SOLAR EYES – EP Review: “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship”

I first learned about British psychedelic pop/rock collective Solar Eyes in the summer of 2021 when they initially released their fantastic single “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship”. I loved it at first listen, happily featuring the song on this blog. They subsequently dropped an even better single “I See the Sun”, which I loved so much, it went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30, and ended up ranking #18 on my 100 Best Songs of 2022 list.

The Birmingham-based trio is comprised of singer-songwriter, musician and producer Glenn Smyth, drummer Sebastian Maynard-Francis and guitarist Tom Ford (who still records with the band, but moved away so no longer performs live with them). Their music is an arresting style of pop/rock awash in dramatic psychedelic grooves, twangy Western-style surf guitars and dreamy cinematic synths, giving them a distinctly unique sound. Their music has been featured in numerous televised sporting events, including Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Match Of The Day and Birmingham City Football Club, as well as traditional alt-rock radio channels such as BBC Introducing Hereford, BBC 6 Music and The Guardian.

In February 2022, Solar Eyes signed to Fierce Panda Records, and as is common with many labels and management companies, they had the band take down, then gradually re-release, their previously released material under the new label. Solar Eyes released their debut EP Dreaming of the Moon in April 2022, which I also reviewed. They re-released “I See the Sun” that September, then followed in October with a second EP Alcatraz, which featured “I See the Sun” along with five new tracks. Now they’re back with their third EP Naked Monkey on a Spaceship, featuring four new songs plus the title track that first introduced me to the band. 

Glenn was inspired to write “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship” after hearing a friend proclaim “life is like being a naked monkey on a spaceship, with no control.” The song is darkly beautiful and mesmerizing, with a Depeche Mode-esque vibe, highlighted by a pulsating bass groove, and featuring lush, eerie synths, propulsive drums and swirling riffs of psychedelic guitars. I love Glenn’s gentle droning vocals that have an almost sensual, otherworldly quality.

The cool animated video for the song was created by Birmingham-based videographer, lighting and visual design producer Matt Watkins, who’s also created videos and produced visual design & lighting for live performances by numerous acts, most notably Gorillaz.

Their signature twangy Western-style guitars make an appearance on “Lucifer’s Child” a dark cinematic gem about a devil woman who spreads evil and darkness wherever she goes. Glenn calls out her evil nature: “They schooled you well in the art of deceit. It’s second nature to your evil dreams. She sends the light, the light away“, then warns “But don’t you mess with me again.” The track ends in a discordant flurry of fading distortion in the outro.

Next up is the hauntingly beautiful “Someone Else“, a departure from their usual harder-driven style, and an instant favorite of mine. The multi-textured guitars and dreamy synths are gorgeous, as are Glenn’s melancholic but lovely vocals. About the song, he explained “I’ve been tinkering around with ‘Someone Else’ for years. Initially I wrote it after reading the book ‘Marching Powder’ – I’m sure Brad Pitt bought the rights to it and was going to do a film about it, so I was ready to jump in with it if needed, haha. But as time went on it sort of took on a life of its own, with that feeling that you’re turning into someone else, someone you’re not… going down a dark path. The path of least resistance. Blaming others and then a realisation it’s all on you.”

After the relative calm of “Someone Else”, we’re launched headlong into “Roll The Dice“, which the band calls a “tub-thumping call to arms in the midst of these troubled, rubbled times, top loaded with that Chemical Brothers/Primal Scream mashed-up sound, with the drive and swagger of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club as well as a sly nod to the sonic mysteries of Messrs Morricone and Pizzorno.” The video, created by Tom Wagstaff, features surreal black and white kaleidoscopic images interspersed with scenes of a young woman dancing in a bucolic park setting.

The final track “Rabbit Hole” is a psychedelic trip of ominous swirling synths, distorted guitars and spacey sound effects layered over an almost sinister stomping beat. Glenn’s echoed vocals have a menacing, otherworldly feel, perfectly complementing the songs overall spooky vibe as he drones “I’m going down rabbit holes. Looking for what, I don’t know. To know the answers. I’ll keep on searching, I’ll find a cure. I’ll find a lover, won’t that be cool./ I’m on a trip to a different world.

When I first wrote about their music more than a year and a half ago, Glenn told me he’d written lots of songs he was eager to get out into the world. With Naked Monkey on a Spaceship, Solar Eyes now has a total of 16 songs to their credit, all of them superb. I can’t wait to hear what they still have up their musical sleeves!

Glenn and Sebastian are currently in Austin, Texas, where they’ll be performing their songs at the legendary South By Southwest music festival.

Connect with Solar Eyes: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Find their music on Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloudYouTube

SOLAR EYES – EP Review: “Dreaming of the Moon”

One of my best new finds in 2021 was British psychedelic pop/rock collective Solar Eyes. Based in Birmingham and formed little more than a year ago, the trio is comprised of singer-songwriter, musician and producer Glenn Smyth, Tom Ford and Sebastian Maynard-Francis, who together play an arresting style of pop/rock awash in colorful psychedelic grooves, twangy surf guitars and dreamy cinematic synths. The moment I heard their music I became a fan, and happily reviewed their fantastic singles “Naked Monkey on a Spaceship” and “I See the Sun” (you can read those reviews by clicking on the ‘Related’ links at the end of this post), both of which included B-side tracks. I loved them all, and “I See the Sun” recently spent four months on my Weekly Top 30, two of them at #1. In February, Solar Eyes signed to Fierce Panda Records, through which they’re now releasing their debut EP Dreaming of the Moon, which drops today.

The EP features five tracks addressing a variety of topics, including love, loss, betrayal and the cost of fame. It opens with the title track “Dreaming of the Moon“, a haunting song with some of those gorgeous and cinematic Spaghetti Western vibes I love so much in “I See the Sun”, only slowed down and with greater emotional intensity. A mix of twangy and grungy guitars are layered over a galloping rhythmic beat and a backdrop of moody psychedelic synths, creating a sense of urgency and longing. Glenn has a pleasing voice, and here his vocals have an almost ethereal quality, which he uses to great effect to share his dreams with a loved one for a better life away from the world: “I been dreaming of the moon, I’m gonna get there soon and build a house for us two loons. I’m gonna drive us there, in my own spaceship, and let the world know that I got out. I been dreaming of the moon, how am I gonna make you see that I, really love you?

Here’s a cool 360° video of the band performing the song:

Nothing’s for Free” is a rousing stomper that seems to touch on the perils of being a rock star: “Make some money, girls will find you funny. The bright lights–they make you see, ahhh – nothing’s for free.” I love the song’s exuberant New Order-esque sound, with its lush, cinematic synths, swirling guitars and buoyant driving rhythms. On “Russian Roulette“, Glenn laments of a woman who stole his love and soul, leaving him alone and miserable: “In so much pain, but I’m not to blame. Can you put me out of my misery. The end is here, it’s all coming clear, my sense of freedom has gone.” The music is appropriately dark, with more of those wonderful twangy guitars and moody synths. But the highlight for me are the gorgeous notes from what sounds like a mandolin or balalaika, which combined with the mournful vocal chorus, give the song an almost funereal Russian feel.

Nobody Knows” is a full-blown rocker, with screaming psychedelic riffs, driving bass and thunderous drums that really get our blood pumping. The biting lyrics take issue with self-appointed people who make decisions that have a major impact on society, but are they right or do they even know what they’re doing? “Ooh burn the witches, ooh they’re just bitches. What did it solve? Nobody cares. / Ooh they’re the rulers, ooh they’re the soldiers, who is in charge? Nobody knows.” The music calms to a lovely interlude as it slowly fades out in the final 40 seconds or so.

The final track “Sitting Here on My own Again” reminds me of the music of another band, but I can’t quite put my finger on who it is. At any rate, it’s a wonderful, upbeat-sounding song, but with bittersweet lyrics about preferring to be alone and unhappy: “I gotta let you go, cos this was too far good. I don’t wanna be happy. I wanna sit on my own and play my guitar to myself and no one can hear what I sing, cos I am on my own. / Crying myself to sleep, and that is just my dream, and don’t you be so sad. It’sjust what we had la, la, la, la, la.” I really like the bouncy melody, and the chiming guitars are particularly enchanting.

Dreaming of the Moon is a fine little EP that nicely showcases Solar Eyes’ impressive creativity, imagination and musicianship. As noted by a fellow music blogger, each song sounds completely different, a good indication of the variety in their sound. I hope they’ll continue making great music together for a very long time.

To coincide with the release of their EP, they’re also giving their first ever live performance as a band tonight at a sold out show at Muthers Studio in Birmingham.

Connect with Solar Eyes: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / YouTube

TREMENDOUS – Album Review: “Relentless”

Tremendous Relentless

As I noted when I first featured them on this blog back in March 2019, it takes some balls for a band to not only call itself ‘TREMENDOUS‘, but also use all caps in their name. Fortunately, the Birmingham, England-based trio deliver the goods with their colorful and exuberant style of Glam Rock that’s heavily influenced by such legendary artists as T.Rex, David Bowie, Journey, Slade, Def Leppard, Mott The Hoople, Cheap Trick, New York Dolls, The Babys, Heart, and Aerosmith. As my guest blogger David Thurling so beautifully articulated: “The swagger and confidence of this band is infectious. They have all the down and dirty of Jagger and Richards at their best, the showmanship and vocal power of Steve Tyler and a sense of fun not often seen amongst young and emerging bands.”

TREMENDOUS are Mark Dudzinski (Guitar/Vocals), Ryan Jee (Bass) and David Lee (Drums). In early 2018, they released their first single “Like Dreamers Do”, and over the next 22 months, followed with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Satellite”, “Don’t Leave Our Love (Open For Closing)” and “Copycat Killer”, the last two of which I’ve previously featured on this blog. (You can read those reviews under the “Related” links at the bottom of this post.) Now they’ve dropped their debut album Relentless, released via the Horrendous Records label on May 15th. The album contains those four singles, along with six new tracks, all of them dealing with the perilous minefield of love and relationships.

Kicking off the album is “Don’t Leave Our Love (Open For Closing)“, a wonderful track that makes for a great introduction to TREMENDOUS. I’ve already written about it pretty extensively, but I’ll just restate that it’s a melodically beautiful and hard-hitting song with terrific guitars, driving bass and aggressive percussion. Mark’s emotive and colorful vocals register in the higher octaves, occasionally venturing into a soaring falsetto that raises the adrenaline. About the lyrics, Mark stated “Its just an age old tale of heartbreak but with a bit of tragedy (as shown in the video). A relationship gone toxic.” He explained that the seemingly contradictory lyrics “don’t leave our love (open for closing)” are actually a plea to not leave things in such a way that the relationship is open to ending. The song’s video is beautifully filmed and entertaining, but also pretty dark, and ends on a rather violent note.

One of my favorite tracks is their first single “Like Dreamers Do“, a lovely romantic ballad that shows the band’s softer side. The chiming guitars and warm piano keys are highlights for me, and Mark’s wailing guitar solo in the bridge is superb, as are his impassioned, heartfelt vocals as he croons “We dream of a million things me and you / as we stare outside and dream like dreamers do.” The rather quirky video produced for the song is really sweet.

The guys get down to their glam rock roots with the rousing tune “Rock’n’Roll Satellite“, delivering a fusillade of fuzz-coated riffs, throbbing bass and lively drumbeats. Mark sings to someone who appears to be his muse, inspiring him in his quest to be a rock star: “You’re my rock’n’roll satellite / light up my tunes and I’m living on your rock, rocket to the moon / You glitter my bones, you glamour my shoes.” On the intense and bluesy “Bag of Nails“, his vocals start off sounding a bit like Alex Turner, but soon return to their usual form as he sings to a woman who treats him like shit: “And I wake up puking over you / And your heart it beats me black and blue / Dreams that I’m chasing my tail / But I’m waking up as your bag of nails.” His guitar work is fantastic, with Ryan and David laying down flawless bass and drum rhythms, respectively. 

Another favorite is “Daniela“, with it’s frantic melody and gnarly, hard-driving riffs. It’s exhilarating balls to the wall rock’n’roll at its finest. “Take a Good Look at My Good” is a slower anthemic ballad with lyrics asking a loved one to show some compassion and mercy: “Letting go of my pride to hold on to your tide.” I like the languid beat, and Mark’s fuzz-coated jangly riffs are great.

The guys ramp up the rock’n’roll vibes in a big way with “Heart Sinker“. Mark furiously shreds his guitar as he emphatically wails “You give love heart disease. You’re just another heart sinker. But you make my heart a little bit pinker.” They keep the hard-hitting rock’n’roll grooves coming on strong with “Fightin’ to Lose“, a frenetic little tune with a lo-fi garage rock vibe, thanks to a grimy mix of surf and distorted guitars and fuzzy drums. “Hell is Only a Blessing Away” has a varying melody that goes from relative calm to frenzied and back again. The guys deliver more of their signature gnarly riffs and driving rhythms that keep the adrenaline flowing.

The album closes on a high note with the frenetic “Copycat Killer“, a raucous, guitar-driven orgy of glam rock goodness. The song opens with the main chorus refrain “I go outta of my head, I go outta of my mind. Now she’s in for the kill and claws out for mine”, tongue-in-cheek clues to a pending doomed relationship. The music then shifts up through the gears of ascending power chords before settling into the verses with chugging riffs, buzzing bass and smashing drumbeats. Mark fervently exclaims “She’s a Copycat Killer, Copycat Killer / Headlines cry over this milk spiller / She’s a Copycat Killer, Copycat Killer / With nine lives she’s the new shock thriller.” It’s rather interesting how the song ends very abruptly.

Relentless is a pretty apt title for this record, as it’s chock-full of non-stop glam rock goodness from start to finish. The three guys who make up TREMENDOUS are all skilled musicians, adept at delivering exceptional rock’n’roll that never lets up during the album’s 28-minute run time. Furthermore, band frontman Mark Dudzinski is a fine singer, with a powerful, wide-ranging vocal style that’s perfectly suited to their exuberant sound.

Connect with Tremendous on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
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TREMENDOUS – Single Review: “Copycat Killer”


This review was written by guest reviewer David Thurling, a lover of music from Britain who has graciously offered to help with my crushing workload. I previously featured TREMENDOUS on this blog this past March, when I reviewed their single “Open for Closing”.

On their previous single “Open for Closing”, Birmingham-based British three piece TREMENDOUS tantalized us with a wonderful song that revealed their obvious Glam Rock and Rock influences. EclecticMusicLover previously pointed to such names as T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, Slade and Aerosmith as providing a lot of the DNA for the band’s overall sound. While “Open for Closing” hinted at these influences, the band’s new single, “Copycat Killer” grabs you by the throat and throws you around the room with them.

TREMENDOUS features Mark Dudzinski (Guitar/Vocals), Ryan Jee (Bass) and David Lee (Drums), and on listening to the new single “Copycat Killer”, the guys defy their economy of members by producing a powerhouse performance. The song opens with the main refrain from the chorus, shifting up through the gears of ascending power chords before settling into the verse and vocals. Mark opens with the ominous line: “I go outta of my head, I go outta of my mind. Now she’s in for the kill and claws out for mine“, pre-empting a classic case of pending relationship doom, all with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Whereas “Open for Closing” featured a sometimes measured, almost sensitive performance in parts, especially with Mark’s exquisite vocal range, there can be no denying that this latest entry to their catalogue is a pure case of raucous “balls’n’all”. The bass and drum rhythms of Ryan and David respectively drive the song along with euphoric and uplifting intensity. The pre-chorus section suddenly reverts to a calming guitar vamp and is enjoyably reminiscent of classic new wave and to some degree guitar driven Brit Pop. We are somewhat reminded of Graham Parker from the 70’s and 80’s to Britpop icons such as Suede and Pulp. This is beautifully structured song writing as the calm is short lived before the guys launch into an undeniably frenetic and entirely catchy chorus:

She’s a Copycat Killer, Copycat Killer
Headlines cry over this milk spiller
She’s a Copycat Killer, Copycat Killer
With nine lives she’s the new shock thriller

The swagger and confidence of this band is infectious. They have all the down and dirty of Jagger and Richards at their best, the showmanship and vocal power of Steve Tyler and a sense of fun not often seen amongst young and emerging bands. “Copycat Killer” may not be the best song TREMENDOUS have delivered but it emphatically announces the band’s determination to reach the top. With TREMENDOUS, hard-hitting guitar music is in very safe hands.

“Copycat Killer” will be officially released November 22 on all streaming platforms, and is the 4th single from their forthcoming debut album Relentless, due for release early in 2020.

Connect with Tremendous on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

ALLEN & DOUGLAS – Album Review: “The Spider and the Phoenix”

Allen & Douglas Album Art

Allen and Douglas are a singing & songwriting duo from Birmingham, UK who play an interesting and pleasing style of folk rock. They’re also two prolific guys, recording and releasing eight albums – containing an astonishing total of 128 songs – in under five years! (They pack a lot of tracks into their albums, with each containing anywhere from 14-20 songs.) Their latest offering is The Spider and the Phoenix, which dropped this past March. It’s an ambitious work with 17 tracks, and is essentially a concept album in two parts, though it flows beautifully as one large production.

Lifelong friends, Craig Allen and Steven Douglas began writing songs in their teens. In their bio, they expand a bit on their background and what the latest album is about:

“Strumming, singing and writing away in old railway stations and under canal bridges we developed our sound, harmonies and song-craft as young men through hard work and trial and error. Nowadays after several hiatuses due to differing work and travel paths, we practice and record regularly in a small bedroom studio in Birmingham, UK. We write primarily for pleasure, producing many genres of music. Our latest body of work ‘The Spider and the Phoenix’ is conceptual and charts a journey from depression to recovery.”

They also have a cheeky sense of humour (notice I used the British spelling):

Allen & Douglas funny pic

The Spider” kicks off the album, not only setting the tone on a musical level, but also establishing the overall theme of depression, represented metaphorically by a spider that spins its web inside our minds, gradually taking over our personality and poisoning our thoughts. The jangly, heavily strummed guitars and spooky keyboard synths lend an unsettling feel to the track, and the guys’ earnest vocals exhibit a hint of menace as they sing: “The Spider inside your mind spins and winds. The Spider deals in junk, what does he find? And I was doing fine.

The melancholy “I Can’t Stand the Pain” speaks to a relationship that’s unraveling: “You scream it’s finished. And I feel diminished.” Listening to the album, one of the things that strikes me is the strong Pink Floyd vibe running throughout, and this song reminds me a bit of “Comfortably Numb” with it’s interesting use of keyboards and sweeping synths.  And the even sadder “So Blue” finds the singer sinking into despair over his emotional abandonment: “So blue, so very blue. Drowning in memories. / Dissecting reality from dreams, I’m struggling upstream. / Rejection is a mother.

One of the prettiest tracks is “Set Sail Suite,” a mostly instrumental composition with hauntingly beautiful string and keyboard synths. The song is briefly interrupted in the middle with a sweet interlude of delicate acoustic guitar and the guys’ distant echoed vocals that sing “Set sail, set sail on your way. You never have the courage to sail.” “Dark Matters” is pure folk rock, and really channels Pink Floyd, especially in the vocals. The song has the singer lamenting his state of loneliness: “Since you left me I’ve been so lonely. / Dark matters swirling round my brain. Too much space drives me insane.” These feelings of loss are affirmed on “The Sun Went Out Last Night,” as they sing “I find myself crawling since she went away.”

“Nothing Comes Out to Play” and “Through the Eye of a Needle” wrap up the depression part of the album. Both tracks have some interesting music touches, thanks to a greater use of synths and organ.  The latter is a somber but lovely piece, and finds the singer concluding that the one who broke his heart is not a good person after all, and therefore not worth wasting any more tears on: “You didn’t realize you were dead in the heart. Trampling innocent people filled with fear. You were so busy doing damage. You didn’t realize you would leave tears along the path.”

Wrap it Up” is the first track of the 2nd half of the album “The Phoenix,” that represents recovery. It speaks of beginning the healing process by regaining your sense of sanity: “Catch your psychosis, wrap it up in cellophane. Don’t let it breathe. Squeeze out the pain. / Don’t bubblewrap your brain.”  “And When All Hope is Gone” is actually a quite hopeful tune, with tentative piano and electric guitar notes that gradually expand into a pleasing melody that seems to evoke sunshine breaking through a layer of clouds: “The sun will shine again, and it will lead me from this pain.” This sunshine is celebrated in the cheerful “Rainbows in the Sky,” and the jangly strummed guitars on the track are especially nice.

Yellow Blue” speaks to a brand new day, while the raw and bluesy “Quite Like You” has the singer extolling the virtues of a new woman who’s captured his attention and heart.  The track has some great guitar and honky-tonk sounding piano.

The Phoenix” is a declaration of survival and rebirth: “Found myself again. / Shook off the feathers. New feathers give me flight. I feel myself again. Same me, shining very bright. I feel I can fly, I feel I can soar holding hands with the sky.” The song is one of the more interesting tracks on the album from a musical standpoint, with a heavily-strummed guitar riff accompanied by xylophone and plucky electric guitar. At the break, the track transitions with an awesome psychedelic flourish of distorted guitar and organ that continues through to the end. The guys shout “Ha Ha, I am the phoenix!”

The guys turn their attention back to that exciting new woman who’s got their juices flowing on the bouncy, romantic tune “Overflowing.” And album closer “Sweet Sweet Dreams” ends things on an upbeat note, with the singer appraising his happy situation with his new love. It’s a pleasing ending to an expansive work that encompasses a broad range of emotions from pain, despair and bitterness, to acceptance, hope and, finally, joy. This was a terrific concept and theme for an album, and I applaud Allen & Douglas for their skill and success in translating their vision into a coherent and finely-crafted work of near-epic proportions. Their creativity, songwriting and musicianship are impressive, and they should be very proud of The Spider and the Phoenix.

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