Monthly Archives: September 2012

Lucy Rose – Like I Used To – Review

Surprisingly good debut album from former Bombay Bicycle Club backing singer.

It would be easy to dismiss this album. Just another female singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar and a nice voice, playing radio-friendly, late afternoon coffee shop music, ready to be forgotten by the end of the month. But what actually emerges deserves comparison with another, similarly situated singer, Lianne La Havas. Like La Havas, Rose has been well supported by radio plays, and widely known for a long time before her album was even announed. For La Havas this was thanks to a show-stealing performance on Jools Holland, while Rose has honed her trade working with Bombay Bicycle Club, first on Flaws and then throughout A Different Kind of Fix. But unlike La Havas’ album, which was overwrought and less impressive than her Jools performance, Like I Used To is well structured and entertaining enough to warrant immediate second playthroughs and definitely removes her from the shadow of BBC.

Whether or not you will like this album depends pretty much entirely on whether you like Lucy Rose’s voice. Somewhere between Laura Marling and BBC frontman Jack Steadman, it warbles delicately over the top of acoustic guitar lines, and while being bit, yes, twee, it is very effective and carries the songs well. She apparently sells tea at her live shows, which will for some be a sort of ‘I told you so’ revelation, and there is definitely something provincial in the album, which, combined with the fact the album was recorded at her home and village hall, gives the record an sort of homely feel to it. What saves it from being just that dreaded put down of the critic – ‘nice’ – is the songwriting. Take lead single ‘Lines’, what could be a simple, delicate ballad becomes a fascinating song, with syncopated guitar parts and an unexpected gear shift into the chorus and then a shift up again for a rousing bridge. To top it all off the verse is in 7/4 which to my drummers ears is confirmation of a talent beyond what could have been her pigeonhole, and singles her out among acoustic artists, just as BBC’s 10/4 ‘Emergency Contraception Blues’ put them a foot above the standard indie plodder.

The flow of the album is something Rose has got perfectly right. There are just the right amount of songs so that the album never becomes boring, and each tender moment is countered by something more upbeat to prevent it being too samey. Songs like ‘Night Bus‘ and ‘Middle of the Road‘ show off Rose’s ability to write moving songs, while ‘Bikes’ and ‘Watch Over‘ provide the album with its happier, poppier moments, the latter containing little hints of Steadman’s Bombay stylings that will please fans crossing over between the two. Thankfully, this is the only moment reminding us of the connection. The overall theme of the album seems to be the past and adolescence. This is hinted at by the title, and album closer ‘Be Alright’ is be a brilliant moment where Rose effectively closes off this topic. Lyrically it reflects on love and relationships as you would probably expect, and it does it well, there’s never a grating lyric like many youthful acoustic bands suffer from.

As a debut this is highly promising. At its best it recalls the better folk/pop artists of the past in Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and even occasionally Cat Power. It isn’t without its Flaws (teehee its a reference), the variation is mostly contained as parts within each song, and it would be nicer to have one track where the sound is more experimental, although that was what became a major problem with the La Havas album. The album tracks have yet to really stand out from the singles and this could be a problem, but only time can tell as any one of them could be my favourite song by next week for all I know. What annoys me more is that like La Havas’ album it has a rubbish cover that does the music a disservice, but whatever.

Lucy Rose Like I Used To

While its critics might dismiss Like I Used To as the latest in a line of forgettable nu-folk, in reality it is a surprisingly strong record showing off a musical ability far beyond many of her peers, and deserving of repeated plays. The standout track by a country mile is track no. 4, ‘Shiver’. Anyone who fails to be moved by it has to be one cold-hearted bastard, one look at the long line of youtube cover versions will tell you of its instant appeal.

I am indebted to her performance for Chris ‘The Hawk’ Hawkins on 6music at the ungodly hours of the morning for finally persuading me to get the album after a week or so of appreciating the singles. It’s well worth checking out here (there’s only 1 day left so hurry).

Lucy Rose can be found on facebook, twitter, youtube and the internet as well as in the background of Bombay Bicycle Club songs.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (Or STFU You Boring Prick)

This time I’m mad…

It’s a fairly well known fact that The Beatles used the word ‘Love’ somewhere between 485 and 613 times in their lyrics (nobody could be arsed to count properly) which is higher than the number of songs they actually wrote. They can get away with it A) because they invented pop music as we know it and so were the first to really use it, and B) they never really get the credit for their inventive lyrics, they were subtle in a pop song in a way that Flo Rida’s ‘Whistle’ is not, despite almost saying the same thing (does anyone realise the filth hiding in the lyrics of ‘Please Please Me‘).

The reason I bring this up is because I’ve finally reached the end of my tether with the use of the word ‘Love’ in current music. Note that I didn’t say ‘pop music’. I don’t give any sort of a fuck whether Rihanna ‘found love in a hopeless place’ (or as my brother like to think of it ‘homeless place’, in a tribute to hobo love), because she’s a pop artist. No one’s seriously claiming that it’s being done for emotional depth (apart from Rihanna herself). What really grinds my gears is when modern bands trying to step into the less disposable rock world use this word as a lynchpin for their really ‘deep’ songs. The ones that seem to have real people moved to tears and screaming how meaningful and ‘inspiring’ the lyrics are. Well go fuck a duck.

A general and pretty practical rule for any sort of art is this principle that I have made up. In order for Art to be meaningful it either has to say something new, or say something old in a new way. It’s very simple and very effective. The former can be seen in acts like The Sex Pistols, Radiohead, The Velvet Underground or Gil Scott-Heron, while the latter has been recently achieved with songs like ‘Crown of Love’ by Arcade Fire, ‘Tessellate’ by Alt-J or ‘Wandering Star’ by Poliça.

It’s a shame that so many modern bands seem to run against this idea. By far the worst offenders are Mumford and Sons. A fairly popular hipster conspiracy theory is that Mumford and Sons are the soundtrack the to the Lib-Con Coalition, in that somehow they have the popular vote, they all seem like a bunch of wankers and we won’t see the back of them for upward of three more years. But the most annoying thing about them, far more than every song sounding the same, more than the fucking banjos, more than even the fact that, in the words of Drowned in Sound ‘Mumford & Sons are to folk what Nickelback are to grunge’, is their pseudo-meaningful lyrics. I’m going to post a few select quotes of their lyrics about ‘Love’ and see if you can refrain from groaning at the simultaneous meaninglessness and sheer blandness of them.

‘Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, It will set you free’
‘And my head told my heart “Let love grow”‘
‘And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.’
‘Love was kind, for a time, Now just aches, and it makes me blind’
‘I know that’s what you love, Cause you know I love the same’
‘Wanting change but loving her just as she lies Is the burden of the man who’s build his life on love’
‘Casting love on me as if it were a spell I could not break’
‘Where you invest your love, you invest your life’

Well if you’re not asleep, I should just say, these aren’t even the worst Mumford lyrics. There are far worse ones (I’m looking at you ‘I Will Wait’), but I’ve spared them for clarity’s sake. Under this band, the word that was the bedrock to The Beatles, has become completely meaningless. There’s no complexity, no depth, none of the gut-wrenching power of lyrics like Alt-J’s ‘Breezeblocks‘ or Cat Power’s ‘Colour and the Kids‘, which both use ‘Love’ to killer effect. This is bad art, in every sense. It’s saying what other people have said before and have said better. If ‘All You Need Is Love’ was true, once upon a time then these modern bands need to go the opposite route, and give the word a rest for a couple of years. Hopefully when it returns it can have meaning once again.

I’ll leave the last Mumford word to the legend that is Mark E. Smith, and you should know that name if you even want to start thinking about lyrics: “We were playing a festival in Dublin the other week. There was this other group like, warming up in the next sort of chalet, and they were terrible. I said ‘shut them cunts up’ and they were still warming up, so I threw a bottle at them. The band said ‘that’s the Sons of Mumford’ or something, ‘they’re number five in charts!’ I just thought they were a load of retarded Irish folk singers.”

Oh and the title of this article, ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’ is taken from a a set of short stories by Raymond Carver, who is the perfect place to start if you want to read something incredibly powerful, in a short time, and about Love.

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“I’m throwing rocks tonight.” A discussion on the use of music in film


The scene opens on a set of white bowling pins in a typical American bowling alley. A beer is placed in a holder.  A ball rolls back into the holding bay.  It is picked up and bowled.  Strike.  Ash is tapped from a cigarette.  A ball is picked up. Sequence of various different sized Americans bowling.  Man sprays shoes.  Donny bowls a strike.

“I’m throwing rocks tonight .”

And so The Big Lebowski begins.  Alone, this scene would be uninteresting. Despite the Coen Brothers fantastic cinematography, most notably in the way the camera follows the ball as it rolls down the lane, alone this scene would frankly be dull. So why is it such a perfect opening for such a perfect film?

Bob Dylan.  I’m not going to sing praises of Bob Dylan, however much I would like to, because in fact, the song used over the Coen’s bowling montage alone, is pretty average.   But in the context of this montage, it makes perfect sense. The Coen brothers indeed have perfectly married film and music at the beginning of this film.  It gives a ironic twist on bowlers who are presented as being unremarkable, typical Americans, with music proclaiming there is something greater going on inside them, indeed the song is titled “The Man in Me”. It sets us up perfectly for the introduction to The Dude. Who is very much your typical American, though at least he’s housebroken. This irony about average people being great, really, is repeated again and again throughout the film. Whether it’s the paedophile Jesus, the Vietnam Veteran Walter, or the Dude himself, there is a constant suggestion that what goes on in their lives is somehow reaching towards something greater. But this all falls apart at the end, when they realise it was all one big fuck up.

The song “The Man in Me” is essentially used as a motif.  Good filmmakers, such as the Coen brothers, understand the power music can hold over a film. In Casablanca the repetition of the song “As Time Goes By” holds such emotional power over the characters that whenever we even get a snippet of the song, we know instantly what the characters are feeling.

Music in films however, can be used awfully.  There must be a certain subtlety to the way the music is used or it comes across as being a cheap way of covering up a montage. For music to be used in a montage, like in the Big Lebowski, to good affect the scene itself must almost be passive.  Take a moment to consider the way The Libertines “Time for Heroes” is used in American Pie: The Wedding. The song is, undeniably, fucking brilliant. And while to a certain extent it is about teens going nuts and smashing shit up, it does not match up with nerdy, uninteresting teens getting drunk and trying to get laid. The combination of the two serves neither the song nor the film well.

But music in this fils is not used as a motif. Instead it attempts to match a moment within the film with music that fits suitably, that’s not to say, that this cannot be done well.

Tarantino and Scorsese are renowned for their ability to do this and unquestionably are masters of their art. Take the scene in Pulp Fiction when Vincent arrives at Marcellus’s house and Son of A Preacher Man is Playing, the irony in the song plays perfectly off the characters.  Music should not be used as a cover up for a scene but should serve both the scene and the song, as Tarantino does here and as is done with Hallelujah in Watchmen. Whereas usually the song is taken to be a painfully ironic hymn to unrequited love, in this scene in Watchmen a whole new dimension is brought to the song. Love, both physically and mentally (there’s nudity kids) is presented as an escape from life, it is something sacred and something that cannot last. Hallelujah is a cry out of love in a world void of hope.

I couldn’t find the actual scene. I presume due to its sexual nature.

Music married with film can bring a new dimension to the scene and the song, but it is a delicate art and must be approached carefully. Finally I will leave you with another master of this technique. Here he uses music to create a feel to the film, and the mood of a  city. That man is of course Woody Allen.  Until next time.

The Dedicated Apeman x