Lana Del Rey – Arcadia

This song is special. Arcadia not only has a perfectly apt title for this here blog, it’s a gorgeous ballad of a song. Back in March Lana Del Rey announced a new album, fast on the heels of Chemtrails Over The Country Club, that would deal with criticism recently aimed at her and delve deeper into the personal history she chose to omit from her songwriting until now. Arcadia, from forthcoming album Blue Bannisters, delivers. A breathless waltz exploring the peaks and pitfalls of her life’s journey to Arcadia – the heavenly nirvana of the poet (or a city in California). Written with songwriter and producer Drew Erickson, this sexy piano-led number alludes to Lana’s new album being every bit as much of a classic as her past two releases. As the artist herself recommended on her social medias, “listen to it like you listened to video games”. 

Sterling Press – Lots of Noise

NEW BAND KLAXON: Literally just stumbled across Sterling Press after an Instagram add and they’re sounding lively as fuck. The four London boys are only two singles down but this song already speeds about like Blur at their Popscene fastest. A clash of ska and britpop, kitchen sink imagery, a tale of a barmaid who wants more from life than gammon, eggs, chips and cups of tea, over some furious drums. Decent song, promising stuff!

English Teacher – Wallace

Wallace is a woozy ode to the hopelessness of being distracted by the band leader of the Titanic (Wallace Hartley) playing on as the ship sinks. Over hypnotic strums, vocalist Lily Fontaine takes on the voice of authority and pulls the wool over our eyes with the mighty curtains of religion and politics before taking us down into a pit of psychedelia and asks what we’ll do under a spell as the apocalypse comes down.

In the next moment the titanic house band kicks in with a violin break and a genuine funeral march for the human race.

A fucking good song and a warning to the easily distracted. This Leeds band won’t be letting you sink into the cold waters of the North Atlantic like the song title’s namesake. 

Trampolene – Love No Less Than A Queen

Jack Jones and Trampolene have been on a near decade long voyage to reach the release of Love No Less Than A Queen. The early years of the Welsh alternative rock trio involved decamping to London from Swansea, a barrage of EP releases careening from pure spoken word to blues rock and delicate acoustic serenades, several UK tours and Jack’s stint as the Libertines tour poet-in-residence and guitarist in Peter Doherty’s The Puta Madres, before the eventual creation of their current line-up and becoming the first band signed to Doherty’s Strap Originals label.  

Love No Less Than A Queen is a culmination of this near decade of activity and a culmination of the music they have released until now. The album paints pictures of fighting through challenges, battling enemies within and without, then finding some kind of contentedness. ‘Gotta Do More Gotta Be More’ launches the record with a statement of intent, a driving industrial rhythm asserting this era of the group as bolder and more ginormous than all that’s come before. Leaping into ‘Oh Lover’ which immediately fulfils the opening promise, their most obvious crowd igniting anthem yet, dirty guitars and a passionate croon to a sweetheart.  

The title of ‘The Misadventures Of Lord Billy Bilo’ hints at the track being some kind of tribute to Pete Doherty, the song itself – a drug induced, schizophrenic, hallucinating crack-up over a stoned Sonic Youth backing. ‘No Love No Kisses’ is uplifting playground lament, half sonnet, half singalong. ‘Remember’, the album and career highpoint for Trampolene so far, an encouraging and rousing paean, asking the listener to, “in these darkest days, in the hardest maze” remember and find a way out of whatever morass they find themself in (well that’s my interpretation anyway). 

‘Uncle Brian’s Abattoir’, featuring Doherty on the chorus, the first single from the album recorded and released in the midst of COVID-19 lockdown, is a tinkling collage of barmy but enlivening imagery, the abattoir referred to sounding more like rehab than slaughterhouse, containing a message of redemption we all needed to hear in 2020. ‘Shoot The Lights’ is a danceable, sleaze smothered, Cure inspired hit. 

‘Lighter Than Paper’ brings the pace down a melodic tone or two, the first of the crystalline calm love songs on the record’s second half, a style of song that Trampolene pull off with remarkable ease next to the muddy blues rock of Shoot The Lights. The chorus of ‘Perfect View’ moves further on up again to a synth boosted, feelgood horizon. ‘Born Again’ could be The Stone Roses, a declaration of a total new start with a breakdown sermonizing the benefit of losing control and letting fate be your master before the scuzz guitar starts up again.  

‘Milan’ is a gentle, regretful, plead after a wake-up call to a lover who’s sliding away, soft as a summer weekend morning.  

‘Come Join Me In Life’, then, is the record’s summit. If Trampolene are typified by anything it’s Jack Jones’s poetry and this poem is a working-class lament, demanding “burning ambition”, striving to beat the bastards who’ll keep you down and to “be a rebel with a reason, don’t dare be realistic” over soundbites of a train buffet car announcement and ending in a riot. With a riot being a perfectly fitting ending for this, Trampolene’s bright new dawn. 

Beabadoobee – Our Extended Play

Beabadoobee feels like a lone and true successor of so many nineties mainstream britpop and shoegaze records, which don’t get enough carefree pop tributes, sung by Vanessa Carlton and this EP is a collaboration between Bea Beabadoobee and The 1975. Last Day On Earth is an uplifting, chilled out ode to burning down churches, stripping off your clothes and then getting ‘fucked up, alone’. Cologne sounds like Blur descending into a frazzle of feedback, like the breakdown in Radiohead’s Paranoid Android. Animal Noises calms things down a level, like a nostalgic Phoebe Bridgers swimming about under a sea of strings. He Gets Me So High starts off sugar sweet before developing an emo tinge courtesy of Matt Healy’s guest vocals. A great follow-up to their 2020 Fake It Flowers LP.

The Libertines – 17 Years On – Rock Against Racism album review

The Libertines self titled second album is 17 years old today. Back then, at the age of 21, I dreamed of being a music journalist but never made it happen. A friend did ask me to write a review for the Rock Against Racism fanzine, however, and here it is.

The story of The Libertines has always been a turbulent one. Debut single “What A Waster” was never going to get any radio play, for obvious reasons. Debut album Up The Bracket was littered with references to live in the rough and tumble of London’s East End whilst trying to keep some perspective and direction, with tales of the Albion and the Arcadian dream. 

Rumours and gossip, much of the time planted by the band through colourful interviews, are distorted and discussed the world over by fans and critics alike. More recently there has been in-band fighting, theft, escalating drug addiction, rehab and a near-final total split.  

And the tabloids and music press follow it avidly, talking it round and round until it seems to have little or no connection to the music itself – some wild saga or soap opera more interested in crack and cocaine, angry ex-girlfriends and court hearings than the songs. So this is where The Libertines steps in. 

From the first tangle and jangle 20-second intro to “Can’t Stand Me Now” to the final slow down, stop and start drums of “What Became of The Likely Lads?” the album is through and through the product of the chaotic time between their debut and this, their second album, each track filled with references to, inspired by or tainted by past events and misgivings. 

Most obviously, “Can’t Stand Me Now” is an ode to Pete ‘n’ Carl’s dented friendship, as both argue and bicker in trademark poetic fashion of heroin addiction and anger at being rejected from the band last summer, all over a classic, powerful tune. Perfect material for the album’s first single, and an ideal first chapter to the following album. 

“Last Post On The Bugle” sees a would-be song of missed love turn into a sorrowful, downbeat tune backed by repetitive guitar riff. “Don’t Be Shy”, appearing somewhat out of place through its sheer initial exuberance, fits in perfectly with its message of live for the day, take what you have and, in the words of their first album, “Fuck ‘em”, complete with the highest vocal chorus since the Bee Gees. 

“The Man Who Would Be King”, a soft then loud track, with fragile piano-backed verses leading toward a haunting, lulling chorus, the piano turning into a waltz during the outro. “Music When The Lights Go Out” comes in with a pattern of curving guitars, turning into a ballad to the loss of the first lust or love in a relationship.  

“Narcissist”, the fiercest track on The Libertines, lively in the vein of “Don’t Be Shy”, sings to vanity and a longing to be part of the showbiz world of models and magazines. “The Ha Ha Wall” is The Libertines’ statement of intent around hypnotic circle guitars and adamant drums, to making success out of boredom and idleness. “Arbeit Macht Frei” is a punk blast in less than two minutes, beating guitars and a non-PC ode of ironic hypocrisy inside a history lesson. 

“What Katie Did” is one of the best pop songs written by a rock ‘n’ roll band in the last ten years, with a pristine singalong chorus recently revealed to be written to a troubled ex-friend. “Tomblands” is a fast, dark sea shanty filled with talk of drug abuse and being on the run. “The Saga” a confessional track of denial, acceptance, then denial of a problem – which problem is left to the listener to conclude. 

“Road To Ruin”, the song of the Albion’s ever-stormy voyage to Arcadia, always swayed off course by outside forces, yet always re-affirming the underlying beliefs: “Trust in me, take me by the hand, all that you need is right there in your hand, you don’t need money…” over the top of an organ backing. 

Final track “What Became Of The Likely Lads” brings the album back round to a close. The sister track of “Can’t Stand Me Now”, directly questioning the partnership of Pete ‘n’ Carl and the standing of the band, whilst at the same time reinforcing the band’s Smiths-like fascination of the England of old through the blatant reference to the 60s comedy series. 

At encapsulating the essence of The Libertines, their intentions, their habits, their obsessions, their influences and their constantly individual songwriting style, the album succeeds.  

Where their debut focused on displaying life in London’s inner city underworld, The Libertines gives a portrait of life and the problems inside Britain’s most exciting current band, and pulls it off with the smattering of charm and melody you would expect them to deliver. 

D.O.T.H.S / Death Of The High Street- Exit

Death Of The High Street‘s new single Exit is the latest missive from Creation records’ reincarnation, It’s Creation Baby. Another punkish band choosing to lead with Mark E Smith spoken word but the chorus is melodic enough to lift them over and above the trend. The lyrics are a spit-flecked meditation on the scourges of modern life, a trudge through a personal hell, with the Exit being the fate that’ll meet us all. Worth having a listen to these.

Supera Morza – Roadkill

The eardrum blisteringly heavy second single from Manchester new grunge types Supera Morzo is worth a listen. Hailing from some musical utopia between Nirvana and The Cribs, Roadkill is a bass lead concoction of screeching guitar and throat destroying anger. The lyrics are impossible to make out and the name doesn’t make sense yet but the song is pretty fucking great. Their last single, Scrubber, was about Boris Johnson and, with a title like this, it’s safe to presume they’re using the same subject matter here too.

The Cribs – Swinging at Shadows

To put it simply, The Cribs are brilliant, consistently so, and they’ve put out another brilliant single, a truly vital, energetic, poppy 3 minute something song to stand up there amongst all their other songs of the same description. Sorry, not amongst them, at the forefront. As joyful, loud and catchy as their material mostly is, The Cribs thankfully seem happy to keep smashing through their well-honed formula, and long may they continue to do so.