Posts tagged: rock

The Black Keys – Dead And Gone

By , November 29, 2011 10:00 am

Fresh off last year’s triumph with Brothers, the Black Keys have moved fast to cement their status as one of the top acts in modern rock today. It’s always nice to see a group that has worked so hard to finally succeed, and Brothers surprising commercial success made the Keys one of 2010′s feel-good stories, especially for those (like myself) who had long turned off most modern rock stations out of sheer boredom. El Camino drops next Tuesday, and it’s more straightforward throwback rock ‘n roll sound is likely to be gobbled up by those who liked “Tighten Up.” “Dead And Gone” is the second track off the album, hurtling out the gate with a pounding beat and Dan Auerbach’s typically soulful vocals.

The Black Keys – “Dead And Gone”

Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto

By , November 1, 2011 10:00 am

Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto

Parlophone 2011

Rating: 8/10

Mylo Xyloto is perfectly designed to blow up in your face. Eleven proper songs, all named after the biggest and the best, like landmarks tumbling side by side: holy lands, flames, princesses, waterfalls and uh, Charlie Brown? Each song hits some sort of ridiculous climactic hotspot that seemed impossible the second before it happened. Just listen to “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” the moment the drums kick in for real. It seems completely implausible that a song that started so big could become any bigger. It sounds like the exact Coldplay song that you want to get made over and over again, and for Mylo Xyloto, it finally gets made. It’s Coldplay at heart. Nothing strung together by flimsy concepts; no X axis and no Y axis, no violent Spanish conquests. It’s just huge.

In that sense, the record feels like “Fix You” eleven times, exploding from all sides. There’s something about that song that can easily hit at the gut, and it’s more about when that moment comes in than how, the organ-like sounds shuffling off stage for a climax made glorious by Will Champion’s drum-kit. On Mylo Xyloto, however, Coldplay don’t dedicate much time wondering when their songs will hit their glorious peaks, for this time they appear confidently boisterous, at large when they go in and larger when the drumbeat kicks. It’s a powerful thing, hearing a band this way, so it’s a moment such as “U.F.O.” that kills the record’s infinite momentum, putting a band that seems energized at all corners into a state of contemplation too reserved for the bright colours they’re splashing their graffiti with. Mylo Xyloto was not a record made by a subdued band, and so when this acoustic number creeps in- along with the restrictively controlled beats of “Up in Flames”- it feels like too much thought and not enough waterfall.

To hell with the contemplation; what makes this record so good is the complete abandonment of making Coldplay a leftfield band. Viva La Vida might have had us begging them to take us back- our very own Adam Downer complimented Coldplay for their ‘balls’, and later their guts- but Mylo Xyloto completely refuses the listener a moment alone with their brain in that way. There’s no time to be surprised by any experimental balls when “Hurts Like Heaven” strikes full force, no time to ponder where Eno weighs in on this one. Interludes aside, every song is designed to bash you over the head rather than to let you use it. Mylo Xyloto is a big, broad album, with songs founded on themes no less than the greatest conceivable. And who doesn’t fall for that Coldplay? I mean, it hurts like heaven? It’s us against the world? This is a Coldplay in their very own world. It’s huge and relentless, and they’re wrapped up in it.

It makes perfect sense, too, that they’re so wrapped up in it. Chris Martin can sing that every teardrop is a waterfall on any track he likes, and so when those lyrics come on “Paradise” for the first time, it doesn’t feel one bit phony. If anything, the lyrics flow; just as Arcade Fire could engross every song on The Suburbs in its theme- the same words for the same problems- Martin’s newest record (and first since his favourite band’s third) is a successfully didactic and direct body of work. The lyrical themes that circulate like a broken record on Mylo Xyloto may be the first poetic success of Martin’s; on any other Coldplay record, it might be hard to take a line like “you use your heart like a weapon / and it hurts like heaven” into the gut, but Mylo Xyloto isn’t trying to get under the surface. It’s just searching for the biggest reaction and the most fantastic feeling. Everything Martin says here, whether or not he says it over and over again, is justified by how every song on Mylo Xyloto pushes the same buttons. Every song aims to make a waterfall of a teardrop, so why can’t he say it over and over again?

It’s kind of great how at ease I find myself with a Coldplay that can be this repetitive and use the same trick a hundred times over. To hear Rihanna’s absolutely stunning performance on “Princess of China” isn’t a surprise because it simply bolsters the style Coldplay are playing with on this record. Her spot amplifies a song to heights it wasn’t already at, and that’s what Mylo Xyloto seeks in every move it makes forward. This is a Coldplay that wants to build and build to a point like “Fix You” over and over again, a Chris Martin who only cites influence in ideas as ambitious as graffiti and The Wire. The results don’t have to be the same as those things, and so it’s hard to get caught up in the trippy, colourful artwork that the record tries to reflect. Instead, we just bask in “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” a song splitting at the sides, huge from start to finish. “Turn the music up!” is Chris Martin’s command on Mylo Xyloto, and it’s probably the only lyric he’ll ever get us nodding to.

Coldplay – “Charlie Brown”

Florence and the Machine – Lover To Lover

By , October 27, 2011 10:00 am

Florence and the Machine’s long awaited followup to 2009′s superb debut Lungs leaked online last week, and early reviews have been stellar. I haven’t had time to really get down and dirty with Ms. Welch yet, but from my cursory time with it Celebrations is just what I want from a Florence and the Machine sophomore record. The focus is still on Ms. Welch’s lovely, ethereal vocals, but the group’s penchant for complicated arrangements and truly epic sounding songs hasn’t weakened one bit. “Lover To Lover” is a bluesier number, with a prominent piano part and the kind of singalong chorus Florence has been making in her sleep.

Florence and the Machine – “Lover To Lover”

Coldplay – Hurts Like Heaven

By , October 26, 2011 3:30 pm

I’m not much of a Coldplay fan but damn if this isn’t one of the catchier songs I’ve heard from then. Yes, Chris Martin describes new album Mylo Xyloto as being inspired by “American graffiti, the White Rose movement . . . and [legendary HBO series] the Wire,” but that’s typical grandiose Martin bullshit and “Hurts Like Heaven” is just good old fashioned pop music.

Coldplay – “Hurts Like Heaven”

Thrice – Anthology

By , September 7, 2011 10:00 am

I’ve never been a particularly huge Thrice fan, but ever since 2007-2008′s Alchemy Index project, a brilliant conversion of the band’s post-hardcore sound into a sonic adventurousness that expressed almost perfectly the four elements of fire, water, air and earth, I’ve grown to like their new tack. Much of this has to do with frontman Dustin Kensrue, who has slowly but surely put his vocal rootsiness and folk tendencies into practice, no so more than on new album Major/Minor. “Anthology” retains Thrice’s instrumental creativity with the more classic direction they began with the Alchemy Index, and it’s another success for a band becoming less a post-hardcore outfit and more a good old-fashioned rock band.

Thrice – “Anthology”

Wugazi – Sleep Rules Everything Around Me

By , July 14, 2011 10:00 am

Coolest mashup idea I’ve heard in a while coming from two Midwestern producers, mixing choice songs from punk/hardcore legends Fugazi with classic Wu-Tang Clan tracks, similar to wait what’s Biggie vs. the xx project from last year. “Sleep Rules Everything Around Me” takes Fugazi’s acoustic “I’m So Tired” from the Instrument soundtrack and throws it under “C.R.E.A.M.” It’s a great take on two huge groups and the way the tracks meld together is fairly astonishing. Download the whole album for free at the band’s website or just click the link below.

Wugazi – “Sleep Rules Everything Around Me”

http://bit.ly/olPPtZ

Gomez – I Will Take You There

By , June 22, 2011 11:00 am

Five bandmates, four songwriters, three singers, one 1998 Mercury Music Prize – Gomez have always been uncommonly creative and different, a versatile approach that amazingly hasn’t broken up the band yet. Indeed, seventh album Whatever’s On Your Mind, released yesterday, boasts the same genre-switching blend of styles and vocalists that has defined their increasingly poppy sound over the years. It’s not as wire-to-wire strong as previous efforts, but songs like the trippy, horn-y “I Will Take You There” still cement them as one of the more adventurous veteran BritPop bands.

Gomez – “I Will Take You There”

Arctic Monkeys – Library Pictures

By , June 8, 2011 11:00 am

Aside from the ill-advised title, Suck It and See has the Arctic Monkeys getting back to the frantic alternative/punk/BritPop of debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not. In other words, it’s pretty damn good and far more vibrant than the band’s lackluster third album Humbug. “Library Pictures” is the bounciest track here, roaring along a hyper riff before floating along a deceiving bridge before walloping you back again with the chorus.

Arctic Monkeys – “Library Pictures”

The Strokes – Take It Or Leave It

By , April 19, 2011 8:00 am

Best set at Coachella 2011, no contest. Angles might be hit-or-miss, but never let it be said that the Strokes aren’t a world-class rock band. They absolutely killed every song they played, closing with this old gem. Full Coachella report coming up later in the week…

The Strokes – “Take It Or Leave It”

The Strokes – Angles

By , March 17, 2011 11:37 am

The Strokes – Angles

RCA 2011

Rating: 6/10

 

Let’s just look at this whole “angles” thing for a second. The big idea circling this record is its totally collaborative nature: this is the most boldly Julian Casablancas has stressed that he is not the Stroke but one of five, to the point where the album has even been named after its group mentality and the guy to explain that to us was Albert Hammond, Jr., who until now sort of felt like Casablanca’s second-in-command simply because he had two solo albums and a jewfro under his belt. And I guess, also, because he was the second Stroke to get a writing credit with “Automatic Stop,” a track that slotted right into the band’s canon on Room on Fire, shuffling along unnoticed after “Reptillia” injected some venom into the aftermath of their debut. Angles, however, is said by Hammond to come “from five different people,” and while Hammond’s a good start, that’s a whole lot of writing credits.

But those of us who haven’t recognised the song-writing assets of these other Strokes understate how much Casablancas has, perhaps less pointedly, welcomed his friends in the past. Valensi, Fraiture and Moretti all had their own places on the latter half of First Impressions of Earth, and the record went downhill for it: critics told us “Ask Me Anything” was the Strokes’ worst song ever, bemoaned the repetitive, gloomy “Killing Lies” and sort of just downright ignored “Evening Sun.” Instead they talked about the songs that frontloaded the record, three singles in all, and made the point that the spirit waned as Casablancas did. So it’s kind of admirable that Angles brings these guys back, one record after that ‘disaster’, one by one, five approaches in all.

So Angles is very much an album made for a story. First Impressions of Earth dangled The Strokes off the edge in a way that Room on Fire refused to do and its reception was lukewarm in a way that you wouldn’t normally expect from fans and critics alike- no cheering for their ambitious moment, instead cries that this wasn’t where the Strokes should go (or, rather, they shouldn’t go too far from Is This It?) with their music. Angles, then, not only has to apologise for First Impressions, it also has to do it by being inherently characteristic of the Strokes. All five of them.

And in that way, it fails: this isn’t just ‘a return to basics’ because it is pointed so many different ways, and the Strokes only used to point towards one. Is This It? offered eleven near-identical tracks of garage-pop, a few chords thrown into each one for rhythm and an occasional smoky solo to break up the choruses. Angles is so-called because it carries five people’s worth of ideas. Compare Valensi’s “Machu Picchu,” which sounds like the Clash should’ve in the ‘80s, with Fraiture’s grungy, sinister “You’re So Right,” the exact song you’d expect the guy behind “Killing Lies” to create: it has none of what we’d recognise from the Strokes, none of the guitar interplay which Hammond and Valensi would normally cook up together, which is why it takes us aback as much as it does. And then look at “Metabolism,” a track more suited to the evil fucks behind “Heart In A Cage.” And then remember that “Games,” electro-pop as cute as anything from Casablanca’s smooth solo album, also features. Nope, this isn’t “Last Nite” another ten times.

That might get you down. Angles might well be the same old Strokes on the inside, but it’s the shine on the outside that makes them almost unrecognisable at times. This is the first time the Strokes feel really, truly impenetrable. They come from a distance on “Two Kinds of Happiness,” which feels obscure, produced in such a way that makes it kind of hard to grasp at the guys who made it: it fades in and out, builds to momentous, ever-building choruses, and plays that trick to its death. “Games,” too, feels like a Strokes number specifically deconstructed into the opposite, the guitar replaced for a synthesized sound that does the same job, but without that home comfort, without those chords, with efficient drum machines instead of the slick Moretti. That last guitar bit just reminds us who it is we’re listening to, and how at home they usually make us feel. Not that it’s bad for these guys to challenge us, but Angles is so diverse that “Games” is almost a mistake rectified by the uncompromisingly Strokes-y “Gratisfaction.”

For those of us sort of wondering if the Strokes would still be for us ten years on, it plays heavily on what we saw in them anyway. Did we see five guys in jackets who made those bouncy songs that were probably about sex (as if we were listening to lyrics)? Or did we see a little more in them than that, be it the music or the words or just the sadder tones they carried with the weight of growing up? In short, what the hell is Angles to us- is it the first/second record or the third?

To which the answer is all of the above and more. There’s obviously no room for “Games” on any of those records, because the Strokes never wrote the soundtrack to Q-Bert before now. But there’s obviously a place for “Under Cover of Darkness” to rest on Is This It?, a track that rolls about with the persona of a showy, silly rock-group just like the Strokes were at the turn of the millennium. It’s an achievement, eleven years on, that each member is on the same page, perhaps not in terms of what music they like (as the record as a whole is, yeah, it’s out of whack at its best), but in terms of how well they know each other. “Under Cover of Darkness” is seamless work from its collaborators and boundless fun for the fans who’ll love it for its hooks and embrace it for what Casablanca calls its “cheesy” storyline. There’s a lot of fun to be had with Angles, be it as a throwback or as the jump off the edge where First Impressions was too scared.

And, then, in final breath moment, there’s “Life Is Simple in the Moonlight,” a track penned by Casablancas in solidarity, which throws us straight off again. If anything, this track takes up the foundations First Impressions left, making a full product of the drunken, late-night “15 Minutes,” treading the same waters in which Casablancas battles sadness with celebration. Neither is definitive: the record finishes with those rollicking, playful cries of “don’t try and stop me!” but the build-up is so pensive, so First Impression Strokes. With “Life Is Simple,” Angles ends in a horribly frustrating manner, with none of the assurance of “Take it or Leave It” or “Red Light.” No, Angles, even in ending with its strongest song, dies the way it lived: in sheer ambiguity. Forget the ‘return to basics’: the promise the Strokes made true on was that whole “angles” thing. Vintage Strokes, newer Strokes, Strokes from the future, and each member of the Strokes. And so the question really remains, among all this confusion: which angle do you like best?

 

The Strokes – “Gratisfaction”

Free Energy – Dark Trance

By , August 12, 2010 8:00 am

If there’s a better summer record for 2010 than Free Energy’s Stuck on Nothing, I haven’t found it. Just a damn shame it was released all the way back in March…but that’s what blogs are for. Song and album best played with top down and road trip commenced.

Free Energy – “Dark Trance”

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