THE COMMON VIEW – Single Review: “Cigarettes and Regrets”

The Common View Cigarettes & Regrets

It seems a lot of new music was released on June 26, and so far I’ve reviewed three singles that dropped that day. Now I’m writing about yet another one, the latest single “Cigarettes and Regrets” by British alt-rock band The Common View. The young Leeds-based band is a favorite of mine, as I’m impressed by both their outstanding music and unflinchingly outspoken advocacy for social justice. Their lively and melodic style of alternative rock is influenced by elements of indie pop-rock, post-punk revival and rockabilly. Originally formed in 2018 by three University of Leeds students with a shared love of music – Dom Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jose Ignacio Barrera (guitar) and Jacob Lindsay (vocals) – the band now consists of five members, including the three aforementioned guys plus Joe Sykes (bass) and Will McKay (drums).

I featured them three times in 2019, most recently last October when I reviewed their wonderful EP Man on the Moon. The prolific band subsequently dropped another EP If Not Now, When?, as well as three more singles, the latest of which is “Cigarettes and Regrets”. It’s the 16th song they’ve recorded in the less than two years they’ve been a band! And one of the things I love about them is that no two songs sound alike.

“Cigarettes and Regrets” is a rousing rock’n’roll gem with frantic punk overtones that make for a bouncy head-banger. The guys are highly skilled musicians, consistently delivering outstanding instrumentals on all of their songs, and this one’s no exception. I love Dom and Jose’s fast-paced jangly guitars that erupt into a glorious torrent of swirling riffs in the chorus. Joe and Will drive the lively rhythm forward with their throbbing bass line and snappy drumbeats, respectively.

I also like that The Common View has two fine vocalists, and I believe it’s Dom who sings lead vocals on this song. He croons the lyrics that speak of someone who’s cheated on his girlfriend with a one-night stand he picked up at a bar, and regretting his actions the next morning: “You wake up in the morning all full of regret. The taste of her lips like your last cigarette. You don’t know what to say to this girl beside you. Now it won’t be long til your girlfriend is back. And shortly thereafter, you’ll be forced to pack. It’s all coming down, and it’s been your fault.

The guys made a charming video that features a mix of stop action footage interspersed with humorous scenes of Jose packing up his instruments and himself into his guitar case, and Dom playing guitar and singing the song in various locations throughout the house. About the video, the band said “Our homemade video is a perfect reflection of how hard it is being a band during Lockdown.”

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New Song of the Week – AS SIRENS FALL: “Puppy Squad”

As Sirens Fall

As Sirens Fall is a charismatic and talented alt-rock band based in the northern English city of Leeds. Through their exciting, innovative and edgy style of what they call “aggressive pop”, provocative and entertaining videos, and theatrical live performances, including appearances at such festivals as Download, Bingley Music Live and Camden Rocks, they’ve grown quite a large base of die-hard fans over the past six years or so. The band consists of Mikey Lord (vocals), Will Truby (guitar), brothers Adam (guitar) and Jason Doveston (bass), and Bailey Roper (drums).

Beginning with their 2015 debut single “From Across the Waves”, As Sirens Fall have released a steady stream of singles and EPs, including The Hospital Party in 2016 and Where Lost Things Go in 2018. Their fantastically dark 2019 single “We Go Down Together” has been streamed over 108,000 times on Spotify. They dropped their latest single “Puppy Squad” on May 15, then followed with an electrifying video for the song on the 23rd that I love so much, I’ve chosen it as my New Song of the Week.

About “Puppy Squad”, Mikey states: “This song is about realising that I could stand up for who I am. I don’t have to fit in with people who make me feel small or unimportant. I don’t have to be a sidekick. Neither do you. Be you and turn it up loud til the very end. f ‘em up, puppies!” It’s quite honestly one of the most dramatic and exhilarating songs I’ve heard in a while, with in incendiary onslaught of wailing guitars, buzzsaw bass and eardrum-shattering percussion. Man, can these guys rock! Will and Adam shred their guitars nearly to bits, while Bailey smashes his drums like a wild beast, raising our adrenaline.

And speaking of beasts, Mikey’s vocals are downright feral as he screams and shrieks like a man possessed, raising hairs on the back of my neck. He’s sings at such a breakneck speed in spots that it’s hard to understand all the lyrics, but when he snarls “I’m tasting you before I come alive again” like a seductive vampire, it’s hard to not shudder just a little bit. In the song’s quieter moments, he croons in a purr that’s equal parts sexy and menacing when he sings: “And Lily looked at me from across the room and smiled. And I thought, ‘Ah honey, you’ll never understand what these creatures can do.’ And she looked at me deep, with those gorgeous baby blue eyes. And I laughed. And I said ‘Are you feeling alive, cutie pie?‘”

The soaring vocal harmonies in the chorus are really marvelous too. “Puppy Squad” is fantastic, and I love every single thing about it. Have a listen and like Mikey says, turn it up loud!

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NEVER APART – Single Review: “Hold On Hope”

Never Apart

Never Apart is a female-fronted rock band based in Coventry, England. Rising from the ashes of Operation Guillotine, who disbanded in spring 2019, Never Apart plays a hard-hitting style of rock, showcased by their November 2019 debut single “Damaged”. Comprising the band are Alice (Al) Clarke (lead vocals), Rhys Scott (rhythm guitar), Ben Ollis (lead guitar), Nathan Gummery (bass) and Jake Dalton (drums). Today, May 22, they’re back with their second single “Hold On Hope“, and it’s another banger.

The song storms through the gates with a barrage of gnarly guitars and pummeling drumbeats, then a strong, thumping beat kicks in and we’re off to the races. Ben and Rhys slice through the airwaves with chugging riffs of shredded guitars, while Nathan and Jake deliver a hard-driving rhythm with a deep, buzzing bassline and smashing drums, respectively. Though her singing voice is not terribly deep or powerful, Al does nevertheless have a commanding vocal style that’s well-suited to the band’s heavy sound. She nicely holds her own as her vocals rise and fall to match the intensity of the music, without ever being overpowered. As the song progresses, the music and her vocals build to a dramatic crescendo in the final chorus, then fades out with an extended reverb.

The lyrics seem to be about a woman struggling to free herself from an abusive situation or relationship.

Do you ever close your eyes and try to hide the pain inside your mind?
Do you ever long to be so far from this
Your life, it’s hard to hide what’s inside?
You’re the only girl in the lonely world
Fighting to be heard tonight, tonight

Do you ever fake your smile and dry your eyes because it’s all you know?
(Don’t know where to go)
You fell so hard, you fell so fast, your heart shattered like glass
In time it’ll pass
You’re the only girl in the lonely world
Fighting to be heard tonight, tonight

They beat you up, tired to the bone
Fight so hard to be so strong
Hold on hope, you’re not alone
Hold on hope, you’re not alone

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TREMENDOUS – Album Review: “Relentless”

Tremendous Relentless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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YOUNG DECADES – Single Review: “Islands”

Young Decades

Young Decades are a new English rock band based in Manchester who released their beautiful debut single “Islands” on April 24th. Before I get into discussing the song I’ll provide a bit of background on the band members, who’ve had a bit of a journey to get to where they are today. Prior to forming as Young Decades earlier this year, three of the four current band members were part of Liverpool-based band COLOUR, which itself was formed early in the 2010s from the ashes of two previous acts – Liverpool band The Changes, and Manchester band Red Light Motion. As COLOUR, they released a number of terrific singles and EPs, including “Strangers”, “Kafé” and “The Famous Boy Making Things”, winning a BBC award and national radio play along the way.

With their sound moving in new directions in early 2020, the band in short order lost two girlfriends and their drummer, and decided to relocate to Manchester. With a COVID-19 lockdown looming, they rushed to hold auditions for a new drummer, posting ads everywhere they could around Manchester. After only 20 minutes into their first audition with one of Northwest England’s best percussionists in the form of YouTube drummer, Luke Bolger, the decision was made to bring him into the fold. The four immediately reformed as Young Decades, in reference to the first two decades of the century from which the band was formed. The official lineup now consists of James Tidd (vocals), Scott Harvey (guitar, keyboards), Liam Downey (Bass) and Luke Bolger (drums).

Young Decades’ music is a glorious mash-up of rock, synth pop and EDM elements, and “Islands” is the very embodiment of their lush, dreamy sound. The gorgeous song was co-produced by the band and Tom Longworth, and mastered by renowned mastering engineer Pete Maher (U2, The Killers, Nick Cave, The Pixies). The song has a sweeping, synth-driven melody reminiscent of some of The Killers songs that I love. The galloping riffs and thumping drumbeats beautifully evoke the urgency expressed in the lyrics about two people struggling to save themselves by running away to find a place they can be free. I love the richly colorful synths throughout the track, and one of the song’s highlights for me are Scott’s hauntingly beautiful piano keys.

James has a wonderful, emotive singing voice, and his vocals sound amazing as his earnest croons in the verses soar to passionate heights in the chorus, accompanied by stirring harmonies that bring goosebumps. “Islands” is a stunning record, and a spectacular debut for this talented band of musicians.

I’m On The Run, I’m Hanging On
Just Hold Your Breath, And Grab My Open Hand
A Hurricane, An Aching Pain
Is Closing Down, Shutters On Everything
Oh My Love Is, Ever Burning
Build It High, As the Seasons Turn In
[Oh
My Love] Oh My Love, [Time Is Up] Time Is Come
[Oh My Love] To Build Something From the Sea
Build An Island, Where We Can Be
I Need The Dry Land, Just You And Me

Can We Build That High, Can You Say You’ll Try
Don’t Just Sit And Stare, I Can Almost Feel It
The Cooking Sand, Falling Through My Hand
Like The Time We Waste, Being On A Different Page
Oh My Love Is, Ever Burning
Build It High, As the Seasons Turn In
[Oh My Love] Oh My Love, [Time Is Up] Time Is Come
[Oh My Love] To Build Something, From the Sea

Build An Island, Where We Can Be
I Need The Dry Land, Just to be…
All Ours, It’ll Be All Ours, It’ll Be
All Ours, It’ll Be All Ours, It’ll Be
All Ours, It’ll Be All Ours, It’ll Be
Build An Island, Where We Can Be
I Need The Dry Land, Just to be…

On May 2nd, Young Decades released a special EP Islands Audio Negatives, featuring five alternate versions of the song, including acoustic, instrumental and slowed-down versions the band is calling “audio negatives”. They’re all really beautiful, so do check them out:

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AMONGST LIARS – Single Review: “Wolf Machine”

Amongst Liars

This past February, I introduced British rock band Amongst Liars to my readers when I reviewed their spectacular debut single “Over and Over”. The song has been streamed over 51,000 times on Spotify, and has spent more than two months on my Weekly Top 30. Based in the Brighton/Eastbourne area along the southern English coast, the band formed in September 2019 from the ashes of the bands Saint Apache and Katalina Kicks, and consists of Ian George (lead vocal, guitar), Leo Burdett (guitar, backing vocals), Ross Towner (bass, backing vocals) and Adam Oarton (drums). Drawing upon alternative rock, grunge and punk, they play a melodic and fierce style of aggressive hard rock. Now they return with their second single “Wolf Machine“, and it’s an appropriately-titled beast of a track.

While Amongst Liars don’t consider themselves a ‘political band’, they certainly don’t shy away from expressing their opinions and anxieties about what’s happening in the world. Band vocalist Ian George explains. “We’re not preaching at anyone or trying to change the world. We’re just saying these are the things that affect and concern us.” With that in mind, “Wolf Machine” speaks of “challenging those in a position of authority and power, not accepting that the hand that we’ve been dealt should define who we are, and calling out inept governments run by power-hungry politicians. The line ‘Bring down the wolf machine’ chanted throughout the song resonates with so many of our world’s population, who are tired of the ‘same old’ mentality.

True to their hard rock roots, the guys deliver a volley of furious riffs, crushing bass and smashing drums to create a thunderous wall of sound. All experienced musicians, Amongst Liars are adept at pushing their respective instruments to their limits to achieve the heaviest sound possible, without going overboard. The result is a relentless barrage of intense, chest-thumping grooves that are the very definition of rock. Then there’s Ian’s raw and powerful vocals that perfectly fit both the hard-hitting music and song message. He sounds downright feral as he snarls the searing lyrics.

Count your blessings watch the other run
No one to listen? learn your lesson?
Blame the government
Turn the summer, to the rain and cold
Keep it close to your heart
Cash your life in before it’s sold

Just you try and stop us
Time to lock and load, now we’re letting go
Don’t get me wrong, I never needed you
Chase your shadow
They bleed and die for you

In this desert, we are the trees
I’m waiting patiently, will you take me please
I’m alive, not sad to see you go
I hope we make it back
Before it’s overgrown

Just you try and stop us
Time to lock and load, now we’re letting go
Don’t get me wrong, I never needed you
Chase your shadow
They bleed and die for you

Yeah

Bring it down
Bring it down
Bring it down
Bring it down
Bring it down

Bring down the wolf machine
Bring down the wolf machine
Bring down the wolf machine
Bring down the wolf

The fascinating and provocative artwork for the single was created by Pierre Engelbrecht.

Follow Amongst Liars:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
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MALLAVORA – Single Review: “Deceiver”

Mallavora
Photos by Aesha Nisar

Bristol, England-based hard rock band Mallavora are making a big splash on the British music scene with their exciting and hard-hitting sound, with features on BBC Introducing and airplay on UK radio station Planet Rock. Hot on the heels of the late March release of their spectacular single “Ego” (you can read my review here), on April 26th they dropped their latest single “Deceiver“, and now follow up with an exciting new video of them performing the song. “Deceiver” is the second single from their forthcoming Paradise EP, due out later this year, and it another winning tune.

Strongly influenced by progressive rock, groove and doom metal elements from some of their favorite bands like KoЯn, Mastodon, Muse and Alter Bridge, Mallavora create melodic hard rock songs characterized by thunderous riffs, driving rhythms, intelligent lyrics and the incredible sparks that come from having both female and male vocalists with great singing voices. The current lineup consists of Larry Sobieraj (guitar), Ellis James (bass/vocals), Jessica Douek (vocals) and Jack Pedersen (drums).

“Deceiver” explores the theme of domestic abuse, with lyrics describing someone trapped in a toxic relationship. She yearns to break free, but his recurring promises of love, combined with her weakness and lack of self-esteem, prevent her from leaving him. Mallavora skillfully expresses the darkness of the subject matter with an aggressive barrage of Larry’s chugging gnarly riffs, Jack’s pummeling drums and Ellis’ heavy, grinding bass that together sound downright diabolical. Larry’s an amazing guitarist, and his wailing guitar solo in the bridge is a highlight for me. Then there’s Jessica’s powerful, soaring vocals, which beautifully convey the intense emotion and despair described in the lyrics.

Look in his eyes
Love is a lie

She can’t hear anything
Her heads still ringing
The tears on her face
The last result of his embrace

And she can hear him calling
Feels her heart start stalling
She lets her life stay falling down
Without a sound

So wash away the truth
Except the one he told you
Give him your hand to hold
And let the fear within take control
Look in his eyes
Love is a lie
She can’t feel anything
Her heart’s still beating
The rings round her eyes
Revealing how she spent last night

Goes to where she was lying
To find her phone still dialing
But no one’s replying how
Is she gonna leave him now?

You’ve gotta tell the truth
Accept the things he’s done to you
Break free from his hold
It’s your life babe, regain control

Look in his eyes
Love is a lie

Follow Mallavora:  Facebook / Instagram
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THE SLYTONES – Album Review: “IT IS CALLED”

The Slytones It_Is_Called_FRONT

From the moment we first hear the sounds of someone sniffing a bottle, dropping ice cubes and pouring liquor into a glass, then taking a swig at the beginning of the opening track on the new album It Is Called by British band The Slytones, we just know we’re in for a good time. And quite frankly, can’t we all use a few more good times right now?!

Influenced by their love of The Doors, Mr. Bungle, Queens Of The Stone Age and Jimi Hendrix, as well as a colorful mix of Motown, psychedelia, gospel, blues, jazz and Afrobeat, the Brighton-based sextet make wildly entertaining music that’s bawdy, irreverent and funny as hell. Their hilarious, tongue-in-cheek lyrics tackle the minefield of love and relationships, and how they have a way of often exploding in our faces. As they so eloquently state in their bio, their sound “encompasses everything from schizophrenic fairground avant-pop and queasy skanking swamp-ska to crunching left-brain hard rock and mad scientist anti-funk.” To top things off, they dress in natty attire with their faces covered in black and white greasepaint, looking like six dapper mimes in their animated and theatrical performances.

Formed as a trio back in 2006, The Slytones eventually expanded to six members: Ashley Edwards (lead vocals/guitar), Bradley Wescott (guitar), Chip Phillips (keyboards, backing vocals), Chris Warren (bass) (though Carl Brothwood played bass on many of the album tracks), Freddie Hills (drums), and Robin O’Keeffe (percussion/backing vocals). They released their debut EP The Psychedelic Sound Of in 2011, then began recording new songs in 2013 for what was to be their first full-length album.

According to band drummer Hills (whose music I’ve previously reviewed both as a solo artist and as a session musician with fellow Brighton artists Ellie Ford and Liemba), The Slytones “spent three years slaving over it meticulously with a lot of love and attention to detail until it was finished around 2016. Despite all of this work, we got a bit fed up of playing the music industry game (and each other) and went on an indefinite hiatus. Now that we all have time on our hands, we decided to finally release it.” I’m glad they did, because it’s the most fun I’ve had listening to a record since last year’s Love at First Sniff by Australian band Thunder Fox.

The Slytones2

It Is Called was recorded at Ford Lane Studios in West Sussex, under the guidance of Rob Quickenden (Royal Blood, Tigercub, Demob Happy, Fickle Friends), who produced, mixed and mastered the album. Seven years in the making, the album was at last released on May 1st, and features 12 stellar tracks.

Kicking things off is “She Said She Came From the Sea“, which The Slytones first released back in 2015 as a double single with “Time Won’t Wait For Strangers”.  Opening with the aforementioned sound effects of liquor being poured and consumed, it’s the perfect drinking song about what appears to be a vexing mermaid who’s intruding on the singer’s free-wheeling ways. Lead singer Ashley Edwards has a raspy, sardonic and emotive vocal style that’s well-suited for their songs. We fully believe him when he sings “The truth is a stone. My heart is a rock. The women that surround me only long for my cock.” The accompanying video showing the guys performing the song on a pier and in the sea is delightful.

The Slytones are terrific musicians, adept at writing complex, ever-changing melodies and delivering them with an eclectic mix of instruments, sounds and stylistic elements that make for a fun and exciting listen. “Empire” is a great example of this, with a melody that alternates back and forth between a bouncy Latin-funk dance beat and a bluesy, guitar-driven groove that seems to channel the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”. In fact, Edwards sounds alarmingly like Jim Morrison when he wails the lyrics “Break down the walls, your empire falls!” The instrumentals are fantastic, especially the bluesy guitars and exuberant horns.

Another favorite of mine is “Sleeping Beauty Blues“, an appropriately bluesy track with everything from glittery synths, funky bass and blues guitars to honky tonk style piano, organ, jazzy drums and even a bit of cowbell for good measure. Then there’s Edwards cheekily crooning the lyrics about his girl not being all that she appears: “I got the sleeping beauty blues. / She sleeps like a beauty, but she snores like a fool.” There’s more musical mayhem to be heard on the rousing “Come Gigolo“, a wonderful tune with a feel similar to “Master of the House” from Les Misérables (at least to my ears). It also has some of the best lyrics: “I’m feeding all the lions to the dogs. As the idiots sleep, we massage their wives. Come gigolo my body ’cause my time is for sale. / Your mother should have slapped you before you were born.” The rousing vocal harmonies in the chorus are marvelous.

The Doors’ influence continues to be felt on many tracks. “Time Don’t Wait For Strangers” is another song with a complex, evolving melody. Opening with a peppy Latin beat, the song transitions after a minute into a languid and beautiful melody, with watery guitars and shimmery keyboards that remind me a bit of “Riders on the Storm”. At around 3:15, the song transitions once again, this time to a more psychedelic vibe with organ and heavier, distorted guitars. “Green Jacket” is a hard-hitting psychedelic and bluesy rocker, with some great fiddle, accompanied by Phillips’ lively keyboards and organ, and O’Keeffe’s gnarly percussive instruments. “The Seed They’d Sewn” has a bluesy vibe similar to “Love Me Two Times”, with lyrics that seem to describe a woman who’s turned out to be the Bad Seed: “She once was an angel, with skin so divine. Now the lizards congregate.. / The seed they’d sewn should not have grown / The sound they found, they should have drowned.”

Silver Harpoons” is a jazzy, bluesy and psychedelic fantasia. Edwards’ raw vocals are almost feral as he screams “Silver harpoons in the water. Night made to slaughter. Who are you?!” Later in the track, amid eerie synths and distorted riffs, his malevolence is palpable as he snarls: “Where is my goldmine? This corporate clothesline. I’m in a circus full of thieves. You’d kill a whale to feed your tart. I’ll fuck your wife to break your heart.” The infectious honky tonk piano makes a return appearance on the spirited “Shake the Cage“. Edwards and Wescott’s intense, bluesy guitars, Brothwood’s driving bass and Phillips’ piano are fantastic, and Hills does a fine job pounding out the lively rhythm.

Don’t Leave Me Alone” has a wonderful tango melody, punctuated with flourishes of bluesy, roadhouse-style grooves. On the amusing but dark “King of the Castle“, the band reference nursery rhymes to describe what appears to be a power-mad father. Edwards sounds rather diabolical as he croons “I’m king of the castle / Do you want to grow big and strong like your daddy? / Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin. Well I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.” The song starts off with a jaunty fun-house vibe, complete with ghoulish clown laughter. Edwards repeatedly sings “Come sing, come sing as we’re dancing“, then in the last minute of the track, the music turns darker and downright menacing, with distorted guitars, crashing cymbals and a wailing organ riff.

The guys pull out all the stops on the final track “Pull Your Finger Out“, a complex and meandering 7:52-minute long extravaganza with more melodic change-ups than I believe I’ve ever heard in one song. It starts off with a slow, organ-driven melody punctuated by a bluesy guitar riff, then shifts to a bouncy melody with honky tonk piano, then to a bluesy, guitar-driven vibe, featuring flute and quirky percussive instruments. Various instruments come and go as the tempo continues to change, with even a flourish of gypsy guitar at the halfway point, and later on, a harpsichord. The lyrics are ambiguous to me – and I’m probably way off base – but they seem to describe a vampire’s love life: “We dance in the wretched moonlight. Sing me a wicked lullaby. Like wild men, we scream at the moon. Conscious in mind, but body aloof. Pull your finger out. / I sleep in the day when the moon is away. Wild horses couldn’t drag me away.” Whatever their meaning, it’s a great track.

I love this album and I love this band! It Is Called is 54 minutes of non-stop aural mayhem, and a blast to listen to from start to finish.  The Slytones are all amazing musicians, and I hope the release of this album will give them an impetus to reunite and make more music that brings a smile to our faces.

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New Song of the Week – THESE WICKED RIVERS: “Floyd”

Three years ago, British rock band These Wicked Rivers blew me away with their phenomenal album II (you can read my review here). Since forming in 2014, the Derby, England-based four-piece have gained a huge following in the UK and beyond with their melodic and riff-heavy blues-infused style of rock’n’roll. Making the music are John Hartwell (lead vocals/guitar), Arran Day (guitar, vocals), Sam Williams (bass) and Dan Southall (drums, vocals). It’s been a while since they’ve put out new music, but thankfully, they returned to the studio to record their second album Eden, which is due for release on May 22nd. In February, they released “Shine On”, the first single from the forthcoming album, and now follow-up with their second single “Floyd“, which I’ve chosen as my New Song of the Week.

These Wicked Rivers get right down to business, as “Floyd” blasts open with a thunderous onslaught of gritty distorted guitars and smashing drumbeats. I love the contrast between the calmer verses, with their bluesy riffs, throbbing bass and softly pummeling drums all creating a menacing vibe that adds to the building sense of tension, and the explosive choruses where all hell breaks loose. It’s fucking amazing rock played the way it should be played! The guys are highly-skilled musicians who play as an impeccably tight unit and deliver the rock goods to perfection. Hartwell has a powerful and vibrant singing voice that’s well-suited to their hard-driving style of blues rock. The way he transitions back and forth from earnest croons to impassioned spine-tingling wails is impressive.

Floyd seems to be a metaphor for the conscience of the town – which appears to be sadly lacking these days. All sorts of bad behavior – drinking, drugs, gambling, stealing and sexual affairs – are shown occurring in the video under the watchful eyes of a mysterious bearded man named Floyd. The band told me that most cannot see Floyd, but those who do/can see him, know why. As soon as they see him he’s gone, yet haunts their conscience. The photos we see him throw onto the ground in the woods at the end are of some of the people he’s observed committing their transgressions.

Floyd sits still on the cold wet night
Shackled to the sins he’s indebted to find
the fake facade printed in their eyes
Is what he heeds of the people playing out their lives
But Floyd knows the truth
He knows the lies
He knows all of the evil that you lock down inside

Floyd don’t come around here no more
Been seen in town once or twice before
The people speak of his judging eyes
But Floyd don’t come around here no more, Floyd don’t come around here
No more

People see Floyd around the town
He moves from street to street blending in with the crowds
But those who stop and catch his marble eyes
Usually know the reason why
‘Cause Floyd knows the truth
He knows the lies
He’s the judge, jury, councillor of freedom and exile

“Floyd” is a wickedly good song, and one of the best yet from this talented band. Based on the high quality of it and “Shine On”, Eden looks to be another stellar album.

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JOHNNY KOWALSKI AND THE SEXY WEIRDOS – Album Review: “Until The Day”

Johnny Kowalski & Sexy Wizards album

One of the quirkiest and most enjoyable bands I’ve had the pleasure of featuring on this blog is Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos. Based in Birmingham, England, the self-described “body-snatching carnival punk band” fuse Celtic, Balkan and Gypsy folk melodies with reggae, ska, mariachi, punk and rock’n’roll to create a uniquely eccentric sound that’s totally original, eclectic, and deliriously entertaining. In 2017, I reviewed their wonderfully marvelous album European English, and am now pleased to feature their latest release Until The Day, which dropped March 19.

Like many bands, they’ve experienced changes in personnel over the years since forming in 2009. Their current lineup consists of frontman Johnny Kowalski (Vocals, Lead Guitar), Chris Yates (Bass), Ilias Lintzos (Percussion), Matthew Osborne (Drums) and Katherine McWilliam (Violin). McWilliam is also violinist and vocalist for the Celtic rock band Quill, and her image is featured in the wonderful artwork for Until The Day, which was designed by Kat Bennett.

Until the Day is the fourth album by Johnny Kowalski and the Sexy Weirdos, and continues their tradition for making fun, generally upbeat songs while also touching on political and cultural issues of the day. Kowalski told me that while the album “doesn’t ignore the multitude of horrors being inflicted upon the world right now“, it’s also about “finding some hope and something to live for despite all that, even if that’s something as simple as celebrating the people around you.”

Things kick off with the title track “Until The Day“, a lively song that nicely encapsulates the album’s overall theme. McWilliam’s spirited violin takes center stage here, accompanied by gnarly guitars, exuberant drumbeats and a bit of funky bass to round out the proceedings. With his distinctive smoky vocals and delightful Brummie accent, Kowalski croons to his beloved about soldiering on together through good times and bad: “Let go of your secrets they’ll be safe with me / From the floor of this bedsit into eternity / We could live like pirates, each day standing tall / Fuck and fight for freedom until the day we fall.

The mood abruptly changes with “Flowers For Antifa“, a dark and aggressive song of protest against fascism. The raucous, punk-infused melody and harsh instrumentals are the perfect backdrop for Kowalski’s raspy, emotionally-charged vocals that sound a lot like The Clash’s Joe Strummer as he rails against those who fall prey to the hateful and divisive rhetoric of would-be fascist politicians and media talking heads. A verse in the lyrics express support for the militant anti-fascist movement Antifa: “I gave my money to buy flowers for Antifa / And to get the chance to shoot you I would trade in my guitar / When the war is over we will dance in sweet release / Feasting on the bones of all your sycophants and chiefs / Fall in fall out of line…” The song ramps up to a near-frenzy at the end, with Kowalski angrily shrieking “Good night alt right!” I wholeheartedly agree!

Smug Song” is a classic Sexy Weirdos tune, featuring a rousing gypsy folk vibe delivered with a colorful mix of instruments, highlighted by Lintzos’ electrifying percussive beats and McWilliams plucky violin notes. She lets loose with a terrific violin solo in the bridge that continues through to the end of the track. Next up is “Batch Music“, the first of two instrumental tracks on the album. The blending of fuzz-coated heavy electric guitar and bouyant violin give the song a strong Celtic rock feel.

The band shows their playful side on “Next Year“, which sounds to me like an old drinking song. The lyrics speak to letting loose and opening oneself up to any and all experiences and debaucheries that come along, and to hell with the consequences. We’ll worry about that shit tomorrow. “Pull down the ceiling again / Contact all your crazy friends / Wasted in weird foreign streets / Making memories we will not repeat / The circus is coming to town / Pretty girls bury your frowns / Weird women and men / They might not come again / Ah, fuck it, they’ll be back next year.” The delightful video shows Kowalski and a lovely, scantily clad woman taking turns on a stripper pole in the middle of a rather stylish room, while the other sits in a chair with their back to the person dancing.

Anarchist Barbeque (Egg For McGregor)” is the second instrumental, and once again, the combination of electric guitars, strong percussion and spirited violin give the song a wonderful Celtic folk-rock feel. The final track “The Dead Yard” continues the Celtic-gypsy vibe, with a bouncy violin-driven melody, gnarly electric guitars, a pulsating bass line and a frantic mix of exuberant percussion and snappy drums. I’m not certain about the song’s meaning, but my guess is that it’s about how on a certain level, our own truths are the ones that really matter to us in the end: “Deceivers will naysay but we’ll still be here / Believe us as we slay / The things you hold dear are gone / I’ll see you in the dead yard once again.” But whatever the meaning, it’s a fantastic song from a musical standpoint, and a fine finish to a terrific and highly satisfying album.

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