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2008/05/20

The Music- Strength In Numbers album review

The Music - Strength in Numbers (Polydor)
Simon Jay Catling

Six years ago, things were a lot different. Nu-metal was on the way out, The Libertines were on the way in; I was but a multi-octave voiced fourteen year old dusting myself down after getting used to the idea that Limp Bizkit weren’t really that great, and that owning the Ministry Of Sound Annual didn’t equate to possessing a ‘diversity in music taste’. On my pubescent voyage through music, I took with me Muse, Placebo and (somewhat ill-fatedly) My Vitriol. There was another band though who didn’t make it all the way through. Upon leaving school two years ago Muse were bigger than ever and Placebo were still grudgingly receiving regular airings on my speakers. For Leeds four piece The Music however, it looked like the end of the road. A self-titled debut album of startling energy and baggy-era joy de vivre had become the soundtrack to an otherwise dull year 10; and when I finally got to see the group live in 2004, they sent the creaking Northumbria University venue into delirium for almost two hours. With ‘Welcome To The North’ showing a step forward for the group, it seemed in my then na├»ve sixteen year old eyes that The Music were going to be huge. But then, just as quickly as they rose, they fell away and went silent. I grew up, left school, hit my indie elitist phase and went to University where I started listening to bands who never sang, and for whom a song less than seven minutes long would be deemed a potential single.

It’s with the air of an old flame then that The Music return in 2008. A band who could quite rightfully claim that they were “nu-rave” a long time before such piss poor genre names were dreamt up are back to find the likes of the Klaxons earning praise for marrying dance and rock in a far flimsier manner than the Kippax group managed to do so over half a decade earlier. What marked The Music’s debut out as such a crossover success was that they managed to bottle the atmosphere they created live and contain it in the studio: no cheap casio keyboards, no needless squiggles and bleeps and no fucking glo-sticks- just rhythms and riffs. Fast forward a bit and fans of the band will be pleased to know that it appears Rob Harvey has come out of hiding with an intent to revisit those days, as the title track opens the album with a sharp, glitchy snare that punctuates Adam Nutter’s jagged guitar. It’s a great return for the band and can’t fail to put a smile on the face. Better yet is ‘The Spike’, which simmers and bubbles before bursting forth into the kind of chorus that can surely be classified by now as ‘The Music stomp’. Harvey’s lyrics throughout the album focus very much on trying to leave the past behind, moving forward and finding unity; a simple message and one which admittedly sometimes comes across a little elementary (“how can I fly if you won’t give me wings”). The conviction of his delivery rings through however- after all, this is a man who has faced more than his fair share of demons in the intervening years between albums: drugs, deaths and depression have all left their mark on the lead singer who, at still only 25 years old, comes across as a far more composed and measured person. In tandem with this outlook, the band aren’t scared to attempt new things either- ‘Idle’ lurks in the depths; all hushed vocals and deep bass, to portray a very ambient vibe of techno.

However, the best bits on ‘Strength In Numbers’ remain those that recall The Music at their early, thrilling best. The aforementioned title track and ‘The Spike’ aside, there’s plenty of other standout moments that’ll please fans old and new. ‘Fire’ doesn’t hang about: a three minute dance floor filler that surges through your brain and out again before you even have time to take breath; perhaps even topping the heady heights of ‘Take The Long Road’ and co. ‘Get Through It’ jitters and shudders its way through the verse to once again launch an all-or-nothing epic of a chorus upon our ear drums, allowing Harvey’s voice to leap and soar through the tight riffs and driving percussion. ‘No Weapon Sharper Than A Will’ meanwhile really does turn time back to those house parties and late summer nights of youth- a simple snare and hi-hat keeps things steady before erupting into an all encompassing call-to-arms that pisses all over The Whip in the art of providing rock ready rave music. Sadly, like the return of all lost loves, things don’t always feel quite so right; because for every great moment on this album, there’s another song just round the corner that tries to ape it just a little too much- as though The Music, having nailed down a sound of their own, are desperate to ring every last drop out of it. No one was expecting them to return with another ‘Too High’ or ‘Human’, but with such a relentless pursuit of an energetic and accelerated sound, the band at times retread familiar paths a tad too much. Hence why ‘Drugs’ goes on a minute or two too long, and why many of the songs- ‘The Vision’ and ‘The Last One’ to name but two, share the same tempo and rhythms as others on the album. The idea is clear: the percussion holds the album together, but the execution is such that it can come across as repetitive. Added to this is the unsatisfactory ‘Inconceivable Odds’ closing the album out; whilst an acoustic ballad is a welcome change of direction, its place at the finale of the album is deeply misplaced. Breaking up the endless snare/hi-hat disco rhythms of the album’s mid section would have been ideal; tacked on as an afterthought is not.

As with all reunions then, I am filled with a confusing mix of emotions. Yes, this is The Music who I fell in love with way back when; when to me great music previously consisted of little more than heavy metal and guys with red caps on backwards rapping and fitting as many ‘fucks’ in a song as their record label would allow. At their best on this album they are at their absolute best yet. ‘Fire’ is a three minute electric shock to the senses; ‘The Spike’ drives in and forces your heartstrings to dance just as much as it does your feet. Yet at times this is an album a little short on ideas; having a great sound is one thing, developing it and evolving it is another matter. The heart wants to praise this to high heaven, but the head says ‘not quite there yet’. Let’s make one thing clear though: given time The Music could and should finally realise the potential that’s been fermenting inside them for years. This may be just a stepping stone, but as first ones go, it’s a mightily pleasing one.

3.5 stars
19/05/2008

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BUY

The Music's third album 'Strength In Numbers' can be purchased from Amazon.

Maybeshewill- Not For The Wanting Of Trying revew

Review

Maybeshewill: Not For Want of Trying


Type:
Album
Date Released:
12/05/08

Label: Field Records

Your Rating:


Simon Jay Catling (14.05.08)



Since when did Leicester become the hotbed of all things post rock and instrumental? Her Name Is Calla are making ripples and are soon to be heading up to Leeds, where an undoubted increase in attention awaits them; and now we have the debut full length LP from four piece Maybeshewill. The band showed promise in 2006 with the EP Japanese Spy Transcripts- four tracks undoubtedly indebted to 65 Days Of Static but containing enough originality, pitch and emotion to hold their own unique sound. ‘The Paris Hilton Sex Tape’ makes another, re-recorded, appearance here as does a follow up to ‘He Films The Clouds’. Yet this is a group who’ve grown since then and whilst the glitchy, IDM influenced percussion and effects are still there, they’ve been allied by new sounds and greater expanse so as to provide a terrifically exciting, energetic and diverse album.

The quietly disarming introduction of ‘Ixnay On The Autoplay’ does little to prepare the listener for what is ahead, and is hence swiftly split apart by the atmospheric rumbling drums of ‘Seraphim & Cherubim’; a song that seems by its nature of full throttled riffs and ceaseless energy to be tailor made for a live setting. The ear searing guitars fall away however to be replaced by simple yet effective keyboards, before the two contrasting armies of sound come back together in a crashing crescendo of a finale. The redone ‘Paris Hilton Sex Tape’ comes with additional added muscle and an increased emphasis on a fuller sounding, heavier track. Its age does tell however in that it remains Maybeshewill’s most telling nod to their contemporaries taking in both Mogwai and 65 Days Of Static on its electronically charged, ear-bludgeoning three and a half minutes. In contrast ‘I’m In Awe Amadeus!’ fails to live up to its title, proving one of the weaker tracks as Maybeshewill opt to play it safe with a slow gurning melody hiding itself behind some overly frothy layering.

Form is regained though with the Slint-esque spiky brilliance of ‘We Called For An Ambulance But A Fire Engine Came’ that drills away at the brain in sharp, angry bursts; before a calm descends with soaring strings bringing giving respite. Indeed it’s in the quieter parts of this album that Maybeshewill manage to play their trump card: when shorn of the vacuum of sound building up behind them, the four piece opt for the simple options and intertwine them together instead of fidgeting around with unnecessary time changes or piano-wankery. Whilst it can mean subtlety goes out of the window, its effect is such that the calming beauty of its emotion shines through as strongly as any of their powerfully moving walls of sound. Then delightfully, during ‘Heartflusters’, we hear a most surprising but wonderful thing: vocals! And not just thrown in as an afterthought either. As John Helps asks ‘are you feeling the walls closing in?’ you can feel the wonderful juxtaposition to the uplifting, fragile music behind him- not unlike Thom Yorke’s solo title track ‘The Eraser’. Helps in fact provides an uncanny impersonation of the Radiohead man but just as the music appears to be drifting up towards somewhere untoward, the electric storm returns as the chanted refrain ‘stop, do not engage’ is submerged under a torrent of fuzz and glitch before ‘C.N.T.R.C.K.T’ roars into life with an unrelenting power and intensity.

In the consequence of all this, the final three tracks come across as an extended finale to the entire album. ‘He Films Clouds Pt. 2’ allows to bassist Tanya Byrne to take the lead on vocals after a suitably epic build up, as the piano and percussion build ominously behind her and the familiar hook from Japanese Spy Transcript’s ‘Pt. 1’ returns as a haunting presence. Title track ‘Not For Wanting Of Trying’ is something else though. The sound is of the group expending every last ounce of energy that they have, as though they’ve reached breaking point yet refuse to yield. Once again its simple but effective; raging metal gives way to isolated splendour, xylophones and, curiously, Peter Finch’s ‘Mad as Hell’ speech from Network. Readers may be aware that the already mentioned 65 Days Of Static have a collection of bootlegs floating round known as ‘Unreleased/Unreleasable’. Take the best of that, saw off the rough edges and what you get is ‘Not For The Wanting Of Trying’ which, even amidst such exhorted surroundings, comes across as nothing short of a masterpiece and is in effect the final track, short of the slow, winding down outro of ‘Takotsubo’.

Maybeshewill are a band with awesome potential; but what comes across from the above few sentences is that we’re dealing with an epic, sprawling, long haul of an album. Yet as the final strains of ‘Takotsubo’ fade out, the whole thing has clocked in at under forty minutes. The range of the pallet that they’ve created in this album is worthy of attention, that they fit it all into such a compact timeframe whilst losing none of their expanse and gravitas is nothing short of startling. In a year which has already seen a slew of stellar albums released right across the board, ‘Not For The Want Of Trying’ is an LP that rightly deserves it’s place right amongst them- daft song titles and all.



DOWNLOAD
Maybeshewill - Not For Want Of Trying

2008/05/13

Matthew Bourne- The Molde Concert Live CD Review

I was browsing through the website of one of my favourite pianists Matthew Bourne today and on browsing through the views was rather stunned to see a rather poor review I'd written about his live CD 'The Molde Concert'. Released last summer the album is a live recording from a 2005 concert that took place at the Molde Jazz Festival in Norway. I wrote a piece about this CD on this very blog last summer (before I gave it a big revamp this last January). Anyway, Bourne's offical website has seen fit to include it with other press cuttings off his work. Enjoy:

"And now for something completely different. Leeds College Of Music lecturer Matthew Bourne is probably one of the most unclassifyable musicians in the world. Lumped in with a Jazz crowd that bares little or no resemblance to the pianists freestyled, avant-garde way of doing things. Nevertheless Bourne is beginning to build a cult following in Jazz circles, his compositions a refreshing breakout from the rules and restrictions that define even such a free genre as Jazz. It would not be so far fetched to say in fact that Bourne shares a lot more in common with the likes of rock contemporaries the Mars Volta than anyone from the Jazz world with his erratic displays of random soundbursts, percussive use of the piano and sprawling, fastpaced performance. This live album taken from his performance in Molde, Norway during 2005 showcases exactly what Bourne is all about. Playing in reaction to a series of sampled visual and audio aids on a large screen behind him the best comparison to make of the Leeds pianist's arrangements is to that of old Disney cartoon music as the melodies followed the buffoonery actions of Tom and Jerry et al. Indeed thats what this is, mood music as opposed to a conventional construction. Bourne shows that as long as something is played with feeling and meaning it can be as effective on an audience as anything else out there. Highlights include the track Sim, as Bourne picks up a spoken sample from Homer Simpson and follows the pitch of his voice on piano, and following track America which bastardises the 'Dicks, Pussies and Assholes' speech from Team America to whip a frenzied, tortured piano movement that becomes angrier and angrier each time. Bourne's wit and humour are clear throughout the gig, ironically making track Stupidity the most coherent and sustained period of piano playing throughout whilst Beaty is exactly what it says on the tin as the artist decides to use his piano as a percussion instrument. This is an album that portrays a man flowing with ideas, perhaps a DVD would have been more accessible to first time listeners but then Bourne has never really been about accessibility. Either loved as a free thinker striving to explore new boundaries or hated as a some sort of lame joke whose compositions bare absolutely nothing in common with music whatsoever he'll always be controversial. If you can embrace the notion of the Molde Concert as emotion and reaction over standard convention however then these set of recordings really are something to inspire and change your whole perspective on how you view music as a whole.

Jarrock, Jarock87.blogspot.com

2008/05/07

iLiKETRAiNS Live review


iLiKETRAiNS, Kyte

Roadhouse, 30th April 2008
Simon Jay Catling

It takes a bold and often foolish band to try and upstage iLiKETRAiNS, yet Kyte are five young men from Leicester who seem hell bent on doing just this. Taking the piss somewhat by arriving to set up some fifteen minutes late, and then going on to play almost ten minutes overtime; the support act aren’t so much as trying to pull the rug from under the headliners feet, more rolling up the rug, hi-tailing it to a local bazaar (although to be fair, urban Manchester features few of these) and selling it off for twice the price it’s worth. Their audacious attempt to steal the show almost comes off as well; soft but searing synths wash over the audience like a gentle breeze whilst the lead vocalist half whispers his vocals so as to lose them in the now increasing gale of sound that is building up around him. Opener ‘Planet’ is sublime, and things get better as the fresh-faced musicians sweep and glide their way through four more songs of powerfully moving beauty. No wonder then that as Kyte proceed to immerse us and themselves in ‘Stars On TV’, one of iLiKETRAiNS frantically comes out of the changing room wielding a polite notice asking the band to stop stealing their audience and come down off the cloud that we’re all currently sitting upon. Or words to that effect; the gauntlet has been set.

Turns out we needn’t have worried. iLiKETRAiNS walk on sombrely; dressed, as ever, in matching white shirts and skinny black ties - when The Hives wear such items it comes across as frivolous and comic, but iLiKETRAiNS have never looked more serious about anything in their lives and as the opening, deep timbre thud of the bass drum announces ‘Twenty Five Sins’ one can almost feel the lick of flames around our feet and the screams of terror coming from distraught and terrified women and children, as the Great Fire of London begins to emit itself through iLT lead vocalist Dave Martin. The Leeds-group grab the listener’s heart and wring it tight like a spunge, then sit back and watch the blood spill forth without ever having to reveal so much as a syllable about themselves; living through history’s more tragic figures offers up a wall between them and their music, which on record can sometimes hinder, but live adds an additional cold, calculated and unnerving intensity to their performance. ‘The Deception’, the tale of sailor Donald Crowhurst who went mad out on the Atlantic, roars and rumbles stoically and resolutely, making the tiny Roadhouse venue feel like the MEN Arena down the road, so vast and expansive is its sound. By the time ‘We All Fall Down’, the fourth or fifth track tonight, rears its apocalyptic head, I realise that I’ve not stopped shaking since the set began; completely absorbed and drawn in as I am to the history lesson taking place on show in front of me. I have to extract myself for a breather as emotions soar and swell up inside me with no respite. Resistance is futile though and I return for more heart wrench and despair; feeling Nigel Tetley’s anguish at being hoodwinked by the aforementioned Crowhurst, and the sense of failure that consequently stems from that, in the stirring ‘Victress’; and feeling utterly helpless as the incessant witch hunt of Salem drives on with a bloody mindlessness in the monolithic ‘We Go Hunting’. The best is saved till last, however, as TRAiNS take the 200 or so people in attendance tonight up to the Arctic, 1912, to pray witness to Captain Scott’s terrifying realisation that he has led a crew of explorers to an impending death that neither he nor they can do anything about. I’m talking of course about the soaring, nerve shattering post rock of ‘Terra Nova’. As if overseeing the torturous death of Captain Scott isn’t enough, the band decide to really turn the thumbscrew with nine minute opus ‘Spencer Perceval’, Martin playing the role of the former British Prime Minister’s assassin John Bellingham in a sneering, mocking tumult of words directed at his fallen victim. The dual guitars gradually build up a sense of foreboding and menace before Martin reaches the eye of the storm with the cold, heartless decree to Perceval that “your position can’t save you now” and, just when the audience can’t take it anymore, the song slowly releases in a whirl of noise and energy.

So… quite good then. Whilst it’s hard to imagine iLiKETRAiNS will ever venture far from their chosen path, so deeply ingrained as it is, to see them live remains, and will continue to remain, a wholly exhilarating experience. Truly, few other bands can play with the crowd’s emotions and senses with as much ease and potency as the Leeds five piece. Coming out of the venue I feel tired and exhausted and I’m not the only one; but by God, I loved every minute.

iLiKETRAiNS Myspace
Kyte Myspace


2008/05/05

'Doing A Radiohead', or should it be 'Doing A Trent'?

Last Autumn everyone sat up and went 'wow, gosh!' as Radiohead released In Rainbows in a seemingly ingenious 'pay what you want' deal. Once all the dust settled and everyone realised that in fact it was but a cunning marketing ploy what with a physical release of the album also coming out earlier this year and with a hearty £50 a ticket tour being announced to make Oxford's finest richer than sin. Indeed it was a bold move but merely the act of a band with no label restrictions and lead man Thom Yorke has recently admitted that the group won't be doing anything of the sort again.

However...

A certain Trent Reznor, the creative input behind industrial metallists Nine Inch Nails, really seems to be taking the idea and running with it. Only a month after releasing the instrumental only Ghosts I-IV, Nine Inch Nails return with another album, The Slip. Commenting upon the band's official site, Reznor leaves a simple but gratifying statement: "thank you for your continued and loyal support over the years - this one's on me". A man re-knowned for keeping fans waiting, it's excellent to see Trent hitting a creative mine and allowing his disciples the chance to hear it for free. Let's not forget that last month's Ghosts offering came in several packages in varying prices, yet the first CD of the four was offered as a free download. Better yet, Nine Inch Nails seem positively buoyant again, refreshing to see after they slid frustratingly into the mundane towards the end of their record deal. The links for both FREE downloads are below:

THE SLIP- new album from Nine Inch Nails.

GHOSTS I-IV- a four-CD instrumental set with prices varying from FREE (Ghosts I only) to $75 (deluxe edition).

Still not convinced? Here's a track from the new album to whet your appetite:

Nine Inch Nails- Discipline
(large file- Apple lossless M4a format)

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This got me thinking of other free albums and EPs made available online. This blog has already featured free albums from shoegazers Time. Space. Repeat and The Crimea as well as a free EP by London's Super Tennis (click Downloads under 'peruse these' to find.) But my friends there are more and I'll provide a small selection of links here, although oddly enough let's start with a single, Coldplay's new track.

Coldplay- Violet Hill

DOWNLOAD

Now; funnily enough having mentioned Radiohead, what should pop up a couple of months later than an album of In Rainbows remixes by producer Amplive. Resisting a 'cease and desist' threat from the group's publishers, Amplive has gone ahead and made the album available for free anyway, to get it just click below.
Amplive- Rainydayz Remixes

And here's a track from the album if your not sure:

Amplive- 15 Stepz






Contemporaries of the same time frame if not musical styles at least, The Charlatans also took advantage of label freedom and decided to offer their new album, You Cross My Path, up for free on independent radio station XFM's website:

The Charlatans- You Cross My Path


The Charlatans- Oh! Vanity

2008/05/01

The Kabeedies single review

A single review for The Kabeedies, who I gave a higher mark to than Grammatics. However on further listens I really should have knocked Grammatics up a few marks. In podcast news I'm still having bother with the software hence the lack of action on that front, just hold tight I'm afraid, it's looking like I won't be back podcasting till the summer what with exams. Reviews and downloads will continue to be forthcoming however.

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The Kabeedies - Lovers Ought To (Cherryade)
Simon Jay Catling

Straight out of the Norwichcore scene, apparently, come The Kabeedies; a group of young rapscallions whose ages range between sixteen and eighteen years old and who appear to have quite a pleasing penchant for producing the kind of inoffensive summery two minute pop songs that are very much enjoyed around this time of year.

Lead track Lovers Ought To is easily the standout track here, moving jauntily along whilst male and female vocals swap back and forth with the vibe of a more chilled out Los Campesinos!, before coming together in a sharp, punchy harmonious chorus. It certainly doesn’t set the world alight but it does do exactly what’s required of it; provide immediacy, energy and a damn good foot stomp within a short period of time. Second track Mythical Beast opens with a rather cheesy bluesy rock n’roll piano slide before jangling its way through a repetitive ‘we are all beasts, we know everything’ chorus which admittedly leaves you going ‘huh?’ but is undeniably catchy if somewhat unimaginative. The ridiculously short 90 second piece of filler that finishes off the group’s debut single pretty much sounds like most other high school bands of their ilk. This is a shame because from the opening two tracks it’s clear that the four piece have a knack for writing catchy hook laden pop songs that belie they’re years. If you’re after anything innovative here you’ll be disappointed, but if, like me, you’ve finished University/work early and enjoyed a gloriously sunny evening outside then this band are the soundtrack to it. A surprising success.


3.5 stars
01/05/2008