Archive for March, 2010

Twitter Told Me

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , on March 17, 2010 by David Hall

24 hours – 24 tweets – 24 twitterers – 24 hopefully interesting things.

In a new and completely user-generated feature, No School Like Old School takes a day-long snapshot of the internet (11am 16/03/10 – 11am 17/03/10) and relays them straight into your face.

Kylie Minogue (@kylieminogue)
Current loves…new SIA album (produced by Greg Kurstin) and Florence (as in Machine)…yeeeeeEESS!! Playing them both this morning 🙂 (cc. 10:15am GMT 17/3)
I’ve been hearing good things about the new Sia too, Kylie; nice to know you’ve got taste. As for Florence, yeah I still like that album even though it’s absolutely everywhere.

Liverpool Twestival (@lpooltwestival)
Well done @Man_get_out on WINNING the Glastonbaby Battle of The Bands last night-they’re playing Liverpool Twestival next week-buy a ticket! (cc.9:50am GMT 17/3)
Local band who won a battle of the bands at Liverpool’s Baby Blue last night. Worth looking out for in’t future.

Peter Serafinowicz (@serafinowicz)
RT @serafinowicz HOT CHIP: ‘I Feel Better’ http://tinyurl.com/yz9n897 (cc. 8:20am GMT 17/3)
Peter Serafinowicz (of Shaun of the Dead fame) directs the new Hot Chip video, and he’s been tweeting frantically about it for the past few weeks. File under ‘C’ for ‘Crap that’s Creepy’.

Ross Noble (@realrossnoble)
The Hardest thing for the homeless sleeping rough is time travelers stealing your clothes when they arrive naked from the future I imagine (cc. 6:30am GMT 17/3)
…that miraculously fit them.

Listen B4 You Buy blog (@ListenB4YouBuy)
I too lol’ed. >>>> RT @FUCKNOISEROCK: RT @mattandkim: a Public Service Announcement from Matt and Kim http://bit.ly/czHIiX [lol] (cc.6:00am GMT 17/3)
I didn’t. But you might.

The Daily Swarm (@thedailyswarm)
Jay-Z & Jack White Record Track Together… http://bit.ly/b6RwRV (cc.5:40am GMT 17/3)
Sounds good. May I point out the, ahem, ‘striped’ record with Alicia Keys?

Chromewaves (@fyang)
I can see other peoples’ iTunes library over the network at the Hampton. My neighbours have some terrible taste. (cc.3:40am GMT 17/3)
I’ve had this too. Although I did listen to Biffy Clyro’s The Vertigo of Bliss this way once, so not all bad.

Absolute Punk.net (@absolutepunk)
News: Four Year Strong Hit the Charts http://bit.ly/bSqG7n (cc. 12:45am GMT 17/3)
Their new album is excellent stuff, well worth a listen.

HEALTH (@_HEALTH_)
You’re dead. What song do you want playing at your funeral? (cc.10:00pm GMT 16/3)
Nothing by HEALTH, sorry lads.

Crawdaddy (@crawdada)
This is amazing. 36 Music blogs from 36 countries giving out 36 free songs. Some fascinating music to hear! http://bit.ly/aIwMc1 (cc. 7:30pm GMT 16/3)
Link overload vol. 1.

Boing Boing.net (@BoingBoing)
New Freddy Kruger movie promo seems to take notes from War on Terror http://bit.ly/94KUqF (cc. 7:20pm GMT 16/3)
First signs emerge that the new Nightmare on Elm Street reboot may well be a bag of wank. Shoddily conceived and poorly constructed flash games on movie websites invariably point to a low standard of filmmaking, almost purely via their straw-clutching PR approach.

Idolator.com (@idolator)
PHOTOS: The 12 worst pop star @Wikipedia page pics http://bit.ly/9oQpJl @keshasuxx you might want to change yours. (cc.5:30pm GMT 16/3)
Brilliant idea, I feel a regular/ad hoc feature coming on. My favourites are Vampire Weekend at the opposite end of a field and Leona Lewis, seconds before a deranged fan punches her in the face.

Alexis Petridis (@alexispetridis)
Dear bloke on 16:10 to Brighton with The Pogues at immense volume on your iPod. On the off-chance you’re reading this: TURN IT DOWN, YOU DIV (cc.4:50pm GMT 16/3)
Twitter comes of age like a motherfucker, via former Drowned in Sound editor.

New Music Tipsheet (@tipsheet)
Watch New MASSIVE ATTACK (+Damon Albarn) Video http://bit.ly/9tTexx (3:59pm GMT 16/3)
Broken by Pitchfork last night actually, but handily enough cropped up twice in my edit. Really bloody weird video. A different weird to the Hot Chip video though; more a face-screwing Metal Gear Solid-style question mark above head weird. The song’s a bit incidental, and I must confess I’m not much of a fan of the short film it soundtracks.

Slash from Guns n’ Roses (@Slash) Pre-orders for my solo record just went up on Amazon & itunes, sweet! http://bit.ly/c08gso (3:57pm GMT 16/3)
I’m torn somewhere between ‘this will be awesome’ and ‘this will be abysmal’; there is no middle ground.

This is Fake DIY.co.uk (@thisisfakediy)
Videos: Devendra Banhart – Baby http://dlvr.it/FLHx (3:49pm GMT 16/3)
You’ve probably seen this a fair few times already, but it’s pretty cool, both the song and clip. Stranger than the Yeasayer video for One? Discuss.

Spin Magazine (@SPINmagazine)
EXCLUSIVE: @thisisryanross & @iamjonwalker of Panic! At The Disco premiere new @TheYoungVeins song! http://su.pr/1lGvX0 (cc. 3:00pm GMT 16/3)
Quickly became less exclusive. Possibly don’t tweet about it if you want something to remain exclusive. Good work initially nonetheless. The song’s a bit meh, yeah. To make a controversial statement, I actually like Panic!’s first album.

Drowned in Sound Newsfeed (@DiSfeed)
News: Listen: Holy Fuck – ‘Latin America’ http://drwndnsnd.com/~c5QUN9 (2:22pm GMT 16/3)
If you’re interested.

Dave Gorman (@DaveGorman)
I know I cld’ve just put the darts in there for a photo.But I didn’t.I threw them.From the oche.My2nd ever 180 http://yfrog.com/jo3mdj (2:20pmGMT 16/3)
Dave Gorman throws 180.

The 405 (@The405) I (Oliver) have no hand in The 405 Podcast BUT I’m very proud of what Aaron has created http://thefourohfive.com/articles/2672 it’s amazing (1:56pm GMT, 16/3)
And rightly so. Be sure to check out The 405, both my contributions and otherwise.

Pitchfork (@pitchforkmedia)
The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne shows up on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” http://bit.ly/9qiKen (1:40 GMT 16/3)
Just when you thought the guy surely could not get any weirder after the whole Google Street View thing, he pulls it out of the bag. Gawd bless you, sirrah.

NME (@NMEmagazine)
Jedward dropped after one single – Daily Gossip http://dlvr.it/FCcY (cc.1:20pm GMT 16/3)
Finally sense prevails. I realise that yesterday’s biggest music story was Sony’s record deal allowing them to release Michael Jackson’s unheard back catalogue, but that’s quite frankly somewhat dry. I’d much rather read about Bez vomiting on himself; what a hero.

The Music Ninja (@themusicninja)
20 MUSIC BLOGGERS (myself included) UNITE to provide you with the best source of music news and mp3’s Check out http://bit.ly/c4dASc (12:30am GMT 16/3)
Link overload, vol. 2.

Greg Puciato from The Dillinger Escape Plan (@GregPuciato)
By the way…head over to www.myspace.com/dillingerescapeplan to stream our new album. If you dig it, pick up a copy on the 23rd. Goodnight. (cc. 11:00am GMT 16/3)
Do that actually, I’m on the final stretch of reviewing it for The 405 and it’s just the usual from Dillinger Esc Plan; stunning.

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New She and Him, Lone Wolf, We Are Scientists videos

Posted in Feature, Single, video with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2010 by David Hall

She & Him – In the Sun


I must confess that I’m not much of a Zooey Deschanel fan personally, but I’ve always had a place in my heart for her She & Him project, particularly Why Do You Let Me Stay Here‘s Kinks-y patter. Ahead of their new album Volume 2, Zooey and M. Ward release the very cute video for In the Sun; it’s along the lines of a Britney Spears or Lily Allen vid… but, y’know, with a soul…

Lone Wolf – Keep Your Eyes on the Road


Also impressing me and anybody else with eyes today is Paul ‘Lone Wolf’ Marshall’s new video, aping Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer most affectionately in Keep Your Eyes on the Road. Appropriately enough, Lone Wolf is on tour with Wild Beasts this month, check out their Myspace for another equally-impressive track.

We Are Scientists – Rules Don’t Stop


The new We Are Scientists video Rules Don’t Stop is like some crackhead version of an iPod ad. The song is no Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt, but then again what the hell is?

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach [Album]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2010 by David Hall


Taking it upon themselves to assemble some of the music world’s finest talent on a remote non-bio-degradable island, Gorillaz deliver their new album Plastic Beach. Over thirteen million record sales in, they’re still delivering cutting-edge, forward-thinking and pretty much unique pop music.

Snoop Dogg’s usual gleeful nonsense (“’Cos I’m rollin’, deep holin’, click-clackin’, crack-a-lackin’”) is undiluted, cast into a laid-back opener continuing from the Orchestral Intro prologue. Plastic Beach eschews Demon Days’ cosmic leanings in favour of the more earthbound, environmental outlook suggested by its title. Indeed even the Stylo video – specifically the bizarrely incongruous scene in which a scary smoke demon materialises from the ground to consume an obese stricken cop reaching for a doughnut even in the throes of death – supports such a reading. This sequence appears symbolic of a commodity-based, ignorant public (the cop) pointedly ignoring the pressing issue of climate change in their channel-hopping mindset (reaching for our metaphorical doughnut) even as the end looms large over our heads ready to strike (embodied in the genuinely unnerving, ghastly entity elsewhere seen attacking a passive 2D, gawping at a manic urban sprawl). Closer Pirate Jet is also mocking in a way that only a virtual band unconcerned with and unaffected by climate change can be.

Although Plastic Beach’s concept is something of a heavy one, it never feels like the album becomes entangled in it. The atmosphere always remains that of a loose jam; it’s fun, informal, creative. Therefore, the results are mostly spectacular, with only a few misfires due to heightened expectations of the album’s big names; Glitter Breeze for example is a strident cyborg stomp on which Mark E. Smith may as well not be present. By contrast, Lou Reed’s input is much more extensive, his indistinct lyrics and lazy delivery colouring Some Kind of Nature pleasingly. It’s one of the more blendsome tracks however, and certainly doesn’t benefit from being placed before Melancholy Hill’s massive Super Mario-style hook. On the whole, it’s a massive testament to the production work done on the album that Plastic Beach comes off so well. A decent slew of the guest stars are way past their creative peaks; definitely Reed, Jones and Simonon and arguably Smith and Rhys slipped from the height of their powers years ago. And the shift to a more electronic, mostly hip-hop-based template posits them in interestingly unfamiliar territory. The most consistently rewarding collaborations however are those with Little Dragon and Mos Def, and the various ensembles such as the Sinfonia ViVA and Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. The energetic one-off White Flag for instance dissolves from the Orchestra’s organic intro to the processed, ruined fairground surrounding Kano and Bashy, through which the former occasionally permeate. Rather obviously however, it’s a happy and peaceful track at heart, “White Flag? White Flag.” the grime duo concurring.

Stylo is the runaway highlight of Plastic Beach, easily the most subtly poppish, multi-faceted, and yet soulful thing Gorillaz have yet produced. It’s four-minutes-thirty of highlight after highlight, each vying for the listener’s attention as much as the last. Mos Def’s E. E. Cummings-style free associations (“love, electricity, shockwave, central, power on the motherboard yes”), 2D’s laconic verse phrases and mantra-based chorus and Bobby Womack’s freakout middle eight all gel seamlessly into a dazzling standout. Superfast Jellyfish is like a debased cartoon re-imagining of Empire State of Mind with toy drums, a stoned-sounding De La Soul and Gruff Rhys’ breakfast cereal jingle chorus. Both Little Dragon hook-ups are winners; Empire Ants begins as something blissfully sunny before shifting into a glistening disco bounce, and Albarn’s influence comes through most strongly in the comparatively stripped-down To Binge. Aside from criticisms specific to the material, the major criticism of Plastic Beach is as follows:

The collaborations have become a bit of a ‘thing’; at a super-critical stretch, maybe even slightly contrived. Whilst providing some amazing moments, they at times verge on what resembles a crutch that the album leans more and more heavily, particularly in its final act. The simple fact is, however, that solo Gorillaz can handle themselves as competently as on either of their previous albums. An undeniable highlight is Rhinestone Eyes – its neon artifice sounding like overloaded circuitboards in a child’s keyboard – which most strongly recalls Slow Country from Gorillaz and features no guest vocalists. For all its professed eclectism, the album as a whole resembles Demon Days’ dark midsection of MF Doom and Roots Manuva collaborations (also taking in Every Planet We Reach is Dead and White Light). Sweepstakes, despite being full-on, dense hip-hop, is the closest we get to the naive charms of DARE, and is consequently awesome; the album shifts down a gear after Sweepstakes’ dance-off, beginning with the title track featuring Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. As an equal consequence of the former’s strength and the latter’s weakness, Sweepstakes makes Plastic Beach look like a complete mug.

It’s worth pointing out that whilst the collaborative element to Gorillaz wears ever-so-slightly thin at times, their ‘virtual band’ schtick admirably still hasn’t. A band whose activities, music and (for want of a better word) lives are only governed by the imagination of their creators could have become the ‘albatross’ that Murdoc cited as the reason behind their Mercury Music Prize boycott way back when. But taken as an entry into their already-brilliant canon, Plastic Beach is another triumph that again has the rest of popular music running to catch up.

9 out of 10

Parlophone
Gorillaz on Myspace
Gorillaz on Last.fm
Plastic Beach cover from Wikimedia Commons.

Can Anyone Write A Protest Song?

Posted in Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2010 by David Hall


Woody Guthrie, photo from Wikimedia Commons

So there I was recently listening to Leaders of the Free World by Elbow, which incidentally is a fine album, probably more consistent, if not better than their latest. But I found the most striking thing about it was how quickly the title track has aged and how outdated it sounds just five years after its’ recording. Leaders of the Free World is symptomatic of a different era, not just of songwriting but a different paradigm of global politics, possibly one we won’t see again. This was a far simpler time, in hindsight almost Enid Blyton-esque in its naivety. A time when the bad guys were dumb, the good guys were clever and right and wrong were as black-and-white as… er, well black and white.

Since the mid-00’s – arguably a golden age of alternative music – the world has essentially ended. A worldwide recession that we’re currently struggling our way clear of has rearranged things so considerably that it has forced us to reappraise society. Banks who were supposed to be looking after our money in fact were speculating it dubiously; this is the only solid reason we have for the ‘Credit Crunch’ (a hopelessly winsome title for the essentially ideological entity that brought entire economies to their knees) transpiring. People paid for things with money they didn’t have – and in fact didn’t even exist – and when the time came to actually… y’know, pay… they obviously couldn’t. How postmodern is that? Anyway, blame is difficult to apportion. Responsibility barely lies with people at all; it lies in a quasi-Althusserian realm of frameworks, machinery and state apparatus. Where there are any, the people responsible are no cloak-wearing villains. They aren’t Doctor fucking Claw from Inspector Gadget, however disappointing that may be. They look more like Penfold from Danger Mouse, the money but seemingly not the inclination to buy a decent-looking suit.

Previous generations of songwriters have been conveniently provided with something concrete and tangible to kick against. Civil Rights mobilization in ‘60’s America cued The Times They Are A-Changin’ and Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud, their titles standalone political statements. America’s unpopular slog through Vietnam produced satirical takes on patriotism in Hendrix’s rendition of Star Spangled Banner and later Springsteen’s Born in the USA. The turn of the century in fact provided two of the aforementioned paradigm shifts, the first prior to the recession in the World Trade Center attacks of September 11th. This resulted in a general politicisation of the population, particularly in the UK, and particularly when a million people protested against the Iraq War in London on February 13th 2003. The period also saw a proliferation of protest songs, and the ones that suddenly seem so irksome and childish at that.

Even at the time, it was obvious that the enemy was someone as inept and vulnerable to intellectual attack as George W. Bush, and it seemed so straightforward to point out his failings as to be redundant. Hence why songs of that era and ilk have aged like the guy at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, at least lyrically. Leaders of the Free World, Travis’ The Beautiful Occupation, Helicopter by Bloc Party. Even Nine Inch Nails’ The Hand That Feeds to a certain extent, although the general angsty vagueness Reznor’s lyrics entail ironically just about saves them. It’s the overwhelming specificity of the protest songs of this era that most strikes, and most hacks in the throat. It renders the sentiments displayed in them null and void. All protest songs are essentially zeitgeistic; the truly great ones however (Revolution, Subterranean Homesick Blues, What’s Going On) are ambiguous enough to elude relic status, allowing them to transcend their context and time constraints. Strangely, the tracks from the peroid in question that seem to have survived best come from Green Day’s American Idiot album, again thanks to their implicit vagueness. But Green Day’s subsequent misfire on 21st Century Breakdown arguably hankers for such a broad conceptual target as the one hit on American Idiot.

“Can anyone make a difference anymore? Can anyone write a protest song?” Manic Street Preachers asked in Let Robeson Sing, itself not much of a protest song from a messy, stylistically schizoid album released during an eventless worldwide malaise. However empty the air into which Nicky Wire wagged his finger at the time, the question quickly became pertinent. At first the answer was yes, but not a decent one; now the answer, it seems, is no. The post-recession world makes entirely different demands on songwriters than targets which loomed from the 20th Century’s fin de siècle fallout; there is nothing and nobody to blame. Truly great lyricists will rise to the challenge and provide commentary on the very void this leaves and its culturally massive implications. Some may choose to comment, Springsteenesque, upon the effect the recession has had, but will have in all honesty missed an opportunity. For those who reserve their opinion until the next great political shift, obsolescence awaits.