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Posts Tagged ‘Little Bushman’

PJ Harvey: Let England Shake (Island) 
Harvey looks at her home country and its role abroad, with an emphasis on war, both current and historical. The end of the Empire and Britain’s diminished role in the 21st Century brings Harvey to note that “England’s dancing days are done,” and on a track simply titled England her homeland “leaves sadness, it leaves a taste, a bitter one,”.

The bugle’s used to majestic effect on The Glorious Land, one of a few tracks that reference the horrors of World War I and in particular the gory Gallipoli campaign that is etched so strongly in the psyche of the people of New Zealand and Australia. The militaristic and national soul-searching elements aside, this is a generally uplifting album that shows a musical diversity and even includes a sample of Niney the Observer’s reggae classic Blood and Fire.

 

Wire: Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag)

Wire sound, like how Wire have always done, in 1977, 1987 and 2011. There’s some sort of random wordplay going on in Two Minutes, Colin Newman shouting statements like ‘A dirty cartoon duck covers the village in shit, possibly signalling the end of western civilisation, and ‘Coffee is not a replacement for food or happiness’.
That may be the best track of the album but Adapt is the most potent: a slow moving beast it may be but that is an ideal pace to delve deep into the state of the modern world – extreme climate change and disaster, the failure of financial markets and hollow politics. There’s a strain of melancholy and it’s difficult to ascertain much hope in the song, just a denouncement of how things are, but it remains aesthetically beautiful.
And in those two tracks you have the essence of Red Barked Tree: quiet or loud; random or thoughtful; brutal or delicate.

 

 

Little Bushman: Te Oranga (Little Bushman) 
As someone who comes from the thought process that angry is better, born of a youthful love of punk and reggae, I often have to remind myself that some of the best records and songs are those about love, peace and the human condition. So, there’s no axe to grind, no point to make. Just some sprawling, ambitious tracks like Gone, that are long, but the length is justified as Warren Maxwell, and co delve into different layers of sound and weave them together. That track and the space-rock Dream of the Astronaut Girl come in two parts, saddled together rather than as a reprise. This means the four-piece allow themselves the luxury of developing the tracks as much as they can, but it doesn’t sound like prog-rock-esque indulgence and in the true nature of a concept album, which I guess this is, Gone Part II segues nicely into the eight-minute Big Man.

 

Arctic Monkeys: Suck It And See (Domino)
On the first couple of listens Suck It And See sounds like their adventure in Indie-Rock, as if a sober Pete Doherty ghosted into the studio and left some ideas behind. Could it be … no, I dare not so their name ….damn I’ll have to now, but have they been listening to post-Madchester James?  Later listens suggest a broader palate, but you get the picture.

Regardless, Alex Turner’s words remain as potent as ever, if you’ll forgive the monotonous Brick By Brick. Turner’s come up with some gems like “Topless models doing semaphore” (Reckless Serenade), or “You’re rarer than a can of dandelion,” (title track).

Oh yes, and there’s those gloriously long-winded titles, like Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair.

 

The Horrors: Skying (XL recordings)  

From looking like a bunch of black-clad goths reading Joseph Conrad all day, the four-piece now remind me of Pink Floyd, circa 1969, both in look and sound. What enters the ears is the most pleasant and surprising thing, as Skying is choc-full of lush, ethereal tracks such as You Said, which builds into an enormous monster of a tune with its captivating verses and pounding beats. Endless Blue begins like Velvet Underground, but at 1:44 out come the grinding guitars while Faris Badwan gives it his best rocking frontman impression. Their development from garage rock to post-punk psychedelia is reminiscent of the same path tread two decades ago by The Telescopes, who’s self-titled second album remains one of my personal favourites, with its ability to blend in the emerging indie-dance sound with killer rock noise. Time was not favourable to the Telescopes, so I hope there’s a better outlook for the Southend-on-Sea’s finest talents.

 

Iggy Pop: Roadkill Rising … The Bootleg Collection 1977-2009 (Shout Factory!)

Recorded at various venues around the world with much of the latter two disks being recorded at festivals, it offers a broad overview of Pop’s career, peppered with covers such as the Batman Theme and Les Feuilles Mortes, a French favourite sung by Yves Montand and Edith Piaf. These are welcome additions to the familiar (I Wanna Be Your Dog, TV Eye, Lust for Life, Nightclubbing etc) and the not so familiar: the album tracks and the singles from the largely barren early 80s period.

The tracks are laid out in an awkward manner, so you want to stay with one concert and skip another but, really, that’s my only real quibble. The quality is generally good, Pop has great interaction with the audience and he puts his heart and soul into Search and Destroy, Raw Power and the rest.

 

Nick Lowe: The Old Magic (Proper Records)  

Age has invigorated this quintessential Englishman, with 2007’s At My Age delving into the nuances of his approach toward the big six-oh. In fact, he confronts it with typical wit and adroitness: “I’m 61 years old now, and Lord I never thought I’d see 30/ Though I know this road has still some way to go, I can’t help but thinking on.” (Checkout Time).

He ponders lost love; selling a house where love once resided (House for Sale) and finds solace in the printed page: “not just magazines, but more serious things” to get over a deserted lover (I Read a Lot). Meanwhile, Lowe also finds he has the “wander dust” in his feet, on Restless Feeling, though he doesn’t know where it’s leading him to. With a strong backing band, Lowe has found a niche, and there seems little let up, a la Lee Scratch Perry.

 

S.C.U.M: Again Into Eyes (Mute)

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 ‘neath 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.

 

The Waterboys: An Appointment with Mr. Yeats (Puck records)  

Like Primal Scream who change stripes with every album, Mike Scott is no stranger to a challenge, keenly adapting WB 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.

 

Half Man Half Biscuit: 90 Bisodol (Crimond) (Probe Plus)

All the elements of a Half Man Half Biscuit album are here: the play on words and the witty titles and songs about the things we actually talk most about: korfball, Betterware products, and “Ross Kemp on Watership Down.

The Biscuits are a breed apart, leaders of a small clique of obscurantist artists delving into the minutae, the strangeness, the uniqueness of our 21st century lives. Porky adores Joy of Leeuwarden (We Are Ready) which is bizarrely derived from a song written about the 2010 European Korfball Championships in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Nigel Blackwell uses the narrative style he’s used to good effect on previous albums, on Descent of the Stiperstones, to describe a meeting a dullard has with a former Coronation Street star.

 

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Who? The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

Title: Belong
Label:
Play It Again/ Fortuna Pop!
Tell me more: The name of this New York-based band comes from an unpublished children’s story by a friend of the singer, Kip Berman. How’s that for an obscurely-referenced influence?? They are so indie, they do split singles on vinyl.
The Lowdown:  The Pains have a trifle of a cult following among the folks who would have listened to John Peel and read Filter magazine. According to the typically overblown press release the band have moved away from their lo-fi sound, and done so without abandoning their roots. Having not come across the Pains before (this is only their second album) I can’t say if they’ve abandoned their original ethos but Belong remains very much of the indie ilk, and I’m reminded by My Bloody Valentine on the first few bars, and The Cure on a good chunk of this album. There’s the blissful pop of Heart In Your Heartbreak;  the committed drive of The Body and the gentle, trembling infectiousness of Anne With An E. It all sounds quite lovely, and yet it lacks a little je ne sais quoi, Belong remains in the same gear, trundling along it a nice pace, slightly above the speed limit.

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Who? Little Bushman

Title: Te Oranga
Tell me more: It’s been some time since the Bushmen released their last album, Pendulum – late 2007 in fact. Frontman Warren Maxwell, who is also a member of the reformed Trinity Roots, says Te Oranga is a celebration of the warmer side of humanity.
The Lowdown: The first time I encountered Little Bushman was at the Newtown Festival in Wellington back in 2009, when I was blown away by the delicate rhythms and I envisaged Jimi Hendrix had come back to the world, having eschewed the electrically charged side of his music and fully developed the mellower, psychedelic side. That may sound as if I’m pigeon-holing the band into a nice wee corner but let me quantify that by saying the Bushmen are very much a New Zealand band. That’s difficult to describe to someone from outwith the Shaky Isles, but there is an essence and virtue among Kiwi bands that’s unique to those artists. The Bushmen marry various genres but the thread is 60s psychedelia.

As someone who comes from the thought process that angry is better, born of a youthful love of punk and reggae, I often have to remind myself that some of the best records and songs are those about love, peace and the human condition. So, there’s no axe to grind, no point to make. Just some sprawling, ambitious tracks like Gone, that are long, but the length is justified as Maxwell, and co delve into different layers of sound and weave them together. That track and the space-rock Dream of the Astronaut Girl come in two parts, saddled together rather than as a reprise. This means the four-piece allow themselves the luxury of developing the tracks as much as they can, but it doesn’t sound like prog-rock-esque indulgence and in the true nature of a concept album, which I guess this is, Gone Part II segues nicely into the eight-minute Big Man.

I’m also pleased to hear snippets of the Maori language interspersed into some songs, and in full on the opening title track, with a translation provided on the website.

 

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Who? Black Wings

Title: Meltwater
Label:
Powertool records
Tell me more:
The Black Wings have been around since 2006 but this is the first album for a three-piece based in Palmerston North in New Zealand’s North Island.
The Lowdown:  Many bands have black as part of their name (Lips, Cab, Watch, etc etc) but the addition of Wings evokes the bleakness of the colour, a reminder of birds such as the raven and the crow that are integral to the Gothic sub-culture. The Black Wings also have, in singer Brendan Conlon, a man with a wonderfully gravelly voice that adds to the mysteriousness of their music and lyrics. Add in JC Burns’ pulsating basslines, and you have an intense clutch of songs, some uplifting, some more in keeping with the subject matter. On, The Grave, for example, later era Pogues gives life to a song about the loss of a loved one, Conlon lamenting that, despite all his attempts to keep his wife safe from harm, “deliverance was to come from above.” After listening to Amber, about knowing when death is looming, you’d be excused for thinking this was a monumental wrist-slitting album. But there’s far more to Meltwater, including a cover of Paul Kelly’s ode to assertiveness, I Won’t Be Your Dog Anymore and, on Time Flies, Conlon issues the old idiom that time goes quickly when you’re having fun.

Anything else? Available at powertoolrecords.co.nz

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Who? Azalia Snail

Title: Celestial Respect
Label:
Powertool records/ Silber records
Tell me more:
Snail has been around for some time, and released records on Sub Pop, the famous Seattle label. People like Beck know her well but most folk outside of the West Coast will be unfamiliar with her unusual style.
The Lowdown:
There is a beauty within Snail’s songs. She has a delicate voice and the 14 tracks on here are conceptual bites, some verging on pop music, several others in a vague, indescribable  ether. My personal favourite, Burnt Cookies, a glorious, swaying pop record about an argument over, well, burnt cookies, is in direct contrast to Fallen Down, which could well have been used on a self-motivation new age disk, or Feels Right in which discordant keyboards hum as Snail sings in an oblique manner. Celestial Respect is a mood album, one that requires patience and commitment, it is not a throwaway, there are elements to be picked up at later date. However, even with such qualities it will only appeal to someone with an interest in the esoteric.

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