Lies That Comfort You is the debut album from Fierce Friend, the brain child of local musician Alan Grice, who you may have spotted tinkling the ivories, thumping the tubs, or any other number of vernacular descriptions for performing on instruments, within a great number of Brighton bands. Most notably, multi-instrumental Mr Grice has performed as a side-man for The Electric Soft Parade (keys), Foxes! (bass) and Octopuses (drums), but he’s been a go-to player for many on the scene beyond that, giving him time, opportunity and agency to develop his own skill as a songwriter and arranger, leading almost inevitably to the formation from frequent collaborators of this group as a vehicle for his own compositions. Fierce Friend popped their heads above the parapet a couple of years ago to play a handful of shows, teasing the sounds of this record to eager audiences, but then everything went quiet. So it’s a great pleasure, and a slight surprise, that this album has finally come to light amongst a flurry of renewed activity from the group.
‘Give peace a chance’, they said, and so I did – reviewing their second album, Happy People, for Brightonsfinest back in 2015. While I was sympathetic to the common criticism that the band are not the most original bunch in the world, I concluded that their approach was more a case of tribute and reference than mere copyists with no fresh ideas. Following the successful cycle of the second album Peace went remarkably quiet, especially for a band fronted by an archetypal loud-mouthed party animal frontman like Harrison Koisser. After two year’s silence the first peep out of the band, and the first sounds we heard from this record, came in the form of ‘From Under Liquid Glass’, an uncharacteristically moody song released in support of mental health charity MQ and a centre piece for the album. Harry’s voice soars high with confessional lyrics over the grandiose but simple back-drop of bombastic drums and gritty but minimal guitars.
There’s a cyclical nature to the way the Manic Street Preachers make their albums, the musical equivalent of two steps forward, one step back, as they alternate between innovation, expansion and consolidation. Resistance Is Futile finds the band in consolidation mode, harking back to their triumphant ‘96 album Everything Must Go, whilst incorporating newer sonic elements added to their palette on the last two records. It is the band’s 13th studio album, which is incredible really when you consider their history. From their bold early claims of splitting after going platinum with their first album, to the disappearance of firebrand lyricist Richey Edwards and the attendant mental health problems which wore heavily on the remaining band members. However, if they were ever really going to split I would have thought the commercial (and arguably creative) slump that followed their triumphant late-90s albums might have provided an opportunity to fade quietly from view.
Three years on from their killer debut, Dream Soda, Demob Happy have finally returned with a powerful follow-up. They’ve lost a guitarist along the way, with the 2016 departure of Mathew Renforth, but Holy Doom still retains the band’s weighty presence on record, paired with an even greater sense of melody and harmony. Don’t for a second think they’ve gone soft though – this is a full throttle record, only its choruses are fuelled by harmonies that The Beatles would have been proud of. In fact, The Beatles come to mind quite a lot when listening to the retro rock stylings of Holy Doom. There’s a definite Lennon-esque twang to Matthew Marcantonio’s lead vocal, and the record is full of the sort of angular riffs that recall, at times, both the Fab Four’s heaviest and most psychedelic moments. Of course, Demob Happy are a damn site heavier than The Beatles ever could have been.
Sunflower Bean are a trio of extremely young retro rockers from America, delivering their second album right on schedule: two years and two months after the first. Twentytwo In Blue hits our shelves and screens at the point that all three band members have reached the grand-old-age of 22. It’s worth bearing in mind just how young they were, writing these songs barely out of their teens, in a band that’s been active since they were all 17. We’ve seen quite a few acts with similar youth and dedication to the musical past over the last few years. I could argue these guys sit comfortably between Haim and The Lemon Twigs but, really, their circumstantial similarities don’t come across when you listen to the actual music, as tempting as it is to follow the old music-journalist trope of lumping bands together to aid a sweeping grand narrative. I’m fascinated, though, to see bands who weren’t even born the first time I bought an album, rejecting the palette of modern electronic pop music in favour of familiar sounds from their parent’s record collections, from when melody and musicianship seemed to be the vital and essential drivers of music culture.
This was my first time seeing the Bleeding Hearts Club at the Rialto Theatre, which seems pretty remiss of me when I think about it: they’ve been based here for a couple of years at least. For the uninitiated, it’s a monthly night organised by Chris Davies, the man behind local label Bleeding Heart Recordings, who’ve given us some rather illustrious indie releases over the years from a raft of local artists, including Clowwns, Crayola Lectern, Grasshopper, Seadog, and Thomas White, who was appearing later on in the night.
After Mansun split acrimoniously at some point in 2003, midway through recording sessions for their fourth album, all communication between the former bandmates was reduced to a cycle of hopeful rumours followed by bitter rebuttals while the main man himself, Paul Draper, seemed to disappear off the map, if you weren’t paying close attention. Those who did, though, became part of a strong community of vocal supporters, connected through online forums. Mansunites continued to meet up regularly, holding conventions where Mansun tribute acts would perform authentic cover versions, and devotees would seek out any hint of activity from the former members – ever hopeful that more would come from a career that seemed to have been painfully mismanaged after the most promising of starts.
Memories, the long anticipated debut album from soulful singer Ady Suleiman has finally arrived. Suleiman first hit the Brightonsfinest radar when he appeared at The Great Escape, way back in 2015, but he’s been a signed artist in development since 2013. I stepped in to review a live show when he kicked off a UK tour at the Green Door Store, just over two years ago. I was seriously blown away – largely because what I saw was totally unexpected, given my preparation of listening to a few single releases on Spotify. To me it seemed like there was a big mismatch between this guy’s releases and his live show. I found his often jazzy, emotive material came to life in the hands of these live performers, whereas what I heard in the recordings was much more electronic, sample-based and hyped. This may just be personal taste, but I think it’s a lot harder to make a computer sound soulful, when compared to a musician with a microphone or an instrument in their hands. After the show I spent weeks obsessing over all the live YouTube videos there are of Ady, often accompanied by guitarist Ed Black, performing live, stripped-back and beautiful versions of his fantastic songs.
The classic line-up of Kim Deal’s cult band The Breeders have reunited for their first album together in 25 years. With her twin sister Kelley on second guitar and vocal, drummer Jim Macpherson and British bassist Josephine Wigg, expectations have been raised exceptionally high. In 1993 the band released Last Splash, an album that spawned their biggest hit ‘Cannonball’ and went on to sell a million copies in the States, while the band toured with Nirvana at the height of their powers, and garnered the lofty accolade of being raved about as one of Kurt Cobain’s favourite bands. There was no sharp acrimonious split, rather The Breeders struggled through the twin sister’s dual addictions, Kelley to heroin and Kim to alcohol, and failed to make another album during a couple of difficult years attempting to write and tour which ended in Kelley’s drug bust, rehab and splintering off. The Deal sisters would eventually make another couple of records under The Breeders monikor, but struggled to recapture the potency of their early years.
It’s been five years since the last MGMT album, but you could be forgiven for thinking it has actually been eight, or even a decade. There’s has unfortunately been one of those careers of diminishing returns. Their début album, Oracular Spectacular, was a bit of a phenomenon. I’ve seen a lot of people mentioning those early, big hits when discussing this record: ‘Kids’, ‘Time To Pretend’, ‘Electric Feel’. Their first album had such an impact that it has cast the longest of shadows. I remember going to house parties in 2008 where, instead of a DJ, people would just put Oracular Spectacular on repeat, and people would get drunk and dance and singalong to it all night. The hits got so many sync placements, were covered and sampled so often, they started to get tiresome. The follow up, Congratulations, is criminally underrated. It has some great stuff on it, but it lacks the all pervading cool that the debut is seeped in. Perhaps in reaction to the lacklustre reception to the follow up, MGMT came along a few years later, and it’s a bit weird and inaccessible – if it’s designed to reward repeated listens I’m afraid I must confess I never got there.