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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Reviews: Mudcrutch, Band Of Skulls, Staticland

Mudcrutch: 2 (Reprise)

Eight years between records is a long time for most bands, however when you take into consideration that Mudcrutch was formed in 1970 and didn't release their debut album until 2008 it puts everything into perspective. This is due to the fact that Mudcrutch was formed by Tom Leadon and Tom Petty, the band released a few singles and then went their separate ways with Petty going on to form the more recognisable and successful Heartbreakers and band he still fronts to this day. In 2008 he reconnected with Leadon so long with him drummer Randall Marsh and fellow Heartbreakers Benmont Tench and Mike Campbell on keys and guitars respectively. 

Mudcrutch had their renaissance, so after more Heartbreakers records the men have reconvened again for the second record some eight years later. Yes with Petty and two of his Heartbreakers part of the band there is a distinctly Heartbreakers vibe to the songs see opener Trailer and the propulsive Beautiful World (which was one of the few tracks not written by Petty) mainly due to Petty's unmistakable drawl but Mudcrutch are a a Southern rock band at heart drawing from bands such as The Eagles, The Allman's and the much missed Quicksilver Messenger Service. The Eagles link is the biggest one to influence the songs as Petty, Tench and Leadon all share vocals between the track Beautiful World is the best example of this and Beautiful Blue which could easily be a Henley crooned ballad. 

Mudcrutch are traditional southern music by a band that are old hats at the genre, I Forgive It All is stripped back number that sounds like Mark Knopfler at his most introspective but it is quickly washed away by the banjo/slide guitar led on The Other Side Of The Mountain which has a railroad shuffle to it. 2 picks up where Mudcrutch left off with the kind of mature Southern rock you'd expect from a band made up of veterans of the American music scene, the dual channeled guitars, analogue feel and direct songwriting are all retained from the debut, with Eagles now over (I should think) it's good to see that Petty, Leadon and their  assorted "Crutchbreakers" are their to carry the country rock torch. 8/10

Band Of Skulls: By Default (BMG)

Here's a band that are a bit of an enigma when it comes to rock music, they seem to be too indie for many rockers and to heavy for a lot of indie kids, despite this they play sold out concerts and are regularly featured in TV shows and Ads as well as getting playback on Radio 1. Personally I've always really enjoyed their heavyweight modern blues rock that straddles stoner and garage rock. The Southampton trio have toured relentlessly for the five years preceding this their fourth album, frontman/guitarist  Russell Marsden declared that By Default is a "new beginning" and that he believes that the first three records were "part of one trilogy" so with the trilogy now complete have Band Of Skulls massively reinvented themselves? Well the answer is no if anything Band Of Skulls are more focussed than they have been doing away with the more progressive touches to their music that were present on their last record Himalayan

For this record the band took up residence in a Baptist church and the freedom of this venue along with no looming tour means that despite the songs being shorter and more direct they are more considered with the band supposedly having written over 100 songs for the record before being able to knock it down to the 12 tracks on this record. Opener Black Magic starts with a snappy snare from Matthew Hayward before it's funk meets Zep groove kicks in with Emma Richardsons bass driving it letting Marsden uses some quiet-loud dynamics with his guitars ramping up at the end, Black Magic gives way to the surf rock of Back Of Beyond which is an up tempo cut with Killer ramping things up again with a lot of bass rhythms and shuddering riffs and huge hook to the chorus. 

The theatrical Tropical Disease sees things get darker and is followed by the funk-rock of So Good which is Emma Richardson's first vocal performance on the record. By Default sees Band Of Skulls expand their remit incorporating cinematic themes later on the album and streamlining their approach making this the most direct album to date. 7/10    

Jeff Angell's Staticland: Staticland (UDR)

 Jeff Angell is formerly of The Missionary Position but is probably more well known as part of The Walking Papers supergroup that featured Screaming Tree's Barrett Martin and G'N'R bassist Duff McKagan. Angell was the vocalist and guitarist of the band and his live presence, his soulful vocals and intricate but savage guitar playing all won me over when I saw the band supporting Alice In Chains. The band are now on hiatus (perhaps indefinitely due to McKagan returning to G'N'R) meaning that Angell has formed a new project along with two of his main contributors. This project is Staticland and the album of the same name is their debut effort, once again Angell takes the vocals and guitars with long term writing/performing partner Benjamin Anderson on keys and bass and drummer Joshua Faunt who was in Angell's Post Stardom Depression (the band Angell formed before The Missionary Position).

The album is packed with modern blues rock, with post punk edge and an alternative bent, think any of Jack White's bands fronted by the strutting snarl of Scott Weiland and you'd be pretty close. The Staticland record slips and slides with a slinky blues rock sound, with cutting, melodic guitars, churning organs, some interesting drum patterns and some honest autobiographical lyrics. One listen to direct opener Everything Is Wrong along with Never Look Back and you'll get the picture pretty soon, the song builds and builds into a stylish solo at it's climax, it's followed by Band-Aid On A Bullet Hole which is built upon a repetitive drum and bass riff, the organ sitting in the background making for a disconcerting track with an element of hopelessness to it. 

The band are their core a blues rock band but they try to avoid the normal cliches relying more on sonic impact than the 12 bar although The World Is Gonna Win could have easily pass as Springsteen at his darkest. The lyrics are mainly introspective and drawn from real-life but they are not a miserable band using the realism to their advantage adding a bit of gravitas to the rockier tracks when they need to; Phantom Limb has distorted punky riff at it's heart that echoes in feedback at the songs end, Nola is a more traditional blues track that's backed with a song with yet more Springsteen. Staticland is a great album of impressive modern blues rock, with no sign of The Walking Papers any time soon Staticland will satisfy that part that needs slinky, soulful, alternative blues rock. 8/10      

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