It’s less than 12 months since Tensheds released their 4th album ‘Deathrow Disco’, yet December 2019 might seem like a lifetime ago now. Let’s head back to the start of this chaotic year in March, where main man Matt Millership found himself in isolation, an extensive tour cancelled, and no way to promote his music.

He, like many other musicians and artists, adapted to the situation, found ways to create and get an outlet to his fanbase. He performed a Livestream that was successful, and though apprehensive at first, Matt embraced this new format and the following live sessions grew into a regular event affectionately entitled ‘The Punk Palace Sessions’. Matt promised to write and perform a new song every week, he delivered, and the outcome of these sessions are this new solo album, ‘The Days Of My Confinement’, written and recorded entirely in isolation.

 

Not surprisingly, ‘The Days Of My Confinement’ is the antithesis of ‘Deathrow Disco’. While that last album, funnily enough, deals with its own themes of isolation, musically it is a gritty, alternative beast full of heavy beats and gravelly vocals. ‘The Days Of My Confinement’ is more of a celebration of the piano, and showcases the songwriter’s classic training, and is therefore a much more somber and subdued affair. Working within the confines of his home studio, Matt creates drama and certain moods that he probably would not have managed if the world was a different place during the recording.

There is a certain intimacy to the performance here. These haunting piano sermons are songs stripped bare to the bone, the songwriter bearing his inner soul for all to digest. Opener ‘Ticking Clocks’ sets the scene perfectly as Matt’s tinkling of the ivories contrasts with raspy vocals, before a bass drum beat and layered piano runs take the listener to another plane.

Matt’s classical training lends him well throughout, the clever song structures help pique the interest as each song has a certain ebb and flow. On ‘The Bridge Song’, the strong vocal performance and subdued verse lead this listener into a false sense of security, before stabs of piano chords take me by surprise. To me, it sounds like it was recorded in a church, the piano player being observed by a silent congregation as he plays his heart out. It’s both emotive and dramatic in equal measures.

Elsewhere, the first single ‘Mirrors’ is as epic as it gets, the sweeping chorus as grandiose as its counterpart verse is timid. ‘Hell Is In The Water’ has a fuller band sound that sees Matt explore and incorporate more instruments, he takes us to church on this sermon with handclaps and fuzzy stabs of guitar. On ‘Cotton Wool World’ the delicacy of the delivery is fascinating, Matt’s raw, gravelly tones almost breaking over a piano melody that is dancing on a razor’s edge.

 

The confines that were forced upon him and the goals that he set himself have worked in his favour, and Matt Millership has created an album that is as majestic as it is stark and chilling. This is not an upbeat or even a happy album, but we are not in happy times and in that way, it seems quite fitting. If you’re a fan of Tom Waits, if you love the echoey, reverb drenched feel of Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’, or have been enraptured by Nick Cave’s recent ‘Idiot Prayer’ performance, then you could do no wrong getting Tensheds new album in your creepy little mitts for Christmas.

Buy the album Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

York based indie rock desperados Hello Operator formed while still at school over a mutual love of Queens Of The Stone Age, The Black Keys and Arctic Monkeys. In the six years since their formation the four-piece band have toured heavily, including appearances at such famed festivals as the Isle Of White and Reading & Leeds fest. Their debut single ‘Stephanie’ was championed by Radio 1’s Greg James and Frank Carter. Following a steady slew of single and EP releases, the band finally unleash their self-titled debut album on an unsuspecting world.

Featuring five past singles that I am aware of, it is no surprise that there is an instant familiarity on first listen. But what I wasn’t prepared for, was how hard these boys rock! Don’t be fooled by the bands indie rock leanings, as I am happy to report ‘Hello Operator’ is a full-blown monster of an album. With fuzzed up guitars, booming bass and pummeling drums that have the combined power to dislodge your spleen from the stomach, the band create a desert rock wasteland for main songwriter and singer Max Dalton to croon over until the cats come home.

Following radio interference and feedback, ‘Decimator’ gets things off to a raucous start. Fuzzy, Josh Homme inspired riffage courtesy of guitarist Peter Greenwood, the powerhouse rhythm section of Sam Dalton (bass) and Eddy Ellison (drums) and Max’s ultra-cool falsetto hook, combine with definite Arctic Monkeys influences to create a beast of an album opener blasting off at 3 minutes and 33 seconds.

Of the already released singles there is much to enjoy. ‘I Created A Monster’ takes a bluesy, Tarantino-esque vibe and runs with it. A cool bass line and solid drums lead us through a tale of creating a lady Frankenstein who lives in a dumpster or something, while Max delivers a cool, memorable chorus and Pete matches the intense rising beats with frantic riffage.

‘King Solomon’ sees the band stomp a heavy leather boot in yer face, with Jack White harmonised guitar lines and a killer chorus refrain. Elsewhere, ‘Reeperbahn’ sees the boys cruise down an 80’s new wave influenced highway. With a driving beat and a killer vocal hook that imbeds in the brain, this is a quality single release. (It’s also worth hunting down the various dance remixes available online that just add to the diversity of this band).

The regimental beats and Liam Gallagher style whine of ‘King Of Ruin’ hits the spot. The alternative 90’s feel at the fore, it comes on like Oasis raging against the machine. Is that a thing? Well, it is now!

 

But there’s one particular song on this album that stands out from the rest. One song that is the focal point of what this band are truly capable of. When I first heard ‘The Choreographer’, I was blown away. The next two people I played it to had the same reaction. I recently heard someone suggest it would make an ace, alternate Bond theme tune, and I think they hit the nail right on the head.

This song has a cinematic quality for sure. The picked acoustic guitar intro, the subtle strings that build nicely, to the haunting vocal performance that shows a vulnerability to Max’s vocals. Then there’s that unexpected moment when the band kick in that makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. This is a band taking things to a whole new level. It could well be the song of the year. Simply stunning.

 

The clever arrangements, infectious hooks and glorious guitars keep on coming and keep this listener’s attention. ‘Strangers in The Rain’ and ‘Animalize’ are cool as you like, and album closer ‘I Am Your Bible’ follows a similar cinematic path to ‘The Choreographer’. A dark and foreboding vibe is created as a skulking bassline drives the song. The guitars intertwine as it flows along nicely, before unexpectedly going off on a tangent into some otherworldly Danny Elfman soundscape with jagged guitars and raging drums. Up and down, it takes the listener on a rollercoaster ride of emotions before descending one final time to fade.

In the past they’ve been called feral, ferocious and fucking amazing! Now, with the right management and record label, it seems the time is right for the band to make their move. With strong songwriting, a killer sound and a production job that brings out the best in the boys, Hello Operator have released a debut album that’s up there in the running with anything released this year. It’s the perfect mash of indie vibes and desert rock goodness you never knew you needed in your life. I highly recommend you click the link, buy the digital version for now and hassle the hell outta their record company to release the thing on vinyl in time for Christmas.

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Low Cut Connie main man Adam Weiner stands at his piano in his dressing gown, his mop of corkscrew hair dangling in his baby blue eyes like some crazed, Jewish Jerry Lee Lewis. Those same eyes stare directly at the screen as he sings his heart out for yet another of his weekly livestream events beamed from his living room. These weekly ‘Tough Cookies’ episodes are the new normal for a musician who had 150 plus gigs booked this year to promote the release of his band’s new album ‘Private Lives’. It’s a chance for the musician to connect with his audience, play songs and interview fellow creatives.

Covid times have derailed the lives of all musicians and entertainers for the near future and many are adapting and turning recent events around to do what they can to survive and continue to bring their art to their fanbase while live music is a no-no. You can’t keep a good band down and albums are still being made. ‘Private Lives’ is Low Cut Connie’s 6th long player. An ambitious 17 track double album that continues the Philidelphian resident’s obsession with the inner workings, the ‘private lives’ of everyday people.

The title track kicks the whole thing off in fine form. The upbeat rocker is the sort of tune a T Bird would’ve used to woo a gal like Sandy. An overly familiar drum rhythm thumps like a heartbeat alongside finger clicks, before a killer vocal refrain imbeds itself in your skull. Low Cut Connie have a knack of doing this sorta shit to ya on a regular basis!

Adam then takes his pals to church on the anthemic ‘Help Me’. A euphoric release of emotion. A cry for help. A plea for salvation. Call it what you will, I call it cool rock ‘n’ roll, baby! A great piano riff, a killer guitar lick and cool cat drums lead us into an emotive vocal performance. 2 tracks in and I must say this is one of the most live sounding records that isn’t actually a live record. If the band were intending to capture even a snapshot of their live show, then I say job well done here.

Clever use of space, interesting arrangements that thrill with every new listen, and melodies that stay with you long after the (virtual) needle has left the groove. These are the things that make ‘Private Lives’ an album you will want to return to again and again. Add to that a keen knack of character observation and storytelling that matches the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel.

The songwriter manages to put you in the shoes of characters, where you can feel their pain, their despondency and their frustration of daily life. All the time emulating his heroes to great effect. Nods to The Boss are ever-present in the likes of ‘Run To Me Darlin’, but none so more than ‘Look What They Did’, Adam Weiner’s self-proclaimed follow-up to Springsteen’s ‘Atlantic City’. Armed with just a lone piano and a background of mournful strings he tells a tale of hopes and dreams being destroyed by profiteers who abandoned the city to ruin.

 

Stories of underdogs litter ‘Private Lives’ and its these tales that draw the listener in and make them feel akin to the stories and part of the album. Take a rowdy, rock n’ roll road trip with the likes of ‘Take A Little Ride Downtown’ or ‘Tea Time’. Witness Adam channel Elton John to perfection in the likes of ‘Charyse’ and the ballistic ball breaker that is ‘Nobody Else Will Believe You’. A song that makes me yearn for a live music fix live never before. Damn you Adam Weiner, damn you!

The highlights are plentiful. The fun time blast that is ‘The Fuckin You Get (For The Fuckin You Got)’ is like a profanity-filled Huey Lewis And The News cut. Nifty guitar licks and sleazy sax mix with Weiner’s piano runs. For me, it’s an album highlight. The live feel continues in the glorious and ramshackle ‘If I Die’. A jammed out, sloppy guitar lick introduces the song, the singer drawls “ok-ok” before slamming the keys and leading his band into a dirty, sweat-soaked blues workout.  Like Exile-era Stones, this is late night, whisky soaked juke joint music, capturing the live energy and essence of a Low Cut Connie show to the max.

 

While Adam Wiener’s challenge of exploring internal lives has been realized with an ambitious and emotive double album containing great storytelling and quality songwriting, ‘Private Lives’ feels like a fly on the wall exclusive invite to a Low Cut Connie recording session. I like the way some songs feel unfinished and shortened, how some segue into others unexpectedly. This, along with the production give a ‘live in the studio’ feel that is perfect for a band that thrives on their live performances. Gospel-tinged sing-alongs rub shoulders with piano led barroom boogies, as Weiner sweats his heart and soul out with his tales of the underdogs that we can all relate to.

Buy Private Lives Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Owner of a raspy voice and a battered acoustic guitar, a writer of words and a singer of songs, Matty James Cassidy started plying his trade at an early age in the bars and clubs of his native Northern Ireland. Years of banging the skins for Cadaver Club, and then more recently playing bass for Tyla’s Dogs D’amour have seen him gain a higher profile in the UK. Up until recently, you would most likely see him doing a set of his own material opening for his boss at many a gig in the bars and clubs of the UK.

Following the unexpected and well-received ‘The Isolation Tapes’ acoustic album, recorded and released during the lockdown, the man in black releases his new album proper ‘Old Souls’.

 

There’s a heart-warming familiarity to the laidback rock ‘n’ roll sound that Matty creates. He straddles outlaw country, folk and blues with confidence and ease. Simple structures and chord progressions are the name of the game, the emphasis on melody, feel and telling a story or two.

The recent singles are present and correct, showing a snapshot of the troubadour’s sound. The raucous, rogue rock of album opener ‘Said & Done’ sets the scene nicely. It’s always good to open with a fast one, innit? The brooding, folk-rock of ‘Rosary’ hits the spot, and the upbeat and balladic ‘Anodyne’ floats by on a summer breeze.

There is more than a passing nod to The Dogs D’amour, which is to be expected and is never a bad thing. But Matty adds his own inimitable style to the heartfelt tunes on offer. The mix of harmonica and stabs of piano give ‘Contradiction In Terms’ a barroom boogie feel, and he soothes the soul with the late-night smoky blues that is ‘The Art Of Falling Down’, a standout cut for sure.

Being a multi-instrumentalist, Matty handles all instruments, although his Dogs bandmate Gary Pennick adds some guitars, as does former Main Grains/Spangles guitar slinger Ben Marsden.

 

Upbeat rockers such as ‘Leave Your Heart At Home’ mix well with the sentimental ballads, but there are a couple of tracks that stand out from the crowd instantly for me. The title track comes on like The Specials meets Hanoi Rocks doing a Tarantino movie soundtrack. A killer, ska-styled groove skulks along at a deathly pace, as emotive sax wails away in the background behind Matty’s distinctive raspy tones. You gotta love it. You also have to love the album closer ‘Born Ancient’. A gloriously folk-tinged’, foot-stomper that will have you hitting the repeat button and swinging the bottle until the sun comes up!

 

For those that dig lullabies for tough guys or those that desire a little romance in their rock ‘n’ roll, Matty James Cassidy has a song or two for ya! Lyrics that are reflective and observational, set to tunes you will have heard before but can’t quite place, and it’s all drenched in sweet guitars, bluesy harmonica and soulful sax. Music that will appeal to fans of The Dogs D’Amour, lovers of rock ‘n’ roll or just the pirates, vampires and the outlaws of this crazy world we live in.

Buy Old Souls Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

If you suddenly have the desire to collect The Hip Priests 7 inchers, just forget it already! That’s tantamount to saying you are gonna start collecting Star Wars figures or Kiss merchandise…there’s just too damn many, they’re too expensive and you won’t find ‘em all! But lucky for you, those fuckin’ boys have saved you the trouble and gathered together the lost gems, the hard to find cuts and the curios for all The Hip Priest fanboys and fangals to salivate over.

Yes, if you are a fully-fledged member of the Spasm Gang or even just a casual fan, (ie you don’t wear black denim every fuckin’ day!) then you probably already own the comprehensive double album ‘A Decade Of Disdain’. An album that brought together the best of The Hip Priests singles released over 2 pretty coloured records. And if you don’t, then give yourself a slap and get it sorted before we have words!

Well, ‘Solid Gold Easy Option’ is The Hip Priests strike back! 17 hard to find tracks from singles and EPs released between 2017-2019. That’s 6 cover versions bastardised by the band, sandwiched between 11 glorious original jams previously unavailable to mere mortals until now.

 

If quality, high octane garage rock is your thing, if you dig sonically seductive sounds delivered with more filth and fury than a Johnny Depp/Amber Heard weekend bender, then ‘Solid Gold Easy Option’ is right up your street. The dirty, the clean and the truly obscene rub sweaty shoulders and bloody knuckles in a defiant “fuck you!” to society, with no hint of socially distancing going on.

The epic ‘No Time (Like Right Now)’ is present and correct. Clocking in at just under 10 minutes, it’s their punk rock masterpiece, channelling the power of the MC5 with the horns and suss of Rocket From The Crypt, while they rant a diatribe about political skulduggery and post Brexit fuckery. It’s a punk rock anthem for right now. The other 3 tracks from that EP are present and correct, but the punk and belligerent ‘All My Rowdy Friends Are Dead’ and album closer ‘I’m Too Good’ seems to pale in comparison to the overly cool ‘She’s A Queen’. It sounds like Ian Astbury jamming with The Hellacopters, with one finger piano stabs, overly fuzzy guitars and vocals delivered straight from the crotch. It could be my favourite Hip Priests song right now.

Covers-wise, the likes of Motorhead’s ‘The Hammer’ and Demons ‘ Hot Running Blood’ are perfect Hip Priests fodder and stay pretty true to the originals. The Stooges ‘Loose’ is suitably ramshackle, sped up and delivered with guts and glory. Saxon’s ‘Play It Loud’ follows the same path and sounds epic.  It’s only Adam & The Ants classic ‘Press Darlings’ that doesn’t really benefit from the Hip Priests rough n’ ready, punk rock treatment for me.

Just because this is a b sides compilation, it doesn’t mean the quality has to suffer. ‘Nihilist Twist’ is a brutal, chanting 2 minute assault on the senses. ‘Dead By Sunday’ literally out ‘copters The Hellacopters and ‘I’m In Exile’ is all killer no filler. Wah-wah infused guitars fight with power chords as newest recruit Gentle Ben fills the right speaker and Austin the left, or is it the other way round? Who knows! But what I do know is the twin guitar attack sounds mighty.

 

27 singles, 3 EPs and 4 albums since their inception in 2007. It’s true to say that ‘Solid Gold Easy Option’ is more than just a stop-gap collection of odds and sods to keep their fanbase happy until album number 5 drops later this year. This is a quality collection of songs from shit island’s best-kept secret, and any self-respecting punk rock junkie should have it in their collection. The only trouble is do you choose green or blue vinyl?

Buy ‘Solid Gold Easy Option’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

There was always more to Chicago legends Enuff Z’Nuff than day-glo clothes, peace signs and drug problems. To a select few back in the day, singer Donnie Vie and bassist Chip Z’nuff were our generation’s Lennon & McCartney. And while they peaked commercially with their self-titled debut album, 1991’s follow-up ‘Strength’ was their masterpiece. Then along came Grunge and knocked them straight outta the ball park like many others. The following album ‘Animals With Human Intelligence’ sank without a trace, as did their career.

But unlike many of their contemporaries, the band battled through the subsequent line-up changes, legal issues and drug & alcohol addiction. Original guitarist Derek Frigo died of an overdose, long time drummer Ricky Parent succumbed to cancer. They changed labels more times than they changed drummers and guitar players, yet through all the tragedies, the one constant was that Chip & Donnie released quality music year after year. Even Donnie’s departure couldn’t stop the band. Now 15 albums into their career Enuff Z’nuff are back with a new album entitled ‘Brainwashed Generation’, the second to feature Chip as lead singer.

 

To be honest, I had little interest in hearing EZN’s last album ‘Golden Boy’. For me, EZN without Donnie is like Queen without Freddie, its peaches without the cream; it’s like a broken pencil…pointless! While their voices work well in harmony together, can Chip really compete with those golden Vie pipes, and does he even have the songwriting chops on his own? Well, I’m glad to report that ‘Brainwashed Generation’ goes a long way to prove me wrong.

Joining Chip on this latest excursion is long time guitarist Tory Stoffregen, drummer Daniel Hill and ex Life Sex & Death/AntiProduct legend Alex Kane (back in the band for the first time since 1987). Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx contributes drums for more than half of the album, along with Mike Portnoy and even estranged main man Donnie puts in a guest appearance.

With the basic tracks recorded back in November 2019, mixed and finished off by Chip at home during lockdown you could call ‘Brainwashed Generation one of the first ‘post lockdown’ releases?

 

Opener ‘Fatal Distraction’ sets the scene with hazy, lazy vocals and great power pop hooks to die for. Chip’s penchant for Cheap Trick is never far from his songbook, and the combination of loud, brash guitar work and a very hummable chorus takes this opener into classic EZN territory.

Ok, Chip you have my attention but any band can put their best tune as an opener, put your money where your mouth is and prove it! As if in reply, the punchy ‘I Got My Money Where My Mouth Is’ follows and puts to bed any doubts that the bassist needs Donnie Vie to carry his songs in 2020. This shows a band full of confidence, urgency and bravado. With continuing Cheap Trick vibes, trademark backing harmonies and a chorus that insists you sit up and take notice, I’m convinced just 2 songs in; they have already done enough to prove EZN are far from a spent force.

 

It’s impossible to do an Enuff Z’Nuff review and not mention The Beatles. Lennon-esque, sentimental balladry is rife in the likes of ‘It’s All In Vain’ and ‘Broken Love’. Chugging guitars, ringing chords and soaring vocal melodies take this listener to the same heights the likes of ‘Fly High Michelle’ and ‘Right By Your Side’ did back in the day.

Donnie Vie returns for ‘Strangers In My Head’ and it’s no surprise that its an album highlight. His lush tones carry the dark and foreboding tune to another worldly plain. It’s a powerful. riff heavy rocker that sees the writer delve deep inside his own head. So much so, it makes the following ‘Drugland Weekend’ sound like a just another dumb ass rock song, all style and no substance, but hey there’s nowt wrong with that sometimes!

 

Enuff Z’Nuff never got the breaks they deserved. But let’s face it, most of the greatest bands suffered the same fate! But put an Enuff Z’Nuff greatest hits package together and it stands tall quality wise with any band you would care to mention and that will be their legacy.

‘Brainwashed Generation’ is a surprisingly good album, which recalls their glory days and the best of their influences. Sure, it’s not as good as ‘Strength’ or even ‘Animals…’ song for song, but it’s on a par with anything the band put out after, and that is a good place to be 15 albums into your career.

Chip continues to fly the flag for Enuff Z’Nuff, writing quality tunes and touring the world. It’s all he’s done since the heady 80’s and no one’s gonna stop his love train now.

Buy ‘Brainwashed Generation’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

When Little Angels called it a day in 1994, singer and main songwriter Toby Jepson was left feeling heartbroken, confused and betrayed by his band. What do you do when your whole world has crumbled in front of you? How do you find the strength to carry on, when everything you have worked so hard for is taken from you?

Well, Toby retreated to a cottage in Guilford, set up a makeshift studio in a derelict Oast House with money from Sony and recorded his first solo album ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’. While he didn’t know it at the time, the set of songs he wrote, recorded and self-produced were a direct reaction to the break-up of Little Angels and would result in an album so steeped in retrospection and soul searching it would resonate so strongly some 25 years later.

 

To me, the mid 90’s was the best period for rock music, period. The musical climate had changed, the glory daze of Hair Metal had been wiped out by Grunge, yet even that genre itself was fading fast following the suicide of its main protagonist. Bands had to adapt to change or die, Alternative was the new mainstream and everything seemed just more edgy.

Many great songs and many great albums have been born from heartache and break-ups and Toby Jepson’s coping mechanism was to channel his feelings into ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’. It’s a dark album, ironically the complete antithesis of what Little Angels were all about. In trying to make sense of where it all went wrong, who to blame and what to do next, Toby found himself stepping back and looking inside himself for the answers, whether it be examining his recent divorce (‘Better Off Without Me’), class divide and struggle (‘Some People Are More Equal Than Others’) and in the case of most of the songs, directing his anger and confusion towards his former band mates.

 

What strikes me about ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ 25 years down the line is how remarkably current it actually sounds. From the crystal clear production to the dark, questioning lyricism, it sounds like an album destined for release in 2020. Take opening song ‘Some People Are More Equal Than Others’, a slow burning, sombre opener that sets the mood, exploring the struggle of class divide to a background of crisp drums and weaving, sonically seductive guitars.

Co-penned with songwriting legend Russ Ballard, ‘Slipping Through Your Fingers’ not only continues the exploration of his marriage break-up but also the demise of Little Angels. Production-wise Toby creates space, the instrumentation at a bare minimum, the song riding on melody and a sense of determination. The dampened guitars build during the verse to be let loose as the anthemic chorus breaks out.

Anthemic choruses have been a Toby Jepson trademark over the years and album centrepiece ‘I Won’t Be With You’ is a prime example. This is the big rock song and an even bigger ‘middle finger’ to his former band mates. The guitars are maxed out and the passion overflows as Toby channels his anger and confusion into a song that stands the test of time. In stark contrast, the acoustic-driven ‘All Heal In Time’ is Toby’s Led Zep 3 moment. The heartfelt lyrics work perfectly with the interestingly, offbeat drums, and the beautiful folk inspired guitar picking. A great melody carries a song that offers a ray of light in troubled times.

The influence of the 90’s alternative musical climate is prevalent throughout this album. The grungy ‘Haven’t Got Your Strength’ is the sound of a man defeated, laid bare over Jerry Cantrell guitar riffage. The euphoric, radio-friendly ‘Save Me From Myself’, almost certainly a cry for help. Toby cites Lenny Kravitz as an influence on this album and this is certainly obvious on the tripped-out, psychedelia of ‘Open Your Mind’ and the funky, unfinished demo version of ‘Get Your Feet On’.

 

 

While ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ is a snapshot of Toby Jepson’s mindset in his darkest hour, it is a testament to his songwriting prowess and a true example of the fact that anger truly is an energy. Toby channeled that anger in the right direction and produced an album that stands the test of time. And while he continues to enjoy great success with his band Wayward Sons, ‘Ignorance Is Bliss’ remains a lost gem of an album he is rightly proud of and arguably, it is his finest work.

 

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems to me that during these strange times 3 types of musicians have emerged during forced exile from live gigs, and these are as follows.

1 – The Hibernator (the artist on a major label who has done absolutely nothing) 2 – The Performer (the artist who does online gigs ranging from the totally unprofessional to the bloody sublime.) 3 – The Creator (the artist that records and releases music to their fanbase).

Former Biters frontman Tuk Smith emerges triumphant from category 2 and sticks his Cuban heeled boot firmly into category 3 with the release of his ‘Covers From The Quarantine’ EP. With the imminent release of Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts debut album on hold and a high profile summer tour opening for Motley Crue, Poison and Def Leppard now postponed until next summer, the mop top singer with the cheek bones to die for finds himself at a loose end. Recorded in his attic studio, with just acoustic guitar, keys and drum samples, Tuk takes five classics from different decades back to their bare roots for all to digest.

 

Opener ‘Don’t Change’ is a lesser known INXS tune that was released back in 1982. The writing partnership of Michael Hutchence & Andrew Farriss was then still in its infancy and this is a perfect example of what would rocket them to superstar status before Hutchence’ tragic and untimely death in 1997. Arguably their first true classic, it’s a powerful song that has been covered by the likes of Everclear and The Goo Goo Dolls in the past, but in the hands of Tuk and his acoustic guitar, this is a more stripped back affair that somehow carries even more power and sentiment than the original.

Next up he tackles Bowie’s ‘Life On Mars’ with great effect. It may be a predictable choice, but it’s also an inspired choice. Tuk doesn’t mess with the structure or the delivery as his voice fits the song just right. The simple stabs of keys and the bombastic beats add atmosphere and drama to a classic we all know and love.

The Faces vibes are intact with his take on the Kiss classic ‘Hard Luck Woman’. I guess that figures, seems as Paul Stanley wrote it with Rod Stewart in mind, even if drummer Peter Criss ended up singing the definitive version. The picked, folky chord progression sound sublime, the vocals delivered with sentiment and passion in equal measures. It’s not trying to be Kiss or even Rod Stewart, it’s just Tuk being Tuk, playing a classic his own way.

Lana Del Rey’s ‘Summertime Sadness’ is the curveball of this collection. Tuk’s version retains the cinematic quality and the melancholic feel of Del Rey’s work, but it still has that sleazy, 70’s glam edge that the sadly missed Biters delivered in spades. Dreamy pop given a good rigorous drag through the hedge backwards…nicely done.

Now, if Fred Durst can manage a decent version of ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, then Tuk Smith should be able to crack The Who classic without breaking a sweat, right? He does it justice of course. A beautiful song delivered with sincerity that truly hits you in the feels.

 

When the world finally returns to some sort of normal, I think 2020 will be remembered in music circles as the year of the lockdown EP. There has been a fair few already, some are good, some not so good. ‘Covers From The Quarantine’ is one of the good ones and should keep fans of Tuk happy until his Restless Hearts album finally sees the light of day.

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

Dutch rock ‘n’ rollers The Dirty Denims follow up 2017’s ‘Back With A Bang’ by releasing their brand spankin’ new long player ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’. It sees singer/guitarist Mirjam and guitarist Jeroen joined by a couple of new, denim-clad players aka Marc on bass and Suzanne on drums.

Continuing their tradition of releasing their albums in stages, 5 tracks were released as singles over a period of 6 months, this they entitled ‘Part 1’. Now, July sees the band release their full new album on CD, download and of course lovely vinyl.

 

This Eindhoven based band has been at it for a decade now and sound-wise they follow on where The Donnas left off. The Dirty Denims combine the traditional rock ‘n’ roll sound of The Runaways, Suzy Quatro and The Sweet with a slew of AC/DC riffs thrown in for good measure.

They claim to play ‘Happy Hard Rock’ and don’t take themselves too seriously.  Lyrically, we ain’t talking ‘The Wall’ here, the likes of last year’s single ‘Last Call For Alcohol’ is a testament to that. What they do deal in is upbeat, powerhouse rock ‘n’ roll with a sound and energy that makes you want to turn the dial up a notch and party with the best of them.

With its powerhouse 80’s drums, rumbling bass and tongue-in-cheek lyricism ‘Thunder From Down Under’ tips its hat to AC/DC in more ways than one and they even throw in the riff to The Cult’s ‘Wild Flower’ for good measure. ‘Roll The Dice’ follows a similar path, with killer riffs emanating from each speaker, stabs of piano, high-powered hollerin’ and cool, gang backing vocals.

‘Turn off The Radio’ will incite you to do just that and put a damn record on! Today’s radio tunes are boring anyway, right? The Dirty Denims know that and so do you!  Here, we are in prime power pop Donnas territory. Urgent, anthemic and melodic, just the way we like it. Elsewhere, ‘Creatures Of The Night’ is not the Kiss classic, but it crunches nicely and powers through, a solid traditional 80’s rocker that stands on its own two feet.

‘Band Not a Brand’ is killer, bubblegum pop full of handclaps and organ riffs. It’s their Saturday morning kids TV theme, a  middle finger to high street stores that sell Ramones shirts to Instagram influencers who wouldn’t know ‘Road To Ruin’ if it smacked them in the face. It’s also the best and most commercial song they have released to date.

‘Messin Around’ adds cool handclaps and percussion to the sound. This mixes well with Mirjam’s high octane hollerin’ and Jeroen’s token AC/DC riffage to give 70’s footstomping glam nostalgia.

They like ‘Last Call For Alcohol’ so much they played it twice! The album closes with a ‘Hangover Version’, stripped back and laid bare with acoustics and percussion, it’s the Sunday morning hangover remedy to the Saturday night party.

 

‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ is a fun, party record that does exactly what it says on the tin. The Dirty Denims are doing nothing new, they aren’t here to change the world or preach a message in these uncertain times.  But if you want escapism, if you desire something old school to kick your ass into next week and to blast from the stereo while you hit the highway to Hell, then you could do no better than visit Eindenhoven Rock City for 40 minutes or so.

Buy ‘Ready Steady Go!’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Man, I always have a soft spot for Californian pop/punk, especially when it’s a young band coming on like the 90’s never ended. And that’s where I introduce you to The Bombpops. Founded in 2007 by dual singer/guitarists Jen Razavi and Poli Van Dam, the 4 piece band take the title of their sophomore album ‘Death In Venice Beach’ from Thomas Mann’s celebrated novella about the price of artistic life.

The follow up to 2017’s ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ it sees the band explore dark themes of alcohol addiction, health problems, toxic relationships and suicide all wrapped up in high energy punk pop.

 

But the dark lyrical themes are certainly not the first thing that hits you about The Bombpops. The SoCal sound that inspires the band is prevalent throughout, you could say ‘Death In Venice Beach’ sounds like the lost 90’s soundtrack you need to fill the hole between ‘10 Things I Hate About You’ and ‘Josie and the Pussycats’.

Take latest single ‘Double Arrows Down’. Lyrically inspired by Poli Van Dam’s diabetes seizure and subsequent dice with death, it’s actually a euphoric blast of dual vocal melody and overdriven guitars, with a sugar-buzz pop melody that will inject sunshine into anyone’s dreary day. Sweet vocal melodies The Dollyrots would die for and the sort of catchy choruses Letters To Cleo perfected in their prime.

And so it continues for 30 minutes or so. 12 short, sharp, shocks of punk pop that do not overstay their welcome. Songs that would’ve bombarded the airwaves back in the day and singles that would’ve been vying for attention with the likes of Bowling For Soup and Sum 41 on your TV screens.

 

‘Dearly Departed’ name-checks doomed celebrity couples over high energy pop/punk. Sid & Nancy rub shoulders with JFK & Monroe as Jen & Poli deliver pitch perfect vocal harmonies and dirty guitars in unison. A tight rhythm section and a crisp production courtesy of (among others) NOFX’s Fat Mike only adds to the high quality.

With the likes of ‘Sad To Me’ and ‘Zero Remorse’ they have a knack of delivering a verse that create momentum and builds to what you just know is going to be an anthemic, killer chorus that will stay in your brain long after the song has ended. The girls’ vocals work well together and it is that, along with the top notch songwriting, which lifts this album high above the current competition.

The bouncy bass intro and the offset guitar riff in ‘Notre Dame’ will bring to mind The Offspring, ‘In The Doghouse’ comes on like The Creepshow at their most commercial and the raw tale of isolation and heartbreak that is ’13 Stories Down’ sounds like a female-fronted NOFX. Elsewhere you’ll swear you’ve heard the likes of ‘Radio Silence’ and ‘House On Fire’ before. And that my friends, is the knack of a catchy melody put to very good use.

 

There are lots of comparisons that can be made to lots of cool bands when listening to ‘Death In Venice Beach’ and that’s not a bad thing. The Bombpops wear their influences proudly on their sleeves and have their own imitable style and their own way of exorcising their own personal demons with a set of strong, bouncy tunes.

To be honest, you could imagine any of the 12 songs on offer to be featured on MTV, with the band playing next to a swimming pool or a frat house in California, surrounded by teens with nothing more on their mind than pulling the hottest cheerleader and downing a four pack. And while in these troubled times those sort of antics may seem as distant a memory as the 90’s actually are, it’s still the great escape some of us need right now.

Buy ‘Death In Venice Beach’ Here

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Author: Ben Hughes