This blog is about music, lyrics and memories - three inexplicably intertwining ideas.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts

Six-and-a-half minutes into this album, and I'm already highly confused. Ok, I can deal with the feedback-strewn opening. I can deal with you throwing every available chord at me. I can deal with your tempo changes. I can deal with the fantastic drumming. But seriously, dropping '90's synthy-pop that the likes of Orbital or Underworld would be proud of? What? With a (possibly) Spanish man talking? You're having a laugh.

But I guess that's what The Shape of Punk to Come is all about. Arsing about with what was there and seeing whether it worked. And by God, does it. Whether intending to or not, Refused came along and shook up the order of punk every which way they desired, and changed the state of play for each and every act to follow. A double bass solo in the middle of "The Deadly Rhythm"..? A xylophone plinking along for a cheeky two-minute interlude-esque "Bruitist Pome #5"..? An acoustic album-closer with a thumping double bass accompanying it..? Why the fuck not? 

And the more I listen to this album, the more I feel that this album is built around that moment in the crush and the sweat of the crowd, when those between and betwixt those others betwixt and between think, "Oh no...they've quietened down...GET THE FUCK READY TO MOSH." And my oh my, that would be an experience. "Liberation Frequency", for example. The first 70 seconds are pure build-up to that moment when not only Messrs. Lyxzén, Sandström, Steen and Brännström go apeshit, but the entire crowd starting punching the rest of the entire crowd and probably themselves. In the face. Repeatedly.

This album has clearly given so much to musical genres ranging from alternative rock to thrash metal, and a vast amount of bands must have this stonker of a record to thank - to name a few: The Used, Anthrax, Sonic Boom Six, Paramore, Blink-182, and any other band that also featured on the first four Tony Hawk games - as well as notable bands from my youth: Lostprophets, Rage Against The Machine, Linkin Park, Green Day, and that other US three-piece I've thrown into the above. 

It was most definitely a game-changer. One that made it okay for a rock/punk-rock/altern-rock/metal/thrash-metal/hardcore band to take a breather before, after and during a track. One that enticed and excited a more than over-excited crowd to really get down with the mosh, as it were. And one that made dozens of bands out there realise there was more to punk than two minutes, two chords and two half-arsed guitar riffs. 

Audacious, adventurous, experimental, and downright absurd, Refused managed to put together one of the finest punk albums of a generation, while throwing a curveball that countless musicians caught in one way or another.

Key Tracks: "Liberation Frequency", "The Deadly Rhythm", "New Noise", "Bruitist Pome #5"

Refused Are Fucking Dead: My choice to underline that little word 'are' is because this statement - the name of a track from The Shape of Punk to Come - is true. So explosive and destructive was this record that it was the last the band made. Well, I say 'the band'; they never actually had a permanent bassist, sadly. Also, Refused Are Fucking Dead was the title of a documentary, filmed by the band's guitarist Kristofer Steen and released in 2006. Within it, the band are seen to explode during their US tour, so the irony in the title is evident. Well worth a watch too, kids.

Thursday, 31 March 2011


#91 - The Clash - The Clash (US Version)

At first listen, The Clash seem like The Sex Pistols' older, more eloquent brother, who's listened to what the little tike was moaning about, agreed, and decided to help him on his way. But this album is more than that. Most definitely not "radio-friendly", as CBS Records put it, this album feels like a statement from Strummer et al. And, considering it was recorded over only three weekends, costing only £4000 to produce, the four lads should be bloody chuffed with the results.

Strummer's angry scratch of a voice rants over every track, already sticking out like the sore thumb it was always going to be. However, despite this, the lyrics are accomplished and meaningful. "Garageland" sees Strummer shout "We're a garage band/We come from Garageland", following up this sentiment with pointed lyrics in response to a poor review they got when performing in support of the Sex Pistols. The lyrical depth doesn't stop there either. "I'm So Bored With The U.S.A.", "Career Opportunities" and "Remote Control" contain clever lyrics about various socio-political problems within the UK at the time; well, the latter two do, the first is track about how American the UK is becoming. But through this, they immediately step out of the shadow of "the Pistols" - they're not just overtly ranting about a "fascist regime", or indeed comparing themselves to Satan. They're doing it with some tact. Even "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" from it's very title could be seen as a statement on race within London.

The Clash never at any point feels like overplayed single bass notes over two-chord patterns for 'variety'. However, "White Riot" - the first single off the album - was never going to help them get away from the public thinking this, as two chords and two words seem to get them through that (exact) two minutes. In fact, it makes you think that the days of two minute punk-songs are gone...even though seven of the fifteen tracks clock in at under 150 seconds. With that, there's more to The Clash than easy to listen, catchy tunes (something I wrongly thought was their staple) like "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" and "London Calling"; songs you most associate with this motley rock crew. 

There are layers here as well. Not only is there your standard drum, bass, guitar ensemble, but beneath it all, there's a piano here, handclaps there, another guitar here, the sound of a police siren there. Simplicity, but with an over-energetic pulse and a couple of pogoing legs.

The album has a backbone; a talent beneath the surface. There's an undeniable breadth of skill across all four boards. Instead of "Clash City Rockers" ending with a blast of guitar and crashing cymbals, the song filters out over a good minute of musical melody. It's like...I don't know, Razorlight's debut album. Songs ending with the band just, well, arsing about. Because they can. But unlike Razorlight, it's defined, original and doesn't contain fucking Johnny Borrell.

You can immediately see where bands like The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, and much of the rest of that 2004-2006 attempted revival got their inspiration from, with scratchy guitars, rough-but-they-know-what-they're-doing solos, overdrive overused, and naive attempts at changing the country with music. But we all know that Strummer and his contemporaries did it first, and did it better. After all, not many people have an area at Glastonbury Festival named after them, do they?

Key Tracks: "I Fought The Law"; "Police & Thieves"; "White Riot"; "Janie Jones"

The Only Band That Matters: These are five words that were originally used as a slogan by the band's record label, CBS, to promote The Clash. And, due to their rebellious attitude, charmingly political lyrics and ability to experiment with the music they made, it was probably not far from the truth. Although, The Only Band That Mattered probably suits them better now.


#92 - Pavement - Slanted and Enchanted

Well, here's another band I'd heard of but not actually heard. I can see this is going to take place quite often.

Coming at a time when bands such as the Pixies had just about been and gone (but most certainly left their mark, like an Irish Wolfhound in a pack of chihuahuas), Pavement released this, their debut album. And clearly, they had their influences. The opening chords, lazy drum beat and lumbering bass remind me very much of the Pixies themselves, kinda like a slower "Debaser"; a more defunct "Monkey Gone To Heaven"; with an added lazy-ass more-talkative-than-singative voice Rivers Cuomo could sue for copyright infringement. 

"In The Mouth Of A Desert" and "Loretta's Scars" are also, seemingly, a Pixies-esque humdrum of music. But I think I might be taking this comparison a little too far. Nevertheless, those two tracks contend for my favourite on the album along with opener "Summer Babe (Winter Version)".

The hook in "No Life Singed Her", screamed by the lead singer - fucked if I or anyone else knows what he says - reminds me very much of Gorillaz's "Glitter Freeze", namely because of it's Mark E. Smith-ness in it's delivery. Unsurprisingly, considering Smith sued them for being a rip-off of The Fall. Similarly, on "Conduit For Sale!", a collection of words is listed off as a vocal, once directly over the rest of the band onomatopoeiaising shit up (2:04 - 2:11) is like Smith's relaxed but firm release of random statements on that track from Plastic Beach. But anyway, enough of cartoons.

Some of the tracks - namely "Zurich is Stained" and "Two States" - seem too short. The former track in particular, because it's one of the more relaxed songs that can be slipped onto repeat in order for it to be done justice. The latter, because it sounds like an American Clash slipping in a cheeky dig at the current socio-political affairs of the US. But hey, I'm conjecturing here. At the same time though, "Chelsey's Little Wrists" sounds itself like a filler, as if they wanted to slip on some form of noise for 76 seconds: a rag-tag mess of screaming, overdrive, poor drumming and what sounds like an oompa-loompa moshpit at the climax. 

There's a certain sound that come from this band; uniquity isn't the word, because nowadays, nothing is unique. And doing some research, they weren't original. But everyone has their influence. I don't know...there's just something endearing to the music on Slanted and Enchanted - something surf-rock-ish, that I can't place; something that makes me want to re-listen, as I feel I will have to with quite a collection of albums throughout this saga.

They do know how to throw a little sentimentality into their tracks though, from time to time. For example, had I been a foppish-haired skater boi teen in the early nineties, I'm sure "Here" would have been my key cover song to make those like-minded girls weak at the knees. 

Key Tracks: "In The Mouth Of A Desert"; "Summer Babe (Winter Version)"; "Loretta's Scars"; "Two States"

How's That For Indie?: Rather than signing to a major label like many bands who started up in the late '80's had done, Pavement - for their entire career - remained on independent labels. Take that, EMI, Sony, et al. 


#93: Parliament Funkadelic - The Mothership Connection

Let me revoke my statement about Beck. He ain't no funk compared to the P-Funk, baaaaaby!* (...sorry.)

Are they Parliament? Are they Funkadelic? Are they Parliament-Funkadelic? Do they have that hyphen? Who knows. Who cares? S'all good in the hood with 'the Mothership' around...* (A further apology.)

The few lines that George Clinton speaks on "Mothership Connection (Star Child)" - 'Let me put my sunglasses on, I want to look cool..' to '..can you imagine doobie-ing your funk?' sound like they could have even inspired Axel Foley's character in "Beverly Hills Cop". 

Overall, this album flows like one big funktastic piece, and only makes me want to download not only Parliament/Funkadelic/Parliament-Funkadelic's discography, but James Brown's, Stevie's, Duke Ellington's, and any other self-respecting classic funk-and-soul artist's. Simple, yet elegant, feel good music at it's best.

However, the long, winding songs have stylistic elements of jazz within them, sprawling along for over five minutes, when the point could be hammered home by a punk-funk band in well under two minutes. Rilo Kiley, anyone? And even the multiple-voiced song-hooks - "If you hear any noise..." on "Mothership Connection" and "You could feel so much better..." from "Unfunky UFO" - sound like an older Jurassic 5 with a lack of rhythmical rhyme. So there's much influence being flaunted and flashed here. 

Needless to say, George Clinton sums hisself and his sassy-ass band up perfectly on the opening track: "W-E-F-U-N-K...We Funk, baby." Yes, George. Yes, you do. I also don't think a band - or indeed, a reviewer - has ever said the word "funk" so many times in 200 words. But it's what this album makes you do.

* - this album makes me talk like this. It's too funky.

Key Tracks: "Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)"; "P-Funk (Who Wants To Get Funked Up)"; "Unfunky UFO"

What The Funk Does The 'P' Stand For?: Well, P-Funk could simply be a shortening of 'Parliament-Funkadelic'. After all, it is their name. But that doesn't really roll off the tongue. Other suggestions from various sources seem to include Plainfield - the hometown of the original line-up in good old New Jersey; Pure - contained within the liner notes of Motor Booty Affair; and Psychadelic - well, how else would you describe this music..?; but who really cares? Make my funk the P-Funk, I'd quite like to get funked up. If you don't mind.


Metallica - Kill 'Em All

Well. What an experience. The debut album from these metal gods really does pack a punch. Or several hundred.

They really went hell for leather on this, going out to prove what they could do with an axe and a double-bass pedal. Oh, and skill. They've got that in relatively huge abundance too. And I thorough knowledge of knowing how and when to change time signature. Because they do that bloody loads.

Paving the way for thrash metal in America, by fusing speed metal with inspiration from British heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden, Kill 'Em All has been incredibly influential as an album itself, not to mention how inspirational Metallica are regarded themselves. Proof of this can be seen by the fact that nearly every track on this album has been covered by a different band: "Hit The Lights" has been covered by Black Tide; "Motorbreath was covered by two bands, D.O.A. and Anacrusis; "No Remorse" copied by Cannibal Corpse; the list goes on. Understandably so - inspiration is like a disease. A nice disease, that spreads and mutates into new music.

I can't say this was a pleasurable experience for me, to be honest. But, it's part of the list, so it had to be listened to. Strangely enough, the more you listen, the easier it becomes on the ears. And the patience.

Key Tracks: "The Four Horsemen"; "Whiplash"; "Seek & Destroy"; "Anaesthesia (Pulling Teeth)"

The Farewell to Dave Mustaine: The original lead guitarist in Metallica - Dave Mustaine (funnily enough) - was not exactly an asset to the band, due to his alcohol and drug problems, and his many disagreements with Ron McGovney, the bassist. Once McGovney left, Ulrich and Hetfield felt it only right to rid themselves of Mustaine too, employing Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett into the mix, and forming that iconic foursome that have wowed their audience ever since. Despite their disagreements, Mustaine was still credited with co-writing on four of the tracks on Kill 'Em All. And in fairness, he went off to form Megadeth and take a hefty wedge of moolah himself. Every cloud.


Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

Only Pink Floyd, with all the pomp of Withnail and the audacity of an aloof Frenchman, could release a two-part nine-part song on this, a 45-minute long album with five songs. And in "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", we have one of 'the Floyd's' seminal works, one that may be cut down and adapted for shows (Er...why?), but on this album, is just beautiful. The simple introduction of four notes at the end of the third minute send chills up your spine, before the drums come in and one of the most relaxing little guitar solos pops along for the listener's delectation. Oh, yeah, then a saxophone solo; as you do.

"Welcome To The Machine" and "Have A Cigar" both have similar themes, involving the band's dislike at the very idea of "the Machine", which is ultimately, the music industry. Crazy-mad synth on "Welcome.." adds to the band's experimental ideas, with more regularity ensuing throughout the third track.

But my favourite track, without doubt, is "Wish You Were Here". Everything about this song - the simulated radio knob-twiddling at the start; the opening riff, expanding onto two guitars to increase the depth, the melody, the sweetness, of what Gilmour et al were creating; the first words Gilmour himself speaks ("...so you think you can tell..."); simply everything about it has made "Wish You Were Here", without doubt, an absolute stand-out song so far on this musical journey I appear to have burdened myself with. But this song makes it all worth it; my first Favourite Song of 2011.

With Pink Floyd, one feels that the only way to truly appreciate these songs is to go back to them again and again, picking apart each individual instrument, each vocal piece, each tiny seemingly insignificant part, and not so much analysing it, but appreciating it fully; celebrating a dynamic of music that will probably never be brought to the fore again. Or at least, in not such a ground-breaking way.

Key Tracks: All of them. Why not? There's only five. Or four, depending on how you look at it. Or twelve, if you want to be picky. But still, all of them.

The Crazy Diamond In Question: It has been said that "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" - and partly, "Wish You Were Here" are direct tributes to the band's former singer-songwriter and guitar, Syd Barratt, and his drug-induced mental breakdown. But even stranger was an event that occurred on 5th June 1975. Whilst the band worked on their final mix of "Shine On...", an large shaven-headed man entered the recording suite, much to everyone's surprise. At first, noone knew who it was, but were horrified to realise it was Barratt himself, but dramatically changed. Waters and Gilmour were deeply affected by this visit, but especially Waters, who was completely overcome with tears at how much his old bandmate had changed. After that day, they didn't see him until his death in 2006.

Saturday, 26 March 2011


Beck - Midnite Vultures

Listening to this album makes me think, "Of course! Beck is actually the brain behind Flight of the Conchords!" He even sounds like Jermaine on "Peaches & Cream", and don't even get me started on "Debra", which has never been a more direct inspiration for the shepherds-turned-musicians' classic, "Jenny".

And with that, 'crimping' - Messrs. Barratt and Fielding's (apparently) original way of yarning a verse or four - also seems so ten years ago when you plug in and entertain your lugs with "Nicotine & Gravy", "Hollywood Freaks", and "Milk & Honey". It seems the man loves an ampersand too.

But seriously. The man has about as much funk in this album as the late, great James Brown..okay, so maybe that has overstepped the mark, but I first listened to this album on my laptop speakers, and I thought that it was good. But you plug those headphones in, and my God, does that bassline stick out like the thumb of an Ent who's bad at hammer work.

Key Tracks: "Sexx Laws"; "Hollywood Freaks"; "Milk & Honey"; "Debra"

Goofy Piety And Ambiguous Intent: Pitchfork's review of Midnite Vultures contained this phrase, applauding his ability to mix Prince, Talking Heads, Paul's Boutique, 'Shake Your Bon-Bon' and Mathlete. It's just a shame he couldn't keep up the funktastic fun of this album on his next offering, Sea Change. But hey, man's gotta move with the times. Even though he's from every time as well as no time at all on #96.