Monday, 29 June 2009



With a staunch groove delivering a straight line pattern “Got Nuffin” opens with pounding drums straight out of “My Sharona” as a guitar part akin to “Motor Away” by Guided By Voices kicks in prior to Britt Daniel delivering a first line that reminds of “Paint It Black”.  Within twenty five seconds Spoon have taken over the world.

This is what Spoon does best, they splash out with a restrained desperation that can often feel like their lives are falling to pieces and this is all they have left.  Everyone is a star in this outfit as the rhythm section powers the piece through lending plenty of breathing space for Daniel to express his feelings (“got nuffin’ to lose”) while having a good guitar workout akin to lightning strikes providing his latest headache.

In many ways Spoon produce perfect pop songs.  The structure is classic but the playing possesses exploration and angst that offers enough to fill the cup of a hipster.  In other words your dad could get into this record as much as the guy with the nose piercing.  In a world of so much overnight sensation this band is consistently skilled.  Held up against their historically great moments this maintains their standard of quality.

Then it possesses the craziest fade out in recent history.  Where did that come from?  Did the guy at the desk get fed up and decide to just turn the dial down?  Such weirdness is always available from Spoon.

On the other side is “Tweakers” followed by “Stroke Their Brains” which displays the band realising their playful side, their primal urge and their id.  This is at the listeners’ expense.  As I said, weirdness is available.

Thesaurus moment: consummate.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009



For a record that appears to be getting universally panned I cannot really see what the problem with it is. Sure it has a bit of a stupid name but with the guitars now toned down and the keyboards turned right up, with an apparent influx of beats and new rhythms surely this should be appealing to the sensibilities of the crowd that has bought so heavily into Battles as it would appear Tortoise attempt to regain/rediscover some kind of face, even crown.

It is the distinct sudden overdrive of keys that is most strikingly noticeable about this release. This feels very much like a change in tactic, a step up in gear and maybe even some kind of regeneration.

There is no escaping that the pinnacle of achievement in post rock is to serve as an effective to score to bad sex in some tawdry movie and for this purpose Beacons Of Ancestorship certainly can serve.

The record opens in a confident, confrontational and upbeat manner with “Prepare Your Coffin”. Never before can I recall the band ever upping the pace (and stakes) to such a degree. The extended addition of keys is one of the most telling adjustments. As a result all sounds very slick and fluid even if from one perspective the track could have been the theme to Treasure Hunt in the eighties.

Moving onwards the strange sonic devastation of a song such as “Yinxianghechengqi” leaves you with hope for the genre that one day once more things will rise dirty again for the genre and the tugging will be again at our coattails as opposed to of their own cocks. With frenetic impulses the reckless abandon seems to serve as a steel determination to sabotage.

Soon it returns to business as usual with the clockwork repetition and precision of a well oiled machine, an almost synthetic group force displaying/deploying an even temper and discipline which far surpasses the playing of the majority of their peers.

Elsewhere “The Fall Of Seven Diamonds Plus One” is distinctly Morricone sounding lending an epic tone to the collection of compositions. Today Tortoise are painting with broad strokes on an echoing canvas. In contrast with its stuttering tract “Penumbra” sounds like something MF Doom might happily spit over.

There is a more futuristic sense and feeling to proceedings. Often here are selections that would have sounded great on the score for Blade Runner or Escape From New York, a vibe that acts such as Zombi Zombi were discovering a few years ago.

Tortoise now are somewhat the music equivalent of NASA, a formerly groundbreaking institution now only viewed (heard) fondly by way of some kind of forced nostalgia. As a result everything they now have to do needs to be sharp on all levels due to playing to a crowd continually looking for adjustment and progression on the genre. Ultimately though once more it is a display of growth and maturity from people at the top of the games.

The beats are strong with this one.

Thesaurus moment: revital.

Thrill Jockey

Wednesday, 17 June 2009



Its been really sad attempting to track this record down because it just does not appear to be out there. The fact that I am listening to this now via a promo copy I bought from Ebay that was actually pushing the European tour as opposed to the actual release of the record suggests sad and bad time for one of the most charming bands in alternative rock history.

There is a train of thought that dictates that if you have heard one Shonen Knife record that you have heard them all but that isn’t quite the case, you need to dig deep for buried treasure because behind the cute faces there is often some very dark and deep content.

The sound on this record is as good as ever and immediately it is noticeable that the addition of Ritsuko Taneda to proceedings adds a lot to the bass sound, rounding it out more and helping it gain weight and depth. Indeed the record opens with one of her basslines.

The songs essentially remain the same, hook filled objects of classic rock, one minute sounding like The Ramones, the next The Runaways, the next AC/DC, the next jangly indie but all the while it is caked in Japanese love, the kind our cousins only appear capable of producing sincerely and efficiently. OK, it is plainly obvious at this point of the review that this band is playing to a home team supporter but this genuinely does not make the enjoyment of this record exclusive to only loving parties and relatives, instead it serves as a reminder of how great guitar indie pop can and should be but sadly feels lacking and in short measure these days.

Formed 28 years ago now it is much to their testament that the band, even if it is just Naoko from the original line-up, is still going and with it they have plenty of tricks left in their pockets.

It’s a genuinely beautiful thing.

Thesaurus moment: magnetism.

Shonen Knife
Shonen Knife live
Tomato Head Records

Tuesday, 16 June 2009



Screaming Tea Party make it a tough thing to like their record. You cast a blind eye/ear over the frisky guitar sound of the first song (a sound you have heard many times before) in preference to concentrating on the vocal delivery that has some kick individuality to it but then the song changes tact/gear and falls face first into a muddy bank of cliché. I swear.

Undeterred the record carries on and things genuinely improve as spacious sounds intercept the straight line of the guitar on this seven song frenzy. Honestly the opening track “I’d Rather Be Stuck” was just a blip on the radar.

“Car Crash Beauties” follows and offers much more with fizzy, dark and frenetic option that leans more towards a scratchy, post-punk edge complete with distinctly Japanese indecipherable vocals. The band then later display Gang Of Four-esqe tendencies on “The Witch From Oregon” which aptly climaxes with jarring industrial sounding guitars that cause discomfort.

There is a real depth and wealth of different sounds on offer here. The title track of the album sounds very much like Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Its weird. Then “Holy Disaster” arrives at track five supplying a huge bag full of Beach Boy-esqe harmonies.

“Today Is The Day” is where it all comes together the best. Staunchly reminding me of a great lost band called Superstar Disco Club, it sounds very much like Macrocosmica and Urusei Yatsura and that long missed late nineties anthemic sound of fraggle rock. Proceedings here are upbeat and the track benefits from not being clear just as to which language the song is being sung in.

The overriding impression given from this record and selection box of treats is that this is a great band with a great record in them but sadly this is just not it. Next time maybe. Hopefully.

Thesaurus moment: jejune.

Screaming Tea Party
Screaming Tea Party live
Stolen Recordings

Saturday, 13 June 2009



Given away free in goodie bags at the Front And Follow showcase at the Union Chapel this four act eight song sampler displays the diverse and adventurous nature of the label and the high quality in place on it’s roster.

Elite Barbarian open proceedings with their dense beats and trickling sound. The two selections come from their “It’s Only When You Get To The End That It Makes Sense” album and are a mesmerising couplet of surround sounds with a whiff of robotic engineering. Best served bold.

Arriving emotively Yonokiero deliver their painfully personal account of existence in the form of their acoustic compositions layered with subtle strings and atmospherics that gives the execution a really full sound. Formerly the masterminds that drove Hirameka Hi-Fi a dual (and duelling) songwriting force here on this occasion the two songs reflect the expertise of each barrel being taken from their magnificent “Blue Apples” album. This is how guitar music should be composed and performed.

The third act featuring on the sampler is cello player Andy Nice who delivers demo versions of tracks that are set to appear on his album “The Secrets Of Me.” The incredible string theory that is attached to his playing transfixes the listener and goads them into witnessing and feeling the moment of treasure as his strings collide into a magnificent soup of generous emotion.

Rounding things off comes Sone Institute who deliver a sample laden groove that echoes the kind of retro lounge that Broadcast and/or Jonny Trunk offer up on a good day. Their second offering on the compilation is reminiscent of a breeze on a summer day and serves to spark the imagination of memories from my youth and cause me to question whether the colours were so vivid after all.

Four out of four, Front And Follow is an outstanding record label.

Thesaurus moment: multifariousness.

Elite Barbarian
Andy Nice
Sone Institute
Front And Follow

Monday, 8 June 2009



It is a great world and a great time to be alive when I find myself still becoming very excited about a brand Sonic Youth record. Now free of the corporate handcuffs offered up by DGC and then Universal this is back to being indie on an indie (if that ever mattered).

This is their sixteenth studio album. Could you name all sixteen of those? I have to admit I couldn’t and such is the rub with Sonic Youth: they are just as capable of writing something indulgent and forgettable as they are living up to their grand legacy and admired tradition.

Now on Matador its now really clear if they have made the record they’ve been wanting to make or the record that they think their audience wants. Ordinarily you certainly would expect the former from Sonic Youth but today they sound cohesive and thankfully very much the latter. Maybe even with the return of such noisemongers as My Bloody Valentine they now feel something to prove again in the noise stakes.

The Eternal is a pretty impressive piece of work. That’s not to say their last few records haven’t been good, it’s just that they haven’t been mind-blowing. It opens well, impressively with “Sacred Trickster” which is a barely two minute rocket of an opener that offers much in the way of promise as distortion, hooks and an angry Kim vocal are all present.

From here the wreckage of the record truly begins as “Anti Orgasm” thunders out as perhaps the first truly incendiary song they have produced in recent years that dare I say veers towards Dirty territory. As a sly Bowie drops in a descending guitar line serves as some kind of countdown to a sonic explosion prior to entering into a blood drenched tirade before meandering into a heart stopping mechanically military pause. Eventually the song floats off into the abyss as it outstays its welcome by two minutes. Such is the Sonic Youth way of doing things.

Obviously the perfect start proves too much to maintain (and too good to last) as the twiddly “Leaky Lifeboat” pays tribute to failed Beat writer Gregory Corso much in the same way the man himself etched his career. Its pretty fitting.

Today I am incredibly chuffed to report that the noodling of “What We Know” served to royally upset a tetchy lady on the tube. This is where Sonic Youth remain essential. Obviously long term fans will have heard all this before but to many this is still the kind of music that just sounds indecipherable and indescribable, something that hurts their ears and hurts their feelings and often this is a good way of listening to the band, to take a step back and pretend this sound is new. Indeed you won’t be hearing it anywhere easy, on any of the radio or TV stations handed to you on a plate in exchange for you handing them your personality and your arse. “What We Know” indeed offers up something great, a wonderfully heavy track that features some true power chords in amongst the squiggles. “What We Know” seems a song steeped in experience and lines such as “it’s been quite a ride” suggests the band are somewhat relieved to still be in the position that they are.

The almost pop sensibilities continue on the almost Roxy Music sounding “Poison Arrow” while “Malibu Gas Station” almost sounds like an update of “The Sprawl”.

At times there is a very optimistic sound to areas of this record and when Thurston opens with “sweet temptation came today” on “No Way” suddenly the Youth part of the band’s name seems gestured.

Unsurprisingly Lee chips in with a standout track which on this record takes the form of “Walkin Blue” which builds to a tremendous climax as he strides in confident and measured style until wigging out at the essential moment as he insists that everything is “clear”. It’s obvious!

The record ends on the almost ten minute “Massage The History” which is as ugly as the length and title would suggest, a repetitive track that doesn’t really go anywhere other than to test the patience of the listener. Thank god they lumped it as the ending.

With the dust settled ultimately you have to appreciate the ability that Sonic Youth possess to still sound so strange and inventive, especially when it comes to the squares that don’t want to be challenged in this modern. Go to sleep America. I don’t think the band are ever going to produce an out and out amazing album ever again but there will always be great tracks and super annoyances held on each.

This is more than you know.

Thesaurus moment: discharge.

Sonic Youth

Thursday, 4 June 2009



It all feels like it has gone a bit futuristic for The Gossip, this is not punk rock, its too popular! As she announces that it is a “cruel cruel world” you can’t help but feel that these sentiments no longer quite ring true for Beth.

This is an alternative love song, one caked in angst and an embarrassingly amount of heart being worn on the glittery sleeves of the band. Bouncing like a positive jam to fat lesbian girls everywhere I’m not so sure that my love affair with The Gossip will last much longer. With drum beats that belong in a seventies discotheque and a glow that will never truly sit easy with anything indie or punk rock (pure DIY style) it is still a great victory to have reached these heights with such a vehicle but the ensuing diluting affect of any modern Rick Rubin production job can only ever serve to disarm and disappoint. Heavy Cross – oh the burden, with the metal symbolism is this an eleventh hour attempt to snag the Kerrang! audience?

A song about still being persecuted by the masses, the story begins by reaching out to its audience of converts and sufferers as if the bad times still surrounded the existence of this band. Now that the hard work has paid off and Beth has won the chocolate factory is it really still possible to buy into this?

Its easy to fantasise about Beth Ditto, a most forward and feisty individual designed to break odd shaped hearts and as a result a shitbag little indie band being given the gloss treatment is perhaps not the right product for her to be peddling at this time (although the BBW clothes range doesn’t look so great either).

Go solo. Beth, just admit it.

Thesaurus moment: treasure.

The Gossip
Columbia Records

Wednesday, 3 June 2009



BLK w/ BEAR is the audio vehicle of Washington DC based artist J.S. Adams.  His work is very much about interference and distortion, the corruption of the note and the exploitation of sound.  The noise he produces is a basic alarm to the human race.  People should take note.

The initial pitch is a distracted pulse.  It sounds like life but not strictly in a traditional sense.  As glitches prevail and the aural vision distorts, a sonic crackling manifests and rips apart the origins of the track.

Moving on Adams continues to take a measured approach to destruction, happily feeling out the source material before etching in his own string accompaniment to run in sync with exterior feelings.  The presence attained of such a gesture proves a winning blow producing something akin to an electronic Godspeed You Black Emperor type execution before organically winding down.  A good thing.

The deep rooted strings of Track 3 offer a horrid manifestation of a bleak capacity as bass drops in to caress and distract from what is the overriding piece of industrial horror that is dominating proceedings.  This feels quite representative of the modern experience, of commercial horror and the machines that drive it.  This remix of the track holds genuine contrast as beauty wrestles with the ugliness of the original version.  In the end, all gets tamed.

The BLK w/BEAR take on Track 4 of the project is a heavy duty eleven minute plus workout that moans and pulsates like a dark portion of the score from Alien or The Thing.  This is a brash piece of drone texturing that requires the listener to buckle in before progressing.  In the end it proves officially the longest piece of the project (the puzzle).

Thesaurus moment: expanse.

Front And Follow

Tuesday, 2 June 2009



With opening bars that sound like Tortoise when the first riddles of spit come from Speech Debelle’s mouth it is immediately evident that there is something fresh being delivered

Arriving as one of the freshest sounding albums of recent histories Speech Debelle conjures up a blissful and accurate description of modern life. Choosing to avoid such defeatist hard beat electronics in preference to a modern measured acoustic and jazz backing this is a contrary collection of delicate rhymes coupled with bleak content juxtaposed against a very laidback and appealing sound.

The appearance of Micachu on track “Better Days” sends the album through the stratosphere as modern day pressures display modern day techniques in an explicit outpouring of very tangible woes and stresses offering a new brand of method to deal with them. The Micachu backing coupled with strategic strings offer a haunting and melancholic demeanor, suggesting optimism even though at hard times it is hard to envisage.

“Spinnin’” is the money shot, the track with the wicked hook and immediately memorable chorus that emphasizes a positive energy and indulges in nothing, being crisp, swift and truly effective. The collective (the backing) almost make the song sound straight out of the playground and some kind of hopscotch celebration. It wins on every level.

Following “Go Then, Bye” is another crisp and explicit description of a universal moment sculpted in a manner I have rarely found so gorgeous or interesting. As strings rain over the track the pained scenario becomes extremely vivid and clear, realistic and never lost to sentimentality or hyperbole. It is genuinely gifted stuff.

When Roots Manuva turns up as ever he manages to make any work sound superior and majestic, adding a paternal and guardian vibe to proceedings with a contribution that was potentially telephoned in.

Spread over thirteen tracks this is a massively confident and accomplished debut. Within its construct it manages to tap into modern strain of life that many feel so deep and experience every day of their lives which is not dealt with churlishly or cheesily but music’s latest superhero Speech Debelle.

Thesaurus moment: unalloyed.

Speech Debelle
Big Dada

Monday, 1 June 2009



Here is a release that serves as a signal of optimism for music while also providing fond memories and nostalgia of the lo-fi DIY scene of the late nineties.

Squeezed onto one piece of seven inch are four raucous, loud and poorly recorded bands driven by enthusiasm first and talent second, making the most of their resources. Releases such as this are now almost a thing of the past and that is a definite tragedy when it comes to contemplating the future of music.

Recently coined as no-fi I think this music will only ever work on vinyl, the format that has always been most forgiving to the most primitive expressions of music. I could not possibly imagine listening to this noise as an MP3 or on an iPod with a clear head. Live however I cannot imagine a more fantastic din as I hope to see these ramshackle bands live very soon.

I was first introduced to Graffiti Island a couple of years when they hopped aboard the stage at the Scala before Les Savy Fav looking effortlessly uncaring and cool playing songs that sounded like Beat Happening covers which they made all their own. This it seemed was the musical equivalent of a homemade Hawaiian shirt bearing a grudge. Needless to say I loved their one song set for the audacity and the tunes. As stylised and forced as it may feel, I just love this band. Their contribution to this release is a spacious and busy party number benefiting from a HUGE hook that pierces and seals its place in the consciousness of my mind. It feels retro in two ways.

Rapid Youth turn up with an altogether cloudier and muddy marching and galloping affair. In the midst of so much fuzz this song/band also possesses a wicked hook that serves to deliver skewed pop to disorientate.

On the flipside everything about Old Blood is wrong and this only serves to make you love them worse. If you have recorded a demo and fucked it up you will recognise this track. Despite the horror there is a definite beat to the performance and a degree of coherence to what is a fiery exhibition. Noise is a beautiful thing.

The more mannered Male Bonding close proceedings with a playful lo-fi song that reminds of a Yummy Fur chant with prickly bursts of energy and a pride all of its own. It’s a rough as the rest of the release and just as charming.

This record is good times.

Thesaurus moment: commotion.

Graffiti Island
Rapid Youth
Old Blood
Male Bonding
Paradise Vendors