Komeda – What Makes It Go?

(North Of No South Records / Pinnacle NONSCD65)
Author: Jyoti Mishra <jyoti@dial.pipex.com
Date: 1998/12/03
Forum: uk.music.alternative

Now, this is more like it. I’d never heard of them before but within the first two songs I was hooked on this album. The first track, ‘Binario’ starts with some Isan-y woodpecker coughs and then this crazy semi-slap bassline kicks in. Rhodri, this is definitely one track you can throw angular post-punk dancing shapes to. Stylistically, I suppose they sound most like a cross between very early Stereolab and the Cardigans. But I hate the Cardigans, which is weird cos I love this band. The songs are pretty much trad pop song forms but there’s a kind of Stereolabby fucking-around going on at the edges.

Second track, ‘It’s Alright Baby’ is simply a classic instant pop singalong. It sets your head nodding and you know the chorus the second time around. If you like any Michael Nesmith/Monkees, Beatles or Beach Boys, I can’t see you not loving this song. I’m listening to it now and it’s soooooo pop. Clipped rhythm guitar, modal piano countermelodies, woo-woos, – lovely. It reminds me of ‘The Girl That I Knew Somewhere’, ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ and a very obscure Sedgewicks song.

Another beauty is ‘Our Hospitality’ which starts off with some sample-and-hold flurbling before the bass does a lovely corny slide in. The vocal is very Stereolabby, being a kissing cousin of that classic French smoocher ‘A Man And A Woman.’ It’s only 2.42 long and just when you think it’s gonna be da-bah-da-bah-dum all the way through there’s a crazy chromatic descent and some mad new lyrics. And all the tracks on this album are equally startling in different ways, combining ‘traditional’ instruments with electronic boogie-ing in a way that seems organic and meaningful. Rather than just bunging an old break under everything…

As you may know, apart from a few notables like Spearmint and Gorky’s, I’ve not liked any trad guitar-pop bands this year. Komeda are now definitely in that list as well and I’ll have to re-do my Top Ten. When it comes down to it, I do love a good singalong… This album is a great pop album for all the same reasons that Even As We Speak’s ‘Feral Pop Frenzy’ was: vigour, experimentation and, most of all choruses.

The Notwist – Shrink

The Notwist – Shrink (Duophonic Super 45s DS45-CD23)
Forum: uk.music.alternative

From a totally different angle, I guess this lot are doing the same as Komeda. The electronic sounds they use are far more torn and crunchy, revelling in obvious aliasing and hooting. But they mix these well with ‘conventional’ instruments. Track 2, ‘Chemicals’ reminds me most of a song off ‘Bleach’ performed by an alternate-reality Joy Division who have swapped Hooky for a singing modem. ‘Moron’ starts off quite jaaaazzzzz but get’s weirder when the beat kicks in. Imagine Lalo Schifrin played over a ‘Speak & Spell’ era Depeche Mode drum pattern. Sort of ‘Dirty Harry’ meets ‘Shout’. Warning: there is a saxophone solo on this track. But I still like it.

It’s about as close as I get to goatee territory. Overall, the tone of the album is quite bleak and when guitar appears, it’s nearly always playing sombre powerchords around a Devoesque progression (which is where the Nirvana comes in, I guess). If you’re an old goth, you’ll probably like this album. Or if you’ve got more than two 4AD records in your collection. Or if you just enjoy fairly glum music.

Where groups like isan or BoC (I hope you don’t mind the comparison, toe) at their best remind you of being a kid, that intense sunshine and soaring pointless joy, this stuff most reminds you of being pissed and lonely with vomit on your shoes. For me, then, a great album. Honestly. But not the best one to listen to if you’ve just been dumped. Makes Mark Eitzel sound like Charlie Drake. So, two out of three ain’t bad.

(And sorry if this review sounds more poncey than usual but I’ve finished a linguistics essay on register, dialect and sociolect and it’s not worn off yet…)

Whale vs. Moloko

Forum: uk.music.alternative

Again, after recommendations from Ant and other ukmaers, I bought the Whale album ‘All Disco Dance Must End In Broken Bones’ (Hut CDHUT52) the same day I bought Moloko’s ‘I Am Not A Doctor’ (Echo ECHCX21).

Both albums are, in their own ways, bloody bonkers. This is their greatest similarity and the rather thin excuse I’m using for this head-to-head.

Whale’s album most reminds me of a pop band locked in a studio with a techno Phil Spector when he’s on acid and got his gun out. Whereas Moloko seem to be an experimental band who occasionally veer into pop territory as if by accident. Who can forget ‘Killer Bunnies’ (off their last album) once they’ve heard it, a track as bizzarrely scary as Denim’s ‘New Potatoes.’

Off the Whale album, my favourite so far is the last track, ‘2 Cord Song’ which has this grinding, inevitably VU-ish quality to it that’s fractured by Nico-ish vocals and some semi-yodelling. I think this is one of the poppiest tracks but I’m usually wrong. It does go a bit ska at the end, but then so do most songs.

The first track ‘Crying At Airports’ has a bit of a Portisheady feel but with a dubby bassline that reminds me of Renegade Soundwave’s ‘Cocaine Sex.’

‘Deliver The Juice’ also seems very radio and dancefloor-friendly to me. It most sounds like the Waitresses with Arthur Baker producing them and Wagner occasionally opening the door to his rehearsal room. I reckon if you love the Beasties (hiya Chaos Paul!), you’ll probably love this track. If you’re gonna listen to this album in a shop, check out this track cos it’s got most of the width of the album in there.

Now Moloko…
I don’t know (again) how to encapsulate this strange brew in one pithy sentence. Like Whale, Moloko have teensy bits of Portishead/MA/Roni Size drifting about but they also have their own thang. Like ‘The Flipside’ which is all over the bloody road, d’n’b to hip hop to swing to Tom Waits to trad jazz to rock.

The album as a whole isn’t. A whole, that is. It’s more like that old story about the blind men groping the elephant, each thinking it a rat, cat, bat, twat etc. I’ve only listened to the album two times thorugh solidly and it’s sometimes quite jarring. It’s weirder than Whale and less immediately poppy but there’s often a dark underbelly of pop there. But if it is pop, it’s goth pop: wry, dry and mostly impenetrable.

But amongst the huge weirdness, there are quite a few tracks which grip you despite yourself. ‘Dr Zee’ rolls along, with the boinks and the flurbles and ‘Sorry’ is a bastard cousin of ‘D.I.V.O.R.C.E’ with what sounds like a small monkey playing a tiny tin drumkit.

Overall, I think they’re both bold, adventurous albums. They haven’t done the obvious things most schmindy bands shamlessly get away with. All a guitar band has to do is bung a Moog on one track and they’re instantly acclaimed as head masons of the sonic cathedral of sound.

In a pinch, I’d prefer Whale over Moloko but then I’ve never been hugely into experimental music, Zappa, Beefheart or modern jazz. Whale rock, Moloko tronk. Take your pick.
love and kisses,

Spearmint vs. Belle & Sebastian

Forum: uk.music.alternative

I bought Belle & Sebastian’s ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’ the other day and didn’t like it enormously. I know that’s tantamount to treason round these parts and I’ll get lynched at dawn but I have to be honest.

It starts well with ‘It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career.’ This is a wonderful, light, airy strawberry trifle of a pop song. It’s ace just for the rising twiddly bassline in the chorus. The album goes downhill from here. I was listening to it with a mate of mine and when I asked him if he’d buy it he said, “Well, I’ve already got ‘Sinister’ so what’s the point?” That’s pretty accurate. I really, really wanted to love this album but I’ve listened to the bugger three times now and very little stays in my head. It’s all alright…but apart from ‘Career’ there’s nothing that grabs me like ‘The State’ or ‘Stars of T&F.’ Okay, I’m done – you can start throwing the rocks.

An album I preferred to B&S was Spearmint’s ‘Songs For the Colour Yellow.’ This pissed all over B&S and it’s not even a “proper” album, ostensibly being a collection of early stuff and b-sides. I only caught onto Spearmint when they did ‘Sweeping The Nation’ and I was quite surprised by how punky the earlier tracks are. But unlike B&S, what you also get from these 14 tracks is a sense of progression, of experimentation and a band looking beyond their limits. I like overarching ambition. So, whereas ‘Goldmine’ is a punky stomper of a track in an almost Godfathers way, the second track is Henry Mancini piano pumping crossed with Bernard Herrman.

I guess if I had to pigeonhole them, Spearmint would be a Postcard band (or perhaps at a stretch, El) whereas B&S are definitely Sarah. Which is ironic since Matt Shinkansen doesn’t really like them that much. What gives Spearmint the edge over B&S is the structure of their songs. If you’re doing guitar pop, choruses, bridges, and verses matter. Even when Spearmint are being wacky, as on ‘Colour Yellow’ it’s still very singalong. This is a very poppy, singalong album. ‘Scared Of Everything’ sort of reminds me of Mega City Four at their best – honest and driving. Honestly, every song is good. This is meant to be a b-sides comp and all these tracks are better than all the current schmindy greats a-sides put together.

There’s a versatility Spearmint have that B&S lack. They’ll do anything to get a song across, us any instrument in any style. Do a soft song one minute and a nosiy, Devo-ish wail the next (‘Best Friends’). In their inclusiveness, energy and bravery, Spearmint are the truly great pop band that B&S may someday turn into.
Spearmint 1 – B&S 0
love and kisses,

Boards Of Canada – Music Has The Right To Children

(Warp/Skam Warpcd55 / skald1)
Forum: uk.music.alternative

Well, after many endorsements from Mark and toe, I ordered this from Soundclash and….

It’s amazing. I can honestly say that this record is the closest I’ve heard in terms of aesthetic to Kraftwerk. Unlike Komputer, BoC don’t pastiche K, but they share the same melodic sensibility and sonic freshness. Each track has a narrative, an underlying structure that’s closer to “classical” music than pop. The sounds are often atonal and deliberately dissonant. But they’re so dissonant that they make normal music sound…. boring. It’s a bit like when I first got into Sonic Youth after having heard Teenage Riot, I couldn’t listen to any ‘normal’ guitar bands cos their chords sounded so dull.

My favourite track is number 10 which I think is called ‘Roygbiv.’ It is awesome. It starts off with a fat, offbeat synthbass. The clicky, dolphiny beat kicks in and then the most sublime chords I’ve heard since Satie or Debussy. This track is beautiful. It’s only very short but it takes hold of you insanely efficiently. I went out to a nightclub last night, listened to a whole night of stuff and yet the only tune in my head in the taxi home was ‘Roygbiv.’

Another great one is ‘Aquarius.’ It’s got one of those wobbly, dubby basslines that just make you smile when you hear them. And it fits so funkily, it’s a classic head-nodder. I’m sure this album’s gonna be heavily sampled by hiphoppers, if it hasn’t been already. The rhythms are at once compelling and hypnotic but yet loose and… different.

Really, every track hooks me. There’s not a dud on here, similar to the Fila Brazillia album. At the same time, as a musician, this is the kind of album that depresses the hell out of me. It’s so far ahead of what I’m doing, so much better than 99% of what I’m doing. I mean, when I listen to Embrace or Mansun, I can believe I’m a creative genius. But when I listen to this album, I feel like a tone-deaf moron. Who can’t produce. I’ve obviously got to try harder.

I know I get over-enthusiastic when I post stuff but, like Jimmy Possession, that’s partly cos I just don’t review music I think is shite. But with BoC, I want everyone to buy the CD. Even if you hate electronic music, give it a listen. Yeah, it’s sort-of ambient, but not really at all. There’s too much going there for it to be aural wallpaper.

If you like Kraftwerk, Can, TD, Satie, Grieg, Debussy or Sonic Youth, you’re gonna want to marry this album. I myself took the CD to bed with me last night. Otherwise, you’re probably only gonna love it.
love and kisses,

Warp, Harthouse, Sprawl

Forum: uk.music.alternative

(sorry for the repost – pipex is being arse)

I’ve finally got round to following some of the recommendations in the bzangy groinky thread and have bought:

We Are Reasonable People – Warp
…which is another Warp compilation. It’s brill, and I think I even prefer it to the old Artificial Intelligence comps. Beautiful tracks by Boards of Canada, Autechre, Mira Calix and other Warpsters. So far my favourite is the Plone track ‘Plaything’ for its sheer fartiness and similarity to the theme music from Moody & Peg. Buy this album just for its amazing variety of flatulent diarrhea(sp?) noises.

Harthouse Retrospective – Harthouse
I saw this and had to snap it up. Of course, it’s more four-on-the-floor than any of the Warp stuff and probably to a lot of ears less experimental. But twenty quid for four CDs of some of the finest thumping, creaking and weebling ever recorded just can’t be wrong. Great tracks by Speedy J, Metal Master, Arpeggiators and, of course, Hardfloor. The Laurent Garnier remix of the Resistance D. track also captures that floaty, zonked feeling perfectly (mind you, I say this as a teetotal, kinda-straight-edge guy so I could be wrong).

Chinese Whispers – Sprawl Imprint
I reckon the insert sums up the concept of this album succinctly, “Stereolab remixing T-Power remixing Subtropic remixing Si Begg remixing Bedouin Ascent remixing Slang remixing Freeform remixing Mike Paradinas remixing Ultramarine remixing The Sons Of Silence remixing Stereolab.”


Of course, this results in one hell of a mixed album. I liked pretty much all of it, especially the nastily aliasing Paradinas samples in his intro. Very Commodore Pet. Again, I’m running out of real words to describe most of these tracks. Apart from the Bedouin Ascent one being fairly traditionally clattery in a cutlery-dropping-on-marble-floor way. Buy it if you like all the Warpy kind of stuff more than the more ‘traditional’ techno/electronic/house/deep bolivian skunk stuff. It’s definitely more Boyd Rice than Carl Cox.
I better go now cos I’ve more records to babble on about…
love and kisses,

Cappadonna, Sunz of Man, Big Punisher

(Now that I’ve moved to Norwich, I have access to all the hip hop I’ve been wanting to buy for ages…)

Finally got that Jurassic 5 album and it’s good. The obvious first comparison is to De La’s ‘3ft High’ period but there’s other things in there as well. Some of the early Del (TFH) stuff and even 3rd Bass. My favourite so far is ‘Concrete Schoolyard’ which is just a great pop song. It should be number one if times weren’t so strange and the oxymoronic spectacle of a corporate punk band didn’t hold that crown. Gits. J5 also win Marvel No-Prizes for not having the ghost of Wu-Tang hovering over them like too much stuff around now.

Cappadonna – The Pillage
I s’pose that’s unfair since Cap’s actually produced by Rza and the Wus. But still… Even though his flow’s brilliant on track’s like ‘Pillage’ , the sonics drag me down a bit. I mean, I still love the sound but it’s still that sound. Innit. Buy it for the rapping – it’s worth it.

Sunz Of Man – The Last Shall Be The First
What’s that smelll?? I smell….WU! But I like this album more than Cap’s mainly cos of the scope of the lyrics. A track like ‘Illusions’ has that kind of world-weary cynicism that can’t be faked – it has to be learned the hard way. It reminds me a lot of Nas. Yep, there’s the usual sword clashes and Wu-trademark Les Dawson piano riffs but I still rate this CD. Like the first Gravediggaz LP, they create this claustrophobic world of Illuminati, superheroes/villains and NOI splinter sects.

Big Punisher – Capital Punishment
Now poor old Punisher got a terrible review from that staunch guardian of white, middle-class morality, the NME. Apparently, he’s a nasty sexist who doesn’t even sound like Tzant so how can he be hip hop?? It was nearly as good a hatchet job as when Momus got 0/10 from Barbara Ellen for much the same reasons. Though he’s a lot skinnier… I like this album. It most reminds me of Chubb Rock, he’s got that kind of teacherly pissed-offness but coupled with a nastier vocabulary and artillery delivery. The album does suffer a bit from guest-aritus, with Noreaga, Fat Joe, Mobb Deep, Wu (arghhh not again), Busta Rhymes and the inevitable Wyclef. Even so, BP’s got his own style sonically as well as lyrically. Weirdly, it reminds me of old Katch 22.

Has anyone seen the vid for ‘I’m Not A Player?’ I mean, I’m a very fat bloke (wheezing when I get up etc.) and Ant Chapman’s what I’d call tubby. But BP’s like our combined weight welded into a short bloke. Seeing him dancing round in his pyjamas was one the most surreal things on MTV this year…
love and kisses,

Fila Brazillia – Power Clown

Fila Brazillia

Oooh, this ties with the Warp comp for being my fave today. Apparently FB got bored with doing house so they decided to go insane with a couple of guitars and a load of samplers and then release the bugger. Which is exactly what I want more bands to be doing. This is where today’s happening guitar beat combos usually fail so boringly. Look at bloody Kenickie – now they’ve come back as Steps. Next week they’ll probably lob some baggy skate trousers on and declare they’ve always had a hip hop element to their music.

FB astound me track after track. The closest mainstream CD this sounds like (and it doesn’t) is perhaps Air, at a loooong stretch. Really, to describe it more accurately, you have to imagine disturbed members of Swell Maps or Modern English locked up in a room with Lalo Schifrin and William Shatner. Really. Honestly. It’s like This Mortal Coil discovering the funk in a very small purple box that their goth kitten had shat on. FB’s use of guitar is at once familiar and totally disconcerting. This is Brechtian pop music (just as I wibbled on once that The Day Today was Brechtian comedy for much the same reasons).

Now if FB heard me saying all that, they’d probably call me a fat cunt and poke me in the eyes. But I don’t care:I like this album that much. For entirely different reasons, it excites me as much as the first time I heard Penthouse & Pavement, Criminal Minded or Tigermilk. I’ve listened to it twice since I bought it today and I’m now gonna ration myself so I don’t prematurely wear it out.

The Big Idea

Author: Jyoti Mishra
Date: 1998/08/06
Forum: uk.music.alternative

I got a copy of the Big Idea’s new single from Mr. Wayne Artex himself this morning. It cheered me up loads because it’s poppy, bizzarre and not even vaguely trying to be hip-bleedin’-house or schmindie.
Overall, it’s very synthpop, which is, of course, cool by me. The songs are:
1. Bored Housewife
A tale of marital infidelity. This sounds like Separations-period Pulp crossed with Squeeze and Vince Clarke. Chorus is : “She’s a housewife and I love her but I’ve gotta be gone by three cos her mother’s coming round for tea.” Excellent. Not one mention of teenage angst or Bolivian freedom fighters. Imagine the June Brides with synths.
2. Stick Or Twist
Umm…This has got a verse riff that’s jerky in a Devo (good) way but the song itself sounds like an electro version of ‘Johnny Remember Me’ (gooder). Honestly. The best coda in a long time – they’ve just nicked the ‘Intel Inside’ riff. They’ll get their arses sued if this becomes a hit. Believe me, I know.
3. It’s So Obvious
This one’s my favourite. It’s very simple, very poppy. Lovely harmonies. Magnificent cheesy drum sounds. Here, the singer strays into almost Robert Wyatt territory. And I like songs with bits that go “woahh-ohhh-ohh” in them. Which is why Jimmy The Hoover were great.
4. Eye Contact
This one is the track that makes me think they’re one bun short of a trolley. Nice floaty intro, boingy piano riff and a lead sound like Madonna’s ‘Holiday.’ It’s 4.47 long and you think, oooohh what a nice instrumental. Then the vocals come in. Just one verse. After four minutes and twenty-three seconds. Now that’s some intro. If, like me, you’re a fan of the theme from Howard’s Way, you’ll like this. Yes, I am being serious.
More Stuff About The Band
I first saw The Big Idea when they supported David Devant at the Derby gig I arranged earlier this year. I’d asked Mikey if he’d bring his favourite unsigned band as a support. They played a good gig and I was struck, then as now, by how they don’t sound current. You know, every other new band you hear wants to be bloody Oasis or arsing Radiohead. They didn’t. They had their influences, sure, but they also had their own style that wasn’t merely an ironic checklist of previous genre guides. I want more bands like this and less fakeass depressive clones.

Anyway, the single’s out on Lucky Pierre Recordings and it’s cat no. is Pier 002. Buy it. It’s brill.
love and kisses,

The Orchids & Mcarthy

Author: Jyoti Mishra
Date: 1998/07/27
Forum: uk.music.alternative more headers author posting history

I was tidying up and put on the Orchids’ ‘Epicurean’ CD comp. I haven’t listened to it for ages. What a great band they were. I only wish some of the “indie” chancers knocking about nowadays could write tunes as good as ‘Something For The Longing’ or ‘Long Drawn Sunday Night.’

Matt Shinkansen told me how they’d given up after slogging on for so many years. Poor buggers. What a waste. Why is it only good artists know when to stop? Felt, the Orchids… and yet I bet bloody Embrace and Radiohead will keep going like the bastard Stones. Arsenuts.

And yes, I’ve wittered on about Mcarthy before on this ng. For me, Mcarthy were like the Redskins but clever. With better tunes. I listened to ‘Write To Your MP Today’ and it was as fresh, nasty and pertinent as when they released it. I’m afraid I’ve never got the same hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck-twitching thrill from Stereolab. It’s the depth of emotion in Mcarthy’s lyrics that hooks me. The only other music I get that from is contemporary hip hop.

All the new schmindy stuff I hear is asinine navel-gazing, the paucity of meaning matched only by the mendacity of its production. Music made by scrotal scabs for easy consumption by pubic lice.

Ah well….musn’t grumble, eh? It’s only music, after all.
love and kisses,