Pope Joan – The Celebration

Those moments when listening to a release for the first time and a knowing smile emerges, growing wider and wider as chord after chord emerges from the speaker are rare but when they come are extremely rewardingly enjoyable. Those are the moments when a band or song clicks and connects on every level, a moment that happened when the new single The Celebration’ from Brighton’s Pope Joan reached its eager hands out.

Previous single ‘A Drowning’ released in March has already stirred up the heart rhythms for many fans and critics alike, but the new single will go much further with its infectious beats, jangly guitars, and urgency of rhythm and vocals. The art-pop quartet create sounds that link to the primal beats in our hearts, enticing all with siren like beckoning through deep enchanting synths and alluring hypnotic rhythms, it teases, it invites and then it satisfies as one succumbs to its majesty.  

The Celebration’ saunters in on a military like beat as vocalist Sammy Aaron Jr delivers a dark tale which in the vocalists own words is “… about the aftermath of a celebration, where tragedy is looming”. There is a haunting and unsettling tone to the song due to Aaron Jr and his lyrical emotive words, complimented by the almost sullen moments either side of the erupting crescendos of emotion and music.

Accompanying the lead track is a crowd favourite at their shows, Billy’s Bride’. More tribal beats and vibrant groaning synth sounds frame the impressive Aaron Jr. The unrelenting beats behind the glorious post punk slides and feedback wails of the guitar and throbbing bass sounds grab the limbs making them move in unison and maybe even sympathy to the unsettling wonderful feel.

The single was produced by the band themselves with the mastering skills of  engineer Mike Marsh (The Kills, Nick Cave, Hot Chip), and a fine result they achieved, the clarity within the feeling of impending shadows especially in The Celebration’ is impressive. Each song is a living breathing creation provoking reaction from the listener as Tom Windsor, David Coomber, Andre Millin, alongside Aaron Jr take them into the unknown shadowy primitive side to their music. With something akin to The Birthday Party mixed with The Horrors backed by De Staat, Pope Joan has spawned a classic.

Having already shared stages with The Vaccines, Danananankroyd, New Young Pony Club, and The Fall, one can only see Pope Joan headlining said acts very soon. Pope Joan is the future of indie music, The Celebration’ an example of why that will be so.

http://www.myspace.com/popejoan

http://soundcloud.com/popejoan

Pete RingMaster 04/07/2011

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Strangers – EP2

London dark pop trio Strangers are one of the new bands igniting the genre of electronic pop with music that carries emotions which are impossible to ignore. Their music has deep rooted echoes of 80’s electronic pop fused with a haunting modern feel and clarity, impressively evident on their new release EP 2. Set to be released on July 18th via Stranger Sounds the three track EP is a soulful and senses caressing wave of electronic sounds, music that flows over and through the listener making it not only a simple listen but an experience too.

Strangers was created and formed in 2010 by David Maddox-Jones, formerly of The Departure. They released their debut  EP1 in March of this year to strong acclaim and interest, both critical and from their growing wealth of fans. This new release should go further to compound and increase that enthusiasm. Produced by band member and renowned remixer/producer Glen Nicholls (Depeche Mode, UNKLE, Everything Everything), it finds a fine blend of a kind of nostalgic influence and today’s clean urgent electronic indie rock.

Leading off the EP is ‘It Was A Sin’, an infectious and inviting pop sound, with soaring synth swells and flows surrounding the smooth vocals of Maddox-Jones. There is an obvious Depeche Mode sound, it is undeniable and as much comes from the David Gahan like vocals as from the music, but rather than making the song something that can be passed over as a copy it expands and enhances the track, due to the bands skilful songwriting and how they use melodies and their synth hooks.

Bound By The Sea’ follows close behind carrying a vibrancy and expressiveness that makes one take notice. It has a film track feel to it and images like a video in the mind for it are rife as it plays. Again it has that 80’s feel but with a freshness of a band at the top of their game in songwriting and performance.

The triplet of satisfying songs is completed by the soulful ballad ‘Lies’. Its simplicity and the unassuming impressive vocals from Maddox-Jones take the song on a slow graceful flow that radiates emotion before exploding into a climactic starburst of orchestral like intensity. It is a glorious track that is probably the strongest of the three, a haunting melodrama of the heart that though not instantly as accessible as the lead song is powerful and rewarding.

Where EP1 placed Strangers on the radar EP2 takes the band direct to its target, the hearts of the listener. With music that takes the listener into its arms to dance or serenade them, Strangers look like a band to reignite the electronic pop world and infuse new purpose into its backward looking direction.

In addition to the digital release of EP2, Strangers will release a limited edition 7inch single, through Killing Moon Records on 4th July, featuring the lead tracks from EP1 and EP2, ‘It Was a Sin and ‘If I Found Love.
Pete RingMaster 04/07/2011

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Great Imitation – The Tao of Polite Crunk (Making Rap Middle Class)/Bitter Sweet Heart Attacks (All About You)

Where do you start describing the style and music of Leicestershire band Great Imitation, a sound that has more elements than an industrial toaster. The quartet’s music blends rap poetry with singer/songwriter passion that lies within an Englishman’s soul, and some hip hop vision with acoustic finery, all infused with some indie pop. Well something like that, the result is what matters and that is very satisfying indeed.

Great Imitation formed in 2009 with the linking up of rapper James Scott-Howes and guitarist and vocalist Ryan Albutt, a union that was destined to work as within an hour of meeting they had written a song together. Performing acoustic sets the duo added drummer Joe Lambden and Mark Connor on bass to the line-up. Winning the National Finals of the 2010 Surface Festival followed as well as featured radio spots and becoming artist of the week on Kerrang Radio, but probably the most important event will occur July 25th with the release of new double A-sided single The Tao of Polite Crunk (Making Rap Middle Class)/Bitter Sweet Heart Attacks (All About You), a taster of things to come in the subsequent release of the ‘Making Rap Middle Class E.P’ late in the summer.   

The Tao of Polite Crunk (Making Rap Middle Class) is a self deprecating humourous declaration of the bands ‘making rap middle class’ mantra. Over a neat light summery soundtrack the lyrical amusement is complimented by the engaging guitars and upbeat riffs and rhythm. The track and band sets out with witty honesty what they are all about maybe in preparation for what sadly is still inevitable, a gathering of all too serious and anal views that white men should not rap or even listen to it seemingly.

Bitter Sweet Heart Attacks (All About You) is a different creature and reveals how varied and rounded Great Imitation can be. It is a fuller blend of rap vocals and indie soul, the lyrical commentary on modern relationships incisive without any element of preaching. It courts a neat mix of subtle wit and emotive statements all over an enjoyable strolling summer sound.

Musically there is lightness to the two tracks that is infectious and helps make this a single that is much more than rap delivered vocals, something that many will focus on. Scott-Howes rapping ability is spot on and supported by Albutt’s conventional singer songwriter delivery makes for a strong union. Add the music and this is a very worthwhile release to investigate.

Already renowned for their enjoyable live shows and with the impending EP plus videos from Black Revolver Films, this double A-Sided single just could and should be the moment people catch onto a band that is delightful and thoughtful but with that suspicion of being just as easily instinctively wicked. As to what Great Imitation sound like…………. imagine The Divine Comedy bowling to Sonic Boom Six whilst Dizzee Rascal keeps wicket on the cricket field of an English village. Well kind of close…
http://www.myspace.com/greatimitation
http://www.youtube.com/greatimitation

Pete RingMaster 04/07/2011

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Unearth – Darkness In The Light

Whatever the view of the band’s previous album The March, which was mixed at best, Massachusetts metalers Unearth are back on form with their fifth album Darkness In The Light via Metal Blade Records. To say the band is fired up on the release is an understatement of the highest degree, the quintet do not just break the doors down they obliterate them with a challenging intensity and enthusiasm that few if any have touched this year so far.

  Unearth are veterans of sorts having delivered their metalcore ferocity since the late nineties but on Darkness In The Light there is freshness and vitality that puts some of the young newcomers to shame. The album may not be breaking down old and setting up new boundaries but it certainly leaves a trail of satisfaction and immense enjoyment in its wake. The eleven tracks that flex their muscles within the release are well written and perfectly realised by the Boston quintet, and produced with clarity and understanding by once again returning producer Adam Dutkiewicz, the Killswitch Engage guitarist. He and the band have a unity in knowing what is needed and how to achieve it that is nine times out of ten spot on, and on Darkness In The Light 11 out of 11.  

An aspect of the album which helps gives it an air of warlike attitude is the bringing in of long time friend and Killswitch Engage drummer Justin Foley for the release to replace the departing Derek Kerswill. The split was amicable and as guitarist Buz McGrath explains “Derek is an amazing drummer, and we’re still good friends, but his style wasn’t what we were looking for on the new record. He’s more of a rock guy than a metal guy, and we wanted something a bit more extreme,”, ands he continues in reference to Foley, “I think he slips under the radar a little bit as far as drummers go but he’s an outstanding technical drummer,”. After the release of Darkness In The Light that recognition should soar as he is impressive to say the least and alongside the other members of Unearth is a perfect and effective fit.

Watch It Burn’ opens up the onslaught, it is stark, aggressive, and hits like a machine gun attack. Political, powerful, and direct it is a dynamic start to the album, the smooth blend of melodies and supporting vocals from Ken Susi a great contrast and compliment to the harsh, grating, powerhouse vocals of Trevor Phipps. The guitars of Suzi and Mcgrath flow majestically whether in the creative melodic turns or the riff churning wall of noise, and with the resonating bass power of John Maggard, it is a track laying down an immediate statement of intent for what is to follow.

What follows throughout Darkness In The Light is some of the best metal heard this year so far but particularly so on a number of the tracks, songs that show Unearth still lead the way for others to follow. ‘Shadows Of The Light’, ‘Coming Of The Dark’, and ‘The Fallen’ all ride the wave of creativity and inspiration, their crushing onslaught of heavy urgent riffs and melodic surgical strikes are soul feeding. The one track that towers over all though is the deeply personal ‘Last Wish’. Striding, rampant and flesh melting, it is a giant wall of metal and to be honest would have made a far better single than the band’s choice ‘Eyes Of Black’ from the album.

There is also one moment of the album that works beautifully though whether intentionally would have to be asked of the band. The incoming explosion of ‘Arise The War Cry’ is a defiant, aggressive call to arms and plays like a battlefield with Phipps standing centre and confrontational as bullet like riffs fly overhead, his intense vocals direct to the skull, his venom dripping from the ear. What is so effective is the placing of the following track ‘Equinox’, a song that is sombre, again seemingly personal, and though unconnected brings a tone and imagery of the aftermath from the battle waged right before it, the hopelessness felt as the dust settles.

Darkness In The Light is a brutal, inventive and totally satisfying album showing that not only are Unearth back but they are better than ever.

http://www.unearth.tv

Pete RingMaster 04/07/2011

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Mind Museum – Rat Race EP

From their formation in July 2010 Bristol band Mind Museum has intently been working on their sound and songwriting resulting in their debut release the Rat Race EP, a package of four songs that are varied, expressive and extremely impressive. Their alternative rock sound lined with some punk energy is creatively involved and delivered with a polished production that also allows the passion in the music to pour out easily.

The trio of vocalist Justin E Percival, who is also the bassist, guitarist Will Slater, and drummer Chas Bacon are accomplished musicians, Percival and Slater having a pedigree from being in former bands I AM THE DOOR and Full Scream Ahead together. That has given them a surety and confidence in their craft going into Mind Museum which is clearly apparent on Rat Race. Each song on the EP is dripping in emotive lyrics and delivery from Percival, his style similar in some ways to Brian Molko explaining the Placebo comparisons the band often gets. The trio dip deeply into a harder rock sound though with big firm hypnotic riffs via Percival’s delicious basslines and Slater’s impressive grooves, whilst the drums of Bacon are commanding and tightly forceful.  

Rat Race’ opens up the EP, an urgent and incisive slice of rock, striking cleanly with inviting riffs and formidable passion oozing through from Percival, the sound carrying a hybrid Lost Prophets/At The Drive In vibe soothed with a Jimmy Eats World melodic approach, a comparison that basically tells you Mind Museum have a sound that is unique.

The following two tracks ‘Everything Eventually’ and ‘The Secret Of Happiness’, use the same essential elements as the opener but have a more personal feel, though the first of the two songs lyrically can be interpreted socially too. The earnest vocals of Percival drags every ounce of emotion out of the songs and alongside the great guitar play makes the tracks, which though as instant as their predecessor, certainly as rewarding.

The EP closes with ‘Seal The Cracks’, a fine pop punk track that ripples with a pulsating bassline and delightful melodies within its harsher framework. The song sits in the Jimmy Eats World camp of sound easily though whether the Americans have ever produced the urgency and power evident here is unlikely. A brilliant end to what is a very satisfying and rewarding debut and notice that we are in for some real delights over the months and years ahead from Mind Museum.

The Rat Race EP is stylish and immediately impressive delivering more and more joy as it plays its length whilst Mind Museum a band that will be garnering far more than simple praise as the release finds more and more welcoming ears and hearts. They have opened their account with certain promise and definite delivery that makes them essential listening now and for future releases.

Pete RingMaster 04/07/2011

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