Old school high concept/low budget video for Real Estate's track 'Crime'. Watch out for the Blood-sucking-extreme-sports-enthusiasts.
Spin has Steve Albini's pitch to Nirvana to produce "In Utero". Full of his usual charm.
It was 1988 when Mudhoney put their super fuzz and big muff pedals together for first single 'Touch Me I'm Sick'…a cocky, snotty finger to the man, casting the band as full-time, half-cut losers just in it for the rock n roll. 25 years and 8 albums later, who would have guessed that they would be one of the last survivors in an industry more disposable than ever?
Since 2002 they've been back on Sub Pop, where it all began, and Vanishing Point keeps the finger raised and flag flying for noisy distortion and punk rock riffs. Drummer Dan Peters kicks off opener Slipping Away, with a reminder as to why he once kept Nirvana's drum stool warm for Dave Grohl. His pounding rolls are soon joined by Steve Turner's drunken lead and the unmistakable whine of Mark Arm. A sound perfected in '88 and not tweaked since.
On first single I Like It Small, Arm sings of the ambition that never saw them scale the heights "I've got big enough balls to admit I like it small" but is probably the reason they are still together and making music. Chardonnay is a 90 second love/hate song to "The crate that launched a thousand strippers" and I Don't Remember You is a fuck you to faces from back in the day. A day that Mudhoney, unlike most of their peers, survived. That they did so without changing their attitude or sound along the way is a small victory for those of us that don't feel that different from how we did 25 years ago either.
Killer Track: The Only Son of the Widow From Nain.Read more 3 star reviews
Great low-key campaign up for the power of Lego over at Creative Review: http://www.creativereview.co.uk/cr-blog/2012/march/imagine-with-lego
Psychedelic album promo up for J Mascis' side project Heavy Blanket.
Here's Jake Gyllenhaal killing hipsters with hammers.
As noted, someone better make this quick. "Omar's coming!"
This kind of Architectural Projection or Augmented Reality Projection is popping up more and more recently, but here's a great example of AC/DC turning it up to 11. Nice to see marketing getting a little more adventurous than just posters-on-buses.
Nice ads for VW here, featuring a nihilist.
Via: La Calidad
Pulled from the archives, here's Mr John Peel himself responding to my 15-year-old self regarding the age old question of what type of music Grunge really is.
Jar Of Jam Ton Of Bricks
By the time you’ve read this short review, there’s every chance that Robert Pollard has released another album under one of his various monickers, such is the prolific nature of the 52 year old Ohio native. Regular Pollard-watchers will not be (overly) disappointed with the new Cosmos project - Jar of Jam Ton of Bricks is a mixed bag of quirks and curveballs with the immediately recognisable and strangely comforting voice of Pollard (mostly) at the reigns.
Whether it’s stripped down acoustic (Don’t be A Shy Nurse, Zeppelin Commander), effortless piano-led pop (Nude Metropolis) or all out rockers (The Neighbourhood Trapeze, Westward Ho) it’s Pollard's voice and melodies, signing signature wildly imaginative/just plain odd lyrics that sits atop it all - holding it in place.That is until he hands over singing/song writing duties with Indie stalwart Richard Davies. The strongly-accented Australian steps up to the mic on four fragmented tracks, that sadly punture any momentum JoJToB threatens to build up.
That said, there’s enough here to keep Pollard fans happy until the next project , unless that next project has already been and gone of course.Read more 3 star reviews
Anyone familiar with the 1988 film Police Academy 5: Assignement Miami Beach, will surely agree that the old maxim “If ain’t broke don’t fix it”, is one of life’s truer wisdoms. Unluckily for fans of wise-cracking Mahoney, producers of the Police Academy series were too short-sighted to adhere to it. Luckily for Dinosaur Jr. fans, whilst J.Mascis may have lost sight of it for a short period, he’s largely maintained faith in an exceptional guitar talent, a perfect accompanying voice and a seemingly effortless knack for great song writing.
After a much publicised break-up and lengthy seperation, 2007’s Beyond saw the original line-up of Mascis, Lou Barlow and drummer Murph re-unite to produce one of the year’s standout records, picking up the powerful sound that always saw them stand apart from the Grunge crowd they were often unfairly and lazily lumped in with almost 20 years previously. Now, with the three still in happy harmony it seems, they offer us the gift of “Farm” - essentially more of the same and praise be to that.
Less an axe, more an entire tool shed, the guitar in the hands of Mascis is always a pleasure to behold. Just 10 seconds of opener Pieces is all it takes to reassure us we are in familiar territory, with the Mascis guitar taking centre stage, countered by his subtle voice and the bass and drums of Lou Barlow and Murph not shirking back-up responsibility. The feelgood I Want You To Know, bounces along with a singalong chorus that has potential for serious live favourite. Ocean In The Way slows down the tempo, but keeps the effects pedals down to sound like a fuzzed up Neil Young. Lou steps up for Your Weather, I’ve said it before and it’s undoubtedly an obvious observation, but a Barlow song on a Dinosaur Jr. record always sound like Sebadoh as played by, well, Dinosaur Jr… which, well, rocks.
The wah’d guitar that screams over the intro lets us know that it’s Mascis back at the controls for Over It. Close-to-8-minuter Said The People darkens the mood, whilst the funky riff of See You picks it back up again. Lou’s given the honour of rounding it all off with Imagination Blind, a suitable stomper bringing the curtain down on yet another solid offering from the thankfully unbroken and unfixed Dinosaur Jr.Read more 4 star reviews
The Blue Depths
WARNING: 1983 VERSION OF SCARFACE SOUNDTRACK SPOILER ALERT.
If there are three things the 1983 remake of Scarface is known for it is probably violence, swearing and a truly shocking synth-drenched soundtrack.
However, were it Michael Mann not Brian De Palma remaking Scarface in 1983. And were Tony Montana to be getting high on his own supply of marijuana and not cocaine. And were Tony Montana to come to realise that world wasn’t actually just ‘his’ but infact was there to be shared with Dolphins and Whales and other such sea dwelling mammals. And were Sir David Attenbrough to pop up at some point. Whether you would have a superior film or not is highly questionable, whether you would have a superior soundtrack however is highly likely. And the chances are it would sound something like this, the 4th album from Indiana’s Odawas. Subtle synth tinged oceanic influenced niceness with yet another high-pitched/reverbed/lovely vocal ala My Morning Jacket / Band of Horses / Great Lake Swimmers ……as Tony Montana would say "Oooh that's nice. Who is it?".Read more 3 star reviews
You & Me
"When I used to go out I knew everyone I saw / Now I go out alone, if I go out at all" so sang front Walkman Hamilton Leithauser on ‘The Rat’, which along with ‘Little House of Savages’ was the other ‘Hit’ from ‘Bows and Arrows’, the New York Five Piece’s second album released in 2004. Well the good news for Hamilton, four years and 2 and a bit albums later (2006’s Hundred Miles Off was followed by a cover album of John Lennon and Harry Nillson’s 1974 Pussy Cats) is that he seems to have found some significant company to which to devote plenty of material from their latest ‘You & Me’ (the title of which could be a giveaway, the album itself certainly was, with proceeds from the first two weeks of digital sales going straight to The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer centre in New York). The even better news for the rest of us, is that this already great band just keep getting better.
“You know I’d never leave you and that’s just how it is” (On the Water),
“I tell you I love you and my heart’s in the strangest place, that’s how it started and that’s how it ends” (In the New Year)
“You are the morning and I am the night” (Canadian Girl)
Are just a select few of the lyrical bouquets presented by Leithauser, as beautifully gift-wrapped as ever by the vintage instruments favoured by the band. Ok, ’You & Me’ has actually been out for the best part of a year, but as past releases have proved, there really is no point rushing into conclusions on a Walkmen record, once in, it’s going to stay with you for a long time, maturing with every listen. Take ‘Seven Years of Holidays’ for example, there, amongst the reverbed guitar and sparse-distant drums, lies the subtlest of string sections - quietly elevating this previously unassuming track up into the favourites after the twenty-something listen.
But picking favourites from ‘You & Me’ is a fairly pointless exercise, whereas 'Bows and Arrows' and ‘A Hundred Miles Off’ had their clear and immediate standouts, ‘You & Me’ is built up of fourteen parts to make a devastatingly beautiful whole. For me they are up there with The National as America’s standout band at the moment, if sensitive, thoughtful, intelligent, rocking tunes is what you are after. 6 months in, I’m still waiting for a different album to come along and knock it from its heavily repeated listen perch. Great Stuff.Read more 4.5 star reviews
Comprised of members of Wolf Parade and The New Pornographers and originally operating under the name ‘Thunder Cloud’, Canada’s Swan Lake underwent a name change upon discovering their first choice was already taken (although not by Steven Segal who had already bagged ‘Thunderbox‘) and released a debut album, Beast Moans in 2006. So named, because its sound reminded band member Spencer Krug of “…a bear dying in a tar pit.” Beast Moans was a mash-up of the trio’s very differing approach to song writing, layers of melodies and styles thrown into the mix to see what came out.
With new album Enemy Mine (Named after the 80's Science Fiction film starring Dennis Quaid) the band made a more concerted effort on tighter collaboration and although certainly more pleasant on the ear than an animal dying slowly, it is still in no great hurry to be taken home and cared for. Thanks largely to the spoken/sung style of other band member Daniel Bejar (Carey Mercer makes up the trio) Enemy Mine comes across as quite abrasive on first listen. It plays out like a collection of scenes from a musical. And a musical that takes itself quite seriously to boot. Which would be ok if any of the lyrics stood out and got you thinking, but on the first few listens it just sounds like a literary stream of consciousness, this from ‘Heartswam’ being my favourite so far:
“I was coming off something particularly strong, you had your gloves on, they looked fucking brutal”.
And I say so far, because I’m convinced Enemy Mine is going to get better. It’s three creators clearly didn’t make it to be picked up on the commute to work and put down with the coffee. There’s a lot more going on here than I can take in, during the few listens I’ve had - so I’m advancing it half a star in credit from its initial 2.5 score. It’s not an album I’m desperate to adopt, but neither is it one I’m ready to throw to the tarpits. Yet.
(As a side note, they originally were going to call the album ‘Before the Law’ after a Franz Kafka parable, but were tired of being constantly referred to as ‘literary’. I thought I’d help them out with this by lowering the brow a touch with name-checks to Steven Seagal and Dennis Quaid.)Read more 3 star reviews
Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band
As you may or may not summise from their name, Seattle quintet TMSHVB (for, errr, short) are a mischievous bunch. Naming rights were given to then 13 year-old Marshall Verdoes, as a reward for improving his drumming sufficiently to form a band with his brother/adoptive father (depending on which blurb you read) Benjamin. With obscure name in place, TMSHVB set about creating a buzz for themselves - issuing a number of Public Service Announcements before making a sound available to the wider public.
When those sounds were set free, first in the form of self-recorded and released EP Weepy and now in their debut self-titled full length LP, the mischief remained very much front and centre. Co-produced by Scott Colburn (with Arcade Fire and Animal Collective to his name) TMSHVB walk a tidy line between slick and slapdash, playful and professional. I would guess that Marshall is no longer 13 years of age, as he spares no snare, keeping hard time with the wayward structure of most of the 11 songs that make up the album he titled. Like a more mature Spinto Band (a category which technically every single band in the world falls into) TMSHVB’s tunes are driven by fun and good times - a refusal to be limited by anything as square as traditional structure.
“Who‘s asking?” opens things up nice - with a choral ‘Oooh Oooh‘ heralding in a tune evidently about a disagreement between Ben Verdoes and an old flame. All nice and jaunty then a pair of lead guitars appear from nowhere, perform a quick Brian May-esque dual, then disappear off into the night, allowing the tune to return on its original way and pace. “Masquerade” has those May guitars starting proceedings, building a tasty riff, which this time is broken down into a Waltz after a minute. That’s not to say this is Vampire Weekend type boundary busting novelty fayre, Mt St Helens are indie and no mistake. And they do it well. With obvious talent, they keep the energy high and the mood light, sample lyric from “On a hunt“ “I’m going to spear the mighty Giant Squid, I’ll Steal it’s ink, to write you letters of my adventures.” In amongst all this hyperactivity, slower tracks such as “A Year or Too” or 7 minute string-tinged closer “On the Collar” hold their own - rounding out the album nicely.
Forget the hype. Let the music speak on their behalf.Read more 3.5 star reviews
El Wurlitzer, Madrid
I wanted to write a quick review of this show just to throw a bit of love in the direction of drummer Dan Fetherston. Thanks to the energy, wit and charisma of frontpair Michael Pace (guitars) and Adam Rizer (bass), it's easy to forget that there's a third fella keeping time at the back of Oxford Collapse, and as I watched the last few songs of the set from the side of the stage, it's fair to say that he puts in a good shift. Having said that, the Oxford Collapse experience is such an enjoyable one largely due to the energy, wit and charisma of Pace and Rizer (see!)
I'm guessing that they missed soundcheck as the first few songs were spent adjusting levels, but once comfortable Rizer became slightly more hyper and Pace brought out the jokes. Shorn of beard and carrying a few extra pounds since their show in London last year, Pace is now a dead ringer for Superbad's Seth and just as funny. After a short anecdote about his poor efforts at studying Spanish at school he introduced 'Molasses' with: "This song is called 'Molasses' and in Spanish it's called.....'Molasses'". Ok, an obvious one, but 6 yard tap-ins count just the same as 35 yard screamers (said screamer came later on, I can't remember the build up but the punchline was "...so thanks to Javi for the delicious oxtail balls".)
But we obviously didn't come just for stand-up. They rocked. I'll hold my hands up and admit to not owning anything other than 'Remember the Night Parties' (or "The Classic!" as it was labelled up for sale). And a lot of the people I was with hadn't even heard that much, but it didn't matter, known material blended in with unknown material, (ok, 'Lady Lawyers', set closer 'National Parks' and a blistering encore of the Cranberries' 'Salvation' stood out) in a perfect showcase of what's good about american indie rock.
Good times, laughs and rocking tunes (good drumming) - a real feelgood performance that saw Oxford Collapse once again consolidate their position at the top spot of 'The Indie band you'd most like to hang out with' charts.
(Photo courtesy of Reina Triton)Read more 4 star reviews
Oxford Collapse at El Wurlitzer, Madrid, Feb 10th 2009
Photo courtesy of Reina Triton
10th Feb 2009View this picture and comment at Flickr
Not been a vintage year in terms of quantity for me. El Rey by the Wedding Present and Living on the Other side by The Donkeys got a lot of listens. I haven't yet got round to listening to You and Me by the Walkmen, but reports suggest it's as strong as we've come to expect from them. But in loose order, my standout albums of the year:
Damien Jurado - Caught in the Trees: Not convinced at first, but grew and grew and grew. Lovely stuff.
Ladyhawk - Shots: Dirty rock n roll. Brains, booze and plenty of heart
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes: Yes!
Frightened Rabbit - Midnight Organ Fight: An early release and still on heavy rotation. How can someone so miserable write such catchy and rocking tunes. Some great lyrics too.
My Morning Jacket - The Forum: as reliable as ever when playing live
Frightened Rabbit - Madame Jojos/Sala Sol: Poor in a poor venue in London. Much better and relaxed in front of about 30 people in Madrid
Damien Jurado - Moby Dick (madrid): Warm and Intimate as Winter approached
Foals - Mynt (madrid): From the rousing drum intro. Through to the guitarist playing whilst walking along the bar. The tunes rocked and they gave it their all.
Bunk, Cutty, Clay, Daniels, Rawls, Omar, Snoop, Chris, Avon etc etc etc. Just (and only just) behind a niece and nephew as my favourite thing this year.
No Country For Old Men - welcome back Brothers
Into the Wild - Dam(n) that river!
Caught In The Trees
Just like this review, the 9th album by Seattle native (and former Sub Pop alumni) Damien Jurado, took a long time coming. Along with best friends and bandmates Eric Fisher and Jenna Conrad, Jurado took over a year to make ‘Caught In The Trees’ and it is a record that has clearly benefited from this considered maturing process.
Each of the 13 tracks feels like they had Jurado’s love, attention and perspiration shared equally amongst them, lightly embellishing each one with extra touches to ensure ‘Caught In The Trees’ did not simply become another record by another singer/songwriter with a guitar. Sure, it’s his delicate voice and acoustic guitar that lies at the core, but it’s the subtle piano rolls, Conrad’s backing vocals, the under-produced drums and de-tuned solo parts, added to the ambiguous lyrics, that draws you into the enigmatic world of ‘Caught In The Trees’; a world that is at the same time intense and fragile – introspective in its vision and confident in its sound.
As Alan Partridge once said: ‘Lovely Stuff”.Read more 3.5 star reviews
Take Me To The Sea
Fans of disbanded Seattle bands Blood Brothers or Pretty Girls Make Graves , may be excited to know that certain members of each (Cody Votolato and Johnny Whitney from BB. Jay Clark from PGMG) have joined forces, relocated to Portland, formed Jaguar Love, signed to Matador records and now released their debut album "Take Me To The Sea". Those same fans might also like to know, that while the complex and creative intesity that marked previous incarnations remains in place, the hardcore brashness has been smoothed down into something altogether more melodic. Not too melodic mind, as they have already snagged a support slot for leading rockers Queens Of The Stone Age in the States. Those fans need fear not either, Johnny Whitney's unique vocals are certainly present, correct and unique as ever.
And here's the crux of the matter; personally I've never engaged with either of those two former bands - so I'm taking no emotional currency with me into "Take Me To The Sea". The tunes are indeed complex, interesting, well put together, energetic and all the rest of it - but there is no escaping those vocals. Some of the more favourable critical comparisons out there include "pure Bolan-esque glam" or "Robert Plant on Steroids". Some of the less favourable "...like Perry Farrell after a sex change" or this gem..."..like a child being tortured". I'm in the latter camp - and while the music maybe "At The Drive-In', the vocals are definately more "Alvin The Chipmunks", which unfortunately makes the album pretty much unlistenable.Read more 2.5 star reviews
Living On The Other Side
Imagine if you will, some Hollywood genius decides to remake that 1977 Burt Reynolds vehicle about a vehicle; Smokey and the Bandit, except this time, it's the Dude, not the Tache behind the wheel. That's right, stoned cinematic legend that is Jeffrey Lebowski on a (not too stretching) mission to transport a cargo of Sasparillas across a not that far distance along the United States' west coast. Replace the bloodhound for Donny (we'll leave Walter out of this chilled out trip) and see how our heroes fare.
Who would you use for the soundtrack? Not so long ago, you might have gone for the relatively succesful UK bands, The Thrills or The Bees, Dublin and Isle of White residents who wished they were elsewhere (late 60's/early 70's California to be precise), but such a movie surely deserves something a bit more authentic. So, to said Hollywood genius, why not use 'Living on the Other Side' by Southern California residents, The Donkeys. Made up of four best friends, (two of which are genuine California surfers no less), The Donkey's debut album oozes laid-back chilledness. Slide guitars, brushed drums, simple solos, lazy vibes, barely awake vocals, It's a road trip; Destination: vague. Arrival time: more so. I could tell you about specific songs, but, well....
For those lazy Sundays, when you can't find that album of Whale sounds, stick it on, it will be worth it, even if you can't remember what you just listened to once it's finished.Read more 3 star reviews
THEN: Sebadoh's eighth album and their fourth for Sub Pop, saw the Massachusetts (rotating) 3 piece pick-up the succesful formula of its preceeding release, Bakesale. That 1994 smash reached the dizzy heights of number 40 in the UK albums chart, thanks largely to toning down some of the more off-the-wall ideas that marked earlier records and focusing on a more consistent sound, with more emphasis on 'songs'. Harmacy picked up that baton and as a result (and perhaps inevitably) was the band's most mature release at the time.
NOW: More mature maybe, but that's not to say the imagination and slight eccentricity that has secured Sebadoh an intensly loyal fanbase (guilty) is not present here. With songwriting duties split largely evenly between Lou Barlow and Jason Lowenstein, it weaves and bobs at differing pace; from the jaunty, effortless pop (Ocean / Can't Give Up) 3 chord punk (I Smell A Rat) rocking instrumentals (Sforzando! / Hillbilly 2) and painstaking love song (Willing To Wait) all held together with a tighter production than previous releases. Basically, Harmacy sits comfortably in a formidable canon of releases from these indie rock legends.
SUB POP SAYS: "Since each member of Sebadoh writes songs, their sound can be very different from one song to the next. Where once we heard three voice screaming at once, now they talk in harmony"
KILLER TRACK: Always tricky to pick a killer from the mixed bag that is a Sebadoh record, but of the nineteen here and in the interests of fairness I'll go for (Jason's) Mindreader and (Lou's) Ocean.
THEN: 1994 and Sub Pop was at the top of its game. Others such as Touch and Go, Blast First, Amphetamine Reptile, Cargo were all dishing out quality fayre, but it was the Seattle label that remained the go-to choice for hard-rocking anger and good times. So Sunny Day Real Estate's Diary caught a lot of people off-guard. Mostly it was singer Jeremy Enigk's voice, this guy sounded like he could actually sing - and it sounded like he was singing about intensly personal themes too, hence 'Diary' I suppose, this couldn't be right from the label who gave us Mudhoney, the band who sang about being drunk for 24 hours. Add to that the slightly creepy and childlike artwork of the record and it felt like Diary was a step in a new direction. Luckily, whilst making us think, it also rocked. Hard.
NOW: Little surprise that Dave Grohl called up rhythm section Nate Mendel (bass) and William Goldsmith (drums) when putting together his new project Foo Fighters in 1995, the drumming especially is awesome across the whole album. Take opener Seven for example: nearly five minutes of constant rolls and fills across a track that was a permanent fixture on many a mix-tape made around that period (to both guys and girls - evidence of the rocking and sensitive all-roundess of the group).
I hadn't listened to it for a while and seemed to remember the intensity level dropping off after Seven and In Circles, but no, the quality remains consistently high across all eleven songs. From the blistering Rounds and Shadows, surreal Grendel and Pheurton Skeurto and the epic 47 and 48. It's fair to argue that Diary was amongst the first Emo records, but don't confuse it with the cynical bullshit of today, there is far more intelligence to Diary than simply plastering on a bit of eyeliner. A classic of classics.
SUP POP SAYS: “Sunny Day’s key members have seemingly engaged in just about every rock cliché imaginable.”
KILLER TRACK: SevenRead more 4.5 star reviews
Smell The Magic
THEN: Sub Pop of 1990 was a very male led and largely Seattle based affair. That L7 were made up of four girls from Los Angeles is a good marker of the uncompromising nature of this band and their debut album Smell the Magic. The quartet who were definitely more Riot Grrrl than Girl Power, earned notoriety on these shores by dropping their trousers live on The Word or going one step further at the Reading Festival by throwing a used tampon into the crowd, along with the challenge "Eat my dead uterus!"
NOW: Sound charming don't they? But such 'fuck-you' antics were very much part of the appeal of the music coming out of Sub Pop at the time. Like a reincarnation of the Punk explosion that inspired many groups in the scene, it wasn't necessarily the music that mattered most - some distorted barchords and single fingered solos would work just fine - as long as it all came with plenty of anger and attitude. Released in a year when the eyes of the alternative world were all fixed on Sub Pop, Smell The Magic can make legitimate claim to being the archetypal 'Grunge' record, with album opener Shove as anthemic as any Touch Me I'm Sick or Teen Spirit. "My neighbours say I jam too loud. SHOVE! America thinks I should be proud. HUH!"
SUB POP SAYS: “L7 are a primal rock machine.”
KILLER TRACKS: Shove. Fast And FrighteningRead more 4 star reviews
The Lucky Ones
20 years after the release of their first record - Superfuzz Bigmuff - Mudhoney return with their eighth, but you’d have to listen very closely to find any obvious signs of maturing in that two decade period. Ditching the brass section flourishes of 2006’s Under A Billion Suns, the Lucky Ones is Mudhoney doing what Mudhoney do best – no-messing, fuzzed up punk, topped with the odd killer riff and Mark Arm’s sneeringly laid-back vocal.
Nice and compact at eleven songs averaging about 3 minutes each, it doesn’t hang about, sounding like it was recorded in about three and a half days…which incidentally, it was. The band hit the groove early on and ended up recording the record in record time. Which is great news for old fans, recently reminded of Mudhoney’s particular brand of wayward genius thanks to the re-release of Superfuzz Bigmuff. Opening track “I’m Now” may try and position the band: “The past makes no sense, The future looks tense. I’m Now!” but the energy, chaos and unmistakable sound that marked their 1990 debut, is all over “The Lucky Ones” (with slightly slicker production perhaps).
Whilst some may argue that this makes the album dated on release, others would say ‘Who gives a shit?’ leave the boundary breaking to the kids. Back in the day, Mudhoney somehow stumbled across new musical territory. It seemed like a lot of fun then – and it still does.Read more 3 star reviews
Superfuzz-Bigmuff (Deluxe Edition)
Despite being named after a couple of guitar effects pedals and featuring a song that confesses/proudly proclaims that "I've been drunk for 24 hours", it's difficult not to undersell the importance of Mudhoney's debut album Superfuzz Bigmuff and it's place in the timeline of, well, of popular music really. Such grand statements probably sit uneasily with the band themselves and most definately would have when these four long-haired outcasts from Seattle recorded it nearly 20 years ago. After all, they pretty much sound drunk all over it - a mood helped no end by the distorted sludge sound of the eponymous effects pedals. But this distortion, sludge, long hair and beer, laid out over punked-up three minute songs, combined to give the world 'Grunge' - the predominant alternative music scene of the early 90s.
A couple of years before Teen Spirit was a target in the bitter sights of fellow Seattlite Kurt Cobain, Superfuzz Bigmuff (along with its label Sub Pop, formed two years earlier) announced that something was most definitely happening in America's Pacific North West.
"We wanna be free, we wanna be free to do what we anna do. We wanna be free to ride...to ride our machines without being hassled from the man. And we wanna get loaded". Peter Fonda's plea in 'The Wild Angels', sampled as an intro to In 'N' Out Of Grace sums up far better than I ever could, where Mudhoney were coming from. There's no doubt this is an angry album, but whereas Cobain was to implode with that anger, Mudhoney had a sense of humour (and presumably a steady supply of ale) to balance it out and help carry them from the frustration of their surroundings.
Touch Me I'm Sick, which should always be the first name on the teamsheet for a "Grunge Album Select 11", sets the pace: "Well i've been bad. And I've been worse. And I'm a creep yeeeahhh. And I'm a jerk. Touch Me I'm Sick!". And the rest of the album plays out over this cynical, but above all beer-swilling fun, terrain. Extras on this version, re-issued to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the lengendary Sub Pop, include singles, demos, and a couple of live recordings from 1988, which as the promotion blurb states "are all remastered, or in some cases, mastered for the very first time."!
Mark, Steve, Matt and Dan: the John, Paul, George and Ringo of my early adolesence, I salute you. Now let's get loaded.Read more 4 star reviews
Bubble and Scrape
A couple of year’s ago I wrote a review of Sebadoh’s Bubble and Scrape, for no other reason than I happened to listen to it for the first time in a while and wanted to give it some dues. Now, following on from other Sebadoh long-players The Freed Man and III, Bubble and Scrape is getting the re-release treatment, giving anyone who didn’t rush out and buy it after 2006’s gushing write-up another chance.
Eagle-eyed readers will note the addition of an extra star over there on the left, for which I make no apologies. I bloody love this album. Sebadoh were/are one of the most important groups in my music listening timeline - the fact that they set the bar way back in the early 90s and that bar still rarely gets challenged (even after a couple of unprecedented years of new music exposure courtesy of this site) is testament to their all-round indie rock greatness.
From album opener and possibly one of the finest songs about a relationship breaking down Soul and Fire (“Not there to soothe your soul, friend to tender friend, I think our love is coming to an end”), to the sheer abandon of closer Flood and it’s promise of a truly awesome and terrifying night: “Yeah. Alright. We’re gonna ride with the flood tonight!” It’s an album full of invention, balls, paranoia, intimacy and energy that flies around in all directions, barely held together by its basic home-recorded style production.
Previously, I name checked a few songs as album highs, how I missed Sacred Attention out of that list is inexcusable as to me it sounds like Sebadoh playing Fugazi – and if you know what I mean by that, then you know. If you don’t – then try and find out, it will be worth it. But to be honest, all the tracks stand-up – even ‘difficult’ tracks such as Elixir is Zog and No Way Out have a role to play, representing the stoned psychotic side of an album and group with several personalities.
As for additional material that comes with the re-release, it’s an assortment of odds, sods and demos including mashed-up versions of Sister, Happily Divided and Emma Get Wild that are even rawer than the originals and worth a listen. A nice, new, positive acoustic take on Soul and Fire (“There to soothe your soul, friend to tender friend, call me if you ever want to start again”.) and some obligatory sonic recording tomfoolery in the Freed Man vain. All in all 15 extra ‘tracks’ probably best categorised by the titles of two of them Visibly Wasted and Messing Around.
But it’s not really about the extras. It’s incredible to think that Bubble and Scrape was originally released 15 years ago. That it has aged so well, justifies its classic status. A lot of albums have come and gone in those years and yet it still punches its weight and holds a lofty position in my all time favourites. I look forward to the day where I can pass this to future generations and say ‘Listen. This is the music I loved as a young man’.
For a number of quite obvious reasons, it’s not very often that I compare myself to Arnold ‘The Governator’ Schwarzenegger, nor for that matter Hulk ‘The Hulk’ Hogan or perhaps for younger readers Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. However, listening to the debut album ‘Worldwide’ by the much travelled The Death Set, got me thinking of the pumped-up trio of Strongmen-turned-actors - more specifically the fish-out-of-water genre of films that each turned their not inconsiderable hand to. I’m thinking Arnie’s Kindergarten Cop, the Hulk’s Mr Nanny and The Rock’s recent fodder Game Plan, each of which feature our macho and mature heroes lost and cut adrift in a world of small children and high energy.
I’ll make no claim to macho, but am inevitably maturing and on first listen found Worldwide a disorientating experience, like finding yourself in a classroom of screaming kids and an empty crate of red bull. Making the Go Team sound middle of the road - it’s hard to stomach in one sitting. 18 songs in 26 minutes gives you an idea of the frenetic pace and energy of the album.
The band were spawned in Australia, temporarily based themselves in Brooklyn before settling in Baltimore, attracted by the city’s abandoned factories and their potential for holding kick-ass parties, and it’s seeing footage and photos of those kick-ass parties (ie Live shows) that help paint a bigger picture as to what The Death Set are all about. It’s a raucous affair, with the band placing themselves out on the floor, amongst the fans, with no shortage of blood, sweat and beer. They bring to mind the photos of Glen E. Friedman, who documented the US Hardcore scene of the early 80's – whereas punk back then was played at breakneck speed and driven by anger, The Death Set play at breakneck speed, but seem to be angry at anger, naming as they do, comedy and positivity as major influences.
I regard a bunch of those Hardcore bands as early personal favourites (Minor Threat, Circle Jerks, Black Flag). but there is no way I could maintain that pace and energy and inyourfacefuckyouness as the years pass. So, The Death Set, whilst cajoling a bit of nostalgia, aren’t going to be on heavy rotation in chimpovich palace, which of course is my problem and not theirs. Whilst they’re burning down the scene and hosting kick-ass parties, I’ll be lamely heading to the gym, trying to transform this gut into something nowhere near approaching Hulk, Rock and Arnie proportions.Read more 3 star reviews
I've yet to hear 'the first great album of the year' or 'the second' for that matter, so it's with a clear conscience and complete disregard for continuity that I give the first great album of the year title to Vancouver's Ladyhawk and their great album - Shots.
OK, so it's nearly April and I'm not listening to as much new music as I used to. Partly because of various grown-up commitments and partly because there's just too much new music out there. For someone who used to base his musical jumps into the unknown on an appearance in a trusted band's Thank You list (or failing that usually buying anything on Sub Pop) - the alternative music choice in 2008 can be quite overwhelming.
An old-school rock band then, with guitars bass and drums - that stand and fall by the quality of the songs rather than a quirky hook, look or attitude, is to this cynic, a 21st century blessing. In this respect, I suppose Shots shares more in common with Black Mountain, than Vampire Weekend. Little surprise perhaps, as Ladyhawk share a label with their fellow Canadians.
Recorded in an abandoned farmhouse, over a booze-fuelled two weeks, Shots is the soundtrack to one of the great parties. Rocking hard in places, edgy and introspective in others, it's a party that could spiral out of control at any minute, but one you definitely don't want to leave. Like Neil Young and his honeyslide powered On The Beach, Shots really captures the mood of its recording.
I Don't Always Know What You're Saying kicks things off and sets the mood; with a reverbed and fuzzy production that sounds exactly like it was recorded in a booze-fuelled abandoned farmhouse. S.T.H.D., Fear and Corpse Paint, maintain the tempo - dark, edgy, rocking. Before they slow it down for a couple of tracks, I'll Be Your Ashtray calls to mind yet more fellow Canadian's - Magnolia Electric Company (“I'll be your ashtray. Because I only want to feel you burning.”) whilst Faces of Death carries the melancholic air of too much whiskey.
But before getting too down, the party kicks off again with Night, You're Beautiful a self-explanatory title that could neatly sum-up Shots. You get the idea that Ladyhawk love the night - not in a whitefaced-Gothic kind of way, more that all the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll is going on after hours ( “Darkness you touch my soul. And you fill my heart. And you make me burn when we're apart”) They love the night so much, they even include a few “do-do-do” backing vocals amongst the sludge guitars.
And what better way to round all that off than with an eleven minute epic. Ghost Blues is in no hurry to get anywhere, and even lulls you into thinking that they've succumbed to a bit of self-indulgence. Then, around the 6 minute mark, the band let out a mighty Primal Scream; a call round a campfire for a higher spirit to take them home, probably a call to the Pagan God of Awesome Parties - whose number, without doubt, is in Ladyhawk's favourites.
A. Great. Album.Read more 4 star reviews
(dir. Ethan & Joel Coen)
From their debut with Blood Simple in 1984 through to bowling classic The Big Lebowski in 1998, the Coen brothers went on a pretty much unrivalled 7 film run of non-duds. Sadly they followed this with a sequence of four films that fell far below The Dude inspired peak - from Lebowski follow up O’Brother Where Art Thou? in 2000 to the universally panned Ladykillers in 2004. After that they went on a bit of a hiatus, resurfacing briefly to contribute to Paris J’Taime - a collection of short films about a French city.
Now they are back and in some style with No Country for Old Men. Taken from the novel by Cormac McCarthy, ...Old Men opens with generally decent man of few words Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) hunting deer on the plains. Through the telescopic sight of his rifle he spies a bunch of pickup trucks and corpses, which, on closer inspection proves to be the endgame of a drug deal gone badly wrong. With a big briefcase full of money laying there without any obvious (living) owner, Moss the opportunist grabs the loot, believing he and his sweetheart back at the trailer park (Kelly Macdonald) have just stumbled upon a life changing slice of fortune.
Which is true, but not as he thinks. You see that money belongs to somebody and soon Llewelyn realises he’s got a serious problem, in the form of weird assasin Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), on his tail. As the tagline says “There are no clean getaways”. Throw reluctant Sherrif Tommy Lee Jones and a bunch of angry Mexicans into the mix and a bloody game of cat and mouse across the southern states and into Mexico ensues.
Whilst there are a few obvious ‘Coen Brother’ touches where they find humour in some of the darkest places (Chigurh’s haircut for example), they generally play it straight - allowing the story, scenery and performances to drive the film leisurely but efficiently over its two hour duration. In this respect it resembles the excellent The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, the Tommy Lee Jones directed revenge film from a couple of years back. Like that film, the Texan born Lee Jones once again proves himself to be a master of the actions-speak-louder-than-words old school character of the South. But it’s Spanish actor Bardem (along with his hair and possibly the biggest gun-silencer in movie history) that really steals the film, as he menacingly takes no prisoners on his pursuit of Moss and the cash.
Rightly cleaning up plaudits all over the place, No Country for Old Men is a mighty return to form for the Coen brothers. Amen to that.Read more 4 star reviews
Real Emotional Trash
Real Emotional Trash is the fourth solo album from Stephen Malkmus since the amicable break-up of lo-fi pioneers and all time Hall of Famers, Pavement, nearly ten years ago. On heading out on the solo seas, Malkmus opted for an ‘ifitaintbrokedontfixit’ approach; taking that hyperactive yet laidback and slightly surreal sound he so effortlessly brough to Pavement, smoothing out the edges a touch and then just riding with it. For Real Emotional Trash, he obviously thought his well-oiled musical machine still wasn’t broke, so the odd tinker here and there would suffice rather than anything resembling a fix.
Inevitably it’s a maturer sound, but not at the expense of any of that trademark playfulness. “Of all my stoned digressions, some have mutated into truth” sings that familiar conversational voice on ‘DragonflyPie’ and ‘Stoned digressions’ is a neat way to sum up the music of Malkmus; never quite sure what he’s on about lyrically and musically liable to wander off in random directions, but heck it sure sounds nice.
I often forget how good a guitarist he really is, but he’s never one to turn down an extended jam with a range of effects pedals to showcase his chops. Joined by ex Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss (on drums obviously and the occasional backing vocal) R.E.T. rocks frequently, not least on the title track, which, with the aid of some jaunty piano, clocks in at a hefty ten and a half minutes.
While ‘Real Emotional Trash’ presents no real change of direction, it still follows that path forged by the founding of Pavement back in 1989, and what a scenic and above all fun path it is too - with Stephen Mallkmus up there at the front, holding the flag - your ever so slightly eccentric guide on this enjoyable journey.Read more 3.5 star reviews
Honourable mentions to: Elvis Perkins, Love of Diagrams, Silversun Pickups, Battles...
5. The Ponys - Turn the Lights Out
4. Band of Horses - Cease to Begin
3. Plate Six - Battle Hymns of the New Republic
(and these two clear by some stretch)
2. Dinosaur Jr - Beyond
1. Kings of Leon - Because of the Times
Songs (in no order):
Battles - Atlas
Two Gallants - The Deader
Elvis Perkins - While You Were Sleeping
Frightened Rabbit - The Greys
Dinosaur Jr. - Pick Me Up
Kings of Leon - Black Thumbnail
The World Is Bright And Only
I’ve had this one pending for so long that any original thought Brooklyn’s New Idea Society may have had, is probably now as dated as a Paul Nicholas prime-time comedy. However, it was a lack of such an original thought that bugged me in the first place, followed by repeated listens and an equal number of reappraisals, that had me confused, undecided and reluctant to commit fingers to keys in review.
On first listen, the conspiracist in me noted that not only is the title of “The World is Bright and Lonely” uncannily similar to Bright Eyes’ “I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning” (and contain the same amount of syllables AND contain the word ‘Bright’!!) but the songs within bear more than a passing resemblance to Conor Oberst’s 2005 masterpiece - best exemplified on the title track (no. 9 of 12) an 8 minute coupling of acoustic guitar and mainman Mike Law’s oh-so-earnest voice. But whereas there's not a single word wasted on “I’m Wide Awake…”, it’s the lyrics on “Bright and Lonely…” that weigh it down and perhaps disguise its better qualities.
Exhibit A. Track 3. Don’t Sleep
“After all this time. I don’t want to go to sleep coz I’ll sleep when I die. You are divine. So I am going to make you mine” - Don’t Sleep
Or this little piece of cod philosophy on Dress Shirt.
“I knew where I was and I was lost”
Such nuggets leap out on the first few plays and led me to dismiss it, as has already been mentioned, as a mere Bright Eyes imitation. But on repeated listens, such a dismissal does the album a disservice. Get beyond the words and you have 12 nicely crafted songs that are varied in tone and tempo. It’s an album that is easy enough to listen to but has plenty of subtle guitar, piano and organ touches woven within to stop it sloping off into out-and-out dullness.
So I’ll now be looking out with interest for future projects from Law and his New Idea Society, certainly more so than any future projects Paul Nicholas has in mind, unless, that is, he appears as a foul-mouthed drunkard in the next Shane Meadows movie.
Food For Thoughtlessness EP
Dylan Donkin used to be in a band called Echobrain with ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newstead. But don’t let that fool you into second-guessing what he sounds like. In fact, listening to new EP Food For Thoughtlessness it’s possible that Mr Donkin himself isn’t exactly sure what his sound is. But first a bit of post-Echobrain history:
After the band were caught up in a lawsuit with rival band called Echodrain (who’d have thought a band called Echodrain would have lawyers?), Donkin decided to do one and headed to Hawaii, where most admirably he developed a music teaching programme to help parents and children interact musically. And it’s that sort of optimism, coupled with an inevitable laidback Island vibe, that runs through the 6 songs.
It’s a few stadium sizes away from metal monsters Metallica, but this isn‘t just one surf dude and his guitar a la Jack Johnson. Like Alec Guinness playing 8 members of the same family in Ealing classic Kind Hearts and Coronets or Eddie Murphy playing fat clan The Klumps in Hollywood film: Nutty Proffesor 2, the 6 songs that make up this EP may share the same mellow genetics, but are varied enough to showcase the considerable talents of Mr Donkin.
In mood, it’s a record of two halves (or 'sides'). Single Make a Choice is effortlessly upbeat in a hazy lazy kind of way. You can almost hear the Hawaiian tide breaking on the shore, as a slide guitar works its way over simple bass lines and gentle brushwork on the drums on Diatom Blues and what’s not to like about putting handclaps in a song called Depression Yesterdays. For the second half Donkin, ever sensitive, gets a bit darker. Fall Through The Wall and its slightly reverbed vocal recall Jim James or Neil Young. Instumental The Commonaut is probably the most interesting, a talented yet troubled piano, drunk and misunderstood, wails at the world as a quiet lead quitar agrees and a small choir commentates. And finally, Yolk bids farewell like a slightly more positive unplugged Kurt Cobain.
It will be interesting to see how Donkin pulls this altogether on a full-length album; will it sound like an album rather than simply a collection of (very good) songs? Until we find out, the Food For Thoughtlessness EP is an intriguing and excellent appetizer, whetting the appetite for the main course to come.
12 Crass Songs
It’s been a good week for record label PR and a bad one for Chimp research, following from Muxloe’s Young Marble Giants admission, I had penned the following review based upon the first few listens of Jeffrey Lewis’ 12 Crass Songs:
Jeffrey Lewis began life as a beatnik, or at least his parents were, a lifestyle choice that deemed comic books and blues records more suitable entertainment than that old Hippy’s foe: Television. Lewis took that early absence in his life personally it seems, as TV is one of several targets in the sights of his nasally-voiced shotgun on new album 12 Crass Songs.
Before becoming a musician and a member of New York’s anti-folk movement (the power and anger of punk via acoustic guitar) Lewis drew (aha) on his upbringing to become an underground comic book artist. The sparse/direct style of comic books runs through 12 Crass Songs; it’s a wall-to-wall bunch of blunt, angry self-effacement - delivered like a crude black and white sketch through minimal music and Lewis’ talking/singing.
12 Crass Songs doesn’t let up. Nothing is spared as various tones of grey are added to the bleak portrait of the western world today. The human race is the first in the firing line on End Result “I’m part of the race that kills for possessions, part of the race that’s wiping itself out” On I Ain’t Thick, Lewis has his daggers drawn for that old villain 'The Man' who uses TV/Sarah Jessica Parker, consumerism and even history books, to keep the masses downtrodden, but Lewis ain’t having that y’all.
Systematic Death plays out like a comic book story, etching a sketch of Mr and Mrs Average America doomed to a life of misery, oppression and downright idiocy under the SYSTEM SYSTEM SYSTEM!
If he’s pissed at Sarah Jessica Parker, then imagine the ire Lewis reserves for Bush (I bet even Sarah Jessica Parker is pissed at him) and Mr. President’s policies, particularly his idea of defence, come under the penlike scalpel of Lewis. Even punk itself isn’t safe. Punk is Dead laments that the movement that once inspired Lewis and his contempories sold itself out “Punk is Dead. Punk is Dead. Just another cheap product for the consumer’s head”.
I would disagree however, what is punk other than getting a personal message out there by the most direct means possible (or is that DHL? (Corporate Fascists)). It’s easy to roll the eyes at another New York artist bitching about conspiracies and the like, but that’s exactly the fuel that feeds 12 Crass Songs. The world in 2007 is a mixed-up place of complacency and terror, artists that stick their head out, stare you in the eyes and point that out should be saluted. However, it surely wouldn’t detract from the message to add a splash of colour now and again, if only musically….
Then, like a tardy Colombo, I discovered that I had overlooked a vital piece of evidence; 12 Crass Songs is exactly that; 12 cover versions from late 70s/Early 80s English Anarchists Crass. It’s depressing to think that 30 year old messages of protest and opposition still ring true and clear today, and strangely all of my thoughts were still valid - even though I refuse to believe that Sarah Jessica Parker was a key instrument in Thatcher’s oppression of Britain’s working classes.
Staying true to their name, SFA’s 8th studio album and first for new label Rough Trade, Hey Venus!, is a collection of warm, fuzzy and reliable tracks from these Welsh indie stalwarts.
Recorded by Broken Social Scene producer David Newfield, it comprises 12 multi-layered tracks, that range from the Primal Screamish rock stomp opening of The Gateway Song, more than a hint of epic Elvis Costello (Run-Away), the almost horizontally laidback and beautiful (The Gift That Keeps Giving), a gaggle of funky fuzzed up rockers (Noo Consumer, Into The Night, Baby Ate My Eightball) to Carbon Dating, which wouldn’t be out of place on a 60’s UK Film soundtrack (probably Get Carter).
All these are tied loosely around a single concept, explained by the band themelves in their open-lettered brief to Japanese artist Keiichi Tanaami, as they sought his services for the album’s artwork.(see comments). Whilst varied, no song strays too far from the pyschedelic-pop flock, resulting in an album that sounds like a well-behaved and focussed Flaming Lips.
1st Jul 2007View this picture and comment at Flickr
1st Jul 2007View this picture and comment at Flickr
The Freed Man
In this humble chimps opinion, there can never be a bad time to remind yourself of the musical genius that is Lou Barlow, but 2007 has provided particularly rich pickings for fans of the indie veteran. We've already witnessed the triumphant return to recorded form of amp abusers Dinosaur Jr, with the awesome 'Beyond' an album that featured a rejuvinated Barlow back behind the bass for the first time in 20 years. Now, at the other end of the Volumic scale we get a repackaged and re-released version of 'The Freed Man', the self-explanatory titled first album from Sebadoh, the band Barlow formed after a well publicised fallout with Dinosaur Jr's J. Mascis.
The importance of Sebadoh in the underground indie scheme of things can never be underestimated. The lo-fi intimacy, invention and sheer refusal to be pigeonholed provided inspiration for many great bands that followed; class acts such as Guided by Voices and Pavement to name but two. Whereas subsequent albums were more rounded and accesible, the 52 'songs' that make up the reissued Freed Man give an invaluable insight into the inner workings of the band from Boston. I say songs, but it really plays out like a series of half ideas; the hyperactive result of stoned and wandering minds, which Barlow and partner Eric Gaffney undoubtedly possessed.
Tracks start then end without warning or breakdown altogether, all intercut with taped interviews and random commercials recorded from TV. With the longest of those 52 tracks clocking in at just over 2 and a half minutes ('Julienne' and even that is really 3 songs stuck together), The Freed Man is restless but not irritating and most definately rewarding. Like discovering a notebook of Picasso's sketches as he worked to create later masterpieces.
At the 2007 party of screaming dullards, where haircuts are mistaken for personality and t-shirts for opinion, Silversun Pickups would undoubtedly be the un-coolest attendees, which of course, when compared to the remaining herd of technicolour banshees, puts them in the lead and out of sight in the cool stakes.
In Carnavas, the LA four-piece have made a record that blissfully ignores current trends and unashamedly heads back to the early 90s where fuzz guitars were king. So unnassuming you might dismiss it at first or even miss it altogether, Carnavas soon gets you hooked and reels you in.
First listens recall the likes of Veruca Salt, one of the female fronted groups following the grunge troupe circa 1992-1994. Except, Silversun Pickups' singer is called Brian. However his femine voice sits comfortably over the dreamlike and wandering guitar work throughout the album and his screams hold their own as the anger notches up on the likes of current single Future Foe Scenarios and early favourite Lazy Eye. A welcome blast of nostalgia in 2007 and beyond.
Water Rats, London
"Ok. Back to the real shit"
Close to the end of their set, guitar problems forced an awkward foray into Michael Jackson jokes for Pony's frontman Jered Gummere. Once remedied it was very much back to the real shit indeed. The four-piece from Chicago are clearly more comfortable with rock n roll than stand-up and with a sound as huge as theirs, that musical confidence is not misplaced. Largely working through their recent, third and great album Turn the Lights Out, they filled the room with distortion, reverb and no small amount of psychedelic vibes, before ending as hoped and expected with album closer Pickpocket Song.
Whether it was down to time constraints, or I was just having too much of a good time, it felt like they cut short the rockout jam at the end of Pickpocket Song. Infact, there were quite a few songs that felt shorter live than on record; but that's no critcism - there was no shortchange in the amount of energy from the band. I'm hoping The Ponys will be around for a while and if they are, their sound will be hugging the walls of bigger venues than the Water Rats in the future. It was a privilege to check them and their real shit out - up close and intimate.
Attack Decay Sustain Release
With Dance Music Guy on extended leave due to ‘exhaustion’, the job of reviewing any music with beeps, bleeps and several beatsperminute generally falls to whoever is hanging around chimp hq after hours. Like stumbling round the darkened corridors of an after hours clubs for the first time, the move from Distortion Feedback Superfuzz Bigmuff to Attack Decay Sustain Release can be a disorientating affair.
Or is it? From the Prodigy, through Leftfield and the Chemical Brothers, casually throwing in a bit of Daft Punk and perhaps a dash of Air and onto Basement Jaxx and Groove Armada, the list of dance acts (groups) that have crossed over into the relatively mainstream world of drums and bass (plus rhythmn and lead guitars) have been few and far between. Which is understandable really, coming from a style of music that wears its underground credentials more proudly than most. Simian Mobile Disco, like those listed above, have brought the clubs up to the people, rather than forcing the people reluctantly down into the clubs. And it’s a no-lose situation for both sides. Simian Mobile Disco are guaranteed a nice slice of uncompeted success, whilst the ageing zeitgeist hunters can keep their finger in the region of the pulse, but their feet away from the dance floors.
Attack Decay Sustain Release allows us sun kissed indie heads to dabble in the dark side, getting that weekend vibe before going to the pub to continue the Kings of Leon debate, head back home at closing time and maybe come down with a bit of Neil Young’s Harvest.
I‘ll hold my hands up and confess to not knowing a great deal about The Young Gods, which is surprising as apparently the Swiss group, formed in 1985, were a huge influence on bands such as Tool, Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. But then maybe that's not all that surprising as those forementioned groups and their Industrial chums never really did it for me.
Apparently, The Young Gods are quite the visionaries, forever looking to reinvent their music. Impressive then, in a Back to the Future kind of way, that new album Super Ready / Fragmenté sounds well and truly stuck in the early 1990’s. All big-but-forgettable guitars, reverbed vocals sung with a clipped neutral European accent (or in French for the teeth-aching C’est Quoi C’est Ça) the odd Sitar now and again... Maybe I’m missing something huge, but the whole experience just washes by, enducing nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders. Not that front man Franz Treichler would be bothered, he seems quite the optimist as he sings this eurovision-esque couplet on opener I’m the Drug.
“We’ve got dreams to share. lots of love to spare.” OK. Goodnight.
Battles first came to my attention a couple of years back. Rumours of a group featuring ex members of Don Caballero and Helmet were to these ears (on paper) the equivalent of musical nirvana (spiritual, not Seattle). I presumed they would sound like Don Caballero, only heavier (Helmeter?) On preparing to listen to their debut EP, I was braced for a flurry of slaps round the face - only to receive a well-mannered stroke of the chin. This wasn’t musical machine guns - it was clever musical noodlings in the territory of arch-noodlers Tortoise, and well; I had Tortoise for that sort of thing. So, Battles slipped off the mental radar, only to sporadically reappear in the form of some live shows last year, live shows I didn’t attend but from whose reviews I learned that the drummer had a massive cymbal stand.
When Mirrored arrived in the in-tray, my memory was jogged to that early hope. After a quick, half-hearted first listen, it appeared my preconceptions were right - here were a bunch of incredibly talented and tight musicians, overly pleased with themselves for making music more enjoyable to them than the listener. Like a series of ‘in’ jokes they were reluctant to share.
But how wrong I was. Spend some quality time with Mirrored and it soon becomes clear that it is a great record on many levels.Yes - they are having a good time, but this is by no means an exclusive party. Opening track Race:In sets the tone nicely and is a good snapshot of what Battles seem to be about. A driving hi-hat and snare rim percussion, and a subtle - repetitive lead guitar part - are joined at various stages in the songs 5 minutes, with whistling, chanting, chimes, what appears to be some sort of pipe percussion, a xylophone, sleigh bells, keyboards, great drum beats. And this invention, never at the cost of quality, continues over the other 10 songs, before closing with Race:Out (a speeded up/slowed down version of track one).
All of which comes together to rock hard, groove hard, be at once serious and intelligent whilst good fun and high-spirited. Mirrored has pulled off a great trick of sounding unlike anything else, and whilst a venture into unchartered territory could require a certain level of pretension, it remains completely open and accessible to all. Mirrored will most likely feature in end of year ‘best-of’ lists and is quite possibly the soundtrack to the best movie not yet made. A movie where Gary Busey gets kicked in the shins by a midget. That’s the vibe of the thing.
Listen to track here (Windows Media):
Battle Hymns For A New Republic
This is more like it. In these hostile times, with the man who gives monkeys a bad name hovering his unopposable thumb over the button, you’d have thought there would be more anger and aggression coming to the musical fore. Sure, there have been numerous songs of discontent, but in lacking an edge they come across as a slow-handclap from the W.I. To be honest I don’t even know if Alabama’s Plate Six are pissed off with señor Bush per se - but they are damned pissed about something. Their record is called Battle Hymns For A New Republic, a manifesto backed up by their music; music at the frontline, heavily armed with sonic molotovs.
It comes as no surprise that they are inspired by Fugazi. After a 50 second opening of feedback (buckle up kids), singer David Hickox’s call-to-arms shout on As The Pinson Turns is eerily similar to Fugazi front man Ian Mackaye - and yes, Plate Six are worthy of being mentioned in the same snarl as the DC legends. Deeming a bassist unnecessary, Hickox, fellow guitarist Darryl Jacks and drummer Brad Davis rip through 11 tracks without letting the pace slack, closing with the 11 minute epic Maximalist Anthem. It’s powerful, adrenalin charged stuff - but not just for the sake of it. The interplay between the two guitars and the excellence of the drumming gives each tune it's individual hook.
Along with Fugazi, Plate Six cite the wandering guitar work of Polvo and the noise and chaos of Sonic Youth as influences. They also remind me of another of my Hall-of-Famers, At The Drive In - who could do pissed-off better than anyone. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of music out at the moment is nice enough, but maybe too nice - the aural equivalent of sticking your head in the sand. Battle Hymns For A New Republic grabs your head out of the sand, shakes it by the ears and gets your hearts and minds rocking hard.
Watch the video for Instant Fence: Windows / Quicktime
Colour It In
“Latchmere’s got a Wave Machine”.
Not only a statement of fact, but possibly the most brilliantly inane lyric of the summer and most definitely the only lyric in honour of the same South London sports centre where members of the Chimpomatic staff regularly re-write the 5-aside football rule book.
A song about a sports centre. And quite openly too: “Speedos speed by. Remember to stay in your lanes. No Heavy Petting.” just a sample of singer Orlando Weeks’ poetry on track 4 (Latchmere) from Colour It In, the debut album from this Clapham 5 piece (now relocated to Brighton).
The Maccabees cast a pretty narrow net lyrically; focusing on that period of late teens/early 20s (unsurprising considering they weigh in at an average age of 21) which with hindsight are glorious and carefree, but at the time can be overcast with trivial doubts and worries. Colour It In captures the energy, exuberance and innocence of this time, but is not a naïve album.
Whilst the hefty chip on my shoulder makes me naturally cautious of a band made up of an Orlando, Felix, Hugo, Rupert and a Robert Dylan Thomas, I’m a sucker for a dose of that post-Strokes, tight guitared-pop and Colour It In’s sheer enthusiasm chipped away at my cynicism after a couple of listens. They pad tracks 3 through 7 with the stronger single-ish songs All In Your Rows, Latchmere, About Your Dress (see a video clip here) and Precious Time - all of which got my feet tapping, so god knows how the less world-weary kids are keeping still, whilst the supporting songs hold their own and keep up the vibe.
The Maccabees may well go down the Razorlight route of wankerworm or they might dissapear without trace, but there is no denying that Colour It In is a confident and enjoyable debut, that will most likely be unavoidable this summer. It may not last the test of time, but like any good summer romance it’s the excitement of the now that matters. If you are too old to get to a wave machine for your summer kicks; a few beers, a spot of sun and Colour It In might just do the trick.