Tuesday, 20 April 2010

The Spotted Ant #4

Waaaaaaay overdue, I know. I've been no busier than normal, but there has been a lengthy PC-tidy-up of late so I just never got round to it even though I put it together a while back.

I'll summarise the goods this time round: Top new tunes from Goldfrapp, New Young Pony Club and White Wizzard; Some classics from Judas Priest, Soft Cell and Robyn; the token cover is Carter USM's take on immortal Pet Shop Boys, and a fantastic remix of an already top Metric track.

Carry On!

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Battle of Trafalgar. Series 2.

Rain, they said, and they were right. I may have avoided the rain if I had left when intended, but it didn't happen. Half an hour behind schedule and the intended forecast rang true. The umbrella helped, but the Reebok trainers, bought on impulse from an Oxford Street "Sports Direct" for eighteen quid three years before for the purpose of gym exercise, were a bit ragged and prone to leakage. Richard was waiting at the station, just as one useful train was pulling away. Not a problem, the intended one should still get us to The Big Smoke in time. Even when three minutes late.

It occurred to me on the train that mentioning "ninja stars" and "the full Arnie" may have had some of the more conservative types lucky enough to be sitting down, sending frantic text messages to a useful 999 text service. As it was, we were beneath their notice, being the bequiffed and bearded oiks that we were. Lord knows what the twenty-something yuppies thought as they munched on their prawn sandwiches, gleefully looking forward to the yacht roadshow in Putney. Fuck 'em.

As it was, we arrived on my estimated schedule and the three-stop trip underground would get us to our destination well on time. But I'm a creature of habit, and I headed straight to the wrong line, with my trusting friend putting his ill-advised faith in my normally assured route-making. One stop later at the Green Park, and my error hit me. It was fine, an exit and quick jog would still result in punctuality. And it did, thank goodness, but my pride took an embarrassing hit.

With the rain now stopped, we mingled amongst our fellow brethren. The standard attire was there - camo gear, hoodies, band tee shirts, daft sunglasses, a viking helmet, a skimpy Christmas dress on some bloke. This all paled into comparison when I noticed the man on the ledge. This was not the day for a sermon. It wasn't right. I felt like warning him, but he made his choice. He would have to live with it.

Photo - Alexander Dick

Then he arrived, our very own Cyrus. His name to most was Stuart, sometimes Mike, but Cyrus seemed appropriate when considering his success at bringing us all together...and with his upcoming demise. He made his speech, everyone was rapt, and then...the wave of noise. The second Battle of Trafalgar.

It was glorious. The might of an army, with one sole aim. No weapon was spared, guns, grenades, throwing knives, AK47s, flamethrowers, The Force. The lot.

Photo: Mark Richardson

No one was spared.

Photo - Tom Jones

Photo - Tom Jones

By the end...devastation.

Photo - Becky Sadler

I wondered how it looked to those around who could just stand and watch, powerless, except to note its place in history. Especially when I realised my demise was captured, after a brave and staggering last stand with red rucksack still intact, as I met the eyes of the soldier with the red mane, and we finished it once and for all. At 25 seconds to be precise:

Up close, I can only imagine the horror...

But this is nothing new. Some have seen it all before. They know when help is beyond the injured and barren...

Photo: Mark Richardson

It as the end, and I especially felt for the one who fell in the water, the water you don't go anywhere near. But ultimately, I felt for myself as I lay in agony, having landed on the ninja stars I bloody well forgot to use...

Everyone then regenerated and went to the pub. Or shopping. I bought Secret Wars toys. Woop!

NOTE: I've borrowed some photos and Youtube vids, and they're credited where possible. Thanks for it, but if you don't want me to us them, let me know. There's plenty more vids on Youtube. Go see.

A big thanks to Stuart, who organised it, with more big thanks to Simon, Nick, Edgar, Jessica and Mark. Couldn't have done it without you.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Spotted Ant #3

It's that time of the month, folks. Well, that time again anyway. As I can't guarantee one every fortnight, I've realised that two a month is certainly do-able. No excuse not to.

Highlights? All of it, really, but Lamb of God, Nitzer Ebb and Depeche Mode get an inclusion for some top live shows this month, as do Between the Buried and Me, who also supply the SA's token cover version. Some classics from Accept, The Distillers and The Beloved. Add some great new tracks from Beach House, Massive Attack and The Dillinger Escape Plan and 'tis really an awesome show.

Look, I've even done a crappy poster for it!

Yes Sir, I can boogie!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Album Review: HADOUKEN! - For The Masses (EMI)

Brave move, that album title. Evidently, there's something for everyone within this opus, unlike the riot that was their debut Music for an Accelerated Culture - a rabid mix of rave, grime, rock, rap, digi-synth pop, more rave etc - that likely had anyone over the age of thirty running a mile. A Technicolour attack of all the most exciting bits of electronic music from the last three decades, and with all the songwriting nous to apply it to. If anyone had enough in the armoury to burn the tag line "difficult second album", it's this lot.

Things certainly start off well enough on opener Rebirth, including an opening segment that wouldn't be out of place on a Sisters of Mercy album! This bodes well as a sign that the band are continuing to evolve, but the album slowly reveals that this isn't the case. The band do sound bigger, bolder, more confident, but they appear to have lost that vibrancy and excitement that made the first album such a rush to listen to. It feels like the band are recognising the need to "mature"and not playing to their strengths in doing so. While the '90s-rave-inspired beat and lyrical method change slightly on each track, the dynamics does not. Tracks such as Turn The Lights Out and Mic Check contain their own build-ups and path to a killer climax, but they don't happen. It's as the album continues that you realise the biggest crime is a lack of hooks and memorable choruses. Evil does do the latter but the rest of the track suffers from the sins mentioned earlier.

It's only towards the end of the album that things take an obvious turn for the better. Bombshock serves up a molotov mix of aggressive rapping, grimy guitars and a core drum loop that reassures you that they can still do what they do best, but it also feels like the track's superiority is exaggerated by what came before. Play The Night manages to combine all their good points to an epic feel while closer Lost is a lesson in how to do atmospheric rave. It's reassuring, but as far as the album is concerned, a bit too late.

There's no denying that Hadouken! are growing up and evolving - an obvious sign is that most tracks don't seem to be inspired by a different episode of "Skins", but it does seem to have come with a price. No-one wants a repeat of the first album, especially if you're closer to 30 than 20, but the core strengths of that killer debut seem to have been forgotten. The third album will certainly be the decider.


Monday, 8 February 2010

The Spotted Ant #2

Yup, I'm keeping this up, although I still owe this blog a couple of album reviews. A week off should allow this. He says confidently before life happens.

The second Spotify playlist I've knocked up has a bit of a birthday feel to it as I hit the big 3-0 this week. Sadly, I couldn't find the theme to "Thirtysomething" on it otheriwse I would've added it for comic/ridiculous effect. Most artists this time are those I've seen on or around birthdays in past years. At The Drive-In's presence represents a rather memorable 21st in which me and my friends got rather drunk and met forgotten chart-rockers The Dum Dums outside the venue. Messy night, and At The Drive In's last, if I remember. Lostprophets, as well as being personal favourites, always seem to tour around this time of year for a new album, which is handy. I saw Municipal Waste last week. They fucked me up.

Elsewhere, Terrorvision's cover of Dave Clark Five's Glad All Over is a tribute to Crystal Palace FC's inspired "fuck you" to their penalised entry into administration. They may even get near the play-offs again at this rate. Special AKA's live version of Too Much Too Young was number one when I was born. If ever there was a sign of having credible music taste for life, that was it. Current faves from Hot Chip, Pnau and Fan Death are also present.


3 COLOURS RED - Paralyse
HOT CHIP - One Life Stand
SPECIAL AKA - Too Much Too Young (live)
LOSTPROPHETS - Five is a Four Letter Word
GOLDBLADE - Black Elvis
CAKE - Short Skirt/Long Jacket
GRINDERMAN - No Pussy Blues
MEGADETH - Tornado of Souls
FAN DEATH - Cannibal
TERRORVISON - Glad All Over (Dave Clark Five cover)
GAMA BOMB - Zombi Brew
PNAU - Embrace (ft Ladyhawke)
AT THE DRIVE-IN - One Armed Scissor
MARILYN MANSON - Antichrist Superstar
MUNICIPAL WASTE - Unleash the Bastards

Sunday, 24 January 2010

The Spotted Ant #1

One thing I notice folk tend to on blogs is cobble together little playlist files of tracks and link to a storage site. Great stuff, but I've decided to take a different tack for a couple of reasons: a) I want to encourage folk to sign up to and use Spotify where possible, and b) I ended up getting 3(!) DMCA takedowns for my Top 10 of 2009, so I don't want to push my luck. I'm not even a Hype Machine listed music blogger. Tsk.

So if you have Spotify, then you'll want to keep an eye out for "The Spotted Ant" posts as I'll be a sharing a playlist fortnightly or so. Nothing overly special, just an hour of tracks that I'm digging at the time, past and present. Of course, I am limited by official releases so I can't add anything until it's a released single at the earliest, but it's worth a go. Think of it like a radio show but without me wittering on between songs. Just here.

I'll post the link and also show the playlist here so you can decide whether or not to bother...

Enjoy the first one.

The Spotted Ant #1

MINISTRY - Stigmata
CONVERGE - Reap What You Sow
CRYSTAL CASTLES - Crimewave (Crystal Castles vs Health)
YEASAYER - Ambling Alp
MEW - The Zookeeper's Boy
KLAXONS - Atlantis to Interzone
BEHEMOTH - Ov Fire and Void
NEW ORDER - Mr Disco
SOUNDGARDEN - Hands All Over
CANCER BATS - Agenda Suicide (The Faint cover)

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Album Review: LOSTPROPHETS - The Betrayed (Visible Noise)

I bet you forgot about them. For quite some time, the Welsh wonders were all over the UK rock press, being all arrogant and "American" and cocky and trendy and all sorts of things that confused pretty much everyone who had actually met them. No doubt there were many sniggers and "told you so's" when stories of the fourth album's initial sessions being scrapped because the band simply weren't happy with them. Prima Donnas, clearly. Or possibly because they wanted to have a decent crack at the thing entirely by themselves. After all, it's not like they didn't have a band member in bassist Stuart Richardson who wasn't able to handle production duties themselves.

It certainly starts off confidently. If It Wasn't For Hate, We'd be Dead by Now strides in on the kind of drum loop that Trent Reznor wanted to copyright before a towering hook rolls thing along swiftly. Dstryr/Dstryr then wallops you round the chops into oblivion. It's four-and-a-half-minutes of relentless riffery complete with an anthemic chorus and hook, a calm before the moshing storm and a bit of shred too. It also becomes one of the best things they've done pretty much immediately. We then cut to the singles one-two of It's Not the End of the World... and Where We Belong, both of which give superb chorus. Next Stop Atro City then bursts through waving their Metal! baton and serves up a bit of double-pedal too.

In comparison, the second half of the record is far less frenetic, but no less pleasing. The likes of A Better Nothing and Darkest Blue both represent a particular epic approach to the "pop-rock" manual that the boyos can claim as their own, while Dirty Little Heart is centred around a classic '8os keyboard line that could easily have fit onto the soundtrack of any John Hughes movie. It then becomes obvious as the record continues that the band have realised what they're genuinely good at and focused on simply making it better. The aforementioned Dstryr/Dstryr is Start Something's Burn Burn, but hooked up to South Wales' premier grid. Where We Belong is Liberation Transmission's Rooftops, but instead of gingerly waving the "Classic Rock" trophy around with shy caution, it holds it aloft with fervent majesty while shouting "It's mine, mine I tell you!".

As expected from what is essentially a solo effort, it's not perfect. For He's a Jolly Good Felon links a nifty New Wave riff and organ to a chorus that is pretty forgettable, while Streets of Nowhere seems to have the mantra "token happy pop song" stamped on it. As a pop song, it's pretty good, but it doesn't seem to fit with what's around it. If anything, it's a great little b-side. There also seems to be an omission of their interpretation of "the quieter ballad" which they were getting rather good at. It's frequently hinted at, but it's only when you get to atmospheric closer The Light That Shines Twice As Bright... that you realise there hasn't been an obvious let-up in the overall pace of the record.

Still, one thing is for certain - this is undeniably and 100% a Lostprophets album. It's even got plenty of that sampling digital doo-hickery between tracks that was missing on their last effort, and that's a good thing. The band built a reputation as a great live band not just for their performance, but their on-stage banter and larking about which always exclaimed "we are bloody well loving this". After previous efforts were limited by budget, a producer's trademarked drum sound and the odd necessary compromise, The Betrayed sounds like the album that Lostprophets have always wanted to make, and the boyos have come up trumps.


Sunday, 3 January 2010

Albums of the year 2009 "From Years Gone By"

This blog should be bleeding obvious in its title. There's a whole world of music out there from the past to be discovered. Here's what I stumbled upon that tickled a lot of my fancy in 2009:

10) THE AUTEURS - New Wave (Hut, 1993)

Vocalist Luke Haines recently wrote a book about Britpop-come-autobiography. It was very good so I listened to his old band's first album. That was also rather good, and I then wondered why they were never that big in the mid-1990s. Then I remember Luke saying in "Bad Vibes" it's because everyone listened to Suede instead. D'oh.

9) THE SMITHS - Strangeways, Here We Come (Rough Trade, 1987)

As a swansong, you can't complain. Veering from jaunty to fey to the somewhat overwraught, Morrissey lets it all out one last time before ditching the "hangers-on". That it also contains some of Johnny Marr's finest riffs as well is an added bonus.

8) NEW ORDER - Technique (Factory, 1989)

Even though they were never that "rock 'n' roll", the Mancs had one of the harshest rides in music. The tragic end to their preceding band Joy Division; The record-breaking single; The funding of a historic nightlcub that never made any money at all; Still, they recorded some classics along the way, thank goodness, and Technique is probably "the one".

7 ) MANIC STREET PREACHERS - Gold Against The Soul (Columbia, 1993)

Big whoops. There I was focusing on the acclaimed likes of debut Generation Terrorists and immortally scathing The Holy Bible and I practically ignored the frequently maligned album in- between, only to find out it was actually rather unfairly maligned. Maybe it doesn't have as many great tracks as other albums, but history now proves it to be a shiny vibrant rock gem as opposed to the corporate cock-suck it was made out to be at the time by some. Idiots.

6) TUBEWAY ARMY - Replicas (Beggars Banquet, 1979)

Young Gary was jamming with his so-so punk rock band one day and started dicking about with a synthesizer that some muso geek had left behind in the studio. Awesome then followed.

5) ROCKET FROM THE CRYPT - RFTC (Interscope, 1998)

Rocket From The Crypt were the best Rock 'n' Roll band in the world to never have a Number 1 hit. They were never huge, and for this reason alone, human society should hang its collective head in shame.

4) DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS - Searching For The Young Soul Rebels (EMI, 1980)

Weddings and cheesy nightclubs have a lot to answer for, ensuring that most people will only ever remember a great band's "big hit", and maybe even think of said band as a "One Hit Wonder". This is unacceptable. Searching... was the Northern Soul debut from Dexys that precede Come on Eileen by two years. It included the marvellous single Geno as well as justified classics Tell Me When My Light Turns Green and There There My Dear. Listen to it. Dance. Feel Good. Pass it On.

3) VITALIC - Ok Cowboy (Citizen, 2005)

When folk consider what the French are good at, they normally think of the obvious: Red Wine; Kissing; Revolutions; Whimsical movies about benevolent cafe-workers...but no-one ever thinks of synthesized pop, unless they know what they're talking about. Pascal Arbez is up there with Jean-Michel Jarre and Air in conjuring up pure magic with the keyboard, as well as keeping plenty of variety in the mix. No track sounds the same and the whole thing effortlessly flows. From the Motorcycle digital Metal of My Friend Dario through the analogue stutter of Repair Machines to the introverted pulse of Trahison. A ruddy pleasure from start to finish.

2) THE KNIFE - Silent Shout (Rabid, 2006)

It's entirely feasible that Swedish sibling duo The Knife are actually from another planet. There's plenty of electronica out there, but no-one sounds as damn unique as these two. Silent Shout doesn't follow the same blueprint as previous effort Deep Cuts and was probably conjured up during a field trip to the Astral Plane. Iincredibly inhuman and intensely gratifying, when the restrained chill-out likes of Forest Families and The Captain get the adrenaline rushing as much as the extra-terrestrial pop of We Share Our Mothers' Health, you know the world is so very right in parts.

1) CRYSTAL CASTLES - Crystal Castles (Last Gang, 2008)

This may set a precedent in future years in that my top album of "years gone by" is only from the previous year and was discovered ever-so-slightly too late. Had I came across this dazzling belter just a month earlier and it would have certainly made my Top 10 of 2008. As it was, no dice, but the praise is understood. Taking digital "nintendo-core" as far as possible without making it unlistenable, Crystal Castles is a shining tribute to the infinite possibilities of what throwaway computer sounds can actually offer the world of music. Courtship Dating (Pop); Air War (Digital Prog); Xxzxcuzx Me (Rave/Heavy/Bleeding Mental); Tell Me What To Swallow (Ambient) and everything else in between. If The Machines really are winning, they're certainly pacifying us well.