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My musical ramblings – gig and album reviews, music news and views

O. Children: O. Children – album review

O. Children

O. Children ooze melodrama – the type that tells tales of death and destruction with a wry smile on its face.

They have an audio-imprint that’s easily traced back to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, which is no coincidence seeing as their name is taken from one of the band’s tracks. However, on photos, the band look positively disturbing, forcing a raised quizzical eyebrow. O. Children’s goth-rock image is Dawn of the Dead zombie meets The Horrors’ wardrobe, which makes it hard to know what to make of them.

Literature about this London quartet seems to be fairly tongue-in-cheek. Hell, even lead singer, Tobi O’Kandi’s track-by-track description of his album is so passé about death and its instruments that it appears satirical. The record is a little bit Coen Brothers mixed with the sick-twistedness of Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange.

Malo kicks off in epic-sounding Arcade Fire style, with orchestral backing and clashes of cymbals. The deep baritone of Tobi’s voice is at first, shocking, but not unpleasant, and it oozes post-punk sorrow like Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, or Interpol’s Paul Banks. Western guitars laden with suspense follow with Dead Disco Dancer – a track the band claim has no reference to The Smiths. They’re far too whimsical for this lot.

Looping synths break through minor chords on Heels, but like an Editors track, it has a commercial chorus ripe for indie dancefloors. The use of a big-sounding chorus is a continuing theme throughout O. Children, especially with Fault Line’s backing singers, who warn of Machiavellian intent and Beelzebub.

Smile is an odd, odd track. Dour and slow paced, it features a freaky high pitched voice which appears out of nowhere, and a line, ‘When there’s nothing else to do, find the fun inside of you,’ that frankly makes Tobi sound like Baloo the Bear from Jungle Book.

From here, it all goes a bit Little Shop of Horrors with a Biblical twist. Ezekiel’s Son and Ruins fall into the background, whilst Pray the Soul Away’s Western-influenced guitars are both sinister and American rock cheese.

The problem is that quite often O. Children sound plain creepy. But then that’s probably the idea, and is no more so clear than on Radio Waves’ proclamation, ‘I want to watch you sleeping’, against the backdrop of a siren-like riff.

The more successful tracks are those where the music is less stark and adopts some of the theatrical quality of Arcade Fire. Don’t Dig is deliciously full at the chorus and issues a request to his listeners not to make a fuss when he is dead, as he’ll come back to haunt them. Bless their everlasting souls. They manage to balance ‘uplifting’ with dour subject matter and it’s almost Monty Python life of Brian-esque.

In reality, O. Children are less chilling, more camp goth and stray far too near to the gimmick line. Joy Division created glorious doom and gloom because they genuinely were in a bit of a bad mental state, and whilst this debut has some flashes of real quality, the rest feels more like a spoof of something truly gothic.

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Sky Larkin: Kaleide – album review

Sky Larkin

Long before their 2009 debut, The Golden Spike, Sky Larkin sat in the ‘top set’ at band school, along with many of their indie classmates who were also getting high marks for their lauded first albums.

Johnny Foreigner were there, as were Danananakroyd and Los Campesinos! – all gunning for each other’s music and often appearing on each other’s gig bills as support. One album on and much of this still stands; but on Kaleide, this Leeds trio sound a little heavier and altogether more accomplished with their brand of punky, lo-fi indie, that dares to stray occasionally into twee and math rock-rhythmical territory.

Make no mistake, it is Katie Harkin’s sweet yet punchy vocals that make Sky Larkin memorable – Still Windmills is tunefully coy and bears hallmarks of the aforementioned musical peer group. Soaring, tightly plucked guitar riffs balance with the clever, heavy metaphor of, “Like still windmills, there’s potential.” Later on the album, ATM’s slower pace and loop played by a piano recollecting an old Western film is the right platform for its lyrical charm, as Katie asks, “Wonder whether a selfish heart is a truthful muscle?”

Title track, Kaleide, is bass heavy, discordant, and toys with off-timing, allowing everything to clash pleasingly in the aural cavity before, “Let’s kaleide!” adds a neat little wordplay element suitable for the anorak-preciseness of this difficult-to-play track.

Bassist, Doug Adams and Nestor Matthews on drums are the engine room of this band. Complex, changing rhythms on Shade By Shade and Guitars And Antarctica are two amongst a catalogue of tracks that show how talented the duo are. They play peekaboo with math rock on Tiny Heist; meanwhile, Landlocked has all the minor notes and off-beats of Tubelord.

Throughout this second album, the threesome show they have a knack for repeated lyrics which effectively drill songs into the consciousness. Anjelica Houston repeats, “As the train pulled out of the station, the light hit your face like Anjelica Houston,” and becomes almost mantra-like. On Year Dot, sentimentality and an aptitude for simple storytelling lyrics surface with, “One pile of bones so they’ll know we were friends” – and has more than an echo of Johnny Foreigner’s dewy-eyed Yr All Just Jealous.

Delivered at breakneck speed and sounding rather like the band were keen to make a quick exit, the aptly named Spooktacular was recorded in the crypt of a Yorkshire church – it is all too hurried and lacks some of the nuances of other tracks on the album. Coffee Drinker’s tales of the morning after also feel sobering on what is otherwise a well crafted mix of tunes.

Sky Larkin know how to sign off – the SHH version of Smarts is stripped back to a heartbeat rhythm, simple guitar and vocals, harking back to the Leeds trio’s mission statement of strong storytelling lyrics.

Up until now, when mentioning Sky Larkin, it was necessary to name-drop the other bands that stand in the same ‘scene’ in order to place them. Kaleide should mean these stabilizers can be removed, as this is a band that should be noticed on their own merit.

7/10

Reviewed for Gigwise

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Example: Won’t Go Quietly – album review

Elliot Greaves aka Example

Just to first set the scene, Example is the kind of act that would go down a storm at a baking hot Radio 1 Big Weekend or T4 On The Beach.

Elliot John Gleave has a host of big name producers helping him to pack the punch on Won’t Go Quietly, including Chase & Status, Calvin Harris and drum ‘n’ bass protagonist, Sub Focus. Unfortunately, despite the big names, this oversized collection of 14 ends up being a mish-mash of styles lacking any sort of clear direction and as a result, cohesiveness.

Since his debut, What We Made, in 2007, Example has dropped his rap swagger and proclaims he is now in the ‘dysfunctional electro-pop’ category. Won’t Go Quietly certainly has those hallmarks, exemplary on the title track which is throwaway yet palatable, but is as disposable and catchy as the bubblegum Black Eyed Peas-sound it resembles. The same can be said for Time Machine, a Calvin Harris collaboration that packs more dance-pop-cheese than even the Cathedral City beatmeister himself.

Example has claimed bragging rights for his sharp lyrical wit and aptitude for rhyme, but From Space is more playground rap battle than 8 Mile and features the absolute corker, “I’ve got brand new socks, pack of five cuz’ I’ve been down the shops.” It is familiar Dizzie Rascal/N.E.R.D territory, but with a terrifying Ibiza twist at the end which catastrophically fails where Tinie Tempah may have succeeded.

Released in 2009 as the first single from the album, Watch the Sun Come Up has gentle mellow beats and piano chords which work really rather well, but an uncomfortable rap makes it fall short of the mark.

There are also more than a few flashes of dubstep across the album, although they become more prolific towards the latter half with Sick Note, Hooligan and Dirty Face, with its thick bassline and 90s rave elements.

Banging electro-house track and recent chart hit, Kickstart, is a highlight, with a synth riff that more than makes up for its squidgy lyrics, and there’s even room for Example’s answer to Dry Your Eyes from The Streets with crooner, Millionaires.

The real problem with this artist is that none of the tracks feel like they’ve been written with any real aplomb. Elliot flirts with so many genres that the result is a record which sounds dispassionate and makes him seem like a jack of all trades, master of none.

Won’t Go Quietly does have some high points which have mass consumption written all over them. But for all his confidence and bullishness, Example doesn’t have the bare faced endearing cheek of Dizzie Rascal, he doesn’t have the flow of Eminem, nor does he have the lyrical wit of Mike Skinner; which really rather leaves him in a no man’s land of sorts.

Reviewed for http://www.inoneear.co.uk

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