Tag Archives: Semplesize

Music Review – Bob Mould – Patch The Sky

I have to admit to being a big fan of Bob Mould, so when his new album was streamed online in March earlier this year I decided that Semplesize could do with letting its readers know exactly why Bob Mould is a rock god!

Original is here.

 


 

After forty years in the music business you might think Bob Mould would have run out of ideas, but no! Patch the Sky is his thirteenth solo album, twenty-sixth if you consider his Hüsker Dü and Sugar efforts, and although you know what you are getting (power-pop and screeching guitar solos) it is still as emotionally and musically volatile as any of his other work.

With such a large back catalogue and so many influences and styles, he effortlessly segues between hardcore punk and pop tinged dance, then screaming like a space shuttle punches through rock music clouds into the vacuum of easy listening space. I think I lost my metaphor somewhere along the way there…

In the grand scheme of things, Patch the Sky is just another Bob Mould album –Mould has influenced just about every rock band since 1979, names such as The Pixies, Nirvana, Green Day, Ryan Adams, No Age, the Foo Fighters and others too innumerable to mention cite him as a major part of their decision to make music – so “just another Bob Mould album” is an event worthy of more than an unobtrusive press release and a few underground murmurings from hardcore fans.

Standout tracks on the first listen are Daddy’s Favourite – distortion and angst, Black Confetti – wonderful offbeat drums define the song, and Monument – speaking directly to your psyche, closes the album on an introspective note.

I’ll be buying this, I would strongly recommend you do too!

 


 


Music Review – Daniel Johns – Preach

The first line was removed from this review when it was published because, apparently, they thought that Mr Johns might not like the mention of the band that made him into an international superstar. I have put it back in here because I don’t think it in any way affects the article and, if anything, makes it flow a little better.

Personally, I was a big fan of Frogstomp, although I never really got into their other stuff, but when I saw the track up for review I decided I’d have a listen and see what I thought. Read on to find out.

As always, original is here.

 


 

This is not Silverchair, okay? Right, now we’ve got that out of the way let’s get on with this.

The release of Aerial Love in February hailed the first new music from Daniel Johns in eight years, it was greeted with confusion and indifference from his existing fans and hardly grazed the atmosphere of Music World. Perhaps he should have considered putting Preach out first.

The second track from the Aerial Love EP is a stronger by a long way. Starting with an atmospheric piano, shortly joined by a synthesised drumline and Johns’ voice, reaching for a falsetto range he can barely maintain. It doesn’t seem to matter though, he sounds confident and comfortable in himself and is obviously enjoying it immensely.

The multi-layered harmonic vocals, sounding more like a team of choirboys than a 35 year old man who used to be the growling feline front man of Australia’s angriest grunge band, suit the track perfectly. The verses are stripped down, ethereal and thoughtful, with little in the way of backing, the chorus ramps it up a bit with a louder drum track and the left hand coming into play on the piano, bringing in the lower registers, to give it some body.

As Daniel blasts out the almost inevitable line “now I sing to my own beat” you find yourself thinking that isn’t such a bad thing. Sure, it sounds ever so slightly like Justin Timberlake, or even the crazily guitarless album Scream by Chris Cornell. In fact almost anything that had some Timbaland involvement.

But it just goes to prove that change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and in the case of Preach I think Daniel Johns has proved that the leopard’s paint job has finished drying and he’s now ready to hunt a whole new species of ungulate.


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.

 



Music Review – Darts – Below Empty and Westward Bound

After a bit of a hiatus, I recently got back into writing reviews for Semplesize. I’ve done a couple in the last couple of weeks and am hoping to keep up the impetus, which is lucky because otherwise I’d have run out of ones to repost on this site pretty soon.

I quite enjoyed doing the review for this Darts track, although it bought back lots of memories that I thought had been filed under: slightly vacant teenage years.

As ever, the original is here.


 

About five years ago I auditioned with a band called CatBoy and the Dogs of Sin. As soon as I hit the play button on Commanche, the first track on Darts’ new album, the growly guitar tryout from my past danced through my head in vivid surround sound. The main thing the two bands share is a fondness/slightly worrying stalker tendency towards all things Mudhoney.

Okay, so they’re not a one trick pony and seem to have a few other influences too, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies (are you seeing a theme yet?), but for the most part the Mark Arm-esque vocals on all the tracks led by one of the two Ayers brothers don’t veer far from the gravelly, shouty, jagged template created in 1988, when Superfuzz Bigmuff was released.

Talking of which, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they used both Bigmuff and Superfuzz pedals while making this album, there’s certainly a lot of aural crunch going on all over the place.

The female led tracks, such as Aeroplane and Below Empty, while different in their way are stylistically close enough to the other songs to give the whole thing a bit of personality, even if that personality happens to feel more at home 30 years in the past.

Commanche and Dead both take their cues from The Pixies, even down to using an American Indian tribe’s name, a la The Navajo Know, for the first track and outright stealing the drum beat from La La Love You and using it for a fill in Dead, the name of which is, incidentally, lifted directly from another song on Doolittle!

The rest of the songs veer uncontrollably between Mudhoney and Sonic Youth with dirty guitars and screeching solos. The only departure is on the closing track, My Darling Bendigo, which takes the time machine even further into the past, feeling like a long-lost Velvet Underground song, with sustained feedback drilling into your ears underneath the avant-garde split gender vocals. But they can’t help themselves, at about 1:52 a guitar straight from the Sonic’s Sugar Kane cuts in and it’s back to the shouting.

Overall this is a good album with a lot to keep you interested, my advice would be that if you like it and you’ve never listened to Mudhoney, the Sonic’s, Dinosaur Jr. or any of their original alternative cohort from the 1990s you should look them up when the last track of Below Empty & Westward Bound finishes.

 


 


Music Review – Ali E – We Are Strangers

Getting back into my own territory, Ali E looks like an escapee from two or three decades ago, I was quite pleased when I first listened to this one and made no bones of stating so in the review.

Original is here.


 

Like a cross between PJ Harvey and Kim Deal, Ali E walks her own path. Hailing from Melbourne in Australia, her songs sound like she has let music and events soak her neurons throughout her life, which has created a turbulent mix of 90s post rock and magic summertime vibes.

We Are Strangers starts with a simple two string riff that will stick in your head, it moves swiftly on through the rest of the introduction then quietens down for a laid back verse with minimal guitar, a deep, dark bassline and some whispering drums. But before you know where you are, it mugs you with a noisy pre-chorus, which lasts not more than a couple of heartbeats before it fades back into the verse, leaving you wanting some foreclosure.

After a short verse-like interlude the chorus proper starts and you are rushed through an all too short fist of power chords and split lead vocals. However just because it’s short doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful, dragging you bodily into the next part of the song.

Unlike a lot of bands Ali E doesn’t seem to believe in a verse, chorus, verse structure, going for a more free flowing style of “what do I think will sound nice next?” even bringing some violins in to round the sound out and make the whole thing seem like a slightly surreal bus accident involving The Levellers and Melissa Auf der Maur.

In the grand scheme of things, We Are Strangers may not be introducing us to anything particularly ground-breaking but then, in the grand scheme of things, who cares! This is a fun track that makes you want to get up and dance!

 


 


Music Review – Known to Collapse – Circulated Undercover Ground

Even back in the 90s I was more of a Grunger than a Baggy, so to find this track to review didn’t particularly bring back any memories other than watching psychedelic music videos played on the Chart Show on a Saturday morning.

I was pleased to get the chance to review this one though as it has some interesting depths.

The original review is here.


 

 

The video for Circulated Undercover Ground is one third psychedelic head trip, one third soul-searching expedition, one third modern day fairy story and one third commentary on the modern world. Yes, I know that makes four thirds but there is a lot going on for the smiley face that stars in this clip.

Known to Collapse is the brainchild of Kevin Lehner, a California based multi instrumental protégé, videographer and all round nice bloke. His musical journey has taken him from Boston to New York and finally to the sunny shores of the south west coast of America. I only mention this because you can almost hear the influence of his travels on this single.

First and foremost is the jangly surf-pop of Los Angeles Beaches, closely hounded by the smooth sound of laid-back Boston alternative scene, strongly veering towards The Lemonheads more relaxed tracks. Then, of course, New York City does what you’d expect and churns the other influences up in its social and cultural Kenwood mixer.

This song reminds me of nothing so much as a few early nineties indie bands from the more northern extremities of England. Artists like Happy Mondays, The La’s and The Soup Dragons all come to mind, but Circulated Undercover Ground is what would have happened if these bands had grown up eight thousand kilometres west-southwest.

If it weren’t for the fact that I’m a penniless writer I would give money to Kevin’s Indiegogo crusade, but as it is he will have to be happy with my contribution to his campaign, which is telling the world that I think he’s pretty talented and is likely to appeal to your better natured musical demons.

 


 


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.