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HORSE The Band – Desperate Living

by Olivier Constant

Could the band push their experimental hardcore one step further on their new full length? The answer is a big fat ‘Yes’. Horse The band invented the Nintendocore genre and probably they will stay the one and only representative of it. On ‘Desperate Living’ the band mixes up extreme hardcore, with twisted synthesizers and some melodic parts. A well known recipe for some years, but in the blasting opener ‘Cloudwalker’, the wicked ‘Science Police’ and the groovy ‘Big Business’ they sound like a bunch of lunatics that have been waiting way too long to be released.

Nevertheless, the danceable and heavy riffing, the dynamic rhythm section and the bone crushing vocals are once again not enough to keep a whole album exciting. Therefore the song structures are sometimes too complex. Apart from all the fun the band has to give some extra attention to more continuous song writing. Horse The Band still stays one of the most promising bands, but on a next album a change to a more straightforward sound should give the songs more power.
Score: 7 out of 10

Pearl Jam - Backspacer

Let’s face it, it’s been since “Yield” that Pearl Jam released an album really worth buying. Not that “Binaural”, “Riot Act” or their self-titled album were clunkers, but they paled in comparison to some of their earlier work. It seems as if they themselves realised this as well (possibly thanks to the re-release of their debut?). Whatever the reason may be, on their new album “Backspacer”, they’re back in full force with producer Brendan O’Brien back aboard for the first time in ten years.

“Gonna See My Friend”, “Got Some” and “The Fixer” are some of the most direct rock bursts these guys have ever written and they will grab the attention of every fan whose attention might have been wavering. Vedder’s work on the “Into The Wild” soundtrack left some marks as well as can be heard on fragile songs like “Just Breathe”, “Speed Of Sound” and “The End”. And then there’s the in-between songs like “Amongst The Waves” and “Unthought Known”.

Whatever route they choose, it all deserves to be heard. You can’t really call it a comeback since they’ve never really been away that far, but it’s most definitely a return to form. And a kick in the ass for a lot of other bands out there.

Here’s a band that has been around for almost 20 years, a band that’s still perfectly in touch with all of its youthful abundance and a band who just delivered their most exciting album in ten years and their most direct album ever while channeling their influences (The Who, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen,…) into eleven perfect rock songs.
Score: 9 out of 10

Idlewild – Post Electric Blues

Well, they’ve done it again. Idlewild is simply not able to release a disappointing album if you ask me. Whether they’re bursting out of the gates with a song like “Younger Than America” or aiming for a Simon & Garfunkel feel with a cut like “(The Night Will) Bring You Back To Life”, it always sounds amazing in the end.

“Take Me Back To The Islands” is a folksy affair with a violin and would’ve fitted right in on one of Roddy Woomble’s solo albums while “” is another balls out indie rocker. And then I haven’t even mentioned first single “Readers & Writers” or “City Hall”, quite simply two of the best songs these Scottish dudes have ever written.

“Post Electric Blues” show a band who stopped caring what others think and are simply making the music they want to make. The result is an album that oozes charm, passion and a love of playing music without strings attached.
Score: 8 out of 10

Various Artists – Inglorious Basterds OST

Quentin Tarantino’s soundtracks have always been a synonym for cool. Can a person who has seen Pulp Fiction hear Urge Overkill’s "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" even again without thinking of Uma Thurman? And do you not always see Michael Madsen torturing a cop when you hear "Stuck In the Middle With You"?

Originally it looked like Ennio Morricone was going to compose an original soundtrack for Tarantino’s view on WWII but eventually that fell through. So we now have a soundtrack that features a couple of songs from Morricone’s older work along with some Lalo Schifrin and Charles Bernstein. And after having seen the movie, all it takes are the opening notes of Nick Perito’s “The Green Leaves Of Summer” to take me right back to the opening scene and put a big smile on my face.

The wildcards here are Billy Preston’s funky “Slaughter” and David Bowie’s “Cat People”, both of which probably only makes sense if you’ve seen the movie but they’re still solid songs in their own right. The exact opposite are the German cuts in the middle of the album (“Davon Geht Die Welt Nicht Unter” and “Ich Wolt Ich Waer Ein Huhn”). They were featured in the movie and they worked there, not so much on the album.

Oh well, I’ll still happily skip along from track to track all the way to the DVD release date.
Score: 7 out of 10

Zero 7 – Yeah Ghost

Opener “Count Me Out” sounds like a retard got his hands on some electronic equipment, rather than likesomething a duo of experienced sound engineers would’ve concocted. Then in comes “Mr. McGee”, a potential club hit with vocals by Eska Mtungwazi after which it is time for “Swing”, a breezy affair with Caribbean influences that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an early Air album. Later on there’s a bit of MIA-like insanity with “Sleeper” and folk rears its ugly head in “Pop Art Blue”.

It’s a bit of a disastrous mix of all kinds of different styles and none of them stick. I don’t know what the idea was with this album. It sounds like Zero 7 is facing one hell of an identity crisis and judging from the songs on “Yeah Ghost”, they haven’t found a way out yet.
Score: 4 out of 10

Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue

Back in the nineties Alice In Chains was – along with Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden – one of the bands that put grunge on the map and condemned us all to wearing flannel shirts. Three albums later it all came to a grinding halt when vocalist Layne Staley died of an overdose after having been reduced to nothing but a recluse with a nasty drug addiction.

They’re back now with a new vocalist (obviously!) in the form of William DuVall and with a new album called “Black Gives Way To Blue”. When it comes to looks, DuVall couldn’t be more different from Staley: he’s a black dude with an afro. But when it comes to his vocal work, it’s almost eerie how close he comes to the late Staley. Which is somewhat of a necessity because one of the best things about Alice In Chains were the vocal harmonies between Staley and guitarist Jerry Cantrell.

Opener “All Secrets Known” takes me right back to the nineties and these dudes manage to keep this up all the way through with cuts like “A Looking In View” and “Private Hell”. “Check My Brain” is the absolute highlight with a glorious chorus kicking in over sludgy guitars. Songs like “Your Decision” and “When The Sun Rose Again” on the other hand could’ve very well been on one of the band’s acoustic EPs. And when the title track kicks in with Elton John on piano, you know that this is way more than simply another band feeling nostalgic or wanting to cash in on what once was
Score: 8 out of 10

D.O.A. – The Men Of Action CD/DVD

An amazing thirty years into their existence, one of Canada’s most well-known punkrock outfits is coming at you with “The Man Of Action”, a DVD which features a whopping 26 videos along with D.O.A.’s story told by Joey “Shithead” Keithley himself.

“Disco Sucks” goes all the way back to 1978, making it the oldest video on here. The other videos collectively span the band’s entire career leading up to… well, now and all come with remastered audio. And as if all that goodness isn’t enough yet, they also throw in a copy of their latest studio album (“Northern Avenger”) which came out last year. Not sure why they did that since real fans will already own their copy, but I guess it’s a nice touch.

Anyway, congrats on the 30th anniversary… here’s to thirty more years of punk and anarchy!
Score: 7 out of 10

Stigmata – The Wounds That Never Heal

I Scream appears to be in re-release mode as “The Wounds That Never Heal” comes hot on the heels of the Mucky Pup re-release. Anyway, this one combines the two Stigmata albums “Hymns For An Unknown God” and “Do Unto Others” plus one extra song in the form of a live version of “Can’t Bring Me Down”. All this on one single disc in honor of the band’s 20th anniversary.

If you’ve never heard of these guys before but are into acts such as Madball, Sick Of It All, Hatebreed and others, then you’re in for a treat. They play über-aggressive hardcore that comes with tons of groove and barked vocals. Both albums are solid chunks with pretty much the only difference being that “Hymns For An Unknown God” focuses more on groove while “Do Unto Others” is a lot faster. Both albums are pretty frigging cool though and if you feel like changing your living room into a battlefield, then you’ve now found yourself the perfect soundtrack.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Mucky Pup – A Boy In A Man’s World + Now (re-issue)

When Mucky Pup burst onto the scene in the late 80s/early 90s, they enjoyed a lot of success (especially in Europe) with their crossover between hardcore and humor. In case you’ve never heard of them before, then Dog Eat Dog might just ring a bell. That band featured three Mucky Pup members and also played very groovy hardcore. Or think of Suicidal Tendencies who were kinda doing the same thing back then.

Now that Mucky Pup is reunited and playing shows again, I Scream Records felt the time was right to re-release the band’s second and third album (1989’s “A Boy In A Man’s World” and 1990’s “Now”) on one shiny disc.

To be honest, the packaging on this one looks a bit poor, as if it was slapped together in about five minutes. And there aren’t any extras to be found either. But hey, these dudes still manage to make me smile with tracks like “You Stink, But I Love You”, “Batman”, “Death By Cholesterol” and “Hippies Hate Water”.

Yes, the rather infantile humor rivals that of Murphy’s Law but this is still prime material when you want to recover from the somanieth post-something band who are taking themselves a bit too serious.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Metavari – Be One Of Us And Hear No Noise

This Ft. Wayne, Indiana trio has already written songs for an EP (the self-released “Ambling”), commercials and a short movie (“Casualty Of The Promised Land”) and now they’re here with a full-length called “Be One Of Us And Hear No Noise”.

You come across bands that strive for a warm sound using analog recording techniques about as often as you stumble across acts who go for an electronics-enhanced sound. But as far as I can recall, I’ve never heard a band combining them. Metavari does this and they are very good at it.

Opener “Kings Die Like Other Men” and “Shimmer Marina” shine thanks to programmed beats, a Fender Rhodes electric piano, digital tinkering and yes, the lack of vocals. They do use a bunch of old sound bites though (just like they use archival footage during their live shows). It’s post-rock but unlike other acts in the genre, these dudes don’t seem intent on building things up to a noisy climax. Rather they seem content just letting the music trickle along. It makes for a very hypnotic album and they manage to keep the momentum going right up to the epic closer that is “Pacific Lights”.

I don’t know quite how to describe this band’s instrumental album but a mixture of Death Cab and Sigur Rós should set you off in the right direction. All I can say is that “Be One Of Us And Hear No Noise” is an album worth discovering.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Pink Razors – Leave Alive

The Pink Razors are back with a second album and a new frontwoman as they continue to contribute to Richmond’s reputation of being home to some of the most solid punkrock around.

“Leave Alive” is filled with the kind of punkrock songs that are as gritty as they are poppy. I don’t want to break it down into percentages but the equation always ends with the word ‘fun’. The guitars buzz away nicely Superchunk-style on “Geometric Park” while Erin Tobey shows us why it is exactly that she joined the band and not someone else (hint: her voice fits the music perfectly). Further enhancing the song are cute backup vocals making it the abolsute highlight of the album.

Okay, so the instrumental “Clouded” was a little unnecessary but the remaining five tracks more than make up for it. Lasting just around 20 minutes, “Leave Alive” is an album that doesn’t outstay its welcome. If anything it asks to be played again and again.
Score: 8 out of 10

Parachutes – The Working Horse

“The Working Horse” is already Parachutes’ third album, yet it’s only the first one I got my hands on. Apparently these guys have already built quite the reputation in Germany but they’re still somewhat struggling with the rest of Europe. Maybe the third time really is the charm?

I don’t know what their previous albums sounded like but if the songs on “The Working Horse” are anything to go by, I’d say their chances are looking pretty good. Switching seamlessly between punkrock, post-hardcore and screamo, Parachutes recorded a very energetic album that easily matches that of American counterparts such as From Autumn To Ashes and Alesana. They’ve got the hooks, they’ve got the aggression and they’ve got a solid vocalist who easily matches the rest of the band’s skills as they rage through eleven songs. They’re not the best in the genre but I’m guessing that if they were born Stateside, they would’ve already been a lot bigger than they are right now.
Score: 7 out of 10

Banane Metalik – Nice To Meat You

Despite having one of the most retarded band names I’ve ever come across, these Frenchies have already been going at it since 1992 (with a 10-year hiatus between 1995 and 2005). Gotta at least respect that if nothing else!

With their self-marketed brand of gore ‘n roll, they cruise through fifteen psychobilly songs while alternating between English and French lyrics about ghouls, girls and maniacs. It all sounds pretty good, it’s well-recorded and they know a thing or two about writing a song that’s both aggressive and melodic. Unfortunately for me the vocalist has a tendency to let his voice go up until he sounds like a crying baby. It’s like listening to like nails on a chalkboard and it takes all the fun out of listening to this album.
Score: 6 out of 10

Sky Tells All – Go Ahead, You Try It

Sky Tells All is an outfit that gets to call Pensacola, FL home and who found a second home on boxer Roy Jones Jr.’s record label, bhe Rock Records. It’s through that label that they’re now releasing “Go Ahead, You Try It!”.

On it are 8 poppunk songs that have as much to with Plain White T’s (“Talk Now”) as with the Ataris (“This Was Your Fairytale”). In other words, they sound like a million other bands out there and - while doing an okay job – don’t have the hooks that would make them stand out in a very crowded scene.
Score: 5.5 out of 10
bheROCK Records

Rosaline – A Constant North

On their debut album “A Constant North” Rosaline plays the kind of screamo that got old years ago. As to why someone would start a band with this kinda sound in an age where that style has not only been beaten to death, but where wounds were inflicted even after death is way beyond me.

The songs on here sound tired and worn out and every genre cliché (like the whole singing/screaming thing) is present and accounted for. Except for a couple of moody atmospheric parts where these dudes actually sound decent, there is absolutely no reason why anybody should pick up “A Constant North”. Not only have I already come across this album a thousand times before, it sounded better in the past.
Score: 5.5 out of 10

Kids Like Us – The Game

Kids Like Us has been personally responsible for cleaning out entire retirement communities in Florida since 2002 and I’m expecting more casualties with the release of their fourth record, “The Game”.

Listening to the pure fury they unleash, I’m pretty sure hardcore is anything but a game for these guys as they wade through ten more songs of Southern hardcore. The guitars are crunchy, the bass lines are thick and the lyrics are blunt and spit out by a vocalist who sounds like he’s about to choke in his own rage. It’s equal parts groovy hardcore and sludgy Down-esque Southern metal and I find myself loving every second of it.
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Creatures – I, Lucifer

Creatures is a California-based band that started out in 2007 to make a lot of noise. They quickly released a demo, played a lot of local shows and got noticed. They kept on getting noticed by playing even more locals shows and releasing a split with Downpresser. Eulogy then took notice as well, signed the band and it’s them who now get to release “I. Lucifer”, Creatures’ debut full-length. There’s seven new songs to discover with the three cuts from the abovementioned split added as bonus tracks.

This is all out metallic hardcore with plenty of chugga chugga riffs and the occasional solo to mix things up enough. Add a whole lot of speed and you’re looking at a very pissed off, angry album that should keep you interested all the way to the last notes of “The Gates” ring out. It’s nothing you haven’t already heard once or twice, but fans of Ringworm and Kerry King should be rubbing their hands... or other body parts.
Score: 7 out of 10


Teenage Bottlerocket – They Came From The Shadows

If you’re into Screeching Weasel, chances are you’ll already have Teenage Bottlerocket releases in your collection or at the very least you’ll already have heard of them. They’re one of the best Ramones-influenced poppunk bands around and that’s once again no different on “They Came From The Shadows”, the band’s Fat Wreck debut.

It’s pure, unadulterated poppunk heaven for 14 songs and they mix things up enough in the process to keep it all interesting until the last notes of “Todayo” ring out. By then you have already heard the charming “Be With You” take on the more aggressive “Forbidden Planet” (those guitars!). Honestly, I can’t find a single flaw on this album and – if you’re into the abovementioned bands or Descendents - I’m thinking you can’t either.
Score: 8.5 out of 10

ARMS – Kids Aflame

How some dude from Brooklyn ends up on a label in Manchester is probably only possible thanks to the digital age we now live in. Which is a good thing because honestly, what are the chances I would have otherwise heard of ARMS aka Todd Goldstein who has been recording the songs on “Kids Aflame” pretty much all on his own for the past three years? Pretty small I think.

And that would’ve been a shame because the ukulele driven title track never fails to put a smile on my face and “Shitty Little Disco” struck a nerve with me. Well, a couple of them actually. Plus it made me think of Editors. This Harlem Shakes guitarist proves he’s a singer/songwriter force to be reckoned with gentle songs such as “Fall” or “Ana M” but he can just as well rock the fuck out on “Tiger Tamer”. It all makes for a diverse album that’s as lo-fi as it is wonderfully enthralling.
Score : 7.5 out of 10


Despised Icon - Day Of Mourning

Despised Icon is back with a new album. It’s called “Day Of Mourning” and it sounds just like the one before it. And the one before that one. Which could be seen as a flaw I guess. Then again, Despised Icon is one of the only deathcore bands worth listening to.

When they dropped “The Healing Process” back in 2005, they blew a lot of people clean out of their shoes with their überbrutal sound and they haven’t slowed down one bit. Or it would have to be in the atmospheric closer “Sleeples” which starts off as a long drawn out instrumental soundscape. But by the time you reach that track, you’ll already have been bludgeoned over the head with single-note breakdowns, excessive use of the double bass drum pedal, violent death metal riffage and to top it all off a dual vocal assault. While one guy comes at you with cookie monster vocals or shrieking like a banshee, the other crawls up behind you with a hardcore bark. And believe me, you’re no match for them. “Day Of Mourning” will get you on your knees in less than half an hour.
Score: 7 out of 10

Gordon Gano & The Ryans – Under The Sun

When the Violent Femmes released their first albums in the early 80s, they apparently caused some rather huge waves with their folk-punk. I of course wouldn’t know, I was too scared to go to kindergarten for the first time around that same time. Years and years later, Violent Femmes would call it a day but by then it didn’t seem like a lot of people still cared. While the Femmes were suing each other over whether or not their music should be used in a Wendy’s commercial, two brothers (Billy and Brendan Ryan) were spending their time in a band called The Bogmen. They sounded like U2 meets Talking Heads. Or so I’ve read on the internets because I’ve never heard of The Bogmen in my life.

They got together, one thing led to another and before you know it, they had a full-length in their hands. People who are hoping to hear Violent Femmes – the sequel will be disappointed. “Way That I Creep” references The Cramps, “Wave And Water” sounds like the Talking Heads and the Jayhawks aren’t far away in “Home” and the whole album has a somber Nick Cave kinda vibe going on. And then there’s “Oholah Oholibah”, which could very well become the next big hit at Jewish parties after “Hava Negilah”!

In other words, “Under The Sun” is a very enjoyable album and it kinda makes me wonder why Gano didn’t leave the Violent Femmes earlier to start another band like this one.

Score: 8 out of 10

The Sedatives – The Sedatives LP

After having released a 7”, these Cannucks didn’t waste any time and headed for the studio to lay down a full-length worth of songs. With the ‘three chords are all you need’ mantra planted firmly in their minds , these members of Million Dollar Marxists and Buried Inside cranked out eleven garage-ish punkrock songs and added drums that keep on forging ahead along with a healthy dose of organ sounds.

The whole sounds rough enough to maintain a dangerous edge that is somewhat softened by throwing in loads of catchy melodic. hooks You might already know a couple of songs from the 7” while new cuts like “No Time” and “Hollow In The Heart” prove that The Sedatives have plenty more to offer.
Score: 7 out of 10

Doomriders – Darkness Comes Alive

When Doomriders released “Black Thunder” back in 2005, you could clearly hear that the name Mastodon was no unknown to them, yet it was more straightforward than anything that Mastodon had ever put to tape. It also resembled the not so soothing metallic sounds of Entombed. Something that a band The Sword also excelled in. It has to be said, Converge’s Nate Newton side-project did an amazing job and they simply repeat it and at times even top it four years later with “Darkness Comes Alive”.

It rocks harder than anything you’ve heard in the recent past and you can clearly hear that these guys had a blast recording it. It’s’ man music’ that sounds better with a full shot glass and a cold beer in your hands to grease the throat, which will no doubt hurt after belting along while banging your head to the dual guitar shredfest. This does require quite some skill and subtlety because banging your head while holding two full drinks is no easy feat. Skill is something that these guys have plenty of, subtlety not so much. And I’m loving every second of it!
Score: 8.5 out of 10

Dial M For Murder! – Fiction Of Her Dreams

Dial M For Murder! is a pretty cool band name yet what they do on “Fiction Of Her Dreams” is not that particularly cool. With opener “You Can’t Have Me” they’re still off to a good start. Recorded mostly at night, “Fiction Of Her Dreams” is a pop noir/electro album that thrives on melancholy, always a good thing. But then it hits you that everything you hear on here is something that acts like Editors and Interpol have already been doing better in the last couple of years. No real need to pick this one up unless you’re a diehard fan of the genre. Then again, it wouldn’t be a complete waste of money either. It plays nicely in the background.
Score: 6 out of 10

Big Drill Car – A Never Ending Endeavor

One of Orange County’s most overlooked bands are back with their first new recording in 15 years. Okay, so it’s just five new songs but “A Never Ending Endeavor” is rounded out by 15 more rare and previously unreleased tracks which makes it more than worth to purchase this shiny disc.

The best news though is that I had the hardest time telling which songs are new and which ones aren’t (hint: the new ones are the first five cuts on here). That means they still know how to rock while sounding übermelodic just like back in the day when they were cranking out albums on Cruz/SST in the late 80s and early 90s. Think punkrock and Cheap Trick and… yeah… I already see you nodding in approval. It’s good to have these guys back!
Score: 7.5 out of 10

Wonderwheel – Safe And Sorry

Wonderwheel, not Wonderwall. But this Norwegian duo does have something in common with Oasis and that is the fact that they like solid pop songs. The kind that The Beatles used to play. But since The Beatles are already all over the place with their remastered albums, I’ll say these guys are indebted to Simon & Garfunkel instead. Or how about The Rembrandts. Or The Posies at their most mellow.

“Safe And Sorry” is full of very cute and quiet songs that are built on acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies. It’s nothing that hasn’t already been done in the past but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t sound good. Their voices go together very well and with cuts like “If She Don’t Mind” and “What A Joy” they show they’ve got some real chops.
Score: 7 out of 10

David Bazan – Curse Your Branches

‘it’s hard to be a decent human being’ is one of the first things you hear David Bazan sing on his first solo album. Yup, “Curse Your Branches” is not the feelgood album of the year. Bazan has a few things he wants to get off of his chest and he chose this album as the way to do it instead of writing another batch of short stories turned into songs like he used to do with Pedro The Lion.

After that outfit came to an end, Bazan turned his back on alcohol and still seems to be weighing his options when it comes to religion. I don’t really care what he decides though. As long as the good man (Bazan, not God) keeps cranking out albums like this, I’m a happy camper.

While the lyrics are slightly depressing to say the least, the slowcore at least offers a glimpse of something lighter and makes “Curse Your Branches” a solid and at times confrontational album. Sometimes catchy, always pretty and great, insightful lyrics. It’s good to have you back Mr. Bazan!
Score: 7.5 out of 10