Jem Woolley: Skyscrapers

Nottingham artist Jem Woolley is a busy musician with his solo work and he plays with Mighty Lightweights and Edward Stackpoole but this lockdown release is a belter that deserves your time. Skyscrapers reminds me of the best in 70’s experimental synth electronica and has a great ‘play and record once only’ feel to it. Jem informed me that he made this album by mainly using his iPad and downloading lots of free synth apps and basic laptop recording software which only helps to give it a real homemade vibe.  He confesses to recently listening to lots of stuff like Tangerine Dream, Steve Reich and Terry Riley since his lockdown in March Listen to tracks Night Light, Ghosts and Endurance on the album if you’re into the Brian Eno feel and know that lockdown just got a little better.

 Peace, Love and Cowbells

Bassey

Sacropolis: For You

Now let me say first off that I don’t normally cover pop acts, but I do review anything provided I of course like it. So for today let’s move away from punk and have a listen to the German pop band Sacropolis. Their latest single, For You has a monster hook and experimental elements that make it stand out from the thousands of other generic pop boy bands out there.

The vocals here are a rather generic tone but sung very well and with clear passion, there’s a wonderful selection of guitar passages and for me the key piece of the puzzle is the delayed bassline. I mean what other pop song has a delayed bass guitar on it? It’s madly brilliant. I also like the overdubbed vocal sounds, adding to the experimental edge. I only have one real major gripe with this track and that is the sampled drums. I understand that most artists these days are bedroom musicians, and I myself have used electronic drum samples. But to sample an acoustic kit on a track where the rhythm is so important… it definitely takes some of the bounce and bite out.

Fortunately however my gripe is only a small one, and is easily correctable with a remaster later down the line. This track still has plenty of heart and I just know the vocal hook will be stuck in my head for at least a week.

Peace, Love and Cowbells,

Oscar

Neil Young Lyrics And Foo Fighters Soundscapes? Yes Please!

Gambling Hearts are an alt rock power trio hailing from Wiltshire. Their newest single These Days is a beautiful melding of rock and roll instrumentation and catchy melodies. Sounding very much like a band out of the late 90’s, Gambling Hearts wear their influences on their sleeve. And for once, That’s not a bad thing.

These Days features a hearty folky rock vocal track, a steady backbeat of drums and bass, swirling guitar chords and it all adds up into far more than the sum of its parts. The production is also excellent, overdubbing the raw tracks with added guitars and feedback. I especially like what they’ve done to the vocals before the tasty solo. Still, it’s the vocal melodies that hook you in. It’s equal parts classic rock and 90’s britpop.

All in all, a stand out track from a band only in their early days. I can’t wait to hear what they put out next. This may be Gambling Hearts, and I’m not a gambling man. But if I was. I’d bet on these guys.

Peace, Love and Cowbells,

Oscar

It’s Not A Phase Mum

Ah the Emo phase, I believe most of us go through something similar in our early teens. It’s a difficult and frankly embarrassing time at that age but it’s a trial by fire that we will, in a few years time, look back on and cringe, cry and laugh. I’d like to tell you all today about my Emo phase and how it shaped my music tastes today.

So, 2013. I was 14 years old, refusing to go to school and bunking off with some “friends” I had made at my new place of education. Mushroom park was our home and we would regularly crawl under a small part of the fence at the back of our school to go there. It was through this rag tag group of misfits that someone introduced me to the song “bullet” by Hollywood undead. We would sing it as a group, very out of key while complaining about whatever teenagers groan about. I don’t know, I’m 21 next week, I’m officially a boomer. Anyway, through that song being regularly recycled on my YouTube playlist, I got other bands recommended to me. I remember being sat in my room on my Xbox 360’s youtube app and one band in particular stood out to me. Hold up, this is about to get embarrassing.

Black Veil Brides. My heroes. The reason I picked up bass and decided to dedicate my life to music. Listening back now, it’s clearly average music with a lot of auto tune and eyeliner. But nostalgia hits like a truck. And memories of going to see them live with my mum come flooding back. Mum who was of course humouring my newest obsession, she tells me now that she was mortified when I told her I wanted to be an Emo, and rightly so, it was bad. But still, black veil brides remains to this day, my first gig. And you know what? I wouldn’t change it.

If I had not discovered BVB, along with countless other Emo bands, I would never have got into music. Before this I was a nerdy kid who believed more in science than in art. While both are obviously equally important, I didn’t see that at 12 years old. Black Veil Brides was my first musical epiphany. I’ve had many since and these are heavily documented through this blog. Thankfully the more recent ones have been less humiliating. Through Emo I discovered heavy metal, through metal I discovered grunge, through grunge I found punk, indie, alternative, ska and the many sub genres of rock n’ roll. Now I listen to everything from Motown to Metal. Punk to Pop. Extreme slamming goregrind to… okay not that last one, but you get my point. Lots of music. And I’m sure my tastes will develop and change throughout my life. But as awful as it was. Emo music is where it all began and for that I’m grateful. If you’re a young reader going through that same phase, remember, this will pass, be nicer to your mum and tell the bullies to do one.

Peace, Love and Cowbells,

Oscar

This Band Is My New Special Interest

Street Pulse Beat from industrial outfit Special interest is one of the best tracks I’ve ever heard. It’s driving beat, dirty guitars, haunting synths and Alli Logout’s chanting vocals combine to create a sound I’ve been dreaming about for about half a decade. You know it’s good when you hear and band and think “damn, why didn’t I write this?”

Special Interest hail from the legendary New Orleans, quickly gaining a reputation for their swirling din of sound in the local venues since their formation in 2015. Since then they have released two full length albums and to get us through 2020 they have provided us a mighty soundtrack for “a world gone mad”. Vocalist Alli Logout, Maria Elena, Ruth Mascelli and Nathan Cassiani make up the band and together are a force to be reckoned with. As an added touch I especially like the 70’s drum machine instead of a drummer.

Industrial music is a very hard genre to make original. It’s been around for a good four decades at this point and only has so many tricks up its sleeve. Yet Special Interest blend a variety of genres into the existing format that it becomes something entirely new. Miss Logout’s vocals are very reminiscent of punk and the riot Grrl movement. The bass line  which I believe is played by a very downtuned guitar (listen to that twang and tell me otherwise) and guitar lines in parts remind me of Idles’ more experimental moments and the synths have a dancey vibe only found in the rave clubs of the world.

Special Interest do have a penchant for the avante garde and experimental, which I do appreciate. The manic Disco III is such an example of this, and while I would love to see this live just to saw what brutality takes place in that pit, Street Pulse Beat remains my favourite as it still maintains that all important element of pop. I really hope that Special Interest continue to explore the more commercial style of song writing while sticking true to their experimental roots. They have a wall of sound that is unmatched in the scene today and do it all without being overly edgy like so many unnamed industrial acts. *cough* MSI *cough* This is truly the band I wish I could’ve started myself. They quite simply emanate cool. They make me want to dance and scream at the same time.

Peace, Love and Cowbells,

Oscar

Black and Red.

Black and Red is the brainchild and solo effort of Chris Mullins who has written, played all instruments and vocals plus designed a brave approach to promote the release by digitally releasing on bandcamp with a name your price charge and a limited-edition vinyl album which is free….FREE if you send just 50p for postage. Great guitaring and a retro feel to when guitar bands ruled, it’s all there in Black and Red.

Peace, Love and Cowbells,

Bassey

https://blackandred.bandcamp.com/album/black-and-red

Kombat!

Take It Or Leave It is the third single released by Nottingham duo Kombat and by far their best so far. Strongly influenced by the British indie scene this is a two minute thirty second song that will be liked by the Oasis and Arctic Monkeys fans and these guys have the swagger to aim that high. Anish Denoon and Martin Valtchanov have self-released, produced, mixed and mastered this single and it’s a must listen.
Bassey
https://www.facebook.com/kombatrocks/

Spaced Out Desert Rock At Its Finest: Television Villain

Like many of us at the moment, the current state of the world has been getting to me and as a result I’ve not felt the motivation to write reviews or even listen to music. I’ve been promising to write this for a few weeks now so I figure it’s finally time to get myself out of this funk and get some work done. And what better band to bring us back to the light than Television Villain. They feature a variety of styles across their discography but the single I want to highlight as their best is the atmospheric stoner rock track “Technicolour”.

Technicolour begins with some unusual world percussion reverberating around your mind, and just as you are about to get used to it, a brilliant slide guitar and backing vocal combination obliterate your senses. Yet the underlying bass and drum groove keep it all together. The haunting, eerie vocals sounding like the forbidden love child of Chris Cornell and Kurt Cobain. The swirling guitars drop in and out through the multiple verses and choruses, coming to a manic crescendo by the end of the track. Each instrument is doing exactly what they need to do at any given moment. It’s very difficult to write decent original rock music these days. Rock has been around since the fifties and many thousands of songs have been written in that time. It is now down to the sheer brilliance of songwriters to keep rock alive. What Television Villain have done here is nothing short of remarkable.

This combination of late sixties progressive rock and heavy nineties grunge has been done before. But very few bands have pulled it off with such style. Ironically, Television Villain seem more to me heroes than villains. For who but heroes still devote themselves to the art of rock and roll in a world that does not want them anymore? Television Villain wear their alienation like a badge and you can feel it in the atmosphere of tracks like Technicolour. I insist that anyone who shares my deep love of music to check these guys out.

Peace, Love and Cowbells,

Oscar

Synth Pop In 2020? Centre Excuse.

Centre Excuse. It occurs to me I’ve never mentioned them in the 18 months I’ve been running Needs More Cowbell. I’ve been following this band with increasing interest over the past three or four years. I found them purely by chance while scrolling through YouTube and for a seventeen-year-old who was just starting to get his feet wet in the grand world of post punk and synth pop they were a huge deal for me. When I heard that they were finally coming out with an album I got in touch with the boys and they’ve just now sent me an early copy of the record, which I am very grateful for. It surprised me to find out that Centre Excuse recognised me from the quiet support I’d been giving them over the years and it properly put me in a good mood. It just goes to show that these guys pay attention to their fanbase. Teddy and Alex are back after a decade of work with their debut record: Favourite Soul. And let me tell you, it’s a good one.

With a whopping fourteen songs, Centre Excuse bring together all the songs they’ve released over the past few years, along with a good amount of brand-new material. Stand outs from the record are the melancholy Killing Me and the title track itself. As much as I would enjoy covering every song on the album, I’m already nearly halfway through my self-imposed word limit so I’m going to have to keep it brief. However, at the end I will offer a brief overview of my thoughts on the rest of the album. Let’s start with Favourite Soul. It is a wonderfully catchy tune with an eerie sense about it for the verses, thanks largely to Teddy’s haunting vocals and the gothic guitar work. The track truly kicks into gear for the choruses. I’m normally terrified to sing out loud as I’m an awful singer, but Favourite soul had me screeching at the top of my lungs and clapping along to the beat. It being nearly ten o’clock my brother rang me and told me to shut up – sorry Hec.

Killing Me on the other hand, while still beautiful is a bit darker with its minor key, heavy synth work. There are a lot of layers to this track and it’s these layers which make it one of the best cuts on the record. The driving sequenced bass synth, heavy drums contrast powerfully with the more melodic lead lines. Once again Teddy takes it to another level. His vocals are on par with all the eighties old school synthpop and goth tunes that Centre Excuse clearly takes influence from. Yet despite being technically derivative from all those bands, Centre Excuse provide new ideas, brilliant song writing and awesome musicianship on this flagship record.

I’m getting really close to the limit now so I will say just this to finish this review off. This is an amazing record. A culmination of ten years of hard work that every other band should look at and take influence from. I do feel that in places things don’t flow as well as they should and the album can be a little too much to take in at times. But these are only minor nit-picks. I implore my readers to check out Centre Excuse and I wish Teddy and Alex all the success in the world.

Peace, Love and Cowbells,

Oscar

You Won’t Believe Your Eyeball?

Eyeball originate from Raleigh, North Carolina USA and consist of Trey McLamb-drums/synth/vox, Myriam Martian-guitars/art-noise/vox, Brian Oaksford-bass/guitars/vox, Aaron Albrecht-synth/vox. Formed in 2015 these four musicians have developed a psychedelic wall of sound that explores the possibilities of synth and effects with no limits. They give us their third release Spectromania, a digital 7” single with the tracks ‘Visions Of A Moment Made’ and ‘Delirium’

‘Visions Of A Moment Made’ at just over 7 minutes long is an epic sound that builds layer upon layer of synth/guitar sounds and supported by a solid rhythm foundation. You’ve gotta love the eerie riffs throughout the track that help to keep you feeling uncomfortable with the journey these guys take you on. I love the patience the band shows in developing this track to epic psychedelic heights and then falling away at the end to leave you feeling exhausted. And then… “Delirium” kicks in and wastes no time with frenetic drumming and heavy riffs so that they can cram everything in the 2 minute 55 second track. Nervous and frantic at all times, this is a great song and is over to soon…and I’m wanting more. Give Eyeball a listen and then another listen…

Peace, Love and Cowbells,

Bassey

https://eyeball-band.com/album/1361725/spectromania