CD Reviews


Over the past three years, Leeds’s Sturdy Records has quietly built up a reputation as one of the brightest new independent labels in the country. Without adhering to any particular genre, it has endeavoured to shine a light into some of its home city’s stranger, spikier pop corners – amongst its findings being Post War Glamour Girls, The Wind-up Birds, The Seven Inches and Downdime.

By Hook or By Crook, then, is a celebration not just of the label, but of the breadth of talent in Leeds at the moment. None of its 12 tracks have been widely released before, and many of them have been recorded especially for the compilation. Here’s a rundown:

T.O.Y.S ‘When I Was a T.O.Y’ – something of an indie supergroup, taking in members of Manhattan Love Suicides, The Acutes and Downdime. T.O.Y.S make a glorious noise with fuzz bass and tiny keyboards through huge amps, kicking things off in suitably rollicking style

The World Service ‘Katherine’ – a very new combo who have been compared to Belle & Sebastian, Trembling Blue Stars and the Cocteau Twins, chiming in here with a slice of oboe-powered ‘60s melancholia

The Wind-up Birds ‘Two Ambulance Day’ – flagship Sturdy act with a brand new piece of darkly funny post-punk miserablism, hot on the heels of acclaimed debut LP ‘The Land’ – not to mention new single ‘The Mild Awards’, out on the same day as this compilation!

The Seven Inches ‘A Letter’ – the latest addition to the Sturdy roster, this is an exclusive preview of the debut album from these indiepop legends – the rest hopefully to follow in 2013. Meanwhile, ‘Peruvian Poncho’, another brand new single, will also be out the same day as the compilation!

Men Only ‘Summer Girls’ – a great piece of poignant janglepop, included here as a tribute to Pete Sykes, Men Only’s singer/guitarist (also guitarist with This Many Boyfriends) who tragically died last year.

Racket Ball ‘When They Walked In (live)’ – an electronic tour-de-force of irascible lyrical ennui, brilliantly delivered and expertly timed. This is what The Fall would sound like now if Smith had looked after himself.

The Birthday Kiss ‘Choking’ – Swoonsome, driving pop melodrama. The Birthday Kiss is an amalgam of what used to be The Lodger, enhanced by the golden tonsils of Sarah Williams who eagle-eyed readers may remember from The Research.

The French Defence ‘Comedy’ – The French Defence is Owen Lloyd who, when he’s not propping up The World Service, is a purveyor of gorgeous, angry acoustic heartbreak like this.

Loqui ‘We Drown on Dry Land’ – the band that started it all, Loqui were the first-ever Sturdy release back in 2009. Featuring guest lyrics and vocals from The Wind-up Birds’ Paul Ackroyd, this bodes well for the debut album should they ever get round to finishing it…

Downdime ‘In Space’ – one of the most loved bands to have come out of Leeds’ DIY indie scene in the past decade, Downdime have graced the rosters of legendary labels like Squirrel and Dufflecoat with some quite brilliant Pavement/Sonic Youth/Grandaddy slacker pop. Next stop? A single on Sturdy in 2013, naturally.

This Many Boyfriends ‘Young Lovers Go Pop (original demo)’ – It’s been a thrill to watch TMB grow from their noisy, shambolic (but still brilliant) routes into a proper pop band, now about to release their debut LP on Angular Records. This is the previously unreleased first version of their breakthrough indiepop hit.

Post War Glamour Girls ‘Ghost in the Tape Recorder’ – PWGG released their first single through us barely a year ago, since which time their rise has been stratospheric and deserved. Expect the debut album on Sturdy in 2013, if nobody else snaps them up in the meantime…


When I first heard about She's Got Claws, the electro-pop solo artist from Hull, I immediately started thinking about how she would compare to the likes of Little Boots and Goldfrapp, as you do. But then, reading more into her biography, it reveals a whole host of influences, including Gary Newman, Air, Ladytron and Kraftwerk. But what sets She's Got Claws apart from these influences, as you'll hear throughout her self-titled debut album, is that she brings much more to the table than that, making each track her own.

Forbidden, with its slightly reminiscent Drowning In Berlin/The Mobiles (1982) drum beat, sets the mood brilliantly with fantastic keys and lyrics. Fake follows, with a fabulous opening, grabbing you immediately with its whirling, space age keys, not letting go until the final beat. Blind slows things down a little, but the keys and vocals are still compelling. Always follows, in much the same tempo, but with a less aggressive, more dreamlike quality. My Siren echoes the likes of Gary Newman, with, in my view, an affectionate nod to Pet Shop Boys/Left To My Own Devices. Wonderful. Louder Than Bombs, no relation to The Smiths compilation of the same name, has an amazing vocal and melody you'll be carrying around in your head for days and weeks to come, even after the first listen. Tell Me has a great psychedelic feel to it, while Cry For An Angel brings the influences back into the fold, with maybe even some early to mid, Depeche Mode-esque flavourings. Dreams In Cold Storage brings this incredible album to a close, reminding me a little of Dead Disco/Little Boots, but very much more She's Got Claws.

It's hard to believe that this divine album was created in, of all places, a bedroom studio, as the quality has top flight written all over it. A major achievement from a real talent. It would be a crime to ignore it.

Available as a download from June 25th, 2012 from all top online retailers, including iTunes, Amazon, Napster and Spotify.

Written by Kevin Petch


A new Captain Wilberforce long player is always welcome, though it's not a wise idea to hold one's breath as, sadly, they don't come around all that often. But here it is in all its glory and it was certainly worth the wait.

'A Beautiful Waste of Time' is an incredible song to kick off with. It's got the lot. A dream opening, sublime cello parts, fabulous harmonies and a killer chorus. A cross between a more upbeat Cherry Ghost and the very best The Beatles had to offer, is how I would describe it. '... In Hell' has plenty of surprises up its sleeve, while 'Your Imaginary Friends' has a spaghetti western style guitar feel to it. Oh, and that cello is back again. Sheer bliss. 'Get Hurt' takes us off in a completely different direction, but still works, with great lyrics, quirky keyboard and sizzling guitar. 'The Day Your Mouth Stood Still' has a cracking beat to it. 'Baby Girl' is a beautifully written song about the break-up of a relationship, complete with a down in the dumps horn section. 'Los Angeles' has a nice upbeat feel to it, before 'Me and Your Mother (Before You Were Born)' is probably the kind of song George Harrison would have been writing, if he was still with us today. Heavy sigh. 'This Little Miracle' has a quasi 1960s pop opening to it, before revealing it's exquisite guitar parts. 'She's My Kryptonite' ends this album in great style, Catchy, instantly likeable, and with very nice harmonies.

Hey, all you proper music lovers out there. This album needs to be in your collection NOW!!

Written by Kevin Petch


After just over a year as a solo artist, Mr Gary C has certainly come a long way, especially in 2010, which has seen him sharing the bill with the likes of Tom Hingley (Inspiral Carpets) and Mungo Jerry. Most importantly, though, sees the release of his first EP. So how did he fare? Well …

A LITTLE BIT EASIER grabs you immediately with its Stephane Grappelli style violin opening, a trait which repeats itself throughout, giving a warm glow to the heart. The lyric conjures up a knowing smile as this thought provoking song asks, in a nutshell, what would we do without a handful of true friends in our lives?

COME ON OVER TONIGHT has a great, upbeat jazz feel to it, with masterful bass and drum from the outset, closely followed by an exquisite jazz guitar sound, which again gives the feeling that, not only are we in the presence of a great song writing talent here, but highly accomplished musicians too. Together they make the whole thing sound like a great night in!

A TALE TO BE TOLD slows things down for the final track on this EP, but the quality remains at the highest level. Telling the story of being let down really badly by the people around us, Mr Gary C delivers a fine vocal, ably assisted on backing vocals by Gemma Tilley (Jack and Gill’s Daughter), who is a major talent in her own right.

I cannot recommend this EP highly enough. Three tracks, beautifully arranged, performed and recorded - and out now on CD and download.

Essential listening!!

Written by Michael Hills