UB40 Featuring Ali, Astro & Mickey – Unplugged

ub40-unpluggedAt their best, the original eight man UB40 were an unstoppable band of brothers taking reggae music to every corner of the globe. With millions of record sales to their credit, it has been said that – save for Bob Marley – they were the genre’s most successful ambassadors. Some may knock 1983’s ‘Labour of Love’ as a lightweight covers record or middle class dinner party music, but it’s unlikely that those detractors have ever even heard Eric Donaldson’s version of ‘Cherry Oh Baby’ or Laurel Aitken’s ‘Guilty’, let alone Dandy Livingstone’s own ‘Version Girl’, so in many ways, in making a covers record, UB40 were making a more than valid musical point. Their 1980-89 catalogue is peerless. The many albums they released between 1991-2008 also have points of interest.

In 2008, the unthinkable happened: vocalist/guitarist Ali Campbell left the band. Keyboard player Mickey Virtue joined him. The six other band members were joined by vocalist Duncan Campbell and embarked on the next phase of their career. In 2013, the ever popular Astro jumped ship and joined Ali and Mickey in their musical endeavours, leaving behind what he dubbed “a rudderless ship”.

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LIGATURE WOUND – Ligature Wound

Ligature-WoundDeath metal is never easy listening, but it often comes with varying degrees of accessibility and with the best stuff you can always tell where the talent is. This album from Ligature Wound goes firmly against the grain, pushes all the dials into the red and never cares about allowing any kind of melodies – no matter how obtuse – get in the way of the band’s musical art. For it must be considered a kind of performance art, as it’s hard to believe that there will be people out there who’d have enough patience to tackle this debut willingly.

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ACID TONGUE – Beautiful Disaster EP

beautiful disasterIt takes more than guitar reverb and a perceived cooler-than-you retro attitude to make great music. Sadly, Seattle’s Acid Tongue haven’t really understood that. The bulk of their 2016 EP ‘Beautiful Disaster’ is an echo drenched, hipster baiting mess that relies far more on style than substance. Only one of the four featured tracks is worth hearing more than once: if not for the presence of the half-decent ‘Twisted’, ‘Beautiful Disaster’ would be a complete disaster.

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NFU – Treason EP

13245278_789310397873227_1684389454567832596_nPlaying a distorted and heavily wah-wahed blend of bluesy hard rock, in theory, New York’s NFU are the kind of band who should draw easy comparisons to Hendrix, Zeppelin and various 90s hard rockers enamoured with both. That’s so obviously their aim. The reality, however, is somewhat shocking. Despite promising “an EP full of character”, it’s quickly apparent that these four musicians – using that word in its loosest sense – have little more than a basic grasp of their instruments. At best, listeners will be subjected to material that approximates a boring bluster. But that’s being somewhat kind, since the four songs on ‘Treason’ seem to be played by a band who have absolutely no abilities when it comes to playing in sync with each other.

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PENNY FOR THE WORKHOUSE – Sneaky Peekers EP

pftwepPenny For The Workhouse have attracted attention by performing a spirited cover of ‘Pick a Pocket’ from Oliver in their live sets. That and their choice of band name should give you at least some idea of where this quirky London band’s main interests lie. Their self-named brand of folk ‘n’ roll is occasionally spiky, sometimes upbeat and has the cheeky charm of a stage school pick-pocket. However, like the kid who learnt their craft at stage school, their performances often seem contrived and try too hard to impress, rather than just tapping into a natural talent. The five tracks on ‘Sneaky Peekers’ – the band’s second release – are lo-fi and hard going, but nothing if not spirited. Not that those high spirits will help at all should Lionel Bart’s estate come knocking – in that instance, they won’t have the Dickensian orphan’s song(s) to fall back on for too long should those guys get wind of the live show…

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