New Music Through Old Ears: Bees and Buggs in Gaslight Park

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This week, entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out new music from British popsters Maximo Park, tousled troubadour Jake Bugg, retro rockers The Gaslight Anthem and metal upstarts Red Bee.

New Album by the third best band out of Newcastle, UK

Maximo Park — Too Much Information

Although I may be wrong, I’ve always thought that Maximo Park were one of those groups that everyone sort of likes, but nobody would actually call their favourite band.

Formed in Newcastle in 2000, it took until 2003 for the band to find singer Paul Smith (not the nightwear impresario) and another two years to record debut album A Certain Trigger.

Filled with spiky guitars and pop hooks, the album sold over 500,000 copies and included singles The Coast is Always Changing, Going Missing and Apply Some Pressure.

Subsequent albums, Our Earthly Pleasures (2007), Quicken The Heart (2009) and The National Health (2012) continued the trend of catchy tunes and confessional style lyrics with a healthy dollop of nostalgia. A good example of this is Girls Who Play Guitar, with shoegazing yet surprisingly upbeat lyrics over a ridiculously catchy guitar riff.

Too Much Information is Maximo Park’s fifth studio album and it’s fair to say that they’ve matured slightly. With clear influences from Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk, it’s a little more synth oriented than previous albums, but they haven’t given up entirely on the catchy guitar riffs, as demonstrated on opening tack Give, Get, Take.  

On first listen, Too Much Information sounds like a band stretching themselves in new directions to varying degrees of success. Upon second listen, however, you realize that much of the album sounds like a loving tribute to New Order, which is a little odd.

Best tracks: Brain Cells, Give, Get, Take

Sample lyric: ‘Have you ever been undone, by a slip of the tongue?’ (Brain Cells)

Verdict: 6/10 – not great, not terrible. Gets an extra star if you really like New Order.

New Album by a Young Artist

Jake Bugg — Shangri La

Born in Nottingham, England in 1994, Jake Bugg grew up listening to classic rock from artists like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash and The Everly Brothers.

He also listened to Oasis, but I assume that is because it was almost impossible to avoid listening to Oasis in England during the late nineties.

After picking up his first guitar at age twelve, Bugg quickly developed a talent for the instrument and started writing his own songs. He dropped out of school at age fifteen to focus on his music,and won a contract with Mercury Records when he was seventeen.

Following on from his self-titled album released in 2012, Bugg collaborated with Irish singer/songwriter Iain Archer on Shangri La, with contributions from Rick Rubin and Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Despite looking a lot like Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys, Bugg avoids the ‘slice of British life’ songwriting approach, which isn’t a bad thing as it will probably lend a longevity to his music that his higher selling contemporaries can’t manage.

When favourably compared with folk deity Bob Dylan, Bugg told bastion of old media the Daily Telegraph:

“Dylan’s cool, you know. He’s great, but he’s not a major influence.”

That’s very generous of you, Jake. I’m sure Bob Dylan appreciates the fact that you think he’s cool.

There is a wide variety of styles exhibited on Shangri La, which is both a blessing and a curse. When Bugg rocks out, the songs are toe-tapping fun, but when he moves into the Folk music realm the result isn’t so great. I think my wife’s comment sums up track Me and You: “It sounds like elevator music.”

Best tracks: All Your Reasons, What Doesn’t Kill You, Slumville Sunrise

Sample lyric: ‘This place is just not for me, I say it all the time.’ (Slumville Sunrise)

Verdict: 7/10 — definitely one to watch.

Album I Expect to Suck

The Gaslight Anthem — The B Sides

It’s not that I don’t like The Gaslight Anthem.

On the contrary, I’ve always enjoyed their Springsteen-influenced style of laidback punk rock, particularly songs like The ’59 Sound, The Diamond Street Church Choir and their cover of Johnny Cash’s God’s Gonna Cut You Down.

It’s just that B-Side albums tend to suck. I’m sure that there are a few exceptions –although none spring to mind at this moment – but an album full of songs that weren’t good enough to make the album first time around isn’t usually a recipe for musical greatness.

After getting together in Brunswick, New Jersey, back in 2006, The Gaslight Anthem released debut album Sink or Swim in 2007.

By 2009, the band had developed a strong following and got the chance to perform with their hero — The Boss. At the notoriously muddy festival Glastonbury, Bruce Springsteen joined the band for a rendition of The ’59 Sound, while Anthem lead singer Brian Fallon joined Springsteen on the main stage to sing No Surrender.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it was awesome.

Despite my misgivings, it turns out that The B Sides is a solid collection.

Cover versions of Pearl Jam’s State of Love and Trust and The Rolling Stones Tumbling Dice are loyal to the originals but add a layer of grime, while older Gaslight tracks like Boxer, Great Expectations and American Slang translate well to the stripped back acoustic format. 

Best tracks: Tumbling Dice, Boxer, Great Expectations

Sample lyric: ‘And I saw tail lights last night, in a dream about my first wife.’ (Great Expectations)

Verdict: 7/10 — Way better than expected, but still likely to have limited appeal outside the Gaslight Anthem fanbase.

Ch-check it out…

Red Bee — Ictus Deluxe Edition

Red Bee are a band on the rise, with a deluxe version of their debut album just released and a near-miraculous last minute spot at Soundwave between metal legends Testament and GWAR.

The story goes that 'serious metal band' Newsted cancelled at the last minute, leaving a spot for a local band. With only hours to spare, a canny marketing team got Red Bee on the bill, exposing the band to their biggest ever crowds and generating rave reviews.

Formed in the Blue Mountains in 2004, Red Bee is a three-piece made up of brothers Daniel and Jim Silk (vocal/guitar and bass respectively) joined by drummer Ian Dunn. With influences from Mr Bungle and The Dillinger Escape Plan to Stanley Kubrick and Hunter S. Thompson, the band members share songwriting duties, resulting in an album with light and shade (albeit heavy light and shade).

A concept album of sorts, Ictus tells the tale of a man’s fall into degeneracy and despair. Some titles like Dark Daze and Road Kill give early signs that this isn’t going to be an easy road, and Red Bee do well to capture the complex shift of emotions as the journey takes its toll.

Red Bee have been touring since November to promote Ictus USB Deluxe Edition, and have gone out of their way to pack the album with goodies to encourage people to purchase. Aside from traditional inclusions such as a lyric sheet, Red Bee have included sheet music, live tracks and even tutorial videos, which will be handy if they ever need to look for a new band member Iron Maiden style.

Recorded with producer Clayton Segelov (Lamb of God, The Angels), Ictus is a blast of contained fury driven by precise instrumentation.

The wise decision to record ‘live to tape’ in studio has captured the energy and passion that the band display on stage, eschewing complex overdubbing in favour of old fashioned hard rock.

Best track: Through To You

Verdict: 7/10 – check them out live if you have the chance.

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