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.