Sleaford Mods – Chubbed Up +

Photo by Sergio Albert Fish

Photo by Sergio Albert Fish

If you have yet to make acquaintance with the acerbic and snarling charm of UK duo Sleaford Mods, then Chubbed Up + is a must. Released originally in February this year as a digital release, the album is now receiving its physical unleashing via Ipecac Recordings, and makes an inescapable and irresistible doorway into the antagonistic world of the band. As the earlier unveiling, the album is a collection of tracks making up the bands recent clutch of singles but this time with an additional trio of unreleased songs. Following the acclaimed seventh album Divide and Exit which hit the senses this past April, Chubbed Up + reminds that there has been a long-time impressive assault and presence to the Nottingham provocateurs which may have slipped many by until this year.

Sleaford Mods is unique, a proposition which can be best described as Swell Maps and The Fall meets Pop Will Eat Itself driven by the observation and caustic lyrical ire of Mark E Smith; yet it is different and individual again. This is probably a band which seduces or alienates, it’s strikingly individual and fury fuelled provocation manna or poison for ears and emotions, but it is a challenge which has to be met face on to know your fate. If they hit the spot it is a long term allegiance which as their albums keep showing, just gets more potent and tightly gripping.

The emergence of Sleaford Mods came in 2006 when Jason Williamson drew on his frustrations with life and society to breed a verbal and lyrical causticity which he honed over the next months. A couple of years in London saw him hit the live scene before in 2009 returning to his home of Nottingham and subsequently meeting and uniting with Andrew Fearn in the band. By this point Sleaford Mods already had four albums under its belt but the fifth, Wank, was the first drawing on the lyrical and vocal fire of Williamson aligned to the musical and sample imagination of Fearn. Its success only led to greater invention and acclaim as Austerity Dogs in 2013 and then Divide and Exit has shown. Now like a stock take and reminder of the bands smaller but no less incendiary minimalistic brawls, Chubbed Up + is a call to new and extra treat for existing fans.

Sleaford Mods’ sound is a two prong attack, the lyrical scathing and vocal belligerence of Williamson in league with the predatory rhythmic seduction of Fearn. There is more to the band’s proposals but that is the dual prime bait as shown by opening song The Committee. One of the brand new songs, it snares ears straight away with a gnarly bassline which alone steals the imagination. With vocal sways inviting equally intimidating beats, the song soon embraces the stirring and raw tones of Williamson. A mix of speaking and rapping, his delivery has a great John Cooper Clarke monotony which swiftly binds attention so that every syllable and word is tightly gripped, yet it does not defuse the equally pungent Sleaford Mods ipc-162lure of Fearn’s sounds.

Though each track has seeds in a similar template, minimal flirtations of hypnotic and repetitive rhythms stalking the corrosive wordage of Williamson, all grow individual characters such as the electro pumped Jobseeker with its post punk bass tempting, the funkily incessant 14 Day court, and the punk heroics of Black Monday. The third of the three strolls with a Caped Crusader enticing, bass and percussion a nagging persistence wrapped in just as small but flavoursome keys. Old school punk with a kiss of early Cure and Television Personalities to it, the song stomps with insatiable appetite and irresistible revelry.

If like us you are seduced by addictive and unremitting basslines than Sleaford Mods and tracks like Jolly Fucker in the bands arsenal trigger instinctive hunger. The song pounds and intimidates physically and mentally, challenging thoughts and passions with sublime ease whilst lighting up body and imagination with terrier like persistence and ferocity. Tweet Tweet Tweet is another ridiculously compelling example, though its tone comes with a more restrained but similarly contagious swagger, musically and vocally a feisty striding unafraid to drape slithers of melodies and harmonies over its robust flanks.

   Chubbed Up + is an unrelenting string of addictions, the unique throaty sonic colouring of Bambi sparking immediate lust with a bassline and scything guitar repetition which lies somewhere between Gang Of Four and Morkobot. Lorded by the riveting antagonism of Williamson, the song is one of the band’s loftiest pinnacles, though the majority of their tracks stalk the same plateau as proved by the earthy menace and anthemic prowl of Routine Dean and the sultry shuffle of Scenery, the latter holding a repetitious spine but a cloudy haze to its slim line landscape of sound around lyrical spikiness.

The bestial tone of the bass returns for the outstanding Pubic Hair Ltd; a rhythmically punchy and vocally anthemic scowl loaded with more contagion than found in the world of banker’s greed. Its enthralling and glorious baiting leads into the final two songs of the album, the other pair of brand new tracks. Bring Out the Canons explores a predatory intent and sound, bass and beats almost leering over ears as vocals and choice lyrics grip the imagination. It is an engrossing and intrusive pulsing of lyrical grudge, which along with the opener and last song Fear of Anarchy, hints that the band is worrying even greater invention ahead. The album’s last track seductively sways with bulky rhythmic hips and melodic intrigue, blasts of brass like teasing adding to the incendiary mix grasping the broody vocal incitement.

It is a scintillating finale to an outstanding release. To be fair any way into the creative anger of Sleaford Mods is a choice invitation but if they have yet to infest the psyche then Chubbed Up + is a must. Be warned though, once tainted it is impossible to give them up.

Chubbed Up + is available now, digitally @ http://sleafordmods.bandcamp.com/album/chubbed-up-the-singles-collection and physically with the extra songs through Ipecac Recordings @

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Chubbed-Up-Sleaford-Mods/dp/B00NQZLIS4/ref=sr_1_3?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1414432923&sr=1-3

http://www.sleafordmods.com

RingMaster 27/10/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Ste McCabe – Brains of Britain

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Punk rock for body, imagination, and the passions to relish and parade their wanton sides, the vivacious sound of singer-songwriter Ste McCabe has been a constant source of acerbic lyrical prowess and salacious musical enterprise since his emergence. His virulently contagious and biting political pop songs have provoked and thrilled across three absorbing and acclaimed albums, and his unrelenting hunger to gig, but with his new full- length Brains of Britain, McCabe has brewed up a new pinnacle in his creatively mischievous and lyrically striking assault on thoughts and emotions. It is a glorious stomp of punk, art-pop, and electronic devilry, an incitement which never gives the senses and imagination time to lay dormant.

With the vocal magnetism and melodic flair of Pete Shelley, the inventive agitation and social snarl of Mark E Smith, and the infection spewing invention of Pete Wylie, McCabe brews up a presence and sound which is individual yet carries a familiarity to gloriously feast upon. There is an inescapable charm and raw honesty to his confrontations, an almost anthemic call which finds even greater irresistibility and strength within the Maneki-Neko Music released Brains of Britain.

It is fair to say as that as soon as the big bulging electro pulse of opener Fool hits ears a lustful twinge shot through thoughts and emotions, its resonating call pungent bait reminding of Blancmange. It is a forceful and vibrant lure which is lifted further by the distinctive tones of McCabe, his expressive toning as always an easy liking to the Buzzcocks frontman. The initial electro beats soon break into a thumping stride beneath the vocals whilst synths spread a melodic breath and glaze over the brewing abrasion of punk guitars, it all creating an irresistible blaze of electro punk loaded with lyrical causticity.

The thrilling start is continued by Cockroach, a darkly shadowed, post punk spiced slab of provocative expression which features Billy Bragg who superbly alternates his equally distinctive presence and lyrical antagonism with that of McCabe. It is a song which crawls over senses and psyche, bass a lingering toxicity upon which light but scarring riffs and the outstanding vocal mix flourish. There is no avoiding the fallout of the exceptional song, its heavy radiance and gripping drama a lingering spark in thoughts and passions from the very first infestation.

Mantos ’99 moves in next with dark electro flirtation aligned to slight but potent scythes of guitar. It is another song with a minimally dressed landscape and intensive attraction, though it just misses the heights of its predecessors, even a2655639157_2with the increasing confrontation of its manner and energy. Again a post punk tempting ingrains the electronic wind of the song for a fulfilling helping of sonic bewitching around vocal devilry but it is soon left in the shadows of The Family Values Song. Imagine Swell Maps in league with Buzzcocks for a far too brief and exhausting but most of all scintillating blast, and you get sense of this riotous treat.

The pair of Chinless Wonders and Don’t We Have Nice Hair spark ears and imagination on new thrilling escapades next, the first a flight across an exotic climate of synth melodies and an evocative narrative painted by vocal variation, both aspects around a spine of heavy pulsation. Glistening before and creeping over the senses it is a magnetic prowl and seduction setting up an already greedy appetite for the second of the two. The track is a punk growl coated in a post punk chill of melodic melancholia. Barely two minutes long but flying by within a blink of the eye, the track croons and infects like a delicious mix of Television Personalities and Magazine with an OMD emotional discharge.

The spiky I’ll Do It sets up its contagion next, again a short burst of electro punk irreverence immediately irresistible to feet and emotions but no more so than the gripping PiL like sonic tempest of Go Polski Boy! Thrusting that caustic sonic radiance into a voracious electro and ravenous trance bred stomping, the track flexes and pulsates with creative gluttony and glorious insatiability. It sets another plateau for the album but itself is surpassed by the brilliant Them There Different People, the most potent art punk song you could wish to be seduced by. With a more than passing whisper of The Vibrators to it and the rawer agitation of 999, the track stomps and swaggers with an almost primal persuasion, leaving ears through to the heart enslaved.

The album finishes with the equally epidemic temptation of What Are You Worth, a track which has control of body and soul from its first predatory bass hook and electro niggling. Also expelling a moment of corrosive energy and sonic causticity, the song is a repetitive and merciless baiting which leaves the release on a high and fingers eager to press start and set in motion the whole thrilling adventure again.

Brains of Britain is easily one of our favourite albums of 2014 but also one of its best. Venomous and naughty, challenging and irrepressibly addictive, Ste McCabe has cast punk alchemy in its most creative and inspirational form. If there is one album you get before the year closes its eyes, it is easy to recommend that it is this one.

Brains of Britain is available from October 20th via Maneki-Neko Music @ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brains-Britain-Ste-McCabe/dp/B00MU9374A or http://stemccabe.bandcamp.com/album/brains-of-britain

http://www.ste-mccabe.co.uk/

RingMaster 13/10/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Frau Pouch – All Hail Space Chicken EP

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When we were first introduced to UK post punk meddlers Frau Pouch via their excellent split release with fellow Medway band Houdini, we called them ‘the bastard evil offspring  of an illicit intrusion between The Fall and The Victorian English Gentlemens Club with some fingering from The Cramps and Turbogeist.’ Their new EP, All Hail Space Chicken or it seems also just called the Space Chicken EP, shows that that description does not truly frame their distinctive sound so now we declare the trio to be the bastard evil offspring of a mutated alliance between The Fall, Swell Maps, and The Mekons with The Victorian English Gentlemens Club and The Cramps not forgetting Gang Of Four adding their dirty little digits into the mix.

The All Hail Space Chicken EP and band will not be for everyone but if those references mentioned play with your curiosity than Frau Pouch will tease out a lifelong passion for their unique presence. Consisting of Joe Wise (guitar/vocals), Ollie Crook (bass), and Suzanne Freeman (drums), the band has continued to impress and garner a fervent fanbase through their live performances around the middle of England spreading outward but the new release places them into another spotlight of individuality which deserves to find a corner in every punk and post punk lovers psyche.

Recorded and produced by Ben Sammon alongside the band, the release soon sets free its six track psychotic dance upon the ear with opener Krakthulhu. Immediately a carnivorous bass temptress snarls at the senses with delicious rabidity in its breath whilst beats punch the ear into shape ready for the expressively quarrelsome vocals and discord scowling riffs of Wise to play within. There is a Mark E. Smith lilt to his delivery at times which only adds to the drama of the attack whilst musically the song rampages with rhythms clamping their jaws tight and a raucous sonic distrust firing an encounter which is vintage like in flavour but equally driven by current day antagonism.

The production is as caustically raw as the sound and though it at first makes you stop and assess its merits certainly against previous releases with doubt, it does compliment the brashness of the release ultimately and the great start soon expanded by the gnarly presence of Podling Party. Again the bass of Crook is irresistible, it’s growling belligerence a mighty weapon in the sound and a defences splitting barb for the passions as it forms an irrepressible spine for the guitar to throw its acrid waltz around. That Swell Maps feel is ripe here whilst at times a further Nikki Sudden hint breaks through.

Both Don and Idiocracy reap the seeds set by the earlier songs to ignite even greater rapture for their disorientating infection, the first a rhythmic donkey punch on the ear leaving an unprotected canvas for its bruising grazes of sonic caressing and the concussive consumption from Freeman to defile the senses. It is another welcome riling but everything before is left in the shade of its successor. With a certain Gang Of Four bass framework being crafted from the off and the guitar of Wise adding a flesh which also recalls the Leeds post punk giants whether intentionally or by chance, the song is the biggest highlight of the release, the track marking Frau Pouch further as one of the brightest sparks in emerging music whilst emphasising the evolution in imagination and songwriting which is grips the release. There is also a very early Killing Joke call to the track which only adds to the incendiary power of the song and its carnally propelled stroll.

The track Space Chicken lurches its quick step of bedlamic energy and psychotic dance next, guitars and bass a scurrilous blur of riffs and movement across the drum puncturing punk plain of the song. The Fall in its heart and Joy Division in its unhinged mentality, the track is another limb disjointing joy which even Ian Curtis would find dancing to problematic.

The closing predatory Aqueducts provides the perfect uncompromising wiry and discomfort forging challenge to end and sum up this fine release. The track simply sweeps you away in its accomplished and technically sculpted hypnotic whirl leaving only sheer unbridled pleasure and hunger for more behind. With only the production to bear a little with as slight labour, Chicken Space EP is a post punk/noise rock treat and one genre fans ignore at their loss.

https://www.facebook.com/FrauPouch

8.5/10

RingMaster 29/07/2013

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That Massive Bereavement – Eat The Rich

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Ever wondered what the dirtiest grunge mixed with old school punk, filth clad rock, and scuzz littered post punk sounds like than UK garage rockers That Massive Bereavement have the answer for you with their debut EP Eat The Rich. Six tracks of noise your mother warned you about and your father wished he could play, the release snarls and works on the senses like a punch bag whilst delivering uncompromising rock ‘n’ roll which gives raw satisfaction as potent as the future promise also on offer.

From the Medway part of the UK, the quartet of guitarist/vocalist Aidan, bassist Elliott, guitarist Quintus, and drummer The C, erupted as That Massive Bereavement at the rise of 2012, taking inspirations from the likes of The Fall, Therapy?, The Replacements, Wire, The Pixies, Sonic Youth, Pavement, Joy Division and more. One of the other influences is Swell Maps, and as the release plays that band often calls out the most if not always in sound but in attitude and unpolished invention. Recorded and mastered at Sunlight Studios by Greg Webster of fellow Medway band Houdini, Eat The Rich equally grates on and lights up the ear from its first second before going on to work the same devilry on the senses, thoughts, and passions.

The title track kicks things off, a singular guitar brewing up the air with reserved sonic heat for the gravel littered vocals of Aidan to8689_557003027674960_116295249_n start the striking narrative. A stalking gait drives the song on as rhythms make their firm slaps on the ear with energetic expulsions around the chorus singing the hairs around the senses. The breath of the song is Spizz Oil like whilst the belligerent provocation recalls seventies punk Crisis, and from start to finish it drags down apathy into a bruising dirt clad confrontation.

From the strong start the EP hits its biggest highlights with firstly Benetton Models to be followed by the excellent Waste it Now. The first track sabre chops the ear with caustic riffs soon joined by thumping rhythmic incitement from The C and Elliott. Like Nirvana meeting The Lurkers at a fire-pit held by Mark E. Smith, the song is a delicious discord fired slice of noise punk which ignites the passions with garage rock enterprise and post punk sonic obstinacy. Its successor also holds many flavours within its core grasp, the track a garage rock crawl with the snarling undiluted essences of The Stooges and Richard Hell raising their contagious claws. Both tracks stand out as pinnacles whilst still pushing the suggestion that the creative envelope of the band has only just been opened.

Sity comes next with a blues flame to the guitar and punk intensity to the energy of the track, drums and bass an intimidating yet fair intrusion through the distinctive almost Tom Waits like scowls of Aidan and those sonic fires expelled by his and the guitar of Quintus. Direct and uncluttered by complexities it is a raucous storm of prime punk merging its different flavours into one scorching encounter and though it does not make the same deep impact as the previous trio of songs it easily recruits the appetite to know more about the band. The same applies to the final two songs on the release. Both live in the shade of certainly the previous triumphs on Eat The Rich, but stand tall and appealing in their mischievous stances starting with the primate romance Gorilla. With lyrics you can interpret either literally for fun or for man’s version of the great ape, the track stomps with teasing riffs which chop like a chef on a carrot alongside the growling presence of the other guitar and bass. Drums and vocals also accost with enterprise and irresistible mischief and though the song as mentioned does not quite live up to the heights set before it does grip tighter the more you take its company and lingers longer than most in the head.

The closing Snatch, yawns with great whale like sonic calls before barracking with another unbridled slab of impossible to resist punk. Eat The Rich is a great debut from a band you sense has so much more still to discover and offer; that thought as exciting as listening to their EP. That Massive Bereavement will not be for everyone but if punk of any shape and aggressiveness has your juices rising than check out this great emerging protagonist.

https://www.facebook.com/MassiveBereavement

8.5/10

RingMaster 24/07/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Houdini/Frau Pouch: Split EP

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May 28th sees the return of an irresistible friend and the reason for a new bout of infatuated stalking. Let us elaborate. That date is when the simply stunning new split EP from UK bands Houdini and Frau Pouch is unleashed upon the world and it is destined to leave ears and hearts blistered and awash in salacious wanting. Houdini is a trio which are no strangers to RR and a band who without fail always ignites the hottest fires with their scuzz punk creations. Frau Pouch though are completely new in name and sound here and easily the sexiest and most essential conjurors of sadistic dirty post punk scratchings heard in a very long time, and the instigators of energies and wicked desires that we never knew existed.

To say the EP is impressive is an understatement, alone the duo of songs from each band would bring excitement and heaps of enthused attention but together it creates a release which shows the deep quality within UK indie music if you go beneath the artificial surface.

Houdini set a flurry of ears and emotions blazing with their brilliant second single Smokers Cough though their first release What A Fire, and its more singular punk sound was not exactly slow in announcing the promise of the band. Smokers Cough was stunning, an instant contagious pull into their inventive and addictive garage punk scuzz rock sound which still has the same magnetic power two years on. The following Deadlines EP only confirmed the acclaim their debut release deservedly earned but with the two songs on the new EP the band has brewed all their invention and ability into a blitz of garage/punk rock triumph. Don’t Look Down leaps upon the ear with vindictive riffs and intimidating rhythms, guitarist Greg Webster, drummer Tom Bonner, and bassist Giles Barrett all taunting with energy and intent whilst crafty melodies wind themselves around the senses from underneath the powerful and muscular attack. Once more the band find a chorus and line of hooks as infectious as any germ to make a mockery of what most pop punk bands come up with.

The siren pull of that song is replaced with a bristling cloud of electrified scuzz in Your Dog Is Not A Horse. With a meaner heart and darker intensity the song mugs the senses with heavy riffs and smog like energy to outstanding effect. Imagine Reuben, The Fall and first generation Faith No More and you get an idea, it is immense.

Frau Pouch is a different beast entirely though from the same overall stable as their partners in crime. Another trio in the irrepressible shape of Joe Wise (guitar/vocals), James Thompson (bass), and Suzanne Freeman (drums), the band incite all the wrong feelings and mischievous intent, and it is wonderful. The best way to describe them is as the bastard evil offspring from an illicit intrusion between The Fall and The Victorian English Gentlemens Club with some fingering from The Cramps and Turbogeist. The band thump and bruise the senses with highly charged melodies and belligerent riffs all soaked in vintage discord and infected defilement, the result pure magic. Their first song Sexy Architecture quizzes and attacks synapses with unbridled choppy serpentine riffs and insane melodic scrapings lighting them up like fireworks whilst the  vocals come over like an over exited Mark E Smith as they tease and twist the words through the ear.

Second track Sexy Mittens is even better as the band add some psyche punk to the mixture. The song prowls and sways with hypnotic posture, its energy a wanton violation upon the ear with tempestuous acidic ingenuity. Still reminding of the previously mentioned bands you can add some mesmeric noise tease from the likes of The Gaa Gaas and Engerica to the frenetic bedlam of discord. With both songs barely seeing two minutes in their binoculars it offers up the only gripe as one could listen to this for hours and not find a lull in the pleasure.

If there is only two bands you check out over the weeks ahead make it these two. Houdini and Frau Pouch have combined for one of the most stirring and invigorating, not to mention brilliant releases so far this year and most likely for the months and months ahead

http://houdinisaur.bandcamp.com/

http://www.facebook.com/FrauPouch

RingMaster 25/05/2012

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The Savage Nomads: Tension In The Middle EP

After the acclaim that soaked their debut album Coloured Clutter, UK rock band The Savage Nomads return with the Tension In The Middle EP to justify previous opinions and inspire even more fervour and attention. Before the release the London quintet had set themselves up as one of the most exciting and promising emerging UK bands, the new EP takes that promise and turns it into a full reality. The sounds are unique, staggeringly imaginative, and wholly exhilarating, The Savage Nomads a band to fire up the heart.

With the likes of Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Matt Johnson (The The), and Robyn Hitchcock adding their support and praise to the ever growing wealth of fans and media attention, the band has not looked back since their debut single The Magic Eye of last year. Consisting of vocalist and guitarist Cole Salewicz, guitarist Joe Gillick, bassist Josh Miles, drummer Billy Boone, and Aviram Barath on trumpet and synths, with all adding backing vocals, The Savage Nomads made a big impression when supporting Big Audio Dynamite, the band added to their Justice Tonight tour by the request of Jones.

Tension In The Middle brings the punk infused originality which ignited their album but with a more restrained and mellower intent, well if a subtler and more smoothly intrusive manipulation can be called mellow.  The energy within the EP may not be as boisterous and excitable as on Coloured Clutter but it is just as eager and deeply infectious, the band bringing an evolution which is thoughtful and openly adventurous whilst retaining the core and irrepressible heart of their sound.

The title track opens up the release with a shadowed atmospheric grace and emotive wash. The spoken vocals of Salewicz reflect and unveil their thoughts over the fine piano pulses of Barath. The song littered with the excellent beats of Boone floats with a riled smoothness over the ear, bringing group harmonies and incisive guitar charms alongside the throatier basslines of Miles. The song equally caresses and scrapes the ear like a mix of The Three Johns and Babyshambles with Salewicz adding a Mark E Smith lilt to his vocals.

The excellent Four Personalities steps up next to bring a variation and slightly livelier breath to that of the opener. Tall velvety bass notes at the start announce the arrival of the guitars, their slicing of the air accompanied by blistered trumpet melodies and artillery driven rhythms. After a riled crescendo it drops into a hypnotic vein of bass riffs and sonic guitar manipulations. The track offers to explode at various times but never quite does take that final step and the result is compulsive. With the distinctness of Jazz Butcher and the manic energy of The Higsons the track is a growing infection which leaves one breathless. It is not an instant engagement but give a deserved attention it emerges as a magnificent piece of songwriting and inventiveness.

An Empty Seat from Coloured Clutter is included on the album and again is pure magic. Full of feisty energy and eager attention seeking guitars it riles emotions and thoughts up into a bedlam of excitement and rattled nerve ends. The song is part Baddies, and part Wire with Andy Partridge seemingly at the helm, a track bringing a post punk intensity with modern unbridled creativity. It was a true highlight of the album and is so again though its companions more than match it in adventure and imagination.

Completed by the radio edit of Tension In The Middle and a clean radio version of An Empty Seat, the EP is as impressive as one hoped and truthfully expected from the band. It offers up an even greater promise with its stylish change in presence and a reassurance that UK post punk and ingenuity are in safe and instinctive hands with The Savage Nomads.

https://www.facebook.com/thesavagenomads

RingMaster 22/05/2012

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The Wedding Present: Valentina

Every time there is a new release from The Wedding Present it is like meeting up with an old mate, the reunion of a long standing friendship with new thrills and excitable tales to tell. They may not be accounts of joy or successful passions but each time they leave a warmth and smile in the heart as well as a happy glow within the senses. Their new album Valentina is no exception, with declarations and expressive reflective looks and reports of love plus all that comes with relationships, the release is a wonderful mesmeric album with a heart that connects deeply.

Since day one The Wedding Present and remaining founder David Gedge has forged their own distinctive path, presented their own category of sound and style to invite and thrill devoted ears. Many bands have stayed a similar distance to the band but it is hard to recall many with the high consistency and continual pushing of their own limits to match Gedge and co. The only one to spring to mind is The Fall and maybe it is no coincidence that both bands and their heartbeats of Mark E. Smith and Gedge write and produce music which has an open honesty and directness to the emotions. The thought out simplicity and clarity in lyrical form and compulsive sounds possibly have kept both bands essential and constantly fresh, constantly important companions for the ear. Whatever the reason The Wedding Present never fails in creating and treating one to special releases, and in Valentina they have one of their finest albums yet.

The follow up to 2008 album El Rey, the new release is the eighth album from the band, with Gedge alongside bassist Pepe Le Moko who also brings some enchanting backing vocals, drummer Charles Layton, and Graeme Ramsay who provides guitars, piano and harmonium as well as co-writing all the songs bar one with Gedge on Valentina. The songs on the album are an eclectic array of sounds, energy and sentiments, each avoiding the gloss of relationships and love to bring forth the reality and black and whiteness that is really involved. The album is the everyday world of love in aural form, but a revealing of things y feelings already knew but maybe was avoiding.

As the opening You’re Dead announces itself on big ear catching beats there is an instant tingle and the feeling there could be something special on the cards. Then the drama less voice of Gedge unveils truths as the guitars coax the senses from around the continuing bulky rhythms. Sensitive yet defiant in word and sound the song is an engaging start though as the album progresses turns out to be quite a subdued beginning from the band. Not in energy or emotion but in giving the ear something unpredictable as the following songs like the excellent Meet Cute and The Girl From The DDR to name two subsequently do. The first is a provoking combination of minimal touches alongside climactic crescendos. Not for the first time on the album the track shows what a fine bassist le Moko is, her touch strong, inventive and pulsating with emotive tones. The second of these two is a mesmeric duet between Gedge and le Moko, her parts sung in German. The song epitomizes the band and its wealth of work, a song that touches the heart and imagination with emotive strength whilst keeping things surprising and intoxicating. The end to the song is stunning, one of the best heard to any song in a long time, the track teasing and playing with the ear as it builds to its wonderful sharp sublime end.

There is not one single negative that can be laid at the feet of Valentina. When you have songs like the energetic and veracious Back A Bit….Stop with its deep infectious pull and urgency that has limbs taking on a life of their own, and the impressive End Credits, a wonderful caustic melodic pop song that is hard to rival with extra meaty joy from the dark and grave bass that prowls throughout, there is only one result, a staggeringly great album.

With rhythms that invoke the essences of primal attraction, guitars that suggest and expose the passions within each song, as well as the ever intelligent and open verity of words and delivery of Gedge, Valentina is pure bliss, with the songs not mentioned like 524 Fidelio with more bass glory to drool over, are just as equal in quality and pleasure as those highlighted. The Wedding Present has returned with easily a contender for album of the year if not of the past few.

RingMaster 16/03/2012

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