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Quick Play: A round-up of April 2009 album releases

We've listed albums in order of star rating. Best first.

HELIX Walkin' The Razor's Edge (Rock Candy )

Firebrand Canadian hard rock, Helix came to the world's attention in the early 80s by signing to Capitol, the album ‘No Rest For The Wicked' receiving healthy sales and reviews. This 1984 set continued in similar vein, if anything stepping things up. From the outset you get a mix of ‘in your face' hard rock with big hair touches. The band dented MTV when it was full of much more poodle clad bands. More successful than Anvil, more fireworks than Triumph.

Opener 'Rock You' hits you hard, and 'Young & Wreckless' is catchy. 'Animal House' nods at a beefed up Saxon too! Contrast that to 'Feel The Fire' which nods more at Def Leppard / Heavy Pettin'.

The vocals and guitars all scream throughout, creating a wall of sound effect. Radio friendly in a noisy way. The band were a must-see onstage too, and this is proven by the three bonus live cuts and plethora of press cuttings amongst the extensive sleevenotes, which includes band interviews.

Thoroughly enjoyable! ****

Review by Joe Geesin

METRIC Fantasies

Canadian based electronic rock band 'Metric' are about to release 4th album 'Fantasies'- 10 tracks of ‘80's inspired electro, rock /pop blended with a mixture of modern rock and pop sensibilities. It has already entered the U.S Billboard 200 and reached number 1 on debuted at number 8 on the Canadian album charts- not bad for a release on the bands own label.

Packed with tracks that could easily grace the UK Top 40 (I'll eat my hat if 'Collect Call' isn't a hit this summer!!), this album will be on your mind for days after even a quick listen. Vocalist Emily Haines has a voice that is somewhere between Kim Wilde and Cerys Matthews, yet sounds like no other singer out there.

Other highlights on the album include 'Help I'm Alive', 'Front Row' and 'Stadium Love'. 'Fantasies' is released in the UK on 27th of April and I would be very surprised if we didn't hear a lot more from Metric this year. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns

LiViD One (Lost Lady Records)

Stoke-on-Trent band LiViD are about to release debut album 'One' via their own Lost Lady label. Whilst most newer bands are grabbing onto the bandwagon started by the likes of The Arctic Monkeys and the myriad of nameless/faceless indie bands whose careers the record industry just loves to through all their resources into, this 4 piece band have revisited the sounds of such genre defining bands as Aerosmith, Skid Row and even the commercial side of Metallica- alongside bands such as The Darkness, The Answer, Kingdom Come and the long-time missing in action Sven Gali.

'Lost Lady Saloon' is a track that could easily have been written by Aerosmith, the ballad-like opening of 'Deserve' giving way to an out and out rocker, whilst other highlights include 'Don’t Hate The Player', 'Devil’s Bones', 'Original Rockstar' and 'Can’t Find Home'. LiViD recorded over 70 tracks between 2006 and 2008, the best of which have made it on to this 13-track album.

You can expect to see the band featuring in the best new band category of many a music magazine this year. ****

Review by Nikk Gunns


Tragik return with their second album and its self-released after their debut came out via Escape Music back in 2007. The band are a three piece, namely prolific solo artist Phil Vincent (vocals/guitar/keys), Damian D'Ercole (guitar/bass) and Dirk Phillips (drums). There are also guest guitarists and a very tasty cover where you want to say to the lady concerned 'Now clap your hands' (check out the cover and you'll see what I mean!).

The album opens with the ballad '...In The Name Of...' a novel move as most albums save ballads up for at least the third song in. Needless to say this is one classy song and then the hard rocking 'Two Timer' hits you - a great Thin Lizzy vibe to this song. In fact it is the hard rock songs that really attract attention on here like 'Who's Gonna Make The First Move' (blasts latter day Dokken out of the water) and the awesome riff monster that is 'Everything Changes'. Only one niggle for me and that's the use of various electronic effects at the start of a couple of songs but hey that's minor compared to the strong set of songs on here.

Definitely one to add to your melodic hard rock collection and the band really wear thie hearts of their sleeves as regards their love of melodic hard rock. This album builds on the debut and often exceeds it in terms of song quality. Roll on album number three!

Review by Jason Ritchie

LIVING COLOUR Live At CBGB (Wienerworld )

This 2005 benefit concert for the now deceased legendary venue captures Living Colour in full flow. While Red Hot Chilli Peppers took funk metal to the charts, it was a watered down version of what we have here; in the late 80s Living Colour redefined hard rock, crossing all kinds of boundaries. Jazz fusion, funk, Hendrix, hardcore punk, it's all here. 12 tracks of live rock'n'roll kick off with the in-your-face 'Type' before 'Middle Man' adds the noises and effects.

The set spans their career, and 'Open Letter To A Landlord', 'Terrorism' and 'Sacred Ground' are all relevant today, musically and lyrically.

Corey Glover handles the vocals well, with some inter song banter. Vernon Reid's guitar is as frenetic as ever, producing some great sounds and solos.

The set closes with 'Cult Of Personality', the song that made the band a household name.

A little rough around the edges, but if you like cross boundary hard rock, you'll love this. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

H2O Live At CBGB (Wienerworld)

Legendary punk band recorded live at a legendary punk venue, back at one of a series of benefit concerts in 2002 (the venue is now closed). And although straight from the soundboard, the sound quality and performance on the night does lend to the ‘official bootleg' tag. No bad thing for a punk band, for it's all very high energy.

The band released their debut in 1996 and have kept the New York hardcore sound alive. Tracks like 'Family Tree', 'Guilty By Association' and 'Spirit Of 84' are fast and furious. The bass is low, the guitar thrashy and trashy. The vocals high paced, rattling off like a rap at times. The backing vocals occasionally chant glam style too.

You can see the connections to the East Coast thrash scene (think early Anthrax), and you get glimmers of guitar with a deft touch.

You can feel the mosh pit from here.

12 tracks of classic hardcore punk might not be everyone's cup of (sniffing) glue, but the scene is apparently alive and well, even if the venue isn't. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

ART BRUT Art Brut Vs Satan (Cooking Vinyl)

Uptempo indie pop/rock with plenty of guitar chops, mixing in riffs, in a beefed up guitar pop way. The opening title track is a chirpy number, in places a little jangly, rather like U2 trying to be NWoBHM. Then there's 'DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake' (how many youths does that encompass?) which mixes Kaiser Chiefs / Killers with Blur. There's an innocence that's quirky without being annoying, and plenty of drum rolls to give that rock edge.

The air is of a young band sounding young (although it is their third album), playing better guitar pop than most, and with an underlying maturity.

A few years ago this would have given indie rock a fresh angle, now it is guitar pop with a retro feel. Either way, if you like mainstream guitar music for the Radio 1 market, you'll love this. ***½

Review by Joe Geesin

JIM DAVIES Electronic Guitar Mascot Records (2009)

Jim Davies may not be an instantly recognizable name but two of his previous bands he has appeared in are, namely the Prodigy and Pitchshifter. On this album Jim Davies handles all instruments bar some bass playing.

Jim Davies has set out on this album to capture his love of electronic music using only the guitar to create some very 'out there' sounds at times. A few tunes also hint at the Prodigy, mainyl in the driving beats. At fourteen tracks you certainly get your money's worth and the range of musical styles from metal to dub will certainly keeps the listener's interest.

Of definate interest to lovers of progressive electronic music and guitar instrumental albums that are not simply speedy shred fests. ***½

Review by Jason Ritchie

CANDYTHIEF Technicolour Wilderness

Candythief are the brainchild on one Diana De Cabarrus. Now there's a name to conjour with. And if you try googling it you'll find out quite a lot - bebo, twitter, a diploma in electric guitar, a music tutor, influences including Robert Johnson, Django Reinhardt, and Jimi Hendrix, and a member of the aristocracy(?).

Which makes her debut album on Scottish indie label Fence Records something of a surprise. Ably supported and abetted by Jem Doulton on percussion, backing vocals and keyboards, Jason Dickinson on fiddle and an assortment of bass players (Jason Simpson has now taken that position permanently), Diana has crafted a spicy mix of alt / folk / indie / pop and rock.

The use of the Jason Dickinson's fiddle adds an atmospheric charm giving the whole set a curiously quirky 'English' feel. Oft compared with the more offbeat female singer songwriters such as PJ Harvey, Cat Power and Joanna Newsom, Diana, Candythief more than hold their own. But while the playing and production is faultless, at the end of the day, Technicolour Wilderness sadly lacks any real 'killer' tunes. **½

Review by Pete Whalley

ALEX VALENTINE A Short Album About Love (Struck Dumb Records)

This is Valentine's third album, and if you like whimsical and honest pop you'll like this. From the opener 'Hurricane' the pop explores indie, folk and singer/songwriter. With 'Trapdoor' there is an element of late 60s, adding a touch of psych, garage and west coast pop.

The album is largely acoustic (or acoustic oriented), with Alex handling all vocals, guitars and keyboards. The guest bass, drums and even cello work in well.

For this kind of album it's a lot more melodic than most, even amongst the strumming there's something carrying a tune.

At times the album is just too light and whimsical to grab any attention, but it does produce a nice atmosphere. ***

Review by Joe Geesin


Recorded in London with Dan Swift (Aqualung) and featuring players from the Royal College of Music, the Hoosiers' horn section and his own band, Bears is Sam's self-released debut.

Already with a growing fan base thanks to Radio 1 airplay and appearances at more festivals in 2008 than you can shake a stick at, Bears can only enhance Sam's reputation. It's a lo-fi affair and a subtle understated blend of singer - songwriter balladry and the indie mayhem of the likes of the Wombats that is likely to hit the mark with the NME circuit crowd.

Typical of the current vogue, but put together with more craft than many of the current crop, it's an introspective album most likely to be found in lonely bed-sits up and down the land. Melancholy. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

CAKE  Motorcade Of Generosity / B-Sides and Rarities

You can't fault the ingenuity of Cake. The Sacramento based 'alternative' rock band re-release their 1994 debut album to include 4 previously unavailable filmed live performances and a 'scratch and sniff' remixed and remastered version of their 2007 B-Sides and Rarities album featuring such unlikely bedfellows as Sabbath's War Pigs, Sinatra's Strangers In The Night and Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town.

The re-mastered Motorcade Of Generosity reveals itself to be somewhat ahead of it's time. Self produced in what would now be described as 'lo-fi' fashion, the 8 track sound quality is excellent while, at the time, it was a reaction to the gratuitous self indulgence of American rock productions. So what you get is separation and clarity and an album of ingenuity that has found favour with many over the years. Sparse, quirky and inspired. ***

As for the Rarities album, it's impossible not to like. But beware - there's no scratching or sniffing needed. The moment I opened the sealed cellophane a cloying sickly all pervading stench emerged. I had series concerns for the internals of my CD drive. But the reworking of War Pigs, replete with horns and a throbbing pulse reminiscent of Alex Harvey's The Faith Healer and the unique interpretations of Ruby Don't Take Your Love To Town and Never, Never Gonna Give You Up are worthy of the admission price alone. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

MARMADUKE DUKE Duke Pandemonium

Marmaduke Duke is a side project for Biffy Clyro guitarist Neil Simon and Sucioperro guitarist JP Reid, who for the purposes of a three part mythological musical trilogy are also known as The Atmosphere and The Dragon.

The first album of the trilogy - The Magnificent Duke Kid - offered three different musical suites – in your face shredding rock, brain rearranging ambience and acoustica. In complete contrast, Duke Pandemonium is party fuelled decadence, deviance and dancing.

From the techno hip hop beats of Heartburn and the Chic guitar lines and disco funk on speed of Everybody's Dance and Rubber Love to the minimalist electronica of Kid Gloves featuring Sneaky Sound System’s Connie Mitchell on guest vocals, Duke Pandemonium is about as far away from Biffy and Sucioperro as you could possibly imagine.

Performed and produced in just 24 hours, this is experimentation outside of the envelope. And it's healthy to see a pair of musicians taking what, for fans, will be a journey into the complete unknown. The pair even sample Billy Joel for the new single Rubber Lover, and throw in calypso to the closing Skin The Mofo.

But in a strange sort of way, it's transfixing. It draws you in, covers you in body chocolate, and gives you a good hard shag before spitting you out again. ***

Review by Pete Whalley

CATS IN BOOTS Kicked And Klawed
(Rock Candy)

Now here's a name that screams sleaze glam from the late 80s. The band may have been big in Japan but the sound has Hollywood written all over it. This 1989 EMI album proved successful, even if the band were short lived. Trends, timing and mishaps and living to excess may have killed things off prematurely, but it didn't stop the band having a party en route.

This band shared the scene with Motley Crue, Dokken, Quiet Riot and G'n'R, but kept more of the party sound of the scene's biggest influence, Hanoi Rocks. 'Shot Gun Sally' is sleaze metal all over, while 'Nine Lives' throws a touch of high speed boogie into the mix.

'Whip It Out' is more funk oriented, but throughout the album it's screaming vocals and guitars.

The whole album is as clichéd as ever, but it's a lot of fun and will bring back happy memories to some.

As usual with Rock Candy there are the lengthy sleevenotes that include band interviews.

Not that taxing, but very enjoyable and good value. ***

Review by Joe Geesin

(Weinerworld )

Recorded in October 2006, this benefit gig and soundboard recording was one of the last before the venue closed. The 12 track set lasted just over 30 minutes, and is classic funky hardcore punk.

Tish and Snooky were previously backing singers in Blondie, and there are bursts of Saxophone too.

But this is classic punk, with song titles like 'Insects Rile My World', 'Chop Up Your Mother' and 'Teenage Abortion'. There's even a thrash through the Ramones' 'Blitzkrieg Bop'. There's plenty of interplay between band and crowd, stories, chat; yes it's all very intimate, and equally cheap and cheerful, but that's what it's all about; abrasive and abrupt.

The band's catalogue is thin, and the band haven't released much since the early 80s, so this will be a welcome addition to any hardcore collection. ***

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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