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Son Primo - My Ruin - Album Review

Son Primo – My Ruin – album review

Son Primo - My Ruin - Album ReviewSon Primo

My Ruin (Self Released)

CD/DL

Available now

Rating 8/10

I first came across Manchester alt-rock outfit Son Primo on last years excellent Charity album Bostin’ Days, a double album of covers of Levellers songs released to raise cash for the Devon Air Ambulance. Their cover of the Levellers “3 Friends” was excellent so I was looking forward to checking out the self released album My Ruin.

I guess the first thing to say about any self-release is a comment on the quality of the recording and Son Primo certainly score here because My Ruin is beautifully mastered and engineered and the cover art is superbly photographed.

Album opener “Stoner Daydreams” gives an instant feel of what you will experience for the following 45 minutes and nine-tracks.  The track is a grower and features soaring guitar riffs over Robby Edgar’s slightly gruff vocal.  The addition of keyboards halfway through the track adds both depth and texture to the track.  I felt that this track reminded me very much of the Kaiser Chiefs, it’s great stuff.

Son Primo - My Ruin - Album Review

Title track “My Ruin” stays in the same indie-rock vibe but this one reminded me of Snow Patrol.  It is a song of missed opportunities and regret, a reminder to look after your relationships whilst you can.  “Spun Out” gives us a change of pace as the baseline dominates the early part of the song before those guitar riffs kick in and take over.

As we hit the middle of the album two mighty songs kick in.  Both weighing in at over seven minutes “Tinted Eyes” and “Icarus Looking Skywards” are very much the backbone of the piece.  The former opens with a deep bass groove that builds slowly to the introduction of guitars as the pace of the track accelerates.  The track has the feel of a power ballad but the lyrics are far from a love ballad.  Instead it speaks of the futility of looking to others for validation and there is more than a hint of bitterness across the piece.

The latter has a more fanciful and experimental feel to it as the keyboards and strings give the track a more free and flighty vibe.  It feels contemplative and perhaps slightly introspective and it is totally absorbing, the sort of track where you lock into it and suddenly, despite being over seven minutes long, it is over.  It’s the kind of track that leaves you exploring time and again as you search for the hidden meaning that it hints at throughout.  It truly is a beautiful track, it is worth buying the album for this track alone.

“The One” almost delivers a shock after the previous track as we move to a much more aggressive vibe. It is one of the heavier tracks on the album and certainly adds a new dimension.  A dimension that is continued through the next track.

Album closer “Wasting Time” is perhaps the most out and out rock track on the piece, the slightly distorted guitar and vocal melds with syncopated drum rhythm which harks back to the golden days of rock music.

Overall My Ruin is a very good album, one which rewards repeated listens and one I anticipate will be on my playlist for quite some time to come.

Son Primo are on the Internet here: They are also on Facebook.

 

Adele Album '25' Smashing Records: Some One Please Tell Me Why

Adele Album ’25’ Smashing Records: Some One Please Tell Me Why?

British singer Adele released he latest album “25” two weeks ago and immediately kicked Teen pop idols One Direction and Justin Bieber off the No 1 spot in the UK and U.S. respectively.

Adele’s album proved to be the UK’s biggest ever first week seller and Billboard reported that Adele had managed to flog almost 2.5 million copies of her latest dirge on its first day on sale in the U.S.  Over 900,ooo copies were bought on iTunes alone on the day of release.

Metro reports that “25” saw Adele sell over one million copies in the UK in under 10 days making “25” the top selling album in the UK this year and the fastest to reach one million sales.

In the U.S. Adele has smashed all previous records by becoming the fastest selling album ever.  The record was previously held by N*SYNC’s 2000 effort No Strings Attached, which sold 2,416,000 albums in a week.  Adele smashed that record by almost one million after selling 3.38 million copies in the States in seven days.

Adele’s comeback single Hello was the biggest debut of any other video this year, and racked up 50 million views in the first 48 hours it was online, beating Taylor Swift’s vid for Bad Blood.

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25

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I am the first to admit that music is a subjective thing.  As a fan of punk, metal, hardcore and metalcore I guess some of the music I like would send some people running for cover.  I also have to admit that Adele’s success with “25” is incredibly impressive, you simply can’t argue with the figures.

What I can and will argue about is why on earth people are buying this music.  Admittedly Adele can sing, I would even go so far as to say she has a great voice but, and it’s a HUGE but, every single song sounds the same.  Adele’s music i’m afraid is a dirge.  Adele started out on 19 weeping about love lost and here we are all these years later listening to the same old story.

It’s dull, it’s predictable, it’s formulaic.  I struggle to listen to more than one Adele song before it all turns into background music.  It is the same bland and unimaginative path that is trodden by Ed Sheeran, George Ezra, Sam Smith and a host of other huge selling but bland pop artists.

Whatever  happened to music being the opiate of the masses?  Perhaps Adele and the other artists I mention reflect the current generation of the nation’s youth.  That part of the nation’s youth that sits in their bedroom glued to a computer screen that is.

There is a hell of a lot wrong with our world today and unlike yesteryear popular music does not reflect discontent or disillusion.  Instead artists like Adele pull a plastic veneer over the world’s problems.  Not for them any hint of stirring up the rebellious masses.  Perhaps Adele, Sheeran and company are part of the problem simply because they have nothing relevant to say.

Have you listened to Adele’s “25”?  What did you think?  Is Adele boring safe and bland or is she a genius?  Let us know what you think.

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BBC1 at 8:30pm

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Stevie Simpson

Stevie Simpson – Some Days Are Diamond – album review

Stevie Simpson – Some Days Are Diamond [self release]Stevie Simpson

CD/DL

Available Now

8.5/10

Stevie Simpson has been playing regularly at motorcycle rallies and festivals all over the UK since 2000.  Working under the billing of  STEViE One Bloke One Mandolin, Simpson is a stalwart of the grassroots festival scene picking up new fans and new friends at every gig.  Alan Ewart checks out Simpsons fifth studio album for Louder Than War.

Stevie Simpsons new release is a complex collection of tunes so lets start with the basics.  Some Days Are Diamonds offers 11 track and weighs in at just under an hour in length.  The album is beautifully mastered and engineered and in typical Simpson style it is the vocal that carries the songs.  The music is stripped back, almost bare though in addition to Simpsons mandolin there is some banjo, guitar, fiddle and even keyboard playing a supporting role.

Stevie’s voice I guess would be described as gruff, it is gravelly and smokey.  Think Tom Waits crossed with Steve Earle and add a touch of Johnny Cash.  Like those wonderful artists Simpson is first and foremost a story teller and that voice tells the story of his life.  You can hear the joy, the pain, the good times and bad throughout the piece.

The opening track “Arrival USA” lets you know straight off that you are in for an emotional ride, the subject matter the Boston marathon bombing, the irony of Chechen brothers bringing terrorism to the streets of the nation that adopted them.  Simpson also draws on the irony of atrocities committed in the name of religion.

Dodge A Bullet is perhaps the most personal track on the album, dealing as it does with Simpson’s near fatal heart attack, his subsequent recovery and his determination to keep having fun whilst perhaps having to cut back on the excesses of youth  Stevie tells of partying through till dawn but now being more likely to be found drinking tea rather than whiskey.  Bring Me A Beer is the sort of bar-room tale that Tom Waits would be proud of.  It is the tale of the songwriter who is sat in a dark and smoky bar hugging a beer and writing songs that no-one will ever hear.  Like many of Waits songs it is part melancholia part hope and like Waits at his finest Simpson leaves you wondering.

Slaughter uses the trick of disguising a dark, disturbing and violent tale behind a bright, melodic and joyful “rag-time” piano.  The Mechanic and the title track are stories of life, travelling songs.  They are allegorical tales, the engines and motorcycle journeys tell the tale of Simpsons life.

Some Days Are Diamond is a truly excellent album.  It is enjoyable throughout but like all great music it improves with each listen and it rewards those who take the time to analyse and understand.  Those who take the time to look a little deeper, to explore beyond the obvious are those who will get the most from a lovely piece of work.

Gaz brookfield

Gaz Brookfield: True And Fast – album review

Acoustic Troubadour Gaz Brookfield is back with his fourth studio album.  In True And Fast Brookfield treats us to a collection of personal observations on life, love, politics, religion and the music industry.  As usual Brookfield lays himself bare for all to see.

Gaz Brookfield is one of the hardest working men in the music business.  It is far from unusual to see Brookfield perform 200 or more shows a year as he hauls himself up and down the highways and byways of our green and pleasant land in a never ending struggle to make a living from what can only be described as broken music industry.

Brookfield has built a loyal following, I have yet to meet someone who, having heard him play, hasn’t instantly become a fan.  You can’t help but like a man who works so hard at his art and who is prepared to allow you to look so deeply into his psyche through the medium of his songs.  As someone who has seen Brookfield perform on numerous occasions I was already familiar with some of the tracks on the album, something that in my view makes a review more difficult.

Brookfield’s strength as a songwriter is his ability to take seemingly banal observations on everyday life and turn them into a song.  On True and Fast Gaz tells us about his ongoing struggles with his not so trusty old van Ozzy, so called because it’s “always fucked.”  In typical Brookfield style the seemingly superficial hides a deeper truth as Gaz tells Ozzy, “you mend me when I mend you.”  Followers of Brookfield’s music will know that he has struggled with depression and his life on the road is both cause and cure.

Gaz’s constant touring is a recurrent theme in his songs and he hints at a desire to put down more permanent roots in “Sailor Jerry’s Kitchen” and in the album closer “Cornish Fishing Town.”  The theme is unsurprising for a man who is shortly to marry and yet Brookfield admits that his ideal home would have a “festival back garden” complete with a stage and a fire-pit.

In both “Just A Ride” and “Godless Man”  Gaz contemplates his own mortality and his struggles with religion, not an easy subject for someone brought up in a religious family.  Diabetes Blues reveals Brookfield struggles in coming to terms with the condition, especially given that cider is now off the menu.

Throughout the piece Gaz remains honest, self deprecating and humorous, though he has not above an acerbic sideswipe at the government and the music industry.  Solo Acoustic Guy may seem like a bit of self-deprecating humour but it also lays open the injustice of promoters and festival organisers who expect musicians to play for free or for “exposure.”

Brookfield demonstrates his fierce independence throughout the album.  With the exception of the banjo and steel guitar on “Mud and Rainbows” and fiddle parts by long time friend and collaborator Ben Wain, Gaz plays all the instruments himself.  In my view Brookfield is underrated as a guitarist, his ability to mix styles seamlessly is an art and he is extremely proficient at doing so.

True And Fast contains half a dozen tracks that are the equal of anything that Brookfield has produced in the past and both Knights of the Round Table and Cornish Fishing Town are amongst his very best work.  The album is a grower, repeated listens reward us by revealing the hidden subtleties in the songs.

What I find most appealing in all of Brookfield’s work is that he delivers a sometimes damning social commentary, always honestly, often painfully but always in a way that offers forward hope for the future.  There is a resounding positivity in Brookfield’s work that is amply illustrated in Diabetes Blues when he sings “so from cider I’ll abstain, i’ll do my best not to complain, and after all there is always single malt.”

True And Fast is another fine offering from Brookfield, another gem of an album from a man whose enthusiasm, hard work and gifted songwriting deserves every success.

Bullet For My Valentine

Bullet For My Valentine – Back With Venom

There was a time not that long ago when we thought that Bullet For My Valentine were going to kick on to become one of the most important rock bands on the planet.  Described variously as hard rock, heavy metal or metal core, this was a band who were Kerrang’s best British Band three times and who won the best live band award in 2010.  Their 2008 album Scream Aim Fire was an absolute monster of an album, 2010’s Fever didn’t quite hit the heights of its predecessor.

Then what happened?  Well frankly Bullet For My Valentine lost focus, drifted into side projects and in 2013 pushed out Temper Temper an album that even die-hard fans would accept was at best mediocre.  Fast forward to 2015 and Bullet For My Valentine are back with a new offering – Venom.  The question is does Venom mark a return to form or is this the poison that will send them to the hidden hell of rock obscurity?

The Guardian, that well known bastion of quality writing on the metal genre, damns Venom with faint praise.  Dom Lawson says that Venom “does at least suggest that frontman Matt Tuck has embraced heavy metal in its bombastic entirety again.”  Lawson continues “where Venom does succeed is in the ferocity of its heavier moments, which while seldom straying from entry-level metalcore and thrash cliches, do at least sound like the work of a band who like metal enough to stop ruining it.”

Lawson does have a point.  Check out “Pariah”  the guitar wok is exemplary, heavy pulsing and threatening but you can barely hear the bass guitar in the mix and the lyrics rend towards the cliched.   Check out the video for “You Want A Battle” it shows huge promise, heavy guitar and Tuck’s screamed lyrics suggest some real energy and Venom, but what’s with the schoolboy choir?  Seriously!

The Evening Standard, like the Guardian sees Venom as a mixed bag.  John Aizlewood that Bullet For My Valentine “sound rejuvenated: howling, super-fast, riff-laden guitars thrash it out with Matthew Tuck’s hollered vocals and his emotionally repressed lyrics. It packs a punch, although Tuck’s bizarre insistence that anything resembling melody be removed is predictably self-defeating.”

Venom does mark something of a return to form for Bullet For My Valentine.  There are moments of real promise, ‘No Way Out’ and ‘Broken’ pack serious punch, they are heavy, meaty and aggressive, played with both energy and pace.  I really liked the album but I must say that it does have something of the feel of a band desperately trying to recover past glories rather than moving forward.

I will be seeing Bullet For My Valentine live in a small venue in October.  I will be interested to see how the new songs translate to the live arena. Perhaps by then Venom will have ingrained itself more deeply into my psyche, we shall see.

~

Bullet for my Valentine are on the internet here.  They are on Facebook and they Tweet as @BFMVOfficial 

Neck Deep

Neck Deep Back with Superb New Album: Life’s Not Out To Get You

Neck DeepBritish pop-punk outfit are back with their second album, Life’s Not Out To Get You, and I must say that after a few listens it is a pretty credible effort.  The Welsh five-piece have been around since 2012 and this album is a follow up to last years debut Wishful Thinking.

Kerrang call Life’s Not Out To Get You “incredible” and the pop-punk album of the year, all without offering even the simplest (and laziest) justification for their viewpoint.  It is perhaps articles like this that are responsible for the slow walk to death that music magazines are taking at the moment.

Sputnik music come over all fan-boy about “Life’s Not Out To Get You” but at least they present a strong rational for their 4.5/5 rating.

“Neck Deep has got the chops that has made them relevant in the punk scene that many say is fading. If these opinions have any factuality to their merit, than Neck Deep is just the band to swoop in and save the day” they say.

I have to agree that Life’s Not Out To Get You is a good album and it is very good in places.  There are lovely hooks, bags of drive and tons of energy throughout the album.  If you are a fan of bands like Green Day, All Time Low and Blink-182 you will love this album  It is clear that Neck Deep are comfortable and competent and the album keeps you engaged most of the time.

As DIY Magazine points out Life’s Not out To Get You is beautifully engineered and produced.  They describe the album as “as guiltily satisfying as you’d expect any feel-good, buoyant pop punk effort to be.”  Therein lies the problem for this old codger.  As someone old enough to have basked in the glories of the late 1970’s punk revolution I can’t help but feel that it’s all a little bit too nice.

Where is the anger, the angst and the bitterness?  Where is the shredding of guitar and the heavy bass lines that categorise the punk bands of old.  The very title of the album is a clue.  Sorry neck Deep but Life is out to get you and you better be ready to spit in it’s eye and kick it in the nuts when it does come.

Don’t get me wrong, Life’s Not Out To Get You is a long way from the safe bland and boring crap that dominates the charts at present, but I prefer my punk to be more punk than pop.  I prefer my punk to be angry and aggressive thats why Stray from The Paths Subliminal Criminal, also released yesterday is more likely to be in my headphones.

That said the new Neck Deep disc is a very enjoyable offering, a solid 7/10.  I am certain that it will win Neck Deep a lot of airplay on 6 music and expand their growing audience.  I look forward to hearing how some of the songs work out live when I see them at Reading festival in a couple of weeks time.

Skinny Lister

Skinny Lister – Down On Deptford Broadway – album review

There is a huge buzz around Skinny Lister at present and those who know about these things are tipping them for great things.  Several of my festival buddies have seen them recently but until Bearded Theory last week I hadn’t had the pleasure.  The buzz has been overwhelmingly positive so I was determined not to miss them.

It is no easy task to describe a Skinny Lister gig because a Skinny Lister performance is a performance like no other.  A Skinny Lister gig is a kind of rum-fuelled, high energy riot of punk edged folk rock that really does defy accurate description.  The London based six-piece band create a riot of noise that sweeps the audience away in a maelstrom of energy.

The madness is lead by vocalist Lorna Thomas who is aided and abetted by double bassist Michael Camino.  Lorna is a pint sized rum swigging bundle of energy who bounces around the stage, in a blaze of flying skirts and bright red lipstick.  If you want to see a crowd surfing double bass player then a Skinny Lister gig is the place to come.

Skinny Lister are a real treat live so unsurprisingly I was keen to see if their live sound translated well into their recorded output.  Skinny Lister recently signed with Xtra Mile recordings, a label I am very fond of.  They have a very strong stable  of artists including the likes of Frank Turner, Beans On Toast and Catfish and The Bottlemen so I think Skinny Lister will do well on the label.

Down On Deptford Broadway is a strong album with some great tracks.  It feels a lot like a mix between “Rum Sodomy and The Lash” era Pogues mixed with Mumford and Sons.  I hope that they remain on the Pogues side of that line.  Trouble on Oxford Street with its hard hitting vocals is where the similarity shines through most strongly.  The switch in vocals between Dan and Lorna is refreshing and the mix of styles from celtic folk to folk rock to folky ballads means that  you are kept on your toes and are never likely to get bored.

Cathy is a great track, a real tub-thumping, roof-raising anthem about a scarlet woman and brings to mind bands like Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys.

Overall this is an extremely enjoyable album, it is fresh and interesting and a lot of fun.  It is also a big step forward for Skinny Lister.  Sadly I can’t say that the album captures their live performances, it is probably impossible to capture that energy and dynamism in the studio but it is still worth adding to your collection.

Skinny Lister are on the Internet at skinnylister.com on Facebook  and they tweet as @skinnylister

Here are a few of my photographs from last weeks set at Bearded Theory festival, enjoy.