If you’re a fan of any music that Caleb Scofield created or played, bring the tissues for this one. Cave In‘s aptly-titled Final Submission (Hydra Head) is a collection of recordings made with the band’s late bassist before his tragic death last year and contains much input from the man himself. It’s a slightly different album than fans might expect, but in many ways, it’s more meaningful for it. Continue reading
Sub-zero temperatures are the norm at the moment, so after having to cancel a gig last-minute the previous night due to travel issues, I redoubled my effort to make it for The Dandy Warhols, touring for their 25th anniversary. A single support band, in the form of French Psych-Pop outfit Juniore were around to warm up the crowd, so I braved the cold and head on across to Manchester’s Albert Hall for the evening’s entertainment. It’s also my first time at the venue, and being a Grade 2 listed building means that accessibility help is hard for them, but they bend over backwards to help however they can (even when I only asked for help on arrival), which they deserve a lot of praise for, while the setting itself is stunning, providing a great backdrop for the evening’s music. Continue reading
Describing one’s self as “The Dirty Beatles”, however tongue in cheek is pretty self-evidently a bold statement of intent. When it’s a claim made by a group in such an early stage about to release their debut EP release its definitely going to raise some eyebrows. At first glance/listen Electric La La Land (Symptom) may feel like a fairly generic but fun, sunshine ready release; but upon closer inspection Fine Creatures have provided an unexpected level of depth. Continue reading
Despite not having even released a full length album, and thus far one EP and single, Glasgow’s Tijuana Bibles have already accomplished quite the feats, most notably several small festival appearances and one at T In The Park; not something that every band you will find in these pages can claim. In anticipation of their upcoming release, these youngsters unveil latest single, the very catchy Sun Chaser (Pling).
On evidence of this single, it seems Tijuana Bibles have their ears to several phases of British influence. The main bulk sits strongly with indie rock and even a little Britpop, but doesn’t have quite the over-sanitized sheen or overly pop air of such mainstream radio fodder. Coupled with the hints of psychedelic and even blues hiding away and what we have here is signs of something special. On this single alone it seems that these guys’ future is very bright and should see acclaim from both the mainstream audiences and to those looking for something a little different.
Here’s a thing. I think it was the British music journalist Andrew Harrison who first coined the phrase “landfill indie”, referring to the glut of post Britpop bands that emerged at the end of the late 90s. These acts, mainly bereft of anything approaching “talent” and conspicuous in their self-regard, whiny vocals and complete lack of musical invention or excitement were responsible for the dilution of an independent music scene that was once renowned for its creativity, sense of purpose and creativity.
I’m going to coin another phrase. Consider, if you will, Post-Rock Rubble (patent pending). I refer, in this instance, to the current glut of hipster post rock bands who, in their quest for something approaching authenticity have appropriated the leitmotifs of post rock and imbued it with a level of anonymity and mediocrity that would be admirable in its effectiveness were the aural effect not so drab and boring. I think you know the sort of thing I’m talking about- delicate melodies married to crashing guitars that have journalists who really ought to know better about these sort of things, salivating at the mouth like Pavlovian dogs, using words like “transcendent”, “epic” and “life changing” to describe vocal free tunes that are, at best, pleasant enough and, at their most anodyne, akin to listening to the grass grow.
The job in hand is, therefore, to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s with this in mind that we come to Akron, Ohio’s If These Trees Could Talk and Metal Blade Records decision to reissue their 2009 debut Above the Earth, Below The Sky and its 2012 follow up Red Forest. Metal Blade don’t have a deep seated heritage in post-rock but they are a reliable label when it comes to spotting talent and If These Trees Could Talk are one of the better post rock outfits so their timing, whilst curious, is probably ahead of new material from the US based five piece which, as students of this genre will likely attest is a bit of a “good thing”.
If These Trees Could Talk operate in a world that has become all too familiar since their debut some six years ago. As you probably know, they are all about the feeling and the textures of their music and, structurally, you can spot the influence and lineage of the likes of Explosions in the Sky, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai and, at times, Cult of Luna at their most reflective. They have a discerning way of blending delicate and fragile melodies into the post-rock framework that is comforting and occasionally compelling.
Of the two re-issues, although there is a fair smattering of post rock loveliness in the debut album, (7) Red Forest(8) is the superior album, wherein the band have nothing like “difficult second album syndrome” but delivered a nuanced and confident record that succeeds pretty much wholesale, despite the limitations that the genre inevitably confers on its artists.
What sets If These Trees Could Talk apart from some of their more generic peers are two things: their almost metallic use of guitars to convey power as well as precision are probably one of the main reasons that they appeal to the A&R types at Metal Blade but for this listener, it is the deceptive simplicity of their music that compels. There is a moodiness and intensity to this music that brings you back to this band time and again; this is music to become emotional about and emotional for.
Above all, If The Trees Could Talk are not self conscious, nor self regarding- the two most obvious manifestations of their less talented peers. Sombre, thoughtful and evocative and a decent soundtrack for that bleak new year January.
Above The Earth, Below the Sky – 7.0/10
Red Forest – 8.0/10
2014 has been a ground-breaking, redefining year for doom, almost overriding the fact that many of the genre’s female-fronted outfits have produced some mesmerising music for a couple of years now. The unique qualities of Harriet Bevan‘s Leeds quintet Black Moth have been setting tongues wagging for some time and second album Condemned to Hope (New Heavy Sounds) reaffirms their particular status of a sassy, doom-rooted outfit whose satirical outlook is augmented with biting lyrics on modern life.
The colossal groove of opener ‘Tumbleweave’ lends gravity to whimsical lyrics about “porkers from the Daily Mail”, paper tiaras and burger queens, all delivered in Harriet’s laconic, incanting yet quintessentially English voice. Riffs crash rather than rumble yet still carry weight, with variations between trad doom and the stoner currents of ‘Looner’, whilst Jim Swainston‘s lead-work is flashing, emotive, and carved from the finest slabs of 70s heavy rock.
Atmospherics abound with the threatening fizz of amps during hushed moments of the stellar, sexy ‘The Undead King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, resonant tub-thumping heightening the sinister effect and slower sections possessing a bewitching sway that’s difficult to resist. Guitars occasionally have shimmering pedal effects similar to those of The Wounded Kings‘ Steve Mills, more often applied to the lead but muddying Nico Carew‘s riffs deliciously on the cascading, swirling ‘The Last Maze’, which is also graced by one of Swainston’s more memorable solos. Aside from those waggish phrasings other styles are infiltrated, with the indie-punk of ‘White Lies’ and ‘Room 13’ blending with a reverberating low end and complementing the Britpop feel of the lyrics and delivery. ‘Slumber with the Worm’, meanwhile, marries a Pulp Fiction-esque spaghetti twang with lead riffs verging on black metal.
This may not wield the same portentous mass as some of its contemporaries, and Bevan’s voice occasionally shows limits, save for some soaring notes on the hypnotic closing title track. All of this, however, enhances Black Moth’s charm and identity. They’re a little bit different and, in the quirky fashion of oddities from these shores, unmistakably ours. Quite frankly this rips, and deserves some serious investigation.