Grammys, Brits & the Best of 2015

Two main music awards ceremonies have taken place this month.  The Grammy Awards saw Lady Gaga courting controversy with a tribute to the late, great David Bowie, while Adele returned to sing to the masses, once again.

The Grammys is a very American awards ceremony – the ‘Oscars of the music world’.  “Record Of The Year” was Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. While “Song Of The Year” went to Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran.  I’m not sure what the difference between “record” and “song” of the year is, and if I’m being honest, I’m not that bothered.

Skrillex was awarded with “Best Dance /Electronic Album” while it was good to see Our Love – Caribou, Born in the Echoes – Chemical Brothers, Caracal – Disclosure and In Colour by Jamie xx all nominated.

“Best Rock Album” went to the masters of over-the-top theatrics, Muse and the “Best Alternative Music Album” winner was Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes,with nominations for Bjork, My Morning Jacket, Wilco and Tame Impala.

Tame Impala was also victorious at this week’s BRIT Awards when they won best “International Group” beating off the ubiquitous nomination in this category for U2, among others.

Coldplay was awarded best ” British Group” for the umpteenth time; and for all the hard work over the past two years working with respectable producers and artists, the reinvention of Justin Bieber as a serious artist appears to be working.  He received the “International Male Solo Artist” while Icelandic pixie Bjork won “International Female Solo Artist” for the fourth time.

If Buzzin Music were to give out awards for “best albums” of 2015 it would include:

Jamie XX – In Colour

Fourtet –  Morning / Evening

Urvanovic -Amateurs

Lorna – London’s Leaving Me

The Membranes – Dark Matter / Dark Energy

Aaron Fyfe – 10 Songs

Girl Band – Holding Hands With Jamie

Rival Consoles – Howl

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nbOnUwl3V8

The Membranes – Dark Matter / Dark Energy, album review

The Membranes - Dark Matter / Dark Energy
The Membranes – Dark Matter / Dark Energy

With so many bands from the 1980s and 90s reforming these days, and who can blame them, it’s with trepidation that I decide to listen to any new material after such a long time away.  We’ve all grown much older, listening to new sounds and influence; got married and had kids; lived, loved, lost… and moved on.

Furthermore, for me anyway, I believe it’s more difficult for a band that in their youth were filled with spitting angst and aggression to be still frothing at the mouth and full of enthusiastic ‘we can all make a difference‘ and sloganeering about a ‘wasted youth‘, while celebrating their fifty-something birthday.  However good, there’s something not quite right, not quite so edgy when middle-aged men with extra pounds and greying hair attempt to relive their youth along with the odd yet ubiquitous original punk with a colourful mohican and studded leather jacket pogoing for a couple of minutes before retiring to the bar for a mineral water.

It’s 2015, and the UK music scene is awash with nostalgia, bands reforming in name alone without original members or dignity.  But then I am asked to review The Membranes new studio album, their first since 1989. In the 1980s, The Membranes were firm favourites  of the late John Peel and have since been cited as a big influence by bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Big Black and Mercury Rev. No better excuse to revisit The Membranes and see if they’ve managed to pull out all the stops or make a right pigs ear of a comeback by not leaving the reunion at a few paydays reciting old favs and classics.

The album starts with the meaty big, powerful and brilliantly titled ‘The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light‘. Dark Matter / Dark Energy opens like the big bang theory.

The album drives straight to the centre of an ever pulsing sun called Planet Prog Rock with a dark alt Kraut Rock underbelly.  As I settled in, for what appeared  to be a comfortably smooth ride, the album unleashes another side to The Membranes ‘sound’ as they explode into the abrasive rockabilly energy of ‘Do The Supernova‘; and with their familiar abrasive, hard-nosed and jagged noise on ‘21st Century Man‘… I’m hooked.

Dark Matter / Dark Energy is a great album that tightens its grip like a boa constrictor.   Three songs deep, and I’m knee-deep in The Membranes, as if they’ve never been away.

I’ll be honest and say, I enjoy 2015 more than 1980s Membranes. Each song stretches my appreciation as the album pulls me from pillar to post.  I feel slightly drained, like I’m trying every ride in a theme park, never quite sure if I’m ready for another ride, but enjoying myself nonetheless.  On  ‘In The Graveyard‘, The Membranes sound expands once more with a slab of mighty white post-punk dub. John Robb plays a throbbing bass line, the likes of Paul Simenon would be chuffed with,  while giving his very best Joe Strummer ‘Armagideon Time’ karaoke.

Dark Matter / Dark Energy is a record about life and death, the universe and space itself.  The album was inspired by a chance meeting between band frontman John Robb and the head of the CERN project who were working on the Higgs Boson project. The album also takes on Robb’s grieving for his father who died midway through the recording. The music weaves noise, Prog Rock drones, discord, dark dub, free punk, heavy rhythms and ultimately freedom into a unique whole of beauty.

John Peel was a big fan of The Membranes; and he’s never wrong.  Maybe I was.

The Membranes – Dark Matter / Dark Energy Tracklisting:

1.             The Universe Explodes Into A Billion Photons Of Pure White Light
2.             Do The Supernova
3.             21st Century Man
4.             Money Is Dust
5.             The Multiverse Suite
6.             Space Junk
7.             Dark Matter
8.             If You Enter The Arena, You Got To Deal With The Lions
9.             In The Graveyard
10.          Hail To The Lovers
11.          Magic Eye (To See The Sky)
12.          5776 (The Breathing Song)
13.          Dark Energy
14.          The Hum Of The Universe

The Membranes Dark Matter / Dark Energy is released on 20th June on Cherry Red Records.

New Candys play dark, psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll

New Candys
New Candys

Hailing from Venice, Italy, New Candys are scheduled to release their second album, New Candys As Medicine, on 6th April via Minneapolis based label Picture In My Ear on vinyl, CD and digital download. A deluxe vinyl edition will also be released on Fuzz Club. httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpEkMNgFRFk New Candys play dark, broody psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll swamped in swathes of fuzz, distortion and a chamber full of echo.

New Candys second album, New Candys As Medicine
New Candys second album, New Candys As Medicine

Think what Jesus & Mary Chain and Psychocandy would have sounded like if the Reid brothers had erred away from the sugar sweet sixties pop influences of surf city and the Beach Boys and erred further towards the Velvet Underground’s European Sun.  Think Loop, Brian Jonestown Massacre at their most swirling, drug-enhanced, hazy floatation tank best (Anemone).  Think The Black Angels, leather trousers, beads, the summer of love, back-combed hair, and cool dark sunglasses with acid-tripping pupils. New Candys formed in 2008 with Fernando Nuti on vocals, guitar and sitar, Diego Menegaldo on guitar and vocals, Stefano Bidoggia on bass and Dario Lucchesi on drums. The band unashamedly wear their influences on their sleeves – 1960s psychedelic rock, especially The Velvet Underground and Syd Barrett. In August 2010 they released their first self-produced EP that caught the attention of the Italian independent press and since then they have been playing live continuously, sharing the stage with artists such as Crystal Stilts, Dead Skeletons, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Rose Windows, The KVB and many others. The cover-art for ‘New Candy As Medicine’ was self-made by the band, and attempts to translate the album’s layers of sonic melodies into images with a mixture of different paper and surfaces glued together – the final result being a coordinated chaos – whilst the leitmotif for the album’s imaginary comes from Maya Deren’s surrealistic films together with the Patent Medicines’ period, when drugs compounds were sold pretending to be medications with exclusive ingredients. The album includes 10 great songs including ‘Dark Love’, one of the strongest tracks and obvious contender for lead single, though a personal favourite is ‘Overall’.

It kicks like a mule and fills my head with hazy daze smiles.  Drums pound a driving rhythm and the vocals swim around the guitars like porpoise in a sea of echoes. The odd scream of distortion and throbbing bass is together heading towards signs of perfection in my book. I can’t wait to hear this played loud and live! New Candys will apparently support the album release with some yet to be announced UK dates. Though the album sounds great, I’m thinking it will sound a whole lot better in a small venue with the amps cranked up to eleven. New Candys as Medicine was mixed by Loop’s original drummer/producer John Wills which makes perfect sense.

The album was preceded in January by the release of the AA split 10” single with Kill Your Boyfriend on Shyrec / Xnot You Xme.  ‘Dark Love’ is taken from the album, while ‘Surf 2’ is exclusive to the single.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY8oj2TEruQ

New Candys – New Candys as Medicine Tracklisting:
1.   Thrill Or Trip
2.   Song For The Mutant
3.   Patent Medicine
4.   Dark Love
5.   Aphrodite In Leather
6.   Overall
7.   Bones On Fire
8.   Mess
9.   Jolly Pan
10. Endless Deadline

New Candys – New Candys as Medicine is due for release on 6th April on Picture In My Ear.