Tuesday, 12 August 2014
Wednesday, 6 August 2014
Tuesday, 22 July 2014
On June the 30th 1998, James released their Greatest Hits, The Best Of James and apart from a couple of missing tracks it was just that. The Best Of. At the time I couldn’t remember a band so due to release a singles collection, with track after track of pure gold it was no surprise that it went down such a storm and brought them in to the public consciousness more than even at their Sit Down peak.
Giving them their first chart topping album the compilation album went double platinum. Suddenly James were everywhere and everyone was discovering old gems they’d not heard before or revisiting old classics. Having just come through Britpop the nation were still loving their guitar bands and this chance to relive the Madchester scene, which came before, was not missed. Often bands release their ‘greatest hits’ when they are splitting up but not James (they’re a band, with lead singer called Tim Booth). They were still going strong and so their next album became eagerly awaited.
Millionaires was released in 1999, only a year after Best Of and actually only two years since their last studio album, Whiplash. Surely riding on the crest of this good feeling wave the band could do no wrong. Yet, for some reason the album wasn’t well received. Hitting only number two in the album charts it was a bit too poppy for some of the older fans and the newer fans didn’t latch on to the singles like they had done with the Best Of. Well apart from me. I loved the album, I played it non stop and while I did like them before Best Of (I bought Whiplash for my girlfriend at the time) it had been the compilation that had really got me in to them.
After that the band seemed to change direction, from a fans point of view they seemed to shirk their new found popular status and instead tried to earn the respect of the critics. Pleased To Meet You was a disappointing effort, charting only at position 11 and bringing them to the end of their contract and going their separate ways. I remember seeing them at this time and being disappointed, they were playing mainly new material and it wasn’t good. One fan next to me shouting “this is bollocks” and sadly I had to agree.
Since then they’ve reformed and Hey Ma, their first album after getting back together was not a bad effort. They’ve also performed live with a choir and orchestra and released a couple of mini albums but none of that gave us an indication they were about to return with an album of Le Petit Mort’s calibre. Wow. Out of nowhere, a cracking album harking back to Millionaires. Yet this time there’s something else there. I can’t work out if it’s maturity or just the confidence to be yourself that comes with age. Opener 'Walk Like You' is a clear example of this, at times complex (it’s over 7 minutes and essentially in three parts) other times it’s simplicity shines through – yes I heard him right he sings "do-be-do" as a lyric at one point.
This theme follows, unashamed to repeating a lyric James use words or lines over and over on many occasions, it can appear lazy with some bands with James it just seems laid back and catchy. Throughout the album they do this and it works. Backed up by synths that at times give the album a Pet Shop Boys feel it really is Millionaires part II.
Le Petit Mort, French of course for the small death, I’m guessing relates to the losses Tim Booth speaks of in the CD booklet. A bit more information on that at All Music, http://www.allmusic.com/album/la-petite-mort-mw0002631516. They state that the decorated skull on the cover is about the Mexican way of celebrating life. This album certainly does that. Don't preview it on iTunes, it doesn't do it any justice (I made that failing but my wife bought it me) just go ahead and order the album, you won't regret it.
Monday, 9 June 2014
With my car breaking down recently I'm a bit stranded and as I contemplate scrapping it my heart sinks. I've only just invested in a new stereo allowing me to plug my iPhone and listen to 32GB of songs. So maybe it was perfect timing to receive The Sunshine Underground's new album on CD. Using one of those old fashioned things in my wife's car was the only way I was going to listen to any new music. It's a mixed bag as albums go, a real step away from their previous albums, certainly a long way from their first album which I particularly enjoyed. Out goes the guitars and in comes electronica. Not a big surprise as I'd already heard their new material when I saw them live. Album opener 'Start' particularly stood out live (I think they opened with it funnily enough) but I've really got hooked on the catchy 'It Is Only You' above. I just hope I don't get bored of it before I sort my car out. It will have been a month since it died tomorrow...
Tuesday, 6 May 2014
I thought the last Kooks song was interesting, this one has me wanting to hear it again but I can't put my finger on it. Must be the strange combination of them and a soul choir. Check it out on the video above, taken from when they were on Alan Carr's show, it's pretty good and goes well with "What Makes A Good Man" that was featured on this blog a month or so ago.
Thursday, 1 May 2014
Fight Like Apes have recently made it in to my Top 25 Most Played for the great pop single "I'm Beginning To Think..." (my four year old daughter also likes the track) and yet I didn't put two and two together when this track popped in to my inbox. You can certainly see their progression from "I'm Beginning..." through "Jenny Kelly" and Crouching Bees is not a million miles from either. Check it out, they're on a short tour at the moment (dates below) backing up the release of the track on a four track EP called Whigfield Sextape. They hit Bristol on the Monday the 12th, the day the EP comes out.
– Louth, Bellurgan Park Vantastival – Manchester, Kraak – York, The Duchess – Brighton, The Alt Escape (BSM/Alcopop! Stage) – London, Birthdays – Bristol, Exchange
Tuesday, 15 April 2014
It's got to that time of day when I've run out of words to describe bands and their tracks. You just need to check out De Staat's single All Is Dull above which is out in on the 7th and download Down Town below which is on FIFA 14. The video above does remind me of when our football team went to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, me and friend went on a wussy ride and were really pleased to smile for the camera, when we went to see the photo our mate in the seat behind was pretending to be asleep. I've never liked roller coasters.
Down Town - De Staat
Friday, 4 April 2014
It's been a while since we've featured the music from an advert but I used to put tracks up quite regularly that feature on adverts. Now I watch less ads, as well all do, box sets and hard disk recorders have reduced the viewing figures of the 30 second art. However I have seen the latest Guinness advert, even if my most recent view was on a YouTube advert. The well dressed men of Congo feature with the background of the great soul track 'What Makes A Good Man?' by The Heavy.
Monday, 31 March 2014
Wednesday, 26 March 2014
A little while ago I wrote about a band from Hull called LIFE and they're really starting to live up to the hype I have for them in my head. Their latest single is out now and follows in the form of the previous tracks.
Sadly they don't come anywhere near me on their brief initial tour:
Sadly they don't come anywhere near me on their brief initial tour:
11th Mar The Sesh (Free) HULL
13th Mar The Sun at The Station BIRMINGHAM
15th Mar Crash Records (Free Instore) LEEDS
15th Mar Pop Sex Ltd (Free Instore) SUNDERLAND
19th Mar The Garage LONDON
20th Mar Bunkers DUNDEE (Free)
21st Mar Factory Records GLASGOW (Free)
22nd Mar Cellar 35 ABERDEEN
Saturday, 22 March 2014
Sometimes I post about a track to say listen to this, this band are good. Sometimes I just find tracks that interest me and I think they might interest you. This is more the later. The Kooks, remember them? Well they're back with 'Down'. The lead singer's voice is as individual as ever, the sound, well it's a new way for them to go, more soul and funk...
Friday, 7 March 2014
I got the gift of music for Christmas. John Lamb knows me well and therefore knows that the gift of online music tokens is always a winner. So, with £15 of iTunes voucher burning a hole in my pocket I set about deciding what to do with it. Would I use it to fill an obvious hole in my collection by purchasing back-catalogue copies of obscure 80s synth-pop? Would I blow it all on two new albums? No, instead I decided to savour the moment and decided that I would use it to purchase singles and EPs of promising bands I'd seen live that took my fancy. Well, I thought it would last much longer than it did, but the Winter months have thrown up some fantastic pairings in God's own County.
First up was Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, supported by Joanna Gruesome. After a late start caused by some issue on the doors, Joanna Gruesome launched into a fuzz-pop tirade for the assembled crowd. Reminiscent of Call the Doctor with a fuzzbox, the singer (I don't think Joanna is her real name) screamed over very danceable guitars. They're like the Veronica Falls that it's OK for grunge kids to like. Anyway, immediately afterwards, my first 79p of electronic currency was spent on purchasing 'Sugarcrush'...
January bit hard up North and only the hardiest of souls ventured out to music venues. Nethertheless, my next outing was in mid-February to see an excellent line-up assembled by those masters of promotion 'Semi-detached'. Those clever guys had arranged for Cheatahs to visit the Harley in Sheffield, dragging along Menace Beach and Shinies along in their wake.
Shinies are a Manchester band with very listenable tracks, There weren't many in the Harley during their early set, but those present were treated to classic guitar-based indie jangle, with a bit of shoegazing thrown in. Tracking down the band on the internet post-gig I was dismayed to find that their song 'Taste' had been used on a 'Made in Chelsea' soundtrack, but then I decided not to be snobby (after all, even those people can still like good music) and shelled out for the EP. After you've listened to 'Taste', try 'Plasticine'...
Immediately after Shinies came Menace Beach. Hailing from Leeds, the band barely fitted on the small Harley stage, but proceeded to fill the venue with sounds that were part-psychedelic, part-shoegazing, part-thrash. The perfect warm up to the excellent Cheatahs.
I would have guessed that Cheatahs hailed from somewhere in the US and had their moment of glory firmly in 1992. Their sound is all about shoegazing, alt-indie rock and they even look the part too. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as the whole genre seems to be having a bit of a revival at the moment, and the Cheatahs set was like taking a step down memory lane. I already had Cheatahs tracks in my collection, but decided to add to them by purchasing the 'Cut the Grass' single. I've posted 'The Swan' here, as that's the song that got me into the band...
A week later we were out again, this time to take in a free gig at Bungalows and Bears in Sheffield to see Younghusband support Cloud Control. Being free, we were slightly concerned that there might be an early clamour to get in so decided to get there woefully early, but were rewarded by being treated to second-support By the Sea. Hailing from the Wirral, the band seemed like young boys setting up for their first ever gig, even the sound engineer was treating them as if they were adolescent newbies ("can you hit your drum please, can you sing a bit of a song please, now you, the other one, you join in"), but after all that was out of the way we were treated to some very dreamy, garage indie, which washes over you but gently scrubs your face in doing so. Later, I found that the band were in their third year together and had released a few EPs and singles. 'Dream Waters' was, at the touch of a 'buy me' button, mine...
Immediately afterwards came the amazing Younghusband. If you like all that 'Horrors', 'Toy', genre and you weren't afraid of the shoegazing (Catherine Wheel, Swervedriver, Ride) movement of the early nineties then this band is for you. I was mesmerised from start to finish with the swirling melodies and the almost-Joy Division bass and drum. The album needed to be bought instantly, but wait! My credit was almost up, so to keep in line with my pledge at the beginning, I purchased new single 'Left of the Rocks'. Come payday, the album will be mine. Oh, yes, it will be mine.
I feel like I've got three good months of pleasure from my Christmas present. Thanks John (and family)!
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
Sometimes with posts there's a pressure to write a piece about a band or bring something new. I thought you might just want to know what I've been listening to recently. Two tracks. Go get 'em.
Tuesday, 7 January 2014
In my humble opinion, 2013 has been an annus longplayerus. That's a good year for the album to all you non-latin speakers. Now, my humble opinion may well be tainted by the fact that for nine months of this year I have had to endure 90 minute commutes to Sunny* Scunny, and this time has more often than not been made more bearable by having a new album or two to listen to along the M18 and the M180.
Earlier this year I decided that, in order to fit all of our belongings into one room while Schönberg Central was being re-built, I would box up all my CDs and put them into the loft, effectively consigning all future purchases to 'digital download only'. I thought this would spell the end of full album purchases for me, leaving all future purchases as single tracks of whatever was finding heavy rotation on 6music. How wrong could I have been - maybe the commute helped, or maybe it was the quality on offer, but I have found myself buying two or three albums per month during the year - a similar frequency to the heady days of 1991.
With so much good music out there then picking a top 10 for the year has been very difficult. Do I choose the coolest 10? Or the 10 most obscure? (as you know, I am a music snob). Or do I choose the ones that I would want you to know that I like? In the end, I have decided to let my laptop decide. I have graded my top 10 based on how many plays each has had on my copy of iTunes. It was the only way I could differentiate between some of them.
10 Desire Lines - Camera Obscura
9 Ships - Sweet Baboo
8 Walking on a Pretty Daze - Kurt Vile
7 Delta Machine - Depeche Mode
6 AM - Arctic Monkeys
5 Trouble Will Find Me - The National
4 Holy Fire - Foals
3 II - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
2 Corsicana Lemonade - White Denim
1 Random Access Memories - Daft Punk
No real surprise with the No.1, but the extent to which it came out on top really surprised me. Most albums get about 10-20 listens on my iTunes, but the Daft Punk album was a full 30 listens ahead of it's nearest rival. This I put down to the versatility of the album, equally at home being listened to at full blast in the car, or background dinner party music, or even on the outdoor speakers for a barbeque. Anyway, if you don't own it then you should.
Honourable mentions must go to Public Service Broadcasting, John Grant, Suede, Drenge and Midlake, who could have featured higher in the ratings if I'd acquired them earlier.
*interestingly, Scunthorpe does seem to be sunnier than Sheffield