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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover LP 2007

What is it?
Spencer Krug from Wolf Parade's experimental offshoot project go berserk with complex instrumentation and eccentric wordplay. 

Why should you listen?
It takes a bit of getting used to and on the first couple of listens Random Spirit Lover can sound plodding and self indulgent. But persevere and the subtleties begin to emerge; the frenzied vocals, the fairground organ melodies and native American style big drum beat. It's a surreal mix of clashing instruments, Punch and Judy show delivery and medieval wandering minstrel lyrics. On the right day at the right moment it's just what you need. 

What's it like?
It's like the common room in Batman's Arkham Asylum where someone has provided a big box of musical instruments and the inmates grab them and start improvising. Then the Joker starts to sing...

What's the best song?
"Up on Your Leopard, Upon the End of Your Feral Days" is a suitably full-on, ghost train ride of an introduction to the LP.

Who does it sound like?
No-one really, but reminds me a bit of Syd Barrett.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Gogol Bordello - Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike LP 2005

Sometimes things just don't go to plan. If there was one album I thought I was guaranteed to like this year it was 'Underdog World Strike'. It has all the ingredients: folky shoutiness, Eastern European, gypsy inspired, high octane paced, with a good cover and a decent title. Unfortunately they just don't do it for me.

The songs somehow get caught betwixt and between gypsy and punk genres and the combination just doesn't work with any depth or quality. The whole thing also sounds really false, with the singer's voice so stereotypically Eastern Euro meets the Clash, that it comes across as a parody rather than a genuine juxtaposition. It's the equivalent of those 'mockney' cockney accents put on by middle class groups who want to be 'street' when they are really posh kids from Reading. The icing on the cake is the odd bit of 'ragga' inspired vocal interjection which is just embarrassing.  

The whole concept would be greatly improved by dropping the whole punk/Clash business. It's a proven fact that all groups that sound like the Clash are rubbish, and that includes the Clash themselves. On one hand, Gogol Bordello could make quality bouncy gypsy music which I'm sure would be great, alternatively if they want to go down the fusion of styles route, they would be much better fusing gypsy music with techno, alt-country or synth-pop, then we'd really be cooking on gas.

Apparently they're a different proposition live and put on a sparkling stage show. I'm sure this is the case, but for me the whole idea of Gypsy Punk is fundamentally flawed and I'm going away to listen to some Taraf de Haiduks to calm down.


Saturday, 23 July 2011

Buffalo Tom - All albums from 1988 - 2011

What are they?
Eight albums from Boston based band Buffalo Tom. Not Boston, Lincolnshire. Boston, Massachusetts.
Why should you listen?
Put it this way: if you listen to one Buffalo Tom album and like it, you’ll like them all. In a similar vein to REM, every album is virtually the same with a smattering of cracking songs throughout.
What’s it like?
Quite pleasant guitar based stuff. Sometimes distorted. Sometimes a bit more jingly jangly acoustic based. The songs can be split into two groups. The ‘Bill Janovitz on vocals’ songs and the ‘Chris Colbourn on vocals’ songs. I can put the difference into two easy equations: Bill Janovitz = Bob Mould, Chris Colbourn = Grant Hart. Hüsker Dü fans know exactly what I mean.
What are the best tracks?
Right, here we go. We’ll have the best song from every album starting with the most recent.
Skins (2011)
‘Arise, Watch’ - Quite a gentle one, but it’s got a gorgeous start. The demo version of it is pretty good too. 
Three Easy Pieces (2007)
‘You’ll Never Catch Him’ - Another gentle number. Beautiful song.

Smitten (1998)
‘Scottish Windows’ - Doesn’t sound like the sort of thing I’d like from the first part, but it’s got a great chorus. Smitten  also contains the best Chris Colbourn song, ‘Rachael’.
Sleepy Eyed (1995)
‘Summer’ - Another great anthemic chorus in this one too. When are we going to get to a rockier number?

Big Red Letter Day (1993)
‘Tree House’ - Not exactly rocky but definitely picking up the pace.

 Let Me Come Over (1992)
‘Taillights Fade’ - Back to a slower pace with yet another quality chorus.

Birdbrain (1990)
‘Guy Who Is Me’ - Proper rock. Quality. Distorted and shouty.

Buffalo Tom (1988)
‘Sunflower Suit’ - Right back to where it all started. The first song I ever heard by Buffalo Tom. Instantly liked it and I still love it now. Possibly their best song. Easily their best album too.

Who does it sound like?
Rival schools, The Twilight Singers, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Songlines: Top of the World 76

This is the free CD that arrives every month with Songlines world music magazine and I've got to say I'm surprised at the sheer range and quality of the compilation. There are ten tracks from the best new releases featured in the magazine and then a further five tacks selected by a special guest; in this case Nitin Sawhney.

There are some absolute crackers on the first part of the compilation with Talvin Singh & Niladri Kumar, Alison Krauss and Amine & Hamza all making significant contributions. It's the five tracks selected by Sawhney that are really outstanding though with every selection a winner, even Ojos de Brujo supply a decent track. My two favourites however are the drum & base meets eastern wailing of Ges-E and Osmandi Sounds and the combination of Irish jig and some serious drumming from The Dhol Foundation.

Well worth the price of subscription for the CD alone!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Art Brut - It's a bit complicated LP 2007

What is it?
Berlin based artcore merchants present their second album of part talking/part singing indie monsters.

Why should you listen?
Against my better judgement I really enjoyed this LP. I guess with the arty angle it's supposed to be a bit pretentious, but it somehow manages to avoid this in any way shape or form and the songs are straightforward singalong numbers. Part of the charm of Art Brut is the vocal delivery of frontman Eddie Argos who manages to talk/sing his way through every track in a similar style to the talky bits in Serious Drinking songs. The lyrics range from funny to embarrassing sixth form poetry, but thankfully the latter is in the minority, with 'Direct Hit', 'St. Pauli' and 'Nag, Nag, Nag' all notable successes. You get the feeling there's more in the Art Brut locker but whether that's enough to make me try another album only time will tell. It's fun, but essentially throwaway pop music.

What's it like?
It's like a teenage boy's angst ridden poetry set to a slightly punky soundtrack.

What's the best song?
'Blame it on the Trains' is a typical geek rocking example of their work.

Who does it sound like?
It sounds a little like Serious Drinking, but for some reason they're lumped in with Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Ojos de Brujo - Aocana LP 2009

What is it?
Bacelona based nine piece band Ojos de Brujo combine flamenco, world music and hip hop in an allegedly engaging fusion of styles.

Why should you listen?
Is it just me or are Ojos de Brujo extremely hard work to get in to? All the elements are present to make it something I should instantly like; there's critical acclaim and a general reverence from the world music community, but to be honest I'm just not feeling it. For starters the elements of flamenco seem watered down and lacking in passion, but having said that the castanets are great and the best bit of the whole album. The odd hip hop reference is also luke warm in a middle aged rapper style and sounds more like the Stereo MC's than Lootpack. I'm disappointed really as I thought I'd love the group, but I can't help thinking it's more like a Spanish version of 80's jazz funk stalwarts Shakatak, which incidentally I much prefer. It all goes to show that just because it's labelled world music it's not a guarantee of quality, but maybe I should have gone with 'Bari' as an introduction to the band.  

What's it like?
World music for soulless, middle class people who don't really like music.

What's the best song?
'Tantas Flores' is fairly standard issue but has some great wailing/yodelling to open proceedings. The whole album could do with more yodelling to be honest. 

Who does it sound like?
They are unique in my experience, but as already stated sound uncomfortably like Shakatak.

Plaid - Rest Proof Clockwork LP 1999

It's hard to put into words the sounds Andy Turner and Ed Handley's electronic duo Plaid produce on Rest Proof Clockwork. It's a complex mix of experimental, drum and base, offbeat soundscapes and quirky electronica. At times the tracks are like the soundtrack to a bizarre cartoon world, others are deeper and evoke more cinematic visions, and a few are like jingles produced by Frank Zappa. It's a varied collection but all held together by a certain undeniable Plaid-ness.

Is it any good though? You've got to be in the mood for it and even then some tracks will hit the spot as others fall on stoney ground. Standouts include the spooky calm of 'Dead Sea', the laid back chill of 'Gel Lab' and the cartoon bounce-a-long of 'Dang Spot'. It's not electronic music as we know it  and it doesn't fit into a genre especially easily, but it's vibrant and challenging stuff.

Apparently, Evlkeith tells me they provided the soundtrack to the anime 'Tekkonkinkreet', so I'm going to give it a watch to check out Plaid's contribution. If you're interested, the 'Tekkonkinkreet' review is available on out sister site now, at


Thursday, 7 July 2011

She - Coloris (2008)

What is it?
Chiptune with a more dance based feel. Accessible chiptune you could say. If there is such a thing.
Why should you listen?
I wasn’t going to review this for a while, but I got it for a birthday present and I haven’t stopped listening to it yet. Best album I’ve heard in a long time. Up there with ‘Infected Mushroom’ in terms of quality. As with all ‘She’ albums there are a few duffers, mainly the slower numbers, but the great tracks are really great. ‘Circuit Lover’ could easily be an alternative ‘Outrun’ soundtrack. ‘Gum’ with its pulsing repetitive ending is another standout track. The album even goes into funk territory with ‘Touch and Go’. As with ‘Orion’ this is an album you have to pay for, rather than as a free download from, but it is well worth it.
What’s it like?
Lain Trzaska, basically he is ‘She’, makes so many different types of dance music but they all use 8-bit chiptune sounds in some form or other. Think of C64 game music and they’re the type of sounds used. Add in effects, glitches, filters and quality production values and you get something that definitely sounds different to other music on the market.
What’s the best track?
The title track ‘Coloris’ is a monster. As soon as the opening hook comes in, it is instant love. Played very loud the pleasure does border on pain in certain sections; the helium vocal towards the end being one such instant.
Who does it sound like?
I wish it did sound like someone else really. At a push some tracks sound a bit like Todd Edwards.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Blindside - Silence LP 2002

What is it?
Swedish hardcore and Christian metal 'also rans' provide no nonsense rock blockbusters without any hint of religious undertones.

Why should you listen?
It basically does what it says on the tin; it's a quality hardcore/metal album. After initially flirting with limited Billboard chart success when this was released they have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by drifting into relative obscurity. It's a travesty of justice listening to this LP which possesses powerhouse guitars, melodic vocals and a little early screamo for good luck. Every track is a winner and you can purchase it for a penny on Amazon if you are lucky.  

What's it like?
It's like a really great rock band with no gimmicks, affectations or ambitions to sound like Blink 182.

What's the best song?
"Time will change your heart" is a bit grungy, a bit screamo and not at all Christian.

Who does it sound like?
Like a grown up version of the current crop of Kerrang bands.

Salad - Diminished Clothes 1993

Songs I've been obsessed with...#2

Another song from the 1990's that I couldn't get enough of. Salad were a mysterious indie concoction with singer Marijne van der Vlugt having once been a presenter on MTV Europe and leading to claims at the time that the band were a tad 'manufactured', but who cares? Their other output was variable to say the least but 'Diminished Clothes' is a hypnotic mix of woodwind, percussion and Marijne's spooky voice and lyrics that defy comprehension. What's not to like?