Sunday, 21 August 2011

White Denim - Exposion

White Denim are a Four piece (trio for this Album) Garage Rock outfit from Austin, Texas. Call them Garage Rock if you want, it's more of an Indie Rock/Post-Punk sort of sound, either way, these are genres that excite me. They touch upon Experimental Rock in some places, but in terms of originality it's very medium.

Instantly, I'm enjoying this album. The first track, 'Dont Look That Way At It' has some real attitude, the breakdown and ending of the song is something i didn't expect. In a way it has a Math Rock Feel, the opening few chords and notes sound straight out of a Maps & Atlases EP. It's a nice start for the album, but the track has little meaning or direction.

The following few tracks follow a same pattern, some nice layered vocals and decent drumming, with the electric guitar being used well, but not to a sufficient standard that i feel it should be. It could be a hell of a lot louder, this doesn't sound complete. Some of these early tracks have very smooth Math Rocky textures, but the end result is far from amazing. Nothing really makes me want to continue listening, I'm not hearing the full picture, it sounds a little unfinished and vague. Some Funk style guitar playing can be heard in places, I'm sure they must be really energetic and loud live, but on this album it's just a little too much Lo-fi.

Shake Shake Shake is the single, so to speak. It has a very enjoyable bass riff that runs through the song. Guitar work following on from the Bass, with drums keeping it rolling. 
I rate the song very highly, it's certainly the peak of the album. It has been played on the radio here in the UK sometimes, i believe it was featured on an 'Indie Rock' compilation album released by NME sometime in the past few years following 2008. I can imagine this being true as the song does sound very Indie and raw. The following few tracks are very Mod like in style but don't grab my attention as much as Shake Shake Shake, which is by far the stand out and superior track on the album.

It's a weak album, with some strong tracks. Nothing amazed me other than Shake Shake Shake. I can see how they manage to have a small cult following, they have a very clean guitar sound, they just don't have the ideas to make them standout. The album sounds extremely shallow, i don't think they can improve on this, unless they drop the style and bring in some different instruments and effects to brighten up the sound.


Friday, 19 August 2011

The Fugs - The Fugs

Any band that references or names themselves after a Norman Mailer novel must know how to write songs, so far from what I've heard through artists such as The Fugs and Lloyd Cole, literal lyrics are a fundamental strong aspect to the artists music. The Fugs are deemed as a mix of Psychedelic Rock/Freak Folk and Protopunk, I can understand why these terms are associated with The Fugs.

What we have is nine short songs which are extremely political and literal, with a smashing 11 minute album finisher which deserves it's place when referencing 60's Rock music. 'Dirty Old Man' is humorous as well as delicate, with lyrics noting pedophilia. It's disgustingly beautiful in it's own unique way, the Fug way. This track has a nice dance feel to it which is common within The Fugs discography, but you wouldn't want to sing this song when listening to your record player when eating dinner with your parents.

'Frenzy' is a smashing opener which sets the mood, it's a lovely Rock and Roll song which is like a toned down Chuck Berry number. 'I Want To Know' instantly stands out as a track you want to come back and listen to. It has that eager 60's sound that made the decade so wonderful. 

The songs don't differ in sound, which is a little criticism. But lyrically, if you have a good ear for lyrics then you should be in for a treat. Political opinions, references to drugs, sex and rock and roll. 'Kill For Peace' sums up the band for me, the message is simple, kill for peace, if you don't kill them, then the Chinese will. At the time, the lyrics are considered very opinionated and extreme, with short segments mentioning the call out to kill gook's, this song is a little satirical.

We come to 'Virgin Forest'. You may call it Avant-Garde if you must, with a gut wrenching ambient opening. It slowly descends into something you would expect to hear from The Doors, with a real emphasis on Lo-fi and instrumentation. The lyrics are honestly outstanding, with a great vocal sound. This is a sound which the band didn't show in the previous tracks, it's very Experimental but at the same time keeping the basics shown.

Generally I like literal albums, this is another one which i know rather well and enjoy, for people that may not have listened to The Fugs, I recommend listening to this with open ears, as loud as you can. It's not a very loud album, it's an exceptional read.


The Throne - Watch The Throne

You probably have this labeled as either The Throne or Kanye West & Jay Z, it isn't exactly clarified so I'll go with this artist name. So this is the latest effort by the two big name Hip-Hop artists known as Jay Z and Kanye West. I wasn't a massive fan of 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, i thought it lacked skill and the tracks were stretched. It had unnecessary segments to certain tracks such as Runaway, Blame Game and Dark Fantasy.. 

'Watch The Throne' is riddled with producers and writers, with lyrics not worthy even for Jay Z's past standards. The samples used have been selected well, but it wasn't the right thing to do, taking a fantastic Otis Redding song 'Try A Little Tenderness' (One of my favorite songs).. just destroying it with disastrous rhymes which are predictable 'I made Jesus Walk, I'm never going to hell', 'I invented swag'.. The lyrics serve little purpose in relation to the soulful sample, appalling.

'Niggas In Paris' is possibly the wost track on the album, it sounds like the instrumental has been pulled from a Soulja Boy song, the song shift works well, but again, just has nothing special about it at all, weak synths. The use of Auto tune just contradicts Jay Z's whole stance against Auto tune on Blueprint 3, it's just disappointing hearing these phonies, flaunting rhymes about cash and cars, as if they were amateurs just starting out releasing a mix tape.

I cant exactly find a track that I enjoy, it all sounds cheap and cheesy. 'Who Gon Stop Me' is painfully awful in every way possible, terrible lyrics and terrible use of synths. I think this album can be enjoyed by many people, fans of both Jay and Kanye should manage to form some positive opinions.

Watch The Throne is more about the persona, rather than the music. Expensive unexplained samples just don't cut it for me, if you're going to use that sort of sample, you should at least have a reason or use it well, 99 Problems comes to mind at this point, these just don't do that for me.


Monday, 15 August 2011

The Antlers - Burst Apart

Is it such a surprise? The Antlers couldn't follow up 2009's Hospice without realizing it wouldn't be surpassed. That's the problem with debut's, you need to be able to move forward and improve something, it could be lyrical content, production or musicianship. Here The Antlers do actually improve in each area, even if the lyrics to Hospice were dramatic and emotive.

'I Don't Want Love', starts the album. It has a generic drum beat, but with a good vocal effort and respectable soundscapes, the song stands out as an instant likable track. It flows rather well and has some nice guitar playing and synthesized Ambient like sounds. Peter's vocals reach a height at such an early stage, this is a great example of how an opening track should be for the Dream Pop genre.

'French Exit' shows how they've matured since Hospice, with delicate vocals by Peter Silberman and an enjoyful instrumental to go with the already established Dream Pop state the band has portrayed themselves in. The song has a nice melody and a well written chorus with great synthesized sounds as usual by keyboardist Darby Cicci.

'Parentheses' has an overall better sound quality to it, by this time the Dream Pop soundscapes are becoming a bit of a nuisance, i don't think they're necessary here, it's just being over used. The vocal work is an improvement from earlier Antlers wor and the use of Bass makes an unusual appearance here. The eventual kick and following guitar work sound superb.

'Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out', this is one of those songs that you either love or hate, the brilliantly created song focuses on guitar work and synthesizer hooks. It's another Antlers track that ends with a bang, this is a recurring theme for The Antlers and especially on Burst Apart.

Some of the tracks are a little different to what we've heard in the past, such as 'Hounds' which without the vocal work could have been created by an unsigned Indie Rock band. At least we have a great album ender to top it all off. 'Putting The Dogs Too Sleep' is enriched in reverbed barre chords and effortless vocals that give it such a laid back feel. The guitar work is the stand out with lyrics enough to make you want more.

In general, Burst Apart doesn't have the same eerie atmosphere or the first person outlook on the concept, that Hospice had. Sure, soundscapes are visible here, but they don't do anything important other than set the mood and genre, they just keep the flow. It's a good, solid album.. It could be better, i think they still have a lot of work to do before establishing themselves in a global market.


Primal Scream - Screamadelica

1991 was a year for establishing the popularity for genres that would last way past the expiration of the 20th century, for completely different reasons. In September we had Nirvana's Nevermind, establishing Grunge's dominance in record sales at the time. In November, we had Loveless by My Bloody Valentine - not as successful commercially, but gaining a considerable amount of universal acclaim it cemented its place as possibly the original benchmark for what is now shoegaze.

In-between these two dates, in mid October, a lesser-known Scottish band - led by former Jesus & The Mary Chain drummer Bobby Gillespie - released their third album to the World. The album had, to some people maybe, a less-than-creative name. The name was Screamadelica, the album's cover comprising solely of a yellow and blue splotch with eyes against a red background. Certainly not a naked baby in a swimming pool nor a heavily blurred close-up of a guitar neck, but a strange design for a rock band's third album nonetheless.

But it's the opening lyrics - or rather, spoken words - of the track Loaded that really summarize the feel and empathetic attitude in this album: 'Just what is it that you want to do?/We wanna be free...we wanna be free to do whatever we want to.' This is an album truly encompassing the concept of freedom and the will to let things take their course.

The album's opener 'Movin' On Up' begins on a high, strumming guitars and soft piano chords allow Gillespie's vocals to elevate and float across the room - the chorus adding to rather than taking away from this ascension; backing choir crying out the lines: "I'm movin' on up now/getting out of the darkness." fuelling the track's optimistic gaiety, short-string riffs and outcries by the choir once more leading the track into its penultimate stages.

It's not until track 4 do we hear Gillespie sing once more - 'Slip Inside This House' (a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators 1967 song) is sang by bassist Robert Young and 'Don't Fight It, Feel It' incorporating Denise Johnson for its vocal sections. It's these two songs that begin to demonstrate the Scream's expansion into what would become the 'acid house' sound. Slip Inside This House - a steady tremble of percussion and bass - breaks the band away from its previous rock sound of recognizable guitars and drums. The latter, meanwhile, reinvents the band's range and recognizes them truly as multi-genre experimenters. 'Don't Fight It, Feel It' provides a thumping beat of drums, synths buzzing and beating in sync while a calling of whistles accompany Johnson's harmonic voice and singing. This is where the true expanse of Screamadelica's reach is seen - a rock-orientated rhythm centred for an acid house scene you would undoubtedly hear more in the claustrophobic spaces of night clubs and rave culture. Is this then a rock song...or a dance track? The answer is both. Just as the pattern of drums begin to waver into repetition in comes the guitar once more. Rock in origin though through its execution sounds as if it's straight from a casio sampler for some up-and-coming hip-hop star. And then the beat begins again. It's a full-on see-saw between vertically-jumping beats and horizontally-swooning vocals.

The same is executed once more - to amazing feats - in the album's stand-out 10-minute colossus that is 'Come Together', echoey horns and almost clumsy drum patterns leading way to a harmonic call of gospel voices proclaiming us to: 'COME TOGETHER AS ONE!' while a sample of a speech by Jesse Jackson leads us as if in some liberating act of self-release. The composition is simple and easy to imitate, no doubt, but its execution and pin-point precision in tone and purpose (Jackson's speech note-worthy) counteracting against the thump of instrumentation gives the track an almost infinite-stretch for outlasting its designated track length.

And as we unravel ourselves from this unity of coming one, we are then given a further means of action. The action of getting 'Loaded'. For a track mixed and compiled from initial demos and film samples - the notoriously infamous use of a drum cymbal at every 4th bar - Loaded in itself is a fine example of uplifting blissfulness. True, one could argue it demonstrates that sense of ignorance and novice-esque in production, but it's these (potential) properties that make the track so worth-while - it doesn't attempt to be something it's not, but rather embraces its somewhat simple bare-bone structure and allows the music to waver and flitter its way across the space - Gillespie providing silky echoey vocals during the track's supposed bridge, a rough and jagged spike of guitar strumming muscling its way through too.

The second half of the album totally takes the formula constructed on the first half and turns it on its head, or rather inverts its pallette and provides with a far different view on the album's direction. 'Damaged' is a somewhat sweetening struggle of piano keys and strummed acoustics, all intertwined by Gillespie's delicate vocals. 'I'm Comin Down' though maintaining this melodic, almost downtempo, progression in reverse gives way to high-key synths and brass bars, a mixture of past influence yet revealing some kind of futuristic soundscape built on fumbling sillyness.

Screamadelica's closer, 'Shine Like Stars' is a truly synthesizer-driven track, brass drones and washes of ocean waves giving the song's pattern to flow almost mesmerizingly into obscurity. The rhythm calms its way into a steady fade-out of horns, Gillespie's vocals almost raising into the sky as if looking out to the distant skies, a future still awaiting discovery but certainly touched upon and even replicated.

It's this sudden clash of sound and the naturism of it that makes these 11 compositions stand out. Screamadelica, as a whole, is a multicolored kaleidoscopic spectrum of past, present and future influence - old-school blues rock and jazz meeting feel-good alternate rock meeting next-generation house beats and awe-inspiring synth loops. It's this meet-up that amplifies the album's sound into a time-breaching genre-busting call for everything, sound. Screamadelica would only climb as high as number 8 in the UK charts, but would cement its place as one of the most important and most popular albums of the 1990's, fueling rock's natured expansion from simple guitar and drum arrangements like many an album before it. Screamadelica is a call to the past and an affirmative nod to the future, a true centre-point for what can be achieved in modern-day musical production.