Friday, 31 March 2017

Jeff Rosenstock - Worry

Jeff Rosenstock has been around a while now. The move from Brooklyn to Hollywood may have seemed to mellow him, but his following won't believe that. He's the Ska Punk Icon that was one of the first in with the Pay What You Want album.

He's also a great lyricist and that has got lost in his shouty past. So it's easy to accept his third solo album as going for a bigger market, but if you've paid attention to what's gone before, Worry is a national progression.

So he may come across as Jim Carroll fronting Green Day and there is some of that, but this album, more than any in his past, probably represents his influences more than any other. There is the odd bit of shouting at times, but the melody and the riffs shine through any of that.

Long term fans will love Bang On The Door and Planret Luxury plus the ska of Rainbow, but it's when he gets into New Wave and Power Pop that it gets more interesting. Then you note the lyrics more and more.

There's more here about Indie Pop than Emo, loads of singalong stuff like While You're Alive. Staring Out The Window Of Your Old Apartment could be the ballad on a UK 70's Glam Rock album. It's an ace song.

This is a great album. Some will say Jeff Rosenstock has sold out, others will say he's grown up. As an outsider, I look at what's in front of me and Worry is a fine affair. There's enough to interest the old and much more to gather up the new.

One of the better albums that I've heard this year. 17 songs is a lot to get through, but at 38 minutes, the album is just the right length. You can listen to and buy the album here.

Thorcraft Cobra - The Distance

I have only one problem with Thorncraft Cobra and that's the name. It conjures up images of Melodic Metal and long and loud guitar solos, not the note perfect Pop Rock that they actually offer up. Their second album follows on beautifully from the debut, Count It In.

It's hardly surprising because the duo consist of ex Brown Eyed Susan, Billy Zimmer and Tammy Glover, known more for her time in my beloved Sparks. The Distance comes across somewhere between  a more melodic The Eagles and the mid 70's UK bands that we know and love.

They are their best when the melody and harmonies meet and Fade To White is a perfect example of that. No One Believes her sounds so Jason Falkner whilst Caught In Between could easily appear on a Stealers Wheel album.

Serenade The Silence is one of those epics that used to end Brit Pop albums from say Embrace and the closer, Pretty Dilemma reminds me a bit of Teenage Fanclub. The Distance is a really accomplished Pop Rock album. it has everything that you need from the genre and that's the way I like it.

You can find out more details about Thorcraft Cobra and listen to and buy the album here.

Bonny Doon - Bonny Doon

We're back In Michigan, Detroit to be exact. So you'd expect something chiming with riffs and harmonies.Bonny Doon are not from that school. I've seen them labelled as Garage and Punk, they are neither of those things.

Bill Lennox's lazy vocals are a cross between Lou Reed and Tom Petty and there is a Velvet Underground on the likes of Lost My Way. His almost spoken drawl on I See You is Reed to a tee. But the band's arrangements make them stand far away from the Stooges and Strokes wannabes.

At times there's almost a country feel, but Relieved has a Motown feel to the arrangement, Summertime Friends is in Summer Pop mode. You Can't Hide is pure Big Sur, Never Been To California is almost a jam with everyone wearing their cowboy hats.

Evening All Day is again very Lou Reed like with a country twang or imagine him backed by The Heartbreakers. The vocal will not be to everyone's taste, but if you like your songs laid back and chilled, you'll love them.

It's a refreshing change at the moment to hear something grown up, less harmonies, less riffs, more of a vibe and feel. The arrangements are great, sometimes jam like, sometimes more complex. But my overriding thought after two or three listens to the album is one of contentment in hearing something that others aren't doing at the moment.

You can listen to and buy the album here. You can get the band's two EPs as free downloads there too.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Suzy And Los Quattro - Faster And Louder

Barcelona's Suzy And Los Quattro are back with album number four and after a slight departure with the previous pensive album, Hank, it's back to what they are best at. Faster And Louder is in Holly And The Italians territory and there is no greater compliment.

Suzy And Los Quattro are like a rocked up Rubinoos and that's no surprise as they've supported the power pop greats, plus Tommy Dunbar co-writes Matilda here. The riff quota is high here and when you note Robbie Rist adding Guitar on five of the ten songs, that's to be expected.

Here We Go Again comes across as early Blondie, PMS is almost thrash metal. Walk Away is also sped up. Everybody is more New Wave than Power Pop whilst Be With You rocks like a good 'un.

The band are at their best though when the concentration is on the melody, the riffs shine through and whilst these songs won't translate as well as Be With You in a live setting, they showcase what the band is best at.

Matilda is pure Rubinoos, Tommy Dunbar and Robbie Rist's involvement ensures that. You suspect with all the band members having Quattro surnames that they want to be The Ramones. There's nothing wrong with that at all, don't we all, but there is far more to them than that.

This is classic New Wave Power Pop comparable to the likes of The Knack and The Records and that is where they shine. I don't hear many sounding as good with original songs. This is a cracking album. Just over 25 minutes of hooks and choruses. What's not to like?

You can listen to and buy the album here. You should, at 7 Euros it's an absolute snip.

Paul McCann - The Magician EP

I've been meaning to review this for a while. I'd planned to post it as part of a I Do Hear A Single thing, but I haven't done one for a while and the EP deserves stand alone attention. Cavan's Paul McCann has spent time around the likes of Duncan Maitland and it shows.

The stand out song is the Power Pop Gem, Keep The Devil Within. It has all the hooks and jangles required and it's testament to Paul that the rest of the EP isn't from the same mould.

Widow Maker Blues features Majella O'Reilly and is storytelling Folk Country with banjo and all the twangs. All The Words You Say is a big ballad, very 70's, very good with a fine guitar solo. The Magician is like Jefferson Airplane in singalong mode. It's a sweeping five and a half minutes with a late 60's West coast solo.

All in all, The Magician is a really varied four track EP. Although it shows off Paul's obvious talent, the variance may confuse people as to what he's about. It's a splendid introduction, but I can't help feeling that the strength of Keep The Devil Within means that Power Pop is his true way forward.

You can buy the EP here, there and everywhere.

Captain Wilberforce - Black Sky Thinking

Leeds's Captain Wilberforce are another band that should be far far bigger than they are. There are so many Neil Finn and Crowded House fans around and you wonder why they are not also buying Captain Wilberforce too.

It's been six years since the magnificent Ghost Written Confessions and for album Number Four, Black Sky Thinking, Simon Bristoll has lost none of his songwriting excellence. The album is a perfect example of how great Pop should be made.

There seems a little more of a mellow feel on songs like Couples and You Can't Have Me which ramp up the Finn comparisons, there's a particularly great piano accompaniment on the latter. King Of Decision is McCartney Beatles Pop of the highest order.

There are hints of Psych Pop too, especially on the opener, the splendid, The Johnny Depp Memorial Cafe. Stickleback Toffee could be a soundtrack to those old Saturday Morning Cartoons. The Closing title track is pure psych and reveals a side of the band that I love, pre 60's Strawberry Psych.

Black Sky Thinking sounds much more like a band album than previous albums which you sense have been Simon Bristoll and others. The 12 songs make up a proper album, none of this download one song rubbish.

If there is any justice in the world, this album will be massive. The support of Kool Kat in the States should assist this. This is one of the most pleasant listens that I've had in a long while. I expected nothing less.

The fantastic news is that for a limited period, the album is available as a Name Your Price on Bandcamp here. You have no excuse but to head over there now.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Verve Pipe - Parachute

The Verve Pipe are back with their second Long Player in three years and Parachute is as expected, great. The Verve Pipe are largely Brian Van Der Ark and others now, particularly since Donny Brown hasn't been around since Are We There Yet? Brown has gone on to be a session drummer of choice and seems to have appeared on most of the best Power Pop albums of the last 12 months.

Van Der Ark hasn't been loitering in the interim though. Apart from The Verve Pipe, there's house concerts, his motivational speaking appearances, solo albums, even working with Jeff Daniels. I seem to remember a time when he was a sort of internet marketing guru.

The Verve Pipe are not the only band to have been involved in recording albums for children, but their two, A Family Album and Are We There Yet? are amongst the best in that field and the merchandising opportunities for artists involved in these releases are excellent.

Known to many as one hit wonders for The Freshmen, there has always been far more to them that and rather than the lazy writing from the unconverted about the rise and fall, the album quality has rarely dropped. I can only think of one iffy one, 1999's patchy self titled affair. The band are also responsible for one of the best albums that few have ever bothered to hear, 2001's Underneath.

Parachute consists of eight songs that have been digital only releases from the past year or so with two new songs available across all platforms. It's a really coherent album. Van Der Ark sounds more like Peter Gabriel these days and songs like Nothing Like Your Love and The Favourite Son could be Big Big Train.

Songs like the epic Grieve For The Girl are very different, that is a sort of Prog Americana. Fear not though, there's plenty of classic Verve Pipe present on the likes of I Can't Get You Off My Mind and The Fine Line. All in all, a splendid effort and there is far more to come from the band.

The album can be bought from the band's website here. It's also available everywhere else.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Bordellos - Introducing The Bordellos

The Bordellos hail from the same town that I do. A town that once made things and offered hope, but there's little of both these days. To give you a feeling of the town, on the drive in during the lead up to Christmas, the billboards advertise the town centres of other towns.

Whereas, I am known for all things Power Pop, particularly in the UK, The Bordellos are the type of band that I listen to away from the madding crowd. They are never going to be massive, but they are always going to be inventive and that matters far more to me.

It's really hard to pigeon hole the band and I would never try to do that. Suffice to say they are in the mould of Half Man Half Biscuit or any Martin Newell creation. Deliciously lo-fi and as you'd expect they have appeared on the Fruits De Mer label. The Megadodo label is another place that you'd hope to find them.

It's not all Indie doodling though. The three piece can venture into the Prog Rock territory of the likes of Todd Dillingham and The Bevis Frond, yet could easily be The Fall. The best example of what they can do is the wonderful Ronco Revival Sound album which can still be bought here.

The band release a great deal of their archive on their Bandcamp Page. A mix of demos, outtakes and rarities recorded over their nigh on 15 year existence can be downloaded FREE there. My suggestion would be to download everything to realise how varied and ace that they can be.

It is so out there, that not everything will appeal, but there is something for everyone and that's part of the joy of discovering great music. You can then head off and buy their commercial releases now or in the future.

The three songs here show the band's versatility. From my own favourite, a 4 Track Demo of the wonderful, Arthur Lee to the Prog Out of The Left Hand (God Complex).

You can download and listen to their archive here.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers - Real Sharp (2CD)

Pub Rock has suffered a really bad press. The bands never sold that many records and were looked upon with a bit of contempt by the artists who benefited from the aftermath of that scene. Graham Parker couldn't believe what The Rumour had been playing before they hooked up being one example.

There's also the long told story that Punk killed the pompousness of Prog Rock and bands that had lost touch with their audience, but that was never the whole story. Punk did bring a DIY element to the music scene, but the reaction had already begun four years earlier. Gigs before 1972 had largely become sit down affairs where you lost yourself in the technical wonderment of the 10 minute guitar solo.

Pub Rock brought gigs back to the people. You stood up, could drink and dance and felt like you'd had a good night out. These bands may have not sold a lot of physical albums, but they are remembered lovingly by those around the time. It may have amounted to a large dose of Country Rock, but these bands became a large part of the UK New Wave that was to flourish after Punk.

Bands such as Kursaal Flyers, Ace and Kilburn And The High Roads and Brinsley Schwarz supplied New Wave joy with The Blockheads, The Records, The Rumour and Squeeze. We should not forget Flip City with the early Elvis Costello nor bands who had a great influence like Dr Feelgood and Eddie And The Hot Rods. The latter's influence on Punk and Music fans today is as great as it has always been.

Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers were one of  the better examples of the genre. People who once  derided them will fall over themselves to tell you  how great the Americana and Bluegrass is from 25  years later.

 The band was formed by Martin Stone of Mod  Poppers, The Action and Savoy Brown and Philip  Lithman who went on to be a key part of The  Residents. The duo were offered a contract to  record an album following on from the impact of  the Glastonbury Festival scene. Bob Andrews,  Nick Lowe and Billy Rankin were borrowed from  Brinsley Schwarz to record the resulting Kings Of  The Robot Rhythm, released in 1972.

It was soon realised that the band needed to tour and so Paul Bailey, Paul Riley and future Attraction, Pete Thomas were recruited. This line up recorded the second album, Bongos Over Balham, in 1974 and were part of the legendary Naughty Rhythms Tour of 1975, a precursor for those Stiff Tours that were to follow.

Those two albums offer up some really pleasant Country / Bluegrass that you can dance to. Bongos Over Balham in particular remains as good an album as it sounded then. Proper Music are doing a fine job currently of releasing long lost stuff, as well as having the likes of Ian Hunter on the label.

They were recorded at a time when the States was very much "over there". Press And Radio didn't reflect what was happening in the States and so it relied on bands to tell us, particularly Country Rock wise.

In this two disc package, you get both albums, the Chalk Farm Demos for Kings Of The Robot Rhythm, Hope And Anchor Demos and additional live recordings. It's certainly time to reassess the impact of Pub Rock and this anthology at it's bargain price is a great place to start.

You can buy the album here and everywhere.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Your Gracious Host - Boomerang

Michigan appears to be the centre of the Power Pop Universe world at the moment and Your Gracious Host maintain that reputation. Tom Curless has all the hooks, but this isn't straight ahead verse verse chorus verse chorus.

Boomerang is more reminiscent of those halcyon Not Lame Days and the likes of The Shazam et al. There's certainly a more concerted guitar crunch than on the previously excellent band releases and ventures into Psych Pop.

It's the variation that impresses me most. The Psych of  Some Expectations is in complete contrast to the Country Pop of Spritely. Just Like A Train jingles and jangles whilst Sun Machine could be early Dodgy.

Wake Sleep Travel could be Madchester, yet You See Right Through Me is in Squeeze Territory. Boomerang is particularly good when it lets rip on the likes of Sweetness and Never Been So Blind, both Pop Rock at it's best.

If you like your melodic rock, this is the album for you. I love it. It does take me back to those 90's days when Power Pop was gonna change the world and reminds me of America's answer to Brit Pop. There are very Brit influences, but the thing that shines through are the well written songs and the hooks.

Boomerang is a beautifully produced album and a joy to listen to.

You can listen to and buy the album here.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Chris Mullin - Myself Fooling Me EP

I love being surprised by music, particularly as I so rarely am. There is some great Pop around at present, be it Power Pop or Indie, you just have to root for it. You are certainly not going to fall over it or hear it on TV or Radio.

I appreciate it even more when it's close to home and so Chris Mullin's Myself Fooling Me is quite a revelation to these ears. Chris is co-songwriter for The Sums who continued from Noel Gallagher darlings Smaller.

The Sums continue to spread the spirit of Brit Pop, but the band are so electric that these stripped down solo songs caught me off guard. I can see why they wouldn't necessarily fit on a Sums album, but I'm delighted that they've finally seen the light of day.

There's a melodic rawness to all six songs and the man can certainly bring a hook to the proceedings. There's even Jazz tints on the likes of Colour Of Pain and Folk on Who Took The Beat and throughout you get surprised by an unexpected arrangement or instrumental break.

The real gem though is the closer, Myself Fooling Me. Paul McCartney worked on the song with Mullin during a One To One Jamming Session and contributed both the Mid 8 and the title. It's a haunting song with a wonderful Psych Pop accompaniment.

Chris Mullin is a busy boy with his commitments as bass player in Hurricane #1 and The Sums, but more EP's are planned throughout the year. I can't wait, this first one is exceptional. It's great melodic pop.

The EP is available from all the major download retaillers. You can also buy it from the solo Bandcamp page here.

The Pot Beach - A Day Like Yesterday

I return to Scandinavian Pop and the output from those countries at present is stunning. The Pot Beach hail from North West Norway and they've conjured up a platter of pop joy. Comparisons will be made to A-ha and that's no bad thing, but there is far more to the band than that.

Behind the sweet Beatles Pop are some fine arrangements, again very 70's orientated, but beautifully formed. There's a melancholia that lurks under the sugared soundtrack. This is a really pleasant album.

There's something special about a band including a song written when they were 15 year olds being included because the fans demanded it, that's the case with Bloody School. It is out of kilter with the rest of the album's beautifully constructed pop/

Light In The Dark is built around a Steve Winwood like keyboard arrangement, I Love You could be written by Graham Gouldman, whilst Run Away's lazy vocal is very A-ha. No Place For Us In History is a gem, particularly the guitar arrangement.

The Pot Beach are never going to rock out with fuzz, but the up tempo Give My Soul Away comes closest. A Day Like Yesterday reminds me of Bread, Unconditional Love is one of those big 70's Pop Rock Ballads with some great orchestration.

The stand out song though is When You're Gone, it reminds me of Trickster and has a haunting solo in a stunningly good song. A Day Like Yesterday is a really fine album, an album that doesn't seem to get made in the UK any more, which is sad. but reflective of the times.

You can buy the album for download from the likes of Amazon here and the CD from CD Baby here.

The Flywheels - I'm For The Flowers

It's unusual to review a debut album that will also be a final one. However the untimely death of Eric Scott dictates this and so I'm For The Flowers also becomes a tribute. 20 years in the making, Scott's songwriting partner and lead vocalist, Kim Wonderley and the band have offered up a corker of an album.

The Flywheels include the excellent John Moremen of The Orange Peels and his presence partially explains the high Psych Pop quota and that's to be celebrated. There's also a cast of outstanding helpers on this fine affair.

Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck and Roy Loney are present. It's always great to see The Smithereens' Rhythm section of Dennis Diken and Mike Mesaros reunited. The album's produced by Allen Clapp and Chris Von Sneidern, so the quality is further explained.

Wonderley's vocals are varied from the Bangles Pop of Counting To Eleven to the Texas like Pop Rock of Red Tail Lights. Let Me Take You Down is almost Country whilst I'm For The Flowers is pure Garage Psych.

Dream Of Life continues the excellent Psych Pop and you can almost envisage The Muffs on Astronaut Motel. The excellence of the supporting cast shouldn't detract from this being a Flywheels album and in particular, how strong a vocalist, Kim Wonderley is.

As well as being a fine album, this is a fitting tribute to Eric Scott. I'm sure he's rocking daily with Jimmy Silva. I'm For The Flowers demands your attention.

You can listen to and buy the album here.

The Wellgreen - Summer Rain

Sugarbush have done it again with the release on splendid Green Vinyl. Summer Rain resides in classic 70's Pop Rock territory. Think of the likes of Blue, Jigsaw and Pilot but with added lyrical excellence and more melody.

The Glasgow band have completely hit the sweet spot with this sugar coated melodic pop. Pre Punk gets a lot of stick, but you are reminded how great the Pop that came out of the ashes of Glam Rock was. It was all about songs and being able to play your instruments. 1975 was not just about Prog.

Grin and Bear It sounds so Stealers Wheel, Secret Footprints is McCartneyesque, almost 10CC. She's The Greatest is pure Blue. It's not all 70's related though, Remember has Beach Boys like harmonies, The Circle is a heady mix of Psych and Jazz.

Dreams Are Made For Dreamers could be The Monkees and all through the album you are reminded of Gallagher And Lyle or even some of the more pop related Brit Poppers such as Straw and Octopus.

Enough of the comparisons though. What you have is a beautifully constructed album. 12 songs wonderfully constructed in a way that saddens you when the needle reaches the end of Side 2. It is particularly suited to vinyl.

Sugarbush goes from strength to strength, this could very well be their best release. The Wellgreen have impressed me enormously, I can't wait to hear more and hope to do so soon. Summer Rain is an absolute crackerjack of an album. Pop at it's poppermost best.

You can listen to the album here and buy the Vinyl Release here.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Floating Opera - Pop Song On The Elevator Down

Strings are back and it's been way too long. Jeff Lynne brought ELO back to audiences, the likes of The Mono LP's and The 286 have brought Indie to it's senses and Floating Opera have released their best ever album.

Floating Opera are a collective from Lincoln Nebraska, they've been around in one form or another since the early 90's. This is album number five and their first for over seven years. It's been well worth the wait.

The songs are written by Charles Lieurance and Richard Rebarber and are beautifully arranged. The influences are far spread, one minute you are reminded of Kirsty MacColl on Bubbles To Make You Stay, the next, an arrangement sounds like Alan Parsons Project or something that Louis Clark is involved in.

The four different female lead vocalists could be compared to the likes Of Pandora's Box, but the songs are not as bombastic. It's those arrangements that shine through, particularly for violin and cello.

The Car Died Of Shame is almost Folk with an arrangement that could be from an Early ELO album. Calling Card could be Burt Bacharach. It's this variance that impresses me most. One minute Annie Haslam, one minute Aimee Mann.

Pop Song On The Elevator Down is a great listen across all 11 songs. The bar has been set high bt Floating Opera's previous output, this is their best yet.

You can listen to and buy the album here. You can find out more about the band here.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Telephone Lovers - Telephone Lovers

Los Angeles's Telephone Lovers have been compared to the likes of New York Dolls and Rich Kids and although I can hear those comparisons, I'd go for something a little bit earlier. Their self titled debut album is more like the better end of Glam Rock.

Take You Home could be The Steve Gibbons Band whilst Gone For The Summer could be Dr Feelgood. But it's the likes of Downtown Girl and Saw You Standing There that keep returning my thoughts to The Glitter Band.

We Power Pop kids know how cool The Glitter Band are and the constant compilations and reissues tell you that many see them as a great lost band. Well now you have Telephone Lovers and don't need to keep wishing on the past.

Turn It Around sounds like a sped up Wizzard, Come Out Tonight could be Chinn and Chapman. This is a smashing little album. A chance to sing along whilst wearing your denim. The 35 minutes fly by, it's well worth your attention.

You can listen to and buy the album here.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Mothboxer - The Secret Art Of Saying Nothing

We all have bands that we are fans of and have trouble understanding why they are not multi million sellers. We agree on a lot of them and yet the ignorance goes on. One of the most inventive bands of recent times are Mothboxer and with this. the fifth album. I'm still scratching my head to understand why they aren't bigger.

Dave Ady's band are now a decade in and the quality just goes up and up, come on music buying public, get your act together. Mothboxer are compared a lot to XTC and The Beatles and given the Power Pop mantle. I can see that, but there is far more to them than that. To me, they are the bastard sons of The Move, particularly Shazam era.

You can lump them in with newer bands such as The Dowling Poole or older bands such as my beloved Orgone Box, but largely Mothboxer are Mothboxer. Any of the albums are a delight, the main point is that each gets better and The Secret Art Of Saying Nothing is the best yet.

So here we have 12 songs over 48 minutes. From The Beach Boys harmonic pop of I Don't Mind to 70's Pop Rock on It's Alright akin to Jigsaw. The crashing 60's Brit Psych Pop on Everyone Knows to the Lennon Pop of Right Time To Say Goodnight.There really is something for everyone.

Way We're Gonna Live Tonight is pure 10CC, Rest My Mind is in the Andy Partridge mould, whilst Look At The Sun is a piano led anthem. If there were any justice in the world, this album would be playing on everyone's Bose system or whatever it is that is hip these days.

You won't hear many better albums this or any year.

You can listen to and buy the album here. It's an absolute bargain for 5 English Pounds and you can buy all 10 releases as a really cheap package. This is your chance to make Mothboxer as big as they deserve to be.

The John Sally Ride - A New Set Of Downs

I posted about The John Sally Ride just before Christmas here and now I'm delighted to tell you that the full album has been released. The great news is that the quality shown by the Double A Side release has extended across the album.

Not Taking Credit from that single showed how Power Pop the trio could be and John Dunbar's vocals lend well to that genre, but the news from the resulting album is that A New Set Of Downs is far more Harmonic Pop than Power. Imagine a cross between The Monkees and Squeeze.

The singalong shuffle of the opener, One Of These Days You'll Have One Of Those Days emphasises that Monkees comparison. She Walks Her Dog In Pyjamas with its Psych Guitar is in Small Faces Territory.

From Expectation To Surrender comes across as a sweet sounding chirpier version of The Proclaimers and it's great to hear Sal Maida's bass lines again on I Love The Girl (You Won't Leave Your Wife For). I Love The Girl is almost Lindisfarne with it's almost folk backdrop.

The trio have fashioned up a real feel good album to accompany the nights getting lighter. Sal Nunziato's drumming seems to hold the whole thing together. This is great Summer Pop. lyrically adept and a pleasant change from all the I Love You Yes I Do stuff that I have been listening to lately.

It's hard to name a favourite track, I loved Not Taking Credit from first listen and still do, but I'll go for Your Closest Friends, a real chipper song that sums up what the band are about. This album is a great listen and now you have your chance to confirm that.

You can listen to and buy the album here.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

The Boss - No School Blazers

I've had The Boss's album for a few months and every time I return to it, I enjoy it more. It reminds me so much of 1979, it's a cracking listen.

The Essex Foursome have taken over 30 years to get to this debut and the spirit of UK New Wave is Alive and Kicking. There's plenty of comparisons to that era, The Jam, Secret Affair, even the likes of The Records. The band supported The Chords at The 100 Club last year and that would be an obvious fit.

There will be a lot of comparisons to The Jam, but the riffs are far more prevalent and the sound more fleshed out due to the band being four rather than three. Riffs there are aplenty and songs such as Dreamer and Don't Turn Away are chorus led, far more Power Pop than Mod Pop.

Invisible Kids even hints at Psych Pop whilst Jimmy is more Ska. Butterfly could be The Who, whilst Worried Man is all Jangle. City Gent however is pure Weller.


So if you are up for a catchy melodic guitar driven 36 minutes, this is certainly the album for you. I'd love to hear some live stuff from the band, you can imagine that's where they excel. I also have to tell you about the album closer.

Streets Where I Live is a real up and at 'em anthem, a sort of Eddie And The Hot Rods for 2017. No School Blazers is a wonderful debut album, I do hope more there's more to come.

Details of how to buy are below, it's an album to be listened to on CD rather than download. You can also catch up with the band on Facebook here.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Ian McNabb - Star Smile Strong

My informative years were spent around the Liverpool scene at the turn of the 70's and the first half of the 80's. I say scene because there is a lot of hindsight about how great some of the bands were. Don't get me wrong, the live scene was fantastic, it was more about music than most of the UK which was about dressing up and daubing yourself in Max Factor.

One band that never got the credit for how good they were are The Icicle Works. They had nothing in common with what was going on in the UK, they were more like a Paisley Underground band, and that's why they are probably more feted in the States than over here. In America, they are looked upon as a proper band, influential to many. In the UK, they are lobbed in with the one hit wonders for Love Is A Wonderful Colour.

On their night, they could wipe the floor live with any band you can mention, A band that could actually play their instruments. They leave a fine legacy of five great albums including the best album of the 80's, If You Want To Defeat Your Enemy, Sing His Song.

After the end of The Icicle Works with the criminally underrated Permanent Damage album, Ian McNabb went solo. His first solo album, Truth And Beauty, was funded by mortgaging his house. That remains my favourite album of his, the jingle jangle summer sound is the perfect pick me up. That debut was part of a trio of albums that stand up with anything around. Next up was the Mercury Music Award nominated Head Like A Rock with Crazy Horse followed by the definitive McNabb album and fans' favourite Merseybeast.

Since then he has continued an excellent solo career. The main problem has been everything has been compared to those fist three solo albums, very unfairly. With the self titled Ian McNabb album, he offered up one of the great Pop albums, his love of Power Pop being well documented. Songs were simpler, riff led and it was a refreshing change. People criticised the album because an artist with such lyrical depth and wit was writing simpler pop songs.

How do you win? Criticism if you change, criticism if you remain the same. Throughout the Noughties, the quality continued to lesser appreciation. McNabb remained a witty live solo turn with a growing back catalogue to call on and part of a blistering live band act. I would add that Hurricane Elaine as a song would be on my Desert Island List, it has everything.

So for album number 18 (including his Icicle Works days), now is the chance for all those people who harp on about that trio of solo albums to hear what they wanted. Star Smile Strong is his strongest album since Merseybeast. Indeed, the opener, Mystic Age, featuring a novel spoken intro by Professor Brian Cox, would fit easily on that album. It's an eight minute joy.

In fact, the whole album reminds me of Merseybeast in it's feel. The beautifully arranged How She Moves is like a sister to Heydays. The vivid lyrics and variation are present throughout the album. The glam riff on Can't Get I Want leads to the trademark singalong chorus, yet Waiting For A Streetcar is pure lounge.

Enabler has one of those McNabb riffs, think Truth And Beauty and Lazy Water would be at home on a 70's Folk Rock album with it's flute outro. I Kinda Like It Without You is one of those classic McNabb love songs, beautifully sung, beautifully arranged, it's wonderful.

Hotter Than The Sun is the first time that the album rocks out and wow does it rock and typically what follows is very different. Women Love A Bastard (Men Love A Bitch) has a real country vibe, lyrically it's similar to something like for They Settled For Less Than They Wanted from Merseybeast.

Wanna Change My Plea To Guilty is all Psychy with one of those McNabb guitar solos that he doesn't play often enough. All through the album, the feeling is that Ian McNabb has rediscovered his love for music, it's a joyous album, positive and forward looking, His love songs shine through as just that, none more so than This Love I Feel For You, a co-write with Crazy Horse's Ralph Molina.

Saving the best until last, the closer Clarabella is one of those epic album closers. Think Presence For The One or May You Always, it's a 12 minute plus song that sweeps and whooshes, almost panoramic. It just builds and builds and builds, truly wonderful.

So what you have here is a real return to top form from one of the UK's most underrated singer songwriters. McNabb will be touring these songs live as part of The Icicle Works Tour and that'll be the chance to see these songs take on a life of their own.

The album has a stellar supporting cast, including a return of Chris Sharrock, Dodgy's Mathew Priest, Black's Roy Corkhill, The Waterboys' Richard Naiff and Martin Winning.

I've been a critic of Ian McNabb when his standards have dropped. I can give this album no greater compliment than to say in March that we may already have my album of the year. It's not just a return to form, it's like he's never been away. Star Smile Strong is stunning, an absolute revelation. In fact it's not a just return to form, it may be his best album yet. Well done that man!

You can pre-order the album here.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Gretchen's Wheel - Sad Scientist

One of my favourite albums from last year was Gretchen's Wheel's Behind The Curtain. So much so, that I've been eagerly awaiting the third album. The great news is that it is only a week away from release and the it's a cracker.

Imagine Sloan fronted by Chrissie Hynde and you have some idea of how good Gretchen's Wheel are. Lindsay Murray has one of those calming voices that just washes away the blues. One of th most underrated female vocalists around.

The album has quite a list of accomplices too. Donny Brown and Andy Reed who were on most of the best Power Pop releases of last year. The splendid Fernando Perdomo, Ken Stringfellow, Nick Bertling and Paul Melancon amongst them. It's like a Power Pop who's who.

With the album still in the pre-release period, there are only two tracks currently on Bandcamp. So let me tell you about some of the others. Blank Slate is built around a wonderful glam riff, Save The Day is moody, meandering and magnificent.

Disintegrate has another killer riff. I've often thought that Murray could do an Annie Haslam type moody vocal. Well she has on the splendid album closer, a voice of an angel type thing, Same Song, with some ace guitar from Perdomo.

The thing that strikes out most is THAT voice and what a fine thing it is.

You can pre-order the album here. Release date is 17 March, but CD's are being sent out ahead of that date.

The Nature Strip - Presents!

The Nature Strip are from Sydney. Not that you'd know that, because they sound so English. They cite their influences as XTC and Talking Heads and you can hear glimpses of both. XTC's harmony and wit, Talking Heads turn of phrase.

I'd compare them more to one of the better Brit Popsters such as The Bluetones, The Supernaturals or even Dodgy. The XTC comparison can be a death knell to bands, a lazy comparison, but there are are nods to others that are compared to the Swindon lot, Field Music and The Sugarplastic. So in this case it can be justified more.

What we do have is a great second album which makes those comparisons needless. The song selection, variety and quality make them more the first Nature Strip. From the simple noise pop of Shoes to the 60's Psych Pop of King Biggie, the band can be whatever you want.

There's great lyrical play on the likes of Cup Of Tea and The Geeks Or The Fuzz and a general 60's feel on a lot of the album. But The Nature Strip have that left field angular take on tunes that means you never quite no what's coming or what to expect.

In these days were everyone wants to be The Beach Boys or Nada Surf, it's refreshing to hear clever pop, unexpected instrumental breaks and a band that seems effortlessly different. The whole album is beautifully played, thoughtful and different.

What a fantastic album this is. I recommend it to all.

You can listen to and buy the album here. You should.

Bullet Proof Lovers - Shot Through The Heart

I think a lot of you know that I'm a big fan of Kurt Baker. Boy does he get around, it's only three months since I reviewed Kurt Baker Combo's excellent In Orbit here. Well Bullet Proof Lovers are back with their second album and it's a stormer.

Bullet Proof Lovers are a far more rockier affair, hence their superb live reputation. The album is benefited by being both on the excellent Rum Bar Records connection and the co-production by another of our faves, Wyatt Funderburk.

You can understand why the term Big In Spain is applied to them, but the band have far more in common with the great bands of the mid to late 70's. The blitz of The Ramones, the urgency of early Cheap Trick, heads down and rock.

Non need for that strong coffee to wake you up, this album will do the job and it'll be much better from your health. Despite all this driving guitar rock, Kurt Baker's involvement ensures there is at least one Power Pop gem and One Last Night is just that.

The combination of Baker with Luiyi Costa, Joseba Arza, Gonzalo Ibanez and Juan Irazu, all well known in Spanish bands provides a real rockathon. Shot Through The Heart is a no nonsense rock and roll album, the type that doesn't get made often enough.

You can listen to and buy the album here. You can also buy it on CD here or Vinyl here.

Armchair Oracles - In Machina

I keep tending to blab on about the strength of Scandinavian Pop at the moment. It's not intentional, there's plenty of great stuff elsewhere, but I've just been enchanted by more than one band from that part of the world and the latest are Armchair Oracles from Norway.

The band aren't strangers to the UK, Atle Skogrand's outfit have been over here in the past for IPO. However it's their latest offering that should captivate a far greater crowd. This is great pop with plenty of variation.

High Wire Walkers sounds like something out of Manchester or Stockport in the early 90's, morphing into a sort of early U2. Jitterbug sounds like a more melodic happier Doves, whilst Scared Of Light sounds Celtic, possibly Runrig. Utility Man is pure Brit Pop, The Lemonheads crossed with The Boo Radleys.

You sense though that the band are happiest being purveyors of sleepy laid back power pop, in TFC mode if you like and that's really apparent on the likes of Phantom Bliss and Long Time.

It's the variance that grips you tough across this splendid 12 track offering. Here Comes The Feeling is pure Psych Pop, Climbing Walls is mid 70's Pop Rock, 10CC springs to mind and Panic King is awash with brass, very Northern Uproar until it blends into great harmonic 60's melodic pop.

The stand out song is Sound Sleep Sound, it meanders wonderfully. I will though leave you the opener Considerations. In Machina is simply ace, a real listen from start to finish. I can't wait to hear more from the band.

You can buy the album at the likes of Amazon here or CD Baby there. You can also listen to more of the band's stuff here.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

XTC - Documentary Ahoy!!!

You Tube's irritating region restrictions may mean some non UK viewers can't watch the above link unfortunately, But .........................

This is a leaked six minute trailer for an upcoming XTC Documentary. All except Barry Andrews has been interviewed. It may not yet go under it's working title, This Is Pop. Planned Autumn release of the 80 minute documentary.

Will there be more exciting news than this this year? I very much doubt it.

For those who can't watch the video due to restrictions, there's a 7 day We Transfer Link in the comments.

If anyone wants the link re-uploading, just ask in the comments section.