Album Reviews

Filter :

Released 30 April

 

The Basement Sessions

Monster Jaw

Cobra Kitten Records/Code 7

Latest addition to the recording stable of West Yorkshire’s Monster Jaw is ‘The Basement Sessions EP’. Having written, recorded and produced all four of the tracks making up this EP, the trio of Mik Davis, Neil Short and John Bradford secluded themselves for a two month period in a rented basement in order to complete this latest project. Calling on the experience of Justin Sullivan, from legendary post-punk outfit New Model Army, to help out with mixing and mastering, ‘The Basement Sessions EP’ sees Monster Jaw taking another step forward in their musical progression. Such progress can be seen from the unique stance of the entire recording process, which saw the band make use of a Tascam 688 chrome tape home recording studio in an attempt to capture something close to a live experience. With this plan dubbed “a very brave idea” from those working in the music industry, according to the accompanying press release for this latest EP, Monster Jaw remained unperturbed in their quest to record a series of unedited tracks set straight to tape with no additional overdubs. The overall atmosphere surrounding all four songs presented here is often dense and claustrophobic. Such an example of this can be identified from second track, ‘Love’, where oxygen appears short in supply due to the air having the consistency of treacle and causing heads to swim uncontrollably. Monster Jaw pull off such a feat by means of a prominent bass that is incredibly raw and drives the song, but also by giving the impression of looping the vocals with its repetitive lines regarding the subject of love to the point where one can almost visualise the room spinning, it’s that potent a brew! With ‘Feel It’ showing its affection for New Model Army as far as the guitars are concerned, and with its vocals retaining a very compressed feel, it would seem that Monster Jaw bonded as one with their chosen recording environment. The closing song, ‘Never Change’ cleverly borrows elements from a previous song, ‘Losing All My Friends’, but manages to transform it into a composition that has more in common with the current EP release, despite sounding slightly euphoric in its chorus. With so much to offer, hopefully the next release from Monster Jaw will extend to a full album because the affection for this band just got considerably bigger after experiencing ‘The Basement Sessions EP’.


Released Out now

 

By My Side

Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets

Rhythm Bomb

The Second coming of Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets has been eagerly anticipated on this side of the fence after creating a bit of a stir with their debut album approximately two years ago. With the new addition titled, ‘By My Side’, the thirteen compositions on offer – all original apart from the inclusion of a solitary cover – almost reads as a list of the trials and tribulations associated with one, or any number of relationship(s). With no word of this being a concept album, the songs, as mentioned earlier, certainly appear to favour such a direction. However, no matter the overall intentions of ‘By My Side’, there is definite soul-searching afoot whether trying to repair the gaping wound left by ‘Hole In My Heart’, expressed with a mixture of confusion and heartache, and then proceeding to neatly tie in the searching impression given by the band’s creative playing during the rather sublime ‘I’ll Find A Way’. Where this latest album differs in comparison to its debut is that Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets sound more confident in their stride, by throwing a few variations to their overall sound. While such variations are subtle, there is one noticeable curveball and that arrives with the bluesy lead track, ‘By My Side’, consisting of slide guitar and powerhouse vocals, and is just short of a harmonica to complete the full blues set. From such a terrific beginning, the quality of the song writing retains a consistency as demonstrated by the short and perky steps of ‘You Don’t Care’, with a lead guitar sounding full of improvisation, to the Sunday afternoon vibe surrounding ‘Pretty Baby’ despite the tension held by its lyrics. When there is disruption, however, it arrives in a compelling holler via ‘I’m Gonna Leave You’ and a series of vocal hiccups during ‘Jungle King’, that provides further evidence of a band beginning to feel at ease with themselves and allowing for a few ideas to flourish. Overall, ‘By My Side’ runs like a well-oiled machine as it’s tighter in its focus yet allows for a fresh layer of creativity to be applied to parts of its contents that leads to genuine progression in the Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets sound, and there is no better sense of achievement than that.


Released Out now

 

Good Taste In Bad Friends

Crystal & Runnin' Wild

Rhythm Bomb

With no prior knowledge of what to expect once ‘Good Taste In Bad Friends’ was inserted into the CD player, one could be forgiven for thinking Aqua for the rockabilly market when weighing up the kitsch imagery and actual contents inside. Such a suggestion is not too far from the truth, however, as three out of the four band members – Crystal Dawn (vocals), Johnny Trash (drums) and Patrick Ouchene (guitar) – have participated in talent contests throughout Europe, with the Eurovision Song Contest being one of the most notable. Far closer to such a description, however, is the assortment of styles sewn into the majority of songs on offer here. This eclectic mix of tastes no doubt stems from the band’s already established involvement with various televised contests where influences from rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll, pop and a comedic singing routine have been chosen as part of their individual repertoires. When it comes to the contents of ‘Good Taste In Bad Friends’, the album is predominantly rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, but with the band carefully and skilfully bleeding other influences into the songs. Take, for example, the roaring two-sided rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll of ‘What A Way To Die’, containing some of the wildest guitar playing you are likely to hear this side of the modern rockin’ scene. Sassy vocals from Crystal Dawn jumpstarts ‘Up Above My Head’, which brings an instant smile that grows close to Cheshire Cat sized proportions once the male vocals add their contributions to the narrative, with one comedic turn by way of Johnny Trash, and it really makes for great listening. The same impression can be applied to ‘Blood On The Kitchen Floor’ with its twang of the guitar providing that lonesome desert feel, in addition to the theatrical delivery of one vocal in particular that creates an awkward position of not knowing whether to laugh or cry considering the grave nature of the lyrics. These compelling traits however, are also the albums undoing because by the time ‘Bad Boy’ arrives it all becomes too much, with the exaggerated second vocal starting to grate somewhat, and the shift in styles becoming muddled (‘Oh By Jingo’). A shortened version of ‘Good Taste In Bad Friends’ would have benefitted the competing interests of Crystal & Runnin’ Wild more greatly because, despite the talent on display here, various ideas become overworked and end up losing their initial appeal.


Released Out now

 

The Kabooms

The Kabooms

Rhythm Bomb

A vintage sound from a vintage era but one now firmly planted in 2015, The Kabooms see their debut album released on Rhythm Bomb Records. Clearly passionate about their choices of gear when committing their songs to the recording process, judging by the detailed inventory of equipment listed in the liner notes, The Kabooms is a band that really cares about its craft. From such detailed information, it’s no surprise that the band’s own compositions pack the same level of detail. Less obvious though, is the actual direction of the music generated by this Spanish combo. Despite peddling an authentic rockabilly sound, it’s one that is far less obvious in terms of which direction it is likely to take. For example, don’t expect a searing sound to come hurling from your speakers as perhaps expected given the band’s title. If anything, this album is more concerned with taking a controlled approach to its song writing, but with enough suggestion of a lurking wildness just below its surface. The song ‘Black Days’ is one such example where its tempo remains at a medium pace yet manages to generate a sense of unease via its raspy vocal and various subtle hints given by the instruments. Lead vocalist Matt Olivera sounds like a hoarser version of Darrel Higham during the wishful thinking of ‘Only Mine’, before changing track and adding vocal hiccups to the skulking rhythm of ‘Pretty Baby’. By shoehorning fourteen tracks into a time just under thirty minutes is some feat, but one that is all the more remarkable when considering the amount of detail compressed into such a short running time that should see a high level of repeat visits as ‘The Kabooms’ will leave you thinking long after its brief stay.


Released Out now

 

KILLSWITCH!

The Rip 'Em Ups

Rhythm Bomb

Been a long time since we rock and rolled, but what a difference the passing of time can make. From going from one of our least favourite acts at the Rockabilly Rave of two years ago to a position of firm favourites here at FLW, it’s definitely a case of eat humble pie on our behalf. Quite literally dropping the bomb musically, the dish served up by The Rip ‘Em Ups with their debut album ‘KILLSWITCH!’ is absolutely incendiary.  From the opening blast of ‘I Wanna Love You’ and the stylishly named Javier De La Rosa setting the temperature to max with raw and passionate vocals and pinpoint guitar, in addition to the able hands of Jose ‘Watts’ Rodriguez (guitar), Edgar Villarreal (bass), Santos De Leon (drums) and Marco Palos (sax), it’s authentic rock ‘n’ roll with a serious attitude but one that adds various spices to its sounds à la ‘Spitfire’, which also contains a volatile narrative to match. Title song ‘Kill Switch’ has a rebellious streak, expressed by a straight instrumental with bonus points awarded for its dynamic sax and almost too hot to handle guitars. The difference with The Rip ‘Em Ups first long player and the already mentioned live experience is that the songs sown here sound far clearer in their overall delivery, as there is less of the fuzzy sameness which dogged their live set. The energy of a Jerry Lee Lewis or Little Richard in their heydays is definitely in existence when hearing the contents of ‘KILLSWITCH!’, but it is the decision to adopt other approaches to their music which benefits greatly. Such differences can be heard during ‘The Game’ where the vocal is allowed to take centre stage. Also, the rhythm is slowed somewhat during ‘Wild Savage Woman’, but there is nothing lost in terms of the wildness of The Rip ‘Em Ups as the song possesses a sultry side, only this is expressed in a more controlled manner, especially with the line, “Wild savage woman with blood red eyes” that sums up everything you need to know here. By tossing in joyous sounding numbers such as ‘Bailamos Rock N Roll’ during its end credits, The Rip ‘Em Ups leave nothing but a feeling of being completely bowled over. Taken by surprise most definitely, not in terms of the band’s technical abilities, but there is less of the ear-splitting intensity of the live act and more of a considered and diverse approach, which still retains a thrilling edge yet it is one that transforms The Rip ‘Em Ups in to a band genuinely worth spending time with. Absolute dynamite!


Released Out now

 

Rocket Girl

Jai Malano

Rhythm Bomb

From one giant leap to the next, having formerly fronted Royal Rythmaires, Jai Malano has opted to take the solo route, albeit with additional expertise via record label mates Nico Duportal & his Rhythm Dudes. Setting her course for solo success is the debut album ‘Rocket Girl’; a predominantly rhythm and blues affair with flashes of rockabilly. Such a description applies to opening number ‘You Made Me Love You’, which sees Jai Malano limbering up for the main event rather than starting out at full throttle. The real action gets underway once the powering rhythm and blues and quick-tongued narration of ‘Learn About A Man’ makes its presence felt. Creating a bigger impression, however, is the soulful delivery of ‘Don’t’, with equally impressive lead guitar that picks away at the senses and adding to the strong expression of independence that is at the centre of this song. The matchup with the aforementioned Nico Duportal & his Rhythm Dudes proves an inspired choice as the differing musical elements gel together effectively. For example, look no further than the rhythm and blues jive of the album’s title track that is bristling with personality, or the peeling back the years via a belting rendition, presumably captured in one take, of Leiber and Stoller’s ‘Hound Dog’. That said, Jai Malano steps it up another notch with the impassioned vocals and supportive sax of ‘So Good To My Baby’. The lights are noticeably turned down low during ‘Tell Me’, not as a means of expressing emotions connected with undying love but more as a means of highlighting the restless state of the individual concerned with this song. What began at a canter, quickly developed into a gallop, ending in nothing but an emphatic victory for Jai Malano’s ‘Rocket Girl’.


Released Out now

 

Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na

DumDum Boys

Sony Music Norway

First released in 1988 and now remastered for 2015, ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ by Norway’s DumDum Boys is re-released as a limited edition vinyl, in addition to standard digital formats. With ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ falling just short of a top ten place during its initial release, the album was well received by critics and supporters alike. Such positive responses to this first album led to increased recognition as DumDum Boys went from strength to strength, with each successive release more or less landing the coveted number one slot in terms of the Norwegian album chart. When approaching the contents of the reissued ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ for the first time, after missing this now landmark album during its debut release due to the band being a Scandinavian delicacy rather than possessing international status, the feeling is the same level of curiosity of approaching a new band for the very first time. Once the tracks of ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ start to familiarise themselves, the evidence is there for all to experience in terms of why this album received such critical acclaim first time out. Classing its contents as alternative rock for the period in which it first originated, the sound of ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ is distinct for the gruff manner of Prepple Houmb’s vocals and general robustness of the guitars. Opening song, ‘Fant Frimann’ garners much praise for its guitar riff that practically drives the song throughout, and for lingering long in the memory due to its addictive appeal. The initial clattering of instrumentation that introduces ‘Lunch I Det Grønne’ gives way to a steady rhythm, with the guitar taking precedent along with a charismatic turn by the DumDum Boys leading man. Title track ‘Blodig Alvor’ hints at 70s period Rolling Stones with its lighter strokes of guitar and bluesy harmonica. The same label can be applied to ‘Kunne Vært Verre’ (‘Could’ve Been Worse’), only the influences are more conspicuous. Elsewhere, ‘Papirsang’ takes a different approach with the guitars adopting an indie jingle-jangle that was prevalent during ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’s’ first release, and then ending on a quieter note with the brushed instrumentation and toned-down vocals of rather excellent ‘Idyll’. After several repeat outings, ‘Blodig Alvor Na Na Na Na Na’ keeps offering enough reasons as to why it deserved its reissued status, it’s just a shame that the restrictions created by its choice of language will continue to confine this album to a limited market.


Released Out now

 

Hell Yeah

The Boners

Rhythm Bomb

Once you get past the sniggering behind the bike sheds humour of the band’s moniker and front cover art – the rear image is opted for here due to a variety of reasons – there is much to revel in when it comes to The Boners and their debut album, ‘Hell Yeah’, on Rhythm Bomb Records. Performing a modern take on rockabilly with its heftier sound and touch of the blues for added intensity, The Boners occupy similar territory to the likes of Stray Cats, John Lindberg Trio and Scandinavian rockin’ blues outfit, The Kokomo Kings. Having been a part of the furniture for a number of years, albeit in different guises in relation to the rockin’ scene, the quality of the song writing is watertight throughout ‘Hell Yeah’. This becomes evident once the deviant shenanigans of ‘Muchacha!’ makes itself heard by way of its memorable chorus, that should see this song as a live favourite after a few rounds on the circuit. There’s a deeper level of respect at work during ‘My Baby Don’t Like My Car’, revealing a band unafraid to show a difference of opinion and without too many complaints. The following ‘Lockdown’ thunders along at some pace with harmonica reinforcing the toughness of the guitar, rumbling bass and tight drums, which is not the only source of interest as the lyrics start in compelling fashion, “Well I’m on holiday here in the pen…” and then proceeding to reflect on the obvious frustrations of a restricted environment. Upping the tempo further is the rockabilly on speed of ‘Hotel With No Name’, with the band showing their creative side once more when scribbling a decent yarn. Such inventiveness extends itself to the excellent ‘Walk To The Light’, hinging initially on upright bass and lead vocal, before the rest of the band crash the party which, given the mysterious nature of the narrative, is one they should have avoided. Another potential (live) hit is ‘Driving’; a song full of energy, bass booming and containing a nice touch via backing vocals during its chorus (It’s the little things in life that sometimes make all the difference).  Up and running, The Boners look set for the long haul as ‘Hell Yeah’ is a consistent and confident start full of original material and all the more welcome because of it.


Released Out now

 

Hustrig

Jonas Fjeld

Sony Music Norway

Setting aside, temporarily, his collaborative work with Chatham County Line, Norway’s Jonas Fjeld enters the fray once more with a brand new long player by the name of ‘Hustrig’. Initially, there is a sense of “warts and all” to the recording of Jonas Fjeld’s latest effort once the opening ‘Oddemans Vise’ rubs the sleep from its eyes, checks the current take of the song, and clocks the time before readjusting itself and then proceeding to tweak the first few bars of its intro on the trusty acoustic at hand. It’s as natural a start as one could achieve, and probably the closest you’ll feel to Jonas Fjeld the recording artist. From then on in the sound becomes richer, with the rather colourful guitar illuminating ‘Ild Og Vann’, while doffing its hat to the Edge (U2) and combining this with the thinnest of country strands to produce an absolute mesmerising experience. ‘Opp Med Himmelporten’ follows a similar pattern with its uplifting mood supplied by the country-rock feel of its guitars and fullness of the vocals during its chorus. There is a wonderful rolling tempo to ‘Midtveis,’ with Jonas Fjeld’s vocal in fine husky form and complemented by the soothing backing vocals. The impression given during ‘Ei Hustrig Natt’ (‘A Cold Grey Night’) is pensive, but one that is far removed from anything gloomy as its song title suggests, as the song performs at mid-tempo with piano and light swirls of Hammond organ often dictating over the rest of the instrumentation. The introduction of piano at various turns throughout ‘Hustrig’ – most prominent during the near-solitary ‘Stillheten’ and close sibling ‘Lampedusa’, which deviates nicely via some cascading (space) rock guitar where the glitter is flying momentarily – is a likely source of influence from producer Thomas Helland, considering his own work under the shortened version of Thom Hell where use of piano is strongly featured. Clearly enjoying something of an Indian summer as far as the creativity goes, Jonas Fjeld delivers yet another top-notch album that reveals moments of intimacy yet remains wise enough to retain some considerable distance.


Released Out now

 

You Can’t Use My Name

Curtis Knight & The Squires feat. Jimi Hendrix

Sony Music CMG

After going through rounds of litigation over the years due to Jimi Hendrix’s brief tenure as guitarist with Curtis Knight & The Squires, and subsequent use of the former guitarist’s name once international recognition and stardom with the Jimi Hendrix Experience took place, the release of ‘You Can’t Use My Name’ is a means to restore some justice. In order to do this, the family of Jimi Hendrix continued with their litigation until Hendrix’s contributions as a sideman with Curtis Knight & The Squires could be presented in its original context. Prior to this latest compilation, the problems have been associated with countless inferior copies being released and featuring images of Hendrix at the height of his own personal fame, and therefore nothing to do with the Curtis Knight project. However, with balance restored by the sterling efforts of Eddie Kramer behind the mixing desk and creating a far superior listening experience in terms of what has gone before, You Can’t Use My Name’ is also notable for the inclusion of the previously unreleased ‘Station Break’ and for adding several full-length versions of previously compiled songs; ‘Knock Yourself Out (Flying On Instruments)’ being the pick of the bunch for a peek at the greatness that was emerging on guitar. If there are any grievances regarding ‘You Can’t Use My Name’, it solely lies with the opinion that it’s all a tad mediocre with nothing particularly standing out, apart from the previously mentioned instrumental track, and for the shortage of a charismatic frontman because Curtis Knight falls someway short. It was no wonder that the coattails of Jimi Hendrix were well and truly clung to once he departed to pastures new because it’s his guitar work – ‘No Such Animal’ for example – that leads from the front here. ‘You Can’t Use My Name’ goes some way to readdressing previous issues, but remains for the completest only.


Released Out now

 

Insane!

Longboards

El Toro

Continuing its obsession with instrumental albums in relation to the current rockin’ scene, El Toro issues the latest instrumental effort from Longboards. Despite not being a new fixture to this popular genre, due to a few releases prior to their latest release ‘Insane!’, Longboards continue to remain a significant part of this scene, which their current album attests. With the band’s interest in hot rods and dragsters taking centre stage this time out rather than one of their other prime interests of surfing, Longboards set their sound to the grease and grime as well as the high-octane fumes of the dragstrip. Taking full control from the off is the nimble guitar work and crisp drums of ‘Gordini’ that comes with added excitement via occasional samples consisting of hot rods and dragsters tearing up the racetrack. With such opening assurance, ‘Drag Beat’ never lets the side down by taking its corners with precision, neatly represented by way of the guitar’s vibrato arm and then proceeding at a lightning pace where, if you close your eyes, you can almost hear the fingers scaling up and down the fretboard of the guitar, it’s that good! The mood shifts during ‘Insane Dragster’ which is far more menacing in its approach with samples once more adding to the overall atmosphere. In contrast, ‘Molokai (Drunken Hawaiians)’ pacifies the mood with its calmer rhythm dousing the flames of the previous ‘Insane Dragster’. The ‘850 Special’ lives up to its name, due to bursting with energy as both guitars and drums are positioned at the front of the recording mix and giving the impression of vying for centre spot. A talented trio communicating an exciting and detailed set of emotions through their instruments, it’s ‘Insane!’ and it’s by Longboards.


Released Out now

 

Pleasurably Lost

Benjamin Finger

Eilean Records

Finding a new place of residency at Eilean Records for his latest output, ‘Pleasurably Lost’, seems to have provided a source of inspiration to the song writing craft of Norwegian artist, Benjamin Finger. For what we get here is the trademark smorgasbord of ambient sounds, but it is an album where the creative ideas are reined in tighter, in the sense that the connectivity between each track is far closer than before. Take, for example, opening song ‘Diamond Earth’, with more ideas and creativity crammed into its entire five minutes than a lot of bands can muster in a whole album, but it is the manner in which such creative explorations fuse together more coherently from shades of light to dark, if you will. The song itself allows for a greater usage of vocals this time out, with a classical sounding segment smoothing the way by the faintest of piano keys and angelic vocal, after an initial barrage of electronic sounds jarring against each other during its introduction. By sourcing ingredients from all that surrounds him, Benjamin Finger utilises everything at his disposal. So don’t be surprised to hear the snap, crackle and pop stemming from a worn-out piece of vinyl buried deep beneath the mix during ‘Edges of Distortion’, or a sudden interruption of static via a renowned loading mechanism of a particular 1980s home computer that shakes up the sinister tone of ‘Once Upon Her’. The previously mentioned greater coherence between tracks of ‘Pleasurably Lost’ reveals itself further when the latter half of the album follows a murkier path, compellingly created by use of distorted guitar next to the electronics. Without subscribing by any means to the regulations of commerciality, Benjamin Finger has created his most accessible and consistent work to date, that should see a few more people flocking to his sound. For the moment, however, there is enough here to suggest that ‘Pleasurably Lost’ is truly flying the flag of independence by providing its clearest definition.



Back To Top