Single Review – The Stone Roses – Beautiful Thing

There are new lyrics for people to fill their Twitter bios and Tweets with for The Stone Roses are making music again. Never far away from causing a scene whilst saying little, the Madchester and Britpop forerunners have followed up ‘All For One’ with ‘Beautiful Thing’. It has everything you’d expect. Shuffling percussion, spaced out and anthemic lead guitars and distorted rhythm sections. There is little removed from their sound of 1989 apart from more polished production methods, but you get the feeling that is exactly what the people want. From this, there is a crucial decision for the group to make. They can either be defined wholly by one album and it’s sound or forge a defining sound once again. With lyrical queries of whether or not someone liked John Lennon, then the former might provide a more accurate description. They still sound solid, but are no longer game changing. So far the game has left them in 1989.

Owen Riddle

Single Review – Richard Ashcroft – This Is How It Feels

These People will be the first album from Richard Ashcroft in six years when it is released on May 20th. His return with the single ‘This is How it Feels’ has been emblazoned with the defiant attitude and demeanour that has been made familiar with Ashcroft for the last two decades. As one of the ‘Britpop’ generation that was able to forge a successful post 90s career, Ashcroft demonstrates that like the Gallagher’s, he has retreated slightly back into the comfort zone. His low melodies and rough edged tones are certainly more mature here. The arrangement is largely mature as well and nothing to shout about other than the odd production flourish. In basic terms though, it isn’t a bad song and he is far from slipping into mediocrity. Ashcroft’s affinity with string sections sees him make good use of them here to add an element of grace to the track. A track of distorted nostalgia.

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Peace – Happy People Review

Peace are back with the follow up from their debut LP with Happy People. It’s an album that just has to be an improvement on the forced and cheap flamboyance of the half-baked In Love from 2013 and fooled no one with a memory beyond 2005. Whilst the album has suggested a degree of refinement which is what they need at the very least, expectation isn’t great for what they might produce with this effort. It’s reception will have far more personal ramifications than any general musical impact for they are in need of producing something less transparent and more meaningful in order to halt the gathering sense of ridicule that they are beginning to generate.

With ‘Money’ you get a glimmer of substance and something towards creativity. I am only judging this from their own standard and not that of other artists, but there is tangible improvement here. The most noticeable is Harrison Koisser’s vocal, which is his own and not some put-on slur to be accepted by the hipsters. It easy and comfortable in it’s own skin and much more narrative of lyrics that are not trying to be something they are not. Musically, you can still pick out elements of Arcade Fire and Bowie and even Arctic Monkeys most recent guises albeit to a lesser standard, yet they are blended and mixed for a more hybrid sound of which the jangling guitars are largely ditched for a more solid rhythm with much more depth. ‘Lost On Me’ features clean rhythmic hooks as opposed to the predictable jangling riffs and serve a purpose along with Harrison Koisser’s vocals. These have improved by leaps and bounds now he’s dropped the slurred charade and projected his natural vocal. The transition from verse to chorus offers up a change of dimension rather than simply an instrumental alteration even if the chorus screams cheese filled pop. The lyrics are still pretty comical at times, but I guess it gets the younger kids into them. It’s by no means my favourite track by a millions miles, but there is a lot less to be bemused with than before so consider this song as the epitome of not bad.

‘World Pleasure’ falls upon a far lower standard. The track’s initial steps are exactly what you expect. The jangling, loose riffs and mis-matched percussion, the ‘rap’ or spoken verses are lifted straight from ‘West End Girls’ by The Pet Shop Boys and there is a slight sun kissed feel evocative of ‘Get Lucky’ from Daft Punk, yet both are far poorer versions. As is the blatant Madchester, Britpop and Noelrock replicas as the song pulls out of the instrumental. From all of this, it’s virtually impossible to take a scrap of substance from it. The title track has a fabric of instrumentals that are a flat-lining musically from what they’ve done numerous times before and by now it simply washes over you in a monotonous wave of jangling and that irresistible urge to churn out that vocal slur. ‘Perfect Skin’ has a gentle sonic tinge before launching into a Britpop flashback that certainly leaves an indelible mark in your head and the sing-a-long factor just about makes up for the lack of innovation and yet again, the questionable lyrics. For ‘Gen Strange’ see 1994. It would seem whilst the singles promised a little glimmer of something behind the façade or at least a sense of them trying, the result throughout the album is one that would only be successful if the last three decades had been erased from our minds. Unfortunately for them that hasn’t happened for many this album will be erased from our minds pretty soon as well.

Peace – Happy People = 5/10

NEWS: Noel Gallagher attacks Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian and Bastille. Is there a problem with the music of our generation?

This man has had a lot to say today; he usually does, but today he attacked those who you wouldn’t think he’d go after. He claimed that bands such as Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian “are not inspiring more working class bands” and went on to say “can you name me the last great band that came out of this country? There’s not really been any great bands in the last 10 years.” He also goes on to explain the lack of pure musical talent and innovation in the charts including the success of the X Factor generation that we are, through the lack of inspiration produced by bands such as Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian and “Middle Class” music produced by them and artists such as Bastille. He also went on to say that “all those bands used to be in the Top Ten, like us, Manic, Pulp, The Verve, Suede and Blur” at the end of the 90’s have been “marginalised and side-lined”.

This certainly begs the question, Is there an obligation for these bands to inspire anyone or lead a generation. While this is always down to artistic choice, if you look at past British bands and artists you find the likes of The Clash, The Smiths, The Kinks, The Jam, Sex Pistols and of course the Britpop generation singing about life in Britain at that time and was to a lesser extent true for some of The Beatles catalogue albeit with a more globalised disenchantment replicated on the streets of the U.K at the time in calling for Peace and an end to the Vietnam war. British music has always thrived out of hardship and injustice, yet in a time of just that in the U.K no one seems to care. No one seems to be singing about it. Does this explain the lack of pure, refined and innovative music in the charts? Perhaps partly. It doesn’t automatically explain the lack of creativity and individuality in the mainstream of British music though. My problem is that the current situation these islands and the world finds itself in hasn’t produced any innovative or meaningful music in the U.K mainstream, whether they’re about these events or not, nor is past or current guitar music the answer nor even have to be the answer. For certain its James Dean Bradfield’s comments about “gap year musicians” that explains the situation better for me. The only certainty about Noel’s comments is that it will test the loyalties and biases of those in the NME office, but at least a high profile figure is asking questions; whether his reasons are correct or not, it’s about time a lot of mainstream British bands took a long hard look at themselves.

Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn working together?

These two men may not have sparked the life back into British Music in the 90’s. That’s for sure. But they fired it to the top of the charts and took it to new levels and largely shaped the decade. They were also not known for being best chums but perhaps that’s more a description of Liam Gallagher who still holds his distaste today. You can also take into account the role NME played in making it a bigger deal than it was. But it’s no secret that both of them get on very well now. Blur bassist Alex James eluded to this and that they are working together. They’ve already performed together so why not? Just imagine what could be created given their skills. If you want to be fair an analytical about it than both have particular strengths to bring to a collaboration. Damon is probably the more musically capable of the two. Blur have had a variety of sounds that have worked for them and then when you go into the Gorillaz catalogue and then his recent solo work then anything is possible. He is also has an astute understanding of World Music as well as other genres and avenues of music and Damon will probably make it profound, intriguing and make it work. On the other hand Noel is the more capable lyricist. Not only has he wrote the most relatable lyrics of all time but he has made them with an instant sing a long quality and that part of it he’s retained to this day. Every single album he has worked on has got to number one. From Definitely Maybe to High Flying Birds. 1994 – 2011. He churns out hits for fun and would give any song a hook and direction. It almost seems like a combination too good to miss. Maybe it is? Who says it would work? But when you look at it, it probably would work spectacularly well. Anything by the two of them would be soulful, anthemic, catchy, considered, varied, profound and so much more. You’d know it would largely be about the music too. They are already cemented in the history of music in Britain and beyond. They certainly don’t need anymore money then what they have otherwise they’d both be playing to 70/80,000 people every autumn and would be plugging this and promoting that on every TV and Radio show going. But they are happy doing their own thing at the moment and if that means they come together then we’ll all be the better for it.

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