Monday, March 4, 2024

Quickies - Silveroller, Black Cat Bone, and Today Was Yesterday

Okay readers, it’s time to catch up on three new releases in different flavours, ranging from British blues-rock to sleazy rock’n’roll to some new prog that features Alex Lifeson of Rush as a guest.
Silveroller – At Dawn EP
Well, this is fun. Old-fashioned kinda fun, sticking on Silveroller’s new 6-track EP and hearing echoes of British rock from the early Seventies reverberating down the ages.
But Silveroller aren’t some bunch of greybeards who’ve assembled to churn out the same old same old.  No, they’re a young,  gallus five-piece doing their own thing and doing it in ear-catchingly good fashion.  All the same, when they whack into 'Black Crow', with its stick-and-
Silveroller - cheer up lads!
move riff and some blaring organ from Ross Munro, it feels like some Purple-ish musical paint has been splashed around.
But they’re not copyists of anyone, as the following ‘Hold’ demonstrates, with its crisp drums and a gutsy, fuzzy riff that’s chased along by the organ, paving the way for the strong, confident vocals of Johnnie Hodson, which do plenty to establish their distinctive personality.  Oh yeah, and a neat drop down into an organ break providing some light and shade then crashes into an all-action guitar solo from Aaron Keylock, a one-time youthful solo artist who sounds much more at home in this band setting.
There are more dynamics evident in ‘Ways Of Saying’, which combines downbeat verses – nicely piano-dappled on the second time around - with a pounding chorus full of jabbing chords, and some fizzing guitar work.  And by now another pleasing aspect of the Silveroller identity is coming over: they sound very British. They may listen to the Black Crowes, but when they do rootsy rock’n’roll of their own it leans towards Faces-like rough and tumble, underlined by some shoutalong backing vocals.
They go up and down through the gears smoothly on ‘Turn To Gold’ with its sweetly melodic intro, satisfying harmonies, and rootsy guitar break en route to a dramatic crescendo on which Joe Major earns his drum-thrashing corn.  Keylock shows off some buzzsaw slide guitar on ‘Other Side’, to go with a bustling riff and suspenseful Morse Code-like bridge, and another emphatic Hodson vocal.  Then they close with ‘Come On, Come In’, with a bluesy intro before some whacking guitar ramps it up into demi-epic mode. Keylock cracks out another impressive solo too, and the song glides soulfully to a close with an outro carrying echoes of Etta James and ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’.
Fingers crossed that this first release doesn’t turn out to be a false dawn, because with quality writing, smart arrangements and bang-on delivery, Silveroller are mint-fresh and show bags of promise.

The At Dawn EP is out now, and can be ordered here.
Black Cat Bone – Tales Of The Amplified
Anyone who responded positively to previous examples of Black Cat Bone’s greasy, grungy rumble’n’roll is going to be happy with the likes of ‘Shake It’ and ‘Freak Machine’ on their new album.  The former kicks off with interstellar warbling noises, but with its grinding riff and Ewan Mackenna’s subterranean bass it’s definitely more to do with dark matter than starlight.  The latter is is driven by rolling, thumping drums from Kai Wallace and ringing guitar from Jamie
Black Cat Bone - they like it subterranean
Beaton, and conjures up hints of the Yardbirds with its anthemic backing vocals and, after a breather in the middle, an explosive rave-up segment. And with its trampolining riff, interrupted by siren-like bursts of guitar and wails of harp, ‘Loose Juice’ is also emphatic fare, like roaring down the highway on the back of a Harley, until rather too soon it somewhat fizzles out.
But there are outbreaks of subtlety evident elsewhere.  The opening ‘Undertone’ opens with a piano refrain, courtesy of the guesting Andy Barbour, and if it develops into a mid-paced chug it’s still moody rather than turbo-charged, even though the guitar and Ross Craig’s harp get a bit anguished.  But ‘Let It Breathe’ is even more startling, a long, romantic swoon of a song even with the grit of Craig’s croaking vocals.  It’s not a one-off either, as ‘Pick Yourself Up’ is another slowie, a simple song with a dreamy, Achtung Baby vibe, right down to Craig’s aching voice.
The closing combination of ‘Blue For You’ and ‘Whoa’ pull in different directions.  ‘Blue For You’ starts off rootsy, with low key sprinkles of guitar over restrained drums, but then changes gear for the chorus thanks to some slamming guitar chords from Beaton.  ‘Whoa’ is a trippier kinda animal, a hypnotic, fuzzy riff occasionally overlaid with slide guitar remarks, while Craig’s vocal is a moaning, mantra-like repetition of the title until the track slowly fades out.
So yeah, BCB’s trademark grimy rock’n’roll is still the backbone of Tales Of The Amplified, but there are also some more mind-expanding explorations that go well with the Hipgnosis-like album cover.  Still not music for meditation though!
Tales Of The Amplified is available digitally now, and will be released on vinyl and CD on 5 April.
Today Was Yesterday – Today Was Yesterday
American duo Ty Dennis and Angelo Barbera have served a fair bit of time as sidemen, often together, and have now combined on the prog-leaning project Today Was yesterday.  To be honest though, my prime motivation for giving the album a listen is that six of the tracks feature Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson as a guest.
And there is in fact, a hint of a late period Rush tinge to the opening track ‘GRACE’, with its booming, discordant chords bouncing all over the place, counterpointing some mandolin-like sounds.  Angelo Barbera is a very different kinda vocalist to Geddy Lee though, echoing around
Today Was Yesterday in arty camera angle incident
in a lower register. The melody isn’t a killer, but the song maintains interest through the intricate riff and rhythms that swing into action three minutes in.
Lifeson’s handiwork is more obvious on ‘A Louder Silence’, as he adds squalls of guitar texture to the off-kilter rhythm and stuttering bass that form the foundation of the track, creating something that’s less song than sound picture, perhaps.
Tunes like ‘On My Own’ and ‘Faceless Faraway Song’ are suggestive of Peter Gabriel.  The former is light and sweet, with sparse offbeat drums and scintillations of acoustic guitar.  The latter is languid and downbeat, like swimming in a dark pool, with buzzes of guitar and distorted background vocals adding colour.
A couple of guest-free tracks offer useful diversions.  On ‘I Take All’ Barbera’s twitchy bass combines in funk fusion fashion with Dennis’s drums amid some electropop-ish bleeps and squirls of synth, and Barbera chucks in a tasty guitar injection as well as a good old-fashioned organ break towards the fade-out.  Meanwhile ‘Rukus’ edges into more modern prog stylings, à la Porcupine Tree maybe.  There are some wonky synth notes, and snappy drums that certainly aren’t about dance grooves, then it shifts into a steadier trot to underpin bubbling bass and edgy guitar, creating an oddball atmosphere. Dunno what the muffled spoken word snippets are meant to add though.
Robby Krieger turns up to add a brief burst of low-slung, fuzzy guitar to the swooning ‘If I Fall (Silly Games)’, with its swooshing keys and halting drums, and to make some slower, sweeter-toned but off-kilter intrusions towards then end.  The closing ‘My New Low’, which has probably the best melody on the whole album, with Barbera’s yearning, occasionally double-tracked vocal living up to it, while Lifeson returns to the fray with a romantically styled guitar break that fades away to leave a quiet piano outro.
It's evident from the execution that Dennis and Barbera know their onions as musicians, but the songs mostly fall a bit short in the hook department, and Barbera’s voice isn’t that arresting either.  Today Was Yesterday is an interesting enough exercise, but not strong enough to warrant multiple listens.
Today Was Yesterday is out now on Music Theories Recordings, and can be ordered here.

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