Brian Deady – Non-Fiction...

Anthony Kelly dips into a little Skibbereen soul with the new Brian Deady album.

Muse – Drones

It’s all a little bit absurd – Muse are back with more of their brand of bombastic rock.

METZ – METZ II

Excitement used to be the true currency of rock and roll. The raw-boned thrill of music played at volume with nothing held back;  Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Velvet Underground,  the Sex Pistols, Nirvana; musicians who incited a primal, feral response from audiences. We are currently going through a particularly barren spell for Rock music. Some commentators have already pronounced it dead and buried. Others continue to wait, holding the view that these things go in cycles but twenty years have passed since that last truly exciting band to capture the public’s imagination had their day.  Nirvana were that band – since then Rock music has been in free-fall, the bland leading the bland. You don’t have to look very far to get a snapshot of where Rock music is at in 2015. Two of the biggest bands to emerge from this country in the last 10 years – The Script and Kodaline. Melodic, musical, technically accomplished, clean-cut, presentable. Nice. Zippo Rock. Perhaps if we look close enough we can trace the decline of Rock music back to the time when it began to elicit nothing more than a desire to whip out a lighter and hold it high in the air. Canadian trio METZ don’t do Zippo rock. They don’t sound nice or presentable. But they are exciting. In fact, they pack more excitement in the first sixty seconds of opening track ‘Acetate’ than most bands manage in a lifetime. They make a furious, taut and explosive noise that hits you right in the gut. Is it Punk? Perhaps, but there is a little more to them than that. The guitars squall and buzz, with a little hint of early Sonic Youth. The Nirvana comparison is not without some foundation...

Mew: + –

Some twenty one years after they formed in Copenhagen, indie Rock quartet Mew remain one of the music scene’s best kept secrets. Feted in their homeland, they continue to enjoy relatively modest success throughout the rest of Europe and the US despite releasing a string of consistently superb albums since their inception. They do have a fervently devoted cult following and it’s evident why once you get to see this band in the flesh – their live concert in the Academy in Dublin 2009 is still one of the best shows I have seen in the last decade, an ambitious mix of high tech visuals and epically bombastic guitar anthems. They are not a band that play the corporate Rock game, eschewing the easy path to success to follow their own strangely, beautiful star. They have all the tools to be a massive arena rock act, but they are too quirkily cryptic, a little too otherworldly to meet the expectations of the masses. That said, sixth album + – (another one of their eccentricities, the enigmatic album title) edges them a little closer to mass acceptance.  It’s an album that mixes Prog Rock arrangements with their ear for deceptively addictive hooks and melodies to deliver their most mainstream sounding album to date. This is the acceptable face of grandiose Rock; accented power chords, drum fills last heard on a seventies era Yes record and singer Jonas Bjerre’s ethereal falsetto combining to make a deeply unfashionable but wholly satisfying noise. ‘Satellites’ opens the album in panoramic fashion – widescreen synths give way to big hair guitar guitars and we are off and running. Bjerre manages to make the vaguely bitter lyrics sound impossibly sweet. ‘Witness’ keeps things on the up and up, indie guitar rock with that special Mew twist.  ‘The...

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love...

Last year’s release of the excellent seven album retrospective ‘Start Together’ signalled the end of a lengthy hiatus for influential Washington punk rock outfit Sleater-Kinney. It also served as a timely reminder of just how vacuous and sterile Rock music has become. Set against many of today’s leading lights on the alternative Rock scene, Sleater-Kinney’s early musical output positively burns with an incandescent vitality and rage. Albums like Call the Doctor (1996) and Dig Me Out (1997) were edgy affairs, bristling with a raw energy that betrayed the bands Washington punk rock roots. They quickly became associated with the riot grlll movement, embracing the left wing, feminist ideology that was at the heart of that scene. While this was, and still is a huge part of the bands identity, it can often overshadow one simple and unassailable truth: Sleater – Kinney are a truly great rock band and eight album No Cities To Love delivers ample evidence that this is still the case, some ten years after the release of their last album. The chemistry between Carrie Brownstein, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss has always been central to their greatness – it is there in abundance on No Cities Left, the muscular riffing and dual, intertwining vocals on tracks like ‘Fangless’ and ‘Surface Envy’, something of a trademark of the band. Weiss contributes handsomely to the bands sound – her lithe, explosive drumming underpinning everything that is great about these songs. ‘ No Cities To Love’ is exuberantly melodic while ‘ A New Wave’ surprises with its almost jaunty chorus. It’s an album that is not as overtly political as some of their earlier releases; with the exception of opening track ‘Price Tag’, Sleater-Kinney steer a less confrontational course, but the lyrics still retain a sharpness, a cutting...

Wilco – Whats Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994 -2014...

A comprehensive, near perfect compilation of some of the best songs from the back catalogue of one of America’s finest bands.

Iceage – Plowing Into The Field of Love...

Formed in 2008, Danish four piece Iceage started life as a punk band in the purest sense.  Their first two albums New Brigade (2011) and You’re Nothing (2013) were snarling, charmingly retro punk artefacts. What they lacked in maturity and originality was more than made up for by the sheer energy and commitment on show. They had that little something extra, an intensity and self-belief that made them stand out from the crowd of garage band hopefuls. Plowing Into The Field of Love marks a surprising shift in direction – the intensity remains but the endearingly juvenile punk wannabe leanings have been discarded. In its place we get a band that have reinvented themselves. It takes a few listens to de-scramble and figure out what’s going on here; the twists and turns, the tempo changes, the new sounds  but once these songs take root, it makes for their most rewarding album to date. Think early Nick Cave fronting a less competent, more ramshackle Bad Seeds and you get the idea. ‘The Lord’s Favourite’ is rough and ready alt-country while early highlight ‘Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled’ is a sparky combination of rolling drums and Post Punk guitars, singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt making every word sound like a direct threat. The growling bass on ‘Let it Vanish’ ushers in one of a number of songs that change tempo at unexpected points – this is definitely not an album recorded to a click track. ‘Abundant Living’ is a surprisingly brief but memorably effective tune that has a certain Pogues-like quality. Plowing Into the Field marks the end of the bands ‘awkward adolescent’ stage and displays signs of a rapidly developing maturity. It still retains the energy, charm and intensity of their earlier records while striving for...

Catfish And The Bottlemen – The Balcony...

Debut review of a debut album for a promising young writer: Stephen Rubbathan shares his thoughts on The Balcony by Welsh indie outfit Catfish And The Bottlemen.

Dry The River -Alarms in the Heart...

Dry the River deliver an album of impressive, soaring arena rock.

Afghan Whigs-Do To The Beast...

The Afghan Whigs were something of a big deal back in the mid nineties. After signing a lucrative recording contract with Electra Records, they released the critical and commercial success that was Gentlemen, an album of noir-ish, epic guitar rock. Released in 1993, this was their moment; MTV sensed it, put them on heavy rotation and for a brief spell they appeared poised to break out of the indie ghetto and into the big leagues. Singer and songwriter Greg Dulli was the kind of front man who made good copy for the music magazines – his confessional, soulful lyrics ensured journalists arrived for interviews with an armful of questions and left with a string of quotable quotes. They broke up in 2001 after a long and exhausting legal wrangle with their record label left Dulli drained and exhausted by the whole experience. Now they are back with the much anticipated ‘Do to the Beast’ and fans of the band will be pleased to know that it is business as usual for the Whigs – this is a comeback album that doesn’t tinker with the formula to any great degree.   Opener ‘Parked Outside’ is a tasty reprise of the satisfyingly chunky guitars and semi sleazy howl that Dulli utilised to great effect on Gentlemen. Dulli still mulls over the same themes – sex, lust, death, infidelity & obsession –  on songs like ‘It Kills’, he somehow manages to roll all these themes into one song. ‘Algiers’ kicks off with that classic Spector drum beat from ‘Be My Baby’ and grooves along nicely in a Pulp Fiction-ish kind of way. ‘Lost In the Woods’ and ‘The Lottery’ are classic examples of the Afghan Whigs sound – Dulli at his most darkly foreboding with the band nudging close...

Wallis Bird – Architect...

  The Irish music scene continues to produce a constant and ready supply of earnest and undoubtedly talented singer-songwriters. There is an argument to be made that we have reached saturation point – the market for troubadours clutching battered acoustic guitars and dog-eared notebooks crammed with heartfelt lyrics is bursting at the seams on this small island. Sorting out the wheat from the chaff can be difficult – it all begins to sound like a seriously intense overdose of sincerity after a while. To her credit, there has always been a little bit more to Wexford born Wallis Bird than that. She may have been nurtured by that scene in the early days, but her last album seemed like a serious attempt to forge her own unique identity, to move away from the claustrophobic and somewhat incestuous local scene. Architect is her fourth album and by some distance, her loosest, least self-conscious sounding record to date. It sounds like the shackles of the ‘earnest singer-songwriter’ tag have been cast aside for a more nimble and funky version of the Bird of previous records. There’s a freedom in the euphoric ‘Hardly Hardly’ and the lithe and dexterous ‘Daze’ that we haven’t seen before; while not quite a dance record, it definitely has moments that might induce a little hip grinding. There is a strong hint of Talking Heads on some of these tracks, never more so than on ‘Girls’, while the rollicking ‘Gloria’ with its high octane beat sounds like it could have been a credible contender for Eurovision glory in Copenhagen next week. We are in more sober territory with standout track ‘Hammering’ and beautiful album closer ‘River of Papers’. Architect represents a bold move for an artist who has reached something of a...

Perfect Pussy – Say Yes To Love...

Searing debut from Syracuse punk/hardcore band Perfect Pussy.

War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream...

Rock music is crying out for someone to come along and shake things up, to breathe new life into a beast that is close to extinction. It continues to stagger on, like a punch drunk boxer, waiting for something to land the killer blow and put it out of its misery once and for all. Great rock music is becoming a scarce commodity, and the scarcer it gets the more we seem to look to the past for our rock fix – a quick look at the highest grossing live acts of the last five years reveals a list of bands that have been plying their trade since before today’s generation of music fans were even born. U2, Bon Jovi and the Rolling Stones still crop up as the biggest live draws – depressingly familiar names peddling the same old wares. Reading the reviews that are beginning to filter through for this third album from Pennsylvanian four piece War on Drugs, you might be forgiven for thinking that the wait is over, that the band to revitalise and re-energise rock music has arrived. Critics have been lavish in their praise of Lost in the Dream but three listens in, it is hard to discern why. Lost in the Dream sounds like Tom Petty playing Springsteen’s Dancing In the Dark over and over and over again with some tasteful Dire Straits guitar noodling thrown in to keep things firmly rooted in the arena rock of the eighties. If that floats your boat, you will find much here to admire, but it’s all very middle of the road and undemanding. This is a very pedestrian, one paced record with none of the looseness or spark we associate with great rock music, rigidly adhering to a basic...

Nirvana – In Utero (20th Anniversary Edition) Feb20

Nirvana – In Utero (20th Anniversary Edition)...

Strip away the myths, the lies and the conspiracy theories that sprung up in the wake of Kurt Cobain’s death and you are left with one unassailable truth – Nirvana were the most important rock and roll band of the last 30 years. They came along just at a time when the music scene needed a vigorous and violent shake up and they delivered that with an almost malevolent glee. Recognising that great rock and roll was synonymous with youth and rebellion, Nirvana harnessed the energy and barely controllable rage of youth and channelled it through their raw and visceral live shows – suddenly, here was a band that parents didn’t understand, and this made them all the more appealing for a new generation of rock fans that were too young to have lived through Punk. Nevermind may be regarded as their defining classic album, but it was In Utero where the real Nirvana stepped forward. Now, remastered, remixed and repackaged for our listening pleasure, we get In Utero: The 20th Anniversary Edition. There is something sadly ironic about an album like In Utero getting the full valet service, yet another cynical example of tomb raiding of the highest order in an attempt to generate more cash from their slender back catalogue of material. Because make no mistake about it – there is only one reason for re-releasing an album like In Utero again – money. Pure and simple. The original recording was nigh on perfect – producer Steve Albini distilled their sound to its core elements and created something explosive, incendiary, alive. Nevermind was a classic album, but listened to side by side with In Utero, its compressed, radio friendly production makes it sound puny in comparison. The slight tweaks introduced for this...

Dum Dum Girls – Too True...

A reverence for pop music’s rich history has been evident in everything that Los Angeles quartet Dum Dum Girls have done since their inception in 2008. The brainchild of lead singer and songwriter Dee Dee Penny, Dum Dum Girls have always been about culling the best bits from some of Rock and Pop’s coolest reference points of the last fifty years.  So we get the sixties sugar rush of the Ronettes/Darlene Love mixed in with the punk attitude of the Ramones and a dash of the Velvet Underground filtered through the Jesus and Mary Chain for good measure. Allied to a strong visual image and the undoubted charisma of their front woman, it’s easy to see why the music scene sat up and took notice when they first emerged. With third album Too True, Dum Dum Girls add very little to the mix other than a slicker, shinier surface – this is undoubtedly their biggest sounding album to date; production values have gone up a notch or two but there is a blandness to much of this generic guitar pop that renders it pretty forgettable. Comparisons with fellow Rock/Pop historians the Raveonettes are valid –both mine similar territory but the Raveonettes push their sound to greater extremes – Too True plays it safe, trading any kind of edge for a cleaned up, radio friendly, bloodless version of how they used to sound. The mawkish ‘Are You Ok’ and the unremarkable ‘Too True To Be Good’ are symptomatic of an album that never really delivers any peaks, settling for a solid middle ground throughout.  ‘Lost Boys & Girls Club’ adds a little welcome scuzzy darkness while opener ‘Cult of Love’ briefly threatens to generate a smidgeon of excitement but the overall impression is one of...

Big Star – Nothing Can Hurt Me...

It was once said about the Velvet Underground that while they sold very few albums during their lifetime, everyone that bought their records went on to form band. Formed in Memphis Tennessee in 1971, Big Star were a band of a similar ilk; they released two albums before disbanding in 1974 – a third album, deemed not commercial enough at the time was released posthumously. They barely registered an impact during their lifetime, but those three albums went on to influence subsequent generations of musicians and to this day, they are cited as one of the most influential acts from that era. The Replacements, REM, Teenage Fanclub Elliot Smith and Primal Scream have all paid homage to them at one time or another and their legacy has endured long after some of the more commercially successful acts of that time have disappeared from view completely. Nothing Can Hurt Me is the companion album to an upcoming documentary movie about the band. It contains twenty one previously unreleased versions of some of their best songs. It is of course, magnificent, containing some of the most beautiful songs from the slim volume of work they left behind. As an introduction to the music of Big Star, it serves its purpose well; for existing fans and completists, hearing the different mixes and versions of their wonderful songs is a fresh reminder of why we fell in love with their music in the first place. The new versions are just about different enough to make this a worthwhile purchase for those who already have their albums. Hearing the sweetly innocent ‘Thirteen’ alongside the raw and exposed ‘Holocaust’ neatly encapsulates the bands short and turbulent history –by the time they got to recording the third album, the personal and...

Beady Eye – BE

Disappointingly bland offering from Liam Gallagher’s Beady Eye -Oasis devoid of the swagger and the killer tunes.

Suede – Bloodsports...

When Suede exploded on to the music scene with their debut album in 1993, they injected a much needed shot of glamour into the staid and grey world of British indie pop. The glam rock stomp and tales of suburban alienation and sexual deviancy of early singles ‘The Drowners’ and ‘Animal Nitrate’ catapulted them on to the front page of every music weekly in the land and very quickly, they became the most talked about band in Britain. With androgynous lead singer Brett Anderson providing a ready supply of controversial quotes, Suede became the first British band since the Smiths to inspire rabid devotion from fans and near hatred from non-believers. Their debut album went gold in Britain on its second day of release but it wasn’t long before tensions within the band led to the departure of guitar wunderkind Bernard Butler. Replacement guitarist Richard Oakes did a reasonable job of imitating the trademark Butler guitar sound and the band continued to enjoy reasonable success before calling it a day in 2003. And now they are back with Bloodsports, their sixth album and unquestionably their best since Coming Up in 1996. Bloodsports sounds like some long lost recording that should have surfaced between their debut and their critically acclaimed third album Dog Man Star, a cryogenically frozen Suede reanimated and reinvigorated with the cocky self-assurance of old. The swagger is back – guitar heavy tracks like ‘Snowblind’ and ‘It Starts and Ends with You’ are fantastic pop songs that rank up there with the best of some Suede’s early work. The grandiose ‘What Are You Not Telling Me?’ is Suede at their most epic and dramatic while ‘Faultlines’ works on a similarly grand scale. If you were a fan of Suede the first time...

Bloc Party – Four...

After a four year hiatus and rumours of division, disharmony and imminent collapse, Bloc Party return with one of the year’s most eagerly anticipated releases, the aptly titled Four.  There has been much speculation that this record would see the band return to their Art Rock roots, following the disappointingly lukewarm reception for their criminally underrated third album Intimacy. Intimacy attempted to fuse big beats and electronic elements with their trademark indie guitar sound, a move that seemed to estrange fans and critics and cause friction within the band itself. ‘Four’ marks a very definite return to a more guitar orientated sound – while never quite reaching the dizzy heights of their debut ‘Silent Alarm’ there is still enough clever guitar interplay and sonic invention to satisfy existing fans and newcomers to the band alike. Opening with the bludgeoning riff of ‘So He Begins to Lie’ and the manic pop thrill of ‘3 x3’, we are left in no doubt that this is an album with a unified sense of purpose – gone are the forays into experimental electronic terrain that featured so prominently on ‘Intimacy’ and to a lesser extent on second album ‘Weekend in the City’.  We are back in familiar Bloc Party territory here  –  the more sedate call and response dual  guitars of first single ‘Octopus’ take things down a notch before album highlight ‘Real  Talk’ with its stop start beat and high pitched chorus vocal gives way to ‘Kettling’ and another pulverising riff heavy track. From here on in, the thrills thin out; the second half of the album is a little more patchy with the melodic ‘V.a.l.i.s’  the best on show. Lacking the spiky, Post Punk abandon of ‘Silent Alarm’, the brutally naked honesty of ‘Weekend in the...