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At a time when the term apathy is almost an outlawed word in Scotland, it’s ironic that an album by a band from north of Hadrian’s Wall inspires an overwhelmingly apathetic feeling within me. From the beginning of We Were Promised Jetpacks‘ third outing ‘Unravelling’ – barring sparse sections of the record – all I could think was what else I could be doing rather than listen to this record.
Maybe I’ll listen to the new We Are the Ocean song ‘ARK’. That’s been buzzing around my head nicely for a while. Or perhaps I’ll try and write a feature piece on that BBC Music cover creation of ‘God Only Knows’, to delve into the madness where they put Dave Grohl in the same vein as (definition of flash in the pan) Sam Smith. Or perhaps I’ll listen to that 30-second snippet of the new Foo Fighters album in the documentary promo.
For me, those thoughts gave the underlying impression of an album that failed to do what I demand from music. It neither grabbed me, nor did it take me on a journey, nor did it inspire any poignant emotion within me – barring apathy – if that can be classified as a discernable emotion. I didn’t feel it was truly experimental either; there was nothing which jumped out and grabbed me and made me think, nobody else is doing that at the moment.
The record truly just doesn’t get going until quarter of an hour in, despite flecks of promise at the end of LP opener ‘Safety in Numbers’. ‘Night Terror’ at least had enough about to wake me from the faux-slumber I drifted into at the top of the album. Perhaps I was expecting too much? But when the NME call their second album “Punchy, literate guitar music”, I expect a bit of punch before around 25 minutes into the blooming thing. ‘A Part of It’ starts off with a bit of bite and vigour, almost enough to nudge me awake from my stasis.
From the brilliantly angst-ridden breakout record of ‘These Four Walls’, We Were Promised Jetpacks showed a great promise in the brilliantly honest songwriting that underpinned the power of their debut outing. Despite their being an almost overwhelming sense of anxiety throughout ‘Unravelling’, this album just doesn’t hit the emotional highs and lows that predecessors have found the note on. As far as British post-rock is going, the group looked certain to push their way to the forefront, but this album despite having all the sheen of a brilliant production and some slick guitar work just feels a little underwhelming.
I just thought a band with the word ‘jetpacks’ in the title may be a little more exciting with maturity, but even after ‘Unravelling’, I still think we’re waiting for lift-off.
Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks‘ third album ‘Unravelling’ is out now on FatCat Records. Read Mary’s review of previous single ‘I Keep It Composed’ here.
When I first heard that the band that makes me weep in this awesomeness were planning a concept record, I was fearful. Were they going to go full Muse on ‘The Resistance’ and forget what made them the accessible, fucking amazing group they are now? I felt a bit queasy in that place in your tummy that goes all squirty when your boss calls you into the office with THAT look on their face… The undoubtable feeling that this could go completely arse over face…
As the build-up towards Foo Fighters’ return gathered traction, I became more and more nervous. Numerous octogenarian musicians were wheeled out for amazing cover songs. Dave and co. haven’t lost IT, but I was still feeling that sense of foreboding about the record. They hadn’t lost IT, but they may have lost their minds, retreated up their own arses and made one of those concept records which bands who have done so well tend to do when they get to this stage, Muse’s ‘The 2nd Law’ as the prime example (I’m really giving Muse a hammering lately and I love Muse. Sorry, Muse).
20:50 last Thursday night, Zane Lowe had been tickling and teasing with clips from an interview with Grohl, Shiflett, Mendel, Smear and Hawkins, and on came and the opening chords of ‘Something From Nothing’, the first track on upcoming release ‘Sonic Highways’ came on. At that point, I sighed a neurosis releasing breath of relief – the man Grohl was back, and he had in fact NOT disappeared up his own arse.
We’ve got Wayne’s World-esque guitar solos and it goes full DIY with a honky-tonk funkadelic groove. And finally, we’re furnished with the Grohl yell, “FUCK IT ALL I CAME FROM NOTHING! I’M SOMETHING FROM NOTHING / YOU ARE MY FUSE!”
It’s classic Foo all over. Whilst it isn’t a departure from the DIY sound which made ‘Wasting Light’ such a success, the song has the fundamentals of any Foo songs and is underpinned by a huge, fist-pumping chorus.
Now, the theory of an album made from stories gathered on an enormous musical road trip across the USA is an intriguing one. The sounds of the States have trickled through modern music and changed it at its very core, whether its the punk scene of Seattle or jazz and blues in New Orleans. Whether putting them together in eight songs will actually make a decent album is the question we’re still waiting for the answer for… But already the signs are looking good.
It’s a strange world we live in. Men with beards that would only years ago have seen them immediately signed to the social security register as homeless are now the ultimate female lure. You can say the word ‘crap’ on the radio and not be bombarded by a swarm of angry middle-aged mothers, intent on sketching you out as one of Satan’s most loyal and dastardly companions. It’s an age where NME have declared for the umpteenth year running, this is the year of the Great British Guitar Revolution. Oh, and have they mentioned it’s spearheaded by some dour youths from Brighton with increasingly gash haircuts?
It’s a frightening state of affairs – one in which a band is only entitled to be cool and ‘hip’ (people still use the word hip, right?) if they open their album with an intro track. Yes, we all love Foals and alt-J and we all want to be Yannis Philippakis, but how hard can every intro track get fucked? Just get on with it, for the love of god.
But when noodling intros, which could be the b-side from a cassette you bought of a whale song to help you get to sleep are regarded – not as an optional extra – but as an unmissable dollop of hyperclichéd goodness. Enter Lower Than Atlantis with an album that can help you forget this bizarre world arrayed in front of you. An album which, if the Mercury Music Prize was taken seriously anymore by the people who select the nominees, would have already been announced as the winner of the prize in 2015. Fo’ real.
What Mike Duce and his Watford based comrades Ben Sansom, Eddy Thrower and Dec Hart have achieved is an album to not just announce this band on the world stage, but to scream it naked from the rooftops, waving its collective cock from side to side maniacally, saying ‘pay attention to us, we’re not going away’. Quite a publicity stunt that would be, but flaccid, flapping cocks aside, LTA’s self-titled fourth album is the record they will be remembered for.
Immediately, opening single ‘Here We Go’ feels like it clocks in at around the length of a full album. Simply because of the amount of times you will end up pressing the repeat button. With a chorus as colossal as the Titan of Braavos and lyrics effectively spelling out the path this band are currently travelling on: “now, we’re raging on like a locomotive / shout, we’re coming through / we’re heading for ya / we are above all of the commotion / we are on track so get back behind us.”
The emphatically catchy choruses don’t stop there: the entire album is a catalogue in how to write a bonafide alternative rock banger, with tune after tune on the record having instant repeatability. So much so, that it’ll likely take you an age to get through the album as each track has its unique facets to get your head around. The rhythmic ‘90s-esque drum beat of ‘Stays the Same’, punctuated by Duce’s indomitable vocals, is a particular standout.
The most confusing and arguably triumphant feature of ‘Lower Than Atlantis’ is ‘Criminal’, where the band go full Matt Bellamy on acid conducting the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. At times it feels like a sample from ‘The 2nd Law’, as Mike Duce gets increasingly angst ridden and begins to yell, “yes, sir, we’re gonna get some action / you distract ‘em and I will attack them.” Yes, it’s as mad as it sounds, but it’s spectacularly mad at the same point, making for completely compelling listening. It’s stadium ready rock; the savvy song writing of ‘Changing Tune’ show Lower Than Atlantis have found their niche and have hammered home their point to devastating effect.
They do the grandiose and the massive incredibly well, while also showing in the opening chords of ‘Just What You Need’ Duce and co. That they’re capable of the understated. The brilliantly built ‘Time’ is such a simple construction but with the introduction of some new voices, it becomes a layered far more textured piece of songwriting.
Lower Than Atlantis prove on this record they’re similar to Shrek.
Bear with me…
They’re a beast with layers, possessing the ability to slam out tracks that sound like they were penned to serenade mass crowds at Wembley, until you peel back the layers when they show they’re capable of songwriting that could pluck the tightest of heartstrings. They can produce a pop banger like ‘Emily’, which feels like it could almost be inspired by Busted, and then they burst in with an unquestionably huge tune like ‘Damn Nation’. Bursting at the brims with every alternative rock cliché you can ask for, “live life / love life / while I’m alive I only got one chance this time / that is do or die.” There’s not a track on here which doesn’t jump out and you and demand you take notice and that’s why ‘Lower Than Atlantis’ is unquestionably my Album of the Year.
Well, at least until ‘Sonic Highways’…we’ll see.
Lower Than Atlantis’ self-titled fourth album is out next Monday, the 6th of October, on Sony Red / Easy Life. Watch Lower Than Atlantis‘ pseudo video for ‘Emily’ below.
If there was ever a track which could mellow out an earth shuddering headache, you’d probably drift towards ‘Pissing Neon’ by Casual Sex. Despite immediately conjuring up a wrecked stoner pissing rainbows, it’s a chilled out as your nan after she’s completed her favourite crossword puzzle – ya know, when you see her with that smile on her face. Good, we’re at the right place.
Drawing heavily from the influences of ‘90s, disco this double A-side Sam Smith, Ed Wood, Peter Masson and Chris McCrory have crafted a beautiful soundscape which borders on trip-hop. Oh, and to dispel any confusion – no, he has no relation to that cretin Sam Smith who shares his name, is all over the ol’ wireless like a venereal infection and who inexplicably looks set to write a Bond theme. More on that later.
The metronomic intro of ‘A Perfect Storm’ (see stream at the bottom of this post) feels like the start of a retro video game, until Smith cuts in with his nasal heavy vocals – ever syllable dripping with smarm: “it’s a ruse / it’s a ruuuuuussseee.”
The harpischord-esque jangling guitar brings the song along at a skipping pace. It’s almost the kind of track you’d expect on in the background as someone from The Simpsons or Family Guy took acid and became a hippy. The production is sublime and each part compliments the other in beautiful symbiosis.
A full length offering soon would be nice sooner rather than later to capitalise on the sheer level of hype this record will produce.
Casual Sex‘s forthcoming single ‘A Perfect Storm’ / ‘Pissing Neon’ will be released next Monday, the 6th of October, on We Can Still Picnic Records on limited edition 7″ vinyl and digital download. Stream ‘A Perfect Storm’ below.
In name and in substance, my mind drifted to thoughts of Mayday Parade meets Morning Glory – a lazy amalgamation, or an apt comparison? I’m tempted (if not because I’m slightly biased, as it was my own musings) to decide upon on the latter. Morning Parade’s second album ‘Pure Adulterated Joy’ feels immediately like a new throwback on the emo records of the past decade.
Taking small influences from bands like Taking Back Sunday, Dashboard Confessional and to a lesser extent daddies of the genre, Jimmy Eat World – less cannibalistic and more like a tapas bar where Morning Parade have dined sparingly. After their grazing on what the still-cool but a bit run down tapas bar of emo had to offer – where I can only assume Gerard Way is a waiter after releasing a mediocre solo album – they’ve stopped off at that quirky throwback café where they’ve sampled the mild yet refreshing tastes of classic indie, which I can only assume is a bit like Earl Grey. Except, instead of tasting a bit lemony, it tastes a bit more like sweat and tears.
A trip to a tapas bar and then a weak cup of herbal tea doesn’t exactly sound like, well, my cup of tea. However, bizarre metaphors aside – the influences Morning Parade have channelled on ‘Pure Adulterated Joy’ have moulded into a formidable record that leaves a delicious taste in the mouth. As an antipasti, ‘Shake the Cage’ and ‘Alienation’ provide a rough and raw introduction to the soaring choruses and frantic guitar rhythms that litter the album. ‘Alienation’ though is the standout track of the record, with a sound that could easily strut into Radio 1’s A list and sit quite comfortably next to that chirruping turnip George Ezra – we get it, all your songs are going to sound identical because of your ‘mature’ voice – rant over.
Lead vocalist Steve Sparrow (no relation to Captain Jack, I’m assured) does have a habit of going a bit Thom Yorke on ‘Kid A’ on us, getting especially warbly on ‘Car Alarms and Sleepness Nights’. On Spotify, it states the band are in the same vein as Friendly Fires, Fenech-Soler and Delphic – this is a trifle off, as it’s only ‘Seasick’ and ‘Reality Dream’ that dabble in the realms of electronica – with ‘Reality Dream’ in particular showing shades of Delphic’s breakout single ‘Doubt’. ‘Seasick’ floats errantly in the electronic, and in turn, ended up making feel a little queasy myself.
With the flecks of emo dashing the record, I’d expected a more sombre tone to some of the songwriting, even if the title of the album is ‘Pure Adulterated Joy’. ‘Reality Dream’ is a superb glittering showcase of the championing the power of positive thinking throughout adversity: “Don’t spend your life pretending / Your happy end already passed.” However, it’s not all sun drops and lollipops of course, with ‘Culture Vulture’ providing a thorough injection of real life/reality TV satire, “there’s reason in repeating rhymes and throwing keys and swapping wives / as long as it’s within the privacy of our own private lives / stuck with no direction seeking everyone’s attention/out for his or her’s affection / fall out of cover and collection / no Viagra, no erection / no insurance, no protection / and no cure and no prevention.” Cameron’s Britain, eh?
Sparrow even delves into the comically vulgar at the end of ‘Car Alarms and Sleepless Nights’, whispering twice, “would you piss on me if I was on fire?” Hardly deep, but certainly ‘Pure Adulterated Joy’ is a breakout album for the Harlow five-piece. Their collaboration with producer Ben Allen (famed for his work with Animal Collective and Bombay Bicycle Club) on this record has paid dividends, as the end product is flawless and undoubtedly their sound has been further refined since their self-titled debut. They’re a band with the wind under their sails, where it will take them, is up to them.
‘Pure Adulterated Joy’, Morning Parade‘s sophomore album, is out now on So Recordings / Kobalt.
Sitting in a bizarre juxtaposition to early Black Sabbath and the Indian subcontinent are The Wytches. It’s an odd place to be, but this three-piece are relishing the company – not in the way Bombay Bicycle Club did, mind – but more in a “look, here’s a snake charmer, OK? We’re done now, let’s melt your face off” kind of way.
‘Annabel Dream Reader’ is the band’s debut album and from the start, it grabs your attention with its ambition. We’ve got a vocalist in Kristian Bell who’s a mix between Eoin Loveless at his most lyrically scathing and Steven Ansell at his most lovelorn, spinning guttural, powerful yarns about his dejected heart-broken existence. Song number two ‘Wide at Midnight’ introduces you to the underlying concept of the record, dejection. Prior to that and almost through the entire first half of the record you’re transported to a grungy Mumbai market, as a snake-charming tune underlies the melody.
‘Fragile Male for Sale’ is a plundering tub-thumper of a track with some thudding, juddering drum pelts and a booming bass line. The entire record reeks of this DIY nu-grunge revolution that seems to be gathering force under the banner of bands like Drenge, Slaves and, to a lesser extent, Royal Blood. I’m steering away from the term Great British Guitar Band Revolution, because firstly it doesn’t fucking exist and secondly because it’s a figment of NME’s imagination.
The Wytches are most definitely the new poster boys then, as they tick all the right boxes in their debut outing. I mean, even in their promo shot they look effortlessly cool, whilst still managing to pull of the faux-grunge look by having questionable hair styles. The record spins between remarkably heavy going, in both melody and prose: Dan Rumsey and Gianni Honey are an indomitable engine room behind the musings of Kell. Some of the heavier tracks almost merge into the territory of doom rock; however, the subject matter veers away from the bloody and dismembered, which I’d most certainly count as a positive development.
If you’re a guitar purist, you may be perturbed by the sheer quantity of reverb on most of the songs. But if you like your riffs unrefined and dirty as the floor of your car, then ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ is the place for you. There are hints of The Melvins and The Scientists, in their noise-punky sound, but it’s got a far more 21st century edge, the kind which will undoubtedly see them compared to Nirvana.
As frontmen of this nu-grunge revolution, this Brighton born triumvirate will be waving their tricolore abroad as they are one of the chosen few bands, alongside acts like The Wombats, Dry the River, Fenech-Soler, Hadouken, Imogen Heap and Waylayers, in receipt of a share of £1,750,000 over the next two years. Why you ask? So the UK government can encourage them to promote their music around the world as part of the Music Export Growth Scheme.
With the 47-minute belter that ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ is in The Wytches arsenal, I doubt audiences in America and afar will struggle to become as enamoured with the band as I have. The record is effortlessly powerful and manages to show a real heart in ‘Summer Again’ and ‘Weights and Ties’, showing that the boys can play it tough, but can also connect with an audience through some overwhelmingly powerful narratives.
Viva La Revolution, then?
The Wytches‘ debut album ‘Annabel Dream Reader’ is out today on Heavenly Recordings. Catch the band live as they traverse the UK in the last 3 months of 2014; all their touring plans are here.
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