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Singles Bar: August 2009

We've listed singles/EPs/demos in order of star rating. Best first.

PAOLO NUTINI Coming Up Easy (Atlantic)

Paolo Nutini's star is on the rise and this single 'Coming Up Easy' is the kind of slice of timeless soul that is surely destined for the Radio 2 play list.

Paolo has the kind of sensual voice that finds its antecedents in Bill Withers and Marvin Gaye. His unhurried, expressive, rich vocal phrasing gradually works towards a climactic horn led outro.

The radical shift in tempo comes as something of a surprise after such a relaxed opening but Paolo has that ability of all great soul singers to shift effortlessly up the register at the drop of hat.

He bides his time, unveils his narrative and weaves his way around his lyrics delivering little vocal inflections, occasional elongated vowels and finds the perfect foil in a cool horn arrangement on what is simply a great single. *****

Review by Pete Feenstra

ALFONZO Blind As Faith

Blind As Faith is a cracking blues rock tune with a modern feel. Sounds like the Stereophonics with a decent guitarist.

There is also an instrumental ‘What’s Happening’ although this sounds more like the sort of workout bands do to warm up at soundchecks and not a tune you would be playing a lot.  ****½

Review by Jason Ritchie

MADNESS Sugar & Spice (Lucky Seven)

I'm not sure who actually buys pop singles anymore, but it's a sure bet that those that do will probably snap up this chart bound Madness effort.

Much like Ray Davies’ rose tinted reflections of a London long gone, Madness mine the same social milieu albeit via a tale of a failed relationship. But while the lyrics might have a prevailing depressing feeling there’s enough of a catchy melody line and Suggs’s almost detached narration to make it their best effort for some time.

Everything is familiar here and that’s probably because after a spell on the sidelines the band has once gain hit form. That is to say there’s nothing new, but rather a slightly different (very slight at that) take on the old Madness formula, right down to the ascending piano line, and hook delivered by Suggs in his world weary voice.

And in truth the micro cultural references in a simple relationship story is the perfect stuff for making your morning coffee at breakfast. Nothing too taxing, but just the right side of commercial to bring Madness back into the mainstream with not so much a bang as a gentle splash. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra

TWIN ATLANTIC You're Turning Into John Wayne

Hot on the heels of their recent free download single Lightspeed, Glasgow's finest new export release their mini-album Vivarium's first proper single You're Turning Into John Wayne.

It's like Biffy Clyro have met up with the Pet Shop Boys for a songwriting session and get the Proclaimers in to do vocals. The synths get trashed in the ensuing melee, and Chris Tennant emerges with a bloody nose from a Glasgow kiss, but the pop sensibilities shine through.

You're Turning Into John Wayne can only enhance Twin Atlantic's growing reputation as a force to be reckoned with. ****

Review by Pete Whalley

(Townsend Records)

Just in case you haven’t yet come across this humorous bunch of Lancastrians yet, The Lancashire Hot Pots are a regional success, that is north of Watford Gap. And with a line-up that includes band members with names like Bernard Thresher, Dickie Ticker, Bob Wriggles and Willie Eckerslike who sing their funny lyrics in broad Lancastrian, they might find it difficult to maintain their current upward momentum.

With tales about ‘The Beer Olympics’ and ‘Mek Us A Brew’ (a defense of the English national brew currently under fire from various exotic sounding coffees), the band’s lyrics are not short of irony, wit and at times perceptive humorous takes on popular culture. But as is the case with the final track here ‘Egg’, the joke can only last so long as the band milk a range of mundane subjects that by degrees become less compelling.

For like the novelty records made all those years ago by Rolf Harris and Benny Hill, the market for ‘comedy’ records remains limited, even if some of it is as good as that served up by The Lancashire Hotpots. ****

Review by Pete Feenstra


Belgian band The Black Box Revelation are about to release new single 'I Think I Like You'. Three and a half minutes of sleaze-induced pop rock that comes across like the bastard love child of The Backyard Babies and Oasis, with its bombastic drums and big guitars- I can guarantee that you will be humming it for days.

The band are currently playing at festivals across Europe and release new album 'Set Your Head On Fire' soon. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns


Written and produced by Ian Broudie, Don't Walk On By is immediately recognisable as Lightning Seeds.

3 minutes 33 seconds of perfect pop. Am impossibly catchy melody and Ian's trademark songwriting and vocals. It's like they've never been away. With clever and catchy use of staccato strings, it's the sound of summer and hit singles.

Compulsive, and almost certain to feature on a revamped 'Greatest Hits' at some future date. ***½

Review by Pete Whalley

BIFFY CLYRO That Golden Rule

To coincide with the announcement of a November UK tour, Biffy release the first single from their forthcoming - as yet untitled - follow up to the acclaimed Puzzle. Hard to believe it - because the band never seem to have been away - but Puzzle was released 2 years ago.

That Golden Rule also follows 12 months on the heels of the band's last (stand alone) single Mountains - their biggest selling chart success to date which entered the top 5 and sold over 100,000 copies.

The band's new album will be again be produced by Puzzle producer GGGarth Richardson (Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers) and the good news is that That Golden Rule is Biffy doing what Biffy do well. And that's being Biffy.

There's a single edit and full length version, although the edit only shaves a mere 25 seconds off a number that bears all the expected Biffy hallmarks of heavy angular rock graced by string time changes so successfully deployed on Puzzle. Bring it on. ***½

Review by Pete Whalley


Fall, the lead and title track from this EP sounds incredibly familiar. But no matter how hard I scratch the itch, I'm buggered if I can put my finger on exactly who it sounds like. Maybe it will come to me in time. But it's an excellent pop / rock song from this Cardiff based band.

Formed in 2004 and heralded as one of the top university bands, Zenyth were nominated as one of the best unsigned acts of 2007. And this 5 track EP demonstrates just why. Excellent song writing, strong melodies, and great vocals. And they walk that fine line called 'credibility' that divides pop from rock with a confident swagger.

Just what they are putting in the water in South Wales remains a mystery. But whatever it is, keep drinking it guys. A band to watch. ***½

Review by Pete Whalley


Although they've been around for a while - in various bands, and in various incarnations, it's only relatively recently that London based Mirrorkicks have started to get it together.

2008 saw them enter the studio, and Turning Up is an excellent piece of pop / rock - not a million miles away from a The Cars for the new decade. With a My Best Friend's Girl bass line, but supplemented with a big chorus and some chunky riffs, it's a neat piece of pop / rock crossover. ***

Review by Pete Whalley


Drowning is the self financed 5 track debut EP from the latest Italian Metal hopefuls An Ocean Between Us. And they've got a couple of unique selling points. Firstly, they've added a melodic twist to their fast and heavy metal riffs. Secondly, they've got two girls in the band - Kla on vocals and, more surprisingly perhaps, Nene on guitar.

The line-up is completed by Dan on lead guitar, Joseph on bass, and Mureo on drums.

It's all fairly feisty stuff that should appeal to fans of the genre - plenty of speedy licks and riffs, edgy vocals from Kla, and angry primeval choruses that sound like a renegade band of orcs baying for fresh hobbit bones.

Powerful, punchy and raw. ***

Review by Pete Whalley


Aaron - who, during daylight hours masquerades as the technician in the Music Department at the University of York - isn't enamored with the current music scene. Not the music, not the lyrics, and certainly not the faux Cockney accents.

And so, on The Scene he vents his spleen, with a carefully constructed satirical critique of the genre. Three decades ago it would have had us rolling in the aisles as a Not The Nine O'Clock News sketch, and a decade before that, the Barron Knights could have easily added it to their set list.

But now, it's a little to close to the truth for comfort. A sadly accurate sideswipe. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

JADED PLAYBOY Broken Heartland EP

Edinburgh based Jaded Playboy are 3 local lads and a Sassenach in the form of English vocalist Scott. The boys play 'a dark melodic blend of rock and punk'.

But that perhaps undersells Jaded Playboy, yes they have the energy of punk, but it's well channelled into a feisty melodic rock vein that has distinct echoes of REM. Especially on the opening tracks Lost Inside and Hero To Zero.

If anything the EP gets better the further you delve. And of the 4 tracks, it's perhaps the final, and title track - Broken Heartland - which is the best.  An acoustic gem with haunting vocals that would grace any Michael Stripe set. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

THE BRINK One Night Only EP

Formed in 2007 and with commercial rock influences such as Bon Jovi, Queen, Fallout Boy, All American Rejects, and Aerosmith, the lead track I Know, on this second EP by London based 5 piece, The Brink, has a distinct Elton John song construction with young Steve Tyler style vocals. It also references The Eagles in the vocal harmonies and Thin Lizzy in the choral guitar sound.

So it's pretty clear what these guy's roots are. Classic commercial rock. The title track comes on with a heavy blues rock groove, again with Aerosmith overtones, while I Want It has clear Ram Jam Black Betty reference points. It's strange to hear a young English band playing clean cut melodic AOR that would be so well suited to American FM radio.

It all seems strangely out of time, but hey - it's better than all that indie sh**e! ***

Review by Pete Whalley

SWEETHEAD The Great Disruptors

Named after a Bowie B-side, Sweethead is a side project from Queen's Of The Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen. Teaming up with the voluptuous Serina Simms on vocals, Norm Block on drums and Eddie Nappi on bass, the band serve up a wonderfully loose slice of LA sleaze.

The opening track has a hypnotic and almost 1970's feel about it, and while entirely unrelated, Simms vocals on the chorus reminds of Sonja Kristina's delivery on Curved Air's Back Street Love.

Produced by Troy, The Great Disruptors EP gives a terrific 5 track taster of the band's forthcoming debut album. The publicity blurb describes it as being all rock and roll swagger - like a night out on Hollywood Boulevard with a Jack and Coke in your hand.

And with a sound like a cross between the Stooges and the Garbage, I simply can't disagree. Addictive and strangely compulsive. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

STEPHEN DALE PETIT As The Years Go Passing By
333 Records

Stephen Dale Petit is something of an enigma. At times he appears to be trying to hard to break into a blues scene that requires the opposite of the hard sell. In short you can’t become a legend until you’ve done your time or you turn out to be a song writer of the calibre of Robert Cray.

At the very least a blues cover originally popularised by definitive versions by both Albert King and Fenton Robinson demands a vocal performance full of warmth, feel real and emotion.

For as Stephen Dale Petit demonstrates although it is possible to rearrange a song to fit your conception of contemporary you can’t escape the need to express the meaning of the lyrics.

Unfortunately the production side wins out here. So while Stephen just about finds room for a forceful solo, no amount of powerful bv’s or lush string arrangements will give you that elusive USP, unless you really do have the old school ability to express your feelings in the blues genre.

Unfortunately on this grandly produced, curiously arranged single, he does neither; On the one hand the cod 70’s ELO style strings sound far too busy while SDP’s bruising vocal style overlooks feeling for bluster and as a consequence the result is more suited to a hard rock audience than blues. And that being the case it’s not hard enough for the rock crowd and not bluesy enough for the die-hards. ***

Review by Pete Feenstra


Trial are described as classic rock meets alternative although I’d personally go for catchy indie rock, not much 70’s or 80’s rock more like Biffy Clyro although not quite as good as them. Worth a spin and enough on this song to want you to investigate their upcoming debut album further. ***

Review by Jason Ritchie


Portuguese rock. Really. You heard it first here at GRTR!

Chemical Wire are a quirky rock / indie / punk three piece - Pedro Pires (drums and vocals), Pedro Melo (bass and vocals) and Davide Lobao (guitars and vocals).

Bees opens with a really nice melody, then about a minute in, the pace quickens and anarchy breaks out with angular rhythms, power chords and general chaos. The b/side Lovely Modern Sadness equally demonstrates the band's accomplished playing and fusion of styles. Think Biffy Clyro on an Easyjet Algarve holiday.

It just goes to show that rock truly knows no boundaries these days. But it's hard to imagine Ronaldo listening to Chemical Wire while he's showboating around Vale De Lobo in his Ferrari. The band will be touring the UK early in 2010. ***

Review by Pete Whalley


On this short 3 track ep - a teaser for their forthcoming debut album The Shapes We Fear Are Of Our Own - Motion Picture Soundtrack deliver their own take on 80s shoegaze.

Produced by Hugh Jones (Echo and The Bunnymen) and Dan Austin (Doves), Departure is an impressive debut. Almost a cross between Duran Duran / Ultravox and The Editors - an expansive soundscape, soaring melodies and haunting vocals.

The band's Myspace page describes their sound as 'at times gentle, at others fiercely driven, the result is uplifting, yet realistic, euphoric and beautiful'. It's rare that hype = reality. But on this occasion I can only concur. ***

Review by Pete Whalley


Paul Kleff has evidently been hiding his light under a bushel for some years. The press release says it all really, he has over 20 years experience as a musician based in Michigan, USA and "has helped hundreds of students reach their musical goals".

Kleff is a competent guitarist but this EP is - frankly - average, only lifted by the two tracks with vocalist Jerry Keyzer which may suggest Kleff is better in a band context. But there's something lacking in the production, too.

The standout track 'Dead Line' should really rock out on the chorus - and Kleff should milk the solo for all its worth - but it delivers the musical equivalent of brewer's droop. 'As If...' is the best of the instrumentals with a compulsive piano motif, but nothing really earth-shattering.

It's a competitive world out there with many new kids on blocks, and I'm afraid Kleff's guitar doesn't really set the world on fire. Like many of his generation, technically competent but lacking the touch of originality or spark present in his early influences, Van Halen, Malmsteen and Lynch who were - at that time - half his age. Back to those guitar classes, then. ***

Review by David Randall

CUDDLY SHARK The Sheriff Of Aspen Bay

Trust me, there's nothing cuddly about Glasgow's finest art-school punks Cuddly Shark.

More musically accomplished than their genre forefathers, the three piece Colin Reid (guitar and vocals), Ruth Forsyth (bass and vocals) and Jason Sinclair (drums and vocals), nevertheless have all the vibrancy and immediacy of a bag of angry wasps.

Think The Sex Pistols meet Biffy Clyro and throw a few Zeppelin riffs into the chaos and you won't be far wide of the mark. The two exclusive b-sides - the folksy Cuddly Jim, and Neil Diamond's Cherry Cherry demonstrate the band's dexterity.

But overall it's hard not to be impressed by the band's boundless gusto. ***

Review by Pete Whalley


Much of her previous output has been 'quirky' Americana, but if the signals sent by this single are correct, Dawn Landes is about to cross over to the mainstream.

Romeo, the lead single form her forthcoming album Sweet Hear Rodeo is a pleasant little ditty at the more commercial end of Dawn's writing. And if anything, her vocals are more captivating that on same of her previous releases.

But it's the b-side, Wire, that is the more immediate and could well see Dawn take over the country cut-over ground once occupied so successfully by the likes of Shawn Colvin. ***

Review by Pete Whalley


You don't need to hear more than vocal lines to know that Glasgow's Twin Atlantic are from north of Hadrian's Wall. Glasgow, to be specific.

With support slots to Biffy Clyro and Smashing Pumpkins already under their belt, the band are being touted as 'one to watch' in 2009. And on the evidence here - Proclaimers meet Biffy in dark alley - and in particular, the acoustic version - Twin Atlantic could well be the next band to emerge from north of the border

Available as a free download at for a limited period in advance of the release of the band's forthcoming mini-album Vivarium. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

exlovers  You Forget So Easily

The latest 5 track EP from exlovers - an indie / pop / alternative band who serve up a dreamy pop laced with boy-girl vocals that has a laid back 1960's San Francisco retro flower power feel.

The set was recorded with Stephen Street (Smiths, Blur, Pete Doherty) who approached the band after seeing them support Doherty at an NME Awards show.

The band continues to deliver their trademark boy-girl harmonies laced gentle acoustic based indie-pop. It makes a pleasant change from the 'shouty' post punk indie genre. With their dreamy musings, there's yet again a distinct Lennon / Beatles connection - in particular on New Years Day and The Moon Has Spoken. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

AVIV GEFFEN It Was Meant To Be A Love Song

Aviv is, as the saying goes, 'big in Israel'. With over 2.5 million sales under his belt, bigger, in fact, than global stars such as U2 and Madonna.

It Was Meant To Be A Love Song paves the way for his eponymous, first English language album. A hit? Difficult to tell. It's full of 1980 synths - a Kraftwerk like rhythm overlaid with nice vocal melodies and a big hook - a la Depeche Mode.

If it was released in the Eighties, it would have been Top 10 material. No question. Now, who knows? It's good, but it could be a case of wrong place, wrong time. Unless, that is, it surfs the current wave of nostalgia. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

NOT ADVISED Fight For This

More shouty, post punk speed pop - rock from Hampshire 5-piece based pop-rockers Not Advised.

A Red Light Situation - the opening track from this 6 track EP sets the standard for all that follows - shouty NME vocals, big guitars, big choruses, big hooks. My difficulty with the genre - and with apologies to those who live and love it - is that all the bands sound much the same.

That said Not Advised do a damn good job of it and they're up there with the best of the bunch. Foot tapping in the extreme. Pick of the bunch - The A.R.K. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

RAZORBLADEKISSES Ballerina / The Butterfly

Neat name for goth/rock RazorBladeKisses, formed in 2000 by Persian vocalists Layla and Azadeh.

With an intoxicating mix of rock, goth, opera and eastern promise, the girls are a darker, more mysterious version of Shakespears Sister. With strong harmonies and sweet, yet seductive and edgy vocals, it's easy to see why the band is developing quite a following on the goth circle.

Ballerina has a chilling operatic storyline accompanied by chilling strings and a chorus of 'I want to make you scream', while the use of a spoken passage from the poem 'This Bird Is Going To Die' adds a subtle air of sexuality to The Butterfly. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

MERETTO Devotion

Taken from the band's forthcoming Street Talking album, and produced by Dan Swift (Snow Patrol, Biffy Clyro and Aqualung), Devotion is the latest single from London based Maretto formed in 2003 in Reading by key members Stu Bell (guitar / vocals) and Matt Burgess (bass / vocals).

The 3 track single, including Caesium Baby and A Kiss is well structured post Clash pop rock, band delivered in a jaunty and captivating manner. A cut above the average, and veering towards classic rock (the band's debut album was produced by John Mitchell of It Bites), Meretto could easily hit a nerve with the record buying public. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

FULL SCREAM AHEAD We Write Our Own Anthems

Formed as recently as 2008, this 6 track EP is a great little taster for Full Scream Ahead - a four piece, southwest based, pop rock band.

Having got positive reviews from the likes of NME and Kerrang, it would be easy for a 'classic' rock site to be skeptical of the arrival of yet another band that plays manic pop with big hooks and big choruses. And let's face it, there's plenty to choose from.

But Full Scream Ahead are going to be chasing down the leaders of the pack - with great songs, and great vocals (Justin Percival has distinct Fergal Sharkey overtones) and just a little bit more 'rock' and variety than some of their rivals I'd be amazed if they didn't rapidly rise up the pecking order.

And If you can't wait, all 6 tracks, plus a cover of Lady Gaga's Pokerface can be found now on the band's Myspace page. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

MEGAN HENWOOD What Elliot Said/Shape & Colour
Redemption Records

For this, a BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award Winner 2009, I don my acoustic guitar, table and strings to write for Get Ready To Not Rock.

Lovely voice, melodic picking backed up by strings, oboe. A little dreary, but decent enough. But this has as much place on GRTR! as the spots on my bottom. **½

Review by Joe Geesin


Chickenhawk - Paul Michael Astick (vocals / guitar), Robert James Stepehns (guitar), Ryan Thomas Clark (bass) and Mathew John Reid (drums) - are part of Leeds growing experimental rock scene.

And that's an angry scene - hard, angular, violent rock, shared with bands like That Fucking Tank, Pulled Apart By Horses and These Monsters. The band's sound is like punk prog. And they make uncomfortable bed fellows. More time changes than the British Medical Council's recommended number of safe body piercings, and with the anger of a punk who's just been called a 'poof'. This is musical carnage.

The lead track is called 'I Hate This Do You Like It?' Sorry guys, the answer's simple - 'no'. **

Review by Pete Whalley

KILK KAN Don't Panic/Who Broke Susan Boyle (Blang)

Fuzzy guitar pop cum punky rock'n'roll stripped down. Too fuzzy / distorted. And tuneless. “Don't panic I'm only Islamic” ha ha ha ha.

The second track is a poor one man and a guitar trying to be clever.

If this is the future, everybody panic. **

Review by Joe Geesin

WE THE FACELESS Isle Of Dogs / Hollow

Mix of doomy gothic guitars, screams, hardcore grunge, and a cement mixer. About as noisy, and pleasurable, as living on the M1 central reservation and within the Heathrow flight path at the same time, with the finesse of a ballet dancing elephant. The second track is amateurish acoustic grunge.

Review by Joe Geesin


A pretty tuneless track with a strong rhythm. Bit of an indie pop racket actually.

Yes I’ve had my fun and it’s not this, so I’m off to write for Get Ready To Maverick Pop, where bands clearly have no clue as to the media they’re sending this shite to. And seven minutes is far too long for a single even if it isn’t as bollocks as this. It stopped me getting to the second track. *

Review by Joe Geesin

THE MISSION DISTRICT So Over You (Relentless)

Pure Pop. Uptempo keyboard led, drum machines at the ready. A mix of early 80s new wave pop (Depeche Mode et al), Pet Shop Boys, New Order and 00’s electronic disco (BWO). And as a bonus, there’s an instrumental version.

I’m sure this has a market, but not here. A gay nightclub maybe? Whoever thought anyone at GRTR! would give this a score or a second listen seriously needs to wake up. Painful and nauseating. *

Review by Joe Geesin

STOP EJECT The Retirement Of Intelsat 3R / I Am A Social Network

Guitar indie that’s a mix of post punk, new wave and gothic.

This sounds like a demo of the first rehearsal of the first song a bunch of teenagers have cobbled together.


P = Particularly pants and poor.

Review by Joe Geesin


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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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