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’.