Thomas Tantrum – Thomas Tantrum
Like fellow female-fronted, art-pop rockers Help She Can’t Swim! and bubblegum punk- rockers Be Your Own Pet, Thomas Tantrum mine a squeaky, skittish, indie pop-rock vein with considered lyrics and inconsiderate yelps.
There is a Britpop feel to the album evident in its chirpy guitars and Megan Thomas’ convincing mockney rendition of Damon Albarn and his ever-present charm. Album opener ‘Rage Against The Tantrum’ sounds like Echobelly, giving credence to this album being a worthy indie experiment, however, opinion will be divided on their true credentials. ‘Blasé’ strongly recalls Lily Allen’s socially commenting and observational brand of pop, although is must be said that Thomas is the more appealing option.
As with most art-pop releases, (think Art Brut) the album undoes itself by trying to be two things at once. Part musical outlet for general creativity, part serious music project, the album becomes thin to the point of transparency. There is little substance. Art-pop is a scene to itself and like most art movements has little longevity.
Thomas Tantrum is furthermore a dichotomy. I get the impression I’ve been dating this album during the last week, rather than listening to it; it’s sexy and intriguing in parts, thoroughly irritating in others. ‘Shake It! Shake It!’ and ‘Zig A Zag’ demonstrate this perfectly, the latter of these commendably borrows Stooges-lite guitars and drums to good effect. ‘Mum’s The Word’ is melancholic in its understatement and brings to mind what could have been. Less art and more application and they could have had a Britpop cover-version of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ previously inimitable ‘Fever To Tell’ on their petulant hands.
White Williams – Smoke
“Sadly Without Fire”
White Williams comes on very much like a Hot Chip and Beck collaboration, covering the T. Rex and Bowie back catalogues, which in principle sounds unmissable. ‘Smoke’, however, is a low-key party pop album, which combines sultry beats on ‘In The Club’ with funky but uneventful bass work ‘Going Down’. ‘New Violence’ opens suspiciously like ‘Gamma Ray’ and ‘Violator’ contains a stolen My Bloody Valentine-like drone sample, which while enchanting is equally perplexing.
‘Lice In The Rainbow’ is a downright incongruous slab of Gameboy-freaking-outery that is plainly annoying. Latter tracks like ‘We Know The Shadows’ are anonymous and remind the listener why Hot Chip aren’t more successful. ‘Smoke’ is acceptable in places, interesting in others, but mute overall. It lacks an ‘Over and Over’, it lacks sauce, and what is a Chip without sauce?
The Mae Shi – Hillyh
These fellows’ stock is high at the moment with their ‘hilarious’ Christian Bale ranting mash-up, which whatever your take on blog-bred opportunism, is not here present. Most of The Mae Shi’s tracks weigh in at little more than 2 minutes, with the title track, ‘Hillyh’ at 4, and an auspicious 11-minute punk-funk peak in ‘Kingdom Come’.
Their madcap alt. rock is quite beguiling, and opens with a pleasant-enough 2-minute acoustic and handclap folky number, despite their best efforts to ruin it all with a 45 second hand-clap sponsored freak-out. To give ‘Hillyh’, its dues, it is an agreeable indie-rock number, but more interestingly allows for the first indications of what is to come to seep out onto the canvass.
‘Book Of Numbers’ and ‘Young Marks’ run into one another like two halves of the same track, the former is Americana influenced indie-rock and quite, quite listenable, the latter vocodes happily to create an emo sounding track, only with more bleeping, which calls to mind Klaxons remixing My Chemical Romance.
‘Party Politics’ sounds as shouty as ‘At The Drive In’ but poppier and with a dark looming of emo in the near falsetto vocals, though they’d never admit it. ‘I Get (Almost) Everything I Want’ looks emo in its parenthetical title, but actually reverts to album opener in its folk rock atmospherics, repetitive vocals and simple acoustics, drums and cymbals.
This is an album suitable for those with ADD, and will give those over the age of fifteen a headache with its shifting tempos and mix of indie rock and jumpy keyboards. It is recorded at a furious pace, and is based in American Roots. The tracks however in their variety seem very alien from their forefathers, even in its language. 'Pwnd' is a crowd-splitting example.
Just as Black Lips are clatteringly lo-fi, so are The Mae Shi, but to put the two in the same bracket would be to liken Black Sabbath and Tenacious D. One is serious but to the point of parody, and one is parody personified.
The Mae Shi are knowingly oiksome, and embrace quirky aside and humour, but for all the shuddering with which I now ought to be convulsing, they do for the most part manage to pull it out of their odd-shaped bag. It’s just that behind their mostly esoteric adventure, there lacks a decent grounding in sustainability, one masked in an ethic that allows for zeitgeistial and questionable style to triumph over substance. It is with a distinct whiff of justice then that these lucky chancers will most likely find themselves in the bargain bin for years to come. Is their name a question? If so, 'denied' is my reply. Here’s to the next celebrity-blunder bandwagon boys!
Spider & The Flies – Something Clockwork This Way Comes
So, 'Spider' is Spider Webb of the Horrors; his Flies would appear to be an intimate collection of synthesizers, if this release is anything to go by. ‘Million Volt Light’ opens with a speeding, bleepy loop that increases the bpm to drone-level before breaking into a delicate but echo-y rise and fall rhythm. A distorted keyboard dances atop this knob twiddling throughout. A second keyboard strain continues the keyboard concentration, this time recalling Alton Tower's Haunted House theme music, which loiters apparition-like above the synthed beats.
‘Jungle Planet’ is more goth-like and returns Spider to familiar hunting grounds with an 80s, snare-heavy beat similar to Bauhaus' ‘In The Flat Field’, surely a bible for his career to date. This track breaks into furious and scratchy, industrial techno-like instrumentalism. The greatest problem though is here like elsewhere, as soon as the track gets anywhere, it finishes unceremoniously. It might have been better recording without track breaks to get the impression of coherency.
‘Space Walking’ is like Vitalic but darker. This is less ‘OK Cowboy’, and more ‘Hello, Rentboy’. It sees squelchy synths play with Dr. Who aping overlay, but ultimately it’s unexciting, despite the laser gunfight that distracts the ears.
‘Metallurge’ is a bizarre confrontation of Looney Tunes characters conducted in a Berlin techno factory, an Acme crash here, a dumbbell to the skull there and farting synths all the while. ‘Desmond Leslie’ sounds entirely like being on a launch pad for some space mission, all noise and no tune. ‘Teslabeat’ is a near-danceable, Trojan-ska-like shuffle like listening to a quality house party through a nearly soundproof wall; such is the muffle on offer.
Final track ‘Autochrome’ is a sinister-house belter, which chases a synthy squeal around the menacing beats and would not be out of place on a Blade soundtrack, if the vampires liked low-grade MDMA as well as blood.
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