Tag: album

Record review: Tim Muddiman ‘Domino Blitz’

TIM MUDDIMAN Domino Blitz [Gun Street] Modern ShoeTown legend Muddiman grew up musically on Elvis first, before a New York electro and reggae phase took hold. In some way that’s…

TIM MUDDIMAN
Domino Blitz [Gun Street]

Modern ShoeTown legend Muddiman grew up musically on Elvis first, before a New York electro and reggae phase took hold. In some way that’s all you need to know in advance to get a grip around this often manic, sometimes debauched, and certainly never serene sophomore album from Muddiman. Once you throw in the knowledge that he has been obsessed by the twin beasts of Cave and Waits in more recent years, and that he shares a stage with Gary Numan for a ‘day job’, and the pieces all fall into place. A record this dense, claustrophobic and littered with ’80s references would only come from a musical magpie devouring these sonic worlds.

Muddiman’s first album, Paradise Runs Deeper from 2016, was a more lo-fi ‘straight’ alt-rock record, with the industrial edges that are still audible on the follow-up. But why try and fit in with the alt-rock world when you clearly have so much to say? And make no mistake, Domino Blitz is big on ideas. There’s a loose thread of a story of rock’n’roll redemption from the characters that inhabit this 21st Century version of the Blitz. It gives a voice to vice, to inner demons, and the battle to win them over.

The album opens, with a nod to Depeche Mode, in fine fettle via the glam stomp of ‘Broken Down Superstar’. It’s tempting to say it recalls Morrissey in his Your Arsenal pomp: tempting even though he is such a toxic touchstone right now, whose very name makes almost everyone wince. But it is accurate! Lead single ‘Get It On’ follows a similar path, adding some terrace anthem shouting bits. The rolling story of reprobates Muddiman eulogises about in the verses is nothing short of a call to arms. A reaction to the corporate takeover, the gentrification of iconic places like Soho. Unite and take over seems the order of the day.

The title track is a slow-burning post-punk electro throb, an apocalyptic theme tune in an album full of dark foreboding about where Western society has led us. ‘Summer Moon’ leaves little room for wriggle with lines like “I am the heroin inside your veins/A warm glow”; all-too-personal sorrow cast over elegiac guitar lines. ‘From the Hills’ is a cascading, 4am country-blues lament, something The Bad Seeds would have gone to town on back in the day. ‘Rat Ballads’ weaves similar magic, adding a cool ’60s jazz touch to the tale of Irish adventures in New York. It lacks a little focus, but that suits the story well one could argue. If that song dropped us off the ship and into the new world, then ‘White Dove’ takes us further south, into the desert badlands where anything can and will happen.

Domino Blitz lists a little musically around ‘Burn the Witches’, though it’s message is all true, railing at anti-immigration rhetoric that leads us to post-Brexit worlds. Where is the love, is all it asks. But the final one-two punch of ‘Clark Gable’ and ‘Out Of This World were worth waiting for; the former an urgent and hypnotic paean to learning from the mistakes of former relationships, and the last song ending on the most positive note possible. Out of the darkness comes truth and light, Muddiman preaches.

This album is magic and medicine, on a personal level for Muddiman and for the blessings of tortured souls throughout the land. If you sail the seven seas on the Domino Blitz and return to land in Northampton, there’s evidently a price to pay and lessons to learn. And, it seems, love to share.

Phil Istine

Domino Blitz is out now

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Record Review: Venus Fly Trap ‘Icon’

VENUS FLY TRAP Icon [Glass Modern] Much like their beloved Dr Who, it’s been a long, strange, bewildering trip for Northampton’s long-term purveyors of dark wave. Formed in 1986 as…

VENUS FLY TRAP
Icon [Glass Modern]

Much like their beloved Dr Who, it’s been a long, strange, bewildering trip for Northampton’s long-term purveyors of dark wave. Formed in 1986 as a trio from the ashes of their other projects by Novak brothers Alex and John, they rose phoenix-like to be a central part of the local scene of the late-80s [and you can read all about those early days in the latest, fourth, instalment of the Have Guitars…Will Travel book series]. Fifteen or so ex-members later and the last three albums have been the work of core duo Alex Novak and Andy Denton. Indeed Icon completes their trilogy that began with Zenith in 2004 and continued with Nemesis in 2011.

This record is probably the strongest of the trio, taking all the ideas explored so far and crystallising them into short, sharp, energised songs. If you are unfamiliar with the music, then imagine a PiL-like band playing Taffey Lewis’ bar in the original Blade Runner film. A sound rooted in the dark wave/electronica sounds that emerged post post-punk, but one that isn’t confined only to that world. Dystopian sci-fi rock from Northampton means everything from Bauhaus to The Cramps, The Stooges to Sisters of Mercy. The VFT sound is instantly recognisable, but never falls into the trap of being too repetitive. Indeed, after the scene-setting instrumental title track that pulses with film dialogue, each of the remaining eight tracks could be pulled off the album and released as a single. The one track that already has been, ‘Vitesse’ [see below], is pure Blitz kids synth-pop with a memorable hook placed above the motorik underbelly, whilst Novak mixes up his automobile and love interest metaphors to great effect.

The love theme continues on the crunchy ‘Voodoo Voodoo’ and the cinematic ‘Flashback’, both which revel in the VFT interest in the psychedelic. The characters within this pair reveal themselves more and more on each playback, as you catch new parts of the story. The middle of the album is dominated by the slightly epic ‘Deadly Nightshade’, which warms of the dangers in human relationships, where you can find “instant karma in the perfumed garden”. The track is the most sonically pleasing on Icon, as it transforms from beatific to angry and back again continually on its six minute journey.

‘Return of the Sidewinder’ kicks off a trio of culturally-referencing tunes. This song, named after a 1968 TV episode, gives nods to fellow Midlands heavyweights: Bauhaus in the lyrics, and The Specials in the ‘Ghost Town’-esque musical pallete of smokey dub reggae. ‘The Genesis Of The Daleks’, meanwhile, was a 1975 Dr Who series, and the Delia Derbyshire-indebted opening gives way to post-punk guitars and throbbing synth patterns. The song is surely a love letter to those childhoods that were both scarred and enlivened by existential television dramas.

‘Puppet’ seems to take the lead from ’50s pulp fiction from Philip K. Dick, but this time taking the music in another direction into dream pop. It’s a tender lullaby – well it would be if the intonation of Novak [“you’re just my puppet”] wasn’t quite so unsettling. Icon finishes with ‘In The Moonlight’: a Paisley Underground-style acid-folk slow waltz with a Hammond organ dominating the canvas, and some superb background harmonies that drifts us ever farther away from the darkwave idea from whence they came. It’s a fitting ending to a formidable album that, if it is to be their swansong, sees them very much go out on a high.

Phil Istine

Icon is out June 29th via Glass Modern

*Interview with frontman Alex Novak*
NB: You’ve said this is the last studio album.
AN: Probably; more than likely. Never say never. It’s just the length of time it takes to write and mix tracks seems to take longer each time. Does the world need another VFT album? We will see…

There’s quite a bit of diversity going on here; musical references to reggae and dream pop, for example.
We never set out to write in one particular style, just see what comes out of various ideas, see where it takes us. Our inspiration comes from many points of reference.

That’s always been a VFT strength – you always look beyond the “dark wave” tag.
VFT certainly has a dark psyche at the core, but we like to layer it or dress up with different costumes. We tap into many influences.

Keeping one band going for over three decades without a break is remarkable. What’s your secret – sheer, bloody-minded drive?
Its had more twists and turns than a rattlesnake, shedding many skins over the years. Change keeps it fresh. We are the Doctor Who of music – transforming a constant metamorphosis.

‘Icon’ is out via Glass – a label who you have history with, via your old band Religious Overdose.
Full circle – my very first release was on Glass. There’s a symmetry to it all. I like Dave Barker the label boss, and the band’s he has released over the years. It feels like home for us.

Will you continue the band as a live concern in future years?
We will see what reaction this album gets, and take it from there…

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