reviews march 2006

Catnap, Have You Seen Larry? (NoSt8ment) CDS
If I said slippery rhythms, murky vocals and guitars conjuring a hellish rocky landscape, would you think "Hmm. Catchy" or just "Hmm"? But it is, catchy, that is, threading between a smart tune and atonality with style - it boils and broods, gets death-metal migraine, shifts into an electrified wash of pastoral psychedelia - and that's just the first track. Lots of deftly-handled ideas here, and wit: a song called The Music Industry As A Giant Penis races up a spiral staircase whining sarcastic anecdotes, then jumps off with a mosquito scream. Flabby wattles of echo on the guitars, magma floes, elegant twining riffs… It's droll, deadly serious, and probably semi-legal - feedback noise terror may cause involuntary twitching. In a pervy but good way. (Greville Wizzard)

NosferatuD2, demo cd #2 CDR
Another from NosferatuD2 , and as before it's stringently uncluttered - just-about overdriven guitar, disengaged vocals, complex drums and a claustrophobic atmosphere like an insight into a private world: Cryptic mutters, abrupt guitar clangour and drums like a running commentary on the chords and strangled notes winding themselves into a ball. Vitriolic anti-Croydon rants, as in "You can burn down/ my hometown / I don't care to be quite honest. / Just a forest of KFC, / Starbucks and Maccie D's / … A lorryload of broken things / and half-digested chicken wings." Mordant, hungover streams-of-consciousness with the drums' stealthy rumble underneath. Weird little grace notes and harmonics like oil on a puddle.

Lazy generalisation: "band" duos tend to be synthy boffins or minimalist retro-bores. This is too pissed-off and twisted to be either, and all the more refreshing for it. (Greville Wizzard)

Rhesus, Art is Dead (Spinach Records) CDS
A posthumous release for a criminally underrated band, and a full-throttle twisted-punk onslaught all the way. The title track's clever without unnecessary complication - maybe a bit glossy but still obnoxious, driving, with meticulous bass and pogoing twin vocals. The next two tracks are rougher but classier, a sinister swerve off the rockist highway; the smooth voice gets a sarcastic edge and the guitars get beastly harsh. Eat Your Own Young is the borderline-discordant, nightmare climax: a blood-flecked, gristle-shredding roar. A great loss, damn it. (Greville Wizzard)

Ad-Alta, demo CDR
The grunge revival's coming. The vocalist mimics Eddie Vedder and it's got that wah-wah soloing, overlong thing going on - nevertheless, it's good stuff. There are interesting differences to its 90's sources: economy of sound and lightness of touch - not quiet-loud but introspective ebb-flow. Glistening skeins of far-off guitar slide into noxious spume, and while the kick-drum thumps like a tartrazine heart-attack, a weird glam inflection creeps in. Vocoders? Talk-boxes? Tiger Feet tempo? Yeees, that's weird - especially track three, reminiscent of I Got You Babe through a blender.(Greville Wizzard)

Pavilion M2, Safety About Your Glass Face (Free Dimension Records) CD
Czech prog-metal. No, don't run away, it's great. Eerie, sinuous and - good move - truncated, these fuzz-strafed mini-epics resemble Cathedral playing quietly at 4am on a mushroom binge. The greyish churn crossfades into pearly wavelets; insidious as lapping water, the songs don't so much end as evaporate. Ghostly echoes entice through the key and tempo crunches and the songs develop in a weird, organic way that fills the room with corner-of-the-eye fog. Even the (very short) drum solo sounds.. Eerie. Brrr. (Greville Wizzard)

The Postcards, At Home with The Postcards, demo CDR
Starts as sweet but undemanding country-rock and climbs an arc of sophistication over twelve songs to a strange hybrid folk-disco, which looks awful on paper but sounds utterly compelling. There are circular strums and, inevitably, "sunshine" harmonies - albeit good ones. But there's also a thread of steel running through this, and a snaky rhythm section. The tunes stay catchy but edge into spikier territory, while neat melodic twists impressively sidestep cliché. Sweethearts of the Brockwell Rodeo. (Greville Wizzard)

Full Crumb, A Well-Aimed Blow To The Thorax CDR
A little lo-fi treasure this. Did I say lo-fi? Only in the most considered sense, there's no hiss and only on the last track (of sixteen) does the dreaded sound-wobble introduce itself. There's plenty of muscular scuzziness, but occasional intervals of gentle beauty too, tunes-a-plenty (I've been humming some of these without realising) and beyond the fondness for word-play - a thoughtful obliqueness to the lyrics. It's a bit of 60's garage, 70's trashy glam punk, and 80's dark indie-ness with a little dash of Madchester and acoustic reflection too. All in a hand-made sleeve with an authenticatory thumb-print, how could you ever say no? That you can get it for an A5 SAE and 30 pence is a marvel. The Full Crumb, Ellerwood, South End, Seaton Ross, York, YO42 4LZ (Laurence)

Lodestone, Demo CDR
Perhaps this modest publication you're reading isn't primarily noted for championing "mainstream" music, but we're not snobs and if something's good then it's good. They used to say it was grim up north, but the post-industrial wastelands are spruced up a bit now and keep turning out a procession of quality bands. This lot might be one of the best ones around, certainly a cut above some getting unwarranted levels of fawning hype. The reason that the hackneyed guitar band format never goes away despite constant obituaries is that whilst there's countless inane play-it-by-numbers practitioners boring the pants off us all, there are always those that mix a little magic with the clichés, a bit of imagination and a touch of inspiration. So Lodestone are an accomplished live band and this is a demo of theirs; it's very polished and powerful and has good tunes - the sort of thing that reminds us that the mainstream can still be a place where artistry flourishes. (Laurence)

Apple Orchard, A Hiding Smile (Humblebee Recordings) 7"
Goodness gracious me. For a moment it was as if the last fifteen years hadn't happened, perhaps in some regards no bad thing. Home recorded on a 4-track and released on vinyl, I so wanted this to be good - and guess what? It's really, really lovely. Wiser owls than me offer comparisons with Felt and the Sarah label and I'd suggest the Pastels when they were good. Whatever, I'm just happy giving it another spin and being transported to seemingly simpler and more innocent summers. (Laurence)

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