Tag Archives: debut

La Coka Nostra – A Brand You Can Trust

La Coka Nostra – A Brand You Can Trust (Uncle Howie)

la coka nostra

For all its claims at independent non-conformity, for all the posturing that screams authenticity and for all the turns of phrase that rhyme one too many words in succession to engender dazzlement, A Brand You Can Trust feels lightly peppered with easiness. Rather than actively seek to document events, or even to tell stories, this Hollywood mop-up of the likes of Ill Bill, Slaine and even DJ Lethal from House Of Pain instead gives the impression of lives lived, and philosophise the album away. It’s clear that the confusion and lack of immediate clarity automatically discounts this debut as totally loveable – few bonds can be made between artist and listener if either party is unsure what the other’s reaction will be.

There are requisite plumps for the Wu Tang school of alienation and violence, but little of the wit. The funereal Cousin Of Death has heavy-handed ‘rapper’s sorrow’ liberally soaking it – the saccharine piano and guitar interplays are winsome but dead, and the raps themselves attempt rumination on the existential problems of getting fucking shot, but end up merely cataloguing bad experiences and paraphrasing Neil Young. Cloudy over-emotion and faux-bad-assery don’t scare or fool anyone. This collective may wander the mean streets, but they certainly don’t go looking for trouble in the way the genre used to.

The creeping suspicion that commercial shortcuts might be being taken to keep it listener-friendly does the record no favours either. Hardcore Chemical Soldier’s Story, which features a throaty contribution from Sick Jacken, affirms La Coka Nostra’s inability to focus, sloganeering and desperately trying to find the World’s Largest Hook in the process. Apparently this story is “too graphic for you born-again faggots”, and totally dislocates itself from any kind of enjoyable listen. No matter how fiercely this record’s chief influences might have stated their cases, they at least involved the audience and challenged them. The strange appearance of Snoop Dogg on Bang Bang goes some way to summing up A Brand You Can Trust – with sales in the crosshairs and little to bring to the table, save for odd moments of inspiration, the listener is left with little to work with, tall tales or not.

This comes out in early July or something. Enjoy some bravado and not much original thought here.

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We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls

We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls (Fatcat)

we were promised jetpacks - these four walls

It’s obligatory now to comment on the refurbished and revitalised state of Scottish independent music (has it been unhealthy at any point over the last twenty or so years?), and it’s into these encouraging climes that bands like We Were Promised Jetpacks weather their inception. For many, the obvious reference point will be fellow Scots and excellent miserablists Frightened Rabbit, sharing both a musical aesthetic and much lyrical angst, presumably concerned with romance. These similarities aside (though they can’t be ignored, such is their magnitude), the charms of These Four Walls is massive. 

Clanging in arrival, opener It’s Thunder And It’s Lightning is admirably taut and governed by one massive release of tension just after the mid-point. Repeated shouts of “your body was black and blue” and gentle patterings of snare rolls and hushed guitars are somewhat mismatched – one gets the impression that Adam Thompson’s vocals got a little more excited than they perhaps should have, and also that when the release finally arrives along with the smashing of the ensemble the song should wrap reasonably quickly after that. We’re shown a little too much of the ensuing bluster, reducing the contrast of its glorious first statement. Indeed, WWPJ clearly are possessive of the skills necessary to engender mass emotional response, but occasionally stumble over their readiness to use them.

Later, they manage to perfect the formula on the excellent Roll Up Your Sleeves. Tense guitars of narrow interval are spinily plucked while Thompson manages to reign himself in for the right moments. The peaks and troughs in intensity are quicker to come and go and, just when it seems that there might be nowhere else to go, the bass plops to the floor and high register guitars usher in a new statement without missing a beat. It’s beautifully constructed, alike enough to its previous sound not to sound like two ideas rammed together, and a blissful clatter is ended with dignity and poise. It’s not a single success, either, with the likes of single Quiet Little Voices is an effective retread and tempo-fuck of Interpol’s early material, while closer An Almighty Thud regains the intimacy, the closeness and the sensitivity missing from much of the record.

It would be wrong to say that WWPJ are bolstering the state of Scottish music, because it needs no bolstering, but it would be wronger to say that they’re just another face amongst it. With These Four Walls, they’ve managed to stumble through ragged terrain and, for the most part, hold onto their talents and use them well. Emotionally, it’s not as engaging, savage and forthright as Frightened Rabbit, but sonically they are gaining momentum and are clearly steeled for progression. Album number two should streamline their gestures and make them brilliant.

This is out TODAY! And there’s another single soon or something. More here.

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The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – S/T

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – S/T (Fortuna POP!)

the pains of being pure at heart

So let’s summarise. Your band sounds like a million other bands, and not just because of the feel if it like so many cack-hand writers care to approximate, but because actual, practical, musical reasons. Your boy-girl vocals are octave spaced and reasonably low in the mix, your guitars are overdriven to the point of near-oblivion, and your songs are about boys and girls messing things up and annoying each other and growing up and stuff. A list of similar bands is useless at this point, click on any other review of this self-titled debut and you’ll find what you’re after.

What’s different about The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart? All these tedious soundalike issues exist, but what of the band allows us to ignore them? Innate sing-along charm, for one. Fucking sensible and functional songs, for another. Their sound oozes an ease and elegance that can only come with unstudied glory and their considerable inexperience. Take single Come Saturday. It’s just the simplest song you could write, but the band’s brilliant energy turns it into a shining, bold and attractive collection of well-balanced melodies and louche heartbreak. Gentle tweaks to the formula such as ebullient overdrive and the sudden emergence of fuzzy bass in the second verse ensure total freshness for the duration, but it’s the verve you’ll remember more than anything else.

Elsewhere, there are any number of simple pleasures that do the exact same thing. The staccato homophony of high register guitar chords and thumping toms on Young Adult Friction are utter exhilaration, the gentleness of the guitar strokes on the righteous This Love Is Fucking Right!, there’s plenty to rave about. While the buoyancy and the energy doesn’t extend to every single second (how could it?), The Pains prove that their youth and simultaneous knowledge of their ancestry are enough to make the most straight-forward and digestible of pop records. Not a note is wasted, not a tune possessive of more ennui than it should be milked for. Pure economy. Perhaps the only worry is that a second album will jade them, rob them of their spirit, but that’s not for now.

So your band, then. It sounds like a million other bands. But so too do those million other bands. Count yourselves among their ranks and continue on.

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart is released on February 9th – more information here! You can read this review here at The Quietus, too.

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