Tag Archives: rob the music snob

Rob the Music Snob: Viva Machine

24 Jan

A little hyperbole to start this off: the fact that Viva Machine isn’t a household name is one of the great injustices in recent music history. The Welsh rockers had it all. Great riffs, smart lyrics, soaring vocal harmonies and extremely interesting song structures. Imagine Biffy Clyro doing their best Beach Boys impression with Josh Homme noodling away in the background. I’m the proud owner of an EP and album – but even prouder of supporting them in Exeter back in 2008.

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Because you know what? Time for an extremely uncool admission. I’ve seen a vast number of the so-called best live bands, and Viva Machine were better live than any of them. The Muse live experience can go suck an egg. I’d rather hear “Death Star Trucker” live than “Supermassive Black Hole”.

I fell in love with them because of the live sound, actually – at a packed Cavern Club on a Saturday night. I had heard from a friend that they were great, and they blew the audience away with an air of professionalism that was rare on those nights; most of the acts were essentially there as a warm-up for the resident DJ. All of us were excited to hear what a full-length album had to offer.

We had to wait a while, mind – until 2009, actually – but by god it was great. From the punchy, sci-fi opener “Robot Bodyrox”, to the sprawling epics of “Futuristic Dracula” and “Mental State”, the self-titled album is, surprisingly for a debut effort, a filler-less, lean, mean, rocking machine. Dirty synth, beefy guitars, and a perfect level of quirk without feeling pretentious. I happily have “Viva Machine” in my list of favourite albums of all time.

So what happened? Well, Viva Machine were a young band, and apparently university studies took over, with the band going on hiatus in September of 2009, only a couple of months after the release of their album. A shame – an immensely talented band that I would have loved to have heard more of.

So, there’s Viva Machine. Go give them a listen, and if anyone knows where they guys are now, let them know that there’s still one person carrying a torch for ‘em.

Rob The Music Snob: Lovage

17 Jan

We all love a good bizarre side project, and we all have our favourites. Grunge king Mark Lanegan’s team-up with Belle and Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell, or maybe Robert Plant going all bluegrass with Alison Kraus. How about Probot, Dave Grohl’s love letter to classic rock?

One man, though, likes to go above and beyond when it comes to new ventures. Mike Patton is best known for his work with Faith No More, but has had enough projects to fill a record label. The most well-known of the lot is Mr Bungle, but that’s doing a disservice to the likes of Fantômas, Tomahawk and Peeping Tom. My favourite of the lot, though, is Lovage.

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Get this. Patton teams up with Jennifer Charles, singer of the goth-favourite dark-rock act Elysian Fields. Dan The Automator heads it all up and throws Kid Koala into the mix, and together they make one of the most delightfully sleazy albums ever made. Their only release, called Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By, pairs up Patton’s low growl and Charles’ throaty breath-slurs, all over smooth beats and laid-back grooves, a neo-noir love-making story. Hell, it’s the only album I’ve ever heard that attempts to make truck stops into a sexual innuendo, and god damn it, it nearly pulls it off.

But it’s more than just a novelty. It’s a genuinely fantastic album. The backing tracks are excellent, sampling old recordings and films, giving Lovage an almost Portishead-esque vibe. It’s the kind of album you can just listen to and lose yourself in. Don’t believe me? Well, give this a listen – the frickin’ marvellous Stroker Ace:

Unfortunately it was just a one-off: Jennifer Charles went back to Elysian Fields, Mike Patton continued being bloody brilliant and most recently composed the soundtrack to The Place Beyond The Pines. But we’ll always have this one great moment, a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece, proving that great things can come out of unlikely musical team-ups.

Rob The Music Snob: Sol Seppy

10 Jan

When I was in my late teens, I suffered badly from insomnia. Where possible, I tried to use this time effectively – by writing, reading, or finding new music. MTV2 was a goldmine. Late at night it would play tracks from a variety of unheard, independent-label artists. One of these was Sol Seppy, and I was immediately in love.

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Sol Seppy is Sophie Michalitsianos, a classically-trained pianist and cellist better known for her work with the sadly-missed Mark Linkous in Sparklehorse. There are a lot of similarities between the two – the ethereal element, a large but intimate sound, breathtaking lyrics and a deep sense of emotional empathy. The first album, The Bells Of 1 2, is one of my favourites of all time, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

The Bells Of 1 2 is wonderful. Cohesive yet at the same time full of variety, it manages to bring out incredible levels of depth from a very minimal setup. The opener 1 2 relies almost entirely on piano, as does Enter One, Sol Seppy’s most recognisable track. It’s recognised for a reason. It’s absolutely beautiful.

But there’s more than that on show. Slo Fuzz was the first song I heard, pushed forward through – as the name suggests – fuzzy bass lines with floating synth work and excellent quiet/loud dynamics. Move features noisy, shoegaze-esque distortion and a discordant feel. Come Running is upbeat with a brilliantly catchy chorus.

It’s one of those albums that seems to never stray far from my grasp, never accumulating dust. Michalitsianos gave us a new EP last year, continuing the level of quality, and a promise of an album in 2014. I have high hopes, even after the seven year wait. Bring it on.