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Album Review: Darlia – Candyman EP

 
By on Monday, 21st April 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Darlia aren’t known for reinventing the wheel. In fact, they’re known for doing things by halves; half ball-busting rock riffs and husky vowels over arpeggiated melodies. And, so it is that the three boys from Blackpool return with a collection of tracks that can be defined by their relative diversity within this occasionally prescriptive spectrum. The timing of their latest EP ‘Candyman’, released last week on B-Unique Records, means that any prospective degree of success could serve as a potent fuel to the band’s festival prospects, having already signed up for the likes of Rock Am Ring, Great Escape and 2000 Trees.

‘Candyman’ (stream it below) starts bombastically; a mess of durgy power chords and high tension squeals that creates a rush of anticipation akin to the anticipation after uttering the famous title phrase 3 times in the mirror. In tried and true Darlia style, there is a significant tonal shift between the beef of the riff, and the jangling quorn of the verse.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOqUVCFd6XM[/youtube]

Think A on the likes of ‘Nothing’; it is a complex tapestry, but one that has been stitched together with some accomplishment. The chorus is a catchy cacophony of rousing choral tropes backed by more meathead chords. But it is let down somewhat by a second vocal layer thrust so high in to the mix that it detracts from the main impetus. The solo sticks flaccidly to the top end of the neck, leaning back into a classic rock groove that fits with the overall flow but will not melt your face off. The track calls time with another round of chorus, pushing the limit of vocal reverb so much that it sounds as though it is being played from the back of a truck speeding past at 100 mph.

The second number, ‘Animal Kingdom’, is an altogether sunnier affair, still tinged with a kind of ‘Black Hole Sun’ quirkiness derived from an almost aquatic secondary guitar tone. Both tracks possess a singalong quality, but in such disparate ways. ‘Animal Kingdom’ attempts to inspire emotion in it’s irreverence, but ends up being almost irritatingly non-committal. This is highlighted by the spaghetti western solo, which seems to come from nowhere but is at the same time one of the most endearing and clear elements of unique character.

A rolling bass line comes to the fore on final track ‘Blood Money’. It is a track for the rhythm section purists, with verses supported by neat flourishes by Jack Bentham on the skins, creating an original beat with a cute little skip to it. Sadly, the rest of the number veers towards a kind of self-indulgent, fractious anarchy in the mould of The Vines, that cites it as the weakest of the three.

Overall, this EP is a bit like climbing into a steaming hot shower, only for your deaf nan to go and switch on the cold tap at the kitchen sink; it leaves you wet, exposed and just a little confused. The title track bears all the hallmarks of previous releases that have hiked the band up by the belt buckle to where they now dwell. But, ‘Animal Kingdom’ and ‘Blood Money’ feel like an experiment designed to find the answer to a question that didn’t need asking. Darlia don’t do dull. If they stick to massive riffs, melodic verses and a hint of wild-eyed warbling, then they’ll do just fine.

5/10 (7 for ‘Candyman’)

Darlia’s latest EP ‘Candyman’ is out now on B-Unique Records. As described by our Martin back in February here, the band will be making high-profile appearances at Liverpool Sound City, Live at Leeds and the Great Escape in May 2014.

 

(Urban 2014 festivals flavoured!) Bands to Watch: Circa Waves, Courtney Barnett, Darlia, Dolomite Minor, Marika Hackman

 
By on Tuesday, 4th February 2014 at 11:00 am
 

As if to celebrate a communal emergence from a very Dry January, this week three of TGTF’s favourite city-based festivals revealed great chunks of lineup. Live at Leeds and Liverpool Sound City take place on the same May bank holiday weekend, although Leeds is really only a one-dayer, whereas Liverpool treats its weary punters to the full 3-day marathon. And southerners don’t miss out either, as a week later the entire PR population of London decamps their beards and designer handbags to Brighton’s The Great Escape. For some, it’s a holiday, for others, well, they’ll need a holiday afterwards. [Having done both Sound City and Great Escape back to back 2 years in a row, I concur with the latter. – Ed.]

Like the artists themselves, for instance. There’s only so many buzz bands to go round of course, but at the time of writing already five hardy acts are lined up to play at all three events. Here we take a quick look at each and try to determine exactly why they’ve been picked to play three big shows in a week.

Liverpool’s Circa Waves (pictured at top) may well have heard the odd Libertines album in their time (and there were one or two odd ones!): the frantically strummed guitars and the big, melodic choruses have just the right amount of familiarity for them to sound like old friends already; the addition of a pronounced Liverpudlian twang in the vocal delivery of ‘Get Away’ adds a welcome point of differentiation from the seminal Londoners. Similarly, ‘Good For Me’ carries more than a hint of The Strokes’ ‘Last Nite’, although forsaking the latter’s bone-dry retro production for a wider, more modern sound. The big question is, are they more than the sum of their parts, or simply destined to follow paths that others first trod over a decade ago? No doubt their live show will provide the answer.

The we come to Melburnian slacker chick Courtney Barnett, famed for her Dylan-esquely-meandering autobiographical ditties. ‘Avant Gardener’, in its baggy groove and surreal, stream-of-consciousness take on a medical emergency, sounds nothing less than if Shaun Ryder had happened to be an Australian woman and was produced by Beck. Stranger things have happened. But there’s more than just a swaying rhythm and a clever turn of phrase to this antipodean artisan: her debut collection ‘A Sea Of Split Peas’ displays an enviable depth and maturity: being no stranger to a 5-minute epic, something like ‘Anonymous Club’ showcases Barnett’s ability to turn down the tempo and bring out a more circumspect, even sombre, mood, all led by her gently vulnerable voice. Truly a talent deserving of a wider audience – and these three gigs will provide that.

If you spend your nights lying awake trying to decide which flavour of rock you like better – the big, heavy, riffy version with screamed vocals, or the more jangly, melodic stuff with at least vaguely recognisable lyrics, then I’m pleased to say you can sleep easier from now on – Darlia from Blackpool have locked both styles in a negotiating room, not letting them emerge until they agreed on some sort of uneasy musical truce. Despite its portentous title, ‘Napalm’ even goes a bit garage-rock in the middle eight, before the Metal Zone pedal is stamped on again and the riffage re-emerges. It’s doubtful that this is a tribute to Napalm Death, who in comparison make this lot sound like a nursery singalong, but it powers along nicely in its own punk-pop-metal way. There are hints of Green Day here, although Darlia come nowhere close to knocking out the sort of world-class melodies that Billie Joe and Co lose down the back of the sofa. Indeed, on occasion, such as on recent single ‘Queen Of Hearts’ from the Knock Knock EP, the light/heavy contrasts don’t sit easily together at all. Much as there’s no demand for a lemon meringue pork pie, I wonder whether metalheads might dismiss Darlia as too lightweight to admit to liking, whilst the riffs might scare off the mainstream audience that bought so many copies of ‘American Idiot’. Time will tell.

Dolomite Minor also do heavy, but theirs is the weight of a fuzzbox, lashings of spring reverb, a repetitive, loping groove, and handfuls of late-60s/early-70s proto-hard rock attitude. There’s a touch of psychedelia too, but they don’t venture far enough away from their riffs to really earn the epithet. And what they carry in musical weight they absolutely drop down the toilet in terms of lyrical sophistication. From ‘Let Me Go’: “The sun goes up / the sun comes down / everyone goes out on the town”, and ‘Microphone’: “Go get her a microphone / all she needs is a gramophone”. There’s a lot of “Spoon on the Moon in June” going on here. With a tune. To be fair to them, fancy-pants lyrics are not the point here: a fey singer-songwriter might have a bunch of clever words, but do they have an industrial revolution guitar riff and drums than could kill a pigeon? No. They’re from Southampton, and so are Band Of Skulls, and they play a Gretsch guitar, and so do Band Of Skulls, which are of course just a couple of big coincidences and in no way has one influenced the other. No sirree. Nevertheless, as the latest in a long line of two-piece teenage riffmeisters, nobody could accuse Dolomite Minor of poor timing. There must be a lot of unemployed bassists out there.

And so we come to Marika Hackman, who has featured in TGTF a number of times before; the Brighton-based singer-songwriter and sometime model knocks out pieces of delicate fragility and open-hearted honesty, sometimes bordering on gruesome realmusik (see ‘Cannibal’ from 2013’s ‘That Iron Taste’ mini-album). Mary caught the end of her very popular show at The Great Escape last year, a very sparse affair with Hackman accompanied by just her acoustic guitar. Let’s hope she’s expanded her live palette somewhat this year: a good part of the joy held within her recorded material are the entirely self-played arrangements – ramshackle at times – that add depth and groove to the idiosyncratic song structures.

There we have it – five artists “doing the triple” of urban festivals this May. There will be more lineup announcements between now and then, and if any more acts end up playing all three festivals, we’ll feature those too – but what more incentive could you need?

 
 
 

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