The debut album from Edinburgh quartet The Spook School brings together 13 (mostly) very noisy guitar pop songs, the culmination of four people making a lot of noise about gender and about identity.
Inspired by the post-punk-pop of The Buzzcocks, Lou Reed’s ‘Transformer’ and the films of Buster Keaton, with a dash of 60s pop for good measure, The Spook School are Nye Todd on guitar with Adam Todd also on guitar and Anna Cory on bass, not forgetting Niall McCamley who plays drums, tells jokes and takes his clothes off.
They all sing and shout and write the music together. There is no leader and no ‘frontperson’. They’re a band.
1. Are You Who You Think You Are?
2. I'll Be Honest
3. You Make It Sound So Easy
4. I Don't Know
5. The Cameraman
7. Can You Ever Trust A Man Who Think Matt Damon's Really Cool?
8. What A Pity
9. Devil of Mine
10. That's When I Ran Away
11. You Don't Know
13. Who Ya Gonna Call? Goat Buster!
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- Limited to 150, coloured vinyl, jukebox hole, record middle, tote bag, badge, mp3 download
1. Sleeping In The Backseat - Tigercats
2. Enabler - Evans The Death
3. Pretty Fucking Sick (Of It All) - Joanna Gruesome
4. The New Adam And Eve - Simon Love
5. Mr. Music - Pete Astor
6. Binary - The Spook School
7. Come Back To The City, Babyface - Cinema Red & Blue
8. I've Been A Bad, Bad Boy - Darren Hayman and Papernut Cambridge
9. Say 123 - Flowers
10. Propped Up - Mammoth Penguins
11. The Winter Fuel Allowance Ineligibility Blues - Martha
12. The last ever Fortuna POP! single... TBC!!!
Martha return with their second album Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart in July, via Fortuna POP! (UK/EU) and Dirtnap Records (US). Produced again by MJ from Hookworms, the album explores the difficulties in staying political, staying passionate and staying punk over the course of eleven expertly crafted pop songs.
Hailing from Pity Me near Durham, Martha play energetic, impassioned power pop with intricate vocal interplay and lush four-part harmonies, informed by 90s indie rock and contemporary garage punk. The band is comprised of J. Cairns (guitar), Daniel Ellis (guitar), Naomi Griffin (bass), and Nathan Stephens Griffin (drums). All four members sing and write the songs. Daniel and Nathan also play in Onsind, while Naomi also plays in No Ditching. Their debut album “Courting Strong” came out in 2014 and was included in NPR's top 50 albums of that year, winning them the epithet “One of Britain's best rock bands”.
If the band’s first album, 'Courting Strong', was about punks growing up, then 'Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart' is about grown-ups staying punk. It's an album about trying to stay creative and passionate and making the most of everything in spite of the many obstacles that get in the way. It documents the way things like work, money, expectations and mental health issues can impact on your ability to do the things you want to do and be the person you want to be. It’s about resistance to those things. It's about finding strength and solace in friendships, love, and taking motivation from the people in your life who really inspire you.
As Nathan explains: “Playing music is something that is really important to all of us, but it’s also something that takes a lot of time and energy and emotional strain. This record is for everyone who leads a secret double life, devoting every weekend, every day of annual leave, all of their disposable income, every drop of creative energy to something as ethereal as music and art. It’s about persevering and still doing the things you love, even when most normal people can't understand why on earth you do it.”
Taking inspiration from such likely and unlikely sources as The Replacements, Heart, Billy Bragg, Thin Lizzy, Cheap Trick, The Go-Gos and Radiator Hospital, the album bursts into life with “Christine”, “a love song filtered through the messiness of anxiety and night terror” that takes inspiration from “Threads”, the British TV drama of the 1980s about nuclear war, and is followed by the rousing “Chekhov's Hangnail”, with backing vocals from Ellis Jones of Trust Fund.
The catchy “Precarious (The Supermarket Song)” finds romance in the washing powder aisle, while “Goldman’s Detective Agency” shows the band’s playful side as they re-imagine 19th century anarchist Emma Goldman as a private eye vanquishing corrupt cops and politicians. Nearly every song here is a potential single, from the infectious “Do Whatever” and “11:45, Legless In Brandon” to outsider anthem “The Awkward Ones” and the Billy Bragg / Coronation Street-referencing “Curly and Raquel”. The album concludes with “St Paul's (Westerberg Comprehensive)”, a song about being caught up in the toxic culture of a Catholic comprehensive school. “It’s for the kids who had the guts to be queer at school and for those who didn’t figure themselves out until they got out of school. “
Following a Glastonbury appearance last year at the personal invitation of Billy Bragg, the band will be playing UK dates in July and August before taking to the stage at End Of The Road in September. It’s going to be a busy old time for the band, what with double lives and everything, but, with passion and love dripping out of every second of “Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart”, you know they’ll find a way.
2. Chekhov's Hangnail
3. Precarious (The Supermarket Song)
4. Do Whatever
5. Goldman's Detective Agency
6. The Awkward Ones
7. Icecream And Sunscreen
8. 11:45, Legless In Brandon
9. Curly & Raquel
10. Do Nothing
11. St. Paul's (Westerberg Comprehensive)
London five-piece Evans the Death return with Vanilla, their most ambitious and experimental album to date, eschewing the more traditional pop structures and hooks of their first two albums, 2012’s self-titled debut and 2015’s critically acclaimed Expect Delays. While Expect Delays was a step towards something more interesting, more collaborative, experimental and abrasive - a bleak, introspective kind of album that still retained a pop sensibility - Vanilla sees the band veer in an ever more adventurous direction: more aggressive, extroverted and raw.
Named after the undertaker in Dylan Thomas’ radio play, Under Milk Wood, the band was formed by brothers Dan and Olly Moss after meeting singer Katherine Whitaker at a Let’s Wrestle show. After numerous line-ups, the band is now completed by James Burkitt on drums and Daniel Raphael on bass. The new album was recorded at Lightship95 in London with producer Rory Attwell, who worked on both of their previous records. Highly variegated in style and mood, brimming with extreme contrasts, from noisy to funky to melodic, energetic to dejected, full of chaos and restlessness, the album was the result of a carefully planned recording strategy, as Dan Moss explains:
“We deliberately booked very little time in the studio, and we pretty much did everything live, together in the room – there was no trying to fix any mistakes. What you hear is very close to what we did in that moment – so technically, while it isn’t overly polished or slick, it’s a very high fidelity recording – an accurate reproduction of the original source. I think that gives it more of an urgency and honesty than the first two. We decided to limit ourselves to 8 tracks and this meant we were restricted in how much we could alter things after recording, and the amount of overdubs we could do – which is what we wanted.”
With no specific musical reference point, the songs on Vanilla veer wildly in style, lending a real energy and vitality to the flow of the album. There’s the psychedelic snarl of “Haunted Wheelchair” built around dissonant, ominous, jazz-like chords, which build a sense of dread and paranoia but also a strange excitement. Dan explains: “I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Then before recording the song, while on my way to a party I got assaulted out of the blue, and I had to have surgery for a broken jaw. I used that incident to hang the lyrics on, but really it’s about that strange feeling I was already having anyway.”
There’s also the no-wave party vibe of “Suitcase Jimmy”, a semi-improvised portrait of a fictional down-at-heel actor built around a Wilko Johnson-ish guitar part. “Hey! Buddy” is an “unintentionally mean-spirited” askew pop tune from the point of view of a cloying and over-zealous fan of the band. While the wartime dancehall of “Cable St. Blues” is an odd duet between two parts of the psyche, representing “an argument you have with yourself, about depression and extreme self-criticism and self-doubt, struggling to function”, and named after the site of the 1936 riots where the band wrote the album. “I wanted the end to sound like a New Orleans jazz funeral”, says Dan.
Newest member Daniel Raphael’s present to the band, “Hot Sauce” is led by a groovy, capacious bassline, while Olly’s “Armchair Theatre”, the quietest, prettiest song on the record, starts out like a soft rock classic and turns in to a gorgeously mournful song with the lyric “I took you to the park / kickin’ through used Johnnies and dry leaves”. And “Welcome to Usk” drews on Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western soundtracks and parts of Vivian Kubrick’s score for Full Metal Jacket, with a banging disco section thrown in for good measure. “When we first got this song right I got so excited I threw up my dinner”, says Dan. “It has three different time signatures!”
A dark, howling, ragged storm of an album, impossible to categorise, Vanilla is anything but – a far cry from the bland, unimaginative music that pervades the airwaves. It is a brittle, brilliant new chapter in the story of a band who never fail to surprise.
1. Haunted Wheelchair
2. Suitcase Jimmy
3. No Imitations
4. Hey! Buddy
5. Cable St. Blues
7. Hot Sauce
8. Armchair Theatre
9. Welcome to Usk
10. European Bison
Dublin quintet September Girls return with an impassioned musical and political statement in their new album Age of Indignation, a title that succinctly sums up its inherent anger and restless dissatisfaction. The ten tracks bristle with atmospheric textures and dark-hearted noise, tackling complex subject matter such as feminism, religion and life in Ireland at this point in history along the way.
Formed in Dublin in 2011 and named after the Big Star song (by way of The Bangles), September Girls share songwriting and vocal duties amongst each of the band members. They comprise Paula Cullen on bass, Caoimhe Derwin and Jessie Ward O’Sullivan on guitar, Lauren Kerchner on keys and drummer Sarah Grimes, who debuts her first composition for the band with the closing track “Wolves”. Oliver Ackermann from A Place To Bury Strangers contributes vocals to “Jaw on the Floor”.
Age of Indignation follows September Girls’ debut Cursing the Sea (2014), an album that enjoyed considerable critical acclaim from the likes of The Guardian, The Fly, NME, The Sunday Times, The Observer and Uncut amongst others, with Time Magazine naming them as one of the 11 best new bands in the world. Since then the band have played slots at SXSW and CMJ as well as UK festivals such as Beacons, Great Escape, and Liverpool Psych Fest, not to mention a mobbed show in Berwick Street for Record Store Day. In late 2014 the band released a four-track EP Veneer, building on the foundations of Cursing the Sea and anticipating Age of Indignation, as they headed down a darker path.
As opposed to their debut album, which was recorded mainly at home, Age of Indignation was recorded at Dublin’s Orphan Studios, lending it a more assured, powerful sound. The album opens with the starkly bleak guitar riff of “Ghost”, before the band’s political views come to the fore with songs such as “Jaw on the Floor”, which is inspired by both the feminist movement and the 1916 Rising in Ireland, and “Catholic Guilt”, which deals with anger towards the Catholic Church, particularly from the viewpoint of being a woman, referencing the W.B. Yeats poem “September 1913”. Title track “Age of Indignation” addresses the ugly side of social media, while lead single “Love No One” comments on the vacuousness of modern society, mourning a narcissist's inability to see true beauty.
Brutally honest and brilliantly realised, Age of Indignation is a masterful album from a band confident enough to leave their influences behind. Still retaining the swirling psychedelia and intensity of their debut, this time round they are tighter and more controlled, whilst underneath something much darker and urgent is at work. This is music at its most riveting and atmospheric.
2. Jaw On The Floor
3. Catholic Guilt
4. Blue Eyes
5. Age of Indignation
6. Love No One
8. John of Gods