Spotlight issue 36 (November 2006)


Superkings - The Good Sense

Superkings are a North-West England four piece that take in piano, cello and guitar. The band are said to derive influences as far afield as David Bowie, Nick Cave, Paul Simon and Pavement. This bittersweet piano pop outfit take in darkly melodic lovesongs as well as upbeat jazz imbued indie gems.

N: At first glance a packet of cigarettes, and on first hearing the single, recorded in the toilets of the local pub, deftly trying to avoid George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps". In hindsight, "The Good Sense" should have been avoided, re-recorded or something inbetween.

T: Couldn't agree more. The two following tracks, "All Things Considered" and "On The Broads" are a billion times better than the lead track here, which sounds like it has been produced by my six year old nephew. On a bad day. After he's been smoking pot. Which was crap weed. But still, the "David Gedge does piano ballads" feel of the further tracks makes the whole thing worthwhile
. 6/10

**Stuck for a recipe for that dinner party? Well why not check out the 'food' link provided by this band on their web-site, very Ainsley Harriot!

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Education - Cool As You, Charles

N: These hapless souls, based in Leeds, are a great advert for England, Northern England to be precise. Saying this I should make it clear that I'm not talking Dr. Martens, flag waving, all topped off with the regimental suede head. No these guy's are much cooler than that, keeping it real (although at this point Mr G should not come to mind), the only weapons these guys are wielding is a Buzzcocks tinged rhythm guitar and a mean vocal complete with razor sharp tongue.

This double A-sided single kicks off with the wit of 'Not As Cool As You', complete with lyrics that tripped off the tongue with ease, it was obvious that these had been burning in the mind of the author for sometime, before coming out in the song like bullets from a gun. The second number here might've seen songsmith and veritable warbler, Christopher Tayler interned in the Tower of London for singing such a straight forward attack on the furture monach. But is this an attack, or a sad lament? Tayler has written what should surely be deemed a classic, an honest telling written with the obvious lambastings familiar to Stephen Morrissey. Hugelty enjoyable and when it comes down to it, totally loveable. How could anyone fail to fall for these boys "cloth capped" charm? It's nice to hear a single that immediately serves to ignite the soul and send you rushing to the 'Repeat' button.

T: Very much a Smithsian romp with doubly ascorbic tongue and ferocious guitar work. Great single anyway. 9/10

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GRR - Someothertimes

T: The first of two reviews featuring the multi-talented Adham Fisher. This one's Fisher's band (GRR stands for Gun Running Rebels, by the way) and the following one is his solo spin-off project.

N: Commencing this album "Terrifyingly Starnge" might have you checking your calender and thinking you've slipped into a time-warp. Why? Well this could well be a house-party at which Shaun Ryder was making his first and unsteady vocal debut. Home-made could certainly be the most apt description and in no way similar to what we are later seen to comment regarding Adham Fisher. It's almost as embarassing as seeing your Dad do the twist at the Christmas party!

T: I find this quite an endearing approach - the DIY ethic comes across rather like an ambient dance version of Half Man Half Biscuit. The group quite obviously aren't afraid of poking fun at themselves and are clearly just enjoying making their music. I imagine that band practises must be a laugh a minute, although it must also be pointed out that there ARE more serious tracks, and when they come, they are both welcome and poignant, such as the utterly beautiful "London By Night (Deep Jazz Mix)" and the rather profound "Space Invaders (Peace Version)" that completes the album. "Brasilia" is another outstanding tune and, given Adham's young age, I see no reason why this guy can't be propelled into the limelight.

N: Yeah, but poking fun can quite literally return and bite you on the arse when you've found fame, like the "CD of earlier GRR tracks available with next Saturday's Sun"! Adham, watch your back. 8/10

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AFS - The Clarendon House EP

T: Although the opening track here on Adham Fisher's solo project, "Fairy Lights" is rather too close to The Orb's "Little Fluffy Clouds" (well that's what you get for actually MENTIONING fluffy clouds!), it soon kicks into the ridiculously brilliant "Mothers' Day Part 1", which is like a "19" for the reality generation, perhaps performed by Howard Jones on crack...

N: I think more than a great many knocked out, ham fisted musical compositions, this comes across as more of a unique and creatively minded arrangement. Working with beats, rhythms and samples, Adham has created calm out of chaos. Certainly "Fairy Lights" may ring for many as too derivative, but "Mothers' Day" is Adham's very OWN "Little Fluffy Clouds".

T: The rest of the tracks on this ep are best soaked up lying in complete darkness in your bedroom, such is the ambience of the music on offer here. But without question, Adham's "tour de force" is "Mothers Day" parts 1 and 2. 8/10

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The Handful - Second Hand Smoke (Boulevard Recording)

N: I really don't mean this to sound disparaging, but hearing this band as I sit, Spinal Tap comes to mind, in their "Stonehenge" phase. I can quite literally see this band coping on stage with failing props, as roadies rush out to free the trapped musician from his plastic cocoon!

T: A good analogy. The Handful have clearly been influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and other early seventies bands of the same ilk, but three words scream at me throughout this 14 track album - "Trying Too Hard". Harsh maybe, but I'm just being honest and to my ears, there are very few bands who can pull this kind of stuff off without sounding tired and cliched. Not really my thing, I'm afraid to say. 4/10

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Cling - Sonic Spells

N: Cling are successful music producer Gerald and African born Susi. The two started working together about two and a half years ago. Gerald was looking for a female vocalist with a distinctive voice and someone who could write lyrics with a surreal edge. Susi was looking for a producer who was on the same wavelength. Now based in Essex, their music rings of a very well produced and electronic nature, with Susi's ethereal vocals slipping effortlessly over the top. In fact you might be hard pressed to not be convinced that you've not heard these playing before, on late night radio or in a club, so polished is the nature of this EP.

T: Saint Etienne meets Dubstar. Nice cool beats and breathy vocals. Nothing astonishing but a pleasant enough ride.
7/10

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Ego-Armalade - The Fox

T: A blistering three track ep steeped in rich sixties presentation, reminiscent of the early work of The Who but given an intensely pleasing modern retro feel before we move on to the more ska-fuelled pulsation of "See No Evil", which is not the old Television track, in case you were wondering. The wonderfully ferocious "Mama's Got Milkers" completes proceedings with a bang and I can't help feeling that we've got something special in this Leicester band that fills me with expectation for future success.

N: Calling this slick would give the wrong impression as this band's raw production and Kinks-esque styling, with its bare knuckle ride over what is an infectious ska-tinged rattle will go down well on all quarters. Certainly no karaoke, these boys deserve to be heard. 9/10

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Alfie Kingston - She's Scary/A Little Nonsense (Runrig)

N: An astounding delve into the mind and music of Alfie Kingston. The lead track here is very well represented with that subject of "Scary" rehearsed well in the song's musical arrangement. The second A-side, 'A Little Nonsense' is represented well in the style lending itself toward that of a musical REM, the former I felt had more in common with the band Jazz Butcher. Certainly an artist to watch out for.

T: To me, "She's Scary" put me in mind of Crowded House on a particularly wobbly ferry, due to its slightly twisted, seasick feel, but this only adds to the fun. Track two is less emphatic but it's definitely well worth a listen and my colleague couldn't have put it better. I look forward to hearing more in the near future. 7/10

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Adam Rich - You Can't Escape Life (Love Muffin Records)

T: You could be fooled into believing this album is going to morph into some dodgy prog-rock after the instrumental opener, but then it all goes a bit Husker Du before you realise that Adam is a man of many genres, spanning rock, punk, pop, folk, perhaps even a bit of flamenco at one point, and it's all quite an interesting listen. Particularly appealing is the album's title track, recalling Dylan and the Doors in equal doses. You weren't keen on this album at first Nick - has it grown on you at all?

N: Grown like a BAAAD rash. Kicking off this album with the cinematic "Frizzhead", in some ways I found gave the wrong initial impression of this artist, as running into "Perfect", this is an out and out rock soup. Guitars turn to eleven (one louder than ten!) and ripping through the calm previously created. "You Can't Escape Life", with its Dylanesque vocal again changes tack and as has been previously said, this artist is one of many hats. 8/10

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