Hobbes Fanclub at Big Takeover (print)

The moniker of this coed Bradford, England trio’s album may insinuate something like vintage ZZ Top, but that’s light years off course. HFC bowed in 2012 with the outstanding “Your Doubting Heart” single, aesthetically fulfilling the promise of by-gone no-hit wonders from their home turf’s C86 indie scene 25 years ago. Up follows suit with that and 10 more utopic, tremolo kissed blasts that find them peering into their local reflecting pool with visages of early Primal Scream, Stone Roses, and Moose exchanging an approving wink and a nod back. The best of the best, including the intoxicating “Boy From Outer Space” and “Outside Myself,” could very well see the Hobbes ascending to the highest echelons of their ilk. Pains of Being Pure at Heart, consider yourselves warned!


Emotional Response at When You Motor Away

Punk popping Boyracer has had a long career in the creases of the indie world.  Their work has been released by Slumberland, Sarah, Jigsaw, HHBTM and others, and the band has released over 800 songs sing 1991.  Apparently, that golden pension plan available to all indie rockers have vested, because the Pete Shelly EP is said to be their final release.  While I find that news sad, at least they are going out on a high note.  To be more exact, many high notes, many low notes, some percussion, some snarl, and all of it as loud as you like it.  None of us would have it any other way.

For the Pete Shelly EP, Chief Boyracer Stewart Anderson is joined by his spouse Jen Turrell and guitarist Matt Green.  The title track starts off proceedings with a song that is as close to an anthem as you likely will get with crash pop.  Replay it a few times – you deserve it.  “2nd Wave Mod” is a footstomper with sneering vocals, pounding drums and sawing guitars.  “The Kind of Man You Really Are” features a snaky groove.  Jen takes the lead vocals for the more indie pop, and very tasty, “Jump”.  Play it loud, and play it proud.  Farewells don’t have to be sad.

The record is released by Emotional Response Records, which is a label run by Stewart Anderson and Jen Turrell, who together previously ran the labels 555 Records and Red Square.  You can buy the vinyl or the digital download, and either one gets you two digital bonus tracks.  You can order via Bandcamp, but Stew and Jen advise ordering though their website at the bottom of the post, as it will be less expensive.


The Black Watch at Whisperin and Hollerin

Yes The Black Watch are back with their 12th album and they have also put out 5 EPs over the years, yet somehow this is still the first album by them that I’ve ever heard and so I’m unable to tell you if they are maturing like a fine cigar or if this is the album where they finally lose the plot and should have given up by now. All I can do is review it on what I’m hearing and the info in the press release that tells me that while they still tour as a 4-piece this album is pretty much a solo album by Main Black Watch man John Andrew Fredrick. Will this improve the band’s luck or doom them to further obscurity? Who knows.

So it opens with an OK jangle pop song Sugarplum Fairy that has decent fizzing guitars and flies by in a very swift one and a half minutes. Before There You Were, however, attempts to melt the speakers in the style of the sort of home recording you get when you try to overlay 4 or 5 guitar sounds without the proper equipment. It’s almost like a bargain basement Sonic Youth and it’s not at all bad.

Scream is neither here nor there indie pop that has “Fey” written all over it which is odd for a song with such a title. The minor indie Pastels meets 14 Iced Bears backing for Dear Dead Love is sort of at odds with the darkness of the lyrics but works and would sound fine on any number of indie playlists.

Darling, I’ve Been Meaning To is sort of like Velvet Crush on downers. No bad thing, actually, though if it’s meant to get his darling back I’m not sure this is going to work. Good Night, Good Night, Good Night is quieter with what sounds like a buzzing amp sitting in one corner while he sings a sort of twisted indie lullaby hoping the shimmering tambourine will make you drop off and ignore the buzz if you can. Quietly Now still has the buzzing amp going as you go back down stairs hoping the kid is sleeping as strangely the song keeps getting louder like he is battling against his own best interests. It’s also a bit like The Wallflowers.

Nothing has a very familiar sound to it and is a bit like the Vaselines songs that Eugene Kelly sings. It has some well odd lyrics about drinking hemlock and arguing with Cassius Clay all while also trying to be a bit like the quiet bits of Cure songs. In many ways it’s also a high spot on the album with the insistent acoustic guitar being the main sound. A cool song.

Anne Of Leaves seems to be a sort of telling of the Anne Of Cleaves story, but not really. Again, it’s a quiet song with a nice piano or keyboard bit as he rues the brief encounter over two drinks at an airport. A Major Favor is so gentle as to be hardly there at all and doesn’t really sound like someone asking for a major favor at all.

The album closes with a love song to Dear Anne who may well have gone walkabout, but it sounds like an attempt at a Nick Drake style folky love song. At only about a minute long it’s also nice and brief and a nice closer to a pretty decent minor indie cult band album.


Throwing Muses at Innocent Words

In the fall of 2013, seminal indie rock band Throwing Muses broke a 10-year hiatus – although to be honest it wasn’t much of a hiatus for front woman Kristin Hersh who continued to releases masterful solo albums and guitar-driven punk rock with her other band 50 Foot Wave. But I digress. Throwing Muses return with the 32-track masterpiece ‘Purgatory/Paradise.’

In typical Hersh and band fashion, the Muses gave back to their fans with the return album offering up a gorgeous hardback book full of lyrics, short essays and stories by Hersh about each song, and exclusive photographs and artwork. In addition you got a download code for these exclusives:

~ A commentary track featuring Kristin Hersh and David Narcizo
~ An instrumental version of the full album
~ Prepackaged mp3 and lossless versions of every track with embedded metadata, artwork and lyrics.

Taking it a step further, thanks to the fine folks of Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records, ‘Purgatory/Paradise’ is now out on vinyl. True, the 2-LP gatefold vinyl version doesn’t offer up the amenities which the original release did, but hearing ‘Purgatory/Paradise,’ one of the bands best releases in their nearly 30-year career, is priceless.

As an album, ‘Purgatory/Paradise,’ which takes its name from an intersection in Hersh’s Rhode Island hometown, is an exquisite collection of music from one of music’s finest songwriters, not to mention fellow Muses drummer David Narcizo and bassist Bernard Georges put in some of their finest work to date.

Hovering around the two to three minute mark, the songs are short bursts, which culminate into one cohesive album. The tracks, much like Hersh herself, are authentic, unrelenting and organic. At 32 songs, you could easily try to break this album down into rock songs and acoustic songs, but after listening to it, that task is virtually impossible. The songs have both elements mixed in. There’s even hints at a little blues and retro pop fused in. The tracks “Opiates;” “Sunray Venus;” “Milan;” and “Speedbath” are forceful rockers which ebb and flow between the other tracks. The Muses are at their best and ballsiest when they turn it up and rock out. Case in point, the two best songs on the album – “Slippershell” and “Sleepwalking 1.”

Hersh, Narcizo and Georges put in a lot of hard work and it pays off. The trio play flawlessly on ‘Purgatory/Paradise’ while, once again bucking the conventional in favor of real rock & roll.


Throwing Muses at Raised by Gypsies

At first, I was hesitant as to whether or not I wanted to review this cassette without the book that was released with it.   Let me jump back in time about a year, as this was released as a CD or digital or whatever in November of last year.   My plan was to get the CD/book combo for Christmas or my birthday and yet somehow that never materialized.   Here we are a year later and I still don’t have the book, sure, but I also don’t have any regrets about not getting the CD because now I have the cassette, which is how I feel Throwing Muses should be heard.

I love Throwing Muses because they were such an essential part of my musical upbringing, as were their sort of spin off bands like The Breeders and Belly.    And it’s funny because it took me some time after the fact to realize that all of these bands were related because back in the 1990’s I never really thought of bands as much about sharing members and just as their own little entities.    So to put this all together in the early ’00’s as I did was just like wow… like when I started putting together the pieces of Mother Love Bone, you know?

Throwing Muses will remain one of my biggest influences as a fan of music.   I tend to complain about the balance in music between male and female bands as there are all these dudes for me to compare music with when growing up but yet not as many noted women.   Even somebody like Veruca Salt doesn’t seem as big as maybe 90% of the male fronted bands I could site as comparisons when looking back, but Throwing Muses is just one of those defining bands.

Words may not ever be able to accurately portray how much Throwing Muses means to me as a band and piece of my childhood but these new songs are just excellent and I’m glad that they found their way to cassette because that’s just always how I will prefer to listen to Throwing Muses.   Kristin Hersh will forever remain one of my personal heroes and this music should not be missed on cassette.    Expect a book review eventually as well.


Throwing Muses at See Sound

If ever an album was appropriate to its band’s name it’s this, muses thrown out over 32 tracks , traversing their very own “Inferno”.

There are many short tracks with fully formed pin-sharp alt rock like Morning Birds 1 (with it’s fantastic and fearsome opening minute it has an urgency that gives no time for explanation, the second half is more indie pop, the title as with most sounds like the title given to abstract art, they may or may not help understanding of the songs). The beautiful cover art also suggests an interest in, and influence of, abstraction. This is a band flexing their muscles, showing that they can exist at the plateaux of their indie peak with little need to explain, this is muscular Pop. Sunray Venus, for example, sprawls because it can, it has many facets. Rather than be to in debt to a jewellers design, some songs are imperfect crystals as nature intended but none the less beautiful for it. It’s something like the aural equivalent of an art exhibition, minor sketches follow large canvasses, the short fragments show the creative process and allow an idea not to be lost. Perhaps they show the creative crossroads at which an idea is discarded or makes it’s way to use in a full length song.

The many short tracks may prompt skipping in the casual listener but luckily there are a multitude of 3 minute plus gems to keep everyone happy. There is something cinematic about the flow of the tracks, short or long they seem to act like scenes, driving a narrative unknown to the listener. Sunray Venus is the first huge track, chugging beat, Cure semi-acoustic guitar and a scalpel sharp vocal. Freesia is dark Country Rock, riding out of the dust storm on a rough picked twang, disappearing off again into a heat haze. Morning Birds 2 is shortish and most like an old 80 s college indie, taking a step further with a Verve style string section. Lazy eye is exceptional – a shadowy drama lead in by a shimmering guitar, the lead vocal and vocal harmonies on the chorus taking flight.

When they rock they are imperious – look no further than the dark streets of Milan, with it’s acoustic verse and electric pre chorus riff, before it soars in said chorus. There’s a certain timelessness overall, this is an album that deserves a place in any collection of melodic alternative rock from the lates 60’s to now. It certifies that Throwing Muses are every bit as good as R.E.M. or the Pixies when they can be bothered.


The Primitives at Dagger Zine

After not being around for over two decades this sugary UK pop quartet returned in 2012 with ECHOES & RHYMES (and album of 60’s covers). I never heard that one and while friends tell me it’s good, you want to hear if a returning band can still write an album full of originals. I have listened to SPIN-O-RAMA, several times and I must say, it’s excellent! It sounds like vocalist Tracy Tracy has not aged one bit and guitarist Paul Court, who sings a few tunes here, still blasts out those hooky guitar riffs like it was the only thing he was put on the planet to do. Also returning is drummer Tig Williams, still happily bashing away, and the band’s old producer Paul Sampson is here on bass (one of the things that brought the band back together a few years ago was the death of their original bassist, Steve Dullaghan).  On SPIN-O-RAMMA, 11 songs breeze by in just under a half hour and from the opening title track on through the punchy “Hidden in the Shadows” onto the janglier, 60’s ish Court-sung “Wednesday World”, you can see they’re in fine form. Elsewhere the trippy (also Court-sung) “Purifying Tone” also caught my ear as did the flat-out great “Lose the Reason” and the lovely “Petals.” I won’t spoil all of the surprises for you but suffice it to say this is a more-than welcome return. SPIN-O-RAMA is superb!


The Primitives at Huffington Post

What’s most impressive with the Primitives first release in over twenty years isn’t just the fact that they’ve released an album, (which is the case for almost every legend act making an attempt to return to the zeitgeist) but the fact that it holds up against their early work AND against all the bands and artists that have been imitating them recently. Put The Primitives’ new album on a The Voice-style competition next to the Allo Darlin’s of the world, and they will come out on top every time.


The Primitives at Canada Daily

What’s many considerable with a Primitives initial recover in over twenty years isn’t usually a fact that they’ve expelled an album, (which is a box for roughly each fable act creation an try to lapse to a zeitgeist) though a fact that it binds adult opposite their early work AND opposite all a bands and artists that have been imitating them recently. Put The Primitives’ new manuscript on a The Voice-style foe subsequent to a Allo Darlin’s of a world, and they will come out on tip each time.


Close Lobsters at This Wreckage

Somehow, I mostly missed Scottish band Close Lobsters back in the late 80s, but I didn’t completely miss them.  At some point, I picked up a couple of their EPs used, and I still have their excellent song “Lovely Little Swan” on a bizarre 1990 K-Tel Records “modern rock” compilation called The Edge of Rock that I bought simply for the cheap price and the novelty (I say “bizarre,” because I thought K-Tel had long vanished by that point.  My prior K-Tel collection fresh from TV ads was the wondrous Rock 80 from around my ninth birthday– collecting 1979 “new wave” hits from the likes of The KnackThe PretendersGary Numan,BlondieThe Ramones, and Nick Lowe).  They were renowned from their offering from the legendary C86NME compilation that launched so many great bands’ careers, but I apparently I always kind of overlooked them.  So, how did I end up with this brand new 7” single by a band that has been dormant for about 25 years?  Not sure how, but it doesn’t matter, because I love this record!!