Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Album Review - Torche

Torche – Meanderthal
[Hydra Head/Robotic Empire 08/04/2008]

Torche are yet another act that associate themselves with the alternative metal bunch kicking around these days. Although fishing in similar waters to their contemporaries, Torche seem to pilfer various parts from their metal cohorts, embedding these ideas into a fist full of sounds. Torche release Meanderthal; their second album, which once again to conveys a concept that the natives from Florida refuse to be pinned down or aligned to static a proportion.

The opening title track catches you completely off-guard, with it's dooming instrumental force posing the question of whether you're listening to the right band or not. 'Amnesian' is a little slow out of the box, with a bruising sludge vibe embellished through its core rather than the melodic seasoning one associates with this band.

We've established that Torche are at their best when they employ melody into their sound. 'Fat Waves','Across the Shields' and the album's highlight, 'Grenades', are true evidence to this notion. 'Sandstorm' draws from swelling riff-o-rama and space within the rhythm section presenting another strong trait for Torche.

Meanderthal zig-zags through various sub-genres, with metal the main aspect rooted down in Torche's resume of sound. Somewhat displaying an array the hard-nosed riffs, and melodic rhythms, had the band stuck to these basics from the outset instead of haphazardly experimenting with so many sub-genres in such a short space of time, things may have run more smoothly, resulting in one enjoying this album a little more.

By Simon K

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Album Review - Bardo Pond

Bardo Pond – Batholith
[Three Lobed/ATP Recordings; 01/03/2008]

Bardo Pond have been on the go since the early '90s, drawing influence from the 'earlier space rock and psychedelic movements which occurred around various continents prior to their own existence. Although Bardo Pond's influences can clearly be heard through their vast array of sounds, they do manage to convey a longevity that can be truly classed as their own. Modern artists such us Black Mountain have definitely taken a leaf out of the 'Ponds book, despite not sounding as fucked up as their older contemporaries.

Batholith is a bits-and-bobs release containing some of the bands live favourites that have never been conceived between the studio walls. Also containing some new cuts, the latest effort is a good indication of the band plying their trade. 'A Tune' (one of those old BP favourites) is full of druggy reverb through vocals and guitar while the wah-wah effect also plays its hand early in the piece.

Although one of the shorter listens on the album 'Push Your Head' signifies the Bardo Pond sound. With instrumentation that's slower than a snail's pace, vocalist, Isobel Sollenberger also struggles to deliver the vocals in a just-woke-up-can't-be-fucked kind of way, which typifies the Bardo Pond aesthetic.'Spint' is a correlation of guitar and effects pedals pounding strenuously to extrude a haze of noise. 'Slip Away' still renders a murky fuzz, but there's a soaring melodic quality to it that draws the listener in.

Batholith will please the long-standing followers of the band, who have been anxiously waiting to hear some of these tracks on disc as apposed to the sweaty walls of a dingy club. For those unfamiliar with Bardo Pond, this would be an adequate place to start within the band's catalogue of sounds.

By Simon K

Friday, August 15, 2008

Album Review - High Places

High Places – 03/07- 09/07
[Thrill Jockey; 22/07/2008]

High Places are yet another bank spawning out of the creative woodwork otherwise known as Brooklyn, New York. Mary Pearson and Robert Barber front this duo with a coalesced ear for sound. 03/07- 09/07 is the pair's debut effort of tunes that bend with the breeze and run at a parallel to your stock standard pop outfit.

High Places are a band that aren't adamant on cutting a single. This 28 minutes is a answers first, questions later stab in the dark that presents subtle undertones of cleverness. Barber's techniques of slicing up sounds and sparsely filling them through this effort is backed by Pearson's aloof vocal that has a firm grip on pop, despite burying itself into the shades of sound Barber distantly renders. Highlights include opening trend setter, 'Head Spins (Extended Version)', while 'Shared Islands' expresses a love for foreign beats, with a Caribbean undertone clearly taking a strangle hold of High Places' sound template.

O3/07-09/07 is the phantom of fellow crosstown rivals, Liars, while the nursery rhyme-esque weeps from Mary Pearson aren't too far away from Elanor Friedberger of The Fiery Furnaces, but delivered with a finesse that's a little easier to swallow. Although things culminate within the blink of an eye, High Places may have just made the ultimate pre-bedtime album. One thing's for certain; it sure beats a glass of milk.

Lullaby Recommended

By Simon K

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lullaby's Song Scrobble

Song Selection #3

Melvins – The Smiling Cobra [Nude With Boots; Ipecac Recordings, 2008]

As statement in the recent rant regarding this fine band's new album, this is the pinnacle tune. Stoner rock defined, really. Screeching guitars that form into a stomping chord foray. When all is said and done, you only need to look at the song's title. The title, the song, the sound, it all points to an ear gouging mess.

Tom Waits – Clap Hands [Rain Dogs; Island Records, 1985]

A song that's a bit easier on the ear, Waits is arguably at his best when his songs flow, and 'Clap Hands' certainly rises to these attributes. That whiskey/cigar addled voice we've all come to love leads from the front, with the clanging of instruments and that out of tune bluesy guitar riff following closely behind. Add the trademark lyrics of the protagonist hanging around seedy spots in underground America and you have Waits seemingly in a nutshell.

The Hold Steady – Magazines [Stay Positive; Vagrant Records, 2008]

It borders on lameness, cheesiness and the rest of the things we throw in the basket and deem as mediocre, and let's be honest, it would be if The Hold Steady didn't deliver it. As I said in my latest assessment of Stay Positive they get away with murder and to be honest, good luck to them. It's good to see a band heaping praise for literal thinking. The tune itself is vintage Hold Steady.

Death Cab For Cutie – I Will Posses Your Heart [Narrow Stairs; Atlantic, 2008]

With a five minute instrumental that leads into the opening words from Ben Gibbard, it's an interesting selection for a lead single. The instrumental is an elusive bass line that glides in and out of a riff that symbolizes Death Cab's 'niche'. Those heart felt lyrics of love once again fail to escape the clutches of Gibbard's vocal chords, ending the song in fine fashion.

Bark Psychosis – Eyes & Smiles [Hex; Virgin Records, 1993]

Simon Reynolds was right when he coined this London collective as, “post-rock”. Although not in the modern conventional sense, Bark Psychosis are a brooding listen. The atmospherics in the vocals from Graham Sutton mess with your mind while the riff noodling evokes a quality deriving from funk and even the blues. This track is certainly the best the band have recorded.

Mercury Rev – Holes [Deserter's Songs; V2, 1998]

The rich vocal from Jonathon Donahue lays the platform for one of the 'Rev's finest songs. I guess with the anticipation of the band's forthcoming LP, that Mercury Rev have been getting some heavy play time around these parts. There's plenty of goodness within their catalogue of work, and this is somewhere near the top of it.

Tricky – Council Estate [Knowle West Boy; Domino 2008]

More high fives for literal thinking. Tricky delivers one of his latest album's finest cuts with rancour as he rants about his upbringing in the South of England. Not only an autobiographical insight into his childhood around the estate of Bristol, but perhaps his latest batch of sounds could form as an inspiration for others living a similar lifestyle to the boy once from the Knowle West.

By Simon K

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Album Review - Tricky

Tricky – Knowle West Boy
[Domino; 07/07/2008]

Tricky has been the subject of criticism ever since his 1996 landmark debut Maxinquaye. Many believe that he reached the height of his solo career in this period of time and everything else he has written pales in comparison. After a five year hiatus, the Bristol native returns with Knowle West Boy; a literal statement of lyrical venom that pays homage to the estate he grew up in.

Tricky's never been afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve and Knowle West Boy probably represents this in the best possible way, shape and form. Once again, the female vocalists (many of whom are on Tricky's Brown Punk label) take the lead and from the opener 'Puppy Toy', a narrative mingle between Tricky and Alex Mills takes place alongside a splashy piano line, setting the tone.

'C'mon Baby' is an upbeat number that possess those emphysematous vocals from Tricky, while lead single 'Council Estate' is a literal tirade of Tricky's adolescence, jam-packed into two minutes and 39 seconds of overloaded sound cuts and a bass fuzz. 'Coalition' continues the lyrical sparks of literal proportions while a cover of Kylie's 'Slow' is also met with a grinding sequence of mental instrumentation.

Tricky was soon becoming the forgotten man, but as always, the discarded always find a way of coming back into the limelight. Tricky is no different, establishing this with with Knowle West Boy. The boy from Bristol has always used different forms of shock tactics to draw attention from the masses to his music. The literal resemblance that his music presents in 2008 may turn certain listeners away, but the fact that they listened in the first place is a victory for the artist, as his point has seemingly being made.

By Simon K

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Album Review - The Dandy Warhols

The Dandy Warhols – Earth To The Dandy Warhols
[Beat the World Records; August 2008]

Despite the apparent disdain a lot of people associate with The Dandy Warhols, they've always struck a chord when it comes to not really giving a fuck about anything. Their music is a source of having a good time and that's never changed. Courtney Taylor-Taylor's attempt to draw out the process and get a little zany within the music his band create rubs people up the wrong way. However, in saying this, it's always been enjoyable, which is that the primary objective isn't it?

Earth to the Dandy Warhols is the first Dandy's record since their departure from major label, Capitol, and the results are misleading. Despite many probably not even bothering with this release, the classic saying of 'never say never' is embroiled all through this Earth.... Some bands work well when a gun isn't held to their head at point blank range and The Dandy Warhols quite aptly fall into this category.

'Mission Control' is overloaded with Zia McCabe's twirling keyboard clusters and Taylor-Taylor's baritone of hypnotic vocals. 'Welcome to The Third World' rolls around a bass groove and funky guitar lick for Taylor-Taylor to wax a narrative platitude around. 'Wasp in the Lotus' is that catchy tune of drug-induced guitars and sluggish vocal writhes that always seem to embellish themselves on a Dandy Warhols record. 'Do You Love Me' flows as good as any song on the record with the Dandy's still proving that they can pen a decent melody.

Like the majority of later Dandy's material Earth to the Dandy Warhols is pleasantly all of the the shop. From pop numbers that could form into hit singles, to poppy drugscapes that hold a bold exterior, it's all here greeting listeners with its heart-on-sleeve attitude. The title of this album speaks for itself, really. With the relaxed environment this album was conceived in, it seems to have brought out the best in Portland, Oregon's phantom outfit. It's still messed up, but in a more focused sense.

By Simon K

Book Review - Douglas Coupland: Generation-X: Tales For an Accelerated Culture

Generation-X: Tales For an Accelerated Culture – Douglas Coupland
[St Martin's Press; 1991]

Yet another novel that finds itself on most bookstores recommended stands, Douglas Coupland's Generation-X: Tales For an Accelerated Culture kick started a new generation back in the early '90s where kids listening to Nirvana and Sonic Youth not only had modern musicians to look up to, but now one of their very own was tapping into a creative vein that was being lived at that particular time.

A lot of readers will see themselves through the characters Coupland shapes throughout this novel. A sense of 'getting away from it all' encapsulates everything people in “McJobs” (as Coupland describes a below-the-average wage earning job) feel and the Canadian born writer eludes to this through Andy, Dag and Claire; the three main characters who respectively find themselves in mind dulling jobs with the only way of feeling connected with the world is to retreat to the deserts of Western American, tapping into a sense of being without buildings and people hovering around them (well, in Dag's case, anyway).

Coupland's writing techniques and finger-on-pulse mentality certainly paves the way for writers like Irvine Welsh to seize the moment and expand upon the ideas that shaped this novel and for that Generation-X... will always been seen upon as a landmark novel. If anything, you should really keep this book at your side at all times just for the footnote definitions Coupland has constructed throughout the book's entirety. You'll more than likely be able to coin every single person you know with one of these definitions Coupland has constructed in extremely unique fashion.

By Simon K

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

EP Review - Red Sparowes

Red Sparowes - Aphorisms
[01/08/2008; Sargent House]

Forming out of back alleys of the clubs Isis and Neurosis made themselves respectively comfortable in, Red Sparowes continue this slice of post-metal fever in a slightly lighter shade. Having already released two full-length albums to date, the Los-Angeles outfit return with a three song EP that still has all the long titles and riff-o-rama to go with it.

Aphorisms is a leap forward inside the band's progressive sound space. 'We Left the Apes to Rot, But Find the Fang Grows Within' holds the killing opener quality that we look for in all opening songs. The six minute and thirty seven second beast is clear evidence that this band is moving into territory of finer quality. Guitar jaunts bruise from head to toe, with heavy breakdown patterns and beautiful shifts in tempo ending the song, while the listener is left gasping for more breathing space. 'Error has Turned Animals Into Men, and To Each the Fold Repeats' spikes a similar vein, but in more ear-catching fashion, with steel pedal guitar sounds giving the themes Red Sparowes embark upon a melodic geometry.

Although many people will see this genre as somewhat formulated and contrived, like most genres, it will still evoke quality. Rather than a sequence of sounds paying homage to your favourite artists, Red Sparowes actually render their own soundscapes without pilfering bits and bobs from their contemporaries. Aphorisms shows the Red Sparowes in their finest light and if the future for this band weighs up to anything like this, then there's hope for us all yet.

Lullaby Recommended

By Simon K

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Album Review - Primal Scream

Primal Scream – Beautiful Future
[B-Unique Records; 22/07/2008]

Primal Scream are the ultimate fun-time collage band. Since their existence, every album they've cut has pointed towards one thing; good times. Whether it be popping acid to sounds of Screamadelica or vacuuming powder through your nose to the shear noise of Xtrmntr or Evil Heat, good times have always been at the helm.

Beautiful Future fails to get sidetracked from Primal Scream's artful concept, yet again engineering a different sound that still adds the uplifting vibe one feels when encountering an album from the Scream team. If anything, this album booms with a pop swagger. Gillespie rehashes lyrics through respective songs, with a looping combustion backed by an easy-on-the-ear instrumentation.

As lead single, 'The Glory of Love' is the pure representation of 'Future and of the above notion. 'Zombie Man' is a dance swoon with Gillespie's druggy rasps accompanied by a backing soul sprawl through the chorus of guest-vocals. 'Beautiful Summer' has a darker edge about it, being the opaque number out of the bunch, with zoned out keyboards and a slower riff spooling through its entirety. 'Over and Over' sounds like Screamdelica's 'Damaged', that's just come out of the 'other side'.

Beautiful Future contains the underpinning of the Scream's direction from earlier on in this era, with a pop glee sprawling through the middle of their canon. Songs seem to flow into one another, literally fading out and starting again like smooth waves rolling into the beach front from the ocean. The sounds vary, but the lyrics from Gillespie are very repetitious, much the same as a cracked record. The simplicity of the record could segregate followers, but it continues to reaffirm the stance of a band that will not be pigeonholed. It's not the best Primal Scream record, but it certainly isn't their worst.

By Simon K