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Posts Tagged ‘The National’

WHEN THE CRITICS SAVAGE their prey, they often hit the mark. I can think of oodles of stinkers that took a nasty uppercut from a pissed-off hack, and it was delivered for all the right reasons.

But sometimes the scribblers took umbrage at an album that went on to sell millions, and rank up there in the all-time greatest album lists. The thing is, they might actually have had a point. Here we look at some of those floggings written at the time of release that are now generally regarded as out of touch.

 

Led Zeppelin — Led Zeppelin

By John Mendelsohn of Rolling Stone Led Zep

“In their willingness to waste their considerable talent on unworthy material the Zeppelin has produced an album which is sadly reminiscent of Truth. Like the Jeff Beck Group they are also perfectly willing to make themselves a two- (or, more accurately, one-a-half) man show. It would seem that, if they’re to help fill the void created by the demise of Cream, they will have to find a producer (and editor) and some material worthy of their collective attention.”

This review pissed off Jimmy Page so much he refused to speak to Rolling Stone for many years.

 

The Rolling Stones — Exile on Main Street

By Lenny Kaye of Rolling Stone Stones

Exile On Main Street spends its four sides shading the same song in as many variations as there are Rolling Stone readymades to fill them, and if on the one hand they prove the group’s eternal constancy and appeal, it’s on the other that you can leave the album and still feel vaguely unsatisfied, not quite brought to the peaks that this band of bands has always held out as a special prize in the past. Hopefully, Exile On Main Street will give them the solid footing they need to open up, and with a little horizon-expanding, they might even deliver it to us the next time around.”

‘Vaguely unsatisfied’ is perhaps not the harshest words dished out, but this is The Stones and they weren’t often give a back-handed slap.

 

 

Neil Young – After the Gold Rush

By Langdon Winner – The Rolling Stone (boy, did they have some real rottweilers on the staff back in the day). Neil Young

“Neil Young devotees will probably spend the next few weeks trying desperately to convince themselves that After The Gold Rush is good music. But they’ll be kidding themselves. For despite the fact that the album contains some potentially first rate material, none of the songs here rise above the uniformly dull surface. In my listening, the problem appears to be that most of this music was simply not ready to be recorded at the time of the sessions. It needed time to mature. On the album the band never really gets behind the songs and Young himself has trouble singing many of them. Set before the buying public before it was done, this pie is only half-baked.”

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

By Ben Edmonds – Rolling Stone Floyd
“Wish You Were Here is about the machinery of a music industry that made and helped break Syd Barrett. Their treatment, though, is so solemn that you have to ask what the point is. If your use of the machinery isn’t alive enough to transcend its solemn hum — even if that hum is your subject — then you’re automatically trapped. In offering not so much as a hint of liberation, that’s where this album leaves Pink Floyd.”

 

Lou Reed — Berlin

By Stephen Davis of Rolling Stone Lou Reed

“ …. Berlin takes the listener into a distorted and degenerate demimonde of paranoia, schizophrenia, degradation, pill-induced violence and suicide. … There are certain records that are so patently offensive that one wishes to take some kind of physical vengeance on the artists that perpetrate them.”

The Ramones: The Ramones

By Steve Morrissey (aye, him), Melody Maker July 1976 enhanced-buzz-10425-1348238921-9

“The Ramones are the latest bumptious band of degenerate no-talents whose achievement to date is to advance beyond the boundaries of New York City and purely on the strength of a spate of convincing literature projecting the Ramones as God’s gift to rock music.

“They have been greeted with instant adulation by an army of duped fans. Musically, they do not deal in subtlety or variation of any kind, their rule is to be as incompetent as possible.”

Young Stephen Patrick Morrissey may have missed the point perhaps in reviewing this, but I have to admit that I find the Ramones debut somewhat disappointing though I accept why it is now highly regarded.

Morrissey’s hope that their debut “should be rightly filed and forgotten,” has not been followed through.

 

And finally, one from one our own archive, a review I am extremely proud as it truly slayed a sacred indie cow. There was blood.

The National: Trouble Will Find Me

Headline: A National Disgrace National

“It seems an appropriate time to pierce the bubble of a band who have seduced cloth-eared critics and music fans forced to feast on a steady diet of tripe and cold chips for years now.

Now, we have to endure another round of half-considered reviews, as critics become immersed in the stupifying thought-process of ‘never mind the quality feel the width’.

Listening to Trouble Will Find Me is a turgid exercise in self-flagellation. The proverbial terms paint and dry are most appropriate as singer Matt Berninger punishes the ears. I Should Live In Salt is a monotone dirge that remains at the same pace throughout. Another uphill stream, Demons, would be ideal for a road trip along a straight motorway with a 30km/h speed limit for its entirety.”

 

 

 

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Another year is over and, as we do every year, here’s our favourite albums of the past 12 months. These are all ones Porky has reviewed, the exception being Hyperbubble and Manda Rin.

The House of Love made a very welcome return after an eight-year hiatus, She Paints Words In Red being their first release for boutique HoLlabel Cherry Red.
It begins, suitably, with a burst of guitars and Chadwick’s plaintive voice on A Baby Got Back On Its Feet. Meanwhile, on Hemingway, he sounds like he’s always done on more sedate tracks, Leonard Cohen attempting to do The Jam.
Other standouts include the reworked Purple Killer Rose, the guitar assault of Money Man, and Never Again which also rattles on at full pelt.
Nevertheless, She Paints Words In Red isn’t the assault on the senses their spiky debut was, nor is it alike any of the subsequent albums; it is it’s own man, a pleasant and joyful listen.

Less rock, more information may be the motto for Public Service Broadcasting as their debut album soars and floats, ably supported by plummy English accents from a bygone age.PBS
Inform – Educate – Entertain (Test Card recordings), is a sprightly set of tracks, relying heavily on samples, electronics as well guitars and drums. And a banjo.
Spitfire is an inspiring burst of shimmering guitars and beats that mingle deftly with samples from the war-based film The First of The Few. As the act’s name suggests, there’s a focus on using samples from public service footage of the past, such as the Conquest of Everest from the same year Hillary knocked the bastard off. The past meets the present, and PSB follow a fine tradition trawled in the 1980s by Big Audio Dynamite and Barmy Army/ Tackhead.

Fat Freddys Drops’ Blackbird is a more than an hour long, but, it has to be said, it is worthy of such longevity. Freddys
Many will pick up on particular styles and they mine their varied 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 eclecticism of albums. That is why Blackbird will appeal to those who file Bob Marley and the Wailers alongside Led Zeppelin.

Niko Ne Zna make an almighty Gypsy/ Balkan cocktail that sounds neither contrived nor from a Serbian village, but Renegadecertainly closer to the latter. They are a curious live experience: the first time I saw them was when I walked into my favourite record store in Wellington (sadly gone) and they were heading my way while playing before facing shocked motorists outside.
Their unusual style (to Western ears and eyes anyway) transfers easily to Renegade Brass Bandits (Monkey records), 10 tracks of high energy Balkan buzz such as the energetic, frenzied Smoked Paprika but there are also more reflective numbers, like Ederlezi. Traditional tracks Kustino and Gankino mingle with the self-penned material.

Tropical Popsicle’s debut Dawn of Delight (Talitres) was surprisingly satisfying.Tropical
It is the kind of record that will garner all sort of reference points, from
1960s garage psych to The Horrors.
They’re a tight unit who I imagine would be mesmerising live with some drug-induced Len Lye-style psychedelic cut-and-paste footage playing on loop in the background. I can’t fault it really, and it is an album that could be played without resorting to the fast forward button. It really comes alive on Ghost Beacons which sounds like the Stone Roses meets Pink Floyd, with some immense, and enthralling guitar work. The Beach With No Footprints is dreamy pop-psych that captures the shoegazing tag the record label seems to appreciate.

Porky’s good friends at Fishrider Records unleashed a quiet classic with the debut album by The Prophet Hens – Popular People Do PopularPopular People.
The Hens are a four-piece who wear their Dunedin badges firmly on their lapels and shout out their love of all things Flying Nun and the requisite label/ city bands, namely The Chills, the Magick Heads et al.
There are Über-jangly guitars, playful drums and earnest basslines aplenty, with the delectable vocals of Penelope Esplin and Karl Bray. At nine tracks and 29 minutes long it isn’t one of those over-long efforts that the compact disk has encouraged. While there’s a distinct and discernible Mainland sound, Left It Out To Shine drips with English eccentricity and the 60s harmonies endlessly repeated that is the bootprint of Stereolab.

Dreadzone transcend genres and Escapades (Dubwiser records) is certainly a bag of birds.Dreadzone
Too Late features Mick Jones, ex of Big Audio Dynamite, and the song borrows the hook from the brilliant post-punk hit single Is Vic There? by Department S. They’re not a band I would have imagined being linked to Dreadzone, but the melding works.
Places has a summer feel and inspiring lyrics; portions of dub-heavy Next Generation hark back to their finest album, Second Light; I Love You Goodbye adapts samples and a ringing telephone quite cleverly; Rise Up pounds away mercilessly, and Fire In The Dark features a female Arabic voice sequenced by dance rhythms and has an insanely driving chant/chorus. This is the closest Dreadzone will get to Bristol.

Chris T-T’s ninth studio album, The Bear (Xtra Mile recordings) offers a refreshing take on the art of writing, with nods to the Kinks and Blur.The Bear The title track adopts the opening lines to PiL’s Rise, “I could be wrong, I could be right” before T-T quickly changes tune: “Well done John, marvellous insight, you think buying and selling your soul would be better/ well picture me giving a damn .. whatever”.
No icon is too big for T-T, and Jesus Christ hails a visionary and laments those who take his name in vain. Then there’s Paperback Kama Sutra, Bury Me With A Scarab and Idris Lung, music that should be for the masses, but won’t, as anything educational, challenging or even topical has long since been ditched in the too hard basket for music’s controllers. But the Hoodrats know a good thing or two, and The Bear is a heavyweight album, of intelligence and is the work of act that’s reaching a peak.

It was touch and go whether the self-titled release by Hyperbubble and Manda Rin on Pure Pop For Now People would even be considered Rinfor inclusion as it’s short and sweet; but it has six tracks that constitutes a mini-album in Porky’s view. This is a team-up between Texan technics Hyperbubble and Rin, formerly of Glasgow indie giants bis. That sounds like an ideal combo to me and on Geometry II there’s a cohesion and understanding even if it mainly relies on Rin intoning ‘Geometry’ at regular intervals.  This is catchy electro-pop with bouncy drums, multi-layered vocals, and a huge sense of fun.

Teenager Nick Raven is eager and persistent, badgering Porky for a review of his debut, and we’re glad he did.  Raven
Love & Lomography (Powertool records) is an album of craftsmanship, desire and passion. Tracks generally veer from the edgy, entrancing psychedelic efforts of Butterfly and Sitting & Laughing, with folkier moments such as Love and Drown. For an 18-year-old Raven has a worldy-wise head on his shoulders, and this reminds me a little of an acoustic Kasabian or the House of Love. I’ll be keeping an eye out for this kid.

 

Worst Album of the Year

No contest, really, it was by a country mile, The National’s Trouble Will Find Me, which we said about: “Listening to the disk is a turgid exercise in self-flagellation. The proverbial terms paint and dry are most appropriate as singer Matt Berninger punishes the ears. The opening track, I Should Live In Salt, is a monotone dirge that remains at the same pace throughout. Another uphill stream, Demons, would be ideal for a road trip along a straight motorway with a 30km speed limit for its entirety.”

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NAtional

A self portrait by Nancy Berninger from the inside booklet.

 

The National have just released their sixth studio album, Trouble Will Find Me on 4AD. It seems an appropriate time to pierce the bubble of a band who have seduced cloth-eared critics and music fans forced to feast on a steady diet of tripe and cold chips for years now. So bad is the music scene in 2013 that anyone wearing a suit, writing ‘self-assured, confident’ songs and performing at a middle distance pace will be lauded high and low, and everywhere inbetween.

Now, we have to endure another round of half-considered reviews, as critics become immersed in the stupifying thought-process of ‘never mind the quality feel the width’

Let’s start with the cover, a grim-looking facade that would not be out of place on an Interpol record. Trust me, that’s no compliment.The artwork inside, while abstract and obtuse, would have made for a more fitting cover.

Listening to the disk is a turgid exercise in self-flagellation. The proverbial terms paint and dry are most appropriate as singer Matt Berninger punishes the ears. The opening track, I Should Live In Salt, is a monotone dirge that remains at the same pace throughout. Another uphill stream, Demons, would be ideal for a road trip along a straight motorway with a 30km speed limit for its entirety.

For the record, Porky listened to every second of this album, twice in fact, in case I had been too hasty first up, but believe me, I would write the same thing after 20 listens. Of course, I would have thrown myself off the nearest bridge before then.

I didn’t expect much from Tropical Popsicle‘s debut Dawn of Delight (Talitres) but have found that it’s a surprisingly satisfying recording.

TropicalIt is the kind of record that will garner all sort of reference points, from 1960s garage psych to The Horrors, and the press release namechecks all sorts of genres, sub-genres, beaches and indie acts over the decades. The lynchpin of the quartet is Tim Haines, who has history in not-quite-great acts, and is joined by Kyle Whatley, Ryan Hand and Chase Elliott.

They love 7” singles and enticing covers featuring alluring ladies free of the hindrance of clothing, and musically, they are a tight unit who I would imagine would be mesmerising live with some drug-induced Len Lye-style psychedelic cut-and-paste footage playing on loop in the background. I can’t fault it really, and it is an album that could be played without resorting to the fast forward button, but the album really comes alive on Ghost Beacons which sounds like the Stone Roses meets Pink Floyd, with some immense, and enthralling guitar work. Previous single, The Beach With No Footprints is dreamy pop-psych that captures the shoegazing tag the record label seems to appreciate.

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Who? Karen Elson

Title: The Ghost Who Walks
Label:
Third Man/ XL
Tell me more:
It is, upon hearing this album, surprising to learn that Elson is a top model, her red hair and pale face selling all sorts of expensive perfumes and clothes. In between photo shoots and picking up hefty cheques, the British-born, now Nashville-based Elson was writing songs and performing live.
The Lowdown:
Given her modelling background I would have expected some sort of mush that could fit easily into commercial radio jock’s playlist. But not many of these songs will filter through the car stereos during the breakfast hour. There’s an eerie, neo-gothic sound to The Ghost Who Walks, a sense that here’s a band that watched Cabaret before popping on Nick Cave or PJ Harvey, and having had a bellyful of bourbon too. Elson evokes the edgier side of country on Cruel Summer and gives an impression of someone looking for something unfortunate to happen, as The Birds They Circle. From the gothic cover to the lyrics, the notion of Elson is that of a mysterious girl you may not take home to your mother. And sometimes she overplays this role. A surprisingly enchanting album that covers a lot of ground, emotions and ideas.

Anything else? The ubiquitous Jack White produces. Well, he should, he is her husband.

Who? The National

Title: High Violet
Label:
4AD
Tell me more:
When the press release reveals little more than line-up, history and namechecks artists they’ve played with at festivals and on projects, you know this is a band that maybe isn’t quite rock and roll in the traditional sense. The National is a great name for a band though: there’s so many words that could be added: Rifle Association, Party, Lottery, Railways etc. The five-piece have been around for more than a decade with various albums garning heaps of praise, but the most important one is this.
The Lowdown:
Initially, High Violet seems like more mood music, the sound you would get if Muse were in the studio while battling with an almighty hangover. That’s the impression gleaned from the opening two tracks, Terrible Love and Sorrow, but from there on, it moves into another gear, Little Faith being particularly illuminating, catchy even. From Conneticut they may hail, but you would be excused for comparing them to Manchester’s Editors or many of the other similar Northern English bands. Later listens reveal more, of a band with a broad musical taste, with some thoughtful lyrics and, while it is generally lo-fi, there’s the ghost of early REM abounding.

Anything else? They contain two sets of brothers, the Devendorfs and the Dessners. Sounds like a bunch of New York solicitors. Barack Obama used a track from a previous album on a campaign video.

Who? The Wurzels

Title: A Load More Bullocks
Label:
CIA
Tell me more:
A cider-sodden west country (England that is) band who play the Glastonbury Festival, Europe’s biggest and boldest, next month. This is the band that took Combine Harvester all then way to the British top ten in the 1970s. Putting the fun into dysfunctional.
The Lowdown:
The Wurzels are a truly English tradition, something that couldn’t translate anywhere else. Hence a tracklisting that includes Take That’s Up All Night, the Kaiser Chiefs’ Ruby, The Stranglers’ Golden Brown, Spinal Tap’s Sex Farm and best of all, their own particular take on Pulp’s Common People. All hail the deranged, piss-taking, funny bones of rock and roll.

Anything else? As you might have guessed this is a follow-up album, to Nevermind the Bullocks, which slaughtered Robbie Williams, Blur, Oasis and Chumbawamba.

Who? Sonia Bullot

Title: Tonight On Trumpet
Label:
Jayrem Records
Tell me more:
Bullot is a product of a Wellington jazz school and a former member of the Queen City Big Band.
The Lowdown:
The press release came with a note: I hope it is ‘your cuppa tea’. Well, that almost sounds like a challenge, or some gentle mockery, given what’s been reviewed in Porky’s Prime Cuts before. But we have Catholic tastes here and don’t just listen to Half Man Half Biscuit and death muzak all day. So let’s have a listen .. track one, mmm, nice jazz; track two, more trumpets; track three, hey that’s a pop-jazz standard once covered by Elvis Costello; track five, admirable doing a Miles Davis tune; track eight, yet more trumpet. Now, the title does provide a wee clue as to the contents. Lovely jubbly.

Anything else? She formed a band called Flibberty Jibbit once.

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