The Soundboard Stereo – November 2019

As the year draws to a close, the list of releases becomes ever more sparse, to the point where our usual review schedule has been cut slightly shorter than usual. But while the majority of December is going to be rather quiet from us, there’s still plenty to look forward to, with our second edition of The Catch-Up for 2019 on the way, as well as the ever-important year end lists to see which acts have won the fight for dominance this year. Until then though, here’s what’s been on the final Soundboard Stereo for 2019…

Oasis – (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

It’s really difficult to talk about Oasis without reaffirming just how potent their legacy has been. They’re undoubtedly synonymous with the 1990s, but even after the messiest band breakup in recent history and warring kingpins Noel and Liam Gallagher forging successful solo careers in their own rights, no love or passion for their glory days has dulled from fans right up to present day. The pressure of the ‘difficult second album’ affects plenty of bands after a stratospheric debut, but with Oasis it’s so easy to group debut Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? together. Both albums house the majority of the band’s most notable hits, but a focus on more ambitious songwriting and ballads just about gives their sophomore offering the edge. Don’t Look Back In Anger has been given a new lease of life as an anthem of hope following the Manchester Arena terror attack in 2017, closer Champagne Supernova still reigns as one of Oasis’ best songs ever, and Wonderwall is, well, Wonderwall. Along with the braggadocious rock-‘n’-roll-star persona of Liam Gallagher in Roll With It and Morning Glory, a sweeter side is aired in She’s Electric and the ballads done so well on this record. It’s this duality that makes (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? such a full-bodied and interesting project, one you want to delve into the backstory of despite it being not much more than straightforward, brilliant rock songs. It represents a special appeal not many bands have that not only shot Oasis to stardom, but made that stardom bound to last long past their lifespan. • GJ

Choice picks: Don’t Look Back In Anger, She’s Electric, Champagne Supernova

Queens Of The Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

The reputation that Queens Of The Stone Age have built as a mainstream rock band really doesn’t do justice to what they’re actually capable of. Sure, their singles have typically been good, but with a far greater breadth in creativity and lyrical dynamism that rarely breaks out into their big hits, there’s a much more diverse, often straight-up weirder band than a lot of people will give them credit for. It’s kind of frustrating as well, as that’s where a lot of their best material lies; it’s arguably why …Like Clockwork stands out as much as it does, as not only does it have the band embracing their more out-there impulses, but it’s all presented in a way that captures the spirit of their crossover material without overly ossifying itself. A guest list spanning Dave Grohl and Trent Reznor to Alex Turner, Jake Shears and even Elton John shows a band with fingers in many pies, but when that never overshadows the overall brilliance of the music – the mammoth prog masterstroke of a lead single My God Is The Sun; the smooth, brandy-sipping struts of I Sat By The Ocean and Smooth Sailing; the towering ambidextrousness of Fairweather Friends – it feels like a band continuing to hone their craft while simultaneously expanding even six albums deep. It’s no wonder that …Like Clockwork was showered in so much acclaim upon its release, but in what continues to handily stand as one of Queens Of The Stone Age’s best albums, the impact and overall greatness of this album can’t be understated. • LN

Choice picks: Smooth Sailing, I Sat By The Ocean, My God Is The Sun

Polar Bear Club – Clash Battle Guilt Pride

The word ‘hiatus’ is one sure to strike fear into the heart of any emo fan, and underrated gems of the scene who never got a chance to live up to their full potential will always make hearts pang no matter how many other favourites come back from the dead. Polar Bear Club aren’t necessarily a band who gained a whole lot of attention, but their consistently excellent output made those they did cross paths with really sit up and pay attention. It’s not even down to them doing anything particularly out of the box, just fantastic rock songs, particularly on 2011’s Clash Battle Guilt Pride, far and away the best album of their discography. The songs on this record often feel like emotional rally cries, mainly due to Jimmy Stadt’s fantastic vocals that soar high above stirring instrumentals with a signature delicious rasp that adds an edge and conviction to an otherwise radio-friendly blueprint. When he erupts into the rousing “I’ve gotta take my grab at something great” at the apex of Pawner’s slow build it’s impossible not to believe him or want to take on your own Everest-sized journey of your own, and later on during Kneel On Nails (whose huge chorus still buzzes with the potential of widespread appeal eight years later) you’ll want to run and tell your loved ones exactly how you feel about them. This is a band who deserved a much bigger reception than they had, and should they ever decide hiatus life isn’t for them, fingers crossed they’ll get the love they deserve second time around. • GJ

Choice picks: Pawner, Screams In Caves, Kneel On Nails

letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful

Fever 333 might stand as a worthy substitute in many ways, but there’ll never be another band like letlive.. They captured a true zeitgeist-defining, soul-baring moment in modern punk and hardcore with an eloquence, intelligence and destructiveness that will most certainly not be replicated any time soon. If I’m The Devil… felt like a fitting send-off in terms of its overall scope and ambition, but The Blackest Beautiful was the blue-flame moment of real domination that felt like a culmination of everything special about letlive. reaching its apex. Having a track like Banshee (Ghost Fame) with its levelling, electrified snarl as an opener is always going to herald an easy win, but replicating that same hunger and craving for change that runs on political, social and personal levels across a tight 46 minutes is a harder task than most really give credit, and letlive. absolutely nail it here. The likes of White America’s Beautiful Black Market and The Dope Beat pair that classic punk energy with a litheness and creativity that brings out a whole new sense of life to them, while the grunge-flavoured sizzle of Virgin Dirt and the tense, immolated alt-rock of Pheremone Cvlt show even more levels of a band who seemingly aren’t content with letting themselves go more than a couple of tracks without showing an entirely new side of themselves. They truly were a once-in-a-generation band, and even Jason Butler is currently displaying just as much firepower in his current endeavours, this one perfect band is unlikely to be bested in a hurry. • LN

Choice picks: Pheromone Cvlt, That Fear Fever, White America’s Beautiful Black Market

Childish Gambino – Awaken, My Love!

Childish Gambino has become one of the most vital rap stars in the game in recent years, providing cutting commentary on race relations in the U.S on This Is America in 2018. But his most recent full-length album Awaken, My Love! was a real game changer. It’s a world away from 2013’s Because The Internet, a much more mainstream-friendly record whose main goal was to establish Donald Glover the musician as an artist and creative force the world should pay attention to, rather than a side hustle for his already-acclaimed acting career. Awaken, My Love! sees Gambino gunning for an auteur label with its throwback to 1970s R&B and funk that comes from a place of admiration and knowledge of the era, yet still keeping a finger very much on the pulse of late 2010’s musical trends (something closer Stand Tall represents entirely). While Awaken, My Love! probably doesn’t get all the way there, solely due to not presenting a whole lot of new ideas as opposed a rehash of tried-and-tested records (no matter how many falsetto yelps Gambino throws in), there’s a reason this record became a critical darling. Sprawling musical landscapes led by experimental-sounding brass and hip-hop beats are astoundingly ambitious, and the way the space is filled with Autotune, brass, guitar solos and a whole lot of charisma (particularly on the huge Redbone) makes this album a whole world to let it all hang out. Even California, an on-the-nose, almost tropical little ditty maintains credibility solely down to how Gambino wholeheartedly sells it. It’s not something that’s for everyone, but for those Awaken, My Love! clicks with, it’s bound to be something that still wows every time you hear it. • GJ

Choice picks: Boogieman, Redbone, The Night Me And Your Mama Met

Twin Atlantic – Free

Twin Atlantic currently find themselves in a weird place, looking to set up camp in the mainstream rock world for good, but making an uncomfortable move towards modern indie on their upcoming album from an equally unappealing stint in retro-rock on GLA. It almost seems inconceivable that they were once one of the brightest stars in the Britrock sky, but Free will always stand as testament to that, where Twin Atlantic cut back all the frills associated with modern rock and amped up the anthems in the biggest way possible. The magnitude of the title track, Edit Me and Make A Beast Of Myself as singles speaks for itself, but even easing back to something more personal and balladic on Yes, I Was Drunk and the phenomenal Crash Land has just as much power, and it’s pretty difficult to find a chorus across the entire thing that isn’t utterly irresistible, especially in the live environment where Twin Atlantic have found their feet to a truly phenomenal degree. It’s not the most intelligent or subversive album, but it makes up for that in size, heart and unfettered songwriting nous, to the extent that it’s something that Twin Atlantic have been yet to beat. With the direction they’re currently heading in, it doesn’t look like they ever will either, but there’s at least this to keep at least a flickering spark alive. • LN

Choice picks: Crash Land, Make A Beast Of Myself, Free

Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Georgia Jackson (GJ)

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