Tom Rafferty, Bikini Bottoms, The Kidney Flowers, The English Language- albums round-up.
Three from Scotland and one from Portland, Oregon, succinctly reviewed by Joe Whyte.
Space is getting ever tighter in the magazine world of Vive Le Rock and Louder Than War and given the sheer volume of albums coming in, many of them just cannot be accommodated. Given the efforts put in by these musicians, this is a quick round-up of four of the best ones to fall into my lap in the last few weeks.
Tom Rafferty-More Guitars (SR)
Mr Tom Rafferty will be known to some of you as long-serving guitarist in Glaswegian garage kings, The Primevals. He’s also led surf instrumentalists The Beat Poets and clearly has a portrait of himself in his attic given his ongoing youthful demeanour. Rarely letting the grass grow under his feet, he’s self-released this fifteen track opus of instrumental tunes which is as wide-reaching as you’d imagine. Going from the Jeffrey Lee Pierce summoning “Glendale” which is all overdriven 12 bar swoops and swells, to the Barry Adamson-like “Mata Hari” which, as you’ve probably guessed, is a spy-theme styled, noir-ish groover with subtle, reverb-drenched licks and walking bassline. I actually prefer the mellower tracks on this and I wonder if putting it out as two albums, one with the rockers and a separate one with the more cinematic tracks would have been a better idea. No matter; there’s a depth and a real lightness of touch herein that draws the listener into Rafferty’s weird little world. “One Flew South” could soundtrack some imaginary road movie while “Lumio” shimmers and shakes in equal measures. There are some truly incandescent moments among these tracks and some startling guitar playing from a guy who’s absorbed all of the great and good players over the years. You’ll hear hints of Link Wray, Tom Verlaine, Kid Congo Powers and even some jazzy flourishes. Oddly, his typical Primevals slide guitar carnage is largely missing here although his love of the elongated fuzz note is pretty evident; maybe a change is as good as a rest. Tom played all of the instruments on the album himself, incidentally. Give it a go, you wont be disappointed. .
Buy or listen to it here
The Bikini Bottoms- Bikiniland (Mental Records)
On the relaunched seminal rockabilly label Mental Records, Glaswegian two-piece (see what I did there?) The Bikini Bottoms have released their first full-length record and it’s a real good ‘un. I reviewed their debut single a few years back and they’ve since evolved from a pretty straight-ahead rockabilly group into a band that have absorbed elements of trash culture, garage rock and punk influences to craft a record that will surprise a few non-believers. Sure, the slap back echo and searing guitar of Jack Elfick is still there but the songwriting has moved considerably upwards from the typical three-chord ‘abilly ghetto of much of the genre. “Long Black Hair” is on the face of things a straightforward rocker but there are little nuances in it (and the others) that elevate this a damn few notches. Opening track “Spring Clean” blasts away the cobwebs and a cover of Frenzy’s “I See Red” is positively sizzling. The album is available now.
The Kidney Flowers- The Kidney Flowers (Never Found Records)
Last, but not least from this Scottish contingent is the debut from garage mentalists The Kidney Flowers. A mainstay of the local trash-garage scene, they’ve been laying waste to venues this last few years. The album has a real fury about it- opening track “Every Time You Come” has the meters pushing into the red straight away with its scorching chords and swaggering vocal. “Pay To Piss” is short, sharp and full of vitriol with shrieking vocals atop the pulsating guitars and thundering rhythm section. They’re not without a bit of black humour, however; “A Really Happy Song About Throat Cancer” wallops along with front-man Grant calling down the bad-medicine-blues. A down and dirty cover of “Been Down So Long” closes affairs and is taken places even Jim Morrison couldn’t have written poetry about. The Kidney Flowers are taking a fairly well-worn template and hugely freshening it up.
The English Language- Paranoid Imagination (SR)
Hailing from Portland, Oregon are The English Language, who’s stock-in-trade the last couple of albums (which you should most definitely seek out) is swirling, mind-bending psychedelia with a drone-rock twist. This new effort is an even darker departure than the quite frankly bonkers “Mother Tongue” which dropped in 2017. The many-textured “California Death Ray” is a signal of whats to come and a real statement of intent; subterranean drums, serpentine bass and a needling guitar figure (which is oddly reminiscent of the signature riff in Missy Elliot’s “Get Ur Freak On”!) backs the demented vocals of Kyle Langlois. If you could imagine the Manson Family murders set to a musical backdrop, this is what it would probably sound like. Don’t get me wrong, like previous English Language records, there are tunes and hooks in there; it’s just that they’re swathed in layers of feedback and vibrato and played at (for the most part) breakneck speed. The titles herein are terrific and probably tell you all you need to know; “After School Satan Club”. “Street Pink Cloud”. “Teenaged God”. It’s a very odd world that The English Language inhabit- they’re certainly not here to make “nice” music but this is one I keep coming back to even if it is the stuff of psychotic episodes and barely remembered dreams at times. Get on board the Bad Trip Express.
All words – Joe Whyte DTK