Archive | September, 2010

NME Radar 2010

30 Sep

NME have got a good new compilation coming out featuring tracks from The Drums, Summer Camp, Avi Buffalo, Sleigh Bells, Darwin Deez and Washed Out – basically some of the year’s best – and it’s pretty good value for £7.99


1. The Drums – Best Friend
2. Everything Everything – My Kz Yr Bf
3. Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks
4. Summer Camp – Ghost Train
5. Avi Buffalo – What’s In It For?
6. Best Coast – Boyfriend
7. Frankie & The Heartstrings – Tender
8. Crocodiles – Sleep Forever
9. Sleigh Bells – Riot Rhythm
10. The Joy Formidable (featuring Paul Draper) – Greyhounds in the Slips
11. Cults – OMG
12. Darwin Deez – Radar Detector
13. Fiction – Phyllis
14. Chapel Club – All The Eastern Girls
15. Freelance Whales – Generator 1st Floor
16. Warpaint – Elephant
17. Washed Out – New Theory
18. Zola Jesus – Night
19. Grouplove – Colours
20. Egyptian Hip Hop – Rad Pitt

The Japanese Popstars ‘Let Go’

30 Sep

A good new track and video from The Japanese Popstars

Mark Ronson ‘Record Collection’ – Review

25 Sep

Do you hate Mark Ronson? I bet you do, it seems most people do, at least most people I’ve met. Mums quite like Mark Ronson, and people who listen to Heart Fm, they think he’s edgy and cool because he wears sharp suits and has a quiff. If you hate him then I’m willing to bet you also hate horns – trumpets, saxophones, trombones etc – Mark Ronson is forever linked in people’s minds with horns.

But come back, because Ronson has ditched those particular instruments for his new album, which is unexpectedly synth pop orientated. A bit strange you may think, like Elvis ditching the jumpsuit, The Ramones ditching the leather Jackets, Kiss without make up or Phill Collins with no drums. Actually horns are a pretty recent obsession for Ronson, he made his name as a hip hop producer/DJ, and if you look at his entire catalogue you will find relatively little horn action (this is the last time I will mention that word!). For the record, I didn’t hate his last album, obviously I was as sick of ‘Valerie’ and ‘Stop Me’ as anybody after hearing it for the six billionth time, but I thought it was pretty fun and original.

‘Record Colletion’ is a much different proposition, it’s a sleeker, hipper and a much more exciting album, which rounds up some of the best new bands and artists. Working alongside Ronson are Rose Elinor Dougall, The Zutons, Theophilus London, Mystery Jets, Spankrock, The Drums, The View and Alex Greenwald plus there are guest appearances from the likes of Boy George and Duran Duran. With all those people working on it you would hope that the resulting album is up to scratch and thankfully this is.

You’ve probably already heard ‘Bang Bang Bang’ and ‘The Bike Song’ and as far as I’m concerned they are two of the best songs released all year, I haven’t been able to get them out of my head for months. ‘Somebody To Love’, ‘Loose It In The End’ and ‘You gave me Nothing’ are nearly, nearly as good which is in itself  quite astonishing – it’s unusual enough for an album to have one perfect pop song, let alone five. But you just have to look at Ronson’s track record to realize that he has something of a magic touch, just look at how he turned around the carears of Amy Winehouse and Lilly Allen.

As a complete album ‘Record Collection’ is a bit of a bumpy ride. It begins with those five absolutely knock out songs but they sit alongside each other quite awkwardly, it almost feels like they are competing with each other to be as catchy and loud as possible. Heard individually they really leave an impression, but they do clash a bit when you hear them all in a row. However there has been an attempt to make this a flowing record, there are three interludes which basically serve to give the listener a break from the ferocity of the other songs. These interludes are interesting and often bizarre but I’m not convinced they are that succesful – ‘The Colour of Crumar’ for example just feels very unnecessary and sluggish. It leads into the album’s weakest track ‘Glass Mountain Trust’ which in turn leads into ‘Circuit Breaker’ a pretty random instrumental that sounds like a mega drive game soundtrack. It’s at this point the album starts to fall apart and it becomes apparent that this is a front heavy collection. Even so, the second half does contain a couple of tracks worth seeking out. The title track is as personal and revealing as Mark Ronson does, whilst ‘Hey Boy’ is a great Mystery Jets written song, performed brilliantly by Rose Elinor Dougall.

‘Record Collection’ is not a great album but it is a great collection of singles, at least seven of these songs could be huge hits. That’s what it feels like – seven great songs held together by three unusual interludes and a bit of filler. It isn’t very cohesive (to be expected with all these diverse acts involved) but it still hangs together well enough, and overall it’s a hugely enjoyable and fairly innovative piece of work.


British Sea Power Return!

24 Sep

In October British Sea Power return with a pretty epic new ep that they are calling ‘Zeus’. Apparently a song called ‘Cleaning Out The Rooms’ will be on a proper album that is coming out in January. But this will more than do for now (check out the title track over on the band’s website.)

1) Zeus
2) Cleaning Out The Rooms
3) Can We Do It?
4) Bear
5) Pardon My Friends
6) Mongk
7) Kw-h
+ unlisted bonus track ‘Retreat’

Manic Street Preachers ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ – Review

22 Sep

Nicky Wire recently described Manic Street Preachers as the last survivors of Britpop, and I suppose he’s right, although I’d never really considered them a britpop band to begin with. There was something too rebellious, too excitable, too dangerous about The Manics that separated them from the often predictable Oasis, Blur or Pulp. If any band looked like they were going to implode at any moment it must surely have been them, but even after Richie’s disappearance they carried on releasing a steady stream of records whilst others faded away.

If you look at their output post Richie’s disappearance an odd trend presents itself – they have always released a bad album after a good one. After ‘This is My Truth Tell Me Yours” came the forgettable ‘Know Your Enemy’, then came the more interesting ‘Lifeblood’ which was followed by the tired sounding ‘Send Away The Tigers’. So after last year’s excellent ‘Journal For Plague Lovers’ I was half expecting this new release to be a non event – and true to form it is.

They have described ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ as their last shot at mass communication, therefore I thought it may contain songs in a similar vein to ‘A Design For Life’ and first single ‘It’s Not War – Just The End of Love’ certainly has a lot  in common with that classic, it just isn’t as good. Unfortunately every other song feels like an attempt to be that spectacular and without exception they fail. For some reason almost everything on here has been coated with the type of shmultzy over the top strings that are usually reserved for X Factor singles, the arrangements are sooo heavy-handed and excessive that it makes this an overwhelming listen. In fact all the excess takes me back to the last days of Britpop. If you close your eyes and listen to ‘Hazelton Avenue’ you could easily be in the mid 90’s again, and it’s not a pleasant sensation.

This isn’t an entirely lost cause, if you can get past the over the top production you will discover a few good melodies and well thought out lyrics. ‘Golden Platittudes’ is nice and the title track is classic Manics – they are still great song writers, they just haven’t conveyed that well enough here. So back to Nicky’s opening statement about this being their ‘last chance’ basically to storm the charts – is this what they think is popular right now? Ten, fifteen years ago I could have seen a few of these songs being hits but we live in a different age now where the minimalism of The Drums and The XX is cool, even the charts are dominated by very streamlined pop singles from Tine Tempah and professor Green. All this clatter and excess just doesn’t cut it at the moment, and as a result ‘Postcards From A Young Man’ sounds very dated. So yeah, after an excellent record comes this and I fully expect whatever they do next to be much, much better.


I’m getting lost in your curls…

22 Sep

…I’m drawing pictures on your skin, so soft it twirls

Weezer ‘Hurley’ – Review

20 Sep

I saw Weezer at Leeds Festival this year and they nailed it. I half expected them to come on stage, slouched over their instruments and play a set of half-hearted album tracks, but instead they did all the hits whilst dancing around in wigs and kilts, jumping on mini trampolines and running out into the audience. Live they are clearly on top form but their output over the last decade has been a bit more sketchy. 2004’s ‘Make Believe’ was absolutely slated on release, ‘The Red Album’ got a worse rap than it deserved and last year’s ‘Raditude’ – well, the less said the better.

Rivers Cuomo is widely regarded as a pop genius and the band’s first two albums are as influential and highly regarded as anything released in the last twenty years. However the group’s last three albums (at least) have been pretty infamous for having some terrible material on display. At times Rivers was writing songs from the perspective of his teenage self, at other times he was writing songs for teenage Miley Cyrus fans. And when he wasn’t writing terrible songs by himself he was writing terrible songs with a whole host of guests.  Who could forget the awful Lil Wayne appearance on ‘Can’t Stop partying’ or Dr Luke on ‘I’m Your Daddy’. These songs tended to take the attention away from a handful of genuinely brilliant ones, including some stunning singles. The new album, ‘Hurley’, has been described by the band as a return to the rocking style but is this more hyperbole or could they be telling the truth?

Well, In a way they are telling the truth. This is certainly their most ‘rocking’ album in a decade and you might even call it a back to basics record, but there are still hints that they long for a real pop/r&b crossover, and Rivers is still keen to write with everyone and anyone in the industry. Thus we have songs on here co-written by everyone from Ryan Adams to Mac Davies and there is still the odd foray into the strange. Luckily though for the most part there is more of a reflective and grown up mood on ‘Hurley’ (ignoring ‘Where’s My Sex’, more on that later.) Opener ‘Memories’ is about how Rivers would like to go back to his youth, and the early days in the band – It’s a bit obvious and gooey but it’s effective, especially as it contains some great hooks. The same theme reappears on ‘Time Flies’ which is possibly the saddest conclusion to a Weezer album since ‘Only In Dreams’. It’s great stuff.

Unfortunately the maturity doesn’t hang around too long. A lot of the album is pretty lightweight both musically and lyrically. There is a great album in here somewhere, that much is blatantly obvious, you just wish that they didn’t have to turn everything into a joke. ‘Where’s My Sex’ is amusing for all of three seconds but it could have been so much more, a rocker in the vein of ‘Hash Pipe’ perhaps. ‘Smart Girls’ has some witty rhymes and a great opening line but there are hints that it could have been remembered for something more than that. It does make you wonder what happened to the thoughtful, articulate writer of ‘Only In Dreams’ and ‘Butterfly’.

But comparing this album to their past work is doing the band a real disservice. For so long websites and magazines have given recent Weezer albums a hard time for not living up to the band’s legacy, but how could anything the group release live up to those high watermarks. Taken on its own terms this is a fun and enjoyable album, and it shouldn’t be slated just because it isn’t as good as ‘The Blue album’. ‘Ruling Me’ is an instant stand-out and it contains the type of riffs Weezer built their career on, whilst ‘Trainwrecks’ is also undeniably catchy. ‘Hang On’ is excellent, it sounds like a huge hit in waiting, a ballad that seemingly ran away from home in the 80’s and ended up here. Overall there are far more enjoyable moments than there are cringey ones.

More and more Weezer are becoming a singles band rather than an albums band, and for a group that made two of the best alt rock records of all time, that is pretty disappointing but it’s not the end of the world. ‘Hurley’ is more than decent, and whilst it may not be as good as some people want Weezer fans must now accept the fact that the group will probably never make a classic album again. Rather than thinking of this as another failed attempt at greatness, except it for what it is (and what the band want it to be) – a load of fun.

P.S. This has got to be the best cover of all time, the album gets half a mark for that!