Of course its on Pirates Press for they’re the perfect label for some excellent polished oi meets street punk rock n roll. From the opening verse and chorus of ‘The City’ you’re already singing along with the gang on this rather fine slice of street punk. Including past and present members of The Swingin’ Utters, The Beltones, Roadside Bombs, Hometown Addiction, Resilience, The Burdens, and more. They were formed at the beginning of the pandemic, and have the mission statement of playing roots rock n roll with a bootstomping rhythm and a fistfull of top tunes. You know what, they delivered exactly that.
Its got a spit and polish of some guys who’ve been around the block once or twice and know how to make a gret sounding record. Each of the ten tracks is powerfully delivered and arranged to perfection. Early doors you have the bass thumping runaway train that is ‘War’ I get shades of Living End in the arrangment but by the halfway point the songs are varied from the uptempo rock of ‘BNO’ to the melodic ‘Dead Generation’ with its strong message and gang vocal chorus it sounds like the perfect band for a good saturday night out with mates checking out the rock n roll show.
They even have time to slow things down for the intro of ‘Little Girl’ before it soars like a good SLF song. The upside of those long arduous lockdowns was a lot of bands were forced to work on their craft and out of all that isolation we have albums like this. ‘Good Riddence’ is a strong rock song no fuss or pretentions just five guys kicking out the jams. ‘King Of The Avenue’ is a strong avenue from top to bottom and they even find the time for a punk rock roots take on ‘Hungry Heart’ which they do very well to be fair leaving only ‘Nothing Wrong’ to sign this project off with as they ride off into the distance with a hot rod snarling rocker. If you like your Californian Punk Rock n Roll loud and full of melody with uplifting choruses that the gang can all get involved in then Hunting Lions might just be your new favourite band.
new album “Skinwalker” + EU headline tour dates announced for April 2024
UK headline tour to begin March
New album out 12th April via Communion Records
Cardiff-based four-piece Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard return with the announcement of their highly anticipated second album “Skinwalker”. Following closely on the heels of their critically acclaimed single “Therapy”, which came out just before the turn of the year, the new album is due for release on 12th April via Communion Records. It will come shortly after the band’s forthcoming UK tour which is set to take place across March 2024.
Following on from their Welsh Music Prize nominated debut album ‘Backhand Deals’ in 2022, the band wrote and recorded the album at frontman and producer Tom Rees’s Rat Trap studio, the room where Rees has previously recorded and produced tracks for emerging talent – Panic Shack, Do Nothing and The Bug Club. The material – as previewed on “Therapy” and their earlier single “Chew” – showcases a heavier and more disquieting sound than anything the band have released to date.
This darker sound and aesthetic take inspiration from found-footage horror and the Navajo concept of the Skinwalker – a legendary malevolent shapeshifter – from which the album takes its name. Thematically, each track on the record is designed to take you through descending floors of Rees’s mind each becoming more horrific than the last with the Skinwalker at the final floor, representing his inner fears, self-sabotage, hatred, and self-doubt. It’s a deeply intimate record of self-analysis and personal growth told through heavy fuzz-drenched guitars, a crushing rhythm section, and fevered vocals.
The band still carry that same the fast-paced energy and subtle trademark ‘70s references from their earlier releases though, and this is particularly evident on the danceable, indie-funk inflected new single “National Rust”, which was premiered last night by Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 6 Music.
Speaking on the single Rees says, “‘National Rust’ was my attempt at consolidating my 2020 obsession with Sly and the Family Stone with my 2021 obsession with David Bowie’s album ‘Low’. It was the first song that really paved the way for the new album, it broke a lot of the sonic boundaries that I was writing within when starting the second album, “I AM NOT AFRAID OF PLAYING FUNKY GUITAR!”, I exclaimed, mu-tron in hand.
Lyrically, it made a statement that informed my songwriting moving forward as well, being a flagrant rejection of my previous political song writing, and an admission of alienation amongst a plethora of information. ‘National Rust’ acts as a bridge between my younger, more political perspective, and my more recent, more apathetic one.”
Elsewhere on the record, the harmony-filled “In My Egg” sees Rees sing about the struggles to force yourself out of your comfort zone, whilst “Human Compression” see the band delve into an almost desert-rock sound with hazy, unrelenting guitar work supporting Rees’s lyrics about the pressure he puts on himself. The psychedelic glam-tinged “Night Of The Skinwalker” – a song which centres around his struggles with self-doubt- marks the albums opus, melding a number of styles and genres across almost six minutes.
Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – Rees, guitarist Zac White, drummer Ethan Hurst and Rees’ brother and bassist Eddie – have been going from strength-to-strength since releasing their debut EP “The Non-Stop” in 2020. They’ve since made of end-of-year lists with NME, DIY, and Dork; earned plaudits from the likes of the Guardian, The Telegraph, MOJO, Uncut, Record Collector, The Needle Drop, The Independent, CLASH, The Line Of Best Fit, and So Young; and have amassed significant radio support with plays across worldwide radio, and live session appearances across BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, NPR, Radio X, and more.
The band’s frenetic live sets have seen the band make fans in tourmates from The Magic Gang to Miles Kane and were set to support Noel Gallagher – another in a growing list of fans – at the Royal Albert Hall before the coronavirus struck. They’ve also performed widely across the festival circuit appearing at Glastonbury, Eurosonic, Latitude, All Points East, SXSW, and Green Man, and have toured extensively including a packed-out headline date at Scala. The band will go out on tour again next March hitting 16-dates across the UK where the band will continue to debut new material.
Full dates are as follows:
FEBRUARY 2024 24 – Swansea, Swansea Arena House Party
MARCH 2024 01 – Oxford, Jericho Tavern 03 – Exeter, The Cavern 04 – Falmouth, Cornish Bank 06 – Norwich, Voodoo Daddy’s 07 – Chelmsford, Hot Box 08 – Ipswich, The Smokehouse 10 – Tunbridge Wells, Forum 12 – Milton Keynes, Craufurd Arms 13 – St Albans, The Horn 14 – Ramsgate, Music Hall 16 – Peterborough, Met Lounge 17 – Birmingham, Hare & Hounds 18 – Hull, Adelphi Club 20 – Stockton, Ku Bar 21 – Sunderland, Independent 22 – Edinburgh, Voodoo Rooms 24 – Grimsby, Docks Academy 25 – York, The Fulford Arms 26 – Clitheroe, The Swan & Royal 27 – Frome, The Tree House APRIL 02 – Rotterdam, Netherlands, V11 03 – Paris, France, L’International 04 – Hasselt, Belgium, Café Café
Tickets are on sale now – buy HERE “Skinwalker” is out 12th April via Communion Records – Pre-order HERE
Unless you spent last year living under a sizeable rock, you’ll know that the flame of righteous rock n roll is safely in the hands of His Lordship. Since their debut single ‘All Cranked Up’, they haven’t put a foot wrong, releasing two EPs, one of the original songs and another of greasy cover versions.
The dynamic duo, often a live three-piece, are easily in the running for album of the year, alongside Black Bombers. The quality of songs and the levels of energy have set the bar mighty high for their contemporaries. From ‘All Cranked Up’ onwards, it’s a joy. Alongside the songs that you already know, there are five new ones, plus the recent release ‘Jackie Works For The NHS’, which shows that while the tunes have their roots in the 50s, their subject matter is more varied.
Which, given James Walbourne’s writing partnership with Chrissie Hynde in Pretenders, should come as no surprise. He’s a busy fellow, but His Lordship stand on their own terms. And Kristoffer Sonne sure knows how to treat his minimal drum kit to his best advantage. If you don’t already know the likes of ‘Buzzkill’, ‘I’m So Bored Of Being Bored’ or ‘I Live In The City’, you’re in for a treat.
‘The Repenter’ shows that their musical palette is broader than some may have thought, ‘Joyboy’ is yet another raw slice of rock n roll, somewhere between Johnny Thunders and Link Wray at their most ferocious. Speaking of the great Link, their instrumental ‘Cat Call’ is pure class.
‘Rock, Fall, Echo, Dust’ has licks that Brian Setzer would surely approve of, and ‘Pixellated Polly’ is a grinding, hypnotic riff. ‘My Brother Is An Only Child’ adds a little Cramps to the mix, but nothing here sounds forced; they clearly love the music. It’s increasingly hard to make primal rock n roll that sounds fresh and exciting, but His Lordship have the talent and style required to pull it off. This is an essential purchase, folks. Get it ordered and catch them on tour.
I always get excited when I hear news trickling through the grapevine that Californias Bryan Smalls has assembled The Hangmen to record some new music and when I got the PR to say ‘Stories To Tell’ was indeed done and in the can, I couldn’t wait to get me some.
Getting straight to business, ‘Broken Heartland gets ‘Stories To Tell’ off to a flier with its solid tempo and some cool slide driving this Rocker onward and upwards. With some really nice solo work. With very little fanfare it’s on with the show and always a band who simply let the music do their talking. As far as openers go this is a thumper, no messing about just good honest Rock n Roll with a decent hook sweet playing and a melody on the chorus that locks in to your good vibe receptors of your brain making this addictive and oh so sweet.
Play on. With a nice round ten tracks on offer Smalls laid back exterior and style is no more aparent than ‘Midnight Riders’ with its widescreen vision as the sun drops out of the sky its such a quality tune. You’ve gotta love the melody as it battles with the music for what grabs you most but this is where The Hangmen sit best for me – it sounds effortlessly cool as you’re drawn in. They turn up the amps for ‘Last Time I Saw You’ as the riff chimes the band are rockin out here just cruising through the gears.
Another shift in tempo sees the laid back ‘On The Outside’ go country roots rock. The acoustic guitars are out and its time to sip a beer on the porch whilst the Rock n Roll eases back. Four songs deep and four sides to The Hangmen painting broad strokes with a thread throughout thats totally recognisable which isn’t easy to do. That Hangmen tone is what captures your attention. It’s raw as a seeping wound but sweet as honey, ‘Sinister Purpose’ hangs its melody on a big riff thats classic and modern but always quality. The cowbell is out on ‘Bayou Moon’ as Smalls leads his troops down a Stones rabit hole that oozes class. As the groove takes hold I’m gazing into the sky hoping we can all get some of this ‘Bayou Moon’. In fact The Stones are lurking in the DNA of Stories To Tell as the acoustic rocker of ‘Behind The Wheel’ will testify.
With a title track being a mid paced mid day rocker stretching itself out building to the chorus its just classic Hangmen and if you get it you’ll dig it and admire their class. Its a very impressive album with variety and moments left right and centre that purr with quality from the rockin opener to the almost baladlike ‘Runnin Kind’ that brings the curtain down on this excellent album. Don’t take my word for it. Head out there and pick up a copy or if you’re modern and like to stream then get on and pre save it so you can also marvel in the majesty that is the most excellent Hangmen. Winner!
Classic rock n roll transcends time by distilling heart and passion into the soul that connects us with others in some collective unconscious pool of emotion, which can range from exuberance to the darkness of heartbreak. Whether we grew up listening to the likes of the Faces and the Rolling Stones or the Dogs D’amour and Quireboys or checking out this new mini album by the Circus Hearts, these are not just songs but the sonic blood that drives us. The Circus Hearts have sprinkled a couple of singles out over the past few years which are also included here on one of the finest albums you will hear this year.
I have been lucky enough to spend about a month with these songs, which immediately grabbed me but have become even more contagious over repeated listens. Opening song ‘This Old Coat’ comes ringing in on the guitar and a sprinkling of piano which sets the stage perfectly with Joe Anzuena’s vocals on the verse immediately making a statement that this is going to be special. In the past, I have thought this musical approach isn’t doing anything revolutionary new, but I now lean a little bit more towards the other end as not nearly enough music is being made in this style anymore. ‘Family Tree’ roars out of the speaker with a hint of Exile/ Sticky Fingers era Stones. Like the opening track, this one packs another stellar hook in the chorus.
The album is self-produced and mixed perfectly. Sean Flynn’s guitar jumps out of the speakers while the rhythm section of Jojo Buerklin (drums) and Chris Herninko (bass) carries each song to new heights. Each song also employs the use of piano/ keys which also shine in the mix. Wrapping up the first half of the album is a splendid cover of the Faces’ ‘Had Me a Real Good Time.’ Covering such a song can end up going spectacularly bad, but there are no reasons for worry here. Anzuena’s vocals are magical throughout the song as he hits the notes perfectly and gives them a hint of grit when needed.
Flipping the wax over leads to another embarrassment of musical riches. ‘Baby Bye Bye’ should grab listeners who appreciate catchy guitar riffs, female backing vocals, and sax work. This style would have fit seamlessly on the Black Crowes’ ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ or the first couple Quireboys’ albums. At no point in this album is there any dip in quality. Follow-up song ‘Annie C’mon’ continues in a similar vain and contains some killer sax work by Bobby Michaels. I would be perfectly content to isolate the sax in the song and just listen to it because of how well it is done.
Closing song ‘Circus Hearts” has become my favorite amongst favorites here as it slows the tempo a bit with a nice piano intro. The slower tempo allows Anzuena’s vocals to shine again as we vicariously feel life on the road moving from town to town. Lyrically, the Circus Hearts establish their own identity as well with familiar subject matter avoiding the typical cliches. Much as the Faces cover closed side 1 as the longer epic, this final song goes past the 5-minute mark as it continues to build. This is not a power ballad though if that is what you are thinking. This is just a slower rock song that exudes emotion.
At the end of the album, the biggest disappointment is that there are only 6 songs here. It leaves you longing for more songs, so the only logical solution is to either flip the vinyl over to start again or let the digital files circle back around for another play. The Circus Hearts have channeled a magic elixir here and hopefully have more in store for us in the future. If you like any of the bands I have mentioned or needing a fix of rock n roll, I urge you to stop reading and go pick up the vinyl before it is too late and you have to settle for just a download of one of the best releases of 2023 whose timelessness will mean you are adding this to your favorite playlists moving forward.
Making our way through the wretched hive of scum and villainy gathered on the streets of Mos Ei… sorry I of course meant…Newport, on route to entering our favourite local cantina bar, Le Pub, I’d perhaps be forgiven for thinking I’d actually stepped back in time, to a film set not from the 1970s, but in fact the 1960s and that scene in ‘Blow Up’ where David Hemmings walks in on the Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page version of Yardbirds rippin’ through a rough as they come version of ‘Train Kept A-Rollin’’. That’s because Finland’s finest rabble rousers US are in the house tonight opening proceedings for Jim Jones All Stars, and they are making an immediate (and very positive) impression on those of us in the sweaty confines of Le Pub early doors.
Having recently completed a set of UK shows in support of the fast rising His Lordship, US are not only a band seemingly out of time, but also out of this world, their music falling somewhere between garage rock and out and out old school R&B, with the Helsinki 5 piece not only winning the sharpest dressers in Newport award tonight, but also truly sounding like the real deal too. I could say they remind me of The Strypes, as they look as young as those Irish lads did in their early years, but no, these lads actually remind me of The Sonics, and that’s a world of difference in my book.
US are playing a series of UK shows this summer including a run of 5 shows at this year’s Glastonbury Festival, make sure you catch ‘em while you can, as these guys are going to be going places.
Having witnessed Jim Jones during his time fronting revolutionary psych punks Thee Hypnotics (first time around and the brief pre-Covid reunion), along with his roustabout Revue years and those most Righteous of Minds days, my most recent encounter with the singer/guitarist was at this year’s Vive Le Rock Awards in London where he briefly put a spell on us all fronting the house pick up band the Vive Le Rockers.
Why do I mention this? Well, simply because the 8-piece band that now makes up the collective known as the Jim Jones All Stars is like the perfect sum of all those already great parts…but (as some welly wearing comedian used to say) there’s more. Much, much more.
I’m not sure exactly what it is, but there’s times tonight where the All Stars sound like they could be Stax or Sun (oh and let’s not forget Bell either) Records recording artistes, there’s just so much soul emanating from the stage, and that extra little touch of class that the dual saxophones bring to proceedings is nothing short of musical genius.
For their hour on stage (which literally felt like it was over in the blink of an eye) we get reinventions of classic Revue tracks like ‘Cement Mixer’, ‘Burning Your House Down’, ‘The Princess And The Frog’, along with a truly off the scale ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Psychosis’ plus there’s a seismic rendition of the Righteous Minds’ ‘Satan’s Got His Heart Set On You’ along for safe measure, something that very well might just have woken up any dozing Rontos chained up outside. (Jeez, I never do any Star Wars references and that’s two in one review). Plus of course there’s the All Stars very own anthem in the making, the hip shaking, ‘Gimme The Grease’, which really is a sign of truly great things to come.
Whilst a lot of the other bars in Newport would see cover bands playing in them tonight, I will bet my mortgage on the fact that none of those bands will have covered both ‘Run Run Run’ by The Velvet Underground, and ‘Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey’ by The Beatles. Unfortunately, there’s no space in the set tonight for the band’s version Of ‘Human Fly’, aired during their inaugural live shows, but I’m more than happy to trade that in for the All Stars’ rendition of Thee Hypnotics’ ‘Shakedown’ that closes things out tonight. Wow! That really is all I can say, apart from this is how I always wanted to hear this song delivered live, and like the wise old sage stood by me during the show shouted in my ear, it really did “sound like The Stooges in their prime”.
With the clock ticking down to the dreaded night club early load out, there was just enough time for a whirlwind run through of the Revue’s ‘512’ before we were all being ushered out into the main bar and ultimately out into the maybe not quite as cold as usual Newport night air.
This long since sold out show will surely feature on many of its (very lucky) attendees’ gigs of the year list, and after seeing Jim Jones perform with all those aforementioned bands, I feel he’s really hit on something very magical indeed with the Jim Jones All Stars.
This is without question his finest hour yet, truly exceptional stuff!
You may be forgiven if you are unaware of the name Richard Duguay, but the Canadian musician (now residing in LA) has the rock n’ roll credentials ladies and gents. He first came to prominence as bassist and then guitarist for Canadian punk legends Personality Crisis in the early 80’s and went on to contribute guitars to Guns n’ Roses version of ‘You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory’ in the early 90’s. He has spent the last 20 years in LA playing and recording, his most recent release was a concept album entitled ‘Bad Juju’, which was written and recorded with co-writer/guitar slinger Marc Floyd.
He now follows up that album with ‘Beautiful Decline’, which takes the same 70’s rock n’ roll influences, the street punk of Detroit and New York City, and adds psychedelic sonics and dynamic arrangements that promise to turn heads and make impressions that last.
The first impressions of ‘Beautiful Decline’ certainly do impress. If you dig the dark, theatrical rock of vintage Alice Cooper, the dangerous thrill of Iggy & The Stooges and the glamour of New York Dolls, then hold on to your sequined jacket baby, because you are in for a real cool time.
“I never met a sucker who didn’t have it coming” drawls Duguay over urgent beats and low-slung guitars on opener ‘Wasteland’. With more than a hint of Scandinavian leather it then descends into a cool as you like breakdown, before kicking ass back into a race to the climax. That’ll do nicely sir, I’m sold!
A shameless cover of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s ‘The Faith Healer’ follows. It is transformed into a more theatrical and OTT beast, one that you feel the mighty Coop would’ve done himself back in the day. Yeah, sorta Alice Cooper meets Bigelf here, as there is a trippy, psychedelic vibe going on.
The theatrical theme continues with the most excellent ‘Kid Stardust’. Pianos and mass vocals take charge over a character-based narrative. It seems there is more to Richard Duguay’s songwriting than meets the eye, as the arrangements and the dynamics are clever and well executed all over this album. I mean, ‘Prepare The Dogs Of War’ is a 6-minute epic with haunting female vocals, stabs of piano, multi sections of music and twangy, spaghetti western guitars. And that’s just the first of two 6-minute epics! More ambitious and glorious than the street punk cover art would lead you to believe. Even Duguay’s vocals here are as menacing as anything Alice, or even Marilyn Manson has concocted.
There are straight ahead rockers as well though. ‘Get In Line’ has a glam slam ride of a chorus with killer backing vocals and percussion, both thrilling in unison. Yet again, our songwriter fits in another crazy ass, mid-song breakdown that verges on something The Police would’ve done with the tune, before breaking back into that killer bridge that really hits hard coming out of that breakdown. A killer tune indeed.
Then the rifftastic ‘I Gotta Move’ gives off Hellacopters meets The Stooges vibes as sonically seductive guitars solo wildly over a killer chugging riff. Gang vocals are the icing on the cake of an album highlight.
Amongst the garage rock and the theatre are a couple of heartfelt acoustic moments worth mentioning. The emotive duet ‘Windows Walk’ screams Thunders/Palladin as Richard and his wife Paula Tiberius deliver a snippet of a song that is over seemingly as soon as it has begun. And album closer ‘Eyes Of Silence’ is a stripped-down affair with acoustic guitar and understated piano accompaniment. Again, the signature dynamics are at play with a stop here and there to add drama, and as it rides out on a tinkling of the ivories, the listener is left satisfied with a sense of completion and the desire to hit that play button once again.
With 11 songs that cover a wide spectrum of the rock n’ roll world, ‘Beautiful Decline’ is as ambitious as it is diverse. Each listen reveals more layers, as you come to realise it’s an album that is much more than the sum of its parts. Epic, theatrical rock with menacing undertones disguised as punky, garage rock. And lo and behold if Richard Duguay has seemingly come from nowhere and delivered one of the most ambitious and 70’s sounding rock albums of the year so far. Buy it before it sells out.
The self-proclaimed “Barons of High Energy Rock n’ Roll” Märvel celebrate their 20th anniversary with a double album of their greatest hits, B sides and hard to find tracks, collected together on vinyl for the first time.
The Swedish power trio, consisting of The King (Vocals/guitar), The Burgher (bass) and The Vicar (drums) play the sort of high-octane rock n’ roll usually reserved for the likes of Hellacopters, Gluecifer and Turbonegro and are influenced by the most flamboyant and hard-hitting rock bands from the 70’s and 80’s.
‘Double Decade’ follows the release of last year’s ‘Graces Came With Malice’ album and takes the listener on a ride through their 9 studio albums and a plethora of EPs and singles.
They open proceedings with the title track of their 2015 EP ‘The Hills Have Eyes’, a poptastic affair with handclaps, whistling and urgent, bombastic beats. It’s so “Disco Kiss” it could be an outtake from ‘Dynasty’. In complete contrast, ‘Bring It On’ from the same EP, sees the trio veer off the Kiss train into laid back blues slumber, as The King wails ‘Bring it on motherfuckers!” over a sloppily delivered Billy Gibbons riff.
Apart from the most recent ‘Graces Came With Malice’ and the covers opus ‘Guilty Pleasures’, all the studio albums are represented. You wanted the best; you got the best! From the debut ‘5 Smell City’ to the 2017 release ‘At The Sunshine Factory’, we get a snapshot of the best Märvel have to offer. You want a band who sound like 70’s Kiss meets Hellacopters, with a smattering of Thin Lizzy and Bolan thrown about for good measure? Then look no further.
The punky ‘T.N.H.’ and ‘The Effort’ taken from the excellently titled ‘Warhawks Of War’ are two of my personal faves, along with ‘Pyrrhic Victory’ and the most awesome of B sides that is ‘Ambassador Of Fantastic’.
They include 2 new songs as well. ‘Catch 22’ and the killer ‘Turn The Page’ show that Märvel have not lost the art of penning a catchy chorus or two over the years.
Another highlight and a bit of a curioso is ‘The Devil Stole The Beat From The Lord’, taken from the Hellacopters tribute album ‘Payin The Dues’ and is a faithful rendition of the classic and fits the vibe of this album perfectly.
A lot of these songs you won’t find on streaming sites, there’s no videos on YouTube. Hell, you can’t even find any info on Google (you try typing in “Märvel” followed by “Motherfucker” and scroll through pages of Samuel L Jackson quotes!). But this sort of adds to the anonymity and excitement of the band and sets them apart from their peers.
‘Double Decade’ is a killer 23 track compilation of one of the best unsung bands of Scandinavian rock n’ roll, that have been treading the boards for the past 20 years. If you’ve not discovered the joys of a Märvel album, this is your perfect introduction. Long may they reign supreme.
Back in the mists of time, sometime around 1994, I was gifted a second-hand t shirt (sleeves cut off, obviously). On the front was a cartoon dog and a cat with a baseball bat, in neon pink writing the band logo of some obscure, local glam band who had long since split up. That band were called Sister Morphine and on the back of that very same t shirt was the immortal phrase ‘SUCK MY JUBE!’. To this day I still have no idea what that means, and until recently what Sister Morphine actually sounded like, but I loved that t shirt and wore it to death. Turns out the singer of that very same band would be my boss/editor/sender of cool music during my time as a reviewer for the legendary Uber Rock website.
South Wales based Sister Morphine were regulars on the club circuit back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, supporting the likes of Last Of The Teenage Idols and Gunfire Dance. But sadly, the stars didn’t align and the band went their separate ways. Who would’ve guessed that Gaz Tidey, guitarists Jamesy & Jonesy, bassist Mike DeSouza and drummer Denley Slade would get the band back together during lockdown and record the debut album that they threatened to make back in those halcyon days of hairspray, fags and thunderbird wine.
So, while you and I were baking banana bread, drinking beer at 10am and watching Tiger King on Netflix, Sister Morphine were scouring their lofts for lost rehearsal tapes, to find the best versions of their beloved songs from a lifetime ago, to see if they really could resurrect Sister Morphine from the graveyard of empty bottles and claim their rightful place as the kings of Glunk Rock 2023!
But why should you care about lost songs recorded by a bunch of 50-somethings, written a lifetime ago? Well, it turns out Sister Morphine can knock out a few tunes, and bloody good ones at that! I must say I was pleasantly surprised when I heard the first single and title track ‘Ghosts Of Heartbreak City’. Who knew Mr. Tidey had such a sleazy vocal delivery that would stand up after all these years. With a voice that sits somewhere between Ricky Warwick and Zodiac Mindwarp, he takes the catchy melody by the scruff of the neck, over a tune that could be an AI generated mash up of The Dogs D’amour and The Quireboys. It’s a 70’s glam rock boogie of a tune and the perfect introduction to the party going on down at Heartbreak City!
Recorded at RedRock studios in Blackwood and produced by Lyndon Price of Welsh metal legends Wild Pussy, ‘Ghosts Of Heartbreak City’ is a 15-song blast of high-octane rock n’ roll that features regulars from their live sets, lost tracks from the archives and four brand new songs for you to devour.
Opener ‘Holy City Zoo’ has already been likened to Motorhead by those in the know, and references Bowie, Duran and Roxy Music. It’s a 2 minute & 22 second statement of intent, job done.
You want punky, low slung rock n’ roll with more attitude than Rocky on steroids? Then look no further than second track ‘Do You Wanna Get Wasted?’. Now that’s a song title any angst-filled youth of today can get on board with, right? Good job it sounds like Zodiac Mindwarp jamming with Backyard Babies and Johnny Thunders then, innit!
The Scandinavian punk rock vibes continue on the likes of second single ‘Nothing Dirty In The Truth’ where the rousing verses and killer chorus showcase a band who really mean it. Elsewhere, ‘Black Hearts & Bruised Egos’ channels Circus Of Power and early Alice Cooper garage rock vibes to great effect.
What’s not to like here? I’m loving this album. Maybe it’s the nostalgia, or maybe I’m biased, but I’ll tell you one thing for certain, Sister Morphine have some killer tunes going on.
Lifting a page out of Tyla’s songbook, ‘Cry The Rain’ is a big tune about love gone bad, set to a Faces-lite rock n’ roll boogie, with some rousing backing vocals. Sava a place in your heart for this one. The hook-laden ‘8 Tracks & Zodiacs’ is another of the new songs, and a potential single for sure. A song about a girl, it has catchy 90’s brit rock vibes that sit well and is a serious earworm.
The strengths of this album lie in the songwriting, the diversity and the production. It’s all pretty high-octane stuff, but they do throw in a curve ball towards the end with the countrified blues of ‘Living With Snakes’. Acoustics, slide guitar and harmonica go a long way to show Sister Morphine ain’t one trick ponies.
While ‘Ghosts Of Heartbreak City’ has one foot planted firmly in the past, it brings a classic sound smack up to date for 2023 with a great production. Full of rock n’ roll nostalgia and clever tongue-in-cheek lyricism, we get sleazy punk rock, 70’s boogie rock and countrified goodness all wrapped up in one cool little package.
If Sister Morphine’s only ambition was to realize their dream of releasing a debut album that could stand tall with the artists of their era, then they have easily succeeded. But I feel they have surpassed those ambitions by taking the music to places their teenage selves could never imagine. ‘Ghosts Of Heartbreak City’ is a pretty unique album, in that it has been recorded by a bunch of 50 somethings, yet it has the energy and sonics of a band half their age. And you know what? I’ll be happy to file that shiny new CD in the rack, somewhere between Shotgun Messiah and Skid Row, where it should have sat for the last 30 years.
REMASTERED LIMITED EDITION GATEFOLD DOUBLE VINYL&DELUXE CDEACH FORMAT FEATURES NINE BONUS TRACKS – Released on BMG – Pre Order Here
On 3rd MarchBMG release The STRANGLERS’ 40th Anniversary Edition of FELINE.
FELINE will be available as a limited double album on remastered 180g Heavyweight transparent pink and red vinyl, housed in a newly created inner bags. The 2CD digipackfeatures exclusive booklet artwork and a new appreciation by the band’s biographer and journalist, Chris Twomey.
Originally released in January 1983, FELINE is The STRANGLERS’ seventh studio LP and was their first for then-new label, Epic.
1982 had proved to be a very good year for the band. The last three singles released for former label EMI had been more gentle and of a mellower-nature than anything their audience had been previously accustomed to. So when FELINE landed, it perhaps shouldn’t have been such a surprise to both fans and critics alike that there was such a perceived musical shift. Hugh & JJ’s acquisition of acoustic guitars from a now world-renowned guitar maker in Bristol helped shape FELINE into becoming possibly the nearest thing to an “unplugged” studio album the band have yet made. Gone were the powerful, sinister, throbbing melodies of their New Wave sound and in came an extraordinary and, at that time, hitherto-unheard mix of acoustic and electronic delights. Having said that, from the black panther on the sleeve to the underlying melodies of the record, underpinned by that unmistakable growling bass, the band still managed to convey their dark, menacing, moody, slightly unsettling and quietly threatening no-nonsense persona.
Much of FELINE was written at Jet’s house – a disused railway station in Gloucestershire – and as soon as the band were free from the shackles of EMI, Epic arranged for them to decamp to ICP Studios in Brussels for all of September, 1982 to record it. It was produced there by the band with Steve Churchyard (Big Country, INXS, Taylor Swift) and mixed by Tony Visconti (Bowie, T-Rex).
The album was preceded by the gloriously-beautiful and breathy JJ-sung EUROPEAN FEMALE, which immediately fired the band back into the UK’s Top 10 Singles Chart. As the single peaked, the album crashed into the UK charts at number 4 and neither they nor the suits at Epic could have imagined a much better start to life at their new label. In fact it got better, as this new mellow sound struck a chord with European audiences, particularly in France, where FELINE effectively broke them to a much bigger audience; one they still enjoy to this day.
Two further singles were released from FELINE. The mighty album opener, MIDNIGHT SUMMER DREAM, a melody of JJ’s with intoned dead-pan lyrics from Hugh, following a grand symphonic opening from Dave, was released in late February 1983. Both the 7” Edit and the magnificent 10½ minute Special 12” Mix feature amongst the tracks on the bonus LP/CD that comes with this 40th Anniversary release. At the end of July ‘83, PARADISE was released. Again sung by JJ, he wrote it after an uncomfortable holiday he’d hated in the Seychelles because of his discomfort with the poverty that surrounded the luxury in which he was staying. Fact fans: it is the only STRANGLERS’ single that features voices from beyond the band, as backing vocals were provided by JJ’s then-girlfriend Anna von Stern and France L’Hermitte (of Belgian band Polyphonic Size). The 7” Edit that appears on Side 3 is surprisingly scarce and has only once previously appeared on vinyl. It has only otherwise been commercially available on The Hit Men 2CD compilation from 1996.
Both the bonus LP and bonus CD on this 40th Anniversary release feature the same tracks; a mix of B-sides and rarities.
The bonus tracks start by gathering the three7” single edits and a couple of B-sides from the period. The EUROPEAN FEMALERadio Edit was a surprising find, in as much as it was only re-discovered in 2018. Other than providing the 7” radio promo serviced from late 1982, the tape had lain gathering dust in Sony’s vaults, overlooked by all previous compilers, until then. PÃWSHĒR and PERMISSION were, respectively, the B-side and the 12” bonus track for the PARADISE single. They are the two tracks within this collection that were recorded outside of the main sessions. The former, a mysterious single-word-repeated song, was recorded in New York in April, 1983; the latter, in London, two months later. Typically Strangler-esque, it sounds bright and summery, yet in fact chronicles the dark antics of the notorious French CRS riot police…
On Side 4 of the LP and continuing on the bonus CD is SAVAGE BREAST. Originally intended as an album track, it was left off at the last minute only to re-surface before the album’s release as the B-side of EUROPEAN FEMALE. Hugh’s career-long love of film and theatre combined with his twisting of well-established names and phrases ran overboard on FELINE, with SAVAGE BREAST, MIDNIGHT SUMMER DREAM and LET’S TANGO IN PARIS completing his trio of word-play titles for 1983. In fact, so many of the song titles on FELINE are familiar phrases – IT’S A SMALL WORLD; SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT; ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME; NEVER SAY GOODBYE – that there was clearly an unconscious pattern developing during the song writing. Rounding off this collection are a couple of tongue-in-cheek curios that well support the band’s sense of fun. VLADIMIR & OLGA is akin to a modern-day Russian folk song based on a fictional couple in (then) Soviet-era Ukraine. It is the first in what became a quirky and much-loved series of adventures that were to recur over the next decade. The initial pressings of the original LP of FELINE included a free bonus one-sided 7” called AURAL SCULPTURE. It also featured on initial copies of the original FELINE cassette. It was a sarcastic rant against the death of music in general and song-writing in particular. If you got it, it was both barbed and hilarious. Subsequently, the theme was carried on, with the title becoming that of the band’s next album, so the track was from there-on re-titled AURAL SCULPTURE MANIFESTO.
Whilst The STRANGLERS have suffered the recent dreadful losses of both the uniquely-talented Dave GREENFIELD (May 2020) and their founder and driving force, Jet BLACK (December, 2022), they continue to tour. From 3rd to 18th March 2023, they are playing three dates in SPAIN, followed by nine in FRANCE, including PARISL’Olympia on 11th. Then in April they head Down Under between the 13th and 23rd for three dates in NEW ZEALAND and five in AUSTRALIA.
The line-up is JJ BURNEL (bass and vocals); Baz WARNE (guitar and vocals); Jim MACAULAY (drums, percussion and backing vocals) and Toby HOUNSHAM (keyboards and backing vocals).
LIMITED EDITION GATEFOLD DOUBLE ALBUM on REMASTERED 180g HEAVYWEIGHT
TRANSPARENT PINK and RED VINYL
SIDE 1: 1. MIDNIGHT SUMMER DREAM 2. IT’S A SMALL WORLD 3. SHIPS THAT PASS IN THE NIGHT
4. THE EUROPEAN FEMALE (IN CELEBRATION OF)
SIDE 2: 1. LET’S TANGO IN PARIS 2. PARADISE 3. ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME 4. BLUE SISTER 5. NEVER SAY GOODBYE
BONUS VINYL LP:
SIDE 3: 1. EUROPEAN FEMALE (RADIO EDIT) 2. MIDNIGHT SUMMER DREAM (SPECIAL SINGLE MIX) 3. PARADISE (RADIO EDIT) 4. PÃWSHĒR 5. PERMISSION
SIDE 4: 1. MIDNIGHT SUMMER DREAM (SPECIAL 12” MIX) 2. SAVAGE BREAST 3. VLADIMIR & OLGA 4. AURAL SCULPTURE
LIMITED EDITION 2CD DIGIPACK
CD 1:1. MIDNIGHT SUMMER DREAM 2. IT’S A SMALL WORLD 3. SHIPS THATPASS IN THE NIGHT 4. THE EUROPEAN FEMALE (IN CELEBRATION OF) 5. LET’S TANGO IN PARIS 6. PARADISE 7. ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME 8. BLUE SISTER 9. NEVER SAY GOODBYE
CD 2: 1. EUROPEAN FEMALE (RADIO EDIT) 2. MIDNIGHT SUMMER DREAM (SPECIAL SINGLE MIX) 3. PARADISE (RADIO EDIT) 4. PÃWSHĒR 5. PERMISSION6. MIDNIGHT SUMMER DREAM (SPECIAL 12” MIX) 7. SAVAGE BREAST 8. VLADIMIR & OLGA 9. AURAL SCULPTURE