Fake It Flowers
Bea Kristi comes across as every inch the modern rockstar. Under her Beabadoobee moniker, she’s become the go-to example for young, extremely precocious artists with the savvy to connect with a similarly young audience, almost akin to an indie Billie Eilish in many senses. The difference is that Kristi’s efforts have generally be free of an industry working overtime behind her to prop her up; her signing to the eternally vaunted home of The 1975 Dirty Hit has helped, but her headway has felt much more organic, and using that as a leg up to the global stage thanks to being sampled on Powfu’s globe-conquering Death Bed has only seen her stock rise even further. The phenomenon of Beabadoobee feels like more than just another TikTok-generated fit of hype, but rather the genesis of a brand new superstar. Moreover, Fake It Flowers is a convincing leap into that territory as well, where the bedroom-pop of Kristi’s EPs has been swapped out for a really powerful, wide-reaching grunge sound, keeping a lot of the modern indie grounding secure but blowing it up to a natural extreme. The balance is really where the compositional strengths of this album shine most; on a song like Care, there’ll be the big arena-rock scope laid down as a baseline, but there’s a sweetness to the tone and the production has a jangly, poppy feel that automatically feels in Kristi’s wheelhouse. In truth, there’s a lot of tangible forward motion that catch off guard, like in the Smashing Pumpkins-goes-shoegaze gallop of Charlie Brown or the jutting-out garage-rock of Yoshimi, Forest, Magdalene, displaying a rock edge to Kristi that’s never fitted this well on her. She hasn’t totally done away with the slower bedroom-pop moments of course – and leaning the furthest into that with the deliberately lo-fi and subsequently hollow production of How Was Your Day? sees it at its least effective – but likewise, there’s a more powerful modern rock sheen placed on them, where the strings and crashing waves of guitar augment a surprisingly angular melody on Sorry, or how Dye It Red and Horen Sarrison sway within their gauzy, blurred-over layers of engineering. That sort of style feels the most workable for both an album like this and for Kristi as a performer; she’s hardly a powerhouse singer and her shrunken baby voice is an extremely acquired taste, but for sinking into an almost dreamlike mood, even in its more vigorous moments, it’s a piece of Fake It Flowers that does fit among everything rather well.
Granted, even that can make it difficult to mask that this album is without question a product of the stage of her career in which Kristi is at, namely not having shed some naivety which is currently holding her back. She’s still a very young presence in her writing, and that can make the tether towards some of the more cynically trendy elements of bedroom-pop she’s otherwise shed feel a bit closer than it should. It’s not often, and to her absolute credit, relegating it to subtext is a far more preferable practice, but there’s definitely a factor of ‘relatable’ dejection woven into tracks like Care and Dye It Red that isn’t necessarily a great look. It’s not really needed either, especially when a lot of Fake It Flowers has Kristi making more from the otherwise worn-down set of topics her scene might have handed to her. There’s a lot of relationship issues that can tip into melodrama (see the aforementioned examples), but there’s also a willingness to break down any facades and show the real person underneath, through brutal self-examination and criticism on Worth It and Charlie Brown, and how those insecurities have been taken advantage of and exacerbated on Emo Song. For as uncharacteristic of the rest of the album as it is, How Was Your Day? ultimately feels like one of its more pivotal moments, where there’s light and happiness shining through once again, and how the overall smallness of the song mirrors the caution felt when going towards it, lest the cycle of self-imposed inadequacy begin again. It’s the sort of Gen Z throughline that many would expect from an artist like Kristi, but her interpretation of it feels much more lived-in than acts hitting the same beats of a surface level; these feel like actual experiences and emotions rather than the ‘correct’ ones for the songs. And thus, Fake It Flowers’ willingness to take risks makes it a more compelling listen, particularly as an effort to break out of such a hemmed-in scene that’s been accomplished with real moments of greatness. There’s work to be done, sure, but when Kristi already feels like an artist reaching out beyond her years and succeeding, it’s hard to complain too much, and it’s exciting to consider what that further refining could bring. • LN
For fans of: Wallows, Pavement, Girl In Red
‘Fake It Flowers’ by Beabadoobee is released on 16th October on Dirty Hit Records.
It’s impressive how far Seaway have gotten through irrepressible likability alone. Within pop-punk they’re hardly forwarding the scene, especially when they’ve been trending more and more towards poppier material on later releases, but there’s always been such an exuberance and magnetism there that’s been an almost perfect antidote to a lot of the surliness and self-seriousness crowding the genre around the time of ther breakthrough. Of course, that can lead to their material feeling a little shallower than some of their contemporaries – it’s why Vacation has unfortunately cooled a bit since 2018 – but more than a lot of bands, Seaway have built a presence for themselves that makes it worth a lot more to have them around. And if that all sounds like it’s deflecting from any meatier conversation around this album, that’s because it is, though with a title like Big Vibe, tremendous depth shouldn’t really be expected. On the other hand, it really is to Seaway’s credit that they can get as much enjoyable material as they can from this, when their thematic boundaries really don’t extend beyond goofy young lover, goofier self-deprecation and the prevailing thought that none of this is to be taken all that seriously. Coupled with Ryan Locke’s expressive, almost cartoonish delivery, and it’s clear that Big Vibe is an album living up directly to its title; it’s all about the rambunctious mood rather than the words placed within it, and while that can feel like something of a cop-out to praise, especially in pop-punk, it’s not like Seaway aren’t good at what they do. They mightn’t make cerebral music, but they have fun, and it would the most stone-faced curmudgeon to at least not crack a smile at what they’re doing.
Though what might be more off-putting to some is the further additional steps they’ve taken into pop, now even more polished and pristine than ever. The difference here is that there’s still a pop-punk band (or at the very least, a pop-rock band) in there, and when a lot of Seaway’s influences on Big Vibe come from a very American brand of ‘80s rock, it fits with their own gung-ho attitude and, indeed, the big vibe. They’re surprisingly good at channelling sparkling new wave on Mrs. David and Wild Things to double as moments of mid-paced, eased-back modulation, and there’s a distinctly classic power-pop feel to the title track and Sweet Sugar in the extent that Seaway will dive into the wells of bands like Cheap Trick or, even more fittingly, The Cars. And of course, among all of that, they’ve still got the nice chunky guitar production and even some moments of solid bass flair, compacted together into a very digestible package. There’s a noticeably more vibrant feel to Seaway’s sound too, and when they really latch onto some sticky melodies that make themselves known (which just happens to be most of the album, thankfully enough), it does feels fun and lighthearted in a way that good pop-punk can pull off. And honestly, for as much as this genre does need more than that at this point, there’s a place to Seaway to be the representatives of that branch even as everything moves around them; they’ve got the energy and the gumption to pull it off in a way that so many lack or can never go far enough with, and while that isn’t crafting a whole lot of opuses, it’s buoyant and punchy enough to have the desired effect to a phenomenon degree. This is strong stuff, arguably stronger than it has any right to be, but that’s always where Seaway have found their feet, and it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. • LN
For fans of: Neck Deep, State Champs, Stand Atlantic
‘Big Vibe’ by Seaway is released on 16th October on Pure Noise Records.
Child Soldier: Creator Of God
It wouldn’t be unfair to state that there were no expectations for a Greg Puciato solo album and have that be objective fact rather than any sort of pejorative. He’s always been a notoriously difficult artist to pin down, be that in pretty much the entirety of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s run to branching out with The Black Queen and Killer Be Killed in two wildly different parts of the musical landscape. Hell, it’s almost fitting that this album was rush-released early following a leak, if only to bring Puciato’s knack for testing himself and his musical adaptability into a meta setting. And for what effectively serves as a home for music that wouldn’t have fit with either of his current projects, Child Soldier: Creator Of God is certainly testing, almost acting as the nexus where those three aforementioned acts might meet, but still encompassing a far wider and more malleable range than that description might imply. Here, Puciato will skate from synthpop to industrial rock to caustic post-punk and noise-rock with barely a cell of connective tissue to be found, with the sort of disregard for genre that feels entirely driven by the creator mindset. He’s just as proficient with searing blasts of noise on Fire For Water and ragged, immolated basslines on Deep Set as with chilly crystals of electronica on Temporary Object and Through The Walls, and even a bright stab at arena-rock on Down When I’m Not. There’s rarely any sort of flow besides how wide the artistic vision stems, and though that makes Child Solider… a seriously implacable and uneven listen (particularly in the final stretch when it becomes a lot more melancholic and understated), there’s a magnetism to it in how electric and versatile Puciato as a performer is. His range is well-known by now – he’s got a beautiful singing voice that contrasts with his mortar-blast of a shriek – but seldom has the proximity of each facet been so close, and while, again, there isn’t much in the way of similarities between the directions he goe in, the talent and ability speaks for itself across the board.
Of course, that also leads to an album that’s more a collection of ends that don’t fit anywhere else, and while Puciato’s flair for the avant-garde has been exercised in the past, this doesn’t quite feel like that. There’s not a lot that does coalesce into a definitive entity, and across a 65-minute album that has a high bar to entry as it is, that can be tough to sit with. It’s not like Puciato doesn’t know how to make it compelling though, stretching the sole constant of oblique, opaque lyrics from front to back, feeling up for interpretation more than most but with a venom behind them that’s unsettling enough to really grip. It’s exceptionally Deftones-esque in how it does this, and indeed, a lot of the beats that Puciato hits lead him down a similar path, only arguably less concise and extrapolated further at each end. There’s destruction and blasphemy but also beauty and delicacy, and while neither feel particularly balanced as opposed to woven into the tapestry when they’re wanted, it speaks a lot to how far Puciato is willing to push himself beyond the norm or the expected for an album like this. As a meeting of worlds that’s still incredibly broad and open-ended, it achieves that, and as a vehicle to further shore up an artistic identity that’s been wildly varied and incendiary for years, Child Soldier… has a lot of moments that really speak to its quality. It’s a hard listen, and one whose rewards aren’t the easiest to decode, but this hits hard and deep when it wants to, and provides some unquestionably fascinating musical moments within Puciato’s catalogue, perhaps some his most fascinating. • LN
For fans of: Deftones, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Daughters
‘Child Soldier: Creator Of God’ by Greg Puciato is out now on Federal Prisoner.
It’s still incredible that Hundredth managed to stick the landing they attempted with RARE in 2017 as well as they did. They’re arguably better known as a shoegaze-coated indie-rock band because of that album, a drastic departure from their old melodic hardcore incarnation that’s only seen them go from strength to strength since. Now being free of any label constraints also feels like a big move for Hundredth, particularly going into a new album that’s been preceded by strings of singles that point towards their approach heading in a tighter, poppier direction. Although ‘tightness’ is probably a quality best attributed to individual moments rather than Somewhere Nowhere as a whole, as Hundredth really push the boat out with almost an hour’s worth of music that doesn’t feel the most economical in what it’s doing. As a representation of the lyrical arc in which frontman Chadwick Johnson undergoes some kind of self-realisation and moves into a lighter place, it fits the methodical and patient motion of that narrative, but it’s also an album that’s easy to get burned out on in a hurry, particularly when Hundredth are really leaning into their dream-pop side this time around. It can also be very quiet and low-key at times, and for an album resting on cushions of atmosphere and vibe like this one is, that’s fine, but it’s also not a listen that sticks all that much when the framework it’s built around isn’t as stable as can be. Compared to something like Tame Impala’s The Slow Rush from earlier this year, Somewhere Nowhere has the pop depth without the sharpness on the surface; that, and a notable precision in Kevin Parker’s work, is why The Slow Rush feels like a better example of this sort of thing.
That’s not to say that Hundredth can’t do this well or at least hint towards more, as on tracks like Whatever and Slack, they’ve got a poppier aptitude that’s really well done, even if it isn’t carried over everything. The core focus of this album is strong too, with a lot of snappy, gated percussion and glittering synths that have solid grounding outside of the band’s shoegaze lane, moving towards synthpop and even house progressions of a song like Silver. Complete with a clear production job and Johnson’s vocals which have the pliability to merge with the instrumentation and not feel marginalised or lacking in grounding, Somewhere Nowhere as a listening experience is remarkably easy to like. To have on in the background and become lost in its soundscape arguably feels like the best way to experience this album, something which might seem like faint praise, all things considered, but for the steps that Hundredth are embarking on and the turns they’re trying out, there’s definitely quality here overall. It’s just that focus does feel like an issue, and where that blissful soundtrack excels in the background is also where it stumbles as a clearer album. There are moments here which, if cultivated in the right way, could lead to the brilliance that Hundredth are certainly capable of, but they haven’t quite reached that point where it all comes together yet. • LN
For fans of: Tame Impala, MGMT, Being As An Ocean
‘Somewhere Nowhere’ by Hundredth is out now.
If there’s an apt way to describe Young Culture, it would be ‘unfortunate’. They’ve got the gumption and go-for-it attitude that would’ve seen them thrive in pop-rock a decade or so ago, but they’re also saddled with the genre’s saccharine, sanitised modern affectations, the appeal of which has been leached out almost consistently and systematically for a while now. Kudos for trying to split the difference between that and the bouncier classic variant reminiscent of Mayday Parade and their ilk, but there’s only so far that Young Culture can go from being fresh-faced popsters before the slightness of this album holds them back. Obviously the production is as glossified and on the fringes of even being rock as it gets, but at least Compass and Better Off As Friends make the most of what they’ve got, with generally brighter tones and scrubbed-clean guitar work that could fit in the oeuvre of Cartel or Forever The Sickest Kids and have that seen as a compliment. On top of that, Alex Magnan has an incredibly recognisable pop streak in his vocals, and for boosting up choruses and the overall mood of the album, it’s about as secure as pop-rock gets but it works. But Young Culture also have a foot planted in the modern side of pop-rock, which means that monogenre tinkering takes precedence over what makes their best work stick, and the appeal is subsequently eased back. The transitions barely even feel subtle too, as Hailey Beverley 2016 crowbars itself into a stiff acoustic R&B lane thanks to the programmed percussion and bafflingly prominent coat of AutoTune for Magnan, and when they steer themselves into full-on country-pop boyband territory on I’ll Be There and Fantasy, this barely feels like the work of a rock band at all. And it’s not as though what Young Culture are doing is inherently bad or wrong, but there’s so little integration factored in to already threadbare approximations of these sounds that any impact vanishes in record time, if it was even there at all.
Because, let’s be honest – it’s not like Young Culture actively have a leg to stand on when it comes to ‘forwarding pop-rock’, when all that facilitates that are a few quick aesthetic changes. To their credit, they’ve not built their entire brand around that like some, but that doesn’t negate what amounts to a pretty standard collection of 2000s-leaning love songs that aren’t exactly breaking the bank in terms of what they’re aiming for. There’s clearly nostalgic value to be had in a track like Holiday In Vegas, and the bit of spice that Better Off As Friends brings to the narrative is fine enough, but there’s not much in the way of stakes that could’ve at least given Young Culture some extra grounding here. They really are throwing out the soft balls and letting pop-rock as both a genre and commodity pick up the slack, and while that makes for an easy listen that’s difficult to actively dislike, it’s not one that begs to be revisited either. It’s genuinely possible to attain everything that Young Culture have to offer on one or two listens, and while from a very face-value perspective, their flirtations with genre might deepen that pool, the actually end product proves that to be negligible at best. Still, for anyone on the poppiest end of the rock spectrum – or even just straight up on the pop spectrum – there’ll be a bit to enjoy here, but plenty of bands do this a lot better and with a lot more inherent staying power. • LN
For fans of: The Summer Set, Forever The Sickest Kids, Allstar Weekend
‘Young Culture’ by Young Culture is released on 16th October on Rude Records.
It isn’t a great shock that Dub Pistols have never had a defining breakout moment in almost 25 years of existence, given that their hybrid of big beat, ska, hip-hop and dub probably made more sense in a very specific portion of the ‘90s than it ever would anywhere else. But like a lot of electronic acts of their ilk, they’ve picked up a surprising amount of longevity through keeping their heads down and playing to their strengths on an almost immovable basis. But even so, theirs is hardly a sterling product when faced with the passage of time, and Addict really does serve as a test for that. They’re leaning a lot more prominently on their dub and reggae sides here with aptitude that’s gone practically unchanged, but only now to a point where the faultlines are near-impossible to miss. Neither Dub Pistols’ choice of electronic or ska templates sound particularly contemporary (the former easily being more of a knock than the latter), and there’s a distinctly stagnant feel because of that. There’s not enough variation in individual drum ‘n’ bass patterns to matter all that much, and while the more dominantly 2-Tone and dub cuts like Stand Together have more personality overall, they don’t exactly shine. Really, it’s a fault of production that similarly feels imported from the ‘90s, where the thin layer of grime is more to stylistically mask a thinness in the overall composition, and where the horns might bring a bit of colour, particularly to more electronically-focused tracks, but they don’t have the necessary amount of body to count all that much.
But even among all of that, it’s not like Dub Pistols are outright awful, and carving out such an unwavering presence within this sound has made it so they at least know what they’re doing. They bring energy and old-school rave freneticism in the right places, and even though none of it yields particularly strong individual moments, it does pass the test for a relatively ignorant and electrified listen all the same. Even in moments that hold truer to ska’s roots and have more of a grounding in politics and race relations like on Stand Together and Wicked & Wild, there’s definitely a timeliness to them that has power in its own right. But there’s also the issue where even these moments struggle to stand out, simply because of the formula that Dub Pistols insist of tripling down on over the course of this entire album. It’s good that they’ve brought a look of dub and ska vocalists onboard, but none of them are given too much to work with in regards to letting individual personalities shine, not when the pace rarely evolves beyond a couple of set templates that each one fits into well, but without much concession to what they could uniquely bring themselves. It makes for a disappointingly homogeneous listen, and it honestly does drag to such an unavoidable degree because of it. Granted, it’s not the first time that Dub Pistols have suffered a similar issue, but the fact they aren’t really rectifying it doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in what they think they can get away with, chiefly when Addict already feels like a product of its time without being so forgettable. • LN
For fans of: Asian Dub Foundation, Freestylers, Dreadzone
‘Addict’ by Dub Pistols is released on 16th October on Sunday Best Recordings.
The Bunny The Bear
Yes, believe it or not, The Bunny The Bear are still going, and still it would be better if they weren’t. They came around in the same circles as acts like Breathe Carolina, where Warped Tour-friendly screamo was jammed into sugary electro-pop to the general chagrin of anyone with a working set of ears. But whereas so many of those bands have since realised how god-awful they are (or hopefully they have, anyway), The Bunny The Bear have been ploughing away, undergoing a frankly absurd number of lineup changes (they’re currently on their fifth iteration of ‘The Bear’), and somehow ending up at their eighth full-length album. This is the equivalent of an animal that’s totally bypassed natural selection, and wound up completely unequipped for any sort of survival whatsoever. The artwork does a good job on its own of illustrating that – both in a literal sense of that analogy and as the sort of overdrawn mess that was rife on T-shirts in the early 2010s – but Afterglow is predictably the furthest thing from entertaining to listen to. For one, it’s dated to the absolute bones, as the mash-up of hyper-stylised scenecore and blaring, big room electronica sounds even more obnoxious when placed in a modern context. There’s even more obnoxiousness stacked on top of that too, in production that rams everything right to the front of the mix that leads to clattering horror-shows like At The Top, as well as seemingly playing up the amount of gloss and sugar-coated outer layers that cover this album. At least Breathe Carolina could occasionally happen across an okay melody even at their most shriekingly grating; The Bunny The Bear, meanwhile, drown themselves in heavy, gallumphing progressions with no momentum or drive, and it makes a relatively short album feel multiple times as long.
Of course, the blame for that can also be place on The Bunny and The Bear themselves, namely in how unappealing as presences they both are. Neither are great as singers – Matthew Tybor delivers half-hearted shouts as opposed to screams most of the time, and Jake Reeves feels fresh off the scene production line of faceless, helium-voiced fringes – but to have them both clash so haphazardly is borderline painful to listen to. It’s more or less the case with every song here, and when hardly any of them can eke out of decent chorus or melody that’s even worth remembering, it just feels like white noise most of the time. And naturally, they aren’t saying anything interesting to buoy it up, just the usual scene melodrama that’s notably dour and dreary to presumably lighten the load slightly of total sensory overload. It’s just a mess, and not even the fun kind that, again, Breathe Carolina or their ilk could deliver on a good day. Rather, it feels more like The Bunny The Bear have no idea what they’re even doing anymore or how they’ve lasted as long as they have, and channelling that confusion and aimlessness into their music doesn’t make it compelling or interesting as much as unbearable. They aren’t the worst piece of detritus this scene has shat out – the fact that Blood On The Dance Floor survived as long as they did is still a sin humanity won’t be shedding in a hurry – but they’re easily among the most worthless, and Afterglow couldn’t be a better or more concise example of that. The best thing for them to do at this stage would be just to go away. • LN
For fans of: Breathe Carolina, I See Stars, Abandon All Ships
‘Afterglow’ by The Bunny The Bear is out now on Ghost Killer Entertainment.
Paradise In Flames
The weather is turning, the nights are drawing in and the spooky season is soon to be upon us. It’s a perfect opportunity to indulge in the dark sounds of the new album from Paradise In Flames. The Brazilian symphonic black-metallers deliver an explosive sound from the start. The atmosphere of the opening track Nahemah’s Possession is incredibly eerie and atmospheric. The orchestration and operatic choir vocals set the scene perfectly for a gothic horror mood. The high pitch of the orchestral strings really enhances the creepy mood, whilst the harsh vocals and metal instruments delve into the dark metal sound. The subtle piano melody is just one of the smaller details that really draws you into this track. Paradise In Flames explore a range of sound styles across the album. Hell’s Now initially moves away from this theatrical element to focus more on the metal sound. The track launches into extreme harsh vocals, stupendously fast percussion and demonic distorted guitars. The energy is high powered throughout, not stopping to take a breath. As the track progresses the theatrics return and brings in some extra variety to the instrumentation.
Paradise In Flames have produced a distinctive sound throughout this album with the intense harsh vocals stretching from haunting screeches to utterly guttural lows. The slight raspy edges and heavy distortion on the vocals, which gives an ‘other worldly’ effect, works really well alongside the theatrical elements. It’s all so extreme that it blends together fantastically. The piano tone of No Life On Earth brings in yet another hauntingly beautiful element. Accompanied by the atmospheric soundscape, ideas of bleakness and emptiness are portrayed. It’s very gothic, and, of course, the guitars deliver complete distortion. There’s quite a raw, growly texture to the sound and it complements the other instruments and vocals. The sound across the album is always very solid and impactful. Paradise In Flames have created a dramatic album in Devil’s Collection. It’s a strong album bringing in some enjoyable extras in the form of the theatrical and the gothic. Definitely one to enjoy in autumnal weather, preferably on a night with a full moon. • HR
For fans of: Dimmu Borgir, Vader, Belphegor
‘Devil’s Collection’ by Paradise In Flames is released on 16th October on Blood Blast Distribution.
We Move As One
Hardcore and grime have been on-and-off bedfellows for a few years now (albeit without any consistent rate of success), but the addition of a towering, more melodic spirit in Ironed Out’s particular take feels like one of the clearer attempts to bring new dimensionality to a sound that has previously been rather cut-and-dry. It’s an interesting concept, and We Move As One sees the band putting the necessary pieces in the correct places, but it doesn’t quite turn out as well as hoped. Part of that is down to how the inherent swagger and toughness of both grime and hardcore is somewhat minimised by the addition these wider passages (that definitely feels like the case on a track like Crazy Old World), but it’s not a necessarily tight fusion either, and that’s something that’s desperately needed for an album that’s looking to have the venom and vitriol that Ironed Out have. This is an album that really could use some editing to cut back on some unfortunate bloat; there’s a directness to tracks like Pagans and Our Struggles Don’t Matter that drills down to the street level and how that’s neglected by a government and society operating from the top down, but held next to the brighter summer reminiscence of 6 Weeks which feels drastically out of place, it reaches the point where there’s some clearly demarcated filler here. Even compared to other acts doing the grime-hardcore hybrid, Ironed Out aren’t nearly as precise, and that causes We Move As One to really drag itself across the finish line from a certain point with how overweight it can feel.
That all being said, there’s still a lot of promise in where Ironed Out are aligning themselves, and there’s an unmistakably solid compositional core already there that really pushes through to the fore. Both Louis Gine and Dave Makboo have the snarling confrontationality that’s greatly exacerbated by their regionalised London delivery – and entirely to their credit, at that – and from the standpoint of creating a fast, hard-hitting punk and hardcore canvas, there’s definitely good work put into here. They’re better at the hardcore side overall – there’s a bit of a Rise Against-ness to just how far their melodic material goes that finds it hard to click with the darker, grimmer tone – and it’s modulated in a way to let Wema Dust’s bass presence pick up some tremendous flow throughout, a carry-over from his time in Knuckledust that’s an invaluable asset to what Ironed Out are doing. Furthermore, when it’s all produced to highlight the cold, urban desolation encapsulated in most of the writing, the best parts of Ironed Out really snap into place in earnest, and the flashes of a tremendously solid hardcore band really come into focus. That’s definitely what’s buried within this album, and is just waiting to really break through with some necessary refinement that puts the band’s strengths into a clearer light. Right now, there’s a definite naivety to comes from working out what goes where and what works best, and it’s impressive that Ironed Out have already got a good amount right even amongst that. It’s the next few steps that’ll prove the most pivotal though, in seeing what of that can really be made to stick. • LN
For fans of: Madball, Hacktivist, Sick Of It All
‘We Move As One’ by Ironed Out is released on 16th October on GSR Entertainment.
Sam Roberts Band
All Of Us
For anyone outside of the specific Canadian indie-rock scenes in which he’s made his name, the depths in which Sam Roberts’ extend can seem pretty staggering. Not only is All Of Us his and his band’s seventh album – a feat in itself considering how relatively small their catchment area is – but being six-time Juno Award winners on top of that feels like the healthy milestone of a band far more established than they might appear from an newcomer’s view. Though after listening to All Of Us, it becomes a lot easier to piece everything together, as this certainly sounds like the work of a band who’ve been around for a while without accumulating too strong a reputation in either direction. It’s got that Canadian alternative feel to it where it’s still extremely polished but a bit more organic and tastefully produced, though in the same conversation as The Glorious Sons or Tegan And Sara, the Sam Roberts Band have a lot less of a hook to them. They’re pleasantly placid and mid-level throughout, but that doesn’t exactly yield an abundance of thrills, and though All Of Us isn’t necessarily a slog to get through – there’s actually some nice spryness to Ascension and I Like The Way You Talk About The Future that’s appreciated – nowhere does it pull itself out of the background and really make an impact. Roberts himself isn’t a wealth of vocal personality, and when the likes of Wolf Tracks and Ghost Town are content with traipsing along without even contemplating a deviation from modern indie guidelines, the severe lack of gravity really sinks in.
Amid all of that, the band never completely drop the ball; this is a very listenable album, and for those who are happy with the most easily-digestible of music, this should suffice. But at the same time, that’s hardly a glowing endorsement, and being just a handful of steps behind Imagine Dragons in the rankings of plain, safe modern indie isn’t an enviable position to be in. But that’s where All Of Us does sit, and it actively does try to pull in as much of that populism as it can; the writing might be free of the some of the more hideous clichés, but pushing through notions of positivity and beating the odds by sticking together effectively confirms its status from the off. At least it isn’t quite as cold and mechanical as some of its more commercially-motivated peers, and the fact that there is an inkling that the Sam Roberts Band actually believe in what they’re selling quite good considering how washed-out this archetype of album has become. But that also comes with the fact that this is also one of those washed-out albums, regardless of how that compares to others, and the resultant non-impression it leaves even after multiple listens is more or less the same. Basically, it’s one for the audience that has no interest in being surprised or challenged, and precisely no one else. • LN
For fans of: American Authors, Bad Suns, COIN
‘All Of Us’ by Sam Roberts Band is released on 16th October on Known Accomplice.
Words by Luke Nuttall (LN) and Holly Royle (HR)