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April 21, 2007

Manic Street Preachers – 'Indian Song'

Writing about web page

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).

Manic Street Preachers – ‘Indian Summer’
[Preorder Send Away The Tigers and watch a short film on the making of the album.]

April 02, 2007

A Listeners Guide to Electric Soft Parade

Electric Soft Parade

Electric Soft Parade are a ‘classic’ indie band. In the same way as you get ‘classic’ rock, but without the potential for being appalling or having ridiculous hair, leaving just badly unshaven faces and good tunes. The brothers Tom and Alex White (no secret marriages here folks, they are actually brothers) have been going at it now for at least 6 years under this guise, although there was a heavy hiatus (i.e. they were dropped by their label) after second album, The American Adventure, to pursue side projects (included the much lauded Brakes). They bounced back to release the great Human Body EP on Truck Records late in 2005 and have spent the past year making full length No Need To Be Downhearted, ready to be released round about April 30th I think. But more on that later…

Holes in the Wall

Their debut, Holes In The Wall, is single-heavy, hook after hook from songs like Empty at the End and There’s A Silence from riffing guitars and keyboards. It’s not spectacular, but they knew their way around pop structures, despite some experimentations with the formula that don’t quite work (the 4 minute trainspotting outro in Silent to the Dark anyone?), there’s not a bad song in there. The album closes with two of my favourites though. Biting The Soles OF My Feet, as disgusting as it sounds, manages to fit verses, choruses and bridges all over the place, subtleties in the layers of music never making its 6 minutes a long haul. The final track Red Balloon For Me, is just a simple Beatles-esque ballad that is executed with perfect aplomb before cutting a left-turn into tape destruction.

The American Adventure

Follow-up The American Adventure should have been big. At least, that’s what the record label were hoping. What the White brothers delivered was a lot more introverted and meandering (not to mention possibly rushed) than the previous effort. The singles Things I’ve Done Before and Lose Yr Frown were the lighter exceptions. Song structure is played with a lot more, the centrepiece title-track starts with shoegaze, strips down for a verse, gets bass heavy for a while, another three different song ideas are played with before a violin bow drops us down where we end up with a Pavement pop song coda. It’s definitely a bold move to step away from the straightforward pop, but as an album it’s a heavy drag to get through. However saying that, the two-three combo of Bruxellisation and Lights Out is the best section of the album, playing with more luscious production without compromising the songs. The former is full of twinkling guitar lines, build-ups and let downs without shoving it your face, before seguing into Lights Out a chunky reimagining of their established sound with a killer chorus.

The Human Body EP & No Need To Be Downhearted

The album pretty much bombed commercially, the band seemed to disappear. I heard snippets around that they were still going somewhere, but there was no output. Suddenly in 2005, Brakes appeared with Give Blood, and suddenly ESP were preparing an EP. A Beating Heart, which opens The Human Body EP, shows exactly where they ended up. A relentless thumping bass drum leads us into the first of three sections of the song, where the middle orchestral instrumental opening us up for the final punk thrash. There’s a lot more confidence on display, in both production and also with the full-on-ness (a new phrase I made) of the tunes. New single If That’s The Case, Then I Don’t Know is the obvious follow-up, another driving rhythm, a proper sugar-coated monster of a riff, coupled with a few hiccups in the chorus to keep you on your toes. Misunderstanding and Appropriate Ending continue the trend, great, nay, ‘classic’ indie pop tunes that stray from the formula just enough and with enough vigour to become staples of my head music playlist at any rate.

Look out for the rest of the album when it drops on April 30th, it’s about time for a comeback…

From Holes In The Wall (2002):
he Electric Soft Parade – Biting The Soles Of My Feet MP3 Expired
The Electric Soft Parade – Red Balloon For Me MP3 Expired
[Buy The Album]

From The American Adventure (2003):
The Electric Soft Parade – Bruxellisation MP3 Expired
The Electric Soft Parade – Lights Out MP3 Expired
[Buy The Album]

From The Human Body EP (2005):
The Electric Soft Parade – A Beating Heart MP3 Expired
[Buy The EP]

From No Need To Be Downhearted (2007):
The Electric Soft Parade – If That’s The Case Then I Don’t Know MP3 Expired
The Electric Soft Parade – Misunderstanding MP3 Expired
The Electric Soft Parade – Appropriate Ending MP3 Expired
[Pre-order the Album]

[The Electric Soft Parade Site] [MySpace] [Fansite]

March 30, 2007

Digging up the Muse

Aren't they nice boys?

I’ve been a bit lazy this week, digging around for one-shots for the aim of writing as little as possible. Today is no different, and your blast from the past this time is Muse.

I grabbed these tracks way back in sixth form, scarily 6/7 years ago now, when me and my friend harassed another Computing A-level student in a Muse t-shirt to lend us the rare Random 1-8 B-sides CD. It collects the non-album tracks that appeared on the band’s early EP’s, when Matt Bellamy still sang like he wanted to be Jeff Buckley and they weren’t really sure how far to push the dramatics. For that reason, the songs aren’t brilliant, but they are still pretty damn good (two ended up as Hullabaloo content, although I think two here are better). Funnily enough, before the release of Origin of Symmetry all of these tracks were freely available to stream from their over-the-top Flash site (for the times anyway).

Pink Ego Box (or Instant Messenger on one of the EP’s) is probably my favourite, a quiet introduction building and leading to a bass heavy crunch of an outro. Only this time, instead of about space dementia and black holes he sings about chatting to his would-be girlfriend on MSN. Interesting.

Coma rocks out Showbiz style, riffs all over the place, a particularly tasty main course with again (unintentionally?) humourous lyrics. ‘I don’t care simply because I can’t wake up and find it in me / I’m in a coma’. Right. It does show the Muse dynamic pretty well, though, Matt’s manic licks over that solid rhythmic backbone. The last chorus tries pretty hard, but unfortunately can’t reach the same peak as something like Cave or Sober (another one for amusing lyrics).

The last song here, Host, shows Matt had a love for the ‘singing-into-the-megaphone’ trick a long time before Feeling Good. Its quite reminiscent of another cover of theirs, House of the Rising Sun, only with tacked on lost verses from Unintended in-between.

After reading what I just wrote, I guess I’m not really selling the quality of the tracks. They are a decent trio of songs, nothing special, just a welcome alternative to those who want to hear something different from them, that isn’t packed to the teeth with their now patented over-ambitiousness. However, it does also just make me want to put Showbiz on again and bounce around the room. See you in a bit…

From Random 1-8 EP (2000):
Muse – Pink Ego Box (Instant Messenger) MP3 Expired
Muse – Coma MP3 Expired
Muse – Host MP3 Expired href=””>Good luck with buying this]

[Muse Homepage] [Muse MySpace]

March 28, 2007

New Clientele Tunes on MySpace

Follow-up to The Clientele from á la discothèque

God Save The Clientele

Lo and behold, a week after posting about my favourite Clientele tracks, they go and post one of my soon-to-be favourite Clientele tracks up on their MySpace. Bookshop Casanova and Nothing but Sunshine have been added to their playlist and if it weren’t for my awful internet connection, I’d be all over the page and the recordings. However as it is, I’ve had to slyly record it (complete with buffering gaps) and fix it up in Audacity just to hear the bloody things.

They are fantastic by the way…

The Clientele MySpace

...And if you haven’t caught the tracks I posted earlier, grab them now because they’ll be gone in the morning.

March 26, 2007

Single Shot: When I Goosestep

Spot the fifth Shin

It’s hard to write anything about The Shins without retreading the usual arguments and reasons for their popularity. But the fact of the matter is, if they hadn’t written the brilliant records they are noted for, they wouldn’t be fawned over and elevated to the height they are.

I can’t write much about Wincing The Night Away, apart from that it’s another showcase of gorgeous melodies with a different production aesthetic to the previous two. I’m sure I will listen it to death much like I have Chutes and World but I’ve not had the chance yet.

There’s always been one non-album track though that has stolen my heart (and when they played it live at Oxford last year I melted), and that is When I Goosestep. The studio version actually isn’t that special, coming from the early pre-Inverted World era, it’s too choked up with its basement production and low-level vocals to really shine. I’ve included it here because I have it, and if it would still be a great song if I hadn’t found this alternative recording.

The radio session I’m talking about here is stripped down, just James strumming guitar and Marty (I think) adding perfect understated keyboard accompaniment. The vocals are pushed up front and centre, where they should be, and elevate the song above it’s murky origins. James ends the chorus, ‘I’m so impressed that you hear, my inventions / And that it matters more than what you saw with your eyes.’ They may not be most exciting band to look at live, but their inventions definitely impressed me, and most prominently this one.

If anyone actually knows where the radio session is from that would be awesome, because I have no idea.
The Shins – When I Goosestep (Studio) MP3 Expired
The Shins – When I Goosestep (Radio session) MP3 Expired
[Homepage] [Myspace]

March 23, 2007

Missing Maxїmo

Maxїmo Park - I copy pasted the ї from the character map...

Maxїmo Park are a brilliant band. Nuff said.

Our Earthly Pleasures comes out later this month, and if the signals and signs of Our Velocity are anything to go by, it will be another cracker. I’ve got here a few b-side tracks from the album Missing Songs. Compilations like this always seem like a cop-out, a money maker for poor souls like me trying to get every track possible. But here, the tracks are of top quality (minus the demos), worthy enough to sit alongside many of the album tracks. Which is praise enough, because I can’t think of a single track on A Certain Trigger that it could do without.

Fear Of Falling is actually the second song I heard, coming from the Apply Some Pressure single. It stops and starts and surprises like all good pop should, constantly changing yet sounding seamless in its transitions. It’s almost a shame they don’t stretch the ideas out into a longer song, it being over before you know it.

Stray Talk is an acoustic number, somehow transferring their melodic interplay to a stripped down production. A welcome departure from manic energy, but still it only gives you a couple of minutes breath before the next track. In a recent interview, they mentioned more acoustic tracks being played with for use as b-sides which, from this account, is a great idea.

The final track here is a remix of I Want You To Stay by the glorious Field Music. A piano lifted from the intro to Cheers leads us down the stairs and we are invited to stay with Paul for a drink or two. With the Field Music boys we are gifted to a gorgeous reinterpretation of the song, all bouncing piano and effortless lead guitar lines. ‘You know the way I feel’ closes out the song and with it you also know its a place you wouldn’t mind returning to for another night.

From Missing Songs (2006):
Maxїmo Park – Fear Of Falling MP3 Expired
Maxїmo Park – Stray Talk MP3 Expired

From I Want You To Stay single (2006):
Maxїmo Park – I Want You To Stay (Field Music Mix) MP3 Expired

[Maxїmo Park Website] [Myspace]

March 21, 2007

The National : Alligator & Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers

Thanks to
[Photo from]

The National are a New York band without all the trappings and baggage that seem to go along with that moniker. They are primarily another indie rock band, but their albums enjoy a mix between the raucous and the reminiscent. The sound is a far cry from the sharp riffs and post-punk beats of many of their contemporaries, opting for a more melodic, layered and ultimately more satisfying approach. They come out with their fourth album, Boxer, later on this year, but it’s definitely worth catching up with some of their older material.

Alligator was the last album they released, and most people’s (including mine) entry point. They toured along with Clap You Hands Say Yeah which was a double edged sword in terms of exposure as most people appeared for the support act and left before the National even took to the stage. Which is undoubtably a stupid thing to do, because Alligator is a fantastic record. Singer, Matt Berninger, dishes out lines somewhere between sarcasm and dead seriousness about various objects of love. The song All The Wine is a brilliant piece of narrative, built over chiming U2 guitars until a final release with Berninger crooning, ‘Nothing can touch us, my love’. Karen is another fantastic tale, a lover trying to explain his actions over rolling piano and lines like ‘It’s a common fetish, for a doting man, to ballerina on the coffee table, cock in hand’, with nary a smirk or a wink of the eye. As I said at the start, they can get explosive at times as well, Abel, Lit Up and the powerful closer Mr. November. The latter crashing around as Berninger sing-shouts ‘I won’t fuck us over, I’m Mr. November’ throughout the chorus. The slower, less immediate songs help the album as a whole to grow on you. The more introspective songs such as Daughters of the Soho Riots and City Middle may seem inherently skippable at first, but soon provide a more interesting contrast of pace and mood.

Thanks to Lowdownbeat from the Allthewine Forums
[Photo from the AllTheWine Forum]

I picked up Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers a little later, in the Marketplace of Warwick Uni for a rather tasty £7. It begins with a much darker tone with Cardinal Song, but gets brighter towards the end of the album with songs like the playful Fashion Coat. Yet there’s also a slight country tone apparent, with slide guitar appearing several times and songs like It Never Happened, Trophy Wife and 90-Mile Water Wall displaying that typical alt-country strum and beat. Murder Me Rachel and Available are pretty much most indicative of where the National sound was heading, the former builds up into screeching violins and doesn’t stop, only barely dissolving into muffled shouts and drum rolls after a telling line, ‘Tomorrow won’t be pretty.’ It’s overall not quite as coherent as Alligator, the style of music is more varied and the production sometimes isn’t executed with the same diligence as the stronger songs.

Listen to these, and buy the albums in preparation for Boxer, which is out on May 21st.

From Alligator (2005)
The National – Karen MP3 Expired
The National – All The Wine MP3 Expired
The National – Mr. November MP3 Expired
[Buy] *Highly Recommended*

From Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (2003)
The National – Slipping Husband MP3 Expired
The National – 90-Mile Water Wall MP3 Expired
The National – Murder Me Rachel MP3 Expired

[The National Homepage] [The National MySpace]

March 19, 2007

Mat, Chris and Holly's Indie G–String – 16th March 2007

Police Brutality... Awesome.

Holly joined us in the studio for a collective orgy of music, live across the known Universe on RaW 1251AM, and hillarity ensued...

  • Three minutes of news. Wanna know what happened on Friday? Find out here
  • Guillemots – Trains to Brazil
  • Rakes – 22 Grand Job
  • Welcome to The Mat Mannion Show... That went down well… Chris’s landlord, Mr. Landlord, is dead.
  • Maximo Park – Our Velocity
  • Klaxons – Atlantis Interzone
  • It’s bloody dreary out, really. It’s a tough show for the Daily Mail… Mother’s Day and Interflora. If a woman’s chest fails, her vagina will fall out, and Chinese men are afraid their penis will go into their body. Weird.
  • The Clash – I Fought The Law (For all those poor souls who fought the establishment in Glasgow)
  • Aerosmith and Run DMC – Walk This Way
  • I apologise for mocking the efforts of the brave souls who fought the law in Glasgow. Unfortunately for them, the law won. And rightly so
  • Kings of Leon – On Call
  • The Jam – Going Underground
  • Holly’s friend and her very loud (3 hour) friends who live in the flat above and are very audible every night. What can we do? Good things.
  • Calvin Harris – Acceptable In The 80s
  • Give money to Comic Relief by texting HEARING to 82125 (texts cost £1)
  • Manic Street Preachers – Underdogs
  • New Manics album, some shitty (topless) producing
  • The Arcade Fire – No Cars Go
  • The show comes to an end, as does the current run. We’ll be back after the Easter holidays with more malarkey and hijinks, but that doesn’t include getting bladdered and being fished out of the bay from a capsized pedal boat at 4 in the morning… Well, never mix work and pleasure, I say. Also: The Arcade Fire live, Chris’s dead landlord’s funeral.
  • Feeder – Insomnia

Download FOR KEEPS

Apparently, according to Ofcom or Ofsted or someone you’re not allowed to say ‘bollocks’ or ‘tosser’, so… sorry. Not sure I said either of those two things, mind?!

Also, apologies for some really funky skipping whilst we played some songs. The digital playback system was really backed up and slow on Friday and it was causing some audio problems :(

Many thanks to Holly for joining the show this week.


Writing about web page


Today, I’m being rather lazy.

I was going to post again about one of my favourite bands, but I’ve been distracted too much. One of the distractions has been the release of this little demo of a game called Gesundheit!. ‘So why post it here?’ I hear you cry. Well, it just so happens to have some of best produced music written for an independent freeware game I’ve ever heard. Toy xylophones and flutes mix with accordions and guitar to produce some instrumental love-child between The Decemberists and The Boy Least Likely To. Along with the graphics and game itself, where you play a little green pig with a hayfever problem trying to lure monsters into traps, it’s also probably the most twee game I’ve ever seen. Just play it, you’ll love it.

Download the game Gesundheit! here
Download the Gesundheit! Soundtrack here

March 16, 2007

Double Shot: Ice Hockey Hair & Citizens' Band

Super Furry Animals

As well as new music, I figured I’d start writing about songs by bands you’ve heard of but maybe not heard. These could be EP tracks inbetween albums that get lost and forgotten, B-sides that outshadow the A-sides, hidden tracks on albums you never knew about or just songs that are just good, that you need reminding about. First up are the Super Furry Animals, and you get two tracks in the first installment, Ice Hockey Hair and Citizens’ Band.

I mentioned previously that my favourite Super Furry Animals album is Radiator, saying it was when I first really was ‘exposed’ to the delights of this Welsh collective. Inbetween Radiator and their next album Guerilla, they released a fantastic EP of songs, including the one here, Ice Hockey Hair. It’s a meld of everything that was good on Radiator, the joyous disregard for seriousness in all of the lyrics, a killer guitar line, an even bigger chorus, and a playful mash of production styles without sounding like a bad patchwork. That kind of playfulness in the studio led to the more eclectic Guerilla, ranging from calypso (Northern Lites), techno (Whereever I Lay My Phone), straight up folk (Fire In My Heart), barbershop ambient electropop (Chewing Chewing Gum) alongside their usual oddball indie-rock.

Super Furry Animals

Which leads into the second track, Citizens’ Band. One of the best songs on that album, it’s probably the least recognised, because on the original CD you have to rewind the first track (Check It Out) for five minutes to get to the start. What you get for your troubles is another perfect amalgamation of the SFA sound, all with a fondness for the fad of CB radio talk (if you got the CD with a cardboard case, it also has a glossary of these phrases hidden on the inside). A simple flute line leads us in, and Gruff Rhys pulls out a few lines to start us off. A rollicking chorus somehow appears after a quickening of pace, but its stay is cut back as the song slows back down to our ‘lonely cartel’s musings. By the time the second chorus comes around, we’re led further in, more guitars layering on top with ‘mic in hand, on the Citizens’ Band’ repeating us down the highway for the home stretch. It’s simple, in context of the whole record, but that helps it stand out as one of the better songs, it doesn’t need a production quirk to make it interesting.

From Ice Hockey Hair EP (1998):
Super Furry Animals – Ice Hockey Hair MP3 Expired
[Buy Super Furry Animals Songbook Vol. 1]

From Guerilla (1999):
Super Furry Animals – Citizens’ Band MP3 Expired
[Buy Guerilla]

Weren't you in Notting Hill? Err... yeah, but I also did Rancid Aluminium, remember that? Err... no.

The Furries’ are preparing us a new album for release in the summer but there’s plenty to keep you ticking over while you wait. There’s an album from frontman Gruff Rhys, Candylion, out now, and some songs from another side-project, The Peth (above, also featuring original SFA singer, Rhys Ifans. Recognise that name?) available on their MySpace. One of the songs is called Let’s Get Fucking Mental. Yes, lets…

The Peth Myspace
Candylion Album MySpace
SFA News etc.

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