Saturday, 20 September 2008

Steel Pulse and The Cool Kids

Hello Mothers

I have just moved in to my new house, and I am currently posting whilst scrounging someone else's unprotected wireless connection. Rock and Roll. Anyway, been on a mini spending spree lately, just some stuff to get me through the term. I am really enjoying 'Handsworth Revolution' by Steel Pulse at the moment. Steel Pulse, if you didn't know, where/are Britain's premier roots reggae band, and had a bit of a following within the British punk movement, John Lydon in particular was a fan. It's just great roots reggae, which is good to listen to in the sunshine. 'Ku Klux Klan' and the title track are probably my favourites at the moment, but I'd recommend just getting the record. 'Macka Splaff', the final track, has a kind of uptempo dub vibe about it, with the signature reverb splashed about all over the guitar.

I have also purchased 'The Bake Sale', the much talked about debut release from The Cool Kids on Cake Records (XL). It's fun. It's pretty derivative hip hop from the golden era, leaning heavily on artists like Eric B and Rakim, but there's nothing wrong with that. The beats and production are pretty minimal, especially on the first half of the record. 'What It Is' features a very 90's beat with a quicker tempo. Imagine a schmooth Public Enemy making a party record with Pharell.

I still can't stop listening to The Beach Boys either. They dick on the Beatles. 'Heroes and Villains' off 'Smiley Smile' is such a perfect song, and how many of those do they have? Anyway, I don't think I need to recommend The Beach Boys to anyone, but if you don't listen to them that much, what is wrong with you? Probably the second best pop recording artist ever, behind the untouchable Stevie Wonder.

Currently listening to that Cool Kids album.

Sonic Sam

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Elbow and the Mercury Prize

So the annual Mercury Prize was awarded to Elbow last night, which was a slight outsider, but couldn't have gone to a nicer bunch of people. Apparently a lot of smart money from the industry was on Elbow. Although I don't think Elbow are that special a band, they do come across as genuinely lovely blokes with whom it would be nice to share a pint with. The Seldom Seen Kid, an album which I don't own, and haven't heard, except the rather good singles, seems like a culmination of everything they've been trying to achieve since the opening bars of 'Any Day Now' on debut 'Asleep in the Back'.
The Mercury itself is a strange institution. An award ceremony all about the music, but picked by a selected panel of judges. No public input. It's one of those totally elitist things that has become rather predictable in the music world. The nominees this year was fairly predictable, with innovative albums (Radiohead, Burial) mixed with up and coming indie acts (Laura Marling, The Last Shadow Puppets), old timers (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) and something from the folk and Jazz worlds (Rachel Unthank and Portico Quartet respectively). A lot of really good albums seemed to have been overlooked this year though, mainly M.I.A but there are others that should have perhaps been included. Much as I love the Plant and Krauss album, I don't really see it as anything spectacular. It's just a very satisfying listen. Where is the nod to the Fall? They have really hit a good run of form of late, and the last three albums have all been worthy of a nod. Wouldn't that be great? Let's get Mark E. Smith a Mercury Prize.

Anyway Mothers, here is Elbow doing 'One Day Like This' at Glastonbury this year.

Currently listening to Hip Hop. Roots Manuva right now, but had a lot on shuffle. I recently bought 'Fear of Music', Gary Mulholland's music book, and his enthusiasm for hip-hop is infectious. My shopping list has grown.

Sonic Sam

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Monkey - Journey To The West

Much has been written about the album 'Journey to the West' by Monkey (Damon Albarn et. al) so I won't bother with a full review. However, I will say that I really like it. The mix of ancient Chinese music and modern electronica works surprisingly well, and on the whole it hangs together as an album pretty well. Obviously at some points it is very soundtracky and therefore there are obvious highlights and lowlights, but it's a solid, interesting record. Anyway, here is album opener 'Monkey's World', which sets the musical scene for the album. Enjoy

Sonic Sam

30,000 Wet Freaks Under the Mud...

... and the occasional bout of absolute sonic perfection.
Bestival 2008 will sit in my memory as a wet and muddy one. Torrential mud and rain on a Glastonbury 2007 scale. But enough about the mud, it's been reported everywhere, so let's talk about music. Thanks to Rob Da Bank, Bestival always boasts a fucking solid line up, that ranges from latest big thing indie (Foals are in this category, even though they're pretty weak) to absolute legends (Lee 'Scratch' Perry, The Specials) and cult heroes (Grace Jones) as well as a lengthy an eclectic mix of dance DJ's and acts, that range from legendary to cutting edge.
On Friday, organisers seemed to be surprised that we were suffering a torrential downpour, and managed to delay the start of the main stage to 3.45, which was pretty shit if you wanted to see Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong. I didn't. Emphatically. So I didn't mind that, but got very worried that the following band might be cancelled, the "semi-legendary" Wedding Present. Luckily for me, the band kicked off right on time, just. The band opened with one of the best indie singles ever, the mighty 'Kennedy', but seemed to be suffering from bad sound. Somehow, one of the most energising songs about apple pie ever recorder seemed slightly lacklustre. Still, a very enjoyable set, which included 'My Favourite Dress', and some things of the new album 'El Rey' which I am yet to hear.
I then didn't really see anyone until the truly legendary My Bloody Valentine. Trying to put into words the awe, amazement and sheer joy with which I devoured the set from one of the best bands ever is a nigh on impossible task. Valentine opened the show with the mind melting combo of 'I Only Said' followed by 'When You Sleep' taken from their stonewall, dead cert classic 'Loveless' which set the precedent for the entire show. I can only imagine you all already own 'Loveless,' so imagine the wall of sound on the album, amplified so much that it filled every single centimetre of space around you. 'Only Shallow' was so loud and powerful that I felt like climbing into the sound wave. Standing as close to the speakers as you can get, I felt the physical force of the music hit me. It's impossible to describe. I wished 'Soon' could have gone on forever, even though it was already extended. Set closer 'You Made Me Realise' including the 15 minutes of White Noise, known amongst band and fans alike as 'the Holocaust section' was an absolute joy. The song itself was loud, pacey and powerful, like it should be. And as for the white noise, I could not stop smiling. You don't just hear the sound, you feel it. It is mesmerising. The show was absolute sonic perfection.
I can't imagine a better contrast to the perfection of My Bloody Valentine than watching the Human League performing the entirety of their classic 1981 album 'Dare!' in a giant Big Top on a rainy Saturday Afternoon, and this is exactly what I got. Phil Oakey has lost the weirdest haircut possibly ever and is now nearly bald but can still sing and the girls are now middle aged ladies, but other than that, it was great. The great thing about bands performing their classic albums, is that everyone knows all the words. Well, most people know all the words. My point is that the band don't indulge themselves by playing new songs that no-one particularly wants to hear at a festival. Set closer 'Don't You Want Me?' was one of the highlights of the festival, and possible the loudest singalong I have ever heard. I think. Anyway, really good art-pop fun. Following the Human League and continuing the eclectic-ness of my chosen acts, was the supreme cockney duo of Chas & Dave, who orchestrated a true cockney knees up, which included classics 'Rabbit', 'Snooker Loopy' and an even faster than usual 'Sideboard Song' which saw the guys singing so fast my ears couldn't keep up.
I then headed off to the main stage, on a bit of a whim to see who the special guests were, and it turned out to be the truly legendary Specials, albeit minus Jerry Dammers, and therefore being billed as Terry Hall and Friends. The set was made up entirely of Specials material including set opener 'Gangsters', 'Concrete Jungle, 'A Message to You Rudy', 'Blank Expression', 'It Doesn't Make It Alright', 'Do the Dog', 'Nite Klub' and 'Rat Race'. Phew. What a set of songs to be able to call your own. Everyone managed to forget the heavens had opened and skanked around like it was 1979. And how on earth do you follow the Specials? With none other than Grace Jones. Grace Jones is like a funky Kate Bush, or an 80's Bjork, or she's just Grace Jones. A totally original pop star who combines era-defining pop music, with an era defining image. She was a walking piece of art, whose record labels, photographs and music videos (check out the promo for 'Slave to the Rhythm', as it's my contender for best video ever) helped turn her into an icon. Her set at Bestival was short, but included classics 'Niteclubbing' her sassy Iggy Pop cover, 'My Jamaican Guy', 'Pull Up the Bumper' and the aforementioned 'Slave to the Rhythm'.
I then watched Hot Chip from absolutely miles away, so didn't really pay them much attention before running off to watch the absolute legend that is Lee 'Scratch' Perry doing spacious dub reggae for a little under an hour. I then went to watch the much hyped but massively disappointing laptop set from Richard D. James aka. Aphex Twin. What promised to be an exciting blend of cutting edge electronica ending up being a four on the floor standard DJ set with better lights. I didn't make it to an hour. A huge disappointment, and I know a lot of others felt the same.
Racing onto Sunday, before you all get bored with my musings on Aphex and My Bloody Valentine, I wasn't expecting that much from the day. However, it turned out to be thoroughly enjoyable. I watched a hit packed set from The Coral (again) who never fail to deliver. 'Pass It On, 'Bill McKai', 'Calenders and Clocks' and 'Wildfire' all featured, as well as indie anthem closer 'Dreaming of You'. Then came the only thing I'd really been looking forward to on Sunday, the almighty George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. 2 hours of solid grooving to psychedelic extended funk jams from the funky dog himself. Exactly what the doctor ordered after a very rainy weekend. I then watched Underworld, who surprised me with how much I enjoyed their set. Highlights for me were 'King of Snake' and 'Born Slippy' which is a bit predictable, but it was good to watch.
So musically, as ever, Bestival was a real treat. The organisation was lacking in some common sense departments this year, but they obviously couldn't help the shit weather.

Currently listening to Solid Gold by Gang of Four

Sonic Sam

Upcoming News

Hello Mothers
First of all, apologies for the delays in posting during August. I was away for a lot of the time in Peru, and various things have happened since I have been back that have prevented me from posting.
Right then, upcoming posts. I saw the Warlocks at the end of August, but can't really be bothered to review them. They were good. Very sweaty show that included almost all of 'Phoenix', their career peak, except for 'Red Rooster' and 'Oh Shadie', which was excellent. It just slightly depressed me that such a good show was dominated by an album they released seven years ago. Speaking to JC, one of three guitarists, afterwards, he said they'd had some technical problems with the venue (no monitors) and nearly pulled the show. I am glad they didn't.
However, there will be a review of Bestival by me, which was wet, but musically very good. There will also be a review of Offset Festival, well Gang of Four and Wire at least, by Ali, who is going to start helping me out with this blog very soon. There also possibly will be a review of the Green Man Festival by John, if he ever gets round to it! I have also added video links to some songs from the Lips, way back at Lovebox. Enjoy.
Anyway, turn and face the strange.

Sonic Sam