Deux Furieuses – Tracks of Wire LP (May, 2016)
This is an album that probably can’t be done justice without a dissertation in place of this short review. I had the pleasure of seeing Deux Furieuses live in London recently and it was, from the off, a scathing punk/rock assault on the senses and a further reminder of just how much more of an impact two focused, talented musicians can have on stage compared to your average-sized band merely treading water (Young Romance reminded me again of this even more recently). This album delivers the same impact as the live set, while broadening the atmosphere with slower, more atmospheric songs providing balance/contrast. ‘Tracks of Wire’ shouldn’t fail to be seen (along with the upcoming Petrol Girls debut) as one of the most important albums of 2016 and you should seek it out immediately if you haven’t already; you might find it filed under Uneasy Listening.
Ros and Vas used to Rock Like Girls Don’t, of course, back in the comparatively innocent days (everything’s relative) of the mid-to-late 2000s, and their 2009 album ‘How Did It Get To This’ was a brilliant series of tuneful short-sharp-shocks, not a million miles from their current sound. The difference is that whereas that album had song titles like ‘Queen of Heavy Metal’ and ‘I Just Wanna Stick My Head in the Bass Drum’, Deux Furieuses’ debut album leaves all that stuff behind and turns to reportage, with songs addressing global crises, the war on women, refugees, and political struggle. PJ Harvey could be a touchstone musically, or possibly post-punks like the Pop Group, but frankly the band could well have just been watching the sky over the last few years, and coming to their own sound conclusions. ‘Are We Sexy Enough?’ sounds like an exception, a title harkening back to the band’s previous incarnation; instead it addresses rape culture. The final track ‘From Fear to Fury’ manages to suggest a serious message without any words at all.
A record like this will bring listeners few traditional showbiz thrills. But, in addition to delivering a skilful display of rock technique, it dares them to question – as bands like Gang of Four aimed to – the nature of entertainment, the purpose of culture, the limits of awareness. And in doing so it achieves more than most, and secures itself a serious legacy. In simpler terms, this is by turns an angry, heartfelt and affecting alternative rock album, and highly recommended.
Good Throb – S/T EP (July, 2016)
One of the best vocalists (‘KY Ellie’) in UK hardcore, a guitarist (writer/activist Bryony Beynon) in a Huggy Bear t-shirt, a drummer who looks like a young Ian Svenonius, the singer of Frau on bass, and a series of brilliantly-primitive slightly-unhinged rants that come on like a cross between Warsaw (pre-Joy Division), Rudimentary Peni and something from early-80s Bristol label Riot City records: Good Throb truly have everything. Their third EP came out in the summer and includes the track ‘The Queen Sucks Nazi Cock’, which is also literally true.
Peach Club – The Bitch Diaries EP (April, 2016)
It’s been a few years since we heard the sound of what I persist in calling ‘Norwich grrrlcore’, since the dissolution of bands like Fever Fever, the Brownies, Brothers, Bearsuit, Kabeedies, Violet Violet (plus a bit further back, Kaito) – and in the absence of any recordings yet by Graceland; in the meantime Peach Club have arrived. Song titles like ‘Go Away’, ‘I’m a Bitch’ and ‘My Best Friend’ give a clue to their youth, but this is a group that already has a great early-Bikini Kill-esque sound, a powerful vocalist, political awareness and great potential. Already planning a series of follow-up singles on local label Witchgirl, expect an impressive album from Peach Club within the next few years.
LIINES – Disappear / Be Here single (Oct, 2016)
A brand new release from LIINES, and more pulverising post-punk for the people. While Zoe‘s vocals here are typically passionate and powerful, the LIINES rhythm section too can’t help but conjure up thoughts of Killing Joke and Joy Division, which is no bad thing and certainly confirms the band in a unique musical position on the DIY scene. JD-esque rhythms were borrowed by a few high-profile US bands during the peak post-punk revival, of course, but you could see this as a UK band reclaiming their local legacy. It’s as valid an audio reference as three-chord-trick guitar or Motown-style wall of sound, after all – it’s what you do with these things that matters .What LIINES do with it – as anyone who’s seen them live or heard their last single or promo EP will know, is push the aural point home with a series of pile-driving riffs almost akin to a krautrock/hard rock fusion in their repetitive, controlled frenzy – but always with a song on top.
Eagle-eyed DIY music trivia buffs may notice that the single cover was inspired by artwork by Debbie Sharp, formerly of second-wave uk riot grrrls Valerie, who LIINES played with back when Zoe & Steph were known as [hooker]. Debbie later played in Womb, an arts/music collective who released no records (as far as I know) but did begat ILL, the other block-capital manc-postpunk grrrl-band sensation de nos jours. It’s a small world – and the mood of this single is suitably claustrophobic with it. Roll on the debut album.
Crumbs – Demo EP (May, 2016)
This was an unexpected delight. Unexpected, because with the sheer amount of new cross-fertilised DIY band combinations seemingly being born every week it gets increasingly hard to keep up with it all – there are worse problems to have, of course – and easier to miss stuff, as I did with this. The just-do-it principle is worth shouting about but inevitably not everything the scene produces is; no such worries with Crumbs, though, whose demo, particularly on tracks “Tiptoes” and “Trapped in a Haircut”, shows exceptional grasp of what a little attention to dynamics and pace can achieve, even with the simplest of rhythmic elements in operation. It doesn’t hurt that vocalist Ruth has one of those voices (see also Emma from Witching Waves) you just want to hear more from, or that there’s an epic early-punk guitar sound going on in the background that pulls my Proustian levers (disclaimer: I have never read Proust) with thoughts of Swell Maps and Siouxie and the Banshees. Maximum Rocknroll have already given this EP a very thorough review, comparing Crumbs to every band Slampt Records put out in the 90s, so I won’t repeat all that here and will instead just say get this record – for the music, or, if you don’t like music, there are puns to enjoy, like ‘Chaka Can’t’ and ‘Stockport Syndome’. And as we know, puns not dead.
Fight Rosa Fight!/Little Fists – Split EP (Aug, 2016)
A third release for Fight Rosa Fight, and a second for Little Fists, combined – this self-released EP shows both groups at their best. Always a band-to-watch for their DIY riotgrrrl charm, FRF have become an increasingly powerful live act, and that confidence translates into tight, impressive playing here. Unlike some altrockers who promote a vaguely-radical image in the press to appear more interesting, FRF put intelligent, educated thought into making specific and valued political statements in their songwriting (see also: Dream Nails/Petrol Girls), combined with a knack for writing tuneful low-fi pop-punk gems. Little Fists compliment with a more emotional aesthetic and an affecting sound they dub “sadcore”, with what seems like more of an emphasis this time on shared vocals meaning we hear more lovely yelps from Vanessa and Sophie in between Ste’s trademark growls. A band that brings the noise, and fills a room with energy *and* people (always handy, that), Little Fists definitely, as a journalist might say, pack a punch. I would never say something like that, but they totally do anyway. Get the EP, already, it’s great.
The Tuts – Update Your Brain LP (Sept, 2016)
What’s left to say about The Tuts, on the advent of their long-awaited debut album?
In Marcus Gray’s systematic dissection of The Clash, ‘Last Gang in Town’, he calls The Clash’s tendency to write songs about the travails of being in The Clash “Mott the Hoople syndrome” after an earlier band with an equivalent habit. Synchronicitously – seeing as how the Clash are one of the few Ye Olde bands they admit as an influence via their ‘Rudie Can’t Fail’ cover – The Tuts continue that tradition, and the fact is that many of their best songs are about The Tuts and their own (mis)adventures in music, ’Tut Tut Tut’ being merely the most obvious example (I’ll confess something here: I prefer the original single recording – but that’s the nearest thing to a criticism I have of this album).
‘1982’ is a case in point, a brilliantly-written second single from the LP (after ‘Let Go of the Past’) about some stupid stuff their ex-manager said and how they don’t really need one anyway, thank you. Like so much of this album, if the tune doesn’t get you, the vocal harmonies will – and on top of it all, that this band can be so smart, funny and self-aware; well what more do you want from pop music? This is as good as it gets. This is it, the real deal.
I say “pop music” advisedly, because while the Tuts style – like their sister band Colour Me Wednesday – remains unlikely to win over the hardcore underground (too sing-y, too girl-next-door), instead they’ve long had the girl-gang sass to appeal to a genuinely young female indie-rock audience, they’ve got the hooks (much like Wolf Girl do, or Personal Best) for the indiepop crowd, and they play their songs with an in-your-face rock ‘n’ roll élan which brings the punks to the yard without ever skirting close to the ‘rawk’ fakery that risks ruining so many grunge-type grrrl groups – because despite those inevitable comparisons to The Slits, The Tuts actually bypass the whole history of post-punk to deliver the clean guitar lines, melodies, impact and solid production (and this album is very well produced indeed) of first/second wave punks like the Undertones and X Ray Spex. (Which is why you see those older blokes at Tuts gigs: they haven’t seen or heard the like for *years*.)
I say “pop music” because there’s a Robyn-esque chord change in the chorus to ‘Con Man’ which brought me to the verge of tears with its sheer perfection. There’s an emotional vulnerability in Nadia’s voice here too which belies the band’s miscontrued mock-boisterous image – as does the presence of acoustic track ‘You’re So Boring’, and the self-deprecating bad-relationship stories in the album lyrics.
I say “pop music” because alongside the DIY ethics and common-sense left-wing politics (‘Give Us Something Worth Voting For’) is a pure pop ambition to reach as many people as they can, crossing any scene boundaries, a complete lack of anything approaching artistic snobbery, as well as an aesthetic (style/artwork/videos) that both celebrates and détournes the mass-market teen/tween girlhood sold in magazines and TV shows, and an approach to performance that echoes showbiz traditions you can trace back to music hall and beyond. Check out the video to ‘Dump Your Boyfriend’ from a few years ago: it starts with the band trying to find their way on stage, but one Tut gets lost in the stage curtain and the others have to pull her through; it’s a moment of pure Morecambe and Wise charm that I’m doubtful anyone else in the DIY music scene would even have thought of, let alone be able to pull off.
It’s those results and that attention to detail, not merely the hard effort they put into self-management or performance energy, for which The Tuts deserve to be rewarded. And if all you need after all is a dozen tracks of skilful indiepowerpoppunkrock to nod your head to, well that’s a given. Without any doubt, ‘Update Your Brain’ is one of the key albums of the year.
Almost too much new music to mention this year, but look out for these, not yet reviewed in the ezine, 2016 releases:
Actual Crimes – Ceramic Cat Traces (farewell album); Lilith Ai – Riot (EP); As Ondas – Mares (debut album); Ay Carmela – Working Weeks (debut album); Baby in Vain – For the Kids (EP); Bamboo – Hexagonal (digi-single) and Live at Cafe Oto (second album);Bleached – Welcome the Worms (second album); Bratakus – Gigantopithecus (debut EP); Cat Apostrophe – Gut Songs (debut EP); Charmpit – Snorkel (debut EP); Charla Fantasma – No Excuses, Baby! (second EP); Cracked Up – Room 201(6) (EP); Deap Vally – Femejism (second LP); Empty Page – Unfolding (debut LP); Es – Object Relations (debut EP); Evans the Death – Vanilla (third album); Ex People – Live at the Unicorn (EP); Foxcunt – Phone in Sick (digi-single); The Franklys – Come Down 7″; Los Cripis – Restaurant (EP); GAYR – Greatest Hits (debut digi-single); Hinds – Leave Me Alone (debut album); Hoopdriver – s/t (EP); IDestroy – Vanity Loves Me (debut EP); Julie Ruin – Hit Reset (second album); Las Kellies – Friends and Lovers (fifth album); The Kills – Ash and Ice (fifth album); Kitten Snot – Womb Clumps (debut EP); Maid of Ace – Maid in England (second album); M.I.A. – AIM (fifth album); Molar – [Split EP w/Pale Kids]; Muertos – Black Box (digi-single); Nervous Twitch – Don’t Take My TV (second LP); Neurotic Fiction – Demo (EP); No Ditching – [Split EP w/Baby Ghosts]; NOTS – Cosmetic (second album); Nova Twins – s/t (debut EP); Otoboke Beaver – Bakuro Book (EP); Personal Best – I Go Quiet 7″; The Potentials – We Are the Potentials (second EP); Primetime – Going Places (second EP); Quaaludes – Rejects (EP) & Are the Winners Always Losers (EP); Rattle – I Own You (debut album); Savages – Adore Life (second album); September Girls – Age of Indignation (second album); Sex Stains – s/t (debut album); She Makes War – Direction of Travel (third album); The Shondes – Brighton (fifth album); Shonen Knife – Adventure (LP), Skating Polly – The Big Fit (fourth album); Skinny Girl Diet – Heavyflow (debut album); Betty Steeles – Where I Be (EP) & Flow Flow Flow (EP); Tacocat – Lost Time (third album); TeenCanteen – Say it All With a Kiss (debut album); Towel – Wipe Me Dry (debut EP); Tuffragettes – [three undated EPs – see Bandcamp]; Twink Caplan – Practice Room Demos (debut EP); The Twistettes – Jilt the Jive (debut album); Viva Zapata – Fuck It, It’ll Be Fine (farewell EP); Vodun – Possession (debut album); Warpaint – Heads Up (third album); White Lung – Paradise (fourth album)
Look out for debut albums from Slowcoaches, Feature, Petrol Girls and Young Romance plus second albums from The Wharves, Honeyblood and Ravioli Me Away, the debut EP from Muertos and a new single from Sacred Paws.