Saturday, September 30, 2006

Modern Times - Bob Dylan

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Confession time. Until this, I've never even attempted to listen to a Bob Dylan album all the way through. Hell, I've barely listened to any of his songs, normally because they do nothing for me. I've tried on occasions, but I just don't "get" Dylan. I'm sure there's many people out there (or at least a few of the select band who actually read this blog) wondering just what planet I'm from but that's the way of the world isn't it?

So whilst in one sense I come to this album with some bias, not really being a Bob Dylan fan, in other ways I can keep a clear conscience. I won't be marking this against his classics, but neither will I be marking it against the disappointments in his back catalogue. I'll merely be marking it against other 2006 releases. (You'll see the difference once Jerry Lee Lewis' new album gets its release no doubt).

And speaking of The Killer, the opening track on the album pleased me greatly. Thunder On The Mountain has the kind of piano-driven melody that the Killer would love, although Lewis would probably never come up with lyrics that name-check Alicia Keys. At this point I was looking forward to what the rest of the album would deliver me.

Sadly the rest of the album failed to grab me as much on the whole. And one major problem for me was Dylan's voice. To those who may have grown up with his music they might appreciate the nuances that age have brought to his voice; I just started to get faintly annoyed by it.

This is none the more evident than on tracks such as Beyond The Horizon and When The Deal Goes Down. Whilst Dylan's ragged tones do bring something to the rockier tracks, such as the afforementioned Thunder On The Mountain or The Levee's Gonna Break, on other tracks such as these it just grates.

There's other times when songs, nearly all of which clock in at over five minutes are at least two and a half minutes too long, leaving me all the more nonplussed.

I was never likely to love this album so it's little surprise that I don't. As much as it puts me against 99% of professional reviewers, I'm just not a Dylan fan and never will be.

Still the album has a few moments I will find myself revisiting in the weeks to come, but not enough to change my point of view on the great man himself. Sorry Bob.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Warning - Hot Chip

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Someone pointed out to me that I hadn't reviewed The Warning by Hot Chip. Well that's because I didn't have it properly. Well now I do, so I can "properly" review it.

First things first, nothing on here is as immediate as Over & Over. In fact listening to the album you can see why a) that was the first single and b) why they are re-releasing it as their next single. That's not to say that the album is poor, just that Over & Over is probably it's one "commercial" moment.

That's also not to say mind you that this is the kind of self-induilgent pap that "electronica" can often slip in to; its just that if there is a suprising turn to take within a song, the chances are Hot Chip will take it. For instance, Colours starts off relatively sparsely only to transform into a sunny dance number whilst Careful start off all warm and ambient and then abruptly interrupts itself by what I am reliably informed could almost be "garage" beats.

Occasionally this wilful experimentation doesn't work, but thankfully those moments are few and far between. It's easy to see where the inspiration comes from but the songs never sound like rip-off's. Indeed if there is one thing to take away from this album it may well be just how, well, fresh and original everything sounds. A little trimming wouldn't have gone amiss and occasionally tracks to disintergrate slightly, but those are small complaints when what works is so good. Hot Chip may well be threatening to break our legs, but it's likely if that happens it will be through over-dancing rather than anything more sinister.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Pipettes LIVE

I love the Pipettes so much that I took the day off work to make sure I could get there in plenty of time to grab a spot at the front. Ok, so that didn't quite work, but we were only about the 3rd row back or so, so all is good. It did mean sitting through 2 support acts (and staying in the same standing place for over 3 hours) but only on two occasions did I get into anything approaching a "fight".

The first support act was a group of Chelsea players disguised as a band called edgar prais. Ok so it probably wasn't Joe Cole on lead vocals or Glen Johnson on bass and it alsmost certainly wasn't Arjen Robben on drums, but they did look like them. They were OK, although the fact that every song seemed to be about drinking didn't really bode well.

Next up was the Hot Puppies, led by what could have been Nerina Pallot's little sister. (Ok, so I'm getting a bit stupid on this score now, but that's what I thought). They were actually quite good; good enough for me to probably buy their album at some point. They were also quite funny, which is always a bonus.

Anyways, so finally it was onto the Pipettes...and what can I say other than The Pipettes may be THE greatest single musical invention of all time. They are quite simply brilliant. Ok, so I am in love with Ros-ay, but this is not me being biased (well, ok, maybe just a little) but the Pipettes are just awesome. I should also point out that before the Pipettes came on, as eveyone was shouting "Gwenno" or whatever, I decided to shout "Frank" and some people joined in. So there.

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From start to finish this was just brilliant. Even the b-sides and the new tracks that most people didn't know were met with raptuous applause, and rightly so. I told you all before that they should have won the Mercury Music Prize and I would stand by that. After this show they should win every kind of award going. The highlights are just too numerous to mention, but if pushed special credit would have to go to Your Kisses Are Wasted On Me, ABC and We Are The Pipettes.

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And if all that wasn't great enough, they even did the School Uniform song to finish up, which was the perfect end to a perfect evening's entertainment. This is right up there with Jenny Lewis as the best concert I've seen this year. Hell, this is right up there as one of the best concerts I've ever seen!!!

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And one final point; my digital camera is rubbish. It did seem to have a Gwenno fetish though as the only pictures that have come close to being alright are the ones of Gwenno, and as you will have seen throughout this review even those ones are crap.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Time for a quick poll. Is it sexier when Nadine says;

a)Pussycat Dolls?
b)The Killers?
c)Scissor Sisters?
d)The Zutons?

I'm torn between a and d myself.

Single Releases 25/09/06

Well, here we go again.

The best single of the week is Judy by The Pipettes. And that's a good thing indeed considering there are quite a few good singles out this week. Anyway, if you buy a single this week, make it the Pipettes.

Ok so the Pussycat Dolls single is out this week. Whatever, it's still fantastic.

So is Lil Chris. Forget the fact he's about 3' 2", its quite a quality pop-rock tune. Of course because he won Rock School or something, some people won't like him purely on that basis, but since when has that ever bothered me. Music can be fun people.

Esrtwhile libertines Carl Barat and Pete Doherty are at it again this week. Carl's Dirty Pretty Things hit us with Wondering which is decent without being brilliant. Still if Mr Moss had done it I suppose we'd be proclaiming its genius. Pete teams up with The Streets to add some grit to Prangin' Out. Problem is, Pete's a bit of joke and this in turn means that the lyrics he adds which are no doubt meant to be either harrowing and/or a bit mean actually make me laugh. Pete's problems are not a laughing matter I suppose, but he kinda forefits any sympathy from me I'm afraid.

The "Female Mike Skinner" is back too, as Lily Allen re-releases LDN. It's still a winner folks.

If I had a pound for every woman I've loved who I could have said Call Me When You're Sober to I'd probably have enough for an extra value meal at McDonalds by now. All you really need to know is that it's the new single from Evanescence; if that thought fills you with delight you will enjoy this, if not then I'd advise you to give it a miss. Me, I'm not fussed either way.

Paulo Nutini tries to win favour with me this week by releasing Jenny Don't Be Hasty, although to be honest that's probably the last thing I would say to a Jenny, but we'll leave that there before this week's reviews turn into a "women I've loved and lost" lament. It's better than I'd expect one of his songs to be, but it's all a bit laughable.

Speaking of laughable, Simply Red are back with Oh! What A Girl. It's only a matter of time before this ends up on his next "free with the sunday papers" CD.

And please folks, whilst we are at it, don't let the funny video fool you. Here It Goes Again by Ok Go is not a great song. In fact it's not as good as this week's other American pop-rock offering, It Ends Tonigh, by All American Rejects. But still, I suspect which song will have the better chart placing (HINT - It's the one with the funny video).

Leann Rimes & Brian McFadden is surely a musical combination you've just been dying to see together isn't it? What's that? No? Anyway, it perhaps signals that McFadden has realised that trying to be the new Robbie was never going to work. What a pity that instead of giving up entirely he decided to try and become the new Ronan. Still even though Delta Goodrem is a modern woman, I suspect she'll expect old fatso to pay his share of the bills.

You all ignored me I know when I "bigged up" the prospects of the Victorian English Gentleman's Club, but they have a good single out this week. Impossible Sightings Over Shelton isn't the best they've got, but it's still good.

Finally old group superstars James Dean Bradfield (The Manics) and, err, Letoya (Destiny's Child apparently) also give us solo efforts this week. Much like the Ok Go/All American Rejects thing one of these songs is better than the other by quite some way but it's going to be the crap one that gets the highest chart placings.

Anyway, that's it. If I never post on this blog again it's probably because I've run off with Ros-ay Pipette tonight. So with that in mind, I'll see you for the review of that concert tommorrow....

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ben Kweller - Ben Kweller

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It seems fitting that Mr Kweller's third (proper solo) album bears his own name as the title; after all he does play all the instruments throughout.

The first impression from this album is that this is a more "mature" and less edgy Kweller than we are neccesarily used to and indeed one could almost be tempted to say that working with Ben Folds has rubbed off on Kweller given the amount of piano on this album. It's sentimental and full of musings on the passing of time.

Whether or not you like it will probably depend on your opinion of Kweller and what qualities of his you admired in his previous work. The indie-pop of Sha-Sha is largely avoided here and the rockier edge of anything on the On My Way album is also largely missing. Indeed if the later idea is your ideal Ben Kweller, then only the closing track This Is War will give you what you are looking for.

Largely the ablum concentrates on a slow tempo and the inevitable conclusion will be that Kweller has mellowed which, whilst making for a pleasant enough album, does on occasions leave you wishing there was a little bit of the old fire on display.

In the end, my feelings about it are pretty similar to those that I was faced with when Ben Folds delivered Songs About Silverman. It's not a bad record by any stretch of the imagination and from a songwriting perspective it's polished and at times touching. The problem is that it rarely lives up to what has preceded it and you rarely get the feeling you're hearing his best work.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Ta Dah - Scissor Sisters

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It's difficult now to imagine the kind of "shock" that was created when you first heard the Scissor Sisters take on Comfortably Numb. The topic of conversation at my workplace the day after their debut Top Of The Pops performance was universally one of "what the hell was that?"

Fast forward to I Don't Feel Like Dancing and we have a bona fide number one stomper which seems to be universally loved. Well almost universally. Although some of the doubts I had about it when I first heard it have since been spirited away, I still don't think its one of their best. But who am I to argue with the record buying public?

Indeed, the success of the single has transformed into a huge success for the album, with it selling in Artic Monkey's proportions. And in a way this kills the bite of the Sisters. Where there was once the thrill of the unexpected there's the feeling that you've heard it before. And the main problems are that a) you have and b) it was more thrilling the first time around; and where first time around the band were foraging their own path it seems like this time around they're giving us the kind of album people think they should. Ie one made by camp disco queens.

To wit, despite the fact that, lyrically, the album is quite dark and angsty they've tried to hide this with the uptempo and "fun" music most people come to a Scissor Sisters album expecting.

Of course you'll be starting to think that I completely hate this album; well you'd be wrong. Yes nothing quite lives up to the pomp of Laura or Take Your Mama, but there are some cracking tracks on display.

She's My Man is a rollocking disco stomper, Ooh marries the somewhat guilt-ridden lyrics in an uptempo, erm, disco beat and Kiss You Off uses Ana Matronic on lead vocals to great effect, being something akin to Blondie whilst still developing a personality of it's own.

But what ultimately lets the album down is the fact that any comparisons to the debut will only leave you disappointed. Land Of A Thousand Words treads the same lyrical path that Mary did, but isn't as good as that; I Can't Decide apes Laura musically, but doesn't match up to the class of that song.

So all in all, its more of the same with only The Other Side and Transistor showing any signs of going anywhere different. There's enough good stuff on here to mean that anyone buying the album is unlikely to be too disappointed but I imagine in the years to come most will remember the debut with more fondness.

The exeuberance of the first album is lost here, replaced by a more world-weary outlook; but as Mike Skinner proved with A Grand Don't Come For Free the problems of fame don't always make for a compelling musical soundtrack.

But again, that may just be me. I suspect most people won't even notice and in that respect the album does it's job well enough.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Something Kinda Ooh - The Video

Hmm, is it absolute crap, or is it genius?

First impressions are it's a bit crap.

Thanks to bigkimberlyfan for the vid.

Judy - The Pipettes

Wonderful, just wonderful.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Highway Companion - Tom Petty

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Travel back in time to 1994/1995 and whilst the young kids of Wigan are listening to Definately Maybe and Parklife, a young Matty is enraptured by the new Tom Petty album, Wildflowers. Ok that's not strictly true (I did also have the Oasis and Blur albums) but it's a nice point. Quite why in 1994 I ended up buying Tom Petty's new solo album is a point long lost in the ravages of time, but i've waited 12 years for the next one.

Of course sonically, Petty has hardly made giant leaps and bounds since then but what's wrong with finding a sound that suits you and then sticking to it? Jeff Lynne is back at the producing helm (having done the same job on Petty's 1989 solo debut disc Full Moon Fever) yet despite Lynne's tendancy to give everthing he touches an ELO sheen, this is more like the afforementioned Wildflowers than with Full Moon Fever.

The mood is dreamy and as you might guess from the title there is a feeling of the roads travelling under your feet. As evidenced by Petty's recent proclamations that he is retiring, there is also a feeling of the sands of time running away; "You're flirting with time, baby/And maybe time baby, is catching up with you" does seem to sum up the album rather neatly.

There are highlights aplenty; the album kicks off with the rocking Saving Grace, which is a nice up-tempo slice of bluesy americana, but the real winners are the likes of Flirting With Time and Down South, which add a layer of melancholy and a surprising moodiness to the album.

Of course if you're not a fan of Tom Petty, this isn't an album that is likely to change your mind. But for fans of the man this a good album which whilst not coming up to the standards of his previous "solo" albums is nudging up there with the best of his other efforts, and certainly does its best to make us forget about the misfiring previous Heartbreakers effort, The Last DJ. If this really is the last album Petty gives us, he's left on a high note.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Kelis Was Here - Kelis

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I've always liked Kelis. I remember going without food at University in order to buy her debut album (although I did still have Asda's trusy 9p noodles to give me sustinance) and even on the much-panned Wanderland (which never got a US release) there was much to enjoy.

So really what I am trying to say is that the thought of a new Kelis album excites me; or at least it does until I see that it has about 437 tracks on it. Ok, that's a slight exaggeration, but come on, it has 18 tracks on it, and Aguilera only managed 22 on a two-disc set!

First impressions are thus; there is nothing on the album which will replicate the success of Milkshake, the album seems to be a mis-mash of contrasting styles and it's at least 6 or 7 tracks too long.

Lucky then that the great tracks are indeed just that...great. Bossy is a grower, which slinks into your brain, whislt Blindfold Me is effortlessly the kind of sexy track that Justin Timberlake would have loved to have at his disposal for his latest effort. The Max Martin track (yes, THE Max Martin) I Don't Think So is a wonderful slice of urban pop which could be a huge hit, and unashamedly aims to be one. Then there are the likes of Handful and Trilogy which effectively defy catergorisation.

Sadly there is just a little too much genre-hopping for comfort and, more importantly, some of it misses the mark. Despite the fact that Kelis, vocally, has never sounded better the album is perhaps too adventurous and tries to fit too much into one album; you can't help feeling that a bit of quality control wouldn't have gone amiss.

Still in these days of MP3 players, and burning CD's this need not be an insurmountable problem. A few tweaks here and there and you can probably put together a good album. As it stands however, overall you can't help but feel slightly disappointed. Still, a patchy Kelis record is still throws up more than enough highlights to keep us all going.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Single Releases 18/09/06

Oh joy of joys. We have a week where Keisha White attempts again to make it (she won't), where Papa Roach make a comeback (and sound just as dreadful as they ever did) and that well known "Rembrandt" of the musical world (thank you for nothing Richard Branson) Janet Jackson returns with another awful tune. You would think that by now she had run out of awful tunes.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The Killers are back this week with When You Were Young, which at least will enable me to give an outburst of "he doesn't look a thing like Jenas" when Pascal Chimbonda scores his first goal for Spurs. Seriously though, I like it. I am fully prepared however for once again to be underwhelmed by the album, but who knows this time they might surprise me.

It's a big week for "The" bands as well. The Zutons hit us with Oh Stacey (Look What You've Done!) which is another one of those which everyone seems to be raving about whilst I merely think it's "ok". The Automatic give us Recover, which is a lot like Monster, but not as good (believe me folks, there are some better songs on the album than this). The Datsuns come back with System Overload, which is pretty much like everything they do; that is, it's alright, but not great.

Jet make their return to. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is is decent enough, but I still think they're mere show-ponies. Yeah go on Jet fans, do your worst.

And speaking of which, surely someone will realise that Wolfmother actually aren't all that good any moment soon.

Elusive by Scott Matthews is something a little bit different. Delicious in a very understated way. Still, it's not going to be a hit is it?

Apparently the Pussycat Dolls I Don't Need A Man might be out this week; if it is, it's fantastic. It's like someone has realised that it would be genius if they did a song without Snoop Dog/Busta Rhymes/Will.I.Am/Big Poppa Gee ruining it.

And finally, I've never even heard of Slut by Dennis Christopher feat. Tony Cha Cha Cha, but how can it not be absolutely genius?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Stand Still, Look Pretty - The Wreckers

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I like Michelle Branch. The Spirit Room was a mighty fine debut (and because I picked it up whilst in Toronto it always reminds me of that) and Hotel Paper, despite the seemingly indifferent reviews (and the fact that Branch herself apparently hates the "direction" she was forced to take for that), had much to admire as well.

So it's with mixed feelings that I come to a The Wreckers CD; sad that Branch's solo career is on a hiatus, but glad that at least she is still a recording artist. And we all know that I am not averse to a little Country 'N' Western from time to time either.

The problem with this collection is that whilst it arguably works as a Country 'n' Western collection (even if the C'n'W in question is the new Nashville sound rather than anything that, say, Johnny Cash would have come up with), it lacks that little spark that would seperate it from the chasing pack. It's not words like "vital" and "spirit" that come to mind when listening to this album, it's words like "pleasant" and "inoffensive".

Still there are the occasional moments where the whole thing comes alive. However even the strongest tracks are revealing, being the Patti Griffin cover One More Girl and the Billy Austin/Jennifer Hanson cut, Leave The Pieces. Their own compositions just can't compete (although ironically, Leave The Pieces also happens to be better than anything on Jennifer Hanson's own self-titled 2003 album).

Yes the album is easy on the ears and offers up some enjoyment, but you can't help but think that it's a missed opportunity. The fact that Branch went to such lenghts to push through the release of this album makes it all the more ultimately unsatisfying.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Not Accepted Anywhere - The Automatic

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The problem with having a hit single as catchy, and as downright good, as Monster The Automatic could quite easily end up as this year's Kaiser Chiefs. That is great singles let down by poor album tracks (not that it's done Leeds' finest any harm).

Thankfully, Monster isn't the only higlight on what is a good debut album. There is no slowing down of the pace at all on this disc, and you may well find that every chorus is memorable enough to lodge in your brain. The other singles, Raoul and Recover, will give you a pretty good idea of what you'll find here and its safe to say that if those particular tracks underwhelm you, you're in the wrong place here.

Other highlights include Keep Your Eyes Peeled, which actually starts off as if they are going to tone down the noise slightly but then explodes, and the spooky Seriously...I Hate You Guys.

The only problem is that whilst everything sticks in you brain you might find yourself getting a little bored if you play it too much. But then again, IO haven't played Employement this year, but I still enjoy the singles when I hear them on the radio.

Yes, it's hardly pushing the musical boundaries and some will hate it simply because of that. Overall though, its a fun record, pure and simple, that has much to commend it but one that doesn't neceessarily lend it's self to repeat listenings. Still, I can't help feeling that if I was 14 years old this might well sound like the best record ever; anyone older than that might get tired of it in the end.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

B'day - Beyonce

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There is something strangely reassuring about an ablum with only 10 tracks. In a world where Kelis seems happy with 18 tracks, and Christina Aguillera gives us a 22 track opus which is at least 12 tracks too long (I myself would argue it's probably about 21 tracks too long) it's nice that one diva can show some form of restraint.

And the result is something of a rarity in the modern pop world; an album that is fairly strong throughout and shows little signs of the fillers one is almost resigned to these days.

Despite the fact that in the video to Deja Vu it's a little strange to see Beyonce (who after all is the "lead singer" on the song) writhing around Jay-Z, the hip hop maestro lends a hand on two of the best tracks, the afformentioned Deja Vu and the quite brilliant Upgrade U. Both show Beyonce at her best.

The other highlights include The Neptunes produced Green Light and the incendiary Freakum Dress (and give it a few months and women across the world will be talking about their own "Freakum" dresses). Suga Man is also a great track with a funky vibe.

Sure there is one moment that makes Aguillera seems almost ego-free; "I can do for you what Marvin did for the people" (in Upgrade U) is surely a lyric that at the very least in in poor taste and misguided. And I still can't really get over why someone at the record label didn't decide that "B'day" was a bad title.

Still this is a good album which has as many higlights as Dangerously In Love and, crucially, virutally none of the filler that ruined that one as a cohesive whole. I have to say, against all the odds, I'm quite impressed with this.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Rise Up With Fists

I'm bored today, and because someone thought today that Jenny Lewis had lovely hair and was my girlfriend * (it's a long story) I thought I'd post this vid.

It's probably one of the funniest video's you'll never see on music television.

* I should point out, she's not my girlfriend. She does have lovely hair though.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Orange Album - Stefy

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It looks like Rufus (?) in the Eurovision song contest a few years back were right. The 80's are indeed coming back. The Pet Shop Boys Fundamental album was their most "80's sounding" since, well, the 80's themselves and Gwen Stefani's Love Angel Music Baby was stylistically an 80's pop album. It comes as little surprise then that in the track Orange Country on their debut album, lead singer Stefy Rae goes as far as to namecheck Stefani herself, as if aware that that's going to be the biggest point of reference for anyone listening to this album.

If this is all sounding a bit derivative, then don't worry. The singer can sing, the band can play, and they have a knack for turning out catchy pop melodies that will stick in your brain for days.

Lead single Chelsea starts off sounding whole lot like Eurhythmics but ends up being an electro-romp that is worth the price of admission alone (and please, check out the Adam West starring video) and whilst perhaps nothing quite matches up to this on the rest of the album there's plenty more hit singles to be found. Orange Crush is a hook-laden pop epic in the making and Cover Up will surely be all over MTV if it ever gets released. Just when you think it's getting all a little one-paced a piano based balled, Lucky Girl, sneaks up from out of nowhere.

Still, across a whole album there's just a little too much "homage" to old 80's classics and too little of their own style, although there is never a song that is anything less than catchy. Lyrically as well it can all get a bit "teen movie", although admittedy that's the kind of thing that suits these kinds of songs very well.

As for their prospects? Well radio-friendly, catchy tunes will do no-one any harm, and whilst it may not be the most imaginative and special record of the year there will be few debut albums this year that are as much fun as this. In lead singer Stefy Rae they have a front-woman who is every inch the potential star and she's backed up by a band who obviously know their stuff. Whether this will be enough for long-lasting success is anybody's guess but from where I'm standing, they've as good a chance as anybody.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

FutureSex/LoveSounds - Justin Timberlake

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This is an album I so wanted to like. Justified was good (although not, in my opinion at least, as good as JC Chasez's efforts) and Sexyback is a stomper of a hit single. Indeed despite having the album for a few weeks prior to its official release, I held back from a review because I didn't really want to give it a negative one. In the end however, I have no choice.

In the first instance, if Justin is really serious about him bringing "sexy back" then it's not a kind of sexy that will grab me any time soon.

And if he's really serious about "pushing the sound of pop music" (indeed at a recent press conference he asked the question "If I’m not going to push it, then who’s going to?") then ultimately he's failed in his quest. All he's really done is switch his musical horizons from Michael Jackson to Prince. However that is not to say that the album is completely without merits.

Sexyback remains a top quality single, even if it's position is affected by there being a few too many similar tracks on this collection, and there are a handful of tracks that are even better than that. Lovestoned merges violins and beatboxing to remarkably successful effect, What Goes Around is that rare thing (an R'n'B ballad I actually like) and the title track is surely destined to be another huge hit.

Despite the good moments though, overall the impression left is one of disappointment. For all his fame, and the celebrity girlfriend, Timberlake lacks charm and, somewhat ironically, style. And dare I say it, but for an album almost completely revolving around sex (just look at the titles of the opening trio of songs), he comes up with something which is rather oddly sexless. He promises much, but fails to deliver.

The three or four years away since Justified have hardly honed Timberlake's lyrical prowess, witness his attempt at pop-protest Losing My Way, but that might not have mattered so much if he'd been given some tunes but even there we get more misses than hits.

FutureSex/LoveSounds is by no means a dreadful record, but neither is it very good. Despite all the pre-release bluster by the man himself its the worst thing a Justin Timberlake record could be; ordinary.

There are enough slick singles to ensure another worldwide smash I'm sure, but I can't see it being as fondly remembered as Justified in the years to come.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Something Kinda Ooh

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Yes, the new Girls Aloud single.

And after a dodgy first bit, its quite brilliant.

Being that it's better than the likes of Whole Lotta History, Long Hot Summer and Jump. But not quite as good as the likes of The Show, No Good Advice or Biology.

And it's better than anything the Sugababes have done since Siobhan left as well.

Single Releases 11/09/09

Well what delights await us this week? There is no time like the present to find out is there?

Lostprophets must be told that having, giggle, women kissing each other in their video's does not disguise from the fact that they are a Boy Band. That said, A Town Called Hypocrisy is a catchy tune and its the one that's been buzzing in around my brain since getting the album. So take that as you will.

Jamelia's not been so lucky though; Something About You isn't bad, but it's nowhere near the absolute stomper that is Beware Of The Dog (the one off her new album that rips off Personal Jesus) and as such it loses some of its appeal.

It is, however, the best song ever compared to Fergie's London Bridge. Where Is The Love has become Where Is The Tune? Still everyone these days is more concerned with how cool they are and how they're not pop at all. Which is ironic considering the Black Eyed Peas career trajectory, but that's another blog for another time.

You will be surprised to hear that Embrace are back in chart action sounding like they've never sounded, wait. They sound exactly the same as they always do. Which, for you dear reader, may not be a bad thing. For me, well I've other fish to fry than listen to this trite "epic" more than the once.

Speaking of trite, we come to Katie Melua. Ok, ok. I only said that to wind Dave up. It's Only Pain leads me down a certain "pun" route but I will resist, if only because the track itself is probably one of her strongest efforts yet.

As I have said before, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly bemuse me. I just don't get it. The Chronicles Of A Bohemian Teenager (Part One) doesn't help, if only for the song title alone. And again the song is alright, but hardly sets me into hype overdrive on their behalf.

The Guillemots re-release Trains To Brazil. Which is cheeky, but we'll let them off considering the song is very good indeed. Still, don't do it again.

As far as the rest of the week's releases go, Larrikin Love's Happy As Annie is decent, but again I fail to see how it generates the hype it does; Milburn do a decent job with What You Could've Won, although really it fails to do Jim Bowen justice. Ne-Yo and Chingy are fine if you like that kind of thing (it's just that I don't) whilst Futures by Zero 7 feat. Jose Gonzalez is quite good too.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Paris - Paris Hilton

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Poor Paris is swimming against the tide before she starts isn't she? People don't like her, with the most common complaint being that she is famous purely for being famous and has little discernable talent. Furthermore, she can't possibly be in it for "the music" and has to rely on a host of talented collaborators to come up with anything remotely listenable...

Well careers have been started on a lot less (witness Kylie Minogue - although admittedly Kylie was a bit more popular at the start of her career) but it seems unlikely that Paris will reach a second album, never mind make a career out of this such is the negative vibe that surrounds her.

Indeed, we are glefully told that a single which goes top 10 all around the world is a failure. Ditto an album that sold nearly 80,000 copies in the US in its first week is an abject failure too, despite reaching number 6 in the Billboard charts. Some would kill for that kind of "failure".

All this of course has left out one thing; is the album any good? Well as you might expect, it's not the greatest album you're ever likely to hear, but neither is it the complete and abject failure you would suspect.

Paris' voice is distincly unmemorable but, aided by digital aids or not, she can carry a tune. There is also a definite sense that the collaborators, such as Kara DioGuardi, Scott Storch and Fat Joe, are trying their best to give Paris something worthwhile too.

Occasionally all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place perfectly. Screwed is a memorable slice of power-pop which also proves that Paris must have a sense of humour after all. I Want You makes good use of a Grease sample but the best of the lot is Jealousy, which apparently makes use of Paris' own lyrics, which is a good stab at dissing Nicole Ritchie and is a memorable tune.

Sure, it all falls apart somewhat from there, but this is by no means the terrible record that perhaps, by rights, it should be. There is just about enough on here to make this a fun, if totally inconsequential, little album which, whilst far from essential will offer up a modicum of entertainment to anyone willing to listen.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Subways LIVE

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It's probably not been all that long since I last saw The Subways, but it feels like an age. So much seems to have been and gone since their album hit the airwaves and it's only natural you wonder whether it will be the same the second time around.

Thankfully any such worries were blown away by what really was a superb show.

The old favourites sounded as good as ever, and even the new tracks sounded great. Inded, if anything they whetted the appetite for the upcoming album which could be very special indeed based on this form.

You could criticise the set length, clocking in at under an hour, but thats only a small criticism given the quality of the show.

The Subways are about to prove they were no flash in the pan.

Grow Up And Blow Away - Metric

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Sod the fact I could review the Justin Timberlake album before it's out, if I'm going to show off I am going to review this album, not due out until 2007! And it also gives me the opportunity to post another picture of my new favourite lady Emily Haines.

Ok so that's a slightly misleading statement; yes it is due for release in 2007, but it was actually recorded in 2001. I have no real idea why it never saw the light of day back then, but that's by the by isn't it. What's it like is the only question.

And actually it's not bad at all. It's got a distinctly more "electro" and less "rock" sound than its official follow up's, although this is not that surprisingly, coming as it does from a time when there were only two members of the band.

In fact it's almost more like The Cardigans than anything you might expect Metric:V2 to make, but its no less alluring for all that.

In fact, I'd probably go as far as to say that whilst it perhaps lacks the stand out moment of a, say, Monster Hospital or Combat Baby, as a whole it may well be their strongest collection.

It's basically Metric as you know them without the loud guitars. So if you find their more electronic and introspective moments the highlights of their two subsequent albums then you should definately take steps to check this out. If, on the other hand, you're attracted to Metric for the loud noise, you may be disappointed with his mellow collection.

Either way, in my opinion its deserving of the wider audience it is soon to get.

Jump In My Car

The Hoff is a legend.

Help get this to number one by going to


Saturday, September 09, 2006

Liberation Transmission - Lostprophets

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It always amazes me how much critical acclaim these Welsh boys get from certain quarters. It's not that I think they are a bad act (far from it) but lets face it, they are in certain respects nothing but a boyband. Just witness the focus on just what hairstyle the lead singer will unveil. I can imagine quite a few teenage girls getting moist for him as well.

Yet the NME and Kerrang, hardly known for their diposition to that kind of thing seem to ignore that side of the band given their penchant for loud, rocking tunes even though, as their career has progressed, the band's sound has become more and more "commercial" and radio-friendly. Still, the lack of a huge hit single has kept a little of the mystique of the band intact and given them that underground feel that their album successes would otherwise negate.

This is definately their catchiest effort yet although there is little that matches the standout tracks from their previous albums. But as a coherent whole this is definately the one. It's catchy in the right places, with memorable choruses following memorable riffs.

Sure, lyrically it's all a little "problem page/agony aunt" at times but for the main part the tunes are enough to carry it.

Standouts include Can't Stop, Gotta Date With Hate, Heaven For The Weather Hell For The Company and latest single A Town Called Hypocrisy which all chug along to great sing-a-long effect.

The problem is that over a whole album it all gets a little bit samey and there is little of the invention the band showed on the likes of Shinobi vs Dragon Ninja. So really whilst this is designed on every level to be a "big-seller" it may well lose the Lostprophets the love of the "rock" crowd that brought them to this spot in the first place. So really, whilst the adjectives for this album would undoubtedly be "safe" and "commercial" it represents a degree of risk in the potential to alienate their previous audience. Still on it's own merits this is a good, if not great, record that may well bring them the success they so obviously desire.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Voices of Animals and Men - The Young Knives

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The review in Q magazine had this lot pegged exactly. If Mark from Peep Show was in a band, this is what it would sound like. And if you know me, you know that's not a prospect to be unhappy about.

What makes it stand out from the chasing pack is that its, well, funny. Yes its got the angular and jerky tunes, but just when you're worrying that it is all, well, very "of the age" the qunitessentially English lyrics sneak up and tickle you to the extent that it's impossible not to smile when listening to the album.

Pureile as it may seem, the line "hot summer...what a bummer" makes me laugh everytime. "A salary, so you can smash the system from within, get yourself a promotion, then take the kids to the zoo for the weekend" is as funny.

The highlight in this sense is the wonderful single "She's Attracted To" which opens with the lines ""Who are these people? They are too stupid to be your real parents!" and gives us "you were screaming at your mum and I was punching your dad", which must be one of the greatest lines ever written.

It's not the only highlight though; The Decision and Weekends And Bleak Days were quality singles, but even they are outdone by the likes of Here Comes The Rumour Mill and In The Pink.

As you will suspect, "light-hearted" is more the order of the day with The Young Knives and they're all the better for it. Yes, you could argue it's just XTC for the new generation, but then I would ask you...what would be wrong with that?

5:55 - Charlotte Gainsbourg

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Erstwhile media and movie star decides to make an album and pulls together some of the top names to help her do it. No, we're not talking about Paris Hilton, but alluring French chanteuse Charlotte Gainsbourg.

So ok, she didn't really want to make the album but with a little persuasion from the blokes from Air, some lyrics from Jarvis Cocker and Neil Hannon and production from Radiohead cohort Nigel Godrich, the final product was 5:55.

All of which immediately points to something less, shall we say, strange than her previous music efforts. Which were largely prominent due to the duet with her father Serge concerning incest. Charlotte was 13 at the time. (And let's not forget the film where Serge, as her co-star, had to undress her and then bed her. Which would be a strange enough piece of casting without the fact that Serge had written the script).

The spectre of Serge could never be far from such a musical project, and given Charlotte's reluctance to sing (she hid herself with a blanket to record her vocals on this album) it's a surprise that we're even presented with this album at all. Serge is there in the swirling and busy orchestral moments in the sublime The Songs That We Sing and he's there in the breathy and sensual Jamais (come on, it's the sort of thing he would have had Jane Birkin singing).

Indeed it seems almost as if Serge could be credited as a beyond-the-grave producer of this collection, but to look at it purely from this vanatge point would be to do it a dis-service.

The musical arrangements by Air are reminscent of their wonderful Virgin Suicides soundtrack album, a moment which, to my mind, still ranks as their best so far. However what sets this album apart from the competitors is the sheer quality of the songwriting. If anyone ever needed confirmation that Jarvis Cocker is a true British icon, they should listen to this.

Gainsbourg apparently tried to write her own lyrics, but eventually settled for discussions with Cocker who applied his own unique style and came up with something quite brilliant indeed.

Granted, it doesn't always quite work. Beauty Mark is a little too sparse and, well, boring, to work and Morning Song is perhaps a little morose to be an effective closing statement. But when it does work there is little to do but love it. The Songs That We Sing may well be one of the singles of the year, Everything I Cannot See is playful and an absolute delight and The Operation is seduction set to music.

Of course given the sheer wealth of big names lending a hand it's tempting to dismiss any part that Gainsbourg herself may have played. Whilst Gainsbourg couldn't be labelled the greatest singer ever she can carry a tune and her breathy and sensual singing style shows quite a few femme fatales exactly how to carry off icy and sexy. You may be tempted to feel she's just a part of the package, but she effortlessly manages to ensure that she stays centre stage throughout.

Of course, we'll probablly wait in vain for a follow up, but judged purely on its own merits in this particulaly place in time you cannot help but become immersed in it's beauty.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Victorian English Gentlemens Club

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Yes, credit if you spotted my deliberate mistake in my singles review. Anyway....
We live in a world where everyone is striving to find the "next big thing". Well in a way, The Victorian English Gentlemens Club will never be the next big thing . They're a little too arty, they're a little too loud and they're a little too, well, weird. But if the likes of Jo Whiley or Zane Lowe really had a clue about "discovering" and promoting new music, this is the kind of thing they would champion.

Just for the name alone they're worth a listen, but there is so much more to love about them than that. This is a record jam packed with spiky riffs, memorable chorus' and its all rather thrilling.

Within one listen, the likes of My Son Spells Backwards will be lodged in your brain reminscent of any of Franz Ferdinand's catchier moments but with a harder edge. In fact the first ten minutes or so of the album show more invention spark and wit than most albums manage in total.

There is also the male/female vocal tricks (with the women seemingly interjecting simply when they feel like it) which I so love, but rarely ever is used by anyone these days (the likes of The Von Blondies aside). Its funny, witty and whilst "eccentric" would also be a good description the tunes are never lost.

Granted, it doesn't always work, but when it does, well when it does it's impossible to resist. All at once playful but sinister, fun but dark, this eponymous album. If only the rest of it was a thrilling as the first three tracks we'd have a classic on our hands but the rest only sees a slight downturn in quality so it's still as near as damn it a classic. As it stands there is still much to admire and enjoy. For the lazy there's so many points of reference (Gang Of Four, The B-52's, Devo, The Breeders) but don't let that detract from the fact that they've quickly established their own unique identity and sound.

This is quite probably the best album this year that no-one will ever hear. But you'd have to ask the afforementioned Whiley & Lowe about that.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Single Releases 04/09/06

I won't be around to do this on Monday, so here we go.

Apparently, I missed Kelis' new one last week, although in my defence I'm sure it's only just out in the shops this week. Still, Bossy is great, although it's no Milkshake or Trick Me.

I also missed Ice Cream by the New Young Pony Club. That's quite fantastic too.

So apologies to both of those.

Anyway, on to this week's delights.

What If I'm Right may well prove to be phrophetic for Sandi Thom. After all I suggested that she'd be a one hit wonder (in spirit if not neccessairily in the "number one and gone" sense) and I suppose we'll shortly find out. Not as minbd numbingly rubbish as Punk Rocker (but then again, what is) but it's still dire.

Better is I Don't Feel Like Dancing by the Scissor Sisters. This has proved that there can occasionally be advantages to a song leaking. At first I didn't really like this (without either really hating it) but it has grown on me. Still it's not their best.

Rudebox seems to be polarising opinions. Sure it's lacking Robbie's characteristic touches in many ways but it IS quite catchy. Once again the curse of Robbie Williams strikes again. It's difficult to completely hate anything he does.

Starlight by Muse is another strong effort from them, but not quite as good as Supermassive Black Hole.

And thus, whilst Promiscuous by Nelly Furtado is strong, it's not as good as Maneater is it?

Sorry there isn't the "in depth" review this week, but I am a busy man :D

After a few days abscence though you can look forward to reviews of the English Young Gentlemens Club and Charlotte Gainsbourg albums...if I get around to buying them on my travels that is. Mind you, no doubt I will buy something so there should be some kind of a review up at least towards the end of the week.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Back To Basics - Christina Aguilera

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You all know about my past history with Ms Aguilera but you also know that I am not one to bear grudges (although lady, its never too later to return my £4.50).

But you see even without that, I would have nothing but contempt for this effort. And this all boils down to two tracks on this album that are amongst the most trite, obnoxious and, frankly, idiotic things EVER put to music. That they open and close disc one just compounds the lunacy.

The Back To Basics intro tune wouldn't be that bad as things go if it didn't claim that jazz and blues greats (we're talking the likes of Aretha Franklin and Billie Holiday here I think) "paved the way" for the good woman herself. Namecheck them if you like Christina, but getting your producers to aim for the "vintage" soul and jazz sound doesn't make you in any way remotely in the same bracket as genuine talents like that. I'm sure they'd all be happy to thing they'd strived so hard to create a legacy for the likes of you Christina.

Of course this effort is practically the best thing ever conmpared to the absolutely abysmal Thank You (Dedication to Fans...). It's a mawkish idea at best, but if the track really was about thanking the fans then she might have got away with it. But it's nothing to do with thanking the fans at all and in fact may well be the most egotistical song ever laid down. Because whilst Christina does thank us for sticking by her the record is dominated by, presumably genuine, "answerphone messages" left for her by her fans. And these aren't of the "thanks for making great music" kind but more of the "i was going to commit suicide until I heard your music", "your music gives me the confidence in life that I was previously lacking" and "you're the greatest thing ever Christina and we all love you" kind. Why anyone who wasn't one of the people in question leaving a message would ever have any desire to listen to this track again is beyond me.

Now don't get me wrong, narcissism is abundant in pop music, but rarely does it reach this level. It's unrelenting. And really it gets so bad that I can't really face listening to the album again at all.

Disc 1, the "jazz" one, is low on ideas. In fact the one idea seems to be "lets sound a bit jazzy". Which is fine on the single Ain't No Other Man, but begins to grate as you listen over a whole CD.

Disc 2, the "Linda Perry" one isn't as bad. But it suffers because nothing on this disc grabs you like certain tracks on Stripped did.

So really, if there is one album you steer clear of this year, make it this one. I haven't reviewed an album this year which has left me feeling as cold as this one does. My feeling prior to the release was that, as per usual with a double disc set, you'd probably be able to burn one quite good album from the two discs and forget about the filler. It turns out, you're barely able to burn a decent CD single from it.