Reviews

Tame Impala- Currents

‘Currents‘ is the third album by Tame Impala and the first record of their’s that I bought. I picked it up in HMV because I thought the cover looked cool and then the cashier started raving on about them. I then found out how highly rated they are and that they were already pretty big. Also, with this record, Kevin Parker pretty much did the whole thing himself from writing to mixing. Nate little boyeen isn’t he.

Since purchasing this record I’ve gone back and bought their first two, ‘Innerspeaker‘ and ‘Lonerism‘. What you get with those two records is a psychedelic sound. It keeps with its origins of the 60’s in recording and sound and with some tracks you even feel it stepping on The Beatles toes. That’s fine though because recorded now the records sound great and came as a breath of fresh air. On ‘Currents’ however the sound changes and oh boy does it sound good. Parker wanted his music to be more accessible and to hear it in more common areas such as clubs and not just specific radio stations. It’s also important to mention with regards to my use of ‘they’ and ‘them’ when speaking about the band, that the band is actually only with Parker on tours. He does all the recording himself. In an interview with Pitchfork Parker said that he would get up around midday and work into the night, drinking along the way. He says “the flow is the most important thing for me for recording“, a flow he would fall into after a few drinks. This interests me because a ‘flow’ is something I’ve been studying and it is when you find yourself most creative, so I can only imagine what he would have been producing during this time.

ANYWAY, better tell you a little about the record. It certainly is a step in the direction of the dance floor, or at least a floor full of guys and gals who may have dropped something. ‘Let It Happen’ is one of the leading singles and tracks off the record and it’s a long introduction. Great track though. ‘Nangs’ is a short, beat laden track that’s about aerosol cans. Apparently ‘nangs’ is an Aussie slang term for the can and getting high. ‘The Moment’, judging by the lyrics is about living in the moment. Parker also seems to explain himself and the new direction Tame Impala took with the opening verse, “I fell in love with the sound of my heels on the wooden floor, I don’t want our footsteps to be silent anymore”. Perhaps he wanted to explain the change early in the record.

Following ‘The Moment’ is one of my favourite tracks, ‘Yes, I’m Changing’. A softly sung song about love and how he’s changing and how he’s moving on. He offers her the chance to come along and although she doesn’t, it won’t stop him. Much softer and slower track then it’s predecessors. ‘Eventually’ is another song about a break up and his hope that she will be ok eventually. Bit more living but I still wouldn’t regard it was a disco tune. ‘The Less I Know The Better’ gives us an 80’s sound, something along the lines of The Bee Gee’s. I love this one as it’s got that love/synth corny sound and it’s less serious than other tracks. However, I feel it’s a little overshadowed by the following track, ‘Past Life’. Parker’s robotic voice telling us a story with the synth raising and dropping significantly makes it infectious. Your ears will find it hard to keep up!

‘Disciples’ is another track released as a single and it’s groovy enough. This one I can imagine getting people moving on the floor. He says that he just went it the sound wherever it went and despite it sounding different from the rest of the record, kinda, he just let it happen. Now, onto the big one. ‘Cause I’m A Man’ is one of the most relatable songs I’ve come across in a long time. You can probably tell from the title what it’s about, and it’s sung in such a way that explains our mistakes from our perspective. We make boo-boo’s. With ‘Reality In Motion’ Parker also gives us dudes a song to fall back on, singing about our own doubts when chasing after a love interest. All about the moments leading up to that first move, being too sober, unprepared and too far gone to turn back. Been there my friend, been there. ‘Love/Paranoia’ is another soft track but the guitar work is brilliant in its simplicity. Once again however I find myself waiting for the next track, the massive ‘New Person, Same Old Mistakes’. You may know this one and if not go find it. So catchy, this one is more about the sound and the beat more so than vocals and lyrics. There’s a perfect blend of many instruments and the finger clicking is just awwww yeeeaaaahhh. There’s also a wacky enough outdo to the track.

So that’s that. I’m sure I’ve displayed my affection for this record over the course of the review and hopefully influenced you enough to go take your hard-earned cash and buy it. Or download it on Spotify. That free-ish.

G.M

Photo Credit: Genius.com

Foals – Total Life Forever

Total Life Forever’ is English band Foals second album released in 2010. The band said that the album’s sound can be described as “the dream of an eagle dying“. Oook then, no drugs involved here. Four singles were released from the record and it did pretty well where ever it was released. Their debut ‘Antidotes‘ had also done well two years before and I still remember (somehow) hearing ‘Cassius’ and ‘Balloons’ in college nightclubs and bars.

Regardless of whatever shite talk they go on about to describe the album, Foals had their own tiny niche in the area of indie/math and alternative rock back in the late noughties. They had strange ways of recording and mixing such as recording drum sets in alleyways on cassettes. Yannis Philippakis has a solid voice and he mixes it up pretty often. I saw them live back in 2013 and it was a great gig, they were going mental on stage which I didn’t really expect. They even won the live act of the year in 2013 at some show.

‘Spanish Sahara’ was the first single released from the record and is solid enough to lead the line. It showcases the many abilities of Foals as they maintain a simple guitar sound during the intro whilst the beat picks up in the background. The pace of the song does increase as it moves along and Philippakis’s tone is something different to what fans would have heard from single’s of the previous record. We get the several stages of Foals with this track, so I can see why they released it as a single. ‘This Orient’ followed as a second single and it’s far more upbeat. It’s certainly a change from ‘Spanish Sahara’ but definitely as single they needed to release. The trouble with this one is that it’s just a little dead. Once you’ve heard the first 30/40 seconds, you’ve heard the whole song. ‘Miami’ is a little more like what you’d expect from Foals. It’s far more unique in sound from the previous singles and not all laid out before you. Much more catchy with its guitar and still single worthy.

With regards to the rest of the album there are some decent tracks. However, the title track is good at best. As with ‘This Orient’ and other tracks it fails to pick up and the sound alone doesn’t make it a stand-out. ‘Black Gold’ is a track I like because although it remains calm for most of the track, it comes to life halfway through and we see the side of Foals most people prefer. The album needed this lift at this point, and it carries onto ‘Spanish Sahara’ from there. After ‘This Orient’ we get to ‘Fugue’ which is just an intermission really.

‘After Glow’ is a track I can get into. A song that seems to be about this character being left behind and Foals play to this anger with their sound, so as a whole I see it complete. And loud, which I like. ‘Alabaster’ is a funky enough track but it’s ‘2 Trees’ that of more interest to me because of the use of guitar. There’s a continued ripping followed by a more relaxed exit paired with laser and electro noises. ‘What Remains’ is the final track and it’s one of the better ones. The chorus is catchy and the drums are pretty cool throughout. It grows and grows but doesn’t carry on for longer than it should which is the case with some tracks.

‘Total Life Forever‘ as a whole is grand. It has it’s theme and it’s sound. I think many Foals fans would have seen it as a step backwards after the release of their debut, but then again bands need to change it up. I’m still a big fan of Foals and their math/alt/funk rock sound and ‘Total Life Forever’ is an important piece of the jigsaw. So, pick it up if you see it somewhere, it’s worth it and you may become a Foalower. Sorry, I had to.

G.M

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Damian Rice – O

O’ is the debut album by Irish singer-songwriter Damian Rice. The album was released in 2002 and is dedicated to Mic Christoper who died in 2001. Something about Rice that I didn’t know was that he was in the band Juniper. They split and Rice took off on his own adventure while the rest of the group formed Bell X1. Now, you learn something new everyday! Even if you don’t have this record, I’m pretty sure you know who Damian Rice is and also his single ‘Cannonball’ which was released from this record.

To me, and almost everyone who listened to the record, it is one about love, loss, heartbreak and anger. I had heard during interviews that he was depressed around the time of making this record. I’m not quite sure how much of that comes across, but it certainly is a soundtrack for the heartbroken. There are many more elements than just sorrow to the record and that evident throughout. Lisa Hannigan’s presence for one offers a softer side and also the way his tone changes in certain tracks. It’s as if he is damaged goods, questioning his ex but still keeping himself together. There’s still an anger there and he uses it to his advantage and it makes for a brilliant record.

In a lot of the songs there remains some hope, such as the opener ‘Delicate’ which is a song about loss but also leaves you with a hopeful feeling. Perhaps it’s the music or his anger towards the end as he searches for answers. This anger is evident in many tracks, such as ‘Cheers Darling’ and ‘I Remember’. In ‘Cheers Darling’ you can almost see him at this party with a glass of wine in his hand, huddled in the corner watching the girl he has missed out on flaunt herself all over her new man. Friend-zoned I’d say. A brilliant track where you can hear his disgust and jealousy although he tries to play it off. ‘I Remember’ is a personal favorite from the record. Just fucking awesome, total rage on Rice’s versus, completely changing the composition of the song from what Hannigan starts with. It comes out of nowhere and grow in anger and sound and it really does stand out on the record.

‘The Blower’s Daughter’ is another well know track from the album. It appeared in some film called ‘Closer’ in 2004, but I haven’t seen it so I don’t know how it works in the film. Regardless, it’s a well laid out love song which again features Hannigan as she plays the role of the love interest who seems to have left him behind. ‘Cannonball’ follows and well, we know how that one goes. Bit disappointed to see him give The X-Factor the rights to use it a few years ago but sur look, handy cash. Three of my favorite tracks follow ‘Cannonball’ in ‘Older Chests’, ‘Amie’ and ‘Cheers Darling’ which I spoke about earlier. ‘Older Chests’ is such a longing song. The violin and bare guitar of the chorus takes you to another place. The story of parents and their separate lives, the fathers addictions and the mothers attempts to give her children the best she can. He also explains time through situations, such as “older gents” who have seen their city change before their eyes. Truly brilliant stuff. ‘Amie’ is another track I love. Stand out violin and Rice at his best makes it an excellent track to split the album. This is also the track where the album title is taken from. Rice sings “Amie, come sit on my wall, and read me the story of O”. There ya go.

‘Cold Water’ is another popular track because it was featured in a few ad’s and films. There is a beautiful opening to this track which is probably what makes it so appealing. Rice keeps his voice soft to match the theme of uncertainty as he appears lost but still clinging to his lover. She’s all he has left as he feels himself slipping away. Some creepy ass tenors come in to take the song in direction you wouldn’t expect before finally drums bring the song to life. ‘Eskimo’ is the final track I must mention but it’s really three songs adding up to some 16 minutes. Rice uses his tenors again in ‘Eskimo’ a song he wrote about not being able to write songs. Now he says writing songs is like going to the toilet, it just hits him. ‘Prague’ follows on and is a serious track. Loud and angry, there is a different sound to this one as it’s distorted. Rice is pissed on this one as it seems he is all set up for this girl, a girl who already has a boyfriend. It seems to be a waste though as he congratulates her and her lover as he did on ‘Cheers Darling’. Lisa Hannigan see’s us out with a beautiful cover of silent night, and the album closes.

There are many classic break-up records out there and ‘O’ is one of the favorites. Will it grow it time and become a classic? Who knows, maybe. It’s a beautiful effort and when I listen to it every now and then it takes me back to when it came out and all these other Irish acts and bands were making themselves know. There was pop, rock, folk, indie and Mr. Rice.

G.M

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Smashing Pumpkins – Gish

You’ve gotta love The Smashing Pumpkins. A band that gave a generation of pissed off teens in America something to mosh to in the 90’s. I know several other groups came along or were present at the time, especially punk bands, but The Smashing Pumpkins were fucking loud. ‘Gish’ is their debut record, released in 1991. During the recording, Corgan was so obsessed about the sound that he insisted on record almost all instruments himself apart from drums, despite being part for a four member band! This lead on to what would be the beginning of Pumpkins woes, as a decade of internal war and drug use took it’s toll on the band.

Most bands go out and record a whole bunch of albums over time, with their sound changing and ‘maturing’ as they go along. Their first album might not be their ‘sound’ just yet, but by the time the 3rd one comes around they say they finally know who they are. With ‘Gish‘, it seem’s to me that The Smashing Pumpkins already had their sound nailed down. Their first three records all seem to follow the same tone, before a shift in sound with ‘Adore’. I’m saying this because if you’ve heard ‘Siamese Dream‘ or ‘Mellon Collie..’ and loved them but feared tracing back to The Smashing Pumpkins roots, then fear not. The album opener ‘I Am One’ is classic Smashing Pumpkins. That loud grunge sound rolling in on some drums and guitar before they really hit the switch. The small break around the 3 minute mark is something you can expect to hear from a few Smashing Pumpkins songs down the line, bit of a pause followed by the drums and guitar reintroducing themselves in spectacular fashion. ‘Siva’ and ‘Rhinoceros’ are two popular Smashing Pumpkins tracks and you would probably know them from hearing them on the radio or in certain clubs anyway. ‘Siva’ would be similar to the album opener in fairness, and going by these two tracks would almost expect the album to be completely grunge. It’s when ‘Rhinoceros’ comes along that you sense there could be a change as it is slightly more of a progressive/hard rock sound.

‘Bury Me’ starts off bass heavy and includes some decent shredding with vocals by both Corgan and D’arcy. It’s heavy again but showcases SP’s many talents. It’s actually a class track, hard as nails but well structured. ‘Crush’ is a softer track and has a psychedelic rock sound, much more so than any other track. Also a bit of dream pop as you find yourself falling into the song. ‘Suffer’ also continues this sound but it’s a good thing because it kind of splits the album right in the middle. Smashing Pumpkins give you a look at their more delicate and constructive side with these two tracks.

The stand out track here for me is ‘Snail’. It reintroduces the pace and sound of the album. The intro is catchy as hell which is followed rather predictably but SP usual guitar and drum sound. That’s not a bad thing though they’re just using the formula they know best. I only found this track when I bought the album and I was surprised that it wasn’t included in their well known greatest hits record, ‘Rotten Apples‘. As I said previously ‘Snail’ reintroduces the rock sound and ‘Tristessa’ keeps it going. Loud and hard but excellent guitar work again. ‘Window Paine’ is probably one of only two songs that actually bring peace and power together within themselves. Starting slowly, it gets louder before the drums literally being to increase the pace of the track. The guitar tries to keep up and you ears are given a run for their money. Keep up. We’re see out with ‘Daydream’, a lovely track actually mostly sung by D’arcy which features the cello and violin. Corgan comes in to tell us he’s gone “motherfucking crazy” before the track  plays out.

My experience with the Smashing Pumpkins comes from their first four records. I’ve dropped in and out of records beyond that such as the more recent ‘Oceania’ but it’s just not the same. Similar to my feelings regarding The Killers, I just find the earlier music better. There’s more effort, more of who they really are. If you’re not a SP fan just yet, start from scratch. You get a solid foundation of who they are and what to expect from their records. Also, don’t write them off straight away if you feel they’re too dark of heavy. It’s worth it, believe me!

G.M

White Stripes – Elephant

‘Elephant’, released in 2003 by The White Stripes is in the Top 10 best records of the last 15 years. No doubt. Their previous album ‘White Blood Cells‘ had brought them mainstream success on a smaller scale and set them up for bigger things. They delivered with ‘Elephant‘, and album with which they used 60’s recording equipment and no computers. They also recorded in a ‘non modern studio’. This was all to capture the sound and feel of the album and it worked with fantastic results. Not that I think awards matter much, ‘Elephant‘ did however win Best Alternative Music Album at The Grammys. ‘Seven Nation Army’ also won Best Rock Song the same year. The album itself is a rock album at heart, but there is s blend of blues, punk and garage. It contains some of the best guitar work this side of the 00’s, and the drums are solid too, they play their part.

The major draw for me with this record is the sound. In doing my research, I found that the way The White Stripes record is call ‘low-fidelity’, in that they don’t use modern equipment. Great, just listen to the results. In saying that, I think it’s easier to talk about a record like this as a whole rather than pull apart each song. We know the big hits, ‘Seven Nation Army’ and ‘The Hardest Button To Button’, but songs such as ‘Ball And Biscuit’, ‘There’s No Home For You Here’ and ‘Hypontize’ also carry with them this raw sound. There’s an originality to it because it was done in the modern era when all else was aiming for a clean cut sound. Obviously the recording methods were used in previous years too, but I’m just talking about the present. They didn’t seem to apply too many rules or restrictions on this record, the sound changes multiple times through some tracks and they also left space for a softer sound such as the lovely ‘In The Cold, Cold Night’ about a woman who is in love with a man and wanting him despite being told to stay away. Meg White might not have the best voice but it’s bang on for a track like this, and I think it stands out because of how desperate she makes the character sound while singing. Following ‘..Cold, Cold Night’ there are two more downbeat tracks in ‘I Want To Be The Boy To Warm Your Mother’s Heart’ and ‘You’ve Got Her In Your Pocket’, the latter being Jack White’s version of ‘..Cold, Cold Night’. These three tracks calm the album down after its rushed intro and sets you up for more blistering noise.

‘Little Acorns’ is a track worth going out and listening to right now. It opens with a little story of a desperate soul who finds hope through a squirrel and their nuts. Ahem, the song then kicks in and rips through 3 minutes of some pretty fucking awesome guitar work. “Take all your problems and rip them apart“. ‘The Air Near My Fingers’ and ‘Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine’ stick to the formula and bring us near the end of the record. ‘The Air Near My Fingers’ is catchy as hell yet simple, and ‘Girl, You Have No Faith In Medicine’ is a ripper that might remind you of ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’. This one is a mosh pits dream where you can also hear Jack White giving it full ‘Jack White’. The closing track is ‘Well It’s True That We Love One Another’ and this is a funny one. They had been playing the siblings card which fooled a lot of people and the song opens with “I love Jack White like a little brother”. I’m sure they were just having the craic but Jack White is also notorious for keeping his private life to himself. So I’m sure there was an element of mind your own business about it.

Elephant’ wasn’t the first White Stripes record I had bought. I was a fan of their other records but of course, this one does climb to the top of the pile. It’s a shame that they split but I have hope that they will tour again and I’m sure it would be a hell of a show. I’ve seen Jack White live before but I think a lot of people would have had the same feeling as I did, that it just wasn’t the same. Regardless, they made some great records and left behind a trail of music for other bands to catch up to. ‘Elephant’ leads the parade.

G.M

Photo Credit: Wikipedia