National Snack – Apply Machine EP – unsigned band review

National Snack – Apply Machine EP

On the face of it, National Snack shouldn’t be any good. Their self-released Apply Machine EP is tinny, their press shots show a band that look a lot like they play death metal in dingy basements, they describe themselves as a mix between Prince, Fugazi and The Weather Girls, and this is not to mention their name National Snack (a very nondescript name – I have already had to re-look it up four or five times).

Alas, how wrong preconceptions can be.

The tinny production is raw and exciting. As metal as they may look, their sound is more a clash of punk and lo-fi, making them sound kind of sweetly naïve, and whilst Fugazi is audible in their sound, I think the Prince and Weather Girls part may well be more in their head than on their record.

National Snack are a three-piece, who release their records on their own Scatty Cat record label and are made up of guitar, bass and drums along with female and male vocals. The effect is not a guitar driven indie noise-wall with a repeated-note bass line, but rather artistic compositions meshing all instruments and backing vocals that carries either or both of the alternative lead singers Gemma Storr and Joe Carlo.

National Snack have been playing gigs in their current form since 2005 at festivals, on streets and in pubs, along with once travelling all the way to Russia for a 30 minute slot – there and back in 24 hours.

The Apply Machine EP features six songs, of quickly written guitar riffs and vocals that are both fun and genuine. The quality of the harmonies is proved on ‘My Head Hurts’, which is a highlight, and which they have offered for free download on the National Snack MySpace page. ‘This Is Not Enough’ is also great – strangely touching, with a touch of embarrassment as Gemma Storr snorts with laughter.

It is rare to be really excited by an unsigned band, but National Snack have strangely managed to not sound like desperate wannabes craving limelight on Apply Machine. It’s hard to compare them to other bands, though I’d be looking at the post-punk era to try and find one. The only other comparisons that come to mind are a couple of other bands I’ve heard trying for the big time – 28 Costumes and Elle S’Appelle.

Have a look at their MySpace, and one of the bonuses if you buy their record is that you get “a tiny square piece of the back cover to design however you want, a copy of the album and a free magnifying glass to find your square”.

Unsigned Band Site Rocklinks Wins Local Business Award

Set up by Craig Jones in 2002,Rocklinks aim of promoting and supporting unsigned UK bands and artistes received local recognition recently, by winning the Gosport Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award 2008.

Despite tough competition from local business Rocklinks scooped the award, with judges singing the praises of it’s owner for his efforts in recognising the importance of building capacity through networks, demonstrating a willingness to learn and apply new skills and making very significant progress in a short space of time.

Rocklinks and it’s sister site RL Music Services, offer UK bands and artistes many opportunities of promotion and support, through their well built and easy to follow websites. Featured bands, interviews, radio podcasts and gig guide help is offered at no charge, as is a massive directory of UK music contacts.

Craig also has some fantastic ideas regarding a CD compilation release in 2009, with featured bands receiving royalty payments on sales. Through RL Music Services the company offers recording, video and promotional products and services for a very reasonable (cheap) price.

Rocklinks are currently promoting the Live and Unsigned 2009 auditions that will take place across the UK in early part of 2009. Bands or singers from all genres are welcome to audition, the crucial factor is that you can play ‘live’ and not what style of music you perform. Over 10,000 have registered for the second year in succession for the biggest talent search in the UK music industry.

If you fancy yourself as the next big thing, solo or band, register now at Live & Unsigned for the chance to win a recording contract and single release. Audition dates and venues can be found on the home page.

Whether you are in a band or just a music fan looking to support local band gigs or maybe interested to see what Craig Joneslooks like in a dj, make sure you visit the award winning Rocklinks site.

Scarlett Marshals – Memory EP – Free MP3 Download

Scarlett Marshals Memory EP cover
Scarlett Marshals' Memory EP

Scarlett Marshals – Memory EP single review

Scarlett Marshals are an unsigned British three piece, who rose from the ashes of north-western group Ad Nauseam.

In 2004, long-time collaborators Alex Harris and Craig Atkinson joined up with bassist Dave Knight and they named the new group after some Family Fortune contestants that Les Dennis had just announced on the show, the Scarlett-Marshal family.

The band independently released the Patience EP in 2007 (available to buy on iTunes), and they have just finished recording their next 7-track record, Memory EP. Scarlett Marshals are offering the EP up for free download.

The tracks were self-produced and recorded in Staffordshire over a period of four weeks and aim to incorporate the group’s musical leanings towards such contemporary groups as The Twilight Sad and Grizzly Bear.

The EP, however, takes these influences and places them firmly in the rock and grunge brackets. Memory EP, in fact, resembles the Foo Fighters or Smashing Pumpkins more closely. The skuzzy, minute-long ‘Introduction’ sets out what the Scarlett Marshals are about. It is clinically rhythmical, with bass, guitar and drums all synchronised.

And this continues on second track, on which Atkinson’s vocals really resemble Dave Grohl. The musicianship on this track also deserves recognition, too, with the song shunning traditional structures in favour of series of varying sections. Really, the individual songs, which generally come in at around the three or four minute mark, are just microcosms for the dynamic diversity of the entire album.

Third track ‘The Measured Approach’ is similar in style, but it is on the following ‘It Shouldn’t Take A Genius’ that the musical talent of Scarlett Marshals is best exemplified. The reverb on the doubled vocals provides a distance that compliments the clean, picked guitars. The finale with sliding guitars and far-off vocals provide an excellent finish to what is the outstanding song of the Memory EP.

One of the best riffs on the EP and some great background noise appear on interlude ‘A Speech upon the Exile of David Knight’. It is a shame that they are not put to better use in a song somewhere, but Scarlett Marshals’ reluctance to exploit certain riffs proves why their EP hangs together so well as a whole.

Six minute album closer ‘Commit to Memory’ finishes the EP off in psychedelic style and shows a band that is at its best when exploiting this field.

The Memory EP shows that Scarlett Marshals are a promising band as rhythmically intelligent as Battles and as grungy as Smashing Pumpkins.

Look out for tour dates and listen to Scarlett Marshals’ songs on their MySpace.

Milk Plus Play Wild Punk Rock Garage Blues

MILK PLUS full of punk rock garage blues
MILK PLUS full of punk rock garage blues

Butch La Rea and Robbie Pinna hail from The Elephant & Castle district in south London, where Charlie Chaplin was born.  But soon people might be saying, it’s where Charlie Chaplin and Milk Plus are from!

Milk Plus is Butch La Rea (23) and Robbie Pinna (26). They play songs which are best described as being garage, punk, rock & blues all thrown in for good measure.

They have released a three track EP, Little Victories, which you can listen to the Milk Plus MySpace page.  My favourite is Fear Of Numbers with its gorgoeus sounding grungy slide guitar, reminiscent of The Gun Club.

Milk Plus state a wide range of influences on their music, including Deep Purple, Ike Turner, Clash, Bo Diddley, The Doors, Lee Scratch Perry, Funkadelic and Led Zeppelin. How can they go wrong?

When asked why they started the band, Butch replied:

“We started Milk Plus because we felt that people were satisfied with half measures of passion & execution from the music industry, we wanted (on whatever scale..big or smaill) to push ourselves live & on record. We don’t believe in microwave dinners & IKEA flatpacks, We believe that it hurts every so often & if there is no pain then you are not alive.”

Apparently the Milk Plus live shows are more frantic and energetic than the recordings, and they are starting to make a name for themselves in and around the London area.

Upcoming shows include:

18th September Storm Leicester Square (London)
30th September Rhythm Factory  (London)
15th October Punk (London)

Visit MySpace.com/MilkPlusTheBand for more information.