Noise Annoys: Jim Bob, Sea Pinks, Neil Brogan, New Pagans, Christopher Coll, Velvet Vortex and Stendhal Unlocked
New music from ex-Carter USM leader Jim Bob, Sea Pinks man Neil Brogan and those New Pagans, plus news of a possible return to live music courtesy of the Stendhal Festival...
:: Jim Bob – Pop Up Jim Bob (Cherry Red)
JIM Bob's new solo LP finds the sarf Lahndan troubadour in fine form with a set of socio-politically aware songs on which he's backed by his band The Hoodrats.
Pop Up Jim Bob would have felt bang-up to date had it been released at the end of February, pre-Covid. Six months on, tunes like his cinematically moody Brexit burnout ballad Truce, the similarly downbeat ode to 24-hour rolling bad news #thoughtsandprayers, catchy social media angst-fuelled opener Jo's Got Papercuts, the paradoxically upbeat US society-gone-to-seed lament If It Ain't Broke and the rocking menace of US gun control-centric Ted Talks mostly induce an odd nostalgia for what we're increasingly referring to as 'the before times'.
Still, it also includes a prescient drive-by punk rocker called 2020 WTF!. And, more importantly, while the world might have been turned upside down since it was recorded, Pop Up Jim Bob remains a set of hugely catchy, highly enjoyable songs.
There's even a few nods to his old outfit, 90s indie heroes Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine: dig the pulsing drum machine beats, fairground organ, amped-up guitars and expertly rhymed lyrics of Ted Talks, the brash glam vs gammon slam of Barry's On Safari (In His Safari Suit) and the GI Blues-esque slow-build epicness of late album highlight Big Boy. One tune even features a direct lyrical reference to a Carter hit for you to spot.
However, the stand-out moment might well be his delightfully absurd pop stomp anthem Kidstrike!, a musical vision of an Extinction Rebellion-inspired teenage rampage and very much the sound of solo Jim Bob hitting a children's choir-enhanced songwriting home run.
Clocking in at just over 30 minutes of listening – an OCD triggering 33:31, to be precise – and without a duff moment in earshot, Pop Up Jim Bob delivers tunes you'll be humming to yourself after just a couple of listens and, as always, an abundance of lyrical wit to savour.
The artwork, featuring cartoon depictions of Jim in a variety of costumes a la Mr Ben, is also excellent. In fact, there he is as a masked-up medical type – perhaps Pop Up Jim Bob is bang up-to-date after all.
Grab it now from Spotify or in one of its highly attractive physical formats via Cherryred.co.uk.
:: New Pagans – Yellow Room (Zeromyth)
NEW New Pagans single alert. The Belfast alt-rockers' first new material since the release of Admire from their Glacial Erratic EP in January, Yellow Room is another quiet/loud/louder banger from Lyndsey, Cahir and co.
The band set their guitars to 'chug', building tension effectively on the speak-sung verses before cutting loose on the soaring choruses. Apparently, Lyndsey's lyrics for this one were inspired by Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 1892 post-natal depression themed short story The Yellow Wallpaper, which was a comfort to her shortly after the birth of her daughter. Now, her band have got a great song out of it to boot.
Indeed, New Pagans also hope to highlight the need for a parent-and-baby mental health unit in Northern Ireland with the release of this song, so more power to 'em. Grab it now via Spotify and probably other places as well: details at FB.com/newpagansband.
:: The Velvet Vortex – Mulatu (self released)
JUNK Drawer man, sometime Banned It, Mons Olympian and former Chocolate Love Factory gaffer Rory Dee has a new musical project: The Velvet Vortex is going to be a vehicle for Mr Dee's space rocking inclinations, a case in point being spooky debut tune Mulatu, a percussion heavy, Moog-enhanced jazz funk racket/rocket that's the first song from a full length Velvet Vortex album due in October.
In a word – 'atmospheric'. Listen now at Thevelvetvortex.bandcamp.com
:: Christopher Coll – The Black Doorway EP (Style Records)
THE first non-Malojian release on Stevie Scullion's label Style Records comes in the form of a limited edition six track solo EP from Lost in The Fog man Christopher Coll. Just 100 copies have been pressed up and most of them will already have been sold by the time you read this, so if you want one you'd best move fast.
Do you want one, though? To find out, have a listen to the stripped back country charm of teaser tune Into The Ocean at Christophercoll.bandcamp.com, on which Coll's husky vocals loom large on a bleakly beautiful tale of abandoned hope.
:: Sea Pinks – Crocuses EP (self released) / Neil Brogan – Life Itself EP (self released)
AS ONE chapter ends, so another begins. Last month, Belfast indie kids Sea Pinks released the Crocuses EP, a four track affair intended as the long running group's swansong before going on indefinite hiatus; as if to prevent any backsliding on such a big decision (for it's happened before), Sea Pinks' guitarist/crooner/mainman Neil Brogan has just put out his first solo EP, Life Itself.
Thus, the former collection may well be bittersweet listening for fans, but far from Running Down The Clock – to name-check the chiming, spiralling slow burn of its wistful second song, a stand-out moment – the Crocuses EP sends Sea Pinks out on a high with four brilliant new tunes.
The deceptively jaunty jangle of the titular opener resolves with a pleasing minor chord sting in its tail, while catchy penultimate tune Secret Garden delivers an extended, infectious, surfy groove. However, they save the best 'til last (perhaps literally) with the superb What Just Happened, a climactic showcase for the band's shimmering indiepop sound boasting an appropriate melancholy streak and some knowingly on-the-nose lyrics: "Baby, I'm breaking up the band / so take me by the hand / show me some compassion".
On the subject of breaking up the band, Neil's solo EP Life Itself isn't a million miles away from what Sea Pinks were doing – it's not like he's gone down a chillwave or drum 'n' bass rabbit hole or anything, thank god – yet while his vocals and guitar playing help provide familiarity (as does the 'full band' guitar, bass and drums approach taken in the recordings), there's a distinct enough shift in the sonics for this release to herald the start of something new.
Jangly opener 20/20 makes a nicely judged bridging point between his past and present, before Painting Butterflies arrives with its appealing close-to-the mic intimacy and a more tangible singer/songwriter-y feel. And, while stand-out moment Kitebird could maybe pass itself as a Sea Pinks number with that chiming arpeggiated guitar line, there's a pointedly poetic quality to its lyrics that feels decidedly fresh and interesting. Finally, the dreamily melodic title track is the kind of sing-songy heart-on-sleeve number we've maybe not heard many of from Brogan before.
:: Stendhal Unlocked
FINALLY for this week, the good folks at Limavady's Stendhal Festival are attempting to go one better (louder?) than the success of Sunflowerfest's recent virtual festival by actually staging two full weekends of properly live music later this month.
However, whether or not their proposals for socially distanced Stendhal Unlocked events at Ballymully Cottage Farm on August 21/22 and August 28/29 will get the go-ahead is entirely down to the folks on the hill at Stormont – in other words, don't hold your breath.
Acts confirmed across the two weekends include the aforementioned Malojian plus the likes of Waldorf & Cannon, The Bonnevilles, ASIWYFA, Ryan McMullan, Matt McGinn, Dea Matrona, Cherym, Master & Dog, Beoga and General Fiasco.
Get ticket details and latest updates on whether it's actually going ahead at Stendhalfestival.com.