Friday, July 25, 2008

Video: Cut Copy "Hearts On Fire"

Cut Copy may have created the hipsters "Where The Streets Have No Name" with their underground hit "Lights & Music" but in Eno terms In Ghost Colours has more in common with the atmosphere and rhythm experiments of Remain In Light than the expansive canvas for tightly written songs heard on The Joshua Tree. Naturally the album's second single does nothing to back up my argument instead attaching their standard modus operandi of refashioned post punk to a melancholic melody while a decidedly 90s Euro synth takes the song into territory only previously explored by Electronic circa Raise The Pressure. One itunes user notes there is "nothing that separates it from 80s electronic music" but that isn't a bad thing speaking instead to the strength of the songwriting.
Clearly aimed at the band's core sophisticated Modular adoring audience the video chronicles a day in life of a complete sop that is perpetually rained on:

: Cut Copy have a myspace and probably have a facebook account too if you are interesting in that sort of thing. The "Hearts On Fire" single is out now and includes remixes from Calvin Harris & Midnight Juggernauts.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Video: Goldfrapp "Caravan Girl"

Goldfrapp's latest single is out in the US today. Seventh Tree's last obvious single choice "Caravan Girl" was tipped as "the Song Of Summer" back in February by XO but the tracklisting for the single is so weak that even some of the bands strongest supporters are left to simply yawn. On the bright side the video is rather nice:

: Recently the band have recently done a highly praised session for NPR with Steve Lillywhite that can be streamed here and announced Fall tour dates that include a few stops in the US. Stop by their myspace for details and sample more of Seventh Tree.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Don't Go

The reunited Yaz play their first US dates this week which must be the driving force behind Alison Moyet's most recent album The Turn getting a belated stateside release today. Here is Alison performing the added to the album after the original release single "A Guy Like You" on The Graham Norton Show:

: Check out an interview from the same show which is quite nice and stop by Yaz's myspace for more from the legendary duo.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Video: Audio Bullys "Gimme That Punk"

Perhaps you remember the narrator in LCD Soundsystem's dissection of musical elitism "Losing My Edge" listing every influential and underground act as their personal discovery. Audio Bullys seem to be under the influence of that track on "Gimme That Punk" announcing their own list of punk acts they demand to hear. This could be a fun track that proves they don't sound like a direct echo of The Streets anymore but there are issues. The lyrics paint such a broad view of "punk" that it encompasses almost every genre of popular music over the past forty years which is liberating in concept but every act named is so mainstream there is no distinct thread to tie the acts together making it simply a list of popular artists. Could it be that they are indeed serious and are taking the opportunity to rebuke the elitism found in LCD Soundsystem's track? It seems more likely that they are simply attaching themselves to some of the most successful names in the music business, everyone from The Beatles to 50 Cent, than attempting any commentary. That is all the more unfortunate given the beats are the least arresting the Bullys have ever dropped in a single.

The video has more punk credibility than the song. The director Don Letts made his first punk rock documentary years before he co-founded Big Audio Dynamite and here he keeps the style direct intercutting a stage performance with archive footage and a Dylan-esque scene of the band record dropping to the lyrics:

: Audio Bullys are at work on their next album. Updates and more from the band are available at their myspace.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Shuffle Blog

Perhaps you have read blog entries where someone talks about the first five songs that come up on itunes shuffle. Sounds like fun...

Pet Shop Boys- Fugitive (Richard X Extended)
I haven't listened to this in some time and it really is fantastic. Really everything you would hope that Richard X would help bring out of the Boys as it is top form sleaze. What a lost opportunity that it didn't find a home on the proper Fundamental instead of being tossed off to bonus track land.

Scissor Sisters- Lovers In The Backseat
Since this song is in the middle of the album I never realized how long and odd the introduction is. Actually the whole song is rather odd but it does deal with voyeurism so what do you expect?

Clinton- People Power In The Disco Hour
Perhaps Cornershop had a bit of pre-millennial tension on the brain when they decided to go from an indie band to a disco outfit. Or maybe Fatboy Slim's hit remix of "Brimful of Asha" inspired the change in direction. While they were never going to be my cup of tea I did enjoy this song even if I couldn't sit through anything else from Clinton.

Cosmicity- Future Song
There are many songs on the underrated modern synthpop act Cosmicity's final album Escape Pod For Two that I like more than this closing track but it does set a mood nicely. It does remind me that I really should post something about Mark Nicholas' post Cosmicity project.

They Might Be Giants- Minimum Wage

This fourty-seven second oddball track really is random, even on TMBG's masterpiece Flood.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Flashback: Prodigy The Fat of the Land (1997)

A short 11 years ago this week Prodigy's The Fat of the Land was unleashed on the world where it unexpectedly debuted as the number one album on the US charts. Dropped by Elektra after Experience failed to live up to major label standards the band had been written off as "kiddie rave" in America before the two pre-release singles "Firestarter" and "Breathe", both of which topped the charts in the UK, started getting attention from alt rock radio and began a bidding war that ended with Prodigy signed to Maverick in the States. I got on board early on picking up "Firestarter" the week it came out as a Mute released 12" single (the song would later be re-released by Maverick on CD single) so it was exciting to see group pick up momentum and acceptance from the alternative scene that had been hijacked by grunge which had effectively silenced the synthesiser in the States.

The controversial opening track weighs heavily in the legacy of Prodigy and the album. The titular sample of a thrown off Kool Keith line taken from Ultramagnetic MC's "Give The Drummer Some" is a major sticking point and while Liam Howlett suggests it is not literal but rather means "doing anything intensely, like being on stage - going for extreme manic energy" using the offending phrase simply makes the song ugly. Following one of the most extreme build ups ever recorded with the suggestion of domestic violence as the payoff is truly foolish and irresponsible. In the years that have passed there have been several attempts to reclaim the song including the oddly controversial video (spoiler: it's not a dude behind all that misogyny) and the Charlie's Angels movies but both take on the basic violent premise of the song's sample rather than deal with "extreme manic energy". The song does have legs and despite limited exposure at the time of it's release it continues to get played on Live 105 and ended up as their top ranking electronica song on a recent listener voted countdown.

"Breathe" is the band's masterstroke as Keith Flint and Maxim Reality spark over an understated Howlett track that does amazing things with an all 16th note bass line. The second pre-release single for the album effectively raised the stakes from the genre bursting "Firestarter" suggesting that Prodigy were more than simple adrenaline junkies and in fact a thinking man's band as well. Time may have proven otherwise.

A decade on "Diesel Power" remains the best electronica/hip hop track ever. Is it the rap? Probably not although Kool Keith would enjoy a renaissance in the late 90s where he would record boasts about the amazing amount of money he was given to work on "Diesel Power". It is the beats that have me reaching to turn up the volume when this comes on time after time.

Howlett sampled the Beastie Boys on this "Funky" track that takes the album down the rave route. Not a favorite by any means but one that sold my former boss on the album after hearing it in a record store.

We reach the low point of the album with "Serial Thrilla" which is a stupid, stupid, stupid song with Keith "my first single went to #1" Flint on screaming vocals. This is what happens when musicians give in to the influence of too much testosterone.

"Mindfields" is the mysterious fourth single from the album that was only released as a "white label" that was one of the most professional and least disguised "unlabeled" pieces of vinyl I've ever encountered. It's a Maxim song in the mode of "Breathe" and while a review mocked the "this is dangerous" line for trying too hard to be scary this was just a decent edit away from being a hit. Also it helped introduce the action movie world to bullet time on the soundtrack to The Matrix.

The Indian influenced "Narayan" brought Kula Shaker's Crispian Mills in for vocals to create mystic synthpop that had run through the big beat blender. There are some great bits but the track's nine minute running time, which in part are a set up for the big hit that follows, helped make it one of the most complained about tracks on the album. Kula Shaker reprised the song as "Song of Love/Narayana" on last year's Strangefolk which doesn't do much to improve the song's reputation.

There was a time when I suggested that "Firestarter" was the new "Smells Like Teen Spirit" as it rocked alternative radio out of it's grunge haze. Perhaps I overstated my case but the song did truly breakdown barriers as it took samples from The Breeders' "S.O.S." and Art Of Noise's "Close (To The Edit)" as it introduced the world to the punk version of Keith Flint. Twisted indeed.

"Climbatize" delayed The Fat Of The Land's release by several months while it was being developed because Liam said it was amazing and told NME that it would be a single for sure. It never was but the instrumental is a highlight that steps back from the hyper masculinity that permeates much of the album.

The album comes to a close with the hard electro rock cover of L7's "Fuel My Fire". Keith handles the vocals on this one with Saffron from Republica adding a nice bit of color as the backup vocalist which make it sound like an angry love song. Interestingly the choice to end with a cover hint at Howlett's limitations as a songwriter which would go to be far more obvious years down the road when Prodigy finally released a new album.

Fat Of The Land was the commercial pinnacle of the Electronica Revolution of 1997 and while the album has it has faults it stands nearly alone in it's mainstream acceptance. One of the reasons "Firestarter" failed to make Prodigy the next Nirvana is that no one could duplicate their sound that combined songwriting with aggressive techno trash. Actually Junkie XL came close and CJ Bolland did a direct riff on the band's sound on a song that is probably better know for it's remix, but no one else could match what Prodigy had at that moment.