Spotlight issue 33 (August 2005)

Hicks Miligan-Prophecy - The Iceberg Cometh e.p.

Apparently this is "Music to kick your legs to while the noose tightens around your neck"...hmmm...cheerful then?

N: I'm quite excited about how you're going to feel about this group. I don't think you'll sit on the fence; it's either going to be very good or very bad - more likely the former - I hope...

T: Perhaps that quote from the introduction is a bit close to the knuckle, considering this could well be the re-incarnation of Ian Curtis. Admittedly it paints a more cheerful picture of the man - perhaps jamming with the Inspiral Carpets - but he's unquestionably there! Nick, you'll be pleased to know that I think this is the best thing we've reviewed all day.

N: Joy Division without Ian Curtis? Well that's New Order surely. They could so easily have sounded like these guys. I like your reference between Inspiral Carpets and Joy Division. It's like the perfect party going on, with the songs these guys have got to their credit we're not leaving until late, or should that be early? 10/10



Cave – Shark Sandwich

My first thought was “I’m not sure calling themselves Cave is such a good idea when there’s already a band called Cave-In doing the rounds”, but then I realized that they’re going for a totally different audience altogether and would be more at home at Cropredy than Glastonbury.

I can’t help feeling, despite the laid back vocal and pretty guitar and mandolin work, that a Cave gig goes hand in hand with copious amounts of alcohol. Nothing wrong with that of course – I’m sure they’d get on tremendously with Fairport! Indeed, they have much in common with the celebrated folk dinosaurs, as they’ve chosen to cover, as the late, great Sandy Denny did, “She Moves Through the Fair” as the third track here. Whilst this version doesn’t quite make the impact that the numerous FC or SD ones do, it sure as hell kicks the arse of the Boyzone one! Is that a compliment? Hmmm…I don’t know…

Although I’m relatively well versed in British folk music, I don’t recall having heard any of these other song titles before, so I’m presuming they’re originals but I could well be wrong. Cave deliver them competently and effortlessly anyway, with lead singer Gregg Cave (Aha! THAT’S where the name came from!) often flitting between the vocal styles of Cat Stevens and Ian Anderson. Whoever is playing fiddle here makes a very worthwhile contribution too.

So, whilst this isn’t exactly my punnet of gooseberries, one thing’s for sure – if they ever run a “Folk Idol” competition in the near future, Cave would piss it! 7/10

Tone E



The Lodger - Many Thanks For Your Honest Opinion

T: I've been racking my brains trying to think what the chorus sounded like, and then it hit me - it sounds EXACTLY like a song I wrote myself about 16 years ago called "Why Does It Always Happen To Me"?!! Still, they've given it balls and a far more commercial twist than I ever did. In fact, mine sounds a little twee next to it. Then "Unsatisfied"sounds like a Blur album track and it's clear that The Lodger SHOULD have a bright future ahead. I wonder if their manager will eventually turn to them and say "I love you. You pay my rent".

N: Lo-fi indie through and through, this has a certain rough charm that does set it apart from those who have and have not. A real grower, although I'm sure NOT destined for superstardom, a band who would surely have made Peel's Festive 50 and should be safe in the knowledge that they are good. 8/10



Velvet Garden - 3 track e.p.

A Finnish, muti-talented singer and songwriter, Pirita has been gripped by the "music bug" since the tender age of six, when she started playing the piano. This is her debut demo.

N: It's a pity that this has fallen foul of a bad mix, as this is what comes across when listening to the first track, Near You".

T: I can see exactly what you mean by that - it's extremely well written music, perfect for those sunny evenings outside a London cafe/jazz bar, but it certainly suffers from some rather suspect production. The music is lovely, but the packaging isn't - rather like getting a fantastic Christmas present wrapped up in a bin liner.

N: Well put, and as I listen and pick apart the melody and everything else, I find my feet tapping, but perhaps not the best first impression. As we reach "Driving", the mists clear and a jazz feel gives way to a dance vibe, in which I recall the artist Olive. As we draw to a close, the somewhat melancholy "Goodbye" ends proceedings, and my only feeling is that this may not have been the best way to close. Very musical, but now I'm just sad. I'd love to see this artist take a more uptempo route. There's definitely something there to nurture.

T: Still, in summation, I have to say that this is great music that needs something of a makeover in order to make it special. 7/10



Steven Alvarado – The Howl Sessions (Mott St Records)

Lazy foot tappers aplenty get under your skin on this US artist’s current album, but it’s the more off kilter tracks that make the more pleasing impression; “Mad At the World” seems to contain an angry Japanese rant, presumably by Shoko Watanabe, and is set to a wonderfully fucked up chord sequence that is easily the standout for me on the recording.

Elsewhere you’ll find nods to Springsteen, tips of the hat to Ryan Adams and shades of Van Morrison amongst others and in general this is eminently listenable soft-Americana stuff. I just wish it danced with the devil a little longer. Don’t get me wrong – I sure as hell (ouch, sorry) don’t mean I think Alvarado should become a staunch Satanist or anything, but sometimes this album just becomes a little too “nice”.

Of course, I’m probably missing the point entirely here, but I kind of like albums to jump up and bite me on the balls, and this one, as pleasant (and obviously well thought out) as it is, doesn’t really do that.

It’s probably a good thing to play in the background at a dinner party though…6/10

Tone E



The Screening – Take It or Leave It/You Got Me

Tom Lewitt’s latest band, The Screening, have walked up three hundred steps to the highest diving board and casually pissed all over his former band with the minimum fuss and effort.

This is no mean feat, as Little Fat Hoover (or, latterly, The Hoovers) were a mighty fine outfit in their own right, so don’t think I’m dissing them for a minute; it’s just that The Screening are a lot more accessible for a broader range of people.

Noticeably absent is the sunny Western sound of The Byrds that was such a mainstay in the make up of the Hoover boys’ music. Instead they’ve opted for a Mansun-meets-The-Levellers touch, perhaps produced by Miles Hunt.

Thankfully, although the chorus to “Take It Or Leave It” begins in a suspiciously similar way to The Strokes’ song of the same name, it isn’t quite close enough to send the New York press darlings screaming for their lawyers just yet…

One suspects that Kasabian’s success has had a direct influence on the development of The Screening’s sound, and this becomes apparent on “You Got Me”. This is no bad thing as it brings the outward appeal of the group bang up to date with an incessantly hummable “Ah ah ah ah” refrain that gets under your skin and makes you want to “git up and boogie boy!”

Two tracks – both kickass tunes. Good work lads, this is great stuff. 9/10

Tone E



Tears In X-Ray Eyes - Electricity (Shifty Disco)

New single from the best artist unknown to the man on the street.

T: I know we try to avoid using too many profanities here at Atomicduster, but can I just say that this is fucking bollock squeezingly brilliant?

N: Fuck me, you're right there. That was a rhetorical statement you understand?

T: [pulls trousers back up]

N: Steady tiger. It's amazing how Tim can change the pace and general euphoric atmosphere in the second track "Promised Land" (third track on the album), as he sings "Take my hand and run to the promised land". Third track on the single, "Don't Crush the One You Love", an acoustic number, I feel, is going back to how I met Tears In X-ray Eyes in the first place, although no less brilliant.

T: Did I mention that this was fucking excellent?

N: I think you fucking did. 9/10



ist – King Martha

There’s no doubt that ist have a natural talent for making well structured, laid back music, but one has to wonder where exactly they are intending to take it all. The reason I say this is because if they are hoping to have a hit single it just ain’t gonna happen! Their music is way too sophisticated and adult orientated (though I’m loathe to use the term AOR because I feel that would be something of an insult, as well as being downright wrong) to have the nation’s spotty oiks running excitedly to the record store…or, more aptly, their computers…

None of this is a criticism of course. Not reaching the charts is hardly something to be ashamed of (in fact, we should roundly applaud it), and, indeed, some of the greatest artists of all time reached number 56 or some other lowly figure with their biggest ever hit.

Ist’s sun soaked, carefree melodies are extremely easy to listen to and I’m sure their “Hothouse Flowers meets The Waterboys in a pub run by The Wonder Stuff” tunes will go down a storm at their slot on this year’s best festival – Leicester’s Summer Sundae.

Some of these tracks have wonderful titles too, my favourites being “Fag Break”, “An Invasion of Crows” and “Momentary Glitch”. If you want a soundtrack for doing nothing during the summer this year, ist should be right at the top of your shopping list. 8/10

Tone E



Black Carrot – Cluk (Moon City)

Several years ago, Oliver Betts fronted a band called Submariner. They were always an entertaining live act, so it was quite fascinating to hear what his latest band, Black Carrot, sounded like.

Well, it seems that they’ve gone for the darker, more theatrical, avant-garde sound this time around and, put it this way, you’re not going to be going home from a Black Carrot gig happily whistling the last number they played!

It’s an interesting listen if nothing else, and it’s good to see artists trying something new, but sometimes it seems like they’re doing weird stuff just for the sake of doing weird stuff. Quite often it becomes the musical equivalent of Tom Waits stumbling into a broom cupboard.

Don’t play this album to your grandma unless you have a strange fetish for scaring old people. As for me, well, if I ever go completely mad, I may well buy a copy of this album but until then I’ll take a rain check. 5/10

Tone E



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