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August 29, 2007
So this year’s Reading festival somehow went off without the audience drowning, mostly thanks to the organisers turning carparks into campsites rather than forcing people to buy lilos and the like, and the hottest and most gorgeous three days of weather we will have this year. Sunshine on a bank holiday? I don’t believe it, and I was there! So here’s the best Reading festival awards blog you’ll read at ALD this particular week. Honest…
The My God You’re Fun Award – The Pipettes
First band on the Main Stage, everything and everyone to play for, and the weather’s unexpectedly rather damn nice. It left the Pipettes in the odd position of being in better circumstances than expected, but with more pressure (i.e. people) have ccrawled out of their tents as a result. And? And it was a blinder. There’s something massively endearing about the girls and their backing boys. Maybe it’s the easy on the ear but not sopoforic songs. Maybe it’s the rubbish but cute dancing. Or the polka dots and attitude. Whatever, they were a perfect start, and I’ll be off to buy their album asap.
We’ve had some of their stuff on here before, so here’s a jive-y little cover from the girls.
I’ve Heard The Future And It’s Noisy Award – Crystal Castles
Oh my god. Drawing possibly the biggest crowd of the day in the Dance Tent despite being about third on, Crystal Castles sound like a Gameboy being microwaved whilst a madwoman yells over the top. Considering the last band to attempt this setup are The Knife (i.e. completely brilliant) how could it fail? It couldn’t. CC were brilliant, confrontational and yet somehow tuneful… ish. It is especially satisfying as this is band who’s first single was recorded by mistake, the singer pratting around in the studio and those vocals being used on ‘Alice Practise’. CC may be the hipsters choice at the moment, but sometimes those twats get it right. Sometimes.
The Why Weren’t You Huge Award – Jimmy Eat World
When they got onstage for their Main Stage afternoon gig (the first of two) most in the crowd were there less out of obsession than out of a strange feeling that they should be there. Good choice. Very good. JEW proceeded to play a classic set of songs which you didn’t realise you knew and loved. It was almost perfect. Culled from Bleed American and Futures mostly, it demonstrated that there’s something unfair in a world which allows The Fray to become bigger than JEW’s real emotional rock. You should own Bleed American. No arguing. Being light on the earlier stuff was a shame, as it missed out the magnificent ‘Crush’, but they rectified that in their evening set. Stamina gets you everywhere.
Pissed And Wonderful Award – Patrick Wolf
Technical problems? Check. Pissed performer? Check. Fabulous glitter and violins? Check check check (actually !!! were good as well, but not pissed). Oh Patrick, how wonderful you are, with your craziness and beautifully dramatic songs. He’s like Rufus Wainwright with a folk fixation rather than a Judy Garland fixation. He also knows how to get an audience going. Thundering electro and folky strings shouldn’t really work but they do. His audience love him and it could spread. Yes, this is a gushing hagiography but ALD was there, y’hear? We were there! And there’s every chance that in future that might count as something to brag about, almost on a par with that time ALD saw The Killers at the Warwick Students’ Union with only 15 people in the crowd [snip! stop being boring – ed]
If there’s any demand for more awards then we might write some more. At the moment we’re just trying to work through the two year supply of museli bars we took and forgot to eat…
July 21, 2007
Ah, so it’s all mashups round here at the moment is it? In that case you’ll be wanting to look at Good Blimey a possibly illegal, but certainly interesting website which collates loads of brilliant, and not so brilliant mashups, from a wide variety of DJs.
Now to save you all some sifting I’ve dug up a few of my favourites, but there’s certainly others on there you might like more.
Peaches vs. The Rapture – ‘Fuck The Jealous Lovers’ by unknown
Ok, the mixing here ain’t the best. Peaches is too low in the mix, but the timing and the idea are rather fine. In fact this one is crying out for a proper version, or hell an actual performance from the two acts. Contains some high class swearing, but it involves Peaches so what were you expecting?
Dizzee Rascal vs. Interpol – ‘Live Stand Up’ by McSleazy
Now this is a bit of class. Well put together, and Dizzee sounds good against the New Yorkers’ dark indie. Also as it’s not a massively well known Dizzee track it functions with less of the novelty element that some mashups can have – it works well enough on its own.
Green Day vs. Opus 3 – ‘It’s a Fine Holiday’ by Divide and Kreate
Actually my favourite mashup of all time, partly because as a small thing I really loved the Opus 3 dance version of this track, and amazingly this works despite both songs being in different time signatures, and being rather unlikely bedfellows. No idea who came up with the idea (someone called Divide and Kreate) but it’s brilliant.
Kelly Clarkson vs. Rammstein – ‘Since You’ve Been Rosenrot’ by DJ Schmolli
Yes, you read that right. American Idol warbler Clarkson and industrial camp metal German dudes Rammstein, all mixed up and sounding sufficiently over the top for fans of both. Try it, you might like it!
July 17, 2007
Whilst Mat’s using a la discotheque to persuade the world that Kate Nash is the best female sing songwriter about (and she is rather ace) I dispute this. How can anything better this, the new single, and bonkers video, from Roisin Murphy, ex of Moloko?
It’s called ‘Overpowered’ and is made of pure awesome.
It’s an electro pop gem, and is going to sound amazing in clubs. Harass your local DJ for it now!
That is all.
June 05, 2007
It’s funny how sometimes a song sounds like another. It’s come up again recently, the rather fine new single from The Cribs, ‘Men’s Needs’, sounds curiously like Placebo’s ‘Black Eyed’ but with a squiggly guitar riff over the top… and slightly less campness. It’s not an altogether unfair comparison either. The Cribs have a wonderful new album full of sparky little pop indie nuggets, rather like Placebo themselves. Plus they’ve chosen to produce their new album with Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand, rather than in a bucket.
Indie pop aceness.
The Cribs – ‘Men’s Needs’
Endearing goth pop silliness… and the drummer was taught by the same geography teacher as me!
Placebo – ‘Black Eyed’
April 21, 2007
Writing about web page http://www.manics.co.uk
Every so often a song comes along which does exactly what it says on the tin. An Indian Summer is a period of warm weather appearing unexpectedly in the autumn, long after all concerned assumed that only crappy weather was on its way. Not everyone appreciates these indian summers, of course, but most people love the pleasant surprise of something you assumed lost reappearing. And now Manic Street Preachers have come up with a song called ‘Indian Summer’ and y’know what? It’s fantastic.
They look cool again!
The last two Manics albums have been somewhat divisive. Know Your Enemy was meant to drive away the casual fans but it nearly drove away most of their hardcore fans too. Lifeblood was an attempt to accept their late 1990s role as purveyors of shiny indie-pop-rock… except it was too shiny, too smooth, it sounded like all the nice slow songs off Everything Must Go and This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours without the fast exciting ones. For most people the Manics were artistically dead, looking like wandering into that autumn of a career where periodic but uninspiring albums would be produced in order to justify another nostalgia tour (we’ll call it ‘Rolling Stones’ Syndrome’). But that’s not very Manics now is it? No…
‘Indian Summer’ is off their new album, Send Away The Tigers. It’s ace. The whole thing is an completely unexpected return to form. The band sound like they care again. You can tell because, unlike the previous two albums, it sounds nothing like Nicky Wire has described it. KYE was a mess which scared away fans. Lifeblood was overly smooth and eleagic. SATT is not their debut Generation Terrorists updated. It’s way better than that. It’s like EMG, the album this writer regards as the best of all time. Obviously, it’s not that good but it’s loud, fast, melodic, etc etc.
It is the unexpected dose of the stuff you feared was gone. In short, an indian summer, and best of all, the song which bears that name is the best thing on the album (from what I’ve heard).
January 20, 2007
New year, new music!
2006 was fairly good for music I hope you’ll agree but 2007 also promises to be rather spiffing. Some of the acts who you will really need to check out are going to be profiled here over the next few days and we are going to start off with the latest slice of delicious indie goodness to escape from the north east of England.
Kubichek! are another band with a thing for exclamation marks. Not as bloody awkward to write as ¡Forward, Russia! or as goddam impossible say as !!!, they are part of that gang of bands which has thrown up The Futureheads and Field Music yet manage not to sound like either.
Kubichek! take the jerky new wave format which has served a lot of indie bands well over the last few years, and add muscle and speed. These are bigger and faster songs than we have been used to. Yet to soften the blow for those sensitive indie kids they layer their tracks with some rather lovely vocal harmonies. There’s something pleasing about the relentlessness and the sweetness, kind of like being licked to death by puppies. But with less drool.
They’re soon to release a new single, ‘Nightjoy’ which is a brilliantly danceable piece of pop magnificence which I’ve personally been inflicting on indie discos for over a year now. The long gestation period of this band has also apparently contributed to a tight live set which will be exhibited next Saturday 27th January at the Coventry Colosseum. Go and see them, it’ll be good for you! You’ll start adding exclamation marks to everything you do! And won’t that be like being five years old and high on sweeties again!!!
Here are the demos of ‘Nightjoy’ and ‘Hometown Strategies’. I could be controversial and claim that the ‘Nightjoy’ demo is better than the single but actually both are ace.
More tour dates for non-Cov residents
24/01/07 Carlisle, Brickyard
25/01/07 Barnsley, Lucorum
26/01/07 Swindon Brunell Rooms
27/01/07 Coventry Colosseum
1/02/07 Kingston, The Works
December 05, 2006
I am well aware that there are few bands out there who summon the spirit of Marmite quite like the Manic Street Preachers, so it was quite intriguing to watch the solo albums by the two remaining guitarists, lead guitarist/singer James Dean Bradfield and bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire, attract neither delirious praise nor acidic bile. In fact other contributors to this blog weren’t even aware that both had put out solo albums this year. Such is the journey to the quiet margins for one of the biggest, and most in your face, bands of the 1990s.
And it is just typical of this brilliantly perverse band that after one terrible album (Know Your Enemy) and one understated album (Lifeblood) it took them going solo to remember who they really are. It really is a blast of revitalised Manic Street Preachers, but that’s to say these are two Manics albums, rather two albums which demonstrate how the Manics came about from two different personalities.
In brief, James’s albums is big and glossy. This is where ‘Design For Life’, ‘If You Tolerate This…’ and ‘Sleepflower’ come from. It has big production, hand claps and sha-la-las. It also has a sense of melancholy and nostalgia about it. Lyrically simplistic but there are no furious attempts to cram the entirely of Das Capital into a three minute rock song so it flows. JDB has never been a man afraid of a soaring melody and The Great Western soars a lot, lush keyboards, his distinctive and brilliantly diverse guitar work. And the voice. If we forget that JDB has one of the bets voices of the 1990s then we are fools.
Nicky Wire on the other hand is famous for not having a good singing voice, more a ranting tool. He also plays bass, albeit not amazingly. So therefore logically his album features no bass and a newly acquired, punk rock, fractionally off key but almost always listenable singing voice (in my opinion, you’ll have to try it for yourself). But if JDB was always expected to come up with a solid album then Wire’s has been the greater triumph as even avid Manics fans did not expect him to come up with something as good as I Killed The Zeitgeist. It’s indie as indie used to be, lo-fi, low key and unexpectedly thrilling. Yes, he does still try to cram in big words and ideas into every song, but the excesses of recent times are gone and the angry poetry is back. Even better his handle on an unexpected softer side comes up with some of the best songs of the year.
Ultimately the only down side of both albums is the feeling you when listening to the best tracks (‘English Gentleman’ (JDB), ‘The Shining Path’ (Nicky), ‘Break My Heart Slowly’ (Nicky), ‘Run Romeo Run’ (JDB)) you find yourself wondering how amazing they would be as full band Manics tracks. But just like Star Wars Episode 3 made me want to watch 4-6 again, this is no bad thing. This is why these albums are here together. They belong together, like their creators.
Listen to these:
And whilst you’re at it, buy the 10th anniversary edition of the Greatest Album Of All Time, the amazing, wonderful, superlative ‘Everything Must Go’. It really is the most important thing in 1990s music! [/hyperbole]
December 04, 2006
If there’s one thing which seems to unite all music blogs, and most music fans, it’s the desire to bash the NME. This makes it particularly grating when they manage to get it right, but never fear, there are always other big selling magazines which are spouting rubbish. The Worst Piece Of Music Journalism Of The Year award this year goes to Q Magazine which reckons Silent Shout by Swedish electro geniuses The Knife is “A hideous mess of electro noodling and maddeningly obtuse, tuneless vocals” worth one star out of five. Now everybody is entitled to their own opinion. However Q likes to play it safe. For all its gushing about Radiohead and Pink Floyd, the most typically Q bands are Keane and Coldplay. Safe. Indie. Definitely not the sound of the entire history of electronic music collapsing into a blackhole.
Such a shame for Q really that in fact such a collapse sounds as magnificent and wonderous as it does. You really would have to be a technophobe, and an impatient one at that, to give Silent Shout one star. It suggests you have listened to it once, probably not even all the way through.
For those who want a real assessment here it is – Silent Shout takes all the distinctive, overused, overplayed features of electronic music and reimagines it as something beautiful and human. Yes, human. At heart this sounds like a woman (specifically singer Karin Dreijer Andersson) battling a stream of conflicting emotions against some challenging but rewarding music. And some blatant pop.
It takes guts to release the most tricky track on your album as a single, but The Knife took that leap and sent ‘We Share Our Mother’s Health’ out into the world. It is the perfect encapsulation of them. On first listen it’s a noise, a mess, and a disturbing one at that. Any more than one listen, however, is enough to bring out the thrilling rush of the piece, the melody (yes, there is one) and the feeling that it’s not really that disturbing, more a mad rush.
The rest of the album is more accessible, and quite emotional at times. There is an unexpected pathos in many songs, ‘Marble House’ and ‘Forest Families’ in particular should rip out the heart of any listener.
This isn’t about easy listening. This isn’t about trying to appear cool. This is simply pop music as you forgot it could be, challenging, rewarding and real.
Listen to these tracks. I was going to give you ‘Marble House’ but that song is so amazing, so wonderful, so fantastic that I believe you should bloody pay for the privilege of listening to it. Yes, that good.
December 02, 2006
The danger of an early release for an album is that it can slip from people’s minds as the year progresses. This I fear could be the fate of the second album from Delays, which will be a real shame if it happens. This is the classic example of why bands need space and time. So many bands recently have produced a second album which is merely a slightly different rehash of their first, maybe with bigger producers and budgets, maybe with added burglary and prison (cough, Libertines). But what if a band came band with an album which improved on the negatives from their début? You See Colours is a perfect example of the latter phenomenon which must not become a victim of the former.
As melodic and tuneful as their début was, it lacked a punch. It was the sort of music you could do your homework to, lovely, soothing but not as urgent, not as vital and the records which make you sit up and pay attention. Not any more. You See Colours sounds like they’ve had an entire jar of disco biscuits shoved down their throats. Without sacrificing a single thing which made them good in the first place, Delays have gotten better – beats you can really dance to, swaggering synths, and a sheen which treads the right side of epic.
The only real mistake that is made is the unloading of the best four songs as tracks #1-#4. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with shoving them on repeat, it does mean the more subtle moments of the album, the later tracks, could get missed out. But what an opening four! There are maybe three or four albums released this year which can hold up an opening to match ‘You And Me’, ‘Valentine’, ‘This Towns Religion’, and ‘Sink Like A Stone’. Each is wonderful, with ‘Valentine’ in particular one of the best songs released this year. No question. The delivery of the line “I heard the last night on earth is for living”is more worthy of praise than most of the other songs which have been inflicted on the Top 40 this year.
So swirling La’s-like jangle and a heavy duty dose of disco/electro? What’s not to like?
November 16, 2006
One of the best things about indie is that it is ridiculously broad. Compare it, if you will, to metal where anytime a band comes along which doesn’t sound exactly like some pre-existing band they are rewarded with their own sub-genre. At the most recent metal genre census it was revealed there are more metal genres than inhabitants of Belgium. But indie is just nice and broad…
Which is why it can be intensely frustrating dealing with the music press sometimes. At the moment they (and by “they” we are largely concerned with the magazine everyone loves to hate but read – NME) are currently enthralled by their latest concoction – New Rave. New Rave is the fusion of late 1980s/early 1990s rave music with modern indie, encompassing dayglo clothing, glow sticks and whistles. It has had a lot of print space, and is seeping into the broadsheets, figureheads already appointed. There’s just one slight problem. Musically it’s the emperor’s new clothes. And the best example is the ‘genre’s’ leading lights – Klaxons.
I have long been accustomed to scepticism about NME hype bands – I maintain Pete Doherty has yet to write an entire song which is worthy of the praise he gets (although he’s managed some excellent parts to songs) – so naturally I treated all talk of Klaxons with a roll of the eyes. As a fan of indie and electronica I was wondering exactly what the hell New Rave could actually be. Apart from the non musical accessories (and to be fair if you like the Manic Street Preachers you’ve almost certainly seen gaudy clothing and glowing items at an indie concert before anyway) I couldn’t get my head around how it could all be rave. So the best solution was to go and see Klaxons live.
Conclusion: They were great! Really really good live, excellent atmosphere, great songs, good stage presence. Where they New Rave? Were they bollocks. It was indie. Fast indie, indie with a disco beat, indie with sampled sound effects occasionally, but INDIE! According to NME the fact they cover two rave songs (‘The Bouncer’ and ‘Not Over Yet’) was a sign they were true New Rave. Well the other day I heard the Magic Numbers doing a cover of Hot Chip’s ‘Over And Over’, surely this makes them New Rave too. And the Arctic Monkeys’ cover of ‘Love Machine’ makes them a girl band who formed on a TV talent show. Tell me I am not alone in seeing the stupidity of all this.
The Grace cover, ‘Not Over Yet’, was a set highlight, it was brilliant. It also sounded like an indie song. Whatever its dance origins, Klaxons’ turn it into a good quality indie stormer, musically like a souped up version of The Research, and vocally reminiscent of loads of good bands, albeit none of which are regarded as trendy by the NME.
Even their singles, like ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’, don’t sound like rave songs.
Klaxons – ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ MP3 Expired
Klaxons – ‘Not Over Yet’ MP3 Expired
So there you go, you might want to hate them for what they’ve been hyped as, but there’s no need. Klaxons are not the punchable pretentious genre-name-droppers they might appear to be, at least not when their songs are cranked up. Have a listen for yourself.
As ever, don’t believe the hype.