ALBUM REVIEW: Electric Six “Bride Of The Devil”

Electric Six "Bride Of The Devil" album cover

Electric Six “Bride Of The Devil” album cover

Detroit’s very own Electric Six roar back with Bride Of The Devil their newest release on Metropolis Records, and the hardest working band in showbiz or at least in The Motor City have decided it’s time to rock your world and rock it very, very hard.

So, here’s the thing about the Electric Six, they are funny, and I mean really funny guys, who just happen to be able to lay down a groove like the bad ass Detroit street rockers that they are, all without taking themselves too seriously (god bless ‘em) and Bride Of The Devil is their own twisted take on the “RAWK” anthem. Filled with hooks, wailing guitars and over the top vocals, Electric Six have gifted us with a blast of fresh music that will rock your socks off – cowbell included at no extra charge.

Electric Six are nothing if not direct, and Bride Of The Devil opens with… “The Opener” a chugging slice of muscular rock that sets a horns up, rock attack attitude for the whole album.

“You’re Toast” is a stadium sized bone crusher wrapped up in a 3 minute 21 second bow and containing not one but two face melting guitar solos. Don’t tell these guys that rock is dead because they ain’t buying it and after hearing this smoker neither am I.

Electric Six; press photo

Electric Six; press photo

“Hades Ladies” arrives just in the nick of time to be the anthem to the best holiday of the year (of course I mean Halloween) and if you’re not singing along with the grin inducing chorus on this little piece of ear candy you’re either dead or just a tone-deaf fool.

Of course, what every ROCK epic needs are a couple of slow numbers to get the girls on the dance floor. Electric Six know the rules and Bride Of The Devil has its share, the stand out being “Worm Of The Wood”. Maybe it’s a paean to an absinthe fueled night, its snatches of debauchery remembered only as a trippy hallucination… or maybe it’s not, how should I know? All I can say is it’s a great track and the awesome chorus that borrows a bit from Romeo Void, kicks ass, and when they do this one live I’m grabbing my girl and slow dancing real close.

So now that Electric Six have given us Bride Of The Devil, a most perfect soundtrack to THE perfect holiday I ask you, isn’t it the least we can do to thank them by buying their record? A concert ticket? And maybe even a friggin’ t-shirt? And should some shady character approach you at the show with a contract, only valid when signed in blood… well sign the damn thing because they don’t call rock-n-roll the devil’s music for nothing!

ALBUM REVIEW: The Orb “No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds”

The Orb “No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds”; cover art

The Orb “No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds”; cover art

The Orb are back with their excellent new album No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds (NSAOOB) released June 22, on Cooking Vinyl Records.

NSAOOB finds The Orb expanding on the minimalist sound of their previous two releases and instead bringing in a host of singers and players to create an album that harkens back to the bands’ earliest days while also managing to sound current and fresh.

Album opener “The End Of The Road” kicks things off with keyboards bubbling away and a thundering bassline all elevated with a fantastic lead vocal by Emma Gillespie…and straight off you know this is a return to the song-oriented structure that have made The Orb dancefloor superstars throughout their long and storied career.

Speaking of bass there is lots of it on NSAOOB and the very next track “I wish I had A pretty Dog” grooves along with a bass line so deep and thundering it would put a smile on King Tubby’s face, as would the trippy dub effects and samples that float along like glitter dropped from the heavens floating in and out of the mix at just the perfect moments.

Legendary former Public Image LTD. bassist Jah Wobble is joined by Roger Eno on the track “Pillow Fight At Shag Mountain”, a groovy instrumental number that might sound just as at home on the second Orb album U.F.ORB (released 1992) as it does here. And why not as Mr. Wobble also made an appearance on that album too. Here he gets the same type of spacey groove going that he is justly famous for while Roger Eno’s keyboards add a shimmer to the rootsy bottom end.

NSAOOB is a decidedly English sounding album, even more noticeable after the excellent but minimalist sound on their last two releases. It is also the most commercially accessible album (and I mean that in the very best way possible) that The Orb have released in years. So, to all the old school Orb fans out there – this is the one you’ve been waiting for, and the one you’ll be hearing on the radio and in the clubs for years. In other words, it’s a classic.

Appearing on No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds:
Youth, Thomas Felhmann. Michael Rendall, Andy Caine, Holly Cook, Emma Gillespie, Gaudi, Rev Eno, Jah Wobble, Guy Pratt, Mary Pearse, Brother Culture, Rihanna

The Orb is Alex Paterson

ALBUM REVIEW: Graveyard “Peace”

GRAVEYARD "Peace" cover art

GRAVEYARD “Peace” cover art

They’re Baaaaaack.

Two years after announcing their breakup Graveyard makes a very welcome return with their new album Peace, which finds the band joined by a new drummer, Oskar Bergenheim, and with a fresh and inspired new take on their heavy “riffs n’ hooks’ sound that finds them adding more soul and songcraft to their music and making Peace a worthy companion to Graveyard’s highwater mark 2012 album Lights Out.

Opening track “It Ain’t Over Yet” makes a statement in both sound and song title, that Graveyard are back with a vengeance. Guitars grind, drums crash, the bass thumps and the vocals wail as they come roaring out of the gate at full speed, letting the world know in just under four minutes, that this band is taking no prisoners and ready to shut up any naysayer that dares to think differently.

One of the best things about Graveyard and what differentiates them from so many of their contemporaries is their ability to blend different musical styles and sounds; Graveyard’s music rewards you with every repeat listen. In other words their albums have legs – and Peace is no exception, finding the band seamlessly blending rock, soul, 60’s acid fuzz and of course a big dash of heavy metal into an infectious musical stew that finds one pressing the repeat button instead of moving on to some other band.

“The Fox” is a perfect example of this diversity as guitarist Jonatan Ramm blasts out a fuzz pedal riff that would feel right at home on some lost 60’s garage rocker. Joakim Nilsson’s soul drenched wailing vocals and a hooky chorus transports the song into the stratosphere before the guitar again takes center stage on the outro. This is one track I can’t wait to hear them perform live.

This is a killer of an album, and a real return to form for Graveyard. If you’re new to the band check out the Peace album. If you’re a longtime fan, you’ll probably bought this on release day.

ALBUM REVIEW: Wooden Shjips “V.”

WOODEN SHJIPS "V." cover art

WOODEN SHJIPS “V.” cover art

V. is Wooden Shjips first new album in five years and it finds the bands’ trademark space rock newly spiked with a heavy dose of warm summer sunshine. Equal parts laid back groove and anxious tension, it delivers the perfect soundtrack for either a summer drive with the top down and your face bathed in sunlight or conversely coming down from a pretty good drug high, alone in your room at 3am and staring at the walls. Somehow this perfect gem of an album works for both scenarios.

Opening track “Eclipse” kicks the album off in fine style that finds the bands’ Hawkwind meets The Velvet Underground sound captured to full effect. Spacey guitars and synths, both heavy with delay and effects, weave in and out of the mix, while thunderous bottom end, cranked out by the bass and drums holds everything together like Super Glue.

“Staring At the Sun” the lead single from the record clocks in at over seven minutes. Now you just have to love a band that releases a seven-minute slab of space-rock calling on influences as diverse as the California psych soul of the Buffalo Springfield and the Teutonic robot rock of krautrockers Neu; and then wraps them all up into a gauzy piece of ear candy suitable to melt brains and open minds everywhere.

Speaking of brain melting…for those of you inclined this is most definitely a record that is going to WOW when listened to with headphones. The mix by Cooper Crain literally bubbles and floats between speakers while never losing its focus. The fat bottom end laid down by rhythm section of Omar Ahsanuddin and Dusty Jermier is rock solid and leaves plenty of room for the synths, guitars and vocals of Nash Whalen and Ripley Johnson to wander on and off center stage for their turn in the spotlight.

With V. (the “V” can also be interpreted as a graphic symbol of a peace sign – surely a comment on the current political and global tensions effecting the world) Wooden Shjips have delivered up all you can ask for from a band back in action after a five-year hiatus. It’s full of everything that fans loved about the band – but now informed with a new artistic growth earned by a half decade of new experiences and sounds infusing the music.

V. is a sure pick as your soundtrack to the hazy crazy summer of 2018, enjoy it.

ALBUM REVIEW: A Place To Bury Strangers “Pinned”

A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS "Pinned" album cover

A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS “Pinned” album cover

Pinned Available now on Dead Oceans Records is the 5th album from NYC noise merchants A Place To Bury Strangers (APTBS) and their first to feature new member drummer and vocalist Lia Simone Braswell.

Pinned may be the most focused APTBS album thus far. Pinned finds APTBS coaxing melodies and dare I say it hooks out of the witches’ brew of noise they are justifiably famous for and putting those melodies and hooks front and center in the mix.

This may be partly due to founding member and chief song writer Oliver Ackerman being forced to move from the artist’s workshop Death By Audio where he lived and wrote all previous APTBS albums and finding himself in an apartment surrounded by neighbors and the attendant noise restrictions that entails. Or as he sums it up, “It had to be about writing a good song and not about being super sonically Loud.” Whatever the impetus the songs are here and they are strong.

“Never Coming Back” opens Pinned in strong fashion with Dion Lundon’s (formerly of Aussie rockers D4) heavy surging bass and spooky chanted group vocals (welcome aboard Ms.Braswell and nice job) immediately set the tone for the album; one of laser urgency and razor sharp purpose. There are no extra notes floating around here. They are few and sharp and to the point. Like a good hardboiled detective story there is no fat to them.

“There’s Only One Of Us” features a catchy hook of a guitar riff, almost oriental in feel, and again great backing vocals by Braswell who is a very welcome addition to the overall sound of the band. All this ear candy floats over a bed of feedback that might melt plastic and would certainly melt your eardrum. This is still a band that knows how to strangle a guitar after all, hooks or no hooks.

Pinned sounds like a statement album from a band that is naturally evolving to the next level of their career. They sound poised and ready for bigger stages, bigger audiences and bigger songs. But long time fans need not fret. They brought along plenty of their trademark noise, tension and feedback for the ride. Only now it’s the song that comes first before everything else.

ALBUM REVIEW: Shakra “Snakes And Ladders”

SHAKRA "Snakes & Ladders" cover

SHAKRA “Snakes & Ladders” cover

Snakes and Ladders, the excellent new album from Swiss hard rockers Shakra is their eleventh (!) studio release. Now, after 11 albums many bands might become complacent and be accused of phoning it in. But not Shakra, these guys still sound like they mean it.

Maybe it’s because this is the second release to feature the return of lead vocalist Mark Fox, but they have pulled out all the stops, sounding energized, lean, mean and ready to take on the world with a top-notch collection of hard rockers that almost demand you to pump your fist and bang your head.

SHAKRA

SHAKRA; promo pic

The album kicks off with “Cassandra’s Curse” a dark and brooding rocker that features everything Shakra shines at, namely heavy riffs, a catchy chorus and studio production that makes the music jump out of your speakers.

Title track “Snakes and Ladders” takes off right out of the gate with a melody that wraps itself around your eardrums and never out stays its welcome as it boogies along like a finely made Swiss watch. Featuring a killer guitar solo that manages to be speedy and melodic all at the same time, this track is a real highlight.

Shakra’s new album has been thoughtfully constructed to bring out the best in both their performance and their sound, but without losing any of the energy and excitement that great rock-n-roll demands. This is rock-n-roll that’s turned up to eleven – but with an eye always focused on melody and song craft.

The bottom line is, these songs are so catchy that they almost issue an ultimatum to sing along, and that’s a testament to the quality of song writing on display. The twelve tracks on Snakes and Ladders show a band that has arrived at the party ready to rock and with no intention of taking any prisoners. Highly recommended.

ALBUM REVIEW: THE LIVING “The Living”

THE LIVING

THE LIVING album cover

Hailing from San Francisco, The Living mesh styles as diverse as Metal, Shoe Gaze and Pop into an emotional witches brew that they make all their own. Made up of long time friends Derek Barnes (vocals/guitar), Julian Balestrieri (guitar), Jeremy Shepherd (bass) and Jason Zaru (drums) their sound is raw, emotional and heartfelt. Their self-released self-titled debut is available now.

The Living is the kind of band where guitar solos count for a lot, maybe even everything. They spin them and stretch them and shift them into the fabric of their music, propelling the songs to dizzying heights.

And we’re talking your better class of guitar solo here, the kind where the number of notes played is less but every note counts for more, and that are so melodic that they stick in your ears like caramel on a taffy apple.

THE LIVING

THE LIVING; press photo

The track “Deceiver” is a great example of how The Living like to work at song structure. Things start at a slow burn with a simple guitar riff and build slowly by adding shades, textures and dynamics until they reach a full boil, which is (you guessed it) a pretty spectacular guitar workout.

Album closer “Headless Pillow” is a real highlight and again works the quiet/loud/quiet songwriting dynamic perfectly with vocalist Barnes singing the opening verses in a whisper before the band kicks in and the guitars start wailing. The last five minutes of this seven minute epic is a breathtaking rush of guitar virtuosity, as melody after melody effortlessly spin off the fret board and the song rushes headlong towards the finish line. But not before the band masterfully drop the bottom out of the song like a perfectly thrown curveball in game seven of the World Series – and it ends in a whisper. Beautifully done.

The Living may just be a perfect fit for fans of groups like My Sleeping Karma or Mogwai, two mostly instrumental bands whose sound The Living build on by adding vocals into the mix. And judging from the sound of their album, which is well produced but also very live sounding, I’m betting these guys put on one hell of a gig. Smart money is on catching them live when they come to your town to play.

ALBUM REVIEW: L.A. WITCH “L.A. Witch”

L.A. WITCH

L.A. WITCH “L.A. Witch” CD cover

In order to really make a band like L.A. Witch work on record, the sound captured on tape has to also capture the essence of the dirty city rock-n-roll vibe. You know what I’m talking about, a sleazy club with graffiti on the walls, spilled booze on the sticky floor and the sound of echoing guitars bouncing around the room. Well L.A. Witch goes one better because they give you all that and more on their fantastic new self-titled album.

Not only do you get the kick of rock-n-roll dreams captured in the grooves, but they even capture the aftermath, coming down hard, and driving home from the show at 4am. The white lines of an L.A. freeway blurring in a pair of bloodshot eyes.

The three women of L.A. Witch, Sade Sanchez (vocals / guitar) Irita Pai (bass) and Ellie English (drums) conjure up an enchanting mixture that brings to mind a brooding mix of early Gun Club and the dark side of psychedelia ala Arthur Lee’s Love. Run all this through a wash of Phil Spector wall of sound reverb, and you get a sound equal parts sunshine pop, dreamy and drugged out scary.

And to prove straight off the bat that this ain’t the summer of love we’re listening to here, the gals start things off with a (ta-dah) MURDER BALLAD!

“Kill My Baby Tonight” opens with a pulsating bass line, pounding drums and a slinky, slithering guitar line over which floats Sanchez’s aloof, almost detached lyrics and vocal style: “I’m gonna hurt my baby tonight / If he don’t come home on time / I’m gonna kill my baby tonight / This way he’ll forever be mine”

Fair warning issued – This is a woman you do not want to get on the wrong side of.

“You Love Nothing” opens with a guitar tremolo effect spinning off into space and set to stun, a truly massive, thundering bassline and a snare drum hit so hard it rattles your teeth. Sanchez snarls out the lyrics with enough venom to take out an entire congregation at a tent revival: “You Love Nothing / You Want Nothing / Why Do I want You? / Why do I need you?”

Now you might be getting the (wrong) impression that this record is a bit of a downer, and I really want to emphasize that it is anything but that. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to listen to. The songs are performed well and with great feel. And when these women play together they generate enough cool out of their instruments to keep a six pack of beer ice cold for a week.

The songs have been recorded exactly as you want a band like L.A. Witch captured in the studio, with sufficient polish to get them on the radio but enough of the raw edges left on to still make them sound dangerous and exciting.

L.A. Witch is the perfect anecdote for the cotton candy clogging your veins after a summer of bad blockbuster movies and too many days at the beach. Put this one on and it’s instantly the witching hour even if you play it at noon on yet another sunny day in Los Angeles. I promise that it will take you straight to the underbelly of whatever city you live in. And that’s really where you want to be, isn’t it?

ALBUM REVIEW: New Mystics “The Modern Age Is Over”

NEW MYSTICS

NEW MYSTICS (Josh Onstott); press photo

New Mystics is a new project from Josh Onstott of the art rock trio Other Lives, and like his other band, the music on this first solo outing The Modern Age Is Over features beautifully crafted and layered songwriting.

Onstott crafted the record with his friend producer/engineer Hugo Nicolson (Radiohead, Primal Scream, Father John Misty) and the care and love the two friends brought to these songs and this project is easily heard coming out of your stereo speakers. In a word the song arrangements and production are stunning. Listen to this one on headphones friends.

Album opener “Smile With Your Teeth” fades in on a wave of grinding white noise and a propulsive drum groove before a killer guitar riff kicks the whole thing into overdrive. Washes of feedback and a snaking guitar hook, all placed perfectly in the mix carry the verses aloft on a psychedelic sound wave until the the chorus drives it all home with a honking guitar hook that Marc Bolan & T-Rex would be proud of. This one has “modern rock hit” written all over it. And well it should, it’s a great song impeccably played and arranged to its full potential.

Title track “Modern” slows things down and opens up the space between the notes letting Onstott’s Oklahoma high, lonesome voice soar above the mix. When the chorus comes around it does it with a powerful subtly that loses nothing for its show of restraint. And damn if you don’t find yourself singing along like this song is your new best friend!

What Onstott and Nicolson have managed to achieve with New Mystics is the very difficult trick of recording 10 art rock gems and disguising them as pop songs. Repeated listening only magnifies the originality of the songs and their production. And unlike most pop that can grow tiresome, repeated listening profits the listener with appreciation and delight. This record has legs, spend some quality time with these songs and they will reward you.

The Modern Age Is Over by New Mystics is available via TH3RD BRAIN Records Aug. 18, 2017.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Midnight Ghost Train “Cypress Ave.”

The Midnight Ghost Train "Cypress Ave." album cover

The Midnight Ghost Train “Cypress Ave.” album cover

It’s common knowledge that the whole world over, all the best rock n roll clubs smell like sweat, stale beer & spilled tequila and most importantly excitement. Well the best records try to capture and bottle this “perfume” and The Midnight Ghost Train have managed to achieve this elusive feat on their new album Cypress Ave. released by Napalm Records.

Although impeccably produced the record still manages to capture the excitement of the bands legendary live concert experience. Opening track “Tonight” begins serenely with some tasty arpeggiated guitar. A driving backbeat kicks in and lead singer/guitarist Steve Moss’ gruff vocal takes front and center as he in turns sounds pleading and then almost sinister. Often times all within the same sentence.

The Midnight Ghost Train; press photo

The Midnight Ghost Train; press photo

“We’re treading thin ice here/In a suspicious world/I just can’t blame all this on you/Hands in circles when we pray/And I don’t like you anyway/Tonight Tonight Tonight Tonight/Gonna leave myself again for you”

Is this for a lover he can’t possess but returns to again and yet again? Or is it some other addiction that is claiming him? It doesn’t really matter because the song drips passion and raw emotion, and passion and raw emotion are something The Midnight Ghost Train has in spades. These guys are not afraid to lay it on the line, heart on their sleeve and maybe spill a little blood if need be, all in service to making a great record.

The Midnight Ghost Train; press photo

The Midnight Ghost Train; press photo

The Midnight Ghost Train excel at writing songs for those on the fringes of society, for those blissfully unaware that they are lost and for those who know they are lost and have embraced it and wear it like a badge. One such tale is “Red Eyed Junkie Queen” that spins the tale of one of these characters in the Midnight Ghost Train universe of outsiders.

“You’re sellin your body because you wanna be naughty/And you just don’t give a damn/You freeze up your soul/With all the blow up your nose/They coulda served you on ice/You swallow your pride/When you crawl up inside/Another stranger’s bed/But the touch of your skin/Explains the hole that you’re in/Alluring scent on your back/And are you satisfied/Cause they pay to see you cry/And the pulsing of your scream/Red Eyed Junkie Queen”

The Midnight Ghost Train; press photo

The Midnight Ghost Train; press photo

This is some heavy stuff, right? But please don’t get me wrong, this song is not a downer nor is this album, not at all. It rocks, and it rocks hard! And very much like Lou Reed was able to tell tales of the misfits that society has castoff and to give them a certain nobility, so is Steve Moss able to do that here with his tales from the dark side of the street. He’s not above them he’s down in the shit with them. This is a guy who’s gotten his hands dirty and it shows in the honesty of his lyrics.

The Midnight Ghost Train is pulling out of the station, a black cloud and fire pouring from the smokestack. Buy your ticket and get on board. It’s a scary ride because it’s an honest ride and one well worth taking.