We return, for the first time in 2021, with our release rundown for the week, reviewing some brand new records ready for your aural consumption. As we always like to gently remind you, these releases are available to buy on the artists web stores as well as online at your favourite record shop.
Sleaford Mods – ‘Spare Ribs’
If there was ever a band that weren’t going to let a global pandemic stand in the way of their productivity, it would be Sleaford Mods. 2020 saw Andrew and Jason release a compilation of big hits and rare cuts, broadcast a live show, make it onto prime time US TV and also find the time for a new album. ‘Spare Ribs’ was written and recorded in the space of three weeks at DIY institution JT Soar in their hometown of Nottingham. Conceived in the haze of lockdown easing last summer, you bet this is drenched in piss and vinegar.
Sleaford Mods have always had a magic formula when it comes to their distinctive sound, but there’s always been an evolution within each record that keeps us on our toes. For their sixth album however, they seem to look back in order to look forward, reapplying some of the grit present on earlier material. ‘The New Brick’ is an intro of jittery synths and clattered drumbeats with Jason instantly hitting out; “we’re all so Tory tired and beaten by minds small”. The fact that this is followed up with a track called ‘Short Cummings’ based on the actions of the piss taker of the year brings out their political side with immediate effect. I wouldn’t necessarily call Sleaford Mods a political band, but they’ve always had well weighted bursts of anger towards the so called people in charge and never have they felt more cathartic to shout along to.
There are always subtle nuances within each new Mods release, but an altogether new factor for this record is the inclusion of guest vocalists. You may have already heard the ridiculously catchy hook Billy Nomates provides on the ice cool ‘Mork n Mindy’, but we also get Amy Taylor from Amyl and the Sniffers providing her second collaboration of the month on ‘Nudge It’. Coming in with a bouncy beat filled out by sharp post punk guitar stabs, Jason brings in another infectious chorus that is sure to be a big hitter. And then Amy adds this wonderfully snarled, almost rapped verse that only elevates its attitude firmly filing it in the banger section.
I’ve always loved the unpredictability of Andrew’s production, you never fully know if you’re going to get abstract electronics or just a straight up bass riff belter. I do feel like there is a lot more clout to the beats on the record, which definitely builds on the tension and general wariness of the times in which this album was made in. ‘I Don’t Rate You’ is a proper wobbler, ‘Spare Ribs’ is a full on bopper and ‘Out There’ is as gritty as it gets. Again, it’s the subtle switch ups that always keep me coming back and musically this feels like an amalgamation of everything that is great about this band.
It’s clear that ‘Spare Ribs’ was written in a time of unrest. Ultimately there is a forward moving momentum that runs through this record that I find a lot of comfort in. Sleaford Mods inject humanity and humour to break up the frustrations and aggression. It’s the perfect balance. It’s what we need right now. This is super strength Mods and possibly their finest set since the unstoppable ‘Key Markets’. Chug it down.
Shame – ‘Drunk Tank Pink’
It was this time three years ago that I was hearing Shame for the first time. Their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Songs Of Praise’ showed a lot of promise with its sprightly mix of punk, indie and Britpop. As is usually the case, the band went on a never-ending tour to promote its release, an often make or break situation for any young band, but in their case one which only made them hungrier. The fact that indie producer extraordinaire James Ford has been brought in to help steer the ship for album two just goes to show the level of ambition the South Londoners have undertaken in such a short space of time.
‘Drunk Tank Pink’ is a tighter, more focused record that concentrates on delivering authentic post punk with hard-hitting dynamics and in your face hooks. ‘Alphabet’ is a blistering statement of intent, guitars screeching through amps, drums at full pelt and a vocal spitting with urgency. Something that grabbed me when I first heard this band was the punk spirit behind frontman Charlie’s vocals and here the personality and confidence of his voice is superbly paired with the musical backdrop. Whilst before they toyed with breezy summer pop melodies or Match of the Day friendly indie, this time they hone in on wonky hooks and angular riffs to provide a flamboyant, infectious take on all that is good in the alt punk world.
Influentially I can hear the ambition of early Preoccupations and Ought on tracks like the sprawling ‘Snow Day’ or the frantic ‘6/1’, while the jerky pop melodies of Talking Heads come out to play on the brilliant ‘Nigel Hitter’. It’s pretty much hit after hit while still allowing enough room to move around from peppy pop hits to atmospheric moments of introspection; ‘Born In Luton’ even manages to do this in the same song. But it’s ‘Station Wagon’ that ups the intensity, closing the album on a 6 and a half minute cliff-hanger with Charlie moving to spoken word centred around a slinky bass line and lilting pianos. It’s such a beautifully chaotic way to finish an album, confirming my initial thoughts of this being the sound of a band realising and subsequently reaching their full potential.
There is still a youthful exuberance and an undeniable energy that flows thick through ‘Drunk Tank Pink’, but it’s so clear to see how much this band have evolved since ‘Songs of Praise’. Sure, Shame aren’t the only young band busting out the post punk jams right now, but they have more than delivered on the promise of their debut and you can’t deny how strong the songs are here. They’ve knuckled down, tuned into each other and have come out with a very consistent and genuinely solid sophomore effort.
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou – ‘The Helm Of Sorrow’
It was October that we saw the unfathomable talent of Emma Ruth Rundle team up with sludge heroes Thou to release one of the best metal records of the year. ‘May Our Chambers Be Full’ was as beautiful as it was crushing, so it’s quite the treat to be able to hear more material from the project. ‘The Helm Of Sorrow’ was initially available as part of a limited deluxe edition of the record, consisting of four tracks, three of which were lifted from the original album sessions. Thanks to the good people at Sacred Bones, the EP is now being released as a stand-alone release for those that missed out the first time round.
It seems like these songs take on a much more dynamic approach, especially on opener ‘Orphan Limbs’. For the first half of this track we hear ethereal guitars and the beautifully haunting vocals of Emma Ruth Rundle. As soon as a tribal drum rhythm comes in midway, the gear is immediately shifted and explodes into a cesspit of sludge with the bludgeoning vocals from Thou. ‘Crone Dance’ and ‘Recurrence’ tend to focus on the initial dynamics heard on the album with these soaring clean vocals towering above thick layers of doomy distortion, the former building to a catastrophic breakdown while the latter brings in overlapping guitar lines for an almost classic metal spin.
But what really takes this release to the next level is its closing track, a cover of ‘Hollywood’ by The Cranberries. Originally a jangly 90s grunge pop tune, the track is transformed into a stoner rock banger, Emma’s vocals as powerful as ever as she hones in on her 90s influences. Not only have they made the main melody into a proper crushing riff they’ve wacked this fully soaring guitar line over the top that elevates it to a whole new realm. It’s one of those rare covers that pretty much eclipses the original.
‘The Helm Of Sorrow’ shows a darker, more versatile look into this incredible meeting of minds. It’s really interesting to see the project explore different avenues, whether it’s focusing on quiet to loud crescendos or completely ripping into a grunge classic. I get the feeling that Emma Ruth Rundle and Thou have unfinished business and I really hope this isn’t the last we hear from this dreamboat of a collaboration.
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