“You’re late” someone shouted from the audience as Pond took to the stage an hour after the advertised 7pm. “We were told 8pm, what were you told?” shouted back drummer Jay “Gumby” Watson, a wry smile on his face. It didn’t matter. It was worth the wait. The upstairs cafe bar in Nottingham’s Rough Trade was jammed with a mixed crowd of young and old, some Tame Impala t-shirts floating about.
Looking like the DNA from some 70s surfer bums and 80s computer nerds has been spliced together Pond play crazy, psychedelic pop rock but unlike many psych rock bands who seem more fixated on self pleasure, Pond care about the listener and layer their psychedelia with tonnes of catchy tunes and gorgeous riffs. And they have character in spades, evident from the banter between the various members between songs. We learned for example that pigs have eggs!
“Hello Mother F*ckers” says baby faced and incredibly charismatic lead singer Nick Allbrook (wash your mouth out!) as they launched into “Waiting Around For Grace” off their excellent new album “Man It Feels Like Space Again”. Next is “Elvis Flaming Star” with a romping beat. Pond create some great (and loud) sound and some crazy noises. They then run through some “oldies but baddies”(according to Nick) before finishing their 40 minute set with the ravishing psych pop opera of title song “Man It Feels Like Space Again”, an 8 minute plus marvel with some bloody gorgeous crunching riffs and enough changes in gear to satisfy even the most demanding of listener.
Pond are currently touring the UK and you can find out where they’re going to be at their Facebook page.
You can get get ‘Man It Feels Like Space Again’ in all good record shops and online retailers.
WOOF. is the eponymous debut EP, released on 10th February by the Montclair, New Jersey natives through Tree Machine Records. For more about WOOF. see my previous blog post here.
I say ‘natives’ but WOOF. isn’t actually a band, rather it is the monicker of multi-instrumentalist indie ‘nerd’ Kelan Bonislawski who (according to ‘legend’):
“After years of obtaining and playing around on various instruments, Kelan realized he had enough instruments to cover the sound of a full band, only no bandmates. This forced him to record each part on his own from his makeshift living room studio. This developed into a collage of sounds, from Beck esq lo-fi funk, to early 00’s indie rock, occasionally losing itself in dense psychedelic space”.
When you listen to WOOF. you can’t help but be impressed by the artistry of this one man band in the way he crafts something that sounds like it has more than one creative input. It will be interesting to see how WOOF. recreates this on stage.
The EP starts with ‘My Device’, a song about reliance on technology, which isn’t surprising given the amount of gadgetry and technological wizardry that is crammed into these 9 songs.
“My whole life is in the cloud but I don’t know where it is”.
The song is vaguely reminiscent of Violent Femmes Blister in the sun but with synths and whilst Bonislawski claims “My device is my whole life” it is clear that music is actually his muse and this is someone who enjoys creating and experimenting. You get the sense that Bonislawski creates a lot of output and then looks for interesting patterns and connections between what probably seem to be very different elements.
The next track ‘Not to Offend’ contains the repetitive refrain of:
“Oh no, I won’t apologise”
I think this is acting as Bonislawski’s statement of intent right up front – challenging the listener to either leave or join the party. The smart ones will take the latter choice.
‘I Got Away’ is a more straightforward guitar driven indie-pop number to start with and then layers of electronica are slowly added whilst still maintaining the song’s integrity.
Actually, quite a lot of the craft on WOOF. is in taking disparate elements, rhythms, beats, sounds and vibes and mashing them together in a way that sounds uneven on first listen and even second listen. But on repeated listens, you can hear them coming together. It’s a bit like brush strokes on a painting when viewed up close. They don’t really look like anything but when you pull away a bit and look at how they interrelate you can then start to see what is being painted. WOOF. does that with sound to great effect.
‘Certainty’ has a nice guitar driven beat and interesting vocals which sound both out of and and in tune at the same time. ‘Cold Comfort’, ‘2AM’ and ‘Hear Me Breathing’ deliver more interesting soundscapes.
My favourite, ‘Gleamed’, starts like the most poppy of the songs on the EP but works up to a change about half way through the song when it moves gear and becomes almost a different song which is an electronica guitar battle with a hint of Yoshimi battling the pink robots. I love the second half of this song and the descending guitar/bass sound is really infectious alongside the bubbling synth parts.
The EP could have ended there for me but WOOF. has one more in the locker, a softer paced, chill down affair to close the EP. You can’t blame a guy for wanting to showcase his entire repertoire I suppose.
This is a really assured first outing for WOOF. and it is well worth the £4.99 purchase price as new layers are revealed upon repeated listens – Download from iTunes: Woof. – Woof
Wasted Years Records is excited to present Exotic Trash—the latest offering from Australian-Swedish indie cockburglers Black Fox. Recorded in Oxford, England with Ian Davenport (Band of Skulls/Supergrass/Stonefield), the extended player has been described by BBC Radio 1 as, ‘…an effin riot (pardon my French).’
Black Fox release their Exotic Trash [EP] on 6th February and I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a copy.
I must admit that my radar hadn’t picked up Black Fox first time around when their 2013 release, Line of Sight didn’t seem to make the waves the band were hoping for but according to their label [Wasted Years Records], “the boys from Black Fox have licked their wounds… trimmed the fat and returned from incompetence with a blistering five-track cassette of highly addictive indie dance-floor bombs”.
Whilst the self-deprecation is quite charming, there is probably an element of self-protection in it but Black Fox needn’t worry as they really deliver with Exotic Trash which combines all the best bits from cool guitar bands from the last 20 years along with some indie dance rhythms to create a simple, infectious EP that just demands to be put on repeat, although that might be tricky as they’ve opted to released on a limited edition cassette – very old school!
Luckily, there is also a digital download so you can flick on shuffle and repeat and you will definitely want to repeat these songs.
Despite the fay false start of standout ‘Bad Behaviour’ the band really get into gear very quickly and delivery a devastatingly brilliant sub-3 minute piece of indie pop excellence. What follows is a mixture of Smiths-inspired jangle pop [‘I Just Wanna Dance With You’] and Fall-influenced rock [‘Lexington’]. Black Fox manage to cram a lot of influence and a lot of style into five songs with a really neat production that sounds at the same time smooth and fuzzy and sounds new but also familiar. That’s good BTW.
If this is what Black Fox sound like when they have licked their wounds, I look forward to what they produce when the wounds are fully healed.
My Train Tracks Rating: 9/10
“Destined for the dance floor or the nearest landfill, Exotic Trash will be available on February 6 on limited edition cassette and digital download. Black Fox are celebrating the release with a European tour this Summer. Head to wastedyearsrecords.com for more details”.
We know you threw your arms around us in the hopes we wouldn’t change but we had to change some.
My Train Tracks Rating: 9/10
It’s been almost 4 years to the day since The Decemberists‘ last outing with “The King is Dead” (2011). That album marked the point at which Colin Meloy‘s band set a new course away from the progressive indie folk stylings of their previous offerings towards a new land where rock and pop stylings and more obvious hooks and melodies and arrangements are painted throughout the band’s songs. That’s not to say, that this doesn’t sound like a Decemberists album because it does and long time fans will still hear and feel much to love. There is, however, a larger step towards the indie pop and rock territory on this than any previous Decemberists album. That’s not a bad thing and whilst “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” may not have the same thematic consistency of albums like “The Hazards of Love” (2009) or “The Crane’s Wife” (2006) it is a fine album with some brilliant touches. The opening track “The Singer Addresses His Audience” welcomes the listener in “We know, we know we belong to ya” but goes on to apologise that “we know you built your lives around us. But we had to change some”. It’s
a nice opener as it feels like the band is talking directly to the listener which makes you prick up your ears and think, OK, go on then. “Cavalry Captain” is more like the old Decemberists although with a much smoother cafe latte production. “Philomela” is where the pop sensibility really kicks in. Sounding like it could have come out of Phil Spector’s studio, full of Wall of Sound girl group oo’s and ah’s, it works really well. As usual, Meloy’s writing is poetic and thoughtful. He fits a lot of narrative into so few words such as on “Lake Song” – “Down by the lake we were overturning pebbles and upending all the animals alight and I took a drag from your cigarette and pinched it ‘tween my finger and thumbs till it had died” – his words working with the music to create a vivid world. “The Wrong Year” sounds like it could have featured on an REM album, lovely jangly guitars from Chris Funkthroughout, a bit Johnny Marr in parts. “Carolina Low” is just Meloy and a guitar (with some sweet background vocals) leaning towards Southern Soul and managing to create an epic sound. “Anti-Summersong” is tongue in cheek and includes some call and response parts which don’t quite fit with the song but it is still fun. “Mistral” is another standout track. Great tune, lovely melodies, nice choral background vocals and interesting instrumentation including a honky tonk piano with very few lyrics describing a holiday abroad and reflection on life – “Won’t the mistral blow it all away?”. The album ends ironically with “Beginning Song” is a call to action although it’s not entirely clear what action is being called for. Maybe Meloy is asking the listener to do something, anything, just get out of your seat and grab the world – “Document the world inside your skin, the tenor of your shins, the timbre of your limbs”. It’s a hopeful song and sounds the start a confident statement about the next phase of the Decemberists musical journey. “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” is not a concept album but is an album packed full of great songs and tight lyrics and is my first contender for a year end ‘best of 2015 slot’. The band are touring the UK in February and March 2015 and are definitely ones to see.