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Wilko Johnson/Roger Daltrey – Going Back Home

I’ll say one thing for this album: it does exactly what it says on the tin. It sounds exactly like you would expect a collaboration between Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey to sound. Even the album title and cover art let us know what we’re getting ourselves in for – that being a trip down memory lane with two veteran musicians.

The cover photos show both men in their younger years, but rather tellingly, the two are never pictured together. Although they are only four years apart in age, they were never truly contemporaries. Daltrey, of course, first made it big in 1965, as the lead singer of The Who – a band then renowned for a punchy sound they called “Maximum R&B”. As the years progressed, like many bands of their era, The Who turned their back on their roots to embrace concept albums and rock operas. So by 1975, the whole music scene was mired in prog and glam, leaving little in the way of straightforward Rhythm ‘n’ Blues. Dr. Feelgood, the band with which Wilko Johnson was guitarist and songwriter, deftly filled this gap in the market. The Feelgoods’ music provided a shot in the arm for the music scene, and were a huge influence on the nascent punk sound.

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The Best of ‘What’s In My Bag?’

Amoeba Music, the famous LA record shop, has a great little web series called What’s In My Bag? They invite well-known people into their store, let them shop around for a while, and then interview them about the albums they chose. It’s basically a non-copyright-infringing version of Desert Island Discs. There’s often a lot of hipster-y posing, but there are a fair few videos where the celeb’s genuine love of music shines through. Here’s a few of the best videos…

Noel Gallagher

Unlike the others on this list, Gallagher’s video is ad hoc. Amoeba didn’t know he was coming; they just saw him in the aisles and ushered him into the green room for this brief but enjoyable video. He’s taking a punt on some artists that are new to him, and some of his choices (Pink Floyd, Can, and David Axelrod) are fairly surprising. Never one to mince words, he guesses that he’ll find a lof of these “shite”. He also gets a Hawkwind album “to see what all the fuss is about”. I don’t think there’s been fuss about Hawkwind for about 40 years.

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Neko Case – The Worse Things Get…

As album titles go, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, doesn’t really inspire confidence. It’s almost Fiona Apple-like length, and reads like a teenager’s Facebook update. Luckily, Neko Case managed to assuage many of my fears about her way with words, right from the opening lines of the first song: “When you catch the light, You look like your mother”.

The album begins in a rather restrained manner, but things kick into gear with the up-tempo “Man”. If you’ve unfamiliar the concept of “Genderfuck”, then this song will give you an excellent primer. With its loud guitars and a Pixies-esque middle-eight, it’s something entirely new from Neko.

Case seems most alive on these fast-paced tracks, such as “Bracing for Sunday”, which is a murder ballad about the killing of an incestuous rapist. So I’m sure the defence would argue for “justifiable homicide ballad”. She has confirmed in an interview that it’s not based on a true story, thank god. “City Swans” is a song that achieves the impossible: it’s a Country/Rock crossover that would be suitable for radio states in both Red and Blue states.

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The Bizarrest Christmas Albums of 2013

That magical season is upon us again… when all the execrable Christmas albums are released. This year has seen festive albums by middle-of-the-road singers, such as Kelly Clarkson and Martina McBride, but also from artists that you might not expect. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the most unlikely Christmas albums of 2013. Have I listened to any of these records? No, of course not.

The Robertson Family – Duck the Halls

For those who don’t know, the Robertsons are the stars of an American reality TV show called Duck Dynasty. They are a salt-of-the-Earth tribe (they’re the guys in the header image), who made a fortune from duck hunting products, and bought themselves a mansion. Quite why they need their own TV series, let alone a spin-off album, I have no idea. It’s an album of standards, including the odious “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, but there are some new tracks, such as “Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Christmas”. That’s soon to be a classic, I’m sure.

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Lady Gaga – ARTPOP Liveblog

Whenever there’s a disaster, there’s always someone liveblogging it; so why not with a disastrous album? Some records don’t warrant several listens and a lot of consideration; your gut reaction to the cavalcade of awfulness is enough. One such record is Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP? I listened the whole damn thing and wrote my reactions as I went along. I did the same for her last album, Mother Monster’s Fame Goblin (or whatever it was called), and I thought it worked pretty well. You don’t need to listen to the album as you read this blog; hopefully it’ll work well enough on its own…

1) Aura

0.15 So far, it sounds like she’s going for a mariachi band sound. Bit of a change of direction, but better than her other stuff.

0.50 Maniacal laughing now. She’s finally cracked. It was bound to happen.

1.15 Ooh, I think that was what the kids call a ‘drop’. Exciting! I think this might be Dubstep.

2.45 [Reading the lyrics sheet] Oh, this song is all about wearing a burqa. She’ll get letters.

3.45 Overall, this sounds like some gawd-awful Balearic club hit that made its way to civilisation.

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Review: Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady

Janelle Monáe’s 2010 album The ArchAndroid was many people’s album of the year, including mine. It was a big seller, and also a remarkable musical achievement in that it seemed to defy categorisation. It appealed to both fans of contemporary R&B and prog-rockers, who aren’t so much warring factions as two alien species unaware of each other’s existence. So, to say that this follow-up album was “much anticipated” is an understatement.

If you only know of Monáe from her kinetic singles, e.g. “Tightrope” and “Cold War”, you might be surprised by how ambitious her longer release are. Her first EP and her two albums are suites (acts) in an overarching story. The narrative centres on an android called Cindi Mayweather, who becomes a sort of robot messiah. Telling a story over multiple releases is an interesting concept, but I challenge anybody to follow the story without resorting to reading the lyrics. I’ve never really been able to follow the plot, but it seems even more difficult to grasp this time around.

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Nicki Minaj Considered (No, really!)

The A.V. Club has a great feature called “Hatesong”, in which a famous person talks about a pop single that really annoys them. This got me thinking about what I would choose if I were well-known enough to be interviewed for this feature. I was having some trouble, but then the repressed memory of Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid Hoe” came crawling back into my mind. If you don’t know of it, you can experience the horror of the video, below.

I still can’t get over what a staggeringly awful “song” it actually is. It’s so asinine that it almost defies analysis, but through the red mist of rage, I’ve written some semi-coherent thoughts about it, and Minaj in general.

The Singer

It’s hard to believe that Minaj is a real person. For starters, she looks entirely CGI, but also her whole career seems feels like a cheap marketing ploy. I’m sure that a few years ago, in the offices of Global-Hyper Records, some middle-aged record executives had the following conversation…

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Ani DiFranco’s Overlooked Classic

Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill is considered by many to be something of a cultural artefact or even a joke, but there’s no denying that it was a huge-selling record. So it’s a source of some irritation to me that there was a much better album released within a month of it that very few people have heard of: Ani DiFranco’s Not a Pretty Girl.

I make the comparison between the two records not simply because both were recorded by forthright North American women, but because they have a similar sound and tone. But I think DiFranco’s songs have much more depth than Alanis’s straightforward tunes. Basically, if Jagged Little Pill is music for Starbucks then this album is music for that cool coffee independent coffee shop that has a name like “Foam.”

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