David Bowie: Blackstar
Blackstar once again reveals the marvellously attentive nature of Bowie, and his frighteningly surreal ability to move one step forward each time. It’s reminiscent of many of his post-Tin Machine albums: beguiling and intriguing, caustically prescient; it pushes the envelope once more.
The ten-minute title track is nothing short of magnificent, not a second overlong, but mightily weighty in its telling of a barbaric action.
As with The Next Day, the eternally-dubbed comeback album, Blackstar offers numerous snapshots of Bowie the groundbreaker, the man who changed direction at regular turns. It would be stretching reality to suggest it is a masterpiece, but it has a satisfying feel to it and with every listen offers more intrigue and clarity.
Horse Party: Horizons
Horizons is a 13-track mop-up job on R*E*P*E*A*T Records, that collects two 7”singles, various download-only releases and an unreleased track.
As the album progresses the mood gets darker (“we could drown if you like”) and there’s a feeling the frenetic, buzzsaw format is gradually being dispatched.
So, Out of Sight bristles with pugnaciousness, its corruscating lyrics aimed at someone with faults aplenty.
I appreciate relatively new acts releasing compilations so early in their careers; much of this is hard to get, spread over five separate issues in various guises plus an unreleased track I would have to assume wouldn’t see the light of day otherwise.
Mouse Eat Mouse: Toxic Tails
The Glesga duo have been awa’ in their hidey hole in the corner of the hoose, nurturing a path away from the trap and into the cheese factory.
But they’re oot the noo: CD Shade has his wordsmithery hat on again, for the follow up to the much-lauded Mair Licht (2006) and the more subdued Woof from 2013.
This self-released album comes in the midst of a British Conservative government intent on pursuing class war, and follows the defeat for the separatists in the Scottish independence referendum (at least in the short-term).
Mouse Eat Mouse’s frontman CD Shade is a Rabbie Burns-inflected writer and vocalist, a bald eagle of a colossus, whispering or bellowing the lyrics with an innate passion lacking in so many X-Factor lite-ish acts.
Toxic Tails is a monologue of writing, a journalistic inspection of the modern British state, and, in consequence, places and people way beyond the seas and coasts of the Isles. Fat cats beware: these mice are fucking angry.
Get Toxic Tails from bandcamp:
Alun Gaffey: untitled
Alun Gaffey, as we’ll call it, is a curious fusion of pop, electro and Tom Jones’ B-sides. Palutyllau possesses a distinct nod to the 70s funk and soul influences he so beloves: Sly and the Family Stone, Chaka Khan, Roy Ayers et al.
Yr Arfon pounds with early 80s hip hop beats, and New Romantic excitement.
Sandwiched inbetween those is a track about dinosaurs (either in the literal or the metaphorical sense) Deinasoriaid, a glorious frolic in indie-pop with a clear acknowledgment of the genius of the Super Furry Animals. There’s the same Godlike pop sensibilities on O Angau, the free-form, jaunty jumpabout the Welsh seem to love (am recalling 90s bands like Topper and Big Leaves, both far too good for the ignorant London press).
It’s an extraordinarily diverse album that features guitar, claps, samples piano, drums, bass and drums, and “ayyb” – all played by Gaffey himself recorded entirely in south Cardiff. Themes include paranoia and alternative living.
Sulk: No Illusions
Sulk are part of a new wave of revivalist bands, their ears attuned to shoegazing, Madchester and Britpop.
From the first minute of Black Infinity (Upside Down) I’m detecting the shimmering guitars and slide effects of Slowdive, which these days is actually a compliment.
The silky vocals of Jon Sutcliffe and the reverb-drenched bass remind me also of Towns, who’s debut album has been reviewed on this site, as well as an act of about five-six years ago, S.C.U.M.
While Sulk take from the above scenes, and beyond, this is less a nostalgia trip but a hand-in-hand jaunt alongside the new psychedelia, or a pioneering mini-genre that, quite frankly, is too esoteric to even have its own label.
A Blue Flame: What We’ve Become Is All That Now Remains.
Richard Stone is A Blue Flame, and he is possibly Leicester’s biggest musical export since … ahem.
It has lush 60s melodies that remind me of Bill Pritchard, another doyen of English sensibilities, who may not be a name that immediately springs to mind, but he is relatively well-known in Belgium. Which is more impressive than you might think because there’s two of them.
A Blue Flame are adept at stringing together tales of everyday mundanity and pleasures, with a dashing, neo-orchestral strumming of guitars and gentle clang of drums.
Marlborough Park Avenue is a daydream into a perfect, ice cream-kinda day. I uttered a hearty laugh at the line “I found An A-Z missing the index”, but Stone was clearly so stunned by his own cleverness that he mistakenly repeated it a few times.
Cate le Bon: Crab Day
I love this album. That in itself is probably good enough to entice you into Le Bon’s world, but I don’t have time to write about it myself.
So here’s a review lifted from The Guardian.
“After third album Mug Museum, Cate Le Bon has turned the last of her pottery-wheel twee and, on Crab Day, creates a springy rubber-band-ball of angular guitar, squalling saxophone and elastic basslines. Single Wonderful, for example, sounds like it has popped out of a Warhol Campbell’s soup can.
Mostly, though, the album has the eccentric air of an am-dram troupe who have raided the dressing up box, hopped in the camper van and escaped to the seaside to make their own fun. It’s cacophonous but also whimsical, thanks to Le Bon’s detached narration.
She sings abstractly about coathangers and yellow blinds as if sitting on her own luminous cloud. It’s best on tracks such as We Might Revolve, on which her thrilling, tightly wound post-punk guitar is glazed by her Nicoish impressionistic vocals, or What’s Not Mine, the incessant marching drums and customarily quirky xylophone offset by a sweetly sung airiness. Long may Le Bon continue to weird up the rulebook.”
Street Chant: Hauora
These Aucklanders (two gals and one lad) are, like two of the acts above, slow to release material, this coming nearly six years after debut Means.
They make a lovely, feminine racket and at its core is their declaration that they are different. The title reflects the unique Maori philosophy of health.
Hauora retains the sneery, snotty nosed approach that drove Means but adopts vulnerability in highlights like My Country, One More Year and run-down-Auckland-flat-life anthem, Pedestrian Support Lead.
There’s a shoutout to massive (for NZ anyway) shopping centre Sylvia Park on a bar rhymed with Sylvia Plath, only adding to the band-next-door charm that oozes through the cravats of each track leaving you wishing you were their best friend.