The column where Ben P Scott recommends great new music, gives his opinions on current topics and then rewinds to relive the sounds of his past. This week: new releases galore. Eels, MBV, Suede, Pulp, Depeche Mode and more. Then the story behind the first record I ever bought, and why 1994 marked a vital musical turning point...
It's a VERY busy time for new releases. So many to mention and so little time or space to write about them all. So there's no topical rant this week, just a round-up of just some of the new and upcoming releases that you NEED to know about...
During the last couple of weeks I've been listening to the new Eels long-player 'Wonderful, Glorious'. It's the first Eels record since the slightly underwhelming trilogy of albums from 2010, and I was hoping for a return to form. It begins with the excellent 'Bombs Away', where Mark E Everett sounds like he means serious business. But by track two the quality has already dropped as 'Kinda Fuzzy''s chorus falls completely flat, and following it, 'Accident Prone' is an uninteresting, quiet vocal and guitar snoozer. 'Peach Blossom' is better, based around a thumping beat and another heavy, fuzz-laden riff. It doesn't take many plays for it to stick in your head either. Elsewhere, 'New Alphabet' is a grouchy number where the mood is pretty pissed off.
The aforementioned 'Bombs Away' is one of the best things here, along with the lovely 'On The Ropes' and 'The Turnaround'. Bleak, beautiful and emotionally fragile, the mood becomes more defiant as it rises and elevates the song to another level. Other highlights include the sad twinkle of 'True Original', the infectious bite of 'Open My Present', and the west coast funk of the closing title track, which soars into the light during its climax. Those moments of magic seem to be a bit rarer than before, but you'll more of them here than on the three previous LPs. But overall it's flawed by stuff like the annoying 'Stick Together' and the somewhat clumsy 'You're My Friend', two inessential cliche ridden songs about friendship. The inconsistency of this record leaves you wishing he could still bang out amazing albums like the first four. It does have more to offer than the previous LPs as well as being a touch more diverse, but it's still not up to the standard of 'Electro Shock Blues' or 'Daisies Of The Galaxy'. It does have some great moments though, and as a whole I'll give it a respectable 3 out of 5. Read my full review and listen to the album HERE.
So after having a night away from the internet last Saturday night, the last thing I thought would happen is returning to it on Sunday to find that My Bloody Valentine had suddenly released a brand new album, just like that. If you're not aware of this band's history (which quite frankly, you should be) this isn't just any ordinary album. It is their first release since their previous LP, a massively influential record that has become something of an all time classic. It was called 'Loveless' and it was released all the way back in 1991. Which makes the newly released 'mbv' their first LP in nearly 22 years, and yes that title is supposed to be in lower case. I don't know when these songs were recorded, some of them could have been made over the last month, some could be over two decades old. But I'm liking what I'm hearing, that's for sure, and it picks up where 'Loveless' left off to such a surprising extent, that it's hard to believe that so many years have passed.
Too early to pick a highlight yet, but 'only tomorrow' (the titles are all uncapitalised too) is fuzzy and downbeat, but with an air of truly mesmerising beauty, and hearing the blissful 'is this and yes' takes you somewhere else. The excellent 'new you' has a surprising laid back groove to it and is probably the nearest you'd get to conventional here, while 'nothing is' is a fierce punch-up between layer upon layer of guitars and thick, distorted beats. And through these headphones, the extraordinary sounds that jump out of the closing 'wonder 2' are simply out of this universe. But I'll need more time with this record to be able to review it fully.
Last week I was extremely pleased to hear that one of my favourite live acts Frenzy have begun writing and recording demos for a new album. If you don't know who Frenzy are, they are a UK psychobilly band formed in the 80's. And if you don't know what psychobilly is, it's where rockabilly meets punk rock and a double bass is often involved. Frenzy in particular are known for their upright bass playing frontman Steve Whitehouse, who is an absolute master of the instrument. Their last album, 2010's 'In The Blood' was a fantastic record, the best since the golden days of their genre. Perhaps better. They're usually gigging around the world, but with 2013 being their 30th anniversary they have more UK shows lined up for this year. But do seek out 'In The Blood' and give it a listen HERE, it's superb. I'm planning to do an article on the group's career, and that will be coming in the summer to tie in with their 30th anniversary. Their official website is HERE, where you can keep updated on news about the new album and live dates.
Being a child of the 90's, it's certainly thrilling to have Suede back with us. In fact they were one of the bands who were influential on my tastes when I was growing up, and their first album in 11 is a record that I am hugely excited about. Especially since the songs I've heard from it are magnificent, particularly the glam emotion and Bowie vibe of the lead single 'It Starts And Ends With You'. You can listen to that treasure HERE where you can also read more details about the upcoming LP 'Bloodsports'.
Pulp are another one of my favourite bands from that glorious era who have also released their first new material in over a decade. It's only one song, but what a song it is. 'After You' has an irresistible disco sound that perfectly encapsulates seedy British nightlife, and will leave lots of people like me wanting more. That line about Safeway and Tesco reminds you that this song was originally written and demoed over ten years ago, when such a thing as Safeway existed. They could have updated the lyric, but "from Lidl to Tesco" would've sounded stupid. Mind you singing the word "Lidl" in any song would make anyone sound ridiculous. Listen to 'After You' HERE.
You may have been hearing about the upcoming 'Sound City' movie about the world famous studios, and its accompanying soundtrack by Dave Grohl and an impressive supergroup that he has assembled for this project. The most notable track from this supergroup is 'Cut Me Some Slack', which marks the first time in almost 20 years that all the surviving members of Nirvana have recorded together. And as if that's not enough, they've also got some guy called Paul McCartney on vocals. 'Cut Me Some Slack' is almost like Macca's belated sequel to 'Helter Skelter', and I shit you not, it rocks HARD. Listen to it HERE.
After announcing the end of Babybird last year, cult hero Stephen Jones became Black Reindeer. Largely instrumental, and consisting of soundtrack-like pieces, this was the sort of music that Jones has always considered his personal favourite.
The latest Black Reindeer LP is a departure from the first two, and demonstrates an evolution. It's more varied, more defined, there are rare vocals, and the music has began to soak up traces of Jones's other project Death Of The Neighbourhood. This is immediately apparent on the opening '', and the excellent 4 with its unsettling falsetto, slow hip hop beats and jazz samples. Hints of DOTN's softer side have also infiltrated the gorgeous ambience of 'Away', where a soft, fragmented vocal floats around irresistibly pretty piano.
But the filmic atmosphere of the previous BR albums is still the prominent characteristic of this project, as is proved by 'Happy''s tragic beauty, and the sweeping sadness of 'No Sleep', where the drums sound like they're gasping for air. The intensely sinister vibe of 'Gone' is like the score for the most chilling horror movie you could ever dream of, while the short and stunning 'Drinker' is so easy to lose yourself in. Beautiful and hugely immersive. Overall it's the strongest and most complete sounding Black Reindeer album yet. Read my full album review and listen to the LP in full HERE.
Many of you will be aware of 'One Way Trigger', the unusual new track from The Strokes. After the major let-down of their previous album, I was hoping for something a bit better than this. That weird falsetto that Julian Casablancas enters into the song with is a prime example of how his vocal style seems to get a bit more odd with every record. It would actually much more enjoyable to listen to if it didn't have that keyboard hook. The song doesn't require it. I love that new album cover though. Hope the rest of it's more to my liking than this though. Listen to it HERE.
Depeche Mode's soulful comeback single 'Heaven' is a tantalising glimpse into their upcoming 15th studio album 'Delta Machine'. It's out in April, and you can read more info about the LP HERE, as well as listen to 'Heaven' and the superb 'Angel', another new track that shows the electro bands of today that they are still the kings. 'Heaven''s b side 'All That's Mine' is pretty damn fantastic as well.
I keep hearing that rather epic new single from Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, and I like it a lot. Apart from the 1998 Best Of album, I've never got round to investigating more of his work, but 'Jubilee Street' really is a thing of wonder. Listen to it HERE.
Sukh is a solo artist from Manchester who I have been alerted to recently, and the sounds he produces are most appealing indeed. My personal favourite at the moment is the magnificent 'Clear Horizon', a graceful piano ballad that shows this man has a real ear for a strong melody. Sad emotions combine with an air of hope that lifts the mood and adds plenty of colour to the music. The majorly catchy 'King' is more upbeat, but still a bittersweet tone lays below the brightness. The latest single 'Den' is like some sort of warm, piano based folk dreampop that is rich in heavenly harmonies. Apparently an album is on its way. I look forward to it. All these can be heard HERE.
I am very much enjoying what I have heard of 'Amok', the debut album from Thom Yorke's Atoms For Peace, which sounds like it could be just as good, perhaps even better than a new Radiohead record. I absolutely love the manic rhythms of 'Judge Jury And Executioner', and can imagine Thom dancing to it like a mentalist. The mixture of thick, jumbled beats, forceful basslines and Yorke's ghostly vocals make a whole album of this stuff a mouth watering prospect. A preview feature on 'Amok' can be found HERE.
Remember to come back every Friday, when this column continues. That's the present day stuff taken care of, no for the part where I rewind the tape of my musical life. This week: how I found redemption in 1994...
You can only like what you know, and you can only know what you hear. Most of what I heard up until 1994 was complete and utter tosh. But if you're lucky enough to hear a good amount of truly great music at the right point in your life, then you'll realise that the stuff you'd heard before was rubbish. That's how music fans acquire standards. And that's how I dumped Meatloaf and got on board with Bowie. I made the right choice. A life changing choice. And my passion for the great music I'm lucky enough to have experienced is why I have since devoted most of my life to it in one way or another. I can safely say that if I didn't wake up to Bowie and The Beatles, or if I grew up with the chart music of a few years earlier or a few years later, then I'd have grown up with only a casual passing interest in music, and it would have been shit music too.
I remember my Mum owning a tape of the 'Changesbowie' compilation and the music was an absolute revelation for me. The way this man continued to innovate and constantly reinvent himself over the years was fascinating, and these irresistible, diverse songs were in a different league anything I had heard before. It was at this point 'Under Pressure' became a David Bowie And Queen song rather than Queen And David Bowie.
The local library rented out cassettes and every week I would ask my Mum to rent a different tape out, and if i liked it I would record it. One of the first times I did this was with a few Bowie albums borrowed from the library. One such album was 'The Singles Collection'. The first tape of the 2 tape set was easily the best thing I had EVER heard.
There was a VHS version of 'The Singles Collection', which contained all of Bowie's classic promo videos. A copy of it was loaned to me by my Dad's mate John Hanson, who I have mentioned in previous columns. Me and my brother became good friends with John's son Wilf, and on various days out I'd hear some incredible music on John's car stereo. It was him who got me even more into Bowie (soon to be obsessed), him who played me Radiohead for the first time ('Creep' was an in-car singalong for the four of us) and it was him who would introduce me to the music of a certain band who were going to change my life forever. But getting into Bowie was the beginning of a new era for me.
This led to me buying what I think was my first record. And by my 'first' I mean the first record that wasn't bought for me as a present, or recorded onto a blank tape. As far as I remember the first thing I bought for myself was the 7" picture disc of Bowie's 'Fame 90'... Prior to this all the music I owned was either taped from my parents collections or bought for me as presents... This was 1994, and what a year it turned out to be. Meanwhile school life usually consisted of making up rude or silly alternative lyrics to songs sung in our school assemblies, such as 'Yellow Submarine' being altered to 'Mouldy Tangerine'. Quite why, I don't know. I don't think any of us ever did.
But playing the biggest musical part in my primary school life was the legendary Miss Drinkwater who wowed the class by being able to play acoustic guitar (at this point we felt like we were in the presence of a rock star... she could play guitar just like a famous person in a band could!). I soon joined her lunchtime guitar lessons but didn't get far because I was too keen on trying to play rock music instead of the "boring" basic stuff I was supposed to master at that level.
But even though she tried to teach us the simple stuff first, she was definitely rock n' roll at heart. 'Yellow Submarine' being sung by the whole school in morning assembly was strange enough, but 'The Continuing Story From Bungalow Bill' being used as music for our interpretive dance classes? We were only 9 years old! Miss Drinkwater is probably in her 60s or 70s now, and I'd love to meet her to say thank you for being my favourite teacher in primary school as well as for warping our minds with material from 'The White Album'... Next week: 1994 continues.