Archive for the 'Track Reviews' Category

CD Review: Brett Anderson, Brett Anderson (Drowned In Sound, 2007)

I’ve received in my post bag a 5-track sampler from Brett Anderson’s forthcoming solo album (March 26, Drowned in Sound). Some of you may remember that I’ve been anticipating this record for a while as I was a huge Suede fan, I thought The Tears album was very good and I do genuinely think that Brett has a good album left in him somewhere. This record, however, if the promo sampler represents the highlights, is not it by a huge margin.

The lead single “Love Is Dead” is a soft, wave-your-hands-in-the-air ballad which reflects exactly the sentiment you’d expect from Brett and while it’s nice enough, brings nothing special or memorable with it. In fact the lines “plastic people wearing plastic smiles” is cringeworthy enough to make the rest of the song far from convincing. It actually gets worse from there. “One Lazy Morning” could not be more Brett-by-numbers if he retitled it “(The Litter Blowing past the Dust in the Breeze) One Lazy Morning.” It sounds like it was not good enough to even make the cut as one of the appalling Coming Up b-sides that make the second disc of Sci-Fi Lullabies such a disappointment. The chorus, “One lazy morning when life is a breeze am I gonna find Jesus in me?” is lazy songwriting of the most cringeworthy variety. This is after he discusses planes flying overhead leaving vapour trails. Musically, it’s sub-A New Morning, all acoustic guitars and string arrangements which are added to try and distract from the fact that far from being unremarkable, it’s so cliched Brett it’s like he didn’t even try.

“Scorpio Rising,” the track included in Brett’s acoustic YouTube series, is actually bearable if you discount the soft-rock leanings and the fact that it actually sounds a bit like “Winds of Change” by the Scorpions. While his voice sounds really fantastic, I can’t fail to disbelieve the over-earnest vocals that are laid over more post-Coming-Up-era slow balladry and it all blends into “To the Winter” quite blandly.

By far the most entertaining track, however, is the plodding rock thump of “Dust and Rain” which kind of reminds of me the abysmal “Streetlife” off A New Morning and boasts lyrics such as, “I am the dust, you are the rain. I am the needle and you are the vein; and this is the moment that words can’t explain….” And “And your love’s like an overdose with your hands wrapped around my throat, using sex like an antidote to the pain.” If this is all the energy he can emote for his music these days, either he’s gotten very old or he’s having the same reaction to his own songwriting that I am.

Brett himself has been describing this record as very raw and very personal but I just can’t see it. These tracks feel completely soulless, as if he’s scoured his back catalogue for every cliche that his fans might expect in hopes that he could disguise the fact that his heart really is not in this record. I think if he really made the record he would like this to have been he’d have had to open himself up far more than he’s managed since around 1994, he’d stop using the same tired cliches about rain and needles and dust and breeze and trees and beauty. I think that the album that he could make and should make about his life and world now wouldn’t still sound so firmly entrenched in the music he was making over a decade ago.

Brett Anderson – Dust and Rain

Brett Anderson – One Lazy Morning

EDIT: We’ve officially received our first “cease and desist” email from Drowned in Sound records who apparently don’t like us having them there. So, the MP3’s have come down as asked.

Posted by JustHipper on 13th February 2007 at 2:02 pm | comments (57)
File under CD Reviews,mp3,Reviews,Track Reviews.

Digital Vinyl #1: The Triffids – Field Of Glass

In this new Indie Credential feature I’ll be raiding my vinyl collection for some rare nuggets from yesteryear. I’ll rip them kicking and screaming into mp3 format, pops and crackles intact, and serve them up for your listening pleasure.

The Triffids - Field Of GlassThe Triffids’ Field Of Glass EP is a genuine lost classic. Released in 1985, the EP is a record of their Peel Session recorded in November 1984 and produced by Mark Radcliffe, who was then an in-house producer at the Beeb before embarking on his glittering DJ career. Radcliffe did an excellent job in capturing a performance that was so visceral and intense that it’s no wonder that the three songs were never re-recorded for a proper release. To my knowledge none of these recordings have ever had an official CD release.

Listening to the three tracks it’s fairly obvious that lead Triffid David McComb was in a bad place at the time. McComb was an alcoholic and heroin user whose substance abuse led to a heart transplant at the age of just 34 and eventually to his sad, early death two years later in 1999. The first two songs, “Bright Lights, Big City” and “Monkey On My Back”, deal directly with McComb’s drug abuse and are infused with bitterness and desperation. They’re brilliant songs but I’ll post them some other time.

The song which gave its name to the EP tells the tale of a loner who has some unrequited love issues with a rich girl who’s just finished school. He pleads with her to ride with him on a baking hot summers night and she goes along. Driven mad by the intolerable heat and by her rejection he murders her. Or at least that’s what I can make out. McComb’s performance on this recording is incredible; he completely inhabits his role as the protagonist, giving voice to his inner demons, howling into the black night. He is matched every step of the way by his band with Martyn Casey’s imperious bass, Robert McComb’s twanging guitar and Jill Birt’s eerie organ propelling the song along, stacking up the tension, getting faster and faster until it all breaks down and the band leave McComb to himself as he becomes more and more tormented and deranged. When the band burst back in at the end to glorious effect the song comes full circle and suggests that our anti-hero has been fantasising all along. What is clear is that, not for the first time, a Peel session produced something out of the ordinary, a performance that could never be repeated to such devastating effect.

The Triffids – Field Of Glass

Posted by The Ledge on 21st January 2007 at 10:17 pm | comments (13)
File under Digital Vinyl,mp3,Reviews,Track Reviews.

Great Band, Shit Song #2 : “Baby Genius” by Eels

Electro-shock Blues is not only my favourite Eels album, it is also one of my favourite albums ever. The songs relate E’s experience with the suicide of his sister and the death of his mom from cancer and it came out about the same time I lost my father. The Ledge bought it for me after we heard Steve Lamacq play the closing track, “P.S. You Rock My World,” and I commented on how good Beautiful Freak was and how much I’d enjoyed seeing them on the small stage at Lollapalooza the previous summer.

The album itself is a curious mixture of sadness, anger, resignation and astute observation on the smaller details of illness, depression and coping. At various times you can feel his frustration at being unable to help his mother and his attempts to understand his sister’s action. Ultimately, despite the overwhelmingly depressing subject matter, he manages, in his unique way, to capture both a mood of sorrow and a sensation of hope, as he closes the record with the words:

Laying in bed tonight I was thinking
and listening to all the dogs
and the sirens and the shots
And how a careful man tries to dodge the bullets
While a happy man takes a walk

And maybe it’s time to live

To me it summed up the whole experience of the album. It’s essentially a trek through the stages of grief, from Denial to Acceptance, and with acceptance comes the ability to move on.

Sadly, in the middle of all this is the irritatingly twee piece of drivel that is “Baby Genius.” Sandwiched in between the two gems that are the album’s first single, “Last Stop: This Town” which is about wishing you could fly away with the spirit of a suicide victim and “Climbing To the Moon” which is about a terminal patient accepting his fate and pledging to make the best of the time he has left, there’s this semi-sarcastic, pseudo-lullaby that sounds like it’s a parody on some choral Christmas carol. When I hear it what I hear are the words “baby Jesus,” which may be what was intended, but who knows. Either way it’s not what I want to hear in the middle of a rather sombre and personal record. As far as I can tell, it’s nothing more than a strop about being frustrated with a young smart-ass. Melodically, it does not fit, it’s like a commercial break at the peak of the action, and lyrically it does not fit as it has nothing to do with anything else on the album. It’s not like they needed the filler, the album would be plenty long without it. Moreover, if intended to offer some light relief from the heavy subject-matter, it fails at that as well, since it sounds more like a cry of frustration at goodness knows what put to cheesy kids music box and it is hardly amusing or mood-lightening. Sadly, it’s another one of those songs that leaves me shaking my head and wondering why a band would break the flow on a phenomenal record with toss like “Baby Genius.”

Eels – “Baby Genius”

Eels – “P.S. You Rock My World”

Posted by JustHipper on 10th January 2007 at 9:31 pm | comments (8)
File under mp3,Track Reviews.

Great Band, Shit Song #1 : “The Bagman’s Gambit” by The Decemberists

Welcome to the first in what will become an ongoing series of MP3 posts about songs released by bands we love which, well, are just a little bit shit. You know the sort: you’ve got on an album by one of your favourite artists and you get about 4 songs in and something comes on that just makes you groan with pain. It’s a song you never skip because, well, an album is meant to be heard as an album, but it’s really a chore to get through the track in question. We’re also looking for suggestions for tracks to be included in this series. If anybody wants to write a guest post about a song that really bothers them, use the contact details in the right-hand column. That said, here goes:

“The Bagman’s Gambit” by The Decemberists

A song about spies, the protagonist, a bureaucrat, meets a Russian spy, falls in love and she talks him into giving up state secrets. Eventually she is caught as a double agent by the Soviets and he uses his connections to rescue her and she disappears from his life. Then appears briefly years later in a passing car. This sounds like a tense, suspenseful Bond-esque tale of intrigue and romance – but it isn’t. In fact, it’s a boring dirge which gets in the way of the comical and mournful storytelling of the rest of the album. It flows badly, with just a repetitive guitar line through the overly-long verses and Colin Meloy isn’t so much singing as whinging out his nose.

Now, the thing about The Decemberists is that they tell great stories through both music and verse. You want to hear the full tale; you want to sing along. You feel for the characters’ travails; you laugh at their follies. All the storytelling in this track has you doing, however, is wishing for your own death to make it stop. The narrator is a fool who gives up state secrets for a bit of a roll in the sack. He’s high up enough in government to have state secrets, yet he’s so untrustworthy and pathetic that all it takes is a woman smiling at him before he’s slobbering and desperate that he’ll do whatever she wants – including risking the safety of his countrymen. The object of his affections is a foreign spy who uses and discards him. There is no point of sympathetic connection in this song so the story itself fails miserably. When you add to that the fact that musically it’s funereal and rather boring, it’s hard to engage at all with what you’re hearing. Even the fast bits are so obvious and uninspired it just makes the slow bits seem that much more dirge-like.

To make matters worse, “The Bagman’s Gambit” follows “The Sporting Life,” an amusing, upbeat track that will have you tapping your foot. It’s like driving along at a happy 70mph in traffic before slamming face first into a giant brick wall. You’re so disoriented from the mess that is “The Bagman’s Gambit” that when it finally finishes up after what seems like 13 hours of unmitigated pain and turns into “From My Own True Love (Lost At Sea)” which is actually a rather touching ballad, you’re so sick of hearing slow, mournful wailing that you can hardly bear another three minutes of it, all you want is to get to something with a bit of a hook. So it ruins that song as well.

The Decemberists – The Bagman’s Gambit

The Decemberists – The Sporting Life

Posted by JustHipper on 5th January 2007 at 5:04 pm | comments (13)
File under mp3,Track Reviews.