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When you get down to it, it’s really very hard to describe something wonderful. The word itself doesn’t make it easy; it sits comfortably amongst ‘fantastic’, ‘amazing’, ‘awesome’ and ‘terrific’ in the pantheon of useless descriptors. Ultimately these words fall flat when you really want to convey what it is that makes something so affecting. This is the problem that faces anyone trying to convey just what it is that makes My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless such a remarkable rock record, arriving in 1991 to be the second and – to date – final record by the Irish four piece. It is one of those records; commercially unsuccessful, critically adored, hugely influential, and inspiring a fierce devotion from those who fall under its spell. It’s a record that’s got something no other has, something that twists and turns when you try and pin it down. Really there’s no way to ‘get it’ other than to hear it, but you’re not going to do that without some motivation, some reason to hunt it down, crank the volume and press play. Pay attention. View full article »

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So I was looking through some drum solos on Letterman’s show following a recommendation by Bill Bruford to check out Gavin Harrison of Porcupine Tree, when I stumble upon this. There are two things that shock me, although in retrospect, neither should. Not only is Justin Bieber actually not a bad drummer, but all of the comments on the video make it out as if he was some pathetic try-hard. Yes yes, Youtube comments are for very silly people, I’m aware. It’s just an interesting universe when he’s disparaged for actually showing a degree of talent whereas a Youtube “drum cover” star like Cobus gets to sell DVDs.

 

If you didn’t know who Justin Bieber was, could you really tell the difference between the two?

Well, ain’t that something. Those wacky young Chili Peppers have finally gone and made something of themselves. Oh sure, they’ve been a few places, seen a few things in their time. They’ve even written some mighty fine music. But with the release of I’m With You (2011), they’ve proved that, underneath all the tattoos and incomprehensible, quasi-spiritual California-isms, they’ve got some real character. It’s a good thing too; things were looking grim there for a while, artistically speaking. The popularity juggernaut that was 2006’s Stadium Arcadium may have scored the boys a bundle of successful singles and awards, but it really represented a low point for the band. Once you got past the likes of ‘Dani California’ and ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’ you were faced with a disgustingly bloated (28 songs over 2 hours) double album where a bland and repetitive production made all the tracks sound boring, regardless of whether they were any good. Combined with the departure of (kinda) long time guitarist John Frusciante, the future of the Chili Peppers was looking uncertain. But then, this is the band that can’t stay still, for better or worse. From their early (criminally ignored) days in the ‘80s as purveyors of so-goofy-its-hardcore funk rock they’ve progressed steadily through near-metal nihilism, Beach-Boys-on-downers, and Stadium Arcadium’s bland-o-rock. Though it is not without the musical and lyrical tics that will always make the Chili Peppers good for a cringe or two, I’m With You reminds us that this is one band that is not afraid of the future.

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Funeral For A Friend

Diverting from his glam, singer-songwriter cliche ever so slightly, Elton John opens up his magnum opus Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by shooting his fans in the face, defecating on their corpses and riding over them with a Harley. Admittedly, Funeral For A Friend isn’t exactly Frank Zappa, but this dramatic, synth-heavy depiction of his future funeral song was not of the same universe as the folky Your Song that brought him to fame. This was Elton locking and loading, refusing to take prisoners, and entreating the worthy remaining few to enjoy a sprawling double album testing his limits.

The song does oddly segue into Love Lies Bleeding, apparently simply because they were both written in the key of A, but it’s not immediately obvious. The tension builds throughout both songs, aided by the muscular guitar that pervades throughout. Elton’s vocals are at his best, and the music jives in the way that only the profoundly camp piano man can make it.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road would go on to be Elton’s best-selling album, most likely due to the fact that Candle in the Wind immediately followed this cathartic rampage. Just don’t expect to see it in any Greatest Hits collection.

Firstly, I encourage you to listen to the song before you read this blog. It’s a bit of an experience. Okay, you’re done? Excellent. View full article »

Remember them? You know, the ones who were like, from England. They had the words by that one main guy, and they were all about going out and drinking and taxis and one of them had the bit about the bouncer. Still nothing? Really? There’s no way you could have forgotten that fast. It was only back in 2006 that Arctic Monkeys were official media darlings, with countless outlets breathlessly repeating the particulars surrounding the release of their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. You can’t have avoided it; there are no doubt Buddhist monks living in the frosty embrace of the Himalayas who, despite their best efforts to pursue a life of contemplation free from the material trappings of the modern world, can still recount to you in some detail that album’s internet-fuelled rise to become the UK’s then highest ever selling debut album. If you were to venture deep into the dark heart of the Amazon you could find – oh, you’re getting something? Yes, the album with the Adam Sandler lookalike on the front. Yes, the ones from England, that’s what I said. So we can be certain that you knew of them once, then. Maybe you listened to their first couple of albums; maybe you even had one of their songs set as your ringtone. But, oh fickle Listening Public, you stopped listening, and you stopped caring, leaving it to people like me (you know the type) to nurture the flame until the inevitable reunion tour of 2030 when you will fork out for tickets and holler for the hits, providing we aren’t all still living with our parents. But why? Why did this happen? What has become of the Arctic Monkeys?

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Reviewing “Head of the Hawk” made me remember this article I had written a year ago on my old blog. Despite a minor bit of editing, I think the article’s point is valid and indicative of what I see as an unfortunate trend in music, in which the playlist is replacing the album.

The more and more I look at it, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that we’re proving rather inept in the transition from LP to CD, despite its invention being a staggering 29 years ago. I’ll admit to being more into the age of the LP than that of the CD, yet what I have been noticing is the tendency for bands to create albums that are longer (not to mention louder, more trebly and with worse production), particularly amongst older rock bands – Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, AC/DC, but it seems to be a rather constant thing.

Having 60 minute records isn’t necessarily a bad thing – time itself is no reasonable judge of a record’s quality. But it’s no small coincidence that some of the better records of the CD era, of roughly 1987-onwards, have generally been less than an hour in length. Look at Appetite for Destruction, Nevermind, OK Computer – indeed all of Radiohead’s albums run for around 50 minutes, and they’re all the better for it. View full article »

I never expected this album to be as good as it is.

But really, when you consider the quality of work on Bluejuice’s second venture, Head of the Hawk, I’m just shocked more people haven’t discovered this album. Well in fact, “Broken Leg” was voted no. 5 in the 2009 Triple J Hottest 100, but the Hottest 100 does have a very particular audience which isn’t necessarily indicative of mainstream opinion. View full article »

Meanwhile

Also in Metal news, Megadeth have announced their new album, titled TH1RT3EN (facepalm.jpg). Actually they announced it a while ago, but interesting to note, it comes out on the same day as Metallica’s album. Did Metallica and Lou Reed want to encourage some ol’ fashioned rivalry? Knowing the two camps, even when they’re supposedly at peace I wouldn’t put it past them. After all, Megadeth stands no chance in any sales race (Metallica has 100 million sales, Megadeth has 20 million). View full article »

Yeah, totally man

I HEAR SYDNEY LIKES IT REALLY HEAVY. YEAH FUEL!

-James Hetfield in Sydney, September 18 2010.

Any song, any song, but why oh why did such an intro warrant Fuel. Don’t even get me started on all his crap about “The Metallica Family” cos “man I hope our music makes you feel good cos it makes us feel good and makes us feel even better knowing people like you get something out of it”. Less talky more shouty. I want to hear you tell me I’m going to be ripped apart by demons/drugs/lightning/the justice system, not welcome me into your Christy family.

In the indispensable words of Otto Mann: “real songs are about deals with the devil, far off lands, and smoke in relation to water”. Not fucking Fuel.

Meanwhile, Metallica’s collaboration with Lou Reed, Lulu, is now seemingly complete and will be in stores by November. While not particularly familiar with Reed asides from Velvet Underground (unlike Diz’s obsession with him), I’m actually looking forward to it. I’m just hoping Lou insists on his production, not Metallica’s. I’m honestly perplexed at how someone as experienced as Rick Rubin can get as bad of a mix as Death Magnetic. Then again, Master of Puppets and And Justice For All are horribly mixed too, so it’s clear that Metallica don’t like the sound of their own instruments.

This is too depressing. Let’s relax by listening to Metallica when they actually sounded good.