Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Review - Iglu & Hartly - & Then Boom

I wish I could make up some long winded review, but that would really be a waste of my time, a waste of your time, and most importantly, give these utter wankers more of their coroprate 1990s shit-white-rap-shit that is permeating the airwaves in a manner that can only be likened to severe famine in Africa, a nuclear explosion in the second world war, or, quite simply in one word. That word is:



Monday, 29 September 2008

Travis - Ode to J. Smith

There is something about Travis that makes me really sad – it is something to do with the fact that they have perennially be labelled as “rubbish” since their third album The Invisible Band. Whilst it might be true that it was not exactly the greatest record ever, it stands as a good example of the time, which was easy listening and catchy pop hooks. It wasn’t always like that though, as for a while they were, like Starsailor and Coldplay, the indie darlings, after the simply overplayed brilliance of their second album, The Man Who. Recently, with 12 Memories, they went grown-up and the masses turned away with glee. 4 years later they followed it up with The Boy With No Name, which was much better aimed at the same audience that gave them their ascendancy and it worked a bit.

But this, the bands sixth album, comes just more than a year later, and with the added interest of many older fans – this is, as it said, is more like their debut album, the blindingly good Good Feeling, a truly excellent debut album.

This album is good. It is much better than I’d expect and is louder, but there are a few problems with it. Firstly, it seems to by trying to be different. Take the title track (well, almost) J. Smith, with the angular riffing and the bass inflected drum beat, it sounds on paper like it should be impressive, but towards the end it goes all Arcade Fire with choral voices and epic crescendo building layers. This is not to say it is a bad song – indeed, it works, but is this Travis?

Again, we are surprised to find on the single Something Anything even more angular guitar and a solo not out of place on a Pink Floyd out takes album. The next track is direcrlty lifted from the first album to the point of parody – it feels so 1990s that waves of nostalgia over come me every time I hear it’s opening bars.

There are a few parts of the album that will make the fans of the middle period of Travis, namely the Invisible Band, will be affronted with. They won’t like it and I think that it is intended to be like that. The album jars from first listen to last and there is a reason for this: Travis are no longer this band. They were, but they are not and have not been in years. So why are they performing these songs, writing these songs now? I don’t know.

What I do know is that it is very good and worth a listen. Whether or not it works as a Travis album, I don’t know for sure, but it proves that they still can sing All I Want to is Rock with fervour and honesty.


Thursday, 25 September 2008

Review - Mogwai - The Hawk Is Howling

It is a well held belief that silence can be more powerful than words. This is not unsurprising when we are shouted each day by hundreds of television and print adverts to buy different types of nonsense that we don’t really need. I am a culprit of such a thing – I recently got an iPhone and, even after saying that it didn’t bother me much, it is very good, and now the things it does are quite important to me, like the GPS system. But there is nothing better than sitting down with an album, and listening to the music.

Where Mogwai fit into this is that they are a rock band with lyrics – or at least, use them minimally. On their seminal album Come On Die Young they did add lyrics to the mix, albeit soft spoken and sampled, but they were there to punctuate the material. Otherwise, they leave the music to do the talking.

This is not exactly unusual – indeed, it is quite a cyclical outlook on music, as most of the most emotive pieces of music are instrumental, be it a classical score, operatic or even a film score, it puts music to emotion with having to spell it out for everyone in words. Mogwai are the Scottish equivalent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. They are the often cited Post-rock stalwarts, having perfected the 6 minute long passage of music built around noise, tinkering with arrangements, and repetition.

Their last album proper was Mr Beast, a hit and miss selection of Mogwai cuts, kind of like a good pack of ham. Plenty of good taste and texture, but it just wasn’t the same meat as you used to get. They released an interim album, a soundtrack to the wildly interesting and on the face of it, boring, Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, simply following a football player over 90 minutes. This album was more delicate and measured, with a theme of simple guitar lines and an over arcing riff. It gave me hope that the mix of tracks on Mr Beast, a piano led track, an acoustic track, and loud track were just a blip and the layered multi faceted experience of Come on Die Young would return.

Interestingly there seems to be a mix of them on this album. Starting with Jim Morrison I am Dead, the album lulls you into a quiet ascendancy, slowly lifting your chin up to gaze at you, with a smile on your face. After this slow, but measured, introduction to the album, instead of gently stroking your chin, it Glasgow Kisses you and runs off into the night laughing with the uproariously loud and heavy Batcat. It sounds forced, almost manufactured, and even though it harks back to the sounds of Mogwai Fear Satan, it is never going to capture the ferocity of that track, simply because that was then, and this is now.

This is the era of production and electronic blips and bleeps. On The Sun Smells Too Loud they are there in force, and work well. It is to the end of the album where things get interesting, with I Love You, I am Going to Blow Up Your School being intricate, and The Precipice, ending the album with a swage of perfect post rock.

It is a mixed bag, but six albums in and the band can’t be expected to keep innovating in the same way that they did previously in their career. It feels like a good summation of the bands career and is a great addition to the discography, but with Mogwai each album feels like a little story. And when you listen back to The Hawk Is Howling it feels much more disjointed – almost like a Mogwai best of would sound. For other bands, this might be a strength, but for Mogwai this is a disadvantage.

The problem with success and creative experience is that you can ruin you back catalogue or improve it. Mogwai have done neither – The Hawk Is Howling is not essential, but definitely worth a look. Their greatest work will always lie behind them.


Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Discovery: Portugal. The Man, My Bloody Valentine, Glasvegas

Listen to me carefully: I have never known a period in my musical history like the last year. The lucky thing is that whilst my methods of musical consumption have changed my fervour for new music is higher than ever before and now, via this blog and reviewing on God is in the TV, I have found more new bands that I like and have expanded my musical repitore further in the last 9 months than in years, closely related to 2003 for new bands.

Portugal. The Man
Experimental rock? Dividing musical opinion? Sounding like a best of compilation of various genres? Portual. The Man, apart from playing havoc with the Word grammar check, are one of those bands found whilst browsing message boards and Wikipedia genre lists that via the love of Last.fm and Myspace they perked my intrigue. A couple of downloads later I have decided that they are good. The take influences from the last 500 years of music distilling that impressive and imerssive sound clash and came out with a sound that has made other critics go “This is just piss” and some go “I like the nature of this”. I fall in the latter camp, and really quite like them.
Sounds Like: The Mars Volta being told to make their songs 4 minutes long or they wil be forced to play Girls Aloud songs.
Try: Chicago, from Waiter: “You Vultures!

My Bloody Valentine
Okay, I am late to the party with this one. I had not even heard to My Bloody Valentine 4 months ago. Well, that might not be true – I am sure I had heard them, but knew who they were? Understood their importance? Not a chance, but after the furore over their live shows in the last months (including 20 minutes of white noise) I have to admit I missed them pretty outrageously. Why? Not sure… but they are fantastic, especially Loveless, their second album. Is there a third album due 18 years after they stopped? I hope so.
Sounds Like: The Smiths being thrown into a box of explosions
Try: I Only Said from “Loveless

I might have been late to the party with My Bloody Valentine by I have been on the bleeding edge with Glasvegas, finding them a year ago playing Libertines raw rock now they are the second coming of shoegaze. To many young indie boys I will call shenanigans on the Twilight Sad or Proclaimers shouts – that is just people realising that most Scottish artist sing out of the accent, good or bad. However, following the lead of Roddy Woomble in his later years, the Scottish Accent is going the way of Arab Strap and making a resurgence. And it works on the Glasvegas records. Expect a review of the album soon.
Sounds Like: The Beach boys with a hang over playing at the far end of a room

Friday, 5 September 2008

Review - The Walkmen - You & Me

A long time ago I saw The Walkmen live. In fact, it was so long ago I remember little to nothing of them. Actually, that isn’t so much true, as I saw two other bands that rainy night in Edinburgh; Idlewild were the main act, and blew me away. It was truly the epiphany that live music can be. The Walkmen preceded Idlewild and were dark, brooding, and loud. I remember a couple of their songs from the night but nothing sticks out more than the other bang, the Star Spangles, a terrible punk throwback band, who almost ruined the night for me after their interminable set.

Fast forward almost a hundred years and I have started listening to The Walkmen for the first time properly. And this album, their fifth album of dark melancholic New York rock that sounds every bit part Interpol and Strokes, is absolutely fantastic.

You & Me sounds very much a winter album. The crooning of Hamilton to the dark regress of piano and bass propelled by a thudding battery of drumming, washes over the senses and paints a bleak sparse landscape of New York. I would at this point mention 9/11, but we can probably sidestep past that whole “post-9/11” drivel by pointing out similar artists from a simpler time, such as Joy Division or The Velvet Underground. The reason why The Walkmen remind me of that is the melody hidden under a sheen of dark intonement and expression, so subtle that it takes several listens for the whole album to unravel.

I find this band in mate early 20s and they mean so much and make so much sense to me that I feel that if I had been involved with them any early I might not only became the muso that I am threatening to become, but like Pulp, I wouldn’t have understood the point of The Walkmen. They sit atop a pile of bands that are intellectual without sound pretentious, expand their musical sound without having to resort to high wage producers, and have crafted a level of album consistency only equalled in measurable success by Elbow, and this album, with tracks as dark as the opener “Donde Esta La Playa” and the rolling “Postcards from Tiny Islands”, serve as the perfect introduction to a band who seem to channel the grandeur of an age of music that is long forgotten.

This age of music that made sense, had meaning, was as successful as R&B today, is long gone but never more relevant, and The Walkmen are the best there is, and You & Me is one of the best albums this year.


Thursday, 4 September 2008

6Shuffle - 04/09/08

Stereophonics – Check My Eyelids for Holes
Stereophonics’ debut album stands the test of time as a great debut and a good statement about the way the 1990s were for music. Coming at the tail end of the decade they might have been slightly late they are the band that became Oasis in terms of critical derision, especially from some on their previous albums from some super amazing reviewers. This song is a perfectly good highlight from their early album and is a good place to start if you are wanting to listen to the band for the first time, but knowing people who read this, they will already dipped their toes in that pool and said “Nah, that is too shallow for me.”

The Smiths – There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
Ah, the Smiths, one of my favourite bands ever. This, one of the most mystical tracks from the 80s superstars, is one of my favourite tracks, if only for the lovely flutle like woodwind “dodododo” at the end which is great. Morriessey, signing about death and killing people, never gets old, as Mozzer runs around a jaunty guitar rhythm dotted with strings swaying back and forth over the arrangement.

The Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop
My attempt to write about these tracks as they play might be hard here as this is a punk track that last no more than 2 minutes of quick rock and roll. This band don’t rank that high on my favour lists but I can admire their zeitgeist that they pioneered and what they stood for. The “Hey Ho Lets Go!” has became a signature of punk rock and –

(The Song Ended)

Lightning Bolt – Assassins
Well, how do you describe this band to someone. I have no idea how to explain this band without it sounding like I am talking rubbish, so I am not going to try. The sound like a war fighting a set of pianos inside a traffic cone aimed directly at a loudhailer. It is intense and very technical… not at all like some of the other stuff I listen to. In fact this is probably as left field as some of my music taste goes. Still, it has some charged energy about it and listening to it makes me very excited and my feet tap fast than a strobelight.

The Verve – Lucky Man
The new verve album will be reviewed here soon as I get my hands on it, but I don’t expect much from their newest single, Love is Noise, which is ruined with the little “DooDooo” sample played through every single second of it. I think it would have been much better without the over use of it and maybe sounding a little less like Richard Ashcroft’s solo stuff. Which is what Lucky Man sounds like. Their album, Urban Hymns, is fantastic, but this song will forever be ruined as the song I first learned to play on the drums, and hearing it strangled by a 13 year old boy with no rhythm in the drumming lesson could destroy the most universally liked track of all time. And no, the boy wasn’t me, as drumming is only musical ability I seem to posses.

Queens of the Stone Age – The Blood is Love
Not really sure of this song… it is from the album that I played to death for months on end but don’t really have an opinion on other than it is all right. I don’t rate the Queens of the Stoneage that highly seeing as it really is just a solo project for Josh Homme. I do have to admit that he has a way with melodic rock, and this album and song do have a nice bit of melody about them… especially Burn the Witch.

Bonus Seventh Spin:
Belle & Sebastian – To Be My Self Completely