Thursday, May 01, 2008

Intermission: The Pottery Wheel*

In lieu of a review of this week's Doctor Who (I'm going to do it as a complete two-parter next week), some mini-music reviews, mainly consisting of comparisons to other bands and disparaging remarks about how the originals were much better.

The Age of the Understatement - The Last Shadow Puppets

A first solo(ish) project from Alex of the Arctic Monkeys, in collaboration with a guy from some band called The Rascals, this album is designed from the outset to distance itself from the Monkeys. What this means is that the killer riffs and clever lyrics of the first Monkeys' album is replaced by an almost lounge sound, full of acoustic guitar, piano and languid vocals. At first I was inclined to file it alongside Richard Hawley, then I shoved it up a grade or two to the realms of the mighty Scott Walker which, after a few more listens, is obviously insane.

Then, quite separately, both Mags and Scott pointed out the obvious - it's Marc Almond in his strings period, all lush backing and sub torch song vocals. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it's an unexpected direction for the boy Alex to take and one where he's in danger of failing to live up to similar sounds from those who've come before.

Just a Little Lovin' - Shelby Lynne

A popular female country singer doing an album of Dusty Springfield covers. If ever an album had 'sure fire success' success stamped all over it, surely this was it? And in the hands of a Lucinda Williams it would have been - full of big, powerful vocals sung over countrified backing, with the pop sound of the Dusty originals replaced by steel guitars and a bit of funky banjo. Instead of that, however, we get Shelby Lynne turning some of the most energetic and vital melodies of the last fifty years into hushed, sepulchral ballads. All the passion and power has been removed along with every scrap of fun from Dusty's versions, and all that's left is spare, bare songs devoid of all purpose and impact and destined to be forever relegated to background music.


Songs in A&E - Spiritualized

You like Spacemen 3?

You prefer the tracks which are actually songs as opposed to Sonic Boom recording the sound of water dripping in a metal basin and then taping down the B3 key on his Hammond organ, before looping the dripping water interminably?

You even have the first couple of Spiritualized albums and listen to them a lot?

Good, because that's fine, fine music.

Stick with that and forget Spiritualized still exist, though: unless you're a bigger fan of 13 period Blur than you ever were of Spacemen 3, you won't be interested in this album. Because that's exactly what it sounds like, even down to the whiny, effects distorted vocals. It's a decent enough record, but not what I expected from Spiritualized - give the single a listen before you buy, I'd recommend.

Replica Sun Machine - The Shortwave Set

Unassuming and pleasant pop sound which completely fails to grasp the attention in any meaningful way. This is exactly the kind of cd which will disappear as soon as you put it alongside the rest of your cds, and which you will never be listen to or think about ever again.

Safe Inside the Day - Baby Dee

Saving the best until last. Hard to describe but 'Tom Waits meets Ethel Merman' is the best attempt I've heard. 'Hymns, dirges and Shirley Temple songs', as Baby Dee puts it. Go out and buy this album now - the title track in particular is a contender for song of the year.

* Worst blog post title ever?


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Blogger IZP said...

Of course! That's why I like it (not because it's a mash up of the Shadows' Man of Mystery and the theme to The Count of Monte Cristo cartoon as I may have said in Another Place) but because it's now clearly a missing track from Vermin in Ermine.

My mate Andi, who I always reckoned looked like Mambas period Marc complete with dodgy curls, was once given a receipe by Jason Spaceman (as we had to call him back then) for Thunderbird wine and Magic Mushroom soup.
I wonder if he's still alive.
He was the only person I know ever asked Alan Vega of Suicide about The Sisterhood album, now there's dedication to winklepinkers for you.

Right I'm off to record Tenderness is a Weakness to m'mp3 collection right now.

Melodramatic arm-flailing and Moody Posturing are assigned.

5:47 pm  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Of course you might assume there's a clue to their influences in the title of one track: 'In my Room'. The less well informed, of course, may well think that to be purely a Walker Brothers track - not realising that Marc and the Mambas also did the song on 'Torment and Toreros'.

And then you discover it's not the same song on the Last Shadow Puppets album after all, and the clever theories fly out the window like so much chaff on the wind...

9:08 am  
Blogger Stuart Douglas said...

Also, when I saw Spacemen 3 back in the day, someone hit Sonic Boom in the nose with a flicked joint early on in the set and Jason, Will and Mr Boom left the stage one after the other in protest and never re-appeared.

Finally, 'The Gift' - that takes me back. Mainly back to asking the question: "Why did Andrew Eldritch think that Andrew was a good name to keep when giving yourself a gothy surname?" It's a bit like Rat Scabies having continued to use 'Christopher' but also adopting 'Scabies' - Christopher Scabies just doesn't have the same ring.

And now - in a wibbly-wobbly flashback sort of way - I have an image stuck in my head of Wayne Hussey getting kicked out of the James Whale (not the talented one obviously) studio for being pissed and throwing things at Whale during an interview.

And why were Fields of the Nephilim always coated in a thin layer of flour?

Oh well, happy days, nonetheless.

9:14 am  
Blogger IZP said...

Nothing to see here, folks, two old men discussing eyeliner.

11:56 am  

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