Tag Archives: Assessment

Album Review: Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

Elbow - The Seldom Seen KidI’ve never really listened to Elbow before, but having heard the lead single off their new full player The Seldom Seen Kid I was genuinely impressed. Grounds for Divorce, with it’s bottle banging, anthemic chorus and vocalist Guy Garvey’s darkly slick sense of humor as he talks about the virtues of the divorce. This wasn’t the Elbow I had heard about in the past, and it seemed like they’d changed pitches and started playing a completely different sport whatsoever.

So, I picked the album up hoping for some more of this gloomy swagger that had burst out onto the likes of MTV. Opening track Starlings didn’t quite give me what I was hoping for, with a collection of airy ahh’s and plinky plonky pianos that are suddenly torn apart by a regal blare of trumpets. Perhaps the band are trying to announce some kind of royal return? The song remains very understated, with Garvey’s husky voice taking center stage.

One thing that Elbow can be commended on with their fourth release is the variation in instrumentation and sound they play about with. Clearly having the time and freedom to record in their own studio space (the aptly named Elbow Rooms) has given them the confidence to play about with different instruments and dynamics. Furthermore it makes a change to hear a chart album that isn’t one constant volume of attention grabbing noise. There are quiet parts, such as the myriad journey taken through the end of The Bones of You which sounds sparse, but remains quite filling, sort of like fairy cakes.

Elbow

This is the band’s fourth release, following Leaders of the Free World.

Unfortunately for me, the rest of the album couldn’t quite match the sheer enjoyment in their lead single. For the most part it’s soft and full of ballads that just aren’t as fun as the reckless attitude of Grounds for Divorce. In this respect, the album’s twelve tracks (including the secret track, which despite being listed on the back of the album wouldn’t show up in my media player, which I categorically hate) have a tendency to drag on a little bit, and to be honest it’s all a bit wishy washy.

However, on the plus side the experiments with guitar sounds and string arrangements prove interesting, and I have to admit I find Garvey’s singing voice absolutely spot on perfect. It’s a shame the band didn’t explore their rockier nature as I feel they could have a lot more success if they followed it through, but at the end of the day this isn’t a terrible album and certainly worth a listen if you enjoy the mellower side of the indie rush.

Opinion: Video Killed the Hip Hop Star

I’m going to go off on a bit of a tangent with this article, mainly because it’s a non-issue that has bugged me for some time. I personally haave never really considered music videos important to the music industry, and I’m beginning to believe that the industry itself is beginning to share this opinion, with the likes of mainstream channels such as MTV devoting most of their airtime to reality shows that go a long way to suggest the lack of brains evident in Americans.

But I’m not going to talk about music videos generally today, instead I’ve got a bone to pick with the trend for rap and hip-hop artists who merely use the video as a vehicle to give the impression that they are irresistable to women, loaded with money and proper ‘ard. I’m talking harder than Grant Mitchell from Eastenders, who to this day still remains one of the hardest men ever born, much harder than that celebrity sell out Chuck Norris.

I kind of touched on this a little bit earlier in my Five of the Best feature when I confessed my hate for Fiddy Cents. Two offer my two cents (haha) I think the man is an inbred idiot devoid of any talent or humilty, and what angers me even more are the mindless tools who accept what spouts out of his mouth as music. But before I get carried away and make this an assaination on Mr Cent’s persona, let me reluctantly drag things back to the point – when did music videos just become an excuse for artists to strut around women juggling their oversized breasts and wobbling their full moon arses? Do musicians just need the video as some form of self affirment of their status?

I think to be fair I’m coming at this from the wrong angle. I’m a bit of a critic when it comes to pop/R’n’B/rap/hip hop music, as I don’t really see it as a valid type of music compared to stuff that actually raises questions, or even answers them. I’ve never been able to think about that kind of music in the same way I would spend hours analysing and delving myself into say, a Pink Floyd song or even a Tool one if I’m feeling particularly bullshitty. The idea of a man talking fast about his ho’s and his bling just doesn’t do anything for me, and it’s such a tired idea that has been repeated ad nauseum.

Jurassic 5

Concrete streets: Jurassic 5 remained down to earth and damn good to boot.

The thing is, I know that there is good hip hop and rap stuff out there. One of my favourite summer bands is Jurassic 5, who kept an irrepressable funk about them, whilst dealing with subject matter that didn’t revolve around how many women had licked their lollipops. I can even go some way to appreciating Eminem for his sickly sinister storytelling and the fact that he’s one of the few white guys out there who can show the predominantly black rap community that whitey’s can do it just as good.

Anyway, the point is that all this arse jiggling and bling business needs to stop, and if The Game or Fiddy don’t start considering issues and problems other than their dicks and guns then rap is likely to remain in a turgid bowl of mediocrity and poo. Is it any wonder the kids that listen to this stuff turn out the way they do?

Heard It Yet?: Battles – Mirrored

Mirrored

Artist: Battles
Album: Mirrored
Label: Warp Records
Released: 2007

Battles have always been a band that has intrigued me. Having been introduced to them with their collection of EP’s (Tras, B EP and EP C) I found their song writing to be very powerful, and yet couldn’t help but feel that I was listening to a band who hadn’t quite reached their potential. But it looks like all that has changed with debut full length, Mirrored. Continue reading Heard It Yet?: Battles – Mirrored

Opinion: Old Bands New Again

The Police. Rage Against The Machine. My Bloody Valentine. Stone Temple Pilots. Even the Spice Girls. It would seem that the last year has seen an influx of old bands deciding that retired life just doesn’t do it for them, and have decided to lean upon the crutch of their older legends and restart their careers. The vast amount of reunions that seem to be popping up all over the place is the subject of this article. Well, I say article – I mean rant.

I was gutted when RATM split up. Well, that’s not really true, but I certainly felt like I was missing out on something when I got into them soon after they’d called it a day and gone their seperate ways. But when I heard the news of Audioslave’s split, and the subsequent rumours that abounded on the internet concerning a possible reunion of the revolutionary quartet, I took to the hype with a sense of dissapointment, and certainly never grew as excited as I thought I would be.

Rage Against The Machine

RATM: Political protest sell outs.

I think the main problem here is the clear matter of money. The lyrics Zach de la Rocha wrote around ten years ago, about freedom and fighting the man all seem contradictory when you consider that RATM have just become another group who have given into the temptation a financially lucrative comeback tour can offer. Since the band came back to Coachella just over a year ago, they have been touring all over the place, and are now set to play a load of new festivals this year which are set to be a nice little money spinner.

But they aren’t the only ones doing it, and I think my biggest concern with this desire to see old bands reforms is that it asks the question – are we finding new music just can’t replace these bygone eras of music, or is new music just shit compared to what there used to be? Furthermore, are artists just now announcing their retirement tours as a money grabbing concept, then coming back in a blaze of glory a few years later to top up the coffers? I think the trouble is that peopel are more than willing to see these old legends come back in the vain hope that they will be able to experience what they may have initially missed out on.

Money

It’s sad to have to say this, but realistically this stuff is what makes the world go round.

But for me, seeing bands such as RATM reform almost turns me off them completely. I went from being so excited just by listening to their live album, to finding the music now has lost a lot of its passion now that I’m really aware of the money grabbing nature of the men in the band, which I think is a great tragedy for any band or music venture. The big question to the artists is this – are you willing to sell out your ideals for a quick buck? Unfortunately, you can bet your house that most will say yes.

Heard It Yet?: Reuben – In Nothing We Trust

Reuben

Artist: Reuben
Album: In Nothing We Trust
Label: Hideous Records
Released: 2007

The first time I heard Reuben I decided there and then that I hated everything and anything about them. ‘Nobody Loves You Like I Do‘, my introduction to the trio from Aldershot, was one of the worst songs I’d ever heard – dull, insipid and with lyrics that almost caused me to crap out of my mouth in a Cartman-esque fashion.

But things have changed, and last year Reuben released an album deserving of all the attention it got, finally allowing them to leave their much publicised full time jubs down the local chippy. ‘In Continue reading Heard It Yet?: Reuben – In Nothing We Trust

Opinion – Nine Inch Nails: Whores or Scores?

I’ve always kind of struggled to see what’s so incredible about Nine Inch Nails. I mean, I don’t find Trent Reznor‘s music painful to listen to, but I’ve never really seen what so many people seem to find in it. And then when I do like something he comes out with, like the relatively anthem heavy ‘With Teeth‘ in 2005, it would seem that what I like is his poorest work to date.

But recently I’ve been giving the band a lot more of my time, encouraged by Reznor‘s selfless devotion to pleasing his fans and testing the mettle of the music industry since NIN and Interscope reached the end of their contractual obligations. He did it again this week, releasing another new album, The Slip’, out of nowhere completely free. It’s a brilliantly brave idea and one that at the moment I am struggling to get my head around.

The Slip Album Art

The free download of The Slip comes with a .pdf with album artwork.

Despite Radiohead’s internet release that even today still has people shouting a slew of compliments about them, it really has been Reznor who has taken the fight to the labels and is really pushing the boundaries to see just what happens when you go full out on experiements like these. A little earlier this year Reznor released Ghosts’ as both a free download (for only the first nine tracks) and offered alternate versions which involved payment, but saw you getting in excess of forty tracks of music.

Now, I think it’s bloody brilliant that someone like Reznor is doing something as groundbreaking as this. But I do have just one problem with it all, and that’s the question of whether what he is releasing is actually worth anything. To the die hard NIN fan, anything Reznor touches (including the Trent produced Saul Williams album, Niggy Tardust) is gold in their eyes, but to the average music fan is he proving that such proliference is beneficial or just a matter of throwing out half baked ideas that dilute the overall quality of an artist’s discography.

Nine Inch Nails in the studio recording The Slip

Reznor is a master of the internet, using it to entice and tease his fans. He also understands the usefullness of distribution methods such as .torrents.

It’s really an issue that has me in two minds. Personally I’ve found the new stuff Reznor has put out to be quite enjoyable so far, despite the sparseness of the ‘Ghosts’ soundscapes album. But I’m left wondering if all this is set to be as groundbreaking as Reznor believes it should be, or if people are just going to begin ignoring his output due to it’s consistency and risk of similarity.

I think at the moment, Reznor is just reaching the peak of the idea. The novelty is still there, and people are still intrigued to hear what he has on offer. Whether he is set to prove that this method of releasing albums is a viable way for the future is yet to be seen, but as it stands at the moment I hope that the experiment continues, and Reznore shows the record companies whom he despises so much where to shove it.

Opinion – Musicians and Politicians

The worlds of musicians and politicians are ones that should be kept entirely separate, and yet it would seem that both parties have a fascination for each other. Politicians, the people who hold true power and yet are usually cursed or hated by the people they control and musicians, the people who more often than not use their position as a popular figure in society to shout off about how they would improve the world if they were in charge. It would seem the two different spectrum’s are obsessed about swapping sides.

This editorial comes just after Roger Waters‘ (ex-Pink Floyd, current money grabbing bastard) headline slot at the Coachella music festival, where during his performance thousands of leaflets supporting American presidential candidate Barack Obama were dropped upon the crowd in an effort to rally support for the politician.

I’ve never quite understood this – why would a musician want to actively support and campaign on behalf of a politician who, for the most part, stands against the morals that said artist has imbued into all of his or her work? In Animals‘, Pink Floyd‘s 1977 follow up to Wish You Were Here‘, Waters‘ lyrics likened the ruthless leaders of the world to pigs – greedy, selfish and with no mercy. However, now Waters‘ uses the iconic floating pig as a mere tool in the propaganda war for a man who, for all his charisma and charm, is likely to inherit a country that is to blame for many of the greatest tragedies we’ve seen.

The iconic pig flying over crowds at Coachella

The underside of the pig was adorned with pro-Obama imagery – using a classic British icon as another tool in the monotonous campaign trail of US presidential candidates.

As a musical artist, you have a certain amount of influence and power that no politician could ever hope to achieve. People listen to your words, people shape their lives around your music and your morals, and people, just like the sheep in Animals, need someone to look up to and follow. So why you would abuse this position of influence to promote a political race that already burns up money and resources that would be better spent on other, more important, things?

The only justification I can put forward for such unashamed free advertising is the senseless belief that offering your support to such a cause is either a pitiful attempt at encouraging others to improve the world via another man, or more likely the inevitable shock tactics of a musician who has for years struggled to gain anyone’s popularity or respect for his past actions.

There are other examples, such as the bandwagon jumping of the last presidential race that saw the likes of R.E.M and Pearl Jam leap at the chance to support John Kerry in his bid to beat Bush, but this recent example just seems a step too far, with Waters‘ selling out what little integrity he had left after the disastrous split of Pink Floyd to get in another American man’s good books. Just like the dogs in ‘Animals’, the cutthroat businessmen, Waters‘ has sold his soul to America.