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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Rise Against – Endgame

Who’d have thought that a band I begrudgingly endured a couple of years ago at Leeds Festival would turn out to be so much fun? It turns out they’re ardent supporters of a range of leftfield and animal rights issues and you can hear the wholesome voice of their protest in all of their songs. It’s undoubtedly an accessible sound more akin to more upbeat Husker Du numbers than the likes of Green Day and as Evlkeith would have it; ‘like Blink 182 but better’. And protest they do with a gaggle of heartfelt, agit pop ditties that warm the cockles of any old cynic’s heart.

‘Endgame’ is somewhat tighter than my previous encounter with Rise Against in the form of ‘The Sufferer and the Witness,’ with a more disciplined sound formed into twelve three minute punk-pop songs. It’s lyrically rich with the usual mix of current issues and observations on the state of modern day America told with machine gun ferocity and passion. Maybe the odd song outstays it’s welcome a little, but in the main the standard of song writing is up well beyond that of contemporaries such as The Foo Fighters or Queens of the Stone Age.

It’s a tough job picking my favourites from this selection as all the tracks are strong, but ‘Architects’ is a stirring call to arms, ‘Disparity by Design’ is a hi-octane dash through the evils of capitalism, and ‘Broken Mirrors’ is a dark rebel song from yester-year. My flip flopping favourites are the adrenaline rush of storming barricades in ‘A Gentleman’s Coup’ and the rousing finale of ‘Endgame’ itself.

It’s another great album from a great band and let’s just hope it’s not their endgame in reality. Hopefully not, as there’s an album pending for this year and the world certainly needs some quality new music. Like Quorn scampi it’s a surprisingly meaty and enjoyable experience from a vegetarian source!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Mesh - Automation Baby

Another Mesh album and you almost know what you’re getting before you listen. Heartfelt synth pop that sounds a bit like Depeche Mode on a good day, and possibly better suited to the German market. If that’s what you’re expecting then you won’t be disappointed by ‘Automation Baby’, however I doubt it will convert any new followers to the Meshsters world of electronica.

If anything this is their most consistent collection since 2009’s ‘A Perfect Solution’ with the trademark passionate vocals, emotive lyrics and possibly some catchier tunes than the standard Mesh offering. It always surprises me that no-one seems interested in the UK, but I suppose they’re in a bit of a niche market and I doubt it worries them. On the plus side it gets them regular reviews at Into the Valley...

Track wise, the standard is high, but ‘You want what’s owed to you’ is especially singalongable, ‘Adjust your Set’ is as near to the standard issue quality Mesh song as is possible and ‘Born to Lie’ is a little more aggressive but equally soulful. Even the obligatory Erasure style ballad ‘You couldn’t see this coming,’ is actually well worth a listen and you will possibly find yourself humming it at inopportune moments like I did.

What more can I say? It’s the usual, above average quality elctro-pop served up in a style somewhere between eighties new romantic electronica and pumped up seedy goth era Depeche Mode. What’s not to like? If the answer to that question is ‘everything’ then avoid all things Mesh and ‘Automation Baby’. If you’re a fan then it’s possibly their second best album behind ‘A Perfect Solution.’

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Melanie C - Top 10

Here at Into the Valley we champion the underdogs, turns that you've most probably never heard of but are worthy of your attention. There is another sub-category that we also love: the has-beens, turns that were once successful but have sadly fallen on hard times (see the obligatory Erasure entries every year in Doccortex's Festive 50 for evidence).

And so we get to Melanie C. Once part of the mega popular cabaret act, The Spice Girls, Mel C is now reduced to publishing her own music to even get it heard by anyone, music that virtually no-one likes. Yet I really like her. She was the only member of The Spice Girls who could actually sing and her distinctive voice was without a doubt the only good thing about them. Apart from two dubious albums (the far too pleasant 'This Time' and the show tunes aberration 'Stages') she's knocked out some quality stuff. To prove it (possibly) here's my top ten Melanie C. tracks:

10. Reason - Reason

9. Last night on Earth - Beautiful Intentions

8. I turn to you - Hex Hector radio Mix - Northern Star

7. Little piece of me - Beautiful Intentions

6. Stupid Game - The Sea

5. Beautiful Intentions - Beautiful Intentions

4. Why - Northern Star

3. Don't need this - Beautiful Intentions

2. Never say never - Beautiful Intentions

1. You'll get yours - Beautiful Intentions

(Album Version)

(Acoustic Version)

(Quality Live Version)