Thursday, 17 June 2010

Aqua - Bridges - Live at Snettisham - 16/06/10

I'll be honest, this is shameless self promotion My band, 'Bridges', with me on bass, performing our song, 'Aqua'. Cheeeers x

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love

It's amazing what a hit single can do for you.
No, it's amazing what Microsoft advertising can do.

There's one positive point to come out of 'The Marketing Argument'. We now know of 'The Big Pink'. 'Dominoes', the lead single, was an instant hit, culminating in an NME Award for 'Best Track' at the recent awards. The single most catchy song of last year paved the way for the album: 'A Brief History of Love'.

Opening with the spectacular 'Crystal Visions', we are instantly hit with what this band are capable of; sweeping synths greet aggressive bass-lines and agitated drums to merge into a wholly encompassing sound. It's this repeating theme that makes this band stand out, with sound that can be compared to an electronic Exit Calm, or an angry Verve.

Follow up single, 'Velvet', is a more sensitive, beautiful turn, but still with the powerful drum beat we've become used to with this band. There is a distance vastness to this album, but still with an emotional edge, a sensitivity that makes this album more warming, more attractive. This album calls out to listeners, it wants you to relate to it, it wants to be consumed. And that's exactly what happens. Every song on this album wants to be loved; like a small, scruffy dog.

It may have not achieved great success, I picked it up off the floor in the HMV sale (other music outlets are available) on an whim. It turned out to be a good move, and restored my faith in 'indie'. I thoroughly look forward to hearing the next album and anticipate a more developed, perhaps restrained sound.

But for now, this album is the talisman for in-perfect pop. It's raw, it's dangerous and even gives off a whiff of invincibility. And, that is why The Big Pink were one of the greatest discoveries of the last year, and, A Brief History of Love, one of the best albums of 2009.

Album Rating: 9/10

3 Top Songs:

1. Crystal Visions
2. Count Backwards From Ten
3. A Brief History of Love

Monday, 19 April 2010

MGMT - Congratulations

Oh how they were confused when we were told of MGMT'S new 'freaky' album. Critics discussed possible outcomes. Was it going to work, or would they fall flat on their synthesized faces? There was only one way to find out. (Fight?) (No) Listen to the actual album.

It seems people were biased by pre-conceptions, even before they listen to the actual album itself. On hearing there was a twelve minute song in the middle, they cast it aside with rolling eyes, labeling it a commercial failure. But the band said themselves that they were not going for commercial success. Pretentious or not, it seems MGMT are not meant to be the arena band so many want them to be. But, if a band can still produce good music, surely it doesn't matter that they shy away from the commercial side of things? Because, without sounding like a subtle Tom Meighan/Liam Gallagher, it's all about the "tunes, tunes, tunes!"

Being a fan of 'albums' as an essence, I was pleased with the announcement MGMT released, saying that you have to listen to this as 'an album' rather than a collection of songs to get the full idea. In this day of random-single-buying, it's refreshing to see a band still doing their bit for the endangered format. So bearing that in mind, what better way to completely go against there plan than to analyse the songs separately! What strikes me as the biggest difference in this album and the last, 'Oracular Spectacular', is the sound. Songs like 'It's Working' have a distinct retro 'wall of sound'/'almost-beach-boys' feel. 'Someone's missing' provides a simple song, with an uplifting end, fit for any gospel church service. 'Flash Delirium', the most singe-like of any song on the album (despite them recently releasing it on free download, the cheek), is a great song, but still distinctly ..different.

'Congratulations' is yet another simple, but very effective song. Bundled in with a suitably modest applause at the end, we get a low key, low-fi, but satisfying ending to the album.

The main case with this album is the fact it is 'different' - without being completely 'out there'. It's not as crazy as it was set up to be, but it definitely steps away from the commercial side of things. It's how long the 'differentness' can last, and whether it has any substance. When the euphoria of strange sounds pass, i still feel we will look to 'Kids' and 'Time to Pretend, (the first being abandoned in recent live shows) when we think of MGMT.

There's nothing wrong with having a massive hit and writing new material. What I believe the band need to do now, if they want to move away from their 'main songs', but do it gracefully, is slip all the hits ('Kids', 'Time to Pretend, 'Electric Feel') early on in the set, so the fans are still pleased, and then get on with whatever they want to.

The truth is MGMT, we like 'Kids'.

Album Rating 6/10

Top Three Songs:

1. Congratulations
2. It's Working
3. Flash Delirium

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Black Eyed Peas: LIVE

No I didn't see them.

I did, however, hear on the wireless today that they played a live show. Given they're last 'album' (collection-of-thrown-together-down-right-awful-excuses-for-remixes/b-side-material-let-alone-singles) was God-awful and with absolutely no chance of being played 'live', I can only imagine this is how a Black Eyed Peas 'Circus Act/Live Show' would go:

Welcome to Black Eyed Peas: Live

It's here, at the O2, in London, where this massacre is waiting to take place. The media have been building this one up for a while. Radio One are covering it and have been giving away tickets all day to excited teenagers and bamboozled unemployed twenty-somethings, who just wanted to enter 'This Morning's car competition, advertised by Chico. Reggie Yates and Fearne Cotton are there. Anyone with any sense is at a hastily prepared Mumford & Sons gig in Camden, well away from the danger-zone. Zane Lowe is there. That's how cool it is there.

The tension is rising. Teenagers are buzzing in the arena, chaperoned by bored parents who had to accompany because of the 'only over 13s' age limit. The first support act comes on. 'Give Peas A Chance' receive a lukewarm reception to a half-empty O2 and are swiftly booed off before their planned 'firework finale'.

Next up, 'Tinie Tempah' appear to rapturous, pre-pubescent, barely adolescent, applause. Unfortunately for the teenagers, they have to wait a good twenty minutes to hear their 'hit'. Unfortunately for everyone else, they have to hear their 'hit'.

Now things are really exciting, the VIP is filling up with every 'A lister' you could ever imagine. From 'Kerry Katona', to 'Kerry Katona', 'they', seriously, are all here.

At last, the time has come. A mock explosion echoes through the stadium. We hear these words: "Gotta get get" "Gotta get get". The pretentious lot have even started with a hit. Everyone knows only Biffy can get away with that. Mind you, they probably didn't even choose their own set. 'The Mothership' of Black Eyed Peas probably chose it through one of its many cyber-computers, only comparable to 'Lancelot', the Lottery Machine.

Fergie enters the stage on a steel-plated camel, with laser beams for eyes. Unfortunately, she hasn't much skill in controlling it, and it blinds a few stewards who get too close. But thats show-business. Will.I.Am sidesteps onto the stage, holding his crotch, and a small picture of Cheryl Cole. The Rapping One just walks on, because no one really cares about him. And Backflip Man, backflips on.

A few songs in, teenagers are weeping with joy, mothers are weeping in pain, and dads are looking at Fergie, who has a mobile phone on her head. Hmm, unique.

Meanwhile, in Camden, Mumford & Sons have just finished a rather pleasant collaboratery act with Laura Marling.

Suddenly, back in the O2/The Death Star, all of the lights come on. And.. No... Surely not? An instrument is brought on, to gasps from all of the crowd. Dads are busy explaining what is happening, mothers just cant believe it. Will.I.Am is holding... A GUITAR.

It's alright though, he doesn't really play it, its only a prop. Well, PHEW.

They play 'Where Is The Love', to great cheers. Hoorah, a good knees up to all of the bad things in the world. The 'band'/'creation' love this song. The Rapping man gets to rap, and even Backflip Man gets to backflip. What joy.

In the distant, can i hear a faint guitar, playing a faint intro to 'the cave' ?

Black Eyed Peas end their show after that and Reggie Yates turns to the camera, beaming in a way only Reggie Yates can, and declares it the 'best night of his life'.

But what's this? Yes, because this is practically every audience members first 'concert', they have no idea about the concept of an encore. Again, the dads have to explain, and quote a late seventies' 'Floyd' gig, and mention something about a pig in the sky.

But who's this? Yes, joining Black Eyed Peas for one more song its.. Courtney Love. "I've always loved you guys" she declares, before they all dance, sing, rap and backflip to 'Hole's latest B-Side. Surprisingly, this is the most normal thing that has happened this evening. Everyone leaves, confused, bedazzled and Reggie Yates is now talking about the next show Radio One are covering. YES! It's JLS. But every Black Eyed Peas fans leaves with a smile, and an overpriced accompanying program and tee-shirt.

Anyway, in general,there's not much good about Black Eyed Peas, or Black Eyed Peas' music, other than Black Eyed Peas 'baiting'.

In fact, the only good thing about Black Eyed Peas are the fact that their latest album is called 'The E.N.D', so there's always a slim chance that this could be it for them.

I hope you had a nice evening.

I think i see Marcus Mumford dancing with Kerry Katona.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History

When at school, you are taught to write 'correctly'. You are told to use appropriate adjectives to describe whatever you are describing. You are told to avoiding 'describing words' such as 'alright', 'fine', 'nice' and even 'lovely'. You are taught to write more deeply, to be more eloquent. You see, thats the problem..

Any music fan claiming to be 'indie' or 'cool' will have been myspace-ing 'Two Door Cinema Club' for a while now. Any music fan not claiming to be part of the afore mentioned trends may have myspaced them, but have probably been shouting about them less loudly, and less often.

As far as albums go, 'Tourist History' hasn't been the most eagerly awaited. It was thrown out into the music world, surfing an indie guitar wave. Unfortunately, that wave died down a few years ago, along with 'One Night Only', 'Kooks (who?)' and 'We play guitars and have fringes, can we come in please?'.

The few singles that have been released have met mediocre reception, and are... 'alright'. 'I Can Talk', 'Something Good Can Work' and, the latest one, 'Undercover Martyn' have all come and gone with little impact made. I'll be honest, the only reason i bought this album was because it was a fiver on iTunes and I had some spare credit to use up. Financially, this was the better value album. (I'm not recommending you buy all of your albums this way, you might end up with Robbie's new album.) Ok, it wasn't the only reason..

Cast your, probable teenage, minds back a few years. The years before keyboards were cool again. The years keyboards were really uncool. Circa 2005. La Roux hadn't even thought about a quiff, Lady Gaga was wondering that if she put a telephone on her head people would notice her more, and Justin Bieber wasn't even born. We had guitars. And it was great. No keyboards, just guitars. Obviously thats all changed now, and unless your voice has been mechanically altered by Kanye West, no one wants to hear you.

Thats why, to a certain extent, TDCC are fresh. A renaissance of indie-guitar. And thats...urghh.. 'fine'. But the problem is, they're not very interesting. We've forgotten why we don't have indie guitar anymore. Its because Franz killed it with their first couple of albums. It's boring now, and so are TDCC (incidentally, Franz are not).

Tourist History is nice. There's no other way of describing it. The songs are nice. They are entertaining to listen to (a couple of times), might even have you dancing (briefly) and it gives us a simple break from the god-awful indie-keyboard shite that's getting thrown around at the moment. It doesn't do an awful lot, and it won't affect you deeply, but you might just have an enjoyable time listening to it. Umm... Lovely.

Rating: 5/10

Top Three Songs:
1. 'Undercover Martyn'
2. 'What You Know'
3. You'll probably be getting a bit fed up with them by now.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Courteeners - Falcon

He's been away, he's been working. But now he's back and he needs to know if you're still there. He needs to know if you still care. Of course you do. Of course you do. You were made for him, and he was made for you.

It was looking all rather promising and platonic there, until the last sentence where it all got a bit personal. Although, I'm sure Liam Fray, lead singer, wasn't claiming that everyone revolves around him. He's not that arrogant, is he?

Two years on from their debut, 'St. Jude', The Courteeners are back, and just in time. With the demise of Oasis (RIP), it is clear that the British music scene needs a band to fill that hole. Now, that is the last time i will refer to Oasis within the same breath as The Courteeners. Because, despite several reviewers claiming an immediate connection between the two bands, i believe there to be little more connection than the fact they are from Manchester, the lead singer's mother decided to call her son 'Liam', and sunsequently decided to bring him up to be a confident little so-and-so. And it would be lovely to hear about The Courteeners without hearing about Oasis and Morrissey, wouldn't it? No, that wouldn't be possible.

A hefty amount of money was poured into this, Fray determined to keep pushing boundaries, to keep his band going, and to not die a tepid 'second-album' death (Kooks who?). This is definitely seen, as a full and rather majestic sounding album is the result, providing a solid enjoyment throughout.

Solid is definitely a key word here. This album does not push boundaries. While it might apply pressure to them, they pretty much remain in the same position we found them in before. This album is.. good. It is enjoyable. Much like a second album, it is nothing new (running theme Vampire Weekend anyone?).

Fray's continuing wit is on display and his famous 'couplets' are thrown in and around to good effect: "All I can do is flip the Mac and gently touch the screen". He sings about how he'll be "minding your drink as you go to the RBS cash machine" and how he hasn't "felt this alone since his art GCSE". He still provides a very personal outlook within his songs, directing a lyrical story, with full effect.

Sometimes this album, and Fray's lyrics in general, can get quite boring and irritating, because, as he is usually describing his life in and around Manchester, he has a tendency to spell events out and 'story-tell'. And while he is being hailed as the new 'Morrissey', this technique provides very little room for imagination, and, as listeners, we don't want everything to be spelt out for us. We want to speculate, we want to argue, and we'd quite like The Courteeners to be a bit more adventurous thank you very much.

Songs that stand out are: audacious, sometimes in danger of being too grand, 'The Opener', singlong 'Sycophant', mid-tempo 'Cameo Brooch' and, again quoting simple young Manchester life, 'Will It Be This Way Forever?'

A good solid second album, securing their indefinite future in the iTunes libraries of teenagers throughout Britain, not just Manchester, where locals are almost definitely fed up of Fray running around, scribing events, with an old notebook, for future songs! The third album will decide if they can push themselves up into the upper reaches of 'Post-Oasis' musical Britain.

See, told you it wasn't possible to not quote them.


1. The Opener
2. Cameo Brooch
3. Sycophant
4. You Overdid It Doll

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Vampire Weekend - Contra

There's a mood for Vampire Weekend. A 'VW Mood'. You have to be in the zone, or just With It. For instance, you can't listen to them while you're feeling terribly serious. The wood blocks, silly guitar lines and the occasional xylophone would probably push you to madness. But, and its a big but, if you are in the mood for VW, then it will work for you. I'm not suggesting you have to be daft or have a session of Alphabeat before, because it is crucial to have a certain level-headedness in order to appreciate certain subtleties.
VW (i hope the 'VW' acronym isn't causing too many issues within car lovers) have been a way a while . A long while. An almost unforgivingly long while, were it not for the results of 'Contra'. Streaming their album on long-forgotten MySpace probably wasn't a wonderful idea, for me personally anyway. Taking one listen, i initially dismissed it. The inclusion of more synths and quirky beats put me off. (I'd been listening to Arctic Monkeys constantly since August. I was not feeling in a 'VW Mood'. I was very much in a serious guitar driven mood.)
But, what was clear was that, with Batmanglij taking time off to polish off his own synth-based record, he learned how to compose, properly. And it is no secret that without Batmanglij's stringed arrangements, VW wouldn't have half the sound they have.
'Contra' takes a while to listen to, to get to grips with. That is no bad thing, all of the best albums are. It takes a while to get into a 'VW Mood'. But, once you are in, you are in. All of these songs have character, and while they may not jump out at the beginning, they develop and become very like-able.
Single 'Cousins' is the new 'A-Punk', with little more than Guitar, Bass and Drums. And, although it is a crowd-pleaser/radio cert, it is the other songs that add more substance to 'Contra'.
I assume most VW fans are now fed up with 'Horcharta'. Personally, it is not a strong song, and is very annoying right from the start, especially as they gave it away free long ago and we have overplayed it so very much.
Next single, 'Giving Up The Gun' and 'Diplomat's Son' are both strong songs, but my favourite is 'White Sky', which was actually written at the same time as the first album. So, after hearing this at the Blur gig at Hyde Park in the summer, it was great to hear a polished version.
For me, the most disappointing song is the closer, 'I Think Ur A Contra', not least because of the clear grammatical errors. More musically, it is a typical slow closer, and i don't think VW like slow songs. They don't seem comfortable with them unless they have a deep African beat combined with a couple of cheeky bongos.
Bearing all of this in mind, 'Contra' is full of similar VW trends, just with more keyboards. Not as clear/genre defining as the first, but it was never going to be.
Besides, no-ones favourite album of a band is their second, everyone knows it's their third album where we really decide if we like them, right?


1. White Sky
2. Giving Up The Gun
3. Diplomat's Son