Saturday, 30 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #250 - Ladyhawke, "Anxiety"

Good press, bad press: it all evens out in the end, or it doesn't. Named after a peculiar Eighties swords & sorcery movie too. Such is Ladyhawke.

"Sunday Drive" has a hammering piano and a distorted guitar flying in from South America. "I want to see what you can be". That doesn't sound much like the kind of caravanning I associate with Sunday drives. Music piling in from all kinds of corners of my headphones. "Black White & Blue" sounds like classic Britpop-era Pulp, which seems a strange thing to write. Not many things sound like Pulp. "Blue Eyes" sounds like late Beck, something from The Information. I like it. Maybe they have a similar urge to transmute paranoid disassociation into clean-lined pop shapes.

"Vanity" makes the psychological pitfalls of "self-destruction/Self-obsession" sound remarkably self-possessed and sunnily fun. She has the pop touch alright, I reckon. Whatever organ it is the pop leaks or juts out from. Somewhere in the same car park at Sheryl Crowe or someone else whom I forget now. She's liking a few electric rainbows for their citric flavours. Some of it scatters itself over the end of "The Quick & the Dead". I think I love her a little bit; it's the disassociation.

"I've always been so cautious/But I'm sick of feeling nauseous," she asserts on the title track. It's more introverted than Paris burning, I figure. Maybe it's why she seems so mistrusted by folk that make their opinions on music widely known. Her voice is very clear. The music is pop using rock brushes. This is my second unexpected surprise enjoyment of the day after Gossip.

There's a lot of second person in the songs. A lot of lyrics about battling over the head. "Gone Gone Gone" fits the mould of psychic warfare too ("I'll only get you in your dreams"). It doesn't sound as though Pippa has had a good couple of years, eh?

Rating: Pop Touch out of Rock Brushes

The 2kDozen 500: #249 - DZ Deathrays, "Bloodstreams"

I've written two fucking half-reviews of this already before my laptop packed in each time. It's too late for me to bother again and I will not repeat myself a second time. So I leave you with a couple of thoughts about his album.

Part-way between metal and the kind of posey indie that wears leather jackets. A cool place to hang out and drink Jaegerbombs and vomit and that. Several noises grinding through all kinds of gears of rock and that. Blown amps and squealing vocals. They'll be at the bar if you need them.

Excellent album cover too. Like out of They Live! With the skull faces and all. In the black and white you'd expect from a band with Deathrays in their name. "Teenage Kickstarts" is also a great title. The album title works well too in terms of the adrenal excitement the friction of this music can generate.

The closer "Trans AM" goes off into an interesting place with the keyboards and that. A place just over the horizon where people probably have sex or something like that. There's a great noise on "Cops Capacity" that sounds as though it's been faxed in from the Sun. All good news.

Rating: Black Leathers out of Skull Face

The 2kDozen 500: #248 - Simian Mobile Disco, "Unpatterns"

This gets off to a spooky start with "I Waited For You", the sound of an answering machine message from a robot from the future who melted while the world was consumed with unearthly fire and you were nipping to the toilet. Something like that. Big and sharp noises, tough and clean, robotic and emotional: intersections of all kind of possibilities. I like possibilities, me. "Cerulean" sounds quite serious with a delicious car door slam beat running all the way through. "Seraphim" features an enjoyable house/acid face/off with soulful vocal, shimmering pianos and lysergic squiggles. It kicks all multi-dimensional, orchestral levels of cunt in, as I might write, were I drunk and more Scottish than I am now. (It's good to have something to aspire to.)

"A Species Out Of Control" is a nice title, the tune itself is like a rancid version of Orbital. Plenty of low-end shuffle, some snarly electronics. "Interference" also has some fantastic musical teeth on show. Another wiggly electronic squelch that runs up and down the street where dubstep lives, ringing all the doorbells, smashing all the windows and spoiling for a fight. Over a deluge of tiny hand-claps and tittering cymbals. I love the wire wool aggression that runs through the tunes. MDMA wouldn't melt...

There are congas on "Put Your Hands Together", but I'll only hold that against it a little bit. More boringer than the other tunes so far, but still to-movable. (As in "moving to" it. Tortured neologims are my thing, alright?) (Ha, ha! Neolo-jisms!) "The Dream Of A Fisherman's Wife" also cuts less mustard than I'd like. "Your Love Ain't Fair" has a beat like windscreen wipers in really heavy rain and a touch of the R&B warbles again. I think I might have heard it before on those Radio One weekend programmes I hear from time to time. It moves crowds but not so much the me inside me.

The closer "Pareidolia" (no idea either) is one of those lush, early Hacienda (no, me neither) tunes that leaves moisture running down the walls and piranhas in the gents urinals. Bouncy fragments of bass boing floating about shivering hi-hats and determined arpeggios. You know, if I HAD to try and describe what it sounds like using words I found in the back of my thoughts.

Rating: Technocracy out of Possibilities

The 2kDozen 500: #247 - Gossip, "A Joyful Noise"

Were there a fence over which to Gossip, I'm sure which side of it I would sit, if not on it. First encountered them at a sweaty ATP room and wasn't too bothered. Then the big hit and it was good fun to see Beth Ditto cropping up here, there and everywhere: it felt a bit punk rock, celebrating differences (even in a token way much of the time). Then relative quiet? I'm not sure as I moved out of that room a few years ago now, not picked up an NME in anger in some time.

It seems to have been built around Ditto, this band. I can't quite explain why, but she reminds me of Madonna. There's a kind of snotty ambition that reminds me of Eighties Madge; but there's also something else, a similar emotional tenor in her voice. Somewhere between celebration and pain, or a mingling of both, like finishing a marathon. Maybe "A Joyful Noise", Coc? (Oh, aye, yeah. Thanks.) Loads of Eightes track fades too...

"It was adorable when you were in your twenties/Not so cute any more now that you're pushing thirty/You better get a job" comes from a different angle than "Material Girl" though, I guess. "What kind of life is it when every day's a weekend?" Some of those Southern Baptist work ethic morals showing their teeth. It's an unusual setting for it, but I like it for that. "Move In The Right Direction" is the kind of positivist clomping disco that usually sets my phasers to Meh, but something about the lyrics keeps it on the right side and I like the Boney M string-slide noises.

I like music obviously built from the bass up, that pushes bass to the front. This is an album about relationships: "You fail to break the silence/..We'll self-destruct together/It's all over now." And there is plenty of space in the production for words for hang in the air. "Get Lost" turns the sound of "Good Life" by Inner City upside down lyrically with the house piano sounding that bit less euphoric and that bit more spiky.

A flash of the Jack Whites at the beginning of "Horns", which might be about self-confidence about trolls and bullies not realising what they do, or something. The title seems to come from the fact there's brass on it. I think Gossip should do the next Bond movie film. "They mean not what they say/So chase the dogs away." Are those the Churchillian black dogs of depression?

"I'm on a first name basis with your victims of love," Beth snarls (not snarls, but I can't think of the word) over a pleasingly chunky house beat. Shit, she REALLY sounds like Madonna. "If blame is the name of the game/Then I won't play". Damn! I like her style. She sounds like she'd make an ace buddy. "Love In A Foreign Place" is a walk of shame anthem, so I can excuse it sounded a bit Katie Perry. "All I ever wanted was so much more/Than life in a small town." All good.

Rating: Madonna It's OK To Like out of Work Ethic And Compassion

The 2kDozen 500: #246 - Fixers, "We'll Be The Moon"

Came across a list of 20 albums that the NME claim I must listen to in May this year. Bit late, I know. Was surprised that I hadn't heard (of) more of them. So they will now take me up to #250 by the end of the day, Daniel Kitson gig allowing.

They come from Oxford, this is their debut album, and they seem to have spent a lot of time listening to Yeasayer and those types. A whiff of chill, some poppy choruses: you know that there drill. In fact, I find it very hard to believe that they ARE from Oxford, the vocalist sounds very, very American. I'm trying to find out more about their personal bios, and as I do I see the NME describe them as an avant garde take on The Beach Boys. How are they more avant garde than The Beach Boys? And if so, what battle are they at and are they charging the wrong way?

I like The KLF chill-out noise that the album opens with, then my interest dips heavily. Maybe it's listening to Cornershop the other day and getting excited about early Nineties takes on Britishness, but I'm mistrustful of their pristine lift of the Brooklynite sound right down to the accents. There's apparently talk of a new Thames Valley scene, but it wouldn't fare too well by comparison to the likes of Lush and Ride and Swervedriver from the first time around.

Big drum kits. "Dais Flowers" bursts in particular with Beach Boys yearning. "Pink Light" rattles along on a tide of current sounds. So does "Crystals"; "Oh, I am going to upset the apple cart," he sings. I really don't see how. By signing about "Waikiki" and "Haight-Ashbury" instead of the Bodlean Library and Bognor Regis? You might excite a couple of Apple Geniuses maybes.

The murky canals of "Amsterdam" are more pleasing structurally, but it's still not enough to lift the music out of this complacent fog. "Really Great World" decides to couple uplifting backing music with what I take to be sarcastic choruses inbetween ruminations on ruined nations. (Oh, fuck me, I'm fallin asleep listening to this and it's only 3pm and I got several hours sleep last night. Baaadd sign.)

"Goodnight" is conducted on a ukelele: some barbershop, Wilson boys business.  "I want to live a life of puppy dog/And loving wife/I want to feel how others felt." That thunk was the sound of me resting my case.

Rating: Wrong Transatlantic Turn out of Shoegaze

The 2kDozen 500: #245 - Cold Specks, "I Predict A Graceful Expulsion"

Doom Soul, she says. Definitely quite roomy instrumentation-wise. Sounds a little like country to my timeworn ears.

"Holland" is about "catching God in the gutter". In fact, there's a lot of that semi-mystical language. Although I think she's singing "we are dice" for a while, I now think it's "we are dust", which is less exciting. I don't understand what the title is about. I don't understand what the name of the artists is about. Frustrating. It is impenetrably personal or penetrably generic and I'm much more interested in the sound of my own thoughts. The latter is the most distinct possibility.

The option is that it's all about the voice. But it's very rarely all about the voice for me. I'm usually more interested in the words they use than how they move their vocal chords.Or at least it's not about a "good" voice. She swallows too many of the words. The opening tune, "The Mark", might be about a violent, abusive father, I'm not sure. "Heavy Hands" suggests a similar storyline; no wonder it's such a morose tempo.

"I am, I am/I am a God damn believer." There's talk of rivers, "my will is good" - lots of Christian imagery, which is always switches parts of my brain off.

The last tune ends in a cycle of "Lay me down"'s. If this isn't an album about death and the mood of death, it isn't for want of trying. Perhaps just for want of dying. It's thoughtful, but it doesn't move me. I'm starting to think that I have certain musical fetishes that I need in order to achieve connection with the sounds. They seem largely absent from this album. That probably reflects worse on me, right?

Rating: Doom Soul out of Empty Rooms

Friday, 29 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #244 - Blind Atlas, "Kodiak Bear"

Wow! These guys sound like they've listened to a lot of adult-oriented rock over the years. They've absorbed it into through the skin in their inner ears. Somebody suggested I give them a listen; someone who's a big Ryan Adams fan. This might not bode well. I've just remembered as well that they're a Manchester band that we played on a bill with in Chorlton a few years ago. It's a small world, innit?

Not many Kodiak bears to be found on Barlow Moor Road. I'm struggling to work out why I found young Manc lads trying to be Seventies Laurel Canyon hipsters a bit irritating, while I'm happy to accept a band from north Wales that play surf music. A hierarchy of genres, maybe; a list of acceptable intentions that runs from worthy to execrable.

What is it about the rhythm of those West Coast MoR godheads, that kind of not-rock, not-jazz shuffle? I can understand the harmonising; it's the kind of equivalent of everyone wanting to be in the limelight as once. Not to say that what is going on now. A lot of people just thought it sounded good and picked up the idea. But that's how it was transmitted, that marker of egotistical fuckery.

"Time Plays Its Part" has a nice stoned wander to it, more than a touch of Neil Young on the tiller. "Iron Wall" has a folky feel, all slowed down toms and gravelly cello. Sombre hombres. Some steel guitar and ole time fiddle turns up on "The Ballad of Uncertainty in the Key of F", which is a tale of thwarted love. Quite nice.

Maybe it's a lack of imagination on my part that I don't take to this music, see it as alien or wrong-headed. "Brother Moon" smacks of The Eagles or somesuch, even though we all know about brothers and the Moon. There's some low-key psychedelia going on there and a bit of guitar freakery. But I keep tuning out from the lyrics again. My bad, I know. "Any Old Song" is quite a suitable title.

Rating: Backwoods Plaid out of South Manchester

Thursday, 28 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #243 - Jay Z & Kanye West, "Watch The Throne"

This was last year and has studded the charts and the consciousness of many music lovers and yet I've never thought about listening to it until I read a tweet about it this evening. I like Jay Z a bit, Kanye West a little bit.

I like "No Church In The Wild" for its stormy production and even a little bit for its portentous question about gods and kings. I can't help imagine Kanye and Hova imagining themselves in that elevated company. "N**as In Paris" is on the same scale. Is there some drug that we can ascribe this expansive style? And is this drug ca$h money? It's also about globetrotting with pals and ruling the Earth. "Otis" fits the Kanye profile of piggy-backing warm soul talent from history to sit behind lyrics celebrating how rich and big they are. But I'm not bothered about making the point again, and at least it's done with more skill than that dink Puff Daddy could muster. "Gotta Have It" and "New Life" do the same with JB and Nina Simone. Curtis Mayfield is drafted in for "The Joy" to underpin their musings on parenthood.

"That's My Bitch" bounces along nicely. "Why are the pretty icons always all white?" would be interesting, if it were true. Didn't he marry a pretty black icon a few year ago? And so touching the way he refers to his missus along the lines of "Get your own dog/This is my bitch". Sigh. Depressing. Why the backing track have to be so good though? "Welcome To The Jungle" is the same: morse code jangle, bursts of emotive stringy sounds, lean drum pattern. "I'm a tortured soul/I live in the sky" - he really isn't it, is he?

"I went through Hell/I'm expecting Heaven": that's it. That's gotta be the problem right there. "Who Gon Stop Me" is all about him "graduating from the corner", then Kanye weighs in about a black "something like a Holocaust" that is fucking with their people. But Hova has been fucking with his people for years, hasn't he? Spends a good 20% of his albums celebrating it. I'm well in A-Level Sociology territory here, eh? "Murder To Excellence" is about money, excellence is opulence. It's fucked. Sing about your Nana all you want ("Made In America") over gellid Miami Vice synths; it's all about the Benjamins. It's like listening to a Sole album, but from the tent pissing out instead of outside it. "I only like green faces."

"Why I Love You" starts with images of Rome burning; it's all about the imperial rhetoric. "I try to teach niggas to be kings/But all they wanna be in soldiers" sounds like a bad grasp of economics. You seized the prize yourself but can't abide their disloyalty and ingratitude. Maybe it's in the choice of racial epithets, Jay? Women can't hustle for money either - not according to Kanye on "Illest Motherf**cker Alive". Only these two cunts. "This is what the ending of Scarface should feel like." I enjoy the hefty drift of the music on most of the album. Even "H.A.M.", which starts out minimal, has big choir noises and string quartets swoop in before it's even halfway and some operatic bombast about "doggy bags" or something. But the lyrics really grind my parsnips, butter my gears or whatever.

I don't know whether this album was written on tour, but it suggests that too much experience of the globe is being clipped to fit into the schedule of $100,000 bottle of champers and doing coke off the Eiffel Tower with platinum spoons. And that makes me unhappy. Not enough humans in it.

Rating: Solid Gold Imperialism out of R&B Recycling Bankruptcy

The 2kDozen 500: #242 - Baader Meinhof, "Baader Meinhof"

Luke Haines is another one of those many characters that I've not bothered to find out nearly as much as I should've done. Maybe he's seemed a little too black in the heart. But it's far more likely that I haven't made enough of an effort. And it's about the Rote Armee Faktion, who were nihilist cool back in those late Seventies and early Eighties. And did a lot of murders

It's all lizardy strut on the opening title track. In fact, it's quite lizardy strut on "Meet Me At The Airport" as well. I'm not sure where he's coming from lyrically though. Maybe he's too subtle and well-observed for me to pick up. "There's Going To Be An Accident" pairs a winning squelchy bassline with glinting malevolence about people in black BMWs meeting with accidents and "fire magic in the head" after some dodgy acid: "You're going to go down sooner or later". It's a concept album about terrorism; but does that mean it's just a biographical trip in their extremist shoes.

"Mogadishu" has even harder intent, muttering darkly about moronic pop stars and "when the fireworks hit you/In Mogadishu": "Christ was an extremist/With kamikaze soul". The same arch devilment runs through all the music, hard and balanced. A basilisk of sneering irony looking about itself with iron and arsenic in its eyeballs. What I'm not sure of is what the concept behind the concept is. The violins and cellos sound poised, the production is crisp and dry; the lyrics even crisper and drier. But is it just a 1996 interpretation of outdated left-wing German terrorists? It was a time of The Enemy Within in US fiction and a muddy sense of ethical foreign policy in the UK. It's hard to place where this album might fit in there; but Luke Haines does not give the impression of someone that needs to fit in.

"This is the hate socialist collective/All mental health corrected" Luke broods on "Back On The Farm". As things are unravelling for the RAF (as on the paranoiac "Kill Ramirez"), the lyrics wind in tighter to the main players and away from wider political objectives. Which weren't mentioned much in the first place. Summed up again in the closing coda that repeats part of the opener: "I had a dream/That every dog has its day", but still expressed in terms of Rudi and Uwe. Just a bunch of people hanging out.

Dry, literary perhaps, difficult to pin down and a little unsatisfactory. But I like it.

Rating: Basilisk Malevolence out of Dry Pop

The 2kDozen 500: #241 - alt-J, "An Awesome Wave"

alt-J is one of those names that I've seen written so often that I'm surprised I don't seem to heard any of his music. And I'm assuming it's a guy on his own somewhere. What is it that Alt-J does on the keyboard anyway?

Mannered voice, inflected by the folk business. There's an interlude early on that sounds positively Renaissance. "She may contain the urge to run away/But hold her down with soggy clothes and breezeblocks", he sings on "Breezeblocks". Obsessive love always makes for good pop - cultivates all the right musical and lyrical urges. The narrator of "Something Good" also seems a little love-damaged. There is a big She in "Dissolve Me" too, who makes the sun and the sea. Check out the anima on these guys! These are pop songs staring at the Other from across the gender barricades.

Is it wrong to find the voice(s) so offputting that I can't listen properly to the music, which I suspect I'd quite like? "Dark seeks dark" they chime on "Ms". None of it seems very dark though. It sounds more like some kind of rectal muscular complaint has got in the tracks. I'm put in mind of Hot Chip at their most geekiest apex. But the willful peculiarity of the voice gnaws at my innards. "Bloodflood" sounds a bit like a grandfather clock, it also contains the album title in its lyrics, which I take to be a reference to love's giddy periods.

I don't have the time to give it a proper second lisston, so I'm drifting out on first impressions. It may be I'd like the album after more listens. The irritating stuff is railed back slightly on "Taro" and there's some banghra business too. That is welcome.

Ratings: Giddy out of Gnaw

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #240 - The Voluntary Butler Scheme, "The Grandad Galaxy"

This is from last year, but VBS is someone whose music I seem to miss very easily; not to mention confuse with Supreme Vagabond Craftsman, so it's as well I kept them quite so far apart as I did.

"Hiring a Car" starts in very promising, minimal, anti folk kinda style: just a looping beat on a drum kit. "Shake Me By The Shoulders" surrounds itself in Richard Hawley-like atmospherics but in a more modest and less shit fashion. There are telephone noises at the end that loom out of otherwise miraculous noises and into "Sky Shed".

There is some desperate unforced eccentricity going with the man behind his music, and it is one guy taking the responsibility for the music. I think. It's a fuller sound behind "To The Height Of A Frisbee" perhaps to match the romantic bent of the album. Jim Noir flavours smoke around "Umbrella Fight" with clockwork intricacy. "Phosphor Burn-In" is choral and dramatic in rather absentminded lackadaisical style. I haven't time to listen more than once, but I think the lyrics are about kids being cruel. The tune resolves itself it into a cellos and bleeps finale.

There's some pizzicato funk on "Don't Relay On It, Don't Count In" which suggests a broad palette. I'm too damned tired to think about this one properly, but I can't leave it until tomorrow. This tune does have another dimenson too. Nice breaks on "Satisfactory Substitute" too. I admire those who can make with words and beats at the same time: they are a one-person orchestra. "I wanna play/A losing game with somebody new," he sings on "Manuals". "Stone" is another love song, more sounds that sound like they've been wrung out of domestic appliances and wise old wallpaper.

"D.O.P.L." wanders over into Four Tet territory and holds its hands aloft to greet the sun. I had another thing to write here, but tiredness has robbed me of that too. Lou says I should drink more water. "Empty Hand" has the same tinkling feel, then some kind of cajun fiddle sample busies itself in its middle. He's lyrically lovelorn/obsessive again. Dirty leads vocals in contrast to the clean and clear choral backing noises; he's subsumed in the music he's made for himself. Blimey. "POW" is the same collection of stuff at the close.

Rating: Eccentricity out of Ninth Dimension

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #239 - Cornershop, "Urban Turban"

I liked the first incarnation of Cornershop that I came across in the early Nineties, when Blur and other bands I can't remember where walking about in the glorious foothills of Britpop before its arteries grew fat with Carnaby Street and the mountains of Oasis and the other fucktards rose up and blocked out the sun. The band's name was witty, the music was closely affiliated with Riot Grrl bands of the same era. On "England's Dreaming" they mashed up Morrissey and Public Enemy. It was vital and trembling with possibility. "Brimful of Asha": not so keen.

So "Urban Turbans" is a compilation of various singles they released on their online Singhles Club (geddit?), almost entirely with different vocalists with Til Singh and pals acting as the backing band. Not surprisingly then, it's quite mixed. "Beacon Radio 303" features some Panjabi (I think) over rather a sparse bass and drums background with a couple of acid squiggles. "Milkin' It" is sparser yet, lyrically reaching back to 1988. The vocals sound more than a little like Mark E Smith, hoarsely shouting out to hip hop greats. Kay Kwong's "Concrete, Concrete" is jolly and strange and frugs about under its steam. "Something Makes You Feel Like" is basic Troggs rock/pop.

Dollops of funk with more subcontinental vocals on "Inspector Bamba Singh's Lament" followed by a course of near-baroque synth organisation on "Dedicated", landing somewhere between Daft Punk and Hot Chip. But the tunes with Singh's vocals seem that bit more fleshed out and have that the hungry magnetism that draws ideas and different musics to its underbelly. "What Did the Hippie Have In His Bag?" has schoolchildren providing halting backing vocals, singing "Now that we've climbed the mountain/The mountain will never seem the same again"; getting kids in touch with nostalgia and disappointment early.

The last track is called "First Wog on the Moon", acid tongue buried back in the cheek, back as it was in those passionate early Nineties. But the idea is sketched out in squelch into a tune that could have been played on a piano in the Twenties. Wish the album has more lyrics, but that's been the issue today.

Rating: Magnetism out of Mixed Musical Pedigree

The 2kDozen 500: #238 - Dub Spencer & Trance Hill, "The Clashification of Dub"

A dub version of "Guns of Brixton"? Isn't that like a metal version of "Ace of Spades"? I'm not at all sure I see the point. Still, this covers collection was pointed out to me by Darren "The Difference Engine" Parry, so it will be worth a listen. I really like the Easy Star All-Star dub covers albums too.

"Brixton" is an instrumental version with some extra ghostly noises bandying about, but not as exciting to the mind tonsils as it might be. I don't really even recognise "Lost in the Supermarket". It might just be my shitty laptop speakers but it all sounds quite trebly too. (It was partly my shitty speakers, but it also is not a bass-prominent as it might be.) I think they are all instrumental versions. "Train in Vain" I recognise, but it doesn't seem to head anywhere too interesting.

I'm not sure whether it's because I've caught a glimpse of the characters behind this whole business, but the air is thick and crusty with cheese and onion pastiche. I like the simplicity of dub, which is maybe why I find it so hard to get critical; but there's something a little joyless about the execution here. "Rock The Casbah" starts off drained of all its energy, which is kind of the point, but also not. Something about the Death of Physics floats by my head; but sticks not in my braincleft. It's almost as though it isn't dub at all, but just slowed down and moved around rock music: and that hurts like a punch in one of many kidneys.

"Bankrobber" gains nothing in the translation, a very minimal translation. Some rockabilly guitar line, same drifting melodica. Just no lyrics. My patience is wearing thin, but that might be because I still need to make my tea. There's a European smeary drear on "The Magnificent Seven", which sounds anything but magnificent until some big, ancient sounding Atlantic synth washing in from the West. No reason for "Police and Thieves" either, especially without the vocal, which is great.

Only "London Calling" shifts through any gears, even from the outset sounding more ambitious and on the ball. It's not a straight rendering, but there are some familiar and unfamiliar ingredients bouncing about together in a pleasing fashion. "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" is stretched out into something almost meaningless, all pulsars and free-floating desert guitar. But then I never liked the original that much. It's as if some musical visionary climbed inside the music and pushed it out with all their feet and fingers until a huge plain was created and the music was reached out into it. But not quite as good as that sounds.

Rating: Unnecessary out of Cheese And Kidney

The 2kDozen 500: #237 - kandodo, "kandodo"

Even less time to listen to this than usual - and I must not fall behind. Even allowing for a Lou-less night tomorrow, I'll have to watch TV so I don't feel alone, so albuming is hard.

This is the side project of someone out of something else - yeah, I'm a fast learner, what of it? It's all setting sail on solar winds across spaces exactly as wide and as narrow as you're prepared to make them. There's talk of the lad's African background, but I think this could have come from anywhere in the world - certainly including northern Europe. It evokes deserts but would almost certainly fit any other rugged landscape you could lay your eyes on. There are drones, digital stuffs, gallons of reverb, but it all fits within a tidy guitar indie rock compartment.

"Lord Hyena, 3am" has a very 3am feel about it, when the right night just about peaks, but you can feel the precipice of the dawn under your feet. It phases out the end of the album so lovelyly. "Yamadharma" starts with a Crocodile Dundee easiness, no real hurry in any direction. Space station pace. Music to listen to in your artificial coma whilst speeding to some mining colony in another star system.

Rating: Artificial Coma out of Solar Wind Chimes

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #236 - Siinai, "Olympic Games"

There's an alternative reality where bands like Siinai get to write the themes to important moments of national density and destiny like the Olympics, instead of creatures like Gary Barlow. We get glimpses at these universes through cultural wormholes like Match of the Day or Football Focus, where indie-archs rule with cool iron fists and invite The Fall and Y Niwl to shape the understanding of Goal of the Month. Or we find artefacts like this, which I did buy at King Kong Records in Ljouwert yesterday.

It was in a shelf labelled "Neo-Kraut", which hooked my interest. Attempts to take on mutlivalent musical genres like kosmische/krautrock cannot fall into redundant pastiches as there is relatively little to slavishly copy and not enough attempts to draw up a list of do's and don'ts. And because the music is basically fucking ace. I think these guys are from Finland.

"Anthem 3" has an old prog rock take on the best use of electronic keyboards, sinister light-bulb drone and darkly celestial choir loops. Could be Tangerine Dream. It is ace. Imagine watching the first dawn of the London Olympiad with this pouring in through your earholes; maje-ficent. "Marathon" is more of a Stereolab-lite (or should that be Stereolab-heavee?) kraut-chug with the controls on auto. It never hits the Wall though. (Oh, I'm sorry. I'm never sure when shit puns are going to strike next.)

"Mt. Olympos" is all crystalline daybreak, as you might expect. Frosty-nippled Zeus sending Usain Bolts of Olympic excellence down to earth to terrify we mortals into recognising his beardy godhead, that kind of thing. Built on synth power as most of the track are, ancient sounding loops and banks. "Munich 1972" crackles open as an electrical storm and the subject matter suggests that they aren't pitching for the ear of IOC anytime soon. Guitar noises Syd Floyd off in all directions before a piano puts its feet down and that choir invisible comes back. There's a lone noises spluttering like a radio looking for a signal, which in my more extravagantly metonymous outbursts I might compare to the Olympic Flame.

A quite start to "Victory", which I imagine working well a montage of lonely moments of athletic preparation. The kind of thing you see on adverts all the time - tying the bootlaces, stepping out on the training run, carrying the kit bag, heavy breathing. It's over eight minutes though, so the ad would need to have a lot to say. All grandiose cymbals and afterburner effects pedal. "Olympic Fire" is as massive as you would expect. Although it doesn't get very far. "Finish Line" has a Vangelis guitar and actual drum rolls at the beginning, which I hadn't expected. It ends fairly suddenly, but maybe that's the finish line crossed, just as the athleticism reaches its peak.

I love it when a random punt in a random record shop brings home the back fat.

Rating: Chariots out of Ancient Electronic Fire

The 2kDozen 500: #235 - Moss, "Ornaments"

A Dutch band whose LP I picked up at the fantastische plaatenwinkel (if that's the word) King King Records here in Ljouwert/Leeuwarden in Fryslan/Friesland. I picked it up as the band were Dutch (I reasoned) and it was recorded in Amsterdam. I spoke to Nico who runs the shop and he said that punk and metal were big in Ljouwert, but not "dowz rekowrds", gesturing to the hip hop and "neo-kraut" records that I was buying and which were in gorgeous abundance despite not being the most popular genres. I wasn't quite in the mood for punk/metal though.

This isn't punk/metal either. It's very straight indie; not in the landfill sense, but thankfully being put together outside the orbit of the cultural rhododendron bush that is Oasis and their ilks. There's a hint of a Dutch accent, curling up the corners of some of the words like day-old sandwiches, and musically quite a heavy American accent, like Yeasayers or that kind of wandering, heart-warming music: medicines, magic and love feature heavily in the music.

"Spellbound" is a punchy, little skittery number, possibly about a neighbourhood crush. "Love is a wonderful thing" isn't going to smash open many lyrical piggy-banks, but the music is suitably soft and thoughtful to underline the point they're wanting to make. And I like the nuggety bass pulse. "I'm a modest man/Giving all I can", he sings on "Give Love to the Ones You Love"; so this may be exactly the same kind of jazz I called bullshit on with The Shins earlier in the year; but I cannot claim to be consistent. If they're the Dutch Snow Patrol, I give myself permission to fuck myself up laters on at some unspecified date.

"The Hunter" has some New Wave hustle, directed again at another potential paramour - "Remember those love songs when we harvest and re-seed," I think he sings. I don't think I remember those; but the contrast is with a hunterly obsessiveness. There's certainly some softshoe stalking going on. And there's yodelling. There's a poke in the area that my auld muckers Polytechnic used to roam on "What You Want", guitars and bass in very clean lines, woven together jubilantly.

"I'm in the darkness of my mind/Where nothing seems to grow." I like the intellectual discomfort of this tune, "Good People". "What if I envy you?/.../What am I supposed to do?" he miserates. It's a novel position for me to hear someone write from/about; but then I never really pay very close attention. Half the songs around me could be about that, and I wouldn't know. "Ornament" sounds quite heavy, way too heavy for a Christmas tree branch, perhaps a coffee table conversation piece.

Rating: Heart Warming out of Darkness Of The Mind

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #234 - Futures, "The Karma Album"

Spotify nudged this in my direction and hungry for album, I consented. It's one of those rock albums like you hear on Radio One during the day with soft and rubbery guitar sounds, featherbedding whatever vocals some pretty boy is dribbling out. (You can tell already how my judgement might be shaped, can't you?)

The second song is called "Islands in the Sea", which is where you would expect to find islands; the imaginative act would be to place them somewhere else. But then, this is not music designed with the imagination in mind.

If anything else remarkable happens during this album, I'll type it immediately.

Aaargh! Jesus it sounds like that country-inflected Christian rock (that in turns inflects itself on country music to foster an enormous horrible feedback hybrid of shit and puss) that shrink-wraps its tiny genitals so as not to accidentally sex anything and in order to best deny both its own nature and the whole point of rock and/or pop. I want to scrub my own genitals with filth to counteract this antiseptic pish. All the meaningless peaks and troughs in what is an exercise in nothingness - and not in a good way.

Gil Norton produced this. Didn't he produce some Pixies albums? How in Hades does that work?

Oh, my God; this is taking forever. "All we've got is this borrowed bones," he whimpers. In a bid to have us carpe the per diem.Every song sounds aimed at a girl, a generic girl, with whom he will expect generic, boil in the bag sexual intercourse without cum and without any human contact.

I'm seven tracks in. I have to stop. Sorry. It's shit.

Ratings: Antiseptic Genitals Composed Only out of Hairless Scrotum

The 2kDozen 500: #233 - Neneh Cherry & The Thing, "That Cherry Thing"

"Manchild" used to make me well up, especially if I was doing the washing up at the time and was sixteen years old. "Buffalo Stance" had Cockney bits in it. Neneh was up there in the Scandanavian pantheon of Norse birds coming over here taking our music with Bjork and... Well, it was more of a Holy Duality than a pantheon. And now she is back, no doubt being cool and sexy again, the idiot! What is she playing at?

There appears to be live jazz going on, squealing sax and fat-fingered upright bass and syncopated rhythms. "Cashback" has the gold-digger trope nicely inverted too. And talking of inversion and confusion, they do a cover of "Accordion" by MF Doom too. How arse-boggling is that? "Dream Baby Dream" is a kind of positive-thinking, Western jazz mantra; but not as awful as that sounds. Not great, just not as awful as jazz mantra sounds.

It's low down the strings on "Too Tough To Die", taking its time to get going, as I suppose hardwood does. I thank yew. There's a lot of jazz screeching. "Sudden Moment" too moves about between the trees, the music recalling muscle and sinew in way most other musics don't. Is it because it's plucked and blown and depends on the bodily strength of the musician to be brought about? Ah, the mysteries of jazz! Is it about things moving around in the night? Is that why your David Lynch types will stray into its salty embraces? I like the tense cluster of chords held together in a chord underneath the whole eight odd minutes of the track. Sudden, my arse.

So to the MF Doom cover... It doesn't work, perhaps. The original was originally pretty laidback and cool, so jazz doesn't have much to add there. So it goes with dissonance, but the lyrics sound more like a speech, like a sermon, no flow. Because with Doom it's as much about how the words fit together as the images and ideas he wants to convey. So, my thumb is down. Boo, me!

"Dirt" goes a more bluesy direction. "I've been dirt/And I don't care."  But the blues can't take it where it wants to go and everything unravels into a jazzstrom, cool afterbirth every where. Is it meant to be the noise of sex? I'm not sure I've been doing it right, if that's the case.

All in all, not my packet of crisps, but not shit. I'm that profound.

Rating: Smoky Bacon out of Jazz Flavour

The 2kDozen 500: #232 - Gemma Ray, "Island Fire"

Put in mind of Kirsty Macoll, I am. It's pop music, but with something moving around inside it. I'm not sure what it is, but it smells of healthy eating and self-assuredness.

"Trou de loup" (which might mean wolf hole?) has a swaggadocious Mariachi bombast underpinning its vow that "They won't silence us with their violence". It's retro like Hawley but without the sense of wife-beating. It's all lush and orchestral and slinky on "Flood and a Fire" and "Make It Happen" like Bond films from an alternative reality. Or the stuff that Barry Adamson does/did. She's from Essex, I think, but is roaming around some inner New Mexico, cranking out these ditties. "Holding onto memories a million miles from here/Opiated, medicated dreams that I hold dear," she sings sweetly on "Rescue Me", I can't tell to whom.

There's some broken glass in the dreamy swirl of the music, titles that "They All Wanted a Slice" back that up. "I Can See You" has bass strings thick enough and recorded close up enough to make the teeth rattle. The brass goes flatter but shinier. The bright vocal/dark message of "Here Comes The Light" is very Macoll, I reckon. There are two Sparks covers at the end, and I don't think they really work. Involving Sparks in any way strikes me as a good idea; but the production is maybe too smooth, the mania is too far, too hidden beneath the surface. "Eaten by the Monster of Love" is a good choice thematically though, as this is an album that seems haunted by monsters, most of them not directly referenced.

And no cupcakes.

Rating: Fashioning Old World Pop out of New World Monsters

The 2kDozen 500: #231 - Lower Dens, "Nootropics"

I remember I liked "Twin-Hand Movement" in the 2010; those were the days. Although to be honest, I don't remember exactly WHY I liked it. So here I am with "Nootropics".

The drum kit's been pushed forward in the mix. I like that, gives things a clipped and urgent feel. All snare and hi-hats. "Brains" has a pulse somewhere between The Strokes and some kosmische rock outfit - someone leans a couple of fingers on a keyboard, a lone slappy, metallic bass sees out the track in style and into "Stem", a uptight yet jolly piece of instrumentalism.

"Candy" has a touch of the Eurobleak about it, like Editors or Interpol or somesuch. Stationary trains at Stalinist railway stations. Snow on moddy-looking statues. You have the picture, yes? It sounds like a sketchy version of Layla turned inside out with the mournful guitar thrown into relief with a steady bass counterpart.  "Propagation" is also a bit ponderous, but I find myself following it. I'll bet it's the synths; I always indulge synths. "Lamb" also makes some interesting shapes in the snow.

Electrosynthscapes again in "Lion in Winter" parts one and two. I don't really know the play. But judging by the music it's about a lion that spends the winter prodding keyboards for their awesome sounds and staring out the window and hitting some cymbals at the end. "Nova Anthem" sounds like a distended Kraftwerk piece used to build an inspirational nation of slight narcotic wooziness and warm alienation. Something inaudible is "in flames", and what else does a nation need but burning stuff? An anthem for a country with a great many pink-tinged clouds.

"In the End is the Beginning" is in no hurry to make its point and then underline it with more of the same. I keep thinking of animals, artificial animals like the kind I used to read were being created on the internet to see how they evolved. Or perhaps that didn't really happen. Or perhaps we are what happened? (Too much hotel will cause ontological creeps.) I think though it's about a painful and drawn-out death, judging by the lyrical references to failing hair and teeth, our virility indicators. The track sounds inevitable and it's over twelve minutes.

I'm assuming it's tropics as in parts of the brain and not as in the Caribbean.

Rating: Intermittent Transmission out of Distant Places

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #230 - PiL, "This is PiL"

All this punk regurgitation and appraisal on BBC Four at the moment may be due in part to the binding together in the British consciousness of the words Jubilee and the band The Sex Pistols, but if gives a chance to see more of the malevolent shine in the young Johnny Rotten's eyes on TV, then thumb me up, brother.

PiL were great, stepping very far ahead of the game, cutting their edges while they were cutting their teeth. John Lydon's tremulous voice and aching heart and burning intellect coming together and setting everything alight. Where are the working class voices coming out of pop music nowadays? Would I recognise if I saw them? Maybe I'm too sucked into a Jeremy Kyle vision of the poor and the working classes, not even seeing them as "working" any longer? And proud of myself for doing so; like the cunt that would make me.

England and London are the locus of his focus. On "Human" he sings how he misses the English roses and "our many-mannered ways" and "playing on bombsites", bewails (literally) that "England has died". He announces that he is from London on the second track "One Drop", rooting his chaotic irrepressible nature there whilst simultaneously saying they could be born anywhere. The track reminds me of Manu Chao. "Reggie's Song" has him singing about the Garden of Eden (his home in Los Angeles perhaps?) and Finsbury Park. He even sings a Sartrean song based on "The Room I Am In" while the music slinks around behing him like murky lizards.

"School was always torture here/Derison turns to rage/Because I'm human." His scars are pretty livid, it seems, because he continues to pick at them. He is still kicking at the class system, the education systems that had left him to rot. The emotional tenure is matched by the music, which is a kind of middle-aged version of the sound that PiL made thirty-five years ago. Similar to the sounds that dEUS were making in parts on the album I was listening to earlier today. There's a millenial dread lurking in the bass, but it's smoother and somehow comfortable. Not like the raw nerves and organs of "Death Disco" back in 1978.

Some of the lyrics are a bit too playful, repetitive or based on moving the same few words/syllables about in narrow patterns (like "Lollipop Opera" or "This is PiL") for my liking. But no-one's going to lose any sweat over that, least of all me. The sound is big and a little well-rounded to really get my goat pumping; but maybe I've too narrow a musical fetish to hold that up as a criticism. It reads thematically like an old Londoner returning and kicking over the rubble of what's changed and what's disappeared with a peculiar mix of anger and indifference. "This is my culture/I am no vulture."

Rating: Middle-Aged Beacon out of Lost London

The 2kDozen 500: #229 - dEUS, "Following Sea"

Seeing as I'm in Frysn at the minute, I'm going to listen to a bit of Dutch-speaking music: Antwerpen's very own dEUS. Vying with Soulwax for the title of most successful Belgian band, like ever - assuming The Singing Nun and Plastic Bertrand don't go for it - and some stalwart indie rock business with that Continental sangfroid. Cigarette butts in cafe table ashtrays and dirty glasses of drink, you know the stuff.

The opening track, "Quatre Mains", is a lot more muscular than I remember. I'm sure it was all jangle and tinkling piano when they were singing "Little Arithmetics" back in them days and I was going to Flemish record shops. Now there's a grown-up, tense bass line and harpsichord sounding stuff. I don't understand the French, but it sounds serious and there are melodic slides going on behind and guitar like the beginning of Eye of the Tiger.

"Sirens" is more along the lines of what I was expecting, medium fast indie rock over the wicket. His voice sounds pretty fucked up. "Redemption isn't coming soon/I'm stuck here with these hidden wounds," he sings over icy synths on "Hidden Wounds", which is a PTSD story judging by the voiceover about some army patrol finding a detonated body. Cheery. There are clever lyrics on "Girls Keep Drinking", but I'm not sure what they are about. Something about not being happy with pop music now, perhaps. "The Soft Fall" is more of a romantic shuffle about the good life, although I may have missed some dark irony within.

"The lack of laughter's contagious/It spread the panic within" opens "The Give Up Gene", which swings a literary baseball bat at anything that dares comes near, as far as I can hear. It is cool and measured and sounds like it could be a theme to The Sopranos or The Wire; but it's angry about something: "the backwash of empires" or something. "Fire Up The Google Beast Algorithm" also strings out a nice long stream of manic talk about "speaking seventeen sign languages" and "solving the crosswords in your head" over a backing track that the new Fall band would have rumbling with sharp edges behind MES' wet-mouthed rants.

"If money's the answer, it must've been a pretty dumb question"

Rating: Grown-Up Paranoia out of A City With A Difficult To Avoid Red Light District

The 2kDozen 500: #228 - Dope Body, "Nupping"

Just heard about these in The Stool Pigeon. The new album isn't available yet, so I'm giving the 2011 work, "Nupping" a go instead. I like it. I recognise the guy on the cover too, but I can't think who it is. Very Smiths, black & white pics of borderline celebrities of forgotten eras.

Guitar riffs arrive bent at curious angles in unusual places on "The Shape Of Grunge To Come"; pieces of music getting slapped around the face. Cheap mics and a throaty singalong bravado. I'm not sure if the grunge that will be, but I could imagine it taking that direction straight from Mudhoney had Kurt not turned up. "Banger & Yos" gets even more mathematical and syncho-ma-pated. The bass tentatively struts, if that's possible, after an opening funk grunt and everything reaches out in its own direction. "Chain Link" is a bit more straightforward, but they're committed and before long its collapsed into a brackish, elephantine bounce.

There's grunting about having sex on "City Limits" as robots replicate rock music with the failing final seconds of their battery life and flailing synth-limbs.Big cavernous spaces up under "Mr Black" and echo their excitement like kids bombing at the municipal baths. "100 Mile" swoops in from everywhere. I'm definitely getting the image of movement to and from multiple places: that's how imaginative I am. It makes me think of flocks of birds, and I'm always thinking of those fuckers. I think it must be a model I have for how my mind works. By the time "Force Field" is chugging along nicely to close the album, the mono-belch vocals is pushing my tedium buttons; but I still like the fucked-up-PA-ness of it all.

I can definitely see me losing some brain cells an inner ear usefulness to these delicious clowns some time soon.

Rating: Angular Birds out of Flailing Synth-Limbs

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #227 - Savages, "Savages"

This is only a single, just two tracks - but they are both very good and I'm pushed for time and it's my ball anyway and I'll cry if I want to. Rules were writ to be tickled with, no?

So two tracks, "Husbands" and "Flying to Berlin". Pixies with Siouxsie Sioux on vocals; "His presence made me feel/Ill at ease". Shrieking and galloping low bass and hollering (if you like). Post-punk momentum summoned up like it was by those punk-funk types ten years ago or so. She sings about "God, I want to get rid of it" in such febrile, horrified tones that I think she's referring to an unborn child. But then it's about getting rid of the house, her room and her "husbands", which she pants over and over until the track stops abruptly. Nice, nice. (All future attempts at writing anything about music other than "nice" are now revoked.)

The second track is better, if anything. If I was forced to choose which was best; which I'm not. The punk gets even friendly to the discotheque and the pizzicato guitar noise that The Slits used to have on their records; and so it dances closer to my heart. I'm not sure what the lyrics are about, perhaps a rambling based on fear of flying. Descriptions of seas below and being "not yet high" and other hints I can't remember, something about worrying about crashing. If it's a b-side, it's one of them crackers.

I will be keeping an eye out for these operators, no doubt. And their little dog too.

Rating: Ontological Funk out of Domestic Horror

The 2kDozen 500: #226 - Bobby Womack, "The Bravest Man in the Universe"

Been waiting a while for this one to be available as well. The lingering after effects of recent collaborations with Damon Albarn and other Gorillaz types can be heard. Or at least, I presume that's what happened; rather than the other way around.

There are blips and some moves from the bar house playbook, but it's mostly a quiet and introspective album. A lot of guilt and forgiveness and reconciliation. The title track has his buttery, warm voice starting lone against a scrape of cello before a very Gorillaz-friendly bassline kicks forcefully in.  His voice on "Dayglo Reflection" contrasts positively with the mournful swoop of Lana del Ray. There's a quote about the perception of the older singer "growing a little deeper": that couldn't be a dig at LDR, could it? There isn't much of a link between the two vocals.

"Deep River" is a stripped down spiritual tune along those Biblical terms that I'll choose to read figuratively and not along Christian terms. Just to amuse myself. There's a slower, churchy (more Anglican pipe organ than Dr King) darkness to "Whatever Happened To The Times" that broadcasts the song out into near space for passing interplanetary craft to cock an ear to. I don't know what "lollipops running through the rain" might refer to, but I'm pretty dense. "Stupid" brings Bobby together with Gil Scott Heron, two recent alumni of XL Recordings' attempts to release almost every kind of music conceivable to modern ears. Two seriously sensitive, grizzled auld cats. Another stripped down backing track, which has a tiny squeak in the loop for some reason.

 "If There Wasn't Something There" conjures up Across 110th Street with its drive and a paranoid splintering right in the heart of it that betrays the smooth strings and assuredness of the lines "If there wasn't something there/You'd have just walked away" and "I've got something/You don't know you want". The seductive patter founders on jangly, frictive undernoises. Self-doubt, the king of all cock-blockers. There is some more positive-minded stuff like "Jubilee" about keeping on "walking on solid ground", back in that Gospel tradition but with a techno stomp adding some further bounce.

Maybe sounds a little undercooked, a little flimsy up against his classics; but there's gristle enough to chew on for a listen or few.

Rating: Reconciliation out of Collaboration

Monday, 18 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #225 - Clint Eastwood, "Death In The Arena"

Those thick, dubtastic fingers are roaming around the bass struts once again. Sly & Robbie moving about as expected. Clint toasts his DJ business. It's 1978. All is good and bad with the world, perhaps in equal measure. But can I get a bead on what is going on? Not so much.

He has a curious squeaky noise he makes when he breathes in. There is plenty of patois as well. Some of the time he is a bit more interested in being friends, as on "Greetings to All" - "Greetings to all peacemaker/Hatreds to all warmonger". On "African Queen" he is looking to be a bit more romantic, although his vocal style doesn't change very much and he's talking about "rubbing it" with his African queen. And he seems to be meeting up with her in London. I've no idea what "Bubble Up" might be about. I suspect that when he's got a point to make I may well not understand.

"All I want is the strength to move many. many mountains," Clint lays out his faith. There's some family history on "Nobody's Business", but I don't quite get it. I'm not surely what he's talking about on "Tree Week Vacation", but it involves him "making a penetration" and getting some rest.

He recorded with Dillinger around this time and they have a similar style. I think. An almost nervous, giggling delivery. Even some of the same phrases - "Dynamite/Out of sight" - that kind of thing. Maybe one day I'll understand it all a bit better.

Rating: Patois out of Dub Fingers

Sunday, 17 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #224 - Easter Monkeys, "Splendor of Sorrow"

Some mid-Eighties post-punk thunder, I'm told. Ohio, the rust belt: where punks were punks and women were also punks and men were punks. Basically, there were a lot of punks; seedlings from Pere Ubu and sprinkled by Devo juice. The sound swings in a little, swings out a little: as if recorded with the Festival Wynd effects pedal that Super Furry Animals had invented a handful of years ago.

"Monkey See Monkey Do" is bubbling with the effervesence that punk had in the States: none of the Steptoe & Son music hall malarkey that the Pistols and The Damned and the like had to work through to get to the good stuff. America was big enough to have suburban garages and downtown lofts and warehouses full of the kind of alienated types that were needed to make this kind of stuff. And there wasn't the same desire to cut off from hippies and that which had gone before. "14th Floor" for example ties in with Roky Eriksen and The 13th Floor Elevators, "miniskirts and different-coloured pills" and the freaks that went before quite happily. It's messy and a bit clumsy and energetic.

This is compilation of their stuff from the early Eighties and "Nailed to the Cross" already sounds more post- than punk with a more rumbling bass and a more angular guitar line. It's a long tune too - eight minutes - which gives it a looser stride too. Puts me in mind of Shellac until a high-pitched jangle swoops in from ear left and then it's done. "Camera Fo" splices an off-kilter basic rock with schlock B-movie dialogue and Universal Horror snippets. From an era when there was cult stuff you had to wait a long time to see without YouTube et cetera.

"Heaven 357" has a very alt.rock jangle, all very Eighties; the Byrds bent all out of shape. The vocals are rougher again, so I'm assuming it's earlier. But the bass has the cloudy, dreamy sound of the time when Joy Division were morphing into New Order. A misjudged tambourine doesn't spoil all the fun. I've just realised that it's the goth feeling, that swirling sound. Then a live track, "Watchoo Wan", closes business for the evening. Something about Christians being laid out. "Porky Pig's up next," he says as the instruments stay humming like really evil sharks.

Rating: Continuous Line out of The Rust Belt

The 2kDozen 500: #223 - East River Pipe, "Poor Fricky"

Another Peel excerpt. A real Nineties feel to this too. A guy that had become homeless and then had his demos recorded and released on Sarah records in the UK; doesn't much more Nineties than that. And I'm assuming he's named after the Augustus Pablo song. (You know what? I'm thinking "East of the River Nile". Reeeetarrdddd!)

There's a curious feeling of lo-fi bedroom songwriting and glossy overproduction. It's reminding me of another band, not quite Babybird, but someone like Babybird. "Superstar in France" has horrible, cheesy keyboard strings running underneath like prawns under the floorboards. It doesn't really seem to go anywhere. Perhaps this was the time when the life stories eclipsed talent on the showbiz radars? "Keep All Your Windows Tight" builds up into an echoing cavernous whinge that goes nowhere, a bloated mosquito bumping against the window.

This is on during the football and I found nothing to pull me away from Clive Tyldesley. That should give you an idea of how I found it. "Ah Dictaphone" is a promising title, but I've tried three times to listen to it and drifted away each time. "I'm walking the dog and I'm scared in the usual way": I can relate to that. I would get regularly shitted up if I had to walk some pup about at night time. Maybe his is too small and quiet a voice to demand my attention.

"Like a beat up dog/Did you throw her away?" he asks on "Hey, Where's Your Girl?" in a tone that sounds midway between The JAMC and Shaun Ryder on "Bob's yer Uncle". That's a curious lyric. A passive aggressive address to someone that took control and had everyone bent down in front of them. That ol' passive aggressive drink-addled business. It's followed by "Powerful Man" which jangles in a slightly mournful and redemptive way. I quite like it. But I don't have time to start the album again...

Rating: Too Quiet out of Self-Pity

The 2kDozen 500: #222 - Eardrum, "Last Light"

This came out in 1999 and it was in Peelie's record collection. It's a set of murky instrumentals (so far) driven by percussion and not so much else. Shapes looming around in the dark, leaving a fleeting idea of their menacing outline by low register sonar. My opinion of music seems to heighten around the turns of decades (with the possible exception of 2009/10, which was less distinct). As the Nineties faltered before the shiny monolith of Y2K, there was some good stuff about. Perhaps things just get a bit swampy.

"Lizard" is suitably alien. "Roach" gives things a Armageddon-ish feel. Drums like knives in a factory and shadowy bass noises. Cicada/Transformer noises open "Swamp Doctor", which becomes a brew of shuffling percussion, noises bumping around underwater and discomfort. "City Collision" has thumb pianos and dainty finger drums before getting pulled out and distended into something more spacious yet still threatening. Are drums just intrinsically threatening?

"Nightblind" is a bit more sultry, flute business kissing the air. "Plummet" starts with a raspy blast from a rusty trumpet before big drums make their presence felt and it goes a bit Pete Gong. An aerial assault from the Tibetan Yogic Flying Squad with flugelhorns flailing. There isn't much wormy about "Nightcrawler" - unless the worms wore body armour made of especially noisy metals and tumbled down the stairs. Phrenesis: I expect I might be making that word up. "From the Nucleus" sounds as though it comes from the unimaginably small spaces that exist between the science bits inside molecules that I just imagined. Noises suspended in holes.

"Low Order" skulks around in the gutter at the most downbeat, Salvia-sabotaged urban festival possible, jugglers juggling human waste and face painters daubing kids with turds while the rain watches and laughs and the dreams running down their faces and congealing in the drains. Something like that.

Rating: Percussion out of Threatening Thumps

The 2kDozen 500: #221 - Future of the Left, "the plot against common sense"

Bitterly powerful performers, these lads, and the most spectacularly sharp on stage I've heard, especially of the tongue. I'm assuming that any references they make that I don't understand are down to them being much cleverer than me.

"Failed Olympic Bid" lurches and staggers with bassy beef and angular guitars: "I've got a home for the Millenium Dome/A heart disease ward underwritten by McDonalds." That black stuff glinting in the sun, yeah? That's the spiky tip of their dark iceberg sense of humour/justice/despair. "City of Exploded Children" is a queasy title and it's that dizzy sense of quease that they promote so effectively, picking at all the scabs. I'd bracket them with The Chap, although it's much easier to work out how angry FOTL are. They have the same tangle in them; I can't find it better than that. "Goals in Slow Motion" tears a few strips of the backs of rapist footballers with its razor-like teeth.

The middle class have their stamps licked on "Camp Cappuccino"; they "took the petty cash/For the waiting staff/To blow/At Camp Cappuccino". What can it all mean? The structure of the music dictates that they know exactly what they mean; it's so sharp and precise and scratchy with rage. Maybe they're too angry and tired to make the point directly. They seem to have to a fourth member now too, though it doesn't seem to have affected their sound much. "Polymers Are Forever" builds up layers and layers like the plastic bags of stones in the bottom of the ocean that they are singing about for some reason that I can't quite fathom.

I can pick up on the pop culture stuff more easily, like Slipknot looting Topshop during riots being photographed by Kerrang or on "Robocop 4 - Fuck Off Robocop" - "If Michael Bay wants a bigger house/Let's help him/Art? Ha! Where you from?" I can manage that stuff. There's more than one reference to Total War as well, which isn't nearly as well regarded as its nearest equivalent, Total Football. It's like Jack Black if he had something interesting to say. With more anger seething through guitars in the background.

So many of the lyrics sound like an attempt to engage the idiots that sit on top of everything in conversation: "No, you can't move your market to your manufacturing base" on "Rubber Animals", for example. I like that direct approach. I'm always tempting to wander down oblique ginnels; but then I lack the courage that they have; their flinty Silurian staunch.

"At least Harry Potter has a proper story/In the sense that the characters crave an ending/Wanting to release Billy Corgan from his role as the titular character's nemesis." Sounds funnier than it reads. And it reads pretty funny.

Rating: Acid out of Orwell

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The 2kDozen 500: #220 - Light Asylum, "Light Asylum"

Quite uptight for synth pop; not as louche as you might expect. Bit more aggressive, insistent and/or jubilant. A powerful contralto voice burning at the middle of it.

It smashes open with a hard drum machine riff, singing about a fortress opened wide. Another opening like gunfire leading into "You judge me so hard/Like you were a God", singing out of the other side of disco escapism: the defensive desire to repel the critical gaze. "IPC" is also turning defence into attack with grunts along about getting "25 to Life/Smoking marijuana in my city" while alarms and whip noises rub against other in the background. A bit Mega City One; could almost have been on the Drokk album. It carries on quite relentless, like, with "Heart Of Dust" (touch of the MIA in front of a synth percolator) or "At Will" (NIN lines about "watching your skin crawl"). It's not industrial exactly, too sparse and spacious for that - but a similar desire to dig in and explore the anger. Leather hats add to the s&M, industrial cross over feel; sweaty synths and singing through gritted teeth.

Horse whinneys crop up unexpectedly on "A Certain Person" to close the album. That's unpredtctable. But when the mood turns a bit more romantic, the quality drops off and the lyrics are exposed; "Always nice to see you" isn't rose petals in the street, is it? The intensity of the tracks outweighs the words. Although the repetition makes up for their flimsiness more than a bit.Nice line on "Shallow Tears" about "honey dripping from the sun" though.

"Nobody's innocent/While people are doing time."

Rating: Insistent Contralto out of Industrial Synth Pop