Category Archives: music review

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Surplus Fest Sampler Volume 1 (Surplus 2017)

surplusCan’t wait for the festival season to start? Fear not, this fifteen track sampler from the Surplus Crew will help blow those winter blues away.

Given that most of the best bands on the underground festival circuit have played at Surplus, an album put together by the crew would inevitably be worth a listen. “Of course it will be good”, we thought to ourselves. But then – “Hold on – who are this lot?” Yes, fair play to the Surplus Crew, they have managed to dig out some bands we had not come across before – and boy is this album a belter. Continue reading VARIOUS ARTISTS: Surplus Fest Sampler Volume 1 (Surplus 2017)

MWSTARD: Cloc (Self Released 2017)

mwstardBass does not have to be sat in the back as part of a rhythm section. Lots of bands have worked that out over the years. And so have Mwstard.

When the three members of the band got together in a community hall in to see Jah Wobble and Keith Levine recreate metal box at the Laugharne Festival they decided to form a band.

They had all been around the block a bit before, so it did not take long for them to start making their bass heavy dub-jazz-post-punk racket. As Laugharne’s most famous resident, Dylan Thomas might have said, “ugly, lovely music … crawling, sprawling … by the side of a long and splendid curving groove. This music was my world” Continue reading MWSTARD: Cloc (Self Released 2017)

DREADZONE: Dread Times (Dubwiser Records 2017)

DREADZONE-DREAD-TIMES-320Dreadzone return with their 8th studio album of dubbed up grooviness.

Dreadzone were one of the original pioneers of the digital-dub-dance vibe, releasing their first album way back in 1993. Their third album, ‘Second Light’, from 1995, became a classic and was one of the best albums of the 1990s.

So the all-important question is, twenty plus years on, have they still got the magic touch. The simple answer is – yes. And then some. Continue reading DREADZONE: Dread Times (Dubwiser Records 2017)

STONE ROSES: New single splits the nation shock

Stone Roses
Stone Roses

Manchester’s Stone Roses have released their first new music in twenty one years – and it has divided the nation within hours of its release. Oddly, people who like the Stone Roses like it and People who don’t like the Stone Roses hate it. Go figure.

Music is a funny old business. The more successful a band the more people get passionate about them. Fans of a band will make an effort to like things that are not as good as the stuff that got them into the band in the first place. People who do not like a big name band will, rather than just ignore them, go out of their way to be hostile about them.

Then of course, you have to throw into the mix the ‘following the crowd’ factor. There have been some really dreadful bands that have reached the dizzying heights of headlining stadiums and festivals purely because the media have made them out to be cool.

So where do the Stone Roses fit into this? Continue reading STONE ROSES: New single splits the nation shock

DAMIDGE: Limitation

DAMIDGE: Limitation (Self released 2016)

Damidge Limitation
Damidge Limitation

This four track EP is the missing link between the UK festival scene and the New York CBGBs scene of the early 1970s.

High energy grungy punk with chunky rhythms and guitar solos long enough to keep us closet rockers happy, but short enough to keep the three chord punk purists happy. Al Damidge’s vocals strut across the EP with a nonchalant swagger and if a voice could wear clothes, his would wear leather trousers and carry a flick knife. Continue reading DAMIDGE: Limitation

AOS3: Far and few

AOS3: Far and few (Self released -2015)aos3 far and few
This album reviewing malarkey is not as easy as we make it look you know. Sometimes words to describe an album can be plucked from the tree of music criticism as an album is playing for the first time. Sometimes you have to patiently wait for the words to ripen before plucking them. Hence this review taking several months to formulate itself, cos this is what we call around the campfire, ‘a grower’.

It is clear the first time you listen to it that it is a special album, but you cannot quite put your finger on it. It will get your toes tapping, head nodding and on occasion your ass shaking, but it is too layered and complex to really take in straight away.

AOS3 are festival scene royalty. If Pete Loveday were to draw one of his rock family trees the shoots from this band would link in just about half the bands out there worth watching in festival land. Immediate family include Tarantism, P.A.I.N, Headjam, Nuke on Route and Less. That rich diversity of backgrounds always meant that this was never going to be a ska-punk by numbers album. Continue reading AOS3: Far and few

A THOUSAND SUNS: Destroycreate EP

A THOUSAND SUNS  Destroycreate EP (2007)
athousandsunsep
With so many decent ‘rock’ bands around in South Wales at the moment it takes something special to stand out from the crowd. You could be original, well there is nothing spectacularly original about this lot; you could be heavier than anything that has gone before, well they aint gone down that route either; or you can just outshine everybody else with your talent.

Now then…. this is where these boys stand out. Nothing too fancy, nothing pompous, nothing excessive, they have just taken a tried and tested formula of slightly metallic rock, filed off all the rough edges and polished it so you can see your face in it.

It is adventurous enough to be interesting and although we have already said it is not particularly original, it has to be said they do have thier own sound and don’t sound like anyone else. It is slightly understated but then they don’t need to scream and play at a million miles an hour to prove anything.

You get the impression though that if they really wanted to they could be an air guitarists wet dream. Nice chunky rhythms to get you grooving with slick guitar licks over the top, complimented by vocals where you can actually understand what the vocalist is signing. Not normally our sort of thing but we would be more than happy for this to sit on our shelves.

ASTRALASIA: Volumes 1+2

ASTRALASIA Volumes 1&2 (Voiceprint) 2004
astralasia12
Before becoming major players on the UK underground trance/rave scene, Astralasia were a side project for members of the Magic Mushroom Band. This disc is a collection of the first two cassette only releases, originally released back in 1988/89 when they played events alongside such artists as the Shamen and Mixmaster Morris.

Volume One is laid back psychedelic hippyish stuff that would have come under the banner ‘Ambient House’; more chill out lounge than dance floor. Continue reading ASTRALASIA: Volumes 1+2

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE AND THE MELTING PARADISO U.F.O. Does The Cosmic Shepherd Dream Of Electric Tapirs

ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE AND THE MELTING PARADISO U.F.O. Does The Cosmic Shepherd Dream Of Electric Tapirs (Space Age Recordings) 2004
acidmother

We here on Planet Iguana are determined to say “ hey man, have you heard, Acid Mothers Temple, they are well cool.” We are determined to like a band with a name that crazy… and no doubt we will persist in trying to like them for some time to come, and waste money on several more albums before we give up on them. But is going to be a long hard journey, because they are so damn wigged out it is unbelievable.

If this were on vinyl, we would check to see if it was playing backwards. They have released a shed load of albums, with different line-ups like some dysfunctional family living in a commune on Mars, there must be something listenable out there.

Our problem has recently been compounded by catching them live and discovering they are actually truly amazing on stage… but finding anything on disc to compare is hard work!

ALABAMA THREE: Outlaw

ALABAMA THREE: Outlaw (One Little Indian) 2005
a3Outlaw_(album_cover)
Ten years and five albums in, this Brixton posse get better and better. They take their fascination for all things wild west to its natural conclusion and conjure up tails of train robberies, outlaws, gospel, six shooters and men who gotta do what a mans gotta do.

Their bluesy country techno rolls out of the speakers like the sound of an acid barn dance coming from the windows of the only saloon in a ghost town. These boys aint bothered about being in fashion, which is just as well cos their sound is peerless in its originality, nothing like it has gone before no one has dared to follow in their footsteps. A concept album? Maybe, but without all the pomposity that the term normally invokes. Down to earth rock ‘n roll that does not need to throw its weight around, it just leans up against the bar sipping bourbon and you know not to fuck with it. It gets the ladies arses moving left to right and the gangsters at the back feeling alright, all night

AKAHUM Electwistery

AKAHUM Electwistery (Worldvenue) 2007
Electwistery
It can be very difficult to get an ‘organic’ vibe going when making music with predominantly electronic ‘instruments’. Akahum have a bloody good go though and on the whole manage to pull it off.

The strange thing with this album is that, depending what mood you are in, it can be different things. Sometimes it is a psychedelic rock album, sometimes it is a techno album and sometimes it is a chill out album… and sometimes it is all of those things at the same time. Continue reading AKAHUM Electwistery

THEE FACTION: Reading Writing Revolution (2015)

THEE FACTION: Reading Writing Revolution (2015)

Thee Faction Reading Writing Revolution
Thee Faction Reading Writing Revolution

The collected works of Karl Marx, trade union solidarity, protest marches – these don’t exactly sound like good subject material for particularly funky music. But hey – go figure!

Thee Faction have worked out how to write songs with names like GDH Cole dropped in casually, and still be eminently danceable. Not since the Redskins in the 1980s has unashamedly socialist music been so damn cool.

Taking a leaf out of the Dr Feelgood book of R’ n B, Thee Faction are a tour de force of rock and roll that gets your feet shufflin’, your hips gyratin’ and your head a thinkin’. Being angry has never been so much fun. Continue reading THEE FACTION: Reading Writing Revolution (2015)

THE GREAT HIP HOP HOAX

THE GREAT HIP HOP HOAX (2013)

the great hip hop hoaxwers
the great hip hop hoaxwers

This is the true story of two Scottish rappers, Silibil ‘n’ Brains, tired of the music industry not taking them seriously, who move to London, put on fake American accent, pretend to be from California and dupe the entire music industry into taking them on. On the face of it an amusing, if not entirely original story. But it soon develops into something very deep and thought provoking.

We start with the boys gigging around their home town of Dundee and trying to get signed. No label was interested. Then, for a laugh, they made some phone calls with an American accent and told people they were from California. Quicker than you can say “apple pie” they are signed to Sony records, playing gigs at Brixton Academy and blowing the massive advance they had been given on booze and women. Continue reading THE GREAT HIP HOP HOAX

OTWAY: THE MOVIE

OTWAY THE MOVIE: ROCK AND ROLL’S GREATEST FAILURE (2013)

otway the movie premier
otway the movie premier

Those not familiar with John Otway – which let’s face it, is most of the population – could be forgiven for thinking this is a spoof documentary in the vein of Spinal Tap. Such is the nature of the crazy, wacky, bonkers, over the top, rock and roll extravagance that bounces around inside the head of one of rock’s greatest treasures.

But it is not a spoof, this is the story of a uniquely British eccentric rock and roll legend that has spent the last forty years reaching for the stars, not being put off by what anyone else thinks and, most importantly, not being put off by failure. Continue reading OTWAY: THE MOVIE

REACH OUT: WELSH ROCK FOR REFUGEES

VARIOUS ARTISTS: Welsh Rock for Refugees

rock for refugeesWhen the going gets tough, the tough get rockin’. In response to the refugee crisis that is being played out daily on our TV screens and in the media, this thirty track download only compilation has been put together to raise money for Refugee Action.

Compiled in just seven days, by music journalist David Owens, this mixes the cream of the current crop of Wales’ mainstream rock bands, some of the best of the upcoming bands and a sprinkling of previously unreleased and live tracks that have not seen the light of day until now. Continue reading REACH OUT: WELSH ROCK FOR REFUGEES

THE SICK LIVERS: MID LIVER CRISIS

SICK LIVERS: Mid Liver Crisis (Glunk Records + Baldy Longhair Records 2015)

sick livers

Ever since Chuck Berry first picked up his guitar the term rock ‘n roll has been evolving. It is now used to describe anything from a Motorhead gig, through the act of throwing a TV out of the window to cookery. The Sick Livers, however, are as close as you will get in the 21st Century to the true meaning of rock ‘n roll without donning beetle crushers and a drape jacket.

They kick off with a song about fashion – and giving a nod to the film Full Metal Jacket (This is my Denim), then rattle through songs about girls (You Make Me Wet), songs about drinking (One Man Stag Do) and sometimes about girls and drinking (I Wanna be a Jager Girl). Continue reading THE SICK LIVERS: MID LIVER CRISIS

THE SPORADICS: Fight Truth Decay

THE SPORADICS: Fight Truth Decay (Pumpkin Records 2015)

sporadicsLaying their cards on the table with the opening track, ‘Festival # 23’, The Sporadics make sure you know they are most at home in a muddy field with a crate of cider, surrounded by mates, falling over fires and turning sleeping comrades into human Buckaroos.

But this, their second album, is anything but crusty brew crew shouty nonsense. They knock out some of the finest ska-punk-dub you will find on any stage anywhere.  The rhythm section produce dubtastic bass lines and driving, pounding drum beats. Layered over the top we have guitar that floats between sharp skanking chops and hard melodic riffs.

If that were not enough, the vocals have a clarity few punk bands even attempt, let alone achieve.  The lyrics tackle issues few bands could take on without resorting to sloganeering or just sounding pompous. No pomposity here though, as singer Shaun has a knack for taking a serious subject and turning it into poetry, but still managing to keep it danceable.

The now sadly defunct independent news media outlet ‘Schnews’ gets a song named after it to make sure we do not forget it – as if we could. The famous strap line “If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention”, says it all, but the point is slammed home with lines like:  “The currency they pedal here, propaganda, lies and fear. It’s been the same from year to year, now here’s the latest news, question everything they do, turn your TV off today”.

‘VAT’ (Value Added Terror) talks of the big brother tactic of making you fear your neighbours, ‘Broken Britain’ references the dumping of working people on the scrap heap and ‘Conflict’ reminds us that the capitalist system thrives on war and – erm – conflict.

‘Itchy Dub’, as the name suggests, drops the pace a little and gets dubby. It talks of broken democracy and profit making from the services we rely on, but hints that the time of reckoning might not be far away. “You disregard and disrespect the people of this land, what goes around will surely come around, you try to take our dignity and kick us to the floor, then wonder why we burn your buildings down”.

‘Used to be a punk’, challenges the idea that you can be an ex-punk. With punk being an attitude, either you have got the attitude or you don’t. If you don’t, you were just a fashion victim who didn’t really get it anyway.

‘Debt Crisis’ is about what it says on the tin, whilst ‘National Lies’ talks of the scapegoating of Johnny foreigner that so often is used by the right during an economic downturn. “Our children don’t see colour, they just want to play with each other, hate is something learned, its time the tide was turned.” As the lyrics to ‘lies’ unfold we get some of the heaviest guitaring on the album mixing with some of the dubbiest moments, perhaps giving us the perfect introduction to the band for the uninitiated.

We return to the subject of reclaiming our country with ‘Tear down the law’, just before slowing down slightly and suggesting the positivity of ‘Love’ and hope may be the answer in the long run.

Winding up the album we have ‘Poem for the fallen’, a tribute to Crispin Baker, festival legend, who was taken from us earlier this year. It is basically a poem with minimal acoustic guitar and the sound of a crackling fire in the back ground.

And then it’s gone. Twelve tracks is not enough, you want more. But then again, if this were a triple album, you would still want more. At least you have the beautiful packaging and lyric booklet treasure and return to time and again while we wait for the third album (you can have minutes of endless fun looking for the deliberate spelling mistake).

Clearly the band have been influenced by a few notable big players on the ‘anarcho-ska-punk-dub’ scene, but it would be churlish to reference them here, cos these guys are no imitators. As Picasso once said, “good artists copy, great artists steal”, and these thieving bastards have stolen the crown jewels, melted them into something of their own and can stand proudly on stage next to the best of them.