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,