Sunday, 27 April 2014

Glassglue (record review)



When a band are as truly original as this lot, it becomes difficult to describe them well without resorting to inaccurate comparisons, but here goes… Glassglue are a four-piece featuring Marcel Stoetzler on vocals, who retains his native German accent and has a charismatically unpretty voice which can, nevertheless, hit some difficult notes. Matthew Karas alternates between organ and guitar, both of which he never fails to play with an abundance of imagination, steering resolutely clear of all the usual rock clichés. The band’s material is mostly written collaboratively and commonly features unusual time signatures and changes, which are executed with confident invention by the rhythm section of Gianluca Galetti on bass and Ravi Low-Beer on drums, both of whom sound as if they’d be equally happy playing avant-garde jazz. In some ways, Glassglue are avant-garde, but their material remains surprisingly accessible – this is still pop music, albeit of a most unusual variety. The thirteen songs here are short, sharp and punchy, often featuring abrupt endings and never outstaying their welcome. The atmosphere is often sinister or even threatening, but Glassglue do have their lighter side, for example on the almost-sweet love ballad ‘My Last Parachute’.
As produced by Hans-Joachim Irmler of Faust, this record has a marvellous depth of sound and all the nuances of the band’s performances are loud and clear. This is a great album which will stand up to as much repeated listening as you may care to give it. Let yourself in on a very special well-kept secret and check it out.

The Lennrockers (record review)


The Lennerockers
Rustin’ and Rollin’
AGR Television Records

This denim-clad five-piece from Germany look for all the world like extras in a prison movie and have apparently now been active for thirty years! From listening to them, you’d never suspect for a second that they were from Germany – this is strictly American music and it’s a tribute to their evident enthusiasm for ‘50s era Sun-style rockabilly, country and rock ‘n’ roll that they pull it off just as well as most of their genuinely American counterparts.
‘Oakie Boogie’ has a Johnny Cash feel to it, whereas ‘Freckles’ more surprisingly recalls the naivety of Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers. Only the parrot voice on ‘Don’t Ask Polly’ and the tiresome chorus of ‘Crazy Fxxxxn’ Rocker’ veer too close to novelty territory and risk irritating the listener, otherwise this is a most enjoyable and well-played record to file next to BR5-49.

Michael and the Lonesome Playboys (record review)


Michael And The Lonesome Playboys
Bottle Cap Sky
Blackwater Records

The latest album from Michael Ubaldini and his band features fifteen smokin’ tracks of rocking country and honky tonk which do a very convincing job of bringing the genre up to date and making it feel relevant without losing any of what was good about it in the first place. Famous fans have apparently included Bob Harris, Brian Setzer, Lucinda Williams, John Fogerty and even the late Joe Strummer, and on this evidence it’s easy to see why.
     Recorded live to analogue tape with minimal overdubs, every one of the songs here is a winner, and the use of traditional elements such as pedal steel and fiddle never feels corny or contrived. It may not be the most original album in the world, but Ubaldini’s a versatile chap – ‘Someone Should Put You On Trial’ recalls Dylan at his bluesiest, whereas ‘Another Side To Every Story’ is reminiscent of Gram Parsons-era Byrds – and there’s enough variety here to keep you engaged all the way to the end. Strongly recommended for all fans of country and Americana.

Roadhouse (record review)

Gods & Highways & Old Guitars
Krossborder Records
This is the twelfth album from British blues-rock veterans Roadhouse, who have been around for about 20 years now and played well over 2, 000 gigs. Remarkably, despite so many years of hard slog, this latest offering sees them not only hit a creative peak but smack it right out of the ball park. Gods & Highways & Old Guitars is their strongest record yet and sees them moving further than ever before into Americana territory – in fact, the combination of Gary Boner’s growling vocals and the three female singers featured means that it sometimes sounds agreeably like a collaboration between Dr Feelgood and The Walkabouts.
    The ten songs here may be on the long side but even the most epic of these, ‘Skinwalker’, about an evil spirit from Native American folklore, does not outstay its welcome at seven and a half minutes. This is, of course, not simply down to the strength of the songs, but also a tribute to the musicians – the rhythm section are about as close to perfection as it’s possible to get, and Danny Gwilym’s blazing lead guitar work a continual highlight throughout.
    A very strong album indeed, and one with an appropriately big, widescreen feel to it – let’s hope it finally gets Roadhouse the attention they indisputably now deserve.

Rusty Shackle (record review)

Rusty Shackle
The Bones
(Get Folked Records)
The second album from this five-piece from South Wales sees them stripping their sound back to the “bare bones” (hence the title); however, the record has a somewhat fuller sound than this approach may suggest, featuring as it does guitars both electric and acoustic, violin, vocal harmonies, bass, drums, keyboards, banjo, harmonica and mandola (which is to the mandolin what a viola is to a violin, fact fans). It certainly doesn’t sound as if there’s anything missing.
    The style here is a sort of up-tempo, hi-energy folk pop with strong, sing-a-long melodies and is, it has to be said, quite hard to resist, although there will doubtless be some out there who feel that folk should not be allowed to be as accessible as it is here. And perhaps the tunes are a little too catchy, and the lyrics could sometimes have done with a little more depth but, on the other hand, maybe that’s just not what Rusty Shackle are about – and what they do do, they do undeniably well.
    These guys have already played some impressive gigs, and this is a strong record which does a good job of catching much of the exuberance of their live performances. If they keep it up, they won’t be getting any smaller, that’s for sure.

Mojo Makers (record review)

Mojo Makers
Wait Till The Morning (Hypertension)
An unapologetically American-style blues-rock album from a Danish five-piece may not sound like the most exciting proposition around, but this album turns out to be a pleasant surprise. Although the lyrics may be riddled with clichés about being born under bad signs or on bayous (and one assumes these chaps have never been near a bayou in their lives), their sheer enthusiasm for this kind of music is evident in every note.
    Lead singer Kasper Osman has an impressive range and manages to sound like he might actually have been born in a bayou after all. He’s also got a cracking band behind him, including a Hammond player, which is always a good thing, alongside formidable lead guitarist Kristian Hoffmann, who thankfully manages to avoid the temptation of descending into self-indulgent pyrotechnics here.
    The stand-out track is probably ‘No Good’, on which the Hammond goes into gloriously bonkers overdrive.

Kevin Doherty (record review)

Kevin Doherty
Seeing Things
(Proper Records) 

This is the fourth solo record from Dublin resident Doherty, also well-known as a member of the folk band Four Men & A Dog. It’s mature singer-songwriter fare of a type rarely heard these days, but more familiar from the late ‘60s / early ‘70s work of artists such as Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman – a string quartet are featured throughout, along with some lovely backing vocals courtesy of Charley Webb (from The Webb Sisters) and Lisa O’Neill.
     Doherty’s a fine singer himself, occasionally reminiscent of Nick Cave at his gentlest, and he knows how to put his songs across without ever straining for effect. Many of these are concerned with arrivals, departures or journeys of one sort or another, and listening to them feels something like a journey in itself - in this case, a sweetly melancholy one.
     It has to be said that not only does this album sound absolutely gorgeous, but the songs together form a masterly example of elegant, grown-up songcraft which is entirely consistent throughout and does not outstay its welcome. In fact, try as I might, I’m unable to think of a single negative thing to say about this record – it really is that good!

Craig John Davidson (record review)

Craig John Davidson
The Last Laugh
(Fat Hippy Records)

Following three self-released albums, this 26-year old singer / songwriter from Aberdeen has finally found himself a record deal (with a Scottish independent label) for this latest offering. It’s an album of accomplished and accessible alt-acoustic music on which he’s played most of the instruments (mostly a variety of guitars) himself. He’s fond of double-tracking and using plenty of effects on his vocals, but fortunately he judges this well and it helps to give his music a unique, lush, slightly ethereal character. The lyrics here are rather vague and, although there may be only limited changes in style throughout the record, sometimes it’s good to get into one mood and stick with it. Davidson also has a real knack for coming up with memorable, original melodies, notably on tracks such as ‘Therefore Thereafter’ and ‘It Moves’.
    This is a lovely record which improves on repeated listening and should find favour with fans of Iron & Wine.