Category Archives: record reviews

Personal Best: What You At – album review

by Tony Rounce

I made the acquaintance of Personal Best for the first time at LOUD WOMEN Fest 4.  Their set was exhilarating – a sequence of beautifully constructed instant classics that made me a fan for life before their set was more than two songs old. It also made me angry with myself that I had never seen or knowingly heard them before, despite having been to gigs at which they had been on the bill in the past couple of years.  As a penance for my oversight, I got up the following day and immediately bought every PB single, EP and album I could find.  And I have been playing their latest LP “What You At” incessantly ever since.

A four (and, on record, sometimes five) piece based in Bristol, PB are fronted by Katie Gatt, energetic and personable with a clear and powerful voice and a smile a mile wide. The twin guitar attack of Gatt and fellow loud woman El Morgan has the stellar jangle of history’s greatest pop groups, from the Searchers to the Byrds to the Hollies to the Flamin’ Groovies to the Bangles, and Gatt and Morgan’s harmonies score pretty high on the ‘to die for’ scale too. PB’s superb rhythm section of Tom Baker (Bass) and Jason Cavalier (Drums) have the engine room on lockdown and provide the perfect base for Gatt and Morgan to build their joyful noise on.

On the face of it “What You At” is an album full of radio-friendly anthems, busting out all over with immediately ear-catching riffs and choruses that stick and stay in the mind right away. It’s only when you start listening to the verses that frame those choruses that you hear how deep these songs are and the full extent of the hurt that each one lays out, a chronicle of what one or possibly more broken relationships that can only be described as heartbreaking in the extreme. 

The painted smiles of each 3-minute masterpiece here mask an ocean of tears that nobody should have to swim.  If you’ve ever felt wronged in love, your grievances will pale into insignificance next to the knife-in-the-chest double whammy of the album’s closing tracks ‘One Damn Thing’ (‘Do You Both Sleep At Night In The Bedding I Bought You?’’) and ‘Salute’ (‘You Never Will Come Through For Me’). Nobody deserves that level of hurt. (Well, other than a member of the Conservative party, perhaps…)

That said, tracks like ‘Jennifer’ and ‘Every Day She Kills Me’ are the kind of perfect pop that mainstream radio would have once fallen over itself to play, before it got hooked on the aural tedium it pumps out hour after hour in 2019. 

“Classic Rock For Tragic Lesbians” may be Personal Best’s strap line, but it’s really not necessary (or indeed obligatory) for anyone to be either or both to appreciate just what a superb album “What You At” is. It’s been out a couple of months now, but it’s never too late to catch up on something this good. 

Which is where this review came in, really…


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Ghum: The Coldest Fire – EP review

Review by Caitlin Webb

The intriguing gloom and grunge of post-punk quartet Ghum has already piqued the interest of many listeners on the scene, as well as the interest of beloved bands they’ve supported on tour like Dream Wife and Muncie Girls. With the momentum of these successes, they’ve garnered a wider audience in time for the release of their gorgeous new EP, given the poetic title The Coldest Fire.

Opening track ‘Saturn’ kicks off the record with a quicker pace than we’re used to from the band, complete with a hard-hitting beat that instantly gets toes tapping. A swirling guitar melody reflective of the song’s celestial title cuts through this texture; it’s a little angular and surprising, which brings intrigue to the track right from its introduction. It establishes its Gothic creds up front with shoegaze-y guitars and lovelorn lyrics delivered in a moody drawl. These vocals stay charismatic throughout, but are often subdued, biding their time until the climactic final chorus where they reach their peak. Fiery intensity builds as the crashing beat becomes almost overwhelming, completely transporting you into their evocative soundscape.

Next is ‘Get Up’, the leadoff single from the EP and another passionate track. Raw, wailing vocals and a title that quite literally commands your attention come together to make what we sense will be a huge crowd-pleaser at live shows. As with the previous track it knows when to hold back, crafting an aura of mystery and a formidable cool permeated by soaring guitar riffs, and when to let the anticipation pay off with a heavy punky breakdown. ‘1000 Men’ builds anticipation in much the same way, with its militaristic beat that marches on before implementing a looser beat in time for a chaotically passionate conclusion.

A little more experimental than previous records but a lot more powerful, ‘The Coldest Fire’ is an atmospheric wonderland all its own. It’s definitely worth catching this EP’s tracks and more live … their 10 October gig in the wilds of Stoke Newington has now sold out, so if you’ve not already bagged yourself that hot ticket you might like to do some forward-planning for their headline show at Electrowerkz on 30 Jan 2020!

ARXX: Y.G.W.Y.W (You Got What You Want) – single of the week

Review by Tony Rounce

It’s been a busy time for Brighton power duo ARXX. Having released no new music since 2018’s astounding ‘Daughters Of Daughters’ mini-album debut, Hannah Pidduck and Clara Townsend have generously served up two singles in the last couple of months.  Both have been thoroughly road tested in 2019, and both are highlights of ARXX’ current live set. You can catch up with the menacing, broody ‘Iron Lung’ on the new upcoming “Loud Women 2” CD compilation.  Their upcoming offering ‘ Y.G.W.Y.W. (You Got What You Want)’ reaffirms the compulsive qualities of its predecessor, and might just be their best recording yet.

Taken at a slightly slower pace than it’s performed live, YGWYW is quintessential ARXX in every respect. A big, booming salvo of sound, with straight-to-the-point lyrics and one of those ferocious ‘terrace anthem’ choruses that Hannah seems to be able to conjure up at will, it will immediately become your new favourite earworm.

Hannah’s vocals never lack in confidence or power, but the studio seems to bring the innate soulfulness in her delivery to a next level.  Not to be outdone, Clara hits every part of her drum kit – and hits is the right word, believe me – with a show of percussive power that most other drummers would be hard pressed to match, even with a second or third set of arms. 

A fantastic, full on, firmly in-your-face show of musical aggression that doesn’t so much invite your attention as demand it, YGWYW might be the last new studio music we hear from ARXX for a while as they are about to embark on an extensive European tour, which includes an appearance at LOUD WOMEN Fest 4 on 14 Sept in London, which will keep them busy elsewhere till the end of October. 

All the more reason, then, why you should play it loud, and play it often. …

‘Y.G.W.Y.W.’ is out NOW!

Mammoth Penguins: There’s No Fight We Can’t Both Win – LP review

Review by Stephen Boyle

The latest album from Cambridgeshire Indiepop band Mammoth Penguins is very reminiscent of 1990s UK indie music at its best. The album has 11 tracks and each one offers something new. Emma’s vocals drive through every song, giving each one a sense of purpose and a clear feeling of passion in every word.

Highlights for me in this album are the tracks ‘I Wanna’ and ‘Put It All On You’

If you are looking for some seriously powerful IndiePop then this album is a must buy. The album is released through Fika Recordings and is available now.

Find Mammoth Penguins at the following locations.

https://mammothpenguins.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MammothPenguins/

https://fikarecordings.com/

LOUD WOMEN Volume Two compilation album: track listing revealed

Drumroll please as we can finally announce the full 22 track listing for the hotly-anticipated LOUD WOMEN Volume Two compilation album, which will be launched 14 September 2019 at LOUD WOMEN Fest 4!

1The FranklysNot Guilty
2The TxlipsThe Lost One
3I, DorisThe Girl From Clapham
4The Menstrual CrampsNo Means No
5The CleopatrasForty
6LIINESNever Wanted This
7PussyliquorMy Body My Choice
8Pleasure VenomHive
9ARXXIron Lung
10Ms MohammedNever Again
11The Baby SealsIt’s Not About the Money, Honey
12Peach ClubNot Your Girl
13T-BitchFrighty Nighty
14Jemma Freeman & The Cosmic SomethingSomeone Else to Blame
15Jelly CleaverYarl’s Wood
16Secondhand UnderpantsThe Anthem
17GaptoothPost-Patriarchy Disco
18Vaginas, What Else?Loose Tile
19GGAllan PartridgeI Feel Lobe
20HurtlingDon’t Know Us
21Personal BestRadio
22Bridget HartLet Loose Lucy

The CD is available to pre-order now for just £5 from our Bandcamp page – and as a thank you for pre-ordering, when the CD releases after 14 Sept we’ll also send you a copy of Volume One! So that’s 42 of the loudest of loud women, all for a cheeky fiver.

Praise for LOUD WOMEN Volume Two:

“Scabrous riffs, inventive songcraft and full force in-your-face woman power from all bands involved. Loud Women festival shows up the mainstream by exhibiting the very best of women in rock.”

– Paula Frost, Vive Le Rock

“LOUD WOMEN are inspiring social change”

– Kerrang!

At a time of toxic masculinity in the industry, platforms like Loud Women are a brilliant, and brazen, beacon of hope shining a floodlight on marginalised musicians. Turn it up LOUD.

Cheri Amour, Soho Radio / She Shreds magazine

LOUD WOMEN rock!

DJ John Kennedy, Radio X

Hell Hath No Fury Vol 3

Review by Stephen Boyle

Released in April of this year this is a collection of 20 raucous punk songs by a variety of different independent punk bands.

The album has been released by Hell Hath No Fury Records who describe themselves as a DIY punk label that aims to give DIY punk bands a platform to release their music.

This collection certainly does that as it contains 20 different bands showcasing their music. If you want to discover new female fronted and all female punk bands then this is an ideal album for you to buy and at £6 its an absolute steal.

The bands on the album are a mix of varying punk styles who have clearly drawn their influences from older bands like L7 and The Donnas with driving aggressive riffs being the order of the day.

I for one have gone back and listened to Volumes 1 and 2 and I advise people do that also. You will discover some fantastic new bands throughout all 3 of these releases so far.

So, head on over to the site and have a listen, buy the album and support these DIY bands and label. You won’t regret it.

https://hellhathnofuryrecords.bandcamp.com/

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