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Monday 29 November 2021

The Reflectors - Faster Action


After all the noise, it seems time to step back into Power Pop and Los Angeles quartet, The Reflectors don't disappoint. Their second album provides everything that lovers of the genre could want. Faster Action is melodic Guitar Pop of the highest order.

This may not be startlingly original in its content, but it isn't meant to be. A band that can unite, European, UK and US fans not only reveals their talent and appeal, but shows that when it all comes down, there is nothing like a great chorus to make a song sparkle.

There are loads of such choruses here. Combine those with big riffs and a great middle eight and you have the model Power Pop and Faster Action is a real singalong toe tapping joy. The album is a classic example of American late 70s / early 80s Guitar Pop.

A song like the title track is a little Punkish, Carry On is a little Merseybeat and Messin' Around is very UK 1979, but all are riff laden and catchy as catchy can be. Can't Sleep Tonight is pure Glam Rock, yet Not In My Heart hits Buzzcocks territory. 

At times, the album sounds like a history of Power Pop. But that break out riff on Where Have You Been? and Radio Sounds may be the best single in the genre over the last few years. Part Bay City Rollers / part The Records, it is an ace listen.

Indeed the whole album is a joyous listen. The Reflectors know what buttons to press and press them all. The Speedways have competition for who are the best of the new breed and The Reflectors have currently inched ahead. Faster Action is thoroughly enjoyable. 

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Sunhaven - Slow Dance

Slow Dance is the type of Indie / Alt Rock album that Americans used to make and it is very American. That's a sentence that isn't written as a criticism. Quite the opposite, because, sadly, less and less has been heard from this type of thing over the last few years.

 Bordering College Rock and even Pop Punk, vocal wise, this is a Guitar album. The Guitars are everywhere and riff after riff offers up a belting shake your fist affair without ever losing sight of the melody and chorus.

Unlike many Indie debut albums, it is beautifully produced and it is obvious that a lot of thought has gone into the arrangements, yet it feels like a band playing live and this is really what makes it work. New York's Sunhaven have provided a real Rock Out.

Reflections is the best example of this, it is just pure never let up grit. Safe may sound a bit robotic Vocal wise, but elsewhere they show great variety. Laid back they sound IRS or even Pete Wylie, but you suspect that this lot really want to Rock.

Then again, a song like Fox is built around killer riffs and Transcendence is a brooding wonderful offering that shows Sunhaven are all about pace. This isn't an album for the Pop kids, but it really is refreshing to hear an album that gets you going so much. Highly Recommended!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Quick Fiction - Fingers Crossed


Quick Fiction are a five piece from San Francisco and their debut album inhabits a space somewhere between Power Pop and Pop Rock. But for the chirpy chipper vocal, the band could maybe venture into Indie College Rock.

Fingers Crossed has all the riffs and hooks, but what can appear to be everyday Pop Rock is more than enhanced by surprise, almost The Mommyheads like, chord and time signature changes. This is particularly so on the excellent, Superhero.

This use of different paths in individual songs is a real bonus and more than admirable. Temper is another example of surprise riffs on what might be a more straight ahead song. Traction has a twiddle of a metal riff in the verse. Little Blank just gets better and better as it progresses.

Car Talk edges into the back end of Genesis territory and Little Blank reminds me of the recently reviewed It's Karma It's Cool. The Guitar Inventiveness allows the joy to be spread across the album. No Front loaded nonsense here. Fingers Crossed is a cracking listen.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Sunday 28 November 2021

Children Collide - Time Itself


It appears that Australia has woken up again this year, the quality of Guitar led outfits has always been self evident, but the lockdown seemed to affect the country and it was though hibernation had took over everything. 2021 has had less restrictions and talent will out.

A mixture of the new, the upcoming and the returns have made this a fine year. Talking of the returns, this, their fourth album, is Children Collide's first album since 2012 and marks the reunion of Johnny Mackay and Ryan Caesar with a new Bass Player, Chelsea Wheatley. 

 I expected to see reviews that mention Grunge a lot and have, but Children Collide were never Grunge to these ears and on Time Itself they are definitely not. Nirvana comparisons are also completely barking up the wrong tree. Here, Return To Femmes may get a bit close, but nothing else.

The most notable thing is that the band sound like a proper Power Trio, no overdubbing instruments, no varnish. These songs sound as though they were recorded in band takes, even if they were not and a lot of that is down to the killer Bass lines of Wheatley.

The album leans more towards 60s Psych, although updated for the Indie now. Trampoline is a mixture of 1967 Psych Pop on the verse and Indie College Rock on the chorus, an enthralling match. Aurora hints at Space Rock and Turrets is just mindblowing in similar territory towards the close.

Most songs hit a riff that hooks you and that is never more so on Mind Spider with its incredible Psych solo. Language Is A Prison is Post Punk of the highest order with a Portmeirion like haunting riff. Uh-Oh is the most Indie and commercial they get. A welcome return and a great album!

You can buy the album everywhere and listen on all the streaming sites including You Tube here.


Friday 26 November 2021

IDHAS Ten Songs Mix 15

The 15th Edition of the IDHAS Ten Songs Mix. 10 songs in just under 35 minutes. All new and sparkling and ready to delight your ears.

The Mixcloud link is below and at the foot of the page is the Mixcloud Player which takes you directly to the music. Here is the playlist of the ten songs this week :

01 Boxteles - Little Towns

02 The Stayawakes - Lovestruck

03 Norman - Obie Thruggs

04 Byron Rimes - The Carmelite Divine

05 It's Karma, It's Cool - Wild Fire Flames

06 Dmitry Wild - Don't Need Anybody

07 David Brookings - Kill Shot

08 The Thieves - Just Don't Get It

09 Peter Hall - Two Twenty Two

10 the black watch - A Day In Pompeii

IDHAS Ten Songs Mix 15


The Stayawakes - Pop Dreamz


I'm not as involved in Power Pop as I used to be, but when you hear something as good as this album, you realise what it was that drove you to the heart of the genre. The Stayawakes are a quartet from Portsmouth, yes Kids they are British and this, their second album, pushes all the right buttons.

Pop Dreamz has all the Power Pop requisites, big Guitar riffs, great middle eights and enormous choruses. There's even a song called Power Pop Massacre to ram the genre message home. There's no ballads amongst these 11 songs, the Guitars are all aimed at maximum pace.

More recently Power Pop has become more and more American based barring the odd exception like The Speedways. It really is refreshing to listen to something home based. Another problem has been front loaded albums, well you could pick any of these songs as embeds. 

The odd song will edge towards Pop Punk or AOR, but largely The Stayawakes know what they like and want to bring you along. The opener Wendi just crashes in, grips you and leaves you wanting more. Lovestruck reminds me of those Glam Rock days in its pure enjoyment.

The album may be heads down, but the band can play, there are so many hooks and great solos such as the closing solo on It's Cool, It's Rad. The riff on Every Word But Please, the Oh Telephone opening and the Pace of the Pop Punk-ish Down For Love are all highlights in stand out songs.

The sound has most in common with the 90s American Power Pop Wave and you can imagine how great this lot will be Live. Pop Dreamz may be the best Power Pop album that you'll hear this year, it has certainly livened me up. Highly Recommended!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Wednesday 24 November 2021

Byron Rimes - Byron Rimes Greatest Hits


What do you mean you've never heard of Byron Rimes? Let me explain! Byron Rimes is an anagram of Simon Berry, the man who was and is Beaulieu Porch and it is splendid to have him and indeed the family back.

So you can expect some great Psych Pop, but even I didn't expect something as stunning as this. The genre demands melodic inventiveness, something that nods to the past whilst embracing the future. This is definitely that.

A song like Thorneywood Is Dark is mind blowing, so many layers yet haunting and at times it bursts into bouts of melody. Venus Is Safe is more mainstream, very Orgone Box with a twist, Lennon-esque at times. In those two songs you hear the scope od Berry's imagination.

Then there is Somer Overdone, initially an instrumental that is chillout like which bursts into Psych wonderment part way through. Simeon is very Toytown. There are times when the album can be way out there, but every piece drags you back to the norm.

The fascinating thing about Simon Berry is that in all this magnificence, he can still write songs that are incredibly Poppy. The best example is The Carmelite Devine, an absolute joy of a listen. But the aforementioned Venus Is Safe and Upon Being A Superstar are equally magnificent. 

There is an IDHAS article I wrote about Beaulieu Porch a few years ago when I talked to Simon. The embedded songs are no longer up, but the article is well worth a read and largely still applies. You can read that here. In the meantime, I can't recommend this album any more highly. 

So many bemoan the lack of new Orgone Box material. So until Rick gets new stuff out to the world, this is the closest you will get. Psych Pop can be extraordinarily great when presented like this. The Greatest Hits title may be tongue in cheek, but it isn't far from the truth. 

You can listen to and buy the album here


It's Karma, It's Cool - Homesick For Our Future Destinations


I first started talking to Jim Styring, pre I Don't Hear A Single, in the Popdogs days. The Popdogs were a great Power Pop band at a time when there seemed many great Power Pop bands around, but not especially from the UK. 

Witnessing his development from then, around 2015 I think, has been delightful. It's Karma, It's Cool is still Lincoln based, but the quartet are a very different affair. Their debut album promised much and showed a variety that would appeal to many more than the three chords brigade.

The follow up reveals even more layers. It is a slightly more restrained, even a little darker, album than Woke Up In Hollywood. Homesick For Our Future Directions is even more of a Pop Rock album and shows a great maturity that I never expected all those years ago.

The band are very much a sum of their parts, venturing into all areas, almost Modern Prog on Absent Transient, Universe Of Us edges towards AOR. Future Destinations is a fine and bombastic instrumental closer and Holy Toledo smooches and oozes West Coast Rock.

There's even a nod to the Power Pop Days with the rifftastic Coffee Cup Circles. Many will point out She Slept With The Radio On as the standout here, it is a beautifully arranged song, but I have to go with the splendid Wild Fire Flames. It has everything that you could wish for in a Modern Pop Rock song.

Styring's vocals have always reminded me of Mental As Anything. But he dispels a lot of that here. There's variance in tones and the expertly produced material allows him to demonstrate this. The album is less hectic and really works because of that. It is a corking affair. Highly Recommended!

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


David Brookings - Mania At The Talent Show


After two excellent largely Power Pop albums with the Average Lookings, David Brookings returns to his solo career. Those two band albums sparkled and shined, indeed the second, Scorpio Monologue, was in IDHAS's Best Of 2019 list. You can read the review here.

That riff led period is fine and dandy, but it does have its limitations and Brookings solo provides a much wider canvas to paint on. Thus Mania At The Talent Show is a much more varied affair and reveals layers not seen or noticed in the band albums.

The pace is slowed down allowing Brookings melodic laid back vocals to be appreciated more. His Singer Songwriter excellence has the air to breathe. The melody is as great as ever, the songs are as well written, but they have a much wider soundscape.

He can still do Jangle Guitar Pop as proven by One Of Us Is Crazy (The Other One Is Me). Get Off (My Mind) has a real 60's bouncy studio pop feel and Kill Shot is reminiscent of those great second half of the 70s Pop Rock with its hypnotic guitar. 

The title track fairly bounces along splendidly and the cover of Tom Petty's Magnolia is wonderful. There is also a venture into Psych Pop with the moody Hide Your Crazy. Driving To Ojai is very Middle Of The Road West Coast Rock.

Mania At The Talent Show provides some great harmony moments. It is an album that will Rock you but gently. These 12 songs cover so many bases and the calmness of the songs and the arrangements allows THAT voice to shine. It is a very fine offering that deserves mass attention.

You can buy the album everywhere including David's website here. You can also listen at the streaming sites or on You Tube here.


Friday 19 November 2021

The High Strung - HannaH


Despite being a fan of The High Strung for most of their two decade existence, I had no idea that HannaH existed. Never short of melody and originality, the return of Mark Owen in 2016 and the last album in 2019, Quiet Riots, reinforced that message. It is an absolute gem of an album.

HannaH, however goes back to 2002, before the sessions for the band's debut album, These Are The Good Times. Whilst waiting to go into the studio for those sessions, The High Strung found themselves with 2 weeks free and decided to use the time to record songs to a Teac 80-8 Reel To Reel.

The debut album sessions began and no more was thought of these recordings, until the lockdown. Bass Player, Chad Stocker discovered the tapes and drew them to the attention of the rest of the band and all agreed there was something special about the recordings. 

The band have always been prolific recorders for no other reason than fun and when the tapes were passed to Producer Zach Shipps, all agreed that the end results of his work made a valid release. So we have the official release, 19 years on.

When something like this is generally mentioned, you expect scrappy lo fi outtakes with the odd gem amongst the mediocre. That is certainly not the case here. The recordings were approached differently to the upcoming sessions. There was no pressure and the band recorded them for themselves. 

The result is a really inventive album. Not necessarily as commercial as what was to come, but the trademark melody and wit are combined with real Indie inventiveness. It isn't a long album, 26 minutes, but the 10 songs offer such variety.

Turned It Away is UK Beat that really wants to be Psych and Cored Out Apple is great Noise Pop. Tip Of The Iceberg enters into the territory of The Sugarplastic, yet Beautiful Summer is splendid Psych Pop. That Is All I Want From You could be Merseybeat. 

God Is Good is slashing Garage Pop, but the real gem is Whatever He Wanted, featured on the current IDHAS 10 Song Mix. It is a wonderful slice of Toytown Psych. I respectively suggest that you treat HannaH as a new release. It is exceptional. The fact it was thrown down underlines what a great band The High Strung are. Highly Recommended!

You can listen to and buy the album here. You can find out more about The High Strung here.


Wednesday 17 November 2021

IDHAS Ten Songs Mix 14

We reach Number 14 and this week there are 10 songs in just over 32 minutes. A hint of Psych Pop at times, but that wasn't intentional and this week is certainly Poptastic.

The Mixcloud link is below and at the foot of the page is the Mixcloud Player which takes you directly to the music. Here is the playlist of the ten songs this week :

01 Livingmore - Sharp

02 Dan Vapid & The Cheats - Burning Questions

03 The Verve Pipe - The Witching Hour

04 Fur - The Fine Line Of A Quiet Life

05 Vegetarians & Carnivores - Crippled Dreams

06 The High Strung - Whatever He Wanted

07 The Green Pajamas - Hello, Hello

08 The John Sally Ride - She Doesn't Do Nostalgia

09 The Summer Holiday - What Happens When You Lose

10 Anatomy Class - Reflector Shield

IDHAS Ten Songs Mix 14


RW Hedges - Year After Year


Year After Year is another splendid affair. Gentle, atmospheric, almost Folk at times, but never ever losing its pop sensibility. It does feel very 60s. but is never stuck there and covers a range of genres without ever having to turn the amp up.

Whether the song is weeping like the melancholic Ice In August or the jaunty Baroque Pop of Far And Wide, Hedges voice just washes your aches away. Piece Of String even edges towards a pastoral type of Psych Pop.

She Calls Through The Night is wonderful, Harrison-esque at times and Who's To Care goes all Country, bordering on Americana, not Big Hats thankfully. Travelling Road also has hints of Americana, but the vocal harmonies take it nearer to Pop. 

Hedges masters the high notes with aplomb without ever affecting or forcing the song. Year After Year is a beautiful affair that never gets mawkish. Weathervane may be the best thing on the album and yet it is the quietest.

Producer Luca Nieri co-writes the album and there is a lyrical depth of the album is commendable. The pace of the album, brings out those words and makes you pick them out. This may be RW Hedges fourth album, but the quality doesn't let up. You could even say he gets better and better.

You can listen and buy the album here.


Tuesday 16 November 2021

Dan Vapid & The Cheats - Escape Velocity

I'm not gonna venture into the what and what isn't Punk pit again. Nor bang on about how more people should listen to Pop Punk and not be put off by the label. The genre isn't all about automated vocals, there is some great Pop Rock in there.

Dan Vapid has been involved in noisier, nearer Punk bands, but this isn't one of them. Indeed, Escape Velocity is much much nearer Power Pop if anything. On the likes of Cyber World and Guilt & Relief, there are real justified Green Day comparisons.

There are also examples where the band go even more mainstream, Runaway Jane is a perfect example and Robots edges towards Glam Rock. But for the pace, Tears Are Falling compares even further back to somewhere near Rock n Roll.

Bitter And Soul could even be UK New Wave, it is wonderfully anthemic. Midnight Blue is almost a Campfire song and the only time the band slow down. It is an unexpected close to a fine example of a melodic Guitar Pop album.

Songs Like Burning Question and the superb Come Find Me are Power Pop gems that should appeal to a much wider and older audience. Escape Velocity is a great listen. Big choruses, killer riffs and a band that appears to really enjoy what they are doing. More of this sort of thing please!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Vegetarians & Carnivores - A Day Of Rainbows


Simon Carbery is the Vocalist, Guitarist and Songwriter for the excellent The Wood Demons, a band that doesn't get the credit it deserves. They tread the middle ground between Prog and Psych, but there is very much a Folk slant in what they do.

Vegetarians & Carnivores is Carbery's solo project and whether alone or collaborating, the sound isn't quite as expansive, but takes as many, if not more chances adding even greater variety. This doesn't sound like a debut album, probably helped by the skills honed in The Wood Demons.

Where Do Friends Go is a great piano led affair, fine Pop Rock in the mould of John Howard and even warrants an even more stripped down closing reprise. The song is charm personified, but you shouldn't be lulled into your armchair as the album takes on many directions. 

Crippled Dreams is as fine a slice of Toytown you could wish to hear, wonderfully wacky, yet Option C is an opener that is very Modern Prog. Dubrovnik Rooftiles is cinematic Space Rock and Nation Of Us is like a World Vocal that is similar to Russell Mael's spoken verses. 

Well.... is one of two epics, a song that just builds and builds and ends somewhere near Jazz Rock. Beautiful Tuesday is an absolute Psych masterpiece, but also contains parts that edge towards Pop Rock. It shows that Psych doesn't have to be brutal.

I thought The Wood Demons offered great variety, well there is even more here and the inventiveness shines through. A Day Of Rainbows isn't an album that will suit everyone, but if you want to expand your horizons and taste, you will find it surprisingly soothing and fulfilling. 

It is also worth the admission alone for Crippled Dreams.

You can listen to and buy the album here


Monday 15 November 2021

Hushdrops - The Static


The third Hushdrops album is one tinged with sadness as it has become a tribute to drummer, Joe Camarillo, who died suddenly just before the album was completed. The Chicago threesome were the true definition of the Power Trio.

Although more known for their adventures elsewhere, this supergroup of sorts always sounded most at home together. The playing was almost telepathic at times and the one take nature of the recordings underline that. 

The Rhythm Section of Camarillo and Jim Shapiro underpinned the Lead Guitar of John San Juan allowing the band to veer between Rock, Psych, Indie and even Pop Rock. San Juan's vocal is not a million miles away from Ray Davies and this is prevalent on the likes of Tomorrow Takes The Sun and Monday.

Yet there is a controlled looseness that prevented songs becoming Jams. At times they could resemble Man without the length, never feeling the need to keep a song continuing unnecessarily. San Juan is on fire at times, guitar wise, particularly on the likes of The Lummox and Secrets. Even more so on the awesome I Had A Room.

But Planets and The Sweetest Plum are Pop Gems and Elevator is almost Lounge. One Of The Guys edges into Space Rock and Psychic Space may be the best thing on the album, it's immense. It is, however. the title track that best explains what the band is all about.

If this is the final album, it is a fitting one. One Take stuff can be a warts and all thing, but Hushdrops turn it into an album of depth and versatility. The Static has the knack of providing songs that sound so simple on first listen, but repeated goes continue to reveal hooks that just grip you. Wonderful.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


The John Sally Ride - Now Is Not A Great Time


I've been a friend of Drummer, Sal Nunziato for quite a time. We share the same sense of humour, a mixture of the hilarious and the cynic. I also chat with John Dunbar regularly, mainly about music, we share similar tastes. Sal Maida is someone I admire as a fantastic Bass Player and strangely for someone so melody led, I am always driven to the Bass. His adventures are legendary and he was in Sparks for gods sake. 

So you'd be forgiven for thinking that I'd review and write great things about them. Their second album, Nothing Doing, was in the Top 10 IDHAS albums of 2018, deservedly so and now the third is upon us, inevitably delayed by the obvious.

Dunbar is a fine songwriter with a voice the right side of Power Pop, I've established Maida's credentials and Nunziato is a splendid drummer. There is more though, because there is a fourth member, Joe Pampel, who takes on Lead Guitar duties and this has added a whole new dimension to the sound.

It has brought out the best in both Sal's, inventive bass lines and some great rock drumming. The sound is bigger, wider and the Pop Rock now leans far more towards Rock. That's not saying the Pop isn't still present. The 60's Beat of She Doesn't Do Nostalgia is somewhere between the Small Faces and The Kinks with a solo that is Psych Pop with a slight jangle and some great vocal harmonies. 

That Pop is also present on what was the second single, Putting It Off. which is so so jaunty. You Let Her Break Your Heart Again is a Ballad that musically wants to be Toytown. Is It Over Already cleverly mixes a shuffle with a twang and a Bluesy riff and what about that Bass run?

It is the Rock that grabs you most though. He Doesn't Know That He Snores has Pampel throwing Townshend shapes and I Never Understood (Where I Stood With You) is classic mid 70's Guitar Rock territory on which Pampel excels. 

However my favourite is that first single, Far From Eaten Out, it has been an earworm for nigh on two years and is still a fantastic song. So the Power Trio have become an even more powerful Quartet, brilliantly so. Another point to make is Dunbar's lyrical strength matched up with some unusual song titles. This album transcends the Pop Rock label that the band have. I think "Top Notch" is the phrase that you are looking for. 

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Sunday 14 November 2021

The Green Pajamas - Sunlight Might Weigh Even More


Jeff Kelly is never less than interesting, but it does seem a while since we've had a Psych Pop album from The Green Pajamas. Their last album, Phantom Lake. was a much darker affair and that was three years ago, so this has been an unusual gap from then. 

For someone so diverse, it has always been his Psych that has appealed to me the most. Few can touch The Green Pajamas on that Road and Sunlight Might Weigh Even More is more in Strung Behind The Sun territory and that's without even mentioning the similarity in album titles.

This is Psych Pop with the emphasis on Psych and it is just wonderful. That's not to say that there isn't any straight ahead material. I'd Rather Be In The Sun is a lovely ballad, Down To The Ocean is great Pop Rock and Falling In And Out Of Love has a gentle jangly vibe.

But it is the Psych that is most prevalent and it falls into two categories. The poppier elements such as That's Why Celia Can't Fly, the Donovan like Lovers Lease and the Kink's Village like Hello, Hello. Then there are the longer Psych trips.

High Tea With Miss Ava G is so mid 60s with its Indian vibe and Just To This is in tripped out White album territory, splendidly so. This all adds to what is The Green Pajama's best album in ages. The talent of Kelly has no end, but he is at his best here.

That's Why Celia Can't Fly is the type of song that The Green Pajamas master, but seem to do less and less and Art School 1979 is similarly wonderfully laid back, but grabs your attention.There is even an unlisted track 17 which is a popped up version of the stripped down I'd Rather Be In The Sun. Totally Superb!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Livingmore - Take Me


It's maybe just me, but I've been waiting all year for a great Female fronted Indie Pop Rock band to come to the forefront. Something that wasn't Dream Pop whispering or shouty Indie Rock would do it and now we have that with this West Coast quartet.

I suppose that people will position them somewhere between Blondie and Garbage, but Alex Moore's vocals take Livingmore in far greater directions. Yes, Got me Feelin' Like edges towards Garbage without the angst, but on Neighbors her vocal nears The Seekers more than an another noise feat.

At the heart of Take Me is great Pop Rock, big choruses, great riffs and then there is THAT voice. I Know It's A Smile sums up what they are about with its Pop that can grab the younger audience whilst appealing to the generation above.

Sharp is a killer opener, very 80's in its feel, but compare that to Dramatic which is very Glasgow. Closer enters 90's College Rock, yet on Rays, Scott sounds more like a Torch Singer. Then there is the closer, Dreams On Fire which is almost a Brit Pop anthem.

There really is so much variety here that it is hard to see what direction the next album will take. That follow up is planned for a February release, so we will soon know. Take me though is an outstanding offering. Everything attempted works brilliantly.

Livingmore are at their catchiest with the Guitar Pop of Bummer and the aforementioned, Sharp, but it is the diversions that are the most interesting. The future looks so bright for this lot and I can't wait for February. What a great album!

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


The Verve Pipe - Threads


Oh how I love The Verve Pipe and they are back in a big way. This is their ninth album, but it hasn't always been plain sailing for me as a critical fan. In earlier days, they fought with The Sugarplastic to take XTC's crown, but then it seemed to take a left turn, not helped by Underneath being released in the week of 9/11. 

Then came the kids albums, pleasant enough, but hardly fulfilling, a bit like a McDonald's Meal. Add in a mixture of line up changes and good, but not great, albums in Overboard and Parachute. My loyalty never wavered. In a similar vein to Cheap Trick, there were killer songs, but you yearned for a great, consistent album. They came good and now so have The Verve Pipe. 

I never ever doubted Brian Vander Ark, but something was out of kilter. The return of brother, Brad after nearly two decades may be a partial explanation. Even more so is the addition of Lee Channing who appears to have an influence on the album and the chemistry seems to have returned. 

Threads is a wonderful album. The Andy Partridge references will certainly be mentioned by reviewers, but there is also a more mainstream side to parts of the album. Love Will Find You Again is an example of this. Vander Ark offers up a Peter Gabriel like vocal and Channing's backing vocals add weight as does her Nashville influence with the slight twang.

You Deserve Whatever Comes Around has hints of Psych Pop and 60's UK Beat whilst also sailing close to Arc Of A Diver era Stevie Winwood. The duet on The Freeze is a cracking slice of Americana and Found is in Simon And Garfunkel territory.

These songs still reveal Vander Ark's mastery of lyrics, but the instrumentation isn't as angular as past times and that really works. The strings on Set Me On Fire are haunting. There are also plenty reminders of that ability to twist a song in the way latter day XTC did.

The Witching Hour is a great example of this, as is Forever Reaching. Then there's No One's Gonna Break This Heart (Again) is an epic 5 minutes. This isn't an album that is like Villains, but it is every bit as great. just in a very different way. The Verve Pipe have matured splendidly. Highly Recommended!

You can listen to the album here. You can buy the album everywhere.


Monday 8 November 2021

IDHAS Ten Songs Mix 13

It's that time again. 13 may be unlucky for some, but not you lot (See what I did there blah blah etc etc?). 10 songs from the UK, US and Australia for your delight. Our favourite songs this week provide 38 minutes of musical goodness. 

The Mixcloud link is below and at the foot of the page is the Mixcloud Player which takes you directly to the music. Here is the playlist of the ten songs this week :

01 Andrew Taylor And The Harmonizers - When I Don't Understand

02 Reigning Sound - A Little More Time

03 Kid Gulliver - Stupid Little Girl

04 The Successful Failures - It Goes Away

05 Aliens - Liberation Road

06 The Reflectors - Radio Signals

07 David Brookings - Magnolia

08 West Coast Music Club - Long Goodbye

09 Well Wishers - Growing Old

10 Even - Starlight Caravan

IDHAS Ten Songs Mix 13


Sunday 7 November 2021

Andrew Taylor And The Harmonizers - Andrew Taylor And The Harmonizers


Three or four of us writers joke about how there are periods when every band are compared to another so much that it becomes cliched and ends up with completely inappropriate comparisons. We've seen it with XTC, Jellyfish, Nada Surf and currently, Guided By Voices.

But none of these compare to the number that used to get compared to Teenage Fanclub. Now that that has died down, it seems ok to mention TFC again and the band that has always been closest (and maybe have even surpassed them) are Dropkick. 

I've mentioned before how consistently great the band are, but I'm also in admiration of Andrew Taylor's adventures away from the band. His soothing gentle vocal lights up all of his projects and this is no exception.

I've spent 2021 praising artists who avoided the lockdown offering up something lo fi that suitably tells you how sad the year has made them. The Harmonizers have done just that and the trio of fellow Dropkick mate, Ian Grier, Iain Sloan and brother Alastair Taylor should be applauded for this.

The sound is exemplary and in many parts, the album sounds like a Dropkick album. But there is a difference and that is Sloan's wonderful Pedal Steel. This emphasises the difference and the variation. It marks out the Country Rock and Americana. It even makes some of the Guitar Pop in to something different.

The simplistic way to describe the album in general terms is it being like a cross between early Eagles and latter day TFC. The best example of the Country Guitar Pop that I mentioned is the magnificent, Life Is Good. Many of the songs are equal to it, but none would make a better opener.

I could make the case for any song, but for the reason of brevity only, I'll pick out the deviations from the norm. I'll Never Win is all Gerry Rafferty. Everything's Really The Same follows that trend with its melancholic Stealers Wheel feel. The vocal is even a ringer for the Egan - Rafferty Voice blend.

Roundabout is very Doolin' Dalton in style, It's About Time is a stripped down joy and For This To Pass is an absolute Tour de Force, a perfect example of how Pop can be more complicated than it appears and yet still be incredibly melodic.

For all of this variety, it is strangely the two most Dropkick like songs that appeal most. When I Don't Understand and Older are those and the latter mixes Jangle Pop with Pedal Steel. The vocal harmonies should also get a mention. The whole album is welcoming top notch fayre. 

You can listen to and pre-order the album here.


Kid Gulliver - Kismet


There is definitely not enough chipper music around. The Covid lockdown in particular encouraged Angsty songs. Applause should therefore ring out for Kid Gulliver who spent 2020 with six upbeat releases that are collated here.

The Boston quartet are fronted by Simone Berk and her sugar sweet vocal certainly lends itself to the material. The Power Pop slant of the songs will likely lead to lazy comparisons to Rachel Sweet, Kirsty MacColl et al. Truth be known Kid Gulliver are more like a faster version of The Corner Laughers.

Yes there is the jaunty sing along pop that you would imagine on the likes of Susie Survived Chemotherapy, but there is also some great variety on show. The Corner Laughers comparison is most relevant on Lila Dreams.

But, Boy In A Bubble has a killer mid 80's riff part Jangle, part Goth. Carousel has Psych Pop touches and Beauty School Dropout sounds very Go-Go's. I Wanna be A Pop Star is in The Rubinoos territory and Gimme Some Go could be on the Two Tone label.

Special mention should be given to the poptastic Stupid Little Girl and a particularly inspired cover of The Bee Gees' I Started A Joke. Forget About Him is a ringer for a Stiff Compilation and has a great Jangly riff. There isn't one duff track amongst the eleven.

The songwriting of David Armilotti is top notch. Great pop songs, but unlike many, the lyrics are not from a rhyming dictionary. There is a real depth to the words, that just adds to the enjoyment. A great debut album, full of fun. I can't wait for more. 

You can listen to and buy the album here.


The Successful Failures - James Cotton Mather


The Successful Failures have never made an album that isn't engaging, so they are not going to start now. They are a quartet from Trenton, New Jersey who specialise in an Indie-ish Rock with a difference. The difference being that they can easily switch into Americana, even Country, instantly.

This is largely due to Mick Chorba's vocal which has a twang that makes that quite simple. The Rock has at times leant towards a noisier version of Power Pop, but not here. This is a Rock album, wonderfully so, beautifully constructed, an absolute gem of an offering.

All the hooks are still here, but this is more of a heads down affair that will translate splendidly to the live stage, an area where the band truly excel. The band just don't come up for air which suits me because I prefer them most in this mode.

There are still nods to the Power Pop, particularly on Tiger Gravel Opposition Child and there is more than enough variation to keep all interested. For instance, Little Ivan goes all Ry Cooder and Freedom Within is particularly anthemic.

Hand Grenades is a ringer for The Black Crowes and Old Man River is almost spat out via a fine vocal. Let The Power Go Through You even hints at Glam Rock. But it is the power of the songs that shines through. This is above all, a Plugged In Guitar album. Riffs fly from everywhere.

The band is the sum of its parts, but Chorba has such a distinct voice that is just so easy to listen to. The album is a concept album about James Cotton Mather and nautical in its thread. But the songs stand up individually. I thought I couldn't love The Successful Failures any more than I do. I've discovered that I can. This is superb.

You can listen to and buy the album here.