British IBM – Psychopaths Dream in Black and White Review

British IBM Image Even though I readily admit to being a bit of a sucker for folky Indie melancholy, the somewhat strangely titled ‘Psychopaths Dream in Black and White’ turned out to be a delightful surprise. As well as possessing some comforting down beat slices of introspection from the Cambridge three piece, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the beautifully rich swathes of Anna Scott’s Cello, which adds another dimension to the wistful sound of the prolific songwriting skills of front man Adrian Killens.

The folky bliss of ‘All the time’ opens proceedings with an almost childlike comfort to it, which spills over into ‘Hey Mikie’ with its well worn acoustic guitar sound over the bubbly bass line. However, it’s ‘Just Get By’ that first grabs the attention with its melancholic air and beautiful orchestration; the Cello providing a depth and sophistication to enrich their sound. Anna Scott’s orchestral contribution transforms otherwise average tracks such as ‘I’m just like you’ and ‘We were stars’ into soothingly hypnotic slices of aural tenderness.

‘Nothing ever lasts that long’ is another of the stand out moments, conjuring up memories of evenings spent with friends in a laid back vein of easy percussion and acoustic strum to accompany the orchestral melody.

“We walked back through the city lights / Watched the girls on the corner fight /
But now the evening’s gone and nothing ever lasts that long / And all the money doesn’t count / I made a choice to be here now.”

Equally lovely is ‘Silver Cigarette Case’, which once again uses strings to define the melody, though the addition of horns adds another dimension, providing a rare moment of perfectly timed uplift. Although one or two tracks like ‘Tread Carefully’ and ‘Evolution’ are on the predictable side they still make for pleasant enough listening.

So as ‘What more can I Say?’ draws the album to its downbeat close (it takes a minute to realize that’s it and the next track ain’t gonna start) what you are left with is the warm glow of pleasant tunes, evoking that almost elusive feeling of bittersweet nostalgia. It’s most definitely an album to go to after a long day when you need something chilled, but would also be perfect for a boozy night in chatting with old friends about times gone by.


Psychopaths Dream in Black and White is a self release out on September 4th


Twitter Bands

It seems that the more involved I become with all things music, the more music becomes involved with me. A quick glance through my Twitter followers will reveal a number of bands, individual artists, fan clubs, clothes stores and fellow writers; and though not all the artists are to my taste, it seems only fair to reciprocate the interest by actually listening to what’s on offer and give a little publicity. Often, these bands are very much D.I.Y and are really struggling to make a breakthrough in the industry, despite their obvious talent; in other cases they are getting there but could still use more support. So here’s the latest crop of “Margraves” (bands or singers I have discovered through Twitter); you never know, it could be the one artist you’ve been waiting for…..or not…but if you don’t listen how will you know?

Black Sonic Revolver – Hard touring Indie Rock band with a strong Manchester influence; they’ve got a robust sound with a bit of groove bubbling under the surface. They have been building a good following, so expect bigger things when the new album drops in December.

Smoker – Authors of the Monchu project (two songs a month for a year), they have a trippy indie feel to them, with a very accomplished sound – interesting stuff. Check out free downloads here:

(I am) Warface – Eighties influenced electro rock with an industrial edge. Still at the demo stage but sounding very promising with some great hooks and already building a strong following online. If the forthcoming album is well produced it could make a few headlines.

The Cringe – These guys are not exactly new, nor are they entirely unheard of, especially when you find out they’ve been opening for Motley Crüe, but they followed me and I’d never heard of them so had to check them out. What’s on offer from the NYC based four-piece is good quality alternative rock with a grungy rock n’ roll feel. They already have four albums behind them so there’s plenty to get your teeth into.

The Danbury Lie – Slightly leftfield experimental indie folksters with some interesting guitar work on offer.

Of Allies – I have already actually featured these guys in a separate article on British Bands that could use a break, but as they have followed me it seems only fair to give them another mention, especially as they are a band I really believe in. They have a hard edged alternative metal sound with just enough in the melody department to make them radio friendly without sounding overtly commercial. As far as alternative rock/metal goes, they are as good as anyone else currently on the scene and their recent EP, Fragments, has plenty of quality tracks which really hold up. In a fair and just world they could go on to much bigger things, but given the current musical climate they’re going to have to work put in some serious hard work. I have previously shared something from Fragments, so here is an acoustic version of an earlier track, ‘Ghosts’, which is a good indication of what they’re capable of doing. Check their website for a free download (

I’ve already had more follows from other artists and bands so I will be covering them in the near future, watch this space.

Why Britpop Was Actually The Business

Recently, it was the twentieth anniversary of the Blur vs Oasis battle for number one at the grotesque height of Britpop. It was a defining moment in a divisive period of British music which is as maligned as it is celebrated.
Largely born as a reaction to Nirvana sweeping all the plates off the dinner table with one deft movement, the somewhat ridiculously dubbed Britpop movement was characterized by a necessity for British rock/pop/indie to take back a bit of cultural identity (including the flag from the fascists) and sing about British things to British people. It was actually something of a watershed in the music industry, forcing Indie as a genre to cheer up, take a shower and usurp the mainstream. Indie pop has gone on to become a dominant force in the UK music industry, allowing the likes of Coldplay and Mumford and Sons to become global megastars (oh.), but also providing a platform for bands like Arctic Monkeys and the Foals etc (phew). Ok, so much of what went on in Britpop was forgettable and actually quite embarrassing; but there were a few occasions when it really was something special….

Suede at the Brits
The Brit awards, the British Music industry’s annual pat on the back, were nothing short of awful at the turn of the nineties so it was quite a shock to all and sundry when Suede were invited to play – the disquiet amongst the audience is palpable, but the teenagers around the country glued to their TV sets hoping to be drip fed something they could get hold of were finally rewarded. Killer.

This is a Low
Blur’s Parklife album was the real game changer, they’d built on the confidence gained on Modern Life Is Rubbish and had crashed into the top five with the trashy Girls and Boys, but outside of the big hits there was what some consider to be Blur’s most accomplished track – the gorgeous ‘This is a Low”, inspired by a handkerchief showing the shipping lanes around the UK given to him by Alex James, Damon and co. crafted a quite beautiful, extremely British, slice of melancholy. Superb.

Live Forever
While Nirvana were singing about hating themselves and wanting to die, Oasis were uniting the masses in mutual dissatisfaction and lovin it.

Common People
No description necessary; genuine classic that helped make Jarvis a national treasure. Still awesome.

Hardly the most original song of the period but the wonderfully angular riff is instantly recognisable and still widely used in TV soundtracks. It stands up as a wonderful pop song and Justine Frischmann’s finest moment, without whom none of this would ever have happened.

Once upon a time Noel Gallagher was the most prolific songwriter in Britain, although he was never shy in recycling an idea or two, he was actually overflowing with top drawer tracks and chucking them out on b-sides when he coulda/shoulda saved them for the third LP. Still, pretty much sums up the times – livin it large like it would never end – money and tunes to burn.

Road Rage
One of the endearing qualities of the Britpop era was the number of strong females involved; while the Spice Girls “Girl Power” brand was running concurrently, Britpop had its own version with Justine, Shirley Manson’s Garbage, Lauren Laverne and Kenickie, Louise Wener’s Sleeper and the Cerys Matthews fronted Catatonia. Cerys’ voice was nothing short of fantastic and her band were responsible for two of the finest pop tunes of the era; the X-files inspired Mulder and Scully and the hook filled ‘Road Rage’.

This is just a glimpse of the occasions when Britpop nailed it; Blur had many a good tune, Oasis’ first album was nothing short of superb and many other bands such as Supergrass, The Bluetones and The Verve had their moments; check out a comprehensive playlist here

What’s Hot in my House – August

Basically, I spend any available moment of any given day (i.e. When I’m not in the classroom) listening to music, so, I take in a fair mix of styles and genres. I readily admit to my fair share of mainstream listening; Blur, Bjork and Kendrick Lamar in particular of late, but I’m open minded and will give anything a chance, from new alternative releases to blasts from the past. So here’s what’s been on heavy rotation of late…

‘My Love is Cool’ is required listening, from the invitingly soft laid back vocal of opener ‘Turn to Dust’, through the Pixies inspired You’re a Germ’, past the poppy ‘Lisbon’ and onto the pure indie heaven of ‘Swallowtail’ and ‘Fuzzy’s feedback fury. Track after track of top quality songs full of nuances and complexities that make this a debut album of surprising depth that keeps me coming back for more. Quality.

Sam Duckworth’s Amazing Grace has been my go to album for the last couple of months when I want something a little more reflective and a little less noisy. I actually described it as being “like a warm hug from an old friend” when I first reviewed it, and time has just turned it into an older friend. The subtleties and atmospherics make for an interesting dynamic – perfect for end of the day headphone listening.

D’Angelo has been a playlist constant since Black Messiah’s surprise release at the back end of 2014. The politically charged album defies classification, buzzing around the fringes of funk, soul and R&B with a rocky edge to the guitar playing, D’Angelo’s smooth as honey voice understated and confident on this retro- familiar collection of percussion rich tunes. Modern classic.

Released in the middle of 2014, the reissue of Led Zeppelin II was a late Christmas present, and while I have more or less ignored the disc of extras, (I’m a great believer in the philosophy that if it was that good they’d’ve put it out before), it does have one or two moments of note like the rough mixes of ‘Heartbreaker’ and ‘Ramble On’ and the interesting ‘La La’. ‘Whole Lotta Love’ without the guitar solo makes for excruciating listening though! However, coming back to the original was like catching up with a childhood friend and chatting like it was just yesterday. Now we get together a couple of times a month because it is without a doubt still one of the finest collections of songs ever recorded – all killer, no filler.

I’m not entirely sure why I can’t stop playing this record, but I just keep going back to Lonely the Brave’s The Day’s War (Victory Edition). I guess it’s the measured approach to their fearless song writing – they’re not afraid to talk about how they feel and explore their own sound – I suppose there’s a kinda naked honesty that I find endearing, even on the redux versions and extra tracks. There’s been all kinds of comparisons to the likes of Biffy Clyro but LTB possess a much more robust sound, both instrumentally and vocally, which gives the music a strength that is rarely found theses days. They will be enormous.

Don’t know if this counts as a guilty pleasure, especially given that she played Glastonbury this year, but I do love a bit of Mary J. and London Sessions has given a welcome reboot to her career. The collaborations with the likes of Disclosure and Emeli Sandé have reinvigorated her sound and though there are a couple of throwaways, killer moments like the intense ‘Whole Damn Year’, the retro ‘Therapy’ and the clubby ‘Follow’ make it worth repeated listens.

Tairrie B. – Vintage Curses

Tairrie BThis is not your usual rap album, but then again Tairrie B. Murphy is not your usual artist; she’s a fifty-year-old feminist heavy metal screamer (of My Ruin fame) and she does things on her terms, period. So what’s a woman like this doing making a rap record? – Well, because she can! The thing is, back in 1990 she learnt her trade with the legendary Eazy-E, yes, THE Eazy-E from NWA – go see Straight Outta Compton, which (not so?) coincidentally was released the same day, and you’ll get it. So if you’re wondering if she can actually rap, put your fears aside because Tairrie B. possesses a flow many a younger rapper would kill for.

Opening track ‘Beware the Crone’ sets the tone for things to come; smooth well rhymed verses, the occasional well placed sample, some dark rhythms (courtesy of husband Mick Murphy on drums, bass and guitar!) and plenty of bruxaria. The overriding theme of the record is witchcraft, with Tairrie cast as coven leader in this West Coast Helloween (sic). However, this, for me at least – make up your own minds by downloading (or naming your price) on the link below – is the one thing which is a little OTT and makes it a little difficult to take some tracks seriously, notably ‘Wicked Witch of the West Coast’, which is best taken with tongue firmly in cheek.

That said however, Tairrie does approach the subject of witchcraft as a form of empowerment much more seriously on the highly credible ‘Down as Dirt’ and `Carpe Noctem´, which both work the theme well. Speaking of empowerment, when the subject matter is a bit closer to home, such as the role of women in the music industry, she really nails it – ‘Ad Nauseam’ standing out for its lyrical content and hard edge rapping – killer.

Equally killer are ‘Spirit Queen’, which successfully blends rap with her hard rocking side, and the genius sampling of ‘Grease is the Word’ on ´Sky Above, City Below´. Throw in the superb bitchin finale to ‘BTCHCRVFT’ and you’ve got some really stand out moments.

I think it’s fair to say that Tairrie B. more than holds her own on the rap front and has put together some highly listenable well worked tunes, with more than a touch of the old school. She proves that a well placed sample is an art form in itself and that there is a place for the dark side in hip-hop, although in my humble opinion a little less witch and a touch more bitch would really nail it; even so, worth a listen, check it out.


14 Reasons Why 2015 is Totally Retro:

This year is so old school I could be 16 again – punk influences are everywhere, comebacks are in, you can hear the seventies and eighties references all around and the over 40s (and 50s) are releasing killer tunes across the board; check it…

Blur are back, sounding fresh and vibrant on their superb new album, but as always the vaguest air of 90s nostalgia is  lurking beneath the surface, which in their case is no bad thing.

Iceland’s very own queen of (Brit)pop is also back and better than ever on deep dark cuts of emotional torture.

Old school rappers Public Enemy are sounding bang up-to-date whilst using all their old tricks; stacked with samples, Chuck D’s rich baritone flow kills it, nobody else could rap about being 55 and pull it off.

Kendrick’s smokey voice flows like liquid honey on this seventies fueled slice of badass rapping – there’s more than a hint of James Brown about it – precisely why Kendrick is The Negus right now. 

Courtney Barnett sounds a little like a punky Sheryl Crow recycling some familiar sounding riffs punctuated with barbed wire lyrics: “I want to wash out my head with turpentine cyanide I dislike this internal diatribe when I try to catch your eye”.

Slightly clunky guitar riff and bubbly bass dance awkwardly like mismatched partners at a school disco on this deliciously hook ridden punky pop from the original Riot Girls. 

Quite frankly this is rather a disturbing journey through the anger and frustration of recovering from a brutal beating – fodder for the 80s influenced dark synth pop tones lurking beneath the surface on this accomplished work from the Icelanders. 

Back from a 13 year hiatus, Conor Oberst and his punk buddies are rocking; angular riffing, up-tempo punky climaxes, anti-capitalism – sounds like 1983 got dusted off and brought back to life.

Full Review:

Speaking of which, this 29 strong supergroup are doing their best to actually go back to 1983. 

Full Review:

Father John Misty’s ultra sincere dark humour sounds like it was pulled straight out of the seventies, blending classic folk and country rhythms with barbed wire on Bored in the U.S.A. 

Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy and Leftfield are all back and it’s like they never went away. 

Failure are (also) back from a god knows how long hiatus and have picked up right where they left off – Tool, Queens of the Stone Age and Interpol are all soooo jealous. 

Full Review:

That Leon Bridges dude flew straight in from 1961 – described as “Authentic Retro”. 

Dammit, even Madonna has a new record. 

Margraves Part 1

The legendary DJ John Peel had a policy of listening to (and often playing on air) every demo tape he was given by a band – he loved it but also admitted that the sheer quantity drove him mad. As I am a million years away from being the most influential disc jockey in the industry, my task is somewhat easier, yet given my lack of time I have some idea of what he must have felt. At the time of writing I have little more than a handful of followers on Twitter, yet since I opened my account I’ve had bands following me and sending me their work. Here I will attempt to provide a space to showcase some of what I receive and although I cannot promise full reviews, actually I can’t even promise empty reviews, but I will endeavour to put bands out there in some way so that people can make up their own minds; obviously the more excited I am about them, the more  likely I am to go on about them – fair enough?

So, here’s the first crop of what I call ‘Margraves’ – a sideways tribute to John Peel (A.K.A Margrave of the Marshes) – featuring five newish bands, via Twitter, in order of discovery:
The Mantells – britpoppy Arctics influenced, nice clean sound – good vocal.

Lux Lisbon – slick slices of indie tinged atmospheric pop with good strong songs and a well refined sound.

We’re no Heroes – eighties groove with an upbeat sound, very likeable.

Charlywood – infectious English fronted guitar band from Austria with an air of Libertines meets Billy Bragg about them.

False Advertising – slightly mechanical indie fuzzers with some poppy hooks

Five British Rock Bands that Could Use a Break.

In my capacity as a contributing writer for, an alternative rock website in the UK, I’ve been lucky enough to review some really interesting stuff, as well as some pathetically indulgent musically limited shit. Among the non-shit are a whole bunch of upcoming British bands suffering at the hard end of the music business, where lack of money and/or record company support means that a DIY philosophy is prerequisite. Not only are these bands writing their own songs, but they are often using crowdfunding (pledgemusic), producing themselves and in some cases doing their own marketing and booking their own gigs, which is all very admirable but is obviously not a sustainable model. Without significant record sales, top drawer live opportunities or some real financial backing from a record label, bands like these are living on borrowed time and their talents will be confined to an eternity on the pub circuit. Ok, I’m the first to admit that none of these guys are the finished article and the artistic direction of their videos leaves more than a little to be desired, but each one them has talent and all have potential to develop given the right support. Check them out below – with links 🙂

Romans – upbeat hard rock; very succinctly summed up on the “About” of their facebook page – “We like riffs”.

Blind Wives – indie rock crossover with a punky edge recently released their second EP showing off mature song writing skills.

An Elegy – midlands metalcore band with an immense heaviness and interesting song structures born of hard studio time.

Quiet Lions – Brighton based melodic rock band creating expansive sound scapes.

Of Allies – these guys are ready – hard edged alternative rock with strong songs and plenty of appeal. (free download available)

All the bands featured here, which is just the tip of the iceberg of the underground/independent scene, are available for streaming on Deezer (and probably Spotify but I couldn’t be arsed to troll their user unfriendly interface to see), where I also have an ever growing playlist of upcoming bands from around the world:

The Maccabees – Marks to Prove It

b0ffeb97d813799ac7300b9768c33196-98You know those retro Nikes, the ones that hark back to the seventies but actually look fresh and have a certain cool about them? Well, I see the Maccabees as their musical equivalent; there are some old school influences bubbling away under the surface yet there is something fresh and confident about them that sets them apart from their contemporaries. I was a big fan of the expansive sound scapes of 2012’s Mercury nominated ‘Given to the Wild’, so I was anxious to hear the follow up, and thankfully, I’m not disappointed.
On ‘Marks to Prove It’ the Maccabees have upped their game, following an extensive US tour with Mumford and Sons and some trials and tribulations in the studio, and have produced a somewhat introspective mature sounding album, reflecting harsh urban landscapes and themes of love, friendship and the challenges of growing older.
Title track, ‘Marks to Prove It’ is a hectic opener with a crunchy guitar sound in a clear cut nod to their Indie kid days, but there is much more depth to the sound and you can hear their development. They actually experiment to great effect throughout; no two songs sound alike and Orlando Weeks varies his vocal delivery to offer another new dimension, as on the atmospheric ‘Kamakura’ and the multi-faceted ‘Spit it Out’ with its tender piano intro and high tempo rocky climax. ‘Silence’ starts out similarly tenderly and is frankly a rather beautiful song – “understand that it never ends / she’s waiting round every corner every bend” – to which ‘River Song’ is quite a brooding contrast of histrionic saxophone.

I love the emotional urgency of Orlando’s voice and it’s evident in the moody bass rich ‘Slow Sun’ and the intense ‘WWI Portraits’; possibly the most accomplished track of the album. As the record progresses so does the sound, with ‘Pioneering Systems’ and ‘Dawn Chorus’ showing the band’s maturity; the latter being especially interesting with melodic guitar lines, thoughtful vocal and even some horns to give it another dimension, not to forget the female backing vocal which helps bring the album to a meandering hypnotic close.
The one track which I find lacking credibility is the second single, ‘Something Like Happiness; it’s kinda jaunty and actually sounds like something the Mumfords might write rather than a Maccabees song – disappointing.
Nevertheless, ‘Marks to Prove It’ showcases a well developed band offering up their most accomplished release to date; I like the fact that they have progressed steadily throughout their career and have put making great music ahead of achieving instant commercial success. For me they embody the philosophy of do what you love and the success will come. Lovely record, listen as a whole.