Spotlight issue 25

Pulby - The Soundfreeze EP (Dead Digital)

Pulby are an electronic, atmospheric band that have attracted some impressive reviews from various sources, the most notable claiming that "if Joy Division had not lost Curtis just after "Atmosphere" maybe New Order would have made music like to escape to".

N: A more bleak musical soundscape than anything Barney and co have done, but why should I necessarily hark on the comparison because this is Pulby - a group who have their own identity, although are more likely to raise comparisons with the Alpinestars - but not bad company to keep.

T: Yes I agree totally. It's probably the kind of stuff that you'd find in a chill out tent at Glastonbury, but which you would only visit inbetween being poked in the ribs by a 40 year old pogo dancing maniac, eating questionable burgers and running your own mud wrestling competition. Basically you'd go there just to get away from it all for a bit.

N: The group's label, Dead Digital possess in these guys an underground success. 7/10



Various Artists - Vol.1 - Useless In Bed (House Of Stairs)

House of Stairs is a new label which will be releasing albums by "fiercely independent, forward thinking bands and artists whose music is challenging, unpredictable and highly eventful". So reads the press release, and here is a compilation album by those artists mentioned for us to run the roost over.

T: You have to have the utmost respect for those who make, promote and stay loyal to the independent scene, regardless of whether you like the music or not. I think it's fair to say that not many people will like every track on this album, but what cannot be denied is the sheer scope of musical difference displayed herein, and if this selection is anything to go by, House Of Stairs will be one of the bravest labels around in the near future. Long may they continue.

N: I think you've summed it up perfectly. It has to be remembered that this is only a sampler album - a taste of what is available, and certainly the label have gone out and made a statement, signing some very avant-garde artists, whilst at the same time collected together some very credible music makers. I urge you to visit the label's website to see if there is anything that tickles your fancy. 8/10



The Questionnaires - Arctic Circles

Having had a brief incarnation back in 1988, The Questionnaires seemed to disappear off the face of the earth for the best part of fifteen years. What happened in actual fact was that lead vocalist Jane Wade went off to Scotland to embark on a long theatre tour, performing and directing, including one woman shows about Alma Cogan and Lotte Lenya. Plus Steve Hall enrolled at Northumbria University to forge a career in Social Sciences. Anyway, finally they are back, so how has the break affected them?

N: Well, this is different. One minute we're walking through a sound stage filled with electronica, avant-garde and rock guitars (see previous reviews), and the next moment we find ourselves shaking hands with "the Hucknall".

T: I know this band has a female lead singer but I have to admit that I, neither, can shake the idea of Mick Hucknall at the microphone out of my head somehow. It's certainly got that kind of musical feel about it anyway. There are various points that remind me of the Style Council too, as well as (sorry about this) the Lighthouse Family. Still, I have to confess the lyrics are extremely intelligent and well thought out.

N: Fifteen years previously and they would have been riding the crest of a wave up against the likes of Weller's post-Jam incarnation and Swing Out Sister, and even Hue and Cry, but the time taken as departure from the industry I feel has lost them this advantage, and on returning, have brought with them the same blouse and Alison Moyet haircut. But to be anything more than a sideshow attraction might be asking a little bit too much. All the same, you can't take away from these guys the talent and ability that they clearly have. 6/10



Blue2Noise - Shapes and Lines

Blue2Noise have been known in New York City as veterans of the indie pop scene for most of the last ten years. They have written well over 100 songs and have been featured at such high profile venues as the Limelight and Mercury Lounge. Oh and they also managed to secure the runners up spot in MTV's Beach House Band Search.

T: Do you think these guys have had early Stone Roses on in their car stereos on a continuous loop?

N: A group who could just as easily have been from across this side of the pond as the other. You say early Roses, I would reference Slough's Thousand Yard Stare. Arrangements that are beautiful in their simplicity.

T: Blimey that's a blast from the past, but yes I can see exactly where you're coming from. I reckon it's probably the sort of album though that you could put on, forget it's on, and then think at the end - oh yeah, I was PLAYING that wasn't I?

N: I hope Blue2noise won't take offence if I bestow upon them, from this point on, the title of "honorary limeys". 8/10



AM - Let's Go Metropolis

AM are currently receiving college radio airplay along the East Coast of the States, Canada and also in the UK. This whole ep was recorded in just 10 hours, which is quite phenomenal really - most bands would need a week minimum...

N: This is a familiar reference and may seem like a cop out in some respects but i don't mean this to be the case, as our old friends the Blue Aeroplanes make an appearance here in the sound that these guys are producing. Now why IS this the case? All I can really say is that maybe it's familiar chord progressions, vocal phrasing, or just a happy air, but AM obviously have pushed the right buttons and turned the right keys that lead me to this conclusion.

T: I find it difficult to pigeonhole this band myself, I mean they list Stereolab and Supergrass as two of their influences, and there is certainly the odd dash of both those bands here, but I can also hear Buffalo Tom, early seventies Glam rock, and Neil Young splashed over the soundtrack. But ten hours - that really IS an achievement. 7/10



Damask - Lagos Tunnel (Modizel)

Apparently, Damask is "a madman who walks the fine line between insanity and genius". He is a reggae artist who hails from Washington DC and lived for over a decade in Lagos, Nigeria where he was influenced by the likes of Peter Tosh and Supercat amongst others.

T: I remember fondly the years I played as captain of the local pool team, winning trophies galore and visiting all kinds of different cultures through the opposition clubs we played at. One of those clubs was called the Ravi Club, which was one of my favourite places to visit because of the friendly Afro / Indian atmosphere. One of the things I remember most vividly however was the strong ganja smell coming from all corners of the club - and the music Emanating from the jukebox. And this album brings those memories flooding back!

N: A big sound, that's to no doubt, but I didn't feel that the music here possessed enough range to really cut the mustard. That said, put in the right environment and with the right company this could be a real prime mover.

T: He's certainly stayed true to reggae roots anyway and would be a more than worthy addition to any fans of this genre's record collection. 6/10



Lebatol - Rate (Function Records)

Lebatol were formed in 1999 and by 2001 had already received airplay on Radio One, courtesy of Steve Lamacq and later that year set their own record label - Function Records. Their single, "The Single" also featured heavily on MTV and MTV2 and reached number 2 in the alternative chart in Belgrade.

T: The band have been compared in the media with such artists as Seafood, My Vitriol, Pavement, Husker Du and Dinosaur jr, the latter two being the most prominent in my eyes.

N: That these guys are a homegrown outfit leaves me with a warm, fuzzy feeling at the heart of me. Where does this take me? Well, the indie scene eminent around 1991 and the gigs I was present at that time - Silverfish, Swervedriver and countless others I guess.

T: I can't possibly argue with you there. Do you feel like this single's a kind of nostalgic nod to the pre-grunge, post-shoegazing revolution then?

N: Yeah. Why not? Not so much "We've got a fuzzbox and we know how to use it" - more "we've got a guitar and we know how to play it". 9/10



Q-bizm - ep 2003

Forget what you might have heard about "ism's", good or bad, this is the only "ism" you'll need to know about. A group comprising six musicians, and a set of biographies to match (that in all honesty could do with bringing together - to suggest a single entity and not six people with their own agendas at work). But this aside, Q-bizm is a place where rock in its purest form collides with jazz in its freest state.

T: It's certainly taken a hugely talented mob to make this record but to be honest it all goes a bit too Sting for my liking - nothing wrong with that admittedly but it kind of smacks a bit of "We're really talented we are. Listen to how good we are". It probably is miles away from the artists' thoughts but I'm afraid that's how it comes across to me.

N: So what you're angling at is that they may have used too many ingredients to make a sponge cake.

T: Good analogy!

N: Are we not all guilty of this from time to time though? I think that here it's the inclusion of the fruit and spice that fill out what is served up. If anything it reminds me of Deus, and their chaos tweaks my bits, silly hat and all - so I'm sold, even if I do consider the vocals a little too smooth for a true likeness.

T: I'll have to admit that the ep picks up for me later on, so I'll grant you that.

The group's debut album should be released now. Check online for further details. 7/10



My Awesome Compilation - Every Souvenir Has Its Story

Consistently gaining the tag of the Leicester band "most likely to", MAC have certainly been living up to their reputation, having been signed up recently by Oxford's BSM label, getting played regularly on London's excellent XFM radio stations, being given high profile support slots with the likes of Biffy Clyro and Hundred Reasons amongst others before being sent on a tour of Japan with other BSM signings.

N: Well they're certainly not afraid of being there are they? Presenting such a forthright collection of tunes that at first seem too similar for their own good, but stick with it and they realise their own identity.

T: It comes as absolutely no surprise to me whatsoever that the brothers Driver and co are rapidly realising their dreams, as the fact remains that they are simply one of the best Leicester bands around - if not THE best. If you're not convinced by this ep, then try checking out their live act and you will witness one of the most vibrant, heartfelt and feelgood evenings you've had. They really are an "awesome" live experience. Anyway going back to the CD, yes what you say is pretty much the size of it really, and I have got to say that the opening track "Our Lives: the Sequel" is probably the best thing they have done. Don't just take my word for it. Please, please go and see them and THEN tell me you disagree. Trust me. 9/10



Tears In X-Ray Eyes - Sleep Like A Dream (Test Tube)

This is the fifth release from singer/songwriter Tim Closs and was written and recorded in his own North London Studio.

T: We've said it before and I'm going to say it again now, how the hell hasn't this artist been snapped up by a major label by now? Then again, maybe it's to our advantage that they haven't been.

N: When Tears In X-Ray Eyes first approached us, I immediately became a fan. This latest release however, differs somewhat in its presentation and would appear to lack the immediacy of its predecessors. I am finding that the longer I spend in its company, the more I am warming to it. That I find this to possess something different I find encouraging.

T: Well you know what they say, don't bulldoze over the farmer before he's had a chance to slap you with a dead fish.

N: I wouldn't, but I prefer them when they are still "kicking".

T: How does this go about what we're saying about the record?

N: I have no idea. But what do YOU think to the music?

T: I still like it, nice and chilled, and a kind of warm flavour.

N: So you're not keen on Sushi then? 7/10



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