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The Singles Monkey- 18th August

The Singles Monkey #4

August 19, 2008 by The Singles Monkey (Edit)

Britain’s had more Gold than I’ve had sweet monkey loving these past few days (Mrs. Singles is on the menopause); but that doesn’t mean your trusted, now slightly erotically charged, Singles Monkey isn’t going to be running the rule over this week’s motley selection of singles; truly this ragtag mix is enough to de-erect any sort of animalistic excitement from mine throbbing loins. Drop the sail!

First into the firing line, swooning and preening like a bunch of rather over-zealous cockatiels, are Magistrates (‘Make This Work’, XL Recordingds) whose recent bout of NME coverage and appearance at dull-as-Dermot O’Leary festival V will no doubt push them into a nicely bloated crevice with all the other bland, indie-by-numbers pop groups. Look at them all in there, arguing over jean waist sizes and whose turn it is to score the ching. It’s poor form I tell thee and not for me, so instead I’ll turn my mangy head over to canny mackems The Week That Was, if only to momentarily rise gasping and wheezing from the cesspit of derivative guitar-based slurry circling my ears (‘The Airport Line’, Memphis Industries). The Week That Was have done well for a group hailing from a city that apparently stands ‘beyond re-generation’ (clearly none of the taskforce have visited Ipswich of late; now that’s irretrievable), and it’s a pleasant return from ex-Field Music man Peter Brewis. Good show!

Sticking with musicians from the North East for a minute, it’s with a heavy heart that ex-Yourcodenameis:Milo man Paul Mullens defection to one-hit wonders The Automatic is giving hitherto diminishing returns (‘Steve McQueen’, B-Unique); like Paul’s native Gregg’s pasties, The Automatic’s new single still lacks enough meat to really be digestible; ho hum. I’ll tell you what though oh grizzled readers of the interweb, compared to lad-crowd gathering shitboxes The Fratellis they sound like the ruddy Beatles (‘Look Out Sunshine’, Island). Managing to do worse than their debut album clearly takes some doing and for this dubious achievement brothers Fratelli I tip my hat to you. A band who are far more worth your most valued and treasured attention are the cutesy but irresistible Thomas Tantrum (‘Work It’, Sindy Stroker’s); if they’re not one of the success stories of this year’s In The City unsigned convention then I’ll design myself a large hat with a theme depicting the Boer wars of the 19th century and devour it whole (I will as well).

There are a couple of heavy hitters flanking the sides of this ramshackle group of past-it before they made it indie bands and small fish-in-large-ocean type groups; Basement Jaxx are back with an extremely limited vinyl (‘Planet 1 EP’, XL Recordings) whilst Black Eyed Pea Will.I.Am still doesn’t realise that the only reason he made it in the industry in the first place was because no one could take their eyes off Fergie (‘One More Chance’, Interscope). Strange that. Stranger still is that it takes The Shapeshifters to resuscitate this dying week of singles; you know the fellas, ‘Lola’s Theme’? Little kids milling about on a rollercoaster? Yup, that’s the ones. Well they’ve come back sounding like something straight out of late 1980’s Manchester and you know what? It’s pretty good (‘Chime’, Nocturnal Groove) and so as long as you can zone out the brain cell defyingly poor Faint (‘The Geeks Were Right’, blank.wav) then this week really isn’t looking too bad for you at all. Congratulations on that!

Vessels- White Fields And Open Devices

Vessels: White Fields And Open Devices

August 19, 2008 by Simon Catling (Edit)

All of this Olympic talk; imagine if you will that there was some form of new music version where countries sent their best groups and performers to compete against each other. If there were such a thing, and Britain sent a team, then surely the Leeds music scene would be the equivalent of the current British cycling team. A veritable feast of exciting sounds has spread from the white rose heartland this year; from the ridiculous yet divine Wild Beasts to the frenetic Pulled Apart By Horses with a hell of a lot more in between, and now you can add the slow burning success of Vessels to that list thanks to a delight of a debut album that’s been a long time coming but well worth the wait.

Dare it be said, but it seems the spark is coming back into progressive instrumental music at the moment; it wasn’t so long ago that reviewers were crying out for a change from yet another group of timid but accomplished musicians wearing their Explosions In The Sky and Mogwai influences on their sleeves with little else to add. Yet this year it’s been noticeable of a great many reviews starting out just like this one; a cry out for something new and then the admission that the reviewed album in question is in fact really quite good. That’s very much the case here, because in ‘White Field And Open Devices’ there is depth, passion, and most of all edge and excitement in abundance. For this look no further than the now familiar and excellent ‘Yuki’; a track that’s been around since the earlier months of 2007, yet it’s presence here is welcome and a great encapsulation of what this album offers as a whole, with murmuring and humming electronic percussive bleeps and stutters never forcing the gently building piano melody and vocal aside like other bands of their ilk sometimes do; but encouraging and whipping up a brief whirlwind of rhythmic glitches and throbbing guitars.

To focus purely on this song would be to sell Vessels debut LP short however as every track on this album manages to vary from the others and yet still retain a thread that sews its way through the entire patchwork of sounds and emotions portrayed here. In some cases this can mean harking right back to some of the forerunners to what became known as the post-rock genre; bands like Slint and Bark Psychosis. Second track ‘A Hundred Times In Every Direction’ in particular manages to contain that very hostile, rough separation between vocals and sparse instrumentation that much of Slint’s eponymous album ‘Spiderland’ featured, as well as the sudden gear changes from raw and empty to dense sound and frantic pace. ‘An Idle Brain At The Devil’s Workshop’ meanwhile starts off tight and jagged (did someone mention Foals there? Hush at the back!) In truth it’s not a massive jump in imagination to see the similarities between the current darlings of the indie scene and Vessels on this track; perhaps as if realising this though the Leeds group release the trigger and suddenly the whole thing explodes into a roaring, rumbling monolith of a storm before just as quickly subsiding into a silky, hushed finale.

The influence of math-rock does feature quite heavily throughout ‘White Field And Open Devices’, and it’s this that’s key to taking Vessels’ sound above that of “just another post-rock band”. It’s there right from the beginning; ‘Altered Beast’ with its multiple time signature changes and off-beat drumming is a measured and carefully crafted introduction to an album littered with such intriguing fragments. Production plays a part also, it’s rare to hear an album that can veer from sounding so vast and expansive to suddenly appear so intimate and compact; a good example of this is midway through fifth track ‘Walking Through Walls’, where gaping reverb suddenly gives way to a clear and concise acoustic guitar. It’s added subtle touches like this that constantly conspire to surprise the listener just when there’s the threat of predictability seeping in.

Because believe it or not, there a couple of pointers for improvement. ‘Happy Accident’, whilst not a bad track, certainly adds nothing new to the canon of the Leeds group and reminds of peers Maybeshewill, yet sadly lacking the urgency and attention tugging hook that the Leicestershire group manage so well on their own impressive debut. ‘Look At That Cloud!’ is another song that suffers from the exalted company it finds itself surrounded by; an eight minute stab at greatness that only really breaks through into such realms in the final quarter. Yet, aside from these trifles, it’s a stirring and fantastic debut, rising to rapid crescendos before settling into dreamlike atmospherics in the second half of the album in particular. Like all captivating dreams though the final twist comes at the end as closing track ‘Waves Those Arms, Airmen’ creeps and slivers into focus, imposing an air of sinister undertone that wraps up and smothers the softly dozing animal of the previous few tracks. Sparse, but with a gradual sense of anxiety that they couldn’t quite pull off earlier on in ‘Happy Accident’, it’s a beautifully dark epilogue that builds and builds on the back of burbling electronics before crashing into a tumultuous heap leaving only wavering feedback as a token that it was ever here in the first place.

Vessels then have created a quite wonderful debut that successfully manages to leap off cliffs and soar up to the stars without ever losing its path so that at the end, once all the pieces finally fall into place, it can give its listener one final twist. Whilst at times it can struggle to truly envelope and captivate your emotions, White Fields And Open Devices remains an album that’s personality and ambition is there for all to see; and if there’s personality to be seen within a record then surely you’ve got to be doing something right.

Date Released: Out Now
Label: Cuckundoo Records


The Nearly Men- Bedhead (Audioscribbler)

The Nearly Men: Bedhead

August 14, 2008 by Simon Catling (Edit)

It takes a pair to cover a Smiths song; only a select few have really ever managed to pull it off, and The Nearly Men are probably well aware of this. But we’ll get to that in a minute. The opening, title track, of this EP is a jaunty jangle fest of acoustic guitars, organs and 60s beat percussion; sounding pretty promising no? At a snug fitting two minutes and seventeen as well it seems an excellently crafted opening track; that is if you discount the horribly yowling vocals of lead singer Paul Ashley Drake, who sadly doesn’t see the need to remove the frog from his throat throughout the entire four track EP. This will come back to haunt him.

Despite its title, ‘Melancholy’ is in fact only marginally less chipper than ‘Bedhead’; there’s a certain ramshackle quality to it in contrast to the opener that warms the cockles and the subtle added nuance of piano is a welcome touch. Once again though Drake’s vocals make it nigh on impossible to decipher what he’s on about and you just want someone to take him home, give him a lemsip and pack him off to bed in the hope that he can get over this seemingly incurable touch of manflu. Sadly this is the lasting impression that will remain from ‘Bedhead’; all three original compositions fit together with a breezy joy de’vivre and yet all are almost entirely undone by poor singing; and when it comes to THAT Smiths cover (‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’), sadly all five of the group only have themselves to blame; sound levels are all wrong, the now painstaking vocals threaten to drown out everything else, so to combat this everything else is turned up loud as well and what is an attempt at a skiffle-pop cover of an enduring classic ends up sounding like a bit of a painful dirge (If you want to hear a good cover of this check out David Ford’s wonderfully poignant version.)

It’s a shame really that such an obvious weakness has been allowed to fester and get in the way of what could really be quite a delightful five piece; but then the other four probably can’t hear what they sound like anyway.

Date Released: Out Now
Label: None


Deerhunter- Microcastle (Audioscribbler)

Deerhunter: Microcastle

August 12, 2008 by Simon Catling (Edit)

Deerhunter are an important band to have around at the moment, and it’s a shame that a leak has overshadowed their third LP ‘Microcastle’ and warranted its early release; there are but a handful of bands really striving to push the boundaries in the increasingly confined space that time and musical evolution have inflicted upon those of the predominantly guitar-based persuasion. Having got their raw phase out of the system with the release of debut ‘Turn It Up Faggot’ in 2005, the Atlanta five piece (although four on this record) put out arguably one of the most forward thinking albums of the last few years twelve months later with the superlative ‘Cryptograms’. On their debut, Deerhunter had given a hint of what might have been to come with ever changing dynamics, lyrics fading into the background, drums forcing their way to the front of songs and heavy bass lines forcing guitars to regress into mush. Only on ‘Cryptograms’ however did Bradford Cox manage to realise the intentions of the year before; sweeping ambient instrumentals linked songs that themselves seemed to drift in from the ether before stealthily returning to whence they came. The whole tone of the album was that of something completely shapeless and yet perfectly crafted. Despite not featuring in the charts, the album was recognised enough for Pitchfork to award the album a ‘Best New Music’ mention and for numerous other critics to garnish it with high praise.

Fast forward two years and the makeup of Deerhunter has changed markedly. An increase in popularity in their native USA has culminated in a support slot for industrial pioneers Nine Inch Nails and in between albums Bradford Cox has released his own stellar solo album under the moniker of Atlas Sound. In a recent interview Cox also alluded to the fact that he would be returning to more straight ahead pop sensibilities after his previous two spaced-out panoramic outings, stating that ‘Cryptograms’ in particular was “narcissistic [in] how much it dwells on adolescence and the whole ambient-droney-experimental side of things and creating soundscapes and things, it just got really tired and old.”

Any worries of a complete abandonment of the formula that made their previous album such a captivating listen can be laid to rest thankfully; opener ‘Come For Me (Slowly)’, whilst tighter and clearer in production, remains a vast and sweeping statement of intent. The following track ‘Agoraphobia’ though is a startling step in a different direction; a mellowing, insecure sounding track that seems to harp back to the 60’s and simple acoustic flower pop as much as it does from anything surrounding it in the present. ‘Never Stops’ too recalls the Velvet Underground’s hard, senseless percussion juxtaposing the vocals before a steady strain of distortion and noise briefly uncouples the song from its tracks; a further indication of Deerhunter’s step towards the accessible and cemented yet further in the more formulaic structure of quiet/loud/quiet/loud verses and choruses. It’s not until ‘Little Kids’ in fact that we hear something warped away from its linear point a hollow loose sound is engulfed by showers of concentrated noise and changing pitches submerging the percussion, and gently melding the vocals into the wall of sound that they’re creating. Once again however the temptation to allow the whole thing to drift and merge with the next track on the album is checked and the title track is another of bleak and isolated beginnings that eventually kick starts into life with a whirlwind of sleek guitars and wistful murmurings; a beautiful and poised ending that contains that bit of valium to take the edge off the distortion.

At this point the listener could be forgiven for noticing a touch of, not disjointedness, but certainly something a little stop start in the opening half of the album- at least in comparison to their previous ventures. This seems to partly be what’s intended though; in trying to dumb down the perceived excess of the previous album, Deerhunter are chopping up their sound and presenting it in small segments of carefully pored over noise. In cases of tracks such as the short ‘Calvary Scars’ and ‘Activa’ this can seemingly cut them adrift from the other tracks on here; yet in arguably the focal point of the entire LP, ‘Nothing Ever Happened’, this decision seems inspired. The track’s pulse lies in Josh Fauver’s simplistic driving bass and Moses Archuleta’s stoic drum line that sticks to its task rigidly throughout, allowing the myriad of guitars to gently simmer and burble in the background as Cox’s vocals cut through the two. The key theme throughout ‘Microcastle’ seems to be of life’s relentless pace and the realisation that nothing lasts forever; ‘Nothing Ever Happened’ certainly rings true of this as the lead vocalist murmurs, “nothing ever happened to me, life just passed and flashed right through me”; there’s a definite sense of maturity to the singer’s lyrics and perspective, something far removed from previous releases at times adolescent themes.

From then on in it’s nothing other than a delight as a catchy, pop laden guitar hook joins the percussion and gradually allows the hitherto bubbling feedback and overdrive behind it to rise up and scrawl a tapestry of graffiti over the central melody and set in motion an equally succinct but soaring passage of music that leaves you breathless. It’s here that the idea to keep the tracks apart makes perfect sense and ‘Saved By Old Times’ pleasingly veers back towards the mellow 60’s ambience heard earlier on in the album. Ironically it’s at this point that the group throw caution to the wind and hence the final three tracks on ‘Microcastle’ are the most comfortably positioned of the entire LP. The aforementioned ‘Saved By Old Times’ compliments perfectly the shimmering, swaying ‘These Hands’ that in turn cools right down into a muffled piano that bleeds perfectly into the album’s closing effort, ‘Twilight at the Carbon Lake’; a grandiose finale that imitates sincere balladry before letting loose in a blizzard of sound. It’s as though the toll of staying disciplined and reigning in the previous eleven tracks has finally proven too much for the group, who unleash an unhinged frenetic attack that still manages to stay eerily comforting; this truly is Deerhunter at their best.

‘Microcastle’ then is in many ways the sort of record you’d expect to hear from the Atlantans and yet something quite, quite different. The seamless shift between emotions and soundscapes isn’t necessarily always strong on this album, and it does at times seem a pity that Bradford Cox felt the need to dissect, separate and section off his ideas away from each other. Yet on the other hand, this is an album as painstakingly deliberated over as ‘Cryptograms’ was, and an even further step away from the ramshackle rawness of ‘Turn It Up Faggot’. Within each cluster of sound comes the same range of emotion, poise and beauty that was whitewashed all over both their second LP and Atlas Sound’s debut; the difference this time is that the listener is delivered it in more manageable, digestible chunks. While the result means that it may not stand up quite as well as their previous effort in future years, it shows yet again that Deerhunter are a band refusing to accept their limits and for this reason alone we should be more than grateful.

Date Released: Out Now (Physical release 28th October)
Label: 4AD Records

The Singles Monkey 11th August (Audioscribbler)

The Singles Monkey #3

August 10, 2008 by The Singles Monkey

Not since Apollo Creed decided that incensing an Iron Curtain programmed steroid-packed Ivan Drago with cheap street dancing and creaking James Brown crotch thrusting was a sure fire psychological advantage ahead of a fight has there been anything looking as battered and bruised as the UK singles chart. Never fear though because like the Beijing smog engulfing the Olympiad (why didn’t we just send athletes from the Middlesbrough region? They’d be sure to thrive in the conditions,) so we have some heavyweights about to drift in an all encompassing manner upon the charts. I may be high from smoking coconut powder (in fact I’m pretty sure I am) but that’s not stopping me from hopping up and down with excitement about this week’s bag; or in fact endlessly salivating out the corner of my mouth…

Fresh from being down-sized in Cardiff, R.E.M try to regain their stock by throwing a two and a half minute pop assault at the charts (‘Man Sized Wreath’, Warner). Don’t worry lads the Millenium Stadium may be ten times the size of the Cardiff International Arena but at least you’ve got a roof now in case of the inevitable Welsh torrents, take that Millenium Stadium!…oh, wait…it could be worse though Stipey; wipe your beady eyes, mop that beady head. I’d cover your ears though because that repeatedly convulsing cat over there in the corner is in fact The Cure’s Robert Smith (‘Perfect Boy’, Geffen).

Maybe it’s my golden African tan, maybe it’s my four grams of coconut powder, but I’ve never been enamoured with Smith and his pasty bunch of band mates, lurching around the place like a load of Pirates Of The Caribbean extras. Please Robert, have a throat lozenge, hire a builder in to take all that plaster off your face and settle yourself down for a lifetime of hearing ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ sung drunkenly and poorly by a load of pissed up students down any number of our good and green country’s indie nightclubs.

Talking of which, remember that band from Wigan? They had that song about symphonies and being a slave to the sterling all your life; (I should know, the sheer number of times people have tried to train me into a butler, for less than minimum wage too I might add; it’s all good fun until you accidentally drop the tiramisu and then its straight back to Chester Zoo!) yeah, I though that song was overrated too, but pressing on like Jason Manford through a Peter Kay routine they’re back with a new single (‘Love Is Noise’, Parlophone) which incidentally features my 2nd cousin Herman on backing vocals; he always was a chancer.

Stepping away from all things major label funded and mammoth for a minute, your trusted fur ball of filth has trained his dilated and bloodshot peepers onto Edinburgh’s Broken Records (Slow Parade, Fandango), who throw a huge, hairy blanket of luscious sweeping choruses over my head, interspersed with some soaring impassioned vocals and well placed piano. Good on you chaps, good on you. For Pete’s sake, like not mentioning the war to the Germans, never mention ‘Welcome To The North’ to The Music; they continue to actively wipe away the oozing puss of their second album with a return to their hi-hat/snare thumping, disco rocking ways of old (The Spike, Polydor). With sexy results.

Talking of which, the power trio of sex, Nelly, Akon and Ashanti, will be voice modulating their way into the charts this week (‘Body On Me’, Island). Maybe it’s just me, but the way Nelly incessantly raps on about doing the horizontal shuffle seems to be rather akin to that one kid in your class at school who claimed he was having sex five times a week even though he was only 12.

Now then, what’s that mosquito buzzing around my ears? Oh sorry! It’s merely the helium-voiced Delays brothers desperately trying to attract the general public’s attention with their honest-to-god good 80’s throwback pop songs (‘Keep It Simple’, Polydor). This time they’ve even enlisted Keith from The Office to give them that last sweat-ravaged push over the mainstream line; trouble is guys the Mystery Jets have simply hop-skipped and jumped over what you’ve been trying to do since the release of ‘You See Colours’. Sorry about that. They’re much better however than the cock-posturing (or make that just cocks) Ok Tokyo, who wear sunglasses, display wanton exposure of tacky synths and throw a tacky falsetto around like it were a crudely hewn, handmade Frisbee (‘Sums’, Split). So why’s it so fucking catchy!? Oooh I’m mad; where’s my pipe?

Santogold was tipped by the mighty Drowned In Sound no less as being a one to watch this year (‘Lights Out’, Atlantic). In the ensuing months she’s gone on to prove just this, not that her champions would notice, what with them discussing the apparently inevitable musical apocalypse and generally ripping each other so many new arseholes that sewing equipment companies worldwide are announcing massive profits thus levering themselves above any current global economical downturn. Well done sewing companies and well done Santogold! What with all these hyped huge and hung artists knocking about, Kids In Glass Houses no doubt thought that their tepid brand of five years past its sell-by-date American teeny punk metal had escaped the senses of your increasingly brainstormed Singles Monkey (‘Saturday’, Roadrunner). Little did they know that I’ve a keen eye for shit, lord knows I’ve thrown enough of it in my time (isn’t that right editor?) and the Kids have unfortunately been found out.

Nothing this week however can prepare you for the sheer baffling absurdity of Bloc Party’s new “effort” (‘Mercury’, Witchita). When historians look back on the first decade of this millennium they may to decide to christen it as ‘the decade of shit, second rate, primary school Casio (other brands are available) keyboard brass’, what with all the Ronson-esque horrorshows floating about the place at the moment like particularly unwanted floaters. I wouldn’t be surprised if the scrawny gimp had got his double-neck guitar wielding hands on this effort, such are the terrible trumpet sounds emanating from this unholy stench; quite frankly I’d be surprised if the other three members of Bloc Party even bothered turning up to record this. Sorry Kele, this record really does make me feel ‘like eating glass’ (I’m sorry but I had to get just one in readers.) With all this flotsam now drifting pleasingly behind me there’s nothing left for me to do other than crack out the pipe, winch my moderately-priced office chair back and pop in an episode of ‘Human’s Do The Funniest Things’ (The 10 o’clock news.) Bonjour!


Les Valentine- Nervous

Les Valentine: Nervous

August 5, 2008 by Simon Catling (Edit)

What’s all this? Porno sax? MOR piano? Banal, repetitive lyrics? Why it seems that The Feeling’s influence truly is all conquering as Brightonians Les Valentine concoct up a decidedly rancid brew that sounds like it should be tacked onto the end of one of those crap early 90’s family movies that end up being shown on ITV2 in the afternoon..

Almost as disappointing is the realisation that Les Valentine isn’t just a rather exotic name for one man but in fact the name of the band. It’s clear the four piece are aiming for the perfect anecdote to summer with a cheerful and uplifting pop song but this effort sadly falls woefully short of the mark. If they’re feeling “so damn nervous” then they have every right to be; destined to be forgotten.

Date Released: September 29th
Label: Crash Records

Lapels- Painted Skeletons (Audiocribbler)

Lapels: Painted Skeletons

August 5, 2008 by Simon Catling (Edit)

For those first few seconds of ‘Painted Skeletons’ the heart wishes that the band were about to break into Virginia Plane by Roxy Music as the piano intro promises something big. What we get is a tired sounding guitar hook and some pretty loose musicianship. Shame.

Wakefield’s Lapels then seem like yet another band jumping on indie’s vastly oversubscribed bandwagon; the Libertines garage sound’s here, the mumbled lyrics, the “raw” production style. What narks about Painted Skeletons, and indeed probably about many a British four piece at the moment, is that these are bands trying to sound like what they see in front of them and not what they hear in themselves.

It goes without saying that influences are inevitable but it’s what you make with them these days which marks your talent as a band; Lapels haven’t really made very much of there’s despite their attempt at lyrics which are, according to them, about “cannibals, nautica, ashes, and authors”. B- Side ‘Last Great Civilization’ is more of the same but sped up a bit, which is a shame because Yorkshire currently has a thriving and creative music community at the moment, Lapels are a poor representation of this.

Date Released: Out Now
Label: Louder Than Bombs


The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir- Ten Thousand (God Is In The TV review)

Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir - Ten Thousand
(Bailing The Jack)
Simon Jay Catling

I’ve got to hold my hands up and be honest: my knowledge of American country music doesn’t run particularly deep; obviously I can cite the Tom Waits and Johnny Cash’s of this world as being unique and fantastic artists who influenced and continue to influence not only musicians within their own genre but a great many others as well (why only the other week I saw classical and jazz pianist Joanna McGregor perform a rousing version of Cash’s gospel song Spiritual.) I’ve never really scratched beyond the surface though, which helps Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir in that their music is being thrown at an open mind and eager ears.

‘Ten Thousand’, the quartet’s third album, is I guess what you’d expect from a country and blues band; rag tag banjos, slide guitars and yelping vocals are all par for the course here with some songs occasionally seeming so ramshackle that at any point it seems the wheels could fall off. The Canadians, whilst lyrically weak, do possess a certain charm about them, all four band members seemingly pitching in with the vocals to create a real sense of gang mentality. Songs like ‘You Got It Wrong’ and ‘Never Be Dead’ rattle on with a real purpose and could certainly ignite a countryside barn dance; in fact there’s rarely a let up in the banjo twanging and frantically picked acoustic guitars throughout the fourteen tracks, most of which weigh in at around the three minute mark. ‘Rainstorms In My Knees’ is perhaps the biggest contrast on the LP, a gospel track that thuds along methodically with the foursome yodelling along to a steady twelve bar blues. The great trouble with country and western music however seems to be that musically its pretty limited; if you can rattle out a deft tune with 7ths and blues scales on a banjo with some loose percussion that seems to be all that’s required; it’s lyrically where the genre seems to come into its own and sadly Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir possess lyrics and subject matters far too vague to ever really draw the listener in. ‘Nehemiah’s Fortune’ is a pretty straight ahead plea by the narrator to end the misfortune that apparently plagues him, whilst other subjects seem to base themselves around arguments with other people such as in ‘Dumb It Down’ and the aforementioned ‘You Got It Wrong’. This is all well and good except that ‘Ten Thousand’ possesses no single memorable lyric to place it in a separate place from any of its peers or contemporaries; which is a shame because despite the limits of the style they’re pedalling, the Canadian quartet still do it rather well. However, country music without personality isn’t really country music at all and sadly they leave me no more of an urge to dig deeper than I had before listening to this LP.

Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir Myspace

2.5 stars

The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir- 'Go Back Home'


You can purchase 'Ten Thousand' by The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir from Amazon.


The Singles Monkey- 4th August (Audioscrib)

The Singles Monkey #2

August 2, 2008 by The Singles Monkey

What with Audioscribbler now as unrecognisable as Jordan is from Katy Price, it seems that the times are a-changing, and no sooner had your faithful furball ‘the Singles Monkey’ dug himself a nice niche at Audioscribbler towers than it seemed he was to be usurped.

They didn’t count upon my super sapien will power and extra strong coconut juice however; after weeks of barricading myself up in the tallest turret, greeting any would be usurpers with barrages of mud and monkey faeces, the editor had no choice but to let me continue with my new found role as the soothsayer of all things b-sided and singular. A quick ring to give Mrs. Singles the good news (she thought I’d popped out for the paper,) and I scurried eagerly towards the bag of singles like Russian athletes would to a private pharmaceutical..

So the big hitters this week in terms of ‘fellas wot hold guitars and that’ are The Futureheads (’Walking Backwards’, Rough Trade), the North East’s finest export since it’s Greggs Bakery franchise, and merciless soul stealers Scouting For Girls (’It’s Not About You’, Epic). Unsurprisingly it’s a resounding 1-0 to the ‘heads, possessing hooks and harmonics that are surpassed only by the increasingly impressive and tight fitting lower garments they’re managing to fit into these days, especially you Ross; good on ya. As for Scouting For Girls; well, to say that they’re the musical equivalent of our good green earth’s greenhouse gases, increasingly smothering our musical landscape and slowly choking the nation’s appreciation of creativity and innovation, would be pretty much spot on. Horribly wooden.

Talking of massive wood, the 12” highlights this week are large meaty and dripping with…quality. Scottish sorts Winona decide to rope in their knob twiddling chums to do all the hard graft whilst they sit back, have a deep fried mars bar and rake in the profits (’Without You: The Remixes’), whilst Brightonians Alloy Mental tuck themselves into a hearty meal of thudding electronica grooves (’I Am’, Skint). Apparently DJ Zinc still kicks around these days as well, his 12” teetering about on some typically jungle styled stilts (’Snipers Den/Take Me With You’, Bingo).

It may be looking like a surprisingly warm summer at the moment, but don’t think the Levellers are taking a day off from protesting and fighting for the common man (’Before The End’, On The Fiddle); oh no sir, which is handy, because we can take in the sun nice and easy knowing that Chapman and co. are still toiling away shouting for causes which we’re all clearly totally behind. There’s isn’t a lone voice croaking across an otherwise ambivalent and passive nation however; for London folky punk types the King Blues are telling socialist stories themselves..and doing it a little better than the Levellers are currently doing at that. (’Let’s Hang The Landlord’, Island) But guys it’s the summer! Kids have broken up for holidays, ice cream vans are working good and hard to ensnare the young un’s and me and Mrs.

Singles are off to Tanzania to see relatives (ok then..Cheshire Zoo); we don’t need this sort of rapt and biting social commentary for a good month or so yet, why don’t you just buy yourself a Screwball (other ice creams are available), reach the bubble gum at the bottom and let your mid year days drift by in a delightful hybrid of brain freeze and sticky goo filled fun. New Adventures seem to be struggling to get into the spirit of the holidays as well (’In Our Hands’, Faded Grandeur), trying to get all angsty and downbeat on us; not going to work though my glass half-empty peering fellows, not when twee scamps Noah & The Whale are getting all corduroy on our collective asses (’5 Years’, Cherry Tree).

Finishing me off with a pubescent orgasmic squeal then are spotty little oiks Late Of The Pier who bombard the senses with something part 1988 and part 2008 (’Heartbeat’, Parlophone); although we all laughed and derided the Klaxons two years ago (ok, well I did, last time nu-rave was pumped into the zoo enclosures at Chester Zoo, Larry the Elephant was on heat and this tragic combination of glo-stick waving choonage and randy elephant loving caused the death of six tucans, a couple of cockatiels and a sloth), it seems that the genre, if such a one exists still is inching towards respectability, and why shouldn’t we applaud that? Why shouldn’t we?


Air Cav- Embers/Picking At The Bones (audioscribbler)

Air Cav: Embers/Picking At The Bones

July 27, 2008 by Simon Catling

Next year should be the one that ‘Air Cav’ step away from their role as one of the Manchester scene’s finest stalwarts and spread their wings further a field; this double A-side provides a rather fine gateway for the members of the Chorlton four piece to peer confidently through onto the surrounding world. ‘Embers’ and ‘Picking At The Bones’ are the results of a band content to do things their own way without rushing out wanting and ill-prepared for their fifteen minutes of fame; no, this is a band who are building from the foundations up and if this sometimes causes the more impatient of us to yearn for more widespread touring and more readily available releases then so be it; in the long haul it’s surely going to be worth it.

Like previous double a-side ‘Alliance/Branches’, the latest offering from ‘Air Cav’ is another infectious, sparkling, atmospheric twin attack on the senses. ‘Embers’ is a resolute, relentless beast of a song; that aching that you can feel on your face is a smile by the way. The folk-shoegazers don’t deal in the murky depths of despair, instead relying on simple but constant guitars and straining, heartfelt vocals that far from getting lost amidst the tumult of noise surrounding them, join forces to provide a solid unit of noise that pushes your serotonin levels up and up. ‘Picking At The Bones’ burbles and grows out of a vast expanse before taking a slightly greater contrast than its brother with a sudden roaring chorus that bursts out of a contrastingly held back verse. The rest of the song flies gorgeously on, the sound of ‘Air Cav’ using a big butterfly net to try and catch the swathes of noise that they’ve let out of their bag; which they do except for the violin that flutters and darts about in the air tantalisingly out of reach with the low-end booming percussion and frantic guitars.

All of which makes the band’s second release on ‘Surbia Records’ one of the singles of the year; limited to 500 copies there’s a chance you won’t be able to get your hands on a version of this but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bust a gut trying; alternatively you could just hold tight for a few more months because ‘Air Cav’ are a band who are about to take off into the stratosphere.

Date Released: Out Now
Label: Suburbia Records

See the video for 'Embers' at Youtube.

You can buy 'Picking At The Bones/Embers' from Surbia Records.


Fights Like Apes- Lend Me Your Face (Single Review GIITTV)

Fights Like Apes - Lend Me Your Face

Simon Jay Catling

Let’s forget about the A side to this for a cotton picking minute because the first thing I saw upon seeing this release was that the B side was none other than a cover of McLusky’s cult classic ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’. One has to give the Irish four piece some props for covering such an untouchable classic at the very least, especially as a butchering of it would most like be looked upon pretty sternly by a large section of their existing fan base. Yet, mainly thanks to the orgasmic shrieks of lead singer MayKay as she spits out the vocals, Fights Like Apes manage to heroically pull it off, in fact why not use this as the a-side? Falkous and co. could most definitely do with the royalties that’s for sure.

Lend Me Your Face itself is short, catchy and hook laden; keyboard synths jab and poke at each throughout like errr..angry apes, and in a time when no one under the age of eighteen wants to hear a band who haven’t sticky taped on a few synthesised noises here and there it’s quite likely that Fights Like Apes are on a pretty sharp trajectory upwards. Time will tell however whether they have enough in the tank to avoid the downward trajectory that seems too eager to follow most of bands of their ilk these days.

3 stars

Fights Like Apes video for the single 'Lend Me Your Face'

You can buy Fight Like Apes single 'Lend Me Your Face' from iTunes.


RasKatarsis- s/t (GIITTV)

rasKatarsis - rasKatarsis (K-20)
Simon Jay Catling

Nice as it would be to believe that the current swell of post-rock/instrumental/minimal acts has brought with it an increase in the quality of the stuff that’s out there; sadly, as many musical movements past have taught us, this isn’t always the case. Post-rock (I’m going to run with this name despite the kicking it receives) does not feel the burden of such a saturated market, for in this writer’s opinion it is one of those genres that has its opening height way and above other contemporary music of the moment. Yet on the other hand it is of course a lot easier to make poignant and passionate opuses when you’ve seen dozens of bands do the same before you.

And so Estonian group RasKatarsis find themselves in the unenviable position of dipping their toes into the wider world at just the time everyone’s beginning to tire of endless long haired guitarists staring at the stage and aiming to reach for the emotional stars with the aid of their instruments alone. This doesn’t make the Baltic’s choice of style a foolish one but it does set them at a slight disadvantage; thankfully for RasKatarsis, they come from a country which has thrived on being the underdog since it gained independence at the beginning of the 90s, and this band are no different. Their self titled LP manages to understatedly meander and climb its way into a niche that manages to sit comfortably amongst its constricted peers. Yes, the Explosions In The Sky comparisons can be fairly levelled at the four piece as can the Mogwai, Bark Psychosis likenesses et cetera. It would however be a shocking disservice to this LP to dismiss it as another jump on the bandwagon; why? Simply because unlike a lot of the groups shuffling about at the moment, RasKatarsis have stamped their identity all over these thirteen tracks. It’s the subtle things that make the difference, the jumps in key signature during fourth track ‘Lapsepolve Ja Tagasi’, the slight but affecting use of saxophone throughout that recalls the spaced out ambient jazz music of the likes of Jan Garbarek more than it does any post-rock band. Maybe, like with Sigur Ros, we as Brits could read too much into the titles of their songs; yet the spaghetti alphabet of the Estonian language portrays the music marvellously here: distant and otherworldly. The sparse ‘Ex Kaskaad’ fits this idea perfectly, two guitars striding simultaneously together through an otherwise bleak, vast expanse of space. Percussion on this album is almost an afterthought; brooding noises and rumbles push the music along far more effectively than the drum section here, which admittedly gives the some of the tracks a lack of focus and direction as you sit and wait for something to happen. For the most however the sheer thought evident in most of RasKatarsis sees the band shining through with poise and composure, never allowing themselves to fully put the throttle down and risk losing track of where they started from. Not even in the swirling, epic thirteen minute ‘Nomadia’ do they fully relinquish control; holding each intertwining melody on a leash as they threaten to break free without ever quite doing so; it’s also notable for one of the few times that the percussion does come into its own, putting the groundwork in steadily so as to gradually raise the pulse of the soundscape breathing above it and giving the track much needed depth.

The blissed out tempo of the album as a whole does mean that tracks can bleed seamlessly into each other almost without you realising, the similar themes too can at times show this to be an LP that retreads ground a touch too often and in a contemporary landscape where jumping out and arresting attention is becoming key it’s perhaps something that this slow burner of an album struggles with. Yet, because a slow burner is exactly what it is, RasKatarsis is a collection of music that ultimately does deserve your attention because with a bit of your time and focus the Estonians have provided a debut worthy of addition to any instrumental music fan’s collection.

rasKatarsis Myspace

4 stars

RasKatarsis- Nomaadia

RasKatarsis's self-titled LP can be purchased from rada7.


On the search for free music...The Depreciation Guild

Following a hearty recommendation from the Drowned In Sound boards, my quest for legal free music took me to Brooklyn two piece The Depreciation Guild. Apparently using only guitars and a Nintendo Entertainment System 2A03 sound chip, Kurt and Christophe made available the arresting album In Her Gentle Jaws available for free last year. Combining elements of shoegaze with a poppier edge offset by the sharp tones of the chipsets, In Her Gentle Jaws is a wonderful album that'd be a must get even if you had to pay for it; handily you don't!

Download the album from: http://www.inhergentlejaws.com/

If you need persuasion have a listen first:
The Depreciation Guild- Sky Ghosts


The Depreciation Guild's Myspace


The final PlayPauseStop :(

And so sadly PlayPauseStop, the free magazine from Manchester University's Indie society sadly folded along with the society itself. Without it I wouldn't be writing for the likes of God Is In The TV Zine and (hopefully, after an email from the editor) The Fly or just have the confidence to get reviewing and put my writing up there to be either lauded or ridiculed. Reviewing should be just all about the records of course but I defy you to show me a single music writer who doesn't try to leave a bit of themselves in a review. Anyway, PPS was ruddy excellent for the few issues it was around for; sure we all had different tastes thus making some of the articles pretty contradictory but overall the standard of writing really was excellent and I'll definitely miss it, I feel writing for the far more image conscious and right on student newspaper will not bring with it similar enjoyment next year; we can but hope...anyway, a couple of my articles made it in to the final issue; no Singles Monkey sadly, although he is back on Audioscribbler...

Click on the articles to read them. They include: a biographical piece on the quite fantabulous Manchester band Air Cav, a live review from way back in March when The Music returned to save us all, and finally a gushing icon article on ex-Suede man Brett Anderson, which I have to admit I'm really quite proud of. Do have a read! and Play Pause Stop? R.I.P.


The return of the Singles Monkey

Following the sad folding of Play Pause Stop it seemed like the end of the road for that loveable scamp The Singles Monkey, however this afternoon on Audioscribbler...


Editorial Gibbon Grief: The Singles Monkey #1

Lo’ and behold - what’s that unholy odour emanating from the dark underbelly of the basement that is Audioscribbler HQ? Why fear not readers for it is I, The Singles Monkey; here to digest and bring to you each week’s bag of single releases as the format tries to kick and squirm with a desperation appropriate for the dying animal that it is (just to put this article into some sort of context). Never fear though single lovers, because in these troubled times there are always diamonds just waiting to be ensconced from the rough that they hide in. What’s that? The Kooks have a new single out this week? ..shit..

Date: 07/07/08

The last band I remember who had a single called Shine On, Jet, were undeniably shit, and disregarding all that we already know about Brighton’s finest skinny jean clad indie bandwagon jumpers, this is as good an indication as to how The Kooks (Shine On, Virgin) new ‘un is going to go down. “Biting the hand that feeds”, oh if only they would and suddenly release an album full of soaring nine minute instrumentals and angel kissed poetic lyrics; they’d still manage to balls it up no doubt. Who cares though; because when your trilbies are that firmly fixed upon your head whose going to loathe you? Not the average sixteen year old in today’s Indie Britain that’s for sure.

Sticking to all things jangly and NME favoured for a moment, The Last Shadow Puppets (Standing Next To Me, Domino) are clearly everyone’s favourite pocket rockets of the moment and this release ahead of their debut shows is a great deal more impressive than either of cheeky young scamp Turner or cheeky young scamp Kane’s band outputs; how about packing in the day jobs fellas? No? Never mind, solace can be found in Metronomy’s continuously queasy yet catchy 80s sound (Holiday, Because). Happiness never lasts long though when Portishead (The Rip, Island) are in the room; look, there they are, all smouldering and dark. Youtube user XxTheeHeadXx claims that The Rip “is the shit”, and who am I, a humble jungle feline, to disagree with such a knowledgeable totem of all things minimal? No one that is whom, and it’s left for me to quietly purchase a 2 litre bottle of White Lightning, snort some poppers up my nose and flail wildly to the comeback SUMMER SMASH from former number 1 artist Basshunter (All I Ever Wanted, Hard 2 Beat); for your danceable goodness this week instead turn to the often underrated Junkie XL (Cities In Dust, Artwerk) who throws a sleazy house curveball the size of Andre The Giant’s fist at our collective ears. Hercules & Love Affair (You Belong, EMI) sounds positively tame in comparison, the much hyped act taking us all on a trip back to the 90’s so it would seem. If this was the 90s however we wouldn’t even be giving these chaps a second thought; and why would we? Not when the likes of Dr. Albarn, JX and Corona were still cheesing up dance floors nationwide! All together now: “it’s my life, my problems,” they sure are Dr A, they sure are..

N.E.R.D (Everybody Nose, Polydor) really are a bling encrusted world away from the delightful She Wants To Move; their latest offering dripping with about as much charisma as an Andy Murray pre-match interview (check out the up to the minute contextual metaphors there..) Dizzee Rascal (Dance Wiv Me, Dirteestank) fares little better; a rapper with prodigious talent slipping comfortably into the generic world that most successful UK hip hop artists inherit, sometimes I really do think that Scroobius Pip fellow’s right you know. So sadly it looks like the first weekly Singles Monkey is to come to a disappointing end…but wait, what’s that ramshackle ball of noise reaching these finely attuned lobes? Why it’s those loveable scamps Let’s Wrestle (I’m In Fighting Mode/Let’s Wrestle, Stolen) here to save us from the mundane with a glorious double A-side; the fact that one of the songs name checks both Hulk Hogan and Giant Haystacks is surely worth the purchase alone, and the chirpy singalong leaves your faithful Singles Monkey feeling as warm as he did when he took a bath with a hippo...until next week folks!

Words: The Singles Monkey

Yes it appears the flea ridden furball is back and this time it's weekly! Be sure to head to Audioscribbler every weekend for his latest musings on the upcoming singles.


Gig pictures at Audioscribbler

Forgot to mention that a few weeks ago Audioscribbler included some pictures I've taken from past gigs. They're not really proper professional styly pics because a) my cameras just a humble Sony Digital and b) I've never really been into photography, but they're up there and might interest you. Have a browse:


More reviews and MP3's will be on the way soon including the new Mogwai track as well as the possible return of The Singles Monkey...


Glastonbury Headliners- Radiohead '03 vs. Muse '04

All the talk over the weekend has been about Jay Z's supposed jaw dropping performance on Saturday night at Glastonbury, which to be fair is a description not too embellished. The Brooklyn rapper's decision to come on performing Wonderwall with the quotes of a scorning Noel Gallagher in his ears was an inspired one and set the tone for a set that seemingly had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Some have even said it was one of the best Glastonbury headlining performances ever. Having watched the following two sets (although I'll admit being must be an entirely different kettle of fish), I can't see beyond Radiohead and Muse when it comes down to the greatest Pyramid headline set this millenium (and that includes David Bowie in 2000). Splitting Muse and Radiohead however is a task I can't do. Radiohead in 2003 returned to headline the stage for a second time and in a complete volte face from their rapturously received 1997 OK Computer dominated set, lurked into the deepest darkest corners of their back catalogue to provide a chilling and intense main show that...was once again received rapturously.

Muse on the other hand headlined for the first time ever and the talk before was that they weren't a big enough act to be given such a slot. However the Teignmouth trio blew these mumblings out of the water with an awe-inspiring metal show that suddenly made the gigantic Pyramid Stage seem small and homely as it struggled to contain their massive side. Stockholm Syndrome and it's five minute outro was the icing on the cake to close a show that people will be talking about in years to come. Which one was better though? I have no idea; however you can watch both below (gathered from accumulated Youtube videos- all decent copy, BBC/DVD rips) and decide for yourself.

Radiohead- Glastonbury 28/06/03
There There
The National Anthem
Talk Show Host
Where I End And You Begin
Climbing Up The Walls
The Gloaming
No Surprises
Fake Plastic Trees
Sit Down Stand Up
Go To Sleep
Sail To The Moon
Paranoid Android
Everything In Its Right Place
Karma Police
Street Spirit (Fade Out)

Muse- Live at Glastonbury 27/06/04
01. Hysteria
02. New Born
03. Sing For Absolution
04. Muscle Museum
05. Citizen Erased
06. Piano Interlude

07. Apocalype Please
08. Ruled By Secrecy
09. Riff + Sunburn (piano)
10. Butterflies and Hurricanes
11. Riff Heartbreaker (Led Zep) + Bliss
12. Time Is Running Out
13. Plug In Baby
14. Blackout
15. Stockholm Syndrome + Outro

Glastonbury Headliners 08- Kings Of Leon

If ever I was going to go to my first Glastonbury, this would have been the year to do it; easy to get tickets, nothing much else planned for summer and a stream of people I know who went. Yet I didn't...blame the credit crunch (or at least my credit crunch) and the fact I was seeing Radiohead in London the day before it kicked off. Never mind. Anyway, Kings of Leon didn't impress me much when I saw them at Leeds in 2005, however since then they've released a wonderful 3rd album and if I'm honest I was cringing enviously all the way through this performance by them. They're not great showmen, barely moving about the stage, but the sheer power and immediacy of their songs wins over most crowds. The BBC refused to show their new songs and in fact asked them not to play any (boo the BBC) whilst some other links I've not found yet, but here's the setlist and the videos that are available from the weekend. Enjoy!

'Black Thumbnail'

'Taper Jean Girl'
'My Party'

'King Of The Rodeo'
'Wasted Time'
'Four Kicks'
'Molly's Chambers'
'California Waiting'
'The Bucket'
'On Call'
'Pistol Of Fire'
'Spiral Staircase'
'Knocked Up'

'Slow Night So Long'


'My First Radio - Progress' God Is In The TV Single Club Review


My First Radio: Progress


Label: Gizeh Records

Progress is available as a free download NOW from the God Is In The TV Singles Club at http://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk.

Your Rating:

Simon Jay Catling

With ‘Progress’, the latest release to come forth via the excellent God Is In The TV’s Singles Club, you get the feeling that every nuance of this four minutes has been pored over and finely combed for an absolute age. Nothing feels out of place, everything comes in at exactly the time you’d expect it to and strings, guitars and pianos build together steadily but surely to create a rousing thunderstorm of noise. Sounds pretty robotic ey? You couldn’t be more wrong, because right from the get go passion bleeds through this shoegaze ballad from every orifice.

Right from the lonesome, melancholy piano introduction it’s clear that this is a song that will tug at your heartstrings and pull them this way and that. The vocals soar powerfully over the gentle of addition of strings that stealthily and gorgeously widen the sound without you even realising. You should know at this point that ‘Progress’ is only going to go one way, and so it does with a sudden eruption of drawn out strings, ringing guitars and crashing chords and symbols, shattering the peaceful ambience that’s come before it; funnily enough for a sound reminiscent of ‘Black Dollar Bills’ by Hope Of The States this track does indeed feature Mike Siddel of ‘States and Lightspeed Champion fame wielding his violin. Just like that however the noise melts away leaving us alone in an empty space with just the piano for accompaniment: stunning stuff.


My First Radio - Progress

My First Radio's
free download single 'Progress' can be accessed at God Is In The TV.

Wild Beasts- Limbo, Panto album review

Wild Beasts - Limbo, Panto
Simon Jay Catling

Wherever Wild Beasts came from, surely it isn’t Kendal. Cumbria always feels a bit detached from the rest of England sure, but not like this. The fact that most of the county’s a National Park means no mobile phone masts, and this alone gives you an indication of its isolated feel. Additional to this are the rolling, guard-like hills that surround and watch your every move, and the lakes that cover miles of the mostly unblemished countryside. Even a decampment to Leeds does little to pour light upon the influences of this extravagant four piece. Kaiser Chiefs? Elland Road (although funnily enough I might not be far off on this one)? Skinny jeans and trilbies? Sure I’m doing ‘the Northern London’ a discredit by pigeonholing it so generally, but the feeling remains; most bands debut LP’s allow the listener to get some semblance of where the music they’re listening to comes from, not so Wild Beasts.

What is it that we’re dealing with here? A pop band? The melodies are certainly there, the tightness and immediacy is all there, but to merely call Wild Beasts a pop band is to greatly neglect the sound that they’re creating. No; ‘Limbo, Panto’ comes across more as a 21st century opera. Catchy enough to keep hold of our increasingly short attention spans with songs about late nights, gaudy sex and growing up, yet possessing an amount of pompousness and grandiosity that’s far too much to absorb from one listen alone. Who can we call their peers? Lyrically the group’s nearest peer would surely have to be the Arctic Monkeys and bands of their ilk; this LP consists of nothing other than songs of 18-30 working class Britain, but unlike Alex Turner, Wild Beasts lead singer Hayden Thorpe lyrically paints a scene far beyond the simple romance that the Arctic’s man aims for. Thorpe instead takes these apparent everyday and unremarkable environments and adds backing dancers, costumes, garishness and drama to the most camp level. And what a falsetto he delivers it in; not since Mr. Mercury will a voice split opinion so neatly. Like the band’s music (and we’ll get to that in a minute), Thorpe’s is a voice of ridiculous pretension, knowing of critical provocation; let’s face it, there’s not many male voices about at the moment confident enough to deliver in such an overblown and indulgent manner; Matthew Bellamy sure, but even on Muse’s debut ‘Showbiz’ his vocals were reined in and censored. Not so here, Hayden Thorpe imprints his mark right from opening track ‘Vigil For A Fuddy Duddy’, swooning across the 70’s sounding disco ballad as he describes a sexual encounter with more smut than Mills & Boons, “flaccid, I asked for this bellow spit rich belly pit moan and blush with hot hormone”. ‘The Club of Fathomless Love’ meanwhile is a lyrical delight, exploring a young man’s preparation for a night out and it’s eventual happening, describing the club poetically, “we bellow baritone to our favourites, like life depends on it!/ I hold my brothers in breathtaking clinches/ this is my heart’s hub, the hot, wild, fug of the club of the fathomless love”, it’s a scene we’ve all seen before many a time and yet Wild Beasts tell it as one might describe a scene from A Clockwork Orange; and why shouldn’t they? If ever there’s a time in your life when everything you do is achingly important then it’s surely at the onset of manhood; dressing up such a night musically is no different than what we do in our minds every time we go out, get drunk and fall down at the beginning of our alcohol led lives.

It’s this lyrical content and subject matter which prevents ‘Limbo, Panto’ from truly taking off for the sun and bursting in a blaze of its own unrepentant egotistical bravado. ‘The Old Dog’ is a lesson in the pitfalls of casual sex, graphically describing the unwanted birth as “a human is hauled from the wombs wired jaw”, whilst ‘Please, Sir’ is a naughty schoolboy’s plea to be allowed back into class following a series of misdemeanours. Fourth track, ‘Woebegone Wanderers’, is another of note; taking leave of the burlesque cabaret sound that the previous two songs contained, and reverting back to the 70’s disco of the opener before sending each verse off into an exotic waltz. Thorpe meanwhile passionately soars above the toe tapping bass and jangling guitars to painstakingly portray something as common as supporting a football team “we’ve been lumbered with the losing life for far too long/ the ground bellows like the belly of a sleeping whale”. The band even operatically recreate the standard chant of ‘Who are yer’ to good effect. Yet this is not an album all about the lead singer and his lyrics, for it’s as a band that Wild Beasts excel and not as individuals. Drummer Chris Talbot ties the whole album together with percussion that ranges from the straight ahead stomp of ‘Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants’ and ‘The Devil’s Crayon’ to the slower, more subtle hi-hats and symbols seen on ‘The Old Dog’. Ben Little’s guitar contains the tone that takes the Wild Beasts far away from their peers in terms of any musical similarity; seemingly coming as he does from a time when every guitarist was required to have a quiff and a suit, whilst Tom Fleming’s bass weaves its way through ten songs of patterns ranging between swing, funk and a whole lot more in between. Such difference in styles sounds like a recipe for disaster, but miraculously it holds together as well as any pop punk band. Perhaps the epitome of the LP is ‘Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants’; together with final track ‘Cheerio Chaps, Cheerio Goodbye’, it provides an almost happy final scene, an epilogue if you will, describing the characters who have come before as those who need “to make the most, before we turn to ghost/ swig the bottle, bottle/ slap the face of Aristostle”. Meanwhile an eminently danceable rhythm not unlike Hot Chip juts through the exotic, dreamy funk-filled haze. Whilst maybe not the best track on the album, it is perhaps a song that could be described as the opera’s programme notes, giving an overview of the album. The aforementioned ‘Cheerio Chaps, Cheerio Goodbye’ is the encore for this ten part stage show and, as you’d expect from this album, works as a deliciously indulgent closer for what is as much of a diverse, ambitious and purely ridiculous an album as you’ll hear all year.

Yes, Wild Beasts are going to have their haters; any band who nails their colours to the mast so blatantly as this foursome have done are going to have their critics, be it the marmite voice of vocalist Hayden Thorpe, the 70’s throwbacks of some of the tracks or just the sheer absurdity of the entire album. Are they taking this seriously or are they just taking the piss? Perhaps before answering that you should take a look at your own life. How often as a youth have you viewed a night out as an event of utmost importance, what does it feel like when the team you support loses 3-2 from a penalty after going 2-0 up? How much did you build up the losing of your virginity? How risqué and dark did some of your early sexual encounters seem? Wild Beasts are merely playing out the importance of all these events that have already occupied a similar level of priority in your mind at some point or other. So before you mock or deride this band, take a stop and realise that to do that you are forgetting a part of your life that’s either happened or is currently taking place. You don’t have to be The Enemy or Hard-Fi to empathise with the common man; when listening to ‘Limbo, Panto’ drop the “too cool for school” attitude and you’ll hopefully find yourself engrossed in one of the albums of the year. And they’re from Kendal!?

Wild Beasts Myspace

4.5 stars
Wild Beasts video for their current single 'Devil's Crayon' can be seen HERE.

Wild Beasts debut album 'Limbo, Panto' can be purchased from Domino Records.