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Claw Marks - Hee Hee

Given that Idles are now playing stadium shows and appearing on ITV News, the time is ripe for some coattail riding. London’s Claw Marks sound so similar to the Bristolian punks that you could easily mistake this album for Joy As An Act Of Resistance if you hadn’t heard it before. Vocalist, Jack Lantern, in particular sounds like he took intonation lessons from Joe Talbot. The similarities with Idles are not merely aesthetic either. While the vocals and guitars are in the same style, it is the confrontational, sardonic tone, and song structures that are most noticeable. ‘10000 Commandments’ uses the same songwriting tropes as those seen on last year’s Brutalism. Nonetheless, Claw Marks know how to write a noisy, uplifting tune.

Hee Hee opens with the sleazy, discordant ‘The Coat’ which has shades of The Fat White Family who they have gigged with. They’ve also got a Fat White playing keyboards so the sonic connection is more than mere coincidence. In a similar vein, ‘The Rain’ has a ‘Touch The Leather’ vibe, and that’s no bad thing. It leers and swaggers while Lantern’s uvula gets a serious workout, like Jerry Mouse is in there using it as a punchbag.

That’s not to say that Claw Marks are rip-off merchants. This is an underground supergroup of sorts. As well as The Fat Whites, the band features members of Human Hair and Boneyards. These songs have been gestating for a few years and have only now seen the light of day. This is the perfect time for them to be heard. They play raucous, downtuned, progressive punk in a similar vein to Shellac, Arabrot, Future Of The Left, and even The Birthday Party and Butthole Surfers in places.

If loud, challenging, amorphous garage punk is your bag, then you’ll get a kick out of Hee Hee. If you can get past the resemblance to the headline grabbing Idles, Claw Marks offer a thoroughly modern take on punk music. It’s just a major hurdle to overcome. The shadow of Brutalism hangs heavily over this record. Claw Marks have been beaten to the punch. Had this record come out 18 months ago, they would have been rightly lauded. As it is, they may be swallowed in the wake of that leviathan.

Hee Hee is available from iTunes and Amazon.

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Garcia Peoples - Cosmic Cash

Garcia Peoples have delivered a solid raucous blues inspired rock album. Taking that next step in an old genre, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

Beautiful, Britpop inspired, with some songs sounding just like they would! Looking up at The Verve's Urban Hymns and somewhere in the future looking back on bands like Cage The Elephant. Even with the comparisons, Garcia Peoples manage to stay within their own room.

This is one of those albums that keeps giving you groovy smiles, sometimes it has a Mac DeMarco slice of groove, sometimes it goes GF Bruce.

’Four Walls’ is a soft ballad remembering old times and lessons learned and earned from inside the walls of a moment in life. Soft gritty vocals with sparse chords and accompanying piano keys carry the the listener into darker alley ways always with a trusted torch.

This album at times packs a fast punch bursting out of the speakers with psychedelic punk riffs and indie melodies. Never sounding formulated in the cut out sense, the production has achieved a big sound with lots of summer guitar band potential and a nod to the blues sounds of bygone years. Is it something that people will be talking about in years to come, probably not. A solid album that’s well produced and sounds good, Just good rock music being created by a good band of musicians. If this sounds like your thing, then check it out.

Cosmic Cash is available from iTunes and Amazon.

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Hate Colours - Know Nothing

 

Fed up with the climate change-fuelled, spirit of '76, soaring temperatures of the summer (& all the hyperbole attached to it)? Longing for the dark winter days & nights along with the scares you can throw into yourself when the thermometer plummets and you become less sociable? Know Nothing is the album for you.

Think Aphex Twin-like, breathy sounds coupled with drum machines, found sounds, field recordings and a lot of songs about anxiety/paranoia and you'll have a reasonable idea of the sound Hate Colours have (they're a quintet lead by J. Turgenev, late of The Douglas Firs).

Second Track, 'House II', brings to mind Downward Spiral era NIN too so there's a bit of '90s industrial in the mix too. It's quite an achievement to keep things both upbeat an sinister but across the eight tracks there's generally enough of a beat to offset the creepy stuff. Goblin & their ilk are likely an influence too.

Recorded over the period of a couple of years (2015-2017) a number of the songs were inspired by a trip to Orcas island in Washington state. An online image search for the place doesn't produce the Blair Witch type scenes you'd expect from the music but we should probably be thankful that seeing the scenery and the whales didn't lead to an interest in dream catchers and crap campfire tunes. 

Hate Colours are definitely doing their own thing so good luck to them. The elements mentioned above are all atmospherically combined throughout the album and it definitely bears listening to more than once (and certainly more than its constituent parts in isolation would have you expect). Penultimate track 'Dream Lake Road' even manages to feel comforting despite the Einsturzende Neubaten-esque clangs during its five minutes so expectations are confounded right to the end. There's also not a single mention of Jon Snow.

Know Nothing is available from bandcamp here.

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Lice - It All Worked Out Great

Like their fellow Bristolians, Idles, Lice have a love of noisy tunes, a penchant for righteous indignation, and a fondness for literary allusions. The first band to sign to Idles’ label, Balley Records, they’re commonly compared to Fat White Family and The Fall, as well as post-punk groups like The Birthday Party and Bauhaus. It’s easy to hear why. Their loose compositions eschew conventional songwriting structures in favour of dissonant jams, and disturbed, confrontational vocals from vocalist Alastair Shuttleworth. It All Worked Out Great is basically two previously released EPs played back to back, like GNR Lies without the racism and homophobic tirades.

The music combines hard rock drumming, Nuggets-era rock ‘n’ roll, and effects-heavy, oppressive guitars. The Birthday Party allusions aren’t too wide of the mark. Add in some Mcluskyisms, Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa and you’re somewhere near to imagining Lice’s sound.

After the opening onslaught of ‘Stammering Bill’ and ‘Voyeur Picture Salesman’, which sees Lice “sick of having naked girls thrown in my face by magazines”, comes the relatively sedate tale of ‘Ted’s Dead’. Shuttleworth spins a short story of a man who is misdiagnosed with a terminal disease, and goes about acting out his fantasies. The second half of the album is, counterintuitively, the earlier of the two EPs. It is indebted to the Dead Kennedys in its sound, as well as in the confrontational subject matter and black humour of the lyrics.

Current single ‘Little John Waynes’ is about men forcing women into having abortions. With uncomfortable subject matter like that, you can see, (a) why Idles were keen to sign Lice up to their label and (b) that the band are aiming for something higher in their music than the nondescript, boilerplate tunes that many of their peers employ in a vain attempt to garner playlist adds, and spots on video game soundtracks. Shuttleworth has written lyrics inspired by Jonathan Swift and Flann O’Brien and, while he’s not in that class, he is at least an individual voice in an ever-expanding sea of cliché.

Lice are just finishing college. They are young and experimenting. It will take them some time, on this evidence, to find the maturity and surety of purpose that their mentors, Idles, exhibited on last year’s Brutalism album but It All Worked Out Great is a good start; a calling card for an exciting and energetic prospect. It’s the ideal record to put on at a social gathering if you want to weed out the music fans in the room. Most people will hate it, but you’ll immediately spot the like-minded individuals, even in a room full of strangers.

It All Worked Out Great is available here 

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The Stoles - Age of Deception

The Stoles’ debut album is finally here. After dabbling in various sounds, their style and lineup have stabilised and crystallised into Age of Deception. Four years on from the indie beat of ‘The Protest Song’, we have an alt-rock trio who take influence from The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Queens Of The Stone Age, Coldplay and, most conspicuously, U2.

They’ve been a fixture on the Dublin live scene and this album has been preceded by no less than four singles, which amounts to 50% of the record. ‘Getaway’ kicks things off with a thumping bass line and some Johnny Marr style guitars. The production is crisp and clean throughout. The Stoles have signed up with the American label Spectra Music Group and it’s incredible the difference it makes when a local band have a bit of a budget for mixing and mastering. Soundwise, they leave their peers looking poor by comparison.

‘Evelyn’ was another single and has a Fratellis’ feel while the new song, ‘Out Of Control’, has a menacing stomp. ‘Addicted To You’ and ‘Wake Up’ walk territory we’ve seen before from lesser bands. The Stoles sound great when rocking out but the slower numbers do not suit them. The two remaining singles, ‘I Don’t Get Along With You’ and the title track finishes the album off in a hard rocking and epic style respectively.

Age Of Deception starts and ends really well but it slumps in the middle. The four singles, along with ‘Out Of Control’ are magic but largely the new songs add little value. Given that this album has been in the can for 12 months and the band have been gigging all over, Age Of Deception acts as a good introduction to The Stoles, but there is better to come down the line.

Listen to more from The Stoles via their Bandcamp here

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Ewan Cruickshanks - A Glasgow Band

 

There's some obvious leg-pulling going on here from the off, given the title of Ewan Cruickshank's debut album. That shouldn't though dissuade you from checking out the charms offered up by the 11 tracks on A Glasgow Band. The cover photograph might be an in-joke too but it's less successful.

Opening with an instrumental as musically brash as it's title ('Youth Never Dies') things are kicked off with two minutes of tongue in cheek, pseudo metal thrashing which second song 'C.A.A.G.B' immediately tones right down, shifting into poppier, more glam rock, territory. Shades of the diversity Teenage Fanclub had in their heyday.

Pushing things further still track three, 'For A Girl', slows things right down to crooner pace for a piece of lovelorn mooning after an unnamed paramour. Pleasantly orchestrated by the time the string section comes in near the end it's otherwise unremarkable.

The un-focussed nature of the album extends through its whole course, making for a rather patchy listening experience. Nothing's actually bad on it (although 'Take Your Time's a bit of a waste of a minute) and you'll probably find the odd hook or two (and maybe some lyrics) coming to mind as earworms but it's a bit ineffectual overall.

'Dreams', the recent duet single featuring Siobhan Wilson (who also provided the bass playing) is sweet enough to rival Belle & Sebastian's efforts in the same vein but you can't help expecting it to do a bit more, rather than just kind of peter out as it actually does.

There's an obvious tradition (or even traditions) of Scottish indie music being carried on with A Glasgow Band's wide-ranging collection of song styles, pacing etc. but for the most part it comes across as well executed homage rather than the next big thing to set the heather on fire.

A Glasgow Band is available from Armellodie Records via bandcamp.    

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