Alternative music reviews

October 13, 2008

Acedia by History Of Guns

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Is not acedia the original perception of alienation and revolt against complacency and the burdens of culture? Is it the angst of Kierkegaard, the “nausea” of Sartre, the alienation and revolt of existentialists from Camus to Marcel? Acedia is never without a sense of guilt or complicity, not as sin but as complicity in the horrors of contemporary life. To the modern mind, acedia remains real and relevant. It is a personal statement against the contrivances of culture, the hypocrisy of public morality, alienation from the natural patterns of nature and simplicity.


AcediaStrangely enough the quote above just about sums up what History Of Guns seem to be saying on this their latest album. Rather than ponder the condition of Acedia from a religious hermit’s point of view, they stamp and rail against the world, spitting venom on everything around them. It is a hopeless and loathsome album in the sense that it is full of loathing and offers no hope of a solution. It is this purity of thought, coupled with complete control over exactly how much noise to make that makes this a great, if uncompromising album. There is the tension between the electronics and those angry strangulated vocals topped off with some vicious guitar playing.

Empty Eyes by History Of Guns

Empty Eyes by History Of Guns

This concentrated bleakness of vision makes it History Of Guns’ best and most disciplined album so far. The enjoyment I get from it is similar to that of albums like Unknown Pleasures – it isn’t pleasant but it takes me into a world I recognise and need to explore. There are a few moments of quietness but even the piano breaks in …I’ll Be Waiting are threatening like the Halloween theme tune.

…I’ll Be Waiting by History Of Guns

…but I’ll Be Waiting by History Of Guns (clip)

If you have ever felt that life is about being born, brutalised, bought then buried, then you need to feed the paranoia with this album.

Empty Eyes and …but I’ll Be Waiting are available for a limited time as a free download at Lineout records where you can also order the album.

My Ringtone

Filed under: ramblings — @ 6:19 pm Comments (1)

I thought I’d post my mobile phone ringtone because the bastard contraption rarely plays it (defaulting to the Nokia craptone). It gives me a chance to hear it and anyone who reads this blog is welcome to guess what it is

Guess What


October 7, 2008

The Nature Of Genius – Townes Van Zandt

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I have spent a lot of time listening to Townes Van Zandt and recently watched the film “Be Here To Love me”. He was an American Singer/Songwriter who played Folk/Country/Blues music from the late 60’s to his death on New Years Day 1997. He became famous through other people’s covers of his songs – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard and Emmylou Harris had hits with his work. The reverence in which he is held is best expressed by the much repeated Steve Earle quote: “the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that”. If you delve in fans’ reactions then you will find many people who learned to understand their own torments through his work.

He led a troubled life with addiction to drink and drugs, and even electroshock treatment at one point, until he got help from a Behavioral Health FL rehab center. All of these experiences were expressed in his songs and you can feel the pain and the use of the pain to produce great art. The trouble with Townes’s music is that he seemed to care so little about recording that many tracks were spoilt by over-orchestration (of the slightly cheesy sort). But if you dig deep then I would reckon that he wrote/played 10 of the greatest songs ever written (Marie, Flying Shoes, Nothin’, Waiting Around to Die and others).

Despite all my obsession with the doomed Rock Star, the part of the film that most affected me was the recollections of his six year old son’s trip to see his father. His son JT rang home to his mother at two in the morning asking to come home – the much anticipated experience turned out to be too disturbing for this youngster. As a father myself, I just thought give up your genius and become a good Dad. As a postscript, JT has become an artist and does a mean version of his father’s songs.

Be Here To Love Me Trailer

October 6, 2008

Swings Like Teen Spirit

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I remember chuckling at Mike Flowers’ cheesy-Pop cover of Venus In Furs – as much at the idea as the execution. That was a comedy moment, but what should I make of Paul Anka’s Swing version of Smells Like Teen Spirit? This is the man who wrote the words for My Way and I see no evidence that he has a particularly well-developed sense of humour or the absurd. He takes a song full of loathing and delivers it with a suntan and a cheesy grin. ‘Hello, hello, hello, how low” indeed.

October 2, 2008

Message from A Mockingbird by Only Makebelieve

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Message from A Mockingbird by Only MakebelieveAlthough I gathered that Only Makebelieve take a lot of influence from the 60’s, it was the 1980’s that first came to mind as I listened to the start of this album. I wasn’t particulary keen on the 80s when I lived through them and anything that sounds like Tears For Fears will annoy me – so can I volunteer to drive a stake through the heart of Letters For The Dead and Rayna’s Smile and make sure they never rise again.

But then on the third track Spending My Life someone has turned the ‘Overblown’ dial down from 11 to about 8. There’s a sense of fresh air about the arrangements and there are some very 60’s influenced backing harmonies that make the song work despite some hackneyed basslines.

Spending My Life by Only Makebelieve

Spending My Life by Only Makebelieve (clip)

Although the 60’s element is only occasionally discernable, it is that which for me adds the little sprinkle of magic to this album. The rest of the time, the music is well constructed, well played, but suffering from too much density of sound (layered synths/treated guitars etc) – just like 80s keyboard bands. Obviously it is not quite to my taste, but I have to admit that I have enjoyed it a lot when Motorway driving. The sound isn’t overpowering when it has to fight against an engine and there are enough moments of melodic sparkle to make a journey better.

Backstab by Only Makebelieve

Backstab Only Makebelieve (clip)

Only Makebelieve

September 23, 2008

I Fell In Love With A Moment In Time by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences

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I was first alerted to a particular crime against the art of songwriting by Jon Noble. It was in You’re Beautiful by James Blunt (that perverts and stalkers’ hymn). He talks about this girl he sees on the Tube and then he says “I’ve got a plan”. But then the song continues with no more mention of this plan – what was going on? I did later on hear an interview with the woman who was brought in to help finish/tidy up the song and she admitted that it all ended up a bit disjointed. I just wonder at a songwriter who allows other people to finish off their songs

If I’m talking about real songwriters, on the Paul Hawkins debut album We Are Not Other People there’s a track that covers similar territory. “For just one moment I was in love and I never ever knew her name,” he sings. How lovely and romantic – his main worry is that if he did meet her again then his expectations would be too high.

But wait a minute, this is Paul Hawkins! Surely it can’t be so simple and then in the final verse he reveals that it is the “the image of her kneeling over me” that he holds onto. So there he was lying in the gutter pissed or stoned or fitting and she came to help him. Now that is a tableau more fitting to a man of such unique talents as our Paul.

I Fell In Love With A Moment In Time by Paul Hawkins

I Fell In Love With A Moment In Time by Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences (clip)

Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences

September 17, 2008

Concrete by The October Game

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The October Game released a magnificent album in 2006 called “Box Of A Billion Lights”. Their follow up is the single Concrete (When We Were Invincible). It is a song played simply, far fewer musical fireworks than the album, but that is where its attraction lies. It is their remembrance of a lost, youthful optimism and slight confusion as to where it went is set over a backing of twangy guitar arpeggios that gradually increases in intensity but never quite break out of their restraints.

This simplicity of music and lyrics and just bloody good songwriting is rare and rather beautiful. I see some similarity with Oxford’s The Winchell Riots (and I notice from the MySpace comments that the two bands have recently played together) in musical approach and even in vocal phrasing. It’s a bit of a secret from the rest of the country that we have such talent down here in the South but I feel very privileged to be aware of.

The October Game’s Concrete is a track that can warm you as the chill of Autumn approaches and its a free download! Click on the button below for a view of the track, and don’t forget to check the p4rgaming site, the perfect combination to relax yourself.

Concrete by The October Game

Concrete by The October Game (full track)

Download Concrete (When We Were Invincible)

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