Friday, 27 February 2015

Short Attention Span Record Reviews - March 2015

BLACKBERRY SMOKE – Holding All The Roses
The metamorphosis from rock-tinged country band to southern rock juggernaut has now been completed. This is truly enjoyable “meat and potatoes” stuff, albeit a bit weaker and more polished than their magnificent previous album. (8)


This is some seriously weird evil shit: Deeply rooted in black metal but boldly moving into progressive rock, avant garde, even jazz territory, “A Umbra Omega” sort of sounds like a John Zorn-produced satanic version of Voivod and will blow the minds of those brave enough to dive in. (9)

FRANZ NIKOLAI – To Us, The Beautiful!

Former The Hold Steady keyboard player manages to come across like an inverted cross between Meatloaf and Gogol Bordello. (7)


Gretchen wrote “Independence Day” for Martina McBride which is one of the 20 best country songs of all time, so I gotta love her. On her own latest album she gives as a bunch of fantastic, delicate, dark songs about mortality and I gotta love her even more. (9)

J. GEILS BAND – House Party Live In Germany

Everything you need to know about the J. Geils Band being the greatest live band in the known universe has already been written by Nick Hornby in his book “31 Songs”, and this concert DVD/CD package recorded in 1979 is the first visual proof ever commercially released so go get it now. (10)

LITURGY – The Ark Work

Pretty sure this is going to be the most divisive album of the year with 70% saying it’s a pile of shit, 20% swearing it’s a masterpiece and 10% thinking Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is just trolling everyone, and after the third listen I still haven’t made up up my mind about where I stand. But it’s definitely not black metal and it definitely has nothing to do with “Aesthetica”. (?)


Imagine a carnival in Florida. A band’s on stage playing a wild country/rockabilly/tex-mex/ska hybrid while big-haired gorgeous girls in sundresses and cowboy boots dance about, laughing. Then the band plays a touching ballad and a redneck gets on one knee and proposes to his sweetheart while the full moon above shines on the happy, smiling crowd. The Mavericks are THAT band. (8)

PELICAN – The Cliff

Three different remixes of a song off their last album, plus an outtake. Meh. (5)

RHIANNON GIDDENS – Tomorrow Is My Turn

If you’re wondering who’s the best breakout vocalist of 2015, just play Giddens’ cover of Odetta’s “Waterboy” from this excellent folk-blues album and be prepared to pick your jaw up from the floor. (8)

SONGHOY BLUES – Music In Exile

Tinariwen started it but now “desert blues” is a full-blown genre, and these guys from Mali deservedly are its latest stars. (8)

STEVEN WILSON – Hand. Cannot. Erase.

I’ve heard pretty much everything that Wilson has ever released and can safely say that this album is the one I enjoyed the most since Procupine Tree’s “Stupid Dream” in 1999. (9)

SUMAC – The Deal

It’s Aaron Turner from Isis with his mates, so if you’re a Hydraheadhead you’ll piss your pants listening to this sludgy post-metal rifforama. (8)

TORCHE – Restarter

High On Fire meets Jane’s Addiction. (7)

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Short Attention Span Record Reviews: Feb 2015

ALASDAIR ROBERTS – Alasdair Roberts
Roberts’ Scottish folk music is VERY Scottish and VERY folk and a bit too pastoral for my tastes, but I’m sure it makes a very romantic soundtrack to shagging sheep on the highlands if you’re into that sort of thing. (7)


More than 50 years into her career as a soul and blues singer, Bettye’s voice still sends chills down my spine and makes the hair stand on the back of my neck. Fans of Solomon Burke’s “Don’t Give Up On Me”, check this out ASAP. (8)

BJORK – Vulnicura

I feared we’d just get another 60 minutes of fax-machine gurgling noises but this one actually contains powerful, emotionally charged songs. An uncomfotable listen despite the lush strings, compelling nevertheless. (8)

BOB DYLAN – Shadows In The Night

“Dylan doing Sinatra songs” seems like a counterintuitive, bad, bad idea, but it works surprisingly well: This is actually the most enjoyable Dylan record since 1997’s “Time Out Of Mind”. (8)

CHIP Z’NUFF – Strange Time

Enuff Z’Nuff mainman explores his psychedelic side on a solo effort featuring original G’n’R drummer Steven Adler. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes I truly believe that Enuff Z’Nuff’s “Welcome To Blue Island” is the greatest album ever made in the history of mankind, but this stuff is meh. (5)

HAYSEED DIXIE – Hair Down To My Grass

Yes it’s a one-trick pony and it’s lowbrow but somehow this joke never gets old, their bluegrass cover versions of hard rock anthens still make for lots of good clean fun. (7)

HOWLIN’ RAIN – Mansion Songs

Ethan Miller (ex-Comets On Fire) continues on his psychedelic folk rock trip with another one of those deep albums he always comes up with, the ones that slowly creep up on you. (8)

JELLYFISH – Bellybutton (Deluxe Edition)

Re-issue of the greatest pop debut of the 90’s that people never heard of, because people are idiots. This double-CD edition’s chock-full of extras such as live recordings and demos that only serve to reinforce the fact that Jellyfish is sorely missed today. (9)

JELLYFISH – Spilt Milk (Deluxe Edition)

Their second album re-issued, this one adds an extra dose of Queen to the band’s Beatles meets Cheap Trick approach. Also full of fantastic extras. (9)

JESSICA PRATT – On Your Own Love Again

There’s something almost magical about Pratt’s deceptively simple melodies and child-like voice. Fans of Anais Mitchell and Joanna Newsom will absolutely fall in love with this. (8)

KID ROCK – First Kiss EP

Oh god, this is worse than Nickelback. (3)

NAPALM DEATH – Apex Predator / Easy Meat

Skull-crushing, face-melting and extreme to the extreme, this is definitely going to be one of the year’s best metal albums, quite a feat for a band that’s been around for 34 years – longer than most of its fans. (9)

NATALIE PRASS – Natalie Prass

Wait a second, are you telling me that Jessica Pratt and Natalie Prass are two different persons? OK, I know I’m being unfair, I’m not sure if Pratt owns “Dusty In Memphis” whereas Prass definitely does. (7)

PERIPHERY – Juggernaut Alpha / Juggernaut Omega

Whoa. Huge step forward, caught me off-guard. This is quite excellent progressive metal and the singer finally testosteroned it up a notch or two. (8)


Minneapolis radio station The Current releases split 10” record of in-studio live performances to celebrate its tenth birthday. The Hold Steady side is mostly acoustic versions, but the Suicide Commandos side (a proto-punk Minneapolis band formed in 1974 that I’d never heard of before) is the real revelation, a full-on adrenaline blast that really blew me away. (9)

WHITEY MORGAN & THE 78’s – Born Raised And Live From Flint

Morgan’s songs are honky-tonk country but, being from Michigan, his attitude is pure high energy rock ‘n’ roll and so’s his facial hair. (8)

WILLIE NILE – If I Was A River

Cult Springsteen-esque rocker trades his guitar in for a piano and releases an album of touching ballads, the silliness of “Lullaby Loon” notwithstanding. (7)