Monthly Archives: March 2012

So many new songs! – Tenacious D, Sigur Rós, Bon Iver/The Flaming Lips, Soundgarden and more!

The last couple of days have seen a crazy number of new song anouncements from bands big and small! Leaving aside Justin Bieber’s new song because… well, it’s Justin Bloody Bieber, they’ve come from some absolutely legendary bands. And who are more legendary than our first band…

Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix

That’s right, The D are back. The legendary comedy rockers have resurfaced after a conspicuous absence after the epic Pick of Destiny. All I know is, they’ve got a little bit fatter and they are just as prepared to rock out. Although the song isn’t their best by any long shot, it’s still a decent D track, and equal to anything off the first album (excluding Tribute obviously). I’m gonna put the song in the embed from Soundcloud, but they’ve made a silly video and by God, when the D make a silly video, it must be watched. (and it’s got rock legend dave grohl in it, so you know it’s good).

Sigur Rós – Ekki Múkk

From the D to a very different band, its time for the new song of the epic soundscape band. They released this song as a teaser for their upcoming album ‘Valtari’.

Sigur Rós – Ekki múkk from Sigur Rós on Vimeo.

The Flaming Lips / Bon Iver collaberation – Ashes in the Air

Ahead of the release of the new Flaming Lips (with guests) LP – The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends they’ve released this song which sees The Fearless Freaks fuse their oddball psychadelic sound with the more understated Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver. As for what it sounds like, the best description I can give is “Fucking Weird”.

Soundgarden – Live to Rise

In the Grunge story there were the Big Four, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and these heavy rockers. It’s been 13 years but we finally have the first snippet of new material from these legends, and I mean snippet, it’s ridiculously short. In all it does at least sound like a traditional Soundgarden song, plus, it being in the avengers movie, it gives anyone a new excuse to see what is looking like an absolute tank of a movie.

Beach House – Myth

I don’t know if any of you have heard of Beach House. They’re definitely worth investigating of you like dreamy reverb-laden electro-pop. I first heard about them through Warpaint, and there are some similarities it has to be said, but Beach House are much more than you’d expect. The new song, Myth is layered and well-crafted, while not lising any of the necessary pop charm. Explore at will.

Odd Future – Rella / N.Y

And finally we have the violent mysogynistic, homophobic rap group. This is more of a bonus track, but with the release of their second proper record ‘The OF Tape Vol. 2’ they’ve made two absolutely bat-shit insane videos, as they become ever more acceptable in the rap world.

And with that, I’ll finally let you be…

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Tom Williams and the Boat – Teenage Blood – Review

Well, this was only ever gonna go one way, wasn’t it.Fear The Beard!

Tom Williams and the Boat return after making what was my album of 2011, with the ingeniously titled Teenage Blood. Now I’m not going to pretend that I’m not a complete fanatic when it comes to this band, but I’ll try and give my fair view of the album.

The Boat have grown up. With Tom’s voice dropping a few tones, the band have got darker and angrier. And of course, they’ve got better. but rather than get old and cynical, this album goes straight for the adolescent. It’s a journey through the pains and the joys of being a teenager – but before you cringe – the genius of the album is to pull this off without being mawkish or melodramatic. Credit has to go to Tom’s lyrics here, they were the standout feature of first album ‘Too Slow’, and here they are the reason that this album theme works at all.

They are a folk band, it has to be said, but they are light years away from the namby-pamby banjo-and-haystack blandness of Mumford and Sons, sounding more like a cross between Neil Young and Arcade Fire, with songs being grounded with acoustic guitar, but the depth coming from electric guitar riffs and a mournful violin over the top.

The album roars opens with the title track hitting after four beat shout from Tom himself. Needless to say it’s the most instantly brilliant track on the album, with fantastic lyrics and a quality hook ‘I have (a) teenage blood and a teenage heart / I’d tell you what I can but I don’t know where to start / I’ve started falling apart’. Unfortunately they haven’t released the impending video yet but they do have a pretty good live acoustic version (put it on 720p for the best sound) that is worth checking out.

Elsewhere on the album more weight is given to Ant, the guitarist and it really pays off. His riffs drive the album on and can singlehandedly power whole tracks – particularly in ‘Too Young’ and ‘Trouble With The Truth’, both of which are phenomenal tunes that are a great step up for the band as a whole, musically and lyrically, the former could be a long-lost Strokes B-side, and the latter is a beautifully crafted ballad. Together with ‘Little Bit In Me’ – a trademark super-exaggerated violent track, the type of thing you would see in a serial killer’s diary, that in true Boat style then twists to actually be quite deep – and first single ‘My Bones’, these tracks make up the fist half, and this is defintely an album with two distinct halves.

The first is fairly experimental for the band, and it has the more obvious single type songs (why ‘Too Young’ isn’t the single I have no idea – except that My Bones and Teenage Blood are so good). However, the second half sees a change. The band finally settle into one consistent ‘Tom Williams and the Boat’ sound, and what at first listen might seem a little bit samey, the result is incredible.

All the songs have a consistent sound and the flow together perfectly. We get the return of the Tom-and-his-guitar style song that was a highlight of the first album, in ‘There’s A Stranger’. But the absolute pinnacle of the album is the penultimate song, ‘Summer Drive’. A tight drum beat propels a moving epic of a song, that rises and falls as the song flows. The album then rises to a close with what could be called the only happy song on the album (aside from the joyous ‘Too Young’ where the music is so uplifting yet the lyrics quite sad), ‘Emily’, the story of an angsty youth having a dance with his childhood sweetheart. Ideally I could show you one of those songs, but they are growers, so it wouldn’t do much good. Instead, here’s the original single and video, ‘My Bones’:

Overall the album is a little too brief, and it would’ve been great to have a few more songs, particularly ones of just Tom and a guitar as the two-minute ‘There’s A Stranger’ doesn’t quite satisfy the need for dylanesque acoustic songs. However, the double team of the instant hits of side one, and then the rewarding growers on side two (that have left me restarting from track 6 every time the album ends) works perfectly and show a many-layered band. Specifically, side two shows a band that have finally found a sound they can call their own, and it is awesome.

OK, a confession, even I have to admit, I may be selling this band for more than they actually should be. Part of the joy of music is discovery – it’s why people like different songs – they’re the ones they heard when a certain band ‘clicked’, and my discovery of this band may be colouring myu opinion a bit. So maybe they aren’t the greatest band since The Cure. But they are still bloody good, and all I can do is implore you, if you don’t believe me, if the songs don’t convince you these guys are brilliant, then keep listening, give it time. Because if you do, I can assure you, you will see how incredible these guys can be, and why they will undoubtedly be one of the bands that in a year’s time, everyone will be asking where the came from and how they got so good.

Please, just get the record.

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Why The Cure are the perfect band

Friday night at Reading 2012, an old band will take to the stage and rock out. For the vast majority of people I’ve spoken to, the announcement of The Cure as friday headliners has elicited a sympathtetic smile at best, and a nonchalent ‘meh’ in most cases.

What is it about The Cure that produces such intense fanaticism in the fans (here of course I mean me), and such indifference in everyone else. For most bands, there’ll be people with opinions, rants for good and bad, and at least a vague notion of who the band is – sound and style. The Cure are different, they have almost no haters, and yet most people couldn’t really say what style of music they play or what sort of things they sing about, at a stretch they might know that ‘the singer wears make-up’.

So why have I never met anyone who actively dislikes them? Probably because most folks will have only heard a few songs, those being the most successful ones, and in the case of The Cure, the most masterfully poppy songs ever made. Seriously, The Cure have an ear for pop like no one since The Beatles. It never sounds fake, like most pop stuff, but it always makes you feel good and gets you singing along. Here’s an example.

How can you not like a song like that.

But here is where things get interesting, because The Cure are far from being a pop act. They arose out of the post-punk scene, and along with bands like Joy Division and Siouxsie and the Banshees, they helped invent ‘Gothic music’. In many ways they inherited the reverb-filled, gloomy, driving drums sound of Joy Division just as Ian Curtis died and The Cure began their ‘Gothic Trio’ of albums: Seventeen Seconds, Faith, and Pornography. These are not things you would associate with a pop band. Thier songs fluctuate from rocking post-punk to dark, deep, drowning 6-minute ultra-depressing epics to perfect happy pop songs about cats in love. if you thought that was a joke, then you need to hear this next song. Not only is it hilariously happy, but its also my favourite Cure song ever.

This is the crucial reason why their fans are so keen. If you take the sunday headliner of Reading 2012, Foo Fighters, you know you are gonna get massive anthems that you can rock out too and sing along to. That’s what the Foos are all about. Or if you take the Bestival headliners, Sigur Ros, you know you’ll get deep atmospheric songs, but you’re fucked if you want to sing along or just have a cheery pop song, and vice versa with the Foos songs.

The Cure are the perfect fusion. You have the songs that you can completely lose yourself in the intense emotion of, like a good Bon Iver or Sparklehorse song, and you have the hits, the perfectly built pop songs like a Vaccines, Shins, Oasis or Arctic Monkeys tune.

And don’t think that I just mean a pace change, don’t think I’m saying most bands can’t do ballads if they do anthems, because almost all albums ever made will have a mix of slow and fast. What The Cure do so well is making music that can be ultra pop and commercial, that can grab you straight away, and then make music that seems the polar opposite, music that will stop you in your tracks and make you listen with absurd intensity, music that can drown you completely.

There are very few bands that can lay claim to this ability, and even fewer that can pull it off in any way whatsoever*. You can see proof of this success in their sheer endurance, they were a band formed in the late seventies, and without breaking up and having a big reunion, they are headlining England’s premier rock festival this year.

This is why the Cure are the perfect band. And here is a song that I think perfectly demonstrates their perfect fusion:

*bands that I think can also pull off The Cure’s duality are: Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Blur, Pearl Jam, and R.E.M. Notice something about that list, yeah, it’s all awesome.

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