record reviews january 2015


I Remember (Scratchy)


Described by one magazine as a cross between Dinosaur Jr and The Lemonheads, the London trio are a fairly generic example of fuzzy ringing guitar pop where anything longer than three and a half minutes is virtually an epic. As they romp through such numbers as Wheels, Gravity Glue, Saddest Thing (That Didn’t Matter In The World), I Don’t Want To Get Over You and Hotwired To My Memories, they shoot off echoes of Husker Du, Teenage Fan Club and The Only Ones while Mr Ciccone’s Daughter nods to the So You Wanna Be A Rock n Roll Star era of The Byrds. The energetic pace rarely varies, although Lion Tamer’s Jacket (which references Sgt Pepper and Hendrix in its hymn to 1967 fashion) does venture into mid-tempo psychedelia, which tends to make everything rather coalesce, but if this is the way you prefer your six strings to sound, then they do a pretty competent job.

Mike Davies


In The A.M.Wilds (Factor)

The High Dials - In The AM WILDS

Montreal shoegaze from the same scene that spawned The Arcade Fire, for all their attempt at anthemic this three piece are unlikely to find similar success, but opening and closing numbers Echoes And Empty Rooms and Blank Spaces On The Map may well find favour with fans of The Church. Likewise, expanding their psychedelic sensibility to take in shades of soul (Impossible Things), cosmic prog (brief instrumental The Barroom Fisher King), shuffling indie (Amateur Astronomer), krautrock (Club Stairs) and disco pop beats (On Again, Off Again) with synths and drum machines means they’re difficult to easily pigeonhole, something that will attract the more experimental listener, but may well bar entry to a wider audience.

Mike Davies


Take It Like A Man (Yep Roc)


Well known for charting the roots of Southern folk and blues by way of things like In Search if the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, White is also something of a bluegrass fan. Although, until now, his songs of that ilk have not found any outlet in his recordings.. However, a meeting with the Athens-based roots-grass outfit has spawned this collaboration with White originally brought on board as producer before joining the band and contributing his own songs to their material.

As you might imagine, it’s not your standard bluegrass, both sides of the equation brining their own skewed visions to the table top produce things like the drawled, semi-spoken clank-country stomp Gravity Won’t Fail, the frenetic fiddling Corn Pone Refugee, slow stomp revival gospel Sinner, the whimsical brevity of Paranormal Girlfriend and a banjo driven mutant hoe down rework of Wordmule from Wrong Eyed Jesus. Not exactly one for bluegrass newbies or purists, but anything with s song (Jim 3.16) that features a line about how “a bar is just a church where they serve beer” has to be worth a listen.

Mike Davies


Boxers (Blue Rose)


Featuring Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon guitar, the husky-voiced blue collar alt-country rocker reckons the album sounds to him like a meeting between Crazy Horse and the Replacements with nods to the likes of The National. So, that’ll be strident drums, rousing guitars and anthemic choruses then, kicking off with the title cut and working its way through the Springsteenesque Suffer No More, a chugging God’s Not Here Tonight, the harp-wailing, guitar circling hymn to love and loss that is The First Heartbreak and the acoustic led mid-tempo portrait of small town hopelessness and cynicism, We Are Libertines.

Tracy Bonham provides violin to the excellently titled, Petty-like Then She Threw Me Like A Hand Grenade while Until Kingdom Come is essentially a strummed tribute to the power of song to inspire built around references to the likes of Dirty Old Town, Here Comes The Sun and Johnny B Goode and, reinforcing the album’s theme of disappointment and despair, This One’s For You, Frankie story of a man whose big dreams were never matched by reality. As the air-punching An Anthem For The Broken suggests, it’s those who live with loss where Ryan finds the fire of humanity burns strongest, leading to the album’s stripped back closing hope-fuelled track, If You’re Not Happy, where, to a drone that conjures thoughts of a star-filled evening sky, he sings “if you’re not happy. it’s alright. Just hold on tight and make it through the night’. On Frankie he sings about filling the heart with hopeful bombs. Grab a copy and let them explode.

Mike Davies


Joyful Noise (Old School)


Hailing from Iowa, KOTT are firmly in the Southern bluesy rock mould of outfits like the Crowes, Allmans et al with all the drawled vocals and guitar boogie rhythms that involves albeit coloured with banjo, mandolin and, on the title track, fiery fiddle.

For the most part, whilst uniformly well played, it’s fairly meat and potatoes stuff, numbers often stretching out past the four or five minute mark and sounding like they’d last even longer live, but where the album stands out from the crowd is when it takes a trip down the sidepaths, as, for example, on the simple, roots-country stomping The Wandering Kind, Deadman with its echoes of classic Wild Horses era Stones mixed with The Band, thegood time saloon bar shuffle of Rock Island Line and the broken dreams of Cowboy Boots which somehow manages to blend Dr Hook and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Best of all though is Six Bullets, a powerful ballad written about the police shooting of unarmed Tyler Comstock and sung from a father’s perspective. It’s on moments like these that the band rise above the solid soil in which they’re rooted and really fly.

Mike Davies 2014