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Updated: 2017-04-25T14:54:34+01:00


Handmade 2017: The DiS Preview + 40 Song Playlist

2017-04-25T14:54:34+01:002017-04-25 14:54:34 +0100

Here are 10 bands we're most looking forward to seeing at Handmade next weekend This coming weekend sees the return of Handmade Festival. With the main festival spread across four rooms in Leicester's O2 Academy on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th April, and its fringe evenst taking place on Friday 28th in The Cookie, Firebug, Guildhall, and Bishop Street Methodist Church respectively, 2017's Handmade promises to be bigger and better than ever before. Drowned In Sound has its own stage this year for the first time in the ornate confines of Bishop Street Methodist Church. The stage times and running order are as follows:- 1930-2000 Cold Water Souls 2020-2050 Eyre Llew 2115-2200 Haiku Salut 2230-2320 Her Name Is Calla In the meantime, here are 10 other acts we're most looking forward to seeing plus a forty song playlist featuring many of the artists scheduled to perform over the course of the weekend. --- Baba Naga (Saturday 29th @ Academy 2, 1700-1730) This Sheffield-based trio have been wowing us with their incendiary take on metallic psych rock this past couple of years. Miss their Saturday teatime set at your peril! width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> British Sea Power (Sunday 30th @ Academy 1, 2030-2115) Long-standing favourites of Drowned In Sound and its community, these indie veterans have just released their tenth long player Let The Dancers Inherit The Party and its their most beat-infused offering to date. Expect to hear cuts off this alongside more familiar numbers from their extensive back catalogue. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Frightened Rabbit (Sunday 30th @ Academy 1, 2205-2300) Another band who've been regulars on this site for many years. Critically acclaimed throughout their career with last year's Painting Of A Panic Attack only adding to their impressive canon. Now they've bagged a well deserved headline slot to close this year's festival with a bang. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Goat Girl (Saturday 29th @ Academy 2, 1800-1830) All hail the new queens of slacker rock. With elements of Sleater Kinney's wisdom and Fat White Family's carefree nonchalance, this four-piece are leading the way for UK's new breed of lo-fi. Come see what all the fuss is about. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Happy Accidents (Sunday 30th @ Scholar, 1600-1630) This London-based noise pop trio released their debut LP You Might Be Right on Alcopop! Records last summer. However, it's live where Happy Accidents really come into a league of their own, rivalling the likes of Johnny Foreigner and Los Campesinos! as joyous purveyors of frenetic punk pop. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> HMLTD (Friday 28th @ Firebug, 2300-2350) Arguably the most stylish new band doing the rounds at the minute, but have they got the substance to match? Find out for yourselves as their collision of new romanticism, punk, funk and all things in between looks set to bring Friday's fringe event to a chaotic close. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Idles (Sunday 30th @ Academy 1, 1730-1800) This Bristol outfit have already set tongues wagging with anyone that's caught their explosive live show, often leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. Comparisons to Sleaford Mods and Future Of The Left aren't wide of the mark, and if their recent performance at Derby's 2Q last month is anything to go by, they'll be one of this weekend's main highlights. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Kagoule (Saturday 29th @ Scholar, 2000-2100) This Nottingham three-piece are currently putting [...]

Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

2017-04-25T11:49:57+01:002017-04-25 11:49:53 +0100

It’s not what you might have expected. But this is an artist in his absolute prime: artistically, lyrically and musically

So how does the hottest, most talented hip hop artist of his generation follow up his era-defining, genre-redefining third album? Expectations were undoubtedly, and wholly justifiably, running at the highest level imaginable for Kendrick Lamar’s latest release, after 2015’s startling masterwork To Pimp a Butterfly.

So does DAMN. meet those expectations? Well yes – but by taking a surprising side-step rather than a pace forward in its artistic development.

What we have here are 14 songs – all one word CAPS LOCK titled – that are far less overtly ‘themed’ than Kendrick’s two previous albums (although some overall thematic strands do emerge), that stand alone as distinct tracks in and of themselves and that are far plainer and more pared-down in their execution.

So it’s goodbye to Kamasi Washington jazz flourishes and hello to sparse backing, beats and basslines and the rapper’s voice – mostly laconic on the likes of ‘YAH.’ and ‘PRIDE.’, masterfully switching pace and tone on ‘HUMBLE.’, and astonishing us with its flow on ‘DNA.’, ‘ELEMENT.’ and ‘FEEL.’ – very much to the fore.

Although the album is bookended by the same phrase – ‘BLOOD.’ begins, and ‘DUCKWORTH.’ ends with Kendrick recounting “So I was taking a walk the other day” – what is homed in-between is diverse and wide-ranging.

Many tracks have a distinctly downbeat feel – Kendrick just seems pretty sad on ‘FEEL.’: “I feel like I’m losing my focus (…) the feeling of no hope” or pleading plaintively “Just love me” on ‘LOVE.’, while ’PRIDE.’ suggests a jaded/bitter worldview: “I don’t love people enough to put my faith in man.” He also repeatedly returns to the fact that there “Ain’t nobody praying for me” (on ‘ELEMENT.’, ‘FEEL.’, ‘XXX.’, and ‘FEAR.’) If this is fame, acclaim and success, then it frequently sounds dissociated and melancholy.

Elsewhere, though, we see the rapper take comfort in his family (“My latest muse my niece, she worth living”, on the lovely, chilled-out ‘YAH.’) and – yes – get fired up by righteous ire, his flow noticeably and deliberately picking up the pace to match the lyrical intensity on the likes of the (incredible) ‘DNA.’ when he spits “I know murder, conviction, burners, boosters, burglars, ballers…” and ebbing and flowing as the words demand on ‘ELEMENT.’ and ‘FEEL.’.

And it’s this pacing, flow and lyricism that makes DAMN. such an engrossing listen. Where previously, some of TPAB’s more experimental and florid elements – dazzling as they were – and overarching themes were the focus of attention, here we simply have Kendrick (or occasional alter-ego Kung-Fun Kenny), plus superb collaborators Rihanna, Zacari and (yes, it’s OK folks, it actually works) U2, talking at us, singing at us, rapping at us: his voice now gentle, now turbo-animated, his words sometimes oblique but always on point.

It’s not what you might have expected or even – on one or two initial listens – have been hoping for from Kendrick Lamar. But this is an artist in his absolute prime: artistically, lyrically and musically. Why would he just deliver the expected?


College - Shanghai

2017-04-25T11:46:59+01:002017-04-25 11:45:10 +0100

Underneath all the slow production and slow burning aesthetics there is a great album slowly trying to get out After appearing in Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 film Drive, David Grellier aka College became an overnight sensation. His music was soundtracking one of the most talked about – and stylish – films in recent years. His ability to mix cool retro synths with a pop sensibility put him at the forefront of the synthwave scene. Since then he has released a slew of albums and singles on his Valerie label. Now he has returned with a new album called Shanghai. As the title alludes, Shanghai is a concept album about China’s most populous city. Grellier takes his inspiration form the city’s culture and architecture. Like Shanghai itself, the album is a conflation of ideas, styles and a multiculturalism. Traditional Chinese instruments are juxtaposed with Western electronic nuances. Grellier recently explained Shanghai thus: 'This record is a mysterious ballad in the heart of 1920s Shanghai... An invitation to travel, a tribute to the refinement and in the delicacy of a fantasised and blurry period of time, which fed the imagination of the musicians, the artists and the architects of this mythical city. The keys of this new adventure is in your hands.' width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> After the slow burning intro of ‘A Strange Guide’ and ‘Bloody Palms’, ‘Hotel Theme Part I’ opens with a woozy synth line. As the song progresses a laconic melody emerges and slowly meanders along evoking a feeling of endless corridors, sun-kissed dining rooms and a feeling of unease that permeates long stays in hotels. ‘Love Peas’ mixes things up a bit by featuring Hama on vocals. Hama is a Shanghai native and sings in her native tongue Hama makes ‘Love Peas’ sound both exotic and exciting. Her delicate vocals compliment the stark music that is reminiscent of The XX. Broody guitars keep the song progressing while synth stabs fill in the gaps left by Hama’s exquisite vocals. ‘Love Peas’ is one of the stand out tracks on the album, but sadly it’s the only track with vocals. From this point on Shanghai tries to up its game, but instead of giving us some slick pop, Grellier gives us ‘Mister Fang’. This is another slow burner, slightly convoluted and laborious. While there is nothing bad about the production and arrangement, the melodies are pleasant, but after the pop gem of ‘Love Peas’ a slightly faster or engaging track might have flowed better. This actually happens on the next track ‘Briefcase’. Skittering rhythms jostle for our attention while Grellier’s trademark woozy synths flow underneath. It feels like a character theme from Street Fighter II. As the song progresses the tempo quickens until its abrupt end. But as soon as it finishes we are back to slow synth meanders. The album closes with ‘8’, which follows on the blueprint that Grellier has laid down throughout the album. Slow intro, delicate melodies with capricious synths, until it all abruptly ends. Shanghai is an inventive album that effortlessly conjures a vision of a city. While this isn’t an original idea, there are recurring motifs that Grellier uses to evoke the movement and flux of a living city. The only real problem is that Grellier takes far too long to get to the crux of the album. On previous releases Grellier has delivered songs that have a poppy bounce to them with catchy hooks. These are sadly missing on Shanghai. The album is 15 tracks long, if a couple were removed they wouldn’t be missed. Also the majority of the tracks could be trimmed down/had their arrangements re-jiggled to deliver an album that is chocked full of ambient delight, but doesn’t drag. It's a shame as underneath all the slow production and slow burning aesthetics there is a great album slowly trying to get out. ![104671]( [...]

Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves: DiS Does Girls Music Day

2017-04-25T09:27:23+01:002017-04-25 09:27:23 +0100

A vital & important event trying to redress gender imbalance in the music industry Sadly, much like any other industry that doesn’t involve caring for or serving someone, the music business is woefully short on women folk amongst its ranks. There is no doubt countless socio-political, cultural, and oh-for-fuck-sake-why-haven’t-you-been-consigned-to-ancient-history good old-fashioned misogynistic reasons for this glaring shortfall. Even so, the facts still come as a bit of a shock. It’s pretty easy to dump the "its 2017 man, equality rules" type complacency when confronted with the statistic that 32.2% of music industry jobs are filled by female workers compared to 67.8% of men. Delve further into the breakdown of labour within those figures and the scene gets even more depressing. The Guardian reported this year that women make up 60% of interns and 59% of entry level roles within the music business. So, even if, as a woman, you’re ‘lucky’ enough to crack the industry you’ll likely find yourself one the lower end of the pay scale making tea. Hurrah! Progress! But, hang fire on reaching for the Smiths records just yet. Amongst all these dispiriting statistics lies an increasing push from a number of businesses, individuals, and organisations to reverse the trend. For instance, rights management company PRS have a fund called Women Make Music, which supports women songwriters and composers at different stages in their career. And DiS was recently invited to attend the second Girls Music Day, which was launched last year by ticketing app DICE. The two-day event took place at RAK studios and was designed to give young women aged between 16 and 24 a real insight into different aspects of the music industry through a series of guest speakers, a jobs fair, and a series of workshops on engineering and production. The event wisely focused less on the difficulties of being a woman in the music industry, and more on letting the young women glean advice from those with experience. And what a vast array of experience the audience were treated to; speakers included 4AD’s Head of Press Annette Lee, singer-songwriter Rae Morris, Kobalt Product Manger Helen Barrass, and Music Programmer for Latitude Festival Lucy Wood. Given the impressive curriculum vitae’s on display, it was somewhat surprising that many of the speakers confessed to being ever-so-slightly nervous. You wouldn’t readily expect a group of women at the top of their professional games to be even slightly shaken by a room full of young millennials. However, the experience led Annette Lee to exclaim, “Suddenly I’m in a room full of girls and I’m like ‘this is terrifying!'” But, as the day wore on I came to understand why. Firstly, young people really are terrifying - as in terrifyingly confident - certainly to those in, around, above, and beyond their 30s. And, sadly it’s is perhaps also indicative of a generation of women that, however successful, still struggle with confidence in a male dominated environment. Kobalt’s Helen Barrass spoke candidly of exactly this issue on the day. Nerves duly settled, she explained: “I feel like that [lack of confidence] held me back in some ways, as I’ve always worked in companies where there’s a lot of men and no senior women. And that can be quite hard as you don't really have a role model, someone who understands. Feeling quite unconfident at times - I don't think some of my male managers understood that. I found it quite difficult at points.” Helen is a member of a network of women in the industry called, and made their Alternate Power 100 List last year. She impressed the importance of seeking out other women in the industry for support: “It’s important to bond and communicate with other women in other companies, and stick together and talk to men as well about the kind of issues that arise at times.” It was a sentiment that Rae Morris echoed. Having signed to Atlanta[...]

Colin Stetson - All This I Do for Glory

2017-04-24T08:26:51+01:002017-04-24 08:25:56 +0100

God knows what you call this music – attempting to prescribe a genre seems like a fruitless diversion from something so freakishly sublime It was around this time only last year that Colin Stetson released his extraordinary reworking of Henryk Góreck’s Symphony No. 3. That work was a huge undertaking, drawing as it did from a well-loved classical piece and the demands of working with a large number of different musicians. Roll forward just over 12 months, and Stetson is now set to release All This I Do for Glory, a very different, if no less impressive, project. He has reduced his musical palette to essentially just his saxophone, recorded with no overdubs or loops, and engineered and mixed the record himself. As much as his solitary approach to this work may have been a stripped down affair the result remains anything but, largely due to his alchemical ability to muster so much from so little. The title track leads the charge on a record that commits to a breathless pace. The song’s grip is instantaneous, drawing you in as it does through a deep groove and off-kilter vocal. What begins as a woozily seductive introduction deepens into something much more haunting, its driving rhythm intact. More than ever before Stetson has achieved a synthesis between staggering technical ability and startlingly visceral music. Throughout the record the spell is never broken, it’s only in hindsight that you wonder how on earth he created this expansive sound with such a humble arsenal. width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> There are exceptions. 'Like Wolves on the Fold' begins with a sharp intake of breath, but within the first few moments of ferocious playing panic sets in because, Jesus Christ man, that’s nowhere near enough! Fear not though, Stetson’s circular breathing technique ensures he can sustain this wizardry over a prolonged period. And it effectively feeds into the drama of a piece that features violent claps that sound like horse’s hooves racing over hard ground. The urgency is ramped up as the track progresses to a histrionic level that is as thrilling as it is unnerving. During the recording, a number of mics were attached to Stetson’s saxophone, and the level of detail they picked up adds real depth to the world he has created within this record. You can physically feel the dark rumbling bass notes of 'Between Water and Air'. The track warps time through stretched out notes and the return of the galloping steed that switches from a canter to sprint, building a suspense that is almost unbearable. Amongst other things, Stetson has described this album as one that explores ambition, legacy, afterlife, and the beginning of a doomed love story in the style of Greek Tragedies. The luminous beauty of 'Spindrift' can possibly be attributed to the latter. Its feverish emotionality is overwhelming, its cell shifting rhythms utterly disarming. Here Stetson has created his most powerful piece yet and proved himself a conjurer of abstract yet nonetheless razor sharp narratives, which make the concluding fade almost too much to bear. But don’t expect the following track to cushion the blow. 'In the Clinches' answers searing beauty with rampant brutalism. The richly detailed production is raw as hell, untethering a raging beast of destruction. And the pairing of these two tracks only serves to heighten their respective elegance and mercilessness on a record that is dizzyingly both muscular and tender. God knows what you call this music, attempting to prescribe a genre seems like a fruitless diversion from something so freakishly sublime. Stetson has described this album as temporally somewhere between New History Warfare and his collaborative record with Sarah Neufeld, Never Were the Way She Was. And You can hear the confluence of the savage percussion of the 'Judges' and the roaring melodies present on 'The Sun Roars [...]

The Physics House Band - Mercury Fountain

2017-04-24T08:15:12+01:002017-04-24 08:13:08 +0100

It treads a masterful line between confusion, deceit and brilliance For anyone with left wing leanings it’s surely impossible to disagree with erudite and somewhat dour comedian Stewart Lee about many things. To that end, he recently outed himself as a fan of London/Brighton trio The Physics House Band, penning the biography for this latest release. In a recent interview by Will Self for The Guardian, Lee commented on the changing nature of the entertainment industry, and it’s an observation that’s just as relevant to a sea change that’s been slowly creeping into the arena of live music: 'I really noticed the scene changing in the Nineties...there were new people in with city jobs and they hadn’t come to see you, you were like their employee, and they had expectations and demands they thought should be met by the performer. I think this has happened across the arts and education generally…it’s turned into a customer/client relationship. And so when you go on stage and say, “No one is equipped to review me,” you’re saying, “This is going to happen on my terms".' width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=" comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true"> It seems that TPHB and their growing number of contemporaries have had quite enough of playing accessible ditties for you to bop around to, thank you very much. They’re Serious Musicians, and they’re here to play Serious Music. Is it a stance in danger of appearing pretentious and aloof? Yes. In their case does it ever overstep the mark into self-indulgent, twiddly rubbish? Thankfully, no. Much like Lee’s own material, it treads a masterful line between confusion, deceit and brilliance. Mercury Fountain is the kind of album which in the hands of the inexperienced could be a complete and utter wreckage. You’ll be pleased to hear, though, that TPHB instead show themselves to be adept and thoughtful composers once again. Mercury Fountain is a fitting aptronym for the album, being as it is a tasteful Seventies-sounding romp through the fabric of space and time, a body of work that hangs loosely but cleverly together, doing so in a wonderfully non-linear fashion. It’s an album which takes you on a new journey with each listen, and you’re never quite where it started or indeed where it will end. Cosmic opener ‘Mobius Strip’ is perhaps a reference to this, working as it does to bookend the record with sister-track ‘Mobius Stip II’. Packed with synth-wave influences and the kind of delicious phase and flange pedal barrages that one imagines might soundtrack a lysergic acid-influenced meltdown particularly well, it’s all kinds of groovy and a fine taster of the curious retro prog that TPHB are now clearly perfecting into something quite unique. Let it not be said, however, that this band also can’t do heavy as well as, if not better than, their peers. ‘Surrogate Head’ and ‘Obidant’ are wrecking balls – lurching, spasmodic brutes of songs that flatten the album’s midpoint and leave you battered and bruised, before the chaos of ‘Impolex’ drags things to a whole other level of insanity. Who knew it was possible to play a freeform flute solo over an arpeggiated guitar loop in quite so menacing a manner? Right on cue the aptly named ‘The Astral Wave’ washes into focus, a well-timed breather that gives much needed respite and time for reflection, packing the kind of delicious progressive guitar solo that Omar Rodriguez Lopez might now wish he had written. There’s plenty of melody to be found throughout for those who require it, but it’s buffeted at every turn by the kind of intense, seemingly random instrumentation that can only come from meticulous construction. I have had fam[...]

Maximo Park - Risk to Exist

2017-04-21T17:27:09+01:002017-04-21 17:26:31 +0100

It feels like a mission statement for a band who deserve the utmost credit for using their platform to stand up so vehemently for their beliefs Two years ago, Maximo Park singer Paul Smith took part in a panel discussion at 6Music Festival alongside a group of other North-East based artists about what it’s like to be a musician in this part of the world. The conversation kept returning to a central idea that the area is creatively isolated from the rest of the country, possibly to the point of insularity. Naturally this poses its challenges when it comes to breaking out into national consciousness. Smith contended, though, that it can also work to a band’s advantage, because it allows them the space to gestate naturally before attempting to launch their glorious bid for world domination. Perhaps this is why Maximo Park are still around 17 years after their formation to present Risk to Exist when so many of their contemporaries have long since been condemned for all eternity to appear on ‘Hey Remember this band LOL’ listicles. They always did feel like they had more about them than a lot of their peers though. Much of that comes from the continued demonstration of their pop nous which has rarely eluded them over their five LPs to date. However, to my mind, the difference-maker since day one has been the presence of Smith - a true British pop star in the vein of Jarvis Cocker, with a bookish eccentricity which is both the essence of his appeal and also the reason he’s an easy target for derision. width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Much has already been made about Risk to Exist being a direct response to the current social climate, which might seem a little odd to the casual observer of Maximo Park, who’ve never really been widely considered to be an overtly political band. However, reacting to “a government that’s out of touch” isn’t without precedent in their history - Smith has never been shy of speaking out in interviews, and their fourth album The National Health dipped into the odd bit of state of the nation commentary. It’s very easy to scoff at the idea of an indie-pop band suddenly diving two-footed into political entreaty on their sixth record, and there’ve been plenty of suggestions in the past that Smith isn’t the subtlest of lyricists. Indeed, phrases like “The regimes that we propped up descended into a living hell” aren’t exactly easy to digest, but the delivery oozes sincerity - He so obviously means every single word he’s saying and that’s far, far more important. Aside from all this, Risk to Exist is a wonderful collection of pop music. I guess that it shouldn’t be surprising that a band who’ve been around so long would understand the need to protect the songs from collapsing under the weight of their subject matter, but the fact they’ve delivered this record with such verve is still extremely impressive. In fact, this is the freshest their music has felt for a while. ‘Get High (No, I Don’t)’ is a highlight which sees Smith slithering around a beautifully sleazy groove, doing his best creepy Jarvis vocal. ‘Work Then Wait’, meanwhile, shimmers beautifully and ‘The Hero’ and ‘What Did We Do To You To Deserve This’ both feel like full-on dance-floor stompers. Sure, there’s the odd familiar reference point, with the finale of ‘I’ll be Around’ drifting off into an homage of side two of Low, and the intro of the aforementioned ‘Work Then Wait’ threatening to burst into ‘Where is My Mind?’, but on a record this vibrant, these moments feel more like little knowing nods rather than any kind of pastiche. In years gone by, a lyric like “It’s a risk just to exist” would have probably just registered as a nice snappy little one-liner for Maximo Park. Now it feels like a mission statem[...]

The Vacant Lots - Endless Night

2017-04-21T17:20:28+01:002017-04-21 17:20:24 +0100

The only purpose Endless Nights serves is to remind us what happens when men don’t fucking think before they speak There is no reason to listen to the Vacant Lots. Even in the most ideal of conditions – i.e, you’re either stoned, drunk, or a barely conscious combination of both on yr pal’s couch – Endless Nights would only oscillate through yr eardrums like a recurring headache. Not even a migraine, cos those shut the whole system down. We’re talkin’ low-grade, humdrum, it’ll-pass-in-a-minute brainfreeze numb. See, this duo just hammers out bite-sized Spiritualized songs, with analogue synths tacked on like cheap rhinestones – which was kinda fun in 2014’s Departure, but now reeks of so much hair gel and bleach that the music itself lacks any flavor of its own. If Endless Nights was simply bland, I wouldn’t even bother to proceed with this review. I’d just throw out some key phrases and signifiers – 'Pleasure & Pain' is essentially a Doobie Brothers single that’s trying hard to hide its uncool patches; 'Forgotten Days' nods obsequiously to the Doors, like a college intern about to fetch coffee for his employer; 'Suicide Note' is literally Alan Vega barking from the grave over a sterilised Hookworms stem. Stack on that several cheap fade-outs ('Night Nurse' doesn’t even sound like a full song, the way that one just dies) and the by-the-book blues twang in the guitar, and you’ve mostly got eight disposable songs destined for bargain bins and virtual trash cans. width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> HOWEVER. Not content with just existing as a billowing cloud of vape, the Vacant boys manage to descend from 'meh, whatever' bad to 'aw hell no' bad in the space of two songs. In itself, 'Empty Space' would just elicit eye rolls – the reverse wah-wah intro, the tinkling chimes, the slow acoustic strum feigning humility. But it’s the monotone ramble of existential truisms that taints the whole thing. “Death is an anesthetic for eternity”; “what it is like before we were born is what it is like when we die”, and blah blah blah. Essentially, vocalist Jared Artaud wants us to chillax about dying, cos death is just life without pain, bruh. And that’s funny, because three songs later, in the most ostensibly Velvet number 'Dividing Light' (you can hear the scissors snipping out the rhythm of 'Cocaine'), Artaud spins out a good ol’ revenge yarn. “My old lady / she made me cry / so I shot her down / I made her die”. Fascinating! So after that whole 'death is life' spiel, about the spiritual freedom of no longer existing and yada yada, Artaud’s protagonist shoots a bitch to punish her with death. Oxymoronic, eh. Seems all that eternity-of-bliss talk slipped his mind when he started writing bout the opposite sex. OOOPS. (And we haven’t even touched the pointless pseudo-acronyms peppered in here to project maximum aloofness: “in my CDA…doin’ OPT…with my LDY”.) So, let me correct myself. There is almost no reason to listen to the Vacant Lots. The only purpose Endless Nights serves is to remind us what happens when men don’t fucking think before they speak. Complacency glues the lazily stacked clichés of 'Empty Space' and 'Dividing Light' together, and that column props up the tilted obelisk of misogyny that’s anchored rock n’ roll since its infancy. Of course, ask either Lot about my hot take, and they’ll both swear this is all a misunderstanding, or at best an honest mistake. But that only proves my point – namely, that the Vacant Lots are vacant jerk-offs. ![104665]( [...]

The Friday Fangasm: Word Gets Around by Stereophonics

2017-04-21T20:34:11+01:002017-04-21 14:56:00 +0100

A record Stereophonics have never bettered in two decades of trying Whisper it quietly but Word Gets Around is 20 years old this coming August. Released on the 25th August 1997 - the day before my 27th birthday and therefore an obvious and gratuitously received gift from my fiancé at the time - amidst a slurry of Britpop more content with rehashing the past than looking towards the future, it's a genuinely flawless collection that stood head and shoulders above the Casts and Ocean Colour Scenes of this world that along with Feeder's Polythene and Three Colors Red's Pure - also released that very same year - seemed to herald a bright new dawn for British rock music. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> It was after a gig at Nottingham Rock City's then-sister venue The Rig two months after the album came out that yours truly compared them as natural successors to the Manic Street Preachers. Not only on account of their Welsh heritage, but also on account of the band's mostly topical lyrical content and riffs borne out of a love for eighties metal. From the band's first single 'Looks Like Chaplin' released the previous November and the ensuing 45s through to the flawless long player and incendiary live performances, the world was theirs for the taking. src="" width="300" height="380" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true"> So where exactly did it all go wrong for Stereophonics? When did they become little more than just another mainstream commodity with zero credibility? While 1999's follow-up album Performance And Cocktails certainly hinted at a more commercial sound with its sales catapulting them into arena territories, 2001's Just Enough Education To Perform undoubtedly represented the band's nadir. The clumsily orchestrated riposte to the music press 'Mr Writer' and Kelly Jones' ill-advised spat with reality TV poppets Hear'Say - the easiest targets of mirth for "real music for real people" bores back then - being two unnecessary occurrences that spring to mind. Indeed, within just four years of releasing Word Gets Around they'd become a band most people associated with BBC TV sitcom 'The Office' (even though it was Big George's version rather than theirs that became the theme tune), having scored their biggest hit with a cover of Mike D'Abo's 'Handbags And Gladrags', a song covered by over 20 artists since its first release in 1967. However, throughout 1997 they were more or less untouchable, releasing a string of great singles in the build up to Word Gets Around - the third of which 'More Life In A Tramp's Vest' reached number 33 in the official UK singles chart. It was something of an achievement for one of "our bands" (see also Bis with 'Kandy Pop', Kenickie's 'In Your Car' and White Town's improbable number one hit from nowhere 'Your Woman'). That each of the first five songs on Word Gets Around were all released as singles either before or directly after the album's release demonstrates both its creators and the label V2's undue confidence in the strength of the material at their disposal. Of the other seven songs on the record, three had also appeared as b-sides or bonus tracks on various formats of those aforementioned 45s, none of which could be described as filler. width="540" height="304" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> It wasn't every day that songs about a friend's suicide ('Local Boy In The Photograph') or a teacher's affair with a pupil ('A Thousand Trees') would make the top twenty. Likewise the melancholic 'Traffic', a song written about observing other motorists in a slow moving traffic jam that manages to turn the most mundane situation into a fascinating kitch[...]

Woods - Love Is Love

2017-04-20T12:59:24+01:002017-04-20 12:58:47 +0100

a great-sounding album with lots of interesting, referential ideas to the past and how they've reared their (often ugly) head all over again The floodgates are truly open now. After a (to say the least) tumultuous 2016, some responded with: 'at least the music will be good.' Six months on from that incredible US election result, and it seems now a week doesn't go by without a new album reflecting on the current state of things in America. New York's psyche-folk collective Woods, however, have decided to look at the healing power of music and art in troubling times, rather than the rage many are seeing in it. As a result, their latest Love is Love feels very much in the same world as of late Sixties anti-Vietnam War psychedelic rock and pop, attempting to spread a message of peace worryingly still just as necessary 50 years on. It's been almost a decade now since frontman Jeremy Earl and multi-instrumentalist Jarvis Taveniere turned their criminally underrated post-punk band Meneguar into Woods - they did release a couple of records under both names for a while, but it was clear from Meneguar's final album The In Hour on their recently formed Woodsist Records, where their heads were at musically as they significantly 'mellowed out'. The prolific band have released a record almost every year in that time, with Love is Love being their tenth overall. It is fair to say then they have firmly established themselves as a key psychedelic-folk band at this stage, but this is perhaps their first as a direct response to current affairs. width="540" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen> Love is Love was recorded shortly after last year's election, and repeatedly asks the question "How can we continue to love when there is so much hate surrounding us?" After two terms of relative optimism, 'the fear' that has been bubbling underneath has truly exploded, and here Earl explores that feeling of chaos and confusion over his five singing performances. 'Lost in a Crowd' for instance feels especially Highway 61-era Bob Dylan for a modern audience returning folk music to the idea of being a "protest music". Meanwhile, 'Spring is in the Air', a nine-minute psych-jazz instrumental epic, sounds like the bad dream Earl's narrator opines - "A descending darkness/and it feels like a dream/but the trip gets worse/and I'm lost in a crowd." - in the previous song. These two tracks anchor this fairly brief 32-minute, six-track album, turning the ironically optimistic sound of the opening two tracks into a collective descent into a fever-dream of terrifying proportions. 'I Hit That Drum' for instance feels like it is left in suspended animation given its lack of the instrument referenced in the song title, holding a transcendent tension over the listener. Afterwards, closer 'Love is Love (Sun on Time)' reprises the theme and melody from the record's opener of the same name, ending on a more optimistic note as the phrase "say love is love" becomes a statement rather than a question. The only major problem with Love is Love is that it feels relatively fleeting. It is a great-sounding album with lots of interesting, referential ideas to the past and how they've reared their (often ugly) head all over again. However, when it closes with a track mirroring the (excellent) opening title track, after only a relatively short time apart, its effect doesn't feel quite as earned as if this was even just, say, ten minutes and a couple tracks longer. It is extremely rare for one to complain about 'less is more' but it feels here that the band have only really scratched the surface of the central themes of the album leaving it to feel a bit shallow overall. The second track, 'Bleeding Blue' for instance, literally builds on the relatively simple s[...]