Music reviews: Seasick Steve, The Go! Team, Lightning Bolt
Sonic Soul Surfer
There’s A Dead Skunk
Steve Wold first introduced his dirty blues licks to the world when he appeared on Jools Holland’s Hootenanny TV show in 2006.
With a three-string guitar, a couple of chords and rudimentary percussion from his homemade Mississippi drum machine, Seasick Steve stole the show. Resplendent in dungarees and as intoxicating as moonshine, the hard-travellin’ hobo bled the Delta blues. Late to the party, he became an overnight sensation in his mid-60s.
Sonic Soul Surfer is the septuagenarian’s seventh studio album since his Dog House Music debut almost a decade ago, and it seems the charismatic songwriter still has a few yarns to tell. Recorded on his farm with longtime drummer Dan Magnusson, it’s very much business as usual as Steve treads familiar rough-and-ready ground.
Sonic Soul Surfer, capturing the raw energy of his live performances, is a winning mixture of stomping beats and driving blues rhythms, the hectic rock’n’roll boogie of opener Roy’s Gang and Barracuda ’68 sitting nicely next to the gritty drawl of Your Name and Swamp Dog. There’s plenty of life in the ol’ dog just yet.
The Go! Team
The Scene Between
There may be no "I" in team, but with his longtime Go! Team mates having departed, group mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Ian Parton is left to fly solo on the Brighton band's fourth album.
As on the group's Mercury Prize-nominated debut, Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004), The Scene Between finds Parton returning to his songwriting roots as writer, performer and producer, although musically it's far from a step backwards. Once noted for their kitchen-sink blend of rap rhythms, indie rock and jubilant pop, Parton has gradually moved away from the sample-based creations and more towards live instrumentation.
Here he embraces the sweet bubbly harmonies of party pop music. Being no singer and without the backup of freestyle rapper MC Ninja, Parton has gathered a group of unknown guest vocalists to complement the fuzzed-out guitars and synth-driven melodies. Sugary opener What D'you Say? introduces Brazilian songwriter Samira Winter, and is followed by the London Africa Gospel Choir on the nursery rhyme title track in a sea of bubblegum pop jewels.
Thrill Jockey Records
There's something to be said, or shouted, for the simplified but intense noise that a stripped-back drum-and-bass rock duo can make. Royal Blood, Death from Above 1979 and Hong Kong's own DP certainly make a brutal racket. Rhode Island's Lightning Bolt are another such dynamic band.
Fantasy Empire, their sixth album and first in five years, sees the two Brians (bassist Gibson and drummer/vocalist Chippendale) in typical brain-frying mood. Foregoing for the first time their punk-spirited, DIY approach, they recorded these nine exhilarating prog noise tracks in a studio - and still managed to capture the ferocity of their visceral live shows. This is, and will always be, music for the mosh pit. There's certainly more of a metal influence here than, say, their acclaimed fourth album, Hypermagic Mountain.
Chippendale's distorted vocals are barely audible grunts, but hidden beneath the fuzzed-out bass riffs and propulsive drum lines are some serious grooves, most notably on the chaotic Dream Genie and the frantic and aptly titled Runaway Train. Fast and frenzied fun.