Just days after Scotland voted against leaving the United Kingdom and Scottish band Cocoa Futures have released a free download of their cheery and optimistic track entitled ‘Scotland’. As everyone splits themselves into the 45% or the 55% of those who voted; the campaign messages still apply. Unity and solidarity must win over against division and conflict and this track is a symbolism of that. The track opens with a warped chime and with simple percussion as the rapid lead riff flashes across the other instrumentals before glazing over the track with it’s wiry electricity for a basic, yet effective hook. The vocals are familiar and not overbearing. They give an added sense of warmth to hammer home the message of the song in that everyone in Scotland has something in common and that’s a wonderful thing. A message that could be applied to the whole UK too. I’ve made my feelings clear over the last few months as a socialist who believes that Scotland voting Yes was a contradiction of the very thing I am, but at the end of the day there will always be a place that we feel most proud to come from. For me it’s the North East of England. For Cocoa Futures it is Scotland and they think it’s great. It’s hard to disagree.
Back in 1977, one of the North East of England’s greatest bands formed through Mark and David Knopfler of Gosforth and as Dire Straits they form a part of the region’s musical identity and culture. The North East may not have the mass of population and opportunity as the North West and London and their endless lists of key musical cornerstones, yet acts such as Dire Straits make sure the North East plays a valuable role in British musical identity and that of the world. Their lead single ‘Sultans of Swing’ was their debut and arguably one of their best. It’s a song that reflects on their travels down from Tyneside and to pubs and clubs around the country. One jazz band that they encountered in an empty London pub were the Sultans of Swing and this became the spark for one of the all time great guitar tracks. The track opens with an immediate purpose about it’s rotating rhythm and the light impact of the percussion running with it. This allows for the wiry lead riffs to feed off the solid sound and the same applies for Mark’s gruff and inconsistent narrative vocal. When that lead riff leads the chorus on it’s own, it needs no vocal input and the wiry and meandering nature of Knopfler’s guitar does all the talking as a complete hook. One perhaps more effective than any vocal hook or melody. This is given a greater tinge on some recordings when the lead guitar warps slightly. A wonderful instrumental track that just happens to have a lyrical story to go with it.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Blyth, David Knopfler, Dire Straits, Gosforth, Guitar riff, Guitar song, John Illsley, Mark Knopfler, Newcastle, Pick Withers, Sultans of swing
One of New York’s up and coming pop traders follows up from her single ‘Strange Enough’ and ‘Weekend’ offers up some of the same qualities and modern pop melodies along with the space and chimes to warrant a sophisticated piece of pop music that is fast gaining popularity. Her latest track opens with those chiming and shimmering backing vocals that sweep over the cascading percussion and her main vocals are recorded closely and in an isolated fashion to fit hand in glove with all the sharp 80’s percussion and backing vocal soars. These act as the hook and lay up the song to drop off these smoothly into bare instrumental sections before kicking in with full hook and melody in the chorus. It’s a nice and well delivered piece of pop which maximises what it does with the tool given. File next to Lykke Li and Jessie Ware.
Almeeva is the name of an on-going Parisan project from Greg Hoepffner. A deliverer of rich and fluctuating electronica; his latest EP ANAMPORPHIC does just that too. It’s out on September 22nd and is preceded by him sharing the stage with electronic synth lazers pioneer Bernard Szajner at the Centre Pompidou in Paris on September 18th for a live show called Evolution.
The four track EP open with ‘Soviet Superstructures’. An instrumental track with a whirring opening which soon shimmers, glistens and reverberates into life via a wide range of electronica. The song expands and grows it’s sound with all confidence with synth bursts and retracts to focus on the percussion or a single set of chords. The transitions are clean and purposeful with acres of space and room to manoeuvre. A fine example of the potential modern music has. ‘Parallels’ follows and see’s Greg take up the vocals with a soft, wistful and fading fashion that is balanced by the deep and churning beats and chords behind it. An effective marriage of tones and feels. ‘Felt’ has a pulsating, yet muted beat with guitar tracks trickling over the top of them as the synths arrive to gradually and subtly grow the song’s space and area. This is followed by a crisp beat part that is joined with a deep rooted bass-line, wispy vocals and electronic chimes. These laser-like sounds pull the song towards a full instrumental conclusion with a solidified beat and rhythm which is still glazed over by the haunting and fading vocals. ‘Palindrome’ begins with bold vocal unisons and haunts that usher in a sharp synth rhythm with meandering’s of percussion and bass notes behind it as they step back and forth in volume and presence. Again the track lifts and floats beyond it’s instrumental boundaries to explore the song’s expanses. Another fluctuation occurs with the introduction of the isolated vocals that are joined only by the heavily plucked strings of the riffs alongside him to them progress to a heavy vocal and electronic roaring chime before a final rhythmic section. An EP which is wonderfully and intelligently produced as no moment is spared from the fluctuating and diverse nature of each track in it’s structure, feel, atmosphere and more. An EP you should be listening to when it’s out on September 22nd.
Here is ‘Soviet Superstructures’ below. Check out the link for the live Evolution show for September 18th too.
On October 7th Weezer will return to deliver their new studio album with Everything Will be Alright In The End and in the run up to that, they have been releasing a long series of snippets from the album via small videos. Of course they have released the odd track too and their most recent offering is ‘Cleopatra’. A song that tackles the fact that they are getting old and how they are dealing with that. They did emerge twenty years ago now after all and age is often is signal for bands to slip into a comfort zone which is hard to get out of. Is this the case for Weezer? ‘Cleopatra’ opens in a way that might suggest so, but the country tinge is coupled with their trademark power pop chords, lead guitars and tumbling percussion which rumbles and rotates in the background and drops away before the chorus as expected. Rivers’ delivery is as crisp as ever too so there isn’t really anything new about Weezer circa 2014 from this effort. The lyrics add that other dimension and the song is alert enough to keep your interest too. In this case though, it’s very much a track to be embraced by the diehard and long term fans of the band. A catchy track as always though.
Indie Rock 2.0 as many people call it; has very few bands that have grown from it. Progressed or simply changed. It’s very much a time limited sound. Limited to 2004. Pixelated pictures on your flip phones, chatting with your pals on msn while Simon Cowell having the bright idea to ruin the music industry through the guise of the X Factor instead of Pop Idol. Catfish and the Bottlmen have came too late to the ‘party’. The Strokes sent out the invites back in 2001 and everyone had replied by 2004. Even Johnny Borell. Somehow the North Wales group wish to revive the most simplest and dumbed-down form of Indie 2.0. Recycle the recycled until it spat out The Balcony. I have the most sincerest hope that the singles are for the kids or whatever. The sales. That the album actually has some depth and originality to it, but I doubt that will occur…
‘Pacifier’ has the typical rotating riffs with the little trail coming off it and the large, distorted strikes of the guitar over the top along with the cymbal-heavy percussion in some vague attempt to fill the sound. I could lose count at the numerous times this has been done since about 1993. Every influence I hear is coming from everything that had ran its course around seven years ago. The fact the seem to paint their influences on their foreheads is little comfort for it either. This sound has been worn down to dust now and if you want to plug your influences then do it with some creative twist please! That’s paying a better homage to them then blatantly mirroring them. What they do lack in creativeness and imagination, they make up for in energy and humorous confidence. I bet this track sounds great live or at a club and I’m sure they transfer this energy to their audience too, but in terms of advancing music in any way shape or form; they don’t with this track. ‘Fallout’ opens with the soft edged thump from the percussion and the simple strikes of the guitar before it jangles and jungles it’s way into the chorus and Van McCann’s impression of the Kooks trying to sound like The Strokes turns into more of a Johnny Borrell scream, which even Johnny Borrell wouldn’t be too impressed with. The guitars really don’t seem to have much, if any purpose and it’s only the crashing percussion that gives the song any signs of life. This track is even more unoriginal and beige-like than ‘Pacifier’ was and it makes the perceived arrogance of Van very unfounded. Bringing back it on point; this song has been plucked from 2004 and this is a song I might have enjoyed as a nine year old but come on… think for yourselves… nothing new or intriguing here and even the delivery is so tame. The only thing I can say is listen to ‘Pacifier’ as it’s a mild improvement.
‘Cocoon’ opens in a typical mindless thrashing fashion plucked straight from 2001. It then goes on to go about a floating piece of Indie pop and then a Mumford-like tumble on the bridge section and then back into the lethargic predictability of a swooning Indie chorus with the cascading riffs and the sweeping backing vocals. To be fair this is the closest to any musical creativity they’ve ever came notwithstanding the blatant guitar solo and stomp-like finish. The only way I can see if this is enjoyable is if you’ve been in a cave on mars with your fingers in your ears since 1984. ‘Kathleen’ has that well worn sharp riff which fades into an oh so typical vocal drone but does as if hit by lightning, some life awakens and even if it’s a blatant Casablancas impression; the delivery is faithful and the brief jolt of electricity appreciated. ‘Rango’ is that featherlike distortion of a mindless churn with the lead tying it up and it then goes on to slow down it’s riff before a machine like thump from the percussion that gives them permission to go at their guitars like no one ever has before that big finish. ‘Homesick’ looks to perhaps provide an ounce of ponder and consideration but in reality they are just waiting on the cheap rise and falls to make the Indie Anthem more prominent. You think some of their other tracks of which they are so very few, might have a hint of something but alas tracks like ‘Sidewinder’ or ‘Business’ offer up nothing. The album is basically a repackage of their singles so far with little effort into providing any more material. Maybe they’ve hit a dead end? The LAD type lyrics of the majority of tracks make this album even less appealing along with the painfully predictable lines about ignoring your friends about me etc. etc. Their PR have labelled them heroes of guitar music, but as far as I’m concerned they are it’s nemesis. Batting away any new ideas and showing guitar music to be plain and outdated, so the sooner that tag is dropped the better. One positive is that it can only get better from here. If they put their energy and confidence into making some new music. Just because he’s wielding a guitar, it does not immune them from being just as painful as the music in the charts it’s apparently the alternative to.
Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony = 3.5/10