Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Hagana - One Year

Rock and fucking roll. It's Tuesday. Tuesday was named after the God of "Oh cock, is it not weekend yet?" and as such requires something pretty bloody awesome to help carry you along and stop you from tipping over the edge and running out into the street yelling about like, stuff, or something.

Anyway, so - we're almost at midweek and today I was most incredibly excited to get an e-mail from the delightful chaps from Edinburgh who make up the band Hagana. I liked the name so much I wanted to review them straight away. In fact I've been running round saying "Hagana" in a comedy Spanish accent for the last hour. I think I need to step away from the Smarties.

So, this is a bit previous, but their debut album "One Year" will be released on 3rd March and it's one that I really think is a cut above, just from the initial play through.

First impressions: Absolutely corking riffs, bone shaking and blood thickening. Intense and powerful vocals and brilliant harmonies.

But look a bit deeper. Yes, look a bit deeper. Come closer and listen again. There's so much more to it.

I was absolutely knocked out by the third track "Fuzzy Punch", this exemplifies a great mixture of all of the above mentioned qualities. In fact I listened to it three times before I moved onto the next song. It's really tightly woven and well produced and has a great 90s grunge feel to it. Most of the tracks here do, there are influences from bands like Weezer and the Foo Fighters in evidence, but the sounds still feel very fresh and unique.

I urge you to watch the video for the abovementioned track here:


"Watch My Step" is another stand out track, the opening is really unusual - it sounds strange to say it and I hope the band don't mind me saying this, but the riff at the beginning feels like church bells, it has that kind of chimey progression to it. The chords feel really different and it opens out into another great vocal with tight harmonies.

The last track "Connect 4" is an absolutely awesome way to end. The guitars on it are so down and dirty and there's a nice kind of feeling of fuzz and distortion there compared to the other tracks. It fades out sweetly, which is quite an unusual way to end an album such as this and it works surprisingly well.

If you'd like to check the band out more thoroughly, look at their bandcamp page


But more than anything, when 3rd March comes round you must go and buy this superb band's debut album. If you want filthy guitars, great vocals and uber cheekiness - Hagana are your guys. HAGANA. Yes.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Winter Tradition - Departures

Departures cover art

Saturday. A day of infinite possibilities and options. Hands up how many of you have spent the day cleaning up the mess in a rented flat that was apparently previously occupied by two rutting pigs..? Just me then. Always good to know I'm a trendsetter. Obviously music isn't the only place I break the mould...

It's a week since I last wrote and therefore I thought it was high time I updated to bring you something pretty fabulously special to listen to.

At the back end of last weekend, Edinburgh band The Winter Tradition kindly tweeted me the video for their latest single "Departures". Here is said link:

Have a little listen, dear readers. I think you'll really like it. I do - and you know I have good taste.

It's a song that is instantly catchy with a great hook to it, just enough to draw you in and keep you engaged without being too over the top and to me, it feels just the right side of rock without straying too far into leather trouser town.

It's a perfectly crafted bit of indie pop heaven - the chorus in particular is a little gem, where the hook of the song comes into its own and really embeds itself in your head. The keyboards are sweetly chirpy and really help to temper the song well. For me, what also stands out here are the vocal harmonies. They're beautifully and tightly constructed and give a real strength and dimension to the song as a whole

If you want to download it - and why wouldn't you? (it's released on 10th February) you can do so from the group's bandcamp page here:


Whilst you're there, take a look at their debut album "Gradients", although it was released in 2012, it actually backs up their status as purveyors of great, catchy indie tracks. There's something about The Winter Tradition's guitar sound that feels nicely warm and fuzzy. It's well in evidence in their new single, and is also there in gallon bucketfuls in the album too. They're one of those bands that you listen to and wonder why they're not much, much more well known than they are...they really ought to be.

So, if you haven't heard these guys before, you must have them in your lives. Start with their new single, work backwards if you have to - if you're a self respecting lover of new choons, then put this at the top of your end-of-winter-lets-get-the-chuff-into-spring collection.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

ArtClassSink - ILLA

ILLA cover art

Apparently, it's Saturday. We're mid-point in the weekend and thegeneral has reached a new peak of stress level known only to her as "screaming like a cockweasel" - dear readers, January has not, thus far, been a kind month.

Therefore, when my inbox pinged (not a euphemism) with an e-mail asking me to review a new EP I felt heartily glad to be firing up this page again to bring you something fresh and exciting to listen to.

Boy, have I got it for you.

I'd like to introduce you to another brilliant act from Oxford called ArtClassSink. Hoik yourselves over to their bandcamp page to have a listen to their stuff:


Then come back here AT ONCE to read on.

The band's new EP (which hopefully you're now listening to) is called Illa and it's a hugely engaging listen. From the moment the first track "She (Intro)" kicks in, it instantly feels like you're onto a winner. It has an amazingly catchy start with a fantastic drum beat and bassline, matched with a slightly off kilter, discordant vocal (in fact vocalist Joe Biggs has an absolutely cracking voice - really shines through on all the tracks, at times a little McCulloch-esque, haunting and melodic).

Although the band's bandcamp page suggests they're bracketed in with one of my favourite genres (math-rock), the group tell me that they're trying not to stray too far into that territory - and they're right, although this EP does have a slight nod towards other acts who fit more neatly into that category, on the whole the sounds here are much more shoe-gazey, more much wistful, laconic and dreamy eyed than the chippy, intricate rhythms of math-rock/pop. Each track is different and compelling in it's own way.

They were lucky enough to support one of my all time favourite bands TTNG (formerly This Town Needs Guns, also from Oxford) not long ago - an amazing experience for them, however, it's also good to see they're carving their own niche and distinctive sound in their own right.

There is such a subtlety to the songs here, the group's chord progressions are spacily drawn, slightly distorted and fuzzy which, in places, give the music a relaxed edge. This is particularly prevalent on the wonderful "Cry For Help", which for me was the standout track of the whole collection. Final track "Someone To Try For" has an almost quietly New Order-esque bass line to it and drives along at a great pace. You feel carried along by the melody, it's a song that is tangible, real and something that you want to keep hitting 'repeat play' on.

So, if you've got the January wobbles (like me) and want something brand new and fantastic to listen to you absolutely won't go wrong with ArtClassSink. As always I finish these pieces by asking my perfectly formed readership to give them a moment of your time and a little support. So please, give them a moment of your time and a little support. Yeah.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Blast From The Past - Urusei Yatsura

Evenin' all. It's my own fault really, I announced the other night that the blog was gonna be a bit more sporadic over the next few weeks, yet here I am, under twenty four hours later, slumped over my keyboard tapping this out. Fickle-ty, thy name is thegeneral.

So who what why and wherefore?

You know sometimes you have those evenings when there's nowt on telly, you can't be frigged reading and all your friends have cut you out of their lives because you're a sad, hopeless nobody, clinging on to your shattered dreams as you swig the last dregs out of your tea mug, bemoaning the lack of custard creams in your life.


That really is just me then, isn't it?



Moving on.

So anyway, over the weekend I spent an idle hour or two flicking through 90s indie music on YouTube, it's like a Vortex of Delight sometimes. You go on looking for one thing and end up being distracted by another...I ended up briefly looking to my right to see the selection of other videos that were recommended for me and I was at once both flummoxed and jaw droppingly happy to see a song called "Kewpies Like Watermelon". For anyone that doesn't know it - listen here:

Now apart from the fact the video is a Warhol-esque lover's trifle of good hope, it was an immediate remembrance of the band that kindled my imagination most. Urusei Yatsura. The second I heard the opening roar and guitar riff I was seventeen again. Now, in all honesty, I wouldn't want to go back to being that age for all the alcopops in The Red Lion, but hearing this did take me back to a time when I didn't want to listen to what everyone else was listening to, when I wanted to find bands that were that bit different and when it actually felt like something explosive was happening on the indie scene. This band were IT.

They were a four piece from Glasgow who formed in the early 90s and really took hold of alternative rock and shook it by its checked shirt. In the early days they were managed by Alex Kapranos (come on fact fans..bonus tea time muffins if you know who he is...) and their debut album "We Are Urusei Yatsura" was released in 1996. This, dear readers, is the record I immediately rushed to dig out and listen to this week and it has been at the top of my "repeat repeat repeat" list pretty much every day.

Stand out tracks are of course the sublime, aforementioned "Kewpies", but also the raucous and repetitive "Siamese" (reminded me a little of early Idlewild stuff) and "Plastic Ashtray"

This song also brought back my memory of having a slight crush on the singer. Yes, it was the floppy hair and the angular jawline that did it. Oh and the perfect teeth. Oh and the shy little smile. Yeah.

Many said that the track "Phasers On Stun" was their finest moment on here and, yes, there is a strong case for that. It's got a really pleasingly discordant feel to it, with sharp, angular riffs and a spiky vocal. The song does feel of it's time, but by the same token it doesn't sound like anything else that was around and still feels unique now.

Although they never really made it big - they only had one song scrape the Top 40 in all the time they were together, they had a strong cult following and when they did eventually split in the early noughties it did feel a bit like the music world was going to miss something that bit quirky and wonderful.

So yeah, while I do bang on about championing new music all the time, sometimes it's good to be reminded of the bands that helped you along your way to finding your musical feet. UY were one of those and I love them dearly. If you can get hold of a second hand copy of "We Are Urusei Yatsura" try and do so. Che Records finest and most long forgotten group. Go go go get them into your lives.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Smilex - La Petite Mort

Howdy bitches and a Happy New Year to you all. thegeneral is back, briefly, after a short sojourn and semi-raring to go (don't ask about Christmas, just don't). Yes, that's right, the blog that no-one wants to read, written by the writer that couldn't care less is winging its way through January like a dose of Laudanum through a Pre-raphaelite's main artery and kicking off off the first month of 2014 in great style with a fabulous new release.

So tonight I'd like to introduce you to Smilex and it's going to be quite a noisy and uproarious one.

First of all, go hither and have a listen to their back catalogue of delights:


Just before the festivities commenced le general was lucky enough to be sent a download of this great band's new album "La Petite Mort", which is released through Oxford label Quickfix Recordings. I quickly flicked through the rest of the e-mail to note that this new collection of rough and tumble sees them reunited with Ace. Yes that's right. Ace. Ace of Skunk Anansie fame. As soon as I saw that I thought "I'm 'avin' some of this..." and went to download it.

What can this record offer you then?

Well, do you remember in the 1990s when America ruled the waves of alternative rock? So do I....


I was just staring wistfully into the middle distance and whistling "Touch Me I'm Sick"...

Yeah, so alternative rock. If you liked any of those bands - Pixies, Jane's Addiction, Nirvana, Mudhoney et al I think it's a fairly safe bet you'll love Smilex.

"La Petite Mort" is a surprisingly catchy, easy to get into album, that's the right side of dirty, fuzzy, scuzzy aural filth. Nicely mastered vocals combine with some great, punky, edgy guitar riffs. Each song is a surprise in it's own right, lulling you into a false sense of what they actually turn out to be. There's some pretty deft playing throughout which sets it apart from some of the other also-rans who are simply trying to recreate the music of twenty years ago. Smilex are creating their own unique path to tread with this album.

Tracks like "What Is It You Actually Do Again?" are a prime example of this - starting off with a brilliant pick, then launching into something rib cage rippingly powerful (not to mention the biting wit of the lyrics - for those of a sensitive disposition, do not listen to this album if you don't like naughty swear words...I do...so it's all good).

It's actually pretty impossible to pick out one stand alone track - they're all gems in their own way right from the opener "9hz", which has an almost impossibly brilliant maths-pop start, through to the breathy last "One Woman Man".

Smilex are a band that are by turns, scary, gentle, uplifting, graceful , dirtily rough and fucking mammoth. What's not to love? Let them into your life.