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EP REVIEW: boyproblems – ‘He Loves Me Not’

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I have to be honest when I first heard this EP from Sheffield’s boyproblems I wasn’t sure about it but a couple of days later it all clicked into place. I’m sure I’m not the first to have this happen.

The EP’s first track ‘Haystacks’ is going to set the scene (well in some ways, and not in others). It’s kind of emo with shoegaze vocals but it’s all done with, what I can’t help but describe as, pop sensibility. I mean it’s guitary but not heavy guitar, and it’s bouncy as hell. It’s a joy.

‘Possession’ takes that sound but adds crunchier guitar. It also adds some Zeppelin-like guitar runs. If this sounds strange, it is but it’s way cool. It sounds really sad and emotional. This is reinforced by a vocal that sometimes sounds on the ragged edge of falling over. Look this is the sign of a band who want to take their sound further, much further.

We’re back to a more emo sound with ‘Games’. But there’s a tune that’s as earwormy as hell, and it compels your feet to dance. I say emo but the vocals take a poppier shoegaze route. The whole kind of reminds me of some of the Twee bands back in the day. Twee was a kind of bouncier poppier version of shoegaze, and something I was really into at the time. Up next is the more indie-pop of ‘Overwhelming Emotion’. The vocals spill out words at a rate of notes while guitar notes tumble over each other. Lovely.

‘Stuck’ is a surprise. This thing is an epic. It does that quiet/loud thing. The quiet is a wonderfully poppy thing with the sweetest synths, the heavy is raging guitars and odd angular rhythms jar.

The indie-pop of ‘Shut Up & Kiss Me’ takes us back to a joyous bop. Yep, this is one big danceable track. It’s angular, jerky, it takes off in different sounding bits. Gets all indie-rock for the big finish. This is going to take you a journey, people.

Oh boy, does this EP end with something big, ‘Loveless’ is a big shoegaze track full of raging emotion. It’s soulful, it’s gloriously loud. It’s huge.

The thing about this EP, and I rather hope this is maintained in future, is that while the mix of influences is there in all the tracks; each track sounds different, while still sounding like the band. And I love that. The easy thing is to just write songs that all fit easily into the same genre. The difficult thing is to go with a sound that fits the song, and to hell with fitting into a niche. boyproblems take the difficult route, and do it fantastically.

This is a fabulous EP; great songs, great playing and a continuously compelling sound. This is so bloody good.

ALBUM REVIEW: Tom Priestley & Martin Trippett – ‘Shades of Chaos’

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Another album from Leeds based performance poet and multi-instrumentalist Tom Priestley, and his partner in art Martin Trippett. Always sometimes to look forward to both lyrically and musically.

The album opens with the dark ranting of ‘Sick!’; I want to emphasise that I’m not using the word ranting as a criticism. I rather love ranty songs.It takes a sparse abrasive sound; a sound I’m going to describe as early Fall like. The key here is that It’s your basic guitar and drums deployed with a sense of frustration and no little aggression to match the words. The words, delivered with Tom’s usual completely unmistakably Leeds’ thing, speak of a variety of ways you can be sick or sick of things; sick of feeling ill, sick of being hopeless, sick of the eternal time that, I assume, passes by with no variation. And while the words might speak of frustration. A dose of anger; the way Tom puts those words together has that wry dry as fuck humour I’ve come to expect.

Up next is the equally abrasive ‘Elastic Radical’ which takes as its core the story of a football match. This unless I have misinterpreted it. It sounds strangely like Glam Rock, a mutant Rock ‘n’ Roll with aggressive guitar and a tingling piano; guaranteed to raise a smile, it just tickled me. The words spill out like a torrent, just the sound of them is compelling. But do listen properly.

Lifeless Culture’ is less a song and more a poem with musical backing. This makes it no less compelling. The sound is fuller; driving sparse drums, bass and two guitars. One of those guitars provides atmospheric sounds. The words are a journey through our culture now; that’s culture in a wider sense. How the beauty of the world is drowned out by a tsunami of worthless, well, crap to be honest. It references, at least I think so, social media. The drowning out of proper discussion. The draining of hope. It therefore seems to expand on, or add to, the themes of ‘Sick!’.

Next up the heavier rock – I’m talking chugging riff here – of ‘Going Nowhere’. The heavier bassier sound suits the words that speak of, no surprise here, going nowhere fast. The grind of life now which seems to be at hyperspeed but does it get you anywhere? Be honest now. It talks of the speed with which the world seems to insist on going now.

‘Dystopian Nursery Rhyme’ is about the continued decay of our world and society. Make no mistake this is dark. The sound is grinding guitar, and a bust of harmonica. Yes, I guess you could call it dystopian blues. ‘Things Are Getting Strange Around Here’ speaks of the ‘strangeness of life’. It seems to advocate dropping out of the world now. It goes from rock grind to psychedelic beauty.

‘Noize Box’ is wonderful musically. And here I have to admit that despite listening to it on repeat for a period that must have had my neighbours cursing I have yet to work out.

The remaining three tracks form a three part piece – Confession. This is a spoken word piece accompanied by what sounds like improvised piano.

Part One ‘Enterlude Of A Slow Motion Car Crash’ seems to speak of the confusion and twists and turns of life. It asks eternal questions. It, obviously, describes life as a car crash but one that takes years to happen. Part Two ‘Within The Whiplash Realm’ talks of the result of a car crash life. What you can miss by treating life as a rehearsal. And Part Three ‘Exitude Into A Martian Time Dimension’ seems to allow the narrator to step outside of the world and observe.

The aggressive sound of the album – barring the final piece – sets up an album that is about the increasing disillusionment we have with the world, with society and with life. The words are words to ponder, to savour, to listen to properly. To hear the images and feelings they describe.

This is an incredible album. Even if you’re not into poetry or spoken word, can I strongly suggest that you do listen to it. it’s a compelling, incredibly rich and rewarding set of songs and pieces.

EP REVIEW: Keep Back Ivy – ‘Where We Are Going’

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What I love about Keep Back Ivy’s music is that it’s really hard to pigeonhole it. Even in one song you’ll think ‘OK so I’ve got it now’ but then, suddenly, it changes and you have to start thinking all over again. This is of course my reviewer head talking where such things are important. My music lover head just loves it because it’s great. And because they write songs about things, important things.

EP opener ‘Won’t Forget You’ is a song that is actually about the opposite of what you’d expect a song called that to be about. It’s actually about somebody or something who won’t let you forget about them however hard you try. Emma says that it’s about the Labour Party, and more particularly about her relationship with it.

It sounds like a cross between Spanish guitar music, arch art-rock and grunge played on something like a cello. Look I did warn you. It alternates between skittering sparse sections and huge swirling, twisting sections.

And to the almost claustrophobic ‘Endless Cycle’. Here the music is overwhelming, dense with then sparse. There is a darkness in the sound of this track. That darkness is carried through to a guitar solo that almost sits apart from the rest of the track. The song, as Emma explains, is ‘largely about the Tories using the pandemic to syphon money off to their mates’.

With ‘You Don’t Know Me’ there is something of 80s’ electro-pop in the sound. But that’s only part of it. Listen closely and you’ll hear that there’s a skittering sad bass pad that sits under the sometimes brittle brightness. And there’s a slow section that is somehow mourningfully sad. This is music that’s telling a story. The story it tells is one about the lives of people we think we know about but don’t.

‘Where We Are Going’ sounds more like a sad question, and not the end of a journey. But musically it’s lovely in a sad way.

The middle two tracks show the duo’s commitment to highlighting societal issues. It reflects the time of the pandemic and things that happened during it. But it doesn’t do that in a ‘boot in the head’ sort of way. The duo’s approach is one of taking the quiet way of centering the songs on people.

Musically the songs sound how I would expect Keep Back Ivy’s songs to sound. Chock full of a wonderful mixture of sounds, put together and played beautifully. It has moments of unexpected juxtaposition that surprise and thrill. Emma’s vocals are wonderfully full of emotion. And Andy’s guitar shines.

This is a wonderful EP. The songs are beautifully put together and the words compel closer listening. It has a quiet mesmirising beauty that casts its spell over you. And yes I know that’s unexpected given what the songs are about, but that’s what Keep Back Ivy do.

Links to socials, streaming and more: https://linktr.ee/keepbackivy

Buy CD, downloads, and CD and merch bundles: https://keepbackivy.bandcamp.com/album/where-we-are-going

ALBUM REVIEW: The Battery Farm – ‘FLIES’

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The Battery Farm are one of those bands who I always look forward to hearing their new stuff. So here we have a whole album of goodness, a whole album of ‘where are this band going next’ excitement.

I first want to say that this is a band who take their sound to places you don’t expect. They are capable of sweet beautiful songs and hard heavy sounds that batter you in submission. And they do all of this with an obvious musical ability. The sometimes DIY sound doesn’t hide the fact that they really know what they are doing.

The opening intro ‘FLIES’ builds from a low omminess buzz to a full on scream. Sonically it’s a wake-up call. Pay attention people this is a band on a mission.

The blast that is ‘A Working Class Lad’ hits you with a power that’s awesome. It’s punk, Gutter Punk; raw, guitar heavy. Its power is in the relentless riff that pounds you. What’s going to hit you straight away is that this is a band who can play.

And then, oh boy. do the band go another direction. ‘Crude Oil Water’ skitters with an almost frightening post-punk pulse. This is a track that twists and turns, it goes off at tangents; one moment bursting into a big ballad, the next bounding into frantic punk. The indication that this is no one trick pony, the indication that this is a band who do their own thing. ‘Wooden Spoon Number’ takes the sound of ‘Crude Oil Water’ and stretches it. That relentless pulse is there but there are also strangely disconcerting noises, a burst of screamingly fast thrash. Is this post-punk? Is it mutated No Wave? Who cares, it’s wonderful.

‘In The Belly Of The Beast’ is heavy; guitars roar, vocals on the edge of chaos. And yet, weirdly, strangely, scarily, there’s something else. An edge of art-rock. So surprising was this that I wondered if the streaming service had suddenly jumped to another artist.

After ‘((flies))’ a short spoken word piece comes ‘Everything Will Be OK’ a beautiful haunting ballad. Sweetly sung vocals, whispered words. But wait for everything will not be OK, as this song builds to a warped swell. If you were questioning whether this is a band who do their own thing, this is the confirmation. The words of this are moving, they seem to come from a very personal place. In a word, amazing.

As if to remind us that this is a gutter punk band ‘Poet Boy’ blasts in with a searing punky post-punk sound. Guitars cut through you like knives stabbing. It builds to a wondrous thrash. ‘DisdainGain’ takes that gutter punk sound into the hardcore. Pounding drums, guitars set to stun, weird stuttering sections, odd changes in tempo. A track to mosh to.

‘I Am A Man’ takes us into swirling pulsing roaring punk with that post-punk edge. Moments of respite serve only to allow us to recover our breath. It is an angry primal scream. It speaks of the state of maleness in our society.

The album closes with ‘flies’, a mainly spoken word piece set to gentle guitar.

One thing I have not mentioned during the review so far is the words. The words of the band’s songs are compelling. At times they appear more like poetry set to music than lyrics. Their songs are really worth listening to properly.

The words take me to another subject. There seems to be a theme that holds this album together. It seems to talk about societal decay with flies representing those that cause that, that feed from it, it talks about the personal effects of this. Because of this – and the fact that the album has an intro, a kind of intermission and outro – this is really something that you need to listen through from start to finish for the full effect.

The Battery Farm are a band that take the wandering musical path to their destination, a path with unexpected surprises around every corner. The songs on this album compel with great words, songs come with sounds that make you exclaim ‘what are they doing now’, sounds that wonderfully contradict their own description of their sound as gutter punk. This is fucking brilliant, listen to this now, right now.

SINGLE REVIEW: LUMER – ‘English Dream’

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Right now it seems that every other band I’m reviewing is a post-punk band, not that I’m complaining of course. LUMER are another band who take post-punk in ‘a different from the one you expect’ direction.

The start of the track might lead you to expect what I’m going to call ‘a fairly straight classic post-punk track’. It’s all heavy pulsing bass, declaimed vocals, scratchy anxious guitar but then suddenly it blossoms into rich as you like almost pop lushness. The alternation between the two is telling a story; there’s the grind of low wage exploitation and the reality of life for many, and the English Dream.

The song was written as a social commentary from the perspective of lead singer Alex Evans. Alex says “English Dream tries to epitomise my cynical view of my country. Why are you supposed to put so much in for very little in return? There is this constant battle, it seems, to find any form of joy in the political and social climate that we are currently surrounded by. I feel that we have to crawl on our knees for our leaders whilst very little is being done in protest from our people”.

Musically the track reflects the subject so well that the effect of the hard hitting words is multiplied. The sad reality of living here now is brought into ultra high definition focus. Indeed you wouldn’t be wrong if you described this as a protest song, it’s more than commentary.

There is a certain sad beauty in the emotional weight this track has; that perfect combination of words and music, a powerful combination. This is an absolutely fantastic release. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

SINGLE REVIEW: Django Jones and the Mystery Men – ‘Bad For You’

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Sheffield’s Django Jones and the Mystery Men make loud, raucous, messy and dirty as fuck music. ‘Bad For You’ comes on like The Cramps at 11, The Fall doing amped up swampy surfy psychobilly music. It is, in a phrase, absolutely bloody crazy.

I’m going to calm down a bit here (Thank all that is sacred – Ed). They describe themselves as a post-punk band drawing influences from The White Stripes, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds and The Ramones. I get the raw guitars and stripped to bone music of The Bad Stripes. I get the swampy country blues of Nick Cave. But as I said there’s psychobilly and psychosurf, at least in this track. So, to come back to something I’ve said in reviews recently, this is another side, another facet of, post-punk.

This is music at its most raw and raucous. It is music to create chaos to, to get messy to. It is music that I want to hear and see live. This single captures the sound of an absolutely banging live band. The vocals are on the edge of ragged and madness, the guitars are out of control, the beat is big and meaty. It makes you want to throw yourself around the room, it makes you want to turn it up loud – I mean LOUD – and wake your street up.

This, people, is so bloody good. It’s visceral loud crazy music, that’s so out there it’s almost scary. I love this.

ALBUM REVIEW: Uncle Wally and Uncle Steve – ‘Whelmed’

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More than two years ago I reviewed Uncle Wally and Uncle Steve’s album ‘Saperlipopette!’. In that review I said something that bears repeating – “The name that this duo chose to play under – clearly their names are not Wally and Steve, or perhaps they are, that should remain a mystery – may indicate that what they do is some sort of novelty or comedy music. I guess I should own that comment, the name gave me the impression that what I was going to hear was some sort of novelty or comedic record. This is actually far from the truth”.

There is a mix of musician styles on this album; most of which sit in a sort of late 60s/70s/80s feel. And they are all played with an incredible amount of skill and feel. And this is why their music works.

The album opens with a jazzy song called ‘I’m Moving’. Gorgeous keys a-plenty, smooth guitar. If you wanted to pop into a niche I guess I’d say soft jazz-rock with a psychedelic pop edge – think The Doors. The song is about travelling, that urge to journey to new places. Look, I’m hooked. This is just wonderful easy listening music.

‘What Happened To Love?’ asks the question that some of us of a certain age might find ourselves asking ourselves in those sleepless nights. I’m putting my own interpretation on the song here; it seems to be about love among people, the love you have for your fellow man or woman. The feel here is jazz, smooth and kind of slippery, dreamy, and sounds kinda ageless.

We return to the theme of going away with ‘For A While’. It sounds like 80s pop with a heavy retro edge. In a slightly bizarre way it both reminds me of The Travelling Wiburys and the first Robert Plant solo album. Next up is the wistful ‘Blue Genes’ (and no that’s not a spelling mistake). It’s a story song, in a music vein that has more than a hint of 70s pop ballad.

‘Leave It There’ reminds in some ways of 10cc – it has a weird slightly white reggae feel – in a slightly Yacht Rock way – it combines sharp guitar and horns. It also has those lyrics that are, let’s describe them as ambiguous. ‘Why Won’t You’ continues that feel, but it’s harder, beatier.

That jazzy feel returns with ‘Slow’. It is again that sort of song that you only heard in the 70s. I don’t know how to put it exactly, but it sounds filthy and somewhat suggestive. However if you pay attention to the words it isn’t. ‘Yeah’ is basically Merseybeat with a modern feel, and appropriately is the story of a trip to Liverpool. It contains both words and music and Beatles tracks. It’s just a great ‘bit of fun’.

The album closes with an instrumental ‘we luv u’. It’s just lovely violin and strings sounds that are surprisingly compelling.

Uncle Wally and Uncle Steve are just a couple of fantastically musically talented people making music that seems to come from a huge source of times, types of music and styles. It’s not music made to fit into a particular niche; and that’s what makes it wonderful. Each track is a journey into the minds of Wally and Steve; and that’s what makes it so compelling.

I have to be honest with you, because it’s not one particular style of music, it’s something you need to give a chance to. Once done, you’ll find this album hugely enjoyable. The world needs musicians like Uncle Wally and Uncle Steve; may they continue to make their music.

SINGLE REVIEW: Enfers – ‘Infants’

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It seems an age since I last reviewed a release from Enfers; in fact it was over a year ago, blimey that long.

If you can recall that release and the review you’ll know that Enfers do pop with big tunes with perhaps a touch of Indie. With ‘Infants’ Enfers have turned up that Indie element to the max. Yes, this is Indie-pop. It’s Indie-pop with a huge tune and a big danceable beat.

But as you may also remember that Enfers have a tendency to add a ‘certain something’. Here they add something of the 80s; there’s the big joyous pop of the best danceable pop and more than a touch of slightly rocky pop. And, my friends, the result is a completely glorious, carefully crafted pop song that leaves you grinning like hell and with feet addicted to the big beat.

Need anything more? Thought not. Add it to your festive playlists, bop like crazy around your living room. ‘Infants’ is gorgeous.

The info

The band are:

Sam Donley – Vocals, production
Jonny Martin – Guitar, backing vocals
Aaron Evans – Bass
Luke Smith – Drums

Instagram: @enfersband
Twitter: @enfersband
YouTube: @enfersband
Facebook: www.facebook.com/enfersband
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/0W0zuUyEKa3HlBrxISysrT?si=6Cf_pA_KQIy3lXh0xGZwqg

They play in Leeds at Hyde Park Book Club supporting 32 Tens on the 30th November.

SINGLE REVIEW: Flat Moon – ‘Cliché’

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This is absolutely banging, Flat Moon do it again.

That’s all that I wanted to say but, hey, I kinda feel obligated to give you a little more to get your teeth into. So here goes.

This is one of those ‘thought I knew where this was going but I was wrong’ tracks. It does the funky disco thing for a while, and this would be good enough, but hey it suddenly roars into heavy funk, takes a short trip into funky jazz, steps into something that has a sound that reminds me of my youth, rewinds to that heavy funk sound. And then we are out. It is the customary Flat Moon riotous dance like crazy tune, but with added wildness.

The bass at the start of this track is going to blow your mind, the sort of mutant funk guitar is going to twist your melon maaann. And that’s without the crazy vocals that kind of reach for a retro thing. The sound of this thing is going to have you in musical bliss, boy can the band play. Yep you can actually sit down and just listen to it, if your feet can resist the compulsion to dance.

Quite how they manage to make music that is both incredibly played and crafted AND makes you want to dance your arse off I don’t know but they do.

This is absolutely banging, Flat Moon do it again.

SINGLE, TOUR & ALBUM NEWS: Fizzy Blood drop new single ‘Pearly Whites’ ahead of November tour, debut album ‘Pan Am Blues’ out 13 January 2023

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Ahead of their return to the road this month, Leeds band Fizzy Blood have released another cut from their debut album.

The track looks at themes of self-image and social media, and features on upcoming debut album ‘Pan Am Blues’, out 13th January 2023 on Frictionless Music.

“Pearly Whites was one of the first songs we wrote for this record”, explains drummer Jake Greenway, “It made things feel fresh and exciting again. It opened the door to a new sound and feeling for us that was crucial to the making of this album. It espouses the dangers of our relationships with social media and what that can do to a young person’s mental health and self-image, a theme that’s heavily explored across ‘Pan Am Blues.’”

To accompany the new single, Fizzy Blood will release Episode 3 of their retro-futuristic thriller series, also titled Pan Am Blues. The production was created in collaboration with the White brothers of 10 Days Productions and showcases talent from up and coming actors Sydney Craven (Eastenders), Robbie O’Neill (Boiling Point, Little Boy Blue) & Jessica Barker-Wren (Dumbo). Jake adds, “Pan Am Blues Pt.3 Is the finale of our three-part series. It holds a satirical mirror up to society and laughs at our wants, needs, hopes and obsessions in the form of an unhinged Daytime Talk show”.

With roots in Leeds’ bustling music scene, Fizzy Blood have three EPs under their name to date – Pink Magic (2018), Summer Of Luv (2017) and Feast (2015).

The band will make their anticipated return to the stage for a UK headline run in November, calling at Birmingham, London, Leeds and Manchester.

Recorded over a period of 3 years in various locations around the UK, debut album ‘Pan Am Blues’ touches on a myriad of themes and musical influences; dystopian modern life, familiarity and comfort in nostalgia, soul-searching, isolation and sees Fizzy Blood adopt a fresh contemporary sound fusing Bedroom Pop, Indie Rock, new-wave R&B and Soul. The band have given us a glimpse at what to expect in the form of previous singles Complementary, Ka Palaho Beach and Centre Of Nowhere – all of which mark their evolution as a band.

Guitarist and songwriter Paul Howells explains,, “I think one of the hardest things to come to terms with whilst making this record is that we had an idea of how things were going to go down on our path as a band and as people, and it didn’t go that way. We all had moments where we didn’t know if we were going to do this band anymore. The process of picking up from that and then trying to start again was quite difficult, but I’m glad we’re where we’ve ended up. I wouldn’t change it”.

LIVE

21 November – Birmingham Dead Wax
22 November – London Colours
23 November – Leeds Brudenell
24 November – Manchester Deaf Institute

https://www.facebook.com/FIZZYBLOODMUSIC
https://twitter.com/fizzybloodmusic
https://www.instagram.com/fizzybloodband
https://www.tiktok.com/@fizzybloodband

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