Getintothis Albums Club #26: Half Man Half Biscuit, Wooden Shjips, Jon Hopkins, Fenne Lily and more

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Bonnacons of Doom

Bonnacons of Doom

As eyes turn towards Russia and the World Cup, Getintothis staffers dodge perfect summer football anthems’ to uncover this month’s album gems, well, nearly.

The World Cup anthem, for a select few years it was a given that England would release an official track for their campaign surrounded by a handful of unofficial ones. These would soundtrack the summer, up and down living rooms across the country and taken abroad as a tune of honour.

Alas, the want for an official anthem has died somewhat and a James Cordon led Shout marked a sorry end to the institution back in 2010. Instead, anthems of yesteryear will once again fill the airwaves on national radio and pubs in England and beyond.

We start in 1986, Mexico. Diego Maradona is yet to break English hearts with ‘the hand of God’, and then score what remains one of the great World Cup goals, four minutes later. Tony Hiller penned We’ve Got The Whole World At Our Feet for the England squad. One YouTube comment reads: “So naff it’s fab!” That’s about where we’re at with that.

John Barnes and New Order. 1990 produced what remains one of the most well-known football songs ever, and a rap section that is rhymed off pitchside, poolside, barside each World Cup year.

The ball under one arm, Barnes cooly skips through the track as he soundtracks a successful, yet heartbreaking, World Cup campaign. Iconic.

France, 1998. Two years after a home European Championships was soundtracked by Baddiel and Skinner, they were back with a tweaked version for the World Cup.

Lightning Seeds Ian BroudieDavid Baddiel and Frank Skinner watch Gareth Southgate‘s missed penalty from two years previous through a TV shop window in the pouring rain, the scene is set for another get-your-hopes-up anthem.

This summer, where England are playing, so will be Three Lions. Every lyric belted our with quintessential pride and the hope that this time, “it’s coming home”.

The same year, and it was time for the unknown combination of Blur bassist Alex JamesPink Floyd bassist Guy Pratt and comedian Keith Allen to release another anthem that would prove to stand the test of time; Vindaloo.

Originally criticised as a hooligan anthem, as the country struggled with its’ global reputation, the song has dominated summer holidays since and you can bet it’ll be out in force once again this year.

“It’s Neville to Campbell, Campbell to Rio, Rio to Scholesy, Scholesy Gerrard, Gerrard to Beckham, Beckham to Heskey, Heskey to Owen…”

It’s hard to imagine that once, in the strange world of the early 2000s, Ant and Dec were actually a credible musical duo, they released the 2002 anthem We’re On The Ball before England jetted off to Japan and South Korea. Highly chantable, not such great memories for David Seaman.

The final commendable effort was to be made ahead of the Germany hosted 2006 tournament. Embrace, who had both before and have since produced good music, released World At Your Feet. It may not have the same terrace effect as the two previous efforts but its memorable nonetheless.

However, if you can prise yourself away from the World Cup Megamix, the Getintothis team have some albums ready for your ears. Lewis Ridley

Baloji: 137 Avenue Kaniama

Baloji: 137 Avenue Kaniama

Bella Union

Growing up in Belgium, Congolese-born, Baloji describes his world as ‘a land of surrealism and multiple identities‘ – and on 137 Avenue Kaniama it’s easy to see what he means.

For this is a record rich in kaleidoscopic colour and a myriad of stylistic fusions. Throughout it’s expansive 80 minute running time, the music positively radiates with vivid sonic brush strokes and all manner of exotic instrumentation. Melding Nigerian, Zimbabwean and Ghanaian influences with club-heavy 808 beats and space-age funk it’s a heady concoction fit for a sweltering summer.

Soleil de Volt leads the charge with an impossibly funky groove slicing guitar chops, disco harmonies and Baloji‘s stabbing flow. Bipolaire/Les Noirs, meanwhile conjours up images of a Congolese beach party replete with samba rhythms, afrobeat gospel singalongs and a shimmy-shimmy-yah swagger.

Yet what makes 137 Avenue Kaniama such a fine listen is Baloji‘s strident vocal delivery – thrust to the fore, he’s at times raging; all bullish and cocksure (see the feisty Spotlight or the Beck meets Fela Kuti stomp of Tropisme/Start-Up)  while he’s also able to slow it down with a beatnik street rap on the electronica-infused Passat & Bovary. Elsewhere, the sprightly Afro-disco brew of L’hiver indien masks the disconnect of migrant communities in larger society as he sings, ‘we are together…your issues are mine.

However, at it’s heart, 137 Avenue Kaniama is a sublime feel-good album which implores you to get up, get down and luxuriate in it’s dancing beat.

  • Peter Guy

Here Lies Man: You Will Know Nothing

Here Lies ManYou Will Know Nothing

RidingEasy Records

LA grinders Here Lies Man burst out of the blocks in 2017 with their eponymous debut which re-imagined Black Sabbath jamming with Fela Kuti – with that incredible album cover. It was quite the statement.

And on their follow-up, You Will Know Nothing, the quintet are showing little sign of easing up. Indeed, if there’s a band penning better riffs than this lot, please do stand up. Self-confessed lovers of Tony Iommi and co. the boulder-crunching guitar licks are all over the proverbial shop kicking off with the one-two jab of Animal Noises and Summon Fire – the guitars on the former resembling a dragon’s cough, with the latter drenching more fug to the mix as vocals trade with what sound like chainsaws.

Yet what makes Here Lies Man such a vital listen is that aforementioned Afrobeat flavouring without which it could become a little one-paced. Quite the opposite effect though is at work on the likes of the near-perfect two minute rampage of Memory Games complete with swamp-boogie organ or the glam-bongo chug of Taking The Blame.

Elsewhere there’s a distinct 70s prog flavour at work with That Much Closer To Nothing akin to the Dutch masters Golden Earring (if you’ve yet to check out their seminal 1973 album Moontan, stop reading this bullshit and investigate forthwith). However, where the band have taken a mini leap forward since their debut, is the moments of languid disquiet, see You Ought To Know with it’s hypnotic dreamlike swirls, the beautifully off-kilter guitar sway of Voices At The Window or the aptly named Floating On Water which sounds exactly that.

As if to emphasise their raison d’être, they close with Helll (Wooly Tail) a snarling thud of a track. With Primavera kicking off this week, there’s few bands on the bill this writer is looking forward to more than this lot.

  • Peter Guy

Jon Hopkins: Singularity

Jon HopkinsSingularity

Domino

The discussion of music’s value – and indeed the format (or death) of the album continues at pace. This week’s best-read deliberation of the devaluing of music from Gary Aster saw him state, “music still matters of course, but it seems to matter less now. Popular music was one of the great, defining art forms of the late 20th century but its star has fallen.” Has music *really* become unimportant?

It’s an intriguing debate, and there’s every chance that Gary is right, yet there’s many fighting against this seemingly unstoppable tide in which music becomes cheapened or a mere consumerist commodity.

In a broad field, perhaps where music has been devalued more than any other, dance music producer, Jon Hopkins is unequivocally always focused on producing music which stands as a truly remarkable artistic statement. His widening catalogue is barely blemished with a dud note, and on Singularity – the follow up to 2013’s quite extraordinary Immunity – he’s produced another work of near flawless beauty.

Like Immunity, his fourth studio album, plays out like one complete vision – 62 minutes of cinematic transcendence capable of shimmering minimal tranquility or mind-altering pummeling techno rushes. Singularity reflects the different psychological states Hopkins experienced while writing and recording. Or as he states, the album is a “transformative trip of defiance at the state of the contemporary world to the ultimate conclusion that a true sense of peace and belonging can only come from nature.

From the stark glacial propulsion of the opening title track through to the redemptive relaxation of Recovery‘s finale, to dissect Singularity would be criminal, this a record which deserves your full attention. You can’t dip in and out of it. This isn’t background musik. This isn’t a record just for today. This is an album which grips you tight, releasing you when it chooses. An album which hurtles you into the distance before easing you into calm. It’s a masterclass – one of this year, and any year’s best.

  • Peter Guy

Half Man Half Biscuit: No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin' Hedge Cut

Half Man Half Biscuit: No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut

Probe Plus

The Arctic Monkeys aren’t the only band releasing an album in May 2018 to have taken a left-field, fanbase-splitting detour into new musical territory.

Nah, only kidding. Half Man Half Biscuit’s new album, No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut, sounds exactly the same as the preceding thirteen. Indeed, the tune to Man of Constant Sorrow (With A Garage In Constant Use) is almost identical to that of My Outstretched Arms from 2014’s Urge For Offal.

However, it isn’t musical innovation that accounts for their long career and fervent fanbase; the ire and wit of Nigel Blackwell is the reason we keep listening. Here, it’s directed at people who “worship at the altar of Wiggo and Froome-dog” and spend their Sundays clad head to toe in full Team Sky cycling regalia; embezzelling football stewards who spend their ill-gotten gains on hair transplants up on Rodney Street; and the organisers of guided bat walks. Then there’s the self-explanatory Knobheads On Quiz Shows.

Bladderwrack Allowance (the start of which is the spit of Letters Sent from 2005’s Achtung Bono) seems to be about those poor women who’ve been dragged to HMHB gigs by their partners only to find themselves surrounded by intense men of a certain age and bearing shouting things like “play the one about the Zuider Zee” (Moody Chops from Four Lads Who Shook The Wirral, I think you’ll find; *pushes glass up nose*). Swerving The Checkatrade, meanwhile, is as close as HMHB come to writing a love song, although it does contain the line “Let me gaze upon your curves/Instead of Ipswich Town reserves”.

Overall, it’s another solid effort from HMHB, who seemed to have a dip with Urge For Offal. The songs are tighter and more focused, and while this means that there aren’t any longer tracks with Blackwellian stream-of-consciousness narratives (such as on National Shite Day and Rock and Roll is Full of Bad Wools), we do get an album of solid pop songs where the melody is as important as the lyrics, such as on the curiously plaintive Every Time A Bell Rings (curiously plaintive because the vocal reprise is “get your fucking hedge cut”).

Ultimately, the real test of a new HMHB album is how many of its songs can stand alongside the trusty standards in a live setting; on this basis, I can confidently assert we’ll be shouting lines like “Ground Control to Monty Don/The testimonial silver’s gone” for years to come.

  • Matthew Eland

Ice Baths: Ice Baths

Ice Baths: Ice Baths

Blank Editions

Debut album from London four piece Ice Baths is a refreshing low-fi garage piece of jangled guitars and spiky rhythms. Clocking in at precisely the half hour mark it’s a fine mix of bands such as Swell Maps, TV Personalities, Orange Juice.

Apparently recorded on tape to get the required sound, the band themselves say “We wanted the record unpolished and raw, hissy, trebly, bitty & a bit uncouth”. And to that end they succeeded and have produced an edgy little gem of an album.

But there is nothing rough about the songwriting on show here. These are well structured and thought out pieces of work. The opener – Freighter – doesn’t ease the listener in very gently. Distorted vocals and sparse guitar are complemented by arrhythmic drumming, but it’s intriguing enough to cause the ears to latch on, curious as to what might follow.

And what follows is a delightful set of catchy numbers. Not catchy in a pop way, but urgent and insistent. Third track, the Interpol tinged Circuits is perhaps the most accessible of the ten on the album, but there a plenty of other moments to savour. Here, a bit of The Fall, there a bit of Devo, elsewhere a bit of Television. You get the picture.

So far little known outside London, although BBC 6 Music plays by Tom Ravenscroft should soon change that, it will be a treat to catch these guys out on the road, hopefully soon.

  • Peter Goodbody

Bonnacons of Doom: Bonnacons of Doom

Bonnacons of Doom: Bonnacons of Doom

Rocket Recordings

It’s odd to finally have an album from Bonnacons of Doom. For years we have found them in the spaces where the fabric of reality is thin and warm Red Stripe is plentiful. Now we must confront them sans mirror masks and robes: in our homes and vehicles, on public transport, or even just on the street, where we must hope their ritualsitic invocations don’t cause that thin film to break and allow whatever’s behind to take us away.

The record starts with Solus, which sounds like a line of hooded figures (perhaps the Bonnacons themselves) marching towards total chaos and certain destruction, their orgiastic shrieks and calmly measured chanting belying the terrors about to confront them. When it does kick off, one guitar breaks free from the wall to twitch and dance like a snapped electricity cable, and it takes a couple of breakdowns to wrestle it to the ground.

Argenta, by contrast, is a swaying wash of clean, shimmering guitars and delayed vocals that builds and builds but favours poise and restraint at the precipice over more turmoil. Next is Industria, a droning soundscape of Eraserhead noise, punctuated by the subtle gonging of terracota pots, but it suffers from not being a prelude to full-band assault. It also illustrates that it’s the vocals that pushes this band through termination shock and into the heliosheath, setting them apart in a crowded post-rock marketplace even more so than the masks and robes.

Normal service is resumed on Rhizome, a noisy death samba that sounds like Mudhoney battling with those octopus monsters out of the Matrix and finally succumbing in a splintering hail of feedback. On Plantae the vocals return to the fore, and not before time. It’s the swaggering finale to a revenge story, with our bloodied and dirty hero dropping her lighter onto the trail of petrol that leads back to her overturned car and the villian trapped inside.

If there’s one critisism, it’s that the album isn’t long enough: at only five tracks, the malevolence doesn’t fully take hold, and only one song breaks the 10 minute mark. But that doesn’t mean you’re safe. The Bonnacons of Doom are still out there, their faces reflecting ours but seeing into our souls.

  • Matthew Eland

Skee Mask: Compro

Skee Mask: Compro

Ilian Tape

Compro by electronic producer Bryan Müller AKA Skee Mask is a heady mix of ambient techno and driving breakbeats that pulls the listener on a dramatic and wild ride of fusion electronica and nostalgia-edged inversions.

Following up 2016’s Shred, Müller has channelled the spirits of Aphex Twin and Future Sound of London to bamboozle with his convulsive and at times down right spooky tracks that seep into your consciousness and burrow deep into that primitive part of the brain that triggers bright cognitive flares.

Opener Cerroverb is a deep and textured ambient piece that sets the groundwork for what is to follow. Session Add and Rev8617 are easy-listening melodic pieces with intricate rhythm patterns and lovely echoing bass, demonstrating Müller’s production smarts. Once we hit the mid-point things become darker, creepier and a whole lot more chaotic. Soundboy Ext. is all late nineties drum’n’bass ambience, while Dial 274 is jarring, metallic and otherworldly. Vli offers a chance to decompress with falling elevators of throbbing bass and reverb-soaked strands of ambience before we kick into Flyby Vfr, recalling the classic warm and melodic soundscapes of mid-nineties Spring Heel Jack and LTJ Bukem.

Compro closes out with some sweet and floaty ambience as Skee Mask allows us to gasp for breath and pause as space slowly refolds. Compro is an immersive album of transitions and chaos, of mellowing ambience and propulsive beats. A fitting paean to the golden era of broken beats and swept melodies.

  • Mike Stanton

Ryley Walker: Deafman Glance

Ryley Walker: Deafman Glance

Dead Oceans

Ryley Walker’s 4th long player distances itself somewhat from the sounds and inspiration of previous outings, which owed much to UK folk revival artists like John Martyn and Bert Jansch, the latter of whom declared himself a fan of Walker – praise indeed. Those influences are still (just about) apparent, but this is a move into new territory.

Taking its title from a piece of experimental theatre from the 70s, the record has a more contemporary feel, with fleeting melodies even occasionally reminiscent of Radiohead and other alt/indie mainstays. The arrangements are still rooted in the folk stylings of before, but there’s a greater complexity, at times knocking on the door of prog and woozy psychedelia. No changes in personnel mean that the songs benefit greatly from this tight group of musicians who have cut their teeth with extensive touring in recent years. The itinerant life of a band on the road informs many of the lyrics and the music has the feel of landscapes glimpsed through the window on a long journey.

Walker’s vocals have a new confidence of delivery here – clearer, more precise and self-assured, and the lyrics more direct. The sonic palette too is broader, introducing new colours to the overall sound and feel. This a collection of songs with a quiet, understated beauty and probably Walker’s best effort so far. The album manages the delicate balancing act of pleasing but also challenging the existing fan base; a triumphant return sure to feature on many ‘best of year’ lists.

  • Gary Aster

The Lancashire Hustlers: Stuck in a Daydream

The Lancashire Hustlers: Stuck in a Daydream

This fourth album by the London-based duo of Brent Thorley and Ian Pakes finds the pair once more mining the rich seam of the late 60s/early 70s for their inspiration. Yet these are no musical pasticheurs content merely to recreate the sounds and sentiments of yore. There’s a wry intelligence and humour lurking behind these songs, gifted with the benefit of hindsight, which neatly sidesteps the naivety of the hippies, or excesses of prog and fusion.

The band’s previous offerings were concept albums, but here they’ve opted for a looser collection of songs mostly clocking-in around the 3 minute mark. The music is tastefully pared back, allowing their exquisite vocal harmonies (the first focus of the album’s overall sound) plenty of room to soar. That’s not to say the record lacks ambition as it features an exotic array of sounds wrung from a collection of unusual or vintage instruments, expertly played by the duo themselves or guest musician Rob Milne of jazz/afrobeat stars Nebula Sun.

It’s a wonderful, summery collection of songs like they used to write ‘em – with proper meanings, melodies and harmonies, and just a hint Bonzo Dog Band-esque humour. Special mention too is owed to the skillfully constructed rhythms herein, such as the cod hip-hop beat on Have You Seen My Twin? which brilliantly mimics the sound of a drum machine loop with real live drums and percussion. The album is full of ear-catching moments like this, at once familiar and yet novel.

  • Gary Aster

Mamuthones: Fear On The Corner

MamuthonesFear On The Corner

Rocket Recordings

Italian outfit Mamuthones love a beat. And their album, Fear On The Corner is a riot.

Taking their name from the death-masked incarnations that have walked the processions and haunted the imaginations of the Sardinian locals in the traditions of their carnivals for centuries, the band live very much up to their namesake with a tribal monstrous concoction.

Melding post-punk, Afrobeat and voodoo-swamp boogie, there’s barely a pause for breath throughout the 45 minutes of this relentless record. Squalling guitar freakouts vie for position with wah-dissonance and frenetic tablas (The Wrong Side), verbose fuzz-drenched vocals collide with percussion which sounds like it is being pushed downstairs (Cars) and LCD Soundsystem jamming with Talking Heads (Show Me) are but a few of the sonic headfucks on offer on their ferocious rhythmic rollercoaster.

The eight minute Alone is a labyrinthine attack of distorted snaking guitars, bleached percussive drones and jazz time signatures almost so overwhelming you may need a lie down after it. And that’s just half the album covered. Fear On The Corner is a brutal listen – but one which demands repeated listen.

  • Peter Guy

Whyte Horses: Empty Words

Whyte HorsesEmpty Words

CRC Music Group

Dominic Thomas is one of contemporary pop’s most beguiling characters. It is just a shame so few know who he, and his band Whyte Horses, are.

They caught our attention back in 2014 with the iridescent single Snowfalls which became characteristic of their timeless psychedelic pop drenched in colourful instrumentation and blossoming vocal harmonies. It was perfect pop. Four years later, and following on from their debut Pop or Not, they’re back repeating the trick on Empty Words, an album which is anything utilises more tricks and layers it’s melodies with even more instrumentation.

When Dominic says he’s drawn inspiration from everything from Warhol to Twin Peaks and Brazil’s tropicalia movement, he’s not kidding – there’s so much at work on this record it warrants deep investigation. The production itself is scintillating with sitars, multi-part harmonies, lashings of strings, a La Roux cameo and all manner of percussion peeping through the mix.

The title track has received much airplay thanks to it’s instantly catchy chorus and big bass drum opening but our pick is the jaw-droppingly complex harmonics on offer during Any Day Now which sees Audrey Pic and Leonore Wheatley marry their vocals and extend them in some kind of exotic widescreen symphony which doesn’t seem quite possible. It is one of the songs of the year.

Rest assured Empty Words should see a few more fans flock to Whyte Horses‘ stable.

  • Peter Guy

Fenne Lily: On Hold

Fenne LilyOn Hold

Self-released

It’s always a joy to discover a new artist as part of the support bill at a gig. And something extra special seemed in the air when precocious Bristol songwriter Fenne Lily played Buyers Club last October.

Juxtaposing self-deprecating cutting humour with heart-on-the-sleeve, raw lyricism and quite beautiful odes to growing up and falling in and out of love, Fenne Lily was as endearing as she was captivating. It was impossible not to be bowled over by her charisma as it was to be blown away by her understated balladry.

On Hold, her debut, builds on these first impressions with an 11-track songbook which is both delicate yet punches you in the gut repeatedly with it’s powerfully evocative tales. The ever constant is her wondrous vocal which is often pressed right up against the mic, so close you can hear the breathy pauses and enunciation catching over the words. It’s deeply affecting.

What’s Good is perhaps the standout – a track symptomatic of the entire piece – a young woman seemingly battling with a lover; perpetually caught between doing the right thing (walking away) or persisting with what could only cause more hurt. What’s clever about this track, and indeed the album as a whole, is that there’s an understated orchestration tenderly added a backbone alongside the stripped back centre-piece of the songs – here there’s double-tracked harmonies, reverberating guitar and barely-there electronic textured swells. It is both intimate and yet dramatic.

Top To Toe continues the theme of reluctant love with finger-picking melancholy, opener Car Park is a darker thrum through a relationship destined for disaster while Bud could sit beautifully on Nick Drake‘s Pink Moon such is its faraway romanticism, exquisite composition and embattled philosophising – “You’re all that I want and more, I’d say but I know you’re sort, I wish I could be someone you need…

Elsewhere, Three Oh Nine trades a thudding electric guitar against her haunting vocal which speaks of someone on the brink of leaving. While On Hold finds Fenne Lily in deeply contemplative form, we’re pretty convinced things are looking up for this quite startling new talent.

  • Peter Guy

Wooden Shjips: V

Wooden ShjipsV

Thrill Jockey

Wooden Shjips have a habit of making it look easy. From their 2007 debut to this year’s (yep, it’s the fifth studio album), Ripley Johnson and co. have specialised in rollicking cyclonic jams infused with magnetic rhythms and catchy-as-hell hooks. This one’s little different.

If anything, finds the Portland heads reveling in their relaxed meditative status. Sun-kissed, breathing steadily and lolloping along in third gear, theirs is a sound which beckons you over with a sunny shrug and you’re not gonna turn ’em down.

While there’s little new ground covered here, does contain two of their finest tracks to date – Staring at the Sun is perhaps the best psychedelic jam of the summer you’re going to hear while Golden Flower is quite simply a monolithic slab of glorious chugging wah-infused grooves. It’s impossible to resist. Make a date for their forthcoming tour, you’re in for one hell of a ride.

  • Peter Guy

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