Can have recently delved into their studio archives to assemble The Lost Tapes. It’s not been received as an unqualified success; however, the mere existence of reviews of it in the broadsheets will hopefully serve to remind people of just how great, and important, Can at their prime were. I’ve written previously about Tago Mago, their first album with the deranged vocalist Damo Suzuki; now comes the turn of its follow-up Ege Bamyasi, released in 1972 and also a handy favourite of Nick Kent‘s. Continue reading Okraschoten und kraut
There’s a note of resignation to several songs on this year’s Spiritualized album, Sweet Heart Sweet Light. On “Headin’ For The Top Now”, Jason Pierce concedes, “In our haste to find a little more from life / We didn’t notice that we’d died”, while on closing track “So Long You Pretty Things”, he sneers, “The music that you played so hard / Ain’t on your radio”. It’s not like he’s definitely given up the game, but he seems pretty resolved with hitting rock-bottom again and again.
All that comes to a head on “Mary“, in which he delivers the ultimate blow. Over a sultry groove and Eastern strings, he sings,
“Mary! You know we both had dreams / But you’re the one who got to live them instead.”
There speaks a man who’s seen disappointment stretched out across decades.
Another by-product of my reading Nick Kent’s 1970s memoir, Apathy For The Devil, was my being nudged into digging out Roxy Music‘s Country Life album, which Kent really digs. Bryan Ferry was, in Kent’s eyes, a bit of a hero of social mobility (whereas Kent was pretty much its anti-hero). More importantly, Country Life is—I now realise—a truly influential album in the progression of British art rock and glam. You can here those music-hall and oompah flourishes weaving their way into Parklife-era Blur; similarly, Ferry’s voice must have been a major reference point for Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos.
Country Life opens with “The Thrill Of It All”, an unexpectedly rousing, gutsy song from the ordinarily-louche band. There are car-chase strings, double-kicks on the bass drum, and nimble-fingered bass-work from John Gustafson. In a nod to the football-terrace anthems of the future, there’s also a good deal of wordless chanting. If only Bryan Ferry knew his handiwork would someday inspire this.
I thought One Life Stand would surely stand the test of time as the acme of Hot Chip‘s love affair with love. Just look at that title! With its lush, soulful electro-pop about monogamy and brotherhood, it seemed to set a benchmark that I didn’t think the band would try and beat. And yet. Continue reading Hot Chip — In Our Heads
Reading Nick Kent’s memoirs of his misspent 1970s as an ascendant music journalist (and hell-descending drug addict), I was struck by his simultaneous joy and horror at having helped give birth to punk. ‘Kenty’ is at great pains to point out that America didn’t ‘get’ punk, possibly because its only exponent of the genre was the too-weird Ramones.
Instead, America in the 1970s was gripped by a fever for funk and soul, kick-started by Sam Cooke in the 1960s and really set in motion by the 1969 release of Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul (about which I waxed converted here). Kent is an inconsistent music aficionado: he extols the sophistication of Steely Dan but loathes the Eagles; he revels in the psychedelic wanderings of Hawkwind but finds the seminal post-punk act Public Image Ltd. rather dreary. The biggest revelation of the decade, for Kent, is the Sex Pistols’ breakthrough; on the other side of the pond, however, he raves about Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.
Kent, in spite of his odd preferences, is right to allude to soul’s importance. All through the 1990s, as punk’s descendants crept back into the alternative shadows, R&B morphed into something chartable and marketable without losing sight of its illustrious forebear. Hayes and Gaye played their part in setting up R&B’s dominance, and their magnum opuses should always be lauded.
But alongside Hayes and Gaye, there was a third man. Continue reading The third soul
Apparently Matthew Dear’s forthcoming album, Beams, is a brighter affair than its predecessor, the relentlessly sleazy Black City. So far we’ve heard “Headcage“, which confirms this notion, and the opener “Her Fantasy”, which gives the lie to it. The B-side to the latter is “Crimewaves” (see above), and it sees Dear nail the bipolar aesthetic firmly on the head.
The bouncy, nervous white-boy funk recalls Talking Heads at their most affected, while the vocals are multi-tracked and troubled. The way those stabs of simulated brass pierce through the orgiastic wash of background cooing makes the funhouse lead vocal that bit more warped. It’s as if the funfair ride has spiralled out of control, taking its crazed passenger on the trip of nightmares.
Near the end, there’s also a masterful about-turn which references, I’m sure, “Little People (Black City)”. What’s even more gauche is the way it gets to it: a messy soup of digital gloop, which slowly resolves into a stacked choral sucker-punch.
I said it on Twitter but I’ll say it again: Oneohtrix Point Never’s “Remember“, taken from last year’s Replica album, reminds me of an untethered and even-more-beatless take on Animal Collective’s “#1”. No bad thing: both tracks share hazy, lazy and gorgeous chord sequences and befuddled sonics. In the case of the AC track, the cyclical synthesizer-work spirals inexorably heavenwards; on “Remember”, its place is taken by massed choral chanting, like a demonic version of 10CC’s “I’m Not In Love”.
A while back, I wrote of Spoon and My Morning Jacket, who have been busy keeping rock music alive in an era of laptops, turntables and synthesisers. But now that those bands have become deconstructionists and funk-explorers respectively, who fulfils the role of the revivalist? Continue reading Mahgeetah: rock music in America