Thursday, August 31, 2006

Give Me Danger Or Give Me Depeche

Dangerous Muse, who I first blogged about last November, recently released their second cluster of original material with their "Give Me Danger" EP. It's brilliant. Not only did they maintain the high standard they set with the first EP, but upped the ante by providing an even more consistent set of songs.

Electronic pop in the US is often dismissed by the uninformed with the oft repeated "that sounds just like Depeche Mode" and interestingly Dangerous Muse chose to take that potential insult and give it a giant bear hug. Musically I would think they would be far more influenced by Eurodisco than the doom and gloom of Depeche but for some reason all of the three songs on the EP reference the Mode. I had previously mentioned the title track using a sound that is remarkably similar to the lead synth on "New Life" and that's just the beginning. "Break Up" lacks any obvious musical cues that I've caught, but they quote the "I heard it from your friends" line from the Music For The Masses track "The Things You Said" with a reading that suggests the Depeche melody. "In This Town" is the most obvious example of the duo paying tribute to the Mode because it borrows the distinctive bass and uses sampled breathing to recreate the drum track from Some Great Reward's "Lie To Me". Given that none of these songs actually sound like Depeche Mode, with the obvious exception of "In This Town", I find it strange that they would do a whole EP that references them. Well, they do share the same initials and now there's reason to believe that's more than coincidence.

Two of the EP's tracks can be streamed at Dangerous Muse's myspace and Arjan has a stream for the other track so check them out. They really are a fantastic band that are my favorite discovery of the past year even if they just released a dodgy amateurish video for "The Rejection".

Sunday, August 27, 2006


So what's become of the Pet Shop Boys since I last blogged about them? Plenty, actually.

  • They announced their first ever live album "Concert" which is a two disc souvenir for those who missed the Boys recent BBC orchestral gig "featuring guests Robbie Williams, Rufus Wainwright and Frances Barber". The events musical conductor was Trevor Horn and they brought Anne Dudley out to help as well so I'm sure it was very impressive in the theater while it was going on, but having heard the radio broadcast I wasn't blown away. Fortunately we get another chance tomorrow when BBC Radio 6 Music will broadcast the entire unedited 90 minutes at 7pm tomorrow evening (August 28) to be impressed again. If you miss it, check their site because the BBC usually offers on demand rebroadcasts for the week after something airs. Fun Fact: Neil previously opined that the concert DVD had killed the live album.
  • The documentary "Pet Shop Boys: A life in pop" is due to get a DVD release October 23rd, the same day as "Concert". It more than doubles the length of original tv broadcast and features interviews with Brandon Flowers, Jake Shears, Trevor Horn and Robbie Williams.
  • The Boys have produced a couple of tracks on the new Robbie Williams album. "She's Madonna" was written by Williams and the Boys, and they cover "We're The Pet Shop Boys" (again) proving that a PSB b-side is clearly album material for any lesser artist.
  • Neil has been in Berlin and has been working as consultant producer on Rufus Wainwright's new album that will be out in 2007. Can we expect it to be a bit disco?
  • Chris has written the music for a song in the play, "Bent", by Martin Sherman, which is to be revived in London at the Trafalgar Studios from September 22. Apparently they asked both of the Boys to write it but Neil was busy working on the Wainwright album. I'm expecting it to be a bit of disco.
  • The Boys did the PopJustice podcast a while ago and while the sound quality is horrible it's totally worthwhile just to hear Neil try to making a thinking persons argument for the lyrics to Sandi Thom's "I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)". He didn't change my mind, but it's still a fun listen.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Just The Facts

The journalistic geniuses at Spin & NME just reported that Portishead have "finally unveiled new tunes" suggesting that it's their first new material since 1997. I understand some of the confusion because there are two tracks up on the Portishead myspace, but both tracks have been up there for months. Are they really new songs? Geoff Barrow took a break from his usual daft ramblings in the Portishead blog to explain:

i heard from my mate that bbc radio 6 has been telling everyone that we have new material on here so id thought id better tell you that its not..

the tracks on here are doodles from about 3 years ago....

we are in the studio with tunes done but its unlikley that we will post any new stuff just yet

: It's a classic case of media reporting what other media are reporting, but you would think that respected news organizations that have previously created news items based on the Portishead's blog, only available at their myspace page, would have noticed these "new songs" before. In fact the only thing I've found online in the media noise over these new tracks that acknowledges that Portishead have officially released anything since '97 is Pitchfork who reference to Portishead's Serge Gainsbourg cover that I posted about at the beginning of the month. It's puzzling to me that my blog has more journalistic integrity than news sources with people who get paid to research and editors who are supposed to check facts.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Place You Used To Live

Those who have skimmed even the most basic Killers bio, like the one on myspace, have seen that:
Brandon got kicked out of his synth-pop band, named Blush Response, in late 2002 after refusing to move to L.A. with them. He realised after seeing Oasis perform in Vegas, that life needed more guitars.

: This tiny fraction of pre-history in The Killers bio has always intrigued me. I spent a lot of time on the internet in 2002 on synthpop forums actively searching for new groups but I had never heard of Blush Response until I read that bio. The reason is that the Billie Schubert, Trevor Gagner & Brandon Flowers never released anything as Blush Response. However I've done a bit of looking around and patched together what I know into something of a history. Their only official release came as Subversion on Ninthwave Records "Electrity" compilation in 2001 before the "Blade Runner" inspired name change. "The Victim" is a fairly basic take on use-the-chords-of-a-classical-piece-and-call-it-a-new-song approach that Flowers would go on to use to better effect on "Mr Brightside" and it lacks the maturity that the band's other material. However, it does contain the most clear moment that I've found of Flowers being influenced by the Pet Shop Boys because at 2:30 into the song it is only an all male choir away from transforming into the Boys version of "Go West".
In 2001 Blush Response recorded a two song demo with Brian Hazard of Color Theory which is the source of the band's only other known recorded material and the results were a huge leap forward. Both tracks are in the moody synthpop vein not far from the lush ambient technopop of the early 90's. Stepping up from the fairly muddy sound of Subversion the music is focused but never feels rushed giving all the elements room to breathe. While Flowers hadn't taken on the role of vocalist yet the subject matter of both songs, struggling with sin, suggest he was involved with some of the lyrics given that the themes would be played out again with The Killers.
Would have Flowers gone on to success with Blush Response? Probably not. Sadly "life need(s) more guitars" to reach a mainstream audience in the US, but it's not like The Killers are a bad thing. They've got a good album under their belts and have really broken through to the mainstream like few bands I like ever do.
The other two members of Blush Response appear to have moved on from music. From what I understand the feelings bruising move to LA proved to be fairly temporary and they ultimately ended up on the East Coast. Both have kept an extremely low profile online and haven't attempted to profit from the exposure that The Killers bio offers even if there is New Zealand synthpop group with a remarkably similar name that might be trying to cash in. Perhaps the glamorous rock 'n' roll life just wasn't for them.

Subversion- The Victim(napster)

Blush Response- Your Sinister Heart

Blush Response- I'm Not A Saint

UPDATE 12/31/10
Comments posted on this page have brought up a few things over the years.  When I originally posted this I wasn't clear on the nature of Flowers contributions to the Blush Response-era tracks.  Brian Hazard, the producer of the Blush Response tracks referred to here, has since posted a more complete write-up of the Flowers/Blush Response connection that clarifies that Flowers was not present for the recording sessions but that he did co-write the songs.  His piece also includes tracks recorded by Blush Response after Flowers departure when they recruited a new third member Ben Bettison, now of of All Green Lights, who left some thoughts on his chapter of Blush Response history in the comments sections of this post.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Talks Like A Gentleman

The Killers have a new video out. Maybe you’ve heard.

I’ve been known to criticize record companies from time to time, but I have to admit that whoever is orchestrating the unveiling of the new Killers materials is getting everything right. They first released a clip of single months before the album is due and within a week put the whole song up to stream on their myspace page and then got it up on itunes. They must have realized that it was going to leak the second it got to a second party so they just released it themselves which is a better idea because they look like they care about the band’s fans and drop the whole “you‘ve been listening to this song illegally“ thing that alienates potential consumers. Then they did a similar thing with the video, releasing a clip first that created some buzz and within a week dropped the real thing on the internet getting the video twice the attention it normally would have picked up.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Read It In A Book Or Write It In A Letter

Thanks to xolondon I've learned that Tracey Thorn is set to release a solo album of "bedsit disco torch songs" early next year. Full details can be found at her myspace, which was only created yesterday so I don't know how xo was so quick on the draw, but I'll give you the important stuff. The album is primarily produced by Ewan Pearson but also includes collaborations with Vector Lovers & Metro Area and a cover of PSB's "King's Cross". I'm a big fan of Thorn's vocals, which are just amazing over electronics, and it sounds like she going even further towards my taste. How very smart of her.

Here's the video for Everything But The Girl's "Temperamental" from the album of the same name:

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Gus Gus released their second single of the year by way of the big download services this week in what must be an attempt to build momentum for their album "Forever" which is now scheduled for a 2007 release. I found their earlier single "Need In Me" a tasteless rehash of ideas the collective have been batting around for ages, but this release really brings down my expectations for the new album. None of the tracks are vocal driven, which is how I prefer Gus Gus, so I might not be the audience they are targeting on the "Mallflowers" EP but they just don't pull any of the songs together. Take the title track which finds them in trance territory, it has a promising start but derails around the three minute mark of a nine minute song. If you run out of ideas please just end the song. It's that simple. Listeners aren't going to strangle you because you choose the strength of an individual song over adhering to a genre's conventions. "Degeneration" and "You Make Me Feel" do fair slightly better and are something that you might listen to a second or third time but they also really lack that creative spark that pretty much all Gus Gus material once had. I didn't love everything they did, but they tried new ideas and pushed boundaries which is something I just don't hear with the recent material.

Pineapple Records has most of the EP up on their myspace and as of this posting all those songs up can be downloaded there for free so check them out and make up your own mind.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Everything Is Alright

Moby is set to release a new greatest hits album with a new song "New York, New York" that was "written and recorded over the summer in Manhattan" and has Deborah Harry on vocals. He has been haunted by crap collections of his previous work, but this looks like the most consistent collection of Moby's previously released material since "Early Underground" rounded up all his initial 12" rave singles. Here's the tracklisting:

1. Go
2. Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?
3. In This World
4. Porcelain
5. In My Heart
6. New York, New York (featuring Debbie Harry on vocals)
7. Natural Blues
8. Lift Me Up
9. Bodyrock
10. We Are All Made Of Stars
11. Slipping Away
12. Honey
13. Move
14. James Bond Theme
15. Feeling So Real

: It's rather cheeky move to not include his biggest hit, "South Side", but it's a really solid disc. The only track I would drop is "In My Heart", one of the tracks Moby premiered at the SLC Olympics, which just isn't nearly as good as Moby thinks and I would love to have seen another pre-"EIW" rave track like "Next Is The E" or "Ah Ah" included. It's a good thing that the comp sticks to his strengths by including nothing from "Animal Rights" or the punk rock tracks that Moby recorded last year. No word on a US release but if it does come out here expect "South Side" to be on it.

On a related note I just heard Johnny Cash's version of "God's Gonna Cut You Down" which appears on his posthumous "American V: A Hundred Highways" that was released last month. Moby sampled that song to create "Run On" and given the timing and Rick Rubin's involvement in the American Recordings sessions it's likely that Cash never would have covered the song if it wasn't for Moby. It certainly brings more credibility to "Play"'s inclusion on Nation Public Radio's list of the "300 most important American musical works of the 20th century" from a few years ago.

Monday, August 14, 2006

You Think You're In A Motif Sky

Camouflage, the German synthpop band best who are best known for their late 80's hit "The Great Commandment", have a new single "Motif Sky" that was just released and a new album "Relocated" due at the end of the month. The single is a surprisingly strong and well worth a listen.

Visit their myspace page for preview clips from "Relocated" and look for Camouflage to be touring the world, including the US, this year and into 2007.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Breaking Boundaries

TrusttheDJ has a new Skrufff interview with Tiefschwarz which touches on their approach to a high profile career creating remixes, the cost of living in London and the tides of techno and house before finishing with something I agree with completely:

Electroclash was a very important movement because it broke down some boundaries. It was something fresh that appeared from behind, no-one expected it to become so strong, it was like a hurricane. It helped get rid of all this high end... superstar DJ behaviour. The combination of rock and electro along with this naughty dirty trashy element was so important for music in general. It was so refreshing and it made music more sexy again. It brought girls back onto the dance floor and it was not so stereotype as before.. it was very close to fashion, it was perfect- it was a very creative moment in music. I’m super-happy that it happened.

: Youtube is a bit short on Tiefschwarz videos but you can watch a craptastic clip for "Wait & See" or enjoy this homemade video for "Warning Siren" to get a sense of what they are about.

Friday, August 11, 2006

It Feels So Nice

Duran Duran have a new digital single "Nice" out in the US this week taken from the band's 2004 reunion album "Astronaut". Commissioned some time ago the single was planned to be released the same time as they were to be touring Europe in 2005 but after the promos failed to generate interest with radio the single was shelved. I suspect the success of Ferry Corsten's "Fire", which is essentially a remix of DD's 80's album track "Serious", made the record company rethink their original decision by proving there is a market for dance versions of DD tunes other than "Hungry Like The Wolf". Having already spent the money on the remixes it must have been an obvious choice to give it a digital release since there are no distribution costs.

The album version of "Nice" has plenty going for it musically as a classic Duran Duran new wave disco tune, but the lyrics are laughable. One of the reason ladies love Simon Le Bon is because he wears his heart on his sleeve and I feel his pain when he sings "it hurts me to think that you might never know that I've got this thing about you". Then he continues with some of the most emotional sentiment ever committed to song he reveals that "there is nothing better than being with you and I'm feeling so nice". Nice. Of course it's just disco and if you listen to music for the lyrics you are foolish for not sticking to poetry.

As expected most of the remixes are a by-the-numbers dance stuff even if someone had the daft idea of commissioning a hip hop remix from Dready which lays some new "yeahs" and "woos" over the song. However the Eric Prydz mixes, which include two edits that are perversely longer than the original, are quite amazing. Taking a vocodered vocal from the original Prydz provides his signature looping-a-hook-and-endlessly-repeating-it-over-a-tech-house-beat thing that he did so well on his "Call On Me" and then adds a new lead synth that takes the whole thing to another level. It's low-brow minimalist pop that knows when to quit and that is a beautiful thing.

Here is video of Duran Duran playing "Nice" live:

Stream the Eric Prydz mix on napster.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lightning Round

This past week has seen more news and newly released songs than I've had time to blog about so here is what's caught my attention.

  • Goldfrapp: Announced an US exclusive remix album will be out in October. Perhaps this is another limp attempt by Mute US to make up for it's utter failure to promote Goldfrapp or even digitally release any of the "Supernature" singles apart from the teaser "No 1" ep but I find it telling that if you do a google news search that you find that the vast majority of the press coverage of the "We Are Glitter" announcement is in UK publications. Only a couple of American news sources have picked up on it because no one knows why they should care. You're doing a great job Mute! While we're talking stupid promotion, do the handlers of Goldfrapp's myspace know that if you post a blog everyone can read it? Why are they sending bulletins about new singles, remix albums and tour dates but not letting the more casual fans who haven't made the band their "friend" know?

  • Dangerous Muse: There's a new song "Give Me Danger" that can be streamed on their myspace that expands ever so slightly on the subdued synthpop pallet they've established with their previous three songs. They've got my attention and I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the EP the song features on when it's released at the end of the month. Listen for a high-pitched synth that almost exactly echoes the main riff of Depeche Mode's "New Life" at 3:08.

  • Scissor Sisters: "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" has hit the blog world like a hurricane this past week as every upbeat song about feeling down should. The chorus is great and it's hard to believe that a song more 70's anything released in 70's comes from a band that has roots in the electroclash scene. Go figure. I'd post a link to the video but if you look for it on youtube you will discover that it was "removed at the request of copyright owner RIAA". Who will the record company blame when "Ta-Dah" flops in the US? Not their legal department that is putting the kabosh on fans promoting a new single that might create some buzz for a band just outside the mainstream's radar. Perhaps listening to the 1:12 sample of the song available on the official myspace will get people interested.

  • Luke Haines: I thought I was ahead of the curve when I discovered that the former Auteur and Block Box Recorder had a new track produced by Richard X only to find that XO beat me to it by several days. "Off My Rocker At The Art School" is a bit by the numbers for a Richard X production but the lyrics are a daft which is a good thing. Stream it at Luke Haines myspace and while you're there check out his work with The Auteurs and their song "Lenny Valentino" which is one of my favorites of the mid-90's.

  • Client: They recently revamped their myspace with some stunning new photos that demonstrate new dimensions to their distinct looks and play up the band's newly added third members alternate career as a model. Their blog links to video of them performing live in Mexico which makes for a fascinating watch if only to see one of the show's hosts wearing a Joy Division shirt. More importantly they've added their fantastic single "Rock And Roll Machine" from their first album as a free download.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Something Less Decisional

Charting at a disappointing 19 on the UK singles chart this past week it's clear that something went awry with the single release of Pet Shop Boys "Minimal" because it's the duo's worst chart performance for a single since 1991. Maybe it's just a bad case of timing with the post-world cup momentum that the Boys had build up for potential single "Numb", the cover art or the lack of attention they've given the UK as they've been touring Europe but most of the fault lies with the tracklisting. Here is a partial list of mistakes:

  • Putting the radio edit on both cds. PSB are usually good about mixing things up with an "extended mix" on their two disc singles but with a song that has more than enough muscle to be opened up and breathe a bit we are only offered a version that shortens that fantastic final section.
  • "In Private" as the b-side. The song is already on the extra "Fundamentalism" disc that most PSB fans who buy singles for b-sides already own. It may be a shorter mix of the song but if we're doing different mixes why not go to with the Tomcraft mix?
  • Elton John. Scaring away interested younger folks with a "featuring Elton John" on the b-side can't be doing much for sales.
  • Minimizing star power on the remix disc. There are remixes from Tiga and Superchumbo availble online. What's on the cd? M-Factor's dud of a mix.

However, not everything they did is wrong. The DVD single has a great collection with a new electro b-side "Blue On Blue" that isn't far away from vintage material like "That's My Impression" and there is an edit of "No Time For Tears" that was almost released to promote "Battleship Potemkin". Wouldn't sales been better off if they had put those on the "song" cd single?

Fun Fact: On this date in 1990 the Pet Shop Boys made their first live public appearance in the US appearing with Electronic as they opened for Depeche Mode in LA.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Money For Nothing

Mtv turned 25 yesterday and the network, which targets viewers younger than 24, refused to acknowledge the birthday prompting a number of finger wagging articles in the press and an amusing look back by Chart Rigger. However I couldn't be happier that they're not looking back. I didn't have cable until the late 90's, a confusing time for the network because they weren't showing many videos and the reality tv explosion had yet to happen, but I did learn quickly was that mtv loves to talk about itself. Their schedule used to be full of "mtv news" specials about how great mtv was and like a monkey with a miniature cymbal they would endlessly show the same five clips over and over and over and over again. Could they have possibly shown that infamous clip of Madonna at the first vmas anymore? Did I really need to see Vanilla Ice freak out again? Did I need to see news footage of the mtv studios on fire? No. It was just the same clips repackaged in special after special. Then there was the 20th birthday party that featured some awkward moments with musicians asking vjs with no control over the programming why "music television" didn't play music anymore. I can see why mtv didn't want to take that route again. So don't look back mtv. Keep "reality" (I know far too much about tv production to ever believe that "Laguna Beach" is unscripted) tv going and do your thing. Thanks for being grown up enough to not torture us with more of the same unexciting moments bookended with more of the same bland commentary. We'll be just fine without it.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Wandering Star

Perusing the itunes store this morning I thought I'd take a listen to the "Monsieur Gainsbourg Revisited" tribute disc that I had seen a couple reviews of noting the high profile tracklisting. Indeed there are covers from Franz Ferdinand, Jarvis Cocker, Marc Almond, Sly & Robbie, Michael Stipe, Tricky, Placebo, Fiest and Portishead. I'm sorry, did I just say Portishead? This is the first studio track the trip hop legends have officially released in seven years (make that eight years if you don't count a track with Tom Jones on the vocals). Portishead did get a fair amount of attention a couple of months ago when they announced on their myspace that they were finally getting their third album together, but I hadn't seen a thing about this new track until it was released. Any new Portishead is cause for celebration!
The song is an English version of "Un Jour Comme Un Autre" originally performed by Anna Karina on the soundtrack of 1967's "Anna" which Serge Gainsbourg wrote the music for. It sounds exactly how you would expect Portishead to cover Gainsbourg except there's more guitar, lots of feedback and the track feels a bit short at 2:39. It's a good start, but I'm really looking forward to something with a little more musical meat on it. How much longer until the long promised new Portishead album is out?