Archive for the 405

Lone Wolf – The Devil and I [At The 405]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , on June 8, 2010 by David Hall


“Minor misgivings aside, there is plenty to recommend
The Devil and I; its overall aesthetic is complex and fablish, a rich tapestry yielding intricacies which gradually enfold the listener. Themes are uniformly grave and gloomy, from the noirish WW2 resistance tale of ‘We Could Use Your Blood’ and the dread-filled clairvoyance of ‘Keep Your Eyes on the Road’.”
Lone Wolf – The Devil and I reviewed at The 405.

You sort of heard about Lone Wolf here first. OK, that’s a big and probably incorrect claim, but I think you’ll find reading back over previous No School Like Old School posts you’ll find praise for Paul ‘Lone Wolf’ Marshall’s rather handsome video for Keep Your Eyes on the Road. The song, as I attest in this review, is no slouch either.

As opposed to me; I am a slouch. Like a sloth on a couch. You might notice that my review of Lone Wolf’s debut The Devil and I (great title by the way) was published at The 405 a fair old while ago; last month in fact. The main reason I’ve neglected posting word of these words is, as you’ll notice scrolling all the way past the bottom, a commenter pulled me up on a few points. I thought it was suitable to let the argument run its reasonable course before linking the review up, as it’d be a bit unfair to leave it cut short. Speaking of unfair, I’d like to think once I make a point it stays made, and when I construct an analogy it’s not to be taken literally. But anyway, the argument was enlightening and was all very civilised.

At any rate, at the time of writing, The Devil and I is quite justifiably The 405’s Album of the Week which is all very jolly and that. Oh and if like me the cover reminds you of ‘The Death of Socrates’, that’s because it should; it’s by the same painter, 18th Century French Neoclassicist Jacques-Louis David. All things considered, The Devil and I is beautiful.

Lone Wolf – The Devil and I reviewed at The 405
Lone Wolf on Myspace
The Devil and I on Spotify

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65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway [At The 405]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2010 by David Hall


“I’ve long been an admirer of 65daysofstatic’s work; in fact, I’d probably list them amongst my favourite bands. But remaining impartial for this review of course, whilst
We Were Exploding Anyway by no means disappoints, neither does it truly astonish.”
65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway review at The 405

It’s nice to be vindicated from time to time. We can’t all muddle through life without any idea as to whether our actions are good and correct or dunderheaded and awful. Whether that takes the form of being burned by a hot thing and learning not to put parts of one’s anatomy near such a heat source or having your opinions validated is neither here nor there. Learning from victories and mistakes is how the world works.

So I was pretty pleased when I was vindicated in my opinion of the new 65daysofstatic album We Were Exploding Anyway, by a source I respect and admire no less. Following my own review being published on The 405, I noticed Drowned in Sound had also released theirs. Heading on over to check it out, I quickly realised that not only had we both awarded identical scores to the album (8 out of 10), but also shared key points within the review.

Compare and contrast:

DiS: “[The band’s] status has indubitably waned of late. Maybe this was due to the unexpected tack on last album The Destruction Of Small Ideas, or the even more recent Dance Parties EP, both ravier affairs that seemed to alienate that which had so brilliantly preceded it”
Me: “We Were Exploding Anyway is a more successful meshing of 65dos’ electronic and analogue elements than convoluted and over-intricate previous album The Destruction of Small Ideas. Although the Sheffield four-piece have displaying an increasing penchant for predominantly-electronic tracks in the past (see The Distant and Mechanised Glow of European Dance Parties EP), WWEA is unexpectedly dance-oriented”

DiS: “‘Crash Tactics’ plays on ‘Smack My Bitch Up’-like bass lines […] ‘Weak 04’, also, verges too close into Dance Parties-style Europop behaviour […] ‘Go Complex[‘s]’ opening is reminiscent of the god-awful Hadouken!”
Me: “Some of the album – ‘Crash Tactics’ included – veers alarmingly closely to the nu-rave-punk missteps of The Prodigy’s Invaders Must Die; ‘Go Complex’ and ‘Weak4’ are particularly guilty of lulling into this trap at times”

DiS: “An appearance from recent-tour-mate-slash-renowned-goth-chap Robert Smith on ‘Come To Me’ only furthers those [positive] feelings”
Me: “The Cure’s Robert Smith (zomg!, etc) provides that vocal layer, guesting on the cut-up would-be-club-anthem ‘Come to Me’, which hits a thrilling stride and is representative of We Were Exploding Anyway’s most successful moments”

DiS: “Thinking back to how ‘Fix The Sky A Little’ first moved you, or how ’65 Doesn’t Understand You’ made you throw yourself around with reckless abandon”
Me: “There’s nothing here that makes me want to flail my limbs in so uninhibited a manner as would suggest my motor skills failed to successfully develop during infancy like ‘Retreat! Retreat!’ does” 

DiS: “It’s the final two songs that seem to have the balance of power, finally, correct.”
Me: “‘Debutante’ is starkly yet organically beautiful, segueing into closer ‘Tiger Girl’”

Whether that just means these were obvious talking points is up for debate; I chose to see the glass as half full for a change. For the record I’m neither a positive ‘glass half full’ nor a negative ‘glass half empty’ person. I’m more of an angry/cynical ‘some bastard has stolen half of my drink’ person.

65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway review at The 405
65daysofstatic on Myspace

65daysofstatic on Last.fm
We Were Exploding Anyway on Spotify

Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor [At The 405]

Posted in EP, Review with tags , , , , , , , on May 1, 2010 by David Hall


“Alessi’s Ark operates in a comfortable middle ground between the sheer eye-twitching madness of Joanna Newsom and the mild manners of Laura Marling […] But since both Marling and Newsom released major new albums this year, Alessi might be drowned out to a great extent, pleasant though this EP is.”
Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor EP reviewed at The 405.

Life is far too short for half-decent EP’s and that’s a fact. Half decent albums are fair enough really; at least you’ll get your money’s worth of actually ‘good’ songs in there, theoretically. Half decent songs make up most of your existence and most of your record collection, and don’t try to tell me that’s not true. Anyway, they’re over much quicker than either EP’s or albums so half-decent songs are neither here nor there. But bloody half-decent EP’s… all they do is take up disk space, quite frankly.

I’ve just bought Glen Duncan’s I, Lucifer, and I could be reading that. But instead I’m taking time out to tell you about the new (ish) Alessi’s Ark EP Soul Proprietor, which is desperately alright. Take this as me listening to it in order to tell you that you don’t have to; and since I have and I wrote about it, you might as well know about it. There’s very little to recommend it over Alessi’s debut album Notes from the Birdhouse, and to be honest I suggest you skip Soul Proprietor entirely and just pretend she’s been perfecting cheesecake receipes until her next album comes out. As I mention in this review, Notes from the Birdhouse is a wonderful little album, which you will find infinitely more enriching than the sparse Soul Proprietor. Talented though Alessi Laurent-Marke clearly is, spare yourself from her half-decent EP.

Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor EP reviewed at The 405
Alessi’s Ark on Myspace

Alessi’s Ark on Last.fm
Listen to Soul Proprietor and Notes from the Birdhouse on Spotify

DISAPPEARS – LUX [At The 405]

Posted in Album with tags , , , , on April 9, 2010 by David Hall

“I mistakenly listened to the record with my iPod on random and didn’t notice the bloody difference. I struggle to think of another album where you could listen to the whole thing in a different order and simply not realise.”
DISAPPEARS – LUX review at The 405

As ratios go, Disappointment in Album Following Impressive First Track is not a good one to rate highly on. Unfortunately, the shoutily-named DISAPPEARS (I feel the almost-constant desire to refer to them as DISA-BLOODY-PPEARS!) do just that, with a record that simply diminishes from its opening track onwards. Gone Completely is seriously very, very good and I’m pretty sure I’ll still think that over the months to come. Its fluid blues-based riff over a chugging, staccato rhythm chord progression and whacking great clod-hopping drums with rambled lyrical barkings was like Glasvegas gone right. Then the rest of LUX is even worse than Glasvegas.

Anyways, please still check out my review at The 405, which I’m linking to on the day it was actually published for a change! Gone Completely is more than worth investigation on the band’s Myspace, which as usual is linked below…

DISAPPEARS – LUX review at The 405
DISAPPEARS on Myspace

Tall Ships – Tall Ships EP [At The 405]

Posted in EP with tags , , , , on April 2, 2010 by David Hall

“Yes it’s supposed to be random, yes it’s supposed to be kitsch; but this isn’t Frontier fucking Psychiatrist so it doesn’t work.”
Tall Ships – Tall Ships EP review at The 405

My review of Tall Ships’ debut self-titled EP has been up for some time on The 405 without me realising. So apologies for the rather lengthy silence, but I have plenty of things in the pipeline. I was relatively disappointed with Tall Ships, I must say; Books is tremendous, but nothing else quite lives up to the hype. Whilst I was writing this review, the BBC came to essentially the same conclusion, big thumbs up for Books but conspicuous silence over the remainder of the EP. Anyway, well worth a listen and their next move should be interesting.

Incidentally you might want to check out The 405’s rather tasty Good Friday Mixtape before gorging yourself to death on hot cross buns and chocolate eggs. Is The Sun Smells Too Loud the best thing Mogwai have ever done? Contentious, but it’s far and away the most danceable track they’ve ever produced; I bloody loves it I do.

Tall Ships – Tall Ships EP review at The 405
Tall Ships on Myspace

The Longcut – Open Hearts [Album]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , , , , on February 19, 2010 by David Hall


An edited version of this review was published at The 405, October 2009.

You’d be entirely forgiven for not recalling Manchester indie electro trio The Longcut and their excellent debut album A Call and Response. It’s been over three years since that record’s release, so to say they have considered their next move carefully is quite an understatement. This wasn’t entirely the bands fault, as they parted ways with record label Deltasonic and slipped somewhat off the radar in-between albums. That’s a shame, as A Call and Response was a fine record and their live show is quite frankly transcendent, with default frontman Stuart Ogilvie traipsing this way and that, to the mic or to trigger electronics one moment, to pound away behind his drumkit the next.

Open Hearts is an album on which The Longcut try steadfastly to reconcile the differences between their often astounding material and the record’s troublesome gestation. Lead single Repeated is a case in point; comparatively short and simple, but bridging many gaps between the dance and indie genres, experimentation and structure, words and music and so on. Repeated is also situated between two much more remarkable yet less immediate tracks, leaving it functioning similarly to A Tried and Tested Method, as a teaser to an album which contains far greater things. Beforehand, Mary Bloody Sunshine takes off from a stilted, see-sawing riff into a flurry of multitracked guitars and washing keys, happens upon a wheezing breakdown, then is off again with acoustic percussion. Afterwards, the bubbling, largely instrumental Boom demonstrates that The Longcut are perfectly happy to leave passages of the album wordless. Whilst on balance Open Hearts probably has more lyrical content than A Call and Response, there is more than enough going on to vindicate this decision.

A ‘call to arms’ might have become something of a cliché when it comes to describing album openings these days, but in Out at the Roots’ case it’s fairly accurate. “Put on those dancing boots, we’re gonna tear this place right out at the roots” Ogilvie urges amidst the flailing chorus. Whilst a lack of finesse means it isn’t the most beautifully crafted lyric of all time, this rallying cry captures and emulates a furious underdog spirit and resolve. A ferocious, razor-sharp bassline from Jon Fearon – like Muse’s Hysteria getting stuck in digital mud – slingshots the track along, free to breathlessly dip in and out of the chorus. Out at the Roots is a prickly and experimental opener, with its eventual multi-tracked run-in sounding like a significant step forward in The Longcut’s sound. Pulsating synths pummel Ogilvie’s imperfect – and slightly nasal – but well-projected voice on the much calmer Something Inside, more groove-based than Out at the Roots. A heavily processed chorus’ chopped up vocal begins to sound like Everything in its Right Place before the refrain segues into a frantic, clashingly loud climax. The droning guitar intro of Tell You So continues Lee Gale’s never-fail technique of finding an interesting chord shape and holding it for as long as humanly possible. The track peaks and troughs expertly, with saturated slabs of noise lulling into almost-vacant sections of calm, propelled along by relentless drumming.

Open Hearts really hits its stride from Evil Dance onwards, a techno keyboard intro and tinkling cymbals hewn by another strident bassline and glitching beats. After its drilling initial chant, the track knuckles down and offsets its bold bass with glacial synths into a danceable melee reminiscent of A Call and Response’s A Quiet Life. The snow from its rippling beat causes Ogilvie’s vocal to distort, as if he were singing into an electric fan. It’s an almost unintentionally good effect, akin to watching The Longcut on Channel 4 in 1989, and embellishing the album with a human, not-quite pristine atmosphere; always interesting in the relatively sterile realm of electro. Interlude You Can Always Have More picks up where the outro of Evil Dance left off, all propulsive drumming and hyperdrive tremolo picking, which crashes to the ground and Open Hearts emerges. It’s clearly, far and away the best track on the album and arguably the best thing The Longcut have done, beginning with a quiet and reserved picked guitar chime before going undergoing several thrilling stages of metamorphosis. The bass is fuzzier and looser than other tracks and is gradually caked with gently swaying keyboards in euphoric waves and pulses. Remix hi-hats and delay-soaked vocal loops become increasingly frenetic, before Open Hearts ascends into two minutes of sheer, sweaty, last-song-in-the-club, dance-with-your-eyes-closed joy before tottering off into the frosty, slo-mo night of At Any Time.

The Longcut have timed Open Hearts’ release rather well – unwittingly it would seem – as indie disco is so hawt right now, with acts such as Digitalism, Midnight Juggernauts and The Whip all doing brisk business. It’s comforting that Open Hearts as a track is their magnum opus at this point; it’ll certainly soften the blow that its parent album took a full three years from A Call and Response’s release to surface, with just a single – a morose cover of You Got the Love with Idiot Check as double-A side – and the Airtight Session EP in the intermission. Unfortunate though it may be, their star has definitely waned; the venues visited on their last tour are noticeably smaller than they’ve played in the past. Whilst the band’s sophomore album doesn’t scale the consistently immense heights of A Call and Response provided by A Last Act of Desperate Men, Gravity in Crisis and Vitamin C, anyone who enjoyed that record will welcome this release. Hopefully, The Longcut won’t take such an eye-wateringly excruciating length of time to produce a follow-up to Open Hearts and capitalise on its success.

8 out of 10.

Melodic
The Longcut on Myspace
The Longcut on Last.fm