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Spitalfield – Remember Right Now

Spitalfield’s Remember Right Now is that photo album; spread with reflections and yearnings, it is pensive as it is often forgetful.

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The photos that adorn the liners of Remember Right Now depict some of Chicago’s metropolis markers. Captured by the reflective eye, these settings – Wicker Park, Lake Shore Drive, somewhere near California Avenue – bask in their stoic disposition. Of long lasting stature, these moments (detailed to their date, time, locale and temperature) best represents those wistful sentiments one tends to find in city lights, snowy lakesides and concrete life. They are seconds in time that have been sojourned eternally, like those we keep in albums they are our attempts to keep hold of these moments; our remembering of right now.

Yet as we often stretch to remember, these albums that embrace our memories find themselves kept on shelves and coffee tables. Nothing more than occasional recollection, our smiles and playful jostles among the leave strewn yards and yawning sidewalks are but resigned to dusty basements and forgotten attics. They sit there, unattended and lifeless until we once again urge to reminisce. Spitalfield’s Remember Right Now is that photo album; spread with reflections and yearnings, it is pensive as it is often forgetful. Certain occasions spark that desire to forever cast it in frame; affecting enough to merit its hanging display on our most convenient of walls, while others will receive nothing more than a glance before it is cast aside to its basement life.

This photogenic spark seized best in their first single, “I Loved the Way She Said L.A.”, a brisk sprawling into pop tuned rock guitar washing and vocal melodrama that is this album’s unrepeated peak. Musically sound, its lyrical tone is far less distinct; opting for a more broad sense of appeal, reaching out to those weary of one’s city surroundings, “You’ve been around / You love to live to hate this town / And I hope and dream just like you do.” The track is perhaps most insightful in respects to this album’s overall attachment – catchy and sweet with plenty of “windows-down” potential.

It is however, a sentiment rarely reached in the album’s other offerings. Suffering from a severe case of ‘jimmyeatworlditis’, Spitalfield are keen on portraying their outlook in the sincerest form of flattery; “Five Days and Counting” and “In the Same Lifetime” are glaringly similar to Jim Adkins’ vocal/musical reasoning found on ‘Clarity’ and ‘Bleed American’. Both gently nudge your heart-on-the-sleeve needs with simple, reinforcing prose; in the latter mentioned vocalist Mark Rose waxes, “Under the same sky / in the same life she said “Go forward you can’t wait for it” / Walking backwards never gets one far” while his sugary voice rests in the similar pitched backdrop. Like plenty of snapshots, these far too familiar pullings suggest nothing more than intermittent listens and are awash with musically antiseptic textures.

And like every film roll, there is always that one out of focus picture. In this album’s final outing, it appears as if Spitalfield handed their camera to their dimwitted, clumsy friend whose thumb ends up covering the lens – “Make My Heart Attack” is a heavily pop inclined rock disaster with high feigned choruses of characterless lines highlighted by the very diary-like “I don’t know just where to start / it’s like, when I’m without you things just fall apart.” An utter calamity.

While buoyed by several starving limitations, Remember Right Now does what it apparently sets out to do – rekindling contemplative memories that will do little else but leave itself in personal collections sprite with coffee table appeal and that occasional desire to revisit.

(Victory Records)

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Pretty Vicious – Beauty of Youth

Beauty of Youth is what happens when raw talent and a knack for writing great songs finds itself surviving the hype

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Pretty Vicious

The perils of industry hype and stardom have been unforgiving for many young bands. The brutal nature of the rock n’ roll whirlwind is both an inescapable thrill, and the overdose that has claimed the scalp of many. Welsh rock band Pretty Vicious are no stranger to the often destructive nature of record label glory and lofty expectations. The band members were mere teens (15-17) when they signed their mega-deal with Virgin EMI in 2015. What followed was a roller coaster ride of failed recording sessions and the burden of unmet expectations that come with signing big-money deals at such a young age. But the remarkable truth is, Pretty Vicious seem to have come out of the industry slog having survived their initial foray into the fire with an album that is quite a remarkable achievement.

Initially touted as the “next Oasis”, Pretty Vicious have thankfully shunned that tag and done away with writing the next Definitely Maybe for something more visceral. Beauty of Youth is what happens when raw talent and a knack for writing great songs finds itself surviving the hype. If Beauty Of Youth is a record signaling Pretty Vicious’ convalescence after their initial break down, then please, feed this medicine to all the bands.

There is no Oasis, but rather the furious, feverish unpredictability of rock music that we had seen with early Biffy Clyro, early Idlewild, packed with the dangerous uncertainty that came with The Libertines. It’s immediate too; from the raucous riff-heavy opener “These Four Walls” to the vagabond “What Could’ve Been”, much of the album channels frenzied palettes of distortion and beautiful noise. “Force of Nature” is a little Josh Homme, while “Someone Just Like You” is what Dave Grohl sounds like when he’s trying, but the album’s best moment is perhaps the gorgeous, slow-burning “Playing With Guns”. A song that’s composed of great wistful melodies that slowly incinerate the ears with infectious songwriting that makes Beauty Of Youth sound massive while being personal at the same time.

You can’t go past songs like “Move”, with its buzzsaw guitars and wall of energy, without thinking of all the best rock bands we’ve heard over the past decade. It’s got it all- to a T- but its urgency and hectic nature make it feel all the better. “Something Worthwhile” has got the bright lights and big stages of Glastonbury written all over it. And while their 2015 stint at the festival saw them on the “Introducing…” stage, this song is headlining main stage material.

It is quite an achievement to be as accomplished as Pretty Vicious at such a young age. Even more remarkable that they’ve survived the industry machine to release such a damn good debut album. Beauty of Youth is a composed, compelling, high energy debut that answers the question, “what became of the likely lads?”. They went on to write one of, if not the best, rock records of 2019.

(Big Machine / John Varvatos Records)

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Sum 41 – Order In Decline

Long gone are the days of All Killer, No Filler

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Canadian pop-punkers Sum 41 have been remarkably consistent over the course of their last few albums. And while we have never stopped calling Sum 41 a pop-punk band, their last few albums have been less about being fun and bouncy, opting instead for a far more serious flavor of rock music. Long gone are the days of All Killer, No Filler, replaced instead with songs that do their best to mimic Muse’s big stadium anthem feel while not forgetting their penchant for metal licks and hefty solos. Truth is, it’s quite a shame because when Sum 41 were more about being fun and silly, their songs had this incredible likeability to them. Forget All Killer, No Filler, they were at their most fun with their often silly 2000 debut Half Hour of Power.

So what to expect with Order In Decline, their 7th full length? Well, if you like easy-to-digest pop-punk anthems, you best look elsewhere as much of the album spends way too much time taking itself too seriously. Not that the results are bad; songs like “A Death in The Family” and “Out For Blood” do the faux-hardcore/melodic punk thing really well. The chugga chugga riffs, toe-tapping melodies, and Deryck Whibley’s snotty vocals continue the band’s well-refined sound. Opener “Turning Away” doesn’t shy from being a little metal, a little rock, a little punk, and sets the high energy tone for the album. The return of Dave Brownsound for 2016’s 13 Voices has solidified the album’s two-pronged guitar attack, and Order In Decline’s production helps on that front- it’s a loud album, it just doesn’t seem to say a whole lot at times. “45 (A Matter of Time)” is the band’s anti-Trump song, and while it tries to provoke, sounds loud, its cheesy protests of “You’re something to few / But nothing to me / Someone so twisted and sick as can be / It wasn’t the plan / We gave it a shot / You’ve proven a real man is something you’re not” won’t exactly inspire a raging fire within the listener. I suppose if you’re turning to Sum 41 to change the course of the future, we’re all in trouble.

Sum 41 love their ballads too- and Order In Decline’s lighter in the air moment (phones in the air for you kids) is the piano-strewn ballad “Never There”. It’s OK, but doesn’t quite reach the heights of effective balladry they showed with “With Me”. The album’s best moment is the blitzing “The People Vs…” which trades the stadium rock for more melodic hardcore/thrash that a little akin to some of the goofy stuff they did on Half Hour. The meaty riffs, a great solo and the soaring chorus pumps much needed old Sum into Order In Decline, and it’s only a shame there isn’t more of it on the record.

As the album closes with the radio-ready “Catching Fire”, listeners are left with one of these two thoughts. For those who enjoy Sum 41 when they’re trying to be the best big band they can be, there is plenty to like on Order in Decline. They’ve found a consistent, polished, and well-produced sound they first hinted on with 2002’s Does This Look Infected?. For those who found their juvenile, snotty attitude on Half Hour of Power and All Killer to be the quality they most enjoyed will respond to Order in Decline with indifference. At least I don’t hate it.

(Hopeless Records)

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