May 2007

Music musing

The Information
I bought the most recent Beck album a few months back. It’s called The Information. At the time, I played it once, thought “ooh, that sounds quite good”, and then forgot all about it (I was obsessively relistening to Dexy’s Midnight Runners at the time, and wondering how a band that good manage to be pigeon-holed as a one-hit novelty act by half the people I meet). Then a couple of days ago my media-player shuffled Strange Apparition to the top of the deck. It’s the fourth track on The Information, and within a couple of bars it’s clearly a Beck track. But at the same time it’s also the best track to get left off Beggar’s Banquet. Just like the song Peaches and Cream (on the Midnite Vultures album) where Beck manages to sound exactly like Beck but also like Prince in 1989, Strange Apparition manages to combine the very best idiosyncrasies of two entirely different sounds.

I do like it when musicians can incorporate their influences without drowning in them. Go Beck! Oh, and I’m going to nominate Nausea (off The Information) as the best use of bass in the past 12 months.

Speaking of influences though… for the past three or four years, almost every time I heard a new guitar band I’ve been forced to say “hmmm… it’s a bit limp really… I mean, it’s Talking Heads without Byrne‘s intelligence or the kick-ass rhythm section, right?” That’s what modern guitar music sounds like. And while I got the occasional nod of agreement, it seemed to be just me who thought this way. Because — let’s face it — people are still buying the shoddy imitations rather than getting hold of the recently reissued originals and hearing it how it should be done.

The name of this band is Talking Heads

Yeah, yeah, maybe it’s just me getting old. But y’know, I don’t think that’s it… the very thing that annoys me about the recent resurgence in guitar music is precisely how old and tired it sounds.

A few days ago however, I heard a radio interview with Brian Eno and discovered that at least I’m not alone in thinking that Arctic Snow Monkey Patrol are to Talking Heads what Oasis are to The Beatles. He seemed quite freaked out by the fact that thirty years after he’d helped create a particular guitar sound, half the new guitar bands in the charts seem to be recycling it really badly. Apparently he’s currently producing the new Coldplay album. The interviewer asked what it would sound like… “Not like Talking Heads. And not like Coldplay either. That’s for sure.”

I don’t like Coldplay. But I’ll probably give their next album a listen out of interest.

Also, can someone please tell me why only about twelve people seem to have heard of The Legendary Pink Dots? The height from which they shit on most modern music can only be measured in fathoms. Or leagues. Some olde worlde hefty unit of measurement anyway. A unit that means business.

The Pink Dots are making some of the most inventive music currently being recorded. OK, granted, they do have a tendency towards the occasional bit of inaccessible psychedelic freakout. But that’s just one element of an almost absurdly eclectic sound. The most recent album, Your Children Placate You from Premature Graves, opens with two minutes of sinister piano over the sound of distant children at play… interrupted briefly by a psychoanalytic voice asking whether or not “you suffer nightmares” and if so, whether you’d like to describe them? It then shifts gear into what could best be described as a hymn. A really really fucked up hymn set against a wall of discordant saxophones. But a hymn nonetheless.

Your Children Placate You from Premature Graves

It’s The Legendary Pink Dots at their best. You know how I was saying that so many modern bands sound so very similar? How they all seem vaguely reminiscent of Talking Heads with all the best bits removed? One of the truly great thing about the Pink Dots is that there’s none of that. When you buy a Legendary Pink Dots album you’re picking up something that sounds like nothing else in your record collection. You need to leave music entirely, and head on over into literature — to Philip K. Dick — to find another “lyricist” like Edward ka-Spel. And the music seems to emerge from dark post-apocalyptic cathedrals… it’s rich and diverse, and it’s held together by an atmosphere more than a musical style.

And nobody else does saxophones like the Legendary Pink Dots. Or spooky samples.

Still on a musical theme… well somewhat… I’ve been relistening to some of the Radio Savage Houndy Beasty cds recently. RSHB was a Leeds Student Radio project run by some friends of mine (two of them have blogs incidentally… Dreamflesh and Bristling Badger) which inhabited the same soundscape as Chris Morris’ Bluejam a couple of years before he got there. And by and large, RSHB was funnier and had better monged soundscapes. Sometimes it was the deep-fried freakouts live from the studio that made the show, and sometimes it was the one-off pre-constructed pieces. This download page has a few of the best moments, while the CDs can be purchased for a stupidly low price on this page.

King Monged

I really couldn’t pick out one single download as representative of what you’ll hear on RSHB. I’ll instead point you towards a couple of my own personal favourites. For anyone familiar with the classic Bauhaus track Bela Lugosi’s Dead (and thought staring at the floor, putting your hands into the pockets of your long black coat and shifting awkwardly from side to side was dancing), you really need to hear RSHB’s version… Bela Lugosi’s Dad (4.4MB mp3). Or perhaps you’d like to sample the delights of Meat (5MB mp3)? And if that all got a bit intense (as it has a tendency to do) then relax and drift off to the beautiful ambience of Rainy Porch Horse Blues (6MB mp3). Mr. Eno himself would be proud.

Oh, and if you’re In The Mood (3.2MB mp3) for some gratuitous swearing, then you really can’t go wrong with RSHB.

Posted in: Reviews » Music reviews