By Various Artists
'This town is in disarray' claims the opening track from this sampler, but clearly not in a bad way. As an album it may suffer from being a hotchpotch of radically different offerings from local record labels, but I'd be surprised if any unwitting industry mogul - into whose hand this disc may have been thrust at the recent SXSW festival, and who actually took the time to give it a spin - failed to diagnose a clean bill of health for the current Leeds scene.
The aforementioned offering from the cumbersomely titled but snappily syncopated Shut Your Eyes and You'll Burst Into Flames shows just how far their recorded work (as opposed to their uniformly brilliant live performance) has come since last year's 'Amputee Smile' on the previous DTTR compilation. Big things, one would hope, are also in store for The Sugars who, like SYEAYBIF, are represented here in the form of their latest single. For them it's 'Monsters'; the jaunty 50s horror B-movie soundtrack that never was.
A quick search on Google reveals that there is currently a ban on the sale of Kava Kava in the UK, although I suspect this isn't a reference to the Huddersfield 4-piece that continue the album's strong start with 'Forwards'. This is a slow building few minutes of rock / funk that puts one in mind of the Happy Mondays or Primal Scream c. 1990. And you can expect the brass section to kick in towards the end, which is always something to look forward to.
Listening to The Autobots, however, is like being chased across alien landscape by a spaceship manned by the Prodigy under the command of an extremely angry female. It's not entirely without merit, but it's more than a wee bit frightening. The Scaramanga Six' 'Vesuvius', at the other end of the scale, provides us with an amalgam of a Bonzos-style intro, the odd ELP wig-out and verses by Arthur Brown. Bizarre but brilliant.
Unfortunately for me, the album (for the most part) seems to noodle off from this point into a lot of areas that I wish it hadn't bothered with. Jon Gomm's acoustic blandness isn't sufficiently redeemed by his occasionally raising his voice or, indeed, slapping his guitar to keep time. And Practical Headz' beats and eastern-sounding melody line don't really save 'Stop the Diction' from sounding like urban hip hop by numbers. (If I'm being charitable then I'll assume that it was some sort of EU quota that compelled them to include the word 'bitch' approximately 15 times...)
Mother Vulpine mark a return to the guitar noise. In fact, in the style of Maxïmo and co, they're very much merchants of 'all the instruments, all the time'. But unlike such bands, their tracks tend to be slightly more danceable (and not just in the pogo-ing and scissor-kicking sense of that word.) But where this is snappy and short, Lara Rose's 'Once Beloved' marks a return to the overblown. The driving organ riff never really gets particularly funky and, whilst the voice is undoubtedly soulful, the gospel accompaniment just seems a bit bloated. And four day Hombre's appearance here seems a bit yawn-inducing, alas. Whilst I know they've done better, your average American record exec won't.
And then the last three tracks drift back into hip hop of varying merit. Rogue State and Bongo Chilli have something a little different to offer, not least the distinctly oriental sample around which they base 'Sound Like'. The raps don't descend into the cliché witnessed earlier and add up to a lively two-way exchange. Jack Flash is slightly more understated - cramming a few samples in-between verses, but the beats are generally sparse. The rhymes are competent, but neither of these two tracks are really what I'd call instantly arresting. La Cedille stands out from the other artists on this album, at least, by virtue of rapping in French. However, the beats err in the direction of lounge-core; a mood that the background wailing of Rachel Modest does little to dispel.
So there are several worthy tracks on this disc but my general recommendation would probably be to listen to (what would be) side one, then slip it back in the sleeve and find something else. However, unless you are the aforementioned American industry man, I suppose that you are unlikely to find yourself with the option of listening to it at all - in which case my thoughts may have been of little more than academic interest in the first place. Sorry!
Kava Kava are a DIY funked up live dance rock act with soulful vocals, guitars, electronica, brass, strings and beats. Toured across the USA, Europe and China and featured in a load of film and TV.
Singer-songwriter and virtuoso guitarist, described by Acoustic Magazine as "One of the world's most successful, gifted and inspirational guitar players"
alternative dance rock