Review: The Dropper’s Neck – Second Coming

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Drawing comparisons to the Stooges and Queens Of The Stone Age, Essex-born quintet The Dropper’s Neck have delivered their debut record, Second Coming. Recorded with Paul Tipler, who has Placebo, Idlewild and Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster on his rap sheet, it hits the streets firmly on the 29th of July.

Blessed with a guitar sound like rusty saws and a bass made of crumbling masonry, Second Coming’s title track kicks off with its legs apart, sweating and grunting away. Touchstones like early Danzig and eternal goth-rodders the 69 Eyes bury themselves deeply into the material, emerging from the mire as a whole entity. The spoken word section, however, is agonising, and genuinely difficult to listen to for it’s sheer awkwardness. No Kerouac diatribes here, just timid, counted-in vocals.

An early highlight comes in the shape of recent video “Darker Waters”, which has a truly solid chorus, the band battering away quite happily. The old-school garage vibe, highlighted so extensively in their online blurb and press, is blended with from-the-gutter stargazing, creating a halfway-house of adroit production and scuzzy, foaming guitar.

However, all the urgency in the world can’t detract from the vocals and appalling, inarticulate lyrics. Lloyd Matthews is a car-crash amalgam of Danzig, Homme and Ricky Wilson, but with screaming; screaming which, on “Sir Sibilance”, is both utterly shocking and woeful. “My Lime Tree‘s” ‘that’ll-do’ lyricism had me reaching for the bleach, in the hope that drinking it through my eyes would improve the words somehow.

There are a few tracks on this record that deserve a listen;  the aforementioned “Darker WatersI Am The Law” and closing track “Save Me From Myself” are full of merit, but in order to get to them the listener has to wade through a great deal of extremely samey rock. The dark, dangerous spirit made so much of by the rest of the world refuses to present itself, though perhaps this was due to me watching the bands’ almost motionless live footage first, and seeing those who had made the record standing around nonchalantly while their awesome tones punish the audience.

Taking the record as a whole, Second Coming sounds like a band one record away from being good. Even including some Shakespeare( ‘To sleep, perchance to dream’), The Dropper’s Neck just aren’t gelling properly, and despite that awesome guitar sound(and some on-the-edge soloing), they stop short of the volatile, swivel-eyed rawk they portend to be. Having only existed since 2011, more time is required to get the most from this cocktail.

Alright, but with plenty of room to improve.

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Review: Tammy King – Higher Paradise

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. http://www.fortitudemagazine.co.uk.
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Recorded at Wolverhampton university, Higher Paradise is the debut solo EP by Tammy King. The 21 year old has recently been seen plying her trade on the X Factor tour and supporting agit-pop-amazon P!nk, following a bout of sessioneering. The Warwickshire native has a number of songs on YouTube,  showing her skill at singing covers.

More importantly, this era of her development shows her moving away from being a session/sideperson towards being an artist in her own right, something that has evidently been her focus since day one. A fairly bare-bones affair, with King accompanying herself for the most part, Higher Paradise contains 4 original compositions, two with a full band.

First things first-King has a stand-up voice. Lots of control and dexterity, and a fearlessness to go for the big intervals. Occasionally the guitar work falls short, as evidenced on the KT Tunstall-ish ‘You Can’t Take Me Alive’. The production is extremely uneven, as though it was simply recorded and not mixed. In truth, an artist who has plenty of studio and live experience shouldn’t have let this through, and the conveyed feeling is one of naivety and slapdashery.

‘Living In Disguise’ is a significantly improved showcase of Kings’ ability. Melodically more astute and aware, better balanced, and despite the low-rent lyricism, the verses are slow-burning and tense; less is definitely more in this case. As ‘Fossils’ stumbles into view, the slack-as-a-bag-of-ties playing starts to rear it’s head again. The backing track carries aBeverley-Knight-unplugged vibe, though the vocals sound like they were recorded in a different studio with other people.

Final track ‘Scent On Your Skin’ weighs in with slide guitar, tenderly muted country drums, and a well-judged vocal performance from King. Four songs of this calibre would have been great-King sounds much more comfortable and personable in this style than reaching awkwardly for second hand gospelisms.

There is absolutely no question that King has a serious voice, capable of a great deal, but is hamstrung in this instance by an unforgivably incompetent production and some disappointing musicianship. The whole recording has a hesitant air, which may stem from first-time jitters about her own material. There’s an abundance of natural skill and a proper set of lungs to build on here, but Tammy needs to decide who she is.

Watch for future changes, as there’s a warm, gentle voice underneath these songs.

Review: Backhand Saloon – Creature

Originally published by Fortitude Magazine. www. fortitudemagazine.co.uk.

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Recorded during a period of some upheaval and ascendancy, Backhand Saloon’s second release takes the template laid down by Crooks & Curses and forces it through a fine mesh screen. The quintet’s southern-flecked hardcore has evolved into a more formidable creation.

Creature is a bolder, more expansive record than its predecessor, setting the band up for a more aggressive, powerful ride. Cassiopeia blurts into life with singer Harry’s declaration “In the beginning, there was nothing”. Far from a rehash of old glory, this is manly step forward.

As the record presses on, it becomes clear that there are two Backhands at work; the more delicate side(Thorns, most of Creature, the opening bars of Prometheus), new to this record, and the rough, all savage beatdowns and roaring. These two entities exist side by side on Creature, with the bands ability to inject tenderness and into their brick-hard riff work showing a maturity uncommon in many hardcore bands.

In many ways Creature is more of a suite than an EP; each track stands alone perfectly, but the band’s evolving songcraft is as clear as open water. Mora and Prometheus are crushing, the band trying to power out of the speakers with force alone. Taken as a snapshot in time, Backhand sound tense but determined, the youthful joie de vivre of Crooks & Cursesreplaced by the grown up, self-aware beast of Creature. Taking the title track through to the end of Prometheus alone would have made a great EP, but having Cassiopeia as a opener shows how far they’ve come. 

At the end of all this is Acid Fang, which sounds great live, but on record sounds like an afterthought; having the record end with Mora would have been a true cliffhanger. Backhand have a well-deserved live reputation, and as they are currently out on tour this can only improve. Having released the single Hollow Heart with their new lineup, the band has tightened, grown more aggressive, more confident.

This is a good record by a good band, who are evolving into a great band. The next record should be a genuine game-changer, and I await it with baited breath. Ace.

Prophets Of Rage – Prophets Of Rage (Fortitude Magazine)

prophets-of-rage-new-album-debut-2017-1024x1024.png   5/10. It drove me insane.

Here’s the skinny with this. You want to love this album. It seems like a foregone conclusion that because it’s, like, Rage and stuff, that it must be good. Imagine, if you can, that the Prophets are a new band, not one with a legacy taking in Audioslave, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, Soundgarden and Rage Against The Machine.

Imagine, then, hearing Radical Eyes as the opening number; swaggering into view like a pissed-up relative, this ponderous, insipid drudge would have been acceptable at the album’s mid-point, but to kick off with it is not good enough. Unfuck The World¸ with its idiotic chorus, ultra-American anti-American-ness and festival-strafing immediacy, would have been a better pick. Two tracks in and I’m shuddering with worry, but when Legalize Me begins, I draw breath; this sounds fresh and pretty decent, but only in the context of the two wooden wrecks that have just gone past. The lyrics are absolutely rotten-the sort of toss your pious room-mate might come up with in 2nd year. Knuckles white with anticipation, I sit there fizzing away as Chuck and B-Real take turns emptying their bowels onto all of the language.

Still, I pray, that the potential of this may come to fruition. After all, how can all the components be so right and yet so wrong? The Counteroffensive is a genuinely embarrassing corn-fed turkey of an interlude which isn’t remotely necessary, leading as it does to the lyrical hope-crippling that is Hail To The Chief. The structure beneath the vocals is sound enough, somewhere between Rage and Audioslave. Six tracks in and I’m beginning to get this; these are the wrong singers for this band.

B-Real, while ideal for Cypress Hill’s Berettas-and-bongs fare, sounds like a hype man; Chuck D is the big lad here, his gruff, meaty bark a better foil for the Morello/Commerford/Wilk axis, and yet, he’s not enough vocalist for a band like this. It’s as though the two singers together can’t add up to the one singer that would have enough spit to carry the band.

The real rage this record generated was inside me. The more I pressed on, the more the pain of listening to it grew, and by the time Take Me Higher had smeared its join-the-dots cack all over my ears, I had to steel myself to get through the rest of the album. Strength In Numbers is a hard-line Rage cast-off, and while some might decry such an assertion and fly the ‘well it is Rage’ flag, let’s set the record straight-it’s not. Prophets Of Rage are presented as a fresh band, otherwise, they would still be called Rage Against The Machine.

The hardest part of all this is that this band is needed-truly they are. A band with enough pedigree to be heard with a message that’s worth listening to feels like a great thing, but for that to be a genuine success, the band itself has to deliver the songs, not piss-wet gash like Who Owns Who. If one were to remove all the lines where ‘the people take a stand’ you’d have one empty record, padded out with childish swearing and a withering lack of anger.

In the 30-odd years that I have loved music, I have never come across an album so frustrating, so maddening as this one. I should love this, I should be sitting here foaming with superlatives about its quality and trying to reign in my hyperbole, but I can’t. The message is essential, but delivered without grace or agility; the music is fine but needs different singers. Utterly infuriating.

It drove me insane.