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Saturday, 1 November 2014

Bob - Leave the Straight Life Behind


The year was 1988 when I first heard BOB. It was their first session for John Peel and what a cracker it was, including the classic 'Trousercide'. I set about quickly buying as many Bob records as I could: 'Swag Sack', 'Kirsty' and 'Convenience'. 

Not long after I saw them live in Hull at The Adelphi and it was a smashing do. After that I was completely hooked and I waited for every new release with a sweaty anticipation, buying records from a mail order booklet called Rhythm. The news of a new album, 'Leave the Straight Life Behind', nearly gave me a fatal attack of giddiness. Sadly, it wasn't quite as good as their previous stuff, too well produced. Nevertheless, I saw them again a couple of times live and they were without doubt some of the best popular music concerts that I had the pleasure of going to. Then that was it. No more BOB. Just a little bit, life dimmed.



Until recently, when I was lurking around HMV window shopping and there, there on the CD rack was a brand new pristine copy of 'Leave the Straight Life Behind' on CD. Those old feelings came rushing back. Wait a minute, £15! HMV, you're having a laugh. But then Mrs. evlkeith noticed a number of bonus tracks: all of the five BOB sessions plus four additional songs. New BOB material! 



So why have I got this obsession with BOB? What's so great about them? They are perfect pop. And that's it. Twinkly indie guitars, lead lines played as intervals on the top two strings, a bit of organ and two blokes singing in harmony, one guy with a slight (very slight) hint of gravelly lowness and the other bloke with a lighter tone. Their voices mesh like Heinz tomato soup and cheese. Some ditties are designed purely for dancing and some are more laid back numbers that I always imagine would be great for listening to when lying on warm grass at the end of a summer's day.



Of the new stuff there's nothing that tops their previous classics but still, it's great to hear them. The biggest surprise was a different version of 'Bloodline' that is fast becoming one of my favourites. There's also a BBC Radio Humberside Live Session version of 'Convenience' but it's not as good as the single version. Here's hoping that someone releases all of the other older BOB stuff soon on CD.

If you've never heard any BOB, then dip your toe into their soda streamed poppy waters. You would have to be very harsh of heart to dislike their jingly jangliness.



evlkeith=

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Rise Against – Endgame



Who’d have thought that a band I begrudgingly endured a couple of years ago at Leeds Festival would turn out to be so much fun? It turns out they’re ardent supporters of a range of leftfield and animal rights issues and you can hear the wholesome voice of their protest in all of their songs. It’s undoubtedly an accessible sound more akin to more upbeat Husker Du numbers than the likes of Green Day and as Evlkeith would have it; ‘like Blink 182 but better’. And protest they do with a gaggle of heartfelt, agit pop ditties that warm the cockles of any old cynic’s heart.



‘Endgame’ is somewhat tighter than my previous encounter with Rise Against in the form of ‘The Sufferer and the Witness,’ with a more disciplined sound formed into twelve three minute punk-pop songs. It’s lyrically rich with the usual mix of current issues and observations on the state of modern day America told with machine gun ferocity and passion. Maybe the odd song outstays it’s welcome a little, but in the main the standard of song writing is up well beyond that of contemporaries such as The Foo Fighters or Queens of the Stone Age.


It’s a tough job picking my favourites from this selection as all the tracks are strong, but ‘Architects’ is a stirring call to arms, ‘Disparity by Design’ is a hi-octane dash through the evils of capitalism, and ‘Broken Mirrors’ is a dark rebel song from yester-year. My flip flopping favourites are the adrenaline rush of storming barricades in ‘A Gentleman’s Coup’ and the rousing finale of ‘Endgame’ itself.



It’s another great album from a great band and let’s just hope it’s not their endgame in reality. Hopefully not, as there’s an album pending for this year and the world certainly needs some quality new music. Like Quorn scampi it’s a surprisingly meaty and enjoyable experience from a vegetarian source!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Mesh - Automation Baby



Another Mesh album and you almost know what you’re getting before you listen. Heartfelt synth pop that sounds a bit like Depeche Mode on a good day, and possibly better suited to the German market. If that’s what you’re expecting then you won’t be disappointed by ‘Automation Baby’, however I doubt it will convert any new followers to the Meshsters world of electronica.


If anything this is their most consistent collection since 2009’s ‘A Perfect Solution’ with the trademark passionate vocals, emotive lyrics and possibly some catchier tunes than the standard Mesh offering. It always surprises me that no-one seems interested in the UK, but I suppose they’re in a bit of a niche market and I doubt it worries them. On the plus side it gets them regular reviews at Into the Valley...


Track wise, the standard is high, but ‘You want what’s owed to you’ is especially singalongable, ‘Adjust your Set’ is as near to the standard issue quality Mesh song as is possible and ‘Born to Lie’ is a little more aggressive but equally soulful. Even the obligatory Erasure style ballad ‘You couldn’t see this coming,’ is actually well worth a listen and you will possibly find yourself humming it at inopportune moments like I did.



What more can I say? It’s the usual, above average quality elctro-pop served up in a style somewhere between eighties new romantic electronica and pumped up seedy goth era Depeche Mode. What’s not to like? If the answer to that question is ‘everything’ then avoid all things Mesh and ‘Automation Baby’. If you’re a fan then it’s possibly their second best album behind ‘A Perfect Solution.’


Sunday, 5 October 2014

Melanie C - Top 10

Here at Into the Valley we champion the underdogs, turns that you've most probably never heard of but are worthy of your attention. There is another sub-category that we also love: the has-beens, turns that were once successful but have sadly fallen on hard times (see the obligatory Erasure entries every year in Doccortex's Festive 50 for evidence).

And so we get to Melanie C. Once part of the mega popular cabaret act, The Spice Girls, Mel C is now reduced to publishing her own music to even get it heard by anyone, music that virtually no-one likes. Yet I really like her. She was the only member of The Spice Girls who could actually sing and her distinctive voice was without a doubt the only good thing about them. Apart from two dubious albums (the far too pleasant 'This Time' and the show tunes aberration 'Stages') she's knocked out some quality stuff. To prove it (possibly) here's my top ten Melanie C. tracks:


10. Reason - Reason


9. Last night on Earth - Beautiful Intentions


8. I turn to you - Hex Hector radio Mix - Northern Star


7. Little piece of me - Beautiful Intentions


6. Stupid Game - The Sea


5. Beautiful Intentions - Beautiful Intentions



4. Why - Northern Star


3. Don't need this - Beautiful Intentions


2. Never say never - Beautiful Intentions


1. You'll get yours - Beautiful Intentions

(Album Version)

(Acoustic Version)

(Quality Live Version)

evlkeith

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Phonique featuring Rebecca – Feel What You Want (X-Kom Rework)

Pick of the Week 57 - Phonique


In a cynical attempt to up our blog ratings Phonique are this week’s selection. Sounding like a cross between Electribe 101 and Above and Beyond this is a quality piece of cultured deep house music. The video is another thing altogether and poses lots of questions; what the hell is she doing? Has she never heard of curtains? Or sensible pyjamas? Some nice moves though that I have incorporated into my own dance routines.



Monday, 22 September 2014

Subsoul Compilation – The Soulful Side of Bass Music



Allegedly base can kill. If this is the case then Subsoul’s compilation of ‘upfront and exclusive house, garage and bass music’ could be the smoking gun in several cases of base related murders. It’s a mysterious, underground and distinctly old school mix of vocal deep house with the emphasis squarely on your sub-woofer. It reminds me of those old Todd Edwards mix CD’s if they’d taken steroids to simultaneously beef them up and slow them down. It sounds great on paper but in reality it’s a mixed bag…


As with all ‘mix’ albums in my experience, there’s a handful of great tracks but padded out with acceptable but unremarkable filling fodder. The Subsoul compilation is no different and although the assembled tracks blend seamlessly to form a coherent atmosphere, there’s a distinct lack of real quality on show. The more soulful numbers generally hit the spot but reliance on ‘Ride on Time’ style sequenced vocals in several of the others only served to irritate me and I was soon flicking them.


Worthy of special attention are Wilkinson’s pulsing ‘Take you Higher’, Robin’s urban tinged, bleepy ‘What Ya Wanna Do?’ and Kidnap Kid’s soulful, unctuous vocals on ‘So Close’. Easily the pick of the bunch is the opening track ‘Real’, it’s a near perfect mix of smooth soul and aggressive baseline. If only all the tracks were actual ‘songs’ like this prime offering from Gorgon City.



So another Curate’s Egg of a compilation, but on the upside, it will make you look cool as you cruise round with it on the car stereo at full volume (or maybe not). It’s well worth a listen but there’s always a health warning on these DJ mix disks. Listen with limited expectations and enjoy that base!


Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Geraldine Fibbers – Butch



After the Geraldine Fibbers festive fifty entry this year with ‘Fancy’ I famously stated ‘Where have the Geraldine Fibbers been all my life?’ Sadly, this may have been a little rash on my part. ‘Butch’ is a hotch potch of semi-alt-country soundbites that often don’t quite hang together as songs, let alone as a full album. It’s reminiscent, in spirit anyway, of albums by Sufjan Stevens, Done Lying Down and Guided by Voices. There’s just something  that doesn’t gel.


That’s not always a bad thing, but in this case it is. ‘Butch’ is seriously hard work apart from the way too catchy opener; ‘California Tuffy’ and the dark growl of ‘Toy Box’ which is a cracking little song. The rest just gets flicked.


The Geraldine Fibbers sound much better when the female singer provides the vocals. I’m assuming this is Carla Bozulich and I’d be really keen to hear some of her other work. Apparently she’s been quite a prolific artiste. Maybe it should have been ‘Where has Carla Bozulich been all my life?’ I hope so anyway.


2014 has been a tough year at the Into the Valley office and it’s already the end of April!


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Banco de Gaia – Apollo



Years ago in the early nineties I owned a Banco de Gaia album that I desperately wanted to like. ‘Last Train to Lhasa’ was a vast concept album that charted a mystical train journey, possibly into Tibet. It was ambient, deep and intelligent and even with years of perseverance I could never get into it. In fact it used to drive me a little insane.


Roll on twenty years and Evlkeith has bought me ‘Apollo’; Banco de Gaia’s latest album for Christmas. Surly they’ve moved on musically? Surly I’m deeper, more intelligent and more open to ambience? Well apparently not. Essentially it sounds exactly the same as ‘Last Train to Lhasa’; self indulgent, boring, chugging techno that holds my limited attention for less than five seconds. Unfortunately there’s no train journey theme this time either.


However all is not lost. Sandwiching all that dirgy techno are two outstanding, stark tracks featuring some ethnic yodelling/wailing. It’s atmospheric, beautiful and passionate in contrast to everything else I’ve heard by them. If only they could produce that kind of stuff all the time. ‘Lamentations’ is especially stark and ethereal with ‘Aquiescence’ darker, deeper and more breathy in its hypnotic incantations.



It all goes to show that being a pop star is still a really secure job and as long as you keep peddling the same old rubbish you’ll have a career for life. If only there was more yodelling the world would be a better place.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Anavae – ‘Invaesion’

Pick of the Week 56 – Anavae


Another Paramore sound alike band and even though I’m not too keen on Paramore I quite like their less polished imitators. A London based rock duo featuring  Rebecca Need-Menear and Jamie Finch, Anavae may be headed for mid-table obscurity, but I really like the uncompromising sound and wailing vocals. Creepy animal masks are always fun, but better on wrestlers than pop stars in my opinion.


Monday, 18 August 2014

Jungle


It is very rare that I ever buy anything from HMV. I normally pop in for a look around and see what's new, then go home and order anything I'm after online (one lovely exception was Deep Red that I found a lot cheaper than Amazon). So anyway, I was knocking about in said shop the other night, perusing the anime DVDs when I felt myself having a little dance to something. This is quite good, I thought, vaguely slow but with a nice little groove to it. I carried on past the huge rack of horror films that I can't be bothered to look at any more due to the feeling that the swish covers are hiding cheap low budget useless offerings and moved on to the 5 for £30 blu-ray stand. And again I felt a desire to get those hips wriggling and dance with a shop assistant who sported a bald head/long beard combo. What is this pesky album?



I went to the counter to ask and it took the fellow ages to find out but it turned out to be a new release called 'Jungle' by 'Jungle'. Just 'Jungle'. I left the shop thinking that I'd order it when I got home. But then I thought that this was a bit mean, they had recommended it after all, so I went back and bought it (and - in a fit of impulsiveness - Rise of the Planet of the Apes on blu-ray for £4.99).

Got back to the car and slapped in the new CD. But wait. The outer cardboard sleeve is very lovely. Very minimalist. The case is plain black too. As is the CD. Mmm, nice. Bombing along through town, I turned up the volume and listened to some smooth quality groove based action. My main worry was the level of catchiness.

I know nothing of 'Jungle' and I don't want to look and find out. I have a severe lack of knowledge of popular culture so I don't know whether they are mega popular, whether they were the winners of The X Factor or whether they are the usual kind of no-hopers that we love so much. 

I've given it a while before writing this review to let the dust settle and yep, the catchiness has worked against it. Most of the songs sound very similar, slow, groovy, lots of drum track drop outs but generally pleasant. The bass lines are sometimes good enough to get Bernard Edwards' toes tapping. As with a lot of commercial albums I've heard recently the last four of five songs tail off into tedium as if they think listeners won't get that far so they'll bang all of the rubbish at the end. The highlights are 'Busy Earnin' (which has got single written all over it), 'Time' and 'Julia'. Apart from that they're all much of a muchness. It's still okay, but I am tiring of it all.

Give it a listen, and if you like one you'll probably like them all. Maybe you will find yourself dancing with a tattooed gentleman too.



evlkeith=