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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Bis - The New Transistor Heroes 1997

Rarely, if ever, do I actively dislike an album I've chosen to listen to. Don't get me wrong, if I'm forced to listen to Robbie Williams I'd certainly actively dislike it, to the point where I want to kick the stereo in. But for an album that I've ordered out of my own free will this is a rarity. Having said all this, I really hate 'The New Transistor Heroes'.

I generally like shouty Scottish agit-pop, so why are Bis so annoying?

1) Both singers have voices that grate like fingers scraping down a blackboard. One irritating member in a group is fine; see The Sugarcubes and Rage Against the Machine, but two is overkill.

2) All the songs sound like they were written in Primary school. They are shouty and Scottish, but they are rubbish; level 2c at best.

3) Every song sounds identical to the last and follows the formula; (Boy shout + Girl Shout)*childish voice + immature lyrics + some music in the background = rubbish.

I'm sure they're lovely people and their fans love them, but for the first time on 'Into the Valley..' it's a 0/10. Sorry.


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Jan Pehchan Ho - Mohammed Rafi

Pick of the Week 22 - Mohammed Rafi

Brace yourself for this one. It's oddly rooted in musicals in a Bollywood kind of way. I heard it for the first time in the opening scenes of the film Ghostworld and it's stuck with me ever since. Great dancing, great little Zorro masks and fantastic horn tooting always goes to make a classic song. Admittedly it's best listened to in the context of the film, but it has as distinctly irritating effect on Daughter of Doccortex and almost certainly other members of my family which can only be a good thing.


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet

I'm sad to say that I think The Mars Volta have slightly lost their edge. The first album I ever heard by them - 'Frances the Mute' - took absolutely ages to get into. I hated it for about a month. Then slowly I discovered the overall structure of the album and enjoyed its nuances (and bird tweeting). It is now one of my favourite albums ever. The pain I had to go through is proportionate to the pleasure I get from it now.

'Noctourniquet' is a different kettle of fish entirely. I was into it within a matter of days. I've been listening to it for a while and I still can't hear the musical links betweens the different tracks as I can with their best albums. Granted, it still builds to a climax, but the final song 'Zed and Two Naughts' - despite being the best song on the album - has a fairly standard verse/chorus structure. The chorus never progresses. The first is the same as the last. Plus, it borders dangerously on 'catchy' and 'easy listening'. Not something that The Mars Volta are famous for.

There is a period of about five songs in the middle where everything is quite calm and restrained. In fact, there are far too many slow, quiet numbers. Not to say that they're all bad: 'Trinkets Pale of Moon' is one of the album highlights, with its mixture of low bleepy noises and acoustic guitar noodle-doodling. And there we come to another point: Omar's giddy guitar playing seems to have taken a back seat in quite a few tracks. It's still there, but a lot more restrained and at times seems dominated by synth noises.

I've been listening to previous Mars Volta albums recently and I think that this is their weakest offering. But just as with premium quality telly, such as Farscape, where even the worst episode is way better than anything else, this album is still worthy of your time. (Doccortex will be very pleased that the longest track is only 7 minutes and 26 seconds long. I did say they were losing their edge...)



Sunday, 18 November 2012

Warpaint - The Fool LP

One of the surprises of the year at the 'Into the Valley...' offices is how well Warpaint did in terms of hits when selected as Pick of the Week. There seems no reason why the Los Angeles combo should have risen to become our second most successful post in the history of the blog. So can their debut album 'The Fool' shed any light on their apparent success?

The answer is a resounding no. It's not in anyway catchy or particularly engaging. It should rank up there with PJ Harvey in the dirge stakes, but somehow it isn't a struggle to listen to. In fact it's a relatively enjoyable experience, but I'm not intelligent enough to know why. There's base, drums, guitar, singing and an odd slice of piano; back to basics indie with no frills or affectations. It's possibly more Evlkeith's cup of tea than mine and those intertwined harmonies and complex baselines would probably appeal to the muso in him.

All the tracks blend into one which again is not a criticism, but none are particularly memorable as my favourites. 'Set you arms down' is a typical balance of delicate voice, precise base and then layering in the drums and soaring guitars, with 'Shadows' and 'Baby' following a similar formula. Only 'Undertow' deviates and sounds a little like Nirvana at times.

I'm almost neutral about 'The Fool'. Some days I really enjoy it and on others I flick through all the tracks. If a female, indie version of dirge rockers Tool appeals then check out Warpaint. They may also be ideal if you prefer mild enjoyment to full scale fun, but in a good way.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Brunettes - Small Town Crew

Pick of the Week 21 - The Brunettes

In downtown, scuzzy South Yorkshire we view New Zealand as a cross between Heaven, Utopia and the Lake District. It's the exact antithesis of Barnsley; it's beautiful, sophisticated and cultured. Maybe we view the place through rose coloured glasses, but the music currently produced in the country hardly shatters this dream.

The Brunettes are like a Southern hemisphere version of Belle and Sebastian with New Zealand accents. I love this song for its melancholy singalongability and their other output is equally quirky, quaint and intelligent. Band mates of occasional collaborator Princess Chelsea, they are clearly destined for underground greatness. Videos with oversized people knocking about in cities are always brilliant too, especially when our heroine has the look of an ever so slightly deranged evil pixie (in a positive way).

See the Beastie Boys 'Intergalactic' for the genre defining giant robots/monsters in a city video.


Monday, 12 November 2012

Top 5 Clog Boats


I thought it was about time that we had the obligatory Clog Boat chart, so here we go. Here are five lovely specimens for your eyes to gorge upon.

5. You can probably tell why this one is propping up the chart. It's disturbing on a fundamental level. Small children should not ride around crammed into a small clog boat, dressed in dalmatian skin headgear. On a pool of green sick. You can stick a white dove to the sail if you like, it still doesn't make it acceptable. Let's move on quickly...
4. This looks more like it. A proper wooden clog, nice windmill image - hand-painted, with three masts and rigging. Shame they've been spray painted gold and it's missing the red protective mast topper; that could cause nasty eye-spikage. Why oh why did the owner decide to take a photograph of their beautiful Clog Boat in their dungeon? I'm not interested what seedy masks they wear in their leisure time. They can keep their specialist activities to themselves; Clog Boats and dungeons do not mix. Next.

3. You can tell instantly that this one is aimed more at the Liberace end of the market. Shiny. Sadly, another example of someone not caring for their Clog Boat adequately. Why would anyone take a photo of their Clog Boat when it has a diamond missing, a stained sail and the enamel is chipped of the two romantically entwined lovers? Have it properly restored and then I might have another look. Anyway, it's not even a proper 3D clog. A pristine example would have been higher up the chart, but unfortunately, even with a beautiful fabric background, it's destined for mid-table obscurity.

2. This is so close to Clog Boat perfection. It's got everything you could possibly want: the hand-painted windmill scene on the clog, another hand-painted image on the sail (pity it isn't another Clog Boat), exquisite detailing around the edge of the sails and most importantly, nice tight rigging. When you've got a Clog Boat this great you think that you'd put the effort in and photograph it properly. Nope, slap it on your seventies tan leatherette sofa and snap away. Criminals like this don't deserve a Clog Boat of this quality. Philistines.

1. Here we have it - very nearly the holy grail of Clog Boats. This is in absolute pristine condition and they've actually shown it the love it deserves at the photography stage. Obviously it would benefit from the edge detailing on the sail that number two displayed so proudly but I'll let it off because the owners obviously love their treasured Clog Boat as if it was their own child. This really is tip-top cream of the top drawer crop.

If anyone thinks they have a better specimen take a proper picture of it and leave us a comment. I'm always on the look out for the perfect Clog Boat.


Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Pendulum - In Silico LP

I don't really know what to make of Pendulum. It feels like they threw the kitchen sink at the process of making music. Start with some drum and base, add some hard rock, mix in electro, dubstep, cheesy synths, video game soundtracks and top the whole thing off with a progressive atmosphere akin to the interior of the Mars Volta tour bus after a heavy curry session. And in a similar fashion to mixing all the colours of powder paint in the same palette, the whole thing comes out a bit on the brown side of gorgeous.

Imagine a DJ mixing Goldie, The Chemical Brothers, Muse, Depeche Mode, Rammstein and Erasue so seamlessly that they all appear simultaneously in the same song. It's not necessarily a terrible sound that results, but ultimately it's like playing football on ice; possible, but why bother? There's some enjoyable 'bits' however never enough to make a whole song and everything ends up sounding like Fatboy slim on steroids.

Having said all that, there's a feintly addictive quality to Pendulum. In the same way that motorists find it difficult to avoid rubber-necking at traffic accidents, 'In Silico' provides the sonic equivalent but in a far more pleasurable way. Something in my reptilian brain keeps saying this is great, whereas the remainder of my brain confirms the theory that it's rubbish. 'Different', 'Visions' and 'The Tempest' are the pick of the bunch and would possibly make teenage boys seriously happy.

Having just purchased the Celldweller album I'm a tad worried that it's a similar kettle of fish, but who knows, with a couple of tweaks and less 'ingredients' this rocked up dubstep could be a Bobby Dazzler of a genre. I doubt they care, but I can't say I recommend it.


Friday, 2 November 2012

Rebekka Karijord - Wear it like a Crown

Pick of the Week 20 - Rebekka Karijord

There can't be much to do in Norway other than wander around a forest in your best frock with a spooky child in tow. Luckily when Rebekka tinkles on the piano and opens her mouth beautiful sounds are unleashed on the world. As with all Scandinavian folk music there's a crystal clear purity to her compositions, an innocence and an integrity that permeates whichever environment in which you happen to be listening. 'Wear it Like a Crown' is no exception with the trademark haunting vocals, chilled atmosphere and minimal production making it a Nordic treat for anyone in earshot.