Albums of the Month
Intro: Welcome to what we hope will be a regular feature with our first round-up of the best albums of the month. “But why bother you absolute bellend?” Who knows ? But last year we noted, for a variety of reasons, we’d listened to far fewer albums than at any time in our life, (if we discount our first 12 years on earth when dinosaurs still roamed the planet and “streaming” was the customarily used to describe having a snotty nose ). To that end we thought we’d make more of an effort, something to focus our mind, hence every month god willing, we’ll round up our fave albums, complete with a stream (where possible). If nothing else it will act as a handy reference point when we get to the years end to compile our fave albums. We hope you enjoy!
Dream Wife – Dream Wife
When a band head to the recording studio with a reputation for explosive live performances the challenge can be, how to set about capturing their raw energy, natural effervescence and frenzied power? Fortunately, Brighton based Dream Wife‘s debut album manages to do just that, masterfully conveying the driving energy the band radiate as a live unit over eleven perfectly formed tracks. They’ve certainly come a long way since we first encountered them via Manchester band Pins own label, Haus Of Pins. Back in 2015 Pins released a limited edition cassette called “Myths” featuring Dream Wife performing an early incarnation of the blistering “FUU”, which had apparently been recorded in guitarist Alice Go’s bedroom.
The self-titled debut album is a triumph from start to finish and whilst fans who have followed them since the beginning will be familiar with a number of tracks such as debut EP cuts ‘Hey Heartbreaker’ and ‘Kids’ alongside previous singles and live favourites ‘Fire’ and ‘Let’s Make Out’ it’s immensely satisfying to hear these tunes in the context of an album. Indeed album closer, a third re-recording (to our knowledge) of the aforementioned “FUU” is probably the best version yet, the pace slightly slowed down, allowing Alice Go’s immense juddering guitar flourishes to shine whilst singer Rakel Mjöll’s ability to switch from sugar-coated pop perfection to raging nettle sting roar in a heartbeat remains a thing of infinite wonder.
Without getting hung up on genre, Dream Wife have been labelled everything from pop to punk to grunge, but rather than power pop this is “empowered pop”, often passionate, loud and in your face but necessary and vital. Of the newer tracks ‘Right Now’ and ‘Spend The Night’ prove that Dream Wife have the songwriting chops to become much more than the latest exciting buzz band. Dream Wife are for life.
Songs To Learn And Sing ‘Hey Heartbreaker,’ ‘Right Now’, ‘Let’s Make Out’
Shame – Songs Of Praise
South London’s Shame articulate their anger and dissatisfaction with a laser-like precision. ‘Songs Of Praise’ is a remarkably accomplished debut album that is infinitely more accessible than the provocative chaos of the Fat Whites, whilst putting the cartoonish crotch fiddling antics of the likes of Cabbage firmly into perspective. Not unlike Idles Shame sound like the real deal in terms of the new breed of politically engaged bands, mixing anger, wit and guile with compelling gutter poetry.
Frontman Charlie Steen’s performance throughout is never anything less than compelling, on the ‘The Lick’ for example, he comes across as a vitriolic Ian Dury whilst elsewhere on tracks such as ‘Friction’ and ‘Concrete’ summoning the abrasive fiery passion of a young Joe Strummer. There’s compassion, blistering sarcasm biting venom and even a doomed love song in the shape of album closer ‘Angie’ and whilst ‘Songs Of Praise’ may not be a perfect album it’s self-aware and intelligent enough to put them head and shoulders above their current peers.
Songs To Learn And Sing: ” Concrete’,’ The Lick’,’ Friction’
Starcrawler – Starcrawler
LA’s Starcrawler formed whilst still at school and announced themselves to the world in the form of the delightfully scuzzy NY Dolls sounding single ‘Ants.’ Formed around the nucleus of singer Arrow De Wilde and Guitarist Henri Cash Starcrawler’s music is visceral rock n roll performed with a sleazy curb crawling swagger which at times may have you pondering what the Stooges might have sounded like if Debbie Harry had joined them. The album is crammed with unhinged snarling vocals, fizzing guitars, raw power and even a bit of guitar-rock god showboating. However, when you can play the guitar as well as Henri it feels more like a gift to the listener rather than an indulgence.
When performing live De Wilde apparently takes her cues from Iggy, Lux and Alice Cooper, appearing in a straitjacket, spitting blood, contorting her frame like a woman possessed but this unhinged sense of theatricality would count for nought if the band couldn’t play or weren’t armed with a clutch of explosive rock n’ roll songs. Opening with the vigorous garage thrash of ‘Train’ which clocks in at just 1.22 it’s an album that rarely runs out of steam. ‘Loves Gone Again’ is a thrilling scuffed up master class in brevity, attitude and melody. Elsewhere the sleazy glam rock punk of ‘Pussy Tower'( an ode to oral sex), the Nirvana-ish sounding ‘I Love LA’ and ‘Different Angles’ demonstrate Starcrawler’s ability to take their influences and make them their own. Even the albums weakest track the rather ponderous ‘Chicken Woman’ is saved at the last by some spectacular riffing by Cash. The album may clock in at just under 30 minutes, but Starcrawler still manage to pack a huge sonic punch and demonstrate that the demise of rock n’roll has been greatly exaggerated, Starcrawler provide ample evidence it is alive and well, in safe hands and is still a whole lot of filthy fucked up fun.
Songs To learn and sing ‘Loves Gone Again’ ‘Train’ ‘Pussy Tower”I Love L.A.’
Have You Ever Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS ? Jazzbelle 1984/1988
Finnish trio Have You Ever Seen The Jane Fonda Aerobic VHS ? (HYESTJFAVHS? ) follow up their 2015’s ‘Teenage Sweetheart’ with another chaotically exuberant album full of demented energy and glorious melodies. The band’s latest release ‘ Jazzbelle 1984/1988 ‘ sees the trio who comprise of songwriter and keyboard wizard Ekku Lintunen , drummer Janne-Petteri Pitkälä, and bassist and singer Susse Stemma-Sihvolacame concoct another beguiling synth-driven indie garage pop jam.
Described as ” flower-garage” their sound is probably closer to the likes of the Go Team in terms of outrageous pop hooks, but arguably HYESTJFAVHS? have much better tunes and actually sound like a band rather than a mixing project. ‘ Jazzbelle 1984/1988’ is frenetic from the get-go driven by wonky swirling keyboards (instead of guitars) from the moment ‘ Magic Swimming Pants’ explodes into life the pace and the melody are relentless and at times they make The Ramones appear to be the Teddy Sheringhams of punk (ie/ snail-paced).
Despite this being described as ” a semi-breakup album, half the tracks written pre- and post- Hence, there are explorations of both the excitement and disappointment of love” the swirling keyboards and perfect indie pop melodies on the likes of ‘Mareide’ ‘Hanky Panky’ and ‘Eggs’ ensure its an album bathed in spectacular sunlight and smiles rather than tenebrous darkness and tearful regret.
Songs To Learn and Sing: ‘Period’ ‘Magic Swimming Pants’ ‘Mareide’
Chemtrails – Calf of The Sacred Cow
Ok so this isn’t strictly a January release, (hence no full stream) but having received an early review copy it’s an album that’s rarely been off the old virtual turntable since Christmas. Released via the consistently wonderful PNKSLM records Chemtrails is the recording project of Mia Lust and Laura Orlova. Following a clutch of sublime singles and EP releases their debut album ‘Calf Of the Sacred Cow’ is about to drop on February 9th and it’s nothing short of a triumph. Lust and Orlova haven’t allowed budgetary constraints to get in the way of musical excellence and prove that lo-fi definitely doesn’t mean low quality. It is indeed remarkable to think that Chemtrails have managed to craft such beautiful noise given, like all previously released material, the album was recorded and produced in their living room.
From album opener the Spector-esque ‘A Killer Or A Punchline’ the quality never dips. ‘A Beautiful Cog in the Monolithic Death Machine’ is not only one of the best song titles you’ll come across this year but it takes the twisted garage rock of the Cramps and melds it with almost Brill building style pop hooks. ‘Lizard Empire’ sounds almost jaunty whilst making darker thematics, and throughout the album, Mia’s lyrics are political and also deeply personal as she reflects on her place in the world as a transgender woman. The album title is explained by Mia as referring to “the children of the failing system of neoliberal capitalism. In most of the songs I was venting frustration at the world we’ve grown up in, and at our apparent inability to change it. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as the dark subject matter is wrapped up in psychedelic language, and musically speaking the album is pretty upbeat.”
And even with titles such as ‘Watch Evil Grow’ and ‘Usual Freaks’ the music still retains a sense of liberation and jubilation. Any fears that they may run out of steam over the course of a full album are instantly quelled as the album closes with gorgeous, ethereal ‘Ghost Of My Dead Cat’ and the majestic ‘Overgrown’. A stunning debut album and affirmative proof that you certainly don’t need Mark Ronson et all to make something profoundly beautiful.
Songs To Learn and Sing – ‘Ghost Of My Dead Cat’ ‘ ‘A Beautiful Cog in the Monolithic Death Machine’