Mini Reviews

Just what it says. Mini-reviews. Basically, smaller than some of the other reviews. No reason, just what happens.

The following reviews are of albums released earlier this year but I only bought them recently while working in Manchester for the weekend. Letting me loose in a record shop can be a mistake. Anyway, they were cheap, and even if it is a bit late, are still worth reviewing. In case you’re wondering, the place to look is called Vinyl Exchange. Some good stuff there, and some, er, rather rare CDs as well. But I didn’t say that. Anyway, check it out if you’re in Manchester.

Vitro - Distort

I remember that this lot were playing while I was interviewing Pitchshifter earlier in the year. They sounded ok from the small part that I heard, but didn’t really blow me away. Which pretty much applies to the album as well. It’s not bad, quite electronic and dance oriented as opposed to coming from a rock direction, but it just doesn’t have the excitement to keep me going. It starts off well enough with opening track, Mentally Dull, which is a good example of mixing a bit of rock with dance beats, and the good old backup of disrtion on the vocals, but unfortunately, the title may be an indicator of some things to come. Orange is a more dance oriented song, and although there's nothing wrong with it, it shows that although I accept this fusion a lot more these days, I still have a long way to go, and so do many bands, in getting the balance right. As we get to the middle of the album, it just looses momentum for me, slower songs, more electronic, I guess hints of NIN in there, (isn't that just such a cop out reference for anything with blips and beeps in it?) But just for reference, I find NIN Downward Spiral boring and too long to listen to often or in one sitting. Same here. An example would be a track such as (track 9), which for me personally just seemed like a complete waste of time. Still, it only cost me 1.99, so can’t complain too much about that.

Monster Magnet - Powertrip.

Weird, they’re part of this stoner rock thing right? Takes it’s influence and most other things from Sabbath. I grew up with Sabbath being played around me, about the only 70s metal band I could really stand, and yet I’m not what you would call a stoner fan. Sure, I own a Kyuss album, but I don’t break my back trying to get the latest and greatest new stoner album. Maybe it’s cos I think that is such a crap tag. So restrictive. Is this album going to change all that? Well, if Kyuss didn’t manage it, then this probably isn’t. But it’s going to have a real go. Very rock. The biggest song here is the majestic Bummer. All Sabbath like power and majesty, with vocals that reminds me so much of someone that it’s really bugging me. Actually, it may be a touch of Blaze Bailey when he was in Wolfsbane and was a great vocalist and frontman, but there also seems to be hints of Soundgarden circa BadMotorFinger on here as well, yeah, that's closer to the name I was thinking of than Blaze. Actually Baby Gotterdamerung is turning into my favourite track on the album, it's simple but so effective, even if it is a bastard to spell. Using a guitar delay effect that reminds me of Anthrax's Black Lodge, it starts out spartan and remains that way. A nice change. The best songs are sometimes like that. Yep, it's official, this is a great song, cos I've just been listening to it again as I'm writing this. Then you get what sounds like the Hammond organ infused glory of See You In Hell. Half a dozen plays of this and suddenly as each track starts up I keep thinking, "yeah, I like this song because ...". This is modern retro without all the extra crap that makes a lot of retro, and indeed the originals, a waste of time. If that's not a contradicition in terms I don't know what is, but this is a contradictory bastard of an album. And bloody good.

Groop Dogdrill - Half Nelson

Now, I’d like to think that I’m someone who never pre-judges people or anything. But I’d be lying. I try not to, but sometimes I do. I think we all do. And Groop Dogdrill are a band I stand guilty of pre-judging. I don’t know why. That infamous indefinable something about them. Then I saw them on the last Wildhearts tour, and they merely existed. So I left it at that. But this was only 6 quid in the shop, so I decided to try and stop being a prejudicial bastard and give them a chance. And I’m actually quite glad I did. It isn’t the greatest album I’ve heard this year, but it is good, and it is better than I was allowing myself to let them be. Amazingly enough, well I think anyway, there were a number of times that I thought, "this sounds like miserable git from Soundgarden singing". It's not a Soundgarden sound, more a garagey type sound, like there's something in common with say Dog Toffee. Jackie O and the closer Silver Boots are the standout tracks for me. The rest are good, like I said, I was pleasantly surprised, but I don't know that it's got that extra something that seems to be needed these days to make me constantly reach for it.

Maybe it was the name, which I still think is crap. But hey, I called this thing YAZ, so who am I to talk?

Dream City Film Club - Billy Chic

Another single from a band that are supposed to have that sleazy sound a la Girls Against Boys, but who don’t strike that chord with me. And this one doesn’t really change it either. The potential seems to be there, but as yet it’s not been realised with that one song that grabs me in and makes me a fan. Maybe I’m looking too hard for something that’s not there. Maybe it’s because it’s not the music that feels most natural too me, that is, and probably always will be metal. Maybe it’s just not very good. Maybe. I’m going to get splinters if I listen to it much longer.

Spoits ...and your little dog too!

Ah, I know absolutely nothing about this lot. The date on the album seems to indicate it was released in ‘96, but I’ve never seen it anywhere. I only saw it advertised recently in one of the Org mailshots, and it had a nice write up with it, so I took the chance. And what you get is 34 “songs” in 66 minutes, which will probably manage to offend just about everyone at some point.

Look at some of the titles, Kung Fu Jesus (classic, sheet riffs, spoken words, samples, brass, kitchen sink), Don’t Tell me about Jonestown I went to Clemson. Fuck You! ... Elvis, Don’t Forget The Satan, Dead Girls Don’t Say No. Mad. It’s like a collection of one minute interludes wrapped around the occasional song. It’s not metal, and it’s not punk. It’s definitely not politically correct, and at times it’s not music. It does get a bit tedious to listen to about half way through. But so do pretty much all albums that are over an hour long.

Approach with an open mind, and well, an even more open mind. A list of the Spo-it’s not on the record gives further indication ... including the seven dead ones, including the entry for Goody - Auto-Erotic Asohyxiatio, Oops!

The last Org mailshot indicated that they’ve sold out, so if you are interested, then I’ve no idea how you are actually going to be able to get hold of this. That is, if you even wanted to.You could try the address given,

Spo-it’s c/o Scott Corkern, PO Box 24036, Hilton Head Is, SC 29925.

Ocean Machine

yeah, I know it’s old. I ran out of space in previous issues, so wasn’t going to bother. But then I was sat listening to it and thought, “rebel Dave, rebel. Review the bastard late.” So I will. In case you didn’t know, this is another Devin Townsend production. But this is the the Angel to Strapping Young Lad’s Satan. Pompous. Singing as opposed to screaming. Orchestrated. Slower. Refined. Mature. All those types of words that strike fear into people’s souls. Cos we all know that it means “sell out, soft, commercial”. Yeah ok, dream on. This is a mixed bag, when it’s up there, it’s incredible, but as with so many albums these days, it’s long, and it ultimately sags in the middle. but when it clicks, well, the word “genius” is overused, but it may well be applicable to Townsend. Musically this has some modern Metallica overtures, say around the black album, just in the groove and swagger, coupled with a love it would seem of 70s / 80s progressive rock. Coupled with great vocals, which when coupled with the work as SYL mark him out as being one of the most versatile vocalists since Patton and Serj from System.

Cay - Better Than Myself.

Another of the Org records monthly series. Something that should be supported. Anyway, those people at the Org have been having fits about Cay, and so this is my first opportunity at least to see if this is justified. Uh, not really. It’s not bad, but that dreaded thing of building up your expectation levels had taken over. It actually takes about 4 or 5 listens to get into this and remember anything. Well it does if you're me. The bass has a nice thick rumble to it, I like bass. Apparently they sound like Sonic Youth a bit, but as I've never listened to them, I don't know (credibility plummets again). Better Than Myself and Hooked on That are the best tracks here, Princes & Princess is ok, but still isn't sticking. Final track Seven Schizo's Sat on a Bench has a great title, and starts out well. The first couple of minutes are great, but whereas with the other tracks after a couple of minutes they end, this one goes into a boring rhythm solo almost, just the bass and drum competing with each other, with hints of atmospherics. Bands that did this sort of thing in the 70's and 80's, had long hair, were called Heavy Metal, and this sort of thing is now looked back on as egotistical shite. No, it’s not heavy, just not necessary. Except this time I guess something dictates that it's credible. Eventually it builds to a “tumultuous climax”. Maybe, but it seems to have sod all to do with the initial song, until the last 30 seconds. But it spends four or five minutes getting there. "Ah Dave, you miss the point. This is art, and you wouldn't understand cos you're a metal fan and you're not a musician." Ok. Worth watching out for, and I want to hear more by them, but not quite worthy of worlds greatest band which the mighty Org seems ready to pronounce. Don’t you just know that six months down the line I’ll be reading this with egg on my face begging for an interview. But it’s about now, and at the moment, I still don’t know.

Two - Voyeurs

Aye I know, not strictly new either. I think I may re-title YAZ to Not Strictly New. But I was very kindly loaned this CD for a few days, so excuse for a review. Anyway, it appears this one has been touched by the Hand of Reznor, which is fairly apparent in the production and the songs. As it’s been out a while, you’ll already know that it’s Halford discovering pseudo Industrial. And that’s how it comes across, it’s not bad, but for me at least, at the end of the day, it’s just another industrialish album. Some work some don’t. My favourite of this kind, that is metalindustrial, are still the wonderful LARD albums. This one does have it’s moments, namely opening track I Am a Pig, who mentioned Reznor, Leave Me Alone and Gimp. Given Halford’s past, it sounds a little strange to hear him singing like this, almost not natural, for a man with such a wide vocal range, it almost sounds like he’s struggling at times, in a genre where vocalists often sound like they’re struggling cos they can’t hit those perfect notes. Weird. One for fans and disciples of most things touched by the Hand of Reznor. What Halford fans of old will make of it is anyones guess. Hopefully they’ll like it, and realise there is a wider range of music to listen to. Much like Halford has done. Another crap review courtesy of Dave & YAZ. And Vickie for kindly loaning me the CD.Thanyouvermuch.

Vision of Disorder - Imprint.

Kerrang! in getting something right shocker! Yeah, it’s a small point, but there are times on this one when Tim sings and he sounds like John from Gorilla. And you realise that it’s about the only fucking reference Gorilla have had in Kerrang! Sort it out!!!. Anyway, enough of that, back to this review and the new V.O.D.

The first album wasn’t bad, but you had to really persever with it in order to get something from it. Live with Sick of it All, well, they were a bit disappointing. In some ways they’ve got a lot to live up to on this album. Do they?

Well yeah, to a degree. It certainly seems like a better album, though it, or maybe I, run out of steam towards the end. Overall it feels more focussed, when Williams decides to sing, then he does it with more authority, when it gets aggressive, then it does so with less flab. So far, Twelve Steps to Nothing is one of the standouts.

Best of the lot though, for me, is Landslide. But that’s cos Tim does his best impression of John here. But it’s a song where they get the mix of aggression and melody just right, and the changes are done smoothly.

Elsewhere, the title track itself is also one of the standouts. The much vaunted appearance by Phillip Anselmo doesn’t really do much, but there again, it didn’t on the latest Anthrax album either.

Overall the songs are more focussed on this album. They still veer off in different directions, sometimes more often than seems sensible, but somehow it all works that much better.

So they’ve made an improvement. It remains for them to do that live, cos when I saw them with Sick of it All they were, to be honest, a bit disappointing. Mind, that could of been cos they were with SOIA, who blow just about every band away when it comes to playing live.

Lukan Loop

I know nothing about this lot, apart from that I think that they’re from Nottingham, this may well be the first single and Andy Sneap produced. And this sounds totally different to the style of bands that the man usually twiddles knobs for. If anything, the dreaded post grunge label may be the one I’d use here. That is, this is heavy, guitar oriented, but without being real metal. I've listened to it a about half a dozen times now, and well, I still can't recall anything about the songs. It's all very grand, and impassioned vocals, mixed in with the obligatory (sampled?) string section. And, God forbid, there are guitar solos. Now this stands no chance of getting into the charts, unless of course they can convince people that they are actually retro and have some inkiepaper credibility.It's easy to listen to, but it's just there for me. Not immediately world beating, but there could be something here worth keeping an eye on.

The Tea Party - Transmission.

Ok, so strictly not a new album given it was possibly released in ‘97, but it’s the first time I’ve gotten round to buying anything by them, and so that’s enough excuse for a review as far as I’m concerned. This is surprisingly heavy, well, no, maybe not heavy, more classic rock. I was half expecting some indie thing, don’t ask why, maybe my stupid prejudice again, but was pleasantly surprised.

There is grandoise in this. Opening track Temptation has those Eastern style strings and atmospherics that bring to mind Led Zeppelin's Kashmir, without quite being as overwrought melodramatic and well, long and tedious as the Zep were. The third track reminds me of something, God it's irritating me, it's a great song, great vocals, that's why it reminds me of something. Oh yeah, the actual song is called Psychopomp. I got it, Andy Cairns, from Therapy? when he sings Sharp Moment of Clarity. No, it wasn't supposed to be him, that gives the wrong impression of this bands sound, it's not buoyant 2 or 3 minute nuggets, like Therapy? create. Damn. Babylon is another example of where this Zeppelin influence is coming through. It's really quite strong in places, even down to that bass drum sound. Strange that I had a dig at Zeppelin elsewhere, yet I like this. Babylon also features a shite and confusing ending. Sudden, and then a countdown to the next track.

This is epic stuff. I believe the earlier albums featured more “world” instruments. Possibly not for people who just want punk and no pomp.

Zen Guerilla - Positron Raygun

Not what I was expecting. I know ZG more from the fact that they were on the Alternative Tentacles label for earlier releases, and so was expecting something more noise oriented, and harder to listen to. Instead this feels like a blues album. Blues has never been a favourite of mine. It’s just one of those forms of music that others revere but which never did it for me and I found boring. Like I found Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix boring. Yet for some reason I like this, and I don’t really know why. <It’s cos you’re a hypocritical bastard Dave>. Tracks such as Trouble Shake, and Tomato Cup sound as though they as standard blues tunes, possibly even covers musically, with ZG's own lyrics added on top. Bizarre in a not very bizarre manner. Wonder what blues afficiandos would actually make of all this?

The Vandals - Hitler Bad Vandals Good.

So anyway, the Vandals have a history. Of that I’m pretty sure. But for me it’s started here. My first album by them, and to be honest, it’s a bit of a corker. Melodic punk coming from the fun angle. Nothing is sacred. From wanting to claim your old girlfriend is dead instead of talking about her “My Girlfriend’s Dead” to the mullet, as maligned on “I’ve Got An Ape Drape”. There was a part of me thinking, this is the sort of thing The Jellys are aiming at, but of course, we lap up the Yanks much more readily than the Brits.

Yes, half of this is disposable, and in a few years time, I probably will never touch it again. But at the moment it's fun. Having said that, there's then the track “If The Government Could Read My Mind”, which at least touches on some more serious subjects. Well, at least until they get to the chorus. There's also plenty of ozzing ahhs, and 50s and 60s throwback songs, such as “Money's Not An Issue”. I’m finding that some of the melodic punk is begining to bore me, so it’s nice when something like this comes along that does tend to stand-out. Recommended, even by a grouchy old cynic like me.