After the rampant filth and manic superlatives of last week’s reviews, this time round there is a fair amount of boot-cooling going on. Good job really, as I am not sure my nerves can stand all the giddy.
Single Of The Week!
Thom Yorke - ‘Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses (Reckoner)’ (XL)
When you think about Thom Yorke - the oddly abstract (and to my mind, slightly distancing) nature of his lyrics and his strange, what’s-the-funny-man-doing-Mummy stage demeanour - it’s a wonder he’s as compelling as he is. But even in the first of the below videothings (what is live, and I hate live videos) - he sort of takes your breath away. Meanwhile, on the actual vinyl (which I believe is what the second video has been recorded from – more of this please) ‘Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses’ is a throbbing menace of a single, which uses his particular brand of wailing to enormously affecting effect, as well as breaking off for the odd bass funk-wobble excursion here and some thudding drums there. I could still have a row with you about how ultimately his records are damnably vague (especially for one so regularly marked-out for being 'political') but I think what Thom specializes in is a feeling of despair – and you don’t need to hear the individual words in order for him to communicate that despair successfully. In any event it’s brilliant, terrifying - a neat reminder of how things are done. Seriously, proper WOW.
Gyratory System - ‘Sea Containers House’ (Angular Recording Corporation)
Presumably named after one of the ugliest architectural abominations on the Thames, ‘Sea Containers House’ immediately reminded me of a quote that makes me smile every time I think of it. I got this second hand, so I could be attributing it to the wrong person, but apparently Andy Kershaw once said that all modern jazz sounded to him like a ‘fire in a zoo’. I don’t think anyone will ever top this as a description for any genre (the elephants hooting! The cacophonous stampede!), and I shall shamelessly appropriate it for my review of Gyratory System. Who are not modern jazz, but who chuck in the sort of mentalist brass noises you’d expect clown horns to make after the circus staff had spent their afternoon-off drinking meths. By far the maddest thing this week – which confirms what I had always suspected - that I am (forgive me) a pop nut masquerading as an indie kid. Also that I cannot be doing with records that do not contain a suspiciously high melodic content. I'm afraid Gyratory System are far too willfully avant-garde for vanilla old me.
Kelpe - ‘Microscope Contents’ (DC Recordings)
I’ve got a bit of a pash on anything on the DC label, what with their thrillingly playful Death Before Distemper comps - all of which are pretty much completely amazing. The one I bought was so good I even used it as part of a mission to bribe this girl I liked to be my friend (presents, particularly well-thought out ones, are very helpful in this regard). Anyway whatdoyouknow it actually worked – giving my new galpal the impression of me as both a) a completely rad, yet slightly obscuro sort of person and b) one who recognises top-level dance music when she hears it (and by extension, that I am not completely square). Then it turns out that my favourite and best song off that comp was in fact by Kelpe (the very sunny ‘Yippee Space Ghost’ (listen on Spotify, here) and now here they are in my pile, and I am all excitement. What I then tried to imagine was how I might explain what Kelpe do to someone who remains unconvinced by songs without words / which do not have guitars on them. And I think it is this. That on the one hand we have dance music, and on the other we have Kelpe, who - if bands were toys - would be the widest, deepest and best-stocked toy-box of wonders. The sort of playful stash that contains not just Kerplunk! but odd little puzzles and noises one can only do justice to by using phonetics (BOSH/KRRNK/NIN/UG); because Kelpe have crayon squiggles on their score. And if they were a classical work based on toys what come to life, they would indeed be dance music's very own Nutcracker - all clockwork wooden toys clonking up against each other before falling over and making you giggle. Thoroughly good-natured dance music, then. Which neither has its head up its own arse, nor is to be found tarting about in a string bikini on the front of a Ministry CD. Wonderful.
Ian Brown - ‘Stellify’ (Polydor)
It’s not that I’ve just got off the bus from Slow School, but I didn’t know what ‘stellify’ meant. So I googled it and found that it means ‘to turn into a star; to cause to appear like a star; to place among the stars, or in heaven.’ All that new gen gathered, I rang my Mum to see if she knew what it meant – she’s got a telescope, so she should bloody well know. And for a moment I thoroughly enjoyed the Knowledge Lording this afforded me, the sheer all-round NRRRRGODMUM*YOU’RESOTHICKFORNOTKNOWINGWHATSTELLIFYMEANS, triumph of it. But then she raised her brows at me (Ma Roby is so good at this you can hear them over the phone ) and told me to go off and write my ‘silly reviews’. I mean really, readers, as if talking about looking things up in the dictionary and then being rude to the woman who gave birth to you when you are meant to be describing a pop single could in ANY WAY be described as silly. So - as I was saying - ‘Stellify’ is brills - it being impossible not to feel love a man who is willing to humiliate himself in a Harry Potter film, just because his bairns are mad about the books. Also: nice brass section.
Anti-Pop Consortium - ‘Volcano’ (Big Dada)
On which the Anti-Pops have come over all Backstreet Boys circa ‘Backstreet’s Back’ – just listen to the meatily colossal, SLAM-SLAM-SLAM vocal stabs of the chorus and tell me I have it wrong. Thing is, this BIGNESS of scope turns out to be no bad thing – perhaps because they are a sort of well-groomed, if slightly stately (by which I mean old – I am trying to be nice because I heart them), alt-hop man-band. Although I think it’s unlikely we’ll ever have a calendar of them in their pants holding up two big tyres. (Doesn’t stop me wishing though.) Aaaaaaanyway, I know it’s very unfair to have favourites in this schoolroom of singles (and I do hope this makes me teacher, cause I am very good at the bossings about), but Beans is my favourite, and he – oh, alright, all of them – sound glorious as ever. ‘Volcano’ is a hoot.
Sergeant - ‘Sunshine’?(Shy Recordings)
If you were going to take any blueprint for your new band, I can completely see how one might be drawn to Merseybeat. It’s an honest sort of jangle – records that aren’t embarrassed about wanting to cheer you up (or make you dance while you’re at it). But it still seems odd that having chosen it, you’d then go and make an unremittingly positive record. Far less that you’d actually call it something like ‘Sunshine’. I mean, in many ways there is nothing wrong with what Sergeant are doing. But if I am allowed, I would like to draw the attention of the jukebox jury to Exhibit A – what is, The La’s. Who, having taken the Mersey mould and bashed the living shit out of it, used the Liverpudlian backbeat as a backdrop for some raging class disgust. And who made a record so unbelievably depressing it is still on the happy pills some 29 years later (you know, despite what the ever-naïve British public thought at the time, ‘There She Goes’ weren’t never an anthem of joy – whether it was about skag or not). So they took the sound, but they switched up the message – do you see? – and I always thought that was heaps more interesting.
Fanfarlo - ‘The Walls Are Coming Down’ (Canvasback/Atlantic)
Listening to Fanfarlo is a bit like being at a model agency party. Once you’ve seen one set of porcelain-taut, impossible cheekbones, you’ve seen them all - and that makes you spoilt. Thing is, it’s not Fanfarlo's fault that after the lush likes of Arcade Fire and my very favourites Beirut, they haven’t a hope of having the same impact. It’s not even fair that I mention it really, but I do so only to illustrate that if records were weeny little men like The Numskulls on a disovery race to the music-responding part of your brainium, Beirut have already stuck the flag in. And it says Beirut on it - so that anyone else who happens to reach the summit will be faced with a sign, what says ‘Beirut’. I SAID IT’S NOT FAIR, BUT I DIDN’T SAY I COULD TAKE IT AWAY - SORRY FANFARLO. Anyhoo, even if your own personal mountain has been conquered by a meddlesome musical Sir Edmund Hillary (I’m continuing with this analogy until you feel sick – do you feel sick yet? - just a bit more, so you really can’t miss it, ok?) – even without all this sneak-thieved thunder, ‘The Walls Are Coming Down’ would still be a TERRIFIC take on Little House on the Prairie - all sepia-tinged brass and autumnal-stringed loveliness. And I wonder if we should all buy it, just because The Industry is so heinously random and utterly unfair. Or perhaps just to shut me up (‘Good IDEA’ – The World.)
Beth Jeans Houghton - 'Hot Toast Vol. 1' (Static Caravan)
A re-pressing for the sold-out EP (from the label with my favourite logo ever) that Beth says is 'about riding the back of stained glass glory towards the war between modern day idiocy and the divine matrix'. I am going to gloss over the fact that this proves definitively why you should never ask musicians to describe their own records, as well as ignoring the quite literally tit-ivating distractions of the video and press shots (I am prompted to wonder what the bearded folkies will make of all this - but I suspect they’re just as likely to be pervs as the rest of us). As it happen, she really needn’t have bothered getting poster paint on her bits (however beau it looks) – because this is a brilliant, brilliant single with a melody so catchy and naturally effervescent I find myself very impressed, possibly even a bit jealous. And I don’t even write songs! So, a quick re-cap for you. Beth Jeans Houghton: nice record, nice ti-FORGIVEMEGERMAINEIKNOWNOTWHATIDO.
Implosion Quintet- ‘I Don’t Hear A Single EP’ (Commodity)
A deeply confusing proposition, young James Baker counts prog, stoner rock and jazz amongst his influences. Now usually press like that - with that triumvirate of genre wrongness - not just jazz, everyone, but stoners AND FUCKING PROG too. Well, that would be enough for my brain to fling its sign to ‘Closed’ before mumbling an excuse about shutting early for a stock take. But - lucky old them! - Implosion Quintet are retrieved from the Reject Pile of Doom at the last minute by their EP title - which is a knowing, cheeky, winking little joy. And secondly, because the EP turns out to be an extraordinarily un-pin-downable, wibble-sound collage - that manage to take in Eastern European folk, H-ACTUAL H-OPERA and soundtrack snippetry. One warning: don’t watch the video (close your eyes, no one’s going to hurt you, readers, I promise. (evil glint)) – because unfortunately while I suspect they had about two pence to make it, it also looks like it. And in any event, music this odd – and oddly cinematic – doesn’t need the storyboard sign-pointing or explanationatory Basil Exposition of a narrative video. Explanationatory, everyone! (Sorry). Sadly not everything on ‘I Don’t Hear A Single’ quite works – and at times/worst there’s the whiffy air of 90s cinematronica about it. But when it’s good, it’s really quite marvellous - sounding very much like a spooky Marie Celeste-style merry-go-round - or at least, one on which the horses have red eyes. Oooo.
EDIT! I have since been informed that the EP is available for nought pence from Implosion Quintet's rather beau website, here. So do give it a swizz.
Metronomy - ‘Not Made For Love EP’ (Because Music)
I get rather worried when I can feel the tendrils of a critical consensus gathering about any band. It’s as if I can feel the weight of positive press bearing down on my keyboard - and that makes me want to bat the band in question away and/or to take an active and irrational dislike to them for no good reason - other than the fact that I am a contrary berk. I am also willing to admit that I always, always love the bands I discover for myself more than the ones that are recommended to me; it makes me feel as if they’re more mine, somehow. And though it would be kind of disgusting to be proud of this sort of knee-jerk-ism, it would also be seriously unjust for me not to admit it’s there. So try to pretend I’ve not said all that as we turn to….Metronomy, who just happen to be 'hotly tipped', 'ones to watch' and all those other dreary, unhelpful epithets. And we’ll take the good news first, because that is the way you should always do it. One: they are a band in the image of Hot Chip - making plaintive, crumpled dance pop which has a dizzying, heady reliance on minor chords. Two: they have a sense of humour - and this is something we often scour the indie kingdom for, but sadly rarely encounter. Three: they have dance routines and I think any band who pay attention to detail in this way are careful; it is evidence of grand scales and big plannings. Four: they wear those wicked-good lights on their chest.
And now for the bad. What they are missing (this is a completely personal response, but I mustn’t tell you otherwise, for it would be very long-nosed) – for me they lack heart and soul in the vocals. Where Alexis Taylor manages to combine his pop smarts with an indecent level of melancholy - and while Metronomy’s sound _is_ brilliant - Joseph Mount’s voice does not make me sad. And I really, really think it should.
Also Out This Week!
Lady Gaga - ‘Love Game’ (Interscope)
It’s the one about the ‘disco stick’, ho-ho. Video here, because obviously the sky would FALL IN and the universe will BREAK if I post it as part of a singles round-up in which I give free publicity to records - some of which I actually hate. sigh
Basshunter - ‘Every Morning' (Hard2Beat)
Quite honestly this man is enough to make a normally-nice girl pull out her copy of Valerie Solanis’ ‘men will wade through rivers of shit’ SCUM manifesto. You know, and TAKE IT ALL SERIOUS AND LITERAL.
Eddie Current Suppression Ring - ‘Which Way To Go’ (Melodic)
Rather good, in an Australian ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ sort of way. Listen at MySpace, here.
The Diogenes Club - 'Do You Know How To Feel It?' (Urban Torque Recordings)
Lethal Bizzle - ‘Going Out Tonight’ (Search And Destroy)
Basement Jaxx feat. Sam Sparro - ‘Feelings Gone’ (XL)
Killa Kela - ‘Everyday’ (100% Records)
Animal Kingdom - ‘Signs & Wonders’ (Warner Music)
Noob & Brodinski – ‘Peanuts Club’ (Turbo Recordings)
The PG-Tips-monkeys-do-Riverdance shenanigans of the videothing are worth a quick swizz.
Wendy is on Twitter, here.