Saturday, 13 July 2013
reviews: Daughn Gibson, Bell X1, Strangers Family Band
Daughn Gibson - Me Moan (****)
On All Hell, Daughn Gibson triple-filters country ballads through crackles, loops and warped samples, teasing out an atmospheric production closer to the likes of Vatican Shadow or Demdike Stare than the acts to whom his stage name pays homage (namely 50s/60s cowboy crooner Don Gibson and blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn). Me Moan confidently elaborates upon this already impressive vision, with opener The Sound of Law seizing focus with gritty lyrics (opening line: “my daddy was a beast”) and a colossal, propulsive chorus.
Elsewhere, Mad Ocean revels in a voodoo vibe built from bagpipe wails and Gibson’s oaken baritone, while The Pisgee Nest – based on a real-life tale of sexual exploitation – takes another step into the shadows, with distorted slide guitar wriggling under the skin. But it’s not all so unsettling, with Kissin on the Blacktop’s Footloose-string bends and Won’t You Climb’s romantic shimmer providing the dawn after the darkness.
Strangers Family Band - Strangers Family Band (**)
Back in 2010, Floridian psychedelic rock quartet Strangers Family Band promised their debut would be a sixteen track concept album in the Sgt Peppers/Village Green Preservation Society mould. For whatever reason, in the years since they’ve slashed those plans down to a comparatively concise seven tracks, and it’s a good move: even at 42 minutes, Strangers Family Band feels like too much odyssey and not enough oracle.
The track titles alone - Starship to the Sun, Cosmic Wine, Moonberry Jelly Jam - indicate their propensity towards retro cliché, with the madcap worlds of Syd Barratt, Ray Davies and their ilk freely picked apart and re-offered. Indulgences aside, the band are tight and highly proficient, jamming through heady grooves stuffed with exploratory guitar lines and solid bass backbones. But to play the overdone ‘girl/drug’ lyrical conceit not once but twice (Elle S. Dee, Mary Jane) only emphasises their lack of fresh ideas.
Out 15th July
Bell X1 - Chop Chop (**)
For their sixth album, Bell X1 shelve the Talking Heads-aping pop strut and glitchy electronics that flavoured predecessors Blue Lights on the Highway and Bloodless Coup, as part of a deliberate effort to strip their songwriting back to its simplest expression. It’s an understandable urge for the trio but a dangerous one, for Bell X1 aren’t a particularly dynamic troupe (on record at least), and removing layers only draws attention to the fact.
Nonetheless, Chop Chop achieves several moments of elegance, with warm horns elevating Diorama’s easy-listening melodies and The End Is Nigh ticking the ‘anthemic finale’ box ably. But even here Bell X1 betray a lack of distinct personality, with the latter’s strings-hoisted passions glancing where they should pierce, and a shimmering guitar line straight out of Where the Streets Have No Name suggesting they’re still keeping tabs on those other inhabitants of the ‘Dublin-born chart-toppers named after military aircraft’ wiki-stub.