Saturday, 30 June 2007

SUEDE – THE DROWNERS (NUDE)


SUEDE – THE DROWNERS (NUDE)

“The Drowners” is one of those songs that probably shouldn’t be great but at the end of the day it just truly is. Ultimately it just represents a certain moment in time that was defining to a group of people (such as myself) and even though there was better music about at the time that should have been completely occupying my stereo I (and maybe you) couldn’t help but allow this record (and the band) into my consciousness.

Right from the start Suede always felt like something of a one trick pony with a paper thin singer warbling over paper thin guitar riffs while everyone and everything else around them (including me) generally tended to be smelly and aggressive, disinterested in another Bowie fop. Thankfully with their much hyped debut record they delivered at a time when almost all was (quite rightly) American.

I still remember vividly the early days of Suede, of them appearing on The Word doing “Brass In Pocket” and of Brett Anderson doing photo shots that appeared in Select magazine and genuinely made him look like a bird (and not in a good way).

Bernard Butler opens “The Drowners” in glam rock manner akin to “Ziggy Stardust” and this was perhaps probably where all the Bowie clone accusations got started. This then was not helped by Anderson verbally mincing like their apparent hero in a very weedy fashion. How were these people ever going to mature or develop when so dead on arrival?

Then something magic happens to this song: it’s memorable and possesses genuine hooks. Suddenly you get the sense that these two have taken on an idea and actually managed to build on it rather than slip into some kind of lazy homage. When Brett chimes off about drowning and accusing someone of “taking me over” all can be forgiven as the swooping flow of the piece genuinely serves to lift the listener regardless of all the frilliness attached to proceedings. With all the kissing and weirdness it just doesn’t sound like a nice place to be. Brett, is this really what its like to be homosexual?

“To The Birds” occupies second place on this CD single with an almost generic, almost shoegazer type run out that listened to now almost fifteen years later sounds probably more individual and maybe even better than upon release. Here you can see why Luke Haines apparently held the band in such disdain, this was what he was also doing only not with such a pretty band or face. That said by the end of the song I just want it to fucking die.

The final track here is “My Insatiable One” which I seem to remember appearing on a magazine compilation tape or CD. It always reminded me of a Radiohead song for some reason even though listened to now Anderson makes than comparison sound somewhat inaccurate. This is actually a very strong track, perhaps more reminiscent of Blur on helium. Meandering and levitating in a classic indie manner coming full circle it is easy to concede to just how much promise there was to Suede at the beginning.

As with the first three singles the artwork here is striking with a cutting image crashing across a blank white cover and the iconic Suede logo preventing any kind of identity confusion for the purchaser even if there may have been in the music.

These were great times.

Thesaurus moment: capital.

Suede
Nude Records

Friday, 29 June 2007

THE VANITY SET – THE BIG BANG (SHE-HE-IT RECORDS)


THE VANITY SET – THE BIG BANG (SHE-HE-IT RECORDS)

Sauntering into the vision of escapades centred around it there is something distinctly lush about the first offering from Jim Sclavunos’ latest undertaking. With a roaming bassline that can run with the best of them immediately it is blindingly obvious that his time spent with Nick Cave has rubbed off on him in a most positive of fashions.

Creaming out like a Birthday Party track on downers the menace to proceedings is subtle, distrusting and evocative of the most tense and testing social occasions. This is a tight crowd/mob, both musically and spiritually it would seem.

Coming out of New York this has a big city noise attached to it, a definite coolness that could equally have come from any dark portal across the globe as it rains evocative of also Crime & The City Solution and would not have felt out of place turning up in some shady club scene of an eighties Berlin movie such as Wings Of Desire.

Sclavunos continues to wear Bad Seeds on his sleeve as on the flipside the band serves up a cover of the Nick Cave b-side “Sheep May Safely Graze” with vocals delivered by Alice Texas. It feels a fitting composition to be lent to an act carrying the moniker The Vanity Set as the string laden hymn carries a heavy burden within its content.

Thesaurus moment: intoxicate.

The Vanity Set
She-He-It Records

Thursday, 28 June 2007

SEBADOH – BEAUTY OF THE RIDE (DOMINO)


SEBADOH – BEAUTY OF THE RIDE (DOMINO)

With “Beauty Of The Ride” Lou Barlow thankfully displayed his more energetic side of song writing as opposed to the slow, sappy break-up songs that came to represent his contribution to the cannon of Sebadoh while Jason Loewenstein would run rampant with all the headstrong, firecrackers of songs. In many ways this is the song that best represents all the good parts of the Sebadoh experience.

Taken from “Harmacy” this period represented the band at the peak of their powers with perhaps the most accessible material of their career. Suddenly out of nowhere this was the band to name drop and no longer bogged down by the seeming necessity to be lo-fi these times saw Sebadoh as a playful and tight unit perfectly syncing and exchanging ideas in a kind of harmony that had not been suggested before. Loose and exciting this was definitely a high water mark for the band from a pop perspective.

It opens with a seemingly calamitous beginning before Lou Barlow drops in which his trademark heartfelt vocals and lyrics of concern. With this you can see why so many indie girls found themselves getting wet over his glasses and locks and why so many indie boys co-opted the actually easy look in an effort to perhaps channel into some of his sloppy seconds at the shows in the process. Yes I am pulling your pisser.

The conceit of this song appears to be agony but thankfully there is an urgency to proceedings that means it is never allowed to slow down and falter, there was never to be any flab on the Sebadoh body while these thoughts were zipping around.

It all ends well, the listener is satisfied and Lou most definitely sounds satisfied as anyone around in misery is not represented. Yes I am drunk.

On the other side of this seven inch is their cover of the Palace/Will Oldham song “Riding” taken from a BBC session back in the days when they recorded indie bands in session. The tone of the track is a corking compliment to the Bonnie Prince that Lou and the band actually manage to wrestle away from a swamp country quagmire. Now if this is a good thing depends really on whether you have a beard and how long it is.

How green was the fucking cover?

Thesaurus moment: soaring.

Sebadoh
Domino

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

YEAH YEAH YEAHS – MAPS (POLYDOR)


YEAH YEAH YEAHS – MAPS (POLYDOR)

Maps is a tension filled slow burner of a hit that appears to occupy Karen O’s leanings towards lyrical content as opposed to the bolshy aspirations very often displayed elsewhere in their catalogue. Getting all deep and sultry spat over Nick Zinner’s noodling it too soon turns to poodling.

This is far from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their best, indeed it is far not the most obvious of songs to cull from Fever To Tell and release as a single. For me this represents the horrid flaw of the band and how they just seem to drift, seemingly boring themselves as much as the listener in the process. I suspect I am most definitely missing something here.

That said there is a distinct pull to this track that can indeed serve to work and enthral on a dark day and certain mindset but I have always required from music that it affect me emotionally and not vice versa.

I sense this is why I never really quite jumped in and dug the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wholeheartedly. In a scene that strived individuality but too often also found itself easily charmed by the flavour of the month sadly the impression I got from this band was that they more represented the latter rather than the former.

In the end though it reaches a grand conclusion even if no satisfaction was arrived at during the way and I didn’t come.

Thesaurus moment: hairstyle.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Polydor

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

DEVO – WHIP IT (VIRGIN RECORDS)


DEVO – WHIP IT (VIRGIN RECORDS)

Most of the time this is the first DEVO song people are lucky enough to hear. Usually it comes in the form of witnessing one of the greatest pop videos in music history. If only all promo clip directors were as imaginative and inventive.

This song is truly infectious. As the song opens/begins with a gallop everything about it is right. The chords are immediately memorable; the lyrics are a code that are deciphered on first listen and when the tone needs a euphoric lift it is there.

Very few songs will ever contain a more uplifting message and be able to serve as such a genuine rally call to those that need it most. When Mothersbaugh sings “give the past a slip” it is pure poetry and the most definitive term created with view/regards to getting over something or someone and moving on. Indeed I have often used the term when addressing ladies that have broken my heart. This will always be the centre piece of a DEVO set or collection.

Released in 1980 this means that the video will soon be thirty years old and to be honest it still looks revolutionary and even though it doesn’t contain the horrible slickness that most do now it does possess a kind of spark no one else seems to have. At a time when everything is so guard and PC here is one of the most pure gestures and expressions ever from a popular and healthy band. Likewise the exact same sentiments and descriptions can be applied to the song in general.

This is a song that will honestly help get you through the day, help you to face your demons and win (“when a problem comes along, you must whip it”). When David slayed Goliath this was the record he listened to that morning.

Thesaurus moment: win.

DEVO
Virgin Records

Monday, 25 June 2007

CALVIN JOHNSON & THE SONS OF THE SOIL – CALVIN JOHNSON & THE SONS OF THE SOIL (K RECORDS)


CALVIN JOHNSON & THE SONS OF THE SOIL – CALVIN JOHNSON & THE SONS OF THE SOIL (K RECORDS)

Never failing to enthuse and as ever sounding as if straight from the greatest surf bikini movie never made here is the latest outing of Mr Johnson. This is happily a very beach party record for those afraid to remove their shirts and expose their bodies. Surfers and beatniks make for a great combination.

As some kind of weird crooner Calvin Johnson is second to none, his voice is very distinct, clear and piercing, in a league of its own creating excitement in the hearts of sloppy cats looking for wicked love.

Dated but timeless this collection is trademark K Records, naïve sounding and appearing to exist in its own dimension/reality numbed but not subdued against external forces. This way either the listener can enjoy and indulge or it can clear off.

With this record Calvin is taking the opportunity to run through some of the prize moments from his back catalogue to run through and record Beat Happening, Halo Benders and Go Team songs for the first in a band setting. Great success!

There is something almost seedy in these ambiguous, weird sex songs (“Banana Meltdown”, I ask you). Calvin Johnson these days feels on the verge of turning into an indie pop John Waters figure sticking staunchly to his guns whilst constantly discovering new ammunition. He is remains a real raconteur, using the technique of visionering humour as displayed in the “Cattle Call” breaks/breathers. The second of these skits almost sounds like something from Kids In The Hall. It is no secret as to how much influence Calvin Johnson has had on the US independent and college rock scenes (the International Pop Underground) over the past twenty years and these days it feels a rare pleasure to hear a new record of his. And with his reputation being somewhat prickly, it is a genuine relief to report that this is a fine album.

The cool surf guitar serves to conjure a cool scene, a downbeat day at the beach where all the morons are at work or have stayed at home. There is no dog shit in this sand.

My own personal highlight is the dirty work out of “Tummy Hop” that is classic K, classic Olympia and, dare I say, classic grunge in the style of Some Velvet Sidewalk or Mudhoney. Then as “What Was Me” plays out Calvin has achieved the almost perfect ending to an album with its Velvet Underground overtones and smarts.

This is a record for sensible haircuts everywhere.

Thesaurus moment: sandy.

Calvin Johnson
K Records

Sunday, 24 June 2007

MUDHONEY – TOUCH ME I’M SICK (SUB POP)


MUDHONEY – TOUCH ME I’M SICK (SUB POP)

Easily one of the greatest singles in alternative rock history “Touch Me I’m Sick” if often described as a (grunge) anthem and in a rare example of perception being correct for once it is a song that delivers wholesale.

Lyrically as dumb as it gets, it also benefits from possessing the ability to cause great offence if observed by the wrong people from the right angle. There is an ambiguous tone to the words that if taken one way can represent the largings of quite frankly a paedophile. Also with the whole “sick” tone of proceedings there is a horrible element of trivialising the most precious and affecting of states. If you over analyse these words you are destined to find the worst parts of the human condition.

This recorded version by Jack Endino is actually a pretty clunky offering from Mudhoney as listening to countless live recordings of the song will attest to its power and strength ranging far beyond what is offered by this record. For a Mudhoney song it is a pretty clean recording, low on fuzz and distortion as it seemingly gets underplayed and buried beneath the verbal intention of the piece. Rarely did the band ever sound more like The Stooges.

“Sweet Young Ain’t Sweet No More” on the flipside perhaps fairs better sounding more apocalyptic and drunk in the process with yet more explicitly dark lyrics addressing more dysfunction in a fashion that appears to have no resounding comeback. Painting the nasty of pictures here is a band writing songs about realistic and tangible tales of what it is really like to be a true rebellious youth in the face of so many false idols. As the playing rains out Steve Turner’s guitar retorts sound almost like a hoover sucking up the debris in the damage of the piece. The elevation is then complete as Mark Arm’s vocals disappear into the ether only to return with a condemning snarl aimed directly towards the mother of the piece. It all ends as a song about bad parenting. Such is life.

Without doubt the best single ever released on Sub Pop.

Thesaurus moment: Gore.

Mudhoney
Sub Pop

Saturday, 23 June 2007

THE SMITHS – HOW SOON IS NOW? (ROUGH TRADE)


THE SMITHS – HOW SOON IS NOW? (ROUGH TRADE)

Generally I think this will tend to be The Smiths track that will blow people away upon first listen – very rarely did Marr’s playing and Morrissey’s vocals sync so perfectly. The guitar sound here is majestic and haunting and most importantly does not sound like anything anyone as ever heard before or since, genuinely these chops are the sort that cause a person to sit up and question “how on earth is he doing that?”

In a way this is modern bombastic, which in itself is a term that does not really lend much credit to vastness of the composition. Even before Morrissey kicks in the song is already towering over everything in its vicinity, there is a true sense of drama attached to proceedings and a distinct majesty inevitably prevails.

With his words Morrissey really managed to touch a nerve with so many on this single. Here is a dogged description of pathetic loneliness but still loneliness that is very tangible and was/is experienced by thousands if not millions of individual in search of fruits away from solitude. Did it really take a man with a silly quiff and hearing aid to put it so succinctly into words? Well I guess it did because it takes a certain bravery to risk the modern life castigation of being seen as a person so vehemently feeling sorry for oneself, for expressing their misery and not looking necessarily looking beyond it.

All in all this is probably the most famous track of The Smiths. Over the years Americans have jumped for it not least with horrible emo bands covering it or it taking on a whole new (and not necessarily complimentary) meaning by serving as the theme music to a teenage witch TV show. Perhaps though with Morrissey’s strange fondness for the oddest things kitsch and pop he just might secretly have been a fan of Charmless. No way.

There are times in my life when this song will always serve me well but others when it might just be my worst enemy encouraging me to indulge in my softest thoughts and weakest temperament. You can see the world’s quandary.

Thesaurus moment: motion.

The Smiths
Rough Trade

Friday, 22 June 2007

TEENAGE FANCLUB – THE KING (CREATION RECORDS)


TEENAGE FANCLUB – THE KING (CREATION RECORDS)

Every great band should have a release like this lingering in the background of their catalogue that stands out like a sore thumb in comparison to the rest of their arsenal.

The King is a record that feels like a band getting into the studio for a session with a producer for a weekend looking to jam out and capture a particular sound. The producer in question was Don Fleming a man whose alternative rock and grunge credentials were high having played in the fizzy Gumball and producing Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.

Released in 1991 and perhaps best known for the fun cover of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” the nine song album has taken on something of a negative reputation over the years being recorded/released to serve as contractually obliged recording to get them to onto Geffen Records in the USA. In the UK it was deleted from their back catalogue on the day of release although Creation still managed to press up enough copies before the deletion to make it a financially sound release.

Taken on the merits of the music however I am actually a very big fan of this record. With raging feedback the album opens with the instrumental “Heavy Metal 6” that comes doused in Stooges-esqe saxophones as the band sounds like a combination of the Drop Nineteens and Jesus & Mary Chain. The aptly named “Mudhoney” then follows with more explicit and meandering Stooges leanings and a distinct lack of vocals.

Another cover version occurs in the form of “Interstellar Overdrive” as Pink Floyd’s finest material gets the grunge rock treatment to great success. Later the most extended jam comes in the form of “Opal Inquest” that serves as a true adventure into modern psychedelia very much resembling the more abstract and lengthier moments of Mudhoney in full flow.

The Byrds and Big Star feel like the furthest things from the band’s mind as this selection of songs were ungracefully churned out lending a whole different face to Teenage Fanclub, one that has never been seen or heard since. A loss.

Thesaurus moment: outcast.

Teenage Fanclub
Creation Records

Thursday, 21 June 2007

MY BLOODY VALENTINE – LOVELESS (CREATION RECORDS)


MY BLOODY VALENTINE – LOVELESS (CREATION RECORDS)

Gut wrenching from off with Loveless My Bloody Valentine truly live up to their name immediately as the swinging stabs of motion that inhabit “Only Shallow” sound like no other beginning to an album in history. Swiftly as the vocals enter proceedings and ethereal air grabs hold of proceedings and a comforting air of grace lends a true air of class to the now dream like series of circumstances that lay ahead.

With their second studio album My Bloody Valentine genuinely manage to sound like no other music act in history. As the closing strains of “Only Shallow” disappear into the either the ensuing blast of “Loomer” serves to move the soul of the listener to places probably previously undiscovered. As the guitar sounds begin to echo whales singing you can only but wonder how this band is making and getting away with these sounds without disappearing down some blind alley.

Famously this is the album that almost bankrupted Creation and upon arrival at “To Here Knows When” the studio indulge does begin to overtake the create process and to some degree all those cheques Alan McGee wrote out do not feel worth the paper they were written. This is just the frustrating air that comes with this record, at times it is just too hypnotic and abstract and given relaxed from of mind it is possible to lose yourself in these songs when it doesn’t serve the listener very well to do so.

As the song arrives at “I Only Said” you are amazed at how Shields appears to have made a guitar sound like a clarinet as the remainder weaves in and out of the healthy part of the mind.

“Sometimes” now rains as one of the most recognizable MBV songs after its emotive usage in Lost In Translation which has since added a whole new dimension and weight to the value of the song. Some say that getting Shields to work on the soundtrack of that movie were the seeds of his return to live action.

The album closes in the most bombastic of manners with “Soon” which is probably the best known and popular piece of the My Bloody Valentine armory. Here is a song that warrants some kind of research and attempted interpretation as the messages that come from the specter are so mixed and allusive. As the drums bounce it almost sounds like a dance track as the chunkiest wall of noise gears up to bomb in the most blatant and unsubtle fashion. This is a song designed to burst ear drums and serve as the aural equivalent of a love/hate relationship and argument.

This record marks the land.

Thesaurus moment: romantic.

My Bloody Valentine

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

BEASTIE BOYS – SURE SHOT (CAPITOL)


BEASTIE BOYS – SURE SHOT (CAPITOL)

The opening track from “Ill Communication” it feels like a no-brainer that this was also to be a single as the rhymes flow slickly over a Gil Scott Heron-esqe flute accompaniment that seemed to disappear from backing hip hop tracks as fast as it arrived.

Looping between of the three of them with resounding ease this track exudes the confidence that the band would have been feeling after their critically acclaimed rebirth with “Check Your Head.”

Occupying the additional tracks here came “Mullethead” another of their latter forays into hardcore which was a track that actually appeared on their “Sabotage” sell through video in addition to showing up on/in the soundtrack to Clueless. A few years later Brittany Murphy would be appearing alongside Eminem in 8 Mile. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Next “Son Of Neckbone” was one of their funk instrumental numbers that didn’t quite appear on “Ill Communication” but wouldn’t have been far from the cut as a Moog laden groove sporting the seeds of love in between the lines is supplied by the super efficient Money Mark. Another jazz odyssey to take the pace low low down.

The disc ends with a Mike Nardone mix of “Sure Shot” which lends even more funk bass sidesteps overtaking the pounding thump of the original.

At this point in their history the Beastie Boys rarely sounded stronger or tighter undertaking one of the more organic moments of their history away from the blunt cold electronic sounds later came before and after without jeopardising or compromising their rhymes. Pow!

Thesaurus moment: undisputed.

Beastie Boys
Grand Royal
Capitol

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

THE SLITS – CUT (ISLAND RECORDS)


THE SLITS – CUT (ISLAND RECORDS)

I found this CD at a place called Clacton Common inside a budget/discount music and video store that dealt in nothing but the most rejected of titles. In a way that is perhaps the most true way to discover this band as the case it came in was smashed to shit and held together with cellotape. Alas that shop no longer exists and Clacton is a poorer place without it.

The Slits are one of those bands that I have never really understood. You can also add The Raincoats to this category as to me it is generally the sound of a pretty lightweight band using certain elements of their cannon to paper up the cracks of other areas of their delivery. Does this make sense? In a short/brief sentence, the people behind this record may be angry but they aren’t shaking it up to compliment their energy, intellect and desire. Please in all sincerity change the rules but don’t do it in/with a murmur.

In many ways the record never surpasses its cover. I love how in a family friendly record store you are still able to buy an album with artwork featuring bare breasted women covered in mud. These days they get away with this for being old (for being lauded history) but at their height this would have been a most major statement. Too much try hard.

There is no doubting or questioning what the band did at the time was of great importance and significance as an industry happily shepherded its audience to anything harmless and family friendly (nothing’s changed there then) but the sad truth of the matter is just that time has not been kind to this music.

The trance like qualities of the mantra and silly singing voices are not enough in a modern age to compel a person to move on with their lives to better things. You can tell that bands such as Huggy Bear will have listened to these songs with relish in the past but their resembling output constitutes the poorer moments/fodder in their cannons.

At times this album sounds like a Bjork/Sugacubes offering (but not a very good one). The vocals make me physically sick at times, they’re too animated and overblown, unbelievable and fake in the worst possible way not really matching the wayward fun and experimentation that might be taken from the actual playing otherwise. Am I right in possessing such disdain? Am I missing out on something?

Thesaurus moment: labour.

The Slits
Island Records

Monday, 18 June 2007

JEFF BUCKLEY – GRACE (COLUMBIA)


JEFF BUCKLEY – GRACE (COLUMBIA)

Over the course of time/history there has been a real, heavy looming legacy attached to this record that has only served to build its reputation and blow it beyond any and all expectations that could ever have been attached to it in the first place. With these ten songs Jeff Buckley made his career.

It is with hushed tones now that underground types talk of Jeff Buckley, often boasting of being one of the few that saw him play live before his unfortunate drowning at the far too early age of 30.

In many ways this is the ultimate package. In Buckley the music world had a handsome poster boy for alternative rock that served up genuinely astounding and wickedly individual and emotive music that was and has always able to appeal across the board. This was a radio friendly unit shifter it was OK to like.

I never bought this album for myself. When I first owned and possessed it it was off the back of borrowing the CD from Clacton library and making a cassette copy of it. At the time I was working for Texas Homecare in the garden centre and I was only able to afford the singles. Later I bought it from Fopp with view to sending it to a Filipino lady called Gyle I was attempting to woo online but in the end I couldn’t be bothered to post it. In the end four years later I just picked up the now dust covered disc still in shrink-wrap and gave it to the lady at work for her young daughter who I later found out would burst into tears at the sound of these sad songs.

The record opens with the slow burning majesty of “Mojo Pin” which establishes the might and power of Buckley’s voice in the form of a flawed angel. It is with the title track “Grace” that the album really begins to build up a head of steam as the musicianship perfectly frames and carries Buckley’s vocal styling to a perfect place where the listener could identify the glory of the apparent pain. Having a grainy amazing video did not hurt either. For many this would be the first time they saw this messed up looking guy that could and should have been spread out in magazines.

With the single “Last Goodbye” he found his truest hook in yet another flowing and motoring ride into the common wasteland of relationship hell. With his crazy wet sentiments somehow Buckley made it able for you to listen to chorus without feeling ill or blushing.

For the longest time “So Real” was my favourite song on the album. Another seemingly lovelorn address to some lucky lady, with its oriental sounding guitar chops and huge chorus the many pitches display in his vocal delivery made it sound like there was more than one person taking care of duties. The suffocation that is felt by the narrator is so true and so easy to picture and imagine.

Maturing now with some kind of personal growth as I go past Buckley in age and years my favourite song on the album as an adult is “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over.” OK at the time I probably thought it sounded like Grant Lee Buffalo (never a bad thing) but now the subtle hooks of this song sound so chilling and quietly emphatic. This would be the record on the album to share a moment with.

Later “Eternal Life” represents as the “loud” song, the one designed to trick in and snag Nirvana fans you sense.

Obviously this is the album that contains “Hallelujah” and with it a pretty amazing stab and version of the song. Whether it tops the original is wide open to debate but the fact/reality that it is the widest and best known Buckley recording and often a new listener’s first experience of his work is something that cannot be ignored or undervalued. Always though, long before the aplomb and Leonard Cohen renaissance, I thought this song’s inclusion on the album only served to kill all momentum even though it has come to be the new “Perfect Day.”

Thesaurus moment:

Jeff Buckley
Columbia

Sunday, 17 June 2007

THE HOLD STEADY – STUCK BETWEEN STATIONS (FULL TIME HOBBY/VAGRANT)


THE HOLD STEADY – STUCK BETWEEN STATIONS (FULL TIME HOBBY/VAGRANT)

I have no idea what prompted the strike of good fortune that has seen The Hold Steady’s star power rise this year but it was acknowledged for quite some time that they were a best kept secret. Seeing The Hold Steady live in a rammed and sweaty Borderline on a Saturday night in early 2007 was one of the greatest live experiences I have ever been privileged to. The sheer energy and optimism of the band pushed songs that are actually pretty melancholic in context to something happily outweighed by the personality and strength of a band that for once genuinely serve a purpose.

There is a true jubilation to The Hold Steady, the power chords aim and strike high on target as they disguise what is in essence a really dark and moody set of vocals/lyrics addressing some of the harsh (economic and emotional) realities of modern times. This is the party record for the person on Prozac still looking for good times and to get his end away. And it is not being exclusive about it.

After two records of not seeing the Springsteen thing, suddenly as the keys kick in on this release I finally see/get it but unwillingly and with resentment – I don’t think The Hold Steady will ever be reduced to chest beating, stadium rock aiming dollar signs directly at the emotions and struggles of the blur collar man. Instead The Hold Steady are now, a band that has perhaps “made it” a little too late and are probably destined to burn out after this run of success but in the meantime this is a train ride that cannot be missed. Hop aboard or remain bored like the snivelling indie kids that Craig Finn tells you you are.

Thesaurus moment: euphoric.

The Hold Steady
Vagrant Records
Full Time Hobby

PHILISTINES JR – THE RUSSIANS BURNED MY UNCLE’S HOUSE DOWN (LISSY’S)



PHILISTINES JR – THE RUSSIANS BURNED MY UNCLE’S HOUSE DOWN (LISSY’S)

When I was at YT college I had a fanzine called Stagedive featuring an article about Philistines Jr. I could not afford to buy any of their records in order to satisfy my curiosity by now as I have reached affluence and could afford to purchase their records several times, I find a copy of this single of theirs reduced to 5p in the Notting Hill Music And Video Exchange.

In a rather sombre and staid delivery “The Russians Burned My Uncle’s House Down” is a solid narrative of a song with clear and confident storytelling that accompanies a happily affecting comfortable swing tune. If it were not for the groove, this record could easily fall into the slo-core category.

As things move onto the flipside with “Draussen Auf Kaution”, Philistines Jr become something of a louder affair reminding me slightly of Trumans Water in the loud but laidback motion accompanied by strange instruments and weirder noises all sung in a rather German method (very efficient and from the right side of the wall). Does anyone else remember the minor fixation lo-fi bands appeared to have with the German language around the mid nineties? Most definitely, Philistines Jr Ist Rad.

Thesaurus moment: eventually.

Philistines Jr
Lissy’s

Saturday, 16 June 2007

BLACK FLAG – TV PARTY (SST RECORDS)


BLACK FLAG – TV PARTY (SST RECORDS)

I think it would be a safe bet to say that for more people than not this is the very first Black Flag song they ever get to hear (or see). Certainly in my own case I felt truly blessed one Sunday night when MTV 120 Minutes served the ultimate gift by playing the truly great and earnestly funny lo-fi music video that accompanies this song.

Perhaps not truly representative of the gnarly hard and fast element/side of Black Flag in their prime it does still serve as an exciting feat and blindingly fun piece of hardcore punk with so many tangible references that only a complete fool could not tap into.

The TV party is one of the greatest social conceits in modern live, a bunch of guys just staying/sitting in and slowly getting drunk/tanked while lazily just watching and ripping on what is on television can often be as entertaining as it gets. This is a very male experience and world, one much like Black Flag that girls just don’t seem to get/understand. Why out into the outside world at all? Are you insane?

Despite the fun part of the song there is an element of novelty element to the single that does really do the band a disservice but unlike many hardcore bands of both that era and now it does display the rare commodity of the band actually possessing a sense of humour.

Let the freaks have their sports songs; this is the true of anthem of the working man. Being dumb never sounded so clever.

Thesaurus moment: Quincy!

Black Flag
SST Records

Friday, 15 June 2007

THE PONYS - TURN THE LIGHTS OUT (MATADOR RECORDS)


MUGGABEARS – NIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY (SELF RELEASED)


MUGGABEARS – NIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY (SELF RELEASED)

This is the most exciting new band I have discovered so far in 2007, an act so refreshing whilst also being so crisp and concise in the wearing of its influences on its sleeves. In a time where the past few years indie music has threatened to give into pant swinging neo-hippy folk types, pointless and aimless noise acts and a full on thrust of grunge nostalgia…..basically here is a band THAT FUCKING ROCKS!

Well, “rocks” in an experimental and angular Sonic Youth inspired manner but still it should just what the indie rock doctor is ordering. The music of the Muggabears is immediate through a familiarity of its genre and sheer frenetic dynamism of its playing. It evades me as to just how many times I have heard music like this but bands are still discovering methods with which they are able to make it still sound fresh and inventive.

With obvious nods to Sonic Youth (the band having transplanted from Oklahoma up to New York) it often also resembles Unwound at their most positively dank and dense whilst sporting/rocking a lineup dynamic akin to Blonde Redhead, which at the close of proceedings is a very exciting proposition (in theory).

The choicest track on offer is the elevated “The Goth Tarts”, a towering delivery of menace that builds with the most sinister of intros into a song that literally feels young coupled with a severe sense of guilt and (un)healthy dose of darkness in its mood being fairly nihilistic in its message (“you shouldn’t have children, you shouldn’t read books”).

Night Choreography runs in at seven songs over 24 minutes and there is something of an inconsistency in the offerings as “Automatic Others” appears to fall apart as the singer experiences something of a breakdown (probably of intention) and “Dead Kid Kicks” cheekily lifts heavily from “Purr” by Sonic Youth, something they will be given the benefit of the doubt for for only so long.

When the heavy bass of “Now I’ve Got A Sword” swoops in, the basic eruption and destruction coupled with distorted insane vocals and bloody hooks happily provides proof/evidence that time spent on this band is time well spent. Perhaps not the finished item, there is a mass of exciting indications to be taken from this record that time will hopefully be fulfilled in its promise.

Thesaurus moment: capable.

Muggabears

BIG NURSE – AMERICAN WASTE (HIGH DENSITY HEADACHE RECORDS)


BIG NURSE – AMERICAN WASTE (HIGH DENSITY HEADACHE RECORDS)

This was a random LP/twelve inch that was just sent to my flat addressed to No Pictures last summer, something which I have to admit freaked me out because I have no idea as to just where they got my current address from. Hmmm…….

Big Nurse are something of a terrifying proposition, a pulsing and repetitive excretion of sheet metal white noise all in the name of ferocity. Upon first listen a person could be forgiven for dismissing this as just noise and they would be right but it is also so much more.

The sounds coming from stereo (people please send me vinyl and more of it!) reminds me of recent acts I have seen such as Chris Corsano and Rocket No 9, improv infused monsters looking to push boundaries further and further with each onslaught and performance. This music comes straight out of the heart of Sun Ra whilst being conceived and performed by/from standards set out by punk. As the first side of the record comes to an end sound akin to the din made by a cutlery drawer falling down several flights of stairs of a council building, I make myself a cup of tea and ask God “just what else can I expect from this act now?”

I think American Waste is the perfect title for this record; the heady din is very industrial, like a factory in the middle of nowhere producing the middle of nothing, a pointless industry that can seemingly only be found in downsized America and the broken working classes. The pain I feel from this record is akin to the latest worker to miss a meal through failing to have employment. The whistles on the record say it all.

Side two begins with more drilling and a relentless patter exhibiting much more energy than the previous slab – imagine Lightning Bolt covering “Revolution” by Spaceman 3 and suddenly we are live from Planet Load Records. Out the blocks however, the “tune” does not sustain and again the assault becomes overwhelming and difficult to live with, which is exactly the kind of response you suspect Big Nurse wish to treat you with on a big scale. As a Dick Dale sound-alike subtly invades the “song” towards the close it all ends with a painful crash and I am able to go back to my life (and watching “How To Look Good Naked”). If you need a party cleared soon, this is the record to do it with.

I will never play this record ever again.

Thesaurus moment: throbbing.

Big Nurse

LDN IS A VICTIM – LDN IS A VICTIM (HAPPY SHOPPER RECORDS)


LDN IS A VICTIM – LDN IS A VICTIM (HAPPY SHOPPER RECORDS)

This is a vindictive little record aiming true at the current crop of “indie” acts buzzing around London A&R circles. And equally I feel quite the victim myself as I hand over my hard earned fiver at Rough Trade’s Talbot Road shop for a copy on “limited” pink vinyl which keeps skipping, over and over and over (piece of shit).

Having created something of a buzz in itself on Myspace, the targets in question are perhaps the first wave/generation of Myspace acts to transfer from the computer screen onto the big screen (whatever that is).

Of the acts assaulted some deserve it and some don’t (well, no one is really innocent) but it is hard to fault anyone to who refers to Miss LDN herself as “Lily Keith Allen”. It’s snotty and cynical but you can’t help but laugh at the cattiness of it all because in actuality it is generally pretty spot on in its statements.

I think I have had a taster of the “scene” addressed here first hand as I have sat and watched at work for a year a young lad that looks like Alex Zane act as A&R in the publishing department where I toil, displaying neither any real musical taste/knowledge or with any hope in hell of actually getting anything signed. He may be mates with The Kooks but in reality the fact he just spent all day staring at one particular website earned him the name “Myspace Boy.” I say “spent” as in the past tense because he has fucked off now as the publishing function has now been downsized to next to nothing. “Bye bye A&R you’re not needed here any more.”

Musically the track, complete with Nathan Barley sample at the close (point made), consists of pretty standard beats relying on witty snipes by it’s inventors and whilst it is hardly likely to change the course of music history I certainly feel it gives a good lesson.

For what it’s worth it sounds like the work of Peckham’s DJ Rubbish to me.

Thesaurus moment: cocky.

LDN Is A Victim

LORI STEELE – LORI STEELE (SELF RELEASED)


LORI STEELE – LORI STEELE (SELF RELEASED)

Packaging wise this is an interesting CD as it has a barcode but doesn’t actually have any kind of record label attached to it, it would seem. Is this where the industry is apparently heading – where bands/acts are now self released brands and record labels have been made unnecessary and redundant. Regardless though the cover artwork looks fantastic, like some kind of explosion taken from a Golden Age Marvel or DC comic.

Initially the record reminds me a lot of a long lost band called Letters To Cleo although the occasional vocal quirk does suggest a penchant towards Alanis Morissette combined with a chorus that could be straight out of The Corrs back catalogue.

For a girl (soft) rocker there feels a distinct lack of a rebellious edge, this is all so horribly well adjusted, agonised but in that soft victim way. Comparisons aside, judged on its own merits the songs are very clean and competently created but not really pushing any boundaries.

By the close of the record ultimately I just cannot judge nor decide as to whether the true leanings sway towards alternative rock or full on pop. Certainly at times I am reminded of The Cranberries and very much an Irish Alanis Morissette (with a dab of Avril Lavigne) but having made such trite comparisons I would really hate to come to release that I am acting listening to (dealing with) some haggard old punk trying to play it straight.

There is a lot in this record for people to take and enjoy, those people just happen to be either elderly and/or very dull.

Thesaurus moment: duplicity.

Lori Steele

Thursday, 14 June 2007

PAVEMENT – RATTLED BY LA RUSH EP (BIG CAT)


PAVEMENT – RATTLED BY LA RUSH EP (BIG CAT)

You can only but admire the lack of effort put into this package. The artwork looks like a Pritt Stick collage of shit, the Pavement name and release title is nowhere to be seen on the cover and the tracklisting contains on three song titles when there are actually four songs on the release. This is truly what it is to be a slacker. Oh yeah, they’ve misspelled the title of single also.

“Rattled By The Rush” is an endearing romp through the inner recesses of the mind of Stephen Malkmus. It is with a lumbering delivery that almost sounds like it is being delivery by the Forrest Gump of lo-fi indie rock with its explicit description of simple gestures. Soon the playing takes over as it appears lyrics and vocals have all but been forgotten about. Olympic level slackness closes proceedings as the most beautiful of wonky objects steals the listener’s heart providing its own rush to induce a rattle.

“Brink Of The Clouds” is a real pleasure of a skreamer, a loose and brief fuck about of pretending to be a real song benefiting from silliness and yelping. Away from the intricate structures of Wowee Zowee this is prime return to the early helpings of their scrappy EPs.

Things slow down with “False Skorpion” which structures in a moor coherent manner but inevitably falls to pieces about two thirds of the way in.

The closure is haunted. Like the end of a drunken night at a fairground the journey is consumed with a disorienting climax and one that should be valued in such times of nasty slickness and impressionable oldsters influencing impressionable youngsters. For this on “Easily Fooled” I thank you.

Thesaurus moment: round.

Pavement
Big Cat

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

CAT POWER – HE WAR (MATADOR RECORDS)


CAT POWER – HE WAR (MATADOR RECORDS)

“He War” is one of those songs that has grown in legacy and stature long after its release. I had seen Chan Marshall play live twice before I finally “got” her by which time it was unfortunately too late to really get the full emotional affect from her music.

As I finally persisted with “You Are Free” it was (and has always been) “He War” that was the track that stood out. So it was extra sickening to me one day when I investigated an unopened Matador promo envelope to discover that I had owned/possessed a copy of the single for nearly five years.

It opens with some delicate keys coupled with matching chops before an overriding guitar layers further and a real rev up of an introduction to the song that offers hope in what appears to be the face of adversity.

It almost feels like the guitars are dueling throughout the song as in the distance the quiet piano ticks serve as an entity attempting to intervene. It is however the “hey hey hey” of the chorus that provides most hope, especially pitched against the refrain of “he will kill for you.”

This is a breezy and beautiful song with dark content. Sometimes music attain personal perfection in their craft. On this track Chan Marshall did just that.

Drum parts are provided by Dave Grohl but fortunately you can’t tell.

Thesaurus moment: yearn.

Cat Power
Matador Records

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

KANYE WEST – ALL FALLS DOWN (ROC-A-FELLA RECORDS/MERCURY)


KANYE WEST – ALL FALLS DOWN (ROC-A-FELLA RECORDS/MERCURY)

Realistically here is some kind of slow hip hop song that when listened to too often can bring about some kind of meltdown in the listener, a self loathing ditty to bring about the defeat in bling.

Over time Kanye has managed to prove that he is one of the most spiky characters around the genre. At a time when mainstream hip hop has exploded into a horrible, bastardised beast of what it formerly was as R&B licks suffocate so much of what once great somehow Kanye managed to pull the sound off, even acting like a dick in the process but managing to remain likeable in the process.

With “All Falls Down” Kanye seems intent on bursting the aspirations of his audience. Originally intended to have involved Lauryn Hill on a much larger scale it is actually the voice of Syleena Johnson that provides the lush chorus and hook to complement Kanye’s delivery and flow.

It is a rare example of a modern hip hop song that appears to condemn the materialistic lifestyle pushed and promoted by so many in their messages and videos. With it comes a kind of integrity handed to Kanye that gives off an impression of grounding him and lends a “for real” aspect to his rhymes and activities. This was a tender release by him before he became the entertaining wayward son seemingly not afraid to make a fool of himself in public as he struggles to curb his mouth and behaviour and achieved a new kind of notoriety away from his music. In many ways this was where it became and demonstrated humility that sadly now feels fleeting.

Regardless of any such perception though there is no doubting that this is a great song. Its mind tempo downbeat vibe is on that has felt like a stranger to mainstream hip hop in recent years and sometimes when you just leave the music to do the talking even the worst of actions cannot corrupt such a legacy.

Bonus points also for giving the gorgeous Stacey Dash a seemingly much needed job in the video. Now where did her career go?

Thesaurus moment: emo.

Kanye West
Roc-a-fella Records

Monday, 11 June 2007

FUGAZI – RED MEDICINE (DISCHORD)


FUGAZI – RED MEDICINE (DISCHORD)

When Red Medicine hit the shores it was at a time ripe for the picking. This was a post-Kurt world where hardcore was now changing and their true innovators were leaving the grunting apes behind, much like back in the seventies on both sides of the pond.

This was the first Fugazi record I bought on the day of release and naïve as I was I was shocked when the record store only charged me £7. Surely this was some kind of mistake because prior to this I had only heard In On The Killtaker and I was blissfully unaware of the politics of the band, instead rightfully it was the music that grabbed me first and only later would the ethos of the band begin to loom large on my consciousness. As a result of my savings I was then able to return to the other record store and buy my first Ramones record (“It’s Alive”).

Taken from a hardcore stance/perspective Red Medicine is a true achievement. The playing is crisp and the vocals back so much punch, clear and defining running out riddles and rhymes that require and encourage research and revision.

Held within this record are some timely references to the state of the nation of punk and youth culture at the time. A lyric such as “they’re marketing the use of the word generation” from “Target” screams true disgust and despair at the way and manner in which their apparent music world/climate has been co-opted and their audience has been led blind towards such frauds and posers as Bush (“another thousand grudging young millions”).

Red Medicine contains perhaps my favourite Fugazi track in the form of “By You.” With its storming torrent, the slow building cacophony displays for me what is the culmination of their maturity away from their hardcore roots.

Without a doubt this is the best Fugazi record.

Thesaurus moment: completion.

Fugazi
Fugazi interview
Fugazi live
Dischord Records

Sunday, 10 June 2007

NIRVANA – IN BLOOM (GEFFEN)


NIRVANA – IN BLOOM (GEFFEN)

As Geffen released Incesticide just before Christmas 1992 it always felt a strangely timed decision to release “In Bloom” as a single, perhaps/probably as one last throw of the dice at milking the remnants of Nevermind. In many ways with its different version on Sub Pop, complete with music video, it was always destined to be a single.

Situated on Nevermind as the second track following “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “In Bloom” always sounded like the catchy little brother the “real” songs of the album, which probably gave it subtle might. The guitars are thick and dense, the drums are incendiary as it resembles the song that was most likely aped by Helmet on Meantime. It also features a chorus parents would recognise without acknowledging or realising the sentiments.

This is a classic example of a song with a meaning slipping beneath the mainstream radar. When Kurt Cobain sings “know not what it means” he is not alone. The common interpretation is that it is a royal dig at oversexed jocks and their intimidating ways, almost serving as a national anthem to the disenfranchised kids being bullied at school.

The CD comes coupled with live b-sides of “Sliver” and “Polly”, not the greatest examples or versions of the songs performed live. The release of this single coincided with the re-promotion of the “Sliver” single by Sub Pop (itself to coincide with the release of Incesticide) so the inclusion of the song here was perhaps a gesture by Geffen aimed at discouraging some from purchasing the original Sub Pop version.

With its blatantly phallic cover this record is as nasty as its artwork.

Thesaurus moment: belated.

Nirvana
Geffen

CSS – OFF THE HOOK (SIRE/SUB POP)


CSS – OFF THE HOOK (SIRE/SUB POP)

Along with The Gossip, with regards to crossover appeal it has been Cansei De Ser Sexy that have really captured my excitement this year. I first heard about them (like everyone else) last year as the first few press shots from a balcony somewhere arrived on the scene and here was a band that looked very interesting, holding a lot of potential just from the mere/sheer colour they screamed. And they were on Sub Pop, something that will always make a person stand up and take some notice even though often these days Sub Pop releases are often gamble.

Anyhow, the record came out and it sounded OK, poppy and pleasant. I have to admit that initially I couldn’t hear any hits there nor anything with any real bite, the hooks were there but not in the gnarly kind of way to stop hearts from beating. The first song to initially stand out was indeed “Alala” as well as the various offerings dictating “fuck off is not the only thing” and “let’s make love”, crass statements it seemed only inserted for shock purpose. That was before they took context. Indeed, their standing really had not taken hold to the point that friends were confusing the band with those doddery old fuckers CCS.

So fast forward to 2007 and Sire have taken over the CSS license and now the release has gone into overdrive here in Europe and suddenly things are beginning to take shape. After the initial hints of the out and out star quality, attractiveness and personality of Lovefoxxx now becoming something of an icon sponsored by American Apparel it would seem. The video of their Coachella performance is perhaps the most aroused I have ever been by indie music.

“Off The Hook” is a truly great pop song, the opening exchange is wonderfully delivered in a way that makes you want to know and remember what they are saying, and sounding all the more striking due to the accents. Bouncing rather than plodding there is a genuine exuberance to the tale of the track and the hooks are genuine with enough in it’s arsenal to appeal to both indie and pop camps without spreading itself too thinly. Ending how it begins with an address from the Lovefoxxx, the way the band/music drops out with her continuing to expound is indeed pure magic. The b-side is the apparently previously unreleased track “Poney Money Honey” although it appears on my copy of the album. As a true flipside reflection of CSS, this song is just a keeper, a slow Pavement-esqe drawl and exactly the kind of flat energy that is not required from Brazil’s greatest kids. Good times.

Thesaurus moment: luxuriant.

CSS
Sub Pop
Sire

VARIOUS – CANADIAN BLAST (NME)


VARIOUS – CANADIAN BLAST (NME)

What kind of shit is the NME trying to foist upon us now? Apparently the new rock new music movement is now North of the border and by that they do not mean Scotland.

I very much doubt whether this is a true and fair reflection of what the Canadian music scene is really like (please ask my friend Allen Zuk of The Blitters for a real breakdown) as I suspect many Canadian dollars were exchanged by record labels, management and press officers with view to getting “their bands” on this cover mounted CD. Cynicism aside, let me now judge the music on its merits.

The CD tastily opens with Metric, a band I was once invited to go and see a year ago but had to decline as to me the name was a no-mark. On the contrary today they sound to me like one of those excellent female fronted grunge-lite indie/alternative bands that Big Cat used to happily and regularly churn out a few years ago (the main example I am thinking of here is Crowsdell).

Tokyo Police Club pop up with another energetic and lively track looking to further confuse my waiting opinion of them. Are they the real deal or just second rate Strokes-esqe chancers?

With his/its slacker whine Wintersleep heavily remind me of Sebadoh in a positive way, which is always a optimistic expression while the crassly christened Holy Fuck are a hybrid of crazed carney/clown/circus sounds that mutate into electronic abandonment combined with what may be Canada’s own version of Lightning Bolt maybe.

Surely with a name that was created with the intention of being confused and mistaken with the Barenaked Ladies, the Besnard Lakes deliver a sound very Pink Floyd-esqe in its execution, perhaps cashing in on the recent soundtrack leanings to the Floyd in such movies as The Squid And The Whale and The Departed.

Land Of Talk come over as agonised female indie rock, too heavy to be Cat Power and more reminiscent of Liz Phair, falling just short of being out and out lairy Riot Grrrl (probably to its credit). I just bet she is French Canadian with a tone such as that.

Finally with his echoed delivery, Patrick Watson stands out with the offering of “Drifters”. It is a pleasant work out with being necessarily revolutionary as Mr Watson appears to be more inspired by Jeff Buckley the longer the track transpires.

As expected it is a pretty staid selection of tracks from acts not a million miles away from their American counterparts, some good some bad but all very very familiar sounding.

Thesaurus moment: replicant.

Besnard Lakes
Holy Fuck
Land Of Talk
Metric
Tokyo Police Club
Patrick Watson
Wintersleep
NME

Saturday, 9 June 2007

VARIOUS - GEFFEN RARITIES VOL 1 (GEFFEN)


VARIOUS – GEFFEN RARITIES VOL 1 (GEFFEN)

Released in the summer of 1994 this was a very strange and weird compilation released by Geffen for seemingly little reason or purpose. The tracklisting wasn’t really very inspiring and the line-up beyond the four heavyweights suggested an attempt at reminding an audience of fast decreasing interest of their crop of other alternative rock names while also introducing the world to Weezer and Beck.

Known in the US as DGC Rarities Vol 1 (with a slightly differing tracklisting) this compilation has the dubious/notorious honour of being the first release to feature a Nirvana track after Kurt Cobain’s suicide (the demo version of “Stay Away” originally titled “Pay To Play”). In a way you suspect part of the intention of the release was to just get something by Nirvana released, to also cash in on an audience snapping up anything with a Nirvana song and to possibly gauge the public opinion to scraping the barrel and milking the remaining unreleased track of their now deceased cash cow. You can bet 99% of the people buying this CD at the time were not buying it for a snapshot of the current state of the alternative nation.

The overriding smell of this collection is that it was cheap and hastily arranged. Fortunately some of the tracks included display the slacker sarcasm of the grunge/Generation X is supposed to representing and appealing to but this was several years and miles away from being our generations Nuggets, as may well have been an idea muted at the planning stage. It was a period where the US indies such as Sub Pop and Kill Rock Stars were putting out really great compilations that Geffen thought perhaps this release might slip in with, to gain their share of the market, but they were done so with somewhat more consideration. The artwork looks equally sarcastically tacky but really this again comes from it just being cheap.

I never bothered to buy the record at the time and only eventually got a copy of it when it appeared at a bargain price on some Ebay auction. The fact that is comes with a MCA Masters sticker on the cover (meaning it had become major label mid price clearance fodder) only re-emphasises was feels like almost contempt that was held towards this record.

The actual music is mixed, OK at best and dull at worst. Urge Overkill open proceedings with a blessed out “Dropout” before the Nirvana number hits at track 2 as if the record label couldn’t wait to get the song on the release. Whether the majority of the owners of this CD progressed any further with the disc is debatable.

Matching Nirvana for noise and distortion follows Weezer who started their career awkwardly as grunge’s clean-cut major label cousins and never quite shifted the tag. Here their contribution “Jamie” sounds like a cross between hi-fi Pavement and very early Ash, the most positive of comparisons. As ever with Weezer though they just lacked anger, bite and some kind of aggressive passion instead sounding too much like victims.

With “Compilation Blues” Sonic Youth’s contribution capped a display of disinterest in the “project” while a fresh-faced Beck could be heard breaking up in bored laughter during his harmonica driven acoustic entry “Bogusflow”.

The sarcastic “Grunge Couple” by That Dog sees them becoming one of the few acts to come away sounding good on this compilation. Elsewhere the ever-reliable Posies sound wonderfully like Superchunk and Redd Kross, St Johnny sound like Teenage Fanclub and Sloan’s pair of Eric’s Trip cover versions range from sounding like the Stone Roses to gorgeous early eighties hardcore.

Elsewhere the question begs: who the fuck was Murray Attaway?

Noticeable by their absence on the Geffen UK version but their presence on the DGC US version are Cell, Sonic Youth’s buddies that ultimately did nothing but did get a few lines in the UK music press before failing to make it (a dent). Perhaps more than any of the other acts they could have done with the push. The Yank version also featured tracks by Teenage Fanclub, Hole and The Sundays while in exchange us Brits got Urge Overkill and Maria Mckee (a lady/inclusion really pushing it by claiming to be of this compilation’s ilk, genre and theme).

There was no volume 2.

Thesaurus moment: disguise.

Geffen

Friday, 8 June 2007

NIRVANA - NEVERMIND (DGC)


NIRVANA – NEVERMIND (DGC)

In many ways this was Year Zero for modern music but unfortunately by the end of the nineties all the good work that this bolt to the industry had done felt unravelled. Many would argue that the good work was undone many years before that. Others would question whether the impact was all that positive, if everything about the underground breaking into the mainstream was real in the first place. How much of the “breaking” of Nirvana (in both respects) was genuine and how much of it was PR hype? Were they just flavour of the month or were they with this record the real deal?

With the benefit of hindsight and seventeen plus years (fast heading towards twenty) I will concede that my passion for Nirvana was somewhat naïve and blinded but at the same time any band and record that opened my eyes to underground/alternative rock music and shaped my record collection (and thus my moods and opinions) is a very important thing. Very rarely was a band handed such a platform with which open the floodgates. Of course this was not down to them alone but they certainly assisted it.

To my ears the album still very much holds up but to the later generations (Generation Y) they have found themselves suckered into either the notion of Nirvana only having three songs or that the fucking imbeciles that followed, such as Bush, is what the band and its sound were about. Somehow over the years the band went from being an indie band to a metal and such perception has served as a detriment.

I always thought the strength of the album was the power of the non-singles tracks. The couplet of “Drain You” and “On A Plain” are two of the catchiest songs in the Nirvana cannon and the pace of “Lounge Act” is an exhilarating ride.

Obviously all the singles were killer, with “Come As You Are” and its Killing Joke “borrow” being the stand out of the four now with its bassline sounding so unique until you finally hear “Eighties”, as which point you hear the original as being only a pale imitation.

Bookending the record with “Polly” and “Something In The Way” I always thought was a mistake; even though the songs possessed powerful meanings they were death to the pace of the record. Thank god for “Endless Nameless” turning up after “Something In The Way” to blow away the curmudgeon.

Many say the Butch Vig production was too slick, too pop, too sell out but when needed it was there, it enhanced the greater pop moments even if it did trim and smooth the record’s jagged edges (Butch Vig is no Steve Albini). For years now there have been different versions of these songs circulating as demos, session tracks and live versions and always the strength of the songwriting has been what has shone through.

When I tell people that Nirvana are the most important band we will see in our generation they always scoff but at the end of the day I am right and they are wrong. So with this being their most successful album by default this makes this the most important album of our generation. Is that correct?

Thesaurus moment: fundamental.

Nirvana
DGC

Thursday, 7 June 2007

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE – IBI DREAMS OF PAVEMENT (A BETTER DAY) (CITY SLANG/ARTS & CRAFTS)


BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE – IBI DREAMS OF PAVEMENT (A BETTER DAY) (CITY SLANG/ARTS & CRAFTS)

I once took a girl on a date to a Broken Social Scene show in Shepherd’s Bush. At the end of the evening I came away wondering just what the hell was going. Obviously she loved it, she was with me. As we left and headed towards the tube station a fox came running across in front of us and she grabbed me tight. I genuinely thought I was in. She then asked me if I enjoyed the show and my response was only lukewarm. This was probably the point I blew it with her.

She knew all their names, all those shaggy looking people with the bad clothes and silly beards. Here was a collective of people endeavouring to make as much noise as possible by taking the most unconventional route they were able to muster.

“Ibi Dreams Of Pavement” is a joyfully loud and noisy affair, an exuberant blast of energy that presents a positive take on the alternative lifestyle in a deep and meandering manner. With optimism such as this attached to these tones I can kind of see what Carol was touching upon, the military-esqe drums urge the kind of march to eternity that few gestures are able to muster in these times. There is a strength and power to this song that is multilayer and I’ll admit extraordinary. For those that love Arcade Fire an affection for this should be obvious too.

Things remain raucous on “All The Goods” as the kind of euphoria that the Flaming Lips seem to specialise in gets tapped into by everyone’s new favourite Canadian cousins.

Expansive and elating, value for money.

Thesaurus moment: sanguine

Broken Social Scene
City Slang

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

CIRCLE JERKS – GROUP SEX (FRONTIER RECORDS)


CIRCLE JERKS – GROUP SEX (FRONTIER RECORDS)

The last time I looked this album lasted fifteen minutes and forty seconds. One day it seemed all albums would be so concise. Jesus, I think I have heard seven inches with more time squeezed onto them but there was nowhere near as much music.

Fronted by Keith Morris, a founder of Black Flag if you didn’t already know, the Circle Jerks were part of the amazing early eighties California hardcore scene and this album is considering to be something of a landmark.

Even now some 26 years after the recording and release of this album the term/title “Group Sex” is one that can still serve to raise smiles and blushes. Listened to with this distance behind it it still manages to sound relevant, possessing integrity and stature that not all hardcore records necessarily mature well as it retains character and personality.

Much about this band remains pleasingly provocative with the explicit imagery and terminology attached to the titles and names associated with their wares. Against such associations the music sounds so inappropriate, all delivered just to shock and offend, designed to make parents worry and angry white teenage males giddy.

There is the same kind of direct looseness to the Circle Jerks that made Black Flag so devastating. The songs are short and to the point not bogged down by the intricacies of exact playing, more powered and fuelled on pure youthful energy and anger. Rarely will you ever find such an accurate statement of young people’s sentiments as they rail against all they see confronting them. These are songs that mean something containing topics and subjects that are so tangible its audience is immediately able to relate to with perfection. There is a timeless element to these motions that kids now can safely invest in. Green Day this is not.

The record opens with “Deny Everything” a brief but affirmative declaration of how to act (react) when faced with heavy (and sometimes unnecessary) accusation. This is the ultimate mantra that despite lasting only 28 seconds the listener is probably singing along with by the close of their first hearing of the song.

Over the course of the fourteen songs the band bludgeons the audience with numerous calls to actions in an edutaining manner that has the shadow of Black Flag and SST looming throughout proceedings. The influence of Morris’ previous band is felt most when “Wasted” shows its face in a form that is almost indistinguishable from the Black Flag version of the song. Likewise the sonic blast of “Don’t Care” sounds achingly like the opening salvo of “You Bet We’ve Got Something Personal Against You.” You get the impression from this that the scene was tight. As to whether ideas were exchanged or stolen is probably open to debate.

Beneficial of a knowing sense of humour you can’t but help find “I Just Want Some Skank” the ultimate in parental baiting ditties. Later when the record reaches “World Up My Ass” the band fucking nails what it is like to be an angry teenager, perfectly putting such emotions into words and music making it a song I truly wish I owned in order to vent through at such an age.

Considering that this review has now taken several times longer to write than it takes to listen to I cannot help but point out that over the years there have been a lot of fakers in hardcore, milquetoasts and people just wearing the lifestyle as a fashion accessory this record is the real deal and a genuine act of innovation of the scene.

Fifteen minutes is the perfect length of time to experience and it also serves as the perfect length of time for an amazing punk record.

Thesaurus moment: cum.

Circle Jerks
Frontier Records

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

ROTHKO – ELEVEN STAGES OF INTERVENTION (BIP HOP RECORDS)


ROTHKO – ELEVEN STAGES OF INTERVENTION (BIP HOP RECORDS)

Thankfully often more Mingus than Mogwai, the bass heavy bass led Rothko have been creating tuneful musical soundscapes for several years now, with each release often bettering the prior. Spread over ten tracks, this is Rothko’s Nth album and shows them yet again at the height of their strengths, their latest release since the A Personal Display Of Conflict EP on Bad Hand Records.

With song titles nearly each reference elements of the environment, this is another serious and sombre sounding collection of songs ideally saved for moments of relaxation or requiring clarity – this is truly a collection that establishes boundaries and a sense of perspective into the whole generation of a person’s purpose and place into the whole structure of proceedings. Seldom can and does post rock/soundscape music move me but there is a true uniqueness and individualism to the sheer weight of emotion that Rothko can muster.

The record opens with subtle Dirty Three-esqe strings as the tension within the engine of the album builds before moving on electronic buzzes that gives it a futuristic, cybernetic pipe feel that fuel it with something of a Far Eastern vibe. If Bill Murray returned to Tokyo in the future and made a sequel to Lost In Translation, this and not Kevin Shields would be asked along to score.

As the record proceeds the tone becomes darker in its beauty, layered with a grand variety of sounds and instruments each giving the song held within a new personality and character. Examples of this in action being the suspense created during “Be Invisible”, a track that would serve perfectly for some nuevo Asian horror movie with the juxtaposed dynamics of tender string harmonies complimenting the apparent menace giving depth. Likewise “Weather Every Storm” plays out like an eruption as it builds and finally explodes.

Served as an example of how to create a modern composition, this collection continues the legacy of excellence that has come to be familiar with any Rothko release and one that gives much hope to the future of post-rock music displaying that there are still avenues still to be ploughed and explored within the genre.

Thesaurus moment: poignant.

Rothko
Bip Hop

DKDENT – TEENAGE LOVE EP (TONY MUSIC & CONSULTING)


DKDENT – TEENAGE LOVE EP (TONY MUSIC & CONSULTING)

Here is a release by a band that regularly chose to pester me on Myspace so to placate them I suggested “send me a CD and I will review it online”. I never actually thought it would materialise. Whoops!

When I say they “pestered” me, actually I have to admit that I probably brought it on myself when I added them as a friend basically because I thought the singer’s boots looked cool. Such are the strife “politics” of Myspace.

Hailing from Dusseldorf in Germany it seems; DKDENT are a most electro pop proposition. Had these guys bothered to research my tastes, preferences and previous online reviews, I suspect they may have experienced second thoughts and reservations.

So what can I say……it is very poppy. I feel it is too restrained to have been a nineties MTV Euro hit but at the same time it is too tame really to appeal to a leftfield audience that would appreciate some of the qualities that they do in bands such as St Etienne, Client and even upbeat Ladytron. I think the Client comparison is the one that rings truest, perhaps even stretching to being more Dubstar-esqe. And then the odds are upped when the second track appears to have a keyboard riff perversely taken straight from the Inspiral Carpets and the vocals are now delivered in French, which seems something of an advantage as you no longer actually know what the girl is bleating on about (what an old cynic I sound!).

The more Parisian the songs become (complete with a lot of accordion) the more they begin to resemble Serge Gainsbourg-influenced Blonde Redhead as the strength of the female vocals really impress and take centre stage (most definitely on the track “Song For James”). I don’t think the intention was to appeal to such an audience but it is mission accomplished.

Taken as music alone DKDENT turn out to be a more interesting proposition than was expected although what is behind the music still remains an element that is unclear to me, not least for the indie no-no of including an advertisement in the inlay for a video game on which their music appears coupled with all the “supported by” mentions on the back of the sleeve (unsurprisingly including Moog).

Thesaurus moment: unforeseen.

DKDENT
Tony Music & Consulting

CAMELONE – WHERE YOU GOING EP (SELF RELEASED)


CAMELONE – WHERE YOU GOING EP (SELF RELEASED)

Here’s a band whose name I keep getting incorrect, often mistaking it for Cameltoe and/or Camelove (and just a moment ago even Camelot) – there is a lesson to be learned here when you name your band.

Another CD sent by an act that was bugging me on Myspace to whom I told “put up or shut up”. Cameltoe…..sorry, I mean Camelone deliver their CD “EP” in a really nicely packaged CD sleeve, complete with very British cultural references including a dated CND protest sign, Che Guevara and sixties Mick Jagger – so how does the music hold up in comparison? Does it represent such imagery?

On with the rock and……it is Hammond heavy, dare I say Mod from a band that definitely appear to have the Arctic Monkeys in their record collection. There is also quite a heavy The View vibe to proceedings, which isn’t really inspiring stuff. At times it does occasionally tap into the same taste buds that appealed to Supergrass but the keyboards really do overwhelm the songs, which isn’t necessarily a good thing when they remind of bingo halls, cinemas and Clacton pier. Aside from the occasionally lapse into ska moments, there really isn’t much difference between the four songs on offer – each song is lyrically like listening to an excruciating conversation that Paul Danan might have on a Saturday night.

Where You Going? I wouldn’t like to say.

Thesaurus moment: hackneyed.

Camelone

Monday, 4 June 2007

EDITORS – SMOKERS OUTSIDE THE HOSPITAL DOORS (KITCHENWARE RECORDS/SONY)


EDITORS – SMOKERS OUTSIDE THE HOSPITAL DOORS (KITCHENWARE RECORDS/SONY)

About five years ago a generation of middle class white boys discovered Joy Division. It is hard not to feel resentful to all these shitty bands that are apparently “carrying the torch” as it all becomes style over substance and the pain these bands profess, holds no real weight just the ongoing licence to allow the listen to pursue a contrived and created depression.

When emo turned into goth, people wept for a reason and that was partly through the new found requirement for sadness to now come with a new uniform and to have to make effort with our make up. While emo was once about pouring emotions out onto paper and into music, now it needs to be dressed up. And The Editors aren’t even fully blown emo!

And indie they most certainly are not either as they co-opt an old found sound. This band is not Interpol, it does not have any discerning roots in anything vaguely credible, instead it just harps on, occasionally tapping into a clever lyric or hook. Here is band that has found its formula and found its crowd, a Mansun for the 21st century. This ain’t good for anybody.

Thesaurus moment: agony.

Editors
Kitchenware
Sony

Sunday, 3 June 2007

PARAMORE – MISERY BUSINESS (FUELED BY RAMEN/ATLANTIC)


PARAMORE – MISERY BUSINESS (FUELED BY RAMEN/ATLANTIC)

Packaged as something very serious and rebellious it is something of a shock when the lush clear vinyl spews out something along the lines of Avril Lavigne as opposed to something veering towards Riot Grrrl.

As the single seven flaps out into a poster to put up on my wall I find my stricken libido resisting the charms of a particularly ordinary and uninspiring piece of trad alt rock. In a time when I feel I sadly dislike the majority of things thrown at me, here is another example to justify that I am just correct in what I think and say.

The Paramore album is called “Riot!” and this exactly the kind of sentiment I want from such vacuous watered down pieces of shit. And coupled with a single called “Misery Business” this band is just too much of an easy target.

I can see what an A&R bod would see in this band, we live in an environment primed and gagging for the latest/newest version of the same thing. To succeed things now are required to be younger and faster and soon the charts could possibly result with a female fetus doing Napalm Death covers for hits.

The b-side is an “electronic mix” of a cover of “My Hero” by the Foo Fighters, a dog of a track to begin with in the first place. This is very much a dog in dire need of spaying and prevented from future abortions.

Thesaurus moment: shill

Paramore
Fueled By Ramen
Atlantic Recordings

Saturday, 2 June 2007

THE FALL – I AM KURIOUS, ORANJ (BEGGARS BANQUET)


THE FALL – I AM KURIOUS, ORANJ (BEGGARS BANQUET)

For the majority of my generation (not the current generation) the reality is that we will have first discovered the Kurious Oranj on the Lee and Herring show This Morning With Richard Not Judy in 1998/99 when Stewart Lee came up with the most corrupting of concepts to have a curious orange ask questions of the pair every week. It was a hideous sight and one that which often turned into the kind of squealing nightmare few things in life are able to muster. Mark E. Smith is able to stir up such emotions in man also.

Released in 1988 I Am Kurious, Oranj was the twelfth Fall studio album and surprisingly produced by Ian Broudie although at the time with his credentials and origins firmly routed in the avant scene of Liverpool in the early eighties this period would have been closer to that than his eventual submersion into the mainstream with the flowery Lightning Seeds. Still on paper it reads as a strange combination.

Spread over thirteen tracks this is a very solid affair. With Brix on board this was long before the band became a pantomime as the solid pairing of Scanlon and Hanley served their master well, on more equal terms than later members would benefit.

Check the guy’s track record.

Perversely the album was written as a soundtrack to a ballet by Michael Clark which sounds as exciting as it does wanky. Thus explains the presence of an overture on the record.

I have read this described as the first Fall record to contain filler and it cannot be denied that it is a frustrating listen but when was a Fall not tough to listen to. Once away from the pure garage roots and treading towards more experimental areas of music there were always going to be unlistenable moments on any Fall record.

Listened to with enthusiastic ears the glam stomp of “New Big Prinz” is for me one of the best opening tracks on any Fall record. This I could play at a wedding.

You feel it is with a sense of appreciation and fondness that he sculpts William Blake’s words to “Jerusalem” into a post-punk structure. The playing on this track is astoundingly good.

With “Wrong Place, Right Time” the band launches into one of my favourite Fall songs and one of my fondest memories that came with the first time I saw the band and how the song trapped and snagged me forever.

Towards the end the album begins to feel mellow and drawn out on tracks such as “Van Plague?” and “Bad News Girl”. These however are songs that arrive with whimsy and suggest something of a strange state of mind about the day they were constructed. In order to hold back so much the band feels tight and patient, well tethered and even tempered. Interestingly these songs also feel particularly damning.

“Big New Priest” perfectly bookends the album as another take on “New Big Prinz” ending proceedings in its second glam stomp of the day.

This is an intricate record; something well listened to with the use of a magnifying glass. As casual background music there isn’t much to be taken but given the time and patience it is a worthy wreck.

Thesaurus moment: novel.

The Fall
Beggars Banquet