Thursday, 29 April 2010

Good Shoes @ Wedgewood Rooms - Portsmouth // 24.05.10 //

+Support from Is Tropical

Sentence unfriendly trio Is Tropical opened the gig. They must stylize themselves as sound terrorists - covering their faces with hair and bandannas, attacking the audiences' eyeballs with a strobe flash on each beat, perhaps in the hope that it would disguise their unintentional assault on ears. Their music was a bland and lifeless form of electro-rock, and they looked ridiculous - especially as support for the much more sensible Good Shoes.

Good Shoes music, on the last two albums at least, was stifled. Their apparent urgency just didn't quite reach the listener's ears in the way that it should, the intervening technology destroying that vital energy. But live, Rhys Jones singing (usually shouting) and the band's frenetic playing, the is alive. Take Morden, for example; slightly repetitive on the Think Before You Speak LP, but live, with the crowd going mad, the band jump around the stage like they love what they are doing. The one downside to their live sound is that the intricate guitar lines smudge together in all the energy, but it doesn't spoil the fun.

Tenderoni // Kele Okereke //

In Bloc Party's later days, frontman Kele Okereke had tried to shift the band from it's original Sonic Youth-inspired roots to something far more danceable and electronic. Bloc Party's hiatus has allowed Kele to explore these new directions without any of the constraints of being a touring band; i.e. the songs don't have to be guitar based.

But listening to Tendoroni, the first release from the upcoming album The Boxer, Kele isn't so much "exploring" as following what has already been done: without even listening to the song the unusual name has been used by Chromeo, and the album title used by The National. The song itself is reminiscent of Bloc Partys later music like One More Chance as it seems lazy, the lyrics are essentially trite (here they are very similar to his lyrics on Your Visits are Getting Shorter) and musically uninspired. The synth, too, is exactly the same as the synth on Wiley's club hit Wearing My Rolex; this song is practically a remix. It has the potential to be a club hit, but that isn't saying much.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

You // Gold Panda // (notown records)

Gold Panda released Quitters Raga last year after having his previous tunes float around the internet for a while. His many prior tracks where all very different, drawing on an eclectic range of influences to create very beat driven electronic music. However, after the strange vocal melody of Quitters Raga proved to be so popular, it seems that Gold Panda has played it safe with his latest release and folowed the same formula.

The track has a similar highly distorted, cut-up vocal, which evokes the image of a DJ pushing a button on a keyboard or a sequencer rather than someone singing. The juxtoposition of the organic feel of the voice with the mechanicalness of the context is what makes the new track You so exciting, despite the fimiliarity. The fleeting glimpses of voice actually evoke a longing, and the inabilty to understand what is being sung only furthers this feeling.

Still, his best tune isn't Quitters Raga but the much more relaxed Back Home.

You by Gold Panda

Back Home by Gold Panda

This is Happening // LCD Soundsystem // (dfa)

So This is Happening has finally happened, and the album has been leaked despite James Murphy's pleads to gig-goers not to. In response, the entire 65 minute long album was posted on the DFA website, for anyone to hear. Although I generally avoid downloading leaked albums, I had to sympathise with the guy who did so and those who downloaded it as the hype for the album has been humongous; I mean who can blame them when this guy made All My Friends and Someone Great!

So the album itself. It starts innocuously enough, as Mr Murphy croons over a drum beat and simple synth, his vocals giving a warm introduction to the listener. But at three minutes in, the beat drops and the knife-like synth rises, exploding into a cathartic and very danceable groove. Following on is Drunk Girls and is the most obviously poppy and fun song which is definitely meant to be the lead single, and deliberately ironic considering the song You Wanted a Hit. One Touch is the third track, which maintains an aggressive synth bass sound for the duration of the track, with a repetitive chirping synth on top, against Murphy and Nancy Whang's robotic shout of "One touch is never enough". The lyrics are slightly nonsensical, like on the song Sound of Silver, as this is a purely aggressive dance track.

The mood shifts with All I Want, which is built around one distorted guitar lines, which is unusual for LCD Soundsystem. Murphy is as close to singing as he ever gets, creating a similar melancholic vibe as All My Friends, but he has wisely stayed clear of trying to emulate that song completely. A warm synth rises against the guitar track, and slowly overtakes it; this is the most rock and heart-on-the-sleave emotional the band gets. Gloriously, the guitar is mixed to the forefront so the lyrics are quite hard to distinguish.

I Can Change raises the mood again with fun 80's synths, showing what's great about Murphy's analogue sensibilities, as the apparently repetitive synth riffs are actually quite dynamic and nuanced. Despite quite an emotional lyrical theme, Murphy shows he isn't being too serious: "Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry / And this is coming from me".

All this has been mere foreplay to the two biggest tunes of the album: You Wanted a Hit and Pow Pow. The former begins with a pretty synth intro, until the bass and drums builds, and the synth drops out. The core of this song is sparse and minimalistic, broken with only an angry guitar riff. Murphy "sings" wryly over the top, exuding a subtly angry atmosphere, most likely directed at the record label. The chorus, however, is quite fun: "we won't be your babies / till you take us home". Pow Pow would fit well with the material off of the first album, as it is similar in lyrical style to both Yeah (how could it not be, with a title like that?) and the deeply self aware and ironic Losing My Edge. Murphy repeats "from this position" over a sparse bongo filled beat. The song has the most fun lyric of the whole album "we have a black president and you do not, so shut up". Both these songs show Murphys confidence and wit in his lyrics and sparseness of production, managing to create so much out of so little. They both last about 9 minutes, but the time passes in a breeze.

Somebody's Calling Me, unfortunately, is not quite as good as the rest. Perhaps it will grow on me, but the simple piano line seems lazy and quite abrasive. Not to dwell on the bad stuff, Home starts to build in a similar way to All My Friends with a repetitive synth, but drops into a bassy groove after a couple of minutes, and Murphy showcases some nice vocal melodies, for a change. A very calm and understated way to end the album.

The verdict is that, as the final LCD album, Murphy has ended (as well as starting) on a high. It is, in places, better than anything else he has ever done. But weather it is better than Sound of Silver is a very difficult one to call.

Stream the album here: