Sunday, May 15, 2005

Music Week

I can't believe the amount of music that seems to be pouring in to my life at the moment, and with some big releases to come (White Stripes, Ghostplane, Cassette & Phoenix Foundation are all on the near horizon) and my general addictive behaviour, there is little chance of a slow down. I still have stuff I bought ff trademe before Chrustmas I have yet to listen to.

Over the past week, I've only managed to listen properly to four new CD's - while I have been listening to Horsepower a bit to get ready for Pegasus, that doesn't really count as new. Nor does the Nick Cave B Sides and Rarities because I haven't got past the first disc yet. What I have been listening to has been a pretty mixed bag. Two of the CD's were a complete surprise - one in a good way, the other not so much.

That was M I A's Arular. There's a fair amount of talk about her being a Sri Lankan Freedom fighter of some sort - har dad was a Tamil Tiger - so I had expectations of a tough-talking MC over bhangra. Now, that would be a cool CD to have. Spin is just silly when it says this will be the "best political album this year". Sure, there are some songs which have political content - for example, Sunshowers is about a Muslim being gunned down simply because he was Muslim - but they are in the minority. No doubt it is cool to like her for her background, but when that background makes only a faint impact on the music, it does become rather irrelevant. In fact, the lyrics are no stronger than you might find on a typical pop-dance music CD, and that is ultimately what this is. A couple of the songs bordered on, but just missed being, cheesy. The interest is in the music and the particular styles and sounds of her voice. There are nods to pretty much every urban music style there is, I've seen it called a musical collage, although throughout each song there is a pretty simple underlying structure. I suspect that this would sound awesome on a proper club soundsystem, turned up way loud. One thing I really wish she had not done: she's borrowed the hiphop own-name referencing "Hello, this is MIA...", endlessly repeated in Amazon. I can see why it has been rated so highly at Pop Matters, it just isn't so much my thing.

Then there was Fat Freddys Drop's Based on A True Story. These guys had initially refused to even talk about releasing a studio album, believing that they could only do what they do live. So, they released the Live at the Matterhorn and left us to believe that would be it. Ironic really, given Mu's production skills. Listening to this CD, there are no single standout moments - indeed, I left it to just repeat on the stereo three times and it becomes a gorgeous seamless loop of music, with wonderfully mellow instruments (less dominant horn section than I remember from their live shows) and Dallas on main singing duties. Simple soulful lyrics.

Single of the week, however, comes from the world of Its an older CD (2003), but I'd not heard it before although I've wanted it for a while. Thea Gilmore's Avalanche is a fine album, she has a lovely voice and some great lyrics, but the absolute standout is its eighth song, Razor Valentine, with a dreamy triphoppy texture, and her voice put through some sort of filter that flattens out a lot of its nuances.

My personal fave for the week, however, was a complete suprise. I've had the Toy Love LP for ever, drag it out every so often for a play but have never been blown away. Of course, none of the members of Toy Love ever liked that record, so it evidently didn't give a very faithful account. But now I have Cuts, I played it all the way as I drove to Christchurch, and its great! It starts with a bounce, on Squeeze, and despite being a punk record and, despite the overtly uplifting lyrics in Based on A True Story, was actually the better at being uplifting. Take the second track, Rebel - there is just something so cheerful in the lines "He don't know the name/of the song he's whistling/He says what he likes/Cos nobody's listening/He's a mod and he's a rebel/Lives so high cos he knows/He'll never find his level". The next couple of songs are great pop songs, at least they would be in my kind of world - Don't Ask Me and Sheep. Not that a song with lines like "The doctor's taken three quarters of my brain/and I'm banging my head against old brick walls/But it doesn't hurt at all", particularly when sung by Chris Knox, won't go down too well with the civillians.

And then there's Cold Meat - that dead pan delivery of "Why don't you
fuck yourself"

gets me every time.


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