Wolfe Sunday – Wolfe Sunday

I’m usually fairly laid back about music, different genres, different approaches. There’s so much stuff around, if you listen all the time you can maybe get a little… well, immune, I guess, to how it can make you feel.

So let me get this out there straight away, so that my comments about Wolfe Sunday’s debut self-titled album can be taken in the spirit they are delivered:

I love this guy. I love his approach, I love his sound, and I love that he’s just doing what he loves.

There. I said it. I’ve never met him, I’ve never spoken with him on anything above email.

But there’s something about this album that pushes all the usual rules aside. It’s foot-tapping stuff that tells a story in a genuine, funny way that throws in elements of pathos, sadness, ambition, disappointment and remorse. If we were the sort of review site that gave thumbs up ratings, this one would get many…. but we’re not, so…. anyway…. we like!

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Sometimes Wolfe Sunday is full band madness, sometimes it’s pared-back acoustic. Either way it’s just the thing that nestles perfectly in the ear. With songs like “I Spend More time at Service Stations Than On The Stage” and “I’m Still Not A Rockstar (But I Sure wish I Was)”, this is folk-punk with a human edge. It’s his story. And it’s inspired stuff.

Wolfe (a.k.a. Laurence Crow, which in itself isn’t a bad musician name) describes himself as if “Kimya Dawson had a baby with Beans On Toast and brought the boy up listening to Motörhead, then gave him a guitar”. I kinda get that, but there’s a lot of Billy Bragg and early Elvis Costello in the mix as well. all of which I like, and all of which I have returned to several times since it dropped into the Sound Impression inbox.

The Album launch is on July 14, it’s gonna be out on Beth Shalom records (you can buy it HERE) , and to find out more, go to www.facebook.com/wolfesunday – a click that won’t disappoint.

 

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Mr Happy Chainsaw – It’s Not My Ball EP

One of the many emails to drop into the Sound Impression mailbox recently was a note from Essex-based punky popsters Mr Happy Chainsaw. Their latest EP, It’s Not My Ball, is being released soon, after strong airplay for their single release, Standing There.

Now for me, there’s a few things that stand out in the band’s favour. There’s a level of production that helps show this hasn’t been thrown together in a mate’s garage. The lyrics cut through the instruments, and the whole thing is balanced, tight, and technically accomplished. All of which is important, but let’s face it – it’s a bit dull for a music review. Which is why I got it out of the way early. You don’t want to know whether the tracks are professionally produced, you want to know what’s gonna slap your ears and make you smile.

Let’s start by sharing how Mr Happy Chainsaw describe themselves. Imagine if you will, a cocktail bar. If you asked for a Mr Happy Chainsaw (they tell me) you’d get “a pinch of Blink 182, Green Day and Alkaline Trio, to which we add a splash of Foo Fighters, a hint of Barry Manilow and Elton John and it all gets topped off with a generous serving of tongue in cheek fun and a dollop of Essex”.

There’s a big expectation after that kind of statement. You’ll either be looking for the flavours of all those great acts, or you’ll be hoping for something uniquely distinctive. The truth? It’s actually somewhere in between, somewhere that mixes all of these to make something a bit different. Although I probably wouldn’t recognise ‘a dollop of Essex’ if it was served on a spoon with a cherry…

Tracks like Standing There and Your Best Friend have a Foo Fighters / Blink 182 vibe, with a solid, driving freshness that propels you along. There are catchy riffs and vocal hooks, all of which make their music something you can listen to over again.

There’s also clearly a more considered, thoughtful side to the guys. When listening to their tracks (especially Leaving Town) there’s a definite story running through the songs. I hope it’s not all from personal experience, because if it is, well… hard luck, dudes. There’s … an intelligence behind the music – trust me, I don’t always get that impression – and that appeals to me in a way that much of today’s one-dimensional blandness simply can’t.

Overall?  A Sound Impression approves, and suggests you go to http://www.mrhappychainsaw.com and see for yourself.

Track listing:

  • Standing There
  • Out of Time
  • Charlie
  • Leaving Town
  • Your Best Friend

The Small Fakers – Jagz, May 5th 2017

Picture the scene. The venue is intimate, the ale is flowing, the place is packed, and onto the stage walk four blokes with distinctly retro clothing and hairstyles.

Your mission – should you accept it – is to either dance or get the hell out of Dodge. So what do you do?

If the four blokes are Matt, Neil, Dean and Dan, and the band is The Small Fakers, then the choice is easy. Shut up and dance…

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As the UK’s one and only tribute to The Small Faces, the Fakers have built a huge following on the Mod scene and beyond since forming in 2007. Their stage presence is mighty, their attention to detail awesome, and every familiar song is quality.

I’ve known some of the guys for years from previous bands and other music events, and can vouch for their love of music, their drive, and their delight in getting so very close to the brilliance of probably the best british band of the late sixties. Yep – I said it. I know they were up against some other four-piece from Liverpool, but at a time when Beatlemania owed more to the Mararishi than to Merseyside, Steve Marriott and the boys delivered a mix of mod, soul, and psychedelia that stood them apart.

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Of course, all the favourites are there.  Sha-La La-La-Lee.  All Or Nothing.  Whatcha Gonna Do About It.  Lazy Sunday.  And obviously, Tin Soldier.

Amazingly, I’ve only seen the boys twice – earlier this year in London, and then again at Jagz, a cool little venue tailor-made for the boys and their sound. They put on an incredible show, and their audiences are mental – in the best possible way.

For those of us too young to have seen the Small Faces at their height, this is a trip into the kind of memories we all wish we had.

Make a point of catching them when they are near you. You’ll not regret it. For gig dates and more details, pop on over to http://www.smallfakers.co.uk/

Flower Children -Wasted Space

This single release comes from Caffe Collective, based in London and promising “to integrate their audiences with the creative approach towards art, coffee and entertainment, and expand the horizons of artists working together”

I wish I knew what that actually meant, because I feel it would help me to understand exactly what’s going on in this song.

Call me an old traditionalist, but I just don’t get it. Maybe I’ve not smoked the right stuff, or I’ve not listened to this whilst seventeen espresso shots course through my system at 3:30am on a Friday night.

The band describe themselves as a ‘funk / prog rock band’ but in truth I’m really struggling to find any elements of these genres. What I hear – and what I see from the video – is something I can most closely liken to a finger painting by my kids when they were back in nursery. There’s a picture in there somewhere, that’s for sure. Only it’s not at all obvious what you’re experiencing. So you say the nice things, like “Oh, it’s an elephant?” but only because they are your kids. You pin up the picture, but very soon afterwards it gets replaced / mislaid, and that’s it.

Sadly, I’m driven to say that – for me at least – this is the closest that Wasted Space gets to art, and that at a mere two minutes long, it thankfully lasts about the same time as a toddler’s daubs. And as it’s not from my offspring, I’m struggling to find anything more positive to say.

I have no doubt that there’s an audience out there. Emin, Hirst, and others find appreciative crowds for what I and many others simply find baffling and strange. So it is with Wasted Space. I’m afraid the biggest emotional response I can offer is a scratch of the head and maybe a faint raising of the eyebrows.

Feel free to take a look yourselves HERE, and I apologise to the band whose efforts I’ve not been positive about, but as I tell everyone: I’m not here to write you a glowing advert unless – in my view – it’s deserved.

 

 

 

 

Blondie : Parallel Lines

The first of an ongoing classic album series, we’re taking you back to the heady days of 1978….

It hardly seems possible that Parallel Lines was released nigh on 40 years ago.  Just one look at the album cover, and a skim through the track listing, makes the tunes spring into your mind, as fresh as yesterday.

Fronted by the beautiful Debbie Harry and delivering a wholly eclectic mix of styles (pop, punk, disco, reggae, rap), Blondie’s music became instantly recognisable, and Parallel Lines, their third studio album, helped them break into the elusive but lucrative US market.

Rather than wax lyrically that much, let’s skip to the track listing (* denotes a singles release) :

  1. Hanging On The Telephone *
  2. One Way or Another *
  3. Picture This *
  4. Fade Away and Radiate
  5. Pretty Baby
  6. I Know But I Don’t Know
  7. 11:59
  8. Will Anything Happen?
  9. Sunday Girl *
  10. Heart of Glass *
  11. I’m Gonna Love You Too *
  12. Just Go Away

Of the singles, only I’m Gonna Love You Too failed to make an impression, but then a Blondie cover of a Buddy Holly original is maybe pushing eclectic just too far.

The others? You may well be singing them now.

The US markets lapped them up, making Heart Of Glass the band’s first US number 1, an achievement that they repeated a further three times over the next three years. Add to that six UK number 1 hits and success across Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Blondie had made it. The album, produced by Mike Chapman, harnessed the raw emotion of their first two albums (Blondie and Plastic Letters) and helped them bridge the gap between new-wave edginess and financially viable pop stardom.

The rest (as they say) is history…

Future Theory: Fool’s Dream EP

Back after a too-long hiatus, I’ve been listening to the Fool’s Dream EP from Lincoln-based alt-rockers Future Theory, a band who have attracted attention from Q Magazine and BBC Introducing.

The EP has five tracks, and I think it’s fair to say that the band have made a conscious effort to showcase as wide a range of styles as possible.

Let’s start with the title track. Fool’s Dream has an acoustic, heavily ambient feel, with their cited influences (reverb, delay, experiences, and each other) driving the melody so strongly, I’d fully expect someone to be credited as playing the pedals. There’s a depth of feeling and emotion here that really warrants me listening to this live in a smoky club rather than in my office, watching the traffic go by outside the window.

Listen Closely is completely different, laying Max’s lazy vocals over a far cleaner musical backline. It has a more psychedelic feel to it than Fool’s Dream, and Chris’ guitar riffs hold up a mirror to the vocals and contrasts nicely with the more jaunty main rhythms.

Eye Of The Storm drives more frenetically, with a more solid rock feel, whilst Horses takes us in a more intimate direction, drawing you into a steadier, more measured story where the message takes priority over the delivery. That might sound like a strange thing to say, but think about it: when you listen to a song, and you associate with the song and the lyrics, it’s so very different to when you remember a song more by its tune or signature riffs and less by what the lyrics actually said. Horses is delivered in a way that focuses the attention onto the words, and there’s nothing that distracts you, so well do the instruments and vocals mesh.

The EP is rounded off by Horses/Koncide, which kinda let the EP down a little for me. It’s almost the opposite of Horses, with an ambience and techno-beat that simply pushes the envelope too far. I get the feeling that this one was an experiment that felt good after a few beers, but personally I don’t see that it adds anything to the EP or the band’s signalled direction.

Overall? There’s a lot of good stuff here. My top two would probably be Horses and Listen Closely. I’ll revisit and listen to more, and if the boys ever venture south, I’d be interested in going along, because they leave the impression of a band that really delivers in a live setting. If I ever do come along though, don’t be surprised to see me head for the bar when the techno stuff begins….

Future Theory are: Rhythm guitar and vocals- Max Sander; Lead guitar- Chris Moore; Bass guitar- Jake Scarbro; Drums- Rohan Parrett

For more info on the band and to get in touch, their facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/FutureTheory/ 

Fools Dream EP is on Spotify at http://spoti.fi/2fgPzsY

The Magic Es – Melody Jane (single)

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Melody Jane is the latest single from The Magic Es, a four piece guitar rock band from Norwich.

The Magic Es have built up a strong following, and their music is starting to gain traction on radio stations worldwide. The guys tell me that reviews and feedback has been favourable.

So what does A Sound Impression think?

I listened to the track before reading any of the marketing guff that always accompanies singles releases. I tend to do that to see if my thoughts match what the bands claim as public opinion.

In this case…. yes, it does. There’s a definite sense of energy and thought behind the track, and one of the band’s main influences – The Undertones – comes through very strongly. I love early Undertones tracks, and as such, this was sending me all the right notes.

On the downside, I thought the chorus was a little weak, having no real singalong hook line. The melody drops into a minor key for the hook, which rarely works in an uptempo pop/rock song.

That having been said, there’s more than enough here to make me want to hear some more of their tracks, and the benefit of doubt clearly deserves to fall in their favour. Go take a listen and see what you think!

Line Up:

Pete Thompson (vocals/guitars)
Jasper Stainthorpe (bass)
Stuart Catchpole (drums/vocals)
Phil Woods (guitar)

http://www.facebook.com/wearemagicuk

Black Cat Bones – False Promises And Wasted Time EP

Black Cat Bones are a five piece band from Liverpool, looking to show that the UK, and specifically their home town, is still the place to look for new bands destined to set the world alight. I seem to recall another combo came from their neck of the woods a few years back…

I’m not saying that Black Cat Bones are in the same league as The Beatles, but they are at least in the same city, and they also deliver a solid sound true to their roots.

False Promises And Wasted Time is the band’s debut EP. You’ll find well-matched, driving guitars coupled with a tight, compact rhythm section where the bass and drums mesh seamlessly. You’ll find well defined lyrics pushed out with energy and intelligence.

Let me expand on that last point a little, because it might seem a little strange talking about hard rock bands and intelligence in the same sentence. Trust me – I’ve heard enough to know it’s a rare thing.

Too many rock bands this day rely simply on the singer’s ability to hit the back wall as hard as his tonsils will let him. Clever performers know that the important thing isn’t what leaves the speakers – it’s what hits the ears of the audience. And Jonnie’s vocals arrive in fine style.

Same with the guitars – it’s easy to turn the amps up to eleven and thrash away, but nobody wants to listen to two guitarists fighting to hear themselves above the din coming from the backline. The guitars on these tracks are well-defined and compliment each other, and again – it’s surprising how many local rock bands don’t understand this basic truth.

All in all, I like these guys. Favorite track is probably Silverline, whilst the more stop-start rhythm of Bittersweet made it hardest to get into.

Catch them at http://www.facebook.com/BlackCatBonesUK

INFO:

Black Cat Bones are: Jonnie Hodson – Lead Vocals; A. Rimmer – Lead / Rhythm Guitar; Adam Kerbache – Rhythm / Lead Guitar; Ash Janes – Drums; Jamie Hayward – Bass

Track listing:

  • Highway Man
  • One More Time
  • Bittersweet
  • Creepin
  • Silverline

Fractures : Different Perspective EP

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The new Different Perspective EP by Worcester-based metalcore act Fractures dropped into my inbox earlier this week.

I’ve listened to it.

Now, I’m open minded and old enough to know that somewhere, there’s a market for everyone. I really can’t explain Jedward, Renee and Renate, Joe Dolce or Keith Harris and Orville any other way. So I’m content in the knowledge that out there, there’s a willing audience for Fractures.

I’m not it. And here’s why…

As it evolved in the late sixties and seventies, Rock and Metal brought something new, something different, something decidedly sharp-edged. There was a very real sense of anarchy against the rather staid, rather polished music that had come before. Punk carried this on and once more offered an alternative that you just didn’t get anywhere else. The 2-Tone explosion mixed punk riffs with old Jamaican ska to bring a freshness and vitality to the music scene.

These days, far too many metal bands forget that individuality is still important if you want people to remember you, even seek you out. You’re never going to get their adulation, their time, or more specifically their money, if you deliver something formulaic.

Different Perspective really doesn’t threaten to break the mold on any level. There’s repetitive, generic double-kick rhythms a-plenty, but nothing particularly different. The guitars are turned up to eleven and pretty much thrown at you, so that you can’t really pick up much of the musicianship involved in the process. And the vocals are the standard vocoderized devil-growl that no doubt wets the pants of the target audience, but leaves the rest of us wondering what the hell they are saying.

I guess my problem – and I fully admit it may be my problem – is that I have listened to so much good music, I am far less tolerant of formulaic blandness, however loudly and violently it is delivered. For some, that’s what you want, and good luck to you. If that’s you, you can find more info on the guys at https://www.facebook.com/FracturesUK and I know the band will appreciate your support.

Sadly, I’ve heard better, far too often. Sorry guys, but you’re not for me.

Track listing:

  • No One
  • Crown Your Convictions
  • Ashes To Fall
  • Different Perspective
  • The Creator
  • Never Hope, Never Want
  • Waiting

Dancing With Ruby – In The Interests Of Beasts

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I listen to a lot of music, and whilst this is clearly fun, inspirational, and a great way to waste a lot of time, there’s usually a challenge for me in that. Not to decide if I like the music or not, that’s always pretty binary, and (like you, I suspect) you know what you like and what you don’t.

No, the challenge is often how to categorise the music. Is it Metal? Is it metalcore? Is it Death Metal, or Thrash Metal, or some other obscure variant of any number of similar styles? It ain’t just metal either – you get the same variants in soul, dance, hip-hop, rock, pop, and jazz. It’s a conumndrum.

Not so with Dancing With Ruby.

It’s pure electronica. Clearly. There’s really no ambiguity when it comes to Dancing With Ruby.

The duo of Matt Culpin on keyboards, allied to the ethereal voice of Charlie Sanderson, deliver an almost unique experience. Charlie’s vocals have a breathy, child-like quality that draw you into what always feels like an emotional voyage through each song.

The tracks themselves have well-crafted, rhythmic melodies that showcase Matt’s excellent musicianship.

Favourite tracks? I love the way the opening track, Spiders, establishes a focus on Charlie’s voice with a metronomic intro that slowly builds layer on layer. Creature is a more eclectic, but no less rhythmic track, and brings in an 80s Yazoo / early Depeche Mode feel that continues with the final song, Dance Move Feel, which is very much the poppiest of the ten tracks.

Verdict: Dancing With Ruby are well worth a listen. Thing is, you find yourself then taking a second trip. Then a third. Sure, it won’t appeal to most metal-heads, but to everyone else, it’s a journey you really sought to make.

Find out more about the duo at https://www.facebook.com/dancingwithruby