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Monks of Mellonwah – Disconnect EP Review

9 Sep

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Following the release of their debut LP last year and accompanying U.S. support tour, exciting Australian band Monks of Mellonwah are back with a brand new EP and Stateside trip to boot.

The alternative quartet has just released ‘Disconnect’ with seven new tunes. It follows a stunning few years for the band, as they took home awards in 2012, for International Rock Band of the Year and Best Indie Rock Band at the LA Music Awards and AIM Awards, respectively. Now though, with Grammy-nominated involved in the production alongside band member Joseph de la Hoyde and A&R Worldwide’s Monte Malone and Sat Bisla producing, they have bigger goals to achieve in the upcoming 12 months.

While 2014 album ‘Turn the People’ was an eagerly-anticipated release after years of promise, ‘Disconnect’ seems them aim to step up through the gears ever so slightly. Opener to the EP, “Never Been Good”, is a bouncy pop tune with a crunchy drum beat in the background built for the live arena and getting audience members to clap along. It’s a strong start and a good pre-cursor of what is to come.

Lead single “Even When It Burns”, is the highlight of the new collection of songs, it has an electrifying guitar riff that accompanies some haunting vocals; as electro-pop goes it’s catchy and has that haunting quality to it. Having listened to it a few times now, it has that essential ‘sticking’ factor, hours after listening to it, you’ll remember its familiar melodies and the chorus of ‘Even when it burns/ the simple things that I know I have learnt’, will be going round and round in your head!

“Show Me Something” has a building quality to it too, that drives the pace slowly but surely with a piano and drum kit. It has a dance music vibe to it too, with echoes of Chris Martin of Coldplay’s falsetto vocals on show too. It probably epitomises what the band are about perfectly in a three-minute pop song- with impressive vocals, catchy drumming and crisp production sound.

And that’s one half down, “Interlude” connects us through to the title track, “Disconnect”, in a Muse-style of theatrics. I’m instantly reminded of The Fray when the song kicks in, but the song develops into more of a love-lorn ballad with a pulsing electronic riff beneath it. It’s a warm, emotive song that strips back a lot of the bouncy tunes before it, and shows the lyrical warmth of the Monks song-writing.

In stark contrast, “Look At Me” opens with a Nile Rodgers-esque spiky guitar riff, throws in some ska drumming and the vocals of British band Don Broco, and a perfect song is made. It feels as though it is a song to be listened to only when the sun is blazing in the afternoon, cloudless sky, and an ice-cold beverage is in hand. It could be argued the song is a bit stagnant in how it really doesn’t develop and maintains that riff throughout, but when a song is this catchy (and yes that’s a word that has been used throughout this review, for good reason!), can you blame it for not going anywhere else?

And that’s almost the end of the road, with closer “Feel It Coming” signalling the end of a short dash of an EP. It is another familiar tale of a journey that sees the band build and build and build to a satisfying musical climax. This sounds as close to an emo-pop-punk as the band manage, with drums that belong to a heavier band during the breakdown late on. But it leaves food for thought, as that’s a possible direction the Monks could eventually take their music perhaps?

All in all, it’ll be interesting to see whether or not “Disconnect” can help the Monks of Mellonwah make that jump up to the top step in terms of musical quality or not. It sounds exceptionally well produced and is diverse enough to suggest that there’s something in the Australians. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out in the future for this promising collective.

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Arctic Monkeys Live Review

22 Nov

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(Sheffield Motorpoint Arena, 18th November)

It would have been understandable if the fans inside the Motorpoint Arena had held reservations about what was to come. After all, when the lead singer’s come down with Laryngitis just weeks before, you might be wondering if the gig would be a bit half-arsed, just completing their contact?

They needn’t have worried. From the start, it was clear all of the band were on fine form. The brooding glam rock of their first song, Do I Wanna Know, was almost drowned out by the crowd by cheers and people actually dancing instead of acting as Youtube cameramen.

It was also abundantly clear that the Sheffield band’s most recent album was the focus of the night. A whopping nine songs – almost half of the setlist – were taken from AM. It had been receiving rave reviews from critics and it was clear that the audience adored it just as much. Arabella, I Wanna Be Yours and One For the Road were all greeted by waves a cheering from fans that already knew every word. R U Mine, the last song in their encore, also remains a monster of song – possibly the most perfect one they’ve ever written.

Between the appreciation for the new album, the band managed to find time for a whirlwind tour of their hits. Quite a few songs from the middle period of their career were missed out, but who’s got time when the crowd’s holding a mass-singalong to I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor or swaying their lighters to Mardy Bum?

Even if Arctic Monkeys have already performed that setlist a dozen times before, the gig still felt special. There was a palpable sense of energy throughout, which was reciprocated by the audience.

Alex Turner has a reputation a stoic, restrained frontman, preferring to let his songs talk for him, however he was relatively chatty in Sheffield. Perhaps enjoying being back in his hometown, he seemed relatively chatty, asking the audience ‘Are you mine?’ and playfully telling them off when they began singing too early.

Although they didn’t bring any gimmicks like Muse or U2, Arctic Monkeys put on a hell of a live show. It was technically very proficient. With just some lights, a couple of small screens and a towering AM backdrop, they put on an incredible show where the stage always seemed to reflect the mood.

For some reason, the speakers mangled the sound for a couple of the subtler songs like Fireside, but it handled the louder ones brilliantly. The sound was at the perfect volume that encourages you to sing until your voice is raw.

Simply put, this good a band with such a magnificent back catalogue of songs can’t help but put on a hell of a show. Seven years of touring has made them into a well-oiled machine that knows exactly what crowds want.

AM – Arctic Monkeys Review

18 Sep

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Critically acclaimed debuts can often be a curse for a band. Plenty of bands have combusted under the pressure to repeat it – see the Stone Roses, the Klaxons, the Las and dozens others. However if there was ever a band that argued early success needn’t be a burden, it was the Arctic Monkeys, and AM is the conclusive proof.

As the title suggests, AM is stripped-down, back to basics, but the band have come so far in the last eight years it still sounds like nothing they’ve done before. It’s traditional rock but with a glossy veneer of hubris. Don’t mistake the anachronistic titles for dumbing down – this is just the band feeling comfortable in their own skin.

Gone is almost everything you might associate with their award-winning debut. The jangly indie guitar riffs have been replaced by muscular, R’n’B tinged tunes. The Sheffield quartets have truly embraced American sounds. This is mostly thanks to ‘R U Mine?’, a one-off song they released last year that the band liked so much they continued to mine the sonic space it had unearthed, and it now feels like an integral part of the album.

The social commentary that defined their first album has also mutated into richer lovelorn poetry. One of the highlights comes early in ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ as Alex wonders ‘if your heart’s still open and if so what time it shuts?’ It’s not tied to a specific place or time, but instead evokes many different shades of love, whether it’s drunk, desperate or just dumb.

In ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ Alex even adapts words from poet John Cooper Clarke. The fact they sound like his own shows off his strength not just as a lyricist but as a song writer.

There are almost too many highlights too mention. Album opener ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ sounds like ‘R U Mine’s’ evil twin, filled with alcohol-induced swagger, while ‘Why Do You Only Call Me When I’m High?’, is one of the funniest songs they’ve ever produced. ‘Number One Party Anthem’ is a huge misnomer; you could more imagine Alex crooning it in a smoky jazz bar. I’ve managed to get the end without mentioning the best song, ‘Abarbella’ with its flickering riffs and vivid desert poetry.

It’s impossible to retrap lightening in a bottle but Arctic Monkeys have managed to make something different and just as good. Purists who are still waiting for more stories about taxi ranks need not listen but everyone else is going to love AM. If Alex Turner has only recently grown into his role as a rockstar, this is the soundtrack to his new life.

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