Archive | May, 2011

The Wombats ‘…Proudly Present: This Modern Glitch’ – Review

27 May

Do you remember The Wombats? Admittedly it’s been a long tim; they’ve lost any momentum they once had, a situation they may have been hoping to change by drip-feeding us singles from this second album for the best part of a year in an attempt to re-establish some interest. They are best known for their hit ‘Lets Dance to Joy Division’, a song so ridiculous that many people thought it was a novelty tune. On ‘This Modern Glitch’ they continue to write about usual subjects – the chorus to ‘Anti-D’ goes ‘Please allow me to Be your anti-depressant’. That line alone makes the song unbearable to listen to and unfortunatley the rest of the album is often equally cringe worthy.

All the tracks follow an identical formula; zany lyrics, restrained verses and then multi-coloured, synth heavy, everything but the kitchen sink choruses. There really is no diversity here, the only thing that differentiates one song from another is the pace and intensity. But in fairness they have more than a handful of catchy songs; ‘Jump into the Fog’ and ‘Techno Fan’ are particularly infectious. But as catchy as many of these songs are, I don’t think they ever completely nail it, there is nothing on here to replace ‘Lets Dance to Joy Division’ or ‘Moving to New York’ on a DJ’s indie playlist. Close but no cigar.

The Wombats obsession with being quirky and ‘different’ often has the opposite effect, they come across as try hard, predictable and repetitive (they even have a new B-Side with the title ‘Addicted to The Cure’ – after that Joy Division song it’s surely only a matter of time before they force-fit The Smiths into a title!). This Modern Glitch is like a big bag of pick n mix sweets that you gobble down too quickly; it’s enjoyable at the time but leaves you feeling a bit sick. It hits you in the face with its immediacy but gets less and less interesting the more you hear it. Ultimately ‘This Modern Glitch’ is too colourful, too sickly and has too many e-numbers for my taste. But If you like synth-pop songs with sky-scraper choruses then I don’t see why ‘This Modern Glitch’ wouldn’t be your cup of tea



26 May

New single from the deeply mysterious WU LYF, who release their debut album ‘Go Tell Fire to the Mountain’ on June 13th.

Beat Connection ‘Surf Noir’

24 May

I recently found out about a band called Beat Connection. If you like Washed Out, Neon Indian and Animal Collective then this will probably be your cup of tea. They have a mini album out called ‘Surf Noir’ which you can grab HERE.

Tyler the Creator ‘Goblin’ – Review

20 May

You probably know about the controversy surrounding Odd Future – you probably knew about the controversy before you actually heard the music. We all know the equation – controversy + hype + time = backlash, and the backlash against Tyler and Odd Future is now in full swing. I’m sure you will have an opinion on whether the collective’s use of homophobic, racist and misogynistic lyrics is justified, and I’m sure you will have an opinion on whether the hype is justified; personally I think it is. Also, I think that older critics are making waaaaaay too much of the subjects Tyler raps about. To be honest I’d be surprised if younger listeners, raised as we are on violent video games and easy internet access, will be too shocked or horrified by the subject matter on ‘Goblin’. We’ve become desensitized. To us it’s just entertainment, and we enjoy it in the same way we would enjoy Pulp Fiction or Grand Theft Auto; that’s a disturbing thought, but the fact is I’ve yet to actually speak to somebody who is seriously shocked by Tyler and his friends. We realize that Tyler isn’t really a rapist; he’s an excitable, frustrated, provocative teenager looking for attention and getting it in spades. He is pushing peoples buttons, and the more people react the more self-satisfied/angry he becomes.

That doesn’t mean this album is easy listening, far from it. Tyler raps about having a threesome with a pregnant mum and her unborn child. He raps about kidnapping teenage girls, raping them and recording it. He frequently calls people ‘faggots’, ‘bitches’, and, of course, ‘niggas’. At its worst this album is absolutely detestable, and not just on moral grounds but also on musical grounds (The song ‘Bitch Suck Dick’ is just about the most offensive, awful mess in every sense of the word). But one thing should be remembered; Tyler isn’t setting himself up as a shining light of society, the first line on the album is ‘I’m not a fucking role model’.

At one point Tyler tells the listener ‘You fuckers don’t have to listen…If someone gets blamed because some white kid had aimed his AK47 at 47 kids, I don’t want to see my name mentioned.’ His therapist/alter ego replies  ‘I don’t think anyone takes you seriously enough to believe you.’ It’s a fair point, who could take this stroppy teenager seriously? He is lashing out against everyone rather than a single target. I mean, if his sharp insults was aimed solely in the direction of the gay community or women for example, then that would surely be more telling, but Tyler doesn’t discriminate with his discrimination, he is just generally an angry, angry guy. If you can get past the controversy and embrace his anger then this is a captivating and extremely exciting listen.

Lets talk about the music, which is often ignored in the Odd Future debate, and personally I think it’s worth talking about. ‘Goblin’ sounds completely original and unique; admittedly I’m not connoisseur of cutting edge hip hop (although I have been acquainting myself with the popular hip hop blogs this week to get some context) but it certainly doesn’t sound like any record I’ve ever head. The beats fall over themselves, rapping breaks down mid flow, creepy effects distort the voices, songs regularly pass the six-minute mark, the cheapest and ugliest synths you could imagine litter the songs and you’ll probably feel dirty after listening – that’s the point. This is not meant to be an easy or pleasant listening experience, everything from the lyrics to the music is deliberately confrontational and uncomfortable. The music and the beats are just as ugly as the things Tyler is rapping about, but it’s utterly addictive in the same way that cheap fast food is.

On ‘Yonkers’ Tyler begins by telling us he’s ‘a fucking walking paradox…no I’m not.’ Such contradictions are a common occurrence on ‘Goblin’, for example,  ‘I’m not a homeaphobe…fagot.’ (Whilst we’re on the gay topic, it’s interesting to note that Tyler’s producer is a lesbian, and Tyler has appeared in drag during the promotion for the album – plus his constant references to rainbows and unicorns suggests he is very much in touch with his feminine side!). Like one of his heroes, Kanye West, Tyler knows he is a hypocrite and he embraces this fact. Because of this you never know which Tyler is going to show up; their’s furious, vindictive Tyler (‘Yonkers), the creepy stalker Tyler (‘Her’) or lonely and confused Tyler (‘Window’). In other words he’s a typical teenager, just one who has been given a creative outlet, and on ‘Analog’, possibly the album’s best song, this is exactly how he comes across, as a teenager looking for a good time. At this point I want to briefly mention Tyler’s voice, which is a huge part of  the appeal; it’s deep, gravelly and it sounds almost ancient in its depth and richness; It doesn’t sound like the voice of a teenager, and maybe that’s why people forget that he was just 19 when he wrote these songs.

Whilst ‘Goblin’ may be severely flawed as an album (it’s too long, too hit and miss, too repetitive etc), it establishes Tyler and Odd Future as true individuals, and even when it’s a mess it’s a captivating mess. It may be up and down in terms of quality but that’s always with the case with artists who strive so hard to be original and cutting edge, they always make mistakes along the way. But the mistakes are part of the Odd Future experience, and that’s how ‘Goblin’ and all of  Odd Future’s musical output should be digested, as part of the larger experience, along with the visual imagery, the tweets, the live performances, the crazy interviews etc; it all contributes to the package. It’s that experience, rather than this album alone, that will be remembered for decades to come – this is just the springboard.


The Zombies ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In’ – Review

19 May

The following is a list of acts that have cited The Zombies as an influence: Animal Collective, Beck, Arctic Monkeys, Foo Fighters, Fleet Foxes, Mystery Jets, Paul Weller, The Vaccines, The Drums…the list could go on. Panda Bear has even gone as far to say that Animal Collective’s much admired harmonies are largely inspired, not by The Beach Boys as is commonly assumed, but by The Zombies. When it comes to long-term impact few have been as influential as this group. If you haven’t heard their music before then first things first go out and buy THIS and THIS, you won’t be disappointed. ‘Odessey and Oracle’ is arguably the best British album of the 1960’s (and therefore all time) and they also had some of the best singles (‘She’s Not There’, ‘Tell Her No’, ‘This Will be Our Year’, ‘Time of the Season etc).

The group split up in 1968 but a few years ago they reformed and they’ve been consistently touring (to ecstatic reviews) ever since. However their new musical output since then has been hit and miss; Colin Bluntestone’s latest solo album was well received but The Zombies first album since the sixties, 2004’s ‘As Far as I Can See’, got universally panned. It was with some trepidation therefore that I stuck on their new album ‘Breathe Out Breathe In’. This time around I had read nothing but nice reviews, and thankfully the praise is mainly justified.

‘Breath Out/Breathe In’ is a pleasant album. I realize that pleasant is hardly what most bands are aiming for, but it really is the word that best describes it. Listening to it is like slipping into a pair of comfy old slippers or watching a re-run of your favourite sitcom, it just makes you feel utterly satisfied. There are some wonderful moments on here, moments that remind me why The Zombies are one of my favourite bands. The title track for example, breezes by with a jazzy sophistication that is sorely missing in contemporary pop music, it reminds me a bit of ‘Care of Cell 44’. My favourite tracks are probably ‘A Moment In Time’ and ‘Shine on Sunshine’, both of which are brilliantly optimistic and euphoric, which could be said for a lot of the album.

Whilst there is definitely a 60’s flavour to many of these tracks, some songs recall Rod Argent’s other group, Argent. They were a prog rock band in the 1970’s, with hair that was somehow even longer than their guitar/organ solos.  On ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In’ a few tracks drift into this unfortunately proggy territory – not so much in song length or solo excess (thank god) but more in production terms and arrangements. Things like the cosmic harmonies on ‘I Do Believe’ and the bland power pop riffs on ‘Another Day’ really drag the album down like a led brick. The Zombies original material had a lightness of touch that just wasn’t evident in much of Ardent’s output and it isn’t evident here either a lot of the time. A good example is ‘Let It Go’, a song that was originally presented as a delicate and moving piano ballad on their 2009 tour; here it has been transformed in to a power ballad removed of all subtilty.

If you were expecting another ‘Odessey and Oracle’ then you were always bound to be disappointed, but I think that fans can still be pleased with what the band have produced. The Zombies are doing this for their own enjoyment, the aren’t making claims to greatness anymore, and their boundless enthusiasm is really infectious. Yes it’s quite cheesy, dated, and hopelessly out of touch, but compare it to what Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson or any other sixties legends are producing now and it holds up very well. You suspect that with the right producer and in the right conditions they have a much, much better album still in them (maybe one of the many acts they’ve inspired should pick up the gauntlet and collaborate), For now though fans can be happy with ‘Breathe Out, Breathe In’ – it’s not another classic but it doesn’t tarnish their very fine name.