Well, it’s a bold move to name your band Messiah.  It creates a certain level of expectation which, ultimately, you have to live up to.  At a time when careers are created by appearing on a talent show singing someone else’s songs, it’s great to be reminded that some bands actually do it the right way by learning to play, performing live and writing songs.Until very recently, Messiah were a 5-piece from Edinburgh who recently released their debut album “Synesthesia” (if you want to know what it means, just google it).  Now they’re a 4-piece, deciding to carry on rather than split following the departure of their lead guitarist and songwriter.  It’s a brave decision, but is it the right one?

There are a lot of good things to say about the album, but there are a lot of jarring little things which don’t quite work as well.  The songs are inventive melodically but often lyrically limited and the influences on the lead guitar parts are sometimes painfully easy to pick out.  The overall sound is obviously influenced by the Stone Roses and the mid-90s Britpop sound, particularly the vocal style but some of the lead guitar work is very derivative.

When the songs, performances and production on the album gel, the results are outstanding.  The album’s second track, “Fantasia”, with the tribal floor tom intro and the vaguely menacing harmonies works perfectly and “Lazy Daisy” is a great Faces/Black Crowes –style riff monster which doesn’t have to mean anything; it just sounds great.  The penultimate track “Let the Good Times Roll” is an acoustic piece which sounds great if you don’t analyze the lyrics too closely and ignore the overdone acoustic guitar soloing under the vocal.  Some of the production and arrangement tricks on the album are a little bit too obvious; a bit too much unison playing with guitar and vocal, bass and guitar and drums and guitar.  Maybe the problem is that a first album is so much easier to get out now.

In the distant past, bands got together and spent several years writing songs and playing support gigs while they tried to get a major label deal.  When the deal was secured, the label committed to giving maximum support to making the band a success.  The result was that any band’s debut album was the best possible representation of that band’s work since they formed.  Today’s technology enables bands to release material which might or might not be ready for release; “Synesthesia” sounds like it needed a more firm production stance to iron out the over-indulgent guitar lines and unnecessary technical tricks.
It’s almost impossible to decide how much of the band’s sound was defined by their songwriter but the fact they have decided to continue without him seems to say that the other members feel they made a significant contribution to Messiah.  On the basis of “Synesthesia”, Messiah have great potential  and now need to decide how to continue.  Let’s hope they can capitalise on all of the really good things to be heard on this album and lose the rest.

Here we go, it’s summer again.  John Major once said that summer was about drinking warm beer and hearing the sounds of leather on willow.  What did he know?  He probably never even watched Buffy.  Anyway you know what summer’s all about anyway, don’t you?  It’s all about people everywhere trying to impose their lack of musical taste on you.

It’s bad enough trying to deal with the year-round annoyances like teenagers on trains and buses listening to music on their phones or the ones who very considerately use headphones then turn the volume up to ear-bleeding levels to annoy us anyway.  It sounds terrible and it’s usually something that you would rather eat your own toenails than listen to.  Then along comes summer.

Half a day of sunshine and the rules change completely; suddenly everyone thinks they have the right to assault the ears of the rest of the world.  I was woken up at 7am by some moron who had parked his car outside, left the engine running, opened the doors wide and had the radio up to 11.  Which artist do you think gently eased my passage into wakefulness?  You’d expect Rizzle Kicks or David Guetta or Calvin Harris, wouldn’t you.  No, this leader of the mild boys was waking up the neighbourhood with John Cougar feckin’ Mellencamp (“Jack and Diane” if you must know).  Every car either has the windows open or the roof down so that every motorist can show the depths of their musical appreciation.  And the mainstream radio programming is so predictable; whether it’s DJ Sammy or Don Henley, you can get too much of “Boys of Summer”.

But it gets even worse.  Sunshine in the evening and at the weekend means it’s barbecue time and vegetarians get the double whammy of the smell of dead animals being cremated to the accompaniment of your neighbours’ music collection.  But there’s another refinement to the torture; you don’t think anyone uses a music system designed to deliver a good sound outside do you?  Of course not; it costs a fortune to hire the expertise to produce a decent sound outdoors (and even then, there are no guarantees), so it’s much easier to just stick the speakers out of the window.  It can go 2 ways from here; either you can’t get it loud enough to hear it or someone cranks it up so it distorts so much that it could be anything by the Jesus and Mary Chain.  When someone does get a decent sound system for a special occasion it costs so much that they decide to get full value by playing till 3am.  It’s a lose/lose situation.

Can things get any worse?  Afraid so; reach for the ear defenders when the teenage DJ Wannabe turns up with his (they’re always boys) laptop and mixing software.  You can do all sorts of clever stuff with software now, and this kid will do the lot to impress his mates.  If you look really closely at any Hieronymus Bosch painting you’ll see a spotty adolescent with a laptop and headphones in a corner somewhere.  Seriously.  Roll on winter.