Thursday, 20 May 2010

Project Wolverine ALBUM


Review: MMT.

Is it really only six months since we reviewed Project Wolverine’s debut album? Criminy, the enthusiasm of the young, eh? Well, he’s already back with a second CD in under a year – the mammoth 17-track, hour-long “Lost Boy Blues”.

Even in this short time-frame though, a step on from “Life, Love, Loss & Politics” has definitely been taken - as you’ll probably know if you’ve caught Proj W live recently (his set at the MADCAP Battle of the Bands was one of the best gigs by a local artist we’ve seen this year!). His songwriting is developing fast – there’s still reassuring dashes of his trademark pro-Labour anti-Murdoch rhetoric, but I’m more enthused (as always) by his more personal-sounding lyrics. Generally he’s sounding more confident, more comfortable with his voice and his music.

The recordings are occasionally scrappy-edged or raw – more akin to demos perhaps, but if you’re into the lo-fi, urgent sound of a live musician then it works fine. I enjoy it. During “Won’t See Us Again” he coughs while singing, laughs and at the end chuckles “leave it in, leave it in”. And at the start of the fragile “Broken Glass” he informs us “this is another miserable one, by the way”. I think I'd call it 'downbeat' rather than 'miserable'! ;-)

So this is an impressive album. You can’t argue with his prolificity (I wish I wrote half as many songs!), but 17 tracks is a lot to get through without too many changes in the musical soundscape. I’m tempted to wonder how some of these songs might sound with a full band, or at least some bass and percussion. I think the bouncy “Walls Come Down” and “Max’s Song” would be killer. I can almost hear cellos on “Two Months Ago”… but then I do tend to hear cellos everywhere! The mournful piano on the excellent “Socialism Is For Lovers” leads into a beautiful chorus melody, maybe some strings wouldn’t be overkill?

But having said that, there is a musical development too. Quite apart from the start of the chorus to “Socialism Is For Lovers”, the laid-back “Some Girl” has a lovely shimmery guitar melody. So a lengthy work it may be, but worth persevering with – especially as an accurate snapshot of the Project Wolverine live experience.

As I described in the last review though, it’s his lyrics I’m most into. “Snap Election” is the pick of the political ones – though “Organise” (a protest song about the possibility that Cameron’s Tories might get in!) is particularly poignant in hindsight*. There’s even love songs! (“Loves You More Than I”, “Two Months Ago” etc) “Max’s Song” is possibly the best song on the CD, though I’m also very much into the pessimistic piano ballad “Sonny Boy” - and find myself singing the chorus to myself as I potter round the flat today!

Well then... a definite step on from Project Wolverine, one of the city’s most unique songwriting voices. He’s off to University at the end of the Summer, so it’ll be intriguing to see which direction that ends up sending him in! In the meantime, try and catch him live in MK if you can!

* Though on his MySpace he’s already up to date – check out new track, the bitter “Coalition Blues”!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Dudebox "Track Of The Winter / Early Spring"

Yeah yeah yeah. It’s a wee bit late, like a month or something, but hey – we’re busy people! Here’s our semi-usual round-up of some great stuff we’ve blundered across while scouring the MySpaces of the great and good of the Milton Keynes music scene. As always, the bands have not asked us to do this – we’re just doing it to try and bring you some stuff you might like to hear… This time around it's Matthew & Phil on the reviewing 'decks'.

“City Reversal”: SEE WHAT HAPPENS
[[Young guitary indie rock fellas who we saw live at The Cannon back in February]]

Phil: I thought they were really good live. They created a good atmosphere. It was a breath of fresh air that they played all original stuff, I think.
MMT: When we were watching them, me and James were very much put in mind of The Bluetones, that kind of slightly post-Britpop guitar feel. And I remember – admittedly I’d had a few to drink – but I remember really enjoying the guitar solos. You don’t see many proper guitar solos any more. And they were lovely lads, as well. Friendly and enthusiastic about stuff. Which can only be a good thing.
Phil: They’ve got a lot of potential.
MMT: I really like that (makes widdly guitar noise)… is that a “riff”, would you say?
Phil: (slightly unsure) Er… yeah. That’s a riff.
MMT: A “motif”? (reiterates widdly guitar noise)
Um… I don’t know what the right word is. But it’s nice.

[[or, what some of Capdown did next]]

MMT: How aware are you of Capdown’s legacy?
Phil: I’m not particularly aware of Capdown’s legacy at all.
MMT: So you’re listening to this with fresh ears?
Phil: Yeah… it’s got a great drive, generally like it.
MMT: I really like this, it sounds intelligent musically. I like the… some kind of keyboard sound in the background is driving it, hard. They sound like they know what they’re doing.
[MMT proceeds to explain Capdown’s legacy to Phil without really knowing that much about it either other than what he’s read in magazines]

“Take Your Chance”: THE MAZE
[[The new band from former members of last Summer’s Indie smashers Equinox]]

Phil: I like that reducing of everything down to just like, a vocal and a bass.
MMT: The recording’s not quite as polished as some of the other bands we’ve heard tonight, but then they’ve only been going a few months.
Phil: There’s still something interesting and innovative about their music.
MMT: I love when the little keyboard/piano riff comes back in.
Phil: Yeah… it’s creative, it’s interesting, and it’s fun.
MMT: This middle bit is brilliant. Listen to that solo!
Phil: It’s like a lot of ideas coming together at once.

[[Crystal-clear folky rock from a five-piece who recently appeared in one of the first ever Featured Act slots at our all-new Monkey Kettle Open Mic nights]]

MMT: What was good about them at the Open Mic night was that they mixed their own stuff with some really good soul-pop covers from the 60s, drew people in. Obviously this track has a harder edge, because it’s not their acoustic incarnation.
Phil: It rocks! Here they sound much more edgy to me, more interesting. I really like this.
MMT: It’s really tight, really polished.
Phil: It’s good. Very good.
MMT: I bet they’re excellent at festivals. I’d love to see them play Folk on the Green. That’d be an ideal summer’s afternoon!

[[Now based in London but native to MK, these prog-metallers have toured Europe and are tipped as ones to watch in 2010 by Rock Sound Magazine no less! So I doubt they need our praise, but…]]

Phil: (enthusiastic) Yeah! I really like it. It’s one of the first acts that we’ve reviewed that I would actually think “I would buy this on CD”.
MMT: There’s light and shade. It’s not just relentless metal.
Phil: I like it.
MMT: Their MySpace profile has had over 600,000 views, and they’ve got almost 18,000 Friends. They’re on Scuzz TV. They’ve got upcoming gigs in Russia, Germany, Poland, Switzerland. I think it’s probably ridiculous for us to even consider criticising it in any way, given that they’ve gone way beyond the confines of Milton Keynes and are successful in a world such as we will never know… but I would listen to their album. It’s rare that I would say that about a Metal band from Milton Keynes.

[[Ever-popular Bletchley rockers, coming soon to a Monkey Kettle Waterside Stage near you!!]]

MMT: I have Disciples of Gonzo firmly in my head as a ‘good-time’ band.
Phil: They’re the “Cheap Trick” of Milton Keynes.
MMT: I don’t know what that means.
Phil: They were a ‘good-time’ band.
MMT: This is punky pop, though we’ve also seen them play, I dunno, folky acoustic rock? There’s always an energy to them, though.
Phil: They’re playing rock n’ roll music. I totally dig that. And they’re right up my street with the sentiment behind this song.
MMT: You can hear the smiles on their faces.

“Freedom”: SOLSTICE
[[Incredibly long-lived folk-rock leviathans (formed in 1980!) continue to go strong with this joyous choral number]]

Phil: It’s not a genre of music that I’m that into, but it’s perfectly listenable. Perfect for an afternoon slot at a festival.
MMT: I hope they carry on for ever. And there’ll always be a festival somewhere where they’re playing.
Phil: Whether or not I like the music, I get the impression that they love doing it, and they love playing it. They’re living the dream!
MMT: These guys, and in fact This Contrast Kills with their Capdown heritage, and TesseracT too – I think it’s important to celebrate that these bands are successful Milton Keynes bands – not necessarily genres we would listen to on a daily basis, but legitimately big acts that started round these here parts. And maybe don’t get lumped together into the same basket.

“MidgetDayCake (The Song The Audience Named)” : W.A.s
[[When we last saw them - at MonKeyVision – they were brilliantly scrappy teen-punk oiks. However, it sounds like they’re ‘coming of age’, as t’were…]]

MMT: I guess there’s a true story behind the song title! But… it’s completely – it’s almost like a different band.
Phil: It’s really Gothy… it’s like Type O Negative or something. I love the guitar sound.
MMT: I think it’s an incredible vocal. The falsetto there. And I love the way it moves in between slow and fast as well.
Phil: I love the genre-swapping.
MMT: Now this bit’s like punk but through a filter. It feels… genuinely mental.


[[Their second successive Dudebox Track Of The Season Runner-Up track (and it was a very close-run thing) – with some breaking news!]]

MMT: I think it’s criminal how much I’ve liked all the stuff we’ve heard by them on their MySpace etc, but we’ve failed to see them live. I absolutely love this, I think it’s one of the best sounds I’ve heard from a Milton Keynes band. They don’t sound like anything else round here at the moment, that’s what I find so refreshing I think. I love their orchestral flavour as well.
Phil: I agree. Are we allowed to keep praising them every time? I’d really like to see them live. You can list lots of people they sound a bit like, but… they sound like themselves.
MMT: That guitar solo’s great. And also – what’s not to like about a band who make their own videos? They’ve got The Theory in place.
Phil: I really love it.
MMT: We should so go and see them.
Phil: It’s a pact, dude.

[[STOP PRESS – Final Clearance are now confirmed in one of the headline slots for the Monkey Kettle Stage at the Waterside Festival this year – so Matthew & Phil will finally have their dream come true. Bless them!]]


“Where Do We Go?”: LECARLA
[[Fast-rising young polished punk-metallers just back from a national tour]]

Phil: It’s great. It’s well-produced, a well-put-together song. They’re tight, they sound great… um… I’m almost sceptical of their very existence!
MMT: Yeah, they’re almost too good to be true! It seems the full package, a really good MySpace, they’re touring nationally…
Phil: They’re all well-written, well-structured songs. They’re very talented kids. I love the big guitar sound… the big, massive guitar sound. The anthemicness of the song. I like the Quiet-Loud dynamic. I like the sparing use of screaming… there’s a little bit of screaming, just to keep you interested…
MMT: - if you like screaming!
Phil: With bands like this and TesseracT I begin to wonder what The Dudebox is about – whether they’re almost too big for us.
MMT: Beyond our radar? Well, they’re still bands connected to Milton Keynes in some way. Like Felix, who aren’t based in MK at all but make me very excited nonetheless. No, if I saw them [Lecarla] on “Scuzz” I’d think… that’s the sort of band I like.
Phil: It just feels fun, and exciting. And it feels like it’s the music they want to be playing.