MELISANDRE’S BEAVER – Double-Single Review: “Brother/Never Be That Cool 2019”

Melisandre's Beaver

Just from their name alone, it’s clear that any music coming from a band who call themselves Melisandre’s Beaver is guaranteed to take listeners on a wild ride. Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Green Day, Blink-182, AC/DC, Weezer, Reel Big Fish and Tenacious D, they play a rowdy style of music they refer to as ‘spicy punk’, which pretty much nails their frenetic, head-banging sound. Formed in 2016, the Dover, England-based band now consists of Daniel Drew (guitar, lead vocals), Sam ‘Mac’ MacNamara (bass, backing vocals) and James ‘Nesbo’ Nesbitt (drums, backing vocals). As for their provocative name, they explain it was chosen “after a lengthy ‘you had to be there at the time’ joke from our mate Tom.  Melisandre’s Beaver are three mates who decided that our friendships were so good, we needed to start a band to calm things down.”

Melisandre's Beaver single art

They released a terrific debut EP No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken in 2017, and followed a year later with their fireball of an album If Only We Were Serious, featuring 13 mind-blowing bundles of sonic dynamite. In late September, they returned with an outrageous new single “Brother” and its B-side “Never Be That Cool 2019”. “Brother” is a hilarious ode to Hulk Hogan, the retired pro wrestler and TV personality.

According to a great write-up about the band on The Sweet Distortion Blog, the idea of writing a song about Hogan was born from a trip to Oxford that Drew and MacNamara took with a few friends. They spent five days on a small boat, dressed as pro wrestlers who “beat the shit out of each other. Drew was dressed up as Mankind/Cactus Jack and MacNamara was dressed up as Hulk Hogan.” When they got home, they began watching Hulk Hogan videos online and laughing at how ridiculous his act was. “A massive orange leathery balding beefcake. He’s like a cartoon character. All show, Doesn’t give a fuck, he’s all about the people and the showmanshipThe song explores his nature of being a badass, unstoppable, torrent of showmanship along with some of his ridiculous well-known phrases thrown in.”

The track opens with a voiceover snippet from one of Hogan’s shows, then explodes with a bombastic onslaught of raging guitars, driving bass and smashing drums that never lets up for a second. Drew’s fiery riffs slice through the airwaves like a machete-wielding banshee, and Mac’s intricate bass line is a thing of wonder. The interplay between them is fucking incredible, and combined with Nesbo’s relentless, pummeling drumbeats, “Brother” delivers all the heavy punk rock goodness one could possibly hope for. Drew’s powerful vocals are aggressive and raw as he all but screams the lyrics, matching the music’s intensity note for note.

The bold, in-your-face lyrics, written by Mac, perfectly capture Hogan’s wildly exaggerated bravado and bluster:

Well let me tell you something
Brother I built myself from nothing
With the meanest as my witness
Its time we got right down to business

I fought with giants and the warriors in the glory days
Ill wipe that smile off your face
With a thirst for violence and a hunger for the winning ways
I’ll put you right back in your place

What ya gonna do?
What ya gonna do when I’m running wild, all over you?
What are you going to do?

Well let me tell you something
I straight up started out with nothing
Natural bravado
Force feed you if it’s tough to swallow

I stripped the flesh right off the dirtiest player in the game
Fought wars with savages and braves
I’ve broken hearts and smashed through boulders that were in my way
I’m an all you can eat showmanship buffet 

The zany video for “Brother” was shot by Mac’s sister Emily and edited by him, and showcases the band’s playful, high-energy live performances. Filmed in a car paint spray booth owned by Mac’s dad, which the guys filled with soft play equipment to create the feel of a wrestling ring, they dressed up in tight spandex, wigs, sunglasses and walrus mustaches to parody Hulk Hogan. The Sweet Distortion Blog article stated that after filming the video, the band “experienced what those in the removals business call ‘The Gray Lung’. The car spraying booth being covered in dust left the band hacking up their lungs afterwards.” Didn’t someone once write about suffering for the sake of one’s art, or something to that effect?

Never Be That Cool 2019” is a remake of a track that first appeared on their EP No Offence Meant, Plenty Taken. This version is 37 seconds shorter, which is achieved by a much faster tempo than the original, which to my ears had a Weezer/Blink-182 vibe. Thanks to the sped-up tempo and harder-driving music, the new version has a more of a punk rock feel, sounding like a song Green Day could have recorded. Also, Drew’s gruff vocals remind me a bit of Mick Jagger, giving the track an edgier feel. I like the original, but I like this remake even more.

The lyrics speak to feeling like a bit of a boring loser, who will never be cool enough:

Watchin MTV2 when I get home from school
Darling I’m obsessed with my cesspool
I’m probably not the greatest , I’m sure I’ll never make it
and I’ll definitely never be that cool

Connect with Melisandre’s Beaver: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase: Bandcamp / Google Play

THE COMMON VIEW – EP Review: “Man on the Moon”

The Common View EP art

Early this year, I featured young British alt-rock band The Common View on this blog after learning about them and becoming impressed by both their outstanding music and outspoken advocacy for social justice. Formed in 2018, the Leeds four-piece consists of Dom Robertson (guitar, vocals), Jose Ignacio Barrera (guitar), Jacob Lindsay (drums, vocals) and Joe Sykes (bass). (After recording their latest EP, Jacob took a hiatus from the band to study abroad for seven months, and has been temporarily replaced on drums by Venezuelan native Marco La Fata, who may remain with the band long-term).

They released their self-titled debut EP The Common View, Vol. 1 in December 2018, then quickly followed with a provocative single “Fuck Them”, a scathing critique of the failure of British society and the government to adequately address the chronic issues of health care, poverty and homelessness. In May of this year, they released their single “A Perfect Bridge” (which I reviewed), then followed up with the stunning Coldplay-esque “The End of Time” in July.  Now the prolific guys are back with a wonderful new EP Man on the Moon, which dropped October 7.

True to their passion for writing and recording topical, socially relevant songs, the title track “Man on the Moon” speaks to the issue of climate change. They drive their message home with a dramatic and gorgeous soundscape of chiming and jangly guitars, accompanied by swirling synths, a deep, throbbing bass line and crisp percussion. The arrangement and production values are superb, and I think this is one of their finest songs yet. I really love Jacob’s vocals, and here he fervently makes his case for standing up to the empty rhetoric of many politicians and climate change deniers and doing what each of us can to affect meaningful change.

Hey, we need to talk
I’m getting tired of politicians and their speeches and their forked tongues
They put a man on the moon
But now they’re blinded by the money from the gasses filling our lungs
Stand your ground, as you turn it upside down
Let the tide roll in as a solid rain
And don’t mind me
I’m just another one who’s nobody
But I’ll just do my best to make a change

Annabelle” is a delightfully rousing, guitar-driven head banger, and a further testament to these guys’ incredible musicianship. Dom and Jose slice through the airwaves with an exuberant mix of jagged and swirling riffs, while Joe and Jacob keep the hard-hitting rhythms pumping at full throttle. If this track doesn’t get you going, then you must be dead! The lyrics speak to a woman named Annabelle who’s driving him crazy with her teasing and indifference, making him fall for her but withholding her affections. It’s a misery many of us have experienced at one time or another.

You’re putting me down
You got a real sick mind to take my time
Hearing the sound of your voice inside my head
You took my heart and left me underneath your spell 

The third track “What Can I Say?” delivers more of the band’s signature driving melodies and mind-blowing guitar work. The chiming guitars in the bridge are absolutely breathtaking, leaving me dumbstruck by their beauty. The song is about a relationship that’s beyond repair, and Jacob laments of the hurt and betrayal he feels:

I used to think that it was all okay
But, if you are gonna treat me in that way
You got another thing coming girl
You’re not the only person in this world
So stop, cut the shit and let me find my way
Feel like I’m living in a dream
With all the shit that I’ve seen
Who ever knew it could get that dark?

Even with only three tracks, Man on the Moon is a spectacular little EP. I’ve stated it before, but it bears repeating that there’s nothing common about The Common View, as these guys are phenomenal songwriters and musicians. I’ve loved every single track they’ve released, and these three rank high among their collection.

Catch The Common View at one of these upcoming shows:

18 October – Bar 21, Manchester, England, w/Bluelights, The Notion, Friday Forever & Skinner’s Lane
8 November – 360 Club, Leeds, England, w/LØE & Pathways

The cool artwork for the EP was designed by Rachel Wilcox.

Connect with them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes / Google Play

REVOLVERS – Single Premier: “Confusing Times”

Revolvers single art

One of the best indie rock bands I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know in 2019 was London, England four-piece Revolvers. Formed just three years ago in 2016, Revolvers was comprised of singer-songwriter James Thurling (guitar/lead vocals) Will Oliver (guitar/backing vocals), Steven Morrison (bass/backing vocals) and Rhys Kibble (drums). I say ‘was’, because they recently disbanded due to a number of factors, some of which are the cause of many a band breakup that I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say I was gutted, because I really love their high-energy, guitar-driven melodic rock music.

I’ve featured them twice on this blog over the past nine months, when I reviewed their fantastic singles “True Love” and “Rubbing Shoulders With the Devil” (the latter of which has spent the past four months on my Weekly Top 30). Fortunately for us, they’re releasing as their swan song a terrific new single “Confusing Times“, which I’m thrilled to premiere. The hard-rocking song speaks to the crazy times we’re now living in. Like their last three singles, “Confusing Times” was recorded at Kore Studio in London, and produced by George Apsion (White Lies, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Ellie Goulding). 

Revolvers go out on a high note, pulling out all the stops on this exhilarating head-banger. The song instantly blasts open with a frantic barrage of fuzz-coated jangly guitars and pummeling rhythms that never let up. They sound better than ever, delivering layers of intricate melodic riffs and explosive percussion that raise goosebumps. Thurling passionately sings of his frustration with the current state of things, and the mind-control that media exerts over society, aided by corrupt and incompetent politicians who prey on a deeply divided public. The lyrics include a reference to John Lennon’s iconic song “Imagine”, and later on state “life goes on like a Beatles song“, giving a nod to the enduring cultural significance of classic songs of yesterday as a symbol of hope for a better future.

I can’t hide from the TV screen
The old days are dead and gone
Whatever happened to Lennon’s song?
It goes on, it goes on
We live in confusing times
Least to say confusing times
And I don’t want to listen to this politician

The self-produced and highly entertaining video draws its source material from popular political and cultural GIFs, memes and footage found on the internet. It makes for a compelling and provocative snapshot of our very confusing times.

Finally, though Revolvers are no more, band frontman and songwriter James Thurling will continue to feature some of the their songs in his new rock band project Bitter Lime, so stay tuned.

Stream their music on Spotify / Soundcloud
Purchase on iTunes

TREMENDOUS – Single Review: “Copycat Killer”

Tremendous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GLASS VIOLET – Single Review: “Chemicals”

Glass Violet Chemicals

Glass Violet is a fairly new band from Bristol, England that I’ve recently come across, and I really like their sound. Formed in 2018 by guitarist/lead vocalist Tom Hurdiss and guitarist/vocalist Alex John, and influenced by acts like Kasabian, The Killers, Foals and Catfish and the Bottlemen (all bands I love), the two began writing songs together. They soon added Josh Walsh (bass), Matt West (drums) and Declan Pollard (synths, keys) to complete the band lineup.

They released a hard-rocking banger of a demo track “North Sentinel Island” this past March (2019), and followed up with their official debut single “Chemicals” on August 16th. The song’s an upbeat anthemic tune, with exuberant layers of jangly and swirling guitars, accompanied by a deep, buzzing bass line, aggressive percussion and melodic keyboards. Tom’s clear, earnest vocals have just the right amount of fervor, and I love how his charming British accent shines through. It’s a terrific song.

About the song’s lyrics, Alex told me “We basically wanted to just write a song that sort of soundtracks a night out. The lyrics aren’t anything special and they don’t mean much. But it’s catchy and it works. Our lyrics normally have more meaning and are quite conceptual, so we’re looking forward to getting that across in the future releases.”

Connect with Glass Violet:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / deezer / Soundcloud
Purchase:  Google Play

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

IAMWARFACE – Album Review: “Year of the Dragon”

I’ve stated it before, and will say it again – British electro-rock band IAMWARFACE can do no wrong when it comes to making music. From the moment I first heard their debut single “Say My Name” in 2016 – which I likened to being hit by an atomic blast – I’ve been a huge fan. Their aggressive name is a fitting metaphor for their bombastic, groove-based sound, and in the three years since their debut, they’ve continued to deliver one incredible song after another. Three of their four singles: “Say My Name”, “Closer” and “Fear the Future” (all of which I’ve reviewed) have reached #1 on my Weekly Top 30 chart, with “Closer” finishing in the top 10 of my Top 100 Songs of 2018. Now, they’re set to finally unleash their first album Year of the Dragon, which drops September 6th. The album contains their first four singles, as well as six new tracks and four remixes.

IAMWARFACE new
Photo by Caitlin Stokes

Based in London and Brighton, England, IAMWARFACE consists of founder and frontman Matt Warneford (songwriting, vocals), Lou Matthews (guitars), Tom Howe (DJ synth), Mike Smith (bass) and Adam Stanley (drums). Influenced by some of their favorite bands and artists such as Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Kasabian, Muse, Big Black Delta, Nero, Queens of the Stone Age, Tears For Fears, MGMT and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, IAMWARFACE creates music that’s aggressive, melodically complex and always exciting.

The opening track on Year of the DragonSay My Name” certainly embodies those qualities, with an explosive barrage of gnarly guitars, screaming synths and thunderous percussion, driven by a deep, buzzing bassline. Warneford’s fierce, mind-blowing vocals are almost frightening as he wails and shrieks the lyrics. This incredible song still gives me chills three years later!

Next up is the gloriously bombastic kiss-off song “You Don’t Love Me Anymore“, which was their second single. Once again, they live up to their name by delivering a furious onslaught of jangly guitars, heavy bass and smashing drumbeats. It’s loud, in-your-face, and melodically beautiful, and the hard-driving guitar work is fantastic. Warneford’s impassioned vocals are positively chilling as he wails “Whoa oh oh, you were right, you don’t love me anymore!” The cool video shows the band performing the song wearing fluorescent body paint.

To Die For” is one of the new tracks, and I love it! The song immediately hooks us in with an assault of crashing drumbeats and a deep, wobbly bassline, then a mesmerizing spacey synth riff kicks in, creating a mysterious soundscape for Warneford’s marvelous vocals. The music intensifies with tortured guitars and piercing synths in the chorus as he laments “Seems like I’m alive for, something I could die for.

Fear the Future” was their most recent single, released this past February, and one of their best songs. The biting lyrics speak to the banal music and entertainment, bullshit and fear-mongering being fed to the masses in a pernicious attempt to dumb-down and divide us. Musically, the song features the band’s signature aggressive instrumentation and massive, driving rhythms, making for a incredibly powerful and exhilarating song that slams us against the wall. The disturbing video brilliantly brings the dark lyrics to life.

Now we get to what I consider to be their greatest song, the monumental and gorgeous “Closer“. Wow, this song is a masterpiece! It opens with a mysterious throbbing synth chord that slowly builds into a stunning and dramatic soundscape that envelops us as Warneford laments of an obsessive and destructive relationship. The song then erupts into a maelstrom of tortured wailing synths, grimy guitars, buzz-saw bass, and explosive percussion, punctuated by almost violently crashing cymbals that emphasize the feelings of desolation expressed in the bitter lyrics. But then, Warneford fervently sings that their love affair that now lies in tatters might still be salvageable: “Feel I’m walking on shattered glass. This romance just has to end, to reset, erase, begin again. And I’ll move, move closer. Yes I’ll move closer to you.” The spooky, strangely beautiful video shows a woman in a shabby gossamer dress dancing in a filthy abandoned warehouse as Warneford sings the song.

From this point on, all the tracks are new to us, and all of them superb. The rousing “Get So High” seems to channel a bit of MGMT with its trippy and melodic synth-driven grooves and chugging riffs of gnarly guitars. “Atomic White Gold” brings a pulsating mix of chiming and reverb-drenched fuzzy guitars, swirling synths and blasting drumbeats, wrapped in a dark, captivating melody. Smith’s deep, throbbing bass is a highlight here, giving the track incredible depth. Warneford’s vocals soar as he sings “Atomic white gold. Just like the real thing.” The extended wailing guitar run in the outro is awesome, sounding like a cross between an air-raid siren and incoming bombs.

Bleed Out” starts off with heavy, distorted reverb, then a driving punk rock beat kicks in, compelling us to take to the dance floor. Matthew’s furious riffs and Stanley’s pummeling drumbeats are so fucking good! I really love songs with this kind of hard-driving beat. At the three-minute mark, the tempo slows as Howe’s throbbing industrial synths take over, giving the song a dark, intense vibe that sounds like something Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails could have cooked up together. The track ends with the same heavy, distorted reverb it began with.

IAMWARFACE continue delivering the goods with the hard-hitting “Red Queen“. With a nod to Queens of the Stone Age, the chugging riffs of grimy guitars and massive driving rhythms really get our blood pumping. Matthews is an amazing guitarist, and his work here is nothing short of phenomenal. Warneford laments about his low status in the eyes and heart of the woman he desires: “You are the red queen. I am the lone dog. I would do anything to win back your heart. You are something, I am nothing to you.

Trigons” is a long (7:13 minutes) mostly instrumental track that really showcases this band’s impressive musicianship. Each member is allowed to shine, as the guitars, bass, synths and percussion are distinct, yet meld together beautifully to create a mesmerizing psychedelic fantasia. Warneford’s soaring vocals are sparse, entering only in the latter part of the track, but are powerfully compelling as always.

The Paris Alexander remix of “Closer” is particularly stunning, giving a the song a different, somewhat lighter feel through a captivating dance beat and dreamy, ethereal synths. Alexander is a music producer and composer, and has collaborated with Antipole, a Norwegian post punk band I’ve previously written about on this blog.

Year of the Dragon is a phenomenal album that feels almost like a greatest hits compilation, as every single track is outstanding. I loved IAMWARFACE before, and love them even more after hearing this album. Year of the Dragon drops September 6th, but you can pre-order it here.

Track Listing:
1. SAY MY NAME
2. YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE
3. TO DIE FOR
4. FEAR THE FUTURE
5. CLOSER
6. GET SO HIGH
7. ATOMIC WHITE GOLD
8. BLEED OUT
9. RED QUEEN
10. TRIGONS
11. SAY MY NAME (PAUL PARSONS REMIX)
12. CLOSER (PARIS ALEXANDER REMIX)
13. YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE (CROSSFLOW REMIX)
14. CLOSER (CONTROL FREAK REMIX)

Catch IAMWARFACE at one of these upcoming shows:

30 August 2019 – Bournemouth, UK (with The Kut, HAWXX, Black Tree Vultures)
7 September 2019- Twickenham, UK (with How To Live, Nick Swettenham)
26 September 2019- London, UK (with The Insect, Graves)
17 November 2019 – Brighton, UK (with Legpuppy, Androids In The Mist)

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

BLACK BEAR KISS – Single Review: “I Wanna Know”

I Wanna Know

British alternative garage-rock band Black Bear Kiss have been on a creative tear since the release of their terrific debut single “Hooks” in April 2018. With their exciting, guitar-driven music, strong charisma and rowdy live performances, the talented five-piece have built a loyal following in their home base of the West Midlands/Shropshire region of England and beyond – even out here in the Coachella Valley of Southern California!

Black Bear Kiss4

Comprised of Chris Leech on lead vocals, Colin Haden on lead guitar, Rob Jones on rhythm guitar, Rich Sach on bass, and Chris Bagnall on drums, Black Bear Kiss have been busy playing gigs and putting out a series of great singles, as well as an EP Fighting Our Corner, which they released this past March. A favorite of this blog, I’ve previously reviewed three of their singles (which you can read by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this post). Now the prolific band makes a fourth appearance with their latest single “I Wanna Know“, which dropped on August 9th.

The song gets our blood pumping right from the get-go as Haden and Jones lay down chugging riffs of gnarly quitars over Sach’s heavy, buzzing bass line. These guys play as a tight unit, propelling the song forward with their hard-driving rock’n’roll rhythms while Bagnall pounds out the beat. The layered guitars are fantastic, with aggressive, swirling riffs that create an exhilarating backdrop for Leech’s warm, earnest vocals which, along with the stellar guitar work, are a major component of Black Bear Kiss’s outstanding sound.

With regard to the meaning of the lyrics, Leech explained that the song is “about playing live and the buzz that comes from it – plus relying on your bandmates”: “Come a little closer, the room is on fire. But I’m alright, you’re gonna be fine. Ah, this is our time. I wanna know, just how much you’re meaning this. Lookin’ around, can I rely on you? Guided by stars. Wanna feel it. Wanna feel it all. Guided by stars. Take the other way, take the other way home.

“I Wanna Know” is a great tune, and yet another in a string of solid singles by Black Bear Kiss. I hope they’ll continue to strike gold with many more!

Connect with Black Bear Kiss:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their songs on  Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes cdbaby

VONUM – EP Review: “Dances in the Dark”

VONUM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wild Horse album art

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

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

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

Wild Horse2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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