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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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Those good people at Powertool Records deserve an Outward Bound badge without doing the course for their tireless promotion of all things Kiwi and obscure in this dismal climate for independent record labels.
The latest release out of New Lynn in Auckland is by Transcendental Learning Collective. With that name I guess I won’t be telling you anything new by describing them as guitar-heavy psychedelic noiseniks in the same vein as Suicide, HDU, and perhaps even Spacemen 3. You will have a picture of TLCmultiple guitars, maximum repetition and minimalist vocals. Just what your local DJ, bored of Rihanna and Lady Gaga, is looking for. There’s only five tracks on their debut Shift, and the first one is eight minutes long. There’s a touch of dub as well to alleviate any suggestion it’s one never-ending cacophony of anti-rhythm. I’m pleased to say it’s also quite excellent, and best played in the car with your windows open while stuck in a traffic jam as a boy racer and a National Party voter sidle alongside in the other lanes.

Powertool records labelmates Gold Medal Famous did a tour of New Zealand tunnels with various other acts, one of which had the ‘hilarious’ moniker The Josef Fritzl Family Jamboree, at the enmd of last year to unleash their second album 100% Pure.
It is a curious beast, swinging from electro lo-fi to lo-fi electro, with slices of goth-rock and experimentalism. Its title is a celebration, if you will, of the now infamous tourist slogan that became a liability, basically on account of the fact that claiming New Zealand is pure, clean and green is a fantasy as anyone who has been told they can’t swim in a river because their genitals will swell up will concur.
100% Pure begins promisingly with the near-singalong Never Get Bored and the theremin-driven We Have Contempt For You, but The Buried Life is so tedious and ear-prodding that I’m tempted to book a holiday to Hawera as part of my escape. If there is anything positive to say about this drone it is that it sets up Everyone Hates Boy Racers quite neatly. It’s true, everyone does hate, nay despise, boy racers, even boy racers themselves, partly because they’re having fun. “Slow down you cunts/ I’ll kick you in the nuts,” is an opening line so good I would fully expect Morrissey to steal it. As standouts go this is pretty excellent, but it’s usurped by I See You At The Point, which easily matches anything by Bowie tribute acts like Suede and Moby have done. It’s a strange mix of unlistenable dirges and great pop tracks, and I can’t help but think that band ‘daddy’ Vorn Coglan has done better, and quirkier, stuff on his solo albums.
Gold Medal Famous AND Vorn album reviews here https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/lowdown-on-the-new-32-pure-s-c-u-m/

 

 

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A long time ago, a wet-behind-the-ears Porky would have run a mile from someone playing a Sonic Youth record: those eerie sounds reminded me of a trip to the ear doctor; while titles like Expressway To Yr Skull would have made me wonder what kind of weirdos were making this kind of stuff. The Youth were corrosive and sinister, part of a burgeoning scene in America that had appropriated hardcore punk and welded it into something almost as unlistenable.

A quarter of a century on, Sonic Youth are more accessible but I would harbour serious doubts about playing Smart Bar, Chicago 85 (Goofin Records) while the piglet was still awake. Sonic Youth

This resurrection from the Reagan era takes us back to Bad Moon Rising which had just been released, and the evolution towards EVOL. Recorded on a four-track cassette the sound is remarkably clear, and you can detect heckles and comments from the crowd. There’s some tinkering, of course, and a recording from another tape had to be spliced onto the original due to a ‘pause button faux pas’. While bulked up with Bad Moon Rising tracks there are previews of a couple of EVOL tracks including, at that point, their most accessible tune, Expressway To Yr Skull, and bits and bobs like the never released Kat ‘n’ Hat that will keep collectors enthralled.

As for the casual listener Smart Bar is an intriguing insight into a scene that seeped out from the underground, eventually, I guess, mutating into the rock monster that was grunge. It feels like a gig at which the initiated or the plain curious would have gone, and would have left with either a feeling that something big was going to take place, or that they would have been just as keeping that appointment at the Ear, Nose and Throat department.

 

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This is Porky’s annual round -up of, not necessarily the best albums of the year, – we haven’t heard the Leonard Cohen one after all – but the ones that endeared us the most.

The Black Seeds: Dust and Dirt (Rhythmethod/ DRM)

Solid Ground from 2008 moved the Seeds in a slightly different direction, one that encompassed more fluid influences. They haven’t strayed from that ubiquitous path on Dust and Dirt, although the trademark Jamaican grooves and skanks are very much in abundance.
You can imagine they’ve been listening to early 70s funk, 90s acid jazz and Curtis Mayfield on the tour bus. There’s an enormous amount of great ideas on this album, which is undoubtedly their finest yet, and the one that could smash open doors in North America, Europe and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Paul Weller: Sonik Kicks (Universal)   SonikKicks_Cvr

In a 21-year solo career, Weller has never dwelled on the successes; every album is a new adventure, and to be truthful, some have needed to be to make amends for a lapse in judgment. Such an accusation can’t be levelled at Sonik Kicks, a glorious ride through rock and electronica’s magnificent history. Dragonfly soars like Goldfrapp with the scent of sci-fi wafting throughout; Around the Lake is a course, bitter fruit, with drumbeats and screechy effects mingling with guitars-a-plenty; Drifters has a flamenco touch, while Paperchase has ‘a slight Blur feel to it’ says Weller and it’s hard to disagree. Like Bowie he is a living legend but like The Grand Dame, he has that innate ability to change and move in a new direction, without sounding like a bandwagon hopper.

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The Heartbreaks: Funtimes (Nusic)

Funtimes is jaunty, effervescent and joyful, while referencing the decline of the great British seaside resort. You can imagine they spent their pre-teen years on the coconut shy and ungainly wrapping their arm around a girl, “I’ll be waiting outside the Winter Gardens, feeling slightly worse for wear; if talk of romance thrills you, honey, maybe I’ll see you there?” coos Matthew Whitehouse on Winter Gardens.
Standard indie guitars abound and it’s reminiscent of Tom Allalone and the 78s, who promised more than they actually delivered but the vigour, passion and northern Englishness of Funtimes is winning me.

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Madness: Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da ( Lucky Seven)  
Ah Madness, they call it gladness. The London boys have always had a place in the heart of this porker. Their tenth album, with a title that seems like it was taken from a Bad Manners b-side, won’t pretend to be their greatest but is one of the highlights of a grand year. It’s the poppy, ska-lite, soulful work I fully expected. My Girl 2 harks back to the single of 1979, and that feeling of nostalgia worms it’s way in syubtle ways throughout. Download-contender How Can I Tell You has a jolly ol’ knees-up Mother Brown feel to it, “the last chocolate in the box, a pair of mittens and some cotton socks”.
Madness always wore their influences proudly on their jackets, it was what endeared them to millions in the 1980s, so it’s only natural that will wear them loudly again in 2012.

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The Proclaimers: Like Comedy (Cooking Vinyl)  LIke Comedy

This is the sound of two men maturing: “A hundred years ago/ I thought happiness was ice cream and football/ But time went by so fast/ Till I couldn’t see their attractions at all.”
Nevertheless, despite their affection “for the lassies” there are the occasional nods to the national game, such as on the opener, where the brothers hope for a good season on account of their main foes’ poor defence.
It’s a typical Proclaimers mix of folk and country lurching from the reflective Dance With Me to the stirring There’s, though the highlight is the title track, which starts with one of the Reid brothers (they’re twins so fuck knows who’s at the mic) singing plaintively before both Craig and Charlie rouse their vocal chords with enough energy to wake up a morgue as they observe how life moves on form the days of hellraising.

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Richard Hawley:  Standing At The Sky’s Edge

Sitars mingle with distorted guitars on the seven-minute opener,  She Brings The Sun, and I’m transported back to the meeting that never happened between The Beatles and The Byrds.
Later, a surge of guitars drone out from the start to Down Into The Woods and the incessant hum continues for the remainder of this wonderful little buzz. It’s surprising, and refreshing to have a massive gear change, with Seek It offering beautiful harmonies, a love song without the clichés.

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Factory Star: New Sacral (Occultation recordings / Fishrider records)

Mini-album New Sacral is a work that delves into the darker side of life, with an eerie, yet invigorating Strangely Lucid being the focal point of the release. It does share an affinity with Blue Orchids’ Greatest Hit album from 1982, (which I was coincidentally listening to before receiving this), notably on Incorruptible where Martin Bramah (ex-Orchids) intones the title track numerous occasions with a grim knowningness. It would fit in perfectly on the Flying Nun label but much kudos to Fishrider records for picking up on this.

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Bruce Foxton: Back In The Room (Basstone)

Back In The Room sees Foxton’s oft-fracticious relationship with Paul Weller seemingly fully repaired as the legend appears on three tracks, and that Weller-Jam influence is fairly obvious, sometimes too transparently, but that is far from a fault. It means enchanting pop dongs like Number Six, the blues-driven verse-chorus-verse anthem Find My Way Home and the essence of Motown in Don’t Waste My Time.

Piano playing augments The Gaffa, a trip back to the days of rock’n’roll; there’s a couple of pleasant instrumentals while there’s a feeling of contendness on the breezy Drifting Dreams.

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Ultrasound: Play For Today (Fierce Panda)  Ultrasound

It’s been a whopping 13 years since Ultrasound released their one and only platter. Money wasn’t a motivator, but a need to prove that they could have made an impact is.

It is somewhat fitting then that the opening track is Welfare State, released in an era where the unemployed are regarded as pariahs, on a level slightly below Middle Eastern bombers and child-snatchers. “We are the greasy, unwashed scum/ We are the paupers on the run/ We’ve never done a day’s work in our lives.” intones Wood, mimicking hundreds of right-wing, snooty tabloid headlines.

Long Way Home is gloriously upbeat, as it purrs along like a Japanese car on the fastest highway in the country. These two plus Twins more than mitigate for some of the lesser lights, such as Glitter Box that seems out of place.

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Jim Jones Revue: The Savage Heart (Play It Again Sam)

Jim Jones and his Revue offer no surprises, no charm offensive .. it’s the bare-bones rock’n’roll rampage of a band born with The Cramps and Bo Diddley playing at their birth, and Iggy and Jerry Lee Lewis at the first birthday party.

Radio won’t play them but word of mouth has seen the not-so-young rockers with greased-back quiffs move up from the toilet circuit to proper venues.

Needless to say there’s no room for electronics; it has strong whiffs of 1950s attitude, 70s raw power and the proto-goth rock of the Birthday Party in the 80s. Rock on.

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Madness: Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da ( Lucky Seven)  
Ah Madness, they call it gladness. The London boys have always had a place in the heart of this porker. Their tenth album, with a title that seems like it was taken from a Bad Manners b-side, won’t pretend to be their greatest but is one of the highlights of a grand year. It’s the poppy, ska-lite, soulful work I fully expected. My Girl 2 harks back to the single of 1979, and that feeling of nostalgia worms it’s way in syubtle ways throughout. Download-contender How Can I Tell You has a jolly ol’ knees-up Mother Brown feel to it, “the last chocolate in the box, a pair of mittens and some cotton socks”.
Madness always wore their influences proudly on their jackets, it was what endeared them to millions in the 1980s, so it’s only natural that will wear them loudly again in 2012.

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Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros: Global a Go Go/ Streetcore (both Hellcat records)

Punks never die. After the movement dissolved – not too long after it kicked off – punks grabbed onto whatever was sizzling on the underground and took those sparks and made a roasting bonfire. Post-Clash Strummer took on some of the influences that were nurturing in the final days of the band: Latin rhythms, hip-hop and rockabilly and made some intriguing if largely unheard of records in the 1980s.

In 1999 he made a welcome comeback with The Mescaleros, with memorable appearances at festivals such as T in the Park and Move, and releasing Rock Art and the X-Ray Style that year and Global A Go-Go in 2001. Streetcore was released posthumously.

The magnus opus of the trio was Global A Go-Go from 2001 with, as the title would suggest, a worldwide overview. Notably, on Bhindi Bagee, Strummer meets a New Zealander on the high road of a London community, and is asked where he can get some mushy peas. A bemused Strummer replies “but we got balti, bhindi, strictly hindi, dall halal” and knocks off a long list of international dishes reflecting the diverse culinary tastes of today’s Britain.

Meanwhile, on the title track Strummer hails the universality of music: “Buddy Rich in Burundi/ Quadrophenia in Armenia/ Big Youth booming in Djkarta/ Nina Simone over Sierra Leone.”

Cool ‘N’ Out is a road trip across the States; Shaktar Donetsk reflects on eastern European migration to the west; and At The Border, Guy is a wonderful, seven-minute epic, that builds and builds with its reggae fusion. Apart from a rather pointless 18-minute Minstrel Boy that rounds off the album this is a magnificent effort from someone still sorely missed.

Streetcore saw Strummer go back to his rock and reggae roots. It’s a fine album which is remarkable given the album wasn’t completed before his untimely death. Most of the vocals are first takes and there are doubts over whether the cover of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, and Long Shadow – written for Johnny Cash – were meant to be included. Certainly the former doesn’t fit the album. Otherwise the quality is excellent and there appears to have been little need for wholesale pre-release changes. All In A Day and Arms Aloft are typical Strummer rabble-rousing efforts, Get Down Moses is Strummer using reggae magnificently and Burnin’ Streets is an effort worthy of any Clash album.

Both editions have extra tracks – just one in the case of Global a Go-Go (Bhindi Bagee live), but seven for Streetcore, all live takes of songs like the Ramones’ Blitzkrieg Bop and Clash classics Armagideon Time and Junco Partner.

Hopefully, the first Mescaleros album and Strummer’s 80s efforts will be given the same remastering treatment soon, especially so for the older stuff which is now as rare as rocking horse manure.

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Ultrasound: Play For Today (Fierce Panda)

It’s been a whopping 13 years since Ultrasound released their one and only platter. Thirteen years is a long time, a lot of acts have come and gone. Hell, even wars have broken and out and been solved.

Ultrasound had, if I recall vaguely, a charming debut, but one that I can’t refer to as it is in an attic the other side of the world. It had balls aplenty, but it felt like a record you could play to your own mother. One of my everlasting memories is a feature in the NME on how musicians should be allowed to remain on the dole as they were working up to something, with Andrew ‘Tiny’ Wood used as an example of someone who spent time signing on, but were ‘building’ their skills. Now the five-piece are back, but money is not the motivating factor, but a need to prove that they could have made an impact is.

It is somewhat fitting that the opening track is Welfare State, released in an era where the unemployed (whose numbers have risen largely because of the follies of bankers) are regarded as pariahs, on a level slightly below Middle Eastern bombers and child-snatchers. “We are the greasy, unwashed scum/ We are the paupers on the run/ We’ve never done a day’s work in our lives.” intones Wood, mimicking hundreds of right-wing, snooty tabloid headlines.

Gracefully, the song it an absolute belter, full of hooks, and their earmark patchwork of rock’n’roll and art-rock. Back in the late 90s, Ultrasound were ahead of their time, but 2012 is far more sympathetic to their cause. Twins is bursting with intensity, the chorus so good I feel the need to throw that sole Coldplay album in Porky’s collection into the bin, then ravish my wife’s ugly sister. Long Way Home is gloriously upbeat, as it purrs along like a Japanese car on the fastest highway in the country. These three more than mitigate for some of the lesser lights, such as Glitter Box that seems out of place on Play For Today.

Yip, the end of year best of lists are looking mighty fine, after a barren spell.

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Alpine: A Is For Alpine (Ivy League)

Land Observations: Roman Roads IV-XI (mute)

Cave Painting: Votive Life (Third Rock)

The record label excitedly informs me that Alpine are “six friends from Melbourne”, which elicits the response ‘well, surely all bands are formed by friends’. At least the ones not created by a television talent quest.

So, friends they are, and that is nice, I hope they don’t end up the way many school buddies do, at each other’s throats after several years in cabin fever mode. The press release also describes Alpine as making “bold, twinkling, sophisticated pop music”, a method that has led to The Guardian newspaper opining that Alpine are “Hands down the best Aussie band we’ve heard  all year.”

That’s a statement that has to be quantified by asking what the opposition is, after all Australian music has few genuine success stories and lag behind considerably their Tasman neighbours. The Flying Nun label wasn’t formed in Melbourne or Sydney but in Dunedin, The Phoenix Foundation from Wellington, ad nauseum.

The description by the record label is spot on, Alpine do make sophisticated pop music, but I would argue against the term bold. A is For Alpine is ideal for a cocktail party but it would be a challenge to play this on permanent rotation. Phoebe Baker sounds eerily enchanting but it is a monotone voice fitting with the minimalist flow. A little bit of adventure would not have gone amiss.

A travel adventure is what Land Observations have on Roman Roads IV-XI. Composer James Brooks goes on an exploration of the road network that existed across Europe and into Africa and Asia during the Roman Empire. Each composition is “an attempt to respond to the history and geography of an individual road”: hence titles such as Via Flaminia and Aurelian Way. It’s entirely instrumental, and it feels like a travelogue. There are plenty of plinks, and a hefty number of plongs. and while it is minimalist to the max, there is a richness to this earthy work that gives it purety if not any commercial success whatsoever.

I listened to these three albums in order, so Cave Painting raise the temperature considerably by introducing guitars, but don’t get too excited just yet. These artists come from Brighton on the southern English coast, the breeding ground for a substantial number of indie bands over the years, few of them having left much of a mark. They develop the “expansive” melodica that has been nurtured over the years by Coldplay before the corporate cock proved too tempting, and most recently S.C.U.M. whose debut last year was much loved by Porky.

It has taken several listens to come to terms with this album, and it’s partially succeeded. At first it sounded one-dimensional: Adam Kane’s voice, as beautiful as it is, lacked passion, the lyrics had touches of a sixth-form poetry contest and the songs seem to have been created with an intention, a vision of a colossal sound rather than having come from the heart. A few listens confirms some of those criticisms but some are clearly ill-thought. There IS passion, a passion for the music they make, and several songs are majestic soundscapes, notably the monumental Gator, but it remains, after half a dozen spins, a difficult listen, with ideas regurgitated and the feeling that they tried just a bit too hard.

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