Sunday, February 26, 2006

The 3rd album by the Velvet Underground

Most people say that the Velvet Underground were a great band. I agree with most people. The velvets were amazing. It is possible to argue that they were better than the Beatles. Difficult, but possible. They created at least two truly great albums. The first album, The velvet underground and Nico is the popular classic. The Andy Warhol bannana cover is iconic and the music is everywhere. Songs live Heroin, Venus in Furs and I'm waiting for the man are an integral part of rock music history. But these songs do not tell the whole story of the band. The third album is, in my opinion, another classic.

The third album is untitled. The cover is a simple black and white photograph of a very young, very normal looking band. The decadance of the first two albums is not apparent. Can these fresh-faced young people really be the sleazy perverts who gave the world Venus in furs?

The music is gentler too. There is less distortion and more acoustic guitar. The songs seem to be more like traditional love songs. As Lou Reed is the writer, things aren't that straight forward but he is using different methods here. Songs like Jesus, Pale Blue Eyes and I'm set free are just beautiful. Classics.

I like this record a lot. You might like it too.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Angry music for boys

When I was younger I was really into hardcore punk. I loved bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, the Dead Kennedys, the Bad Brains and the Descendents. Although I did get to see the Bad Brains (and ALL who were the descendents with a different singer) I was too young to see these bands live. They all broke up when I was about 10.

I made up for it by going to see all the equivalent bands that were on the scene in the 1990s. Madball, Quicksand, Sick of it all, the Ramones, the reformed Misfits, the Rollins Band and the Jesus Lizard. I saw plenty of more progressive/less hardcore bands like Fugazi, Girls against Boys, Shellac and Sonic Youth. I also went to see bands like the Charlatans, the Stone Roses, Black Grape and Oasis. And legends like Bob Dylan, Neil Young, BB King and James Brown. And I went to a few jazz clubs too.

Basically, I went to every gig in Glasgow. I'm wandering away from the point of this post. I've got a heavy cold and my head is a bit fuzzy. I want to write about some CDs that I've bought from Ebay recently. CDs that I think are great but won't be everyones cup of tea. These CDs are for men who at some stage in their life have enjoyed angry guitar based music and at some point have 'adolescent moments'.

Which brings me to Graveyard Rodeo and their album 'On the verge'. I guess that most of the people who read this thread will not have heard of Graveyard Rodeo. Their music is difficult to listen to and they were never popular. This CD came out in 1994 and was not a success at the time. The band (as far as I know) quickly split up. One of my best mates gave me a tape of the album back then and it just struck a chord with me. I love the low quality recording of fast, loud, distorted guitars and the vocals that are evocative of a pissed off dalek. The lyrics are very negative but somehow it all works. Somehow it makes me happy, it makes me smile. I will stick it on my iPod with basement jaxx, the arcade fire and bright eyes. It will make my portable music collection more complete. If you, dear reader, have ever liked angry male music, try ebay. It only cost me £4.

The next album that I want to talk about is Among the living by Anthrax. This was the record that first really got me into music. It came out in 1986 when I was 9 and I guess that I first heard it when I was 10 or 11. I was a big comic nerd (as I still am) and I guess the 'in' was I am the Law, a song about Judge Dredd, the science fiction/dirty harry hybrid that is the lead strip in 2000AD. It's a great song on a great album. Loud, fast guitars and truly geeky songs. Two songs are about Stephen King stories (I started reading his books when I was about 10). On top of this there are a couple of overtly pollitical songs which I guess were good to hear at an impressionable age. One world is about the environment while efilnikufesin/NFL is an anti-drugs song(read the title backwards). Best of all is Indians about how the pioneers and the good ole USA fucked over the native Americans. It's a great album that started me thinking when I was 10 and I would happily give it to any child of mine.

Finally, I picked up a black flag tribute CD called black on black. It is interesting because it features a couple of songs by the Dillinger Escape Plan who are the scariest band that I have ever seen live. They opened the Glasgow Gig on the Green festival a few years ago with one of the most extreme sets I have witnessed. The singer seemed to have a serious desire to kill himself or the crowd. Allegedly the last time that he played in Glasgow someone had knocked his teeth out and he wanted revenge. He started throwing bottles and cans of beer into the crowd of several thousand unwashed slipknot fans whilst shouting abuse about both the audience and the other bands on the bill. The crowd joined in with the spirit of things by throwing everything they could find at the singer. He topped this by lowering his trousers, defecating in his hand and throwing it into the crowd. Just like a monkey. Pleasant.

I watched this from the safe distance of about 500 metres but it was one of the few concerts that I have been at where I was actually scared that someone would be seriously injured. Their music was great. Like dissonant jazz. They later recorded a version of come to daddy by aphex twin but that show was scary. The singer was either needing jail or a psychiatric unit. Their songs on the black flag tribute are OK.

Anyway, that's enough about angry boy music. I bought 'hits' by joni mitchell today and I seriously thought about getting the new neil diamond record. Heavy metal is all about hairy sweaty guys touching each other really.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Obscure album review - Elf Power - nothing's going to happen

I just got this little gem from amazon. Elf power are part of the elephant 6 collective that includes Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control. There is such a degree of cross-pollination between these bands that I can't be bothered to work it out. Basically they all play on each others records.

I picked this CD up because it is a covers album (not always a good thing) that features several of my favourite childhood/adolescent/now songs.

These include

Bad Brains - Pay to cum - the speedpunk reggae classic
Husker Du - never talking to you again - I never stop talking about how much I love this song
Misfits - hybrid moments - a danzig classic
Roky Erickson - I walked with a zombie - also done by REM
Jesus and Mary Chain - Upside down - from my home town
Sonic youth - cotton crown
Flaming lips - felt good to burn

plus songs by the buzzcocks, t-rex and tubeway army. All done in a low-fi, semi-acoustic way that showcases the songs in a new way. The original versions of many of these songs are pretty heavy listening so it is nice that they have been made more accessible.

A pleasant diversion.

8 outta 10


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ballad of the broken seas - Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan

Nick Cave is a very influential guy. This album really underlines that idea. I just think that Campbell wishes she was singing with Cave and Lanegan wishes he was Cave. Lanegan is kinda Cave-lite. Still good but not quite the same.

This album was a risky idea for me. I love the stuff Campbell did with Belle & Sebastian. Is it wicked not to care? is one of my favourite songs ever. Campbell wrote it. I haven't heard any of her solo stuff until now. Lanegan I am less keen on. I saw him live in 1998 and he was pish. Some of his solo stuff is OK (the sub pop albums). The Screaming Trees were Ok. I've just never 100% connected with him in the way that I do with other, similar singles.

I wasn't sure what this mixture would be like.

It's quite a lazy, dreamy album with a hint of darkness and evil lurking in it. The music is quiet and relaxed. Rock is a stranger here. It reminds me of the Nick Cave/Kylie single a fair bit.

It's Ok. There is a rip off of scarbourough fair/elizabeth, my dear which is kinda nice. It's ALL kinda nice but I don't hear a single, I don't hear a hook. I don't really have a reason to play it again although I hope I do.

It's ok. 3 out of 5


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Arctic monkeys - whatever people say I am, that's what I'm not

I really, really wanted to hate this album. I tried hard. In theory, it should suck. This band shouldn't be any good. It's not right. Good bands don't sell records. Good bands are always underappreciated. Only crap bands sell. Only crap bands reach number one.

Every rule needs an exception, like I before E except after C. I guess that would make the first arctic monkeys album C. It's good.

It's better than the first Oasis album. It is a very strong first attempt. It feels more real than the first Franz Ferdinand album which I did (and do) love. The lyrics are literate and the songs are energetic. They talk about a life that I can relate to with a guitar sound that I like. This just isn't right. I'm an indie snob.

A recent magazine article compared the band to the Jam and, for me, that comparison is bang on. The songs have the power and insight of in the city or eton rifles. They are less 'cosmic' than the Stone Roses (who I loved) and less '6th form sensitive poetry' than the Smiths (who had one or two good tunes).

So, here we are. Good commercial modern rock. Fuck me, it's a flying pig. Stand out tracks? Mardy bum, fake tales of san fransisco and vampires....

You cannot imagine my self-loathing....