Category Archives: record reviews

KEEL HER – WITH KINDNESS: LP REVIEW by TONY ROUNCE

Keel Her is Winchester’s Rose Keeler-Schaffeler, and “With Kindness” is a long overdue, full follow-up to her eponymously titled debut album.  She hasn’t been inactive since then, with releases of collections of demos finding their way from her London home base to Bandcamp on a fairly regular basis. But with the assistance of former Charlatan Tim Burgess’ O Genesis label, this is her first proper album in over four years and very nice (and more than welcome) it is too.

Rose’s voice is pure and clear, and recalls the wistful melancholy of some of the UK’s better singers of the past half century, including two former front women of Fairport Convention in Judy Dyble and the late Sandy Denny.  I might be on my own with this, but I can also hear some vocal similarity with a less likely kindred DIY spirit in the wonderful Lorraine Bowen, particularly on some of the more romantic and melodic offerings like ‘Aloof’ and the opening ‘No Control’.

There are 17 tracks on “With Kindness”, many of them clocking in at little more than a minute to 90 seconds which is a guarantee that none outstays its welcome.  Nothing here really gets much above midtempo, and that works very much in its favour as a complete concept. It’s pretty much all Rose’s own work, apart from the drumming, and was over a year in the writing and recording. There are a few strategically placed, lightly psychedelic instrumentals such as ‘The Astral Plane’ and ‘Life Admin’, but it’s the vocal tracks that immediately beg for and receive your attention – pretty and frequently poignant little glimpses into Keel Her’s persona, performed in a way that makes the listener feel as though she or he is eavesdropping on a private and personal musical moment in the singer-songwriter’s life.  As a late great Small Face precisely put it more than half a century ago, it’s all too beautiful…

Another commendably warm and wonderful listening experience, “With Kindness” is the kind of album you can plop in your CD player on a hot day, open your windows and allow to envelop your neighbourhood with its warmth and intimacy.  If you get a knock on your door from a neighbour, it’s more likely to be to ask what you’re playing than to request that you turn it down or off… 

Although there’s a physical release in the works, you can currently hear the whole thing up on Bandcamp (and of course buy it as a download if you’re not a CD person).  And if you can make it, there’s a gig celebrating the official launch for the album on Saturday July 6th at  New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, N4 (nearest trains either Harringay or Stamford Hill)


Find Keel Her on Bandcamp

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MAVIS STAPLES: WE GET BY – LP REVIEW

Review by Tony Rounce

We’re a little late in bringing this to your attention, as it’s been out since the end of May – but it would be a shame not to highlight one of the best female-fronted albums of 2019.

Mavis Staples made her first recordings in 1953 with the Staple Singers. She was 13 years old, and had already been fronting her family group for two years by that time. Although not a Loud Woman in the ‘current’ sense, Mavis’ was always a voice that spoke up – and spoke out – for equality among humanity, and that’s surely a message for the ages if ever there was one.

The Staple Singers were at the peak of their commercial popularity in the first half of the 1970s. It would be a lie to say that Mavis’ voice has not lost a little of its power in recent years.  Heck, she’s 80 years old. Nobody in the world sounds as good at 80 as they did at 35.  She’s still unmistakably Mavis. That is what matters above all and if you can’t deal with that, you’re probably not reading this anyway.

‘We Get By’ is Mavis’ 14th solo album since 1969. Produced by the estimable Ben Harper (who joins her in duet on the title track) it’s her best so far of the 21st century. The 11 tracks, all written or co-written by Harper, suit Mavis’ octogenarian voice to a T, and sensibly allow her to exhibit maximum soulfulness without taxing her upper range unduly.

Mavis and producer-writer Ben Harper

Her three accompanists are also outstanding, particularly Rick Holmstrom whose heavily reverb’ed guitar work is modelled on that of Mavis’ late father Pops, and is never less than outstanding – particularly on the album’s most gospelly track ‘Sometime’ which also highlights the excellent backing vocals of C C White, Laura Mace and Donny Gerard, a super set of substitutes for Mavis’ now sadly deceased father and sisters.  Holmstrom also excels on the slower, reflective ‘Never Needed Anyone’ and ‘Heavy On My Mind’, on which he is Mavis’ sole accompanist.

Pick tracks? Besides those already mentioned, if you are not profoundly moved by the quiet intensity of ‘Hard To Leave’ – quite one of the saddest and loveliest songs I’ve heard in a long time – I politely suggest that you may need a personal emotional review. But really, it’s one of those albums that you’ll be able to listen to from start to finish without reaching for the ‘skip’ button. It’s  on Bandcamp anyway, so why not taste and try before you “Get By”?…

Mavis just appeared at Glastonbury. She’s also playing the Roundhouse in London on July 4th as part of the Innervisions Festival and is in Bath on July 2nd, Paris at La Cigale on July 5th and in Lyon on July 6th.  “We Get By” is available digitally via Bandcamp or as a physical CD or vinyl LP from all the usual online sources.

Personal Best: What You At – album launch 14 June

The soundtrack to my day today is Personal Best’s hot AF second album, ‘What You At’ – and it can be yours too from this Friday! Jam-packed with deliciously retro indie-pop bangers and punked queer rock love songs, the record comes with the wonderful tagline ‘Classic Rock for Tragic Lesbians’. Out Friday 14 and available to pre-order now from Dovetown Records and Sheer Luck Records in the US.

Singer/songwriter/guitarist Kate delivers powerfully poignant, often bittersweet, totally endearing lyrics over giant guitar riffs, taking the tropes of “classic rock”, aka “Dad rock”, re-appropriated for womankind and delivered in a shower of glitter. See ‘Near to the Wild Heart’, which deserves a medal for the, I assume, deliberately over-stretched outro; an increasingly complex array of instruments taking turns to solo. Actual lolled when a trumpet appeared from nowhere – I hope that was the intended response!

Stand-out tracks for me were ‘You Don’t Call Me Baby Anymore’, which instantly had me singing along to the chorus and dancing round the kitchen at LOUD WOMEN HQ. And title track ‘What You At’ is a triumph; I don’t often use the word ‘anthemic’ as a compliment, but seriously, if Personal Best don’t get to perform this queer rock anthem on an enormous stage some day there’s no justice in the world.

In the meantime, make sure to catch them on any size stage they play! Can’t wait to hear this live, this Saturday, when the band launch the album with a headline show at London’s The Victoria. Support comes from The Spares (the spin-off of our faves Spare Rib) and our own mummycore punk dinnerladies, I, Doris. Good times guaranteed. Facebook event deets here.

Stay tuned too for more exciting news about Personal Best relating to a festival close to our hearts … wink wink etc. Announcement coming this weekend!

Find Personal Best on facebook and bandcamp

ARXX : IRON LUNG – SINGLE OF THE WEEK

Review by Tony Rounce

In the year-and-a-bit that the current line-up of Brighton duo ARXX has been together, Hannah Pidduck and Clara Townsend have forged a unit of two that plays with the impact of ten, and evolved from highly impressive to completely unassailable as a musical force. There are few bands out there to match them at the moment and – with apologies to all other groups whose work I admire – none to beat them.

Singer-guitarist Hannah has written several fine songs recently that have quickly and comfortably integrated into the ARXX setlist. They haven’t actually released any new music since their superb 2018 ‘Daughters Of Daughters’ EP, however, so any new recording activity is more than welcome. The current ARXX set closer ‘Iron Lung’ is the first of two brand new singles that the duo plans to unleash over the next few months.  It’s one of Hannah’s strongest lyrical offerings to date, a song of relationship disintegration built on a monumentally tough stop-time funk-rock riff that will stay in your mind long after the song’s 3 minutes and 1 second are up.  Slightly slower on record than it is when played live, but still full of the unbridled aggression that has quickly made it a new favourite among us ARXX devotees. 

The singular use of the ‘F’ word may unfortunately work against it at radio, but all grown up people will recognise it as being a crucial part of Hannah’s by turns simmering and scalding performance.  While her writing is often downbeat, her passionate, committed vocals are fully accessible and make hers one of the finest rock voices since Ann Wilson of the group Heart first came to prominence in the 70s.  Of course ARXX is not a one-woman show, and drummer Clara is, for my money, the best kit basher out there today, bar none.  There isn’t anyone better equipped to drive Hannah’s words and music. Any and every band would be thrilled to have Clara Townsend anchoring their sound.

There will be more ARXX gigs coming up soon, including The Engine Rooms in London on July 27th and  a most welcome appearance at this September’s LOUD WOMEN Fest. If you have not seen Hannah and Clara before, theirs is a set you will not want to miss. And if you have – well,  you won’t need me to tell you that, will you?

‘Iron Lung’ is available now, via all your favourite streaming sources.

All ARXX info on their website

Jelly Cleaver: The Dream Jazz Manifesto – LP review

Review by Cassie Fox and Molly Rider

Jelly Cleaver is a firm favourite here at LOUD WOMEN HQ. An absurdly talented musician and songwriter, she’s also got lovability in spades – she’s friendly and self-effacing despite being A-list beautiful and having the voice of an angel (an angel who can also do loads of really clever stuff with a guitar). And she’s got bags of proper punkrock scene integrity – you’re as likely to see her working the door of a LOUD WOMEN gig as playing on stage*. But Jelly’s music isn’t punkrock, per se. Hold on to your hats: Jelly plays jazz.

There, I said it. Jelly plays jazz, and I really, really like it.

My simple punkrock ears aren’t accustomed to such complex sounds, so I asked music student and jazz musician Molly Rider to give me her opinion of the album, and she said:

This album brings out the personal and political surroundings in every listener with drama and flair. The clever choices made create comfortable but engrossing tracks with full sounds and talent interweaved throughout. Its definitely one to give a listen if you’re a bit wary of the jazz scene – not too intense and never boring!”

Molly Rider

A few stand-out tracks for me …

‘Ego’ crunches through a couple of minutes of rock guitar, before shimmering through the jazz curtain to deliver the by now more familiar sequences of complex melody, vocal harmony, and a squillion layers of instruments.

‘Angela’ appears through a 1970s haze of rhodes organ, muted brass and wahwah guitar, before crashing us up-to-date with a big fat distorted guitar solo.

With ‘Yarls Wood’ Jelly shows her feminist activist credentials, with an accompanying video of her own footage taken at protests at the racist UK detention centre.

The album has been a huge labour of love for Jelly, and it shows. She’s collaborated with a whole heap of musicians on the London jazz scene, met via Tomorrow’s Warriors, including Roella Oloro, Isobella Burnam, Loucin Moskofian, Lorenz OkenoOsengor and Kaidi Akinnibi. It also features spoken word from activists like Renny (Renny’s Poem) who was a hunger striker at Yarl’s Wood detention centre.

You can see Jelly Cleaver live on 10 July at the launch of our new Unplugged night at the Old Queen’s Head!

Follow Jelly Cleaver on web Facebook Spotify Video

La Neve: interview on the launch of Maximum Wage – hot AF new music

La Neve – photo by Jen Dessinger

And now for something completely different!

La Neve is the drag/queer performance dance music project of Joey DeFrancesco, guitarist and co-lead songwriter in one of LOUD WOMEN’s favourite ever bands in the world ever, Downtown Boys. Smoking hot new single ‘Maximum Wage’ is out now and sonically it’s a very different beast to the crashing punk maelstrom of the ‘Boys – a driving digital disco beat with retro synth flourishes that have you reaching for the joystick. The pure punk delivery and themes of socialist insurrection are lovingly familiar though. Hell yeah, wage ceiling now!

The track is the first from La Neve’s debut album, which is coming out this summer. La Neve was good enough to chat to our Cassie Fox about it …

How did La Neve come about?

La Neve - photo by Jen Dessinger
La Neve – photo by Jen Dessinger

La Neve started a few years ago when I started doing drag shows with original music at Spark City, the old venue we used to run in Providence. I had done more conventional drag performance when I was younger, but getting back into it I wanted to do something different and sort of use it as one component in a larger dance music project. It’s an important identity for me to be able to express. I write and produce all the music myself, but sometimes live our saxophone player Joe DeGeorge will join me, and on some upcoming shows I’ll have live drumming from Karna of The Kominas. The goal is to make it more of a full band live, because that’s more fun than just playing with a computer. 

What in particular sparked this song? 

I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but you sometimes hear the statement, “Every billionaire is a policy failure.”  In Downtown Boys, we’ve written a few songs in the past that are just straight up policies, such as “100% Tax,” and I like the idea of a song that can be good aesthetically but also directly propagandize a specific agenda. Extreme wealth inequality – the concentration of such unbelievable amounts of capital in the top percent – has already so thoroughly destroyed our societies and our environment. We need serious, radical new systems to redistribute that wealth. These billionaires are not romantic renegades to be idolized; they are the super villains, true scum who aim to rule over everyone, and we need to take the threat seriously. “Maximum Wage” means cutting off anyone from having that much wealth and power. 

What kind of reaction have you had so far to the track?

Definitely lots of support from friends on getting new stuff out there, but otherwise hard to tell. This is still a relatively new project, and the music’s maybe hard to classify, so I’m trying to find who’s into it. I’ll be playing some shows over the next couple months, bringing what I think is a fun live show on the road, so I hope to convince more people what it’s all about. 

Looking forward to hearing the album – what can we expect?

The next record is a lot more dance oriented than my previous EP, and has higher quality songs and recordings, so I’m excited to present a truer vision of what this project is supposed to be about. I like to dance, and I like dance music and culture, and I like political art, and I like punk, and I hope in the end the record’s a successful blend of all those elements. 

La Neve is clearly different kind of sound to Downtown Boys, as you say with lyrical themes in the same direction. Has electronic music always been a passion for you, more so than punk/guitar music would you say? Or do you love both equally? 

I first came to music via guitar music, but for many years I’ve gotten more and more into electronic and dance music. I think you can hear that on the last Downtown Boys record as well, as the music I was writing started incorporating more synthesizers and dance grooves. Some people want to imagine punk as the only politicized music, but from the beginning techno, house, etc., all had strong political underpinnings, and came out of vibrant underground DIY cultures, largely amongst black musicians. I love all these musics and I hope I can integrate them in an effective way. 

Downtown Boys – 100% Inheritance Tax

I must also ask as a huge DBs fangirl … we featured the fab Gauche last week, and seeing the awesome La Neve sproinging into action this week – what does this mean for the DBs?? Say it ain’t the end …

The Gauche record is so great. It’s a funny coincidence we’re putting these out so close together. And our saxophone player Joe DeGeorge also just announced a new record from his band, Harry and the Potters. But then Downtown Boys is also leaving for tour in about a week. There’s a lot going on! The band has been slowing down a bit lately after going really hard for several years. We’re still playing, but in different geographies right now, so I really don’t know what’s next, but we never knew what was next at any point. 

What’s next for La Neve – album tour maybe? Outside the US? (London is so ready for La Neve btw, come play!)

Yes once the album’s out I’ll be going everywhere! La Neve is really the more highly realized version of myself, and it’s incredibly exciting to get to do the performance and exist as that person in new spaces. I want to keep building out the live show and I hope to be in London as soon as I possibly can.


Follow La Neve on Facebook | Bandcamp |Twitter | Instagram

The Coathangers – live review

The Coathangers live at ‘The Latest Bar’, Brighton 24 April 2019. Review by Tony Rounce

It’s been a long time since the Coathangers came together in Atlanta, Georgia – 12 years, to be exact. In that time they have maintained unchanging membership – discounting the loss of keyboard player Candice Jones in 2013, at which point they became a trio.  And it’s as a trio that they have returned to wreak powerful musical havoc on the UK, for an overdue and very welcome series of shows all over the country.

If you don’t know the Coathangers’ music, it’s certainly time you got to know.  Should you be looking for comparisons (loath as I am to make them) I would say maybe the Runaways meet Kate Nash meets the Plasmatics, or thereabouts. The band is very much in its prime, and a tour-opening show at Brighton’s ‘The Latest Music Bar’ on a chilly late April evening demonstrated that, as loud women go, they are profoundly as loud as LOUD gets!

For an hour and a quarter, the Coathangers played not so much to an appreciative audience, as at it.  Song after song came in waves, a relentless attack unencumbered by superfluous sonic effects and unnecessarily lengthy solos.

This is your archetypal power trio, with the emphasis entirely on ‘power’.  Very tall drummer Stephanie Luke/Rusty Coathanger doesn’t so much play as punish her kit, almost stabbing its skins with her sticks at times. Luke’s snarling ‘Lemmy-with-laryngitis’ vocal style and her perpetually whirling and twirling blonde hair as she knocks seven shades of you-know-what out of her kit makes her presence at the back of the stage impossible to ignore. This visually compelling woman could play with her back to you, and you would still find it hard to focus your attention away from her. She’s flanked on either side by equally tall guitarist-singer Julia Kugel-Montoya/Crook Kid Coathanger, possessor of a choppy, compelling playing style and a voice that alternates between winsome teen queen and howling banshee, and quietly confident pocket rocket Meredith Franco/Minnie Coathanger on bass, who offsets the larger-than-life stage presence of her two pals.

Unfortunately someone else got to the set list before I did, so I can’t present you with detailed analysis of what was played and in what order – but, from memory and a quick skim through the CD prior to writing this, the 20-plus song set (with encores!) included just about and probably all of their recently released seventh album The Devil You Know plus a generous helping of their extensive back catalogue – all performed at beyond-maximum volume, and with unrelenting cheerful aggression. Between-song chatter was kept to a minimum in order to cram as much music in as possible.  Given that we don’t get to see the Coathangers every week, it was a social nicety worth sacrificing.

There was a point, roughly halfway through the set, when the trio played a blistering ‘F*** The NRA’ off the new album to a tumultuous response – and suddenly everything seemed to shift up a gear or two, and become even more exciting than it already was. As the set moved towards its conclusion the three women began a round of musical chairs with first Luke strapping on Kugel-Montoya’s guitar and taking over Blanco’s mic while K-M manned the drumkit and sang. She reclaimed her guitar and Bianco moved behind the drums for yet more outrageously loud fun and frolic.   The evening ended with a well-lubricated K-M (who had been keeping her voice oiled with a by-then-fairly empty bottle of Jack Daniel’s) audaciously asking if anyone had any marijuana they would like to share with her (I would like to think she found a volunteer…) and a rapid disappearance into the dressing room that nobody really was ready to see. They had worked hard for their money.  I doubt if anyone present felt short changed, especially when the undercard also included never less than brilliant local heroes, ARXX.

The Coathangers are touring the EU this month. By the time you read it they will likely as not be on the continent, which means you may well have missed them.  If you can’t catch this phenomenal band this time, do yourself a favour – go and buy/stream the new album and as much of their catalogue as you can find, and learn all the songs in readiness for their next tour.

You’ll be sorry if you don’t.

Find The Coathangers on Facebook | web