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Baby James - Find The Time EP

 

The second EP from Stockholm’s rhythm rock revivalists comes within 12 months of their debut, No Brainer. While that record felt rushed and incomplete, Find The Time sounds, quite appropriately, like they’ve been able to put more hours into it. The Lou Reed/Mick Jagger vocals tread familiar ground. The traditional rock setup of twin guitars, bass, and drums is informed primarily by The Rolling Stones and their contemporaries.

The spare, blues-rock riffs and smooth grooves make the music immediately accessible. The down and dirty ‘Lose Your Mind’ shakes things up with a sleazy, funky tone, and catchy gang vocals. ‘Heal Me’ sounds like an Exile On Main Street offcut, while ‘Burning Desire’ owes much to AC/DC’s ‘Rock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution’. The title track opens with a riff that, presumably accidentally, sounds like Fugazi before finding more comfortable, Creedence Clearwater Revival ground.

That over-familiarity of the music is the downfall of Find The Time. The tunes are good and the band play rock ‘n’ roll well, but then so do a myriad of other bands. There’s nothing unique here to keep the listener coming back for more; nothing beneath the surface to dig into. Baby James sound like a fun band to bring your mates along to see but, on record, this has been done before, and done definitively. They’ve made massive progress since No Brainer, but Find The Time isn’t a defining leap forward. Hopefully they will continue to evolve with their next release.

 

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Bullet Girl - Post-Atomic Youth

 

This debut single from Dublin’s Bullet Girl is a noisy, three minute, pop punk romp. It’s the type of song that sounds superficially easy, but the dearth of quality tunes like this one in our inbox suggests that it is more difficult than it may appear.

The lyrics are generic, rebellious teen doggerel but Aaron Doyle delivers them with a raw conviction. The quality of the music and the viciously honed assault of the production overcome Bullet Girl’s lyrical shortcomings. The satisfyingly overdriven riffs hurtle along at high speed, while Dylan Keenan’s lead guitar screeches a dissonant countermelody during the verses. The syncopated harmonics sound like Steve Albini’s guitar committing self-harm with Tom Morello’s pedalboard.

The video ticks all the aggropunk boxes, with the band performing in an urban wasteland setting, graffiti art, and a gang of masked youths marching with fists raised. The song doesn’t end as much as it explodes in a riotous cacophony of atomisation, like Slayer raining blood in their thrash heyday.

Bullet Girl sound like cousins of Southend’s Asylums. It’s the creativity of the instrumentation, and the shrill, hyper-real tone of the recording that make ‘Post Atomic Youth’ stand out. The band have successfully captured their ferocious live sound on a record; something few acts can boast. And for a debut single, that is an achievement in itself.

 

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The Stoles - Age Of Deception

‘Age Of Deception’ is the title track from The Stoles forthcoming debut album. It follows ‘Getaway’ and ‘Evelyn’ and leads the way for the record, which is due in February. The band have taken their time putting their first album together and signed with the American Spectra Music Group to release it. Ireland seems the natural home for this band. With their anthemic, political (with a small p) lyrics, chiming guitars and pulsating rhythm section, there will be inevitable comparisons to U2 but The Stoles throw in shades of classic rock alongside hints of QOTSA, Editors and even Coldplay along the way.

The Dublin-based trio start the song slowly. An arpeggiated acoustic guitar builds slowly in conjunction with Antonio Derosas’ plaintive vocals. Things step up a gear with an elongated paradiddle from drummer Ciaran O’Neill before the first chorus arrives. ‘Age Of Deception’ is an uncharacteristically long song for The Stoles. We’re more accustomed to three minute stompers from them but, granted the space a full album can accommodate; they stretch out and explore new ideas. A long Beatles-y b-section has flanging vocals and an outro with overtones of ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’.

Through various EPs and singles, The Stoles have weaved their way through numerous sounds and subgenres. Have they finally nailed their sound with ‘Age Of Deception’? Or will they continue to confound? Or maybe a bit of both. We’ll see when that album finally sees the light of day.

The Spectra Music Group bandcamp page is here so 'Age Of Deception' will probably appear on it soon.

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Neon Atlas - Fever

Cork’s Neon Atlas have been teasing their forthcoming album for months now. ‘The Afterglow’ came out last spring and ‘Fever’ is the latest advance single from their third record, which we’re promised will finally arrive next spring. We say “finally” but this will be the third LP since the band formed in 2013, so Neon Atlas have been prolific by today’s industry standards. Throw in Enda O’Flaherty’s other project, The Grey Merchant, who also have an album due and the Corkonians’ output starts to look prodigious.

There’s a distinctly '90s vibe on ‘Fever’. The Beta Band, The La’s, The Sundays and Teenage Fanclub are all brought to mind with its mellow guitar pop and languid harmonies. Most prominently, ‘Fever’ sounds like a sequel to The Connells’ 1995 hit, ‘74/75’ . The layered guitars and infectious vocal melody don’t take long to affix themselves to your receptors. You will find yourself humming this tune while doing the housework.

It’s an unobtrusive song on first listen but it embeds itself deeper in your consciousness with each successive listen. Where ‘The Afterglow’ veered close to indie by numbers, ‘Fever’ supersedes such criticisms by sheer virtue of the quality of the songwriting. Listen and repeat as the infection takes hold.

 

 

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The Shakers - White Leather

‘White Leather’ is the follow-up to ‘Guess Who’, which we featured previously and both songs are taken from The Shakers' second EP, Banana Tsunami. It feels anachronistic releasing this at Halloween: The Shakers’ sound is that of pure summer. The languidly casual funk guitars that open the track echo Nile Rodgers’ best-known licks. The three guitars overlap but never get under each other’s feet. The gentle, finger-clicking beat is complemented by the P-Funk rhythm section while Jack Hawkins’ breezy, southern voice lays on the lyrical hooks.

As well as their obvious debt to George Clinton and Sly Stone, you can hear influences from closer to home. There’s a John Squire feel to the guitars as well as their fellow Londoners, The Rolling Stones. Maybe a touch of The Fat Whites too, although the attitudes of the music are poles apart.

The Banana Tsunami title track was released as a single earlier this year and you might expect the quality to drop off by the third single from the EP but The Shakers have held the standard high with this song. The production is raw and unvarnished. A bigger production budget might bring a fatter sound, and some welcome low end to the bass guitar and drums, but the live feel of ‘White Leather’ is part of its charm. We’ll dust this off for festival season 2018.

 

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Geek Maggot Bingo - Box 36

Thankfully there's a digital version online of the latest six-track release from Edinburgh's Geek Maggot Bingo, otherwise I'd have been unable to play it, having not owned a cassette player/tape deck/whatever for the past 20+ years. So much for technological advances, what does it sound like?

With each new release the band seem to channel more and more of the best bits of The Reverend Horton Heat (not in any way a bad thing). The title track here is a prime example of that as it pounds away for just over two minutes, Andy Maggot rawly vocalising all the way & bringing to mind the good Reverend.

'Hey Jackass' turns the pace down a notch but has the compensations of a harmonica & a guitar solo as the titular jackass is called out.

Third track 'I'll Still Be Here' is the triumphant soundtrack to one man's resilience against whatever the world has to throw against him & his firm belief in outlasting all who've ever wronged him.

The second half of the release continues on in the same vein as you'd expect (you'll need to shell out if you want to know how the songs go down though, no more spoon feeding). Of the band's releases to date I'll say this is the one which has had the biggest impact on me. Whether it's the production bringing out more of their sound, better quality writing or some other factor they've seemingly ascended to a new level with Box 36.

Box 36 can be purchased from bandcamp here.

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