REVIEW ROUND-UP: Greta Van Fleet, Escape The Fate, London Grammar, The Armed

Greta Van Fleet

The Battle At Garden’s Gate

It says a lot that Greta Van Fleet’s reputation has barely budged, even with a significant amount of time outside of the spotlight, though the magnitude of that can still catch off guard. Taking root in the shadow of Led Zeppelin as unwaveringly as they have has led them being one of modern rock’s more divisive prospects with loud and vocal mouthpieces on both sides, but the truth is they’re just as innocuous as they come. Anthem Of The Peaceful Army wasn’t a good album, but it was so beholden to its influences that – especially with the benefit of hindsight – it was never really going to do much. The discourse around Greta Van Fleet is so much louder than the band themselves, and the reality of just another mediocre retro-rock band has been swamped out by those looking to both elevate and denigrate far more than it’s worth. Just look at this very album to prove how true that is, where, in presumably an attempt to make their version of Led Zeppelin III, Greta Van Fleet double down on billowing hippie-rock in a way that feels nigh-on impossible to be enthused by. As much as The Battle At Garden’s Gate looks to shed some of the burly, barrel-chested muscle that formed the basis of the band’s former pastiches, it doesn’t replace with much else, and what’s left is an hour-plus album that, on more than a few occasions, feels needlessly self-indulgent in the extreme. For one, the smoulder that Greta Van Fleet still want to cultivate can’t break through its own gentrified production, where the likes of Built By Nations and Stardust Chords end up too rounded in their sound to capture any real bite. It ends up with the vast majority of the album simply being toothless, hampered even further by a meandering pace and limited colour palette. It’s still technically solid in Jake Kiszka’s winding guitar passages and Sam Kiszka’s supple basslines – an acumen that’s the only standout carryover from Greta Van Fleet previously, it should be said – but when they leave barely a mark, it doesn’t save the album from plodding as greatly as it does. Beyond the ability to forge a good climax on The Weight Of Dreams, which spirals on for nine minutes and does feel pretty justified in doing so, this sort of toned-down take on classic rock rarely feels flattering, especially when Greta Van Fleet are still comfortably in the shadow of much bigger bands who’ve pulled this sort of thing off more effectively.

At the same time though, The Battle At Garden’s Gate is hard to outright hate, mostly down to aforementioned innocuousness that Greta Van Fleet are saddled with throughout. At least they aren’t trying to feign a dangerousness that would feel disingenuous from the word ‘go’, and the more plaintive, thoughtful content isn’t a bad fit for the way they’re trying to present themselves. But like almost everything else The Battle At Garden’s Gate does, it ultimately falls apart through how unengaging it all is. The penchant for heavy-handed metaphor is a definite roadblock, in which their emulation of Led Zeppelin feels its most surface-level, but it’s not even used to say that much beyond some rather standard platitudes about modern times that the classic rock veneer will make feel even more dated. There’s at least a scope and spectacle in the running motif of warriors looking to fight for peace, and drawing parallels with the division of society today that generally holds true with the band’s flowery presentation, but there’s also a lot of filler around that that’s nowhere near as evocative. It’s probably worth noting that Greta Van Fleet are not the wordsmiths they think they are, and the lack of anything truly awful or cringeworthy is similarly buoyed by a flat median that doesn’t stick a lot of the time. Of course there’s a song chastising reliance of technology on Age Of Machine, and aside from how committed they are to following their heroes’ trail of medieval recreation in their imagery, it’s the expected easy hit of a low bar that’ll often accompany throwback-rock albums. It goes without saying that Greta Van Fleet aren’t bringing anything new, but they don’t even strive to make it exciting or forceful in the same way that others at least put effort towards, and that turns The Battle At Garden’s Gate from another generic Led Zeppelin retread into something actively more tedious. If nothing else, at least Greta Van Fleet are branching out beyond bold-faced imitation and looked to broaden themselves, even if the payoff is minor and there’s still very few ways around how uninspired as a band they really are. To call them old before their time might even be seen as a compliment from some perspectives, but it’s really not meant to be; if reality, it’s supposed to be a damning castigation of how unnecessary Greta Van Fleet continue to feel.

4/10

For fans of: Led Zeppelin, Rival Sons, Wolfmother

‘The Battle At Garden’s Gate’ by Greta Van Fleet is out now on Republic Records.


Escape The Fate

Chemical Warfare

Why is this even being released? Does anyone actually want it? You could accuse Escape The Fate of failing upwards given how unilaterally awful their most recent material has been, but they’ve not even doing that because genuinely no one cares. They might be Warped Tour stalwarts in some eyes, but falling victim to a chronic lack of ideas and a sound that embodies stasis in perpetuity has only revealed more and more how useless this band actually is, especially nowadays. Their latest leg of work in Hate Me and I Am Human both felt like the embodiment of a band for whom the bottom of the barrel might be too ambitious, on albums that were sodden with scene clichés and an overall intent that couldn’t feel colder and emptier if it tried. At least on Chemical Warfare they aren’t outright reusing songs wholesale again, though if that’s the only bar of quality that they’re able to vault over, standards are clearly as low as Escape The Fate believe them to be to drop another album that’s borderline identical to their previous pair of turds. It’s embarrassing to watch, when all of their peers had the good sense to either grow up or dip out, and Escape The Fate are left clinging onto the dregs of a scene that has practically nothing left to offer. It’s just as plain and formulaic as ever as well, as unearned chest-puffing rubs shoulders with slushy relationship melodrama and – of course – empowerment anthems as hollow and meaningless as the day is long. On top of all that, the lack of effort to even humour the thought of progression is palpable, when songs like Not My Problem and Demons are so juvenile in their pretensions towards sounding edgy, and the unctuous melodrama slathered across My Gravity is just as bad. In truth, no one’s coming to an Escape The Fate album for depth, but there’s a difference between that and saying nothing for the umpteenth project in a row. This is just lazy and bereft of substance at every turn, somehow made worse by the fact that this has quickly been established as this band’s default.

Though really, ‘default’ is an apt descriptor for Chemical Warfare as a whole, given how thoroughly uninterested Escape The Fate are in doing even the bare minimum outside of an easy cash grab. It’s just as much of a cynical, shrink-wrapped product as the albums that have preceded it, highlighted by how shambling and awkward this feels among any legitimate modern rock music. They might be trying to once again tap into slick, radio-ready pop-metal that still has something of an edge, but they’ve totally neglected the fact that the edge does need to be a factor. The result is a load of booming, faceless whiffs of songs that, after a tolerable stab at pop-rock on the opener Lightning Strike, are a completely suffocating factor with nothing good to them. As always, the bass presence is nonexistent and the guitars are generally gutless, with the polish and effects doused on them for some superficial vestige of modernity. It reaches its nadir on Unbreakable with the vacuous slaps of percussion, weedy guitars and impossibly cheap synth-horns, but on the whole, Chemical Warfare isn’t exactly a source of untapped quality. It’s a John Feldmann production job at the end of the day, complete with the glaze that sucks out anything even remotely rough or propulsive, and royally kneecapping any potential intrigue from Lindsey Sterling’s violin on Invincible and Travis Barker’s drumming on Not My Problem. It’s Escape The Fate to the letter, and when that’s provided such a flagrantly dissatisfying set of results for a good few years now, repeating the same formula isn’t going do anything different when no concessions have been made. That’s as basic as it comes, and yet Chemical Warfare is another piece of kindling to chuck onto the fire of Escape The Fate’s career, where it’s now little more than flickering embers and it’s trying to be kept alight by any means necessary. But honestly, what more is there even to say beyond that? It’s another Escape The Fate that’s exactly the same as the last, and will probably be exactly the same as the next; them being a terrible, blatantly uninspired and uncreative band isn’t a new phenomenon. The one piece of solace comes from the fact that this’ll probably get ignored like everything else they’ve done recently, but the fact it’s still here remains as a blight on every bit of advancement that rock music has undergone in the past however many years. Utter, utter garbage.

2/10

For fans of: Black Veil Brides, blessthefall, Alesana

‘Chemical Warfare’ by Escape The Fate is out now on Better Noise Music.


London Grammar

Californian Soil

Despite Californian Soil being the London Grammar album in which Hannah Reid has taken the liberty of putting herself at the forefront, there’s still a fair amount to be skeptical about. Putting aside that same spin yielded notably lukewarm results on PVRIS’ Use Me, London Grammar have never been a band for whom mixing it up has even been conducive with. Perhaps it would help, given that their brand of nocturnal electro-indie has always been a bit too cold and austere to find significant appeal, but it’s never been a throughline that’s generated itself too naturally. So when Californian Soil attempts to do just that in placing an ear closer to modern pop, the results are slightly different than what’s expected but not entirely unpleasant. As always, the production is what remains London Grammar’s greatest strength, in the clarion clouds of airy synths, pianos and strings, accentuated by occasional liquid guitar and fronted by Reid’s ever-exquisite contralto voice. She’s placed right at the front of the mix too, where her throatier timbre is allowed to show off its weight and control, and amplify the poise of everything around it as a result. Perhaps the biggest different is how the integration of those pop tones gives Californian Soil a bit more of a pulse of times, where Lose Your Head and How Does It Feel step away from an otherwise sleepy and sedate bass to pick up more a percussive roil, and Baby It’s You tries its hand at a sound bordering on Balearic house. They’re unquestionably exceptions though, and having them as such isolated examples can make this feel like an album where everything else falls around them rather than mutually complements them. In terms of pace, London Grammar are still very ethereal and floaty, and those moments of higher energy can highlight something of a drained capacity elsewhere. In general, Californian Soil is a bit cleaner than either of its predecessors, but that doesn’t lead to much greater deviation; London Grammar still sound exactly like themselves, for better or for worse.

It’s why Reid’s newfound placement as notably the helm feels a bit more inconsequential than it maybe should. The songs still feel anchored in the emotionality brought on by her sweeping vocals, where there’s definitely personality, though not much that’s been shifted from other albums. Again, the standout spikes feel as though they’re still waiting to be developed into a full project, in the search for identity and place on the title track and America, and the contempt towards misogynists that will still inevitably drift into Reid’s life on Lord It’s A Feeling. It’s got an expressiveness that’s never truly vibrant or volatile, but does what it needs to in a low thrum and simmer than characterises Reid as a vocalist excellently. It’s also where London Grammar will shine most, again relegated to individual moments instead of the whole project, where the unevenness can begin to distract when highs and lows wind up so disparate. In a sense though, that’s preferable to previous London Grammar albums, where the solemn, singular pace ultimately felt like where any noteworthiness began and ended. At least on Californian Soil the mood can be a bit more fluid, and as such it probably makes for the most compelling London Grammar album, if only to see how it all unfolds. That’s still worth something even if the end product still doesn’t wow, but at least there seems to be more coming from Reid’s creative influence that’s taking bigger steps forward. Hopefully more can be done with that in the future, because there’s a few nice ideas here worth paying attention to.

6/10

For fans of: Florence + The Machine, The xx, MS MR

‘Californian Soil’ by London Grammar is out now on Ministry Of Sound / Metal & Dust.


The Armed

Ultrapop

Regardless of how this album turned out quality-wise, it was always going to be interesting to talk about. The Armed are the sort of hardcore band that could only have spawned from the genre’s modern-most form, with the unabashed genre fusions, the revolving-door, quasi-anonymous lineup and the willingness to stir up controversy at a moment’s notice (see their 2019 single Ft. Frank Turner). They’re all converging factors for why Ultrapop is so fascinating even just on its face, as the unassuming artwork and title betray an album that seems to laugh in the face of any preconceptions thrown its way. Actually digging into it reveals that to be just as true, as a ragged, feral brand of hardcore is crossbred with noise-rock and black-metal, but also imbued with a brightness that can make it deceptively catchy at times. Moreover, it’s evident of the boundless creativity at The Armed’s disposal and how far they can extend it, where songs like Masunaga Vapors and An Iteration will take their blistering, exposed production and fashion it in a way that’s so rich in terms of melodic harmony and tunefulness. Similarly, Faith In Medication and Bad Selection will adopt a rough, brooder garage-rock vibe amongst their own confined maelstroms, and The Music Becomes A Skull picks up a creeping density that’s a far cry from most other measures on her musically without feeling out of place. That might as well be The Armed’s mantra on Ultrapop practically, where an experimental fearlessness propels a collective that’s far more inventive than they might otherwise be perceived to be, and detail and layering with which that’s executed here is truly fantastic across the board.

It’s also a case of finding an equilibrium that allows Ultrapop to work perfectly well as just a hardcore album. The Armed could easily be slot in the same arena as Coverge or The Dillinger Escape Plan in terms of forward-thinking hardcore, even without the pop streak to bolster them up. It’s just a case of solid composition prevailing over everything else, with the usual smart, snarky lyrics and blown-out vocal mixing nailing down a specific style that works so well for them. It’s easy to see why The Armed have caught on like they have just in the realms of hardcore, when everything they deliver feels so sharp and quintessentially modern, volatility and all. That said, it’s definitely an album that benefits from repeat listens to unpack a lot of the imagery and to become accustomed to how unrelentingly incendiary it can be. But at the same time though, its melodic leanings really are that strong, to where there’s a borderline accessibility that’s actually really easy to grasp onto; calling it a ‘gateway album’ might be a stretch, but alongside the aforementioned acts, there’s something about Ultrapop that’s a cut above in that vein. Above all though, it’s a perfect encapsulation of how exciting and forward-thinking The Armed are within modern hardcore, with a force, intelligence and creative ballsiness to try literally anything and have it come up strong.

8/10

For fans of: Converge, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Employed To Serve

‘Ultrapop’ by The Armed is out now on Sargent House.


RedHook

Bad Decisions

For as many bands like RedHook that come around touted as year zero for a bold new movement within pop-rock, very few of them actually have any legs under them. It’s not surprising given how everything simply can’t stick within a saturated market, but at the same time, preemptively creating such an unattainable expectation right from the start can stifle the momentum to actually make those changes. In the case of RedHook though, it’s probably more a combination of both; a blend of pop-rock with post-hardcore and nu-metal is a bit too out-there to hold on impact, but the rough, unpolished edges are evident enough to show there’s still a lot of growth to be done, which throwing them in at the deep end doesn’t help with. At least they’ve already got a solid grip on melodies, in the ear-candy vocal hook of the title track and the blistering J-rock of Kamikaze, as well as Emmy Mack having a far more proficient and flexible vocal than a lot of her contemporaries. The problem, like with a lot of young bands embarking on big, wide-reaching genre fusions like this, is that RedHook continue to pile on their influences without consolidating them into a satisfying whole. Songs like Cure 4 Psycho and Your Heroes Are Bullshit pivot towards a darker, edgier sound, but do so without wanting to lose sight of a pop-rock propulsion, and with the sugary title track, the advancing post-hardcore intensity of Kamikaze and the lofty alt-rock of Alien all subsequently in tow, RedHook’s is very scattered and built on half-measures. The one constant is the production, where the typical pop-rock slickness has something of a buzzsaw edge to dull the ever-present marginalisation of the bass, and at least ensure that Bad Decisions will rocket forward despite never having a clear, consistent way of doing so.

In that sense then, RedHook will display a bit more than the average pop-rock newcomer, and they at least give off the impression that there could be something interesting further down the line should they proceed like this. Even so, every subsequent listen of Bad Decisions affirms just how much those overhauls need to achieve, when good instrumental ideas are getting RedHook all the way there on their own. For all the work that’s clearly gone into aligning their bevy of sounds, the writing to accompany it reads a disappointingly flat, in what’s presumably supposed to be Mack succumbing to her vices, but rarely pans out of as bared as she’s probably hope. The element of self-loathing and embarrassment on the title track will mostly connect, as does the whirlwind self-destructiveness of Kamikaze and the vulnerability of Alien, but I Don’t Keep Up can be a half-step away from “not like the other girls” tropes that are so horrendously played-out. Then there’s Cure 4 Psycho and Your Heroes Are Bullshit that go a bit more angry and confrontational, and while they’re largely fine in doing so, there isn’t a lot of weight or stakes to them that would let the cut as much as RedHook want. The intent of volatility is there across a lot of this EP, but it’ll typically fall into the brash, bratty area of pop-rock that isn’t enough to make these songs work as they should, and it’s not too engaging because of that. Like with most of Bad Decisions, the seed of a strong idea is here, but between the common hang-ups of a new band and the industry fast-tracking that’s disallowed any of them to be ironed out, Bad Decisions wears its need for time and polish prominently. There’s no doubt that RedHook could make something out of what they’ve got with the right opportunities, though whether they’ll be offered to them is a different story when the next perceived pop-rock wunderkinds will inevitably leap over them. They do deserve more time to get ready than most, and hopefully they’ll get it to where it pays off; right now, they’re too messy and middling to make good use of what they’ve got in store.

5/10

For fans of: Stand Atlantic, Halflives, Sumo Cyco

‘Bad Decisions’ by RedHook is released on 23rd April.


Waxflower

We Might Be Alright

Here’s the weird thing about Waxflower – there’s clearly meant to be a throwback element to them, to the pop-punk and pop-rock of the late 2000s and early 2010s, but few bands in recent memory have radiated a state of anti-nostalgia so profusely as this. We Might Be Alright isolates all the elements that were never appealing to begin with, and plays them with such a hyper-earnestness that can honestly be difficult to stomach at times. There’s the sugar-encrusted Sleeping With Sirens production that leaves pops and twinkles hanging in the mix that are so nauseatingly saccharine, while Tristan Higginson’s vocals blend those of Jordan Pundik and Patty Walters both singing through their noses, and throws in the inflections from his Australian accent for an extra dollop of tartness. It’s hard to gravitate towards on any significant level, with a jaunty mid-pace throughout to mirror the apparant sugar rush that only makes the likes of Again and Food For Your Garden all the more cloying. Somewhere among the audio diabetes there’ll be a catchy melody, but again, Waxflower’s prerogative of sanding down literally any rough edge possible makes them hard to come by, let alone leave them with any chance of sticking.

On top of that, there’s not much in the way of stakes when it comes to We Might Be Alright. For a fairly new band, Waxflower don’t seem to be pushing their abilities, rather playing to a very regular, unthreatening brand of pop-punk that only exacerbates the frailty of its impact. Even in terms of the teen melodrama this genre can thrive on, there isn’t much of that outside of the post-death desire to become fertiliser on Food For Your Garden, which is probably pushing it in terms of true verisimilitude. Elsewhere, there’s the usual yearning love songs that don’t accomplish a great deal, nor do they have much a drive behind them. Perhaps that’s where Waxflower fall hardest of all, in a lack of any power that their material could give off. It’ll certainly be pleasant to the right audience, but even with bands like Sleeping With Sirens and As It Is, they’ll have more fizz and pop to them, even at their most preened and polished. Waxflower, meanwhile, might glance at the idea, but ultimately just end up sauntering along with a handful of tracks to get them to fifteen minutes, and call it a day. That doesn’t achieve much of anything, and it’s the primary reason that this EP will end up forgotten in record time.

4/10

For fans of: As It Is, Sleeping With Sirens, With Confidence

‘We Might Be Alright’ by Waxflower is out now on Rude Records.


Mister Misery

A Brighter Side Of Death

Motionless In White have been away for a while now, haven’t they? We don’t really need a replacement for them though, especially not a band called Mister Misery whose metalcore expertise comes to a brusque halt by 2012 at the very latest, complete with oh-so-scene album art and a look built on copious amounts on makeup. Though maybe it’s just been so long since a proper one of these bands has come around that there’s actually nostalgia behind it, but A Brighter Side Of Death really isn’t that bad. The longevity factor is practically nonexistent, but Mister Misery capture a distinct sort of bravado that this showy sort of gothic metalcore thrives on, where they’re willing to leap into things without even considering subtlety or intelligence. That’s not a knock either; between the guitars interwoven with gaudy synth-strings and horror mood-lighting, and Harley Vendetta being the sort of vocalist who simply couldn’t exist anywhere outside of this niche sliver of metal, there’s a tight melodrama and showmanship that’s easy to get swept up. On top of that, there’s the definite gloss that’s an added bonus when it comes to opulence, substituting a recognisable bass tone in any capacity for the sweeping, horror-themed glitz that ultimately elevates the album into something more, and comes right to the fore with the closing orchestral reworking of Ballad Of The Headless Horseman. Mister Misery certainly know what their audience want, and running for nearly an hour without any significant dips in momentum is credible by any standard, even if the music itself never pulls out any huge surprise.

Thus, it might seem counterintuitive to report any sort of disappointment with the writing, but it is noteworthy in this case when early tracks like Ballad Of The Headless Horseman and Mister Hyde imply the pulpy horror to carry through, which isn’t really the case. With those songs, as well as Under The Moonlight and Clown Prince Of Hell, there’s some engagement with the source, the Tim Burton-esque ‘darkness’ feels more in the vein of what Ice Nine Kills are known to do in their horror-themed material (albeit not as extensive in Mister Misery’s case), but elsewhere, they’ll fall into rote metalcore pablum that, like on Devil In Me, might try and wedge a necessary image in for good measure. In fairness, it’ll rarely get as cringeworthy as the emulated era could (save for the face-screwingly tart pairing of We Don’t Belong and Home), but it amounts to Mister Misery actively avoiding the personality they’re just barely getting away with anyway. As such, there’ll be fewer memorable lines overall to facilitate a working mood, though the band’s ear for a towering hook can make for a moderate course correction whenever it comes around. With that taken into account, it averages out to A Brighter Side Of Death falling somewhere between a fairly enjoyable listen and among the absolute guiltiest of guilty pleasures. It’s the sort of thing you’d never want to admit to actually liking, especially in 2021, but the results do speak for themselves in terms of how much sticks, and if it was this easy to pull it off, a lot more bands would see success despite their rampant gimmickry. That should say quite a bit about where Mister Misery fall, as an oddity that only suffices at very certain times, but does so regularly enough to keep around.

6/10

For fans of: Motionless In White, Ice Nine Kills, Asking Alexandria

‘A Brighter Side Of Death’ by Mister Misery is released on 23rd April on Arising Empire.


Body Void

Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth

Where doom-metal can sometimes feel staid within its own little pocket of heavy music, from the beginning Body Void have worked tirelessly to dispel that notion. Just sonically, they’ve got the punishingly slow, scorched earth approach that’ll go well into a double-digit runtime, but that serves as the podium for a vicious progressive streak that gets significantly more cutting than some similar acts are liable to go. Here on Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth, that fury is primarily projected outwards, towards the careless destruction of the earth and the rapacious consumerism and colonialism that only seeks to fuel it further. Nothing is downplayed or obscured behind unnecessarily ornate language; instead, the bluntness of Willow Ryan’s lyrics comes down with impressive efficiency, where the root source of their anger is only amplified by a truly caustic voice. There’s an extremely base, primal appeal to it all, where Ryan will cut back phrases with an axe-chop delivery to hit down on the bare necessities with as much force as possible. It’s a surprisingly tight fit when greater imagery does come into play, where burning landscapes and dead, mutant creatures on Forest Fire and Fawn respectively have real weight behind them, especially when any and all fat is promptly cut off.

That may seem like a strange notion on an album that’s only four tracks and runs for the best part of an hour, but it’s not like Body Void’s plummet into the bleak, blackened hellscape of the modern world shouldn’t be lingered on. Perhaps they can be a bit too reliant on their one trick though, where their extended passages of slow, fracturing noise will pound away before being interrupted by breaks of black-metal or harsher sound on each track, and the general cadence of Ryan’s voice more or less goes unchanged throughout. It’s an album defined by how vehemently Body Void stick to their own formula and how much they can get out of it, which thankfully is a fair amount, at least enough to justify sticking to it all the way through. It sounds fantastically heavy, for starters, where the extended seismic guitar and bass notes will hang ominously against curtains of static and noise, ringing out for about thirteen minutes apiece to let the weight and scope fully drill in. It’s music designed to exist in a very specific headspace, where crushing, draining exhaustion and misanthropy reign and Body Void can fully tap into it. Naturally it’s not a particular pleasant listen (and whether that’s a good thing or not is entirely down to preference), but there’s a fire behind Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth that Body Void have total control over, slowly spreading it out to prolong the force in ultimately the most effective way to go about it.

7/10

For fans of: Vile Creature, Bell Witch, Weltesser

‘Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth’ by Body Void is released on 23rd April on Prosthetic Records.


Them Bloody Kids

Radical Animals

Here’s an important lesson about political music, particularly in rock – to have the most impact, it needs to be both precise and relevant. Most bands will barely hit one of those criteria on a good day, and Them Bloody Kids seem like a prime candidate for that on first glance, with a naff band name and album cover, and crop of influences pulling from early 2000s alt-metal that has demonstrably not aged well. To be fair though, Radical Animals is far from the worst example, as Them Bloody Kids at least show a conviction that’ll at least get them moving. Even if the writing isn’t particularly sharp, Sebastian Moederle-Lumb has some intensity in his voice to give it enough of a jumpstart and at least land in the area of the right place. The politics themselves are nothing new either, in broadly-sketched criticisms of society and uncaring governments, though even on Show No Love and System Corrupted where there’s the least uniqueness outside of the typical lyrical touchstones, it’s still alright. Them Bloody Kids aren’t explicitly pulling from the same stock lines that others will, and there’ll be hints of greater flavour from Molly and Light On Upstairs to enhance the experience, if only by a small amount.

It’s not really enough to make up for how stodgy and bloated the album can feel as a whole though, and that goes a considerable distance to negating a lot of what Them Bloody Kids get right. It’s all about that precision, and while the writing shows flickers of that, musically, Radical Animals will often follow the alt-metal cue of creating a big riff and building the entire song around that. Admittedly some of those riffs will be pretty choice like on The Demon and Into The Night, but there’s also the case of existing broadness being exacerbated and beefed-up, where the low-end guitars don’t have the motion or groove that they really need. It’s heavy on a purely superficial level, and outside of a good bass presence that admirably fleshes out the mix, there’s a coldness to this style that doesn’t suit what Them Bloody Kids are doing. It opens up a lot of half-measures and creative roadblocks that were bound to surface from such a dated musical style, and without a noticeable contemporary spin besides some of the overall themes (and even then, they aren’t exactly untrodden ground), you’re left with an album that ends up too long and unimpressive for everything that it actually provides. There are precious few moments here that demand some kind of revisit when any intrigue factor just can’t bypass the album’s built-in limitations, and it makes for sort of a damp squib overall. Even if it isn’t horrid, Them Bloody Kids aren’t achieving much of note in any regard, made even more disappointing when it’s so prevalent and avoidable.

5/10

For fans of: System Of A Down, CKY, Therapy?

‘Radical Animals’ by Them Bloody Kids is released on 23rd April.


Timid Kooky

Baby Be My Spiderman

The first most striking thing about Timid Kooky’s music is how little they sound like any one other single band. That can definitely be explained, in taking in a lot of the music to come from outside of their native Lithuania, but Baby Be My Spiderman seems to revel in how it can take seemingly disparate sonic parts and weave them together so coherently. The starting base of garage-punk comes tempered by hardcore, stoner-rock, classic rock and a penchant for vocal harmonies that always wonderful to see, for the sort of ramshackle, rough-and-tumble EP that’s almost perpetually rushing forward without feeling breathless or overpowered. By all rights, it should as well, given the volume placed on the production that’ll send guitars and bass blasting out at all times, but there’s a brawniness to a song like Run Uphill that can push past that, where the power and muscle comes from the music itself rather than the mix around it. As such, Baby Be My Spiderman ends up head and shoulders above the garage-rock it’ll no doubt be painted the same shade as, for the simple fact that Timid Kooky don’t end up feeling overpowered, and will run with the snarling, roiling grooves and riffs pouring from Westley Snypes and the title track, rather than against them.

It’s all evident of the liberation of making music that’s such an imperative force within this band, and how there’s a fearlessness that keeps them moving forward at such a clip. It also comes through lyrically, in how the hyper-masculine, self-important protagonist will break down all pretenses and learn to be himself away from restrictive egocentrism, but it’s really just one piece of the overall experience that all yields the same triumphant endpoint. For as imposing as Baby Be My Spiderman can sound, the lightness of touch makes all the difference, in how clean and robust the vocal harmonies are, and how the pop sensibilities will form the backbone of everything else, without restricting or shepherding in a way that feels unnatural. As far as genre fusions go, Timid Kooky’s is one of the more successful endeavoured in some time, in how the work has actually been done for everything to fit together. It would be nice to see how this can expand beyond just five tracks, but the uniqueness and playfulness already displayed sets up those hopes rather highly. Really solid stuff all the way down.

7/10

For fans of: Queens Of The Stone Age, Jane’s Addiction, Royal Blood

‘Baby Be My Spiderman’ by Timid Kooky is released on 23rd April on The state51 Conspiracy.


Words by Luke Nuttall

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