Singles round-up featuring The Ghosts, Theme Park, The Mars Volta, Ane brun, The Milk and more... Singles Review
Release schedules have gone a bit crazy of late, so let's dive into what promises to be the 'greatest selection of singles I have ever been presented with'. Except that straight from the 'off', I'm faced with lumpen swampy psychedelic noodling in the form of The Mars Volta. A taster from their latest "Noctourniquet" album, "The Malkin Jewel" (2 stars - out now) is a pointless release and offers little in the way of excitement, innovation or a tune. Gah.
Next. Oh it's Clement Marfo and the Frontline, featuring Kano (as if that's going to entice anyone to buy this). "Mayhem" (2 stars - out now) is a marketing tool, a cynical exercise in tacking some rapper into the bargain to bolster someone's career, but whose career it helps remains a mystery. Only the superior and utterly bonkers Doorly remix does anything to a disappointing song that may, or may not, signify the distant sound of a band's career being shot in the face by the handgun of fate.
Monument Valley is Londoner Ned Younger who crafts atmospheric songs with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of angst. I imagine that live, "Your Cover Blown" (3 stars - out 7th May) is a stunner. As a single on its own, I'm not totally convinced. It builds, it threatens and then it pans out without so much as a cough.
Another anonymous songwriter with a moniker problem is Liverpool's lowly Sheepy, aka Luke Jones. The problem with being a musician and a scouser is plenty-fold. The Beatles - how do you even come close to sniffing the annals of history that Lennon and co occupy, by being called Sheepy? "Glum" (2.5 stars - out now) is very glum, to the point of musical despair. I prefer the flip "Craic Injector", if only for its daft title and energy.
Things improve marginally with "Broke Up The Family" (3 stars - out now), the new car-chase and retro-flashback proffered by Essex soul-growlers The Milk. "I don't feel like going home" hollers lead-singer Rick and who can blame him if his band have got some live dates coming up. I reckon this aggressive little tune will make your bits itch when played live. The remixes are utter arse though. I could do better with a blowtorch and a Frisbee.
My heart sank still further when faced with yet more remixes of Ane Brun's collaboration with Jose Gonzalez. "Worship" (4 stars - out now) as a song is OK, but lurking as an extra track is a nape-hair caressing reworking by Henrik Schwarz. He's bumped up the beats, struck up the strings and boomed out the bass and, for a club-track, that's all he needs to do. This is when remixes work. Take a bow, Henrik.
Calling your band Twister is brave enough, particularly when the US is being bombarded with the windy little tornadoes as I type, plus other bands christened themselves with the same name already. Tell you what though - these young lads have got it in spades. "Twister" (3 stars - out now) kicks off with "Satellite", a neatly triggered rock tune that features the girl-grabbing line, "I'll lay you down and run my hands through your hair". Young love, eh? Then comes bruising follow-up "Charlie's Fallen", the equal of most pop-punkster bands these days. It's a promising EP, much the same as another band Stillman, who have poignantly called their 4-song cluster, "Eton Mess" (3 stars - out 23rd April). Elements of Cream, Hendrix and Led Zep abound throughout this ambitious handful, of which "Grit and Blood" and the title-track are as near as you'll get to those aforementioned rock-legends.
Edinburgh's The OK Social Club display plenty of rambunctious spunk and regional accents on their EP, "The Shape of Things to Come" (3.5 stars - out now). Jangly melodies, stomp-stomp-stomp drums and pure Scottish-as-the-driven-Highland-snow vocals makes the lead and title-track a bit of a belter. The joyous mood continues throughout the two other tracks, suggesting that this lot might just have a future.
And the same applies to Tom Williams and the Boat who have just served up their second single from their new album. "Teenage Blood" (3 stars - out now). Clearly bathed in the splendour of The Waterboys, Broken Records, Nick Cave and the likes of Billy Vincent, Williams and co have big rocky folk-cojones and have written a decent enough follow-up to the superior "Bones".
*** Singles of the week ***
And so we arrive at the campsite marked 'deluxe', 'luxury' and 'welcome'. Pitching themselves within earshot of Talking Heads, White Lies, Killers and MGMT are Theme Park. They've already banged out two singles, including "A Mountain We Love" (excellent) and "Milk" (humdrum), so they're up against the critical wall with "Two Hours" (4 stars - out now). As it happens, they've just about nailed it by blending fist-pumping indie-ethics and festival-pleasing choruses. I'm actually looking forward to what could be a decent album.
If you can imagine all of the above bands mixed with Brit-poppers Squeeze and electro-poppers Pet Shop Boys, you arrive at the superior The Ghosts. Pop-music needn't be comprised of bo-bo-bo ring-tone dullards, nor po-faced planks from blandville. Rather you should be faced with a pin-sharp radio-friendly winner such as "Ghosts" (4.5 stars - out now), a track that isn't this band's best tune by a long chalk, yet still wiggles its confident little buttocks in the face of all the nonsense I've been subjected to this week. Hell, even the remixes are decent - Ad Brown's chunky pounder being the most potent. Winner by far.