REVIEWS – NEW MUSIC
Plus we rate and review new releases by Lenny Kravitz, The Loud, Jim Ward, The Wolfmen and Stringer Bessant.
Remember to check into rushonrock every Sunday for the latest news on the best new records.
Talk about a multi-talented musician capable of turning his hand to anything! Not content with teaching himself to tinkle the ivories and master the fret board, Jim Ward has also gone on to play in influential post-hardcore acts At The Drive-In and Sparta – but the story of this true trendsetter doesn’t end there.
This incredible selection of diverse, often folky solo material brings together three EPs-plus worth of material and offers another invaluable insight into an artists right at the top of his game. Sharing a label with Frank Turner, it seems Ward also shares a canny knack for uplifting songwriting and pin-sharp social commentary.
Trying to take in the 20 tracks here in one sitting is simply brain frazzling. But taken a few tunes at a time and it’s obvious that Ward has always had so much more to offer than he’s been able to deliver with his day job bands. The U2 meets Verve soundscape of Mystery Talks is simply magnificent but you could dive into any of the songs here and discover something to admire.
Xtra Mile have a happy habit of delivering some of the most relevant music of the 21st century and you can add Ward’s solo work to that influential canon. Songs like This Love Has Gone Away and Decades are deliciously moving and provide the perfect soundtrack to those lazy late summer nights. SR
rushonrock rated: 7/10 A-Ward Winning
Two quarters of 90s rockers Reef continue to defy expectations and deliver some of the finest folk rock we’ve heard in years.
After the underground success of last year’s 8/10 rushonrock rated debut Yard there’s been a clamour for more from the acoustic guitar-wielding duo and the immersive Wild Day EP more than fills the void before full-length record number two.
Kicking off with a song called Mellow might well put off all but the most enlightened of rock fans but don’t prejudge. Sure, there’s not a Reef-like riff in sight but then for those off us largely underwhelmed by that band this is the proverbial breath of fresh air.
That luscious opener evokes memories of Led Zeppelin’s finer moments and the quality just keeps on coming. The brief but brilliant Cross The Valley is classic StringerBessant (if you can be classic after just one full-length record) and the live version of Give Me The Keys, one of the standout tracks from Yard, is spine-tingling stuff. Lovely stuff. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Wild At Heart
Sandwiched somewhere between glam rock and post-punk this Liverpudlian trio sound as if they really could be the next big thing. Wearing their hearts on their sleeves The Loud show no hint of shame as they raid decades of guitar-driven classics to mix their own addictive, hybrid brew.
Lead single Amy’s Gonna Get You is certainly representative of what the band do best – foot-stomping glammed up ambition which will have Mott-loving Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott rushing to sign them just as soon as his acclaimed side project Down N Outz hit the road again.
A Little Taste Of Home is just a touch generic but it’s easy to forgive The Loud the odd blip as this mystical mini album generally oozes potential and pays fulsome tribute to everyone from T Rex to The Yardbirds and any number of early 80s punky chart botherers.
There will be likely pressure on Pennington Lee (vocals/guitar), Matthew Freeman (bass) and Leroy Oxton to hone their band’s sound and find a renewed focus once the follow-up to Harris Shutter is imagined but then that would be a crying shame. It’s the fact that The Loud favour diversity and courage that makes their music so exciting in 2011. SR
rushonrock rated: 8/10 Loud & Proud
Miami, Florida might often be associated with lager-swilling, jock pin-heads at Spring Break but when it comes to metal, the region has always remained a forte for death metal. This is where Black Tide come in and prove that they don’t entirely stratify themselves to fit the mold in either sense.
The four-piece, who pay a big homage to Bullet For My Valentine with minimal nudges to Funeral For A Friend, have crafted a moderately enjoyable record in second album Post Mortem.
Funnily enough, vocalist Matt Tuck of the aforementioned Welsh metalcore giants makes a guest appearance on opening effort Ashes – an angsty cry with emo-filled sentiment and backing urban rawks of a more hardcore nature. The collaboration will undoubtedly put them further onto the metal map despite being one of the poorer tracks on the record in comparison to Black Tide’s work as a tight collective force.
Metalcore is such an overdone genre to say the very least, but these guys are somewhat distanced from being stuffed into that breakdown-obsessed pigeon-hole. There are tinges of melodic soloing and importantly – less annoying vocals. Gabriel Garcia remains honest to his own pipes and evidently places the creation of his own personalised, down-to-earth vocals above any fad-mongering or trend-following.
That Fire even shows Black Tide making a momentary move away from their core exploits, with a bumpy hard rock chorus and groovy edge. Fight ‘Till The Bitter End is the uplifting tune of the record that focuses on the increasingly melodic nature of the Floridian act – almost tipping into ballady territory in its conviction. While this record is primarily well-produced and with slight twists, it isn’t moving radically away from anything that has been done before in the new wave of teen metalcore that has been bustling through (mostly the UK) in recent times.
This one is essential for the mad Bullet-nut. It’s as exclusive as that. CR
rushonrock rated: 5/10 Tide And Exhausted
The Wolfmen have all the social associations and musical connections to promise much, but truthfully, they could challenge themselves so much more and surely boast something far more impacting than Married To The Eiffel Tower.
This second record from the London five-piece isn’t bad, it’s just bland for the second half – and that’s what is increasingly frustrating about it.
Forming the band in 2005, guitarist Marco Pirroni (former Adam & The Ants, Siouxsie & The Banshees) and bassist Chris Constantinou (former Jackie On Acid) make up an unlikely coming together of minds. Pair that with Courtney Taylor-Taylor of Dandy Warhols fame handling post-production mixing on many of the songs and a guest appearance from Sinead O’Connor – you’ve got yourself a tingling, eclectic mix of stars.
Shifting the stigmatised hindsight we’ve accumulated, Married To The Eiffel Tower starts the record promisingly with a hazy layer of flute giving psychedelic effect over a drifting, free-rolling rock structure. Mr Sunday continues the good run of form with a foot-stomping thick bass line that provides the foundation of energetic charge, bursting with enigmatic guitar picking and charismatic vocals. In fact, Constantinou’s bass hooks are a pleasure throughout the record and one of the firm constants, achieved by a fusion of catchiness and funky candescence.
A cover of a B-side Velvet Underground tune is also impressive on the first half of this album. I’m Not Young Anymore is revived with intricately picked guitar lines, bluesy piano and a fresh variety of percussion including even the smallest, yet most effective usage of maracas.
Unfortunately it’s downhill from there on. Wam Bam JFK doesn’t allude to a disgusting standard immediately, but certainly the song is a step down from previous proceedings. July 20 lacks a real spine and whirrs by on record as if it weren’t there and Coca Cola Kid is bordering on pretentiously silly in its weak Velvet attempt. CR
rushonrock rated: 5/10 Wolfmen In Sheep’s Clothing
There was a time when Lenny Kravitz, and more especially his legions of super cool fans, would have cringed at the the thought of his latest single hitting the Radio Two playlist.
Yet it’s a mark of the man, and a sign of the times, that his PR machine is glorying in the fact that middle-aged Britain will be hearing the inoffensive and decidedly summery strains of Stand on a regular basis in between Ken Bruce’s Pop Master and Chris Evans’ childish chit chat.
That Kravitz has matured into Mr Mainstream is no criticism. It’s just that, as a recording artist at least, he’s no longer the exciting, ambitious and rocky icon of yesteryear. If you want to remember the guitar hero as exactly that then go see Lenny live – in front of his die-hard devotees he still comes across more ‘rock n roll’ than ‘sold his soul’ and there are few better performers in the business.
Where his albums are concerned Kravitz has long since eschewed plans to become a latter day Jimi Hendrix cum James Brown and these days he unashamedly challenges Red Hot Chili Peppers, Coldplay, Train et al for the enormodome market and with Black And White America he does a brilliant job.
The title track is bouncy enough – with just enough political comment to be classed as Kravitz cool – but Rock Star City Life is even better. It’s a tune Lady Ga Ga would love to call her own and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that the pair could pop up delivering this as the ultimate duet in the coming months.
BAWA might be overlong with occasional fillers spoiling the true killers but the liberal helpings of piano, trippy jazz and Kravitz’s trademark raspy blues rock vocals make for an eclectic and engaging record. His collaboration with Drake on the superb Sunflower is a genuine highlight on an album which marks a new creative high for the veteran singer songwriter.
This might not be Lenny how you remember him as a late 80s MTV dangerman but he’s still got the charisma and ear for a tune that always made him such an essential listen. Recognising the right way forward in 2011 he manages to marry a latent desire for commercial success with artistic merit to reinforce a reputation that deserves respect. And surely that’s about all Kravitz can possibly do? SR
rushonrock rated: 9/10 Back In Black And White