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Rewind back to February 1990, and the song of the time was not by The Stone Roses or Nirvana, but it was from Depeche Mode. Before guitar music blasted out it’s final innovations so far, of any meaning; electronic pop was still the order of the day. A band firmly rooted in a time limited 80’s sound were started to shed their skin. With the album Violator, Depeche Mode became timeless with an album full of sophisticated pop music and therefore proving that sophisticated pop is not just a modern fad, but something that rang out back in 1990 and particularly with ‘Enjoy The Silence’, the single released back in February 1990. It still has the hugely rich synth sounds and percussion, but it becomes the bit-part in a song with a simple, falling riff, an aggressive backing track and distorted synth compliments upon it. The vocals from Dave Gahan are refrained and narrative too. The effortlessly string the song’s rather different parts together and quashes the notion that electronica was cold or synthetic. Lyrically the song sort of reflects the paradox of the instrumentals and the legacy of the band with enjoying the silence having both negative and positive connotations to it. A brilliant piece of atmospheric and emotive electronica.
The Foo Fighters are set to make a return with their eighth studio album on November 10th with Sonic Highways; an album which Dave Grohl has marked out as making 2014 a big year for the band and also talking of how “this album is instantly recognizable as a Foo Fighters record, but there’s something deeper and more musical to it.” This would suggest a change of method or approach and it becomes pretty clear where this lies. Location. For this, the band have recorded eight track from eight different cites: Austin, Chicago, L.A, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Seattle and Washington DC. They have looked to take influence from each of the cities they recorded in and the important cultural figures from there. The album also runs alongside a HBO series of the same name and it see’s them travelling around these cities and immersing themselves in the cultures of each. It even see’s Grohl sit down for a chat with Obama about these musical cornerstones of the United States. We can still expect a snarling, in your face record from them; akin to the classic trademark that is their sound. This time however, we have these new elements entering the music either in lyrical, production or musical fashion. That is what will make this album stand out a bit more than their other as each has always had sizeable attention. Watch this space…
On the 27th August I experienced first hand the marvel and enigma that is Annie Clark a.k.a St. Vincent. One of the most spectacular events that you could experience in combining her truly innovative and ground breaking music with striking theatrics, effects and coolly executed dramatics. These were evident from the off as the synth bounces of ‘Rattlesnake’ hit the applause as St. Vincent strolled on to carry out a series of poses and stances before a urgent and crisp delivery of the track before moving on to ‘Digital Witnesses’ with all it’s live intricacies and detail of each strike of her guitar and slick presentation that is occasionally intercepted by Wiry and metallic guitar solos, which are delivered with ease. She went on to engage the audience by guessing the nickname for the people of “Newcastle slash Gateshead” was “Peaches” and that their favourite word was “osteology” which we might use in reference to “sex, food and music” and with the audience sort of nervously hanging on every word; she went on to make the subtle point that we’re all the same as we all hope. Words as simple as anything but made more potent and thought provoking like St. Vincent does with her music. Classic tracks like ‘Cruel’ and ‘Marrow’ were delivered with the biggest and boldest transitions between the song’s subdued distance and towards the heavily distorted, yet direct riffs as she shuffled her feet in a manic fashion in unison with the strobe lights to make it seem she was almost hovering. All of this while she was still wresting with her guitar at the same time. A sight to behold.
She went on to talk about accidently stealing from Tesco or Sainsbury’s and setting fire to a neighbourhood with a magnifying glass with a real sinister yet comic tinge, before concluding “Shit man, that’s life”. Her marvellous song range swept through ‘Laughing with a Mouth of Blood’, ‘Surgeon’ and ‘Actor Out Of Work’ before delivering ‘Cheerleader’ with a huge kick and a punch as the track pounds it’s way towards the chorus as she smoothly slipped into the mysterious and almost tragic nostalgia of ‘Prince Johnny’, which she delivered from atop her podium, standing bold and high above the stage and audience. Of course this ended with her haunting slither down her podium, encased with flashing lights and wailing synths. This uneasy and temporary inertia was soon broken by the synchronised moves of Clark and the rest of her band to the warped distortion of ‘Birth In Reverse’ and ‘Regret’. The latter extended the pause to about ten seconds and it was nearly a lifetime (or it felt as such) before she broke her freeze and continued with the song’s conclusion. ‘Huey Newton’ was still able to stand out amongst an entire set list of quite simply huge tracks. The meandering first half of the track was obliterated by the grinding, distorted drive of the second half, that featured quaking guitars that completely rattled you in the most thrilling way imaginable. Time to catch your breath is fleeting as the rapid tinged insanity of ‘Bring Me Your Loves’ fired and shot it’s way at your senses. As if in a wonderful paradox or perfect manipulation, the show or event was concluded by the lone St. Vincent playing out ‘Strange Mercy’ on her podium. Then with a bow she was off. That was it. It felt a little too fast as it would when you become completely immersed in something. Immersed in music for the first time without the comfort of my headphones or speakers in my room, but with the natural sounds enveloping me. No artist I have seen has ever done that and I think it’s the ultimate compliment to St. Vincent I can give. I was sat down throughout, but you had to be. It craved your undivided attention as she had given her undivided effort and imagination to it. It may sounded so boringly cliché but it had a profound effect on me. I’m still having flashbacks…
The Drums return with a second single from their upcoming third album Encyclopaedia (Out September 24th) with ‘I Can’t Pretend’. It’s a pretty sizable shift from the manic and unrelenting ‘Magic Mountain’ with a much more relaxed and steady beat with a swooning and distant ballad that features wistful and sentimental vocals, “cute” lyrics and feathery synth intervals and motions. The low lying bass line gently rumbles below it to give the foundation for the high swoons and nostalgic wistfulness. The distorted guitar track acts the twitchy hook to add to the feelings the song is already purposefully conveying. It’s a track that’s simple, but effective. A soft nudge as opposed to the smack of ‘Magic Mountain’ and a sign of a varied and dynamic third album.
Girl Band are an all male noise quartet from Dublin and they are about to release their new single ‘De Bom Bom’ on September 1st with a cover Beat Happening’s ‘I Love You as it’s B-Side. The A-Side track is a raging and screeching piece of nihilistic punk rock with a light but aggressive beat, industrially grinding and churning guitars and a scratching bass line with vocal shouts and wails over the top of it. The continues throughout the song, only changing to step up the tempo and intensity of it all. You can only imagine what the hell happens at one of their live shoes or gigs but through the chaos, you do pick up their skill and partially covered features that go unsung, such as the neat distortion of the bass which could be their secret weapon if you like. Oh and they’re influenced by Daft Punk too….
The Knife have announced that they are to split at the end of their Shaking The Habitual tour that concludes in Reykjavik, Iceland on September 7th. Upon the news, they were hailed as one of the most influential acts of the millennium by The Guardian and even though you won’t be familiar with them; that evaluation could not be more true. Sweden’s Karin and Olof Dreijer were initially pushing the boundaries of electro-pop with their 2003 album Deep Cuts and their most popular single ‘Heartbeats’. With it, they were grasping the heavy distorted synth sound and trap drop like beats nearly a decade before they were in widespread use like they are now. Today we’ve even reached the point where McCartney is doing just that. Throughout the 21st century so far, they have continued to develop and push this sound on beyond it’s very advanced boundaries; encompassing the very best of the unknown and the future of music progression. The fact that today’s groups have only just cottoned on to what they were doing eleven, twelve years ago while they were taking their first steps is testament to their advanced ability. Most recently they have reached the heights of experimentation; to the point where a label or genre cannot be applied. Shaking The Habitual and it’s fear inducing, synth laden, cave dive was their sound of 2013, however, we will not see music of that tenacity and inventiveness until 2024 at the very earliest, such is their progressiveness. Their legacy is not what they’ve done but what other people do with what they’ve done. The legacy does not hark back to the past, but to the future. We just haven’t reached it yet. They shouldn’t be stood alongside The Beatles, Bowie, Sex Pistols and the like; they will take their place of the modest sort of innovators. The one’s that aren’t appreciated until long after they’ve gone. Like The Sonics, Silver Apples, John Foxx and Broadcast; their music will be uncovered like a archaeologist discovers and rare artefact.
Hopefully their separate projects will be just as advanced and as enthralling for god knows we can’t afford to lose some of the last great innovators of music we have left.