Rock, September 2023

hfnalbum.pngDo Nothing
Snake Sideways
Exact Truth DNLJ007CD; LP: DNLJ00712

By 2021, Nottingham's Do Nothing had released a number of acclaimed EPs and singles, but then vocalist Chris Bailey got writer's block. Not that you would realise that from this dazzling debut album. Like many current indie bands Do Nothing feed off the energy of late '70s post-punk, but their songwriting has reached another level in its melodic and structural twists and turns. Theirs is a lean sound, with a more subtle balance now between Bailey's vocals and Kasper Sandstrøm's dissonant guitar, while Andy Harrison drums imaginatively throughout. Bailey's cryptic lyrics have been described as 'nonsensical' but he sings them with such confidence that any lack of understanding feels like it's your problem. MB


The Church
The Hypnogogue
Easy Action EARS156; LP: EARS156LP

Formed in Sydney in 1980, The Church were one of the decade's foremost psychedelic guitar bands. They had international success with 1988's Starfish, but have since tended to slip under the radar. Whether The Hypnogogue – a 65-minute concept album set in a dystopian future in which dreams feed straight into music – will reverse that trend remains to be seen, but it's a return to top form, a seductive set full of strangeness and intrigue, with plenty to unravel. 'Who imagined you?' Steve Kilbey sings on 'Succulent', his voice set within billowing, panoramic guitars and textural keyboards, which are typically sumptuous, but also tinged with darkness. MB


Rival Sons
Parlophone 0075678626593; LP: 0075678625817

Jay Buchanan of Grammy-nominated Californian hard rock four-piece Rival Sons says that Darkfighter represents both cultural division in the US and the 'preservation of joy' after the pandemic. One can broadly see what he means. On the complex, turbulent 'Mirrors', his singing and Scott Holiday's jackknifing riffs nod back to Led Zeppelin, a tack continued on the ominous 'Nobody Wants To Die'. But 'Bright Light' and 'Rapture', with its delicious guitar hook, have an anthemic feel. These threads combine on the mini-epic 'Darkside', which begins with strummed acoustic guitar and soulful vocals, and peaks with guitar chords of weapons-grade heaviness. MB


The Feminine Divine
100% Records 100CD133; LP: 100LP133

Here, Dexys' singer Kevin Rowland ponders his relationship with femininity. He's in fine voice throughout and the music moves from string-swathed ballads to the synthesised funk of 'My Goddess Is', to the horn-powered 'The One That Loves', where he takes a kind of chivalric oath. On 'It's Alright Kevin (Manhood 2023)' he engages in a Q&A session with the backing singers and on the title track it seems like he has only just realised the power of women, prompting a female vocalist's sarcastic rejoinders, 'Well, now you know'. It's a compelling set, although it's often difficult to tell the difference between what's humorous and what's serious. MB