Tag Archives: alt-rock

Record review: Bush – Man On The Run (2014, LP)

bush man on the run

After listening to this sixth studio album by alt-rock quartet Bush, it’s tempting to pull out a clichéd phrase or two – “how the mighty have fallen” being the most obvious. But, were the British band, formed in 1992, ever that mighty in the first place? Grunge kids knocking around in the ’90s will remember being weaned on Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, while Bush’s 1996 album Razorblade Suitcase may have registered as their most noticeable, but ultimately fairly forgetful, effort. And so, having split and reformed in 2010, Gavin Rossdale and co. are sticking to the formula: pushing formulaic, lacklustre rock dirge with laughably cringe-worthy lyrics and an utter lack of soul. Lead single ‘The Only Way Out’ is as good as it gets, and that ain’t good at all; “Follow me down to the water, through the trip wires in your head” being the opening line. Good one Gav, old chum; get all that repressed high school poetry out of you in one fell swoop. The turgid electro-rock of ‘Loneliness Is A Killer’ is another low point; it’s less a song, more an excruciatingly obvious attempt to make noise big enough to fill arenas. Bush have always been much more successful in America than anywhere else in the Western world, and this album will probably keep their bore-rock train a-rollin’ there. I can’t even begin to think of a reason why. (Zuma Rock Records)

For mX

Record review: Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin (2014, LP)

bob mould beauty and ruin

Fans of Hüsker Dü tend to favour either the tracks on which guitarist Bob Mould or drummer Grant Hart sang; the former taking a more brutal approach at the mic and the latter being a more melodic soul. It’s been 26 years since the Hüskers broke up in acrimony and 25 since Mould’s debut solo record, but 2012’s Silver Age saw Mould triumphantly return to the rush of angry alt-rock riffage Hüsker fans loved him most for, and it’s in this vein Beauty & Ruin continues for the 53 year-old. Not that you’d think it after listening to sludgy opener ‘Low Season’; the longest track here at four minutes. With that out of his system, it’s straight into the two and three-minute blasts of rock ferocity, with ‘I Don’t Know You Anymore’ and ‘The War’ being particular stand-outs. ‘Forgiveness’ eases off enough for a mid-album catching of breath, and isn’t unlike some of REM’s earlier work, while ‘Tomorrow Morning’ is Candy Apple Grey-era Hüsker Dü rebooted for the 21st century. It’s refreshing to see and hear a rock musician still doing it better than many bands he inspired, and as Hüsker Dü’s classic Zen Arcade came out 30 years ago this month, maybe it’s time for a re-evaluation of Bob Mould’s standing in the annals of rock. On Beauty & Ruin, he’s a musical force of nature; just like he’s always been. Green Day et. al: this is how it’s done. (Merge)

Record review: Tape/Off – Chipper (2014, LP)

tape-off-chipper

They say life is a little bit more laid back in Queensland, but the length of time it has taken Brisbane’s Tape/Off to record and release their debut album is surely taking the piss. After years of putting out singles and EPs, the quartet of Nathan Pickels (vocals/guitar), Ben Green (guitar), Cameron Smith (bass) and Branko Cosic (drums) have finally gone and done it, and thankfully it has been worth the wait. While first single ‘Pedestal Fan’ is a typically brutal piece of Tape/Off alt-rock, it isn’t necessarily an all-encompassing indication of what’s to be found on this 11-song effort, as there’s more than a healthy dollop of shoegaze messily slopped all over. Opener ‘Australia’s Most Liveable City’ eases us gently into proceedings with a dazed, meandering stroll through the beauty and banality of living in Brisbane in 2014, before ‘Peggy’s Lookout’ opens up into the heavy sound we know and love Tape/Off for. There’s still a debt owed to Pavement through tracks like ‘Different Order’ and ‘Believe In You’, while fractured New York Dolls-esque highlight ‘Climates’ exemplifies their ramshackle charm. Trying to guess whether each upcoming song will be a cruncher or a softie is like trying to predict whether the school bully will focus his meaty aggression on you on a particular day, but somewhat surprisingly it’s the less brutal tracks that are most memorable, like ‘Escalator’ and downbeat closer ‘Another Year’. It’s this fantastic mix of aggression and restraint that make you want to grab the band by the lapels and – in true school bully fashion – tell them not to leave it so damn long next time. (Sonic Masala)

For Beat Magazine

Russell Marsden of Band of Skulls: “It’s a tipping point now”

band of skulls

ENGLISH alt-rockers Band of Skulls are probably one of the hardest working bands in the business.

Since their 2009 debut Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, the trio of Russell Marsden, Emma Richardson and Matt Hayward have consistently won fans the old-fashioned way; by touring relentlessly and improving with each album. Singer-guitarist Marsden explains how their hard work is paying off with new record Himalayan.

“It’s an exciting time,” he says. “It’s a tipping point now. The fact now that we have three albums to choose from really makes a difference. Only having one record makes playing a show for more than forty minutes quite a challenge, so now that we have all these records to choose from makes our shows much stronger. We’ve had the record finished for a while and it’s kind of a relief to be able to share it with people. I think that’s probably the emotion that’s going through our minds right now. We’ve been playing the songs live, so we’ve got a little bit of a feeling about how people feel about the new songs, but now people can get the record, take it home and live with it, then come see us play. When we’ll be down in Australia, that will definitely be the case, so that’ll be exciting.”

The band’s second album, Sweet Sour, was released in 2012 and saw their songs evolve with a cleaner, harder sound. This time around, they weren’t willing to sit still either.

“We changed producers for this record,” Marsden says. “That was kind of a big shift. Nick Launay came in to do this one, and we made it in London, so this was the first time we didn’t record in the middle of nowhere. We went into the studio every day and worked on the songs, instead of being stuck somewhere on a farm. It really changed the dynamic of the recording session, and I think that comes out in the music; it was fun to do it every day and we really relished the challenge. Previously it was more intense, but this time we were doing a week together and a week apart. This time we definitely took the work away, then reconvened and kept the best ideas and trashed the rest. We all had to learn to accept that fact that your idea might not be the best idea. We’re quite good at it; we don’t come to blows but we might disagree now and then. Musically, I think the sound has come of age. We know what our sound is, but we also feel allowed to not just be a blues-rock band or just a heavy band, and our audience will allow us to continue to experiment in a few different directions. It’s more of a challenge to be able to play the new songs; we’ve written some that are quite tricky and are just at the edge of our ability. We challenge ourselves, and the first few times we play them live are seat-of-the-pants moments, but once you get over the first couple of times the confidence grows and it becomes more natural. Once we get our teeth into them, it’s really great. The record comes out soon and the songs know it; I think the songs are onto us. But there’s a certain buzz about playing tunes for the first time in front of people, and that’s part of the thrill which we’ve enjoyed so far. There are a couple of tracks we haven’t done yet too, so we’ve still got a couple of those moments left.”

Despite the obvious benefits of having new songs to play live, Marsden admits the expectations the band put on themselves to write the best songs possible is the driving force behind the band.

“We give ourselves our own pressure,” he says. “Outside pressure doesn’t even get a look in. We’re really proud of the two records we’ve made and we loved working with [producer] Ian Davenport on those records, but we set the bar higher this time. If a song isn’t as good as something you’ve done before, then it basically isn’t good enough. Recording is an amazing experience, although it’s not easy. There are a lot of long hours, and it can be relentless and the hours are gruelling. It can wear you down and drive you insane. It’s a bit like sitting an important exam, where the result is going to affect your life in the future, but seeing ideas that you have in your head realised is a thrill. When something comes out well in the recording, you can’t help but sneak a thought about how it’s going to sound playing it to people in the future.

An upcoming June tour of Australia is something Marsden is hoping the group can repeat in the near future.

“We’ve been a couple of times now and the audiences are fantastic and really knowledgeable,” he says. “Your festivals are really good as well; you get a lot of international acts coming over. The competition is stiff, and we know it’s not going to be an easy ride, but we’ll be playing some bigger venues for the first time and that’s really exciting. I wish we could come back to Australia more often, but it’s a long way and it costs a lot of money for bands to come over. Hopefully this won’t be the last trip on this record. If it goes as good as we hope, we can maybe come back and do some more cities as we only have three stops this time. Hopefully we can return not long afterwards.”

HIMALAYAN BY BAND OF SKULLS IS OUT NOW. THE BAND TOUR AUSTRALIA IN JUNE.

Record review: Future of the Left – How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident (2013, LP)

FOTL

If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention, or so the saying goes, and by that standard, Future of the Left frontman Andy Falkous could never be accused of lacking focus. Album four from the Cardiff alt-rock quartet sees the former Mclusky man angrier than ever, and – given it’s a fan-funded, self-released effort – free to heap vitriol on all manner of subjects and people. Amid sludgy, demented bass-lines and angular guitar riffs he takes aim at record companies, consumerism, television, and property prices, before saving a special mention for a certain Razorlight singer on ‘Johnny Borrell Afterlife’. While it’s pretty much business as usual in terms of lyrical content, there’s experimentation in the form of country-rock closer ‘Why Aren’t I Going To Hell?’ and more than a hint of new-wave pop on ‘The Real Meaning of Christmas’, while ‘The Male Gaze’ could even be called catchy. Listening to song after song of an angry man ranting can wear thin, but How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident is the perfect antidote to manufactured pop.