Spotlight issue 34 (February 2006)

The Screening - The Screening e.p. (unsigned)

T: As I myself told vocalist Tom Lewitt a short while ago, the fourth track here, "A Place I Once Loved", is one of the best tracks I've heard by ANYONE in the last few years. It's rather like a more raw edged version of the massively underrated Real People back in the early nineties. In fact that band seems to be something of a template for The Screening, whether they know it or not. Thankfully listeners of Steve Lamacq's show had the sense to vote them as the "Best demo" of the day recently, so their future is looking bright. You just have to look at the songwriting here though, and you can see they've got an enormous edge over any of their fellow local scenesters. Previously the band were called Little Fat Hoover, and The Hoovers after that, and were rather more influenced by the Western country sounds of The Byrds and The Beach Boys, but now their tunes are big, bold and exciting. I defy anyone to listen to ANY of the four tracks here and not see a band who are very certainly going places. Great stuff.

N: Quite inadvertently I caught these at a show they played in support of Morning Runner
recently and was surprised at the size of audience paying a support band their full attention. A hypnotic draw was displayed in their stage presence and it was this that commanded your attention. Although I feel this recording loses some of its impact, playing as it does here, confidence and quality of songs still rings through. Very 80's 'New Wave' is a feel I get from what I am hearing and this is no better place to be in my opinion. 9/10



Signal Generator - Output EP (Occasional Records)

T: You know when you're at a festival and you've been going mosh crazy? Maybe you've bruised a few ribs and you need to take refuge in one of the smaller tents, perhap with the help of a herbal tea and an almighty spliff? Well, THIS is the kind of thing you want to hear playing by the artist at the forefront of the canopy while you recuperate, chill out and gather your thoughts. Or, alternatively, just blitz them. These are possibly the most relaxing tunes I've heard since FSOL's "Life Forms". Obviously a European artist, and the press release will confirm that the guy in question does indeed come Oh...

N: Shouldn't that be a herbal cigarette and an almighty cup of tea?! Bearing in mind that I've had neither today, a lovely tingle descends my spine - Signal Generator are tinkling again (and this time Tone finds the pan - see review further down the page!) A tranced out foot tapper. No lyrics, no guitar, but instead a wealth of electronic patterns seem to dance before you as they replicate mechanoid timings and organic patterns at the same time. Yes, FSOL / Amorphous Androgynous, and even Orbital or The Orb appear to be this artist's mentors. 9/10

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Balance of Silence - The Path of Fate (unsigned)

T: I feel a bit bad about having to review this, because it's so far removed from anything I would choose to listen to that I feel a little unfair; however on the positive side, the band's lead guitarist, Andrew Tewkesbury, appears to be some kind of an "Axeman Supreme". Some of it reminds me of Funeral for a Friend at times, and Iron Maiden have quite blatantly played a part in the musical education of each band member, and vocalist Li Xu proves he is indeed a very good vocalist inbetween the various grunts and squawks that run through the album. Obviously a band who know what they're good at and stick to it with all guns blazing. Sadly though, I will probably never play this again.

N: You forgot to mention that the melodic scales that run throughout coax the listener into a hypnotic slumber, one which is punctured with the musings some might find familiar to Faith No More fifteen years previous to this, I tend to agree that this is a very niche market, although one where audiences tend to be a very loyal crowd. The technical abilities that these guys display are certainly up amongst the best, so woe betide anyone who doesn't appreciate the core of what theyre about.

T: Phew, I don't feel so guilty now. If you like your tea with a dash of cyanide, you'll love these guys. 7/10

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Various Artists - A Very Cherry Christmas (Cherryade)

T: You know how record labels love to cash in on Christmas by putting whatever crappy old mush they can find to corrupt children and old grannies with? Well, thankfully the good folk at Cherryade have chosen to do the complete opposite. Indeed, these songs are more likely to terrify the latter groups of our fair species than anything. If you don't believe me, just try considering that the album's opener - Misty's Big Adventure's "Have Yourselves a Psychedelic Christmas" sounds rather like Captain Sensible being cut and pasted with Akon's "Lonely", complete with ridiculous smurf voice. Other highlights are The Hot Puppies' "Green Eyeliner" which is akin to the Go-Gos sharing a grimy caravan with Pat Benatar, and the naff titled "Everybody's Dancing" by the Joe Jackson meets George Benson style Grand Prix 86.

N: The general feel of this record contributed by 12 of the label's artists may be considered maybe vaguely seasonal at worst and cashing in at best. This record is certainly lo-fi to the core, so I guess this year we should have expected Bontempis and stylophones in our stockings given Santa's recent epiphany!

T: I tell you every year Nick - Santa doesn't exist. Do you STILL not believe me? By the way, is this review not a tad late?

N: So whose knee was it I was sitting in, in that grotto? and late? Well he doesn't seem to mind whenever I go to call... 7/10



The Bosch - Buy One Get One EP (unsigned)

T: So this is an "ep" then is it? Not an album in any shape or form? I only ask because it appears to have NINE whole tracks on it! Pretty damn good stuff though. Think Violent Femmes with a sprinkling of Ramones topping and maybe even add a dash of Devo sauce with Radio Birdman pudding. Maybe you'd like some Iggy and The Stooges biscuits to round things off? This is marvellous - someone sign these guys now!

N: How about a dose of B-52s? And I guess, from the pace and feel of this "album", The Bosch obviously spend days in the studio daydreaming of the summer, catching the surf, and watching one another's beehive coiffures gradually resembling an Afro as the damp summer air takes hold. 9/10



Various Artists - Public Service Broadcast 7 (Smalltown America)

T: A Smalltown America compilation with no Jetplane Landing on it? That's just wrong! I mean, I know they haven't released anything for ages but even so, I'd make damn sure there was an obscure b-side on there or something...

N: Actually it was Andrew from Jetplane Landing who sent us this, and apparently they're "all doing fine and still truckin'"...

T: Ah. Well that makes up for it then! Anyway, what hits home the most while listening to this fine compilation is that those nice people at Smalltown America care a lot more about putting out great music that they are passionate about than they do about hitting the charts in any shape or form. Instead of any new record companies aspiring to be like EMI, they would benefit a lot more from striving to be the next Smalltown America. Frequently brilliant tunes like The Holy Ghost's "Commercial" blend in marvellously with more chilled but still challenging gems like Above Them's "Heartbeat for the Heartless". You could play this 25 track CD for months and still hear new things each time, whilst further embracing the ones you've already grown to love. Along with Wrath Records, Smalltown America are easily one of the defining labels when it comes to quality releases in the 21st century.

N: I particularly enjoyed the raw emotion both musically and lyrically shown by the Atlanta based artist Hot Young Priest. Shades of PJ Harvey and Veruca Salt come through. Although a very eclectic selection of very "new" music, it fails to fall into the category of just "ordinary". You said it before, this set of 25 songs is guaranteed to keep connoissuers happy for weeks. Therefore I feel somewhat awkward about just picking a few to mention, as they're ALL great in their own very neu-way! 10/10



Lisa Brown - What's That Sound (High Voltage)

T: No, not sultry disco diva as you might well presume from the artist's name - Lisa Jones is actually a band from Manchester who take their musical lecturings from the likes of New Order and my doesn't it show?! This is like a cross between the latter band and the Human League at the height of their fame. Second track is more reminiscent of something Godley and Creme would have written. Still a pleasing harmonistic tinkle in your eardrums. Have you got a tinkle in your ears as well Nick?

N: Not sure about that, but it could just be the residue from the earplugs I used last night...and UUURGH!!! Try the toilet next time! But to return to Lisa Brown, I'm unsure as to whether the world is ready for another eighties revival here, but coming from Manchester and inspired by Sigur Ros, Bowie and New Order, had good mentors. Either way, and as someone who can remember the excesses of the decade, the moment strains of a familiar Killing Joke bassline came through on the opening track, I was won. The second track, "Anna, was more similar to a lacklustre Supertramp and lost me fairly early on. This and the final track, a BBC acoustic session, "Snow Fight in the City Centre", begged the question "Why?" From this point I was unable to fully understand the group.

T: Sadly, I have to agree. 6/10




Darlings of the Day - Get Burned EP (So Sweet Records)

T: This sounds a bit like Kirsty MacColl vocally, while reminding me partly of Juliette and the Licks. If I'm totally honest though, this doesn't really do anything for me. Seems to lack passion if you ask me. One of those things that, if you stuck it on your car stereo you'd think "Yeah it's ok I guess" and then put it back in your CD rack for evermore.

N: But you mentioned nothing of Catherine Zeta Jones, skipping off from Pop Larkin, wondering where the heck she must be...

T:, it's Darlings of the Day, mate. I think your selective dyslexia has got a hold of you again.

N: Not agin! OK, most certainly with influences hailing from Stateside - Deborah Harry and the Uk's Transvision Vamp, this 4 track ep does tend to proceed consistently without a great deal of passion. 5/10

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