Friday, 24 May 2013

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #18

This week: The Fall live, new albums from Delta Mainline, Daft Punk, Electric Eye and Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs. Plus new music from Gaz Coombes, Suede, Black Books and more. Firstly apologies for no RW/FF last week, writing a column during that week would have been difficult due to trying to sort out financial matters, household jobs and other things. Yes, believe it or not, sometimes I am reluctantly forced to do things that don't involve music.

So in place of the usual weekly column I published the fifth edition of The RW/FF Compilation, a mixtape featuring music I have written about in recent columns. Basically a round-up of the best of the best current releases. Listen to it HERE. Some of these tracks would be huge hits if mainstream radio played them, like they would have before they limited their playlists to only include mass marketed pop (and a Daft Punk song).  A few weeks ago this column featured a section about how too much choice in the digital era can be a bad thing, and how it has led to indie music becoming too fragmented to make an impact on the charts. After writing this piece, I thought about it more and discovered many other reasons why indie and rock doesn't feature in the mainstream anymore. I've sussed out how manufactured pop has taken advantage of the changes within the music industry and how all other music has suffered as a result of its constant domination of the charts.

But it's too much for people to fully understand if I just try and hurry over the main points. So i'm going to be writing a book. It might take me a while, or it may be completed sooner than I think. No, it probably won't. As well as making a few notes for this book, I've spent the last week listening to the debut album from Delta Mainline and that new one from Daft Punk which despite being a good record, has been overhyped and is experiencing something of a backlash.

The new album ‘Random Access Memories’ is their first in eight years (excluding their ‘Tron Legacy’ soundtrack), has been hugely anticipated and subsequently raved about in the press as if it were an all time classic. But is it? Opening the album in a bright, funky and overwhelmingly irresistible fashion is the fantastic ‘Give Life Back To Music’, which quickly catches the ear with its slick, breezy grooves, while ‘The Game Of Love’ is less disco, more 80′s soul. Soul music is a very human thing, something that comes directly from the heart, yet here we have this music being sung by a robot. It’s an intriguing idea.

The epic ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ brings a sensual groove, moody synth pop, touches of laid back funk and in the second half, even flashes of explosive post-rock. The way it all fits together is wondrous. On the unremarkable ‘Instant Crush’ the vocodered singing wears thin, especially with Julian Casablancas providing the recognisable voice, and ‘Lose Yourself’ is enjoyable but it doesn’t need to run for quite so long though. Apart from those things there isn't much wrong with this record. Following centrepiece ‘Touch’‘Get Lucky’ is a perfectly constructed pop song bearing a hugely infectious tune that doesn’t take long to become addicted to. It’s also a rare example of a great track deservedly becoming a mega hit single in the modern mainstream. The first 40 seconds of ‘Beyond’ could easily be their contribution to a Star Wars score, and the minutes that follow could easily be the work of fellow French icons Air. Perhaps it doesn’t break new ground, but it’s excellent nonetheless.

Brass, woodwind and strings join up with ambient tones and brushed, almost jazz-like percussion during ‘Motherboard’, which gradually develops into something darker and more dramatic, while the closing ‘Contact’ focuses on the synths and sees them working with more live instruments, pushing their arranging skills to the limits. At times the live drums and atmosphere brings to mind the excellent UK duo Public Service Broadcasting.

But is it a 10 out of 10 like the NME rated it to be this week, and does it deserve the 5 star reviews from Q and other sections of the music press? The answer is not quite. While it may breathe much-needed fresh life into modern dance music, it still has its flaws like most other albums. It’s often brilliant and is worthy of high praise but it’s not perfect and therefore doesn’t quite amount to 100% “couldn’t possibly be any better” full marks. Ignore the hype and avoid any disappointment by just listening to this album and enjoying it for what it is. Read my full album review HERE.

Went to see The Fall last night (23 May 2013) at the Trinity in Bristol, a fantastic night and a fierce performance from Mark E Smith and co. It was a fine example of why this configuration of The Fall has lasted longer than any other. Mark E Smith likes to keep them in shape, play with their sound and put them to the test, while his wife and keyboardist Elena Poulou is the image of ultimate cool, arriving and exiting in a long red coat, handbag hung on the synth stand. She also provides the vocals on 'I've Been Duped' as MES stands at the front staring over the crowd, a lively and often mental section of them in the centre at the front going nuts throughout most of the set. During an excellent if slightly odd sounding 'Sir William Wray' Peter Greenway's guitar is inaudiable. It seems that Smith has turned down the guitarist's volume perhaps so he'll have to thrash as hard as he can at the strings just to be heard, but instead the six strings produce nothing but silence, and we are denied the song's ferocious riff. 

Smith often wanders off to deliver his words behind the stage, spending a lot of the set out of view, and only a few songs in, he's already kicking microphone stands over and messing with the equipment, but MES and his robust band seem to be having more fun as the set progresses. Read my full gig review next week.

Delta Mainline are a seven piece band led by frontman and songwriter David McLachlan. ‘Oh! Enlightened’ is their first full length effort, and also one of the best debuts of the year so far.
The booming stomp of ‘Misinformation’ introduces the band with distorted bass, squealing guitars and a big bright sound full of danger and excitement, while the joyously colourful ‘Stop This Feeling’ is at times slightly reminiscent of The Verve at their peak, topped with massive bursts of uplifting brass. It’s one of four main highlights, another being the gentle ‘Dead Beat Blues’, woozily relaxed and wonderfully arranged with a chorus that hints at what Embrace could have sounded like if they’d chose a different path after that first album.

Another stand out is the fantastic ‘Florentine Regime’, a fine slab of piano pounding Velvet Underground-esque rock and roll that begs to be played at maximum volume. It supplies the album’s most instant and infectious moment and comes with a nice change of mood towards the end. ‘Dark Energy’ is where the record hits its sonic and atmospheric peak, beginning with sparse piano and shady guitar before it explodes into life with dramatic chords and then takes off in another direction, changing shape and pace, and ending in a blizzard of chaotic feedback and white noise. 

None of the tracks overrun, and as an album ‘Oh! Enlightened’ never becomes a bore. Perhaps it’s not the most original thing you’ll hear at the moment and it even though you can tell it’s a good LP on the first listen, it takes a while for the songs to sink in and become familiar. But every listen reveals something different, providing rewards for the patient and a record that has longterm listening potential rather than instant appeal. After all, it’s no good having an album that sounds great first time and then gets boring after a few plays. So if you’re looking for something that stands the test of time, you’d be stupid not to give Delta Mainline a chance. Read my full album review HERE

I've spent the last few days investigating new LPs from Laura Marling, AM And Shawn Lee, The National, Samba Toure and Vampire Weekend. As well as those, I've been listening to 'Clarietta', the debut from Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs, packed full of brilliant post-punk indie pop tinged with psychedelica and shades of The Velvet Underground and 70's New York. The production given to the album by the legendary Edwyn Collins lends the LP a shiny and bold edge. Listen to the album HERE and listen to the addictive single 'Things We Be' below.

Electric Eye are a Norweigan group I've discovered through GIITTV writer Dominic Valvona's recent 'Polygenesis Perusal' coulmns. I decided to take a listen to their debut album 'Pick​-​up, Lift​-​off, Space, Time', which was released last month on April 3, and described as "groove-psych-space-dronerock". 'Tangerine' is very much like a fully fleshed out rock relative of The Beatles' 'Within You Without You', while the excellent 'Morning Light' is the record's most immediate moment. 'Kruskontroll' brings to mind The Beta Band going space rock, while the closing 'Electric Eye' is a slow paced, blissed out trip through the mind that comes with harmonious yet shadowy guitars and provides a hazy and rather lovely ending to an impressive debut album. Listen to 'Morning Light' below and check out the album HERE.

Also this week I have been listening to 'Wish To Scream', the new album from Tribes, some of which is pretty great, but a few weak moments let it down a bit. I do need to give it a few more plays before I make my mind up though. I noticed the NME gave the album a kicking, just over a year after praising and hyping their debut album. Interestingly, acoustic bonus track 'World Of Wonder' is an exact cross between Frank Turner's 'Nashville Tennessee' and Green Day's 'Deadbeat Holiday', while the album itself displays more of that Longpigs influence that I could detect on their debut. It's way too indie and too old fashioned to appeal to mainstream pop fans, and too commercial for a lot of indie people, and the vocals begin to grate after a while. But there are a number of fine tunes that I might tell you more about next week...

The legendary Suede have confirmed more UK tour dates for later this year. More details HERE. Meanwhile the terrific 'Hit Me' is being released as a digital single next week (May 28th) and comes backed with two brand new B sides and a pointless radio edit of the lead track. These days it's not so often I get to look forward to some new B sides from anyone, so two new tracks from an incredible group like Suede are a real treat. Why did they feel the need to make a radio edit of 'Hit Me' when the album version is perfectly constructed and an ideal length for a single? Listen to the glorious full length 'Hit Me' below.

Black Books are a 5-piece band from Austin, TX playing a mix of dream pop and southern rock. In 2011, Texas was entering a record breaking drought and the summer heat was noticeably more oppressive, Ninety days of 100+ degree weather without rain was a major influence on their album. Their self titled debut album was released a while ago on May 13th, and I've managed to listen to it a couple of times this week. Very good it is too. The band mad their UK live debut earlier this week supporting The Flaming Lips followed by appearances in London Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham for Dot to Dot festival. Listen to 'The Big Idea' below.

Following his debut solo album last year, former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes is releasing a brand new single. The fantastic 'One Of These Days' is unlike anything Coombes has done before, yet it still brims with quality. It comes backed with a new mix of album track 'Break The Silence' and is available on iTunes as well as a very special limited edition run of 250 12″ vinyl copies, all signed by Gaz and numbered. the download is available now, while the 12" is released on 3rd June. To get it go HERE. Listen 'One Of These Days' below.

Once again (for the third week running in fact) I haven't had time to bring you the usual 'Rewind' part of the column, where I relive my musical memories each week. It will return next week. In the meantime you can read THIS account about my earliest musical memories as I go back to the early 90′s. Which includes some of the awful stuff I listened to at the time… Embarrassing.

Go HERE to read about some of the terrible chart hits from 1993, my introduction to Suede, and music I listened to an a family holiday in Andorra. In fact, I'll save you some time: if you want to read ALL previous installments of RW/FF then you can find them all HERE. See you next week.

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