Archive | June, 2010

Robyn ‘Body Talk, Part One’ – Review

29 Jun

The Clash didn’t make a penny on ‘Sandinista!’ (their follow-up album to ‘London Calling’) – they surrendered their royalties in order to make the 3 disc set as cheap as a single record. Their label weren’t keen on this idea, obviously, but The Clash even took care of that by tricking their bosses into thinking it would be a 2 disc set with a bonus single. The album itself may not have been up to much (by all accounts; I’ve never been able to sit through it myself) but the band’s loyalty to their fans has gone down in rock legend.

This is relevent because Robyn’s new album is also a three disc set, only she is releasing each disc separately and expecting her fans to pay full price for each cd. Not only that but they aren’t even full length disc’s, she is calling them ‘8 track mini albums’ and the first one has just been released, labeled ‘part one’. She can’t even blame this stinginess on her label because she doesn’t have one, she owns her label. It’s all a bit of a rip off if you ask me, one album essentially split into three parts and released for nearly three times the price of a normal album. She must have created something pretty unique to get away with it right?

Well all things considered the answer would have to be, not really. There are flashes of genius here but the after effect is frustration over anything else. It’s such a predictable problem but this album is just too sketchy. You can’t help but ask why Robyn didn’t just select the twelve best tracks and make one great record rather than releasing all 24 songs. Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, afterall part 2 and 3 could be flawless, but part one certainly isn’t. As I say, flashes of genius but an overiding sense of frustration. First the good stuff…

‘Dancing On My Own’ is as good a pop song as you will hear anywhere this year, even if it does go on longer than it probably should. It pulls off the great trick of being sad and euphoric at the same time; it embodies the album’s theme of loneliness and fierce independence but at the same time it’s a great party song. ‘Fembot’ is almost as good, with it’s twisting lyrics and futuristic beats. ‘Cry When You Get Older’ completes the trilogy of great songs, this one taking a slightly more melancholic turn with its universally applicable lyrics about growing up in the modern world.

The album opens on a slightly more bewildering note, with a disarming tirade against the world called ‘Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do’. It begins as an irritating  Lady Gaga pastiche before evolving into a self-important rant that is as irritating as it is rather addictive. Less interesting, though certainly less inflammatory, is the inoffensive and somewhat bland ‘Dancehall Queen’ which doesn’t sound anymore sophisticated or colourful than a Christina Aguilara album track. ‘None of Dem’ is also a chore until the final minute when it comes to life in a way that’s slightly predictable but satisfying nonetheless.

‘Hang With Me’ shows off Robyn’s voice nicely which makes you wonder why this isn’t done more often as she really has a rather powerful and distinctive vocal range. The album ends with what I assume is a Swedish folk ballad, and it’s nothing more or less than that. It’s quite an unassuming end to an album that ultimately feels very assuming and very self-important. Robyn is an artist who straddles the line between commercial pop music and artistic pop music, with one foot in each camp she is able to produce chart friendly singles and more experimental but still accessable tracks. It does not make for a particularly comfortable or coherent album, I was left extremely confused as to who exactly Robyn is and who she wants to be. But’s it’s definatley worth downloading the four best tracks, and I will still look forward to hearing part two. It’s just a disappointment that this wasn’t crafted into something more substantial because if it had been then this could have been a very good album indeed.

7/10

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Best Coast ‘Boyfriend’

29 Jun

Below you can listen to the brilliant new single from Best Coast, ‘Boyfriend’, taken from the album ‘Crazy for You’ which is out on July 27th.

Peter Quaife dies, aged 66

25 Jun

Today is already a pretty sad day, being the first anniversary of Michael Jackson’s death. Now the news has filtered through that last night Peter Quaife, former bass player of The Kinks, has died. His band were one of the most important of the 1960’s, best known for a run of classic singles, of which there are far too many to list here, and their 1968 album ‘We Are The village Green Preservation Society’, which is without doubt one of the finest LP’s ever made.

Ironically Ray Davies, leader singer of the band, is playing the legend’s slot at Glastonbury this Sunday and rumours of a reunion have been rife for months. It could be argued that The Kinks were the last major band of the 1960’s with all their members still alive, and so the passing of Peter Quaife marks the end of an era.  R.I.P.

Look who’s back…

25 Jun

…and better than ever

The Drums To Work With The Shangri-Las

24 Jun

This is like a match made in heaven. According to the folks over at NME, The Drums are set to write an album for Mary Weiss of the Shangri-las. For those of you in the dark, The Drums are 2010’s best new band whilst The Shangri-las are probably the archetypal girl group best known for their hits ‘Leader of the Pack’, ‘Walking in the Sand’, and ‘Out in the Street’. Little has been heard of Mary in recent years but she has one of the most distinctive voices in pop history so if The Drums are able to give her some fresh material then the results will surely be worth waiting for.

This might be a good idea of how the combination will sound

The Chemical Brothers ‘Further’ – Review

23 Jun

For the last couple of albums The Chemical Brothers have been too dependent on guest vocalists – like Gorillaz but without the great tunes. Their rotating army of singers have ensured chart smashing singles aplenty but this resulted in albums that felt strung together and directionless. It is telling therefore that ‘Further’ is their first album not to feature any guests. It is a brave move and definitely one that was needed to get some life back into a group that were once considered to be at the cutting edge of electronic music but haven’t been in over a decade.

If their last album was too familiar and safe then they have certainly fixed that part of the problem. Aside from the lack of support artists, ‘Further’ shows signs of change in other areas as well. There is no obvious hands aloft anthem, which (either by design or not) makes this a much more consistent album. It doesn’t feel like they’ve been searching for a hit, so now the album is the star rather than one particular song. But without the usual calling points, this is a difficult album to get a grip on.

Things takes far too long to get going, especially as the record itself is only eight tracks long. It opens with ‘Snow’, a pretty but slight song that mainly serves as an introduction to the already excessively long ‘Escape Velocity’. They spend 12 minutes umming and ahhing over where to take the song and they never really reach a conclusion. However once the momentum has been set things don’t really slow down. Despite what can only be described as a yawning start ‘Further’ really springs into life on ‘Horse Power’, a song that finally reminds you why this band were once considered to be one of the best in their field. The good vibes continue on ‘Swoon’, which is just about the best thing on here, and also the song that most recalls their early work. The album closer is called ‘Wonders of the Deep’ and it ends the album on a euphoric and hopeful note.

For the most part this is atmospheric and well thought out dance music but at times it feels like (high energy) music for airports. ‘Another World’ and ‘Dissolve’ have no personality and they don’t really progress the album in any way. Chemical Brothers have always been one of the more faceless groups in a very faceless scene but even for them this is bland stuff. There is no meaning behind the songs, there is no recognizable trait that they have stamped onto the album and without anything truly buzzing that makes this a fairly flat ride. I’m not saying they should have pasted on a ‘Do It Again’ or ‘Galvanize’ just for the sake of it, but the album is definitely lacking some balls.

Perhaps that is the point. I’m not saying that they deliberately steered clear of hits, but they almost certainly intended to make an album that works as an album. On those terms ‘Further’ can be considered a success, if not a complete success. What they probably didn’t intend was to make such a personality free record. It’s long, yet short on songs, it takes a lifetime to build but at least it goes out on a high. If they can combine this new-found adventure with a bit more sparkle next time around then they will be laughing.

6.5/10


Kele ‘The Boxer’ – Review

21 Jun

Bloc Party burst on to the scene with as much hype on their shoulders as any British Band since. They were equal parts energy and misery, a band who initially caught our attention with some blistering early singles and then kept it with two albums of introspective melancholy. Their third album was a mess of contradictions and contrasts – the dance element that had always been there was forced to the forefront by Kele, seemingly to the annoyance of the rest of the band. It was Bloc Party’s fantastic rhythm section that won them the most praise in the first place but on ‘Intimacy’ it felt like they wern’t being put to good use. It’ no surprise then that Kele has gone solo to pursue his own drum n bass aspirations in an enviroment that won’t destroy his band.

‘The Boxer’ opens with a military chant, tribal drums and the refrain of ‘I’m Getting Taller’. The song is called ‘Walk tall’ and whilst hearing it you may be looking at the album art of Kele, in a vest, biceps bulging, ready to fight. It couldn’t be anymore obvious that this is a man who wants to shatter your perceptions (those perceptions probably being that he is a shy, reclusive, indie type). He seemingly wants to become a larger than life, dance floor monster and it’s quite the contrast to compare the Kele of 2010 to the one of five years ago.

It’s clear that he has entered the ring with his baggage left in the changing room. There are traces of Bloc Party here but the guitar is barely used and if his lyrics are moody then I certainly didn’t notice until about ten tracks in. Still, if you know ‘Flux’, ‘Mercury’ or ‘One More Chance’ then you probably won’t be too surprised with the direction Kele has gone in. His main goal (other than asserting himself as a real solo artist) was to have fun, and it’s mission accomplished as far as I can tell. ‘The Boxer’ is short on subtlety and big on beats and catchy hooks – he sounds like he’s enjoying himself  and the listener is also invited to have a good time. The likes of ‘Rise’ and ‘Tenderoni’ are good old-fashioned party songs, that make no attempt to be cutting edge or innovative but hit home for exactly that reason.

Most of these songs resemble something you would find on an old ‘clubland’ compilation – ‘On The Lam’ and ‘Everything You Wanted’ in particular are what some people like to call ‘club bangers’, and I get the impression this is a phrase Kele would use in a very non-ironic way. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s great that he has embraced club culture so totally, and it’s assuring that he isn’t using dance textures in a cynical way as so many indie artists do. At the same time he has sequenced ‘The Boxer’ in a very knowing way. This doesn’t feel like a collection of random club tracks, it dips and peaks in exactly the right moments and the slower songs are mixed in with the faster ones which makes this undeniably a proper album.

Kele is well and truly out of his comfort zone and it’s likely that on listening to this the majority of his fan base will be as well. Depending on the angle you’re coming from ‘The Boxer’ could be considered brave, foolish, stupid, retro, edgy, clichéd or thrilling. If you’re an indie fan you may consider this forward thinking dance music, or you may just find it slightly alienating. The dance fans listening may rejoice at the amount of club anthems in waiting or they may just find it clichéd to the point of naivety. Either way you look at it you have to admit that Kele is a pretty determined guy. If nothing else ‘The Boxer’ has rejuvenated my waning interest in his music and I look forward to seeing where he goes next.

7.5/10