Archive | July, 2009

Reverend and The Makers ‘A French Kiss…’ – Review

23 Jul

Old Rev’s debut album ‘The State of Things’ wasn’t that good. It was pretty shocking actually. some OK songs really let down by flat production and vocals that made you want to move to London so you never had to hear a northern accent again. It didn’t help that Rev thought he was some kind of modern day Joe Strummer – his full political rage was delivered on the truly bad ‘Mongral’ album unleashed earlier in the year. Fair play – the guy has strong and noble political views, but he seems to think he is some kind of messiah whose words will change the world. They won’t because he simply isn’t good enough at this moment in time.

Not that this album is bad, which is all the more surprising. There is nothing really that stands out but there aren’t too many stinkers either, in fact it all kind of blurs into one hazy record – the album title is quite apt. It is an album of chaos but there are moments to savor. Brief moments – not entire songs – but basslines, hooks and sometimes lyrics that actually make you think. On first single ‘Silence is talking’ it’s the borrowed horn section that really steals the day and makes the track a winner.

The influence of Britpop is all over this record, a nice shift of gears from the more upbeat Jam-esque vibe of ‘The State of Things’. It is commendable that Rev has opted for a more adventurous album when many of his contemporaries prefer to stick to one formula. It is also commendable that he continues to strive for political change even in the face of hostilities and flak he receives. His political ramblings even hit the mark on ‘No soap in a dirty war’.

If a political, britpop throwback record is your cup of tea then you are likely to love ‘French Kiss in The Chaos’, even if it isn’t the classic you imagine Rev wants it to be. It is considerably less annoying than the debut and makes some positive strides in the right direction. This is a man with something to say and I look forward to hearing what will come next.

5.5/10

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Mercury Music Prize 2009 Nominations

21 Jul

The nominations for the 2009 Mercury music prize were announced this morning at the Hospital Club in Convent Garden. There were no major shocks in the nominations, although I was a bit surprised to see no Franz Ferdinand, White Lies or Doves. Florance and The Machine have emerged as early favourites although my money would be on dark Horse Bats for Lashes with ‘Two Suns’ or ‘Primary Colours’ by The Horrors, who deserve the prize in my opinion. We shall find out the winner on September 8th. Below is a list of nominations.

Bat For Lashes – ‘Two Suns’
Florence And The Machine – ‘Lungs’
Friendly Fires – ‘Friendly Fires’
Glasvegas – ‘Glasvegas’
The Horrors – ‘Primary Colours’
La Roux – ‘La Roux’
Led Bib – ‘Sensible Shoes’
The Invisible – ‘The Invisible’
Lisa Hannigan – ‘Sea Sew’
Kasabian – ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’
Speech Debelle – ‘Speech Therapy’
Sweet Billy Pilgrim – ‘Twice Born Men’


Thom Yorke Solo Show

21 Jul

Radiohead play Reading and Leeds next month, and in preparation Thom Yorke performed a small solo show at this year’s latitude festival. He played mostly songs from his solo album ‘The Eraser’ and Radiohead’s most recent album ‘In Rainbows’, but the real treat was a preview of a new song. It is unclear as to whether this will appear on a new solo album or Radiohead’s next release (due out hopefully next year), but to be honest it didn’t sound too different to what we’ve heard from Thom before. You can watch it below as well as view the set list.

‘The Eraser’
‘Weird Fishes/Arpeggi’
‘Atoms For Peace’
‘Harrowdown Hill’
‘Follow Me Around’
‘Everything In Its Right Place’
‘The Present Tense’
‘Cymbal Rush’
‘Black Swan’
‘Videotape’
‘There There’
‘True Love Waits’


The Dead Weather ‘Horehound’ – Review

19 Jul

Pffft, I almost can’t be bothered. Another year another Jack white album. You know what to expect from this – A Plodding, bluesy, raw, unedited trek through a jungle of feedback and wailing vocals. The difference (the only major difference) is that this time the vocals are provided by Alison Mosshart of The Kills whilst Jack takes drums. Other than that it is business as Usual. On the plus side this is a huge improvement on the borefest that was the second Racoteurs album, and it has a grittier sound than we are used to with The White Stripies. There is definatley an edge to this album that hasn’t been seen on a Jack White album since White Blood cells and there is clearly a good dynamic between the band members (I’ve also heard they are great live). But at the end of the day this album is a slog to get through – too long, to samey and too ‘So What.’ Bring on next year and the next White Stripes record….

6/10

Gossip ‘Music For Men’ – Review

17 Jul

I’ve never been a big fan of Gossip, like most people I was familiar with thier breakthrough hit ‘Standing in the way of Control’ and am aware of Beth Ditto’s slightly weird celebrity status. I have to admit that ‘Music For Men’ is the first time I’ve listened to a full length album by the bad, and I am surprised to say I actually quite like it.

If you don’t like Gossip then this won’t change your mind, it never drifts too far from the ‘Standing in the way…’ formula. So expect big songs that start of quiet then get really loud, a disco punk vibe and lyrics about being ‘different’. This isn’t world changing stuff (though you get the impression they wan’t it to be), and it is not a classic album. But it is a fun and very listenable album, one that I wouldn’t mind listening to in my car, in my room or at a club. The through back disco style is a nice change of pace from many other pop albums of the year, and ‘Heavy Cross’ and ‘Vertical Rhythm’ are particularly great, although even these songs can’t quite touch ‘Standing in the way of Control.’

This would be a much better album if Gossip had the guts to cut this down to 9 or 10 tracks because as it stands the album is too long. And when all the songs sound essentially the same it can be tiresome at times. It’s not that there are any terrible songs (only because they are all too similar so you neither get an unexpected classic anymore than you get a big mistake) but there are a few that follow the formula less successfully, such as ‘love and let live’ which is a yawning cliche.

The production is crisp (as expected) and I suspect their sound is more refined and less adventurous (as expected) after a move to a major label. By the end you wonder if Gossip are a one trick pony but that is for them to dispel on another record. Nonetheless this is a good record, much better than I thought it would be.

6.5/10

Julian Casablancas

14 Jul

To the dismay of any Strokes fan waiting for their elusive fourth album, Julian Casablancas has announced the release of his debut solo album.  The album will be called ‘Phrazes for the young’ and will be available sometime in the Autumn but little else is known about the project. A trailer has been released showing some cool 70’s images with an r&b track playing that may be a hint of his new direction. Previous Strokes side projects have been fruitful with Albert Hammond Jr, Little Joy and Nickle Eye all releasing strong albums in the last few years. No news yet of album 4 by the band and it seems like we could be waiting a while yet!

La Roux Vs Little Boots Vs Florance and The Machine

9 Jul

This month has seen the release of three debut albums by some 80’s loving, slightly eccentric British women. There has been a lot of competition between the three (competing for press, tv, radio etc) so I thought I’d spin all three to find out which is worth investing in.

La Roux – La Roux

Listen without any prior knowledge and it would be easy to think this album came straight from 1984. The Synths are squeaky, the drum machine is kicking and the vocals are robotic and strong. There are some killer tunes here as proved when two songs when top 2, not bad for a first attempt. ‘Bulletproof’ and ‘In For The Kill’ were the singles and they are also two of the best songs here, on what is a singles driven album. ‘Quick sand’ and ‘I’m not your toy’ are also future hits, surely, and both could easily have been  Annie Lennonx songs as well. Like much 80’s pop the songs are steely hard and just as cold. La Roux’s vocals are good but hardly stunning, you certainly wouldn’t class here alongside Lennox in that respect.

Unlike 80’s pop albums, I can’t help thinking there is a classic ballad missing. There are some slower songs but they never really hit the mark, and she is missing one essential ingredient of that decade – echo. The production is very simple and 21st century, I think it’s the one thing letting this album down.

Overall this is a good pop record, original, dark and intelligent. I don’t think it’s a classic, but it could be the start of better things for La Roux.

Little Boots – Hands

If La Roux comes straight from 1984 than Little Boots is a little harder to track down. In fact she could equaly be said to come from 1974, 84 or 2004! She is equaly parts glam rock, prog rock, synth pop and kylie pop. The production is very modern and in keeping with Girls aloud, Sugababes etc which gives ‘Hands’ a much more contemporary sound than ‘La Roux’. That’s not to say this album is uninteresting though.

I feel it is a three headed album. First you have the earlier songs we are all familiar with – ‘Meddle’ and ‘Stuck on repeat’ That Little Boots made in her bedroom on some high tech instrument and then posted on youtube. The we have the shiny, dancey numbers that were clearly worked on by some big name pop writers (see ‘Remedy’ and ‘New In town’) and then we have the rest of the album – slightly weirder songs that vary in quality.

Hands is a very good pop album from someone who only has an OK voice.  It isn’t as funny or original as Lilly Allen, isn’t as sharp as La Roux and isn’t as immediate as Girls Aloud – but it’s confidence and ambition make it a sure winnder. I love the style and the sharp vision which make Hands a winner.

Florance and The Machine – Lungs

This album is very well named. Whereas Little Boot’s album was hand crafted and sculptured (i.e the title ‘hands’) this album is all about the voice (i.e the title Lungs.)

But Florance isn’t the amazing singer she thinks she is. Her voice is whimsical and powerful sure, but it you can’t help thinking that echo plays a large part. At times she feels distant and fantasy like, a voice to admire but not one to love. Unfortunately there is too much emphasis on the voice and not enough on the songs which are all over the place.

It kicks of with two belters -‘ Dog Days’ and ‘Rabbit Heart’ – but the highlight is ‘kiss with a fist’ which represents the rockier side of the album. ‘Howl’ and ‘I’m not calling you a Liar’ also stand out. By the final few songs however I was bored and slight tired of her voice. Several songs sound the same – tired, forgettable and indulgent. ‘Lungs’ is not a bad debut but I forsee much, much better albums than this to come from Florence.

Results

1. ‘Hands’ – Little Boots = 7.5
2. ‘La Roux’ – La Roux = 6.5
3. ‘Lungs’ – Florance and The Machine = 5.5