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Single / Film Review: The Crookes – Dance in Colour

 
By on Wednesday, 24th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Editor’s note: this is long. I had planned to just review the song. But I couldn’t leave behind the film that goes with it. Just saying! If you really can’t be bothered, scroll down to the bottom and read the last paragraph before the rating…

Update: the band have posted the lyrics under the video on YouTube, so I’ve replaced mine with Daniel Hopewell’s. This affects the review slightly and I’ve added an addendum to address this.

Another week, and another Crookes single. This time, the band branched out beyond just a promo video and actually made a short film soundtracked by the actual song, ‘Dance in Colour’, the other A-side to ‘Bear’s Blood’ that premiered last week. (You can read my review and words on that here.) I had to take a slightly different approach to reviewing this one, now that I had two mediums to examine. I’ll say it up front now that I’m not a cinema buff; I’ve never found the medium of film as exciting as music. At first I thought, okay, this could go in an entirely pretentious direction with the subtitles and not make sense in the context of the song.

However fear not; the vignette’s script was also written by Daniel Hopewell, and I promise you, everything does come together, even if it feels weird initially when you’re queueing it up and you don’t see the band at all in this. (I believe this marks the first of their promos that they don’t actually star or clown around in.) After several listens, and then turning down the sound to read the words, there’s actually a striking sync between the song and the dialogue between the two actors.

You can read the dialogue while you watch the video, so I’m not going to transcribe that for you. After posting the original review, the band helpfully posted the lyrics under the description of the YouTube video, so below is Daniel’s (If you’re curious how I heard it, scroll down to the cut, as I’ve moved my impression of it there.)


You might smoke in black and white but you should always dance in colour.
Some dream of quiet love; I favour chaos.
I want a love like no other so let’s dance in colour.
I want life to sprawl, to twist with the rise and fall of cold hands shaking, of my own heart breaking.
‘Cos there’s no worse feeling than feeling nothing at all.
I’m empty and aching and so tired of just waiting.

He walks in whispers, draws a stranger’s gaze.
Why you always sleeping? It’s the middle of the day.
And they’re nothing, no they’re nothing like us.
Why you always running from the people that you love?

I want it to burn. I want it to effervesce until the district’s glowing.
I want it to hurt, to feel it in every breath.
I don’t care where I’m going…just that I’m going.

Now I can’t hide my smiling eyes.
Why can’t you be kind and just pretend that you miss me?
I’m weak and restless, young men are.
It was always staying still that made me dizzy.

He walks in whispers, draws a stranger’s gaze.
Why you always sleeping? It’s the middle of the day.
And they’re nothing, no they’re nothing like us.
Why you always running from the people that you love?

The start of this song is just…well, sad. The way George Waite sings it, along with the echoey effects on his voice and the one guitar playing, sounds ghostly. I almost don’t want to say it but actually sounded morbid to me. “I’m empty and aching / and so tired of just waiting.” is probably one of the most evocatively melancholy lines ever written in pop. This is followed by a chorus that is really confusing me, because I can’t tell if it’s from the point of view of someone other than the main character, who I’m making male for the sake of simplicity. In the chorus, one-half of a couple is somewhere like a bar or a club and looking at strangers, catching a stranger’s eye while the other half is at home, sleeping in the middle of the day and not with his/her better half. “Why are you always running from the people that you love?”: not all is happy in this relationship, it’s on the rocks.

And this all happens in the lyrics before the tempo picks up. The film also feels cold too; the woman, who could probably play Adele in a future biopic of the ‘Chasing Pavements’ star, is disparaging towards her dining companion, complaining that all he has is matches and not a real lighter (she says “how quaint” and we can’t see her eyes, though I suspect she would be rolling them), then later accusing “that sounds familiar…like it’s been said before”, as if he’s a terrible conversationalist. The man, an English version of Luke Wilson in a suit, is trying to hold his own, trying to bring up one topic after another, but keeps getting shot down because…well, the woman just isn’t that interested.

It’s really interesting that just like in ‘Bear’s Blood’, there’s subtext beyond the topic of ‘Dance in Colour’, which admittedly sounds like it could be the title to a song by any one of my favourite electronic dance bands. It sounded like such a un-Crookes title to me when I’d first heard the name. “Black and white” is used to show things that are total opposites: good vs. bad, truth vs. lies. In the context of the song, I also read it like the simpleton’s version of how a relationship works, and I’ll give you an example from my uni days. When my friends and I were in school, my friend Jenn insisted on trying Match.com to find the love of her life. (Me? I just couldn’t be bothered. At age 21 I’d decided biology was my life, I was going to spend the rest of it in a laboratory or behind a lectern preaching to undergraduates, alone, and that was it.) The most memorable of the men she dated were an economist who drove a Buick (who I decided was entirely too boring) and an anthropologist who rode a motorbike and had curly hair. One night she was saying she really liked this economist guy because he had a stable job, and she could see starting a life with him. I argued with her, saying that job stability of the person you date was a terrible measure of who you were compatible with. (I mean, what if one day he lost his job? There goes your dating theory…)

It was also obvious that she wasn’t wild about this man either, and I knew she’d said what she’d said because as Chinese girls, we’d been brought up to be ‘good’, do well in school, become doctors or engineers and find someone, preferably Chinese (ugh), with a respectable job. Because that’s just what you ‘do’. I remember exactly what I said to her: “don’t you want to *feel* something strong? And real? I could never be with someone I didn’t feel entirely attracted to. And I have to feel that inside.” She thought I was crazy, that I wanted a fantasy that never could happen. She thought a relationship was different: she thought it was all about getting all your ducks lined up in a row, with certain things happening, and most of all, the process was supposed to be simple and you had to put faith in that it would happen simply if you let it. Intriguingly, this is also the opinion of the woman in the film, who says to the man across from her, “…the best we can hope for is to love and be loved in return, it’s the same old story”. Pretty depressing if love is that clinical, eh?

But here’s the rub: the man insists with a smile, “you make it sound so simple…Some dream of quiet love, I favour chaos”. Which brings me back to the point of my story, and what feels like the point of ‘Dance in Colour’: for some people, relationships are black and white. You find someone, you feel good around each other, you get married, etc. Because that’s what society expects you to do. The voice of this song thinks this is rubbish; he wants to feel passionate about someone, burning from the inside out, even saying “I want to burn, I want it to effervesce”, feel something for a woman so deeply that everything around him is on fire. He wants the way he feels about her to make him catch his breath, to physically “hurt” him. (I found this line particularly apt for me; the few times in my life it’s happened, when I’ve fallen in love, I can feel my mouth doing the fish out of water thing, like I’m gasping for air. As a biologist by training, I chalk this up to a flight or fight response. But when I tell my girlfriends what’s happened, they look at me like I’m absolutely crazy because it doesn’t happen like that for them. Well, I guess I’m in the minority…) In the moment, he’s “glowing” from the romantic ardor he has for this woman. He’s feeling something! But he knows at some point he must leave: “I don’t care where I’m going…just that I’m going.”

I don’t want to forget the bridge: “Now I can’t hide my smiling eyes / why can’t you be quiet and just pretend that you miss me? / I’m weak and restless, young men are / it was always staying still that made me dizzy.” What does this mean? The woman in the film says she had to leave where she was from to travel around the world because “you know it was always staying still that made me dizzy”. Hmmm. The lovers in the song have been separated; with his “smiling eyes” that he “can’t hide”, he’s still thinking about when it was still good between them and when they were still together and wishes his lover felt the same way about that precious time they had together. But he’s also trying to apologise, saying he couldn’t stay in one place, that’s he’s a rolling stone. There’s a restlessness in the earlier line “I don’t care where I’m going…just that I’m going” that echoes the same sentiment in ‘Sal Paradise’ in ‘Hold Fast’: “You were for running away dear / strange ideals made it so very unclear how your heart feels.”

Of course, then there is the title. You know the phrase “it takes two to tango”? If Shakespeare was right and “all the world’s a stage”, then the way forward according to our protagonist is to “want a lover like no other” and to “dance in colour” with that person. And don’t force yourself to stay within the bounds of black and white. Don’t do what you’re told. Feel something. The song also says that relationships don’t always last forever. And that’s okay. We move on and grow, but remember the best parts of being with that person you loved.

Okay, so if I have entirely bored you out of your mind by the above, here is what you need to know: instrumentally, the song can’t be beat. The main guitar riff is entirely memorable and became implanted into my brain after the second listen. (In the part of my brain where Jimmy Page’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ solo resides.) And compared to, say, their first single ‘Backstreet Lovers’ that basically held the same tempo and feeling throughout, the way the first half is so different from the second is actually a pretty cool song structure to give more weight to the second half. What are the Crookes going to do next? Will they start their own production company and make films? I just hope they don’t stop making music.

Addendum: okay, so after reading the full lyrics just now, my impression that it’s about being restless has grown stronger. I sincerely love the lines, “I’m weak and restless, young men are /
it was always staying still that made me dizzy.” It’s an admission from the protagonist that he can’t help it, it’s in his nature to want to move on. If only all men were as honest. Something else interesting: scroll up two paragraphs and read the fourth to last sentence I wrote last night. “Feel something.” That I feel is the take home message.

8/10

The Crookes’ ‘Dance in Colour’, the other A-side to previously revealed single ‘Bear’s Blood’, will be released on 7″ and digital download on the 27th of May on Fierce Panda. The band will be headlining the Fierce Panda 19th birthday party at London Scala on Tuesday the 21st of May; tickets are on sale now and are £8 advance not including handling fees.

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What I heard initially when transcribing:
You might smoke in black and white
but you should always dance in colour,
dance in colour.
Some dream of quiet love,
I favour chaos.
I want a love like no other,
so let’s dance in colour.

I want life to [I have absolutely no idea what this line is!]
of cold hands shaking,
of my own heart breaking.
‘cos there’s no words
to make me feel nothing at all.
I’m empty aching,
and so tired of just waiting.

Looks and whispers draw a stranger’s gaze
Why are you always sleeping?
It’s the middle of the day.
And they’re nothing, no, they’re nothing like us.
Why are you always running from the people that you love?

I want to burn, I want it to effervesce
’til the district’s glowing, the district’s glowing
I want it to hurt, to feel it in every breath
I don’t care where I’m going, just that I’m glowing

Now I can’t hide my smiling eyes,
why can’t you be quiet and just pretend that you miss me?
I’m weak and restless, young, and all it was always staying still,
it made me dizzy.

Looks and whispers draw a stranger’s gaze
Why are you always sleeping?
It’s the middle of the day.
And they’re nothing, no, they’re nothing like us.
Why are you always running from the people that you love?

Why are you always running, love?

 

Album Review: Sweet Baboo – Ships

 
By on Tuesday, 23rd April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Sweet Baboo Ships coverOne of the greatest pitfalls as a music editor is the ongoing whinge that it will always be humanly impossible to check out every single band I’ve been recommended to check out by all my music business acquaintances. Sweet Baboo, aka the all too cute stage name of Welsh singer/songwriter Stephen Black, has been a longtime favourite of BBC 6music Marc Riley and I’ll be honest, just hearing the name of the act would send me into a fit of giggles.

Surely you can’t be serious, eh? I mean, come now. It conjures up images of Charlie Brown’s sister Sally chasing around her childhood sweetheart, the blanket-wielding Linus Van Pelt, in the annoying, sickly sweet way that only little kids can be in the state of one-way puppy love. But maybe that is exactly what Black was going for with the name, for his latest album ‘Ships’ could be best described as sweet, disarming, idiosyncratic pop. God willing I will be seeing the man at King Tut’s next month and I’m very excited about this, and I will tell you why.

This past weekend, Cheryl and some friends of ours went to go see the Joy Formidable, who, coincidentally enough, has their roots in Wales as well. One of the opening bands had a singer that sung in this high-pitched, baby-like voice that drove me bananas. I bring this up because Black, while you could argue he sings in a somewhat funny, sing-song way, and in an entirely different way than most male vocalists you are likely to encounter these days, it’s entirely endearing. This is achieved also in a way not unlike Camera Obscura, with lush layered instrumentation with many less usual suspects in pop, such as first single ‘Let’s Go Swimming Wild’, a lilting minor-chord organ number that opens its arms wide for the uplifting chorus.

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The only thing that could be said to be similar to other pop records is the underlying theme of love. But even then, Black takes an unconventional approach to waxing philosophical about the apple of his eye that, evidently, he’s lost. Morse code is hilariously tapped for ‘The Morse Code for Love is Beep Beep, Beep Beep, The Binary Code is One One’. The cheers and heys of the driving ‘Build You a Butterfly’ just sounds like a good time; it would be a good encore number, so I’m wondering why it was placed second to last instead of dead last, as the song ends with “I’ll make sure you’ll be all right”. Sigh.

Black then pledges his love “will always be my baby” in what sounds like an Alice in Wonderland fantasy with “giant ladybugs outside” bring this person back to him in ‘Twelve Carrots of Love’. He dreams of catching a whale for a ride and then drinking coconut milk with his baby in the far too precious ‘Chubby Cheeks’. ‘If I Died’ (video below), the current single, has a fatalist theme: would a former lover remember you after you’re gone? Despite its sweet pop melody and jammy synth bridge, the take home message still is a melancholy one (“if I died / would you remember that you loved me? / if I died / I guess I’d never know”).

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However, there are some less entertaining and more overbearing tracks. In light of the previous stellar tracks, ‘You Are a Wave’ is jus hohum. Not bad, but not terribly inspiring either. The same could be said for ‘The Sea Life is the Life for Me (Mermaid Cutie)’ earns many points for actually sounding like it was recorded underwater. (Maybe it was? And ‘Cate’s Song’ as well?) ’8 Bit Monsters’ has a buzzing tuba and a wonky oompah beat. Despite a song that comes across emphatic with punctuation and potentially exciting, ‘C’mon Let’s Mosh!’ is sonically and lyrically a letdown.

Bottom line though, it’s far too easy to play pop ‘straight’ and that’s why most of the records coming out these days that purport to be ‘pop’ sound too similar. Quirky, fun, and thoughtful, the singles of Sweet Baboo’s ‘Ships’ come across as an antidote to all of that. But there are some challenging numbers that may either leave new listeners disappointed.

7/10

‘Ships’, the new album from Sweet Baboo, is out now on Moshi Moshi, Stephen Black’s first for the label.

 

Album Review: Frank Turner – Tape Deck Heart

 
By on Wednesday, 17th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Frank Turner Tape Deck Heart coverI happened upon Frank Turner’s music when I had an opening in my “musical obsessions” dancecard. His fervor, stories, and musical ethos grabbed me at once. It dripped through every note of 2011’s ‘England Keep My Bones’ and I quickly became immersed. I saw him and the Sleeping Souls play nine times in the 12 months that followed. So what about this new album, would it do the same for me?

Next week, Turner releases ‘Tape Deck Heart’, a self-professed ‘break-up album’ and fifth studio offering. It seems uncanny that this particular album would come into my life at the precise moment when I am also navigating a situation where something I thought would be permanent turned out not to be so. I have recently experienced the most bizarre combination of love and loss, of leaving and being left that isn’t often found together. Approaching this record from both sides of the relationship coin simultaneously was quite an emotional upheaval. How do you feel bad about leaving when you were left so long ago? How do you deal with the relationship that went out with the proverbial whimper? How do you get over it and back to the person you are supposed to be? Turner tells us how he’s doing it throughout the tunes on this disc. However, despite what I’ve taken away from it personally, I believe the overarching theme to be change, not loss, as I had expected. This element of change is what holds the album together. Relationships dissolve, one gets older, and people don’t always do what you want them to. But in the end, if you embrace change, you can make it.

Opening tune ‘Recovery’ indicates that while there is a light at the end of the tunnel; it’s not an easy task getting there and sadness is always waiting at the edges: “It’s a long road up to recovery from here / a long way back to the light / A long road up to recovery from here / a long way to making it right”. It starts our descent into the self-introspection of the album. With Turner despairing that he will never realise his full potential or find lasting love, the first half of the album spirals into doubt and darkness. But the man is clever about it, referencing a French film and another of his songs in ‘Plain Sailing Weather’. Next single ‘The Way I Tend to Be’ contains one of the most poignant messages of the album, that love can save you, but only if you are careful with it. Turner disciples will be pleased to learn that the ‘Amy Trilogy’ finally concludes in ‘Telltale Signs’. He’s said that ‘Amy’ is an amalgam of people from whom he’s tried to extricate himself. With this installment, he is finally putting that bit of him to rest. ‘Anymore’ may be the most painfully honest song ever written about the slow demise of an unnurtured relationship: “Not with a bang but with a whimper / It wasn’t hard, it was kind of simple / Three short steps from your bed to your door/ Darling I can’t look you in the eyes now and tell you I’m sure / If I love you anymore”.

The album isn’t bereft of the feel good bounce that permeates Turner’s work though. Musically, it’s got quite a lot that’s bright and cheerful with upbeat music and a prevalent mandolin, so a casual listen will prevent the depression I found in many of the lyrics. Halfway through the album ‘Four Simple Words’, familiar to anyone who’s seen him live in the last year, bursts through the melancholy to spur a frenzied riff through the joys of being at a live gig.

Closing the album is Turner’s most musically experimental song thus far, ‘Broken Piano’. Identified in an interview as the song he’s most proud of, it pulls the drone from the end of ‘Oh Brother’, as Turner starts his vocal line above this hum. Carefully twining his voice with the titular piano, it drifts into a decidedly traditional English folk song feel that then has the drums cascade over the whole thing. It’s this insistent thudding that carries the last half a minute as the album closes with a sense of accomplishment if not necessarily joy.

Is anything missing from ‘Tape Deck Heart’? Heartbreak? Check. Buddy song? Yup. Lament to self-destruction? OK. Rousing punk ode? Got it. Wait – where’s the history song? ‘History is important’ Mr. Turner, remember? There is no English history lesson and I miss that. Next time, OK? This album drips with melancholy and there will surely be peripheral fans who won’t enjoy it. I do wonder what kind of new fans this album will draw. If ‘Tape Deck Heart’ had been my entry into Turner’s world, I may not have jumped in so heartily. But for those of us already enamoured, devoted, besmitten by the ‘skinny half-arsed English country singer’, there is all the more to burying him deeper into our souls.

9/10

‘Tape Deck Heart’ will be released on the 22nd of April from Xtra Mile Recordings in the UK and the next day most everywhere else.

 

Single Review: The Crookes – Bear’s Blood

 
By on Tuesday, 16th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

Crookes logo smThe Crookes are already hard at work on album #3, which looks like will be following in the footsteps of 2011′s ‘Chasing After Ghosts’ and 2012′s ‘Hold Fast’, so I’m expecting this third album to appear in quick succession. Just getting its first airplay last night on Steve Lamacq’s drivetime show on 6music, ‘Bear’s Blood’ is the first single from their yet to be named third album. The double A-sided single comes out the 27th of May on Fierce Panda. [Update: the other A-side is 'Dance in Colour'.]

According to Lammo, this song, along with several other new ones, were recorded this year between their support slot with Richard Hawley in February and whence we caught up with them in Austin for SXSW 2013 in March. From all the interviews I’ve done and bands I’ve asked, writing on the road is a very difficult task, so hearing that the Crookes already have several songs in the can for album #3 is good news for fans indeed. ‘Bear’s Blood’, as the first taste of this new material to be unleashed on the public in short order, then demands further examination. Last year, band lyricist Daniel Hopewell indulged my interest in the words to single ‘Maybe in the Dark’ so I would have all of the words in front of me before I began my research. Expecting to have to grovel at his feet again, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to get all (or nearly all) of the lyrics from the new video released last night. And away we go:


Drip feed hope to a blind, homeless man
Stars explode like aerosol cans
and scar the face of Jalla Jalla*

You felt lust at the edge of your lips
Spread like ichor** to your fingertips
I fell in love with love and squalor^

Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
It feels like I am missing out here?
Baby wants to set me on fire

Old shoes are hung as words are strung from telegraph wires
Bear’s Blood’s down(ed?) in Metelkova^^
You know I’m lost
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
It feels like I am missing out here?

Oh, you know I’m lost
You know I’m lost…

You know I’m lost
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
You know I’m lost…
Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful
To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful
You know I’m lost…
I crucify the night, a quiet life’s so wasteful

It feels like I am missing out here?
Oh, you know I’m lost
You know I’m lost
You know I’m lost
You know I’m lost

Miscellaneous notes:
* Jalla Jalla: A club in Ljubljana, Slovenia. But I don’t think its purpose is this exclusively. I hope I don’t embarrass Mr. Hopewell next month when I ask him what the deal is with this place…
**ichor: “an ethereal fluid taking the place of blood in the veins of the ancient Greek gods” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary
^ “with love and squalor” – possible reference to J.D. Salinger’s short story For Esme – with Love and Squalor, also the name of We Are Scientists’ debut album released in 2005
^^ “Bear’s Blood down(ed?) in Metelkova” – Metelkova is an alternative, cultural hotbed, and city guides note you can get a shot (or three) of a famous local tipple

Initially, I had it deadset in my mind that ‘Bear’s Blood’ just had to be a reference to the bear pit in Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens that I had mythologised in my head was the setting was ‘Yes, Yes, We’re Magicians’ from 2010’s ‘Dreams of Another Day’ (“Mrs. Porter’s crying, ‘keep that kid away from my bear!’”). But having “METEL KOVA” (or the place of Metalkova) spelled out in black marker on a white shirt helped me out quite a bit.

How I’m reading this on the surface is that it’s chronicling life in this wild and crazy part of a Slovenian town. And if this is the case, the video surely reflects this joy but also mental spirit, with the lyrics of the song being written on band members’ faces, necks, arms and clothes. Being around them recently during the mayhem that is known as SXSW, I watched how the four of them simply love life and how anything related to them ends up truly madcap and fun. It’s not a front. That’s how the Crookes are in real life. They have the incredible ability to bring sunshine into life when there isn’t any.

But I did say that was on the surface. I don’t know how common it is in Britain, let alone far-flung Slovenia, but “Old shoes are hung as words are strung from telegraph wires” often have a criminal connotation when seen in blighted areas in America, quite possibly indicating you’re passing through a less than desirable area; see the intro to the video for Morrissey’s ‘Glamorous Glue’. As happy as this song sounds, it’s about to go dark.

And going further, I can feel someone’s truly tortured. “Oh, it ain’t easy, no, to keep it graceful / you know I’m lost…” seems to suggest that it takes great pains to make things look easy from the outside when your insides are in turmoil. Then there’s the “Bear’s Blood’s down(ed?) in Metelkova”, the drinking of some legendary brew native only to that area. (I’m wondering if the stuff is called ‘Bear’s Blood’ because it makes you think you’re as strong as a bear; scroll to about 1.01 into the video, you’ll see Hopewell with his arms raised as if he’s Rocky Balboa.) I haven’t decided yet if it’s the alcohol causing the person to get ‘lost’ or they were already lost to begin with and is now drowning his/her sorrows in drink. Either way, there’s internal conflict. And I feel this pain.

When I finally transcribed the lyrics myself, the two lines “To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful / It feels like I am missing out here?” and “I crucify the night, a quiet life’s so wasteful” [the band helpfully set me right on how this line actually reads after I posted this review - Ed.] had me agog at the computer screen, tears ready to roll down my cheeks. How could someone who barely knows me write about my life so well? Obviously it wasn’t written about my life. But I’m sure loads of people can relate too. “What if crucifixion’s on the dole?” is a famous line in ‘Sal Paradise’, but I have to say I’m impressed with the way crucifixion imagery is used again in ‘Bear’s Blood’. I can of course never be sure what he meant, but I know what it means for me. As for “To love and be loved seems somehow unfaithful / It feels like I am missing out here?”, I have my own guess as to what this means to the band themselves, but I’m going to keep it under my hat for now…

I have to admit, I didn’t have an immediate love for this tune upon first listen. The washy guitars seemed to be entirely at odds with everything the Crookes have released up to this point, and the whole affair reminded me too much of what Richard Hawley did on ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ album last year, turning to a psychedelic sound. I kept muttering “oh no, oh no” to myself as it played all the way through. But it was the video – and reading over the lyrics – that sold me on the song. Clocking in as only a few more seconds longer than ‘Maybe in the Dark’, it’s still an amazing pop song by any measure, though lyrically it packs an incredible punch and is a major step up from that previous single. While it will take some getting used to this new sound of theirs, after considering ‘Bear’s Blood’, I’m still in it for the long haul.

9/10

‘Bear’s Blood’, the new single from the Crookes, will be released on 7″ and digital download on the 27th of May on Fierce Panda. The band will be headlining the Fierce Panda 19th birthday party at London Scala on Tuesday the 21st of May; tickets are on sale now. Support will be provided by their local mates the Heartbreaks and Hey Sholay. I’ll be somewhere in the crowd, if you fancy saying hello. Not sure if I’ll be sporting black marker on my face and arms though…

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Album Review: OMD – English Electric

 
By on Monday, 15th April 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

OMD English Electric coverOMD‘s triumphant return to popular music after 14 years was marked 3 years ago with 2010′s ‘History of Modern’, marked by the excellent and melodically memorable ‘New Babies, New Toys’ and ‘Sister Marie Says’. In 2013, they try their hand again with their latest LP, called ‘English Electric’. It’s an interesting and cheeky title to say the least: while NME rails on in search of the next “great British guitar band” as if to completely ignore the shift towards electronic and all the New Wave loving that has happened in recent years, the arrival of OMD’s new baby seems to herald a new age of embracing synthesisers, sequencers, the whole lot all over again. Or not?

I have always been one to be critical of the opening track of an album. Regardless of what iTunes’ agenda is, to me, the opening track sets the stage for what comes after and can be a good of a barometer as any as to how the party ahead will unfold. So if you groan as you queue up ‘Please Remain Seated’, don’t panic, you’re not the only one. There is a series of tone that are not unlike the tones you hear when the doors close on the Metro (the DC version of the tube). The first voice you hear is of a Chinese woman’s, and upon first listen, I thought, ok, something about a departing plane…surely there’s got to be more to that? I even had my other mother sit down with it to see if I’d missed anything. No, the journey is set to depart from Shanghai to Macau at a certain time… Nothing exciting there. Then there’s another, Western voice, though robotic, is clear enough for you to glean “the future that you have anticipated has been cancelled. Please remain seated and wait for further instructions”. Okay, that’s just creepy. (And later into the album, you get other weird moments with ‘Decimal’ and ‘Atomic Ranch’…)

Having been sufficiently creeped out by your introduction, you’re led into ‘Metroland’, punctuated by plinky plonky notes. The best thing about this song is Andy McCluskey’s voice, yearning in its earnestness, but not even he can really save this song. ‘Night Cafe’ suffers the same fate. The experimental ‘The Future Will Be Silent’ will excite those with less conventional tastes, with its unusual buzzings and what sounds like voices being pulled around tight corners like taffy. I think it sounds absolutely dotty. ‘Kissing the Machine’ has an affable melody you can hum to all right, but substantial it is not.

Then it all comes down to ‘Stay with Me’ to save the day. I remember reading years ago on the internet, with much interest, that it was the American market that grabbed onto the ‘If You Leave’ with its collective teeth and would not let go, pretty much ignoring the rest of OMD’s later catalogue. If that is still the case, then the Americans – and people around the world – are going to grab hold of this song this time around. With wistful lyrics (“only I’m the one to stop them falling / falling down like rain / if only I could stop those tears that knock you down again”) with a melody that is instantly recognisable, it’s the 2013 version of ‘If You Leave’ that will no doubt leave couples swaying in time at their upcoming UK shows. Mark my words.

Next track ‘Dresden’ finally speeds things up, thank goodness, and just about time. However, I don’t think is has anything to do with the German city. I don’t know about you, but when I think of synthesisers, and I think about dancing, and otherwise, ‘English Electric’ is just not the kind of album you take onto the dance floor with you. It’ s just…not. But you can count on this one being on the list being played at live shows this year. It’s the up tempo version of OMD most people love and remember.

Other moments on this album are so-so. ‘Helen of Troy’ is the ‘English Electric ‘version Joan of Arc’, going backwards in time to take the story of a courageous young woman of days gone by and paying tribute to her: “because I cannot cry / ever again”. ‘Our System’ gets points for unconventional song structure: beginning with post-industrial buzzing, it somehow ends up with an uplifting chorus…before it returns from whence it came, the whistlings of electronics.

Most confusing of all though is probably ‘Final Song’, which of course comes at the end. It has a weird ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ rhumba vibe to it, and womens’ gasps and operatic notes. Not exactly what springs to mind when you read ‘English Electric’. The lack of linearity of this album, coupled with seriously odd moments, makes this album a challenging one, even for those of us who are more likely to hug a Korg than a tree. I like Kraftwerk and Paul Humphreys makes the point in the video below that the album was made to sound “Kraftwerk-ian”, but I can’t relate. Maybe I’ll have a change of heart when I see them in Gateshead in May?

6/10

‘English Electric’, the new album from OMD, is out now on 100%. Watch the videos for ‘Metroland’ and ‘Decimal’ on this previous Video(s) of the Moment post. A video of Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys explaining the album can be watched below. OMD begin a UK tour at the end of this month, starting on the 28th of April in Margate.

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Single Review: Wild Swim – Another Night

 
By on Thursday, 11th April 2013 at 2:16 pm
 

Wild Swim’s latest single ‘Another Night’ begins with a fittingly aquatic sort of sound: muted, echoing synths driven by a solid, muted bass riff. Richard Samson’s poignant, if somewhat cloying, lead vocal grips the heart from the song’s opening line and never lets go. Though the lyrics are quite repetitive, Samson delivers them with emotional conviction far beyond his youthful age. The song is neatly divided into two distinct sections, and Samson’s bandmates support him ably in the subtle shift between them, through a strong dynamic build to the wailing guitar solo at the end.

The accompanying video, by Dan W. Jacobs and Michael Battcock, has a shimmery, translucent feel throughout. Of special note is the moment at 1:55, when the video’s animated protagonist walks through a doorway, and the second section of the song begins. I am usually not very interested in music videos, but I was intrigued by this one, as it is rare to see a video that connects to the song’s musical structure in such a concrete way.

When I watched the video on YouTube, I was pleased to notice that Wild Swim have several other songs and videos available for viewing. Now that they have swum across my radar, I will certainly be doing more watching and listening.

7.5/10

‘Another Night’, the new single from Oxford’s Wild Swim, will be released on the 6th of May on Believe Recordings.

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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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