Archive for October, 2011

Who: The Waterboys 

Title: An Appointment with Mr. Yeats

Label: Puck records

Tell me more: Mike Scott returns to the mystical, wonderful words of one of Ireland’s greatest literary sons, W.B. Yeats, having adopted The Stolen Child for 1988’s classic Fisherman Blues album, and Love and Death for 1993’s Dream Harder. Now, he’s done an entire album of Yeats’ work.
The Lowdown: It requires literary understanding as well a musical ability to put poetry to music. It doesn’t always work, as any fan of Rabbie Burns will testify – the work of the bard has never been truly matched in a recording studio.
Scott, who is, in effect The Waterboys, has taken the band on a musical whirly-jig, going from what was called The Big Music – after one of his own songs – to folk, and even encompassed rock elements into his work. Like Primal Scream who change stripes with every album, Scott is no stranger to a challenge, keenly adapting Yeats’ symbolist words, written between 1893 and the late 1930s.
Most of the songs, such as The Hosting of the Shee offer themselves to music, with Scott’s ever-beautiful voice ensuring the words are given the grace they so deserve. Sweet Dancer is a clever welding of two poems published 22 years apart. On A Full Moon in March, Scott emphasises the darkness of the theme, with the band matching his mood.
With a band that includes a variety of talents include long-time Scott collaborator Steve Wickham, Irish singer Katie Kim, keyboardist James Hallawell and multi-instrumentalist Kate St John, Scott and friends provide an engaging background to 14 poems, and while it could be argued that no band could ever provide the vigour and realism of a poem regaling his own words to a crowd, there is sufficient enthusiasm and understanding of the works to make this a worthwhile effort.


Who: Edward Rogers 

Title: Porcelain

Label: Zip records

Tell me more: Porky Prime Cuts’ inbox is chocka with record label people and their publicists telling us what records we should like. Bypassing those emails with subject lines containing the names of the over-hyped newcomers, or past-it icons, Porky peers into those promoting those with a profile as high as the Cornish independence movement. Hence the arrival of Porcelain, all the way from New York.

The Lowdown: Rogers was born in Birmingham, England, but has lived most of his life in  New York, which explains the slightly trans-Atlantic feel of the record, although the ‘British’ element strays more to Celtic rock. That said there’s a number of lackadaisical moments such as the lumbering Nothing Too Clever, which may have been best relegated to a b-side. Contrast this with the beautiful, uplifting Love With The World, which could be an insight into how rock stars of the 1970s would have sounded like if they’d discovered, and fallen in love with, new wave. If he eschewed the desire to be a rocker, Rogers would have had this album down to a tee: it’s songs like Link To The Chain that define the singer, his ability to change pace when necessary  and individualise it, creating tracks that have vigour.

Anything else: Rogers lost his right arm and right leg below the knee in an underground train accident in 1985.




Who: Tori Amos 

Title: Night of Hunters

Label: Deutsche Grammaphon

Tell me more: She’s sold 12 million records over the past 20 years, gone disco and slowed-down Nirvana. Tori Amos has had many hats and hairstyles and the one in 2011 is fiery red.

The Lowdown: If Amos was a road, Night of Hunters would be a sudden hair-pin bend with a radius drop of 35%. There’s virtually no guitars, no dalliances with technological explorations into dance rhythms; instead this is 14-track song cycle drawing on themes from classical composers such as Chopin, Satie and others. The only concession to anything approaching radio-friendly cock-sucking is that it is a love story with a link to Ireland’s mythic past. You cannot but admire Amos’ ambition, bringing classical music into the 21st century in a concept album that lasts well over an hour. There is drama and beauty and Amos’ voice is always enthralling. But the lyrics are sometimes too cringeworthy to bear and it’s impossible to consume this in one setting, which is apparently the objective.

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Who: S.C.U.M 
Title: Again Into Eyes

Label: Mute

Tell me more: Gosh, what a arresting name: the  name of militant feminist Valerie Solanos’ Society for Cutting Up Men manifesto.
The Lowdown: Putting on this CD without reading up on them, I anticipated, given their moniker, plenty of invective and angst-ridden posturing. But, boy, it’s a misleading name as this album has nothing of those emotions. Rather, S.C.U.M have a longing for psychedelia, space-rock, avant-garde and ambience. There’s a spiritual element to the five-piece as they ponder the essence of life, as on Sentinal Bloom: “What I hold as time/ Nothing without you/Buried ‘neanth the water.”

There are deep and meaningful thoughts, set to a soundscape of epic, swaying guitars and moody bass, reminiscent of shoegazing, My Bloody Valentine and Radiohead in reflective mood. The single, Amber Hands, is a triumphant, multi-layered cascade into pop’s bitterest tendencies. It takes some practice to master the art of S.C.U.M, but, equally, there is a limit to their often one-dimensional material, with some tracks drifting into a black hole of emptiness. Some tracks lack substance and diversity but the beauty of Days Untrue, Amber Hands, and Cast Into Seasons render them obsolete. I find the more I listen the more goodness I uncover.

Who: The Kooks 

Title: Junk of the Heart

Label: EMI

Tell me more: The Kooks began releasing records in 2005-2006, when their pop/folk/ Beatles outlook was at odds with the Franz Ferdinand-led revival of all things 1981 and post-punk and Art Rocker was essential reading. But the public wanted more beyond noise annoys and two million copies of The Kooks’ debut album Inside In/ Inside Out made its way out of the shops and the internet sellers’ warehouses.
The Lowdown: That debut contained childish moments like Jackie Big Tits, but thankfully, the Brighton band are a little more grown up, and the themes reflect that maturity. But with maturity and progression through their 20s, comes the defection of the naivety and innocence that was an attractive part of The Kooks. The Great Pop Songs that made Inside In/ Inside Out so captivating are few, replaced by more solemn affairs such as Time Above The Earth, which never really takes off. However, in Rosie the love of a good ol’ rock out remains, and Petulia, despite its corny lyrics, sounds like the ideal soundtrack to the start of a summer barbecue. I just can’t figure out what the objective of Runaway is, while Killing Me has a riff that could have come from a 1980s Big Hair Californian chart hit. Junk of the Heart has apparently taken three years to complete, but it may be that this has been too long, with no doubt plenty of changes haven taking place in that time, many of them perhaps a hindrance rather than a help. But I have no intention of writing the Kooks off yet, and I am sure they can bounce back, if they put the junk aside.

Who: Gold Medal Famous

Title: Gold Medal Famous

Label: Powertool records

Tell me more: I know nothing about them. The release came without a press release and the copy itself has little more than two photos of a glam-friendly band and a range of thanks, including codfish island, immunisation, left-wing politicians and “people who like to read books that aren’t crap.” On that basis alone, how could you not love ’em?

The Lowdown: Don’t’cha just love toilet humour and songs about sexual prodigiousness? Gold Medal Famous certainly do, with the track Justin Bieber referencing female private parts while I Want To Make You Come, is well, I think you get the idea. To be honest neither has any depth, and they feel like appeals to the lowest-common denominator, but at least they add some variety to the album. Porky is no prude, in fact, he wallows in the stuff every day. I mentioned variety there, and there’s plenty of that, from the electro-pop clamour of They’re Drinking My Punch, the gloriously space-cadet instrumental Party Theme and the Goldfrapp-esque synth and sexy vocals that is All The Shining Lights. To add to the ubiquitous, adventurous nature, there’s also the 70s-rock of Don’t Just Text Me, Call Me while Chemo Heavy Hard Core features inane chanting and a drum’n’bass beat.  It’s like The Fall meets The Go!Team.

Who: Vorn 

Title: Down For It

Label: Powertool records

Tell me more: Vorn Coglan has been busy. He’s also a member of Gold Medal Famous. Porky loved his previous effort, Vorn’s Modern Classics, with its tales of nights out in Wellington’s party central and waiting at a railway station as a body is scooped up from underneath a train.  Chris Wilson of GMS is also heavily involved in this, as the Wellington music scene shows its incestuous nature.
The Lowdown: Vorn has a fondness for catchy songs, and equally snappy song titles, as Stop Making Bedroom Albums and You Don’t Have to Hate Yourself to Sleep With Me (But It Helps) attest. I have bought albums purely on the basis of alluring song titles, and this is one that might have caught my eye in a record store, if there were any left. Vorn tells tales about the embarrassment of going for free condoms at the family planning centre, of a Pavement fan who has worn the same band T-shirt since ’97 and living on the dole after chucking a job in. Even if his pseudo-rap on Formula doesn’t work, Down For It is charming and intriguing. This is New Zealand’s version of Chris T-T.

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