Thursday, December 8, 2016

I Had A Dream...That New Jet Age Tunes Were Up On Bandcamp!

In a clever bit of band marketing, the fellas in The Jet Age have decided to release new tunes in 2016 two-at-a-time. We've had a few of these music drops this year but perhaps none has been as strong as today's offering.

"The Glow Won't Fade" ups the Jet Age formula with a subtle build-up that manages to showcase drummer Pete Nuwayser and bassist Greg Bennett as much as it does singer-guitarist Eric Tischler. All the players here are at their peak powers and the instruments sound perfectly balanced in this mix. The cut builds and grabs a listener even as the music veers into controlled chaos.

"I Had A Dream" is a step into more familiar territory. Recalling stuff from earlier albums like 2011's Domestic Disturbances, the number finds Tischler in superb form, vocals and riffs up-front in this new number's sharp (and smart) mix. Waves of near-shoegaze-style feedback wash in behind him as the rhythm section keeps things grounded.

Hopefully 2017 will see a new full-length release from The Jet Age. This D.C.-area band continues to make music that seems essential and vital to me, and they are still capable of surprising me when they venture into new stylistic and sonic territory. Criminally underrated as I've said before, The Jet Age remain one of the very best bands in the nation's capital.

Until the new record drops, and after you've bought all the cuts released in 2016, you can follow The Jet Age via their official website, or their official Facebook page.

[Photo: Glenn Griffith, 2015]

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Do Not Go Gentle: A Look At The New Reissue Of John Cale's Fragments Of A Rainy Season

I guess I could say that my odd multi-year correspondence with John Cale began because of a song on this album. In 1998 I worked for Jane's. I got a message that a customer was having trouble with a subscription to one of our email newsletters and the name was "Kale". I called, heard that delicious Welsh accent, and suddenly realized I was on the phone with the Velvet Underground legend, a guy whose name I knew how to spell correctly. Long story short: I was wise enough to not pepper him on that call with a bunch of VU-related comments. Instead, I mentioned some more obscure releases from his back-catalog, notably his Dylan Thomas-inspired album, Words For The Dying (1989). A few cuts from that release are spread out on Fragments Of A Rainy Season (1992), Cale's superb live album. That release is being prepped for a 2-CD reissue and that version is going to drop on Domino this Friday. Here's my take on this live album, more on my multi-year correspondence with Cale at a much later date.

John Cale has always been an artist hard to pin down as a solo performer. He's flitted from classical to rock to new wave to torch songs and back again. His prodigious talents allow him this luxury and he usually makes those leaps look easy, his mastery of each form so complete that this genre-hopping has never seemed dilettantish. And perhaps the best, most basic way to understand Cale as an artist -- to grasp this Welsh gentleman's command of so many styles -- has been to dive into Fragments Of A Rainy Season. First released in 1992, the album gained attention for Cale's timeless interpretation of the late Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", or Cale's own tortured run at "Heartbreak Hotel", more horrific than anything the King could have ever imagined in a pill-haze. But more than as a showcase for those 2 incendiary covers, Fragments Of A Rainy Season works best as a career overview of this musical genius. Here, on this new edition, the work has been expanded, the bonus cuts thankfully removed to the second half of this set and the first live set largely intact.

Tackling the Thomas material on the piano, the melodies of his compositions based around the poems "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" and "Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed" retain their radiance, the sharp angles of Cale's score plonked out by the Welshman himself. The material from Words For The Dying works on the keyboard, especially so if you know the orchestral versions of these cuts. Elsewhere, Cale tackles numbers from his older records on the guitar, "Guts" and "Ship of Fools" getting by on a good deal of Dylan-style appeal. "Style It Takes" from 1990's elegant Songs For Drella still sparkles like a ruby, while "I Keep A Close Watch" remains the most perfect Sinatra song never essayed by Frank himself. Mixed in among the bonus cuts are rough live stabs at the Velvet Underground nugget "Waiting for the Man" as well as "Antarctica Starts Here", which shines as one of Cale's absolutely best compositions in terms of tune and lyric.

This new 2-CD set of Fragments Of A Rainy Season doesn't alter my opinion that the live album is one of Cale's most essential releases. Sure, the bonus tracks are nice to have but there was little worry that anything could diminish the perfect presentation of the original release. Still, the extra numbers expand the overall impact of this set, some of them showing a rougher Cale than those cuts on the original edition itself. Think of this as the shiny, simple distillation of Cale's genius now made shinier, more perfect, more direct, each piece adding to the overall effect. In some remarkable way, this is Cale's "best of" disc. I can imagine some kid today gorging on the first few Velvets' releases, then starting his Cale quest with this career-spanning disc much the same way I might have started on my education into Lou's solo stuff with Rock 'n' Roll Animal. But more than Lou's somewhat turgid release, John Cale's Fragments Of A Rainy Season is a dynamic live album, the finest set of solo Cale tunes one could possibly cull, performed by the man at arguably the height of his second, or third, career peak -- (he's had many). What I'm trying to say, man, is if you own some VU stuff and no Cale albums, start here, preferably with this new 2-CD version.

The essential Fragments Of A Rainy Season from John Cale is out on Friday via Domino.

Follow John Cale via his official website.

[Photo: Uncredited from YouTube]

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Will Of The Beast: A Look At The Superb New EP From London's Chemtrails

London's Chemtrails burst on to my radar with "Aeons" a few months ago. If I had somehow not found the band because I was already following everything released by the fab PNKSLM label, I'd have surely encountered the group once I read about how great that single was. Well, it's here, along with 5 similarly great bits of indie on the five-piece's new Love in Toxic Wasteland EP, out Friday via PNKSLM.

If "Aeons" was an updating of shoegaze forms from some decades back, stuff like "Golden Tombs" and the interestingly-titled "Will of the Beast" are further refinements of elements offered up by the best so-called alternative acts of a previous age -- a Lush guitar hook in the one cut, a skewed Pixies-style melody line in another. The genius of the work of the crew in Chemtrails is that they make this all sound new and fresh. Hardly derivative at all, the tunes here positively crackle with energy and spark, mad jumbles of Primitives and Jesus and Mary Chain chord figures rush past atop beds of lyrics about some odd future full of toxic zombies or something.

The band -- Mia (guitar, vocals), Laura (guitar, vocals), Another Laura (bass, vocals), Ian (keyboard), and Sam (drums) -- crank out stuff that charms with a good deal of fuzzy pop wooziness and wit. The spry "I'd Like To Rule The Ice Age" sounds like nothing so much as Altered Images essaying a Mekons cut. The absolutely superb "Burnt Shadows" is all Glitter Band and Slade riffs amped up with a bit of Bolan cleverness had he somehow survived and lived to make music in a post-grunge world. Deliriously catchy, this material is unlike so much of what passes for indie these days, and yet it's certainly full of echoes of stuff from a few other eras. Rather than seem nostalgic, Chemtrails manage to stir this all up in a new way. The EP ends with the MGMT-ish title cut, all sci-fi-flavored words astride a punchy new wave-y beat.

Every single cut on Love in Toxic Wasteland is full of melody and inventiveness. This is fuzzed-out pop that races by in a blur of tunefulness and cheek. The soundtrack to a dystopian future perhaps, the 6 songs on their debut EP confirm the many current talents of Chemtrails.

Love in Toxic Wasteland is out on PNKSLM on Friday. Follow Chemtrails on the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Chemtrails Facebook page, uncredited]

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Striving: A Look At The New 4-CD Adrian Sherwood On-U Sound Box Set From Cherry Red Records

You want to start to understand the importance of Adrian Sherwood? You have just a basic understanding of dub? Start here. Buy this set immediately. Dread Operator - From the On-U Sound Archives - Produced by Adrian Sherwood, out now from Cherry Red Records, is a 4-CD crash course that will make crystal clear why Sherwood, and these assorted musicians, are so crucial, their music so vital, and their legacy so large.

First up in this set is the 1984 Leaps and Bounds collection billed to Singers and Players. Highlights here are "Striving", all Bim Sherman yearning and smooth vocalizing, and "Moses" with Congo Ashanti Roy. The "Players" here include Prince Far I, Mikey Dread, Sherman, and a few other big names. If the set feels like the most accessible of the 4 in this box, then that makes it an easy way to work your way into the world of Sherwood's sound.

The second disc in this collection is the superb Threat to Creation (1981) from Creation Rebel/New Age Steppers. Largely instrumentals, the cuts here showcase the kind of deep rhythmic hooks Sherwood was fond of. The genesis of the fame of the On-U Sound sound is here. Trippy dub like "Ethos Design" prefigures the kind of stuff Sherwood would bring to remixes of Primal Scream, for example, decades later. The skittering "Last Sane Dream" echoes the sort of thing bands like Gang of Four and P.i.L. -- (Keith Levene is on this record) -- were pursuing in this era, while the spacious and space-y title cut is unlike most of the reggae you've probably got in your collection. If nothing else, Sherwood, as shepherd of this flock of players, brought a sense of the modern to this music, bridging the worlds of post-punk and dub with ease. If "Ghost Town" by The Specials was the sound of new England, the plot lost and pub closed, then "Painstaker" is the bleak, mecchanik reggae beat as if it's been re-imagined by some folks at Factory Records. And what I'm trying to say is that this cut is as futuristic and vital as that from Dammers and his lot. Entirely unlike probably anything being made in the U.K. at the time (aside from Throbbing Gristle sides), this sort of material is both an injection of bleak postmodernism into the rich reggae tradition, but also an attempt to expand the form and find a new audience beyond the proverbial dancehall. If you need one reason you must buy Dread Operator - From the On-U Sound Archives - Produced by Adrian Sherwood, let it be Disc 2.

Lows and Highs (1982) was billed to Creation Rebel but it's a far more straightforward release than anything else in this collection. If the epic "Rubber Skirt (Parts 1/2/3)" sounds like ska stretched into something relaxing and soothing, "Rebel Party" is pure crowd-pleasing reggae of the sort not meant to ruffle too many feathers. Sherwood may have pushed the envelope more times than not but on this release he's bringing things in from too far out, stuff like "Love I Can Feel" being as mainstream as -- gasp -- early UB40 tracks.

Dread Operator - From the On-U Sound Archives - Produced by Adrian Sherwood closes with the fantastic Wild Paarty Sounds Vol. 1 from 1981. A compilation from acts who probably only existed in the studio, the sounds here range from the protest rock of "Things That Made U.S." from Jeb Loy and the Oil Wells, to the Bollywood-meets-electro-clash of "Asian Rebel" by Sons of Arqa. Elsewhere, the essential "Quante Jubila" from Prince Far I and Creation Rebel offers up somewhat accessible dub that's still a good taste of the genius of the Sherwood approach to producing. If "Quit the Body" by the inexplicably-named The Chicken Granny is nearly punk, then "Afghani Dub" by The Mothmen is dub that's near industrial in approach, the drums clanging ominously and the guitars sounding like slowed-down sirens. The echo of the dire present of early Eighties Thatcher England is here.

Dread Operator - From the On-U Sound Archives - Produced by Adrian Sherwood is absolutely essential. If you have even a little bit of interest in the studio wizardry of Adrian Sherwood, or in the legacy of Prince Far I, or the birth of deep, heavy dub, buy this. Don't even hesitate. Groundbreaking, forward-looking, and utterly unlike anything you've heard, the music here -- especially Disc 2, Threat to Creation -- is the sort of thing to entirely change the way you hear reggae and so-called "dance" music. Radically beyond genre labels and entirely rooted to reggae traditions, the tunes on this 4-CD set blew my mind, to put it simply. I had a working knowledge of some of Adrian Sherwood's stuff but I think I wasn't aware of the expansiveness of his vision until I heard this set, which is to say that I didn't know he had his hand in anything as seemingly mainstream as a few cuts on that Lows and Highs release. Still, even when the material is concise and direct, there's something interesting going on in the production or instrumentation and the hand of maestro Sherwood is surely at the controls of all of these tracks. And for that reason, a listener is rewarded at every point of this compilation.

Out now via Cherry Red Records, Dread Operator - From the On-U Sound Archives - Produced by Adrian Sherwood is worth your time and money. Buy it as soon as possible.

More details on Adrian Sherwood via his official website:

[Photo: Adrian Sherwood's website]

Friday, December 2, 2016

Down For The Outing: A Look At The Fine New One From Peter Doherty

Unbelievably, we now live in a world where there's no Pete(r) Doherty drama, just an album release. Seemingly without a lot of fanfare, the former Libertines genius -- (and I don't use that word lightly) -- has offered up perhaps his most assured solo recording with Hamburg Demonstrations, out today on Clouds Hill/BMG. I've absorbed this one and, you know what? Maybe it's time to fire up those trumpets for this cat again 'cause this one is just that good folks.

It is something worth stressing: Doherty has perhaps never sounded more in command of his material than he does here. If most of Hamburg Demonstrations (necessarily) lacks the youthful storm-the-barricades fire of the Libertines recordings, or even the fuck you fervor of the first Babyshambles ones, it retains Doherty's sense of wearing the mantle of a poet in a doomed world. The dour-but-beautiful "Down For The Outing" mines a mournful melody, while the robust "Hell To Pay At The Gates Of Heaven" ramps up the energy for a missive on the Paris terror attacks. Some of Doherty's best work is here, not on the last Libertines release. He has found, at last, a way to corral his prodigious talents in a new way, and not to run amok in the search of the perfect moment. One listen to the absurdly beautiful "Flags From The Old Regime" ought to convince anyone of how fantastically gifted this gentleman is, his skills now sharpened and capable of offering up a Jobim-meets-Cale-like bit of business like this number. The old music hall charms of the wistful "I Don't Love Anyone (But You're Not Just Anyone)" linger and gain subtle power through the precise instrumentation -- the violin and soft drums making this cut with its Morrissey-worthy title one of the absolute standouts of Hamburg Demonstrations. Similarly, "A Spy In The House Of Love" here takes on a more polished vibe. A long-time fan of The Libertines and Doherty could well imagine that this sort of thing would have been a toss-off for the guy some years ago, all fast and loose and played with abandon. Here, while light as a feather, the cut is more refined and it shows every sign of Doherty now, at this point in his career as an artist, laboring (properly) over his compositions with the results being every bit as great as the singles from The Libertines even if it's a different sort of great. "The Whole World Is Our Playground" is the younger Doherty now playful where he was once end-of-the-world-wild, the melody coming easy and effortlessly.

Without a doubt, Hamburg Demonstrations is surely the most polished solo Peter Doherty release so far. And with that polish comes a sense of growth, Doherty now no longer the wild child of Brit indie, no longer on death's doorstep. Having cheated death, he's earned this. Hamburg Demonstrations is, frankly, a bold new step in the right direction for Doherty as a solo artist. If the echo of the Libertines trumpet sounds again, he'll surely rise to answer it. Until then, Doherty is off crafting near-chamber pop of the finest sort, a blend of folk, English music hall, and Pogues-inspired ramshackle rock. Doherty has, finally, found a way to harness his demons and the results are, if not the end-of-the-world indie of The Libs, nor the "fuck-it"-shrug-and-slouch of Babyshambles, at least something sublime. Hamburg Demonstrations is that good, that much of a career turning point for a guy who truly needed this new start in his (musical) life.

You can follow Peter Doherty via many social media outlets. Hamburg Demonstrations is out today via Clouds Hill/BMG.

[Photo: Pinterest]

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Silence Of Something Else: A Look At The New Reissue Of Getaway By The Clean From Merge Records

If nothing else, the new reissue of Getaway (2001) from The Clean, out on Friday from Merge Records, makes a case for David Kilgour being one of the most interesting guitarists to ever pick up the instrument in the post-punk era. And, sure, in some ways Getaway was the signal of a new era in the sound of The Clean but it was also one of the band's bravest releases, a claim now bolstered by the addition of a full disc of incendiary bonus material.

The band -- a trio of vocalist/guitarist David Kilgour, drummer Hamish Kilgour, and bassist Robert Scott -- in 2001 set about to record what would be the band's most expansive release to date. If the angular riffs of early Clean singles were gone, what remained was a sense of exploration and a fearlessness in approaching material so loose ("Circle Canyon", "Silence of Something Else") that it served really as a base from which these players could chard new territories. Stuff like "Crazy" sounds as much like early Clean sides as it does American bands like Pavement or Built to Spill. Considered in hindsight, it makes perfect sense that Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley from Yo La Tengo were on this release as, frankly, Getaway sounds as much like one of that band's long-players as it does a Clean one. "Stars" offers up a fine showcase for David Kilgour's vocal-and-guitar approach, equal parts Neil Young and pure Kiwi indie, while more expansive cuts like "Aho" provide the space necessary for Kilgour to cut loose. More than anything else, this record prefigures the fine solo albums David Kilgour would release after this on which he would pursue traditions more closely aligned with Neil Young and Robert Quine than those of his New Zealand compatriots.

Now what makes this reissue of Getaway by The Clean such an essential purchase is not just the remastering job that the folks at Merge Records have performed -- and, believe me, this record sounds better than it ever has -- but the wealth of bonus cuts they have loaded this thing up with. Disc 2 is more than 80 minutes of extra material including the rare EP Slush Fund. Crammed with familiar Clean nuggets like "Point That Thing Somewhere Else" and "Fish", the EP features some of Kilgour's best guitar playing. Transcendent, really, these lines unfurl with echoes of Lloyd, Verlaine, and Young, especially the epic "Quickstep" which features Martin Phillipps of The Chills on the omnichord.

The rare live album Syd's Pink Wiring System from 2003 shows up here too. Featuring wild and loose versions of Clean standards like "I Wait Around", this set showcases the strengths of this trio to excellent effect. If a cut like "Do Your Thing" from Modern Rock sounds practically unhinged here, it's a fine kind of unhinged; the players, particularly Kilgour, of course, mastering material that allows such a workout. With perhaps the exception of Yo La Tengo, few bands of this era were capable of cranking out stuff like this without getting lost in a sea of guitar effects. Early cut "At The Bottom" here takes on a sort of White Light/White Heat artiness that stands in sharp contrast to those earlier more concise moments on Clean albums. Still, what we're hearing here is a band largely unconstrained by the need to make the material too manageable. What we're hearing is, obviously, Kilgour and Kilgour and Scott (and Martin Phillipps) enjoying a certain freedom. If The Clean were revisiting their earlier material for this live session captured on Syd's Pink Wiring System, they seemed to be doing so in order to push the envelope of their signature sound even further out. Short of being proof of a full-blown reinvention, this bonus material on this new edition of Getaway offers up the proof that The Clean remain one of the boldest bands to emerge from the Flying Nun Records-based flowering of talent. Post-2001, Kilgour's crew took remarkable chances, chances that paid off in the discovery of new directions for these players to explore. Clearly the template for Kilgour's solo releases some years after this, this material is fiery and brash and untrained. And that makes it essential for even a casual fan of this band and those who've been following the entirety of New Zealand rock history.

Getaway by The Clean is being reissued this Friday by Merge Records. Available in multiple formats, there's more than 2 hours of music here with Disc 2 being some of the most vital material this band ever produced. This is this week's most necessary purchase for the discerning music fan.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

It's Not All In Your Head: A Look At The New Album From The New Lines

The news that a new album is coming soon from The New Lines is always good news. The band makes music that is haunting and memorable, chamber pop for a new century even if it's tune-age that's suffused with traces of decades past. The new album, Love and Cannibalism, will drop on Feral Child next week with a digital release forthcoming soon after that. The set is, as expected, magical and that's a word I don't use for much music these days.

The line-up for The New Lines on this recording is Hewson Chen (vocals, guitar, synth), Mark Di Donna (bass), Rene Dennis (farfisa, piano, electric piano), and Davis White and Matt Schulz (drums). And it is worth quoting from the press materials to give Love and Cannibalism some context and explain how the album:

"...was conceived of as a series of vignettes concerning a child mourning the death of a companion; the child's fantasy about reviving the dead; and a series of hallucinogenic visions on religious strife and the order of the universe resulting from the child's nascent forays into the occult."

All that being said, Love and Cannibalism is remarkably easy to dive into, each cut serving up a distinct take on some familiar elements that fans of this band should appreciate. Rather than ramble on about each individual song as I'm wont to do sometimes, I've decided to focus on those moments that jumped out at me after playing this one a few times in an attempt to give you an overall sense of this fine record.

The Stereolab-like "Mass Observation" worms its way into a listener's brain with a kind of circular figure on the bass and keys, while the more straightforward "Weatherman's Apology" rings with the sort of indie promise that once propelled early Belle and Sebastian sides, or deep album cuts from The Clientele. The punchy "Ventriloquism" allows Lorelei/Sansyou drummer Davis White one of his best outings on this record, the tune positively soaring atop his precise beats. One of the standouts of Love and Cannibalism, this cut is absolutely radiant and it stands as the sort of transcendent rock that continues to make me a firm fan of this band.

Whatever traces of the Sixties you might be hearing throughout the course of this long-player do not invalidate the very modern sense of pop-craft at work here with these players. Chen and his crew are updating -- with some force -- the templates drafted so many years ago by bands like The Left Banke and The Zombies. Elsewhere, on the space-y "The Phylactery's Lesson", the band engage in the sort of propulsive workout that populated so many Pram releases a few decades back. More direct than it is experimental, the song feels like a bold step in a new, slightly jazz-y direction for The New Lines. "It's Not All In Your Head" recalls the Silver Apples should they have aimed more squarely for the Top 40, the various effects here only augmenting what is a fine, fine piece of song-writing. The title cut nods again in the direction of Sixties pioneers like The Left Banke, while the lovely "Johnny Appleseed" unfurls precisely after Chen's Robin Guthrie-ish opening guitar figure. Here, it's Lake Ruth player Schulz's turn to draw attention to the drums which beat with a kind of heaviness that keeps the song from becoming something too ethereal. Love and Cannibalism closes with the superb "The Fateful Exposition of Captain Socko", all Dots and Loops-era Stereolab hooks dressed up in a more deliberate, less obfuscated, presentation.

At their very best, The New Lines are capable of making some of the most distinctive music you are likely to hear in this decade. And if on first glance Love and Cannibalism seems an arty proposition, the reality is that this music is remarkably accessible and direct. The frilly trappings -- for lack of a better term -- only embellish what's here. And if the tune-age is bolstered significantly by the bits that feel like Sixties chamber pop, the songwriting is of such a high quality, the melodies so sharp throughout, that the material never feels on the verge of getting subsumed in the musical trappings that abound on this release. This is, to state it again, remarkably precise music where every piece of instrumentation, every effect, has a purpose in conveying the overall power of the individual compositions. Superbly realized, confidently played, and incessantly tuneful, Love and Cannibalism is perhaps the best album from The New Lines so far.

Love and Cannibalism is out Friday via Feral Child in a limited edition. Digital versions available at the usual places. More details via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited band photo from the band's Facebook page]

Friday, November 25, 2016

Above The Wall: A Review Of The Long-Awaited Full-Length Album From Young Romance

It's been years since I've been writing about this London duo. In fact, I first heard "Pale" by Young Romance in early 2014, when I was still living in Hong Kong. That seems so long ago but the wait was worth it as the band's debut long-player, Another's Blood, out today via Banquet Records, is a set of brash and joyous tunes, each wrapped around a great big hook. Guitar music has rarely sounded so exuberant in this century.

Of course early singles "Pale" and "Wasting Time" are here, the former in a slightly reworked version similar to what Childhood did with "Blue Velvet" when it showed up in a mildly different form on their long-awaited debut album. And, like that tune by that other U.K. band, "Pale" remains a glorious bit of business in any form. "Cracks" is more gentle, Claire's vocals sounding even more Kate Bush-like than they usually do, to borrow an idea from other reviewers. "Disappear" is crunchier and more dangerous still, while the rollicking "Pulling at the Grey" is the revved-up big beat indie of early Jesus and Mary Chain releases with more pop sense. "Never Learn", another previously-released number dressed up here, is similarly a bracing bit of indie, Black Tambourine and Lush reshaped for the 21st century. "Wild" slows things down a bit even as it provides a fine showcase for Claire's amazing vocals, while "Room to Breathe" recalls stuff like "Insects" by Altered Images, another band whose sound was anchored by such a striking and commanding female vocalist. Another's Blood closes on "Cold", a piano ballad that nods in the direction of post-punk pioneers like The Cure pre-indie-pop stardom, or Joy Division on Closer-era single sides.

Claire and Paolo have produced something here on Another's Blood that is admirable. It would have been far too easy to descend into near-shoegaze riff-making. And, make no mistake, there are a few intermittent moments here that will allow some critics to say that this band is part of a new wave of shoegaze practitioners. To these ears at least, Young Romance are creating indie-pop far closer to those first few Jesus and Mary Chain sides, or the best singles from The Primitives, than anything that would sound at home on a mix-tape next to Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine. Above all, the search for strong and potent melodies is what guides the success of Another's Blood, not an empty pursuit of feedback-for-feedback's-sake. This duo has served up this debut album as a sort of spin on the templates laid down by the earlier C86 generation, or those crafted by the scores of bands who signed to Slumberland Records a few decades ago. Yes, shoegaze fans might gravitate to this but the charms of Another's Blood are those of big pop, Dusty and Gene Pitney and Lesley Gore hooks dressed up in a new century's fuzzy guitar-and-drum theatrics. Superb throughout, as far as I'm concerned.

Another's Blood by Young Romance is out today via Banquet Records. Follow Young Romance via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photos: Young Romance Facebook page]

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Ready For The Magic: In Which I Catch Up With The New Honeyblood Record

Somehow, through some inexplicable set of circumstances for this music blogger, I didn't realize that the new Honeyblood record was out already. Considering how much I loved the band's first LP, I was eager to hear Babes Never Die and, thankfully, the folks at Fat Cat Records obliged me. I'm so glad that they did as, in some ways, Babes Never Die is even better than the band's debut album.

The line-up is now Stina Marie Claire Tweeddale on vocals and guitars and Cat Myers on vocals and drums. The duo whip up a furious-yet-delicious racket throughout Babes Never Die and I enjoyed every bit of it. The title cut roars in a familiar way, while "Ready For The Magic" offers up an Ash-like crunch, the chords echoing both punk stuff and Seventies album rock. The catchy "Sea Hearts" serves up a sort of spin on late-period Ramones singles, while the lyrical "Love is a Disease" unfurls at a more languid pace. At their best, Honeyblood make fuzzy indie-pop like "Justine, Misery Queen" ring with promise. Here, as on so many cuts on Babes Never Die, Stina's vocals are confident and sunny, the brightness in her delivery contrasting so nicely with some of the grunge-y aspects of the instrumentation. On stuff like "Walking at Midnight", Honeyblood expand their vocabulary a bit to make something looser than earlier singles, while on the superb "Hey, Stellar", Stina delivers one of her best vocal performances as the strong melody carries the song forward. If anything, the material on Babes Never Dies confirms an undeniably strong bond between these 2 musicians with the results being confident and buoyant indie-rock that is, in many ways, an improvement on the band's first few releases.

Despite a change in personnel, Honeyblood remains one of the most vital acts in indie today. More fully-formed than the tunes on their debut, those on Babes Never Die are supremely catchy and infectious. Stina and Cat have cranked out some gems this time out, gems that will lodge in your brain with ease. Melodic and memorable, the numbers on Babes Never Die are all fine examples of the strengths of Honeyblood as a power-pop proposition.

Babes Never Die by Honeyblood is out now on Fat Cat Records. Follow Honeyblood via the band's official website, or via the band's official Facebook page.

[Photo: Uncredited pic from band's website]