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The Raconteurs – Broken Boy Soldiers

Broken Boy Soldiers is one of the greatest dirty indie pop records to hit shelves in ages.

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Don’t call it a super group. Don’t call it Jack White’s new band. Don’t call it the White Stripes with bass. And you better not call it a side-project. What you can call it is new. What you can call it is refreshing. What you can call it is equal. What you can call it is masterful. And, what you can most definitely call it is quality.

The Raconteurs started out as nothing more than two old pals banging around trying to write a song, and has ended up a communal band that is surging in popularity, and has produced one heck of a fantastic record. The two fellows it began with are, as you probably know, Brendan Benson, and Jack White. Both had been friends for a long while, and during an impromptu jam session, the tune “Steady, As She Goes” was born. Things snowballed from their, eventually adding members Jack (Little Jack) Lawrence on bass guitar, and Patrick Keller on drums. Both Keller and Lawrence are members of the band The Greenhornes. Benson started out as an acclaimed solo singer/songwriter, and Jack White earned his stripes in a way that I’m sure we are all already aware of.

The boys of The Raconteurs are taking an amazingly reserved approach to marketing with this band, with White doing everything he can to stress the fact that he’s only one of the four; and in no way the leader of the group. Equal attention is required for all members in interviews; and in almost every press photo released, White is found hanging onto the sides of the others, or merely drifting in the background. The move is, obviously, to try and have The Raconteurs judged upon their own merits, just as they would be if the members had no previous fame at all on their resumes. It’s astoundingly noble, and I think it works ridiculously well. This doesn’t feel like the White Stripes, or sound like the White Stripes; because it isn’t the White Stripes. The song writing doesn’t even sound like the ‘Stripes, with Benson’s signature wit and pop-sensibilities prevalent throughout. Benson brings the brains, and Lawrence, White, and Keller bring the heart. It’s a deadly combination that succeeds in spades.

Don’t be fooled by “Steady, As She Goes” into thinking that Broken Boy Soldiers is all rollicking rock and roll, and slick guitar licks. Benson and White split vocal duties throughout (though their voices mesh so well that it gets tough to tell the differences at times), and many of the songs sound more like Benson than White. Dirty, lovely power-pop draped in a deep appreciation for classic rock, and an ever-present charm that’s there throughout. Apart from “Steady, As She Goes,” other highlights include the ridiculously good “Together,” and the bewildering golden stumble of a title track “Broken Boy Soldiers.” Every song just sounds so different, so varied, and can’t help but show the unwavering versatility these four musicians possess when put together, with no more aspiration than to just write good songs.

Broken Boy Soldiers is one of the greatest dirty indie pop records to hit shelves in ages. After just one listen to this record, you would be hard-pressed to ever call it a side-project. It’s just so good that it must have required the full devotion of attention from all members involved. If The Raconteurs were comprised of a bunch of nobodies, they would still be the hottest little band tearing up the scene.

(V2 Records)

Reviews

Void of Vision – Hyperdaze

An adventurous exploration of sound that takes the listener on a dark and powerful journey

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Void of Vision - Hyperdaze

Void Of Vision, from Melbourne Australia, have been on the fringe of breaking out in the Australian heavy scene for as long as I have been listening to music. While they have clearly got a massive audience, it has always been a question of why aren’t they bigger? It has seemed like they have struggled to find their place within the churning machine that is the Aussie scene, and in the lead up to this release it felt like, as a fan, it was make or break for them. And now, sitting here after having Hyperdaze on repeat ever since I received it, I am happy to say they have found themselves, and they are about to take off.

Hyperdaze features an adventurous exploration of sound that takes the listener on a dark and powerful journey through the entity that is Void Of Vision. Making it immediately evident that they are taking a spookier approach to their sound with this album, Hyperdaze with the ominous and atmospheric intro track, “Overture”. The slow build of this leads perfectly into the opening hits of “Year Of The Rat”. Immediately punching you in the face with a mix of growling guitars and massive drums, this headbang inducing rhythm alone is enough to set the nightmarish tone for the rest of the album. An atmosphere filled with intensity reigns through the verses, and is released only for a mesmerising sung chorus, that while is nothing ground-breaking, will stick in your head for hours.

“Babylon” opens with a maniacal fast paced intro, leading up to a dreamlike swaying verse. Heavy and hard, it maintains this high level of pressure all the way through to the demonic breakdown that makes up almost half the song. Only 2 minutes long, “Babylon” is short yet sharp. Transitioning fluently into “If Only”, this extra fast paced track implements extra usage of the added dark synth that they’ve merely flirted with thus far. The verses feel like they are throwing you back and forth, as the frantic tempo adds a maniacal edge to the track before it flows into the chorus. One issue that I personally have had with Void over the years, is their sung choruses can sometimes have jarring effects, and can seem like they interrupt and resultingly dissolve any momentum that they had previously built up in the verses. I’m happy to say that through Hyperdaze they have found the balance, and every chorus flows perfectly throughout each song that is relevant. As well as a gorgeous chorus and strong verses, “If Only” features a rare but welcome guitar solo that is a tonne of fun.

“Slave To The Name” closely follows, and is a slower but more mechanical take on the darkness. Injecting a healthy dose of panicky guitars, screeching vocals, and gut-wrenching drums straight into our veins, it leads us perfectly into the absolute fucking vibe that is “Adrenaline”. Clocking in at 1 minute and 31 seconds, this synth-heavy dance track is a wild time from start to finish. Grooving and moving their way into the electronic and house scene, Void of Visionhave now raised the question, “Could Void Sell Out Revs?” Instrumental and well out of left field, “Adrenaline” is the most eyebrow raising and most fun song off the entire album.

Lead single “Hole In Me” is the one that got everyone especially excited for this release, and for good reason. Unrelenting in tone, it was the first sign that Void were about to take the next step up. Bouncy and frantic and featuring some of the snappier snare hits you will find, “Hole In Me” remains to be one of the strongest song releases of the year. “Kerosene Dream” shows the band getting extra inventive with their guitars, and while it is chock full of fun riffs, what predominately draws the listeners ears to it will undoubtedly be the ridiculously tough blast beats, and the ridiculously tough breakdowns.

Psychedelic and cybertronic-baby vocal effects reign through the verses of “Decay” and maintain that the freshness of this sound doesn’t stale towards the end of the album. “Splinter” is opened up with the return of the, to put it in professional terms, “fucking sick” blastbeats that have popped their heads up a few times so far. They lead into ridiculously tight and fast verses and ensure that “Splinter” is one of the heaviest tracks off the whole album. The drums are the MVP of this track, and it is impossible to ignore how integral they are here. Setting the pace and taking control of the entire song, it is the added intensity of drums that gives “Splinter” the added edge it needed.

And thus we have hit the closing/title track, “Hyperdaze”, which ends the album with an added sense of dread. While all the way through it is just another fun heavy song that fits with the tone of the album, the way it ends, with intense nightmarish samples and effects, adds the haunting tone that it felt like the ending of this album deserved.

(UNFD)

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Blink-182 – Nine

Bland-182

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blink-182 nine

It’s been an odd few years for Blink-182. The band, now crystallized with the addition of Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba, seems to have fallen into the steadfast routine of existing to remain relevant by doing everything by the book. Nine, the band’s eighth studio album, and now the second without Tom DeLonge, is a natural progression from 2016’s California, but it’s so determined to remain current while checking off every single pop music trope of today that it does everything except have a personality. It’s 15 songs of music that fit anywhere in-between pop songs by Ariana Grande or Post-Malone. The album is just as easy to digest next to Lil Wayne as it is next to Maroon 5, and like all these aforementioned artists, Blink are now so safe, so saccharine, so inoffensive that it becomes such a chore to sit through this latest iteration of their music.

The problem with Nine is that so many of the songs are lacking any sense of urgency and commit the ultimate crime of just being songs that fill a tracklist. From the singles “Blame It On My Youth”, “Happy Days”, and the confounding “I Really Wish I Hated You”- they all come packing the same bouncy, pop-laden hooks, Travis Barker’s skitterish drum work, and singy-songy choruses that have dominated the charts the last decade and are bereft of a willingness or desire to grab the listener by the ears and demand attention. Songs like “Hungover You” sound like half-songs with its whispered, scatter-gun verses that explode into mid-tempo choruses. “Remember To Forget Me” is “Stay Together For The Kids” lite, except that it doesn’t have the impact of the latter’s substance while “Generational Divide” gives off “my first punk song” vibes. Skiba sounds bored half the time, which is a shame really. Even when the album does its best Alkaline Trio impersonation (“Black Rain”) it sounds like a song Skiba left off the last Trio record.

Nine finally hits a spot of excitement in “Ransom” with its uptempo percussion work and (finally) the urge to push the limits. But dumbfoundingly, the song is only a minute and a half long, and while I’m all for brevity, the song ends just as it is about to pick up some momentum. Bizarre.

So who is Nine for exactly? Well, it’s definitely not for old-school Blink fans who first discovered the band with Buddha, Cheshire Cat, or Dude Ranch. But I’m probably just a crotchety old-school listener who has been puzzled ever since 2003’s self-titled album. Nine is really for the average listener who “likes all kinds of music” and loves that so much of popular music today is inoffensive, safe, diverse, and caters to listeners of all genres and backgrounds. For you, the album is fine and will sit happily in your Spotify playlist next to whatever tepid song is currently topping the charts. But for anyone who longs for Blink with a little bit of personality and juvenile attitude, you’ll find none of that here. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the album’s lack of DeLonge either because by the time he did Neighborhoods, his head was already in the stars chasing aliens.

Perhaps it is too much to ask for another song about jerking off in a tree, but this band used to be fun. Now they’re just pedestrian at best. Imagine an average Alkaline Trio hooking up with +44 on the dance floor of some terrible night club and you’ve got Nine. It’s a shame really. Growing up doesn’t always have to suck, but it really shouldn’t be this bland either.

(Columbia Records)

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