Self declared ‘Post Crunkers’ produce a festive treat.
Ill Murray take a small break from promoting their debut EP, Fugu by recording a three-track of classic Christmas covers. The record begins with its strongest track, a garage-rock rendition of Shakin’ Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone. This song not only serves as a blisteringly upbeat number, but may well be the best thing they’ve recorded yet. Front man Maxwell Tait’s vocals warble through the song in true Ill Murray fashion, until the song comes to a sped-up crescendo of distorted guitars and mad-man like barks.
The next track covers All I Want For Christmas Is You, and, despite its flaws (of which there are few) flows from soft and gentle verses to crunchy choruses, strung along by simple bass lines and Pixies-esque guitar melodies.
Finally Blue Christmas is a warm-and-fuzzy-in-your-tummy ‘round the campfire’ sort of affair, featuring two acoustic guitars, a shaker and the entire band’s vocals. It’s also very pretty, and clearly shows a band having a lot of fun in the recording process, which is refreshing what with so many bands acting too cool for Christmas.
In short, a charming collection of songs which will no doubt put a smile on your face this Christmas.
You can download Murray Christmas for free here: http://www.facebook.com/illmurrayband
This is a belated review of Reno Dakota’s promising debut.
Before you know it we’re into track two, highlight of the EP, How To Start A Conversation.
As the staccato guitar and unrelenting percussion drives the record on, front man Chris Sellers calls “If everything I touched turned to gold / We’d be left here to have and to hold”. This is a relief, as Reno Dakota have not only shown themselves as extremely talented musicians (imagine trying to record this as well as they have) but also as artists with heart, something which is all too often disposed of in favor of ‘cool’ and ‘mysterious’ lyrics. These guys clearly couldn’t care less about trying to impress hip museos (you know the people I mean), but what they do care about is honest, accessible, universal and most importantly human music.
The third track, Build Network Skills is in my mind, the weakest song on the record, it showcases the band’s ability as musicians, but for me lacks soul. Every other song here sounds like a guitar falling down the stairs in a good way, but this track sounds like the band have forgotten, if only for a moment, that they’re meant to be entertaining an audience, not just themselves.
All is well however, when half drunk Make Up Elaborate Stories rolls into a beautifully fresh take on relationships. It serves as a funky and slightly melancholic number, which declares “I don’t wanna be a front man for this anymore”, Reno Dakota show their fondness for dry humour in this lyric, and in their song titles, which reminds one of Radiohead’s Fitter Happier or Paranoid Android.
Closer And Leave A Positive Impression shows the band’s fear of growing up, and general despondency with adult life, “Work the best years of your life away / There has to be so much more than this”, something any young adult can related to. But does this track moan on into minor chords? No, because Reno Dakota aren’t whiners, they’re observers, and with their music and lyrics they set an example for all to follow by simply ‘getting on with it’. The only time one could argue the band descend into self-pity is at a slower bridge towards the end of the song, but even that is littered with acceptance, and excellently placed lyrics, ‘A rain so hard it ruins buildings around us / And drenches the old t-shirt you borrowed from my bedroom floor’. It’s that T-shirt bit that gets me, a gorgeously crafted lyric that’ll no doubt stick in the minds of many. Without warning the track gets back in its feet and shouts its way angrily to the final beat, making it a perfect ender to a near perfect debut.
Yes it sounds as if the whole record is in the same key, yes, maybe certain sections from each song could be interchangeable, but what’s so wrong with that? Are Reno Dakota not talented enough to explore different sounds? Possibly, but probably not. They balance technical skill with lyrics that feel honest and genuine. Popularity reeks of coming-of-age paranoia and nostalgia, and what’s more you can dance to it. This will attract a niche market, but a dedicated, and hopefully multiplying one.
You can download Popularity for free here: http://www.mediafire.com/?35azzzsno4ia40n
The band have also confirmed a UK tour in March with Manbearpig which you can get details about at their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reno-Dakota/206730296004729