I will state right off the bat that I’m not an expert when it comes to electronic music. In fact, I know very little about it. I pretty much know what I hear Thom Yorke talk about in interviews. There are a few electronic bands that I’ve enjoyed over the years. Chemical Brothers are one. I remember owning a Crystal Method album, too. MSTRKRFT? Pretty cool stuff. Are Air considered an electronic band? Probably not. Boards of Canada? I LOVE Boards of Canada. Daft Punk, now there’s a band that I’ve admired from afar for years. Thanks to Spike Jonze and his video for “Da Funk” Daft Punk have stayed in my peripherals for years. Daft Punk make electronic music that has a wide enough reach to allow music fans of all ilk to step inside their world and find something to their liking. I personally listen to Discovery and Homework quite regularly when I’m running. It’s great cardio music. I often imagine some strange scenarios as I’m on the treadmill or running in the neighborhood. They almost always involve androids, futuristic battles involving robot combat, narrow escapes from large explosions, and dilapidated cities much like the one seen in Blade Runner. It’s music you can get lost in and it fuels that drive to sweat profusely.
I’d heard about this new album of theirs a while back and didn’t think much of it. Then I heard “Get Lucky” and was intrigued. Using real musicians to create an organic electronic album, reaching into the past to make a record that would’ve been playing in discos in 1976. I’m all about organic and real musicians. So I finally heard this massive record in the making. What did I think? Hmm. I’ll start with the highlights. “Giorgio by Moroder” is a very cool track with Giorgio Moroder narrating his story of how he got into the music business. There’s something very surreal about it, mainly because I thought Giorgio Moroder was Italian, yet he sounds like Werner Herzog. The music almost gets proggy toward the end with a Saga-like guitar solo. “Instant Crush” has Julian Casablancas singing like a lovelorn android over an “Eye In The Sky”-ish groove. It’s probably the best thing Casablancas has done since his 2009 solo record. “Get Lucky” is Pharrell Williams getting his ‘come on’ on. One of the tightest rhythm sections I’ve heard in a long time. Great stuff. “Motherboard” is cool and slithery. Proof that you don’t need computers to make slick instrumental music. The highlight for me is definitely “Doin’ it Right” featuring Panda Bear. This is not only my favorite track, but also the best collaboration on this album filled with many collaborations. I’d love to hear a whole album filled with Daft Punk and Panda Bear songs. Last track “Contact” ends the album on an old school note.
So, seems like there’s a lot to like about this album, right? Well, there’s six songs I really liked. Six out of a 13 song album. I guess that’s alright. I think if you’d remove that Paul Williams song some of the better moments of the other tracks might shine a little brighter for me, but Paul Williams? Really? I hear him sing and I’m instantly transported back to some random Sunday night in 1977 and on the Zenith console is some crappy variety show. To me, it’s pure cheese. The spray can kind, not feta or goat cheese. C’mon, it’s the guy that wrote The Love Boat theme song! Some may hear his collaboration “Touch” and love it. But me? It’s just brings up memories of lousy TV and even lousier music. “Fragments Of Time” with Todd Edwards is another I can do without. It’s terrible Paul McCartney and Wings trying to do disco. It’s Andrew Gold’s “Lonely Boy” mating with a muzak machine giving birth to the world’s lamest Moog. “Beyond” is so-so. It’s like Kavinsky being bored in the studio so he thought he’d take a shot at a Daft Punk cover. “Give Life Back to Music” is a decent enough way to open the record, but if you ask me “Contact” would’ve been a better choice.
Okay, so there you have it. My half-assed assessment of what’s to be one of this years most talked about albums. I’m sure I’ll be in the minortiy in my overall dislike of this record. It could be that I just don’t “get it”. That very well could be. But if I have to get Paul Williams, cheesy disco, and 70s department store music in order to dig this album then I’ll just remain uninformed, thank you very much.
5.6 out of 10
I can’t believe how fast the last ten years have gone by. That’s no more apparent than when I look at my kids. We celebrated our oldest daughter turning 13 last week. A milestone in the life of a kid. The kid turns to a teen, and the parent turns slightly less cool than they were before. Well, yesterday our second oldest turned 10.
Ten years ago yesterday we entered the hospital around 7am and proceeded to wait for the entire day while our Audrey Jean decided when she was ready to come out into the world. It was a long day. Lots of lousy daytime television and maybe some cards. I can’t recall. But finally after a day of waiting, napping, pushing, more pushing, and visits from grandparents and fellow mothers-to-be, Audrey decided it was time. I’ll never forget the moment, for it was a birth unlike any we experienced with either of our other kids. You see, Audrey was a big baby. We knew going in that day that she was a big bundle of joy(my wife attests her size to several trips to the frozen custard stand in town…two trips in one day so the legend goes), but once Audrey was in the birth canal and ready to “go towards the light” as it were, we knew it was not just heresay. I can remember very vividly standing next to my wife encouraging her to do the breathing thing, telling her she was doing great in-between the doctor telling her to push, push, push. Audrey wasn’t delivering as quickly as they wanted her to. So before I realized it, the nurse was literally on top of my wife pressing down on her stomach in order to pop our Audrey out like a cork. There was a certain amount of panic I was feeling at that point, suddenly thinking they may have to do a c-section. Was my wife or our baby in danger? But before I could work myself up into a full-on panic attack out popped our Audrey Jean, all 10lbs, 3oz of her. She was a beautiful baby girl. She was our crying sack of potatoes.
Audrey Jean can be the most bull-headed kid you’d ever meet, but she is also the sweetest kid you’d ever meet. She thinks about everyone around her before herself. Whenever she has money she wants to spend it on every0ne, not just herself. She’s also the kid with the common sense in the house. While her sister borders on genius, Audrey is like the street smart kid. She calls bullsh*t when she sees it, never letting her older, brainiac sis pull the wool over her eyes. She’s always offering to help me around the house. She’s my record flipper as well. She knows when an album is going to end and she’s waiting patiently to flip it so we can keep the tunes spinning.
Ten years gone? No, ten years gained. Ten years with one of the sweetest little girls I’ve ever known. She makes me proud. Oh, so very proud.
So this is what happens when your big toe on your left foot plays a game of chicken with a 60 year old Wurlitzer console piano. It really happened within a matter of seconds. Two or three extremely painful seconds.
So I took the day off in order to get the house in order before ten screaming 10 year olds come to my house tomorrow afternoon for my second oldests birthday party. Yeah, she’s turning 10. So I was about 4 hours into some serious feng shui action. I was needing something…different, in the house. We’re about 3 weeks into a 5 week wait for our new furniture to arrive. We gave our old sectional couch to my mother-in-law and bought new for us. Well, we weren’t thinking ahead and gave her the couch only two days after ordering our new stuff. So for the last three weeks our living room hasn’t been a living room. It’s been a waiting room, filled with chairs. For a guy like me that has to have everything in order, all neat and tidy, this has been especially painful. So finally today I did some rearranging and I think I’ll be able to last the final two weeks. In my feng shui buzz, I decided I needed to move the piano(this happens more often than you’d think with me). Well, after moving it to the new location, the bastard was too big for that particular spot so I had to move it back. Well, the old girl got more momentum than I had anticipated and it rolled over the top of my big toe. I had slippers on when it happened and as I hurried to remove my slipper to see the damage I was afraid I’d find a horrilbe bloody mess. I was right to expect that. Imagine what happens when you smash your thumbnail when hammering in a nail…except you were holding the nail between your big toe and second toe. And instead of a hammer you’re using a piano. It was something like that. I rushed -as much as you can rush hobbling- to the bathroom and proceeded to run the tub water over my toe. My God, was that brisk-feeling. Wait, what I meant to say was that m**********r hurt like a m**********r. Language leaked from my mouth much like sewer gas escaping from a manhole. That string of expletives made most of the dialogue in The Last Detail seem like an episode of Masterpiece Theater. As I sat there watching the blood pool on my toe like some sort of podiatry nightmare I began to get a little light-headed. Not sure if it was because of the sight of blood, the pain, or the thought that I still had a bicycle to put together, but I held onto the tub wall till it subsided. I pulled it together and got out of the tub and dried my foot. I wrapped a kleenex around it and finished what I needed to finish. Hydrogen Peroxide works well in removing blood from carpets, just so you know…in case you cut an artery whilst dusting the mantlepiece.
So, my day off didn’t turn out quite like I’d imagined it would. Besides nearly crushing my big to into oblivion it hasn’t been too bad. My daughter’s birthday isn’t technically till Monday, so the bike can wait till then. There’s beers in the fridge, and a copy of Wire’s Pink Flag I picked up just today spinning as I type. I’m sure tomorrow will be fun, so I’ll have to cancel my German clog dance for the party. Instead, maybe a soft shoe number to the soothing tones of Taco, or Falco.
Melbourne’s Beaches new album She Beats has all the ingredients that help make an excellent record: loud guitars, dreamy, reverbed vocals, a solid rhythm section, and NEU!s Michael Rother’s seal of approval(plus his guitar playing on a couple tracks). She Beats is a mix of lo fi graininess, zone-out atmosphere, psychedelic colors, and some good old fashioned rock n’ roll bombast.
“Out of Mind” opens the album with some jangly guitar spray before the song jumps into gear and brings to mind Primal Scream’s noise/melody recipe for ear candy. The song puts off a tape hiss, lo fidelity vibe, all the while never sounding too lo fi. The dark aural shades only add to the song’s mystique and proves to enhance the already dreamy vibe. “Keep On Breaking Through” rolls in on a steady ride cymbal and some reverbed guitars, giving the song an almost “Riders On The Storm” sound, minus the thunderstorm sound effects before the space echo takes the track into the milky way. Beaches, while they conjure dreamy soundscapes and ambience in the form of swirling guitar chords and echoed riffs, don’t fall under any sort of shoegaze category. These Melbourne ladies play guitar with bravado and attitude more in tune with the likes of Erik “Ripley” Johnson or Wayne Kramer, as opposed to Kevin Shields or Andy Bell. They don’t coax sound from their instruments as much as they pull them out with swift, stern strokes. “The Good Comet Returns” brings to mind old Cure, back when they were still a 3-piece with something to prove. “Distance” is the centerpiece track with Michael Rother jumping in on guitar to give it that motorik drive. Vocals barely treading the musical waters become part of the overall sound as opposed to being the centerpiece. Vocals are merely another instrument used to paint on the canvas. Vocal duties are shared throughout the band, but all the voices seems to blend into one. “Weather” is a loud and brash tune that brings Sonic Y0uth to mind, both in its disorienting guitar squall and its Kim Gordon-esque vocals. Beaches tendency to explore the limits of the guitar on this record give it that Sonic Youth spirit throughout. “Granite Snake”, the other tune Michael Rother puts his musical stamp on rides along a steady drum beat and echoed feedback and distortion for five and a half glorious minutes. She Beats revels in these beautifully noisy soundscapes. It’s refreshing to hear a band enjoy making such a ruckus, and making it sound so effortless. “Tanzanite” has a bit of a Ride sound, most notably in the harmonies lurking in the mix. “Runaway”, the closing track, opens with a lone bass line bringing The Breeders to mind. The Deal sisters continue to haunt the track with the slightly off-kilter vocals and noisy guitar. There’s even some surf rock in the tremolo guitar towards the end.
Beaches She Beats is a wonderfully noisy album. Its unabashed love for noisy guitars, swirling atmosphere, and at times Krautrock tendencies makes it an album to be enjoyed with a beer, headphones, or cranked speakers. The beer is a must.
8.6 out of 10
On this rather warm Wednesday evening I thought I’d stroll down memory lane and post something that was actually one of my very first posts, way back in December of 2011. But I must go back a few months before that, to September of 2011. Step in my wayback machine. Hey, all hands inside the car while the machine is travelling through time, please.
So our neighbors, God love ‘em, have a trampoline. I know, I know, just hours of wholesome fun for the entire family(even fat Uncle Phil…watch him wiggle). Well, I was always hesitant about my kids playing on the damn thing. Why? Because I’m a paranoid guy who borders on OCD-like tendencies, plus I’m a party pooper. But I relented and let the kids play on the death trap next door. Well, one Saturday afternoon in September of 2011 my son was walked home by the neighbor lady. She said he fell off the trampoline. He was sort of quiet, but had a very worried look on his face. Like he was waiting for her to leave so he could break down and cry. So he sat on the couch and my wife tried to get information out of him. He said he was on it and fell off(it was later revealed there were four kids, plus various BALLS to make the fun a little dangerous, I suppose). After an attempt to get him to move his wrist made extreme yelps of pain and agony I decided we needed to go to the E.R. Turns out, he broke his right arm, just below his wrist. It was a clean break and would heal well, said the orthopedic surgeon. So for the next six weeks my son would be wearing a black cast(yep, jet black…his choice) on his right arm. He was a resilient little guy, as within two days he had started writing with his left arm as well as he did with his right. I was amazed. Had it been me with a cast on my right arm for six weeks I’d a been in a depression and would’ve demanded my meals served to me in a bed with rubber sheets. Anyways, one Friday evening we were hanging out and listening to music. I’m not sure if there was chocolate, or sugar, or amphetamines involved but my son in the black cast, all of 6 years old, started dancing around the living room to Rage Against The Machine’s version of “Renegades of Funk”. It was like he was possessed by the spirit of Afrika Bambaataa, Deney Terrio, and that animated cat from that Paula Abdul video, all at once. It was insane. My oldest daughter had the good sense to record a portion of the show, so I’m sharing it once again.
One more thing…the smell that emanated from that cast after that night was horrific. It was like a thousand feet had died in a pool of parmesan cheese. It was unholy.
It’s not too often you get to see your likeness in Lego form, but that’s just what I got to see yesterday after sweating a few years of life out of my system mowing. Mr. Storey, aka Mr. 1537, sent me a pic which showed myself rendered as a Lego figure. If you’re not familiar with the 1537 page, you really need to visit it on a daily basis, as Mr. Storey revisits one album a day out of his God-like vinyl collection and gives a wonderful back story into the album’s history. When he bought it, what he thought of it then, what he thinks of it now, and with each post he creates the coolest Lego figures to help tell the album’s tale. I’m astounded at not only his album collection(1,537 albums he’s revisiting to be exact) but his diverse tastes. One day it may be Judas Priest’s Turbo, the next it’s Fela Kuti’s Open & Close, then the next day it’s Love/Hate’s Black Out In The Red Room, and so on and so forth. I’ve discovered some pretty amazing records thanks to 1537, including the aformentioned Fela Kuti record, as well as the excellent H-p1 by White Hills. What I’m trying to say is this middle-aged father and husband who owns one of the coolest and most diverse music collections I have ever seen is a pretty stand-up guy, and his Lego colletion is pretty impressive as well.
After a year, countless shows, festival dates, and a cassette release late last summer Heaven’s Gateway Drugs have finally given their fans and followers what they’ve been jonesing for: a debut album. You Are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs is filled with the psychedelic-heavy tunes and pop-leaning melodies you would hope to find on a HGD album. And when you stop and look between the paisley visions and kaliedescopic hallucinations what you see are a batch of great psych pop and rock songs that could pull their weight regardless of genre name tag.
“Radio” opens the album on a cloud of sitar-like guitar and a vocal that hangs somewhere in the middle of the mix before the chorus opens the song into a sunny yet still oblique field of poppies. “Black Lady” rides on a hefty bass line and solid beat with a buzzing psychedelic charm just under the surface as C. Ray Harvey’s vocals come in to drive this great track into the technicolor sunset. One of the many great things about Heaven’s Gateway Drugs is the ying and yang of Harvey and Derek Mauger. They both come at a song in their own particular way, yet when both come together -like they do in this band- it’s a beautiful thing. Harvey brings a bigger-than-life presence to his singing. There’s drama, and a theatrical urgency in his voice. Mauger comes from more of a gritty, garage rock background that grounds HGD and gives them their rock ‘n roll heart. Together these two put HGD somewhere between The Cure and The Troggs. With Eric Frank, Josh Elias, and the shaman-like Ben Carr giving the band its backbone and spiritual center, Heaven’s Gateway Drugs becomes the psychedelic love God that we’ve come to know, love, and worship.
Elsewhere on You Are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs there’s “Army Coat”, a groovy little number that would’ve fit right in billowing like green smoke out of a club on Haight Ashbury Street in 1966. With it’s slippery riff and Doors-like organ hiding in the background you can’t help but want to let the music take you where it may. “When You Come” and it’s sitar sound combines both the best of 60s eastern Indian philosophies and 80s alternative into a massive song and some classic C. Ray Harvey emoting. “Where Were You” is classic 60s pop done up the only way HGD know how. “The Late Great Sharon Tate” is a great rocker in the vein of Stone Roses. “Turncoat” ends this excellent debut like Charles Manson doing surf music. Dark, groovy, and catchy as hell.
What else is there to say about this incredible debut long player by Fort Wayne’s(and beyond) best rock ‘n roll band? Nothing. The music speaks for itself. Listen closesly, for it says “You are Heaven’s Gateway Drugs”.
8.5 out 10