Record Reviews

Baxter Dury. Happy Soup. Regal Recordings. 2011.

Son of legendary pub rocker and all around rock’n’roll character Ian Dury, Baxter Dury has big (albeit not literally, literally very small) shoes to fill. Beloved by a nation, Ian Dury carved out a unique niche full of humor, clever wordplay and an amalgam of music hall/punk/pub rock/funk, as well as helped keep Stiff records afloat and subsequently influenced a generation of bands as diverse as Madness, Blur and Billy Bragg. So does the prodigal son tread in father’s shadow, following the same staggered path? Not at all, as it turns out. Whereas dad was kind of noisy, boisterous and loud, son takes near the complete opposite approach. Though the accent and register (in places) is at first fairly similar, over time it becomes it’s own thing. Over lazy summer-y beats, Baxter’s Dury’s characters slink out of alleyways and pubs, and whisper their truths through our narrator, whose droll, laconic and measured delivery is just enough to draw in the listener, and the simple but effective beats are ones that stick in the head well after playback is over. It’s as if Michael Caine’s persona from the 60s cut a record over 80s samples funneled through the present. There are also a considerable number of tunes that feature accompaniment from Madelaine Hart. The mood created by Dury’s bedraggled diction and the more breathy female vocalization is a nice trade off that keeps things from becoming too redundant. Highlights are the stamped 80s vibe of “Afternoon,” where Dury’s wistful recall sounds as if he’s about to doze off, the first single, “Claire,” as well as the opener “Isabel,” which begins with a “Ghost Town”-ish beat, that sets the standard for all tunes that follow. Really, not a bad cut on the album, and it works as a complete statement the way most albums these days do not. A contender for best of 2011.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. “The Death of You and Me” b/w “The Good Rebel” & “If I Had a Gun.” Sour Mash Records. 2011.

It’s been awhile. Been a bit since the world last heard from Noel Gallagher. Post-Oasis split, whereas brother Liam took  the decidedly British “back to work” angle and churned out the first Beady Eye record, Noel remained largely underground. And whereas Beady Eye are cut from the rock-ier side of the Oasis canon, Noel delivers the types of tunes that, over the last few albums, he’s had the most success with – the more wistful, reflective songs. I assumed this was going to be the case, and had predicted that I was going to dig Beady Eye more (though the album wasn’t amazing, I really liked bits and pieces of it, and think Liam and co have produced 5-6 really good tunes) Noel’s efforts surprised me. “The Death of You & Me” is definitely on the same branch of the family tree as was “The Importance of Being Idle” but also brings a unique bit of Burt Bacharach to the table. Swelling chorus, oom-pah middle break and decent lyrics make it a winner. B-side “The Good Rebel” isn’t as good, but I liked the “Rain” refrain, a nice nod to, big surprise, The Beatles. Lyrically not amazing, but the vibe of the tune is a solid one. “If I Had a Gun” is more relaxed and reflective, semi-“Acquiesce” and settles into a really nice tune. It contains one of my favorite of Noel’s recent lyrics in the “‘scuse me if I spoke too soon/my eyes have always followed you across the room” pre-chorus go to. If these 3 songs are any indication of what the album holds in store, Liam and co. should be sweating it out and tightening up the Beady Eye ship for record two. Noel has shown, without any boasting, and at a deliberate pace of his own accord, that he’s not afraid of any gauntlet being thrown his way. The saddest part of all of this is, if you took 5-6 of the Beady Eye tunes, and these 3 Noel songs, you’d have the best Oasis record since Morning Glory. Knowing that is not the case, I’ll take the heights Noel hits here, and hope for the best. (Review of the full-length, which is obviously out there, will be forthcoming. Was not available when I wrote this review, and don’t want to post-pone posting these reviews to add it.)

London Diehards. Great Britain. Rock’n’Roll Disgrace. 2011.

It’s simple, really. With this release, The London Diehards have delivered the most resolute, steadfast ep of the last several years. The declaration of Great Britain is a familiar one to fans of oi! – to live life without compromise, to be proud of being who you are, and to do so in the face of those “unnamed but always popping up in oi! tunes” masses. Their plight, however, is the changing of the times, and the politically correct lynch mob (promoters, reviewers etc) who seek to stifle bands such as these, for reasons real or imagined . And it is the band’s message, set against this plight, that defines the medium in which this ep is delivered. Simple. Hard. Catchy. Direct. Just like the classics. Oi! has always been a genre for airing such grievances, and this “us v. them” tone that permeates the record is adversarially refreshing, to be honest. It’s been awhile since I’d heard a band this annoyed with the state of its countries’ affairs. Side A kicks off with the hammer “City Streets,” and moves right into the subcultural defiance of “One Way of Life.” The B-side is where the  aforementioned sloganeering really kicks in. “No Compromise” throws down the gauntlet and “PC Mafia” reaffirms it. Sound-wise, the production is top notch; loud and clean. The die cut sleeve is a top design, and the record overall is high quality. Pressing of clear vinyl is already gone, I’d suggest grabbing one of these before they disappear, like the Britain that the band so pines for has seemingly done.

Sydney Ducks. “Stray Dogs” b/w “He Lives For Today.” Sydney Town Records. 2011. 

At this point in the game, Sydney Ducks join Hammer and the Nails, London Diehards, Marching Orders & 45 Adapters as my favorite of the newer crop of oi! bands to emerge in the last few years. Utilizing a clean, and inventive guitar sound which pulls from influences as diverse as power-pop, psychedelic and prog rock, the tunes pack an original sounding punch that is sorely missing from today’s scene. This, their first single, showcases two of their songs – The A-side, “Stray Dogs” finds them at their most straightforward. Opening with a nice blast of CCR-styled guitar, the tune settles into familiar subject matter – “out on the city streets” – but is delivered with enough panache and punch from Carl’s scabrous vocals; it rises above 99% of what the genre offers. The B-side follows in the footsteps of bands like The Jam, The Smiths, or even Oasis – bands whose B-sides rivaled or often bettered the A-side. “He Lives For Today” is my favorite Sydney Ducks song. It not only showcases their melodic, near mod-ish sound, but the middle breakdown is probably the one single highpoint of anything the band has thus presented – a swirling, Beatles-ish piece of psych that Paul Weller at The Jam’s most experimental would have been proud of. Really impressive. Rather than mince words, I’ll offer this – the single is a must have, and an essential look at a band on the rise.

Stomper 98/45 Adapters split. Randale Records. 2011.

45 Adapters are stylistically one of the more interesting bands out there today, and these two tunes definitely showcase the R&B/pub rock side of the band. “What’s Right” opens up with a straight rock’n’roll riff that would have made those bands like Dr. Feelgood and Ducks De Luxe take notice, and builds on that riff throughout the song. To me, this is the path the band should carve out for themselves – a powerful slice of punk infused R&B. Really nice. “Nothing to Prove” builds on that same premise, and ups the ante a good bit. The song sounds, dare I say, near “boogie” in it’s delivery. Top notch. These are definitely two of my favorite 45 Adapters songs, if not my favorites. This release builds on the promise this band offers and makes me tersely await future output. Stomper 98 are now veterans of the oi! scene, and they deliver stable results as is expected. Basic, classic sounding German oi! with saxophones is what we’ve come to expct from this band, and that is what we get. No more, no less. Opener “Anti-Social” (not a cover) is the heavier of the two tunes, and plods along nicely, utilizing an anthemic chant. “ISP: One Crew, One Family” is, as others reviewers have noted, very 4-Skins-y, and bounces along with help from the ever present saxaphone. A worthwhile purchase showcasing the unique pubrock-ish oi! sounds of 45 Adapters and the basic German sounds of Stomper 98.

Naked Raygun. Single Series #3. 2011.

Naked Raygun remain Chicago’s favorite sons, representative of the best the scene has ever offered, and are arguably the most important band the city has ever produced (that happens to be my opinion). Their recent output (three 2 song singles) has done nothing to tarnish that legacy, and succeeds where so many other classic bands fail when offering new material; rather than putting out embarrassing, vainglorious crap, Naked Raygun have delivered 6 quality tunes; in fact, I’d say 5 of them are near excellent, with “Burning Red” from this release vying for best song of the bunch. Written by Pierre Kezdy, who has always had a flair for a classic tune, it opens with some dauntless ringing guitar that holds it together for the entirety of the tune. Jeff Pezzati is in fine voice, and the tune is anthemic and soaring, but is not singalong “whoa oh” as Raygun sometimes rely on. An engrossing, enthralling entry in the Raygun storybook. The B-side “Black Eyed Blue” doesn’t fare as well. Though it’s not bad, it’s the least interesting so far of any of their recent tunes. I’d still call a Naked Raygun single with one amazing entry and one lackluster a victory, and fans of the band will want to make sure they hear the stunning “Burning Red.”

Night Birds. The Other Side of Darkness. Grave Mistake Records. 2011.

From the first time I heard Night Birds – tunes like “Killer Waves” and “Paranoid Times” – they quickly ascended to the top of my playlist. Their style was something refreshing in a glut of same-y. A definite nod to Southern California surf culture, and to bands like Angry Samoans, Adolescents and the snottiness of early Descendents, the tunes were fast, scornful and pissed off and at the same time, tight and catchy. With this, their first LP, expect more of the same. The formula hasn’t changed at all, and why would it?  Tunes Like “Neon Gray,” “Landfill Land,” and “One Eye” continue on with the established winning maxim with similarly successful results.  “Can’t Get Clean,” and “Paranoid Times” get repeat appearances here, but there’s more than enough original material for this LP to more than hold it’s own. If you’re a fan, then you know what you’re in for. Strap in, it’s a fun ride. Again, a nominee for Best of the Year.


2 Responses to “Record Reviews”

  1. TheGhostOfAmyWinehouse Says:

    Beady Eye sucks.

  2. Billy Shears Says:

    You wish, Winehouse. Must be the drugs talking…..

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