alive in theory scrollerThis combined effort from singer Kirsty Mac, multi-instrumentalists Paul Ayre and Tony Draper, known collectively as Alive in Theory, has a lot going for it. There’s some great playing, the vocal performances are pretty powerful and the songs are mostly pretty strong, so where do we start? At the very beginning, it’s a very good place apparently. Actually the opening song “Alive in Theory” isn’t a bad summary of the album; it’s full of drama, it has a wide dynamic range and a sense of menace. The intro has a feel of “Radio Gaga” and, strangely enough, there’s a little guitar fill which is pure early seventies Brian May. The vocals across the album hint at a Gothic Kate Bush, with maybe a little hint of Kim Carnes in there as well (the eighties drums and brooding synths of “Lightning” have a strong feel of “Bette Davis Eyes”). Now that wasn’t too bad for you was it? But it’s not the whole story because there are a few reservations.

Musically, “Unconditional”, isn’t bad but it demonstrates a few of the album’s downsides. The lyric has a feel of a rhyming exercise that doesn’t convey too much meaning, the vocal is a bit melodramatic and it follows a format that’s repeated through the album of a gradual layer-by-layer build-up of songs. It’s not that any of these things make it a bad album, more that without them, it could have been a better album. Glad we got that out of the way.

On the upside, the driving power of “Bethany” and the combination of distorted guitars and synth sequences works well and would fit in well in a vampire TV series while using an apocalypse as metaphor for a broken relationship in “We Are All Alone” is fairly effective. The album’s closer “The Other Side” stays just the right side of the bombastic line with channel-hopping synths, pumping bass, some Doors-style piano and a final dramatic held vocal note. If you like a bit of drama, musically and lyrically, you’re in the right place.

“Abandon” is released on Friday March 3 on Ultraviolet Records (ULTRA001-2017).

Soap Girls ScrollerHow about something nice and mellow to ease everyone into a new week? I think you may have come to the wrong place, because what we’ve got here is the latest single from The Soap Girls and the song’s title tells you almost everything you need to know. The Soap Girls are sisters Mille and Mie from Cape Town and they’re punchy, savvy and full of attitude. “Bad Bitch” is a raucous mix of stripped-down punk and rock with big drums, a simple riff and the message that no-one messes with The Soap Girls.

But it’s not just about making a glorious noise, The Soap Girls know all about marketing their songs. The whole package is aimed at young men, and that’s not a criticism; Mille and Mie understand that you need to sell more than just the songs in the twenty-first century and they’ve created an image that suggests availability with an element of transgression that’s just about spot-on for their plan for world domination. The video has strong Gothic elements (using a colour palette of black, white and red) and cuts rapidly between costume changes mixed with lots of blood and darkness, but the cartoon violence and self-parody suggest that maybe they’re not taking it too seriously. Why not have a look for yourself:

 

They’re touring the UK and Europe at the moment, so why not go along and see what all the fuss is about.

kakkmaddafakka[1]It’s a sunny Friday afternoon and it’s about time for a quick single review. Kakkmaddafakka are from Bergen in Norway and the single “Young You” is a taster for their debut album “KMF”, due to be released on June 1st. The interesting mix of slowed-down Italo house piano, an ethereal, fragile indie vocal and a bubbling bassline evokes the era of the first dance/indie crossovers when bands like Primal Scream and The Soup Dragons first jumped on to the Ibiza remix bandwagon. This is one of the songs that’s going to sound great at festivals in the sunshine (not Glastonbury then); who knows, maybe it’s the beginning of the third summer of love. And, yes, we do get the EMF reference.

Here’s the video for the single:

GIULIA ScrollerIt would be a little bit too easy to dismiss Giulia’s musical career as a vanity project but give this single an open-minded listen and you’ll probably change your mind. You’ll realise that she has an interesting voice with just enough of a raw edge to make it stand out against the background of the identically-schooled pop voices that you hear every time you turn on the radio. The combination of her songwriting and voice has managed to snag her a deal with M:89 records to release an album later this year and the single “Road Trip” this month.

The song is a rock-pop hybrid bouncing along on a wave of tribal drums, acoustic guitars and a Celtic-sounding keyboard hook which gets all the way to the chorus before the pulsing bass pushes it firmly into contemporary radio territory. It works as a pop tune, and it’s an intriguing taster for the album “Raze Me to the Ground” which is scheduled for late May release.

Don’t take our word for it. Have a look and listen for yourself:

 

My Psychosis titleOK, just to give a bit of a heads up, if Noel Gallagher had been influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (™) instead of The Beatles this is probably what Oasis would have sounded like. You know from the kick-off that Righteous Reprobates aren’t doing subtlety here; “My Psychosis” storms in with a noisy Les Paul riff and Charlie Kenny’s pounding floor tom and kick drum while the lead guitar gently feeds back before crashing in alongside Jack Collier’s bass and Rob White’s vocals. It’s melodic, it’s fast, a little bit noir and the band seem to have thrown everything they can into four minutes to grab your attention, including a sixteen-bar solo from Jack Griffiths which runs through most of the range of rock solo techniques, including the obligatory fret-tapping and whammy bar abuse.

Go on, just crank it all the way up, jump about and wind up the neighbours; that’s the kind of song it is.

“My Psychosis” is out on December 7th. Meanwhile, here’s the video:

 

the-world-didnt-start-with-u-TitleOnce you get beyond all of the ‘man of mystery’ smoke and mirrors surrounding Jupiter in Velvet, the single “The World Didn’t Start with U” is actually pretty good. It’s a bit of a glam stomper that opens with programmed drums, a big, distorted guitar riff and a fairly simple guitar melody before leading in to a vocal with elements of Bowie, Bolan and maybe even Brett Anderson in the raucous chorus. It’s big and bold, and not too subtle, the hooks are effective and the voice has that suggestion of camp and androgyny that worked so well for the glamsters in the seventies (and nineties). The video combines a bit of mime performance with a suitably enigmatic storyline built around the viewer becoming part of the story. But here, have a look for yourself:

“The World Didn’t Start with U” is out on October 16th.

Nova Twins TitleJust un-bloody-believable! What an absolutely glorious racket Nova Twins make – thunderous basslines (a little nod to “Seven Nation Army” but with balls), raucous guitar and proper drums and a totally in-yer-face rap. Maybe the title, “Bassline Bitch” should be a bit of a giveaway, but this is a raw, visceral fusion of rap and rock; you can love it or hate it, but you won’t be able to ignore it, not even if you wear your health and safety approved ear plugs.

Nova Twins are Amy Love (vocals and guitar) and Georgia South (bass and backing vocals) and I can guarantee that once you see and hear them, you won’t be forgetting them any time soon. According to the press release, their genre‘s urban punk, but that’s not even getting close to describing this aural onslaught; it’s big and distorted and nasty, but there’s a naggingly catchy melody in there as well.

“Bassline Bitch” will be the first release from Rob Hallett’s new RoboMagic company, and Nova Twins will be playing some London dates to support the single over the next few weeks, including:

Friday August 21                     The Finsbury

Friday August 28                     Club NME, Koko, Camden

Tuesday September 01          The Old Blue Last, Shoreditch

And just to make your Friday, here’s the home-made video for the single:

Cruel Love TitleScarlet Baxter has been steadily plugging away at the business of becoming a bona fide pop star for a couple of years now and “Cruel Love” is her fourth single in pursuit of her goal. The writing credits for the song include the Boombox team (John McLaughlin, Jud Mahoney and Natalie DeLucia) and Dominic Ireland as well as Scarlet herself. The production’s spot-on with disjointed percussion loops, piano chords and synth bass dropping in and out of the mix as Scarlet’s vocals are applied in layers as harmonies and as a repeated rhythm pattern to support the lead vocal, which shifts easily through the gears from breathy to barnstorming. There are so many changes of tempo and texture that even the shortest attention span shouldn’t be troubled too much.

With a bit of support, this could be the one that gives her the breakthrough.

“Cruel Love” is released on July 20th.

Meanwhile, have a look at the video for last summer’s single, “Backsliding”:

 

Seven Billion Like You TitleSo what happens when two industry insiders who combine experience of production, playing and music journalism get together and decide to make their own music? Well, to quote another duo, ‘On any given night, anything can happen’. In this particular case, James (journalist, singer and guitarist) got together with Alan (session player and producer) in West London late last year to form All This Noise and their first single, “Seven Billion like You” is scheduled for release on Monday June 15.

The sound they’ve created together harks back to that to that point in the early eighties when synth bands and guitar bands stopped exchanging haughty looks and snide comments across the dancefloor and decided that there might be some common ground. Also, the vocals on “Seven Billion like You” and the B-side “The Return” are mainly in the baritone range, referencing the likes of Phil Oakey, David Sylvian and even the wonderful Billy MacKenzie.

Both songs build gradually by adding layers of synth percussion, chords and melodies under the vocals before bringing in guitar featuring as a lead instrument rather than just another layer in the mix. It’s interesting that the lyrics for the two songs seem to reflect life in the music business, which is unusual for a new band – this topic normally kicks in around the second or third album, when the original songs about normal life have been used up and the only experiences bands have to write about are what happens at work every day. There’s a world-weariness, which isn’t quite cynicism about the lyrics and the vocal delivery which is offset by the instrumental power of the songs. It’s well put together and it’s very melodic; you might like it.

As a bonus, have a look at the video as well:

ThumbnailFor one March night in the spring of 2014, the north-west corner of Fitzrovia became a time machine.  Last Friday, the area shifted back thirty-five years; you couldn’t escape the check shirts, Harringtons, black shades and pork pie hats in The Albany and the Green Man.  The reason for this sartorial timeshift was that The Selecter was back in town at 229, The Venue supported by Warwickshire’s best-kept funk secret, Stone Foundation.  Reunion tours and nostalgia gigs, I can take ’em or leave ‘em; The Selecter played a really tight, professional set and had the audience bouncing  to the sound of all the old hits.  The old fans loved it and why shouldn’t they; the performance was probably much better technically than the late 70s/early 80s shows.  They also got a really good DJ set from Rhoda Dakar, which built up nicely to the start of the headliners’ set.

But while we’re talking about time travel, let’s go back to the start of the evening.  The support band chosen by The Selecter for this tour is Stone Foundation from Atherstone in Warwickshire and they are very special.  Stone Foundation’s fourth album, “To Find the Spirit” is out this week.  On the back of years of hard work and touring, the band seems to have become a ten-year overnight success.  The independently-released album looks set to make an impact on the album chart this week and the band is riding the crest of the wave; the band recognise all of this and refer to it during their support set, but really it’s business as usual with maybe a hint of celebration.

And business as usual is a seven-piece soul/funk band playing together as a tight unit and having a great time.  This band doesn’t have an obviously dominant personality; they all work together, the guitar, horns and Hammond combining over the solid rhythm section of Neil Sheasby and Philip K Ford to produce a sound with all of the best elements of sixties and seventies soul and funk.  If you imagine a cross between the Average White Band and Dexys Midnight Runners, then you won’t be far off the mark.  In true jazz club style, there are solos throughout the set from Ian Arnold (Hammond), Spencer Hague (trombone), Dexy D’Angelo (trumpet), Gary Rollins (saxophone) and, occasionally, Neil Jones (guitar).  How often do you hear trombone, muted trumpet and soprano sax solos these days?

The set opened with the new album’s title track, “To Find the Spirit”, and also included “Bring Back the Happiness”, “Don’t Let the Rain” “, “Stronger Than Us” and “That’s the Way I Want to Live my Life” as well as earlier tracks, “No More the Fool”, “Let the Light” and “Tracing Paper”.  If you want to hear flawless contemporary soul/funk then you should really listen to Stone Foundation either live or on record; you won’t be disappointed either way.  While we have bands like this writing, playing and performing, there’s still hope for the music business.