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Calmer

CalmerI picked this up thinking the band was called Glad. Sounds cheery, I thought (sometimes you need that when you’re listening to piles of demos). Turns out Glad is the name of the EP. Four guys from Norwich, with strong Scottish connections, Calmer open their five-track CD with the aforementioned ‘Glad’. And quite a good song it is too, with a nice line in R.E.M-esque strange lyrics (“I’m glad I’m not a fish”). There’s an early-1990s guitar-driven grandness to Calmer’s sound, reminiscent of Bob Mould’s Sugar in full flow, with slight Sixties overtones, especially in ‘Piece Of Her’. The anthemic ‘Only Light’ moves away from personal matters (and fish) to tackle the Iraq war – a difficult subject to approach in song without over-emoting or preaching, but they negotiate that minefield pretty well. ‘Moving’ is even more R.E.M-like in its combination of musical simplicity and perplexing lyrics that need some syllable-mangling to fit. ‘Weekenders’ explores the socio-psychological motivations behind regular intoxication (getting pissed Saturday nights): “We swallow honey at the weekend / turn an anaemia life into an ember / burning off the days I done / then we’re back where we began.” Not sure what “burning off the days I done” means, exactly, but think we get the drift. The torch-bearing music carries everything along on a warm wave of introspection. Steve Logan, the writer and singer, has a good gravelly larynx, and the enclosed biog shows some character and self-mockery that offsets the rather serious music. An interesting band that deserves a listen.
www.calmer.org



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The Super Nashwan Kids

The Super Nashwan KidsTSNK are a young London five-piece who make a very decent racket and have already been signed up by music publishers Blue Mountain (home to U2/Bob Marley). They also have a bass player who doesn’t look old enough to be out in the evenings, never mind playing in pubs. First track here starts with just guitars, bass and vocals – then simply carries on the same way. It’s like a Nirvana-style ‘quiet bit’, when you’re waiting for the drums to come back in to join the chugging punk-metal melee... except it doesn’t happen – there are no drums on this track at all. A master-stroke, as it turns out, because it keeps you listening, expectantly, all through. But then after a couple of minutes the distorted guitars suddenly disappear and the song mutates into a new chord sequence, with a rather wayward three-minute guitar solo on top. This unnecessary and over-long diversion is all the more bizarre when you realise how out-of-place it sounds compared to the rest of the demo. Weird. For ‘Generation Genocide’ the drums are back with a bang – all the more effective for their earlier absence, and they gradually work up to a full- frontal guitar-drum-and-vocal thrash. It seems this track is a live favourite. I can understand why. ‘Prodigal Rebirth’ adds Pepperish funk and rappy vocals to the so-far mostly rock/punk mix, with enough dynamics and space to keep audiences at fever pitch throughout. You can almost smell that heaving moshpit. Ropey solo aside, a fine band. I’m sure we’ll hear more of them.
www.tsnk.co.uk



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Electric Street Police

Electric Street PoliceESP’s 12-track CD is all the work of one man, Paul Bickerdike from Leeds. He’s an accomplished composer/arranger/producer aiming at 'soundtrack style' music – hence the general lack of vocals here. He covers many different styles, as you’d expect from someone wanting to work in movies or TV: everything from four-to-the-floor dance tracks to jazzy ‘Mission Impossible’-type escapades (all bongos, flutes and woodblocks). Skilled in the art of pastiche, Paul occasionally veers into cliché – the Martin Luther King samples on ‘Dreams Are Made Of This’, for instance – but elsewhere he adds his own novel twists. ‘Surveillance’ is tense cop-show funk, but with a slightly melancholic undercurrent (maybe one of the police officers is concealing an abused childhood, or a terminal illness, or some such plot twist). There’s no doubt Mr Bickerdike (or Electric Street Police) can produce the goods. Excellent at creating instant moods, I’m sure he’d have no problem working to commission. But this music obviously needs to be targeted – you wouldn’t want to send this CD to just anyone. If he hasn’t already, he should certainly approach places like www.dewolfe.co.uk (they’ve supplied music for everything from documentaries to soaps, game shows and adverts) and www.shockwave-sound.com. First I’d seriously consider cutting the number of tracks on the demo – initially half a dozen different-style pieces would be enough to show versatility – too many similar tracks will add little to the overall cause, and most likely blunt the impact of the best ones, which are as good as anything you’ll hear on telly.
www.electricstreetpolice.co.uk



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Meet John Doe

Meet John DoeClearly a name chosen with an eye on the US market, these five guys from the London area start out on first track ‘Signals’ sounding like pleasant indie guitar janglers, but then things suddenly mutate into a nu-metal whirlpool of pained vocals and massive guitars (and yet more angsty ‘burning this town to the ground’ lyrics). Muse-like in their frequent tempo and mood changes, it’s the second track, ‘Increasing The Satellites’, that shows the band’s ambitious versatility to full effect: huge shouty vocals (and football-terrace back up chanting) combine with intricate and even at times delicate instrumentation in the chorus. There are constant surprises round each musical corner. ‘The Grip’ is the least immediate track of the three, and at first seemed too tuneless and ‘difficult’ to get into, but having persevered with it, this waltz-time pot boiler turned out to be my unexpected favourite. The gratingly atonal vocals are neatly offset by a sugary tinkling keyboard riff in the early verses, building to a momentously meaty mid-song climax, before a fantastically weird noise joins in for the calmer ending (I’d guess it’s slowed-down backwards drumming). I confess I wasn’t over-impressed with the band’s biog style – 'Meet John Doe are about to turn the alternative scene on its edge in the upcoming year' (yawn, heard it before) – or the fact that one of the guitarists has chosen to call himself The Edge (eh, heard that before too), but there’s no denying the musical competence, and confidence on show here.
www.meetjohndoe.co.uk



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