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ARCADE FIRE - NEON BIBLE
by Andrew Vaughan
I bought Arcade Fire's album 'Funeral' in Piccadilly Records, on spec, as I liked the cover. I'd never heard of them - just thought it looked odd and I'd give it a go. And boy did I give it a go. The swoops of violins and the tunes. The fucking tunes! The album of 2005.
A couple of years on and they are back with their second album. More conventional than their mournful death-laden chaotic debut but still it stirs the bones Hallelujah tugs the heartstrings and makes you jump up and down. The strings, the synths, the brass and Win Butler's voice this time sweep through the church. They are no longer at the graveside but sat (or rather dancing) in the pews whilst all the time having a go attacking the pillar of US society that is religion. Gospel voices echo around the stone walls, voices call for attention from the bottom of deep wells while there is a great black wave in the middle of the sea. And then out of nowhere "Bruce Springsteen" appears!
It is more bombastic than 'Funeral' as each song reaches a tumultuous crescendo. Speeding, rushing onwards to the END. Every instrument known to man appears somewhere along the line as the melodies crash into the void. You can't help joining in with these Montreal geniuses as TV and America get what religion got.
You can buy this bleak but beautiful album in Tesco - who'd have thought it two years ago? Soon every hotel room will have a copy of 'Neon Bible' in the bedside cabinet and we can all say Hallelujah to that
AMY WINEHOUSE – CARLING ACADEMY LIVERPOOL
by Andrew Vaughan
She is our favourite female Brit and she is top of the pops. She is the tabloid’s belle de jour and she is not the cat’s mother but Amy Winehouse. Miss Amy Winehouse, if you don’t mind and her ‘Back to Black’ celebratory tour sees her and “her boys” sashay into a packed and sweaty Liverpool Academy.
The tightness and professionalism of the band initially only highlights the fact that Amy is still a young fragile girl as she is lost in the spotlight for the first four or five songs. It’s all a bit one-paced and the big voice is hiding beneath the big hair. But when she slows it down, takes another swig of JD and Coke and introduces the band members and plays the sublime ‘Back to Black’ she hits all the right spots. While she jokes about the condensation dripping from the roof it is more of a surprise that the roof is still on the building such is the tumultuous applause that greets this and every subsequent song.
And what songs: While the debut album album ‘Frank’ acted as a showcase for a precocious talent ‘Black’ is her album. The killer songs, ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’, ‘Love Is A Losing Game’, ‘You Know I’m No Good’, ‘Me and Mr Jones’ and of course ‘Rehab’ are tonight belted out with gusto and real SOUL. With the audience in her hands and the horns, keys, guitars and drums moving the feet of 1200 hardy souls the final 40 minutes are as good as it gets. Back for a rousing encore including Toots & The Maytalls via The Specials ‘Monkey Man’ and touchingly The Zutons ‘Valerie’ before leaving the “out for the night” Liverpool girls, lovers (young and old), students and indie kids to depart into the chill of the night air.
Amy has indicated there are songs left over from the latest album and she’ll be soon back in the studio. And although we won’t see another 3-year hiatus between albums but with a summer of festivals ahead of her and the lure of seducing America it is unlikely that she’ll be playing intimate venues like this when she comes around again.
Forget the press reports and just enjoy her for what she is: One of our greatest soul singers. And as she says herself “What kind of fuckery are we?” – exactly
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible (Sonovox)
by Phil Thornton
When I was presented with Arcade Fire’s deathocentric debut Funeral two years ago, I played it expecting very little and was blown away by its sheer musical and emotional scope. This was truly epic pop, not in a shite U2/Muse way but more Mercury Rev/Flaming Lips style, without the overbearing wacky/pretentious posturing of either group.
To be honest, I didn’t think they’d be able to top Funeral but Neon Bible manages to keep the essentially gloomy, existentialist angst of its predecessor and explore deeper themes of spiritual and political doubt and salvation. Opener, Black Mirror sets their stall out, ‘I walked down to the ocean, after waking from a nightmare.’ The nautical theme is something that features throughout the LP with Black Wave, Bad Vibrations (Keane meet Radiohead but not as bad as that sounds), Ocean Of Noise (Nick Cave meets Tijuana Brass and just as good as that sounds) and The Well & The Lighthouse, (perhaps the most Funeral-esque track on the LP)..
The first single from the LP Keep The Fire Running could almost be Crocodiles era Bunnymen with its skifflebilly backbeat and McCullochesque vocals whereas the much mooted Springsteen influences only really become obvious on Antichrist Television Blues although No Cars Go does have a touch of Prefab’s Cars And Girls about it.
Windowsill takes a pop at Dubya with its refrain, ‘I don’t wanna fight in a holy war, I don’t wanna live in America no more’ which is fortunate as I thought they lived in Canada. Closing track My Body Is A Cage is a suitably minimal bluesy way to end an LP that is at once bleakly pessimistic yet somehow joyous and celebratory at the same time.
If one track justifies the critical plaudits being hurled at Arcade Fire and proves their worth, it’s Intervention; perhaps the best thing they’ve done. ‘I’m gonna lift you up and take you out of here’ goes one line which I misheard as ‘I’m gonna lift you up and take you to Ikea.’ This aside though, Intervention takes familiar AF subject matter and song structure and cranks it tighter and tighter until it almost explodes with a suitably atmospheric cathedral organ and choir accompaniment. ‘I’m living in an age that screams my name at night, but when I get to the doorway there’s no-one in sight….set my spirit free.’ With Arcade Fire, there truly is a light that never goes out.
Swine rating – 5 Pigs
2 Lone Swordsmen – Wrong Meeting (Rotters Golf Club)
by Phil Thornton
Once upon a time, I used to bop about to The Polecats, the Shakin’ Pyramids and other assorted rockabilly revivalists in the early 80s. Who’d a thunk it would be UK techno uberfuhrer, Sir Andrew De Weatherall of Windsor who’d start the rockabilly revival revival. Call in Jay Strongman and the Mill Hillbillies and get Carl Perkins on the blower, cos these cats are having some good rockin’ times. Not that this LP is strictly a rockabilly Lp with only two tracks, No Girl In My Plan and Evangeline that really go all out for that bass slappin’ Tennessee boogie sound. However, Wrong Meeting certainly marks a serious departure from the usual 2LS/Sabresonic soundscapes of yore.
With Wevvers himself providing often painfully thin vocals on every track, what it most reminds me of is Mick Jones’s BAD and The The circa Infected, except not as good as either. Andrew can’t sing, that’s for sure but does manage to inject a bit of jollity into tracks such as the aforementioned Evangeline where he talks of a woman ‘part Spanish part Crow who fell in love with a tattooed man who broke her heart in two.’ Wonder who that could be?
On Rattlesnake Daddy he warns us ’don’t wake up a rattlesnake daddy, cos he lives inside of me’ whereas on No Girl In My Plan he speaks of ‘the train a rollin’ on its way to Satanville and it’s never coming back’ and then on the finale, Get Out Of My Kingdom there are mentions of ‘fiery lakes’ and ‘how he’s tired of the lies and the way they taste’ and how he’ll ‘cry glory and wave the flag…when your kindgom’s dead. ’ This could maybe be a not too veiled reference to Blair or Bush or just as easily be about the end of a relationship. Who knows? However, the overall vibe does seem to suggest The Dark Lord at the end of his tether with women or atleast a woman (No Girl In My Plan? Has he gone chips n’ rice?).
Eleswhere Puritan Fist has a snarling Death In Vegas bass and creepy vocal distortions that recall Matt Johnson once more, title track Wrong Meeting is a Morricone/Adam & The Antz spaghetti west London twang, Work At Night the most Sabres-esque track and Nevermore (Than Just Enough) could be described as a country ballad.
This is a brave move by Weatherall and he’s obviously genuinely into this type of music but for all its sincerity, there’s something a bit limp about Wrong Meeting. When the likes of BAD were peddling this hybrid of pure rock and dance, it seemed to point the way to the future of pop whereas this seems to be more an exercise in pre-house pop nostalgia. Wevvers once dismissed the Scissor Sisters as ‘the Showaddywaddy of electroclash,’ well on this performance, he could be the Ten Pole Tudor of techno.
Swine rating – 3 Pigs
2 Rare People – Naked Body (Blackout 77)
by Phil Thornton
Spaniards Javi Golo and DJ Ivan Serra make the most Germanic Hispanic music about. Their beautifully packaged Lp, replete with a stunning naked woman (hey, this isn’t cheap objectification, it simply reflects the title OK?) in a post or maybe pre-coital pose contains 12 tracks of pulsating electronic pop.
Opening track Closer begins with a synth that wouldn’t be out of place on spoof Tomorrow’s World skit, Look Around You but builds into a glorious keyboard epic. Strange Days is very International Gigolo – dissonant vaguely Germanic, pervy vocals and sinister synth stabs – whereas 9Acid is an Orbital like techno throb, I Don’t Want Peace an Underworld style polemic-electro chugger, Show You recalls early 80s industrial-funksters Cabaret Voltaire and Electrix is a John Carpenter soundtrack in the waiting. The title track 2 Rare People is a minimalist repetitive tech-groove, Ocean is a downtempo voyage around the Baltic and closer Beautiful Rare Things a heart warming way to end on LP that covers most modern electronic bases without really producing anything original.
Swine Pig – 3 Pigs
Steve Bug – Fuse Presents Steve Bug (Music Man)
by Phil Thornton
Poker Flat head honcho and all-round-godfather-of-minimalism-but-don’t-call-it-minimalism-right, Steve Bug has earned a rep as one of Europe if not the world’s most in demand DJs, producers and remixers and on this compilation, it’s easy to see why. The so-called ‘minimalist’ sound isn’t to everyone’s taste and when listened to on CD often loses much of its hypnotic impact. What Bug does is arrange a set of tunes that bubble under the surface, locking into a groove that just keeps evolving and mutating. There are no big cheesy choruses or even token attempts to provide crowd pleasing breakdowns or build-ups for those hands-in-the-air-say-yeah moments. The Bugged Out sound is a simmering stew of tech-house in its purest form (that is house music informed by techno) that includes belters such as Pier Bucci’s ‘Hay Consuelo,’ Seph’s ‘Dash,’ Bug’s own ‘Wet’ and a fantastic Living Room mix of Rhythim Is Rhythim’s still awesome, The Dance. Ofcourse out of the 16 tracks, 9 are either remixes, edits, dubs and ahem, ‘interpretations’) which is one reason why electronic music is continually restless and evolving as an artform but elitist as fuck.
Swine Rating – 4 Pigs
The Fall – Reformation Post-TLC
by Phil Thornton
Another year, another Fall LP. Back when I used to freak out to It’s The New Thing at Grangeway youthy disco in the late 70s, I didn’t think I’d still be listening to Mark E Smith peddling the same old misanthropic crap almost 30 years later. With The Fall it’s a case of if ‘it aint broke, don’t fix it.’ The formula is simple but effective but upon repeated listening can become wearisome. However, it’s a testimony to Smith’s self-belief and energy that he keeps on going, spewing out his random insults and observations, still possessed by the spirits of the Pendle Witches and Captain Beefheart, living out of his own myth of cosmic prole sage drunkard poet.
He even makes a joke of it on the Magic Band style ‘Insult Song’, lambasting his fellow band members as ‘retards’ and ‘a bunch of twats….from LA county’ who ‘took the Trout Replica too far by ‘taking off their masks…but you couldn’t tell.’ Smith clearly enjoys working and abusing his new recruits and they seem to take in on the chin in typical Californian good spirits.
What we love about MES is that he’s never mellowed, if anything he’s become even more obnoxious and bitter. ‘I don’t love yer and I never did’ he snarls on Over! Over! as if gurgling through blood, vomit and broken teeth, which he probably was. A farewell to his latest unlikely sexy female suitor, no doubt.
Reformation! takes more seemingly random Smith words and phrases ‘0.67 hours’ ‘goldfish bowl?’ and manages to make them sound meaningful, profound even. It’s pointless trying to make sense or interpret Smith’s stream of unconsciousness, because I’ll wager he doesn’t know what he means himself half the time.
Oh but Smith is defensive, not to say self-deluded. He always thought other bands were ripping him off and on Fall Sound he rips himself off. It’s as great as it is relentless; pure Fall riff and snarl magic. On White Line fever he even attempts to sing on a cover of the Hank Williams song and defers vocal duties to keyboardist (and ex-girlfriend) Elena Poulou (the Greek hydra he mentions in Insult Song perhaps) on fantastic The Wright Stuff, which in places reminded me the chorus to Ghostbusters (when the going gets tough in yer neighbourhodd who ya gonna call. In Scenario and Systematic Abuse, Smith ponders on his own childhood and low life. But it’s the lo-fi clanking and depth charge synth noises of Das Boat that really departs from The Fall template.
Although he allowed himself to be compromised by Brix during the Victoria era, his new (ex) muse seems to have fuelled an experimentalism often lacking in the Fall’s barren landscape. The Bad Stuff also replaces Smiths vocals with recorded interviews and displaced voices. Smith himself has always been musically open to collaborations with the likes of Coldcut and indeed almost anyone else who flatters him, often with less than satisfying results. The Fall itself is still HIS band, however and it isn’t a democracy. Reformation Post-TLC is another fine MES of an album, brilliant in parts, boring in others, always lyrically amusing and interesting enough to sustain repeated listening but above all, another slab of twisted logic from Salford’s own poet laudanum.
Swine Rating – 4 Pigs
Mudd – Claremont 56 (Rong)
by Phil Thornton
No, not the whoppers who did Tiger Feet but one time b-boy straight from the mean streets of St Albans, Mark Murphy. Mudd make modern Balearic spiced with deep soulful house and warm funk. C40 introduces us to this beach bum idyll with a tune that rolls over your senses like Ibizan waves, Crayfish and Deer feels like drowning off the coast of Formentera and being rescued by a giant hippie squid and taken to its subterranean beat cave and provided with extra strong mushies whilst a horny mermaid gently strokes your balls with her comb (or something). Drop Lane’s a spaced out trip to San Miguel on the back of donkey and killer track, Damn Flu is like a Lemsip for the soul; soothing away those aches and pains with drowsy rare groove vocals and a nagging wooden block knock. Mount Pleasant Lane and Spielplatz provide deep house grooves for ethical hedonists. The influence of name-checked Norwegian scandolearic don, Prins Thomas becomes obvious especially on typically languid L&PT style tracks such as 54B and even though the elegant closer, Summer In The Wood features a UB40 style sax and Fox Base Alpha vocals, it’s a splendid pop infused end point to a marvellous tour around modern European downtempo.
Swine rating – 4 Pigs
Nouvelle Vague – Late Night Tales (Azuli)
by Phil Thornton
The Late Night Tales series allows musicians and bands the opportunity to show-off their eclecticism and general smart-arse muso pretentions. Sometimes, as with Belle & Sebastian’s compilation last year, it works, sometimes as with Air’s, it’s a bit hit and miss, and now and then, as with this effort, it’s just plain boring. This is an Lp that has some very good and a few great songs on it. Beginning with a Fried Icecream favourite, The Specials, (What I Most Like About You Is Your) Girlfriend, it seemed as if we were in for a lively ride through the Godard streets of early morning Paris in a 2CV field with the smell of strong tobacco and garlic. Any LP that includes Charlie Rich, The Pale Fountains, Peggy Lee, Glen Campbell and Julie London should appeal to most people and whilst these tracks by these artists are by far the strongest, the rest is often the worst kind of boho jazz wank. It’s the sultry female voice that dominates and if this was programmed better, then it wouldn’t be so bad but when there are 5 or 6 torch songs in succession, it becomes monotonous. The exclusive bonus David Shrigley track, What I Ate, however, is his best yet….like Alan Bennett meets Luis Bunuel. Let’s hope LNT gets back to the Belle & Sebastian model soon and gets back to being interesting again.
Swine Rating – 2 Pigs
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