Saturday, 30 July 2011

Saint Dymphna

Who: Gang Gang Dance
What: Saint Dymphna
When: September 2008

Today’s review is a cautionary tale. This is a perfect example of algorithms gone very, very wrong. Apparently, if I’m a fan of These New Puritans, I might like this. Oooo.. K..

Just to start.. What sort of a pretentious name is Saint Dymphna? Who names their album after the patron saint of the mentally ill??

Anyway, after a pointlessly long intro, opener ‘Babey’ goes into some cool tribal drum beats and has fun with a bunch of strange instruments, all overlapping, which admittedly is pretty fun, but it really rather goes downhill from there, save for an actually pretty good ‘Princes’ which features Tinchy Stryder. Tinchy knows his way around a verse, and they really just get out of the way and let him do his thing. In fact the whole first half of the album is danceable enough, but only if you ignore singer Liz Bougatsos’ vocals, since she sounds like the annoying lovechild of Karen O and Bj√∂rk – apparently this is the first album to bring her voice to the fore, which is a bit like saying “I got you a present, it’s a really annoying shrieking woman that never shuts up”. Aaw, you shouldn’t have.

The thing that lets the first half down is that it feels soo generic. There are plenty of perfectly nice swirling synth melodies, but they’re just, boring. The energy feels flat, and even ‘Vacuum’ a gorgeous, romantic, swooping number is just not engaging at all.

By the end of the first listen of ‘Inners Pace’ I’m really dreading even having to listen to this a second time, it’s annoying, and repetitive, which wouldn’t be a problem if what it was repeating was actually a nice noise, instead it’s just some weird loop of squeals and a girl screaming – dull, dull, endlessly dull. At the end of ‘Afoot’, there’s horrible metallic clangs and what sounds like a jackhammer added, and ‘Interlude (No Known Home)” sounds like failing dialup connection.

This is essentially just aural assault. I should get a medal for managing to sit through that twice.

Friday, 29 July 2011

She Wants Revenge

Who: She Wants Revenge
What: She Wants Revenge
When: January 2006

This is really interesting. I should start by saying I have absolutely no knowledge of this band prior to listening. I read a single paragraph review on a blog somewhere about 2 years ago, so downloaded it, and it’s taken that long to get around to it. It’s amazing how much pre-knowledge can influence an opinion – I really am approaching this completely neutral, I don’t even know what they look like – It’s refreshing! Makes writing this harder, but better somehow too.. I get to evaluate the music without it being coloured by personalities. Exciting.

It opens a bit like a spy theme, which really sets the tone. The whole album is really filmic, and conjures up really powerful, noir-y type visuals, old school back projection special effects, that sort of stuff – I love that stuff, it’s so cool.

There’s an energy that simmers throughout the whole thing, threatening to bubble over. The instrumentation is full of chilly, sleazy synths, and echo-y post punk guitar – think grimy club nights in warehouses. I Don’t Want to Fall in Love feels urgent, and a tiny bit creepy, benefitting from that undercurrent.

Track two, These Things is really interesting, quite the earworm. It’s actually a pretty cool song, but unfortunately it feels like the one that would get appropriated for some badly acted vampire-based TV drama (just in case anyone feels like lynching me, I’m not talking about True Blood, I mean the other one, or ten).

Vocalist Justin Warfield (yeah, I had to look that up) sounds almost exactly like Paul Banks from Interpol, who have GOT to be an influence, that sound is all over this record, Tear You Apart is almost a carbon copy, not to say it’s a bad song, because it’s not, it just REALLY sounds like Interpol. They even go all anthemic on ‘Us’, which is immensely enjoyable, a stadium singalong waiting to happen.

There’s more to his voice than that though, On Broken Promises for Broken Hearts he goes a bit Bowie, and on the standout final track the tone his voice takes on when he sings the “she loves me, she loves me not” bit is really powerful.

So.. Overall, it’s a creepy, sleazy, filmic, dark, gloomy, interesting, exciting, confusing, sexy record. Good times.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Fantastic Playroom

Who: New Young Pony Club
What: Fantastic Playroom
When: July 2007

Dismissed as posturing try hards, hanging on to the coattails of “New Rave” in 2007, New Young Pony Club’s debut, Fantastic Playroom is, well.. A good first effort but nowhere near as good as the spearheaders of that movement (We’re talking Klaxons here, just in case that wasn’t glaringly obvious) and with the price of decent stationery what it is, it’s hardly something to write home about.

The whole album is underpinned by a driving, danceable beat, however the infectiousness of that beat is undercut somewhat by the fact that the opening track, Get Lucky, is pretty repetitive. It takes a while, but by the album’s second half, they really hit their stride. Jerk Me has rhythm and a swagger than the opening tracks really lacked, I’m a sucker for having the bass high in the mix (this won’t be the last time I say this, in fact, it’s likely to become a catchphrase) and it really sets this track apart. On Get Go, guitars clang, over another (wonderfully audible) bassline, while singer Ty Bulmer pulls off snarky without being snotty, and Talking, Talking is a sultry little number, with Ty informing us gently but firmly that she “don’t wanna talk about it”.

Unfortunately, occasionally her voice is what lets a lot of this album down, in Hiding on the Staircase, it’s effective, the contrast between her flat intonation and the light, bouncy, latin-style beat prevents it from just plodding along. However on Grey, not even the really cool opening video game bleeps can prevent her from sounding tired and bored. It also ends up sounding a lot like the Ting Tings and now that I’ve made that association I can’t get it out of my head.

As a whole, the album is pretty fun, and there are a few really great moments. Bomb is probably the catchiest of the lot, it’s good fun. Tight Fit is reaching for something that it almost, almost hits.. The stabbing synths are really frakking awesome, there is something there, but it just misses the step from good to great.

There’s something endearing about them though, and while I can’t help but feel that the “New Rave” tag may have really actually hurt them somewhat, the inescapable fact is that there’s nothing terribly offensive about this album.. It’s just there.


Who: The Horrors
What: Skying
When: July 2011

My first ever blog! Hard to decide where to start, really. Well, no, not really. I decided on this record almost instantly. The Horrors released not one but two of my favourite albums in the past 5 years, so to say I’m a fan is a bit of an understatement, I like to think it’s a healthy bias, but suffice it to say I really want to like this one.

Firstly, can I just say.. The artwork. Wow. This thing is gorgeous. Physically, the weight of the vinyl in my hands, and the texture of that, it’s a proper experience! Neil Krug’s photography really is the perfect visual representation as well. Just. Wow.

The overall tone of the album is really bright, and open, and track one, Changing the Rain takes you lolloping through sun-drenched fields, it really is pretty as f**k. This feels like a record for the summer, it will be positively divine on a warm, sunny day.

There’s also a renewed crunch in the guitar sound. They’ve really let go on this album, letting it take centre stage on more than one occasion, coming through on Endless Blue and Monica Gems minus the My Bloody Valentine reverb that wrapped much of Primary Colours. Not to say they’ve done away with it altogether, the single, Still Life, and Moving Further Away are both demonstrations of a beautiful, shimmering dialogue between guitar and synths.

Keep an ear out also for I Can See Through You, which is both lyrically and musically direct, the line “no one remembers your name, no one tries” is particularly ouch worthy and for me, the absolute stand out track, Dive In, which is spooky, and sexy, a perfect example of what magic these boys can make.

Admittedly, there are some weak points (the extended jam session in the middle of Oceans Burning, surely better left as something saved for the live show comes to mind as an obvious example) but for the most part, the input of five very different individuals, and the seemingly disparate elements they bring has produced a delightfully cohesive work, and if I say nothing else of it, I like it. It’s melodic, it’s layered, and it’s interesting. It hasn’t grabbed me as instantly as either Strange House or Primary Colours, but I think it has a few more secrets yet to give up, there’s Still Life in the Horrors yet.


So.. This challenge, 30 albums in 30 days, the number is not actually significant, it’s just that I’m lazy, and I don’t think I’ll be able to keep this up for more than a month. I’ve set myself this challenge, mainly to get through the insane backlog of albums that I’ve bought and never listened to, but secondarily because I really want to see if I can stick to this, writing about a different album every single day. So here I go.. I’m making a commitment to do so. I’m not going to be deliberately controversial, and mostly, I’m picking albums that I think I’ll like (otherwise I wouldn’tve bought them), but I will try to have an opinion and actually be interesting.

Wanna tell me I’m crazy? Or that I’m wrong? Suggest an album that I should do next? Or just hurl random abuse at me?

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