Saturday, 31 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #124 - Various Artists, "Fame: Jon Savage's Secret History of Post-Punk (1978-81)"

Again with the post-punk, Coc! I know, I know. But I like it - for the reasons already discussed: the hunger, the paranoia, the variety.

Jon Savage wrote a history of punk called "England's Dreaming", which was a tiny bible for me in the mid-Nineties. I have time for him. But I'm not sure you could call this a secret history - Joy Division, Wire, The Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, Subway Sect: not exactly hidden from the gaze of music lovers across the ages. But then he was there and I wasn't, so hush my mouth, I guess.

There are plenty that I know nothing about, mind. After the familiar intense flavours of Pere Ubu and "Heart of Darkness" have opened up this can of post-punk worms comes "Chromosome Damage" by Chrome. It's a post-Stooges, rattling drums and vaguely Jaggeresque vocals recorded in some garage or other before after a minute and a half or so it fades out to be replaced by monstrous squelching electronics then a backward guitar wail. It's a garage, but one of those garages in which people do dangerous experiments. The DNA of the garage rock is indeed damaged, xeroxed and mutated. Nice.

Nigel Simpkins is up next - "Times Encounter": a cut-up piece with two antagonist drum tracks and everything else he felt like. There are African choirs, sitars, and then it's gone. Very promising so far. Veerrryyyy promising. File Under Pop were released by Rough Trade (good title for a record shop, I s'pose) and "Heathrow" is an uptight English thing that starts with stabbing guitar and no rhythm and then becomes some ambient noises. The whip of the tape recorded features heavily, but not as heavily as the irony: not to be filed under pop.

Subway Sect angle with their guitars, sharp-eyed frets attacking from out of the sun. Kleenex were Swiss and their post-punk was quite efficient; a kind of Swiss Slits - Swits? Plenty of pop buzz thrill. The Prefects are well-named; they brood with unloved, grammar school intensity. I've just found out they became The Nightingales: they were good. MARS clatter in with "3E" from their New York arthole. I don't know Rosa Yemen but she sounds confrontational fun. Her track, "Herpes Simplex", begins with a bicycle pump noise and then Francophonic shouting about lips and tongue; "Fuck you/Fuck you."

We can move past the immortal Wire and the tragically-mortal Joy Division to Cabaret Voltaire. I'm sure I remember seeing them on John Craven's Newsround back in that day. "Partially Submerged" is genuinely woozy music. The Human League track is from the back end of the "Reproduction" album that sounds less about the "Dignity of Labour" and more about the indignity of early Eighties kid's TV. AC Marias have the deadpan Eighties business down smooth; "Drop" stalks like a balding panther, posh mumble and "a fear of flying" over demonically echoing guitar. Must be the period when women were the most "normal" in rock.

After the posh mumble, there's some North American nasal screaming on "Caucasian Guilt" by Noh Mercy: they're against it. "I never took no Indian land/...I'm ready for a brand new race/One concerned with the way you move/Not the arrangement of your face". Urinals' "Sex" is back to the garage. So far back I'm not sure where the "post" finds the "punk" unless it's meant in a purely chronological sense. By the time of The Method Actors ("Do the Method"), the germs of REM and The Replacements and Husker Du and all that college rock jangle are peeking from the soil.

Rema Rema and their tune "Rema Rema" puts me in mind of The Fall, that same grumpy bass sound, that same unstopping locomotion. Judy Nylon isn't a million miles away either - a touch more Bohemian. There's a narrative about something in a breathy voice that I can't quite follow, something about being sent to jail, about a barely-functional squealing backdrop. DNA's "Blonde Red Head" and This Heat's "A New Kind of Water" leave everything nicely unhinged for the close.

A record collection put to good use.

Rating: Exploration out of Appetite

The 2kDozen 500: #123 - Extreme, "Extreme II - Pornograffiti"

One for the missus and another challenge to the frightened, little snob that lurks within my proud brow. I hated hair metal with a fiery passion, my friends. When Nirvana swept all those hair-spray-obsessed, sexually-successful, velvet-dope-partying fucknuggets into the sea, I was the happiest lad in the junior common room.

"Trying so hard to keep up with the Joneses" it starts on "Decadence Dance" while all the metallic squeals and dancing fingers fill out the signature raawwkkk business underneath. Conscious metal? Was there ever such a thing? It's not Gang of Four; but it's sort of not not Gang of Four either, if you catch my think. But then 1990 was not 1987 in anyone's book. Years - what the fuck mean years anyway?! I'm collapsing under the flimsy weight of signifiers.

Should I read too much into the Catholic subtext of "Mama says boys will be boys/Little Jack Horny", seeing as they were Portuguese Americans or something. "When I'm President" has a bit of horribly-aged rap-metal crossover abortion that Living Color and Red Hot Chili Peppers were better at and were still shit. I don't know what the technical term for that Bill & Ted's overamplified squealing guitar production is; but this album is thick with it. Was it something Van Halen invented? *Shrugs*

"Get the Funk Out" also falls into that Chilli area. Except the punning title which belongs in the worst Def Leppard/Chuckle Brothers circle of wordplay Hell. Brass instruments, all very cheerful. I can see why the missus liked it in particular. Then "More Than Words", which she didn't, and which I feel obliged to listen to through gritted ears out of some sense of a complete experience. Balls of cheese crashing in through the outer atmosphere, threatening the planet with great tsunamis of vom. I always, ALWAYS hated the "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" token slow-dance track for the fucking ladies that these poodle clowns would crank out. Even if there's a hint of fado and neat harmonies, they can still get themselves to High Fuck.

"Money (In God We Trust)" could almost be Pearl Jam (to my uncultured ears). I approve of the unusual punctuation of "It ('s a Monster)", but I don't quite understand what is a monster. "Pornograffiti" is another mass of portentous funk, a genre of my own curation. More of that there cartoon social commentary; but it beats singing about tits and that. (Or does it?) These boys are even more Catholic than I thought. (If they were straight-edge Pentecostal types, the guitars wouldn't sound so sleazy.)

"I was shaking/You were breathtaking/Like the Empire State" he croons on "When I First Kissed You", fingers snapping silently - "Not quite Sinatra" (no, not quite) - over a Bugsy Malone jazz background on nasty synths. Misguided. Following that crud, the traditional misogyny finally surfaces on "Suzy", explaining how she "wants an all-day sucker" before a strangely splay-fingered solo moves things into a stranger direction. Perhaps I was looking for the lady-hating a little to hard, as next up is...

The Holy Grail that Lw held up as something different: "He-Man Woman Hater". It starts with a fly noise and then some very intricate guitar work, all very trebly with tiny hi-hats. Then a voice croaks "No woman allowed". She sold it to me on the basis that it was a critical reading of metal in that the genre demanded misogyny, but all I hear is "Sooner or later/You'll be a He-Man Woman Hater/It's inevitable/And to become them/You've got to really hate to love them." It's not clear whether this is a result of industry expectations, or maybe something else: "He-man's behaviour doesn't need no explanation/We've all got a one track mind/He-man have always had a sexual preoccupation" - it's that Catholic thing AGAIN?! It must've been hard to be Catholic rockers back in them Eighties there. With all the Protestant kids enjoying guilt-free sex and drugs and rock and church roof renovations.

"Song for Love" is Eurovision balls with descendent chords and swirling strings. For singalongs in Moldovan pubs. A kids' cartoon theme tune. "Hole Hearted" is better. Sounds like it could've been in the Young Guns soundtrack.So it puts me in mind of scruffy cowboy types and sub-Peckinpah shootouts. I like that.

Where did the invisible colon disappear to on "Extreme II" anyway? And doesn't the guy on the left of the picture, almost certainly the bassist, look like Andreas Villas-Boas?

Far less hateful than the clown clones like Poison and Motley Crue and all that Hollywood anti-music jizz. But I'm still very glad Kurt and Francis and the Seattle lads came and kicked them to touch.

Rating: Dressed Like Gypsy Douches out of Catholic Guilt

Thursday, 29 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #122 - Sad Souls, "Apeiron"

Another flag being planted in that crowded witch house corner of a foreign field. Though I came across the album in an email labelled parallel pop, which is a phrase I like the sound of a lot more.

This drifts about on very soft, high-end guitar, recorded all dead up close and that. It has titles like "Frightened, Happy" and "In a Forest With Leaves in Your Hair". Things are evoked; childish, slightly strange things. The tunes are all fairly short: pop songs with large chunks left to fall out and be replaced by shadows of noise. Some have vocals, some don't. The scant vocals that aren't just sighing noises have that same soppy drawl that you hear again and again from US bands: "All that I want is to dream tonight" they drizzle.

The album title is an ancient Greek word for the stuff of the Universe and literally means "limitless"; but this sounds so limited. A handful of instruments going through a handful of moves with a handful of results. Another bag of forgettable ideas slung onto the heap and left behind. Another conversation I cannot be arsed to enter.

"Flowering of the Middle Ages" pushes its head out of the bucket a tad by putting a Renaissance choir in an echo chamber - but too little, too late.

Time was when I couldn't make out the lyrics in tunes. Whenever I do of late, it doesn't seem to end very happily. Am I being too fussy? No.

Rating: Puddles out of Dampth

The 2kDozen 500: #121 - Sizzla, "In Gambia"

Another excursion into less familiar waters. I have memories of Sizzla years ago, memories of a "conscious" roots alternative to the Yellowman and Buju Banton and them, but with enough homophobia and that to still sit justly outside the liberal pale.

So here we go. Sizzla went out to Gambia in 2008 and did most of the recordings there, before they got polished up back home. The backing is sparse: beats, guitar and bass for the most part. Sizzla and his lyrics/tunes are centre-stage.

"I've got natural love for you", he croons to his "Woman of Creation". What the fuck does that mean? Always keep an eye on the guys that put their women on pedal-stools, yeah? There's a touch of the Kray Twins about it; a strait-jacket of expectations that will earn a beating if it's not observed. "Every man find a woman" he continues on "Nothing Cah Wrong", but the rest of it is too patois for me to follow. Safe to assume it's still hating on them gays them though: "Every other way is total confusion." He can sing about "spread your love and feed the children" all the wants; but that talk seems pretty cheap stacked against his abysmal sexual politics.  "Spreading Jah love" is a thin and greasy business.

I'm sure it's all about perspective, but I don't feel very pluralist at the minute. Too much shitty news.  "Too Much War" is a pretty simple message as well, eh? Musically, the backdrop sounds drawn from Fugees-like Nineties hip-hop. He's keen to celebrate his return back to the motherland. "Make a Visit" sees him spitting over an acoustic guitar, stripped down and furious-paced. "How many years you been gone?/Four thousand." "Where Is the Love" even sees him tickle the soul corners of his heart, though still with a Rasta agenda.

Can't help boxes are being ticked. Song about dreadlocks: tick. Songs about "Gambian Girls": tick. It feels cynical. "Planet in Peril" advises the world to "turn to God" and the Ten Commandments: "Why is it some man rape the ladies?/Why is it the pervert molest the babies?" Why indeed, Sizzla? "Branded African": "If they say Africa is poor/Why is it England coming back for more?/...What if we start making computers for ourself?" Finally, I feel like we're asking similar questions: but I'm not his target audience, I imagine. Assuming that he has one.

Rating: Strange Idea of Love out of Biblical Nonsense

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #120 - Carter Tutti Void, "Transverse"

This is a live album of the coming about of a member of Factory Floor with two of Throbbing Gristle at a Mute Records night at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm, London. It stalks and creeps and growls. There are four tracks of around minutes each, all of them alive with twitches and distorted noises. It's really great stuff, but I feel short of words again. There isn't much in a way to easily distinguish them on the first couple of listens.

Works as a neat counterpoint to Madonna grabbing for youthful types to shore up her sagging pop career, this stuff: it's like they could have been working together for years but also sounds very fresh. It also fits in with the Metal Dance compilation from the other day; but funkier, in its motorik, moribund fashion. It's not much of a breakbeat-based funk though: the collateral damage drags other smaller rhythms out to the margins with it. But it lives like funk lives. On top of a basic propulsive rhythm noises are thrown about, cast out in long strands of meddled-with guitar and twisted vocals.

"V2" has an especially scary lurch to the rhythm and a breathy quality that would give a Dalek the shits before Cosi Fan Tutti groans over the top of this wormy noise herself. And there's a noise like a hunt horn, which I think could be her vocals again, treated to within a mile of their death. And the beast never gives a hint it might tire. I think it might be my favourite.

I can hear why most of the reviews are centred on how great the actual gig was; it must've been fantastic. But the recordings have captured a lot of the tingling menace I imagine hung in the air that evening. Its furtive and relentless and monstrous: music with things hanging from its jaws. Corruption powers.

Rating: Beast out of Collaboration

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #119 - Madonna, "MDNA"

I'm listening deep in the belly of the Beast here. I'm going have to do twelve Hail Marys and three hours of "Loveless" to restore my soul to its proper level of righteousness. *Shudder*

Hee hee! MDNA - I think I see what she did there. Like the drugs, yeah? The opening track starts with a prayer and she sounds proper old in the voice. Then it goes a bit more Radio One - both "hypnotic" and "erotic" and rhyming "fire" and "desire". She has decided to call the second track "Gang Bang", which just oozes class, and it just lumps along with a sub-DJ Oetzi bassline, a squirt of dubstep and shitty Euro keys. "If you're gonna act like a bitch/Then you gonna die like a bitch" - what the fuck are you on about?

"I'm Addicted" is very tired lyrically, but things pick up musically - fairground techno. Depeche Mode on the waltzers. Though Madge being Madge she has to hammer away at the MDMA/MDNA metaphor. "Turn Up The Radio" sounds a pretty naked attempt to get radio play. It has a Chris Moyles lurch to it and moths attracted to flames. (Sheesh!)

The problem I have with Madge is that she is so empty. Blonde Ambition was about the sum of it all at her highest point. Everything else is subservient to the ambition. She has nothing else to say. That's why having MIA drafted in for your Superbowl tune "Give Me All Your Luvin'" is all the more depressing. For all the accusations of empty-hearted appropriation of Sri Lankan politics for her own artgonk ends, she is at least saying a bit of something about something, eh? And yet Madge expects MIA to give her all her loving and that. Nicky Minaj is maybe nearer the Ciccone highwater mark of the busty, crucifixed mid-Eighties.

Some auld Madonna titles turn up in the lyrics as well - "Lucky Star", "Into The Groove" and "Like A Virgin". Like when Alan Shearer was getting interviewed for the World Cup in 1998. It's all about Madonna. Even when she's singing about her "Superstar", I'm pretty sure she's singing into a mirror. Musically, it's celery, no nutritional value whatsoever. "I'm A Sinner/I like it that way" - yes, yes. You've mentioned that once or twice. Then an actual litany of saints!

"Love Spent" - "Hold me like your money/Tell you that you want me". Faceplam! The tune is perhaps the best bit of the album, a mangled up and distended version of Rent by Pet Shop Boys - with banjo and a touch of 8-bit. Then there's some reductive logic "If you were the Mona Lisa/You would hang in the Louvre" and more weeeeaaakkkkk aaaarrrssseeee comparison of a loved one and a "Masterpiece".

I can't believe she can still do this for a living. Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.

Rating: Weeeeeaaaakkkk out of Aaarrrrsssssse

The 2kDozen 500: #118 - Bear in Heaven, "I Love You, It's Cool"

I like their last/first album much. I get the image of wheels - cosmic and crunching. I'm not sure: but there is a wheeling element to their sound.

A lot of electric wash. I can't catch the lyrics. (Yes, we're back in that January obsession. Too many mumbling Brooklynites sinking their reverbed vocals deep in the mix. Speak up! Speak up! And play the fucking game!) The swirling storm of the synths partially submerges the giddy romance of the songs themselves. It keeps things a little mixed up.

"Sinful Nature" comes across as a Pet Shop Boys/Tears For Fears co-production with some extra nifty tumbling synth noises. It does. Just as the transistors are buzzing into a real heat: "Let's get loaded/And make some strange things come true". "Reflection of You" has a bit of clatter at the beginning, some grinding of gears to get things moving. "I want to run to you/My legs won't respond" goes well with the barbiturate feel of the tunes. It's cloud music; Bespinbeat.

It's the drumkit that gives this a proggy feel, rather like Add (n) to x had. The knitted fingers of keyboards and drumsticks. "Kiss Me Crazy" continues the theme of a sexy rush - the whole album from the title onwards is dedicated to it. The electrical tangle isn't confined to the circuitboards. It's a strangely sealed-off excitement though. Like a secret society with vampire nods and symbols painted on doorjambs in invisible ink.

"Sweetness & Sickness" closes it out with an exhausted Velvets thrum and some electro perculation alongside. A bit Suicide and dissonant and dissipated. A reach back to other Brooklyns and New Yorks that have been. And then we're done.

Rating: Love out of Fuzzy Cloud Logic

Monday, 26 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #117 - Sly & Robbie, "Blackwood Dub"

In the interests of getting back up to speed, I'm noting that I listened to the new album from Sly & Robbie and I liked it. It was solid, no nonsense dub business. I generally prefer a little nonsense, but if there's no nonsense to be had, then what's left is good.

I love dub. I'm not sure why it speaks to me so clearly and how I find it so easy to identify with - way easier than any other black music, including house and hip hop. But I do. Maybe so easily that I haven't any tensions to write about.

The only thing is that because there are generally so few lyrics, I lose track of which track is which very easily and never remember the titles. It's just a state of mind. And this album is just the sound of a couple of auld fellas laying out a few more stretches of groove and slink.

Supremely comfortable in all the best senses of the words.

Rating: You Can Take The Dub out of Jamaica, But ...

The 2kDozen 500: #116 - Michael Kiwanuka, "Home Again"

Suspicious of this album on account of its Brit School-ness and its faux antiquity, but also keen to explore. See, I don't really give a shit about voices - not in terms of their power, or (fuck me!) authenticity, or melismatic nonsense; and this sounds like a "voice album". Also, I saw a video of a truly wanky version of "Whole Lotta Love" with a sitar that needed a slap.

First track is warm and Afrobeaty, which is good. "Tell Me A Tale" it's called. Then there's "I'm Getting Ready", which I know from adverts and radio and what have you, but which wears its Nick Drake fumbly-fingered guitar style with some panache. He swings by a bit more traditional soul sound - somewhere in the vicinity of Bill Withers - in "I'll Get Along" with its flute solo and that. He seems keen to tick a lot of boxes; and it may be that I've been suckered in, but I get the feeling it's genuine.

I can see a logic in bringing back the Seventies in music at a time when it feels like a lot of the battles that were being lost that decade are being lost again now. "Home Again" maybe tickles that particular trout. A sense of no longer being at home, but the time will come when "the tears will clear". The majestic brassy barp at the beginning of "I Won't Lie" feels good too. "Always Waiting" has a bit of a Sergio Leone feel, walking off to the sunset.

There's a lyrical theme of Michael acting on his own. "Can't find peace all on my own," he sings. But I'm not sure he's looking for peace right now. I think he's ready for some more brooding heroism first. "Any Day Will Do Fine" says him smooching up to a lady: "After this song is through/I'll be changing my ways." "Worry Walks Beside Me" underlines his trouble man persona that wee bit more. In case I hadn't picked up on it by now.

So I've nothing too profound to say about him: more than musical furniture. He fits well with the company he's evoking and I can hear the humanity. But I won't be poring over him too often again.

Rating: Trouble out of Oil Crisis

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #115 - Vivian Stanshall, "Sir Henry at Rawlinson End"

I cannot write any words about this - but it is all words - and Joycean genius words at that. Back in them day dem, I'd listen to John Peel playing these tracks and impatiently fidget for another Happy Mondays track or chunk of acid house. Foolish, impudent youth!

I've long since been converted to the enormous talent of Viv Stanshall in his various Bonzo Dog and Sixties kids' TV guises. One of those Greatest Living Englishman candidates were he not so long dead. Such wielding of a ukelele! And the words! So crystalline and mutant! So much about lawns and an overgrown "monstrous, jade zebra" marrow pumped with laxatives to wreak vengeance on any thieves. PG Wodehouse after ingesting some serious substances - a lazy thought, I know. But it makes sense to think of this as being kicked lysergical, the safest alternative to colonial syphillis.

The politics of the piece haven't aged especially well - "limp-hand squids" on "Nice 'N' Tidy" and a rather over-colonial PC Gibbon. "Junglebunny" speaks for itself. But I suppose this was the post-imperial think of the time. "6/8 Hoodoo" is pure Rowley Birkin QC. "Silent as a smelly one, Humbert entered the room." "He lounged, huge and work-stained.. with arms like tractors" I want to quote bit after bit but there is not much point. "Smeeton" too is a wonderful peer into the mind of a dullard.

And the alcoholic content reflects the amount that Viv poured down his own considerable neck. "Fool and Bladder" and "The Beasht Inside" especially sketching out the philosophy. With a mind as restless as Stanshall's must have been, the drink can't be much of a surprise. "If I had all the money I'd spent on drink...I'd spend it on drink."

"She noted that the gnomes were a length more obviously masculine than hitherto/And now knew why Gerald had squandered so much pocket money on Plasticine."

Rating:   out of The Mouths of Drunks and Ginger Polymaths

The 2kDozen 500: #114 - Miike Snow, "Happy to You"

From the modernist maelstrom of Trevor Jackson's "Metal Dance" compilation to Miike Snow's pop postcards from the postmodern blizzard.

"Happy to You" is missing its festivity -no Birthday or Anniversary or whatever. I quite like the absence. Can't say I'm sure of its significance though. Fuss about nothing?

"Go to the bar and say semi-sexist things" - that's your postmodern malaise right there on "God Help This Divorce". It's got that kind of melancholy sweetness that we expect from our Scandanavian cousins, the low-lying nordic Sun and its reach into the hearts of folks. "Bavarian #1" struts about with a military snare and jaunty whistle. "Pretender" is an awesome parpy version of an Ardkore track from back in the yesterdays with real drums and everything. An Altern8 brass band with drop kick drum stutter. "Devil's Work" has the same template - brass and breakbeats.

"I'm running derelict around these foreign streets" they sing on "Archipelago" whilst neatly pronouncing each syllable of the title. And the whistle is back: the Roger Whittakers of dance music. "Paddling Out" has the air of a real T4 floorfiller. I don't really pick up on anything else about it.

There's a sense of irony, as with someone like Hot Chip. Not piss-taking, not sarcasm: just a slight sense that they aren't quite saying what's on their minds because they can't. It isn't a position of strength. All the military snare in the world isn't going to change that.

Rating: Rave out of Melancholic Pianos

The 2kDozen 500: #113 - Various Artists, "Metal Dance: Industrial/Post Punk/EBM: Classics & Rarities 80-88"

Trevor Jackson has put together this collection of what should be absolute fucking gold. It should be teeming with home-made sounds, paranoia, social criticism and post-punk tensions. I love that shit.

Neon's "Voices" sounds like early House music, something like Adonis would make in his dream. "Dream Games" by Shock and Executive Slacks' "The Bus" have leaked from an even earlier era - D.A.F. or one of those industrial outfits. There is clattering, shouting and not a huge amount of syncopation. I like that. "Now our legs are touching/Touching on the bus!" is a fine closing line. D.A.F. themselves turn up a couple of numbers later - touched with anger but slinked with a disco shuffle. "Let's play like we were brothers." Awwwh.

Difficult to resist something called the "Exotic Decadent Disco Mix", so I shan't. The sound of this takes me back to almost ten years ago to the time when hundreds of bands had studied up on their Gang of Four records (or somebody's Gang of Four records) and whacked a chewy, rope-like bass to drag it along behind. The mix doesn't conjure much Euro glamour, but it moves and is contained. SPK's "Metal Dance" trills "We synthesize your dreams away", which has a sweetly-dated futuristic logic, and clips along at a fair pace, pushing many of the post punk/dance buttons of the age. More bins-down-the-stairwell percussion and cut glass vocals.

I'm getting an idea, or sensing a hole where the idea might be, about what this clumsy, slashing drumbeat means. It's so ungainly and uptight and hypermasculine: is that the Eighties in full artificial flower? Even in its underbelly format? Finitribe start manipulating church bells on "De Testimony" - full Miltonic cacophony. Alien Sex Fiend quote Rolf Harris over a spaceship invasion alert on "Under the Thunder": "Abyssinia in the morning/Breakfast in Berlin" sets the past/present scope and some distorted burns like a livid scar across the rumbling, post-punk industrial conga. Honest, it does.

Hard Corps swing in with citric electro squelches. Naked Lunch are decked out in recessional rimshots. Severed Heads' "Dead Eyes Opened" could have oozed out of the witch house headwaters yesterday, it's so au courant. I like the Orb-tastic posh-voiced echoey spoken word stuff about a corpse as well. The Cage rework disco diva Nona Hendryx off of Lady Marmalade into more rim-shot, boggly bass excitement.

Now, Ledernacken - THAT's a post-punk name to conjure with in a Euro-funkisch method. Like a saucy, less arty Yello. There's gristly shouting and a lumpen instruction to "Shake your booty/Shake". Perfekt. Nash the Slash's "Womble" ties up the loose threads that dangled between video nasties and kid's animation. And there's an excerpt from the mighty John Carpenter's might Escape from New York soundtrack. Cowbells glistening with malice and Nineties-that-never-were sangfroid.

I'm beginning to realise what I like so much about post-punk: its appetite. It will eat and ingest and mutate using everything it comes across - disco, punk, metal, industrial, krautrock, electronics. It took up punk's clarion shout of "Anyone can do this" and added "...with anything" to the end. It's fearless music born of huge paranoid connection-making. Modernist music like Picasso's paint or TS Eliot's poetry, feverish with colonialism and the discovery of real subjectivity before post-modernity comes and drains out all the sap, leaving only the skins and pips.

Diseno Corbusier is of the amped-up Dario Argento style sexual panic, complete with loudly moaning Italian woman. Schlaflose Naechte (sleepless nights, teutophiles!) also rattles about in the same Euro angst. Factory's very own Blurt adds his saxophonical fidget - still too Northern and downplayed and playful to be truly anxious. Zazou Bikaye opens it out to another continent again, sounding like a proto-Bug. There's even time for "A Bit of Joy" from Richard Bone at the end, montone joy though it be.

Rating: Funky Modernity out of Angsty Funk

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #112 - The Shins, "Port of Morrow"

I've never quite been in The Shins fan club myself. I can see that tens, maybe hundreds of thousands are; but I view them perhaps in the way non-believers view Super Furry Animals. Nice, witty, poppy but unimportant. "Just a band", to quote Scroobius Pip.  They dress like people on the bus on their way to slightly offbeat office jobs. That shouldn't bother me, but it do. I've listened and even own a couple of the earlier albums without any connection being formed.

So now I give the new one a go: "Port of Morrow", a title all portentous and a cover all semi-mystical. What appears to be a llama black & white teleporting to the top of a mountain. And I've heard the single, "Simple Song", across XFM and 6Music for weeks already. It hasn't even made a dent; lyrically, I haven't picked up a hint.

So I'm really focussing now. "My life was an upturned boat/Marooned on a cliff/You brought me a great big flood/And you gave me a lift". Aah, it's a grown-up love song, all tender and metaphorical. Therapy tunes. And the next song is called "It's Only Life" as well. Perhaps is the soothing there, there of it all that leaves me cold. "How you meant to steer/When you're grinding all your gears?" He and us against the world, eh? "I've been down the very road you're walking on." Oh, you're so understanding, Mr Shins! This kind of thing doesn't work for me as well in the second person. Tell me about your pain, and I'll make up my own mind if it's what I'm feeling, thanks.

My lastfm reading is going to give the impression I really love this album, but I keep having to listen back to tracks because I tune out almost instantly. I heard something about a "cannon of towering hemlock", I think. "I'm just a simple man/Cursed with an honest heart" - oh, puh-leese! "Love is the ink in the well where her body lies" - That's just sleazy. "September" wraps up both the sleazy stuff and the references to the darkness in life in one globular workout that even a little slide guitar can't upheave.

By "No Way Down" I'm managing to listen to lyrics and I get the idea why some of my more literary indie pals gravitate towards this stuff. There's a writerly fleetness of image to them - "40 Mark Strasse" also qualifies. "For A Fool" nudges close to a bar-room country shrug. It's about "the way we used to carry on/Stuck in my head like a terrible song". I'm getting the words control freak.

"You have to be strong at such a very young age" on "Fall of '82" - there he goes again. Keep it to yourself, man. Some biographical detail about his sister helping him through "a downturn" with some current parallels, eh? "You were my lifeline/When the world was exploding." It's nice to hear a gratitude song. Maybe he hopes people make up similar songs about him. Maybe they do. (I've also just noticed that he can't pronounce his Rs properly.)

The title track closes the album and is reaching for the depth in no certain terms: "Life is death is life" (Faceplam!) Not sure why he does an extra high voice for it though. A reference to "my little girls" and "flowers in the garbage/And a skull beneath your curls" and away it fades.

Wating: Schmerapy out of Therapy

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #111 - Various Odd Future Artists, "12 Odd Future Songs"

Odd Future is a great name. They seem very young lads. Not happy lads. The production sounds like it's moved the game on. I've listened a little bit, but I get menaced by the hate.

Depressing with the misogyny and the nigger-calling and the homophobia, yes. Goes without saying that they doth protest too much or somesuch. Hypermasculinity cuts both ways, eh? Goes without saying that I should stick my neck out and decide whether I like listening to this or not. In my heart of hearts I'd rather that they make the tunes, they cranked up the production and stopped spitting hate and anger. But how could they care about that?

Give it a few years and I'll have them safely tucked away in some nostalgia pocket, made them safe through my personal context in memory over-writing any distaste or discomfort I felt hearing them in the present time. I used to despise NWA for unleashing gangsta in the world; last year we played Warren G at my wedding disco. Que c'est que le diff? Is it racist, simple and plain?

Tyler, the Creator's "Bastard" is over a basic soulful piano loop with echoing Flash Gordon stabs: minimal, except for the self-pity. It's very Eminem; and there's talk of the Devil. That pops up a few times. (There is no Devil: take responsibility for yourself.) He is not that subtle lyrically ("Press my buttons, baby/Press my fucking buttons, baby/Bitch!"), but there's clouds of frozen cool blossoming below and around the words.

Jet Age of Tomorrow's two tracks are quite dreamy musically and I suppose the witch house crossover is rampant. "Welcome Home Son" especially pushes a few of my fucking buttons, bitch. Jet trails across the sky of my own bad conscience while some tiny robot warbles in each ear of the in-flight radio. Gigantijestic!

"Rolling Papers" and "Steamroller" swaggers around the idea of things rolling, I guess. And Domo Genesis (for it is he!) writes about the cheeba. Mike G's "King" orders you to stay out of his "secret garden"and celebrates murdering women. Hard to get over that, but behind there's a very simple keyboard line: so he's kind of ignorable twice over. I preferred his stuff in the Jungle Brothers.

MellowHype's "Bankrolls" says that hip hop is dead. If it has, it's died under the weight of this collapsing mudslide of Meh. Listening to someone counting their money would be better. Especially if it was with one of those machines. "Rok Rok" has some nice chat about brain halves, but is too dependent on a slow-moving bassline.

The last number, "They Say", has a far more Stevie Wonder feel (albeit Stevie in the K-Hole) and asks "Why don't they understand the only way to grow is with love?" It's not that hard to work out, is it? I feel some energy from the snap of their tunes; but I gravitate further towards Shabazz Palaces or Gonjasufi or TheeSatisfaction as soon as I start to think about it.

Oh and there are thirteen tracks. Those guys!

Rating: Despair/Joy out of Joy/Despair

The 2kDozen 500: #110 - Blood Red Shoes, "In Time to Voices"

I've always liked the look (and name) of Blood Red Shoes. But this could just be because I thought Laura-Mary was looking smoking hot on the front of one Artrocker once. I am shallow and easily distracted by the sexually-shiny. And I thought to myself, I thought, time is the time I put my organs into internecine uproar and see where my ears lead me.

"Lost kids with nothing left/Throwing rocks into the dark/...We just want to watch it burn." Not quite buying that. That's from "Lost Kids". I don't think they're kids. "Cold" is currently cropping up on XFM very readily. (I can't listen to Radio 4 or Moyles in the car in the morning. Please don't judge me: it's deeply unattractive.) That is not a great sign - even allowing the fact that I may be lurching about in ill-conceived indie snobbery. Also I don't tend to get on that well with guitar/drum two-pieces. They sound thin pretty quick more often than not.

I can't pin down what I think "Two Dead Minutes" might be about. Things not being real, hands being tied: a bit of a generic sense of things getting out of hand - but with a winning period of shoegazey thump at the end. "The Silence and the Drones" doesn't do much more to convince me that they aren't just going through lyrical motions. Something about a lonely functionary?

"Stop Kicking" sounds too in the moment as well.  I'm not sure what it is I'm objecting to, but the unease won't leave me alone. It feels a bit empty: whatever message they've got, I'm not hearing. "Slip Into Blue" cranks up some momentum; but nothing snags my attention. I've noticed a few lyrics about being tired.

Wish them well, those guys. They seem nice, but not that stirring or engaging. Or maybe too sophisticated for my cartoon tastes.

Rating: Disappointment out of All Proportion

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #109 - TheeSatisfaction, "awE naturalE"

"Bitch" is as slinky and minimal as I remember their live show a few months ago. Slinky of bongo and bass, at least. Lyrically, a bit more abrasive - "I am the bitch/On the side". And the vocals seem much clearer and higher up the mix than I remember from their earlier albums. Then "Earthseed" has a vertiginous piano line spiralling up that I could describe a lot better if I was more of a musicologist. I think it's about oil and fascism.

"Queens" is even a bit house-y, a Daft Punk style tremelo wobble. "Move your groove thing/To keep your soul intact." A party tune: handclaps and swirling loops. And some gorgeous lush bassline. It's a lush album this, very vegetative and tropic. A Seattle hothouse, and not something I could have imagined appearing on SubPop back in those twenty years ago.

"Existinct" goes back to the manipulation of jazznoises to form a soft/hard backdrop to the vocals. It's the sensation I associate most with the band: hard/soft - chewiness. Most of the tunes are pretty short too; the whole album is less than thirty minutes in all. "My melanin is relevant/It's something to be had" they assert on "Deeper" over some quick-step dub with laid-back alarm sounds. That hard/soft thing again. "Juiced" sounds just as you might imagine, wordless and exhausted.

"God" lopes beautifully again, stretched across a hardbop piano. (Is that correct? I don't know jazz. It's only something I can describe from the outside.) "Enchantruss" has some ancient keyboard sounds, wheezing and grasping at the future, while the words are hard to follow: "We time travel in nightmares/..I think of Archie Bunk". "Needs" may even crank up the slinky, laid-back-bongo-funk dial to the highest point while they chant "I need to prove myself" over and over.

"Crash" is a very simple piano line, chopped up and glitched very slightly, while some binary lyrics go "zero" and "one". Reaching out to that notoriously-difficult-to-crack Skynet audience perhaps? Then "Naturale" closes the album amongst clashing martial samples and the lasses bigging up themselves as "Queens of the Stoned Age/And princesses of time". Glacial poise but full of warmth.

The link is from NPR for a wee while - here! . You really should have a listen, as it sounds a bit like a lot and exactly like nothing. The sweet spot in the middle.

Rating: Funky out of Lush

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #108 - Plinth, "Albatross"

A friend of mine 10/10'd this album earlier today, recommending it as top drift music. He is a very reliable judge of musical character, so I listen.

All 5 tracks are called "Albatross", numbered I to V like emperors. There are softly bowed strings and gently strummed guitars and a spookiness that you find in still waterways, the ghosts of dragonflies and kingfishers and otters and overly curious children. That association might be due to the cover art and the video attached, but it works neatly. It's music to drown to in slow motion.

"Albatross III" is a whopper, sitting in the middle of the album for a whole twenty-five minutes - like an enormous seabird. Tony Hart's Gallery would have seemed a much more sombre place with this in the background. (Although the Fleetwood Mac tune is pretty huge as well.) Nothing happens so much, the music eddies and swirls like water do: the metaphor is almost inescapable. It glints and winks.

After the mammoth third track, the last two are almost Lou Barlow in length. IV has a boxier feel and clocks in at a punky 3:43, but still drools artfully and lazily. There are also gull noises and the sound of waves and children's chatter, liminal in the bottom of the mix. Titles would be a helpful handle to move this tracks around in, to get an idea of the intent behind them. But then I suppose the intent is not to show their intent.

V blisses out eventually. The album is full of it. Though I suppose the listener would need to be ready to let some of that bliss in to really enjoy it. Tonight I'm ready.

Also, what a great name for a band: Plinth.

Rating: Stay out of The Water, Kids

The 2kDozen 500: #107 - Sentridoh, "Weed Forestin'"

Bit short for time today due to tequila issues last night blighting my thoughts today. I am sufficiently collected together now to relay a few now.

It's music from that lush pre-Oasis era when indie was a far more exciting tab than it's since become. Originally self-released on two cassettes in the late Eighties, this was Lou Barlow's melodic, lo-fi outlet for his non-Dinosaur ideas before Sebadoh came about as a full band. Recorded and discarded at the speed of thought, the songs make their point and leave pretty quickly and include similar distorted vocals to the ones on the Ween album from a few days ago. Clippings of classical music and other mutterings lie between the songs themselves.

Similar to Beck's earlier stuff, the lyrical tone is of power, violence, evil and weakness. I suppose this is one of the qualities of home recording, that you can be as raw in your subject matter as you want, then decide whether to release it later. Social brakes are off. "Perfect Power" has a neat menace: "No-one's strong enough to make me stop". He seethes about the "stinking display of your sexual confusion" before it breaks down into a scary whispering round about Jesus and a homemade collage of mangled tunes. "Three Times a Day" and "Pound My Skinny Head" are about wanking and you can't get much more DIY than that. Dysfunctional sounds reflecting the dysfunctional creature that records them.

I can imagine Lou busking "I Believe in Fate"at a train station in a advert: "I believe in Fate/Cos Fate believes me/Some girl I don't know is waiting to marry me". "Pretend that it's for forever/And then proceed to crush each other" suggests he isn't too happy about the idea. And then there's some porn barking and some lissom orchestral slink.

The album closes with "Brand New Love" which is more delicate than most of the album and perhaps more optimistic, despite itself. "Follow what you feel/You alone decide what's real/And anyone could be your brand new love." Then it ends.

Rating: DIY out of Headspace

Friday, 16 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #106 - VCMG, "SSSS"

Vince Clarke has been responsible for at least one pivotal moment in my life. (I'm assuming that you can have more than one pivot - multi-jointed like a Rubiks snake.) His remix of "WFL" gripped my imagination one Saturday morning in September 1989 during The Chart Show. This grip lead me to appreciate guitar music - and together with moving a semi-decrepid early Seventies Bush stereo into my bedroom - this lead to me listening to John Peel of an evening and in turn becoming the musophile I am today. Vince was also jointly responsible for The Innocents, an album that dwells in a warm, time-cuddled corner of my heart. Family holiday in a small hotel in Boscombe in 1988, a mini-snooker table and Appeltise.

The only problem is: this is a bit lumpen. It springs, it bounces: it has a rubbery intensity. But nothing really happens over the first few tracks, including the single "Spock". Highly illogical. "Windup Robot" gets a bit livelier, some boy racer keyboard revving (You can take the boys out of Essex, etc.). "Bendy Bass" performs as you might expect the tin to read, were there a tin. Even a couple of what I might describe as Depeche Mode noises in there, though I can't quite put my finger on exactly what they are.

"Single Blip" has a single blip in it. I think I can make out what they've done there. Great shimmering vistas of sound open out somewhere else. "Skip This Track" has not only a sly line in self-depreciation in the title, but also some good advice. Ho h'only joking: it is a bit samey though. "Aftermaths" is the sound of the electronics involved trying to explain how they wanted to work a bit longer on this, but the fleshy ones kept having tea breaks or pushing the wrong buttons or switching them off or whatever.

The closing track, "Flux", has more of a melody going on and this helps throw the functional machinery into profitable relief. But all in all, I'm disappointed. Not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn't this.

It reminds me of that music that seemed to be on all the post-pub shows about dance music in the early Nineties that used to depress the shit out of me. All that Pete Tong business. Too sleek, too future. It might be OK as a soundtrack to WipeOut 2047, but I'd like to think The Chemical Brothers could come up with something a little more stirring.

Rating: Them Two out of Depeche Mode

The 2kDozen 500: #105 - Spotlight Kid, "Disaster Tourist"

Shoegaze, part deux. Boy/girl vocals and guitars pedalled with effects. If you were going to try and sound like a band, why not aim for My Bloody Valentine, eh? Even it goes a bit Chapterhouse or Kitchens of Distinction at times: no shame there. Slowdive always reminds me of very happy student times.

The keyboard in the middle of "April" is far too weedy; but all the stops are fucked up on "Creeps (Interlude)". A beast worthy at times of Mr Shields' name, grinding and wheeling and menacing: whorls and hiccups like a fingerprint. "Forget Yourself In Me" reminds me how Eighties MBV were; how many of the same crisp buttons they pushed as the Echos and the U2s and the like. (Well, not literally the same buttons. MBV found all kinds of buttons that no-one had thought to push before.)

"Freefall" is the ultimate shoegaze title: they didn't have to dig too deep for that one. "Cold Steel Rain" probably didn't drop too far from the tree either. It's so well reconditioned, this shoegaze album, that it really could be from twenty years in distant. But as a labour of love, it sounds well-polished and carefully greased and maintained. One careful lady owner.

"Haunting Me" brims with hailstone guitar and sounds like spinal fluid. "Lifeline" has the tune played on the acoustic guitar that shoegazers always used to have. It's all there, it's all so Proust. Reverie, reverie - they've all got it in for me!

Sounds like I disparage, but I've enjoyed it. It's evoked some of the romance of the night-time spent listening blanched guitars, their calloused, rock skins sloughing off onto the carpet.

Rating: Flattery out of Imitation

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #104 - High Places, "Original Colors"

Widdershins: not a word I hear enough in the pop oeuvre. But here it is, in the first couple of lines. The Depeche Mode like bass pulse isn't far behind, and my ears are fully pricked up. That's "Year Off".

"The Pull" is busy and echoing in a similar way to Burial. "Morning Ritual" has been sturdy rhythms and a hint of Augustus Pablo in the melodica-like noise moving about behind. Ironically the only lyric I can catch is "Words resounding around my head". Nice tension to the beats on "Banksia" and they crumble off the ear beautifully. I'm thinking about Aphex's Selected Ambient Works.

The vocals are quite soft, secondary to the beats - which I don't have a problem with. Sultriest yet is the semi-molten "Ahead Stop", which doesn't bother with vocals at all. I can hear the rummaging beats melting and blurring in the heat of their own success. I've seen the word Weatherall in reviews and I can hear a low-end community, though they aren't as (brilliantly) show-off as AW.

I suppose this is part of that House revival sound like Azari & III (which I found out is pronounced "and Third" yesterday FYI) have been plastering about. It's very welcome as far as I'm concerned. All those introverted music types such as myself who wished these spacious, exploratory sounds had hung around for longer in the first place. "Dry Lake" sounds just as it describes: a contradiction full of empty space. Worth any hosepipe ban.

"Sonora" is fractured with dub-ness.  "Sophia" feels right back in the kind of Future Sound of London times, all fractal and Hyperlogic and dense with optimism. I get the idea that "Twenty-Seven" might be about rock stars dying at the correct age; but I can't pick anything out of the rounded singing. The last icing-sugar-sweet word might be "hate".

Why doesn't everyone make albums that sound at least a bit like this? It's lovely and you can dance to you effortlessly. Let's all make one know ti to cheer ourselves up and nudge ourselves nearer the Moon.

Rating: Dynamics out of Soft & High

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #103 - The Dø, "Both Ways Open Jaws"

I've read that their music could be described as "freak-folk": I'm not familiar with this term. I have also read one of them (Dan) is from Paris and the other (Olivia) is from an unspecified location in Finland. Also I see that this is a follow-up to a 2008 chart-topper called "A Mouthful" - so it seems they have a mandibular theme.

On first listen, it sounds quite sensible. Adult-oriented chamber pop/rock and not too much freaking out anywhere. The sound is quite full and too balanced to be thought of in any exploratory, far out, fuzzy, jazzy, dubby or cosmic terms. Sensible; but do not take that to mean bad or boring. Please. (Manners, Coc.)

"If you hold onto the past/Don't you lock yourself inside?" they ask at the beginning, as some deft melodic kinks burble about and some beats skitter. "Gonna Be Sick" deals with the final spluttering of a relationship, worrying about what will left of herself after the split. With xylophones and a nicely fragile chorus. (I said it was a full sound, didn't I?) "The Wicked and the Blind" is sweetly tumultuous, while "Too Insistent" is more straightforwardly "indie" with strings attached and vocal ebb and flow (in the Field Music sense perhaps). Lyrically ("Why won't you let me grow?") the album comes from the battle between the individual and the relationship.

Which brings me to "Bohemian Dances", which sees her fending off hipster suitors: "Look at yourself, boy" is always going to shrink the scrotum of any prospective candidate. "Leo Leo" has harps (and an astrological title) and double Olivia and a story about a guy who bought a lighthouse and changed the bulb. Maybe this is more of her kind of guy.

At "B.W.O.J." (the title track, I guess) the BPMs hit a steep gradient and it gets a little more rowdy. "Slippery Slope" (video above) has MIA written all inside it and "both ways open jaws" crop up in the lyrics. Danger all around. "God has died," Olivia sings. Also a very impressive set of eyebrows are highlighted in the video.

"The Calender" has more of a narrative feel, a touch of the Lionel Bart. Seems the story is part performance anxiety and partly about appearance and identity "Quake, Mountain, Quake" slips and slides on brassy surfaces, up and down. "Moon Mermaids" is a great title, a short tune and sombre with dark bells and big trumpets. Olivia sounds post-relationship angry on the closing couple, "The Bridge is Broken" and "On My Shoulders", which fuzzes with strutting guitar, occasionally levelling out into some Balearic ripples.

Good album. Doesn't touch as enough extremities to excite me (yes, the metpahor really IS that sexual), but eddies about in the currents nicely.

Rating: Eyebrows out of Eyebrows

The 2kDozen 500: #102 - Ween, "The Pod"

Good and bad about Ween.

First heard "Push The Little Daisies" on John Peel when I was a hairless young freak. The seven inch of "Voodoo Lady"/"Buenas Tardes, Amigo" is one of my happier accidents. But then I also saw them partway through an interminable set of every album they ever played at the last Cambers Sands ATP I ever attended - the Pitchfork one, I think. The hot and sunny one that saw me not drinking AND going to A&E: figure that. That was a grim, noodling, sweaty middle-aged set - both whack and rank, or wank if you will.

Then someone from within the Cliona/Handsome Nick nexus posted a YouTube video of "Awesome Sound" on my Facebook - and I watched and listened and "The Pod" became my next album in the 2kDozen 500.

There's the early Nineties feel of early Beck, that hipster feel, that Meat Puppets feel. "Pollo Asado" has that looking down on poor people or working people feel. But it also has that staying up too late and bending your head with claustrophobic pharmaceuticals and I like that feeling, second hand especially.

Captain Fantasy" and "Awesome Sound" showcase egos inflated like wine bags, turned inside out and upside down. The sardonic feel of passive agressive self-aggrandisement, which I also like. A South Park feel, which I also do not like. Irony is a rusted steel pole in the reinforced concrete of the album. Epic becomes domestic and ridiculous.

"Demon Sweat" is Ween R&B, but not like Beck R&B. "Now I know sometimes I try a bit too hard/And I can't let go of you." I'm assuming this is still in disguise. But two and a half minutes in the Hot Chip bedroom scale is blown open by wailing guitar and chunky, distorted organ, the latter gradually sliding down the tempo into a sludge. "Oh My Dear - Falling in Love" is a weird version of pulling petals off a daisy and sounds relatively straight.

The cloying bass sounds and the helium vocals too close to the mic are scribbled all over. I have an understanding of which bit of idle brain activity they spill out from, but I'm finding it difficult to pin down. I think of young lads in rural caravans, upturned games consoles and very cheap recreational narcotics. Lighter fluid and the like, smoking banana skins. I think it's the needling sensation of stretching jokes out ad absurdia until there's an LP. "Molly" sounds like Mr Blobby, for example.

"Don't Sweat It" sounds strangely like late Blur. "Laura" has a fantastic, circling, doom-laden crescendo. "Mononucleosis" sounds the perfect disease for this music, distorted by fevered glands, teenage boredom - "Can't have smoke/Can't even enjoy a little brew" - until it ends with the sound of a brain being rolled up from the inside. "And you want to lick the sun" is great line for boredom too.

"Sketches of Winkle" is home-made Spinal Tap. Furious little riffs thrashing about to conjure malevolent forces. There is no Devil in this album though, which lyrically sets it apart from Stereopathetic Soul Manure and other Beck stuff from a similar era. I used to worry for that young lad. I hear tales of Boognish; but haven't heard them for myself yet.

"Alone" and "She F**ks Me" try to pass the actual emotional suitcase through customs, but "Who'd have thought I'd be so happy/When I'm cold, she keeps me warm" would be more convincing if not in the schizophrenic low growl them Ween sing in. And the missed Les Dawson notes. The references to "Pork Rolls Egg and Cheese" on the final tracks suggest that munchies are kicking in as the end approaches.

This is horrible music for beautiful minds, or the other way around. I'm still trying to describe where it comes from - a similar spot as The Chap inhabit, but waaayyyyy looser. Loose and tight. Something to do with the End of History. Something to do with the dawn of adulthood.

Rating: Pork Rolls out of Cheese

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #101 - Dirty Projectors + Bjork, "Mount Wittenberg Orca"

Begin the second century as I did the first - with a touch of Gudmunsdottir.

Joyfulness (or joy for short) spills out of every pore and splits every seam on "On and Ever Onward", it runs round every rim of "Ocean" - even with the grimly-sliding cello tone turning back and forth underneath. The undertow beneath the glistening wave. I've read the idea is that these songs are from the perspective of a pod of whales singing to one another far out to sea. Their voices are perfect for these roles.

"When the World Comes to an End" is more like the Dirty Projectors I know and like. Deradoorian et al are glitching backing singers, blasting out sonorous fragments behind Lonstreth's cranial croon. Strange how comfortable I am with their voices being broken up into nonsense, into popping diaphragms and rolling throats. Would I feel the same about men's voices being chopped up, would it seem so "natural" and musical?

The vertiginous trill in "Beautiful Mother" is fantastic - "We are swimming in a simple rhythm/We are swimming in a rhythm as a new voice." They've got the tools for that kind of hiking, they have. I take pleasure in the name "Sharing Orb" - "Come into my home/Murder my family/And leave me alone" is quite an opening line. Not quite the caring, sharing one might expect. "Restless hunger/Until the sea is silent/And deadly quiet but for an engine." Maybe not sharing the watery orb as well as planned.

"All We Are" almost has the sound of a Western theme - the orcine "Wandrin' Star" - with voices for oboes and the sinister double bass never too far away. Then Bjork reappears, her voice pitching and rolling like a deep sea fishing boat.

It's a trim work, stripped down and beautiful. Well worth many a listen.

Rating: Whales out of Molehills

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #100 - The Waitresses, "Wasn't Tomorrow Wonderful?"

Blondie's less glamorous, more provincial and (dare I write it?) more intelligent cousins. Twitchy New Wave backing band, largely composed of guys with big eyebrows, one of whom also co-produced (Chris Butler). Known for the Christmas alternative hit "Christmas Wrapping" and the seedy "I Know What Boys Like".

This album was one of the last bunch I got from Cob Records in Bangor last week; a Ze Records LP with the mutated disco/funk sensibilities that label suggests; satirical sex solos and clever lyrics. But aside from the better known tunes, I also have an MP3 of a tune that was played on John Peel many years ago from a 1978 compilation of bands from Akron, Ohio. It's called "The Slide", it's wonderful; and interestingly, it features one of the bristle-browed man-dudes on vocal duties. I wonder about the reasons for the switch, as the album only has Patty Donahue doing the singing. My cynical mind wanders towards cynical answers.

There's something in the tone of her voice, snotty and set square for a fight, that really belongs to that post-punk/New Wave era. Everyday themes lyrically, but I hear the political strewn about the political: that might just be the flavour of the time though. The title track asks "What's a girl to do?" and half-answers "pretty victories" as opposed to sex and shopping. Sex and the City it isn't. (Maybe the message is undermined by following it up with the teasing on "I Know What Boys Like" - or maybe it isn't. Having playground "Nyeh Nyeh Nyeh Nyeh Neh" in the lyrics suggests this isn't Pussycat Dolls territory either.)

On side two, "Pussy Strut" is an ode to ..well.. a Pussy Strut - with a nice sleazy sax underneath. Not sure which gender is doing the strutting, but I don't suppose that's important. "Go On" is nearer the traditional "My man done me wrong" template running through a gallery of failed relationships, but here too she's not letting herself off the hook either - "He was nice/I was brutal/...I guess if he wants me he must not be good enough".

Something about the music is too eager to please though; and while I like what's going on, I don't get no shivers. I return to this stupid idea of mine that this music is human-shaped, concerned with themes outside the usual pop/rock lexicon. "Redland", in particular, imagining when the revolution comes ("It won't be better/But I'll settle for different...I won't be happy/But I'll be relieved") and the effect it will have on her social life and wondering if the uniforms will be in her sizes. Dryly putting the political and personal in a properly fluid relationship. ("Dry fluid"? Like in dry cleaning?) But even though I think the lyrics are great, I wish there was more drama, more depth or contrast or something in the music.

"Jimmy Tomorrow" is a great final track. A touch of Socratic dialogue. Well, not quite - but I like to think there or thereabouts. Any album that ends with the words "My goals are to find a cure for irony and make a fool out of God" should be compulsory listening.

Rating: Thinking Man's Thinking Woman out of The Post-Punk Past

The 2kDozen 500: #99 - Lou Reed & Metallica, "Lulu"

"I would cut my legs and tits off when I think of Boris Karloff" starts Lou while James growls "small town girl" in the background. They really have mellowed, haven't they?

This is the story of Lulu, a German dancer who climbs up German society, met Jack the Ripper and ended up a prostitute, and a rather deviant prostitute at that by the sounds of it. It was a German play, later adapted for Hollywood into Louise Brook's iconic silent movie. It is heavy with blood and sperm and violence and masochism: all fin-de-siecle stuff. (Our sexual violence is on a more industrial scale now, I suppose. Not quite so manual, not so artisan.) And most of those tracks are long - heading close to twenty minutes by the last one.

"The View" is less of a tribute to the scruffy Dundee indie rockers than I might have hoped; but I've missed that big, pulverising sound. Boulders and giant fir trees tossed about by a rowdy Norse deity: you get the picture. "Pumping Blood" has the narrator screaming out to Jack to perform a "supreme violation", imagining swallowing "your cutter like a coloured man's dick" with "blood spurting from me". It's the track that stands out the furthest in the masochist direction - a "leather box with azaleas" and worship of trickling blood. "Mistress Dread" sounds like thrashy old Eighties Metallica, grinding away in the back of their tour van, with an elderly-sounding Lou warbling over the top about Goliaths and kissing away "a scrap of blood".

"Iced Honey" has more of a Lou Reed feel, structurally - with the Metallica lads as more of a backing band. Hetfield's backing vocals sound a bit yokel karaoke. "Cheat on Me" works it way up from some mournful, looping strings to a rumbling, bassy background while Lou asks "why do I cheat on me?"and guitars gradually boil up around them.

"But all I do is fall over/I don't have the strength I once had." Panicking about being "dry and spermless like a girl", "Frustration" is properly creepy, whispering over nerve-plucking strings, before it goes all Nordic again. It's tempting to weld this together with Lou's tired, papery voice and plant him in amongst the words. "Little Dog" also starts with the same worn-out, drone feel, with the scent of shit in the air.

"Dragon" takes the division of the divine and the "fucked with" directly into the lyrics. "You think we're some kind of table you can rest your feet on when you're able?" There's a sense of Mark E Smith flailing about standing in front of his modern-day version of The Fall. Ozymandian in his contempt for restriction or advice. I hear see this working on the soundtrack to the most Blakean bits of "Red Dragon".

Thence to "Junior Dad", the most highly-regarded track according to the largely-unimpressed reviews I've seen. Largely well-regarded because it doesn't sound like a knackered old Lou Reed struggling against an inappropriate metal backing band. It sounds like something more post-rock than that. Though I suppose Lou was post-rock a long time ago, wasn't he? It's very long, it's very OK: I'm not very caught up in it, and I'm an all-out sucker for songs about Dads. Just strings phasing in and out of one another. Baaahhhh.


Rating: Warbling out of Masochism

The 2kDozen 500: #98 - Rizzle Kicks, "Stereo Typical"

Oooh! Exciting! First moment it kicks off and I recognise the tasty sample - "Rainbow Chaser" by Nirvana, the Sixties UK band. Used it myself on a CocOen track back in the day, "CocOen Aflame". It's on iTunes and YouTube and my gravestone. (It's on none of these things.)

Next up is more what I was expecting, skanking rhythms and trumpets. I am indeed down with them trumpets. "When I Was A Youngster" is on the topic of dreaming already, as was the first track. You get a feeling these kids had a quite comfortable middle-class upbringing with a wide open sense of possibilities. It's the vague sense of having to improve ("Learn My Lesson" for example) that suggests a comfortable background, as with the dreaming. It's not from the streets, from the estates they need to escape. In fact, there's no language of escape at all. It's about fulfillment and aspiration. They hadn't dealt on the corner, they'd "settled for a desk job". They're doubled-up UK Fresh Princes of East Sussex.

They sound hungry for poppy hooks and friendly sounds and witty twists. They sound quite polite young lads as well; like a less deranged *Aspects, one of my favourite ever UK hip hop acts, or like London-Welsh MC Akira the Don. A sound formed by the same pursuits that helped relief small town boredom (drugs, cult films, general fucking about and thinking strange thoughts) then becoming the crates in the back of their minds they dig through for samples and lyrics.

I like the Rizzle Kicks singles. (That is George Michael at the start of "Mama Do The Hump", isn't it?) Anything that promotes trumpets (whether it's a song title or an advert for sweets) is fine by me. "Demolition Man" was a great film, but it's a bit thin production-wise for me. "Miss Cigarette" makes a neat metaphorical connection between a girl and cigarettes. "Stop with the Chatter" does have "old school drums and old school flow", which gets me on board. He identifies with Malcolm of Malcolm in the Middle, which sets them up as clever, comedy boys. "Homewrecker" sets out their cheeky chappy Ladies' Boys credentials, lusting after mate's girlfriends but again in polite fashion. But when confronted with aggression, they decide "to conserve your energy/Unless you feel it's right."

The only nag at the back of the skull is that these boys are a product of the dreaded Brit School. Maybe my snobbery about band biographies (if that's what it is) needs to be packed away until the time someone gives a fuck again. But I prefer the idea of guys getting together at art schools or wherever and ganging up before the music gets started, making their own rules rather than being educated in how to be pop stars or musicians. My time has passed. No one gets a grant for art school any more, I guess. Pop belongs to the comfortable.

Rating: Proper Pop Music out of The Brit School

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #97 - Hooded Fang, "Tosta Mista"

I once knew a dog in Porto called Tosta Mista: not interesting, but true.

Somewhere in Toronto a garage is empty, devoid of suburban punks, copies of Nuggets strewn heedlessly on the concrete floor. They've been busy laying down these seven tracks of shaking, straightforward rock & roll. There are backing vocals, tremulous guitar sounds and some off-hand non-verbal lyrics. It's the stuff of southern California valleys and rusty small towns in Ohio.

"Clap" hits the surf with all boards and fingers blazing. I'm quite happy to have those buttons pushed. Y Niwl have done a lot of the groundwork in recent months. "I see you up on the stage/But I know you're still deranged...Have a good, chilled-out time tonight," they observe drolly. The singer gives the impression of a lad about the scene. He adds that "your legs are like stems of flowers/Wanna lie with you for hours and hours" on "ESP": smooth work, bucko!

The pistons are moving freely by the time we reach "Tosta Mista", though it's difficult to hear where the six musicians fit in. Doesn't sound like more than a four-piece; someone's slacking off. It circles around and around the drain for what feels like a couple of minutes, echoing and turning in on itself in a real neat way. 

"Den of Love" is all slow and smoochy and that so as to demonstrate that Hooded Fang are serious about coming from the Dwight Eisenhower era. They should get together with Richard Hawley. Perhaps take him back to Canada with them. It still disturbs me, a hankering after an era that they never even experienced. I never liked the Fonz or Showaddywaddy myself.

Lively and playful and lightly dabbed with Portuguese - exactly how I like my garage rock.

Rating: Echo Chamber out of Surf Shack

The 2kDozen 500: #96 - Emeli Sande, "Our Version of Events"

Fundamental mistrust of this - despite/because of the funky haircut and the monochrome promo shoots. I heard her sing and talk about herself during the cringe festival that is Fearne Cotton's Radio One show and it screamed AUTHENTICITY of the fake corporate variety. All about the voice. The voice that swoops and trills and belts and says NOTHING.

But I'm trying to push myself out of the creche, leap the rail and escape the indie boy ghetto.Simon Cowell said last year she was his favourite current songwriter. Enough of a challenge for me.

Opening track "Heaven" has a funky drummer beat and Nellee Hooper strings and that seems about it. "My Kind of Love" has nothing to add to the world of love: "Don't ever question if my heart beats only for you/It beats only for you." Maybe I'll listen back on this in decades to come and feel the emotion. I hear shouting and manufactured self-pity.

Dislike leads to self-examination as usual. Why does this annoy me so much? Why can't I believe what she's written, what she's singing? "Mountains" are for climbing; a "Clown" is sad inside and her "life is a circus". Where is the thinking? And at least the dumb music I like is having fun or stirring bowels or spitting teeth: the pitch of this music is asking me to think and feel about her life, her message. And there is no twist of originality in the music either. So where is the songwriting?

"If I had more than my ambition/I'd have time for please/I'll have time for thank you/As soon as I win." Perhaps it's about being on X-Factor.

"Daddy" is more Bond orchestral pop. "Suitcase" is about someone leaving. "Breaking the Law" is vocal and guitar - and has the image of breaking in to cheer someone up. I'm not sure where she's going with that metaphor. What law would she need to break? "Next to Me" breaks off another couple of chunks of soap - doors that close, skies that are grey. I give up.

"Hope" is a super pompous prayer to the superego about seeing each other as humans "because don't we all bleed the same", calling on the ghost of Dr King to "see we still have a dream" and scaling the heights of Sting's "I hope the Russians love their children too" in terms of self-aggrandisement and downright twattery. "I just hope I'm not the only one": the only person that hopes for an end to child soldiery? Reaching for Stevie Wonder (keyboard choice especially telling) and coming up Chris de Burgh.

Rating: A Pig's Ear out of A Pig's Ear