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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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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Album Review: Trojan Horse – Fukushima Surfer Boys

Review from Ben Forrester

Trojan Horse have been bending minds with their enigmatic brand of prog-rock since the turn of the decade. Although Trojan Horse do love a wig out, the progressive nature of the band has always been more about exploration rather than self indulgence.

On their last opus, 2014’s ‘World Turned Upside Down‘, the Salfordian outfit blended classic folk intricacies with dubbed out passages and glam-rock melodies that were totally barmy, but made for a genuinely delightful sonic experience. Three years on and the quartet have pretty much spent the whole time beavering away on new material and are ready to fry our brains further with third album ‘Fukushima Surfer Boys‘.

Going into this record I was ready to expect the unexpected, but I still ended up being totally surprised! For the most part, Trojan Horse embrace their electronica side here. Traditional instruments do appear, from the glacial yet glitchy electro mash of ‘The Ebb c/w Solotron‘ and ‘The Wooden Wall‘ to the dreamy synth-pop of the title track, it’s all aboard the rocket ship as these boys are here to take us to another planet.

Although a huge part of this album sees them going into new territory, there is no denying the pop centre that lies underneath these expansive, otherworldly soundscapes. ‘I Wanna See My Daddy‘ has the catchiest hook they’ve penned, underneath a hypnotic beat, while ‘Junk #1‘ sees them at their most seductive, with a fierce falsetto vocal sassing all over a Rhodes driven groove.

But it’s not all drum machines and synths, as Trojan Horse do sink back into full rock band mode at points. ‘How You Gonna Get By?‘ is an infectious glam-pop track with some super soaring harmony work, which propels it into the stratosphere with the rest of the record. ‘The Modern Apothecary‘ gets back to the psychedelic rock stomp of the bands earlier material and features a beautiful psyched-out vocal cameo from none other than Jimi Goodwin of Doves fame!

Although this is quite an eclectic record, Trojan Horse do bridge the gap between the electronic and full band tracks to give the album a sense of cohesiveness. ‘The Castle Of…‘ is a stripped back acoustic number with added synth squelches and new world sweeps that gives it a space-folk kinda vibe. ‘Herbie Hancock‘ on the other hand is an acid funk track that sounds like the band are playing a freak-disco night on the moon. Basically, a lot of this record takes a more futuristic spin on the vintage sounds that have shaped the band. It’s all about the widescreen here, taking what they’ve done before but blowing it up and letting it fly.

Fukushima Surfer Boys‘ is Trojan Horse as eclectic and eccentric as we’ve come to expect from them. But there is definitely a sense of evolution here, as they’ve really pushed themselves to become sonic sculptors. In doing this, they have created an album to both challenge and lose your mind to. See you on the moon, boys! I’ll bring my board!

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Album Review: Chiyoda Ku – How It Works

Review from Ben Forrester

Right now I would say that the UK instrumental rock scene is probably the healthiest it’s ever been. The amount of new bands coming through at the moment is extremely exciting, but as with all scenes, you have the good and you have the exceptional. I would definitely put Bristolian trio Chiyoda Ku in the latter category.

Firstly, there is no denying the talent and chemistry that these three young musicians share, but ultimately, they step away from current math-rock trends and tricks. They create intense, twisting compositions that pull you right up close to then push you off a ten story building! Needless to say, the math-rock community have fallen head over heels for them, which makes this upcoming album release highly anticipated indeed.

Piercing guitar drones eerily slither around to make way for the wonky guitar and drum groove of opening track ‘I’ve Got A Degree And A Bike‘. Its opening two minutes are tense, taut and thrillingly unnerving before guitarist Charlie cuts in with a slicing, scuzzy guitar riff that builds to the thunderous rhythmical punch of drummer Toby and bassist Callum. And that’s just the first half of the track. The second part is a haunting piano interlude that continues that unnerving eeriness that opens the track. It is an incredibly exhilarating start and one of many white knuckle rides to come.

Distracted From Distraction By Distraction‘ has been a staple in the band’s live set for a good year or so now and it’s easy to see why it’s such a bigger hit with fans. It’s got this razor sharp and super catchy guitar melody that twists into bending, lilting, almost jazz-like shapes before rising to a firework conclusion, the drums pounding away under a reprise of this Catherine wheel of a melody.

Although most of this record is dynamically charged with lots of rousing quiet to LOUD moments, when it’s beautiful, it’s really beautiful. ‘Anesthetic For An Empty Life‘ is the most straight forward composition here and is a gorgeous duet between plucked acoustic guitar and an old honky-tonk piano, which makes for the most fragile yet heart warming moment on the record. The album’s title track also offers this delicate, haunting conclusion with a truly spellbinding interplay between bass and guitar; it actually reminds me of Slint.

Although there are a couple of nods to other instrumental pioneers, what sets Chiyoda Ku apart is their apparent love of all genres, from the kraut-rock undertones of Smile Your’e On CCTV‘  to the dub meets pysch build of ‘Hurry Up Its Time‘, they seem to weave in and out of sounds that suit the mood of the song. It just seems so natural for them to be so artistically free within their songwriting, but without sounding too overblown.

How It Works‘ is an incredibly well sculpted album. I love how complex and intricate it is, but also how loose and playful it can be. As far as debut albums go, the playing and songwriting here already seem so advanced. Basically, Chiyoda Ku are on route to greatness and How It Works is a tremendously strong start. UK math bands, it’s time to step it up; the Ku are coming for you!

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Live Review: Guillotine at The Castle Hotel in Manchester 2 October 2017

Review from Ben Forrester

In November of last year, UK indie label Failure By Design announced a new signing. This was Guillotine, a brand new band that had not been heard outside of the label’s doors. I thought that was a pretty refreshing way to market a new band, and with this elusively delivered in-house campaign came a lot of intrigue. Nearly a year on and FBD have managed to help Guillotine become one of the UK underground’s most exciting new alt-rock bands.

With their debut EP ‘Sapphire‘ being released back in February, it’s been a steady year for the quartet, as they’ve stepped out of the shadows to play live and as they put it ‘share the best and worst of themselves‘. Tonight, I’m in the stuffy little live room of The Castle to catch them in support of high octane rock trio Brutus, in which they are main support for their current UK run.

To me, it seems that Guillotine have been waiting a while to be launched and although they’ve only played a handful of live shows so far, their set is already a well oiled machine. With the EP being a very emotional, gut punching emo-rock record, I’m expecting a brooding and theatrical live show, which is pretty much what we get. Light boxes are placed above guitar cabs and blast us through the set as the band rip through just under half an hour of fist pumping punk-pop.

Apart from a quick “We’re Guillotine” at the start of the set, we don’t get much in between song patter tonight and instead the band do not stop for air and tear through the five tracks on the EP, plus a riff driven new track to open the set in full head banging mode. As a big fan of the EP, I’m fully stoked to hear the heart swelling emo punk of ‘Butterflies‘ and ‘Christmas‘, the latter seeing the band punching the air and smacking their heads against the venue’s walls. It’s a pretty hard hitting performance at times, with each member screaming along to each track just off mic, sometimes in harmony with the lead vocal, which intensifies the sheer devotion this band have to their songs.

As they close on the magnificent ‘Sapphire‘, which is probably one of the best songs Brand New never wrote, they stomp around its fully crushing closing riff, which leads to both guitarists throwing their guitars on the floor and barging past the crowd for a dramatic finale. As the rhythm section pound away at the final bars of the tune, we finish the set in a pool of distortion and feedback.

It’s fair to say that Guillotine have a clear vision of who they want to be as a band and it’s this confidence, backed with a solid, well delivered set, that is surely going to propel them into being one of UK emo’s biggest hopes.

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