Tuesday, May 09, 2006

5 months in.......

What a year 2006 is shaping up to be! Every week it seems there is a new record that is vying to be the best I've heard all year. And it's only May! Arctic Monkeys, Augie March, Tool and now Gomez! how we Operate, the new studio album from the suddenly prolific British 5 piece, follows in the mould of 2005's Split the Difference, but goes another step. Where StD had pop gems (Catch me Up, These 3 Sins, Me, You & Everybody), The Way we Operate has stone cold classics, with some of the catchiest choruses you're ver likely to hear (Notice, See the World, girlshapedlovedrug). And, where StD had a second half of more traditional Gomez meddling with structure and genre (and getting it right and wrong in equal measure), TWWO seems to work, with Eastern strings, horns and fuzz vocals. While Gomez could be accused of going a bit poppy, there seems to be a renewed focus and attention to detail that has been missing somewhat since 2000's Liquid Skin.
Gomez are back.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Art-Rockers rock - Even more!

Tool have, for nearly 15 years, been synonymous with deep, heavy, artistic rock music. All double-kick drums and heavy bass, with cracked time signatures, floating, almost-insane guitar and Maynard James Keenan's deep, threatening vocals, sometimes screaming, sometimes bawling a gutteral yell hovering over the top. But always different. Always looking to change things. 10,000 Days, their latest offering, is no different. But, if possible, they've gone even heavier. Witness the speed-metal riffing and drumming intro to the kick-arse 'Jambi', or the heightened crescendo of 10,000 days (Part 2).
Then, just when you wonder how long they can maintain this kind of intensity, comes 'The Pot', and amazing blend of the aforementioned depp metal/rock and Eastern/Indian raga. It's incredible. And Keenan is in such fine voice, you find yourself questioning whether it's actually him. It stands out as one of Tool's greatest ever songs.
After 16 years and (only) 4 albums, it is refreshing to see that Tool are still capable of the mind-numbing, powerhouse riffing and skin-bashing to match their lyrical and melodic complexity.
When it comes to power-metal, Tool (and perhaps System of a Down) are in a class of their own.

The Hardest Way to Earn an Easy Living

Mike Skinner, aka The Streets, is famous. In a pretty big way. And what do you do when you've spent 4 years rhyming/rapping/singing about the traumas of quasi-poverty in London's north, and you're faced with serious wealth, miders to pay your bills, serve your food and drive your rolls? Complain about it, of course. And Skinner does so with the same brutal honesty seen on 2000's Original Pirate Material and 2003's A Grand Don't Come for Free.
However, where those records were full of bouncing, original, creative garage beats, melodies and guest vocals that were by turns funny and inventive, The Hardest Way... seems to be drowning in a sea of cliche. Suddenly, many of the guest vocalists sound like Montell Jordan, and the beats and loops sound like the same rubbish you might hear on the Rage top 60 on a Saturday morning.
Not only that, but it seems that this wasn't a Skinner idea, as his vocals seem uncomfortable over the top of the music on this record. Painful to say as this is, but perhaps the men in suits have got to The Streets.
So while ranting about the joys of a blatantly materialistic lifestyle on Memento Mori, or mourning the death of his father on Never went to CHurch, Skinner retains his wit and charm, it seems US success has (funnily enough) tainted what was once a thoroughly original artist.