Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Quick Look At The Captured Tracks Reissue Of Flying Nun Legends The Stones

Next to The Chills, The Verlaines, and even Sneaky Feelings, New Zealand's The Stones were the odd men out on that seminal Dunedin Double EP back in 1982. More loose than even the early tracks from Kilgour's Clean, and certainly not as obviously cerebral as The Chills, and nowhere close to being as poppy as Sneaky Feelings, The Stones were, instead, a classic acid rock band that had been morphed by the blast of energy from NYC Punk and Cleveland's underground -- the barest trace of Pere Ubu lurks here too.

This new Three Blind Mice collection on Captured Tracks is a gift from the gods for any fan of the legendary New Zealand sound. Now we have the missing piece of the puzzle to the birth of the Flying Nun label. Carrying that odd men out idea further, and referencing NYC punk again, one could say that if The Chills were Talking Heads, and The Verlaines were the Patti Smith Group, or Television -- even if the band was named after the poet and not Tom Verlaine (!) -- then that would make The Stones the Richard Hell and the Voidoids of the bunch. Spin "Something New" and see what I mean. The bratty lip-curled snarl of New York City punk filtered through what is -- or would shortly become -- a very recognizable Flying Nun guitar sound.

Still, even though "See Red" and other cuts reveal that the band was listening to their VU records faithfully, "Funky Conversations" hints at the influence of Alice Cooper, and the spectre of The Stooges rises on "It's a Shame" and elsewhere. This is a collection full of surprises.

"Down and Around" sounds like what The Clean would do so well after the brief performing career of The Stones was over. Poised somewhere between the influence of very late Sixties freak-out rock acts, and the style of singing perfected by Lou Reed a few years later, a cut like this reveals a band pushing at a lot of constraints. Even more remarkable still is that music this unhinged and raw was being produced in the era of ABC and Duran Duran. Decidedly a good 15 years ahead of their peers in some sense, The Stones here are revealing themselves as expert pioneers in what we'd end up calling post-punk, for lack of a better term. Poised next to The Chills in this era, The Stones probably did seem less interesting. Somehow stood up next to Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain-era Pavement from years later and The Stones seem like odd forefathers of a style no one knew the name of yet in 1982.

This collection is pretty much everything you're gonna need, or find, by The Stones. Collecting all the band's tracks on the Dunedin Double EP, plus the 5 cuts from the Another Disc, Another Dollar (1983) EP, the set is then rounded off with about 8 rare live cuts from the band.

In a live setting there are loads of revelations. "We Live" shows the band adept at a meshing of the styles of Talking Heads and Gang of Four, while "Think About It" adds in a hint of the Modern Lovers. if on the record The Stones were surprisingly loose and nearly experimental, on these live cuts they sound positively tight and even punchy.

Three Blind Mice by The Stones is out next week on Captured Tracks. It's a fantastic release. That shouldn't be a surprise since the label has been doing a great job lately with this sort of reissue.

Any fan of New Zealand post-punk, or the legacy of Flying Nun records, should grab Three Blind Mice by The Stones as soon as possible.

Heads Up About The Splendid New One From And The Kids (And Free Download)

It takes some sort of alchemy to blend disparate styles so effortlessly, doesn't it? Not quite sure what's in the record collections of the members of And The Kids but I can hear some things and take a few guesses: Grass Widow? Erase Errata? The Raincoats? The Slits? The Shaggs? Throwing Muses? Jane Siberry? Hugo Largo?

Well, that's certainly a mess of artists, ain't it? And The Kids have just dropped their new long-player this week. Called Turn to Each Other, the album is a fun, funky, and exciting collection of tunes. The soaring vocals battle with the rumbling drums and jazz-inflected hooks of "Devastation Celebration" and one can hear so many ideas happening at once. Rather than descend into chaos, the musicians hold things together and lead the song to a concise conclusion. This is bold, risky music-making that skirts the line between the truly avant garde and mainstream indie pop. I dig that!

"Cats were Born" imagines a strange mix of Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell. If the rollicking drums under the faster parts of the cuts add something Slits-ish to the mix, that makes perfect sense to a listener. On paper, it sounds like a mess but put together by And The Kids and it's the sound of genius.

Then we get to the punk sensibilities of "No Countries". If Sleater-Kinney formed a post-punk band on the side, one that dabbled in freer forms, they'd sound like this. Shimmering waves of noise and martial drums close this track in an artistic flourish.

Please click here for a free download of "No Countries"!

The cuts on the album all veer between genres but they do so with the trio having a firm grasp on the steering wheel. For music this out there at times, it's also music that is remarkably accessible. "Wiser" feels like it's going to fall apart but then a lovely bridge takes the song into James territory, oddly.

But that's typical of what And The Kids are doing on Turn to Each Other. I really enjoyed this album and, frankly, from the description I'd read of the music, I didn't think I would. But the reality is that this is infectious, not pretentious, music that shows 3 musicians taking enormous risks without losing sight of the goal of pleasing fans' ears. They have succeeded admirably here.

Turn to Each Other is out now. Find out more details and follow And The Kids on their official Facebook page.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Expect Delays: A Look At The Superb New Album From Evans The Death

I didn't consider myself a big fan of Evans the Death until I heard song number 2 on their new record, Expect Delays, out soon on Slumberland Records here and Fortuna POP! overseas. Second track "Terrified", with its lopping rhythm and bracing sheets of feedback, reminded me instantly of Th' Faith Healers. But, unlike Th' Faith Healers, Evans the Death have more pop sense, for lack of a better term. What would have descended into a squally freak-out years ago in that other band's hands, here is turned into something that's damn catchy.

So, that's a long way of saying that I've been playing this album, especially "Terrified", for nearly 2 months now. I've had the promo of this legally since the start of 2015 but I held off on posting a review until it was closer to release date time but, heck, others are posting reviews now so why not go ahead and join the chorus of voices telling you how good Expect Delays is?

"Sledgehammer" is indie pop in a similar vein to what Veronica Falls do but Katherine Whitaker's lead vocals are sublime here. Those vocals elevate this song, and many others here, into something special indeed. When the hook of the song kicks in, it's a moment of rapture -- the sort of moment I'd look for on releases in the import CD bins at Slumberland Records boss Mike's old place of employment in Silver Spring, Maryland: the legendary Vinyl Ink Records.

And while that might sound like idle nostalgia on my part, it's also an acknowledgement at how much fun this record is. Expect Delays might feed the need that so many people share for this sort of music but, at the same time, it's also pushing the noise pop genre into different shapes. "Idiot Button" weds a hard beat to what is almost a Lesley Gore-era kind of melody. Throw in some piano and backing vocals and you've got more of an updating on pre-Beatles-era tropes than you have another near-shoegaze riff-rocker.

If "Bad Year" is all early Long Blondes, than the wonderfully titled "Just 60,000 days 'Til I Die" is Morrissey-inflected moping of the very best sort. When Whitaker's voice suddenly trails off and gets all echo-y like the late great Trish in Broadcast, it's a moment of spine-tingling pop bliss.

The title cut uses some Muzak and airport (?) chatter as samples to start the song off but then quickly turns into a sprightly run through the hooks like those on early singles from The Sundays. It's an affecting bit of business and unlike anything else I'm hearing these days. Instantly catchy, "Expect Delays" is one of my favorites on...Expect Delays.

"Enabler" is hard, fuzzy, pop goodness. For every cut on Expect Delays that takes big risks, there are also tracks which sound familiar and which should please long-term fans of this band.

If "Shanty" is another hat-tip in the direction of Harriet Wheeler, the rollicking "Clean Up" is a burst of Flatmates-like energy. Chiming guitars, excellent vocal tracking here, and slamming drums make this one of the best cuts on this Evans the Death record.

"Don't Laugh at My Angry Face" is, with its Moz-like title, a gem. Part early Stereolab with that organ-and-drum figure, and part classic-era post-punk with a woozy hint of The Raincoats, the track is a slow-burner. Surging in parts, lurching in others, the band flails deliberately around Katherine's vocals. The effect is one of a melange of influences, all of them great, and an end result of something fresh and excellent.

Expect Delays is probably gonna end up on a lot of 2015 Best Of... lists in about 10 months. It's a remarkably strong mix of styles that advances this sort of music in some sense. It would have been easy for the band to simply crank out 10 versions of "Sledgehammer" and sit back and reap in the praise. And while I'd love a record like that I'd love one like this one even more. For every moment that feels like all the stuff I used to scour record shops for, there are on Expect Delays moments that seem new to me, moments that make me think that I was a fool to not pay so much attention to Evans the Death for so long.

So, do yourself a favor and pre-order Expect Delays now.

Follow Evans the Death on their official Facebook page.

Expect Delays will be out in a week or so on Slumberland Records here and Fortuna POP! overseas.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Let's Talk About This Wicked Debut Album From England's Fawn Spots

I suppose that if Fawn Spots had dropped their excellent debut, From Safer Place, out very soon on Fire Records, on these shores as a new American band there'd have been a hue-and-cry that the band were somehow punk revivialists.

Luckily, the band are from York in the U.K. and, thus, that distance gives them more artistic currency than U.S. critics might afford a similar band in the U.S., I'm afraid to say.

All that aside, the cuts on From Safer Place (Fire Records) are all remarkably emotional and raw post-punk, near-harDCore riff-rockers that burrow their way into a listener's brain on first listen. "A Certain Pleasure" rides a Fugazi-like hook to a fiery conclusion. "Black Water" has the clipped rhythm of the best Dischord Records releases in the 1980s. "Black Water" takes that punk vibe in a new direction with a coda that hints at the throb of early Loop records.

"Natural Vision" -- the band's tip of the hat to Rites of Springs' "Persistent Vision"? -- is a roar into the abyss. The call-and-response and absolute chaos on the kit are the best bits of this song. Even as it sounds like it's about to fall apart, it coalesces into one of the best cuts on From Safer Place.

"In Front of the Chestnut" mixes things up a bit and reveals the influence of non-harDCore bands on the output of Fawn Spots.

Excellent closer "Basque Knife" takes the speed down a notch and blends in a hint of (very) early Husker Du with a tiny bit of Nirvana-on-Sub Pop flavor. Not in any way grunge, "Basque Knife" is, instead, an updating on the music of those acts.

I don't want to do a disservice to Fawn Spots by constantly referencing harDCore here but, rather, highlight what this band is so good at creating. For those of you who miss the spark and fury of real punk rock, for those who want something that takes a few musical risks, you'd be well advised to check out Fawn Spots. From Safer Place roars past with nary a musical moment wasted. This is fine, fiery music that is as invigorating as anything being produced in 2015.

Follow Fawn Spots on their official Facebook page.

From Safer Place will be out in a matter of weeks from Fire Records.

Play Glorious New Single (And Video) From Young Romance Here! (UPDATED)

London's Young Romance have not released a lot of music so far but what they have released has been very, very special. After blogging about "Pale" last year, and then including the track on my first ever Top 10 Tracks of the Year List, I'm still playing the cut a few times a week. It's just a hypnotic and wildly catchy song.

Well Young Romance are back and poised to release a new EP in March. You can pre-order that EP here. And after you do that, you need to play this new cut a few dozen times.

"Wasting Time" is a twist on "Pale". While there's still a glorious rush of noise swirling around Claire's gorgeous Kate Bush-like vocals -- hard to resist that comparison again! -- there's a new element here as the drums kick out a beat that recalls New Order or Joy Division. "Wasting Time" is a delight. Claire and Paolo of Young Romance are making some awesome music and I cannot wait to hear more from them.

Follow Young Romance on their official Facebook page.

This Week's New Band To Get Excited About? It's The Orielles

Think Long Blondes doing Rose Elinor Dougall songs. Think Kenickie doing Shop Assistants covers.

Oh heck, I give up. What am I gonna do, crank up the ole Spin magazine comparison machine? Look, The Orielles are creating great music. You need to check it out. Pick your own reference point.

The Orielles are sisters Sid, on drums, and Esme Hand bass-and-vocals, respectively, and Henry on guitar.

I know about them 'cause they recently played a gig with 2 other bands I like a lot (Twin Peaks and Bruising).

I urge you to start with slightly older track "Deduce" and then work around to "Space Doubt" which is more recent.

And, by all means, follow The Orielles on their official Facebook page.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Chasing Yesterday: A Track-By-Track Review Of The New Album From Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

On March 2, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds will release Chasing Yesterday. I've heard the record -- legally, I might add -- and I'm gonna give you my thoughts.

The short version of this review should read like this: the songs on Chasing Yesterday are infinitely more melodic, catchy, and interesting than anything on the first record from Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds nearly 4 years ago. Back then, in late 2011, Noel had been considerably upstaged by his brother. I spent a part of my review of the first Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds record admitting how much I loved the first Beady Eye record. That wasn't an attempt to stir up memories of the Gallaghers' feuding but, rather, just my honest expression of surprise at how good Different Gear, Still Speeding was. Noel, in 2011, didn't seem to have the fire his brother had, for lack of any other way to describe the vibe then.

Well, things are different now.

And, to his credit, Noel has tightened things up this time out. Chasing Yesterday is a collection of 10 solid, concise rockers largely showcasing Noel's considerable gifts for constructing hooks. Rarely does anything on Chasing Yesterday overstay its welcome; there's nothing over 6 minutes, and quite a lot under 4, so that's awesome.

I used to joke back in 1997 how Be Here Now would have been a masterpiece if every song's length was cut in half. Well, Chasing Yesterday is very nearly the sort of record I was imagining when I made that quip.

So let's start the rundown of the 10 tracks on Chasing Yesterday by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

"Riverman"

A deceptive opener, "Riverman" is a near-bluesy number that has a sort of lopping beat. I hate to say it but take it anyway you want: this is almost what I'd call a really good Eric Clapton song...if Eric had any sense of song-craft anymore. And, weirdly, there's the barest hint of the "Wonderwall" melody buried in this one. I say that but it's not something I even noticed on my first few listens of this album opener.

"In The Heat of the Moment"

A cut you've probably already heard by now, the song is a nice, slightly scuzzy Keith Richards-style rocker. If the lads in Oasis had ever tackled "Bitch" by the Rolling Stones it might have ended up like this.

"The Girl with the X-Ray Eyes"

A fantastic song, "The Girl with the X-Ray Eyes" manages to recall both Paul Weller and stuff from Noel's one-time band-mate Andy Bell's band Ride. An ascending melodic figure that contrasts with the track's shuffling beats, this is one of the highlights of Chasing Yesterday for me. Add in a George Harrison-style guitar solo and you've got another reason to love this one. And all that's not to mention that it sounds a bit like "Where Did It All Go Wrong?" from Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000) but with a much stronger melodic hook.

"Lock All the Doors"

Finally, Solo Noel lets loose like he did, on occasion, in Oasis! "Lock All the Doors" rocks like "My Big Mouth" by Oasis. This is, quite simply, probably the closest that Noel Gallagher has come to penning an outright Big Oasis Tune since he's officially gone solo. Aces!

"The Dying of the Light"

A slow-burner, "The Dying of the Light" sounds a lot like stuff on the first record from Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, especially "If I Had a Gun..."

"The Right Stuff"

A bit funky and jazzy, "The Right Stuff" sees Noel broaden his horizons a bit. The tinkling keyboards and the soulful backing vocals add a lot to this one. If another track on this album sounds like Roxy Music (see below), this song sounds like solo Bryan Ferry. It might not be a coincidence that Bryan had a song with the same title with Noel hero Johnny Marr on guitar back in 1987. Could that have been Noel's inspiration for this album track?

"While the Song Remains the Same"

Excellent vocals from Noel on this track help make "While the Song Remains the Same" another highlight of Chasing Yesterday. Noel's guitar-work here even sounds like -- gasp! -- George Benson. It's an odd mix of elements but this is another fantastic cut that shows that Mr. Gallagher is (finally) willing to experiment a bit more with his established sound.

"The Mexican"

A hard little riff anchors "The Mexican" and the song chugs along with some nice familiarity. The horn sample in the background is a fine touch.

"You Know We Can't Go Back"

Perhaps the title is a nod to brother Liam? Who knows? My money's on an Oasis reunion sometime in the next 2 years or so. Regardless of the inspiration for the title, "You Know We Can't Go Back" is a fantastic, instantly catchy song with a damn near-perfect New Order-like bass-and-drum-beat holding things down. Surging, melodic, and summery, "You Know We Can't Go Back" is one of the best things Noel's ever sung on. Hands down better than anything on the first record from Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, this one is a surefire single as far this fan is concerned.

Hell, Noel Gallagher sounds 15 years younger here!

"The Ballad of the Mighty I"

Another rocker, "The Ballad of the Mighty I" is Noel sounding happy and yearning on the chorus. And it's an enormous chorus, isn't it? Surprisingly direct and tuneful, this one is another highlight of Chasing Yesterday for me. Something in the production recalls late period Roxy Music but the song is entirely more straightforward than anything they did in the 1980s. If this is Noel's attempt at writing a big hit (again), then I'm okay with it.

In the perfect world, "The Ballad of the Mighty I" would be played on Top 40 radio with everyone singing along to it on their car radios.

Overall, Chasing Yesterday is better than Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (2011). Not only that, but some cuts here -- "The Ballad of the Mighty I", "Lock All the Doors", etc. -- are as good as a lot of the stuff that Noel wrote in Oasis. I can't over-emphasize how much I enjoyed Chasing Yesterday when compared to 2011's Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

And it's virtually impossible to deny the spectre of Oasis as it is hanging over anything Noel touches these days but, so be it. Judging by Chasing Yesterday, it would appear that Noel has made peace with his legacy and embraced it. Forward-looking, this record capitalizes on Noel's strengths as a songwriter and expands upon what he's so good at. And even with those pushes into new directions for Noel as a musician, there are still enough big hooks here to please even the most jaded of Oasis fans and that's saying something.

Speaking for myself, the slight disappointment I felt in 2011 when hearing Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds seems silly now 'cause, yeah, obviously Noel Gallagher has still got the chops. The tunes here are lively, concise, and full of musical muscle. This is a record to be played loud, for the most part, and I am very thankful as a fan that Noel has got the fire again on Chasing Yesterday.

Chasing Yesterday by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds will be out on March 2.

Find out more via the official Noel Gallagher website:
www.NoelGallagher.com

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Look At The Special Features On The DVD Of No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers

I finally have a physical copy of No Manifesto: A Film about Manic Street Preachers. Last month, I posted my review of the film. Then I brought you my interview with director Elizabeth Marcus, along with an exclusive clip of James Dean Bradfield from the making of the film, and then I shared with you another exclusive clip from the making of the film.

Well, today I'm here to look at the extras on the DVD. It would ridiculous of me to re-review the film so if you missed it, just read my review first 'cause I'm not going to rehash my points now.

But it's worth repeating what an extraordinary thing Elizabeth Marcus has done here. An American, she managed to earn the trust of this Welsh band and film them for a few years. She even got them to open up about the disappearance and legacy of Richey Edwards. The film's treatment of that topic feels remarkably respectful and solemn (when it needs to be) and she's to be applauded by fans for that. Watching the film on DVD on a big TV was a joy. The Richey parts seemed even more moving this time around.

So now you know what I think of the film itself so why should you buy the DVD? Here's why. I'm gonna give you my opinion of the extras on this one.

There's a load of Special Features on the DVD and here's my rundown:

Nicky and Sean 2005 Extended Interview

This interview runs for about 20 minutes. Sean Moore and Nicky Wire talk about the Manics' legacy, the shadow of Richey, the songs that would become Send Away The Tigers, and many more topics. James Dean Bradfield is not in the interview but that is presumably him wailing away on the guitar in the background.

Music Video - "I'm Just a Patsy"

This video for a live version of the cut is superb. Frankly, the song's never been one of my favorites from Send Away the Tigers but now I might have to revise that sentiment. Made up of film of the Manics in the studio and live, this live video is a nice extra for fans.

Breakfast in New York with James and Dave

This is a 19-minute segment in which James Dean Bradfield and producer Dave Eringa have breakfast with an off-screen Elizabeth Marcus and Kurt Enfeghr. The director and producer have a nice casual chat with James on a variety of music-related topics. The thing that makes this segment so much fun is James Dean Bradfield's assertion that he likes Electric Light Orchestra more than The Beatles. I don't necessarily agree with him but when he mentions one of my favorite ELO songs ("The Ballad of Horace Wimp"), I am at least closer to agreeing with him. Seeing JDB on the streets of NYC (presumably) is cool too.

When the Manics Met Rush

In this nearly 30-minute segment a viewer gets to be a fly-on-the-wall to the meeting between Rush's Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee and James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers. With the departure of Richey Edwards, the Manics essentially became a power trio...like Rush? In a sense. And a fan of both of these bands such as myself was thrilled to see JDB expound upon his theory that bands like Muse and Smashing Pumpkins stole bits from Rush. The segment made me a little nostalgic 'cause Rush were the first real, proper rock band I ever got into heavily. Sure, I had Beatles and Devo records but getting my first Rush LP (1981's Exit...Stage Left) made me feel like I was a step closer to being a teenager. And I like to think that my love of the Manics now is a little bit adolescent in nature. I guess I've just never grown up and listening to the Manics I feel a connection that makes me think of the connections I felt to various bands as a teen (U2, Rush, Husker Du). And we get to see the NME photographer snap the iconic meeting of the bands too which is cool.

Past Present Future Tour 2005

This segment is 4 separate music videos for live versions of 4 great Manics songs:
"A Design For Life"
"You Stole The Sun From My Heart"
"Empty Souls"
"Archives of Pain"

Yes, this is the same video version of "A Design for Life" that the NME website was featuring a few weeks back. Elizabeth Marcus, Kurt Engfehr, and their crew have really done a fantastic job here with this one. Taking us backstage and into the audience, the video makes me love the song in a whole new way.

The other live videos are similar with the one for "You Stole the Sun From My Heart" focusing on the fans and the one for "Empty Souls" focusing on the backstage activity around the performance (the setting up of gear and stuff). The video for "Archives of Pain" showcases James Dean Bradfield in the first few minutes 'cause it's largely a solo performance before the other band members join in. It's quite a moving rendition, I must add.

If you want to order No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers, please visit the film's official website:
www.NoManifestoFilm.com.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Supernaturals Are Back: My Review Of 360, Their Wonderful New Record

Remember these cats? Any fan of great pop music -- in the best sense of that word -- better answer that question with a resounding "Yes!"

Well, the 4 original members of Scotland's The Supernaturals are back with a fabulous new album. Called 360, it's out very soon and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of it a bit early...and legally I should add in this era of illegal downloading.

So the inevitable has happened and The Supernaturals do sound more mature here, but trust me, that's a good thing. What? You wanted a bunch of middle-aged guys bopping along to "The Day Before Yesterday's Man" like a revival act? Really, don't let that mature tag scare you.

By mature I certainly do not want to denote joyless or dour, or something that's a radical departure from the earlier Supernaturals template. If you were a fan of stuff like "Glimpse of the Light" and "Motorcycle Parts" then you're going to be happy with the songs here on 360.

Quite simply, the tracks on 360 are already some of the best examples of songwriting 2015 is likely to have.

Now let's discuss some of the better songs on this excellent record in more detail.

Rollicking opener "My Sweet George" is an incredibly catchy gem that takes its inspiration from the Wilbury Beatle, if you couldn't figure that out from the title. Then there's the one-two-three punch of "Zombie", "Something To Believe In", and "All Rivers Flow" which all feature what I'd call down tempo rhythms. Each cut is like a big, friendly hug, especially "All Rivers Flow" which should please long-time fans of this band with its organic pop warmth. The song sounds like the best thing Neil Finn never got around to writing post-Crowded House. The production here on the album is uniformly good and these songs are naturally enveloping. If The Supernaturals are not older and wiser now they certainly sound like they are. And this string of cuts shows how that's a good thing for those musicians who care about creating great music, like the now-reunited 4 original members of The Supernaturals.

"Horse Song" is a natural single. The acoustic and electric guitars are chiming and the chorus is a big one.

"Guardian Angels" with its deliberate chord progression is, melodically at least, a direct descendant of "Glimpse of the Light" from It Doesn't Matter Anymore (1997), the band's debut.

"Control Me" and "Alone with My Thoughts" are anchored by the piano/keyboard bits in each and both are supremely tuneful with the harmonies and melodies strong in each, think "Smile" but...older and wiser.

And then we come to "Just Love" and man, oh man, what a song this one is!. I hope someone tracks down Paul McCartney and mails him a copy of this CD just so he can hear this song. And inside the CD cover should be a note that says:

"Dear Sir Paul, play track 10. Now don't you wish you still wrote songs like this?"

Yes, "Just Love" is that good. The heir to the sort of slow-but-hopeful melodic line from "Love Has Passed Away", the tune is hands down my favorite cut on the record and, quite possibly, now one of my favorite Supernaturals songs...ever.

Album closer and title song "360" is the kind of more natural version of what one-time Supernaturals tour-mate Robbie Williams tried to do on his "Morning Sun" single. If that one was Rob going all Oasis on us, at least in The Supernaturals' case they are closing the record on a mood similar to what the Gallaghers did with "Let There Be Love", one of the more underrated cuts in that band's canon.

Although I've skipped over loads of cuts in my summation of this record -- the bits in "Meteorite" that reminded me of Squeeze, the rockier riffs of "Hanging Around" -- I think I've still managed to highlight the best songs on this new collection.

Overall, 360 is both a showcase of the strengths of this band, a refreshing reminder of why The Supernaturals were missed in the first place, and an excellent collection of 15 sublime pop songs for old or new fans of these guys. But 360 also shows that the band members have spent their time away from us moving their craft in new directions. What we loved about this band in 1997 or 1998 is still here, albeit if more naturally produced now. 360 is the sort of pop that very few people are making these days. Lovingly assembled, the 15 cuts on this album here are all superb examples of how to write a proper song.

Welcome back lads!

360 will be out very soon. Find out more details on the band's new official Facebook page or on the official website for The Supernaturals:
www.thesupernaturalsofficial.com

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Let's Talk About This Axis: Sova Album That's Out Today On Ty Segall's GOD? Imprint Via Drag City

I don't know much about this Axis:Sova act beyond two facts: 1) the new record is on the GOD? imprint of Drag City, an imprint overseen by Ty Segall, and 2) Early Surf, this second album from Axis:Sova, rocks like an animal in all the right ways.

Trippy and ferocious in spots, this is superb freak-out rock of the highest caliber. "Blinding White" sounds like a lost gem from a Nuggets comp., while "Afflicted Taste" is some new take on the sort of scuzzy rock that Primal Scream were once desperately trying to perfect. The brilliantly named "Ask Me About My Smell" answers the question of what a Loop/Spacemen 3 collaboration would have sounded like in 1988, while "Secret Hand" very nearly rides to its conclusion on a riff that wouldn't have sounded too out of place on an early Super Furry Animals record.

"Fractal Ancestry" uses a fast beat -- drum machine? -- to anchor the cut that is pure warped Fu Manchu only filtered through a Royal Trux haze.

For every bit on Early Surf that does indeed sound like Ty Segall, there are loads more that remain expansions on his template. Opener "We Turn Pale", despite its acid rock vibe, owes more to early Sabbath than anything else. There's a jazzy sense of experimentation here that places it in a different place than Ty Segall's stuff, even if the following cut, "Blinding White", does indeed sound like Ty's best work.

But I'm not gonna peg Axis:Sova as a Ty Segall acolyte. If you like Ty's albums, you'll probably like this. A lot. But if you want something more, something more expansive and nearly dangerous, you should grab Early Surf, out today on Drag City.

Another Exclusive Clip From The Making Of No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers

It seems fitting that I've used a photo of Manic Street Preachers drummer Sean Moore on the gun range for this post as this clip touches on not only the possibility of the Manics touring America but Sean's (legal) firearms hobby. There's a certain irony there as No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers producer and editor Kurt Engfehr was the co-producer and editor of Bowling for Columbine (2002).

In case you didn't know, No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers was released on DVD on Monday, February 16, 2015. The DVD is region free so U.S. fans without all-region players can safely order it.

Here's my review again if you want to know how much I loved the film. If you want to know more about No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers from the director herself, please read my interview with Elizabeth Marcus.

You can read more about No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers and order the DVD via the film's official website:
http://nomanifestofilm.com/

I Know Very Little About This But It's Awesome: The New Landseers (Pulco, etc.) Track Is Up

I do know a bit about this track seeing as how it features at least 2 people I've blogged about before: Nat Lyon, American and a musician, and Ash Cooke, ex-Derrero, current Pulco, man of many talents and skills operating out of Wales.

This is a new project called The Landseers and the song "Wasted" was simply too good not to share. Think old Creation Records band One Lady Owner mixed with a bit of The Flaming Lips. Aces all around and whoever's playing that bass is a madman. I hope to hear more from The Landseers soon.

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Few Kind Words About The New Album From Mourn, Out This Week On Captured Tracks

Spain's Mourn seemed to first get some press 'cause of their association with Hinds (previously named Deers) but, in reality, there's more ferocity here. Mourn sound remarkably like classic era PJ Harvey with a hint of early Throwing Muses thrown in for good measure. If Kim Gordon had formed a punk band when she was the age of the members of Mourn, it would haved sounded a lot like this, I think.

The self-titled debut album from Mourn is out on Tuesday via Captured Tracks and it's an affecting and exciting record. From the surging "Otitis" to the riff-riding "You Don't Know Me" and on and on, this is an LP of tremendous power and immediacy. Recorded in a 2-day blast of activity, the album bears the direct DIY electricity of an early Dischord Records release. With no track getting past the 3-minute mark -- and most under 2 minutes -- the 11 songs here are all perfect examples of a sort of music that is in short supply these days.

But all that's not to peg Mourn as punk revivalists or something. While an astute listener can easily sort of pick out the influences of this band, Mourn are making something unique here that impresses not so much because its makers are so young but, rather, because it's such a blast of energy.

A song like "Jack" owes a lot to Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill. There's no denying that but what remains a revelation is how catchy the song is, even if it's over nearly as soon as it begins. The spectacular "Silver Gold" (which you can download below) is like some perfect melding of The Slits and Patti Smith. It's a shockingly bracing slice of fury and I guarantee you that you'll hear little else like it this year from other bands.

But, hey, I could say that about all 11 cuts on Mourn's self-titled debut.

Mourn by Mourn is out on Tuesday via Captured Tracks.

Follow Mourn on their official Facebook page.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Here's My Quick Review Of Hall And Oates: Recorded Live In Dublin Which Hits Theaters This Thursday

Before hitting DVD next month, the excellent new concert film Hall and Oates: Recorded Live in Dublin hits theaters for a special set of screenings on Thursday, February 19, 2015. For those of you in the D.C./Maryland/Northern Virginia area, there are a lot of good choices to see the film. More details on those locations here.

I was lucky enough to see the film already and it's a blast. Really, Hall and Oates: Recorded Live in Dublin seems designed to elicit a sort of "Gee, those guys are still great!" reaction. Now, that's not to slight Hall and Oates but, rather, to suggest that by listening to their hits on the radio or CD, or on your iPod, you might forget what fantastic performers and musicians these cats are.

Supporting an admirably chosen set of songs, Hall and Oates and their superb band really shine here. Frankly, one of my favorites -- "Say It Isn't So" -- has never sounded this great. The song, originally recorded to promote the duo's 1983 Greatest Hits: Rock 'n Soul Part 1, sounds fresh here as it takes on a rockier vibe. Similarly, "Sara Smile" is expanded in jazzier ways, while "She's Gone" now reflects the trippier vibe of the Seventies as much as it does remain a dazzling showcase for the combined vocal talents of Daryl Hall and John Oates. After dipping into their vast back-catalog for a few more obscure cuts -- which sounded like songs that should have been hits, I must add -- Hall and Oates take "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" and explore the song's hooks as the band follows along. Part jazz, part rock, the song as performed in Hall and Oates: Recorded Live in Dublin is a revelation. Watch it performed here and then play it again and see what a great piece of song-craft it still is.

Look, Hall and Oates could trot out the hits on a bare stage with 2 stools and 2 acoustic guitars and the songs would still sound great but they've done much more here. In Hall and Oates: Recorded Live in Dublin the duo and their ace band-mates have really given old and new fans a big gift. Your favorites cuts are here and you'll be happy to hear those again but you'll also be pleasantly surprised at some bits of this concert film. I can say that some of these hits have never sounded as good as they do in Hall and Oates: Recorded Live in Dublin.

This week Hall and Oates will be on Howard Stern's show on Wednesday, February 18, at 9:00 AM EST. Then on Thursday they will be on "The View" prior to that same night's screening of the film in theaters.

For more details on seeing Hall and Oates: Recorded Live in Dublin at a theater near you, check out the Fathom Events page for the film.

Follow Hall and Oates on their official Facebook page or on their official website.

New Evans The Death Video Should Make You Excited About Their Upcoming Album

This bit of fuzzy goodness is called "Enabler" and it's another track from the upcoming and thoroughly excellent new album from Evans The Death. Expect Delays is out in a few weeks on Slumberland Records in the USA and Fortuna POP! overseas. The album is really great but, since it's a bit too early for me to post my review, that's all I'll say for now.

In the meantime, follow Evans The Death on their official Facebook page.

Spin This Thoroughly Delightful Tune From The Trap Doors Here

I guess there is something like an Allentown Scene, what with The Yetis and now The Trap Doors. Who would have thought that the relatively-nearby Pennsylvania town would be the home of such catchy music?

(But, hey, a bunch of kids I knew back in my record store days formed Slumberland Records and Velocity Girl and a slew of bands in the College Park, Maryland, area so anything is possible!)

The Trap Doors is really just Eric Luchansky. He's worked with members of The Yetis in recording his songs and I urge you to check those cuts out.

But, really, I must highlight the enormously catchy "I Lost My Little Girl" which is equal parts Jonathan Richman and Vampire Weekend. It's the story of a girl on the run from a bad boyfriend and somehow she ends up as a trapeze artist. That sounds like the sort of thing that Robyn Hitchcock would turn into a song. And he'd probably make one that sounds a bit like this.

I'm eager to hear more from this cat and you should be too.