Hamfisted

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Amazing Baby – Rewild

As a result of some association with the band and a few similarities in their sound, Amazing Baby are apparently the new MGMT. But why does there have to be this x are the new y every year? If we’re so desperate to find a new y, that kind of suggests that the y we’ve already got were never that good in the first place, no?

The same ingredients are here – same vaguely mystical psychedelic air, same setup, same crushing mid-album sag – but Amazing Baby are missing the kind of radio friendly pop songs that helped turn Oracular Spectacular into last year’s sleeper hit. There’s plenty of ambition and melody here (the singles Bayonets and Headdress are a good indicator of both), but then there’s also a lot of vagueness throughout, and something kind of empty about it all. It’s hard to get beneath the surface of the songs, and if you managed you possibly wouldn’t find much.

I’m finding it hard to pin this album down, which is probably the idea, but there’s something about it that stops me from wanting to.

4.5/10

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28/05/2009 Posted by | Music, Reviews | Leave a comment

Wayne’s albums of the week (24/5/9)

Time for another albums of the week post.

First, Yo La Tengo‘s 2006 album I am not afraid of you and I will beat your ass. Aside from having one of the greatest album titles of recent years, the album is as strong and solid an album from any of the bands back-catalogue. The very fact that, this long into their career, Yo La Tengo still release albums that are capable of breaking your heart and making you smile like a loon is testament to their excellent song writing. The album is a relatively laid back affair, with slow-burning quiet songs dictating the feel of the album, until the closer and highlight, The Story Of Yo La Tengo, bursts in with it’s chaotic distorted guitars and feedback that is so typical of the band on their noisier moments.

Next, Sufjan Stevens come on feel the the illinoize, a bit of an indie scenester classic, but please, please don’t let that put you off. The album is a largely melancholy affair, again with quiet slow-burning songs dictating the majority of the album. Most of the songs are acoustica tinged, with horns and strings sometimes coming in to play to good effect.

Carrying on much in the same vein as acoustica tinged with a horn section is Beirut‘s Gulag Orkestar, where this slightly differs from Illinoize however, is that the songs sound more, for want of a better word, organic. The songs don’t particularly feel like they have a definitive beginning, middle and end, which is no bad thing (at least in some cases), specifically not here as they’re given space and time to breathe, to stretch out into something which becomes almost more than just a nice song.

Lastly Trojan Records’ Dub Box Set, a 3 disc collection of some of the defining Dub Reggae from the original Jamaican scene. As you’d expect, the likes of King Tubby, The Upsetters and The Roots Radic band all feature (some more heavily than others). This can be quite disappointing as you’re left with the slight feeling the compilers may have been slightly too lazy. That is only a small gripe however. This is an essential first purchase for anyone wishing to delve into the Dub Genre.

24/05/2009 Posted by | Music | Leave a comment

Manic Street Preachers – Journal For Plague Lovers

This is the ‘anticipated’ follow up to The Holy Bible? Are they having a fucking joke? The Holy Bible, one of the darkest, thought provoking albums of the 90’s is followed up officially by something which is too bland even for This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours.

It’s clear they’ve tried somewhat to recapture the fire and vigor of their earlier records, but being the old and irrelevant band that they are, it just feels limp, half-arsed and overall bloody boring. I don’t deny the fact the lyrics are genius, but the music just doesn’t suit it. It’s so gleemingly obvious they’ve edited Richey Edward’s original scribblings quite heavily too.

There’s no real highlight on this album, unless you count the hilarious attempt at singing by Nicky Wire on ‘Williams Last Words’. The song almost seems inappropriate and somewhat crass, given that the lyrics (written by Richey Edwards) actually seems more like a goodbye to his family than a ‘song’.

Overall this is a very poor album, and an incredibly lame ‘tribute’ to the genius behind their earlier albums.

I remember a few years ago, there was a rumour going around that Guilfest had approached the band to play their festival, and Nicky Wire refused, stating that “as soon as they asked us we realised we had gone wrong somewhere”. Here’s where you went wrong, you carried on after Everything Must Go, and you just got worse and worse. It’s time to give it up.

3/10

20/05/2009 Posted by | Music, Reviews | 1 Comment

Bob Mould – Life And Times

Bob Mould is probably used to being underappreciated by now. Husker Du* are still overlooked by most music fans, despite their influence on so many bands of the 90s and 00s, and Sugar have been pretty much forgotten despite laying the foundations for the likes of Foo Fighters. He even got a hard time when he tried his hand at writing scripts for the WCW.

His solo material, too, has failed to find much of an audience. It’s unfair on the guy because he’s put out some good stuff – last year’s underrated District Line album, for example. Okay, his track record since the mid 90s has been a little erratic, with the electronic experiments not always working, but he still knows his way around a tune.

Life And Times is another solid record from Sir Bob, combining mature, melodic guitar rock with some chunkier, more Sugar-like stuff. The electronic influences in evidence on District Line have been toned down (apart from all the autotune – what the fuck is it with that?) leaving us with a record moving towards a mature style, although without it becoming too MOR. In particular I’ve been enjoying Argos and Spiralling Down, two songs that wouldn’t look out of place on Copper Blue.

I’ll be honest though, there are one or two clunkers on here too. At points (like the album closer Lifetime) he tries to move out of his usual vocal style and experiment a little, and it doesn’t quite come off. He’s almost crooning – it just doesn’t work. But then, you have to look at the bigger picture, don’t you? The man’s 48, it’s not going to be Land Speed Record.

So overall, although it’s patchy and occasionally a little too sedate, there’s certainly enough quality stuff here to keep existing fans happy.

6.5/10

*Look, I can’t do umlauts on here, alright?

20/05/2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Wayne’s albums of the week

Following on from Jon’s post the other day, I decided I too would make a quick run down of the albums I’ve been listening to this week.

First up is early 90’s shoegaze band Pale Saints with their 1992 album In Ribbons. Shoegaze is something i’ve been investigating as of late, and where better to start than at a time when Shoegaze was at it’s most popular. Pale Saints epitomize the sound of dreamy guitar-led pop that many have come to identify as the definitive shoegaze sound. Whilst the majority of the songs on In Ribbons are upbeat melodic workouts, tracks such as Never ending night are emotionally personal and slightly depressing.

Carrying on with the Shoegaze theme, Asobi Seksu‘s 2006 album, Citrus, has also been receiving heavy play on my stereo this week. The problem with a lot of modern shoegaze is so many people seem a bit misguided as to what the term actually implies. This isn’t the case with Asobi Seksu however, as their stunning melodies lift their touching songs up to something rather stunning. It’s always refreshing to see a band that aren’t afraid of a bit of taught feedback either, as with album highlight ‘Exotic Animal Paradise’ the majority of the song is a laidback and mellow affair, before the last minute explodes into a full blown feedback festival, resulting in the kind of brutal beauty typically reserved for bands such as Mogwai and 65daysofstatic.

Next up is LL Cool J‘s much lauded 1985 debut, Radio. It’s kind of hard to believe the modern day LL Cool J would’ve made an album such as this, but this 80’s electro/hip hop hybrid is on a par with Grandmaster Flash for fantastic 80’s rap. Let’s face it, any album that not only includes the storming Rock The Bells (that intro, woah!), but also classics such as That’s A Lie and I Need A Beat must be something pretty special. It’s no wonder, then, that of so many rap artists of the time, LL Cool J was one of the few that survived for years.

Lastly Bird Of Prey (2008) by Zozobra, a riotous angry beast of a record. Metal as it should be done. The low metallic rumble of guitars perfectly clashing with the violent vocals to make one of the most interesting metal albums of recent years.

15/05/2009 Posted by | Music | 1 Comment

Jon’s albums of the week

My general plan with writing about music is to share my passion with others. Fair enough, you’d think. I would. But what happens when the stuff I get passionate about isn’t necessarily all that new, and therefore not worth reviewing as if it is? Well, this happens! It’s planned to be a weekly thing where I bang on about stuff that’s been ‘floating my boat’ lately, but we’ll see how my memory holds out here. Some nights I forget to sleep, so remembering to post a weekly blog entry could be beyond me.

Anyway. I’ve been warming up for the Stag & Dagger mini-festival thing next Thursday with The Mae Shi’s mentalist pop masterwork Hlllyh, which came out a good fifteen months or so ago to not nearly enough of a fanfare. It would be misleading to talk up the hooky, melodic aspect of it, because it’s taken all this time for the tunes to properly burrow their way in, but that’s pretty much what I get when I listen to it. That and a whole load of electronic noise. Why can’t music always be this fun? I suppose the obvious answer is that you’d get pretty tired if it was all as hyperactive as this, but hey.

I’m also dead set on catching Micachu and the Shapes at S&D (although I bet everyone I want to see will clash, this generally happens), and I’m kind of addicted to Micachu’s debut album Jewellery. Electropop that isn’t all that electro or all that pop really, it borrows as much from Deerhoof as it does, say, MIA. Golden Phone is a particular highlight, an addictive little tune that rattles and hops along on an earworm melody.

Super Furry Animals are generally reliable, although lately they’ve hit a bit of a dip. Gruff Rhys’ side project and solo stuff has been good enough to keep my enthusiasm up though, and the new SFA album Dark Days/Light Years is something of a return to form to these ears. Maybe only these ears though, for I’ve seen a lot of negative feedback on the internet. Admittedly at times it all sounds a little loose and half-arsed, but hey, I like loose and half-arsed. They’ve got the variety back here too, one of the things that got me into their earlier stuff in the first place. Lush psychedelic epics brush up against joke cod-funk, dippy sixties influenced pop, and whatever Inaugural Trams is even supposed to be. Although it gets clunky at times, it all works out.

Ra Ra Riot got tied in with Vampire Weekend a lot last year – the two bands are mates, and they supported VW over here. Their debut album The Rhumb Line initially had a load of positive reviews on its UK release but was then pretty much ignored, and that’s unfair as they’re actually a lot better than their famous friends. There are similarities in the vocals and some of the melodies, but their songs go a lot deeper, with death and longing everywhere. It’s an almost eerie record – the band’s original drummer drowned in the summer of 2007, after most (if not all) of the songs were written but not before recording the album, and yet it feels like an extended tribute to him somehow. In parts it’s incredibly touching, and in others almost uplifting. The violin and cello definitely bring something to the mix, complementing the more melancholic songs beautifully and adding an extra dimension to the upbeat indie rock stuff.

14/05/2009 Posted by | Music, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Graham Coxon – The Spinning Top

The recent reformation of Blur has left me somewhat frustrated. Having been quite a fan of Graham Coxon’s solo albums to date, it’s a bit of a shame to see him agree to re-join a band I’ve always had difficulty liking. It’s not that their bad musicians as such. It’s the smugness. Everything about them is smug. From them themselves through to their stupid smug songs. What’s especially frustrating about it happening now is that with this album. Graham has released his most brave, interesting and unique record of his career to date.

So why is it brave? Well, first and foremost, it’s a traditional folk concept album. The album is a narrative about one man’s journey through birth to death, and whilst some of it is fantasy, it is apparently loosely based on Graham’s own life. As for the folk, this conjures up horrible images of one man and his guitar bland-fest, but that is certainly not the case with this album. The stated influences of John Marytyn, Davey Graham and etc are quite clear to see on his guitar playing.

To keep things varied and interesting, the punkier, skewered & distorted guitars that epitomized his earlier albums occasionally creep in over the acoustica on songs such as If You Want Me and Dead Bees (which sounds like the kind of riotous stomp you’d expect from a band like Black Mountain).

The backing and guest vocals (including vocals from Robyn Hitchcock amongst others) compliment the songs perfectly, and so they should be, Graham is experienced enough to know what makes a song work.

The only dud on the album, as far as I’m concerned is the blues-lite of Sorrows Army, which sounds rather unfortunately like Eric Clapton’s blues for dad’s.

Otherwise, this is an incredibly accomplished, varied and interesting record, which is no mean feat considering it’s long running length. Whilst it certainly doesn’t hit you straight away (there’s no Freakin’ Out on this album), it will reward you for repeated listens.

It’s a shame then, that owing to the Blur reunion, he won’t be able to tour this record properly until October.

8/10

12/05/2009 Posted by | Music, Reviews | Leave a comment

Spinal Tap confirm Glastonbury & Wembley gigs

To mark the 25th anniversary of This Is Spinal Tap’s release, The legendary cult/metal/joke band will be playing at this years Glastonbury (if it even goes ahead, if one is to believe Michael Eavis’ recent interview), and at Wembley Arena.

The Wembley gig will be the 30th June (tickets are on sale now, though they’re pretty much sold out), whilst the sold-out Glastonbury runs from 24th to 29th June. Glastonbury are yet to confirm themselves that the band will be playing. According to reports, The Glastonbury set will be a stripped down ‘unwigged and unplugged’ set.

11/05/2009 Posted by | Music, News | Leave a comment

Maybeshewill – Sing The Word Hope In Four-Part Harmony

It’s so far been a pretty good couple of years for fans of instrumental post-rock (here we go again with the instrumental post-rock). There certainly seems to have been a resurgence of the genre as of late. Where Maybeshewill differ though, is the fact that whilst they’re certainly prone to the odd key led interlude, their songs are short and to the point, with some almost bordering on something approaching early loud and angsty Biffy Clyro.

This clash of post-rock and dynamic juttering guitar work is an unusual combination, yet it somehow works (at times it works remarkably well). The band are also keen on the use of glitchy instrumentation a la 65dos. This creates a somewhat unbelievable mix which during songs such as ‘How to have sex with a ghost’ and ‘Accept & Embrace’ is actually a bit of a delight to listen to.

The majority of the songs on the album are kept to under 6 minutes, which is a smart move as the album seems more urgent and visceral rather than long winded and samey. A great amount of musicianship and keen ear for composition come into play beautifully, with inspirational speeches from several sources setting the mood in some of the songs. This sampling of speeches doesn’t always work though, at times it feels too forced and ham fisted (haha…) which let’s be honest, kind of ruins the songs they appear on.

All in all, this is still a very listenable album with a real sense of urgency. Highly recommended for fans of instrumental rock looking for something new.

7/10

07/05/2009 Posted by | Music, Reviews | Leave a comment

Faith No More confirm London show

As previously rumored, Faith No More will be playing in London on June 10th. The venue will be the O2 Brixton Academy.
Rather unfairly, Download festival ticket holders can purchase tickets for this gig now, whilst the general public will be able to get them from Friday. Make sure your quick with this one, we expect tickets will sell fast.

There is still no news on a Scotland date which was also rumored.

06/05/2009 Posted by | Music, News | Leave a comment