Hey Friend What Are You Doing?
Pens are three girls from London, channeling lo-fi riffs through the usual mix of irony and nostalgia, even going so far as to re-create the awfulness of 80's VHS video on the promo for single High In The Cinema. Opener Horsies sets the scene, with layered vocals leading into a some furious drumming - which turns out to be the one trick of this pony, as witnessed on 1-2, Networking and more. There are some nice ideas and moments in here, but they tend to be just that - moments.
The majority of reference points that spring to mind all to easily here come from the past two years worth of DIY noise pop that has enjoyed something of a phenomena in terms of excitement. However all these bands have a pop hook around which to structure much of their abrasion. Whether using the surf rock template of Wavves, or the rockabilly charm of Sic Alps there was a hook buried somewhere and the thrill was digging for it and finding it. Times New Viking piled up all kinds of sonic rubble, but the reason you came back for another pummelling was the hook. Even Eat Skull's Sick To Death had me asking for more after receiving apparently so little, but Hey Friend What You Doing? fails to do this most basic of things on nearly every level.
Sure, they might be fun live - but if I want to see people jumping around there are already many outlets to fulfil that need. At the end of the day, music needs to work on many different levels. Much to be said for just getting on with things and doing it - as it's easy for me to sit here and slag this off, but with so little to actually engage the listener and barely a drip of originality of craftsmanship it's hard to do anything else.
The whole reality-TV induced message of 'anyone can do it' has a lot to answer for. Enthusiasm, wacky clothes and some toy instruments just aren't enough - bands need to start taking their time, getting things right and then releasing them. This casual effort has marked their card and Pens are one band who will certainly struggle to catch my attention again.Read more 1.5 star reviews
Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs Of Mark Mulcahy
Covers compilation Ciao My Shining Star brings together a broad range of bands to cover the songs of influential musician Mark Mulcahy - with the aim of raising money to support the artists and his daughters after the tragic death of wife and mother Melissa Mulcahy.
Mulcahy and his prior bands Miracle Legion and Polaris were never big names in the UK (I've seen him once, supporting J Mascis & The Fog in 2001), and as a result the featured acts are predominantly American. It's the haunting keyboards of Thom Yorke's cover of All For The Best that are attracting most of the attention however, with its electronic Postal Service-like atmosphere serving as a reminder of the differences between Radiohead proper and Thom Yorke's solo career - all electronics and twitchy breaks.
The National also make their song their own, though Ashamed Of The Story I Told is more direct and immediate than their own work, Further contributions come from Dinosaur Jr, Frank Black, Mercury Rev, Ben Kweller and Josh Rouse amongst others. Mulcahy's talent seems to be his thought provoking lyrics, which no doubt was a big part in attracting such a wide range of admirers - and in the light if his family situation, those lyrics often seem touchingly poignant.
While many of the bigger names are up front on the album, there are many gems tucked away. However, as is often the case with these covers compilations, it's perhaps too easy to get people involved and the album does run a little long - muddying the lines around what were the highlights, while not inviting too much replay. In the digital age however, a chocolate box of covers like this is born to be cherry-picked for a playlist.Read more 3 star reviews
Despite the British sound and undoubted nod of the head to bands like Elvis Costello or The Buzzcocks and other Brit-influenced bands like The Feelies or Richard Hell, Nodzzz surprisingly hail from San Francisco. While that may undermine their British credibility somewhat, it is not their main problem.
Deliberately off-hand and disengaging, Nodzzz are ...disengaging. The atmosphere of ha-ha-just-messing-about provides little reward for the listener's time. "Controlled karaoke. La la la, this song is corny" or "Losing my accent. Da da da da." It's not enough.
There are basic, literal messages wrapped up in the lyrics here, but music can be better that this. Lyrics don't have to be printed in upper case to get a message across, and the power of music and atmosphere are put to little use here. It's harmless enough stuff and thankfully it's 10 songs only total a 15 minute running length. That's 15 minutes that you could put to better use.Read more 2 star reviews
After a year of critical acclaim in the UK and the US, South African art-rockers BLK JKS signed to label Secretly Canadian - who now offer The Mystery EP, a re-mastered and re-sequenced re-release, which was initially produced by the Secret Machines' Brandon Curtis.
These days 'Art Rock' seems to mean slightly erratic drums and having a couple of Paul Simon or Talking Heads albums in your CD collection, but it's a term that serves a purpose and provides a reference point to where these songs might fit in to the bigger picture. Less Vampire Weekend and more Brain Eno might narrow it down further, as the band's vocals ebb and flow around the music, becoming more of a sound than a lyric (see "Mystery"), adding another strand of subtle texture.
It's multi-layered and mysterious, and while there may be nothing new as such (Animal Collective and mid-80's INXS could provide further touchstones), there's a nice subtlety and atmosphere here - and the potential is obvious as things gain some focus on "Summertime", progressing nicely with a spiraling tune rising out of the experimental chaotic sounds. While there's not all that much to write home about at this point, this is ambitious stuff - which will hopefully distill down in the future to reap many rewards for the listener.Read more 3 star reviews
Taking inspiration from Serge Gainsbourg's 1979 reggae album (don't ask) Aux Armes Et Caetera, To Arms Etc are fronted by Australian multi-instrumentalist Charles Campbell-Jones. Recorded over a prolonged period with a rotating array of guests and band members, Corner Games has a surprisingly cohesive sound.
A mish-mash of styles work well to support the consistent themes and atmosphere running through the album, as piano and xylophone run alongside luscious harmonies, giving the album a sound almost like an indie Coldplay, or a minimalised Flaming Lips. The combination of retro sounds and modern references (Little Domino) often seems insincere and smirking, hinting at deeper meaning beneath the surface.
The prominent piano work is the strength and weakness of the album's sound. When it's working well, it provides a foil for the abrupt lyrics - threatening to rock out at any moment (Super-Radiance) - but with lyrics this narrative in sound, the piano can also push the album into a feeling of theatre, or even the dreaded musical (Isinbayeve).
Ultimately it's the latter that wins out, and while there's plenty of pleasant enough listening here, there's little that really digs in for the long haul.
Read more 2.5 star reviews
The Social, London
With a new album due in April, Richard Swift was back in the UK for a couple of dates and followed his headline show at The Borderline with this low-key show at The Social - an always-excellent venue most notable for it's intimate size and the fact that you can have a stage-side pie at a table while the band performs.
While he may bear a passing resemblance to an Indie Rock Gary Glitter, the incomparable Richard Swift can be compared only to the equally incomparable troubadour Harry Nilsson. Effortlessly bouncing between styles, there's a surprising cohesiveness to Swift's sound and with the backing of a full band, that sound was elevated to foot stomping proportions.
The brief set whistled quickly through a handful of songs from 2007's Dressed Up For The Letdown, as well as newer material from the Ground Trouble Jaw EP and this year's forthcoming new album The Atlantic Ocean. "One last song, then an encore" quipped Swift, as the band switched up a gear and barreled through the new title track "The Atlantic Ocean" and "Lady Luck", with Swift's booming voice taking on a soulful sound that is not wholly reflected on the record. Plenty of entertainment - and plenty to look forward to from this wholly unique performer.Read more 3.5 star reviews
Portland band The Hunches have been pounding the road for several years now, and Exit Dreams marks their third full-length record - out on label indie In The Red. Opener Unraveling defines the band well, combining a Punk Rock sensibility with something of an epic rock ambition, illustrating best what the US contributed to Punk Rock. The band maintain that early 80's disaffection with the mainstream and charge on with their battle-cry cranked up past 10.
Unfortunately the production falls way short of the ambition and the record sounds like it was recorded on an ansaphone. In the 80s. DIY bands like No Age have harnessed both the limitations of their available technology AND their lo-fi influences - and turned them into something extra, but here the production just makes me not want to bother listening.
From This Window plods through the fuzz, while any hint of charm is distorted away on Swim Hole. Not Invited threatens to break the curse, but just can't lift itself high enough. I don't know what the deal is with the raft of badly produced records we have seen recently. Is it a trademark sound? With technology where it is, it's hard to believe that you could accidentally make a record sound this bad.Read more 1.5 star reviews
Tonight: Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand first surfaced on Domino's excellent Worlds of Possibility compilation in 2003, which celebrated the indie label's 10th anniversary. Their contribution (a demo of Darts of Pleasure) made a decent enough impression while sitting amongst the likes of Pavement, Sebadoh and Bonnie Prince Billy - but few would have bet money on the band becoming one of the crown jewels in the label's roster, giving them their first number on act in 2005.
Returning here with their third album, Franz Ferdinand claim to have taken a 'new direction', but it's unlikely to take anyone long to adjust to the new sound. Stop/start power disco is the order of the day, with very, very catchy, sing-a-long lyrics - smoothly running through the band's art school, psuedo-sexy style, like a Roxy Music for the 00's.
Lead single Ulysses is straightforward enough, making good use of loud/quiet, high impact production - like a disco Gang of Four. Things pick up with Send Him Away, which sees the style of the record develop a little - as the pop chorus/verse structure gives way to a nice guitar breakdown and leads into an impressive run of tracks, encompassing the heavy electronics of Twilight Omens and the pounding drums of Bite Hard.
The lawless guitar freak-out at the end of What She Came For shows a more rocking sensibility to the band, while the Kraftwerk beeps of Live Alone make it a perfect candidate for the next single, soaked in luscious 80's-style production. Things tale off a little with the video-game friendly Lucid Dreams - which drags it's feet from the beginning, running on for nearly 8 minutes - but it's one of only a few disappointing moments on the record.
Without knowing all the financial details, it seems like a fair bet that the success of Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys has contributed a big chunk to the success of Domino over the last few years. The label was quick to see the potential in this relatively unconventional band and polish them into a thinking man's pop act - and if this is how the label pay their bills and finance their booming investment in new music, then who's complaining?Read more 3 star reviews
The Crying Light
It's been nearly four years since the operatic tones of Antony & The Johnsons breakthrough album I Am Bird Now took the music world by storm - well, the Mercury Music loving crowd at least. The Crying Light is the belated follow up, building on that success with confidence and style and again pushing forward the boundaries of popular music.
In name alone, "The Crying Light" gives a pretty clear idea of what to expect. Openers Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground, Epilepsy Is Dancing and One Dove set the tone - with mournful, haunting vocals over piano and strings creating ethereal soundscapes reminiscent of the dreamy pop of the Cocteau Twins or This Mortal Coil. This is visual music, haunting and narrative - with suggestions of love, loss, life and death ...wait a minute, isn't that what everyone's talking about at the moment?
It's not all doom and gloom, and as early as Kiss My Name there's a chink of light at the end of the tunnel, as a more upbeat piano lifts the mood - accompanied by soaring strings and shuffling drums. It's back to the blues for the guitar-led title track, before lead single Another World brings the mood down again - as well as making for one of the more disappointing tracks here, plodding slowly along and highlighting the essentially straightforward method behind the magic of this album.
Thematically the songs are very consistent, giving a soundtrack feeling to the record - which seems built around centerpiece Daylight and The Sun, which by the time it arrives sound like a reprise itself, swelling beautifully and floating over piano and strings. Touching and melancholic, this record continues along the strikingly original path forged by the debut and should certainly cement the reputation of Anthony Hegarty as a creative force.Read more 3 star reviews
The double disc Trying Hartz compilation brings together a sampling of the work of Daniel Smith - recorded under various names, including Danielson, Danielson Famile and Brother Danielson. Perhaps best known for his well-received 2006 album Ships, the compilation provides an interesting document of the metamorphosing artist, as he fins his feet and cements his direction.
While musically Smith is influenced by his Christian 're-awakening', this is not your typical religious recording - although gospel certainly plays a part in defining the rambling indie artist, as he pulls in guitars, banjos, sample and more.
This is a well put together package that avoids the usual inconsistency of a compilation and remains a cut above the typical demos package, with a pretty crisp production - although it is lacking when it comes to bottom end, and that doubles in intensity due to the consistently high-pitched vocals. Things also lose a little focus as the album starts pulling from a live catalogue.
From the roaring opening and shuffling drums of Animal In Every Corner to the delicate banjo balladry of Daughters Will Tune You, there is plenty to recommend here - and the seemingly scattergun approach actually forms a pretty consistent shape. The problem is, without the unhinged craziness of Deerhoof, or the dogged persistence of Sufjan Stevens, things can easily drift into no mans land.Read more 3 star reviews
The indie revival continues with this album from Brooklyn's Vivian Girls - pulling girl-group harmonies over the top of shoe-gazing guitars that know a bit about feedback. After a vinyl-only release on Mauled By Tigers sold out in no time, In The Red have stepped in to give this debut full-length a wider distribution.
The album starts as it means to go on - jumping striaght into the already full-flowing maelstrom of All The Time - and the tempo seldom slows from there. You could easily megamix the tracks together with a half-dozen (Going Insane, Tell The World, No ...."No, no, no. No. No. No.") all following a clearly cut template.
Such A Joke tries to bend the formula a little, with the spinal bassline tying together an almost surf sound, but here the production values just blend the promising track into mush. In the era of home studio and Garageband, there little excuse for sounding like an 8-track recording. Where Do You Run finds the band heading into Lush's well mapped territory - emulating Miki Berenyi's love-lost lyrics over charming harmonies, making for easily the most successful track on the album.
There's no doubt that some of the production problems would be overcome in a live setting, as the band have an undoubted energy and charisma. At best they head towards the steady sound of 80/90's 4AD and the likes of Lush or The Amps, but next to someone like Electrelane, these Vivian Girls seem pale and tired in comparison.Read more 2.5 star reviews
More Money Less Grief
Peckham teenagers The Metros have been doing the rounds for a while now, slowly building the anticipation for this release through a series of singles and EPs. The band met at school and the sprit of Grange Hill is still present here - with stories of life in south London so vivid, you'll expec a banger on a fork to come flying towards you at at any moment. While the evolution of the band has not been rushed, it seems like it was always inevitable - with a record sleeve designer and a session bassist among the band's parental heritage. Add to that a demo produced by Baxter Dury and James Endeacott's 1965 Records seems like a perfect home for the band.
Live, The Metros are endlessly entertaining - with cheeky lead singer Saul Adamczewski's boundless energy and stage presence carrying the show effortlessly. Stop/start bovver boy beats owe more than a passing nod to the storytelling-meets-ska of Madness or Squeeze - and you know these guys would drive a Cortina if they could. The clean, sharp production and the upbeat playing style suit the songs perfectly - vividly portraying the hard times of living life in the teenage party fast-lane.
While the enthusiasm behind the band and this record is undeniable, things don't really expand much beyond what we've heard already, from the extensive run of singles - and the album offers little new over the 38 minutes. Once you've heard the ska-tinged snarl of Education Part 2, or the stop/start bounce of Last of the Lookers, you've pretty much heard them all. Having said that, if you like those tracks, you'll probably like it all - and what's not to like? Have a few drinks, pogo around and sit tight, as there's bound to much bigger and better things from this promising band in the future.Read more 2.5 star reviews
The Forum, Kentish Town, London
With a 20 year anniversary under their belt, there's a new vigor in the Mudhoney camp and renewed interest in the seminal godfathers of Grunge. Sure, there's the fans who've grown up with the band (mostly geography teachers now by the look of things), but there's also a sweaty teenage contingent at the Forum tonight. There's not much in between, but fortunately these two groups have one thing in common.
Fang cover "The Money Will Roll Right In" opens the show, before we move on to "I'm Now" and "The Lucky Ones" from the recent album of the same name. While Mudhoney's recent releases have been far from disappointing, it seems clear that most of us are here for one thing. Mudhoney's recent re-release of "Superfuzz-Bigmuff" seems to have re-ignited the flame of nostalgia for the band, and while the crowd is rowdy from the start it explodes when the big hitters like "Touch Me I'm Sick" and "In 'n' Out Of Grace" come out. The mosh pit expands to fill most of the ground floor and - perhaps feeling a little nostalgic themselves - even the security guards relapse on their post-grunge clampdown, letting a free flowing barrage of crowd-surfing go relatively unpunished.
The 20 years haven't been bad to Mudhoney, with Mark Arm still throwing down Iggy Pop moves like a disgruntled teenager, while the band preside over the immense energy of the show like seasoned veterans. It's a set-list packed with early classics, and with the relentless pace making no attempt to hold back the 'hits,' it's left to Black Flag cover "Fix Me" to make up the encore and bring the show to an end. This dose of 80's punk serves as a potent reminder of where this band came from - let's hope their own legacy fuels the aspirations of a generation to come. Brilliant.
Lots more photos by chimp photographer Rachel Poulton over on our Flickr page.Read more 3.5 star reviews
White Hinterland is essentailly the work of one woman - Massachusetts based Casey Dienel. After a well recieved first album - Wind-Up Canary - Dienel has filled out the line-up of her band and returned with second album Phylactery Factory on the Dead Oceans label.
Dienel is from a singer-songwriter mould that has seen something of a resergence recently. We've seen this eclectic, quirky delivery from the likes of Taken By Trees, Feist, Emily Haines even Joanna Newsom, but it's hardly a new development. You could easily trace it back though the likes of Bjork or Stina Nordenstam and on to Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell and beyond.
As is often the case with this style, Dienel's vocals do a seductive job of delivering their lines. There's a lot whispy talk of favourite trees, falling petals and old stone church's - but by her own admission the songs are rarely biographical and that distance seems to add a sense of emptiness to things that makes it a little hard to engage with.
Calliope works well, dropping the quirkiness and instead boiling down the best elements of Dienel's style to a more pure and simple sound - making the most of her voice to create an arresting track. The more jazz-orienteted sounds of brush drums, piano and double bass add some variation accross the album's incresingly familiar style and Napoleon At Waterloo offers a further attempt at shaking things up a bit, but it's too little too late.
It's not that the record doesn't get going, just more like it barely gets out of second gear and without the breathtaking originality of Joanna Newsom or the hook-laden catchiness of Feist, White Hinterland's efforts may unfortunatly blend away into the background.Read more 2.5 star reviews
Hold On Now Youngster
WIth a rousing battle cry of "1,2,3,4!", sprawling Cardiff 7-piece Los Campesinos! arrive on your speakers like a mini-bus full of students on trip up to a Hoxton art gallery.
The Ramones-esque names, wacky song titles and personality that the band seem to have in bounds will certainly go a long way to propel them into mass popularity, but their success comes from the punchy delivery of their call and response style - male counterpointing female, then teaming up for a rousing chorus. Obvious maybe, effective certainly.
While enthusiasm goes a long way to pasting over the cracks of the band's fairly limited range, their pocket book poetry and student theorising of This Is How You Spell "Haha Ha, We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux - Romantics" is a little hard too bear, and at times you might feel like your on a mini-bus trip up to and art gallery in Hoxton.
Comparisons to early Wedding Present or Arcade Fire seem a litlle misplaced, as Los Campesinos! lack the depth and musical breadth of either of those bands - at any stage of their careers. By far the longest song here, You! Me ! Dancing! shows some promise, trying to mix it up a bit, adding a slow-building intro which builds up nicely before reverting to the exisiting formula.
While it's hard not to get spent along in the boundless enthusiasm, there are very few specific tracks or highlights that can be pulled out here. It's all the same. All inoffensive. All fun.Read more 2.5 star reviews
Music From the Films of R/Swift
With Richard Swift's debut release, he introduced us to the twin sounds of The Novelist/Walking Without Effort, before 2007's Dressed Up For The Let Down proved to go the distance and become one of the year's most lasting album's - providing an understated sound that was rich in detail.
With side-project Instruments Of Science And Technology, Swift takes us on another unforeseen journey, once again heading out into different territory to pull together the sountracks to a selection of imaginary films: Music From the Films of R/Swift.
Opener Ashes serves as an intro to the album, before leading into the upbeat INST - more pounding electronica that soundtrack. Themes and repetition are explored with the un-ordered Themes 3, 4 and 5 and the double barrel of Plan A & Plan B, and while there may or may not be actual films to accompany the music there is certainly a cinematic influence. The atmospherics of Brian Eno are the most obvious namecheck, with long, slow soundscapes building up and down altering the mood.
With Swift's characteristic voice virtually absent from the album, it's hard to place this alongside his existing work - as his vocal sound and lyrics are so integral to the success of both the debut and Dressed Up For The Let Down. If forced to view the album as a stand alone work it may not be perceived as the most original or unique record out there, but it's a solid album of textured electronica that adds another string to this man's bow. It also adds another subtle layer to the music he produces for his day job and that layer will hopefully be all the more apparent on future work.Read more 3 star reviews
1965 Records Xmas Party, ULU, London
For a label that has only been going for a couple of years, 1965 Records have built up quite a stable of bands, and with the success of The View's debut album Hats Off To The Buskers, quite a following. What better then, than a Xmas knees-up to put those bands on show? Taking over the whole of the University of London Union, the party kicked off at 4pm running right through till gone 11 with DJ's and stand-up comedy, plus live performances from all the major bands on the label.
With The Monks Kitchen seemingly imploding just before blast off, plus our own late arrival things got started with 80's comedian Frank Sidebottom, before new signings The Metros stepped info their live set. A boundless, energetic live show got the crowd buzzing and they clearly already have a substantial following worshiping their every move. The cheeky upstart from South London thing may have seen done before, but there is little doubt that these guys are the real deal - and with a catalogue of songs building fast in anticipation of 2008's debut album, The Metros made a bid for success as the most obvious contenders to follow in The View's footsteps.
Seattle's Holy Ghost Revival were next up and their quick-starting set caught many punters who had snuck out for a beer off-guard. With the band in full-swing it was hard to see who was singing, when suddenly a ruckus in the crowd picked out singer Conor Kiley writhing around on the floor, before pushing a few people around, spilling a few drinks are squealing his way back to the stage.
Most comparable to Guns 'n' Roses or even The Stooges, the band's incendiary show takes in heavy rock, over-the-top solos and even a spell of Axl style piano crooning. The anything-can-happen atmosphere of fun and fear is notably missing from many crowd-controlled concerts these days and the security guards here were visibly struggling to keep things on an even keel, literally reeling singer Kiley back in by his mic cable. Hopefully that volatile energy will come across on their album, Bleeding Light - due early 2008.
As a more established act on the bill, The Draytones were one of the more disappointing acts of the night. Their blend of 60's British Psychedelia seems to offer little new and their picture-perfect reconstruction of a one-hit-wonder from that time places them more like extras from a film that a real, functioning rock band. There's little about them that is dislikeable or offensive, just little of note amongst the other more original bands on the bill.
As one of the breakout bands of 2006, The View were always likely to steal the show and with ever more hits behind them they seem to go on from strength to strength. From the opening bars of Comin' Down the crowd went wild and the energy and professionalism of the band swept the audience. The old downside of "giving everyone a go" that so many newer bands seem obliged to caused a few problems, with bass player Kieran Webster's spot in the lead singer position causing a notable lull in the show. Kyle Falconer is the more charismatic leader and when he's up front singing Wasted Little DJ's, Same Jeans or Superstar Tradesman The View seem unstoppable.
Like a beachside campfire jam on the Led Zeppelin caravan holiday, Citay conjure up nostalgic memories of long lost summers or mythical acid trips ... only problem is, Robert Plant got stuck in traffic so his vocals are being filled in with little more than hushed 'ums' and 'ahs'. Perhaps strangely however, that problem's just not a problem at all and the resulting record is a timeless work that glides and shuffles along beautifully, more or less defining the mission statement for new label Dead Oceans.
Taking their cues from the unplugged side of 70's rock, Citay are a sprawling ensemble that would sit as easily on the same bill as The Byrds or CSNY as they would with more contemporary instrumentalists like Explosions In The Sky or Mogwai. The long, expansive tracks rise and fall, swirling around your headphones and soaring off in different directions. Over-the-top is not an option.
It's impossible to pick stand-out tracks form this album, which works much better as a un-interuupted single piece. Just crack open a few beers, stick it on and relax.
Sparse and simple, Richard Youngs is from the Elliot Smith school of minimal production, relying on lyrics and vocal power to win you over. Unfortunately his one studio trick of double-tracking his vocals on several songs make for difficult listening, and as a result Autumn Response album never really gets going.
Sticking to his Man + Guitar format, Youngs plays question and answer with himself, with very little change in pace or tempo.
17 minute epic Something Like Air brings the album to a close, but even here there's not much to recommend beyond the impressive length. It isn't Freebird though, just a very long variation on his other 8 songs...
The Hours is the brainchild of Martin Slattery and Antony Genn - veterans of various bands and production credits from Unkle to Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. Slattery's keyboard work for the likes of Black Grape is an instant reference on the album, which begins well with a tense opening piano beat that threatens to explode but never does. This is the structure of much of the album and it really works. Antony Genn's vocals are intense and urgent and come at you with an Interpol-like might. These are epic songs and this is totally down to a great use of restraint. The rarely let go and so retain the tension throughout the album.
Lyrically it's a mixed bag. All In The Jungle repeats the excellent line "The greatest comeback since Lazarus" and builds up a nice boxing story with Ali fight samples over the end, but then a few tracks later you get this..."I love you more than all my hooded tops, I love you more than Tony Soprano and for those who don't know me that's a fuck of a lot." The song has the same tension as the other songs but the lyrics are laughable. They seem to be tongue in cheek but are sung with such seriousness. I mean who doesn't love Mr. Soprano and every now and again I could be seen in a hooded top but I wouldn't use them to declare my undying love for someone. Unfortunately this song undermines things and makes for the rest of the album difficult listening - emphasised later on with a dose of fucking swearing. I like a dose of Explicit Lyrics as much of the next time, but it's so unnecessary here that it just seems trite in the context of these often operatic storylines. It's like sitting through a family gathering when your 90 year old granddad could come out with anything at any time and you're just waiting for it.
The slow jams like Icarus don't work as well as the others. They fall into the Coldplay/Snow Patrol grey area and are left behind by the strength of their pent-up counterparts. Murder Or Suicide disappears off into a fantastic piano based instrumental pounding session which really hammers home the fact that the piano is definitely man of the match here.
This is a debut with more than its fair share of promise but it seems far too aware of itself. It's too literal and sometimes takes itself way too seriously. It's no surprise that Jarvis Cocker is a fan of these guys as storytelling third-person lyrics are his forte but The Hours don't have the kitchen sink wit that made Cocker's work so original.
The Scala, London
Famous mainly for an illegal screening of Clockwork Orange in the 80's, former London cinema the Scala has got to be one of the best places to see a band. Often a last stop for bands heading onto the higher peaks of The Astoria or Brixton Acadamy, many favourites have had great shows here - DJ Shadow, Low, CocoRosie, George Hurley and Mike Watt supporting Shellac...
Scottish indie popsters Camera Obscura's sound is perfect for a venue like this. Enchanting and intimate, Tracyanne Campbell's vocals fall somewhere between the brooding darkness of the Cocteau Twins and the lighter sounds of The Sundays or even The Cardigans.
Mostly playing tracks from their latest album Let's Get Out Of This Country, the bands sound has become focused and upbeat and the band have an accomplished live show, based on 10 years of playing together - as well as numerous sessions with fan John Peel.
Whether it was the sublime Tears For Affairs, or the fluffy ephemeral Lemon Juice and Paper Cuts (a line from Lester Bangs' biography) the band were always in control and always connected to the well behaved audience. Let's just hope they don't get any bigger and leave us behind for more distant peaks.