Friday, 28 November 2014
Patience is a virtue that I sadly don’t have. Whilst I can see the appeal of atmospheric electronic musicians like Jon Hopkins and the Haxan Cloak, I often find myself clockwatching during the big long build-ups. An artist like loopy French house producer, Mr. Oizo, is much more up my street. He doesn’t allow time to breath, let alone check a watch. Employing AD/HD pacing, he cuts out the foreplay and assaults the listener from the off.
The Church starts with ‘Bear Biscuit’, an energetic trap number with squealy woop noises and jittery glitch bits that sound like a crashed computer. This gives a taster of the crazy palette of sounds to come - the shrill telephones on ‘Machyne’, the obnoxious sampling on ‘Dry Run’ and the industrial glitchiness of ‘Torero’ - perhaps some of Oizo’s most creative sounds yet.
Of course, a lot of people out there are likely find these sounds more irritating than impressive. Some of them, particularly the squealing woop noises, tested my thresh-hold (maybe a little patience is required with this record). Personally, I feel there’s a humour to them that stops them from being plain infuriating. This is particularly present in the album’s closer, the title track ‘The Church’, which includes a kooky voiceover about a group of friends who get bored, steal a car and go to church. There are also some genuinely tuneful moments hidden in the mix such as the mental funk-jazz jam, ‘iSoap’, which adds a nice chic mood shift to the album. ‘Destop’ also contains some pretty chords in amongst its skittery bleeps and bloops that prove Oizo is capable of smoothness.
Thursday, 27 November 2014
You can always tell a Machine Head track from a number of motifs – namely lots of harmonic notes, lots of beastly grooves and lots of blood-pumping sing-growling courtesy of Rob Flynn. Over time, the Oakland metalheads have also brought in a number of new stylistic features. The Blackening saw them garnering more progressiveness and old-skool thrashiness, whilst The Locust introduced orchestral strings and more symphonic tracks.
Entering this album, I was a little anxious Machine Head’s sound might have started to stagnate by this point. The two singles that dropped beforehand, ‘Now We Die’ and ‘Night of the Long Knives’ although undoubtedly Machine Head, brought nothing new or that exciting to the table – except maybe some surprise blast beats on the latter track.
Fortunately, as it turns out after listening to the record, these singles are some of the least interesting numbers on the album. The rest are fairly creative and show some clear improvements to the band’s sound, the first being Rob Flynn’s singing. ‘Beneath the Silt’ features some dynamic clean vocals that I’d usually expect only off a Deftones track. Other moments include the long percussion-free segments of ‘Sail into the Black’ and ‘Damage Inside’ in which gothic vocal harmonies are also employed creating a truly ghostly quality. There's a real focus on atmosphere on these tracks that has never been the case in previous Machine Head releases. The softer parts are more ambient than ever.
And the heavier parts are heavier. Contrasting the eerie ballads, are tracks such as 'Ghosts will Haunt my Bones' which introduce some new sludgy, low-tuned riffage. ‘Game Over’, meanwhile, takes the speed and hostility up beyond 'Aesthetics of Hate' to a level of intensity that rivals some grindcore bands. All I can say is the group better be careful playing this live – people in the pit might die.
A personal gripe I have with the album is the lengthiness of some tracks here. ‘Game Over’ could have been left as a snappy two minute frenzy and had more of an effect. Similarly, ‘Sail into the Black’ could have been cut a couple minutes short and gets a bit repetitive towards the end.
The choruses on this record also sound a bit samey and the lyrics aren’t always inspiring. Revolutionary clichés such as ‘wake up America’ do nothing for me (In fact, it just sounds like to two Greenday hooks got mashed up).
That being said, the lengthiness of songs and the lukewarm choruses are outshined by the level of creativity being displayed elsewhere. Whilst some parts are predictable, others take wild twists and turns into territories that show Machine Head, as big as they are in the metal universe, are still a band to be respected. I’m not feeling this is 'the metal album of the year' as some people seem to be proclaiming but it is still far from being a forgettable footnote in the group’s career.
Wednesday, 26 November 2014
It’s comeback week. Wu-Tang Clan, Faith No More, AC/DC and Gwen Stefani have all returned with new singles. As usual, I divide the good’uns and bad’uns. Is bad’un even a word? Too late, I’ve typed it out now, there’s no going back...
'Necklace' - Wu-Tang Clan
‘Brother, I think that necklace is causing you too much trouble’. I’ll admit that the sample gets repeated a few too many times, but otherwise the beat being laid down on these New Yorkers' latest single is phenomenal. There’s a mysterious, worn feel to it like it was discovered on a dusty cassette tape in an ancient vault somewhere. Needless to say the verses over the top are insane too. Bring on A Better Tomorrow. I’m belted up and ready.
'Drown' – Marika Hackman
British folk artist, Marika Hackman, plays with some interesting vocal harmonies on this brooding, melancholy track that has all the stillness of being underwater and the hopelessness of realising you’re drowning. There couldn’t be a more disturbingly fitting video.
'Motherfucker' - Faith No More
90s alt/experimental-rock band, Faith No More, are back after a decade and a half with this profanely titled but marvellously crafted new single. The triumphant instrumentation and Mike Patton’s layered vocals build up into a satisfying guitar solo. It rocks like a [insert track title here]!
'Rock or Bust' - AC/DC
They may be getting on a bit, but they’ve still got more energy than most young rockers today. This is a monster of a riff and I’m surprised by the freshness of Angus’s distortion tone. Yes, this is classic Back-in-Black-era acca dacca, but the production’s 2014.
'Spark the Fire' - Gwen Stefani
The No-Doubt-frontwoman-turned-solo-pop-icon has managed to stay looking and sounding young for twenty years, I’ll give her that. However, this new track is just plain dull, not helped by the monotonous production provided by Pharrell. Also, it really doesn’t sound like Gwen is singing ‘spark’. Is pyrophilia a thing?
Trae Tha Truth – Try Me ft. Young Thug
Young Thug is like the asshole you don’t invite to your party because he’s guaranteed to wreck your parents furniture, piss off your friends, kill your family pet and then pass out on your bed in a pool of vomit. This track was alright until Trae let Young Thug come in and fuck things up, slurring gibberish awkwardly over the beat like he’s choking on his tongue and barking ‘ratatatat’ a few times because he can’t think of anything better to spit. Trae's disappointment, although he tries hard to conceal it, is clear.
Tuesday, 25 November 2014
Whilst the rest of the southern rap scene have been getting busy riding throwaway trap beats and dropping throwaway punchlines, Big K.R.I.T has been steadily moving away and sculpting his own much more original and quite possibly influential sound. He’s always been a standout character in deep south hip hop, mainly down to his speedily tight and acrobatic flows. He can jump around any beat at any tempo he likes and still perfectly articulate every word.
New to his style on this album is his choice of instrumentation. The usual 808s are there but it’s the other sounds on top that give it that flair – the Style Council-esque synth-bass, the female vocal harmonies and bounteous use of digital cowbell.
Also heading off in a new direction is the lyrical content. This record sees Krit covering third eyes, the big bang and God. That might sound like the priggish subject matter of a rapper who thinks he’s the world’s next modern philosopher, but instead Krit keeps it tastefully low key if only to build a spiritual, spacey vibe to the tracks.
Although the majority of the album is solid, there are some tracks that pale in comparison to others. ‘Pay Attention’ was ironically the song that held my attention the least, adopting a mainstream Drake-like chorus. The ‘Standby (Interlude)’ track is also blatant filler and doesn’t really do much for me. Thankfully, these tiny scratches don’t take away from the fact that this is still a gem.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
BEST AND WORST NEW TRACKS OF THE WEEK 19/11/2014: Dizzee Rascal, Screaming Females, Band Aid 30 and more...
Monday, 17 November 2014
Sunday, 16 November 2014
Friday, 14 November 2014
When you accompany your album with a HBO TV series and proclaim it as an ‘ode to American music’ you set the expectations bar pretty high. Sonic Highways would have had to be the next White Album for it to have lived up to the stupendous sea of hype surrounding it. No-one can carry that off, not even the Foo Fighters, and they’re the biggest modern rock band we have.
Thursday, 13 November 2014
This album is essentially a dude rambling sleazy nonsense over a bunch of lo-fi instrumentals that sound like they’re straight from eighties TV commercials. It’s cheesy. It’s silly. It's, for the most part, terribly uncool. It’s also among one of the best records I’ve heard all year.
Wednesday, 12 November 2014
Sunday, 9 November 2014
I was convinced I’d be retired and in a care home by the time this album got round to dropping. How long’s it been since this album was first scheduled to be released? Ten years? Twenty years? Fifty???
Friday, 7 November 2014
Thursday, 6 November 2014
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
It's weekly round-up time again where I single out the singles that made the best and worst impression on me. I hope you all had a happy Halloween/Guy Fawkes Night/Diwali/belated-Easter.
Monday, 3 November 2014
There are some people who understand the appeal of drone metal and good for them, they’re clearly more open-minded than I am. Personally, Sunn O)))’s schtick - playing one guitar note over and over again at a glacial speed – strikes me as a waste of a fretboard and a waste of my time.