Sunday, October 08, 2006


RICHARD BUTLER Self-titled (KOCH) Butler is one of my rock heroes, for his sterling work with Psychedelic Furs and Love Spit Love. He possesses such a spellbinding set of pipes that never fails to hypnotize. Now 50, Butler has released his first solo album and it is simply gorgeous. Butler’s eponymous solo debut highlights the softer side of Butler’s music, chock full of dreamy ballads and exploits beautifully the range of Butler’s gifted larynx. The breezy “Good Days, Bad Days” and mesmerizing “California” open this marvelous album and Butler (and collaborator Jon Carin) sustain this ‘feel-good’ vibe all the way to the fragile hopeful “Maybe Someday.” A truly magnificent comeback/debut.

JEREMY Only Love Remains (Jam) No one does jangle pop better than Jeremy and that’s no putdown. Year after year, Jeremy manages to keep the Byrds-influenced sound fresh and alive. Best part of all, his lyrics are always fuelled by faith, hope and love, in contrast to all the doom, gloom and negativity that passes for so-called alternative rock. If you wanna be uplifted and inspired, you need a dose of Jeremy.

THE SKETCHES Self-titled (Self-released) The much-maligned power ballad receives mouth-to-mouth resuscitation from the Sketches with the wonderful “Fly Baby, Right Now” as this promising outfit shows Oasis how a homage to the Beatles should be done. The rest of this collection of high-quality demos (the band’s words, not mine) mines more modern territory (Dashboard Confessional emo) with strong classic rock bias. Recommended.

THE CRASH MODERNS Self-titled (Self-released) Ah, powerpop bliss! This New Jersey band displays enough melodic crunch potential on this 5-track EP to suggest that it would be worthwhile keeping an eye on their progress. Sure, the songs are not exactly ground-breaking but there’s enough promise here (“This Time” & “All About You” especially) to make the pop underground sit up and take notice.

HAMFATTER Girls in Graz (Pink Hedgehog) Hailing from Cambridge – yes, same as Syd Barrett & Robyn Hitchcock – Hamfatter (viz. Eoin O’Mahoney, Emile Martin, James Ingham & Mark Ellis), indulge their rock ‘n’ fantasy with idiosyncratic whimsy. Thus, melodies are always prized but never over eccentricity. Eclectic to a fault, O’Mahoney’s classical training skewers Hamfatter’s pop sensibility brilliantly. Fans of Martin Newell will adore this.

YELLOW6 Melt Inside (MakeMineMusic) It’s soft, whispered, atmospheric drones created by guitars and synthesizers and completed by Ally Todd’s vocals. Jon Attwood provides the former and the duo combine effectively to create mood pieces that would fit perfectly on your next indie film project. Tunes are at a premium here but presumably that is precisely what Yellow6 are eschewing. Attwood is adept at coaxing glorious sounds out of his guitar. Chilling.

SARA WENDT Here’s Us (City Canyons) Good mix of genres and styles on this six-track EP although mainly dominated by Celtic-flavored rock ballads that you might expect from Enya or Kate Bush. Wendt has a solid larynx, no doubt, and a competent grasp of what she’s trying to achieve. Lush orchestration and high production values make Here’s Us worth checking out.

TOM PETTY Highway Companion (American) Petty is a rock institution with 30 years of consistent music making built from the foundations of Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, the Byrds, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Highway Companion is Petty’s third solo album proper (eleven with the Heartbreakers of course) and reunites Petty with producer Jeff (ELO) Lynne. To be honest, that fact alone sold me. Cos whilst the songs on Highway Companion are mostly average, it all sounds great – like slipping into warm, familiar, comfy bedroom slippers. Snug.

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