Sunday, 16 August 2009


I've just spent the last week in Barcelona, hence no posts, but have plenty in the pipeline so expect regular updates soon.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Pebbledashed with idiocy

Could these avaricious bastards be any more retarded? I have watched this video so many times this week, it is full on car crash television.

Reasons why I hate this;

It took them eight years to write this shit. Ooh it's about shared experiences, and at one point they had to get jobs in admin as they couldn't get jobs in the music industry. That is probably due to a chronic lack of talent chaps.

In five minutes they namecheck (in relation to their sound); glam, late 70s soul (ie the glossy, proto-disco soul), punk, Iggy Pop, James Brown, David Bowie, Shirely Bassey, The Smiths and Brian Eno.

They describe their approach to music making as "knocking up some beats...mashing a hybrid of styles". Oh I cringed deeply. Then they go on to say they're like"Delia Smith style, PsycheDelia Smith". That probably took him years to think of. "Oh I'll definitely throw that pithy comment casually into the first big interview we do because I'm a massive spaffcock". Then they talk of how they made sure they were all in their tiny studio together, even if they didn't need to be because they weren't playing a part. Umm...that's what bands are supposed to do numbnuts. They surely are the most moronic band I have ever had the misfortune to watch be interviewed.

Sony BMG banned this video when first posted, and the original has the best quotes - including one about how they're about having fun and liken themselves to going to work in fancy dress or drinking mojitos at 11am. The frontman also likens himself to Brian Eno in that he is not a musician and just goes in and bashes around with things until he gets a sound.

There is a fifth member somewhere, but she seems to have been erased from history. Only some arms and bangles still exist in the video.

'Just Because' and 'Lord Forgive Me' are apparently quasi-religious odes with all the allegorical depth of a pool of concrete.

Someone's put them up to this - the whole video is a stream of buzz words and themes, namechecks and hyperbole. It has to be a viral. Because otherwise they are the biggest cast iron idiots in the world.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

To Be Still EP - Alela Diane

Nevada City is a township of just over 3,000 in rural Northern California but one that has been populated by artists, hippies, Senators, actors, poets and writers. It also was the home of the first Californian Gold Rush where a huge seam of gold was discovered by prospectors, “found by the old buzzards who roamed the hills” like those in Central City from On The Road.

Alela Diane is one of the souls that inhabit Nevada City. This is important because Diane's music is rooted in traditional forms of American music. Her ouevre is an evocation of pine covered mountainsides, miners shacks, campfires with beans and franks cooking, plateaus and plains. The Sierra Nevada is deep in Steinbeck country, so these associations aren't unwarranted and Diane certainly draws upon the topography of California. There is something so evocative for a non-American of these paradigms of Americana that is hard to keep from being swept along by utterances such as “California hills could surely welcome us back home”.

'To Be Still' is the title track from Diane's sophomore album and is a meditative and lyrical evocation of folk pastoralism. This isn't to say that Diane is a revivalist concerned only with antiquity and content to trade on folkisms or archetypes. Instead Diane uses the frameworks of folk and blues without becoming reverential, yielding poignant narratives all told by that beautiful, plaintive voice. 'Fat Mama' sketches a tale of a housewife in a faded backwoods town - “she cooks and she washes and carries on all day long” and acts as a companion piece to 'The Ocean' from To Be Still. There is a similar honesty and depth of interpretation at its heart.

The sparse melancholia of her debut The Pirate's Gospel has been augmented by an increase of, in her own words, “instrumental filigree”. This is particularly the case on 'To Be Still'. Woozy sighs of dreamlike pedal steel guitar accompany Diane's vocal, as clear as still water, alongside finger-picked guitar and mallet drums.

Despite this newfound ornamentation there is an economy in phrase and execution across the three tracks. Diane's diction is less cluttered and an unhurried approach to production and songwriting yields great results. Yes, heritage acts are marketable right now (see also: Fleet Foxes, Joanna Newsom etcetera ad nauseum) but the quality of Diane's work allows her to also transcend any attempt at positioning or typecasting.

This article was originally produced for To view the music review of To Be Still EP by Alela Diane please click on the article title.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Wave If You're Really There - Wave Machines

2009 has been characterised in it's musical output by a rejection of homogenised, male guitar music. Electropop has become an increasingly important and privileged genre, but one that has its own rules and conventions that few choose to bend. For some genre is an article of faith. Not so Liverpool's Wave Machines. With their background in art collectives and interest in reclaimed instruments (ie obsolete, broken and toy instrumentation) they set out the songs as high-concept conceits.

Electronic and dance music has always possessed a sense of otherness, and Wave Machines capture this sensation intermittently. My initial appraisal of Wave If You're Really There is that it is an album by a band divided in their sense of purpose. They seem unsure whether they want to be a traditional 'indie' band replete with live instrumentation and 4/4 time signatures or a far more rhythmic, sequenced, danceable and electronic affair. I'm not sure that at the end of the album they or I or you will have a definitive idea either.

The album starts with the minimal electronica of 'You Say The Stupidest Things', a lovelorn paean and the considered and infectious 'Carry Me Back To My Home'. Vocalist Tim Bruzon's lyrical witticisms and unconventional delivery mark out these early tracks.

But after this downtempo and somnabulant start the album is polarised by the electro songs such as 'I Go I Go I Go' and 'The Greatest Escape'. These are perfectly serviceable as homages to Heaven 17 or early Depeche Mode, and as long as they are viewed as kitsch they can be enjoyed. We've all read/watched American Psycho, and they are treading the line at times.

It's when they move into late era Orange Juice territory and when they step outside of the naturally limiting boundaries demarcated by the two genres they have chosen to work in that Wave Machines find greater success. The title track combines the two disciplines to a better extent, while the organic throb and hum of closing track 'Dead Houses' captures the reflectivity of the lyrical imagery perfectly. The falsetto of 'I Joined A Union' sounds painful, but the blissful euphoria of the track offsets the wilfully oddball (and bold) vocal style.

But it is 'Keep The Lights On' that is the standout track on evidence here. The air of resignation is tangible as evidenced in the tired synths and syncopated drums, a sense of drama and tension beneath those quiescent and subdued vocals. Then out of nowhere 'Punk Spirit' arrives with its trad chord sequences, washes of piano and Bruzon mournfully lamenting the loss of his “punk spirit”. It is a fine song, but desperately out of character with the surrounding material. It isn't always a bad thing that an album sounds like a mix tape, but going from Arab Strap to the Pet Shop Boys is a leap of faith too far.

Overall then an album of glossy instantaneous delights, strange sequencing and eclecticisms that promises much for the future.

Like this review of Wave If You're Really There by Wave Machines? Then leave a comment, or check out the band's MySpace