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

ANDREW NEIL – Album Review: “Freak”

Andrew Neil Freak art

Of the hundreds of artists and bands I’ve featured on this blog over the past four years, perhaps the most uniquely compelling life story would have to be that of Andrew Neil. The Virginia-based singer-songwriter is considered an “outsider” music artist along the lines of Daniel Johnston, and in fact, he now ranks as the #1 Best Outside Artist on Ranker, just above the late Johnston. The 31-year old has faced a number of daunting life challenges that would have crushed many of us, but his strength and resilience, as well as the incredible love and support of his family and friends, have enabled Andrew to flourish as an artist.

After growing up as a fairly typical kid and a high school athlete, Andrew suffered a life-altering event in Spring 2009 when he sustained a serious head injury in a car accident. The injury resulted in two significant changes for Andrew: 1) he began having a series of psychotic episodes, and 2) he started writing songs, despite the fact he’d never had any prior music training of any kind. During a psychotic episode in 2013, he stabbed his younger brother in the arm, which landed him in jail for seven months until his family and attorney convinced the prosecutor that Andrew needed help, rather than being incarcerated. 

His sentence was changed to not guilty by reason of insanity, whereupon he was released from jail and sent to a state mental hospital, where he received excellent treatment and learned to manage his illness. During the three years there, he wrote and recorded around 70 songs, on top of the 250+ songs he’d already written prior to his hospitalization. Andrew writes songs entirely by ear, creating the melodies on his rhythm guitar. He would record songs on a battery powered Tascam recorder, which his father Ray would then upload to the home computer. To date, he’s written over 400 songs!

Andrew Neil

Andrew was conditionally released from the hospital in May 2017, and moved into a group home in Charlottesville, where he still resides. Upon his release, he decided to produce an album of some of his songs, many of which were melancholy yet optimistic. Andrew hoped that perhaps his songs might help others struggling with similar mental health issues. The result was his debut album Code Purple – Andrew Neil, featuring 11 of the 70 songs he’d written while in the hospital. The songs were mastered by Vlado Meller, otherwise they were left pretty much in the raw, lo-fi condition as Andrew had recorded them. The art work for the album cover was done by his brother Kyle (the one he stabbed in the arm).

In 2018, he entered a studio to record his second album Merry Go Round, this time working with a number of accomplished musicians to help give his songs a more polished, fuller sound, as well as a more alt-rock vibe than his folk-oriented first album. Some of those musicians included Andy Waldeck, who also produced the album, on bass & guitar, Nathan Brown on drums, Gina Sobel on flute, and  and Jack Sheehan on sax for one track.

While it would seem that Andrew had already faced more than his fair share of challenges in his young life, in June 2019, while wrapping up the recording of his third album Freak, he was hit with yet another health crisis when he was diagnosed with lymphoma. He underwent a grueling round of chemotherapy while the album was being mixed and mastered, and he and his family started a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds for album production and marketing, garnering even greater support than expected.

Freak was released digitally for streaming on October 15th. It’s also now available on CD, and will soon be available for download, as well as a limited number of vinyl pressings. For the recording of Freak, Andrew was joined once again by Andy Waldeck on bass and Nathan Brown on drums, with additional musicians Matty Metcalfe on lead guitar, baritone electric guitar and marxophone, Nick Berkin on piano, and Andrew’s dad Ray on acoustic guitar and backing vocals on two tracks. His brother Kyle also did the arresting painting for the album cover, which was designed by Daniel Benayun.

The album is an ambitious work, with 14 unique tracks that address topics of love, faith, mental illness and self-identity. It opens with the marvelous title track “Freak“, and the first thing that struck me is its strong Red Hot Chili Peppers vibe. In fact, Andrew’s unusual, quirky vocals at times sound a lot like Anthony Kiedis. The intricate guitar work is terrific, and I love the track’s funky psychedelic grooves. Andrew’s simple lyrics speak of being a ‘freak’ as a badge of honor, something that sets him apart as a unique individual, rather than simply strange: “In every way, every day of the week, I’m a freak, freak, freak. I got a feeling, like a ceiling leak. And if I could, I probably would grow a beak, beak, beak./ What can I say? I’m so unique, I’m a freak, freak, freak.”

Next up is “Kentucky Whiskey“, a languid and lovely song about throwing caution to the wind and giving into temptation and vices. With a wistful tone in his voice, Andrew croons “Goodbye teacher, goodbye teacher, gonna learn rock’n’roll. Goodbye preacher, goodbye preacher, I’ve already sold my soul. Killing myself, killing myself, with a cigarette. Girl I know, yes I know that we just met. But I’m gonna, yeah I’m gonna make you miss me. Killing myself, killing myself, Kentucky whiskey.” He’s written a captivating melody here, and Matty Metcalfe’s marxophone lends an enchanting addition to the gorgeous guitar work. “Hope” is a pleasing ballad about a girl named Hope who lifts him up with her love and support. The interplay between the guitars and Nick Berkin’s tinkling piano keys is delightful.

By the time we get to the fourth track “Overdose“, it’s clear that Andrew has a real knack for creating compelling and memorable melodies. Each of the songs sound completely different, with an eclectic mix of styles that keeps his music fresh and surprising. This song has a wickedly seductive melody with fuzz-soaked driving riffs, and Nathan Brown’s sexy drumbeats that nicely complement Andrew’s lyrics about submitting to love’s ardor:  “Cause I’m about to overdose. Let my spirit soar. Become a ghost. Walk through your heaven’s door. Overdose.” It’s a great song, one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Help” sees Andrew crying out for support and understanding: “If you only knew all of the bullshit I’ve been through. Then you could give me no blame when I give the blunt a flame.” The jangly guitars and piano keys are sublime. “All Over” is a pleasant love song that starts off with Andrew rapping to a hip hop beat, then 20 seconds in it transitions to an upbeat pop-rock duet, with guest vocalist Savannah Weaver singing with Andrew. Their vocal harmonies are delightful. Here’s a snippet of lyric that provides a great example of his honest, straightforward songwriting that’s so relatable: “Because of you my heart beats. Because of you I got to wash my sheets.”

Awesome bluesy guitars are a highlight of the poignant “Put Me Back Together“, a plea for love and support to heal his broken soul. Andrew references nursery rhymes to make his case: “Mary had a little lamb. So will you love me as I am? / I’m a bloody humpty dumpty. And babe I need your company. Or else.” Another favorite track of mine, mainly due to the lyrics, is “American Dream“, a candid critique of the rat race. Andrew laments “I’m living the American dream, but things aren’t what they seem. I’m living the American dream, and it makes me want to scream. Wake up and go to work. Thank god my boss isn’t a jerk. People really aren’t so bad. But every now and then I get sad. So my doctor gives me pills They make me happy so I pay my bills. What would I do without my wine?

The optimistic “Drum Song” has an Americana vibe, with rousing folk-rock guitars, lively piano keys, and Appalachian dulcimer played by guest musician Roxanne McDaniel. Andrew sings of how the world would be a better place if people were more kind and loving to each other: “Love is in your heart, so find it and play your part./ This life would never be such a bummer, if we collectively loved one another.” Those wonderful bluesy guitars make a welcome return on “Beautiful Dancer“, a song about a woman who could be his savior or his undoing (romance can often be like that): “The birds are flying, or maybe they’re spying, or maybe they’re trying to let me know. That you are my answer, or maybe a cancer. Beautiful dancer. I’m at your show.” I really like the song’s rather sensuous melody, and Andrew’s vocals sound particularly good here.

Andrew takes a bit of an experimental turn on the trippy “Thirty-Two“, with more of those great bluesy grooves, accompanied by Andy Waldeck’s throbbing bass and some fine drumming by Nathan Brown. I love the lyrics “Take a shower, I feel dirty. In an hour, I’ll turn thirty. Life’s so fast and rough. I think I’ve had enough. Then I saw her walk back, and I knew I could make it to thirty-two.” The final track “Disappear” is a bluesy foot-stomper with an infectious country-rock vibe. I’m not sure, but the lyrics seem to speak of the mind-controlling aspects of blind faith: “Fork in the road. Choice is clear, do what you’re told, have no fear./We are free, when we do what it is that gods do. Disappear.

Freak is a wonderful album, made all the more special given Andrew’s remarkable talents, despite the many adversities he’s had to face throughout his adult life. His intriguing melodies, simple, honest lyrics, beautiful instrumentals and endearing vocal style have a way of burrowing into our brain and capturing our soul. I’m genuinely impressed by his imaginative songwriting and sincere musicality, and he’s a true inspiration for all who have experienced challenges, both large and small.

Follow Andrew:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation
Purchase:  Bandcamp / cdbaby / Google Play

PHILIP MORGAN LEWIS – Video Premier: “Blowtorched Dreams”

Philip Morgan Lewis

It’s hard to believe that nearly two years have passed since I featured British singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Philip Morgan Lewis on this blog in November 2017, when I reviewed his brilliant, meticulously-crafted album Grief Harbour. The London East Ender melds alternative rock, blues, garage rock and folk influences to create his exciting, bluesy rock sound that complements his unique, raspy vocal style. Following up on Grief Harbour, he released a fun album House Works that featured eight house/EDM tracks. Now Philip is back with a bold video for his new single “Blowtorched Dreams“, which I’m honored to premier today. The single will be officially released on the 28th of October as a digital download and 7-inch vinyl.

Philip Morgan Lewis3

Philip wrote the lyrics and music, performed all the instruments and sang vocals on the track, as well as produced the song, which is being released via label TX2 Records. Backing vocals were sung by Vick E and his daughter Little A. For the recording of the track, Philip built a one-stringed instrument to play all the twangy slides, adding a rather dark country-folk vibe to his bluesy guitars and bass, all of which sound so damn good. He’s a remarkable musician and vocalist who manages to wring out every last drop of emotion with his deft, passionate guitar-playing and distinctive, raspy singing voice. When he sings of his pain, you believe every word, and the deep, almost tortured guitar work only serves to intensify those moods. It’s a brilliant track.

The dark lyrics speak to a sense of despair and hopelessness, of a life gone down the tubes as a result of having lived a self-destructive existence. Or, could it be the bitter realization of having expected too much from a cold, cruel city that eats up and discards you?

I wander night and day
Sidestepping all the way
No brighter light is gonna come
Is gonna come for me baby
Trapped in an altered state
With somebody else’s fate
No kingdom come no kingdom come
The road is done for me baby

When the chips finally fall on the ground
And the sod is just you hangin’ round
You know what’s it all about

Blowtorched dreams
Leaving blood on the pavement still
Blowtorched dreams
Leaving lives in the gutter still

I step into the dark
Draw from a crooked stack
The light is gone the light is gone
The light is gone and it ain’t coming back
No one but me to blame
I’d do it all the same
The time has come the time has come
The time has come and I don’t feel no shame

The fascinating video was directed, produced and edited by Philip and Vicky Crawley, and features black and white footage shot in and around Los Angeles, juxtaposed with scenes of Philip sitting in a darkened room singing the song. The video starts off with scenes of arriving by plane at LAX, followed by beautiful images of the sun-drenched city, evoking a sense of promise (we’re even shown a billboard with images spelling out ‘I love LA’). Suddenly, there’s a flash of light and a spacey synth chord, at which point the images become distorted with a kind of static effect that Philip refers to as “singularity distortion”, conveying a sense of tension and discord. Eventually, the scenes transition to the darkness of night, with images of raging wildfires and rather disturbing views of a long, dark tunnel leading down into the bowels of an old building, suggesting that the dreams have gone up in flames.

Connect with Philip: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music: Spotify / YouTube / Google Play
Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Deezer / Bandcamp

VONUM – EP Review: “Dances in the Dark”

VONUM

Vonum are a British alternative blues rock band based in Manchester, England. Formed more than eight years ago while in their early teens, the trio includes Dominic Nicholls (guitar & lead vocals), Ben Stokes (drums) and Jordan North (bass). Lifelong friends who share a passion for music, the guys have known each other since they were four years old.  Since their formation, Vonum has had several fourth members who’ve come and gone and, earlier this year, the guys decided that they have better chemistry as a three-piece, so will remain a trio going forward.

VONUM young photo
A young VONUM playing their first gig in 2011

Drawing influences from some of their favorite bands like Kaleo, Black Stone Cherry, Shinedown, Alter Bridge and Muse, Vonum play some exceptional bluesy, guitar-driven rock. Their progressive, unconventional melodies, smart lyrics, skilled musicianship, and Dominic’s deep, raw vocal style give their music a maturity and depth that’s quite impressive given their relatively young ages. I’d guess it’s partly attributable no doubt to years spent perfecting their craft and growing into seasoned, albeit still young, musicians. In June (2019), they released their debut EP Dances in the Dark, featuring four tracks. The guys wrote and performed the songs, and the EP was produced by Ed Truby.

Reach Out” opens the EP with a moody little riff that immediately grabs my attention, then once the rhythm section kicks in with a deep, bluesy bassline and tumultuous drums, I’m hooked. Dom lays down gnarly riffs while plaintively crooning “She’s a grape to my red wine. She’s my one true life line.” As the song progresses, the guys continue delivering bluesy grooves, punctuated by a blistering guitar solo in the bridge. They keep the bluesy vibes rolling on “Double D-Light“, a lusty, hard-rocking tune about sexual attraction. Dom fervently sings: “It’s getting a little frisky. The air’s so tight. The days are getting stronger. The heat’s a-lasting longer. Now don’t put me on, you’re double d-light.” Once again, he lets loose with a brief but fiery guitar solo in the bridge.

Angel Queen Dancer” is a standout track that really showcases the guys’ great songwriting and musicianship skills. They weave together a compelling story line with a mesmerizing melody, drawing us in and holding our attention for the entire five-minute run time. Dom’s intricate guitar work is nicely complimented by Ben and Jordan’s tight, bluesy rhythms, making for a dynamic and incredibly satisfying track. Dom sounds better than ever as he ardently sings in his raspy, almost sultry voice of feeling besotted by a woman: “It’s her that I adore. She’s a hell of a mover. How do I say ‘scuse me miss, let me get out your way’. She’s an angel queen dancer. She knows just what I mean.” His guitar solo in the bridge is fire, and the piano keys in the final chorus are a nice touch.

Here’s a great Balcony Sessions stripped-down acoustic performance of the song:

The final track “When” is a darker, more intense song. It starts off calmly with Jordan’s deep bass riff, then a delicate synth, guitar and a somber drumbeat enter as Dom laments about the internal demons tormenting him: “When, when, when, when will it stop? The devil inside don’t know when to hide. Oh when, when, when, when will it stop? The thoughts aren’t me, and my mind ain’t free. / Dark cloud knocking at my door. Louder, louder, it’s hard to ignore.” The music eventually ramps up with chugging riffs of gnarly guitars, buzzing bass and pounding drums that continue through to the end for a dramatic finish.

Dances in the Dark is an excellent little EP, and an impressive debut for these three talented lads. All four tracks are superb, and I only wish there were more of them! If you like well-crafted blues rock and great guitar work, you’ll enjoy this EP. I hope we’ll be hearing new music from Vonum very soon.

Connect with Vonum:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase their music on  Google Play / iTunes

WILD HORSE – Album Review: “DANCE!! Like An Animal”

Wild Horse album art

Today I’m pleased to present the exciting young British rock band Wild Horse. Formed in 2013 while in their early teens, the talented Heathfield, East Sussex trio consists of brothers Henry and Jack Baldwin (both of whom play guitar and sing vocals), and their school friend Ed “Barking” Barnes on drums. While presenting a fun, lighthearted image with their high-energy, punk-infused style of blues rock, the guys take their music seriously with dedication, thoughtful lyricism, and a mature approach towards the music business.

Wild Horse quickly began earning recognition, first being nominated for the “Rock the House” competition in 2014, then later becoming finalists in 2016. The Baldwin brothers are also prolific songwriters, and in 2015 the band signed with a New York record company who released some of their original tracks on mixed EPs, leading to the release of their first album It’s Begun in January 2016. Now working independently, they recorded and released three EPs between late 2017 and early 2018 containing a total of 16 tracks. They followed up in June 2018 with their second album Songs About Last Night, and this past April (2019) dropped their third album DANCE!! Like An Animal – is that a great album title or what!

The album addresses themes related to transitioning from horny, angst-ridden teenagers to the sobering realities of adulthood. It was recorded at Cobham Sound Studios, and produced, mixed and mastered by Niall Squire. Stephen Baldwin (Jack and Henry’s dad) played bass, Hilary Squire played saxophone and percussion, and along with Ella Squire, sang backing vocals.

Wild Horse2

DANCE!! Like An Animal begins with the abrupt sounds of Jack’s distinctive vocals accompanied by a pleasing little guitar riff as he sings the opening lyrics to “Blame“. His unusual vocal style is hard to describe, but has an endearing quirkiness as he plaintively croons in his strong British accent: “Sometimes I feel like I’m on my own. Wandering around with a gun in my hand. I swear if it happens again I’ll start a band, and I’ll write a song about all of my troubles and what’s going on in my other life. The one you haven’t seen.” After the line “Don’t want you to feel as fucked up as I do“, the music ramps up with a volley of shredded guitars and raging percussion, and I’m now hooked on the guys’ exuberant punk rock grooves that set a joyful tone for the album.

They next launch into “Frustrations“, a rousing banger about sexual tension. This time Henry sings lead, channeling equal measures of Michael Hutchence and a young Mick Jagger both in sound and swagger as he seductively teases “Can’t you see I’m into you. I suppose you’re into me. Can’t you see it’s got to be. Frustrations taking over us. Dance like an animal. Dance like an animal for me!” Jack provides his charming backing vocals that contrast nicely with Henry’s as they both let loose with some tasty riffs while Ed hammers out the sexy beat. I really dig this song.

Those sexual tensions reach the breaking point on the provocative “LISTEN! Stop Messing Around“, where Jack laments about how his sexual desires continue to go unmet by an unhappy set of circumstances: “I wanna take you out but I’ve got no money to spend. So let me take you closer, closer to my bed./ That time you nearly gave me head. Oh I was feeling blessed. Then your phone started to ring. You walked out the door and you left me wanting more./ Got fucking on my mind but it never ends that way. Oh girl can’t you see what it’s doing to me. I can barely stand up and I’m begging for you please.” The song has an infectious bouncy melody with some fine gnarly riffs.

The guys touch on the perils of excessive drinking and how it wastes both time and brain cells on “9:10“. Jack moans of his inability to stop, despite his best intentions: “And I swear to god I’ll stop at ten past nine. But another brings me wine. And all I see are blurred visions of the night, and stories about how I totally died.” “Why Do We Pretend?” speaks to the coming of age experience of discovering that perhaps a relationship you thought was great is just not meant to be.  “Maybe I was wrong. Maybe we don’t get along. And we say it will all work out in the end. But we know it’s wrong. And when you don’t answer your phone, and I’ve just had enough of you. And I’m sure you have too.” The guys’ bluesy guitars, combined with Hilary Squire’s soulful saxophone and her and Ella Squire’s impassioned backing vocals, make this one of the standout tracks.

The guys keep the punk grooves rolling with “Hypnotise“, a fun, upbeat track that has Henry singing about being under the spell of a girl. But they then take a more serious turn on “The Kids Are on Drugs“, one of my favorite tracks on the album. The song starts off with Henry singing in a somber voice, accompanied by a simple strummed guitar: “The kids are all on drugs just to keep them sane. Oh the kids are all in pain, and they want to escape. But they can’t, because the world won’t let them.” The music suddenly erupts into a frantic punk song with raging guitars and furious drumbeats as the guys rail about the myriad anxieties facing today’s youth. I especially like these pointed lyrics about the toxic need for acceptance and validation on social media that I can relate to: “Lying on the street on a tab of ecstasy ’cause you only got 74 likes on your Instagram./ Social media makes them sad.”

Things lighten back up on “Seduction“, a sexy tune about the power of erotic attraction. I love the spicy little flourish of Latin guitar at the beginning, as well as the great piano keys and sultry bass line. Hilary’s soulful sax makes a welcome reappearance in the chorus. “(Can’t Believe How Much) The Night Has Changed You” is a song to a friend who remains unsettled and unable to connect with their true self:  “I would say I wanna be you. But privately everyone is blue. So I’ll settle down. Settle down with who I am. And you should settle down with you.” The track has a lively, bass-driven beat with fantastic guitar work and Ed’s impeccable drumming. Henry’s vocals really sound like Mick Jagger on this track, and despite the huge contrast in their singing voices, he & Jack harmonize quite nicely.

Impossible Words” is a bluesy number with a Country-rock vibe, courtesy of some marvelous twangy guitars and harmonica. The tongue-in-cheek song seems to wrap up the album, not only literally but figuratively, by pulling in some of the titles of other songs: “I have frustrations, and you’re the one to blame. All you do is hypnotise me baby, at ten past nine./ Why do we pretend? Cause I can’t believe how much the night has changed you.” I love it! Following this track are three ‘clean’ radio edit versions of “Blame”, “LISTEN! Stop Messing Around” and “The Kids Are on Drugs”.

DANCE!! Like An Animal is a wonderful album that I enjoy more with each listen. Henry, Jack and Ed are immensely talented songwriters and musicians, and with an already impressive catalog of music to their credit, I’m confident they will only continue to grow as artists. They’re currently in the process of writing and recording new music for another album, and I can’t wait to hear it!

Connect with Wild Horse:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google Play / Amazon

New Song of the Week: THE MILLION REASONS – “Secrets”

The Million Reasons Secrets

Chicago rock outfit The Million Reasons has been a favorite indie band of mine ever since I first heard their magnificent song “Dizzy” almost exactly one year ago today. I featured the song on this blog, and loved it so much it ended up at #10 on my list of Top 100 Songs of 2018. They followed “Dizzy” with another fantastic single “Battle of Sound” in early November 2018, along with a humorously charming video. (I reviewed both singles, which you can read by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.)

The guys now return with a brand new single “Secrets“, which finds them taking a somewhat darker tone than their previous songs. Drummer Colin Dill explained: “We wanted to surprise people with a darker, heavier song than expected. We are all a little angry about the current state of affairs and this song represents letting people into the frustration that can be hidden deep down.” Besides Dill, The Million Reasons is comprised of Scott Nadeau (lead vocals), Ken Ugel (guitar), Mike Nichols (guitar), and Jason Cillo (bass). They’re all phenomenal musicians, consistently delivering arresting melodies, killer riffs, tight rhythms and powerful vocals. “Secrets” was produced by guitarist Ken Ugel along with Adam Beck, and mixed by Ugel and mastered by Nick Stetina.

The song starts off with a somber, bluesy guitar riff, moody bass line and pounding drum beat as Scott sings the first verse with his beautiful, understated vocals:

It’s hard to keep the days in line
And it’s hard to tell the time
When your mind is far away from here
When the light begins to fall
And your thoughts begin to stall
What do you do to entertain yourself?

Follow me a little deeper, and I’ll show you all my secrets that I keep inside
Follow me a little deeper, and I’ll show you all my secrets in this state of mind

Suddenly, Scott’s vocals erupt into an angry wail as the music intensifies with a barrage of gnarly and distorted guitars, chugging bass and tumultuous drums. He passionately rails against the current socioeconomic conditions in America (and elsewhere) that keep a sizable percentage of the population stuck in financial limbo:

Welcome to the modern age
Where there’s no jobs, no decent wage
But that’s OK
You can have some debt for free
All the problems of today
(They) never seem to go away
And the light
Is still so far from me

Follow me a little deeper, and I’ll show you all my secrets that I keep inside
Follow me a little deeper, and I’ll show you all my secrets in this state of mind

The song ends on a bombastic note, driving home the frustration and anger the band feels about this subject with powerful ferocity. It’s another winning song from The Million Reasons, offering further evidence that they’re an immensely talented band who are skilled at producing exceptional music with compelling and relatable lyrics. I love these guys, and look forward to hearing more from them soon.

Catch The Million Reasons at one of these upcoming shows:

July 19 – Beat Kitchen, Chicago
August 3 – Wedgestock 2019, Middlebury, Indiana
August 9 – Cubby Bear Wrigleyville, Chicago

Connect with The Million Reasons:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

OPERATION GUILLOTINE – Single Review: “Good Times”

Operation Guillotine Good Times

This is a rather bittersweet post I’m afraid. Operation Guillotine is/was a blues rock band from Coventry, England who described themselves as “five lovable rogues from the Midlands that just aim to bring good vibes” but, alas, they are no more. They had a great run since forming in 2016, releasing a number of excellent, hard-hitting singles, but after experiencing the loss of their drummer and bassist, they’ve decided to officially put an end to Operation Guillotine. However, fear not, because surviving members Alice Clarke (vocals), Rhys Scott (guitar, backing vocals) and Ben “Fogal” Ollis (lead guitar) will soon be forming an entirely new band with a new direction and sound.

reviewed their previous single, the stonking “No Victory”, just before Christmas 2018. They just dropped their final single “Good Times” on June 28, and it’s a fitting swan song. Even though it was actually one of the first songs they wrote as a band, it perfectly encapsulates their music legacy with the lyric “We’re here for a good time, not for a long time.” They really go out with a bang, delivering explosive riffs of distorted, reverb-drenched guitars and pounding drumbeats.

Alice is a fantastic singer, skillfully matching the intensity of the instrumentals note for note with vocals that range from fiery passion to a sensual purr. Though we may be upset that Operation Guillotine is done, she admonishes us to keep a stiff upper lip: “So turn it around, bring your frown upside down, ’cause baby it’s a good time we made.” And so they have.

Connect with Operation Guillotine:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream, download or purchase their music on Spotify / BandcampiTunes

OPERATION GUILLOTINE – Single Review: “No Victory”

Operation Guillotine single art

Operation Guillotine is a delightful blues rock band from Coventry, England who describe themselves as “five lovable rogues from the Midlands that just aim to bring good vibes”. And their wonderful moniker is entirely fitting, as they sonically slice the airwaves with their dynamic, hard-hitting sound. Formed in 2016, the band is fronted by vocalist Alice Clarke, and includes Rhys Scott on guitar and backing vocals, Ben Ollis on lead guitar and Ben Addison on drums and backing vocals. (Their bassist Chris Sizer just recently left the band, and will be sorely missed, but the band has a replacement lined up ready to assume the mantle of bassist.)

They’ve released a number of excellent singles, beginning with “Underneath the Lights” in 2017, and their latest is “No Victory” which dropped yesterday, 21 December. It’s a fun, hard-driving banger, with chugging riffs of gnarly guitars, pummeling drums and loads of crashing cymbals that make for an exhilarating listen. I love the little flourishes of distorted guitar that add a bit of sexual tension in the beginning. But for me, the most interesting aspect of the track are Alice’s intriguing vocals, which register in the lower octaves here than on their other songs. She exudes a raw sensuality that perfectly captures the band’s intent in the suggestive lyrics.

The song is about failing to score on a date. As Rhys explained to me: “It was written after our friend went on a tinder date that went horribly wrong and he said all the wrong things. They were both determined to do stuff but it didn’t go as planned. We tried to catch a sleazy vibe in the music as well as the lyrics.” I think they succeed quite nicely, and have a hit on their hands.

Ooh come on over, baby what you got
Give me everything I like it or not
Strip me down to my underwear
Show me everything I’ll never care

So drink it down my sister
Down my brother
Sinking in this feeling is there nothing at all
So drink it down my sister
Down my brother
Meet you at the end I will be taking you home

Drop down to your knees (repeat)

Connect with Operation Guillotine:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream or download their music on Spotify / iTunes

JETSTREAM – Single Review: “Delta Blues”

The other day my friend Susan tweeted about a new song “Delta Blues” by a band I’d not heard of before called Jetstream, tagging me along with several other music-loving friends as she customarily does to help spread the word about indie bands. Well, let me say that every single one of us were immediately blown away when we clicked on the YouTube link and listened to the song. Wow, “Delta Blues” is one hard-rockin’, foot-stompin’, gritty blues-rock mutherfucker! And though Jetstream sound like they’re from Tennessee or Mississippi, they’re in fact originally from the Rock of Gibraltar, and now based in the UK!

Jetstream
Photo by Eye Candy Photography

Like many bands, Jetstream has undergone some personnel changes since their formation in 2008, but the current lineup consists of Nolan Frendo (vocals), Stu Whitwell (guitars, keys), Tristan Tonna (drums), Justin Pou (bass), Aaron Ignacio (guitar) and Tristan Tonna (drums). Among some of their many musical influences are such greats as Aerosmith, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Kooks, Counting Crows, The Killers, Kings of Leon, Coldplay and Green Day – all awesome bands I also love. They released their first EP in 2014, and have followed with a number of singles since then, the latest of which is “Delta Blues,” which dropped on October 26 (a date that interestingly saw a tremendous number of new releases by several artists and bands, a few of which I’ve recently reviewed).

“Delta Blues” kicks off with Tonna’s pounding drumbeat as Whitwell and/or Ignacio lay down deadly riffs of gnarly guitar, backed by a sinister pulsating synth and Pou’s throbbing bass line that set an ominous tone. Frendo’s gritty vocals deepen the tension as he tells the unfortunate tale of a woman named Delta Blues who swept him off his feet, only to betray him.

Way down in Mississippi I found the sweet Delta Blues
She strut so very pretty, I knew I had nothing to lose
She made her name in this town when her mama was 17
Knocked down a whiskey jigger, make eyes across the room
Be first to pull the trigger, don’t trust what you assume
She made a name in this town when her mama was 17

The guys dial up the heat of the instrumentals to boiling as Frendo passionately wails the chorus, sending chills up and down our spines:

And I, I met her in a dusty tap room
I kissed her in the Southern sun
I shot her in the darkest alley
I miss her in another’s arms

The rampaging guitars, bass and drums continue laying waste to the airwaves as Frendo’s raw vocals keep heaping new layers of chills upon us straight through to the end. What a great song! Take a listen and dial up the volume to full-blast!

Connect with Jetstream:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  iTunes Google Play

THE MILLION REASONS – Single Review: “Battle of Sound”

The Million Reasons New Lineup

I’ve been revisiting a lot of artists and bands lately on this blog, and today I’m featuring another one for the second time – the incredible Chicago rock band The Million Reasons. The band is comprised of Scott Nadeau (lead vocals), Ken Ugel (guitar), Mike Nichols (guitar), Colin Dill (drums) and their newest member Jason Cillo (bass). Following up on their outstanding 2017 debut EP The Runaround, they released their gorgeous single “Dizzy” in July, a magnificent song that went all the way to #1 on my Weekly Top 30 (you can read my review here). Today they return with another fantastic single “Battle of Sound,” which I’m pleased to review.

The song has a hard-hitting old-school rock vibe, starting off with punchy riffs of gnarly guitar that provide the driving force for the track. The song expands as layers of guitar are added, accompanied by a solid bass line and power drums, then suddenly erupts into a furious maelstrom in the bridge as the guys let loose on their respective instruments. It all makes for an exhilarating and highly enjoyable rock song.

Scott has a wonderful singing voice, with a raw power that’s perfectly suited to the music and biting lyrics that speak of a relationship that’s irreparably broken to the point that further communication is now impossible.

I didn’t know that we were fighting
I didn’t know that the lines were drawn
But here we are with our weapons at the ready
And the sides have been decided upon

If it’s a battle of silence, I’m winning
Never see me come around again
If it’s a battle of sound, I’ll take the crown
You’ll never see me come around again

You didn’t come prepared for battle 
You didn’t expect me to react 
You didn’t know that I own moments like this 
Where the lights go out and the power blows 
You’re in the black 

Who do you think kicks the power back on? 

The humorously charming video opens with the guys pulling up in a van, where they pick up a guy waiting by the curb who’s the new band member Jason Cillo. They hand him a bass guitar, whereupon he immediately gets into the groove as they all begin to play the song, heads furiously bobbing to the beat. As the video progresses, they’re shown alternating their seating positions and instruments, while the poor drummer Colin Dill gets tossed around a bit in the back as he tries to play his drums. The guys clearly had fun making this video.

Connect with The Million Reasons:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud / YouTube
Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon