REVIEW ROUND-UP: Marilyn Manson, Knuckle Puck, Everything Everything

Marilyn Manson – We Are Chaos

By now, Marilyn Manson’s presence in music has become more obligatory than actually necessary. He’s a long way from the reviled shock-jock of his ‘90s heyday, but that persona is well-known enough for him to coast by through trying to recreate it time and time again, even when that energy clearly isn’t there. And when that’s been the constant factor basically since 2007’s Eat Me, Drink Me, it begs the question of whether it’s worth keeping him around anymore, or whether constant stabs at sonic reinvention are all that meaningful when they’re bogged down by writing that refuses to evolve. In any case, here’s We Are Chaos, Manson’s vaunted collaboration with Shooter Jennings, of which the meeting of minds would imply a more gothic country direction that could be interesting if handled in the right way. The problem is modern Marilyn Manson albums don’t tend to handle these things in the right way, and when We Are Chaos places its most identifiable ideas as little more than garnish, it’s another one to add to the pile. They rarely extend beyond the title track and Paint You With My Love, but even then, they’re rarely dark or oppressively heavy enough to make an impact, particularly in the jaunty, Beatles-esque swing of the former. That instead places an onus on how Jennings’ production works among more traditional Manson fare, and it’s disappointingly uneven. There’s a nice opulence to the swelling keys amongst the stalking guitars on Don’t Chase The Dead that’s probably the album’s singular great song, but the clattering nu-metal riffs on Perfume and the stilted, popping beat on Broken Needle really aren’t enjoyable in nearly any capacity. It’s not an album that’s gunning for particular high points anyway – a lot of this is the very tried-and-true, marginally industrial hard rock of a late-period Marilyn Manson album – and the fact that it struggles to even cultivate an intoxicating atmosphere means that We Are Chaos can have real trouble at moving itself along.

As for Manson himself, he’s up to his usual tricks, with the creaking delivery that sounds more arthritic than sinister nowadays, and some horribly multi-tracked performances that can make his different vocal lines bleed into gelatinous mush like on Red, Black And Blue. He’s clearly trying to keep up the facade, once splitting the difference between bogeyman, Satanist and, at times, nymphomaniac, but where he once had an energy of sorts to keep it up, here he’s fighting against a generally slow pace to even get himself out there. Even for the more personal bent this album is supposed to take, it’s hard to really glean anything of that nature when We Are Chaos insists on reverting to the same well that Manson has dipped in for years. This is allegedly a concept album of sorts, though you’d never be able to tell in how little engagement goes along with it, and how deeply Manson is doubling down on what’s basically his default setting doesn’t lead to much of any interest. Pair that with the lack of real instrumental flair that’s become an expected reality of Manson’s recent output, and We Are Chaos feels basically identical to any of its predecessor, in that there’s no way this is going to be remembered even remotely. It’s not precisely irredeemable, but it’s the sort of dozy, low-hanging material that Manson seems to churn out every single time he releases something, and that isn’t good enough to be a consistent standard. The anticipated late-period resurgence that’s predicted with every album hasn’t come the last handful of times it’s been claimed, and with We Are Chaos, perhaps it’s time to put any expectation of that away for good.

4/10

For fans of: Nine Inch Nails, Filter, Emigrate

‘We Are Chaos’ by Marilyn Manson is out now on Loma Vista Recordings.


Knuckle Puck – 20/20

Right now, Knuckle Puck feel like the primary flagbearers of pop-punk that doesn’t warrant any sort of derision. Now that The Wonder Years are trending towards alt-rock and State Champs have really just become swept up in the tide, there’s definitely a position there that Knuckle Puck could fill, even if they’re not being directly pushed towards it. After all, in the cases of both Copacetic and Shapeshifter – two albums in which the blend of pop-punk with emo and melodic hardcore already felt refined and mature – they were more critical darlings than commercial, though Knuckle Puck’s willingness to hold on to the harder edges of the sound is something to be undoubtedly commended. On 20/20, though, the approach feels a bit different. This is definitely a more brisk album, both in tone and pace, and generally a lot more reminiscent of the upbeat summer pop-punk that Knuckle Puck could frequently be seen as the antithesis to. At the same time though, there’s still a gnarlier edge to the production, and a colour palette that does pop out more is given enough of a grounding to the harder sound to keep it stable. The result is without question some of the catchiest songs that Knuckle Puck have ever released in Sidechain and Earthquake, but also the galvanised, to-the-gut wallop of early State Champs on What Took You So Long? and True North, and the soaring, anthemic quality that makes the collaboration with Mayday Parade’s Derek Sanders on Breathe make sense. Throughout it all, there’s solid performances across the board that hold it too, particularly in how sharp the guitars from Nick Cansasanto and Kevin Maida feel while still having a bright, buoyant poppiness, enough for Joe Taylor’s more nasal, very traditional pop-punk vocal style to have some solid grounding. It’s far from the most innovative thing in the world, but to see Knuckle Puck transpose their typical instrumental vibe into something a lot more simple without losing too much is good stuff, and it’s kept entertaining pretty much every step of the way.

Admittedly that transition isn’t as watertight when it comes to the writing, though that might be a consequence of more jubilant material inherently not being as incisive or thought-provoking as something darker or more introspective. That’s the territory in which Knuckle Puck made their name, and while they’ve done their best to shift similar amounts of heart and lyrical detail into the complete opposite state, there’s definitely something that feels a bit thinner in the way it comes together, especially when they so openly swing for big sentiments like on the title track or Breathe. That being said, it’s a tone that the band still feel well-equipped to deal with; the timbre in Taylor’s voice lends itself nicely to feelings of great love on Earthquake and wide-eyed adventurousness on Into The Blue, and in general, the writing does punch above what’s typically expected from a pop-punk band. From what is evidently a good bit away from Knuckle Puck at the peak of their abilities, 20/20 still feels robust and in-keeping with where this band’s path has been going. The transition might lead to material doesn’t have the immediately noticeable longevity of its predecessors, but for an unashamedly bright and positive album from a band for whom that can be a bit out of their comfort zone, this is still good, and is nearly the perfect alternative from the sanitised or over-produced pop-punk trying to do this same sort of thing. There’s clearly heart and passion that’s gone into this, and for that to be the main constant across all of Knuckle Puck’s output is worth appreciating regardless of anything else.

7/10

For fans of: early State Champs, Seaway, ROAM

’20/20′ by Knuckle Puck is released on 18th September on Rise Records.


Everything Everything – Re-Animator

It’s easy to see what people like about Everything Everything, just as it’s easy to see how those same features can turn others away. For all the love shown towards their mathy, intricate art-rock led by their caterwauling frontman Jonathan Higgs, it’s not hard to see how it can all come across as impossibly pretentious and highfalutin from another perspective, such is the case where every successive album from Everything Everything has seen them move further away from the mainstream indie prominence they may have once been awarded. Then again, Everything Everything have always been a band whose vision has laid outside of the mainstream comfort zone, and that couldn’t be better illustrated by Re-Animator in what’s ostensibly supposed to be a ‘back-to-basics’ release. ‘Basic’ is, of course, a relative term here, mostly because the austerity of Everything Everything and the knowingness of how implacably intellectual they are is most definitely still their main factor. The Radiohead comparisons haven’t been sloughed off in a hurry just yet, as seen in Higgs’ disconnected images and references designed to all fall into a state of the world address and an exploration of the bicameral mind that might become tangled in their own path occasionally on It Was A Monstering and Planets, but is still hard to look away from. It’s an approach that’s detailled but not particularly intuitive though, and besides the punched-up single Violet Sun, catchiness isn’t much of a factor with Everything Everything, and when they are so deeply rooted in the indie space, that does become more of a flaw than a feature. They aren’t at the avant-garde level of Radiohead, as much as they want to be, and trying to play that up can lead to what’s here refusing to stick.

Indeed, compared to the madcap, synapse-testing shifts that Everything Everything have previously made, sticking to a far more straightforward art-pop concoction on Re-Animator can be a lot less sharp by comparison. They continue to really zoom in on the minute quirks of their sound on Big Climb and Arch Enemy, which is at least easier to pick apart than the plodding indie-rock of Black Hyena or the rippling, Muse-adjacent swirls of The Actor. It’s not as tight as previous Everything Everything albums, and while that works on Violent Sun for channeling the big arena-indie vibe they’ve worked their way up to, elsewhere Re-Animator gives off the impression of an album trying to funnel everything else through that lens even though it’s not a cogent match whatsoever. Even on that token though, it still sounds good for the most part, in the bright, stark production that John Congleton can be pretty adept at, and the mid-ranged shuffle that a lot of these tracks pick up is once again a comfortable fit for them. It’s easy to see where the framework that worked for Everything Everything in the past has been retained (even if Higgs’ voice can still fly off and grate more than it should), and for an album that’s less vibrant and vital as a whole, scaling back a lot of that energy still works to a reasonable degree. It’s not an album that warrants as many revisits as past Everything Everything albums – it’s not quite interesting enough to make repeated returns that much of an attractive prospect – but for anyone locked in with this band this far in, Re-Animator will still provide a fix, albeit one that’s noticeably decreased in nearly every respect.

6/10

For fans of: Radiohead, Bloc Party, We Are Scientists

‘Re-Animator’ by Everything Everything is out now on AWAL Recordings.


Napalm Death – Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism

Anyone who’s even remotely interested in metal knows about Napalm Death. They’re one of the most pivotal bands in the history of extreme metal, the pioneers of grindcore that were way ahead of their time and that still see their influence permeate through the underground today. What’s more, there’s never not been a time where Napalm Death haven’t felt utterly vital; part of that is down to a consistent career that’s gone unencumbered since 1981 and produced new material on a surprisingly prolific basis, but in every aspect from political standpoints to being a pop culture curio that’s well and truly transcended its extreme metal dimensions, Napalm Death have continued to ride it out. As a result, Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism shows a band for whom the idea of slowing down is not even entertained, albeit the form it’s delivered in sees Napalm Death continue their advancement away from the nailed-down grindcore and crust-punk of old. Here, there’s a more traditional death metal base that, on tracks like Backlash Just Because and Fluxing Of The Muscle, bore down a lot deeper into outright brutality, while Invigorating Chaos and A Bellyful Of Salt And Spleen undergo a similar process through the guttural, hellish noise endemic of acts like Swans or Godflesh. It all represents the further refinement that Napalm Death’s sound has been undergoing for years now, though Throes Of Joy… might be the most complete it’s ever sounded. It’s almost borderline conventional in its structuring and the avenues in metal that it chooses to explore in places (hell, Amoral even goes as far as to channel the punkier side of a band like Lamb Of God), but it’s still unmistakably the extreme metal where Napalm Death originally laid claim to and are more than comfortable bending and contorting it to their will.

Because, for as much growth and expanding as Napalm Death have undergone, Throes Of Joy… still bears the ravenous brutality that’s always defined them at its core. Particularly on the opener Fuck The Factoid, Danny Herrera’s drums have the sort of suffocating tightness and knife-edge efficiency that makes his contributions to the heaviness just as vital as Mitch Harris’ ever-towering guitar work, and on tracks like Backlash Just Because and Joie De Ne Pas Vivre, Shane Embury’s battering bass tone rounds out a rhythm section that’s entirely pummeling and destructive in its own right. That’s all topped off by Barney Greenway’s vocals which have been left almost entirely untouched by time across his nearly-four-decade career, the sort of monstrous, throttling roars that couldn’t be more of a perfect fit for another dose of vicious, eternally caustic lyrics. The production is definitely in-keeping with the sharper, modern style that Napalm Death have held onto for a bit now, but it’s never watered down, nor does it dampen the volatile spirit of a band who continue to blaze the same trail as they have since day one. That’s the most important thing to note when it comes to how Throes Of Joy… – and indeed, any modern Napalm Death album – is viewed; for as much as the crust-punk sound might have been buried over time, the burning destructiveness and untenable force it represents have never left. As such, it leads to another great album by a band for whom that’s become the norm, as well as another reminder of why Napalm Death have been the de facto face of underground extreme metal for as long as they have.

8/10

For fans of: Carcass, Pig Destroyer, Magrudergrind

‘Throes Of Joy In The Jaws Of Defeatism’ by Napalm Death is released on 18th September on Century Media Records.


Movements – No Good Left To Give

For a band bathed in the critical iridescence that Movements were, they were allowed to fall into the background rather quickly. Feel Something was released in 2017, and the past three years have yielded virtual silence from their camp, something that’s been taken with very little resistance from what was shaping up to be a pretty dedicated and vocally supportive fanbase. But then again, Movements do come across as the sort of band to operate at their own pace outside of the more pressured industry machinations; Feel Something had the barbed presentation and tension to slot it more comfortably into emo’s underground, and between the turnaround time and how their sound has been progressing, No Good Left To Give seems to be moving deeper in that direction. Sonically, there are instances of Movements at their most low-key and skeletal, where the bass and rattling drums form the primary instrumental backdrop like on Don’t Give Up Your Ghost, and Patrick Miranda’s vocals emphasising how shrunken and vulnerable they actually are. It’s a stark creative decision, but one that can naturally lead into the downbeat emo that has more exhaling power elsewhere, with Will Yip’s production style coating it all in sepia filters and a cracking soft-focus. Even more so that Feel Something, No Good Left To Give really does reveal itself as a grower; it does take a while to properly click, but there’s real, genuine power that peels out from tracks like Santiago Peak, or even the more explicitly skyscraping moments like Moonlight Lines and Love Took The Last Of It, still doused in reverberating atmosphere but now with the space to surge forward and indulge in Movements’ more forthright sense of rawness. By comparison, the fluttering guitar twinkles peppered through Skin To Skin feel like a bone thrown to pop that doesn’t quite mesh with everything else, but generally the mood throughout No Good Left To Give really connects well, and does indeed pull inspiration from bands like Touché Amoré in how the slow-burn feels so organically expanding.

It’s also a big factor in elevating the content here. While they’ve always had moments of real gut-punch specificity, Movements have never been completely above hitting the emo handbook for inspiration, and while that’s still true here, they’ve become much better at utilising what they have to hand in an effective way. Again, Skin To Skin is a clear outlier in what’s basically a straight-up sex song, but the depression in In My Blood and Tunnel Vision, the search for place in Santiago Peak and the ruminating on past relationships on Seneca and Love Took The Last Of It have personal stakes that a lesser band might otherwise forgo. It’s definitely a result of the writing having much more punch in its imagery than what’s usually wheeled out to meet the standard, further amped up by Miranda’s expressiveness as a frontman and how much exposed passion he can wring out from it. He’s arguably Movements’ ace in the hole on this album, with the flexibility that allows him to hit those emotional peaks (even seeing a return of La Dispute-esque pseudo-spoken word passages on Moonlight Lines), and bring the heft that makes this album click. Admittedly, even with all of that, there’s still the impression that Movements can still hit the tiniest bit harder, and maybe even make the leap into the circles as Touché Amoré and La Dispute instead of just coquettishly glancing by, but No Good Left To Give sees them making a crucial few steps towards that regardless. They’re currently teetering on the edge of being a truly phenomenal post-hardcore band, something that the next few years of refinement and growth will undoubtedly lead towards. And for as slow as Movements’ ascent might continue to be, the payoff at the end is now almost guaranteed to be worth the wait.

7/10

For fans of: Citizen, Microwave, Touché Amoré

‘No Good Left To Give’ by Movements is released on 18th September on Fearless Records.


Yours Truly – Self Care

Now feels like a strange time for Yours Truly to be releasing their debut album. They’re clearly being positioned as another pop-rock powerhouse ready to make enormous strides in the scene, but nothing they’ve released up to now really gives that impression. They’ve not really formed an identity yet, or even one with enough distinct features to noticeably come together, and as such, trying to push forward with a full-length album in that position comes across as a rather premature decision. It’s not like Self Care does much to sway that opinion either; Yours Truly still sound like a very blatant amalgam of their pop-rock predecessors, from Stand Atlantic to Tonight Alive to We Are The In Crowd, and on an album that’s certainly catchy and shows how prominent their melodic instincts are, there isn’t a great deal of personality to go above and beyond. That comes most immediately in the stripped-back pop-punk ballads Undersize and Half Of Me, both of which feel like relics of a time when their inclusions on albums like this was the norm to show some kind of sonic diversity, but in the clicking percussion of the former and the breathy acoustic lines anchoring both, they don’t feel all that needed in a modern context. Indeed, a lot of Self Care does have its sights cast on the pop-punk and pop-rock of the first half of the 2010s, particularly in prominent surge of the guitars and Mikaila Delgado’s vocals which bear more than a passing resemblance to the power-over-precision approach that was so popular at the time. In general, it’s a sound that Yours Truly can hold their own within, and it’s not like Self Care is unlikable because of it, but it also draws attention to how little flexibility and wiggle room the band have by embracing it so fixedly, and that can really hold them back from going the distance they clearly want to.

That being said, Yours Truly have a strong enough command of what they’re doing so that they’re rarely outright bad, and their ability to craft an excellent chorus when they want to can pick up a fair amount of the slack when needed. It’s where Delgado’s voice shines the most in tracks like Vivid Dream and Funeral Home, where she’s allowed to match the bounding pop-punk energy and dole out the sort of hooks that, without question, earmark themselves as Yours Truly’s best feature at this stage. It’s what gives the first run of four songs the punch to start the album up right, even if the payoff elsewhere isn’t quite as strong, and its where the potential of Yours Truly shows itself the most readily. If they could channel that ear for melodic kick into something more decisively their own, they could definitely go pretty far, especially when they’ve already got a good ear for lyrical choice and production that’s rarely ever all that intrusive or overly synthetic (again, with the exception of Undersize). At their centre, there’s a potentially strong band waiting to break out of Yours Truly; it just needs cultivating more to reach that point, and while the signs are there on Self Care, they’re perhaps not quite as full-throttle as they need to be to leave more of a mark. Hopefully that’ll come in time though, and the bits and pieces of that spark on display here can really come to fruition as something that stands out as its own thing.

6/10

For fans of: Stand Atlantic, Tonight Alive, We Are The In Crowd

‘Self Care’ by Yours Truly is released on 18th September on UNFD.


Fit For A King – The Path

At some point, it’s worth looking at a band like Fit For A King and wondering if they’re ever going to have a breakthrough. They’ve been around for well over a decade now, with six albums and a number of lineup changes to their name, and yet, within the greater metalcore sphere, they’re just one of those names that might seem relatively familiar sometimes and little else. It’s not even like The Path has been built up as the one to change that in the way that so many of these albums often are, even though it’s decently strong for what it is. It definitely feels like the sort of album that isn’t looking to branch out too terribly far, but even then it becomes clear where Fit For A King’s strengths lie within that. They’re much better at emulating the Americanised version of metalcore popularised in the 2000s by bands like Killswitch Engage and Still Remains, and that shows in the more direct, pacey metal of Breaking The Mirror or moments of more focused heaviness like on Annihilation and Vendetta, the latter of which sounds fantastically heavy in the way it’s produced. Moreover, there’s a sleekness in this form that isn’t too intrusive or distracting from the heft, and with a great sense of crunch to the guitars (even if that can sap the same presence from the bass and drums) and the ominous bells that occasionally ring through the mix, Fit For A King are unquestionably at their best when playing to the enormous, cavernous size that metal like this can foster.

It’s just a shame that isn’t constant, and that The Path experiences some severe unevenness that can really hold it back. That’s most noticeable when Fit For A King choose to engage with the more modern, synthetic style of metalcore, which at best can lead to some jarring synth mixing on Prophet that’s never blended too well, and at worst, embodies a clumsiness on God Of Fire that presumably aims for a pseudo-Motionless In White industrial sound that can end up just as slapdash as that band. There isn’t a whole lot of consistency here, and that causes the cracks in an already fractious formula to widen all the more. At their core, Fit For A King aren’t doing much more than the typical widescreen metalcore fare (such is the case with lyrics that are universally uninteresting), and when they struggle with that, it can be a real stumbling block to prevent them from getting much further. There are flashes of real greatness here that make that even more disappointing, too; Ryan Kirby has a raw, ragged snarl that’s a good fit for when the band really ramp up the ferocity, and the fact they’ll occasionally pepper these songs with a guitar solo or a craftier lick shows they can really do more than what the opportunities they’re giving themselves allow. As it stands, Fit For A King just aren’t pushing forward in the way they could, and even though the evidence of that bumps The Path up above an average level, it could be a lot more.

6/10

For fans of: Motionless In White, Killswitch Engage, Bury Tomorrow

‘The Path’ by Fit For A King is released on 18th September on Solid State Records.


Eastwood – It Never Gets Easy

In terms of embracing a chameleonic musical profile, Cole Crutchfield is doing a far more comprehensive job than most. He’s best known as the guitarist of hardcore favourites Knocked Loose, as well as fronting the death metal band Torture Tomb, but Eastwood occupies a completely different side of the spectrum altogether. Here, Crutchfield is taking inspiration from modern emo and rustic alt-rock, a far cry from the heaviness of his other projects but one that displays just how deeply his acumen for great music runs. In fact, It Never Gets Easy might be up their with his absolute best work, simply for the degree in which Crutchfield throws himself into the sound and headspace, and embraces how far he can go with it. Thematically it’s not breaking any new ground, but there’s such a tangible dejection at the loneliness and isolation felt on Fair-Weather Friends and Living The Dream, or the burning passion for a broken relationship that’s yet to be snuffed out on Two Dollar Hamm’s and I (Don’t) Hate You. Add in the fear of loss that engulfs Crutchfield’s perception – be that of a friend on Two Story Window or his parents on Never Age – and the darker shades of emo that Eastwood incorporate have a human weight behind them, something that Crutchfield’s more flexible, latently tense delivery can vocalise excellently.

What takes It Never Gets Easy over the top, though, is how well that similar mood translates in its sound. It’s painted with the same dark greens and browns as a band like Citizen or Basement, but that’s more so in its tone, where the rumbling guitars and bass lend a heaviness that funnelled through melodies that can be surprisingly bright and uptempo. Never Age practically falls into the newer wave of pop-punk in how bracing its gallop is while being tempered enough to cover anything saccharine, while the breezier sway and rustle of False Start and taut indie-rock guitar line and backbeat of I (Don’t) Need You are definitely lighter but never slide into trifling or unfocused territory. Even on songs like Fine and Waves that incorporate clearer uses of atmospheric and shoegaze elements, there’s an alt-rock hugeness within them that’s a key anchoring force that keeps everything held together. When everything is given that level of care and fine-tuning (without ever being micromanaged, at that), it leads to an album – and indeed, a band – with barely a weak link visible, able to nail down the simplicity of their sound so well, and come up with so much more than the sum of its parts. What’s more, when that simplicity can yield real depth and heart like it has here, as well as the sort of melody that makes coming back time and time again a must, the results really can be something brilliant.

8/10

For fans of: Trophy Eyes, Basement, Citizen

‘It Never Gets Easy’ by Eastwood is released on 18th September on Pure Noise Records.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts – Nowhere To Go But Everywhere

There’s a rather specific musical niche occupied by Ryan Hamilton’s music career that typically isn’t represented much nowadays. Between the indie-folk-pop of Smile Smile, the twee indie-rock of People On Vacation and the more straightforward rock of his eponymous projects, he’s become rooted in a very classically-styled brand of power-pop that looks to deliberately avoid trends while playing up how deeply its affinity for the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s run. That’s effectively the entire premise of Oh No on this new album with The Harlequin Ghosts, in which the vast majority of the lyrics are an ongoing list of classic albums and songs, something which also highlights just how limited Hamilton’s approach can be in the modern musical climate. Nowhere To Go But Everywhere has next to no flash or gimmicky in the presentation, but it doesn’t help when the inherent focus moved to the content reveals how basic and worn-out this sort of AM soft-rock subject matter can be. You can tell that Hamilton has worked with members of Bowling For Soup in the past as the problems with their songwriting carry over here, namely using classic rock worship and a deliberately endearing, everyman persona as the sole boon for lyrics and themes that just aren’t all that interesting. There’s enough charm for it to work on Southern Accents (and maybe Newcastle Charm, if the ironic enjoyment can circle far enough back to sincerity), but mostly, there’s either clumsy references clogging up Oh No and Jesus & John Lennon, or rote, formulaic sentiments on Only A Dream, Don’t Fall Apart and Pick Yourself Up that act as another interpretation on what was already not compelling.

Hamilton’s vocals don’t help either with as reedy and nasal as they can be, nor does a lot of the instrumentation. Admittedly it’s all very tasteful and well-produced, and fits the remit of pseudo-folky power-pop that this sort of thing tends to strive for. The primarily acoustic guitars are buoyed by bass and drums that are low-key but unfailingly organic, and splashes of strings, synths and pianos keep it all balanced on the tweeness that Hamilton’s work has become used to. That’s all fine on paper, but for an album like this that isn’t exactly swinging for the fences, a presentation that echoes that can often lead to it feeling throwaway or lacking in real depth. Southern Accents is more of an exception in its burnished soft-rock slow-burn that might occasionally owe a bit too much to Deacon Blue’s Dignity, but still has an elegance and richness that finds it towering over everything else here. That’s because the pithy but insubstantial skips of Jesus & John Lennon and Newcastle Charm or the sparkling folk-pop of Don’t Fall Apart lean heavily on the brand of 2000s pop-rock that has very little staying power by design, and when they inevitably fade away as quickly as they arrive, there’s little tangible effect to be found. That’s true of Nowhere To Go But Everywhere as a whole; it’s never horrid, but it’s simultaneously so far away from being anything noteworthy that it’s barely worth paying attention to. Hamilton and his band are very confined into their narrow comfort zone, and while they might be having fun being there, the end results leave a lot to be desired, that is when those results actually materialise at all.

4/10

For fans of: Pete Yorn, Butch Walker, People On Vacation

‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere’ by Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts is released on 18th September on Wicked Cool Records.


Mother’s Cake – Cyberfunk!

Mother’s Cake really aren’t doing themselves any favours by calling themselves…that. That’s the sort of name that belongs to comedy-rock detritus designed to be enjoyed ironically, not that of a proper band, and it doesn’t help that Cyberfunk! as an album title bears the exact same ‘we’re-good-because-we’re-wacky’ energy. What’s perhaps most surprising of all, then, is that none of the actual music is anywhere close to as throwaway as that could insinuate, instead taking the form of a sometimes proggy, sometimes psychedelic garage-rock / hard rock hybrid that punches well about its weight class on more than a handful of occasions. Apart from some lyrics that do indeed lean on the wackier side in a way that albums like this tend to tarnish themselves with (Love Your Smell is probably the prime culprit), Mother’s Cake actually have a fairly robust range as a band with a proficiency that’s clearly being cultivated and taken seriously. They switch between scuzzy-yet-atmospheric garage-rock on Toxic Brother, a frenetic Rage Against The Machine impression on I’m Your President and ever-reshaping disco-rock on Hit On Your Girl, a prospect that might sound like an utter travesty in clashing sounds and tones, but is actually held together fairly well in a particularly malleable playing style. There’s a lot of sweltering energy jostling around within Mother’s Cake, and the band find it easy enough to repurpose for whatever they need at any given time. Even on the jangly, ruffled-up ‘60s pastiche of Love Your Smell, it occupies a similar space to where the Black Lips were going on their last couple of albums, and for a band like Mother’s Cake for whom the parallels become rather easy to draw up, it’s a direction that proves rewarding.

Of course, such a restlessness can get a bit tiring, especially towards the end when it still doesn’t feel like Mother’s Cake have a great deal of focus to them, but it’s hard to say that there’s a moment where Cyberfunk! outright falters among its cavalier genre-hopping. There’s enough meat in the scuzzy production style to ensure that they’re never completely lost, and the two key pillars of Yves Krismer’s yelping, unhinged vocals and Benedikt Trenkwalder’s omnipresent bass thuds have a defiant presence to them throughout. It’s definitely a powerful album, and the way that Mother’s Cake are able to convey that in basically any direction they choose to take themselves is to their credit enormously. What could be incredibly easy to become lost in (something the band do come close to at times) is generally held together in a way to avoid that, and the number of turns and colourful new layers that reveal themselves with each subsequent listen can send the replay value on Cyberfunk! through the roof at points. It’s weird little album that defies almost all expectations set out for itself, but that couldn’t be further from a bad thing; if anything, it earmarks just how close the possibility of Mother’s Cake being a hidden gem in modern rock actually is.

7/10

For fans of: Jane’s Addiction, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Antemasque

‘Cyberfunk!’ by Mother’s Cake is released on 18th September on Membran Records.


Words by Luke Nuttall

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