Tag: northamptonshire

Album review: Joe Go Beat

JOE GO BEATAlea Iacta Est[self-released] State-of-the-nation albums are by their very nature hit and miss affairs. Attempts to encapsulate the modern turmoils of the UK usually come off pretty fragmentary….

JOE GO BEAT
Alea Iacta Est
[self-released]

State-of-the-nation albums are by their very nature hit and miss affairs. Attempts to encapsulate the modern turmoils of the UK usually come off pretty fragmentary. But with slowthai sort of doing one last year maybe it’s something Northamptonians feel drawn to; something in the Nene water that Joe Go Beat has been busy supping on too.

Anyroad, Joe Martin has done a 35 minute, lockdown written/recorded solo album that’s not quite full of his usual piss and vinegar in GoGo Loco [and previously The Mobbs], but none-the-less is certainly not the ramblings of a contented individual. Here he utilises some of his previous central influences – The Who, Dr. Feelgood, Billy Childish, The Black Keys – to create an often more restrained version of his usual primitive rock’n’roll displays. Whether mining garage rock, pub rock or something more rootsy, it’s these familiar tropes on which he hangs his delicate barbs at Brexit-loving little England.

Opener ‘Dirty Old Rag’ does little to disguise its target – The Sun newspaper and their ilk. “Dirty old rag/The vomit splash/The xenophobe voice/Filling heads with trash/Dirty old rag/Solely to blame/For every evil/For all our pain”. There’s little room for wiggle in deciphering that message. And it comes attached to rhythm’n’booze barnstormer – the old tactic of getting them dancing and taking it all in subliminally…or something.

“Sold a lie by the tuneless clown”. There’s no let-up on songs two and three, ‘Albion Town’ and the title track. He takes aim with both barrels at David Cameron’s Brexit vote, the public discourse that followed, and where it has all ultimately lead us. If there’s a more prescient lyric around at the moment than “Scrolling up and down on your media feed/Until your inquisitive fingers bleed” this writer has yet to hear it [incidentally if you want the lyrics they are all there to read on Bandcamp].

‘Ipso Facto’ righteously growls along like an update of The Sonics garage punk classic ‘Psycho’, berating how within British narratives it is often the empty vessels that make the most noise [hello Katie, hello Piers]. The firmly tongue-in-cheek exhortations of ‘Jingo Man’, meanwhile, tells of a man who “Will save us all/From the terrors of foreign rule”. Joe’s interest in British wartime culture provides the title of ‘Stand By Your Beds’. An acerbic takedown of small-minded English people, the songs levity is suddenly absent in the pay-off: “Look out at the stars/You stupid blind fools/We are specs of dust/On the universe’s walls”.

Sometimes it can overwhelm with so much bile to ingest; ‘The Hope & The Glory’ is a smashing Berry/Dylan-esque rocker, but it’s like being bashed over the head with one too many concepts. But that’s not really an issue; you don’t come to this album for love songs. The whole album can be neatly summarised as one man’s bafflement at the post-Brexit landscape. The chorus of ‘Walking Backwards’ is thus: “I thought we’d left behind/The blue, white, red and pompous kind/But it seems we’re walking back/Walking backwards [clap clap]”. And that’s quite heartbreaking when you think about it. Final song ‘T.T.F.N.’ is a wave goodbye to the European Union [“Tut ta for now my old friend/Let’s hope we meet again”].

This album is perhaps a cathartic outpouring of resistance to our Brexit betters, a plea for other ways. Either that or he’s just a bloody Remoaner! This album is a sorrowful collection, full of regret and with little evidence offered to stay positive. Yet it remains an enjoyable ride for the spirit with which each note is played, and the intelligence coursing through every hard-written line. You only improve your future by reflecting on your past mistakes, after all.

Phil Moore

Alea Iacta Est is out now via the usual digital platforms


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Step On: the week’s best new music tracks [May 29]

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through the best new music tracks this week. Billy Lockett ‘One World’Northampton lynchpin Lockett is your perfect isolation artist: much of his recordings…

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through the best new music tracks this week.

Billy Lockett ‘One World’
Northampton lynchpin Lockett is your perfect isolation artist: much of his recordings feature just him and his trusty grand piano, so musical life hasn’t changed that drastically for him. But this is something of a left-turn – an instrumental ‘classical’ piece. Before you panic, its actually excellent: his dexterous fingers taking the listener on a moving journey into the recesses of the mind. Or, if you will, the soundtrack to exploring a deserted house filled with half-remembered memories. An album of this stuff is promised.

Squid ‘Broadcaster’
The London quintet are gearing up for their sure-to-be-a-game-changer debut album, and drop another mini beast to tease us some more. Dystopian jazz sci-fi feels from this one, a slow building pulse of proggy doom that doesn’t really go anywhere, except towards inner space. Not as immediate as some of the previous singles, but still gives the all-important goose pimples.

The Mysterines ‘I Win Every Time’
“Even Robert Johnson said I’d win every time”. And the Liverpool band led by singer/guitarist Lia Metcalfe do just that. Fierce, relentless, filthy; some adjectives to help underpin the sheer excitement that these elemental, stomping, primal songs produce. Their sold-out live shows have been causing some serious palpitations amongst those in attendance. Everything is looking blood-red rosy for them, in fact.

Roska ft. Elle Delaney ‘Give Me Some More’
Londoner Roska deals in funky house moves, and yet his ‘Internal Sunshine’ EP sees him working on a more mellow tip with a trio of female vocalists, including NN’s Delaney. This opening track bears witness to some nice electronic shuffling beats, and her distinctive vocals pine for the old times when we could go out and party til the small hours. It’s also a celebration of feminine energy, as is the whole spacious and progressive EP.

Jamie Lenman ‘The Road To Right’
The singer, guitarist, illustrator, and all-round cult hero has been keeping the quality high this past decade as a solo artist. Taken from forthcoming mini-album King Of Clubs, this second preview single is a shouty little monster, bringing the Pixies/Nirvana loud-quiet dynamic, but with plenty of layered vocals and general drama to have you basking in it quickly. His last single was called ‘The Future Is Dead‘. The man is a sage; listen in.

Maddox Jones ‘Headspace’
The Born Stranger artist is now releasing music under his own name. The title track from his forthcoming EP, he’s worked with Dave Crawford [Kinships] to create a warm, ambient-house winner that takes a spacey opening and builds to that singalong chorus. Perfect for 6am Ibiza sunrises, it tackles head-on the fragile mind state that requires human connection to fix. The same but different, this version of Jones is onto something special with ‘Headspace’, and long may it continue.

Riskee & The Ridicule ‘Blue Jacket’
“I don’t know from who/But I’ve got my country back”. A Brexit song from the Kent rap rockers, it’s spitting pithy truths to have the Daily Mail brigade huffing and puffing all the way to their drawing rooms. “You’re a joke/You ain’t woke/You’ve always been dead” is as about a good a put down as you’ll hear in 2020. Punk rock is safe as houses in their hands; go buy this and then wait for their next tour announcement – it just might change your life.

The Moons ‘How Can I Convince You To Love Me?’
Taken from the Home Demos & Rarities, Vol 1 album hastily compiled as a lockdown stopgap until their fourth album proper hits the streets in the second half of 2020. This one is fully formed; arranged with the full gamut of instruments, it has a vaguely Middle Eastern melodic pull, and a distinct sea shanty rhythm. It’s a quality, catchy number that really shouldn’t have been shelved, so it’s great to finally see it have its moment in the sun.

Thee MVPs ‘A Song For Councillor’
“We only get together when someone else has met their end”. Leeds garage-punks today release their second long-player, Science Fiction. This latest single about a passed relative is them at their most boisterous: fat guitar/bass riffs, muso shredding in the middle section, and memorable “bar ba-ba-ba-bar”s til the cows come home. It’s Thee Oh Sees meets Black Flag, and its fucking glorious, as is everything they do.

Amii Dawes ‘Uninspired’
“I just want to be admired/Is that too much to ask?” Definitely not, for this uber-melancholic slow-burner is a real heartbreaker that perfectly underlines Dawes talent. A voice dripping with hidden depths, these soul-searching five minutes, full of self-doubt, are wrapped in a simple but haunting arrangement. Based around plinky piano and foreboding Hammond, it might just push you to tears. The title is a misnomer; this is beguiling, sophisticated singer-songwriter fare.

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Album review: Bushpigs

BUSHPIGSBushpigs[Massive Rodent Records] Regular Northampton gig-goers will recognise Bushpigs as the ultimate party band. Most weekends you’ll find them at weddings, birthdays and bar mitzvah’s playing classic covers with a…

BUSHPIGS
Bushpigs
[Massive Rodent Records]

Regular Northampton gig-goers will recognise Bushpigs as the ultimate party band. Most weekends you’ll find them at weddings, birthdays and bar mitzvah’s playing classic covers with a smattering of original tunes. But between 1994 and 2001 the band recorded a substantial amount of music which, rather criminally, had remained unreleased. Finally the cream of those songs are collected here on their 11-track, debut Bushpigs album.

This album features recordings from the bands original line-up: Tony Riseley, Steve Goddard, Dave Briggs and Keiran McLaughlin, plus their current incarnation which finds Tony and Steve joined by Steve Briggs and Duncan Bisatt. The first thing to note on spinning this album is how well the tracks hang together, despite the intervening years and shifting personnel. The riff that kicks off opening cut ‘Face’ is a thing of beauty and has a circular motif that recalls ‘Eton Rifles’ or ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’. Perhaps attesting to its age the recording is slightly flawed; the drums sound empty and hollow, and the overall feel is of a good quality demo. On the plus side it’s raw energy perfectly captures the excitement of Bushpigs in the live environment.

Another groovy riff heralds ‘Indian Song’ which skips like a stone across water, while the addition of synths adds deep, rich textures. Capturing the edgier end of the 1980s (think Orange Juice, or Dub Sex) the track races towards a swirling vortex with cries of “Hare Krishna” and shades of neo-psychedelia. On an album of many facets ‘Sometimes’ has a Merseybeat vibe with a stop/start riff that recalls The Beatles ‘Taxman’ while some sultry saxophone adds a Roxy Music flavour. It’s a combination that works rather well. Gothic inflections, meanwhile, juxtapose a bright, breezy chorus for an interesting tension of opposites on ‘Honest Man’.

The ethereal ‘Vegas’ is the perfect driving song, and evokes images of road trips across desert plains, especially when the guitars are set loose for some bluesy soloing. In another shift of gears the snappy and angular ‘X-Ray Eyes’ has some choice samples, reminiscent of Big Audio Dynamite, while the skating synth brings to mind Phantasmagoria-era Damned. ‘Nervous Breakdown’ arrives with all guitars blazing, before ‘Sweet Thang’ takes a more funky turn. Raunchy rock n’ roll doesn’t get more visceral, or vital, than ‘Little By Little’, a track that simply smoulders with sensuality. However the Bushpigs aren’t all testosterone-fuelled ballsy rock: two ballads intersperse the more raucous numbers ensuring Bushpigs ebbs and flows evenly. Cloudbursts and keys that fall like rain permeate ‘Daylight’s Almost Gone’, whilst ‘Reach Out For The Light’ ends the album on a rather wistful, ominous tone.

The wealth of experience that each individual member brings to the constituent whole means a Bushpigs album wasn’t going to be anything but solid. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing them live, Bushpigs let’s you know what all the fuss is about.

Peter Dennis

Bushpigs is out now on all digital platforms. Physical formats will follow after covid-19

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New Music Friday: Canyons

Canyons are Northampton’s long players. Edward Mander [bass, vocals], Matthew Felce [guitar, ukulele], Stevie Ward [vocals, guitar], Luke Sherwood [keys, guitar, accordion, cornet, harmonica, vocals] and Mark Thursby [drums] have…

Canyons are Northampton’s long players. Edward Mander [bass, vocals], Matthew Felce [guitar, ukulele], Stevie Ward [vocals, guitar], Luke Sherwood [keys, guitar, accordion, cornet, harmonica, vocals] and Mark Thursby [drums] have much beautiful local history in music, and in Canyons they make Americana. Debut EP now out, New Boots spoke to Ward about the project.

How did you guys get together?
Matthew, Ed, and I formed Awesome Wells in 1991 and have been playing together on and off since then. Canyons evolved from a midweek get-together. It usually involved a few beers, some wine and a second dinner of the evening. But occasionally we would get the guitars out and write some songs. For a while we were Real Live Owls and became Canyons when Mark and Luke joined in our little soirees. Things just seemed to gel and feel more natural. We began to really enjoy playing again.

How would you describe your sound and main influences?
I always find it really hard to answer, as essentially all the bands I / we’ve ever been involved in are just rock and roll in some shape or form. I have always been a bit of a musical chameleon. I get influenced by what I’m listening to at the time; I suppose we all do. I think we’ve all been into the Americana and alt-country thing for years. It’s such a broad spectrum of a genre though. It stretches from the single voice and an acoustic guitar through the deep south rock sound, and ends up with big production sounds like Bon Iver, etc. Personally I have an obsession with music from the early seventies right now, its a real golden age.
We’ve always described Canyons as Anglicana and Country & Eastern! Not sure either make a lot of sense. But were not really a country band, a folk band or a rock band.

Tell us everything about this first release, the ‘Pablo’ EP.
‘Pablo’ developed from a kind of latino jam that we used to do when we hit the rehearsal wall. I remember Ed sent me a link to a news story from some obscure bible belt paper about a travelling clown who had survived not one but two direct lightening hits. I thought, “there’s a song in that”.
The four tunes feature our mate Simon Taylor on trumpet quite heavily. It occurred to us that we could make little batches of recordings with either a different feel or featuring additional players. Simon is a great player and certainly shaped a sound for this first EP. We added sections to the songs to fill with trumpet. The next batch of tunes we’re working on sound quite different.
We were lucky enough to blag a bit of free recording time at Northampton college and the Uni. We put the drums down there with all their sexy mics. Then overdubs were recorded at our own home studios, and we did some vocals at Shorty towers with Chris White. Mark did most of the engineering and mixing. We only actually spent any money on mastering.

What’s your method for writing the lyrics?
I am a very lazy lyricist; they often get left til the last minute. When we’re writing songs I will just push out sounds til I find a melody, then make words to fit. Sometimes we’ll have a tune ready to go and I only have half a verse that I’m happy with. It can slow proceedings down somewhat !  I’m always very humbled by people who can write great stories and fit them into songs. Its a real skill. Jono [him of the Uke Dealers] has it.

What are your live shows like? Will you be getting back on stage after lockdown?
Like every musician I know, we’re going through a very frustrating time. Not being able to gig, or even rehearse is horrible. I really hope there are places to play after all this. I feel for the venue owners right now, they’re at the end of a long waiting list to return to some kind of normality. I worry though that some of our venues may not get back on their feet. We’ve got to stay positive though and I cannot wait to get back out playing again.

Do you feel part of a wider scene in Northamptonshire? Any favourite bands/venues to play with/at?
I really enjoy playing at the Garibaldi Hotel, the place just has an amazing band-friendly vibe. We did a show there in the Autumn and it just felt like home. And of course those summer evening Pomfret Arms garden gigs are always fun.
I’ve never really felt part of the crowd in Northampton. Its a very indie scene that has produced some cracking bands over the years. My bands have always seemed to be a bit out-of-step though. We’ve had some fun times with P-Hex, Jono & The Uke Dealers and Bisons recently though. I guess you make your own scene.

What was the last album you bought/streamed?
A.A. Bondy Enderness. I’ve been a proper fan boy of his for years, and his new record is a glorious slice of kind of folk/electronica. It is so simple and perfect. If you don’t know him, do yourself a favour and seek him out.

What are your burning desires for the band to do in the future? What plans do you have?
There’s only really ever been one plan. That is just to make songs. We are now finally focusing on a bit more getting them out into the world. Hopefully some folks will like them.

The Pablo EP is available through all the usual digital channels.

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Step On: the week’s best new music tracks [May 15]

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through the best new music tracks this week. slowthai ‘ENEMY’“Have ups and downs like an elevator”. After a rather public down last February…

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through the best new music tracks this week.

slowthai ‘ENEMY’
“Have ups and downs like an elevator”. After a rather public down last February there were plenty of people writing off the Northampton rapper. And to some degree he addresses that on this track, as the simple title pun on NME makes clear. After threatening to kill kids [ironically, calm down] he gives his real message – “I need the revenge, so I made a plan/To kill you with kindness”. It’s not exactly a response song, but there’s enough intrigue there, and it shows he really isn’t someone to take things lying down. As Darko and Sammo dish out the beats to that make you sit up and listen, it’s great to hear him again doing his thing his way, as only he knows how.

Paul Weller ‘Village’
Another preview song from upcoming album On Sunset [as in, Boulevard], Paul now moves into summery pop territory. If it gives you Style Council vibes, well, that might be because Mick Talbot is there on keys, as well as usual NN collaborators Andy Crofts and Ben Gordelier. A string-laden and Fender Rhodes-led ode to appreciating your blessed life as it is, it is self-consciously sickly sweet, and your appreciation will depend on how much of a sweet tooth you have. If we can’t have much of a proper summer in 2020 this goes some way to lifting us up anyhow.

BLOXX ‘Lie Out Loud’
The suburban London indie rockers are causing a real stir with their anthemic rousers, working with a sound reminiscent of noughties-era Manic Street Preachers, or even Republica. The title track from their forthcoming debut album [Aug 14], the trio – led by vocalist Fee Booth – are aiming straight for your heart on this confessional sing-a-long

Sleaford Mods ‘Second’
The single chosen to promote odd and sods album All That Glue [out today]. It was recorded in early 2017, just after the English Tapas sessions. It’s another winner from of aggro-pop from one of the UK’s most interesting acts. Vocalist Jason Williamson bemoans his runner-up status to the brands that he consumes. They’re a Marmite band, yes – but Marmite is lovely, isn’t it. “Full ranking!”

Sarpa Salpa ‘Forwards Backwards’
The seventh single from Northampton’s indie-pop masters, and this one has bought along the robotic funk. The first number to feature the contributions of keys player Meg Amirghiasvand [Future Love, OhBoy], its a smooth neon-lit smasher. Singer Marcus gives himself quite a workout in the chorus, and you can imagine the crowds getting right into this in a field sometime in 2021 [weep]. If they don’t take over the UK soon it will be nothing short of criminal.

Mint ‘Turbulence’
Grimsby. Always hated the place since I witnessed the Cobblers lose to them at Wembley in the play-off final back in the day. But finally I can forget all that as they have an ace garage-punk outfit making waves. Filthy drums, filthier bass, guitars that buzz more than pylons…it’s hard not to get turned on by this primal rock’n’roll noise. Singer Zak has an excellent slashed-throat delivery, and *stop reading this and go and listen below*.

Bugeye ‘When The Lights Go Out’
London disco-punks whack out the barrelhouse piano to aid this bouncy sci-fi glam sacrificial offering to the music gods. Inch by inch Bugeye are building a rich name for themselves with great live shows and killer singles, and luckily for us they should be hitting Northampton once lockdown is over. Kitsch power-pop fun beckons…

Neil’s Children ‘The First Conversation That We Ever Had’
This is a turn-up for the books. The London art-punks were one of the leading lights circa 2004 when decadent rock’n’roll had its moment in the sun again. And for good reason: music connoisseur John Linger was able to shift his talents continually. After adventures that took them more psychedelic and electronic, they went away; Linger is now in Girls In Synthesis. But this reunion is a touch; grasping at that maniacal energy of old that captured so many willing hearts back then. An album of this style would be a pleasant, full-circle outcome.

Evolution ‘Lover’
Northampton/Birmingham whizz-kid Josh Worley-Ebbs brings the club beats for an Ibizan summer that’s not happening in 2020. Your back garden will have to do. ‘Lover’ is a booming house track, with an in-your-face vocal delivery. He’s a unique talent, this one.

Broken Empire ‘Locked Out Of Heaven’
Daventry/Oxford hard rockers have been gaining a lot of critical praise in the right places over the past couple of years. This one is a curveball though, a Bruno Mars cover. It transforms the reggae-pop original into a crunching monster, keeping the strong melody and little else – adding the inevitable double kick beats and guttural screams to complete a smart metallic metamorphosis.

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Album review: hazeyjane

HAZEYJANEAnima Rising[Tu-Kay Records] Three years in the making, this is the sophomore album from the Kettering-area musical collective fronted by singer-songwriter Chris Brown. Recorded and produced by Ash Tu-kay, Anima…

HAZEYJANE
Anima Rising
[Tu-Kay Records]


Three years in the making, this is the sophomore album from the Kettering-area musical collective fronted by singer-songwriter Chris Brown. Recorded and produced by Ash Tu-kay, Anima Rising presents ambient folk moodpieces that touch on mythical subjects in highly poetic form.

The title is a Jungian concept, denoting a rising of feminine energy. It’s used by Joni Mitchell on ‘Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow’, which, as a key touchstone artist for hazeyjane, is probably where it came from. ‘Inside Out’, the opener, is a lovely mix of Mitchell’s mid-70s experimentation, and the similarly inclined explorer of inner space, John Martyn. It’s a beautiful, mature song; multiple voices weaving the story, a prominent and hypnotic bassline, and attacks by a string quartet occasionally penetrating the stoned vibes.

The album proceeds in similar fashion, ‘Trade Winds’ being a Floydian meditation on uncertainty [“the cracks between wrong and right may never seal”]. Brown’s rich voice delivering an unmistakable message of fear and regret. The title track brings piano solemnity into the mix, and it’s not unwelcome.

‘Haunting Hands’ delves a little into prog, a lengthy instrumental opening passage before the reverberating guitar and voice of Brown brings it back to earth. ‘Gwendolyn’ brings acoustic guitar to the fore, whilst ‘Alraune’ ruminates on unholy love.

The back end of the album ties everything up nicely. ‘Lost’ is fronted by Corinne Lucy and her luxurious tones; an old folk voice from a forgotten time re-emerging with new tales to tell. Closer ‘Hush, Little Sister’ has a strong emotional pull; it says as much in its spaces as it does through its’ crashing waves of guitar and percussion.

Alongside fellow traveller Kenneth J Nash the hazeyjane troupe bring spiritual, otherworldly vibes to the NN music scene, and we are deeply indebted to them for conjuring such spaces. Anima Rising is a rich and beguiling piece of work: an intoxicating, immersive experience which brings much reward on repeat listening.

Phil Moore

Anima Rising is out now on streaming platforms, and CD direct from the band

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Step On: the week’s best new music tracks [May 8]

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through the best new music tracks this week. Fontaines D.C. ‘A Hero’s Death’“Life ain’t always empty”. They’re back so quick we’ve had little…

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through the best new music tracks this week.

Fontaines D.C. ‘A Hero’s Death’
“Life ain’t always empty”. They’re back so quick we’ve had little time to miss them, with the title track from the Dublin fivesome’s second album [due July 31]. Musically it’s a continuation of the themes of before. Vaguely threatening, scratchy, arty rock – with an intense guitars-battle-with-swoony-“bab-ba-ba”s crescendo come the denouement. Grian Chatten gives it some proper sermonising too. Elemental magic.

The Blinders ‘Lunatic [With A Loaded Gun]’
Another guitar band previewing their sophomore LP, the Manchester trio continue their socio-political cause with a righteous punk blast against modern-day tyrants. As an opening couplet goes, “There are children in cages/On Monday’s front pages” doesn’t take any prisoners. It’s considered rage rather than unhinged, as the album title – Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath – possibly reflects. The band are tighter than a gnat’s chuff, as always. Until they get to slay us all again from the stage this does the job very admirably.

Dylan Cartlidge ‘Yellow Brick Road’
Nods to Beastie Boys, Prince, Jamie T, Andre 3000? Yes it the North-East’s version of Ginger Snaps. Sunshine funk-pop with indie cred, the radio loves him and he’s surely got the world at his feet. The forthcoming debut album is going to be fly, you just know it.

Husky Loops ‘You Bore Me’
Clattering rhythms, bassline bombs, fuzz guitar, distorted vocals: the Italians-in-London have never sounded looser and heavier. Their debut album I Can’t Even Speak English from last year was a crisp alt-pop triumph, and whether this progression is representative of newer horizons is tough to know right now. I like it anyway. One of the more interesting bands around; moving guitar-pop away from base elements and using studio manipulation to demonstrate what’s possible.

Sonic Boom ‘Things Like This [A Little Deeper]’
Pete Kember returns to releasing music under his Sonic Boom moniker, which he dropped after Spacemen 3 in favour of Spectrum and Experimental Audio Research. The new album is All Things Being Equal [June 5], his first long-player in any description in over a decade. He’s been producing the likes of Panda Bear and MGMT in recent years, and the sound of this one is as bubbly and hypnotic as your mind’s eye would imagine. With live shows soon too [fingers crossed], it’s great to have him back.

The Scruff ‘Vultures’
The Bedford boys return to the front line. After a tricky year or so where it all went quiet, it’s very satisfying to hear them in such rude health. A scathing take on internet troll culture, it’s got a confident swagger in its step. Hell, it’s got “indie rock banger” stamped through it like some fine candy-stripped stick of rock. Some good time rock’n’roll is just what the doctor prescribed right now, so hats off to these guys for coming up with the goods.

Scarlet ‘Friends’
Singer Jessie Robinson is not one to sit on her laurels, and with a rejigged line-up her Liverpool band start 2020 with fresh impetus and this fuzz-rock plaything that’s practically oozing with perky alt-rock energy. Drums and bass are pretty much off the scale on this one, plus that lazer-guided melody means it leaps out at you like a Joe Exotic plaything. The video is worth checking out too, as they enlist their music mates [Hands Off Gretel! Salvation Jayne! etc] to mine along.

DARKSAVAGE ‘Feeling Blessed’
New Northampton rapper Jordan Potter. Not much info to be gleamed so far beyond the music. Nice production touches going on in the background. One to keep an eye on.

Stevie Jones and Mark Gill ‘Glow’
Taken from Eleventh Hour, a 2011 album by Northants singer-songwriter Stevie Jones and guitarist Mark Gill released originally for 24 hours only but now being made widely available on CD/DL. The seven track album was recorded live at Yellow Bean Studios in Leicester, and you get Stevie’s raw vocals and Mark’s acoustic guitar flourishes meeting to produce some minor-key fireworks. Perfect for fans of rootsy music by the likes of John Mayer, or Counting Crows.

The Comms ‘Transmission One’
Brand new garage-punk band from ShoeTown, this first release was recorded and mixed by Adam Gammage and mastered by Greg Coulson, so keeping it lots of NN talent in one place here. You get highly-stylised vocals by Liam Taylor, backed by some explosive and sharp guitar attack. Think Buzzcocks, think IDLES, think moshing on the front row and getting a stray boot to the head. Glorious beginnings are something to shout about.

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Album review: The Rogue State Circus

THE ROGUE STATE CIRCUSSongs From The Sea Of Storms[self-released] Northants’ Rogue State Circus have been defiantly avoiding genre categorisation since 2009. Their latest album Songs From The Sea Of Storms…

THE ROGUE STATE CIRCUS
Songs From The Sea Of Storms
[self-released]

Northants’ Rogue State Circus have been defiantly avoiding genre categorisation since 2009. Their latest album Songs From The Sea Of Storms is a delectable smorgasbord, incorporating 12 tracks of indie, power-pop, folk and Americana – and serves them up as a cohesive whole.

The retro keys that introduce opener ‘St Jude’s Blues’ give proceedings a distinctly 1960s feel, and combined with the country twang on the guitar provides a rather sinister tone. The type of song you’d expect to find in a Tarantino film, it’s a walk through the dark side of Americana. John Delaney’s vocals mirror the music’s ululation, and evolve from a gargling growl to falsetto high notes…and all in one line! The multi-layered sound is akin to an octopus’s tentacles that entwine and hold the listener captive. The pure pop perfection of ‘Sunday Driver’ follows, yet its buoyancy is tempered with a dark edge, something indefinable yet ever present. If ‘St Jude’s Blues’ didn’t win you over then ‘Sunday Driver’ will.

Still led by the indefatigable singer-songwriter Jon Delaney, Rogue State Circus have had an ever-changing line-up and perhaps this accounts for their kaleidoscopic output. However eclectic things become though there’s a common lyrical thread that stitches the album together. That’s best exemplified by the following two tracks, ‘London Bridge’ with it’s nod to ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and ‘Downhearted In The Uplands Of Love’ which, like Ray Davies at his most expressive, explores the minutiae of modern life. ‘I’ll Be Happy To Stay With You’ picks up it’s feet for a swirling neo-psychedelic sound before the wistful and whimsical ‘It’s All Over Town’ and it’s quintessentially English understated humour.

Adding some female vocals [courtesy of Karen Angela] gives ‘What Are You Waiting For?’ a nice warm texture and brings to mind that lazy summer’s day vibe of Division Bell-era Pink Floyd. In opposition the evocative and cinematic ‘Only A Matter Of Time’, with its soulful 80s vocals, seems tailor-made for a lonely walk through a neon-lit metropolis. The dramatic ‘Red Sky’ carries a lot of Irish folk inflections, and juxtaposes the power-pop of ‘La La Life’. An infectious backbeat and a joyful guitar line carries the song forward and, with Karen Angela again adding her vocal talents, reminds me of an effervescent Blondie.

The short and snappy ‘The Goodbye Note’ is another infectious tune that would have made a perfect album closer but, in a tension of opposites that defines Songs From The Sea Of Storms, that honour goes to the elongated ‘Great Expectations’. Clocking in at over six minutes it gives Rogue State Circus an opportunity to flex their musical muscles and build a substantial sonic structure. Peppered with Eastern flourishes it’s a song that fades to a rather ominous ending that promises more than it concludes.

Songs From The Sea Of Storms is the second album in a trilogy (tentatively titled Lunar Sea) that began with 2011’s Songs From The Sea Of Serenity. This latest opus is a worthy addition to the Rogue State Circus canon and is a tantalising taster for the third instalment…but hopefully they won’t make us wait another 9 years!

Peter Dennis

Songs From The Sea Of Storms is out now via Bandcamp, see below

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New Music Friday: From Eden To Exile

From Eden to Exile release their ‘Age of Fire EP’ on May 1st [Attic Records]. Peter Dennis reviews, and also speaks to the Northampton band. It’s been quite a journey…

From Eden to Exile release their ‘Age of Fire EP’ on May 1st [Attic Records]. Peter Dennis reviews, and also speaks to the Northampton band.

It’s been quite a journey for From Eden to Exile since their inception in 2012. A solid debut EP [‘Soundtrack to Your Demise’] hit the streets in 2015, preceding 2017’s full length Modern Disdain. In between came a triumphant appearance at the UK’s premier metal fest, Bloodstock Open Air, in addition to some line-up changes. However they’ve finally hit on the right chemistry for their latest EP, ‘Age of Fire’, an explosive effort containing five Molotov cocktails.

Wasting little time on niceties opening salvo ‘Age of Fire’ arrives like a Panzer division sweeping across the Steppes. A twin-guitar attack delivering riffs in tandem combine with drums that fire with machine-gun rapidity to create a brutal, punishing affair. With no sign of redemption From Eden to Exile set about scrawling their sound on every available surface yet, for all the sonic fury, there’s a real groove, a hardcore swing, that underpins proceedings. When the guitar solos erupt they’re short and succinct, which only adds to the intensity, as the band effortlessly pull together different strands of extreme metal with blackened blast beats nestling betwixt grindcore breakdowns.

‘Face of Desolation’ eases up on the throttle slightly for a more measured affair that seems to spiral backwards as Tom Franklin’s guttural growl screams like a daemon sucked into the depths of hell. Joey Jaycock and Tom Kelland give their guitar lines a neo-classical feel, not dissimilar to that employed by Iron Maiden, and the riff heavy outro attacks the cranium like a series of hammer blows. The crushing ‘The Great Disconnect’ is a maze of technical riffs surrounded by a musical maelstrom. Imagine death metal legends Suffocation jamming with LA hardcore crew Rotting Out and you’d have something approaching the monolithic enormity of ‘The Great Disconnect’ which attaches itself to the listener like an anchor to a drowning man.

Sometimes metalcore can sound a bit muddy but producer Neil Hudson has done a great job in giving all the instruments room to breathe. However on ’Inhuman’ he has created a claustrophobic feel by encasing the vocals within walls of sound. A song that’s constantly evolving from it’s chuggy beginnings to an all-out thrasher and the short, sharp sonic shifts are rather dizzying and disorientating. Closer ‘Conspire’ is a contradictory tension of opposites as the guitars blind with a metallic sheen and are overlaid with a throat shredding roar and, as the track stomps like a 900lb gorilla, the acoustic mid-section, with its clean vocals, only acts as a foil to make the crescendo even more thunderous – which in turn makes the silence that follows all the more deafening.

The stark monochrome cover that houses Age of Fire is pretty indicative of the music contained within: leaving little room for indiscretion it’s a collection that demands your full attention. The lyricism, which speaks of a not-to-distant dystopian future, unites the record with an almost conceptual feel, and ensures the record hangs together as a cohesive whole. Stirling stuff.

It’s an exciting time for heavy music in ShoeTown, with Ashborn and Krysthla having released a career-defining albums and From Eden to Exile about to unleash their second EP ‘Age of Fire’. The three long years since their debut album have been a busy time for the band, and here vocalist Tom Franklin and bassist Joey Jaycock speak to New Boots to bring us up to date on all their shenanigans.

Can you give us a history of the band?
We started back in 2012 in Daventry, as a group of friends with a mutual love of heavy music. There have been a few people come and go throughout the years, but primarily we’re just mates who love playing metal music and it’s always been that way. We’ve got a broad range of influences, bands like Sylosis, Architects, Protest The Hero, After The Burial, and a ton more. The name was coined by a former vocalist, but there isn’t really a story behind it.

It’s been three years since your debut album and the new EP. Why so long?
Shortly after the album was released, our old vocalist [Matt Dyne] decided to leave the band. And then after we got Tom Franklin in as our new vocalist, our drummer Liam Turland then left to join our friends in Krysthla, to be immediately replaced by Jake Patrick. Add to that Mike Bell and Joey swapping guitar and bass positions, and there was a lot of groundwork to be done before we got our heads down and wrote some new music.

You’ve had some big career highlights; Bloodstock Festival springs to mind. Looking back can you think of one specific moment where everything fell into place?
Obviously Bloodstock was a huge one for us back in 2015. Entering the Metal 2 The Masses competition, we didn’t even think for a second we would pass through every round to become winners and get the chance to play Bloodstock. After this amazing experience, we feel it gave us an immense realisation of what we could actually achieve, so it gave us all a massive push to get our heads down and get even more creative. UK Tech Fest 2018 is one that we always look back on fondly, even though a few of us nearly got taken out by some major sunstroke!

Metal is an often maligned genre, but Northamptonshire has some pretty cool metal bands at the moment. What is it about the county at present that’s birthing these groups?
We’re not sure why, but we’re happy it’s thriving! There’s always a few Northants bands headed to Bloodstock via the Metal 2 The Masses competition, and it’s a great thing to see. I think it’s down to the camaraderie between the bands, and recording studios like Initiate Audio and Media becoming the central hub of new unsigned music from Northamptonshire.

From the cover to the music within it seems that you’ve taken a darker turn with ‘Age of Fire’. Is that fair comment? If so, why and what aesthetics were you drawing from?
It marks the beginning of a new chapter for the band and in many ways it is a fresh start. We have new faces on board and as a result, the music has evolved too. It’s definitely a fair comment to say that we’re trying to make things darker, and this trend will long continue.

Lyrically too ‘Age of Fire’ seems quite dark by drawing on dystopian themes. Why? The lyrics tend to link all the songs conceptually. Was that your intention?
The lyrics were originally written as one continuous story, then broken off into sections which became songs. Interestingly these stories and themes have become more and more relevant in the past year since we recorded. Although dark in nature, as is the genre typically, we hope people can use our music to see through any rough times as a positive distraction.

I wonder how new vocalist Tom Franklin altered the shape of the new EP.
Tom joined the band under a lot of pressure and with high expectations. He has absolutely delivered the goods with the recording of the new EP, and playing UK Tech Fest 2018 as his second show with us on very short notice. He gave it his all in the studio, crafted some excellent lyrics, and has taken an active role in the writing process every step of the way.

Like a game of musical chairs Joey and Mike swapped instruments. How did this change the chemistry in the group?
It’s as good as ever, really. Mike was looking for a new challenge and was getting into playing bass, Joey was coming up with more and more riffs and it just made sense to swap places and switch things up and it worked out well!

How do you feel now the EP is in the bag and ready to be released?
It’s an exciting time to be on the verge of getting ‘Age Of Fire’ out there finally. There’s always that element of listening back and being critical of our performances, but all we can do is put that energy into the writing process for whatever comes next and keep improving as a unit.

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Album review: The Venus Fly Trap/Alex Novak ‘Mercurial’

THE VENUS FLY TRAP/ALEX NOVAKMercurial[Glass Modern] As we take a breather under quarantine rule, reflection comes to the fore. And with impeccable timing here is a compilation of the work…

Alex NovakTHE VENUS FLY TRAP/ALEX NOVAK
Mercurial
[Glass Modern]

As we take a breather under quarantine rule, reflection comes to the fore. And with impeccable timing here is a compilation of the work of uber-Northampton creative Alex Novak. A man of many musical projects over four decades, but most closely associated with The Venus Fly Trap, which makes up the first half of this “best of”. The remaining content is appropriated from a vast array of Novak’s early bands and side projects. Right, let’s delve in.

The journey of VFT covers their formation in 1986 right through to the present day. Having settled on a line-up they saw French label support result in the twin 1988 singles of ‘Morphine’ and ‘Desolation Railway’, from parent album Mars. They are both to my mind “alternative 80s” classics – the former a dirty street-talking garage band snarl akin to The Jesus and Mary Chain [all primitive drum machine and gothic overtones], whilst the latter a meticulously constructed post-punk/krautrock/electronic wonder that slowly unfurls it’s exotic beauty over five uber-taught minutes.

1989’s dramatic reworking of Suicide’s ‘Rocket USA’ is more than just a cover. With The Jazz Butcher skronking away on saxophone to provide extra propulsion, the original’s thin palette is filled with a much larger sound; that demented drum-beat and a commanding vocal from Novak himself giving the thing a whole new lease of life. 1990s ‘Europa’ is the sort of classic alt-rock sound of the late ’80s that wasn’t really their thing, but a strong song means they pull it off regardless.

Into the 1990s and the electronic elements are pushed more to the fore, and ‘Achilles Heel’ is probably the best of these forays. High-energy, a memorable synth-line, and intonations from the main man – you’ve got yourself a New Order who kept the Joy Division aesthetic. Flirtations with industrial riffage [‘Moscow Menagerie’, ‘Pulp Sister’ ] fitted well, before the pared down duo of Novak and Andy Denton took the 21st Century version of the band into full-on proggy electronica territory [‘Metropolis’, ‘Vitesse’]

There is a lot to pour over in the second half, and there’s no real overlying theme. It’s more Novak either finding his feet, or straying from the VFT blueprint. There’s gems here though, without doubt. Religious Overdose are the hidden gem in the catalogue, and the three post-punk inclusions here are beamed in from another galaxy. Despite some weedy production the spirit and songs shine through; ‘In This Century’, a haunting 1982 B-side, very much a potential Closer offcut. The press raved about them but nothing much came of it, much like the follow-up The Tempest project. The 5 Against The House album was actually a reasonably commercial piece, it’s two singles both extraordinary statements on intent. ‘Lady Left This’ the sort of jittery punk-funk that became all the rage circa 2005, and ‘Montezuma’ the sort of cool-as-ice wiry goth-rock that has repetitive Morse code beeps that will either intice or infuriate.

The sole Attrition track ‘Feel The Backlash’ could be a knowing reference to the music papers power of the time, it’s Human League/Heaven 17 electronic starkness – easy to admire/harder to love – form revealing a gentler side to the famous Novak bark. Mercurical finishes with three side projects – tracks that ended up on various tapes, etc. rather than fully-fledged 12″ singles. ‘Definitive Item’ is close the the VFT template, but it’s the filthy-minded cinematic quoting ‘Vox Kunst’ from 1994 that is most intriguing, the sort of off-piste no-holds-barred experimental pop that is actually a great romp.

Perhaps it is time for a rethink as to where the band and the singer fits into the cosmic scheme of things. Alex Novak shows over Mercurial’s eighty minutes the ability to shape-shift through numerous styles of music, whilst simultaneously remaining true to his unique “dystopian sci-fi” vision that was forged during those early art-school days. The VFT may never have achieved [hometown contemporaries] Bauhaus-style levels of fame, but the music is frequently on a par, and certainly covers more ground. Simple twists of fate, etc. For anyone interested in post-punk and ’80s-style electronica this compilation rewards in spades, and is a great testament to what a little inspiration and a lot of hard graft and perseverance achieves.

Phil Moore

Mercurial is released on CD and DL on Friday May 8th, see the Bandcamp link below.


Q&A with Alex Novak

How easy was it to narrow your 40-year career into 20 tracks? What did a track have to do to make the grade? 
We pushed how much you could fit onto a CD to the limit; 80 minutes of music all in. I stuck pretty much to the singles/main tracks from the various bands. It’s a taster for people to then go on and delve further into the catalogue, and we’re in the process of re-issuing The Venus Fly Trap albums. Mars [the first album] was re-issued last year by Glass Modern. A bit of going full circle, as they had released Religious Overdose and Tempest material in the early to mid eighties. In the last few years most of my previous bands have had material compiled. Hopefully later this year we will be re-issuing VFT’s second and third albums Totem and Pandora’s Box via Glass too.

What period do you look back on most fondly? Your mid-’80s pomp of being in demand in Europe/playing Hammersmith Palais/appearing on all these LPs must have been a hoot.
There has been many VFT periods/eras as the line-up has changed many times, each bringing a new angle and experiences. This gives the band a different dynamic. Mars-era gigs in France, playing Paris, we played with The Mission in Deptford’s ‘Crypt’ [actually under a church!], and at Alice In Wonderland [clubnight of Dave Vanian of The Damned]. Early 90s Totem/Pandora’s Box-era saw first gigs in Germany and Belgium. On one tour we played in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Hungary, Austria and then made our first trips to Czechslovakia, where we recorded a live album in Prague. By Luna Tide we recorded the album in Bonn, Germany. Many tours of Belgium and Germany, and our first visit to Poland.
We were working more in an electronic direction with Martin Bowes of Attrition as producer for 1997s Dark Amour, and played festivals in Warsaw and a castle in Bolkow with New Model Army. We played the Lumous Festival in Finland at midnight – with the sun still shining.
There was no “pomp” – the 1980s were a bit of a rollercoaster, having gone through Religious Overdose, Tempest, and Attrition, before settling with The Venus Fly Trap. It was a bit frustrating building something and then it falls apart. A lot more could have been achieved if we had capitalised on the interest. But I have managed to get VFT to keep going long enough so there is enough interest in releasing older material. Maybe all this will be re-assessed, listened to with fresh ears, put into context as a whole body of work.

In musical culture today there’s much nostalgia for the 1990s. Whats your memory of those times? Where they halycon days?
It is strange that VFT is considered an “80s band” – we produced two albums in the late-’80s and then four in the ’90s, and also toured more later. It is interesting, peoples perception. Certainly the early ’90s was a diverse period musically, there was loads of good alternative and indie music around. Plenty of gigs, venues, and magazines, and a definite return to decent live music, before it melded into more dance influences later in the decade. I certainly was trying  more electronic-orientated material in the mid-90s, via the projects Nova State Conspiracy [with Simon Coleby, the Marvel Comics illustrator], The Den [with Tim Perkins, who was Alan Moore’s musical collaborator], and Spore [with Micky Muddiman, the dance producer]. Maybe it was a portent as to what was going to happen with VFT…

Is it fair to say the current VFT line-up with Andy Denton has given you the best expression of your sound?
Myself and Andy have produced four albums – Dark Amour, Zenith, Nemesis, and Icon. It is probably VFT’s most consistent and productive period. As we have worked together I think our writing and production has improved, and this has made us into a compelling act. It’s a tight sound, but we’re more relaxed, giving the performances a bit more edge. To get where you are you have to try different things, it’s a process. I learnt to carry on regardless, rather than waste the work/time that has been done. Make do, mend and move on.

What is there left to do for VFT?
Plugging Mercurial! We had gigs in May to coincide with the release, but I have re-learnt that old phrase “always expect the unexpected”, or even a quote from War Of The Worlds – “the chances are a million to one, yet they come…”. So long as it doesn’t get all biblical, raining frogs etc. We shall be back doing gigs in September. We shall see everyone on the other side, be seeing you…

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