The Libertines – Up The Bracket

Folder

  • Released: 2002 on Rough Trade Records
  • Produced by: Mick Jones
  • Genre: Garage Rock Revival

Up The Bracket was the album that made The Libertines thrilling for all the right reasons, apart from their beguiling 19th century English romantic-wastrel image and the songwriting partnership of Pete Doherty and Carl Barât, before the drugs, internal politics and bad press forced the band into increasingly rapid decline. You probably already know the nasty gossip, so I’ll just skip those bits and head over to the review.

On their debut, the first half of the music is pure, anarchic joy –  Horrorshow is a blitzing feedback of scratchy, dueling guitars, drums, and bass that engage in a furious tug of war in the middle of the song, as if to pull the song apart into bloody bits of flesh.Then there’s the rickety, just-been-round-the-pub vibes of Radio America, with some equally knock-about acoustic guitar playing, and the Strokes-baiting commentary of The Boy Looked At Johnny…which is ironic in hindsight since they were getting lumped into the same category as these folks back then.

Unfortunately, the album just pans out into blank rock territory towards the end, which is a real shame. Begging lacks the sweaty, scumbag atmosphere that made the first half of the album genuinely exciting to listen to.

Still, it’s a lovely introduction to these boys, who have now reformed after spending various stints in other bands. Thank god for that – I think Doherty and Barât pretty much belong together, in terms of musical partnership!

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Soundcloud Pick: Unquiet Nights – Someone’s Love On Drugs

Today’s Soundcloud Pick arrived in a rather unobtrusive manner: I found a message sitting patiently (I say patiently, because it had been sitting there for 10 days. Yikes!) my Last.fm inbox from user Luke, who thanked me for the follow and left me a link to an album sampler, from his band Unquiet Nights. I had to Google and gather bits and pieces, but here’s what I turned up.

Unquiet Nights are members Luke Mathers (guitarist and primary singer-songwriter), Rodger Firmin (drummer) and John Rossi (bassist). They originally hail from Northern Ireland, forming from the ashes of a previous band, but are now based in Italy. They’ve also garnered mentions from BBC Radio 1 and Absolute Radio, which is impressive considering the insane amount of new bands seemingly emerging out of nowhere these days. Unquiet Nights have released two LPs: 21st Century Redemption Songs that came out in 2014, and Postcards In Real Time, that came out in December last year. Luke Mathers also happens to be a huge Roy Orbison fan, which is a highly endearing fact (do you remember that review I did?)

I clicked on the first track, and wasn’t prepared for what came next: I found myself falling  in love with the gently-picked chords of yearning and despair, shimmering over Luke Mathers’s voice. That track happened to be Someone’s Love On Drugs. Then I headed over to their Soundcloud page, listening to their newer material – Don’t Wanna Kill For Religion had an earnest yearning that appealed to me in the dregs of my mind. The title, if taken literally, seems to allude to the prolonged religious tensions between the Catholic and Protestant communities (turns out I was right, as Luke Mathers reveals more about the track here.)

Okay, what’s more important is the music. Here’s the Soundcloud link to Someone’s Love On Drugs!

Decades / Failures – 002

Folder

  • Artist: Decades / Failures
  • Genre: Post-punk
  • Released : 2014 on Dead Tank Records, self-released on Bandcamp

This review came about as a recommendation from Instagram user and fellow music fan lightningpaw, who suggested checking out Decades/Failures’s music. Thanks for the recommendation, lightningpaw!

Decades/Failures is Philadelphian Adam Juresko’s post-punk worthy moniker, and I suspect, a knowing nod to two of Joy Division‘s songs. Swathed in glacial synths, complete with distorted baritone and haughty gothic overtones, 002 manages to retain the philosophic introspection of Joy Division and Kraftwerk-aping early New Order, but suitably updated for the millenium with very pretty synths.

I (Never Wanted To) Believe cracks out the cavernous reverb, and the thudding drum machines and primitive synths recall the ceremonial sombreness of early New Order (Movement and Power, Corruption And Lies), while Gentle Forces ‘s industrial clackety sound is reminiscent of the eerie ascending elevator effect on Joy Division’s Insight. The song gradually gains momentum with the addition of ominous bells and fuzzy synths, but cuts off again with the same effect on the intro. Tell Me How is mired in Interpol-esque melancholia, complete with the same tidy rhythm, while the synths weave themselves around the bass like gossamer-thin spider silk.

As a whole, despite the obvious influences 002 is still a joy to listen to, especially for fans of  the primitive electronic sound that was prevalent in the late 70s to the early 80s.

Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

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  • Artist: Joy Division
  • Released: 1979 on Factory Records
  • Genre: Post-punk

I could wax endless lyrical about Unknown Pleasures, but you know how overdone all those reviews are…

It seems only right to listen to Joy Division today, on the 36th anniversary of Ian Curtis’s death. I cracked out Closer earlier, and my mind was mired in my own thoughts while listening to The Eternal in the car. The weather was befittingly Mancunian in description, shrouded in angry clouds that finally burst in the afternoon – grey, forbidding, exactly the way I like it.

The very first time I listened to Unknown Pleasures, it was on a normal commute to work. I wasn’t instantly seduced, but I used to work at a lab – and the best part was that you had a room all to yourself, where you could do your own thing and not get bothered by other people, so I would queue a couple of albums and get to work throughout the day. It was in this environment that I got acquainted properly with this album. Soon I got pretty obsessed with Unknown Pleasures. I would pore over Ian’s inscrutable lyrics in my mind, and I also remember having a mini epiphany to Shadowplay. There were colleagues in the workplace, but due to misunderstandings on each other’s part we fell out soon after, and I became solitary once more. Ian’s voice was a solace to the boring work. In hindsight, I realize how ironic it was. We got trapped in our own loneliness. I quit my lab job after three years.

Listening to New Dawn Fades through proper headphones makes me realize again how vital Martin Hamnett’s production is, particularly with the drums. To recount one of my favourite Hamnett stories – he made Steve take his drum kit apart and record each bit separately (snares, bass drum) to prevent the sounds from the bits of his drum kit from spilling over into the recording mike. The airless quality of the music enhances that eerie, spatial atmosphere so that each instrument is crystal clear – you practically jolt to the sound of smashing glass on I Remember Nothing. In fact, I think I’ll be reading his track-by-track guide to Unknown Pleasures while listening to it. Fantastic raconteur, that Hooky.

As a treat, here’s Unknown Pleasures mastered from the original master tape, in full Youtube glory!

 

 

 

Pity Sex – Feast Of Love

Folder

  • Artist: Pity Sex
  • Released: 2013 on Run For Cover Records
  • Genre: Shoegaze

If you like fuzzy, distorted guitar music with a melancholy edge under 4 minutes long, you’re in for a treat. This album is chock full of dirty fuzzy riffs, with the exception of Hollow Body, which is a beautiful, poignant song on acoustic guitar. Throw in a female voice, courtesy of Britty Drake, and you get additional aural pleasure. I am very tempted to name-drop Bilinda Butcher here, but Feast Of Love does not strictly adhere to the Loveless format. Hmm, I shan’t!

The album revs up with album opener Wind-Up, played thrillingly fast…and the inner beast in me revels at the heaviness. But it’s not all brutal speed though – the music slows down on Sedated (fitting name right there, huh) – oh wait, I spoke way too soon: the drums kick off again in the middle of the song, and off they go on a whirl!

On overall, the debut from the Michigan-based band is pleasant enough for me – they’ve just released their third album White Hot Moon. I might go nose around that a bit. Please excuse me!

You can stream Feast Of Love here if you’re interested:

https://runforcoverrecords.bandcamp.com/album/feast-of-love

 

 

 

Soundcloud Pick: NOTHING – The Dead Are Dumb

I came across this on Pitchfork (ah yes, I have a love-hate relationship with this site) and this track reminds me of Souvlaki-era Slowdive – that sad/warm intimate, gentle shoegaze-y feeling. Actually, it also reminds me of Embrace.

SoundCloud Pick : Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants To Love You

Shiny guitars that mesh with the chorus “EVERYBODY WANTS TO LUUV YOU” so well, and then burst in a glorious mess of violent colour.  Holy shit. *hits repeat*

MONEY – Suicide Songs

moneysuicide

  • Artist: MONEY
  • Released: 2016 on Bella Union Records
  • Genre: Indie Rock

There’s only so much music you can listen to without getting nauseated, or feeling cynical. So when albums like Suicide Songs come and sweep you off your feet, you feel this inner glow radiate in your heart. Halleh-fucking-lujah, man.

The beauty of MONEY‘s music comes from Jamie Lee’s voice – but his voice isn’t as perfect like Jeff Buckley’s or Thom Yorke’s. Sometimes his voice wavers and cracks, but it’s laden with emotion – when he sings, he means every word. When he’s feeling the pain, all fucked up at 3 am in the morning from drink, half-sobbing to himself, you feel it all the more. Couple this with the sweeping orchestral arrangements, and you get transcendental church hymns of the human condition. The album’s opus, Night Came opens with some reverb guitar and Lee’s soaring falsetto, with a lonely bagpipe – ebbing and flowing slowly, it gradually builds into a monster of an ending. It is depressing, but there’s an optimism underneath the gloom too. In some ways it reminds me of the bleak grandeur of Suede’s Dog Man Star, where Brett Anderson similarly exorcised his personal demons with the use of a sprawling orchestra on Still Life.

Thankfully, Suicide Songs doesn’t tip into corny territory, as is the case with orchestra backings – the addition of acoustic guitars also add a sense of intimacy to the album. On You Look Like A Sad Painting On Both Sides Of The Sky, the lyrics “Outside the world is crucified, you must find something to be sacrificed to/To your love/Or to your lie” also add to the biblical presence of the song.

On the whole, the album is pretty good – unless you find music like this depressing. I don’t, though. And what do you know? Jamie Lee is a Felt fan. Oh boy.

As always, here’s a sample – You Look Like A Sad Painting On Both Sides Of The Sky below for your enjoyment!

 

Penguin Cafe Orchestra – Music From The Penguin Cafe

penguin

  • Artist: Penguin Cafe Orchestra
  • Released: 1976 on Obscure Records
  • Genre: Instrumental Folk, Contemporary Classical

Look at the cover…it’s kinda cute, eh? Some guy with an enormous bird mask, possibly a magpie headpiece, is regaling a large emperor penguin with some tasty bits of gossip, I presume. We’re going to politely ignore the fact that the guy’s pubes are a wee bit visible.

However, we’re not going to ignore the fact that this was released under Brian Eno‘s experimental record label, which was also painstakingly exclusive – there are only 10 records released under Obscure. Music From The Penguin Cafe is titled number 7 on Obscure’s catalogue list.

Music From The Penguin Cafe has a child-like wonder. The cheekiness of the music is a joy to listen to. As a listener, you find yourself getting sucked into a playful experimentation – but along the way the record is underscored by sorrow and poignance.

Penguin Cafe Single reminds me of reading an Alexander McCall Smith novel. The opening has a kitschy feel, almost like a vintage BBC children’s show opening theme. Playful keyboards provide the syncopated rhythm to the melodramatic violins, until it gets to the middle of the song – where the strings start stuttering and a ghostly, wide-eyed wonder, created by bells (something akin to Pink Floyd‘s creepy psychedelia on Bike) hangs over the song. Then the bass starts up, the violins realize there’s nothing to be afraid of, and the song is on its feet once more – like a kid running gleefully across the grass, with chocolate-smeared fingers. Giles Farnaby’s Dream is a dizzy dance around the apple tree, the galloping rhythm provided by the folk-esque guitar and supplemented with that Olde English Folk Feel by the harpischord and violin-fiddling.

The Sound Of Someone You Love is heartfelt poignance, duly delivered with some gorgeous folk guitar. I can’t help but feel myself melt into a gooey mess when the violins come together with the double bass.

Let me post a link before I start weeping: here’s Penguin Cafe Single!

 

 

 

 

Soundcloud Pick: MONEY – Goodnight London

MONEY is a four-piece indie rock band hailing from Manchester, that musical mecca which has churned out the bands we love (and moan about) so much – The Smiths, New Order, Joy Division, The Stone Roses – throw a rock and you might hit a member from any of these bands in the face, I think. With the exception of Ian Curtis.

Goodnight London is a wintry ballad set against velvety-smooth piano, with Jamie Lee’s raw-throated voice searing through the song. Goodnight London is from The Shadow Of Heaven, their debut, which was released in 2013. They released their sophomore effort in January this year, and it’s pretty damned good.

http://www.moneybandofficial.com/

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