Friday, July 28, 2006

Death by Sexy....Oh Yeah!

Eagles of Death Metal. They're not the Eagles, and they don't play death metal, but they like to rock, and it's sexy as all fuck. They like to root, frequently and imaginatively. Opening with I want you so Hard (Boy's Bad News), they basically re-release the opening track off their previous record, Peace, Love and Death Metal, but amp up the sexification to 11. All falsetto vocals, fast paced, Josh Homme trademark rhythms, and a blistering guitar solo. This is cock rock, circa 2006. Emphasis on the cock. And the rock. Featuring other titles like Don't Speak (I came here to BANG) and I like to Move in the Night, there is only ever one thing on the mind of these Eagles.
And it's awesome. Not since King's of Leon's Aha Shake Heartbreak has a rock record been this steeped in sex. Admittedly, it's lacking the drugs and rock 'n' roll of KoL's effort, but it retains the same Mid-American tight jeans swagger. And speaking of tight jeans, the knowing nod to the Rolling Stone's Sticky Fingers on the cover (or is it giving it the finger?) just adds to the forthrightness of the record.
These guys like to fuck. And they want to tell the world about it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

TV on the Radio on the Stage

Last night I was lucky enough to bear witness to the organised chaos that was TV on the Radio in person. Having been shifted from the Forum to the Hi Fi Bar (I assume due to low ticket sales, no surprise considering the diffcult, avant-garde nature of the music), TVOTR proceeded to try to blow the roof off the place through sheer volume.
This was the dub-oriented, melodic, soulful intricacies of both of TVOTR's previous albums being rocked to within an inch of their lives. And it was awesome.
The jazz fusion/gospel of 'The Wrong Way' was wrenched out of shape to resemble something like At the Drive-In doing rockabilly, 'Dirtywhirl' eased into a flowing groove before exploding in a feedback-drenched explosion of noise.
There is something intrsinsically thrilling about a band that can come up with more than one way to make a song sound great, and even more thrilling to hear that new way in person. The vocals of Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone blended together to create amazing sounds, all the while making the lyrics absolutely unintelligible, yet still strangely mesmerising.

The encore of 'A Method' and 'Staring at the Sun' switched smoothly from vocals/percussion creating a new texture and feeling, to a wailing cacophony, David Sitek powering away on every pedal he could lay a foot to, pummeling the audience with sound.
The greatest compliment one can pay is that as the noise of the final song subsided, the volume in the room didn't change as the rapturous applause of a sold-out HiFi Bar singing the band's praises took over.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Snow Patrol - Eyes Open

A couple of years ago, Snow Patrol, after years of struggling as a Scottish band always hovering around success, broke through with 'Final Straw', one of the absolute gems of 2005. Filled with beauty, paranoia and alienation in equal measure, it was, for many, myself included, the soundtrack to their winter that year. Be it the glitchy pop-rock of 'How to be Dead', the dread-filled 'Somewhere a Clock is Ticking' or the triumphant singalong anthem 'Run', Snow Patrol had married accessible stadiu rock with creative zing and emotional authenticity to hit on a winner. And the public agreed.
And Snow Patrol got a taste for it.
Singer Gary Lightbody ditched co-founder and bass player Mark McLelland, who was keen to continue the push into new waters, recruited a newbie and set about recreating the success, Coldplay-style. And just like Colplay's Chris Martin, Lightbody has certainly got the songwriting chops to back up his actions. It's just that it's so damn SAFE. No risks, nothing seriously personal or introspective. Just rehashed ideas and standard break-up platitudes.
Muscially, this is crafted for stadium success, from the rocking opener, 'Hands Open', to the more sedate duet with Martha Wainwright, 'Set Fire to the Third Bar', this is brimming with radio-friendliness. It's just not original. Parachutes, Coldplay's debut, was hardly innovative, but it was chock full of heart and genuine wonderment at how much fun this music caper was. Very similar to 'Final Straw'. 'Eyes Open' is just like 'X & Y', bland, unimaginative rock for the masses, with the glaring exception of 'Shut your Eyes', a moody, flowing number which stands out on this album like a sore thumb.
A disappointment.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

He hasn't quite disappeared completely

The solo album that isn't. Thom Yorke insists that this is no solo project. Well, sorry Thom, but it is. It's just you. Going SOLO. I understand you don't want to scare fans inot thinking you're breaking up the band, but unless you consider Johnny Greenwood playing a bit of piano, or Nigel Godrich (who else) producing to be collaborative, this is very much a solo album.
And it's a pretty good one. Imagine a Radiohead album without Radiohead. Stupid as it sounds, what you're thinking of is most likely quite close to what we have here: The Eraser contains what are now Yorke's trademark skittering beats, electronic noise and broken time signatures, but actually stops short (mostly) from taking a step into what would be avant-garde, even for Radiohead, with the exception of the disturbing (and disturbed) 'Skip Divided'.
The big difference here, and the thing that truly sets this apart from any of the group's work, is the personal nature of the material. Previously, when Yorke has sung 'you' one tends to imagine he's referring to anyone, speaking in the second person, always making a somewhat rhetorical statement about the sorry state of the world. Here, he's actually speaking directly to (apparently) a very specific person. When, on album highlight 'Black Swan' he mumbles 'Do yourself a favour and pack your bags', it actually sounds like a relationship song. A rocky one nonetheless, as evidenced by the chorus 'Cause this is fucked up, fucked up'.
It's always so refreshing to hear a singer capable of swearing in song without resorting to cliche.
'Harrowdown Hill', the location of the suicide of Dr David Kelly, the British intelligence specialist is a deeply moving portrait of a man contemplating ending it all, over a scratchy, almost funky bassline. And 'Atoms for Peace' finds Yorke's vocals at possibly their sweetest ever.
The Eraser always feels ready to pack up its bags and leave, but hangs around, forlornly, but still there. And it's the brief flashes of hope that seem to shine through each song that make this a gem. If you like Radiohead post-OK computer, you'll like The Eraser, but don't expect it to make you smile.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Black Holes and Revelations

I think Mel Gibson's new movie, 'Apocalypto' stole it's title from Muse. For if ever there was a title for a Muse record, that was it.
The closing track on Muse's new record, 'Black Holes and Revelations' is entitled 'Knights of Cydonia'. It opens up, before the intro, with the sounds of galloping horses and laser fire. Seriously. This is Muse, 2006-style. Flying in the face of the current in vogue notion of 'keeping it real', Muse defiantly look to the stratosphere and beyond. Black Holes (Supermassive ones at that), other universes, futuristic knights, it's all here. And it's here HUGE. Like everything Muse have ever done, they embrace their overblown pretenses with a vigour that is as admirable as it is impressive.
Opener, 'Take a Bow' is all fire-and-brimstone anti-incumbent-government diatribe, with intergalactic overtones. Following straight after is 'Starlight', which may be Muse's first ever straight-out love song, with intergalactic overtones. 'Supermassive Black Hole', is three minutes of Muse giving the finger to Rogue Traders, TV Rock and BodyRockers. All sexy rhythms, falsetto vocals and pumping, thrust your hips guitar. With intergalactic overtones. 'Invincible' is a big, triumphant, marching-band produciton, all uplifting lyrics and high, soaring guitar noise. Suddenly, in it's place is the best 80's cock-rockin' finger-tapping guitar solo this side of Def Leppard. Muse sure know how to close out a song. However, no intergalactic-ness here. But the highlight has to be "Assassin", where Muse decide that, just for one song, they'll do thrash metal. And how. Blistering drum work and painfully fast fretting leaves you exhausted after nearly 4 minutes. I don't know what they're singing about, but I assume there's some intergalactic overtones to it.
Muse, with this, their fourth LP, have fully established themselves as one of the most exciting, interesting and imaginative bands in the world. It's a shame Mel forced them to change the title of the record (the current one's still pretty good), but never has Armageddon and insanity seemed this exhilirating, or fun.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Of late, I've been indulging in my love of 70's funk. Not your soft core, kind of bouncy with a backbeat cool of James Brown 'Sex Machine' era (which is still cool), but more the wear-nappies-on-stage, funk yourself into oblivion, funk-as-a-way-of-life mania! In other words, P-Funk.
Parliament-Funkadelic, one band made of two bands, over 50 musicians, one message. The Funk.

It really began with Eddie Hazels 9 minute guitar solo on the opening, title track of 1971's 'Maggot Brain'. Legend has it that frontman George Clinton told Hazel to 'play like yo' momma just died', and the result was pressed to vinyl. Clinton had the good sense to move any other band members way into the background and let the wailing solo do the talking. Maggot Brain set the standard, switching from barber shop to gospel to more rock, but always with the funk in the foreground.
but P-Funk really kicked into gear with Parliament's 'Mothership Connection', possibly the only record ever to wear the label of pure funk. There is no rock, no soul, no gospel. This is funk as it only could be. Also providing Parliament with their biggest single, "Give up tha Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucka)" the album cover sports Clinton wearing thigh length silver boots and spaceman costume, spreadeagle from the door of a flying saucer. And that's about as close a representation of the music within as a photo could get.
Standing on the Verge of Getting it On" is the best funk-rock until Rage Against the Machine took funk and tore it a new arsehole, while "One Nation Under a Groove" is P-Funk at its danceable best.
No matter the occasion, funk is the music that anyone can listen to and not complain about. It is universal, danceable and groovy.
This is one back catalogue you need to have.

TV on the Radio

Firstly, one of the coolest band names going around.
TV on the radio are one of those bands I always heard about but had never heard any music, so never got around to buying their records, then, about a year ago, in an impulsive rush, I picked up their 2004 debut, 'Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes' (again, what a great title), and whacked it on the stereo.
Immediately I was assulted by 'The Wrong Way' and it's neveau-jazz tenor saxophone cacophony over a one-note bassline that can only be described as 'driving'. With broken-time drum loops, fuzz guitar, and potent political lyrics ("your guns are pointing the wrong way"), I instantly fell in love.

Rock music as avant-garde and original as this is rarely any good, and even more rarely finds its way from New York to the backwaters of Australia, but here they are. And we're richer for it.
'Dreams', the first single, with it's dub-heavy percussion and dreamy guitars (I think they are guitars) reminds the listener that it's not all totally weird rock/dub/electronica/gospel/blues, but retains a melodic intensity that shines through all but the most proggy wig-out.
The highpoint comes about half way, with 'Poppy', which for one third of it's 6 minute length is a soaring, triumphant, guitar-driven (it's definitely a guitar this time) rock epic, sounding like The Strokes, with enormous testicles, and less need to be danceable. But then, about 2 miuntes in, the song shifts gear into an amazing acapella doo-wop version of the same song. It's nothing short of incredible.
TV on the radio have captured the artistic integrity and creative spirit of bands like Yes, Mogwai, and even a bit of King Crimson, distilled it, and brought it screaming into the now. It's terrific.

Which brings me to the new record, 'Return to Cookie Mountain'. If 'DY,BB' opener, 'The Wrong Way' was difficult, then 'I Was a Lover' is positively impossible. Dischordant strings float over 'Pyramid Song'-style drum patterns, with the occasional sound of the CD skipping. Lyrics are there, but you can't quite see where they fit. And then, and second beat kicks in, skittering in under the radar, and suddenly the song gels. And probably not the first time you hear it. This is song making of the highest order.
However, the album never quite follows through on the promise to be even zanier than the debut, and thankfully, the band pull it off with aplomb. Hours, with it's humming Hammond organ and high vocals, sets a high precedent for accessible art-rock, followed by the Bowie-esque 'Province' which funnily enough features a backing vocal by the man himself. It is a testament to the confidence of TVotR that, even when the services of such a luminary are available, he is relegated to a muffled backing vocal.
'Wolf Like Me' is pounding hyper-rock, and 'Dirtywhirl' sounds exactly as it's title should.

10/10 for both records.

PS - I will be seeing these guys at the forum on July 23rd, so expect a report on what will hopefully be a great show.