"Most rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read." - Frank Krappa

Saturday, 26 February 2011

To continue my Caribou wank-fest...

This breathtaking video of Caribou's breathtaking album closer, 'Jamelia', has just been made public:

Is it bad that this song literally makes me breathless?

This is a "sister video", released a year ago with the album opener 'Odessa':

It's a much catchier, dancier affair, but neither the song or the video blow my mind as much as 'Jamelia'.

Friday, 25 February 2011

The Breeders - Pod

Kim Deal

A couple of weeks ago I gave my friend The Breeders' amazing first album, Pod. I wrote her a thing on why it's so good. Here it is, sans personal bits:

Pod is a really, really, really good album. At first I thought it was just okay, but it grew on me over a period of months and, when I actually decided to buy it for your birthday, I relistened again and thought it was exceptional. Every track is full of fantasticly original ideas that are totally worth stealing.

Also, it's just not me saying that this album is really good. Kurt Cobain (who's judgement should be respected for several reasons) spoke about it in an article called Kurt Cobain of Nirvana Talks About the Records That Changed His Life and said that “it’s an epic that will never let you forget your ex-girlfriend”, which I'm sure means “it's really good”. He also said that “The main reason I like [The Breeders] is for their songs, for the way they structure them, which is totally unique, very atmospheric”. Steve Albini, the producer of the album who also produced many other AMAZING albums such as Surfer Rosa by Pixies, In Utero by Nirvana and Rid of Me by PJ Harvey, said that he thinks it ranks among his best works. And there's heaps and heaps of less interesting critical praise.

Most of the tracks on the album are classics. The opener, Glorious, manages to be beautiful. lazy and intense at the same time. Their cover of a Beatles song, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, is miles and miles better than the (amazing) original. Oh! is a song I find incredibly heartbreaking and my favourite bit in the entire album is at 1:53 when Kim manages to tearjerkingly squeal in tune. When I Was A Painter is a grungey classic. Iris jumps from sweetness to raw power and vice-versa in an incredibly effective way. The closer, Metal Man, is surreal and enchanting with the most unexpected, brief and brilliant climax ever. I only missed out the other songs for brevity's sake, they are all beautiful and rockin' too.

As noted before, the album was produced by Steve Albini and I think many fans attribute it's greatness to him. However, I don't think the production is the reason for the albums many positive attributes; it's interesting, but the main reason that the album's great is because of the people writing and playing the songs.

As I'm sure you know, The Breeders are fronted and rhythm guitared by Kim Deal, the wonderful bassist and occasional vocal provider in the Pixies. As if Kim herself isn't enough to make a brilliant underground supergroup, she was joined by Tanya Donelly, the lead guitarist of Throwing Muses. Britt Walford, the drummer, was suggested by Albini and was from the incredibly influential post-rock band Slint (their album Spiderland is defiantly worth a couple of listens, especially the song Washer). He was credited as “Shannon Doughton” and performed live in drag to keep with the all female line-up. To top it all off the bassist, Josephine Wiggs, was in loadsa bands I don't care about and got a MA in Philosophy from Sussex!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Gig: Caribou @ Shepherds Bush Empire 22/2/11


Last night I saw Caribou at Shepherds Bush Empire. He/they was/were pretty damn awesome.

I got there in time to see the closing 15 minutes of Factory Floor. They've been getting a significant amount of hype for a while (enough to be the main support at a NME Awards show), and I guess they are a hype-makers dream (weird and inaccessibly). Their performance generally consisted of a looped beat with lots of random noises made by a keyboard, guitar and live drummer. It was pleasant enough to witness and became alluringly hypnotic, but I couldn't help but think that it just sounded like someone trying out all of the different sounds and settings on their new synthesizer. It was a bit like baverage, old fashioned electronic dance music, just without any dancing. I can understand people enjoying the live spectacle, but I seriously do not understand why someone would buy their music and listen to it at home.

After I lined up for the cloakroom and squeezed back into the crowd, Caribou came on. During the opening song 'Leave House', Dr. Dan Snaith's microphone went in and out of audibility, which was an early sign of the sound problems that would plague (but not come close to ruining) the rest of the night. Despite the problems, they played an absolutely terrific set for 1 hour and 15 minutes, playing classics from both Andorra and Swim. They also extended many of their more danceable songs to the complete joy of me and the rest of the crowd.

However, within a few minutes of their set beginning, it became quite obvious that the venue was much, much too full. Even though I was at the back, I couldn't move and was stuck awkwardly between a woman's boob and the wiggling bum of the man in front of me. The managers of the venue should really lower the amount of standing tickets they sell, as it came close to ruining the night. Despite the horrific over-population of the venue, and the resulting 40 minute queue for the cloakroom, Caribou were good enough to make it one of the best gigs I've been to in a while. They encored with the most epically mindblowing rendition of 'Sun' anyone could ever hope to imagine. I really, really hope someone got a good quality video of the whole thing.

I can't find any videos of last nights gig, but here's a beautiful one of his last London gig with Four Tet (which I sadly missed):

Also, I'm incredibly happy that they've been added to the line-up of the ATP/I'll Be Your Mirror Portishead gig I'm going to in July. It's going to be one of the best days of my life.

In other news, I bought tickets to the ATP Jeff Mangum in December! Really, really excited!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Biffy Clyro Suck

A while ago I promised a friend that I would one day explain, in full length, why it is exactly that I am definitely right in teasing him for liking Biffy Clyro. This challenge brings up important questions, namely "What makes a band good?" and "Why the hell am I friends with someone who likes Biffy Clyro?". However, answering those would be difficult, so instead I'm going to look at their top 4 videos on YouTube and explain why they suck in particular. Let us begin the most scientific exploration into popular music of all time...

Many of Horror (When We Collide)

Okay. Honestly, I do quite like the guitar at the beginning, but it doesn't come close to making up for the rest of the song, which sounds (and looks) kind of like a collaboration between Keane and Ronan Keating. I don't have much of a problem with this kind of soppy ballad pop, it does it's job well by managing to fill up iPods owned by people who don't really like music very much. My problem with this song is that I thought Biffy Clyro were an "Alternative Rock" band. They are often compared to bands like Foo Fighters and (sadly) Nirvana, and whilst I'm not against artists exploring other musical terrain, this isn't exactly Iggy Pop's The Idiot, is it?

I couldn't possibly write about why this song sucks without having a look at the lyrics, and how could I neglect to mention the beautiful line "When we collide, we come together/If we don't we'll always be apart"? Biffy Clyro should be given a gold star and a pat on the head for realising that coming together and being apart are mutually exclusive options. They really should have gotten Ronan Keating to give them a hand with this one.


Again, this song shows that they are not defunct of musical ability with a cool little guitar bit at the beginning and a very nice Mogwai-esque breakdown and build up. However, in the verse they sound like an incredibly irritating mix between Vampire Weekend and U2, and during the chorus they sound like The Script. I'm starting to think that maybe Biffy Clyro aren't really an "Alternative Rock" band after all, and that maybe they were picked up by a record label to fill the market gap created by pre-teen girls who were just too rebellious for Avril Lavigne.


Faux-epic emo-pop shite with a lame-as-hell video to match. I don't get why anyone would like this. Also, tattooed man-cleavage? Seriously? I can't bear to write more about this aural and visual catastrophe.


I realised that I was only listening songs from their newest album, Only Revolutions, up until this point, so I'm doing the honourable thing here and checking out a track from their first album. Hopefully this will negate any claims by Biffy fans that I need to hear their earlier stuff before forming an opinion. Luckily that is not the case: this is still shitty rock/pop, but now with an Americanised accent forming the cherry on top of this shit-music pie.

I do think this is better than the melodramatic boy-band-esque previous three songs. It's reminiscent of '90s grunge and indie bands that I hold close to my heart. That is until 0:23, at which point I couldn't help shouting "WHAT THE FUCK!?!?" at my monitor. Seriously, what the fuck? The chorus destroys what could have been a quite nice, badly accented Slint rip-off.


I am right: Biffy Clyro are bad. Any Biffy Clyro fans who are reading this, please refer to the below videos for a good musical bridge between the crap you listen to now and what you should be listening to.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Get Smart!

Get Smart! - Action Reaction

I found Get Smart! on a torrent I downloaded in order to get Young Marble Giants' fantastic Colossal Youth called "4 Rare 80s Albums [Part 19] Post Punk Bands". There were two other albums that weren't to my taste, but Get Smart!'s 1984 album Action Reaction contains a bunch of hyperactive post-punk songs with a midwestern twist.

I don't really know anything about the band, but wikipedia tells me that they released a second album in 1986 (which I have yet to hear), and it generally seems that they were a band that gained a local following and disappeared from the public consciousness after they broke up. Pity really.

Their songs aren't complex soundscapes, emotionally intense journeys or musical innovations, but they seem to have a simple honesty that English post-punk bands of the same era seem to be missing.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Mandatory 'The King of Limbs' review

Radiohead's new album, The King of Limbs, was a giant surprise. I mean that in the sense that I was surprised to know that it was coming out, the album itself sounded much like you would expect it to: electronic, syncopated rhythms, lots of whining, clever music etc.

Despite the lack of musical surprises, I really, really like it. I'm probably not the first person to say so, but Radiohead are very good at making music and I would be extraordinarily shocked if they made a bad album. Therefore I hope their music doesn't legitimately surprise me any time soon (other than by possibly popping up unexpectedly again).

However, the first two tracks, Bloom and Good Morning Mr Magpie, kinda suck. While giving them a first listen I was thinking: "This is cool" and then: "Is this cool?" and then: "Do I only like it because it's Radiohead?" and finally: "I do not like this."

To start with, Bloom was not a Nirvana cover. Once that ridiculous false hope had been let down, I realised that it sounded like a Four Tet rip-off. Radiohead have ripped off Massive Attack and Aphex Twin to great effect, but I don't think Four Tet's jumbled sound combines well with Thom Yorke's voice. Spot the difference (ignore the vocals):

I am joking about the whole "rip-off" thing, but the similarities are endless, and I don't think it sounds good.

As I mentioned before, I also don't like Good Morning Mr Magpie. There's a similar mismatch between music and vocals. Thom Yorke has a fantastic, fantastic voice, but I really don't like how it sounds over fidgety, claustrophobic layers of high-hats and synths (which admittedly would make a very cool and interesting piece of music sans vocals).

Anyway, despite my bitching and whining (I realise I've been doing it a lot lately), The King of Limbs, is a fucking brilliant album. The other tracks are everything we mild Radiohead fans hoped for when a hardcore fan friend excitedly told us about their new album: beautiful, intricate epics. They just should have ditched the first two tracks, or made them instrumentals. Everyone likes instrumentals.

Here's a few killah tracks:

(This sounds like a mixture of this Four Tet song and this Caribou song. But in a really, really good way.)

(The wonderful lead single, with a charming (but significantly less wonderful) video.)

(The unanimously agreed stand out and future classic)

(The beautiful and oddly uplifting closer.)

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Let England Shake in a wave of over-hype and mediocrity

Two main points here:
a) I don't think PJ Harvey's new album, Let England Shake, is up to much.
b) I also don't like all the rave reviews it got, mainly because of the first point.

I really feel like I must be missing something, and that's why I don't like it, but I still have a little niggle in my head when listening to the album that says (for the most part): "This is not a particularly good song. Her voice sounds annoying. It sounds like she is being stabbed by a vibrating knife. Her first two albums are so, so, so much better. Is she trying to sound like Prussian Blue?" Maybe I just don't understand why this album is so good. Maybe, but I doubt it.

To be honest, I'm not speaking as the most educated connoisseur of PJ Harvey's work. I've only really listened to (and loved) her first two albums, at which point "PJ Harvey" was technically a band, and a few bits and bobs since. Therefore I'm obviously not able to understand this album within the context of her prolific career, as many other reviews have. However, I personally feel that if an album is okay but marks a personal artistic achievement for the creator it doesn't deserve 4 or 5 star reviews everywhere. So there.

Also, the lyrics got hella praise for talking about war. They could be really good lyrics, but (for the most part) I was too busy complaining in my head about how much I didn't like how the songs sounded to bother listening to the lyrics. Personally, how the music sounds is just about more important than the lyrics. If that weren't the case Let England Shake may as well be a book of poems.

It's not all bad though, I very, very much enjoyed several songs towards the end of the album. Here are those songs:

However, four out of twelve songs does not make a 4/5 star album, it makes a (maximum) 3 star album.

Also, it's just not as good as this:

Monday, 14 February 2011

Gang of Four 'Content'

Gang of Four were one of the most inventive and exciting bands of the Post-Punk era. It's often said that their politically inspired combination of punk and funk has greatly influenced many generations of bands, from Red Hot Chili Peppers to Franz Ferdinand. I think their first album, Entertainment!, should be listened to and owned by everyone. It's thrillingly intense, loud and (of course) funky. Their next couple of albums were pretty good too, with amazing classics like the song below.

All in all, their early output is utterly fantastic.

However, when I head news of their latest album, Content, I wasn't happy. It wasn't the lack of an original line-up that upset me (but I'll talk about that in a bit), but the dread that this new album would turn one of my favourite bands from the stuff of nostalgic funky legend into a hangover of something once great. Hearing the music samples on their PledgeMusic site only concreted this fear.

I was going to write some more things, but I can't be bothered and it's too late after the release for anyone to care anyway. So here's a video of them that pisses me off for reasons I don't quite understand:

I also read an article in which Andy Gill seemed very bitter about ex-bassist Dave Allen, and that also made me angry. Maybe one day I'll find it again.

I will always have a serious soft spot in my heart for Gang of Four, but I can't help but feel it would be even softer if one of the core members died before Content was recorded.


Anyway, as I was too lazy to write this properly, here's something better than anything I could ever create: