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Track of the Day: Your Cat Is A Landmine – ‘Natalie Portman’s Tapeworm’

Your Cat Is A Landmine – ‘Natalie Portman’s Tapeworm’

YCIAL

Surely the most downright peculiar collection of words ever to head a review – music or otherwise? Anyway…

‘Natalie Portman’s Tapeworm’ is the lead track from Lincoln based (not to mention fantastically named) three piece Your Cat Is A Landmine’s new EP, ‘A Gift Horse You Can’t Ignore’. And sweet jesus, WHAT a tune. Expertly crafted, like a great piece of furniture; you can tell Mike (Guitar, Backing Vocals, Keyboards), Ben (Bass, Lead Vocals) and Alex (Drums, Backing Vocals) are not only biblically talented, they also love the music they’re making. And on ‘Natalie Portman’s Tapeworm’, it shows. Opening with a gorgeously thick, intricate guitar and building via insistent riffs through a double verse and fabulous bridge to one of the absolute best choruses I’ve heard in years. Try and fight off the urge to sing along. You won’t be able to manage it. Trust me.

‘Natalie Portman’s Tapeworm’ is an absolute stormer of a tune; three and a half minutes of sheer auditory pleasure. I can’t stop listening to it. Well done fellas.

Check out the video here:

You can buy the band’s EP from their Bandcamp page: http://catlandmine.bandcamp.com/

You can also find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yourcatisalandmine

The Wonders Of t’Internet – Featuring Tragic Gadget.

The Wonders Of t’Internet – Featuring Tragic Gadget.

Over the last few years I’ve regularly waxed lyrical about what I believe to be one of the best ways of discovering new music; chasing links on YouTube. For the ten or so of you who are left in the world who aren’t familiar with this practice, here’s how it works. First, load up a video of a song you like. Listen to said song. Now, here’s where things potentially get interesting. See the ‘Suggestions’ column on the right? Click on something. It doesn’t matter what it is, it could be a live version or a collaboration with the artist whose video you’ve just watched, maybe a cover of the same song by a different band, anything. If you’re feeling really brave, go for something you don’t know. Like what you’re hearing now? Excellent, choose another. Didn’t like it? Not a problem, keep choose another from this new video. Whilst it’s by no means a fool proof way of exploring, I encourage you to persevere.

Using this very process I have today discovered an absolute gem that I’d like to share with you. It’s called ‘Shot In The Dark’ by Tragic Gadget. It’s a wonderfully infectious piece of sunny, uplifting pop music. Singer Kim Tillman’s vocals are sublime, not to mention the sublimely intricate guitar work from six stringers Chris Lorentz (who also provides fabulously funky bass), Corey Richardson and John Bruton.

Check it out – then when the video ends, go ahead and click some links. You never know what you might discover!

 

 

Gazing into the musical crystal ball… (The QH Jan 2014)

Gazing into the musical crystal ball… (Originally published in The QH in January 2014)

Our retinas are at long last being given a break from gaudy Christmas chintz. Leftover turkey and mince pies seem but a distant memory, the New Year’s Day hangovers have finally subsided and Crème Eggs are already in your local Tesco. Yep, it’s January. The drudgery of the four weeks following festive excess may feel like a lifetime, and the weather certainly isn’t helping. Depressed yet? Yup, me too. Not to worry however, a sure fire way to beat those start-of-the year bouts of soul obliterating misery is to look at the year ahead. Plan a holiday. Dust off those summer clothes. Decide to learn a language. Or in the case of this column, time then to stare forth into the vast chasm of possibility that is 2014, in order to seek out for you some of the new year’s upcoming albums.

It’s shaping up to be a bit of a corker of a year, musically speaking. Beginning the year’s schedule of exciting releases is Iller Than Most, the new record from the hilariously named MC Del The Funky Homosapien. You won’t find this one plonked on the shelves of your local HMV though (yes, it’s still there) – Del has released this one completely free under the name Zartan Drednaught COBRA via SoundCloud. He describes the self-produced record as “fun to listen to, nothing super heavy”. Go forth and check it out. Post-grunge (no, I have no idea what it means either) stalwarts  Switchfoot have a new album heading your way on January 14th about kittens, clouds and clowns. Probably.  Rock cornerstone Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen releases High Hopes on the same day, and on our side of the ocean Sophie Ellis-Bextor releases Wanderlust less than a week later. Out of interest, did anybody know she had actually released anything since 2003 sophomore album ‘Shoot From The Hip’? Came as a surprise to me, put it that way – and I’d bet I’m not the only one. Metallers Within Temptation unleash the highly anticipated Hydra at the end of the month, rounding off January with a blast of symphonic metal histrionics.

Probably the world’s most unlikely pairing release Cheek to Cheek during January too. Go on, take a guess. A fiver says you won’t get it. Give up? Think wrinkly American crooner and arguably the weirdest contemporary pop singer around. No? Alright. Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. I’ll give you a moment to process that. I don’t know about you, but I’m tentatively curious.

Desperately trying to cling onto the last vestiges of a genre they helped define in the early 2000s, boorish nu-metal clowns Limp Bizkit are sadly due to release the follow up to 2011’s laughably awful Gold Cobra at some point this month too.  For a band that occasionally had moments of inspired inventiveness early in their careers (take ‘Re-Arranged’ from Significant Other or ‘Boiler’ from Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavoured Water for instance) its massively disappointing that their recent output has been such utter tripe. Also noteworthy in 2014’s formative month – for more positive reasons – is Ghosts of Download, the new album from eighties pioneers Blondie. The follow up to 2011’s rather excellent Panic of Girls, this is one to watch out for.

February brings new releases from Katy B, quirky northern indie-ers Maximo Park, the seemingly limitless talent of Ed Sheeran as well as the alliterative Nina Nesbitt, to name but a few. March is big-name fest, with new material from Imogen Heap, Example and Lily Allen. Here’s hoping the turgid cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ isn’t indicative of the rest of the albums content. Inexplicably March will also see the posthumous release of Out Among The Stars by country rebel Johnny Cash.

At the time of writing, the rest of the year is rammed fuller than Robin Thicke’s hate mail inbox with new releases. Heading your way is brand spanking new stuff from rockers AC/DC, The Cult, Enter Shikari and the Foo Fighters, frankly terrifying metallers Arch Enemy and a new record from one quarter of the ‘Big Four’ of metal – namely Anthrax. Ageing pop punkers Bink 182 follow up sombre 2009 album Neighbourhoods this year too, and following suit are the Californian contemporaries The Offspring with what has to be about their 393rd release. We’re also going to be treated to another posthumous release, this time from King of Pop Michael Jackson, and there’s something for the hipsters too; a new opus from the ironically named Fun. Lana Del Rey and Emeli Sande have new stuff in the pipeline, and irritatingly so does Kanye West following up 2013’s collection of odes to intelligence and humility that was Yeezus.

Much for us to get excited about then. Happy 2014, everyone.

Rant: Caught In The Headlights.

Rant: Caught In The Headlights.

Happy days – the lovely folks over at CALM have decided to let me be a featured writer and spout forth my incessant ramblings over a real, honest-to-god website! If you fancy reading a bit of irrational, bile-encrusted rage you can find my first piece for them by clicking the link. You know you want to.

In all seriousness, CALM – or to give it it’s full title Campaign Against Living Miserably – is an absolutely superb charity, focusing on generating awareness of male mental health issues. They also provide a free, confidential support service. Their website is well worth checking out as it’s an absolute treasure trove of superb writing covering all manner of topics.

Abba ‘Ring Ring’ (Deluxe Edition) – Review.

ABBA ‘Ring Ring’ Deluxe Edition (EMI)

abba ring ring

The album reissue is certainly a controversial topic; the cynical amongst us view it as merely an attempt to cash in on an artist’s back catalogue whereas some believe it’s a great way to get our hands on that elusive rarity. Those of us with a penchant for rose tinted glasses may even see it as a tribute to an artist, to expose a whole new generation to their work. Or for die-hard fans to get hold of absolutely every last scrap of recorded material their idol/s released, plus a few additional juicy bonuses besides. Me? I tend to flit between all of these schools of thought, and where my dice land is based on a couple of factors. Who the artist is, and how long ago the initial album was released are the main two. I also tend to be more cynical if the artist is still recording and releasing new material.

The artist in question here is of course the almighty Scandinavian pop juggernaut that was Abba.  Whatever your musical preferences, you can’t hate Abba – their particular brand of brilliantly honest, hook crammed and very slightly emotionally tinged pop is about as inoffensive as said genre gets. I grew up with 1980 album ‘Super Trouper’ being played in my house on a fairly regular basis, and despite not being entirely sure what the phrase meant, I would insist on repeated plays and my father was only too happy to oblige.

‘Ring Ring’ was the band’s 1973 debut and whilst it wasn’t exactly a worldwide success, it still achieved 3x platinum certification in Australia and a No.2 chart position in the band’s native Sweden as well as No.1 in nearby Belgium. Unlike current bands that seem to release only a couple of tracks from an album as singles, Abba released a total of nine of the original tracks from ‘Ring Ring’ worldwide between 1972 – 1973. Perhaps the best known track from the album (to the casual listener, anyway) is the raucous pop bombast of the Neil Sedaka co-written title track.

This particular ‘Deluxe’ Edition of the album comes in a two disc format. The first is a CD split into three sections. The first, perhaps obviously, is the full original album. The second and third sections comprise a slew of bonus tracks including – most interestingly – the title track in no fewer than three additional languages; Swedish, German and Spanish. The third section is devoted especially to six early versions of main album tracks. The second disc is a DVD including interviews, live performances and an ‘International Sleeve Gallery’ – and surprising as this may seem, no the latter is not a tribute to the bands tailor.

So, the album itself then – beginning with the raucous pop of the title track, you immediately get a sense of Abba’s ultra-infectious songwriting and Anni-Frid and Agnethas superbly powerful vocals… and oh dear. Unfortunately, it goes downhill from there. Descending into the realms of horrendously dated sub – par folk, the rest of the album lacks the pristine pop sheen and songwriting finesse of ‘Ring Ring’, which thankfully re appeared through much of the bands later output. The only slight saving grace is final track (on the album proper) ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Band’, but even this pales in comparison to later material.

The bonus tracks fare no better; most fall into the same trap as the album itself – formulaic, dull folk music. Aforementioned multiple versions of ‘Ring Ring’ aside, the only thing of note is a promotional track for the band’s 1973 tour of Sweden – which is rendered pointless if you don’t speak Swedish. The early versions of album tracks would be mildly interesting if the songs themselves were any cop, but sadly they aren’t. They are only of any use as a means of charting the evolution of the songs and picking out the better production of the album versions.

This re-release falls firmly into two camps. Shameless cash-in for one, and if I’m being kinder it’s a great package for all you die-hard Abba completists out there. If you don’t fit this description, it’s hard to recommend this as a purchase.  Opt instead for one of the Abba Gold compilations; they contain all the essentials from the band’s catalogue.

2/5.

Thanks to Dan McCormick from Prescription PR for sending me the album for review.

Introducing – Universal Law.

Every so often, I’ll feature an unsigned band I reckon people should know about. Here’s the first.

Introducing – Universal Law.

universal law logo

Lincoln based punk/funk/rock/hip hop crossover act Universal Law are a little like a Jamie Oliver recipe. Combining the finest moments of Rage Against The Machine and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, chucking them into an industrial sized blender with white hot riffs, a ton of explosive energy and a bucket of personality and serving the whole lot millimetres from your face to create one of the most exciting live acts to come out of the east midlands backwater.

Sod your identikit shoegazing indie bands that litter every pub on a Friday evening, catch a Universal Law gig and you KNOW the party is just getting started. *Slightly* unhinged frontman Will delivers his expertly crafted rhymes with an irresistible conviction and confidence that’s hard not to get caught up in, and he’s not shy to get the audience involved either – which he achieves without anybody in the room cringing, something I haven’t seen in any live band at all in recent years. Flanked by the effortless cool of supremely talented guitarist Ed unleashing the aforementioned orgy of white hot riffs and effortless funk and bassist Eddie, whose bass lines give funk overlord Bootsy Collins a run for his money, minus the dodgy dress sense. Behind the whole thing is local thubthumping legend Perks – one hell of a drummer, laying down complex offbeat grooves that try as you might, you will NOT be able to stop yourself moving to. The thing that unites all four of these guys though, apart from raw talent, is the sheer love of what they’re doing. None of them hide it either, a welcome change in a world of po faced frontmen and drummers who look like they’re about to shit themselves.

I’ve not even got on to the best bit yet. The tunes. Sweet jesus, the tunes. Whether it’s the mid tempo funk of future anti-establishment anthem ‘Freedom’, the catchy riffing of ‘Fighting the Virus’ or ‘Running Round All Day’ or the tailor made for sing-alongs ‘Universal Law’, there’s something here for everybody to love. No, really – everybody.

Don’t believe me? Check the guys out for yourselves on their Soundcloud Page: https://soundcloud.com/universallawband

Like what you hear? You can follow the guys on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/universallawband