Friday, 9 December 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #21: Top 8 Albums of 2011 - Part 2


Written 8th December 2011:

Top 8 Albums of 2011 – Part 2

So following on from my last Blog today sees me countdown my favourite Indie albums of 2011 for the inaugural and undisputed crown of ‘Flynndie Album of the Year!’ If you missed the first part of this Blog containing my album choices from #8 to #5, simply scroll down this page a bit further and you can read about these choices in Part 1. So let’s move on to today’s Top 4 albums, starting with the return of The Chief and his much-anticipated debut solo album:


#4. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Previously Un-reviewed)

So some 18 months after the fall-out of leaving Oasis and keeping a low-profile while Beady-Eye released their debut album, the main song-writer behind Oasis finally got round to releasing his own solo debut effort. Now I mainly previously didn’t review this album as I suspected most people would go out and buy this anyway and I like to try and highlight and promote some lesser known Indie bands on this Blog, but if the truth be told even during the days of Oasis, I secretly much-longed for a Noel solo album and now that it finally arrived, it didn’t disappoint in my opinion and in fact exceeded my high expectations. Even upon first few listens to this record, Noel’s songs have that re-assuring familiar sound about them, as if they were songs that you knew and loved already but refreshingly in my opinion not just sounding like another Oasis album. Take ‘AKA… What a Life’ as a prime example of this, having a much more dance-vibe to it than anything Oasis would have released in recent years.

This for me is another reason why I much prefer this album to recent Oasis releases, as by going solo Noel is allowed to express his songs in a more creative manner as is shown in tracks ‘Everybody’s on the Run’ with its backing violins and (I wanna live a Dream in my) Record Machine featuring a full-choir backing, allowing these tracks to have somewhat more added depth to them. Then there are tracks such as ‘If I had a Gun’ and ‘AKA…Broken Arrow’ which are familiar sounding Noel tracks, but tracks written when he is at his song-writing best and, dare I say it, even on a par with some early Oasis B-sides which is high praise indeed. So if you’ve avoided the album so far due to a somewhat ‘loss of faith’ in recent Oasis albums, then I’d recommend you give this debut-solo effort a listen and see what one of the generations top song-writers is capable of without the responsibility of ‘being Oasis’!

Recommended Songs: ‘Everybody’s on the Run’, ‘If I had a Gun’, ‘AKA…What a Life’
Personal Favourite Track(s): ‘Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks’ and ‘AKA…Broken Arrow’


#3. Arctic Monkeys – Suck It and See (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #13 – 8/10)

Back with their 4th album this year were, arguably one of the most followed bands in the Country right now, Sheffield’s own Arctic Monkey’s with their latest offering ‘Suck It and See’. A bit like the forthcoming 4th album by Kasabian this year, after the Monkey’s 3rd album 'Humbug', I was a little bit unsure what to expect from their latest offering. What we got was another well-written, self-assured record with familiar big sing-a-long tracks and another batch of great Indie-rock tracks the Arctics can add to their ever-expanding hits-list! The band have effortlessly created swooning-Indie tracks such as ‘She’s Thunderstorms’ and ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’, to catchy guitar-pop on ‘Brick by Brick’ and ‘Don’t sit down cause I’ve moved your chair’, to the old-school, more fast-and-furious Arctic Monkey’s track such as ‘Library Pictures’.

I very much enjoyed this record upon its release and am still very much enjoying it upon regular listens, although I’m still slightly of the opinion that the clearly laid back approach the band took to this album, gets a little bit too laid back for my liking on one or two tracks towards the end of the album, therefore not quite putting it on as high a par as the first two Arctic Monkey’s records. However, this is still certainly another great album by these young Sheffield lads and certainly one I’m still enjoying very much hence it’s high-position on this end of year list, but then I’m guessing most of you already reading this know this.

Recommended Songs: ‘Brick by Brick’, ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’, ‘Don’t sit down cause I’ve moved your chair’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Library Pictures’


#2. Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix (reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #17 – 9/10)

Back with their 3rd album in as many years, Bombay Bicycle Club returned with their latest offering ‘A Different Kind of Fix’. As I’ve previously said with a couple of other albums on this list, I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the band’s latest record, as was such a contrast between their 1st electric-rock Indie album ‘I had the blues and shook them loose’ and their follow-up, the stripped-down, lo-fi acoustic ‘Flaws’ I genuinely was not sure what type of sound the band would come back with next. What we got this year with ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ was a great blend of the sounds on Bombay Bicycle Club’s 1st two albums in my opinion and arguably their best to date! The first we heard from this new record was early single ‘Shuffle’ which, if truth be told, was actually different still to anything the band had done previously on their first 2 albums, featuring, as what I described in my review at the time, a hip-hop based piano loop throughout it and having a very distinct, yet brilliant, sound for the band to it indeed.

Throw into the mix, the rocky and slightly more edgy guitar tracks the band featured more on their debut album on tracks here such as ‘Bad Timing’ and ‘What you Want’, to the simply, brilliant flowing acoustic tracks ‘How can you swallow so much sleep’, ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ and my personal favourite track, the epic ‘Beggars’, the band on this record really define their own sound here more so than their first two albums in my opinion. As a whole, this is a very well written record, full of rhythm and some brilliantly written tracks, that flow effortlessly and surely now is the time for the band to take a well-earned break?!

Recommended Songs: ‘Bad Timing’, ‘Your Eyes’, ‘Shuffle’, ‘What you want’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Beggars’


#1. The Strokes – Angles (reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #12 – 9/10)

So here it is, my #1 favourite Indie album of 2011, ‘Angles’, the 4th album from New York’s own The Strokes. If you believe some music reviews about The Strokes, you may be under the impression that they have only released one record, their exceptionally brilliant debut album ‘Is This It?’ but for me their 2nd and 3rd albums ‘Room on Fire’ and ‘First Impressions of Earth’ respectively were both fine guitar records and although I would be the first to admit that it will always be difficult for the band to make a better album than their excellent debut record, this 4th effort ‘Angles’ is the closest they have come so far to anywhere near matching it. One of the criticisms the band so unfairly receive in my opinion is that people want to hear similar tracks on a par with those such as ‘Last Nite’ or ‘New York City Cops’ from ‘Is This It?’ but this is one of my fascinations about The Strokes is that they are prepared to try something a bit different on a guitar record and this album is an excellent example of the band trying to capture ‘new’ guitar sounds.

Possibly their most experimental album to date, I feel the band really try and push the boundaries of what a modern-Indie guitar record can sound like, from the opening and simply brilliant track ‘Machu Picchu’ (possibly my favourite opening track on an album for a few years!), to early single ‘Under Cover of Darkness’, another brilliant track in my opinion, right up to closing track ‘Life is Simple in the Moonlight’ which actually does sound like a typical, old-school Strokes track that some fan’s still crave for. For me though, this album is full of stand-out tracks such as the menacingly, dark ‘You’re so Right’ to the incredibly catchy ’Taken for a Fool’ every track on this album is very distinct but seem to have so much depth to them. Upon my first few listens of this album, I admit I struggled with it a little initially, yet it’s testament to how well written and how much depth this album has, that it continued to grow on me and get better and better with each listen. As I said in the 2nd paragraph of Part 1 of this list, I’ve tried to rate albums on this list based on how much I found myself listening to them throughout the course of the year and for me ‘Angles’ has to be my most listened to album in this case and hence my favourite Indie album of 2011!

Recommended Songs: ‘Under Cover of Darkness’, ‘You’re So Right’, ‘Taken for a Fool’, ‘Life is Simple in the Moonlight’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Machu Picchu’

So that concludes my Top 8 albums of 2011 list. Other worthy mentions on records that narrowly fell short of this list include The Vaccines ‘What did you expect from The Vaccines?’, Miles Kane ‘Colour of the Trap’, The Rifles ‘Freedom Run’, Chapel Club 'Palace', Roddy Woomble’s ‘The Impossible Song + Other Songs’ and Dutch Uncles 'Cadenza' all albums I would recommend to check out at some point.

Looking forward to 2012 I’m already looking forward to new album releases from some of the following bands, Howler, The Twilight Sad, Maxïmo Park and Muse, keeping my fingers cross to hear some new material from hopefully Bloc Party and Idlewild and of course looking forward to any new up-and-coming bands that 2012 brings with it.

Rocking into 2012
‘Flynny’

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #20: Top 8 Albums of 2011 - Part 1

Written 1st December 2011:


Top 8 Albums of 2011 – Part 1

So today rather than write an album review, I’ve decided to pick and reflect back on my top 8 favourite albums of the year for 2011. I plan to give a bit of an overview of each album (most of which I have previously reviewed on here during the course of the year) so I’ve decided to split this into two parts, first counting down from #8 to #5 in part 1 and then of course #4 to the inaugural #1 ‘Flynndie Album of the Year’!

Now of course these choices are just my personal preferences and I have no special criteria in picking which album I’ve rated higher than another, after all this list is purely for fun and are my own choices, other than which albums I’ve genuinely enjoyed listening to the most, yet it has still taken me some time to decide on my Top 8 albums this year and even more difficult to decide on their order but this 2-part Blog will reveal my overall choices.

However, if you do disagree or feel I’ve missed an album out on this list, I would be more than happy to view and listen to other reader’s favourite albums of the year, so feel free to post any comments or recommendations at the end of this Blog. You may also notice that I’ve rated some albums higher than others, despite me awarding a higher-score on my initial reviews, but this is due to my marks being given in my reviews on my initial first impressions of the album and over the course of the year, I’ve at times found myself listening to a high-rated album more hence it’s higher position on this list.

So let’s get this show on the road then and weighing in at #8 pop-pickers is………


#8. Kaiser Chiefs – The Future is Medieval (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #14 – 8/10)

So the Kaiser Chiefs who had been on the quiet side the past couple of years suddenly popped back on the scene again, with a previously unannounced album and an excellent promotion of their new album whereby they let fans compile their own choice of 10-tracks from an available selection of 20 from their website. After this, demand led to a full CD release containing 13-tracks, one previously unheard, and to be fair I thought it was a real return to form for them and back on a par with their decent 1st two albums ‘Employment’ and ‘Yours truly, Angry Mob’. The album very much goes back to the sound of some of their early material with songs such as ‘Little Shocks’, ‘Dead or in Serious Trouble’ and ‘When all is quiet’ but as I said previously in my review I felt their new songs, such as ‘Child of the Jago’ and ‘If you will have me’, now showed a more mature side of the band than some of their earlier material yet still retaining the light-hearted, cheeky, charm the band are known to bring to their music. I think this album as a whole really does contain a good range of songs that collectively sum up what the band’s music to date is all about.

Recommended Songs: ‘Little Shocks’, ‘Child of the Jago’, ‘If you will have me’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Heard it Break’


#7. Ben Howard – Every Kingdom (Previously un-reviewed)

So a lot of readers first thought’s here maybe “Who’s Ben Howard?” To be honest it was quite by luck that I came across his music having heard early single ‘The Wolves’ used on the amazing short-film ‘Industrial Revolutions’ featuring free-style cyclists Danny Macaskill (which you can view here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShbC5yVqOdI). I instantly fell in love with this track and upon hearing a couple of other tracks from the forthcoming album ‘Every Kingdom’ I started to develop high hopes for this debut album and fortunately it didn’t disappoint. With a very acoustic, rural and folk feel throughout the record, I often feel an album as stripped down as this need to have songs and guitar playing to the highest quality and Ben happily delivers just such in this debut effort. You can really tell how much thought and care has been put into each note on every song on this record and for me this is a fine debut, acoustic effort.

Recommended Songs: ‘Old Pine’, ‘Only Love’, ‘The Fear’, ‘Keep your head up’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘The Wolves’


#6. R.E.M. – Collapse into Now (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #10 – 9/10)

In at #6 on the list turned out to be the swansong album from a band that had by now seemed to be around forever (or at least the past 25 years!) Some R.E.M. albums can be a little bit hit and miss for me and personally I find myself mostly more into their earlier material, with their last truly great album being ‘Up’ in my opinion. However, refreshingly for a change I think R.E.M. finally delivered an album that lives up to their great legacy and have made an album where I don’t find myself skipping the odd occasional track. Admittedly, upon listening to this album I found myself comparing tracks similar in sound to previous R.E.M. tracks (for example ‘Oh My Heart’ sounding like a follow-up to ‘Houston’ from the album ‘Accelerate’ and last track ‘Blue’ having a very similar style to ‘E-Bow the Letter’ from ‘New Adventures in Hi-Fi’) but when the tracks sound as good as those it’s hardly a criticism of the album. Whether the band were already conscious that this would be the last R.E.M. album or not, I think they certainly made a worthy record to encompass the band’s legacy and a fitting album for their send off and in my opinion their best for some 10 years!

Recommended Songs: ‘Oh My Heart’, ‘Mine Smells like Honey’, ‘Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘ÜBerlin’


#5. Kasabian – Velociraptor! (Reviewed in Flynndie Reviews Blog #18 – 8/10)

Now we’re starting to reach this year’s ‘big-hitters’ and in at #5 for me are Kasabian with their latest effort named after, of all things, a dinosaur ‘Velociraptor!’ I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the latest offering from Kasabian, however, the band have delivered their 4th successive, solid album while encompassing a fair range of sounds from different genres yet all the time retaining a trademark Kasabian feel about them on this album. The album itself features the band dabbling with retro guitar-fused-jazz with opening track ‘Let’s roll just like we used too’, from the typical guitar anthems we all know and love from Kasabian on tracks such as ‘Days are Forgotten’ and ‘Rewired’ to the more electronic, Indie-club style tracks of ‘I hear Voices’ and ‘Switchblade Smiles’. For me though personally, the standout track on the album is ‘Turkish Acid Bath (Shelter from the Storm)’. It’s actually quite a different track from anything Kasabian have done in the past, featuring verses backed with sounds associated with a Turkish folk-market used on films, but featuring deliciously dark lyrics and snarls throughout, this is certainly a brooding track and my personal favourite. Suffice to say Kasabian have returned again with another album to add proudly to their ever-developing legacy.

Recommended Songs: ‘Let’s roll just like we used to’, ‘Days are Forgotten’, ‘Switchblade Smiles’
Personal Favourite Track: ‘Turkish Acid Bath (Shelter from the Storm)’

So that covers my first four selections in my ‘Top 8 albums of 2011’ list, needless to say in the 2nd part of this Blog, I shall reveal my #4 to 1 albums, mention a few other albums I liked that just fell short of my Top 8 and list a few band’s whose records I’m already looking forward to into 2012!

Still Rocking in 2011 ‘Flynny’

Friday, 18 November 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #19: Howler - This One's Different EP


Written 18th November 2011:

Howler – This One’s Different EP

The Band: Jordan Gatesmith (vocals, guitar), Max Petrek (keyboards), Brent Mayes (drums), Ian Nygaard (guitar).

So today’s review, much like the record in question, is a little bit different as rather than reviewing a full album, I’m going to review a recent EP of an up-and-coming band, Howler, hailing from Minneapolis in the States with their ‘This One’s Different’ EP which was released at the start of August. The band are currently on tour in the UK with ‘Frankie and the Heartstrings’ and ‘The Vaccines’ so now seems an ideal time to take a look back at this early EP from them, as I suspect songs from this will feature on the tour, and I’ve been listening to this record for a good few months now.

Running Order

1. For All Concern
2. I Told You Once
3. This One’s Different
4. You like White Women I like Cigarettes
5. 14 Days

Right so things get away with a buzzing, garage-rock-like riff kicking-in for opening track ‘For All Concern’. This won’t be the last time I say this in this review, but as the track steadily flows along you instantly pick up the ‘Surfer-vibe’ type sound the band intentionally re-create throughout this record. As an opening-track I think this is a great way to start the record with a catchy main guitar-riff throughout and simple but effective lines “I’m easy to love/But easy to hate” and through the chorus as lead singer, Jordan Gatesmith, croons “I can’t be you’re only one/It’s not me that’s on the run” holding the song together nicely and is a great way to start to the EP.

‘I Told You Once’ follows which initially has a much more acoustic vibe than the frantic pace and rhythm of the EP’s opener while still retaining a big-sound for the band. As the track gets into full-swing, the band re-creates the sound of an easy-going, beach-party in my opinion despite lyrics “I wish there was something that I could do/Cause I hate myself more than I hate you” suggesting that the song implies a strain on couple’s relationship but this song has anything but a downbeat vibe about it and it is more likely you would get caught up in the easy-flowing rhythm and sound of the track.

Title-track ‘This One’s Different’ is probably the stand-out track on the EP. Again with a very much garage-rock feel to it, this returns to a fast and furious pace of opening track ‘For All Concern’. Possibly the biggest complement I can pay this track is that it sounds very much like The Strokes if they had been up all-night taking Speed and features some excellently-timed guitar solos that pulse through the veins of this song and ultimately the EP overall!

Next up with have the excellently titled ‘You like White Women I like Cigarettes’ and this track features the biggest ‘Surfer’ feel about it yet on the EP! The song has a real ‘Beach Boys’ feel about it in my opinion and certainly wouldn’t be out of place on ‘The Happy Days’ Jukebox (Ask your parent’s kids!) Flying past quickly at just 2 minutes, the song manages to cram in yet another catchy guitar track, with some backing-keys thrown in for good measure on this one too.

The EP closes with ’14 Days’ and we go back to the garage-roots-rock from earlier, but this time certainly at a more leisurely tempo than ‘For All Concern’ and ‘This One’s Different’. The track literally coasts along nicely and cleverly towards the end of the track, the band slowly start to reverse back through the sound of the first two choruses of the song and most likely reverse back into a garage where it’s clear the band have rehearsed so hard to nail their unique but accomplished sound throughout this EP.

I think fans of the early Strokes records and the recent Vaccines album will take to this EP like a surfboard-to-water (see what I did there?!) The band clearly had a defined sound that they wanted to create for this EP and through all 5 tracks I feel they nail it to a high standard each time! As I said early in this review I’ve had the EP for a few months now but I still find this EP refreshing to listen to with each listen and 20 minutes just fly-by when I put this on in the background. I’m very keen to see how many of these tracks, if they decide to use any, make it on to the band’s first full debut album but bearing in mind how young a band they are too I’m hoping to see them go on to big things in the future and for the EP for the time-being I’m going to award it 8 Howls out of 10! The EP is currently available from ‘Rough Trade’ records on 12” vinyl (nice!) or as a download so feel free to check it out some time (http://store.roughtraderecords.com/Store/HowlerThisOnesDifferent.html), as this is one band I’m keeping a close eye on for the future!

Always the Same ‘Flynny’

Track 1 ‘For All Concern’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dpv8ZrDBWa0

Track 4 ‘You like White Women I like Cigarettes’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hitsueThUk4c

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #18: Kasabian - Velociraptor!


Written 21st September 2011

Kasabian – Velociraptor!

Right today’s album review comes from a band with a now strong, core army of followers, following the release of their past 3 albums, and what with some-what being ‘best-mates’ with Oasis on recent tours, Kasabian are now back with the release of their 4th album this week ‘Velociraptor!’ Now the band came onto the scene around 2003/04 with the release of their self-titled album, and early singles ‘Club Foot’, ‘L.S.F.’, ‘Processed Beats’ and ‘Cutt Off’ were making an immediate early impact on the heart of the UK Indie scene. It was then in 2006 with the release of the first single ‘Empire’, from the forth-coming 2nd album of the same title, that the band really started to gain National recognition and air-play, and along with the accompanying video for the single portraying a march of an army into battle (you can check out the video for ‘Empire’ here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVTEqG9enEY&ob=av2e), it was at this point really that the band started developing an army of devoted followers themselves.

With anticipation high, their 2nd album ‘Empire’ was released and was met with the majority of critical acclaim all-round, establishing the band as one of the fully-fledged ‘big hitters’ now on the Indie scene and the record was also well received by long-time followers of the band. For me this was their best album to-date featuring strong, catchy-guitar tracks such as ‘Shoot the Runner’ and ‘Me Plus One’, to more electronic efforts ‘Seek and Destroy’ and my personal favourite track ‘Stuntman’, lest forgetting epic closing track ‘The Doberman’. 2009 saw the release of the crazily-titled album ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’, which I’m not going to cover in too much detail here as I previously reviewed the album in full in Blog #3 of Flynndie Reviews in you would prefer to read up on that in more detail, but it was safe to say the band delivered another solid and decent guitar record, but in my opinion it just fell somewhat short of the heights reached with previous album ‘Empire’.

So fast-forward to 2011 and the band are back with their latest effort ‘Velociraptor!’ Things get underway with opener ‘Let’s Roll Just Like we used to’ and what better way to open an album than with the sound of a Gong?! Queue some weird muttering, echo sounds and trumpets before the track gets into full swing with literally a 60’s-sounding, jazz-swing-vibe about it accompanied by ‘buzzing’ guitars. This whole track has a very retro feel about and in all honesty is quite a very different sound we’re used to hearing from Kasabian. However, I really think this is a very decent opening number and great way to start off the record. Next we have recent single ‘Days are Forgotten’, which we got sneak previews of over the summer with this season’s Sky Sports Premier League advert, which featured the band losing to a Sky Sports team in the final of a five-a-side tournament (clearly this advert is inaccurate though, as there is no way guitarist Serge Pizzorno would be on a losing side with skills like these: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kke2usNl4I0&feature=related). Back to the track it-self and this is more in the mould of ‘old-school’ Kasabian with distinctive vocals from Tom Meighan and a big sing-along chorus making this an easily accessible track indeed. I liked this when I first heard it and that is still very much the case now.

Things slow down a bit with 3rd track ‘Goodbye Kiss’, an acoustic ballad which coasts along pleasantly and features another catchy, sing-a-long chorus, it’s another decent track and keeps the album flowing nicely. Things get more psychedelic with ‘La Fée Verte’, or roughly translated, ‘The Green Fairy’, featuring Serge on vocal duties this time around. Another mellower, stripped down affair here, this track certainly wouldn’t be out of place on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album and is again very different territory for Kasabian, but again another track the band pull-off with comfortable aplomb. Next follows title-track ‘Velociraptor!’ which speeds along with buzzing guitars and then features a marmite-like (you’ll either love it or hate it!) chorus of Tom reaching a higher-pitch, subjecting features of the song-titles dinosaur of choice. For me this is the first track on the album I’ve struggled to get into, but admittedly I’ve heard a ‘live’ version of the track and it sounded a lot better performed ‘live’ than I think it does on the record in my opinion. ‘Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter from the Storm)’ is another more psychedelic affair (I mean how could it not be with a title like that?!) The track slowly drifts along cleverly creating a Turkish-folk vibe about it with possibly the most distinct percussion heard on the album yet from drummer Ian Matthews, it’s another catchy and in this case cleverly worked track, and another that I liked upon first listen and I am still currently finding new facets that add to the track with each subsequent listen.

Track 7 ‘I Hear Voices’ marks the first real distinctive ‘electronic’ Kasabian track on the album, a somewhat Kasabian trademark sound for some of their earlier material from their first two albums. With a nice 80’s sounding synth-loop preceding it’s verse and through the heart of its chorus this is another likable track albeit a very much mellower side of Kasabian we don’t too often see from them. ‘Re-Wired’ is very much an old-school guitar-sounding track by the band again, with very clear and distinct vocals from Tom and another sing-a-long chorus but again all at a bit more of a laid-back tempo than Kasabian albums of old. Opening with an infections guitar-lick ‘Man of Simple Pleasures’ is another assured, confident effort from the band again featuring some really great sounding backing percussion by Matthews, and with its infectious opening riff featuring throughout as the track casually swaggers nicely in its place on the album. Reverting back to the very electronic sound from ‘I Hear Voices’, penultimate track ‘Switchblade Smiles’ really goes back to an early Kasabian sound steadily building with synths and ‘disturbed’ cries from Serge, before a dirty-guitar riff assaults the verses through the track, this is certainly a track you would expect to hear coming on while being kicked out of a nightclub at 4am! ‘Neon Noon’ is the slowed down ballad that closes the album, with Serge on acoustic-guitar and vocal duties here, before the backing synths kick-in about 2 minutes into the track. It’s again another track that has a bit of a Beatles-vibe about it in my opinion, it’s alright for a closing track, but I think the band will always struggle to top ‘The Doberman’ the closing track from their 2nd album ‘Empire’.

So overall I feel this is possibly the most ‘experimental’ Kasabian album to date and the band certainly flirt with different sounds throughout this album, from a retro-opening Jazz-fused track, to familiar loud sounding Kasabian guitar tracks, to psychedelic, mellower efforts and the two more ‘electronic’ tracks thrown in, there is certainly plenty of different sounds on offer on the plate for the listener to digest! However, I think the record overall holds well together, it’s taken me quite a few good listens to get into the album but with each subsequent listen I finding myself enjoying the songs more and noticing more of the hidden-depths some of the tracks have that are easily overlooked upon first few listens. I commend the band for their efforts to try out new sounds, without pushing away from their distinct sound that has gained them an army of devoted fans in the first place; however, I don’t feel this album quite reaches the heady-heights set by ‘Empire’, but does follow on nicely from where ‘West Pauper Ryder Lunatic Asylum’ left off and I’m going to award this album 8 Extinct Dinosaurs out of 10. It’s quite a tricky album to get into upon your first couple of listens, but persist with it and you’ll find yourself appreciating the tracks more and the efforts the band have gone to with this album! It will be interesting to see what direction the band takes next…….

Track 1 ‘Let’s Roll Just Like we used to’

Track 2 'Days are Forgotten'
 
Track 10 'Switchblade Smiles'

T-Rex!
Flynny

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #17: Bombay Bicycle Club - A Different Kind of Fix



Written 7th September 2011:

Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix

So today’s album review comes from young Indie ‘jump-starts’, Bombay Bicycle Club, with the release of their recent 3rd album ‘A Different Kind of Fix’. Before digging into the album itself and breaking it-down track-by-track let’s just have a brief summary of the band because this is already their 3rd album since 2009, and it’s very much a rarity these days to find a band that will release 3 albums worth of material in the short-space of 3 years!

So I first discovered Bombay Bicycle Club from air-plays of early singles ‘Always Like This’ and ‘Dust on the Ground’ on X-FM before deciding to go out and buy their debut album ‘I had the blues but shook them loose’. I found myself quickly en-captured by lead-singer’s Jack Steadman’s distinct voice and this altogether fun, frantic, pogoing Indie record as a whole, enjoying tracks such as ‘Evening/Morning’, ‘Dust on the Ground’ ‘The Hill’ and, in particular, my two favourite tracks from the album ‘Autumn’ and ‘What If’. I gave the album plenty of listens when I first got hold off it and it was to my delight, that while I was still caught up with the record, the band had already been busy writing, recording and releasing their second album ‘Flaws’.

This follow-up album took somewhat of a different direction to their debut record, with a very much stripped-down, laid-back and mellow acoustic approach to it, which may have surprised some and even in some cases, stunned listeners who enjoyed the first album, with such a change of direction for their 2nd record, however, I still thought it was a great album to listen to with some very strong, heart-felt written tracks on it, for those times when you’re in a reflective mood I guess.

So moving onto the band’s 2011 release and their 3rd album in as many years, ‘A Different Kind of Fix’, things get underway with opening track ‘How can you swallow so much sleep?’, which opens with gentle acoustic guitar-picking, that certainly would not have been out of place on the band’s previous album ‘Flaws’, but as bass, from Ed Nash, starts to accompany guitar, this track starts to get into full swing after about a minute or so into it and we see early indications of what I can only describe as ‘groovy’ feel that this record has in spades throughout. ‘Bad Timing’ follows and with its opening electric guitar shows the band means business right away on this track. The track flows along nicely and was one of the more instant tracks on the album for me on first few listens and is still a firm favourite of mine, with the track finishing with the band rocking out on it. This is certainly a track more guitar-heavy than those found previously on ‘Flaws’. Third track ‘Your Eyes’ sets a more serene pace again for the record, after the angular guitars of the last track and features what I would describe as a charming, ‘woodpecker-like’ sound on percussion from drummer Suren de Saram throughout it, while guitarist Jamie MacColl loops a catchy-guitar riff over the track, with the song finishing with dreamy-like vocals from Jack, it’s probably the most poppy track on the album so far.

‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ takes us on another easy-listening stroll, with synths gently pushing the track along and again softly sung lyrics from Jack accompanying it, with the 2nd verse onwards being backed by some jazz-style guitar making this another easily accessible track to the listener. With a click of Suren’s drum sticks ‘Take the right one’ again builds a steady pace for the album, but with this record we’re gently flowing through the gears rather than doing 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds. The track features a rather catchy bass-line pulsing through it and certainly would not be found out of place from a Stones Roses gig from the early 90’s which would be a great complement to it indeed. Next we have the first released single from the record ‘Shuffle’, featuring a cleverly structured, hip-hop-like piano. Yes I did just write that! When I first heard this song, I was taken aback by how different it sounded to anything I had heard before, which is refreshing for a start, but the biggest complement to this track is how much of a grower it becomes on subsequent listens. It’s a very distinctive track and certainly a standout choice for opening single from the album.

‘Beggars’ is probably my most favourite track on the album. Another track that opens with the familiar Bombay Bicycle Club style of gentle guitar-picking, it soon builds into an epic song that just effortless coasts along, while simply making the ‘hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-stand‘ with it’s cleverly structured combination of rhythm and percussion throughout being interspersed by the same guitar-picking that opens the song. With some more ‘wooden-style’ clicking-like percussion buzzing through it, track 8 ‘Leave It’ also carefully balances comfortably flowing verses with another big sing-a-long chorus from Jack and backing vocals from Lucy Rose whose charming backing vocal’s also features throughout the record. This is again another instant and likeable track in my opinion, possibly with the catchiest percussion on the album thus far. ‘Fracture’ has the distant feeling acoustic guitar and vocals from Jack which were again a trademark of 2nd album ‘Flaws’. One of the slower tracks on the record it features quite a duet throughout by Jack and Lucy, with again quite ‘baggy’ guitar through it that again reminds me of the type of sound the Stone Roses were famed for. ‘What you want’ opens with a funky bass-line, that reminded me of a style that one of my all-time favourite bands, Idlewild, would tend to use a lot on some of their earlier records. The track builds and has quite an 80’s vibe to it with its jangly-guitar and bass-line pulsing through it, while another distant-type effect is used on Jack’s vocals accompanied with haunting-like synths in the background, this is another great track.

With piano and a military-march percussion, entwined with that ‘woodpecker’ like sound previously heard on ‘Your Eyes’ penultimate track ‘Favourite Day’ gently flows along again as the album is slowly beginning to effortlessly unwind to the listener, before reaching final track ‘Still’. Now I’m of the opinion that the first two Bombay Bicycle Club albums both featured a big acoustic ballad as the closing track for each album and ‘A Different Kind of Fix’ is no different. A very slowly-drawn haunting piano ballad features this time round and is very much of a sound of Radiohead from their ‘Amnesiac’ album. I would defy anybody not to be quite moved on first hearing this particular track and I’m still currently trying to work out if Jack actually holds the note around the one minute mark by his voice alone or whether a studio affect was used?! This is simply put an astounding track, but one you may care to listen to in your own space and time.

As again as you can most likely tell from this review I’m quite enthusiastic of this latest release from Bombay Bicycle Club but how do I feel it holds up after their first two albums, both of which I also enjoyed? Well as I mentioned in my third paragraph of this review, the first album was a fun, frantic Indie record in comparison to its low-fi, stripped down acoustic follow up. This record for me perfectly merges both styles the band have previously shown on those two records and more importantly get’s the balance of the two styles just about right, certainly no-mean feat in itself.

I read in a previous interview with Jack Steadman that the theme, direction and title of this album was particularly about addictions and for me personally I’ve actually found myself very hooked on this record in the first two weeks since its release which is one of the biggest complements I can pay it for the time-being. While I don’t think this record is an album that would quite reach the echelons of ‘All-Time Favourite Lists’ (which let’s face it are made up to provoke opinions anyway), this is certainly for me a strong contender when it comes to album of the year for 2011. There are certainly more than a few good tracks on this record and it they all flow sublimely well collectively, so I’m going to give this 9 ‘Different Fixes’ out of 10. This for me is the best album the band have released yet (and the first two were great anyway), so take that as high praise indeed! My only regret is that I didn’t manage to get hold of a ticket for their gig at Brixton Academy on the 19th October, which I imagine is going to be one hell of a gig before the band take a very well deserved break in my opinion!

Track 3 ‘Your Eyes’
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmQW9060_wU

Track 6 'Shuffle'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDuif301F-8

Track 7 'Beggars'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBcXwRODjfw

Always in need of a fix
Flynny

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #16 Classic Album: The Cooper Temple Clause - See This Through and Leave



Written 4th August 2011:

Classic Album: The Cooper Temple Clause – See This Through and Leave
Year of Release: 2002

Right, so as I’m still currently awaiting a few new album releases I’m still continuing my recent journey of classic Indie album reviews for the time being here. Today’s focus turns to the late, great and, one of my all-time personal favourite bands, The Cooper Temple Clause. Originally a six-piece formed in 1998 and hailing from Reading, the band had previously released ‘The Hardware EP’ (featuring one of my favourite-ever hauntingly beautiful, acoustic tracks ‘Sister Soul’, see a link at the bottom of this review to hear it) and ‘The Warfare EP’. Along with these EPs and a handful of singles in 2001, including the tracks ‘Panzer Attack’ and ‘Film-maker’, the band steadily started attracting a small, but core army of followers, with particular interest in the band seemingly coming from ‘word-of-mouth’ between those whom had seen their dynamic live shows or heard their early material . All of this was building to the release of their full debut album and the focus of today’s 'classic album review' ‘See This Through and Leave’. With its eventually release in 2002, what was the record like and what impact did it have at the time? Hopefully this review and it's conclusion will answer those questions!

So the album kicks-off with a twinkling sound of keyboards and synths courtesy of band members Tom Bellamy, Didz (Hammond) and Kieran ‘Mayhem’ Mahon, before vocalist Ben Gauntrey opens with the line that forms the song’s title ‘Did You Miss Me?’ Early indications on this electronically-influenced track is that this is going to be a deliciously, dark and brooding record, and it's not until a good 3 minutes of synths into the song we get the full-on Indie-guitar rock assault that this record smacks off throughout, while Ben’s, Liam Gallagher-esque snarl, tears through lyrics describing a couple’s rocky relationship. After the opening track has done its job of steadily building to such a frantic rock-out, previous single ‘Film-Maker’ picks up the ball and continues running with it. After opening with a fast and furious guitar riff from lead guitarist Dan Fisher, the track speeds and bounces along with heavy basslines from Didz, as Ben portrays lyrics of voyeurism with lines such as “Don’t think that you can’t see me/That I’m not watching you….” It’s a great fun, yet dark, hard-rock track at 100mph. ‘Panzer Attack’ leads with another synth based build up to it, before crashing in again with a violent and frantic bassline this time coming from Dan (the band reguarly used to switch instruments during live shows) battling hard for supremecy on the track against 'Mayhem', Didz and Ben on synths with Tom's beats in the background. With hard-hitting lyrics such as 'Short-sleeve, shit-kicking animals lining me up, it's all over their face!' being torn-through with Ben's now familiar snarl we have another track grabbing the listener by the balls and dragging them along for an exhilarating ride through-out it!

Another Single from the band 'Who Needs Enemies?' starts a bit more of a calming pace for the album, with it's plodding bass and more low-key guitar pacing it along nicely, backed by a military-like drumming throughout provided by Jon (Harper). The track still highlight's Ben's raw-like vocals, and features nice brass-sounding sections throughout it to build a masterful sound that complement's the track nicely indeed. 'Amber' portays the picture of a lonely life of a heavy drinker, and as such starts with a more low-key guitar riff to it and 'spaced-out' synths to create the distant feeling of the song's protagonist. It's another track that builds up to a powerful, angry chorus that lashes out with perfect timing in context of the tale of the overall track. 'Digital Observations' is the first time we see the band really pushing the boundries of their electronic sound fused, with deep-bass and jaggered-guitar, and is certainly one of the more experimental pieces by the band here while very much defining their own unique sound. With another electronic sound opening it followed by a steady build of guitar melody 'Let's Kill Music' does anything but kill music and is actually one of the more poppy guitar Indie tracks on the record with Ben taunting with the catchy line "We're dare you to mean a single word you say!" throughout it's verses.

'555-4823' is a complex instrumental about halfway through the album. It would be difficult from written text alone to fully describe the scale of different sounds in this most electronic piece of the album yet, but you can certainly listen out for samples of church bells, news narrations and Big Ben for just a few of some of the experimental sounds fused together here. After possibly the most complex track of the album (one that I imagine Kieran had a field-day in the studio recording!) we get back to more familiar, dirty, guitar rock that set some of the early pace of the album with 'Been Training Dogs'. Dan pulls off a masterfully catchy guitar riff here complemented perfectly by Didz's bouncing bass-line to set the fun rock-rhythm for the song. The video for this track featured the band 'trapped' in a cage adorned by Indie kids rocking out on the outside of it, and that image also brillantly captures the spirit of the track to Ben's menacing vocals here.

Things slow down again for penultimate track 'The Lake' again creating another distant-like feeling of isolation for the listener before a heavy chorus featuring the protagonists cry's for help against an impending, drowning feeling hence the track title 'The Lake'. However, if you think that chorus was heavy and dramatic in the last track, you have not heard anything yet before the truly epic closing track 'Murder Song'. Weighing in at a good 8 minutes long, this track encompasses the entire feel throughout the album as it slowly builds, and burns away at the listener before the full-on chorus literally 'murders' anything that has come before it on the record. I can't think of many more closing songs bigger than this track, and it was always something special to see the band play this live with full-on-strope effects accompanying the blistering chorus.

So after what is a long but fucking epic journey through this record how do I still rate it? Well at the time this album was released, the Indie scene was slowly starting to build a bit of a revival after the fall-out period from the BritPop era of the mid-90's featuring the likes of Blur and Oasis. We'd had The Strokes and Interpol previously re-invigorate guitar sounds in 2001 (see blog #15 for more on that) but what a lot of Indie fans where still hoping for was a killer follow-up album from Oasis after the somewhat disappointing efforts of 'Be Here Now. For me personally this was the record Oasis, could only dream of writing at the time! With it's frenetic guitar and bass riffs pulsing at it's heart, interspersed with manic electronics and synth sounds, thunderous and accomplished drumming throughout, and vicious, snarling, intelligent vocals this record for me personally came out of nowhere and filled the void for the first time since 'Definitely Maybe' a record which even Dan Fisher thanked in this album's sleeve notes! This album really became a soundtrack for me thoughout 2002 and even now I would still give this 9 'Film-Makers' out of 10! I personally feel the couple of experimental tracks in the middle of the album just take a bit too much of a side-track in comparison to the rest of the record otherwise this would be scoring a perfect 10/10. However, the band went on to make two subsequent albums after this 'Kick up the fire and let the flames break loose' and 'Make this your own' another two great records but for me personally this debut effort encapsulates everything the band and their unqiue sound were about, before they sadly split in 2007, and I'd highly recommend it for anyone's abum collection out there!

Track 2 'Film-maker'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISH1G6ps0-w

Track 5 'Who Needs Enemies?'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfjiZm_eozE&ob=av2e

Track 9 'Been Training Dogs'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2TXXZ3wLtbw&ob=av2e

Bonus Track 'Sister Soul' taken from 'The Hardware EP'
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JAC5Q3Mkyo

Seen This Through and Staying
Flynny

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #15 Classic Album: Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights



Written 21st July 2011:


Classic Album: Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights

Year of Release: 2002



The Band: Paul Banks (Lead Vocals, guitar), Dan Kessler (lead guitar, backing vocals), Carlos D (bass), Sam Fogarino (drums)



So today's classic album, comes from another band that hails from New York, which at-the-time of the album’s release was possibly at the centre of the Indie music map after The Strokes came, conquered and re-juvenated the guitar garage-rock scene in 2001 with their debut album 'Is This It?' (which I may also do a classic review for at some point). Following closely in their footsteps in 2002 was this debut effort from Interpol and with the band hailing from the same city, they were already early anticipated comparisons to The Strokes, but if the truth be told this album is a whole different animal completely to 'Is This It?' which hopefully this review will highlight, but I will draw at least one striking similarity with the aforementioned band in the conclusion of this review.
Turn on the Bright Lights

1. Untitled
2. Obstacle 1
3. NYC
4. PDA
5. Say Hello to the Angels
6. Hands Away
7. Obstacle 2
8. Stella was a diver and she was always down
9. Roland
10. The New
11. Leif Erikson

So 'Untitled' gets 'Turn on the Bright Lights' off to a steady start with its tingling-like guitar riff, slowly becoming accompanied by bass player at the time Carlos D (great name huh?!), who has previously left the band, rhythmic bass line joins and this is certainly not the last time we get this steadily built-up combination of guitars and bass on this album, before lead-singer and guitarist Paul Bank's haunting-like voice first surfaces on the album about 90 seconds into it. It's a slow-pace of an opening track but the steadily built layered sound of guitars and bass indicate that we're only getting warmed-up here. Second track 'Obstacle 1' confirms this assumption with sharp-angular guitars between Paul and lead guitarist Dan Kessler both battling hard for the listener’s attention and the pace of the album instantly picks up while still continuing with the dark and menacing themes set throughout this record. We're next then slowed-down again by 'NYC' with its haunting guitar-riff throughout and Paul's Goth-like vocals, but this is actually a complement to the track, as this is real 'hair-standing-on-the-back-of-the-neck' stuff already and only by the third track of the album! The track continues as we hear Paul's bleak and honest views of that, at the time and possibly still, famous musical Capital in The States and how he had become disillusioned by it after spending so many years growing up there.


'PDA' again moves the album up a few gears with another fast, frenetic guitar-driven track to catch the listener’s attention. Paul’s lyrics hint at a tongue-in-cheek poke of a person’s possible relationship with a psychiatrist with lines such as “You’re so cute when you’re sedated” and “We have 200 couches when you can sleep tight, sleep right”. If the album has not hit top-gear by the end of this track we’re certainly start speeding towards it with 'Say Hello to the Angels'. The track starts with guitars steadily building for the opening 45 seconds or so before another one of Carlos D's, now famed, and perfectly timed bass-playing rhythms carries the track to a whole new-level. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album especially when Paul is effortlessly reeling of lyrics "On silent parts, the parts that birds love, I know there is such a place..."


'Hands Away' really slows the tempo of the album down again, after the last rollercoaster of a track. Another track on the album that is really built up steadily with guitar riffs and bass, Paul's vocals are kept quite minimal on this track and it almost stands as an instrumental track for the record, but to dismiss it for just simply being an instrumental would be a mistake by the listener in my opinion. Next we have 'Obstacle 2', a bit more of a slowed down affair than its earlier relation ‘Obstacle 1’. Paul’s vocals in particular are very much more distinct on this track than any other previously.


As Paul next announces "This next one is called 'Stella was a diver and she was always down', a song-title which I'll let the listener decide it's unglamorous way-of-life meaning behind. This for me is simply the stand-out track on an album which has already featured some big-hitting guitar tracks on it.  Again another track laced with moody, tingling guitar rhythms and a thunderous, military-like drumming rhythm throughout by drummer Sam Fogarino, this track has a real epic, yet at the same time almost-tragic-like feel to it, yet it seems to surprisingly merge both elements so well. I don't think I'm doing this track justice with my comments here, but you'll see what I mean when you hear it and I’ll say that I think most listeners will be gripped from start to finish throughout upon first hearing it.  With a sharp-edgy riff opening it ‘Roland’ launches into a frantic, pogoing effort with a nice distant-like affect used here on Paul’s vocals to complement it.


‘The New’ starts off with a simplistic guitar opening and just steadily plods along inoffensively to the listener. It builds to a nice melodic chorus and flows comfortably for the first two verses before the now familiar darker-tone of this album takes over in the more complex-side of the second half of this track, with a savage guitar riff becoming exposed throughout this part of it. Album closer ‘Leif Erikson’ is but of course another slowed-down, dark and moody affair, yet this really sums up the sound and mood that the band clearly set out to achieve with this debut record and although that may sound like a negative approach for an album, I really believe this is a record you should give several listens too, to fully appreciate it’s true charms and hidden-depths.


So in summary of re-visiting an album that is now coming up to 10-years old how do I still rate it? I'll be honest and admit that I've only recently got into Interpol myself over the last few years or so and I think if I did buy the album at its time of release (something I really wish I had done now to be honest!) I think I may have overlooked it at somewhat at the time, especially in the shadow of The Strokes back then, and possibly given this album a still respectable 8 Obstacles out of 10 back in 2002.


However, as I bought this album afresh with no major expectations at the time and was thinking "Yeah I'll give this a spin and see what Interpol are like then…." I soon found myself coming back to this record time and time again on a regular basis and quickly found myself hooked on its dark-brooding songs interspersed with fast-archaic guitar tracks. I had at last found another new obsession with a band from New York! I really still believe this album holds up strong even today and I’m even going to award it an unprecedented 10 'Stella’s' out of 10 for a listen by even today's guitar-record standards. For me this is an album that simply stands up and won't let itself be ignored! It even gets better with each subsequent listen thereafter, with a quick listen again this morning re-confirming this for me.


While I commented in my 2nd paragraph that this album followed shortly in the footsteps of The Strokes and was a very different sounding album to 'Is This It?', the one striking similarity that I think that makes both band's comparable, apart from both hailing from New York, is that they have both successfully defined a guitar sound and made it their own with their debut albums and then subsequently followed their debut albums up with another 3 great albums each. This is without question for me an album fans of bands like The Smiths, possibly Oasis, even The Cure and of course The Strokes must have in their record collection! You may find, like me, you'll soon develop an (un)healthy obsession for the band and will be inclined to pick up their subsequent follow-up albums 'Antics', 'Our Love to Admire' and the recently released eponymously titled 'Interpol' all of which I would also recommend, but for me this debut effort is still the definitive Interpol record!


Turning on the Bright Lights
Flynny



Track 2 - Obstacle 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkBAUqp6NKg



Track 5 - 'Say Hello to the Angels' (Live at Brixton Academy 2010)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zcalNxLIhM



Track 8 - 'Stella was a diver and she was always down' (Live in 2002)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh3hQEG_sH0

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #14: Kaiser Chiefs - The Future Is Medieval

Written 2nd July 2011:
 
Kaiser Chiefs - The Future Is Medieval

Right time for the latest installment in my line of Flynndie Reviews and in today's episode I'm going to cover the recent album release by the Kaiser Chiefs, 'The Future Is Medieval'. Before we move onto the tracks on the record itself, I'm just going to cover the most excellent promotional work the band did for their 4th album release, which I personally thought was a unique yet brillant idea to promote an album, especially for a record that the general public had previously not heard much about.

So the Kaiser's returned to the scene with this previously unannounced album 'The Future Is Medieval' which caught most by surprise. A promo track 'Little Shocks' was given some airplays on the radio, before the band placed snippets of 20 potential tracks on their website, before allowing fans the option to select their own 10 tracks of choice, choose their play-list for their selected tracks and even design the cover for an album! I have never previously seen such a creative manner of promoting an album release and thought it was a real credit to the band to attempt such an ambitious project! I decided to get involved with the fun idea and after giving the 45 second to a minute track samples a few listens I made my own bespoke version of the 'The Future Is Medieval', which you can feel free to check out via the link at the bottom of this review.

Anyway, after such a unqiue album release, there was still such sufficient demand for a full CD album release. The previously 'fan-made' versions were download only if you had previously decided to download another person's copy, but in most cases after paying £7.50 for a choice of tracks, I suspect most fans like myself would have made their own track-listing version and album cover. So this review covers the 'definite' CD version that is now available and opens with previous promo track 'Little Shocks'.

So the album opens with how I would describe as a steady 'creeping-along' type of melody, with the familiar plinky-plonky keyboard sounds in the background to give the track a real Kaiser Chiefs feel to it. As the track 'creeps' along it builds to a big sing-a-long, rock chorus which in true Kaiser Chiefs fashion is very catchy indeed. I really like this track, it's a good opener for the album and shows the maturity the band have reached with such a well written song and particularly chorus. 'Things Change' follows with a funky drumming opening, accompanied by keys and far out-space like sounds, and although that description may sound like this track is really 'out there' the funky beat at the heart of the track actually holds it together well. Throw in an 80's sounding-guitar strum midway through the track, and despite being an eclectic collection of sounds this track actually works and complments opening track 'Little Shocks' well.

'Long Way From Celebrating' continues with another funky melody pulsing through it, before a fast and furious chorus bursts into the track and I can see this being one the band will use during their 'live' sets to tour this record. Next up we have 'Starts With Nothing', with a repeating jagged guitar, and a distant effect used on Ricky Wilson's voice. It's the first track to really steady the pace of the album so far. This is another track where I feel the band has attempted to show a more mature side to them, with it's deep-sounding guitars and I think the track is actually about a disappointed contestant who has left a quiz show unsucessfully emphasised by the lyrics 'You start with nothing and you leave with nothing' and the line 'Yes that is my final answer'. The track finishes with guitar sounds that actually reminded me somewhat of the BritPop classic 'Champagne Supanova' by Oasis and is a nice way to close the song.

At this point I still think the album has not quite got a definitive 'focus' or 'theme' about it that I can think of which moves us nicley on to fifth-track 'Out of Focus'. With a slightly menacing guitar sound to open the track with, and spookily backing keys to it, this track has a really nice flow about it and sits well on it's place in the record, the chorus in particular is very-catchy indeed! 'Dead or in Serious Trouble' is up next and picks up the pace of the record again with an almost battle-off-duel between guitars and keyboard! I think this track in particular has real old-school Kaiser Chiefs feel to it and certainly would not find itself out of place alongside tracks from their debut album 'Employment' and this another track I can see making up part of the band's 'live' set. Next up with have 'When All Is Quiet'. I really like this track, it has somewhat of a bit of a 'Madness' feel to it the way it kinda bounces-along, while the later duel backing vocals give the song a bit of a 'Beach Boys' vibe to it too! For me it's the melody and the pacing of the track that I really like about this song, which all seems to fit perfectly for it.

Next up we have the track 'Kinda Girl You Are', which bearing in mind the previous track had a somewhat 'Beach Boys' vibe to it, opens with an almost guitar like 'Surf Wipe Out' sound. This song was previously unavailable from the initial 20-tracks that were made available from the band's website (www.kaiserchiefs.com). The track coasts along at a fair old pace and rhythm, and standing at 2 minutes 37 seconds long, is one of the shorter, more instant type of track to make up this record. 'Man of Mars' soon slows the pace of the record again with a real-trippy like, 'far-out-there' sound about it, and a nice guitar-solo thrown in about halfway through it. The track as whole has a lot of sounds thrown around it and is cleverly layered when listened to carefully.

Track 10 'Child of the Jago' is another of my favourite tracks, with a simple yet catchy guitar hook flowing through it, Andy White is fine form on guitar for this one while Ricky is also on top-form with his vocals on this track in my opinion. This is very-much a likeable and instant track in my opinion with a nice solo at the end of it and the line 'The Future Is Medieval' helping to build it. The first thing the listener will think of upon hearing the opening of 'Heard it Break' is 80's synth! This has a real-retro feel to it and is very keyboard-synth heavy yet is very catchy indeed! The unique sound of the track finds me struggling to find any easy comparisions to the sound the band have created on it, which is a credit to them. 'Coming up for Air' is another slow-burning, yet very distinctive effort like a few of the previous tracks on this record. Again this track for me shows that the band are certainly maturing in their sound with piano and violin also thrown into the mix on this, possibly the big ballad of the album.

The 13th and final track, 'If you will have me' is actually my personal favourite track on the record. I'm a real sucker, to this type of raw acoustic heartfelt song and this is one of the best of that particular type I've heard in a while. With a nice, soft melody throughout and backing violin this is a real beautiful track and rightly closes the album in my opinion and was even also my choice of album closer on my version of the album I previously made up. Great minds think a-like eh?! However, that is not all as if you keep listening the band have sneakily thrown a secret instrumental track on as a bonus on the album, so keep an eye out for it if you want to catch it, it again has a very space-based theme to it in my opinion with it synth sounds and guitar riffs, but listen out for it and give it a judge yourself.

So overall I really like this album, but my main gripe with it I guess is that it very much feels like a large collection of songs thrown together, rather than a record that seems to have a defenitive focus, flow and theme to it. However, surely this was fully the intention of the band in the first place?! With such a unique release given to the album even allowing fans to choose it's tracklisting how could the band possibly put together a track-listing that would create such a defintive theme for the record? And it's the previous unique album release, and the subsequent demand for a 'definitive' version of the record that has helped me draw my conclusion that the is an album full of well written tracks, that although may seem disjointed at times, still make up a great record and return to top form of the band in my opinion! The open approach of song-writing has really brought out some of the most mature song-writing the band have done to date and I'm quite happily going to give this record 8 Jousting Knights out of 10, which possibly would have been higher if the record had that bit of cohesion it just lacks due to it's creative launch process which I think the band should rightly be applauded for having the balls to do! Overall this is a good return to form for them so I'd recommend the album especially if you previously enjoyed the band's 1st two albums 'Employment' and 'Yours Truly, Angry Mob'.

Always Medieval
Flynny

PS. If you would like to see the original 10-track version of The Future Is Medieval' I put together (which does flow nicely as a collection of songs in my opinion, heh-heh! ;o) ) you can find it here: www.kaiserchiefs.com\addicteaddick

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #13: Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See



Written 16th June 2011:
 
Arctic Monkeys – Suck It and See

Right here we go again then, Flynndie review time! I seem to have been neglecting my review duties due to working my socks off just recently, but of course, I've always had the comfort of some quality Indie tunes keeping me company while I've been busy the entire time. So let’s get this show back on the road again then and, errrrrm, wrap our lips around the Arctic Monkeys' latest offering ‘Suck it and See’!

So long-time readers will know (and trust me there are only 2 of them that I’m at least aware of!) that I’ve been quite a stubborn fool with realising the sheer greatness of these young lads from Sheffield. When ‘Whatever People Say I Am That Is What I’m Not’ was released for one reason or another at the time I’m really struggled to get into it, however, since the band’s impressive Glastonbury Headline slot in 2008 when the band were touring their 2nd album ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ I’ve since had a bit of common sense to realise that not only are these boys extremely talented, but they are arguably the ‘hottest’ band in the UK at the current time of writing (although I’d still argue that Muse may rightly have to something to say about that!) So with that brief history of my relationship for these Monkeys of a North Pole flavour let’s take a look at this follow up to 3rd album ‘Humbug’.

So the album opens with a slightly-menacing guitar riff, before the familiar dulcet tones of Alex Turner opens with “She’s Thunderstorms….” and straightaway we are given an early indication that this album has a more laid back, yet re-assured approach about itself compared to it's predecessor ‘Humbug’, which was more of a darker, carefree affair that in some cases previously ‘scared off‘ some fans. The tracks swoons along with a quite literal thunderous drumming accompanying the catchy ‘She’s Thunderstorms…..” chorus that the track previously opened with. ‘Black Treacle’ follows and again the listener will notice that although we have a familiar Arctic Monkey’s guitar riff pulsing through the heart of the track, but this is again two or three beats slower than that of tracks from any of their previous albums. The song title seems to be a comparison to that of the drawing dark nights the evening brings, and the uncertainty that sometimes comes with them.

Previously released single ‘Brick by Brick’ is just one of those tracks that makes you stand up and take notice the first time you hear. It's probably the first track on the album, that has a more ‘traditional’ Arctic Monkeys feel to it, as basically Alex make statements of things he would like to do with another individual before the spoken backing of ‘Brick-by-Brick’ by the rest of the band. The track does show a nod to their time spent with Josh Homme while recording ‘Humbug’ as it slows down half-way through, but this only emphasizes the catchiness of the main verses when they kick back in. ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’ despite being a keeeeeraaaazy song title just offers the assuredness that this records has in bags. With its summery-feeling bass bouncing all the way through it, and Alex’s ‘sha-la-la-la’s’ through out, this has just got summer-festival sing-along anthem written all over it.

‘Don’t sit down cause I’ve moved your chair’ goes back to the slowed-down menacing sound from ‘Humbug’ and opening track 'She's Thunderstorms'. This continues for the opening 45 seconds of guitar of the track with Alex making references to sayings of those usually associated with ‘doing things that can lead to a bad accident’, such as running with scissors in-hand, before a dirty, savage guitar riff and bassline wrap this track up in a moody, confident swagger about itself! Jamie Cook is on real-fine guitar-solo form by the end of this track!

‘Library Pictures’ is nothing short of epic! That was my first impression upon hearing this track and this has been further cemented with each subsequent listen since. The track opens with battling guitars taking their own time to do 0-60mph and keeps building from there. This is simply a track that will feature heavily during the band’s forthcoming UK Oct/Nov tour in my opinion and will become a firm fan-favourite! ‘All my own stunts’ opens with the band just ‘jamming’ in the studio and I previously read that the band tried to ensure that this record was given a definitive more 'live session' approach to it's recording! The track buzzes along-nicely and sits well in it's place on the record. ‘Reckless Serenade’ is the hand-holding partner to ‘The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala’. Opening with deep-bass notes and softly-sung lyrics it’s another mellowed down, coast of a track, but don’t be fooled, this song has a hidden-charm about it and is one of my personal favourite tracks on the album!

Track 9 ‘Piledriver Waltz’ is quite literally a Waltz of a track, another slow-burner, with a plodding-along-like bass-line. It’s a very inoffensive track and keeps the album at it's own pace. ‘Love is a Laserquest’ continues the much-slowed down, almost effortless-like pace on the path that the 2nd half of the album seems to take. Album title track ‘Suck It and See’ picks up the pace again slightly following the previous 3-tracks, and seems to be classic Indie track depicting the relationship between two people, but fortunatley, this track has a nice approach about it, without ever tasting too sickly-sweet which often tends to be a downfall, when many band's attempt a track like this. Album closer 'That's Where Your Wrong' finishes off nicely, but for me I was hoping of a bit more of a 'killer-rock' track by this stage, but I guess this, yet another more mellowed affair, keeps in-line musically with the rest of the album.

So, I've now had 2 weeks to give this album plenty of spins and make my own personal judgement of it. To be honest I really do like this record, it picks up nicely from where the band left-off with 'Humbug', however I do feel it doesn't come close to catching the pure 'living on the edge' feel of the band's first two albums, but then this record doesn't aim to achieve that and as I've said earlier in this review this is a certainly a more laid-back, almost 'casual' like sound from the band. However, I feel this casualness does let the 2nd half of the album down a bit, while the first 8-track of the record really make me sit up and grab my attention, I just personally feel the last few tracks just lack a little substance that would have made this yet another classic record by the Arctics, but don't get me wrong I like this album very much I'm going to award it 8 out of 10 gobstoppers, because if you 'Suck it and See' enough with this record you will find this album has a lot of hidden charm and flavours about itself and deserves more than a good few listens, so certainly a recommended addition for all the Indie record collections out there! Arctic Monkey fans will deffo love this album if they previously struggled with 'Humbug' for sure!!!

Sucking It and Seeing
Flynny

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #12: The Strokes - Angles



Written 18th March 2011:

The Strokes - Angles

This week sees the much anticpated return of The Strokes after a long 5 year absence.  Despite their most-recent previous two albums, ‘Room on Fire’ and ‘First Impressions of Earth’ both receiving mixed reviews from the world of music press, I still really enjoyed them and whenever I catch ‘live’ performances of the band I always think to myself they still look effortlessly cool, which is the best kind of ‘coolness’ in my opinion.  I also don’t think it is an understatement to say that when their 2001 debut album ‘Is This It?’ arrived it totally breathed new-life back into the indie music scene bringing with it such a refreshing change of style for garage-rock music at the time.

Now despite the band have leaked a few ‘Making of Angles’ mini-clips via their website (http://new.thestrokes.com/, also see the bottom of this blog for links to the clips), in terms of the music for the album, it’s been kept under pretty tight wraps for the past few months. I had eagerly been counting down the days until it’s UK release on the 22nd March via Rough Trade records, however I discovered yesterday (15th March) that the band have decided to stream the album early via their website so I’ve had the album on loop from the site since then and thought now somewhat earlier than expected is a great opportunity to give my ‘First Impressions’ of ‘Angles’.

The album gets underway with the fantastically titled ‘Machu Picchu’ and its funky 80’s-style synth and bass opening cruising through the verses with Casablanca’s familiar gravelly voice, crooning over the top, before a fast-paced chorus comes in with even some bongos thrown-in in the background if you listen very carefully.  It’s quite a different sound for the Strokes in my opinion, and the first indication that the band are prepared to push the boundaries musically on this album.  Next up follows the 1st single lifted from the album ‘Under Cover of Darkness’, and with its opening guitar riffs followed by a flowing bouncing-rhythm this is much more familiar territory for long-term Strokes fans and as such one of the more instant tracks on the album for the listener.

Third track ‘Two Kinds of Happiness’ is different to any track I’ve previously heard by the band. The verses start and initially remind me of one of those tracks from an ‘80’s Driving Compilation’, whether that is a good or bad thing for you I’ll let you be the judge upon hearing it, although I personally don’t mind it. Again it’s new territory for a Strokes sound, but the chorus goes back to the familiar big crescendo of garage-guitar rock the band are rightly famed for. ‘You’re so Right’ again finds the band pushing out on a new wave of guitar sounds for them, with dark brooding guitars between Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. racing against each other through its verses and a distant-like effect used on Julian’s voice throughout with Nick later throwing in a nice little guitar solo to break-up the two verses. ‘Taken for a Fool’ is another instant-type of Strokes tune with another fast-flowing verse, before a loud sing-along chorus has Julian elaborating on an individual constantly being take advantage off and this track stands well in its place on the album with some really funky bass lines pulsing through it from Nikolai (Fraiture).

Over halfway through the record and ‘Games’ continues with another experimental sound for the record and it’s again Nikolai on fine form with an engrossing bass line carrying the verses of this track before an up-tempo chorus comes in with a super-fast drum-beat courtesy of Fab (Moretti) breaking-up the previous two verses and choruses and the track ends with a somewhat more slower, spaced-out feeling rhythm built from the two verses. ‘Call me back’ is the slowed down track of the album, with a gentle guitar loop being the backing to Julian’s softly sung vocals, before a creepy, jangling guitar bridges the middle of the song and despite being a slowed down number this is arguably the most experimental track on the album with a lot of sounds going on in it for the listener to register.

‘Gratisfaction’ reverts back to a more similar Strokes sound from their second album ‘Room on Fire’, and is again another track which I feel doffs it’s cap towards another retro 80’s like guitar sound, while 9th track ‘Metabolism’ goes back to duelling guitars between Nick and Albert, gradually building in intensity as the verse progresses before a crashing bridge and then dropping-down a pitch and then finally gradually starting to re-build again, making this possibly the most intense track on the album. Final track ‘Life is Simple in the Moonlight’ is just simply classic Strokes.  Initially building with a softly played and sung verse before Julian belts out a catchy chorus backed with guitars and synths all the stops are pulled out for the finale of this album with Julian ending on the lyrics “Don’t try to stop us/Don’t try to stop us/Move out of the way”, but I’d say that with this 4th album, overall being a great return to form for the band, it would be hard to see anyone stopping the Strokes building upon much more fame and success if that’s already possible.

This album sees the New York band really pushing the boundaries of what a guitar record can and arguably should sound like ‘In This Modern Age’ and sometimes this can be a downfall for some bands when attempting to make a somewhat more ambitious record like this.  However I feel that the tracks the band have clearly tried something different on (‘You’re so right’ and ‘Games’ are two prime examples of this) the band pull-off successful well, as initially I seemed to struggle with them but they seem to grow on me more with each listen, a mark of a good record. Throw into the mix some old-fashioned easily accessible Strokes songs and it all adds up to a real return to form for the band, which in my opinion is arguably their best material since the almighty ‘Is This It?’ and with this new record I am going to award it 9 ‘Angles’ out 10 and a definite album recommendation from me to get hold off for early part of 2011.

The Strokes - ‘Making of Angles’ – Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wk_w-YyJbfY
The Strokes - ‘Making of Angles’ – Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYiQUPR5N1w
The Strokes - ‘Making of Angles’ – Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZsirqdYAHU

An Acute Angle 
‘Flynny’

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #11: Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History

Written 15th March 2011:

Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History

Today’s album review comes from a band that I was lucky enough to catch the highlights of their set for their performance at last summer’s Reading Festival on the NME/Radio 1 stage (my personal favourite stage as it’s the best place to discover these types of great up and coming smaller bands!) I managed to catch their performance late on BBC3 (yes I know, I should still be actually going to these type of Festivals, but I’m gonna use the lame excuse of I’m getting too old for it now!), but at the same time watching their performance on the box helped me to take in, in full a great performance by a band I didn’t really know much about at the time. Needless to say after being very impressed by their set, I thought I must track down the album immediately! So it is now, some 6 months later, I have finally got round to buying it and this here be the review of their debut album ‘Tourist History’.

Right, so let’s take a quick look at the band first. They are a 3-piece group hailing from Bangor, Northern Ireland and are made up from Alex Trimble (Lead Vocals, Guitar & Synth), Sam Halliday (Guitar & Vocals) and Kevin Baird (Bass & Vocals). They formed in 2007 and released their first EP in January 2009 called ‘Four Words to Stand On’, before their full debut album, this here ‘Tourist History’, was released in March 2010.

So onto the album then and things get started with opening track ‘Cigarettes in the Theatre’, which also previously appeared as a track on the ‘Four Words to Stand On’ EP. The track opens with some tingling guitar before the first taste of synthesisers crash in for the first time on the album (but certainly not the last!) and the track goes into full on ‘Indie-Synth-Pop’ as I will describe it. We also get our first taste of Alex Trimble’s softly spoken, yet powerful voice that accompanies the well written lyrics by this band. Instantly from this track you can tell this album is already likely to bit a lot of fun. ‘Come Back Home’ follows on next and continues the excellent work done by the first track to encapsulate the listener in this fast-paced Indie pop record. Although the track starts off with slow synth effects, it’s not very long before guitar and bass kick in with a very bouncy rhythm throughout the verses before the song hits with its great sing-along “Now you’re on your own/Won’t you come back home/See you not that kind/To find the strength to find another way”! Trust me it’s a very catchy chorus!

Track 3 ‘Do you want it all?’ slows down the frenetic pace slightly from the opening two tracks but still continues with nice melodic Indie-Pop. The track literally repeats the line “Do you want it all?” throughout, but the melody and Alex’s voice really carry the song and it still sounds good, despite me struggling to explain just quite how in this paragraph! The track finishes with another ace frenetic electro-rock-out. ‘This is the life’ opens with what sounds like a guitar-riff played backwards, before a high-pitched but yet another easy listening riff leads into the chant-along like chorus of “If this is the life/Is the life/Who’d argue?” The track features an excellent but cleverly-worked duelled guitar ‘fight-off’ between Alex and Sam, and is a nice way to sign-off the track.

Next with its acoustic like picking at the start ‘Something good can work’ nonchalantly makes its way into the album, with an understated riff flowing gently behind hit, and this is simply a track you will find yourself nodding along to without even realising it, such it’s subtle catchiness. The same understated-ness cannot be said about previous single “I Can Talk”, with its robotic-like chant at the start followed by a 150mph guitar-riff, and then heading into an old-school disco vibe throughout before ending on the chants again, it’s a very direct track for the listener!

This is followed by track 7 and another single ‘Undercover Martyn’, which although doesn’t quite have the same musical impact as the previous track, it still hurtles along at an average speed of 75mph on the Indie-Disco Highway! I’d also just like to point out it’s also not about me being ‘undercover’ in anyway, as note the incorrect spelling of Martin in the song-title! ;o)

‘What you know’ kicks in with another high-flying guitar solo and its calypso drum rhythm making me wish I could return to my youth of being 18 and at Indie-Club with my hands freely in the air while busting some moves!

‘Eat that up, It’s good for you’ I can only describe as pure Indie-pop perfection! This whole track is incredibly catchy, and I would defy anyone to not have a wry smile appear on their face the first time they listen to this. Starting off with a church organ to open the track, it then drifts into a catchy happy-clappy rhythm, with a playful, high-pitched guitar backing it while Alex sings about being “Sky-high” and “Fighting off the space-ships”. This track clearly has a charm of its own and even ends in a crescendo of orchestration sounds, which still don’t sound out of place on it! Closing track ‘You are not stubborn’ is actually a track that is also anything but stubborn, with its jolly-romp of a beat pulsing through it, and it’s a nice little track to close of an altogether fun album throughout!

So, these three young lads from County Down, Northern Ireland, have created a fantastic fun-sounding debut album, which considering some of the sounds and effects on this album is a superb achievement from a 3-piece band. As you can probably tell I really like this album, and having already given it plenty of listens since getting hold off it I’m going to award this album 8 bags of popcorn out of 10 and make that the family-sized bags as well, as this is a really good fun album to listen too! If I’m being honest I haven’t been this impressed with a debut album by a 3-piece band since a band you may have heard off called ‘Muse’ turned up on the scene back in 1999, so I’m hoping these lads are a good one to watch out for in the long-term future as well.

History Tourist ‘Flynny’