Hamfisted

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Hamfisted off to Guilfest

Our team of writers and photographers are off to Guilfest this afternoon. We’ll be back on Tuesday with a full review/photos.

Thanks,

The Hamfisted Team.

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09/07/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bob Mould – Life And Times

Bob Mould is probably used to being underappreciated by now. Husker Du* are still overlooked by most music fans, despite their influence on so many bands of the 90s and 00s, and Sugar have been pretty much forgotten despite laying the foundations for the likes of Foo Fighters. He even got a hard time when he tried his hand at writing scripts for the WCW.

His solo material, too, has failed to find much of an audience. It’s unfair on the guy because he’s put out some good stuff – last year’s underrated District Line album, for example. Okay, his track record since the mid 90s has been a little erratic, with the electronic experiments not always working, but he still knows his way around a tune.

Life And Times is another solid record from Sir Bob, combining mature, melodic guitar rock with some chunkier, more Sugar-like stuff. The electronic influences in evidence on District Line have been toned down (apart from all the autotune – what the fuck is it with that?) leaving us with a record moving towards a mature style, although without it becoming too MOR. In particular I’ve been enjoying Argos and Spiralling Down, two songs that wouldn’t look out of place on Copper Blue.

I’ll be honest though, there are one or two clunkers on here too. At points (like the album closer Lifetime) he tries to move out of his usual vocal style and experiment a little, and it doesn’t quite come off. He’s almost crooning – it just doesn’t work. But then, you have to look at the bigger picture, don’t you? The man’s 48, it’s not going to be Land Speed Record.

So overall, although it’s patchy and occasionally a little too sedate, there’s certainly enough quality stuff here to keep existing fans happy.

6.5/10

*Look, I can’t do umlauts on here, alright?

20/05/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Jon’s albums of the week

My general plan with writing about music is to share my passion with others. Fair enough, you’d think. I would. But what happens when the stuff I get passionate about isn’t necessarily all that new, and therefore not worth reviewing as if it is? Well, this happens! It’s planned to be a weekly thing where I bang on about stuff that’s been ‘floating my boat’ lately, but we’ll see how my memory holds out here. Some nights I forget to sleep, so remembering to post a weekly blog entry could be beyond me.

Anyway. I’ve been warming up for the Stag & Dagger mini-festival thing next Thursday with The Mae Shi’s mentalist pop masterwork Hlllyh, which came out a good fifteen months or so ago to not nearly enough of a fanfare. It would be misleading to talk up the hooky, melodic aspect of it, because it’s taken all this time for the tunes to properly burrow their way in, but that’s pretty much what I get when I listen to it. That and a whole load of electronic noise. Why can’t music always be this fun? I suppose the obvious answer is that you’d get pretty tired if it was all as hyperactive as this, but hey.

I’m also dead set on catching Micachu and the Shapes at S&D (although I bet everyone I want to see will clash, this generally happens), and I’m kind of addicted to Micachu’s debut album Jewellery. Electropop that isn’t all that electro or all that pop really, it borrows as much from Deerhoof as it does, say, MIA. Golden Phone is a particular highlight, an addictive little tune that rattles and hops along on an earworm melody.

Super Furry Animals are generally reliable, although lately they’ve hit a bit of a dip. Gruff Rhys’ side project and solo stuff has been good enough to keep my enthusiasm up though, and the new SFA album Dark Days/Light Years is something of a return to form to these ears. Maybe only these ears though, for I’ve seen a lot of negative feedback on the internet. Admittedly at times it all sounds a little loose and half-arsed, but hey, I like loose and half-arsed. They’ve got the variety back here too, one of the things that got me into their earlier stuff in the first place. Lush psychedelic epics brush up against joke cod-funk, dippy sixties influenced pop, and whatever Inaugural Trams is even supposed to be. Although it gets clunky at times, it all works out.

Ra Ra Riot got tied in with Vampire Weekend a lot last year – the two bands are mates, and they supported VW over here. Their debut album The Rhumb Line initially had a load of positive reviews on its UK release but was then pretty much ignored, and that’s unfair as they’re actually a lot better than their famous friends. There are similarities in the vocals and some of the melodies, but their songs go a lot deeper, with death and longing everywhere. It’s an almost eerie record – the band’s original drummer drowned in the summer of 2007, after most (if not all) of the songs were written but not before recording the album, and yet it feels like an extended tribute to him somehow. In parts it’s incredibly touching, and in others almost uplifting. The violin and cello definitely bring something to the mix, complementing the more melancholic songs beautifully and adding an extra dimension to the upbeat indie rock stuff.

14/05/2009 Posted by | Music, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Silversun Pickups – Swoon

There seems to be some unwritten rule that every review of a Silversun Pickups record should make mention of a certain other band with the initials ‘SP’. Even the ones that don’t do it have to make mention of the fact that all the others do, so I’ve failed already. The comparison is a pretty fucking lazy one in truth though (which is why I keep on making it) – sure, there are a lot of similarities, but it’s not like they’re a direct replacement.

It might not see them completely escape the Diet Pumpkins tag that followed them around with the release of Carnavas a couple of years back, but Swoon is definitely a big move away from the sound on that album. Opener There’s No Secrets This Year (which, it has to be said, could very easily be something off Siamese Dream) is the closest they come to anything on their debut full length, and the most straightforward thing on here. From here the strings kick in and you’re listening to Silversun Pickups 2.0, a different proposition altogether.

Thing is, Swoon is lacking in the pop tunes that got people’s attention in the first place – there’s nothing that could sit beside something like Melatonin or Lazy Eye on Carnavas – but makes up for that to an extent with far greater depth. It’s a more consistent record, with less filler and more of a proper structure, but also missing the immediacy of the best stuff on that album.

One thing that becomes pretty apparent early on is that they weren’t too bothered about song length. Things end where they need to end – I made and ate a Pot Noodle during one track, and it was still only just hinting at a conclusion when I put my fork down. The unhurried approach doesn’t always work, with some of the more intricate parts dragging, but really benefits highlights like album centrepiece Panic Switch and the slow burning Catch & Release. They’re both given time to grow to a finish without being forced to fit some time limit, and are better for it.

The same thing is true for the record as a whole – give it time to grow, and it’ll reward in the end.

7/10

01/05/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment