Elle E’s latest offering “Stereo Child” is the energy boost you didn’t know you needed.

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Elle E‘s latest three-track EP, “Stereo Child” is a fuzz-heavy, cymbal-driven, foot-stomping celebration of music, happiness, and love.

The opening title track explores what it is that makes music so damn addictive. “It modifies the inside of you / never mind what the outside will do” croons Elle E in the chorus as the instruments around her drive the song forward at breakneck speed. There are moments of relative calm here and there, a chance to catch one’s breath, but on the whole this song is a balls-to-the-walls salutation to good times.

“Happy Days” is a fuzzy, feel-good ode to those days where the sun is at just the right temperature and everything feels right in the world. Unlike “Stereo Child” this song has more of an ebb and flow to it, with softer sections that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Velvet Underground record, balancing out her trademark garage rock choruses.

Things get real heavy in “With You” as the instruments swap out rhythms like people swap out outfits when getting ready for a night out. Proving that she’s a romantic at heart, Elle E sings about that perfect kind of love where you never want to be separated as the music moves between steady, focused verses and head-bang worthy choruses.

“Stereo Child” is one of those EPs that will have you tapping your feet long after the last notes have been played and feeling like you can take on anything that life throws your way.

Do yourself a favour and listen to the EP below:

 

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A Different Kind Of Medicine

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The Medicine Dolls have released the fourth EP in their ever-growing discography. ‘A Good Chance Of Bad Weather’ signifies a step in a somewhat new direction for a band known for their edgy, post-punk sound.

This small step into the new is evident from the jump as the title-track comes to life with an single note from an electronic organ that marches on through the opening bars, soon being joined by Greg Allan’s voice. A surprise for seasoned fans will be the increased use of the bass. As it forays into unexplored territory it brings a new dimension into the band’s sonic universe. It becomes evident that this EP is going to fall on the more romantic section of their spectrum as Allan says “I want to love you darling creature, I want to kiss your fucking soul.”

The organ finds more footing in ‘Careful Affection’ creating an eerie, carnival-for-the-disturbed feeling. The mood of the song is heightened by tempo named lethargy and a voice fighting to remain calm in the midst of turmoil. The song sounds like the beginning of the fourth stage of grief. There’s a sense of pain and restraint that’s brought across well by the aural landscape. The final track brings us back to the familiar ground that fans have come to love and know.

It’s the familiar with just a hint of experimentation. As if it went on holiday and came back with a new perspective on things. ‘Sick Little Cynics’ has the same old, born-from- experience cynicism that their previous offerings introduced. The energy, driving rhythms, moody guitar, and the dynamics that keep it interesting and alive are there. The only down-side is that you can almost hear a few of their older songs in it, but it’s still the strongest track on offer.

‘A Good Chance Of Bad Weather’ has an experimental feel as The Medicine Dolls try to find new dynamics to add to their arsenal. For the most part it strays from the sound that made them a name on the Cape Town scene but it was a calculated risk that paid off.

You can listen to the EP here.

A Good Chance Of A Good Time

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It’s a rainy Thursday night and the cold, drenched denizens of Cape Town have started filtering into The Shack in search of warmth and a drink. It doesn’t take me long to find Greg Allen, the frontman of The Medicine Dolls and my interviewee for the night. After walking through the labyrinthine bar with a draught in one hand and a cigarette in the other for a few minutes we find a spot that’s quiet enough for us to speak about their new EP, ‘A Good Chance of Bad Weather’, among other things.

 

“Sonically it’s more and it’s less at the same time than the last ep.”

 

After a bit of banter, just to check that my recording devices are working, we get to talking about their new material, set to be launched on the 6th of July. A band known for their unique sound filled with hedonism and heartbreak, their latest offering promises to unleash more of that. Having been in the works since their last tour, which took them through the heart of the country and then down the east coast, there is the promise of a subtle shift in the sound. The Medicine Dolls have expanded their sound and started experimenting with more instrumentation, a sonic continuation from their last offering, ‘Lost Love Lullaby’, which introduced some melodious, haunting piano lines.

 

“I can’t be arsed to like, sing the same fucking words or play the same riff.”

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With a bigger focus on recording and the production of the EP they’ve started expanding the sound of their studio material with Greg saying that “Sonically it’s more and it’s less at the same time than the last EP.” For the moment, however, their live shows will continue to be the same bare-boned sweat fests that we’ve come to know and love. The first tangent of the night comes with a discussion about their approach to live shows. As far as they’re concerned live shows and albums are two different art forms and live shows should contain some kind of spontaneity. “I can’t be arsed to like, sing the same fucking words or play the same riff” Greg says with a hint of laughter dancing in his voice. He feels that it’s unfair to the paying audience for the band to deliver a performance that sounds exactly like the recorded version.

 

“All the good shit, and all the bad and all the stuff that makes us human.”

Greg

But that’s enough digression for now. In the course of their last three EPs the band has gone from singing almost exclusively about the dark, hedonistic side of life that exists in the shadows of people’s lives to adding a few love songs to their repertoire. ‘A Good Chance of Bad Weather’ is going to be a combination of those two elements. For Greg the song-writing process is very much influenced by the people around him. Often the things they go through resonate with him and he finds a song somewhere within that resonance. He’s not the sit-down-and-write kind of writer. His process is much more organic and involves him just ‘bonding with a guitar and a piece of paper’ as he writes down whatever phrases pop into his head, no matter how little sense they make. Through improvisation, experimentation, and scrapbook plundering a song will be born. He never settles for anything less than what gives him goosebumps.

As for a full length album, we’ll have to wait a while. There’s the chance of a release at the beginning of next year but they’ll only do it if they can do it properly in a studio. For now, though, it seems that they’re happy putting out EPs every few months. It’s a way for them to stay relevant in a scene that’s relatively small and very competitive, but that’s not the only motive. They’re not a band that likes to sit on songs once they’ve been written. If they have a handful of songs that are ready then they must be released lest they become stale.

 

“There’s cooler boxes and camper chairs.”

 

I saw this interview as the perfect opportunity to ask about what was arguably the biggest gig of the band’s career so far. On the 30th of April The Medicine Dolls opened for South African rock and roll institution The Springbok Nude Girls at Hillcrest Quarry. Considered an honour and perhaps even a surprise, they put on their game-faces and opened up for a band that has at least two generations of fans. They are in no way a safe band and there was the risk that some members of the audience may have found them a bit… edgy. After all, it’s the kind of concert where there were “cooler boxes and camper chairs.” The band feels like it usually takes one song to show people what they’re about, and once they had played that first song the audience, for the most part, got into the spirit of things and had a party. By all accounts the gig was a success and went down like an absolute dream.

Sitting

In other news, The Medicine Dolls are heading on tour again with their first stop being the Grahamstown Festival on the 29th of June. The student town is one of their favourite spots and they head there every time they go on a tour of that part of the country. The fact that they’re performing on the opening night of the National Arts Festival gives them an opportunity to play to an audience that may be a little different to what they normally attract. The tour is short and jam-packed as they hit Grahamstown, Jeffrey’s Bay, and Knysna in one weekend.

A band that constantly leaves its mark on the local and national music scene, The Medicine Dolls are ready to blast new material into the ears of their ever-growing fan-base with their fourth EP so if you’re in Cape Town on the 6th of July head over to Mercury Live for what promises to be a legendary party.

 

 

Time To Grow Up

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Photo credit: Good Charlotte official Facebook page

Breaking news. Good Charlotte still exists, apparently, and have proven this to the skeptics by releasing a new single: Actual Pain. Released on the 25th of May the single is from their upcoming album Generation Rx which is due to be released on the 18th of September. It’s an album which is going to deal with themes of opioid addiction as well as depression etc. It’s a noble move on the band’s part as these issues are too serious to gloss over. However, the first taste of the album does not do that nobility justice.

Actual Pain feels like it was written by an early 2000s pop-punk band who never quite realised that the times have changed and in order to stay relevant they need to change as well. The song opens with an intro that sounds like it would be more at home on Linkin Park’s Living Things (2012) and provides a shaky base for some pretty weak lyrics. ‘You’re tearing me apart deep inside my heart’ says Joel Madden with a voice that’s been made to sound like it’s being muffled or coming from the void. One can already tell that this is going to be an emo nostalgia trip that would have made us bawl in our bedrooms thirteen years ago.

The first verse comes around with a sense of familiarity as Madden’s voice finds its way out of whatever was stifling it before and finds its true self again. The first few lines are supported by a drum beat that sounds like it was lifted straight from anything Thirty Seconds To Mars wrote after 2009. Let’s give credit where credit is due. The music in the first verse is not bad. There’s enough happening to keep it interesting and keeps a certain amount of tension going but honestly, the lyrics sound like they were written by a fifteen year old who’s just discovered emotions and thinks that the world’s out to get them. The lyrics don’t improve as the song goes on.

The chorus drags around with a pretty tired sounding Joel Madden half-heartedly opening up about the pain he feels in his heart. It sounds as if they recorded him mickey-mousing through the chorus and decided to use that instead of something passionate which is what one would expect. The second verse and the second chorus don’t provide anything worth noting leaving the responsibility of legitimising the song on the shoulders of the bridge.

Which does an okay job. It’s nothing to write home about but it has some moments and provides a different landscape to the rest of the song. It’s quiet and atmospheric, if a little typical of pop-punk bands unsuccessfully trying to keep up with the trends. The bridge ends with a Thirty-Seconds-To-Mars-esque woah-oh-oh-oh which provides the basis for a guitar solo straight out of a beginner’s repertoire.

All in all Actual Pain is a weak attempt at trying to stay relevant and is years behind anything that’s happening now. The kids that made Good Charlotte successful have grown up and moved on and the kids that decide what’s popular now are not falling for emo love songs anymore.

Same sound – Different band

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Photo credit: The Longshot official Instagram page

The build-up leading to The Longshot’s debut album Love Is For Losers was brief but intriguing. After a few weeks of secretive social media activity followed by a few ambiguous Instagram posts, Billie Joe Armstrong’s new project surprised everyone with an album that seems shiny from a distance. After some promise in the opening tracks the album is fleshed out by monotony and then rounded off by a partial cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s Goodbye To Romance. 

The Last Time opens the album up with a real kick. There’s no build up. No warning. Just a sucker punch into the ears before Billie Joe’s trademark voice delivers vocals in a truly pop-punk fashion. They’re catchy and digestible with a predictable rhyme-scheme which means that all you have to do is sit back, relax, and get taken back to a time of juvenile heartbreak and self-pitying. The verses are accented with a fun clap-beat while the chorus is filled out with a 50s style echo giving the song a happy-go-lucky feel. Leading us out of the chorus is a guitar solo that feels a bit tired and maybe even a little drunk, as if it’s trying to keep up with the backing track that’s being provided for it, a sense of confusion that is carried on through the bridge. After that it fades into obscurity as the verses and chorus are recycled in the same order.

In the third track Chasing A Ghost we hear Billie Joe take a step back and have a chuckle at being a man of his age and still being a punk rocker. This is a song about being an elder statesman in a game that, historically, has been dominated by angsty, rebellious youths. It could be seen as an aural interpretation of Ordinary World, the comedy-drama starring The Longshot frontman. Musically, the song takes a slightly different path to its predecessors as it slows down a bit and allows for more dynamics which allows the listener to take a peek into Billie Joe’s mind. Underneath the fun and the satire we see a man who is struggling to accept that the life of a punk rocker isn’t his life anymore. The break after the bridge threatens to keep flying along but then wisely slows down into a nice little guitar driven breather before jumping back into the mayhem.

The title track of an album is supposed to be a landmark. If all else fails, that should be the one track that saves it. Unfortunately Love Is For Losers is quite the opposite. The first impression is that this is Green Day if they took a green day before recording the song. It’s sluggish and, quite frankly, lazy. Almost as if the band sees the song as a filler track more than anything else. The chorus gives a tired nod to Waiting, from Green Day’s album Warning as it steals the chord progression and melody line and tries to make it its own. Lyrically the song is juvenile and makes you wonder if they were really written by Billie Joe as he tries to fill the shoes of someone embittered by love.

After Cult Hero picks up the tempo again and tells the world how Billie Joe feels like an outcast that wants to be a cult leader we’re hit with the frenetic Kill Your Friends, an angsty acceptance of death. This is the closest to a complete reincarnation of Green Day on the album as Billie Joe’s phrasing hints at something familiar and his lyrics shine a light of nostalgia on the ears of the emo generation. After the first chorus, though, it loses its sheen and becomes more like a band playing at a quiet bar in the middle of nowhere, complete with a very basic guitar solo. One’s ears might perk up at the end of the bridge as there’s an interesting little movement but after that it reverts back to the same monotony as before.

After a few more forgettable songs the album reaches its curtain call. Goodbye To Romance is a nice change of pace, if a little too late, and a mature ending to the album. While this is a cover of an Ozzy Osbourne song, the first verse was written by Billie Joe and is an honest look at the man. The rest of the song is maturely handled and has a Longshot spin on it while still staying true to the original version. For the first time it seems that all the musicians are listening to each other instead of trying to force a high energy punk sound and finally a song with movement and emotion is created. The nostalgia is there. The sadness is there and it is the perfect way to end an album about moving on.

Overall The Longshot’s first offering isn’t worth the fuss that has been made about it. A mostly monotonous trip down nostalgia lane that sounds more like a beer filled jam session between a bunch of dads than an album that is supposed to signify a new step in the careers of Billie Joe and company. While there were some good moments, namely Goodbye To Romance, as a whole the album fades into oblivion the same way that background music becomes white noise at a fancy cocktail party.

All that Love Is For Losers achieves is making the listener wonder why Billie Joe started a whole new band if all they are is an attempted re-creation of Green Day.