The Cribs - The New Fellas
Someone old, someone new, Londonist has a little question for you. What links Yorshire's latest punksters The Cribs with Washington State's psychadelic noisemongers The Screaming Trees? Answer, oddly enough they've both played with seminal pre grunge minimalists Beat Happening. Well Calvin Johnson anyway.
So how does this segue into the album review. Well quite nicely actually because if nothing else the production on this record, courtesy of Edwyn Collins is sparse. So sparse at times that you can almost hear the spaces between the instruments. When it works it works magnificently. The Cribs take that spikey British guitar sound so beloved of current Brit G'it bands like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party with the spunky pop of Parklife era Blur and the rawness of early Oasis. Martell is a beer hall sing-a-long classic, We Can No Longer Cheat You or the title track happy pogoing bounce about tunes.
Fully aware of the scene bandwagon jumping that goes on in the British music industry these days - especially with so many famous fans (they also count Nine Black Alps, The Kaiser Chiefs and Bloc Party amongst their most vocal supporters) - The Cribs reserve some particular vitriol for the uber cool in The Wrong Way To Be and Hey Scenesters and in doing so write two quite brilliant sparky punk tunes that hint of greater things to come: the former breaking into a Go Team! style chant before collapsing into a crescendo of guitars that should blow the roof off any medium sized venue we have to offer them.
Of course, Fellas doesn't always pull it off. It Was Only Love and Hello? Oh! tend to get bogged down in sounding too much like The Coral without being The Coral. The acoustic strum through Haunted really doesn't do singer Ryan Jarman's voice any favours at all and Things Aren't Going To Change veers a little too close to The Strokes for our liking, but it rounds the album off in a gleeful cacophony of horns and guitar. Overall, though, it's a fine album and worthy of a spin on any self respecting scenesters music player.
The Ordinary Boys - Brassbound
Since we're playing the tenuous connection game, what links The Ordinary Boys with The Cribs? Well the Cribs are friends with the Kaiser Chiefs whose keyboard player wears a pork pie hat which were beloved of the early eighties Ska scene which is currently enjoying it's x'th revival courtesy of The Ordinary Boys. Hailing from the sunny shores of Brighton via Coventry and London Brassbound can neatly be summed up as The Clash meets Madness on a Saturday night down the social.
And if that's your thing then you'll pretty much love this becuase if ever there was an record that clung to it's concept in such an even handed manner then this is it. Guitars do that reggae upstroke thing, horns go parp and the backing vocals were chanted in from over the pub wall. Boys Will Be Boys is Night Boat To Cairoooooooo; Life Will Be The Death Of Me liberally pilfers from The Clash's I Fought The Law, frontman Preston doing his best Joe Strummmer throughout. Of course an Ordinary Boys review wouldn't be an Ordinary Boys review without at least a passing reference to The Jam and here comes Thanks To The Girl which nicely blends, erm, The Jam with a touch of Morissey.
And on it goes. Don't forget to throw in some good old dance hall beats, the occasional fleeting nod to The Jackson Five in On An Island, The Specials - well any Ska band you care to mention and success on it's own terms is duly assured. Only the last track Red Letter Day breaks the formula by becoming a standard slightly droney indie track and spoils all the fun.
Although Londonist has steared pretty clear of The Boys in the past this is an undeniably summery record and you'll be hard pressed not to find your feet tapping along. So there's nothing new here but it does exactly what it says on the tin and it'll keep the Mods and the Skins dancing happily though the night at festivals across the country until the nights go cold.
Check out a band less ordinary here
Billy Corgan - The Future Embrace
Before we start we just want to say that we still hold a soft spot for mad King Billy Corgan. We know that's almost as heinous a crime in some eyes as liking Coldplay but there you go. No one's perfect. Gish and Siamese Dream were two great slices of blissed out space rock, we genuinely liked Zwan and Billy's solo work on Jonas Ackerlund's Spun was pretty much the best thing he's ever laid to tape. And then we put on The Future Embrace.
So how do we put this? Well we just don't like the damn thing. The man who put the swoon into grunge has found keyboards like Dubbya found God. There are guitars on this album but they kind of sound like keyboards. Christ even the drums sound like keyboards (probably because it's mostly drum machines from the sounds of it. Swathes of the damn things, layers upon layers of fuzzy synthesised layers of mid tempo sludge that occasionally feels like drowning in Dot Cotton's lungs. When there are guitars they simply echo what the Edge was doing on The Unforgettable Fire so that at best this sounds like Nine Inch Nails meets U2 and at worst early Duran Duran meets something tedious like Spear of Destiny.
Kicking off with All Things Change, possibly the most upbeat song on the record it's still a host of fuzz over a drum machine beat with just the occasional sign that Bill could once write a damn fine pop melody. That's only the occasional sign mind.
Things take a nasty turn for the worse with his cover of the Bee Gees To Love Somebody. You can imagine Billy trudging through the snow with his Dickens hat and sad clown painty face opining
You don't know what it's like to love somebody the way I love you
as everything fuzzes off around him in a way that makes Joy Division sound, well, joyful. It might be a brave take as covers go but in our book it's a bag of twat.
Now (And Then) touches on the theme tune from Betty Blue without anything that made Betty Blue beautiful. So Billy could be your friend now and then. Er, actually. No. Not until you remember that music can be played at more then 4bpm. I'm Ready seems to include the word ready 150 billion times.
We hit the fast forward button at this point. We've stopped caring. We really wanted to like this but every track pretty much fades into each other in terms of style. Here come the synths. Here comes the soft layer of production fuzz. Here come the magniloquent lyrics. We don't even know what magniloquent means, we just found it in the thesaurus.
There's hardly a sign of the man who once wrote the glorious Disarm. Just 45 minutes of utter dribble, and we do mean this quite literally. When Pretty Pretty Star comes on with some kind of sub robotic backing vocals all we can do is scream "Please Lord, make it stop." Which, thankfully it eventually does.
Cato Salsa Experience and The Thing with Joe McPhee - Sounds Like A Sandwich
But something's still missing. What can it be?
Of course, the album of the week award. Uncle Bill. Hmm, possibly - just kidding! Cribs and Boys are both ok. No, this week the award goes to another record that crept in under the radar to deliver the required kick of excitement, vitality and that rare commodity - something we haven't heard before.
And so we have a Norwegian psychadelic garage rock band, The Cato Salsa Experience teaming up with oddball jazz trio The Thing and 66 year old esteemed sax player, Joe McPhee, recorded live at last year's Kongsberg Jazzfestival.
The title track is essentially a race to the finish line with everyone blowing, plucking, strumming and pounding their hearts out until it all breaks down into some form of chaotic conclusion. To be honest all the tracks take this form at some point and it's a glorious mess of energy and enthusiasm. Whole Lotta Love captures the raw power of the Zep whilst their cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Art Star bounces along in a funky Electric Mayhem kind of way before the saxes do their best to emulate a full on Hendrix wig out.
Don Ayles's Our Prayer is more straightforward free jazz taking in a gentle mariachi blues that still ends with two minutes of relaxed chaos. It's then down to a nigh on a bullet train MC5 blast through Cato Salsa's Hardcore Mama and you can't help but feel that we need more rock/jazz punk experimentation, especially when it tastes this good.
A substantially filled sarnie then and one that we recommend you add to your daily menu at the first opportunity.
Apologies if you've missed the links to the other reviewers this week. But quite frankly we ended up getting steamingly drunk in the sunshine instead. And we hope you all did too.