Music In Review
So, this post has been sparked by one of those facebook arguments that spiral out of control to 30-something comments. It was with a local ‘punk band’ from my area. To fill you in, one of the band members was caught trying to steal a kick pedal from the community centre where they practice and play (also a place where I work). In response to this, they posted on their facebook page that they needed somewhere to practice as they were ‘too punk’ for the community centre.
This got me thinking, as it is an attitude far too common nowadays. The young people ‘getting into’ this culture seem to have very skewed ideas of how they want to portray themselves, and in doing so they give a greater cause and culture a bad name.
Punk is a culture, involving music, fashion, social and political ideologies. Most notable beliefs among punks are anti-authoritarianism, anarchy, freedom of expression and non-conformity. All of these spheres are as important to me as the music and it frustrates me when they are not fully understood.
The main recipient of this ignorance is anarchy. Mainstream perception of anarchy is associated with an angry youth, taking to the streets to take down the monarchy through rioting and causing trouble. The recent London riots were a prime example of this. The violent protestors were labelled anarchists and many of them probably believed that they were. But they were not, the anarchists were organising the community clean-up operations seen over twitter.
Anarchy is simply a political concept whereby Government is removed. There are many schools of thought under this main principal, each with different solutions to various social problems and questions. The most common schools of thought within this are socio and communo-anarchism.
The focus of these teachings is that society will exist more fairly and function better in a situation where everyone is equal and no one is dictated over. There is heavy emphasis on the importance of communities working together to benefit the people. In fact, due to this thought, many anarchists (including myself) engage themselves in numerous charitable causes and projects within their communities.
So through this lens of thought, the London rioters were not anarchist; they lay waste to their own communities. And in the same way, the band I argued with were definitely not true punks for attempting to steal from a community centre.
So we have to ask ourselves, what is Punk? Of cause this is a vague term that can mean different things to many people. For me, it isn’t stealing from charities, smashing up the streets, or conforming to the mainstreamed images of a punk (Mohawk, crotch-restricting tartan jeans, chains etc.). Punk for me is being passionate about freedom of speech, supporting the community and actively getting your point across to people through peaceful, educated action. Education is critical; if you don’t know what you’re talking about then both you and your cause will suffer.
“I wake up in the morning, take big pharma lozenges,
Swallowing the juice of Israeli blood oranges.
Then I sit down and read the newspaper,
It tells me the enemy and lets me know the saviour.
This week’s flavour, aylum seekers.
As I lace up my blood stained sneakers,
I turn on the television, what have I got?
The war rages on and it’s only 8 o’clock.”
- The King Blues – Set the world on fire.
The King Blues are a 6 piece Punk band hailing from London. Influenced by punk rock and hardcore punk, they also incorporate violins, acoustics and an array of other instruments (including the almighty ukulele!!!!) to create a more folk and ska vibe. This fusion of styles helps to create a less aggressive, more easy listening style, whilst still containing strong and educated political messages. Lead singer Jonny ‘Itch’ Fox describes the music as ‘a mixture of reggae, hip hop, folk, doo wop and punk rock’.
The band are well known on the activism scene, maintaining a strong presence at protests all over the country, from the G20 protests to student fees demonstrations. They are often seen turning out at these events to perform acoustically, spreading their message through music. They hold strong anarchist beliefs in that everyone should be equal and that the governmental system does not work. This is a band that is working to better the country, and inspire a youth into questioning what they are told, and holding politicians accountable.
The band’s third studio album ‘Punk and Poetry’ was released earlier this year, and was received extremely well, reaching 31 in the Albums chart. It offers a strong reflection on social issues, as well as the politics. Frontman Itch described the third track ‘Set the world on fire’ as “not accepting that the convenience of modern life is necessarily a good thing, or honest way to live, but questioning it, and questioning how we’ve got to a point where in some places in the world, they’re making these things for us, and here we just use them and spending them freely”. They also take recent issues into account, with the punchy aggressive track ‘We are F******g Angry’ being inspired by the student protests of 2010/2011.
The King Blues are currently touring the UK, visiting many venues and festivals along the way. Their full tour date list can be found here: http://www.kingblues.com/shows. I will be attending the Swansea gig in Sin City, now moved to the 16th of September, and a review will follow shortly afterwards.
And here is their latest single for you:
WEEKLY ROUND-UP 17/6/11: Patrick Wolf, Liam Finn, LMFAO, Weird Al Yankovic
Patrick Wolf has long since divided opinion: a decidedly odd figure in a scene which isn’t exactly known for following the norm. This album, his fifth, is – in subject matter at least – by far his most conventional; it’s a collection of songs about love, inspired by Wolf’s own recent engagement.
So, gone are the dark, twisted songs like ‘The Childcatcher’ (from 2003’s Lycanthropy), replaced by plenty of yearning paeans to “breathless devotion” (‘Slow Motion’) and love which “makes a house a home” (‘House’, although personally I thought that was supposed to be Homebase).
The problem, you see, is that although Wolf’s getting musically better and better – he’s also replaced his affection for wailing violin passages with a new love, this time for soaring piano chords – this album is so po-faced that you can’t help but laugh at it. We’ve all got a friend who fell in love and stopped being any fun, and that’s exactly what Patrick Wolf has become.
‘Lupercalia’ is released on 20/6/11.
Fact of the day this week is that ‘FOMO’ apparently stands for ‘Fear of Missing Out’, rather than being the comedy mis-spelling of ‘mofo’ I’d feared. It also stands for ‘Friends of Mulanje Orphans’, ‘Former Mormon’ and ‘Fleet Operations and Maintenance Officer’, but Liam Finn’s second solo offering isn’t named after any of those – that would be silly.
And silly is one thing FOMO definitely isn’t; ‘sweet’ or ‘beautiful’, but not silly. It’s a collection of gentle, dreamy acoustic-tinged indie-pop that owes much to Liam’s musical progenitor Neil Finn (of Crowded House/Split Enz fame). Dad might not be the coolest influence to namecheck, but his musical sensibilities certainly work, although the best tracks – like album highlight ‘Real Late’ – are those where Liam’s piano-led musings are given free rein.
There’s no ‘Weather With You’ on this album, thank God, and FOMO is well worth your time. Try it – or risk missing out. And nobody likes missing out, right Liam?
‘FOMO’ is released on the 21/6/11
Put your hand up if you were expecting LMFAO’s second album, Sorry For Party Rocking, to be full of deep and meaningful singles, perhaps about whales or orphans.
No? Nobody? What a surprise.
Just looking at the tracklist of this offering from the Californian ‘party rockers’ reveals exactly what you’re in for: it features not only single ‘Party Rock Anthem’, but also songs entitled ‘Sexy and I Know It’, ‘Best Night’ and ‘We Came Here to Party’. There is the eponymous ‘Sorry For Party Rocking’, too, but honestly, readers – and keep this to yourselves, OK? – I don’t think that song constitutes a sincere apology.
So, listening to this album is exactly the sort of experience you’d expect. It’s a bit like how I’d imagine a night out with Charlie Sheen: it starts off absolutely brilliant, like all the fun you’d ever wanted, but half-way through you realise it’s already nine o’clock on Monday morning and Charlie’s just bought another set of cocaine-flavoured hookers and really all you want to do is just go to bed, please, and maybe drink some orange juice. But you can’t.
‘Sorry for Party Rocking’ is released on 21/6/11.
Like drawing comedy penises on other people’s things and saying ‘That’s what she said’, Weird Al is supposed to be mostly the province of nerdy twelve year old boys. His songs range between carefully-constructed parodies of popular singers (see ‘TMZ’, which takes on Taylor Swift’s ‘You Belong With Me’ to spoof not only the pop singer but also the terrible TV station) and the just-plain-ridiculous (‘Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me’).
And, like comedy penises and ‘That’s what she said’, it’s still funny. Weird Al has an ear for a rhyme that borders on the sublime (and he can have that one for free): ‘Skipper Dan’, the bathetic tale of a would-be actor, pairs “don’t bother trying to IMDB me” with “the only place you might possibly see me”.
That said, there’s nothing on this album with the sheer laugh-out-loud calibre of parts of his back catalogue – his best remains 1999’s Running With Scissors – and parts of it sound downright tired. But if you’re after a cheap laugh, it’s worth a listen – and if you don’t giggle at ‘Party in the CIA’, you are a stronger person than I.
‘Alpocalypse’ is released on the 21/6/11.
WEEKLY ROUND UP 10/6/11: Kaiser Chiefs, Emmy the Great, The Wonder Years, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Tellison
This week’s surprise release was the Kaiser Chiefs’ fourth long-player, sneaked out with very little publicity on Friday. The Leeds lads have come up with a new level of “user interaction” for this album, wherein downloaders choose their own set of ten tracks from the band’s twenty; they can then create the artwork for their album, and sell it on for a pound a shot. This is all well and good, and certainly the idea of making your own album – like a pick and mix – is quite exciting; but the downside is that whatever the finished product you end up with, it will inevitably lack coherency.
Sadly, that isn’t helped by the fact that at least ten of these songs sound like filler – arguably more like fifteen, three quarters of their output. For every ‘I Dare You’ – dark, with a Cure-esque bassline – there’s three or four like ‘Child of the Jago’ – starts out as vintage Kaiser Chiefs, turns utterly forgettable within a minute and a half.
Tell you what – download any ten of these songs, sell it on to a dozen mugs, and use the proceeds to download Tellison’s album instead. You won’t regret it.
Download ‘The Future is Medieval’ now at www.kaiserchiefs.com.
Emmy the Great is a girl with a voice like honey. She plays an acoustic guitar and sings songs about love (‘Cassandra’), loss (‘Paper Forest’), and, erm, dinosaur sex (‘Dinosaur Sex’).
Alright, so Emmy’s not quite your average singer-songwriter. There’s a touch of wicked playfulness to even her saddest songs – and equally, her happiest moments are tinged with loss and darkness.
This album, produced by Gareth Jones (Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode), has a more sweeping sound than its predecessor, 2009’s First Love: it has an epic feel that goes beyond the simple, acoustic anti-folk of Emmy’s early days – ‘A Woman, A Woman, A Century of Sleep’ is the perfect example, with its dark fairytale-esque piano, but listen on and you’ll find a whole range of styles nudging coyly up against each other.
Track by track, Virtue only gets better. From the haunting ‘Cassandra’ to the stand-out ‘Sylvia’, every song is beautifully layered and wonderfully sung. Her ex-bandmates Noah and the Whale went stratospheric two years ago with Peaceful The World Lays Me Down; if there’s any justice, this will be the year Emmy follows them.
‘Virtue’ is released on 13/6/11.
I’m an English student, otherwise known as ‘the sort of nerd who gets really excited when pop-punk bands reference Allen Ginsberg in album titles’. So already, The Wonder Years’ third album has made me pretty happy.
The Philadelphia-based band are always reliable: despite its Ginsberg-promising title (and another reference in lead single ‘Coffee Eyes’ – that’s two!), Suburbia… doesn’t really move on much from previous release The Upsides. Still, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.Their music might be fairly standard pop-punk fare (power chords, lyrics about being ‘a fucked up kid’), but it’s always enjoyable in a guilty-pleasure sort of way.
They’re a bit angrier than your average cartoon punks – think Blink 182 if they’d named their albums after Beat poets instead of toilet-based puns. ‘Local Man Ruins Everything’ has overtones of early Fall Out Boy – before they started believing their own propaganda – whilst ‘Coffee Eyes’ is reminiscent of The Used, circa In Love and Death.
Nothing very exciting or original, then – but a hell of a lot of good fun for those days when you want to feel fifteen again.
‘Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing’ is released on 13/6/11.
Sophie Ellis Bextor’s been in and out of the limelight since Lady Gaga was just a twinkle in Stefani Germanotta’s eye. Her latest album, Make A Scene, delivers another set of the electro-dance numbers you either love or hate.
But the world’s moved on since Miss Bextor’s debut album. Indeed, on opening track ‘Revolution’, she sings ‘it’s murder on the dancefloor!’ in what seems to be no more than a desperate attempt to remind us who she is. What wasn’t particularly innovative in 2007 now sounds downright outdated, in comparison to the exciting zeitgeist-sound harnessed by Gaga and her ilk.
No, if it’s danceable pop you’re looking for, there’s at least ten women out there doing it much better. Download Rihanna’s album instead, and leave Sophie Ellis Bextor to the Noughties where she belongs.
‘Make A Scene’ is released on 13/6/11.
Hammersmith-based Tellison are 2011’s answer to The Fratellis: scruffy, fractured, anthemic.
From opener ‘Get On’ onwards, they deliver an album packed full of danceable beats and chantable choruses. Seriousness is often – wrongly – confused with musical talent, and there’s few bands these days with the sheer good humour of Tellison: they recall Franz Ferdinand’s early vow to make ‘music for girls to dance to’. You can certainly dance to this, and sing along, and raise your glass – and you ought to do all three.
Unquestionable album highlight is ‘Rapture’, a song about, er, the Rapture. You wouldn’t think it would make a good subject for a song, least of all a Biffy-tinged romp like this one, but somehow Tellison pull it off – and that alone is worth the album price. Fab.
‘The Wages of Fear’ is released on 13/6/11.
Oh, Arctic Monkeys, how we wanted to adore you. It’s been five years since their debut LP, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, tapped into the national consciousness and won an armful of awards in the process. Since then, the Sheffield lads made good have released two more albums, both of which have received mixed reviews from critics.
Suck It And See – whilst a triumphant return to form – is less a return to the subject matter which so caught the imagination in 2006, and more a return to the kind of lyrical and musical innovation which made us take the Monkeys to our hearts. New single ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ is a particular highlight, sounding like Oasis might have sounded if they’d been less interested in behaving like rockstars and more interested in writing songs, whilst the eponymous ‘Suck It And See’ proves that Alex Turner is still capable of the brand of wickedly Northern charm that made us love him in the first place, rhyming “Your love is like a studded leather headlock” with “You’re rarer than a can of Dandelion and Burdock”.
Yes, Arctic Monkeys can still deliver the goods, and with this album they do so in abundance. If you’d written them off as another zeitgeist-baiting, bandwagon-hopping identikit indie band, prepare to eat your words – Suck It And See makes as much sense in 2011 as its predecessor did in 2006, and this year might just be their year (again).
Suck It and See is released on the 6/6/11.
The Baseballs’ 1950s rockabilly covers took England by storm last year; second album Strings ‘n’ Stripes delivers basically more of the same. The formula is fairly straightforward – take popular song, speed it up a bit, add harmonies and clicks as appropriate – and at times, such as on their version of Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi’, it does all seem a bit music-by-numbers.
That said, the album does have its high points – their cover of 50 Cent’s ‘Candy Shop’ is frankly inspired, as is their ‘I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman’ – and it’s always an enjoyable listen: they may be a one trick pony, but it’s a hell of a trick. Just don’t expect anything quite as exciting as their 2009 debut.
Strings’n'Stripes is released on the 6/6/11.
Released in a week when Arctic Monkeys are taking up most of the available column inches, Frank Turner’s England Keep My Bones risks going rather under the radar. And that would be a tragedy.
Turner’s become better and better with every album he’s released so far – a particular highlight was 2007’s Love, Ire and Song, but he’s been on the up and up ever since 2006′s Campfire Punkrock EP – and England Keep My Bones doesn’t buck the trend. Songs such as ‘I Still Believe’ have echoes of Billy Bragg at his 1980s best, and new single ‘Peggy Sang The Blues’ is even better, managing to combine acoustic musings with punk attitude without either suffering.
More than most, Frank Turner deserves to make it big this year: England Keep My Bones is his fourth solo album. Hopefully, it will be the one to garner him the recognition he deserves.
England Keep My Bones is released on the 7/6/11.
This year’s Mark Ronson-produced Black Lips long player is the group’s sixth album, but it still sounds as fresh as though it were their first. With Ronson at the helm, the melodious side of the Lips is all the more obvious, as first single ‘Go Out And Get It’ will attest. Their jangly garage sound might not be breaking any records for originality – ‘Modern Art’ is nothing so much as Elephant-era White Stripes, whilst ‘Dumpster Dive’ could almost be a Strokes b-side – but it’s still a solid representation of the genre. All in all, Arabia Mountain is worth your attention – it just won’t hold it for long.
Arabia Mountain is released on the 7/6/11.