31 January 2009

TRACKS - 01.02.09 - Esser, Frank Turner, Tommy Reilly, The Wombats

Esser - Work It Out
The crown prince of good music in 2009 returns with yet another hit in a long line of perfect funky pop nuggets bound to be indie disco staples by 2010. "Work It Out" is all electro bleeps, robotic choruses and estuary vocals not seen since Damon Albarn started wearing tracksuit tops and prattling on about Parklife. It may not be as immediate as "Headlock" but it's certainly one of the best in Esser's arsenal, which is certainly saying something considering previous singles

Frank Turner - Reasons Not Be An Idiot
Apart from an amazing way with song titles (e.g. "I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous", "A Decent Cup Of Tea", "Thatcher Fucked The Kids", "I Really Don't Care What You Did On Your Gap Year"), Turner also makes some highly entertaining folk rock with lyrics to either make you chuckle heartily or frown at their realism. I urge you to check out his album "Love, Ire & Song" sometime soon.

Tommy Reilly - Gimme A Call
Seeing as he's the winner of the recent Orange Unsigned Act competition, there's got to be something suspicious about the young lad (see what I mean here, better explained than I ever could). But this is a sweet acoustic number that will lodge itself in to that space between your ears faster than Usain Bolt on a hyperspeed treadmill. Shall be interesting to see what he comes out with next.

The Wombats - My Circuitboard City
Yes, I know, I've already reviewed this and it wasn't exactly glowing with praise. But after a few weeks of listening to it, and it not being raped by TV and radio, it's a real grower. The sound has developed to a more downbeat but just as bouncy indie and the lyrics (now that I know what they are) have retained the same wit and verve from their first demos (example: "Welcome to my circuitboard city of yellow and black/We'll score WD40 so our hearts don't crack" and "Grandad George said the heroes are the ones that run away/But I wear no medals as I'm sprawled in a toilet on my birthday"). You shall be singing the hooks for weeks on end once you hear it twice.

"I want this to be an orgy of love and violence!"
NME Awards Tour 2009
Glasvegas, Friendly Fires, White Lies, Florence & The Machine @ Liverpool Uni

So said Florence Welch before playing (arguably) her biggest hit "Kiss With A Fist" to the baying crowd, full of checked shirts (including myself), tight jeans and Florence-a-likes, on the opening night of this year's NME tour. I wouldn't say it was an orgy, and there wasn't much violence, but in the words of Shakespeare/Hamlet "forty thousand brothers could not quantify" the love given to the acts on stage.

Florence was her usual kooky self, chucking flowers, crowdsurfing and finally running off past the front barrier, never to be seen again...at least for the remainder of the gig. The covers which have become a staple of her gigs were replaced by tracks from the upcoming album, which sounds as if it will be more on the "Dog Days Are Over" side of things instead of "Kiss With A Fist". Certainly one to look forward to in the next few months.

Recent chart-toppers White Lies were delayed in Berlin, thus delaying the entire gig by almost an hour, but it was certainly worth it. Striding triumphantly on stage, wearing a very flash pair of Nikes (obviously souvenirs from a trip to Liverpool One), Harry McVeigh and the rest of the band ensured that, whilst an air of gloom fell over the venue, it was one that had every word sung back, even when the lyrics concern electric shock therapy and kidnappings gone wrong. An epic gig if there ever was one.

A definite change of pace came with the arrival of Friendly Fires. A shoegaze/dance band from St Albans may not seem like a likely proposition, but it's real and it has the power to make even the most awkward indie kid (e.g. moi) want to flail about like a lunatic. Ed MacFarlane is a extremely energetic frontman, like a mix between Mick Jagger and Jarvis Cocker with a sprinkling of Morrissey. He can but can't dance if that makes much sense. Their set kept on building towards a climactic "Jump In The Pool", complete with extended samba ending. If you want a party in the near future to be a success with everyone dancing, just stick their album on and watch everyone start to boogie.

And thus we arrive at Glasvegas, one of the biggest hype bands of the last few years and boy, do they deserve it. Walking on to a darkened stage covered in dry ice will make you cool, even if you're Scouting For Girls or N-Dubz...well maybe not them but you get the picture. James Allan has got to be a long lost relative of Joe Strummer somehow, dressed all in black with sunglasses and a perfect quiff, effortlessly cool. The band's usual wall of sound was amplified to the max with the mountain of speakers at either side of the stage (resulting in me being a bit deaf in my right ear at the moment) and the songs were twice as epic as White Lies before them. The set was peppered with hits and slightly lesser known tracks (such as "Fuck You, It's Over" and S.A.D Light, preformed magically with just James, Rab and their two guitars). But the real highlights came from an improvised cover of Echo & The Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon" (with Ian McCulloch in the crowd), a spellbinding version of "Ice Cream Van", during which I'm pretty sure the heavens opened and "Go Square Go", which is bound to be a terrace anthem in a year or so.

All in all, it was the best gig I've ever seen. You won't hear a bad word from me about any of the bands and they all surpassed their high standards, which are pretty damn high. Roll on next year's tour, and may it be just as amazing as this year.



Apologies for the lack of blogging over the last two weeks. The internet has been decidedly unkind to me.

Grammatics may not be a big name on anyone's lips in terms of tips for 2009, apart from a handful of those in the know. The Leeds quartet mix Foals-esque guitars that border on prog with heavy chunks of distortion, choirboy vocals, cello and a distinctly emo-sounding production. Not that any of that should put you off their eponymous debut.

The album kicks off with their more accessible material, such as the shouty yet swirling pop-rock of "Shadow Commitee" and "D.I.L.E.M.M.A" which could come straight from the soundtrack of an eerie horror/thriller with it's chiming guitars, funky ominous bass and stabs of cello. "Murderer" sounds more classic Bloc Party than the actual Bloc Party have done for quite some time due to the strong drumming that powers the track and yearning lyrics and vocals of singer Owen Brinely.

Despite being their more accessible songs, upto now the album isn't exactly full of singalong pop nuggets made for the festivals. But really, this is to be expected from a band who wants to reinject some drama and grandeur back into English music in this post-Libertines/Arctics era, and describe themselves as "maximalist" pop. This approach is exemplified perfectly on "The Vague Archive", which is more angular than Franz Ferdinand and Foals in a protractor shop before morphing into an anthemic driving rock chorus and finally to a sombre Arcade Fire-aping lullaby.

But it's the next group of songs that show the ambition and talent of Grammatics in the greatest light. "Broken Wing" begins as a simple, uplifting acoustic ballad, which isn't really spectacular but is a highlight amongst already high standards. Suddenly, it explodes into some headphone bursting riffing, giving the song another dimension and the listener a bit of a welcome shock. "Relentless Fours" returns to the chiming math-rock guitars of the earlier tracks, coming worryingly close to "in one ear, right out the other territory", but as with "Broken Wing", the salvo of Led Zep riffing and wall of noise is enough to almost destroy my speakers and totally unexpected from four twee looking kids (unless you knew they were influenced by QOTSA and My Bloody Valentine).

From here, the album does tend to tail off a little, getting bogged down by repetitive instrumentation and a lack of lyrical hooks. But there are a few moments worthy of repeated listens on the remaining tracks, mainly "Cruel Tricks Of The Light". You can't fault Grammatics ambition at all, seeing as they've released an epic debut, with no songs under three and a half minutes (not counting the 'secret track'). While it may need repeated listens to uncover some hidden moments of genius, they've produced a solid starting point for what will hopefully be a long and interesting career.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Murderer", "The Vague Archive", "Broken Wings", "Relentless Fours".
FOR FANS OF: Foals, Biffy Clyro, Arcade Fire


13 January 2009


The Thamesbeat bard has returned, and it appears he's decided to show his love of hardcore and punk this time round, rather than ska. But this is only a preview track, and won't be on the new album apparently. Confusing eh? It certainly begins with a bang of a chorus, sounding like a riot between Gallows and the Beastie Boys. Don't even try to decipher the lyrics, it's nigh on impossible. The verses are a bit more typical of Jamie T, funky bass, rapid fire vocals and a bit of ska guitar. Make of it what you will, I reckon it's pretty great, takes a while to get into but it's an interesting insight into where the next album will be headed

The Virgins are the latest "sex, drugs & rock 'n' roll" band to stagger from New York, and also one of NME's tips for 2009. It's fairly obvious why, without even listening to their album. They look like a dangerous, party boy, "lock-up-your-daughters"-type gang, and God knows that there's been a lack of one in music for a while (I don't count Towers Of London because...well they were shit). But when you bring the music into it, then they're deserving of a ones-to-watch tag.

The band used to be a bog-standard garage rock band like a million others in New York after The Strokes broke through, but all of a sudden they've transformed into a disco-pop band, with Nile Rodgers-esque guitar being a major part of most tracks. Sort of a Strokes you can actually dance to. First track "She's Expensive" is a carbon copy of Elvis Costello, "Rich Girls" could be The Teenagers if they were American and "Fernando Pando"'s guitars sound like The Clash in their ska mode.

But enough comparing them to other bands. The Virgins are good enough to stand out on their own. Their sound walks the tightrope between funky indie rock, and straight-up camp disco pop (I get the irony of straight up and camp in the same sentence) and you can imagine it soundtracking all the parties that the cool kids go to (the five tracks from their debut EP has already soundtracked an episode of Gossip Girl). So yeah, check them out and prepare to get your groove on. God I'm cool....
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "She's Expensive", "One Week Of Danger", "Rich Girls", "Hey Hey Girl", "Radio Christiane", "Love Is Colder Than Death".

Not such a huge fan myself. A few tunes good for partying/raving to, but I've never gone any further. But new single "Invaders Must Die" is good enough to join the old hits, and you'll probably find me jumping round like a loon at a party to it some time in the future. The track is produced by Does It Offend You, Yeah?'s James Rushent and it has to be said that he definitely has had some influence on the sound. The synths and drums are virtually identical to most electronic bands around at the moment, like DIOY,Y?, Hadouken! and Pendulum. That may put the fear of God into you, if you're quite a big fan, that a band such as The Prodigy has been reduced to sounding like that load of crap (although DIOY,Y? are actually very good).Well cast aside your hatred for a minute, as the 21st century influence is a positive thing. Alright, it may not be as agressive as say "Smack My Bitch Up", a little poppier being honest, but "IMD" is still one hell of a tune. No lyrics apart from "Invaders must die!" and "We are The Prodigy" said in unnerving distorted voices, so the music does the talking. Your mum and dad still may not like it but, really, who cares?


10 January 2009

It's here! It's finally here! After months of leaks and various ever-changing descriptions, the third album from Franz Ferdinand has finally found it's way to my ears, four long years since "You Could Have It So Much Better". It's gone from being a pop album, produced by Girls Aloud collaborators Xenomania, to being influenced by world music (thanks to a few Africa Express gigs with Damon Albarn) to finally ending up as "music of the night: to fling yourself around your room to as you psyche yourself for a night of hedonism, for the dance-floor, flirtation, for your desolate heart-stop, for losing it and loving losing it, for the chemical surge in your bloodstream. It’s for that lonely hour gently rocking yourself waiting for dawn and it all to be even again". That's according to Alex Kapranos. Well he wasn't gonna come out and say it's boring, derivative shite. It's far from it.

"Ulysses" kicks off the long over dues shebang with a cool, confident strut. Kapranos' smooth vocals are some of his best ever, Bob Hardy's bass is restrained yet has a certain something that makes it utterly danceable (if that make sense) and the electro parts definitely have a positive effect. "Ulysses" is the first single from the new album, and it's clear to see why, as it's basically the midway point between old indie rock Franz and the new electro-pop Franz. "Turn It On" is in the same vein, perfect for the indie disco, more sultry vocals from Kapranos but with added "yeah, yeah, yeahs" worthy of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

The hooks keep coming "No You Girls" and "Twilight Omens", both packed with keyboards, plenty of riffs and Bowie-ness, with the latter having possibly the best opening lyric of the last few years in "I wrote your name upon the back of my hand/Slept upon it then I woke up with it backwards on my face/Reading forwards from my mirror to my heart ". It's a bit more advanced than "Do You Want To", to say the least. Up to this point, "Tonight:..." is full of solid pop gold, surpassing the majority of Franz's back catalogue, which is no mean feat. The middle of the album slows the pace down a bit, and shifts from electro to almost disco, the keyboards mixing incredibly well with the usual Franz indie stompers. "Bite Hard" is even quite Beatles-y before transforming into what could be the perfect summary of the album's sound.

"What She Came For" was already released a while ago, but in live form. The recorded version has little difference from it, apart from the riffs being tighter and cacophony of guitars at the end being even more thrilling. "Can't Stop Feeling" is yet another track to rank along side FF's best, all choppy guitars, sultry vocals and a perfect addition in the electro elements. The leaked demo was a much poppier affair, possibly a result of the Xenomania involvement, but the album version is all the better for not being standard pop-with-guitars. And then it's possibly the most talked about track on the album, "Lucid Dreams". The track was also previously released, but in a much different form. The leap from typical Franz fare to an 8 minute techno monster is an extremely difficult and unexpected one, but they pull it off. It's highly experimental for such a big name band on their third album, but it shows their ambition and talent to create something like this, which appears to go off into a hundred different places but comes back to one direction. There are obvious some elements of the original version left in it, but it's essentially a remix (possibly what to expect from the dub version of the album). It may not impress the casual fans, but I doubt Franz care.

The final two tracks "Dream Again" and "Katherine Kiss Me" are a world away from the previous ten. The keyboards are restrained (or in the case of "Katherine" gone completely") and the songs are all the better for it. Both build on the softer tracks of "YCHISMB" such as "Eleanor, Put Your Boots On" and "Fade Together" to create two sweet ballads, once again verging on Beatles territory. Franz, whilst not as innovative, trail-blazing, ingenious and many other superlatives as the Fab Four, are just as brave. No other band from the indie boom in the mid 00's could change direction like this (apart from possibly Bloc Party) and pull it off with panache. The added electronica opens a lot of doors for Franz in the future and makes it very exciting to see where they'll head to make their fourth classic. I just hope it doesn't take another four bloody years.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Ulysses", "Lucid Dreams", "What She Came For", "Bite Hard", "Katherine Kiss Me"


9 January 2009

Here we go again with the noise pop. Yet another band with perfect pop melodies buried under fuzzy distortion and a wave of noise. But where The Joy Formidable differ from the rest of the pack (hello Abe Vigoda, Women, Times New Viking, HEALTH and the rest!) is that the balance between distortion and pop is perfect. There isn't the overwhelming distortion drilling into your ears, the droning giving you a migraine and the fact that bands seem utterly bored with making music. Not exactly punk rock.

Glasvegas are the only band at the moment that TJF could call contemporaries. Both produce melodies that Girls Aloud, The Saturdays et al would kill to have, but applied to songs you wouldn't hear coming out of plastic pop princess' mouths. Both have fantastically loud walls of sound over the top but not too much as to cloud the songs. The band themselves have even mentioned that their approach to songwriting is very close to that of the great Scots. It's not exactly bad company to be in. I highly recommend giving them a listen. As well as finding the banned video for "Austere" on their website. It's quite "interesting" to say the least. Anyways that's the worst band recommendation ever over with.
8.5/10 - (Austere)
- (The Last Drop)
8/10 - (Cradle)

+ New Wombats video for "My Circuitboard City" on their website. The song's actually grown on me a bit...still can't equal anything from the debut though

(Not real video, obv.)

+ I'm sure I walked past Dan Haggis (of The Wombats) in American Apparel in town the other week.

+ White Lies' album is possibly the best of the year. Despite there being 356 days of it left. It'll take a third Arctic Monkeys LP/the return of Richey Edwards/a collaboration between The Clash, The Smiths and The Beatles, with God on keyboards to better it.

+ I'm sure Danny Boyle and Morrissey are the same person. Just with a pair of glasses as the difference.

7 January 2009

The firs big album of the year is finally in my (virtual) hands. The debut from up-and-coming death fanatics White Lies. Hyped to hell with good cause, but there's already been a backlash off the back of one single ("To Lose My Life") and doubts have appeared as to whether this will be a fantastic debut to define the year (e.g. Foals, Vampire Weekend) or an average one whose charms will fade after a few months (e.g. Blood Red Shoes, Cold War Kids, GoodBooks etc). Early signs have been good with the amount of leaks rivalling that of Franz Ferdinand.

Starting off with two recent singles obviously to draw in the casual Radio 1 listener (good move, lads); "Death" and "To Lose My Life" sum up what the band do well: dark widescreen indie with a whole lotta synth as well as their persistent obsession with death. The 80's influence shines through on "A Place To Hide". The bass is so low it could be a New Order b-side and the synths sound like they were ripped from The Killers' debut. But two worrying issues are present throughout the first third of the album; the similarity of the guitar parts and the amount of effects used on Harry McVeigh's voice. It's obvious that they want to be a stadium-filling band, but that should be based from how their songs are preformed live, not how much echo is on the singer's voice. Minor gripes I suppose, but it could grate later on.

"Fifty On Our Foreheads" slows down the pace for a second, but it's really just more of the same gloomy-synthy stuff that you'd expect, but after that is probably the band's best track in "Unfinished Business", the song that made them change from Fear Of Flying, the mediocre indie pop band they once were. The story is rather odd for most bands: Guy is murdered by girlfriend, comes back to haunt girlfriend but finds he's still in love with her. Not your conventional pop song, being honest. And the only way to really describe it is epic. The guitars sound like they were recorded in the Grand Canyon (and they're allowed to after the last 5 years of angular dance-punk bands) and the synths (I'm going to stop saying it now) hide ominously in the background of the track, but they still improve it massively, adding an air of worry and fear.

"E.S.T" is where any Joy Division comparisons are valid. The intro sounds almost exactly like "Atmosphere" but evil. There's a feel of spookiness throughout the track and there's a sense that the album will pick up from here. Again it sounds completely 80's but it makes for an album highlight. There may be some criticism that the band sound too cold and removed from the music, that there's no heart in them. The cold machine-like feel is even represented in the artwork. And while this may be true, you can't deny that the songs are still better than most other bands output. So if they actually put some feeling into their second album, we'd have a classic on our hands.

The remaining part of the album is where White Lies become even more grand and epic. The addition of strings definitely adds to the tracks and the overall quality of them improves. Saving the best 'til last indeed. Hopefully they'll keep this formula for the whole of their next effort. "Farewell To The Fairground" will be a highlight of this year's festivals, with two massive hooks and being possibly the song to propel them into the public consciousness (yep, my opinion has definitely changed on that one). The final third is even better than this. The three songs verge on cinematic, with typical White Lies lyrics of doomed romances and choruses as big as Everest. The quality of these tracks makes up for the underwhelming newer tracks at the start. They point to a great future for the band and will certainly be on some "Tracks Of The Year" lists come this December. "The Price Of Love" is what Brandon Flowers and Bono wish they could be writing right now in terms of "epic-ness" and pure quality. There's hardly a band like White Lies around at the moment, and certainly none that can touch them.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Death", "Unfinished Business", "E.S.T", "Farewell To The Fairground", "Nothing To Give", "The Price Of Love"

Okay, this review is 121 days since the albums release, and almost a year since promo copies were sent out to journalists (not that I'm actually a journalist or anything...), but I've only really discovered the pleasures of Metronomy...that sounds a little weird to be honest. They look like a geekier version of The Wombats (in my opinion) and you'd never expect them to make tunes so full of funk and soul that I actually want to dance just thinking about it, even if that is a little strange. "Nights Out" is, in the words of Metro-mastermind Joseph Mount, "a half-arsed concept album about going out and having a crap time". The "half-arsed concept" certainly comes through, but if this album was played on that particular night out, it's hard to imagine how a crap time could be had.

Starting off with an instrumental double of "Nights Out Intro" and "The End Of You Too", 'Nomy (I'm lazy so that's their new nickname from now on) set out their stall as the usurpers of Hot Chip's indie-dance crown. The former is a sort of homage to Ennio Morricone, ominous electronic parps and a guitar line reminiscent of something out of a spaghetti western. You can imagine robot cowboys of the future getting ready to duel with this in the background. Anyway back on topic, the album starts to gather pace once we arrive at "Radio Ladio", a dance-pop gem, even though the verses appear to be being sung by an old man in a mac, if you catch my drift. A swirl of duelling keyboards and a damn catchy chorus later, you'll be dancing. No other way about it. The hits just keep coming from then on. A falsetto worthy of Muse and Foals-esque guitars on the euphoric "My Heart Rate Rapid", the funky electro riffs of "On The Motorway" and "Holiday" is a melancholy dance masterclass.

But where the 'Nomy excel is on single "Heartbreaker". The general gist of the track is Guy #1's best mate is sick of Girl #1 treating Guy #1 badly and breaking his heart over and over again. May not sound much, but it's the highlight of the album, and probably one of the best tracks of last year (however did I miss it?). An irresistible bassline and a chorus you'll be whistling for weeks on end, along with a certain quality that makes it very believable for some reason raise the bar for the rest of the tracks and whilst they may not hit the height, they come very close to it. More of the same for album number three lads. I'll get it when it comes out this time too.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "Heartbreaker", "Radio Ladio", "My Heart Rate Rapid", "Back On The Motorway", "Holiday",


Currently second place in terms of the race to be the big, new stadium rockers, behind White Lies (more on their album later), Red Light Company are a rather different beast to that band. Whereas the band formerly known as the indie-poppers Fear Of Flying dress head to toe in black and have a worrying pre-occupation with death and darkness, RLC seem more content with making widescreen driving rock 'n' roll with a dollop of angst here and there. Their last few singles ("Scheme Eugene" and "Arts & Crafts") have been rather good too, although not exactly reinventing the musical wheel. "With Lights Out" is typical "epic indie" fare with its chugging guitars, impassioned vocals etc. You're more likely to hear it on Hollyoaks or in Topman than in any holier-than-thou indie snob blog (obviously not what this is). It's still a good song from a good band, but in comparison to White Lies, there's no way they can win.

6 January 2009


Forgive me for the awful pun on Klaxons debut album title. This year is shaping up to be an extremely good one for music (not so much for the economy). With so many new artists readying debut albums for release and a lot of established artists returning with new material, music fans are in for a treat.

The most-hyped new star has to be Florence And The Machine. Already awarded the Critic's Choice award at the Brits, she looks set to be a name on everyone's lips and in everyone's music library, seeing as that award was previously given to Adele, who was undoubtedly successful last year (if overshadowed by Duffy). Her previous two singles "Kiss With A Fist" and "Dog Days Are Over" are two totally different creatures; the former being the kind of punky track to throw yourself around like a madman to at a gig and the latter is something of a Kate Bush-channeling, folky piece of pop. If the rest of her debut follows on from this, then it's future classic time. Another solo star showing promise through a run of early singles is Esser, the ex-drummer of Ladyfuzz (who? exactly). He's gone from a universal indie shoulder shrug with his old band, to a genre-challenging, pop mastermind with the likes of "Headlock" and "I Love You" (sample lyric: "You bring me up then you tear me apart/Still, love is no excuse for bad art"). Look out for him support Kaiser Chiefs on their arena tour this year, the guy is a superstar in the making.

Continuing on the theme of solo stars, Scandinavians Lykke Li and Jens Lekman should be huge in the next 12 months. Okay, Lykke Li is already pretty big in the "alternative community" but her album "Youth Novels" is perfect pop mixed with a healthy dollop of electro and is beautiful in places, a definite 8/10 at the very, very least. Lekman is pretty similar. "Night Falls Over Kortedala" is kind of like Morrissey at his dreamy, melancholic best, an album that's sweet, sour cheerful, miserable and pretty perfect. And on the subject of perfect misery, there's two bands who will be slugging it out this year for the most comparisons to Joy Division, Editors et al. White Lies and Red Light Company are the kind of bands with a knack for writing sky-scraping gloom-laden, radio-friendly anthems to fill stadiums across the country, although it has to be said the latter don't appear to be the kind of band to be too down about being famous rockstars. White Lies' debut "To Lose My Life" has already received the same amount of hype as an Alex Turner yawn, which is quite a fair amount. Tracks leaked from the album sound quite promising as do a reviews floating around the blogosphere. RLC, on the other hand, haven't had too much hyperbole foisted onto them but singles "Scheme Eugene" and "Arts & Crafts" hint at a very good album and some festival anthems for the summer.

A lot of big hitters are set to return this year with new albums, which are already highly anticipated by their core fanbase. The obvious one being Arctic Monkeys. A third classic album will definitely cement their place as the most important band of the decade (not that my poll didn't already do that). There are positive signs already, with band hero Josh Homme possibly producing the album and songs being played "loud and fast". Fingers crossed for that one. On to a totally different band now with Foals, and their follow-up to acclaimed debut "Antidotes", which Yannis claims will be "eager" and "optimistic", as well as sounding "like the dream of an eagle dying" (now that's a song title for all you emo bands out there). Make of that what you will. Klaxons! Yes, those "new rave" gurners are back and apparently their sound has changed slightly but with no real evidence apart from blurry Youtube videos, it's hard to tell exactly what they'll come out with. As long as it's got more tunes, I'll be pleased. U2 have a new album out this year too. "No Line On The Horizon" or something. I'm saying it now, it'll be mind-numbingly average, maybe 2 or 3 okay singles but that's it. Oh, and so do the Manic Street Preachers and Franz Ferdinand. You'll get more about them sometime soon, as I'm already just too excited about that to put it into words.

On the live circuit, there's quite a lot to look forward to. Oasis' stadium tour as well as three nights at Wembley and three gigs at Manchester's Heaton Park will please the lad-rock contingent; Blur's return with reunion shows at Hyde Park and heavily rumoured Glasto headline spot will be the events of summer and then we come to the festivals themselves. Whilst Glasto seems to have ignored any band formed before 1990 with its supposed headliners of Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and, as mentioned, Blur, Reading & Leeds look to want to appeal to the young'uns this year with rumours flying about that the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Green Day, The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand, Oasis, Manic Street Preachers, Kings Of Leon, Muse and even Kaiser Chiefs topping the bill at the sites.

Hopefully some bands might call it a day this year too. Here's hoping Johnny Borrell breaks up Razorlight for a solo career then loses the ability to speak or sing, Crystal Castles get unplugged, Chris Martin stays good to his promise and finishes Coldplay before he turns 33 and Interpol stop ripping off Joy Division. But a few reported splits, such as The Maccabees, Good Shoes, Bloc Party and We Are Scientists, won't be so pleasing to hear. But that's just the way music goes.

Here's to a fine '09 after a great '08! (I'm expecting the bad joke police to be questioning me tomorrow).
Could the ever-cheerful 'Bats finally be maturing and moving away from the bouncy, sugar coated indie pop of "A Guide To Love, Loss And Desperation"? Going by this next single, it would certainly appear so but it doesn't seem like the best thing to do right now. A move like this would be best later in their career, in 4th album territory maybe, when absolutely everyone is sick of chirpy Scousers pratting about (not just miserable NME hacks). But right now, it'd be best to stick to what they do best. The song itself is a bit more "Is This Christmas?" than "Kill The Director", only without Les Dennis and bells. Few angular riffs here, chanty vocals there, and a bit of a boring chorus in "I can't wait to wallow in self pity/In my circuitboard city tonight". Who knows, the album may be superb like the debut, but the signs aren't looking so good right now.

5 January 2009

The biggest British rock group of the moment and last year's Glasto healdiner. Or alternatively, the most popular soft rock bedwetters and Beyonce's husband. Depends on how you look at it. Personally I'm kind of in the middle. Coldplay write some good yet bland anthemic songs, useful for soundtracking important parts of soaps, programme trailers and England winning/losing anything, and Jay-Z, well he could release a song with just him making various bodily noises as a single to critical acclaim, but he won't since he doesn't really need the money.

Anyway back to my point. "Lost!" in its original form is an okay song just plods along with various drums rhythm, organs and handclaps, striving for epic-ness and ending up as a bit of a dirge. So obviously Jay-Z's rap is a welcome diversion from Martin & Co. Even if it is a slightly stock rant about how success isn't always what everyone thinks it is (example lines "See Martin, see Malcolm/See Biggie, see Pac, see success and its outcome/See Jesus, see Judas/See Caesar, see Brutus, see success is like suicide" and "And the question is, 'Is to have had and lost/Better than not having at all?"') it still improves "Lost!" by a hell of a lot. A few more wimpy rock band/hip hop megastar crossovers in the future please.

I would
make a very poor joke about how they should have released this at the start of last year to warn us of the onslaught of shite vampire novels/films, but I can't really think of a way to make it work. Anywho, another month, another Franz leak. In terms of leakiness they're getting worse than the bottom three of the Premier League. This new album track starts off like the electrofest we've been promised with "Tonight:..." and immediately sounds like an old lost Bowie song (or Roxy Music as my uncle keeps saying, I wouldn't know being honest). In comparison to other album tracks like "Ulysses", "Lucid Dreams" and "What She Came For", it isn't as immediate and seems caught in the middle of their indie rock sound and their electro direction, neither one or the other. It could be a grower, so watch this space...

4 January 2009

Well I've calmed down from my initial dancing around the room at finding this and I'm ready to review. The Mozfather has returned with his highly anticipated (by me at least) 9th solo album. The sleeve is extremely puzzling but we'll move past that. There's been a Moz revival of late thanks to two outstanding albums in the shape of "You Are The Quarry" and "Ringleader Of The Tormentors", the former a confident, biting modern rock classic and the latter a moody, Rome-influenced ode to the wonders of love in Morrissey's inimitable style. And on "YOR" the two styles are combined for Morrissey's most interesting album since.... well "Ringleaders" to be honest

"Something Is Squeezing My Skull" is a pounding rockabilly opener that changes mood, lyrically, as much as Tottenham change their manager. And a middle eighth that lists a hell of a lot of prescription drugs. There may be a connection there.... We then move onto the wonderfully titled "Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed". Military-style drums power the track, although it's mostly typical Moz fare, apart from a brass section which may have escaped from whatever studio Foals are recording in at the minute. Track number three; "Black Cloud". Possibly one of the most apt titles of his career, it features Jeff Beck on guitar and is perfect for the oncoming world tour and any festival slots this year (fingers crossed).

Lead single "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" could definitely fit right in on either of Morrissey's 21st century albums or possibly even a Smiths album, being part glam guitar stomper and part yearning, whimsical orchestral pop. On to another single now, with "All You Need Is Me" (he's a modest one, isn't he?) was previously released to coincide with last year's "Greatest Hits" compilation, along with other album track "That's How People Grow Up". Both songs are route one for Morrissey, but they're both perfect examples of his sharp tongue and way with words, as well as slotting in perfectly on the album. Separating the two former singles is the strangely-titled "When I Last Spoke To Carol" which is sees Il Mozalini transforming into Scott Walker for three and a half minutes, with Spanish guitars, even more brass and a wealth of melodrama thrown into the track. Somehow it comes off like a mix between "Bigmouth Strikes Again" and "November Spawned A Monster", but it works, by gum (did I really just type by gum?...)

"One Day Goodbye Could Be Farewell" is up next with it's galloping drums and an explosion of guitar from Boz Boorer, as well as possibly the best line since the songs on "The Queen Is Dead"; "And before you know, goodbye will be farewell/And you will never see the one you love again/And the smiling children tell you that you smell". You can always rely on Morrissey for a giggle. After the rollicking throwback first two-thirds, the album gets slightly more experimental for a bit (for Morrissey anyway). "It's Not Your Birthday Anymore" (you've got to love these titles) begins as a calm chilled-out ballad in the vein of "Dear God, Please Help Me" but the chorus is killer, and the music is possibly the best of Morrissey's solo career. "You Were Good In Your Time" is ever more Scott Walker-esque than before. A sombre, laid-back lament that would be perfect for, in the words of Johnny Borrell, walking home from school in the rain wondering why you don't have a girlfriend. The orchestration seems lifted straight from a 1950's romance film, but it suddenly stops and what replaces it is two minutes of creepy industrial noise, eerie horror-film strings and strange newsreel clips. It's dragged out a bit too much though.

The final two songs of "YOR" return once again to the distorted-guitars-and-sharp-tongue combo which has served so well, after the diversion to Experimental Town. "Sorry Doesn't Help" is possibly the weakest track here but it's still good enough to keep your attention until the end. Album closer "I'm OK By Myself" sounds like the quintessential anthem to describe Morrissey fans, which is a pretty good way to describe it. A perfect distillation of The Smiths and Morrissey's solo work, Boorer's guitar comes pretty close to Johnny Marr's chiming sound whilst the chorus of "I'm OK by myself!/and I don't need you/and I never have, I never have/Noooooo!" deserves to be shouted from rooftops, terraces, pubs, festivals and bedsits across the globe.

"Years Of Refusal" shows the Pope Of Mope in fine form, with an album which expands on his recent work and definitely improves on it. You can even imagine some radio airplay for the singles lifted from the album, especially if Moz grabs a few key festival spots in the summer, and if this happens then the crowd will be eating out of his hand.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris", "All You Need Is Me", "One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell", "It's Not Your Birthday Anymore", "I'm OK By Myself"

Congrats to the frozen simians, or Arctic Monkeys as they prefer to be known. Despite a general disdain towards the band from a large section of the "indie community", they are now officially (well in the eyes of the four people who read this) the best band of the 21st Century, with 50% of the votes. Comiserations to Kings Of Leon in second place, although methinks that may be because they're flavour of the month in the mainstream press. Slightly gutted for The Killers, Kaisers, Bloc Party and Girls Aloud, all in joint third. And the rest of the bands with 1% or less? Well I'm presuming barely anyone's heard of them really.

The next two polls will be the best album of the Noughties and best name for a band (that may or may not be for help with my own band.)

1 January 2009

Their jeans may not have changed, but their sound definitely has. Almost two years since debut album "Hats Off To The Buskers" propelled them to rock stardom, The View are back with their second effort which, to say the least, is a brave move in terms of their sound. Some songs on "Which Bitch?" are more suited to, say, a fifth or sixth album when a band is more confident in their sound and can branch out. You'd never expect them to be on a second album from a band who aren't really a household name, apart from one song.

Beginning with "Typical Time Part 2", a follow-on from the debut's final track and a fun, throwaway piece of pop. Using just a piano, harmonica and guitar, it sets up stall for the album to be something slightly different but equally as fun as The View's previous material. "5 Rebbeccas" is a return to what the band do best; catchy indie anthems. But whereas previously their songs were reminiscent of The Libertines, their sound now owes more to that of Oasis with the wall of guitars and feedback. Looks like they've got another "built-for-the-festivals" hit then.

Yet another change of direction on "One Off Pretender". The guitars are a mix of The Stone Roses, U2 and The Coral (basically lots of reverb and delay and quite widdly) and the vocals go from virtually rapped to typical lad-rock shouting. Definitely different, but whether it's popular with fans remains to be seen. Guess what's coming next? Yes, it's another change in terms of sound and possibly the most melancholy song The View have ever released. Haunting strings dominate "Unexpected" over Kyle's down-in-the-dumps vocals and it's not something you'd think the band who wrote "Wasted Little DJs" could produce, but someow it works.

The rest of the album is populated with these kind of suprises. There's liberal use of string arrangements on quite a few tracks, an appearance from Paolo Nutini (no, come back! It's an alright song, I promise), a track going over the 6-minute mark and some Oasis-aping acoustic tracks. The middle of the album is where it gets even more interesting. "Glass Smash", heavy as "Brianstorm" and a rather creepy middle eight; "Distant Doubloon", just piano and strings with a distinct piratey feel to it; "Covers" (the Paolo Nutini track), a summery slice of acoustic pop with added trumpet. Then we arrive at "Shock Horror" the second single from the album. It's what you'd expect from the band and more, kind of like "Wasted Little DJs" older brother. It's more taut and foucsed, yet just as good as anything they've done.

The View may not be the msot popular band with some indie snobs but "Which Bitch?" is a future classic. The album has something for everyone; typical Yates's customers, mums who buy their records at Tesco, miserable hipsters, festival goers. It will be interesting to see where The View go from here. They might return to Libertines knock-offs, they could make another "Be Here Now" or another classic. We'll just have to wait and see. Though I still haven't got a clue what they're singing about half the time.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "5 Rebbeccas", "Unexpected", "Shock Horror"

9/10 (Which Bitch?)
8.5/10 (Shock Horror)