Tuesday, 15 May 2012

These New Puritans - Hidden

These New Puritans - Hidden
Released on Domino, 18/01/10
 A debut album is easy when your ego has been tickled by premature adoration and hype, but there has been an alarming increase in deplorable plaid-clad boys and girls from the indie factory whose second albums have just been churned out jaded versions of the debut.

‘Hidden’ the secondary album from These New Puritans’ is, thankfully, an exception to this recent stupor of mediocrity.

“I’ve been writing a lot of music for the bassoon” frontman Jack Barnett in a 2008 interview shortly after the release of These New Puritans critically acclaimed debut ‘Beat Pyramid’, who further went on to extort than the bands new material sounded like “dancehall meets Steve Reich” Claims that would of undoubtedly evoked a few sniggers from their contemporaries – here comes another vapid indie band whose ideas outstrip their ability. But there was enough innovation on ‘Beat Pyramid’ that suggested that these mystical sound engineers knew what they were doing.

Unlike most artists, the band decided to not rejoice in their well-deserved success of their debut, and instead disappeared into the studio to play with brass instruments and six-foot Taiko drums. After a year of obscure and perplexing posts on their official website, such as a choir of primary school children and a melon being smashed up with a hammer, it was obvious that something innovative and quite fantastic was going on in the alternative music scene. Finally, in the last week of 2009, the ambitious ‘We Want War’ was released.

‘We Want War’ is a triumph itself, an aural accumulation that is as scary and gratifying as it is menacingly euphoric.  The songs’ Portishead-esque sub-heavy beats, droned bassoon, synthesised horns and sampled sound of a sword being sharpened is somewhat reminiscent of the witchier material of Liars and truly requires the listener’s full attention. Impressive, considering the un-edited cut is over seven minutes long and doesn’t even have a bloody chorus.

The impressive heavy drum and brass duet is an indubitably apparent overtone throughout the album, and is explicitly featured in the track ‘Three Thousand’ where Jack Barnett soulfully delivers the lyric “Three thousand thoughts in our minds”, and indeed, These New Puritans’ sonic patchwork of an album contains more musical ideas than most established bands have in their entire careers.

Another highlight from the album is the amply named ‘Attack Music’ the name and energy of which conjures up a certain rebellious punk-like attitude. But instead of three cord bass riffs and a coked-up frontman, ‘Attack Music’ features “a melon with cream crackers attached stuck by a hammer to simulate the sound of a human head being smashed.” Genius.

‘Hidden’ is a record that truly set the barrier for alternative music this decade, a record of breathtaking theoretical scope that was worthy of being named NME’s top album of 2010. These New Puritans are not a band set to please you, but they more than deserve your attention. 

Critical Analysis

When reviewing the album ‘Hidden’ by ‘These New Puritans’, an important factor I took into consideration was the target audience for my review. As the album is from a relatively unknown band it makes sense that it would be unlikely for my review to be featured in a mainstream magazine. According to theorists, “Chart music is usually the only kind of music mentioned in  mainstream non-music orientated press”, whereas mainstream music orientated magazines “tend to concentrate on a wider spectrum of music, although there are subtle limitations to the music that will be discussed” and anti-mainstream music will only be mentioned in “extremely specific music publications”. (Jones, S. 2002)
Judging by the genre and popularity of the album I reviewed I think that either a mainstream music magazine, specifically one like NME that mainly concentrates on ‘indie’ music, rather than a magazine like Kerrang! whose speciality is rock music, or a specific music publication, such as Artrocker, that caters for underground ‘alternative’ music.
More attributes of my review that make it suitable for a music orientated magazine, whether it be mainstream or not, is the length of my review. My review is nearly 500 words which, according to Jones, S. 2002, is normal for a downpage review in a music specific publication, whereas, an album review in a non-music specific publication is usually less than a paragraph, and in some cases won’t exceed a sentence (Jones, S. 2002)

Jones, S (2002). Pop Music and the Press. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 186.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Audio Addict Magazine - A Critical Analysis

Click here for the newest issue of Audio Addict

Audio Addict is a music magazine produced entirely by Southampton Solent University second year students. Throughout its twelve issue run, and with the ruthless work of the students, the publication has bagged world exclusive interviews with acts such as The Prodigy and Kasabian and a first class reputation as a publication with a very impressive readership.
The twelfth issue of the magazine, an ‘Underground music special’, features interviews with the bands Cardinals and Cancer Bats.
As Audio Addict is a student magazine, it makes sense that the target audience for it are students. Audio Addict, according to theorists, has outdone themselves journalistically in catering for its audience. It has been quoted that young adults want “searchable, effortless, shorter, more local, anytime news” (Zerba, A. 2009), with “an abundance of images and graphics” (Currie, H. 1999). As Audio Addict is a web-zine, it is the definition of ‘anytime’ news, as It can be accessed anywhere if the reader has a computer, making it searchable and effortless to find. The magazine also champions itself on its aesthetic qualities with an abundance of high quality photography and easy to read text. The only complaint I can find with the magazine is the ‘rhythm’ of the front cover. ‘Rhythm’ when put into the context of the principals of design allows designs to develop an internal consistency that makes it easier for your customers to understand. The front cover displays a large image and title of the band Cardinals, who are presumably the main feature in the magazine, however, there is a small, ambiguous, image of Cancer Bats in the corner of the magazine cover, with no information on who the band is or what the feature is about. If I were to design the magazine I would make sure that there is no ambiguity on my front cover, other than that, this issue of Audio Addict is extremely successful as a stereotypical student magazine.

Currie, H (1999). Girl Talk: Adolescent Magazines and Their Readers. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. 49.
Zerba, A. (2009). Re-thinking Journalism : How young adults want their news . UT Electronic Theses and Dissertations . 1 (1), 12.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Vibrators @ Pontypool Review

The Vibrators
The Hog and Hosper, Pontypool. 

Image credit - YRV* photography

‘MARKY’S JUST PASSED OUT ON THE BOG THE MAD OLD GIT’ bellows a swaying Farringdon clad lad. Punk might not be dead, but its’ followers aren’t faring so well.
 The year is 2012, and in a Welsh pub 50 miles south of somewhere, punk77 legends, The Vibrators, are playing a selection of their 36 year old back catalogue, to a moderately sized audience consisting of punks that never grew up.

Highlight of the set comes in the form of the bands most notorious hit ‘Baby, Baby’ with frontman Peter Honkamaki, who this evening has shown he is more than capable of taking the egotistical frontman duties from Knox, howling in the unsuspected crowd’s faces and saluting his Epiphone Thunderbird to the sky, simultaneously knocking over the venue’s Christmas lighting d├ęcor. How’s that for anarchy in the UK?
The set takes a downward turn when the band showcases songs from their latest album ‘Under the Radar’.  Sweaty group photos are taken, old punks stumble over their trashed Dr Martens to the bar and a colossal sized gentleman, which could have well been a senior Vyvyan Basterd, heckles ‘PLAY SOME OLD SONGS YOU FUCKING HIPPIES’.
Punk might not be dead, but I could probably drink it under the table. 

Critical Evaluation
As my review was on a gig of a punk band, plenty of mentions to the bricolages of punk subculture are naturally in my review, such as references to ‘Dr Martens’ and ‘Farringdon clad lads’. (Hebdidge quoting Ernst. 2008) The gig itself was exactly what a punk gig is expected to be like with its “high energy…and abundance of audience participation” (O’Hara, 2000) so I tried to convey this with aggressive adjectives such as ‘howling’ ‘saluting’ and ‘sweaty’, to attempt to recreate the gigs atmosphere. Although I am pleased with my review on a whole, I admit I did not think about my target audience when writing it. The use of taboo language in my review rules out the possibility of it being used in a mainstream magazine/webzine and the fact that the gig was a small event in a small venue further rules out this possibility. The most appropriate place for this review to be published is a blog, and alas, that is where it is.

HEBDIDGE, D. 2008. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Routeledge
O'Hara, C (2000). The Philosophy of Punk: More Than Noise!!. Birmingham: AK Press.

Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls review

Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
Released on Rough Trade, 10/04/2012

 Imagine if Poly Styrene was still in her early twenties but was given a taste for the golden age of Stax Records and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
Only with that quantity of female bad-assery, could you ever hope to reproduce the sun-drenched, Rock and Soul debut  ‘Boys & Girls’ from Brittany Howard’s Alabama Shakes.

‘Boys & Girls’ contains a bit of blues, a bit of rock ‘n’ roll and a hell of a lot of soul. In stand-out track ‘Hold On’, Howard literally counts her blessings and ponders the existence of a higher deity, whereas in ‘I Found You’ Howard’s scat section brings up a reminiscence of Janis Joplin  while the rest of the band play with  raw simplicity that wouldn’t be out of place on a White Stripes record.  It should come to no surprise that Jack White is a fan of the band, presumably as it is difficult to find another band since the White Stripes whose music reflects their roots so perfectly.

 In a genre where females are regularly banished behind a bass drum it is as inspiring, as it is exciting, that a band with a front-woman can create music that transcends notions of ethnicity and era so spectacularly. 

Critical Evaluation

As a female music critic reviewing an album by a female fronted band, it is predictable that my review on Boys & Girls by Alabama Shakes highly concentrates on gender. It has been cited by critics that female journalists writing about female artists can either be “extremely reluctant to compliment the artist” or, on the contrary, “are highly complementary of the artist and her work” (Jones, S. 2002). As my review is positive, my language reflects this, I do not use words such as ‘girls’ that infantilises women, but instead I use standard nouns such as ‘female’ and ‘front-woman’, the only time I really correlate gender with being a positive influence on the music is with my term ‘female bad-assery’. On a whole I am pleased with my review, I feel as if I make my point effectively and it displays my knowledge of music, I think my review would fit in perfectly in any mainstream music paper.

Jones, S (2002). Pop Music and the Press. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 55.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Third Man Records – Label with the weirdest collaborations ever?

Third Man Records, the home of the prodigious Jack White, dirty blues rock revival and the strangest musical collaborations ever?

That’s right kids; forget Metallica and Lou Reed’s doomed ‘Lulu’, obliterate the memory that Ozzy Osbourne recorded a cover with an overweight potty-mouthed pig (literally). Independent labels are renowned for breaking the boundaries and sticking two fingers up to conformist culture, but by the way of collaborations go; Third Man Records takes the crown, shatters it to tiny pieces and crams it into the windpipes of any future concordant conformist collaborations. Here are some of the finest:

Jack White & Insane Clown Posse – Leck Mich Im Arsch
Jack White and the sexist, testosterone fuelled alter egos of Jedward, doing a rap metal cover of a Mozart sample that translates to “Lick Me in the Arse”. Why Jack, why?

Stephen Colbert & The Black Belles – Charlene II (I’m Over You)
American satirist & TV host Stephen Colbert teamed up with Third Man’s all-girl goth outfit The Black Belles last summer to release a homage to stalking your ex-girlfriend. As amusing as it is awesome it also remains the most bad-ass record with a whistling solo.

Tom Jones & Jack White – Evil
71 year old Welsh crooner and NME’s poster-boy of the 2000s coming together to record a Howlin’ Wolf cover shouldn’t sound this good. A whiskey-soaked romping stomper of a good time.

Foster the People & Luke Pritchard – Hold On

LA Indie-pop trio Foster the People teamed up with Kooks (remember them?) front-man last week to cover ‘Hold On’ by Third Man darlings Alabama Shakes. Although it misses the sun-drenched, rock’n’soul vibes of the original, Pritchard & Co deliver a justified indie-pop makeover.

The Essential - Lee Ranaldo

Lee Ranaldo needs no introduction - the conservative, unsung, hero of the magnum opus that is Sonic Youth.
Image from flowerscrackconcrete

For a musician who’s spent the last three decades aurally assaulting unsuspecting music fans, it is near criminal to attempt to throttle his impressive back-catalogue to three records. But, after much debate and procrastination, The Orbiting Beatnik presents to you the holy trinity of Lee Ranaldo records.

The Father
Lee Ranaldo – Between the Times and the Tides

Lee Ranaldo’s first full-length attempt as a singer and songwriter comes in the form of 47 minutes of stripped down rock’n’roll. Whilst No-Wave reminiscers expecting a noise-rock masterpiece may be disappointed that the inspirational touchstones for ‘The Times and The Tides’ comes in the shape of The Rolling Stones. This, added with the albums psychedelic overtones, accumulates in one damn fine rock’n’roll record.

The Son
Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

Often cited as the bands tour de force, Daydream Nation is where Ranaldo first grappled the microphone from his limelight-hogging bandmates and became everyone’s favourite Sonic Youther. From Ranaldo’s surrealist masterpieces ‘Hey Joni’ and ‘Rain King’ that incorporated Ranaldo bellowing hypnagogic lyrics over face-shattering guitar shredding, to the now legendary LSD & Warhol-influenced anthem ‘Eric’s Trip’. Ranaldo’s contributions to Daydream Nation are what make it a true masterpiece.

The Holy Ghost
Sonic Youth – Bad Moon Rising

The band’s schizoid sophomore album is No-wave noise rock at its finest. Ranaldo’s extensive use of prepared guitar in ‘I Love Her All the Time’ and brief stint on the acoustic guitar for ‘Ghost Bitch’ emphasises his sheer talent, and accumulates with one bloody brilliant record.