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Yip Man - Pure Zen, Ken?

  • Published in UNX


Yip Man is the nom de plume for Al Nero. Scotland-born but now living in China, his music has the greatest hallmark of the music of the Far East. That is, he ignores staid old notions of genre and fills his music with heavy guitars, horn sections, heartfelt lyrics and general nonsense wherever he feels it’s appropriate.   The man has an ear for a hook. The chorus of the title track will lodge in your brain before the song has even finished and it will remain there until ‘Funky Town’ or ‘Baby Shark’ dislodge it. The same could be said for ‘Trying Not To Get Caught Out’ and it’s “Scoo-ooh-ooh-bay”.  

Nero is so un-self-conscious in his vocal delivery that it’s invigorating. At times he sounds like Billy Corgan and at others he’s more Steve Mason or Stephen Malkmus but it’s all delivered with an assurance and commitment that is enviably coherent. Every note is the right one for the moment it inhabits. Which sounds like the most basic idea behind popular music but if it were easy to do then everyone would be doing it. Yip Man is doing it and it sounds like he’s having a ball doing it. For further evidence of this, have a look at the videos for his recent singles. They combine performance and animation like Peter Gabriel’s collaboration with Aardman Studios.  

Pure Zen, Ken? is Yip Man’s second album. The title is a memorably Scottish phrase but it doesn’t hold a candle to the naming of his debut. Braw Power is high on my list of favourite album puns. Weird Al would be proud of that one. The album is front loaded with great tunes and, just as it seems to be losing steam after ‘Aye Peckin’, ‘Here Comes The Feeling’ comes along with a Rivers Cuomo melody to match its Weezer-esque guitars.  The 23 second ‘You Matter’ ends proceedings. Like Abbey Road’s ‘Her Majesty’, it’s a short, jaunty palette cleanser that makes you wish it went on longer. But then the play button is always there, ready to be pressed again. Pure Zen, Ken? lives up to its name.

Pure Zen, Ken? is available via bandcamp here.



Yip Man - Braw Power

  • Published in UNX


It’s a curious thing this listening to music malarkey, particularly when it comes to keeping up with the amount that’s so readily available these days. Who knew, for instance, that Le Reno Amps had split up five years ago? Not me anyway although I recall quite liking (& positively reviewing) at least one of their two albums. That said I can’t remember the last time I deliberately played either of them (or, for that matter, if any random songs have been thrown up by my iPod). They had their 15 minutes so what then of former frontman Al Nero, now performing & recording as Yip Man?

Graham Coxon’s numerous solo albums come to mind when you first put Braw Power on, particularly with the pace of second track ‘Not That Easy’. Nero includes a lot more proper organ, as well as keys, in his sound though so the more pop punk numbers on the disc gain greater depth, thereby recalling fellow Scots The High Fidelity. Elsewhere though ‘Silver Wings’ is reminiscent of Grandaddy. Plenty of indie touchstones around the place then.

Relationship pitfalls are amongst the subject matter, with boxing imagery used to good effect on the opener ‘Barnburner’ as well as the progress towards a break-up being the focus of ‘Kings And Queens’. Where the album is let down slightly is the song ordering. Having started off at an infectious pace it slows right down for the likes of ‘Taxi’ and ‘It’s About Time We Stopped’, although the latter makes up mostly in volume what it lacks in speed.

On the whole Braw Power’s an album that is worth a number of listens – it’s free of cynicism, doesn’t preach or try and ram any messages it may carry down your throat and, whilst having few if any hooky choruses or the like, you could well still find yourself humming a few of the tunes. As for longevity that’s in the lap of the Gods.   

Braw Power is available from amazon.

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