What’s Hot In My House – September 2016

There aren’t that many benefits to writing a music blog or contributing to independent music websites; it involves quite a lot of work, you end up listening to a lot of stuff you might not choose to and financial recompense is a non-starter. The words labour of love spring to mind. However, there is the great satisfaction of having an outlet for your opinion (and occasionally gaining some respect for it), it’s kinda cool to be a part of the industry in an albeit minuscule way and, most importantly, you get to hear (and sometimes download) new releases before everyone else. When people ask me if I get paid, I always tell them I get paid in music! Anyway, every now and then, the humble music writer might be privileged enough to get to hear about a particularly cool new talent way before the rest of the public, or, be lucky enough to receive the new release of a genuinely iconic band almost a month before it hits the racks. This might explain one of the big spinners on my digital turntables this month – check it out….

Yes folks, the Pixies are back! Friday the 30th will see their sixth studio album ‘Head Carrier’ unleashed on their expectant public, which is sure to provoke stacks of debate in internet land. Having spent the last couple of weeks playing my advance copy on an almost daily basis for my review for Already Heard, I have a few observations. First up, it’s a grower – don’t expect to be blown away on first listen – give it a chance and it’ll eat into your subconscious. Second, it was never going to be the same cutting edge experimental slop of yester year, that was nearly thirty years ago and they just ain’t that hungry anymore, so tone down your expectations. Finally, they always had an ear for a melody, think ‘Here Comes Your Man’, and this record has a bunch more to get your toes a tappin’, as well as the irresistible ‘Um Chagga Lagga’, which is a fucking tune.

Besides Pixies, I have also been listening the shit out of the Black Foxxes record, the brilliantly titled ‘I’m Not Well’. The British three piece offer up a loud chunk of cathartic indie rock with an enviable sense of melody that is nothing short of awesome. It is sure to be among my records of the year – this is a band that deserves to be massive.

Another recent release that I have been slipping into with frequency on early morning and late night journeys, is the beautifully melancholic folk of Lisa Hannigan. It’s lyrically sharp, wonderfully sung and avoids the whimsically bland trappings many singer songwriters so often succumb to, instead she delivers a contemplative mix of quite lovely tracks that is very easy on the ear.

Metallica Top Ten Covers

With the coming release of the new Metallica album in November there’s gonna be a whole lotta words dedicated to the San Francisco Metal titans in the next couple of months. As I’m currently researching a mega piece for Already Heard, I’m listening to pretty much everything they’ve ever done and have to say the awesomeness of their back catalogue is really quite something.

I’m finally giving the ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’ albums the chance they always deserved and can now grudgingly admit to their undeniable quality (I prefer Reload) even if they’re not the sound of James and Co in full thrash fury. Anyway, when it comes to Metallica, there’s nothing more divisive than a top ten, and as good as their entire catalogue may be, mine would be firmly rooted in the glory days of the band’s career. Unless, of course, we do an alternative top ten, say of cover versions…. because if there’s one thing the Metallica boys like doing, it’s loosening up on someone else’s songs. Check it out.

10/9 Last Caress and So What
The Misfits’ ‘Last Caress’ originally featured on the $5:98 Garage Days EP and is basically an ode to rape, murder and the longing for death and is enjoyable and disturbing in equal measure (check this explanation! https://medium.com/school-of-pop/the-misfits-last-caress-is-one-of-the-best-punk-songs-ever-here-s-why-db9e67df6b90#.c7n12c8ds). However, with references to cock sucking, goat fucking and piss drinking, ‘So What’ is probably the most politically incorrect song in history and Metallica make it sound as fun as it was always intended to be. British punk band Anti Nowhere League originally wrote the song to poke fun at people telling exaggerated stories, but given the offensive lyrics it tends to stir a little controversy, especially when it’s played with ‘Last Caress’ live on MTV when the band were supposed to be airing a brand new song, oops!

8 Helpless
Lars must love Diamond Head because this is not the only song of theirs Metallica have covered. Anyway, this was the first song to feature Jason Newstead on bass on the $5:98 EP and it fucking rocks! In fact the whole EP is great and Newkid played a blinder, quite why they then smothered the bass with layers of guitar on the Justice album is beyond me (now there’s a remastered version waiting to happen).

7 Tuesday’s Gone
James has been out of the country closet for sometime now and there’s no better way to marry that passion to his first love than by covering Lynyrd Skynyrd with a bunch of rock n roll friends. Great song, great version.

6 Remember Tomorrow
This is a great version of the Iron Maiden “ballad” – Metallica being Metallica, there´s a bit more meat on this than the original, but the quality of the song itself cannot be denied and they certainly do it justice – killer!

5 The Wait
Not the most obvious song to include, but personally I love this track and think it’s seriously underrated. Killer riff, killer bass line and a dark pulsating groove, this is a great version of the Killing Joke track – love it.

4 Turn The Page
Like many of their covers, I don’t know the original (by Bob Seger), but that doesn’t really matter. Although it’s obviously a departure from their normal style, it suits Metallica’s penchant for a big rock ballad; tune.

3 Stone Cold Crazy
Such is the lightening fast riffing that this Queen track is now actually considered as a precursor to thrash, making it the perfect song for Metallica to cover. As with most of their covers they stay true to the original, but also add that little dash of metalligrit, making for a super fast barnstormer – what’s not to like?

2 Breadfan
I first heard this on the b-side of my ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ cassette single (seriously), which I still have somewhere, and immediately fell in love with it. Obviously, I’ve never actually heard the original by British seventies rockers Budgie, and to be frank, why would I, no way can it be better than James and co in full flight. Go.

1 Am I Evil
This has been part of Metallica’s live set for so long that there are probably people that don’t even realise it’s a cover, talk about owning it. This version is mind blowing.

The Big Four Part 1 – Thrash

If by some mysterious quirk of fate I were ever to find myself with my own radio show, I would have a section on Big Fours. Although the term was first coined for the big four thrash bands, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, it is a trend which seems to occur in other genres too; there are often four big players that tend to be at the vanguard of innovation within a given style and, more often than not, achieve the most commercial success.

As I don’t have a radio show, and it’s probably not among the most likely things to happen to me, I figured I could just write about (and rank!) Big 4s instead. So, to kick off the series, what better place to start than with the original big guns from the world of relentless riffing, blistering solos and fast fingered fury that is thrash metal.

Thrash was born in the early 1980s as the sound of traditional heavy metal was taken to a new extreme. There was a heavy influence from the likes of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and New Wave of British Heavy Bands like Iron Maiden and Diamond Head, except thrash bands were playing harder, faster and heavier, besides moving in a more serious direction lyrically. It’s impossible to pinpoint an exact beginning to the movement, although albums from US punks Void and Newcastle’s Venom are often cited as being forerunners to the scene. Whatever the case may be, it was the emergence of bay area bands like Metallica and Exodus that really provided the impetus. However, of the big four that would emerge, it was in fact the only east coast band that probably played the most pivotal role.

4) Anthrax
Despite being the third of the four to release their debut Anthrax were actually formed first and as such were already getting established in New York by the time Metallica pitched up for their watershed visit in late 1982. They made the San Franciscans welcome and helped them out during the stay when Dave Mustaine would get fired prior to subsequently forming Megadeth. Moreover, the term “thrash metal” is said to have been coined in February 1984 in reference to their song “Metal Thrashing Mad”.

Even so, Scott Ian‘s band have always been slightly different; their early sound enjoying strong hardcore influences, besides having an interest in Skate culture and a more humorous approach to their image. Scott is also a lover of rap and their version of Public Enemy‘s ‘Bring The Noise’, featuring a rapped verse from the guitarist, is not only one of the earliest cross-overs, but one of their finest moments.

Like the other big guns in thrash, their output peaked between the mid eighties and early nineties, yet they’ve battled through line up changes and a myriad of record label problems to continue producing quality records. Their latest release, ‘For All Kings’ is another fine release and is as metal thrashing mad as anything from their peak.
Essential Albums: Among the Living & Persistence of Time
Personal Favourite: State of Euphoria
Random Classics: I am the Law, Got the Time, Bring the Noise, I’m the Man, Be All End All & Caught in a Mosh

3) Slayer
The heaviest and most uncompromising of the top thrash bands is far and away Slayer; you won’t find them straying into hard rock territory in search of a number one. It’s fair to say that Kerry King, Tom Araya and co are the darkest of the big four, regularly writing about serial killers, hell, war and suicide, whilst pushing the boundaries of thrash to go harder, heavier and faster.

Slayer‘s material has always stood up for its quality and influence, inspiring subsequent generations to go to even greater extremes – ‘Reign In Blood’ was mind blowing at the time of its release and without it, genres like Death Metal may never have happened. Last year’s ‘Repentless’ was the first to feature new guitarist Gary Holt (Exodus), following the tragic death of Jeff Hanneman, and continues their long line of quality, no holds barred, metal mayhem.
Essential Albums: Reign in Blood & Seasons in the Abyss
Personal Favourite: Seasons in the Abyss
Random Classics: Angel of Death, South of Heaven, Mandatory Suicide, Dead Skin Mask, War Ensemble & Raining Blood

2) Megadeth
Dave Mustaine was pissed when he was unceremoniously dumped by Metallica, but he turned that fury into music, and Megadeth was born. He stayed pissed for a very long time and it’s kinda understandable given that his band has always been and will always be judged in comparison to James and Lars’ work. I mean, you gotta feel for Dave; as Scott Ian says:

“The guy is arguably the godfather of thrash metal. He wrote a lot of the riffs on Kill ’Em All and even some of Ride the Lightning. Without Dave Mustaine, maybe thrash metal never would have happened. At least in the beginning, he was the driving force, artistically.”

Although less successful than his old band, Mustaine is probably the most technically proficient of the big four and the releases from the eighties and early nineties are as good, if not better, than those of his contemporaries – is there a more perfect thrash song than Holy Wars…the Punishment Due?

Despite constant line up changes and well publicised drugs problems, Megadeth‘s output has been pretty damn regular and of consistently high standard ever since -,even the hard rock debacle ‘Risk’ has its moments! This year’s furiously fast ‘Dystopia’ is actually Dave’s fifteenth studio album, so in terms of catalogue, none of the other bands can boast such an extensive collection of high quality original work.
Essential Albums: Rust in Peace, Countdown to Extinction & Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying
Personal Favourite: Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying
Random Classics: Holy Wars…the Punishment Due, Hangar 18, Darkest Hour, Hook in Mouth, Symphony of Destruction & Devil’s Island

1) Metallica
You have to respect a band that has sold over one hundred million records, I mean, you don’t get much bigger than that – Metallica are basically the undisputed heavyweight champions of the world.

As for their role in the thrash scene, would the others have done so well, if it weren’t for James and Lars? This is a band that carved out an enormous reputation and was well on the way to becoming a major force on the metal scene without releasing a single or even making a video until their fourth album, and even then, the video for ‘One’ wasn’t exactly made with MTV in mind.

It’s also testament to their stature that the self-titled record which turned them into global superstars, was released just six weeks before Nirvana‘s ‘Nevermind’ changed the face of rock music forever, practically destroying the metal scene in one fell swoop.

Sure, they’ve made all sorts of bad decisions and of all the big four, theirs is the most divisive back catalogue; but they have never stayed still and have always pushed forward on their own pioneering terms; sometimes as true visionaries and at other times misguided. Whatever way you look at it though, there’s no denying the importance of Metallica to Thrash, to Metal and to the music industry as a whole. The fact that they are releasing a new album is about the biggest thing that could happen in music right now, lets hope it delivers the goods, after all, the other three have all come up with killer records.
Essential Albums: Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets & Metallica (The Black Album)
Personal Favourite: …and Justice for All
Random Classics: Enter Sandman, Creeping Death, One, Damage Inc., Whiplash & The Unforgiven

Beyond the Big Four
Back in the mid to late eighties the thrash metal scene was well and truly thriving and a number of other bands were particularly important to the scene and even knocking on the door of mainstream success. Exodus in particular played a major role, supplying Kirk Hammett to Metallica and thirty years later Gary Holt to Slayer, besides recording some superb records like ‘Bonded by Blood and ‘Fabulous Disaster’.

Also from the Bay Area were the likes of Testament and Death Angel, both of which are still active; the former set to release new album ‘Brotherhood of the Snake’ in October, while DA released the superb ‘Evil Divide’ earlier this year. It’s fair to say that the thrash scene is enjoying something of a renaissance.

Suicidal Tendencies, the former band of Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, is another favourite that is also still active. I have previously written at length about their classic album ‘Lights, Camera, Revolution’ right here: https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/overlooked-or-underrated-lights-camera-revolution/

Of the many other great bands around back in the day, the one that really stood out and we went mad for in England was Sepultura. ‘Beneath the Remains’ and ‘Arise’ were two of the finest albums from the genre and were comparable to the best work of the big four.

Random Classics: Exodus – Bonded by Blood, Testament – The New Order, Death Angel – Act III, Sacred Reich – The American Way, Suicidal Tendencies – Lights Camera Revolution, Sepultura – Beneath the Remains, Death – Leprosy & Annihilator – Alice in Hell.

Prophets of Rage – The Party’s Over EP Review

ep-coverProphets of Rage is a supergroup named after a Public Enemy song, featuring the uncompromising rapping of Chuck D and Cypress Hill‘s B-Real, with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine, as well as Dj Lord of PE manning the decks. According to the band’s website “We can no longer stand on the sidelines of history. Dangerous times demand dangerous songs. It’s time to take the power back.” And that’s precisely what they deliver on this hard rocking, hard rapping collection featuring one original song ‘The Party’s Over’, and four reworkings of assorted classics.

A siren call hails the calling card opener, ‘Prophets of Rage’, which is sounding fresher than ever with Morello’s signature riffing and a new verse from B-Real, whose sharp delivery is a good foil to Chuck’s rough edged baritone. It’s a simple but effective protest song stacked with old skool references, whilst still sounding current; its slick delivery like a controlled release of pent up anger.

The band’s first original material comes with ‘The Party’s Over’, which kicks in with a signature bass heavy riff typical of RATM, and rumbles along at a slow grind as Chuck and B-Real trade verses expounding on the failure of party politics. It’s a hard hitting tune that pulls no punches and as they crank up the intensity for the furious finale it all just sounds so damn badass as everything slips perfectly into place.

It’s pretty hard to go wrong with such a superb song as ‘Killing in the Name’, and the dual vocal attack totally nails it, besides delivering a nice twist on the lyrics in the second verse with “Some of those that hold office/ are the same that burn crosses/ some of those up in congress/ are the same that burn crosses”. As the song builds to its inevitable climax of ‘Fuck You…’, the dynamic sounds like that of a band that loves playing together, they may be protesting against pretty much everything, but it sure as hell sounds good.

‘Shut ‘Em Down’ features a verse each from the Cypress Hill and PE songs of the same name and is another hard rocking slice of hip-hop. It’s easy to see how these bands always crossed over so well. Final track, ‘No Sleep Til Cleveland’, is basically the Beastie Boys’ classic mashed up with Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power and reworked for 2016. Here Morello comes into his own as he rolls out all the tricks on a mesmerizing instrumental section – first time I saw Rage he blew me away – good to hear he’s still got it. “No sleep til Brooklyn” morphs into “til Cleveland” at the end, as it was recorded at the band’s protest against the Republican National Convention in the same town. Talk about taking it to the streets!

On the whole this is a mighty fine showcase of what Prophets of Rage have to offer and is testament to the commitment the various members have to their political principles. Moreover, they sound so naturally good together that it would be great if there were more original material to come taking it beyond reinterpretations of their own impressive catalogues.



What’s Hot In My House – August 2016

What a crazy few weeks it’s been, what with the city being painted with that rose coloured tint only the Olympics can provide. Everything went well, Brazil proving itself a superb country to host an event of this magnitude; the streets felt safe, the city well organised and there was an atmosphere of peace and love as a heady mix of nationalities mingled harmoniously at the various sporting and cultural venues. There was palpable disappointment as the IOC’s Thomas Bach declared the games closed.

Musically speaking Brazil showed its chops in diverse style in the opening ceremony, featuring tropicalia stalwarts Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil alongside pop sensation Anitta, besides showcasing contemporary funk, samba, pagode and rap. It was however a classic which reigned supreme as Tom Jobim’s grandson sat at the piano and played a beautifully delicate rendition of ‘A Garota de Ipanema’ as Gisele cat walked across the Maracanã. What with family days out, work commitments and being glued to the TV in between – did you see the Andy Murray gold medal match?! – it’s been a stranger month than usual music wise, yet I have somehow found the time to fill my headspace with another winning selection of classy bangers, check em out.

For a while now I’ve been trying to put together a piece on classic thrash albums, but can’t seem to find the right angle, so have been listening to a lot of old school moshers. So what with the surprise release of new music from Metallica (reviewed here: https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/metallica-hardwired-review/) it seemed only fitting to pay ‘Master of Puppets’ another visit to remind myself why it’s still considered the greatest thing Metallica have ever committed to vinyl. Basically, it’s fucking awesome from beginning to end; it’s about as close as you can get to the perfect (thrash) metal album, Hetfield and co took the genre to a whole new level with the complexity of the compositions, yet despite its intricacies and the length of some of the tracks it remains highly listenable. Genius. Still a classic.

I had the privilege of reviewing the new Dinosaur Jr record for http://www.alreadyheard.com a couple of weeks ago and it was a pleasure to hear that J Mascis et al have still got it. ‘Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not’ is the sound of a band that has been honed to perfection. There are a host of tracks that neatly encapsulate their alternative rock formula of hard edged riffs, drawled indie pop melodies and shredding solos, besides a few left field numbers where they stretch their creative muscle out of their comfort zone in fine style. Top album, well worth repeated listens.

On a more relaxed vibe, I’ve also been giving a fair few plays to the lovely record from Slow Club, ‘One Day All of This Won’t Matter Anymore’. The English duo of Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson have come up with a rich slice of laid back folk tinged indie bliss with more than a hint of darkness lurking beneath the surface. It makes for perfect journey home listening to smooth away the rough edges with barbed wire kisses – this one’s a keeper.

Metallica – Hardwired Review

There are very few bands left in the world for which the release of a new record would be an event, and lets face it, outside of the reformed Guns n Roses dropping ‘Appetite…Part 2’, the biggest possible such event is new music from Metallica. The San Francisco metallers once thrashed out 4 albums in five years, so having waited 8 years since ‘Death Magnetic’, a new album is long overdue, but finally, come November, the 12 track double album will hit the racks. In the meantime, we have the video for album opener ‘Hardwired’, which they dropped yesterday, August 18th, three months ahead of the album. The question is though, is it any damn good?

The short answer is yes, of course! It’s fucking Metallica, even their worst music is streets ahead of the majority, the bigger issue though, is whether it will stand up alongside ‘Master of Puppets’ and the uber popular Black album, which is precisely what it sound as if they are aiming for. The production has that clean crisp resonance of Death Magnetic, not surprising given Greg Fidelman is once again fiddling with the knobs, but there is more than an echo of ‘Battery’ to Lars’ furious drumming and Kirk’s blistering soloing. There’s also a definite air of the early 90s about the black and white claustrophobic video for the track.

The song actually begins with machine gun riffing/beats and a staccato riff á la ‘Enter Sandman’, before the real thrash gallop begins. It features all those little stops, time changes and familiar elements of the signature Metallica sound, although James wasn’t exactly up all night on the hook – “We’re so fucked!/ Shit outta luck”. He does make amends in the ‘Whiplash’ style third verse however – “Once upon a planet burning/ Once upon a flame/ Once upon a spirit turning all in vain/ Do you feel that hopeless feeling?/ Do you comprehend?/ Do you feel it terminating in the end?”. It all sounds somewhat familiar, but hey, I guess that’s kinda cool, we want Metallica to sound like Metallica!

After repeated listens, I’ve gotta admit that it pretty much hits the spot – one foot in the past, one in the present – ok, so it may lack the rawness of ‘Ride The Lightning’ or ‘Master of Puppets’, but this is brand Metallica launching new product, so there’s no way it will ever be that amazing again. However, considering that it’s now thirty something years down the line and the band are in their fifties, it’s good to know that like the rest of the big four, they can still shred. See for yourself right here:

The official word from Metallica: https://metallica.com/blog/news/429181/hardwired-to-self-destruct-available-november-18-2

Everybody Loves a Ballad

Ok. Hands up, I admit it – I’m a sucker for a big rock ballad. You can’t beat a bluesy riff, some heart-break lyrics, a soaring solo and a massive chorus. Sure they roll out cliché upon cliché, but who cares? What am I made of – stone? Hell no! Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved a good old soppy love song or a tragic melancholy slice of the break-up blues; I mean my favourite Elvis track as a kid was ‘I Just Can’t Help Believing’ and I loved ELO‘s ‘I Can’t Get It Out of My Head’; Doctor Hook‘s ‘Sylvia’s Mother’ was another that drifted up through the floor late at night that I couldn’t resist. So call me a sentimental old fool if you will but come on, we all love a good ballad really and here’s a few that have stood by me.

How do you end an album almost totally dedicated to shagging? Getting dumped that’s how. ‘What It Takes’ has to be one of the ultimate power ballads – it is Aerosmith at their heart aching best. Lyrically it is nothing short of superb, even with its cheeky references to other Aerosongs*, and musically it’s sublime, the subtle time shifts are pure genius. Throw in an astonishing vocal from Steven Tyler and you have one of their finest crying in your beer tunes ever, something they’ve tried hard to match multiple times since, failing repeatedly every damn time. Yes, even on ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’ – it was good, but pales in comparison. Pass the tissues.

Ah yes, I remember it well, one of my first musical epiphanies. Back in the days before the internet, before satellite TV and even before channel 5, entertainment back home in England fell way short of today’s multiplicity – we had four TV channels and a handful of radio stations, yet access to non-pop programming was available for a few precious hours here and there. Besides The Tube (Channel 4), The Old Grey Whistle Test (BBC 2) and of course the legendary John Peel on Radio One, we also had the Friday Rock Show with the gravel voiced Tommy Vance for the rock/metal crowd, of which I was an enthusiastic member. Anyway, there I was one Friday night, in the middle of winter, must’ve been January ’89, headphones plugged into my midi system, when Tommy announced the next song – “Top 40 record? Hmmmm” – followed by the heartbreak riff of ‘How Come It Never Rains’ pulling on the heartstrings of my lovelorn 15 year old self. Damn it, I almost cried! I fucking loved that song, still do, Tyla‘s raspy cracked voice, the hook laden chorus and all those bluesy notes bending out of shape – unbeatable.

‘Don’t Know What You Got (til it’s gone)’ is without doubt one of the cheesiest most cliché glam rock power ballads in the history of hair spray. Forget about that shit and check out the pure blues of the title track from the same album ‘Long Cold Winter’. Cinderella were somewhat unfairly lumped in with the whole 80s glam thing, Tom Keifer is actually a pretty badass singer and sure played a mean lick of guitar, especially on the weeping notes of this Zeppelinesque blues lament, man, the sky is crying, the guitars are crying, even Tom sounds like he’s crying and it’s gonna be a long cold winter without your love baby.

Jeff Buckley‘s ‘Grace’ is one of the finest albums ever committed to vinyl, bearing not even the vaguest hint of filler. Although ‘Last Goodbye is an absolutely incredible break up song, there is way too much groove to the bass line to call it a ballad; ‘Lover, You Should’ve Come Over’ on the other hand….slow acoustic strum, rainy funeral imagery and tonight you’re on my mind… we get soaring vocals in the hook, brooding Hammond underpinning the melody as the emotions stack up in the lyrical climax:
“It’s never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder
It’s never over, all my riches for her smiles when i slept so soft against her
It’s never over, all my blood for the sweetness of her laughter
It’s never over, she’s the tear that hangs inside my soul forever”

Then there’s ‘Forget Her’ which features Jeff at his best, fuck it just listen to it – it’s awesome.

Tesla were so sure they’d written the ultimate love song that they called it ‘Love Song’. Ok, so it’s like mega cheesy but hey, it works. Medieval intro and classic break up lyric to kick off, but the twist here is that this song offers hope that we can all find love again. It’s corny, it’s lighters in the air time and on one level it totally sucks, but on another you can’t argue with it’s delivery, from every soaring guitar lick to the arm waving sing along parts – the extended five man acoustical jam version is unbeatable – it out clichés every glam rock cliché ballad ever – even ‘Every Rose..’.

You don’t get much more heart breaking than the warm bath, open vein agony of ‘Black’ by Pearl Jam. Man, that Eddie Vedder dude was really upset when he wrote those words and if you can’t identify with how the poor fella feels then you are either a cold unfeeling shell or you’ve never been dumped. There’s only one thing more emotional than Eddie singing that killer mid section and that’s thousands of people doing it for him. Check this out, the camera work is awful but the sound’s impeccable.

One of my all time favourite songs is so obscure you’ll be hard pushed to find it anywhere. On the UK version of Tones of Home by Blind Melon, ‘Wooh G.O.D.’, also known as ‘Whoa Dog’, is either a mispress on the vinyl 12″ or wrongly credited as ‘Soak The Sin’. Whatever the case may be, this melancholy lament by tragic vocalist Shannon Hoon to his dead dog** is just so damn raw…

*) “Girl before I met you; I was F.I.N.E fine; but your love made me a prisoner; yeah my heart’s been doing time”
**) “Wooh” was the name of Shannon’s dog. It is spelled Wooh, but pronounced “whoa.” Shannon would always catch it tearing something up or raising hell and he always yelled “whoa!” to try to get him to stop so he named him that. Shannon got him in a pet store and really connected with the dog and felt bad that he was cooped up in a cage. The dog was expensive so Shannon went back to the pet store, slid the glass up on the cage and snuck Wooh out of the store under his coat. He died when he swallowed a pin cushion. He was undergoing surgery and was over-anethstized by the vet. Shannon and Rogers buried Wooh near the big “HOLLYWOOD” sign in California. From http://www.blindmelon.org

What’s Hot In My House – July 2016

I am so damn busy. I mean, stupid busy, like every waking hour seems to be taken up with work or work related activities, which is no bad thing – but as a result my listening habits have been a bit, well, weird, I guess. Obviously there’s the stuff I’ve had to review, which has been OK to excellent, but there’s also been massive amounts of classical. Yes, classical, specifically Beethoven and Rachmaninoff, as it helps me concentrate when I’m translating. All my language functions get taken up by the work so I can’t possibly listen to anything with lyrics as my brain would stall, so it tends to be classical or ambient, classical’s winning that battle right now – getting old I guess! Nevertheless, my writing commitments have had me listening to some rather interesting new(ish) stuff that I find myself migrating back to on my day to day journeying around this fair city. So, here’s what’s been piping intermittently through my barely functioning headphones with the dodgy connection.

I’ve been working on a preview piece for http://www.alreadyheard.com on the upcoming Rebellion festival. It’s a largely punk affair and includes all sorts of acts with weird and wonderful names like Spunk and the Volcanic Eruptions and The Pukes, besides classic acts like Stiff Little Fingers and Buzzcocks. Anyway, excitingly, the great Dead Kennedys front man, political activist, Jello Biafra and his band The Guantanamo School of Medicine are set to hit the UK, so I have been checking out their 2013 album ‘White People and the Damage Done’. To put it bluntly, it’s fucking awesome and I keep going back for more. It’s like listening to the DKs only freshened up for this century – it’s as visceral a slice of politically charged punky hard core as you’re likely to find and Biafra’s distinct voice is as great as ever. Badass.

The debut album from Puddle Splasher, ‘Separate States’ has slowly grown on me. It has a real nineties feel to it, with a kind of Britpop grunginess not far removed from Stereophonics, only with more muscular guitars, better pop sensibilities and…ok they are way fucking better and a damn site cooler than Kelly Jones and co. Interestingly, they seem able to switch between the catchiest of pop melodies and the dirtiest of grunge, which all makes for an enjoyable listen – well worth checking out.

I’ve already talked about Evarose in the pages of Hard Pressed, but I’m finding the catchy grunge pop of these girls from Oxford unputdownable. Basically, every damn song on their album appeals on some level and the amount of earworms burrowing my brain is insane – talk about infectious. Check out their cover of Tatu‘s All the Things She Said.

In my explorations into classical music there is the stunningly beautiful ‘Spiegel im Spiegel’ composed by Arvo Pärt, which is of such sublimely compelling beauty that it never fails to move me.

Eight British Bands You Really Ought To Know About

Ever since I started writing about music I have had the dubious pleasure, and occasional outright torture, of listening to a plethora of new, old and downright ancient bands from the ragged cross section of multiple sub genres that exist in the world of rock. Basically, I have been introduced to the world of music far removed from the Coldplays, Mumfords and Adeles of the world – it’s a bit like that iceberg photo explaining deep web, where there is so much going on beneath the surface that the general public have absolutely no idea about, which is both glorious and heartbreaking in equal measure. Glorious because you discover that there is so much more talent in the world than radio, TV and record company executives would have you believe and heartbreaking because you know that most of them are fighting a losing battle. Nevertheless, there is hope, as many of these bands, most of whom are doing things on their own terms (or are even D.I.Y), are establishing fan bases way beyond the level of the thousand faithful and are gaining enough leverage to bother alternative chart lists and secure spots on festival bills. The quality of their music is surprisingly high and in some cases truly innovative. Anyway, having previously written about British rock bands that could use a break at the truly hard end of the music scene, I’ve now decided to put fingers to keyboard in regard to a bunch of upcoming bands that have released quality music over recent months and people really ought to know about.

Making Monsters
The Northern Irish alternative rockers have just closed the cycle of their superb EP, ‘Bad Blood’, by playing the BBC Introducing stage at T in the Park, prior to shutting themselves away to write their full length debut. In Emma Gallagher the Derry four piece boast one of the most talented vocalists around and with their emotionally charged, well constructed songs they managed to deliver a set of musically versatile hard hitters packed with bad ass riffs and winning hooks. They’ve got the talent, they’ve got the songs and they’ve got the style – watch them go places. http://www.makingmonsters.co.uk/

When you think of punk pop, you could be forgiven for thinking purely in bands from California, yet there is a bunch of rockers from Eastbourne putting a very English twist and injecting some life into an otherwise tired genre. With hard thrashing tracks like the excellent ‘Deadweight’ and the brilliantly worked ‘RIP in Peace’ there’s plenty to like about this band, whose talent, energy and hard work should see them making waves. https://roamuk.bandcamp.com/

There is a distinctly commercial edge to the alternative (dark) pop rock of this four piece from London. Margarita has a fine voice to supply the hooks and they are also blessed with quality musicianship; guitarist Dan consistantly delivering the goods. Debut album, ‘The Parts We Save’, offers up plenty of ear candy, as it is blessed with many a tight melodic rocker; ‘Nothing New’ being prime example of one of their many killer tunes. http://www.heelband.com/

The band formerly known as Baby Godzilla have already built up a formidable reputation for their stunningly chaotic live performances and on their debut album ‘Instructions’, they have managed to translate that wild abandon into a quite sublime record. They are seriously pushing creative boundaries with this gut wrenching collection of hard riffs and pure destructive energy – it sounds so refreshingly free it’s hard not to be infected by the raucousness of it all. Tracks like the punky ‘The Great Hardcore Swindle’ and the epic 15 minutes of ‘See The Old Lady…’ barely scratch the surface of what this band are all about. Go see them live, they have some festival dates coming up, including Reading and Leeds, before embarking on a co-headlining tour with the excellent Black Peaks. http://m.ents24.com/uk/tour-dates/heck-1

Speaking of whom…
Black Peaks
What a monumental sound this band has. Their debut album, ‘Statues’, also dropped earlier this year and it features a heady mix of naked aggression and progressive post hardcore melodies that pulsates with a controlled release of raw power that is nothing short of stunning. This band will be massive. https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/statues/id1052921521?app=itunes

It’s been about a month since ‘Beneath the Spinning Lights’ dropped and its brand of smoothly crafted melodic alternative rock keeps winning new fans. Vocalist Will Alford is gifted with a fine voice and the band´s mature song writing approach provides the perfect vehicle. Tracks like ‘Rise’, with its massive hooks and soaring guitars, show precisely what they can do, – this is a band with enormous potential. http://witterquick.tmstor.es/

These four girls from Oxford certainly know how to deliver straight ahead hard edged grunge pop with massive choruses and killer hooks. Their exciting debut, ‘Invisible Monsters’, packs punch after punch of ear fodder on eleven slickly delivered songs of substance. Tracks like ‘Glitch’ and ‘Provoke Me’ are quite simply banging tunes and showcase just what this band is capable of – great vocals, quality musicianship and top songwriting – check them out.http://evarose.bigcartel.com/

Earlier this year Essex hardcore brawlers Giants finally released their long awaited debut, ‘Break the Cycle, which neatly showcases their brand of 21st century angst ridden punk. They’ve managed to put a modern twist on old school vibes and come up with a fresh and vibrant record with some excellently crafted tunes like the excellent hard edged ‘I’ve Been Low’ and ‘I’m Not Around’. Exciting, intense and with plenty to say. https://giants.bandcamp.com/

Witterquick – Beneath the Spinning Lights Review

PromoImage1This is a classy offering to showcase the talents of upcoming British rockers Witterquick. The five piece from Exeter formed a couple of years ago and have taken their time perfecting their art into five rather good tunes on their long awaited debut EP ‘Beneath The Spinning Lights’. They are on the melodic side of the alt-rock spectrum and there’s an anthemic feel to their well crafted songs that makes for highly enjoyable listening; don’t be surprised if they start picking up some serious airplay.

Opening track ‘Soldiers’ has been kicking around for a while; its laid back rock groove, rousing chorus and unhurried approach are pure quality. The uptempo ‘Fade Out’ follows with another catchy chorus and shows off frontman Will Alford‘s vocal versatility.

Their radio friendly appeal is very evident on the smooth ‘The Road’, its atmospheric lead in adding a laid back dimension to what is a big tune of soaring guitar lines. Although it is another winning moment, it is very much within their comfort zone as they tend to stick to traditional arrangements to structure their work.

Even so, every track on the EP has something to offer, the acoustic strum and easy piano melody of ‘Wayward Signs’ highlights their heartfelt side and is a quite lovely track. The interesting thing here is the restraint they show, it’s a very mature approach for such a young band that obviously has the chops, but has chosen the route of less is more; good work fellas. ‘Rise’ then rounds things off in style as they kill it on this massive track of superbly delivered hooks; it’s a stirring finale that helps make this a well rounded little collection of songs.

Witterquick seem to have a natural feel for quality tunes and there’s a hell of a lot of potential on display here. It would be great to see these guys push their creative boundaries a little and see how far they can go.


‘Beneath The Spinning Lights’ is out now on LAB Records and is available from http://witterquick.co/