Archive for March, 2011
Swedish pop vocalist Lykke Li returns with her sophomore effort after her well received 2008 debut:
Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes
I’m hoping the trait of female pop singers turning to the dark side is only a brief one, as Lykke Li has also caught the gloomsday bug. Desolation and angst runs rife thoughout each song which evoke images of despair and dread. Her vocals are eerie and often strangely unsettling as she cuts lyrics such as “I’m a Prostitute/ You’re gonna Get Some” with true desperation and dispondency over a clattering drum track.
Other choice moments of utter hopeless refrain include “The higher that I climb, The deeper that I fall down” leading a spectral whale choir on Love Out Of Lust and I need look further than the titles of Unrequited Love and Sadness Is A Blessing.
There are some significant pop melodies which try to give the album the shot in the arm It needs to save it from darkness. But despite the soaring chorus of Jerome and the psychadelic fanfare of Youth Knows No Pain, this album seals a one way ticket to depression.
Lykke Li’s scars are out on display here for all to see. All I can hope is that by the time the suporting album tour wraps up, she has sung her last Wounded Rhyme.
Mr Flowers Says:
Not content with following up Youth Novels with more of the same, Wounded Rhymes sees Lykke Li in some ways expanding her sound while in some places moving away from some of her more poppy tendencies for a more generous helping of moodier, slowed down numbers.
One of the bigger tunes on the album is Youth Knows No Pain, a Bluesy song that incorporates bongos and organs to create a pop song from out of the 60s that also allows Lykke to project her voice in ways she might not have been able to before. The musical progression is carried on by I Follow Rivers, Get Some, Rich Kid Blues – who all share some excellently rhythmic drumming and sing along choruses. Yet the more expansive songs are countered by a fair few slower ones which bring the whole jig down a few rungs, such as the country track Unrequited Love, I Know Places, and Silent My Song.
Vocally, Lykke is much more confident but we miss some of her fragile and sweet moments from Youth Novels. It’s difficult to point to a bad song on the record, maybe there aren’t any, but with a lower pop song to sad-song ratio than her début, this latest effort is somewhat more of a struggle for those of us who aren’t sophisticated, contemplative (ever-so slightly sombre) women.
DoesItRock Overall Score: 5.5/10
Listen to Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes now on Spotify!
Liam Gallagher returns with the debut album from his new project, Beady Eye.
Beady Eye – Different Gear, Still Speeding
Far from being the Oasis: the sequel, Beady Eye (or Oasis minus Noel) have relished being away from Oasis merry-go-round of non-captivating releases. Coming out with all guns blazing, bursting with optimism and rousing radio rock anthems.
Liam’s vocals are hard to distance from his former band, but these songs bound along with a new found spring in their step. His snarling elongated syllables have real bite and vigor on feel good, up-tempo tunes such as album opener Four Letter Word and Standing On The Edge Of The Noise. What with the jovial honky tonk piano wielding Bring The Light and the light feeling of For Anyone, Beady Eye have clearly lightened up and are having fun once again.
Sadly the latter portion of Still Speeding Different Gear has very little of standout quality. Thankfully there is enough decent tunes in it’s outward 9 such as the addictive single Roller (despite its lack of melodies) and the “influences on sleeve” tribute to the Beatles & Stones. In fact they are less on their sleeves and more on one of those gigantic TV’s circling Piccadilly circus.
The success of this album lies in re-invigorating 60’s guitar pop and is some cases, blatantly copying it! Exhibit A: Three Ring Circus/Getting Better (the Beatles); Exhibit B: Beatles & Stones/My Generation (The Who).
With a whole raft of good tunes and a return to some more carefree, less pressured days, this album can only be described as a success.
Mr Flowers Says:
You might fear the worst from the first album from either of the Brothers Gallagher since Oasis’ breakup but there are times during Different Gear, Still Speeding where, against accepted wisdom, you might wonder if Liam might have been the real musical tour-de-force in his old band.
That’s all hogwash, of course, but with vocals in good form and those falling horns that greet you before leading you into the rocking verses of Four Letter Word, it does seem at times closer to the Oasis of old then Oasis themselves ever did in their final years. Perhaps part of the reason for that are those old influences that heavily influenced Oasis are back featuring probably more prominently than ever – hell, if you cut open The Roller I’m sure you’re going to find some All You Need Is Love DNA in there.
There’s a bit of a swagger in Wind Up Dream with it’s harmonica and balling bassline, and Bring The Light has a classic Blues riffs played on a piano with the always welcome gospel singers providing the odd bit of backing – all very nice. The cracks don’t really start showing until things slow down for the first time on the album’s ballad, Kill For A Dream. We can’t really fault Liam’s ear for a good melody or a decent rock song, but where he falls down is the lyrics. While remembering previous lyrically desolate Liam efforts like Little James (off of Standing on the Shoulders of Giants), we lucky folks get treated to new pearls of rhyming couplets like, “I’m here if you wanna call/Staring at the spot on the wall,” “A looking glass hard thrown at the wall/You don’t see me but I see it all,” and who can forget, “Well here’s my glass and here’s one for you/’Cause these dark glasses means something to do”. Oh man! Deep stuff.
So that pretty much dispels that Liam as musical-genius theory, especially with the backend of the album dotted with meandering efforts that don’t go anywhere like Wigwam and The Morning Song, and then there’s the irritating The Beat Goes On, which finds Liam in an introspective mood as he sings about the arduous life of being an International Rock Star. But, despite all that, you can pretty much forgive the lyrical lows of the album given by the fact that Different Gear is actually a generally good effort with some decent tunes on it – something for Noel to think about, lest he wants to be shown up by the band he left.
DoesItRock Overall Score: 7/10
Listen to Beady Eye – Different Gear, Still Speeding now on Spotify!
22nd February 2012
Young Legionnaire kicked off tonight’s NME Awards show in spectacular fashion. Their pummeling guitars and gigantic bass melodies were immediately pile driven through your stupefied ears. Such was the intense volume, that as I write this, a hint of deafness still remains. Despite the lack concern for health and safety noise regulations, these guys were pretty damn good. Their guitars played a buzz saw of aggressive overdriven fuzz, packed with bold innovative clattering riffs played within the soaring soundscapes of noise rock. However after half the set, it felt like they really started to recycle ideas and the vocals which were sailing to close to Placebo for comfort, sadly faded behind the gnarly guitar grunts. A promising young bunch of alt-rockers despite. Watch this space.
Next up were Leeds alt-metal noiseniks Pulled Apart By Horses, who continued the relentless onslaught of rousing rock. Kicking off with the superb “E=MC Hammer” immediately puts a smile across the crowd’s faces and brings with it some gargantuan guitars and super catchy vocals with the comedic lyrics “We ride, We ride, We ride the Mammoth” screamed at top volume. For many the urge to dance/throw yourself around in a carefree manner/headbang/toe tap (delete as appropriate) was far too great. Indeed their songs bring a joyously loud fusion of Sabbath gone metal riffs, great clean gang vocals, urgently screamed passages and enough brooding male aggression to plunder an enemy stronghold.
Pulled Apart By Horses
Highlights from the set list were potent man screams of “Yeah, huuuuh” on Back to the Fuck Yeah, the riot inducing Meat Balloons and the varied tempos with bursting energy packed within The Crapsons. Top tune though however had to go to the blues on speed, massively guitar driven epic “High Five, Swan Dive Nose Dive” with its 23 word lyric sheet and awe inspiring crescendos.
Their youthful energy and enthusiasm was remarkable, as they flung themselves around the stage with careless regard for their own safety. This is one band whose combination of skull crushing power, raw intensity, tight musicianship, comedy touches and spirit rousing anthems can only be truly conveyed by actually being there. So what you waiting for?
PABH had thrown down the gauntlet for our headliners Les Savy Fav, who in turn picked it up and slapped the idea they were going to be outshone by a support band straight out the window. It is clearly not in their nature to be upstaged, as within 30 seconds of the opening guitar chime ringing out, their slightly rotund lead singer Tim Harrington was already off foraying into the crowd taking his 4 layers of clothing with him…boy did that man sweat.
Les Savy Fav
It’s no wonder why these guys have such a cracking live reputation. The whole set was peppered with acts of total randomocity and extravagant showmanship. From jumping on a strategically places box in wheels and skidding round the crowd, to sharing vocal duties with strangers, throwing wrapping paper & climbing up on the balcony before hanging off it batman style, this was truly some ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s’ nest influenced behavior.
A slightly blurry Tim Harrington
Although at times it felt as if Tim didn’t really care too much about the lyrics as he’d much rather lark about in his pretty clothes which included a several changes from comedy bishop to yeti and the cop from the Village People. In contrast the rest of the band were quite happy to run through a very tight set of punchy riff rock, which is absolutely what’s necessary when your front man is a absolute nut job.
Title for the most entertaining moment of the night came not when Tim hugged a bouncer, but when he and the band emptied out 4 huge boxes full of Glo Sticks and proceeded to start a war with the crowd. This was cracking fun and caused a multicoloured explosion of visually stunning carnage. This was one war the band were not going to win. Tim seems to be adept and dodging them as he was batting them off with precision with his microphone, but other bands members (and the bouncers) were less fortunate.
Polly Jean Harvey is thrust back into the limelight upon the release of her latest LP.
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Enjoyment from PJ Harvey’s latest album relies on how full/empty your glass is…
…not to be put off by the seemingly insurmountable about of indie credibility and critical infatuation with this album I honestly tried to enjoy Let England Shake, really I did! Yet on my way to work I had this sudden realisation. Slogging through a decimated London Underground network of crippling delays, engineering works within deep and dark places. The solemn faces, the burning frustration on the passengers faces and the unerring sense of calm provided the perfect backdrop to this record.
There is very little light to counter the darkness of the potent political lyrics and bleak chiming guitars. PJ’s vocals are so extremely shrill and high octave that they take on this ghostly quality of a spectral bird in flight. These range from the outstandingly beautiful, to a rather annoying incessant yelp.
It is incredibly difficult to really “get” Let England Shake without carefully following through the lyric sleeve. The listening experience suffers because of this. Few tracks break above a plod and even fewer showcase bright enjoyable melodies. With time and patience though, the true essence of this record can be found within it’s stark war poetry. The posing of those questions critics so love to dwell over shows her substantial intellectual clout and songwriting prowess.
It takes a special talent to produce such subdued record within the Age of Austerity. For PJ Harvey, this has proved a success story of which I don’t much like the blurb. An album for the thinkers, not for the casual listener of which I tend to fall…
…I’m more of a Glass Half Full guy.
Mr Flowers Says:
The return of Polly Jean brings one of her most accomplished records of her already acclaimed career. Yet from the off it’s clear Let England Shake isn’t a normal PJ Harvey record. The title track starts proceedings with a dream-pop Kate Bush feel about it, a step away from the sombre A Woman A Man Walked By of a couple of years ago and many more steps away from the more guitar heavy entries from her early output.
The pace of the album is to a steady slow beat, but supported throughout by effortlessly beautiful melodies such as those found on the Last Living Rose, the blue room of All & Everyone that crawls and builds into powerful vocal melodies, and the climbing horns and sumptuous verses of In The Dark Places. It’s telling that the muted guitars in the pounding Bitter Branches is the probably closest Polly gets to that raw rock sound of old.
Thrown in the mix are the traditional ye olde English folk influenced (as in the type that Frank Turner crows on about) The Glorious Land and The Colour Of The Earth. The Words That Maketh Murder sounds a bit like a TV On The Radio song – a chanty, sea shant describing the horrors of war – and, having come to the fore on her previous record, PJ gets to display her talent of being able to play characters with her singing voice again on the hauntingly patriotic England where, presumably, she plays Joanna Newsom (having put in a performance as Kate Bush on the opener).
For an album whose overall theme is war and death, it’s good fortune that Let England Shake is simply full of amazing melodies. They come at such an unerring consistency and backed by an always interesting tapestry of music and lyrics, it’s just the sort of unshakeable combination that elevates a good album to being great.
DoesItRock Overall Score: 7/10
Listen to PJ Harvey – Let England Shake now on Spotify!