Blancmange – Private View (London Records)
Following several lockdown releases including their last studio albums ‘Commercial Break’ (2021) and ‘Mindset’ (2020), the band, headed by their sole founding member Neil Arthur (vocals), enter the 40th year since their debut album, ‘Happy Families’, with another new record.
It begins on a track composed during lockdown: ‘What’s Your Name’, which, in Arthur’s manner of the mundane, describes the phenomena of social distancing no contact; its abrasive electronics and percussion are testament to the skills of producer Benge (with whom Arthur also works with on his other project, Fader) who, as an electronic maestro, makes this release what it is. The album’s single, ‘Some Times These’, contains a constant guitar riff, wirey synth keys and white noise sweeps.
The band’s second single ‘Reduced Voltage’ is the highlight of the album: its computerised electronic beats at one point are overlaid by a humming synth interlude that would have benefitted from being louder but the object of the release, as the name of the track suggests, was to take away rather than to add. ‘Here We Go Go’ is another marvel: quietly reflective, it constructs pulsing, architectural echoing blocks of sound with Arthur’s vocals built into the sonic fabric. ‘Everything Is Connected’ follows with a guitar and synth interchange and a background of EBM; the start and middle of the song is vaguely reminiscent of Front 242.
The final songs on the release include the title track ‘Private View’; its funky percussive beat is surrounded by a variety of electronic sounds while also maintaining moments of quiet. Then ‘Take Me’ brings a further level of this; with more white noise sweeps and piano, Arthur is able to showcase his softer vocals as glittering keys play out in the background, a song that brings back memories of ‘Waves’ from their debut album four decades earlier.
‘Private View’ is available now on limited edition coloured vinyl, vinyl, cassette, CD and digitally.
© Ayisha Khan.
The House Of Love – A State Of Grace (Cherry Red)
After nine years the band release their seventh studio album with a new lineup led by remaining founding member, Guy Chadwick (vocals, guitar).
The album has more of a country and blues sound to their previous releases, opening on the sleepy, swaying guitar, strings and trilling harmonica of ‘Sweet Loser’. More harmonica features in the next track, ‘Light Of The Morning’; a Bob Dylan influenced whiskey blues song with underpinnings of banjo and a backing chorus. ‘Melody Rose’ is a shoegaze guitar track with a heavy guitar riff; a contrast to the band’s typical feel.
The album moves onto the first single, ‘Clouds’, continuing the heavier feel with a dirty blues guitar riff, Jesus & Mary Chain vocals and shoegaze noise guitar. The second single ‘Hey Babe’ is the best song on the album: it reconnects with the traditional House of Love sound – delicate reverb guitars and dreamy psychedelic vocals. However, the heavier playing style returns in ‘Sweet Water’; although repetitive it comes alive with its chaotic, spinning guitar solo. There are then echoes of Lou Reed in the narrative track ‘In My Mind’.
The record nears its end on its title track ‘A State Of Grace’: a choppy blues song with the intricate alumnium guitar interludes of Echo & The Bunnymen. Chadwick’s vocals in ‘Dice Are Rolling’ give off James Murphy indie vibes with the release ending appropriately on ‘Just One More Song’ – a slow, banjo blues chillout track.
‘A State Of Grace’ is available now on double 10” vinyl, CD and digitally.
© Ayisha Khan.
Buzzcocks – Sonics In The Soul (Cherry Red)
The band’s first studio album since the untimely death of founding member and vocalist Pete Shelley sees original guitarist Steve Diggle pick up the baton by imparting on himself the huge burden of taking over on vocals together with the rest of the band formed of Chris Remington (bass) and Danny Farrant (drums).
The album retains the sound of the original band: ‘Senses Out Of Control’ strongly begins the tracklist, but Diggle disturbingly sings in nasal vocals in an attempt to mimmick Shelley. Album single ‘Manchester Rain’ has a similar riff to Magazine’s ‘Shot By Both Sides’, although also suffers with his poor vocals.
‘Bad Dreams’ begins with the clocking guitar of ‘Fiction Romance’; Diggle’s demented guitar solo features early in the song, but the track remains empty filled with guitar parts where verses should appear. However, the album maintains the melodic catchy choruses the band is known for, as seen in ‘Nothingless World’. ‘Experimental Farm’ has a choking blues guitar riff and Diggle speaking through a megaphone, also used in his recent live performances.
Following their disappointing efforts to continue with nostalgia, the band’s best songs ironically come at the end of the album: firstly in ‘Can You Hear Tomorrow’ with ominous layered guitar, and secondly ‘Venus Eyes’; with far better vocals and songwriting it hints of Glen Matlock’s solo work demonstrating that, regardless of fan criticism, Buzzcocks should leave the past behind and begin a new chapter that focuses on Diggle’s own vision rather than continuing to flounder in Shelley’s shadow.
‘Sonics In The Soul’ is available now on vinyl, CD and digitally.
© Ayisha Khan.