Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Substitute Teacher.

My computer is still out of commission, but here is a guest post from the wonderful Hamish of Verbose Coma, the first of a number of Guest Posts from a variety fo individuals.

When I was 14 in the north of England, I would stay up late on Wednesday and Sunday nights to watch Toby Amies and Paul King, respectively, present Alternative Nation and 120 Minutes on MTV Europe. My friend Chods would do the same, and the next day we'd discuss all the new videos we'd seen, and new bands we discovered. One Sunday night at Chods' house, we had a little indie-rock epiphany. A new band from Brighton on the south coast of England, and a track called "You're Not My Babylon". This is a band I have adored since that very first time I heard them, and here is mini-essay as to why.

These Animal Men - You're Not My Babylon - To be struck by a great song is one thing, but when the bands looks so cool at the same time, it's hard not to fall hard. Roughly translated, they looked like my friends and I. Adidas tracksuit tops, Samba trainers, mod haircuts. In fact, with the exception of the amount of amphetamines they were doing, we were all pretty alike.

This song, taken from their debut mini-album entitled Too Sussed? which featured cover art of said skinny English boy in nouveaux-mod attire, crucified–a sign of the times in an England bored of grunge, and striving for its own sound.

[Buy Too Sussed? from Amazon.com.]

Following the mini-album, they released their first full album, (Come on, Join) The High Society, contributing to a new sound of England’s indie scene. A scene the NME and Melody Maker wanted to call “The New Wave of New Wave,” and they even ran a special cover feature on it. The cover featured bands such as Elastica, Menswear, These Animal Men, S*M*A*S*H, Shed 7, and a new Manchester band called Oasis. They were big in Britain, bigger in Japan, and the NME wanted them to make it in the US too. So they sent Oasis and These Animal Men to New York City. Oasis played Wetlands, in what is still heralded as a highlight of their career, and These Animal Men went to a diner with Quentin Crisp. One band made it, one didn’t. You do the math.

[Buy (Come on, Join) The High Society from Amazon.com.]

These Animal Men – False Identification - This track, taken from their third album Taxi for These Animal Men, is where it all fell apart, and at the same time, they made their best work in my opinion. Maybe they couldn’t take the pressure, or maybe they took too much of something else, but they were given a good spot at the Phoenix Festival the summer of 1994, and they were greeted with boos and jeers from a hostile crowd. Not ones to show their disappointment, TAM just stood there. Silent and still for their entire set. The crowd began a football terrace chant of “Taxi… taxi…” and the album title was born. This album was the two-finger salute to their critics, and it remains one of my favorite records of all time.

[Buy Taxi for These Animal Men from Amazon.com.]

These Animal Men – April 7th - After a long hiatus, TAM returned in 1997 with a final album, entitled Accident & Emergency. Gone were the t-shirts and Adidas, they’d gone black pants and leather. The media hated them more, but I embraced it still. The guitar hooks were there, but now they drenched their tracks in Hammond organ and marching drums. This is their live set closing track, a cutting romp through their media history from day one to the present (their first single, Speeed King made headlines after being banned for featuring a place setting of speed and rolled up money). If you need more convincing about TAM, image if the Libertines were ten times better, ten times more raucous, ten times more talented, and ten times less distracted.

[Buy Accident & Emergency from Amazon.com.]

Extra Credit: Check out what is likely the only site dedicated to These Animal Men, Supercharged Soul.

To conclude, I would like to thank Keith for kindly letting me post here, we at VerboseComa are huge fans of this site.

Monday, March 28, 2005

I'm not dead...

But my hard drive is close.

Regular updates will resume shortly. The music is backed up. If you'd like to guest post, holler @ the address on the right.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Let's go to where it's fun.

The Ravonettes Feat. Ronnie Spector - Ode to LA - It had to happen eventually. The Ravonettes have dropped all the silly self imposed rules about waves upon waves of distortion, staying in one key, and only writing 3 minute songs. They've finally given up on being the next Jesus & Mary Chain, and given up on being the next White Stripes (Though Sune Wagner hasn't quite given up on imitating Jack White - more on that in a moment). Instead, the Ravonettes have dropped all the pretense, and given in to what they were always meant to be. An absolutely killer guitar pop band, full of 50's revival energy and capitalizing on Wagners intricaat guitar work under Sharin Foo's great vocal range. And then, there's Ronnie Spector, a woman who has been around the music industry longer than most music fans today have been alive. I had the privelige of seeing Ronnie live at a memorial for Joey Ramone a few years back. She still had it then, soing the Ronettes hit "Be My Baby" (With which Wagner has a strange obsession - it's covered on the newest Raveonettes album and he's done so with prior bands as well). And so, Sune Rose Wagner has set out to be the Jack White to Ronnie Spector's Loretta Lynn. (Joey Ramone attempted to coax her into a similar career revival 20 years back. The best he could get was a stunning duet, and a lifelong friend.) Word is, he's working on a whole album with her now. And if "Ode to LA" is any sign of whats coming, I can't wait. The song is absolutely gorgeous, as Sharin and Ronnie harmonize for about a minute and a half before Ms. Spector just starts belting out those rich notes like no one else before or since has ever been able to. She absolutely commands this song, and transforms it from a mere 50's aping bit of guitar pop into a flat out bit of time travel.

Only one track today because I didn't realize that I'm a half hour late for work! I'll give you an extra special bonus tomorrow instead!

Extra Credit: Go download the cover of My Boyfriends Back from The Mystical Beast.

[Preorder Pretty in Black, due out April 26, from Amazon.com!]

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

You Like Me!

Thanks to all of you who voted for me for the Best Kept Secret Bloggie award! It's an honor to win and I'd like to thank lots of people, but mostly those people over on the sidebar, and down there in the comments section, and over in my email inbox, because they're the reason I keep doing this whole thang yo. And to those whom I owe replies - you're not forgotten, I'm just crazy busy. Look for some big announcements on the horizon. Shit be moving in the background...

On to todays music:

New Model Army - White Coats - Last Thursday Night, I had the privelige of seeing one of the greatest bands that never got their due play Southpaw, as part of their first American tour in 12 years. New Model Army are back folks, and they have a new album due out this summmer. But a lot of folks out there probably don't know these guys, so I figured it might be wise to do a little retrospective and post 2 of the hilights from Thursday's show, and the bands landmark, 1988 album, Thunder and Consolation. Well, thats not totally accurate. "White Coats" was a single released just before the album, and is included on the album nowadays as a bonus track, to close it out. Fiercly political punk rock, rooted in british folk, New Model Army's brand of post-punk sounds a bit like a stripped down, vicious answer to the bombast of the late 80's hair metal, and the splintered aftermath of punks explosion. NMA's brought it in close, with a 3 piece, filling out the sound with keyboards and the occasional hired string, but really, behind it all is an absolutely punishing rythym section. Original drummer Robert Heaton passed on about a year ago, but he lives on through his work on albums such as Thunder. As the song closes out with a repeated cry of "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH," you can't help but stand up and cry out in chorus.

New Model Army - Inheritance - Inheritance is even more proof of Heaton as the bands soul. The song has a jazzy feel almost, stripped almost entirely to just drums - only an occasional bass note intrudes for the whole of the songs first minute. Meanwhile the vocals are delivered in a vaguely menacing cadence, with harmonies offset just enough to add to the sense of danger in the song, while a pair of archetypal parents are addressed with a variety of nasty remarks, and musings on a future that seems prewritten. The song is a mess of pure tension, seemingly waiting for a release, but that isn't New Model Army's style. This isn't a band about catharsis. This is about that wants to make you squirm. They want to make the world uncomfortable with their presence before they spit in it's face and walk away. If they had done anything else, they'd just be another U2 clone. On album, the track leads in to one of NMA's signature songs (and one written by Heaton), the incomparable "Green & Grey," which is worth the price of the album in it's own right - which is why I'm not posting it here.

[Sadly, Thunder & Consolation is out of print, but most of the vital tracks are availiable from NMA's online store @ Ideal Copy on the many compilations that have been put out.]

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Has she got a full deck?

Fiona Apple - Oh Sailor - So, for those that have been following the drama fest surrounding the release of Fiona Apple's forthcoming album, the full album is circulating online and can now be heard. The leak isn't terribly high quality, but it's good enough to show that the album is. And it's a phenomenal album. Simply amazing really. I've never been huge on Fiona, as in the past, she's tended towards either not having enough control over her own work (the schmaltzily overproduced and overmarketed "Criminal"), or too much (The title of When the Pawn... is proof enough of the problem with overindulgence). And yet in the end, I've always come down on the side of defending her, much to the befuddlement of some of my more rockist friends. The reason's pretty simple really. Fiona Apple is like Nick Cave's fucked up little sister, spinning out murder ballads as wordy as they are gorgeous, dressing up sparse melodies with huge arrangements. "Oh Sailor" is a classic example. The song is simple - almost too simple, a basic 12 bar blues piano, and a ballad from a confused lover. But Jon Brions production comes in and just injects the song full to the brim with syrupy strings, making it sound like something out of a bizarre broadway production, and Fiona's voice just sounds utterly and completely broken. It suggests Sony's reasons for not releasing the album have very little to do with the album, and very much to do with Fionas reluctance to engage in the practice that gave the Wilco story such a happy ending. Fiona's always been known for being a bit tempremental on the road (I remember her walking out on a gig at Roseland in NY some years ago because the sound quality at Roseland was not up to her standards - though at Roseland, the sound does, admittedly, suck), and I could easily see her refusing to tour. Especially in her supposed present state. Supposedly Brion had to beg her to record this one. Thank god he did.

This track will come down tonite, or as soon as somebody from either Sony, or Fiona's camp emails me and says "TAKE IT DOWN". I have no desire to fight with anyone or get sued here.

Thanks to David for the nice work on the new logo, seen above. I welcome any and all unsolicited gifts of art. If they're good, as you can see, I'l use 'em. Also, Uncritical has relaunched as a daily, and has an awesome new look as well. Go tell Chris I said hi.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A Fake Jamaican Took Every Last Dime....

The Kidz Bop Kidz - Float On - the Kidz Bop Series has been a reliable moneymaker of a compilation for some years now featuring romper room friendly renditions of big pop hits, sung by an arsenal of young children, and occasionally some celebrity soundalike handlers helping with the choruses. The latest entry in the series, Kidz Bop 7, has entered the charts in the top 10 this past week, and features, among other tracks, a rendition of Modest Mouses Float On, one of the tracks upon which I blame this whole MusicBlogging Phenomenon of which I am a part, ever since Sean posted it on Said the Gramophone (speaking of which, Sean is back! Welcome Back Sean! Hooray!) about a year ago. The Kidz Bop version though, this is something else. The instrumentals are just a half notch off, stripped down, lightweight coverband material. But vocally... You've got an army of kids chanting most of the lyrics, and riding herd is what sounds like Isaac Brocks second grade teacher evil twin. Except, if anyone even resembling Isaac Brock started teaching in a school, I suspect there would be a few hundred parental complaints by day two. Which makes me wonder how these kids managed to make it through these sessions. Especially singing about wrecking cop cars, and fake Jamaican scams. But then, I guess, just like with Usher And Lil' Jon, all the kids will hear is YEAH!.

[Buy Kidz Bop 7 From Amazon.com]

Mylo - Destroy Rock & Roll - If we're going to be posting Novelty Tracks today (and we are, as you can tell), than theres none better lately than the title track of Mylo's debut, Destroy Rock & Roll - in the midst of an album of 80's pop inflected electronica (think Madonnas instrumental tracks, put front and center, with sampled vocals), is a song that celebrates all of it, while preaching it's destruction. The songs centerpiece is a vocal sample of some evangelist calling for the elimination of such stars as David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, the entire cast of Purple Rain, and more artists than I really could get into. He's right about half of 'em, I have to say. But underneath this is a killer, if repetitive little beat that just funks it's way into your brain, as our christian buddy rattles off his Enemies List incessantly. I am rapidly finding the idea of assassinating the likes of Bananarama, REO Speedwagon, and Rick Springfield more and more appealing. It's a little frightening actually. Keep me away from the guns please?

[Buy Destroy Rock & Roll from Amazon.co.uk]