Wednesday, 2 May 2012

reviews: sea monsters 2, it hugs back, gringo star

Various Artists – Sea Monsters 2 

Various Artists - Sea Monsters 2 (***)

Brighton’s One Inch Badge follow last year’s Sea Monsters scene sampler with Sea Monsters 2, and like most sequels, it’s a bulkier beast. By adding an extra forty minutes of music and splitting the collection across double the discs, the label gives itself even more space to brag about their home town’s musical wares. While they don’t necessarily tick all genre boxes, they’ve squeezed in representatives of an impressively broad range, from twee-minded shoegaze to throaty sludge-rock.

There’re more highlights than we’ve space to blether about, but special mentions go to Tyrannosaurus Dead (who serve up fizzy fuzz-rocker 1992), Reslesslist (epic, kraut-prog instrumental Magma) and Heliopause (the gentle Try to Lose). Meanwhile, Us Baby Bear Bones win ‘most improved Sea Monster’, with this year’s contribution distinctively more promising than last’s. There are, naturally, less inspired acts bringing the collection down a peg or two, but as a single-city snapshot, it’s impressively vibrant.
Out Now

It Hugs Back - Laughing Stock (***)

As if It Hugs Back’s band name wasn’t misleadingly twee enough, Laughing Party’s title and colourful cover seem like a concerted effort to build up preconceptions – only to plough headlong through them with inventive and expansive opener The Big E. It takes confidence to open with a fifteen minute, space-rock goliath (the ‘E’ is presumably short for ‘epic’), though as it rides its hypnotic bassline through inventively noisy landscapes, it more than warrants its forefront placing.

While its density and energy is exhilarating, it’s an exhausting point of entry, and with fifty minutes of record hot on its heels, sustaining so high a watermark is a tall order. Against the odds, Laughing Party largely retains its composure, thanks to diversifying miniatures like Half American. But there remains an underlying feeling that, while there are more than enough ideas to sustain the album's duration, there’s not quite the stamina.

Out 7th May

Gringo Star - Count Yer Lucky Stars

Gringo Star - Count Yer Lucky Stars (**)

With track titles including Esmerelda and Mexican Coma, those new to Gringo Star’s schtick might expect their moniker to directly reference their sound: a Mexicali Fab Four, perhaps, trilling mariachi homages to Beatlemania (And Your Bird Cancun Sing? Taco to Ride?  Er, Tijuana Hold Your Hand…?). But no: while they plunder popular beat combos of the period (The Kinks seem especially beloved), they play their retro rock straight. Too straight: Count Yer Lucky Stars is consistently pleasant, with catchy hooks and an agreeable breeziness, but there’s a dearth of substance.

Fellow Atlantans The Black Lips dress up in robes of a similar trim, but where they nail their influences, Gringo Star largely re-hash rather than rejuvenate, and consequently strike gold less frequently. When you’re ranking second in the niche category of ‘best act with a name punning on everyone’s fourth favourite Beatle’ (Ringo Deathstarr ftw), there’s evidently work to be done.

Out Now

No comments:

Post a Comment