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My memories of Kings Of Leon vary from the grand spankingly brilliant, with me and my Dad driving round our island paradise of Guernsey, screeching at the top of our lungs, that we were CHARMERS, until our voices were as broken as a goat (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ggP2_5kPZts).
Then came the ominous cloud of ‘Only by the Night’, and the band that was OUR (and every other music critic) band, became every Tom, Dick and Harry’s band. They were thrust onto the Radio 1 A-list and you couldn’t go into a nightclub without hearing some garishly mixed ‘Sex on Fire’ megamix. KOL were no longer that cool band, adored by musos in the UK. They became a dirty word. Then came Reading 2009, a moment where I thought the Followills would cast off the shackles of stardom and flourish.
Instead, they pulled a naughty boy tantrum and stropped off, throwing their toys (and guitar, ouch) well out of the pram and into the onlooking crowd. The follow-up to their 2009 behemoth, ‘Come Around Sundown’ was as underwhelming as underwhelm-ment goes. Their attempt to return to the roots of their early success saw them drop to the dreary depths of a song about returning home, ‘Back Down South’. It smacked of desperation.
So imagine my joy when my ears were welcomed to the sound of a “supersoaker, red white and blew ‘em all away”. They ere back, they’re firing on all cylinders and there’s hope. Album ‘Mechanical Bull’ is set for release soon and in ‘Supersoaker’, they don’t have an automatic chart marauder, but instead they have returned to their routes, with a genuine sense of sincerity. It may not be the wanton disregard of ‘Four Kicks’, but it’s certainly a sign of brighter prospects for any Kings of Leon purists, who had long since abandoned the church of Followill.
The ‘Supersoaker’ single from Kings of Leon is out now; stream the song below. Their next album ‘Mechanical Bull’ is out on the 23rd of September.
The Vaccines have rejoined us, mid-July with new track ‘Melody Calling’, designed to tempt listeners away from bubbly summertime pop for some late summer heat. Easy to listen to, the foursome fills up the perfectly sized 3 minutes with simple, repeated lyrics and a tiny bit of trademark crunchy guitar. With a melody that is indeed catchy, the sound is a touch more grown up than the lad rock they are so well known for. Perhaps the change to big-time LA producers John Hill and Rich Costey has prompted this advance?
Although their last album ‘Come of Age’ arrived just 10 months ago, this is the title track from a new EP out in a couple week’s time, acting also as a summertime tease to whet our appetites for what’s to come and perhaps temper expectations from ardent fans. But if this new sound heralds a change for the Vaccines, I will be on board. I was not as big a fan of their previous ‘Post Break-Up Sex’-kind of songs. The music has more depth and sophistication to it despite the lackluster repetition in the lyrics. It could bode well for Justin Young and company. But I will reserve judgment until I hear more.
The ‘Melody Calling’ EP from the Vaccines will be out on the 12th of August. Stream the track in the Soundcloud widget below.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 25th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
Words by Jordy Fujiwara
It’s been more than three years since the album ‘Contra’ was released, so it’s understandable that Vampire Weekend would look to build some considerable hype for the upcoming ‘Modern Vampires of the City’ album, due out the 13th of May on XL Recordings.
In addition to a partnership with VEVO, YouTube, American Express and, serendipitously enough, actor Steve Buscemi, the band has circulated two very interesting songs online. ‘Diane Young’ and ‘Step’ were uploaded to YouTube on the same day, enjoying almost exactly the same amount of views to date – about 1.4 million each. Both tracks are excellent in their own right, but what I find the most intriguing is how they are such polar opposites in many respects. So much so that I can’t help but assume the boys chose to preview these two for a reason. The videos are down below, but let’s talk about them first.
‘Diane Young’ is a very punchy, driving song that dives right in and doesn’t really slow down. It’s loud and unapologetic with interjecting ‘Miserlou’-style riffs and a thrashy-crashy reverb-laden percussion. ‘Step’ on the other hand has patient pace. The keys and a calm bass lead the melody. The song feels like it unfurls musically, as the octaves build soothingly through Ezra Koenig’s passionate delivery.
Lyrically, I feel like ‘Diane Young’ is much more straightforward (well, for Vampire Weekend at least). The verses are nice, structured AABBs. The bridge and hook are simple and catchy (“baby baby baby!”); you can get into this song without having to really grasp the depth of the story itself. That said, it is interesting to interpret Diane Young as “dying young” and explore the hints in the words that speak to death and living in or for the moment.
‘Step’ takes a different approach. It is a very rich, lyrical song, chalk full of references, little allegories and clever phrasings like, “I just ignored all the details of a past life / stale conversation deserves but a butter knife”. The verses are much less structured than ‘Diane Young’, flowing more like poetry and relying on Koenig’s timing and meter to complement the music. Each line reads like a profound revelation, and you find yourself really trying to figure out what it might mean – for yourself, for life, for love… in other words this song makes you think. (If you want to really tear apart the lyrical meanings for either song, I suggest you head over to rapgenius.com and search for these tracks there – folks have put a lot of time and energy going through them both almost line by line.)
Finally, the videos. If the little analysis above doesn’t cement the idea that these two pieces aren’t just different, but almost diametrically opposed, then the videos will. ‘Diane Young’ is shot in rich colour – ‘Step’ is black and white. ‘Diane…’ barely cuts at all; it just recycles the same few seconds of slow-mo video; ‘Step’ cuts at practically every measure and is shot at regular speed. The video for ‘Diane Young’ is blatantly tied to the first line (“you torched a Saab like a pile of leaves”)’ ‘Step’s use of everyday scenes from New York is clearly not as overt, though the city is mentioned in the song and, of course, the band is from NYC. And glaringly, ‘Diane Young’ is not a lyrics video, where Step seems like it was almost built with karaoke in mind, which speaks to which song was felt to have more lyrical presence.
With all that in mind, have a look for yourself at the video below if you haven’t already. Can you spot any more differences? Together, they’re billed as a double A- single, and I think they make a lovely, complementary pair. If they represent two ends of the range of songs we’re to expect with ‘Modern Vampires of the City’, it’ll be a triumph of an album for these young and burgeoning artists.
Liam Gallagher’s post-Oasis band Beady Eye are back in the ring in 2013 with a pugilistic new single, ‘Flick of the Finger’. In his typically blunt and defiant fashion, Gallagher comes out swinging with the opening line, “woke up this morning / I was laid out flat on the dark side”.
As might be expected, the forward-charging rhythm section and the guitar melody give the song a definite Oasis-type sound. Unlike Oasis (with older brother Noel at the songwriting helm), the vocal melody here is stubbornly repetitive, with no proper chorus or bridge to break up the monotony. This combined with Liam Gallagher’s overly nasal singing and the strident brass in the instrumental arrangement creates an effect very much like fingernails on a chalkboard.
The song ends somewhat weirdly, with a spoken section referring to some vaguely imagined proletariat rebellion. This section contains the title reference, about government scientists creating weapons that “can, with the flick of a finger, tear a million of you to pieces”.
Never one to pull a punch, Gallagher has written a song full of swagger and braggadocio, but without any particular sting or power. His approach is somewhat heavier-handed here than on their debut album ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’, which may be an indication of the musical direction Beady Eye intends to take in the future.
‘Flick of the Finger’ is the first preview of Beady Eye’s second studio album, currently operating under the working title of BE 06.2013. It is presumably due out in June.
Irish art rockers Bell X1 have just released a Soundcloud stream of ‘Careful What You Wish For’, which will feature on their upcoming album ‘Chop Chop’. The full album, recorded in Connecticut earlier this year, isn’t scheduled for release until June, but Bell X1 did perform a few of the new songs on their acoustic tour of Europe and America last autumn. ‘Careful What You Wish For’ was among those performed live, and Bell X1 haven’t strayed far from the acoustic version in their recording for the album.
The studio arrangement includes a string section and some electronic bits and bobs not present in the live version, but the distinctive piano melody, played deftly by David Geraghty, is wisely left unchanged. Paul Noonan stretches to the edges of his vocal range, and while his falsetto isn’t pitch perfect, the lower part of his voice is always easy enough on the ears to take the sting out of the words he sings. These lyrics, presumably also by Noonan, are as pointedly perceptive as ever, cutting to the quick with lines like, “these bulbs are the fluorescent kind / no-one looks good in this light”.
‘Careful What You Wish For’ is the second Soundcloud stream released by the band in advance of ‘Chop Chop’, which will be released on the 28th of June in Ireland. The band will premiere the LP live at the National Concert Hall in Dublin the following night, on Saturday the 29th of June, playing it in its entirety, before performing some songs from their back catalogue. The first song from the album available by stream, an ethereally beautiful track called ‘Starlings Over Brighton Pier’, subsequently included a breathtaking video, which we’ve embedded below as well for both your viewing and listening pleasure.
Since January 2010, ‘The Octopus’ has been dormant. After Amplifier’s attempts to create mass hysteria around the record had died down, ‘The Octopus’ lay sleeping… resting…latent.
For those unfamiliar with ‘The Octopus’, it was the name of Amplifier’s third studio album. An album lasting just over 2 hours and if you were lucky enough to have it (I was) accompanied by a 70-page ‘opus’. As far as prog rock sagas go, beating ‘The Octopus’ is going to be a challenge no Mars Volta or Fiery Furnaces will take lightly.
It seems timely, then, that at a time when prog rock seems to be going through the doldrums, that Amplifier return with their fourth record, ‘Echo Street’, scheduled to be released next Monday (11 March). First single ‘Matmos’ is probably the best way to get yourself stuck into Amplifier as a beginner to their sound. As make no mistake, the kind of rock operas that this band produce are absolute marmite rock at its best. If it’s your thing, you’ll hang on every chord, whilst if you abhor warbling solos and songs less than 5 minutes long then this kind of stuff will hit your eardrums like a baby crying.
‘Matmos’, available a free download from their record label’s Bandcamp here, as I mentioned is a fantastic marker for what the Manchester-based band are about. Sel Balamir’s provide the beginning to the wave of harmony and “nah nah nah nah nahs” that undercut the song, and his voice stays as haunting as it ever has been throughout ‘The Octopus’, 2006’s ‘Insider ‘and 2004 debut ‘Amplifier’.
Take note purveyors of prog; If you want to whet appetites, this is how…
‘Echo Street’, the fourth album from Manchester’s Amplifier, will be released on the 11th of March on Kscope and can be preordered here. The album is available on CD, double vinyl and as a limited edition, deluxe two-disc set. The deluxe edition is packaged in a 60 page-hardback book and also features the new ‘Sunriders’ EP an additional record of new tunes, exclusive to this release. Catch them on tour on the dates below the video for ‘Matmos’.
Saturday 16th March 2013 – Preston 53 Degrees
Sunday 17th March 2013 – Bristol Fleece
Monday 18th March 2013 – York Duchess
Tuesday 19th March 2013 – Glasgow King Tut’s
Wednesday 20th March 2013 – Nottingham Rock City
Thursday 21st March 2013 – London Garage
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