Friday, July 31, 2015

What A Wonderful TACK>>HEAD World

A variation on a recent theme; an unexpected new release from an unlikely source, via an unusual route, in a very limited format. Out today, a brand new single/“EP” from industrial funk giants Tackhead, ‘What A Wonderful World’, a digital release only, available on iTunes. Grab your copy (click link below) and check out the video clip …

What A Wonderful World on iTunes.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Getting Restless

There’s a bit of a buzz going around about New Order this week with the release of ‘Restless’, an advance single for the Music Complete album, which itself is due out on 25 September. In case it’s not obvious from the title of this blog, and the various New Order related posts, everythingsgonegreen reserves a special place in its increasingly dark heart for the music of New Order. The 2013 album Lost Sirens was something of a stop-gap album, a poor excuse for fresh material, given that it contained only previously shelved tracks from the Waiting for the Sirens’ Call (2005) sessions. So Music Complete will be the now five-piece band’s first set of new material in a decade. And although New Order continues to function sans bass player extraordinaire Peter Hook, Music Complete marks the return of original keyboard player Gillian Gilbert. Here’s ‘Restless’ …

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Death by Discotheque

Here's something new (well, old and new) from Wellington darkwave merchants Disjecta Membra, a set of remixes of epic single 'Death by Discotheque' ... you need to hear this, download (for the price of a cup of coffee) from the Bandcamp link below.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

It's A Lovely Day!

I’ve long been a fan of Belgian Techno/EBM giants Front 242. I blogged a little bit about that once before (here). Front 242 enjoy a massive cult following – and have done for some 30-plus years – but are almost completely unknown in mainstream music circles. Anyway, I note the Alfa Matrix Bandcamp page is offering a couple of free tracks to download ahead of 242's acclaimed No Comment album getting a 2015 reissue/makeover.

Grab a copy of the remastered ‘Lovely Day’ and a remix of ‘Take One’ (click here).

There’s also a remix competition on the go for anyone wanting to put their own signature on ‘Take One’ – the Remix Kit is included in the download. This from the Alfa Matrix page:

FRONT 242 this time also challenges your creative skills and opens a remix competition by including to this single a remix kit for the classic track “Take One”. You can find the download link for the remix kit in the PDF that is included in your download as bonus. FRONT 242 will select their 3 favourite remixes to be inserted in a second free download single which will be released on August 30th! Deadline for the remix submission (in non-mastered WAV 16bit format) is August 15th 2015, you can send your submissions to using dropbox or wetransfer! Make sure to title your remix by adding your band/artist/DJ name to the WAV file title that you will share with us...

Monday, July 20, 2015

Gig Review: Ryan Adams, Opera House, Wellington, 16 July 2015

I’ve been to a fair few concerts already this year, and I’ve got a few more penciled in during the months ahead, but I think I’m quite safe in saying I’ve already seen my “gig of 2015”. Whatever else awaits, it’s going to have to be pretty damned special to top Ryan Adams’ show last Thursday night at Wellington’s Opera House.

It all starts with a brief but beguiling 25-odd-minute support set from Tiny Ruins (aka Hollie Fullbrook), who takes us on a potted solo journey through her (band’s) discography, with particular highlights being ‘Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens’, and the relative oldie, ‘Running Through The Night’. A half dozen or so songs is really just a taster, but Fullbrook is quite a talent, and I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in years to come.

Ryan Adams doesn’t muck about. Either getting on stage (9pm sharp) or between songs, and from the moment he launches into beefed up opener ‘Gimme Something Good’ it's immediately apparent the near-full Opera House is in for some magic. ‘Gimme Something Good’ is more a statement of intent rather than a request, and for the next two hours Adams gives us a lot of good things; material from his most recent album is the most familiar for me, but there’s a wealth of older material to draw from, and Adams is only too happy to cherry pick what surely amounts to something close to a greatest hits-type set.

The most striking thing for me, having prepared myself for this gig by repeatedly consuming his abbreviated acoustic – and very mellow – Live at Carnegie Hall album (see here), is just how much richer and complete a number of these tunes sound with a full band behind them – most notably ‘Nobody Girl’, which morphs into an extended full-blown psychedelic twin-guitar wig-out. That song is one of several “climax” moments, coming at the end of a run which includes ‘Peaceful Valley’, ‘Kim’, ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ and ‘Shakedown on 9th Street’.

It’s also a mid-concert run of songs that best demonstrates the collective talents of Adams’ band, The Shining, with ‘Nobody Girl’ highlighting the tension between Adams’ lead guitar and the rhythmic virtuosity of fellow axe-smith Mike Viola. Each member of the five-piece (including Adams) gets a moment to, um, shine, and throughout the course of the night I find myself becoming totally engrossed by the old-style mellotron-esque keyboard playing of Daniel Clarke in particular. His subtle manipulation of that vintage beast is truly a wonderful thing. A spiritual, almost gospel thing, even.
After 90-odd minutes of scaling peaks and marvelling at the lovely catch-yer-breath-type moments that follow, a well-received version of ‘Trouble’ then leads us into the final portion of the show, where Adams’ renowned on-stage banter finally comes into its own. There’s a peculiar but very funny spell of improvisation where Adams and the band mock the traditional “encore” process by refusing to leave the stage, instead coming up with an amusing ditty they call ‘Fake Encore’. After that we get ‘I See Monsters’ and a terrific closer in the form of ‘Come Pick Me Up’. After two hours-plus and 21 songs, it’s a great way to end what will surely be a strong contender for the highly coveted (indulge me) everythingsgonegreen gig of the year award. We’ll have to wait and see (but don’t bet against it).

If I have a complaint (and of course I do), it’s that the Wellington Opera House – as majestic and as gothic as it undoubtedly is – is not really an ideal venue for a Ryan Adams gig. Especially not for a Ryan Adams gig featuring a full band. It’s all-seated for one thing, with standing room only right at the very front. Myself and my gig-attending companion were positioned in a slightly awkward spot near the wings, which meant when Adams stepped back deeper into the set, as he did frequently, particularly during guitar solos, he tended to disappear behind a speaker stack and we both lost sight of him. Second complaint, on behalf of said companion, how come Auckland got a rendition/cover of the Oasis classic ‘Wonderwall’ yet Wellington missed out?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Classic Album Review: The Cars - The Cars (1978)

Emerging out of the netherworlds of Boston’s so-called “new wave” scene in the late Seventies, The Cars hit paydirt almost immediately with this self-titled debut album, and it remains even today one of the most identifiable landmark (read: mainstream) albums of that period.

The tracklist reads like something out of a late Seventies FM station’s Guide To Ratings Success; a selection of top singles; a master-class in the art of power pop, spiky and synthetic, occasionally heavy, energetic RnR for the masses. An album full of precious radio friendly hooks and relatively decent lyrics courtesy of Ric Ocasek, who shared the lead vocal duties with the late Benjamin Orr (who in turn, is at his best on ‘Just What I Needed’). Synthesizers are prominent throughout but the much under-rated Elliot Easton’s guitar craft is perhaps the biggest single factor behind the band’s success and he never sounded better than on here.

Heartbeat City, the band’s uneven fifth album, would ultimately challenge this one in terms of commercial plaudits (on the back of the soppy, yet undeniably plush, huge global smash ‘Drive’), but the debut is in a league of its own when it comes to impact and indeed, longevity. There is a certain freshness and zest on this album, and a crispness about the production, that the band would struggle to reproduce consistently on any subsequent album. It’s a breakthrough release, a virtual (but not quite) greatest hits package, and a mission statement all rolled into one.

So The Cars would not scale these heights again, this was as good as it got in terms of quality control. A no filler thriller, 35 minutes or so of pure unadulterated drivetime pop music, as heard on a Classic Rock station somewhere near you any minute now.

Highlights: All nine tracks cut the mustard. You’ll be well and truly zoned in by track four after listening to ‘Good Times Roll’, ‘Best Friend’s Girl’ and ‘Just What I Needed’ but if you’re not, well, there really isn’t much point in continuing … however, in no particular order: ‘You’re All I’ve Got Tonight’, ‘Moving In Stereo’, and ‘All Mixed Up’ are the best of the rest.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Album Review(s): Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams (2014) & Live at Carnegie Hall (2015)

Not my new car, but close
I’ve got a new car. It’s black*, compact, very sporty, and it’s all mine – as opposed to being the “family car”. It feels a little bit like the middle-aged male equivalent of the “little black dress”. I mention this mainly because it also has quite easily the best car audio system I’ve ever had the pleasure of using on any regular basis, and it’s changed the way I’ve been listening to music over the past couple of weeks. I’m in love with it, and I’ve been driving it as much as possible. Every day, even. I feel like I’ve finally arrived in the 21st century, yet for all of its other-worldly-state-of-the-art-ness, that car audio has also seen me take a step back in time; back to CDs and (whisper it) mainstream radio. For whatever reason, music on disc just sounds so much fuller and crunchier than that found on my rather extensive – and admittedly far more convenient/transportable – collection of mp3s. In the past week, I’ve even gone out and purchased a couple of brand new CDs specifically for the car audio experience. I know, right? Who does that these days?

The first of these was the recent Ryan Adams album, (Ten Songs) Live at Carnegie Hall. I picked this one up because next week I’m attending a Ryan Adams gig here in Wellington and I wanted to get a feel for what Adams is like on stage. The Live at Carnegie Hall album features music from two New York gigs in November 2014 so it’s all very recent and I saw it as being quite relevant to what we can expect on this current tour. I’m really pleased I have this one on CD (as opposed to other forms) because it really does sound immaculate – crisp and lush – and it’s a genuine keeper. (note: I’m not saying all CDs sound this good *generally*). The second CD purchase earlier this week was the much hyped Jamie xx’s ‘In Colour’, but I’ll cover that off in another post.

I’m a relative latecomer to the music of Ryan Adams. I’ve had a copy of his acclaimed self-titled 2014 album for a while now, and I’ve listened to that a fair bit, but I’ve got nothing from his vast back catalogue, not Heartbreaker or Gold, and not a thing from the Whiskeytown or Cardinals eras. For many years I only vaguely knew his music. I saw Adams – perhaps incorrectly – as something of a flagbearer for Americana, and I always felt he was far too prolific in terms of output to have any sort of quality control filter in place – I mean, there was something like 13 albums and seven EPs in a dozen years 2000-2011 …

Nope, for me, Adams was just another one of those artists “other people” raved about. But that 2014 “comeback” album, after a three-year hiatus, changed all of that. So ahead of next week’s gig I thought I’d offer a short review of that album, and something similar for Live at Carnegie Hall. I’ll just as likely have a review of his Wellington gig in a couple of weeks. You might say I’m now a fan, but let’s wait and see.
Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams (2014)
Hearing ‘Trouble’ (the third single off this album) more or less instantly changed the way I felt about Ryan Adams. Or at least it led me to this album, which ultimately had that effect. Here was an authentic slice of unpretentious rock n roll music packaged up in a sumptuous sonic burst lasting less than four minutes. Yet, with the benefit of freshly-acquired hindsight, ‘Trouble’ probably isn’t even the best tune on the album. That mantle surely rests with the superb (Grammy-nominated) opener ‘Gimme Something Good’, which sets things up nicely for what follows – an almost perfect blend of mid-tempo guitar-driven 70s-tinged rock, and a collection of slower softer jams. In the former category we have tunes like ‘Am I Safe’ and ‘Trouble’ itself, while the latter description covers off songs like second single ‘My Wrecking Ball’ and the more plaintive ‘Shadows’, both of which succeed in bringing Adams’ singer-songwriting skills into sharper focus. Adams co-produces with renowned multi-instrumentalist Mike Viola, and the album features cameo appearances from ex-wife Mandy Moore (vocals) and Johnny Depp (guitar). This album has been slow burner for me, and it’s really only over the past few months that I’ve started to appreciate just how good it is.
Ryan Adams – Live at Carnegie Hall (2015)
When I say I purchased Live at Carnegie Hall on CD (above), what I actually mean is I picked up the short 10-track version of a much larger set. Not the actual 40-plus-track, 200-plus-minute, six-LP box set. So I’m reviewing the abbreviated form here, not that massive career-spanning overview (life’s too short). This version covers snippets from the two nights at Carnegie Hall in November 2014, just five tracks from each night (ten in total). Nonetheless there is a nice mix of the old and new on offer – three tracks from the recent 2014 album (as reviewed above), three tracks from 2001’s Gold, two from “solo” debut Heartbreaker (2000), and two “brand new”/previously unreleased songs which present a slightly more folky or pastoral version of Adams. All of these songs are stripped back acoustic versions, all are quite lovely, and all benefit from pristine production. The sound is so clean and pure in places you could probably hear a guitar pick drop. Heartbreaker’s ‘Oh My Sweet Carolina’ and Gold’s ‘Nobody Girl’ immediately draw the listener in and work as an ideal one-two to kick things off. But the highlight here for me is probably ‘My Wrecking Ball’ off last year’s effort. There’s also some great between-songs dialogue from Adams, some self-deprecation about the depressing nature of some of his music, and some hilarious stuff about weed smoking. Quite aside from his talents as a singer-songwriter-musician, Adams comes across as quite the entertainer. This is a great sampler, and I can only hope next week’s performance comes close to the sense of anticipation created when listening to this. Though, to be fair, I suspect the upcoming Wellington gig will feature a full band.   
*My much suppressed inner-goth has always coveted a jet black car, which probably stems from being a teenage Knightrider fan.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Album Review: The Pop Group - Citizen Zombie (2015)

What happens to old punks when they grow up?

Well, if The Gospel According to The Pop Group’s Mark Stewart is to be believed, growing older just means they merely become more passionate and more focused about what they’re doing. And if the music on The Pop Group’s latest offering - the 2015 album Citizen Zombie - is any indication, Old Father Time has done little to dampen or dilute Stewart's all-encompassing sense of rage at the world.

Citizen Zombie is the band’s first studio album for 35 years.

I’ll stop there. And pause for a moment.

35 years! ... Citizen Zombie is The Pop Group’s first set of original “songs” since the acclaimed For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? helped establish a much copied post-punk template way back in 1980.
Ah, 1980: Jimmy Carter was still President of the USA, Margaret Thatcher’s reign of terror in the UK (ahem) had only just started, while mainstream pop culture fiends on both sides of the Atlantic still tended to favour bell-bottoms and platforms over bondage pants and Doc Martens (but not for long). If it hadn’t been for an American boycott of the Moscow Olympics that year, Bruce Jenner (aka Caitlyn) would just as likely have retained his title of “the world’s greatest athlete”. In short, it was a bloody lifetime ago.

The music of The Pop Group (and Stewart in his solo incarnation) has always been a difficult and “challenging” listen, or at the very least something of an acquired taste. Citizen Zombie is no exception.
As a listening experience the album is more than a little unsettling. Not only in terms of subject matter, but also due to the hybrid of styles on offer. And yes, while attempts to “unsettle” or disturb have often accounted for big chunks of The Pop Group's modus operandi, I’m not convinced the music disturbs in quite the way it’s supposed to. It just feels a little too messy and disjointed; take four parts warped electro, three parts industrial grind, two parts agit-funk, before adding a sprinkling of disco fairy dust. Stir vigorously to boil.

Quite a recipe … if you wish to cook up an "acquired taste".

The targets on Citizen Zombie are many and varied. Consumerism, greed, big business, big brother, war, mass media, destruction of the planet, etc. It would take tens of thousands of words to break down and analyse each of these, but Stewart's grievances are all pretty valid, it has to be said. So I'll spare you that part. Be assured, he's passionate and focused, and his delivery remains as abrasive as ever. That part is not in dispute.

On one hand I can very much understand and even appreciate the sentiment behind many of these tunes, yet on the other hand, the album quickly becomes quite hard work, which rather defeats its purpose, because I’m already quite sure I'll not be rushing back to it anytime soon.

Well, not unless I’m armed and ready to fend off the men in white coats when they come knocking at my door.

Highlight: Um, er, perhaps ‘Nations’, if only for the straightforward, less scratchy, spoken word approach. There’s not a lot else here for me I’m afraid.