Category Archives: Review

Music Review – Darlia – I’ve Never Been to Ohio

Only two to go after this before I’ll have to start writing some original content!


Like Darlia, I’ve Never Been to Ohio either, however unlike them it had never crossed my mind to write a song about it.

The Blackpool, UK based three piece are doing their best to bring Rock back to the masses. Their first EP Knock Knock had an awesome triplet of Grunge/Punk hustling on it, with singer and guitarist Nathan Day sounding like Alex Turner and Kurt Cobain had been genetically spliced and made to share a voice box. Day also appears to have purloined a time machine, travelled back to 2010, and misappropriated Noel Fielding’s wardrobe and make-up artist.

The new song is a little more laid back than their previous work, starting with an Alice in Chains face-full of noise and rarely letting up to allow the listener to take in the brazen dropped tuning and Dave Williams’ overdriven bassline, which powers the track forward. Jack Bentham keeps time well, without doing anything too extravagant to dampen the energy of the song. While being no Matt Cameron, he certainly has a few more drumming chops than, say, Ringo Starr when The Beatles started out.

As the track barrels along you start to get hints of other influences, indie, baggy, even dance makes itself known through the repeating words of the chorus, but at heart it truly is a rock song. Pounding, heavy chords and a youthful exuberance smack you in the face from start to finish.

Up to this point, EPs have been the raison d’etre of Darlia, and it’s worked well for them. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that Petals, their first full length album being released on the 23rd of February, can encompass the passion and excitement of their previous short form factor releases. I’m certainly looking forward to finding out!


Music Review – The Phantoms – Wasting Time

I only have a few of these left in the archive, from the old and no-longer with us Semplesize site.

I started off being disappointed with this track but The Phantoms managed to change my mind in three minutes and fifty eight seconds.


Oh, a new Editors track, is what I thought as the guitar introduced itself, then the bass and drums started and I became confused because it sounded like Lars Ulrich had joined in on the drums along with Jason Narducy adding his bass playing expertise. Finally the singing cut in and I realised that Paul Smith from Maxïmo Park had lost his Geordie accent.

But then I removed the preconception hat I had been wearing and quickly discovered that what I was hearing was Wasting Time, the new single from The Phantoms. While initially sending mixed messages the song quickly gets into its stride and wonderfully collides all the disparate parts into one glorious whole.

The amount of noise they make is impressive, even for a four piece and this is obviously what they want, as the Bio page on their website leads with the headline “And then, there was rawk…” One reviewer likened them to Oasis, but that, I think, is doing a great disservice to The Phantoms. The guitar, bass and drums work together to make a fantastic grunge inflected backing to a song which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in 1992, if Colin Simpson’s accent was from Seattle rather than West Lothian in Scotland.

Even the middle eight brings to mind some of Soundgarden’s more serene twiddling, but then it’s back to the out and out, shake you by the teeth rock music. After a final flourish, the track even finishes with slowly diminishing feedback, seemingly from every instrument including the drums.

Throughout the song you are strongly recommended to “make up your mind”. Well I have, this track is brilliant!


Music Review – Tired Lion – I Don’t Think You Like Me

Another review I did for the dearly departed Semplesize site.

At this point I had done about five other reviews for the site but this was the first track that really leaped out and grabbed me by the throat, so much so that I subsequently bought their album – Dumb Days – which is as good as I hoped it would be from this track.


The first thing that strikes you about Tired Lion is that they have managed to find a fantastic name for their band. When you hit the play button you also discover that they have managed to find an absolutely brilliant sound, part Sonic Youth, part Pixies, they have harvested all the best bits from the explosion of alternative rock that was a soundtrack to the early part of the 1990s.

Now, having said that I’m going to change tack somewhat and say that I Don’t Think You Like Me starts off with a riff that is ever so slightly reminiscent of the best ever Electric Six song, Naked Pictures of your Mother. As it continues the guitar’s morph into those of Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, slapping you in the face with their rough and ready, “listen to me” overdriven feedback.

When Sophie Hopes starts singing the transformation into a band all of their own is complete and the fun, already at a jelly and ice cream kids party level, increases to a headshaking, jumping off a cliff altitude. Her vocals easily equal those of Romily Alice and the song would nicely fit on a CD entitled The Best of CBGBs.

The only problem facing the band is they reside in one of the most remote cities on the planet. Which is Perth, in case your geography isn’t all it should be. Therefore, as well as struggling with the normal emerging artist conundrums of self-promotion, wondering where your next meal is going to come from, paying to play and wondering if any of your music is being listened to, they also have to contend with the fact that, to play more than a dozen gigs they are going to have to travel at least 2,000 km to reach the next major city (Adelaide, people!).

Hopefully the topographical hurdles don’t get in the way, as I would like nothing more than to see Tired Lion wake the world up with their very modern take on classic alternative rock. Oh, and by the way they’re wrong, I do like them, very much!



Music Review – Van Dale – Bed of Bricks

Another review I did for the now post-mortem Semplesize site.

Looking back, I may have been a bit harsh on these guys, but after another listen I stand by my assertion that they were a bit of a one trick pony!


It’s over 20 years since Weezer bought out their seminal, self-titled, power pop debut, and for this new song they’ve gone back to their roots… Oh, hang on, sorry, really???

Um, alright. Let me start again.

Van Dale wear their influences on their sleeves. Not necessarily a bad thing, but if you only have one influence it can be a bit limiting. Originally released in 2013 as track two of the (unsurprisingly) self-titled debut album, Bed of Bricks was arguably the best track on the 26 minute, long player.

Of course, Weezer have now been doing this for 23 years, they have changed, developed and, arguably, improved with age, whereas Van Dale are inextricably stuck in the quagmire of early nineties post-rock.

Not that I’m unpleased listening to this song, it brings back some fantastic memories of times gone by, but unlike In The Garage or Buddy Holly I don’t know this song like the neck of my heavily worn acoustic guitar. The recollections are false and so it leaves me with a slightly bitter aftertaste.

The amazing thing is that two of the members are also involved in Way Yes, a much more chilled out affair and, to be honest, more creative and exciting than Van Dale. Not that I want to dissuade the band from making and releasing more stuff, I’d be interested to see how this alternate reality version of the godfathers of nerd rock develops over time.

If reissuing the album is a start to getting their creative juices flowing again to make more music, then I hope they find themselves some other bands to listen to. If, however, they are just going to refabricate something from Rivers and his compatriots then there is only one way to finish.

Say It Ain’t So!



Music Review – Furr – Think Sharp Kid

Another post from the sadly defunct Semplesize site.

Last news from Furr was a new single out in 2019, but the link to their website doesn’t seem to work any more. ☹

I hope they’re still together, ’cause this single kicked some serious backside!

 


 

I hope you weren’t sleeping ’cause Furr are about to wake you up in no uncertain terms. The kick drum which introduces Think Sharp Kid might as well be a high velocity foot to your temple, followed very closely by a grunge inspired riff which slaps your face until you are fully cognisant.

Jack Byrne starts off by telling us to “dream small son, it don’t matter if you don’t make nothing to be proud of,” triple negative notwithstanding, he launches into it with gusto and seems to have fun bouncing back and forth between falsetto and tenor as the Electrix Six-a-like bass line carries the song along in the background.

In the first chorus we’re asked to believe that “an original idea is what I need,” but this is one thing that Furr are not short of. Leeds in the UK still seems to be one of the major breeding grounds for original rock music and this track sounds a little like the Josh Homme produced Arctic Monkeys effort Humbug, however unlike Alex Turner, Byrne doesn’t show any hint of a provincial accent instead going for a more Middle American drawl, but it suits the music like fine bamboo suits a panda.

In a small nod to the resurgence of all things Star Wars; fuzzy glow sticks hang around the heads of the band as they beat their instruments into submission. The middle eight consists of the song title being sung by Jack while Sam Jackson, Guy Read and John Roberts grasp bunches of the aforementioned light strips and shout the words back in response, looking vaguely like they want to break into an off kilter killer rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.

In conclusion I only have one thing to say to Furr – Shut up and take my money!

 


 


Music Review – Snow Patrol – Wildness (Album)

On the surface, Snow Patrol seem a bit too easy listening to be on my playlist, but there has always been a dark undertone to their words that resonates with me.

Add to this the fact that not all their songs are quite as slow and melodic – take Starfighter Pilot, Wow or Hands Open – this final one being a song my band used to cover; they have a hard edge which occasionally elbows its way through the mildness.

Which takes us nicely to their newest album, Wildness. Going through the gamut of human existence, the first song, Life on Earth, starts with a family memory which tells that there was snow as high as he was during Gary Lightbody’s first winter, some of my own first memories are of that winter and the way the world looks dressed in white.

Almost a concept album, the word Wildness crops up in a number of the songs and seems indicative of the shape of Lightbody’s current state of mind. This isn’t really surprising as he has been having to cope with the onset and progression of his Father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This is laid bare as we head towards the last few tracks in Soon, a song which both breaks your heart and makes you proud to be part of our species.

The overall feeling you get from the album is a call to arms and a directive to take life by the throat, for instance Don’t Give In is an emotional plea to not let life get you down, Heal Me is about being broken but doing it together and A Youth Written In Fire is about having someone believe in you. So it’s not all doom and gloom.

While tracks like Wild Horses and A Dark Switch have hints of Songs For Polar Bears and When It’s All Over We Still Have To Clear Up about them, the overall feeling of this album is closer to the “anthemic” feel that Lightbody was going for when Final Straw and Eyes Open were written. The tracks pummel you with their heartfelt intensity and leave you feeling battered and bruised.

If this album doesn’t win awards for its song writing then there is something wrong with the world.


Music Review – Bad Moon Born – Chemical Lullabies EP

It’s been a while since I posted one of my old music reviews, so I thought it was about time I got back to it. This is actually the first one to go up since the sad passing of Soundgarden lead singer Chris Cornell, which just makes it worse 😦

Original was on Semplesize, but the site fell to bits a while back so this is the only place to see this now.

 


 

I remember being really excited back in 2001 when I heard Chris Cornell was in the studio with Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk to create something really interesting. When the album came out it wasn’t so much anything new as the singer from Soundgarden doing his thing over the lead and rhythm sections of Rage Against The Machine. Admittedly the three albums were pretty good, but more of an interesting aside than a ground-breaking new genre of music.

Nine years after Audioslave bit the dust, Bad Moon Born are releasing their Chemical Lullabies EP and it’s a shameless and technically less accomplished copy of any of Audioslave’s albums. Frank Lakoudis tries really hard to copy Cornell’s vocal range and presence but falls short most of the time, Voya and Ned Koncar do with two guitars what Tom Morello managed all by himself…without any digital effects, and the drums and bass are just sad imitations of anything by the rock/rap heavyweights.

While this EP isn’t bad, as such, I think your ears would thank you more for searching out things like the Street Sweeper Social Club (Morello’s ongoing collaboration with Boots Riley), The Last Internationale (which Brad Wilk has drummed for on an ad hoc basis), WAKRAT (Tim Commerford’s latest sweary, punky, jazzy explosion) or even the newly reformed Soundgarden (enough said). All four are more interesting than Bad Moon Born’s derivative, middle-of-the-road, decade old sound.

I’ve got better things to do with my time!

 


 


Music Review – The Love Junkies – I Had A Party Once

I liked this song!

Originally published on Semplesize, which disappeared some while ago!

 


 

I had a Party Once should have a warning on it to ensure that agoraphobic morose teenagers don’t inadvertently listen to it and start self-harming.

The rough and ready guitars drive the song along like a bulldozer, smashing anything that gets in the way and demolishing any chances you might have had of actually enjoying your next soiree. It feels a bit like The Love Junkies once had a bad experience at a social gathering and want to make sure everyone else gets to share the hurt.

Like the bastard child of Weezer and Lesley Gore, this single holds your attention through the medium of grabbing you by the throat and beating your head off the nearest pointy rock. If you don’t listen to the words it sounds fairly cheerful in a minor key, dropped beat kind of way. But tuning in to any particular line will bring words like “funeral”, “masochistic”, “alcoholic”, “lonely” into focus and make you wish you hadn’t concentrated as hard.

Mitch McDonald seems to be really enjoying himself, in an extroverted introvert kind of way and you just hope that he isn’t drawing on his own experiences when he puts pen to paper.

So, in conclusion, this song is amazing!!!

The only thing lacking, in my opinion, is a really rip-roaring solo which could happily be plugged in before the middle eight gets going, but even so I Had a Party Once is a stonking three minutes and twenty six seconds of math rock which I would take great pleasure in turning up loud the next time I throw a party of my own.

 


 

 


Music Review – The Desert Sea – Elevator

My first ever rock concert was at the tender age of 16. Me and my best friend were, at the time, big (but not in stature) fans of the fundamental heavy metal band – Iron Maiden. As I recall it was very loud and Bruce Dickinson accidentally got himself stuck on top of the massive amplifier stack and had some trouble getting down again.

Now, 26 years later and my tastes have moved on somewhat, I still occasionally fire up some Living Colour or Megadeth, but Maiden – although talented – just don’t really seem to have moved on very far in the 41 years since they formed, so for me at least they just don’t really do it anymore.

The above goes some way to explaining why I chose to do this review, I couldn’t believe that anybody could be so fixated on 80s heavy metal that they try to reproduce it, down to the last screeching guitar solo hammering-off-and-on.

Originally published on Semplesize, which disappeared some while ago!

 


 

Starting off like they fell over a Japanese Voyeurs track then remembered they really like Iron Maiden – The Desert Sea’s latest single, Elevator is Proper Metal in the greatest eighties; not certain I should be taking this seriously?; is that Robert Plant?; I thought The Darkness weren’t playing anymore?; sense.

Hailing from Sydney, this hasn’t stopped the band gathering inspiration from every single Heavy Metal icon from the beginning of time to the present day. Their influences are listed as QOTSA, The Raconteurs and Soundgarden which, to a degree, I can agree with because all three of these heavyweights’ influences come from the heyday of long haired guitar screeching chug rock and blues.

Don’t get me wrong, this sounds fresh and interesting but is also reminiscent of so many other bands that it’s hard to identify where the originality takes over from the genuflection to days gone by.

This is the kind of track I could imagine lots of (very) young people jumping about to in a rock club while the more mature metal-heads look on, bemused, from the side lines nursing their bottles of Hahn Super Dry and mumbling about Led Zeppelin.

The solo sounds very much like Dave Murray was pointed at a guitar and told to “just do what you do”. The rest of the song doesn’t deviate too far from the basic heavy metal archetypes of twiddly guitars and throaty choruses.

That said, if you like Metal you shouldn’t be disappointed. Rock on!

 


 


Music Review – Bob Mould – Patch The Sky

I have to admit to being a big fan of Bob Mould, so when his new album was streamed online in March earlier this year I decided that Semplesize could do with letting its readers know exactly why Bob Mould is a rock god!

Originally published on Semplesize, which sadly disappeared some time ago!

 


 

After forty years in the music business you might think Bob Mould would have run out of ideas, but no! Patch the Sky is his thirteenth solo album, twenty-sixth if you consider his Hüsker Dü and Sugar efforts, and although you know what you are getting (power-pop and screeching guitar solos) it is still as emotionally and musically volatile as any of his other work.

With such a large back catalogue and so many influences and styles, he effortlessly segues between hardcore punk and pop tinged dance, then screaming like a space shuttle punches through rock music clouds into the vacuum of easy listening space. I think I lost my metaphor somewhere along the way there…

In the grand scheme of things, Patch the Sky is just another Bob Mould album –Mould has influenced just about every rock band since 1979, names such as The Pixies, Nirvana, Green Day, Ryan Adams, No Age, the Foo Fighters and others too innumerable to mention cite him as a major part of their decision to make music – so “just another Bob Mould album” is an event worthy of more than an unobtrusive press release and a few underground murmurings from hardcore fans.

Standout tracks on the first listen are Daddy’s Favourite – distortion and angst, Black Confetti – wonderful offbeat drums define the song, and Monument – speaking directly to your psyche, closes the album on an introspective note.

I’ll be buying this, I would strongly recommend you do too!