Archive | February, 2010

Two Door Cinema Club ‘Tourist History’ – Review

28 Feb

Two Door Cinema club come from a place called Bangor in Northern Ireland. You don’t hear many new bands coming from Northern Ireland do you? Well, I don’t. unfortunately you wouldn’t get any sense of their geography from their debut album. The Singer’s voice is rather bland and Indistinct and the sound is more Northern England than Northern Ireland, in terms of their obvious influences.

Their music is quite post punk but as their favourite bands on myspace show this group are more indebted to Bloc Party and Death Cab For Cutie than Joy Division. This apparent lack of history is evident in their second-rate material that wouldn’t have sounded out of place alongside Boy Kill Boy or The Wombats a few years ago. The difference is that whilst those bands were derivative and a bit bland they at least had tunes, at the very minimum two or three. Two Door Cinema Club have a distinct lack of tunes. Nothing on here would set an indie club going, if any of these songs came on people would probably evacuate the dance floor.

They aren’t bad songs really, if only they were bad songs. New bands can only do great things if they push themselves and experiment. Marina and the Diamonds is a good example of a new artist that made an album filled with some terrible, even embarrassing moments. But at the same time she never settled for mediocrity and her record is full of weird and wonderful twists and turns that sometimes work and sometimes don’t. But the journey was at least interesting. Two Door Cinema Club have one mode, and it’s plod.

‘Undercover Martyn’ is one of the better tracks, the drums spur on the vocals and the pace of the song is it’s saving grace. ‘What You Know’ is also worth mentioning, they can write some decent lyrics and on this song they are complimented by some more interesting musical flourishes. ‘Eat That Up’ is another track that stands out, mainly because it has a sweetness that the rest of the album lacks.

‘Tourist History’ is not a fantastic debut album, how could it be when it strives for mediocrity? It’s not even a long album and yet it feels very long and very unexciting. If you wondered what all the fuss was about with Foals and the post punk revival of a few years back then you should not go anywhere near Two Door Cinema Club. There are moments of interest here, lyrically they are intelligent and thoughtful and when they add some colour to their songs, as they do occasionally, things sound a lot better. Overall though I would steer clear.


Darwin Deez

26 Feb

Wow this guy is growing on me. I first posted about him back at the beginning of January and whilst I liked what I heard it’s only after hearing him again on the radio that I realized just how good he is. The song ‘Radar Detecter’ is just so, so catchy – I don’t want to like it but I can’t get it out of my head! Have a listen on his myspace

Marina and the Diamonds ‘Family Jewels’ – Review

26 Feb

Is anyone else getting sick to death of British female singers? To begin with it was a nice change of pace from guitar driven boy bands, and the likes of Lilly Allen and Amy Winehouse were genuinely unique and interesting. But they have just inspired a seemingly never-ending list of clones that seem only interested in being more bizarre than the last and belting out the tunes with increasingly bigger voices.

There was Duffy and Kate Nash to begin with (the clean cut versions of Amy and Lilly respectively) and they in turn gave record labels encouragement to seek out the likes of La Roux, Florence and Little Boots. But recently we have had the garbage that is Adele, Pixie Lott, Paloma Faith and the not completely bad but certainly boring Ellie Goulding and Daisy Dares You. It is an annoying trend and one that I thought would end ages ago but shows no sign of slowing.

Marina and the Diamonds are an odd one to categorize; they fall somewhere between Florence and the Machine and Paloma Faith but more interestingly, although expectedly, they also draws inspiration from Kate Bush. Marina’s voice is certainly strong and even quite unusual, if you imagine a cross between Regina Specktor and Imogen Heap you are probably pretty close. She has a pretty stunning range and therefore manages to sound sincere on ‘Obssesions’, madly passionate yet appropriately robotic on ‘I Am Not A Robot’ and absolutely crazy on ‘Hollywood’.

Does she do enough to differentiate herself from the rest of the pack? Well the album certainly isn’t without it’s faults but this is a good debut that establishes Marina as one to watch. Whereas La Roux and Florence made great singles and very patchy albums, ‘Family Jewels’ sounds well crafted and thought out. It’s certainly too long and there are far too many ideas but that is quite admirable in a new artist. In terms of hits there is nothing here to match ‘Bullet proof’ or ‘Rabbit Heart’ but then neither Florence or La Roux had an album track to match ‘Are You Satisfied’.  lyricaly and musically this is an ambitious and rewarding listen.

The first side of the record is very strong but things fall down a bit in the second half. Everything past track 7 ranges from average to forgettable to terrible. In fairness the terrible moments are rare but lyrical embarrassments do pop up every now and then (‘Hermit the Frog’) and the weird accents in ‘Oh No’ are a bit cringey. Perhaps these songs aren’t so bad, maybe the first seven tracks simply wore me out to an extent that I didn’t want to hear any more. Only lots of repeated listens would answer that question but it has to be said that I don’t really fancy listening much more to this. Not that it’s bad, it’s just….too much.

‘I’m a F**King Wild Card!’ Marina declares halfway through the album. She actually is kind of. It’s still a bit of a clichéd, try hard album but it’s nowhere near as predictable as most of the chart music at the moment. Marina crafts dreamscapes that are not at all original to pop music but her great voice and off the wall production make this an enjoyable album. Repeated listens may be a bit too much to take (at 13 tracks and 50 minutes of craziness even one listen is quite overwhelming) but it wouldn’t be a bad thing to hear ‘Hollywood’ or ‘Obssessions’ on the radio.


Johnny Cash ‘American Recordings VI: Ain’t No Grave’ – Review

25 Feb

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly seven years since Johnny Cash was taken from us, one of the last genuine greats of popular music. It’s been four years since the release of ‘American Recordings V: A Hundred Highways’, something that is equally hard to believe. I can still remember the excitement and anticipation that greeted that album and the relief that was felt when it turned out to be a fitting final farewell to The Man in Black.

Only that wasn’t the final farewell. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere near the anticipation for ‘American Recordings VI: Ain’t No Grave’ that there was for the last album, in fact it’s release seems to have passed many by, meaning this probably won’t repeat the previous record’s feet of reaching number one. Nonetheless there will be many fans going crazy over the release of these songs, amongst the last Johnny recorded (including his very last recording ‘I Corinthians 15:55’)

Has the wait been worth it? Yes and no. The main problem, if you consider it a problem, is that there isn’t much here to distinguish the album from the other American Recordings. The other albums in the series have unique attributes, from the acoustic darkness of American I, to the band backed, country tinged American II and the melancholic American IV. However this album simply retreads the themes and sounds of the American V. The opening song, the title track, is strong enough in of itself; the problem is that it sounds almost identical to ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ from American V, without matching its power. ‘For The Good Times’ recalls ‘If You Could Read My Mind’ (and both songs are excellent) but his voice doesn’t bend and break in the same way. Nonetheless it includes some fitting final lines such as ‘Don’t look so sad, I know It’s over.’ The less you compare this album to the others the better it gets. As an individual piece of work this is cohesive, well sequenced and enjoyable.

Like the album that preceded it, ‘Ain’t No Grave’ lacks the quiet melodrama of earlier American Recordings but gains something from the simplicity and sadness. Johnny’s voice constantly feels close to cracking and the subtle arrangements compliment both his strengths and shortcomings. Despite his age and proximity to death his voice on ‘Cool Water’ sounds stronger than it has done in many years. It isn’t this consistent throughout but even when he is breaking up this legend could put anyone else in their place.

Johnny Cash has had more farewell songs than Lord of the rings had farewell scenes. There was his brilliant cover of ‘We’ll Meet Again’ on American IV that sounded like a last goodbye, and ‘I’m Free from the Chain Gang Now’ ended American V in a optamistic manner. But it seems the song that will really close Johnny’s recording career is ‘Aloha Oe’. Truth be told it doesn’t work as well as those other songs, it is a little relaxed and anticlimactic. It’ll do however, it’ll do.

‘Ain’t No Grave’ is a good album and a fitting final statement, if not as strong as the five other records in the series. American V seemed to be the perfect conclusion to the Johnny Cash story, and because of that, and the fact that this comes four years later, this record feels a bit redundant. It does nothing that the other album didn’t do, it simply repeats the themes in a less succesful manner. That said this is more than a pleasing record and there is nothing on here to taint Johnny’s name, nor spoil the work Rick Rubin has done in resurrecting his career. I am thrilled just to hear the results of these final sessions and am pleased that these songs do the man in black a great service.


Random Why?

22 Feb

I’ve linked some songs I’m loving right now. Why? Because I can. Because I’m bored. Because I think they’re super. Super. SUPER!!!

‘Only You Know’ by Dion from the influential but largely ignored album ‘Born to Be With You’ as produced by Phil Spector. For my money this is one of his best productions.

From the wonderful Francoise Hardy

‘Hanging on the Telephone’ by The Nerves. Punk classic that was later brilliantly reimagined by Blondie.

Doo wop classic,  ‘Duke of Earl’ by Gene Chandler.

From the film Grease, ‘Sandy’, classic melodrama.

Oh the 80’s, the best of times and the worst of times – or something. But I love ‘Borderline’ by Madonna

I’m looking forward to the new Dum Dum Girls album being released on Sub Pop. Here is a taster, ‘Jail La La’.

The new Pipettes song is a bit rubbish frankly. So I’ve been reminding myself of better times. ‘I Love You’.

The two real stars of the brits were Jay Z and Dizzee. ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’.

And something with a bit of an edge…

And a great way to end this random playlist…