Archive for the ‘Rock’ Category

r-9299096-1481877844-1972-jpegWhen I first heard of Motley Crue I didn’t like them. I was young, Nu Metal was what the Magazines were saying was cool and anything Glam or Hair related was advertised as being terrible, cliched, sexist nonsense for old men who had all grown out of rock music now and were embarrassed to admit they used to like it. That’s what I was told anyway, and though it turns out that this idea was very much a caricature of the real situation I was fool enough to believe it an ignored the band for the next decade or so. Eventually a friend bought me their biography, The Dirt, and I read it since I usually enjoy a good band book and it was rather famous in and of itself as a book so I was tempted to try even if I wasn’t a fan of the band. Upon reading I instantly grew to dislike the band. Cheating, stealing, rude, ungrateful, disrespectful of other’s hard work and property, they didn’t seem like nice people (apparently I forgot about the whole Rock N Roll thing… because everyone else who read the book said ‘Wow, what a badass’ where I thought ‘You are the opposite of an upstanding citizen’). It did make me wonder why anybody liked the band, and that lead me to listen to their music.

…Oh. It all made sense now. Songs like ‘Bastard,’ ‘Red Hot,’ ‘Use It Or Loose It’ and ‘Live Wire’ all tapped into my love of Speed Metal and NWOBHM with their familiar sound… pounding drums, chugging guitars, shouting vocals. What do you mean they toured with Saxon in the early days!? ….That let me in the door and soon I discovered the rest and gladly so. Oh, songs like Don’t Go Away Mad are like an updated version of Kiss… it all makes sense.

Fast forward a few years and its time to review The End, the final concert from the final tour in the storied and legendary band’s career. Available in many formats, CD, Vinyl, DVD and Blu Ray, normal and deluxe editions, there’s many ways to buy this. For me it was standard edition Blu Ray.

Sonically; its very good. The music is clear, big and well-produced. Its got umph. The mix is just right. Visually; its a treat. The picture is excellent, the camera work is on point, the editing is well done (maybe I could loose a few of the slow motion shots but that’s just personal taste) and the actual content of the show is very visually interesting… there’s flames, a specially designed stage with spikes and pentagrams and the band’s name, there’s lazers and even a rollercoaster. The band tower above the crowd on cherrypickers a one point. Its a very big Rock N’ Roll show to match the likes of Kiss, Rammstein and Rob Zombie.

The setlist is quite strong, lots of material from the first four albums, Primal Scream, and a few from the more recent Saints Of Los Angeles. Basically, only material by the full ‘classic line up.’ More or less hit after hit. In terms of less-famous songs they even play my favourite Crue non-single ‘Louder Than Hell’ off of the underrated Theater Of Pain.

So; it looks good, it sounds good and they play good songs. Sounds perfect, right? Well… uh, here’s the thing. The performance is a bit patchy. Maybe even a lot patchy. I mean, Motley Crue are good performers as entertainers… the flame-thrower bass guitar and the crowd interaction and the first pumping excitement raising is all very good in terms of live performance. Its just, the key thing, y’know, playing the songs, where it falls down for me. There’s numerous musical fluffs and mistakes and missed ques. There’s questionable reworkings of classic songs that might’ve made ’em feel updated but miss the mark (‘Shout At The Devil’ I’m lookin at you!) and Vince’s vocals are very sloppy. I have a lot of good will for him and don’t want to slag him off unnecessarily, but man, he is so out of breath, misses so many lines, delivers so many lines in an inappropriate pitch or tone or volume, overall just does not sing these songs either as well as on record or indeed, very well at all.

You could probably forgive a few fluffed transitions and you can get over a few of the questionable moments like Vince doing a happy sexy dance to the word ‘rape’ if you keep in your mind its a concert and not everything would be absolutely perfect, but the singing is such a let down it really is a bit of a deal breaker for me. You can add a few more points if you are a diehard fan I guess, but you can also detract a few if you are a fan of any album between ‘Feelgood and ‘Saints.

I also find the drum solo very… um, well. Drum solos should usually be about showing how well you can play the drums, not just playing along to some dubstep. The rollercoaster was cool and I guess its difficult to play a virtuosic solo when you are upside down, but seriously who comes to Motely Crue wanting to hear dubstep? Maybe I’m nitpicking. Its interesting that they caught on film the one time it goes wrong and Tommy gets stuck in midair like an amusement park malfunction. Its just hard to imagine that it was pitched to the right audience maybe.

I go through two different moods when watching this. First, the cynical mood – ‘Wow, look at those passed-their-prime guys who all hate eachother showing up for the money and not even being on-point musically’ and then the more optimistic ‘Wow, look at those guys up there putting aside their differences to give the fans what they want, and so what if they don’t play perfectly as they put on a big enough spectacle to compensate.’ Sometimes it varies from viewing to viewing, and sometimes it varies from song to song in a single viewing, but I never have settled into deciding which way I feel definitively, and I never did stop viewing.

So that’s the concert. What about the bonus features? Well, there’s a quick four-minute feature about the Flamethrower Bass which is just Nicky talking about his history with pyro and why the one in this concert is the best. Then there’s a similar five-and a-half minute feature on Tommy’s drum rollercoaster and why visuals are important to a live audience. The best feature is a 35 minute interview section with the band where they answer all sorts of questions ans start reflecting on their history and how far they’ve come. None of these features are deal-breakers that you’d buy the disc over if you didn’t want the concert, but are welcome enough for a one-off watch.

Overall; There’s a lot to recommend this concert on – a setlist of mainly hits, a great sound and look, a big rock spectacle, historical significance etc. There’s a few bonus features to add some extra value for money. There’s also a pretty big downside however – the band and especially the singer don’t do as good a job as you’d hope. Whether you can put up with that is up to you. Or like me, maybe you buy it anyway and struggle to figure out if you can put up with it while still watching it a lot.

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The Zombie Horror Picture Show is a live release by the Industrial Metal band Rob Zombie. It was filmed in Texas and released in 2014 on DVD and Blu Ray, his first full concert video release. The Blu Ray version is in 1080p with DTS HD Master 5.1, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and PCM stereo options.

Live CDs are great, but Rob Zombie has always been about spectacle, about visual, about putting on a show. It just makes more sense to release it in a visual medium. Here’s a list of things you can find on this concert film: Multiple costume changes (including prosthetic Nosferatu ears and a light-up mouth-guard) …when the band are already decoratively dressed and wearing make up to begin with; Multiple screens (showing a mixture of crowd footage, scenes from the music videos and dedicated footage such as horror imagery, strip tease, psychedelic visualizers and karaoke sing along prompts), light-up guitars, a see-through drum kit (which also has pentagrams projected onto it at one stage), balloons, confetti, fireworks and pyro and steam cannons, lights and lasers, customized mic-stands, fake snow falling, hired dancers in big puppet costumes, a giant prop that says ‘Zombie’ on it, a giant radio prop, a giant skeletal podium prop and even a giant steampunk-robot-chariot that drives around the stage and can move its head around. That’s more than most bands do in a whole career these days.

Its a very visual concert, with a lot to take in. The editing and camera work is all very high-budget stuff, lots of different angles available, movement, concentrating on the right parts of the song. There’s the occasional grainy film filters, or psychedelic looking screen mirrored down the middle or what have you, and during the intro, outro and a small selection of the more quiet parts it’ll cut to footage from the road. Its a very good looking film, well put together, not too stylized but not to plain. Very in keeping with Zombie’s tastes and artwork (Which makes sense seeing as Zombie himself directed it). Perhaps, there’s a few too many titty-shots. … a much higher proportion than normal really. If that’s off-putting to you then this aint the concert for you I fear, as there’s no getting around it here.

The band, featuring drummer Ginger Fish and guitarist John 5 (Hey, remember how cool Marilyn Manson was live when those two were in the band!?) as well as bassist Piggy D are all on top form, no free rides! Rob himself performs well and enthusiastically, really getting into it, dancing, interacting with the audience, going into the crowd etc. His vocals, which have been criticized on previous live releases are very strong here, and not a weak link at all. From everyone involved its a good performance, and the crowd seem into it.

The setlist is great; out of all of ‘Zombie’s live albums this has the most wide-ranging setlist, covering five solo albums and two White Zombie albums. Across its 80 minute length you’ll find all the hits you’d expect like ‘Dragula,’ ‘Living Dead Girl,’ ‘Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy),’ ‘Sick Bubblegum’ etc. There’s material from the then-new album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (including a really storming rendition of ‘Dead City Radio…’). There’s also a brief drum solo and a slightly longer guitar solo where John 5 really gets to shred. There’s the popular Grand Funk cover of ‘We’re An American Band.’ The Educated Horses album is the least drawn-from album but then there was already a live album from that touring cycle so its good not to just repeat the same setlist twice. Everyone’s tastes are different and I’d personally have loved to add in ‘Scum Of The Earth’ and ‘Werewolf Women of the SS’ but otherwise it is a pretty amazing selection.

Sound wise, its is decent. The White Zombie covers sound nice and thick, and the more organic material from his solo catalogue fairs really well. Some of the more industrial sections maybe sound different live than on record but not in any way that spoils them. My only minor gripe is that my favourite ‘Zombie song, the very catchy ‘Ding Dang Dong De Do Gong De Laga Raga’ isn’t just as crunchy and massive live. Its good, but not just as satisfying. I think its just because there’s only one guitar track live and in the studio they can beef it up with more. Minor nitpick at most though.

There isn’t much in the way of extras at all, just a gallery, not even a booklet with linear notes or anything, but to be honest I bought it for the concert in the first place so that’s ok I guess.

Overall, in terms of set,sound, performance, spectacle, visuals and editing this is a very good concert film and I highly recommend it. If you are a fan already it is pretty perfect and as an introduction to the band it serves as a pretty high quality ‘greatest hits’ package with a nice career spanning collection of songs to give you a flavour for different eras.

61IBNuh6dgL._SS500I don’t know if I am fully equipped to review this album really, but I have a really strong urge to add my praise to the pile. This feels like an important album. I don’t know if its just because I’ve been brainwashed into liking it by Hill & Beez from the That’s Not Metal Podcast I subscribe to, (Hey, it worked for Marmozetts!) or if its because of the positive reviews I see everywhere, or if it is just genuinely that impressive, but something about this record just really makes me sit up and think, hey, this is a big deal!

Creeper are a British band from the Punk side of things, and this is their major label debut full-length album. Interestingly you can buy it on Cassette should you want. It was released on Roadrunner Records this year (that’s 2017 if you read back on this in the future).

Musically, the album is a bit of an eclectic mish-mash of different styles. Just go look at the band’s Wikipedia page and see all the different genres its listed as; there’s stuff in there from Hardcore, Post-Hardcore, Goth Punk, Pop Punk and more, heck, one song is even described as Country. There’s talk of diverse influences from as far afield as The Cure, Meatloaf and Metallica, then there’s the interesting underlying concept-album story about a paranormal detective who goes missing and the weird viral marketing surrounding that which feels like Trent Rezonor’s Year Zero campaign. The band have stated they want to add flamboyance to Punk. Hey; I like Queen and The Offspring, but I never imagined a mixture of the two before, because that’s what my inexperienced brain conjures up when I hear that mission statement. Maybe I don’t own enough AFI albums?

There’s a lot to consider when you start paying closer attention to Eternity, In Your Arms. Hell; when I put the album on, the thing opens with an intro that would fit seamlessly onto any of Cradle Of Filth’s ’90s albums. Not even kidding. From there, I hear such a wide variety of things. The male singer is some bizzare mix of Glen Danzig, Davey Havock, Roddy Walker, Matt Skiba, Jim Lindberg and god knows who else. The chorus to ‘Black Rain’ sounds like the end of a Coheed & Cambria album, the ‘I’ve Been Cheatin Death For Years’ line and accompanying music from ‘Darling’ is the best Alkaline Trio rip-off I’ve ever heard, ‘Poison Pens’ has backing vocals that wouldn’t be out of place on a Sick Of It All album, but it also has this cool solemn mid-section that feels like Biffy Clyro when they’re being melancholic… or at least that bit on Gallows’ Grey Britain track ‘Graves’ with Biffy Clyro’s singer on it.

I mean; how do you even reviews this thing? ‘Misery’ isn’t the usual Pop-punk ballad, the tone is just differnt. ‘I Chose To Live’ isn’t the typical Horror Punk album closer. ‘Crickets’ sounds like the music on the sad montage in the middle of a film where someone’s marrigage is in trouble, y’know only its on this album instead. I think there’s a violin in there. The chorus of ‘Suzanne’ sounds like a completely different band to its middle eight with that whole ‘set the hostages free’ thing, and that again is so different to the verses, and the almost Hatebreed-esque build-ups where they scream ‘now’ over heavy music.

Then after that, the next song is this summery Alkaline Trio thing that could be in a late ’90s rom-com soundtrack during the verses, but with haunting, emotional and weird vocals elsewhere and an early Emo mid-section. Am I happy to be hiding with the boys? He crys off the very last line of the song like a singer songwriter from the Juno soundtrack. They do that a lot actually, change at the end. ‘Room 401’ starts off as a fun up-tempo skate punk number and ends like the acoustic bits off of Protest The Hero’s Kezia record. These song structures aint exactly basic. The band do a masterful job at taking the songs on unexpected journeys without sounding confused or ill-designed. They do a great job of adding extra instruments without

Hey, ‘Down Below’ sounds like Rancid, through a Jimmy Eat World filter… y’know until that chorus, that is more like Interpol or something. I know from interviews there’s also a My Chemical Romance influence. Oh hey, pianos. This got moody… I mean why even bother describing this? As I’ve said, I’m a bit ill-equipped.

This album might be a little outside my usual area of understanding. I mean; I’ve spent the rest of the month juggling between Edguy, Stratovarius and Blind Guardian. I bought it in a two-for-one deal with the new Kreator album. Maybe I don’t know whats going on exactly since I can’t trace it back through the usual routes like Accept to Rainbow to Deep Purple or whatever, but this album is awesome.

If like me you aren’t Mr. Punk and don’t have all the background knowledge, don’t let that stop you. This album is so good it would be an utter crime to miss out. There’s not one dud song, not one dodgy transition, not one questionable second. I don’t know how anyone wouldn’t like this, no matter what type of music they usually like. Y’know when something is just that good you have to stop and take notice? Its just so diverse, interesting, well constructed, charming. Those stop-start duhn-duhns in ‘Winnona’ make me want to get Creeper’s name in a heart tattoo. I mean, and then it sounds like bloody ‘Aces High’ for a second, then ‘Blood Red Summer’ the next, then ‘Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night’ for a further second. And what a lyric, ‘Its breaking me to see you so happy, I just want the worst for you, so selfish and so typical of me’ in like, the flipping happiest sounding song I’ve heard all year.

The album is over in about half an hour or so. You wouldn’t think it though. A creepy-cheesy intro, three affecting ballads and a dizzingly fun and fizzy eight songs that blend all the popular punk subgenres together. Occasionally way too heavy for the radio. Occasionally way too syrupy for the punk-police. Occasionally silly, Occasionally dead serious. A cool background story, interesting and intelligent lyrics. A brain teasing mixture of emotions. Vocal diversity the likes of which you don’t hear very often (Not even taking into account the differing genders of the two main singers). I mean, this album has a bit of everything.

It doesn’t have to be a puzzle either though. If you sit there and dissect it, its got depth for days. But if you want to switch off and put it on, its as instant as instant can be. I’ve rarely heard a band that can make something so immediate and yet so crafted at the same time. In the review I may have over-stated the baffling nature of its pool of influences, don’t let that make you think this isn’t just the catchiest damn thing going though. The complexity does not take away from the end product. Its not hard work. Playing ‘guess what band that section reminds me of’ is very fun but its just one small part of listening to the record. Its just genuinely lovable in and of itself.

My personal favourite track has to be ‘Suzanne’ followed closely by ‘Poison Pens’ and ‘Crickets.’ Followed by them all, because seriously, there’s not a wasted second on this disc! (or Cassette, if you prefer).

If you have any interest in good rock music, or like any of the bands I’ve alleged it sounds like then you really ought to check this out. I mean, to your ears it won’t sound like any of those bands anyway because I’m always getting told that my comparisons are a stretch. But what it will sound like, is a rollercoaster ride, a damn good time, something to think about and a lasting impression.

Get up on this!

I went to go see the  Scottish Indie rock band The Fratellis last night at Manchester Academy 2, on Monday 16th November 2015. It’s the second time I’ve caught the band live, a band I’ve been a fan of for almost a decade now. Some people sometimes seem to think of them as a one hit wonder since ‘Chelsea Dagger’ is so disproportionately more famous than any of their other singles (man, ‘Misteress Mable’ isn’t in adverts for beer or cars every year, is it?) but these hard working, consistent and very talented guys are far from one hit wonders, and each and every one of their albums has had a good chance of being my album of the year for that year.

I went to see them with my girlfriend, they’re one of the bands that we both enjoy, and had a lot better time than the last time I saw them because I didn’t have some weird 11 year old girl making fun of me for not looking happy enough this time, this time I looked very happy. We did have hooligans bouncing around drunkenly, almost squishing my girlfriend (it was one of the more violent shows I’ve been to with a non-Metal band) and causing me to buckle down and get the elbows out entering human shield mode (hey, good job I’m tall and into lifting) every time they played something off of their debut album Costello Music that caused the crowd to get overly active. It was quite a workout stopping and reversing the human tide over and over again, but very satisfying in a certain caveman-mind me-tarzan way.

The support band was The Crookes who were a similar sort of band, and very passionate and talented and seemed very good. There were two or three songs that got me thinking maybe I’ll check out their albums. I’d recommend them if you like this sort of music.

When The Fratellis hit the stage it was joyous, very fun indeed. They did a pretty representative set with a good mixture from all albums, not overlooking anything and giving particular focus to their debut which is reaching nostalgia age and their new album which they’re clearly proud of and into and it really shows. It was nice to see songs like ‘A Heady Tale’ and ‘Until She Saves My Soul’ from the middle two albums (my favourite two, personally) balanced against the obvious choices like ‘Henrietta’ and current single ‘Imposters (Little By Little).’

What I love about this band, and why I can listen to them when most indie bands don’t do much for me, is because they are such true musicians and so clearly love what they do and are grateful for any success. Its cool how much they’re doing it for themselves to… improvised guitar solos recalling Hendrix and Gilmour that have nothing to do with the albums just because it felt fun to play right now, changing up massive much loved songs like ‘Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night’ and more recent material like ‘We Need Medicine’ into a country music vein just because it would be fun… and when they play ‘Doginabag’ they played it with a swerve big stoner rock vibe you’d expect from Down or C.O.C, because clearly they’re just so into it. Surprise stand-out moment for me was a track from the new album, called ‘Me And The Devil’ which they just stormed out with this massive power you wouldn’t expect, huuuuuuge drums that sincerely recalled Bonham, with the lighting and the dynamics in volume and the energy in the room it was genuinely one of the best moments I’ve ever witnessed from a live band, and it wasn’t even one of my favourite songs from the new album before this. It was so stupidly good live… I can’t even explain how massive it was. The drummer, Mince Fratellis, hits so hard, so confidently and with such enthusiasm (well, what do you expect from a guy with massive Slayer and Metallica tattoos on each arm) that he really transcends the sort of radio indie thing… the guys a real artist. It’s a shame that the albums don’t convey the sheer umph (if they did though, the ‘normal people’ wouldn’t buy them though) because I’d love to drop some links to demonstrate what I mean… but you know that feeling when you see someone playing at the very edge of their limits and then just throwing in extra fills or cymbals and actually going past their own limits and it just creates a drive and power that is magical and better than precision… the power of hardcore punk without the sloppiness. Oh, its hard to describe… but I was transfixed. The effortlessly cool Jon and Barry are two of the most captivating guys in this genre, and I still barely looked at them all night… a touch of the Garry Powel or Matt Helders effect going on there… all eyes on the dynamo behind the kit! I don’t care what NME magazine might say.

Yes, a very good night, its brilliant when you can come home from seeing hit after hit after hit and still go, “hold on, they didn’t’ even play ‘Creepin Up The Back Stairs’ or ‘Mistress Mable’ or whatever other famous single” and leave completely and utterly satisfied. Deep cuts, new stuff, re-arranged classics,  tons of hits, and after ‘Chelsea Dagger’ had finished they didn’t even leave, but stayed to drop a surprise extra Dion cover… because I guess they’re musicians who like music and it just felt fun to them to do so…

What a band. I wish their audience was less of the hooligans and normals, but then I get squashed at Machine Head and Lamb Of God shows too, so I can’t blame it all on them being indie. Anyway, if you don’t know this band check em out (my favourite songs are ‘This Old Ghost Town’ and ‘My Friend John’ so I’d recommend those as your first entry point) and if you do like them, catch them live because they absolutely smash it!

Coheed & Cambria - The Color Before The Sun

Coheed & Cambria – The Color Before The Sun

The Color Before The Sun is the innovative American Prog/Punk/Rock/Metal hybrid band Coheed & Cambria’s eight full-length studio album, it was produced by the band and Jay Joyce (who also contributes some piano) and released in 2015.

That hybrid sound isn’t quite so pronounced this time around though. There’s nothing on here that’s as heavy as the band’s heaviest output, there’s nothing as progressive as the band’s most progressive moments, there’s nothing as fast as the band’s fastest moments. Nothing is so sugary or so lush as the band’s most grandiose ballads of yore. There’s no summery happy single. There’s no ‘Welcome Home’ or ‘No World For Tomorrow’ or ‘Domino The Destitute’ or ‘Sentry The Defiant’ type big smashing centrepiece either. Even Sanchez’s usually immensely emotional, evocative and expressive vocals are a bit more restrained. He’s usually singing about the most dramatic point in a character’s entire life, and Claudio can really make you feel that. Here he still has the talent and the signature style but the performance is a bit more held back, a foot off the gas pedal and less hair raising.

As an album; its very much Coheed on the ‘medium’ setting. As such, it took the album a bit longer to really click with me than usual… but click it did. I’ll admit, the very first time I heard this record in full I didn’t like it much and I could imagine it getting bad reviews from professional critics without the time to really let it sink in because of the fact its such a grower and it does take a bit of listening to reveal all its secrets and hidden depths. Its not even as if it’s a return to roots or going back to their early sound either because although its poppy and cheerful it doesn’t really sound much like Second Stage Turbine Blade either. It’s a bit more raw, honest, stripped back and realistic. The emotions are more human. If you’re willing to give it a chance, the quality’s absolutely there though.

The other big talking point about this record is that the lyrics are no longer conceptual or telling the Amory Wars story, but you’d be hard pressed to notice sometimes with all the mentioning of moons and planets and returning words and ideas the band always use like ‘home’ and ‘love’ etc. The band write about relationships, fatherhood, artistry and similar topics here, same as always in one way, just without the sci-fi angle. There’s some great memorable lines here, with ‘Ghosts,’ ‘Atlas’ and ‘The Audience’ being especially interesting.

The album also goes to town on lots of sing-along moments, there’s a real surplus of ‘woah ah ooooh’s and ‘da dada da’s. It seems like the band are compensating for the lack of power with pleasant smiley moments, and it works well. There’s also a few really sweet, enjoyable guitar lines that’ll stick in your head. Now, on top of that there are some seriously fun moments and memorable choruses; the opener ‘Island’ as well as the singles ‘Here To Mars’ and ‘You’ve Got Spirit, Kid’ in particular are all worth checking out. Another major highlight is the subtle and understated ballad ‘Ghost’ which has some different sounding vocals from Claudio.

Overall; this is a more mature, mid-paced, cohesive and restrained album from Coheed & Cambria. It isn’t as instant or dramatic or adventurous as some of the band’s back catalogue but it is enjoyable and it is worth your time. There’s just something very good about it, it is a real grower, its earthy and honest and it is just very well crafted and succinct with no filler and an absolute boatload of hooks. I recommend it to anyone who’s ever had an interest in the group.

Clutch – Psychic Warfare

Clutch have come a long, long way from their Hardcore roots, and if you do a side-by side comparison of the likes of the Pitchfork or Passive Restraints EPs, you’d scarcely imagine it is the same band. They’ve weaved their way from defining Stoner Rock, to becoming loose and jam focused, to exploring Blues territories. All the way through they’ve been inventive, impressive, consistent and a whole barrel of fun. Almost no band going can claim to have more charm, personality or dependability, and there’s barely been a group on this Earth with the same down to earth vibe and strong work-ethic for such a long, long time. I mean, what other band still has all the original members of its debut album’s line-up, ten albums later?

That’s Clutch for you. Always honest, always consistent and always excellent. They do what they want and they do it well and it always sounds good. With their previous album, 2013’s Earth Rocker, the band stripped away all the frills and delivered the most focused and electrifying performance possible, with arguably the most trim and electric collection of tunes to date. It was a damn good album, with a good direction for the band at that moment in time, and the press and the public stood up, took notice and started to realize just what an amazing band Clutch had been all along. Clutch concerts had bigger audiences, you see more people in the streets wearing Clutch shirts and Clutch get more mentions on podcasts and magazines and popular music websites than they have in a while. Altogether; a triumph, well deserved and long-earned, with no hint of compromise. The band’s public mindshare has gone up and down over the year but right now feels like a golden era.

Psychic Warfare now comes along, two years later in 2015, and follows the same formula. Clutch give a damn focused, lazer-beam version of their trademark sound, in a briefer, more succinct fashion than ever before. They speed up the tempos, they give an even sweatier more powerful performance, and they never compromise what makes them so good in the first place.

‘X-Ray Visions,’ ‘Sucker For The Witch,’ ‘Decapitation Blues’ and especially ‘Noble Savage’ are barrelling, fast-paced rockers. Hold on to something or the album might well knock you over. ‘A Quick Death In Texas’ is a funky ZZ Top-flavoured smile-inducer that recalls previous work like ‘DC Sound Attack’ in its funky midsection and ‘50,000 Unstoppable Watts’ in its uplifting chorus (and features amusing lyrics about a man in mortal peril after having seduced ZZ Top’s singer’s wife). Balance is achieved with the sublime ‘Our Lady Of Electric Light’ and ‘Son Of Virginia’ which recall the very best of the slow side of Clutch; think ‘Drink To The Dead,’ ‘The Face,’ ‘The Regulator’ and ‘Basket Of Eggs’ and you’re in the right territory… but damn, these two are particularly strong, evocative and entertaining. It doesn’t overdo the slow moments, it doesn’t overdo the instrumental noodling, and even with all the speed it isn’t repetitive or simplistic. It is a pretty perfect mixture that captures Clutch as they are in 2015 absolutely masterfully.

As always, the musicianship is otherworldly with some of the most subtly fantastic drums in the industry and bass and guitar lines that will stick in your head for years if history is anything to go by – no one’s showing off but everyone comes across like a virtuoso. Fallon’s superb vocals are as sharp as ever; full of story-selling conviction and passion as he screams, sings, bellows and worries his way through poplar music’s greatest lyrical adventures since Phil Lynott passed away. The man knows how to convey drama, that’s for sure! I want to single out a few choice lyrics every time I review a Clutch record, so stupendous are the band at creating memorable lines, but man, I’d just have the whole damn record’s lyrics down this time!

Album highlights? Every damn song! Don’t even bother with a tester. If you like the band, you’ll love this. Overall; If you like the band then you absolutely need this in your collection. If you don’t like the band then you’re seriously missing out on something special – maybe try again now and reevaluate. In any case; I don’t reckon it would be humanly possible for Clutch to have made a better album and I can’t imagine enjoying anything they could’ve come up with this time more. I know it goes against my Catholic upbringing, but I’m a sucker for this album.

Stone Temple Pilots – Tiny Music Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop

Tiny Music Songs From The Vatican Gift Shop was the third full length studio album by San Diego Grunge band Stone Temple Pilots. It was released in 1996 and produced by Brendan O’Brian. This third album continues their trend of not having two albums in a row sound much like each other. The first album was a weighty, almost Metallic mixture of Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam’s styles, blended together. Their second was a moody, mid-paced, thoughtful record that embraced “Alternative” more than Grunge specifically. This third album is a breezy, summery album, with pleasant melodies, jangly psychedelic moments and a bit more speed than Purple had.

The album is almost in two halves, firstly of enjoyable, slightly heavy Rock songs with enough bite to satisfy but simple and easily digestible enough to be memorable and entertaining, and the rest is more laid back, mildly trippy music that evokes Gentle Giant’s less complex moments, or indeed The Beatles. It’s a very good mixture that balances well together and makes for a strong record overall. Experimental enough to sound fresh but grounded enough to give you what you want.

Highlights include ‘Tumble In The Rough,’ ‘Lady Picture Show’ and the famous ‘Trippin On A Hole In A Paper Heart’ …three tracks equally as strong and memorable as anything off the excellent debut Core, and as separate from the styles of other bands as anything on Purple. These sit alongside the likes of ‘Dead And Bloated’ and ‘Sex Type Thing’ as some of the most fun songs the band have released, but without losing the artsy identity the band found for themselves with tracks like ‘Silvergun Superman.’ A best of both worlds, if no stylistically then at least in terms of quality.

Overall; Tiny Music has all the benefits of pleasant disposable summery fun music, but with the talent and backing to make it last. If you like this band, or this sort of music, its an absolute must. Its probably the band’s most fun and easily accessible album and its absolutely worth your time. Don’t let the headlines or anything put you off. Don’t miss out!