Friday, 24 August 2012

SONE INSTITUTE – A MODEL LIFE (FRONT AND FOLLOW)


SONE INSTITUTE – A MODEL LIFE (FRONT AND FOLLOW)

The second full length album from Sone Institute is a grand proposition building on the momentum of his first record Curious Memories and bringing a whole new bag of tricks to proceedings.  A Model Life is a far reaching and all encompassing collection of crashing harmonious sounds engaging in the manner of the finest music library.

Sone Institute is the product from the mind of Roman Bezdyk, a modern composer and arranger exhibiting a vibrant fountain of music knowledge.  These lush, sweet sounds are the kind of easy listening gestures that point to a calm but exotic life well lived.

Making its mark early the record opens with what appears to be an old school acid rock freak out that seems to be occurring in a bingo hall on the fantastically titled “Witchcraft And Pornography”.  It is a gesture that gets repeated at the end on “Fear And Happiness” also.  However between there and here a large amount of sonic soil is covered.

All in all with its vocal samples and verbose offerings of logic, Sone Institute provides a sound similar to current darlings Public Broadcasting Service in addition to a clear concordance to Broadcast.  And on the whole there is a general feel of it being some kind of lost treasure that Jonny Trunk might find covered in dust in an archive.  Like the suspense and swing of “Frozen Leaves – Falling From Leaves” cause me to think of a Lalo Schifrin workout.

It is the track “Struck By A Rock” that takes the prize.  This is a truly astounding and levelling piece of music.  Upon receipt of its movements my heart breaks and traffic stops moving.

The ambiance continues with the title track which spans a delicate moment that reminds me of a waking Cinematic Orchestra moment containing lush tones and gestures along with a timeless edge.  It bleeds brilliant early morning colours by emphasising stillness.

From here once again the tone of the record changes as the appropriately named “Amoral Life” drops in with a porno flick sounding wah, echo and bass serving to highlight the brilliant playfulness of the work at hand.

After various moments of strings, beats and chill the album book ends with another acid freakout in the form of “Fear And Happiness” as truly this life has been a ride.

Here are fourteen tracks to marvel.

Thesaurus moment: expanse.

Monday, 12 March 2012

SKINT & DEMORALISED – THIS SPORTING LIFE (HIT OR HEIST RECORDS)


SKINT & DEMORALISED – THIS SPORTING LIFE (HIT OR HEIST RECORDS)

The second album from Skint & Demoralised is a certified romp that arrives after a number of dramas and devices such as split and reformation, unreleased albums, re-release dates and general major label hijinks.  As a result naming the album after a kitchen sink drama isn’t so conceited as a person might imagine.

Skint & Demoralised is a bleak duo hailing from Yorkshire.  Their initial success was driven by a self started online campaign benefiting from times before Myspace sucked itself whole and turned shit.

The concept was easy.  Matt Abbott a feisty young northern poet would unleash his rhymes as his mate Mini Dog (I shit you not) would add the tunes and backing tracks.  And initially it was good, a lowlife but high brow version of spoken world detailing adventures and a lifestyle that was interesting and tangible.  Unfortunately then came time to turn it all into a band and offer themselves as indie.

With the transition the words have become more lyrical and now mostly sung.  In other words, it has all gone a bit normal.  All remains very normal but the backing now feels slightly hack, generic indie rock in an irksome fashion.  Part of me suspects someone in a suit sat behind a desk somewhere suggested this all in the hope of tapping into the Arctic Monkeys audience and vibe.  Am I being too cynical?

Well, perhaps not when the original suggestion was potentially of an Arab Strap from Wakefield but instead ultimately what is served sits in some Embrace cum Doves territory.  There is suggestion of a Smiths type appreciation for existence (not least in the kitchen sink references) but the execution feels not fully formed.  Fuck a duck.

At this point that band has already broken up once which kind of causes me to question their commitment to the cause.  Is there much longevity let in this act?  No doubt while they remain signed they’re soldier on.

Music wise you would be forgiven for expecting something different.  Now gone full on indie there is a strange, retro sound to proceedings.  It probably won’t thrill them for me to report opening track “Hogmanay Heroes” makes me think of The Wonder Stuff.  All in all there feels a desire for the anthemic but unfortunately rarely is it reached (or even required).

As the record gallops on tracks such as “The Lonely Hearts Of England” have a weird Pogues vibe in their euphoric gallop as drunken nights are celebrated in blind fashion as if “Tubthumping” had not been delivered with irony.  Maybe it’s a northern thing.

I thought these guys were angry about signing on?  Where’s the edge?

Thesaurus moment: injudicious.

Hit Or Heist Records

Sunday, 29 May 2011

THE DOOMED BIRD OF PROVIDENCE – WILL EVER PRAY (FRONT AND FOLLOW)

THE DOOMED BIRD OF PROVIDENCE – WILL EVER PRAY (FRONT AND FOLLOW)

I don’t think I will ever feel at ease with Australia.  Its just too vast, just too hot.  It’s the kind of place where bad things happen beneath a tempered sun that can’t help but influence and direct a person’s behaviour in unhealthy fashion

Originally hailing from such parts The Doomed Bird Of Providence is not so much a band as it is a gang.  At last count it was five strong and growing.  With this their arsenal of instruments has grown over time and now as they present their debut album their aural vision is as clear and powerful as ever.

Boasting a previous criminal record, when the Doomed Bird Of Providence first unleashed their wares a couple of years ago with their self titled EP on Laily Recordings it was a prized eruption that contained a solid set of songs at the hands of band leader Mark Kluzek which eventually led to low level scandal regarding the selling of goods on eBay.

With Will Ever Pray the message is clear: this band is here to give you nightmares, to saddle you with guilt as the Poms must be forced to pay for previous indiscretions.

The piece opens with vocals distributed like lashes.  From here strings soon drop, sinking their claws into proceedings from where they never let go.  With this accordion then seeps in as the occasional piano keys drip like blood and guitar parts are driven and tempered.

Something of a concept album possessing a staunch inflicted narrative Will Ever Pray is a two part monster as the first four songs telling tales of early exploration and deportation by ship in and around the Australia region.  Then “the massacre of the whole of the passengers and part of the crew of The Sea Horse on her homeward passage from Sydney” consumes the following five track finale.  Naturally its downbeat content but ultimately more entertaining and accessible than watching the History Channel.  In other words this is a previously untapped fountain of information.

Comparisons do not come easy or necessarily clear in compliment.  Obviously the accordion is an instrument that does not get a lot of action in a rocking world and while hardly being Klezmar, its use and execution is somewhat more ghastly than the dark, likeable and comic Tiger Lillies.  Likewise the heavy violin strings delivered in an Australian context obviously recall The Dirty Three however when they layer in tandem and echo with guitar it feels akin to darkland Velvet Underground.  To this you can perhaps throw into the mix a sense of Tindersticks but ultimately the band is so much more as it offers a sound that it earnest and very much its own.  You won’t hear anything else that sounds like this in a hurry.

Of the first half raft it is “On The Deathbed Of Janus Weathercock” which provides the highlight with the detailed description of a man’s demise as all comes together sonically and majestically lending something of a tranquil air to anything but a peaceful demise.  The hooks here are the kind that give birth to goosebumps.  This physical reaction however may also be as result from the fact that Weathercock was a notorious poisoner.

As the second half of the record begins and the massacre ensues this chapter opens with a ten minute plus instrumental of ringing strings as a queasy sensation prevails and an eventual hook and loop that perversely reminds me of an unidentified staple from my past (sorry to be vague).  From here a clap shanty spurs the crew into action as by part 3 there is talk of “slashing throats” and “cutting out tongues” which makes for a horrific snapshot in time.  With this part 4 resumes the score motif as delicate piano ticks lend the piece a calm after the storm feel, housing a raindrop like sensation to represent the closure and conclusion of the rain in blood (reign in blood).  By the end the devastation feels like jubilation as a change in order feels very much on the cards.

To garner a full appreciation of this record it is beneficial to listen intently as the multitude of instruments all jostle for position while at the same time being given space to breathe.  This is a truly tight outfit and very talented musicians playing to their strengths and syncing in the most dogged and accomplished manner.

Curiously this makes for very good public transport music especially trips that are long haul.  While sat squashed onto a train with my fellow passengers I can’t help but empathise and liken my plight as I envisage all aboard being driven and dragged to a destination against our wills as the necessity outweighs the enjoyment of our existence and whisks us into bondage, suffering and misery.  With this I can’t but view it all as a shared experience and use it as an effective tool to combat the labour of my day.

This is the real deal.

Did ya.

Thesaurus moment: carnage.

Monday, 11 April 2011

FUNERAL PARTY – NEW YORK CITY MOVES TO THE SOUND OF L.A. (RCA/SONY MUSIC)

FUNERAL PARTY – NEW YORK CITY MOVES TO THE SOUND OF L.A. (RCA/SONY MUSIC)

I have to concede that against my better judgement I really fucking like this song.  I know its full of reckless abandon and other such professional rock clichés but the bounce to it is pure and the thrills come astonishing and genuine.  For a rare moment a new guitar band on a major label appears to have produced a song that genuinely rocks!

At the risk of having shoes thrown at me this song is how I would imagine a morphing of At The Drive-in with Nation Of Ulysses to sound.  The chanting is there, the chops are there and, most important, the passion seems there.  It’s a perpetual motion machine in the slickest manner possible.

As to what the song is actually about remains something of a mystery to me.  It could equally be about disco dancing as some kind of east coast v west coast rivalry.  However the rap wars this is not.  And thus I have to concede that it is the mystery of the intent that causes me some slight doubt towards the act.

Ultimately though I just suspect that this band is too good looking and well adjusted to be for real, to maintain such an exciting flow of music and inhabit a special place in my heart that is driven by the need for things to be pure and credible, not necessarily done in the name of money grabbing and dollar.

For now I will indulge and enjoy this song but eventually it will be forgotten, dismissed long before the band gives birth to disappointment and breaks my heart.  That makes sense, right?

This is already their funeral.

Thesaurus moment: pow.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

PAVEMENT – QUARANTINE THE PAST (DOMINO)


PAVEMENT – QUARANTINE THE PAST (DOMINO)

When acts regroup it helps to have something to push/promote when hitting the stage/road.  Too many times such compilations are ramshackle efforts thrown together in hast with a distinct lack of care.  Such releases are blights, stains on a band’s career discography (a clear example being The Fall).  And housing a title such as Quarantine The Past you sense Pavement and their people fully know this (they are of high IQ after all).  However despite such a depreciating record name, with perhaps the best appellation for such an album thoughtfully constructed this 23 track selection is devastating.

In many ways Pavement have never sounded better.  There has been a real clean up job done on these tracks in order to give the compilation a cohesive flow and the result has been to up everything and make it glow.  That’s not to say it has been cleaned up and ruined in a traditional sense, the songs now just feel more weighty than before, they contain more clout.

Cut Your Hair” was the first Pavement song I fell for.  It was weird and unlike anything else I had ever seen.  It was goofy but did not compromise any might.  It was frightening and fucked, a joke you were ever in on or excluded from.  A song able to alienate as much as it could delight.

In similar fashion songs such as “Summer Babe (Winter Version)” and “Grounded” perfectly capture what it feels to be enjoying freedom in a season.  Loud, fuzzy and breezy in all its lo-fi excellence the movement of the music feels akin to being on holiday.

The term Quarantine The Past is taken from the opening track “Gold Soundz”.  The sloppy optimism of the track never sat right with me.  Apparently this was the best single of the nineties.  Pavement was not music about presenting the best possible version of yourself.

Present here are all the great singles thankfully not offered in chronological order.  Some are great, some are good.  Some should have not been singles while others exist in novelty.  For me Pavement tracks were always representative of the climate and season.  Broken hearts retain and maintain as the process always stung.

In my opinion their best record will forever be the wonder of Wowee Zowee and from that we are given “Grounded” and “Fight This Generation”.  The singles from the album are missing!  Then again they were slow, stoned and dethroned (although “Father To A Sister Of A Thought” is for me the song that I crashed my first car to).

Stereo” represented something of a change, a new focus, a new era.  Remaining wonky as expected it added a blistering Sonic Youth type wig out sensibility as if it were expected.  That’s not the say the song is not great, only that it felt like a gesture that was demanded/commanded.  Also from that record comes “Shady Lane” which features Malkmus at his wordy best and brilliant.

Elsewhere influences such as the aforementioned Fall are felt on the very abrasive “Two States” while “Range Life”, with its Smashing Pumpkins/Stone Temple Pilots goading confusion at Lollapalooza and the alternative nation has always sounded like Neil Young to me.  Then there is their explicit tribute/ode to REM on the “Unseen Power Of The Picket Fence” where affection exudes and humour thankfully prevents it from becoming sickly.

Career spanning to their credit they do not avoid/ignore the messy noise of “Mellow Jazz Docent” and “Box Elder” as it rubs shoulders with laidback smooth selections such as “Heaven Is A Truck” and “Shoot The Singer”.  What is very impressive however is the inclusion of “Unfair” and “Embassy Row” which I always considered very similar, very much from the same page.

The final song Pavement ever played when quitting first time round was “Here”.  The first lines of “I was dressed for success, but success it never come” feel telling in both the aftermath and context of the era.  They were losers from the off.  It’s funny to consider they were making such a declaration on their first record.  In time it has been attached to weaker product in the form of teenage angst film but regardless it remains the sound of drowning and works well when times aren’t working out.

As I say compilation albums aren’t exactly indie rock, more a cry for help.  With the band reunited and no fresh product to support, management and owners need to do something with their catalogue (their investment).  Sure the implied intention is to offer a snapshot of nostalgia but was this necessary?  Not after the deluxe reissues of the album it was not.  But whatever nevermind.

“Wake up to people so tall to you”.

When it closes with “Fight This Generation” you can’t help but feel an era misunderstood the message and slipped into failure.  Certainly most of my friends didn’t seem to get it.  There will never be a noted band like this again.

Now which fucking joker included “Jai Ho” from the Slumdog Millionaire in the illegal download of this album I used for review?

Tale Of The Tape:
Watery Domestic – 2 tracks
Perfect Sound Forever – 2 tracks
Slay Tracks – 1 track
Slanted And Enchanted – 5 tracks
Wowee Zowee – 2 tracks
Brighten The Corners - 4 tracks
Terror Twilight – 1 track

Broken biscuits.

Thesaurus moment: utter.

Friday, 24 December 2010

ROYAL TRUX – THANK YOU (CHARISMA RECORDS)


ROYAL TRUX – THANK YOU (CHARISMA RECORDS)

This is soulful fucking record.  These songs can reduce me to tears; take me down when times are not good.

The blues and indie rock have generally tended to make for awkward bed fellows.  Indie rockers don’t generally have trouble paying the rent.  Even if they don’t have the funds, they have a safety net to cover and catch.  The only risk is that of self destruct.  This version however is the purest, most evocative sense.  It is affecting and amazing.  What they do is not secret but it is very special.  How it is made however can be home to secrecy and discretion.

Thank You is a powerful record.  It exudes a weird kind of gratitude that is not necessarily genuine or sincere.  There are two parties present in this exchange/consumption and it is not exactly clear which is the more important to the other.

In many ways Royal Trux is terrifying.  The cool desperation that seeps from every pore, every lick is that of chasing the next sandwich regardless of which kind of fix that is (and they are in).  The band feels so off the mainstream radar that they might be the basis of militia.

This album tends to appear in my life in broken situations.  When people belittle me I’ll search it out and bring it up.  The pace matches recovery.  Released in 1995 the band was now gaining attention from people with money (industry types) and the fresh direction was touching a sweet spot between Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.  Rather than being a dilution of a dilution the charge of empowerment from each source brought a whole new rasping energy which comfortably sat with their lifestyle, personality and methodology.  As Herrema squawked like a modern Janis Joplin there was something distinctly masculine and bluesy in her motions and ultimate function of the band.  The broken energy soars more than prior lo-fi gestures.

From the off the band is acting like a well oiled machine.  Behind Herrema and Hagerty the engine room rhythm section is given a lot of room breath and with it comes real funk drive as each piece of the puzzle is given space to star.

Often surface sloppy the nods to the Stones can be heard hardest in singalong of “Ray O Vac” while the expansive wail of “The Sewer Of Mars” is quite Led Zep.  Indeed the rumbling, bubbling bass of “Granny Grunt” almost sounds like Thin Lizzy.

Lyrically “Map Of The City” with its slow sweeping blues of working class crimes contains equally images of cancer and masturbation while “Lights Of The Levee” with its big bridges ends with the question “when will the water wash me out?”

Of the more familiar tracks opener “A Night To Remember” is funk driven promise which saw the band performing live on The Word while single “You’re Gonna Lose” was glorious bargain bin stuff all scuffed and too damaged/dirty to make a common dent.

The masterpiece is left to last “Shadow Of The Wasp” literally stings the listener was an explicit description of a struggle to secure goods.  One Friday night I found myself in a perfect life sync with this track as during a moment of the blues attached to an impending emotional and physical exchange in Deptford I couldn’t decide whether I was caught in the saddest and happiest of times.  Slow, subtle and sedate it paints a rough picture of proceedings ahead of stepping up a gear as it launches into the chorus where it questions if things were actually better in the past as they complain about being “sick of searching to get hooked on a feeling”.  Then the third movement kicks in and all erupts heavily layered.  All in all its tiring stuff and then it (and the album) ends on a drum solo.  Special.

This is an album that can change days, maybe even lives.

Thesaurus moment: benefaction.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

SARAH SILVERMAN – SONGS OF THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM (COMEDY CENTRAL RECORDS)


SARAH SILVERMAN – SONGS OF THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM (COMEDY CENTRAL RECORDS)

Subtitled “From Our Rears To Your Ears!” this is something of a strange curiosity of a record but no less wonderful with it.  And inside the booklet there is a message from Sarah herself: “Well, we finally put all our songs on CDs.  Play them while you are making love, or doody”.

I think the Sarah Silverman Program was something of a confused beast.  This is probably demonstrated by the shoddy manner with which it was originally treated (was it two seasons or three – nobody really knows).  Personally I went for it immediately, often to my detriment I like bad taste comedy and these days its tasting worse than ever as limits get pushed further and further.  In essence these are boundaries that have long since surpassed in public life and now as they seep into art and entertainment suddenly this gives people a sense of entitlement to cry foul.  Begs the question: is an awful statement worse when made to a large audience?  In many ways I guess so but the substance and essence of the piece is not new.  Ultimately you just come to the conclusion that people are hypocrites.

Milked for the full ninety nine tracks available on the CD this is a combination of those short songs from the TV series (36 in total) in addition to various sound bites and jokes.  It feels like such a weird throwback concept to a time before the internet and everything being available at the click of a mouse.  That this CD even exists feels something of an achievement.  Thus I feel the need to celebrate it.

Surveying the scene only twenty six of the tracks make it past the minute mark.  That is barely a quarter of the collection.

Within two tracks Silverman has shit herself as it all resembles some kind of memory akin to reading old text messages.  The humour and fun is not so much in the snippets, its in the moments they originally came from which pretty much makes this mostly for fans of the show only.

Other ghastly occurrences include a conversation to God justifying her stealing batteries, nostalgia for an abortion at the eight and a half month mark, patronising the homeless (played by Zach Galifianakis), convincing all her friends that she has AIDS, explicitly teaching a classroom of children how you catch AIDS, she becomes an animal sexual offender and all kinds of awful things occur to her mother’s corpse.  She is awful, selfish right to the end on track 99.

If you’re looking for a stand out track let me recommend track 48 “That’s Been Done Song” with its cynical robotic gestures.  And on “Dry Sheets, Ice Cream, Jellybeans” her voice reminds me of Juliana Hatfield even if the lyrical content is somewhat removed to say the least.  Then there is a Kate Bush moment that comes with “Opposite Day” as the music prowess peaks in collaboration with Keb’ Mo on “Blind Woman Blues”.

Throughout the process she is ably assisted and accompanied by Brian Posehn, Steve Agee, Jay Johnston and her sister Laura Silverman.  And keeping with his metal affection Posehn finds opportunity to rock out on “Glad I Hurt My Hand”.  There’s a lot of talent on show here.

In the absence of a foam finger or mouse mat, this will have serve as an adequate souvenir and reminder of a very fun show.

And despite these nice words the cow still has me blocked on Twitter.  Some people.

Thesaurus moment: ungenerous.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

CONAN O’BRIEN – AND THEY CALL ME MAD? (THIRD MAN RECORDS)


CONAN O’BRIEN – AND THEY CALL ME MAD? (THIRD MAN RECORDS)

“And They Call Me Mad?” is a statement that I often find myself uttering out loud.  Alas in the act of making such an external comment crazy is all that compounds being explicitly received.  You can’t win.  Conan O’Brien knows that from his experience dealing with Jay Leno.  He has however survived and become a cooler cat for it.  And now he is releasing records with Jack White.

Sporting an uneasy expression on the sleeve O’Brien delivers an echoey monologue that sounds like the kind of thing a Simpsons writer would author. In other words it reminds me of Dana Gould.  That and the kind classic recorded passage Carl Reiner or even Bob Newhart might come up with.

O’Brien’s voice sounds strange.  Perhaps due to contractual obligations it is best that it is not easily recognised by lawyers and accountants alike.  View from an artistic perspective, this is a performer fully immersing himself in character, in his creation.  It’s a classic style, a classic device.

“And They Call Me Mad?” is a one-sided conversation with a Frankenstein style lunatic.  One voice is attempting to convince two minds all housed in the same skull.  You can’t help but relate his statements of reanimation relate to his own career.  As he builds “Benjamin” he proceeds to persuade his monster to kill hostile invaders outside his castle.  In camp fashion he directs it like a filmmaker, a Hollywood or TV exec type.  And all done on the promise of a latte.  This was the real life of Dr Frankenstein.

The tables turn on the flipside for O’Brien as interviewer becomes interviewee as Jack White quizzes him from the control room in grill fashion.  Who else would use an analogue recording studio for an interrogation scene?  After running through various fresh nicknames for Conan we get a genuine “how are you?” as O’Brien discusses/addresses life post-Tonight Show having gone on the road.  In a moment of satisfaction he does an impression of rapper Ludacris that sounds quite like Jay Leno except not for legal reasons.  There also maybe a confession of murder.  He has never been more on point.  As he states that he does not like jokes and holds no empathy for other humans it all turns quite confessional.  Jack White hosts quite the church in Nashville.

Spoken word instructional just might be my new favourite genre.

Thesaurus moment: sly.

Monday, 20 December 2010

BRIAN MAY – MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR SOUNDTRACK (VARESE SARABANDE)


BRIAN MAY – MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR SOUNDTRACK (VARESE SARABANDE)

A number of years ago after coming off tour I found myself with a real urge to watch Mad Max 2.  Perhaps it was my experience of two weeks on the road (often driving) that gave me the desire to revisit so much automotive carnage.  Almost immediately one of my first gestures was to head into town and pay over the odds for a copy of the movie on DVD.  It had been a few years since I last saw the movie.  Indeed the first time I saw the film was around the age of eight when I hired it on VHS from our local video store only to sit down to watch it with my best friend Aaron who cried off the viewing early on as he was horrified by it.  I watched it on my own the next morning as was amazed.  Was this where the world was heading?

The Brian May score on Mad Max 2 was always an imposing thing.  To be frank it always felt too high in the mix, too loud in the crowd.  Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior in America) was never going to be the most quiet or sedate of movies but somewhere down the line it was decided there needed to be more, the effects required additional sonic assault.  Enter Brian May.

Even though guitars feel heavy, the score here is very orchestral.  This is not the full on hard rock action of Flash Gordon; this is serious music, the real deal.  Quite frankly you only know it is conducted by the guitarist of Queen via the credits.  And then you discover: it is a completely different Brian May.

Soundtrack fans are the music equivalent of tourists.  Mainstream ears suddenly pick up on classical gestures and nuances.  With the mental music video of a movie in their mind the shapes of the composition (the posh word for song) add an emotive level.  The second track is entitled “Confrontation” and as menacing strings swoop in you cannot help but envisage Mel Gibson getting pounded by Australian desert punks.

Throughout there is a level menace attached to the eight tracks (ahead of a ninth track of fun special effects).  With “Marauder’s Massacre” a beautiful piece of work is given an ugly name as the vibrant direction changes encapsulate somewhere blood being spilled.  The frenetic movements are jagged in design done to keep and match up with the noted harsh editing of the motion picture.  And then it all ends with a menacing rattle.  This was the future.

With track nine all hell breaks loose as earlier composition “Break Out” is mixed into an “SFX Suite” designed to display how sound effects were used in the score as in essence instruments.  These wonders include the anarchic gems “Boomerang Attack”, “Gyro Flight”, “The Big Rig Starts” and “The Refinery Explodes”.  To incorporate sounds in such a method was groundbreaking.

I must concede the liner notes by Tom Null cannot be topped with his comment: “the music is suffused by a profound melancholy for the losses mankind has sustained”.

Offerings from this album later appeared in other movies including The Terminator.

This holiday is over.

Thesaurus moment: stentorian.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

PAVEMENT – SHADY LANE (DOMINO)


PAVEMENT – SHADY LANE (DOMINO)

Riding a fine line between the country rock of “Range Life” and the laidback summer gestures of Wowee Zowee, “Shady Lane” is Pavement in post-whimsical mode.  It feels like the music equivalent of rowing a boat, the early licks inhabit gestures close to steering oars while Stephen Malkmus’ vocal assertions are akin to looking around and breathing in one’s surroundings ahead of expressing gratitude for the world around him.

“We went Dutch Dutch Dutch”.

While not being the most dynamic and exuberant of Pavement songs it does house some of my favourite Malkmus lines in: “you’re so beautiful to look at when you cry” and “you’ve been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation of the sequence to your life”.  The latter line is quite the tongue twister for him to deliver while maintaining quite the flow.

I know exactly what is meant by saying there is beauty in crying.  Many years ago when I dated Bella, the first true loved of my life, I actually told her “I like it when you cry”.  Eleven years later a boss would give me the advice “never trust the tears of a woman” but in the meantime I would like to interpret/decode it as being a moment when she genuinely cared.

The seven inch was the version of the record to purchase because it came with “Unseen Power Of The Picket Fence” on the other side and their tribute/ode to REM, which originally/previously appeared on the No Alternative compilation that secretly housed a Nirvana track.  It’s a majestic fawn.

A casual stroll.

Thesaurus moment: perambulation.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

TRUMANS WATER – O ZETA ZUNIS (ASTHMATIC KITTY RECORDS)


TRUMANS WATER – O ZETA ZUNIS (ASTHMATIC KITTY RECORDS)

I’ve lost count.  Is this the thirteenth Trumans Water studio album?  Longevity is both a skill and a curse.

Warped and wrapped around the angular there is nothing simple about this band.  Indeed even removing the record from the shrink-wrapped sleeve is awkward.  However once freed from slumber the packaging reveals a most excellent and satisfying twelve inches of prime blue vinyl.  There is no MP3 download code just pure analogue joy.

Typically in playing with the band’s sensibilities the sides are entitled “Zeta” and “Zunis”.  Convention is for wimps and the soft ones.

Housing fourteen tracks (seven on each side), the good ship Trumans Water still sails the high seas of lo-fi with persistent waves of drunken gestures driving more by determination and desire than resource.  In a polished era of digital organisms reducing the workload of man, there is something hugely reassuring and calming in hearing an object such as this.

The sound is clear and familiar.  It is early Pavement through and through.  At one point they were probably on an equal footing/standing but one act decided to refine, some might say mature, their sound whereas the other decided where they were was more than enough.

The artwork looks like some kind of Monty Python collage.  On the front two bears are fishing the stream of a small waterfall while below them a giant hand is grabbing a human body with a frog head attached as the whole scene is bedded by a line of serious cyclists.  In other words the cover looks just how the record sounds.  Its cut and paste, an efficient execution of scraps.  Why bother with typeface when you can just write the band name and song titles in felt tip using a steady hand.  Then as you go in search of information and a tracklisting on the back you find yourself faced with three polar bears staring you out.  Dear listener, you are not to blame.

A mutual appreciation of fuzz and distortion goes a long way as the Zunis side opens in lurching fashion akin to wading through treacle.  The sound is that of being trapped in a vortex.

There is clear contrast in the material of the two sides of the record.  The first feels somewhat more “coherent” with at least song structures harnessing roaming and overdriven gestures.  The vocals feel a cloudy stream of consciousness more designed to stalk the music than vice versa.  The tail (tale) is wagging the dog on this adventure.

Occasionally it accomplishes pop gestures such as the hook happy “Last Time” but aside from that frequent stops and time changes seldom offers a smooth ride or fluid exchange.  However by the end of the side the screaming over distorted has become all encompassing and tough to take in.  It’s scratchy to a fault.

As the second side motions in mechanical fashion with an almost prog work out in “” Hands 4 Eyes” the exploration is lax and meandering offering an almost mini rock opera feel.  Here is Zappa, here is Beefheart, here is the culmination of a huge history serving indie rock.  There will always be something exhilarating about a band building to a hook then once it is served they scream and shout in the style of a rollercoaster going over a cliff.  We Fish” I am looking at you.

If only more guitars were still played in this fashion today.

To surmise Trumans Water remains a wonderful, it’s a just a little too much of it is likely to see the listener drown as they eventually get out of their depth.

We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Thesaurus moment: soak.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

THE SMITHS – THE QUEEN IS DEAD (ROUGH TRADE)


THE SMITHS – THE QUEEN IS DEAD (ROUGH TRADE)

The Queen Is Dead is a fascinating record.  It is multilayered and speaks with as many personalities.  It holds in its hands the power to be devastating tapping direct into underdog emotions, describing and harnessing in a manner that brings purpose to bleak situations.  It is a record about drawing strength in the face of desperation and so much more.

As an experiment today I will listen, analyse and attempt to review this record just after a break up has occurred and my moments are raw.

The third Smiths studio album is a bleak and damning excursion coupled with emotionally absurd humour.  As with so much of their material there are a lot of laughs if you look for them.  Sure there is loneliness and melancholy but Morrissey makes it a shared experience offering opportunity to at least lighten a load a little.  And coupled with that is an amazing base layer provided by Marr running ragged and wayward in a most efficient fashion.  It is expansive in its pessimism

The original name of the album was to be “Margaret On The Guillotine” tapping into the anti-Maggie sentiments of the era.  Of course such a title would be perceived as treason in certain sections.  As if “The Queen Is Dead” sounds any less aggressive.  Even in the eighties Morrissey was already pining for better times.

“Take me back to dear old blighty.”

It is actually the voice of Cicely Courtneidge that is heard first singing as an excerpt of a 1916 song about four soldiers longing to return home from the trenches of war-torn France.  With that Morrissey is soon setting up shop and charging into action offering a history lesson quizzing “has the world changed or have I changed?”  He understands legacy if not solution while the adjoining sonics merge sensually offering a piping pulse.  “The Queen Is Dead”, even back then.  On the other hand Courtneidge was the original mum in On The Buses.  Here nostalgia is currency paying for an exhilarating passage.

Intuition was the key.

This work is broad and scatological.  For every scathing moment there is a sympathetic one.  For every downbeat gesture of solace there is an upbeat execution.

And upbeat didn’t necessarily always work with the near country cheese of “Vicar In A Tutu” bounding along and the lumbering “Frankly, Mr Shankly” only being saved by the snarling sentiments in Morrissey’s words.  At the time he appeared to hate Geoff Travis as much as normal people hate Simon Cowell now.  Then again these two songs have been described as “legs-in-the-air comedy”.  The other happy sounding track arrived in “Cemetry Gates” and its carefree skip around graves both physical and metaphorical.  With Oscar Wilde on your side, why not?

The other side winding track was the single “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” which coupled with “Bigmouth Strikes Again” served as Morrissey addressing the industry in which he operated and the art he feared misappropriated.  On defensive mode it is something of a confused struggle and dare I say a root of ones bitterness.

Northern England is well represented on this record.  This is not an album that could or would be made be committee.  And in that I mean trends and fads took longer to reach Manchester, if at all.  This is original material not fashionite.

When asked by Tony Wilson why he wanted to be a pop star Morrissey answered “many reasons, it doesn’t make life worse”.  Damn, this was actually pop music.

“Why are you alone tonight?”

Back to my broken heart and allowing me to wallow this evening is “I Know It’s Over” and the sensation of being suffocated by the pain of separation.  As Morrissey sings “I can feel the soil falling over my head” the ending of this relationship does indeed feel like being buried alive.  This could kill me.  We all wallow.

“If a double decker bus…”

And now in the aftermath I can only hold onto the memories, hold onto a torch.  For that I have “There Is A Light That Will Never Go Out”.  A lesser man might send a departed love a link to this song.  Of course it’s a gesture that only ever works in the movies but Morrissey being Morrissey he actually pulls it off in this track making it seem almost acceptable to pine in requited fashion.  Quite frankly (Mr Shankly), what else is there a Smiths fan could/can do?

“I have just discovered.”

The album closes with “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” which too feels something of an ode to my exiting love with her being big boned and all.  Let’s just say that this is a record that explicitly speaks to me and for me.

In 1986 when the record came out I was just discovering football via Liverpool FC, Jan Molby and Mexico 86.  I had no idea that The Smiths existed being only nine years old.  Nine years later however I worshipped the band.  Too little, too late.

Rough Trade released the record with full knowledge that the band was leaving the label.  It reached number 2 in the album charts, second only to “So” by Peter Gabriel.

Morrissey was quoted as saying writing was an “absolute physical necessity”.

I live in a bed-sit.

Thesaurus moment: witch.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

THE FLAMING LIPS – THE W.A.N.D. (WARNERS)


THE FLAMING LIPS – THE W.A.N.D. (WARNERS)

This is one of those songs I can listen to on repeat play over and over.  It is just a perfect song, a wonderful accident.  Acts can write and record songs but it requires a special kind of alignment for everything to come together in this fashion.

The Will Always Negates Defeat.

“The W.A.N.D.” is an exhilarating composition.  It begins with a heavily distorted procession building a ripped anticipation ahead of the dam bursting and Wayne Coyne swooping in to the lead the charge (“we got the power now motherfuckers”).  And from here the positive drive is relentless right up to the echoed exit.  Being dizzy should never be a chore.

Moving on the expansive and glistening seventies sound of “You Gotta Hold On” maintains a thrive vibe before the single ends with “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (In Anatropous Reflex)” which is a stripped down piano play of the previous single.  It adds maturity but removes power and pace.  Swings and roundabouts.

The single peaked at #41 in the charts.  I bought this CD single from Sister Ray on Berwick Street in London at 4.52PM on 19 July 2006 for £2.99.  It was back when I was working at Sarm Studios for Trevor Horn in accounts.  That day the weather was particularly warm that the boss just let us go home as offices can be unendurable.  On the way to central London I boarded the tube at Notting Hill and just as I sat down a cranky old lady told me off for sitting in the priority seat of a next to empty carriage.  It was a weird experience where only amusement should emerge.  The Flaming Lips should be viewed in such a way.

In keeping with their hip approach to proceedings one of the two music videos features a pillow fight between two roller derby players from the TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls (Lux and Venis Envy).  A comfy fit.

Who knew at this stage of their career they would be able to come up with the second best song in their arsenal.

Thesaurus moment: theurgy.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

JAY-Z – THE BLACK ALBUM (ROC-A-FELLA RECORDS/MERCURY RECORDS/UNIVERSAL)


JAY-Z – THE BLACK ALBUM (ROC-A-FELLA RECORDS/MERCURY RECORDS/UNIVERSAL)

Quite frankly I am surprised that I actually bought this album.  Jay-Z maybe the biggest hip-hop artist in the world but that is never a guaranteed seal of approval, just a mark of much exposure.

A white guy reviews hip-hop.

In music history there have been three black albums: Spinal Tap, Metallica and this one.  Spot the odd one out and why.

Generally Jay-Z is an artist that has passed me by.  As I hint above, he has tended to strike me as being something of a mainstream commodity, a performer more rich in product than talent or material.  That’s the problem with first impressions you never get to make them again.  So, despite the pop is he any good?  He’s certainly radio friendly.

The Black Album is/was his eighth studio offering.  It was also his “retirement” record.  How the fuck did he put eight records out without making a dent on my consciousness?  Longevity is a rare thing in hip-hop.  Material is regularly milked but rarely do artists make it into double figures on albums.  What am I missing in this guy?  His fame crept up on me.  I thought he was painfully average when actually he is/was huge.

Jay-Z is music that actually sounds good played through a set of tinny mobile phone speakers.  Maybe that’s the secret.

In a moment of clarity I must concede that the popularity of Jay-Z confuses me.  His voice is funny but his rhymes and flow are good.  On a surface/superficial level he should not endear.  It would appear that I bought this CD as part of a 3 for £20 offer at Virgin Megastore.  I have no recollection of the transaction or what else I bought on the day.

Sometimes he sounds like a tranny.  And what’s the protracted cough about?

It begins with an “Interlude”.  What the fuck is this?  There is no interlude in thug life.

The sticker attached to the product states that “Change Clothes” and “What More Can I Say” are the heavy hits on board.  The former, a song about the importance of getting dressed, is plagued by a cheesy hook and the latter by a cheesy tag and Gladiator sample.  Lets start again.

Jay-Z came from the projects.  A boy like me could never understand how he lived, what he saw.  He speaks about struggles in a manner with which others do not.  In his mind hip-hop is the blues.  And this is why he’s friends with Chris Martin?  For the record Martin has said his favourite track on the album is “Lucifer”.  So that song must suck then.

One step forward two steps back.

On the Pete Rock remix “December 4th” was the first song to stand out for me.  With his mum (sorry, mom) offering wise words and a history lesson this is her perspective of the creation of Jay-Z.  The remix comes with a tasteful haunting accomplishment while the album version comes with a cheesy flag waving sonic backing.  This man is not subtle.  And that just might be his undoing in my mind.

Let’s chainsaw.  He laughs but I don’t read a sense of humour.

“Encore” was produced by Kanye West.  Being from an indie rock background it seems weird to me that an album houses almost a different producer on each track.  Elsewhere turning nobs and pushing buttons be The Neptunes, Timbaland, Rick Rubin and even Eminem.  Have these guys never heard of the too many cooks concept?  This was originally intended to be the first single.  Really?  It’s a song that appears to feel the need to add its own applause and worship.  It does however have amazing flow.

Apparently he achieved “it” with this record.

From some angles “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” is as good as it gets.  The piping eastern flavoured sample offers a broad hook and flexes the waves of the listener’s mind.  And then the hook is Jay-Z telling his people to pick themselves up and keep plugging away.  There are more inspirational manners.

“Threat” falls into the cliché of exhibiting gunshot samples and the sound of a crazy man launching them.  This is not the Wu-Tang Clan, it does not convince.

Finally I find a truly great instant occurs with “Moment Of Clarity” as it builds with effective drive and sinister source through a layering strings mixed with majestic beats.  The grab is in the hook that rises above so much flab and debris exhibited elsewhere.  At least I see why people believe in the man.

And then with that we get to “99 Problems” and his hard hitting throwback.  Smashing a sound so distinctly old school Def Jam and Rick Rubin in many ways the track is genius.  At a time when hip-hop became so intricate in composition it lost a lot of bite and edge so with this unsubtle sledgehammer he cracked it.  It’s a sound dismantle of the climate/environment.

The second half maintains momentum with “Public Service Announcement (Interlude)”.  With a deep piano intro and speech sample it genuinely explodes with another description of his purpose.  But the front don’t fuck it up, the electric shock of the organ sample feels like lightning shot from his soul.  Good work.

“Now back to our regular scheduled programme”.

He almost had me.

The record returns to pop with “Justify My Thug” and a dumb molestation of a Madonna song.  That and a Bill Haley like rock around the clock.  This track is just a fucking whine despite his declarations that he never felt sorry for himself.  Its so easy.  Shooting dogs, killing cats – that’s not cool.  And quit with the ringtone type frequencies.

Faltering at the finish “Allure” is the sound of a silly man being sensitive and sympathetic while more gunshot samples fire in the peripheral.  Is this work really a war zone?

The Black Album concludes with “My 1st Song” and some kind of offer of assurance.  The casual guitar decorating proceedings works against the rapid rhymes of more tainted confession.  He sure loves himself, how does he fit in Beyonce?  I guess with a shout out.

Jay-Z has said that this album marked an era.

I hate how the record has its Parental Advisory sticker on the sleeve, the actual artwork instead of wearing it as a sticker on the case.  Stuck and physically sealed its owned almost as a badge of honour.  Grow up like the only people supposedly allowed/entitled to purchase the piece.

This is an album designed to sell millions and little else.  Swag.

Thesaurus moment: something.