Album Reviews

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DNAR (EP)

Never Train

Secret Entertainment

Recalling classic rock bands of old where the likes of Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses and AC/DC dominated the airwaves for a period of time, Finnish rock band Never Train revive such memories with their latest EP ‘DNAR’. Power chords are certainly alive and well throughout the three tracks on offer; expertly handled by dual guitarists Rauli Hämäläinen and Juuso Kekkonen with Kimmo Nieminen providing authentic vocals that give way to the previously mentioned rock references Never Train recall. Pick of the bunch is ‘First We Live’ that, despite its full throttle momentum, reveals much detail the further one investigates. Given the definition of “street rock” by its press release, such a description is befitting of this five piece, who sound raw around the edges as well as the finished article, therefore suggesting Never Train has the hunger and desire to go all the way, in addition to possessing the technical abilities to stay out on top.


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Black Aura

Viper Arms

Concorde Music Company

Turku, Finland, is the location where you will find all-female fronted group Viper Arms and their debut album ‘Black Aura’. With the band taking inspiration from their hometown and the Aura River that divides it, Viper Arms combine a hardedge rock sound with profound lyrics reflecting feelings of despair and loneliness mixed with sleazier ingredients that make up the standard rock ‘n’ roll cocktail. However, far from this album being a clichéd affair, Viper Arms blaze a trail from the start with the driving beat and forceful vocals of lead singer Niina during ‘Time Bomb’. If that wasn’t enough to raise the hairs on the back of one’s neck, then the aforementioned vocals really dig their claws in throughout ‘Lucky 7’, puncturing the surface of its thrash laden rhythm and then continuing to hang on for dear life before hollering nearing its climax, “You’ve got the lucky seven”. Phew! It’s breath-taking stuff. The pace eases once the excellent, and certainly more melodic, ‘To The Wolves’ enters the fray, only to revert to the thunderous tempo from before with the lyrically frivolous ‘Sugar Rush’ that steamrolls by in a blur of electric guitars. Thankfully, Viper Arms understand the notion of balance when it comes to writing and recording an album because ‘Everything Nothingness’ provides such diversity with its ballad-esque qualities that also extends to the (pop) rock of ‘Black Surf’, ‘The Worst Candidate’ and reflective ‘Crossing The Border’. There is one final sting in the tail of this album however, and that arrives via the thrash rock of ‘Sightseeing To Hell’ that will leave your jaw gaping and finger poised to hit the repeat button once this song concludes. Viper Arms may have a few anxieties to deal with, but they’re certainly tackling them head on via a combined effort of steely determination and philosophical reflection that is rolled out evenly throughout the contents of ‘Black Aura’.

 


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Happy People

Freedom Fuel

Secret Entertainment

For those who are familiar with the Finnish alternative-rock scene are likely to be aware of Freedom Fuel considering all three band members have appeared in other acts such as Blake, Species and Spiha. But it is the new offering from this underground rock trio called ‘Happy People’ that we are concerned with, and one that compels from start to finish via its ten tracks. Kicking things off is the wonderful (albeit brief) static crunch of guitar of ‘Leave It Behind’ that escalates into a melodic indie rock tune and fine vocals via Teemu Holttinen where the whole package is eerily close to The Call’s ‘Let The Day Begin’ from the late 80s. Following track ‘Dirt In The Ground’ is darker in comparison, and plunges to deeper depths where gothic horror is applied lightly around its edges. Solid alt-rockers continue the albums momentum via the excellent ‘Let Them Go’ and ‘Good Intentions’, only for Freedom Fuel to reveal a broader range of creativity where more arty indie-rock crosses with swamp blues, grunge and borderline sludge rock during such songs as ‘I Can’t Come’, Ghost Before Me’, ‘MOTPFE’ and ‘First Hand’. There’s definitely more mileage in this trio as indicated by the strong, and more often than not, diverse contents of ‘Happy People’ that suggests Freedom Fuel has a bright future ahead.


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Narrow Road Of Memories

Stiffy Jones

Sound Pollution

Adopting a more American outlook in more ways than one, Swedish export Stiffy Jones issue new album ‘Narrow Road Of Memories’ via Sound Pollution Records. With a heavy dose of Springsteen’s blue collar observations, and similar in sound to the more recent Gaslight Anthem, not to mention any number of punk rock bands that heavily littered the music scene during the 90s where punk and rock music had a habit of melding tightly together, Stiffy Jones may not be reinventing the wheel but what they produce during latest album ‘Narrow Road Of Memories’ is to be highly commended. Look no further than the rolling tumbling rhythm of ‘Disconnect Me’, to the boisterous chorus of ‘Once This Car Starts Moving…’, and supplemented by the contemplative and rather excellent ‘Echoes’ to grasp a good understanding of what this band is all about. Full of honest emotions and laced with driving rhythms, ‘Narrow Road Of Memories’ is a welcome release in 2017.

 


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Damage and Joy

The Jesus and Mary Chain

Artificial Plastic Records

Returning after a nineteen year absence, the Reid brothers, Jim and William, re-emerge with new album ‘Damage and Joy’. With a lot of their old tricks still present in this current set (i.e. fuzzy guitars rubbing shoulders with slower acoustic numbers), ‘Damage and Joy’ gives the impression that the Reid brothers absence has been a mere few months and not the aforementioned lengthy period after 98’s ‘Munki’ album. Therefore, with the wheel failing to be reinvented with The Jesus and Mary Chain’s latest release, ‘Damage and Joy’ is almost an overview of their entire career but one that is told through two wiser (?) and definitely world-weary heads where fuzzy pop numbers replace the wails of feedback of previous JAMC albums. Early indications of where your money should be placed in terms of definite highlights include the reworked ‘All Things Must Pass’, and followed by two glorious duets ‘Song For A Secret’ (featuring Isobel Campbell) and ‘The Two Of Us’. Lighter in noise yet still likely to ruffle a few feathers with various barbs contained in its lyrics, ‘Damage and Joy’ will be familiar to longtime followers of JAMC as well as being an enticing prospect for those less familiar because it’s a solid body of work that offers a lifeline to the JAMC to fully resurrect their career.


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Spirit

Depeche Mode

Columbia

Still on the treadmill, Depeche Mode follow-up 2013’s Delta Machine with their fourteenth studio album under the title ‘Spirit’. With James Ford (Artic Monkeys, Foals) producing, the boys from Basildon continue where they left off with more dark electronic rhythms and a series of lyrics that show they still care. First single ‘Where’s The Revolution?’ provided one such example that is a reaction to the troubled waters we find ourselves swimming in with no apparent opposition on the horizon; something of which is identified by Depeche Mode when singing, “Come on people you’re letting me down.” A deluxe version of the album ‘Spirit’ is also issued alongside the standard format with the difference being a twenty-eight page booklet containing exclusive artwork and photos, in addition to five remixes of tracks worked on by Depeche Mode, Matrixxman and Kurt Uenala. Still producing the goods, Depeche Mode show their relevance in 2017 with the highly recommended ‘Spirit’.

 


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Once I Was A Lion (Single)

Mad Machines

Bandcamp

Falling between pop and a bluesy rock rather than the “Disco and punk” label applied to the latest addition from the Mad Machines stable, ‘Once I Was A Lion’ is an accomplished single with a creative set of lyrics oddly inspired by Disney’s The Lion King and dreamt up by vocalist and guitarist Jordan Lassalle. The aforementioned pop and blues rock influences running through ‘Once I Was A Lion’ are certainly Rolling Stones inspired, especially the harmonised backing vocals that breeze along rather nicely. A fun loving single most definitely, and one that suggests Mad Machines should be shadowed closely regarding their next creative endeavour because ‘Once I Was A Lion’ is a clever and catchy reintroduction from this five-piece band from Toronto Ontario, Canada.


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Bonehead

Rückwater

Secret Entertainment

Rückwater make a return with latest EP ‘Bonehead’. With the band offering a predominantly raw and uncompromising stoner rock sound, coupled with occasional smoother passages that highlight the depth at the heart of this three-piece unit, Rückwater give a thorough account of themselves over the duration of six wild and wonderful tracks. From the distorted few bars of country tinged guitar that opens out into a full-blown affair of stoner rock supported by strong vocals, ‘Once More With Feeling’ is the perfect track to air the grievances felt by Rückwater. From there it’s a melange of garage, punk rock and metal via the frantic twitching of ‘No Gain’, before flipping its mood to the drifting tone and rather excellent ‘Labyrinth’. The universal theme found during ‘Super Frustration’ lives up to its title by offering a short and dramatic kick to the ribs by way of a full throttled assault of drums and guitars. The title track almost follows a similar pattern to ‘Super Frustration’ only the sound is more expansive where freedom is given to the guitars and the vocals more clarity. Rückwater display their experimentation further during final track ‘Flame Doesn’t Cast A Shadow’ that fluctuates between stoner rock and shoegaze and shows them as a band to be truly reckoned with. It’s a full star rating for Rückwater and their latest EP ‘Bonehead’ as the genre of stoner rock doesn’t come more recommended than this.

 


Released 17 February

 

Shipwrecked / Lovers Du

The Tigerlilies

Working Brilliantly

Hot on the heels of Famous Last Words’ (FLW) interview with The Tigerlilies nearing the conclusion of 2016, the four-piece band from Cincinnati, USA, make a swift return in 2017 with a brand new 7″ single by the name of ‘Shipwrecked / Lovers Du’. Despite borrowing a few manoeuvres from the likes of The Buzzcocks, Cheap Trick and The Ramones, The Tigerlilies more than etch their own impression of a post-punk sound via this latest single. Evidence of this can be gleaned from lead track ‘Shipwrecked’ that rolls out a rockin’, thunderous beat mingling post-punk with pop and stomping blasts of glam rock that works stupendously sandwiched all together. The flipside, ‘Lovers Du’, more than matches it’s A-side with its battered edges (musically as well as emotionally) and nervy yet catchy rhythm that infiltrates one’s senses at some considerable knots. Swinging between emotional tensions and riding the waves on a raucous and seriously glorious racket, The Tigerlilies have just got their New Year off to an absolute perfect start. Welcome back guys!


Released 3 February

 

Paranoid (Single)

Cal

Waterfall / BMG

A new project under the guise of Cal for Norwegian singer-songwriter Frida Amundsen who adopts a strong pop stance for current single ‘Paranoid’. With this latest release having been co-written with music maestro Eddy Atlantis in London, Amundsen (aka Cal) views this experience as a chance to show her established following that there is another side to her music and personality. As mentioned, the change in direction is one that adopts more of a commercial pop focus rather than relying on Amundsen’s acoustic background, but don’t let that dissuade you as this is pop music written with intelligence as it reveals the complexities that some relationships can suffer, with Cal giving a convincing performance as the victim at the centre of the ‘paranoia’ in focus. A solid start with this first single for Cal via ‘Paranoid’ that paves the way for a soon-to-be released EP, which should provide even greater evidence of the creative vision for this latest project from Frida Amundsen.


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Other Side of Town (Single)

Gorilla Cult

Untitled

Every now and again an artist sends word to Famous Last Words (FLW) of their latest creative endeavour which, more times than not, often results in a positive experience than a negative one. With not too much information to go on, this time out it’s the turn of, and in their words, “experimental indie band” Gorilla Cult and their current single ‘Other Side of Town’. By relaying what sounds like various debaucheries occurring on the other side of town and where life certainly becomes blurred in terms of what is defined as reality, Gorilla Cult weave a rhythm that is jittery and melodic and punctuated with electronics that are one moment distorted and the next shimmering brightly. Apparently there is more to come in 2017 from this relatively unknown indie band with ‘Other Side of Town’ being the first component of a suggested greater project to come. Watch this space.


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Doomsday EP

Reptilians From Andromeda

Prof Sny Records

A timely release for Istanbul’s Reptilians From Andromeda (RFA) considering the current turn of events in the political spheres of the US and UK, not to mention pretty much everywhere else in the world. The ‘Doomsday’ in question, packaged as track one of four from RFA’s latest EP, is more concerned with informing anyone willing to pay attention that all is not as it may seem, and that maybe you really shouldn’t believe the rhetoric televised almost on a daily basis at present. Such persuasion swings in favour of this garage-punk band from Istanbul as lead vocalist Aybike Çelik Özbey repeatedly cries, “Don’t believe the doomsday” to a fuzzy looped rhythm where the bass is raw and heavy and guitars glide effortlessly. If all this sounds a bit like A Place To Bury Strangers, for example, and nothing wrong with that of course, then following track, ‘Love Bait’, loses any such comparisons with a more straight garage rock and grunge feel that retains a very grubby appearance and all the more charming for doing so. With the EP being issued as a 7″ vinyl via Prof Sny Records, all recording and mixing duties were handled by the Reptilians themselves, only for Fran Ashcroft, formerly of power pop punk band The Monos! to apply mastering at Happy Beat studios (UK). Based on the evidence presented here, there is every reason to believe that RFA will be making further inroads to a wider audience soon, because ‘Doomsday’ EP never remains stagnant in terms of its approach and ideas, therefore giving the impression that there’s greater things to come from this quartet. In the meantime, RFA is definitely pushing all the right buttons as this is an engaging and fascinating ride that is worthy of your attention.



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