Patrick Lew's side project Steel Lions and their album Unfinished Relics is reviewed.

Music comes in many forms. Some of the best has been that which has been made off the cuff. Jimi Hendrix and Cream were masters of just standing around jamming and some of the finest tracks these artists ever made came in such circumstances. And still, what is often erroneously referred to as "lo-fi" can often be remarkably sophisticated, stripped down to the barest essentials and reliant entirely on the skills and talent of the artists.
Then again, unless you have talent and really know what you are doing you can make a horrible mess of things. Steel Lions open their album, Unfinished Relics, subtitled Demos, Odds and Ends, with something which approaches the latter. "I Believe" is a horrible way to open an album. The vocals are horrendously out of tune; the music is just thrash, thrash with no style or finesse. Come on, guys, if you want to get people to listen to your music you have to entice them in, not insult their intelligence.
The second track, "Friend Zoned (The Catfish Song)" is better, but perhaps that is only because it is an instrumental with sampled voices and outtakes from what seem like TV programmes. But at least you can tell that, musically at least, they can play. Then again "Sexy Boy" is one of those songs which should never have been written, or rather should never have seen the light of day. We have all come up with stupid lyrics when we've been hammered down the pub but most of us have had the good sense not to try and make anything of them when we have sobered up next morning. Still, the song does confirm two things. First, these guys can play. Second, the vocalist can't sing. And therein ends almost all I have to say about the vocals and the lyrics. To say too much more would be labouring a point alrady made.
The consequence is that the instrumentals (or instrumental passages) sound better. "Shame for a Name" is a case in point. What is interesting is that these guys seem quite prepared to expierment with different styles and tones. "Asian Girls" has a sixties feel to it at the start, with tinny guitars and an organ that comes straight out of bubblegum pop. "The Lover That Failed" has a slumbering, loose riff to start backed by what sounds like a train coming in from a distance, whereas "Window to the World" has an eighties jangly guitar to start with.
The thing is, almost all of the tracks start well. It sounds promising and makes you anticipate what is coming. Then the vocals start and that ruins everything. And therein lies the whole problem. Musically this is good in places but it is frankly unlistenable as an album. Several times I hit the skip button rather than listen to the vocals. And yet, when the albums ends with a cover of the Who's "My Generation" there are moments when it almost comes together, including the vocals. Maybe they can do it, after all. I am not sure if this is a vanity project or if the vocalist was drunk when he made this. Either way, it is not something I would recommend to anyone to listen to.

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