Friday, 13 September 2013

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #29

This week: new albums from Dreadzone, Strumpets and Franz Ferdinand. Memories of homemade compilation tapes and thoughts on the recent Cassette Store Day, plus superb new sounds from Eight Rounds Rapid, Black Hearted Brother, Arctic Monkeys, Splashh, Troumaca, and Nine Inch Nails... In the "Rewind" part of the column, some more classic tunes from 1995...

My "reviewing frenzy" I promised last week didn't quite go according to plan, but at least I have reports on three new albums for all to look at... 
Now 20 years into their career, electro-dub fusionists Dreadzone return with their ninth studio album 'Escapades'. As you'd expect, there are big beats, reggae vibes and sounds that lend themselves to both festival crowds and home speakers (or headphones if you're just an iPod person). Although they like to try out new elements, they do tend to rely and often build on their familiar strengths, something they have always done throughout the last two decades in order to grow and survive for this long. There are a decent amount of great songs to add to their live set, and this is an album that will please their fanbase while doing enough to maybe even win them some new admirers. Read my full 6.9/10 rated review of 'Escapades' HERE...



The second album from Antwerp based "psychedelic dadaist pop" foursome Strumpets is one of those weird records that may be difficult to get your head around initially, but proves rather interesting during the course of repeated plays. It holds back, occasionally offering brief helpings of melody before throwing you off the trail by changing shape and form. Their backgrounds in extreme avant garde noise art mean that a group like this probably aren't capable of a completely straight forward set of songs that follow the usual conventions, but that isn't to say that there aren't moments of skewed pop brilliance. Some of the ideas stick very well, others don’t, suggesting that it takes patience and an attentive ear to be able to feel the impact of this music and to understand what it is that Strumpets are trying to achieve. Read my full 6.9/10 review HERE.


Unless you were living under a rock at the time, you will know that there was something of a boom for British guitar bands in the mid 2000. When the groups involved in the movement began to falter towards the end of the decade, Franz Ferdinand were no exception. Five years on from the opinion-dividing 'Tonight' fans can be glad that their fourth full length effort is an improvement. They may have returned to safe territory with this one, but it would be unfair to criticise them for doing what comes naturally. The stomping title track that opens 'Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action' could be a close relative of 'Do You Wanna', and it's easily just as good. Similarly, the energetic 'Love Illumination' recalls the debut LP's 'Michael' and adds quirky synth lines and bursts of rasping brass into the mix. These and the Clash-esque funk-punk of the slightly cartoonish 'Evil Eye' provide the album's best moments, along with the infectious garage rocker 'Bullet', where they make a reconnection with the energy of their early days. Even the best tracks here won't change the minds of those who have dismissed them in the past, but with this record Franz Ferdinand can lay a credible claim to being one of the few mainstream guitar bands of the 2000's who are still worth listening to. Read my full 7/10-rated review HERE...


People may wonder why I publish a lot of album reviews a few weeks after the music has been released, when most sites rush to be the first ones to dish out the marks. I do this for two reasons: some sites move through an endless stream of releases, writing their reviews after a couple of listens before moving swiftly on to the next album and never mentioning the previous one again. 

So it's always good to have a site that keeps the music in the spotlight for longer by talking about it after the initial buzz is in danger of dying down. These slightly belated reviews may also act as helpful reminders for readers who have been meaning to check out certain albums they've heard about. Once a song is out there, it's there forever. People shouldn't stop talking about great music just because it's been out for longer than a week.

What I do is listen to as much as I can, pick the albums and songs that stand out the most and then take the time to soak it all up before narrowing it all down to the things I choose to review. I will always give the music a chance to grow, since I find a lot of the best records are the ones that reveal themselves gradually. If I am sent advance copies of things weeks before release, there is every chance of them being reviewed before they go on sale, but otherwise I won't hear the music until everyone else does. 


So I'm not in a rush to jump on the buzz bandwagon and knock together a quick review of the Arctic Monkeys album just because it's being hyped by everyone else. Instead I'm going to live with it for another week before writing a sensible, considered account of my thoughts. Just like all the other albums I choose to write about. The new Manics album was an exception: I was furiously scribbling down notes during the very first play, and over the course of the following days my head was largely occupied by thoughts regarding the record. After drafting all these opinions down, it didn't take long to compile them into a satisfactory review, which was published just one week after I set ears on the album. And I feel the same about 'Rewind The Film' weeks later, a fine piece of work it is.

But I'll admit this: I love the Arctic Monkeys album already. However, whether it sounds just as great in a week or so remains to be seen (or should I say heard). So I'm more than happy to wait until the hysteria has died down until I make my final judgement on 'AM'. For now I'll just give you the fantastic 'Fireside'. You're probably going to be on your way out to buy a copy after hearing this...


So last weekend (September 7) was Cassette Store Day, a kind of extension of the Record Store Day idea. It hasn't been that long since I last bought a cassette, although they tend to be stupidly cheap ones from charity shops and boot sales, purchased purely for nostalgic purposes. In the 90's I used to buy all of my music on tape, until about 1997 when I could afford CDs, although having said that I do remember buying a  cassette copy of 'How To Operate With A Blown Mind' by the Lo-Fidelity Allstars the week it was released, simply because it was on sale for only £4.99. But tapes provided an even more important purpose back then: for capturing all those great radio shows and songs that you couldn't buy unless you were very lucky. Listening to a couple of 'Now! That's What I Call Music' albums inspired me to make my own, massively improved compilations, which then became annual yearly 'Best Of''s. As technology changed, these compilations moved over to blank CD, and now they can even be streamed via the Mixcloud site...

God Is In The TV writer Mark Barton published a great article on Cassette Store Day, where he discusses his fondness for the format... "And now I’m getting all misty eyed reminiscing to hours spent rewinding and fast forwarding trying to find your favourite moments, using the tape count device as a means to aiding your guess work, then there was the un-joy of snapped, gnarled and chewed tapes – hours spent repairing them by hand with thin slithers of cello tape – strange as it may seem, it always happened to your favourites...". Lisa Jenkins, who also writes for GIITTV (as well as The Quietus) tweeted: "how i miss handmade mixtapes - written in biro, the old hiss, and made with love...". After informing her that I still had a few of my old home-made compilations, she replied "I still have some of mine too... It took proper love and dedication to make them.... They took ages!". I promised Lisa I'd upload some pictures of my cassette collection, as well as a few of the compilations I made back in the day...

So by going to this page HERE, you can see the drawer that contains all of my remaining tapes... My 'Best Of 1998' tape, part one of two. This was only the second yearly 'Best Of' compilation I ever made... From two years later, there's part two of the 3-part 'Y2KAOK' compilation from 2000. Note the somewhat mismatched tracklisting. Keeping up the tradition of crap titles, the following year's was called '2001: An Ace Odyssey' (groan)...

Mark Barton's Cassette Store Day article can be found HERE. Let's be honest, they were useful at the time but sound-wise, cassettes were an undeniably crappy format. Songs would play too slow or too fast, plus music would sound muffled and weak. So why do I and many others still have a fondness for these redundant plastic tapes? Nostalgia. The memories we have of recording songs off of the radio, making our own specially personalised compilation albums of the music that would go on to soundtrack our lives, and even being able to records things off of your friends and family. Cassettes are relics of our childhood,  like memorabilia from days we view through rose tinted glasses. A familiar item that's like an old friend that you wish you could see more of, even if they don't perform as well as their younger relatives. So for old times sake I still have my drawer full of cassettes, although many were sadly lost, chewed up, damaged, taped over and thrown away during the 2000's. At the time, I couldn't have imagined ever missing them.

The mp3 is something I consider to be the formless, modern digital equivalent of the blank tape, and as we'll as owning loads of mp3 backup discs, I have now got myself an iPod. Well an iPhone, which does everything iPods do and a lot more. It doesn't mean I'm "going digital " of course, since I buy all my choice albums on vinyl, however it's proving very useful for easy access to the many mp3s that I am sent, as well as being able to listen to even more music when I'm out and about... Here are some of the things I've been wrapping my ears around for the last week or so...


Eight Rounds Rapid are a band from Southend-On-Sea who have recently been championed by Steve Lamacq and Gideon Coe amongst others. Amongst other things I can detect hints of Elastica's attitude, the repetition of The Fall and the no-nonsense delivery of the UK Subs. I would definitely like to hear an album from this lot. In the meantime they have just released 'Writeabout' on a 7" single limited to 500 copies. According to the band: "you can buy the vinyl single at 3 places: Pouch of Douglas near Westcliff High School (an art emporium), 'Fives' record shop in Leigh-on-Sea and the Norman Records online store...". More info can be found at their Facebook page HERE...





Black Hearted Brother describe themselves as a "Spacerock/Light Entertainment fusion group", but their shoegaze credentials are undeniable, since they feature Neil Halstead formerly of Slowdive. Their debut album 'Stars Are Our Home' lands on October 22 via the excellent Sonic Cathedral records. Here is the superb 'I Don't Mean To Wonder'... Find out more about Black Hearted Brother on Facebook...


So another week, another new release from former Babybird genius Stephen Jones. He released the 10th (is it the 10th? I'm beginning to lose count) Black Reindeer album entitled 'Death Is Stupid' earlier this week on Wednesday (September 11), another fine piece of work described by its maker as a record that "takes the concept of death and gives it a good kicking. This is part one of two albums - tipping a nod to Popul Vuh's music for 'Werner Herzog' and John Carpenters music for 'The Thing'... It sonically leaps from whispers to hammer strokes". Give it a listen at Jones' Bandcamp page HERE...




'Comfort', the debut album from Hackney-based Splashh is proving to be a fascinating and infectiously satisfying collection of tracks. It was released last week (September 2) and a review of it will be coming to these pages soon. Here's the brilliant Pixies-like opener 'Headspins'...


A few tracks from albums that I will also be reviewing over the coming weeks (along with the NOCEREMONY// LP) all recommended purchases...

Nine Inch Nails - 'Various Methods Of Escape' (From 'Hesitation Marks' LP)



Money - 'Goodnight London' (from 'The Shadow Of Heaven' LP)


Troumaca - 'The Sun' (from 'The Grace' album)



Regular readers will be wondering why the 'Rewind' part of the column only consists of songs this week. After my memories of late summer 1995 that I posted two weeks ago HERE, I am currently in the process of emptying my brain and putting my recollections of Autumn 1995 into writing. I'm being careful not to miss out anything significant. Over the next few weeks i will also be sharing my epic Best Of 1995 compilation, in the meantime here are more classic tracks that will appear on it...




See you next week.
     

1 comment:

  1. Writeabout is also available at Rough Trade from today...

    http://www.roughtrade.com/albums/76646

    ReplyDelete