Thursday, November 30, 2006

Stream BBC Radio's "Back To The Future"

Electronically Yours notes that this week is "Back To The Future" week on BBC Radio 6 where they are celebrating the breakthrough of synth music into the British mainstream some twenty-five years ago. Over the course of the week they are featuring the remarkable documentary "The Great Bleep Forward", a countdown hosted by OMD's Andy McClusky of the top ten synth riffs of all time, interviews with Gary Numan, Hot Chip, John Foxx & Daniel Miller and they will be playing live sessions from Kraftwerk, Ladytron, and Depeche Mode. BBC Radio archives their broadcasts for one week so click here while you still have a chance to pick a session to give a listen so you can enjoy the synthetic goodness while it's there.


Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?" came out as the Top Synth Riff Of All Time and Daft Punk's "Da Funk" was the only track dating later than the mid-80's to make the top ten. "Da Funk" would have been my pick if I had only remembered to vote...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Breaking And Entering With Underworld

Underworld make a return next week with the release of the soundtrack to Anthony Minghella's Breaking And Entering in which they collaborate with established film composer Gabriel Yared. A recent feature article in The Independent went deeper in their history than most articles noting that Karl Hyde spent some time as touring guitarist in Debbie Harry's band after Freur and that their post-rave rebirth came when:

Smith had been working from his bedroom on remnants of electronic equipment. And it taught the duo something useful. "You don't need much money to make work," says Smith. "In the Nineties, we made albums we were proud of in my spare bedroom on so-called crap equipment. It sounded good to us."

: The past couple of years has seen them focus on their RiverRun Project of download only releases available at UnderworldLive. Their motivation:

"We were touring, selling records, earning good money, having a nice time," says Hyde. "That is not a creatively stimulating environment to be in," he says. "We needed to get some uncertainty back into our lives."

"It's nerve-wracking when the culture around the selling of music is saying 'Hold it back, keep it secret and then unleash it'," says Smith.

"That implies it's all you've got, doesn't it?" Hyde says. "So that's it, is it? Everything's precious, and tight, and you're releasing stuff as if you'll never write anything again."

: just the tip of the iceberg for Underworld as they are working on another soundtrack for an epic sci-fi movie directed by Trainspotting's Danny Boyle, and they plan to release their next proper album sometime next year.

Stop by Underworld's myspace to listen to a couple of tracks from Breaking And Entering or dream of the next proper album with this video for Underworld's "Jumbo":

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It Feels Good

One of the kids from Fall Out Boy, ooh felt a bit of my soul die just typing that, interviewed his "idol" and fellow hairstylist victim Robert Smith for this week's Entertainment Weekly. High points include the revelation that Smith initially had no Gothic pretensions preferring just to be in a pop group and that he has found after a tour "making a sandwich becomes really, really intense." Perhaps that is how he's acquired the nickname "Fat Bob" in recent years. Smith also confirms my theory that artists, in particular established ones, have no idea what their strengths are:

We did an album in '96 [Wild Mood Swings] and we had a song on there called ''Mint Car'' — it was the single, and I thought it was a better song than ''Friday.'' But it did absolutely nothing because we weren't the band at that time. The zeitgeist wasn't right. It taught me that sometimes there's a tipping point, and if you're the band, you're the band, even if you don't want to be, and there's nothing you can do about it.

: So "Mint Car" is a better song than "Friday I'm In Love". Let's take a listen to both:

: You tell me which song just sits there and which one brings a smile to your face. Obviously Smith has never thought much of "Friday" saying that it was "just a stupid pop song" when the single was released, but it is also a fun tune with some energy and clever lyrics behind it even if they are less than mind blowing in their depth. As I discussed with friends at the time "Mint Car" sounded like he was going back to rewrite the same song, or at least revisit the same "silly" vibe with a similar guitar riff, but it came across as a mix of trying too hard and just tired. It's almost as if he was saying if you thought that piece of crap was something than listen to what I can do when I try to make crap. If he wanted to play up better songwriting from when the "zeitgeist wasn't right" for The Cure he should be talking up The 13th. Now there's a song that is different and stays with you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Wrote This Song A Long Time Ago

Just a little over ten years after his death Tupac has a new album out today. The phenomena of these posthumous Tupac albums has always amazed me and even more so now that this is his sixth studio album since his death equalling the number he recorded when he was alive. For proper perspective let's look at a sketch from the final aborted season of Chappelle's Show:

: Click here to listen to listen to Pac's Life for the rest of the week. It opens with gunshot samples.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Video: Johnny Cash "God's Gonna Cut You Down"

Earlier this year I posted about Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down" and now it has an official video jammed packed with celebrities from the worlds of music and Hollywood so you can forever associate the music of Cash with Justin Timberlake and Kid Rock:

: Cash's recording of the song was most likely inspired by Moby's "Run On" from his Play album which took samples from early folk field recordings so casting the video with the rich and famous adds another layer to a complex cycle of inspiration.

UPDATE: Apparently the video was Justin Timberlake's idea. He pitched the concept to Cash's producer Rick Rubin before American V was released. Also of note is the number of Rubin's clients like RHCP, Jay-Z, Bono and Dixie Chicks that feature in the video.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Depeche Mode's Strange Highs And Strange Lows

Depeche Mode's The Best Of Volume 1 hits the streets this week and like the infamous remix album from a couple of years ago it's available in three versions to keep DM fanatics on a diet of ramen and tap water to support their problem. The most prevalent criticism that the compilation has received is that it is pointless because they released their definitive singles collections two albums ago. It's hard to argue with that but in the band's defense it has been eight years since then and "Martyr" is available to download giving fans interested in the music rather than "collecting" an avenue to avoid shelling out too much money to get a taste of the collection's sole new track. I've given the album a listen and it is more of a success than I expected. Avoiding the chronological approach The Best Of works in the disc's favor avoiding the storyline of changing times and evolving sounds that unconsciously came across in The Singles instead finding common ground across the different eras of the Mode. A recent PopMatters article echoed a sentiment about Depeche having never released a bad album but The Best Of has enough sense to skim the generally dull Ultra and only include the one amazing track from the otherwise completely dreadful Exciter. Do I expect to buy it and own these songs for a second or third time? No. But it’s definitely recommended for casual fans who don’t feel the need to own all the albums. If you fall in that camp it is worth your time.

Perhaps if you read blogs you may have noticed that Depeche Mode won "Best Group" at the MTV Europe Music Awards a couple of weeks ago over competition from The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Black Eye Peas, Keane and Pussycat Dolls. That inspired an interesting post by at Electronically Yours about the group's low profile in their native country despite their status as Britain’s most successful musical export. It's something to contemplate as you watch Fletch's brief acceptance speech here.

Click on the link to stream Depeche Mode The Best Of

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Video: Faithless "Bombs"

Faithless return with a new album To All New Arrivals later this month (although there is no word yet on a US release) and the video for "Bombs" has been gaining praise across the internet. Continuing the anti-war sentiment first expressed in "Mass Destruction" a few years ago the video highlights the common humanity of mankind in an attempt to communicate the horrors and disruption of war by setting violent military action in the Western World where life remains largely unaffected despite the military actions enacted by our governments. The shot where a man sits watching the distant destruction on TV in the comfort of his living room as suddenly it bursts through into his living room is a particularly striking image.

: Stop by the Faithless myspace to listen to remixes and more from the band.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fly Me Away

Ask Goldfrapp's fans in the US for their thoughts on Mute US and you tend to get some unpleasant sentiment. After all they failed to get the band out to properly tour the States and then let them get away with only doing a one-off gig opening for The Strokes and Kayne West in New York last month. So it is in the face of the album's buzz killing delayed US release and these touring issues that Mute US told Billboard this week, a mere 14 months after Supernature's international release, that they have a marketing plan:

"Our strategic goal [with "Supernature"] was to proactively expand the licensing support from the start, [using it] as traditional marketing plans use radio airplay to garner mainstream exposure," Mute director of marketing Nicole Blonder says.

Mute is also taking "Fly Me Away" to radio in different formats. "We have some programmers coming to the table," Blonder says, but adds, "we're on track to achieve our sales goals without major support from commercial radio"

: It's good to see they set "realistic" goals.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Short Audio History Of Techno

Kings Of Techno is a double disc compilation of mixes from Carl Craig "one of the most important names in the Detroit second generation of techno producers" and French DJ/producer/label owner Laurent Garnier which taken together creates a history and explores the genesis of techno. Garnier's disc is titled "History Of Detroit" and he chose to start his mix with The Stooges very rock "No Fun" going on to drop tunes from Aretha Franklin, The Temptations and Funkadelic before finally settling into anything with a purely synthetic pallet and sequenced beats that define the genre. The unconvential approach does wonders at demonstrating a common thread across the Detroit music scenes with the propulsive beat of proto-punk, string laden grooves of Motown and the minimal psychedelic noise of P-Funk setting the stage from the emergence of techno as genre that explores the depths of all those ideas.
Carl Craig's disc is titled "Influences & Developments" and finds him looking primarily towards electronic music created in Europe while using a similar approach it takes Craig seven tracks before getting into music that is traditionally classified as part of the techno genre. Making a larger argument for trends and traditions in electronic music across the world the mix finds common ground in the new romantic, Italo, synthpop, and EBM scenes. The compilation is a great find for those puzzled by the genre, I'm looking at you American journalists that spent 3/4ths of the 90's writing endless about the need to use drugs to enjoy the music, because it provides a context for a genre that seems to appeared from nowhere.

Click here to stream the mixes for the next day or so.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Fundamental Issues

When Pet Shop Boys Fundamental was first released I linked to Tremble Clef's remarkable multi-part breakdown of the thematic lyrical and musical elements of the of the album. I have not seen anything else that reached that level of insight anywhere else so I was intrigued when I saw a wikipedia entry on "Numb" reference a review that contains similar ideas. The review was written by Anton Marshall and is published on, which a google search reveals as "the online arm of the South African newspaper group Naspers". The striking thing is how much of the review echoes one particular Tremble Clef post and you can't help but wonder why that is. Here is a collection of citations from the two articles and for the interest of clarity the review quotes will be in blue and those taken from Tremble Clef are in green. All italics are mine:

Pet Shop Boys have always delivered personal and social experience as a narrative to their material, but Fundamental is a more political album than usual thematically, discussing not just the typical "evils" of politics, but actually where politics pervade the personal.

It's not, to put it most bluntly, simply a record filled with platitudes how politicians are evil, or that we just need to get along. However, the politicization of the personal does occur in more intriguing ways across the album as a whole. Since the theme of
Fundamental, we keep getting told, is "politics today," we can't help but regard many of the other songs in that light, even when they don't appear immediately to be so.

Some obvious examples are "Indefinite Leave to Remain", which clearly reflects on immigration laws' prejudice towards gay partners; and "Psychological", which talks cleverly about a living in a society submerged in fear.

To begin with, much of the album's political targets are at least somewhat novel: an amazing song about ID cards ("Integral"), one about love and nationality, and specifically how immigration laws often disadvantage gay couples ("Indefinite Leave To Remain"), and most pervasively, about the culture of fear ("Luna Park," "Psychological").

Even a Diane Warren contribution, "Numb", can be heard as a comment on human reactions to the climate of terror-attacks and anxieties.

This happens most obviously with the dramatic orchestral ballad "Numb." Composed by Diane Warren (a revelation that I admit I was appalled by), the song first comes across as a straightforward song of heartbreak. (It would have seemed even more so had it appeared, as was the original plan, on PopArt.) But in the context of the new album, its opening lines -- "Don't wanna hear the news/What's going on, what's coming through/I don't wanna know" -- reminds us that it's now a song about the desire or even need to zombify oneself as a way of coping with a world gone mad.

: To paraphrase Kayne West, I'm not saying that Marshall is a plagiarist, but I don't see how this much similarity could be coincidence.