Friday, 20 September 2013

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #30

This week: thoughts on those Mercury Prize nominations, albums from Crocodiles and Placebo, as well as a brand new RW/FF Compilation to stream and listen to. Plus new music from Zoo Zero, Elvis Costello And The Roots, Troumaca, Splashh, Factory Floor, Money and NOCEREMONY///. A lack of time has again meant no 'Rewind' musical memories appear in the second half of the column this week. Sorry...

A relatively short column this week. Working on several different album reviews at the same time has left very few hours for me to put the usual lengthy column together. Out of the six reviews i've been tackling, four are unfinished while the other two appeared online over the last few days. The music of Crocodiles has always reminded me of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club doing The Beach Boys, however their fourth LP 'Crimes Of Passion' expands their horizons to include a wider range of sounds. While their sources are obvious, no other band blends them together quite like Crocodiles, and with album number four they've made this mixture of musical reference points into something distinctive of their own. The opening 'Like It In The Dark' is one of four or possibly five initial highlights, laying chiming Echo And The Bunnymen-esque guitar hooks over gospel piano and an upbeat breezy fuzz, suggesting that this could be their strongest collection of songs yet. And it is. 

The dazzlingly joyful melancholy of 'Heavy Metal Clouds' is as bold and bright as Crocodiles have ever sounded. It's one of the finest examples of how their garage rock noise is sweetened and strengthened with catchy pop hooks that distract from the negativity of the often gloomy lyrics. The record ends on a high with the blissful 'Un Chant De Amour', winding things down gracefully like a sunset in paradise. If you like your dirty, scuzzy rock n roll balanced with splashes of melodic sunshine, then this record will make a nice addition to your collection and for some, an ideal introduction to Crocodiles. Read my full album review HERE.

It was in the late 90's that I discovered Placebo, 1997 I think. The song was 'Teenage Angst', one of those songs that manages to create an effortless magic with some very simple ingredients. When 'Pure Morning' and 'You Don't Care About Us' were released, they were two of the most played tracks on my stereo that summer. The first two albums were great, and the next few all had some good moments, however seven albums down the line Brian Molko's tiresome whine becomes increasingly grating, even more of a problem when his songwriting skills have been diminishing. There are lots of almost obligatory "keeping up to date" electronic trimmings that add absolutely nothing to the music, songs that go nowhere, blustery soulless production and an array of painfully embarrassing lyrics. 


They once boasted that they'd "left a trail of blood sweat and spunk across the country". By subjecting venues around the UK to these songs, all they'll be doing is leaving a trail of shit. "Now I feel I've lost my spark" he sings on the crushingly dull 'A Million Little Pieces'. Well at least he admits it. Read my full review HERE, where 'Loud Like Love' scores a pathetic 3/10.


Something else that has taken a bit more time away from me was the compiling of the new RW/FF Compilation Volume 10. I don't have regular dates set for each of these mixtape-type things, instead I just wait until I have an 80 minute CD's worth of great new music to make up each compilation. The amount of top quality new stuff released over the summer is evident by the fact that two compilations were published in one week, and this time around September's set is equally overflowing with musical treasures. Contrary to what some ignorant people think, there is plenty of excellent new music out there, as is proved by every one of these brilliant mixes. It works as a talk-less radio show playing non-stop music, and it also works as a far superior alternative to those dreadful 'Now!' CDs. 

The idea is to buy all of these tracks and burn onto a blank disc, hence why each compilation will be roughly the length of a CD. Alternatively, just sit back and enjoy the best new music of recent times… It is available to stream below, HERE and via Mixcloud.

Featuring new music from: Manic Street Preachers, Midlake, Yuck, Crocodiles, Money, Troumaca, Al Lover, Dreadzone, Nine Inch Nails, Atlanter, Stephen Jones, Splashh, Pylo, Eight Rounds Rapid, Franz Ferdinand, and Arctic Monkeys.




It seems pointless to talk about THOSE Mercury Prize nominations when everyone else has already done so, but here's my bit. I certainly don't agree with the people arguing that Bowie shouldn't feature in the list. They argue that he's an already established artist whose place in history was assured long ago, and that his place on the list could have been given to a struggling act in need of a boost. That's all very well, but the list has never been exclusively for up-and-coming or underground music. It's a prize for album of the year, not best newcomer. 

It's a bit like my website I suppose; you're always going to get someone who complains if I feature more mainstream music like the Arctic Monkeys or Franz Ferdinand, and saying that the spotlight could have been used to give much needed promotion to a more unknown band instead. However RW/FF isn't a site about insigned and independent music, it's a site about the BEST music. And if the small artists are able to feature alongside more established names then its a healthy thing for potential crossover to new listeners as well as proof that the underdogs are just as essential to listen to as music's biggest names are. In short, you can't exclude Bowie and the Arctic Monkeys for not being underground artists, because this isn't an award for the Best Underground Album Of The Year. 

But I can also see things from the other side. While it would be unfair to omit established artists who have made great records, it's also massively wrong that self-released records aren't eligible for inclusion, and neither is anyone else who doesn't cough up the £200 entry fee. So while it would be damaging to the Mercury Prize's value if mainstream acts were excluded, not allowing strictly independent artists to take part has an even more negative effect, to the point where it can no longer be an officially recognised prize for Album Of The Year. How can it if a massive percentage of all records released that year weren't eligible?

The nominations seem to lean heavily towards albums that have enjoyed commercial success rather than interesting records in need of a wider audience. It's a list that suggests it was compiled by a panel of judges who are incapable of digging deep enough or listening properly. Are they seriously trying to tell us that Foals and Jake Bugg made two of the twelve best albums of the last 12 months? Good records yes, but not exceptional pieces of work. One suspects that well informed choices and musical awareness were sacrificed for the lazy approach of "it's popular, people like it, it must be good, put it on the list". It's not a coincidence that the majority of LPs on the list made the top 10. With more music out there than ever before, you can't expect everybody in the world to agree on the best 12 albums of the last year. But surely all of us with working ears who still actively investigate new music will agree that the Mercury Shortlist is ridiculously lacking, and contains three worthy inclusions at the most. We know the list is wrong, so fuck the list. The best record of this year will reveal itself in time. It won't need an award to prove itself...

Albums I've been getting my listening gear round this week include Money's enchanting 'The Shadow Of Heaven', the eponymous Factory Floor LP, Splashh's 'Comfort', Troumaca's 'The Grace', and the NOCEREMONY// record, all impressive debuts that make up a large portion of the albums that i am currently writing reviews on. 

Sukilove's 'Drunkaleidoscope' and melodic avant-rock four piece Zoo Zero's self titled debut are two other new things I've chosen to spend more time with out of the many new releases I am sent or made aware of. 08001's 'No Pain No Gain' and 'Wise Up Ghost', Elvis Costello's unsuitable collaboration with The Roots are amongst the things I've been less impressed with, although the latter does contain this stand out moment... 


Here are a few choice tracks from those LPs I mentioned...


Zoo Zero - 'Show Me Your Flag' (from the album 'Zoo Zero', released September 30)

Money - 'So Long (God Is Dead)' (from the album 'The Shadow Of Heaven')

Splashh - 'Lost Your Cool' (from the album 'Comfort)

Troumaca - 'Trees' (From 'The Grace' LP)

Factory Floor - Fall Back (from the 'Factory Floor' LP)

NO CEREMONY/// (featuring Joey Santiago) - 'HEARTBREAKER' (from the album 'NOCEREMONY///'


Rewind: 1995
I have recently been slowly putting together my 1995 Best Of compilation, an epic six part array of classics that is finally nearing completion. I'm also about halfway through writing the next instalment of my 1995 memories as part of the music-related recollections that usually appear in the 'Rewind' half of this column. It may be more likely that the six part compilation will appear next week, the 1995 memories seven days after. If you haven't seen them yet, you can read previous instalments of my musical life story in past editions of this column HERE...

Bye for now.



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