Album Reviews

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Life On A Rock

Kenny Chesney

Sony

Kenny Chesney is really opting for a more simplistic way of life with latest album ‘Life On A Rock’. Nowhere is this more evident than current single, and album opener, ‘Pirate Flag’ with intentions of finding the remotest destination in an attempt to get away from it all. This is pretty much the mood throughout as songs stroll blissfully in the midsummer sun, drawing on the talents of country legend Willie Nelson with the carefree and wishful thinking ‘Coconut Tree’ and digressing with the reggae inspired ‘Spread The Love’ featuring the Wailers. Surprisingly the latter song is thematically suited to the overall ambience being projected here but remains at odds coming from the lips of a country singer. Fear not as normal order is restored with the beautifully touching ‘Lindy’; country-rock ‘Life On A Rock’ and delicate strumming of ‘Marley’ to suggest that Kenny Chesney is not ready to hang up his spurs just yet.


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Bankrupt!

Phoenix

Warner Music Norway

The title of Phoenix’s fifth studio album ‘Bankrupt!’ is perhaps more a statement of a growing mediocrity when it comes to the creative industries rather than the continuing fiscal meltdown the world is still experiencing.  Such attention to details may also have inflicted upon the band members themselves as ‘Bankrupt!’ has been nearly four years in the making not because of a general fatigue due to past successes but more to do with a general desire to maintain the creative progressive thinking. The four years has definitely been worth the wait as ‘Bankrupt!’ continues in slightly similar vein to its predecessor ‘Wolfgang Amadeus’ with its glossy pop exterior only there is enough here to suggest a more indifferent centre. ‘Entertainment’ is a product of the former as it dances in the sunlight whereas ‘The Real Thing’ glistens round the edges but never fully projects itself due to its colder interior, which is further compounded with the more upbeat ‘S.O.S. In Bel Air’ and icy breeze of ‘Trying To Be Cool’. The tempo decreases once more, however, towards the latter part of the album and inflicts darker shades of electronica with ‘Chloroform’, ‘Don’t’ and appropriately titled closer ‘Oblique City’.

Despite possessing enough immediate charms, ‘Bankrupt!’ will require a little more investment if you truly want to get to the core of this work as Phoenix continue to remain one step ahead.


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Tales of Space Travel & Revenge

The Refusal

Refused Records

There’s an eclectic mix of ska, punk, funk, and new wave brewing in the West Country and hails under the banner of The Refusal. Having been peddling their wares since 2008 and doing rather well on the live scene, the narratives making up ‘Tales of Space Travel & Revenge’ are as eclectic as the very influences driving them. This broad appeal, however, is where The Refusal’s space travel becomes a little fuddled on occasions such as the ‘shall we pursue the rock route’ of ‘Maybe This Time’ or more straight ska of ‘Cynic’ as the album in its entirety would benefit from a more restrained approach. Such gripes aside, there are moments were these fusions of sounds genuinely work with the detailed layers of ‘Theme From Project X’ to the life unravelling ‘The Seams’ and reflective ‘Miles’ revealing a band with considerable experience. Unfortunately, such good work is quickly undone due to the aforementioned lapses in direction as ‘No Way’ clearly reminds the listener of why this album falls slightly short.


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The New Enlightenment

Rayne

Untitled

First impressions can be deceiving. Having been enamoured earlier with the 80s guitar sounds reminiscent of (whisper it folks) The Flock of Seagulls sounding ‘Fallen’ single, surprisingly a hidden track, Rayne’s ‘The New Enlightenment’ is the sound of a band aiming for the stars only to be undermined by a general sloppiness that becomes irksome after a while. If one looks close enough between the covers, then the cracks begin to reveal themselves, whether musically or lyrically, because there are some killer songs among the ruins that are simply crying out for a surge of power to truly launch them into the next stratosphere. This is largely due to being hampered by a substandard production throughout, and occasional wannabe guitars wishing that they were rooming with Iron Maiden when sounding more like a diluted Muse. Redemption can be found, however, with the anthemic ‘Hide Away’ and sweetly addictive ‘The Ground Floor’ or when the band attempt subtlety with standout ‘My Final Plea’ and running it a close second ‘Lost and Confused’. If Rayne is to truly suggest they’re offering a new enlightenment, then mining these latter songs further could be their saving grace.


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Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets

Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets

Rhythm Bomb

With an eponymously titled debut album in the offing consisting of fourteen tracks of authentic rockabilly – thirteen of which are self-penned – new recruits to the Rhythm Bomb roster, Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets seem set to follow in the footsteps of label mates Marc & the Wild Ones as ones to watch in 2013. Being only of tender age yet sounding as if they have been producing these rockin’ tunes for a lot longer, such is their aptitude for songwriting, Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets debut is an accomplished affair yet nicely balanced with a slightly rough around the edges approach that is guided by the rather aptly titled ‘Walk With Me’ that literally leads the listener into the heart of this work with its occasional vocal hiccups, handclaps and dexterous guitar. It is that VOCAL, however, that really defines this four-piece band from Germany due to its immense power that clearly states its intent during ‘Be Mine’ and crystal clear demands of ‘Treat Me Right’ (‘well if you want me don’t be bad’). There is simply not much room to come up for air as Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets maintain the rockin’ momentum in a blistering array of rawness ‘Can’t Stop Boppin’, ‘Looking Up’, ‘Waiting’ that will leave you gaping in awe. If this is the sound of the rising underground of rockabilly talent, then FLW will struggle to contain its excitement as Carolina & her Rhythm Rockets have already reached the stars.


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Paramore

Paramore

Warner Music Norway

Feeling a little weary at the prospect of reviewing a Paramore album due to a deluge of similar sounding bands spilling forth out of the states, their fourth album to date is nothing but a welcome relief judging by initial impressions. After agreeing to continue as a three piece due to various reasons and without doubt hinted at in the slightly quirky ‘Moving On’ with its ‘Well I could be angry but you’re not worth the fight’, this Nashville-based band has produced a string of hook-laden tracks that compel from the off. It is the – and dare I say it – maturity in the songwriting which really comes to the fore here, and in the process creating a succession of standout songs such as the climax building ‘Daydreaming’; aptly titled and lovely pop feel of ‘Grow Up’; ‘Ain’t It Fun’ with its choir interlude to more familiar territory with ‘Part II’. On this current form, Paramore is the perfect example of a band, if given enough time, steadily working towards their creative peak. Bearing this in mind, album number five promises to be something special.


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We Got The Bug!

The Bird Doggin' Daddies

Rhythm Bomb

Predominantly a covers affair with a mammoth eighteen tracks to consume, The Bird Doggin’ Daddies ‘We Got The Bug!’ does not outstay its welcome. This is largely due to the frenetic pace of the chosen covers, revealing en veldig god smak, but also the deft musicianship that binds these driving rhythms together. There is a certain freshness about the manner in which this four-piece attack versions of ‘Daddy-O-Rock’ and ‘We’re Gonna Rock It’ nearly claiming both numbers as their own because that’s exactly the impression given throughout due to confidence riding high yet not without an abundance of respect given to the originals.

It is this very same self-assurance, however, that needs to be leaned on further when it comes to the band’s own compositions because when The Bird Doggin’ Daddies rely on their own compositions they more than stand up to the covers being offered here. Look no further than the guitar pickin’, rockin’ belter that is ‘Better Be Gone’ and even more compelling low-slung ride of ‘Crossbone Jim (Mystery lane)’ suggesting a band with a lot more in their locker than is currently being revealed. As it stands, ‘We Got The Bug!’ is stunning in its execution and a teaser until the next instalment where it is hoped The Bird Doggin’ Daddies state their authority further with an album full of original compositions.


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London Crawlin EP

Viva Le Pink

Diablo Records

The pink revolution begins here! Newly arrived on the FLW desk is Viva Le Pink’s three-track EP ‘London Crawlin’. Any preconceptions of this being something of a novelty act, then think again as this debut offering comes out of the traps at considerable haste with the swinging rockabilly influenced ‘Hell Kitty’ which is more snarling than purring and deceiving rather than loving, ‘You know she’s bad, she’ll make you sad’. It is left to ‘Queen O’ Jack’, though, to steal the limelight with its self-deprecating humour and delightful lyrical touches, ‘Every time I get near you, I feel like ahead of the pack’ as sometimes in life it’s not always about the monetary value. Nearly having laid all the cards on the table, Viva Le Pink rounds off proceedings with the appropriately chosen cover ‘Pink Elephants’ nicely supplemented with splashes of saxophone and gritty, driving guitars.

If the form displayed here can be maintained, then ladies and gentlemen we could be witnessing a new emerging talent on the rockin’ scene and one that is most definitely pink.


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Texas Boogie

Mike Penny & his Moonshiners

Rhythm Bomb

First appearances might be deceiving as this is no straightforward country album as there is a real fusion of sounds throughout ‘Texas Boogie’, which is Mike Penny and his Moonshiners’ latest album. From the opening ‘Hardtop Race’ with its western swing influence spliced with occasional piano boogie to the more traditional swinging jive of ‘Jumping From Six To Six’ suggesting that Mike and his fellow musicians have a broad palette to not only work from but clearly express to (hopefully) a wider audience. This genuine array of talents, however, is what makes this second offering so compelling because despite the wider influences the band manage to rein them in under one cohesive umbrella. Whether it’s the more boppin’ ‘Flaming Mamie’ or the hillbilly tinge of ‘No Muss, No Fuss, No Bother’ before leaping to the more straightforward country influence of ‘Ship Of Broken Dreams’, ‘Texas Boogie’ certainly delivers on more than one level and keeping in line with western swing music.


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Wait For Dark With A Heady Heart EP

Gymnast

Untitled

It’s difficult to comprehend that ‘Wait For Dark With A Heady Heart’ is the first release by Cathy Wilcock and Chris Lyon otherwise known as Gymnast such is the accomplished songwriting throughout this EP. Simply divine in its execution with its minimalist approach of electronic beats, classical instrumentation and beautiful vocals, ‘Wait For Dark…’ is the kind of music built for late nights with only a broken heart for company. There is hope, however, demonstrated by ‘The Flood or the Fire’ as a reassuring vocal steps out of the shadows to offer ‘We’ll get over this, get a hold on it, we’ll get out of the fire’. One hopes that miracles really can happen as the return of Gymnast is now of the highest priority.


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Eventually Your House Will Burn Down EP

Bloody Mammals

Flatpack Recordings and 49s Vs Dolphins

Opening in a bloodcurdling assault of vocals underscored with a sonic groove, Bloody Mammals is that sort of post-hardcore band that doesn’t make you want to reach for the off button because they actually incorporate various elements into their music that suggests scope for longevity. The ghost of Fugazi certainly makes its presence felt especially with the excellent ‘Tie Down Team’ and the gear shifting ‘Long Song’ that gradually creeps towards its conclusion in a mesh of drums and guitars. With the EP’s lyrics purporting to a cursed neighbourhood relayed through a number of different perspectives, it is not only the wild and aggressive yet melodic strands running through these songs that captivate but the imaginative yarns that lift Bloody Mammals above the pack.


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Rendezvous

Cow Cow Boogie

Rhythm Bomb

Hailing from Edinburgh but sounding as if they have just stepped out of some southern county stateside, Cow Cow Boogie deliver a rather authentic taste of western swing and country via the Rhythm Bomb record label.

Opening with an uncharacteristic and extremely brief aggressive strum on the guitar, ‘Belleville Rendezvous’ perfectly sets the tone for what’s to come with its western feel and ‘Belleville swinging rendezvous’ dual chorus but minus the trite whip cracking effect that nonetheless can still be heard. Hot on its heels is the lovely lilting ‘Cow Cow Boogie’ detailing a singing cowboy with his own spin on the genre and perhaps a cheeky wink to the purists out there considering the band’s geographical location, whereas ‘Scorched’ is definitely to be applauded as a fine take on Varetta Dillard’s version. ‘Train Train’ via Dolly Parton is an appropriate farewell and no doubt a joy to be heard live, as Cow Cow Boogie build up a steaming momentum before the brakes are finally applied. Judging by the quality shown here, ‘Rendezvous’ is worth an appointment with anyone’s ears.



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