from the listening nook

vinyl thoughts for an analogue life

FTLN – The Blow Monkeys

October 12, 2017



July 28, 2017


Format: 12″ LP gold vinyl

Whilst visiting Domino Records to grab a copy of the amazing Middle Kids EP, my eye was caught by a beautiful gold LP. The band behind this glorious piece of spinning wax was Little Cub, and after some investigation I chose to take the risk and order the LP.

Boy oh boy, am I happy that I did. Not only is it one of the most gorgeous LPs I’ve ever seen, but what lies within its grooves is sheer synth heaven!

The best way to describe this South London trio is soft indie lo-fi synthwave pop…I know, it is a mouthful, but it sums them up perfectly. Every track on the LP is a masterpiece of modern synthwave composition, evoking actual and assumed 80s nostalgia. Then layered on top is a vocal style that is relaxed, pulled-back, lo-fi but engaging and oh-so-wonderful. There’s a bit of Morrissey, New Order, Talk Talk, Pet Shop Boys and Lightning Seeds in here…but it is much more than mere homage. This is a very modern indie take on what made those 80s synths and mournful lyrics so important. This is revelatory street-level storytelling with rhythm and swagger. This is synthwave poetry, making you think and boogie in equal measure. Each and every track takes you on a journey…albeit it in a Lamborghini Countach whilst wearing a big shouldered suit and Aviator shades!

Here’s a few thoughts on some of the majestic tracks:

  • Too Much Love (1/1) – perfect soft indie pop merged with classic synthwave electronica and New Order-esque vocals
  • My Nature (1/2) – slow driving rhythm with deep pulsing synth bass, a wide landscape explored by engaging vocals and lyrics
  • Breathing Space (1/3) – dancy trippy upbeat synth contrast with lo-fi vocals and introspective lyrics, soothing storytelling at its best
  • Hypnotise (1/6) – fully expansive synth vibes with beautiful evocative Joy Division-esque vocals. 80s noir builds to epic synthwave dance beat
  • Closing Time (2/1) – low throbbing rhythm complemented with gloriously chorused vocals and a Neil Tennant style mixed with a Del Amitri story – fantastic sense of movement and speed against an ever-changing electronica noise backdrop
  • Snow (2/4) – a real change of pace, ethereal and whispery, toned down and melancholic vocals. A mournful contemplative hymn to lyricism and simple yet accomplished composition

I love this album, am overjoyed at taking the risk of buying something unknown, and hope Little Cub keep evolving their sound and releasing incredible music for decades to come. The LP is an astonishing piece of vinyl, the gold colouring is eye-catching, and the sheer weight of the thing (almost like two traditional LPs glued together) is shockingly pleasing. Thumbs up to the band, the label and the manufacturer!

Score: 10/10

Thoughts: driving at speed down an 80s highway, shades on, padded shoulders bopping to the tunes, brain engaged by the lyrics – sheer synthwave bliss

Info: LittleCubband


One More Light – Linkin Park

June 18, 2017

Format: 12″ black vinyl LP

The latest album from the screamo nu metal legends is…frankly…a shock. Gone are the guttural hi energy vocals and heavy guitars mixed with hip hop beats and high impact digital production techniques. It is almost as if the band have spent a couple of months song writing with Ed Sheeran, because this is an album of beautifully crafted pop/light rock songs. There’s still a tight, highly polished sound…everything is superbly crafted, but it just isn’t Linkin Park. This is a band who have grown up, matured and expanded their repertoire but instead of creating an adult rock album with soaring musicality and a depth of lyricism borne of experience, they’ve gone New York/Tin Pan Alley and delivered a well meaning but ultimately facile collection of cookie-cutter teeny pop songs more suited to an X Factor runner up than one of the highest rated and musically experimental former nu metal bands.

There is some light and shade within…occasional diversions into EDM and rap/hip hop. But those rare moments say nothing, there’s no message and no subversive meaning behind it. This is a soft rock singer songwriter album you’d expect to hear in the background of a Starbucks or hipster vegan launderette. There is nothing vital here. This is not an album you’d recommend to a friend. Unlike their debut L.P. and follow up Meteora, this is not an album to set the world on fire. It is perfectly fine and will find a happy home with fans of Ed Sheeran or any of his multitude of knock off competitors. But if the band thought they were bravely evolving their sound I’m sorry to say they’ve failed. These are good songs but they should have sold them to other acts. In the rare moments the old Linkin Park shine through it is a joy…but it is too few and far between. Chester’s warm rich vocals are a delight and he has clearly refined his voice but whilst it is pretty, it has lost its edge of importance, of insistence and relevance. 

Score: 4/10

Thought: The whole album is as if Rage Against The Machine had reformed and released an album of Burt Bacharach covers…interesting, nice but not necessary or welcome.

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