and positivity to the rest of the world.

The sound of the summer of 2021 is right here, right now in Ten Easy Pieces and I have no doubt it will bring a big smile to your face as it did mine.

Buy the album from We Are Busybodies or Rum Bar Records.

You can find Dany Laj And The Looks on Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp and their website.

~

All words by Ian Corbridge. You can find more of his writing at his author profile.

The post Dany Laj And The Looks: Ten Easy Pieces – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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The Speed Of Sound – Replicant – single review

The Speed Of Sound – Replicant/The Melancholy Rose

Big Stir

Out now

New single by long running Manchester band The Speed Of Sound, which is part of the Big Stir label’s long running and successful Digital Singles Series. Ian Canty checks the milometer and kicks the tyres…

Forming first towards the end of the 20th century, The Speed Of Sound now have entered their fourth decade of existence. They originally convened back in 1989 and the personnel has understandably fluctuated over the years, with for example some 10 drummers having been involved with the band in a Spinal Tap-like scenario. Operations seem to have picked up since 2010, as two albums and six singles have emerged over the last decade. The band’s current line up is John Armstrong and Ann-Marie Crowley, who both play guitar and sing, plus a rhythm section of bassist Kevin Roache and John Broadhurst behind the traps. They are joined here on on Replicant by John’s son Henry Armstrong on keys.

The single’s a side Replicant presents itself as a sweeping indie pop/rock number that seeks to address the woes of an increasingly homogenous world where it often seems we’re constantly under pressure from all sides to conform, buy that new car/funeral insurance plan, be just like your neighbours etc. Marked with a spirited and cool vocal from Ann-Marie, this is the just kind of wry, pointed pop pearl that has been missing presumed dead in the UK charts for some time. Coming complete with a brief but explosive psych guitar break, Replicant is full of life and the natural instinct to kick back at the pricks responsible for making the world a drab shade of grey.

The other song of the pair featured here is The Melancholy Rose, a somewhat more restrained effort with John providing vocals this time around. I liked very much the spaced out, psychedelic feel of the verses, which lead up to a prime piece of jangling guitar noise. I also felt there were some hints of the early wide-eyed innocence of Aztec Camera, which is certainly not a bad thing at all. That it all comes wrapped up with an enthralling and beguiling charm is another bonus. The Melancholy Rose sounds a bit like The Modern Lovers, if they were from Manchester and going from there to proceed on towards outer space…

The Speed Of Sound appear sharp as a pin musically on both sides of this single, bringing all their collected experience to bear fruitfully on a couple of different, but very catchy numbers. Both are lovely sounds just right for the summer that’s on the way and the ideal tasters for what is evidently one smart outfit. All we need now is a spanking new album to follow it up.

The Speed Of Sound’s website is here and they are on Facebook here

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

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Elli de Mon: Countin’ The Blues – album review

 Elli de MonElli de Mon: Countin’ The Blues

(Area Pirata Records)

LP | CD | DL

Released 18th June 2021

Louder Than War Bomb Rating 4

 

Italian one-woman blues-garage band salutes the queens of the blues with an inspired selection of interpretations on her sixth album.

Lately, there has been an influx of tribute albums, artists paying their respects to the bands that formed their own styles. From well-known names like Gang Of Four, to underground bands like Subsonics, reverence and homage seem to be the order of the day. To that list, we can now add Italian blues-garage singer Elli de Mon, who, on her new album Countin’ The Blues, shares her versions of some of the great female blues artists of the 1920s.

She starts of the record with a fantastic version of Ma Rainey’s Prove It On Me Blues, her slide guitar work winding out over a stomping rhythm, injected with a full distorted grit that suits the song perfectly. It’s a dose of dirt that lends itself well when she takes on Lucille Bogan’s Shave ‘Em Dry. I can only but imagine the shock and horror on the face of a young Mary Whitehouse as a teenager hearing the lyrics coming from the speakers. On this version, the fuzz is pushed through the floor to create a dense danger over which de Mon rasps howls and wails. She’s in pure Kills territory and it’s fantastic.

While her guitar work lends itself excellently to the songs, it’s often her voice that is the true star. She uses it to great effect on the introduction to Bessie Smith’s Blue Spirit Blues, substituting the original’s haunting piano line with a low hushed hum and ghostly harmonies, acapella until the menacing guitar seeps in. The song builds slowly, the intensity gradually increasing until it’s bringing down the house. On Victoria Spivey’s Dope Head Blues she brings in a create sitar line and backing, creating something completely otherworldly and captivating.

While the first side of the album takes the inspiration of these Blues queens and shifts their work squarely into the fuzzed-out darkness of dirty garage, de Mon knows that, in showing respect to these legends, she must also take the songs at times for what they were. In that vein, the second side sees her sticking much closer to the original styles of her chosen covers. The choice to do so serves as a perfect reminder that she herself does in no way need to hide her talent within the distortion and that, stripped back to an acoustic guitar, her talent can still make an incredible impact.

Her arpeggio fingerpicking on Elizabeth Cotton’s Freight Train is sublime, as is her voice, sweet and perfect with some wonderful tumbling phrasing. She does a real spirited sliding version of Lottie Kimbrough’s Wayward Girl Blues and, while it may have been popularised more by Led Zeppelin, her version of Memphis Minnie’s When The Levee Breaks surpasses that driving rock version through retaining the original’s sensibility before closing out with a wonderful version of Betha ‘Chippie’ Hill’s Trouble In Mind. Those who go for the vinyl version will also get a hypnotic version of Geeshie Wiley’s Last Kind Words. It’s certainly more in the style of the first half of the record, breathing a whole new lease of life into the song, stripped of virtually all recognisability.

Whether reinvented and reworked or sticking close to the originals, de Mon manages to bring a new life to the songs on Countin’ The Blues, one that will no doubt bring these classics to a whole new audience.

Follow Elli de Mon on Facebook and Instagram.

~

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

The post Elli de Mon: Countin’ The Blues – album review appeared first on Louder Than War.

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Marina Allen: Candlepower – album review

Marina Allen: Candlepower

(Fire Records)

LP | CD | DL

Out now

A folk-inclined debut from a spiritually-oriented Californian songwriter.

BUY HERE

While listening to Candlepower, it’s not hard to detect the multiple references that Marina Allen names as influential artists. Some of the most personal twists in her lyrics nod to Joni Mitchell’s Blue, while a soft tremolo of the voice reminds of the velvety vocals of Karen Carpenter. Unlike her favourites, Allen is quite laconic. Candlepower barely spans over eighteen minutes. Yet seven songs eloquently speak up for a smitten mind and express longing for wholeness.

Although saturated with musical citations, the album sheds light on Allen’s individuality. She carefully crafts the magical world of her own, using both audial (chimes and hypnotic loops) and visual (spiral-looking patterns in her music videos) elements. Continuous spiritual overtones communicate a wish to grow beyond the limits set by fears. Repeated throughout the record, phrases such as “I want to belong here” or “I long to belong” sound almost like a mantra. They are empowered by music that brings up the shamanic quality. Hissing percussion and an undulating guitar riff on Belong Here culminate in a texture with polyphonic vocals and the ethereal sound of chiming bells, alluding to Parallelograms by Linda Perhacs. The impressionistic arrangement gives you a feeling of playful spontaneity.

Marina Allen can be seen as an artist professing the idea of new sincerity. With her introspective approach, she attempts to express the actual feeling, yet is seemingly aware of the performative aspect. There is always a fine line between these two. On the opening track Oh, Louise, Allen ostensibly addresses her younger self with charming lyrics and then surprisingly proceeds with lines that slightly remind of NHS advice on the Mindfulness page: Drink Water / Eat Broccoli / Love your neighbour. Is she being ironic? Who knows.

The album’s closer Reunion sets an open ending – possibly the most congruous finale for such a therapeutic album as Candlepower. Marina Allen’s journey on the path of self-discovery seems to have just begun.

Follow Marina Allen on Twitter and Instagram.

~

All words by Irina Shtreis. More writing by Irina can be found in her author’s archive.

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Peace Flag Ensemble: Noteland – album review

Peace Flag EnsemblePeace Flag Ensemble: Noteland

(We Are Busybodies)

LP|DL

Released 18th June 2021

Pre-order on Bandcamp

Louder Than War Bomb Rating 3.5

 

Canadian experimental jazz collective, Peace Flag Ensemble, introduce themselves to the world with an extremely worthy debut. It’s elegant and spacious and technically excellent. Louder Than War’s Gordon Rutherford reviews. 

Saskatchewan. The land of the living skies, with its rolling prairies and golden wheat fields. It majestically proclaims its easy tranquillity and beauty. That magnificent Canadian province is home to experimental jazz collective, Peace Flag Ensemble and it shows. Just like those vast plains, their debut album, Noteland, released on Canadian label We Are Busy Bodies, is one without boundaries. Furthermore, there are moments on this album where Peace Flag Ensemble’s imagination and creativity appears to be as never-ending as those Saskatchewan skies.

The genesis of the band occurred when pianist Jon Neher met producer and multi-instrumentalist Michael Scott Dawson at a local book club. Rock n’ roll, huh? That intelligent bookishness seeps through much of Noteland. Most of the songs on the album follow a similar pattern, one in which Neher’s elegant piano prepares the canvas. The other band members are then free to approach and apply their own unique stamp on the work. In less proficient hands such a strategy has the potential to get messy, but Peace Flag Ensemble pull this off proficiently and with methodical diligence. It never becomes a scruffy free for all. In fact, one of the most endearing aspects of Noteland is that phenomenal sense of space; just like their home province, it never appears to be too busy. In fact, it never appears busy at all. Another really interesting characteristic of Noteland is its irregularity. It’s certainly not a conventional piece of work, but that’s one of the things that makes it so admirable. Within the songs, Peace Flag Ensemble are comfortable to improvise and innovate, and it’s extremely refreshing to listen to a band with the confidence to attempt that on their debut.

As a collection, Noteland feels stronger in its earlier stages than it does in the latter. A great example of how they set their stall out nice and early comes in the form of the hypnotic debut single, Human Pyramid. Neher’s exquisite tumbling piano arpeggios immediately grab your attention and when Travis Packer’s resonant bass quickly joins, you are hooked. That, however, is merely the hors’ d’oeuvre. The song really catches fire when Dalton Lam’s glorious trumpet kicks in. Lam’s performance, incidentally, is outstanding throughout Noteland. He has this incredibly distinctive sound which has this capacity to seem faraway yet very intimate at the same time. His timbre is soulful and a little forlorn, but one could listen to it all day long.

The album’s highlight, Woke Up Like The Room, Tarzana, follows. Again, we have Neher and Packer, perfectly synchronised; again, Lam meanders in with that heavenly horn, as charming as Orpheus strumming his lyre. Then we get a teasing glimpse of Paul Gutheil’s saxophone, drifting in to add another texture. This particular tune evokes Tom Waits’ music for Coppola’s One From The Heart. It has that very regretful, very resigned aura, one that summons memories of drinking alone in a strange city at 3 a.m.

The Right To Silence maintains the standard. It’s an incredibly laid back composition that comes across as though the band members are in a room somewhere just ambling through their material, letting their creative instincts come out to play. That’s another facet of the entire album. Throughout, it feels unhurried, effortless; seemingly improvisational without ever seeming incomplete. Yet another recurring theme is the clarity with which each and every instrument pierces through. They are all superbly played, technically dazzling in fact, but the production is just as much a star here. The aforementioned ambient artist, Michael Scott Dawson, was on production duties for Noteland (as well as contributing electronics, guitars and field recordings) and he has done an outstanding job in producing an album with such a distinctive sound.

However, despite the brilliant production and the technical brilliance of the musicians, Noteland does flag a little in its second half. Those latter tracks play out in a similar vein to all that has come before and I found myself willing them to conjure up something a little bit different, something to jolt me out of my reverie. I was hoping for them to extend that appetite for risk-taking and innovation a little further. There is one really interesting moment towards the end of the penultimate track, No Police In The Parade, when it sounds as though someone has pulled the plug on the record player and, like Dali’s clocks, the music melts, before someone thankfully puts the plug back in. It’s a tiny thing that is over in seconds, but it cleverly serves to pique your attention again. If only there was a little more of that in the latter stages.

Notwithstanding that, Noteland is a very worthy debut from Peace Flag Ensemble – one that is absolutely worth checking out. This is clearly a collection of musicians who are incredibly adept and, thankfully, not afraid to take risks. There is no doubt that they can (and will) go much further. I’m already licking my lips at the prospect of the follow-up.

Peace Flag Ensemble are on Twitter and Instagram.

We Are Busy Bodies can be found here. They are also on Bandcamp, TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

~

All words by Gordon Rutherford. More writing by Gordon can be found in his archive.

Gordon is also on twitter as @R11Gordon and has a website here: https://thedarkflux.com

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