More Albums I Would Have Reviewed in 2011, if I Could Be Arsed

Good morning, children.

Are you both ready to read some more things about bands you ignored last year because they lacked a substantial PR budget, brand recognition, or the resources to send a box of cupcakes to a magazine?

I don’t care if you are or not, to be honest. This is what I feel like writing, so this is what you get.

Enjoy! If you must.

Wo Fat – Noche del Chupcacabra

(Nasoni Records)

Note: Wo Fat is a racist baddie from Hawaii Five-O.

The spine of Wo Fat’s sound is the blues, pure and simple, dirtied up in a puddle of Mississippi mud, rolled in gravel and then deep fried in an oil drum full of jelly jar hooch. This is a much tighter piece of work than Psychedelonaut. Five weighty songs span approximately 45 minutes, and whereas the psychedelic elements clearly bracketed the meat and potatoes rock bits on the last album, they’re now – for the most part – seamlessly interwoven. That means it’s a more of a grower than a shower.

By way of example, Phantasmagoria offers up the classic bottleneck guitar riff, only slowed down an order of magnitude and then smashed with hammers. This swampy mist billows and curls into your ears, lungs and brain for nigh on five minutes. Eventually, it parts like a curtain to reveal a tiny little fuzzed-up solo break, and you whip your weary head back and forth, very very slowly. Twenty seconds later, and the mist comes back for good. This is deep, deep riff appreciation, and if you don’t get why that’s brilliant, then you should avoid this album.

Common Ground and Bayou Juju are a little less meandering, blending a more active rhythm section with two great choruses and some big fat hooks, but there’s still a sense that you’d be best off swallowing a dose of something before putting it on. Descent into the Maelstrom is my favourite song here, because the riffs are great, its grooves are more like fucking ditches and there’s a pitch-bend pre-chorus hook I absolutely adore.

I should have reviewed this ages ago.

Lo-Pan – Salvador

(Small Stone Records)

Note: Lo-Pan is a racist baddie from Big Trouble in Little China.

The first thing you notice about Lo-Pan, the thing that really sets them apart from the crowd, is the vocalist. Jeff Martin got some fucking pipes. I would love to hear him tackle a power ballad, because he’d give that fella off Foreigner a run for his money any day. The best word to describe it is ‘soaring’, or perhaps ‘agile’, or maybe ‘adept’, or possibly ‘epic’, or maybe ‘fuck you’.

It lends every single song an instant accessibility – a melodic, almost bubblegum-pop quality – that stands in opposition to the otherwise unrelenting up-tempo fuzz on offer. But he’s belting it out with such throat-shredding gusto that there’s no contradiction implied by the marriage. A heady strain, indeed.

Song wise, it would be incorrect, if not palpably fucking stupid, to say that nothing really stands out. Yet it’s still tempting. That’s because everything here seems to be of a uniformly superb quality; well-conceived and thoughtfully executed.

Chichen Itza rises and falls majestically, like the ancient Mayan city it is named for, carving a path between lazybones punk aggression and a breakneck double-time chorus with the greatest delivery of the word ‘alive’ since that bloke out of P.O.D. It ends after three minutes and you are amazed it was so short, given the number of different ideas you just heard without even noticing. Well executed, as I said.

Bird of Prey goes off like a Nevada bomb test at sunrise. It’s a quick delta-shaped build over gentle clean-picked strings, a melodic bassline and tinkling ride cymbal. But when it explodes, the pressure wave evaporates your eardrums. Not literally. Meanwhile, Struck Match is the song I would most like to lose my virginity to.

I’d hesitate to call any album essential, but this one got unfairly overlooked. Give it a crack.

I’m going now, everyone. Goodbye forever.


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