SINGLES REVIEWS: October 2011
Duelling guitars, rap-metal and the smug optimism of youth
Wonder Villains – 'Zola' (No Dancing), October 16
After exploding onto the local music scene last year with their infectious brand of catchy electro-pop, Derry's masters of the playful pop song finally get round to releasing their debut proper.
Over a bed of tropical sounding synths, the band unleash some of their catchiest melodies, doing their best to justify the hype that has been heaped upon them over the last year.
Obviously the amount of high profile gigs and festival appearances have paid off. The band sound more assured than they ever have, crafting a miniature pop masterpiece revolving around stories of football and betrayal (really!).
But whilst its youthful charm is contagious, the Wonder Villains make music for kids. It's full of the joyful glory of youth, but sounding perhaps a little bit too immature for the more jaded listener (ie anyone over 25).
If you can stand having the long bleak years of your life spread out in front of you by a bunch of kids with time on their side, then you're unlikely to hear a more inspired debut this year.
Kasper Rosa – 'First Breath, First Blood' (Field), September 16
Unfairly lumped in with the ever expanding bunch of Irish instrumental noiseniks, there was always something a little different about Kasper Rosa.
Whether it was the odd suspiciously 'prog' sounding guitar solo, or their trademark noodling explorations into the heart of the sun, the Belfast four-piece were an uncomfortable fit into the post-hardcore mould.
Fittingly, previous single 'Coronal Mass Ejection' exploded like a full on progressive rock odyssey. Unafraid to stretch out its instrumental tendrils, as well as ushering in the surprising inclusion of vocals as a central part of the song. Sprawling and epic, it left us wanting more, a promise more than honoured by this similarly epic follow up.
This time around, acoustic guitars add a welcome layer of warmth and texture. The duelling guitars of Ryan McCormick and Steven Butler probe ever further into the cosmos, their delicious melodies only matched by their instrumental dexterity.
After years of operating in the shadow of And So I Watch You From Afar, Kasper Rosa seem eager to reveal their true colours, and finally prove to the naysayers that they have their own distinctive voice. It's difficult to imagine anyone arguing with them on the strength of this release.
Uber Glitterati – Uber Glitterati EP (Self Released), October 19
At one point, it seemed as though Belfast was on the verge of an electronic revolution, with synth pop duos like Nakatomi Towers and Skibunny causing indie kids to shake their booty all over the country.
Fast forward two years, and Belfast two-piece Uber Glitterati are the last band standing, ready to inherit the electric dreams of an entire nation.
Their new EP collects four of their strongest songs and provides the perfect entry point to their sleek electro sound. A beguiling mix of synths and textured guitars, Uber Glitterati have a surplus of melody to carry them along. The band unleash more tunes on one song than other bands do over the course of an entire album.
'Australia' kicks off the proceedings, with Elizabeth McGeown's vocals soaring over a strident melody courtesy of Stevie Mac. The rest of the songs proceed in a similar manner, aimed straight at some imaginary nightclub in the eighties, rather than the bedrooms of insular music fans or stuffy music critics.
If there is a fault, it's in the lack of variety in the arrangements, and the lack of 'oomph' in the recordings. Rhythmically, the songs rarely kick off when you would expect them to, rendering it difficult to imagine them becoming the dance floor fillers the duo clearly expect them to be.
Similarly, the vocals suffer from an over-abundance of 'ethereal' vibes, rarely occupying the emotional centre needed to take the songs to the heart, rather than just the feet. With a bit more spit and polish, it's easy to imagine these songs doing exactly what they think they're doing, but they're not quite there yet.
Dead Til Friday – 'The Longest Year' (Self Released), available now
Rap-metal may be one of the most maligned genres to have ever existed, but obviously no-one told Dead Til Friday. A raucous five piece, this band is ready to assault you with a barrage of guitars and rhymes not heard round these parts since Limp Bizkit were kings of the scene.
And whilst it might not be the most fashionable noise, Dead Til Friday deliver it with the accuracy of a well placed hand-grenade into the indie-rock bunker.
Proving that tight riffs and baggy shorts will never truly go away, ‘The Longest Year’ is expertly performed and delivered, a charm oozing through every note that will provide valuable armour with the inevitable naysayers come out of the woodwork to criticise the band for the sin of resurrecting nu-metal.
It's impossible to say whether there's any longevity in this kind of thing (although it's been proclaimed stone dead on more than one occasion). The band's incendiary live performances might not be enough to translate their appeal onto record, but it's an explosive start for a band with everything to prove, and the drive to go the distance.
And So I Watch You From Afar – '7 Billion People All Alive at Once' (Richter Collective), September 19
Gangs, the follow up to ASIWYFA’s debut album was not quite the album many were expecting. It was all the better for it: a sterling slice of passion fuelled instrumental rock, proudly wearing its bruised heart on its sleeve.
A highlight of the album, ‘7 Billion People All Alive at Once’ showcases quite how this magnificent album works its magic − a march into infinity, set in waltz time.
Largely eschewing the apocalyptic riffs of their debut, ‘7 Billion People...’ instead floats along on the back of the increasingly nimble rhythm section of Chris Wee and Johnny Adger.
ASIWYFA have the real edge on a lot of their peers by virtue of their incredible ability to sound completely heartbroken, yet utterly triumphant at the same time. This emotional core to the song is pushed right to the fore, with a wordless choir ramming the point home like never before.
It’s easy to take them for granted, but this is a timely reminder of why this unassuming bunch of men from Northern Ireland have become one of the most respected underground bands in the world.
General Fiasco – 'The Age That You Start Losing Friends' (Dirty Hit), October 30
Jam packed with indie-pop smashers as it was, General Fiasco’s debut album Buildings didn’t quite set the world on fire as many had predicted.
Indeed, as contemporaries Two Door Cinema Club began their seemingly unstoppable journey to the top, General Fiasco seemed to be forever trailing behind, ploughing ahead with some big supports, but never quite breaking through to the big league.
However, new EP Waves seeks to re-dress the balance, and get the loveable lads from mid-Ulster firmly entrenched into the hearts of the British public.
Tunes have never really been a problem for the band, and ‘The Age That You Start Losing Friends’ is no exception, a quick-fire call to arms for all those kids about to embark on life’s great adventure.
Nothing much has changed in the General Fiasco camp, with the song carried along on a taut bed of guitar, bass and drums. These are given a little extra beef by the addition of guitarist Stuart Bell.
This is the kind of song the band are becoming increasingly adept at cranking out − a three minute power pop nugget that’s already top of the charts in some alternate dimension.
Now, whether the world actually needs another catchy tune by some fresh-faced boys is another question, but it would certainly be a shame to find this one going under the radar in the way that 'shoulda-been' hits like ‘Rebel Get By’ or ‘Ever So Shy’ did.