Alexander Laurence's Summer Music
is a new band from Sydney, Australia who have caused much
subtle noise lately. Like The Hives before them, they have
tried to rock the joint and to such an extent that people
are firmly for them or against them. The Vines are fronted
by Craig Nicholls who met his moptop bandmates while working
at McDonalds, then all still in high school. They soon decided
to record Highly Evolved in LA's Sunset Sound Factory where
Zeppelin and the Stones have laid down some tracks among
other things. While they would like to capture the atmosphere
and echoes of hard rock, songs like "Mary Jane"
channel the ghost of Brian Wilson, who, yes, is actually,
still alive, and lives down the road.
There's been a recent rock revival in LA apparently and
The Vines have recruited producer Rob Schnapf (he produced
"Odelay"), to capture the sounds of a band who
have said "Nirvana and The Beatles are probably our
biggest influences." In the middle of recording this
album the Vines tried to get Ringo Starr to join the band,
when their original drummer went back to Australia. The
Vines have a range from hard rock, pop, punk rock to reggae.
The title track "Highly Evolved" is a 90-second
grind out that is much like a slap in the face. This fades
into the stoned out anthem "Autumn Shade" that
glides over a melody like the smog over downtown LA. The
music is evocative of moods whether lazy or tense.
"Outtathaway!" and "Get Free" are the
"in your face Nirvana-like punk" without any apologies
or self-loathing. This brilliant music is about raw energy
and having fun. Other songs like "Homesick" and
"Country Yard" are psychedelic longings for a
simpler life back home. These are songs where The Vines
can explore their harmonies. They are a much better vocal
group than most of the groups out there. "Factory"
was their first single in the UK that got them a group of
attention. It is a fusion of rock and reggae that is totally
original. Some others like "In The Jungle" and
"Ain't No Room" show that their version of rock
is a little more expansive than some recent indie acts.
Highly Evolves ends with the long sonic blues number "1969"
that claims that "It's 1969 in my head." It's
a well thought out album with all forms expressed. There
is both talent and great songwriting here. Nothing too personal
and nothing too pretentious. You are almost glad that they
don't often wear their hearts on their sleeves. This music
is about freedom and the unexpected. Hopefully they will
be around for a while.
Full Cycle Live
The Full Cycle crew with Roni Size, DJ Krust, DJ Die and
Suv are known in the Bristol underground for their push-the-envelope
productions. Back in the early 1990s it was a local scene
that you had to be in Bristol to experience it. After meeting
at the 1990 Glastonbury Festival, DJ Krust and Roni Size
soon began to produce tracks together, often in collaboration
with DJ Die and Suv. The outfit recorded tracks from V Recordings,
Philly Blunt, Dope Dragon, and Full Cycle, which was a label
run by Roni Size himself. Size's debut album New Forms --
featuring considerable production help from Krust -- hit
the music world like a bomb in 1997. Soon every was wondering
where all this music was about. Drum and bass was the most
original music coming from England in years. The first non-imported
People who were fans of New Forms and solo records by DJ
Krust and even Brickbat Era were unaware of the Full Cycle
material. When I spoke to DJ Krust last year he said: "Full
Cycle was our own record label. So some people knew us from
those days. We had an underground cult audience from those
days before we did any albums. When the album came out,
we attracted a whole other audience." Just like Metalheadz
had their own thing we get to sample what the Full Cycle
was about. In these drum and bass records we are transported
to Bristol 1993. So Full Cycle Live is a document and a
recording of a live DJ night. It's about 25 tracks over
70 minutes. It is a great record. We know that Roni Size
Reprazent is a great live act. As DJs this group is very
complex. They incorporate live singing and rapping. Dynamite
MC gets the audience going. It is a wicked record. Fans
of Reprazent and the live show will recognize the energy
of these early records.
is a much anticipated album for people who go to Bang and
Popscene on a regular basis. Or if you have picked up a
British music magazine lately. It hasn't been a very good
year for Britpop. Blur and Suede have disappeared. Pulp
put out a record that was never released in the US and then
they got dropped from their label. In the meantime people
have been filling up their time listening to bands like
Elbow and Starsailor. The first Oasis single came out, "The
Hindu Times," and it sounded like a return to rock
and the sound of the earlier albums. Yet all the initial
reviews have been sort of waffling. Has Noel Gallagher lost
it. He only wrote a little more than half the album. This
time out he has a little help from his friends: Liam wrote
three tracks, new members Gem Archer and Andy Bell supply
one song each. Also ex-Smiths member and free floating collaborator
Johnny Marr shows up on a few tracks here.
The record starts out with three rocking tunes: "The
Hindu Times," "Force of Nature." and "Hung
in A Bad Place." The first sounds better than anything
from the previous two records. Noel sings "Force of
Nature" that also seems like a return to the first
record Definite Maybe that was filled with songs about aspirations
and optimism. Gem Archer's "Hung in A Bad Place"
sort of works out of a Stooges two chord assault. All three
seem more crafted after repeated listenings. Where people
might have expected a rock record, most of the great songs
on this album are slower ballads. "Stop Crying Your
Heart Out" is one full of feeling and loss. Liam's
ballad "Songbird" recalls country tinged songs
by Dylan and Lennon. The songs have a little more substance
than the previous efforts, and there is no songs as bad
as "Little James."
The events of September 11th seemed to have made an impact
on Noel. His response is "Little By Little" which
is a far better song than Paul McCartney's "Freedom."
The album ends with two great songs by Noel, including the
Beatlesque "Probably All In The Mind" and the
acoustic based "She is Love" which Noel also sings
in an uplifting way. Then there's two by Liam, including
the spacey and dark "Born On A Different Cloud"
that begs to be included on The White Album, and the all
out rocker "Better Man." There's also a bonus
track after waiting twenty minutes. But overall it's a good
album and probably their second best. Being in America,
we don't read about the Gallagher brothers and their love
hate relationship in the press all the time. We don't have
a sense of growing up with them as many people in the UK
do. The people who love Oasis will probably embrace this
as evidence of their continued life. Most of us in America
only feel that way with Dr. Dre and Beck. Oasis still plays
packed football stadiums in Europe. While America only shows
up in numbers for Ozzy, Rolling Stones, The Who, and U2.
Most of these bands did their best work around 25 years
ago. Well, maybe if Oasis stays intact, Americans will finally
get their head the Oasis story in 15 year's time?
Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone
I first moved to Williamsburg in 1995, I used to see the
members of Jonathan Fire Eater quite frequently. I didn't
know who they were then but they looked like a band. I was
going to many reading and cocktail parties to notice. The
lead singer often came up to me to buy drugs in the East
Village. I used to hang out at some friend's apartments
between C and D when there was a fear factor. I think that
he thought that I was someone else. I have a familiar face.
Actually as a kid I looked a lot like the guy in the middle
on the cover of The Walkmen's new CD that comes out about
five years after Jonathan Fire Eater's demise. There was
talk about the members going back to college. Apparently
there was another band called The Recoys. From the ashes
of those bands, The Walkmen started about two years ago.
I think that some of them may still live in Williamsburg.
It's hard to tell what any of their songs are about. But
once you hear the Pixies-like "Wake Up" you know
this is a band to pay attention to. Their music is dark
and has more of a sense of loose humor. "Revenge Wears
No Wristwatch" is a good example of what JFE might
had sounded like if they had continued. They have been compared
to U2 and New Order and vocally sometimes Hamilton Leithauser
is like a drunk Bono or Gavin Friday. But there is hardly
any of that annoying Edge guitar and instead there is experimentation
and openness to new instruments. There's more to dream about
with the Walkmen. Songs like "French Vacation"
and "Stop Talking" are as much about the future
as it is about the past. They are not recycling.
Actually at times they sound like the next record by The
Strokes, if there is ever one. Most of the songs by The
Walkmen sound like these precious little dioramas that are
cut off by the world. The album is pretty even, and with
the exception of "Wake Up" there are few pop songs
with apparent hooks. There's a stark and angular quality
that they attain at some point and carry on throughout.
They are probably the most original band right now in New
York. They are doing their own thing. If anyone is interested,
fine. I am.
Ferry is one of the great rock icons on the 1970s. The recent
Roxy Music tour threw a shadow over this recent release.
Most records by Bryan Ferry in the past twenty years followed
the ideas put down on the last Roxy Music album, Avalon.
Most of the his solo records don't veer too far away, until
the As Time Goes By, recorded two years ago, when Ferry
remodeled the songs of the 1930s. Even during the 1970s,
in the greatest Roxy era, Ferry's solo records were often
cover tunes of his favorite songs and influences, and on
"Let's Stick Together" he even re-makes his own
songs. Frantic is more like that last record that was done
in 1976, right after Siren. Ferry collects thirteen songs
and gets frequent Roxy collaborator Rhett Davies as the
One senses how fresh this material is. Ferry seems rejuvenated
after years of studied art. It opens up with Dylan's "It's
All Over Baby Blue." His own "Cruel" sounds
like the best Roxy Music song in a while. He also does a
few blues numbers "Goin' Down" and "Goodnight
Irene" which pay homage to Don Nix and Leadbelly and
extends them further. He begins to sound on these like Nick
Cave, who Ferry was a big influence on himself. Probably
the best cover tune is Ferry's rendition of Bob Dylan's
"Don't Think Twice." Ferry often reminds us how
great he is on tracks such as these. I was like ten years
old when I first heard Roxy Music in 1975. "Love Is
The Drug" seemed like a mini-revolution at the time.
But there is a load of original material here too. "Goddess
of Love" is a song about Marilyn Monroe (a reference
to Britpop), and is much like songs from his Bête
Noire. Probably better tunes like "Nobody Love Me"
as well as "Fool For Love" are more memorable
because of the appearance of guitarist Chris Spedding and
Roxy Music drummer Paul Thompson. "Hiroshima"
brings Ferry together with Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead.
Radiohead has always been fascinated with the specter of
Ferry, as they covered many of his songs in the Velvet Goldmine
soundtrack. This is history.
Also the fact that Dave Stewart co-wrote many of the songs
is a major factor after all. Songs like "San Simeon"
are about the dark side of glamour. It is one of the more
eerie songs on the album and sounds like the soundtrack
to a thriller. "One Way Love" reminds me of the
Flesh & Blood album and is a more upbeat song than most.
More history being made at the end. The last song "I
Thought" brings Ferry with Brian Eno for the first
time in almost thirty years. Remember, Eno was kicked out
of Roxy Music by Ferry after the second album. A song that
is co-written by Ferry and Eno and even has them singing
the chorus together seems like many years of loss and "what
if" have been answered in a very gentle way. The song
goes over with much knowingness and simplicity. A union
made thirty years ago, responsible for over 30 albums and
every musician that they influenced, has come round full
The Last Broadcast
is the second record by the much loved Doves. They are the
greatest thing to come out of Manchester. Their first record
Lost Souls was brilliant but often uneven. This time they
went into the studio with the idea "Every song's got
to be a killer." They were tired of being labelled
as a dark and depressive band. They wanted to do music that
was positive and upbeat, since now being miserable such
a cop out. There's a new enthusiasm and confidence on the
new record. The Last Broadcast is mostly self-produced.
After the strange "Intro" the album moves into
"Words" and that's where The Big Music starts.
Even though it uses a U2 guitar riff, it goes on to something
else. This is wake up and face the day music. This record
makes you think about you life and hardly any music does
Songs like "There Goes The Fear" and "M62
song" show their more folk side with a knowledge of
prog rock. The first song sounds like coming off drugs and
trying to enjoy life with them. Doves are great at creating
distinct sounds that come to mean something over time and
repeated listens. Mostly recorded in Manchester and Bath,
"M62 Song" was recorded under a flyover and sounds
like some of the weird songs Vincent Gallo did for Warp
Records. Just as things get spaced out and mellow, Doves
get loud and big again on "N.Y." that sounds like
driving in the country music. Doves define their true sound
here early on. It is a real mix of modern and the past,
and there's no looking back now. The American release also
comes with a bonus disc of four songs that includes a funny
take on a Warren Zevon song.
The Second part of the album starts for me with "Satellites"
that is a heartfelt ballad that is like a round. "Friday's
Dust" is an even more impressive ballad. This is widescreen
music for people who can look past the obvious. "Pounding"
reinforces one of the main themes of the album: "Seize
the time because it won't last forever...." This is
done with a lot of building power. The title track is lighthearted
ditty that becomes psychedelic at times. "The Sulphur
Man" begins as a sort of religious song that could
be played in a church. It is about this mysterious figure
than seems as hard to put your finger on as this album is.
This record is a great journey. It is a little deeper than
something like Oasis. A song like the final track "Caught
By The River" is like a little story about life itself.
You are reminded that a lot has happened on this CD. Doves
are finally a rock band that balances emotion and intelligence
in a way that most of Britpop bands never could.
In Our Gun
review I read about Gomez goes like this: "Hey, they
won the Mercury Prize...." I also know that John Lee
Hooker confessed that he liked the music of Bring It On.
But who cares in the end? That is like saying I had sex
with a Playboy Bunny in 1985. What have you done for me
lately? I am lonely! Plus the fact that Gomez was just this
obscure band to us in America that sounded as if they were
from New Mexico but were not. I mean these guys wrote "Tijuana
Lady" right? I saw them play with the glam-outfit Placebo
once in a dim hotel in Times Square and Gomez appeared like
roadies in comparison. There was nothing exciting about
them. They looked like unhappy students who were embarrassed
by being on stage. From the American perspective we were
wondering why those critics ever liked Gomez and Gay Dad.
The same people in Britain who built Gomez up in 1998,
said they were crap by the time of their second album, Liquid
Skin. It seemed as whatever the boys did wasn't going to
be accepted as well. Gomez then put out a double CD of b-sides
that wasn't bad at all. After four years in the thick of
things Gomez seemed like a band that will not quit. With
their three lead singers and progressive rock style and
a tendency for studio trickery, it was difficult to put
a name on this monster. You could just sit back and enjoy:
if you don't like one song, you're bound to like something
So we come to In Our Gun with little expectations. "Shot
Shot" goes from an acoustic folk guitar to odd English
funk. Everything is in the right place, for real. Songs
like "Ruff Stuff" and "Detroit Swing 66,"
are about coming off drugs and crashing. Looking desperate
and looking for help. Gomez has a sense of creating narratives
and creating personal emotions. The song "Rex Kramer"
is apparently a song about a character in the movie "Airplane."
This first part of the album introduces their eerie arrangements
and superb musicianship. Gomez are as weird, energetic,
and funky as ever.
Then in the ballad "In Our Gun" things slow down
in a very melodic and political moment. Once things get
quiet even this song breaks out in a bass guitar riff that
gets the feet moving. "The Sound of Sounds" is
probably the best track on the album that shows how nice
Gomez can be to the ear. It shows one example how they are
getting better as songwriters. This album is not without
invention. It never lets up at 50 minutes long which seems
like a perfect length for a CD nowadays. Gomez possesses
much freedom and optimism. They may not be the most exciting
band to look at. No one is going to be blinded by the frontman.
We don't have to see the video or see the dance moves to
get Gomez. We just have to let them operate on their own
level and be in anticipation of a punch. In Our Gun may
be the one that they are remembered for.
Real People Are Overrated
Realistics are a new band from New York City. I think that
I read about these guys in Vice Magazine. I remember Tiswas
as some NYC club that Penelope Tuesday used to hang out
a lot. So I was expecting some mod thing. It's funny that
the Britpop thing of 1995 is so popular now with people
under 25. What were they listening to seven years ago? Why
does bands like Oasis get slagged in the press in America
all the time, while imitators are treated like God's gift?
Well, after a few songs in, it's obvious that The Realistics
can rock and reggae and play a synth. Songs like "Apartment
Two" also point to their punk influences. But they
don't really go all the way in the punk direction, so they
end up sounding more like The Knack. "Quickee Gone
B. B." sounds like a song off the first Oasis record,
just as "Should've Known" sounds like something
off Blur's "Modern Life Is Rubbish."
Usually I get tired of comparing one band to another, but
The Realistics make me force the issue when in their booklet
it says "Why Make A Clone?" This is a good question.
The Realistics seem like they decided that in order to make
great music one must sound like great music of the past,
and jeopardize sounding like a number of other bands. But
you start wondering after a while if Paul Weller or Doug
Fieger should start looking to collect royalties. T. S.
Eliot said that "Amateurs borrow, professionals steal."
For sure The Realistics are not ground zero, but you can
pretend that they are, and they might be a great band nonetheless.
There are bands with nothing new to say, and at least here
in "Digital Brigade" there is a luddite argument
being made. Something that does bother me is that I am not
sure if The Realistics just want to be a rocking band or
an ironic band. I am convinced that they probably have a
good record collection. I should look them up sometime.
Even though it may not seem like it, I do like The Realistics,
and I have listened to this CD about ten times already.
I am just worried if I put this CD in my collection will
it disappear? I am sure people at Tiswas or Bang will like
these guys. Do I need to ride a scooter to like this? I
know that they have played a lot in NYC, but does this act
go anywhere else? Laszlo Le Fur is knocking on the door.
I hope that they don't become another new new wave band.
The Curse of The Selby Tigers
spent much time in Hollywood this year. I stayed in hotels
on Sunset Boulevard and some enchanting houses in the hills.
I had all my mail forwarded to me from New York. I got a
big stack of CDs. It was much crap that I traded in to get
the new Eminem CD. But somehow I got this one by The Selby
Tigers, which turned out to be the best one out of the bunch.
I don't really like punk rock music anymore. I did at some
point in 1977 I think, but that was a long time ago. I heard
the re-releases of The Feederz and was greatly amused. Yet
The Selby Tigers make me want to like them. Their energy
and their dual singers both male and female seemed more
exciting in a way. I guess that they are from St. Paul,
Minnesota. Like Gomez, The Selby Tigers have three singers,
but they seem a little more evolved than The Toilet Boys
or The Cramps. They are supposed to be a great live band
and that is totally believable to me. With titles like "Cheerleading
is Big Business" you can tell that they have a sense
of humor. I like Wire and Selby Tigers seem like them as
much as anyone. The Selby Tigers do have a distinct sound.
Punk from the Midwest seems a little more authentic than
the California variety. James Joyce recommended silence,
exile, and cunning. This band may be more about loud rock
rules, home cooked fists in the face, and fun. Songs like
"Punch Me In The Face (with your lips)" and "Tell
It To The Judge" are more evidence of their sense of
humor that doesn't seem to much like an in-joke. Also let
me say those band members Arzu D2 and Dave Gardner appear
to be very dramatic. I can't wait to check them out live.
Their live show must be amazing. Please come to Williamsburg
The Soundtrack of Our Lives
Behind The Music
heard about these guys when they blew through town touring
with Sahara Hotnights. It was more to throw on the CD changer
from Sweden along with The Hives and The International Noise
Conspiracy. They are from Gothenberg and are headed by Ebbot
Lundberg who looks like Rasputin. When Ebbot was in Union
Carbide Productions (Swedes are not good at short titles)
he received the applause of Steve Albini and Kurt Cobain.
Both bands have been heavily schooled by 1960s garage rock
and 1970s punk. But what comes out is the most original
music. Behind The Music is their third album, but the record
company decided to release all three at the same time. Well,
that's fine. Keep it coming if it rocks this hard.
When you throw this down, the song "Sister Surround"
shows that they can rock as hard as any outfit now in existence.
Though The Soundtrack hates the prog-rock label, songs like
"In Someone Elses Mind" and "Broken Imaginary
Time" sort of point us in that direction. Obsessions
about time and childhood have always been an aspect of British
psychedelia. Even the cover art of death masks of each member
of the band reminds us that this is a moment in time to
be savored. Maybe we should start to rethink our conceptions
of time? The Soundtrack doesn't really sound like a retro
band at all. The album seems to stop and then begin again
with the song "21st Century Rip Off" with deals
with the theme of "everyone cheating each other"
that comes off as fresh and capricious.
This band does seem to come from nowhere. Songs like "Tonight"
and "Ten Years Ahead" even touch upon the singer/songwriter
form. "Keep The Line Movin" is a song about freedom
and time and fits well with the other songs. They seem well
organized with songwriting, guitars, keyboards, and production.
This record doesn't seem to let up. Ten songs in you have
"Independent Luxury" that seems like a fist raising
anthem. There is a balance between acoustic guitar songs
and rock songs throughout. The album ends with two ballads
"The Flood" and "Into The Next Sun"
that seem optimistic and spread a word of hope. The Soundtrack
of Our Lives Behind The Music is one of the great moments
in new music this year.