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Album Review: Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years

 
By on Wednesday, 28th September 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Cymbals Eat Guitars Pretty Years album coverWith rapturous and resounding aplomb, New York band Cymbals Eat Guitars have returned with ‘Pretty Years’, an album filled with tracks filled to the brim with rhapsody. From the first track ‘Finally’, no prisoners are taken in their quest for complete domination of mind and soul. Beginning with a guitar playing the song’s main chord sequence alone, the track all of a sudden bursts into life as the rest of the instrumentation joins in. A reverberant guitar line creates a vast space that is occupied by every instrument vying for your attention, it’s a perfect opening that gives the record immediate traction. This is quickly followed by ’Have a Heart’, a perfect encapsulation of youthful mistakes that are forgiven over time. Musically, it’s slightly more subdued than its predecessor, but its chorus makes a lasting impression: catchy, memorable and most of all, striking.

The sound of the instrumentation throughout the album is one that appears raw on the surface, almost clumsy. However, just below this, there’s a distinct cleverness as each layer comes together to create appealing melodies and hooks. ‘Wish’ features an overbearing saxophone that sounds crude but the song would be amiss without it, while ‘Close’ relies upon delicate use of synthesiser to build the darker soundscape which gives the track a dark dominance.

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On ‘Dancing Days’ is where Cymbals Eat Guitars show they can also slow things down and bring delicacy to what they do. A light, pattering percussive introduction leads into the verse that goes through the motions with no real fanfare, but once again, it’s the chorus that gives the song its true weight. Curving away from the melody and into a more euphoric setting, the lyrics oppose this euphoria and almost with finality: “Goodbye to the dancing days, goodbye to the friends who fell away, goodbye to the pretty years”. A song that is evidently about growing older and feeling your time here speed away, Cymbals Eat Guitars prove they have depth as well as the ability to craft catchy music.

Urgency is restored with ‘4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)’. Kicking straight in after the calm of the previous track finishes, it becomes clear that the album itself is influenced by leading man Joseph D’Agostino processing the idea of growing old and reflecting on past times. ‘Beam’ enters furious punk territory, a refreshing move for its position on the album, near the end, it renews the record’s vigour all the way up until the crescendo that breaks into screaming vocal chaos from D’Agostino.

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Once again not adhering to musical similarities, ‘Mallwalking’ is another slow, almost dreamy track. The song takes on another retrospective stance, seemingly referring to a dream D’Agostino had after the Columbine Massacre, doing so with perfect clarity. The slow percussive crawl that takes the song forward is broken as the guitar cuts through with a sharp and alert riff, making sure that this break in proceedings doesn’t cause CEG’s audience lose interest.

The most interesting aspect of the album is how each track has its own voice. They never sound like they’re from a similar vein. You find yourself nearing the end of the record and it doesn’t feel like it’s been an uninteresting slog, which too many albums sadly can. ‘WELL’, while not one of the strongest cuts, still has a draw that keeps you enthralled. At first it appears to refute the rest of the album’s appeal with its slow pacing, but suddenly it comes into its own during the bridge section toward the climax. With layers of soft piano lines and dreamy guitar riffs, it suddenly breaks down and collapses in on itself.

Album finales are where the previous hard-fought and built atmosphere can be lost. So the traction that pushes the listener to this point needs to capitalise on the moment and create a lasting impression. ‘Shrine’ opts to use a more subdued but nonetheless effective approach. The longest cut on the album, it doesn’t go for the immediacy of prior tracks but goes for a more progressive and building movement in the music. Never really reaching a climactic point, it falls away into a rapture of noise, nearly the opposite to the opener of the album. It does the job, leaving you feeling that you want more, so you listen once again. It’s a perfect move that ensures you have a complete experience and shows the power an album can have when it’s crafted to its full extent. A full on experience, ‘Pretty Years’ will help you get through the ageing process and the nostalgia that comes with it.

8/10

‘Pretty Years’, the fourth album from New York City’s Cymbals Eat Guitars, is out now on Sinderlyn Records. For past coverage of Cymbals Eat Guitars on TGTF, go here.

 

Album Review: Slaves – Take Control

 
By on Tuesday, 27th September 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Slaves Take Control album cover“What are you going to do about it?” That, my friends, is Isaac Holman’s rallying cry in Slaves’ latest single ‘Spit It Out’. On the surface, dripping with barely veiled contempt, it sounds like a lad’s standard response to a mate’s whinging about the problems in his life. In these trying times of a declining world economy and the lack of upward mobility available to youth, this kind of whinging is common and depending who you talk to, increasingly justified. The interesting part about this song is it’s not just railing on, being loud and obnoxious just to be loud and obnoxious. Holman continues, “maybe you should put yourself / in someone else’s shoes / try hard not to dwell upon / decisions that you choose”.

Hmm. So maybe Slaves have indulged in a bit of philosophical thought since their 2015 bracing debut ‘Are You Satisfied?’, eh? One wonders if being nominated for last year’s Mercury Prize impressed on the Tunbridge Wells duo the need to contemplate beyond unbridled menace. For their energetic, uncompromising manner onstage, the pair – Holman on lead vocals and drums and Laurie Vincent and guitars – have become firm favourites on the live scene. Their always raucous gigs and festival appearances have garnered impassioned overtures from fans and casual observers alike. A common complaint about ‘Are You Satisfied?’ was that it lacked the energy of their live shows. So how does ‘Take Control’, their new long player out Friday, compare? If you’re judging this album by sheer loudness, it should receive an A+ and then some.

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In the recording of ‘Take Control’, they enlisted the help of a punk and hip-hop A-lister and founding member of the Beastie Boys Mike D, who upon hearing ‘Are You Satisfied?’, was excited to work with an act with an ethos all too familiar to him. “I feel right now the world needs an album like this. Something that is more raw, more alive and less polished. I was impressed with the band’s strong point of view. They actually speak their minds about social topics.” Mike D features prominently on ‘Consume or Be Consumed’, a growly number punctuated by shouts – including what sounds like the indignant screams of a man getting his legs amputated, eep! – and rapid-fire, melodic verse. At the most basic level, this song can be interpreted as a reflection of our dog-eat-dog world. These are tough times, but Slaves’ message is best summed by Mike D’s own line of “now get your shit together, brother”.

This is a pair of blokes who are not satisfied with merely laying waste to your ears. You might not like their music. But you have to give them credit for trying to inspire their young fans to feel something. To do something positive. Taking a less confrontational angle, using a new wave robotic drumbeat to great effect, Slaves go off script on ‘Steer Clear’. Holman trades verses with Baxter Dury on the tune with the cautionary phrase, “please don’t kill yourself / behind that steering wheel / I don’t really know who I am / but I need to keep it real”. On the throat and axe-shredding ‘Same Again’, Holman gives it his all in an almost maniacal manner, struggling with the mundaneness of everyday life that appears to be stifling him. But in Slaves’ usual way of sticking it to the man with their thundering sound, he insists with angrily yelled words “I’ll get the next one!” This is a man who won’t be licked as long as he’s got blood pumping through his veins. It closes out the album on an inspiring note. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.

Still, Slaves are never in danger of taking themselves too seriously, and that’s fine by this editor. Some days, you just need an album you can blow off some steam to and have a laugh with after a trying day. ‘Angelica’, one of the songs recorded on Beastie Boys’ vintage equipment, has the hilariously memorable rhyming couplet, “Angelica, she’s a bloodsucker!” Naturally, this song with a dirty guitar groove is about a village bicycle-riding maneater. The offshore account holding, out of touch millionaire (“he’s been dying since the day he was born / boxes of watches that have never been worn“) are mocked in ‘Rich Man’.

Except for a few rare moments, like a freight locomotive, ‘Take Control’ is loud and pretty much never lets up. This is not the kind of album you should be listening to if you have anger management issues. It’s too bad that summer festival season is another 8 months, because this is exactly the kind of music to incite a mosh pit. Please enjoy responsibly.

7.5/10

‘Take Control’, the sophomore album from Kent punk duo Slaves, will be out this Friday, the 30th of September on Virgin EMI.

 

Album Review: Warpaint – Heads Up

 
By on Thursday, 22nd September 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Warpaint Heads Up album coverHaving just passed their 12th year anniversary as a band, with two previously released studio albums including their critically acclaimed self-titled second album from 2014, these girls need no introduction. However, with their third album out in less than 24 hours, I suppose it won’t hurt to shout out… Fully female L.A. based dream pop four-piece Warpaint are set to release their eagerly awaited third studio album ‘Heads Up’, due out tomorrow on Rough Trade Records. In announcing the album, the girls released an accompanying single, ironically titled ‘New Song’ back in August (read my review here).

After an interview in NME surfaced in March 2015 stating that Warpaint didn’t want to do another album, fans thought this day would never come, especially as the statement was backed up by the band taking somewhat of a hiatus to work on their own solo projects throughout the whole of 2015. During which time, bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg released a solo album titled ‘Right On’, reviewed by Carrie back here. After regrouping in early 2016, not just with each other but also with former producer Jacob Bercovici (who produced their 2009 debut EP ‘Exquisite Corpse’), the band wasted no time. By May of this year, the record was done and what an album it truly is.

‘Heads Up’ explores a mature side of Warpaint, and in ways previous efforts lacked. Rather than providing a sonic overload within each song, the quartet managed to simplify their approach to song writing, which gives a lot more time and space to absorb the sweet vibes their providing . This approach is apparent when listening to the album opener ‘White Out’. If you listened to the bass, guitar and drums in isolation, each hint at totally separate directions to the next, with very subtle connections to each other within note choices and rhythmic patterns. But when taken as a unit, they work perfectly together.

The guitar is the constant in this case, taking somewhat of a backseat role following its introduction. As the bass and drums dance around it with rather busy yet poppy patterns, Kokal’s vocals sprinkle the track with an equally upbeat topline produced by her imperfectly sensual vocal tone. The bass specifically gives the impression that it’s locking with the vocal rhythm more so than the drum pattern, which, although is quite rare in pop, it pays off and helps strengthen the top line. The drums within ‘White Out’ have a higher level of complexity, ironic given that for a lot of beginning writing sessions for the album Stella Mozgawa wrote her parts on sample pads and drum machines, due to an injury that left her unable to physically play. With this in mind we must applaud her, every pattern is played for a reason. The ghost notes aren’t for flair, they add that extra burst of movement to the track, whilst the off beat, dynamic contrasts on the hi-hats keep the listener hooked from start to finish.

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‘By Your Side’ showcases what we know and love about Warpaint’s blended voices, an unconventional style of harmony in today’s pop music. The girls sing about what sounds like being in a relationship with a cheater, but with a darker, slightly sinister twist. The lack of repetition within the music and a topline that’s shared between two or more members causes the focus of the song to wander, a purposely unclear melody used to great effect. The track oozes a creepy, ‘you fuck with us, we’ll fuck with you’ side Warpaint unseen until now.

Further down the album, tracks such as ‘So Good’ and title track ‘Heads Up’ could easily be considered modern day alt-pop gems. The diatonic harmony within provides an easy to grasp understanding of the music that, combined with the fun, poppy grooves, gives both of these numbers commercial appeal. The focus towards electronic elements and the vocals sway these tracks, and the record for that matter, away from being so heavily guitar orientated, the way ‘The Fool’ and ‘Warpaint’ were. Lindberg put it best, by describing the new material as “an evolution of our band. It sounds like a mature version of Warpaint”. The ‘get in, get to the point and get to the next track’ approach of ‘Heads Up’ as an album is a great mark of their newfound professionalism.

Underestimating how far these four will go to provoke various emotions within a record would be a mistake. ‘Dre’, aside from being somewhat of an ode to influential American hip-hop producer Dr. Dre, is one that physically and sonically takes you by surprise eight songs into the album. Following the deeply emotive ‘Don’t Let Go’, ‘Dre’ has a huge, industrial sounding drum part that paves the way for an eerily beautiful, long-held chord progression that never seems to rest. With the pads acting as the foundations for the harmony, it leaves the window completely open for all remaining elements to create a sonic picture of what it would be like if Dr. Dre collaborated with Warpaint.

Easily Warpaint’s most diverse effort to date, ‘Heads Up’ shows these ladies are equally at home with abstract, avant garde sounds (‘By Your Side’) and poppish new wave (‘So Good’). The new rule of no overthinking works fully in their favour, which in turn gives us a clearer view into the true soul of Warpaint.

8/10

Heads up! ‘Heads Up’ is due out tomorrow, the 23rd of September, on Rough Trade Records. If you’re as excited about it as I am, you’ll already have it on pre-order. Warpaint are currently on tour in the U.S., which will be followed by with a short string of dates in UK and Europe. Find out whether they’re coming to you and get your tickets through this link. For more of TGTF’s coverage on Warpaint, go here.

 

Single Review: Young Kato – One. Two. Three. Four.

 
By on Wednesday, 21st September 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Cheltenham sextet Young Kato are no strangers to us here at TGTF. Long before their multiple star turns soundtracking and indeed, performing live on Made in Chelsea, they were one of our Bands to Watch here 4 years ago on this humble little Web site. Last year, they released their debut album ‘Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow’, continuing what has been their tradition of fun, dancey pop numbers. While this summer they announced a series of live dates for early October, there wasn’t any real clue what else they’d been up to lately. Until now.

The group will be releasing a new EP, ‘One. Two. Three. Four.’, at the end of this month. To preview the four-pack of brand spanking new tunes, they’ve unveiled the promo video for the release’s title track, which has been released as a single in its own right. What’s quickly clear upon queueing up this track is that they’ve decided to smooth out the sunny bounce of past tracks like ‘Sunshine’ and ‘Light It Up’, preferring a less confrontational, if you will, approach to the music. There’s still an obvious element of dance to the proceedings, but is it possible that, dare I say it, they’ve gone for a more mature angle to their music? The idea of a revolution was hinted at in their debut album but at the time, I didn’t think there was any reason to believe that Young Kato were truly looking into protesting against the Man and demanding social change.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with overtures of the hedonistic, YOLO variety that this band were previously known for (think ‘Drink, Dance, Play’), usually big haired frontman Tommy Wright – now with a far too neatly trimmed barnet (sob) – sings, “I don’t want to be another brick in the wall”, bolstering the argument that the lads have grown up. An insistent disco beat chugs along underneath the track, representing a more focused use of sound. They could have merely sat on the sidelines or worse, kept their blinders on so they wouldn’t see what was going on outside of the never-ending party world they themselves helped to create. ‘One. Two. Three. Four.’ suggests that no, Young Kato have taken off the rose-coloured glasses, wanting to be more in tune with what’s going on around them.

As Everything Everything‘s third album ‘Get to Heaven’ conveyed to us last year, it’s okay to be scared and confused during these trying times, because it means you’re human. In fact, if anything, Wright’s repeated question of “what can I do, I can’t be the only one feeling this way?” brings him and the whole band back down to our level. Speaking about the EP, Wright says, “This EP marks the start of the next chapter of Young Kato. The ‘One. Two. Three Four.’ EP shows how truly weird and wonderful the chemistry is within our band. We’re going to war with this record…” Hmm. Young Kato have laid the necessary groundwork for what will be quite the anticipated new release.

7.5/10

The ‘One. Two. Three. Four.’ EP from Cheltenham’s Young Kato will be available on the 30th of September from their own Young Kato/Ditto Music label. To have a trawl through of the past coverage we’ve done of the band here on TGTF, use this link.

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Single Review: Get Inuit – Teriyaki

 
By on Tuesday, 20th September 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Kent’s self-described ‘dirty pop’ band Get Inuit have had a busy 2016, including performing for international audiences at SXSW in March including at longtime champion Huw Stephens and PRS for Music’s evening showcase, touring with their now mates Spring King and bringing their sunny music and attitude to loads of summer festivals. They’ve now unveiled a new single, and it’s a doozy. It’s one in what is becoming a long line of catchy tunes with their own stamp of craziness. Sadly to fans of Japanese cuisine like yours truly, ‘Teriyaki’ isn’t a song about the food of ol’ Nippon at all. What is certain is that this song’s recording and production was backed financially by the PRS for Music Foundation’s Momentum Music Fund, support only anointed to a select group of British acts.

The first clue of the single cover art is the upside down vanilla ice cream cone melting, forlornly on the ledge of an electric blue wall. Beginning with a fuzzed out noise that sounds like what happens in the studio when autotune is applied to a guitar line, you know you’re heading into something completely different. Lead singer Jamie Glass sings, “maybe I’ve got 99 problems, but we’re all going to hell!” in his trademark winsome yelp. Is he being serious? As Glass wails in the chorus, “I can’t remember who I was before”, he betrays his uncertainty of who he has become and what lies in the future. Appearing in an engaging singalong of a song, if you aren’t paying attention, you might have missed it.

It struck me as I was listening to this single that Get Inuit just might be pioneering an anti-punk movement. While their lyrics have always swung into the weird and nonsensical, skirting the line at slacker lo-fi, their instrumentation has always sounded full and amazing, if not polished. Brash in sound but not at all foolhardy in execution, ‘Teriyaki’ is one delicious proposition in pop on its head.

8/10

The digital version of Get Inuit’s newest single ‘Teriyaki’ is out now. A physical 7” will follow on the 30th of September on Tunbridge Wells-based DIY record label Unlabel. For more of TGTF’s coverage of the Kent band, go here.

 

Live Gig Video: Radiohead perform an intimate version of ‘Present Tense’ in California

 
By on Monday, 19th September 2016 at 4:00 pm
 

Radiohead have released a new live video showcasing another song from their current album. ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’, their surprise release in early May, was reviewed here on TGTF by our Steven.

In their latest visual directed by filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood), the band takes to far more intimate environment than their fame would normally dictate. Seemingly as small time and low key as friends around a campfire, Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, accompanied by their guitars and a Roland CR-78 drum machine, are shown performing album track ‘Present Tense’ in this unusual video made in California. Watch it below. For more of TGTF’s coverage of Radiohead, go here.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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