Posts Tagged ‘Howl Griff’


Paul Weller: Wake Up The Nation

Seeing Weller in Auckland in October was my gig of the year. He tore at his set-list with gusto, making the new tracks sound as impressive as Jam or Wild Wood-era solo output. Wake Up the Nation is surprisingly excellent, not just a return to form but possibly his best yet, a rallying call to all those who suffer from apathy and disinterest. Weller hasn’t made a comeback after a couple of iffy albums, with As Is Now and 22 Dreams both good career moves, but few people were expecting him to hit the mark so often, as he does on Nation, especially on Fast Cars/ Slow Traffic and the burning, angry title track.

The Courteeners: Falcon (Polydor)                
Falcon is an album born of the musically-rich north-west of England, the lyrics resonating with Mancunian landmarks, of lovers being in faraway London, and all the things that working class people in the towns across the breadth of dear old England do. There will be comparisons to Editors, the typical “indie-rock band” but the Courteeners are the mature version of the Arctic Monkeys, their tales being of late 20s heartache and exuberance.

Phoenix Foundation: Buffalo (EMI)

Please take a trip with the Foundation through Wellington’s Town Belt and hill suburb of Mt Victoria on Eventually, and take your brolly with you. Be enchanted by the child-friendly Flock of Hearts, be invigorated by Pot and singalong like a mad thing to the wonderfully fruity lyrics of Orange & Mango. Buffalo is a gloriously simple record, one that is very New Zealand in its themes, but also sounds like it could traverse traditional musical snobbery and parochialism, and appeal to, say, indie fans in Manchester.

The Burns Unit: Side Show (Proper Music)                       
Given that the backgrounds of the Unit are folk, alt-country, rap and a band that can best be described as indie-Indian there is a fascinating breadth of ideas and sounds on Side Show. There’s the Kate Bush-esque Sorrys, featuring the enchanting vocals of Emma Pollock, the campfire niceties of You Need Me To Need This and the emotionally, and politically, charged, Send Them Kids To War. With such a range it almost feels like a compilation.

Natacha Atlas: Mounqaliba (World Village)
Mounqaliba is written almost entirely by Atlas and Samy Bishai, who grew up in Egypt, the orchestral players are Turkish and Atlas sings in Arabic, with interludes in French on a Francoise Hardy song and English on Nick Drake’s River Man. Atlas moves easily through the languages, adding beauty and grace to the non-Arabic tracks while adding some bite when she sings in Arabic. It would be difficult to pigeon-hole this album as World, something Putamayo would make a compilation out of, but like a band she performs with Transglobal Underground this is an album that reflects the sounds, sights and feel of the modern world.

Chris Difford: Cashmere If You Can (Saturday Morning Music Club)
A wonderfully Squeezy title from a songwriter who keeps the curious English observational style very much alive. Cashmere If You Can jumps from one joyous catchy singalong to another. On Like I Did, Difford tells a familiar parental tale, of how kids do exactly what they did once: “He’s getting stoned (like I did), he plays bass (like I did), he lays in bed like I did, how can I complain.” Society is awash with vacuous lyrics and music, so it’s refreshing to hear tales of regret, of young men leaving their loved ones to go to war, and the problems of noise in a small house, sung by someone who’s not just observing society, but who has lived some of the tales he puts to tape.


Belle and Sebastian Write About Love (Rough Trade)                                                      
The basic tenets of a B & S album are all enclosed: dreamy vocals, plaintive melodies, and beautifully penned songs about relationships that never happened, schoolyard bullying and, a tale of the toxic friend who only calls at midnight when a relationship with a muscleman goes awry. There are some lovely tracks with ’60s bounce; it’s impossible not to be entranced by the hook-heavy I Can See Your Future or the escapist harmonies of the title track featuring actress Carey Mulligan.


Ten City Nation: At The Still Point (Sturm Und Drang)
As the band have progressed from their days as Miss Black America, they’ve become even more nihilistic. More guitars, more anger, more Stooges and more Nirvana influences. The opener, Flashing Lights is very accessible – punk with discipline – but Room 10101 is, shall we say, the kind of thing that would scare mothers around the world. At times we need noise in our life. Not the Korn or Green Day form of noise, but something more digestible, even though At The Still Point might give you that bloated feeling after listening to all 12 tracks in one go.

Howl Griff: The Hum (Recordiau Dockrad)
A single, Crash and Burn, is a cosmic outpouring of twee, delirious pop, reminiscent of a lovely Canadian bunch called Cinderpop and shares a sense of the surreal with The Coral. And, like those scousers, Howl Griff tell stories of real characters, such as a lady who “can help you in the dark of night and improve your memory”, on Jean’s Therapy. Meanwhile, on Uduhudu, spirits are raised from the dead in a spangly, manic and effervescent shanty. Glorious, bonkers stuff only the British can do, and the Welsh do best for some reason.

Goldfrapp: Head First (Mute)                                
Goldfrapp have revisited electro-glam with an album that’s unashamedly steeped in the glorious synths of the 1980s. The opener, Rocket, sounds suspiciously like The Pointer Sisters’ Jump, and is followed by Believer, a beauty that harks back to the radio-friendly Supernature album of 2005. It ends with Voicething which wouldn’t sound out of place on the last Kraftwerk album.

FParom 1977 to 1982 Paul Weller was

the driving force behind the Jam,

a Mod band that had the energy

of punk. All guitars and rousing

statements, the Jam enjoyed an amazing

run of numbers ones in the UK. Cocktail

pop came in the form of his next band

The Style Council and since 1991 has

been a solo star.

In recent years, Weller’s credibility has

dripped and some people have written

him off. However, Wake Up The Nation

is, well a wake up-call, to the Modfather

and to his fans. And to Britain to shake

off its apathetic lumber and get groovy


The 16 tracks here crackle and fizz,

proving that no matter his age (over 50)

Weller remains a formidable force. The

edginess of his early solo career is mirrored

on the opening track Moonshine

and its equably impressive cousin, the

album’s title track.

Paul Winders and The Goodness prove

that the Dunedin sound is very much

alive. You Can Have It All has the kind

of nicely-scripted lyrics, tuneful observations

of New Zealand life and the

easy-going manner that reminds me of

bands like The Chills, The Bats and The

Verlaines, who Winders was a member of

once. Best of Friends is so dammed hummable,

and Thank You is as good as anything

the above bands have recorded.

On our world trip, we now take in

Argentina, the beef, rugby and, above all

football-loving South American country.

And music: ah yes, the tango. The Gotan

Project are its 21st century flag-bearers

giving latino music a modern update,

fusing the traditional dancefloor freneticism

with jazz and a touch of electronica.

Not too much though. Gotan cut and

paste the Argentinean commentary of

Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal

against England in the 1986 World Cup

and immserse passages of a famous local

novel into Rayuela. Somehow I can’t

imagine Latin America’s biggest star,

Shakira, doing things like that.


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Who? Howl Griff

Title: The Hum
Recordiau Dockrad
Tell me more:
Their debut, self-titled, album was recorded entirely in Welsh, something the likes of Super Furry animals have done. This one, though, is entirely in English, eliciting cries of ‘sell-out’ from Ynys Mon to Chepstow and in indie havens outwith the borders of Cymru.
The Lowdown:
Like the Super Furries, Howl Griff sound like they’ve listened to plenty of LSD-fuelled psychedelia from 1967, before catching an excerpt of the 1990s post-rave scene. It’s a curious mash-up when these interests collide, especially when fused with indie or rock. A single, Crash and Burn, is a cosmic outpouring of twee, delirious pop, reminiscent of a lovely Canadian bunch called Cinderpop and shares a sense of the surreal with The Coral. And, like those scousers, Howl Griff tell stories of real characters, such as a lady who “can help you in the dark of night and improve your memory”, on Jean’s Therapy. Meanwhile, on Uduhudu, spirits are raised from the dead in a spangly, manic and effervescent shanty. Glorious, bonkers stuff only the British can do, and the Welsh do best for some reason.



Who? Ali Campbell

Title: Great British Songs
Tell me more:
Wherein Campbell records standards by the Beatles and the Stones, the Kinks and the Hollies, Rod the Mod and Free, among others. Stop laughing at the back.
The Lowdown:
How can you go wrong with a release from the UB40 frontman? Well, in lots of ways actually. His previous solo album, Flying High, crash landed in a cesspit, and I described it as dazzlingly inept, although Phil Collins fans would like it.
So maybe I was up for another fight when this arrived. Campbell clearly loves these songs and adds a touch of reggae. This works best on Roxy Music’s Love Is The Drug, although his deadpan vocal mannerism fails to convey the risque nature of the original. Nevertheless his versions of The Hollies’ Carrie Ann and Rod Stewart’s You Wear It Well are excellent, bringing a new viewpoint to the songs, in fact the version of the latter is vastly superior to Stewart’s. Great British Songs settles for the familiar (Beatles, Stones, Hollies et al) and is imbedded with a smug self-satisfaction, that of good production over heartfelt feeling but I also appreciated that he was given a fresh take on these songs, while many stars just go though the motions with covers.
Anything else? In 1980 Campbell sang a eulogy to civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King. In 2009, he recorded a Britney Spears song.


Who? Minuit

Title: Dance Music Will Tear Us Apart
Tell me more:
Their track record goes back to 1998 with the guitar-centric Sonic Experience EP, though their debut album, The 88, came out in 2003. The name is pronounced min-wee and is French for midnight.
The Lowdown:
Reviewing remix albums is like watching a film adaption of a classic novel: you’re approaching virtually from a blind spot. In this case, while I have not heard a Minuit album, I have heard some of their trip-folk on Kiwi FM. It sounds like a remix album, or rather a six-track mini-album, in that it has plenty of experimentation and ideas. The techo-heads have essentially stripped down the basic Minuit sound, and transported it onto a 1998 dancefloor. Ruth Carr has a highly evocative voice, but it is almost obsolete on say, Suicide. Carr’s vocal duties often elevates a Minuit track from drabness to beauty, and the remixers, Gimme a C! and Funknslocuts, generally realise this. The music is sometimes tantalisingly endearing, sometimes infuriatingly irrelevant, but Carr remains the focus.

Anything else? Gimme a C! and Funknslocuts are aka Paul Dodge and Ryan Beehre respectively, the other members of Minuit.


Who? Bilders

Title: Mean Time
Powertool Records
Tell me more:
Bilders (no honorific, and no U) IS Bill Direen, a Christchurch artist who has made countless albums over the years and has released this at the same time as another album, Mindful. From 1980 Bilders were a proto-punk band and although, like The Fall, many have come and gone, Direen remains it’s driver.
The Lowdown:
This is a kind of music that is both minimalist and satisfying. I’ve never viewed those words as compatible in an album, but, like John Cale when he relaunched his career in the early and mid-zeroes, this works. Direen has a beautifully languid voice which easily draws you in, like a grandfather telling a tale of ghosts and ghoulies. I Think We’ll Be All Right is essentially Direen talking, attempting to tell a story, even taking a second bite at the opening sentence. There isn’t a great deal to it but it nevertheless, leaves you wanting another chorus or two.

And, like Cale, Direen has a knack of formulating atmospheric and intelligent songs, notably so on Byron & Eve, six minutes of beauty, steeped in classical history,”The severed head of Orpheus/ floating down from Thrace/ The rest of his belongings/ on a sexless ass.” I may have overdone the Cale comparisons, but it’s an obvious one, with strains of the Velvet Underground, in such songs as Four Long Years, although Bilders are very much a distinct outfit with Direen’s vocals and ideas bleeding heavily into the make.
Anything else? Direen says Mean Time is a tribute to the characters and personalities of the emerging independent scene in Christchurch in the late 70s/ early 80s.

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