Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Yes Sir Boss- Desperation State

Diversity could be Yes Sir Boss’ watchword. Ska, soul, funk, rock and pop are just a selection of the genres which are not only tackled on Desperation State, they are fully explored and conquered.
Signed to Joss Stone’s label, Stone’d Records, and featuring Miss Stone herself singing on the soul/pop “Mrs #1”, YSB have been going from strength to strength; touring the UK and Europe relentlessly to packed out houses.
Desperation State opens with the fantastic title track, a belter from start to finish. This Gypsy-Ska is the perfect number to open the album with, showing off a little of almost everything that the band draws from. Tight horn riffs weave between the vocal lines in a snakelike fashion as the dynamic of the track moves from an a capella intro to a massive Anthemic finish. This is followed by the Mariachi-styled trumpet instrumental “The Situation.” And here comes my biggest criticism, at a mere 43 seconds, “The Situation” is really just an intro to the next track, without being a real piece in its own right.
While some of the tracks feature fairly complicated horn riffs, it would be a bonus to be able to hear the players really let rip and show what they can do in longer solo sections or instrumental tracks.  Merging seamlessly from the atmospheric mariachi style of “The Situation” comes “Not Guilty.” This Ska-Punk rocker goes to show how heavy the band can play, whilst still retaining the bounce and groove that makes a Yes Sir Boss gig one that’s impossible to remain still during. The two-tone influence is evident from the start of not guilty, as the song builds and builds to a heavier, rocky climax.
The other real stand out track on Desperation State is the more soulful number “Mrs #1”, which opens with an upbeat acoustic intro, before introducing a groovy backbeat that blends with the guest vocals of Joss Stone. The track mixes her more soulful style with the rough and ready attitude of YSB.  The track allows for the horns to show a different side, playing a mixture of Soul grooves and stabs rather than the more riff-based ideas of the rest of the tracks on the album written just for the band.
As a whole, the entire album is solid, keeping the groove of the band going for all of the 11 tracks. Without a single bad track on the entire disc, it’s hard to pick out any favourites. Although “Desperation State”, “Not Guilty” and “Mrs #1” being the ones that give the best idea of the vast range of styles that the band play.


KISS- Monster Review

You can say what you like about KISS, and people really do. The fervour and love of their army of fans is matched only by the strength with which many despise their brand of fun-loving, Rock & Roll music. Whilst it lacks any real depth, serious message or great technical ability, Monster definitely offers what made KISS huge in the first place: A slice of high energy Hard Rock that gets fists pumping in the air and the long hair (albeit a distant memory for many of their original fans) swinging.
The 20th album of a career spanning 4 decades, Monster is the second record KISS have made with the current line-up of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons (founding members) along with the guitar skills of Tommy Thayer, and the pounding drums of Eric Singer. The follow up to 2009’s Sonic Boom continues with the band’s return to the true 70s sound that they’re famous for. Never a group to push musical boundaries, KISS is still most certainly doing what they’ve always done. 3 minute Hard Rock with plenty of guitar solos and lyrics about little more than Rock and Roll and partying which, whilst alright for some, do not plumb the depths of imagination, imagery or metaphor to decipher, especially as the ideas could have been lifted directly from albums of the band’s hay-day of 30 years ago. The problem with this return to the style of their classic period is that listening through to the album, there is a sense that you’ve heard all the songs before. “Ground-breaking” has never been a term regularly used in terms of KISS’ music, but there is a lack of much of anything special or new on Monster.
The opening track of Monster, “Hell or Hallelujah”, which was first released at the start of July 2012, begins the album with a barrage of classic bombast. The high-energy continues throughout the first couple of tracks, drawing heavily on the Blues-Rock roots of the band, each following the stock Verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-solo format which, although tried and tested as a song-writing technique, offers little in the way of variety. The album features tracks which allow all 4 members the opportunity to have a turn on lead vocals. Although no-one else reaches the power and range of Stanley, Thayer’s tribute to the spaceman aesthetic that his character in the band has on “Outta This World” is a good rocker, although, like most of this album, there’s little inspired about it. The same with Singer’s “All for the Love of Rock & Roll”, while anthems extolling the virtues of specific musical genres are all well and good, music has moved on and evolved since the time that these songs belong in. The guitar playing on this album, whilst definitely better than most attempts at guitar based music that are released today, still lacks the sparkle, polish and sophistication that is needed to stand out even in the specific Rock music charts. The Hard, Party-on aesthetic seems to be wearing a bit thin on these stalwart veterans, with the two original members in their 60s, and Tommy and Eric in their 50s; it’s hard to see how relevant their lyrics are to them anymore.
This album is a welcome return to the 1970s styling of KISS’ music. Although the problem is large amounts of it do sound like off-cuts from previous albums. There are no real possibilities for a modern-day “Rock and Roll All Nite (And Party Every Day).” Unfortunately for KISS they seem to be resting on their laurels a bit with this release.
In a year where many other classic bands have released new albums, while this is definitely a fun, good time record, there’s very little special or exciting about it. The re-hashed formula of the songs makes this a bit of an old, toothless Monster at best. So for previous, and die-hard fans who love what KISS always were, this album continues their legacy successfully enough. But for people looking for an exciting, new addition to the Rock ‘n’ roll cannon, it lacks in many departments.


Ellen & The Echo- Round Two/Memo Review

Acoustic guitars; breathy, chordal harmonicas; and lyrics centred on the un-fairness of life; modern Folk music in general can be a rather tedious, repetitive and slow genre; following standard formulae without much in the way of variety. This is a comment that doesn’t apply to Round Two, the debut offering from Brighton-based Ellen & The Echo. These whimsical folkies have managed to capture a cross section of acoustic styles and relaxed, tasteful pop. The haunting trumpet lines which pierce through the tracks create a chilled out atmosphere and gives the whole EP a slightly Jazzy feel.
The EP covers many kinds of folk. From acoustic guitar-led slow, mournful songs, to “Tell Me This” which is reminiscent of the Folk-Rock tracks from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Especially as the lyrics seem to have a similar theme: “You hit me once, I hit you twice. You want to play naughty I think you’re too nice…”
 Tasteful additions of little trumpet riffs and soulfully harmonised backing vocals make this 8-piece sound larger than it really is. Tripped Up no only shows off the slow, tastefulness of Ellen’s vocal lines, but also gives the electric guitar a chance to show off in an Eagles Ballad-style solo. Harmonica features in folk songs are often a dangerous idea, with many a good track being ruined by an incessant, chordal breathing in and out over the top of the rest of the music. Instead, the minimal way in which it is used makes “Memo” into a slow, mountain shuffle, which underlies a slow trumpet line. The range of Ellen’s vocals is wider than a great many singers that are out there nowadays, which gives the tracks an emotional depth.
This album is very well written, with most emphasis on the quality of the song-writing,, as opposed to any technical wizardry so to speak. What makes the EP work is the fact that it has that old-world feel, suggesting a world where folk music and electric instruments were colliding for the first time.


Dorje- Primordial Audio Chronicle Review

Dorje was formed in early 2012 as a project of Youtube based “guitar guru” Rob Chapman. Dorje, is a word that comes from Tibetan spiritualism, meaning “thunderbolt of enlightenment.” I’m unsure of the enlightenment part at this stage, but listening through to the two tracks that make up Primordial Audio Chronicle Volume 1 there are definitely more than a few lightning bolts. The musicianship evident on this recording is incredible- there are reasons why these men are getting so much recognition from their armies of online fans!

The first track, “Aeromancy” well and truly stamps Dorje into a brand of epic, technical Rock all of its own. With an atmospheric little introduction which then hammers straight into a powerful riff, the song is relentless in its attack. Taking influences from just about any Rock/Metal subgenre that you can care to imagine: Heavy riffs, atmospheric instrumental breaks, a shredding solo and a vocal track that sounds like it has been beamed through space from another dimension.
“Too Weak”, the other track on this short EP is another rocker. Although this time there’s a lot more groove to the song. The slap and pop of the bass line a lot more prominent here. Again with an amazing sounding, technical, yet tasteful solo- which is surprisingly rare from bands so stuffed full with technical ability as Dorje evidently is. The groove changes seamlessly and effortlessly between the different sections, making this song flow and ebb throughout.
This group have literally exploded since forming, making use of the extensive experience in New Media and online resources that the members have acquired. As a model of how using mediums like youtube can give great success, Dorje is the perfect model. The concept of collaboration between the band and their fans being a big part of the way Dorje work means that the upcoming video will heavily feature their fans. 
Overall, the biggest problem with the EP is that it is far too short. These two tracks give a very good idea of what the group is capable of, but it’s little more than a tantalising flavour of the essence of their sound. But the songs are solid, upbeat and real, rocking tunes.