Alternative music reviews

July 10, 2009

The Eternal by Sonic Youth

Filed under: reviews,sonic youth — @ 1:11 pm Comments (1)

The Eternal by Sonic YouthDid you spot what I was really saying in my review of Bill Callaghan’s album? I must promise to be straightforward and say it like it is – there are two brilliant songs and the rest is pretty disposable. Sometimes I like to lose the negative spin and so don’t write it. So if I was to do a review of, say, the latest Sonic Youth album then I wouldn’t mention that they are merely reliving old glories and say instead that they still make a nice noise.

Well, that might have been what I would have wanted to say about recent albums such as “Sonic Nurse” but the latest one, “The Eternal”, is just brilliant. Tracks such as What We Know and Sacred Trickster are as good as anything Sonic Youth have done since “Daydream Nation”. I would rate Massage The History alongside their best work ever. Their control of the music is effortless, drawing on elements that they have developed over the past 20+ years. It is fun to listen to the songs and figure out exactly which album a track could fit on. Mostly I placed things around the Goo period but Poison Arrow is more suited to whichever Lou Reed album it could have been on.

Sonic Youth have been doing this Rock and Feedback thing for so long that their kids probably say every year, “Mum/Dad, I appreciate you playing Happy Birthday but do you always have to add the 20 minutes of feedback?” (I imagine they all live in a big house together, by the way.) But even in their advanced years, they are still capable of surprises. The short clip I’ve chosen is from the rather cool Malibu Gas Station and the reason I like it is that it is a melody in the verse that strikes me as unusual for Sonic Youth. It’s a tiny detail but they are still moving forward with their music.

Malibu Gas Station by Sonic Youth

Malibu Gas Station by Sonic Youth (Clip)

June 24, 2009

Bill Callahan

Filed under: bill callahan,reviews,smog — @ 11:11 pm Comments (0)

Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle  by Bill CallahanSmog/Bill Callahan first got me hooked when I heard the track Bathysphere with it’s Cello backing and a curiously detached baritone vocal intoning about about childhood dreams of living under the ocean. It was magical and reinforced by by the rest of the Wild Love album. I stayed wrapped in their embrace for many years marvelling at some of the finest examples of songwriting you could ever hope to hear. Eventually we parted ways and after hearing the Knock Knock album I let the relationship drop.

On hearing that the latest solo album by Smog’s Bill Callahan featured a return to use of strings and horns as adornment I decided to see what was going on now. The album Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle contains two stand out tracks that rate alongside the best that Smog ever did. All Thoughts Are Prey To Some Beast is an entrancing poetic song that still hides the meaning behind the metaphor but you know it is about desire. The simpler song is Eid Ma Clack Shaw. Have you ever woken up in the night convinced you have found the answer to some great problem? On the more mundane level, I once woke up at 5 am on a Sunday morning with the design of a Haematology Laboratory Computer System in my head. I wrote it down and it proved a real success when I implemented it. Bill Callahan is a bit deeper than me so he wrestles with death’s pain and is shown the way to overcome the sadness. The answer is a song and he writes it down and then reads it back in the morning. All he finds are nonsense words. This is delivered with that magnificent voice, the controlled phrasing, and pulsating musical backing (including a klaxon sound just for fun). A masterclass.

Eid Ma Clack Shaw by Bill Callahan

Eid Ma Clack Shaw by Bill Callahan (Clip)

June 18, 2009

As Bad As The Downloaders

Filed under: richard buckner — @ 11:42 pm Comments (0)

I’ve just realised that the updating of my Richard Buckner collection hasn’t benefited this wonderful singer-songwriter at all. I bought the first three albums retail before my financial straights but all my recent purchases have been through Amazon marketplace and therefore second-hand. So I can sit in utter amazement at the man’s voice and astonishing songwriting but I haven’t paid him a penny for it. In addition, check out on Veterantoolbox can offer sometimes very deep savings to their military members.

I’ve not downloaded anything illegally but even so I am surely as guilty as the illegal downloaders. If you want to know more about casino games online you can visit this blog why slots have taken over the online casino world. I just wish he had some t-shirts available on his website (currently being re-jigged) so that I could show my appreciation. I’m killing music…
Click reference

Richard Buckner

June 17, 2009

Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard

Filed under: jeffrey lewis,reviews — @ 11:38 pm Comments (0)

Em Are I by Jeffrey Lewis & The JunkyardJeffrey Lewis’s last album “12 Crass Songs” was the first album I bought after being cleared of the debts that had led me to rely on submitted music for about four years. It was an intriguing prospect to have Crass songs delivered by a New York quirky folkie and it was a revelation, particularly to someone like me who had all the early Crass records, to finally hear the lyrics away from the original stodgy Punk delivery. I didn’t get on as well with his back catalogue however so I regarded it as a one-off show of brilliance.

His latest album “‘Em Are I” contains all of the same things I have struggled with in Jeffrey Lewis – the nasal voice, the conversational style of singing that uses schoolyard cadences instead of melody. But behind everything is the feeling that someone is baring their soul (admittedly with a lot of musical and lyrical whimsy). This is certainly an album that deals with a break-up and behind the humour is real disappointment, and that I can relate to.

In a world where bands plunder the 50 years of rock music available and mix different elements of the past, it is rare to hear an original voice and Jeffrey Lewis is one. Sometimes he seems just too knowing and aware of the musical deconstruction he is performing but it is always intriguing. One song on the album hits me like a sledgehammer (in the lyrics he says it is written by Jack who I assume is his brother who plays in the band) The Upside-Down Cross. It’s a full band piece with drums, electric guitar, piano and horns and is less playful melodically than much of the album but that just makes it work beautifully as a ‘let’s freak out a bit’ kind of song.

The Upside-down Cross

The Upside-down Cross by Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard (Clip)

Jeffrey Lewis on MySpace

June 11, 2009

Deus ex Machina

Filed under: florence & the machine,reviews — @ 1:24 pm Comments (0)

Florence & The Machine, St. Philips Church, Salford, Monday 1st June 2009.

It is sometimes interesting to go and see a band of which you know very little, as, without carrying any preconceptions or media baggage, it gives a blank canvas on which to overlay ones prejudices. Within five minutes of Florence & The Machine taking the stage, I had them tagged as media-friendly goth-lite, with a wilfully eccentric edge. Mid-period Banshee wannabees. Florence has a cracking pair of lungs, but strip away the harp, and the androgynous numanoid keyboard/violin, and it’s a pretty drab standard rock backing, and I was reminded of other famous-for-15-minutes bands featuring “charismatic” female vocalists (Curve, All About Eve, etc…). Also, the church venue doesn’t lend itself to amplified rock music. Whereas the natural echo enhances the sparse acoustics of (for example) Laura Marling, here it creates an aural sludge where the only winners are the drums and Florence’s voice. In-between song twee chat referencing coffins, death and other goth leitmotifs, as well as casual nods to the Hacienda and the Mondays don’t help. And yet…following an instantly forgettable final number, they returned for an encore, and played ‘Blinding’. Maybe it was the setting sun, maybe it was the atmosphere, but suddenly it all worked, and for 5 spellbinding (Oo-err, lazy journo Banshee’s reference) minutes I was transfixed. Only for the mood to be dispelled by a turgid version of The Source’s none-too-originally inspiring ‘You got the love’.

I await their appearance on a Banshee’s tribute compilation. I’d like to hear their take on ‘Overground’…

Review by Big Dave

June 9, 2009

The Resonance Association

Filed under: the resonance association — @ 10:07 pm Comments (0)

I thought I’d share this video of The Resonance Association’s None More Evil with you. This is my favourite track from the 2008 album “We Still Have The Stars” and possibly even extends the intensity that they achieved with their previous release “Failure OF The Grand Design”. The addition of the extremely distorted vocals makes it a menacing affront to the senses when added to their adeptness at creating atmospheric instrumental music. Every time I hear this, I keep on thinking of Satisfaction by The Residents and what if that band had developed their destructive tendencies rather than playing the (rather attractive) joke card from This is proof that Progressive music is alive and well and not an historical anomaly.

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We Still Have The Stars

June 3, 2009

Friday Session / Derailed / Johnny Winter

Filed under: ramblings — @ 9:06 pm Comments (0)

I was listening to BBC Hereford and Worcester’s Friday Session Introducing with added interest since I am investigating moving back to that area in the next few months. The programme has been extended to three hours on a Friday night, a just reward for such an excellent and entertaining take on the local music scene. The extra hour is being devoted to established bands with links to the area so those of you who don’t understand my relentless obsession with new music can listen to something more familiar such as a Dodgy session and talking about U2 at Kidderminster Town Hall back in 1980 (I saw them twice that year in Coventry, the first time in a half-full back room of The General Wolfe pub).

Obviously my main focus was on the two hours of Introducing. The track that really caught my attention was Century Smile by a band called Derailed. What surprised me was that they are a straight Blues band. Hardly a new concept, and not something I would go out of my way to hear. What attracted me to Derailed was that they sound like their starting point is Crawling King Snake by The Doors (although the “Huuh” at the beginning of the track reminds me of Stooges Fun House period). The vocalist Kirk Hammond has a low, growly voice that is perfect for this type of music. Blues is not a musical style that is going to lead to fame and fortune but Derailed sound like they will be really good live and the lucky people around Hereford should be able to have a good night when Derailed play.

Century Smile by Derailed

Century Smile by Derailed(Clip)

Derailed on MySpace

All of this new found enthusiasm for electric Blues led me back in time to reacquaint myself with Johnny Winter, the Texan Bluesman who began in the late Sixties. I first heard him when I was about 12 years old (I think it was my cousin Keith who played him to me). My trip down Nostalgia Lane has rewarded me with some of the best Blues Rock ever played. I’ve spent this week listening to the early albums and in particular to the amazing “Progressive Blues Experiment”. I just can’t get enough of that guitar playing. Here is a little sample to whet your appetite:

Black Cat Bone by Johnny Winter

Black Cat Bone by Johnny Winter (Clip)

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