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P
Pa
January 16, 2021

You Me At Six joined by Pom Poko and others to pack a punch with new music

Sports

P
Pa
January 16, 2021

POM POKO — CHEATER

Like their namesake, Norwegian art-rockers Pom Poko are either deeply menacing or unbearably cute depending on which angle you look at them from. Lead singer Ragnhild Fangel, with her blonde hair and faintly elven appearance, said the band wanted to embrace their extremes on their second album, Cheater.

They have done this in a number of ways. My Candidacy subverts the loud-quiet-loud-quiet format of punk, drifting ominously into an almost rockabilly sound. But there is a deeper intensity in the music, driven by Fangel’s lyricism and the dense strut of Ola Djupvik’s drums.

Pom Poko cribbed their name from a Studio Ghibli film about magical shape-shifting Japanese raccoon dogs. An oblique reference maybe, but one that points to a sense of mysticism and fun.

Even when things get heavy, like on the thrashy Look, there is a light-heartedness to proceedings. On the surface, Cheater channels Blur at their most drugged up or the spiky indifference of New York art-rockers Television. But dig underneath and a more melodic, even poppy, sound emerges. Pom Poko are a favourite of coronavirus-era tastemaker Tim Burgess. They might be your new favourite too. 8/10 (Review by Alex Green)

YOU ME AT SIX — SUCKAPUNCH

You Me At Six may have started out crafting hook-heavy rock tunes for the adoring Reading and Leeds Festival masses, but, if latest release Suckapunch is anything to go by, the Surrey five-piece have officially graduated into an altogether more considered arena.

Suckapunch is presented as something of a metamorphosis, combining the band’s penchant for raw riffs with more refined, synth-heavy flecks that elevate title track to a distinctive new level — albeit with an intro reminiscent of the BBC news theme tune.

Cap-heavy offerings like Makemefeelalive act as a raw assault without the need for softer pop sensibilities, while debut single Beautiful Way evokes the spirit of You Me At Six from days gone by. Kill The Mood is a particular highlight, dialling down the tempo while retaining the most radio-friendly of melodies, alongside latest single Adrenaline and tracks including Finish What I Started, which strike a neat balance between indulgent harmonies and surging guitar lines.

That’s not to say the album is completely devoid of the superficialities and cliches of old — Voicenotes’ cries of “slipping through your fingers like a bad decision” feel a little perfunctory. However, as a succinct and cohesive soundtrack, Suckapunch certainly presents the band in a more mature light. 7/10 (Review by Danielle de Wolfe)

SLEAFORD MODS — SPARE RIBS

Last time we looked, Sleaford Mods were vying for first place in the Oxford English Dictionary under “Sardonic”. Now the Midlands duo return with Spare Ribs, an album that’s so gritty it could probably keep the roads in Nottingham clear for the rest of the winter. The default tone of wry disdain is sustained throughout, but this time it’s certainly shot through with a poetic instinct, as on Glimpses, when Jason Williamson sings “We can take the warm milkshake of nowhere”.

No prizes for guessing the target of Short Cummings, but it’s less a direct attack on the former chief adviser and more a general State of the Nation address. And what a state the nation seems to be in: since 2015’s Key Markets Sleaford Mods have been pretty much the Tory-bashers-in-chief, but the track Out There takes their acerbic vision about as far as it can go, a fulmination on classism, Brexit and Covid conspiracy loons.

Stark and angular, Andrew Fearne’s musical arrangements feel even more pared down, as if to register further their disillusionment. The influences are there (LCD Soundsystem, Mark E Smith), but fans will be glad that they have stayed true to the minimalistic aesthetic that made 2014’s Divide And Exit such a thrilling breakthrough. 7/10 (Review by Rachel Farrow)

PEARL CHARLES — MAGIC MIRROR

Magic Mirror starts with Only For Tonight, reminiscent of Abba in full Dancing Queen party mode, but the rest of the album takes inspiration from the 1970s in other ways. Pearl Charles formed country duo The Driftwood Singers at the age of 18 and was drummer in garage rock band The Blank Tapes, and is now unleashing her soft rock side.

Second track What I Need, with pedal steel guitar for that country touch, introduces the Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter style that dominates Magic Mirror. Don’t Feel Like Myself and the title track recall Carole King’s hugely successful 1971 album Tapestry.

Imposter has tasteful brass and, along with Slipping Away, is one of several tracks owing a debt to Rumours, the Fleetwood Mac album that epitomised the ’70s LA scene, with Stevie Nicks perhaps the biggest influence here.

Lyrics range from falling in love to falling out of love, and Charles captures perfectly the Me Generation’s self-obsession when singing “It doesn’t matter if there’s rockets flying, it doesn’t matter if the water’s rising” in As Long As You’re Mine.

With the TV adaptation on its way of Daisy Jones & The Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s novel of a ’70s band partly based on Fleetwood Mac, Magic Mirror comes at just the right time. Charles has the talent and songs to ensure she’s more than just a tribute act for her influences, and if Glastonbury supremo Michael Eavis fails to achieve his long-held dream of enticing Fleetwood Mac to the festival, he could always invite her instead. 7/10 (Review by Matthew George)

DAVID BOWIE — LIVEANDWELL.COM

Bowie fans across the world will have been rooting through their record collections this week to remember their Starman, who took leave of Planet Earth five years ago on Sunday. And what a back catalogue it is.

Relatively few, though, would have been reaching for Bowie’s late ’90s output — an awkward period of his career probably best remembered for stodgy alt-rock, dabbles with drum and bass, and an opinion-splitting goatee.

Nonetheless, Brilliant Live Adventures, a series of live albums covering 1995 to 1999, is an attempt by Parlophone to, er, bring new attention to the period, most recently with Liveandwell.com — a space oddity that’s at least in one sense a testament to Bowie’s pioneering spirit. When first released in 2000 it was only available as a limited edition to subscribers to his BowieNet platform, a move that once again put him way ahead of the pack.

No-one could ever doubt Bowie’s live prowess, and it’s in evidence with a series of energetic performances here — particularly on a Rio de Janeiro rendition of Hallo Spaceboy which arguably outstrips the studio version. But, unfortunately, Livewell.com largely serves as a reminder of the great man’s more wayward years. Or as he put it himself on 1995’s The Heart’s Filthy Lesson: “I think I’ve lost my way.” 5/10 (Review by Stephen Jones).