Archive for January, 2008

Review: Switches – Heart Turned To D.E.A.D.

Of all the 1970s genres, glam rock is one of the few many think we could have done without; this was the genre that gave us The Glitter Band and The Sweet after all; still adored by men in their late 40’s/early 50’s who steadfastly refuse to throw out their flared trousers. Lest we forget though, T. Rex and Bowie also found more enduring success. London’s Switches may offer salvation for glam fans but also for lovers of melodic pop/rock in general.

Switches Album Cover

All that is good and not so good about Switches is covered in the first two tracks. ‘Drama Queen’ does bring back worrying echoes of The Sweet but then ‘Snakes And Ladders’ is a song of their own making; its highlight being the full-throated chorus. Switches don’t do subtlety, that’s for sure, but they do provide more than acceptable approximations of all that was good about the glam/new wave scene. No nonsense songs ‘Lay Down The Law’, ‘Step Kids In Love’ and ‘Every Second Counts’ prove their harmonies are well executed and songs hook-heavy. They do occasionally come unstuck on the falsetto-voiced ‘Laura’ which tries too hard to sound like Queen whilst the heavy-handed ‘Lovin’ It’ and ‘Message From You’ are too contrived. Yet in a similar way to The Feeling, Switches are unashamed about their influences and they have enough good songs to carry it off the reminiscing.

Web Sites:
Switches Official Site
Switches MySpace

Further Listening:
10CC, Jellyfish, Queen

Album Stream: Morning Recordings – The Welcome Kinetic

Lose yourself in the lush atmospherics of Morning Recordings by clicking here to run the album stream.

Review: Morning Recordings – The Welcome Kinetic

Morning Recordings revolve around the arranging and songwriting talents of one Pramod Tummala, who enlisted members of Lambchop and The Coctails to create a first album which was described as “melancholic, hushed songwriter fare imbued with an orchestral sparseness”. On that basis, the second full-length ‘The Welcome Kinetic’ seems more focused on instrumental aspects but is still a moving collection of music.

Morning Recordings Album Cover

For the instrumental tracks, ‘Join The Curtains’ is a particularly warped Morricone track whilst the percussive warmth of the title track could fit in to any great 60’s movie soundtrack. However, it is the vocal-led tracks which linger longest in the memory because they are quite beautiful. ‘Songs From A Hotel Bar’ sung by Edith Frost is a lovelorn, understated number backed up with a suitably subtle, glistening backing. ‘We Loved The City Years’ is like a dream; some blissful harmonies wash over late night soul atmospherics; it echoes The Silent League and Mercury Rev in its near-perfect arrangements. Perhaps even slightly better than that, ‘You’ve Been Letting Go’ is the lushest Bond soundtrack ever, with once again the harmonies and key changes taking the listener into near-ecstasy. Lovingly produced from start to finish, it’s definitely one of those sumptuous records to just lose yourself in.

Web Sites:
Morning Recordings Official Site
Morning Recordings MySpace

Further Listening:
Mercury Rev, The Silent League, The Beach Boys, Alpha

Review: 303DIDTHISTOME – What Is This, A Break?

If heavily distorted, electronic rock is your bag then look no further than 303DIDTHISTOME. I first became familiar with the duo of Jake Ben-David and Thomas Haddow when their track ‘Apostrophe Apostrophe’ featured on the recent ‘I Can Count Vol 2’ compilation. The track reminded me of the recent work of Black Moth Super Rainbow, another group who like to mess with the pop formula using all kinds of digital effects.


Lead-off track ‘TFO’ is typical of their style. You can imagine if they disposed of the vocoders, we would be hearing a commercially viable electro-pop/rock single but such is the 303DIDTHISTOME way, they are here to deconstruct rather than go for the easy route to stardom. ‘TFO’ is harsher and more violent than the relatively wistful ‘You Can Call Me Motown’, the vocoders here are pitched at a higher level. Elsewhere ‘Think! Think! Think!’ embraces primarily-coloured pop and ‘Is Better…’ builds from Miami Vice-style synth drum effects into a euphoric chorus. On the strength of this fascinating EP, this Hampshire duo could well be one of those acts to benefit in the wake of Klaxons “new rave” sound.

Web Sites:
Horsepower Shop

Further Listening:
Black Moth Super Rainbow

Video Nostalgia: Donald Fagen – New Frontier

Now here’s a really interesting video. One which tells a story, complements an already great song and was quite ahead of its time. As is often the case, the great songs and videos often get discovered by accident. I first heard Donald Fagen’s ‘New Frontier’ whilst listening to BBC Radio Lincolnshire, which was (and still is) my local radio station. I didn’t care for most of the music that was played on there, since its target audience seemed to be the over-50s but there was always the odd AOR/MOR gem like Prefab Sprout’s ‘Nightingales’, ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ by The Korgis and this little pop/jazz fusion treasure. I think they call these songs “guilty pleasures” nowadays.

It was a while before I saw the actual promo which accompanied ‘New Frontier’ but I remember it very clearly. My sister and I decided to video record (this being the mid 80s) a BBC2 six-hour special called ‘The Video Jukebox’ which focussed on the power of the video and how it had changed over the years. One part of this great programme centred around animated promos and ‘New Frontier’ was one of the videos featured as well as the similarly fantastic ‘Genius Of Love’ by Tom Tom Club. I really like the idea of this secret bunker where the two protagonists in the video would have a fantastic, yet sweetly innocent time and there’s a nice contrast between this and the threat of war. The animated sections are really bizarre and clever and the 1950’s themes of course were beautifully nostalgic even then.

Donald Fagen's 'The Nightfly' Album Cover

In my typical ignorance as a young child, I had no idea then that Fagen was a member of 1970’s duo Steely Dan and certainly wouldn’t have suspected that their name came from a dildo in a William Burroughs’ novel. So in later years I eventually sought out the album from which ‘New Frontier’ came, 1982’s ‘The Nightfly’ (now reissued again as part of a new Fagen boxset) and wasn’t disappointed. I then checked out Steely Dan’s back catalogue and discovered they were not only one of the smartest groups in rock but also their songs had a timeless warmth and the kind of killer key changes which can be heard in the aforementioned Prefab Sprout and another of my favourite 80’s bands, China Crisis.

Web Sites:
Steely Dan Official Site
Steely Dan on Wikipedia

Further Listening:
Prefab Sprout, China Crisis, The Burning Effigies, Drayton Michaels

Review: Meg – The Lego Hair EP

Meg describe themselves as “lo-fi electro indie rock”. It’s an accurate description for this quartet (who hail from Kidderminster in the West Midlands) are fond of Pavement-style riffage updated for the Digital Age. ‘The Lego Hair EP’ sees their youthful-sounding pop taking pleasing melodic twists and turns.

Meg EP Cover

Kicking off with ‘Chips’, they’ve hit on a playful grungy noise with the vocals caught halfway between Foo Fighters and Pavement. ‘Fireworks’ is grungier still although the unnecessary bleeping on this track does undermine the quality, likewise ‘Greasy Sausages’ – which features the sound of sausages being sizzled – is an unnecessary interlude. Their performance improves for ‘Lego Hair’ itself; it’s the most electronically-dominated track and quite an adventurous, largely instrumental affair that does a decent impression of a low-budget Ladytron. Some punky vocals and awkward key changes on ‘I Am About To Forget’ are the closest they get to Weezer standard whilst ‘Star Fleet’ ends the EP on a high with a wistful melody underscored by acoustic guitars. Obviously this is a mixed bag in terms of both variety and quality but if they can mature a little more for their next release, Meg could yet be something special.

Web Sites:
Meg’s Official Site
Meg MySpace

Also Recommended:
Pavement, Weezer, Pilots Of Japan

Review: Daniel Land & The Modern Painters – Voss

Daniel Land & The Modern Painters follow the ever-popular blueprint of mid-1980’s period Cocteau Twins and early-1990’s Slowdive, where jangly guitars and dreamy production values dominate. This Manchester-based trio have released two EPs, the first of which is entitled ‘Voss’.

Daniel Land EP Cover

After a languid, largely instrumental opener, ‘The Magic In My Head’ features some sweet vocals from Mr. Land himself as all around him is bathed in a sumptuous, summery glow. As you might imagine, it’s pleasant but never heart-racing stuff. Yet on ‘Locust’ they capture the breathy etherealism of Slowdive with the guitars shimmering rather than jangling and the chorus reaching somewhere near heavenly proportions. It’s the band’s most convincing moment followed closely by the mournful, ghostly ‘Lostening’. It’s scarcely worth mentioning that you’d have top be a shoegazing fan to enjoy ‘Voss’ but as reverential as this music is to their influences, the performances by the band are delivered with an understated grace.

Web Sites:
Daniel Land & The Modern Painters MySpace
Buy The EP Here

Further Listening:
Ulrich Schnauss, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive