Black Label Society founding member Zakk Wylde first came to prominence in the late ’80s at the tender age of 21 when he was chosen by heavy metal legend turned reality TV star Ozzy Osbourne to be his writing partner and lead guitarist. After a decade spent in Ozzy’s shadow Wylde branched out on his own with what would become known as the Black Label Society. Formed out of the remnants of Wylde’s bluesy southern rock side project Pride & Glory which had disbanded in 1994 after one record, Black Label Society released their debut album Sonic Brew in 1998 within two years of Wylde’s first ever solo acoustic record Book of Shadows from 1996. After 20 years and numerous personnel changes multi-instrumentalist Wylde remains the one constant and driving force behind Black Label Society. Recorded and mixed at The Black Vatican in Los Angeles, California, their latest album, the deceptively titled Grimmest Hits (the record is neither a compilation of previously recorded material nor is it a collection of so-called “hit” songs) is the band’s 10th album in 20 years. A balls-to-the-wall riff bashing groove-fest Grimmest Hits is sure to satiate rockers of all ages who dig melody and lyrics along with heaps of heavy hooks and swaggering guitars. The casual listener should not be put off by the heavy metal trappings often associated with both the marketing and branding of BLS. Despite the fact that the Grim Reaper features prominently in the packaging and artwork accompanying Grimmest Hits, old time blues based southern rock riffs still remain at the heart of much of Wylde’s music (as witnessed by the album’s three ballads The Only Words, The Day That Heaven Had Gone Away and Nothing Left To Say). Highly recommended for fans of Queens Of The Stone Age and other millennial hard rock acts. All labels aside, Black Label Society are without question a hard edged American rock ‘n’ roll band of the finest order.
Star rating: 3/5
2018 Song Of The Day Club Album Review: 8/52
Brighton England’s The Go! Team (not to be confused with Washington State indie rockers The Go Team from the late 80s) are the brainchild of Ian Parton, the deeper dig record collecting mix-master musician turned DIY record producer/arranger extraordinaire. He recorded his first album Thunder, Lightning, Strike at his parents’ place in 2004. Since that time his work has garnered widespread critical acclaim including a nomination for the UK’s prestigious music award The Mercury Prize for Best Album of 2005. Having recorded his debut album entirely by himself Parton formed the touring incarnation of The Go! Team out of necessity after being asked to perform live for a Swedish music festival at a time when no band existed. The present line-up includes Parton in various capacities as well as Sam Dook (guitar) Simone Odaranile drums/percussion) Adam Hutchison (bass) Ninja (vocals) and Angela Won-Yin Mak vocals/guitar).
At the heart of Semicircle, their 5th album in 14 years, what makes it most unique, is Parton’s latest obsession with marching bands and youth choirs. In combining the bands live instrumentation (bolstered by a swaggering six-piece horn section) with samples of obscure high school marching band recordings Parton has managed to capture a distinctive blend of youthful exuberance and enthusiasm quite unlike anything else that has come before it. The vocalists he handpicked for the project are no less wonderfully unconventional and equally diverse ranging from members of the Detroit Youth Choir and area high-school kids to elementary and middle school students from the Detroit Academy of Arts and Sciences. Additional offbeat vocal contributions provided by Bandcamp discovery Darenda Weaver, Doreen Kirchner, Annelotte de Graaf (aka Amber Arcades) and Julie Margat as well as live and original band members Ninja and Angela “Maki” Won-Yin Mak. A refreshingly upbeat uplifting tapestry rich with genre bending grooves mashing unexpected elements of R&B, girl group, wall-of-sound, schoolyard chants with old school hip-hop funk and sunshine pop. The perfect soundtrack to Summer!
Star Rating: 3/5
2018 Album Reviews: 7/52
25-year-old millennial indie rocker Will Toledo is perhaps best known and loved for the half dozen or so self-released Bandcamp albums he wrote and recorded as a teenager, particularly Twin Fantasy. Now he has re-recorded it. Released in multiple formats including cassette, compact disc and digital download the original Twin Fantasy album has inspired an impassioned cult following in the years following its release in 2011. Calling himself Car Seat Headrest (a reference to early vocal takes recorded in the soundproof back seat of his car), Toledo recorded the entire original album on a laptop computer playing all of the instruments himself having no backing band at the time (he had left his previous band Nervous Young Men the prior year). Toledo has since been signed to the prestigious Matador Records label and added Ethan Ives (guitar) Andrew Katz (drums) and Seth Dalby (bass) to the band’s current lineup. No stranger to revisionism, this reimagining of Toledo’s 7-year-old low-fi indie opus to teenage heartache and angst marks the third such occasion he has revisited older material. In 2013 Toledo re-worked a slew of songs from his old band for the two hour long Nervous Young Man album. His Matador debut and 2015 follow up Teens Of Style served as a kind of introductory compilation of newly recorded versions of Toledo’s older songs written in his teens and originally released between 2010 and 2012.
In order to differentiate between the two latest Twin Fantasy releases, Matador has rebranded the original 2011 album Twin Fantasy (Mirror To Mirror) while dubbing the newly recorded 2018 version Twin Fantasy (Face To Face). Whether the update of Toledo’s 2011 DIY indie classic resonates and connects with fans the same way the original did remains to be seen. According to Toledo he never properly completed Twin Fantasy in the first place, “It was never a finished work and it wasn’t until last year that I figured out how to finish it.” Fans of the original will be pleased to know that there are plans for the first ever vinyl pressing of the original 2011 Twin Fantasy album just in time for Record Store Day. Either way, the future looks bright for the talented young Toledo who no doubt has a wellspring of “millennial life at 25” material waiting to be written now that he has afforded himself the opportunity of reconciling the legacy left him by his former teen self. Perhaps that is precisely why he chose to close out the final strains of Twin Fantasy’s second last piece with 1st Corinthians 13:11-12 “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. At the end of my childhood I put these ways behind me. For now we see only reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Absolute biblical.
Star Rating: 3.5/5
2018 Album Reviews: 6/52
The Sheepdogs ’70s CanCon rock band lineage can be traced back through heritage acts The Guess Who (No Sugar Tonight), Crowbar (Oh What A Feeling), Lighthouse (Sunny Days) and The Five Man Electrical Band (Signs). Although they freely admit to forming under the heavy influence of Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Allman Brothers, Humble Pie and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Sheepdogs are perhaps best viewed in light of their particularly Canadian pedigree. Formed just over a decade ago around the nucleus of rock steady rhythm section Ryan Gullen (bass) and Sam Corbett (drums) Australian-born lead singer/guitarist and primary songwriter Ewan Currie rounds out the lineup along with brother Shamus Currie (trombone/keyboards) and the latest addition to the band, former child prodigy and award-winning Canadian blues guitarist Jimmy Bowskill. Noted for being the first ever unsigned band to grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, the Juno Award winning Platinum selling Sheepdogs are 12 years into a gig which began a year before Trying To Grow, their self-released first album from 2007. Five albums later and The Sheepdogs sound content sticking to a tried and tested formula for success with their retro sounding ‘70s styled bluesy guitar rock, what frontman Ewan Currie likes to describe as “pure, simple, good-time music”. However, he may want to consider ditching the Abbey Road-styled song medley album enders The Sheepdogs have come to employ for half of their albums now, the approach feeling wholly predictable, tired and completely over utilized by the band. Be that as it may Changing Colours is a more than satisfying listen, expertly produced, arranged and executed, highlighted by soaring vocal harmonies and musicianship that is tight as a drum. A slickly produced professional sounding success, nothing more and nothing less than what has come to be expected from Saskatoon’s famously derivative sons.
2018 Album Review 5/52
Ty Segall is proving to be one of the single most rejuvenating forces in rock music today. Barely 30 he has released an album a year for the past decade in addition to a half dozen other side projects and collaborations. His singular passionate enthusiasm for the music is undeniably infectious and on a level rarely seen since the early days of Hendrix, Prince and a young Jack White. Yeah, he’s THAT good and his latest double album Freedom’s Goblin offers ample proof of the fact. Backed by Freedom Band’s solid rhythm section of Mikal Cronon (bass) and Charles Moothart (drums) Segall rounds out the record’s stellar line-up with second guitarist Emmett Kelly, pianist Ben Boye and most surprisingly of all a wonderfully unexpected horn section. Spread out over 74 minutes Goblin’s stylistically varied 19 tracks make for one deliciously satisfying multi course meal with something for every palate. Segall’s most fully realized all-encompassing album to date. Freedom’s Goblin takes its rightful place alongside Frank Zappa’s Freak Out!, Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Prince’s Sign O’ The Times, The Smashing Pumpkin’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly as the latest installment in the continuing odyssey of rock ‘n’ rolls canon of signature double albums. An instant classic! 5 stars *****
2018 Album Review 4/52
The Limiñanas are a duo from the south of France consisting of multi-instrumentalist Lionel Limiñana and partner Marie Limiñana on drums & occasional vocals. Emulating Serge Gainsbourg’s trademark spoken-word singing style their groovy cool retro vibe relies heavily on stripped down vintage psychedelia as well as Gainsbourg’s ultra-hip collaborations with Brigitte Bardot (Bonnie & Clyde) from the 1960s. Since the release of their self-titled debut album in 2010 The Limiñanas have issued numerous singles and six full length records, their latest, Shadow People, in 2018. For the most part Shadow People stays true throughout its 10 tracks and 39 minutes to The Limiñanas’ winning formula of Velvet Underground influenced psychedelic sensibility along with ample amounts of reverb, fuzz and the aforementioned chic of cool French pop from the swinging ‘60s. Special guests include former New Order bassist Peter Hook (on the suspiciously New Order-ish sounding track The Gift) as well as Brain Jonestown Massacre veteran Anton Newcombe (he also produced the album) who helps contribute to the record’s mixed bag of French and English songs along with actress Emmanuelle Seigner and French vocalist Bertrand Belin. Highly recommended for anyone with a taste for vintage as well as fans of the Jesus And Mary Chain, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.
They Might Be Giants are many things to many people. Named after the Don Quixote inspired title to the 1971 George C. Scott film of the same name, the singing duo of John Flansburgh (guitar & vocals) and John Linnell (accordion, saxophone & vocals) first came to prominence in the mid-1980s playing gigs in and around New York City’s Lower East Side accompanied by a drum machine and pre-recorded audio cassette tapes. In the ensuing 35 years TMBG have broadened the range of keyboard and wind instruments played by Linnell and added a three-piece backing band to their lineup. They have gone on to record multiple gold and platinum selling records as well as music for film and television (most notably the award winning theme music to Malcolm In The Middle) and three very successful children’s music albums. To date they have won two Grammy Awards and sold over 4 million records. TMBG’s latest I Like Fun, their 20th album since the release of their 1986 self-titled debut, is a bouncy spirited power pop meditation on mortality filled with fun and inventive lyrical observations on the ultimate inevitability that awaits us all. These 15 upbeat two-and-a-half-minute pop songs about death somehow make for 41 minutes of fun, fun, fun and who doesn’t like fun?