Thursday, May 24, 2007

Spaceships don't come equipped with rear-view mirrors


Some more of my thoughts on some new/forthcoming releases and general musical happenings...

There's something about The Cribs that elevates them above the rest of the crop of young British guitar-pop bands that seem so commonplace these days (indie is the new mainstream, you know). I think it's the brash confidence they exude and the fact that they know they're better than almost everyone else on the 'scene'. No-one likes a self-aggrandiser though, but The Cribs know that too, so the cocky swagger is imbued with a self-awareness and a highly defined bullshit filter that probably tells them when the swagger's getting a bit too pronounced.

It helps that the Jarman brothers know their way around a tune though and their first two albums are pretty much packed with the things. Third time around, on new record, Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever the hits come no less thicker or faster but there's a more refined, mature edge to proceedings, brought on in most part by Alex Kapranos' beefy production. Songs sparkle where they would have once been flecked with spit and bile, but it's not like they've gone crazy with the Pro Tools or anything. In fact, there's a certain live frisson to everything, but any of the first two albums' lo-fi, unreconstructed feel has been ditched in favour of a more assertive sound.

Ultimately, it serves them well. They sound like they've moved into the big leagues but retained what made them such an unpredictable, sassy mess in the first place. The lyrics are still as tart and sharp as ever and the pretention-free likes of 'Our Bovine Public', 'My Life Flashed Before My Eyes' and first single, 'Men's Needs' are fizzy headrushes to match 'Hey Scenesters!' and 'Another Number'. Steps forward don't come much bigger than endorsement from Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, who guests in spoken word form on the cathartic 'Be Safe' and it's just great to have a band like The Cribs around to shake the complacency from the young Britrock scene, even if they are doomed to be perennially ignored.

The Cribs - Our Bovine Public (mp3)

The early leak of 'The Ghost Of You Lingers' threw even the best of us a curveball, but Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is most definitely not Spoon's experimental album. It'd have been the same had 'Paper Tiger' leaked before Kill The Moonlight or 'My Mathematical Mind' before Gimme Fiction, but in the end, the new Spoon album ended up sounding much like all the other Spoon albums and that's no bad thing at all.

The echoey, weirded-out, Reich-ian brilliance of 'The Ghost...' aside, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga's songs are classic, traditional Spoon. Spoon playing at being Spoon and doing that thing they do really fucking well. That's writing top-notch pop-rock songs and colouring them with enough flair and strangeness as to make them sound distinctly Spoon (I'm enjoying writing the word Spoon, can you tell?). 'You Got Yr Cherry Bomb' may be one of their greatest songs (there are horns and it sounds like Phil Spector's behind the desk!), The Clash-y strut of 'The Underdog' is, well, just dandy and the cyclical melody of 'Finer Feelings' has a breeziness and effervescence that other, inferior bands have to force. For Spoon this kind of thing comes really easy, so who are we to ask for more. This album is the sound of a band comfortable in their own skin and feeling precisely no real need at all to shed it and it sounds fucking great.

Spoon - The Underdog (mp3)

I've been in love with Frost for a little while now. Their music isn't generally the kind of thing that I go for - their brand of glacial electro-pop skirts around the inoffensive at times - but there's a passion and a mastery of craft at play here that's just absolutely irresistible.

Their torch-y synthpop is so gossamer-light that it will crack under harsh scrutiny, but that doesn't mean that it's forgettable. There are hooks on their new album, Love! Revolution! that will bury themselves deep within your cerebral cortex for months on end, but the overall effect of listening to the album is that of weightlessness. Frost's songs are aural massages (save the ill-judged stridency of 'Trainstop') that tingle all the right places and make you feel like breaking out that old Enigma album. Go on, you know you want to.

Frost - Messages (mp3)

Does this song remind anyone of the Knight Rider theme?

You can tell that summer's on the way from all the great pop music that's going around. You certainly can't tell from the weather, but there are a chunk of songs doing the rounds that make you want to dig out the flip-flops and ill-advised shorts (not me though, no-one wants to see that). Anyway, I just wanted to share a few of them with you...

'International Player's Anthem' by UGK featuring OutKast (which I've written about before) is remarkable for a few things. Firstly, despite the fact that Andre 3000 and Big Boi appear at opposite ends of the tune, they've not sounded so in sync with each other since Stankonia and I can't put into words just how massively chuffed I am that Dre seems to have got all that experimentation out of his system (not that it didn't make for some fine music, but his stuff on Idlewild just plain stank and not in a good way). Secondly, UGK, despite the calibre of their guests, never sound like they're being overshadowed. In fact, Bun B's verse is particularly excellent. Lastly, I just can't get enough of it. No matter how many times I hear it, it doesn't fail to improve my mood. Ladies and gentlemen, make way for one of the best singles of the year.

UGK feat. OutKast - International Player's Anthem (mp3)

Roisin Murphy is back, back, BACK, with new single 'Overpowered'. Produced by Bugz In The Attic's Seiji, 'Overpowered' is an insistent little groover, with a winning acid line running through it's spine. Above all else, Murphy's vocal is awesome ("You day-ta my dah-ta"! Excellent!) and this should be a huge radio hit all over the summer. It probably won't be now that I've said that, but it sounds like her forthcoming second solo album is going to make more of a tilt at the pop charts than Ruby Blue did.

Roisin Murphy - Overpowered (Radio Edit) (mp3)

Escort are rounding up their first run of singles before they head back to the studio to knock out the album of the year with 'All Through The Night'. Again, this is one that I've praised before (with a Single of the Week accolade nonetheless), but it just gets better with each listen, like all of Escort's releases to date. I'm surprised not more people have cottoned on to their brilliance, but to go some way to rectifying that, here, for one week only (or until I get told to take it down) is a taster of Escort's discoid genius.

Escort - All Through The Night (mp3)

One band who pretty much no-one would have pegged for making a summery, poppy hit are Queens Of The Stone Age. I know that most of you are going to think that I've completely lost it, but '3's & 7's' from upcoming fifth album, Era Vulgaris is just built for soundtracking every trail for every channel's festival coverage. Imagine that riff playing atop a montage of beered-up, sunburnt, Reni hat-wearing day-trippers, arms aloft and mugging for the camera when you get sat down to watch T In The Park on BBC. You know it's going to happen. I just hope that I get some acknowledgement when it happens. I could be a roving reporter you know.

Queens Of The Stone Age - 3's & 7's (mp3)

Sophie Ellis-Bextor's only gone and recorded one of the best pop albums of the year, hasn't she? The ex-indie chick with the fruit pastille jaw has rediscovered what made 'Groovejet' so great and managed to keep the quality levels unfeasibly high over Trip The Light Fantastic's twelve tracks. An early personal favourite is the Franz Ferdinand produced by SAW romp of 'New Flame', with its new wave guitars and punk-disco beat. Superb.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor - New Flame (mp3)

Bring on the BBQs now!

I need a lie down,


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Anonymous stuckinatightspot said...

Welcome back James, this is the sort of stuff i always enjoyed reading on your blog, a few short sharp reviews of what you're liking at the mo with a scattering of mp3s. Probably not the most original way to blog but its what you're good at!

1:50 am  
Blogger //TheConsole// said...

LOVING the new roisin murphy song

its made it into my myspace hall of fame by being trated to a stint as my profile song

i'm sure the sales will obviously sky rocket now....ahem

kathy diamond...woooop. woooop.

2:43 pm  
Blogger James said...

Thanks, stuckinatightspot. I've made a pledge to myself to blog more often. I'm starting to remember why I got into it in the first place.

I take it you're looking forward to Miss Diamond on Sunday as much as I am, Console? Watch it be a crushing letdown now.

1:22 pm  

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