Thursday, March 27, 2008

Nice Rac'


LONG time listeners to my honest opinions will know that I really don't understand the stratospheric rise to the top of The White Stripes.
Sure, some of the songs are good, for example Blue Orchid and Fell In Love With A Girl, but for the most part I find them mediocre at best and tone deaf at worst.
However The Raconteurs are not just Jack White, so I approached their sophomore long player with open ears - and I'm glad I did, as said ears are still ringing with monstrous riff after monstrous riff.
Everything here is rooted in the rock and roll hall of fame, and although Jack White's trademark stop-start-stop-start composing is still in evidence, with Brendan Benson's 70s guitar licks filling in the gaps and a full rhythm section backing up you can see what White's songs sound like with meat on their bones.
And therefore the resulting Consoler Of The Lonely, although nothing new, is well worth becoming acquainted with.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A good question


ABSTRACT rapper Why?, real name Jonathan Wolf, is a man who poses many musical questions.
In the genre-defying Alopecia his lyrical flow, which lies halfway between rap and the ramblings of a madman, similar to Anticon labelmates like Doseone, is laid here over beats which veer more towards indie rock than hip hop.
And the lyrics themselves are almost surreal, and at times distressing - you really don't want to know what Why? claims to have witnessed two Germans up to.
Even the upbeat songs start with lyrics like "I sleep on my back as it's good for my spine and... coffin rehearsal".
Quite honestly, I have little or no idea what Alopecia is about, but I really want to listen over and over again to try and find out.

Schtick of Rock


LEGENDARY East Coast producer Pete Rock's sixth album, NY's Finest, sees the hip hop stalwart seemingly going through the motions.
Aside from his solo LPs, Pete Rock has previously done production or remixes for a star-studded list of people that reads like a who's who of hip hop in the past two decades - 50 Cent, Public Enemy, The Fresh Prince, Slick Rick, Common, Busta Rhymes, KRS-One, Rakim, Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, Micheal Jackson, Gang Starr, Naughty By Nature, the list goes on and on and on and on...
The problem is that with this impressive body of work Pete Rock's jazz-tinged laid-back production style has become so indelibly imprinted on the genre, his trademark sound now sounds bog standard.
The result is the tracks on NY's Finest, as good as the beats are, are only lifted from this catch 22 situation when the MCs are up to scratch.
Hence when outstanding rappers like Ghostface Killah and Redman take the mic, things look up, and when more run-of-the-mill guests and Rock himself take on the vocal duties, the album falls down again.
Unless he reinvents himself, Pete Rock may be forever caught between a rock and a hard place.

Kooks hit it on the nose


ALTHOUGH it may be a continuation of the band's winning formula which landed the Brighton band a whopping six hit singles in 2005 and 2006, new LP Konk is still not a case of too many Kooks.
That said, Konk is undeniably a progression for the band.
Inside In/Inside Out, glorious and radio-friendly as it was, was still rough around the edges and also led to po-faced muso types accusing the band of "selling out".
This time Luke Pritchard's group have produced an album with a moodier fell brimming with subtlety, professionalism and hit singles, in the forms of tracks like Always Where I Need To Be and Gap.
There may be less wide-eyed joy about this album, but in it's place the blinkers are on and the Kooks are down to business.

The name's Blonde


RAPPER and philosopher Snoop Doggy Dogg once mused: "Ugly girls don't sell records."

Although Tha DoggFather may have had a point to make on the shallow nature of the music industry, there are always exceptions to the rules.

How else can you explain the continuing appeal of the likes of Bjork, PJ Harvey, Michelle McManus...

Okay, scratch that last one.

However The Long Blondes are the opposite - frontwoman Kate Jackson may have sailed high the NME cool list and on the pages of glossy fashion magazines, but the straight-down-the-line Blondie influenced nu New Wave of the turgid Couples proves there is also a lot of style over content knocking about in the charts.
And you don't need an ugly rapper to tell you that.

A shining example


NEON Neon, the unlikely collaboration between Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys and leftfield DJ Boom Bip, proves the spirit of the 1980s is still glowing strong. Pilfering its constituent parts from the decade that taste forgot, concept album Stainless Style tells the story of John De Lorean.
The motor mogul shot to fame in the 1980s after building the Delorean car immortalised in the Back To The Future trilogy, before going bankrupt and being coerced into drug smuggling by the US Government, who then tried to send him to jail for it.
As you can imagine, this lively tail has resulted in an even livelier album, featuring guest spots all over from the likes of The Strokes' Fab Moretti, The Magic Numbers, Har Mar Superstar and Spank Rock among others.
From the Miami booty bass of Raquel to the Jan Hammer-esque I Told Her On Alderaan to the outrageous Sweat Shop, as they used to say back then, it's boss.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Jets veer off course


THE Mystery Jets are more riddle than rocket on sophomore release 21.
As the title would suggest, the album 21 sees the band maturing from the shambles that was the promising yet messy Making Dens.
However where songs like the brilliant Young Love, a pop-perfect duet with Laura Marling, and the eighties-tinged Two Doors Down show a band with a yearning for mainstream acceptance, others, like opener Hideaway, are a slipshod mix of increasingly-outmoded influences from to James to Phil Collins.
You get the feeling that this London five-piece are a bit of a a rubics cube - in the hands of a producer who's done this sort of thing before they'll slot into place, but until then they'll just be a frustration.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

REM step up a gear

WITH their new album Accelerate, amazingly the band's fourteenth studio outing, REM may again be back on track.
After stalling somewhat with their two previous, ponderous offerings, Reveal and Around The Sun, Accelerate heralds a return to form of sorts for the group.
True, nothing on this album stands up next to their glory days - and at times the album sounds like a pastiche of the likes of New Adventures In Hi Fi or Automatic For The People - but who else is producing mainstream alternative rock of that quality these days?
Hopefully this is the sound of a band moving back up through the gears once again.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gnot bad


GNOT to have heard of odd couple Gnarls Barkley by gnow would be crazy.
The peculiar pair - Cee Lo Green and Danger Mouse - gnot only hijacked 2006's singles chart for almost a fifth of the year making Crazy the biggest hit for a decade, but have featured in projects as varied as Gorillaz, Kelis, Danger Doom, The Rapture, Goodie Mob, Carlos Santana and Lil Kim.
So it's gno surprise that most of The Odd Couple, out on March 24, is a professional, polished piece of hip hop and soul.
What is a surprise is that there is gno outstanding track in the ilk of Crazy that you could pick out instantly, and on some tracks, such as Going On, Danger Mouse's production is almost off kilter.
The result is an album that, while pleasant enough, is probably gnot going to send the charts loopy again.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Frock rock five - Killer tunes

IT'S a mystery to me how The Kills manage to come across so aloof yet so intriguingly smutty.
Heaven knows, if I could do it, I would - I only seem to manage arrogant and annoyingly childish.
However Midnight Boom, the trans-atlantic pair's third long-player, is effortlessly dirty as a mudwrestler yet remains cool as a frozen cucumber.
American singer Alison Mosshart's Karen O-esque vocals drip over Brit guitarist Jamie Hince's gritty, no frills guitar work throughout the album as if the pair could at any moment down tools and get both slapping and tickling.
No wonder then that the half of the group that is Hince has bagged himself a supermodel in the form of Kate "musician, you say" Moss.
Midnight Boom has also had the critics drooling, only over tracks like Cheap And Cheerful, Tape Song and URA Fever, and is set to deservedly explode into the mainstream to boot.

Frock rock four - Breeders produce another


DESPITE The Breeders track record and evident pedigree, the 1993 hit single Cannonball continues to be a weighty millstone around Kim Deal's neck.
Despite a promising start, Mountain Battles never recreates the form shown on Last Splash or in the band members's other projects The Pixies and Throwing Muses.
Not that The Breeders are ready to be put out to grass just yet – tracks like Bang On, Istanbul and No Way demonstrate that there's plenty of worth in Mountain Battles, and followers of The Breeders will be satisfied at what is an increasingly rare outing for the group.

There's just too many disappointments in between holding the album back for the casual listener.

Frock rock three - Pet sounds

PUNK revivalists Be Your Own Pet's second album Get Awkward is like reliving your formative teenage years all over again.
Singer Jemina Pearl Abegg's cutesy yet gutsy voice is perfect for this blistering collection of primal pop songs about subjects such as lust, violence and school.
In fact, here in the UK we are lucky to have three songs included - Black Hole, Becky and Blow Yr Mind - that were deemed too extreme for the US market.
So with Abegg's brilliant frontwoman turn and the band's undeniably brilliant garage rock backing you'd think you'd be on to a winner...
But in actuality the subject matter both makes Get Awkward and lets it down.
Like being a teenager was, at times it's exhilerating, and other times cringeworthy, and after one trip through it, you wouldn't really want to go back and do it all again, would you?

Frock rock two - Brooding music


This Gift, Sons And Daughters' third album released in January, is a progression for the four-piece indie folk rockers.
A good deal heavier than their previous stuff, the bands pulse - a trademark tubthumping beat - is sounding stronger than ever.
In fact on This Gift some of the tracks almost sound glam with the guitars laid over the stomping beats.
However while the band have learnt to rock out, at the same time there is evidence of a new-found restraint when needed, which adds more maturity to their new songs.
And although sometimes, but not often, this exuberance spills over into the land of cheese, highlights such as title track This Gift, Iodine and album bookends Gilt Complex and Goodbye Service show the Glaswegians have a lot more to give.

Frock rock one - New Shoes

AT PRESENT a glut of new or nearly-new albums by female-fronted bands have left rock's musical compass pointing towards the oestrogen.
The first of these frock-wearing rockers are Blood Red Shoes, a two-piece made up of 50 per cent womankind in the form of Laura-Mary Carter, a Kate Nash with knuckledusters type (as well as Steven Ansell, who cares about him).
Leaked on the internet back in November 2007, Blood Red Shoes' glorious debut Box Of Secrets - which has spawned five singles already - is still to be officially released, although it is finally due on April 14.
And it can't come soon enough - Box Of Secrets is a real haymaker of an album, landing you with hook after hook in the form of punky grungey rock songs like Say Something, Say Anything and You Bring Me Down.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spirits high for Nine Inch Nails


THERE must have been strange goings on at the Reznor household when Nine Inch Nail's new release, the four-part, two-hour Ghosts I-IV, was conceived.

Of late Nine Inch Nails have been playing it straight, with albums Year Zero and With Teeth demonstrating a more guitar-based approach to their brand of dark and dangerous industrial music.

However the Ghosts EP are instrumental, largely computer generated opuses more akin to experimental classical compositions, meandering IDM or works of sound art.

And they're magnificent.

Listening to the 36 unnamed tracks at times feels like being inside an intense computer game or a horror movie, and at other times you forget there's music on at all the feeling is so ethereal and atmospheric.
Admittedly some times you just need that quick blast of high octane, but when you're in the mood for a more recreational listen, Ghosts will be just the vehicle.

Throughout the many years of releases that make up their extensive back catalogue, Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails have always been a reliable source of challenging and unexpected music with real shock value – and Ghosts continues that tradition while simultaneously breaking their own mould.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Del The Funky Homosapien clocks on


LONG time hip-hop innovator Del The Funky Homosapian's fifth solo album Eleventh Hour sees the legendary Oakland rapper turning back the clock.
Best known for his work on projects such as Gorillaz and Deltron 3030 that pushed more envelopes than a workaholic postman on commission, his 2008 return to solo work after a four-year hiatus is an unexpected celebration of old school boom bap beats and battle raps.
Del's first - and arguably best - solo album, 1991's I Wish My Brother George Was Here, was produced by his cousin and contemporary Ice Cube, however since then Del has been treading his own experimental path, growing to become one of the biggest names in alternative hip hop.
By returning to the mainstream of gangsta rap Del could have shot himself in the foot - luckily his production stands up.
But although Del's funky flow over the top compares favourably to rapper parodies such as Snoop and 50 Cent demostrating a tone and dexterity virtually unparalleled, sadly rapping about guns and prostitutes makes it really not worth listening to anymore.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Black Mountain peak


DESPITE the prophetic nature of the second Black Mountain album's title, In The Future, on listening it is clear that it's ingredients were cherry-picked from the past.
For this hour-long indie masterpiece is a mauve mixture of Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, with flecks of a folky version Rolling Stones and a sedated Queens Of The Stone Age thrown in occasionally for tones of light and dark respectively.
Tracks on the Canadian band's album, released in January, such as Stormy High veer toward classic prog rock, while others, such as the irrepresible bass groove of Wucan, belie the group's youth.
And while the music flows around this musical ether, duel vocalists Stephen McBean and Amber Webber provide snarling and moaning vocals which echo with a grainy '70s tint.
But although Black Mountain owe more than a doff of their cap to their predecessors, In The Future is definately one for posterity.



ALTHOUGH a country mile ahead of Supergrass' previous album, the shockingly-dull Road To Rouen, Diamond Hoo Ha is still short of the band's sparkling best.

However you can hear in this album's punchier, spikier approach that the band are again heading in the right direction, back to the bright lights of In It For The Money and I Should Coco where they once resided.

For example the opening number, Diamond Hoo Ha Man, is raw, funky, no strings rock mined from the once-rich seam of their past excavations.

And other tracks on the March 24-released LP, like 345 and second single Bad Blood all help make a half-decent album.

It's a shame about the other half.

Bright idea


DANCE punks Does It Offend You Yeah? are a scalding potato compared to contemporaries such as Hot Chip.
A snarling, stomping beast of an album, You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into, released on March 24, practically pulsates with a groove that sounds like Daft Punk having a seizure, and is by far and away the best dance album of the year so far, leaving the critically-acclaimed likes of Hot Chip's Made In The Dark and Hercules And Love Affairs' Hercules And Love Affair whimpering in the corner.
As far as beats are concerned, they take a back-burner most of the way through to the omnipresent bludgeoning bassline, which throbs and skitters underneath everything Does It Offend You Yeah? do.
And although they do it with no guile or subtlety, they do it brilliantly well – how can you not love an album with tracks with names like Attack Of The 60ft Lesbian Octopus?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Dead Presidents

MUCH as I hate to burst the bubble of musical heroes of mine, I am more than a little disappointed new album from The Presidents Of The United States Of America, whose debut album The Presidents Of The United States Of America remains to this day one of my favourite albums of all time.
I feel a list coming on...
That's not to say that These Are the Good Times People hasn't got positives - the guitar licks are peppy and energetic, and as always The Presidents Of The United States Of America have delivered a rockin' good time.
There are even tracks on the album that could have held their own alongside the likes of Peaches, Lump and Mach 5, such as Ghosts Are Everywhere and Flame Is Love.
However there is a feeling that The Presidents Of The United States Of America haven't moved on - perfectly good tracks such as More Bad Times are ruined by the forced kookiness that makes the band use words like "baboon" and "spork".
It's like the joke just isn't funny any more - The Presidents Of The United States Of America now come across as the sort of people that say that they're crazy but really are just annoying.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Blackened blues

"TWO'S company," the saying goes, something that Ohio blues rock duo The Black Keys have demonstrated to great effect on their first two albums, doing most of the recording, mixing and production themselves.
However, for their third album, Attack And Release, they are aiming to prove three's not a crowd, welcoming overseer Danger Mouse of Gnarls Barkley, Dangerdoom and Gorillaz fame to the fold.
And the result has certainly put the cool cat amongst the lo-fi outfit's pigeons.
Admittedly a slow burner to begin with, setting off down the same rocky road as previous outings with tracks like I Got Mine and first single, the stomping Strange Times.
But then procedings take a sharp left at Psychotic Girl and head out into country territory and then round the houses, picking up funky flute solos here and bluegrass duets there.
It's a novel plan of attack for the twosome, especially considering how rooted in the past their previous albums are, but it's paid off in this release.

Triii-o, Tri-iii-iii-o


WHAT do you get if you mix dub reggae and heavy metal?
No, the offspring of that unholy union is Dub Trio, whose third album, Another Sound Is Dying, was released at the end of January.
The album, which is instrumental apart from the standout No Flag featuring Mike Patton of Faith No More on vocal duties, fuses heavy metal riffs fuller than Rik Waller leaving an all you an eat buffet with ponderous Mogwai style space rock and skanking Lee "Scratch" Perry dub sections.
On paper this should be a shambles, but on record it actually works.
The movements from one section to another never seem to jar, and there is a unlikely unity that carries through the whole LP.
However Another Sound Is Dying will appeal more to fans of metal than fans of dub reggae, and for that reason although it is an admirable body of work, you feel it still needs the focus a frontman would bring to the party to lift it into the next level.

An arresting album


LITTLE and often seem the watchwords of Canadian post-rock outfit Tokyo Police Club, who incidentally have never been to Japan and have no powers of arrest.
Their debut release, A Lesson In Crime, was a blistering tour de force which made my albums of 2007, despite being just eight tracks and mere 16 minutes long.
They followed this up, not with a full length effort, but later the same year with a four-track, ten minute sucker punch of even more blistering stutter-rock in the form of the Smith EP, and then just to rub salt in the expectant fans' wounds, a one-track single Your English Is Good.
So Elephant Shell, their first, ahem, full-length album, which hits the shelves in May, fails to surprise when after a good 28 minutes of frenetic, shifting, emotive, engaging post-rock it comes to an abrupt end.
At least at this rate there'll be another Tokyo Police Club album out in six months.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Classic three - Beck's appeal

BACK in 1996, Beck's Odelay seemed a pretty damn good record, which spawned some amazing singles - Devil's Haircut, Where It's At, The New Pollution - but it was seen at the time as an interesting aside to the musical steamroller that was Britpop by most.
I urge you to return to it now, more than a decade on, and compare it with say, Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pill or Kula Shaker' s K, both great number one albums released in the same year.
Where others sound dated Beck's LP still sounds fresh, innovative and interesting even in today's climate, is eclectic without ever sounding forced or laboured, and most importantly, leaves you grinning like a big cheshire cat after listening to it.
I emplore you people, don't delay, Odelay - there's a deluxe edition out on March 24.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Classic two - Divine Grace

IN THE pantheon of musicians who died before their time, up there with greats such as Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon, should be Jeff Buckley.
If you've heard Jeff Buckley's golden voice you know what I'm talking about. Sadly, most people haven't as Jeff, son of folk great Tim, died in 1997 while working on a follow-up to 1994's Grace, his only completed album.
This is an album that touches people that hear it, that cannot fail to bring a tear to the eye and a shiver to the spine.
Although Jeff drowned before completing the sophomore Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk, his music continues to grow in cult status through word of mouth and influence, which can be heard in countless critically-acclaimed artists luckily still around today, such as Radiohead, Chris Cornell, PJ Harvey, Muse, Rufus Wainwright, Our Lady Peace, John Legend, Badly Drawn Boy, Aimee Mann, Jason Mraz, the list goes on and on.

Classic one - 'Werk and play


SINCE I've already yakked on about all my favourite new music like a pub bore, and everybody already knows the true classic albums out there - Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon, The Beatles' Revolver, Vanilla Ice's To The Extreme etc. - so I thought I'd yak on about a few oft-overlooked classics.
Then perhaps I can get round to objectively reviewing some music without slobbering over how I love it so much.
So my first absolute must-have for any collection is Kraftwerk's 1981 LP Computer World.
As a lot of the Germans' pioneering synthpop can veer on the side of dystopian darkness and general Teutonic pessimism, you would fear for the results when they release a concept album based on the rise of robots within society.
Instead you get a chirpy song about a pocket calculator and a song, Computer Love, which when sampled led to an upbeat Coldplay song.

Mental lists

AS I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a sad, sad man, and I feel compelled each December to make a list of my albums of the year.
Please don't think to badly of me and my affliction - this did start in a professional capacity at another newspaper, with a list of my five favourites of 2004, and was continued each year as a special feature highlighting my favourites, such as Hot Chip's The Warning, shown above.
However, like some kind of musical OCD sufferer, even though there was no outlet for me to publish it, I still made a top ten of 2007.
What a freak.
Luckily now, thanks to Sound Advice, I can exorcise that demon by posting it in the right hand column, alongside my archives of previous years when I can dig them out.
Perhaps now I can move on with my life, at least until December...

A Belton record


LOCAL boys done good The Young Knives new album came out this week, and the Belton-born duo of Henry Dartnell and The House Of Lords and Ashby-de-la-Zouch's own Oliver Askew may have cut another classic.
The band's quintessentially English brand of angular indie which earnt the band a Mercury Music Prize nomination for debut Voices Of Animals And Men is back with a vengeance on Superabundance.
However this time the horizons have widened - and it appears the band are none to pleased about what they've seen.
This new collection, although the tone may be darker, sees the band ushering in experiments in trumpets here, blankets of strings there and and overdriven guitars near enough everywhere.
Superabundance really does have it all and then some.

Back to the Future


THIS week has seen me travelling back in time to an album that a few months ago I could not stop listening to.
Future Of The Left's debut LP Curses was released ingloriously at the tail end of 2007 to little fanfare - so ingloriously that it missed out on being in my albums of the year shortlist I draw up every year like a saddo - but it really deserves the attention and is again fuelling my ears on the drive to work.
The band, a Welsh supergroup made of former members of Mclusky and Jarcrew, have fused together metal, post-rock and punk riffing meatier than a pig eating steaks with some of the most surreal lyrics ever to be committed to record - anything from pretty pussies named Colin to elves eating sausage on a stick is fair game - and the results are insanely brilliant.
Check out the next single Manchasm, which hits the shelves on April 8.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Fangs a lot


MY LAST recommendation for my cherry-popping blog entries today is Vampire Weekend's eponymous Vampire Weekend.

A truly joyous mix of the jangly monotonous rock of the Strokes and the genre-bending afropop of Paul Simon with a splash of ska and occasional strings, Vampire Weekend's snooty afrorock is debauched, raw and bouncing with an almost naive amount of energy, and cannot fail to grab you by the throat.

Horsing around


ANOTHER new band that are hot to trot at the moment are the widely-tipped Foals.
My newsdesk colleagues will testify that for absolutely ages I have been moaning on about how everybody should be listening to this Oxford five-piece, and with the release of this album, at long last everybody will.
A tingly joy residing like a parasite in the mucus-filled pipe leading from indie to dance, Foals' Antidotes will be hard to avoid come its release on March 24.

So good they named him twice


AS THIS blog is supposed to introduce readers to what I deem to be noteworthy music, I thought I ought to start as I mean to go on.
So let me introduce, without further hesitation, Vincent Vincent And The Villains' new album Gospel Bombs.
I have been waiting for the best part of a year for this release, after hearing several Vincent² Bunker Demos, and his mixture of Eddie Cochran-esque rock 'n' roll and Libertines style indie romp doesn't disappoint.
Vincent Vincent And The Villains will also be appearing at the Big Session festival at De Montfort Hall, Leicester, as well as on my stereo, so check them out.


HELLO Loughborough Echo readers, isn't it nice that we can talk like this?
Unless you've had the fortune for one of us newshounds to come out and meet you face-to-face for one reason or another, it's unlikely you will know what lovely people we really are, behind the ground-breaking exclusives and sensational scoops we write each week in The Echo.
So we've decided to go blogging.
Other ideas soon to hit the interweb from colleagues include blogs on books, blogs on travel, blogs on us blogging, all sorts of nonsense.
A massive interest of mine is music - I am a multi-instrumentalist, have previously earnt my crust playing in covers bands and playing original material, and am a music junkie, constantly searching around a disparate mix of genres past, present and future for a new 'hit'.
So in order for me to pass on my passion, to maybe point somebody in the direction of a new favourite album, and to keep getting promo CDs sent to me in the post, I have decided to write Sound Advice.
Watch this cyberspace...

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