Spotlight issue 26

The German Exchange - Onward

This band sent us an e-mail that read thus:

Key influences include Roxy Music, Television, Captain Beefheart, M.R. James, Douglas Coupland, The Who, The Smiths and Brett Easton-Ellis. All five of us live for music & listen to everything from Amon Tobin to The Band. It has been said that our material is diverse, but you can always tell that it's the german exchange - there is a common thread running through everything we do. We write songs as sleepers so while we're surrounded by music championing the virtues of style over substance, we're taking a substance under the style approach.

Ok, that's their opinion. What's ours?

N: From the opening tune here, is it the National or the rational? - you would be forgiven for thinking that this band had perhaps missed the boat. But then again they probably said the same about Kingmaker, or before them The Wonder Stuff, as country tinged melodies compete with overtly indiesque overtones. However, on the remainder of thie ep, it bears no resemblance to the earlier track. Perhaps elements of Carl Putnam, and I'm treading on sticky ground here, when I compare them in some small way to melodies a la The Smiths.

T: I can't see the slightest resemblance to Mozzer, Marr and co, but I was certainly impressed with your Cud reference. Possibly the band they remind me most of though is Fatima Mansions, though I can certainly see the Beefheart influence in there that they themselves mentioned. They're a pretty strong outfit, though if you're after an altogether more commercial sound you'll have to wait until track three "The Horror", which presumably is paying homage to Brando's character in Apocalypse now.

N: I certainly see your point of view, but can you detect the possibly unrealised influence of Siouxsie and the Banshees in how Daniel Barrett pitches his vocal presentation?

T: I thought you'd flipped for a minute, but now you've put it that way, yes I can.

N: But one thing we DO agree on is that this ep could benefit from the latter tracks being moved up the running order. Great music though, thanks guy's - we love it. 8/10



Quecia - This Is Where We Are (Deep End records)

T: Let me read your mind Nick. I can see something beginning with A....and a woman called I close?

N: Rightly so. The vocalist, Kirsty McCarrick suffers from appearing to have swallowed any of All About Eve's albums. Even if the music does its best to veer away from this influence, Kirsty does in the end pull them along with her. When does appreciation for Julianne Regan turn into infatuation?

T: I dunno, I don't think you can knock somebody for aspiring to sound similar to their idols. And hey, we don't even know that she's HEARD All About Eve, but it's impossible to get away from the fact that she sounds exactly like her. Still the album as a whole is fairly pleasant. 6/10



Kingpin - Say Yeah!

Fair dos to these guys, we gave them a bit of a panning last time we reviewed them, but the Perth four piece have still come back for more...

T: And I have to say that in my opinion they've improved enormously. Some nice crunching guitars topped off with an early punk style vocal that sometimes also bears a vague resemblance to Phil Lynott. I'm surprised how good this is...

N: I can see these sure enough being billed as festival favourites going on the strength of the pacy numbers filling this album. A band who have certainly come on in leaps and bounds in writing this foot tapping affair. 7/10



Brent Palmer - Boomerang Shoes E.P. (Grassroots Music)

Brent Palmer is a singer-songwriter from Austin, Texas who appears, from the initial successes he has had, to be heading in the right direction.

T: Undoubtedly these are well crafted songs and have obviously been thought about, but the music is perhaps a little too middle of the road for my personal tastes. Having said that, "Due Time" was a lovely lazy little tune that could have easily been the main track.

N: This is a nice collection of songs for which i can see Brent being picked up as an aspiring singer-songwriter. Certainly well produced, and some of the imagery he uses in his lyrics are aspirational. It would be criminal if he is just picked up as a songwriter and not as a package.

T: I know what you mean, although I'm sure he'd be delighted if a major artist had a massive hit with something he'd written, which wouldn't surprise me at all to be honest. He's certainly got something this guy and I hope he achieves what he's aiming for, because it seems to me that he deserves it. 9/10



Mermaid Kiss - The Mermaid Kiss

Based in Kington, UK, Mermaid Kiss write and produce original music and their fanbase already spans all corners of the globe. Comprising of Evelyn Downing, Jamie Field and Andrew Garman the band have been number one for 8 weeks with two songs at mp3 site

N: This album is definitely not easy to pin down, as their music turns from that with Celtic undertones, to pumped up AOR, resting finally in the easy listening bracket - although this sounds disparaging, so to describe it as "chilled" may provide a more positive light. One thing is certain though, be it the photographer's design or the will of the artist, Evelyn (for that is who I guess it is) does possess more than a passing resemblance to that of Throwing Muse Kristin Hersh.

T: Well yes it's all very nice I'm sure, but to me, the fact remains that it's just not exciting enough! There is no doubt that Downing has an excellent voice, and probably the closest comparison I could make would be to that of Sophie B Hawkins. It's obviously not aimed at a younger audience however, and the mature crowd being catered for will quite possibly lap it up. But for me, if I listened to this for too long, it'd probably send me into a coma.

N: I think the group may have identified their audience in the category you describe. This may not be Radio One material, but come on, to describe a group as such may be more of an insult these days. Musically this is very competent, although more consideration might be given to the electronic strings - this rests in the category of cliched to our minds (a la Phil Collins). But whichever way you choose to take take we've said, the band's website is well worth checking out. Praise all round really. 7/10



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