Album Review: Jamie Lenman – Devolver

Review from Ben Forrester

Jamie Lenman will always be known as the frontman of post-hardcore heroes Reuben, but since emerging from the shadows as a solo artist back in 2013, he has put some serious effort into becoming the solo entity that he deserves to be known as.

His comeback effort was the mammoth 22 track double disc monster ‘Muscle Memory’, which was half an extreme metal/hardcore hybrid of heaviness and half a melodic, stripped back blend of blues, country, folk and jazz. Backed with his knack for an ear worm hook and an earth shattering riff, this was a triumphant return from an incredibly talented and well-loved songwriter.

As Jamie had taken his time to make this album and had given vague plans as to what was to come next, there was worry amongst fans as to whether we’d hear another album from him again. At the very start of this year, a brand-new track appeared and thus the hype train arrived at the platform. Throughout the year, we’ve had a couple more singles come through which had many chomping at the bit and then finally came the announcement of second album ‘Devolver’.

Always one to keep evolving and pushing forward as a musician and songwriter, Jamie returns with a heart on sleeve rock-meets-pop opus with plenty of twists and turns on the way.

All the singles that we’ve heard so far appear here. Opening track ‘Hard Beat’ builds from a simplistic guitar line backed with a shaker to transform into a drum driven rock monster, with Lenman’s powerful vocals harmonising and overlapping making for a particularly huge introduction. ‘Waterloo Teeth’, ‘Hell In A Fast Car’ and comeback track ‘Mississippi’ are all fierce, swaggering rock tunes with choruses for days and beefy, sassy riffs that’ll make you stick yer neck out! When you hear the singles you think this is going to be a straight up party record, but Lenman has far bigger plans here.

Body Popping’ has got this rapped vocal in the chorus, which comes out of nowhere considering the brooding, melodic rock demeanour that dominates it, but it totally works and makes for a fully enthralling composition! ‘Comfort Animal’ is a short and sweet switch up between a lo-fi full band instrumental that sweeps into haunting piano chords, surrounded by glittering electronics for hair raising results.

Then there’s the title track, which closes the album in the most theatrical and frankly epic way. It starts as a heartfelt ballad type pop tune, with Jamie passionately claiming “I am irrelevant”. This then moves into a big fuck off breakdown as distorted guitars and thunderous drums get stuffed down your ears to then transcend into a final rendition of the chorus which is just humongous! I sense that Jamie Lenman’s mantra for this record is ‘go big or go home’ and Devolver takes no prisoners here in delivering an album that demands your attention and never lets it go!

Although, the biggest surprise on this record for me, as a mega nerd, was to find a rehashed Reuben tune in the tracklisting. I remember hearing the opening groove for the track ‘I Don’t Know Anything’ on a studio diary video that the band put up nearly 10 years ago now. I never found out what the track was until now and boy, was it worth the wait.  The groove alone is enough to make every limb in your body move uncontrollably but when the strings come in and lead the track to a gargantuan conclusion, you can see why Lenman has taken his time with this track and it is undoubtedly his finest power-pop song to date.  I think I shrieked when I first heard this and I hope a load of Reuben nerds join me in losing their shit over this.

What I love about this album is how you don’t know what’s coming next. It’s an eclectic listen, not in an overcrowded way but in an extremely thrilling and enticing way. This is definitely a rock album with a very strong pop centre, but it’s all its other little reference points that make it an incredibly brave and sincere album, made by someone that loves music of all forms. There is no denying the strength of the songwriting and the ideas here; this is the flamboyant, over the top, heart on sleeve album that we wanted and needed! All hail King Lenman!

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Live Review: The Breeders at Manchester Academy 17 October 2017

Last night I was out in Manchester watching Drahla, a band from up the road in Leeds. A terrific band no doubt – and more than worth your time – but whilst watching, I couldn’t help but focus on the playing of their drummer. Something about this wild-armed guy behind the kit just had me thinking – Jim Macpherson, drummer in The Breeders! It was whilst watching this character absolutely batter his kit that it dawned on me – The Breeders were on a tour of the UK! A quick glance at my phone and it turned out the show was imminent.

Cut to tonight and we’re at Manchester’s Academy 2 – and there’s Jim Macpherson himself! He’s with the rest of The Breeders, naturally, who are greeted with a massive ovation as they arrive on stage, from what becomes instantly realised as a devoted crowd.

Straight out of the gate, I must admit, it seems to take a few tunes to get into it. I’m not fully clued up on Breeders folklore and openers, but ‘No Aloha comes out a bit subdued as a first song following that reception. Once songs feel like they’re kicking into gear, they’re over with a bit of a murmur (though that can’t be blamed with songs recorded 10+ years ago!)
I will say though, there’s a massive grin plastered across vocalist Kim Deal’s mush throughout, and you can easily see the enthusiasm amongst the quartet.

Having reunited a few years back for the 20th Anniversary of ‘Last Splash’ (1993), the ‘proper’ incarnation of The Breeders look like they haven’t missed a step. In brilliant news, they’ve got a new album on the way, with its lead single ‘Wait in the Car’ released at the beginning of the month. Sure enough, Wait In The Car makes an appearance about five songs in, sounding particularly raucous. It also sounds very much like a Breeders song of old, which is obviously a good thing and the enthusiasm of the audience reflects this.

Support for their Manchester date comes from local gals PINS, who are given a nod from Kim (in an ever so slightly Mumsy way) in her announcement that it’s the “Hometown show of The Pins”. Not long after, an acoustic guitar finds its way into the hands of Kim and sure enough, ‘Cannonball’ causes the crowd to erupt. With that incredibly famous introduction, there’s an even bigger injection of energy into the room. It’s not the kind of one song crowd though, with near enough everything being received ecstatically (including the moment Kelley Deal dedicates a song to sister Kim – complete with sibling tongue out).

Having delved further into their nostalgic roots with a cover of a song by The Amps earlier in the evening, we’re also treated to a pretty spellbinding cover of ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’, which seemingly comes out of nowhere. Other highlights come in the form of ‘Divine Hammer’ and ‘Drivin’ On 9’, two heart-swelling classics from Last Splash. The latter comes with 100% enthusiasm from the crowd, who call out their offers to assist when Kim announces the lack of violin accompaniment.

Tonight ends up being definitely one for the die-hards. The sound isn’t particularly amazing at times (and there’s a stench all evening that Manchester Academy should be ashamed of!), but the enthusiasm from The Breeders, mirrored with that of the crowd, makes for a brilliant evening.

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Album Review: JOHN – God Speed In The National Limit

Review from Ben Forrester

I remember seeing JOHN play a tiny pub in Southend-On-Sea about three years ago now. It was raw, fast, super loud and totally knocked my socks off. The London based two-piece (both with the first name of John, obvz) have been bashing away on the underground rock scene ever since, serving up anthemic punk-rock bangers!

God Speed In The National Limit‘ is their debut album and is the musical equivalent of spending 20 minutes on a trampoline covered in hammers! Each track is an explosion of pummelling drums, sharp, crunchy guitars and gruff, biting vocals. Actually, the vocals remind of Damian Abraham from Fucked Up in all their throaty, direct  glory, but there’s a melodic centre to them which helps bring out the more anthemic nature of these otherwise furious punk songs.

Balfron‘ is a fast as fuck opener that has a very classic punk feel, immediately throwing you into the pit and setting you up for the rest of this utter sweat fest. There are two main musical dynamics on this record; you’ve got the full throttle punk monsters like Balfron or ‘Factory Settings‘, then you have the fist pumping confidence rock of tracks like ‘Ghost Printer‘ or ‘Industrial Action‘. The former is the perfect single and I love the little organ line in the chorus which just lifts it into full on shit eating grin mode! They sure know their way around a hook I can tell ya that!

The playing throughout this record is totally flawless. The drum tracks are super muscular; powerful yet precise, which really drives home the urgency of these tunes. The guitars are sharp as hell, flickering between straight up punk chords to angular, twisting riffs that fully RIP! The chemistry between the two John’s just seems so effortless, and the songs are just so well written, full of mile a minute fills and sweet little guitar frills that make you wanna punch the air in joy!

I’m gonna keep this review short and sweet just like this record. God Speed In The National Limit is a fully raging debut, the songs are in your face, to the point and want to make you move. I think it’s rare that you can feel the energy of a record, but the production does a killer job of putting you in the middle of the practice room and you can almost feel the sweat splashing off the band onto you. This is a total thrill ride of a record and you punks are gonna fucking love it!

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Album Review: And So I Watch You From Afar – The Endless Shimmering

Review from Ben Forrester

It’s hard to be a ‘big deal’ in instrumental rock music, but And So I Watch You From Afar have made a startling impression on the scene over the years. Taking the album every two years approach, followed by mammoth world tours has steered them right in becoming our biggest math-rock export! With their last two albums, the Belfast based quartet trimmed the fat on the more progressive compositions found on earlier records and instead opted for short bursts of catchy, uplifting math-pop. Their fifth album ‘The Endless Shimmering‘ takes a dash of everything that they’ve done before to create this suped-up version of ASIWYFA that is equal parts monstrous and gorgeous.

To me, this feels like an album of two halves. The opening half is heavy, loud and undoubtedly epic. ‘These Triangles‘ opens the record on a driving drum beat with slinky guitar interplay, which is boosted with a scuzzy yet chunky bass-line as drums start to crash around it. It’s a punchy yet beguiling opener that grabs you by the arm and pulls you into this other dimension. A lot of fans will liken this to the darker, aggressive moments of their debut, especially when the guitar shredding harmonies come in for an apocalyptic conclusion! ‘A Slow Unfolding Of Wings‘ follows in a similar sky scraping fashion with a strong, riff driven groove that is powerful but full of bewilderment with it’s ethereal flourishes. It actually gets even groovier with a neck jamming breakdown that is fully righteous!

Dying Giants‘ ends the first half of the record in the most planet imploding way possible! The guitar work on here is gigantic, with shredding riffs and expansive delays rolling around this 7 minute monster whilst the rhythm sections hits you hard, smashing away, helping ram those frantic guitar lines down your throat. Then, as it all settles down to just one guitar, a sumptuous string section comes in and it’s just all too much. This really is next level! Honestly, one of the most epic tracks they’ve done! If like me you adored the ‘Gangs‘ album, this first half is gonna be well up your street!

Now the second half of the record begins with a much brighter, prettier tone, with tracks like ‘All I Need Is Space‘ and ‘The Endless Shimmering‘ keeping the rhythm regimented but letting the guitar lead soundscapes soar. The remainder of the record blends super frantic, mile-a-minute work outs with heart-warming, cloud-gazing melodies.

There is something for ASIWYFA fans new and old, the only thing that some fans might be disappointed to know is that this record doesn’t feature any vocals. Previous output ‘Heirs‘ had uplifting gang style vocals all over it, which acted as a nice addition to it’s posi-rock disposition but this record lets the instruments do the talking, which I think works with its slightly tougher demeanour. I’m a big fan of the dynamical flow of this album and it has a good balance of light and shade. It’s kind of like the musical equivalent of tough love; it can be pretty hard hitting but leads to brighter conclusions!

The Endless Shimmering is an album the band could have only made at this point of their career. It goes back to the more winding, dramatic compositions of the first two albums, but takes the power and euphoria of their later two albums to create their biggest, boldest statement to date. I use that term a lot but believe me when I say that the album is very BIG and very BOLD in its delivery. And So I Watch You From Afar have always wanted to make music that soars above the rest and on this album they really reach for the stars and the results are stunning!

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5 Things to love about…International Cassette Store Day 2K17 – Key Releases

Words from Ben Forrester

Now in it’s 5th year, Cassette Store Day is an ever growing international event dedicated to the undying format of tapes. Although Cassette Store Day was inspired by Record Store Day, the intention of CSD is focused on celebrating cassettes rather than supporting shops, whereas the latter is the main goal of RSD. Having boasted an exciting roster of exclusive and rare releases last year, October 14th 2017 looks to be another cracking year for the annual day, with a whole host of exciting records being put in stores across the UK, USA, Japan, China and France.

We love a tape here at Birthday Cake For Breakfast, so we’ve pulled together five key releases worth checking out. Full stock lists and release information can be found on the CSD website.

Trojan HorseFukushima Surfer Boys (This City Is Ours Records)
Salford’s premier prog-rock wizards Trojan Horse are back with their most ambitious and expansive record to date. Teaming up with the superb This City Is Ours label, the quartet will release a super limited Translucent red C90 version of the record which comes a day after its official release! Expect electronica washes and psyched out space rock on this rocket ride of an opus!

Read our review of Fukushima Surfer Boys here!

DANCEHALL KO (Vibe/Anti-Vibe Records)

Extremely exciting new indie-rock trio from LDN, DANCEHALL have hit us with a consistently strong set of singles over the past 12 months. ‘KO was actually the first track they released, but finally gets a physical release on two track tape through upcoming UK label ‘Vibe/Anti-Vibe‘. This track is seriously infectious! When that chorus bursts in, you know its a party!

worriedaboutsatan Blank Tape (Spun Out Of Control)
As they embark on some of their biggest headline shows to date, Bradford based duo worriedaboutsatan have teamed up with London based label Spun Out Of Control for an exclusive cassette release of last year’s beautiful ‘Blank Tape‘ record. Looking super pretty on a sky blue tape, this record is the perfect blend of warm pulsating techno beats and sumptuous, synth soaked electronica.

American FootballAmerican Football EP (Polyvinyl Records)

The wonderful Polyvinyl records have finally answered the prayers of many and will be releasing a mega limited run of the debut EP from legendary emo outfit American Football. Apparently, this is the first time the EP has been put on on tape, so you may wanna get on this pretty quickly. It’s an essential release for fans of twiddly, thoughtful emo pop.

AlgernonCornelius RADIO (This City Is Ours Records)
This City Is Ours are at it again, with another superb release and another exclusive to CSD. AlgernonCornelius has been making mind bending hip-hop beats for quite some time, but this year has really seen him step out of the shadows with his energetic live shows and a bunch of solid single releases under his belt. ‘RADIO‘ is his first cassette release, with a proper small run of Royal purple C60’s up for grabs. As for the album, it’s a 26 track journey inside the Northern producers head and is a colourful explosion of sounds, beats and samples.

Hear an exclusive stream of RADIO right here!

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Oh Sees undergo further name change and announce forthcoming album ‘Memory of a Cut Off Head’

In hilarious fashion, the recent Hard Times article on Californian outfit Oh Sees is looking more and more achievable by the day.

Having literally only just released ‘Orc’, their nineteenth LP (an achievement in itself), front man and Castle Face Records head honcho John Dwyer has changed the name of the band – again – and announced a forthcoming album is due out in a month’s time!

As OCS, a former moniker from back in the early days of the band (prior to Thee Oh Sees and all its variations), Dwyer is returning to the stripped back, folkier sound of his oeuvre with the upcoming album ‘Memory of a Cut Off Head’ – their twentieth in twenty years!

Co-written with Brigid Dawson, long time collaborator and vocal counterpoint, the new record – Castle Face Records 100th release – was recorded at Dwyer’s own Stu Stu Studio. Quite the stretch from the mind-boggling, skull-crushing sound fans have become used to in recent years.

Listen to title track ‘Memory Of A Cut Off Head’ below and keep an eye on Dwyer – chances are we’ll have two more records released before the year is out.

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