HEAD NOISE – EP Review: “SCRAM”

South Wales-based electro/art punk band Head Noise, self-described purveyors of post-apocalyptic synthpop, are one of the more unusual acts I follow. Comprised of Mitch Tennant (primitive keyboards & shouting), Wayne Bassett (guitar & synths), Jordan Brill (more guitar & synths), and Andrew Topper Walsh (drums & percussion on some tracks), their unconventionally quirky music sounds like it could have been created by the love child of Devo, The Vapors and Dr. Demento. I’ve previously featured them twice on this blog, most recently last May when I reviewed their delightful EP CONSEQUENTIAL QUASARS! Now the guys are back with a terrific new EP SCRAM, which appropriately dropped on April Fool’s Day. The EP has been released by independent Welsh label Dirty Carrot Records. 

Photo of Mitch Tennant courtesy of Elis Widgery Media

For their latest effort, they’ve ditched the guitars and, inspired by music from early iterations of The Human League, Depeche Mode and (of course) Devo, they’ve decided to go fully electronic. While still awash with their signature zany screwball flair for the absurd, exemplified by songs about cataclysmic death-derbies (“Screwball Scramble”), unfinished David Lynch movies (“Ronnie Rocket!”), and mangling the English language (“Alliteration, Again”), SCRAM also explores darker topics like hidden surveillance (“Candid Camera”) and nuclear evacuation (“Miracle Mile”).

Opening track “Screwball Scramble” is a fun listen, with throbbing spacey synths and quirky baby-like vocal flourishes, in sharp contrast with it’s decidedly bleak subject matter: “They drop me into this barren place, a wasted space for an extinction race. A four wheel powerhouse of pain where chunks of flesh fall down the drain. Terminate, to seal our fate with blisters coming from the throwing flames.” “Candid Camera” has a funky techno vibe, with a strong, catchy beat overlain with more of those wonderfully spacey, sci-fi synths. In an altered voice at times sounding almost diabolical, Tennant sings “Smile, cuz you’re on candid camera. Yessir!

On “Ronnie Rocket!“, Head Noise employ a hypnotic EDM beat and swirling sci-fi industrial synths to create a futuristic soundscape in a nod to David Lynch’s film Dune, but the song’s more generally about a film Lynch never made. Tennant said it’s “a mad mash up of Salvador Dali, Monty Python and the Looney Tunes.” An electronically altered voice sounding like Stephen Hawking says “The concept of absurdity is something I’m attracted to” – which could well be the definitive descriptor for Head Noise – followed by Tennant’s more ‘normal’ voice repeating the lines “Let’s Lynch again. We are the saboteurs.” “Alliteration, Again” is a silly and lighthearted new wave song with strong Devo influences, replete with a bouncy pogo-like beat and colorful psychedelic synths.

Far and away the best track on the EP is “Miracle Mile“, with it’s stunning Depeche Mode-esque sound. Running 6:20 in length, the song is magnificent, with a complex and lush mix of sparkling and haunting synths layered over a hypnotic pulsating dance groove. Tennant’s vocals sound more pure here, revealing a beautiful voice that’s often hidden beneath the quirky Dr. Demento-like vocals so prevalent on many of their songs. Still, in a somewhat electronically-altered voice that could be his or someone else’s, we hear the chilling lyrics “You’ll find us fossilized, in a dilapidated museum, burning with a strange fire that you can never put out.”

Special shout outs for the song’s phenomenal sound go to guest musician Andrew Llewellyn for his gorgeous synth lines, and Liz Bassett (Wayne’s wife) for her captivating backing vocals, both of which greatly add to the song’s overall dreamy vibe. Being a sucker for heavily melodic music, I think “Miracle Mile” is a triumph, and the best song Head Noise has ever recorded.

SCRAM is another impressive work by this talented group of musicians, who never fail to amaze us with their boundless creativity, imagination and musicianship. The marvelous nuclear-inspired artwork for the EP was created by Anthony Price, who’s own music, under the moniker Dunkie, I’ve also written about previously.

Those of you in the UK can catch Head Noise at one of these upcoming shows:

Follow Head Noise: Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Apple Music 
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Amazon

EML’s Favorite Songs – “Somebody Told Me” by The Killers

I’m a big fan of American rock band the Killers, and love many of their songs. But my favorite of them all all is “Somebody Told Me“. Serving up three minutes and 17 seconds of exuberant foot-stomping beats, roiling guitars, spacey synths and pounding drums, it’s an electrifying blast from start to finish. It also features one of the best lyric phrases ever written: “Somebody told me you had a boyfriend who looked like a girlfriend that I had in February of last year.

The Killers formed in Las Vegas in 2001, taking their name from a logo on the bass drum of a fictitious band portrayed in the music video for the New Order song “Crystal”. And though they’ve turned out to be one of the biggest rock bands of the 21st century, it took them a few years to gain traction. Surprisingly, both “Somebody Told Me” and their debut single “Mr. Brightside” were not successful upon their initial release. (“Mr. Brightside” was re-released in 2004 and went on to become their biggest-selling single, reaching #10 in both the UK and on the Billboard Hot 100. To date, the song is also the longest-charting single on the UK Top 100 Singles Chart, with 278 non-consecutive weeks!)

“Somebody Told Me” was the second single released from the Killers’ debut album Hot Fuss in 2004, and though it eventually reached #3 in the UK and on the Billboard Alternative Airplay chart, it failed to crack the top 40 on the Hot 100, peaking at only #51. Nevertheless, it’s become one of their most enduring and popular songs, garnering nearly 450 million streams on Spotify alone.

The song is essentially about trying to meet someone at a club, but not having much success. I love lead singer Brandon Flowers’ plaintive vocals that beautifully express his exasperation over striking out with the ladies despite repeated attempts to woo them with his considerable charms:

Breaking my back just to know your name
Seventeen tracks and I've had it with this game
I'm breaking my back just to know your name
But heaven ain't close in a place like this
Anything goes but don't blink, you might miss

'Cause heaven ain't close in a place like this
I said, oh, heaven ain't close in a place like this
Bring it back down, bring it back down tonight (Ooh-ooh)
Never thought I'd let a rumor ruin my moonlight

Well, somebody told me you had a boyfriend
Who looked like a girlfriend
That I had in February of last year
It's not confidential, I've got potential

Ready? Let's roll onto something new
Taking its toll then I'm leaving without you
'Cause heaven ain't close in a place like this
I said, oh, heaven ain't close in a place like this
Bring it back down, bring it back down tonight (Ooh-ooh)
Never thought I'd let a rumor ruin my moonlight

Well, somebody told me you had a boyfriend
Who looked like a girlfriend
That I had in February of last year
It's not confidential, I've got potential

The entertaining video was shot in the desert outside Las Vegas, and shows the band performing the song at night in front of a large screen that displays their logo and scenes of them performing. I love when Brandon Flowers stomps his foot at the end of the first pre-chorus.

ZEN BASEBALLBAT – Album Review: “Rations”

I’ve touched on this a number of times on previous posts, but one of the advantages of being a music blogger is becoming exposed to all kinds of music I otherwise might not have ever heard. So it was a nice surprise to receive a message from British ska collective Zen Baseballbat – is that a fantastic name for a band, or what! – asking whether I’d be interested in reviewing their new album Rations. Let me state up-front that I dislike writing album reviews, as they’re a lot of work, plus my Attention Deficit Disorder makes it difficult for me to focus my thoughts on a large number of songs, further compounding my stress levels.

That said, the moment I pressed play, I was delighted by this album. It’s wild, it’s zany, it’s fun, and as thoroughly eclectic as any record could possibly be. Besides ska, which itself is an eclectic mash-up of Caribbean mento and calypso, American jazz and R&B, the songs feature generous helpings of electro, punk, new wave, reggae and dub, as well as an unexpected touch of bluegrass just to keep us on our toes – all served up courtesy of nearly every conceivable instrument known to man, along with seemingly silly lyrics that brilliantly reflect deeper meanings.

I’d never heard of Zen Baseballbat previously, however, from what I can tell they were formed some time during the first half of the 1990s by twin brothers Gary and Carl Gleavey, along with several other musicians. Their earliest recording I could find was the 1994 EP Kneel Down To The Mothers Of The Slums, released via Toebunger Records. They later released two albums under the Moon Ska Records label – I Am The Champion Concrete Mixer in 2000, followed by For Refund Insert Baby in 2004. They disbanded in the late 2000s, but reformed a decade later with a new lineup and a newfound burst of creativity.

Based in Widnes, England, a mid-size city located between Liverpool and Manchester, Zen Baseballbat now includes Gleavey twins Gary on guitar & vocals, and Carl on bass & backing vocals, Jordan Donaldson on keyboards & backing vocals, Mike Wilkinson on drums, Jonathan ‘Jogga’ Parker on guitar & backing vocals, as well as Anoushka Wittram-Gleavey and Colin Mackay, who produced the album. In 2020, they released an EP You Won’t Get Paid and two singles “Place Like This” and “Take the Skinheads Bowling”. On New Years Day, they released Rations, which features reimagined versions of 11 songs that previously appeared on I Am The Champion Concrete Mixer and For Refund Insert Baby.

About the album, the band explains: “Rations conjures up images of need, neglect, desire and food banks in the modern world. It definitely shouldn’t sound this positive and joyful. ‘Rations’ is the sound of misery turned on its head. This CD is a radar pulse crossing borders and political divides and says firmly, we are internationalists. These are songs of love, loss, hurt and a knee to the neck from every cunt who wants to keep you in your place. Words have space to breath and weave, voices sound measured with biting intent, bass lines jerk and slide under polyrhythmic prose, whilst organs bounce from corner to corner. This body of work has emerged clear eyed and victorious, handled to a T by producer Colin McKay.

They kick things off with “Whipping the Lash“, which opens with a woman chanting German numbers translating to “seven eight zero seven nine nine” to a synth beat. Things quickly expand into a bouncy retro new wave dance groove that sounds like it could have been produced by Missing Persons or Thomas Dolby. Though the track is heavy on synths, that driving bass line and those jangly guitars are fabulous. The song seems to be a love song told through clever car-oriented lyrics describing feelings of lust: “I just love the way you move your fingers up and down the wheel, Into such mechanical force. It’s the way that you want me to feel.”

Next up is the delightful “Captain Midnight“, a ska song at heart, but given a dramatic synthwave treatment that nicely plays off the lyrics: “Nobody knows who I really am. Nobody knows. Under my vest I’m a Superman. Well I’m a perfect stranger. They even baptized me danger.” On the hilarious “Masochistic Motown“, which to my ears has a bit of a Talking Heads vibe, they touch on a situation where there’s simply no pleasing the man, no matter how hard she tries: “He gets porn at his fingertips, but snubs her new knickers. She’s gone from mouse to blonde, but he never noticed it. She wants him back, she wants him back. She wants him back, she wants him.”

The tables are turned on “Year of the Dog (That Bit Me)“, as this time she’s left him, and he’s feeling like a loser: “Here I am at a municipal dock pond. Oh my god love hurts. She upped and left me in mid sausage, punctuating end with burps.” The song opens with a man’s voice saying “I wish you good luck, but you wouldn’t know what to do with it if you got it“, and ends with that refrain, followed by another man exclaiming that he is in fact a loser: “You lose! Good day sir! It’s all there in black and white, clear as crystal. You lose!” The song’s jaunty vibe, replete with an upbeat ska rhythm, exuberant horns and lively organ, belies the rather morose lyrics.

Brown Cows of Elocution” is a lovely serving of dub reggae delight, and I dare anyone to keep still while hearing it. The cheeky lyrics poke fun at high society’s penchant for verbal diarrhea: “In a compost heap where a language grew, us duffers in the meat yard never had a clue. Our vowels were strangled by the cattle gas. / Sure it’s a laugh sure it’s a gas.

The great tunes keep coming on strong as the album continues. “The Injection of Love is Wearing Off” features more of those lovely horns and organ, and speaks to a relationship in which love is fading” “The injection of love is wearing off. My heart’s wide open. There goes the heat. The magic carpet pulled from under my feet. She made me feel like an out of season seaside.” And have I mentioned that I love Gary’s distinctive singing voice, in which his charming accent is quite pronounced? On “Signed Off R. Mutt“, Zen Baseballbat delivers a surprising injection of rousing hillbilly-flavored bluegrass to lament about the soul-killing downside of most jobs: “I left the job club torture room with little applause. They broke up my horizons over them there town hall walls. I offered them the services of a Marcel Duchamp. They gave me the post of a lavatory attendant. / We know exactly where we are, going under together in a gas filled car.

Bananas” is a fascinating and darkly humorous track with a macabre vibe, thanks to an abundance of spooky synths and eerie guitar notes. The lyrics seem to address a downtrodden social milieu, sort of a Les Misérables meets Sweeney Todd, told through rather repulsive food and restaurant metaphors: “Where’s the crapper? They’re ready to order, ready to murder a braison elephant paddling in batter, two galloping gonads, and the next man’s earlobes. Mine’s a grated brick. And a ballbuster special seasoned with a banana skin. My gastronomic exit. Fly, there’s not enough waiters in my soup!” And on “Matching Houses“, they contrast a breezy reggae melody with pointed lyrics about the banality of suburban life: “Making the most of our matching houses in the middle of nowhere special./ Polluting the back of our nostalgic settee with lies and social security. Painting brown carpets with sunshine. Moving for the last time.”

Continuing on that theme of socio-economic ennui, “The Returner Prize” speaks to the frustrations of being stuck in a dead-end job with no hope of upward mobility, and expected to be thankful for the crumbs you’re thrown by the high and mighty: “Meet your average working stiff, pushing a button in a light bulb factory. Meet your average working stiff, I never touch my salmon paste sandwiches. When Her Majesty came to our dumb town we had a whazz in her brew. Down Stewards Avenue when Her Majesty came to our dumb town, we had to clear up the streets after the mess that she had left.” The closing track “Whipping the Drop” is a mostly instrumental dub reggae song with a strong techno vibe, and seems to be a sort of conclusion to opening track “Whipping the Lash”. The spooky yet stylish industrial synths, throbbing rhythms and whispered vocals repeatedly chanting “Sieben acht null sieben neun neun” give the track a sultry otherworldly vibe.

To expand on some of what I alluded to at the beginning of this review, Rations is a truly delightful album, filled with lyrical and instrumental brilliance that surprised me at every turn. There’s so much going on in every track that, even on my sixth listen, I still discovered another instrument or little nuance I hadn’t previously noticed. I did listen to Zen Baseballbat’s earlier recordings of some of the songs featured on Rations, with their more pure ska stylings, and they were also quite good. But with their reimagined treatments, I think they’ve taken these songs to the next level, giving them a whole new life.

Follow Zen Baseballbat:  FacebookTwitterInstagram

Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple Music

Purchase on Bandcamp 

HEAD NOISE – Single Review: “200,000 Gallons of Oil”

Head Noise

Born from a love of inane junk culture and modern art. Here to disorientate, but also to captivate.” So say Welsh new wave/electro/art-punk band Head Noise about themselves and their deliriously fun retro-80s music that sounds like a crazy mash-up of Devo, Erasure and The B-52s. Formed in 2016 and based in Aberdare and Mountain Ash in southern Wales, Head Noise consists of Mitchell Tennant (Keytar/Vocals), Wayne Bassett (Guitar/Synth) and Jordan Brill (Guitar/Synth). The band started out as a duo act with Mitch and Wayne performing an original set of songs at an art exhibition, which according to their bio was described by an attendee as “David Lynch meets the Pet Shop Boys”. Jordan joined the band in 2017 as a second guitarist and synth player, giving their music a fuller sound.

In October 2017 they released their debut EP Special Effects Improves The Defects, which includes some hilariously-titled songs like “The Meat People” and “The Man With the Rubber Head”.  That was followed in August 2018 with the Microwave EP which, along with their humorous and entertaining live performances, catapulted them to notoriety (or infamy, depending on who you ask), throughout South Wales and Southwest England. They’ve also had the good fortune to open for bands like Wolf Alice, Public Service Broadcasting and Electric 6. This past November (2019), they dropped their debut album Über-Fantastique, an ambitious and marvelously trippy work featuring 14 tracks. The album release was accompanied by a limited run of CDs which quickly sold out.

Head Noise has just released one of the album tracks “200,000 Gallons of Oil” as a single, along with a wacky video that nicely showcases their zany, playful nature. (Be sure to check out their other imaginative and quirky videos on YouTube.) The song is catchy as hell, with a thumping synth bass-driven beat that immediately sets our toes tapping and head bopping. The guys layer a cool assortment of spacey, psychedelic synths to create a trippy vibe, then add crisp percussion and subtle, funky guitar notes to fill out the sound. I like how they top things off with some well-placed cowbell near the end for good measure.

The lyrics are rather silly and make no real sense to me, unless they’re singing about an unfortunate oil spill. But whatever their meaning, they’re perfectly suited to the lively music and band’s quirky persona. Mitch has a great singing voice, and delivers the lyrics with a cheeky sense of urgency:  “200,000 gallons of oil. Fill up the bath, you grotesque gargoyle. 200,000 gallons of oil. There is a potential cause for concern. Sit by the side of the road and get wet. Cut off the area with hazard tape. I’m just not ready to deal with it yet.”

Follow Head Noise: Facebook / Twitter/ Instagram
Stream their music: SpotifyApple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Bandcamp / Google PlayAmazon

EML’s Favorite Songs – THE CURE: “Just Like Heaven”

I’m starting a new blog feature “EML’s Favorite Songs”, in which I post an old classic that’s an all-time favorite of mine. A few weeks ago, I wrote about “Nature Boy” by Nat “King” Cole, and today my pick is the brilliant “Just Like Heaven” by The Cure. The song is from their 7th studio album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, and along with “Lovesong” is my favorite among their scores of great songs. It was released in October 1987, and was the band’s first song to break the top 40 in the U.S. though, shockingly, only peaked at #40 on the Billboard Hot 100! Over time, the song has come to be recognized as one of The Cure’s finest, and Pitchfork ranked it as the 12th best song of the 1980s. It certainly ranks among my favorites of the 1980s.

Band frontman Robert Smith was inspired to write “Just Like Heaven” after a trip to the seashore with his girlfriend and future wife Mary Poole, who he met in high school and to whom he’s been married for over 30 years. The song immediately grabs hold with Boris Williams’ fantastic opening drumroll, then Smith’s jangly descending guitar line enters, chiming its way through waves of glittery synths, tinkling piano keys and crashing cymbals, sweeping us headlong into a gorgeous and dreamy soundscape. Simon Gallup’s pulsating bass line and Williams’ powerful thumping drumbeat provide a solid rhythmic vibe, propelling the song into the sonic stratosphere. It’s a masterpiece!

Smith’s distinctive vocals, which occasionally sound off-kilter on some of their songs, are perfection here as he sings of the dizzying love and lust two people feel for each other:

‘Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick
The one that makes me scream’ she said
‘The one that makes me laugh’ she said
And threw her arms around my neck
‘Show me how you do it and I promise you
I promise that I’ll run away with you
I’ll run away with you’

Spinning on that dizzy edge
I kissed her face and kissed her head
And dreamed of all the different ways I had to make her glow
‘Why are you so far away?’ she said
‘Why won’t you ever know that I’m in love with you?
That I’m in love with you?’

You, soft and only
You, lost and lonely
You, strange as angels
Dancing in the deepest oceans
Twisting in the water
You’re just like a dream…

Daylight licked me into shape
I must have been asleep for days
And moving lips to breathe her name
I opened up my eyes
And found myself alone, alone, alone above a raging sea
That stole the only girl I loved
And drowned her deep inside of me

You, soft and only
You, lost and lonely
You, just like heaven

The Cure are finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame today, March 29, 2019.

WIDE EYED BOY – EP Review: “Sun Again EP”

Wide Eyed Boy Sun Again EP

Since first hearing their incredible debut single “Wolves” two years ago, I’ve been totally smitten with British band Wide Eyed Boy. I’ve featured the charismatic Liverpool foursome on this blog three times now, beginning with my review of “Wolves” almost exactly two years ago, in February 2017, then a review of their magnificent follow-up single “Loving You is So Easy” that July, and an interview in May 2018, shortly after the release of their third single “Sun Again”. They’ve just dropped their first EP Sun Again EP, and it’s my pleasure to feature them for the fourth time.

Wide Eyed Boy consists of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitar, keyboards) and Tom Taylor (Drums). They all met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and quickly bonded over their shared love of music. They made the decision to release a series of singles to get their music out there and heard, and they’ve succeeded quite nicely. Since the release of “Wolves”, they’ve earned a reputation as one of Britain’s best indie bands, and have gained a large following of loyal fans.

The EP includes their three aforementioned singles, plus two new tracks. It opens with the title track “Sun Again,” an exuberant affair, with roiling riffs of Jonny and Kobi’s fuzzy guitars and bass, propelled by Tom’s furious drums and wildly crashing cymbals. Oliver has one of the most beautiful voices around today, and his smooth, clear vocals are dazzling, soaring along with the instrumentals as they build to a goosebump-inducing crescendo. About the song, the band states: “It’s about escape. Breaking out of that vicious cycle of mundane life and getting back that sense of freedom to go do whatever the hell you want.”

The beautiful new video just released for “Sun Again” features actor Daniel Donskoy, and alternately shows scenes of Wide Eyed Boy performing the song, and scenes of Donskoy portraying a man who’s angry and in distress, racing his car through the English countryside, then running from the car into a field and collapsing on the ground, spent and finally feeling free.

I loved “Wolves” the moment I heard it, and made me an instant fan of this band. Everything about this phenomenal track is perfect – the haunting melody, compelling lyrics, flawless arrangement and production, propulsive drumbeat, gorgeous sweeping synths, nimble, layered guitars, and Oliver’s incredible vocals that are absolutely mesmerizing. Oliver stated the song ‘is about letting people in that are bad for you.’ He passionately sings “Why can’t I leave it all behind? Why can’t I save myself this time? I fall just a little bit, don’t wanna be a part of it. Wolves are the only friends I know.”

“Wolves” was so awesome that I didn’t think the guys could top it, but I was even more blown away by their magnificent follow-up single “Loving You is So Easy“. The swirling guitars, sultry bass line, sweeping gnarly synths and Oliver’s captivating vocals are all positively breathtaking. The song lyrics are fairly straightforward – “I don’t care the way you care. I can see it in your stare. But the way that we collide, it’s getting harder every time. Loving you is so easy. Easy when I’m down, down, down” – but Oliver delivers them quite seductively, before launching into a soaring falsetto in the chorus, adding more chills to the ones already covering my body. I love this song so much it ranks #13 on my Top 100 Best Songs of 2017 (“Wolves” was #17).

Next up is “See the Light“, yet another beautiful song from this amazing band. This track is slower in tempo and more ballad-like than their other songs, with acoustic guitar, shimmery synths and gentle percussion. The song is about a relationship that’s failed past the point of return and the desire to move on. Oliver’s heartfelt falsetto vocals are sublime as he plaintively sings the poignant lyrics: “I’ve gone missing. Something’s not alright. I don’t wanna run but I’m struggling to see the light. / Can’t you see what I’ve become? Stay away from me.”

The band closes out the EP with the rousing pop/rock banger “Fire“. The radio-friendly track features a catchy melody, pulsating synths, chiming guitars and pummeling drums that all build to an exciting crescendo in the chorus. The lyrics are a plea to someone for whom the singer has strong feelings to save him with their love and support: “Fire! I’m burning now. I really need you now. Fire! Don’t let me down. Pull me from the ashes.

Sun Again is an awesome little EP with five outstanding tracks, and a testament to Wide Eyed Boy’s impressive songwriting and musicianship. I cannot wait to hear what new songs they come up with next to dazzle our eardrums.

Connect with Wide Eyed Boy: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

MELOTIKA Releases New Video for “Bittersweet Reality”

Melotika is an indie/pop artist based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and the alter-ego of singer/songwriter Mel Yelle. Born and raised in Montreal, Mel’s rich, smoky vocals remind me at times of fellow Quebecois Celine Dion, with whom she also bears a striking resemblance. She teamed up with electronic DJ/producer Jackman Jones (also known as Mista T Dot) to create urban beats for her debut EP Unaware, which dropped this past March. I reviewed her sultry single “Unaware Part II [Blindside]” in February, which you can read here.

Melotika

She’s just released a stylish new video for “Bittersweet Reality,” one of the tracks on Unaware. The song features cool synths set to a hypnotic dark wave dance beat, with hand claps, kick drum, bass and chanted backing vocals adding fullness to the sound. Mel’s vocals have a sense of bitter resignation as she sings about the conflict between our reality and the self-image of the persona we project to the world based on who we think we should be: “Doesn’t matter what we say, you won’t believe it anyway. Done my time but talk is cheap. Your bittersweet reality. Running back and forth at times can drain all my energy.”

About the video, Mel explains “‘Bittersweet Reality’ is about losing yourself in a synthetic realm of beauty and social media appearance. The character I am playing is a vulnerable side of me believing everything the media has taught me, and on the other hand rebelling against it.”

She’s shown scrolling through her social media accounts on her mobile device, elated one moment, then frustrated and angry the next as she reacts to either the attention she feels she deserves or criticism – or even worse, indifference – which pisses her off (sentiments I can certainly attest to feeling at times). Ultimately, she suffers a meltdown over all the conflicted emotions. Take a look:

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

WIDE EYED BOY – Artist Spotlight & Interview

Wide Eyed Boy

Liverpool foursome Wide Eyed Boy burst onto the local music scene in early 2017 with their gorgeous debut single “Wolves,” quickly making a name for themselves throughout the UK and beyond – even here in the Coachella Valley of Southern California where yours truly resides. They followed up in July with another magnificent single “Loving You is So Easy.” I loved both songs so much I featured them on this blog, and both reached #1 on my Weekly Top 20. “Wolves” ended up at #17 and “Loving You is So Easy” at #13 on my 100 Best Songs of 2017.

Wide Eyed Boy is comprised of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitars, keyboards) and Tom Taylor (Drums). In March, they dropped their third single “Sun Again,” another stellar track that provides further proof they’re a band of exceptional songwriting talent and musicianship. The exuberant track opens strong with roiling riffs of fuzzy guitars, propelled by Tom’s hammering drums and a cascade of crashing cymbals. Oliver’s smooth, clear vocals are dazzling as always, soaring along with the instrumentals as they build to a goosebump-inducing crescendo. Regarding the song, the band states: “It’s about escape. Breaking out of that vicious cycle of mundane life and getting back that sense of freedom to go do whatever the hell you want.”

I’d like to say that I ‘sat down with’ the band for a conversation – which I would absolutely love to do! – but, given the fact we’re 6,000 miles apart, we conducted our interview over the internet. Fortunately, all four band members took time to respond to my questions.

EML: Hello guys, I’m honored to have the opportunity to interview you! As you know, I’ve been a huge fan of yours since I first heard “Wolves.” I think you’re one of the best indie bands in the UK, if not the world! I already know a bit about you – that you all met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), became friends and eventually formed a band. Also, you went to Budapest, Hungary in 2016 to write songs. What prompted you to decide to go to Budapest? Did you feel you’d have more inspiration for your songwriting there, rather than in Liverpool, and if so, why?

Jonny:  Thanks for having us! Yeah that’s how it all started. We’ve written a lot of music in Liverpool so Budapest was an opportunity to go somewhere completely different, have some fun, get sunstroke and gain some inspiration from a new environment. As Oli’s family are originally from Hungary they still have a house  in the country which is what gave us the chance to go over and make some noise for a couple of weeks.

EML: Is your songwriting a collaborative process that each of you take a roughly equal part in? Or do certain band members take greater responsibility for writing lyrics and/or music?

Kobi:  Our songwriting is definitely a collaborative process! Most of the time Jonny, Tom and I will have more of an influence on the music/arrangement side of things and Oli writes the main melodies and harmony and lays down the bare bones of lyrics. But the cool thing is, at the end of it, we sit down and go through all the ideas Oli has and we finish the lyrics off together to get some sort of finalised song. Collaboration is the only way to make music great!

EML: I don’t know your ages, but you all exhibit a real maturity in your songwriting, both in terms of compelling lyrics and your gorgeous melodies, not to mention your amazing musicianship. Were any of you active musicians or play in other bands prior to attending LIPA?

Tom: We all played in bands before we went to LIPA. It’s what we loved to do, I started my first band back at school. I remember we got all of our mates to come down to the local pub and we played a gig, I think we only had two songs so the rest we just played covers. So yeah we all played loads of music before WIDE EYED BOY I’m sure if you asked we still all remember our first gig but that’s another question.

EML: Oliver, you have an incredible voice, which I’m guessing is a natural gift to a large degree. Did you have formal vocal training while growing up or at LIPA?

Ollie: Thank you for the compliment. I had one to one singing lessons at LIPA and I also had training in Germany years ago. Obviously it did always come natural to me and I started singing professionally at the age of 10 but after my voice broke I felt like I needed to relearn how to use my voice properly.

EML: Your songs are really magnificent, with expansive instrumentation and arrangements that transcend mere pop and rock. What and/or who are some of the influences for your sound and songwriting?

Tom: In WIDE EYED BOY we are each influenced by so many different bands but its good really as it means when we’re travelling we have loads of different tunes on in the car. We all agree on Oasis and RHCP, but coming from a city like Liverpool there are so many bands that we’ve been watching for years like Clean Cut Kid and The Wombats. We’ve also been lucky to go on tour with Feeder and The Rifles and we learnt loads from them. There’s too many to list really.

EML:  I already love your latest single “Sun Again,” which you formally released on March 9th, but I saw a video of you performing an acoustic version of it a year ago on Liverpool Noise. I’m assuming it’s one of the many songs you wrote while in Budapest. I’m curious as to why you are periodically releasing singles, rather than an EP or album, given that you’ve already written enough songs for a full album? And when do you plan on releasing a full album?

Jonny: Thank you very much, Sun Again was actually one of the first songs we wrote as a band and was an idea around for a while that we’re really glad we finished and recorded. We’re still a really new band so releasing singles just made a lot of sense to us at this point although there’s no doubt bigger bodies of work will be coming sometime soon.

EML: Despite releasing only a few singles, you’ve managed to quickly build quite a large following, which has to be incredibly gratifying. Has your seemingly overnight success been a surprise, and do you feel any pressure to keep upping your game?

Ollie: It truly feels amazing when the crowd sings along to our songs because it shows that we actually managed to reach people. I wouldn’t personally call it an overnight success because if you are so closely involved in a project you don’t even realise how it’s growing. However, we do obviously notice the positive resonance and all we can do is to try our best, and release music we are very proud of.

EML:  I see this question asked by a lot of interviewers, but I’m gonna ask it anyway LOL. In addition to what we’ve already discussed, are there any other things about you or your music I neglected to ask that you’d like your fans to know?

Kobi: Haha, if you’re wondering if we have any new songs coming soon…we have LOTS of new material we have been working on…that’s all I can say at the moment but they’re very exciting, not going to spoil anything (I’m terrible at secrets).

Here’s a fun fact, our band name Wide Eyed Boy is actually someone…a human in this world (alive)…I’ll let people figure it out!

Have a listen to their songs and I’m confident you’ll agree that they’re pretty amazing.

Connect with Wide Eyed Boy: Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

THE HIGH RIP – Single Review: “Wasted”

The High Rip is a four-piece indie band from Liverpool, UK who play a deliriously infectious mix of alternative rock and post punk that just makes you feel good. And can’t we use some more of that right now! They also have a wry sense of humor – always a big plus for me. They state in their bio “The most notorious Liverpool gang of the 1890’s was The High Rip. Fast forward 120 years and it would seem little has changed.” Making up this current crew of Liverpool gang members are Ivan on lead vocals, Graham on guitar, Paul on bass and vocals, and Jo on drums.

They’ve released several excellent songs over the past year (I’m especially fond of “Best Holiday” and the T.Rex-ish “System Doesn’t Work”), and just dropped a terrific new single called “Wasted.” The rousing track has an upbeat 80s new wave vibe that reminds me of some of the great songs from The Cure and A Flock of Seagulls, two of my favorite bands from that era. The most arresting element for me is Graham’s exuberant jangly guitar riff that continues throughout the track, as well as some tasty little flourishes of distortion later on. Ivan’s lusty vocals are wonderful, as are Paul’s driving bass line and Jo’s masterful drums pounding out the irresistible beat. It’s a fantastic song that had me hitting replay, and so will you, my kind readers.

Despite the track’s upbeat vibe, its serious lyrics seem to speak of an approaching soul-crushing technocratic and authoritarian state, sort of like the one envisioned in 1984 (and which we’re sadly beginning to see glimpses of today):

And in the future, there will be no understanding
Just a series of rules to obey
And in the future there will be no together
No tomorrow, no today
Waste what you like, waste another lifetime
Wherever you stand you are in the way

And now this feels like, feels just like I always knew it would feel
Like the way that I was told
And in the future, there will be no happy ending
No way of coming in out of the cold
So waste what you like, waste another lifetime
Wherever you stand, you are in the way

Connect with The High Rip:  Facebook / Twitter
Stream their music on Soundcloud

THEY CALLED HIM ZONE – Single Review: “Death Drive/I Like Noise”

Death Drive Art

I’ve been revisiting a number of artists that I previously featured on this blog, and my latest is the Bradford, UK dark wave/psychedelic/electro-pop band They Called Him Zone. Formed in early 2016, they quickly released their debut EP Miami, then followed up with a stellar mini-album Crow Swan Wolf in February 2017, which I reviewed. Now they return with a double single “Death Drive / I Like Noise,” released today, the 25th of August, through their label Ambicon Records.

They Called Him Zone consists of Mik Davis (lead vocals, drones and production),  Steve Maloney (guitar, backing vocals and production), and John Bradford (keyboards and percussion). For these songs, they were joined by Cat McLaughlan who provided backing vocals. In describing their sound, sometimes the band’s own words offer the best explanation: [Our music] “combines sultry electronica with chewed-up, modulated guitars, evoking rain-drenched, neon-daubed streets, proscribed chemicals, and black-clad malcontents wearing mirror shades after dark. And it’s always dark where they come from…

They Called Him Zone 2

Both songs seem to address our darker sides. Lead track “Death Drive” evokes a shadowy netherworld of lust and danger with its hypnotic beat and harsh industrial synths. Maloney’s gritty and sometimes wailing guitars amplify the sense of foreboding, while in a rather menacing monotone, Davis sings the lyrics that seem to speak to an addiction – whether it be drugs, sex or some other obsession:

We’ve become so cold, playing out in the rain,
Waiting out for June, you make me cold sweat…
My body shakes when I’m with you, I feel no pain…
The death drive.

The equally dark video for the song was produced by Bradford-based Twenty Twenty Films, and features alternative models Zombie Cat Girl and Miss Gerrish, and method actor Mark Morris.

The B-side “I Like Noise” is a short track with a fast, repetitive beat and pulsating synths that deliver a post-punk psychedelic feel. Like the music, the lyrics are minimalist, and my guess is that they’re about numbing one’s pain by engaging in pleasurable but dangerous or taboo activities:

I like pills, I like noise, I like thrills, I like toys…
I like girls, I like boys, I like machines that make noise…
I like noise, I like, noise, I like machines, that make noise…
I tried love, I tried hate, I tried pain…

Both songs are brilliant, further demonstrating that They Called Him Zone is a cutting-edge band who pushes boundaries to create music that’s distinctive, mesmerizing and always provocative.

Connect with They Called Him Zone: Facebook / Twitter

Stream their music on  Soundcloud and purchase on Bandcamp