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Album Reviews

The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient

Written for The Stool Pigeon, link here

album cover

Sometimes, there’s nothing left to do in life but dust down the old rock‘n’roll tropes and make hay while the going’s still relatively good. It’s a truism Slave Ambient clutches dear to its heart, but far from being a stream of uncanny rehashes (although the twin influences of Tom Petty and The Boss admittedly loom large), TWOD bring a believably raw quality and unique layering of styles to album number two, infusing country rock with droning electronic aspects. Laced with a harsh Philly twang that adds to the salty, emotional quality of his lyrics, Granduciel tells tales and channels neuroses we can all relate to (“I’m a drifter — wahoo!”), oozing a peculiar antihero charm all the way.

Compositions filled with whirling synths, hearty guitar riffs and pounding kick drum beats bring atmospheric qualities to tracks such as opener ‘Best Night’, whilst ‘Come To The City’ is oddly reminiscent of ‘80s power pop, awash with waves of ambience. The rollercoaster ride that is ‘Baby Missiles’ could really be sung by The Boss — think tight jeans, sweat and swooning from the audience — whilst the instrumental outro for ‘Original Slave’ is so enthralling it literally makes you want to throw your guitar in the back of the Chevy and drive into the sunset.

Slave Ambient mightn’t quite be the record to provoke grown men into hulking embraces — perhaps a subdued pat on the back or a high five instead — but that’s not to say it falls short. Too smart to succumb to the double-denim naffness of the hoary rock brigade, it encapsulates the mentality of ‘don’t let the man get you down’, calling out to the inbetweeners without being over-emotional or throwing triumphant fist pumps. A good, hearty slice of Americana, in short.

Dananananakroyd – There Is A Way

Originally written for The Stool Pigeon, this article can be found in its original format here.

Dananananakroyd is certainly not a generic name for a band but it is a rather silly one. Yes, that’s right, silly. Once you’ve got past counting all the ‘ananans’ with your fingers (all who can pronounce their name correctly have done this. Don’t lie) you can’t help but wonder — are they much more than a bunch of lads jacked up on fizzy drinks bouncing off the walls under a questionable moniker?

The hot-headed Glaswegians had what can best be described as moderate success on their EP and debut full album Hey Everyone!, with ‘potential’ being the buzzword among the few ‘zines that did pay attention. Where to file them was a whole other issue — indie rock’? Garage punk? ‘Fight Pop’? Anyway, they spent their hiatus in LA recording their second full studio album under the supervision of a certain Ross Robinson, a guy whose CV boasts The Cure, Klaxons, The Deftones and — bit of guilty nostalgia for mid-twentysomethings here — Korn. Come on now, if you weren’t at Reading setting fire to tents whilst wearing a Korn tour hoody, what WERE you doing at 14?

With There Is A Way ‘Aykroyd and Robinson have certainly cranked things up a notch since the debut. Whilst the thick Scottish tongue broadens as they double up on vocals, the album meanders between thronging guitar riffs and aggressive vocals on tracks like ‘E Numbers’ and opener ‘Reboot’, and more mainstream-appeasing hooks and indie-pop qualities on tracks like ‘Apostrophe’. Meanwhile, ‘Think and Feel’ is a catchy affair with its clap-along rhythm, and hooks and background mumblings reminiscent of The Rapture’s ‘House of Jealous Lovers’. As the album goes on, though, the continual layering of sounds gets a bit tiring, and some tracks just sound like a continuation of each other.

It’s hardly thought-provoking or all that memorable, but then again, so what? When they perform this live, their unfathomable energy will most likely see to it the record’s charms prove every bit as elastic as that cretinous name of theirs.

Kurt Vile- Smoke Ring For My Halo

(Written for this blog only)

I put a big tick on my wish list when a very lovely someone sent me the Kurt Vile album having read my post about the  lunchtime Rough Trade ‘mini’ gig. I am a habitual skipper when it comes to new albums- I tend to go about them 2 or 3 tracks at a time, however with this one, I listened to it right through in one go.

There’s something about his warm, easy going voice, thick with philly twang that adds to a certain warmth and likeable- loser charm about him. There are certain throwbacks to the likes of Tom Petty and Springsteen in the riffs and in the autobiographical lyrics that (presumably) draw upon said feelings of small town ennui (Ghost Town), ‘sticking it’ (Puppet To The Man), and battling neuroses about an object of affection (‘Peeping Tomboy’). Raw qualities in the composition punctuate the laid back vocals; audible fret scrapes in ‘Smoke Ring for My Halo’ make my stomach flip, whilst some of the heartier riffs like in ‘Puppet to The Man’ hammer home the point as he sneers at expectations of submission to societal norms, i.e. the 9-5, heads down existence.

I grew up in a small town and of course there is nothing new about saying how incredibly boring it can be, especially if you’re a shy in-betweener and not particularly great at anything. Whilst its not the type of album that would provoke triumphant fist pumps or compel working class men to hug each other, it still oozes anti hero charm. I could listen to it all day.

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