SCREAMING TREES – Sweet Oblivion

In some ways, the idea of grunge as a musical umbrella was a myth; a media invention borne from a lazy journalistic need to pigeonhole everything. Most of the bands that broke through in the early 90s actually had little in common aside from a geographic locale: Nirvana’s Pixies and Wipers obsessions bore little resemblance to Soundgarden’s updating of Black Sabbath’s monolithic riffery, just as that had absolutely nothing in common with Mudhoney’s desire to be Iggy & The Stooges. Yet, they were often lumped together. Also primarily thought of as a “grunge band”, from their inception in the mid-80s right through to their quiet demise approximately fifteen years later, Screaming Trees honed retro sounds of yet a different kind. Here was a band that drew influence from heavy psychedelia. Like the other more popular Washington State bands, their only obvious link came from a love of khaki kecks and heavy plaid shirts.

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FIRST SIGNAL – Line Of Fire

Between the release of First Signal’s 2016 album ‘One Step Over The Line’ and 2019’s ‘Line of Fire’, the band’s core members kept themselves very busy. Vocalist Harry Hess recorded another album with his “day job” band, Harem Scarem (2017’s ‘United’); guitarist Michael Palace released his second band album with Palace – the appropriately named ‘Binary’ – and Daniel Flores returned to The Murder of My Sweet, releasing ‘Echoes of the Aftermath’ on Frontiers Records in 2017. In addition during those intervening three years, Flores and Palace scored themselves jobs as invaluable members of the Frontiers “house band”, lending their talents to releases by Toby Hitchcock, Find Me and Code Red. There’s almost been no time for them to sleep.

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ELENI DRAKE – Songs On Sundays EP

A collection of songs that melded jazz melodies with swathes of contemporary soul, Eleni Drake’s debut EP ‘Blue’ had a lot of crossover potential and was a release that lent itself well to evening listening. With a lot of the music straddling the kind of sounds you might find during the softer parts of a Solange Knowles record and the laid-back electronica of Zero 7, it seemed so contemporary for the time of release and promised well enough for a potential follow up.

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JACK BRUCE – Live At Rockpalast 1980, 1983 & 1990

Jack Bruce is best known to most people as having been the bassist and vocalist with Cream, the sixties supergroup that imploded after just two and a half years. His solo works are often just as rewarding in listening terms and throughout the decade following Cream’s demise, Bruce released a string of albums that not only helped cement his legendary status, but also show how much broader his talents could be beyond the power trio format. 1969’s ‘Songs For A Tailor’ is a fantastic mix of rock, blues and jazz that belongs in any collection; 1970’s ‘Things We Like’ more than demonstrates Bruce’s affinity with harder jazz influences and 1977’s much overlooked ‘How’s Tricks’ offers a fine collection of rock-oriented songs teaming Jack with drummer Simon Phillips and keyboard player Tony Hymas – both important fixtures in Jeff Beck’s band during the following decade.

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EWIGKEIT – Declassified EP

Ewigkeit’s eighth album ‘DISclose’ drew heavily on themes of other worlds and UF-ology. Quite removed from their black metal origins, its seven songs straddled a wide range of heavy influences, taking in some old school rock and a fair amount of melodic and symphonic black metal, as well as a touch of drone and a little alternative along the way. It was a hugely accessible record considering multi-instrumentalist James Fogarty had first come to prominence as a member of In The Woods and provided you could make it past a semi-abrasive vocal, it was an album with a lot to give.

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