Saturday, 5 July 2014

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #50

Well, well, well, it's been a while hasn't it? This round-up features new albums from The Phantom Band, Kasabian and the prematurely-defunct Towns. There's also new music from First Aid Kit, Jupiter Lion, Parquet Courts, The Moons, Menswe@r, La Roux, Martin Duffy, plus Brian Eno And Karl Hyde. All that and a new edition of The RW/FF Compilation, featuring some of the best recent sounds...

OK, it's been over a month now, so I think I'd better write the 50th RW/FF column/round-up type thing. For a while I aimed to publish a new one every week, a plan which then changed to once every fortnight. But a whole month without a column? Don't worry, I won't make a habit of it. Why has it been so long since RW/FF #49? Because the month that followed has included a trip to Portsmouth to see Damon Albarn as well as a few other gigs, lots of record shopping, my 30th birthday, a rather excellent World Cup, endless hours spent listening to new music, and the usual daily routine of writing about the Track Of The Day and the retrospective Rewind selections on the RW/FF website. Add to that a mounting list of albums I've had to review, and I've not felt able to do all those things AND find the time to gather together a round-up.

Extra hours have been spent mourning and celebrating the comedy legend that was Rik Mayall, while the weekend just gone was of course all about Glastonbury. I didn't go, I just watched it at home like I have done every year. In fact you can read an article I wrote HERE about the highs and lows of this year's much talked about event. June's certainly been one busy month. So busy that I haven't got room this week to talk about the new LPs from Plank!, and the Manic Street Preachers. Those will be in next week's 'making up for lost time' round-up. That will also include a Damon Albarn gig review, plus lots of new music from the likes of The Vacant Lots, Hell Death Fury, Esben And The Witch, Tape Waves, Paws, Traams and many more. If you're really that impatient, then all recent RW/FF reviews can be found HERE. But first, I'd better fill you in on the best album I have heard so far this year...




There are a lot of bands who attempt to mix various genres together and end up with an interesting, yet often messy result. Then there are lots of others who are good with melodies but too ordinary to stand out from the rest. Glasgow six piece The Phantom Band are neither of these things. What they are is an open minded, forward thinking outfit with the ability to create a unique, cohesive sound from a range of styles that really shouldn't fit together, while threading it all together with the sort of ear grabbing tunes that only truly great songwriting can produce. Admittedly their third LP 'Strange Friend' is a grower that takes time to absorb, but aren't all the best albums these days? It's their first new material in over 3 years and follows 2010's highly impressive 'The Wants'. And this time they've nailed it. 

As far as curtain raisers go, they don't come better than stunning 'The Wind That Cried The World'. From the start, a strongly propulsive, highly infectious melody journeys through terrific explosions of enchanting, ethereal harmonies, entrancing synth patterns and elevating motorik rhythms, while singer Rick Anthony's rich tones give it authority and emotional power. “The verses have a kind of nursery rhyme musical naivety and we wanted the choruses to just sort of blast in,” explains Anthony, “The lyrics were kind of stream of consciousness that alludes somewhat to the inherent meaninglessness and randomness of artistic creation. The whole track acts as a nice opener and first single: a sort of a statement of intent after being away for so long.” A statement of intent it is indeed.


On the glorious 'Clapshot', the spaces where one would normally expect to be filled with layers of guitar are instead given to brilliantly antiquated organs, as soaring melodies arise from a pacey rhythm driven by joyous momentum. Credit goes to drummer Iain Stewart for his terrific performance on this one, and throughout the rest of 'Strange Friend'. However, The Phantom Band are an outfit where each member plays an important part, and the places they take each other to musically can only be reached when these people come together. “We’d have fallen apart long ago if any one band member took the reins,” says guitarist Duncan Marquiss, “and that friction between people throws up music that no single person in the band would have imagined otherwise."

In terms of songwriting, they've clearly reached a new level. Wonderfully constructed mixtures of folk, krautrock, prog, indie, power pop and psychedelica are lit up by magnificent instrumentation, as the band's musical chemistry takes the songs in fascinating directions. 'Strange Friend' is one of those records that really will bring you joy. Don't deprive yourself of its magic. Read the full 9.5/10 review HERE.





Towns were a band made up of four childhood friends from the Somerset seaside town of Weston-Super-Mare. Wanting to create an exciting sound as an escape from their humdrum surroundings, on the strength of two demos, the highly promising group were hyped by the NME before they even played their first gig. Maybe they were cursed. A booking agent stole a thousand pounds of the band's money, and following this crushing setback, their label arranged for them to record with Oasis/Verve producer Owen Morris, only for the sessions to be cancelled after the label was taken over by a major. It's fair to say that their experiences of the music industry were not pleasant ones, so they opted to record their debut album with friends from Bristol and release it on the city's Howling Owl Records. 

The resulting twelve tracks have a low budget edge that lends the record a raw honesty, as the band combine baggy, shoegaze and psychedelica with a strong pop aesthetic. Opener 'Get Me There' puts foggy, spiralling guitars over shuffling baggy beats and kicks off the record with an exciting sense of purpose, before the terrific 'Marbles' combines irresistible Britpop melodies with trashy grunge guitars and plenty of glam cool. The thrilling 'Trip Over' is a euphoric blast of rock n roll driven by My Bloody Valentine guitars, while highlight 'Gone Are The Days' thrives with vibrancy, delivering masterful hooks and a buzzing energy not unlike Primal Scream in motorik punk mode.


So you'd think that the future would be an outstandingly bright one for Towns. Instead, the band split up exactly one week after releasing the album, gone before I could even complete this review. Whether they decided that they weren't appreciated enough, or frustrated that music by great new bands isn't able to reach the masses anymore, or possibly just worn down by bad luck and the rotten reality of the music business, it's obvious that this is the public's loss. Perhaps they'd planned all along to record a great album and split just after its release, cementing their magic for others to discover in future years. Maybe word of mouth will see 'Get By' grow in popularity and become something of a lost gem. Gutted to know that we aren't going to be hearing any more music from Towns, but what a fine piece of work they left us with. Read the full 8.2/10 review HERE.






I'd say that I'm quite fair and neutral when it comes to reviewing a Kasabian record. I'm not one of those critics that are too blinded by their hatred of the band to give their music a fair hearing, and I'm not one of the deluded hype mongers who believe they're the saviours of rock n roll. Like a lot of people, I find their arrogance ludicrously silly, and their habit of talking absolute bollocks doesn't exactly make me like them any more. But it doesn't prevent me from enjoying some of their music, which often combines styles and sounds to create something that's melodic and anthemic, yet forward thinking and modern. I'll admit to being sceptical about their first two albums, but soon fell under their spell, and consider 'West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum' and 2011's 'Velociraptor' to be superb pieces of work. '48:13' is their fifth studio album, and strips back the more layered sound of their previous two efforts to return to a stripped back electronic based sound that leaves space for simple touches to make more of an impact.

The brief 'Shiva' just sounds like one minute of them testing out a load of analogue synths, before the forceful baggy trip hop of 'Bumblebee' brings to mind an amalgamation of Led Zeppelin, The Chemical Brothers and Wu Tang Clan, jumping out the speakers with a rowdy chorus that goes off like a bomb. Dodgy lyrics aside, it's impressive. Even better is the defiant 'Stevie', which comes pacing down the track like a hungry assassin, full of vigour and ready to do battle. The short segue '(Mortis)' precedes the electro-ska hip hop madness of the brilliantly arranged, hook packed 'Doomsday', which is so much fun that the clichéd banality of the lyrics can be overlooked. The hard breakbeat funk of progressive centrepiece 'Treat' is exactly as the title says, progressing into a hypnotic house groove, another example of how they can get it right by applying fantastic, imaginative instrumentation. One of their best.

It all starts so well, but can the rest of '48:13' keep up the quality level? 'Eez-eh' reflects the times in a manner that's appropriately just as ridiculous as these times are, a thumping slice of geezer disco that leaps into a fine bit of raver lunacy about halfway through. It'll bury itself into your head like a lot of '48:13' will, but this doesn't prevent it being utter nonsense. Take for example their idea of a hard hitting political lyric: "the wrong men have the power, it's turning my milk sour". Wow. Take that, establishment. So when it comes to politics they're hardly the MC5, but maybe they fare a bit better at expressing the draining despair of crumbling romance on the epic 21st century power pop of 'Bow'? "Are you kidding, this is mental, 'cause you know what we had was broken from the start". Nope, they're no good at that either. The song itself is pretty shoddy too, in fact it sounds a little bit like the piss-weak whinerock of the Lostprophets. And that's the last band you want to be sounding like, given recent events...

So a mixed bag then, containing a handful of superb tracks and just as many bad ones. By going with their gut instincts, their ideas can work brilliantly when the quality is there, but their overconfidence leads to laziness and a not giving a fuck about the lyrical improvements that needed to be made. Didn't anyone around them have the balls to advise them that the lyrics might have needed some serious tweaking? It's undeniable that at times they are great at what they do, and their genre blending has to be admired. But the album takes a woeful slide during its second half, declining into uninspired, predictable dross. Out of all the entries in their discography so far, '48:13' is the album that highlights both the very best and the very worst sides of Kasabian. Read the full 5.5/10 review HERE.



A most excellent offering from the second Parquet Courts album, which was released a few weeks ago on June 2 via Rough Trade. 'Sunbathing Animal' is already being named as one of 2014's best albums by a few excited folk who have heard it, and I agree that it is a fine LP, coming across like a Pavement/Fall/Velvet Underground hybrid that also packs plenty of fresh energy. From it here is the infectiously relentless 'Black And White'. Parquet Courts are a four piece, originally from Texas, now relocated to Brooklyn. They’ve come a long way in such a short time and seem to have genuinely benefitted from word of mouth rather than press hype. 





Two wonderful moments from First Aid Kit's new LP 'Stay Gold', which reached number 9 in the UK album chart, making it their biggest success yet. Well deserved indeed. The album reached number 1 in their native Sweden, and the duo consider their third full-length to be about the sense that "one has to learn appreciate what is and that all flows, that nothing stays". 


It has a notably more full, accomplished sound than previous efforts, even taking in some beautiful strings. Mysterious, haunting and with a strong ability to get stuck in your head, 'My Silver Lining' is a blissful summer offering, while yawning pedal steel guitars, elegant acoustics and utterly spellbinding harmonies flow through the beautiful 'Cedar Lane'..



Tour dates - September 2014

Glasgow Old Fruitmarket (September 16)

Belfast Empire Music Hall (17)

Manchester Albert Hall (20)

Bristol Colston Hall (21)

London Royal Albert Hall (24)




If driving rhythms, relentless bass, nagging synths and beautifully elevating melodies are your tonic, then the brand new offering from Spanish post-psychedelic krautrock trio Jupiter Lion is something you will need to hear. They formed at the beginning of 2011 and feature Sais (vocals, synthesizer and programming), Jose Guerrero (Bass guitar) and Gonzo In Vegas (drums). Their self titled debut mini-album became a big favourite of RW/FF's when it was released back in 2012, and ended up getting a well deserved re-release (along with some bonus remixes) in the form of the 'Silver Constellations' LP. Thriving with pulsating momentum, the infectious, expansive 'Doppelgänger' is the first track to be taken from the trio's second full length 'Brighter', due in September on B-Core Discs.






The Moons returned with their brand new single 'Body Snatchers' on 23rd June via Schnitzel Records. Dirty glam vibes combine with 60s keys, sturdy rumbles of bass, rousingly catchy hooks and hungry harmonies on this latest cut from the upcoming 'Mindwaves' LP. Formed in Northampton 2010, The Moons are led by singer/guitarist/songwriter, Andy Crofts, and used to feature James Bagshaw and Tom Warmsley, who are now of course members of the superb Temples. Available on 7" vinyl and digital download, the song is described as "an escapade into classic science fiction B-movie territory", and the band will tour the UK in September...



Considering how fresh and successful many of them were in the 90s, it's sometimes a bit sad to see Britpop groups reforming to play the old hits so they can pay the bills. Even sadder when one of them comes back minus a few original members. Putting out rerecorded versions of your old songs is also an alarming sign that the glory days have long gone. So presumably 'Crash', the new Menswe@r single in 15 years should be getting a terrible review, since it's a rerecording of one of their old b sides played by a group of musicians with frontman Johnny Dean as the only original Menswe@r member. Wrong. It's superb, and surpasses the initial 1996 version with stronger production and a far more satisfying arrangement... Originally recorded as a demo and released as one of the b-sides of ‘We Love You’ back in 1996, ‘Crash’ was singer Johnny Dean’s favourite Menswear song and has now been reworked and re-recorded by Johnny with the new Menswear line up. A cheeky brave, more bombastic reworking of the orginal that shows there’s plenty of life in Menswe@r yet! Apparently it’s a transitionary release ‘a final recorded kiss to the past before moving on to…well, watch this space.’ 

God Is In The TV recently interviewed Johnny, and you can read that feature HERE.
As a lot of you will have noticed, I don't feature a lot of pop music on the site. Why? Because the vast majority of it is of appallingly bad quality, and certainly not good enough to feature on RW/FF. And due to major record labels only releasing music by talentless fakes with no musical skills, mainstream pop is in the most shabby state it has ever been. 

So thank God we still have someone like the multi-talented Ellie Jackson, who is now running La Roux as a solo project following the departure of musical partner Ben Langmaid in 2011. Unlike the superb 2009 debut album, the long awaited follow-up 'Trouble In Paradise' will draw more on acoustic sounds and instruments, including guitars, organs and percussion; however, analog and digital synthesizers will still feature as part of the overall sound. Jackson has confirmed she will be playing instruments on the record, in addition to co-writing, co-producing and (of course) providing vocals. The smart 'Uptight Downtown' features a layered, more organic kind of disco sound in addition to the usual synthpop flavours as well as a breathtakingly catchy set of hooks. Looking forward to this new album VERY much...



Primal Scream and Felt keyboard legend Martin Duffy is about to release his very first solo album, entitled 'Assorted Promenades'. It will be issued via Tim Burgess's brilliant O Genesis label on August 4. On 'Promenading', a glistening, soft focus tranquility evolves into something not too far from Screamadelica's gorgeous 'Inner Flight', a lovely taster of an album that's promising to be a real treat. The press release explains how the album came about: "Martin Duffy has always been thought of in relation to other bands - he didn't really do things on his own. From Felt in 1985 through to Primal Scream today, he was always a part of someone else's sum. It was Duffy - like Prince and Madonna he's legendary enough to just go by one name - who was the lynchpin in the continuation of The Charlatans after Rob Collins's tragic death - finishing recordings and stepping in until a new keyboard player could be found.

Throughout all that time, he worked on ideas of his own but had never played anything to anyone. He joined Tim Burgess's solo band for a tour in 2012 not long after Tim had started his own label, O Genesis. Somewhere near motorway services on the M4, close to Reading they drove past an abandoned car on the hard shoulder that was on fire. It was seen as a very oblique sign that O Genesis should release the first solo material by Martin Duffy..."



Blimey, talk about prolific... Within weeks of the release of their acclaimed debut album 'Someday World', the collaboration between Brian Eno and Karl Hyde continues with their second full-length record 'High Life', which was released on June 30 via Warp Records. The experiment drew inspiration from the repetitive minimalism of composers like Steve Reich and Phillip Glass, and from the polyrhythmic music of Fela Kuti and funk, as well as continuing the work that Eno and Hyde have done separately. 'DBF' demonstrates this brilliantly. High energy rhythms combine with percussive guitar lines and flickering synths to build a nagging blend of electro-funk and afrobeat. 

“When SOMEDAY WORLD was finished I felt like we were still on a roll and I wasn't ready to stop working and get into 'promotional mode' for that record. So I suggested we immediately start on another album, a different one, where we extended some of the ideas we'd started, and attempted some of the ideas we hadn't.”
- Brian Eno

“I wanted to work with a stripped down set of equipment... For this album I was very keen for Brian to live process my guitar playing so that we would be effecting one another’s performance, bouncing off each other, inspiring new combinations of polyrhythms.”
- Karl Hyde




Struggling to find good new music? In need of some fresh sounds? I believe in 2014 is the best time for new music we have had in years, but thanks to the mainstream not many people are hearing the good stuff. 

The regular RW/FF Compilation is here to help. It showcases the music that has featured on the site over the last few weeks. In fact, this one (Volume 19) features stuff from May and June, with Volume 20 already online for folk to listen to HERE if they wish. Or you could wait till next week when I feature it in this round-up? Whatever you decide to do, don't miss out on any of this incredible music....

Thanks to Mixcloud, you can stream the whole thing below. Enjoy.






RW/FF is very proud to be one of the music blogs taking part in Universal Horse's monthly Alternative Top 40. As well as blogger folk like me, you too can be part of the Top 40 and make your current musical turn-ons count towards the chart each month... 

The Alternative Top 40 is a monthly music chart shared across multiple music blogs, and a great way of discovering music you might not have heard elsewhere. You can contribute to the #AltTop40 by simply naming your favourite tracks of the moment - for full details of how to nominate music, see the latest post about the chart at Universal Horse

The Alt Top 40 is not based on sales, or radio play – or, indeed, any form of objective measure. Instead, anyone who wants can simply tell us the tracks they want to see in the chart, and the more people we hear about a track from, the higher up it goes. The deadline for this month's voting is tomorrow, July 6th. In the meantime, HERE is a rundown of June's chart...



Rewind: 1996

Did you honestly think I'd have time to finish another instalment of my Musical Memories with all the other stuff I've been busy with? Jeez, sometimes you people expect too much. It shall (with some luck) return next week, as will the rest of the stuff I've been meaning to round-up over the last month or so! In the meantime, have a look HERE at the most recent chapter of my musical life, which deals with the beginning of 1996.

Be here in a week's time for more. Ciao.



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