New releases go under the microscope

Former Planes Mistaken For Stars frontman Gared O’Donnell hasn’t had the best of years.  It need not be dwelt upon, suffice to say a tumultuous 12 months is laid bare in nine darkly introspective sermons that will send a shiver down your spine.  His liquor store growl smothers the acoustic and occassionally thunderous undertones that often play out like a funeral march, to stunning effect.  The mood is sombre and subdued, a reflection of the subject matter we’re dealing with and whilst you can feel the pain etched into each acoustic stroke, the songs never fully reveal themselves until spins three and four.  Unfurling like the last PMFS album ‘Mercy’, which showcased a scarred collective; one that found the perfect medium in which to deliver a bludgeoning message with unurring ferocity.  Olly Murs this is not and you won’t find yourself nodding your head to it, but you will be drawn in to experience a snapshot of what it’s like to hit rock bottom.  Brilliant stuff.  (8)

MARBLE VALLEY – ‘Breakthrough’
On first listen this is a set of sozzled late night meanderings from Pavement drummer Steve West’s new collective.  Randomly generated by fevered minds some of the songs don’t stand up to close scrutiny, but where its devoid of any abstract complexity what they do succeed in doing is delivering a compelling mood piece that’s so horizontal it’s almost Dude like.  Lulling the listener into a mellow state that disguises a barbed undercurrent.  Just check the superb lethargy depictions on ‘Wildlife Free Zone’ and ‘The Dan Map Experience’, both incoherent and uneasy benchmarks in an album that does bear fruit with repeat spins.  An album that’s been pulled, stretched  and slapped into place from the back of a cafe in Amsterdam, often hitting the nail squarely on the head with straight to the point rockers ‘Decay Cascade’ and ‘My Siberian Bride’.  What you get is a dysfunctional racket that’s so throwaway it’ll tickle you all the way to the fruit machine.  One for the lazy days.  (7)

Formed in Brighton from the ashes of Meet Me in St Louis, Shoes and Socks Off, O You Broken Eyes and Shield Your Eyes, this three piece fuse Sonic Youth, early…Trail of Dead and Johnny Foreigner into a low-fi refraction of the truth.  On ‘Radial Images’ the handcuffs are off and inevitably they’ve returned to their roots, without forgetting the progress they’ve notched up in the past.  Here they sound live and dangerous, slapping together a set of songs with an ease thats built on professional skill and while it may often sound like they’re goofing around, what shines through is a band on the edge of invention.  Just listen to the guitars crash in on space-stretching chords before being brought back down to earth on a well aimed drum clout.  The Mannequins sound has been opened up to allow pop punk vibrations to bounce around the concepts still dominant garage grind.  Which makes for occassionally thrilling listening and a sense of fun that to most will be highly infectious indeed.  (7)

JANE’S ADDICTION – ‘The Great Escape Artist’
The Farrell, Navarro collaboration has always delivered the goods.  Built on a foundation of genuine independent creativity, two unbelievable albums of depth and quality, a true sense of leadership and bravado, not to mention some of the greatest alternative rock of the past twenty odd years.  Consistently living up to such a reputation comes with its demons and while ’01’s ‘Strays’ was a strong return; if incomparable to ‘Ritual…’ or ‘Nothings Shocking’, ‘The Great Escape Artist’ continues where it left off.  We’ve seen some harsh and unfounded criticism, which instead of slating them for not living up to the LPs they recorded over 20 years ago, we should be contrasting them within the environment they currently operate in; against the wealth of dross trying to convince everyone they’re the new pioneers.  They’re not and they never will be, because when it comes to Jane’s no one comes close.  There are great tracks on offer here and they should be commended as such – the two singles ‘End to the Lies’ and ‘Iressistable Force’ standing tall.  Opener ‘Underground’ with its sinister undertone, ‘I’ll Hit You Back’ and ‘Broken People’ for their monolithic and spiralling choruses.  We’d love to hear Navarro push the boundaries of his axe work a bit further and it may not be ‘Ritual…’, but let it lie, nothing ever will be.  (8)

dEUS – ‘Keep You Close’
Art-rock impressarios dEUS were probably the purveyors of one of the most engaging albums we’ve ever heard; actually scratch that, two of the most engaging albums.  Born in Antwerp 20 years ago their debut ‘Worst Case Scenario’ drew upon some ironically diverse influences such as Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa; and was almost completely indecipherable, yet truly inspired.  ’99’s exeptional ‘The Ideal Crash’ moved away from such eccentricities to a much more accessible package and after several line up changes and an extended hiatus, they returned with two further LPs of emotional pop energy that are well worth tracking down.  This latest release couldn’t be further apart from their debut or creative peak but don’t worry, it’s no less impressive.  In a world where the ultimate statement of frustration and rebellion is being peddled by fluffballs too preoccupied with the effects of their own wrecklessnes, it’s a relief to hear this. Perfect sweeping pop-rock with restrained performances and delicately addicitive melodies, there are enough hooks to stock an abatoire.  These are superbly arranged tunes and further proof that the big league should’ve been an inevitability.  (8)

LAFARO – ‘Easy Meat’
We’re not too familiar with rythmic post-hardcore of this nature we must admit.  The Irish equivalent to a jackboot to the scrotum, ‘Easy Meat’ is a wedge of blistering street punk devoid of mandatory influence and a Bronx accent; but still produces the aggression to compete with the likes of Future of the Left, The Jesus Lizard, Helmet and Shellac.  Consisting of pissed off chunks of nutty hardcore, its designed to punish and pulverise with a bottle of beer in one hand and a meat cleaver in the other: ‘Full Tilt’, ‘Sucking Diesel’ and ‘Boke’ all loaded to the gills with a massive underground feel that harnesses all the obnoxious power of present day noise.  Music is too safe right now and Lafaro are delivering a massive headbutt to that notion.  There’s something genuinely disturbing at work here and they instill a niggling unease that stays with you long after the record has finished.  Trouble is, we love it!  Particularly album highlights ‘Settle Petal’  and ‘Off the Chart’.  Fast, frenetic, deliberate, instantly infectious and chock full of rabble rousing beligerence crafted with pure flair and attention.  It may be an acquired taste but this is utterly exhausting yet truly exhilirating.  (9)

MASTODON – ‘The Hunter’
Just when we thought we had them pegged, the Atlanta behemoth has dipped its toe in the pool of experimenatation once again; delivering an album that couldn’t be further from the lashings of thrashing so brutally laid down on ‘Leviathan’ and ‘Blood Mountain’.  It seems ‘mutate to survive’ is the order of the day and while expectations were of record that would ulitmately divide their fan base,  the current climate is perfect for an album like ‘The Hunter’, because it shows Mastodon are willing to completely overhaul themselves to make a record they’ve desperately been searching for.  Where ‘Blood Mountain’ was mesmerising in its technicality, ’09’s progressive ‘Crack the Skye’ lead us to believe there was soul behind the mayhem.  ‘The Hunter’ lays down an entirely new marker for their contempories; with laid back grooves, soaring guitar work and vocal harmonies better than anything we’ve heard this year.  It’s not perfect and probably sits behind ‘Blood…’ and ‘Crack..’ but what we have here is still enthralling and essential.  From the opening delerium of ‘Black Tongue’ and ‘Stargasm’ to the dense undertones of ‘Dry Bone Valley’ and ‘Spectrelight’; they’re spreading their wings.  And if you need an indication as to how far they’ve come, just wrap your ears around ‘Creature Lives’; we doubt you’ll believe what you’re hearing.  (8)

THRICE – ‘Major/Minor’
For album number seven our favourite Californian sons have continued where album number six left off; combining the more melodic and experiemental nuances that have brought them out from the underground in such glorious style.  With a legacy that has more twists than Chubby Checker’s back catalgoue, Dustin Kensrue and co have continued to ditch the screaming hardcore of their earlier offerings, for a more gentle and considered approach.  It all still rocks like a bastard and the caustic sharpness of Teppei’s free-styling fretwork is better than ever; taking the pathways forged on ’09’s Beggars to dramatic new horizons.  But where Beggars is a fantastic record; immediate in it’s time signatures, choruses and song structures, ‘Major/Minor’ takes its time in coming forward.  On first listen it bounces by like a new born baby on a pogo stick.  But come spins three, four and five the delicate textures and subtle messages begin to unravel and unfurl across your eardrums.  There are few bands around at the moment that can hit home as effectively as this and we’d go as far to say that Thrice are probably one of the best rock bands of the modern era.  Rivetting from start to finish and destined to be amongst many an end of year list, you need to own this record.  (9)

ICARUS LINE – ‘Wildlife’
There’s something instantly likeable about Icarus Line: they don’t play any ridiculous rock star image games, and they’re fully immersed in the art of writing great, catchy songs.  They’ve no connection with any passing trend, just mainline garage style rock music to be played and enjoyed.  Their fourth album ‘Wildlife’ actually makes it worthwhile sometimes, ranting on about how good US indie bands can be – it has a genuine feel of substance, and real intent.  They appear to have learned how to use space and depth to telling effect; opener ‘King Baby’ and ‘Soul Save’ resist the temptation to fully exploit all available technology and work as much through whats left out, as whats actually included.  If ‘No Lords’ and ‘We Want More’ step a little too close to routine, ‘All the Little things’ and ‘Like a Scab’ emerge to make the whole thing completely credible again.  (8)

PRIMUS – ‘Green Naugahyde’
After 11 years Primus return with studio album number seven and still, they show no signs of that terrible curse that so often accompanies age, ‘crapness’.  Where ‘Frizzle Fry’ and ‘Tales From the Pubnchbowl’ were their heavy rock records, ‘Sailing the Seas of Cheese’ and ‘Pork Soda’ the silly ones, then ‘Green Naugahyde’ is an amalgamation of all four.  They’re like the friend you have that’s always happy; like they know something you don’t.  And if you’re looking for an inclin as to the world they live in, then ‘Eternal Consumption Engine’, a classic Primus ditty, is just the ticket.  Taking the best bits from ‘Frizzle Fry’ and ‘Tales…’ Claypool and co have always had that unknown vibe, and on tracks like ‘Last Salmon Man’, ‘Jilly’s on Smack’ and ‘Lee Von Cleef’, the surprises just keep on coming.  With the thick as treacle bass-slap and Larry Lalonde’s razor sharp guitar funk coating everything in a wonderfully sticky glaze,  the band formed in a big clanking machine that took the best parts of popeye, mixed them with hillbilly bits and filled the space with soft toys for the mentally useless, will have you looning around the house again in no time.  So don’t be a fool, put on those cheesy grins and join us other fruits as we loon about the house to truly nutty music.  (8)

EVALINE – ‘Woven Material’
Touring with the likes of Dredg, Deftones and Placebo has clearly had an influence on Californian alt-rockers Evaline.  For their debut is riddled with the sort of melodic, anthemic and epic rock that has become the signature of their aforementioned contemporaries.  ‘Woven Material’ captures a bittersweet and twisted concoction of rock and purge as the group melodiousness is pitched against vocalist  Richard Perry’s  lyrical twists and turns.  Opener ‘Beneath the Fire’ is a glorious sweeping epic that swings like a hookers arse and bucks like a bronco.  ‘Equally’, ‘Hours’ and ‘Overwhelming Shapes’ all carry a punk undercurrent that playfully skims beneath the surface with tight and to the point song structures.  But there’s a counter point to this and if this LP lacks anything its consistency. Where ‘Feeding on the Congregations’ and ‘All in My Mind’ demonstrate their true potential, tracks like ‘Ascend’ and ‘Rapture’ lose perspective, dragging things down a notch or two.  Still, you should catch this if you can because Evaline could easily evolve into something very special indeed.  (7)

IN FLAMES – ‘Sounds Of A Playground Fading’
As interest in traditional death metal continues to receed like Kerry Kings (long gone) hairline, it’s time for something different.  Swedish death metallers In Flames are now ten albums in with the release of ‘Sounds…’ and where the previous nine offerings where all about gut wrenching riffs and Anders Friden’s long suffering larynx, this release sees the five-piece spreading their wings a little in almost every department you can name: musically, vocally and lyrically.  That’s not to say they’ve sold out, far from it; the trademark twin guitars will still nail your nuts to the nearest tree.  The most significant difference here is in the vocals and the familiar noises emanating from Friden’s throat aren’t the point, its the fact he’s channelling his stench-ridden groans into words and not just screaming to fit the riffs.  ‘Sounds…’ is probably the first IF release you’ll hear where anything of note is really audible.  From the garotting title track opener through ‘ Fear is the Weakness’, the excellent ‘ Where the Dead Ships Dwell’ and the haunting electronic undertones of  ‘Jesters Door’ (which ends far too early for our liking; it would’ve been interesting to see where they could’ve taken that one).  For a modern metal release there are surprisingly too many highlights and not enough room to pontificate.  But there’s no mistaking, In Flames have come of age; at last.  (9)

From the brains that brought you The Automatic, Yourcodenameismilo: and Bloc Party’s bass bombast, comes YoungLegionnaire, a sonically sound Brit four-piece whose speciality is making ear drums bleed and souls soar.  These days it’s all too easy to strap on an axe and bash out any old three chord tirade.  Having said that YL are exceptional noiseniks that pop up occasionally like fresh and temptingly squeezable spots, throttling texture from the most off beat noisemongery.  Very much like Cave In’s excellent ‘Antenna’ opus, this is rock stripped down to its sinews with chrome coiled guitars that flex and twitch all over the place; shimmering dischords and making foundations shake.  Its the twin attack of Paul Mullens guitar work leading the line, sitting pretty atop Gordon Moakes’ casual bass lines that make ‘Crisis Works’ sting, time after time. (8)

INCUBUS – ‘If Not Now, When?’
Incubus are a rock band right?  I mean there last six studio albums have all had the guitar crunch pushed way up front.  Anyone expecting that theme to continue should look away now because all of a sudden, they’ve gone from rock band to boy band we shit you not.  Credit where credits due it takes a whole bunch of nuts to attempt such a handbreak turn of direction, but where sometimes it can be invigorating for the band and listener, this LP has left us confused and grasping for the back catalogue.  Apart from ‘Switchblade’ we’re sorry to reprt that Brandon Boyd and co have dished up a record so soft and wet, it was probably a water bed in a previous life.  Most disappointingly, one to avoid.  (4)

AWOLNATION – ‘Megalithic Symphony’
This is the brain child of Aaron Bruno, once of Under the Influence of Giants and Hometown Hero. Neither reference is likely to give you an inclination as to what this debut LP is all about.  Hell we thought we were looking at another oddly titled vaccuous nu-indie outfit.  Turns out we were way off; so far off in fact it’s safe to say we’ve had to give this one ‘a bit of time’ to get its hooks in.  Once you get over the surprise electronica-pop-rock crossover hybrid Bruni has going on, there’s an album that has the unerring ability to weave a constantly thrilling pattern of infectious and irresistable anthemic pop songs.  There is a dark water running beneath the immediate pop sensibility however and while first single ‘Sail’ is a perfect example, ‘Wake Up’ and ‘Not Your Fault’ soon turn the tide back towards tunes that are so damn catchy, they take on the quality of nursery ryhmes.  An unexpected hit at Headwarmer towers.  (8)

THE WOLFMEN – ‘Married to the Eiffel Tower’
Before people start sinking their cynical claws into the ageing flesh of Marco Pirroni and Chris Constantinou, they could do with remembering one vital thing.  These men are undeniable gods of rock ‘n’ roll and whilst we’re surrounded by so much belligerent swagger these days, contemporary protagonists have a long way to go before they’re awarded the kinda stripes these boys have on their arms.  Notoriously etched into the memoirs of 80’s acts such as Souxie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants and Lou Reed no less, Pirroni and Constantinou have seen their fair share of bravado.  It seems with this second full length, they’re attempting to bring us all around to their new found underground credibility through a myriad of styles and textures.  Straddling the gap somewhere between The Dandy Warhols, Alabama 3 and the throwaway slackerism of Meat Puppets, what we have here is both unpredictable and undeniable; a collection of lazily cool songs that seem to come so easy to the duo it’s scary.  Recruiting Sinead O’Connor for ‘Jackie, Is It My Birthday?’ is a master stroke and just wrap your ears around the Joe Strummer styled closer ‘Blushing God’.  Despite a couple of duffers this is an album of hope and if there is any justice in the world, it will garner some long overdue recognition for the legendary Brits.  (7)

We like surprises, especially when they’re this good.  Who would have thought that nearly 20 years since we first wrapped our ears around the low slung grooves of Seattle grunge, we’d be sitting here lauding a London outfit purveying the very same grooves with such refreshing verocity.  Pushed along by a guitar growl that rumbles deeply one second, then burts into full force the next, Japanese Voyeurs sound like they’re playing from indside the eye of a desert storm.  When they emerge, led by Romily Alice’s remarkably affecting adolescent vocal, the songs they throw at your feet are still swirling with an energy that is sure to give an electric thrill.  ‘Yolk’ should be snapped up by those who still give a damn about the rock they listen to and by those still searching for life after Kurt and Courtney.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ve turned a corner here.  (8)

We love The Violet May.  Not only are they fans of some of our favourite bands, they also share our hatred for the conveyor belt of ‘paint-by-numbers indie bands’ we’re all subjected to today.  Thank god for bands like this for they are few and far between.  Their music ain’t bad either.  Slapping steaming undercoats of QOTSA style riffs, pumping basslines, hooks big enough to catch a whale and a vocalist who can actually sing, this EP…for want of a better term…rocks the shit!  Ones to watch, for sure.  (8)

GUINEAFOWL – ‘Hello Anxiety EP’
Aussies Guineafowl are starting to grab the headlines with this kick off EP.  The curiously titled moniker is not particularly groundbreaking but their music makes a refreshing blend of modern indie tinkerings and thought provoking song structures.  First single ‘Little Fingers’, with its memorable video, is punchy and riddled with infectious lines and leads, while ‘Botanist’ demonstrates a level of maturity that could well provide them the longevity so many bands desperately seek these days.  A standout slice of nu-indie, and no mistake.  (8)

It’s an odd one this, the fourth LP from Austin’s White Denim.  A trippy mix of garage style pop and alternative folk psychedelia that wanders all over the place without purpose or direction.  What’s dangerous about an album like this is that it grabs the majorities but leaves traditionalists reeling and despite a sense of amiability, there’s a tendency to drift along with each track, without any recognition of what just happened.  Almost inconspicuous in parts and frustratingly new-indie in others, we have a band who are willing to push and cross the boundaries of the modern scene, often to great effect, yet seemingly run out of ideas as they really get close to finish line.  It’s probably safe to say this is their best to date; in fact the first half is hugely enjoyable, our problem is that it tends to drift and feels all too familiar, and a little forgettable.  (6)

TRUE WIDOW – ‘As High as the Highest Heavens…’
What is it about this genre that so many people seem to love?  Slow burning and soporific shoegaze that leaves us just as confused as when the latest drivel from Swans dropped on our doormat.  It’s ritual doom and drawn out focus just makes for tired and downright dull listening for this particular audience.  Perhaps we’re too used to straight ahead song structures and…well….decent rock music, but we just don’t get it.  Hailed by many as a perfect balance between dark and light, with the exception of ‘Skull Eyes’ and ‘Night Witches’ for us its devoid of life and uninspiring from start to finish.  (4)

SLAVES TO GRAVITY – ‘Underwaterouterspace’
Having toured relentlessly in support of their 2008 debut ‘Scatter the Crow’, an album that made it into the top 20 British Rock Charts, you’d be forgiven for thinking STG might be resting on their laurels; not so.  Following such a busy schedule by hitting the studio to record a follow up EP in ’09, then hitting us with this their second LP, Tommy Gleeson and co have really pushed themselves; citing a need to raise their game.  Well rest assured while this is no game changer it certainly packs enough punch to see them elevated even further up the rankings of easy to like, modern day rock bands.  Drawing hard on the devilish swagger of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver opener ‘Good Advice’ sets the pace and tone for an album that shifts seamlessly between chunky step-forward rock work outs (Lily Liver’, ‘Honesty’, ‘Unknown’) and big dumb-ass college-rock anthems (the aptly titled ‘Dumb’, ‘She’s Got Big Plans’, ‘Silence Now’).  Probably more akin to last years People in Planes release, it’s in part broodier and beefier than their debut; a super-polished platter with big choruses and squealing axe-work.  The problem is that it takes far too long to deliver a sucker punch.  Perhaps the sheer bluster of it all outweighs its substance but overall, it’s straight ahead, unabashed, cheesy and shimmering pomp rock that will no doubt prove their most unique calling card to date.  (7)

Glaswegians Twin Atlantic released a debut mini album back in 2009 to critical acclaim; immediately securing an awestruck audience with songs of eloquence and grandeur.  So anticipation for their debut LP has been nothing short of immense.  And rightly so because with such ambition and confidence it was difficult for us all not to stand up and take notice.  Where the masses will no doubt flock around this particular slice of pop-rock, we’re actually a little unsure of its honesty and direction.  Like most acts these days it all sounds very familiar, distinctly carrying the feel of ‘talent show winners’; the tracks feel a little over engineered  and almost too eager to deliver.  Of course playing this card is a winning formula these days, but the fact the masses are happy to settle for mediocrity doesn’t mean they’ve written a quality album.  Don’t get us wrong they execute it well but if you’re looking for something unique, challenging, edgy and non-mainstream, look elsewhere.  (6)

MAYBESHEWILL – ‘I Was Here For A Moment, Then I Was Gone’
Instrumental rock albums are usually on a hiding to nothing.  How do you generate the interest without vocal ability and lyricism?  Its a bold choice and not one that generally comes with super success or healdine stadium tours, but then that’s not the point.  What’s remarkable about this genre is its ability to deliver the unexpected and stir up the sort of emotion and introspection no other can.  Its bold, driving, often epic and sweeping but equally it can be slow, cumbersome and down right dull.  We’re pleased to say this third LP from Leeds based Maybeshewill comfortably sits within the former.  Not quite on a par with pioneers Mogwai but the heady mix of stirring guitar, pounding drums and ivory tinkerings concoct an often effortlessly cool brew that’s made for headphone perfection.  What’s lacking here is a real edge, a true distinction to seperate from a heavily crowded scene.  But despite its flaws this is intense and boldly assertive.  Worthy of investigation.  (7)

SWIM THE MIND – ‘Waterfall Walls’
Swim the Mind are from Connecticut and are a new name to these shores, but on the evidence of this debut it might not be long before their name is in lights atop many an EU rock billing.   Mixing a dirty and dusky Sword style guitar sound with the grunge of Alice In Chains and some searing Tool style solo work, this is a fine debut.  There are scowling riffs and vocal exhortations that recall the most trippy aspects of garage psychedelia.  With a rythmn section that allows the leads and melodies to surge without interruption, its measured and instantly infectious.  From start to finish it’s a collection of snarling anti-anthems and actually, a more assertive debut would be hard to find.  So pin back your ears and soak up a viscious yet controlled aural assault.  (8)

Visiting Hours of a Travelling Circus
MOJO FURY – ‘Visiting Hours of a Travelling C ircus’
These Irish newcomers pose a bit of a conundrem for us ‘ever ready to slap on an in-appropriate tag here there and everywhere’ music critics.  Every so often an album appears that has no discernable place to be and Mojo Fury’s oddly titled debut is no exception.  There’s bucket loads of Future of the Left, slaps of Dinosaur Jr and just a tickle of Cobain-esque vocalism from frontman Michael Mormencha; so perhaps that makes it some kind of eclectic agit-grunge-rock.  Which sounds dreadful but trust us when we say this is indeed worthy.  From the opening salvo of ‘The Mann’ through to the buzz-sawin’ ‘Bones’, we’re presented with a smart and compelling command of the rock underbelly.  First single ‘Colour of the Bear’ and the plethora of angles presented on ‘ Deep Fish Tank’, ‘What A Secret’ and ‘Lemon Marine’; might lead some to say ‘an acquired taste’, we say worthy; well worthy.  (8)

THURSDAY – ‘No Devolucion’
Sitting somewhere between modern day Thrice, Brand New and Deftones, this sixth full length from New Yorks Thursday is a very pleasant surprise indeed.  Far from the traditional post hardcore of previous offerings, ‘No Devolucion’ feels bigger, no, larger than ’09’s ‘Common Existance’ or ’01’s ‘Full Collapse’.  Here the band explore new atmospherics, digging that little bit deeper to unearth tracks that curl and coil around your ear drums like nothing they’ve ever written before.  Their musings are moody, morose and thought provoking, with typically riff laden fayre, rumbling bass and thunderous drums its all perfectly infused with some super-symphonic keyboard strokes.  Do we even hear some remarkablyc effective accordion in there too?  Slightly pretentious closer ‘Stay True’ aside this is as emminently listenable as ‘Beggars’, ‘Daisy’ or ‘Diamond Eyes’ and could well be a huge leap forward the band.  (8)

FOO FIGHTERS – ‘Wasting Light’
Despite some killer singles Grohl and co have predominantly succeeded until now on past glories.  Since The Colour and the Shape they’ve failed to deliver an album of such succinct consistency, energy and memorable song writing as their debut and sophomore efforts.  So anticipation for this seventh studio LP recorded entirely on analogue, was cautious to sy the least.  But where ‘In Your Honour’ and ‘Echoes…’ only created momentary shafts of light, this is over flowing with ideas, chock full of scorching riffs and crammed with a collection of hooks and melodies we haven’t heard played this well in years.  In fact we’d go as far to say that it could well be their best.  In an era crammed with crap bands, this is a welcome return to true Rock form and well worth your hard earned sheckles.  (8), maybe a (9)

THE GET UP KIDS – ‘There Are Rules’
They’re back and boy are we glad to have them.  Six years since their last long player The Get Up Kids have joined forces again with Bob Weston, he who twiddled the knobs on debut ‘Four Minute Mile’ to produce an absolute gem that will take an unsuspecting audience completely by surprise.  No longer with Vagrant, Matt Pryor and co have really cut loose on this one and explored some intriguing avenues that will set this album apart from everything they’ve done in the past.  There are lashings of rock, funky melodies and some of the fattest basslines we’ve heard in years; there’s even some layers of prog and electronica that really shouldn’t work on a GUK album.  But work they do, particularly on the jaw dropping ‘Keith Case’, their best track to date; through the rumbling drums and barbed-wire guitars on ‘The Widow Paris’ and the superbly infectious penultimate track ‘When It Dies’ with Pryor pushing himself further vocally than ever before.  As a whole ‘There Are Rules’ contains the killer clout so desperately lacking in its modern day contempories, making it a dead cert for many an end of year list.  We’ve run out of superlatives so for now, just enjoy the best Get Up Kids album to date, by some distance.  (9)

VESSELS – ‘Helioscope’
Leeds based five-piece Vessels have managed to steer a cunning and convincing path between the same old same old and radical departure, on this their sophomore long player.  Delivering an album that ebbs and flows with countless unexpected twists and turns from their 2008 debut ; yes there are vocals, courtesy of guest Stuart Warwick and three way lyrical trade-offs between Peter Wright and guitarists Tom Evans and Lee Malcolm.  It works really rather well with the whole ensemble playing to a musical telepathy on standout tracks ‘Recur’, ‘Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute’ and ‘All Our Ends’.  ‘The Trap’ is a herbal high par excellence and the carpet bombing ‘Heal’ snaps and crackles without ever degenerating into mindless noise.  If this album has a single theme running through it, that theme is quality.  Quality that should ensure ‘Helioscope’ is a very big rock record for 2011 indeed.  Ignore at your peril.  (8)

AMPLIFIER – ‘The Octopus’
The word colossal can and should only be used in certain circumstances.  When something is so vast in size and importance, it could block the sun if launched into space.  The only place big enough to contain and comprehend dreams and ambitions, power and force; the unexplainable.  This trio from Manchester are astronauts, truly.  The music contained on their third long player is stratospheric in every sense of the word  and where sophomore effort ‘Insider’ only just got off the ground, this is doing rings round Uranus.  Astronomical analogies aside ‘The Octopus’ seriously kicks ass and blasts its contempories clean out of the water.  Spanning two discs and 16 tracks long, it’s probably best consumed in two halves rather than as a whole; simply to allow the magnitude of what took years to create to infuse the senses  And whilst its not perfect, it harks back to the accessibility of their eponymous debut and as such, its a real game changer and two slices of warped genius.  (9)


215 thoughts on “2K11”

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