Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wallpaper - Review

Wallpaper – On the Chewing Gum Ground (2008)

K Records

When I listened to the first track on Wallpapers debut I yelled a triumphant YES and punched the air. Now I’m not one to hark about nostalgia or anything like that but I was instantly drifted to the heady days of the mid nineties when Pavement, Imperial Teen, Number One Cup and Weezer were my staple listening. Wallpaper fit this type of sound perfectly. There’s the hooks, a little bit of quirkiness and a lot of fun bundled too.

Although citing comparisons like this are cheap, I can’t help it. These guys encapsulate everything that’s great about U.S. Alt, that bounciness, the urge to play air guitar, the want to jump around. On the Chewing Gum Ground is like some kind of greatest hits. If these songs were released as singles they would all dominate the upper eschelons of the charts – well if this was some alternate universe that is. However, YES these songs are THAT good.

Take the track ‘Totalled’ it’s starts off with a stop/start riff, then the drums kick in and the singer belts out something about televisions and catchy songs and then everyone joins in for a big wooo wooo chorus. It’s oddly uplifting and makes me shake my head along too.

‘On the Chewing Gum Ground’ is an alt pop masterpiece and makes a fine and bold statement for Wallpaper. These guys aren’t afraid to push a great melody in your face and have a sense of humour while doing it. Great stuff!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Marnie Stern - Review

Marnie Stern – This is it and I am it and you are it and so is that and he is it and she is it and it is it and that is that (2008)

Kill Rock Stars

On her debut ‘In Advance of the Broken Arm’ Marnie Stern created quite a statement. Here was a woman who did not hide a metal obsession and would shred with such ferocity and velocity that it would make Eddie Van Halen blush. Coupled with Hella’s Zach Hill’s spazzo drumming, ‘In Advance…’ was deliriously exciting. It had same danger factor as smoking in a room with a gas leak. She was ready to explode and so were you listening to her. However beneath all the wailing, and if you include her voice, shrieking, there lay a sensitive soul who really just wanted to tell the world about her feelings.

Now to listen to this once is great but to hear a second album of this will make people scream ‘one trick pony’. Luckily for us on Stern’s sophomore offering there are all the elements that made the debut a load of fun but there is a new found sense of melody which was a bit lacking in the past.

In fact opener ‘Prime’ begins with Stern reciting a nursery rhyme and then attacking us with a barrel load of dizzy riffing. In a way you could say that the album follows this vein. There are undeniably big tunes and rather than being blanketed with by Stern’s guitar poweress, they are completed by all the technical lightning bolts she shoots from her fretboard. Which leads to a certain depth her debut lacked, even it feels more complete.

Even her frail sensitivity has changed, now Marnie Stern version 2.0 will not only kick the shit out of you with her music but with her lyrics as well, female empowerment and avenging wrongs dominate a lot.

Two albums in and Marnie Stern as now not only proved what she can do but she has also taken them to another level and still has not lost what makes her Marnie Stern. She is one of the most unique artists around at the moment and ‘This is it….’ has definitely sealed that.

Rough Trade Album Club - December Pack

So this month I received :

Various Artists - Dirty Edits Vol 2 - Edited by Pilooski 9/10
School of Seven Bells - Alpinisms 8/10
Unbending Trees - Chemically Happy is the New Sad - 8/10

not a bad selection

Headless Heroes - Review

Headless Heroes – The Silence of Love (2008)


Probably one of the most futile types of albums in the recording industry has got to be the covers album. No matter the pedigree of the band or the type of songs they cover, they are always dodgy affairs. This because of one simple rule ; you just cannot beat the original. Yet, I cannot help investing in them. The is a perverse joy in discovering a band who actually manage to outdo the original completely. It is rare but it does happens.

Which leads us to Headless Heroes, a covers band but with one difference. At the helm there is Alela Diane. For those who don’t know Diane released her stunning debut in 2006 and we haven’t really heard her distinctive voice since. The backing band consists of the best session musicians in alt rock, some notable ones are Joey Waronker ( Beck) and Josh Klinghoffer (Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers),

Yes there is strong musicianship here but what about the artists being covered?

Again this is another strong point as the band have chosen more obscure bands, the most obvious being The Jesus and Mary Chain’s ‘Just Like Honey’, other than that the rest are more cultish, hell there even early 00’s long lost group I am Kloot are covered here!

So now since we covered (no pun intended) the basic ingredients for a decent covers album, we now have to see how the whole thing is executed. Luckily I’m pleased to say that the band have steered away from sounding like the original song. The aforementioned ‘Just Like Honey’ is turned into a slowed down folk number, Daniel Johnston’s ‘True Love in the End’ is more ornate than the original, The Gentle Soul’s See my Love is a string drenched masterpiece and the gem here is Philamore Lincoln’s ‘The North Wind Blew South’ which lifts you to the heavens with it’s beauty. Not to mention that Diane’s voice is in fine fettle and it really keeps the whole project together.

Considering that none of the material on this album is original, Headless Heroes managed to do something which is rare, that is taking making other people’s songs uniquely theirs and forging their own sound in the process. Whether this is a one off or not, it would be interesting to see what elese can be offered in the near future (plus it’s a good stopgap for February’s Alela Diane album!)

Lake - Review

Lake – Oh, the Places we’ll go (2008)

K Records

I know, as a general rule one should not judge an album by it’s cover, let alone from it’s title, but when a band references the legendary Dr. Seuss you just have this gut feeling that the album will be, frankly, awesome.

To the uninitiated Lake are a floating collective of musicians, who group up every few years or so. Oh, the Places we’ll go is the band’s third album and first for K Records. To be honest I can’t imagine a better label for a group such as this and they fit K Recs aesthetic like a glove (albeit a fluffy pink one).

One of the best feelings in the world is pressing play and liking the music instantly and when listening to the album’s title track I felt the urge to sway and dance along to the track shuffling beats and fey vocals (and it’s reprised later on!) Fortunately this isn’t a one off track and the other eight cuts on this all too brief album hit at the right areas, that is the feet and the brain. Oh…. Is filled with whimsy and hope, but funnily enough never descends into the sticky and drippy. It’s also worth nothing that this instant catchiness is far from throw away. There are twisting entwining melodies, that show a part of themselves throughout several listens.

I, generally, like a good optimistic sounding album that makes the world shinier and better and because of this I cannot get enough of ‘oh….’ Like the author this wonderful little record is named after, there is oodles of charm and happiness which belies a certain complexity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Rough Trade Album Club - November Pack

Every Month I receive three cd's from the Rough Trade Shops and I can't help feeling a surge of excitement when the parcel arrives.

This Month I got

The Acorn - Glory Hope Mountain + 6 track cd - 9/10
Girl Talk - Feed The Animals - 10/10
Brightback Morning Light - Notion to Reform - 8/10

I'm satisfied and the records are great - HOWEVER I did sort of want the Headless Heroes album as I'm a huge Alela Diane fan.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Love Ends Disaster!

Nostalgia Moment : I remember the day when Love Ends Disaster's first ep dropped into my lap. To say that it blew me away is an understatement. Five flurryous tracks of epic guitar goodness (well with some electronic touches chucked in) I played that cd so many times I'm sure my cd laser drilled some kind of hole in it.

That was in 2005.

Three years later, the band have released some more singles and whereas the peers they were compared to in the beginning ( Bloc Party, Interpol) all sounded a bit stale, LED! have improved on their craft and have gotten better, stronger and even more anthemic. Each release is becoming a new high point in their discography.

Finally the band are recording their debut and when that is unleashed, I hope their time will come cause they sure deserve it.

Love Ends Disaster's! Myspace page

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jeremy Jay - Review

Jeremy Jay – A Place where we could go (2008)
K Records

The idea of the outcast plays a big part in music. The idea of the lonesome weirdo writing out poetry and offbeat music is appealing. Thus we have characters like Jonathan Richman, Gordon Gano (Violent Femmes) and Jeffrey Lewis cropping up.

You could say that L.A. born and bred singer songwriter, Jeremy Jay is a descendent from this batch. After all he sings about being in love (the title track for starters) or he places girls on high pedestals ‘Beautiful Rebel’. ‘Hold me in your Arms Tonite’. But ironically there is some swagger in what he does so he’s no wimp. Neither does we want to be some smarty pants a la Morrissey. It’s definitely mood that he’s after.

Within this debut album’s brief 30 minutes, Jay takes the listener on a stroll through 50’s imagery, French pop, basically a time when things were innocent and simple. Furthermore, and this is more important, he manages to do this perfectly. None of these songs are drippy with sentimentality but they do convey feelings.

‘A Place where we could go’ was produced by Jay’s label boss and Beat Happening founder Calvin Johnson and, so naturally there is a sparse production. Every instrument breathes (and by that I mean big gulps of air) but it’s suits Jay and helps the poignancy of his lyrics stick out, and like Johnson’s most famous band, there is a coy dancebility lurking all throughout.

Some people may gripe about the album’s shortcomings, especially the no frills production or lack of energetic songs (in fact there’s only one here, the jaunty Escape to Aspen) but with many spins things to make sense and Jay’s romanticism unfolds, Personally I don’t find anything wrong with this stuff. It’s soulful, melodic, a bit humorous and contains oodles of charm. How can one find fault in these things. At the moment Jeremy Jay is the last of the great romantics and if you understand what his world consists of then you’ll be glad that he seduced you into it.

Rough Trade Album Club. October Package

Every month I receive three wonderful cd's, courtesy of The Album Club. With the exception of one album, I haven't been disappointed once. Here's October's package :

El Guincho - Alegranza - 9/10

Department of Eagles - In Ear Park - 9/10

Phantom Slasher -Key to the Tripod - 9/10

another sterling month

Deerhoof Review

Deerhoof – Offend Maggie (2008)

Kill Rock Stars

Ever since 2004’s opus Milk Man, San Francisco’s Deerhoof have been moving closer to more melodic (poppy even) waters and I just know that some time in the future they will release the ultimate guitar anthem record. It’s in their blood and with each release they edging towards it.

Last year’s ‘Friend Opportunity’ had the band experimenting with a less muddled sound, thus making their tunes (they always had those from day one) upfront and also lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki’s voice had lost it’s shrilly edge and evolved into child-like cooing.

Needless to say that latest release ‘Offend Maggie’ is a progression from ‘Friend Opportunity’, thankfully there aren’t any twelve minute dirges this time around either. Now a four piece, the band have beefed up their sound and made a no-nonsense straight on guitar record and yet it still has those quintessential quirks that makes it undeniably Deerhoof.

Offend Maggie kicks off with ‘The Tears and Music of Love’ and the listener is practically given the blueprint of the whole album. The song itself consists of a crunchy stop start riff, which becomes elasticky and floaty during the rather beautiful chorus and grounds itself very quickly. This happens quite often throughout the album’s progression. The group have become tighter and it is welcome.

The amazing thing about Deerhoof is how they manage to have the Wire-esque ability to create a great song within a short space of time. The average two minute Deerhoof song feels doesn’t feel like some short forgettable blast but develops nicely. One of the highlights of record, ‘Basket Ball, get your Groove Back’ demonstrates the band’s ability to use brevity to their advantage. Same with the frankly awesome title track.

Most of the album alternates between these two song styles, Personally I don’t have any gripes with this record. In fact I have been listening to Offend Maggie more than I should really. It’s overall catchiness and sweetness just make me press repeat as soon as the whole thing is over. As well I just can’t help feeling that the BIG album is going to happen very soon.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Soulwax - Review

(not actual dvd cover)

Soulwax – Part of the Weekend Never Dies (2008)

PIAS (Dvd)

One band which has taken me completely by surprise has got to be Soulwax, I remember when watching the band’s ‘Much Against Everybody’s Advice’ video and thinking that they would be the next dEUS i.e. A solid album band with a healthy European following.

Who would have known that this guitar pop band from Ghent would have changed the face of dance music, not once, but twice! First they pioneered the mash up genre under the 2 Many Dj’s guise and then actually remixed and recorded their 2004 album ‘Any Minute Now’ thus bridging indie with dance (and maybe making them the precursors of Nu Rave??) under the name Nite Versions. Add that to their live show which is called Radio Soulwax, which includes Soulwax, 2 many dj’s, Nite Versions and touring mates and you’ve got quite a confusing mess of side projects.

Hence one of the main reasons the group release this dvd. For starters it clears the whole Radio Soulwax ,Nite Versions polemics and it shows a portrait of the whole Radio Soulwax show. Not only that there’s a documentary which focuses on Soulwax and how they cope with the rock and roll life.

Now in theory this sounds like a disaster. I mean Soulwax aren’t exactly the most exciting band in the universe and let’s face, the possibility of descending into cliché is high. Drugs, girls, sweaty guys waving their arms and lots of vans.

Thankfully the documentary, although, feature these, it strays from the usual dull scenes due to the fact that there are a lot of people who have something to say about Soulwax and we get clips from LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Nancy Wang, Tiga, Erol Alkan, Justice and tons of Pioneers and young pups of the nu rave scene all extolling their love for Soulwax and what makes them tick. It is also beautifully film. I have a soft spot for eye catching scenes and there are plaenty of those here. If you were to take each still and frame it, you’d have a memorable picture. I’m not exaggerating director Saam Farahmand does a wonderful job with editing and capturing every perfect moment from live performances to interviews.

The second part of the dvd consists of a 55 minute performance of Nite Versions, all edited from 120 shows and again, in normal circumstances this would be boring but due to the excellent collaging and simply energetic music your attention is grabbed from the start and can be viewed many times.

As for special features there’s a rather vapid documentary commentary by Tiga and a quite good 11 minute mini documentary about the live show. However the best ‘feature’ is an accompanying audio cd of a live show, which is pure headphone hedonism.

As a whole package ‘Part of the Weekend Never Dies’ works. It’s interesting, eye catching and captures one of the hardest working bands in the business and it’s the closest thing to experiencing the whole Soulwax experience (or if you did see them live, it’s a good memory)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Metronomy - Album Review

Metronomy – Nights Out (2008)
Because Music

It seems that every time critics declare that nu rave is well and truly dead an album pops up and redefines the genre. The first time this happened was in March, When Australian duo Cut/Copy actually improved on their generic debut and released a first class second album and now history is repeating itself a second time round with Metronomy’s sophomore release. Furthermore I really wasn’t expecting it, which made my love for this album heighten.
In 2006 Joseph Mount (aka Metronomy) released his debut Pip Paine. It was good, not great and I listened to it a few times and even danced to a couple of tracks but stupidly lumped with the nu rave movement and that’s it.
Now comes this!
First of all Mount expanded the band by adding two new recruits and secondly for the first time on a Metronomy album, there are vocals. However this is not the reason why I think Nights out is one hell of an album. It is because during the albums duration mount pulls off tons of little tricks which throw the listener off course.
The first prank starts the second you press play, Mount begins the album with mournful rubbery sounding horns and this doesn’t change for quite few minutes, until the horns start to disappear and keyboards and synths weave themselves in and then the instrumental just explodes into a flurry of harmonicas and ska-ish beat. It’s six minutes long and is stretched out over two tracks. It also displays Mount’s sense of humour for not only did ‘Nights Out’ start with one fake misleading introduction but is merged with another wayward one. Basically, dear listener, you have been tricked not once, but twice and it is a great stunt.
The album proper begins with single ‘Radio Ladio’ and this sets the tone for the rest of the record, loping basslines, stinky synthesizers and deadpan vocals, mind you on the surface this may seem simple but in reality Mount creates a very complex sound, infused with the melodies are dozens of instruments flitting through the mix, saxophones, trombones and even some strings in places. Like Simian Mobile Disco’s debut, ‘Nights Out’ is an album which can be enjoyed anywhere due to the diversity that is offered. Sure ‘Hearbreaker’ or ‘Holiday’ will work on a club night but even in the comfort of your living room sofa. Again Metronomy doesn’t make predictable music so ‘Nights Out’ is not something you easily absorb in a couple of spins yet it’s very easy to appreciate what is going on due to the fact that Metronomy will never shy away from a tune.
By the time the albums ends, The band throw the last curveball and that’s in the form of closing track ‘Nights’, which is performed entirely on an acoustic guitar, it’s the ultimate comedown to a record that’s mostly electronic and maybe it’s not the best track on this otherwise stunning album but it works and is very welcome.
‘Nights Out’ is quite a special album, for the past few years it seems that most British bands, especially the popular ones tend to be inconsistent album-wise and furthermore it’s very rare for an artist nowadays to follow up a good debut with an even better sophomore effort. Thankfully Metronomy have achieved both objectives and well. In the future ‘Nights Out’ will be looked very highly upon.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tv on the Radio

Tv on the Radio – Dear Science (2008)


By now you’ve probably read all the reviews, blogs, quotes and everything else about TV on the Radio’s third release. Sorry to disappoint you folks but this one will be no different. Indeed Dear Science IS a fantastic album and the group’s best record to date. They’ve been showing potential ever since the monumental ‘Young Liars’ e.p. back in 2003 and now they’ve reached it.

But why is everyone turning into a dribbling monster at the mere mention of this album? What is the magic secret? Has the band created some extreme wall of sound that they displayed on the previous album ‘Return to Cookie Mountain’?, have they gone all techno? What is it?

What makes Dear Science so appealing is that producer and band member Dave Sitek actually whittled the band back to their basics and opted for a cleaner sound. No more hazy back drops or distorted instruments. Everything is clear as a bell. However the record still has that trademark TVOTR (as they are known the trade) ‘Dancing Choose’ mutates from a punk hip hop hybrid to full on South African funk workout, Closer Lovers day merges beats with brass bands. The experimentation is still there but it’s presented in a more accessible manner.

It seems that lyrically the band have grown up. Sure love figures as usual but then there seems to be a newfound paranoia and aversion to 21st century technology. Although this isn’t blatantly explicit, most of the songs seem to lament a type of love lost due to today’s society, want references? How about ‘Stork & Owl’, DLZ or ‘Crying’. To spout a cliché it’s the same trick Radiohead pulled off 11 years ago with Ok Computer and many bands have tried to capture this sentiment (erm Bloc Party being the one in mind at the moment) towards this decade none of them have really manages. Thankfully TVOTR have succeeded and put an original spin on the theme as well.

The centerpiece and album summation is found in first single ‘Golden Age’ . In the band’s own words it is an attempt to create a utopian ideal within the structure of a pop song. Personally I half agree with that. The utopian ideal is there as for pop song well it’s pop in TVOTR terms. A prince-like funk number that erupts into a Everest size chorus. It’s the catchiest song of the band’s repertoire and is a sign that they are certainly capable of pulling off some stunts. Also they are honestly the first group to honour his purpleness and get it right. Along with the Ok Computer compariions, I can see other homages to that other society conscious album : ‘Sign O the Times’.

TVOTR never cease to amaze me, I do appreciate their use of brass bands and so on but it’s the little details one such moment is during ‘Family Tree’ where a Beach Boys ‘Don’t Worry Baby’ creeps in or the whistling that unfurls unobtrusively during ‘DLZ’

Dear Science ends on a raunchy note the sex filled ‘Lover’s Day’ is a band letting out it’s inner caveman, it like the song is a huge phallus ready to pummel itself into the female form. It’s brilliant, furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, it is bookended by a brass band that sounds unlike something you’d hear in Disneyworld. You’d imagine kids chanting ‘It’s a Small World’ hand in hand. It’s disturbing and uplifting ending to a great record. Maybe after all the wars and computers a good shag is the ideal solution? Who knows? All I can say is that Dear Science (there is actually supposed to be a comma at the end but for some weird reason it was left out so I did the same) is essentially a magnificent love and hate letter to this decade and yet ends on the hippy ideal that ‘all you need is love’.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rough Trade Album Club - September Pack

Every month the good folks at Rough Trade Shops send three cd's (out of a selection of ten) to me here's what I got this month

Tv on the Radio - Dear Science + an 8 min Dvd of webisodes the band aired two years ago - 10/10
Metronomy - Nights out + 6 track bonus cd - 9/10
The Real Tuesday Weld - The London Book of the Dead - 9/10

An excellent selection and an improvement on last month's batch as well.

out of the seven remaining cds, I will definitely get Abe Vigoda's Skeleton (well in the near future mind you)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Micah P.Hinson

Micah P. Hinson – Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra (2008)
Full Time Hobby

One thing I’ve always noticed about Micah P. Hinson is that he is like an old man trapped in a young man’s body. His previous two albums had a grizzled air about them. I’m usually reminded of some old grouch sitting on a porch unveiling tales of woe and heartbreak to a crowd of wide eyed children. May I remind you that his first two albums ( Micah P Hinson and the Gospel of progress and Micah P. Hinson and the Opera Circuit) were recorded when Hinson was in his early twenties.
Now 26 and married, one can say that Hinson has gotten older and his earlier efforts sound juvenile compared to ‘…Red Empire Orchestra’ This his most mature (and that’s saying something) album yet and, thankfully it’s his best one too.
I have to admit, that despite the fact that I am a fan of this talented singer-songwriter, I tend to notice that usually some songs on his albums just don’t stick. I forget them in an instant and need constant replaying in order to get them wedged in my brain. Finally ‘Red Empire is the first Micah album which has struck me instantly, each song is a winner and more importantly has a recognisable tune. It is a more delicate album than it’s predecessors and a bigger emphasis on the use of strings. Gone are the rangy guitar epics such as ‘Don’t You’ or the gypsy-ish stomp of ‘Diggin’ a Grave’ and although, in theory loss of variation may make ‘Red Empire’ less exciting, it brings out Hinson’s knack for a melody and makes the album a more pleasurable to listen so his use of limitation actually works. It is also the first time you can call a Micah P. Hinson record beautiful. The use of sepia toned women in the cd booklet matches ‘Red Empire’s’ overall feel perfectly. Another I thing I noticed is that Hinson has worn his influences on his sleeve in quite a few places around the record, especially the Roy Orbison aping ‘You Will Find Me’ and I see absolutely nothing wrong in it as it enhances the album’s charm.
“Red Empire’ is just simply brimming with great songs. The Sea Shantyesque ‘The Wishing Well and the Willow Tree’ or the jaunty ‘When we Embraced’ are just two of eleven (or thirteen if you are an early purchaser of the record) tracks which gave me chills and demanded repeat plays.
To end on a somewhat clichéd note this is an album that depicts an artist at the peak of his powers and able to manipulate his sound in such a way that it can seduce and entrance at the same time. If albums were meals then this would be the aural equivalent to a delicate dessert, savoury and long lasting memories after the initial taste.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Rex the Dog

Rex the Dog – The Rex the Dog Show (2008)


When I was a teenager in the mid-nineties (was that so long ago??) I remember dancing to a tune called Son of a Gun by JX. Actually the song was constantly on the radio and MTV showed it quite a bit.

Come 2008 and my past comes to haunt me a bit. I receive the Rex the Dog cd and I find out that the guy behind the moniker is called Jake Williams.

Who is also



It seems though that Williams works under different aliases and at the moment The doggy one is the current one of choice. Williams also has quite a pedigree (pun intended) as for a few years he released music under the terrific Kompakt label.

‘The Rex the Dog Show’ is quite a strange cd, as in the fact that it’s not really a proper album and yet at the same time it is a proper album, those who have followed the band well have heard half these tracks already, plus with the addition of two remixes, one would be mistaken that this is some cobbled collection of Rex the Dog’s past work and some new tracks to make everything a bit more rounded.

Let’s forget the old tracks, the remixes and so on and look at the album as … well an album. The important thing here is if the whole thing works or is an uneven listening experience.

Well I’m happy to say that this album does definitely work and at the moment, it is the most fun thing you’ll hear this year. Williams beats are sexy and the majority of the tracks will definitely get people stomping about either on the dancefloor or simply lying on your back with headphones rammed in your ears (In fact I’m listening to the album while typing and my head is shaking like a demented puppet)

See Rex is a clever puppy (pun intended!) and makes to create a signature sound and yet manipulate it. ‘Maximize’ has a Germanic thump that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Modeselektor album, however the standout Bubbilicious , with it’s very cleverly placed Yazoo sample and Frequency, is a good old fashioned rave up, While ‘Itchy Scratchy’s’ abrasiveness is best suited for headphones. One thing these tracks have in common is a buzzing, relentless energy.

Now that I’ve dealt with both old and new tracks, it’s best to tackle the two remixes here. Needless to say that they fit in comfortably and are the strongest tracks on the record, The Knife’s ‘Heartbeats’ remix is just as good as the original version is designed for club and The Sounds ‘Tony the Beat’ is excellent. A huge stomper of a tune which keeps the best bits of the song (which is basically the chorus) and will soundtrack many a hedonistic night.

Think of ‘The Rex the Dog Show’ as a patchwork quilt, tons of pieces that form a formidable whole. Really just press play and let the vibes take you over.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Human Value

Wow! even if you've Never heard of The Human Value before, I have a feeling you definitely will in the near future. This three piece have all you can want in a band. A Lead singer (Turu) with a killer voice and a rhythm section which spits out great riffs and drumbeats the second a song starts.

Two Albums in and now, hopefully the Earth is at their feet!

Link to Pretty Mouth

The Human Value's Myspace page

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wild Beasts

Wild Beasts – Limbo Panto (2008)

One thing about Wild Beasts that will hit you immediately is their sense of Englishness. I’m not talking about that patriotic ‘Britain is great’ rubbish that the Libertines and countless of mid nineties Britpop bands used to spew out ad nauseum. What I mean here is ye olde eccentric English. The kind favoured by Monty Python or The Fast Show. Take a look at the album’s tracklisting ‘Veil for a Fuddy Duddy’ ‘She Purred. While I Grrred’ and ‘Cheerio Chaps. Cheerio Goodbye’
But Wild Beasts are far from a joke band. In fact at this point in time, their debut album ‘Limbo Panto’ could be one of the most interesting releases from a British band in the last few years. It’s an album with twists and turns at every possible moment. It’s an album that’s very frilly in it’s nature. If it was a person it would be a flamboyant transvestite who plays in the most lurid clubs imaginable.
However, before I start expounding on the positive aspects of ‘Limbo Panto’ I must clarify one thing and unfortunately it will determine if you will ‘get’ the album or not and that main factor is lead singer Hayden Thorpe’s voice.
This is a voice that is so high pitch that one wonders if Thorpe is some kind of eunuch but then it mutates into a throaty growl and these two extremes feature prominently throughout the album’s duration. Although there are times when his voice is not dissimilar to Antony Hegarty’s (of Antony and the Johnsons fame) For a lesser mortal though this is enough to drive someone insane.
If you are one of those who actually love Thrope’s voice then you are in for a treat. For ‘Limbo Panto’ has an oddball beauty that is so rare in British albums. These songs are anthems for a misfit generation. As I said before there is a certain type of exuberant flamboyance that cannot be ignored. Partly dramatic , partly rock, totally melodic and completely cliché free. Choruses don’t really exist in Wild Beasts world, neither do bridges or reprises but they get away with it. Clearly this band compromises of some very clever literate chaps with quite a turn of phrase. Puns and alliteration are scattered within ‘Limbo Panto’ and with each listen things become more clear. Probably the quintessential Wild Beasts song has got to be ‘Brave Bulging Buoyant Clairvoyants’ not only is it the highlight of the record but it sums up everything that makes ‘Limbo Panto’ a pleasure.
I firmly believe that music reflects a cultural situation. As one can see there is a lot of good music coming out of the U.S. at the moment, mainly because it is going through a critical phase and it’s musicians are releasing their creativity. In the U.K. most bands are presenting a hedonistic picture of the U.K. sure there’s dubstep, which is supposedly dark but there is a danceability that is infused.
So where does that leave Wild Beasts? The band represent the quirks and kinks in today’s society. Sure it may be a bit eccentric but Wild Beasts are also intense and there is a dark undertow to ‘Limbo Panto’ which is noticeable and I feel that the band are slyly telling us something about the future. If you think that the above paragraph is rubbish then let’s just sum up what I’ve been trying to say.
Limbo Panto is great when given a chance, so give it a chance.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Black Affair

Black Affair – Pleasure Pressure Point (2008)


For those young pups reading this review, I’d like to bring your attention to a late nineties group that gave music a fresh outlook. This group was called The Beta Band and they were way ahead of their time. They mashed hip hop, folk, psychedelic and dub into a heady stew and, man, they were mind blowing. Soon every band from Radiohead to erm… Embrace went through a Beta Band phase, and who could blame them? With such a rich musical palette, bands were bound to imitate in some way or another.

Sadly over the course of three albums The Beta Band weren’t able to maintain the standard they set on their early e.p.’s and by 2004 the quartet split and pursued solo careers.

Now the interesting bit

Three of the members (along with a former member who quit during the early days due to health reasons) formed the psychedelic group, The Aliens and Steve Mason, the ex lead singer released solo albums under his King Biscuit Time moniker and last year he killed that off and reinvented himself as Black Affair.

Now that we have gotten the Wikipedia article out of the way, lets delve deeper.

As Black Affair, Mason pillages his past. On ‘Pleasure Pressure Point’ there are elements of early hip hop, 80’s synth artists such as Gary Numan and Depeche Mode and inevitably the more electronic leanings of Mason’s former band. It’s also worth noting that Warp artist Jimmy Edgar mixed and collaborated with Mason and P.P.P. has Edgar’s trademark squelchy sleazy beats.

What makes this unique is that Black Affair has succeeded in creating a very fun album that is aimed for dancefloor frenzy and yet he has managed to take the music to another level by writing about failed relationships in the process.

Yes you read correctly.

Gone are the days where Mason would sing about wizards and mumbo jumbo, although to be fair he has written quite a few songs about love, but never has been as introspective as this. Ironically it’s the most exuberant sounding song , ‘It’s Real’ in this batch that has an acerbic quality. It will be quite fun to see people freaking out to this track without being fully conscious about what it’s about.

On the whole, an album like this is a sign that Mason is able to manipulate genres and come up with the goods, be it folk , hip hop or electro and he will give you something to make you move and think at the same time. What his next move will be is anybody’s guess but one can guarantee that it will be always worth checking out.

New Band : Hockey

The temptation to descend into cliche here was great. I mean the band is called Hockey and i'm not really into sports ... anyway you could see where this intro was heading.

so different tack

EVERYONE knows that the best guitar pop hails from Portland. New York may have an intellectual edge but let's face it. If you want to jump about and hear the most ear friendly music, Portland is your stop.

Hockey are no exception to this rule. Except that there is a more electronic edge to their music, but that doesn't mean that oh so wonderful infectiousness is gone. In fact these tunes are so accessible that in a parallel world each track on Hockey's myspace page (a very generous six) would be a chart topping single.

My fave track here is definitely 'Song Away' with it's breezy swagger it is a surefire winner and sums up what this band is all about. Good tunes and confidence.

A group to check out!

Hockey's Myspace Page

Monday, September 8, 2008

Chemical Brothers

The Chemical Brothers – Brotherhood (2008)


In a move as puzzling as placing an eject button on a DVD remote control, dance stalwarts, The Chemical Brothers, have released a second best of, five years after their previous singles collection. The number of albums the duo have released between these two best of’s ; TWO. To make things even more ridiculous the new best of shares nine tracks with the previous ones. However this is not a total scam as The Chems (as they are affectionately known) bothered to record two new tracks.

In a bout of scientific reasoning I have tried to come up with a number of hypothesis (and answers) to why a second greatest hits collection has been released after a two album gap.

a) The group are going to split up

b) The Chems felt that an emphasis on their ’00 output would be more relevant to the younger generation of album buyers.

c) The label wants to suck up more of our money


a) I don’t think so.

b) Could be. I hope so


Without doubt The Chemical Brothers are one of the best electronic artists today as they have managed to bridge the gap between dance and rock from day one and 15 years later they still have adhered to this. Go to any disco and sometime during the set a dj will drop a CB tune and, without doubt the crowd will turn into a frothing jumping monster. They still are relevant, even when the big beat genre they kick started has died a long time ago.

One has to admit though that The group’s ’00 output hasn’t been that great. 2002’s ‘Come With Us’ was patchy , 2005’s ‘Push the Button’ is probably the weakest album they have ever recorded and 2007’s ‘We are the Night’ saw a fusion of big beat and minimal techno and, despite critics panning the album, it was actually one of the strongest things they’ve done. In the long run these three albums wielded great singles , which TCB’s popularity.

Another aspect of The Chems which one should not ignore is that they always brought the best out of their collaborators and most of the time resurrected a career or even launched one.

Thankfully ‘Brotherhood’ does indeed preserve The Chem’s legacy to the fullest. When relistening to all these songs a complete onrush of memories flooded my brain and without doubt each track sounded great. The middle Eastern Hip Hop head mash up ‘Galvanize’ the neo psychedelia of ‘Let Forever Be’ the chunky ‘Block Rockin’ Beats’ and brain popping ‘Do it again’ (not to mention extra kudos for leaving out ‘The Test’ and putting in the glorious ‘Saturate’. I felt like I was indeed listening to the ultimate Chemical Brothers compilation, the non chronological tracklisting adding more to a loose feel. I barely like best of’s as I find them dull and predictable but this one works beautifully.

I tend to view extra tracks on greatest hit albums as signposts to what will happen next, in this case the two exclusives here leave me baffled. ‘Keep my Composure’ is a collaboration with Spank Rock’s potty mouthed rapper Naeem Juwan and is a piece of slippy digital dirty rap, may not be as immediate as their singles, but this track is the most different and interesting thing the duo have done. The other song is called ‘Midnight Madness’ and is the typical Chemical Brothers track through and through. Danceable, chockfull of big beats and filtering, it’s something these guys shouldn’t add as they’ve done this sort of thing millions of times but they get away with it.

So is this album truly necessary? To be honest, if you already own all six albums and the previous best of there isn’t any need to really invest in this. However there is a limited edition with all ten ‘Electronic Battle Weapon’ tracks, to those who do not know, these tracks contain elements of some of the main tracks that appear on the studio albums, very rare a going for silly money on sites such as e-bay. It’s a dodgy affair though, the later tracks sounding better but for the obsessive collector these tracks are the electronic equivalent to the Holy Grail so this compilation has something for them too.

If you want a taster of the Chemical brothers work and don’t know which album to start from then this is one of the best launching pad that you will get. In hindsight it is better sequenced than the 2003 edition and the extra tracks are a treat in themselves but ultimately all six albums are more satisfying affairs as they portray this talented duo’s both singles in the context of an album and (most of the time) the make a bit more sense than being isolated on a cd like this.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

From the vaults : TV on the Radio - Young Liars e.p.

Going down memory lane again.

T.V. on the Radio- Young Liars ep

A Looooooooong time ago (well 2003) a little unknown band called TV on the Radio released a five track ep called Young Liars on an unsuspecting public. To those who got it early found that this band used harmonies, pan pipes, jerky guitars and sampled dialogue. In other words it was something different and unique.

Two years on the Young Liars ep is still an excellent listen and although the groups debut ‘Desperate Youth and Bloodthirsty Babes’ is better, the group’s sound is already fully realized here. Satellite starts off with the group’s trademark pummeling beats and probably has the most significant quote in its lyrics ‘Waiting for a signal or sound’ and literally I feel that the world has been waiting for signals and sounds like this for a while.

Staring at the Sun is next up. Although the debut version lacks the samples this still has a lot of punch is definitely the template for the debut.

The other two tracks ‘Blind’ and ‘Young Liars’ are just as good but what really stands out here is their version of The Pixies Mr. Grieves. It’s done a cappella and is first class again it’s another trademark that would show up in the debut and in their latest single New Health Rock as well.

All in all I would say that The ‘Young Liars’ ep is a perfect introduction to the band and what was to follow. Since the group are releasing their sophomore album soon and knowing their vast experimentalism this ep may seem like something out of date but still it is a very good snapshot of a very talented band already at the peak of their capabilities.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rough Trade Album Club - August Pack

Every month I receive three albums from the Rough Trade Album Club. So far, with the exception of one cd ( A Mountain of One) I have not been disappointed. If you are constantly hankering for new and interesting music then I suggest you join.

Here's this month's quota :

Beyond the Wizard's Sleeve - Ark 1 (8.5/10) (this was the 'core' album, the cd that every single member receives, regardless of tastes and musical preferences, usually it's the best one of the batch)

Black Affair - Pleasure, Pressure Point ( 8/10)

Rex the Dog - The Rex the Dog Show ( 8/10)


Santogold – Self-Titled (2008)
Lizard King

It is inevitable but Santogold will be compared to M.I.A., After all both are outspoken women of Indian heritage who cut their chops in the music industry at an early age. Also both artists have employed the same producers (Switch and Diplo) for their albums. But in reality that’s were it all stops.
See Santogold (aka Santi White) writes pop music for other musicians such as Lilly Allen and Ashlee and this pop sensibility bleeds into her music. During the first half of the album there are hooks and choruses that are aimed strictly for the dancefloor. M.I.A.,on the other hand gives the middle finger to pop and masticates it with a barrage of beats, while dousing it thickly with irony. Like I said before Santogold is not interested in these renegade tactics, she just wants to make an intelligent pop song.
The album starts out with one of the strongest songs L.E.S. Artistes, a ditty that is primarily about what is real and fake in the world today (this is further exemplified by the track’s promo video). It displays all of Santogold’s strengths, her powerful voice, an instantly recognizable song and strong lyrics. As a mission statement to the world, she picked a great song.
Santogold, also has a knack of genre hopping, thus during the first half of ‘Santogold’ we get ‘indie’(You’ll find a way, Say aha) , Reggae and Dancehall ( Shove it and Creator, respectively), and dub ( My Superman). All with a pop sheen. These are songs that are designed to be liked by everyone and they will.
The album’s last hurrah comes with the second single and second strongest track, ‘Lights Out’, a bouncy song which is simply irresistible and will soundtrack the summer months once the media get hold of it.
Unfortunately the rest of the record does not follow up to the strengths of the first half and what we get is a clutch of half baked dub exercises, all moving at tortoise pace and the sheer exhilaration at the beginning turns into disappointment and boredom. The bonus remix of ‘You’ll Find a way’ that is tacked on to the end doesn’t help lift up your spirits in any other way either. Clearly a case of side two syndrome here.
However I am definitely not going to dismiss Santogold, after all this is a debut and as experience tells me, a not very strong debut usually leads to a much stronger second album. Santogold has now proved what she is capable of doing and I’m sure that the second time round she’ll come back with a vengeance. At the moment pretend that ‘Santogold’ is a mini album and enjoy the thrills and spills of the first seven tracks.

Friday, August 29, 2008

From the Vaults :Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

Here's another review that never was published. I'm quite proud of it. Before the reissue I already had a Belgian import so it was a breeze writing down the review.

Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth ( REISSUE)


Sometimes patience is a virtue. Unfortunately in my case I lack it completely. If a band possesses me I will do all that I can in order to seek out the album. Take the case of Young Marble Giants. I heard one track on a compilation then I spent 3 long years looking for the album. Finally after shelling out quite a bit on a Belgian import, which was only available on an American website, I finally received the cd.

Now in 2007 Domino have decided to reissue this album, with a whopping 16 extra tracks more than the Belgian import.

Whereas the import version squished everything together, Domino have done the wise thing and divided the whole project into 2 cds ; The Band’s debut album, a second disc with their one off ep tracks and rounds up demos and outtakes. Needless to say this is fascinating stuff from beginning to end.

Wales’ Young Marble Giants were one of the products of the extremely fertile post punk scene of 1978 -1984 (roughly) however out of all the top bands out there YMG stood out as they took the concept of minimalism to new height. Armed with a bass guitar , guitar and a keyboard, the band made barely three minute long songs ( in fact not even one goes past the three and a half minute mark here) Sure Wire were doing the same thing but a Wire song would be a noisy spurt and a YMG song would creep along at a leisurely pace without any urgency at all with a bass anchoring everything down. The group also had one major trick up their sleeve though. The fact that their lead vocalist Alison Statton had a voice that would make butter melt. Honey sweet and mellifluous it would wrap itself around the chikka chikka sounds of the keyboard and give the songs direction. The band soldered on for a couple of years but split up in 1980 due to pressure. Each of the band members pursued musical careers, Stuart Moxham probably being the most successful as he produced Beat Happening’s fifth album, You Turn Me on and Marine Girls Lazy Ways – both landmarks of the indiepop genre. Although Statton’s post YMG bands were great in their own way as well.

Like I mentioned earlier the cd is divided into two parts. The first being the album ‘Colossal Youth’ Needless to say that it’s a bona fide masterpiece. Track after track of minimalist goodness just flows. Whether it’s the quirky Eating Noddemix , the slightly bouncy ‘Brand –New - Life’ or the creepy Wurlitzer Jukebox, each song is a mini classic on its own. Memorable in every aspect. Also more importantly, it gives one a sense of the type of mentality that was prominent during the late 70’s it’s a deconstruction of music but with an arty sensibility.

The e.p tracks which dominate disc two are high in quality ‘Cakewalking’, ‘The Clock’ and their best song ‘Final Day’ are all present. Maybe a little bit more frivolous than the ‘Colossal Youth’ tracks , it shows that the band were moving into a more funky and cheery direction.

The material on Disc 2 is really for collectors and aficionados of the group. There aren’t too many differences between the record tracks and the demos except that the sound is murkier and Statton’s voice doesn’t shine through but the three extra tracks on this c.d. are really for completeness sake.

A cynic might say that this post punk nostalgia is greedy record companies want to exploit a movement but when you have a collection as lovingly compiled and collected. You cannot help but admire way things worked back then. Music in itself tells a story and the one we have here is a band using DIY skills and creating a musical highpoint. Definitely THE quintessential reissue.