Monday, March 31, 2014

Classic Album Review: The Cure - Pornography (1982)

Having been a fan of everything The Cure released prior to Pornography, I recall being fairly quick off the mark to pick up a copy as soon as it came out. I also remember feeling a little underwhelmed and generally pretty disappointed with it, and my opinion on the album hasn’t changed much in the intervening years.

I guess what I appreciated most about The Cure’s earliest stuff was the simple structure of many of the songs, and an almost minimalist approach to making pop music. Yet with each new album from early 1979 through to 1981 – from Boys Don’t Cry through Seventeen Seconds to Faith – the band’s sound became much fuller and increasingly more complex. By album number four, Pornography, simplicity and modest pop forms were evidently the last things on Robert Smith’s mind.
 
I don’t mind the darker angst-ridden stuff (some would say I live for it, even) – see reviews for Seventeen Seconds and Faith – but Pornography always felt like one suicidal step too far; too dense, too bleak, with too much gloomy synth, and a touch too much wailing or generally indecipherable vocals. Maybe it’s just a production thing, but it doesn’t work for me.

I realise Pornography is the album most likely to feature at the very summit of many Cure fans’ “best ever” lists, I’ve even seen it cited as Smith’s masterpiece, but it still rates well down the list for me; ahead of some of the band’s more frivolous and lightweight pop excursions certainly, but below the likes of Seventeen Seconds, Disintegration, Faith, Boys Don’t Cry, The Head On The Door, and even Bloodflowers.

Nonetheless, ‘The Hanging Garden’ remains one of the band’s best singles, ‘One Hundred Years’ is a strong opener, and ‘A Strange Day’ is another obvious highlight on Pornography. The rest I could probably live without.
 
 



 

Classic Album Review: The Cure - Faith (1981)

Sometimes it’s all about your first exposure to an album. Where you heard it, how you experienced it – the context, the sense of occasion, and sometimes something like the sound quality of the equipment you hear it on can have a huge bearing on the impression it leaves ...

I recall one of the first times I heard Faith - it may very well in fact have been THE first time - shortly after its release, probably sometime in late 1981. I was sitting in a friend’s pride and joy Mitsubishi GTO (or a “get turned on” as he referred to it), marvelling at the vehicle’s sleek lines, instantaneous response, and all-round Boy Racer “cool factor”. It was night time, the dashboard was a collection of bright lights and flash buttons. It looked for all the world exactly as I imagined the cockpit of a jumbo jet would, and right in the middle of said dash was a state-of-the-art car audio (or a “cassette stereo” as we knew it). The GTO was also suitably equipped with - what were in those prehistoric Hi-Fi days - speakers to die for.
 
Then it happened. Press play … the tolling of bells, the rolling, almost funky bassline of the album’s opener ‘The Holy Hour’. Then the reckless angry abandon of the excellent single ‘Primary’, followed by the dark paranoid angst of ‘Other Voices’ ... just three tracks in, I was already hooked, an instant convert, and there would be no turning back.

I was indeed “turned on” and tuned in to The Cure. It is something that stayed with me, and even today I have difficulty listening to Faith without being transported back to that place and time, that motor vehicle, and that sublime car audio.

The opening three tracks are mere tasters for what follows. Faith is an album without filler, a true classic of its type and genre, a breakthrough of sorts, even though commercial/mainstream success on a global scale (not to mention bouts of self-parody) was still a few years away yet for Robert Smith & co.

The only real criticism I have of Faith is its length, just eight tracks clocking in at around 37 minutes. Given that the epic single ‘Charlotte Sometimes’ was released shortly afterwards, and never actually made its way onto any other “standard” Cure album (although it is included on various subsequent compilation packages and 2005’s Deluxe version of Faith), it is not as though Smith was struggling for quality material during those years of prolific output 1979 to 1982.

Of the remaining five tracks, the (albeit gloomy) title-track itself is probably the pick of a brilliant bunch, suitably positioned as the album closer. The multi-layered doom extravaganza that is ‘The Drowning Man’ is very much a mini-epic in its own right, while ‘Doubt’ gives us another flash of Smith’s rather more animated form of disaffection with the world, ala ‘Primary’.

‘All Cats Are Grey’ and ‘Funeral Party’ are probably my least favourite tracks on the album, both are perhaps a little too dreary for my taste, but even in saying that, I’ve learned to love both for what they are over years of repeated listening.

Robert Smith would, of course, go on to create some of the murkiest gloom and doom ever committed to vinyl, and many consider Faith to be the initial instalment of a somewhat glum trilogy, one that also features its 1982 follow-up, Pornography, and 1989’s Disintegration ... I’m not sure whether that still stands, but regardless, Faith is a perfectly fine standalone album as it is.

Highly-recommended – more so if you happen to find yourself trapped in a confined space, surrounded by booming speakers, and propelling forward towards the point of no return at what feels like the speed of sound.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Classic Album Review: The Cure - Seventeen Seconds (1980)

This is the first of five classic album posts featuring the work of The Cure ... all written a while back, and I’ll post them to the blog in chronological order:

Every avid music fan has a special place in their collection for a select number of albums they’d consider all-time favourites. No two all-time lists would ever be identical because taste is such a subjective, personal, and often intimate thing.

If ever I was attempting to compile any such list of personal Desert Island Delights, Seventeen Seconds is just as likely to be one of those albums sitting right near the very top. And I guess for me, that’s been the case for more than 30 years now. This, despite the fact that many of the band’s hardcore fans are unlikely to rate Seventeen Seconds as their “chosen one”. Yep, taste is a very personal and intimate thing indeed. As Robert Smith himself suggests on the excellent ‘Play For Today’ ... “it's not a case of doing what's right, it's just the way I feel that matters, tell me I'm wrong, I don't really care ...”
 
Having been seriously impressed when Faith came out in 1981, I worked my way back through the then not-so-extensive (at that point) Cure back catalogue and Seventeen Seconds quickly established itself as the benchmark by which I would judge all future Cure releases.

Through the years I’ve found myself returning to it and it never lets me down. For me, it captures perfectly the headspace I found myself dwelling in back in those late teenage post-punk years of 1980 thru to 1983, and although any rational sane person may consider such a notion pretty unhealthy, it remains a period of my life that I just can’t let go. Just another one of those boring “soundtrack of my youth” … “best days of my life” scenarios - call it a time, place, and had to be there, thing.

And how many seriously deranged (or otherwise) post-pubescent Gothboy-wannabees could relate to the words contained within the album’s finest moment ‘A Forest’ … “come closer and see, see into the trees, find the girl, while you can ... come closer and see, see into the dark, just follow your eyes, just follow your eyes …”

And to give Smith his due - he got the next bit right as well - the girl was NEVER there, and yes siree, it was ALWAYS the same …“running towards nothing, again and again and again and again …”

(*Unlucky in love, your blogger adopts a mock tortured pose for effect*)

From the experimental atmospheric instrumentals (of sorts - they’re rather more like interludes) ‘A Reflection’ and ‘The Final Sound’ through to the classic simplicity and repetition of ‘In Your House’, ‘Play For Today’, ‘M’, and ‘Secrets’, this is a finely crafted piece of work. Then there is, as mentioned above, the utter and total genius of the band’s seminal work ‘A Forest’; hugely influential, often copied, frequently covered, but never bettered.

It is often said that familiarity ultimately leads to contempt; in the case of Seventeen Seconds the opposite applies. That familiarity takes me to the sort of comfortable warm zone seldom found amid dark, stark, and otherwise obscure surrounds. Each to their own, but this is a back-of-the-hand album, I know every last chord change, each and every nuance in Smith’s burgeoning voice; conscious nor subconscious anticipation of either never wears thin.

The 2005 Deluxe Edition CD release – at least my third such copy of the album through the years, but my first on disc – contains a bonus CD which features different versions of the tracks, live versions, alternate takes, home demos of non-album material, rare ‘Cult Hero’ stuff from the band’s earliest incarnation – but to be honest, none of it could be considered “essential listening” regardless of how collectable it may once have been. I was a little disappointed with some of the sound quality on the bonus CD – I really wanted a definitive version of ‘Another Journey By Train’ (an instrumental b-side of some repute) but found the demo on this distorted and muddy. Still, that must be considered only a minor complaint, and it takes nothing away from how I feel about the original album as a whole.

Seventeen Seconds … a measure of life.
 
 
 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Forest And The Trees

Continuing a local/grassroots theme, a post about something and nothing really:

So I’ve just had the rather unusual experience of turning down a “free” door pass to a gig. Given my Scottish heritage, this is not something I do very often, and it’s certainly not something that comes naturally. But I had to. I’ll be at the gig in question – a couple of local cover bands: Splintered In Her Head (Cure covers) and Permanence (Joy Division covers) – at Wellington venue Bodega, without question, but I had to turn down “free” entry as a matter of principle. Let me explain ...

 
I “won” the pass on Facebook by correctly answering a question relating to Robert Smith (of The Cure), but I hadn’t read the fine print for competition entry. One of the conditions stated that I had to sign a petition (run by Alastair Ross, but also being pushed by Splintered In Her Head’s Michel Rowland, click here) to bring The Cure to New Zealand in 2014. Rowland is a huge fan of the band, his passion is undoubted, and it’s a fairly simple request right? ... well, no, not really. You see, I’d already been quite outspoken on social media about this particular petition, I’d discussed it with friends, and I’d concluded that actually, I don’t want to see The Cure in NZ in 2014.
 
Not your average covers band
So to then sign the petition just as soon as it suited me would have been rather hypocritical in the extreme. I couldn’t do it, and figured the pass really ought to go to someone who was prepared to sign the petition honestly, enthusiastically, and unconditionally. I contacted Rowland and declined the pass to his band’s gig once I realised one of the conditions behind it. I explained my reasoning – basically, it’s because I’m anal, and it’s something I touched on in a previous blogpost about the Buzzcocks – and assured him that I’d be at Splintered In Her Head’s gig regardless. And I will be.

My reasoning is roughly this: I’m always wary of seeing a band in its dotage, or past its prime, for fear it will somehow spoil how I feel about the band. When a band has been one of my long-time favourites, that fear is somewhat more acute. For me – though there has been the odd exception to my “rule” – it is akin to watching a punch drunk heavyweight boxer stumble around the ring trying revive the glory of former years. I’ve always said I thought Robert Smith and the band should have called it quits after Bloodflowers in 2000, and nothing The Cure has done since has given me cause to change that opinion.
 
I did warn you that it was anal. And I guess I’ve just been stung before (another long-winded story, for another time and blogpost).


Robert Smith: no makeup selfie
But I do get what petitioner Ross and Rowland are trying to achieve. For them it is a passion, and from all accounts The Cure’s 2014 “world” tour will be all about embracing a great trilogy of albums from 1984 to 1987: The Top (1984), The Head On The Door (1985), and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (1987), so it’s not as though a raft of new (potentially awful) material would be unleashed on any unsuspecting fan.
 
And I have absolutely no objection to Cure cover bands! I practically grew up with one. And with the chance to see Permanence as well – with a collection of Joy Division covers? ... who would object to paying just $10 for that kind of double bill?
 
I thought Rowland might be a little offended by my attitude to his favourite band – I mean, why couldn’t I just sign the petition when it was going to benefit so many other Cure fans, right? ... no, he replied and it turns out he shares some of the same fears, he’s just a little bit more relaxed about that sort of thing. We’ve since hooked up on Facebook and I’d now like to consider myself one of Splintered In Her Head’s biggest fans! (lol) ... after all, even though I’ve yet to see them live, they’re still in their PRIME years and from all accounts they’ve got a set-list full of pretty decent tunes! ...

And just because Rowland was so damn personable in his dealings with the weirdo who turned down the free pass, and because he is so passionate ... click here for a link to the petition.

And it also occurs to me that I’ve got half a dozen or so Cure album reviews published elsewhere, sitting dormant, probably unloved and unread, all the while everythingsgonegreen is screaming out for content ... so over the next week or so leading up to the Bodega gig, I’ll post a few of those on the blog ...

Splintered In Her Head and Permanence play Bodega, Wellington, on April 5 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

Reasons To Be Cheerful parts 1, 2, and 3 ...

Well it’s been a crazy couple of weeks here at the everythingsgonegreen mansion, and it has only reinforced my belief that nothing brings a family closer together than serious illness. Suffice to say I’ve seen more of Wellington hospital over the past week or so than I have over the previous three decades put together. In short, the blog has been a bit quiet while real life kicked in once again.

That’s not to say I haven’t been thinking about music, and I’ve certainly been listening to more than my fair share. They say every cloud has a silver lining, and if four nights in hospital was genuine torture for the teenager concerned (and it was!), it did give her old man the chance to “road test” some new music while pondering the fragility of life during those daily 100km-return trips to and fro.
So, new albums from the likes of Sun Kil Moon, Warpaint, and Dum Dum Girls will be reviewed here over the next couple of weeks. But in the meantime I wanted to make local (Wellington-based) readers aware of a couple of upcoming gigs featuring bands with a close association to the blog – three of Wellington’s finest ... all playing at Meow on Edward Street:
First up, this Friday March 21, we have blog favourites Black City Lights alongside Pikachunes, Beat Mob, and Groeni. The flyer says Black City Lights will play at 11pm, but get along for the support bands – I can highly recommend Pikachunes in particular – and then let Beat Mob take you further into the weekend after Black City Lights has done its always impressive darkwave thing. All for $10.

Then on Saturday 29 March we have hard-working local funkateers Bikini Roulette, a band that produced one of this blog’s favourite albums of 2013 (Erotik Fiction) with its heady mix of funk and old fashioned dirty blues. Lady Parts provide support – as it so often does – and although the name Steezin’ Hawkings is new one for yours truly, it’s certainly an intriguing name, and at just $5 on the door, what could possibly go wrong?

 And finally, at the same venue, on Friday 11 April, we have the much anticipated return of Vorn, whose 2011 album Down For It did so much to restore my faith in local music with its spellbinding mix of quirky pop and humour. This is an album release party for More Songs About Girls And The Apocalypse (is it really album number seven?) and support this time will come from Warwick and the Wankers, and NEVERWOZ. Just $10 on the door.

So that’s three reasons to be cheerful; three potentially great gigs in the next three weeks, all at Meow, ten acts for a combined total outlay of just $25 ... quality.
 
Oh, and since we’re counting reasons to be cheerful, I’ll add reasons four and five right here and now; reason number four is that said teenager’s illness was finally diagnosed and she is now out of any immediate danger and is happy to be back home – massive love and respect to her for her bravery and maturity in the face of considerable adversity. While reason number five is simply that this blogpost is post number 200 for everythingsgonegreen ... a small milestone that even your humble blogger never expected to reach.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Classic Album Review: The Specials – Specials (1979)

A true classic the Ska genre, The Specials’ self-titled debut album is a must-have for any serious fan of the ‘Two Tone’ scene, any Eighties retro freak, or indeed, for any keen student of the recent social history of multicultural Britain.

The end of the Seventies in the UK was a period of much political upheaval and social unrest, with an unprecedented number of race riots and a generally disorientated populace about to embark on a decade of gruelling Thatcher rule. Whether or not The Specials deliberately set about sound-tracking the widespread collective disaffection of those bleak days is perhaps a moot point, the album has subsequently gone on to become both representative and synonymous with that period of British history. Call it a right time and place thing.
 
Given the multiracial make-up of the seven-strong Specials, not to mention much of the album’s subject matter – politics, the establishment, violence, identity, and race – it could even be argued that this is a release of major cultural, political, and social significance. Not only is it the sound of young Britain on the very cusp of major change, it is the sound of urban Coventry and of the suburban Midlands, and just as likely the sound of hundreds upon thousands of lost communities and decaying inner city housing estates everywhere.

Either that, or it’s just a damned good dance record.

Heavily informed by the rich archives of Desmond Dekker, Prince Buster, and the like, Messrs Dammers, Hall and co pretty much had their unique party/protest groove sussed right from the start; combining the working class energy and DIY ethos of Punk, with the freshly imported vibrant new sounds of old Jamaica, mixing it together with a little bit of social commentary, throwing in the odd pinch of anger, before stomping and stirring vigorously, and heating thoroughly to well beyond boiling point.

That, give or take the odd ingredient, was roughly the recipe for a serious Ska/Rude Boy revival in the late Seventies/early Eighties, the so-called second wave, and despite the scene’s relative brevity (the seminal ‘Two Tone’ label floundered badly in the Eighties after initially providing the breakthrough vehicle for not only The Specials, but also Madness, The Beat, and many others), the hybrid sounds of Jamaican dancehall and English street remain surprisingly fresh and just as relevant coming up for 35-odd years later.
 

" ... don't call me Ska-face"
 
All of the best Specials tracks can be found on this one, with the exception of ‘Ghost Town’ (released a couple of years down the line), and one or two other key numbers from the darker and rather more eclectic follow-up album, More Specials.

Key tracks include: ‘Message To You Rudy’, ‘Concrete Jungle’, ‘Monkey Man’, ‘Too Much Too Young’, ‘Gangsters’ (the successful lead single), and ‘You’re Wondering Now’, but more generally there’s not really a bad track on the debut.

A staple of the immediate post-punk years, the band imploded some three or four years later, branching off into the more commercially flavoured Fun Boy Three (including lead vocalist Terry Hall) and the politically motivated and equally socially conscious Special AKA (featuring Jerry Dammers).

Here's 'Gangsters'



 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Album Review: Mogwai - Rave Tapes (2014)

Rave Tapes is the eighth full-length offering from Scottish post-rockers Mogwai, and while it provides plenty of reference points to the band’s past work, this album feels like a slight departure, with Mogwai embracing electronic elements like never before.

17 years on from the wall-of-guitar tensions of the raw debut, Young Team, the band is now approaching middle age, and beyond the soundtrack stuff, there’s perhaps been a sense of stagnation about its most recent work. I think Mogwai peaked around a decade ago, with the Happy Songs For Happy People album being a highpoint in terms of my own personal appreciation. And although the more recent The Hawk Is Howling had some fine moments too (not least ‘Scotland’s Shame’), I’ve struggled to remain committed to a band that more or less sounds the same on each new release.

But Rave Tapes offers something more. Plus there’s a little more of the same old same old, for those hardcore fans. The vast majority of Mogwai’s best moments have come on what might be called “instrumental” tracks and once again Rave Tapes doesn’t deviate too far from that formula, with seven out of the album’s ten tracks containing no vocals at all.
 
But where guitar might once have been the most prominent feature of the band’s signature sound, Rave Tapes finds Mogwai experimenting a little more with electronic stuff – keyboards, old synth noodlings, and the tension in the music this time stems from its bass-driven pulse, not the cascading guitars of the past. Album stand-out ‘Remurdered’ is probably the most obvious example of that shift in focus.

Of course there’s still a lot of guitar, Rave Tapes wouldn’t be a Mogwai album without it, it’s just that it works as peripheral support this time out, rather than providing a lead role.

‘Repelish’ is the first of the tracks to feature vocals, and even at that they’re sampled, as our narrator discusses classic rock, Led Zep’s ‘Stairway to Heaven’, and subliminal connections to “Satan”. ‘Blues Hour’, the second track with vocals, is largely a non event for me, while the third, the closer, ‘The Lord Is Out Of Control’ is all about vocoderised ambience, and it doesn’t really go anywhere (well, it does, it takes us to the end of the album … but hey).

There’s some good stuff too though; ‘No Medicine For Regret’ and ‘Mastercard’ rivalling ‘Remurdered’ as first choices for the download option if you only wanted to extract a few specific tracks.

And as much as I adore *some* Eighties kitsch, I’m not a fan of the album cover, which looks a little bit like it might have been designed by a Year 10 technical drawing student … just sayin’.

Here’s 'Remurdered'…
 


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Classic Album Review: Gary Numan - Living Ornaments '79 (1981)

The news last week that Gary Numan was planning to play a one-off show at Auckland’s Studio (bar) this coming May was greeted with much excitement by Kiwi fans of the synthpop genre. I’m not so sure the promotional claim that Numan is the “godfather of electronic music” is particularly accurate (Kraftwerk, Neu!, Tangerine Dream, et al ... anyone?) but there’s no doubt he remains a significant draw for nostalgia freaks in this part of the world. Even as recently as a few years back I found myself rather obsessed with his Living Ornaments series of live albums – made during his commercial peak. Here’s a review I wrote at the time for the first album of the series, Living Ornaments ’79 ...

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Living Ornaments ’79 features Gary Numan as found in September 1979, live at the Hammersmith Odeon; part android, part voyeur into the future, part neo-classical posh git … and sometime pilot …

The album captures Numan at the start of what might be called his peak period as an artist – no longer operating under the Tubeway Army banner, and undertaking a serious assault on the UK singles chart, something that would continue well into 1980 and, albeit with ever diminishing returns, well beyond.
 
In 1979, Numan was bold, brash, and relevant; a genuine emerging commercial force on a fast expanding new wave/synth scene. Living Ornaments represents something of a seminal snapshot of that moment in time, but it’s also more than that – it is an album to prove that there was more to Gary Numan than merely hit singles, and in a “live” setting we see a human Numan (sorry! - Ed) rather than the robotic and distant, dare I say it – ornamental – individual, as characterised by marketing/branding imagery at the time. Though in saying that, the live aspect means the structure and pace (especially) of several tracks are notably different from their studio equivalents.

This is a 21-track two-disc set, and disc one opens with a dramatic extended intro, which then morphs into the instrumental ‘Airlane’ (the opener from Numan’s The Pleasure Principle album of the same year). Numan eventually sings – or rather ironically, finally “connects” with his audience – on ‘Me! I Disconnect From You’, before we’re launched into his biggest hit of the year, ‘Cars’.

‘Random’ and ‘We Are So Fragile’ are other highlights from the first set, but generally the second disc shades the first in terms of overall quality, opening with a superb version of early single ‘Bombers’ before the plain weird ‘Remember I Was Vapour’ leads us to Numan’s most famous cover, ‘On Broadway’, complete with what appears to be an electric violin solo.  

I’m not sure whether the playlist on the album is in the exact order the tracks rolled out on the night, but it strikes me that the climax to disc two would represent as strong a finale to a live performance as you’ll ever get from Numan – ‘Down In The Park’ followed by an uptempo ‘My Shadow In Vain’, the chunky slabs of beefy synth that make up ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric’, and the under-rated closer, ‘Tracks’.
 
What we don’t get are versions of the two hit singles that dissected The Pleasure Principle and its follow-up album, Telekon – ‘We Are Glass’ and ‘I Die You Die’ – however these can be found on this album’s companion release, Living Ornaments ’80. (There is also a Living Ornaments ’81 for completists – Numan was nothing if not pedantic and organised).

Gary Numan has endured many professional and personal ups and downs during his 35-year recording career. A few of Numan’s mid-to-late Eighties and Nineties incarnations were cruelly mocked and parodied beyond all rationale or reason – given his wider influence and the eventual critical appreciation of his talents. But there is no question that this album demonstrates everything that was good in the first place and it has to rate as one of his genuine highs.

This is not the best quality clip, but here’s Gary Numan on the night in question …




 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

YT at Laundry

This ties in with a couple of recent posts so if any Wellington-based fans of dub or dancehall are reading this, and are at a loose end this coming Saturday night, get along to Laundry on Cuba to check out international reggae star YT.

The UK-based YT is one of the hottest voices in the business at present, and one of the biggest stars within the genre, so a gig at Laundry is quite a coup.
Drawing from a wide range of influences, YT has released three albums to date, and he’s known for his cross-genre versatility (reggae, dancehall, jungle) and staunch social commentary.
It should be a special night for everyone who makes it down to Laundry on Cuba ...

YT featured on the recent Radikal Guru album, Subconscious, as recently reviewed on everythingsgonegreen ... here’s ‘Stay Calm’:




Monday, March 3, 2014

Album Review: Broken Bells – After The Disco (2014)

When James Mercer (of The Shins) and uber-producer Danger Mouse collaborated as Broken Bells back in 2010 they made an album that ultimately came across as being very “safe”. It was pleasant enough in a lightweight psych-meets-indie pop kind of way, but I was left with the feeling the duo was – on paper at least – capable of so much more.

I enjoyed the album at the time, but given its heavyweight credentials, let’s just say I was more excited about the collaboration, and the prospect of further outings, than I was about the work-in-progress feel of the debut.

Four years on, with the release of album number two, After The Disco, it appears that not a lot has changed. Again the first word that pops into my head when listening to After The Disco is “safe”.

I’m not sure why that should be, because if past form and previous work under different (separate) guises is any guide, this pair bring plenty to the table, and not much of it could be said to be risk averse.

Mercer has a keen ear for great hooks and melodic pop music, that much has always been apparent, while Danger Mouse’s CV (Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz, next stop U2 or Frank Ocean) speaks for itself.

So what’s missing on After The Disco?

Well, nothing really … except for any real sense of adventure or any genuine spark.

There’s not a lot wrong with any of these songs, some are perfectly crafted pop gems, it’s just that so many of them are so damned formulaic as to render them largely superfluous.

It’s not hard to imagine what the duo was trying to achieve … a sort of post-Random Access Memories comedown album, incorporating synthpop and catchy bass-driven grooves perhaps?
 
But where only the very worst segments of Daft Punk’s disco-reviving opus veer toward moments of parody, far too much of After The Disco crosses the line, including some of the best bits – I’m not sure whether to laugh at the Barry Gibb-aping ‘Holding On For Life’ or whether I’m supposed to try not to cringe and just go with it …

I dunno, I guess I wanted and expected a little more. Something better than this offering. With the knowledge that these guys are capable of it.

This is inoffensive catchy pop music, and that’s fine, but if that’s the extent of Broken Bells’ collective ambition, then I probably won’t bother too much in future. And for all that I know I probably need to revisit it a few more times yet, this feels like pretty uninspired fare to me.

Here’s ‘Holding On For Life’ ...

 

 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

One Weekend, two great gigs: The Orb Sound System/Moisty Atsushi

I managed to catch Dr Alex Paterson, aka The Orb Sound System, spinning some black magic plastic at Meow (bar) in Wellington last Friday night.

It was another one of those nights for a lot of old faces and friends, and the sold out gig had a pretty mean “in-awe” vibe throughout. Paterson doesn’t make it down to this part of the planet very often, and for a Friday night in the capital, he represents an irresistible draw at a great little venue.
 
 
 
Paterson was generous with the length of time he spent at the decks, and his sets were a mix of high bpm techno, Pink-Floydian ambience, and copious amounts of Lee Scratch Perry-led dub. He continually referenced his own Orb work – across all forms of its existence – and generally kept the crowd transfixed as he mixed and mashed his way through the night.

Support came from local heavyweights like Koa (Rhombus) and Redbird Jnr (did I miss Mu?), only adding to the warmth and sense of occasion I felt for seeing so many longtime-familiar faces out and about. It was a really good night, and another small box ticked on any music bucket list I might (or might not) have made …
 
*
Sometimes though, it’s the gig you least expect that ends up being just as exciting as the long coveted one. That purely spontaneous in-the-moment set you’ve stumbled across by accident.
 
On Saturday night I had one such experience, staggering late doors into Laundry on Cuba, where a Japanese guy, one Moisty Atsushi, a young performer apparently enjoying a solo sojourn from regular crew Atsushi and the Moisties (ahem), was playing to a busy and for the most part fully engaged crowd.   
 
Moisty’s party trick is dressing in a full body “onesie” and playing acoustic rocksteady, ska, and cod reggae. He might not be the most talented guitarist I’ve ever seen, and some of his vocals need (a lot of) work, but I’ve yet to see a more passionately performed live cover of ‘Pressure Drop’ in my puff.
 
As the owner of a very self-deprecating sense of humour and an innocent childlike stage banter, Moisty might just about be the most er, “enthusiastic” artist I’ve ever seen ... constantly cajoling the audience to “singalong and dance” between songs, and proving as infectious a pick-me-up as anyone could possibly find in the post-midnight hour.
 
More generally, Laundry on Cuba, with its good vibes, ramshackle appearance, and regular commitment to ska/roots/dub themes, looks like a very decent (relatively recent) addition to the Wellington live music scene.