Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Jason Ringenberg CD review

Jason Ringenberg - Best Tracks And Side Tracks
12 May 2008

Billed as the 'original roots barnstormer' Jason Ringenberg, of Jason And The Scorchers releases a double CD to mark 30 years of music. Disc 1 is a best of 20 chronologically listed tracks; some are re-edited including 'Bible And A Gun' featuring Steve Earl and 'One Less Heartache' featuring The Wildhearts. Disc 2 is a careful selection of rarities curated by Ringenberg.

For those who don't know Ringenberg is in the Country Music Hall of Fame and is credited as the patriarch of Americana, alt-country and cow-punk. His pioneering musical imprint, fusing country and rock together, is equal to either Gram Parson's or Uncle Tupelo.

Yet to these ears it all sounds painfully hillbilly, boot stomping yee-haw! country. His influence is legendary, and I appreciate what he's done but unless you have a cowboy hat and string tie in your wardrobe this might just test your tolerance to country music.

For fans of: Uncle Tupelo, Townes Van Zandt, Blue Mountain
Download: Punk Rock Skunk

A Fine Frenzy stream

If anyone reading this hasn't listened to A Fine Frenzy yet, then do yourself a favour. Click on the link below and your ears will love you:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Paul's review - The Foals

This week Paul has been listening to the Foals and musing on the state of his existence when he realises what is "the biggest challenge in my life this week"

Band = Foals
Album = Antidotes
Label = Transgressive

When asked if I’d like to review Foals’ Antidotes I had heard Cassius, their lead single, once. It was spiky and rugged, the sound of a sped up Bloc Party on LSD. I thought one listen was all I needed to know a great tune. I was wrong, shockingly wrong.

By the time the album arrived, Cassius had been on the radio a few more times. On second listen it began to grate; on the third I turned the volume down; by the fourth I was lunging for the dial like a man desperately plagued by the fear of hearing the football results that would take the surprise and pleasure out of watching Match of the Day.

It soon emerged that the problem with Cassius, and with Antidotes as a whole, is Foals’ love of repetition. Every line is sang four times; every hook is borrowed from the previous song; every vocal is multitracked and bolstered beyond intimacy or immediacy; every guitar solo employs the same laboured style (jarring guitars picked quickly and seemingly out of time high up the fret board).

Asides from the constant repetition, uninspiring music and lack of dynamics, there are two further problems. Every song is two minutes too long and each song sounds just like the last. The tracks blur into each other, but not in the Sergeant Peppers kind of way. What the sleeve notes call eleven songs is actually one, big, fat mess. Put the components of a Bloc Party record into a blender and you would end up with Antidotes.

Listening to the album from start to finish has been the biggest challenge in my life this week. That probably says a little too much about my life, but nevertheless, it’s not exactly the glowing tribute Foals will want on their record cover.

When Bloc Party released the majestic Silent Alarm it was inevitable that deplorable replicas would be cobbled together by boring bands hoping to heist a bandwagon. But it would have been difficult to predict anything this bad. Be warned: Foals will leave you in need of an antidote.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Clinton's "Mean, Vacuous, Desparate" Race

NYT Blames Clinton For "Mean, Vacuous, Desperate" Race: The Obama campaign is sending out a New York Times editorial released tonight that blasts Hillary Clinton -- whom the Times endorsed. Here's a sample:

The Low Road to Victory

The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.

Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.

Read on

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Kooks acoustic performance

The Kooks' sophomore album 'KONK' came out today on Astralwerks.

The entire album is streaming online at AOL's here:

exclusive 4-song acoustic set and interview on Spinner's Interface with frontman Luke Pritchard can now be watched here:

An .
mp3 of a live version of the first single off 'KONK', "Always Where I Need to Be", is available at this link:

May 18 - San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
May 19 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern
May 24 - Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
May 25 - George, WA @ Sasquatch! Festival - all ages
May 26 - Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom
May 29 - Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre
May 30 - Kansas City, MO @ KRBZ's 'Buzz Under The Stars' Series at The City Market
May 31 - Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Café
June 1 - Milwaukee, WI @ Turner Hall Ballroom
June 2 - Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre
June 4 - Toronto, ON @ Kool Haus
June 5 - Philadelphia, PA @ The Fillmore at TLA
June 6 - Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
June 10 - New York, NY @ Terminal 5
June 11 - New York, NY @ Terminal 5

Friday, April 11, 2008

Billy Brag loves Duke Special!

In no less than the New York Times, Billy Brag annunces he's a fan of Belfast's favourite, dreadlocked son - Duke Special. Let's hope he keeps spreading the word.

In an article entitled Guitar Licks That Resonate and Lyrics That Linger he writes about the Duke:

Duke Special

He’s a very interesting-looking guy. He’s got dreadlocks, wears eye makeup and a kind of old-style army uniform — slightly Sgt. Pepper — and he has a bit of an Ulster brogue. “Songs From the Deep Forest” (V2) is a lovely album. Americans might refer to his music as vaudevillian; we would say it’s got a musical twist. He writes beautiful songs, mostly love songs, which he sings in a plaintive voice. He’s a bit like an Irish Rufus Wainwright; he’s got that sort of vibe. He has that sense of drama, except he’s not quite as fey as Rufus, he’s a little bit more up close and personal. Being a songwriter, I get sucked into the lyrics first. The song “Portrait” makes my son and me want to hoof around the kitchen, Gene Kelly style.

Read the rest of the article here

Go to Duke Special's website

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

MUSE - H.A.A.R.P. review

Please welcome a new contributor to the blog.

Paul Campbell is casting his critical ear over the music world's offering from now on. Paul has had a flourishing musical career with northern Irish band The Smiles. To start with, he's been listening to to Muse.

Muse – HAARP

(Warner Brothers)


Nine years, five albums and twenty singles into their career, you would forgive Muse for releasing a greatest hits compilation. Save for a mighty splash of crowd noise, the mandatory four drumstick clicks prior to each song, and the occasional post-cheer ‘thank you’ from the electric-eelesque Matt Bellamy this live CD sounds much like a Muse Best Of. To their credit – and discredit – Muse have reproduced the spirit and sound of their records onstage.

A great band playing great songs makes for a great record, but not a great live record. Sure, Muse are pitch, note and beat perfect, but they don’t embellish on their music to present it in a radical new light. The great live albums show us a side of a band we would never hear on their records. Nirvana’s Unplugged in New York gave us Kurt Cobain singing Leadbelly in a cardigan. And more recently and locally The Frames’ Set List offered Glen Hansard singing Bob Marley and telling a story about an old (dfor) dog and a white car.

The DVD is a different animal altogether. Sure, it still sounds like a Muse mixtape playing in your car stereo while a few people shout in the back seat, but the added visual component transforms the show into a spectacle. New Wembley looks immense; the crowd – all 70,000 of them – look mid-orgasm throughout; the stage is mammoth; the lights are mesmerizing and spellbinding; and the band look composed, and more than anything, at home.

The paramount bonus of the DVD format is that it allows you to see the band play. It seems unlikely, but you need to witness Matt Bellamy play guitar and piano with your eyes to appreciate the complexity of his compositions. The bass sounds meaty and driving on the record, but only when you watch Dominic Howard play do you recognise the enormity of his influence on Muse’s masterpieces. It’s the same with the drumming; the fills may burst out of the stereo, but when you see them in close-up during ‘Invincible’ you half expect the old Twin Towers to reform from rubble and come marching down Wembley Way.

If the release of HAARP says anything about Muse it is this: they make intricate and dominating music and can reproduce it with astonishing panache onstage. The whole Muse live experience cannot be contained on a live CD, and to be realistic you’re not likely to get it while watching a DVD in your lounge. If you want to experience Muse live, go see them play. HAARP will only ever be a poor man’s substitute.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Andrew Bird - How to write a song and other mysteries

Andrew Bird recently wrote a column in the New York Times about writing songs.

Words Will Tell

By Andrew Bird

In about a week I will load up my car with amplifiers and guitars and drive to Nashville to begin recording my next record. I don’t drive much anymore and I’m glad for that except that I used to write a lot while on the road. Solitude, boredom, and the desperate need to entertain oneself are ideal stimuli for songwriting.

I’ve spent most of the last year inside a tour bus. I’ve spoken more words to journalists than I have to my friends and family. All of this has kept me from what I realize now is my job, and that’s to daydream. Now I bring my bike on tour and ride every day. Wandering in an unfamiliar town, the rhythm of walking or riding and a few hours to kill is nearly the perfect recipe for a new idea.

Read the rest of the article here

Thursday, April 03, 2008

R.E.M. - Accellerate review

All week I've been walking around with “Accelerate”, in my ears. I love a new REM record and it was with considerable anticipation that I hit the play button.

I should probably start by saying that I was one of the only people I know who liked "Around The Sun". I also think "Reveal" is a great album, although truth be told, I don't listen to either much anymore. Except for “Imitation of Life” that is.

In short, I really like Accelerate. It's a good record.

But then you have to ask the question, is it a good REM record? That is a more difficult question. It's easily one of the best records I've heard this year, but this is the band that made "Out Of Time", "Automatic For The People" and "Document". That's not even to mention their wonderful list of singles.

Despite their past conquests, it's is accepted opinion that the last few REM records, really since Bill Berry left, haven't been up to much. While some of us might disagree, the album sales are falling. So REM decided that they needed to either make a great record, or call it a day.

To do this they've drafted in Jacknife Lee, the man who proved that U2 still know how to rock on "How To Dismantle An Atom Bomb". It was a huge success, so can he work his magic with REM?

His formula seems simple - stop Michael Stipe from singing his long ballads and let Peter Buck rip with short direct songs. The first thing that strikes the listener is the guitar. The first six songs feature guitars not seen since "Monster". Mike Mills is right behind with his brilliant bass lanes and backing vocals. "Living Well Is The Best Revenge" is the staccato, 3 minute, punky opener. With it REM set out their stall - this is a comeback record.

Things really get going on "Man Sized Wreath", a 2 minute distorted guitar song with a great chorus. Then before you know it you're at "Supernatural Superserious" the first single and best track on the album. I've had it on repeat for days. 3 minutes and it too is gone.

The next track, "Hollow Man" is a real belter. Stipe confronts his elusive enigmatic nature head on when he sings "I've been lost inside my head/echoes fall on me/I took the prize last night for complicatedness". But then the band let rip with the best chorus on the album.

In fact, the 3 songs leading up to Hollow Man are perhaps the best sequence REM have done since "Everybody Hurts" and "Sidewinder Sleeps" on Automatic for the People.

The second half of the album then begins with Houston, a song about Hurricane Katrina. From there we're on more familiar REM territory, with several songs sounding like outtakes from the "Out of Time" sessions, and more sounding like the IRS years.

It would be easy to say REM are trying to rekindle their early album roots, but it's more than that. REM are putting together everything they have learned over the years, stopped experimenting and made a direct record.

At 35 minutes, it’s over far too soon. Then again, like me you can always hit the repeat button.

Rating: 8/10

Read the TIME magazine piece on REM Finding Their Religion here.