Thursday, May 28, 2009

VALIS - Dark Matter (Small Stone)


VALIS
Dark Matter
Small Stone

If you think Monster Magnet’s lost its mojo, let VALIS mess with your mind. The Seattle band (led by Van Conner, formerly of Screaming Trees) does the cosmic thunder boogie better than pretty much anybody these days. That said, though the band’s third album is named after a prominent astrophysical theory, the songs here seem tied less to galactic travel than more terrestrial and spiritual concerns. Daylight in the Swamps and Grapevine Earthquake dig into the mud, and biblical allusions drive a lot of the lyrics (Resurrection Sickness, Under Satan’s Will, Blood on Blood, Hands of Grace). But let’s face it: salvation/damnation metaphors ain’t why we listen to VALIS. We hearken to this band for its relentlessly grooving, melodically crunchy riff-rock, which has never been more potent than it is here. On top of that, Conner’s voice has gotten stronger, which is a good thing for the surprisingly pretty acoustic track Everyone Sun. I hesitate to say Dark Matter is VALIS’s best album so far, but the evidence sure seem to point in that direction.

- Michael Toland

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band - The Whole Fam Damnily
SideOneDummy

Stifle the yawn n’ yell, lay yours hands on, holler n’ join the throng. In the overpopulated realms of revival blues and those rockabilly and garage bands with the brass neck, if not brass slide, to apply the reverend tag to their sorry behinds this real old time street corner hollerin’ truly is as authentic as can be, not least with this reverend actually being one, like Blind Willie Johnson. They even recorded this album in a church just down the road from their home. This family trio hail and hoover up a lot of miles from right outta rural Indiana (Brown County, pop. 832), having sold all their worldly possessions and packed up for life on the boards and in boarding houses, with the main man ministering through Resonator and slide, wifey Breezy on washboard and brother Jayme on drums. There’s absolutely no reason to suspect otherwise and even if they have constructed a whole new facade like the White Stripes then on the strength of this colossal onslaught it doesn’t matter a spilt drip. Having been adopted by several different musical sects since meeting Celt-punks Flogging Molly, ultimately resulting in them signing with this indie and punk label, this is the sort of blues unrecognisable to the slick stylists that clutter the boards of that circuit. It isn’t too hard to discern their attraction to punks and rockabillys either, with the rollicking 2/4 rhythms and accounts of everyday double troubles. Drawing from deeper wells of country blues, the exquisite John Hughes shows he can make that slide weep and sing like Blind Boy Fuller and the lovely lilting Worn Out Shoe and Them Old Days Are Gone may well make you follow his slide, being liberally dappled with divine melodies. The fervent picking is irresistible, being insatiably high, mighty and graciously garrulous throughout, meriting his avowed influence of those diabolical old fire-sliders like Son House. His vocal tones, from garbled guttural invocations, especially on What’s Mine Is Yours, to plaintive howls and growls unaffectedly reminiscent of Charley Patton or even Blind Lemon Jefferson, convey the tangible sense of hope in these modern day universal themes wrapped n’ wrigglin’ in Can’t Pay The Bill (too poor to be ill), DT’s Or The Devil, Wal-Mart Killed The Country Store, Why Is Everybody Getting Paid But Me, The Creeks Are All Bad (polluted streams) and Your Cousin’s On Cops which follows the authentic truck by being written following the rev. seeing his wife’s relative on said show. It also initially brought out Cartman syndrome as it also sounds like he’s calmly relating the news that ‘Your cousin’s on fire’. Incidentally, for a further instance of a nice downhome touch, look no farther than the inclusion of a recipe for persimmon pudding, handed down through generations of Peyton’s and saluted in closing Persimmon Song. These are brilliant litanies for the desperation in any and every congregation and, as the saying goes, essential listening, so listen in.
Stu Gibson

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Swelter - Songs Of Distance
Corazong

It’s always a glorious eulogical incident when you stumble a’most blindly in love with something you figured you’d despise for being paltry example of indie-whingery. Such is the case with this Dutch americana group – not the old Seattle grungers - (should really have known better with the usual prevalence of excellence issued forth by Corazong for our company) and their bleary red-wine-dead-eyed country plainsongs for the wronged. With supporting organ and violins atop guitars and wreathed in an air of Peter Perrett minus the haughty junked-up disinterest, these Songs Of Distance detail the painful slide into departure when it’s all in slow motion but there’s little power you can exercise to cool the flow (The Strain We’re Under, We Both Know, You’re In The Last Frame). Taking the No Depression tag of alt.country to it's literal meaning these eleven songs steadfastly refuse to lapse into morose despondency, or, worse, whimpering, but convey the real desolation of heartache as few have or can. More heartwarming than harrowing, you sense songs rippling toward you from a more beautiful stream of melancholic conscience akin to The Jayhawks dolorous and grace-dappled Tomorrow The Green Grass, particularly Saddest Meal – don’t play this near whiskey, you’ll be crawling under the table and the couch though you will still stagger up play it again - and Still Not Won. An epiphany that passes pastures of the soaring solace of Morrissey at his best, Dave Kusworth’s Alan-a-Dave faded fairytales (whose voice vocalist Bart Drost shares keening comparisons to) even those Elbow laddies, I imagine. Unsettling, reassuring, potentially upsetting, but wondrous nevertheless.
Stu Gibson
The Mission - Live And Last
Cherry Red

Goth, never the most respected of musical forms, constantly met with derision (obviously, ‘cos crusty hardcore punk and new romantic crud rivalled LA glam metal and AOR balladeering for artistic gravitas and kudos), not just because most of the bands tended to be utter shite, either keyboard illiterate electro or similarly unschooled or ill-read attempts at being The Sisters Of Murky – and at least Hussey has the excuse of having been in that band. Anticipating the eighties revival, last spring (’08), Mr ‘Uss assembled a ship and set sail for these shores to produce each of The Mission’s albums over a four night stint in London to nail his final notice in the doors once and for all. First, though, a few insurmountable facts – The Mission did one and a half bona fide great albums in The First Chapter (whether or not that was because it only had a few songs on it is another matter, an issue not improved here by Hussey delightfully telling the throng that as it’s short he’ll have to play some newer songs) and bits of the others, which isn’t much less than the Psychedelic Furs; two all time great rock classics in Serpent’s Kiss and Severina (some fools will tell you in mystical tones about the oft-rejigged Tower Of Strength – ‘cos, like, they always dug dance music really - but that’s just so many tissues up a coke-raddled nose that caused assumedly equally ‘alert’ (ie same dealer) journos to call them the new Led Zeppelin, on account of it’s laborious Kashmir style shuffle. Kashmir is shite. Led Zep are shite. Thus Tower Of Strength is a bit shite. Just a bit. Better than Kashmir. But still somewhat at the level of Robbie Williams’ Angels. Cremation soundtracks them both. If you want long-winded by necessity bombastic salvation search out that pedestal where sitteth The Sisters' This Corrosion. Me-to the-muthafuckin’-owww. Kingdom Come, however, (The Mission song not the godawful band who actually thought they were Led Zep) is up there with those two other Mish classics, especially the piano version, played in part here; plus there’s a fucking fantabulous invocation (ie cover) of Neil Young’s Like A Hurricane, throwing the writer’s weak, nasally sand-blasted original to the seven winds, and Deliverance has an intro that could summon seven sisters and more again I’m certain, while Like A Child Again is a lovely pop moment that recalls Mike Scott’s waves-crashing against cliffs visceral love of everything (so lovely it crops up again on the Carved In Sand evening). Sure, Huss wrote some abysmal, atrocious lyrics, more than enough to build an Olympic stadium out of. In every city ever, even lost ones in distant galaxies that folks in the fucking Pleiades don't know, or want to, know about, anyway where was I, - that a damaging religious upbringing doesn’t excuse (see also the horrible Heaven On Earth) stringing buzz-words and common phrases together, plunging depths that his hero Bolan would baulk at (f’rinstance, he really does divulge thusly on the oh so subtle Dance On Glass ‘Wild promise / Cheeks are red / A battle cry / Then it’s off to bed’) and dredged an unfeasible amount of emotion out of those (see the painful beseeching entreaties and cringeworthy come hithering on Love Me To Death – my poppet – which is like Rising Damp’s Rigby in a velvet cloak, not the depth of Eldritchian knob-gaggery it so desperately well, gagged, to be) but The Mission were essentially a pop band, or at least a rock band of the old school a la The Faces, just with smatterings of smock-hoiking hocus pocus masquerading as haikus to hoodwink chicks (see ode to deflowering Sacrilege, wrapped up, or should that be sheathed, in quaint quasi-religious metaphorical code), or speed-driven drivel rushing to get past the tongues in cheek to spit poetic self-importance at any rate.
These live re-enactments add a few b-sides (only a few, thankfully, anyone remember Grains Of Sand – the largely execrable garbling left-overs from the already limping Carved In Sand? Goodness me) and covers and are necessarily dependant on how good or otherwise their source material is. The too slow and weighty Children comes out worse. It could still benefit a bit from being faster, the epic parts of Beyond The Pale still battle with the counterproductive ploddy parts, that also plague the by the numbers fare of A Wing And A Prayer and Fabienne - pretty much a microcosm of the whole record then with the disillusionment of Hymn (For America) the real differentiator; The First Chapter is marred by the out of context inclusions like The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows and Free’s Wishing Well, the glossy chart-crusader Carved In Sand could well jostle a few brain cells with the child abuse addressing Amelia as well as the marvellous Kinks cover Mr Pleasant (with The Wonder Stuff’s Miles Hunt) at the other end of the scale coming out best along with God’s Own Medicine, out of them all the one where the exciting bits (Wasteland, Bridges Burning, Severina and p’raps the love note to Astbury that is Blood Brothers) are noticeably played with fraught tension and the ones mired in dog-ends of make-do dirges like the asinine little sister to Tower Of Strength Island In A Stream and Let Sleeping Dogs Die are replicated in the same pedestrian, ponderous manner as they were recorded, like a disinterested come down. All in all though it is a plentiful revisit to a very full hall by the sounds of it and shows a band once considered the cream of the new crop rather maligned by the cutting sands and shapes of time and taste.
With a new band since the last of the originals split in ’96, the imperious arpeggios are all succinctly replicated (by Mark Gemini Thwaite of Peter Murphy’s band, should anyone be interested), the man who made a generation rush out and buy cheap flanger pedals, well, me anyway, is in fine voice, though his ‘Huss-isms’ are more evident, where he garbles vowels, such as Nakid and SavIge and kissIS ussey, original guitarist Simon Hinkler guests on the encores each night and if nothing else, these sweaty live show they can still send you spinning through swirly speedy, patchouli and paisley stained dawns, ‘tis just a fact that none of them were ever classic albums in their own right, carrying way too much weight, to make this a real success to the casual outsider. But, and rightfully so, for the ever faithful it stands as quite a wonderful send off and communal thanksgiving. It could never be said The Mission never acknowledged their fanbase, often rewarding them with special gigs and events like track-choosing on albums. After all, cutting short his cash cow, he’s gonna need a bit of dolly to loll around on those sandy South American beaches, no? What with Radio 6 designating a goth day recently (May 22nd) don’t bet that the Huss won’t be beckoning, beseeching and maybe even a bit more from his Brazilian abode once again. And we close our eyes...and count that idle hack-isms only conspired to make me mention the un-nameable one a coupla times. And begin again...
Stu Gibson
Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley's Rock 'n' Roll All Star Jam
ABC

DVD release of a concert, nay, all-star(ish) jamboree, held to commemorate Mr Bo Diddley’s 50th barfday in 1985. With a slew of celebs you might expect like Ronnie Wood, Mick Fleetwood, Kenny Jones, Carl Wilson and um the Rudy Sarzo guy from Quiet Riot as well as the vocalist from Three Dog Night, who looks like a fucking Chuckle Brother ogling your sister at her friends hen do, and an impressively energetic troupe of backing singers, it’s slap-bang in the middle of the eighties so expect some extraordinary, shoulder-padded renditions that lessen the primal voodoo you do hoodoo who do, yes, you do, usually associate with the Diddley Daddy. Well, I hope you do. Aside from visually stunning, in the agog-oh-ma-god frowning sense, pans around the pastel-hued audience, Bo doesn’t simply steal the night in a as it’s my birthday I shall require my people to speak to your people to allow me to assert my dominance, as stomp all over it, and make it shake in submission even before he does his willowy-billowy shaky-kneed shadowy shaman sex-dance all over da place. No matter the eighties production values, Who Do You Love, Hey Bo Diddley, I’m A Man and closing stamp-a-long Rock’n’Roll Music are all worth a look not just for the man’s natural charisma, as are the opening sequences showing the man himself tending the BBQ for his guests, and essentially Bo instructing the superstars who surfed in his wake, the basics of the music they'd made careers around. Chuck, as he does, comes out all but asking for his reputation to be pissed on if only he can film your partner lick it up as he trots out My Ding A Ling that not even Sid James woulda laughed at. Slight, but sprightly, though again something that would serve better purpose as part of a package, with this just one section, and a fair few more songs from the birthday boy would have made it more of a bonanza way to remember the old Gunslinger.
Stu Gibson
The Grit - Straight Out The Alley
People Like You

Following up, and easily matching and surpassing, 2007’s Shall We Dine? (while making Rancid’s return rather redundant) despite the lack of tried and tested classics The Ones, Love Thy Neighbour, Whoever You Are and I Came Out The Womb An Angry Cunt, the Geordie / London bastard rockers rail at the state of the nation more fervently than they did before. Might lack Gallows’ column inches but there’s no lack of scathing eyes casting incisive aspersions on these stories of the streets of modern Britain. Spreading the net of their self-styled Punk’n’Fuck’n’Roll to include occasional, welcome, flurries of mandolin, acoustic geetar, brass parps n’ harp n’ sax on the sombrero skanking country wanderer instrumental of the titular intro to closing hidden campfire verse sharing strum-a-long pissed-up paean to the ladies with last of the north-east nomads on Cast Ya Mind Back and reggae / soul revue 12th Floor inbetween, nimbly demonstrating they ain’t gonna be constrained by the psycho straits they get easily lumped in with. Sure nuff ‘n’ yaay, they’re still angry and acerbic but also carry a few crates of compassion on their shoulders making comparisons to Strummer n’ co, Stiff Little Fingers and Rancid far more than the simple lazy assertions it’s easily assumed they are, after the loveable clich├ęd Geordie rapscallion of Terry Collier in the Likely Lads that befell Quireboys’ Spike and lesserly perhaps Ginger. They also steer clear of the righteous, self-important path, wrapping up their disillusion and jocular incomprehension in a party atmosphere of hope, be it celebrity gossip rags for the gullible and malleable of ska-tastico Tell Me Lies, binge-drunk Britain on Drink Till You Drop, ambition kicked down as pipe dreams squandered in crack-town Camden and elsewhere on Long Time Dead, and closing owld working men’s sing-a-long brass band nostalgia Here We Go Again. Superb.
Stu Gibson

Friday, May 22, 2009

Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band - Safe As Milk
Rev-Ola

Another absolutely essential Rev-ola reissue this time of rock Dadaist, as ol' Lester Bangs had it, Captain Beefheart’s 1968 debut of skewed blues through a garage/psych/soul slew siphoned from wholly different unholy realms than say The Doors or Love - other discardees of summer of love asininity. Forget the much acclaimed avant-garde hard to listen to claptrap that surrounds the likes of Trout Mask Replica, Strictly Personal or Mirror Man, which opened up and stretched out the elasticated liquid head further still and slip down into this house wholeheartedly. With his supernatural voice sounding like he’d beamed in from a Parchment Farm jam session with Bukka White and Howlin’ Wolf he, along with a musical co-ordinator in the form of a young Ry Cooder, set out on the trail that saw him co-opt the blues to his own unique vision than the more self-conscious psychedelic prattling of Cream. The sprightly spring clean in the mix department might not be to everyone’s majesty and pleasure, especially if used to the original cluttered mix, though that suits the irascible erratica filtering from the Captain’s bedeviled bonce perfectly. Abba Zabba may hint at musical miscreancy to come (the infamous playing around the beat) after the seemingly straight ahead (ie Muddy Waters Rollin’ and Tumblin’ taken ‘cross tracks) blues of Sure ‘Nuff ‘n’ Yes I Do has signposted the way. Even so, that still bays at signposts on route way out west and the eerie east, along with the elated, lovely as the Elevators, psychedelicised R’n’B soul of Call On Me and I’m Glad, the mellifluous menacing undercurrent in the shimmering luminescent call and response soul stomp more like Wilson Pickett of Zig Zag Wanderer and country jaunt in a jalopy Yellow Brick Road that are, like the whole, utterly entrancing amid the more traditional (hahaha, in van Vliet-ian terms anyhops) of Plastic Factory and Where There’s Woman, not mentioning the seismic spine-crawling caterwaul on Electricity, as described in Kris Needs’ new sleevenotes. A rare case of a reissue that’d be pleasing to behold just as is, without any bonus brouhaha, just, well, just because. Maybe this and Mirror Man (out-takes of which form the seven bonus tracks here) merely wiped the slate clean, clearing the palette of all urges to follow more conventional paths, though it has been said the captain’s own disenchantment at being constrained by commercial considerations, either by label or collaborators or both, resulted in his ensuing output of increasingly discordant art-rock. Whichever it may be, as mystery suitably shrouds the full story, ever since this album most of his work has been far removed from its wondrousness, forsaking it for disembodying eddies round your senses. It still remains a remarkable record. Safe as milk?? Hahaha, safe as a straw hat in a shark attack. Dive in.
Stu Gibson
Name In Vain - Name In Vain EP
Self-release

Alas an all too common case of the usual suspects on the influence lists producing numberless nameless bands stewing away in the sandpits and cesspools of music worlds, suburbs and sewers. Biog bull about rivalling current kings of your genre rarely bodes well either, arousing suspicions of not’n special inside just as much as false attention-seeking arrogance does of the wannabe Crue ilk. So despite the undoubted vocal prowess and personality a la Chris Cornell of Matt Pelosi and some potential staircase crushing chugarolla in the riff n’ rhythm departments, they show up the complexity of making the slow, sinew dissolving grunge-metal they’re aiming to line up in their sights, a menace, a stomp, a swing even that goes beyond mere production budgets and possibilities. No discernible evidence of any incandescent dynamic, call it what you will, X-factor, the what tha furrrcck factor that makes you take your hand out your ass to allow the metal up it, that early Metallica and Sabbath possessed, nor the seismically brute force of Pantera, shines through on this four track EP, which is a shame, as it’s not in a world of shit, just somewhat indistinct as yet. Musically, nothing a dose of leaving the grungy melodies behind and spending some time in isolation with several dismemberating samples of gruesome grindcore couldn’t cure, in some form or other. Good luck guys.
Stu Gibson
Shredding Across The World...Volume Two
Shredguy

Awesome, dudes, just what ya need right, a collection inspired by that Shrapnel label that spawned a generation of young men guitar teachers gesticulated lavishly about as they pontificated about pointless modes and Iolian triplets like a constipated tabloid columnist with elephant laxatives catching up on several chutes of gossip. Either that or a cruel trick to assuage the angst and giving the impression that practising the art of the widdle, years after you’ve (hopefully) passed potty-training with distinction (again, hopefully) will assure you the services of the girls from the Crue vids AND the Dave Lee Roth ones with a few English dogs from some old Gun video thrown in for variety. Or, Peter Andre in a wig. So, guys on a variety of super-Strats amplified to simulate wild abandon unnecessarily hurl scales at advancing walls of indie oiks and sees what sticks? Not exactly but pretty much. So one time Dio mechanical spider slayer and rainbow arpeggiator on the drum riser Tracy G (sure, the first may have been Craig Goldie, indulge me, it’s Friday and I’m insolvent and sofa alone) perform a Massacre In Bridgetown which, while being basically unaware of what atrocities the poor place has visited upon him, suggests strongly it sure must suck like Warrington and be a place to extricate repulsive oiks to in quarantine to use for practicing grenade throwing and carpet bombing and the like, has made a welcome ear perforating squall like an obstreperous horde of pterodactyls ripping Trent Reznor’s windpipe out to use as a baton to conduct such ridiculously lavish fret-rippery as this, along with the power thrash pillager Toby Knapp and Darin J. Moore's flamenco-prog on Prognosis: Psychosis, all proving technical ecstasy is possible and can be commendable. However, any prayers for this to be an unlikely exercise in expelling the ghastly spectre of the likes of Joe Satriani and Tony MacAlpine are in short shrift. Swiftly shredded, if ya please. Many, like Mike Abdow and Jeremy Barnes are no fun, babe, unlike Blackmore’s ludicrously and in all likelihood accidentally, joyous romp through Beethoven’s Ninth. Sure, it all depends on whether you want histrionics in context like Angus and Randy (Rhoads, not Piper) or have a secret, or undiscovered, as yet unsatiated desire for aimless misuse of scales on an unhithero seen scale.
Stu Gibson
Baltimoore - Quick Fix
BLP

Eleventh album from Swedish veteran Bjorn Lodin, born again yeah yeah yeah with a new line-up and a great gimmick that sees Quick Fix include a bonus instrumental disc for fans to indulge in a bout of karaoke crash n’ burn. Either that or something for the band to indulge in, whiling away the hours on the tour bus in hysterics. Once a member of Ready Steady in those heady late eighties with a dude from Electric Boys, Lodin can belt out some classy hard rock, of the designated classic style, though they can come across better when conducting themselves on the more dextrous moments of musicality. Back with acutely well-christened organist Orjan Fernkvist, who does much to lift this record’s too frequent descents into middle ground, this might not be, well, isn’t, smelted in an arsenal of dum dum biker slugs but combining operatic vocals with a rock-ready stance akin to Bruce Dickinson with Spike’s warmth (well, Ian Gillan?) they’re like a gritty Deep Purple of the Coverdale / Hughes era - the good bits, mind, like Burn and the other snippets, though the similarities are borne right down to new guitarist Emanuel Hedberg's crisp Strat-strut. Though ‘tis when they delve into the eccentricities of their native glaciers, as on The Bet, which boasts a Tull-tastic tussle between flute and guitar sure to set Blackmore’s night ears a-harking, that they really prepare for take-off. That even requisite power ballad, and 12-step tongue-twister How Can You Undo What’s Become Undone, has a great deal of smoke-singed charred charm wins points, just that too usual blues-plods like Make Good and The Shame Lingers On flaunt too much mid-tempo paunch, stumbling unself-consciously bus shelter-ward like a can-crazed old skank. So too lower middlin for this rock snob despite its plus points, but gauge it on how often you get a sudden desire to delve into old Coverdale. As such, that does do it a slight disservice, though if you do then opening cruncher I’m All About Me and soulful shuffle Haze Of Wonder to Somebody Look At Me and sprightly Shoot The Dark put ‘em in credit.
Stu Gibson

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Fake Problems - It's Great To Be Alive
Side One Dummy

A handily named combo for the type of indie-rock they drag to any chopping block in any neck of the woods, turning the heads of many wouldn’ts with this slice n dice of skewiff orchestral pop-fizz. Leaving the funk hi-hats of Franz Ferdinand and every bland bandwagon-ista slipping in the wake of these barking broadsides, this Florida mob here swell coffers and shake coffins with some spirited performances that frequently fling arms of brass and banjo around you with a warmth that’s entirely genuine, kinda like eels and Mercury Rev face first in happy plants on an excursion so far up-country they christen stars, as on Tabernacle Song, the Eastern folk-punk Alligator Assassinator (which should also be played to any modern same-a-billy scenester, incidentally) and Don't Worry Baby and the lovely closing mini-epic swoon Heart BPM. Though they can still do harder than it looks simple sing-a-longs to shed a sly tear for like The Dream Team. Centrepieces, in more than their central position in the track-listing, are the gloriously schizoid country-gospellated narratives The Heaven and Hell Coalition and Level With The Devil, with the latter, why, nothing less than a mini-popera conducted by Tom Waits. Likewise crammed with intriguing lyrics straddling the eternal, and ever-essential, great divide between intelligently inventive and pleasingly idiotic musings on life and the ways around losing where you find yourself, feeding a passionate rasp that worryingly-lauded wee man what’s im from the fantastically tedious Kings of Leon should be apprised of. Not perfect, as lapses into indie-disco land on Diamond Rings show but a damn sight better, with much promise and a believable ability to match their idiosyncracy with a marvellously natural ambivalence to mediocrity, as well as being simply more joyous than any other oft-hyped hydra foisted on the fickle deserves. Except Black Lips.
Stu Gibson
M.I.C. - Made In China
Self-released

Canadian pop-rocker Yvon Serre upped (quite a lot of) sticks settling in distant-ish China in 2004, setting this no-frills barrage of gutsy bar-prop rock roaming the streets and provinces. As far as AOR with chiming guitars chorusing amidst the cheerleader-clocking chug this is a cheery celebration, such that it can easily lose the descent into Green Day-y pop-punk of Everything You Do, decent enough though the stop-start idea is, as elsewhere it shows it ain’t trying to be anything it isn’t, confident in it’s vibrancy, as something that makes you think of sun, surf, and, erm, Huey Lewis should be. Though perhaps a bit pedestrian, it banishes any initial doubts about Bryan Adams style fare quick sharp on the opening AC/DC rompastomp of Take A Look, ushering instead thoughts of videos that’d splice open-top ogling of low-cut tops with joking about as a camera circles a downtown soundstage. They may even be wearing a variety pack of pastel shades and have their jacket sleeves rolled up. Several songs could easily soundtrack some slice of eighties kitscha-teen-a-delia like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, even Back To The Future, which right now, with the sun shining between monsoons, seems mighty fine to me.
Stu Gibson

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fearless Leader video

This video is the balls.
That is all.



- Sleaze

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Various - Blacula: Music From The Original Sound Track
Rev-Ola

Yuss, here’s the funkorrific soundtrack to 1972’s Blaxploitation movie rip through the then anaemic jugular of the Dracula legend. Massive stacks of sax and jungle boogie and that swampy whacka wah synth that Stevie Wonder wowed worlds with on Superstitious. There’s nightclubbin’ stompers, Cuban-heel clickers as well as lush ballads (Main Chance especially seems to be what Bowie based most of Young Americans on) and in the title piece Blacula (The Stalkwalk) an undiscovered saints symphony just on the jive-ass wise-crack (don’t get them muddled up in stoned spoonerisms) title, never mind Shaftadelic, heavy Sly Stone funk with Motown strings not unlike Jr Walker’s classico Walk In The Night throughout. A usual sound-off would be along the lines of ‘as far as soundtracks go this is one of the better offerings’. This, fiends, is just deeliteful. Classy, elegant, silky and sleaaaazy. Get some sun, it won’t burn, or bite, you. Once bitten, twice shafted?
Stu Gibson
Frantic Flintstones - Psycho Samba My Way
Drunkabilly


‘They call me eccentric, I don’t think demented, is a nice way of saying I’m sane’ – Back On The Couch Again

Long and somehow still standing (c’mon, the guy had a fucking heart attack at 23!) Psychobilly stalwart, cyborg, keen as a Labrador chemical laboratory and all-round funtime Charlie Chuck Harvey here returns from solo secretions like Chuck and the Crack Pipes with his main band. Like his old mucker Spark from Demented Are Go, Mr Harvey is a dedicated follower of deviancy and is of the old school where being in a mess and a mess in several psych-sheds is highly amusing and all the other, literally, shit comes with the territory, as neatly laid out on opening address to the review board of Back On The Couch Again. Luckily it seems that old school is in no danger of dying out anytime soon as Harvey and new cohorts (including Os Catalepticos’ Mutant Cox) to his den of delinquents delights are in resplendently raddled form, freshly-laced if not fresh faced from Chuck’s (frighteningly) Brazilian relocation. And adding banjo and cider-saddled fiddle into the churning gutrot ‘billy and then covering T-Rex’s Mambo Sun, fucking My Way and the sodfaced Flintstone’s Yabba Dabba Family theme tune in full on juvenalia japery (‘...we're all on LSD / Cocaine, marijuana too / We know that it's good for you...') transplants you to a goofy country hoedown in Honolulu rather than some squalid shooting gallery in Hackney (as opposed to the finely appointed ones? – self-ed), which comical fetish scene assault Du And Ich and second shot Hypodermic’s heavy swamp threatens to, their lung-suckin’ distorto guitars with skin-scratchin violin being like those bonkers late eighties, well, Demented live albums with the fiddler on the ground-down tooth (that’ll be Go Go Demented! and Live And Rockin’ – self-ed back again). Oh, then you come to the wonderfully ridiculous, refreshing phet-faced gettin’ dressed n’ speshed for Saturday jaunt of Cheatin’ Heart and the ketamine barn dance versions of May The Circle Be Unbroken and Hello, Mary Lou from which they’ve gestated You Can Have Her and Troubled Times and parachuted into a true resurrection of old rockin’ run-through Cast Iron Arm done in a dinner jazz meets Jeffrey Dahmer for cocktails style, revisited later up in his room in a soiree-cum-orgy with Ed Gein as a junky egged on by Ren and Stimpy on the nut-job corpse-cutting knob-knuckling Lying Naked ('...as I wank n' cut n' gouge away'). So what if it’s all, even honky-tonk weep into-your-cotton-wool Tears In My Eyes, drawled with a grin n’ glazed eye, cheeky leer and I don’t know, and don’t want to know what his kill count is but, like Spark above, that this is the best thing he’s done for a good while, definitely better than the old Flintstones, suggests it’s getting to be like a particularly low-life Jerry Lee Lewis, ailing aboard a ship of good hope, humour n’ inveterate hi-jinks and malarkeying, no matter what the sluiced gates of heroin hell may suggest otherwise. So don’t go expecting heartfelt balladry and hand-wringing but if you want a dose of palpitating rockin’ and a bag of gurn-inducing devilry in your disc player with a far more eclectic scope than the straitjacketed psycho scene usually allows with an equally far more electric presence than you might expect from a one-lunged, self-crippling narco-loon circus then here’s where to go.
Stu Gibson

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Gimmies - Roll Up


The Gimmies
Roll Up
Off the Hip

Like the MC5 before discovering free jazz, the Gimmies blow the doors off the garage rock muscle car. It’s the Japanese model, of course (gotta represent the home country), but it’s a sleek powerhouse all the same. Flame of Wings and Fever Street blaze down the highway with the top down and scorch marks on the concrete. Quaky City and Slow Tide strip the Hellacoptersmobile down to its chassis. Comin’ Through the Night adds pop hooks to the frame, making it even sexier. A Little Behind You brings the 35 minute drive to a perfectly timed halt in a burst of power and melody. The quartet also covers the Lime SpidersBeyond the Fringe, which gives you a notion of the rock & roll aesthetic here. Tokyo’s finest since Godzilla.

- Michael Toland
The Weight - Are Men
Tee Pee

Now a whole featuring one Joseph Plunket rather than one man and his band (hence the title) this second release leaves indie-schmindie minor woe at the roadside for a riot on the back porch. Bleary-eyed bar fodder with feeling all the way from Brooklyn perfect for filling those slices of your Americana heart left when the much missed round these parts Slobberbone dribbled off back to the Texas desert. Sure ‘nuff, that’s an oil well in hell of an, erm, weight, to place on their shoulders. It’s not high on originality, it could even be accused of a join the dots, textbook exercise in Primal Scream-ing if you will, and it may seem to pass you by as inconsequentially as the places, roads and women cluttering these songs do him. However, along with three-way harmonies toppling out the twee tree, backing vocals hollered from broken kitchen windows, and the psych guitars scraping sweetly but not so as to make you think they’ve loosened up too much, bedecked with a delightfully spluttering vocal mannerism like tobacco juice is permanently secreting itself from Plunkets mouth, they kick up a Southern Rockin’ honky-tonkin’ hullabaloo like a less literate Drive By Truckers. The wryly lurching bar-floored ballad Like Me Better, which starts the album by picking itself up from the end of the last album 10 Mile Grace, gradually stumbling from a fumbling slumber to a swaggering stagger that pretty much saunters throughout this ten track whole. And when the Georgia Satellites accelerator-melter Had It Made and Johnny’s Song follow, slurring, slouching and slugging through your head like truckers thumbs through belt-loops with drowsy cousin Talkin’ in tow, they easily shrug off suggestions of insincere cowboys of the construction kind. Maybe Plunket wanted to get away from balladeering and ditch the introspection of the stereotypical simpering acoustic troubadour, pointlessly toiling under the laborious notion they’re relating torrents of truth like a Townes van Zandt, or the slightly contrived, over-egged eulogies of his own debut. After all, four years is a fair few minutes in which to make a costume change or two. Whether you prefer to take that gap as the weight of writing in a what to do next quandary or a welcome addition to the bar where sits a rafter of songsmiths whose various attitudes and attributes just depends on what they’ve been regaling their innards with that evening is down to you, the listener. It also remains to be seen if this current cowboy coat will last the season or is the second hand dealt from a chameleon’s deck. Rightly railed at for the lack of depth, though some may care to remember, or discover, Slobberbone doing Gimme Back My Dog along with Josephine on the ceaselessly magnificent Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today or The Replacements closing an album (Tim) that contained the goofy Kiss Me On The Bus (nee, Butt) with Here Comes A Regular. The Weight don’t drag themselves up to those kind of heights, or down to those depths, but there’s enough soul here to strongly demonstrate Are Men isn’t merely a case of play actors casting about for a new stage as they’ve managed to create one of the best country records of recent times.
Stu Gibson

Monday, May 11, 2009

Naam - Kingdom


Naam
Kingdom
Tee Pee

Brooklyn never seemed like a likely place for good stoner rock to me. It always seemed too…urban, too much concrete and steel to get really psychedelic. Yet, that assumption has been disproven time and time again, most recently by Naam. The trio lay on the acid-soaked sludge like molasses over pancakes, never letting the inherent sweetness get lost in the gruel. Vocals swirl in and out more like spirits in the night than earthbound humans, while the tempos meander with purpose. Kingdom is an EP, but thanks to Naam’s senses of melody, arrangement and commitment, its brevity is unlikely to leave anyone feeling cheated.

- Michael Toland

Sunday, May 10, 2009

GraVil - Age Of Corruption
Bitter To The Core

Ok so they have a splash of keyboard so going so far as labeling this Anglo-Scandinavian death metal duo (Gra being the English frontispiece and Vil the Scandinavian Dr Frankenstein labouring away at pretty much all else) ‘symphonic’ may be pushing it, but if it makes some unsuspecting Lacuna Coil or Evanesence aficionado cough up their silver then hopefully they’ll choke on these notes. Joking aside about their being several million of them to make that a likelihood, this melodic piles, or pyre, of bile-riddled melodic thrash is of a stupendously high order and that’s about the least of it. Helmsman especially, reveals a neat line in lyrical trickery, spat out more discernibly than possibly any death metal record ever, perhaps something to do with them actually having something worth coughing and spluttering into your / our slovenly visages about. Along with the assault of Heviosity (Will Ensue) they dare deviate from the deathprint and rattle around with undertones of metalcore and even hip-hop style delivery amid the usual dismembering barrage of rhythmic spasms enough to make you leave limbs in the room and be a viable sick note from work, just do something useful with the time, not least utilizing the inside sleeve cartoon of a skull with judge’s wig on holding aloft a charge sheet including ‘Unsolicited Enlightenment’, ‘Unauthorised Use Of Free Will’ and ‘Gross Use Of Freedom Of Speech’. The debut full-lengther to come should capitalise on these twenty minutes for a coruscating descent through society's sick charades.
Stu Gibson
Rocket To Memphis - Hip Shakin' Voodoo
Raucous

Showing there’s power enough in many an old swamp to suck you down into come this quaking quartet from Perth, Australia. Pleasingly forgoing the apparently too easy to resist temptation of glib Stray Cats or Cramps going-overs or clattering through the already too cluttered closets of psychobilly while dressed in Lucky 13 clobber and sporting spider tattoos, Betty Bombhell and her rocketeers Death Rattle Dave, Razor Jack and Voodoo Viv tread an altogether more seductive path to lure you into their uncertain but marvelously murky depths of lizard slink. For starters they actually do creak out Creole mambas and tiki twirls, with Betty’s deceptively demure vocals and Jack’s crooked knee angular guitar suggestive of Marc Ribot’s work with Tom Waits on Rain Dogs helping them to stand out further by several strides, and when they both come to a head they increase the already impossibly sexy She's My Witch and No Kissin' At The Hop to near ridiculously chilling stakes of enticing wildness somewhere within. A sultry shimmery sway through fog-laden nights and sinister death-glam discos that stand as eerily inviting detours from the overflowing drive-ins of run of the mill rockabilly of little or no regard.
Stu Gibson
LiVid - One
Plastic Head

Classic rawk all the way from, erm, Stoke via Sunset ’87 and a few gyrations short of adequacy, as you may expect. All starts damn scintillatingly (incidentally it ends sorta similarly too, just what’s in the middle doesn’t, um, stand up to much) on a bedrock of blues-based chugging guitars and siren wail harmonics, screeching vocals that refreshes the parts Lizzy Borden’s axe could never reach but may strike you more Toby Jepson (yeah yeah, I know the singer from Little Angels’ name, fuck it I have no shame) than Sebastian Bach. In the world of dire bands bending your ears with ersatz eighties monster rock this is a pretty fair stab though shares the similar lack of staying power amidst the histrionics common to many a contender of the LA ilk. There’s a stench of too much box-ticking with requisite ballads Deserve and Can't Find Home, Led Zep In An Elevator grind of Devils Bones and funk gristle on Slide Song. Not at all bad but you ain’t gonna love it, an album with the frenetic intensity of opener Freakshow would be the way forward but sadly (for them) that ain’t to be as they play it safe and recline in the succour of the middle ground.
Stu Gibson

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Horrors
Primary Colours
XL Recordings

I'll grant you that this second full-length release from the UK version of The Horrors (not to be confused with the American garage/blues band of the same name) doesn't exactly qualify as 'sleaze rock' in the traditionally accepted use of the term, but when I come across a record I love, I just gotta share...

Imagine our goth boys cloistered in a hazy British pub, sipping absinthe and smoking opium while heavy-bosomed ladies of the night, their throats slit, black blood congealing in sticky pools on the worn carpeting, stiffen in high-backed velveteen parlour chairs. Gone (but not forgotten) are the howls and yelps of Sheena Is A Parasite and Jack the Ripper, and in their place, a more bleakly romantic sound: The Horrors via Joy Division and the Psychedelic Furs. Listen to Sea Within A Sea and wait for the shift (you'll know it when you hear it) from melancholic drone to resplendent possibility. Lovely.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Cherry Choke - s/t


Cherry Choke
s/t
Elektrohasch http://www.elektrohasch.de

Singer/guitarist Mat Bethancourt’s former outfit Josiah reveled in 70s hard rock riffola. Apparently that didn’t satisfy his nostalgia jones, however, as his new trio Cherry Choke plants its flag in the ass of 60s Nuggets-style psychedelic rock & roll. Blunt, fuzzed-out gonad grabbers like She Turns Me On, I Can See the Girls Grow and Ride My Black Balloon contrast with the occasional respite, like In My Mind and The Need. Bethancourt strips his muse down to her thong here, and if the result is sometimes more like a back-alley fuck than a sensuous striptease, the excitement runs high throughout.

- Michael Toland

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Jon Ulecia and Cantina Bizarro - Last Night Dream
Sunthunder

Alumni of this label's Nikki Sudden tribute, and native of the country that make the best boots alongside well-stitched and seamed slivers of roots music (that's Spain that is), rides Ulecia and his evocatively titled band. Tilting through majestic ghostly twilights and shimmering dawns the lonely street-lit serenades of the flamenco-scented Under The Tree, sinister train ride through mystery, temptation, salvation and seven carriages of sin on Empty Bottle Of Wine and Desire And Disease and malevolent mariachi Various Names recall the rockabilly saunter and Tex-Mex swing of Ulecia's linguistic compatriots across the oceans. With a wonderful sense of a noir film scripted by Tom Waits (indeed there's many whispers of Waits' loveliest asides here, like Raindogs Hang Down Your Head or Blind Love) in conjunction with the Coen Brothers tumbleweed slips past as tumblers of tequila slide along the bar towards you followed by the garotte-ready stares of the locals under a sultry, sweat and adrenalin condensed atmosphere as air-conditioning blades whirl ominously. The delightful raunch n' rousters Rock'n'Roll's About and Stuck To The Dancefloor blast your hat into the air and shootround your heels like Dave Alvin and his barrio, bronco and bar-room Blasters boys, all with a distinctive vocal veering n' vying between debonair Bryan Ferry and mumbling Joey Ramone. The blue-collar ballad Still Fooling Me is perhaps the most telegraphed but only insofar as it's something The Stones have been pathetically perspiring over for decades, instead passing off bilge like Waiting On A Friend and Fool To Cry as worthy. Put simply, this ain't too many country miles, dusty mountain passes or grimy back alleys away from Richard hawley's currently acclaimed Yorkshire Orbison.
Stu Gibson
Dave Kusworth - Tambourine Girl
Sunthunder

Brum-bred rollin' balladeer Kusworth, long and somehow still standing partner of the lamentably late Nikki Sudden in the Jacobites, has, with his old compadre, long been revered as one of the finest songwriters to slip from these (UK) shores on resounding rollers of ignorance (just ask REM or Mercury Rev). Over a thirty year trail the apparently newly resurgent troubadour has documented faded fairytales of emotional restlessness with no succour or rescue in a unique but unheralded manner, as with Sudden, clashing courtly grace and chivalry with nocturnal nursery rhymes, typified by the title here, with bed-sit squalor and track-marked glamour from The Stones' Lady Jane, the Brontes, Bowie, Bolan and Thunders, but never revelling in tales of drab decadence. Subtitled ...The Spanish Album in reference to an old Jacobites album (Heart Of Hearts), this collection of rarities and outtakes from his solo material, where he recounted dangerous liasions and dear hearts with the Bounty Hunters and Tenderhooks, is no mere odds n' sods. The glorious Ship of Fools (Mary) and Enough To Heal My Wounds - the latter recalling Crazy Horse's Danny Whitten guesting on Dion's Born To Be With You - are true lost treasures, new Kings and Queens colours to be worn and borne aloft like so many flags and banners at a medieval pageant. Far more than transient tokens of song and amour, Tambourine Girl is a striking collection of darkness, anguish and subdued drama.
Stu Gibson
Hanging Doll - Reason And Madness
Once Bitten

More female fronted orchestral metal in the dark, this time from the hallowed rock wastelands that be Birmingham. Maybe by its very definition it’s too easy to castigate such bands as all too reminiscent of Evanescence and dismiss it off to its room with no tea but this does have much more drama, metal and, yuss, orchestrating than simpering bedroom pouting. Classically trained songbird Sally Holliday sure can warble and shatter temple domes though the faux-black metal for the screamo kids guttural growling often found submerged beneath her lead vocals grate. With suitably ‘disturbed’ and high-blown lyrics (eg ‘Lone silhouette comforts me through eventide’, ‘through these aqueous cascades ofmy tears’) - or of the literary persuasion in comparison to the first kill inside the opening credits style horrorpunk - this commits the all too easy mistake (sin?) of mistaking long, drawn-out songs such as Sweet Retribution for epic grandeur and icy majesty, though it does have it’s moments of whisking you away on whispers cascading through mist-shrouded cathedral halls and crumbling archways as on A Formidable Mistake and Hope Springs Eternal. Of it’s symphoniously metallic ilk Reason and Madness is never gonna be a lax choice for lovers of the Lacuna Coils of this world, ticking the boxes for bombastic production with lavish sonics and more metal than many to create an enticing realm to slip into.
Stu Gibson
Perspective X IV - Shadow Of Doubt
Nightmare

Virtuoso tech-metal trio from Ohio plough some dark, fertile terrain that, thankfully in many cases, goes beyond their acknowledged influences of Rush and Yes and passing similarities to Dream Theater and even Faith No More, not least in their willingness to embroil themselves in livid clouds of dense metal rifferatics, like the staggering storm that starts Carry On (alas, before it lapses into a dimension where no Maiden has ever dwelt), indulge in ridiculously intricate time changes and splodge seemingly incongruous forms together, like the reggae interlude on The Calm or the welcome inclusion of mandolins on Colossal. Credit be theirs that it largely works with an epic sweep without descending into apparent stodgy contrivance. Lyrically they take the form of portentous, ponderous, or plain pointless - take your pick – philosophising (take this and pontificate, from The Smell Of Rain ‘On a journey ever forward / My back to the sun / Pathways to righteousness, a time that’s forgotten / Untamed ground / Too vital for nature / Viewing the beauty without nomenclature’ or the apparent ode to recording that is the aforelysaid Carry On with lines about ‘Dancing plectrums’ and ‘Something acoustic becoming electric / Never fretted over machines before), not generally matched by the songs, which at their lowest ebb, cast your thoughts of ‘aargh no, Dan Reed’ or ‘yikes, not Kashmir again’ into a vast cauldron where Kirk Hammet gently sleeps hoping that Geddy Lee will leave something under his pillow.
Stu Gibson
Outrageous Cherry - Universal Malcontents
Alive

'She walked into my mind and rearranged the furniture' - I Recognized Her

Matthew Smith’s Detroit fuzz-pop drone devotees stalk the sunnier side of psychedelia but with its inherent wistfulness and his own wry surliness indicated in the title that also belies his activities in country-ish Volebeats as well as giving reason to merit their inclusion on the Skip Spence tribute More Oar. Smith’s Joey Ferry slur on opening debris of slouch-glam T-Roxy jam Waiting For Your Dog that could just be I Recognized Her saunters into a sedated Beach Boy sloop on The Song Belongs To Everyone ('...And I want my 50 per cent...). It’s Not Rock’n’Roll (And I Don’t Like It) should be reason enough for any self-respecting, or fuck it, any, underground/outsider rock fan to buy the album for the title alone (and that’s discounting the equally eloquent riposte I Wouldn’t Treat My Enemies The Way You Treat Yourself) never mind the Feels Like Shadows and Horizon being electrified everythings and more that the Mary Chain’s Stoned And Dethroned shoulda been (great as that slight release is) as well as Parsons-style monuments beneath the floppy fuzz, the blissed out blur of Outsider is something you can imagine Bobby Gillespie excitedly/nonchalantly sloping about to and it’s easy to surmise an obvious influence on Dandy Warhols but rather much better as it appears unaffected. On the go for some sixteen years this is incandescently lovely and a blessing in disdain not to ignore.
Stu Gibson
The Frank Gannon Trio - The Frank Gannon Trio
Raucous

UK Garage-blues surf crew with original slants and slicks on this set, written entirely by the main man (well, except Fever). With incisive guitar sears like Mick Green of The Pirates in a stand-off with Link Wray, toe-stubbing Duane Eddy / Dick Dale and Dimples dunks abound and the grit of The Sonics is right up square in your face these guys eschew the tired tricks that litter Rock’n’Roll’s backyards. They’ve been around many blocks (ex members of Clarksdale Bluebeats, Jesse James and the Outlaws and The Blueflames) and soldiered on through circuits unsoldered to time to chuck this fresh and energising real roll of rock in your breadbasket. No tired re-tarmacing of the same driveways as last week, showing that with that indefinable kaZing that transcends a pinch of talent, conventional staples can be transmuted into a rare sustaining treat. Essential.
Stu Gibson
Vice Squad - The very Best Of...
Anagram

Perennial punks, to perhaps aptly purloin a phrase, who could lay some sort of claim to spearheading the crusty hardcore squat-punk scene, though the uninitiated may stay uninterested as it’s entirely possible to tell they play workmanlike punk, not too high in the imaginative league tables – piercing caterwauls (here by Beki Bondage and later Lia) atop rudimentary guitar rumbles, dishcloth drums, sort of like a remedial Banshees with Toyah filling in for Siouxsie. From debut single and indie hit Last Rockers – a fair stab at apocalypso closedown - this is compiled by the band so a fair selection of singles and b-sides, such as the vaguely amusing Latex Love (‘You’re my little rubber scrubber’ fnaaar) and the quite fine Take it Or Leave It is to be had and ‘tis a mildly diverting trip to the dark terrain of the early eighties, albeit not one with huge amounts of merit. Workmanlike it maybe but they’re still at it, with Beki and new band, with new album and tour this year.
Stu Gibson

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Fuzz Manta - Smokerings


Fuzz Manta
Smokerings
Bad Deal

When it comes to dirty fuzz rock, it’s always nice to hear some estrogen mixed in with all that hairy testosterone. Denmark’s Fuzz Manta is fronted by raspy-voiced Lene Kajer Hvillum, and it’s damn clear she is in charge, bubba. And a good thing, too, as the band’s grungy riff rockers, while solid, aren’t particularly distinctive – it’s Hvillum’s colorful, self-confident delivery that puts these tracks across. What does it feel like to be in control? she asks in Mysterious Thoughts, but she doesn’t sound like she means it – she’s the only one with her finger on the trigger, and that’s the way we like it.

- Michael Toland

Friday, May 01, 2009

Highway Child - On the Old Kings Road


Highway Child
On the Old Kings Road
Elektrohasch

Ah, Scandinavia, what would today’s rock & roll do without you? Highway Child hails from Denmark, bearing the gift of power chords. Betwixt the riffmongering guitars and the attitude-laden vocals (you could put this guy in front of T. Rex as easily as Led Zeppelin) lies a sweet spot just waiting for a sweaty stage scarf to tickle it. Like the great hard rock bands of the 70s that never made the radio because they refused pigeonholes, Highway Child moves through heavy butt rock (Love For Sale, Highclass Bitch), pastoral folk (High High) and red-eyed psychedelia (Lovin’ Lovin’). There’s even a harmonium ‘n’ croon ballad as the untitled track 8. Variety never hurts, as it shows the band has more than one dimension and gives the meat-and-potatoes rockers a more powerful punch. Highway Child evidences a lot of craft in writing, but perfect looseness in performance. On the Old Kings Road is serious fun.

- Michael Toland
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