Tag Archives: Review

Music Review – Jamie XX – Gosh

Unusually I’m including the actual music video for this review because it seems to have gone walkabout on the original site, and the video is what the review was mainly about.

When I’m going to do a review, I tend to whizz through the tracks offered by Semplesize, have a quick listen then pick my favourite song. This one was different! The first time I watched it I hardly even registered the music. Read on to find out why.

Original is here.


 

I fell across the Video for Jamie XX’s new song, Gosh, because I found a story about it on a random Astrophysics ‘blog the other day (I’m a writer, that’s the kind of thing we do!). Now, Jamie XX has never been on my horizon, if you’ll excuse the pun, but this video made me sit up and stare.

As well as a word-smith I am also a bit of a geek, and so the idea behind Gosh really appealed to me. The video starts off with a pale red dot in the centre of the screen which, over the course of the first minute, gets infinitesimally larger. Then suddenly something hoves into view, spinning mechanically and, if you hadn’t realised before, it now becomes apparent that the circle in front of you is the planet Mars, in all its interstellar glory.

For the next minute and a half you are treated to slowly panning images of the planet’s surface, then, if you’re observant, you notice that something is not as it should be. An aerial shot of the red dusty exterior isn’t completely static as you’d expect. Four small dots are skimming across the terrain like they’re attempting a land speed record, which they might be when you come to think about it, throwing up huge plumes of the crimson dust that is, as I write, being sampled by the Curiosity rover!

Some lights start to show up on the vistas around the three minute mark then some, for want of a better word, space stations show up, hovering like stellar hubcaps in the solar radiation above the atmosphere. More lights show up on the rocky face of the world, followed by a closer shot showing structures of a very habitable nature, which can only be man-made.

The crescendo of the story starts at three minutes fifty, when you get your first glimpse of more Earth-y colours, a ragged brown line, strongly delineated against the ruddy, rocky landscape dips into view and spotted across it is greenery. Trees, lakes and eventually clouds glide past. Finally the perspective jumps back to the planet as a whole and you can see that it is absolutely what you would expect from a life bearing rock, thrashing its way through space at nearly 87,000 miles per hour, in the outer part of Sol’s Goldilocks zone.

The music, which I have rather absentmindedly ignored up to this point, is actually a beautiful accompaniment to the visuals, giving the impression that Jamie XX came up with the concept for the video before he actually wrote the song.

When you get down to it the basic concept behind most music is the sharing of experiences and feelings. With this video Jamie XX has drawn me into his world, shown me a small part of what keeps his mind ticking over in the wee small hours, and drawn in a fan who would not otherwise have given the track a second thought.

Very impressed.

 


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Music Review – Loose Tooth – Pickwick Average

Before browsing the Semplesize list for that day I had never heard of Loose Tooth, but that didn’t stop me enjoying their mode of excitable teenage rock thing.

I was quite pleased that I managed to elbow an oblique reference to some actual literature into it, although I’ve never been a particularly big fan of Hardy it was nice to make the cross-media comparison.

As ever, original is here…


 

Philadelphia, city of brotherly love, also the city that delivered Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Walkmen to our ears. Loose Tooth, however, have shunned the normally laid back vibes of their geographic brethren and gone for an all-out 90s alternative-fest.

Much like the ground-breaking Charles Dickens novel with a timeshare in the song’s title, Pickwick Average is a sequence of loosely-related adventures, just in rock music rather than literature.

It starts off with a rough drawl of a guitar riff, then swiftly escalates into a full on incursion of overdriven guitars and disaffected vocals, however this isn’t the full story. After giving you a good slap in the face to start off, the song plays on the quiet-loud-quiet theme, so beloved of pretty much every grungy rock band of the last twenty years.

After finishing the first verse, such as it is, there is a break for coffee and a bit of decelerated introspection, wavering back and forth between fast and slow the song doesn’t seem to know whether it’s coming or going.

But wait another minute and suddenly they’ve made up their mind and decided that quarter time is the way to go, the drum laboriously beating out a backing while the guitars seem to be noodling around just for fun, as if angling to accompany a comedy film based around Alabama.

Loose Tooth is quite reminiscent of The Breeders, with asymmetrical guitars and a longing for a better life. Pickwick Average is a fun track, with enough happening to keep you interested all the way to the sober end, the only downside being you’ve probably heard another band doing the same thing before.


Music Review – Faith No More – Superhero

The next article I wrote for Semplesize was another of my own suggestions, I mean, how could I not!

I’ve been a fan of this band since 19-mutter-mutter-mutter, The first album I had was The Real Thing, but I got all the others in the intervening years, I even own We Care A Lot (the album, not the song, although it has an alternative version of the song on it which is interesting to listen to when you know the Introduce Yourself one so well)

I made some possibly apocrophal statements in this but it was fun to write.

The original one is here.


 

In 1985 a new band released their first album. Called We Care A Lot, it was just innovative enough to upset the critics, garnering such comments as “inexorable” or “often off-key, fairly monotonous, and colourless”. Faith No More were here! The truth was that the production, though rough, was just right for a band who have continued to innovate through their long and varied career which included the ousting of Chuck Mosley, the original lead singer, who was superseded by the rather more tuneful and exceptionally more flamboyant Mike Patton.

Like much of FNM’s material We Care A Lot hasn’t really passed the test of time, Introduce Yourself, the only other album fronted by Mosley, is probably still the best work they have produced. But of course when Patton came along things got a lot…weirder. Sure they released quite a lot of songs, which sold quite a lot of copies, and had a pretty successful run of being world straddling rock stars, always slightly outside the bounds of “normal” rock music, but they always seemed to be on a knife edge.

Eventually the inevitable artistic differences, or at least guitarist Jim Martin’s homophobia clashing with keyboard player Roddy Bottum’s coming out, split the band and ended the phenomenon.

Now, 30 years later, they have just released their second single since blasting back onto the scene at the close of last year, I won’t mention the name of that track in case there are any people of a gentler persuasion reading. Now, the second single has finally been released, after an almost untenable number of delays. And it’s a Superhero.

This is classic Faith No More, in that it starts with heavy guitars and a piano, joined swiftly by Patton bellowing some violent words, after the verse a short break with less guitar and more piano, then back into the auditory mugging.

There isn’t really a lot to single it out from any of their music released pre-1998. This isn’t a criticism, they have always pushed the boundaries, every album has its own style and tone, but they are all definitively Faith No More. So from Superhero you can expect Rock music, shouting, sing along choruses and, as always, a lot of fun. Put it on repeat and enjoy.

 


 


Music Review – Hillström and Billy – The Arising

My second review for Semplesize. The general idea behind writing for them is that, you go to a webpage where they list all the different artists/songs they have been forwarded and you put your name next to the one you like the best.

Now my first one for a band called Bear’s Den was picked mainly because the song was called think of England and I thought it was rather apt for someone who only moved to Australia a year ago. But this time I had to pick based on merit alone. So I sat myself down and started wandering through the listings, eventually being rather surprised to find something which surprised and delighted me.

The band, or at least the name by which the individual goes, is Hillström and Billy, and the song is called The Arising. You can find the original published article here.

 


 

The word “Band” can be used in a fantastically loose sense when talking about the musical collective centred around Petter Hillström’s vocal nonchalance. Hillström and Billy aren’t so much a band as a large and interchangeable group of Petter’s friends and acquaintances, who seem to jump at the chance to collaborate on whatever is floating his longship at the time.
Hailing from Stockholm in Sweden, Hillström’s previous works have orbited around folk pop and lo-fi acoustic planets, often grazing the musical asteroids of The Kooks or Athlete. This isn’t the full story though!
Petter’s previous work occasionally hints at what you will get from The Arising. The earlier tracks, such as With You Ahahah, Hillside and Why Won’t Be Why Anymore, suggest that when the volume knob is twisted clockwise a couple of notches the intensity of the music increases exponentially.

So, if you are hoping for the lethargic strummings, pleasant as they are, of his other works then you might be disappointed. But if what you would like is the passion of early era REM with the intensity of Radiohead then you may have found your ideal tune.

Starting off with four lonely drum beats, faintly reminiscent of the palm muted guitar at the beginning of Unbreakable by Comes with the Fall, The Arising isn’t exactly a new direction, it’s more an embracing of folk-pops darker side (does folk-pop even have a darker side???). There isn’t a whiff of an acoustic guitar and the violin goes no way to sedating the urgency inspired by the other instruments.

For some people these sounds may inspire similar feelings to those of the people watching, when Bob Dylan arrived on a stage for the first time clutching his Fender Stratocaster. Personally, I think this track could mean international recognition for Petter Hillström who, until the start of 2014, only posted updates on Facebook in Swedish. I don’t know if he’s trying to become a bit more marketable but, if this is the case then, he’s managed to hit the proverbial iron spike on its transversely flattened end.

If you’re a fan of folk music then check it out. If you’re a fan of pop music then check it out. If you’re a fan of rock music then check it out. In fact, this song is so appealing I think it should be made the new national anthem of Sweden and played at any event they take part in!

I’m not sure whether this is apparent but I really like The Arising!


 


Music Review – Bear’s Den – Think of England

Not so much a new year’s resolution as a non-specific target, my aim this year is to write as much as I possibly can in as many different places as possible.

“Ah”, I hear you cry, “but what about this here ‘blog, that is meant to be all about writing?”

Well (you hear me respond), sadly due to the constraints imposed by the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day and I am unable to utilise the full complement of hours in writing due to having a job, a family, sleep, etc. it means that I have to forego some pleasures (e.g., this ‘blog) to enable others.

However, one of the things I have been doing is writing for a proper website, they do music reviews, fashion and culture, mostly for young people (they don’t seem to have cottoned on to the fact that I’m twice the age of most of their readers yet). I saw the ad for it on a media website I subscribe to job adverts for, just to make sure I’m there if anything interesting ever comes up. Anyway this (unpaid) job did, and I thought, what could be the harm in trying out for it.

I sent an email with a few links to other stuff I’ve written and why I was interested in the role and got a swift response from Laura, who runs the site, offering me a choice of songs to have a go at. So I started writing, finished writing, then sent it off to see what she thought. When she came back saying (and I quote) “Great article!”

I have done about nine or ten reviews now and try and do at least one a week. I wrote to the lovely people who look after the site last week and asked if they would mind me cross posting to this site and they said that the written words belong to me so go for my life.

The full website can be found at http://www.semplesize.com, but the versions I post on LadleWritings will be the original unedited ones, so you might get a few odd tangents or interesting asides than were allowed on the official pages.

My first article was this one, which I thought was rather apt having only immigrated last year! You can find the original article here.


Bear’s Den | Think of England

Taking a more laid back, stripped down approach than any of their label-mates, including Bad Suns and Rubblebucket, Bear’s Den tend towards the introspective. Their new album could quite happily find itself accompanying a TV drama about attractive people in their mid-twenties, who are trying to discover themselves. If a lucky producer did happen to “discover” Bear’s Den then Think of England would probably be the song that accompanied the scene where one of the plucky heroines was going for a job interview, then had to reciprocate a lecherous potential bosses advances. But I digress…
Andrew Davie’s vocals bring to mind Gary Lightbody on gentler Snow Patrol tracks like Set the Fire to the Third Bar or You Could be Happy. Now imagine, if you will, that a Mumford & Sons audience were treated to a gig one night, when the band had forgotten their mandolin, the resulting sounds would have been very much like those accompanying Davie’s lilting tones.
The video for Think of England is a study in understatement. You only ever see one person at a time, even if you occasionally get the odd double exposure with the same person in the foreground and background. That is until the chorus, which ramps it up a bit with a triple exposure of all three band members.
Gareth Phillips, the director, steers the video in his usual inimitable fashion. Anyone who has seen Chocolate by The 1975 or Get Away by Circa Waves won’t be surprised to see slow motion footage in black and white. However the boat, such as it is, gets pushed out for Bear’s Den with the addition of a dancer, who randomly gets to wave her long flowing locks around and ignore the camera in an intense way. If you want to see this kind of dancing done well try searching for Kate Bush on YouTube.

Overall the video is well made and presented, but nothing to write home about. The band can give themselves a pat on the back for keeping their steering wheel centred on their own genre, and Mr Phillips obviously knows how to wield a high speed camera. But overall it was too predictable for my liking, putting far too much emphasis on the low-fi nature of the music. It could really have done with images which counter the sounds, something along the lines of motor racing or a lead character running as fast as they could to get away from some unknown and hideous terror chasing them through an everlasting post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Mix it up a bit Bears!


Gig Review – Foo Fighters – Perth

The really great thing about the Foo Fighters is that every single song is a crowd pleaser!

I was a bit tardy, only turning up as Rise Against were finishing, they seemed to have gone down fairly well but of course the reason everybody was there was for the main event. Dave and the guys strode onto the stage at eleven minutes to eight with a heavy dose of overdriven feedback assaulting the crowds’ ear-holes, this went on for a while before the introductory riff from Something from Nothing, the opening track of Sonic Highways, got going.

If you’ve listened much to the new album, you’ll know the band spent a lot of time crafting the songs and drawing on their diverse influences and backgrounds to make them interesting. The short version is that they recorded eight tracks in eight different cities, trying to take on the musical history of each place to shape the tunes. What that actually means, in practice, is that you get the Foo Fighters, but with added Jazz, Blues, Country and Metal. While not necessarily obvious on the first listen it becomes more so the better you get to know it.

What I found most thrilling about the show was that they took their older tracks and “Sonic Highwayed” them, extending the solos, adding extra twiddly bits and generally making them all feel like new versions of the classics you’ve been singing along with for the past two decades. This became most apparent five songs in, while they were playing My Hero. When it came to the solo I think the best way to describe what it became was “Crazy-Ass Heavy Metal”, going on for at least twice as long as normal and sounding slightly like someone had been listening to too much Judas Priest (if that’s possible?).

After this madness they slowed Big Me down into a low-fi sing-along, then proceedings got back to normal as they went back to their full throttle, happy go lucky pop rock, laying into Congregation, which seems to have been on repeat on every radio station playlist of late, the audience were well pleased by this stage and enjoying every note.

At the end of Walk, they took a short break. Not leaving the stage but having a bit of a chat with the audience, each other and a bit of an introductory session, not that it was really necessary. It did, however, mean that we got treated to some incredible fretwork from lead guitarist Chris Shiflet, followed by a bass led rendition of Another One Bites the Dust from Nate Mendel.

Mr Grohl then told the story of why the gig had moved dates. Holding the crowd in the palm of his hand, he explained how the father/daughter dance at his kid’s school, back in the USA, had been scheduled at the same time as the concert, so he moved the concert! Partly in order to be a good (great) Dad, and partly because he didn’t want to leave those of us in the boon-docks of Australia without our fix of amazing rock. Of course, this greatly endeared him to everyone there and has made him seem like even more of a hero than we thought he was anyway. What a guy!

He went on to let us know that he had also contracted food poisoning and had spent the entire flight back to Perth in the plane toilet, trying to remove the bacterial invaders in a not too pleasant manner. This piece of information was provoked when the crowd tried to get him to chug the beer he had just picked up. He told the story, then did it anyway. What a guy!

We got back to business as usual then (the act, rather than the Men at Work album), Cold Day in the Sun followed, with what can only be called a “funky” solo. The next sonic addition was putting a fantastic Led Zeppelin-esque solo into Monkey Wrench before starting the excellent “one last thing before I quit” breakdown, or is it a breakup in this case?

If you’ve been to one of their gigs before (and in Dave’s words, ‘we’ve been doing this for twenty years, why the f**k not?”) then you wouldn’t have been surprised when the acoustic guitar came out, with Dave heading for a small raised platform in the centre of the stadium. He sang an almost solo rendition of Skin and Bones, joined at the end by their gigging piano player Rami Jaffee, who gave us a stirring accordion accompaniment. The rest of the band then rose from below, on a lifting platform, to join them for an acoustic Times like These.

Next was the covers section of the show, Stay with Me by the Faces, Let There be Rock by AC/DC and last, but definitely not least, Under Pressure by Queen with Taylor Hawkins and Dave singing together.

The last five tracks were all by the Foos, including a rip roaring Pink Floyd style outro on These Days, and a chance for Outside, arguably, the best song on Sonic Highways, to be set loose and thrown into a clear blue sky to have its freedom and escape the confines imposed on it by the recording process. It was pretty amazing.

The Best of You had a long slow, relaxed finish and then the final song of this tour was delivered, without too much astonishment, by a rip-roaring Everlong, the crowd went wild, and then went home as, apparently, encores aren’t the done thing at the nib Stadium. Which is a shame, because everybody there seemed to have had a great time and would have stayed on longer if given the chance, including the band.

 

The Setlist

 

Something from Nothing

The Pretender

Learn to Fly

Breakout

My Hero

Big Me

Congregation

Walk

Cold Day in the Sun

Arlandria

Monkey Wrench

Skin and Bones

Times like These

Stay with Me by the Faces

Let There be Rock by ACDC

Under Pressure by Queen

All my Life

These Days

Outside

Best of You

Everlong