Albums and EPs round-up - March 2014
New releases from Chain & the Gang, Shonen Knife, Shit Robot and The War on Drugs reviewed
Chain & the Gang – Minimum Rock N Roll
(Fortuna POP!) ●●●●
The latest missive from Ian Svenonius, the Gore Vidal of garage, and his ‘crime rock’ reprobates Chain & The Gang is guaranteed free of ‘unnecessary sounds, extraneous words, too many sentiments, frivolous notes and spare beats’. At least they don’t spare the funkiness though, with habitual doses of lean guitar swagger and prowling basslines. Instrumental ‘Fairy Dust’ is all bassline and doesn’t want for anything, except perhaps Svenonius’s breathless rhythm’n’blues rhetoric, dispensed elsewhere in call-and-response debate with his cool chick sidekick Katie Alice. (FS)
Chain & the Gang play Broadcast, Glasgow, Wed 28 May.
Shit Robot – We Got a Love
(DFA Records/PIAS) ●●●
Talk about house style. Shit Robot, aka Irish DJ/producer Marcus Lambkin, has been adopted by the DFA family and fits most snugly into their retro electro groove, sending out warm analogue vibrations on second album We Got A Love via cosmic instrumentals ‘Space Race’ and ‘Tempest’, plus lovingly crafted deep house, hip NY electro funk and disco-infused tracks which hit the sweet spot on the dancefloor. Chicago housemeister Lidell Townsell and comedian Reggie Watts are among the guests who know where the party’s at. (FS)
The War on Drugs – Lost In The Dream
(Secretly Canadian) ●●●
A decade ago, Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile ploughed their shared love of Bob Dylan into a new band, The War On Drugs. Vile has since left the fold, while Granduciel persists with the Dylanesque vocal inflections. A tantalising 80s AOR influence runs right through this album, but Granduciel doesn’t know when to press the stop button, so most tracks drift on in a hazy, sometimes listless fug, like a psychedelic Springsteen. Which is just fine, if you have the time. (FS)
Shonen Knife – Overdrive
Having cheerily pastiched all manner of rock and pop genres over the past three decades, Japanese girl power trio Shonen Knife get heavy on their 20th album. Frontwoman Naoko honours her love of 70s hard rock by serving the Thin Lizzyish ‘Bad Luck Song’ with a side of bubblegum pop and hazarding a Gillan-style holler at the climax of ‘Black Crow’. Elsewhere, headbanging boogie is married to the non-traditional rocking topics of shopping, noodles and the rebel attitude of cats to produce an idiosyncratic, if one-note tribute that is hard to resist. (FS)
Shonen Knife play CCA, Glasgow, Sat 10 May; Electric Circus, Edinburgh, Sun 11 May. They're also attempting to 'crowdsource' cat videos from fans for a music video to be released on 14 April – you're encouraged to help them out.
Magic Eye – 'Babylon'
(Not Not Fun) ●●●●
Look to the East! This kaleidoscopic EP from Edinburgh haze-pop trio Magic Eye is the stuff of fluoro-dreams all right – especially if your reveries feature sun-bleached vocals, mirage-like guitar riffs, visions of palm trees and nagging pentatonic hooks. Their gorgeous, blurred-rock voyage alights in various paradisical realms ('Japan'; 'Babylon'), as the band simultaneously gaze at their shoes and conjure the stars. (NM)
Courtney Barnett – 'The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas'
(House Anxiety / Marathon Artists) ●●●
Last summer, swaggering blues-pop chanteuse Courtney Barnett won legion fans with her low-slung, heat-sick chorale, 'Avant Gardener'. It's a highlight on the Australian's collection of new songs (plus an old EP), and there is sage advice, too: 'I masturbated to the songs you wrote,' she drawls on slacker-ballad 'Lance Jr.' 'It helps me get to sleep, and it's cheaper than Temazepam.' Indeed. (NM)
Randolph's Leap – 'Clumsy Knot'
(Lost Map) ●●●●
Prolific indie poet Adam Ross has barely drawn breath since last autumn's ace 'Real Anymore' EP (Olive Grove), but now he's back, with his fab orchestral band in tow, for another welcome, wordplay-fuelled compendium of lovesick croons ('Foolishness of Youth', 'Weatherman'), instrumental wrangles ('Saxophone'), awkward hosannas ('I Can't Dance To This Music Anymore') and gorgeous, longing pop arias ('Unnatural'). (NM)
The Second Hand Marching Band – A Hurricane, A Thunderstorm
This long-awaited debut from Scotland's sprawling chamber-pop massive is a lovely album of two halves: it's front-loaded with upbeat choral indie anthems ('Bypass', 'We Will Convince You'), before giving way to a series of introspective, and beautifully arranged, philharmonic psalms – not least the sublime and devastating 'Mull', and the title track. A 32-legged, many-voiced alt-pop triumph, all said. (NM)