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Album Review: Little Comets – Life is Elsewhere

 
By on Monday, 15th October 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

The difficult second album is a cliché used so often in music journalism, I feel almost a little bit naughty/sweaty (delete as appropriate) using it, but for Little Comets and their ‘Life is Elsewhere’, they were always going to have a tough time. Even if they are managed by the legend that is Ugo Ehiogu’s record label.

After the Tyneside indie rock trio hammered down their sound in debut ‘In Search of Elusive Little Comets’, the follow-up was always going to be a case of “Oh, we’re going to run off in a completely juxtaposition direction and play with an orchestra / full country ensemble” or a ‘right, we’ve got a good little thing going on here, let’s carry on with that but just do it a hell of a lot better”. Luckily, it’s the latter route they went down and in doing so, they have managed to create a polished collection of some truly brilliant tunes, dripping with unorthodox song structures and sexy rhythms.

Starting with a burst of cheery poppiness with ‘A Little Opus,’ you’re treated to a burst of sound which wouldn’t sound to out of place on an ’80s sitcom starring Bill Cosby. You get a bit more of that cheeky, cheeriness at the opening of ‘Jennifer’ also, with even a bit of classic dooby-dooby doing. If you’re already sick of cheery, light heartedness and are just dying for something dark and depressing, well, you’re out of luck. Its smiles all the way on the good ship Little Comets.

Ok, so ‘Violence Out Tonight’ doesn’t sound like a massively cheery number, but by song seven, I challenge you to not have a smile on your face because of these boys, despite the song’s rather grim and brutal subject matter. There is also some darkness to them in songs like ‘Waiting in the Shadows of the Dead of Night’ and the rather ‘In Blue Music We Trust’, but the jaunty melodies and bursting percussion more than make up for it with some great samba styling.

The song structure can be described as nothing less than bonkers. The band consisting of Robert Coles on vocals, Michael Coles on guitar, Matt Hall on bass and Greenie on drums seem to have had a look at the big book of the conventions of music and just thought, “nah, not interested”. While ‘Woman Woman’ does replicate some traditional rhythms, even then they throw convention out the window and just go, sod it. No percussion.

The album is a creature which works best when listened to all together, but standout moments can’t go much further than ‘Worry’. With its funky as hell guitars and softly spoken lyrics, it has a surf pop feel without being overdone and sounding like The Beach Boys. Robert Coles’ voice is another strength that has been built on since the last album. It felt like he wasn’t really too well-suited to the style in their first effort; however, now with their style being developed and honed to the perfection on this album, his voice seems to have found its level and even the lyrical content seems more suited to the Tynesider’s vocal range.

Little Comets, in creating ‘Life is Elsewhere’, have transcended the middle of the road indie band tag they gained with their debut release ‘In Search of Elusive Little Comets’ and it seems in their sophomore outing they truly have found what the ‘elusive’ Little Comets are. A band on the rise who are making some fabulous pop music, have a listen, or watch a guy jump from 125,000 feet. It’s your choice…

8/10

‘Life is Elsewhere’, the second album from Little Comets, is out now on Dirty Hit. Watch the video for ‘Worry’ below.

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Album Review: Plastician – Start, Select, Reset EP

 
By on Wednesday, 10th October 2012 at 1:00 pm
 

Dubstep and heavy electronic music has always been as familiar to me as a decent performance onscreen is to Daniel Radcliffe. It’s just not my scene. But it isn’t going away and if I don’t embrace it, well, I should be prepared to be left behind. Plastician is definitely a good place to start in my adventure into the realms of the wob wob wobby. He’s a world famous producer with his own show on Rinse.FM, one of the pioneering dubstep radio stations, and has been working in the industry for over a decade.

The ‘Start, Select, Reset’ EP starts as it means to go on, with a pacey track littered with spittings from London MC Doctor, while an infectious beat plays rapidly underneath. The rapid fire drums work a decent rhythm and create a palpable reggae kind of style which the song thrives on. ‘Retro’ is an instrumental version of the first track ‘Bad Like Us’ (the latter can be streamed at the bottom of this review). Both tracks have a very old school grime-y feeling to them, which in this age of retro hipsterism can only count in the legendary Plastician’s favour.

Doctor returns for the finale of the EP ‘Rebel Music’, where proceedings are slowed down slightly with a more r&b beat playing in the background. The focus is definitely on MC Doctor’s impressive lyrical stylings; however, after the breakneck pace of the rest of the EP, it’s a bit disappointing that everything seems to slow down at the EP’s crescendo. I expected a mash-up of experimental beats hitting me at speed. What I got was a rather mundane, drip drab of a finish in the form of both ‘Rebel Music’ tracks.

The middle of the album devotes itself more to Plastician’s grimier side, with a lot of mysteriously, minimalistic beats playing on track ‘Elixir.’ The percussion around the foreground of the music kind of kicks into life like an dying man’s heartbeat, while the infrequent changes of pace only serve to befuddle and confuse me. Sorry dubstep, I don’t think you’re winning this metal head over.

Sadly, while starting well the breakneck pace that graced ‘Bad Like Us’ don’t continue and while every artist is entitled to change the pace all they want, I feel here that it just doesn’t work particularly well as a record. I found myself awash with excitement for the first 10 minutes and then flush with disappointment at the end. Still, the production is sound, and obviously Plastician is an extremely talented artist. I just feel, well… if you’re in the mood for dubstep, try Skrillex. There, I said it.

6/10

Plastician’s EP ‘Start, Select, Reset’ is out on Trouble and Bass now. Listen to ‘Bad Like Us’, featuring MC Doctor, below.

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Album Review: Dog is Dead – All Our Favourite Stories

 
By on Monday, 8th October 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

When you’re one of the top breed of ‘new summer bands’, playing the kind of sound perfect in June but not so much in December, It can prove complicated to release your album in the autumn. So when Dog is Dead announced that their debut record would be released in October, a few heads turned. And rightly so. With baited and slightly colder breath than anticipated, what does ‘All Our Favourite Stories’ have to offer?

For starters, it’s got ‘Get Low’. It’s got more funk in its saxophone and bass lines than you can shake your jazzy stick at and its build welcomes listeners into ‘All Our Favourite Stories’ in fine style. From here on in, it’s ambitious indie-pop from the Nottingham group as almost every track from the record stands on its own feet as a single. And half of them already have been exactly that: ‘Glockenspiel Song’, ‘Talk Through the Night’ and ‘Two Devils’ stand out instantly. The highlight of the record, however, is nestled neatly in at track three. ‘Teenage Daughter’ builds with the characteristics of an indie ballad and then breaks out into something that sounds like it’s taken influence from the biggest of Bowie tracks with added chorus harmonies and the closing vocal lines not too dissimilar to Los Campesinos! You start to wonder if Dog is Dead could be the real deal.

Sadly, whilst ‘All Our Favourite Stories’ will have festivals nationwide practically spawning grass in the cold to try accommodate the five-piece on their land, the summer is over and with it goes the kind of atmosphere that makes Dog is Dead’s dangerously overly shiny, heavy reverb and massive sounding re-recorded versions of 2010 and 2011 yearbook tracks a big deal. While listening to the likes of ‘Do The Right Thing’ and ‘Hands Down’ isn’t a tedious task, it’s made to seem more interesting when you’re dancing to them and singing out of tune; away from that, it just sounds average. That’s the problem with this album. So many times it borders on greatness but only a few times (‘Teenage Daughter’, ‘Two Devils’ and ‘Glockenspiel Song’) does it actually achieve it. Let’s not even talk about those last three tracks. So close, yet so far.

6.5/10

‘All Our Favourite Stories’, the debut album from Nottingham band Dog is Dead, is out now on Atlantic.

 

Album Review: The Script – #3

 
By on Wednesday, 3rd October 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

The Script’s lead singer and keyboardist Danny O’Donoghue has been in the public eye, in his very high-profile position as one of the guest judges on The Voice. After the last Voice season wrapped, O’Donoghue got together with guitarist Mark Sheehan and drummer Glen Power to write and record their third album, unimaginatively titled ‘#3”. Or maybe that’s not lack of imagination and instead an attempt to be more relatable?

Either way, they didn’t have to worry about sales; the album already hit #1 in Ireland and #2 in the UK, bolstered no doubt by their legion of fans. As a fan myself, I wanted to see what parts of this album could be appealing to people who might never pick up a Script album. So this review will seek to explore those parts…and the parts that conversely might turn someone off.

Having played for many years in my childhood, the clearness of the piano notes was the first thing I really loved about this album. Many people will have heard this already via ‘Hall of Fame’, the first single released from the album and also the band’s first #1 in the UK. It’s also the most high profile of the songs, with a collaboration with Black Eye Peas’ will.i.am. What’s kind of strange about his collaboration is it’s really unnecessary when it comes to the Script. When Keane decided to work with K’Naan for ‘Stop for a Minute’, it was unique because that was Keane’s first foray into r&b; O’Donoghue and Sheehan have been doing r&b long before the Script’s debut album. . (‘Broken Arrow’ on this very album shows Sheehan’s own great ability with delivering rap lines, and in a fashion that I’d venture would appeal to Example’s fans.) But we can just guess that ‘Hall of Fame’ happened during the downtime of The Voice. It’s just that will.i.am’s contributions, including half-hearted “yeahs” during the second chorus, are too phoned in to make the track really compelling.

The direct opposite would be ‘Six Degrees of Separation’, which is not a track waxing philosophical about Facebook and Google +, but instead a song about – no surprise here – a break-up. (In case you didn’t know, the Script are best known for their songs about relationships gone awry, such as ‘The Man That Can’t Be Moved’ and ‘Nothing’.) The crisp notes of piano are present again, and in the same vein of their biggest break-up hit ‘Breakeven’, it concludes that a broken heart is just that. Broken. I also noticed that the chorus bass line of the two songs are the same. Coincidence? Not sure, but ‘Six Degrees…’ is a good song, even if its too complex storyline won’t make it a classic like ‘Breakeven’.

Which brings me to ‘If You Could See Me Now’, a heartful open letter to O’Donoghue’s late father and Sheehan’s parents who passed away when he was 12. It is a heartstring-pulling and possibly sob-inducing number briefly touching on the two songwriters’ memories of their parents and how badly they wish they could be here now to witness their success. Sheehan has stated he doesn’t think they’ll ever play it live because he becomes too emotional thinking about it. “Take that rage / put it on a page / take the page to the stage / then blow the roof off the place“ are the most powerful words of the song and showcase the band’s strength in songwriting.

Unfortunately, this strength isn’t on show on the rest of the album. ‘Good Ol’ Days’, the opening number on the album, is a boozy singalong that is fun but unimpressive. ‘No Words’ is a passable but cheesy love song. ‘Give the Love Around’ is so filled with words, it’s ridiculous; it might have been passable as well if the melody went somewhere. O’Donoghue’s piano is commanding in ‘Glowing’, but the slight stalkerish bent is uncomfortable (“you’re trying to save me / from your past of your bad decisions / but my decision’s always gonna be / to follow you”) and the strange end of “we’ve got everything we own / in a cardboard box” leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And the album ends with the forgettable ‘Millionaires’. While there are some bright spots that will work wonderfully on radio, the listener is left wondering what might have been.

6.5/10

The Script’s third album, unimaginatively titled ‘#3′, is out now on Epic. Watch the video for ‘Hall of Fame’ featuring will.i.am below.

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Album Review: The Killers – Battle Born

 
By on Tuesday, 2nd October 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

“What are you made of?” roars Brandon Flowers as the Killers sing “flesh and bone!” in powerful unison. The guitar line bigger than a Las Vegas casino, the ambition flowing out like the hopeful punters hitting for the big time. It’s always been this way though for Flowers. His theatre of Killers isn’t so much second nature to him as pulsing through his blood; you almost expect him to bellow ‘Born to Run’ out of those powerful vocal chords of his.

Whilst theatre is entertaining however, the band have plenty of making up to do. Since the ‘Day and Age’ times at the turn of the decade; the least well received Killers record to date, an increasing amount of skeptics had begun to wonder if the days of noughties standout ‘Mr. Brightside’ would ever come back around as the band seemingly vanished and lead singer Brandon Flowers created a lackluster record of nearly-good tracks. The issue here though is just that. Bands change as their influences do, as the people they’re surrounded by bring different sounds to their musical palettes, as they grow up and adapt. In the Killers’ case, whilst their propensity for the stadium sound and their belief in a certain form of breed of American music all remains, they’ve lost that edge that made them an enjoyable. Everything that put them on the iPods of the masses has been lost to an ambition to be almost as dull as the Nevada desert whilst waving surrender at the American dream and everything Springsteen still plays with more heart than any beat of ‘Battle Born’ will ever exude.

Whilst it opens well, from there you can listen to the whole thing in one continuous stream of average monotony. The likes of ‘A Matter of Time’ have the kind of haunting power behind them that makes the Killers still feel like they could be an epic band. But from there, tracks such as ‘Deadlines and Commitments’ are borderline embarrassing in their monotony and even ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’, which would have had a huge pulsing line going through it, comes off as wet and deeply uninteresting.  

‘Battle Born’ then, is ‘Flamingo’ (Flowers’ solo record) meets the B-sides of ‘Sawdust’ to ‘Day and Age’ with none of the naive schadenfreude pop belters of ‘Hot Fuss’ and even less of the romantic yet powerful narrative of ‘Sam’s Town’. The Killers, then, seem doomed to have created two hugely successful and acclaimed records and at least two deeply average ones that, had it not been for their predecessors, almost no one would ever buy. That’s a shame, because the theatre of Flowers was always an entertaining one.

 3/10

‘Battle Born’, the fourth album from Las Vegas band the Killers, is out now on Mercury.

 

Album Review: Field Music – Field Music Play…

 
By on Monday, 1st October 2012 at 12:00 pm
 

Not satisfied with releasing one of the albums of the year, garnering a well-deserved Mercury Prize nod along the way, Field Music are treating their fans to a covers-only release. The sound is consistent with their original material, that is to say with a heavy ’70s influence, complete with thuddy bass, crashy drums, and plenty of harmony vocals. The material is admirably varied: the Syd Barrett obscurantism of ‘Terrapin’ is a brief shock of an opener, ‘Born Again Cretin’ introduces swathes of new fans to Soft Machine stalwart Robert Wyatt, and Pet Shop Boys’ ‘Heart’ is the first of two tracks direct from Wallsend Boys’ Club, sumptuously rearranged for live band and duly reverential lead vocal.

The beauty of a covers collection is two-fold: to hear a band you love perform others’ songs gives a deeper insight into their own talent for arrangements, their voices and instruments guided by another’s hand; to hear songs from another era which have been otherwise loved to death, resurrected by a contemporary outfit, is equally as rewarding.

Roxy Music’s ‘If There Is Something’ (stream below) segues nicely into Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’, which loses nothing of the original’s portentious dread – lovers of the song will find little new here, yet its beautiful production emphasises the 70s influence heard throughout the album. The Beatles’ spirit is invoked in ‘Don’t Pass Me By’, not one of the Fab Four’s greatest songs in terms of popularity, and the song most transformed by Field Music’s attentions – their re-imagining of non-linear, stop-start arrangements, and showcases their perfect evocation of 1968 studio technology. Wherever you are recording this stuff, guys – don’t move anywhere! The brief end coda, which belongs to another song, assures they’re not.

The penultimate piece is perhaps the most literal cover, but daresay still unknown to a considerable portion of the target audience. Despite John Cale’s recent fondness for audiences, his material is still relatively unheard outside those who have made the effort to seek him out firsthand; Field Music’s cover of ‘Fear is a Man’s Best Friend’ sounds more like a gentle tribute than a genuine reinvention: Cale is too shrewd for that, his recordings always sounding as if they’ve been made a couple of decades too soon.

Conversely and perversely, ‘Rent’ is a welcome re-imagining of the Pet Shop Boys’ classic. Shorn of the electronics, the yearning lyrical content shines all the more brightly, bolstered by a proper acoustic drum kit, electric guitars of various guises, and who knows who on backing vocals. A welcome update of a classic pop song bookends a fine collection.

If this was the only release by Field Music this year, it would be a notable event. As a throwaway companion piece to their own original material, it’s an unexpected treat. To those who dismiss them as prog rock revivalists, this will neither confirm nor deny those rumours. Yes, the band are prone to semitone chord changes, unexpected pauses, and four or five movements within their songs. A perceived anomaly: pop music has been doing more or less the same for several decades, as this collection amply proves. For a virgin listener, this is an accessible door through which to enter the Field Music world. For a long-term fan, this is a thoroughly decent stopgap, if one were needed; an insight into the Brewis’ rehearsal room guilty pleasures, whilst the protagonists leave South Tyneside for an attempt at world domination.

PS It’s surely a great sex soundtrack.

7.5/10

‘Field Music Play…’, a considered album of covers from Field Music, is out today on Memphis Industries.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest tours, gigs, and music we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like idiots.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington DC. She is joined by writers in the UK and America. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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