Thursday, 30 October 2008



Recorded at the famous chem19 studio, there is a distinct Mogwai-esqe post-rock feel to this release that would have earnestly felt at home on the roster of Chemikal Underground when the label was at its height.

Perhaps more Explosions In The Sky than Mogwai, with the recent wet panting reception that Sigor Ros have rightly or wrongly received there is still more than enough desire and attention around for an act such as this, especially when those in the know will have written off and dismissed the genre a long time ago.

There is only so much that can be added to the atmospherics and ambience of post-rock but there is something truly Scottish sounding about this release curiously tickling memories of soundtracks from movies set in Scotland such as Restless Natives and Local Hero. Even more confusing when considering such soundtracks came from Big Country and Dire Straits. In other words, at times these guitars sound like pipes of bags.

There is still a real mystery surrounding Scotland to your average, considered Englishman. Against all the temper it is still, resentfully, a place of true beauty where the air, even if chilly, feels fresher and the people tougher. And on a good day, this is its score.

Thesaurus moment: tranquil.

The French Quarter

Tuesday, 28 October 2008



Here is an album by a band that I have been force fed by Stevo, which is pretty strange considering he has no idea what Pitchfork is. In a way I think he is just looking for a new Pavement.

Alas his search is not likely to end here as Deerhunter really do not tug at such heart strings; they barely tug at such shirt tails. You can see where the comparison comes from in the breezy and slightly wonk despatch of lines and energy but away from that there is an element of the band that suggests they maybe horribly devoid of song.

Deerhunter remind me more of shoegaze than lo-fi, of a swarming sheet of sound within which songs too often get lost and never found. The sensation is one of a foggy temperament and chilled times.

Microcastle has a lucid demeanour. Picking up on a strange sense of occasion, the background behind these songs are worrying ones, origins that do not sound invigorating, ones not conducive to a joy filled existence/experience. Then again early on into their career Blur sounded like this once.

Purposely odd and playing on it Deerhunter sport something of a strange and unique background making them (and this record) very much a product of their environment; which ultimately may explain why too often it sounds and feels like a whimper.

The ambience and stillness of this record suggests (maybe echoes) an existence originating from a slower pace of life, one away from grind and one very much geared towards survival set against old standards and conventions. There is a reason these people struggled to fit in.

With moments such as “Little Kids” a truly suffocating climate is captured where lush vocals combine with swarming strides of distorted guitar held subtly in the mix until it gradually reaches boiling point and consumes proceedings snuffing out all that came before it. Sadly such moments of illation are few and far.

In a time when the horrors of the world are more vivid and tangible than ever before with so many outlets and resources looking to dismay and distort the world for so many here is another piece of the action, a very personal account of a method of turning one person’s pain into another’s pleasure and treasure. This will not win a Grammy.

Thesaurus moment: dawn.


Sunday, 26 October 2008



“Teen Creeps” sees No Age at their fuzzy/distorted best washing over the listener with its plundering chord sequence and hoover sounding rebuttal. There is absolutely nothing subtle about No Age when they are in this kind of mood and it is quite possibly when they are at their best as the relentless approach to proceedings serves to be the aural equivalent of a mean face and angry expression. And this is coupled with nonchalant but direct vocals that sound slack but still affective.

There is a strange pulsing feel to “Teen Creeps” that reminds me of the theme music to Bret Hart in the WWF for some reason even though the Hart Foundation never got this dirty. As the drums begin to sound like falling cutlery and breaking glass there is a slight tone and urge of violence cleverly hidden in the track.

“Intimate Descriptions” on the opposite side sees No Age at their most awkward and annoying, delivering a dissolving buzz sound in exchange for a real song, providing the kind of hum a nation of post rockers almost killed music with a few years ago. Once the drums and vocals enter the equation a quizzical look arrives on the face of this listener as a disheartening lack of energy enters proceedings and fails to serve any real purpose or add anything to the day in general or at large.

So it’ll be back to “Teen Creeps” then.

Thesaurus moment: zing.

No Age
Sub Pop

Saturday, 25 October 2008



With a dark electronic intro of pulsing menace that would fit perfectly alongside a John Carpenter score to a Snake Plissken movie, before mutating into full blown cyber waves, there is a true apprehension to the sound of London’s Global Citizen of this release.

The band have been scouring the murky depths of the capital’s electronic/industrial underworld for six albums now gaining a true reputation for explicit and explosive output, producing a steady stream of material in an undaunted and jubilantly defiant fashion. As to where electronica ends and industrial begins is something of a darkened grey area and this would be the colour with which I would apply to the sound of Global Citizen.

Heavily influenced by exotic and futuristic Japanese culture, in a climate that so appreciates acts such as Ladytron and Client, Global Citizen sit comfortably with their peers delivering bulky rhythms very much reminiscent of the darker (and more interesting) face of Gary Numan with vocals delivered in an almost perverted curdling tone.

Having plugged away at the London scene for a number of years now, the visually arresting lineup serves up its latest release in the form of this four song CD that simmers with subtle menace, indulging fetish imagery and less than vanilla suggestion.

The aforementioned electronic sound of the band pulses with a bubbling beat which reminds me heavily of “Reptile” by Nine Inch Nails coupled with vocals delivered in a most swift Numanoid execution. Just what the title song is actually about is open to suggestion but it is definitely not for squeamish.

With beats that sound like bubbles, the dark pulsating electro soup of Numan inspired computer jams offers much to keep an army of black attired misanthropes happy for hours.

Thesaurus moment: Nippon.

Thursday, 23 October 2008



Sounding like a standard from a time bygone and a string intro that sounds directly lifted from “I Put A Spell On You” this is a sultry little number featuring two of the best voices in independent of the past decade delivered in a most complimentary of vehicles. In a world where people literally shit themselves over the horrible hole that Duffy is, here is the real deal.

Not since Nick Cave chose to duet with PJ Harvey have two indie singers been so explicit and artistically successful. Again with these two, much like the former you sense some kind of conjugal visit may have occurred at some point during the night.

It’s all about the strings that lend it the most classic of feels to the composition making it sound almost Bond theme-esqe. Neither Belle And Sebastian nor the Screaming Trees ever sounded like this which serves as a timely reminder of just how much of a classy outfit and act these two performers have matured into. It takes many years of life lessons to be able to find the confidence to truly take a risk such as this. Scotland and Seattle – they’re pretty much the same thing.

Of course this is not the first example of these two performing together, now on their album proper, but it is the latest and most definitely one of the most accomplished fruits of their labour.

Thesaurus moment: majestic.

Isobel Campbell
Mark Lanegan

Wednesday, 22 October 2008



As much as I try I just cannot bring it in myself to fully fall in love or fancy M.I.A. as artist or individual. From the off she has just been too self assured and now with this song/single she is now only just achieving such a level of quality that goes with such an esteem.

That aside this is a truly great song, easily one of the best this year by a mile. Immediately the elevated feel of the vocals enables the song tower over much around it and the guitar noodles that annoy all the way through the song gives it a pulse and energy all of its own. When the first gunshots ring out and the cash register (the “Jewish piano”) sounds a definite dark atmosphere is added proceedings (especially compared to the collapsing car sounds of the radio edit). This song is not about origami and the paper planes in question contain very expensive cargo.

Sadly then she goes and ruins it all with the silly little refrain of “M.I.A. third world democracy, I’ve got more weapons than the KGB, so no funny business” which would appear to only serve to empower the person delivering the message and absolutely nobody else. Guilty by association for being involved with that overhyped piece of shit film Slumdog Millionaire, this is such a frustrating song as it sounds so fresh and new but appears to do everything possible to sabotage and alienate the listener from jumping on it with both feet and full gusto. She’ll learn. Please lose the baggage.

Was that Mike D I saw in the video?

On the reverse (even though the labels are on the wrong sides) is the obligatory DFA remix that all hip bands have to have these days. With this remix DFA succeed in rendering this song in sounding like the theme music to some eighties BBC children’s TV show. That’s not necessarily good.

Thesaurus moment: contravention.

XL Recordings

Monday, 20 October 2008



Tricky doing Kylie? That’s a pretty good concept and definitely one that was always going to work. Much in the vein of his version of “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos”, even though Tricky adds guitars to the cover, it remains a resoundingly electronic version produced by Bernard Butler from Suede. Whoops.

This is definitely a song that could be taken one of two ways. Had I not already heard the original I probably would have lent it more kudos but knowing what I do, the original version is never far from my mind or consciousness.

While the music hardly serves to thrill it is the strange reality of Tricky barely sounding as if he is on the track with raises the highest eyebrow. With weedy overproduced guitars seemingly the main difference to the music, the big if is what is Tricky playing at putting his musky voice so deep down in the mix? Are we supposed to think that he and the rent-a-voice doing all the works on the vocals are actually shagging?

Not before time the song is over and suddenly the guy sounds like a trick to me. This is music equivalent of a rub and tug. A bad one at that.

The “Bullion Mix” on the reverse serves to tweak my interest a bit more but by now he has failed the class.

Thesaurus moment: clanger.


Sunday, 19 October 2008



The debut record by Slint was released in 1989 and nobody bought it.  They put it out on their own label, which traditionally has always been a fatal decision.  It is the exception not the rule that sees self released albums picked up and purchased.  Musicians make music and people run record labels for a reason, there is an art in both.

In many ways Tweez feels the ugly sister to the unabashed beauty (and horror) that is Spiderland.  Despite being their first record it is usually the second a fan will ever hear.  And when they do, it comes as quite a shock/surprise as it bears only a striking resemblance to what the band eventually wound up sounding like.  Sure there is the fuzz from the distorted guitars and an almost spoken word delivery of vocals and lyrics but these songs are short, economic and basically they sound like King Crimson.

It’s funny to note that despite being three songs bigger, this album is actually ten minutes shorter than Spiderland as it fails to make even the half hour mark in length.  But who’s timing?  Who cares?

Produced by Steve Albini (aka “Some Fuckin Derd Niffer”), this record is striking and sharp, a much clearer link to their pasts than their future.  They’d done their duty with hardcore in both Squirrel Bait and Maurice and now was time to expand on their skills it what was moving organically.

The album is split between two sides: “Bemis” and “Gerber”.  And the song titles are the names of their parents save for the exception of “Rhoda” which was the name of Britt Walford’s dog.  For the record: “Ron” and “Charlotte” are Walford’s parents, “Nan Ding” and “Charlotte” are Pajo’s, “Carol” and “Kent” are McMahon’s and Warren and Pat are Buckler’s.

Then there is the cover featuring the Saab 900 Turbo, which looks like it is about to run you over.

It begins strongly with “Ron”.  As with everything the band seems to do it is an unconventional opening as a drenched and distorted guitar sound pours over proceedings before swiftly being reigned in by a metal manoeuvre and left to hang until it is cut altogether.  And this all occurs in the first sixteen seconds.  At this point a crucial moment occurs the voice of Brian McMahon (sound like Steve Albini) drops “Steve, these headphones are fucked up.  They’re only coming out of one side, like the… Should I just bear with it or what?  Shit.  They’re fucked”.  By mistake we get a classic moment in alt rock.

Then all hell breaks out as the song spins out of and into control as some kind of crushing funk with major punctuation marks grips things and keeps them in check as McMahon goes off on a menacing, spite laden rant seemingly in the name of vocals.  And then it is all over within two minutes.  Suddenly things will never be the same again.

Coming back to the names thing, Slint was actually the name of one of Walford’s pet fish as opposed to the common belief that it is a combination of slit and cunt or slut, bitch and cunt.  Seems things aren’t so nasty/hostile after all.

However maybe I spoke too soon as the slow metallic throws of “Carol” emerge complete with the sound of smashing shards coupled with screaming then silent vocals and complex time changes.  What is going on within their existence?

The title Tweez comes as a reference to Walford’s collection of tweezers.  Why was he doing with so many tweezers?  Why did he need them?  What were the roots of such a fetish?  Is this the music of deviants?

Tweez is a cold album with Steve Albini’s fingerprints all over it.  Often the record resembles something more Rapeman than the band that went on to make Spiderland.  And as a result occasionally tracks will feel that they have finished before they have even started.  Also the crashing/smashing effects framing proceedings on tracks such as “Carol” very much resemble the Albini mindset.  Hell, McMahon even sounds like him when “singing”, as the vocals are shot through some weird wire connection.

It is funny to note for what such a respected and pioneering alternative rock act this is, so many of the songs do open with a similar metal bombast (the most criminal being the two opening tracks “Ron” and “Charlotte” which could almost be incestuous relations).  Indeed there is quite a sharding metal sound to the guitars in general.  Thankfully this was a band that knew how to use it, to harness the rock for good and not evil even if it did result in lumbering and moments of feedback extension.  Who was in a rush anyway?

A weird highlight occurs with “Darlene” which I swear take the same line as “Where Are You Baby?” by Betty Boo.  I defy you to disagree.  However the accompanying tale of a broken relationship helps take away the sugar, shredding proceedings to death in a most meandering fashion.  The delicacy is luscious and lucid as the song gradually steps up a gear and aims straight for mute pay off.

Listened to closely this is a more varied album than face value suggests.  Sure it lacks the pomp of Spiderland but in “Kent” there is a track that suggests sights in that direction while the pounding “Warren” provides the hardest, most hardcore and frenetic moment.

All in all this is a very compact album.  More math rock than post rock, it is a band being expansive and experimental within the realms of motion and decipherable.

It’s a jam.

Thesaurus moment: inchoate.

Monday, 13 October 2008



In some ways sounding like a heroin afflicted version of Pulp, with “Colossal Youth” Young Marble Giants serve up a very dry and dour description of proceedings while still wearing sensible shoes.

With a throbbing pulse occasionally akin to a fun pack version of Suicide, the sole Young Marble Giants record is a very dark sounding affair, cagey as it is experimental.

Quite frankly one of the most dour records in history this album benefits from the strand of music that is The House That Kurt Built and the sad reality that away from anorak obsessives and beards just because of the Nirvana namedrop this is the only reason people will have ever heard of this record or this band.

Ultimately this is quite a bloody-minded record, tightly wound and mildly intense with it in that way only the scuzziest people at school would be. As a result the pace is slow and measured, intentional in its unease both in projection and listener reaction.

With jagged licks akin to Gang Of Four this was the sound of disenchanted Cardiff in the early eighties long before Torchwood came along to save the day and while the Soul Crew had aspirations.

At times the music is just strange. When proceedings overdose and overload on keyboards the resulting “The Taxi” sounds like a cross between a Tetris song and crazed amusement muzak.

The lyrical content is full of angst touching on death, drugs and exam results all wrapped in chip paper boredom. This is of course runs much against the sweet and pleasant tones of the actual vocal delivery thus making the experience that bit more disturbing.

Despite the impressive aspirations it is unfortunate to have to resign myself to the reality that this is not a record to maintain the attention. I have to admit for years I did not realise the song “Credit In The Straight World” was Hole covering the Young Marble Giants but you can see why Courtney chose to unleash it onto a world ripe for further disillusion.

A record only for the most patient and/or deranged of music followers. A false legacy has been attached.

Thesaurus moment: juvenescence.

Young Marble Giants
Rough Trade

Sunday, 5 October 2008



Complete with remix by The Vaselines on the b-side, here lies something of a subdued glam song echoing seventies fodder that would have been served for and purchased by my parents. It’s all bombastic in a budget way as every tradition instrument is thrown into the mix resulting in a kind of North of the border “All The Young Dudes” in not the most convincing of appointments.

Verging on some kind of misgiving euphoria the best thing about this record is how the verses remind me of The Auteurs and the choruses echo Teenage Fanclub at their most hook heavy and not necessary most subtle.

The involvement of Kurt’s favourites The Vaselines serves to leave me scratching my head as the additional of Moe Tucker-esqe drums and more intricate guitar parts used sparingly only causes me to wonder why they took this band under their wing.

I once new a girl in the year below at school called “Wendy.” She allowed us to use her self given nickname of “Wee” fully aware of the connotations that came with. She was cool but her chubby friend always seemed to be more keen when really it was her greasy other friend that caused most interest for me. Eventually she wound up with a ginger lad.

As to just who this release is aimed is something of a mystery to me. Scottish peoples no doubt.

Thesaurus moment: border.

Attic Lights
Island Records