Tuesday, 28 September 2010



Without trying to be too controversial, I think The Jam actually had better songs than The Clash.  Certainly they were smoother and less abrasive.  This was very late period Jam, to the point they were almost sounding like the Style Council and what was next to come.

The addition of strings and piano to guitar bands tends to have a wide and varied effect on material.  Often they can arrive at the point when a rock band runs out of ideas and as the maturity from such grown up sounds can sprinkle a fresh atmospheric and perspective to the outfit; often it will also dull the power.  That is not to say it always takes from a band’s sound but often, especially in the case of say Oasis, it is actually quite a risky move.

Here the decrease in tempo and addition in texture works and serves to add an almost soap opera/television theme tone to proceedings.  As Weller drops in sounding full of remorse, a new kind of drama attaches itself to the band.  With the benefit of hindsight this was the product of a clock running out.

This is neither a punk nor mod song.  The mountain it climbs in the build up actually reminds me of “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin.  Weller was going elsewhere.

In recent times a whole new legacy has attached itself to this record after the classy positioning of the track for the closing credits of Shane Meadows’ This Is England ’86.  Having come through a horrific set of circumstances as an outro “The Bitterest Pill” serves as an affirming moment of reflection with view to cleansing and moving on.

Shed a tear.

Thesaurus moment: sour.

Saturday, 25 September 2010



For the third single from “King For A Day…Fool For A Lifetime” Faith No More played it smart as in playing it intelligent rather than bankable.  Following a couple of subtle stonkers this was them being silky slick and smooth in suave fashion unleashing one of their always reliable out of genre workouts for the section of their audience with expansion and taste.  It is also quite noticeable how the artwork is no longer illustrations.

This song has Mike Patton written all over it.  In the forefront is him crooning over a leisurely workout as it appears demons are being exorcised and people that appreciated/enjoyed their version of “Easy” are welcomed back into the fold.  In many ways, it is cheating.

“I didn’t feel a thing.”

Personally I am a big fan of “Evidence”.  It expresses a kind of remorse that I am very familiar with.  The sentiments are cold and scolded, defensive and hurt expressing a front through lies and an exhibition of compromised truth.

If you’re going to do a smoky jazz-funk number you might as well do it well and as Bill Gould’s bass plays high in proceedings and Roddy Bottum’s keys point towards another state of mind as the guitar licks at times are just out and out porno.  Ultimately though it is the words of confession that seal the deal as Patton is able to stretch the word “evidence” to new ends as he puts on a front expressing nonchalance that is paper thin.  The song is the music equivalent of a pained expression.

There are also versions of “Evidence” recorded in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian.

On the flipside the CD single offers Westwood One recordings of classic live tracks from California in April 1995.  The version of the now correctly entitled “Easy” is a light affair involving a fair amount of the crowd singing along while “Digging The Grave” remains a short sharp shock of a song sounding somewhat heavier and fuzzier in a live setting with Dean Menta on guitar instead of Trey Spruance.  Rounding things off is an exciting and energised take on “From Out Of Nowhere” as again the new guitar sound very much stands out while Bottum’s keys sound like an ambulance siren.  Even if the record wasn’t full on, live the band still was.

This is certainly not vanilla.

Thesaurus moment: attestation.

Friday, 24 September 2010



With “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” you get the impression that even Morrissey would admit to this being a very poncy piece.  Frustration crashes through coupled with a wiggle and a general sense of unease of feeling invisible and not knowing how to react in a socially accepted manner.

Along with “Rubber Ring” and “Bigmouth Strikes Again”, this was part of a threesome addressing the rise of the band within both the music industry and press.  From one perspective it is a piece of guarded soul searching via satire in addition to being a sniping defence.  At times it’s quite the bitchy jaunt.

The “thorn” in question is the music industry and the prickly relationship the band had with it.  People like The Smiths were never designed to be universally loved; their creation was born to service the unwanted and disliked.  On both sides of the exchange both parties existed in awkwardness.  This is a song about vulnerability or as Mozipedia put it: “honest charm”.

In contrast to Morrissey’s sentiments, the playing is actually upbeat if not fluffy.  The sound is breezy as waves of strings enter to assist proceedings.

Featuring a photo of Truman Capote on the cover it is appropriately dainty and anxious to command such a relationship.

“Asleep” is the b-side offering a weary request for a lullaby ahead of exit.  Piano led it is slow, weak and solemn.  A person might die listening to this song, if not externally certainly internally.  As with most tainted conversations with partners it is draining.

Thesaurus moment: prickly.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010



This is a sedate and glistening record.  One that houses are rare humanity and pained love for love.  It celebrates all that is wonder in the harsh tones of the human condition and human spirit.  Solemn and deceitful it reads like a diary of earnest stolen poetry.  There is bravery in being conflicted.

Eric Chenaux hails from Toronto, Ontario in Canada home of a great many people all I know all seemingly affected by one staunch trait or another.  And they are all second generation immigrants, expansive and emotion.  It is all such a rich tapestry.  Likewise Chenaux appears to specialise in the luxurious recollections of the moment and subtly standing out while feeling outcast.  He captures his surroundings of both body and spirit with intricate detail and explicit play that houses subtle experimentation in his playing an thus he endeared himself to Constellation.  He has referred to his guitar playing as “amazing background” which along with the vagrant layered subtleties taps into the exploratory nature of said scene/label.

In execution his vocal dexterity recalls Will Oldham without the weird, Nick Drake without the nerves and Lou Barlow sans the spite.  In other words there is plenty to attach to and borrow from.

It opens exchanging pleasantries, asking questions and debating wistfully.  For some reason it feels solemn and deceitful capturing a moment of lust and love while making things sound like the world is coming to an end.

The edge comes in the atmospherics of the movements, the fizzing pulse that carpets proceedings.  It lends colour to the pictures of Chenaux’s mind, which is quite the treasure in a world of grey singer songwriters.  It’s a dizzying array.  And when laced with lush harmonies its sentimental existence certainly feels the full embodiment of living with love.

Seemingly at one with nature, if not nurture, the solid set of ten songs play as a beacon to hope held against ships set on fire.  A little bit country, a little bit folk, all sparkling a funny thing happens when during the chorus of “Lavalliere #2” I find myself reminded of Donovan and specifically “Colours” as I almost begin singing another man’s song.  This is how an expert relates.

The album remains in the same gear all the way through.  This is not the soundtrack to a stressful moment on public transport or heavy day at work, this is sensual and luxurious music aimed at moments of calm and steady complexity.  Here are the gestures of a very nice man.

Thesaurus moment: serene.

Monday, 20 September 2010



It is truly heartening how Les Savy Fav have managed to maintain a high degree of quality output throughout their career and with “Let’s Get Out Of Here” the upbeat, exhilarating groove remains motioning forward.

This is a playful glide that serves to inhabit the full set of emotions involved in the pursuit of fun, passion and delight.  There is nothing weird about this song.  As it advances the pace increases at a subtle and aching rate until the deal is all but done and the suggestion/decision is made to escape the situation and environment housed.

There’s a blasting sincerity to this exhaustive exchange.  Within it the hook is huge and tangible as the sentiments are in the style of a victor.  We are witnessing love.

This is a single that does not outstay its welcome and thus proves perfect in what it’s aiming to accomplish, which is a basic outline of what the band is about at this precise moment in time.  Les Savy Fav is at the top of their game.  More people than ever know them, more people than ever love them.  Tim Harrington might be frightening when he is shirtless and rubbing up against you in a sweaty gig situation but here is a man dedicated to creating some of the most vibrant minutes in modern rock music.  There are three and a third of them here.

These minutes pass like ships in the night.

Thesaurus moment: abscond.

Monday, 13 September 2010



There is a sad reality in that this is probably the best known Wu-Tang.  Its not because its groundbreaking or even much good for that matter, its just because its clean and got airplay.  It has a video with group looking stupid it but doesn’t have swear words (at least in most distributed version it doesn’t) and in the modern media climate that is all that’s required.  Ultimately when held up against so many superior tracks in the Wu-Tang arsenal, you can’t help but feel a little deflated by such a reality.

“Gravel Pit” feels like a gag, a bad gag.  In some ways it’s the Wu-Tang Clan equivalent of “Tubthumping” as the chatty nature of the piece spreads the motion thin and makes it accessible to/for all the wrong people.  This is how you get on daytime FM radio.

When the song came out I was dating a girl that loved this track, loved the video and I loved her.  Even though she owned The Dirty Version by ODB I wasn’t convinced that she had experienced Enter The Wu-Tang.  She claimed to be rebellious, claimed to be hot but as I helped carry her belongings into her new flat only a few weeks after we’d met (probably too big a favour offered too soon) all she would focus on with the song was the caveman video and not the rap talent or what was really meant by the gravel pit (or rather her gravel pit).

Ultimately it’s a fucking pop song.  The hook is a Cameo sample for fuck’s sake.  Wu songs with female vocal parts always tended to be a bit light (although it would not be fair to lay blame at the hands of Paulissa Moorman).  The reality is that everyone needs to get paid at some point.

Stepping over that shambles, the b-side is “Protect Ya Neck (The Jump Off)” which is hardly anything fresh or new either.  In theory this shit is back from Enter The Wu-Tang albeit now coming sprinkled with a little extra something something rendering it to a place that is next to unrecognisable.  They just wrecked their song.  And I can’t be bothered to investigate why.

What the fuck?

What a waste.

Thesaurus moment: earner.

Thursday, 9 September 2010



With a full band now in tow Neil Young’s second “solo” album is immediately a much different proposition to its predecessor.  Emerging in the spring of 1969 by nature of the times it appears to be the work of a person trying to hold onto the high times of the recent past while also being resigned to where and how things were changing all around.  It comes as no surprise that as a result there is a downbeat yearn attached to proceedings with a man very much in transition.

And the process was not necessarily smooth as Young worked against a fever writing three of the songs from his sickbed.  One of those songs was “Cinnamon Girl” which with its subtle fuzz and distortion became the first example of his new style of heavy playing, not that it was necessarily at the forefront of this album.  It is an immediate classic with its optimistic gestures combining with a crunching riff introducing the hook and chorus.  It is the sound of a content musician.

The other towering track and achievement is the nine minute “Down By The River” that glides and goes on a genuine journey.  Another song written by Young while fevered (the third track being “Cowgirl In The Sand”) it’s an epic recollection of a share moment gone wrong.  Perhaps not as fatal as the surface level lyrics suggest it does exude a sadness that is undeniable and clear.

For me there seems quite division in style and direction with the songwriting.  “Cowgirl In The Sand” is closer to “Down By The River” than any of the other tracks around it.  A warm fuzz blesses the ground on which Young performs on such selected occasions.

Personally I find this record hit and miss.  Universally lauded, personally there are some songs amongst the seven that make me cringe.  I realise the rock and power is in the words but tracks such as “Running Dry (Requiem For The Rockets)” and “The Losing End (You’re On)” just prompt me to blush when played on my stereo.  Country rock will forever be a curious species to me, an over earnest animal lacking surface intellect.  It’s the music of your parents on autopilot.  Country is not the white man blues.

It’s half an album.

Thesaurus moment: bisection.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010



Grotesque was the first early Fall album I found myself exposed to (I dipped my toe into).  And I must concede that it was something of a culture shock.  To date everything I had heard was solid and nasty sounding, it had some kind of production value.  This in comparison was lo-fi to a fault, a record made for vinyl not digital.  Perhaps the transfer was the problem, the issue was not the scrappiness.

The third Fall album was released in November 1980.  By that point the band had moved onto Rough Trade which explains how/why Geoff Travis appears in the liner notes with a producer credit (amongst other odd and undeserving names).

Reckless and blunt theirs remained the sound of the grubby north.  Still punk in spirit and attitude but smarter in execution this was garage rock crashing against Krautrock with a man remaining agitated and amused at the helm.  Not necessarily linear in approach songs could be two minutes or ten, such was always their approach.  In other words: art for fucks sake.  Them and Joy Division.

The poetry of Mark E. Smith is as masked as ever, purposely vague and very obtuse.  You suspect a William Burroughs like cut-up motion was applied to the order of his mental extraction.  And all the way it houses a sense of anti-establishment.  Smith could even make the command of “pay your rates” sound rebellious.  With a better face he should have run for parliament (both the band and the body).

It was always “New Face In Hell” that stood out.  Having heard Pavement first this was plainly the inspiration for “Conduit For Sale!”  They however didn’t go to the ends of caking their music in kazoo performing self destruction possibly in an effort to mask the conspiracy theories attached.

The album artwork was drawn by Smith’s sister Suzanne.  Is everyone in Manchester related to someone called Suzanne?

Playing up the northern personality the abbreviations used are revealing as “The N.W.R.A.” declares “the north will rise again” while “W.M.C. – Blob 59” references working men’s clubs where such ideas were planned and “C’n’C-S Mithering” points at two specific cash and carries in Manchester for cut price supplies.

Inside the sleeve are notes, a “didactic disclosure from the shell of R. Totale”.  They ask the question: “is this LP sufficiently coffee table?”  With time it has become as last year I actually saw the album framed and hung on the way of a media employment agency just off Oxford Street London catering industry of the simpering variety.  You must wear a red hat.

“C’n’C-S Mithering” is the deserving centrepiece of the record.  Opening with acoustic strums and subtle atmospherics eventually drums sounding bashed on a biscuit tin disrupt the flow as Smith eventually drops in with a weird and wonderful rant about the music industry and landscape in general.  It’s a broken history lesson travelling from Lancashire to America ahead of ending up in Soho.  Garry Bushell is name checked being held up as an example.  In his delivery Smith isn’t so much singing in a band as more manning a public address system.  This is a lecture cum rally call.

With almost a sense of fear for losing the audience the rapid “The Container Drivers” promptly follows with a hardcore jangle and multiplied pace.  With this the album houses two more tracks clocking in at less than two minutes.  The fashion is frenetic.

Perhaps most musically satisfying is the gothic horror of “Impression Of J Temperance” which rumbles with a proper post-punk Hook/Wobble baseline.  From here a sawing keyboard revs like an engine as the occasional stab of a scratchy Oriental sounding guitar drops in while military drums add authority.  It sounds like nobody else.

At the death the record runs the risk of sounding coherent with “Gramme Friday” before the nine minute plus outro of “The N.W.R.A.” serves as the perfect way to close as Can like repetition carpets his final stream of consciousness as he takes on his latest threatening persona.  As all becomes lumpy, civic pride exudes as by the end it sounds like scaffolding.

This is not a record you reach for at the end of a tough day.

Thesaurus moment: misshapen.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010



What happened Helmet?  You used to be so great, so gnarly and heavy.  In contrast the sound on this record just reminds me of a household appliance.  The vocals of Page Hamilton now sound like the yells of an old man rocking within a wheelchair.  He’s trying, he really is.

Over the years something disheartening has happened to Helmet.  Initially they were a nasty, blunt alt rock band with noise leanings.  The manner with which they harnessed their sound was inspiring while still being able to run with acts such as Unsane etc despite their songs being so well defined and framed.

For a long time I have supported and often defended the band.  Being a band that is probably too innovative for a bog standard Kerrang/metal audience, for some reason they never quite snagged the indie audience they probably deserved.  Sure they signed to Interscope for big bucks cashing in on the house that Kurt built but that didn’t mean their music was without merit.  Indeed those records were immense and did slip into cliché.  Fuck, even Eric Bogosian appeared in one of their videos.

So it is with that in mind this record is received with such disappointment.  When I discovered out the blue that the band had a new record out I immediately emailed my friend with an excited thrust of capital letters and exclamation marks.  Unfortunately upon listening to ten tracks, I soon calmed down.

To be frank this is not Helmet.  When they split up in 1998 they should have been gone.  The band that returned in 2004 was not Helmet; it was Page Hamilton with a set of jobbers.  However in spite of that their comeback record Size Matters was a rocker but the live show wasn’t.  The band was no longer stoic, no longer intense, no longer heavy.  Instead now appeared players too keen to please.  They were playing the classic songs but they just did not sound.  And that has happened here.

Helmet were always a band that was just heavy.  They did not require volume to shake the speakers; the mere gestures of members were dense enough to furrow the sound.  And that is the key ingredient missing from the act these days.

Seeing Eye Dog is loud in the sense that it is not subtle.  The lyrics are more explicitly aggressive than in the past and the plundering, plodding manner in which the guitars rev in a straight line does feel somewhat blind.

Perhaps it’s a displaced record.  In the song titles are references to Algiers and Los Angeles while track seven is entitled “White City” although I can’t imagine it being a direct reference to the part of London that shares the name.

What I notice is that there are no hooks.  Another band might be compared to Gang Of Four for making such a gesture but not here.  It is still very nu metal even though the original Helmet sound pre-dated that movement and was slightly accused of providing the blueprints for it.  A song such as “LA Water” does sound a lot more like Deftones than Meantime-era Helmet.  And also can’t this drummer get the John Stanier snare sound?

Of the slim pickings of enjoyment “In Person” feels the track where it all most/best comes together even if the guitars still do not feel hard enough but it has flow, some kind of hook and ends with a gnarly insane scratchy solo.

Elsewhere Hamilton’s mind appears to wander as it meanders into the ambience of “Morphing” and a cover of the Beatles “And Your Bird Will Sing” which promptly proceeds to stick the original tune in your head.

It ends in weird fashion with the half decent “She’s Lost” which is another lumbering effort with motions of noodling that works for the first three minutes before deciding/choosing to become another song and running for six and a half minutes royally outstaying its welcome.

How green was their fucking valley?

Thesaurus moment: autopilot.