Monday, March 25, 2024

The Jesus and Mary Chain: Glasgow Eyes - Album Review; We Melt Chocolate; Solitary Bee

Extensive deep-dive analysis is always the primary focus here at DaveCromwellWrites, and this month of March review continues that practice. Storied legends returns with their much-anticipated brand new studio album, delighting fans old and new along the way. Additionally, a frequently reviewed, trusted music label presents yet-another dazzling new find. Rounding things out is a side project from more recent new friends of this site, all helping to unlock the secrets of this universe.

It would be difficult to name a band more influential on the life of this site’s writer and extended family than The Jesus And Mary Chain. Their now 40 year recording career has served as the soundtrack for nearly every significant passage experienced in this matrix called life. Throughout their inception in the late 1980’s and prolific “first run” albums of the 1990’s made permanent marks on all of our most significant life events. The “second phase” JAMC revival commencing in 2007 brought numerous live show opportunities shared among those of us who understand how this all matters. Many a feature on those shows have been covered and detailed here on this site. When the band finally put out a new studio album after 18 years, it too received deep focus attention. Now the Reid Brothers are back with a brand new album “Glasgow Eyes” comprising of twelve original songs. As is only right, a close listen commences with detailed analysis of it all right here.

The album opens with electronic pulses and motorik drive that confirms early promo statements of “Suicide” and “Kraftwerk” influences on the first track “Venal Joy.” An instantly catchy hook “I’m on fire – piss on fire – don’t piss on fire,” leads into the first big power chords segment. A second female harmony voice joins Jim on subsequent lines “venal heartbeat filled with hate” touches on the bribery themed song title. Rising synth twiddles share space with the bands oh-so-recognizable lyrical style. “No I won’t give up and die” is a rallying cry for us all (especially those of their own generation). “I’m alright – I’m OK” becomes the final message as the pace slows down to conclusion.

A tinkling keyboard nursery rhyme feel, plinking guitar strokes and vocal “ah ah ah’s” opens second cut “American Born.” The initial lyrics of doing things “with Americans” is inter-cut by chunking guitar bits and over-modulated keyboard stabs. Appearing to be a looser offspring of the more realized composition “Los Felix (Blues and Greens)” from their previous album, one would hope William is still being sincere with this homage to his on-going “new home” (that being ‘Merica), if one can still call California that.  “Mediterranean X Film” continues the odd beep and boop sounds, while mixing in more prominent forward-plunking guitar. A female voice is first heard, reading off a list of items, before William himself sings the words “Churchill and De Gaulle – Berlin and the wall.” Here the instrumental backing is looser than previous rigid beats, with the drumming in particular displaying a touch of that “jazz” referenced in press releases.  A minute in has the band shifting to a quicker tempo enhanced by twangy guitar. Williams continued vocal recitation echoes the playful, “less disciplined” style of his later stage demos.

Reaching the fourth (and “focus track”) “jamcod” once again draws on an electronic “Kraftwerkian” motif at the start. This time a more traditional JAMC style descending rhythm soon emerges. Jim’s vocals are front and center when he sings “the monkey’s organ grinder isn’t grinding anymore.” It’s classic Jim self-critique about having “seen this dream before” and “tears are what you want – tears are what you’ve got.” That all sets the stage for a momentary blast of HUGE powerchords and then back to that familiar downward-driving bassline. “Breaking up and then falling down and my heart beats much too slow” Jim continues, followed by the clever “notify the other brother there’s no place to go.” Another pass through the bridge and power chord (chorus), leading to a bridge of “vegetable, mineral, animal – I don’t know, what you want – what you need.” It all ends on a buzzy synth wig-out while the song tile is spelled out repeatedly.

Check the video out for it right here:

Fifth entry “Discotheques” continues the conclusion of those oddball synth space noises, sprinkled around the primary descending guitar lines. William returns with his wispy vocals “everywhere around the world, every type of boy and girl, body heat and beat and sex, welcome to the discotheque.” Additional descriptions of William’s real (or imagined?) music venue with their “decks, drinks, pills and [fr]rills” are backed by this quaint, demo-level instrumentation. Points for the plunking guitar leads woven in and through the end-out.  The album’s mid-point serves up the more serious, slow grinding “Pure Poor.” William vocals once again, “I wasted my time – this planet is mine – baby I was pure,” comes the late night foggy-trip delivery. The guitars are fuller, with some distortion mixed in alongside sludge n’ chime. A bright tambourine rattle provides midrange focus for the multi-layered noodling swirling around it all. “For millions of years – and oceans of tears – baby I was – pure,” William implores. The final poetic riddle comes in the form of going to “the store” and discovering to be “poor.”

Bigger production values are present on the deceptively titled “The Eagles and The Beatles.” Deceptive in that one of those two bands are never mentioned, yet we get a litany of other legendary faves. Most notably, the center chorus hook goes: “I’ve been Rolling with the Stones, Mick n’ Keith and Brian Jones – Bill and Charlie have gone home.” Other than the early squealing synth noises in the beginning, it’s a more tight progression based around clean piano chords. The list of influences mentioned include “Dylan, Beatles (mentioned only once), Sex Pistols, Crystals, Beach Boys, Faces, Andrew Oldham (The Stones manager). Notoriously missing are The Ramones and The Velvet Underground - though a full song “Hey Lou Reid" – yeah – spelled like their own last name – closes out the album. Solid guitar chords and quality use of “Sgt Peppers”-style horns over a tight hand-clap percussion all contribute to it’s precise pop presentation.

Photo by Mel Butler

Clean, higher-production electronica provides the musical base for the lyrically amusing “Silver Strings.” “You got nuffin’ but a deep fake lake of tears. You got one billion – shiny – fings (things) - I got six dirty silver strings.” Synths are used more traditionally as ambient string sections. Plunking guitar lines and paired bass comes properly synced to the drums. There’s also the curious secondary theme lyric “you get in the way – in the way – in the waaaaaay.”  Reaching one of the album’s official single releases, the much-needed Jim vocals on “Chemical Animal” is highlight material.  Everything that has ever been great about a JAMC song is rolled into this composition.  Brooding, dark, tension, honesty, self-reflection and the things that troubles you inside.  They lyrics are brilliant and perfectly match the musical mood. “Simplify – to get by – to nullify. There is something you should know. There is something I don’t show. I fill myself with chemicals. To hide the dark shit I don’t show.” William provides the necessary plunking tonal guitar lines between Jim’s cool, emotive vocals. “Please illuminate – please don’t hesitate. I’m not pleased to meet you. I don’t need to meet you. I don’t want to meet you. You don’t want to meet me too.”

Tenth track “Second Of June” is the more upbeat version of Jim and also a welcome treat. Clearly a love remembrance of the brothers dearly departed (and Sainted) Mother. Interesting to see this song of positivity and hope immediately following the bleakness displayed in the one just prior. Reciting their own band name, lyrics follow “there’s a storm behind my shoulder, there’s a blood moon on the rise.” Those final six words are repeated over as the overall instrumentation and vocals becomes elevated to a classic MaryChain conclusion.   Reaching the penultimate album track (which also comes with an official video) is the love tome to Jim’s longtime relationship “Girl 71.” It’s a sprightly undertaking in both sonic and visual form, with Jim seated and strumming a guitar. There’s frequent Japanese writing flashed quickly as the guitar crunch powers everything along. With a “Wully Bully” style chopping organ rhythm running alongside the more dominant guitars, some have noted the progressions similarity to Judas Priest’s “Living After Midnight.” Duly noted, first impressions here thought it pointed more towards Lou Reed’s “Vicious.” Lyrically straightforward, it goes “girl, you got me – you got nuthin.’” The first run through its marvelously classic JimAMC chorus delivers the hook most needed. The video imagery often looks like multiple camera film panels next to each other. The “Girl 71” eventually shows up (it’s Jim’s actual partner) and becomes a duet of sorts. “Hey – we got sumpthin’ – I got you – we’ve got sumpthin’ – you got me – we got love.” As previously stated, the chorus is great: “And that’s gonna last a day – another day – another day. We’re gonna take the time – I cant get by without you – we got what we need. Hey – Hey – We got what we need."

Check out this upbeat track here:

Speaking of the VU icon, final cut “Hey Lou Reid” (spelling duly noted) is a bass heavy ramble from William of unintelligible garble and his trusty twisty synthesizer. That’s for the first two minutes, anyway. Clocking in at the longest song on the album, it morphs into a softer musing about “girls,” their “eyes” and “cold Alaska nights.” It plunks and twangs along for these back-end four minutes, before floating away in twinkles.

Glasgow Eyes is out now on Fuzz Club Records.  Order it here.

Additional Jesus And Mary Chain features on this site can be found here:

The wonderful gazey, post-rock label Shoredive Records has an uncanny knack for finding the best music out there. Many features on this site have covered previously unheard gems introduced from their catalog. This time it’s an impressive dreamgaze unit from Florence, ItalyWe Melt Chocolate - delivering the goods once again.  The band's latest album "Holy Gaze" is now featured in the Shoredive catalog, bringing further attention to it.

Featured track “Holy Ramen” comes with an inventive video putting the viewer in front of a bowl of that title-referenced soupy noodle mixture. Swirling gaze sounds commence and the image switches to a table view hosting that meal. Clarion bell guitar tones begin to strike as the face-down-view of ramen bowl also swirls. Much like JAMC’s “Girl 71,” Japanese language letters float into view and a screen behind the meal table projects clouds blowing by. As the dominant progression commences, well-placed snare drum percussion and hard-edged bass guitar drives a sophisticated undercurrent along. Dreamy female vocals begin with associated pale-faced, full-lipped, doe-eyed, properly-fringed hair representation. Two women appear opposite each other at the table set, engaging in conversation. The chorus hits hard with the full emotional power the best dream-gazer bands can deliver. It’s romantic, emotional, lyrically-vague, guitar-driven and uplifting.

While guitars supply a steady flow of hooky melodies, the bass rumbles along like Simon Raymonde of The Cocteau Twins. The two women (who may be the same one in split screen, one with sunglasses the other without) continue their meal and “conversation” (singing the song). The adorning chorus comes around again, bathed in an ambient wash of epic proportions and female harmonies. Drums stay powerful and focused, like Colm Ó Cíosóig in MBV or perhaps Daniel from Ringo Deathstarr. Three minutes in, a plateau is reached where sparser guitar notes and rumbling bass mark out a holding pattern. That leads to an explosive burst of sound and quicker-cut imagery. One more glorious chorus run encapsulating everything you love about this style music. The sonic headrush-to-heaven, angel-faced (and voiced) “dream-gaze” girl, and beautiful, heart-tugging melodies. The men even make a brief appearance dining at the table, enjoying that ramen delight across from each other.

Check out this gorgeous gazer song here:

Follow We Melt Chocolate on their Social Media - Facebook  -  Bandcamp 

Connect with Shoredive Records via their extensive LinkTree

A recent review feature covering Shoredive on this site can be found here.

*  *  *  *  *

Towards the end of 2022 this site did a detailed review of UK Power Pop Rockers It’s Karma It’s Cool’s single release at that time “A Gentle Reminder.” Lead vocalist Jim Styring is now back with a side project Solitary Bee and their debut single “Love Wakes Up.” Along with the track comes an accompanying official video. The DCW audio-videoscope digs down into this new output, in search of it’s essential atmosphere.

Melodic, finger-picked guitar notes float over syncopated drums and bass as the song commences. Jim’s vocal start soon after, stating “I caught the breeze of summer, time for our luck to change – the sunshine brought those memories, those long day feelings that remain.” The video comes in black and white imagery with gray overtones, depicting an impressionistic style of the human eye. Vocals continue “she said she’ll do much better, now that the sun’s her greatest friend – and all those colours blooming, will take her home again.” On to an uplifting chorus that goes “when the love wakes up - I’ll be right beside applauding."  Now the video begins to add more images of families coming together on holidays as vocals continue “won’t ever let you go.” The images of mother and child in soft focus, holding hands and running in front of the ocean is paired with lyrics “maybe a little rain has fallen – but we needed it to grow.” String synthesizers become more prominent in the audio mix, adding tenderness to those sentiments.

Crunchy guitars begin to make their presence felt as seagulls fly over the oceans in sepia tone views. Voices continue “how green the grass plays restless, announcing winters gone – and all young couples courting, to build new lives upon and on.” Opening lyrics evolve on second pass through as “the warmest breath of summer, time for our luck to change – the sunshine brought those memories, to come flooding back again.” Once again to the lovely chorus, with it’s sophisticated bass guitar counter rhythm and lush keyboards. The video now depicts holding hands at candlelit cafe tables, mothers teaching children at the family keyboard and oscilloscope screens. Other images of vintage era outdoor gymnastics and similarly classic car rides. Lyrics continue “and petals are confetti, the ceiling’s not the sky – like a heart shot into orbit, exploding satellite. And the birds came back to visit, from a million miles away – but the weather was so perfect, they decided all to stay.” One more glorious chorus with staccato-stab guitars powering it along. A momentary pause, then back into a fully backed, gentle synth melody driven chorus. Coda lines “I caught the breeze of summer, time for our luck to change” is pleasantly followed by the softer echo “Love Wakes Up” vocal fadeout.

Check out this light hearted, inspiring video and song here:

'Love Wakes Up' is taken from the EP Bloom. Available from all good digital stores.

Connect with the band via their Facebook Page.

A previous review featuring members of this band can be found on this site here.

*  *  *  *  *