Sunday, 24 February 2008

Monday Memory

Inspired entirely by alliteration, I think I'm going to make Monday a day for taking a trip back (way back) in time. The goal will be to unearth the perfectly resting corpse of tunes that formed my musical starting points and have stuck in my memory for some reason or another. It may dredge up some good tunes from time to time but beware! There will also be some criminal listening in here, of which I refuse to be ashamed!! We all started somewhere and I know everyone bought the Bartman single at some point in the early '90's......just say it was for your little brother or something, yeah?! Back to the subject at hand and the only logical place for me to start is with Dog Eat Dog. Before even setting off, I can say there was nothing cool about these boys, from what I remember. They were white boys with a line in good time almost-core. I think they actually later labelled it funcore, although that might be doing them a disservice as perhaps it was something from the mags (not like Kerrang! now, is it?).

My overriding memory is that I had a tape of 'All Boro Kings' and Offspring's 'Smash' that I just wore down throughout 1995. This mainly occurred on our school German exchange trip as we coached it through France, Belgium, and into good ol' Deutschland. It took damn ages to get there but I was perfectly happy with a shitty old tape player and the (then) entirely new sound of serrated guitars mixing with half-rapped lyrics and saxophone weaving in and out of the tunes. 'No Fronts' and 'Who's the King?' in particular stick in the mind and epitomise a time of basically enjoying good times, cheap beer (Faxe....BIIIG cans, small liver!) and first forays into heavier music........much more seminal bands were to come but Dog Eat Dog were definitely my first album purchase and example of listening something to death, so unsurprisingly they have a special place in my rhythmic heart.

Still going to this day, as far as I can see, and having released the fair to middling 'Walk With Me' last year, they still have the mission statement to "kick this just for fun" which essentially sums up the whole discography. Unashamed good time music without limits, fronts, tricks........or, indeed, soapbox politics.

The one, the only, NO FRONTS.

ISMS video - All over MTV when it still played music videos....get a fill of those lyrics. I know the hand moves to those, oh yes.

Now playing: Dog Eat Dog - Rocky
via FoxyTunes

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

REVIEW: British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?

On the face of it, Brighton's (why does that slightly camp, otherwise nondescript seaside town seem to be the epicentre of British rock.....? I digress) British Sea Power should be one of those 'difficult' listens, taking time to wind their way into your skull with the subtle variations in their sound and lyrical asides. On past releases they've covered everything from Russian literature to serenading disintegrating ice shelves, which doesn't point to chart bothering fare in any way you might approach it. To a certain extent this rings true on their 2003 debut, the anti-prophetic 'The Decline of British Sea Power', which is all jagged guitar work and avant-something vigour. 2005's 'Open Season' was an unashamed work of immediate beauty, though, retaining all the lyrical inquisition of the debut but utilising Yan's airy, naturally emotive vocals and enveloping them in smooth, intricate guitar lines. This created my album of that year both for the immediacy but also the consistent returns from the depths offered on each repeat listen.

So against that backdrop, not to mention the slow-burning but enjoyable 'Krankenhaus?' ep of late last year, BSP were set to be one of my immediate faves for early 2008 dominance. Whilst I've come back multiple times for sure, I'm still a bit stuck with 'Do You Like Rock Music?'. The title itself is something of an empty quandary. Rarely do BSP seem to be aiming at irony in their material, so unless the question is aimed at themselves and very inward-focused, it feels quite removed from the songs inside. To wit.......there are some corkers. 'Down on the Ground' is pure BSP with uplifting waves of rhythm and an easy, lilting vocal.
'Waving Flags' departs into more melodramatic territory than was familiar on 'Open Season' but feels like a powerful statement of intent against unchecked identity crises. 'No Lucifer'

So far so good then, yes? Good songs crossing best bits of both albums, right? What's there to complain about? Why are you asking so many questions??? That title gets to you after a while. The thing is, it doesn't feel entirely coherent. Where as the last album was consistently beautiful throughout, regardless of the subject matter, this one feels more wide-ranging and you find yourself skipping to tracks that previously caught your ear. Not filler, really, more a case of which BSP you wish to listen to at this particular moment. It could be that I have the last one up on a pedestal, as to be honest I've only delved into their debut a limited number of times too, but even then I felt compelled to stay with it for the long haul and explore. Here I could stick on shuffle mode and not feel any different about the flow of the songs.

That distraction excepted, I am enjoying the individual songs and still feel confident this will be up there with the best of them this year. Unfortunately, though, it won't scale the sun kissed, lush green peaks of its immediate predecessor and perhaps always had too much to live up to. So the answer is yes, but next time if you could focus on the track listing as closely as the rhetorical genre unification that would be great boys. Cheers!

8.25 / 10

Listen: 'Down on the Ground'

Avoid the decline of British Sea that bad boy:
Rough Trade Shoppe

Now playing: Menomena - Wet And Rusting
via FoxyTunes

Mixing It Up

Monday, 18 February 2008

Brit? POP!

Damnation, now it's TWO weeks since a post.......this is wrong, very wrong. I'm blaming work again. It takes over my mind through the day, keeps hold of it for a few hours afterwards, then finally lets go but leaves me incapable of much more than consuming either TV or my beloved tunes. Productivity is often out of the question. Must. Reset. Priorities.....! So this is a quick one just to pimp up a couple of fresh young Brit bands that deserve some words. The first are local peddlers of spazzed out electronica, Indica Ritual. I've yet to catch these neon Scouse beasts live but their reputation precedes them. Check out the off-kilter, madcap keyboard fuzz of 'Trade Show' here for an introduction. If you're in the Liverpool area these geezers have plenty of shows coming up in February/March, so join me in finally making the effort to catch a gig.

The next are Blood Red Shoes, a lad-lass duo from Brighton who make far more noise than two people ought to be able. Looking at the press pics you'd assume a simple, quietish indie/folk combo but the tunes race across urgent and catchy indie numbers to plain pounding rock. They've only been around a couple of years, with the earlier stuff being the more alt-rock side of things and more recent efforts bringing out a catchier but no less dynamic element. You can find lots of earlier stuff for free on their website, this one being well recommended. Then traverse onto their new single which came out just two weeks ago. The requisite UK toilet tour is also coming up in April, so get out there and see their thang if you dig the tunes.

That's it for now. In the pipeline I have reviews for new British Sea Power and Black Mountain finally sorted in my head, just needing to form them into (semi) coherent sentences up in here now. There's also some big love coming for Darkest Hour for simply slaying the nights as I'm wandering home after a long day. Not right now, it's all about the kip! Zzzzzzzzzzzz........

Monday, 4 February 2008

Post Metal Relaxation Therapy

Damn, time flies and it definitely doesn't seem like a week between posts. Nonetheless, things have been rather busy and writing has fallen by the wayside for a number of days. Somehow the gym managed to squeeze in the weekly quota, though, which has now taken its toll on my (aching) muscles. Pity party.

Anyway, that combined with Saturday drinking, combined with late night for the Superbowl made Monday something of a horrendous exercise in exhaustion. Odd, then, that a 'post' metal band with lumbering riffs and elephantine drumming is the source of salvation against the latest 'case of the Mondays'. Minsk have been bubbling away with me for a while, though, and I think it's finally hit home just how massive their sound is. Not to mention how soothing a 14 minute long metal epic can be after a long day.

So this is really just a quick, random throw out for a band who rock as hard and heavy as Mastodon but inject a more apocalyptic, expansive approach to the songs in a way that Pelican did on their earlier material. Probably more towards the Neurosis side of the spectrum, if Pelican are at the other end, the only contemporaries I could compare them to would be Russian Circles, who have that similar talent to hold your attention with heavy riffing past the 7 minute mark. They released 'Out of a Center Which Is Neither Dead Nor Alive' in 2005 on At a Loss Recordings, then shifted to our good friends at Relapse for 2007's 'The Ritual Fires of Abandonment'. I have to admit to missing the latter but it is making up for list time now, having pushed me back to complete the former album via emusic and give them both a good hammering.

This type of music always takes a good while to sink into the synapses and allow you to fully understand where it's heading, but unusually Minsk also make an immediate impact with the pure scope of the songs. Highly recommended and, as ever, the geniuses at good labels realise that giving us access to some free music will help introduce us to the band, so have a check and buy the good stuff if you diggit:

Now playing: Minsk - Three Hours
via FoxyTunes