Rock, June 2023

hfnalbum.pngSleaford Mods
br Grim
Rough Trade RT0391CD; LP: RT0391LP

Sleaford Mods' Jason Williamson can come across like a sweary orator at Speakers' Corner, but over Andrew Fearn's idiosyncratic mix of rock samples and electronic beats he harnesses the energy of invective and the power of profanity. His lyrics are full of scabrous satire and caustic humour with this sceptered isle recast as a dysfunctional landscape teeming with grotesques. 'In England no one can hear you scream', he exclaims on the title track, on which Liz Truss, Vladimir Putin and The Incredible Hulk fight for our attention. And somehow all this has translated internationally. The duo have been championed by Iggy Pop, and Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro from Jane's Addiction are surprise guests on 'So Trendy'. MB


Emma Tricca
Aspirin Sun
Bella Union BELLA1368CD; LP: BELLA1368V

The London-based Italian singer's songs are tinged with images of loss, but as its cover art suggests, this softly sung collection is also full of subtle colour, which gives it a bittersweet, poignant mood. On 'Christadora House', Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley's circular drum patterns are overlain by textural guitar from Tricca and Jason Victor of Dream Syndicate and some lovely chord changes reminiscent of Nick Drake's Bryter Layter. A mood of mesmeric, psychedelic languor prevails, with echoed guitar and drifting sonics, but all understated drama peaks on the episodic twists and turns of the 11m 'Rubens' House', which builds to a fiery ending. MB


The Flames Pt. 2

Kele Okereke is best known as singer and guitarist with Bloc Party, but as a solo artist he's also explored electronic beats and on The Flames Pt. 1 released in 2021, looped electric guitar. On The Flames Pt. 2 the relationship between the see-sawing, percussive guitar sounds, and bass lines is more angular – 'He Was Never The Same Again' sounds like it's about to spin out of control. The structures are skeletal but the vocal melodies are strong and Okereke's incisive songwriting explores injustice. 'True Love Knows No Death' is inspired by walking around his neighbourhood, seeing the societal misfits there, and empathising but feeling powerless to help. MB


Alasdair Roberts
Grief In The Kitchen And Mirth In The Hall
Drag City DC862CD; LP: DC862

For 25 years Glasgow-based singer and guitarist Alasdair Roberts' recorded output has been a singular marriage of traditional and contemporary song forms. His vocal lines and guitar playing on 'The Wonderful Grey Horse' sounds like something from the back catalogue of Bert Jansch or Martin Carthy, but Roberts spins the tale of a super-equine, telling of its time in the Ark and its exploits at the siege of Carthage and notes that it still has work to do. The piano-based 'The Lichtbob's Lassie' borrows the tune from 'I Know Where I'm Going', and other highlights include the cautionary 'The Convict Maid' and the mysterious, metaphorical 'Bonny Moorhen'. MB