Top Sounds - L

LAGWAGON - Hang {Fat Wreck} It’s hard to believe it has been nine years since ‘Resolve’, the last LAGWAGON album. It would have been easy to replicate old glories I guess, and it’s true this album features those fluid trademark LAGWAGON riffs, hyperspeed drums and impossibly catchy vocals - check ‘Reign’, Burning Out In Style’, ‘Poison In The Well’ or the superb closer ‘In Your Wake’ for evidence. However, this has more - opener ‘Burden of Proof’ is an acoustic lament while ‘One More Song’ has a piano-lead M8 that is positively swinging. Album highlight would have to the rather epic ‘Obsolete Absolute’. Have to say, some of the experimentation failed a bit - ‘The Cog In The Machine’ has verses that remind me of a bad Black Sabbath chugger! What is interesting about this, is that there seems to be a theme running through the album. The album’s title appears in many of the songs and the sense of accountability lurks in many of the lyrics. It makes for a more challenging listen in places and certainly demonstrates that this is a band that is not taking the easy path. (23.03.15)

LEE HARVEYS, THE - Bullet For The President {FOAD} It’s not often you hear something that is vibrant and pretty much without compare while not exactly doing anything new... but that’s what you get with this album from Ireland’s LEE HARVEYS. You get 12 tracks that fuse early BLYTH POWER structures with early UNDERTONES adrenalin and early AGAINST ME! when they played simple yet passionate anthems. Somehow though, LEE HARVEYS have a very distinct sound and it’s a compelling sound too. Bitzy’s vocals are clear and resonant without being bland or over-produced while guitarist, Ruaidhri, has a fantastic knack for throwing in some understated lead lines that take the song to another level - see ‘All Your Life’ or the disc highlight ‘Shes’s Inside’. The UNDERTONES vibe is particularly evident on ‘Suzie’, ‘Border’ is a song AGAINST ME! would give serious money for while the title track has a certain ominous tone about it. Production is not cluttered and lets the songs have space and a sparse, cutting clarity. The early records of those three bands mentioned I still find intensely exciting. I’m getting the same feel from this album. (22.11.16)

LEFTOVER CRACK - Constructs Of The State {Fat Wreck} Third full long player from Stza and his cast of thousands. Needless to say it’s a caustic, noxious slice of squatter Punk that pulls in all kindsa other sounds from Metal through to Ska and onto the use of piano, banjo and accordion! Lyrically this is as confrontational as ever but musically, a few tracks seem to lack the bite and attack of the previous albums. That said, this does contain some stunning CRACK crackers in the form of the bilious ‘Corrupt Vision’, the bouncing ‘Don’t Shoot’, and the brooding ‘Vicious Constructs’. However, it’s ‘Bedbugs And Beyond’ that compresses every aspect of the band’s blitzkrieg into one song and the epic, electro-speed Punk of the closer ‘The War At Home’ that steal the album. The album is filled out with some great cynicism on the sleeve notes, an essay by Stza and some pertinent accompanying graphics. This isn’t as wildly visceral as the band’s debut but it’s still a thrilling, uncompromising listen from a band that remains one of the most politically outspoken around. (15.07.16)

LEGENDARY SHACK SHAKERS - The Southern Surreal {Alternative Tentacles} This is the first time I’ve really crossed paths with the SHACK SHAKERS in their 20 year history and I have to say, I’m pretty fucking hooked! This is the band’s first album in five years and it's an eclectic mix of Southern Swamp Blues, dark Gothic moods and voodoo Rock ‘n’ Roll - think GUN CLUB and NEIL YOUNG deflowering SUPERSUCKERS and you might be in the right ball-park. Highlights are plenty: ‘Cold’ comes on like NICK CAVE playing JOHNNY CASH, ‘Christ Almighty’ is a riotous hootenanny and the eery ‘The Dog Was Dead’ pivots around a dark spoken word piece by actor Billy Bob Thornton. Elsewhere the swinging beat of Calypso has never sounded so taboo as it does on ‘Dead Bury The Dead’, ‘Young Heart, Old Soul’ could be lifted from any cult 50s Rock ‘n’ Roll classic while out-right highlight is ‘Mud’ that fuses CRAZY HORSE with THE CRAMPS. There are some great musical performances throughout here too, be it brass, banjo, fiddle or piano and it all welds together to create something compelling and vaguely decadent. Best enjoyed with Bourbon... (11.06.16)

L.I. - On The Corner {Deranged} Eight tracks of nasty sounding, gutter Garage Punk that comes on like RAETARDS having an all-in fist fight with WEAKLINGS while SICKOIDS and HANK WOOD contribute with a few well-aimed punches to both sides. The band includes ex-members of FREAK VIBE with the addition of Gabe on vocals. Those vocals are reverb drenched, guitars feedback laden and suitably shot from the hip, bass heavy on the fuzztones and the drums relentless and bruising. If you groove on that kinda debasement, then each of these tunes will excite your senses and continue to give your stereo an intoxicating workout. Highlights for me were the hot riffage of ‘Public Broadcast’ and the dirty ‘Clean Living’ while the nihilism of ‘Counterfeit’ takes best track. Have to say, this would’ve probably impressed me more as a 4-track 7" as other moments on here got a bit one-dimensional, but still proved to be an enjoyable, noxious set of tunes. (19.11.17)

LICKS, THE - 1970’s {Overground} I guess you’ve heard of FLUX OF PINK INDIANS, and most of you should know prior to FLUX... the band was called THE EPILEPTICS. However, their first foray onto vinyl appeared under the name of THE LICKS. That was back in 1979 on Stortbeat Records and this is a re-issue of that single. You get three tracks including the minor classic that is ‘1970's Have Been Made In Hong Kong’ as the lead track that FLUX... went onto play often and mirrors the early sound of FLUX... well. The flip has two tracks including the sedate but lyrically pointed ‘System Rejects’ that, more than any track here, indicates the direction the band were to head in lyrically. A faithful reproduction of the original minimalist sleeve (including the ‘Smash Guitar Solos’ slogan) too. Trivia fans might like to know that a few years after this was released, it was re-recorded with Penny Rimbaud of CRASS on drums. This still sounds remarkably fresh, so if ‘Strive To Survive’ is a favourite yet this remains in the realms of curiosity, you’d better get in touch with Overground now; especially as the original would no doubt cost serious money! (06.11.15) 

LINECUTTERS, THE - Anthill {Slope} First release on Slope Recs that hasn’t really blown me away. The songs seem over-long (opener ‘Entities’ is over five minutes, while closer ‘On Parade’ clocks in a over six) and over complex. All too often they slip into BLACK FLAG ‘My War’(side two)-era sludge and the vocalist is an annoying mix of HR in his early BAD BRAINS days, Stza Crack and some kinda Celtic Frost-esque death grunting. That’s a shame too, cuz when he does sing, he has a strong and clear vocal. Each song has parts that standout, but just about each song also has a part that ruins its flow. That said, ‘Never Doubt’ is a neat blast of Punk with a snappy Ska breakdown and ‘Tire Me Out’ has a vague JAWBREAKER sound, while album highlight is ‘Leafy Greens’ that starts on a mellow groove and grows into something akin to PROPAGANDHI. The band is a young trio outta Gilbert, Arizona and this is their debut 12-track album, produced by MEAT PUPPETS’ Cris Kirkwood. A band to watch, but right now a tad more direction would’ve worked wonders. (29.12.17)

LOST BALLOONS - Hey Summer {Dirtnap} Well, this is an interesting, two-man transcontinental project! It features Jeff Burke from Texas (MARKED MEN and RADIOACTIVITY among others) and Yusuke Okada from Japan (SUSPICIOUS BEASTS). It’s the duo’s second album and features 12 songs of wistful 60s Pop and a big nod to Americana-sytle Country - think WILCO jamming with ROBYN HITCHCOCK. Highlights include the dreamy, wavering ‘Paint’, the uptempo ‘Numb’ and the psychedelic-tinged title track that swirls on jangling guitars, minimal beats and high harmonies, while standout has to be ‘Losing Time’ that is most akin to Burke’s more Garage Punk repertoire. Have to say, I found it a bit too sedate and at 37 minutes in length, a bit one-dimensional as the jangle and hazy, dazy melodic vocals kinda fused most tracks into sounding rather similar. An EP of those four tracks, and the BEATLES-esque jangle of ‘You Tried’ would’ve been a cracker. Quite a unique recording in Burke’s cannon and probably the most acoustic, sedate release on Dirtnap ever - and that includes the REVISIONS album! (19.12.17)

LOUD, TIM - What Am I? {Aaahh!!! Real} Second album from the former BOOTSCRAPER man and it continues right from where the album below left off, but takes the quality level up a whole new notch. This sounds a much more assured album with some great acoustic guitar work throughout. It’s filled out neatly with a drummer who plays to the strength of the songs rather than drumming over them and an assortment of other instruments including electric guitar, accordion and trombone. You get plenty of highlights be it the excellent opener ‘I Don’t Care What Everybody Else Says About You, I Think You’re A Cunt’ that not only has to claim the best song title of the year but also includes a hilarious little BILLY BRAGG rip, ‘No Fight’ and ‘That’s Life’ that continues the BOB DYLAN ‘Nashville Skyline’ era vibe but brought up to date in Manchester, while ‘The Itch’ is an electrified swamp blues work out that JEFFERY LEE PIERCE may have sold even more of his soul for. Real standout is the WORLD/ INFERNO FRIENDSHIP SOCIETY vibe of ‘Slip’. Vocally, Loud has nailed this with a strong and varied singing style, a bit of self-deprecating humour and just fucking great songs. Few records could claim to be great party records and also ones to which you can wind down. ‘What Am I?’ Is one of those rare beasties!! (07.02.17)

LOUD, TIM - Born To Lose {TNS} If you didn’t know Tim Loud is the main creative mind behind Leeds, UK band, BOOTSCRAPER. This is his debut solo album, featuring eight tracks and a bounty of support musicians filling the sound out. What really hit me was a similarity to Bob Dylan, circa ‘Nashville Skyline’ or even ‘John Wesley Harding’. The vocals have a similar phrasing and richness and the feel of the songs, if not the sound, certainly mirrored that era of Dylan’s. Of the tracks, the highlight is ‘November Sky’ that sees LOUD doing some very nice 12-string guitar work coupled with a rather mystical sound. Elsewhere, ‘Other Guy’ could be a swing-era dance-floor hit, ‘Is That All There Is?’ has an insistent chorus that sees the listener joining in before the song ends while ‘Age Of The Idiot’ is almost a Dylan-esque talking blues charmer with a dark political lyric. This has been a bit of a big spinner on the House of Scanner stereo, each time getting a bit better. Have to say though, knowingly or not, ‘Nomad Blues’ steals a fiddle-lead from WATERBOYS ‘Medicine Bow’! (24.03.15)

LOW CULTURE - Places To Hide {Dirtnap} Second long-player from this Chris Mason-helmed project and, like the previous ‘Screens’ album, it’s a good mix of RED DONS meets TOY THAT KILL, as proven by the double hit of ‘Head In A Blender’ that’s like the former and ‘Slave To You’ that’s akin to the latter. There’s plenty more to the remaining 12 songs though with ‘I Don’t Buy It’ being a distinctly quirky Punk circa ‘78 cracker, ‘Take And Take’ starting with guitar and vocal before morphing into a clear and energetic track AGAINST ME! would love to have written, and the stomping ‘Wrong Side Of History’ that pogos along like a CUTE LEPERS outtake. Album highlight is a battle between the reflective and soaring ‘Lonely Summer’ that includes a stunning guitar solo and ‘Defective Brain’ that hurtles along fusing BUZZCOCKS structures with ROUGH KIDS energy. Seems a bit unfair not mentioning the other tracks as there isn’t really a duffer on the whole album. This does seem to be slightly more reflective in sound than I recall ‘Screens’ being; maybe a bit more polished too (as ‘Shake It Off’ among others prove), but with still enough edge to cut it. Another stellar Dirtnap release. (28.08.17)

LUCKY MALICE/ DANGER!MAN - Handicap {Boss Tuneage/Sjakk Matt Plater/ Tonehjulet Kraftpest} Five tracks a piece (including a cover of the other band) from these two bands outta Norway. Female trio LUCKY MALICE kick off and have a vague early MANIFESTO JUKEBOX vibe about them, fused with ARCTIC FLOWERS and the energy of LIBYANS playing snappy, intense and melodic Hardcore. Of their tracks it’s ‘Fryktlos’ with its bass-driven melody and ‘Side By Side’ in particular that stand out. The latter is in fact the best track on the record, bringing in ESTRANGED dynamics and a great chorus. Flip the grey vinyl over and you get DANGER!MAN, a band that released the raging 'Blame Game' back in 2010. Many of their tracks brought to mind SPERMBIRDS fused with DEAD ENDING with standouts being the frantic bass of ‘Our Path Is Paved With Good Intentions’ and ‘Never Black, Never White’ that’s got a RUTS vibe about it and could challenge ‘Side By Side’ as album highlight. Great packaging too with a printed insert and a CD included for those who need a digital version. A really complimentary couple of bands that both play solid and insistent but melodic Punk devoid of metal breakdowns or gnarly crust growling. Highly recommended stuff. (29.04.17)

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