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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 24th August 2016 at 12:00 pm
A few years ago, a little EP called ‘Leaflings’ was released by a mysterious act called Glass Animals. Soon discovered by one Paul Epworth, who signed them as the first band on his record label Wolf Tone’s roster, their combination of disparate elements of rock, pop, r&b and hip hop proved not only unique but weirdly irresistible to the public. Global stardom followed their debut album ‘Zaba’, so it seems good fortune that I caught them live at Liverpool Sound City 2014, a month before its release in June. On their second album out this Friday, Glass Animals are out to prove they’re more than a one-trick pony.
Thematically, the new LP is a major departure from ‘Zaba’. Instead of fanciful stories about peanut butter vibes, twee voles and hermits lacking sex and violence that only seemed possible to have come out of a drug-addled haze, realism rules the day on ‘How to Be a Human Being’. Primary songwriter Dave Bayley admitted in early press releases that the new material had been inspired by people they’d met during their travels: “I try to sneakily record people, and I have hours and hours of these amazing rants from taxi drivers, strange people we met outside of shows, people at parties. People say the strangest shit when they don’t think they’re ever gonna see you again.” Snatches of these secretly taped conversations appear to have found their way onto this LP, acting as spoken word interludes between songs or in the case of ‘[Premade Sandwiches]’, a whole track that sounds like Darth Vader going off on Whole Foods. Let’s hope he got clearance to use these clips. This on the ground, secretive sampling is on par with what frontman Bayley’s biggest hero, Kanye West, gets up to. Err, right.
On their last album, there was a strange yet oddly intriguing juxtaposition between the world of a child and the dark existence that loomed outside of it. Because ‘How to Be a Human Being’ is placed in the real world, there’s less possibility – and room – for whimsy. In a recent interview with Consequence of Sound, Bayley explained that the new record is meant to mirror a path from birth to death, with “Everything in between is what happens in life.” Early on in the album’s ‘life’, video game sounds are incorporated into ‘Season 2 Episode 3’ and ‘Pork Soda’ to reflect the lazy days of childhood.
Bayley’s falsetto flits from track to track, singing of things that fit into Glass Animals’ slacker image. Unveiled this week, ‘Season 2 Episode 3’ mentions cereal, cola and “getting blazed”. It’s also a prime example of where the band from Oxford appear to have lost the plot. While the vocal melody is pleasant enough in a singsong, nursery rhyme fashion, the rest of the song is literally voice, video game blips, a keyboard warbling and minimal percussion. Where Glass Animals used to shine – in making something exotic, different and most importantly, groovy – has been lost. Listening to the album, I’m reminded of the ‘90s gangsta rap Bayley says was influential in his formative year in College Station, Texas. Back in the day, how minor keys were used and the menacing undercurrent to the music made sense in the context of the heavy subject matter (drug use, domestic violence, murder).
This kind of negative fog hangs off of several album tracks – ‘Mama’s Gun’ in particular – making for a less distinctive, less than memorable listen. Forgetting its unsettling human barks, ‘The Other Side of Paradise’ is an unflattering snapshot of the very “caught up in camera lustings”, image-centric industry Glass Animals now find themselves the darlings of. Bayley croons, “I feel so fucking numb”, and you’re left wondering if he’s speaking of his own confused mental state inside the machine or if the song is based on an anecdote told to him by another. Because he’s been unwilling to admit which parts of ‘How to Be a Human Being’ are autobiographical or which are stories he’s woven from the experiences of others, you’re never 100% sure of their source. [Update: Bayley revealed in a previously recorded interview with Steve Lamacq that aired on BBC 6 Music on 24/08/2016 that this song was partly based on the real life of his favourite American basketball player Hakeem Olajuwon. You can listen to the interview 2 hours and 30 minutes on BBC iPlayer here.]
On the plus side, ‘Cane Shuga’ has bouncy synths and an intriguing drum pattern from Joe Seaward that will make it fun to watch live. The sleaze of ‘Take a Slice’, with its lo-fi, fuzzy production and wigged out guitar line, tempers its shockingly frank messages, such as “I’m filthy and I like it”. Prostitution rears its ugly, real head in ‘Poplar Street’, the guitar hook intro catchy but similar to John Frusciante’s work on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Under the Bridge’.
Bayley’s self-described closing bookend to the album, ‘Agnes’, seems to mock our society’s reliance on technology, the sad sound of a mobile phone’s dying battery trilling in the background. Instrumentally, this is as uplifting as this album gets, which highlights what’s missing from this album. I suppose you could argue that while ‘Zaba’ was written from a perspective inside the jungle of a children’s book and this new one is from the concrete jungle, there were bound to be wildly major differences between the two. Because there’s much less to latch on to on ‘How to Be a Human Being’, it makes for a challenging follow-up listen.
‘How to Be a Human Being’, the sophomore album from Oxford’s Glass Animals’, will be out this Friday, the 26th of August, on Wolf Tone / Caroline International (UK) and Harvest Records (North America). Read my past review of the LP’s first single ‘Life Itself’ through here. For more on Glass Animals on TGTF, follow this link.
You might remember our review of Wild Beasts’ first single from ‘Boy King’, ‘Get My Bang’, which was described as sleazy, but in the best way possible. Well, it appears that they have carried this through to the entire record, and it’s a perfect execution. From the outset, they have no problem with getting the atmosphere to a point where you want wherever you are to always be dark, lowly lit and to contain some form of your desire. They’ve previously described this move as avoiding “being comforting” and see it as a way to keep the entire Wild Beasts idea fresh, away from stagnation.
‘Big Cat’ shows the album’s style early on with a slowly pulsating drum rhythm, enveloped by electronica and more generic instrumentation. The lyrics are always alluding to some form of predatory action, most obviously with the title and references to it, leading man Hayden Thorpe being top of the food chain. The overall formula doesn’t change throughout the LP, which is a good thing. It’s almost conceptual in its idea and execution. With it being a look into the more animalistic stylisation of human nature and the way we sometimes just want to get down to the most primal of instincts within our coding, it’s filled with grand and sometimes obvious statements.
Another fine example of this is ‘Tough Guy’, with the words “now I’m all fucked up and I can’t stand up, so I better suck it up like a tough guy would”. It succeeds in breaking down the barriers of supposed niceties and what is expected of gentlemen, yet we all let go sometimes and occasionally it works out for us. The chorus also has a rather obnoxious synth line that cuts across everything and mildly similar in sound to Ace of Base’s leading riff in ‘All That She Wants’. Maybe it’s coincidental, or maybe it’s a genius method of subtle referencing to the state of mind of the song’s main protagonist?
Of course, Wild Beasts aren’t ones to forget the fairer sex. ‘Alpha Female’ pays tribute to the fact that woman truly do control us men, and how we have no problem setting our steps behind you. ‘Get My Bang’ still has enough sleazes and sultriness to more than support the rest of the album. As mentioned previously, the instrumental makeup of the record really doesn’t differ too much. And it’s just a delightful walk through the more intense senses. ‘Celestial Creatures’ attests to this, with its ethereal and focused description of humanity at its most organic.
‘2BU’ uses Tom Fleming’s baritone is used to take the album’s voice down in ‘2BU’, which is interesting in that the rest of the track describes nothing but wanting to overtake someone’s life and be them because they have everything you want. ‘He The Colossus’ lives up to its name, with a powerfully sounding chorus that challenges the vocals for space in the mix, bringing though a colossally memorable sound. Taking the sound found throughout and warping it slightly, ‘Ponytail’ uses some more of Fleming’s baritone and an opposing instrumentation that collide together.
The two final tracks of the album bring the affair to a climax, with a truly egotistic look at the mind of the modern man in ‘Eat Your Heart Out Adonis’ and a more vulnerable truth within ‘Dreamliner’, where man’s overall vulnerability is hidden by the bravado that is often used to front this in the real world. The former is the last of the power and focus, a gruelling bass line with haunting sounds swirling in the background, with the vocals laying down the law of the animal kingdom, where the stronger thrive. The latter is a much more withdrawn affair, being a mostly acoustic affair. With the strings being audibly plucked, it’s as the atmosphere behind it swells that the track gains its momentum. The momentum drops away occasionally, which brings out the vulnerability, before the grandeur makes its slow way back in.
‘Boy King’ is perhaps one of the greatest documents of modern man and his true return to the natural state. Wanting to be the powerful Adonis, he who rules the kingdom and has his queen. Wild Beasts have managed to create this world, while giving it a sound that will not only transverse generations, but also one that will also prove a strength in their discography.
‘Boy King’, the new album from Wild Beasts, is out now on Domino Records. Catch up on more of Wild Beasts’ coverage on TGTF here.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 19th August 2016 at 9:00 am
The next thing you know, Kaiser Chiefs will be releasing their newest album. ‘Stay Together’, their sixth, will be released on the 7th of October on Fiction Records / Caroline International. Following the album’s unveiling to the public, they will also be touring. They’ve just announced a new UK arena tour for February and March 2017. Tickets will go on sale next Friday, the 26th of August, at 9 AM.
They previously released LP single ‘Parachute’, which garnered mixed response from fans who were surprised – or energised – by their new, shinier pop direction. They’ve now revealed another single, ‘Hole in My Soul’, which you can listen to below the tour dates. For all of TGTF’s coverage on the Kaiser Chiefs, follow this link.
Wednesday 22th February 2017 – Llandudno Venue Cymru Arena
Friday 24th February 2017 – Bournemouth International Centre
Saturday 25th February 2017 – Birmingham Barclaycard Arena
Monday 27th February 2017 – Plymouth Pavilions
Tuesday 28th February 2017 – Brighton Centre
Wednesday 1st March 2017 – London O2
Friday 3rd March 2017 – Manchester Arena
Saturday 4th March 2017 – Leeds First Direct Arena
Kent punk rock duo Slaves have announced details of their forthcoming new album ‘Take Control’, along with a list of live dates to follow its release. ‘Take Control’ is due out on the 30th of September on Virgin EMI, and its surprise first single ‘Spit It Out’ is streaming just below the tour date listing.
Tickets for the following live dates will be available tomorrow, Friday the 19th of August, at 9 AM. TGTF’s previous coverage of Slaves is gathered here.
Thursday 10th November 2016 – Bexhill De La Warr Pavillion
Friday 11th November 2016 – Truro Hall for Cornwall
Sunday 13th November 2016 – Cardiff University Great Hall
Monday 14th November 2016 – Cambridge Corn Exchange
Tuesday 15th November 2016 – Leeds Academy
Thursday 17th November 2016 – Newcastle Academy
Friday 18th November 2016 – Glasgow Barrowland
Saturday 19th November 2016 – Birmingham Academy
Monday 21st November 2016 – Bristol Academy
Tuesday 22nd November 2016 – Leicester Academy
Wednesday 23rd November 2016 – Nottingham Rock City
Friday 25th November 2016 – Sheffield Academy
Saturday 26th November 2016 – Manchester Albert Hall
Tuesday 29th November 2016 – London Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Wednesday 30th November 2016 – London Shepherd’s Bush Empire
There’s been a parting in the road between mainstream Busted-style pop and more thoughtful, alternative pop-based music in recent years. There’s nothing wrong with the mainstream (I, for one, will never not be able to sing along to ‘What I Go to School For’), but it’s just great to see that there are those bands for whom pop means more than repeating the same three of four chords over and over. Pop always used to be about doing something different and exciting. I’ll always remember how I felt and where I was the first time I heard Michael Jackson, or how my world turned upside down (in a good way) when I first became aware of the two game-changing individuals that we said our goodbyes to earlier this year, Bowie and Prince. Whether I’m listening to Beyoncé, Christine and the Queens or, dare I say it, Justin Bieber, I can’t remember pop being better.
Today’s subject is Fickle Friends, the indie pop quartet that hail from Brighton who have recently shared their latest single ‘Cry Baby’. Although they are now signed to a major, Polydor Records, they haven’t had the easiest road to get here, including having a manager quit on them and dealing with financial struggles. But on ‘Cry Baby’, it looks like the band have finally found stable ground. They’ve teamed up with Mike Crossey (The 1975, Two Door Cinema Club), and will also be working with him to put together their debut album in Los Angeles.
Like Fickle Friends’ previous singles ‘Swim’ and ‘Say No More’, ‘Cry Baby’ taps into the well of ‘80s influence, with synth bursts, funky bass hooks and an addictive chorus. It’s not however, simply a rip-off of ‘80s tropes. ‘Cry Baby’ takes all that is good about old-school electropop and blends it with contemporary sounds; at times you can hear The 1975-esque drum and guitar elements on the track.
‘Cry Baby’ positively pulsates with feel-good vibes about meeting someone for only a brief period of time and the overwhelming emotions that can accompany it, capturing the plot of every good ‘80s film ever. The track shimmers and dances, the opening hammer of synth bursts and the steady bass hook sets an addictive precedent that the rest of the track manages to uphold throughout. If this single is anything to go by, I’m expecting their debut album to be liberally packed with addictive synthpop and feel-good ‘80s grooves. It doesn’t yet have a release date, so keep your eyes peeled.
‘Cry Baby’ is out now. If you want to see the band live in action, the band will be at Reading and Leeds 2016 at the end of this month and Bestival 2016 next month. For more of TGTF’s coverage on Fickle Friends, go here.
Brighton trio The Wytches have announced a new album and a coordinating set of November tour dates to go along with it. The LP, titled ‘All Your Happy Life’, is due out on the 30th of September via Heavenly Recordings. Below the tour date listing, you can listen to their brand new single ‘C-Side’, having premiered on radio earlier this week, out now.
Tickets for the following shows go on sale Thursday the 11th of August at 10 AM. In the meantime, you can check out TGTF’s previous coverage of The Wytches right back this way.
Wednesday 2nd November 2016 – Oxford Academy
Thursday 3rd November 2016 – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Friday 4th November 2016 – Brighton Concorde 2
Saturday 5th November 2016 – Bristol Thekla
Monday 7th November 2016 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Tuesday 8th November 2016 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Wednesday 9th November 2016 – Nottingham Rescue Rooms
Thursday 10th November 2016 – Birmingham Institute
Friday 11th November 2016 – London Electric Ballroom
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