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

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Son of Skooshny: Lovers Leap of Faith

If the name Son of Skooshny seems familiar that is from the fact the band is a kind of offshoot of seventies band Skooshny. A recording band only and consisting of founders Mark Breyer (vocals, guitar), Bruce Wagner (guitar, keyboards, vocals) and soon after its beginnings drummer David Winogrond, Skooshny released a four track EP in 1978 followed by a single the following year. Both received great acclaim but also low sales due to primarily the band never playing live shows. More releases followed but eventually the band broke up.  Then in 1991 the band was alerted to the fact their releases were collector items around Europe. Eventually with Bill Forsyth of newly formed Minus Zero Records further copies of those records plus a compilation of unreleased material came out to great acclaim and strong sales. The band reformed and produced a new EP Even My Eyes and album, Water, with a compilation of their psych-folk-pop called Zoloto following, its tracks covering the band from 1976 to 2003.

Step forward to 2010 and Son of Skooshny with Lovers Leap of Faith. The album is not a brand new release admittedly but as in fitting with the history of its seed band it has slipped by people too easily and that cannot be allowed. Son of Skooshny is the project of Mark Breyer thus the background to Skooshny above. Here he has teamed up with long time collaborator Jeff Peters plus producer-collaborators Steve Refling, Arthur Schlenger, and Andy Colquhoun, as well as assorted friends. Lovers Leap of Faith contains covers of a few Skooshny songs plus new material and is a vibrant and pleasing collection of guitar pop and sixties teased/seventies spiced melodic rock songs.

The album opens on immediate favourite Another Time, a hypnotic fresh electrified feast for the ear. Melodically mesmeric and energetically raw it has an anthemic quality that reminds of seventies UK band The Only Ones. The melodic punk vein that throbs throughout is also Buzzcocks like and brings an intelligent urgency and craft to the song, whilst the vocals of Breyer here and in other parts of the album a mix of Pete Shelley and Peter Perrett.

Candy Air follows with a more restrained energy but a no less melodically enchanting breath. With a slight southern lilt the song caresses the ear with a delicate but firm display of imagination and thought, and openly shows the varied sounds that lie within the album. This is easily confirmed by the dusty rock sounds of Bare Bones a song which grows in stature the more you hear it.

     Lovers Leap of Faith does not always hit the same heights in every song though it is more down to personal tastes than quality of sound or songwriting, but when the likes of The Right Idea and You Can’t Leave Me fail to ignite the biggest fires tracks such as the excellent Science Changes Everyone with its full heart and imagination, Kate’s Green Phone a darkened Bolanesque song of psyched shadows and infectious punk pop insanity, and the insatiably melodic Love’s Not Impossible, more than cover their backs. All songs leave one enthused and bristling for much more, the second of the three the best song on the album and the engineer of wishes one had come across the musicians long before now.

Lovers Leap of Faith is a fine album that shows melodic pop does not have to be obvious, unoriginal, or sterile. The album also shows how easy it is for great bands to be missed by the masses no matter their ability and creativity. The former guise of one of its members may have been one of those bands but hopefully that will not be the case with Son of Skooshny, now is the time to make sure.

RingMaster 21/05/2012

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The Static Jacks – If You’re Young

Reviewing Into The Sun, the single from New Jersey indie rock band The Static Jacks which came out a few months back, we commented that “the single is a joyous duo of rich and exciting sounds and though the songs may not have your jaw dropping in awe at something brand new but they certainly will excite ears and enthuse hearts”. Well with those words also apply to the new album from the band with an amendment. If You’re Young does stop one in their tracks with the awe not so apparent in the single, sweeping one up in songs and sounds which stroll along their own unique and adventurous path. Good though the single was it gave no real indication as to how impressive this album was going to be. If You’re Young is immense, a master class in creative songwriting, melodic manipulation, and the breeding place for an infection as potent as any virus.

From New Jersey and formed in 2009, the quartet of vocalist Ian Devaney, guitarists Henry Kaye and Michael Sue-Poi, and drummer Nick Brennan have already made a distinct mark with debut EP Laces in 2009 and numerous shows and tours with the likes of Futureheads, Biffy Clyro, Young the Giant, and We Were Promised Jetpacks. Their sound is single minded and full of determination to do things their way which results in a confidence and surety which oozes out of every note, chord and song. The band sit somewhere between pop punk and an alternative indie sound, bringing the best and uniqueness of both into their own majestic creations.

The album erupts into an instant tremendous pleasing of the senses from the very start with Defend Rosie meeting the ear with firm beats, enthused hand claps and a persistent riff that smacks of mischief. Enthusiastic and urgent, the punk toned song sets their stall out from the off, exciting with feisty rhythms, guitars and basslines which carry as much defiant attitude as Devaney and his lyrics, and big hearted melodies as sassy as the girl of your dreams. From a tremendous start the band simply accelerate things with the wicked sweet tease that is Girl Parts. With an excellent additional female vocal to the inspired and emotive tones off Devaney the song is gorgeous, and confirmation of the fact The Static Jacks have an expertise at writing pop songs that few rival.

The level across the album never wavers with Into The Sun with its Pete Shelley like melodic hook and the likes of the anthemic Blood Pressure, a song which rounds up the senses into a triumphant ball of emotional rebellion, and the soaring melodic grace of Relief, all lifting up the heart and soul with sounds that warm and energise the day. The third of these songs ripples with light sparkling melodies, glittering guitars, and a passion which fills every pore from every line and reflection.

As good as any album is there are always moments that strike the most effectively and alongside the opening duo of songs it is within the mighty outbursts of My Parents Lied and Walls (We Can’t Work It Out) that The Static Jacks show they are creating music that will take them to heady heights. The first begins with a subdued voice and guitar welcome before giant beats join the fray, yet still the song holds back evolving into a canter at most whilst its crystalline melodies radiate. Subtly the intensity increases to match the angst in the vocals of Devaney. Slowly it expands into waves of crashing guitars coaxed by incisive yet reserved melodies, all blending into a fine and inspired union.

Walls (We Can’t Work It Out) is the best song on the album, dare one say the perfect song. It has everything from stunning harmonious vocals, melodies which push away any dark and rhythms that are born of primal instinct, evolution, and an insistence that cannot be denied. It is tumultuous with riffs which muscle their way into the ear alongside the consuming drums, a bass which has more belligerence than a teen asked to clean their room, and energy as potent as nature herself. The only complaint is that it is so damn short.

The album ends on Drano-Ears, where the band takes a dip into the eighties. With a soulful sound and heartfelt emotive feel which reminds of the likes of The Bluebells and House of Love, the song is a galloping flow of soft and caressing melodies and stately elegance. It completes what is a delicious collection of well crafted and completely enjoyable excitable music. The Static Jacks are coming for your heart, are you ready?

Ringmaster 05/03/2012