Review: Hora Douse – Crash [EP]

Hora Douse, a “Mancunian rock band from Leeds”, have got ambition. This much is clear from the opening bars of eponymous track ‘Crash’. It would be way too easy to slap a ‘these dudes sound like early Brand New/Braid/insert your favourite emo band here’ on Hora Douse, but one thing that they may have in common with these contemporaries is that they know how to craft a hook, and they know how to get your attention in less than 30 seconds.

‘Crash’ may hark back to the early Long Island scene, and its chorus could easily stand toe to toe with any track on Your Favourite Weapon. It’s full of emotion and melody, backed up by a crisp guitar tone and impeccable rhythm. ‘Bored’, by contrast, is furious and relentless; its grunge-tinged fade-in belies a frantic, two-minute assault. There’s flashes of that classic British alt-rock sound a la Hell is for Heroes or Reuben lingering within, along with one hell of a breakdown towards the end. But nothing compares to the masterpiece that is ‘Speak’. It begins with pretty, languishing riffs, leading to poignant and gentle vocals. “I am better now that I am free,” sings Tom Lee, following a slick transition from ethereal riffs to a solid rhythm and an incredible instrumental section that lasts until the end of the track. It’s a bold move, and one that leaves you wanting.

Therefore, the one thing lacking from Crash is longevity. While it’s definitely a record I’ll be pulling tracks from to put on mixtapes, or to add to my ever-growing ’emo revival’ playlist, there’s simply not enough here to showcase just how great Dora House are and to keep them in the forefront. The band are currently in the midst of writing for their debut full-length, and it just can’t come soon enough. Dora House are impressive, the sound they create is vital, and a full-length record will help them to get the recognition they so deserve. So head to Bandcamp, sling a couple of quid their way, get some great music and pave the way for something even greater to begin.

4 out of 5 high fives!

Help Get Cause of Accident Into the Top 40!

It might not be big, and it might not be clever, but the new single from Cause of Accident is very, very funny, and definitely strikes a chord. A loud and fast anti-Tory rant for the Facebook generation, ‘Sick of This Shit’ by Cause of Accident nails it on the head – we are bloody sick of these rich, self-serving twats and it’s about time we got someone else in charge of this rock.

Buy the single from Amazon or iTunes now and help get it into the top 40 in time for the General Election on 7 May. Even if it doesn’t get there, all of the profits go to The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest organisation of food banks, which is sadly growing and growing thanks to the current austerity measures. So yeah – we love the track, you should too, go and do some good!

Also, go and vote next week. But not for the Tories, or for UKIP, or the BNP. Ta.

Notes from the Keybed – This Month In Synths [April 2015]

Crystal Castles, everyone’s favourite experimental noise-wave band, are back! Well, sort of anyway. Last year singer Alice Glass announced her departure from the duo followed by a rather public fall-out with songwriter/producer Ethan Kath. At the time it was claimed that the group would carry on as a solo project from Kath, the first results of which have recently been uploaded to SoundCloud.

New song ‘Frail’ has the classic Crystal Castles sound of lo-fi synths cascading over waves of pounding electronic drums, topped off the sort of pumping sidechain compression that would make Daft Punk cringe. Vocals are provided by a singer identified only as ‘Edith’ who, whether intentional or not, does a near identical impression of Glass with the band’s indecipherable lyrics and screechy outbursts intact as ever. It is unclear whether ‘Edith’ is a permanent singer, or if Kath will have guests on different tracks, or stick with it as a solo project only. Regardless of what happens a new album will be most welcome and if we get an Alice Glass solo record too (pleeeeaasse) then no one can complain!

Nothing quite brightens up a dreary Monday morning than an email promising Swedish ‘outspoken feminist pop/electro’, which is exactly what landed in my inbox at the start of April. Tikkle Me deal in glorious harmonies and lovingly crafted synthesiser-based pop songs, much in the vein of Eisley, Imogen Heap or fellow Scandinavian electro popper Robyn. New album What Is Real is a joy to listen to, with a perfect balance of upbeat electro productions such as ‘Six Senses Screaming’ and gentler vocal-led songs ‘Niagara’ and ‘Under The Bridge’ (no, not THAT ‘Under The Bridge’!). A lot of time and effort has clearly gone into the recording process as the seemingly contradictory elements of chiptune synths, classical strings, processed drum beats, and layered near-operatic vocals fit perfectly together. Lyrically, the album is mostly based on feminist themes of empowerment and independence, yet it is never overwhelming or pretentious. A few lyrics are somewhat lost in translation such as on ‘Time To Act’ where ‘deep in the jungle they play hardcore’, raising a smile at the mental image of lions shredding some HXC! But I never fail to be depressed at my own country’s laziness that everyone needs to sing in English to be commercially recognised, and the overall message is an important one that will no doubt resonate with anyone who has felt under-appreciated or segregated, regardless of their location or gender. My personal highlight of the record ‘Rebels’ features the sort of huge half-time chorus that Ellie Goulding has been plying her trade with in recent times, but with lyrics about being a strong leader unafraid of people’s expectations and preconceptions. ‘What Is Real’ is available now through the Gaphals record label and comes highly recommended for fans of intelligent and beautifully crafted pop music.

Here at TwoBeatsOff, I pretty much get free reign to write what I like (ta editor) as long as it is vaguely on topic and introduces people to rad new music but I did have to grapple with my conscience over this next one because my absolute favourite song of the month is as far from cool and underground as it gets. Carly Rae Jepsen… no come back, honest it’s a cracker… dropped a new tune this month called ‘All That’ produced by former Test Icicle and Lightspeed Champion mainman Dev Hynes along with songwriter Ariel Rechtshaid. Predictably enough, it sounds nothing like ‘Circle. Square. Triangle’ or ‘Call Me Maybe’ but is actually a slow burning slice of 80s balladry, complete with twinkling arpeggios and guilt-free slap bass. With an irresistible R&B chorus building alongside clipped guitar, big reverbed drums and dramatic piano chords, it is equal parts catchy pop song and hipster-friendly pastiche and all the better for it. Not available to download in the UK currently – if anyone knows otherwise tweet us – ‘All That’ will appear on Jepsen’s third album E-Mo-Tion, whilst Hynes’ Blood Orange project has just released a new remix bundle of single ‘Uncle Ace’ – check out the Kindness remix for more Prince inspired 80’s goodness.

I’ve been fairly slow on the uptake of new radio darlings PVRIS, who have been plugging away at their brand of synth-infused modern rock anthems since 2012. This month the band released a new video for ‘White Noise’, one of the highlights of their debut album of the same name. Boasting luscious keyboards, heavy as hell drums, and an incredibly strong vocal from frontwoman Lyndsey Gunnulfsen it is set to dominate the summer. PVRIS are appearing at Slam Dunk Festival and Reading and Leeds, as well as gig dates across the US and Europe. Don’t miss them!

Close your eyes and picture the coolest band in the world, what would they be like? How about a Swedish garage rock band with post-punk guitar riffs, fuzzy bass, and a Debbie Harry lookalike who sings in French whilst rocking the keytar? Well that’s exactly what CIKATRI$ are, and new record The Texas EP, released to support their appearance at SXSW, is packed with indie rock hooks and keyboard/guitar showdowns. It’s terrific stuff and reason enough to make Aurélie our this month’s Keytar Hero! …and that’s before we get onto her stylophone and theremin playing as well as their merch options of tote bags and temporary tattoos, which are all kinds of awesome. Check out all four CIKATRI$ EPs on Bandcamp now before they outgrow the underground.

Live: Creeper, The Marr’s Bar, 19/4/15

Worcester’s scene has never been dead, but it’s certainly been slowing down in recent years. Except for the excellent but sporadic Surprise Attacks series, a couple of stalwarts booking the odd shows at the Firefly and the annual Worcester Music Festival (or WuMu, for shits and giggles), there wasn’t really a hell of a lot to get excited about.

However, Fights and Fires sticksman Lee Jackson decided that wasn’t good enough so along with some other likeminded punx, he set up Faithful City Shows in a bid to bring bands properly back to the Wu. Ashamedly, it took me until show number four to actually pitch up in The Marr’s Bar, but the goth-punk lure of Creeper was more than enough to set the wheels in motion.

First to hit the stage were Worcester youngsters Chase The Deer (2.5/5). They’re the new kids on the block, formed just under a year ago, and it shows. They’re nervous on stage, unpracticed with crowds, and half of their set is poorly performed covers. However, there’s also some real potential shining through. Latest single ‘Bad Date’ is a great slice of pure pop with a chorus that’s pure gold, and debut single ‘Think’ is a hell of a lot of fun. If they can perform their own songs with the same confidence and conviction that they do the covers, they might be onto a winner.

It’s obvious how much we love Lanterns (4.5/5). The debut record This Is Not My Home is magnificent, and the live show equally so. Despite a few teething problems with new equipment, the band themselves were positively charming, and the songs just sounded fantastic. ‘Safe With Me’ has so much power since being reinvented as an electric anthem, and the band teased a new track that is certain to be an absolute banger. Definitely one to watch.

Vault of Eagles (4/5) are not typically the sort of band that I’d rush out to listen to. Truth be told, I was secretly hoping for a bit of riot grrl when they stepped on the stage, but rather than being disappointed, I was enthralled by their stoner grunge fusion. You can tell that all the songs have been developed with a live show in mind – everything from the bass tone to the guitar set-up was bang on perfect. Their psychedelic grooves were a welcome addition to the evening, and definitely a new addition to my iPod.

However, if there was one thing to take away from the show that night, it was that Creeper (5/5) will never play in a venue this small again. Recently hailed by Kerrang! as ‘new grave’ heroes, their goth-punk anthems sound even better live than on their outstanding self-titled EP. Their set was full of energy, incredibly tight without feeling too practiced and polished, and truly unmissable. The band have got an absolute gem of a frontman in Will Gould – equal parts Davey Havok and Gerard Way, his performance is captivating and filled with a flair for the dramatic. He’s learned well from his predecessors, not just in how to run the stage (or hold a microphone just like Davey), but in that he’s humble – genuinely thankful for the opportunity to play and the support of the scene – and it’s truly heartwarming to see.

The second thing to take away from the show was that Creeper are now the only band allowed to cover AFI, because their cover of ‘Sacrifice Theory’ was spot on, and probably the closest I’ll ever get to see AFI play anything off The Art of Drowning that isn’t ‘Days of the Phoenix’. However, even if a highlight for a Despair Faction loser like myself, their own songs stood just as tall as that classic and have the potential to become just as timeless. So pick up the EP, learn all the words and get yourself to a Creeper show before they start selling out club tours, because it’s only a matter of time before they explode.

The next Faithful City Shows coming up are:
FCS #5 – Sweet Empire/HOLY/Irish Handcuffs/Horror on the High Seas
Wednesday 20 May, Drummonds, 7.30pm
Buy tickets here

FCS #6 – Lock and Key/Boxkite/Carving a Giant/Fractures
Sunday 31 May, The Marr’s Bar, 7.30pm
Buy tickets here

FCS #7 – Funeral for a Friend + Support
Sunday 7 June, The Marr’s Bar, 7.30pm
Sold out!

FCS #8 – Off With Their Heads/Brassick + Support
Thursday 6 August, The Marr’s Bar, 7.30pm
Buy tickets here

FCS #9 – Random Hand/Fights and Fires + Support
Friday 21 August, The Marr’s Bar, 7.30pm
Buy tickets here

Review: Howls – No Living [EP]

It’s almost become ironic how in Britain’s musical landscape, at least over the last 5-10 years, most (I stress, most, not all) hardcore punk bands all conform to the same tried and tested method of a 4/5-piece with an overly-aggressive frontman. Howls break away from that mould. Brighton’s own Howls consists of only three, Will Richards (guitar), Ollie Shead (bass), and Sam Barnes (drums). Only having one guitarist could seem surprising for a band like this, but it is the sharing of the vocal duties between the trio that is the real surprise. But don’t worry, the burden doesn’t soften them, as Howls prove in their latest EP, the coarse and at times volatile No Living.

The EP reminds me a little of Gallows, especially when the riffs kick in, but the overall sound seems a little more murky. The vocals are often more reminiscent of good ol’ fashioned punk – they’ve been described as larynx-lacerating hardcore, I think that’s fair – but they still manage to fit in some of the more catchy shouted lyrics, which should be a great bonus for crowd involvement. With only the one guitarist, the bass plays a more prominent role than in a lot of modern punk and hardcore as well, which helps Howls carve out more of an individual sound, mixing up traditional punk and modern hardcore with tracks flowing from explosive riffs to slow but crunching heavy grooves.

Opening track ‘Rest Well’ screams to life with an example of the aforementioned ferocious riffs paired with some head-slamming drum-pounding. When the vocals screech in, the song really comes together. It’s fast, there’s intricacy, but more importantly it’s completely fucking brutal. Lovely.

Title track ‘No Living’ also houses a peach of a riff, but it is a touch simpler and noticeable slower. That’s no criticism, it’s still ‘fast’; besides, a bit of variety is appreciated. The track shows a bit more artistry with some decipherable structure and varied sections of sound. The vocals, particularly nicely done across the chorus, gain a lot from being threefold. Whereas it could easily sound confused, jumbled, and chaotic, it provides complexity and a layered texture of sound. Pretty neat stuff.

The third and penultimate track ‘Black Dust’ brings with it an eruption of raw emotion which flares-up to form a corrosive wall of anger and vigour to slam against. The energy is ruthless and infectious; it’ll be a pleasure to experience live, that’s for sure. Final track ‘Ides’ almost made me think that Howls had forgotten the winning formula evident in the former three tracks, but they were just being a tricky bunch. ‘Ides’ doesn’t explode like the grenade on your face that the first three tracks form, but they haven’t lost their touch, the slower start allows the upsurge of sound to creep up on you, before destroying you one last time.

Howls combine threefold throat shredding vocals, raw riffs, and destructive drumming into an EP overflowing with aggression and potential. One of the best compliments I can give them is that they definitely sound like more than three guys. Seriously impressive stuff.

4.5 out of 5 high fives!