STEREOHAZE – Single Review: “Drifting Away”

Stereohaze

Stereohaze is an alternative rock band from Manchester, England who I first featured on this blog this past May when I reviewed their excellent debut EP Fight For Your Future. Now they’re back with a terrific new single “Drifting Away“, which dropped on September 7th. Formed in 2017, the band consists of Charlie Whittaker (guitar/vocals), Ryan Webb (guitar), Harry Wilcock (bass) and Diesel Evans (drums). Despite their relatively young ages, they play some wicked guitar-driven rock laden with hooks, intelligent lyrics and electrifying instrumentals.

The song opens with Diesel’s pounding drumbeats and Harry’s throbbing bass, then we’re suddenly hit with an explosion of grimy riffs and the song is off and running. Charlie’s commanding vocals enter the mix as he fervently sings of a troubled relationship that’s driving him crazy, but he hopes can still be salvaged: “I just can’t shake the infection of your poisonous affection. Indecisions, contradictions are part of my condition. We’re drifting away, so come a little closer. And we’re falling apart, so let’s come together.” Charlie and Ryan’s dual guitars are fantastic as they blast through the airwaves with intricate layers of gnarly fuzz and blistering distortion, making for an exhilarating rock tune.

It bears repeating that I really love Charlie’s vocal style. I’ve found that weak vocals are often one of the biggest liabilities for an artist or band, but his vocals are wonderful, and an integral part of Stereohaze’s great overall sound.  The guys are all skilled musicians, and I’m so happy they’ve delivered another outstanding song. “Drifting Away” is further proof that Stereohaze is most definitely a band on the rise.

Connect with Stereohaze:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase their music on iTunesAmazon / Google Play

STEREOHAZE – EP Review: “Fight For Your Future”

Stereohaze EP art

Stereohaze is a band from Manchester, England who, despite their youth, play some wicked guitar-driven rock. Formed in 2017, the lineup includes Charlie Whittaker (guitar/vocals), Ryan Webb (guitar), Harry Wilcock (bass) and Diesel Evans (drums).  They released a top-notch first single “Nowhere to Go” in 2018, and this April (2019) they dropped their debut EP Fight For Your Future, which I’m reviewing today.  

The EP starts off on a high note with “Infliction”, and once those chugging riffs of jangly guitars kick in, backed by Harry’s deep, humming bass line and Diesel’s explosive percussion, it’s clear this band knows how to rock out! I really like Charlie’s commanding vocals that soar in all the right spots, and what I’m guessing is his or Ryan’s scorching guitar solo in the bridge is so good.

“Contain Yourself” was released as a lead single in advance of the EP, and it’s a superb song with a terrific, infectiously catchy hook. It opens with a funky bass riff that continues throughout the song, punctuated by roiling guitars and tumultuous drums in the choruses. The lyrics seem to speak of a guy who’s life has spun out of control: “He tries and he tries to commend himself to fears of what he used to be.  He falls apart as he begins to choke. If love was money, he’d be broke. So much potential. So little time. So incidental. But you’re not the kind.

“Nothing Seems to Change” is a brooding rock song about a relationship in which, despite his best efforts, his partner isn’t willing to meet him halfway: “I tried so hard to figure it out. I lost myself in your shadow of doubt. For what it’s worth, there’s a smile upon your face, but nothing seems to change.” Musically, the song features a strong, thumping drumbeat and fine guitar work that includes lots of shredding and elements of psychedelia and grunge. In fact, the recurring riff seems to sample the two-note guitar line of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  On this and some other tracks, Charlie’s vocals remind me a bit of Alex Turner.

The aptly-named “Light the Fuse” is the most electrifying track from a musical standpoint. I love its rapid, hard-driving beat and intricate mix of fuzzy, chiming and distorted guitars. The vocal harmonies are marvelous, and the guitar solo in the bridge is absolute fire. “Don’t Think Twice” is yet another stellar tune, with strutting riffs of gnarly guitars, pulsating bass and pounding drums. The song seems to be about someone who’s lost and in denial about what’s wrong in their life: “I don’t want to be the one to follow you out into the sun. I know what you’re thinking, it’s alright. I know it seems so hard, but don’t think twice.

While Stereohaze doesn’t break any new ground here, they nevertheless deliver outstanding, hard-hitting rock music that makes for an exciting and enjoyable listen. Fight for Your Future is a first-rate EP full of solid tracks that showcase the guys’ talent for writing melodic rock songs laden with hooks and thoughtful lyrics, and bringing them to life with their skillful musicianship. I highly recommend this EP for anyone who likes great, guitar-driven rock.

Connect with Stereohaze:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Purchase their music on iTunes / Amazon

PARTISAN – Single Review: “Oxygen”

Partisan Oxygen

I’ve been following Manchester, UK rock band Partisan for a couple of years, and I love their music. Like many bands, they’ve undergone a few personnel changes since their formation, but their music has remained consistently good. Partisan is now made up of Stuart Armstrong on guitar and vocals, Dan Albon on bass, and Leo Stanfield on drums. I previously featured their fantastic single “Juggernaut” on this blog two years ago, in the summer of 2016, and that October had the pleasure of meeting them when they performed at the legendary Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip. They’ve released several excellent tracks since then, and in May they dropped their latest single “Oxygen.

The new track nicely delivers more of their signature high-energy melodic rock. It opens with sounds of sirens in the distance, then Albon lays down a bass riff as Armstrong’s punchy guitar and Stanfield’s snappy drums enter the proceedings. Tasty intricate guitar riffs ensue along with heavier percussion, all the while anchored by Albon’s subtle bass line. Armstrong’s fervent vocals are positively sublime. I really love his distinctive tenor voice, which is a major component of Partisan’s unique sound that sets them apart from any other band.

My take on the song is that it seems to be about realizing that a relationship one took for granted is worth salvaging. That there’s enough oxygen – love – for two for the relationship to survive. “I was too blind to see. I was too drunk to feel. Denying ourselves the truth. There must be enough to breathe. Oxygen release. / Let me be the one that saves you. / Let me be the one to keep you breathing.

The dark, brilliant video shows the band performing the song in a dank, filthy room in a decrepit old building. As the song progresses, dust and smoke permeate the room as the walls begin closing in on them, sucking out the oxygen. By the end, Armstrong is shown trapped and curled up in a tightly enclosed space. An interesting side feature in the video is that among the various photos on the wall is one of a smiling President Trump (who can suck the oxygen and joy out of a room like a Harry Potter Death Eater). His photo is eventually shown pierced with darts. That brought a big smile to my face!

Catch Partisan at one of their upcoming shows in and around Manchester:

June 5             Gullivers, Manchester
June 30           Save the Children Charity event
Sept 27           Sonder Festival, Manchester

Connect with Partisan:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes

KOSMONAUTS – EP Review: “Kosmonauts”

KOSMONAUTS is a young indie band from Manchester, UK, a city rich in music history and home of legendary rock bands Oasis, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, New Order, and Everything Everything, as well as a couple of great indie bands I’ve featured on this blog – Partisan and Puppet Theory. As far as I’m concerned, KOSMONAUTS are poised to become an equally great band, based on the quality of their debut self-titled EP that they released in April. Their infectiously upbeat and dynamic guitar-driven style of alternative rock hooked me at first listen, with terrific melodies, intricate riffs and compelling lyrics. And what makes them even more appealing is the level of maturity in their music and lyrics given their young ages (all are in their early 20s).

After a few early fits and starts, the band as it now exists was formed at the beginning of this year. As bassist Callum Hollingsworth explained to me: “We formed properly in 2016 but went through some changes at the start of 2017 where we got a new guitarist and this totally changed the band. As a group we now class this as ‘the start of the band’.” In addition to Hollingsworth, the band includes Rob Snarr (Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitar), Kieran Wilkinson (Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals) and Dean Chadwick (Drums). About the band name, Hollingsworth stated it came from a bar in Manchester called Kosmonauts.

Kosmonauts2

Our introduction to Kosmonauts begins with a brief but lovely instrumental track titled “Untitled.” Gentle guitars and airy synths create a delicate, intriguing soundscape that immediately draws you in, wondering what kind of music this band is going to deliver. That question is abruptly answered with the arrival of the hard-driving “Night Of Our Lives,” with rapid-fire, layered guitars, hammering drums and buzzing bass lines that never let up as the track segues into the lively “When We Were Young,” which the band released as a single. Though only two and a half minutes long, this firecracker is packed with so much energy you’re practically left breathless. The frantic riffs are awesome and I love Snarr’s charming vocals as he sings about making the most of your youth, living life to the fullest while still young.

Without skipping a beat, “Store Bought Town” rains down with a volley of jangly guitars, pounding drums and crashing cymbals, all grounded by Hollingsworth’s powerful bass. Snarr sings of struggling to escape a relationship in a town that keeps drawing him back: “I say I’m leaving, cause I’ll do better on my own. And we both know that that’s true. I’m sure you’ll survive without me too. But we both know I’ll be back one day, in the same shit place, in the same shit town…” He hopes that if he does return, things will be different: “Please, just say you’ll change.”

The melodic “Lady Lovesick” offers up more fantastic, intricate guitar work, with a beguiling little riff that permeates the track. Chadwick’s drumming is particularly good on this track, as are the guys’ soaring harmonic backing choruses. It’s a lovely rock song.

The final track “When it Suits” is the longest song on the EP, and one of my favorites (though I honestly love them all). I’m blown away by the exuberant jangly guitars, which are gorgeous, and remind me a bit of The Cure. The lyrics painfully confront a partner in a relationship that’s broken: “You always say it’ll be the last time, but we both know that you’re wrong. I always seem to believe the lies that you tell, and just forget what you’ve done. Just one drink, one drink is all it takes. One drink to forget about me. / Now don’t you stay just until you sleep. If you don’t feel the same then you need to leave.

Kosmonauts is an outstanding, well-crafted EP from start to finish, and an impressive debut for a young band with a lot of promise. I look forward to hearing more from these guys soon!

Follow KOSMONAUTS:  Facebook / TwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloud

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon / Bandcamp

EP Review: Puppet Theory – “Buttons”

British Indie pop/rock foursome Puppet Theory is the latest band to emerge from the vibrant Manchester music scene.  They bring a fresh approach to their music, fusing old-school Brit-pop/rock with punk and alternative influences.  On September 21, they dropped their debut EP Buttons – a collection of four infectious, high-energy songs guaranteed to put you in a good mood and make you dance around like –  well, a puppet on a string!

I first learned of Puppet Theory when they followed me on Twitter a few days ago and, given their fun, upbeat music and sense of humor, I’m already a big fan.  On their website, they state “Puppet Theory have the perfect blend of UK influences, consisting of 2 Mancunians, a Scouser and a Southerner whose energy, edginess and musical expertise work together to create an unforgettable set.” For those of us non-Brits, a ‘Mancunian’ is a person from Manchester and a ‘Scouser’ is from Liverpool.  In their Facebook bio, they identify themselves as follows:  Johnny – Little strings and sings;  Chris – Little strings and sings;  Niall – Big strings;  Paul – Hits things.  How endearing is that?

Puppet Theory began life when Johnny and Paul started jamming together, feeling an instant connection. Knowing they needed a strong vocalist/lyricist who could serve as band front man, they held auditions and enlisted Chris after he impressed them with his songwriting ideas. Finally, after auditioning four other bassists, they were blown away by Niall’s playing and signed him on the spot, completing the band line-up.  They’re thrilled to now have their first EP out so music junkies like me can enjoy their music.

puppet-theory

The first track, “Young & Youthful,” immediately hooks you with an irresistibly catchy melody, though the poignant lyrics speak to anxiety over transitioning from youth to adulthood. The song bursts open with shredded guitars and pounding drums, led by a buzzing bassline. Another guitar riff is introduced, intertwining with the shredded guitars, and Chris plaintively sings: “When did we get old? Someone should have told me that I  don’t know what it is all about. Give me some time to figure it out. I’ll get there.”

Pulsating guitars, strong bass and Paul’s assertive drums – accentuated by lots of crashing cymbals – highlight the catchy title track “Buttons.” The strong third track “Room to Breathe” has a distinct Foo Fighters vibe, most noticeable in the excellent main guitar riff. The final track “Do You Know” treats us to more awesome blistering guitars and dynamic percussion that appear to be a hallmark of Puppet Theory’s sound.  The song seems to end at 4:30, then starts up again with a dramatic guitar solo that’s a sped up version of the main song riff for another 30 seconds. Interestingly, the band is the third that I’ve reviewed over the past month or so to utilize this stop and start up again technique in a song.

All in all, Buttons is a strong debut for Puppet Theory, who I think have a promising future, given not only their talent, but their strong chemistry and charisma.  Show them support by checking out their Website, following them on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to their YouTube channel. Stream Buttons on Spotify or purchase on iTunes.