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The Pickled Onions – The Mines EP


As we begin our gradual emergence from enforced hibernation, in Ireland at least, it’s encouraging and gratifying to do so with a record of diverse, and exciting, homespun ditties such as this one.  Quarantine has been disproportionately unkind to the creative community but there is an upside to everything and time away from touring, promotion, day jobs and all the other distractions of quotidian existence has been an artistic boon for some.  Paddy McGovern’s debut EP, The Woods, made my end of year list in 2016. I still listen to it now.

His lo-fi indie is reminiscent of Sebadoh and modern indie gems like So Cow, Yip Man, and Benjamin Shaw.  The first release from the EP came out a year ago and the COVID-19 lockdown has given him the opportunity to finish The Mines.  The music feels simultaneously lush and sparse.  It's warm and inviting like slipping into old pyjamas.   ‘Room’s guitar solo has a Sonic Youth vibe and, as with The Woods, there’s a different feel and different genre on each track.  It's an old-fashioned approach that lends The Mines a timeless quality.

I've previously compared them to The Flaming Lips, Jose Gonzalez, Pugwash, The Beta Band and ‘60s bands like The Kinks and Herman’s Hermits.  I can comfortably trot out those same references, and add in Louth’s Elephant, after seeing them a few times at Vantastival.  ‘Mash Potato’ is a daft Beach Boys tune with shades of The Wiggles and Weezer.  The wonky guitar solo only adds gravy to this delightfully unselfconscious ditty.  The bluesy, psychedelic ‘River’ closes out affairs with a distinctly ‘70s vibe, and lashing of Hendrix-y lead lines.

Until the record shops reopen, show your support and download ‘Room’ today, and The Mines when it comes out on Friday July 10.



Yip Man - Pure Zen, Ken?


Yip Man is the nom de plume for Al Nero. Scotland-born but now living in China, his music has the greatest hallmark of the music of the Far East. That is, he ignores staid old notions of genre and fills his music with heavy guitars, horn sections, heartfelt lyrics and general nonsense wherever he feels it’s appropriate.   The man has an ear for a hook. The chorus of the title track will lodge in your brain before the song has even finished and it will remain there until ‘Funky Town’ or ‘Baby Shark’ dislodge it. The same could be said for ‘Trying Not To Get Caught Out’ and it’s “Scoo-ooh-ooh-bay”.  

Nero is so un-self-conscious in his vocal delivery that it’s invigorating. At times he sounds like Billy Corgan and at others he’s more Steve Mason or Stephen Malkmus but it’s all delivered with an assurance and commitment that is enviably coherent. Every note is the right one for the moment it inhabits. Which sounds like the most basic idea behind popular music but if it were easy to do then everyone would be doing it. Yip Man is doing it and it sounds like he’s having a ball doing it. For further evidence of this, have a look at the videos for his recent singles. They combine performance and animation like Peter Gabriel’s collaboration with Aardman Studios.  

Pure Zen, Ken? is Yip Man’s second album. The title is a memorably Scottish phrase but it doesn’t hold a candle to the naming of his debut. Braw Power is high on my list of favourite album puns. Weird Al would be proud of that one. The album is front loaded with great tunes and, just as it seems to be losing steam after ‘Aye Peckin’, ‘Here Comes The Feeling’ comes along with a Rivers Cuomo melody to match its Weezer-esque guitars.  The 23 second ‘You Matter’ ends proceedings. Like Abbey Road’s ‘Her Majesty’, it’s a short, jaunty palette cleanser that makes you wish it went on longer. But then the play button is always there, ready to be pressed again. Pure Zen, Ken? lives up to its name.

Pure Zen, Ken? is available via bandcamp here.



SuperKnova - American Queers

SuperKnova is a DIY project from Chicago multi–instrumentalist Ellie KimAmerican Queers is billed as a debut album but it might be better described as a mini-album or an EP. Although, over the course of seven songs, Kim covers enough musical ground to make it feel like a full length LP. Her subject matter veers from the personal to the political without ever sacrificing melody. This is a record that would work even if you didn’t have a word of English. Apparently her live shows are Ed Sheeran-esque solo productions, with loop pedals and improvisation. I’d quite like to see that.  

‘Glitter And Blood’ is the opening track and a recent single. It merges programmed beats and synths with a guitar solo reminiscent of Robert Fripp’s crazed experimentalism with David Bowie. The interplay between the synths and guitars continues to ‘2 Power! ‘ where the two instruments duet like ‘80s hair metallers playing back to back and trading licks. Such disregard for fashion and convention makes American Queers a compelling listen.  

‘Shot And A Pill’ could have been penned by the aforementioned Sheeran and his writers, as could the languid surf rock of ‘Serotonin Serenade‘. ‘Off My Body’ has the strongest hook on the record. Kim has saved the best for last. Although it’s very close to ‘Shape Of You‘ in melody, the chorus of ‘Keep your laws/Off my body / I am heavenly /I was made this way’ is made for chanting at a live show. The jazzy outro is crying out for a saxophone jam.  

Ultimately American Queers marks Superknova as one to watch rather than being a defining work. It doesn’t sound self produced. The bass is massive. There is space in the music and every instrument is clear and sharp. Kim is an assured voice and she’s only a pop hook away from having a major hit on her hands. In a world where Billie Eilish can get her alt-pop to number one around the planet, there is surely a lucrative market for Kim’s imaginative DIY.

American Queers is available via bandcamp here.



Tempertwig - Fake Nostalgia : An Anthology Of Broken Stuff

Growing up in ‘90s Dublin, it was impossible for anyone with an interest in music to avoid Whipping Boy. They signed to Columbia Records even though they had a singer who couldn’t sing. They channeled Lou Reed, Joy Division and shoegaze instrumentation while playing on Later … With Jools Holland. They were unlike anyone else. So it’s a great surprise to find another band so reminiscent of their sound. Fake Nostalgia is an anthology of London’s Tempertwig; a band that combine Whipping Boy’s influences with Sebadoh style lo-fi and contemporaneous American post-rock.

You might know members of the band from Nosferatu D2 or Superman Revenge Squad Band. I hadn’t heard of either before hearing Fake Nostalgia but this record is reason enough to check them out. You’ll find them in Audio Antihero’s Bandcamp alongside this album.

Ben Parker’s vocals are lethargic and detached. He manages to sound simultaneously bored and bereft, dismissive and also deeply involved. He acknowledges the inevitable Ian Curtis comparisons on ‘Comfort Blanket’, “Why is the bedroom so cold, etc., etc.” Even on an album like this one, full of original ideas and idiosyncratic delivery, ‘Comfort Blanket’ stands out. The vulnerable beauty of the music and the introspection and self-hatred of the lyrics distil everything this band can do down to one four-minute statement.

Parker’s brother and musical partner, Ben, drums with personality and conviction. There are shades of Rob Ellis’ work with PJ Harvey and Stephen Morris, from the aforementioned Joy Division, in the drumming choices he makes, and in his military paradiddles. Harvey’s early albums seem to have been an influence on Tempertwig. Like her, Parker contorts old blues guitar tropes, but in his own fashion. His playing stretches time and compresses it, distorting your perception and pulling you through a dimensional drift. You have to go with it or you’ll leave your stomach behind.

With all the 20th anniversary reissues and remasters popping up, making one feel appropriately middle aged, it’s great to find something that’s been overlooked.  Something that crosses the gap between Whipping Boy’s Heartworm and Fugazi’s The Argument. While The Strokes and The White Stripes hogged the spotlight, Tempertwig and McCluskey quietly, or indeed noisily, ploughed on unheralded. 15 years after they ceased operations, Tempertwig still sound fresh and transgressive. Parker sings “Fake nostalgia makes me sick” on the title track but I can’t feign nostalgia for something I never knew existed. Instead I’ll just revel in something new and exciting. In an overproduced world Fake Nostalgia sounds naïve, rebellious, and compellingly authentic.


Men In Metal - Let The Soul Spread Its Wings

You can always rely on Finland’s Inverse Records to bring you the most unique shades of heavy metal. Мужчины в металле (Men In Metal) are a Russian power metal band from Yekaterinburg. You never know what to expect from Russia and these guys certainly offer something new. A retro rock band at their core, they kick off Let The Soul Spread Its Wings with a song that owes as much to The Wanted as it does to Kiss. The ‘Lyrical Drinking Song’ mixes The Gossip with The Bloodhound Gang and throws in a Chumbawamba-esque terrace chant. It destroys any expectations of the album, displaying an unexpected openness and playfulness. It’s an attitude that Men In Metal wear proudly.

‘Only The Wind’ and ‘Dawn Ahead’ are more typical compositions. Lead guitars and heavy lead bass guitars hark back to Gary Moore-era Thin Lizzy, while the galloping kick drums and crisp production give the older elements a modern feel. There’s a noticeable whiff of cheese but it bubbles under more often than it breaks the surface. Power ballad, ‘The Same Way’, is a rare moment where the whole thing collapses into a fondue. ‘Secrets Of The North’ comes to the rescue with a thrash metal intensity and a chorus reminiscent of ‘Out In The Fields’.

The urgent riffing of ‘The Time Has Come’ has echoes of Randy Rhoads. It’s ‘80s rocktastic; so ‘80s that there is even a bass solo. Let The Soul Spread Its Wings manages to capture the joyous spirit of classic commercial rock without a hint of irony or condescension. The cover is painted in classic Russian metal style but is dominated by a cartoonish bat (out of hell) carrying a ukulele in its paws.

Because Yuriy Sakhnov sings entirely in his native tongue, it’s hard to gauge the tone of some of the music but it’s refreshing to hear Russian lyrics and it allows the listener freedom of interpretation. I’d much rather listen to something done well in a language I don’t understand than hear a half-arsed attempt at translation into English. The mix of funk, folk, and shoutalong pop choruses make this one of 2018’s more interesting, and most fun, metal releases.



The Voo-Dooms - Destination Doomsville

Quite the enigma this lot. If you don’t know the band’s history, then it won’t take very long; remarkably they only formed around a year ago. However, they are all seasoned musicians and have been knocking around for a while. You’ll most certainly will be familiar with the individual members; Bassist - Bruce Brand (Milkshakes, Headcoats, Masonics, DuTronc, Len Bright Combo etc.), Guitarist - Kev Smith (The Baron Four), Drummer - Dave Prince (The Sundowners, The Untamed, The Rat Pack etc.) and Guitarist/Vocalist - Mick Cocksedge (The Untamed, Cordwood Draggers and The Dead Bone Ramblers).

And, there’s been a buzz about the fuzz from the get go; their t-shirts popping up on Facebook - the ghoulish design - green and red with a shrunken head. Definitely enough to capture the imagination of us garage/rock 'n' roll hungry ‘kids’ (please humour me) with a penchant for vintage horror schlock. Then a slew of videos from our favourite UK studio North Down Sound (Ah, so that pesky Mole is involved … further intrigue!) the LP recorded in demonic ‘Mo-Fi’ no less.

In May, as fortune would have it, I happened to be down South. The Voo-Dooms played their debut gig, supporting The X-Men, at the Con Club in Lewes. I’d heard a couple of teaser tracks already - 'The Hangman Stomp' being one of them (now a favourite), and they sounded pretty darn good (expecting no less). Fast forward a few weeks, and they had managed to secure themselves places on the bill at the two best garage, surf and beat festivals in the UK - The Franklin Fest and Beatwave.Their undead power growing stronger and stronger and (because I happened to see them perform at both fests) becoming more relaxed, confident and having plenty of eerie fun with each performance.

Mwah-ha-HA! to the album - Destination Doomsville - a delectable and dizzying journey through the sounds of yesteryear. The cover art, designed in-band, sets the scene (should there be any doubt in your mind - at all - that this band are on a horror trip!). Stand out tracks like ‘Hangman’s Stomp’, ‘Gravedigger’s Night Shift Blues’, earworm ‘Do The Plague’ (‘it’s the new dance craze!’) particularly the latter; really showcases Sgt. Von Doom’s Bobby Pickett-esque intonation, and is nothing short of spine chilling. But it’s not all horror finks and fiends, although they do bring a kooky creepiness to their version of Shel Naylor’s marvellous 'One Fine Day', and the country-esque 'Meet Me Here (In New Orleans)'. Moody ‘No Reflection’ is down right putrefied perfection, and Burke N. Hare (in the sleeve notes) ponders on what we’ve always wondered ‘if one is thus disadvantaged, how come Dracula was always so well groomed?’. It’s also worth mentioning the fabulous lyrics, which throughout the LP, are always delivered with much playfulness.

Needless to say the whole LP is full of feral frights, devious delights and rollicking rock n roll. I hesitate not in saying that we’ve all been well and truly Doomed!

Destination Doomsville is still available as a signed copy with free, yes FREE limited album promo sticker and badge for a measly £15.00 + postage worldwide directly from the band or from Trash Wax without the extras here.

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