THUNDER FOX – Album Review: “Love at First Sniff”

Thunder Fox album art

Thunder Fox is a wickedly funny and talented group of guys from Sydney, Australia who’ve just put out a devilishly entertaining new album Love at First Sniff. It’s the most fun I’ve had listening to a record in a very long while, and the title is apropos, as it was definitely ‘love at first sniff’ for me! As EclecticMusicLover, I always enjoy when artists and bands mix things up genre-wise, and this band does it better than almost anyone, tossing in generous helpings of funk, blues rock, soul, hip hop, jazz and pop into their delectable music stew. In their own words, they serve “gooey hot horntastic shreddage, the best sauce for your ears ‘n eyes, causing sonic copulation worldwide.” Indeed they do! Their music is fun and bawdy, yet with a sexy sophistication that makes it incredibly appealing. It’s like Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Prince, Nick Jonas and Anderson .Paak all joined forces in one gigantic, over-the-top jam session!

Thunder Fox

Making all this saucy music mayhem are Sam “Sewad” Dawes (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Sam “Gnars” Frank (Lead Guitar/Vocals), Connor “Ronnoc” McCool (Bass), Max “Mecks” Vallentine (Drums), Travers “Full Travers” Keirle (Smooth Sax/Vocals/Rhymes) and Jesse “Jizze” Tachibana (Trumpet/Vocals/Synths). They’ve been prolific in their music output, releasing quite a lot of it over the past five years. From what I can tell, the first music they released was their very respectable six-track EP Cosmic Pudding in early 2015. They followed up with a few singles and dropped their second EP Mother Machine in December 2016, a great collection of songs including the brilliant “Vanilla Chinchilla”. More singles followed in 2018 and 2019, culminating in the release of their first full-length album Love at First Sniff on Halloween, which I have the distinct pleasure of reviewing today.

About the album, the band states: “The record muses on subject matter with a discernible sense of growth and progression while stretching across a canyon of mixed emotion surrounding love, existentialism and everything in between.” Lead singer Sam Dawes adds: “In our fast-paced, modernity-obsessed society, it has become apparent that some cornerstones of humanity, such as love, can alter on their surface yet remain unshaken at their core. ‘Love At First Sniff’ (and ‘Been Busy’ from it) is an elegy to and an observation of human connection and love in a world shaped by excess.”

Thunder Fox 2

Excess is the byword here, and more is most definitely better! The album opens with the title track “Love at First Sniff“, a rather sultry-sounding intro piece with ominously spoken lyrics and sparse, almost spooky instrumentals. The track ends with sounds of someone sniffing, our first clue that this isn’t going to be just any old conventional record. Thunder Fox then launches headlong into “WTF is This“, and we’re off on a phantasmagorical sonic adventure. Tachibana’s exuberant blaring trumpet is the highlight here, driving the track forward while a stop-start guitar riff provides the melodic substructure. Dawes’ colorful, silky vocals are an absolute delight to my ears as he croons “Be careful what you put in your mouth though. But that’s not just style, now is it sweetie pie? Oh yeah, I said it, and you didn’t think I would. But you did it, and you lied, and I didn’t think you could. /What the fuck is this? You got some nerve! But when you block my ears with those legs, it’s the warmest sound, yes I’ve ever heard.

As the song progresses, Dawes breaks into some brief high-speed rapping, then halfway through, the tempo changes to a languid, sultry groove. Horns and sax still blaring, our ears are now bathed by intricate funky guitars, wobbly bass and psychedelic synths as Dawes’ vocals turn seductive. It’s like the song has two completely different parts, with so much going on musically that I find it difficult to fully articulate all that I’m hearing. It’s really a phenomenal song, and I’m already blown away by this band’s astonishing musicianship.

Next up is “Been Busy” the second single from the album, and my first introduction to Thunder Fox. The song is a catchy as fuck earworm, with an upbeat, head-bopping tempo and more of those wonderful exuberant horns. Once again, the guys employ several melodic change-ups throughout the song, keeping us in a continual state of surprise. An interesting aspect of the song is that it starts off with the chorus “Ooh, I’ve been busy, not helping my health, but helping myself.” Dawes croons about having as much sex as possible to get over his pain: “When your heart is broken, only one thing left to do. Open up your kitchen, start taking those orders baby.”

As great as the song is, the hilarious video’s even better! Thunder Fox are definitely not afraid to put themselves out there. Wearing very suggestive wrestling singlets and white crew socks, the guys dance around against a number of spacey backdrops. Eventually, they spar with, and are ultimately vanquished by, the opposing team dressed in red singlets. How can you not love these guys?

On “Hot Tub“, the guys really channel their inner James Brown and Prince, with more soulful, funked-up grooves than should be allowed in one song. Have I mentioned how much I love this band? Their guitar work is fantastic, and the bass, synths, horns, sax and percussion are all perfection, creating a dynamic, funk-drenched backdrop for Dawes’ gorgeous vocals. Their lyricism is wonderful, and here’s an example why I think that: “My brain is a trickle-down economy, temptation’s so damn bitch. Yeah, so many issues but tissues won’t fix it. There’s a cream for every itch./ My baby’s boiling, she should sit down. There’s a line she don’t need to cross. It’s me here sitting in a hot tub…

Squeedup Vol. 2” is a twisted one-minute-long answer to their 2018 single “Squeedup”, and the first of three transitional interludes featured on the album. It quickly segues into the sexy and soulful love song “Look at U“, for which the guys have produced one of the funniest videos I’ve ever seen. It stars the two Sams (Dawes & Frank) as characters hooking up on a dinner-date, with other band members making cameo appearances, These guys are crazy! Dawes’ sultry vocals remind me of Nick Jonas, and no more so than on this track.

The guys keep delivering the funky grooves with the jazz-infused “Every Single Day“, and I’m starting to run out of superlatives to describe them and their music. Once again, I’m loving Tachibana’s trumpet and Keirle’s sax, and Vallentine’s drumming is particularly awesome here. And it goes without saying that Dawes’ always impressive vocal gymnastics really shine on this track. “#fuck” is a dark instrumental interlude consisting of a reverb-heavy guitar riff, industrial synths and a pummeling drumbeat. It’s an interesting segue into the dark and sultry “I’m Your Man“. This song also has a jazzy vibe, with vibrant horns and sax, and a slowly building tempo. Dawes’ vocals sound increasingly diabolical as he warns “I’m your mutherfuckin’ man, so don’t you make no other plans.”

Baby, I’m Famous” opens with one of the guys saying “We’re running out of tape“, then another yells “Shut the fuck up and play! Bitch“, at which point McCool’s very funky bass enters the picture, and soon joined by the rest of the band jamming their respective instruments. The song has a strong Prince vibe, with some terrific guitar licks and psychedelic-tinged synths. I love Keirle’s tasty sax riff in the bridge that pays homage to the Average White Band’s classic “Pick Up the Pieces”. “360p” is the third interlude track, starting off with what sounds like someone searching for a radio station, finally settling on one where Thunder Fox is jamming hard.

The album closes with the eight and a half minute-long gem “Feels So Good“, a slow and sexy love song. It’s a beautiful track, reminiscent of some of the great soul songs of the 70s by acts like Earth, Wind and Fire and The Originals. The guys play as an incredibly tight unit, delivering soulful grooves that transport us to a state where we ‘feel so good’. The song has a dramatic extended run that reminds me of the Isaac Hayes masterpieces “Walk on By” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, and of course, Dawes’ silky smooth vocals are perfection.

It’s a fitting end to a terrific album, which I cannot gush about nearly enough. I’m now a massive fan of Thunder Fox, and in a funk that I’m half a world away in Southern California, because I would love to see them perform live. Those of you fortunate enough to be living in eastern Australia can catch them at one of their upcoming shows:

Thunder Fox 2019 Tour Dates

Fri 22 Nov – The Basement, Canberra
Sat 23 Nov – Yah Yah’s, Melbourne
Sat 7 Dec – Cambridge Warehouse, Newcastle
Sun 8 Dec – North Gong Hotel, Wollongong (free entry)
Thu 12 Dec – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay (free entry)
Fri 13 Dec – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane
Sat 14 Dec – Imperial Hotel, Sunshine Coast
Sat 21 Dec – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Follow Thunder Fox:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / YouTube / Deezer
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon / Google Play / iTunes

MOONLIGHT BROADCAST – EP Review: “A Cynic’s Guide to Dying Happy”

Moonlight Broadcast EP

I’ve stated in previous posts that one of my favorite aspects of social media is learning about new musicians and bands, and another recent find is Moonlight Broadcast, a rock group from the fair city of Melbourne, Australia. They released their debut EP A Cynic’s Guide to Dying Happy back in February 2018, but I’m reviewing it today, as it’s a stellar work that’s highly deserving of peoples’ attention.

Now a four-piece, Moonlight Broadcast is comprised of Cameron (lead vocals), Adi (guitar), Craig (bass, backing vocals) and Ash (drums & mojo). Influenced by such greats as Crowded House, The National and Death Cab for Cutie, they write songs with memorable guitar-driven melodies and poignant lyrics about (in their own words) “the winding, bumpy road we’re all travelling on.”

The EP kicks off with “Breathe Easy,” and as we press play, our ears are greeted by an arresting jangly guitar riff that immediately grabs our attention. Once the rhythm section enters the mix, the song settles into a really pleasing soft-rock groove. Cameron has a fine singing voice, and his heartfelt vocals nicely convey his love and devotion for a partner who’s put up with his shit over the years, and still chose to stay by his side:

I will be, I will be yours
Until I, until I die of a coronary from poor lifestyle
I hope that, I hope before I go
I’ll give you some days that make it worth your while

All those dark roads I may have dragged us down
I’m surprised you’re still around
All those dark roads I know I dragged us down
I’m so glad you’re still around

Stay with me, stay with me now
So I can breathe again

The beautifully-filmed video shows the band performing the song on a beach, with the tide gradually encroaching and ultimately engulfing them at the end.

Next up is “Harm Min (Josie)“, a bittersweet song about finally ending a tempestuous relationship with a mercurial lover named Josie. The jangly guitar work is gorgeous, and Cameron’s fervent vocals express a sad but detached sense of resignation that they’re both better off apart.

As wonderful as the first two songs are, my favorite is the hauntingly beautiful ballad “Sorrow Pass Me By.” Gorgeous twangy guitars and a somber drumbeat create a stirring backdrop for Cameron’s emotionally-charged vocals as he laments about his string of bad fortune, hoping his life will make a turn for the better: “I’d like to be lighthearted or even optimistic. Might be more to life than just getting through. I’m asking for once, sorrow please pass me by. It seems like you have been there, breathing down my neck for a real long time.”

The guys serve up more of their signature jangly guitars and driving beats on “The Ballad of Cognitive Dissonance“, a rousing tune with some great harmonica that give it a Country-rock vibe. The lyrics speak to being in a destructive, co-dependent relationship, knowing it’s destined to fail but unable to get out of it: “We’re driving in the dark with no headlights. I think there’s someone in the back here with us. I’m like a moth and you’re a buzzing street light. I’ll break my head in against you, over and over. / Sometimes I stick to my guns. Other times I turn tail and run.

Square One” is another take on being stuck in an unhealthy, one-sided relationship where the other person keeps a firm hold on your emotional attachment, making it impossible for you to let go: “It costs too much of me to keep you outside. I open the door and now I find, we’re back to square one. Your voice dancing through my brain, and I come undone. / It’s not so simple. It all hurts more than it should./ I will always be your alibi.” Musically, the song opens with a pensive, reverb-heavy guitar note, then settles into a slow, bass-driven tempo. The music gradually builds with more guitars, keyboards and heavier percussion, as Cameron passionately refrains “It’s all or nothing!” The guitar work is fantastic, and I love the extended run that continues straight through to the end, reminiscent of the great O.A.R. song “Shattered”.

A Cynic’s Guide to Dying Happy is a solid debut effort by Moonlight Broadcast. Every track is high quality, and the instrumentation, vocals and production values are all first-rate. These guys need to get busy recording some new songs ASAP, because we need their music in our lives!

Connect with Moonlight Broadcast:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase on Bandcamp / Amazon

CRYSTAL CITIES – Single Review: “Under the Cold Light of the Moon”

Crystal Cities Single Pic

‘Dream Rock that sounds like Death Cab For Cutie had a War On Drugs with The Beatles.’ That’s how Australian band Crystal Cities describe their enchanting sound, and it’s spot-on. Their wonderful songs feature thoughtful lyrics and stunning melodies delivered by superb instrumentation and vocals. In March 2017, the Sydney-based three-piece released their outstanding and critically acclaimed debut EP Who’s Gonna Save Us Now. The gorgeous title track and lead single “Who’s Gonna Save Us Now”, which I featured on this blog that April, reached #1 on the Unearthed Overall Charts within a few days of its release, and ended up on my 100 Best Songs of 2017 list. Now they’re back with a stunning new track “Under the Cold Light of the Moon“, the lead single from their forthcoming album of the same name, set for release on 31 May.

Crystal Cities is comprised of the very talented Geoff Rana (Vocals, Guitars), Jared King (JK) (Bass, Backing Vocals) and Daniel Conte (Drums). Since the release of their EP, the guys have had a productive two years and have come a long way, from a garage in Sydney to Abbey Road Studios in London. First, they signed a record and publishing deal with global music company Audio Network (one of a group of companies owned by Toronto, Canada-based multinational mass media and entertainment company eOne). Second, through that partnership, the band had the opportunity to record their debut album Under the Cold Light of the Moon at the prestigious Abbey Road Studios.

According to Rana, the new single “was inspired by the plight of young North Korean girl Yeonmi Park who escaped North Korea in search of freedom.” After seeing her moving speech at the One Young World Summit 2014 in Dublin, Ireland, where she told the audience “When I was crossing the Gobi desert, scared of dying, I thought nobody in this world cared. It seemed that only the stars were with me. But you have listened to my story. You have cared. Thank you very much”, Rana felt compelled to interpret her story through a song.

Crystal Cities Yeonmi Park

And what a beautiful, uplifting song it is! Starting off with a faint whisper of synths and delicate tapping of cymbals, a chugging riff of jangly guitar, set to a thumping drumbeat, soon enter the mix along with Rana’s raspy, yet lovely vocals. The music gradually builds as layers of guitar and percussion are added, backed by lush orchestral strings that create a stirring, cinematic soundscape for the hopeful lyrics:

Made my way out through the desert
Made my way across the sand
Under cover of the night I’m face to face
I’ve been thinking of a place
I’ve been making my escape
Under the cold light of the moon

Rana’s intricate guitar work is gorgeous, while King and Conte keep a tight rhythm with their defty-played bass line and drums. The song, along with the rest of the album, was flawlessly mastered by Paul Stefanidis at Viking Lounge Mastering, engineered by Adam Alexander and John Romeo (assisted by Tayla Gibbs), and mixed by L.A.-based engineer Paul Lani (David Bowie, Prince, Megadeath). Regarding the provocative photo for the single and album which shows the guys blindfolded, Rana explained: “This album will have plenty of lyrical references to themes of escape, resistance, and limited/restricted views. Having us positioned in a sort of prisoner-like scenario with blindfolds on seemed a great way to represent these themes.” The photos are courtesy of Amy Benjamin Photography.

The beautiful animated video for the song tells the adventure of Yeonmi Park’s harrowing nighttime escape. It was created by Jordyn-Rae Morrison (The-F0X).

Connect with Crystal Cities:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

CALAIS – Song Review: “Seeing It All”

Australian indie rock band Calais strike gold with their fantastic new dance-rock single “Seeing It All.” The gorgeous synth-driven track has a melodic hook big enough to catch a whale, yet is so much more than just an EDM song, thanks to the band’s skillful musicianship.

Formed in 2013, the Brisbane five-piece includes Tim Lollback (Vocals, Synths), Joseph Fleming (Lead Guitar), Guy Stacey (Rhythm Guitar, Vocals), Liam Roberts (Bass), and William Mogg (Drums).  They released their debut single “Animalistic” that same year, then followed up in 2015 with an EP Silhouette, which featured the outstanding single “Time & Space.” Calais has been on an upward trajectory ever since, building a loyal fan base in Brisbane and around the world.

Calais

“Seeing It All” starts off with a gentle throbbing synth chord, then erupts into a powerful dance beat, driven forward by pulsating bass and strong percussion. Nimble guitars enter the picture, accompanied by Lollback’s captivating vocals and backed by soaring atmospheric synths, all meshing beautifully to create an exceptional track. The arrangement and instrumentation are superb, and the guitar work is so richly textured and nuanced that I hear new sounds with each listen.

The song’s lyrics speak to a relationship in which each partner has lost their own individual identity in their quest to be the perfect couple: “I’ve been looking for you in my reflection, and time is passing me by. I’m seeing it all. I’ve been looking for you in my direction, and I don’t know why. I’m seeing it all.

The dark but gorgeous video for “Seeing It All” shows the band performing the song, interspersed with scenes that tell the story line using scattered reflections in shards of broken mirror of a couple who can’t see one without the other when standing together, but become confused and disoriented when they’re by themselves.

Follow Calais:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube

Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

Featured Song & Video: CRYSTAL CITIES – “Who’s Gonna Save Us Now”

Every once in a while you hear a song for the first time and it’s instant love. That was my reaction upon first hearing the breathtaking new single “Who’s Gonna Save Us Now” by Australian band Crystal Cities. Musically and lyrically, the song is absolutely stunning, and it’s arrangement and production are flawless.

Based in Sydney, Crystal Cities is Geoff Rana on vocals & guitars, Jared King on bass & backing vocals and Daniel Conte on drums. The guys call their music “Dream Rock that sounds like Death Cab For Cutie had a War On Drugs with The Beatles.” It’s a perfect description of their music style.

Crystal Cities

The beautiful video was directed by Vittoria Merlino-Dentice and, as explained in notes for the video, is “set in the 1940’s, [and] follows the journey of two young child compadres as they escape from their well-to-do life, exploring the Australian countryside, and searching for truth from a perspective of innocence and vulnerability.

Connect with Crystal Cities:  Twitter /  Facebook /  Instagram

Stream their music:  Soundcloud /  Spotify /  YouTube

Purchase:  Bandcamp /  iTunes

Artist Spotlight – ToxSyn

I recently stumbled upon the uniquely talented singer/songwriter/musician Rikki C. Ricci, who goes by the artistic name ToxSyn. Hailing from Toronto, Canada, ToxSyn plays a formidable mix of heavy metal, industrial goth rock and 90’s grunge, influenced by Nine Inch Nails and Alice In Chains,  among others.  He began playing bass at the age of 14, and has been making music for over 30 years, playing in metal bands Quick Trixx, Back Alley Boyz, Gangster, Bent, Hand Over Fist, Social Strife, SKROU, WAZP and Paranoid, as well as a number of tribute bands.

ToxSyn is Ricci’s solo project, and he writes his own music and lyrics, plays all instruments and sings all vocals. The most notable aspect of his music is the awesome guitar work. He coaxes some killer sounds from his bass that give his songs incredible force and depth. This is readily evident in the head banger “Crumble To Clay.” The monumental bass line is a thing of wonder.

ToxSyn shreds his guitar to pieces in “Toxic Shock.” His furious, raw vocals and thrashing guitar convey the brutal aftermath of nuclear war. “Skin burning from atomic blast, biotoxic radiation. Toxic fallout happened so fast, nuclear eradication.”

The guitars in “Be My Evil” are so amazing that I actually prefer the instrumental version, where they’re on full display.  Again, the powerful bass propels the song forward, with layer upon layer of guitar riffs accompanied by pulse-pounding drums making this a sonically hard-hitting track.

Ricci told me he has more music projects planned, which I can’t wait to hear. He produces a series of documentary videos about his involvement with many cover bands, called “Rockin’ Adventures.” Here’s a recent one:

You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook, listen to his music on Soundcloud or Reverbnation, and purchase on itunes.

Artist Spotlight – Drillhorse

If you like your rock hard, guitars shredded and vocals raw, then Australian band Drillhorse is for you! They play formidable, take-no-prisoners metalcore rock guaranteed to have you saying “fuck yeah!” Sometimes you just want to hear music that KICKS ASS, and Drillhorse delivers the goods.

Drillhorse Photo

I was immediately struck by this band’s honest authenticity, which I’ve found is what makes fans truly loyal at the end of the day. I hate to paraphrase too much, but in their bio, the band articulates their mission in a way I can’t improve upon:

“Over a period of seven years, we’ve managed to evolve from punk hardcore to ‘pale riders of hard rock.’ For most of that 7 years we were known as ‘A Lost Sense of Direction’ which got us ignored or confused with boy bands, [causing] significant pain. But believing wholly and solely in the capacity of rock to deliver joy to the human spirit in ways no other genre can, we’ve steered away from asking for external assistance, preferring to do it all off our own bat, commitment to tight, unreconstructed hard and innovative rock, free from interference, the media or general public indifference, other than that [which] we always get from our beloved fans. Drillhorse will continue to perform music we design our way and deliver it with punch to attract like-minds, those lonesome riders who come out to hear and see us whenever we play.”

Making the music are Miles ‘Ajax’ Bedak-Stone (vocals), Owen ‘Boo’Lawson (Rhythm Guitar), Harry ‘Cuddle’ Monson (Bass), and Jesse Adams (Drums/Percussion). Their songs are so awesome and compelling I’d like to include them all in this post, but have selected four of my favorites that provide a good representation of the band’s music range.

The first is their hyperkinetic single “Choppergate.”  With pummeling drums, gnashing guitars and Bedak-Stone’s furious raspy vocals, the song blasts through the speakers at a dizzying pace. The song lyrics attack the ‘ripoff pollie motherfuckers taking the people’s money and laughing all the way to retirement’ (in the band’s words). “Baby you look so good in your helicopter. Taking the bus from now on. Brought you down! Pull my leash! Tied to the mast, my captain.”  I liked this track so much the first time I heard it, I played it another three times before moving on to their next song!

“Drillhorse” storms out of the gate in a bombastic barrage of shredded guitars and pounding drums, with Bedak-Stone’s raw vocals on full display. This is a real head-banger!

One of the band’s more hardcore tracks, “Madmen” is a brutal attack on the military industrial complex. To their signature gnashing guitar, punctuated by some terrific riffs, Bedak-Stone screams “No shame, we kill and maim.”

The melodic rock gem “Half” is one of my favorite Drillhorse songs, with a great bass line, steady hard-driving beat and killer riffs.

To hear more of Drillhorse’s great music, check out their Soundcloud page, or you can purchase it on Bandcamp.  Support these guys by following them on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to their YouTube channel.