Filthy Militia – Innocent Until Proven Filthy

Growing up in the late seventies / early eighties as I did, I hit the punk / Two Tone movement square on. Being from the ‘good’ side of the tracks, my friends and I naturally gravitated towards the ska revival movement of Two Tone for several reasons: it was happier and more accessible to us; we were a mixed-race group and the message of inclusion and what would now be termed ‘anti-fascism’ was at our core; and none of us had mothers who would let us grow mohawks.

As such, I love finding new artists whose roots and influences lie in the same place, and North London-based Filthy Militia are one such band.

Their debut EP, Innocent Until Proven Filthy, dropped into the inbox this week. So I was looking forward to a return to my youth and evenings spent arguing the relative values of The Specials against Madness, The Selecter against The Beat.

What I got was something different – a set of tracks which seemed to find their base more in the heady days of Jamaican Ska than it’s rougher, punk-influenced offspring, but with a definite nod towards the punk-inspired bands I grew up with. There’s a lot more brass than we got in the revival, where guys like Saxa and Rico sometimes felt more like an affectation than an integral part of the sound. Here there’s no mistaking the excellent stabs and fills.

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We start with Up In Smoke, an energetic blast which is very danceable and jaunty. Storm Warning is slightly darker, with hints of The Clash, and is probably the closest to the revival sound. Be Real takes you right back to the Sixties with it’s laid back vibe hinting at Prince Buster’s pace and attitude. Finally, Little Sister keeps us firmly in the decade of my birth, with even a suggestion of California surf thrown into the Caribbean mix.

For a four-track EP, Filthy Militia have managed to convey four very different elements of ska, and as such they show their versatility and knowledge of the genre. Certainly if I find myself in their neck of the woods, I’d seek out a gig.

For more information, go to their Facebook page at facebook.com/filthymilitia/ and give them a like!

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SEKADA – Easy Come, Easy Go

The latest offering from Brighton-based electronic outfit SEKADA arrived in my inbox this week.

Now I’m not someone that usually reaches for this particular genre when I’m looking for something to listen to. In general, I tend to find electronic music either too poppy or too reminiscent of the Mediterranean club scene that I’ve always been that little too old to appreciate.

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Easy Come, Easy Go is different, however. Yes, there’s the familiarity that comes with the obvious drum-beats and synth fills, but this is an overall darker song, which appeals to my New Wave roots in a way that most modern songs of this type never do.

There’s also the hint of protest overlaying through the vocals and video that somehow belies a genre that most people would associate with youngsters simply trying to have a very good, very noisy time.

Hannah’s vocals provide a nice balance with the heavy chords and Emm’s rap section, and the melody has a habit of switching tempo at the drop of a hat – which in this case is a trick the band have pulled off well.

I guess if I had a slight criticism of the track, it’s that there’s not quite enough of Hannah’s unprocessed vocals. I’ve listened to a few of her solo tracks on YouTube and she’s got a voice of quality, depth and emotion that somehow struggles to come across when in the presented mix of the band’s synthetic sound-wall. I know that’s not necessarily the track or the band’s fault at all, I’d just like to hear some more of their stuff where they bring a slightly more natural element to the music to blend with the reconstructed and the commercial.

Overall? Easy Come, Easy Go surprised me. It wasn’t what I was expecting to hear, and that’s always a good thing. Nice one, guys…

For more on SEKADA, their website is http://www.sekadauk.com or they are on Facebook and YouTube.

Band line up:
Hannah Renton- Vocals
Emm Tyrokomakis- Vocals/producer
Ollie Dolling- Drums
George Kararizos- Bass

The Psychedelic Furs – London 2017

Crossposted from Riserdrummer.Wordpress.Com

Last Saturday was a date long-awaited in my calendar: the welcome return of The Psychedelic Furs to London after five long years. Their Singles tour has taken in nine UK cities, as well as dates in Europe, South America, and an extensive US road trip. Pretty much every date in the UK has sold out. and that’s without a new album to advertise or anything crassly commercial like that.

Nope – this was a tour for music fans, by music fans, delivering happiness, dancing, singing and memories both on-stage and off.

I’ll come to the headliners in a moment, but first, a few thoughts about the support.

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I want to know who booked Lene Lovich so I can shake their hand. As support, the choice of music’s maddest act was inspired. Lene and her band played a set of familiar and not-so-familiar tunes to an audience who literally lapped up every note. Just the same now as she was back in the early 80s, Lene Lovich still hits the highest of high notes with a style and a smile all her own. The audience loved her, and the platform for the main act was firmly set.

Then came the Furs. And boy, did they deliver.

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Rarely will you see a band so together. Fronted by the brilliantly eclectic Richard Butler, whose vocals and physical presence on stage mesmerises, The Psychedelic Furs are – in my eyes and ears at least – the very definition of the perfect gigging band. There’s the rock-solid rhythm section of Tim Butler on bass and my friend, the awesome Paul Garisto on drums. These two threw down a firm foundation for the three melodious ones, all of whom I could write paragraphs about. Rich Good‘s guitar work is effortless perfection, Amanda Kramer‘s keyboard work is so spot on that it hurts when she stops, and there’s very little I can say about Mars Williams‘ sax playing that could possibly do his genius enough justice.

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Starting with Dumb Waiter and running through to a second encore with President Gas, we called in at all the familiar stops, spanning a career that has seen their fan base grow and grow. All the favorites were there, including Mr Jones, Heartbreak Beat, Heaven, India, and – naturally – Pretty In Pink.

However, a mere track listing wouldn’t reflect the sheer exuberance and joy coming off the stage. The Psychedelic Furs really do have to be seen to be believed.

I attended the gig with my brother (to whom I introduced The Furs back in 2012) and an old friend Pete, who has actually written his memoirs around gigs he’s attended. Given there are many, many hundreds to measure against, when he turned to me at the end and simply mouthed “How awesome was THAT!”, you knew you’d been there at a special time.

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I managed to catch up with Paul and Richard after the gig, and both confirmed what I thought – they had had such a good time, and were still on a buzz from the show. Paul particularly was amazingly relaxed and happy, and said that he’d not felt so comfortable and chilled at a gig for ages. It certainly showed in his playing.

Next time I’ll bring my copy of Talk Talk Talk for Richard to sign. Thankfully – according to him – this will hopefully not be too far away, as they are already starting to discuss a return trip to the UK. When they do come back, get your tickets early, because The Psychedelic Furs really will be the hottest show in town.

 

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/

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…

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