Here is an annoying fact for you, we are in week 11 of 2015, so that pretty much means we are over a 5th way through the year and what have we got to show for it? Well this week, we got a hell of a lot of pyschedelic tunes filling our ears that’s what. Of Montreal are one of those bands that may not be to everyone’s taste, are one of those bands that modern music must not let go of. They are experimental, unique and do what exactly what they want. This album is worth a listen. Similarly Moon Duo, from the excellent Sacred Bones record label, tip a hat to the extraordinary and experimental, however keeping things to some level of expectation and familiarity is Noel Gallagher’s, second solo album, Chasing Yesterday, perhaps he is doing just that. You may well be suprised as to what we think of it, so scroll down now and have a read. Swervedriver, a band that made their mark as the influential shoegaze cum rock band back in the 90s return with a super good album. Oh yes, thats right, we also listen to Madonna, a slight curve ball for us but, come on, you have to honour those musical people who have left a big fat nudge in musical history, whether we like it or not. What we think, well, have a read, you wont be suprised.
Album Title_ I Wasn’t Born to Lose You
Genre_ Shoegaze, Psychedelic
Moments Of_ Ride, My Bloody Valentine
Stand Out_ Everso, English Subtitles
Seventeen years on from their last record ‘99th Dream’, Oxford shoegaze veterans Swervedriver have graced us with a brand new LP. Remaining close to their roots, the bands fifth album is jam-packed with all of the guitar pedalled effects and overdrive on which they built their fuzzy empire. The question that you’re all yelling at the computer screen is “does it live up to their earlier work!?” Read on, denizen of the internet, all will be revealed.
A lot can happen in seventeen years. Influences change, tastes become refined or in some cases totally different. Regardless of any changes that the members of Swervedriver undoubtedly went through, it’s nice to see that they didn’t affect their music in a negative way. Album opener ‘Autodidact’ cements this notion firmly in place, offering their familiar styling with some slick production. It works, it’s nostalgic, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. The same can be said about lead single ‘Setting Sun’, a track of pure 90’s bliss-out that is sure to reignite any harboured love for the band.
Standout track Everso begins with quiet guitars that are soon met with steady drums that lead into the main theme, a dreamy but overdriven passage that is repeated throughout. The subtle changes make it interesting whilst the main melody drones on. It’s always exciting when a band does this well, as most seem unable to escape the monotony of their own song. Following on, the pop laden rock sounds of ‘English Subtitles’ is like a euphoric wave of 90’s bliss. Nostalgia is heavy on this track, looking back to the days of popular tracks like ‘Duel’ or ‘Rave Down’. Same goes for ‘Red Queen Arms Race’, with loud, fuzzed out guitars that spew from the speakers like a thick fog.
Of all the likeminded bands from the same era, Swervedriver was always on the outskirts, coating their style of shoegaze with a thick layer of overdrive and enthusiasm in place of the usual dreamy apathy of their counterparts. Their music always seemed a little more lively, passionate and fun. Par for the course with ‘I Wasn’t Born to Lose You’, and I’m perfectly fine with that. There’s always an unfair expectation on reformed giants to release ground-breaking work, which is probably why so few actually live up to them, or worse, completely fail.
In the swathe of bands that have reformed and released new material, there aren’t many that will make a huge impact with their fans. Sure, they’ll listen to it, some will like it, and others will flood social media with statements like “they were better in the 90’s!” or “they’re not the same without <insert previous band member here>!” It’s a tough path to walk, but a common one these days. Swervedriver fall somewhere above the middle, as ‘I Wasn’t Born to Lose You’ is a solid record, but they aren’t reinventing the wheel, nor does it live up to the greatness of 1991’s ‘Raise’, but it ticks all of the important boxes. Approaching the album as an affectionate nod to the groups earlier days will ensure that your expectations are realistic.
Title_ Rebel Heart
Genre_ Electronica? Not even sure..
Moments Of _ Bjork
Stand Out_ Ghosttown
Her majesty, the original Queen Bee or just, frankly any other kind of indulgent superlative you can muster up – well, she’s back at it again. This week we saw the release of Madonna’s Rebel Heart, her 13th studio album and in theory, a pop dance beacon with a little tongue in cheek and some heavy hitting muscle weighing in on production duties. So I tasted the goods – the result? Ok, just bear with me.
Boy oh boy do I love me some Madge. As a product of the 80s, one simply cannot go past the incredible contributions this woman has made to not only pop music but also pop culture as a whole (fan girl moment, ma bad guys). But garish fashion, bouffant hair and cone tits aside, Madgie babes has always had an incredible ear as far as a pop banger went. This woman knows a killer hook and was never afraid to use it to her advantage. But, I mean none of us would ever dispute that the material girl is a visionary, that goes without saying. But to what should we attribute not only her gargantuan success but also a career that’s longevity surpasses the most robust of music’s heavy hitters? In summation, her unparalleled propensity for reinvention.
Enter Rebel Heart. Oh Madge, where did it all go so dreadfully wrong. Outwardly, this album makes complete sense. You have the likes of Diplo, the self – indulgent inflated tool bag that has become Kanye West and Ariel Rechtshaid who has been doing big things of late with the likes of Biebs, Major Lazer, The Weeknd and Haim on production duties respectively. So on paper, this album theoretically looks like the tits. Please don’t get it twisted; I’m not one of these vintage Madonna purists who believes that everything she releases should sound like True Blue and Lucky Star (although, a girl can hope). I can appreciate a want for staying abreast of what’s current and what’s hip. But, I hear a song like ‘Bitch, I’m Madonna’ and I just question where it all started to go to hell in a bloody hand basket. I think I felt my IQ drop substantially in the first minute of this song. And as tongue in cheek as it may well be, I found it derivative, pedestrian and a wasted 4 minutes of my life that I shall never get back. Then there is the likes of Devil Pray which in my opinion sounded like Milky Chance covering House of The Rising Sun. For the most part I just found it confusing and for the most part fricken unbearable. And its odd because there is some tremendous subject matter on Rebel Heart, its textured by talk of substance abuse, thinly veiled BDSM and heartbreaks – they’re reflections that are poignant and perhaps confessionary on a level that Madonna, as if almost counter intuitive – tends to shy away from. There’s a playfulness in there too where it feels like she’s kind of toying with you, but somehow … it just never quite gets there for me.
Hmmm, verdict. Well, jury is kinda out, I’m in limbo but what I will tell you is that I was not all in for this one. While I’m usually on board where a rebel is concerned, this time my heart was just not in it.
Album Title_ Aureate Gloom
Label_ Polyvinyl Record
Genre_ Punk pop, psychedelic pop
Moments Of_ Sex pistol, Talking Head, Television
Stand Out_ Empyrean Abattoir,Like Ashoka’s Inferno Of Memory
Barely two years after the release of their album Lousy with Sylvianbriar, Of Montreal are back on their unique stage with their latest creation, Aureate Gloom. The band, originally from Georgia, still carried by the excellent but crazy Kevin Barnes shows us once again the extent of his talent through this new album. No more psychedelic pieces that make the success of the group, Aureate Gloom now surfs on a basis of punk rock. Is it true?
Surrounded by almost all the musicians he had hired to create Lousy Sylvianbriar, Kevin Barnes, the only permanent member of this group, continues the musical direction undertaken with his previous album. With punk touches, the abundance of saturated guitars and most flexible construction of these songs, Aureate Gloom seems confirmed the end of his album of psychedelic songs, coming straight from a trip on magic mushrooms.
Barnes draws inspiration from the mid-’70s alt-punk scene, through typical groups like sex pistols or Talking Heads. Certainly, it is far from pieces from Paralytics Stalks, an album of dark tones and electronic kind, this album kind of feels crazy and psychedelic, with obvious influences from this unique singer songwriter. The hybrid Chthonian Dirge For Uruk The Other, under his punk look, is sweating a title musically under the influence of acids of all kinds, illustrated and played out through the sounds of saturated guitars. The album set itself both in the near and far from his previous records, but this gives it a resonate strength. The eclectic Like Ashoka’s Inferno Of Memory is the perfect example. We fell the atmosphere and style already present in Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, but the punk rock influence of this piece makes it somehow softer. These “travel” into the crazy world of Barnes seem more accessible, but its footprint remain. An album of great musical force. Listening to Empyrean Abattoir, a small jewelry pop psychedelic punk song, is done repeatedly.
Barnes describes the key moments of his life that have happened in the last ten years with very personal texts, which act like a confession with the exception of the song Bassem Sabry (which describes the story of an Egyptian journalist who died),the opening song of the album, Aureate Gloom is heard as if read a poet’s diary.
Barnes has many things to say, many things confessed, many thing externalized, he throws himself in his art, as if he needs to do this for carthatic reasons. His albums are his therapy but offered as a great pleasure to the listener.
A great achievement, not the first to the counter of Of Montreal, which will delight all fans of punk, rock, misfits and eccentrics. A psychedelic ballad, that only Barnes have the secret, often copied but never equaled, that is listened like an open book.
Album Title_ Chasing Yesterday (deluxe edition reviewed)
Label_ Sour Mash Records UK
Genre_ Post-OASIS (i.e. Brit-rock)
Moments Of_ OASIS, Neil Young…and…OASIS
Stand Out_ Riverman, Dying Of The Light, You Know We Can’t Go Back, Ballad Of The Mighty I, Do The Damage
Let’s face it, the fragmenting of British rockers OASIS, initially, merely seemed to ensure there’d be twice the amount of new music floating around by Liam and Noel Gallagher, but potentially at half the overall quality. Both post-band debut releases from Beady Eye (Liam and friends) and the High Flying Birds (Noel and friends) were, at best, 50-50 efforts. Mash the singles from the two together and you’d have had another OASIS album. Could you do the same with the second (and apparently final) Beady Eye release and this newie from big brother Noel, “Chasing Yesterday”?
The first impression, visually, of “Chasing Yesterday” is hardly arresting stuff. Band leader Noel Gallagher himself only came up with the title a week before officially announcing it online late last year. And he now thinks he’d change it. The cover art, too, is just less immediately interesting than his prior effort. It (dare we suggest it) kinda shows Noels, er, age? Just a bit?
But clearly age has far from wearied ol’ Noel. Check out opener “Riverman”, which Noel thinks is one of his finest songs. Ever. It’s the “Wonderwall” acoustic melody from the outset, but, as is the case for much of this album, if feels close, personal, warm and fresh. And you believe Noel’s voice. He often teases the words out to cap his sentences (shades of little brother Liam) but has some seriously sympathetically-produced support. There’s a touch of Neil Young to his tone, too, and the guitar solo is near note-perfect in execution. There’s even a saxophone interlude. The track fairly sets the course for what isn’t exactly an experimental album, but is certainly more expansive in scope than his previous effort.
First single “In The Heat Of The Moment” (no relation to the meteoric hit from 1980s prog-pop act ASIA) is Noel doing Liam better than Liam can, all stretched-out “ee” sounds and Rolling Stones name-checking amid a quick-step beat. Second radio run “Ballad Of The Mighty I”, which formally closes the album, is even better. Featuring innovative (for Noel) use of piano and bass, it’s got great momentum and groove. And Noel’s singing with conviction again. For sheer head-noddy-ness, this has got to come close to the prime cut on the record. A terrific finish.
In between there are solid highlights aplenty. “Dying Of The Light” is Noel playing to his strengths, if not necessarily within himself, on a lovely, humming, piano-based epic. ”You Know We Can’t Go Back” offers a change of pace and tone to a boppy, joyful take on love that verges on The CURE territory. Bonus B-sides “Do The Damage” and “Revolution Song” also hold their own here.
Some of Noel’s ideas, however, are either not quite fully formed or must’ve simply sounded great on paper and less so on record. “Lock All The Doors” is a revved-up detour from the 1973 Dave Essex classic “Rock On” (the ‘Jimmy Dean!’ song), while the more celestial duo of “The Right Stuff” and “While The Song Remains The Same” could have been book-ended with meatier fare. The surreal, electronic “Mexican” is the real sonic wrong’un delivered here. Noel had indicated it would be the LP’s lighten-up moment, but it’s also arguably the least engaging. Nevertheless, these are mostly mis-steps, not total failures.
As Noel said to Associated Press reporter Mike Doherty: “I have a style of writing and of playing the guitar, and I work within those parameters. I know what my limitations are, for sure.” That was earlier this month, as part of the pre-release PR rounds. It’s a totally accurate summation from the man himself. Or, as Bernard Black once told shop assistant Manny Bianco in the rather excellent BBC comedy series “Black Books” – “It is the way it is. If it wasn’t the way it is, it wouldn’t be the way it is…It’s charming. It has character.” So, to a considerable extent, does Noel’s new album. He is who he is. And that’s fine. And this is what it is. And this is fine, too.
Album Title_ Shadow Of The Sun
Label_ Sacred Bones
Genre_ Psychedelia, Synth-Rock, Krautrock
Moments Of_ Wooden Shjips, Crystal Stilts, The Black Angels
Stand Out_ Night Beat, Animal
Album number four from Portland, Oregon based psych/synth/rock band Moon Duo has literally just landed upon the world this month. The duo, comprising of Wooden Shjips member Erik “Ripley” Johnson and Sanae Yamada (who commonly tour as a three piece featuring drummer John Jeffrey) have not backed down from their unique and hypnotic mix of synths, guitars and drums. Working again with Berlin-based producer Jonas Verwijnen, Shadow Of The Sun is the bands’ musical representation of a step forward, into the dark, layered and intricate sounds that Moon Duo are so well known for.
Moon Duo are a band for those who take the time and effort to explore to extraordinary. Sure, the individual parts that make up most of Moon Duo’s songs are nothing terribly unusual – intense, formulaic drum beats, retro synths, classic 70’s guitar tones and reverb laden vocal harmonies – but woven into bizarre patterns and mesmeric repetition, brings upon a feeling of exploring the unknown. Many have previously dubbed them ‘space rock’, a term that really does no-one any justice, but the feeling of great expanses and a confused but calm nature are just some of the likely results of Shadow Of The Sun on repeat.
A great representation of their old versus new aesthetic comes about from the video for first single Animal, a pounding, punch of psych rock featuring the visuals of pro-skateboarder Richie Jackson. In the video, the long haired, pants bell bottomed and moustache-twirling skater rides a collection of everyday items, none of which is actually a skateboard. This is a great example of where Moon Duo are coming from for the uninitiated. A modern day technique crossbred with the ideas of days gone past, to create something modernistic but unconventional.
The album moves along at a mostly solid pace, embarking on a typically mind altering quest. Album opener Wilding is a burst of 60’s hand claps and pulsating synth/guitars, not stopping for a breath. Standouts Night Beat and Zero possess a true hypnotic bounce, doing exactly what Moon Duo do best. But it’s also the more relaxed tones of songs such as In A Cloud (the title says it all really) that remind us where we are.
Sliding in effortlessly to the renowned Sacred Bones roster, Shadow Of The Sun is the bands’ most momentous sounding effort to date. Like 2012’s Circles, there is an unmeasurable abundance of lush surfaces that the ear may land upon, making it an album for mandatory repeated listens. However, this time Shadow of the Sun feels as if an extra layer has been added, whether that be in production, instrumentation or in the overall vibe of the album as a whole. It is a new age feeling though – fans of Moon Duo’s more earlier work may be deterred by the shorter, more contemporary leanings as opposed to the epic psychedelic jams that are so well associated with the genre. Maybe a nod towards Live In Ravenna is more in this vein – as a live act they certainly get a chance to indulge in extending and jamming out the shorter, more packaged versions featured on their albums. Clocking in a 7 minutes 10 seconds, the longest track on Shadow Of The Sun, the most jam worthy Ice is where the most psych-inclined fans should head.
Shadow Of The Sun is without a doubt another stellar release from Moon Duo, and it’s true – the fans won’t be disappointed. The reality is that it is a difficult genre to crack, as at times the nature of the songs lead themselves to confusion upon unfamiliar ears. But the beauty is that confusion will only lead to wonder after repeated listens, after the steady beats, hypnotic synths and dreamy vocals latch themselves inside your consciousness. And that, readers, is the true nature of psychedelia.