Reviews roundup – Afro Celt Sound System vs. The Muddies vs. The Brothers Reed vs. Genre Peak
AFRO CELT SOUND SYSTEM
First things first. This is the Simon Emmerson version of the band, not the James McNally and Martin Russell version. Emmerson resigned from the band, and while the McNally / Russell lineage was ongoing, formed his own version of the band, and trademarked the name. This is the subject of ongoing legal action, and McNally / Russell will also be releasing an Afro Celt Sound System album this year.
Musically, though for the Emmerson version, it’s business as usual. He’s brought in long-term members N’Faly Kouyat (vocalist, kora and balafon) and Dhol drummer Johnny Kalsi along with new member Griogair Labhruidh (vocals, piping, guitars) who was winner of the Gaelic Singer of the Year at the 2015 Scots Trad Music Awards.
So the fusion of African, Asian and Gaelic music is still on the button, aided and abetted by the appearance of guest musicians including the likes of uillean pipes player Davy Spillane. There is plenty for fans of old to enjoy here, especially ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and ‘Where Two Rivers Meet, the album highlights.
It’s a shame when business and politics messes up a good thing, but if the other ACSS does as well as this, then it’s twice the pleasure.
The Muddies are my new best friends. I love this record. Now I’m not saying it’s the best record ever, but it is unadulterated, pure rock’n’roll fun from the opening crashing chords of ‘Cougar Hunter’ right through to the end.
For sure, it’s a bit AC/DC, it’s a bit Rose Tattoo, it’s a bit Status Quo and it’s a bit Motorhead. And that’s what rock and roll is all about. Hailing from the rock heartland that is Vaajakoski in Finland, I can forgive three quarters of the band their hipster facial hair. Just. But only because this is such an enjoyable ride.
They have chosen to forget that the last thirty five years happened, which is always a good thing. Instead they blast their way through a dozen highly addictive tracks in half an hour, but without ever slumping into punk inadequacy. It’s high octane and politically incorrect. Happy days indeed, with songs like ‘Rambo’, ‘Wacko Wacko’ and ‘Don’t Touch Your Dick With The Chili Hand’. Wise words indeed.
THE BROTHERS REED
Monster In My Head
It only seems like yesterday when I got vaguely enthusiastic about The Brothers Reed and their “Sick As Folk” album. In fact, it was November last year, but when you’re as old as me, that counts as yesterday. I called it “a jaunty debut album, chock full of folk, Americana and country tunes, replete with great melodies and well crafted lyrics.”
Well seems like they’ve learned no lessons in the last wee while, because they’ve carried on doing the same thing here. It’s still mainly seventies singer songwritery meets alt-country, but with actual tunes instead of Neil Young like nasal whines.
“Monster In My Head” sounds bigger than the last album, so they probably know their way around the studio a bit better, and they’re veering more towards rock than on the last album, but their songs are still rooted in roots, so fans of yore will warm towards the likes of ‘Mary Jones’, ‘Lonesome Bird’ and ‘Let It Go’. Another job well done.
Your Sleekest Engine
I owned a Japan record once. I’m not sure, but it was the eighties, so it doesn’t really count. And Genre Peak’s Martin Birke makes no secret of the fact that his project is modelled Recoil and Massive Attack, with this one featuring collaborations with Mick Karn, Steve Jansen and Richard Barbieri, amongst others. So I could hardly be surprised when it turned out to sound like something from them there olden days.
It seems him moving away from ambience and instrumentals back into songs proper, and there is a lot here that will make fans of pop era Japan meets Jon & Vangelis very happy indeed. The record certainly sounds great, and it’s clear that there is a great deal of production expertise on the go here.
But it would be nothing without songs, and there are some good ones here. If that whole dark electropop meets Eno thing is your cup of tea, then you won’t go far wrong with the tunes like ‘God Fearing Men’ and ‘Fix Me Deeper. It took a couple of plays to engage me properly, but it was worth the effort.