Category Archives: Recommended

Madam Robot and the Lust Brigade: Gardens [EP]

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The first listen to Gardens, the latest output by Madam Robot and the Lust Brigade, brings with it an eerie sense of familiarity: You’ve heard these songs before, but you simply can’t place them. ‘Gardens’ is a flower-punk stomp that reeks of the Seeds, while ‘Dear Mind’ borrows from Jarvis Cocker and Hunky Dory-era David Bowie, to create a brooding slab of modern-day Britpop. Despite the references, this is one of the best-sounding records in quite a while, redolent of a time when production came before the posturing.

Stone Hogan: Whores of Babylon [Prolapse Records]

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Those of us of a certain vintage will remember the overblown world of sports entertainment. Come on, admit it! You wanted Hulk Hogan to turn heel as much as the next guy. Unable to decide who would win a scripted slobberknocker between Hogan and Stone Cold, the Knoxville ensemble settled on middle ground when it came to choosing their moniker.

Now, onto the music: Whores of Babylon is stockpiled with the sort of material that will guarantee followers: Woozy, hypnotic riffs and very occasional organ flourishes pilfered from the proto-metal boogie of yesteryear – throw in a handful of Pentagram and Sleep, and you can see where the band are coming from.

Maybe it’s the fact that Stone Hogan don’t take themselves too seriously, but the record benefits from the same sort of breezy cool that Josh Homme has made a career out of: Underneath the playful exterior is a seriously ambitious band with the nous to achieve. Whether the band will achieve their long-term goals is unknown, but Whores of Babylon is certainly an impressive mission statement. And that’s the bottom line.

Clan: 2013 [EP]

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The city of Norwich has taken a battering in recent years: First there was Delia Smith, with her embarrassingly slurred sherry speech to the fans of the Canaries, and, as if to add insult to injury, the resurgence of Alan Partridge – while a superb comic creation, Partridge doesn’t do much for the status quo.

Clan, on the other hand, are not only repairing their city’s reputation, but they are also moulding their own: The trio’s doom-blues blend of leather-lunged rock, complete with Geezer Butler-esque grooves and expressive solos, are catchy and propulsive.

Unlike their peers, who are content with recreating Master of Reality over and over, Clan craft songs with depth and meaning: “Dreams are all that I have/ So don’t take them away,” wails Matt Pearce during ‘Leave it Be’ – and it’s this heartfelt honesty, which makes Clan the most existing young band in Britain.

Carpet: Elysian Pleasures [Elektrohasch]

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By Simon Hadley

Germany’s Carpet are one of a handful of bands on the Elektrohasch label hell-bent on making heavy, psychedelic rock a sizable force in 2013. Their sound is a throwback to the good ol’ days of woozy riffing and spacey-prog organ flourishes, but what makes Elysian Pleasures a triumph is how capably they strike a balance between sun-kissed harmonies and crisp, vintage melodies to create flawless period pieces.

On first listen, Elysian Pleasures provides a lot of dots to connect: There are whimsical patches of paisley pop; power-chord progressions à la Richie Blackmore, and the unpredictability of jazzy, progressive rock. It’s a very British cocktail, which is sipped wholeheartedly by frontman and guitarist, Maximilian Stephan, who shares a vocal similarity with ‘60s kingpins Colin Blunstone and John Lennon, in the way he allows his voice to soar and glide over melodic compositions.

Due to the amount of influences on show, this is an album that sounds best as a whole, where you can get lost in its heady expanse without feeling the need to check the running time. Furthermore, there aren’t any standout singles, in the sense that you’re unlikely to hear ‘Man Changing the Atoms’ played on mainstream radio. Although, isn’t that the beauty of psychdelic rock? Music for the outsiders.

Liblikas: Wooden Spaceship [Independent]

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Estonia, through no fault of their own, has had a rather unsettled existence: Ruled by various superpowers in the last 100 years, it’s been under constant siege. As a result, cultural interests went by the wayside, including music.

Sure, there’s been various operatic and Eurovision successes, but rock and metal? Not so much. Liblikas, a metal quintet from Tallinn, could quite easily be the first band from the Balkan’s to make it in a scene dominated by British and American brawn.

Wooden Spaceship, the band’s full-length debut, is full of dynamic swells, meticulous sequencing and an appreciation for what has gone before, and, because of this, the influences are easy to pinpoint: The sludgy chords that define Georgia titans Mastodon; the blunt, riff-heavy assault of Neurosis; the undeniable sound of stoner, and, dare I say it, occasional smatterings of punk and psychedelia.

Differing styles aside, what you have is a straight-forward metal record with unavoidable cataclysms; it packs an almighty punch, leaving the listener in a state of hazy bewilderment.

Brujas del Sol: Moonliner [Devouter Records]

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By Simon Hadley

For those who are sceptical about the return of space-rock, one band that’s always worth listening to is Brujas del Sol. Since their 2010 debut, this Ohio-based four-piece have continued to add new colours to their psychedelic palette.

As a result, Moonliner finally feels like the finished article; they’ve curbed some of their most indulgent impulses in favour of a well-rounded sound that distinguishes them from their contemporaries. What’s more impressive, however, is that the band have stayed true to their game plan: The guitars still have a split personally; spiralling skywards, before descending back to earth in a fuzz-induced rage.

Despite the band’s autopilot tendencies – anyone who’s seen them live will know this – there’s always something that will catch you off guard: a sitar splash, a drawn-out vocal, or even a shimmering solo. Cynics will argue that this has been done countless times before, and, of course, they are right, but Brujas del Sol embodies a valuable notion: In order to move forward, it’s sometimes necessary to look back.

Shoraiders: Shoraiders [EP]

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The last few years have seen a renaissance in traditional-sounding rock ‘n’ roll, most of it coming out of Scandinavia. Shoraiders, like countless others before them, have modelled themselves on AC/DC, Blue Cheer, Queens of the Stone Age… You’ve heard this fuzzed-out approach before, but it’s the nicotine-fuelled pipes of Maria Morjes – a sassy, unrepentant presence – that makes this an essential purchase.

Mail Order Englishmen: Mail Order Englishmen [EP]

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In time-honoured tradition, Mail Order Englishmen is, quite simply, just a name. This Nashville trio, who have no direct links to Britain, have sewn together a psychedelic patchwork that takes its fabric from rock’s golden age – There are elements of the Allman Brothers, Free and Neil Young in this hearty debut – and rather than feeling like a history lesson, this warm and woozy collection is as good as any of its obvious influences.

Slim and the Greeks: Slim and the Greeks [Self-Release]

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Slim and the Greeks like to keep a low profile: Apart from their album-streaming page, there’s no information out there regarding their members, influences or whereabouts. Lack of key facts aside, this 10-track debut – we assume it’s a debut, anyway – is packed with gorgeously retro, sun-dappled indie-pop that pays homage to illustrious recordings, and despite its ephemeral nature, you’ll be constantly reaching for the repeat button. Quite simply, it’s a work of insidious beauty.

Dinosaur Eyelids: Conflagration [Servis Road]

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Dinosuar Eyelids’ aversion to post-millennial life prompted a defiant tagline: “alternative rock for a new generation,” – you could almost hear the ostracized members of society screaming in unison. For one reason or another, the band has yet to capitalise on their intent: Winter Solstice came and went, while the reaction to Down a River was minimal, to say the least.

Conflagration, the band’s third full-length, is worthy of such a malevolent title. Evan Staats, a brazen vocalist, who treats his record collection as an extension of personal politics, hasn’t lost any of his intensity; telling the listener to “kill your idols,” to a backdrop of powerful, grunge-like riffage. Like a ‘90s trio who got caught in a zeitgeist whirlwind, Conflagration is a manifestation of emotions: The maniacal and melodic contrasts add complexity and depth – the latter being vital in their pursuit of “change”. Whether this will be enough to start a revolution, however, remains to be seen.

The Exxtras: Waiting For You [Water Under The Bridge]

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By Simon Hadley

The Exxtras are the type of band that restores your faith in music: Gone are the over-the-top theatrics; the endless social-media assaults – although, they do have a Facebook account – and the need to appear on billboards. Hell, even their choice of format, the cassette, embodies their do-it-your ethic; offering a tangible listening experience, as well as a two-fingered salute to cultural trends. Limited to 250 copies, Waiting for You is crammed with charmingly indelible gems.

Megachurch: Megachurch 2: Judgment Day [Stressed Sumo]

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By Simon Hadley

The minds of Megachurch draw similar comparisons with inner-city suburbs; they are nice places to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there: Where the outcasts of society find solace in their distorted, psychological well-being, the rest of us simply pass through.

Megachurch, on the other hand, are perfectly at ease with their macabre residency – they even have a senator in Rick Santorum. What the band aren’t at ease with, however, is the rest of the world: More specifically, American culture. Judgment Day, as the title suggests, is the final reckoning for long-standing ideologies and 21st Century ideals.

Before that, like in any reputable work of fiction, is the unleashing of fury – or in this case, the ‘Resurrection’: 90 seconds of chaos where driving stoner-metal offsets cries of sinister, political frustration; a concept that is prevalent throughout.

Despite the Cleveland trio’s dissatisfaction with modern culture, there are moments of satirical brilliance: ‘Speaking in Tongues,’ for instance, builds to a mind-warping crescendo, while ‘My Father’s Dignity’ includes the juxtaposing thoughts of a sadistic pastor; it’s this unorthodox, anything-goes approach, that makes Judgment Day so captivating.