Tuesday, March 12, 2013

FM: "Rockville"

Riff City Records 2013


Review By Alan Holloway


FM are the group that never quite made it but never quite gave up either. Vocalist Steve Overland once joked about the number of top 50 singles they had back in the day, never quite cracking the charts like so many people predicted they were destined to do. Then, in the 90’s, grunge came along and kicked them in the bollocks. Grunge was like that, which is why normal people hated it. Today’s kids have David Cameron to hate, we had Grunge.
So FM disappeared for a while, but the rise of the internet allowed more and more people to badger them about getting back together, and so they reformed for a one off gig at Firefest in 2007, having so much fun and receiving such a great response that they decided to give it another go. The comeback album, ‘Metropolis’, was a corker, the band incorporating a more bluesy sound to go with their soulful AOR, most likely due to the recruitment of new guitarist Jim ‘Even His Shooze Are Blooze’ Kirkpatrick. Next month sees the follow up, for which the band have embraced the modern age by funding it through Pledge Music, something that was so successful they’ve actually recorded a second disc after getting more than double their target. For now, though, it’s time to visit ‘Rockville’.

The album opens with a muted guitar and muffled drums that take a few seconds to burst into stereo (yeah, it’s an old trick) and we’re off with ‘Tough Love’, a mid paced track that rattles along with a strong beat until the catchy chorus kicks in. If there’s something FM know about, it’s catchy choruses, and this one will have you singing along with no difficulty whatsoever. Steve Overland croons as well as he ever does, and to be honest it’s a pain writing about him because I tend to run out of superlatives to describe his voice. Let’s just say he’s jolly good at this singing lark, is Steve. The production is nicely in your face, allowing Pete ‘Don’t Call me Robert Lindsay’ Jupp to really shine at the back, as well as showing off the very tidy licks and solos from Young Master Kirkpatrick. This is definitely a textbook way to start an album.
Track two, ‘Wake Up the World’, is actually one of my favourites on the album. It starts off like a slow, soulful ballad, picking up the pace slowly and moving to a superb chorus that should have hands waving live. It’s got an ‘Only The Strong’ vibe about it, which can’t be a bad thing. The quality continues with “Only Foolin’, which fans should be aware of from the EP release last year, then it’s on to the first truly AOR track on the album, ‘Crave’. This is a guitar led, summery song with a great hook, and although it’s about a failed love affair the melody is so infectious you’ll be glad it failed!  Next up there’s a nice little duo in ‘Show Me The Way’ and ‘My Love Bleeds’, two tracks that bounce along very infectiously, although I can’t help thinking that in the latter Steve Overland is singing about ‘My Love Beads’, the dirty boy! It’s a good, chunky riff driven song, though, whilst ‘Show Me The Way’ has a little more fluff but is no less catchy.

The first ballad comes in at number seven, in the shape of ‘Story Of My Life’. As with any FM ballad, it’s lifted from potential obscurity by Overland’s soulful delivery. I have to say that I’m not a massive ballad fan in general, but this has got an amazing chorus that will keep it on the playlist for sure, even if the opening piano bit is almost lifted from Heart’s ‘Alone’. ‘Better Late Than Never’ kicks off with a solid, bluesy riff from Jim, morphing into a more standard AOR track which will keep your toes tapping and your fingers clicking with it’s infectious beat and a groove that flirts between melodic rock, blues and a little honky tonk thanks to Jem Davis on the keyboards. I think my favourite track must be ‘Crosstown Train’, where FM finally get to let loose with some truly big riffage and a faster pace than elsewhere. Jim gets to play with fills, riffs and a great rock solo, and probably the best comparison would be the storming ‘Bad Luck’ from the ‘Tough It Out’ album, more for the feel of the thing rather than the actual tune involved.

The album closes with another two great tracks, marking a full house for the album, quality-wise. ‘Goodbye Yesterday’ and ‘High Cost Of Loving’ both score high in the melody stakes, with the former treading familiar melodic rock territory and the latter with a more soulful edge. Together they wrap up what may well be the bands finest effort, certainly up there with the likes of ‘Tough It Out’ in terms of melody and power. I’m certainly intrigued as to what ‘Rockville II’, the ten track disc to be released on March 25th, will bring.  Suffice to say, this is an album FM fans will adore, and if you spread the word through social media with the video for ‘Tough Love’ freely available they may just pick up some new devotees. Either way this is a must, so Buy Or Die, true believers.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

JIMI HENDRIX: "People, Hell and Angels"

LABEL: Sony Music
Review By: Martien Koolen
Jimi Hendrix was and will always be the BEST guitar player ever, no guitar picker ever reached or will reach his level of guitarplaying. I have almost all his albums, legal, illegal, bootlegs, you name it and I have it; so I was really looking forward to this "new" album, as I really loved his 2010 album Valleys Of Neptune. People, Hell and Angels is Jimi's "new" album, featuring twelve never before released studio recordings and showcases Jimi's work outside the original Jimi Hendrix Experience.
As a Hendrix afficianado I already know seven of the twelve songs and that is one of the reasons that I am a little bit disappointed in this album. Songs like Earth Blues, Somewhere, Hear My Train A Comin', Bleeding Heart, Izabella, Crash Landing and Hey Gypsy Boy (which is in fact Hey Baby) can already be heard on albums like War Heroes, Crash Landing, Cry Of Love and Rainbow Bridge. I must admit that the versions on this album are not the same as on the beforementioned albums, but still, the best version of Hear My Train A Comin' can still be heard on the superb live album Band Of Gypsys. But the unknown songs on this album are really worth buying this album anyway. Especially Easy Blues, an almost six minutes long instrumental track shows Jimi at his best, but Inside Out is also a rather unkown but magical Hendrix song; while the last song Villanova Junction Blues is just too short (1:48) to really enjoy.
Sadly there are also two missers on this album, or should I say Hendrix unworthy... Namely Let Me Move You, a funky soul track which is completely ruined due to the saxophonesolos of a guy named Lonnie Youngblood! In my humble opinion Jimi's breathtaking guitarplaying do NOT mix with saxophone solos!! The other rather redundant song on this album is called Mojo Man, featuring singer Albert Allen, while the song also contains piano and horns!!! Again this is a combination which I cannot really appreciate in Hendrix's music. But overall I am quite happy with the album, so that the music of the best guitar player ever will never seize to amaze its audience. Best song without any doubt: Easy Blues, and play at maximum volume, please!!

EARLY MAMMAL: "Horror At Pleasure"

Rating: RRR
Label: Devouter Records
Review by Martien Koolen
Early Mammal was founded in London in 2012 and consists of Rob Herian (guitars, vocals), Ben Davis (drums) and Deniz Belendir (organ and synthesizers). Their typical sound reminds me of notorious bands like Captain Beefheart, White Hills, The Stooges and Hawkwind. The album features 10 tracks of which 5 are instrumental although songs like opener The Right Hand and the last song Uncle Scary's Left Hand almost only consist of guitar howling sounds. Checking The Bullshitter's Queen and Going Out are two great psychedlic instrumental songs featuring amazing guitar pieces, addictive hooks and riffs galore. The vocals on this album are really not my cup of tea as Rob Herian sounds like Iggy Pop with a terrible cold, but songs like Final Witch and Demon Or Saint sound rather ok if you forget the horrible singing parts. All in all not a bad album, which you really have to get used to, so listen to it a lot and then you will probably like Early Mammal as much as I do.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

BLACK VEIL BRIDES: "Wretched And Divine: The Story Of The Wild Ones"

Rating: RRRR
Label: Lava/Universal Republic 2013
Review by Kimmo Toivonen
Black Veil Brides came to my attention in an old-fashioned style - via a music TV channel. We were in Germany, taking a break in the hotel room, and there was Viva or some other similar channel on TV. Among the usual pop/r'n'b/chart stuff the Brides' "Rebel Love Song" video stood out like a sore thumb. The song was a great, catchy hard rocker and the band looked like a updated version of Mötley Crüe. The album went to the shopping list immediately.

Now the Brides have released their ambitious third album. "Wretched And Divine: The Story Of The Wild Ones" is a concept album about a group of rebels ("The Wild Ones") who are fighting an evil organization called "F.E.A.R.". In addition to the album, there's also a movie titled "Legion Of The Black", which is or was apparently available somewhere as a Pay-per-view movie. Watch out for a "deluxe edition" of the album with a DVD... or the other way around.

From their humble beginnings as a more of a screamo/emo band, BVB has evolved into a fine rock band with a keen sense of melody. There are really no traces of screamo-type of stuff left on this album, which is fine by me. The band themselves have said that this is their "punk album... Social Distortion meets Metallica",and maybe there's some truth in that. There's a bit of punk vibe in "I Am Bulletproof" - it reminds me distantly of Bad Religion and some of the guitar work has a slight Metallica vibe. Overall, this is a darker album than their previous one, but I'd also say that it's more melodic at the same time. The melodies and the hooks aren't necessarily the most obvious kind, more like sneaky ones you'll find yourself humming and wondering "where did that came from?". To name a couple, "Devil's Choir" and "Resurrect The Sun" have done that to me...

Apart from those "subtle" songs, there are some big and bold singalong anthems: "We Don't Belong" relies on the tried and trusted "Whoa Whoa Ohhs", while has some of those too and a children's choir to boot... not to mention one of this year's biggest choruses.

All in all, a fine album with an interesting storyline, yet the songs work as single pieces of music too.
You Tube

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

STRYPER: "The Second Coming"

Rating: N/A
Label: Frontiers 2012
Review by Alan Holloway

Now this is an odd one. Stryper needed to retain control over some of their songs, and the way to do this is to re-record them. You don’t have to release those recordings, but they have done so anyway. So on one hand, this is a compilation of some of the best songs from Stryper’s first three albums, albums that still stand up today in terms of songwriting. On the other hand, is it worth buying when you already have the original versions? Tricky one…

Of course, it’s all sweetened by two excellent new tracks “Bleeding From The Inside Out” and “Blackened”. Both are proper rock monsters, riff heavy and full of power, fitting in very well with the older tracks. As for the old tracks themselves, it’s no surprise that they all sound great, although it’s not all perfect. “Calling On You”, for example, sounds worse than the original because of added guitar, and throughout there are instances of Michael Sweet not daring to reach some of the more glass shattering notes, although he has still got an excellent voice. If you grew up with these songs, as I did, you will notice every extra drum beat or slight pitch change, and it can be a little jarring at times. It’s been said that the new production makes a big difference, and whilst it does beef up the bass it’s not really that big a deal.

Stryper should have a new album out later this year, and to be honest this should have been a bonus disc and not a standalone release, much like Journey did when Arnel Pineda recorded some of the old classics. So whilst the two new tracks are certainly worth owning, and all the other tracks are superb, unless you are an avid fan or get it cheap this isn’t an essential purchase in any way.

Friday, March 1, 2013

CITY REIGN: "Another Step"

Rating: RRRR
Label: CarBootRecords/ 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Manchester - a City United in music? Giggs & Kompany are excused as this particular team of musicians are determined to score with their very first shot at goal. The U.K. four-piece City Reign - name coming from the Ryan "Not Bryan" Adams' song 'City Rain City Streets', and their full length debut "Another Step" is the indie guitar record fuelled by sheer ambition and alcohol?

Guitarist Mike Grice and vocalist Chris Bull met at a Ryan Adams gig (hint the moniker). The two hit it off bonding over a love of Adams (Not Bryan), R.E.M. and The National. They've certainly been the indie talk of the town lately and the recent U.K. tour caused Clash Magazine into recognising them as one of the best bands on the circuit. All the band members are professional performers and they keep you on your toes throughout the album.

Soundwise, they aren't all that USA though, mainly because they play a style of indie that smacks of old style eighties, but also becasue the singer is British and proper British I may add. I do have a soft spot for superb alternative eighties UK pop and I can't get enough of The Jam, The Smiths, The Cure, or any other 'The' band for that matter. Throw in the hint of early nineties Brit-Rock, as well as REM, Ryan, and you're pretty close to the core of City Reign. Very solid material throughout. Nontheless, "Retaliate" gets the vote of best track since there's something special and out of ordinary about the stripped down indie tune. Recommended.


Rating: RRR
Label: Universal/ROT 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Tangowerk by Nhoah? Now that's just plain weird? Yeah, but, no, but, amongst all the bandwagon chasers who seem to only aspire to become another pro-tools' wonder of cut-and-paste, it's always nice to come across an artist with a very different agenda. Berlin composer/producer Nhoah's first solo album is a multi-faceted and coloured effort consisting of (eighties) synthpop, tango orchestration, and various electronica.

Having previously collaborated with the likes of The Pogues, Bronski Beat, and MIA, the German has been a part of the Berlin's glamour, synth, and gay/trans scene ever since the eighties. The album is the mirror of a life lived through music. Sounds of his childhood are recreated with analogue radio techniques and close harmony effects, while the evolution into glam rock and synth is projected via synthersizers (duh!) and glitter rain. Make sense? Ehhh... let's just continue with the actual music.

Holly Johnson from Frankie Goes To Hollwood, Visage, and various 80's synthpop - no doubt Nhoah's biggest inspiration and influences. The trip to Buenos Aires in 2005, a source for something new and unexpected. Thus why you get the Tango beats and extremely dodgy moves every now and then. Let's just say that I definitely prefer the 80's synth tracks in favour of the likes of 'Tuyo Soy'. 'Dancing On The Volcano' - Sigue Sigue Sputnik meet Billy Idol on acid electro pop? Having already been released in Germany, Nhoah has reached worthy critical acclaim for Tangowerk. It was nominated for the German Record Prize and the ECHO newcomer of the year.

Tangowerk is the  CD/DVD package. The CD contains 14 tracks, while the DVD contains an hour of video including a 38 minute "Making of" feature. Nicely done gatefold sleeve with the 64 page booklet containing lyrics, photos, etc. It's solid work, quite different, but not always great.

Chantal CLARET: "The One The Only"

Rating: RR
Label: TheEndRecords 2013
Review by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom

Modern twist on early femme-pop? The lovely Chantal "CC" Claret mixes big sixties beats and the sultry swing of Peggy Lee (Fever), Nancy Sinatra (These Boots Are Made For Walking), etc. with a contemporary hip hop embllishment, for her solo debut, "The One And Only". You may remember Chantel for her time fronting sort of acclaimed rock band Morningwood, as they sold out tours around the world and had the #1 debut on the billboard Heetseekers Chart.

Chantal is a very agreeable character, little lady - big voice, cool as the summer breeze. Add the pleasant temprament and quite the witty lyricist, but this doesn't mean that everything she says or rather sings make sense. Perhaps you're not supposed to read in too much into song titles such as "Pop Pop Bang Bang" or "Honey Honey" ?? Like, whatever. There are so many artists/bands out there that are just singing nonsense and these tracks are no worse or better than anyone else.

It's obvious that several tracks fall into or under the same category as Amy Winehouse and her followers such as Duffy. But, you also get the more contemporary hip hop dance sound and arrangements. The secret of success? Simply repeat every other word twice-twice honey honey and pop pop bang bang along-long to the happy happy joy joy melodies? Oy oy. So-so. Bye Bye.