Saturday, 21 June 2008

DiS MySpace Trail #5

Here's a little feature I wrote for Drowned In Sound recently. The real thing can be found here..


Greetings ramblers and welcome to the latest instalment of our mighty fine MySpace Trail series. This being feature number five, we’re sure you already know the script, but just in case you somehow overlooked the last four outings of spanking social-network strolling here’s the idea:

DiS introduces you to a ream of exciting new acts via the starting point of one fairly established band, e.g. #4 saw us kicking off with iLIKETRAINS and ending up taking in the extraordinary sounds of Nottingham outfit Mint Ive.

This month we’re leading with the outstanding Frightened Rabbit (pictured, top), a band currently riding a wave of critical acclaim following their excellent April release The Midnight Organ Fight, which already looks destined to nuzzle itself within many a hack’s end-of-year hitlist.

The rules themselves are fairly simple: we jaunt from top friends to top friends on each artist’s MySpace page, eight times; where we wind up, we don’t know ‘til we get there. Exciting, huh? Oh aye, one last thing, remember to click the artist names for the necessary MySpace links. Here goes…

- - -

Frightened Rabbit

If you’ve not heard of Selkirk-born songsmiths Frightened Rabbit by now, well, you’ve not been reading DiS over the past six months have you? DiScovered by us at the tail end of last year following the release of swooshing debut long-player Sing The Greys (review), the Fat Cat-signed quartet’s sophomore record The Midnight Organ Fight (review) has been met with a salivating fountain of ink-smudged superlatives. Stabbing together clusters of escalating rhythms and soul-searching lyricism, they’ve already become one of the UK’s must-see live acts. So much so, it would take a brave man to suggest global domination is lurking anywhere but round the next corner.

Play: ‘Fast Blood’ may be The Midnight Organ Fight's next single but ‘The Twist’’s incessant key chimes and heavy-hearted vocals are at the cornerstone of Frightened Rabbit’s sound: spine-tingling, embracive and absolutely encapsulating.


As their MySpace pull-tag succinctly puts it, Endor are “a simple band for simple people”. But don’t let that put you off, as the Glaswegian four-piece’s hook-bound melodies have been concocted by a detailed jigsaw of instrumentation all lovingly pieced together to create rousing streams of breezy, Celtic-tinged jangling. Following on from the release of two sterling early-days singles, the band have this year seen an already buxom fanbase swell through support slots with kindred spirits Lightspeed Champion and Semifinalists. Not quite ready to be placed in the same bracket as Broken Records or, the aforementioned Frightened Rabbit, Endor are sure to be knocking on the nation's welcoming door of indiedom by the end of 2008.

Play: ‘Fly Straight’ is a trembling, understated stomp that weeps with the traditional myopic charm of Fence luminary King Creosote.

We Were Promised Jetpacks

Despite being blessed with the sci-fi nerd’s band name of choice, Central Belt-based foursome We Were Promised Jetpacks (WWPJ) seem to have been lingering around the Scottish music scene for aeons without ever threatening to venture out from its insular safe-haven. But finally their time has come. Seething with a new found intent, their crisp, flighty choruses and sure-footed narratives are bolder and more purposeful than ever before, recalling Postcard-era jingle-poppery bludgeoned by a Smiths-like penchant for lyrical dexterity. Far removed from the sonic moroseness that’s long been a staple north of the border, WWPJ look set for lift-off in the very near future.

Play: It may only be a live recording but ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ is the perfect introduction to WWPJ, full of frantic guitars and scattershot percussion led by a rasping Scottish brogue.

El Padre

As much as these Myspace Trail features are intended as a careful signposted introductory pack for you to, y’know, DiScover some startling new sounds, it seems DiS has joined you in this process of blindfold learning. Aye, we’ve gotta admit, Glaswegian trio El Padre have completely slipped under our radar, yet we’re not entirely sure how. Their homemade synth-dazzled crankings are, quite frankly, a revelation; rumbling with dark layers of keys, drum-loops and guitar all smothered in Bobby Jacksonson’s fragile crow. Quite how they’ve got here is anybody’s guess (i.e. nae information’s available on t’internet and they’ve only produced one demo EP) but rest assured an excitable DiS will be doing its best to find out more in the coming months.

Play: The effects-riddled ‘Monsters In The Blue’ is a transient sprawl of synths and riff that’s as euphoric as any New Order number and just as infectious.

Ross Clark

Five steps into this eight-story MySpace Trail and a woefully unfit DiS needs to take a breather, so it’s lucky for us we’ve stumbled upon scruffbag singer/songwriter Ross Clark. Now, wistful guitar playing stool-sitters are not normally our bag, but this Glasgow-based troubadour creates wind-blowing acoustic lullabies of such striking beauty it’s impossible not to be captivated by his lonesome, fireside mew and choppy fret-picking. Already picking up a plethora of praise in the dog-eared pages of the local press, Ross’ stirring nomadic psalms rest steadily in the fissure between James Yorkston and Daniel Johnson. With a debut single out this month and an album set to follow, a bright future surely beckons for this charm-oozing romantic.

Play: ‘Anthem In Clams’’s world-weary brooding and hushed strums melt the heart with the same touching poignancy as Dylan’s Simple Twist Of Fate did all those years ago.

Y’all Is Fantasy Island

With a name like Y’all Is Fantasy Island (YIFI), the Falkirkian quartet could easily be cast aside as blinged-up hip-hop merchants by uneducated ears. Yet, theirs is a sound that is nothing of the sort. Containing melodious wreaths of doom-laden Americana, 2006’s debut album In Faceless Towns Forever and this year’s Wise Blood Industries-released Rescue Weekend have drawn a multitude of comparisons with fellow hometown misers Arab Strap. DiS can’t quite see it – there’s a definite sprite of hope residing in their gloomy paeans that’s missing from Moffat and Middleton’s self-effacing soundscapes – but what we can see is this: YIFI should be welcomed into your heart like an orphan from the cold.

Play: Perhaps not quite fitting in tandem with YIFI’s mournful predisposition, the jaunting ‘With Handclaps’ teems down with a glorious barrage of riff and drum that expands into a ragged, infectious chorus.

De Rosa

Anyone whose ears were entranced by De Rosa’s inaugural long-player, 2006’s Chemikal Underground-released Mend, will know just how criminally underrated this band are. Creators of idyllic, soaring Scot-pop, the Lanarkshire outfit’s debut was quilted with shivering anthems and withering laments, providing a refreshing antithesis to the luminous art-school froth exploding from both sides of the M8 at the time. Back in the studio to record album number two, the quartet have been posting demos from their Chem19 sessions as a teaser to its imminent release and from what DiS has heard it sounds every bit as astonishing as its predecessor. Perhaps this time someone will finally stand up and take notice.

Play: A moody blues bassline and creeping guitar fused with Marting Henry’s whispered vocal renders ‘The Sea Cup’ as, quite simply, the best thing De Rosa have recorded thus far.


And here we are, right at the foot of step number eight and how fitting it is that this tartan-clad trail should finish with the rambunctious sound of Foxface. While the likes of The Fratellis and The View were off whoring themselves to every cubicle-dwelling A&R man who’d listen, this Glaswegian trio stuck to the age-old maxim of ‘gig, gig, gig’ – and what wonders it’s done. Sure, they’ll never be a band that coins it in financially but after a string of far-from-perfect early showings they’ve overcome their demons to emerge as one of the most rabid bands in Scotland today. Debut LP This Is What Makes Us was met with warm if not glowing reviews, but their blend of breakneck, early Sons & Daughters-esque stomps brushed against purified arable folk makes for an exhilarating live experience.

Play: The rockabilly horror-schlock of ‘Face Looks Familiar’ is a scintillating zenith that shrieks with inner-band tension.


Over, out. Happy DiScovering, and see you for more of the same when we next hit the MySpace Trail.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

ALBUM REVIEW: The Presets - Apocalypso!

“Scream if you want to go faster.”

Fuck, I hate that phrase. Ever since spending my first day of Fresher’s Week, sitting glum-pussed in a run-down shack watching hoards of fellow students dousing their livers with a luminous soiree of cocktails, it’s been a saying that transmits cringing shivers down my spine. On its own, the combination of vowels and consonants may seem relatively harmless, but those six little words are always – always - accompanied by two soul-sucking constants: a pissed up letch pitifully attempting to be hip with the kids (no matter how ironic his attempts may seem) and the spasticated sound of Neanderthalic, chart-bound techno.

Without context the above paragraph no doubt resembles the semi-intoxicated rant of an ageing, snotty-nosed hack whose idea of fun is slurping coffee on a Sunday morning while trawling through the entirety of Etta James’ back catalogue, but if you’re reading this while listening to The PresetsApocalypso I’d wager you know exactly where I’m coming from. See, the Aussie-born duo of Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes’ second long-player may not churn out swathes of Scooter-like filth but this is a record - both lyrically and musically - that fully embraces such incorrigible idealism.

For those accustomed only to The Presets’ through saucer-eyed floor stomper ‘Are You The One’ such accusations will come as no surprise, so bolshy was the cut of its surging, bass-hungry jib. However, the track’s long-play parent, 2005’s Beams, instilled an undercurrent of intelligence to its pulsating mainframe of industrialised electronica. Granted, some truly awful moments of delinquent-styled loin-burning were found lurking within - the innuendo laced ‘Down, Down, Down’ being a tragic nadir - but a few well-groomed instrumentals like ‘Black Mountain’ suggested record number two may serve up a distinctly more challenging selection of sonic delights.

Yet rather than turning their creative talents on to full beam, it seems the Sydney Music School drop-outs have dimmed the lights even further with the release of Apocalypso. Awash with diluted beats and token ‘80s synths, everything here – from the sub-par Green Velvet-like romp ‘Kicking And Screaming’ to the fist-pumping surge of ‘Together’ - feels like an attempt to muster approval from the weekend-living, brain-frozen pillheads who frequent Pete Tong-curated festivals. For sure, it’s a brutal, hyper-paced affair, tempered with moments of unaffected bombast (in particular the rampaging ‘My People’, single review) that lend themselves to the embracive unity of clubland, but the record’s instincts are so basal it appears evolution is the last thing from the minds of The Presets.

Unsurprisingly, a spate of lascivious lyricism is central to much of Apocalypso’s hip-grinding output, with Hamilton promising “Baby, tonight the world belongs to you and I” like a brazen, credit-happy playboy during ’This Boy’s In Love’'s key-scattered dropkick. Worse still is horror-schlock squeal ’Talk Like That’, a track that finds our love-hungry frontman attempting to wriggle into his prey’s undergarments with bricklike subtlety, slavering “My how you’ve grown, I think I’ll call you on the telephone and tell you all the things that I’ve been missing” atop vampire organ chimes and an elasticised, throbbing bassline that's monumentally let down by such primitive wordplay.

Despite such wormlike mutterings it’s Apocalypso’s linearity that disappoints most. Track’s like ‘Eucalyptus’ and ‘Yippiyo-Ay’ set off as springy, funk-laden bed-hoppers - splicing together glitch-riddled effects and Hamilton’s regal vocal to create intriguing cuts of jerking, piston-charged electro - only to be stripped bare midway to re-build as one final, dramatic crescendo. It’s without doubt a formula designed for the dancefloor and one that works immaculately in a live setting but at home, with only a mug of kettle-boiled caffeine to stimulate the senses, this euphoria-inducing trick leads only to pent-up infuriation that eventually reaches its way to the eject button.

Closing number ‘Anywhere’ at least attempts to furrow the record forward, streaming out minimal surges of electronica that exudes the gothic doomsaying of Depeche Mode peppered with LCD Soundsystem’s more ambient excursions. But as Hamilton lecherously bellows out “Deeper, I know you want it / Faster, I know you want it” over a flurry of transient synths my spine begins to shiver and that all too familiar cringe immerses itself across my body. The Presets may not have demanded I scream this time but, judging by what Apocalypso has to offer, I'm pretty sure it's coming.

Rating: 5/10
Out 29 June through

ALBUM REVIEW: The Loose Salutes - Tuned To Love

With the sun resting high above the skyline and sweat-beads trickling down the line-burrowed foreheads of early-morning commuters, now seems like the perfect time for The Loose Salute to release their debut long-player Tuned To Love. That’s not to say the Cornwall-based quintet’s predilection for sweetly coined country twanging couldn’t prosper in more temperate seasons, but the record’s feel-good glow is entirely in keeping with the carefree lounging of an early summer’s eve, iced cocktail in hand while a contented bluster of inane chitter-chatter flows long into the night.

Contrived by ex-Mojave 3 sticksman Ian McCutcheon and the breathlessly toned Laura Bilson, The Loose Salute draw parallels with much maligned tune-churners The Magic Numbers, brandishing reams of melancholic, self-examining vignettes over blushing melodic tempos. But whereas the sibling-spawned quartet’s soaring ditties are firmly of the major-key, there’s an ever-present feel of scuffling understatement to Tuned To Love that’s occasionally as endearing as a bubble-gum blowing toddler, but more often feebler than a coffin-dodging geriatric.

Permeated with chirpy glockenspiel twinkles and carousel-twirling keys, opening number ‘Death Club’ initially sets off as a fuller-bodied The Boy Least Likely To, bristling to the cowboy-like saunter of harmonies and banjo while McCutcheon coos reminiscently over days of yore. Brittle and melodious, it’s a dew-soaked spine-tingler that should pace-make for the wealth of paddling-pool janglery to come. Disappointingly, what prevails is a more whimsical, disposable proposition, weighed down by stop-start jitters of flagging self-confidence and swathes of preposterous, stomach-churning lyricism.

The problem is that very little here sticks. Tracks like the mundane ‘Photographs and Tickets’ and the stagnant ‘Why’d We Fight?’ bypass attention spans like a mascara-adorning teen would a family trip to the Lake District, and as the record progresses it becomes increasingly apparent that such instances of banality are almost all accosted by Bilson’s wilful purr. Undoubtedly blessed with a smouldering set of pipes, her Nashville-aping vocal borders constantly on the puerile, particularly during the woeful ‘Turn The Radio Up’ as she dispassionately declares “I’ll drive you right out of my mind” to a fella who – judging by the languid amalgamation of guitar, bass and piano – would have bought her the motor himself just to escape the tune’s lumbering tedium.

When McCutcheon takes the reins a rich picturebook splendour radiates from the vivid word-plays of the muted ‘Ballad Of The Dumb Angel’ and ‘The Mutineer’’s woozy, ethereal floating, while the title track’s barn-stomping blues finds him crowing like a cherry cola-slurping Dylan as a runaway train of steel-guitar and organ keys hurries alongside. Yet despite such crisply composed endeavours, The Loose Salute all too often dawdle in the mundane, seemingly unsure as to how to navigate themselves on the road to the simple, ebullient songsmithery they crave to create.

Sure, there are moments of blue-sky soaring beauty tucked away in this collection of fey, pop-country cuts but, perhaps mirroring the inconsistencies of a typical British summer, Tuned To Love is very much a disappointing damp squib.

Rating: 4/10

Out now through Heavenly

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Back in business...

Blimey, it’s been a while since I’ve bothered to type anything into these here pages so I’m assuming I’ve lost any reader who once frequented this shambolic excuse for a blog. Anyway, I’m like, y’know, whatever…

So I’ve been away from these shores for a while only to return to discover that football is on television constantly and that there really is fuck all music about right now. Well, that’s not strictly true, there are numerous records/bands I've
enjoyed immensely (see the Subtle and Times New Viking reviews below) but for the most part the musique I’ve been sent recently has been of a pretty low standard (you wait for two of my next three reviews to turn up and you’ll see what I mean).

But not to dwell on the negatives, I’ve posted some of my most recent articles underneath and, as way of an apology for being AWOL for so long, I thought I’d rattle off some blurbage about a few of the bands who've tickled my fancy of late...

El Guincho
Okay so this guy is a genius whose sense of grandiose melodics is comparable to Animal Collective’s Panda Bear. His debut album Alegranza! is a kaleidoscopic swarm of Latino rhythms and floor-stomping beat-splicing that lifts you into a giddy, unapologetic haze of euphoria. It’s truly a wonderful, bottomless pit of a record and one that’s become the perfect remedy to the pressure that is my working week.

So the name has to be sung and it’s a bitch to write but these Glaswegian screech-merchants have made a cracking debut EP in the shape of Sissy Hits. For some reason I feel like they’ve been about for aeons but they’re only now breaking into the spotlight. A squinty-eyed, jittery beast of an EP, Sissy Hits reminds me a little of early Manics only with a lot more flair and far, far less pretension.

The Cool Kids
An editor suggested I've become more hip-hop orientated these days but to be honest I’ve always enjoyed it, there’s just not been much that’s intrigued me of late – that is until now. The Cool Kids EP scrawls genius beats against Olympic sprinting rhymes that veer headlong into your conscious. As they say themselves, there’s a bit of the Beasties to their sound but if you dig deep enough traces of Ugly Duckling's feel good glow emanate under each idiosyncratic cut.

The Ruby Suns
For a more detailed description see my review down below but this band are staggering, simple as that. Their new record Sea Lion displays all the intricacies of Animal Collective meshed together with the Beach Boys’ harmonic splendour. Believe me, you need to see this band live.

Ulysses Campbell
This is an odd one. For some reason I found Ulysses Campbell's debut LP Color It All dwelling inside my I-Pod yet have absolutely no idea where it’s come from. Nonetheless it's a good 'un and despite the inaccurate spelling of the word ‘colour’, this is a down-trodden slice of harpsichordal, bedroom bound pop that proves itself just as affecting as any of the above groups pristinely polished offerings. Oh, it’s also free to download on his Myspace by all accounts.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Heart Strings - Try Fly Blue Sky

Everyone loves a spot of goody two shoes indie-pop jangling, right? Nah, me neither. But, try as I might, I just can’t bring myself to hate it. There’s nothing remotely inspiring about a flush of glockenspiel and brass floating feyly across some namby-pamby sub-GCSE poetry about dunking Jammy Dodgers into mugs of lukewarm Earl Grey yet, at the same tine, there’s little particularly offensive about it. Which is perhaps the most infuriating thing of all: such sterile sonic monotony does absolutely fuck-all to provoke opinion one way or the other.

Strangely, in the release of Try Fly Blue Sky it seems The Heart Strings are determined to prove themselves the quintessential embodiment of this uninspiring, insipid ‘meh’ mongering. A dashing, summertime splash of good time melodics, London-based twins Todd and Max Roache’s inaugural long-player fully embraces cooing pop-pukers The Feeling’s teeth-rotting candy-isms yet attempts to shoogle out of such incorrigible unhipness by styling itself on the pristine multi-layered preening of Sufjan Stevens and Stars.

Immaculately sheened by Midlake and Guillemots producer Julian Simmons, Try Fly Blue Sky is bulging with dreamy, sky-reaching soundscapes all dipped in an Enid Blyton-esque sense of escapism. Slow-burning tracks like ‘General Sherman’ and ‘Pedalo’ ooze a heavenly, child-like simplicity that’s cutesy and alluring in its own charming manner but so heavily sprinkled with xylophone chimes and parping brass are both it begins to feel like overcompensation for the stale, taste-bereft cake that lies underneath.

With couplets like “And thus began a summer camp sonnet / she saw a boy who would soon be a bee in her teenage bonnet” it’s impossible not to squirm throughout the whispering ‘Nina and Her Very Long Hair’, despite whatever virtues its escalating flutter of keys may exhale. Similarly embedded with corduroy-clad teen-tweeisms, the likes of ‘Cannonball Stan’ and opener ‘Kids’ continue this vein of daintily composed arrangements that swoop away the heart, leaving behind a sickly taste of winsome romanticism with their love-struck tales of kryptonite-pilfering and gleeful human cannonballs.

A moment of genuine tenderness resides in ‘He Wanted To Flay And He Flew’’s luscious, string laden jauntiness but the drib-drab la-la-la-ing of ‘Her New Disasters’ curtails this attempt at over-throwing the clutches of maudlin indie-popdom with a stream of stagnant, token lyricism best suited to the love-letters of a hormone-crazed fifteen year old. And herein lies Try Fly Blue Sky’s overwhelming flaw: every whimsical ditty floats along without ever calling attention to itself. It may not be intentional but The Heart Strings’ ever-present sanguinity is the only thing here that actually does create an opinion.

Rating: 4/10

Out now through some record label i havent written down an quite honestly I can't be bothered looking for...

LIVE REVIEW: Times New Viking @ Studio 24, Fri 23 May

Having spent an evening in the presence of shit-shivering screech-merchants Times New Viking I’m no longer sure quite how I feel. What would have passed off as normal, pitch perfect hearing has been bludgeoned to a dilapidated pulp by relentless throbs of seething white sonics, ensuring every sound my aching brainbox digests is accompanied by an insatiable, omnipresent ring. Yet I consider myself one of the fortunate few - Christ knows what those camped by the front are enduring after surviving the eardrum perforating siege that exploded from the stage tonight.

So was it worth it? Given the potential implications for long-term sensorial damage, an audiologist’s assessment would probably conclude no, but having been shaken to my spinal core by a dazzling thunderstorm of drum, guitar and keys for forty minutes it would be difficult to answer anything else but one big, fuck off, yes.

Bound by a decidedly shaky patchwork of bricks and mortar, the dimly lit cavern of Studio 24 is perhaps not the safest of settings for such an oscillating spectacle of sound, and as the Ohio-born trio take to the floor, the gathering hordes look distinctly uneasy amidst these brittle surroundings. Of course, they have every right to worry, because what unfolds is a pneumatic air strike of noise intent on drilling everything before it into the ground as shards of shattered bone.

Immediately penetrating temples with a Krakatau-like combustion of decibels, the group charge into their melody-strewn brand of dirtbag punk-scuzzery like a searing hot poker lusting after the acrid smell of burning flesh. Few pleasantries are exchanged between turbo-boosting air-slicers like the rambunctious ‘(My Head)’ or the fuzz-flurried ‘The Early 80s’, but then again I don’t suppose you’re likely to discuss the picturesque splendour of Edinburgh Castle when you’re throttling your prey to within an inch of its life.

As intent as they are on sprinting through this riotous sneer of a set, the group are clearly keen to show-boat their rapid-fire abilities. Drummer Adam Elliot is a hair-flailing beast of a percussionist, pounding his skins like an amphetamine-frazzled Tasmanian devil as he somehow spews out a croak of indecipherable vocals into his mic. But for all Elliot’s hi-NRG endeavours its Beth Murphy’s un-tameable limb contortions and pirouetting keys that steal the show; transforming feedback-dazed cutlets like ‘The Apt’ and ‘Faces On Fire’ into rainbow-blotted dashes of translucent melody, albeit with a rather abrasive, head-severing edge.

And this, in the most basic of marketing terms, is Times New Viking’s unique selling point: underneath the brazen mesh of rattle and drone lies a warm-hearted interior glazed with coatings of unaffected pop splendour. For some, the ringing may never quite cease but as tonight’s crowd ventures out onto Auld Reekie’s streets all thoughts of hearing aids are far from those hedge-draggled minds. After all, one man’s noise is another man’s nous, no matter what your audiologist may say.

Rating: 8/10

ALBUM REVIEW: Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Sunday At Devil Dirt

Some people have all the luck. You know the ones I mean; the sort of folk who stride through life safe in the knowledge that Lady Fortune will prescribe yet another dose of opportunity upon which their dreams can be realised. It’s said that such fortuity favours the brave, yet when things like this and especially this happen it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that luck is anything other than a prerequisite of the privileged.It would be easy then to argue that mouse-shy Isobel Campbell is one of the luck-struck few.

Having been part of cultish twee-mongers Belle & Sebastian during, what was arguably, their most prodigious years, the Glaswegian-born songstress’ career nosedived on the release of her poorly received debut solo album (discounting two distinctly ‘meh’ Gentle Waves LPs) Amorino, leaving Campbell’s decision to flee Stuart Murdoch’s flock of bedtime reading jingle-janglers looking like a disastrous spot of self-aggrandised folly.

But then, as luck would have it, Campbell hit gold. By coaxing gravel-pit grizzly Mark Lanegan into collaborating on smoke-stained long-player Ballad Of The Broken Seas (review), the reticent cooer was transformed from corduroy-clad pin-up girl to ravishing, blues-smudged chanteuse. A devilish, fiery-eyed record exuding arresting tales of love, lust and loss, it was a remarkable juxtaposition of sandpaper and silk or, as many a hack would eagerly deduce, beauty and beast. Musically, Ballad… may not have been an entirely satisfying affair, but the stark contrast of Campbell’s sheenful purr brushed against Lanegan’s baritonal growl produced one of 2006’s most intriguing records.

Fast-forward two years and the unlikely Mercury Prize-nominated duo are once again caught in a smouldering embrace – but this time the element of surprise has disappointingly vanished. Album number two, Sunday At Devil Dirt, is comparable to the rekindling of an old flame; filled with memories of good times gone yet lacking the spark of fresh, unexplored pastures. Again penned almost entirely by Campbell before tweaked to fit Lanegan’s whisky-guzzled grumbling, there’s a distinct element of ‘seen it, done it, milking it’ to every rootsy, airsome shanty and, although executed with exemplary grace, it seems there’s not quite enough fuel left to stoke the fires of desire once more.

That’s not to say Sunday At Devil Dirt is an unmitigated catastrophe. Any record that contains the lachrymose presence of Lanegan and the smoky wafts of bromidic tone he exhales cannot fail to intrigue. But from the first brittle notes of ‘Seafaring Song’ it’s apparent that the enveloping captivation of Ballad… has disappeared, replaced with a stale, minor-key haze of strum and string while Campbell lingers sultrily in the background of Lanegan’s dilapidated crow. And it’s in this opening number’s formation where …Devil Dirt’s main problem derives.

For much of the proceeding 40-odd minutes Campbell appears so innately aware of her brutish accomplice’s ability to draw crowds she’s consigned herself to bit-part wing-woman. Tracks such as the sluggish ‘Salvation’ and gloom-laden ‘Something To Believe’ lack the sleight of touch her wistful mew provides, leaving what could be two heart-rousing duets to kick their heels in the dust-bitten rabble of Lanegan’s less than invigorated, bass-heavy growl. For sure, there are times when the ex-Screaming Trees frontman is an esteemed vocal exhilarant – adding an unequivocal snarl to ‘Back Burner’’s demanding voodoo-blues or the equally ravaged ‘The Raven’ – but, with Campbell’s main input confined to breezy harmonies, the likes of ‘Trouble’ and ‘Keep Me In Mind Sweetheart’ feel lonesome and bare-boned amidst a spate of perfunctorily arranged country laments.

When Campbell finally gets to have her say the results are heavenly: ‘Shot Gun Blues’ is a simmering bar-room rankle of steel guitar and vixen-like pleading while the tombstone bound ‘Who Built The Road’ writhes over a windswept tundra of melancholic chimes and eerie string arrangement. Yet such peaks too often succumb to Lanegan’s limelight-hogging, culminating in the beard-stroking boredom of closer ’Sally don’t You Cry’, a track that exits on such a whimper of humdrum couplets it could well have been scribed by a Johnny Cash-aping ten year old.

With Campbell’s second solo LP, 2006’s Milkwhite Sheets, barely garnering a crumb of acclaim in the pages of the unforgiving music press, it’s of no surprise to find her pulling out the stops with a double dose of prize-catch Lanegan. Yet, judging by the standards set on this less than sparkling offering, her lucky charm may be her eventual undoing.

Rating: 5/10

Out now through V2

ALBUM REVIEW: Eugene Francis Jnr - The Golden Beatle

If the merciless playground of secondary school taught its young male apprentices anything it was this: snivelling saps never get the girls. Aye sure, those tender strokes and understanding sighs may have fleetingly wooed the lasses whose hearts were shattered by Big Todd’s insatiable knicker-hopping but the moment another troublesome, tattoo-pressed reprobate came along all such romantic endeavours were dropped quicker than a post-teen boyband with a penchant for bum-fluff and a misguided desire to be "taken seriously".

Luckily, once Todd et al’s faux jailbird-isms took a distinctly more realistic turn – aided by the help of a few metallic bars and that worryingly frayed soap on a rope – those scrawny, muscle-less arms became an altogether more appealing proposition. Yet, for many, the scars of those school day denials still ache and a sense of charred self-preservation has muscled its way into the caring words and cradling hugs, giving the ladies a bit of brute to accompany that much maligned sensitivity. It’s just a shame no one told Eugene Francis Jnr.

The Welshman’s debut solo LP The Golden Beatle is immersed in the kind of wishy-washy balladry that had Alan McGee denouncing Coldplay as heinous batch of bladder-bursting mattress soakers – only worse. Much, much worse. Every track here is riddled with weepy love-struck lyricism that has hip-joined young couples clinging to one another at the end of a cosy wine-filled eve; eyes bulging with tears and heads full of nothing but insipid, box-ticking melody all pristinely packaged and despatched with all the careful intention of a sample bound bowel movement.

To give Francis his dues, his intentions are unflappable from the off. Opener ‘Savour’ finds him proclaiming “I’ll savour the day when I met you and I never will neglect you” to his feline of choice as a stream of spacious, downtrodden folk wails mournfully below his crystal clear tones. More frantic of pace, follow up ‘The Beginners’ continues this outwardly amorous ambition, with the Welsh-born troubadour declaring “I'll tell you one thing, I love you more than her” as he holds on to his missus, Pritt Stick-like, “every day”. And that’s the moment you feel it - a menacing gloop of vomit lodging deep within the back of your throat, threatening to project itself gusher-like into the world outside.

Admittedly, ‘Kites’ and ‘Turned Around’ are blessed with a star-lit subtlety that would blend effortlessly into the bleeding-hearted country-isms of Lightspeed Champion or The Thrills. But so whiney and cliché-riddled is the premise behind the soap-box standing ‘My Own Pollution’ and ‘I’m Macculate’’s relentless, stomach churning stodge that Francis’ open-soul mewings seem intent on hoodwinking weakened listeners into cherishing each tear-jerking lament as moments against which relationship ‘stages’ can be plotted.

But don’t be fooled, The Golden Beatle is nothing of the sort – it’s music that should be avoided at all costs, especially if you’re in the first few months of coupledom. This isn’t so much a soundtrack for love but a lip-service paying accessory to it; the sort of record that weepy romantics pick up to idealise where they should be going rather than enjoying what they’ve got now. So, if you’re tempted, just think back to those cold, lonely schoolyard days and remember this: sometimes it pays to be a wee bit mean.

Rating: 3/10

Out now through Legion