The Record Round Up: September, 2008
The Round Up will critically acquaint you with some of the month’s brightest (and shitest!) long-playing releases
We at The Skinny like to think of our Album Reviews section a little like Trafalgar Square; y’know the central point in a multi-cultural hive of creativity. But, unlike said square, the section’s always been missing one thing: a column - a safe haven for those records that may otherwise end up in 'the shit box' simply 'cos we didn't get a minute to spin 'em. That is until now. So without further ado say hello to our monthly Album Round-up (hello!). It may not have the medal-pinned prestige of Nelson’s monument but this is one column you won’t have to strain your neck to view.
Tenuous analogies aside, these next 800 words will critically acquaint you with some of the month’s brightest long-playing releases. Kicking off September’s proceedings is Iceland-born songstress Emiliana Torrini with her seventh album Me And Armini (***). Now, in my mind everything Icelandic sounds like Bjork or Sigur Ros so Torrini’s button-cute mew blustering over calypso-swaying melodies is a bit of a shock. But that’s not to say this ain’t an enjoyable affair; the glacial pop choreography and impish folkisms make for an entrancing record that captivates without ever really kidnapping the affections.
The next cyclical disc to enter the battle-scarred CD-player this month is Black Daniel’s Hard Times On The Way (*) and, judging by the sound of these here ditties, it’ll be more than just hard times coming the London trio’s way. In short, the band are the electro-rock Chas ‘n’ Dave and this abomination of a record is the musical equivalent of a non-anesthetised tooth extraction by a Fred Perry wearing, beer-swigging, tits-out-for-the-lads shouting neanderthal.
Without dwelling on Black Daniel’s torturous aural tripe, I warily reaches for The Bikini Beach Band’s Sour Cream For The Soul (**). Few words do this record justice: Shite may be one of them but curious is most certainly another. A twanging, Hank Marvin-esque take on a range modern-day ‘classics’ there’s enough cheese here to fill a toffee-nosed Yah’s fondue party but their reprisals of Arctic Monkeys' I Bet You Look Good… and Gorillaz’s Feel Good Inc somehow thrill as breathless spurts of wave surfing brilliance.
Cruiser’s previous LP Northern Electric was awash with gorgeous, stream running orchestrations that melted The Round-up’s ice-cold heart. Happily, new outing happyrobots:smilingpeople (****) is equally as spellbinding. This synth strewn affair is blushing with Postal Service-esque laments and love struck tales of romance that furrow their way deep into the soul. It’s not exactly a daring change of tact for the Cowdenbeath ensemble but their bubbling keys and mellow grooves perfectly recall the heyday of 80s electro-pop.
Recalling an entirely different, erm, heyday is Cog with new record Sharing Space (*). The Aussie trio’s sophomore record is a lug-raping combination of Linkin Park and Nickelback’s ‘finest’ moments. Apparently it signifies a new, progressive edge to their sound but if this is progress then Christ knows what filth occupied their first record. Thank God then for Paul Hawkins & The Awkward Silences whose debut LP We Are Not Other People (***) offers shelter from Cog’s spirit-shattering storm. Bulging with junkyard riffs and Hawkins’ fiery-eyed snarl, it’s a record scurrying to the sound of dissident country-punk that makes for a riveting, toe-tapping half-hour.
Not so quirky of tune is Officer Kicks’ debut offering The Six Grand Pilot (**). A flurry of chiselling guitars and whip-crack percussion fails to mask the ineptitude of their sloppy Foo Fighters-like cuts. Popularity amidst the UK music media’s aristocracy will see this shoot into the charts’ upper echelons but, mark The Round-Up’s words kids, this dirge is not what Rock music should be. The Black Seeds’ Solid Ground (***) ain’t either but that’s because it’s a Dub record. Vacuum packed with bulbous bass frequencies and echoic reverb, it’s a free-spirited floor shuffler that’s sonically unoriginal but does enough to loosen tightened limbs with a swathe of party-hard skanking.
Anyone who dares to label himself ‘The Original Camden Cowboy’ is unlikely to encroach beyond The Round-up’s courtyard of snotty nosed chin-strokery and London-bred Alan Tyler barely gets through the gates. Tyler and his crew The Lost Sons Of Littlefield’s new LP Lonesome Cowboys (**) sounds exactly as you'd expect: Plod-a-long Country ballads predictably whining about gals and booze. Frankly, so bored is The Round-up it begins to question whether Country music any longer serves a purpose given it’s never moved away from this sort of drudgery.
Before such posers can be answered the finishing line approaches and Darren Hayman’s Great British Holiday EPs (****) is the second wind The Round-up’s been waiting for. Skewering together traditional British songwriting with a tantalising sense of obscurity, each track is ingrained with light-fingered fret picking that tips its hat to Damon Gough and Jim Noir. A slumping, cushion comfort of a record, the prancing keys and playful, breezy melodics are the retrospective sound of Butlins holidays and garish Hi-De-Hi uniforms – only without the embarrassment of yer Da on karaoke.
And that’s it. The Round-up’s done and dusted for September. Same time next month then, eh?