Smash Fashion – Big Cat Love

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The wantonly enigmatic sound and presence of US rockers Smash Fashion has always made for a compelling and thrilling proposition since forming in 2004 and new album Big Cat Love provides no deviation in that potency. In fact it takes it to richer captivating levels with another collection of riotously varied and adventurous fusions of rock ‘n’ roll. The album sees the band again reaping the blooms of various decades and styles of raw and boisterous rock music, hard and glam rock as home within their invention as fifties rock ‘n’ roll and power pop. It makes for a tantalising proposition from the band’s third album, one which even with a couple of lulls in its persuasion is a stirring captivation from start to finish.

Hailing from Los Angeles, Smash Fashion consists of musicians drenched in experience and successes. The band is led by vocalist/guitarist Roger Deering alongside bassist Nigel Mogg (ex- London Quireboys), drummer Repo (ex-Smack), and guitarist Lloyd Stuart Casson (ex- Rock City Angels). Their previous full-lengths A Gentlemens Guide to Sophisticated Savagery and Don’t Pet The Sweaty Things in 2006 and 2009 respectively, set the band apart and into an eager spotlight for their expansive sound whilst last year’s single Blame It On The Brandy more than hinted at the promise of and raised anticipation for the new release. It was potential easily realised by the again Electricpudding Recordings released album, a confirmation of that clue and of the ever hungry invention and appetite of a band which has graced stages with the likes of Ian Hunter, Arthur Lee and Love, The Zombies, Cheap Trick, Psychedelic Furs, The Alarm, Missing Person, Orson, JET, and The 88 over the years.

A gong opens up attention and the entrance of first track Wicked Ways, a shock to ears which are soon filled with enticingly grooved big-cat-love-albumguitars and crisp probing rhythms. It is instant agreeable bait which only increases its lure with the vocals of Deering and an increasingly potent infectiousness which soaks the melodies and chorus of the song as well as the vocal delivery. You cannot say that the song is a startling protagonist for the imagination and emotions but it is a persistently persuasive stroll of finely sculpted hooks, fiery grooves, and sonic enterprise which achieves the same impact. Feeling like an old friend in new clothes in many ways, much like the album, the song is an impressive opener which is swiftly matched by Marionette. Bringing more punkish seeds than the first whilst still firmly involved with a hard rock canvas, the excellent track seduces like a mix of early days The Jam and The Vapors, easily igniting and passions. The fact that it is a reworking from an appearance on the last album makes no difference to its might and presence on the album, such its thrilling offering.

The following Strike My Fancy (Knickers Down) is as flamboyant and wonderfully sleazy as its title suggests though with a refined touch in restraint behind a melodic colour which flames around the senses as keys tease their submission. It is another excellent romp with more contagion than a strip club and just as sexy, especially with the incendiary guitar craft blazing across its body, a skill just as evident in Stay Off My La La and You Love to Suffer. The first of the pair shows its intent to rock from the first seconds, riffs and vocals a keen devilry within a sturdy frame of rhythms and dark roaming basslines. As all the songs there is something virulently catchy and anthemic to the track easily bringing feet, voice, and emotions into its grasp. Thoughts of bands like The Motors and Eddie and the Hot Rods are stirred occasionally through the song before it makes way for its successor, a smouldering ballad which from humble temptations emerges over time as a riveting enticement with dark sixties punk croon to its suasion.

The title track comes in next, starting with a mischievous almost tribal groan which sparks real intrigue but then as swiftly abandons the bait to twist into a glam/seventies pop rock which is more than decent but just does not excite like the previous songs. Like Darts meets The Quireboys it is a satisfying romp but not one to fire up any real passion in personal tastes, though the bass endeavour and climactic conclusion to the song are big pluses. The perfectly accomplished and varied Just a Kiss At the Starting Line is much the same in success though different in sound with its country rock twang and bold melodic rock stroll. The guitars and drums again ensure there is plenty to engage and run with, just not enough to spark any major ardour for.

Super Glam next builds a bold rock lure of country bred spice amidst a power pop lilt and darkly toned vocals. It is another song taking time to convince but succeeds eventually through its excellent pop swagger and hard rock veining of outstanding guitar craft and pumped rhythms. It is one of those devious songs which takes a deeper grip than first realised to be a lingering presence, though the following punk infused Aim for the Heart soon has total attention for itself, the song an outstanding fusion of the addictive hooks of Buzzcocks and rich drama of Psychedelic Furs all immersed in the kind of premise which only Smash fashion can conjure. The song is an infectious temptation with feisty intent, a mix equalled by Blame It On the Brandy right after. The song immediately has ears at attention as it opens with ridiculously addictive rhythms before settling into a brew of alluring hooks, stirring riffs, and healthily anthemic vocals. Bringing seventies glam flourishes into a tempest of blues kissed rock n roll, the excellent encounter is a mix of American rock and Thin Lizzy, and a complete joy.

The dusty climate and vocal shade to Live to Tell makes for another very satisfying if not explosive avenue to the album, its scenery a bloom of shapely guitar invention and flavoursome rhythmic wile, before Stairs to Nowhere brings Big Cat Love to a rousing close. A big boned mesh of seventies hard rock and garage punk with unsurprising but enjoyable animated energy and passion, the track makes for an eventful conclusion to a fascinating triumph. Boundaries are not worried and originality arguably left alone for the main by Smash Fashion on their album but they still present a proposition which incites pleasure and the rocker in us all and that is more than enough for us.

Big Cat Love is available via Electricpudding Recordings now!

http://www.smashfashionmusic.com

8/10

RingMaster 09/05/2014

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Sisteray – She Likes The Drama

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     Since forming in 2012, British rock band Sisteray has been building a rather potent fan base and appreciation through  their live performances and releases, an eagerly followed presence which their new EP She Likes The Drama gives plenty of evidence to the reason why. The four track release is an engaging proposition which from making an initially decent if unsure persuasion emerges as a magnetically appealing enjoyment. It is fair to say the EP does not quite reach in to ignite a flame in these particular passions but from the sure satisfaction definitely found you can easily see that it will be a different proposition for a great many others.

    Hailing from London and consisting of Niall Rowan (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), the Connolly brothers Daniel (lead guitar/vocals) and Ryan (drums), and Michael Hanrahan (bass), Sisteray take influences from the likes of The Kinks, The Beatles and The Who but equally from 70’s Mod Revival bands such as The Jam and Blues bands such as Dr. Feelgood, The Yardbirds, and The Rolling Stones. Those spices are open in the Sisteray sound as are also inspirations from more recent bands like The Stone Roses, The Arctic Monkeys, and Oasis. It is a striking mix which despite that rich soak of inciting flavours, does find a voice distinct to Sisteray as loudly evident on She Likes The Drama.

    The title track kicks things off, a single guitar tempting luring in attention and imagination before being joined by a nice dark 1536716_554607001299650_1249032493_nbassline and melodically sculpted riff strokes. It is a clean and precise persuasion of sixties blues kissed rock ‘n’ roll with a seventies garage rock breath and nineties indie endeavour. The song never explodes into the fire it hints at, especially around the chorus, but it is as infectious and compelling as you could wish for and undeniably makes a pleasing impact. The vocals of Rowan like the song are expressive with a strong buoyant tone whilst the prime hook of the song is irresistibly potent and with the other enticing elements of the song it all adds up to make the track an increasingly enticing offering over time.

      The following Rollin’ Over also offers a highly coaxing entrance into the song, a lone throaty and slowly parading bassline beckoning ears before the subsequent flame of melodic guitars and crisp rhythms joins the tempting. There is a stronger blues aroma to the song right away which the group vocals around the chorus accentuate into a quite inflammatory suasion. Again the band never erupts into the assumed and hoped to come unleashing of anthemic energy within the track, which does disappoint slightly, but there is plenty in the swagger and voice of the song to draw in appetite for and enjoyment in the encounter.

      I’m Free emerges on a fuzz ball of sonic intrigue increasing further the blues fire which smoulders and burns in each song, whilst a certain Oasis bred croon equally impacts on the ears. Not as tantalising and ultimately impressing as the other songs, it still captures the imagination especially with the constant almost brawling blaze of sonic scowling which cores the musical narrative. Providing the heaviest rock ‘n’ roll moment of She Likes The Drama, the track keeps momentum and strength of the release strong and engaging before making way for the closing Coming Up.

     The song ensures the release ends on the same high as it started, actually an even greater success with the track the best on the EP. It takes a mere second before the irresistible hook of the song steals the imagination, its call switching with a more sobering but inviting swipe of riffs. Into its stride the song is soon urging feet and emotions to partake in its revelry, its presence a mix of the mod power pop of Purple Hearts, the raw punk simplicity of The Fall, and the addictive nature of Arctic Monkeys. It is a masterful and wholly contagious thrill which alone confirms that Sisteray is definitely a choice emerging force in UK rock.

     As previously stated She Likes The Drama fails to spark up the strongest emotions in our personal reactions, well until the excellent final song anyway, but it is impossible not to hear the potential and already toxic strengths of the band which has captured so many hearts already, with plenty more to follow you can only suspect. A release if any of the previously mentioned comparisons take your fancy, to give a big slice of attention to.

http://www.sisteray.com/

7.5/10

RingMaster 15/02/2014

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No fear just imaginative provocation: an interview with Dale Crover of Melvins

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Any real rock fan knows that the legendary Melvins never shy away from invention, exploration, and mischief within their continually impressive creativity and releases. Three decades have seen the Washington band ignite the senses and imagination as well as music itself with their one of a kind ingenuity, and the release of Everybody Loves Sausages presented yet another album to lift the emotions and provoke the senses. Consisting of cover songs from bands which the members of Melvins have a passion for themselves and featuring an array of guest vocalists the album is one of the biggest sparks to strike 2013. Intriguing to find out more about the album and its creation we had the pleasure of asking drummer Dale Crover about the release, particular songs, and some of those additional friends helping bring the album to life.

Hi Dale and many thanks for sharing your time to talk with us.

You have just released your excellent album Everybody Loves Sausages, a collection of cover tracks. Did the fact that the songs were not yours originally bring a different emotion and feeling compared to your previous releases as it’s unveiling to the world loomed?

We started recording cover song with the idea of releasing them as singles. It wasn’t until we had a bunch of songs done that we realized we had a decent albums worth of material. We didn’t treat this record any differently than any other release.

Did its recording also offer up a different type of fun just because they were songs which you had no involvement in the writing of?

We’ve always done cover songs since day one and we’ve always liked playing covers. Almost every record we’ve ever done has a cover song on it. If we’re going to do a cover, we try to own it like we wrote it. We either try to improve it or at least do it justice.

The time and attention given to each track and your interpretation suggests the songs and bands were ones which had a strong impact upon yourselves, is that the case and the reason for their choosing?

Well yeah, these are all songs by bands that we really dig!

Was there an extended debate within the band over chooses or the songs were relatively unanimously agreed on from the start?

No! We’re all in agreement here. We have pretty much the same musical tastes. I don’t know if Coady and Jared knew much about The Fugs, but they seemed like they were into it. That’s a band that has a pretty big influence on us. Listen to that song, and then our song Black Bock and maybe you’ll hear it.

In the choice of tracks was there any element of mischief, making choices to catch people off guard maybe?16315_10151432583720939_1671142432_n

We thought going from Venom’s War Head into Queen’s Best Friend would throw people for a loop. From totally aggro to I love you! It works perfectly! We weren’t trying to be ironic doing either of those songs though. We really do love the Queen song! It’s a great tune!

You are no strangers to doing cover songs as you said but how big a step did it feel making a full length album of them and did it offer experience or problems which your own compositions do not inspire?

In case you haven’t noticed by now, there’s nothing we’re afraid of doing. I’ve read reviewers say that we did a covers record because we have nothing left to say. Obviously these people haven’t been paying attention to what we’ve been doing. In a space of a year we put three releases by three different versions of the band, toured across Canada, did a record setting tour of the US, released a series of split 12″, toured Europe twice and now put this record out. I’m sure I’m probably forgetting about something as well.

The album also sees a wealth of your friends vocally adding their individual touch to many of the tracks, was it a concentrated decision before the start who you would bring in for what or did the tracks almost invite obvious choices for you?

Some of them we’re well planned. Mark Arm from Mudhoney doing Scientists for example, or Jello Biafra doing Roxy Music. I think we had a few different ideas for Jim Thirwell. He chose Bowie.

Did you give them precise directions to approach the songs especially vocally or let them run with the idea and ball? I ask as our favourite track on the album In Every Dream Home A Heartache, which sees Jello Biafra transforming the Bryan Ferry bred shadows in an organic almost improv like evolution before the ear.

We worked with these different people because we like what they do. We wouldn’t dare tell anyone what to do, or how to sing. I did however tell Clem Burke from Blondie that he was going to do a drum solo. He asked what type of solo to play. My only instructions were to “freak out”!

How long did the album take to make and was it all recorded in one studio or across varied stages with all the guests involved?

We did most of the tracking the winter before last, mostly at Sound Of Sirens studio. A few things were recorded elsewhere.

Is there any particular song or moment which lit your personal fires a little more intensely on the album than most?

Hmm, that’s hard to say. I like hearing the songs when they start to gel. Usually that happens in the overdub process, after I’m done with the basic structure of a song. That’s when I start to get ideas or hear parts in my head. That’s the moment for me where I feel the most creative and exited.

I have to ask about The Jam track Art School which features Tom Hazelmeyer on vocals with a great tongue in cheek cockney accent to song and the following skit end. Was it coincidental that his closing fun felt like a mischievous pop at the middle class background of the great band riding the supposed anarchy of the punk movement in their early days?

Less coincidental and more whiskey fuelled. The English are an easy to target to poke fun of.

180178_496925000938_3202216_nIs the album something you would look at doing again, have already ideas of songs to cover prompted thoughts in that direction?

We recorded way more than what’s on the record. For the vinyl we’re going to release each song as a single with unreleased B sides.

Melvins is an iconic band who has inspired so many bands across your influential years, what inspires your creativity most potently?

Everything that surrounds us.

Will you be taking the album or tracks on tour and if so will your friends on Everybody Loves Sausages be lured to make their part too?

I doubt it, but I would like to play some of those songs live.

What is next on your horizons as a band and individually?

We’re doing our 30 year anniversary tour of the US this summer. After that I’m not sure. Probably more of the same. Hopefully I’ll get to produce more records. Our engineer Toshi Kasai and myself produce bands under the name Deaf Nephews. We recently worked with the bands Qui and Federation X. Toshi has a studio now and we’re for hire to produce and perform on projects.

Once more a big thank you for sparing time for us, any last thoughts or temptations for the readers?

Yes, I know what the real meaning of life is, and its…

Read the review of Everybody Loves Sausages @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/melvins-everybody-loves-sausages/

http://themelvins.net/

The RingMaster Review 16/05/2013

 

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Melvins – Everybody Loves Sausages

Melvins Everybody Loves Sausages hi res

Bands doing covers is always an intrigue if only to see what one assumes has inspired them but when it comes to whole albums of bringing forth hopefully re-invented versions past experiences usually show it is just a lead to disappointment. So many bands just produce the original in their own voice without seemingly using a thought to actually making the songs their own. Approaching Everybody Loves Sausages from the Melvins though there was only excited intrigue with doubts given no breathing space just because it was the Washington band, a group who has never just painted by numbers.  Of course there could still be a chance they would fall the way of so many others but the thirteen track triumph soon puts that notion to bed. The album is magnificent, a window into the as vocalist/guitarist Buzz Osborne explains, “This record will give people a peak into the kind of things that influence us musically.” Melvins do make the songs theirs and even those they approach using the template of the original it still offers twists and seditious creativity which only leads to lustful wonder.

Released via Ipecac Recordings, Everybody Loves Sausages as expected has a mischief across its length though also an open respect for the sounds and artists which inspired them. It is impossible to imagine the original creators of the songs being anything other than impressed and thrilled by the release even when some of the tracks actually outstrip the originals. The album sees the full line-up of Osborne, Dale Crover, Jared Warren and Coady Willis on the album though there are a trio of tracks with the Melvins Lite incarnation of the band on Osborne, Crover and Trevor Dunn.  It also sees plenty of guest appearances to add extra texture and riveting enterprise to the release.

The release opens with Warhead, the band faithfully brewing the seeds of the Venom black metal classic with the bite of Scott Kelly of Neurosis rearing its might on vocals and guitar. It is an immediate lure into the potently eclectic album, its abrasive snarl as anthemic and tempting as the original setting the senses off on a rush of anticipation as the following Queen track (You’re My) Best Friend steps forward with a surprising Nintendo like 8-bit beckoning. With Caleb Benjamin from Tweak Bird handling the vocals wonderfully, the song is a mellow caress with the veins of Mercury and co wrapping the ear from within the seductive and fiery touch of the Melvins. Though not as flamboyant as the original though with a broader pop invitation, it still brings a grandeur and showy embrace forth which leaves the listener warm and energised for more.

After the impossible to disapprove of take on the Ram Jam track Black Betty, the album breaks out its real glories starting firstly with Set It On Fire, an excellent track of The Scientists revived and given a fresh growl with Mark Arm of Mudhoney adding his ever outstanding vocals. It is an excellent aural scowl upon the ear which is then pushed into the shade by the stunning Station To Station. Already haunting and experimental in the hands of Bowie, Melvins turn it into a deeper more intimidating corrosive beauty. The opening industrial malevolence of everyday intensity stalks and congests the ear, a sonic ambience stinging the senses within the restrained yet bedlamic shadowed fuelled wash enveloping the listener and thoughts. From within a lone melodic figure steps forward accompanied by a carnivorous bass provocation before the guitars send sonic flames across the roof of the psyche bending track. With vocals from JG Thirlwell of Foetus bringing the narrative to vibrant life within the scuzzy cavernous texture, the eleven minute song is wonderful, its busy snarl a step into everyday life torture never investigated in the excellent original.

Further intense highlights to rival the pair come in the likes of the punk grazing Attitude with Clem Burke of Blondie joining the band on the Kinks song, the excellent Timothy Leary Lives, one of the tracks with the Melvins Lite line-up and a song which plays like a mix of Stan Ridgway and The Dickies, and an abrasive punk version of The Jam song Art School featuring Tom Hazelmeyer (founding member of Halo Of Flies and the proprietor of Amphetamine Reptile) on vocals and guitar. The last of the trio borders a Spinal Tap moment but pulls it off brilliantly with the fake cockney accent coming over like Danny Dyer playing Jimmy Pursey but recruiting the passions and sending them off with the devilment of the closing almost valid piss-take. To be honest every track is a gem, the choice of material and its re-working contagious with even tracks which held no place in the passions before now finding an elevated status in the arms of the Melvins.

Two more great moments come with the closing take of Throbbing Gristle’s Heathen Earth, the band re-inventing its existing brilliance and the stunning In Every Dream Home A Heartache. The Roxy Music track features Jello Biafra and ex-Melvins bassist Kevin Rutmanis, and is a delicious dark entry on the album and psyche. Opening on a funereal doomy entrancement with Biafra adding an irresistible psychotic lilt to the already shadowed provoking song, the band ignites further sonic flames and intense energies to stretch its chilling presence.

Everybody Loves Sausages is pure joy and an album to set standards for all others contemplating covering other’s material, with first key being do it with passion, something Melvins do everything with.

http://themelvins.net/

9/10

RingMaster 29/04/2013

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The Longsands: Little Britain

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    Little Britain is the third single from The Longsands’ excellent debut album Meet Me In Spanish City and once more it offers the mightiest persuasion as to why the band is so highly rated and passionately followed by their fans. The Northumberland quintet has earned an impressive reputation for their passionate and fiery live performances and a wealth of acclaim for their singles and album. The new release will be no exception, the song a potent and attentive inciting companion for thoughts and emotions.

Emerging from as guitarist Ian Barnes said in our interview with him, “…mucking about with a few tunes in 2006 and it was more of a hobby…”, the band went from winning a national unsigned competition to selling out local venues the following year and touring Greece with a commission from Sony music and Jack Daniels.  With the line-up of Barnes, vocalist Trevor Cox, lead guitarist David Stanyer, bassist Gary Ormston, and drummer Paul Stephenson in place from this point, The Longsands has continued to ignite audiences across the UK, gaining notable fans in the shape of Steve White of The Style Council and Bruce Foxton of The Jam, who the band supported on a tour, and gained support and exposure through the likes of Bob Harris, Dave Stewart, and Simon Fowler of Ocean Colour Scene, who The Longsands have just completed a February tour with.

     Little Britain is a smouldering fire which grows and impresses the more you allow its anthemic and rich defiant fire to burn upon the ear. Emerging from a guitar stroke of the ear which is laced with elements of The Jam even in its brief unaccompanied moment, the song is soon a brewing passion of licking guitar flames and the continually impressive expressive vocals of Cox, Soon a velvety growl of bass from Ormston brings its shadows to bear accompanied by the firm rhythmic frame engineered by the forceful beats of Stephenson. Fully into its stride the track evolves into a heart driven melodic tempest of confrontation and impassioned intensity of emotive elegance and political honesty.

The song is a call to arms for thoughts and emotions in league with an irresistible temptation for the passions to feed lustily on its glorious melodic feast and enrapturing crescendos of power and craft. Whilst reviewing their album we as suggested earlier found the song a slow burner but it soon stood and still stands as a track which ignites the richest emotions inside with each welcome meeting.

Completed by the engaging An Affair In Manchester and an instrumental version of the single, Little Britain inspires a real passion for itself and the band which their album accelerates further. With an accompanying video for the single which features Howard Marks, the release should finally see The Longsands find the deserved break into the widest recognition, they certainly burn brightly on our and a great many others radar already.

www.thelongsands.co.uk

8/10

RingMaster 23/02/2013

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Mason Summers: Who Wants The Future

Who Wants The Future from US Christian rock punksters Mason Summers is an album which has been out a while but easily deserves another look at for those who still have not come across its unique and distinct presence.  With the band working on their new album the time felt right to re-expose the irresistible if slightly warped creative charms at play within Who Wants The Future. Like all the best faith driven releases it does not preach or make demands, just hopes to persuade one to look and think about things whilst giving full pleasure at the same time. That the album certainly does its unpredictable and slightly manic fusion of imaginative ideas and ‘random’ sounds delicious and rewarding. It is a release which in places takes a little warming to but once fully engaged leaves nothing but greedy satisfaction in its wake.

From meeting at church one day and realising their shared love of punk rock music, the trio of vocalist/guitarist Mikey Scars, vocalist/bassist Lydia Danger, and drummer Napalm Nate, have toured the US and UK supporting the likes of Flatfoot 56, Children 18:3, Mustard Plug, Peelander Z, Street Dogs, The Toasters and many more along the way. As with the album, their live performances grab attention and ignite full enthusiasm for their compulsive sounds, Mason Summers is a band once heard never forgotten or deserted.

The seventeen track riot of fun starts with the title track, a song which with uncomplicated charm sweeps the ear into an accomplished piece of raw edged rock n roll. With strong guitar and bass riffs backed by the firm rhythms of Nate, the song is a steady and pleasing start if slightly underwhelming in hindsight once into the heart of the release. It is a song which suggests great things like the excellent dual vocals between Danger and Scars which subsequent songs prove and expand on; here her tones are gentle glances against the leading delivery of Scars but the following Battleflag reveals she is an equally feisty vocalist and the perfect foil and companion to the direct style of Scars. This second song is a more abrasive proposition, a hardnosed attitude offering but complete with additional warm reprieves in emotion and warmth such as an excellent melodic mix of children vocals alongside the returning caresses of Danger.

As it plays the album just gets better and better, a mighty run of three consecutive tracks starting with Devils Plea the first major highlight of the album. The track is a seductive lure of mischievous vocals, teasing keys, and heated energies from guitar and intent. Scars sounds like a muscular version of former Only Ones front man Peter Perrett, his roguish tones expressive and emotive whilst Danger entwined with the guitars and rhythms is the wonderful serpent in the mix. The equally outstanding Lonely Planet steps up next, a track which opens with a sweet heavy bass murmuring before expanding into keys and melodic guitar strokes which remind of The Jam from their A Town Called Malice era. With additional flares of sax, the song is a thumping slice of punk pop with only its briefness a negative.

Pedestal was the first song we came across from the band and immediately opened the door to an enthused interest. It was an infectious joy at the time and still fully captures the imagination. It is a strolling mix of psychobilly and punk laced with noise rock which just flicks all the right switches. From the cantering beats and tingling piano jousts to the sinister sample and challenging intent of the great dual vocals, it is a masterful evocative piece of rock.

Tracks like Keep It Unusual with the bass of Danger once more stealing the show, the haunting rock n roll romp though shadows and shimmering blues heat that is Fall To Pieces where the whisper of The Cramps is more than just on lips, and the garage punk fuelled Pride, all make their companionship a lingering joy. To be fair you can say that about every song. Some as mentioned take longer to persuade but all eventually leave a willing thirst for more.

The reggae sauntering of Two Or More and the excellent closing punk storm of You Really Bring Me Down with Danger leading the way vocally alongside off the leash keys and sax, provide a couple more pinnacles in an album where there are only highs. Who Wants The Future is a gem, a release which might need time to prove itself but is far more rewarding than any instant pop punk candy treat and longer lasting.

https://www.facebook.com/MasonSummersMusic

RingMaster 31/10/2012

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Allegro: Forever

This week sees the release of the album Forever from UK punk n roll band Allegro. It is an ironic title as the London band is no longer around to benefit from what is sure to be an enthused and positive response to the collection of pop punk and rock n roll gems within the release. Two years ago the band was on the rise, their feisty and energetic sounds grabbing a growing army of fans  through their renowned chaotic yet irresistible live shows. Supports for the likes of The Holloways, Reefs, The Towers of London and Martha Reeves as well as their own adrenaline soaked shows saw Allegro on the verge of big things. From signing to a minor label for next to nothing things went awry, their debut album was delayed and delayed until eventually the band split, the label retaining all rights to the release and all things Allegro.  A long battle ensued until now thankfully the band has permission to and is able to release the album. We say thankful as it would have been a travesty if something this great and fun was never to see the light of day.

Forever is not an album to offer anything particularly new, though it is packed with imaginative and unique mischief, but certainly it is a release to guarantee nothing but pleasure from its hungry pokes of prime rock n roll. Quite simply it is a release of energetic slaps of punk n roll to dance and let loose to. It is also an album which is nicely varied without moving too far from its infectious attitude and stance. This helps make the album stand out from other similarly driven releases and makes the thought of how impressive the band could have been if they had not called it a day frustrating.

The album opens with City Lights and within seconds of its rapping beats and dark bass swagger it has one hooked. The mixed guitar slices of sonic sharpness and jangly rubs fire up the senses whilst the keys envelope the ear with a gentle and warm embrace. The track is a merger of slowly wrapped beauty and thumping rhythms and energies, a fiery stab of rock which easily ensures attention is primed and secured.

The following punk blistering rampage of Stringys is an abrasive pleasure complete with blues toned guitar invention which points at the diversity of sound within the release, soon backed up by the excellent Chuck Berry Waltz N All, to complete the opening trio of outstanding tracks. This song is a captivating brew of flavours, its opening keys and rhythms sound like The Jam around the time of The Gift and the emerging acidic hook a delicious Buzzcocks like piece of mesmerism. Not for the first time or last, there is an Arctic Monkeys tint to the sound too, though not as over powering and distracting as can be found in other bands and releases. The band comfortably brings it all into a smooth union with their own invention, to create a track which just excites and energises the heart. The sixties inspired keys which soak the song elevates the attraction to greater levels and though arguably it is not one of the most immediate songs it is one of the most powerful.

The likes of the wholly infectious View From The Water Rats, the rhythm jabbing I’ll Stand By You, and Alright, a song which just stokes up the fires with its primal beats and acidic unpolished guitar grazes, all hit the sweet spot. The latter of the three ventures and slips through different faces with skill and accomplished songwriting to engage and intrigue completely, a strength amongst many which can also be applied to Forever.

As great as the album is from start to finish it leaves its biggest highlights until the closing stretch in the irresistible shapes of I’ll Be There For You and Hola Senor! Rita. The first has the appetite dribbling from its opening vocals and harmonies before securing adoration with its senses clashing riffs and melodic saltiness. Like salt in food the slightly harsh touches just enflame the addictive pull of the track. The second of the two is simply majestic old school seventies punk updated with extra naughty relish and greedy imagination, just magnificent.

Forever is a wonderful album which thankfully we now all have the chance to dive into and devour with hearts a blazing. Maybe Allegro will rise again, but if not they have finally given an album to ensure they will not be forgotten.

RingMaster 21/10/2012

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EndAnd: Adventures of Fi in Space

EndAnd is one of those bands which instantly strikes up a rapport with the senses, heart and mind. They are refreshing, honest, and more than a little mischievous which is always a plus but most of all they create music which you feel you need. The trio barge through the ear with a brew of garage rock and melodic punk which is all passion, an insatiable noise to excite the palate and thrill the extremities.

Their new album Adventures of Fi in Space is made up of two EPs, Adventures of Hi-Fi in Space and Adventures of Lo-Fi in Space. The first is a five song adventure consisting of pristine studio recordings whilst the latter brings a collection of DIY recordings. Together they combine for a release which provokes and incites in equal measure and most of all gives the fullest pleasure.

Formed in early 2011 in Brooklyn, New York, EndAnd was originally the project of duo of vocalist and guitarist Daniel Fern and drummer Mike Morales. As their stock rose and acclaim gathered around them the band expanded to a trio with the addition of bassist and vocalist Bill Fitzgerald, a man they found playing for Capita Clip who the pair shared a stage with one night. Asking him to sit in on a practice he became a full member from that point and EndAnd from a project became a power trio.

Adventures of Hi-Fi in Space is a breathtaking quintet of songs which fire up the senses with explosive rock n roll at its finest. The opening Far In Between is an openly infectious feast of sticky hooks and melodic teasing driven with addictive rhythms and vocal harmonies to devour greedily. The song is impossible to refuse and soon has voice and limbs let alone passions, in sync to its compulsive eagerness. It is as poppy as is possible without any lost of power and in many ways takes one back to the eighties when power pop found a foothold in punk rock.

The Pixies flavoured Labor Force continues the stunning start. The guitar of Fern churns up the senses through inciteful discord whilst the bass of Fitzgerald stokes up any dormant embers within for more raging flames of pleasure. With elements of bands like The Melvins joining the sound the song scampers through the ear with relish intent to ruffle up the edges of the constant enjoyment instigated by its melodic presence. The track works on every level and leaves a big grin inside by its end.

The scuzz littered So What Now and Commando, a track which bristles with an intensity which leaves one gasping, both take the ear and beyond on a riotous electrified journey, brief and explosive it may be especially with the first of the pair but gloriously rewarding. The closing Death Song too is a storm of riled sounds brought with a relentless abrasive energy. Looking in to every corner and cranny of the EP to try and find some less successful element to temper the unbridled enthusiasm towards the release the realism that there is nothing soon emerges, the release hitting every spot dead centre for the greatest satisfaction.

Of course we have Adventures of Lo-Fi in Space yet to maybe bring a balance to the adoration so far. Made up of four songs the second EP is a raw warts and all slice of unpolished punk n roll. The untouched sound gives a different organic feel to the companion EP but is no less absorbing as songs like Dawl and Legend arguably reveal more about the strength and craft of the songwriting and the band. It also shows how DIY can spawn the most pure and honest sounds, the two songs just mentioned alone taking you emotionally places a studio cut can only dream of. The second of the pair brings a mix of The Jam, Pere Ubu, and Screaming Blue Messiahs to mind as it lights up the ear whilst the garage rock distillery of sound within Sweet is a Kinks borne hybrid which one can only relish deeply.

Bottom line, Adventures of Fi in Space is quite brilliant, an outstanding treat of punk and garage rock all can delight and get dirty within. Oh, and its available at a name your own price offer @ http://endand.bandcamp.com/ so basically all your birthdays have just gathered at your door, go enjoy!

RingMaster 14/08/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Shrikes: The Ruiner Of All Things Good EP

Shrikes is a band which quite simply defies labelling or any straightforward comparisons, their sound and creativity from a world and mindset of its very own. Their exciting debut release The Ruiner Of All Things Good EP is borne of this uncharted land, an unrelenting maelstrom of ideas, sounds, and distinctly different flavours which in most hands just would have no right or ease being alongside each other. Shrikes though is a band with invention and imagination found in so few and their EP one of the most exhilarating and inspiring releases heard in a long time.

With the demise earlier in the year of the outstanding Great Imitation there was a heaviness left in many hearts. The return of frontman James Scott-Howes though has not only filled the gap with something completely new and unexpected but with something which is even more impressive. The additional great thing about the undisputedly excellent release is it offers an equal and immense promise of even more orgasmic musical moments ahead.

Each track on The Ruiner Of All Things Good fuses an electronic/hip hop core into unpredictable and perpetually evolving aural breaths and directions brought by their own mouth watering uniqueness to ensure nothing merely matches expectations instead leaving those limitations to others to exploit. At times the sounds and ideas are as lethal and destructive as the inspiration for the band name whilst in others they enflame with a grace and disrupting discordance to leave safety nets redundant. For those who need a sure footing in their music Shrikes may be a challenge too far but life is nothing without adventure and intrigue and this release has it all in abundance.

The biggest highlight in a release of nothing but heights to give vertigo sufferers nightmares comes in the mighty form of Applauding With A Handful Of Snapped Fingers. From a glittering caress surrounding the forceful tones and aggression of Scott-Howes the track spreads its arms with a warm discordance coated sound and vocals. Scott-Howes is as unique as the music, his tones challenging notes wonderfully finding and stretching their limits to bring weaves of textures and energy around his spoken and more regular hip hop delivery. The song itself as on the release as a whole, envelopes the senses through shadowed atmospheres and ambiences, its course choosing sinister and insecure avenues to flourish within which most other bands do not see let alone venture. As the track surges with the added weight of punk attitude and metallic muscle to the sonic experiment the sense and awareness of something truly new emerging grows and strengthens.

The dark and disturbed Mare Aux Sange sets senses and synapses on full alert at the beginning of the EP, its disorientating ambience and corruptive intent intrusively provocative and suggestive whilst Third Eye Pinioned teases and envelopes the ear with an initial slightly industrial macabre before taking a breath to step in a acoustic melodic presence which has a distinct inviting hook. The song then explores and ripples with multi flavoured majesty again combining diversity and expressive ingenuity. As mentioned it is hard to truly represent with comparisons the sound the band create but imagine a brew of hip hop, eighties melodic prowess as of The Jam with slithers of Senser, World Domination Enterprises, and Great Imitation and you get a slight whisper of what Shrikes conjure.

Completed by the brief and arguably least successful track Milk With Knives, well in comparison to the other songs, and the tantalising I SAMSA, the EP is pure excellence and quite possibly the start of something special for UK music. The latter of the two tracks is one where a more direct comparison or influence can be offered up with a sound which reminds of Pop Will Eat Itself whilst with all the others songs combines to make the EP something all should pay attention to.

As much as Great Imitation will be missed by many Shrikes will and possibly already does transcend their promise with The Ruiner Of All Things Good. It is a release so remarkable that surely only the shallow and mundane will fail to response to its stunning and explosive glory. Lyrically and musically it leaves one open mouthed and wanting more and more and with its release as a free download from http://shrikes.tumblr.com/ makes a play for most original and striking EP of the year so far.

RingMaster 24/07/2012

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Interview with Ian Barnes from The Longsands

If anyone gets the notion that invention and quality within UK the indie/rock scene is lacking need to go no further than listening to the debut album Meet Me In Spanish City from The Longsands. It is a release which is passionate, mesmeric, and easily one of the more impressive and essential albums to come out this year. The Newcastle quintet ignite thought and emotions with their and impassioned and infectious blend of rock, pop, and indie sounds for a full and lingering pleasure. Given the opportunity to talk with guitarist Ian Barnes from the band we delved deeper into and behind the band and album.

Hi Ian and thank you for taking time out to talk with us.

Firstly please could you introduce the band members?

We are The Longsands from Newcastle (well Northumberland if you wanna get technical!) we serve up rock n roll tunes with great melodies and honest lyrics.

Singer: Trev
Guitar and songwriter: me (Ian Barnes)
Lead guitar and songwriter: Stan
Bass: Gaz
Drums: Paul

What was the beginning of the band?

Started mucking about with a few tunes in 2006 and it was more of a hobby then, but we won a national unsigned competition and put a single out which made us take things more seriously. Myself and Trev quit work to get us off the ground. We then got a collection of early songs and got out there gigging as much as possible around the UK at the end of 2007. We sold out The Sage in Newcastle and then went on a few tours of Greece commissioned by Sony music and Jack Daniels.  At this point our old drummer Sean (and he was old) decided sunshine, free whiskey and rock ‘n’ roll was not for him!  Haha! Well I think it was more the commitment, really… After that tour we took things far more seriously through 2009 and began working on a debut record with a new drummer (Paul) and an agenda of world domination! There have been a few curve balls since then but we are still here and I believe we have one of the best records this year.

Is there a musical history before The Longsands?

Yeh 4 of us at some point between the age of 15 and 21 were in a band called Lotus.  We had some good tunes and it was the most fun I’ve ever had, but although we had ambition it was really just about getting off your tits and playing music in shit holes! Without management we were young, drunk and lacked direction.  We were a great band though! We made a few demos and at some point I’d like to get all the former members together and re-record an album just for myself! And maybe do a show for a laugh! God knows when though! Very busy with The Longsands at the mo!

It seems like The Longsands was grabbing attention almost from the start, was that the case?

Partly, live we have always performed well and drummed up fans but there are parts of the British music scene that I don’t think will ever warm to us.

It’s a funny old place – 2012 – for bands, but great music will pull through I hope and something has to give.  I have no doubt that there are tons of talented people out there, but for whatever reason it’s getting tougher and tougher for new artists to get noticed.

Now we have a record out though, no-one can argue with that and it’s getting to the stage now where we are getting in people’s faces whether they like us or not!  And I think whatever peoples’ initial thoughts, if you give this record the time it deserves you’ll love it!

Which are the major influences that shaped your personal musical directions and the band sound?

Musically, the most important band for me were Oasis. Without them I would not have picked up the guitar or wanted to be a songwriter.  They opened the door to a lot of other music as well.  The Stone Roses, The Jam and the most important band of all time, the Beatles.  As a 12 year old kid I would never have listened to a band my dad liked if Noel Gallagher hadn’t told me too!  I’m so pleased he did… We could go on and on – The Doors, Tom Petty, Neil Young…

More currently bands like The Streets and The Courteeners have made me really improve lyrically which I always thought was my weak point as a writer.

You have just released your new album Meet Me In Spanish City which we loved. What has been the early response towards it?

Unreal, let’s put this into perspective… We are an independent band with our own label.  We pay for the manufacturing, recording, touring, PR the lot! Our marketing budget wouldn’t buy you a pack of cigarettes at today’s prices!

We have had 3 five star reviews, Dave Stewart championing the record, plays by Bob Harris and Alex Lester on BBC Radio 2 and the response from fans on iTunes, Twitter, etc. has been fantastic. I always believed in the record but peoples’ comments really made the last 5 years feel worthwhile, and let’s be honest the fans are the real critics.  Let’s just hope enough people get to hear about it to fall in love with it.

Obviously as a band you had great confidence in the album but how much is that tempered by trepidation whenever you release something?

This is not the game to be in if you fear the response to something you do.  We write music for ourselves and hope others like it and we would never put out anything that we don’t think is good. I think our b-sides on the singles show that. You can’t worry about things like that. Obviously nerves are natural, you want things to do well and reviews to be good etc., but we are big boys and can take the rough with the smooth! I’m more worried if the fans think something is shit, but that’s not happened yet and the more you do good things the more belief you have in your music. I think that is natural!

How long was the album in the making?

It was written over a period of about 5 years with some songs being ones I’d had for years i.e. North South Divide and Worlds Collide. I spent about 6 months from summer 2008 to early 2009 with Stan writing the gaps so I was happy with every track.  We demoed and recorded it in about 4 months and produced it by the end of 2009 just before The Jam tour.

With record labels talking to our management and a debut album ready to go, we went into that major tour with high hopes.  We nailed that tour; we were brilliant probably better than them if I’m honest. But a few things out of our control occurred, and by the end of 2010 we had split with the management and had two deals go sour.  As you can imagine we were deflated and an old fan and friend of the band Steve Wraith of Player Inc events management offered us a no nonsense management deal.

We regrouped, and after following up a few leads decided to set up Unknown Soldier records and began releasing things.  We could have put the record out then but we wanted to test the water with a few single releases to get to grips with a side of the record industry we knew little about.  Both Little Britain and Streets and Pavements were released last year and helped us raise some funds to plough into the album release as well as contributions from our sponsors VW Pullman and DT contacts.  By early this year we set the release dates for June giving us time to organise everything. So far so good!

Did you have an exact outcome for songs which were realised going into the studio or did the tracks evolve as you were inside?

The songs were written and picked and we had played them all live, so everything we could do live went down 1st.

Obviously in the studio you can layer further tracks, so we were able to build on areas of guitar work, keyboards (which we don’t have live) and also percussion.  The producer also changed the rawness of the live takes with all the fairy dust and effects to make it sound like a proper record not a demo.

How does the songwriting happen within the band?

It’s mainly my bag at the moment, and Stan and I collaborate now and then, but that tends to be instrumentally. All the lyrics on the record are written by me. Trev is writing for the next record and has a couple of corkers up his sleeve as well! It’s nice, I hope the lads chip in more as long as the tunes are good enough they are all welcome to write.  The best songs will always be picked though, no matter who wrote them, there is no ‘you get 4 and he gets 4 ‘to keep it fair! Obviously, judging what are the best is where the fighting begins. They are fun sessions! Haha!

Your songs are infectiously anthemic is this a deliberate part of the songwriting or just how your music emerges organically?

There is nothing deliberate about any of my songs. An idea can start with a hook, a chord progression or a melody, and from there the creativity serves the song. If it’s an upbeat idea then you build on how it feels, if it’s a slower song then the music will have more dynamics and feel. I usually write the lyrics last, and they can be inspired by anything, from a headline I read in the paper to my own personal thoughts and feelings. Again the lyrical content matches the musical style.  If the song sounds anthemic it’s ‘cause it should do!

What is the biggest inspiration for your songs and lyrics?

It’s nothing specific.  As I said above I write about my own life and personal experiences sometimes but I try not to do this too much as I’m probably not that interesting!

I love politics, although we are not a politically driven band as such, I just like writing about current issues that affect us all.  Things you hear on the news, things that people react to. Sometimes people watching or conversations spring an idea. Quite often I will sing random words to a chord progression just to get an idea of the melody and then a line may stick. Streets and Pavements was like that, I had ‘and it’s happening all over’ in my head and then thought ‘what’s happening all over?’ That week I read 3 articles about knife crime in different parts of the UK and I found them shocking, worrying, and thought it was an important issue. I also tried to suggest some reasons as to why kids end up in gangs, as it was something I studied at university.

Are you a band which road tests your songs on stage before unveiling them in the studio or vice versa?

Other than maybe 1 b-side, we have always played things live before recording and releasing them. It’s not a rule, I think it’s just because this is our debut record and to drum up a fanbase you have to play live.  There may be a point where a record comes first and then a tour, once we are more established.

Is there any particular part of the album you are most proud of or feel things really hit the sweet spot for you personally?

The climax for me is where Trev sings ‘it’s just you-oo-oo-oo who can change the world’ on Let Love Rain On You. Hairs on the neck moment!

But they are all great songs, and everyone will have their favourites. A fan came up to me last week and said ‘This is the first album I can listen to back to back in a long time. I never skip a track!’ that made me a little bit pleased, as you can imagine!

You led up to the release of the album with the single Shut Your mouth, can you tell us about the song and its inspiration?

I could but it might split the band up! Our video company came up with an idea of domestic violence against men after reading the lyrics and listening so we ran with that for the video. But really it’s about another band member who I was really angry with a few years back!  It was only for a day or so and was written in the heat of the moment, so is not really a true reflection of how I feel about him! Thoughts and moods are temporary and change quickly, but songs stay in that moment forever so should never be taken too seriously! I think it has great attack for it though and you can really feel the intensity. Songwriting is often a great way to make something positive come out of anger and frustration, and helps you deal with stuff. Just for the record, we are all mates now!

Amongst your continually growing army of fans you have the likes of Steve White of The Style Council and Bruce Foxton of The Jam as notable followers the latter of the two inviting you to be the main support for The Jam’s winter tour in 2009 as you mentioned before. Do you know how he came across you and how inspirational was the tour?

First of all let’s just clarify that Bruce has never ‘came across me’ !  If you mean where did he hear about us, it was through Russell who is the singer in From The Jam.  He saw us live and recommended we contact their agent and that was that.  We had a great tour and made a lot of friends.

You have gained a great reputation for your live shows; you are a band that ensures all have a good time as much as simply hearing great songs?

I’m not really sure! We don’t really do much apart from play and sing our songs as well as we can!  We are not the type of band who has visuals or jumps about, but it doesn’t stop the crowd going for it! Guess you could say we let the music do the talking!

Please tell us about the series of sporting challenges videos you have made ‘The Longsands Challenges’. How did the idea of those come about?

It wasn’t really planned as a series, it just kind of happened! We knew we were playing at the Tyson event and Trev suggested we try a PR stunt.  We were having a round of golf and we were in the trees looking for a ball (as usual). Trev was under a conker tree and said that’s it I’ll fight him at conkers, thinking it was a very English game and he would find it quite random! Which he did! He wouldn’t let anyone have the conker after he was besotted with it!  The response was so good to the clip that we contacted other sports stars and once Tyson has done something everyone wants a crack! He’s over in the UK again this year, so the re-match may be on! Who knows!?

Was it easy to get the likes of Ricky Hatton, Steve Harmison, Shay Given and Mike Tyson involved?

Yeh they are all contacts of our manager, Steve. His sports events company use these guys a lot for charity do’s and so we were lucky we had their details!  They still had to agree to it tho’ and we thank them all for being up for a laugh!

Did you sell them a copy of the album too?;)

The winners got a free one! Sorry Shay!

Will this be an on-going thing if the opportunity arises or was just part of the album build up?

Like I said, it wasn’t really planned but worked well in the build up!  At the end of the day we are a band and it’s mainly about the music, but our style of music sits well with sport and sports fans for some reason.  We won’t continue to flog a dead horse just for a bit of cheap PR though as it would not be interesting! People would have to demand more, and if our fans are enjoying something and it’s helping push the music to new places, then never say never!  I think the Tyson rematch is most likely, as Trev has been winding him up on Twitter!

Are you all sporting fans?

Yeh, all Newcastle Fans and fans of most sports really!

What s next for The Longsands?

2nd single out at the beginning of September, hopefully with 4 big UK tour supports and just work our way up the ladder with radio, press, etc.  We are also working on a new record in between everything and releasing a live DVD for Christmas.

Again thank you for sharing your time

Have you any last words for the readers?

Just thanks for reading and hopefully listening! The word is spreading and we need their help to get out there and tell the world about The Longsands :-)

And lastly did anyone take ‘a dive’ out of fear of facing Mike Tyson in conkers? :)

No, but Gaz bottled British Bulldog against the Newcastle Falcons due to a shoulder injury!

Read the review of Meet Me In Spanish City @ http://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/the-longsands-meet-me-in-spanish-city/

The Ringmaster Review 08/07/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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