Reviews roundup ~ Stewart Clark ~ Hadron ~ Arielle ~ Annicia Banks ~ Yard of Blondes
Let’s Go There
I’m going to go waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay out on a limb here and suggest, based on the cover art alone, that this may be a prog album.
What do you know? I was wrong. Turns out it’s an album of retro dubstep. Actually, no. It’s prog. It’s the second solo album from Mr Clark who decided to wait until he was 60 before releasing his debut “And Then There Was Me.” That was in 2019 but like a lot of people he found he had some spare time on his hands in 2020 and knocked out this.
It’s prog lite but not in a bad way. There are certainly plenty of pop influences as well and he’s not short of a melody or two. But there is a complexity in some of the arrangements that lends itself to the world of prog, especially the gentler side of eighties neo-prog and that’s where he’ll probably find people willing to take a listen.
Mr Clark has a light voice that is well suited to the music on offer and the array of musicians he’s brought in to flesh out the songs do a bang up job. The production is excellent and anyone worried about the nature of plague era productions need have no worries here. The songs are uniformly excellent and when he really hits the bullseye as he does on ‘The Empty Page’ and ‘How Much Fear?’ it’s an absolute delight. And let’s not forget the killer ballad ‘When’ which brought more than a few tears to this middle aged widowers e’en.
This was a real surprise and a most welcome one. Those neo-prog fans should really get their finger clicking on the link below.
To Denmark for the second album from doom metal band Hadron.
They’ve been around a while but reconfigured themselves in doom stylee back around 2014 leading to a demo and a debut album. And I enjoyed this. But then I’m old enough to have been a schoolboy when the NWOBHM struck and spent a fair amount of time listening to Witchfynde and their ilk. So I’m predisposed to like this Sort of Thing.
It’s primitive in its approach which is what you want from a band who’re dealing in basic, bludgeoning doomology. Now I’m not going to deny that the vocals of Martin Twisttmann may be an acquired taste especially when he decides that hitting high notes that only dogs can hear is a good idea. But he doesn’t stay there all the time so rest easy. The riffs are good, full of sludge and there’s plenty of (technical term alert) chugging going on. Something we don’t get nearly enough of these days.
The title track is a bit misleading but once they get into ‘Guide The Sunlight’ we’re in full on doom and it’s a really enjoyable song. There are certain song on the album that make you hope that Candlemass don’t fancy legal action but it’s hard not to sound like other bands in what is, by its nature, a fairly straightforward medium. So, yes there are some Sabbath bits and yes, there are some Pentagram bits. Which is at should be.
Not all the tunes are out and out winners but if you lend an ear to ‘Under Afdeling D’, ‘I Am’ or ‘Fists of Fire’ then you’re in for a real treat. Certainly, it took me back to a place when all I had to worry about was where my next pint of Belhaven Best was coming from. Simpler times. Happier times.
Inside & Outside
Arielle has been making a wee bit of a name for herself what with the Brian May guitar and whatnot. Now she’s released a new single ahead of her debut album in May and a series of forthcoming livestream sessions.
The song is very seventies West Coast soft rock so it comes as no surprise that she says “I thought this was the closest song in sound and production that I got to what my goal was in my head. Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours meets something new”.
And that’s certainly the vibe that she conjurs up. She has a sweet voice that is easy to listen to and she certainly knows her way around a guitar without ever getting overly showy. It’s a good sound and the single certainly makes you want to hear a wee bit more.
The new single is available to stream, and signed copies of the album can be pre-ordered on vinyl and CD from her website.
Ah, reggae. I still have flashbacks to my worst comedown ever lying in the mud in a Glastonbury field in nineteen mumblety mumble while Black Uhuru pummeled what little sentience I had left into oblivion. So not a reggae fan.
This is quite good, though. Mainly because Ms Banks has a really good fan. She’s spent years touring worldwide as a backing singer with the likes of Judy Mowatt (of I-Threes fame), Sister Carol, and the late Dennis Brown. Add in countless recording sessions, the all-female Light Of Love trio with Sharon Tucker and Joy Tiulloch and her stint as one of the lead singers for the 12 Tribes of Israel band and you can see she’s got plenty of form. And you don’t get to build up that wealth of experience without being good at what you do.
It’s a shame that the lead track put out to promote this was a Dennis Brown cover as five of the seven songs are well written originals. ‘It’s You’ is the definite highlight and if this were the nineties it would have real potential as a crossover hit. It’s a very melodic EP with plenty of strong hooks and although I’m unlikely to be converted “Up Front” made for a pleasant diversion.
YARD OF BLONDES
Feed The Moon
Secret Pole Dance Music
I’m delighting in the fact that the bass player in this French / US alternative rock band is called Fanny Hill. Not her real name, obviously, but if you want to know just what a bunch of mucky devils the pre Victorian English gentry were than that’s your go to book. “the whole greasy landskip lay fairly open to my view:”. Ugh.
Anyway back in music land French expats guitarist/vocalist Vincent Walter Jacob and bassist/vocalist Fanny Hill linked up with some American musicians and set about taking the world by storm. They’ve had a few singles out over the last couple of years but this is their debut album and if shouty nineties indie rock is your thing then you’re really going to like this.
It’s very post grunge in places with plenty of hard driving riffs, some of which do that whole stop / start thing that bands of this ilk are so fond of. The opening track ‘Do You Need More’ certainly pulls together their sound into a concise four minute tune that serves as an excellent example of their Sort of Thing’. Elsewhere I was quite taken by the off kilter ‘You And I And I’ which is very, very nineties in tone but in a good way. Best of the lot is ‘Hummingbird’ which is borderline groovy and has a lot of pop nous about it.
There’s a lo-fi feel to a lot of the record which surprised me seeing as how it was produced by Biohazard fella Billy Graziadei but I’m guessing that was a choice rather than an accident. Folks who long for the days of Green River and Tad but with a better handle on pop would be advised to give them a listen.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton
The Rocker monthly reviews sampler now available on Spotify