darkthrone. the cult is alive. peaceville records.
tender trap. six billion people. fortuna pop! records.
tinchy stryder. i'm back u know!! boy better know.
demiricous. one. metal blade records.
harper lee. he holds a flame. matinee recordings.

firstly, i have decided to revert to lower case for a while as capitals sometimes seemed a little too trenchant.

secondly, the world cup so far has been brilliant and anyone who says otherwise is, in the words of the close lobsters, too loose on their lips and, indeed, talking rubbish. apart from england, virtually everyone has put in one great performance.

thirdly, i can feel already this is going to be a good year for albums. admittedly, that is not so surprising when nobody apart from techno djs appear to be releasing singles, but so far in 2006 we have already had what i consider really strong long players from forest giants, c-mone, boyracer, life?, taskforce, blade, the beatnik filmstars. i have a few potential candidates to add to this list.

darkthrone demonstrate how much genres are about perception, even sleight of hand. they portray themselves in interviews etc as yer typical super-intense heathen scando black metal duo, walking cocktails of mindaltering substances and occultist tendencies soundtracked by a doom laden pseudo-satanic mesh of guitar. yet the first few seconds of "the cult of goliath" sound more like lamented leeds punkers lorimer, while elsewhere the relentless, pacy guitar riffs wouldn't always be out of place on a motorhead record, or even something punker (a few shouts of "oi!" would well suit the opening chords of "graveyard slut"). plus sometimes the drumming reminds me of the rolling ramshackleness of thrilled skinny. you also get the single "too old too cold" which is probably the best metal single of the year, which may be coincidental to the fact it is also the only metal single of the year, unless you count sports metal, cartoon metal or chart metal, which i don't. if you can overlook the lack of variety over ten or so tracks, you may be as pleasantly surprised as me by this one.

the new tender trap record also feeds in to the recent, very welcome tradition of albums that are actually solid all the way through. purged of the electro experimentation that fosca-ised their first album, the easy hooks and winning harmonies make me think of marine research, whoever they were - the single "talking backwards" is an obvious highlight, but it fits seamlessly in to the other would-be hits ("fahrenheit 451", "ampersand", "applecore") nestling in a lovingly crafted mix of scrummy girl group wiles and more modernist swooning indieness. the only disappointment is that the title track is merely a sly update of "c is the heavenly option" rather than a cover of the great song by doom.

there is at last a tinchy stryder mixtape, which wiley has got into the shops, and it is refreshingly raw - a point driven home when tinchy hits kano's "mic check" with a style about three galaxies to the left of the much tamer territory which kano now inhabits. best tunes "stryder", which loops back wiley's "next level", on which he previously guested a bit, "ground-under" and "new mc's" are all unencumbered by production values and much the better for it - and wiley turns up too, on a copyright-defying "uptown girl". the main thing about "i'm back u know" is that it's odds on that if a proper label had signed up tinchy, he'd no doubt have released the usual lily-livered sell-out record that all the other grime mcs have done. as it is, you get to hear him while he's still street, and the sinking basslines reiterate that this is still garage at least as much as hip-hop. ruff squad gwan.

demiricous, meanwhile, bring to mind a different variety of treats, namely at times everything from slayer to napalm to terrorizer to carcass to the e.n.t. of "damage 381", while admittedly not quite ever being as good as any of those bands. even so, "one" is a selection of headnodding tunes which enjoyably schlep from grindcore riffs to trad metal growls to speedcore, and it is a record i will be returning to. later this evening, hopefully. indeed, it's probably the best of all of these 33s.

and there is just time for a single, well, an ep. slavish devotees of harper lee like me always entertain the fear that a new release might pale as against previous efforts. that would, after all, be pretty forgivable. but it never quite happens. "he holds a flame" is actually pretty uptempo, even if tightly corralling familiar, controlled layers of misty keyboards and a handful of carefully picked, repeating guitar notes. i think it's about the boy who can't let go. i recognise him as much as anyone, a kid (whatever his age) who thinks that clinging on to long-dashed hopes is somehow romantic, when the reality is simply that he's desperate and not thinking straight. and so, tied up in the trademark harper lee melancholy, we have a pathetic, aching paean to the girl who's moved on, a theme not unknown to us avid harper lee monitors. the hopelessness of the sentiment doesn't make the song a scintilla less moving: indeed, the "longer" second version of the tune is much the better, simply because you need more time to fully bask in the joyous glow of a new harper lee single before it gets laced with the acres of regret hewn by keris howard's relentlessly determined and unrequited words.

and "william blake" could have been a single in its own right too. it is important to me firstly because, while joy division never needed a drum machine, they would have wrung this kind of nervous energy from it, a song that would have sat happily on harper lee's imperious second or third albums. it matters to me secondly because principles count, and i think it follows on from their stellar debut 45 "dry land" in the images it conjures up of a boy who stuck to those principles, facing out on to the waves that had been crashing against his window right since the days of "frostbite": while carefully leaving hanging the question of whether he's bitter, or proud, or somehow both. the nursery rhyme quality of the words kinda follows the simple pattern of the chords: and the cascades of picked guitar strings are the sound of the rain battering down throughout, not drip, drip, drip but a torrent of soul searching.

finally and most importantly, congratulations to tsega and matthew on your beautiful baby girl. peace.


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