Reminds us of: Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Pixies, Beck, That Petrol Emotion, The Raconteurs, Arctic Monkeys, The Rolling Stones
Links to videos are in Green
Cage the who? Remarkable as it may sound for a band that have been releasing albums since 2008, I was completely unaware of Cage the Elephant until February this year. If this astounds you and you’re familiar with their stuff you should probably stop reading here, but if they’re similarly unfamiliar to you then I’d suggest you read on and click on some of the links below to give them a listen.
Have gone to see SHEAFS play earlier this year, and having had the opportunity to chat with Charles and Lawrence from the band they told us that Cage the Elephant were one of their main influences, so I thought it would be rude not to check them out. They’ve just released a new album ‘Social Cues’ this month and are playing a couple of UK gigs in June so now seems like a good time to do a profile.
Their first eponymous album reminds me of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and features the excellent top 40 single Ain't no rest for the wicked. 2011 saw them release ‘Thank You Happy Birthday’ where they manage to sound uncannily like the Pixies, particularly on tracks like Aberdeen. A live album followed in 2012 before the release of Melophobia, featuring Come a little Closer which was apparently a big radio hit (clearly not on my radio though). Fourth album ‘Tell me I’m Pretty’ was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys (but don’t let that put you off) and won the Grammy for best Rock album. I like all of these albums – their sound from Melophobia onwards has become more mainstream but the song writing is good and it’s the sort of stuff you can easily put on without annoying the rest of your family, particularly those that are inexplicably unappreciative of squalling feedback (the heathens!).
So, onto the new album. There are basically loads of reviews of the album knocking about so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, but I’m inclined to agree with the one here by Consequence of Sound which talks about the album being pretty safe throughout (continuing the mainstream theme) and slightly sombre tone given the many references to lead singer Matt Schulz’s divorce. First to air from the album was Ready to Let Go which really sounds like Static by That Petrol Emotion to my ears, followed by House of Glass, then the Thievery Corporation-esque Night Running (with Beck), and just prior to the album release the lovely lament Goodbye. Each of these releases adopt different styles, and the album throughout takes on a fair few guises, although it does feel a little let down by the washed out production. It’s a perfectly good listen however, and definitely a grower, so do open your ears.
Overall I really like Cage the Elephant – well constructed songs and pretty consistent throughout.The fact that I hadn’t heard of them until this year, also fills me with immense excitement for all the other artists that I really should be aware of, but haven’t as yet come across. If you’re of a similar disposition to me in this respect, make sure you keep coming back to this website, and feel free to list any of your own recommendations in the comments box below!
Reminds us of: Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, David Bowie, T-Rex, Bob Dylan, The Jam, The Redskins.
Some bands are destined for stardom: the Blinders are one of them.
Quite a bold statement but I remember hearing ‘I bet you look good on the dance floor’ and ‘Shaker Maker’ and thinking the same, so I don’t think I’m too far off the mark. In fairness, this isn’t too venturesome a claim really given that that they’ve already had a top 20 album, one of their songs (Brave New World) used for a betting advert shown at half time of most premier league matches this season, and they have developed a sizeable following.
A three piece originally from Doncaster, the Blinders make music that is forceful, well-crafted and politically aware. In a recent interview with John Robb (which is well worth listening to or downloading) they cite musical influences such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Bob Dylan, alongside more contemporaneous artists like the Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian. It’s hard to believe that an album like ‘Columbia’, which was released in September last year was made by three guys aged between 20 and 21 at the time, such is its maturity. Columbia is a remarkable record, with Gavin Monaghan’s excellent production really coming to the fore.
Columbia is named after the utopia that Charles Manson promised his family – perhaps a metaphor for the utopia that Donald Trump promised his own followers, inflated Brexit claims as well as the general premise that seems to exist in politics today that you can outright lie about most things and face no consequence. That certainly seems to be the case with songs like L'etat C'est Moi (I am the state, a subject’s all you are…I’ve got divine right) and Brave New World (‘in come, the Idiot King, he build a wall, and he built it high But did you know that it's made out of pie?).
Columbia has an almost film like structure – Gotta Get Through kicks off the album, designed to make you sit up and pay attention and very reminiscent of Miserlou from Pulp Fiction. The next five tracks provide the exposition – social commentary, frustration and contempt on matters such as police brutality (I Can't Breathe Blues) before culminating in despair with the Dylan-esque Ballad of Winston Smith. The album shifts into its turning point, beginning with Et Tu and concluding with latest single Rat in a Cage, At this point hope is restored and defiance prevails, before the reflective closer Orbit comes along, providing the denouement. All in all it’s a powerful album that gets better with each listen.
By all accounts they are well on their way to completing the second album, and they aim to take on new directions with their music. It will be interesting to see how they develop, and hopefully they will resist the pressure to compromise and dilute their music that bands on the up seem to face.
Reminds us of: Nirvana , The Kinks, The Beatles, Queens of the Stone Age, Kings of Leon (Early), T Rex, White Denim, White Stripes
It seems only fitting that on the month that marks the 25th anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s sad passing that I profile a couple of bands that remind me of Nirvana. The first of these is Demob Happy, three Geordies who’ve relocated to Brighton, who I’ve previously described to my friends as a cross between Nirvana and the Kinks. The second band profile will follow next week.
Aside from writing pieces for this website, I have a busy and demanding job and a busy and demanding (but wonderful of course!) family. My ability to uncover new and exciting music therefore is pretty limited. Traversing through the music magazine sites is hard work, as there’s a lot of artists covered that really don’t do it for me, so I often see what Spotify throws up based on my listening tastes. Spotify’s AI also throws up a lot of rubbish, but It was through this medium that I came across Demob Happy, a definite find.
Demob Happy have been around since 2008 by all accounts, but it took them until 2015 to release their first album ‘Dream Soda’. Their sound manages to perfectly blend grunge and late 1960’s pop psychedelia. Haat de Stank kicks off Dream Soda and is a top tune, rallying against the ‘politicians and the sycophants’ (written before Brexit but even more relevant now!).
Quite a few of the songs begin with quite heavy riffs, before diving into catchy choruses. You have to give Dream Soda a few listens but it’s definitely worth it. The Nirvana influence really comes across with tracks like Summer Cash In and Young and Numb and the Queens of the Stone Age angle is apparent throughout.
Their second album ‘Holy Doom’ was released last year to a lot of critical acclaim, and rightly so. Be Your Man sounds very late Beatles-esque, Fake Satan very T-Rex, I Wanna Leave Alive just sounds dirty, and ‘Fresh Outta Luck’ like The Kinks. The trademark filthy sounds continues throughout but it feels a bit more accessible than Dream Soda. All in all though it’s a very enjoyable album with some very catchy tunes.
The great thing about Demob Happy is their appeal across generations. Their influences are obvious, but they are good influences. Whether you’re young or old, check out their albums and their playlist on Spotify, as there’s a wealth of good stuff to listen to which will take you off in all directions.
Their latest single Less is More came out at the start of this year. They toured in the UK in February and March (which I’m ashamed to say I missed), and are currently plying their trade across the USA.
I will be catching them at All Points East on the 25th May and very much look forward to seeing them play live.
Hopefully we’ll see a third album soon!
Reminds me of: The Clash, Arctic Monkeys, Soup Dragons, (early) Pop Will Eat Itself, the Ruts, Buzzcocks
BILK are a three piece band from Chelmsford who write lively tunes with catchy choruses that will quickly get in your head. They’ve released a handful of tracks since last year, with CM2 their latest single. If you click on the link for CM2 you’ll see them proudly saying that they filmed the video on their I-phones with a budget of £6, £3 of which subsequently went on a meal deal, which all helps to build the picture.
They have a breezy ‘couldn’t give a f---’ air about them and a lot of snarling attitude. CM2 is all about being young and having nothing to do, a modern day 'London’s’ Burning' (how slow does that song sound these days though?), 'Spiked' is about losing control at a party because you’ve had your drinks spiked (obviously) 'Slob' about getting hassle for not having a job and 'Next Weekend' is sung so fast I couldn’t actually tell you what its about.
This lot remind me more of C86 (Now for a Feast era PWEI, Soup Dragons etc) rather than the new wave of punk bands (like IDLES, SLAVES etc) and in many ways their songs remind me of I bet you look good on the dance floor era Arctic Monkeys, which is alright by me.
They’re out on tour from this week – the pick of the gigs looks like 3rd May in Salford supporting Bethlehem Casuals on what promises to be an extremely sweaty night if the crowd is up for it.
By the way, the Dictionary description of the verb ‘Bilk’ in case you’re wondering is ‘to obtain or withhold money from (someone) unfairly or by deceit; cheat or defraud’.
Reminds us of:
Allman Brothers, Crosby, Stills and Nash, ZZ Top, 13th Floor Elevators, The Seeds, Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Funkadelic, Prince, Sly and Family Stone, Grand Funk Railroad, T-Rex, King Crimson
I first heard White Denim when they released their ‘Corsicana Lemonade’ album, and so taken was I that I pretty quickly bought up all of their back catalogue. After this, the band split with lead singer James Petralli releasing a solo album as Bop English (also very good) while the drummer and the guitarist went off to work with the crooner Leon Bridges. The follow up album ‘Stiff’ was released at the start of 2016 which apart from the excellent first three tracks is pretty disappointing, and was followed last year by ‘Performance’ which is more consistent and an enjoyable listen but not amazing.
It was therefore with some caution that I approached the new album ‘Side Effects’. The band referred to Corsicana Lemonade as their ‘barbeque’ album, essentially meaning that it was easily accessible music, and I just get the feeling that from then until now they’ve been trying to get more mainstream exposure and dumbing down their music in the process. I’m pleased to say however that Side Effects feels like more of a return to the sound on their classic ‘D’, albeit not replicating the dizzy heights of that album.
The 9 tracks on the album come in at under 30 minutes, and the songs do fly past. Some of the reviews have suggested that they’ve tried to pack too much in and be a little too clever for their own good, which I understand but personally doesn’t bother me. The lo-fi sound that characterises ‘Performance’ persists, but there is far less of an attempt to present their tunes in traditional song structures. Lead singer James Petralli has a phenomenal voice but he doesn’t choose to show it off as much here as he’s done with other albums recently, with tracks like ‘Shanalala’ almost mumbled.
Side Effects kicks off with ‘Small Talk (Feeling Control) at breakneck rocky pace and concludes with the sassy ‘Introduce me’. In between the songs twist and turn unpredictably – Hallelujah Strike Gold for example jumps into Funkadelic territory complete with the ghost of George Clinton (or may be Lee Scratch Perry?) speaking over the top, Headspinning jumps into a Minutemen thrash and so on. A couple of instrumentals - ‘Reversed Mirror’ (a further re-interpretation of the song on ‘Fits’) and ‘Out of Doors’ (a Celtic take on Four Tet) sit in the middle of the record, with the pick of the bunch ‘NY Money’, 7 minutes long to boot. Overall it’s a very good listen, and BBC Radio 6 have already given it their album of the week award.
If you are new to White Denim, have a listen to ‘Side Effects’ or try out Corsicana Lemonade as it is really accessible and a good starting point. Alternatively you could just head straight for their best album ‘D’ which made the ‘1001 albums you must hear before you die’ list. The band still play a number of tracks from D live, so I guess they must like it too. Their first two albums (‘Workplace Holiday’ and ‘Fits’) are quality too, mostly raw and garage band, but also diverse with nods to various other musical genres.
They are also very good live, albeit if an engaging front man is your thing then forget it! I saw them at their gig at the Roundhouse in February and I can’t even remember Petralli even speaking apart from to say ‘thank you’ after a couple of songs. They are however technically impressive musicians and play a fine set, although limiting the three song medley’s to one or two a night might be an idea.
Small Talk from ‘Side Effects’
Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah) from ‘Stiff’
At night in dreams from ‘Corsicana Lemonade’
Back at the Farm from ‘D’.
The Japanese House (TJH, as we cognoscenti like to say) is not a house, nor is it Japanese. More surprisingly perhaps, “it” is not a group, which was my expectation when I first came across it some years ago. Rather, it is a striking young woman, Amber Bain, and you can read the rather convoluted story of why she is called what she is called here.
She kept a low profile initially, to the point that the rumour on social media was that TJH was actually a side project for Matt Healy, main man of mega-stars the 1975. And on her first album, Good At Falling, you can see why that link was made.
Not only is it on the same label as the 1975, but the use of layered electronics, distorted and multi-tracked androgynous vocals, all applied to some pretty classic, dreamy and tuneful pop songwriting, does bring the band to mind. But while you could try to dance to some of the tracks here, TJH is generally more reflective and laid back than Healy’s bunch, with songs that float by pleasantly at first hearing. But lyrically they delve into emotions and take on the classic topics of heartbreak, discovering yourself and the joy / pain of being 20-ish in today’s world.
Bain is gay, and there is much here around her painful break up with Marika Hackman – another very talented British female singer-songwriter – titles such as “You Seemed So Happy” give us a clue there, but a song called “Marika is Sleeping” is even more obvious! But the heartbreak doesn’t overwhelm the album, and that first track for instance has a very pretty tune and a jolly mid-tempo vibe, with what sounds like a tambourine accompanying the chorus.
So, what artists from musical history does TJH bring to mind? Her chilled vibe, along with touches of a dance influence and purity of voice (almost folk-like when it’s not being autotuned) took me back to Beth Orton immediately - which reminded me to go and revisit that artist’s excellent and under-rated work. The dreamy mood reminded me of the Sundays, if you confiscated their guitars and gave them a few synths. I even got a bit of a Beach Boys feel at times.
But the closest parallel I came up with was Everything But The Girl and their excellent Walking Wounded album from 1996. (I recommend this recent re-review of that album from the influential if somewhat academic website Pitchfork, which led me back to it recently). But that combination of strong tunes, with slightly trip-hoppy dance, electronics and pop influences, and of course the strong female vocals, is certainly a comparator.
We’ve seen Bain and her House perform at Reading Festival and she came across as somewhat introverted but nevertheless was charismatic and very enjoyable. Apparently, during her recent live performances with a band she is getting more energetic, so we’re looking forward to seeing her at Reading again this august. All in all though, a very promising and enjoyable debut – 8/10 if I’m scoring.