Having already served up an honourable leader of the free world and a brand spanking new Guns N’ Roses album, you have every right to expect something a little bit special from The Round Up this month. So, ladies and gentlemen without further ado your friendly, four-weekly record synopsis brings you London’s very own Paddingtons.
That's right, everyone’s favourite Libertine-aping dangleberries who aren’t The View have returned with No Mundane Options [*], the ‘rocking follow up to their acclaimed debut First Comes First.’ Sadly, the hyperbole of the press release translates to 'a pitiful excuse for a record'. Tuneless protestations like “What’s the point In anything new?” rankle alongside droning riffs and plod-a-long drums that only serve to make tracks like Molotov Cocktail and – the ghastly– Punk RIP even more incorrigible than their titles suggest.
Luckily, the belly rumbling clatter of Threatmantics wipes away The Pads’ lingering acidity. Abound with rockabilly jangling and microdot infused breakdowns, the Welsh quartet’s debut LP Upbeat Love [***] is a fun-loving, no-frills stomp of archaic folk that wails to seductive viola strokes and loose-limbed, harrying guitar tempos. For all the throaty joviality of numbers like Big Man and Don’t Care, dark tribal rhythms still embed themselves within the dungeon of bass and chant found in the magnificent Get Outta Town, making for an enthralling - if slightly confusing - half hour of valley-dwelling sonics.
Less robust and much less pleasurable to The Round Up’s ears is the windswept blustering of Rome-born trio Semaphore and their eponymous longplayer [**]. Sitting atop the unbeknown pivot lodged between The National and Crash Test Dummies, this is a record that growls to the sound of ball-busting baritone strewn over a baffling juxtaposition of grating 80s power-chords and mid 80s country pop, depending on which half of the record you’re unfortunate enough to be enduring.
Smothered by more cheese than this lactose intolerant article can take, The Round Up quickly switches discs to find itself staring into Trickbaby’s Chor Bazaar [***]. A pavement-strutting flurry of Middle Eastern rhythms and slinky pop hookery, it’s a sound far removed from The Round Up’s usual snot sniffing predilection. Yet somehow, amidst the chromatic production and bangra-frazzled beats, this is a compelling, noggin-nodding exploration of alternative India. A surefire certainty to fall foul of the myopic record-buying masses, it’s still a fascinating scurry through the unventured warrens of your earholes.
Alas, the terrifically entitled Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man’s Opus 2 [**] etches out a less compelling pathway. With a vocal that worryingly resembles that cunt from The Killers if he'd taken elocutions lessons, the pretentious, over blown introduction of opening number If This Is A Man does little to tantalise the senses. Thing is, the proceeding five tracks barely improve matters. Abound with crumby production and pantomimic horror-schlock, much of this record is Proggish, sky scraping rock a la Muse that broods like Dracula in its nocturnal lingering but is as ghostly as Casper in sound i.e., completely transparent and, well, really rather irritating.
All things considered, The Round Up counts its blessings to find School Of Seven Bells' gorgeous debut Alpinisms [****] standing patiently in line. Blushing with radiant, gossamer pop undertones and transient post-rock dalliances, it’s easy to see why the Brooklyn-based trio have been moistening the sweat glands of high-brow music rags of late. Mesmerising cuts like the steam-engine puffing Iamundernodisguise and the sauntering Connjur blend Atlas Sound’s ethereal synth runnings with the antsy acoustics of Broken Social Scene. A delight to behold, this record may well be 55 of the finest musical minutes left in 2008.
Sadly, Maple Bee’s Home [**] is probably the most insipid 44 minutes of music left in 2008. Rife with glaucoma-inducing beats and sheepish, helium abetted vocals, the emo-styled chanteuse’s sophomore offering is a dreary clutter of drums cloyed with star-gazing synths that are as ineffective as a hooker in an asexual’s undercrackers.
And with that, The Round-up buffs up its credit card, slips on a Santa hat and prepares for the capitalist utopia that is Crimbo. But let's hope Santa has something more substantial than the usual Manilow remasters in his sack this December.