Reviews roundup – Pavey Ark ~Bobby McK ~ Devils’ Dice ~ The Walk-A-Bout ~ Stampf
Close Your Eyes And Think Of Nothing
The 5th best band in Hull? Whatever, this is a remarkably good album.
I should point out that despite me being a former bass player called Hamilton I am no relation to the bass playing Hamilton in Pavey Park. Full disclosure there. Nae nepotism. Although I am open to cash only / nae refunds.
They formed 4 or 5 years back around singer / songwriter Neil Thomas and have done the festival rounds before settling down to make this record. It’s basically modern folk with a few nods to the early seventies singerysong days. The big sell, apart from the tremendous songwriting are the arrangements. They’re absolutely delicious and the use of strings is the best I’ve heard in a long while.
There’s a melancholy edge to a lot of the material which suits me fine as someone who spends a lot of time sitting outside staring at Northern skies. And this is exactly the sort of thing I would choose for a mental soundtrack. Mental as in my head, not mental as in mental. It’s one of those records that I can’t find fault with. Not that I’ve been trying too hard. That’s just stupid when there are songs like the title track, “Leaf By Leaf” and “She’s Already Flown” sitting there waiting for your adoration.
It’s an absolute joy of an album that will stay with you a long while, and if you get yer finger oot, there’s a vinyl version waiting for you on Bandcamp. Do it, do it, do it….
There’s mystery. and there’s MyStErY!!!!
This is the latter. No press release. No sleeve notes. No credits. A bare bones Facebook presence. A website stub from the late CD Baby. That’s it. So quite how anyone is going to find out about this in the modern world is a wee bit beyond me. For sure, my dedicated followers will read my words, ponder them carefully and then ignore me. As usual.
So what be this?
Well, let me tell you, the smiley face cover promises some sort of cuddly new age soft rock type thing. What you actually get on this five track mini album / maxi EP is some grungy modern rock. There are some great guitar solos with “Feels Like Rain” probably the fieriest of them. The songs are pretty good in general, if you’re into that niche area between classic rock and Foo Fightery vibes. The vocals are the weakest part although they are helped along by some harmony lines from Vicki McKiel who a) is presumably the lady on the cover and b) related to the MyStErIoUs Mr McK.
War Of Attrition
Heavy Metal. I repeat, Heavy Metal.
Proper heavy metal that is. The kind of thing that made the early eighties the heaviest besticant metallicus era of all.
So it’s a wee bit NWOBHM, a wee bit Saxon and what would have been proto power metal were it not for the fact that it’s a new release.
All of which means I really enjoyed it. They released a debut album back in 2015. ‘Liberation’ that was. This 4 track EP (5 on CD) is their latest offering and if you like some Maidenesque gallops and Priest like shreds then this is a place you want to be. The title track kicks things off in fine fettle with a wee bit of all of the above for your listening pleasure. “Confessor” is a bit more gnarly and slower, something that actually benefits the vibe before “Martyrs In Crime” decides to have a funky bass line underpinning a trad metal tune. Hey, it works, so why not.
Things close with the most NWOBHMish track, “Red Light Rage”, a song about the existential emptiness engendered by the dawning awareness that you’re going to miss the cut off point for a McMuffin. If you spring for a CD copy you get a bonus track, a cover of “The Hellion/Electric Eye”, which goes to prove that unless you have the actual Rob Halford in your band, you shouldn’t cover Judas Priest.
But it’s a cracking wee EP for those of us who like our metal on the studded wristband / Dobby Dawson side of things.
Shred The Evidence
Did I like The Walk-A-Bout? What did I say last time? “Acoustic driven seventies soft rock meets mellow prog”. That probably means yes.
And they’re back with a brand new record. Which is a wee bit like the old record but with some added early Doobie Brothers / Little Feat sounds thrown in for good measure. And that really works which is why the improbably named “Date Nut Porridge” is my favourite this time out.
Musically, no-one misses a beat here. Unless they’re supposed to. And with some excellent arrangements and guesting sax and Hammond organ in places, it’s definitely a step up from the last record. It sounds richer and fuller, something that is helped along the way by some splendid harmony vocals.
Add in some regular appearances from a harmonica and they seem to be moving into the realms of Widespread Panic. Or, at the very least, Widespread Panic when they tried to be commercial. Don’t worry, there are no .moe type abominations here.
It’s an enjoyable release that sees them heading in the right direction.
This, the second album from Stampf, shot into the Swiss Top 10 on release. Fair play.
Seven years on from their debut, mainman Stampf Schmid has spent some time working on Swiss reality TV and released a couple of records with Freddy Scherer from Gotthard. So he’s not been twiddling his thumbs.
Things kick up with a balls to the wall hard rocker called “Pedal Down” which leads you into thinking that a whole album of that ilk awaits you. It doesn’t as the subsequent “Alibies and Lies” heads off into pop rock territory. With emphasis on the pop. And a touch of ELO. Late ELO, mind. The title track then goes a wee bit post grunge. Mainly due to the percussion.
By this point I’ve abandoned all hope as it’s quite obvious that Stampf just records whatever he feels like. So “Chances” sounds a bit like a Tom Petty outtake, “Let It Rain” goes back to the post grunge sound, “Say Hey” returns to the metallic sounds of the opening track and they even throw in an excellent big ballad in the shape of “Save Me”. Twice. As they tack the radio edit on to the end of the album.
Don’t get me wrong. The musicians are excellent, he has a decent voice, it’s just a wee bit aw ower the shop for me. But if the goal was to cast his net far and wide, then consider it achieved.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton