Keep It Quiet / Glide On By - single reviewed in Louder Than War
"...a little like a street glam swaggering Bob Dylan on the mighty fine Keep It Quiet. Glide On By, their snappy second contribution, made me think of Cockney Rebel, which is pretty good going by my reckoning. All of which marks them out as an act to keep a firm eye on."
See the piece (on the Eigth Wave Big Stir Singles CD) here
Radio Safe/No Kicks - single - reviewed in Smelly Flowerpot Blog
"There’s a certain irony in the new release from The Speed of Sound, another band that have been quietly releasing (as in ignored by mainstream radio?) for many years. The irony being that lead track
‘Radio Safe’, a jibe at the dull playlisted banality of commercial radio, is one of the most accessible and catchy records they’ve released. For a band based in the North West of England, there’s always been a touch of US Punk/New Wave about them, especially in the vocal delivery of John Armstrong, which falls somewhere between Joey Ramone and Lou Reed. Despite being acoustically driven, it bursts out the speakers and its barbs against not just radio, but the large media organisations that feed them, hit the spot. ‘No Kicks’ is equally vital, an energetic romp with the lyrics sung by Ann-Marie Crowley bemoaning a lack of action that leads to a night of boredom. Cracking stuff".
see the piece here
Radio Safe/No Kicks - single - reviewed in Rock At Night
Mancunian band The Speed of Sound, famous for their retro 60s mod sound, released two singles on “lucky” Friday the 13th. I have to say “lucky” because these two songs really perked up my Friday! Staying true to their roots, this socially conscious band tackles culture, corporatism, and mainstream media with their two new singles “Radio Safe” and “No Kicks”.
“Radio Safe” kicks off with a catchy guitar riff, rhythmic clapping, and a snappy 60s drum beat. John Armstrong immediately points to Universal, Sony, and Warner’s affinity toward bland, tepid, music that is churned out for the sake of money. Radio stations play “radio safe, radio friendly” as commodities as the song begs, “We are not artists!” The catchy chorus features great harmonies between Ann-Marie Crowley and Armstrong, as they sing, “This is not radio safe, this is not radio friendly, this is not radio repeat, this is not radio boredom (radio boredom) radio boredom.”
What I always love about The Speed of Sound is their biting messages are almost hidden in the catchy tunes, as this toe-tapping melody will keep your ears buzzing.
“No Kicks” begins with Crowley’s Debbie-Harry-ish voice describing how she’s stuck in the house, waiting for that someone to call, saying “If you are not here, I can’t get no kicks.” Listening to the lyrics makes me think of all the mundane boredom we’ve been suffering through this pandemic. As one listens, the meaning gets deeper, as it appears the person is waiting, being taken for granted, and strung along emotionally. The upbeat song is catchy and the chorus is lush, with its nod to 80’s New Wave (think B52s).
See the piece here
Rock At Night Print Edition: Fall 2020:
"Of all the angles, colours, shades, clouts clangs and dances that have given life to Manchester music since the advent of punk, none have felt or tasted quite the same as The Speed Of Sound. With a history over 30 years deep and a smattering of musicians adding up to - and beyond - 18, Speed Of Sound have remained a vibrant scream from the Manchester shadows.
It HAS to be a scream, too, at times literally so, for this perennial Manchester outsider band. Now deep into middle age, the lovely intelligent and softly spoken people who take refuge within this band explode into life when their feet hit the stage.
I recall a gig three years ago at Manchester's funky-if-not-downbeat Thirsty Scholar. Sitting chatting within the wicker-lined interior, we chatted as they unpacked their gear, carefully lying their guitars to rest before studiously replying to my measured questions.
As the set began, they instantly transformed into some kind of weird raging torrent. John Armstrong slashing an arm viciously across his guitar while Ann-Marie Crowley vocals howled as an untamed banshee. I swear that a gaggle of attendees, seasoned punks to man and woman took two steps back in disbelief. In that modest arena, it became one of the most spectacular gigs I had witnessed for decades.
Around that time, I received a copy of their sumptuous double album, Everything Changes. It proved to be a gorgeous product, this, especially in vinyl format, where the main affair was accompanied by an additional 10 song CD. Essentially therefore, that rare beast, the 'double album' and a most intriguing one at that. Fear not, this is no Frampton Comes Alive where the entire career hinges on a gimmick-laden, video friendly head bug of a song. Although bugs do abound and kind of twist your brain with repeated plays, offering visions of, I guess, Whalley Range or thereabouts.
The beautiful cover features four photographic tints of what looks like a Manchester park and a stunning marble statue on the reverse. There is more: A lyric-heavy inner-sleeve neatly overlays undoctored images of the band who also appear cartoon-esque on a separate sheet and - more, more again - a neat A4 glossy poster insert. I do apologise if this initial talk of packaging might seem rather crass, as I mean no disrespect. What is important here is that the parade of artwork and extraordinary care built into it reflects the equal care embedded in the music.
What I particularly adored about this album is the unlikely relationship between the languid New York style vocals of songwriter John. Armstrong and the infectious evocative bass of Kevin Roache. It is a marriage that governs the album recalling - for me at least - a rather bizarre cocktail of Television / The Only Ones, Henry Crow and, when Ann-Marie Crowley's vocals kick in, touches of 'Meet On The Ledge' circa Fairport. The comparisons might seem lazy, but this is precisely where the album sits...oh, perhaps with elements of off-kilter John Marty. Maybe...maybe, definitely.
In 2018, there followed a further extraordinary slap of vinyl. A single this time, in support of Manchester Women's Aid. A double-A-side of two songs "I'm Real" and " I Don't Want Your Attentions", both ferociously exploding with feministic intent... and both written by John Armstrong. While the song titles may seem self explanatory, the jagged edges of the lyric certainly snagged on unexpected territory. "I won't put up with this anymore you've pushed me near the edge, every time I see you I want to get away, I just wish you were dead."
John Armstrong is an enigma; Perhaps Manchester's greatest, squealing form under the floorboards. Interviewing him is, itself, a curiously beguiling task.
I ask him about his writing... he replies: "There's a literary approach in my writing, partly because of writing about actual things rather than generic stuff. There are enough people writing predictable pop songs already. We need more songs about a ship full of toxic waste or a mannequin tied to a pub roof or the ring road in Rio de Janeiro. I am trying to find something that interests me. Something that won't be boring in ten years". As carefully posed question...are Speed Of Sound comfortable with being tagged 'outsiders'? "Very much Outsiders." He replies. "We are not interested in the music business, labels fashions and trends and didn't start making music to end up of the cover of Smash Hits or being a major label signing. All this people who have played with The Speed Of Sound over the decades make music because this is what they do. The industry is about 'product'. The sound, the textures is irrelevant to record companies. Whereas we are simply doing it for the music which is the other way around to the mainstream. Doing it our way gives us a level of artistic control that is impossible in the major label world. I am happy with that."
A new album edges towards completion. Themes will edge towards sci-fi in a typically off-kilter manner. Shots will emerge before the album release, in Spring 2021, in the form of planned singles. But of course, this being 2020, nothing is ever going to be nailed onto anything. This is the uncertain world in which we live.
Bu Speed Of Sound remain elegantly adrift, from anything and everything."
"...combining psychedelic folk-rock with a spike angularity informed by the post punk era..." Bliss/Aquamarine
Glide On By: reviewed in 'Jammerzine' - "We have a sneak-peek of things to come; ands this things are original. The style and sound are quirky and original in that way that is The Speed Of Sound, yet therenis something more here. There is that feeling of coasting and free fall within the music trapped in the lyrics. This is that new inner dystopia found in us all."
You'll find the whole piece here
Bliss/Aquamarine review of The Speed Of Sound 30th Anniversary Scoop CD:
The link is here
There Once Was A Note review of The Speed Of Sound 30th Anniversary Scoop CD
There Once Was A Note new single review - I See You/Seen It All Before
Louder Than War new single review - I'm Real/I Don't want Your Attentions
Manchester's The Speed Of Sound have been crafting their genre-melting underground alternative sound (New Wave post punk blood powered by a heartbeat of 60's influences) for nearly 30 years now, a time frame which may have seen progression for women but, as they themselves seek to address with this latest release, we have a long way to go. Their new double-A-side single "I'm Real / I Don't Want Your Attentions" has been created to mark the 100th anniversary of
suffrage for women, whilst addressing the issues facing women in the modern world. Recorded at VoltaLab in Rochdale (previously The Cargo, a legendary studio with an impressive post-punk history), the video was filmed in the parlour of Emmeline Pankhurst's old home, now the Pankhurst Centre (all profits from this release also go to the Pankhurst Centre and Manchester Women's Aid and have drawn heavy influence from sources like Charlotte Newson's "Women Like You" exhibition). As ever John Armstrong has also shown that he really knows how to craft an ear-grabbing melody with both of these songs. "I Don't Want Your Attentions" sees vocalist Ann-Marie Crowley singing in a fashion both despondent and defiant about sexual harassment in the workplace, whereas "I'm Real" deals with the brutal subject of a possessive relationship. The language used as Crowley tries to articulate all the doll-like things she isn't reinforces the problem of the traditionally feminine whilst kicking against them. Both songs have a jangly indie feel which to a casual listener has a sense of optimism: the perfect hook to grab attention before pulling in the listener with the hard hitting issues at hand. Speed Of Sound clearly want us to reconsider the wider representation of women - in history, in social politics, in modern homes and workplaces, and yes, with the music industry - in a fashion that is accessible and far reaching. Their long term DIY spirit is full of anti-conventions and the way industry women should be portrayed is another part of that. The objectification of women in popular music, they claim, is part of the problem. "I Don't Want Your Attentions' and "I'm Real," are both excellent, melodic indie records. But it is the bold and defiant way that they tackle what the band sees as a lack of social progression which means everyone really ought to sit up and take notice of what The Speed Of Sound Have To Say.
the link is here
Live review - Sounds Magazine:
The Speed Of Sound, one of the most exciting, long-lasting and innovative bands on the Manchester underground, open the night with a storming set. They begin with their signature tune 'Shut All The Clubs', lead single from their acclaimed 206 album release 'Everything Changes', and a hit with listeners of Manchester and Salford's numerous underground radio shows. with it's lyrics' biting attack on gentrification and the authorities shameless erosion of subcultural lifestyles, it s a real anthem fir the culturally oppressed in this day and age. Lead singer and guitarist John Armstrong's distinctive vocal delivery and guitar style get the music off to a swinging start, complimented by the infectious bass grooves of bassist Kevin Roache, percussion from co-vocalist Ann-Marie Crowley and the drum rhythms from Anthony Edwards, standing in tonight for regular drummer Paul Worthington while he takes a break from the band.
The band follow with a selection of tunes from the aforementioned album, Armstrong and Crowley swapping vocal duties between songs. Armstrong is a powerful frontman, his modest but lively showmanship and Bryan Ferrr-esque vocal style guiding the band smoothly through a set that never becomes dull or repetitive. Their music shows distinctive traces of New york Art Rock and No Wave, often verging on the experimental and psychedelic while never losing its melody or infectious catchiness. Ann-Marie Crowley, herself an understated heroine of the Manchester underground with her previous role as lead singer of Poppycock, is an artist you can not help but respect, her vocals on such songs as 'The Moment Is Now' at times evocative of Nico with traces of Chrissie Hynde, her stage presence modest and unassuming yet powerful in its very humbleness. The band is about great art and infectious avant-garde pop without the ego or posturing that often comes with bands obsessed with hitting the big-time. The band's sound is very strong on both new and old songs, ads well as the two cover versions, of The Flirtations 'Nothing But A Heartache' and their lively cover of The Primitives 'Crash'. Their set is brought to a close by a striking performance of their 1989 song 'Glide On By'.
The full piece is here
Review of Everything Changes in Bliss/Aquamarine:
An exciting, energetic style and a strong DIY underground attitude, blending the more angular side of 1980s indie music and post-punk with aspects of psych and garage rock. Shut all the Clubs is spiky post-punk. Maid of the Grey is off-centre psych-pop with a raw, garagey sensibility and a catchy, tuneful chorus - really brilliant stuff. Little Miss Restless is an inventive take on 80s-ish indie pop, bringing in soaring flute which adds a dreamlike atmosphere partway between psychedelia and classical music. Always Seems to Fall is melancholic and tuneful indie pop offset by a raw, metallic guitar sound. Chalk Circle is intense, dark and on-edge, blending elements of post-punk, indie pop and vintage style rock. The Changes is a prime slice of underground rock, balancing spiky abrasiveness with a strong sense of melody. Limited to 350 hand numbered copies, this is a great album from a band I'm keen to hear more from. Link is here
Everything Changes album review by Mick Middles in Sounds:
The Speed Of Sound - Everything Changes album review on Bob Osborne's Aural Delights blog:
“It is hard to find a neat little genre box to put this band into, which is always a good thing. The songs are lead by hooky guitar sounds which are both 60s & post-punk
in their sound. John Armstrongs’ vocals have an early Zimmerman edge to them, the lyrics are both rich & complex, & Anne Marie’s vocals add a haunting cinematic feel to the songs. Kevin Roache, bass, & Paul Worthington, drums, provide a sympathetic and driving rhythm section. You’ll find a lot of good things here, & it’s great to hear Anne-Marie taking the lead role especially on the excellent “The Moment Is Now” which has a great pop feel & sounds like something Dusty Springfield would have sung in her pomp. The variety on this album is impressive, with nods to a Californian sound at times, epecially the occasional snippets of Stills/Young guitar breaks. This album has all of the elements of great Manchester pop as well, you will have to invest time in it, as it deserves to be listened to as a whole, Quality stuff!”
You can read the whole article on the current Manchester scene here
The Speed Of Sound - Shut All The Clubs in Music Is My Radar blog: ...Manchester Alt-Rock maestros The speed Of Sound with their striking new single released 28th March Originally gigging around the late 80's and early 90's this Manchester act has sprung back to live in recent years and are certainly making up for lost time. Now back in the original male/female vocal arrangement, this foursome combine spiky guitars with perfectly executed vocal harmonies with this excellent track. 2016 looks set to bring many rewards with album plans and plenty of live dates, The Speed Of Sound showing the young kids how its done and succeeding!
The piece on their site is here
Review of Shut All The Clubs by Starlight Music Chronicles:
...I am immediately drawn to say that this has a Johnny Marr (The Smiths) vibe happening. The instrumentation in this is carefully organized and I don't know if Armstrong realizes that he is giving off the Johnny vibe or not in his vocal ability but it's THERE! The lyrics are a feel-god vibe (similar to Marr) with post-punk finesse. I had the privilege of seeing Johnny live at the Starlite Room in Edmonton in December of 2014 and loved him! I feel that anyone who can pull off this kind of vibe similarly (as The Speed Of Sound has done here) automatically has my attention and admiration...I would highly recommend this band to those wanting to listen to a true Brit sound and to hear something new!
You can read the whole piece here
Excerpt from an interview in 'Rock At Night':
'Unsigned and Independent' have a review of the Checkered Land video
We have been checking out this video from The Speed Of Sound here in our office this afternoon. Latent shoegazer touches in the sound give it a very determined feel that languishes over the playing in a rather inspired way. Here there is a volume about it all that demands to be taken seriously. It hints at that throughout the way the play cleanly develops and the deeper context of the lyrics imbue it with an undertone that draws upon everything finely.
Their website is here this was posted on 10Feb2015, so you'll need to change the site calendar to see it in the stream.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hear a merger between Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Lou Reed?... The vocals are dark and melancholy - they have an intense quality that makes me stop everything I'm doing and just listen. The music surrounding the words pulls me along like a tide, making me drift away from reality without feeling that I have an option...
Read the whole thing here Here