Monday, October 5, 2009
Okay, I'll just get this out of the way; I have a serious love hate relationship with paramore. When they first showed up on the scene back in 2005 I championed them and their astonishingly strong debut effort 'All We Know Is Falling' to anyone and everyone who'd listen.
It was a stunning mix of memorable hooks, slick rock production with the delicacy and vulnerability of emo, without being overly melancholy. At times it seemed a tad whiny, but with singles like 'Emergency' and 'Pressure' that was easily forgiven.
Imagine my delight when 'Misery Business' appeared!
It seemed as if Paramore had grown too big and exciting for the walls of their emo-pop cage to hold them any longer, and on the back of an album called 'Riot!', I was sure we were in for an edgier, more exhilarating Paramore than we'd seen before.
As superb as 'Misery Business' was however, 'Riot!' was a disappointment to anyone with a brain cell. It was by no means a bad album, it was just...boring. There wasn't a track on the record that was as interesting as 'Misery Business' and whats more, after taking huge strides forward towards a more mature, fuller and ultimately more impressive sound, they retreated back into their emo-pop cage for the remainder of the album. To this day I still haven't figured out why. And I think about it every day.
So where does that leave 'Brand New Eyes'?
Well unfortunately, it seems as if Paramore have retreated even further into themselves, losing all edge and believability in the process. There isn't a single song on this album that I could remember after listening to it. No soaring Hayley Williams vocal melodies and none of the trademark 'farro' hooks that made 'Pressure', 'Emergency' and 'Misery Business' what they were. Being perfectly honest, 'Brand New Eyes' feels like a collection of b-sides that were rejected during the recording of 'Riot!'. There's no growth to be heard here, there's no evolution and when all is said and done there's just nothing to get excited about. With 'Brand New Eyes', Paramore have basically proven that they have run out of ideas and are now seemingly intent on rehashing their initial idea over and over again until all the charm it brought with it first time round has been all but worn away.
It's unfortunate really. Paramore are capable of really shining at times and that's not something that new listeners will pick up from 'Brand New Eyes'. If you're an absolute die-hard fan there's nothing here that will turn you off them, but that's about the highest compliment I can pay them this time round.
Oh, and 'Decode' is, was and always will be the worst thing they've ever recorded.
TL;DR: If you've got to have this record, download it. A lull in sales might coax Paramore into growing their 'Misery Business' balls back.
Friday, July 31, 2009
Little Boots – Hands
So we have another new British female who's début album is named after a human body part (see below). I can't help but feel we're running out of ideas.
That's actually a theme that rears it's ugly head listening to 'Hands', now that I think about it. On the surface it appears to be the work of a young, excited newcomer, full of fresh blood and fresher sounds. But when you strip it down, there's every chance this actually represents something rather upsetting.
The shocking and yet completely justified success of Lady Gaga has obviously prompted record labels in the U.K to go on the hunt for a British equivalent, a lesson in failure that you'd think would have been learned by now. Polydor for example, in the time it took 'The Fame' to sell one million copies (read: not very long) have signed not one, but two feisty young electro-pop starlets in a rush to cash in on Gagas market. One of which, is Little Boots.
Now don't get me wrong. This type of music has been around for years, as has Little Boots. The lass has been peddling her unique, often misunderstood sound across England for the better part of ten years now and she can't be blamed for it's sudden surge in popularity. In fact, she could almost be forgiven for resenting it. Thankfully, she doesn't. And while the Gaga comparisons will no doubt come in waves, they don't really hold a lot of water when you actually listen to what Boots has to say. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, is difficult to discern.
The album kicks off beautifully. 'New in Town', is a magnificent opening track. It builds on the foundation of a steady, solid electro beat and bursts to life in a chorus you're never likely to forget. From the outset one thing is clear; if Gaga is about 'cool', Little Boots is about 'fun'. While the arrangements and production are undeniably similar, Boots takes the whole thing less seriously and comes across equal parts charming and endearing as a result. 'Every Little Earthquake' is another example of Boots using her innate charm to bring a smile to your face with her witty lyrics while making you tap your foot with her filthy, distorted synthesizers and loops. 'Remedy' is an instant pop-classic and will no doubt fill many a dance floor this summer. 'Symmetry' sounds as if it was lifted straight from a Human League greatest hits CD (partially thanks to Philip Oakeys guest appearance, it has to be said), and 'Tune Into My Heart' provides a welcome detour into sweetness that Little Boots' little voice suits perfectly.
It's not all fun and games however. 'Click', 'Ghost', 'Hearts Collide' and 'Stuck On Repeat' are bland, soulless pop songs that don't really go anywhere and are unfortunately indicative of the possibility that this album was in-fact rushed out to catch the last call of the Gaga bandwagon. 'Mathematics' presents an interesting lyrical idea which turns out to be far cheesier than I'm sure she initially expected, and while 'Meddle' sounds distinctly British, almost reminiscent of the U.K garage scene, it doesn't really do anything else. These tracks, when compared to the ones from the previous paragraph, create a rather disconcerting contrast between what Boots can do, and what perhaps she had to do. This is all baseless conjecture of course, but I can't help but feel like this album was a bit of a rush-job. And even if it wasn't, it's still disappointing to hear these tracks trudge clumsily through my headphones when the girl is clearly capable of better.
'Hands' is not going to set the world on fire. It probably won't even set the U.K on fire. But if you like your pop music you could certainly do a lot worse (La Roux for example). While 'Hands' as an album is average at best, it should be more than enough to put a smile on your face.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Florence and the Machine - Lungs
Florence Welsch first raised Irish eyebrows en masse when the haunting 'Cosmic Love' was used in an o2 advert and now it seems everyone is prepared to predict big things for her, and on the back of her début album 'Lungs', it's not very hard to see why. As a package it's quirky and cool enough to make sure people stick around to see what she does next, but how does it measure up as an example of where she's at now? Does it live up to the hype? Well, unfortunately not quite. But maybe that's not such a bad thing.
Anyone already familiar with Florence pre-o2 would probably have also been familiar with her début E.P 'A lot of love, a lot of blood', and if that's you, you'll be happy to hear that three fourths of that record are present and accounted for on 'Lungs', with Welsch proving once again that 'Dog Days are Over' is still a tremendous track to get things going. 'Kiss With a Fist' doesn't fare so well however, sounding completely out of place and almost intimidated by its superior surroundings, and her cover of 'You've got the Love' is still as drippy and irrelevant as it was first time round.
I have to be very careful in how I word this review though. While I didn't necessarily enjoy 'Lungs' from start to finish, and the heartless cynic in me desperately wants to dislike anything that comes packaged with that amount of hype, it's by no means a bad record. Welsch has been compared to Kate Bush a lot recently and that's probably the best summary for the album I can think of. There's flashes of pure brilliance ('Rabbit Heart', 'Cosmic Love') that are broken up by unfortunate moments of Bush-esque indulgence ('I'm Not Calling You A Liar', 'Blinding'). Thankfully, the former tends to outweigh the latter, and for every step Welsch takes toward Bjork, she takes another two back, ensuring that even the quirkier of her songs never loses commercial appeal.
'Lungs' is somewhat of enigma. Generally there are two types of 'good' albums in this world. There's the albums that play like greatest hits compilations, where every track is solid, catchy, and instantly memorable, then there are the albums that need to be experienced from start to finish, taken as a package to be completely understood and fully appreciated. 'Lungs', however, appears to want to do both. Whether or not it succeeds will ultimately fall to personal opinion, but objectively speaking it certainly seems to tick all the boxes. Certain tracks hold their own magnificently well when taken out of context ('Howl'), while others seem to work together to create a permeating feeling of other-worldliness that none of them could do on their own ('Drumming', 'The Girl With One Eye').
While not every track on 'Lungs' is an instant classic, and it's occasional dips into the murky depths of self-indulgence might be too much for some, it's very existence is evidence of something positive. It's interesting, it's different and more importantly, even though I've mentioned it's overtly artistic 'up its own hole-ness' at least twice, it does it in a very commercially accessible way, which is perhaps a bold step in the right direction for the unfortunate school of Bjork and Bush. It also takes on the responsibility, perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not, of destroying what the requirements for pop music success are in the eyes of others. Welschs lyrics are probably where she shines most, but some are so deliciously dark, vivid and vicious you'd be forgiven for thinking them out of place in the ethereal sounsdscapes she creates, and more at home perhaps on the angst-ridden post-punk records of 2004.
So the question remains, should you buy 'Lungs'? Yes, yes you should. Even if it's too much for you at times, when Florence gets it right, she gets it very right and there's enough middle ground covered here to keep hundreds of different tastes satisfied, so there's a good chance you'll fall in love with something about her. Besides, for once the hype machine might be right. Florence Welsch may one day write a masterpiece, you best jump on the bandwagon now while there's still room.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
So while this is something I'm aware of, I want to talk today about an album that came out last year, has recently become quite popular and is disappointingly, but not surprisingly, being received meekly (or downright negatively in some cases) by the increasingly bland Irish music scene. This woman came into my life late last year through a recommendation from my girlfriend and is responsible for the first album I've genuinely been consistently excited about since Duke Specials 'Songs of the Deep Forest' in 2006.
Lady GaGa - The Fame
By now, I'm sure we all know who Lady GaGa is. Love her or hate her, she has embedded herself into the consciousness of the public, something that has become increasingly and inexplicably difficult of late. 'Just Dance', the first single taken from 'The Fame', began circulating youtube sometime in mid to late 2008 and before long had gratuitous amounts of youtubers flocking regularly to her channel, revelling in the talent they felt they had discovered. For awhile it seemed like Lady GaGa would be the best kept secret in the history of pop music. 'Just Dance' proved too powerful a force for even the Internet hoards to hold on to and in early 2009, the track found its way into radio rotation in the UK & Ireland and would go on to rise to (and stay at) number one in the singles charts for a number of weeks.
The album, 'The Fame', soon followed suit and found itself sitting on the top of the album charts all over the world. And why shouldn't it? It is, after all, an album that many artists in many genres have been trying to create for several years. A bold claim perhaps, but 'The Fame' showcases a wide, but not schizophrenic, range of influences that the Lady has assimilated into one style, definitively her own. Listening to 'The Fame' from beginning to end, you'll hear the charm and elegance of Christina Aguilera, the grit of MGMT, the dirty glamour of Shiny Toy Guns, all woven together with the pop sensibility of a 'HITS OF THE 80s' box set. 'Just Dance', 'Pokerface' and 'I Like it Rough' have all the ingredients necessary for an instant number one single, while 'Paparazzi', 'Starstruck' and 'Paper Gangster' show that GaGa can ground herself in the increasingly popular minimalist production of modern hip-hop and fill a dance floor just as easily as Rhianna or Kanye. 'The Fame', 'Boys Boys Boys' and 'Summerboy' are unapologetic in their sugar-sweet pop, and are sure to crack a smile from even the hardest of the Lady's cynics. 'Again Again' and 'Brown Eyes' seem a little out of place initially, but taken on their own terms they present a more vulnerable side to the songstress that is absent from the other tracks. 'The Fame' as an album addresses the issues that have marred its predecessors and effectively does away with them. In many ways this is the first techno/electro/pop album to perfectly capture the credibility of Justice/Jurgen Vries style instrumental dance music and the instant accessibility of pop music. In short, Lady GaGa can and will give you everything you want, if you'll only let her.
Unfortunately, it seems as if the Irish music industry is determined not to let her. Despite the fact that her album is clearly the most innovative thing to happen to pop music in the last 5 years, it has been met primarily with two or three star reviews from Irish critics. It's not surprising really, how could such a carefully constructed, culturally relevant mélange of pop styles ever be appreciated in a country where Republic of Loose and Bell x1 dominate the airwaves with bland, repetitive, soulless singles, lapped up hungrily by the art-starved and culturally oblivious.
In a masterful throwback to my original paragraph, Ireland is becoming the 'out-of-touch blogger'. We are still wallowing in the sea of musical mediocrity that the rest of the world has successfully broken free of. If 'The Fame' were to released in roughly around 5 to 10 years time, I don't doubt that the Irish music journalists would rave about it. But by that time the rest of the world will have discovered, embraced and held several festivals in the name of 'the next big thing' about three times over.
TL;DR: Buy 'The Fame' if you haven't already, then write to hot press and tell them they're rubbish.
The thing with blogs is, they’re essentially useless. Unless you take great enjoyment out of reading about the grievances of other peoples lives there’s really no logical reason for you to bother with a blog. That said there are plenty of people who for some reason like to argue with these ‘bloggers’ under the assumption that not only should the blogger in question care what they think, but that they should care what he/she thinks to begin with.
The topic I’m about discuss is going to attract a lot of these people (provided anyone ever finds this and bothers reading it, which is highly unlikely), so if you insist on arguing with anything I’m about to say, you should know that unless your argument is presented intelligently I will not bother with it. Hell I probably wont bother with it anyway but try your luck, you never know.
The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
Alright I’ll put my hands up, I have a problem with the way character designers and writers in nearly every medium treat vampires. For some reason, girls cant control their hormones when within five feet of the word vampire so the idea of the glamorous, handsome, eloquent vampire has become the standard model. I don’t personally understand the attraction to a ..’thing’..that would just as soon eat you as rape you, but hey I don’t get chocolate ice cream either, it’s just not for me to understand.
What I do understand though is that this formula for vampires has become so popular with girls (some guys too, it has to be said) that there is absolutely no incentive for anyone to try and write a vampire character with any real depth anymore. These days you can just shite on for 400+ pages about how devilishly handsome this guy is and the chicks will be queuing round the corner stamping on each others faces to get their randy hands on it.
I’m getting a little misogynistic here aren’t I? Okay I apologize for the generalization but you have to understand how confused I am by this new fad to even veer into that potentially fatal theme of discussion. One by one, all the intelligent women in my life have fallen for this twilight thing. They’re no less intelligent for it, one of them actually acknowledges that the books are horribly written but none-the-less ploughed through the four books in the space of a week.
All that said, there's absolutely nothing wrong with literature that appeals to teenage girls in this way. It’s a market that needs to be filled and twilight does it in excellent fashion. Plus the key demographic for these books is not men of my age, so its safe to assume I was never going to understand their popularity (or existence) before the first word was pressed to the first page.
In this spirit, I’m not going to look at the objective quality of these books. I’ve already made my opinion on that well known to plenty of people(against their will, i apologize). What I wish to illuminate to you dear reader is the inherent problem with products that do not know what demographic they want to aim for. ‘Conflicting Demographics’ if you will.
Twilight is essentially the perfect book series’ for girls aged 16-19/20. The characters are likable (to an extent, i guess…maybe…except Bella), the plot is simple and there's a love story between a human girl and a vampire who sparkles in the sun at the center of it all. Perfect holiday fodder for girls of the aforementioned age group.
*Spoilers coming so if you haven’t read all four books skip to the very end now.*
However, I was watching the late late toy show last night and saw a girl who couldn’t have been more than 12 years old talking about how amazing these books are. Let me break down some of the more prominent plot moments for you:
Book 1: Absolutely nothing happens.
Book 2: Edward and his whole family bugger off leaving Bella alone and suicidal despite the fact that he spent the entirety of book 1 making her absolutely dependent on his and his families protection. His excuse for buggering off? To protect her from himself.
Book 3: Bella begs Edward repeatedly to fuck her. Edward steadfastly refuses to spoil her
‘virtue’ despite the fact that once a girl begs you to fuck her more than once, she has signed away her virtue to the Italian mafia in exchange for condoms and bondage rope.
Book 4: Edward finally caves in and fucks her (only after they’re married of course) and lo and behold Bella somehow gets pregnant to a lifeless fluid less being of 107. If this wasn’t fucked up enough, the baby grows within her unbelievably fast, breaking Bella’s spine and pelvis in the process (an extended metaphor for Meyers feelings on abortion perhaps?) and the only logical conclusion to all of this is that Edward naturally tears her uterus open with his teeth to get the baby out. No, I’m not making this up.
If I got the chronological order of these events wrong, they still happened so shut up.
Now my question at the end of all this is simple. Should 12 year old girls be reading about these things? The relationship between Bella and Edward is abusive to say the least (at one point Bella actually uses the wife beater line,"he only does it cause he loves me"), Bella is shown to be many things, one of which a teenage girl desperate for some fucking, and book four sees an agenda against abortion and the abusive male tearing his pregnant wife open with his teeth to save their child that shouldn’t really exist in the first place.
Oh and the werewolf character ‘imprints’ on the baby. Meaning that he has basically bought her, and when she turns 6 (apparently at 6 she will look and behave like an 18 year old or something) he will fuck her. This is met with mild, jovial disapproval from the childs parents.
These books are dangerous. Meyer does not understand her audience. If pre-pubescent girls are reading these with limited understanding of whats going on, they’ll still inevitably empathize with the main characters and believe it or not, stuff you read at that age does leave an impression on you for life, or at least your adolescence.
Nothing can be done about it now, the film has happened (and apparently is better than the books from what I’ve heard although I can’t imagine that would have been difficult) and the merchandise is rolling out as quickly as the money is rolling in. There are enough fans to form a small army and Meyer has already published another book that despite being terribly written (again) her ‘twilighters’(their term, not mine) have lapped up hungrily. She is no doubt set for life.
I should thank the twilight fandom really, they’ve certainly made the final fantasy fandom seem less crazy. I don’t think any of us thought that was possible.
TL;DR: Twilight: turning girls into whores and final fantasy fans into Kayne west.
Somehow, in the twisted labyrinth of shit that is the internet, you have stumbled upon this blog. Quite frankly, you picked a piss-poor time to do it because I haven’t written anything of any value yet. I politely ask you not judge this blog as a whole based on this post alone, as this is nawt but a start. In the coming weeks/months/til I lose interest and do something else, I will smother this page with opinions and critiques, questions and answers and just about anything I can think of, that said I dont tend to do an awful lot of thinking, so I’m also willing to discuss anything that you, fine reader, feel needs discussing.
I’m being terribly rude. Allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Andy Kavna. This is my blog, ‘Pleather 4 Breakfast'. Now, formailities out of the way, I have absolutely nothing left to say. So rather than ramble on I’ll cut this post short and bid you adieu, ’til hopefully next time I’ll have something to talk about.
TL;DR: New blog. This ones shit. Come back and do my work for me. love xxx.