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Posts Tagged ‘The Horrors’

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: Steve Earle

Title: I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive

Label: New West

Tell me more: The donkey work to this album began three years ago, and part of the reason for it taking some time to reach the market is the book of the same name which accompanies it. This is no ‘making of’ doco-style tome, it’s a bona fide novel, featuring the ghost of Hank Williams.

The Lowdown: Copperhead Road (1988) and Revolution Now (2004) are the two Earle works that Porky associates with most, because of the former’s marriage of rock and country, and the development of that sound on the latter, with an added dash of politics and anger. I’ll Never Get Out of This World lacks the rockiness of Revolution Now in favour of a more languid flavour, with dashes of bluegrass and Celtic folk. In saying adios to George Bush Jr (a little late, perhaps) and reflecting the public’s anger over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Earle shows he’s not letting up on issues that matter.

Anything else: Earle has an acting role, playing an actor, in the HBO series Treme.

 

 

Who: The Horrors

Title: Skying

Label: XL recordings

Tell me more: They’re not small fry. The Horrors were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize two years ago for their second album. Their early garage rock sound has been refined to what has been cruelly termed shoegazing, a mini-scene of the early 90s that was derided for being a vehicle for middle-class students who did the very un-rock’n’roll thing of looking downwards while on stage.

The Lowdown: 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, and the photographs in the CD have a grainy look born of nice camera techniques and an eye for the oblique. What enters 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.

Anything else: Google The Horrors and The Mighty Boosh to see the band playing themselves in the show.

 

 

 

 

Who: The Saltwater Band

Title: Malk

Label: Dramatico/ Skinnyfish

Tell me more: Out of Australia’s barren Northern Territory comes the Saltwater Band, a group who are helping to keep the indigenous population’s culture and music alive. Among their membership is Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, a worldwide phenomenon as a solo star under his second name.

The Lowdown: Gurrumul’s star will keep the headline writers busy, but The Saltwater Band have been going for more than 15 years and it’s a cohesive eight-piece band that’s released Malk. I was in the Northern Territory two years ago, and although my stay was fairly brief, it was clear that the Aboriginal communities are ill-treated and at the bottom of the economic rung. Nevertheless, Aboriginal culture, while still largely exploited, is experiencing a revival, no less so than in music.

I was slightly surprised to hear hints of reggae throughout the album, notably on tracks such as Marwurrumburr, sung entirely in the Yolgnu language, and the sound of other Caribbean islands on Yolgnu Island Dancer, which intersperses their native tongue with snippets of English. It’s not strictly Aboriginal music but a combination of influences which brings a new dimension to this unique culture.

 

 

 

 

 

Who: Iggy Pop

Title: Roadkill Rising … The Bootleg Collection 1977-2009

Label: Shout Factory!

Tell me more: The cover sticker screams ‘Over 4 Hours of Prime Unreleased Iggy’, which is reason alone for thousands to seek out this four-disk compilation, of well, you may have guessed, unreleased material – which is industry speak for live recordings. Microphones were placed at venues such as the Rainbow Theatre in London and the Leysin Festival, in Switzerland, picking up some of the rawest rock’n’roll the world has ever heard.

The Lowdown: Iggy’s been an icon since The Stooges first unleashed their raw power in 1969, and while his albums have been varied over the past 20-plus years, he remains a star of the stage, doing things there, especially in his earlier days, that shocked and teased his audience. Naturally, he’s a popular draw with summer festivals, so a collection of  bootleg live material is an appropriate and welcome release.

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 cut and 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 fucking rest. He is a natural stage performer and, where most live albums stink to high heaven of money and a lack of vibrancy, Roadkill Rising reveals Pop the animal in his natural domain.

 

 

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