Category Archives: Album Reviews

The Next Day – Album Review

The Next Day

In 2013, David Bowie finally returned with a brand new album which delivered lots of new material, something the rock legend had not done in 10 years. The album was The Next Day and it was quickly critically acclaimed, the man proving once again that he could still bring the goods.

With its minimalist, subversive cover which used Heroes‘ classic album cover as a background, the album’s main message seemed to be: keep the past in mind but also paint over it to create something fresh and new.

Would this mean a complete reinvention from the artist or merely a cheeky update?

Let’s take a listen.

The album opens with title track “The Next Day” which was accompanied by one haunting (and bloody) religion-themed video starring Marion Cotillard and Gary Oldman. The song itself is a worthy opener as it’s fun, rocky and balances both a retro and modern vibe, thereby setting the tone for the rest of the album. One of my personal favourite tracks on The Next Day is “Dirty Boys”, a sleazy, bluesy gem which sounds like a Bowie/Tom Waits collaboration with its disjointed guitar and sax backing, the latter offering a pretty cool solo near the end.

The next track, “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, also had a music video attached to it and that one was more of a short film. It was directed by Floria Sigismondi and followed David Bowie and Tilda Swinton as a jaded married couple haunted by visions of their past selves as those versions of them start clashing and merging. It’s a surreal, experimental watch and a worthy one, for sure. The song itself is reflective, nostalgic and very Bowie.

“Love Is Lost” is next and, led by a thumping beat, it’s another slightly dark but very cool effort: one significant key change halfway through even brings to mind “Space Oddity” so, once again, you’ve got that retro vibe spliced into a definitely modern sound. One of the best on the album. The Steve Reich mix of this one is also worth checking out.

“Where Are We Now?” was the first single released from the album and, surprisingly, it’s one of the slowest. That said, it’s also one of the prettiest and most moving tracks on there as Bowie croons his way through a rather heartbreaking hymn to time and moving on. If that one’s perhaps too depressing for ya, “Valentine’s Day” is a much more upbeat track and it comes right after though if you follow the lyrics closely you’ll notice it’s in fact about quite a dark subject matter which gives it an unexpected sinister edge.

“If You Can See Me” is a much more erratic and experimental track with its scattered beat, dramatic synth and grand voice work by Bowie. This one won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s certainly refreshing to see the man still come up with something so challenging and bold after all these years. Track number 8 is “I’d Rather Be High” and it’s a terrific anthem to the jaded. It’s a fun song with Bowie bringing a new wave feel to it with those higher-pitched tones of his and that deadpan chorus.

“Boss Of Me” was co-written by Gerry Leonard and it’s an inventive, constantly growing track packed full of subtle little surprises. Great guitar, vocals, sax, lyrics, it’s just one heck of a good track, though it’s tough to pin down since it goes very different directions throughout. Our favourite Starman then looks back to the Heavens for “Dancing Out In Space”, another creative track with a dancier vibe. Expect a very catchy hook and some wacky synth work.

“How Does The Grass Grow?” is also quite dancy at times but the main thing about this one is just how well put-together it is overall. Rocking melody, super catchy bridge with a bit of a Link Wray feel, fab guitar solos, unexpected key changes which take the track in whole new directions: this is Bowie at his most creative. The song was co-written by Jerry Lordan. “(You Will) Set The World On Fire” is, quite simply, kickass. The grungy guitar riffs, Bowie’s moody vocals, the upbeat chorus, it’s an overlooked gem and one of the artist’s best in a while.

The next song is “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die” and it’s a poetic effort with an old-fashioned 50’s vibe but also some gospel in there. It’s a heartfelt track which grows beautifully and it’s one of the most moving on the album. The final song on The Next Day is “Heat”, a dark, jazzy track which ends the album on a downbeat note as Bowie once again throws something avant-garde at you right at the end just to keep you guessing.

What can I say about The Next Day except that it completely deserves the positive response it initially received.

It’s easy to underestimate this one, especially if you’ve only heard one single released from it, but if you take the time and listen to the whole thing you’ll realise pretty quickly just how good it is. Not that David Bowie even needed a comeback but this album effortlessly cemented the fact that the man was just an artist through and through, and a hugely talented one at that. The Next Day is a burst of creativity from the cover art to the lyrics and each and every song as a whole. There are some fantastic tracks on there which feel timeless as Bowie skilfully merges old and new sounds to create something truly unique.

That’s 4 Ziggies out of 5 for The Next Day, a thrilling late album most classic rockers only dream of making nowadays.

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Crazy Clown Time – Album Review

Crazy Clown Time

After delivering some of the most unique and bizarre films of the past 20+ years, director David Lynch then decided to partake in some musical projects for a while. In 2011, he released his debut album Crazy Clown Time and he would follow it up two years later with The Big Dream.

Was this career jump a wise, worthy choice or more of a Kevin Costner singing country songs type of deal?

After all, while David Lynch’s voice is always a delight (see Twin Peaks for some rather loud examples), it doesn’t exactly strike as the obvious singing voice so let’s see how that turned out.

The opening song, “Pinky’s Dream”, buries the lead by not revealing singing Lynch and instead having Karen O from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs sing the tune. And what a tune it is! About as Lynchian as it gets, this is a fast-paced, dark, moody, driving song with some crafty reverbs and sound effects, bringing up images of a frantic, surreal highway chase. It’s, quite simply, a brilliant track and the perfect way to start the album.

Surprisingly, “Good Day Today”, goes for something completely different: a club-friendly remix of what sounds like some Angelo Badalamenti leftover sounds from his classic Twin Peaks score with an auto-tuned Lynch singing over a bouncy beat which includes the odd gunshot. There’s an upbeat but also desperate feel to this one and it is about as wacky as the above description suggests.

“So Glad” is a slower, somewhat more mean-spirited track which somehow works really well, Lynch’s voice blending in perfectly with the regular drum beat and the occasional guitar twangs. It’s one of those many songs on the album you find yourself quickly hypnotized by, wanting to know how it builds and what it builds up to. “Noah’s Ark” is next and sees David Lynch whispering about a “dark night” over sounds of a record skipping and repeating, plus the usual moody backing. Again, it shouldn’t work and yet it’s strangely compelling.

The next track, “Football Game”, is more playful as Lynch amusingly mumbles about going to a football game with a southern twang and what has to be a bag of hazelnuts in his mouth as an old-fashioned reverbed guitar rocks out throughout. “I Know” is in the same vein as “So Glad” and is just as atmospheric if maybe a little too similar in tone and feel. As for “Strange And Unproductive Thinking”, it can only be described as Lynch’s musical homage to Transcendental Meditation as the man talks, or rather echoes, about the subconscious and superconscious over a quietly booming beat.

“The Night Bell With Lightning” is a bluesier track the likes of Quentin Tarantino wouldn’t spit at, I’m sure. Lynch’s band showing off how well they’ve captured the director’s style in a slow yet cool instrumental tune. It is followed by one of this album’s highlights: “Stone’s Gone Up”. Like “Pinky’s Dream”, this is a ridiculously moody, fun track but, this time, David Lynch is on singing duties and he does a great job, nailing a not-super-easy to sing chorus and the more talky verses.

And now we come to “Crazy Clown Time”, the title track. Armed with one nutty video to say the least, it’s quite probably the wackiest song on the album but it’s also one of the best and most memorable. Lynch describes an out-of-control party in a kid’s voice, with all the naivety of a child, and the result is hilarious, hypnotic and… just so good. The music itself is, of course, also terrific.

Crazy clown time indeed!

Easily the best 7 minutes you’ll spend with your shirt off.

“These Are My Friends” is a more chilled-out track, a ballad almost, in which Lynch describes a bunch of stuff he has including a truck and “two good ears” before describing what his friends have: bluebirds, dogs and yellow baskets, mostly. It’s a good song with a silly sense of humour and, a lot like “Crazy Clown Time”, it’s pretty irresistible. “Speed Roadster” is the 12th song and Lynch tries to speak to someone on the phone in this one. Sounds a bit like he improvised the track as he went, which isn’t so far-fetched when you know the man’s mostly out-there work. The swearing throughout is entertaining but the song doesn’t stand-out as much as the others, unfortunately.

The next track, “Movin’ On”, has a similar beat as its predecessor but Lynch’s voice is higher pitched. Ultimately it has some nice melodic moments here and there but it’s another not-too memorable effort. The final song “She Rise Up”, is reminiscent of “Good Day Today” in that similar effects affect Lynch’s voice but this is a much darker tune which builds up slowly. It’s not bad and is actually quite pretty at times but a faster song would have really hit the spot at that point.

So what to make of the film director’s debut album?

Against all odds, it’s a winner! Lynch and his band capture the mood and humour of his films brilliantly and you can definitely picture scenes from Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire and others as you listen. There are a handful of clear hits here everyone should have a good time with but really, this is one for fans who will likely love every minute of this strange, inspired little adventure.

“Crazy Clown Time” gets 4 Shady Dudes out of 5 from us.

I liked it so much I SPIT!

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Chinese Democracy – Album Review

GNR

15 years after their 1993 album “The Spaghetti Incident?”, which was comprised solely of cover songs, the Guns N’ Roses minus everyone except Axl Rose finally put together a new album. Many years in the making, Chinese Democracy was highly anticipated to say the least, even without Slash, Duff McKagan and the gang involved.

Some loved it, others hated it.

But was this big comeback really worth it?

A boldly simple riff leads the way in a kickass opening title track which most definitely sounds like the Guns N’ Roses. You’ve got some great guitar work in there, a top chorus, it’s short and sweet: the album couldn’t have started any better.

Axl goes low for second track “Shackler’s Revenge”, before slowly building to his usual highs. Expect a chaotic guitar hook mixed in with quite a lot of electronic sounds and a solo which is all over the place. The bridge is a bit weak and doesn’t quite fit but luckily the chorus works. It’s a very metal, very experimental track you’ll either have fun with or dismiss altogether as just too messy.

“Better” is a rather modern track for the band as it doesn’t exactly have that nostalgic retro feel to it. Which is not to say it’s not good, it’s got a very unique melody to it which builds really well with some heavier bits thrown in plus a respectable Slash-esque solo. Axl’s voice sounds weirdly different in this one I should point out but it remains a cool song.

A piano solo opens “Street Of Dreams” which goes for a “November Rain”-style ballad. Going back to Axl Rose’s voice, it sounds great when high but a little odd when low here. The song itself is appropriately grand and ambitious and boasts a strong melody despite not being quite as memorable as it probably wanted to be.

“If The World” is next and that one has more of a hip hop beat with something of a Middle Eastern vibe in places. Its pace speeds up and slows down in random places so, while it’s another good song, it’s also another experimental song which might sound a little off here and there. The next track, “There Was A Time”, has a a really strong melody but the chorus ruins it a bit by being so off-key somehow. It settles more later with an atmospheric solo and a solid build-up to the end but early on it’s frankly a bit too distracting.

“Catcher In The Rye” definitely has its moments, especially its solo and the main hook which help structure the song well throughout. You never know where this one’s going but it holds up really well even if it’s not the most memorable track on the album. It’s the nifty little touches here and there which make this one as likeable as it is. “Scraped” is a faster-paced track and, again, there’s a good hook and a cool solo in there. Unfortunately the key changes don’t really fit the vocals which makes it sound like two people are singing two different songs at the same time.

Another track with some weird key changes is “Riad N’ The Bedouins”, a song which, otherwise, is musically sound and which definitely has a lot going for it. “Sorry” is next and it’s a slower track with more of an R&B vibe. It’s a great ballad that works perfectly overall: chorus, bridge, it’s all steeped in attitude and regret. Easily one of Chinese Democracy’s best even if it rarely sounds like the Guns N’ Roses.

The next song, “I.R.S.”, is a fun track with a good melody and lots of energy. Could have definitely heard a song like it on Appetite For Destruction back in the day. It is followed by “Madagascar”, a more political track with more of an emphasis on mood and lyrics. Think of it a bit like a callback to classic GNR song “Civil War”. The track opens with a mini-orchestra (in synth form) giving it an appropriately grand, almost epic quality. Axl sounds like an old soul/blues singer here, in a good way!

There’s a beautiful piano-led melody throughout heartfelt ballad “This I Love” and an admittedly very pretty bridge also. The track grows and grows towards the best, longest guitar solo on the entire album. One of this new Guns N’ Roses’ best and most underrated songs. The album ends on “Prostitute”, a song about… exactly what it says it’s about! The pace is much too up and down in this bizarre ode which is surprisingly pretty but also unfortunately never allowed to fully take-off.

What to make of Chinese Democracy, then?

The fact that Axl Rose finally delivered this album which was such a long time coming and never felt like it would ever exist is in itself something of a miracle. While it’s certainly uneven, with some of its songs jumping from key to key or rhythm to rhythm sometimes with very little rhyme or reason and Axl’s voice sounding nearly completely different depending on where he is in the album or in a song, fans of what used to be the world’s biggest band should still find plenty to enjoy here.

The lack of some key band members means that this isn’t really the Guns N’ Roses, of course, but what we can learn from some of this album’s best moments is that the Roses without the Guns are still worth something.

That’s 3 Drunk Hatters out of 5 for Chinese Democracy. I’ll happily add an extra Hatter but only when Axl releases a brand new album which should be…

Any decade now.

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Full Circle – Album Review

Full Circle

After the release of Creed’s 2001 album Weathered, it looked like this was going to be the end of the post-grunge band but, 8 years later, Scott Stapp and Mark Tremonti reformed the band for a fourth album: Full Circle.

While said album didn’t receive the standing ovation that their first two outings enjoyed and received about as many mixed reviews as Weathered, it was still a full-on comeback with the band firing on all cylinders.

But there hasn’t been a follow-up yet, save for a Scott Stapp solo album, so was the album just not good enough to warrant another? Or is it mostly just a case of the band being too broken to literally get their act together?

The first single “Overcome” opens the album in an appropriately explosive way. Fans of the band should have been pretty satisfied with this comeback track which included a shamelessly catchy chorus and even a “Stapp rap” which the singer somehow pulls off without making a fool of himself. It’s a commercial track but a cool track all the same.

“Bread Of Shame” follows with an initially messy, off-beat guitar beat which ends up working surprisingly well when the vocals and the chorus kick in. It’s a very heavy track clearly designed for going nuts at live shows. Incidentally, it is followed by a much softer track.

“A Thousand Faces” boasts a genuinely beautiful melody and, all in all, it’s a bittersweet, heartfelt track which may just be the album’s highlight. The song goes in an unexpected direction towards the end before the terrific chorus kicks in one last time.

A heavy riff then kicks in as next track “Suddenly” begins. There’s a Middle-Eastern vibe to the chords in this one and we soon get another catchy, powerful chorus which makes the song. A clever key change halfway through also helps keep it worthwhile throughout. “Rain” is next and it’s a softer, more chilled-out track which certainly sounds closer to Christian rock, a subgenre Stapp would later embrace fully, of course. Though the song has an admittedly appealing chorus, this is still one tame, cheesy effort.

The sixth track, “Away In Silence”, starts off slow but hooks you in thanks to a catchy melody. This is another poppier, more commercial track but it’s pretty enough to still be likeable, though fans of the band’s heavier material might start to lose patience. Not for long, though, since we’re soon back to rockier stuff with “Fear”, an energetic but rather shapeless track which is nevertheless kept afloat by some good glammy guitar work and a solid chorus.

A strong contender for best song on the album has to be “On My Sleeve”, a moodier song with some hugely creative guitar moves, a kickass melody with a softer, yet still effective, break and a powerful chorus. Arguably one of the band’s all-time standout tracks. Title track “Full Circle” opens with a chilled bluesy riff which ultimately leads us to a solid chorus. It’s an optimistic, personal song about how the band finally got back on track but, ironically, it sounds more like a Puddle Of Mudd song than anything else.

I guess there’s worse bands to sound like!

Track number 10, which is simply called “Time”, is more melancholic but although the chorus is admittedly poetic, the song ends up sounding way too emo for its own good. “Good Fight” is a more entertaining but much messier track with a heavy chorus. The main problem with this one is it’s not too memorable. Finally, we have “The Song You Sing”, which is probably the closest Creed have come to a folk song with its acoustic riff. The track and its chorus seem to criticise artists who sing pointless songs with no message. This makes the track come off as a bit preachy but its point is not untrue.

Following the underrated Weathered this many years after was always going to be a challenge but Full Circle does a good job at reminding us why some of us liked Creed back in the day: Tremonti’s inventive riffs, Stapp’s unique tones.

The album itself may be a little uneven and unfocused at times but it’s got some good tracks in there, some of which are right up there with the band’s best work so if you like Creed, there’s a very good chance you’ll enjoy this one.

That’s a high 3 Happy Cobains out of 5 for Full Circle.

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El Pintor – Album Review

Interpol

Last year, New York City indie rock band Interpol finally released a follow-up to their self-titled album. El Pintor was their 5th and it was well received overall.

The first song on the album, “All The Rage Back Home”, was the first single to be released from El Pintor and it recently made our 20 Cool Songs From 2014 list. Singer Paul Banks‘ haunting voice is back in a familiar but catchy and moody track that’s most definitely a worthy opener.

“My Desire”, the second track (and single), boasts an inventive pinched guitar hook. It’s certainly atmospheric and doesn’t sound like a lot of Interpol songs which is good since it shows some form of versatility. That said, it never truly takes off. As for “Anywhere”, it’s got a solid start but, on the whole, it mostly comes off as a bit too busy and messy. It’s like if R.E.M. sang in a busy restaurant but no-one stopped talking or eating, there’s a droning feel to this one.

“Same Town, New Story” is a softer track with a promising core hook which, like “My Desire” gives the song its own personality. It is, however, a little repetitive and the song doesn’t seem to develop much. A shot of adrenaline could do this album some good right about now.

“My Blue Supreme” works much better in that its main melody is catchier and almost has a John Frusciante-esque quality to it. It’s, again, a slower, softer track which needed a burst of energy in there somewhere but it’s really not bad.

The problem with the next track and third single, “Everything Is Wrong”, is it starts with a simple, pretty cool guitar riff but that gets lost in a sea of effects-packed instruments and soundscapes. If only this one hadn’t been so overproduced it could have stood out a little more because, as it stands, it’s another kinda forgettable, too busy track.

“Breaker 1” has a decent hook which comes up now and then but, otherwise, there’s not much to hold onto here. Interpol are awesome at creating atmospheric tunes and this is one of them, but the songs really need to sound radically different to each other in order to make the album worth it. Otherwise it’s better to just buy the first single and walk away then go back and listen to Antics, the band’s terrific 2004 album.

Same goes for the 8th track, “Ancient Ways”, another moody tune with potential which sadly never fully takes off. That said, this is one of the best songs on the album, probably because it’s got a Muse-style vibe here and there but probably also because you can actually hear the guitar riffs for once!

A solid drum beat introduces “Tidal Wave”, a decent track in which Paul Banks tries something a little different by going into Bono territory vocally at times. There’s a repetitiveness to the track and pacing issues but those are nitpicks, it’s not bad at all. Finally, we have the ironically titled “Twice As Hard” which isn’t twice as hard but twice as slow as the other tracks on the album. It’s a fitting last song, which isn’t a good thing.

While it may sound like I hate El Pintor, I really don’t. There are some decent songs in there and it still sounds very much like Interpol so if you like the band, chances are you’ll like parts of this album. It’s just a frustrating listen with every song showing lots of potential but never going the extra 100m to stand out at all. A lot of the times, cool riffs and good ideas are drowned in a sea of effects, plus Banks never really challenges himself here.

Not terrible, then, but Interpol have done better and will do better, I’m sure.

That’s only 2 Happy Cobains out of 5 for this one, I’m afraid.

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Dopes To Infinity – Album Review

Dopes To Infinity

Monster Magnet‘s third album, 1995’s Dopes To Infinity was the New Jersey rock band’s first album to allow them to make some sort of mark on the charts. While their first two albums had buckets of raw attitude, they weren’t exactly commercial efforts and, although the band didn’t quite reach a wider success until much later, Dopes To Infinity was certainly a big step in the right direction.

What was it about this one that made people shut up and listen for once?

Let’s check it out.

The album opens with title track “Dopes To Infinity” which starts heavy and quickly establishes a thick beat. It’s a simple, sexy rhythm and the song sounds a bit like a cross between Creed and The Foo Fighters with a sprinkle of KISS. The chorus comes late, after a big build-up but it tops off the track really well.

The album’s big hit, “Negasonic Teenage Warhead” is next and it’s easy to see why this one did as well as it did. A slow, distorted opening is soon broken by a catchy riff which comes back throughout the song to keep it rocking. The chorus is very cool, catchy and infectious and the spacey video is gloriously 90’s and tons of fun.

 

Next up is “Look To Your Orb For The Warning”, a slower-paced but equally heavy track. It’s a long one but it’s got some great lyrics, terrific guitar solos and it’s pretty atmospheric as the band continues to embrace its “stoner rock” subgenre. “All Friends And Kingdom Come” is a more experimental track with further emphasis on the vocals. It’s a softer song which picks up here and there and its rhythm has a slight middle-eastern twang, funnily enough.

“Ego, The Living Planet” starts heavy again, this time with a long, instrumental intro. Had the track been a bit faster, it would have easily been full-on death metal. The odd scream or moan can be heard in the background giving the song an otherworldly feel. Song number 6, “Blow ‘Em Off”, kicks off with more of an acoustic vibe and yet again the lyrics are a priority. It builds up slowly, with a nifty melody that grows and grows, leading us to a solid chorus.

“Third Alternative” brings with it distorted, moody vocals and a Smashing Pumpkins-esque tone before the guitars kick in full blast almost two minutes in and the track proudly turns into a bluesy hymn of defiance. The eighth track, “I Control, I Fly”, brings the pace of the album back up thankfully with a fast rhythm, grungy vocals and a kickass chorus. It’s easily one of the best, most fun tracks on the album.

Then in comes “King Of Mars”, a track which, once again, opens with distorted sounds as a terrific melody promptly kicks in and helps makes sure the song lives up to its title in terms of epicness. Good mix of swagger and memorable hooks in this one. “Dead Christmas” is a very different track with a much more chilled (bongos’ll do that) beat. Full of playful mini-riffs, this is another very catchy tune The Red Hot Chili Peppers I’m sure would have loved to toy around with. The song develops through pretty melodic changes and there’s a fun 60’s vibe all the way.

The next track is entitled “Theme From Masterburner” and although it’s a really entertaining instrumental burst of energy, it seems misplaced in the album. Surely, it would have been a nice track to have in the middle of the album between a couple of slower tracks as a short pick up of sorts. Here, it acts more as a transition to “Vertigo”, a stoner-rific experimental final track steeped in 70’s trippiness which fades out into nothing then comes back much later with some feedback, ending the album on a red-eyed question mark.

So that’s Monster Magnet’s Dopes To Infinity and it’s definitely a departure from the band’s earlier efforts in that there’s a few more easily palatable tracks in there with (slightly) less of an emphasis on distortion and random sound effects. There’s still some creative funkiness in there but it’s all better balanced and, like a good drug, the album goes up and down with some great highs and some comfortably mellow lows.

Is it their best album? That’s debatable, but overall it’s cool and it works.

What more do you want?

That’s 4 Red Hot Chili Fellas out of 5 for those New Jersey devils.

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Dopes? I think not.

Zoomed Way Out – Album Review

Zoomed Way Out

From Washington D.C. comes The Very Small, a brand new rock band with a cool 90’s vibe, a unique bubbly sound and the kind of creativity that’s sorely needed on the indie rock scene at the moment. Through a healthy mix of heavy guitar work, skilfully layered vocals and fun, instantly likeable and memorable melodies, The Very Small (Robin Smith, Aaron Mann, Zack Berman) are on their way up.

These guys have something special so it’s definitely worth checking ’em out.

Case and point: their new album Zoomed Way Out, which follows their first self-titled effort The Very Small, released back in 2008. While first albums bear the pressure of introducing us to a band, second albums usually face the struggle of either matching the first album’s fresh burst of “new” or solidifying an, as yet, not quite polished sound.

Have The Very Small managed to bypass the curse of the second album?

SPOILERS: yup.

The first song, dramatically titled “URGENT!”, is packed with energy, catchy riffs, defiant lyrics and vocals almost reminiscent of some of Big Audio Dynamite‘s work: there’s a punky Mick Jones-esque tone to parts of the song. Having said that, this first track does give you a decent idea of what a rockier, U.S. version of Blur would have sounded like back in the day.

The new single, “Said And Done”, is next and was definitely the right choice to represent Zoomed Way Out since it boasts one of the catchiest melodies on the album, a hook that quickly gets in your head and never leaves. Which isn’t a bad thing, especially since said hook is given space to breathe among a fast-paced beat and booming riffs, never allowing it ot get repetitive.

The following track, “Timers”, is a softer, more heartfelt track with a futher emphasis on mood. The varying, electric structure of the song taking you different places emotionally as the drums cleverly suggest a “timer”-style beat.

“Don’t Forget The Lie” follows and that one starts with ominous chants and a chilled-out beat, it’s another softer track with a haunting quality to it. It does pick up quickly, though, adding in the odd dose of anger and bitterness every now and then. “Unsaid” then tricks you into believing you’re listening to another slower track before plugging in and mixing it up playfully. There’s some great guitar riffs underlining the verses in this one and the drums, which get increasingly inventive, support the catchy vocals perfectly.

Title track “Zoomed Way Out” is next and seems to know it’s a title track and therefore has to be particularly good and particularly different right off the bat as it builds up slowly but surely with a blend of purposeful simplicity and an atmospheric, head-infesting melody. It’s easily one of the best tracks on the album and it lives up to its self-titled status. Do look out for some unexpected instruments making a cameo appearance and one of the coolest and best-timed breaks I’ve heard in a while near the end.

Next up is “PB & J”, a much more experimental track with some spacey, layered vocals, an eclectic beat and a mysterious feel. You might not know what to make of this one at first but, trust me, by the end of it (it’s a short one) it should have grown on you nicely. “Thinking Out Loud” is a sharp turn into heavier, Foo Fighters-esque territory and that proves to be yet another surprising direction for The Very Small to go into and, against all odds, completely nail. It’s this reviewer’s personal favourite on the album: its always evolving structure, screaming vocals and non-stop energy are simply irresistible.

“Sonidos Lupinos” brings with it more cowbell (gotta have more cowbell!), funky bass-lines and a dancier, more latino beat. It’s a thoroughly entertaining and playful track you’ll want to hear all the way through as, once again, it goes interesting, unpredictable places. Song number 10 is “At Her Sight”, a folk-style ballad in which the vocals choir around the chorus, turning it into a pretty, nostalgic refrain.

Finally, we have “The Worst Form Of Violence”, which starts with a simple-ish, regular piano rhythm before those uniquely layered vocals which would make The Proclaimers jealous show up, prompting another experimental track but one that tops off the album with a nifty mix of everything the band does best. You never know where the song will take you but wherever it goes, you’re more than happy to trust it and let it work its magic.

So there you have it, The Very Small’s second album and it’s one accomplished, remarkably well put-together piece of early 2000’s grungy angst, retro-friendly alternative melodies and vibrant, up-to-date freshness packed full of terrific ideas and songs you’ll want to discover and rediscover. There’s an effortless versatility to this band that’s undeniably promising and I, for one, look forward to what The Very Small has in store next!

In the meantime, be sure to listen to Zoomed Way Out and their previous album, including the new single “Said And Done”. You can find The Very Small on Twitter (@TheVerySmall), on Facebook, Bandcamp and www.theverysmall.com.

That’s 4 Red Hot Chili Fellas out of 5 from us for Zoomed Way Out.

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Deserved.