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Archive for July, 2013

Peace and Love  (1989, Island) is, in some ways, a peculiar component of the Pogues’ cannon, receiving bemused reviews in Britain, although the response was generally better in the United States. Shane MacGowan would later give it one thumb up: “half of it’s all right, the half I wrote!”

While the band were generally pleased with the results of the demo sessions, by the time they got into the studio to record it properly, personal problems had exacerbated and MacGowan’s acid and alcohol intake had reached alarming levels. His voice was so weak, producer Steve Lillywhite had to use his technical magic to try to hide its flaws, something that may not have been successful as Night Train To Lorca might testify. The theme slanted toward London rather than their spiritual homeland Ireland, a move that did not endear to everyone. pogues

Regardless of all this, the album is among my personal Pogues favourites. It’s an album I can play over and over and not become tired of. Peace and Love has a timeless quality; it beguiles and bewitches. It can also be infuriating, but this doesn’t detract from its depth.

Despite MacGowan’s self-appraisal of his own lyrics, one of two standouts was penned by veteran folkie Terry Woods. Gartloney Rats adjoins The Sick Bed of Cuchulainn for its numerous references to acohol, with the tale of a village band that would “never get drunk but stay sober.” It clocks in at 2:32 but feels much longer given its pace and endless lyrics that Woods rattles off sharply.

Woods and Ron Kavana’s Young Ned of The Hill is in the same vein, the speedy winger of the piece, and one with some bite, cursing Oliver Cromwell who “raped our Mother Land” but finding that, in the likes of “gallant men” like Ned Hill, Ireland will always have an iron will.

Gartloney Rats is matched by MacGowan’s Down All The Days, a song about Christy Brown, “a clown around town”, who types with his toes and the song begins with the clatter of a typewriter. This track seems to alienates fans with some lamenting its obviousness, contrary to the oft-cryptic nature of MacGowan’s words. The final verse includes the lines “I’ve never been asked, and I never replied, If I supported the Glasgow Rangers.”, in reference to the black and white nature of the green and the blue of Scotland’s largest city’s twin towers of football.

Boat Train returns to binge drinking as MacGowan’s character drinks so much he pukes up on the gangway and needs help on to the boat, before indulging in songs and poker games as he somehow makes his way to London from across the water.

As with If I Should Fall From Grace With God, released the year previous, the musical influences hop from one area to another, with the opening instrumental Gridlock easing out of jazz central; Cotton Fields has a suitably calypso/ Louisiana feel; USA – again set in the southern States – has a taste of banjo but neither of the latter tracks are what you would consider indigenous music as the Pogues very much put their stamp all over.

And then there’s the tale of lost love in the magnificent Lorelei, written by Philip Chevron with Kirsty MacColl on backing vocals and the mournful Misty Morning, Albert Bridge – both these songs among the best the band ever did.

Given the discord that clouded over The Pogues in 1989 it’s remarkable that Peace And Love is as good as it is; but perhaps this bedlam was what the band thrived on.

It was the last hurrah: 1990’s Hell’s Ditch was better than the critics would have us believe, but even then it couldn’t touch any of the four previous albums. And that was effectively it, MacGowan was too fucked up to carry on and the band plodded on, but really it was all over.

One curiousity peaks out from the cover of a brylcreamed Scottish boxer, who never made it out of the bottom of the support card, and admire how he managed to have Peace written on his fingers of his right hand.  

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When is a greatest hits collection not a greatest hits? When the band is The View and the album is Seven Year Setlist (Cooking Vinyl).

Rather, it’s a compilation of their favourite live tracks – and is even set to roughly reflect a sweaty, heaving gig with a bounding moshpit. But a live show will always include singles and the best album tracks. And, of course, most of the best-known singles are here too.View

Regardless, Seven Year Setlist shows that the Dundonians have been one of the more illuminating acts over the past few years, with songs like Gran’s for Tea reflecting their working class upbringing, namechecking the city itself and relating a tale of life in a hard-man heavy housing scheme. Alas, that’s not on here, but Skag Trendy, Same Jeans and their finest four minutes, Wasted Little DJs all are, as you would expect of course.

Skag Trendy in particular shows some mature thinking from the four-piece as they relate the sad story of a teenager who’s thrown out of his house by his mum, who doesn’t understand his problems, and is forced to live in “complete and utter social deterioration”.

As is de rigeur for such occasions, there’s unreleased material included, a fairly generous three tracks here. Kill Kyle opens the Setlist, and is far from throwaway, and though Standards is more La’s than Clash, it’s a fine pop song, though two versions may be overdoing it.

While many bands of their ilk (think Fratellis) have petered out pretty quickly, The View still have the knack of churning out great radio-friendly anthems, and the new material suggests there’s a lot of life in this dog yet.

 

If the View might be regarded as the cheeky chappies of British rock, Editors are the stern-faced, literary PhD students. Now on their fourth album – The Weight of Your Love (PIAS) – they aren’t intending to change, and for that we must applaud them.

But there is some change from the previous effort, In This Light And On This Evening, whose adoption of synths over moody posturing and epic soundscapes was never going to work.

Back to basics, to the first two albums. But it’s no The Back Room (2005) which introduced us to their deep and delirious efforts to sound both like Simple Minds, circa 1980, and Joy Division, an ambition that actually worked.

EditorsThe band say it’s an album of love songs, one that provides some details and a warning sign as well.

On Sugar, which contains some pile-driving basslines, Tom Smith sings of the dilemmas: “it breaks my heart to love you.”. The exceptional A Ton of Love, has student disco anthem written all over it. It’s by far the standout track, with Smith sounding intense, complaining that “he doesn’t trust the government, I don’t even trust myself.” powered by a riff reminiscent of early Echo and the Bunnymen.

What comes after is something I find hard to put to paper, such is the agony and mockery. What Is This Thing Called Love was apparently written by Smith for an X Factor contestant. The thought of a talentless fop reaching the high notes in a vain bid to impress a group of has-beens shouldn’t be taken seriously, but the sound of Smith in faux-falsetto range is more than can be tolerated. In an instant the quality has dipped, with neither Honesty nor Nothing worth sitting on, even with the orchestral arrangements on the latter.

Some form of salvation is proferred in the Cure-esque Formaldehyde and the slow-then-quick tempo of Hyena.

However, the final three tracks provide the irreristible temptation of the forward button with a lazy comparison to Coldplay being somewhat inevitable. That’s a cruel comparison but a hard one to avoid.

My initial draft had been somewhat uncomplimentary about The Weight of Your Love. I scrubbed that on the basis of a few standouts, mentioned above, but the balladry and the clear attempts at stadium (c)rock of a few other tracks deprive it a highly-favourable review and if I was to mark it out of ten, five stars would be more than enough.

 

 

 

 

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Fat Freddys Drop are, to the casual listener, a band that could have developed from many locations around the western world, with their unique blending of genres sometimes lazily catalogued as ‘urban’. But they retain an air and an attitude that is rooted in New Zealand, and to be even more specific in the perpetually-eclectic music scene of the capital, Wellington.Freddys
If you’re reading this I will assume you are familiar with at least some of their material, so I will dispense with a potted history other than to say that this is just the Freddys’ third album in 12 years, following on from the largely local success of Based on a True Story (2005) and the global groundbreaker Dr Boondigga and the Big BW (2009). I am confident in saying that, following the release last month of Blackbird (The Drop records) attention to their craft, not to mention a dedication to touring, has resulted in a Blue Nile-esque delay in albums.
Blackbird is a more than an hour long, as Dr Boondigga was, and the opener, the title track, completes its turn after nine minutes. It is, it has to be said, worthy of such longevity, as it weaves a magical spell. The closer, Bohannon,comes out of mid-70s New York, funking and grooving it’s way to the end of the disk.
This slow-food attitude continues throughout, and certainly works, but on, for example, Silver and Gold, this policy is an almighty chore, and quality control seems to be lacking around this particular track.

Many will pick up on particular styles and, conversely, trumpeter Tony Chang underlines some of the influences, including, of all bloody things, country music. An open mind and a willingness to spread the seeds far and wide is admirable. But if you listen to Blackbird with a view to picking up on the reggae, soul or even electronica sounds (Never Moving is slightly reminiscent of Neu!) you are missing the point. Today’s listeners are more attuned to the diversity and eclectisim of albums. That is why Blackbird will appeal to those who file Bob Marley and the Wailers alongside Led Zeppelin,or The Clash.
It remains a conundrum however. I can’t quite grasp if this is an actual progression from Dr Boondigga, or a return to what they do best. You could certainly play them back to back on a warm afternoon in the garden with a beer in your hand, while talking about the merits of Keynesian economics, but the distinctions are obvious without such distractions. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPk7oipymoA

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