Sunday, 30 September 2012

Green Day - Uno!

I mean, what did I expect, the new Green Day album not to sound like a Green Day album? Clearly in their regression period. They didn’t want to lose all their fans from yesteryear and blaze their American Idiot trail until the end, so they tried to win them back with a jaunty pop punk return. A return to form, some would say, to what they were famous for. And sure, ‘iUno!’ is a fine representation of what Green Day are well known for - writing upbeat, catchy sort-of-punk songs that boil the insides of young misfit 14 year olds and leave them feeling a little bit less like the outcasts that they thought they were. And hey, who am I to say that’s a bad thing? I was that kid once. We all were. Unless you were one of of the popular kids who’s only bully was their father. Then you’re in a different club.But the underlining idea I'm trying to snobbishly smuggle into this review is that: whatever happened to moving on? Green Day, you wrote Dookie just under ten years ago, let it go. You don’t really have to give a shit about the morons who think that you should just keep remaking that album until you die of an illness mainly caused by your creativity drying up so much that you can’t even feel where it is in your body anymore.

Listening through this album, every song kind of pulls the same punch and tries to achieve the same idea with variations on the same chords and harmonies. Also, it grates a little, how much the lyrics of the songs are as angsty as their fans. And that would have been fine ten years ago or more when the band were still in the same age bracket as said fans (I mean, they were pushing the “I don’t give a fuck! fuck you! yeah!” kid punk thing for far too long by then anyway). But now, they are adults, have kids and are married and are still dressing like their fans, acting like their fans, and basically trying to fill the idea their fans want them to fill. And sure, I’m definitely not an advocate of the ‘you reach a certain age then you’re passed it and you should develop into your stagnant arm chair forever’ thing, but I dunno. If I said “the girly-punk section of Claire’s Accessories” , would you get what I meant then? Also, why are you still singing songs about chasing after girls, dude? You’ve been married for eight years. I’ll admit, I did grow up on Green Day, was a huge fan and I had a special place for them. But, I’ve moved on, and I’ve opened myself up to newer things. Maybe they should have too.


Saturday, 29 September 2012

Live: The Xcerts / Yearbook @ Borderline, London

When you’re one of the most popular underground bands on the rock scene, surrounded by quite a lot of good vibes about your future, it always seems easier to pull off momentous occasions so when the Xcerts announced they’d be performing their second (and slightly less good) album, Scatterbrain in full at the Borderline in London, you’d be right to be cautiously excited.

On the night however, there’s a strange name on the bill. It’s Saul Goodman! For those of us who aren’t as hooked on Breaking Bad’s skirting characters as the Xcerts, we quickly learn that it is infact tonight’s headline act playing a series of new tracks including what must be a future single in “Shaking in the Water”, the band warm up for their own warm up act in short but sweet style.

So with the crowd having already had four songs of excitement, it’s time for Yearbook. The five-piece, whilst not yet a fully touring band, have created a buzz around their live set that just refuses to stop snowballing from the moment they plug in. The likes of -single “Everything I Own” fits in with the chant along “3’s and 6’s” from the free EP Squares and Circles in a well rehearsed and tight knit sound as lead singer Andy Halloway’s elastic voice dominates the small venue. With more material of a similar quality, Yearbook could see themselves selling out the Borderline very soon.

After all this excitement, you’d be forgiven for not even needing the headline act to go home happy, but you’d be sorely mistaken. From the opening pulses of Tar Ok, breaks title track “Scatterbrain” as the album play through gets underway. The crowd start to get on board as “Gum” gives them a respite but as “Slackerpop” blasts its way through the speakers, anyone contemplating standing still is won over. Considering the record as a whole isn’t exactly the best around, The Xcerts prove against the odds that on their day, they can be be. Roll on record three.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Tame Impala - Lonerism

Have you ever felt like the Beatles’ psychedelic era was cut too short? Do you consider Sgt. Peppers as one of the greatest musical achievements of the 20th Century, with all of its LSD-influenced wonderment and surrealism, but have been unsatisfied with everything by anyone that came out after? In these cases, listen to Tame Impala. Everything about this act is like a spiritual explosion of everything the 60’s hippie movement set up, and acts as a propulsion unit to make it relevant again today. 
2010 introduced listeners worldwide to the Australian psychedelic/space rock outfit Tame Impala with the record Innerspeaker. This compendium wowed the world’s population and made those interested in the psychedelia scene stand up and take notice. This was achieved by its complexity, boldness and striking string of tracks that never seemed to let up in trippy ecstatic quality. The same vein has been struck for 2012’s follow-up, Lonerism. This record largely feels like a follow-up to Innerspeaker, as the same paths are retread, the same musical ideas are presented and little new ground is covered. Not necessarily a bad thing however; considering how impressive and accomplished the band’s debut was, more of the same could be exactly the route that should have been taken.
Many of the tracks present here are very similar on first listen, although their unique features start to unveil themselves after an indulgence into the sound that is being offered. ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ mixes the formula up a little somewhere through the midpoint of the album with an understated, simple drum pattern and an infectious, interesting synth warble throughout. The vocals and basslines that shimmer over the top combine to create an attractive mix, and as a result, a highlight. “Keep on Lying” on the other hand, seems to be an attempt to make the band seem as retroactive as possible while still sounding contemporary, the pop structure and key progression is so dated that it actually works as an adventurous move.
The result of a continuation of the band’s sound is a cohesive and direct space rock album that achieves its goal of providing an aural soundscape of a pleasant drug trip. The guitars still sound warped and operatic, the drums still reverberate around the studio and the synths create a beautiful wavy backdrop with which the rest of the band sails upon. (...and yes, vocalist Kevin Parker still sounds exactly like John Lennon.) While Lonerism doesn’t demolish expectations and paint new canvases with unforeseen and unprecedented modern songwriting techniques, it provides an entertaining listen that keeps the classic sound of the 60’s rock movement alive.


Matthew White

Toy - Toy

With three ex-members of swiftly imploding indie-poppers Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong on board, this London quartet have spent the last 12 months picking up rave reviews for a brand of psychedelic post-punk which shares more than a few strands of musical DNA with their much-heralded tour mates The Horrors.

There’s been plenty of discussion of the Krautrock influence on ‘TOY’ but titles like ‘Kopter’ and ‘Motoring’ aside actual songs still tend to dominate over grooves for the young five piece. Rather than Neu or Can more accurate touchstones would be The Cure and My Bloody Valentine, bands who married an independent aesthetic to the kind of grandiose romanticism which colours ‘Lose My Way’ and the eighties-ish ‘My Heart Skips a Beat’.

Like Faris Badwan’s bunch, at their best Toy make music which is epic yet starry-eyed; repeated rhythmic or melodic phrases spun into mantras, teased out then sucked back into the hypnotic chaos like stars into a collapsing black hole. Burbling basslines dominate ‘Colours Running Out’ and ‘Strange’, and although the experimentalism clearly owes its debt to 80’s alt-rock, it’s a welcome addition to their pallet. At the albums’ centre, ‘Drifting Deeper’s musical flourishes sound like Ennio Morricone adrift in space; a stunning instrumental whose gorgeous ebb and flow twists the group in its dark embrace.

Of the two longer songs which do find the group drifting into groove-based territory, ‘Dead & Gone’ co-opts the relentless forward momentum of Pulp’s ‘Common People’ but without Jarvis Cocker’s warmth and verbosity whilst closer ‘Kopter’ locks down a Hawkwind-esque space-rock groove of splashy drums and widescreen synth.

If there’s a slight criticism to be levelled it’s that Tom Dougall’s voice can be rather characterless. He lacks Robert Smith’s variety of phrasing and his brooding manner can come across as flat and facile rather than mysterious and compelling but fortunately his bandmates kick up such a swell noise that for the most part he’s carried along on the crest of the wave. One of the best British debuts of the year.


Max Sefton

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Why? - Mumps Etc

If there was ever a sub-genre which reeked of posh kids slumming it, it’s indie hip-hop. Even the name of this Californian quartet comes across as a second-hand, smart-aleck jibe. Back in 2001 the Strokes asked us ‘Is This It?’ but came good with a debut which was not only definitely ‘It’ but possibly re-defined what ‘It’ was. On the other hand, as a moniker, Why? topples precariously on the line between glib cleverness and writing their own epitaph.

Primarily the output of Ohioan producer, label owner and provocateur Jonathan ‘Yoni’ Wolf, Why? deal in sunny sounding but abstract snapshots of an intelligent American youth. Opener ‘Jonathan’s Hope’ teases with a bucolic humming and delicate piano but spins into a mind-warping tour into a world of doves, deathbeds and disease, alternating crudeness and crooning.

From a web of percussion and delicate piano Wolf and his bandmates are just about capable of spinning out a pleasant tune but these are too often fleeting moments of lucidity between his rapping. Lyrically dextrous he may be but too often he comes across as a snarky tourist with the unappealing nasal tone of a bored high school kid. The whistling assisted ‘Strawberries’ offers a heady mix of the confessional and the crude ‘I don’t wear rubbers and I don’t wear sunscreen’ but its ‘I’m not ok’ refrain feels lazy and trite and there’s not a lot else that appeals to either head or heart.

Sometimes this is twisted to his advantage such as on “Way High on Highway 13” in which he uses the solid rhythms of hip-hop to complement a shifting roadtrip through his own psyche but even on these occasions he sounds like Ben Folds’ parody of a suburban teenager. The general themes seems to be mortality and alienation from a world in which everyone else ‘in their late 20’s just wants to make money’ but ‘Mumps Etc’ finds our privileged narrator yearning for the conventional lifestyle and ‘kid with the best report card’. It’s a interesting dichotomy but not one that’s explored with any real insight. Lyrically, the finest moment is ‘Thirst’ which finds Wolf picking through the detritus of his basement in search of some object which will connect him to the world around but ultimately he doesn’t find any answers and ‘Mumps Etc’ is too insular to make riding shotgun on his journey any fun.

So at the end of this musical odyssey there’s one very important question the band have to answer: Why?


Max Sefton

Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Swim And Sleep (Like A Sharp)

With the continual stream of bands making music that sounds like it should have been released in the 1970s not looking to run dry, it looks like most of the harshest lo-fi critics have just come to accept that this style of pop music is here to stay. Unknown Mortal Orchestra are certainly one of those bands who don't necessarily belong in this decade, but have such undeniably hummable tunes, there's not much to complain about.

This track taken from a forthcoming tour only 7" is just as melodic and vibrant as the tuneful songs they hammered out on their much loved eponymous debut last year. The guitar riff treads the line of Real Estate's meandering dream pop, while frontman Ruban Nielson's vocals come across more wistful and comforting than they perhaps did before when talking about his ffunny ffriends. It's not a progression, but UMO deliver the goods once again, forecasting promising signs for their forthcoming second LP.

Toby McCarron

Monday, 17 September 2012

Live: Eyes on Film @ Proud Camden

When a Libertine joins your band, its natural that there’d be a little bit of excitement around it. So when Carl Barat announced he was joining relatively unkown Eyes on Film, naturally the Proud Galleries in Camden filled up. The converted stables always seem crowded as its one narrow corridor bustles with the borderline famous, usual Camden faces and the trendy night-trippers, so many don’t bother going through to the equally crowded main room for support The Tricks.
The band are your standard indie four-piece with a nice sheen. Sadly, even without many paying attention, they’re hardly going to light up the charts nor do they really light up the room. It’s entertaining but barely something special.

The room is far fuller in time for Eyes on Film. It starts loudly as the band sound like a mix between the likes of Art Brut and the more melodic end of Kasabian as frontman Dan Mills erratically moves about the relatively stage like a man possessed. Barat himself has a few guitar difficulties in that his trademark beaten up Fender won’t make a sound but once he gets into the feel of things he’s almost robotic to watch. After the show he indicates that he’ll stay with the band “as long as they’ll have him” and seems content with the Londoners.
All in all, there should be right things on the horizon for Eyes on Film, they may not be the best new band, but they’ve definitely got the material to let the hype that Barat’s bought with them continue in the coming months.

Braden Fletcher

Two Door Cinema Club - Beacon

With U2 seemingly happily ensconced in a world of corporate irresponsibility and Snow Patrol plotting a downward trajectory, right now Alex Trimble and co can make a good claim to being Ireland’s premier rock act. Like fellow perma-teens Ash, they manage to capture the scrappy, bouncing headrush of being a teenager and channel it into three minute indie-pop songs. Their 2009 debut ‘Tourist History’ took a while to build momentum but heavy touring and a ubiquitous presence in adverts looking to capitalise on the exuberance of youth paid off to the tune of 500 000 sales and the Choice Prize for Irish Album of the Year. Now, the trio of Trimble, Kevin Baird and Sam Halliday have returned with their second record ‘Beacon’, recorded in LA.

First things first: the cover art is atrocious. Second of all: If you really loved their debut feel free to disregard everything I have written below because if you liked that record there will probably be enough sprightly pop songs here to keep you entertained whilst someone finds you a new set of crayons and refills your orange juice. Now let us plunge into the murky depths in search of a ray of light from ‘Beacon’…

This second effort kicks off with ‘Next Year’ on which, predictably, we find Trimble singing about how he’ll be home ‘next year’. Unfortunately this track manages to be doubly annoying thanks to a predictable melody and yet another repeat of the rookie mistake in which a band follow up a relatively original debut with songs about how life on the road is dull and lonely, big cities are big and being away from home sucks. An electronic squawk gives way to some typical We Are Scientists high-string riffage before a big chorus, which aims to fuse the catchiness of ‘Tourist History’ with the epic sweep of ‘rush of blood to the head’ era Coldplay. It’s exactly what you would expect a new TDCC song to sound like and as bland as a glass of water.

The only concession to developing their sound is the presence of real drums, replacing the clean cut drum-machine thump of their debut. Ordinarily I’d praise a band for choosing to create their material organically rather than electronically but by doing so they seem to have exorcised one of the more distinctive elements of their original sound. Otherwise, sonically ‘Beacon’ aims to replicate its predecessor in almost every way. Tracks start out quiet, settle into a bouncy rhythm then hit preppy, peppy choruses over a squirreling Phoenix-esque guitar riff. Even on an album running to just 38 minutes the samey-ness of many tracks is quite noticeable. Song duration ranges from just over three minutes to just over 4 minutes and structures, melodies and lyrical themes all find themselves recycled.

Another problem with ‘Beacon’ is Trimble’s voice. Technically it’s both pure and clear but its capacity to convey grit is pretty much equal to a bucket with a hole. He’s just too clean cut so tracks like ‘Spring’ and ‘Sleep Alone’ come across as shallow, skating on the emotional surface without ever plumbing any true depths. Even alongside female vocalist Valentina on ‘The World is Watching’ there’s a disconnect between the lyrics and any real sentiment. Even the rapid bursts of teenage hyper-excitability that gave ‘Tourist History’ its charm seem to have been exorcised in favour of a more measured middle of the road sensibility.

Even when title track and album closer ‘Beacon’ goes for a slower pace akin to the Maccabees ‘Given to the Wild’ there’s none of that album’s subtlety and shifting dynamics. Overall it’s a disappointing sophomore slump from the young group but it should shift enough copies to buy them another attempt.


Max Sefton

Single: Spring Offensive - Not Drowning but Waving


Oxford quintet Spring Offensive have been busy; having toured the mid-sized festivals this summer after their fresh breeze of almost Jack Penate style in the likes of "A Stutter and Start", their new track "Not Drowning But Waving" is now out. So what does it sound like?

If the likes of their shows at the Great Escape felt like a warm summer was coming (even though it didn't), then Not Drowning But Waving is the Autumnal reflection on the somber reality of the oncoming cold snap. "There is a storm blowing in,do I have to shoulder this one? If you wade in, then I'll wade in, will I be blamed for this one?" sings Lucas Whitworth, accompanied by a full band in dark harmony. In parts, the slow build of this track feels daunting as the story unravels. You won't be blamed for wanting to sing along to the last chant of "I will be blamed for this one" as it crescendo's to an almost thunderous climax.

It's the video here that steals the show though. The band chose to direct it themselves in order to tell the story behind the lyrics but if anything the video's more cryptic and decieving as the song itself. The inevitability of the end only adds more questions to your list of..
 "What's that in the sea?" "Why is that man carrying a bunch of rocks?" "Why can't I stop watching?"

Honestly, it's left many perplexed. If you've got any thoughts feel free to let us know, but for now, just enjoy.

Braden Fletcher

Review: Kendal Calling 2012

With awful queuing systems and minor public tantrums aside, upon arrival at Kendal Calling, campe was set up, cider was cracked open and we lazed in the sun before catching Trophy Wife on the Calling Out stage. The Oxford three-piece have impeccable taste in t-shirts and funky disco tunes to match. They played a short set packed with Foals-esque pop songs, such as Microlite and Canopy Shade, the early stage time meant that people were less willing to bump ‘n grind but Trophy Wife were fun, funky and an interesting opener to Kendal Calling for me!

We went for a wander after and once again, Kendal had proved itself to not just be about the music. I jumped on the ferris wheel with a pal, had a wander around the 100s of food and clothes stalls and headed off to Tim Peaks diner.The Tim Peaks diner was definitely a highlight of the weekend. The diner was a cosy wood cabin with Twin Peaks-esque décor, a snazzy jukebox, amazing Totes Amazeballs cereal, hilarious poets and special guest appearances throughout the festival.

Little Comets were a highlight of the Friday and of the entire festival. Having seen them a few years back I was expecting infectious pop songs, instruments strung across the stage and a lot of Little Comets fanboys and girls. And that is exactly what I got! Dancing wildly to Dancing Song and joining in with the mass sing-alongs was just brilliant. Later on I caught Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip in the sweaty, smoky Glow Dance tent. I was excited to witness them as I had somehow never got round to it and missed Scroobius Pip’s solo set on the Main Stage but I wasn’t that impressed. Several songs had to be started again, and again…and again but the hits got everyone moving.

Saturday was fancy dress day with the theme of Fairy Tales and Comic Books and I was Enid Coleslaw, naturally. I dragged all my friends to the Main Stage in the afternoon to catch reggae legend Little Roy under the premise that it was going to be the weirdest yet most entertaining event of the weekend. Little Roy and his backing singers danced through a set full of Nirvana covers and his reggae tracks and put the biggest smile on everyone’s face. And even when he forgot the words to Heart Shaped Box about 5 times everyone shouted the words back to help him out.

On Saturday evening, Islet played on the adorable Woodlands stage, a tiny stage tucked away in the trees that was decked out in fake flowers and moss, and were their usual wild and reckless selves. They also gave away free copies of their zine, The Isness at the end of the gig, how sweet is that?

 Dizzee Rascal
was another highlight of the weekend with a predictable yet brilliant performance. Bonkers, Holiday, You Got the Dirtee Luv and dropping Smells Like Teen Spirit and N***sIn Paris mid set caused the crowd to go absolutely insane, I even got on someone’s shoulders, whilst lasers, fireworks and tickertape topped the ultimate party set off.
I spent the rest of Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday morning dancing on tables and sofas in the House Party Tent. DJs The Beat Club put on an excellent set of classic Motown, 70s disco and highlights from the Superbad soundtrack.

On Sunday, after a quick interview with We Are Scientists, some Tim Peaks cherry pie and Hip Hop Karaoke by the Kopparberg Kube (I rapped to Best I Ever Had by Drake), we caught We Are Scientists’ wonderful set. They played songs from all three albums and punctuated them with their hilarious mid-set banter. I’d wanted to catch them live for years and I wasn’t disappointed.
We ended Sunday night by watching the brilliant Vintage Trouble at the Calling Out Stage. I had no idea what to expect but was pleasantly surprised. The fourpiece from California played sexy, sulty soul songs that got everyone bumping ‘n grinding. knickers were even thrown onstage it was that sexy.
I missed out on Craig Charles’ legendary DJ set that always closes the festival as I was tucked up in my tent but my 4th Kendal Calling experience was full of fun, great bands, amazing food, ferris wheels and fancy dress. I’m can’t wait to return to the fields and party in 2013!

Eden Young

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Swans - The Seer

I knew it would be a daunting task, reviewing the new album from the seminal post punk band Swans, which is probably why it has taken me so long to actually finish listening to this two hour monster, and get down to writing how I felt about it. 

Overall, I think I came back from it with feelings of positivity, despite how inappropriate that adjective might seem, considering the material. The first thoughts I had about it, mainly noticeable in the opener ‘Lunacy’, was how much it reminded me of a Pink Floyd record, remade and reworked by a band like Queens Of The Stone Age. The album is long, very epic and atmospheric, yet still has this doomy, stoner/desert rock feel to it, despite all the progression and build up going on. I mean, I had worried that I wouldn’t be able to tolerate such an ambitious and demanding album, considering the length, however, it has a certain charm to it that I couldn’t help but feel comfortable around.

I think one of the main reasons why this album is so enjoyable is that the band don’t try and make ‘a long rock song’, which is probably why a band like Pink Floyd seemed a worthy comparison. It’s not the kind of album someone would stick on to headbang to, mosh to, or do anything truly reactionary to. It incorporates a lot of operatic elements too, soaring vocals, especially on ‘A Piece Of The Sky’. It becomes very apparent very quickly that the album is more like a score than mere album. The moods it gives off are very gloomy, dark and loud, yet there is no rush to build them into something foot-tappin’ good, but more to level it out and to create a chilling and eerie experience. And sure, with such track, and many others, they all progress and do have more drum-led moments, but they are on the band’s terms. 

Also, I felt that the surprising introductory track to the second part of the album, featuring Karan O (entitled ‘Song For A Warrior’), was a really refreshing and a good easer into the second leg of the mammoth journey of the album. The sound of the album is so full of a sound I’ve never quite heard on an album before. The chords and intricate elements dotted throughout the album all seem so well thought out and suiting, so much so that the lengths of the tracks never seem to get tiresome, despite certain repetitive elements (which is what makes the album seem score-like, actually). 

Overall, I would have to say ‘The Seer’ is one of the most interesting and diverse albums i’ve heard in a good while. The listen is definitely a very long and full experience, but ultimately rewarding and rich, with vast swathes of colour and atmosphere. Well advised.


Eliot Humphreys

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky

Ten albums into a career that began in 1984 Dinosaur Jr have returned with ‘I Bet On Sky’; an unashamedly more melodic prospect than the Black Sabbath influence of their eighties albums and the product of a band who are finally at peace with their own past and the occasionally fiery internal dynamic that went along with it.

Frontman, J Mascis can make an excellent claim to being the finest alternative rock guitarist of his generation, capable of both Thurston Moore’s abrasiveness and Peter Buck’s melody and true to form when he lets rip here his group hit a deadly groove reminiscent of Neil Young & Crazy Horse in all their ragged glory. His solo all over the final two minutes of ‘Watch the Corners’ is jaw-dropping, displaying a fluency and feel that’s practically unmatched, leaving young pretenders like Yuck sobbing into their flannel shirts.

As on the previous two records bassist Lou Barlow takes charge for two tracks, ‘Rude’ and ‘Recognition’. The former is a lovably rough sub-three minute piece of slacker power-pop that mixes goofy lyrics like ‘I wish I didn’t care cos caring is rude’ with choppy chords and a solo that coalesces simply around the melody line, whilst the latter packs an explosive chorus courtesy of drummer Murph’s enthusiastic tub-thumping and punky stabs of guitar from Mascis before breaking into a thundering circular riff similar to Muse’s ‘Knights of Cydonia’

Though Barlow’s contributions lack the abrasiveness of Mascis splenetic slacker-muse a grown-up approach to song-writing democracy clearly suits the group. With every song no longer the product of the battle between a dictatorial Mascis and a combative Barlow, the old adversaries help each other along, locking into wicked power trio grooves on the likes of the punky ‘Pierce the Morning Rain’ and six minute closer ‘See It On Your Side’ which features Mascis at his most Neil Young-like, ripping into a hurricane solo as Murph pinballs around behind him.

Continuing a late career run of great albums begun by ‘Beyond’ and continued by 2009’s ‘Farm’ it’s clear that very few of their alt-rock peers have dated half as well, let alone remained a viable song-writing concern. Dinosaur Jr have proved they still have the chops to roam the earth.


Max Sefton

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Shut Up And Play The Hits - Review

It seems like it has been a lot longer than merely a year and a couple of months since legendary band LCD Soundsystem disbanded. Within that period of time, I, and most likely the rest of the LCD Soundsystem fanbase have wondered on various occasions whether quitting LCD was the right decision and whether James and co. would ultimately end up regretting their decision. James Murphy has certainly not taken out much time to dwell on the past, DJing with bandmate Pat Mahoney, rumoured to be on production duties for Arcade Fire and Yeah Yeah Yeahs as well as Klaxons – and working on a short film with Ron Howard and on top of that, he’s going to open a shop in Brooklyn that sells coffee amongst other things. If that wasn’t enough, Murphy mentions in Shut Up And Play The Hits that he also wants to have kids. Although Murphy regularly refers to the band ending as his ‘retirement’, it certainly doesn’t feel that way and Edith Bowman feels likewise - further addressing the use of the word in her live satellite Q&A, feeling that it isn’t his retirement.

However, for the acutely self-aware and self-conscious James Murphy, this definitely feels like the end, the last show at Madison Square Garden serving as a ‘funeral’ but as the opening line reads “If it’s a funeral, let’s have the best funeral ever”. It’s understandable that Murphy would want to preserve his pristine reputation as an artist and it shows just how self-aware he was as the band was cut off right on the cusp of them becoming a worldwide phenomenon. As it stands, LCD Soundsystem and James Murphy have become cult heroes; which seems to bode well for Murphy as he says he wants to be able to ride the subway and go get coffee, be a normal person as well as create music. Although, as with everything, he considers the other side of the story – if you love making music and you love giving that music to your fans, should you deprive them of that because of what seems to be a fear of fame?

Watching Shut Up And Play The Hits, it becomes painfully clear that the right decision was definitely made. Whilst we would all love another album, a reunion, a reunion tour; it just wouldn’t feel right for the fans or for the members of LCD Soundsystem. Their legacy has now been immortalised in visual form perfectly and to try to add to that would be everything James Murphy is afraid of about bands disintegrating when they get older. Even though, the terms on which the band separated were almost a bit confusing – to have a band so calmly and amicably announce that there would be many lasts and then after one massive farewell show, the band would end, is a very rare instance.

Although, this farewell show was no ordinary farewell, there were few clichés just as Murphy had intended. However, there are cameos from a crowd surfing Aziz Ansari and dancing Donald Glover, a somehow amusing overly emotional crying fan, spaceships, special guests including Arcade Fire, a choir dressed in DFA spacesuits as well as hundreds of balloons falling from the sky in slo-mo being bounded across the venue interspersed with shots of Murphy throwing and kicking balloons back into the crowd. Whilst a lot of the focus in Shut Up And Play The Hits surrounds the final show; it also follows the journey of James Murphy in the days before the show and shortly after. By showing the background to the show, it really makes the whole experience a lot more emotional.

The more personal scenes that are in between gig scenes start off more mundane with Murphy making coffee and taking his dog out for a walk – portraying him as someone just as normal as anyone else. As we develop this human connection with him throughout the film, it becomes even harder when we watch the reaction to the aftermath of the Madison Square Garden show. The brief scene in which he sits down in the storage room and the silence cuts like a knife for a minute or so before breaking down into tears on camera is heartbreaking to watch. When an interviewer asks him what he thinks the sole failure of LCD was, he responds with a somewhat unsurprising answer - that time will tell but ending the band could be that failure. To some, the interviewer will seem pretentious and annoying but he does provoke answers from Murphy that are very interesting, especially as he doesn’t like “boring interviews”, like those with questions such as “Did Daft Punk really play at your house?”

Interestingly, Shut Up And Play The Hits is made by the same people who made Blur’s reunion DVD, Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace. No Distance Left To Run is the antithesis of Shut Up And Play The Hits so it’s interesting to see the difference between a reunion documentary and a break-up documentary but the same emotional connection is maintained and the same type of slow motion intimate crowd shots are seen throughout SUAPTH. These give a clearer picture of the atmosphere at Madison Square Garden, something that would not have the same impact if mostly focused on the band playing and only rarely glancing at the sea of bobbing heads.

Even though the songs played live on Shut Up And Play The Hits are only a quarter of what LCD will have played that night, it gives a glimpse into what it felt like to be there, as the band and as the fans. There is really nothing to be criticised about this fitting tribute to a wonderful band that never set one foot wrong in their musical career. An emotional sight into the lead up to LCD Soundsystem’s break up and the various reasons that caused it to happen combined with concert footage that will make you want to dance yrself clean with someone great.


Aurora Mitchell

Monday, 3 September 2012

Animal Collective - Centipede Hz

When watching a documentary about Sonic Youth a while ago, Thurston Moore mentioned that when they started out, you didn’t have to come up with a brilliant album on your first try and that has gradually changed over time. Whilst it has become clear that artists now have to deliver on their first release to succeed in a time when albums leak early (which Animal Collective have been victims of) and it’s harder to keep listeners attention – there are some bands who started off slow in the early 2000s including Liars, Ariel Pink and Animal Collective who have steadily built up a dedicated fan base and have all released eagerly-awaited albums this year that have followed up heavily hyped releases. As Merriweather Post Pavillion was such a milestone release for the experimental quartet, there is the unavoidable question as to whether the band can outdo themselves with their 9th album.

Centipede Hz is significantly more claustrophobic than Merriweather Post Pavillion in that there are so many ideas tightly packed into the 53 minute duration – a product of the initial idea that could only come from Animal Collective, that involved the idea of alien communication and transmissions; hence the intros and outros to songs that sound like someone adjusting the dial on a radio to get the station they want. It really feels like the band had fun with this record and disregarded the need to follow up MPP with a better record – and their choice to share each of the band member’s inspirations and music tastes through Centipede Radio on their website instantly makes sense even on the first listen of the new album as the collage of sounds and textures come together to form one huge, chaotic mess that recalls 2007’s Strawberry Jam with Avey Tare’s yelps offset by trippy, repetitive instrumentals.

For the first time since Strawberry Jam, all four members were involved in the recording process and Deakin’s comeback has had a very mixed reaction with some fans claiming that Deakin is now their favourite member whilst those who enjoy Merriweather Post Pavillion the most out of their albums seem less than overjoyed. ‘Wide Eyed’ is the first time that Deakin has been featured on vocals and his vocal style is a lot different to both Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s, with deeper, more grounded vocals and is accompanied by the most obvious influence of world and psych music on the album apart from the following song ‘Father Time’.

Although there are no obvious hits like ‘My Girls’ and ‘Brothersport’ were on Merriweather Post Pavillion, there are some incredibly catchy songs; most notably lead single ‘Today’s Supernatural’ and ‘Applesauce’. The central hook in ‘Today’s Supernatural’, “come on lelelelelelet go” is near impossible to get out of your head and the same goes for ‘Applesauce’s “I eat a mango and I feel like a little honey could roll/star fruit so simple and I feel like a little honey could roll” which makes little to no sense. The two elements that take centre stage for the whole of Centipede Hz are Avey Tare’s vocals and Panda Bear’s drumming. Both of which impress from the off, with ‘Moonjock’ mixing Panda Bear’s stomping, frantic drums being complimented by psyched-up, extremely manic vocals from Avey Tare.

Right from the opener, it’s clear that this is, without a doubt, an album made by all four Animal Collective members as the vocals and drums are offset by samples/alien noises from Geologist and fast-paced rock guitar riffs from Deakin. From lead single ‘Today’s Supernatural’, despite making music for over 10 years, Animal Collective sound more high energy and excited to be making music than ever. Although this is obviously not Merriweather Post Pavillion 2.0, the band don’t exactly go back to their roots like previously said; there are glimpses of most of the quartet’s material here but this is incorporated into an album that’s very much about looking forward. Even if Avey Tare does comment on ‘Father Time’, “Why am I still looking for a golden age?” 

Two of the songs on Centipede Hz are Panda Bear centric, ‘Rosie Oh’ and ‘New Town Burnout’, the former featuring reverb-heavy psych guitar hooks paired with Panda Bear’s soft, almost childlike vocals here. There are a few split seconds on ‘Rosie Oh’ where an overpowering, atmospheric guitar drone makes you forget you’re listening to Animal Collective until the bounding energy and radio samples are reintroduced shortly after. The latter, ‘New Town Burnout’, has a Boards of Canada vibe percussion wise with pulsating chilled out drums offset by a lightly echoed ticking beat as Panda Bear’s celestial, droning vocals accompany the expansive organ chords that thud as the emotional peak heightens throughout the song – making this the standout of Centipede Hz. The only problem is that ‘New Town Burnout’ could easily have been placed on Tomboy and feels the least like a proper Animal Collective song.

Centipede Hz may not be the strongest Animal Collective album musically but it manages to successfully combine so many disorientating and hard-to-pick-out-on- first-listen ideas and make them accessible. There’s no doubt that this will be a lot more divisive than its predecessor but those who originally find Centipede Hz a complete mess may find themselves coming around to its charms after a few listens. However, if you’re looking to start listening to Animal Collective – Centipede Hz is not the album to start with.


Aurora Mitchell

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Deerhoof - Breakup Song

“Pop has always marked the spot on the Deerhoof treasure map” reads the manifesto that accompanies ‘Breakup Song’, “Pop = Catchy. Pop = New, Pop = No Rules”. Pop is also, in the world of Deerhoof, a relative term. You’re pretty unlikely to hear any of these tracks alongside Katy Perry or Lady Gaga on your usual Saturday night crawl but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of sonic delights within.

Building on 2011’s more accessible ‘Deerhoof Vs. Evil’, a few rough edges have been smoothed away but it feels like a natural progression rather than a shameless bid for a more mainstream audience. On their journey they’ve made admirers of Beck, Radiohead and the Flaming Lips, all musical magpies who’ve successfully managed to both infiltrate the mainstream and yet remain aloof from it. More recently, disciples like Sleigh Bells have made a promising career off the kind of dirty loud-louder dynamics that power ‘Breakup Song’ title track to its cut-up conclusion.

Throughout the record Greg Saunier’s drumming stands out as accomplished and varied; militaristic and precise on ‘Mothball the Fleet’, controlled yet propulsive on ‘We Do Parties’ whilst the whole group deserves plaudits for the production, which is upbeat and colourful. ‘Bad Kids to the Front’ batters the listener with demented beats and bleeps whilst Satomi Matsuzaki’s vocals add a distinctive element that’s childish and inquisitive yet strident and powerful. The brilliant ‘Zero Seconds Pause’ is as good as its word, taking in Suuns dense, collapsing black hole riffage, a bright two-finger synth riff and a funky Groove Armada outro in under three minutes of electro-pop glory.

Oddball brass breaks play off against funky, crunchy riffs on ‘There’s That Grin’ and the winding conga of ‘Trouble With Candyhands’ but they both feature sugary melodies as radio friendly as anything the group have ever done.

At the end of the record ‘Mario’s Flaming Whiskers III’ could almost pass for the soundtrack to everyone’s favourite Italian stereotype, although I’d expect something slightly more frenetic if his moustache really was in danger of incineration. Electronic bleeps and whirrs entice the group into a groove that plays like Crystal Castles upgraded their Gameboys for something a bit more 21st century before closer ‘Fete D’Adieu’ tosses out a classic melody so effortlessly you just want to start the whole bizarre journey over again. ‘Breakup Song’ is a great party record from a band unafraid to reclaim pop for their own ends.


Max Sefton