ALBUM REVIEW: Chain & The Gang – Best Of Crime Rock

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With bands such as Nation Of Ulysses, Weird War and The Make-Up, Ian Sevonious has been a underground garage rock provocateur for nearly 30 years. As Chain And The Gang, he’s distilled the essence of what does, right down to it’s bare rhythmic essentials – drums, bass, guitar and vocals.

They’re a highly economical and effective combo, stripped to simple gang chants, sparse riffs and grooves that snake and pulse with vaguely sleazy appeal. The remit of the band is a kind of rock ’n’ roll reverse psychology – Devitalize, Why Not, I See Progress and others embracing deconstruction with a playful approach to ultimate nihilism.

This is primal garage rock with infectious, minimal R&B rhythms and they nail it with tongue-in-cheek attitude, strut and swagger.

Chris Familton

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Mere Women – Big Skies

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Album number three for this Sydney quartet (previously a trio). The addition of bass guitar adds another layer of rhythm and movement to their sound as they tackle the experiences of women over different generations via their dark and swirling post punk.

It can be a claustrophobic listen at times, the guitar acting like mesh and gauze with its washes of distortion and clanging reverb, while Amy Wilson sings in a stentorian manner, the obvious comparison being a tougher Siouxsie Sioux shapeshifting with the fluidity of Warpaint. Drive and Numb are two highpoint on a very strong album that manages to simultaneously sound sweeping and intimate.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: The Afghan Whigs – In Spades

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Greg Dulli and band return with their second album since reconvening in 2012. That first resurrection was very good but it still felt like they were feeling their way back. This time they’ve found a stronger creative line into the dark heart and soul of what made their music so compelling the first time around.

In Spades is a heady concoction that takes repeat listens to get beneath the swirling sound that draws equally from soul and R&B, filtered through the central tenets of alt-rock. Dulli is in fine form vocally and lyrically – dissecting relationships with his usual hot-blooded intensity, urging the music on and stretching the top of his vocal range. Handclaps, strings and keyboards enhance the band’s trademark rhythm section while the big guitar riffs and chugging chords still do the sonic heavy lifting.

Demon In Profile and Toy Automatic are reassurance alone of of The Afghan Whigs’ continued relevance and creativity.

Chris Familton

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Thurston Moore – Rock N Roll Consciousness

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The Sonic Youth guitar slinger and solo artist returns with a new album, his second with his current group which includes My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe, Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and guitarist James Sedwards. Familiarity with those players on-stage and in-studio pays off in spades with this confident, relaxed and expansive new record.

Moore has always vacillated between skewed punk/art-pop and experimental soundscapes and here he finds an immersive and endlessly fascinating balance between both worlds – whether it’s billowy, dreamy textural passages, hypnotic Krautrock trances or screes of distortion. It all adds up to an invigorating widescreen listen that more than lives up to Moore’s consistently high quality artistic output.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: British Sea Power – Let The Dancers Inherit The Party

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Mercurial art-pop and post-punk auteurs British Sea Power return after a four year break (excluding soundtrack work) and they sound wholly refreshed and focused on their sixth album. There’s a cohesive sound to the rousing guitars and propulsive drumming as they take stock of the world around them and the role of the individual in it all. It’s steeped in their trademark melancholy, yet framed with an uplifting optimism. It takes a few listens to dig beneath the shimmer and fuzz but when you do there’s wonderful collection of compelling indie rock songs awaiting you – Keep On Trying (Sechs Freunde) being the alt-disco pick of the bunch.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Bad//Dreems – Gutful

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There’s an inauspicious start with the BD-by numbers Johnny Irony but any doubts of a sophomore slump are quickly quashed by first single Mob Rule which utilises gang chants and pub rock bar chords to rail against the narrow-minded, pack mentality sub-cultures in Australian society.

That sentiment permeates much of the album, blatantly and subtly. It’s their statement of sorts and it comes at a timely moment as they’re a band that sits right on the border between underground, rock ‘n’ roll notoriety and cred, and the larger, promotion-driven world of festivals, triple j and the accompanying dumbed down bloke vibe that can sometimes invade that transition.

Elsewhere, Ben, Alex, James and Miles hit some fine melancholic spots like the yearning By Your Side and the woolly strum of Pagan Rage – a distant sonic echo to one of their first singles Chills. They still bear the iconic Aussie rock imprint of producer Mark Opitz but overall this is a less forced and more subtly varied album that even takes in saxophone on A Million Times Alone. Stripped of the bluster and noise it highlights how well the band blends mood and wistful melody alongside lurching rock n roll.

Chris Familton