Sunday, 27 October 2013

Covered in tape - Tape Runs Out

I had no idea what to expect when I found this CD with a "please take one" sign on it at the Indigo Cafe, especially as freebie albums can always be such a risk. The cover didn't give away much, other than an attempt at being mysterious, so I will be honest and say it sat on my 'listen to when possible' shelf for a month or so. Now that I have finally got around to listening to it I'm happy to report that it's a quirky collection of four rather excellent uplifting indie tracks, surrounded by 3 curious soundscape. The songs are light, crisp, and relaxed whilst engaging; the sort of thing you would love to hear on the stereo whilst enjoying a carefree day of summer with some friends. There is a lot going on in each track, with a nice variety of instruments that doesn't get clogged up due to bad production or sound too busy. Everything is simply doing exactly what is needed, so nothing gets in the way of itself or ends up sounding like something was thrown in just to sound cleve. Whilst keeping with the main sound of the band the soundscapes are a little less coherent (by design) and have some stop-start tape effects which give an almost glitchy feel to them. I doubt you will hate them, as they are interesting and a good listen, I just don't think they will be as loved as the central tracks.

All in all it was a jolly good use of the 23 minutes that the EP runs for and I would encourage people to go to the band's soundcloud to try it, and the rest of their stuff, out. I would also suggest keeping an eye out for them live as the tunes sound like they could sound rather great played in person. The single, only, thing I can say bad about it is that it was a free promotional offering which didn't have a link to any of the band's online presence. 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

I meet the future of music today.

I was talking down Burleigh Street today when I came across these two buskers.
Could they play? Not really
Could they sing? Not that well
Does any of that matter? No, not at all. They were out there, being a much needed reminder that people are still just going for it for the love of music, and for that I salute them. It also helps that if they have the get-up to play on one of the busiest streets in Cambridge then I think its safe to believe they will have the determination to practice their art and become fantastic at it, so one day they may be able to play and sing and to blow me away on more than just the fact they were out in the street giving it a shot. Even if they don't then I just hope they had an excellent time today, because they put a smile on my face a mile wide.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Aftershock - Motorhead

If you are after some high octane rock & roll then Motorhead's latest album just what you are after. 13 hard rocking, high speed tracks of bastard boogie, and one slower blues number which gives a contemplative pause in the middle of the album, are delivered in Motorhead's unique style that eternally lives somewhere between rock & roll, heavy metal, and a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Whilst you may be thinking "didn't they do all their best stuff in the 80's this is a band that is still, somehow inexplicably, still finding the top of their game on their 21st album. There is real diversity in the music as it rolls around what hard-edged rock can be, the lyrics are still finding new tales of love, war, freedom, abuses of power, and the life that the high king Lemmy has been living. Top it off with a clean & simple production of three top notch musicians on year 18 of working together and there isn't much more you could ask for. The only off note I can find in the whole thing is that Lemmy's voice isn't quite as bold & brash as it once was (most likely due to the health issues he's reported to be having), though its moving from an A+ to an A and is far from stopping this being an thumper of an album. I look forward to seeing which of it's tracks they put in their set the next time I see them live.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

High Road - Cults

The curiously titled Cults are currently making a name for themselves over in the States with their take on light, ethereal alternative pop. They have recently released the track below as a single and whilst it may not change your world it is worth a listen as there is something timeless about well performed, well produced indie. It might also get you to try out their other tracks, which offer a decent range of approaches to the question of 'how can we make something that will get on the radio whilst still being worth listening to'.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Sexual Harassment - Turbonegro

Picking up where the New York Dolls threw-up Turbonegro have never been the most couth of bands out there. Their stock-in-trade is punked up 70's Rolling Stones with a lot more nihilism and deviant sexual imagery. Over the last 20+ years they have played hard, fast, and sleazy as hell rock-and-roll which, normally, results in an urge for me to dig out a bottle and put up a finger to the world. However whilst the music is still very clearly there their latest album just isn't giving me that feeling, and I have to say that it's all to do with the departure of their larger than life singer Hank von Helvete.

Tony Sylvester is a perfectly talented singer, who had previously done great work with the Dukes Of Nothing, but he just doesn't have the sexyness that Hank brought to every song he sung. Instead Tony has a sinisterness and aggression so rather than being a party band of legendary proportions Turbonegro now sound somewhat menacing. This is not helped by the lyrics having got more violent and less jubilant than their previous offerings.Some of the tracks have the touch of greatness that avoid it being a disaster ("You Give Me Worms" being a prime example) but all over this is going to be one for the faithful.

Monday, 14 October 2013

The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen

Al Jourgensen has done an incredibly large amount of drugs, however he has never let that get in the way of him making some incredibly good music. What it has got in the way of is him making an autobiography that is going to have much variance beyond the "did A, did a lot of drugs, did B, did a lot more drugs..." cycle or raise many questions beyond 'How much more debauched can this lifestyle possibly get?' and 'How the hell is he not dead already?'. It's also got in the way of believing a lot of what is said, as Jourgensen admits to being utterly void of memory about many chunks of his existence whilst being adamant about juicy details of him slagging people off, which Jon Wiederhorn manages to deal with by getting the other side of the story from a lot of people who were also there and in the firing line.

This is not to say that reading it makes you dislike Al Jourgensen his childhood story gives some sympathetic background as to how he ended up as he did and he is refreshingly honest about the bad things he has done, without being apologetic or pious. It's also not to say that his story is dull, as he gives some interesting insight into several major counter-culture individuals, including Timothy Leary during the later part of his life. It's just that if you were looking for something about the music or the performances of Ministry you are bang out of luck as he can't remember about 80% of his recording career and he hates live performances so doesn't really want to talk about them. What you have got is a junkie tale with a lot of punches, some amusing tales of self-destruction, and an insight into how the recording industry can be a horrible and abusive place. You also have an a scan into the mind of one of the few geniuses of industrial musical and a true survivor of rock, as well as a rock autobiography without any of the faux-sleaze pseudo-chic or self-important complaint that the genre normally spews out (Looking at you, Motley Crue).

In the end I'm really not sure if I can encourage you to read this book or not: I know that around halfway through I mostly carried on reading due to the 'what will he do next?' freak show factor rather than any actual interest in what was going on, but at the same time there were always sections that left me laughing and eventually happy that I had stuck it out to the end. It's well written, well researched (other than the contentious bits) and not a bad read once you get past the subject matter. Ministry fans will read it regardless of what is said, though I doubt it will give any greater or lesser appreciation of the music to them, so I guess it boils down to 'how much do you care about the music of Ministry' and 'do you want to read the story of a very amiable junkie'.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Seance - God Module

Sometimes it's hard to come up with a way to describe a bands music, conveniently God Module offer up "Horror Industrial", "Black Electro", "Murder Wave", "Spooky Dance" and "Devil Music" in the liner notes for their 2011 Seance album. What does that all actually mean? About an hours worth of fairly good up-tempo EBM, a lot of horror movie samples, and lyrics like the utterly unforgettable  "So lets dance like we're dead, with our imaginary friends who have no heads" sung through a distortion pedal with utter conviction that it's all rather serious & spooky. This is atmospheric, heavy, songs about ghostly goings-on and deathy gothicness, all delivered with a set of pile-driver drum lines and some nicely modulating base-tones.

Whilst I preferred some tracks over others ("Afraid of the Light", "Devil's Night", and "MDK" caught my ear more than the other tracks) there were no real weak points and you would get up to dance to any of it if you were in the right mood. However as it is a rather singular vision of music, with minimal variance of style or topic between tracks, so if you dislike one tune you are likely to dislike it all. Personally I've had it in the car for a solid 3 weeks and am still grooving along to it so this is not to say it is bad, just that it is a highly talented one-rather-excellently-performed-trick-pony of an album. This is heavily stylized niche music unashamedly aimed to evoke a specific range of feelings & aesthetics, so you are either going to buy into it & enjoy or find it a little silly & not give it much time (hopefully after giving them a very much deserved try).

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

All hail the king!

Albert Hall, 07/10/2012
There is something wonderful about 100+ performers working together in perfect harmony, so when you throw in the always evocative film scores of Danny Elfman you know that you are going to be on to a winner. Thus after spending almost 4 hours driving from Cambridge to London it was with great anticipation that we sat down at the Royal Albert Hall for what promised to be a spectacular performance from the BBC Concert Orchestra.

The program contained all the classics: Beetlejuice, Batman, Mars Attacks! (with outstanding theremin solo) and Edward Scissorhands. It also had some of Burton/Elfman's more recent works, including Sleepy Hollow, Big Fish, and Dark Shadows. It was the trademark swooshing wind instruments, galloping strings, and unending jingly bits in the background (five percussionists with maybe five hundred separate things to hammer around) that makes Elfman's music the joy and explosion of excitement that it is. All were performed perfectly, to the point that I would love to see how that nights performance syncs up to the scores in the actual films.

It was known in advance that Elfman was going to take to the stage at some point but it wasn't clear what for, so when he turned up to sing the Jack Skellington songs and sang with the same gusto he had back in Oingo Boingo 20 years ago a standing ovation was inevitable. However it wasn't known that Helena Bonham Carter was going to turn up so when she walked on to join in as Sally there was pure joy and entrancement, resulting in more standing, clapping, and a round of footstamping that I doubt you normally get at such a distinguished venue. Then Tim Burton got dragged on stage from the wings (looking curiously unsure that to do with himself as it was Danny's night) and a number of people could have died happy where they stood.

The only down side to all this was that the visuals, both of the tunes film footage and Tim Burton's concept images, that were running at the start of each piece were far to short so only ran for about a quarter of each tune. Whilst each piece holds up as its own thing and was totally engrossing to listen to they were made to go with the visuals, so it would have been nice to have had something a bit more substantial on that front.

As this event is listed as the "World Premier" all I can do is encourage you to get tickets to it when and wherever it is on next. It may not have Mr Elfman himself it will have his music done to perfection.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Twerking nine to five

Seeing as Sinead O'Conner is now considered an essential voice in pop I guess it's about time I threw in with my 2p on the whole Sexy Miley Cyrus 'scandal'. And I use that word with great caution, because the definition I found for that word was "damage to reputation or character caused by public disclosure of immoral or grossly improper behavior" and I really don't see how a 20 year-old pop act showing off their bum to anyone that happens to be passing is actually that big a deal. It's also not like what happened was that big a shock for anyone who has been keeping up to date with what the ex Hanna Montana has been up to, she started with the sexy images last year and was very public about the fact that she was going to "make history" at the VMAs (presumably till then no-one had been allowed to gurn all the way through their set) to ensure that everyone was looking.

This whole thing is, very simply, someone deciding to stop acting like a girl and start acting like a woman, or at least what she thinks a woman should be given the world that she has grown up in. She wants to wiggle and be evocative, so be it. To me the important thing is that before this she performed mild, uninteresting pop whilst dressing like a 16 year old and now she performs mild, uninteresting pop whilst dressing like a 20 year old who decided to piss off their parents and who has the over-riding compulsion to stick her tongue out all the damn time (seriously, does anyone actually find that look sexy?).

Now I can see why this change will upset a number of parents, and I do have sympathy for them here. She has been marketed, very heavily, via her Hannah Montana image at the early teen market so there are going to be a lot of 12-15 year old suddenly wanting to recreate their idols actions in a variety of inappropriate manner. True, the tracks stopped coming out 3 years ago but the image and the music has still been promoted as a 'wholesome' option for young girls getting into pop music until very recently (though the Hannah Montana machine hasn't slowed down, which will cause more fun on that front). The change is going to cause some problems for a number of parents ("Mommy, can I become a professional twerker rather than finish school?") and I get why they may feel betrayed about this having happened. Is it Miley Cyrus's fault? Not really, she made it clear for the last couple of years that she wasn't the character and has actively tried to distance herself from that image. Is Miley Cyrus responsible for any problems this may cause? Again 'no', but given the millions of dollars that she earned from that gig and those parents she might want to think about maybe being considerate of the situation she's created. Then again that would wreck her currently finally crafted rebel motif, so I don't think it will happen any time soon so we'll have to wait for the detox for that to happen.

So onwards she goes, bravery charting courses only previously sailed by a couple hundred other pop divas with producers and writers doing all the creative effort. Will it head into the rocks or stay the course until the 'serious' album when she hits 30? No clue and very little care, I just wait for the 'My, she has grown up and argh! Put it away!! I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE TO LOOK' phase of her journey to be over so that she can fade away into background noise, rather than being taken seriously or given so much coverage by the media.
It's a warbling pop-tart.
They happen, a lot.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

So I just discovered this little gem.

And then my head exploded, like this

because not only is the idea of Tori "touchy-feely warble-warble ethereal-pixie" Amos covering the brutality loving Slayer's best tune about hell-bound impalement (it says something about a band when they have more than one entry in that pigeon-hole) just not something that I can take on-board in one go but also because it's actually quite good*.

It's dark and foreboding, like the original, and it does something that makes it a new song without disrespecting the original. In my eyes that is always the mark of a great cover and, whilst the minimalist approach to the music means it will never go beyond being a curiosity-track, there is a majesty and audacity to it that has to be respected. It could have been (should have been?) terrible, so the fact it isn't instantly bumps it up in my view. Plus I finally have a Slayer track to play to my God-Daughter when she's going to sleep so the world is a better place for it.

Dear Slayer fans, please put down the knives. The original is still the best.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

With Free Ice Cream!!

What can possibly be better than having a track by The Butthole Surfers (one of the greatest bands in the world, ever) covered by The Melvins (also one of the greatest bands in the world, ever)? Having free ice cream at the same time!

The Melvins cover Butthole Surfers

The track comes courtesy of this years Onion AV covers series:You may not have heard of every band that they have playing (its very American-alternative-centric) but you will have heard of many and almost certainly like at least one track from each season so please give it a try. (Hint: its worth looking through for the GWAR Kansas cover alone.)

Personally I'm most interested to see who they are going to have do "Low Self Opinion" by the Rollins band, but as that could be a couple of weeks away so here's a link to The Original.