Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

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AU62: Snow Patrol album review

April 4, 2010

Yeah, I don’t like them much these days…

SNOW PATROL
UP TO NOW
FICTION

Speaking to Gary Lightbody for this issue’s cover feature, it’s striking just how sure he is that Snow Patrol are getting better and better all the time. It just isn’t true. If anything, it’s been downhill ever since Final Straw, and this compilation is aural proof. Take the new single ‘Just Say Yes’, one of three brand new songs among the 27 other singles, album tracks and rarities jumbled up for your delectation. Put simply, the band sound like a lobotomised The Bravery. It’s limp, phoned-in rubbish and the attempt to whack a load of synths onto it in the apparent belief that it makes them sound relevant and edgy is outright laughable.

Then consider the band’s recent singles – ‘Crack The Shutters’, ‘The Planets Bend Between Us’, ‘Take Back The City’ (okay, kudos for managing to fit in two different choruses on that one). Can anyone honestly, with a straight face, claim that these songs, slick as they are, hold a candle to the classic ‘Starfighter Pilot’ (a sister song to Ash’s ‘Angel Interceptor’ and a close cousin of ‘Teenage Kicks’), ‘Ask Me How I Am’, or ‘On/Off’? And that’s just the early tracks that made it onto this compilation – whither ‘One Night Is Not Enough’, ‘Wow’ and the sumptuous ‘If I’d Found The Right Words To Say’?

And before you start moaning, this isn’t about snobbery or jealousy. The career-making Final Straw deserved its success, and it’s represented by three very good songs in ‘Spitting Games’, ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Run’ (two versions). But, as much as Lightbody denies it (and he does), you can’t shake the notion that the runaway success of ‘Run’ has mapped out the rest of the band’s career for them. Suddenly, Lightbody finds himself capable of writing glossy, radio-friendly anthems, and the crunchy rockers and scratchy indie-pop of old – full as they are of wit, charm, subtlety, heart and soul, can get stuffed. Hence, the execrable ‘Chasing Cars’.

Hearing all of this gloop mixed in among the best of their work makes for an entirely dispiriting experience, and that’s before you even consider all the great songs that have had to make way for the likes of ‘Hands Open’ (in which it sounds like they literally can’t wait to wheel out the chorus) and ‘Signal Fire’. Up To Now can only be recommended as an entry point for people that think the band formed in 2004. But it’s best avoided, really. Chris Jones

4/10

DOWNLOAD: ‘SET THE FIRE TO THE THIRD BAR’ (AS PROOF OF A GOOD LATTER-DAY SONG), WHEN IT’S ALL OVER WE STILL HAVE TO CLEAR UP.
FOR FANS OF: COLDPLAY, KEANE, MAROON FUCKING 5.

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iheartau.com: Beach House live review

February 19, 2010

Ronseal

Bit of a Ronseal post, this one.

Link here.

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AU61: Strait Laces unsigned review

January 4, 2010

This ties in the the In The Studio piece that you can find here.

STRAIT LACES
SECONDS OUT
BRUISED FRUIT

This debut single from the spiky Coleraine trio is a little bit back to front. Lead track ‘Seconds Out’ is a breathless two-and-a-half minute romp, never settling on an idea for very long and slightly infuriating because of it. Dave Hanna’s caterwauling vocals bear comparison to Niall Kennedy of contemporaries – and clear influences – Panama Kings, but the yelping energy is all a bit much to handle. Surprisingly enough, Uber Glitterati’s electro-pop remix fares better, slowing things down (with the added benefit of pitching down Hanna’s voice) and crafting a slick, coherent pop song where once there was wide-eyed chaos. Better still, though, is the third track, which can count itself unlucky to be tacked on at the end. ‘Romantic Issues’ is a stylish, confident tune that owes much to the Arctic Monkeys, turning on a dime from the lithe, cocksure verse to a turbocharged chorus. Great stuff; it’s just a shame it wasn’t given more prominence.

WWW.MYSPACE.COM/STRAITLACES

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AU61: Dälek/Charles Hayward live review

January 4, 2010

DÄLEK, CHARLES HAYWARD
BLACK BOX, BELFAST

This is a night for adventure, headed by an act that has achieved the impressive feat of sounding like precisely noone else. But before Dälek’s bizarre yet invigorating collision of noise and rap, it’s fitting that the support comes from Charles Hayward, a man who has spent the last 30 years resolutely going his own way. Best known as the drummer in English experimental group This Heat during the late Seventies and early Eighties, he now tours alone. Naturally enough, his masterful, expressive drumming is the main focus, but this is no smug wankathon – it’s gritty and creative, Hayward using his feet to control a phalanx of machines, layering ambient soundscapes and shards of noise under the rhythms. And there are songs, too – awkward and unlovely at times, but sung and played with real intensity. This man is pushing 60, but he puts many a young buck to shame.

Not Dälek, though. The New Jersey duo may look like a couple of meatheads when they take the stage – DJ Oktopus’s wifebeater, MC Dälek’s enormously oversized clothes on his already enormously oversized frame, topped off with a pair of sunglasses in a room that’s just a shade above pitch black – but there’s no idiotic bluster here, just an hour of surging noise, beats and rhymes. If you imagine Kevin Shields adding his guitar onslaught to Public Enemy, you’re halfway there. Despite the underlying sonics, though, the rhythms and words make Dälek no more or less than a hip-hop act, and they are keen to prove their credentials. Towards the end of the show, MC Dälek addresses the crowd for only the second time, giving heartfelt shout-outs to the late Jam Master Jay and J Dilla, amongst others. “This is my culture,” he exclaims, “these are my words, this is my motherfuckin’ life!” It’s almost as if he feels the need to publicly connect to these figures, since his band is signed to a predominantly (though nowhere near exclusively) rock label in Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings, and the vast majority of the crowd tonight is, to go on appearances alone, from the rock and metal fraternity. And sure enough, you can – and do – get lost in the blizzard of noise coming from DJ Oktopus’s laptops. But this isn’t shoegaze with a bit of rapping over the top – it’s hip-hop that’s adventurous and broad-minded enough to use a totally different sound palette to any other comparable act. And its sheer power leaves you breathless.

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AU61: No Age live review

January 4, 2010


(Pic via Karl McDonald’s Those Geese Were Stupified)

NO AGE
THE EXCHANGE, DUBLIN

No Age’s Saturday night gig at Crawdaddy was postponed due to Ryanair being their usual belligerent selves (or Dean Spunt not knowing the rules on hand luggage; you choose) so here we are at an all-ages venue on Sunday afternoon instead, primed for some daylight scuzz. It’s a weird atmosphere all round – everyone is sober, the venue is bright and clean and you get the sense some people have fit the gig in around their Sunday shopping. But though a band as raw as No Age would doubtless benefit from grimier surroundings, they do their best to engage the crowd, Spunt riffing on Ryanair’s inadequacies (always a popular theme) and beckoning the reticent crowd towards the stage. And they play fucking loud, so loud in fact that at one point the Gardai show up, before being reassured that everything is above board.

Opening with Nouns (and career) highlight ‘Teen Creeps’, drummer/vocalist Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall rip through tracks from both albums and the new EP Losing Feeling, with ‘You’re A Target’s soaring fuzz-punk an early winner. No doubt relieved to be playing in Dublin at all, the pair extol the virtues of The Exchange, surely drawing parallels with their beloved The Smell back home in LA. Spunt isn’t the greatest drummer in the world (nor the greatest singer, for that matter), but his enthusiasm is infectious, and you find yourself amusedly watching his facial expressions as he attacks his ride cymbal with barely disguised glee, particularly during the scorching ‘Sleeper Hold’. This won’t have been the best show of No Age’s European tour (nor the best of the day – they played a hastily arranged show at the Academy 2 later that night), but it sure beats traipsing around H&M on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

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AU61: tUnE-yArDs album review

January 4, 2010

TUNE-YARDS
BIRD-BRAINS
4AD

Merrill Garbus recorded this debut album herself in the most lo-fi way imaginable these days (a digital voice recorder and free software) and doesn’t it just show? It’s scratchy, hissy and rough, and sometimes the bass interrupts with a blast of unintended distortion, but the miraculous thing is that Garbus’s songwriting survives it. And then some. She signed to 4AD and was picked to tour with the Dirty Projectors, and things like that don’t happen by chance. Highlights like the ass-shaking Afro-pop of ‘Hatari’, the eerie nursery rhyme ‘Lions’ and the dancehall-infused ‘Jamaican’ show just how far you can push such a simple set-up. The singing is heartfelt, the cut-up arrangements often ingenious and the songs frankly wonderful. What we have here is a pop maverick, and if you can stomach the bargain-basement sound and the 54-minute runtime, then you’re in for a bit of a treat.

8/10

DOWNLOAD: ‘HATARI’, ‘SUNLIGHT’, ‘LIONS’.
FOR FANS OF: MICACHU & THE SHAPES, DIRTY PROJECTORS, RUBY LIONS.

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AU61: Ben Frost album review

January 4, 2010

BEN FROST
BY THE THROAT
BEDROOM COMMUNITY

What kind of perverse Australian ends up living and working in Reykjavik, Iceland? Exactly the kind that would make bleak, desolate music like this, I guess. Ben Frost runs the Bedroom Community collective/label with former Björk cohort Valgeir Sigurðsson and classical composer Nico Muhly, and this aptly titled third album is a sonic experience like few others. It’s arresting, forbidding stuff. Frost operates on the boundary between modern classical (à la Jóhann Jóhannsson) and electronic noise/drone, and for fans of Fennesz and Tim Hecker, By The Throat will be manna. The stormy ‘Killshot’ and the seriously unsettling ‘Ó God Protect Me’ – which samples what sounds like the snatched gasps of a hospital patient – outline Frost’s mission from the beginning. If this is a window into his soul, then you have to fear for him, for the whole album is dripping with a sense of creeping dread. And it’s a physical experience as much as an aural or emotional one – Frost uses gut-punching bass pressure and ear-splitting noise as sonic punctuation amongst the synthesisers, field recordings and classical instrumentation. There are guest appearances from Sigur Rós collaborators Amiina, Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara and the aforementioned Muhly, but this is no-one’s vision but Frost’s. It’s fearless and it’s frightening and it demands to be heard shit-your-pants loud.

9/10

DOWNLOAD: ‘KILLSHOT’, ‘Ó GOD PROTECT ME’, ‘THROUGH THE ROOF OF YOUR MOUTH’.
FOR FANS OF: FENNESZ, TIM HECKER, JÓHANN JÓHANNSSON.

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