What We've Been Listening To This Week...Osees, Sunstack Jones, The Asteroid Number 4, TRAAMS, USA Nails, Melody Fields
By Jon Milton
Another week, another Osees album...Friday saw the release of the second album in as many months by Osees, ‘Levitation Sessions’ with another album scheduled for release next week and a further album due in December. Phew - that's certainly one way to fill your time when you can’t tour! Levitation Sessions is a live set featuring a handful of tracks from the bands’ latest album Protean Threat plus ‘lots of old favourites and 7 never before performed live hits from the crypt...its raw and shreddy with a bit of elastic improvisation thrown in’ says John Dwyer on his Bandcamp notes.
It is a thoroughly enjoyable run through of the band’s back catalogue, with ‘Block of Ice’ extended into a 12-minute masterpiece, ‘Chem Farmer’ fused with ‘Nite Expo’ and tunes like ‘I Come from the Mountain’ and ‘Static God’ pummelled in a very pleasing way. Placing the older songs side by side with tracks from the new album does highlight the weakness of Protean Threat though which hopefully they’ll move on from with next year’s crop of new releases.
Far less frantic and noisy is the new album by Sunstack Jones, ‘Golden Repair’. ‘An album to be played on balmy nights, winter nights, any night really and enjoyed with a glass of wine in your hand’ said we in our review, which you can read here. Sunstack Jones draw from the sixties, early seventies and nineties on Golden Repair, whereas The Asteroid Number 4 liberally borrow from the eighties on their new album ‘Northern Songs’. ‘It’s a fine collection of songs and sure, it’s derivative. Which does not matter a jot’ we wrote in our review, and said that it was the quartet’s best album yet. You can read the full review here.
Staying with psychedelia, Sweden’s Melody Fields sent through their new EP yesterday which is eminently pleasing. The EP was recorded in Studio Parkeringhuset, where other notable psych artists such as Goat, Hills and The Movements have recorded and features four tracks, the sitar driven ‘Langsam Dod’ and ‘Rhymes of Goodbye’ which kind of meld together as one, the Byrdsy ‘Broken Horse’ and the trippy ‘Painted Sky’. It’s all pretty chilled stuff, and no doubt well suited to listening to in a mind altered state.
If after all that you need to wake yourself up with a bit of noise, look no further than ‘Character Stop’ the new single by USA Nails, taken from their new album of the same name due out on the 23rd of this month. ‘On it they explore identity, like the online personas of aggressive twitter users, influencers and vloggers, as well as takes on mental health, giving up on dreams , the joy and (despair) of being a part-timer, and contemplating who they would be if they decided to hang up their guitars for good’ says the press release. All very relevant given what Rishi Sunak is currently proposing. This is another strong single from the band following on from the excellent ‘I Don’t Own Anything’ so the album should be one to look forward to.
Last but not least this week is ‘Intercontinental Radio Waves’, the new single by TRAAMS and the highlight of the week. After their last two singles ‘A House on Fire’ and the magnificent song of the year contender ‘The Greyhound’ you’d be forgiven for thinking that all their songs would be running at around the 9-10 minute mark, but IRW is a measly 3 minutes long. Driven by a chunky bass line, it also has some pretty sweet feedback and its another tune that recalls the World Domination Enterprises classic from years ago, Asbestos Lead Asbestos. We’re looking forward to more from TRAAMS, they rule.
By Ian Smith
Another release from the ever-wonderful Little Cloud Records, with a little help from their friends, Cardinal Fuzz. The Asteroid Number 4 has been around for some time now, originating in Philadelphia back in the ‘90’s but now firmly ensconced in San Francisco. The focus has always been ‘60s psyche infused with Spacemen 3-esque dissonance but this offering is different, embracing a more ‘80’s English feel.
Opener ‘All Mixed Up’ is a jaunty little number, oddly recalling The Cure’s ‘Play For Today’ as played by a bunch of ‘60’s noisniks, whilst second track ‘Hand Grenade’ builds slowly before exploding (sorry, I couldn’t resist). ‘Paint It Green’ could fit snugly on any Bunnymen album whilst ‘No One Weeps’ returns to The ‘4’s more traditional roots, dripping psyche from every pore.
As the album progresses, the title seems more and more apt as several bands from the North of England spring to mind. The ‘4 stop off in Liverpool to hang with The La’s before crossing the divide to Manchester to share a pint with The High, whilst forever remaining faithful to The Byrds. It’s a fine collection of songs and sure, it’s derivative. Which does not matter a jot.
Shoegaze is not forgotten. Several tracks feature layered effects and swirls, creating a whoozy ambience indicative of balmy San Francisco nights. The title-track, the aforementioned ‘Paint It Green’, ‘Swiss Mountain Myth’ and closer ‘The After Glow’ are the equal of anything in the back catalogue. The quartet’s best album yet.
Northern Songs is out now on Little Cloud / Cardinal Fuzz. https://cful.bandcamp.com/album/asteroid-no-4-northern-songs
By Jon Milton
Music offers such a wonderful journey of discovery. Hearing a song that you like can make you want to find out more about the artist, and if you like what you hear they become part of your music. Those artists can lead you onto new paths if you choose to explore their contemporaries or their influences, and further broaden your palate. And when your paths converge in a new piece of music as they do on Golden Repair, the new album by Sunstack Jones, it really is a beautiful thing.
Across Golden Repairs’ ten songs, perhaps the most obvious influence to emerge is of The Verve, not particularly surprising given that Simon Jones from the band is on production duties. The shimmering guitar that ran through the Verve’s first three albums features throughout, and songs like Nowhere Near An Ocean and Golden Repair could easily have found their way onto Urban Hymns or A Northern Soul. But elsewhere there are nods to the Stone Roses, and on the superb single How it all went down elements of the Byrds and the Bees, the Rolling Stones and Primal Scream. Seams and closing track Almost Hear the City recall Stephen Stills at his finest and his work with Crosby, Nash and Young.
Golden Repair is a pretty laid-back affair throughout, vocals mellifluously harmonising over elegant musical backing. The album sounds like a labour of love, put together by a band that know each other intimately and have enjoyed making it. An album to be played on balmy nights, winter nights, any night really and enjoyed with a glass of wine in your hand.
What We've Been Listening To This Week...Eyesore & The Jinx, Deh-Yey, Alias, The Moral High Ground, Frankie and the Witch Fingers, Working Men's Club, Vanishing Lines
By Jon Milton
Life is full of surprises isn’t it? You’d think that having released their excellent debut EP in July that Eyesore and the Jinx would be quiet for a little while, but no, there on my list of new releases on Friday was a new single by them, the curiously titled ‘Accidental Weller’. For a moment I thought it might be one of those bands with the same name from some obscure part of the globe that Spotify seems to throw up on occasion in its lists, but then I realised that Eyesore and the Jinx is a pretty unique name and not likely to be appropriated in the same way that Yak or Talk Show are. Anyway, Accidental Weller is pretty much unmistakably by the band, and it puts a huge smile on my face every time I listen to it.
In it, the protagonist has visited a barber and emerged with that haircut that men of a certain age sport, because they firstly don’t want to get old gracefully and secondly have the hair to get away with it. ‘Don’t tell me it looks fine! I only came in for a short back and sides!’ sings front-man Josh in his thick scouse voice over a musical backing that could have come from one of That Petrol Emotion’s first two albums. Its genius on so many levels, and a bit of compensation for that fact that I’m not going to get my vinyl copy of The Exile Parlour until December. FFS.
Another band from the North West that normally offer dry witted and wry observations of life are Deh-Yey, who released their new single on Friday ‘ I Am Result’. This time however the single is focused on the serious matter of children growing up in care and the behavioural changes developed in children through neglect. It’s a timely release of course as September is normally when referrals to Children’s and Young Peoples’ services start to escalate substantially as signs of abuse are identified by schools. This year may be even worse given lockdown and the emergence of heightened levels of alcohol and drug abuse.
‘I Am Result’ centres around a delinquent child who is the ‘cock of the biggest playground’, shaven haired to looker tougher, selling drugs, stealing from other kids and blaming the world ‘when my mother says goodbye’. The song concludes with the child being moved to another home and finishes with the line ‘Keep your back up, Hold your knife up’.
Its powerful stuff and undoubtedly the best thing the band have done so far.
With it being the end of the month, Deh Yey’s record label Restless Bear have stuck out a new playlist and on that list amongst a number of great tracks is the new single by Alias, 'King'. It’s the band’s second single and it’s a rather good psychedelic rocker with a sassy beat and some great fuzzy guitar. Another psychedelic find for the week was ‘Manta Cyclone’ by the Moral High Ground – not a new tune (it came out in February) but new for us and worth talking about. Manta Cyclone flits between early Pink Floyd psychedelia and post punk thrash and it sounds great loud.
Staying with psychedelia or more accurately psych rock, Frankie and the Witch Fingers bought out a new album ‘Monsters Eating People Eating Monsters…’ this week and its superb. It kicks off with the frantic 8-minute Activate, concludes with another 8-minute track MEPEM… and in between is a perfectly put together album that just flows so beautifully. There are little touches of seventies funk in amongst the awesome psych rock and the two segue tracks Michaeldose and Urge You are just magnificent touches. You could say that tracks like Simulator, Where’s Your Reality and Cavehead are standouts but its all excellent, and it’s been designed to listen to in one sitting, so don’t go track hopping or you’ll spoil the experience.
Also out on Friday was the new album by Working Men’s Club. I kind of think that the appeal of this album depends on your feelings toward New Order, Human League and Heaven 17. If you love those bands you’ll love this, but if you’re like me and can only take those bands in small doses you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. It’s a good album on the whole and there are some great tracks – Teeth, obviously, Valleys and the wonderful krautrock Angel stand out, but after a while that deadpan vocal and the incredibly primitive drum programming in places starts to wear a little thin. Interestingly the NME refer to its ‘pulsating rave anthems’ in their five-star review, which made me think that rave’s must be really crap these days.
Finally, this week, fellow NMS writer Ian Smith announced the release date of his debut album as Vanishing Lines. He’s joined in the band by Stephen Lawrie of The Telescopes and Jake Taylor. No Replacement Found comes out on the 30th October on Little Cloud Records and is available on some rather fetching pale green vinyl. You can check out a couple of the tracks on Bandcamp Now. It's noisy drone rock in the mode of Loop and the Jesus and Mary Chain and yes, this is a shameless plug.