Written and recorded during the lost year of 2020, through times of fear, anxiety and isolation, to a background of sirens, street protests and impending doom, ‘Sad And Beautiful World’ is Jesse Malin’s 9th studio album. A follow up to the 2019 critically acclaimed album ‘Sunset Kids’, this 17-track double album was recorded sporadically by Jesse in his native New York at Flux Studios, with his touring band of 10 plus years, in-between weekly livestream shows from The Bowery.

 

‘Sad And Beautiful World’ is a double album spilt into two halves. First, we have the more mellow ‘roots rock’ of disc/record 1, followed by the slightly more upbeat ‘radical’ disc/record 2. Jesse is a troubadour who sings songs and tells stories about what he knows and what he experiences, and this album is not so much a Covid record, as an observation of feelings, fears and searching for redemption. Overall, it comes across as a record filled with hope in troubled times.

 

From the laid-back Americana of opener ‘Greener Pastures’ to the closing celebratory and euphoric ‘Saint Christopher’, out illustrious host takes us on a journey, a trip through his mind if you will.

 

To be honest the themes of the two records blur into one with not much to distinguish between roots and radical, and while this whole double album would fit snugly on one CD (like record companies insisted sometime in the 90’s), Jesse is old school and releases albums like his heroes, so we’ll go with the double album format. The single ‘State Of The Art’ for example is as upbeat as you like, it hits like a statement of intent, from that piano intro to the killer, familiar pop melody that builds to a classic Malin chorus, it’s up there with Billy Joel and Springsteen as far as I’m concerned, and don’t take that statement lightly.

 

If you’re a fan, you will probably be aware of several of these tunes already, as there have been quite a few singles in the past 12 months. From the retrospective ‘The Way We Used To Roll’ to the Lou Reed groove of ‘Backstabbers’, onto the heartfelt, rootsy balladry of ‘Tall Black Horses’, they all showcase the diversity and depth of a singer/songwriter at the top of his game.

 

For me, there were two songs that stood out from the crowd in the lead-up to the release, and after a dozen play-throughs of this album they still come out trumps. ‘Todd Youth’ is a gloriously heartfelt tribute to a fallen friend, featuring pumping NYC street bass, handclaps, and HR from Bad Brains. The juxtaposition of sad subject matter and an upbeat, radio-friendly melody makes for a tune that imbeds itself deep in the soul. Jesse also pays tribute to another fallen hero/influence by covering Tom Petty’s ‘Crawling Back To You’, a lesser-known but highly sentimental trip from his 1994 solo album ‘Wildflowers’. The bare-bones recording with acoustics, piano, and that unmistakable Malin NY drawl, its melancholic, starkly beautiful, and as much an album highlight here as the original was in its initial release.

 

Come to think of it, the ghost of Tom Petty rears his head throughout ‘Sad And Beautiful World’. The country twang and heartfelt feel of ‘Lost Forever’ is as Tom Petty as you can get. But there’s also nods to another icon David Bowie in his 80’s heyday on the likes of ‘Before You Go’ and ‘A Little Death’. Sometimes it’s just in the bassline or the way he phrases certain things, just listen and you’ll hear it, trust me.

 

For me, ‘Sad And Beautiful World’ harks back to Jesse’s debut album ‘The Fine Art Of Self Destruction’ that came out nearly 20 years ago. The mark of a great songwriter is the ability to take you on a lyrical and melodic journey, and the fact that Jesse still has the power to create emotional works of art filled with hope, optimism and heartbreak in equal measures is a testament to his years on the road and his ability to express and keep it real. An essential purchase for all you rastas, as Jesse would say.

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Author: Ben Hughes

It’s been 10 years since I was first introduced to the crazy world of The Urban Voodoo Machine, and I have seen this East London based bunch of ne’er do well’s more times than I can remember. But what is it that keeps me coming back for more? I think it is the fact that every show is different, you never know what you are going to get and they deliver the most exciting and entertaining live show this side of the pond. Chief mouthpiece Paul-Ronney Angel also hosts a club night once a month called the Gypsy Hotel, showcasing the best in underground talent, whether that be rock n’ roll, outlaw country, comedy capers or fire breathing burlesque acts. An eclectic and edgy evening is always guaranteed and it’s all rounded off by the coolest soundtrack delivered by DJ Scratchy.

 

I’ve always fancied it, but never got my act together to go. Now, a combination of gig starvation due to Covid, a 15th anniversary show right in the heart of Alabama 3 territory of Brixton, and the added attraction of Jack White opening his London branch of Third Man Records in Soho on the same day. It seems the stars have aligned and I cannot miss this opportunity.

The Hootananny is a great venue, the perfect setting for this night in fact. Food, drink and conversation flow into the night before the first act Kelley Swindall takes to the stage to warm things a little after 9pm. The Georgia-born/NYC based solo artist blends soulful and whimsical folk with old school country to perfection. With a sparkly blue jumpsuit, a cheeky dollyesque smile and a Johnny Cash delivery she turns out to be quite mesmerising to watch and listen to in equal measures.

 

The skiffle scratch of ‘My Minglewood Blues’ fits the bills nicely and the tongue-in-cheek storytelling of ‘California’ is a hoot to experience. With a killer voice, a charismatic disposition and classic 70’s California looks, she sure has it going on.

 

Kelley has been touring dives and juke joints for 10 years, she sure knows how to work a crowd and you can tell these songs have been thoroughly road-tested. An enjoyable set that leaves me wanting to go check out more of her material.

Up next we have some old school burlesque entertainment with the cheekily titled Trixi Tassels. She struts her stuff to an extended version of ‘St James Infirmary’ and seems to enjoy every moment of her act as much as the guys and gals that are slowly but surely filling up the room. The whooping and hollering only spurs Trixi on as she removes item by item, ending up on her back removing her stockings with some feigned and brilliantly over-acted trouble. She even gets one undergarment stuck, hanging on the Hootannany sign right above her head where she threw it, and ends her show setting her nipples on fire for some flame-filled tassel twirling, much to the joy of the appreciative crowd.

 

In this age of political correctness, it seems so fresh and exciting just being entertained by one of the oldest and simplest forms of club entertainment. Long may Trixi Tassels twirl her twirly bits!

 

 

It’s been nearly two years since my last UVM show and I believe they have only done a couple of gigs themselves in recent weeks leading up to this show, but you would never know by their performance tonight. The gang are all present and correct as they take to the stage to the instrumental ‘Theme From The Urban Voodoo Machine’ and it’s like they’ve never been away. With more black than red on show tonight, the lead players P-R Angel and saxophonist Lucifire lead the band through a shorter than usual killer set of spaghetti western tinged rock n’ roll with heaps of crazy, carnival sized goodness. The ‘In Black n’ Red’ one-two of ‘High Jeopardy Thing’ and ‘Cheers For The Tears’ is like welcoming back two old friends. The former, an old school juke joint classic, the latter a more bombastic statement of intent. Both full of brass, both completely rock n’ roll.

 

Recent past singles ‘Living In Fear’ and ‘Johnny Foreigner’ fit the set just right now, and lyrically both seem more relevant than ever. ‘Orphan’s Lament’ is always a live highlight and the following ‘Crazy Maria’ has become a personal favourite over the last few years. Guitarist Tony Diavalo has come into his own in recent years since filling the Cuban heeled boots of fallen brother Nick Marsh (RIP). Here, he takes to maracas and mariachi style hollering to add Mexican spice to proceedings.

The new single ‘Empty Plastic Cup’ is a cool taster for the upcoming album ‘Snake Engine Oil’, which is due at the end of the year. Full of twangy guitars, “hoo-haa” chants, bursts of brass, and a killer chorus refrain to sing until the Tories are ousted, what more do you need?

 

The energy and electricity created onstage reverberate through the now packed room and as the temperature rises, the drinks flow and people lose their inhibitions and the Gypsy Hotel comes to life as the club night I always hoped it would be.

 

‘Goodbye To Another Year’ seems the perfect set closer tonight. A celebratory drinking song and a testament to all that is good about The Urban Voodoo Machine. Much more than just a band, The Urban Voodoo Machine is a collective who ply bourbon-soaked, gypsy blues bop n’ stroll music and every show is a party. They were on fire tonight and it’s a much-needed welcome back to one of the UK’s greatest live bands.

 

You either have to be very confident or very stupid to follow a set from The Urban Voodoo Machine. Luckily The Future Shape Of Sound ooze confidence from every pore. No strangers to playing with P-R Angel’s mob or even playing The Gypsy Hotel, Alex McGowan (aka Captain Future) and his band make the night their own from the moment they step onto the stage at around 1 am.

“Welcome to the Church Of Rock n roll!” shouts the frontman with a statement of intent before launching straight into ‘Toe The Line’. Their brand of East London street gospel is bluesy, primitive, and downright infectious, and the packed and sweaty room lap it up. The band is basically guitar, bass, drums, and keyboard, but the addition of a four-piece, all-girl backing choir, stand-up drums, and ace-in-the-hole lead vocalist Debbralee Wells makes for a massive sound that fills the room.

 

With a domino mask covering her eyes, more sparkle than a clear nights sky and enough black feathers to fill a witch doctor’s duvet, she cuts a striking figure, but it’s that amazing voice that brings the show alive. Tonight, she puts the soul in rock n’ roll leaving Captain Future free to direct the band around her. Pulling off the Ronnie Wood meets Johnny Thunders look with ease while pulling licks on his guitar, he nods and gives cues to the band, especially to stand-in drummer Joni Belaruski from The Great Malarkey who doesn’t miss a single beat all night.

 

‘Rise Up’ brings the party early. Like a mix of the Clara Ward Singers and the Blues Brothers hosting the party at the end of the universe, it sounds sublime. What I do notice is that, unlike a lot of gigs in recent times, everyone is dancing and joining in, ok so it is way past the witching hour and the drinks have been flowing for a good few hours, but this feels like a proper club show rather than just another gig. I love this. People of all ages are dancing, singing and falling over, a young couple are getting off with each other to my left and groups of young girls who have probably never heard the band before, or even been to a live show before, will have their lives changes…maybe forever.

The slow groover ‘Number One’ comes on like Aretha singing Alabama 3 and is a welcome breather before ‘Joy’ takes us to church. That cool Hammond introduction, the sweet soulful lead vocals. It kicks in, as upbeat as you like it. The band giving it their all. The full backing vocals fill the room and everyone goes wild.

 

Various UVM members join for the closing cover of ‘Help Me Jesus’ and then they encore with an alternative version of ‘Rise Up’.

 

A night at the Gypsy Hotel exceeded all my expectations. All the acts were on fire (some literally!), the setting was perfect, the atmosphere was electric and the crowd very, very drunk! I can see why it has the reputation it has and is still going strong after 15 years. The Gypsy Hotel attracts rockers, ravers, lovers, and sinners and we all come together to celebrate and escape the reality of everyday life to create our own reality.

 

Get a night at the Gypsy Hotel on your bucket list and thank me once you’ve recovered. The benchmark has been set for gig of the year.

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Author:Ben Hughes

Photos: Ben Williams

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been 18 months since bands have been able to tour. Now is the time to shake off those cobwebs, as Barnsley’s finest exponents of 90s influenced grunge punk continue their quest for world domination and take their postponed ‘Angry Tour’ (now dubbed the ‘Still Angry Tour’) on the road.

Yes, an actual tour folks! One that will see the band travel the length and breadth of the country for the next couple of months, remember when bands did that?

This tour will be bookended by a couple of festival dates and a hometown show in December at The Birdwell Venue in Barnsley. Not only will it be the band’s first tour in 18 months, but it will be most fans first gig in 18 months as well.

Joining the band on this first date in York is local lads As Sirens Fall. The last time I saw this emo bunch live they were dressed in drag, tonight they hit the stage as men…ok, so the drummer is wearing a kilt and has more New Wave inspired make up going on than Adam Ant circa 1982, but why the hell not? This is rock n’ roll after all!

I barely know their songs, but they sound and look magnificent. Recent single ‘Dynamite’ is an obvious highlight. Full of anthemic gang vocals and fat riffage, it’s a stadium-sized chunk of modern rock in the vein of My Chemical Romance and 30 Seconds To Mars, which sure ain’t a bad place to be.

Resplendent in black and yellow striped mohair jumper, singer Mikey Lord is all over the stage, knows how to work a crowd and make the girls weak at the knees, while drummer Bailey has all the best Tommy Lee moves off to a tee.

An energetic set, choc-a-bloc with anthemic emo hits to be, the world awaits quite possibly York’s finest current rock band. Is there an album in the works? We wait in hope and look forward to watch them rise.

Lauren Tate has been busy during the pandemic. Not content with just writing a few songs or playing a few online acoustic shows, she only went and created a whole new alter ego named Delilah Bon, released a bunch of singles with pro shot, homemade videos, and released a killer album full of hip-hop/brat punk hits. She will take Delilah on the road next year, but now it’s back to business with her main band Hands Off Gretel.

2 albums and an EP into their career, Hands Off Gretel now have an arsenal of angry anthems to pick from, and based on tonight’s performance you never would have guessed they have been hibernating for 18 months.

Lauren of course has the full package. She looks the part, sounds the part and she prowls the stage like she owns the thing. Don’t be fooled by the pretty green dress and the pink/red hair combo she sports tonight, this grrl can riot with the best of ‘em. But it’s all made possible by the more than competent band she has behind her.

It’s been good to watch their evolution as a live band, and the addition of Becky Baldwin on bass has been the icing on the cake. Along with drummer Sam, she holds the whole thing together, leaving space for livewire guitarist Sean Bon to bash out grungy riffs, while Lauren has the job of keeping the attention of everyone in the room. And she succeeds on that front with ease. Full of confidence, energy and charisma, she delivers her self-penned grunge anthems with the gusto and angst of her heroes.

‘Milk’ channels Hole massively, she croons the opening line before delivering the guttural wail of a banshee, ‘SASS’ and the following ‘I Want The World’ incite the girls down the front to bounce and sing every word back to the poster girl of 2021.

More recent tunes from the ‘Angry EP’ have been live favourites for a while, ‘Don’t Touch’ and the excellent set highlight ‘She Thinks Shes Punk Rock n Roll’ are schizophrenic bursts of proper punk power that prove this artist is more than just a pretty face and truly has something to say that can relate to her fanbase.

Nice to hear the inclusion of ‘Rot’ which Lauren says they have never played live before, and a killer encore of Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings’. Highlight of the night is a dead tie between main set closer ‘Kiss Me Girl’ and the Pink inspired balladry of ‘Freaks Like Us’. Both are anthems in their own way and both go down a storm.

The pandemic may have delayed the taking of the world, but Hands Off Gretel are back and Lauren Tate is still after her crown. And on tonight’s performance and the reaction from the crowd, she just might pull it off.

It’s been a long time coming and suddenly it’s like gigs have never been away. A glorious welcome back to live music in the town where I live. In these uncertain times we take nothing for granted, so I suggest you see this band while you still have the chance, you will not regret it.

 

Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

While he will always be known as the guy who replaced Izzy in Guns n’ Roses, Gilby Clarke has always been much more than just the Ronnie Wood to Slash’s Keef. When he left Guns n’ Roses in 1994 he went on to release arguably the best solo album by any member of the band with ‘Pawnshop Guitars’, proving he was always more than just a hired hand.

Gilby went on to release 4 quality solo albums in the late 90’s/early 00’s to much critical acclaim, yet little commercial success. The following years have seen the singer play with Slash’s Snakepit, Heart and MC5, as well as fronting the Rock Star Supernova project.

Now, 20 years after his last solo offering ‘Sawg’, Gilby returns with his new album ‘The Gospel Truth’. It was self-produced, written and laid down at his LA recording studio Redrum Recording, before lockdown was even a thing.

 

The thing I like about a Gilby Clarke album is you know what you are going to get. Let’s be honest here, he ain’t reinventing the wheel with his low-slung rock n’ roll tunes, but he has never claimed to. Gilby is just having fun writing and recording top quality tunes influenced by his heroes, pure and simple.

And the essence of loud guitars and rock n’ roll is evident from the off on the opening title track. With a killer, driving bassline, a cool ramshackle riff and those unmistakable raspy vocals, its low-slung rock n’ roll at its finest, delivered in the same vein as ‘Cure Me… or Kill Me…’ from that classic debut album. The cool female backing vocals add some soul to the rock n’ roll goodness here, which only helps to make a cracking opener.

‘Wayfarer’ follows, probably my current favourite song. Overly cool bass, handclaps and organ take us down a bluesy, well-travelled road. Again, some great backing harmonies that give a west coast vibe, you will keep returning to this one, believe me.

Motley Crue legend Nikki Sixx and Jane’s Addiction drummer Steven Perkins add their respective talents to ‘Tightwad’, a solid enough punky rocker where, funnily enough the bass is not as prominent or as cool as in the opening one-two.

Elsewhere, ‘Violation’ is full of punky attitude and NY garage rock goodness. A New York Dolls kinda riff gives way to honkytonk piano accompaniment to create a backstreet anthem that gets better the more you crank it. Funnily enough, this works just as well with ‘Rock N Roll Is Getting Louder’, where the killer bass groove returns. Add cowbell, a lyrical theme of motorcycles and guitars, then shake it but don’t stir it, and you have an instant classic Gilby track.

 

The warm production is perfect for the laid-back groove of ‘Rusted and Busted’. Again, a slow burner that benefits from repeated plays. Overdriven power chords, handclaps and that unmistakable vocal drawl, blend together in harmony, what’s not to like here? Closer ‘She Won’t Fight Fair’ is a goodtime glam stomper. A cool riff and powerhouse drums drive the song along towards an anthemic chorus with just a hint of Adam and The Ants in the backing vocal department if I’m not mistaken.

 

‘The Gospel Truth’ is a solid return to form from Gilby Clarke. No cover versions, no ballads, just 10 killer, groove heavy rock songs, influenced by the songwriter’s love of English bands like The Faces and The Stones. Sure, it ain’t no ‘Pawnshop Guitars’, but it is a fine collection of effortlessly cool songs, delivered with the fire and passion of a road worn rock n’ roll veteran with nothing to prove and much still to give.

 

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Author: Ben Hughes

With high profile tours and two well-received albums under their studded leather belts, Scottish rockers The Almighty found themselves at the pinnacle of the UK rock scene in the early ’90s. Not a week would go by without singer Ricky Warwick’s face peering moodily from the pages of Kerrang! or Metal Hammer. Leather jackets would be emblazoned with their skull & death wings logo at gigs, and hell, they even opened proceedings at Donington Monsters Of Rock ‘92. Their brand of dirty, biker rock n’ roll crossed rock genres and their shows would attract as many Poison t-shirts as it would Motorhead and Metallica.

But times they were a changin’ by the early ’90s, and the sound coming from Seattle was making waves across the world. An extensive tour with the up-and-coming Alice In Chains would inspire the band and take them in a heavier direction. Replacing original guitarist Tantrum with former Alice Cooper guitarist Pete Friesen would also mark a big change to the band’s sound and direction for album number 3.

 

With the onset of Grunge and having now found a new writing partner in Pete Friesen, Ricky Warwick and the boys relocated to a remote farm in Wales to write. Pete’s use of drop d tuning would inspire new ideas and a heavier sound that would take the band away from their punk roots.

 

‘The Almighty’s 3rd album ‘Powertrippin’ was released in April 1993 to rave reviews and would be their most successful release, reaching number 5 in the UK album charts. The first single ‘Addiction’ is the perfect example of where the band was heading. The one thing I remember from first hearing it is how heavy they sounded and how different the production values were compared to previous albums. Listening back now, to me those first two albums sound dated and ‘of their time’ (as many 80’s rock albums now do due to that drum sound). Whereas ‘Powertrippin’ sounds…. massive! This is due in part to producer Mark Dodson who obviously pushed the band hard in the studio and got the most out of them.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love those first two albums, they had some great songs on there for sure, but to me, The Almighty had now come of age and morphed into the band I wanted them to be. ‘Powertrippin’ has a heavier, edgier sound that is more in tune with the times, yet still retains killer melodies and catchy anthemic choruses.

 

The following two singles continued the theme. ‘Over The Edge’ with its instantly familiar picked riff and gargantuan, anthemic chorus is pure The Almighty, a full-force, rock machine. Whereas ‘Out Of Season’ is a more subdued, moody affair that nods its head to what was coming out of Seattle, in particular Alice In Chains. ‘Sick and Wired’ could’ve been a single and the emotive ‘Jesus Loves You, But I Don’t’ surely should’ve been one. The title track is full of tribal beats and killer riffs, and that cool, effortless riff in ‘Instinct’ still gets me every time. Elsewhere, ‘Eye To Eye’ is a punchy closer, up there with the best. I can safely say there isn’t a bad track on ‘Powertrippin’ and it still sounds as fresh and vibrant today as it did in 1993.

Now of course, as this is a Cherry Red release, it’s been given the deluxe treatment. A bonus disc choc-a-bloc with rarities and curiosities from the era, makes this a worthwhile purchase for diehards and occasional fans alike. CD2 is a 16-track affair consisting of b sides, live tracks and demos. Most fans will probably have these tracks already, but it’s still great to have them collected in one pretty package.

 

Live tracks and covers versions from the ‘Liveblood’ EP are present and correct, including Neil Young’s ‘Fuckin Up’, The Sex Pistols ‘Bodies’ and their excellent version of ‘In A Rut’. Single b sides ‘Insomnia’ and ‘Blind’ are welcome additions and an acoustic version of ‘Hell To Pay’ sounds fantastic.

 

The demos are interesting as well, in that they show the progression of the songs from writing to finished product. ‘Out Of Season’ sounds like a completely different song in demo form, and is a great example of what a good producer can do for a band.

 

Also worth noting is the inclusion of ‘Soul Destruction’, the title track of the band’s second album, that was never actually recorded, so the inclusion of the previously unavailable demo is a nice throwback.

 

With extensive liner notes from the band and Malcome Dome, this 2-disc edition is a must have for fans of The Almighty and the perfect companion to the forthcoming ‘Welcome To Defiance (1994-2001)’ box set also available on Cherry Red records.

 

For me, ‘Powertrippin’ is the highlight of the band’s career, an album that came at a time when rock music was going through changes. Brit Rock was on the horizon, and with the likes of Terrorvision and The Wildhearts in the charts, the UK rock scene was very healthy and exciting. While The Almighty continued with a run of strong albums, I feel ‘Powertrippin’ remains a testament to how great and how powerful they were at the height of their career.

 

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

Seattle-based blues-rock outfit Walking Papers return with their 3rd album ‘The Light Below’, the follow up to their 2018 album ‘WP2’.  Singer/guitarist and chief songwriter Jeff Angell and keyboard player Benjamin Anderson may have lost bassist Duff McKagan and Screaming Trees drummer Barrett Martin along the way due to touring commitments, but that hasn’t stopped the duo from moving forward with their brand of blues-based art rock and taking their sound to another dimension along the way.

Joining the duo on this new album are drummer Will Andrews, bassist Dan Spalding, and guitar player Tristan Hart Pierce.

 

If you are unaware of Walking Papers, let’s get one thing straight, they are not a party band. They may have Guns n’ Roses and Pearl Jam connections, but Messrs Angell and Anderson have not produced an album of anthemic, stadium rock to take their fans’ minds off a Pandemic ravaged world. What they have delivered is an epic album of pure escapism that takes them far away from their post-Grunge, blues rock beginnings.

‘The Light Below’ is an atmospheric and captivating album from the off and it draws the listener in, unlike either of their previous offerings. Opener ‘The Value Of Zero’ rides on downbeat, tribal rhythms and swathes of electronica. ‘Ultra’-era Depeche Mode springs immediately to mind, this is not the dusty, Seattle blues rock of their previous incarnation, this is dark and foreboding rock music that skulks along in the dark waiting to pounce.

The previous single ‘What Did You Expect?’ follows, “I never promised to be an Angel’ croons Angell over fuzzy guitars and dance beats. Imagine if Trent Reznor had collided with ‘Full Moon Over Dirty Hearts’ era INXS and took them further down the spiral…yes, it’s a 90’s alternative rock thing and that’s a good place to be.

 

Two songs in and I’m pretty much blown away already, intrigued and excited for what is to follow. And what does follow is, what I can only describe as a masterpiece. ‘Divine Intervention/Stood Up At The Gates Of Heaven’ is the centerpiece of the album. Originally written as one piece of music, it has been split into two for this album. The full, epic 12-minute version was released recently along with a dark, David Lynch inspired video that fits the feel of the song perfectly. Picked, bluesy guitars, pulsating bass that reverberates deep down to the bottom of the soul, and brooding, whisky-soaked vocals that sit somewhere between Ian Astbury and Trent Reznor. The sprawling, cinematic ‘Divine Intervention’ documents Angell’s ongoing ‘conversations’ with departed spirits, and features Stone Temple Pilots Dean DeLeo’s masterful guitar work.

The segue into ‘’Stood Up At The Gates Of Heaven’ is magnificent, the pulsating hypnotic beat enraptures the listener for the entirety. For me, this is what music is all about. This is an album to get lost in, an album to drift away with. With clever use of dynamics, Angell creates soundscapes to enthrall, all you have to do is put on your headphones to block out the world, close your eyes and let the songwriter take you on a trip to another dimension.

Each song is like an all-encompassing art piece, each one different but all following the same theme. The structures, the sonics and the dynamics of each cleverly thought out and played out to complement the other within the context of the album that flows as one whole work of art.

With swathes of Hammond ‘Going Nowhere’ has a gothic, almost ethereal feel to it. Sparse instrumentation, minimal drums, and clever use of space leave room for the singer to work some magic, and the surprise addition of some sexy sax gives a soulful INXS vibe.

At over 9 minutes, ‘Creation, Reproduction and Death’ is a sexually charged, dancerama of darkness. A trip through life towards death, did you take the red or the blue pill? They even tinker with jazz on ‘The Other Shoe (Reprise)’, an instrumental sidestep where unexpected but welcoming sax joins pumping bass and tribal rhythms.

Jeff Angell has mastered the fine art of storytelling on this third opus and he shows us he can still sing the blues on the last two offerings. ‘Where Did I Go Wrong?’ is a bluesy confessional accompanied by warm, clean guitar chords and subtle background keys. And closer ‘California (One More Phone Call)’ is a Black Crowes style ballad. A vocal on the verge of cracking, a love letter, a goodbye to a lover, delivered with conviction and passion, mixed with subdued Hammond chords and little else is all that is needed to leave the listener with a sense of yearning. But a yearning for what? Maybe it’s just to press play and do it all again.

 

I must admit I went into this review expecting an average, dare I say it ‘classic rock’ album, based on the band’s past output. Little did I expect to be drawn in to an expansive album that ticks all the boxes for what I want from music in 2021. Angell and Anderson have taken their band far from their roots and created a sound that is modern, progressive and dark, full of electronica but rooted in the classic. Overall, I can honestly say ‘The Light Below’ is utterly mesmerizing and completely spellbinding. I know it’s early days, but I feel we may have a contender for album of the year already.

 

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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