Archive for spotify

A Stance On Spotify

Posted in Feature, Music, Pop culture with tags , , , , , on March 4, 2015 by David Hall

The perennially hot topic of Spotify refuses to go away and put in another round this week, with Björk asserting that her leaked new album will definitely not be making an appearance on the music streaming platform.

The latest in a long line of responses to Vulnicura’s unplanned release saw the Icelandic auteur cite reasons of “respect” as her motivation to stay away.

Her other albums remain available on Spotify.

Björk labelled the streaming service “insane”, joining a list of high profile artists such as Thom Yorke and Taylor Swift omitting their music from the Spotify library.

I get where Björk is coming from.

“Spotify isn’t making music more accessible, but is in fact introducing a new level of discrimination”

The most convenient soundbite culled from the interview “It’s about respect,” seems somewhat packaged for our consumption, but it’s one that I can get on board with. Björk in fact makes a couple of different points in the incriminating interview, which was apparently culled from an exchange with her manager. I both agree and disagree with certain aspects of what she has to say, but at least she’s doing so refreshingly free of hyperbole.

My only bone of contention is Björk’s assertion that, “It’s not about the money,” seems to somewhat tie her in knots, but she manages to undo herself with her ‘respect’ comment. She just about gets away with it. I would contend in fact contend that it is all about the money, and that streaming services such as Spotify isn’t making music more accessible, but is in fact introducing a new level of discrimination into an already murky industry.

And don’t get me wrong, I think Björk makes a good point; a far better point than Fleet Foxes’ bleating did a few years back. As Dave Grohl sort of nearly said, if you don’t like your product selling for the price it sells at, fuck off. Find a different industry, there’s plenty out there.

No, to her credit, Björk is far more measured and cerebral about it. Sure, her comments are a little airy-fairy around the edges, a little soft on detail, but she seems to genuinely have an artistic problem with it. What makes Björk, Yorke, Grohl and even young Swift simultaneously more and less believable is that I doubt any of them experience money worries.

Obviously, they don’t have to pander to anyone in making up their paycheque. But then again it could be argued that such comments smack slightly lofty perchism, an untouchable artist flipping their two cents down from their ivory tower to the huddled masses without necessarily knowing a thing about what they’re on about.

To be sure, it’s a little of both. But first and foremost, I see listeners feeling the pinch as customers being the main problem. Tune out for a second if you wish, but bear with my thought experiment here.

To utilise Spotify in the way that the company’s predictably slick advertising suggests would cost a bare minimum of £9.99 per month. But hey, you want your music on the go, right? You’ll be listening using your phone then of course. If you really can’t live without knowing, this dude pretty comprehensively breaks down how much bandwidth streaming your music demands. But cutting a long story short, you essentially need unlimited data from your mobile provider to rely on music streaming as your main listening source. What, £20? A little less if you find a good deal. And I guess you’re gonna want the good stuff on tap, not waiting for apps to load or your 3G signal to pick up. Let’s charitably say you can pick up a mid-range iPhone 5S on an unlimited data contract for £30 per month. That’s forty you’re spending on Spotify already, champ; £480 per year, minimum. That’s not counting other downloads, the occasional CD you pick up, or your increasingly voracious appetite for vinyl. If you’ve got over £500 to spend then best of luck to you, but for me and I would suggest that for a lot of people, myself included, that’s a significant chunk of cash.

Music has never been about segregating people. Getting into a situation where it’s method of delivery is doing so, I would suggest is extremely negative to say the least. Certainly, any commodity is either something you can afford or not, music included, but Spotify seems to be pricing all but the more affluent listeners out of its market.

Despite their founder’s slightly spoiled brattish, dummy-spitting, toy-throwing statement aimed at Taylor Swift’s Spotify bow, the platform seems just as poor value on the artist’s side.

A wade through this some might say intentionally lengthy and complex document offers up the information that Spotify claim to pay out an average of about $0.007 per song per play. Or about 0.07 cents per song per play. So the average 12-track album would earn the artist just over 8 cents, which in the current exchange rate equates to around 5p. Uck. But wait, who listens to albums anymore? Only nobody, grandpa! Get with the times man! The kids all stream music by track these days; God, you’re so embarrassing.

This being the case, let’s go straight to the top and take for example the most-streamed song in the UK last year, Clean Bandit’s inexplicable minimal synthpop keyboard riff with song attached ‘Rather Be’, clocking up a whopping 39.7 million streams in 2014. Why, at $0.007 per play, that’s $277,900 in the bank! Not too shabby! #boom #sorrynotsorry

Yeah, 39.7 million streams. Across four streaming formats. With royalties split between four band members. Only two of whom claim writing credits in the song. Which featured a headlining collaborative artist. And I doubt the band will exactly be top of the pile once their record labels takes a cut, plus the produc-… you see where I’m going here… Maybe that’s why they took that awful, awful (I mean seriously painfully awful) Windows phone ad.

I’m not professing to be some sort of statistics genius, and I’ve wilfully ignored Spotify’s own artist page as far as possible due to the hefty weight of vested interest you can see in the form of all those glowing bright green graphs. I’m also quite aware that artists make money from other streaming services; advertising revenue from YouTube plays, for example. But to me, the sums just don’t seem to add up. Viewing Spotify as just one aspect of a multi-faceted music delivery system in which you stream some music, then buy or download those tracks or albums which you really like, also fails for me entirely.

“the membership-style method of payment is divisive in what should be an inclusive setting. It’s pricing consumers out of music”

It’s not just about money for bands in that regard, or indeed out of the listener’s pocket, but I think that returning to the two central tenets of Björk’s original argument, respect and money, are irrevocably intertwined.

It’s all bound up in numbers that don’t seem to meet in the middle. Listeners are being fleeced, either expected to subscribe to a conceptually limited streaming service, or to augment that library with further purchases. It’s like assuming every Netflix subscriber will either throw away all their DVDs and Blu Rays, or be often forced to also buy them if they really, really like that new Will Smith movie. Between what’s best for the artist and what’s best for the listener, Spotify falls cleanly through a very large gap.

So my stance on Spotify can be summarised as essentially this; I know it’s not all their fault. Everybody is out to make their respective sums of profit from the music industry – it’s a business like any other – and always have done.

But the membership-style method of payment is divisive in what should be an inclusive setting. It’s pricing consumers out of music, which is a pretty low blow for artists and the public alike.

Sage Francis – Li(f)e [At Noize Makes Enemies]

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


“The album ends […] with The Best of Times, an all-encompassing exploration of Francis’ childhood featuring a wondrous-sounding contribution from minimalist French composer Yann Tiersen. It ends with a few scant lines of advice he intends imparting to his future children, dwarfed by the entirety of the song and indeed album, suggesting that a person must filter through an entire lifetime of experience for just a few nuggets of workable advice.”
Sage Francis – Li(f)e reviewed at Noize Makes Enemies.

With fingers in many pies, this is my first review for Noize Makes Enemies in a fair old while, but worth waiting for. Not for my mad writing skills (not solely, at any rate), but for Sage Francis’ rather wonderful new album Li(f)e, a record that definitely springboards to near the top of my mental ‘albums of the year so far’ list. Meaning such a list is in my head, not that it has mental problems.

Although not a long-term admirer of Sage Francis – I was put off by Crack Pipes, which was featured on his debut album Personal Journals back in 2002 – more because of a slightly ignorant notion that I wasn’t ‘into’ rap at that moment than anything. Although Francis aficionados may identify Li(f)e as a much more gentle album in his canon, I personally feel it greatly benefits from its relaxed atmosphere. Like the wisdom that comes with age, it sounds as if Francis is comfortable enough to not feel compelled to stick to any blueprint. Which is where contributions from amongst others Buck 65, Califone, Death Cab for Cutie, DeVotchKa, Grandaddy and Sparklehorse come in. Lending the album an eclectic but not disjointed air of songwriting assurance. Francis’ writing is also assuredly streetwise and philosophical, the element which makes Li(f)e worth tuning in for; even if you aren’t ‘into’ hip-hop, I’d urge you to give Li(f)e a go. Aside from the lines mentioned in the review, one of my favourites has to be, “Truth be told, it takes more than having a picture taken for you to lose your soul”.

Sage Francis on Myspace
Sage Francis – Li(f)e reviewed at Noize Makes Enemies
Sage Francis – Li(f)e
on Spotify

Lone Wolf – The Devil and I [At The 405]

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


“Minor misgivings aside, there is plenty to recommend
The Devil and I; its overall aesthetic is complex and fablish, a rich tapestry yielding intricacies which gradually enfold the listener. Themes are uniformly grave and gloomy, from the noirish WW2 resistance tale of ‘We Could Use Your Blood’ and the dread-filled clairvoyance of ‘Keep Your Eyes on the Road’.”
Lone Wolf – The Devil and I reviewed at The 405.

You sort of heard about Lone Wolf here first. OK, that’s a big and probably incorrect claim, but I think you’ll find reading back over previous No School Like Old School posts you’ll find praise for Paul ‘Lone Wolf’ Marshall’s rather handsome video for Keep Your Eyes on the Road. The song, as I attest in this review, is no slouch either.

As opposed to me; I am a slouch. Like a sloth on a couch. You might notice that my review of Lone Wolf’s debut The Devil and I (great title by the way) was published at The 405 a fair old while ago; last month in fact. The main reason I’ve neglected posting word of these words is, as you’ll notice scrolling all the way past the bottom, a commenter pulled me up on a few points. I thought it was suitable to let the argument run its reasonable course before linking the review up, as it’d be a bit unfair to leave it cut short. Speaking of unfair, I’d like to think once I make a point it stays made, and when I construct an analogy it’s not to be taken literally. But anyway, the argument was enlightening and was all very civilised.

At any rate, at the time of writing, The Devil and I is quite justifiably The 405’s Album of the Week which is all very jolly and that. Oh and if like me the cover reminds you of ‘The Death of Socrates’, that’s because it should; it’s by the same painter, 18th Century French Neoclassicist Jacques-Louis David. All things considered, The Devil and I is beautiful.

Lone Wolf – The Devil and I reviewed at The 405
Lone Wolf on Myspace
The Devil and I on Spotify

65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway [At The 405]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2010 by David Hall


“I’ve long been an admirer of 65daysofstatic’s work; in fact, I’d probably list them amongst my favourite bands. But remaining impartial for this review of course, whilst
We Were Exploding Anyway by no means disappoints, neither does it truly astonish.”
65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway review at The 405

It’s nice to be vindicated from time to time. We can’t all muddle through life without any idea as to whether our actions are good and correct or dunderheaded and awful. Whether that takes the form of being burned by a hot thing and learning not to put parts of one’s anatomy near such a heat source or having your opinions validated is neither here nor there. Learning from victories and mistakes is how the world works.

So I was pretty pleased when I was vindicated in my opinion of the new 65daysofstatic album We Were Exploding Anyway, by a source I respect and admire no less. Following my own review being published on The 405, I noticed Drowned in Sound had also released theirs. Heading on over to check it out, I quickly realised that not only had we both awarded identical scores to the album (8 out of 10), but also shared key points within the review.

Compare and contrast:

DiS: “[The band’s] status has indubitably waned of late. Maybe this was due to the unexpected tack on last album The Destruction Of Small Ideas, or the even more recent Dance Parties EP, both ravier affairs that seemed to alienate that which had so brilliantly preceded it”
Me: “We Were Exploding Anyway is a more successful meshing of 65dos’ electronic and analogue elements than convoluted and over-intricate previous album The Destruction of Small Ideas. Although the Sheffield four-piece have displaying an increasing penchant for predominantly-electronic tracks in the past (see The Distant and Mechanised Glow of European Dance Parties EP), WWEA is unexpectedly dance-oriented”

DiS: “‘Crash Tactics’ plays on ‘Smack My Bitch Up’-like bass lines […] ‘Weak 04’, also, verges too close into Dance Parties-style Europop behaviour […] ‘Go Complex[‘s]’ opening is reminiscent of the god-awful Hadouken!”
Me: “Some of the album – ‘Crash Tactics’ included – veers alarmingly closely to the nu-rave-punk missteps of The Prodigy’s Invaders Must Die; ‘Go Complex’ and ‘Weak4’ are particularly guilty of lulling into this trap at times”

DiS: “An appearance from recent-tour-mate-slash-renowned-goth-chap Robert Smith on ‘Come To Me’ only furthers those [positive] feelings”
Me: “The Cure’s Robert Smith (zomg!, etc) provides that vocal layer, guesting on the cut-up would-be-club-anthem ‘Come to Me’, which hits a thrilling stride and is representative of We Were Exploding Anyway’s most successful moments”

DiS: “Thinking back to how ‘Fix The Sky A Little’ first moved you, or how ’65 Doesn’t Understand You’ made you throw yourself around with reckless abandon”
Me: “There’s nothing here that makes me want to flail my limbs in so uninhibited a manner as would suggest my motor skills failed to successfully develop during infancy like ‘Retreat! Retreat!’ does” 

DiS: “It’s the final two songs that seem to have the balance of power, finally, correct.”
Me: “‘Debutante’ is starkly yet organically beautiful, segueing into closer ‘Tiger Girl’”

Whether that just means these were obvious talking points is up for debate; I chose to see the glass as half full for a change. For the record I’m neither a positive ‘glass half full’ nor a negative ‘glass half empty’ person. I’m more of an angry/cynical ‘some bastard has stolen half of my drink’ person.

65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyway review at The 405
65daysofstatic on Myspace

65daysofstatic on Last.fm
We Were Exploding Anyway on Spotify

Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor [At The 405]

Posted in EP, Review with tags , , , , , , , on May 1, 2010 by David Hall


“Alessi’s Ark operates in a comfortable middle ground between the sheer eye-twitching madness of Joanna Newsom and the mild manners of Laura Marling […] But since both Marling and Newsom released major new albums this year, Alessi might be drowned out to a great extent, pleasant though this EP is.”
Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor EP reviewed at The 405.

Life is far too short for half-decent EP’s and that’s a fact. Half decent albums are fair enough really; at least you’ll get your money’s worth of actually ‘good’ songs in there, theoretically. Half decent songs make up most of your existence and most of your record collection, and don’t try to tell me that’s not true. Anyway, they’re over much quicker than either EP’s or albums so half-decent songs are neither here nor there. But bloody half-decent EP’s… all they do is take up disk space, quite frankly.

I’ve just bought Glen Duncan’s I, Lucifer, and I could be reading that. But instead I’m taking time out to tell you about the new (ish) Alessi’s Ark EP Soul Proprietor, which is desperately alright. Take this as me listening to it in order to tell you that you don’t have to; and since I have and I wrote about it, you might as well know about it. There’s very little to recommend it over Alessi’s debut album Notes from the Birdhouse, and to be honest I suggest you skip Soul Proprietor entirely and just pretend she’s been perfecting cheesecake receipes until her next album comes out. As I mention in this review, Notes from the Birdhouse is a wonderful little album, which you will find infinitely more enriching than the sparse Soul Proprietor. Talented though Alessi Laurent-Marke clearly is, spare yourself from her half-decent EP.

Alessi’s Ark – Soul Proprietor EP reviewed at The 405
Alessi’s Ark on Myspace

Alessi’s Ark on Last.fm
Listen to Soul Proprietor and Notes from the Birdhouse on Spotify

Tubelord – Our First American Friends [Album]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2010 by David Hall


Originally published at Sonic Dice, November 2009.

Tubelord are one of those bands that remind you of about a million other bands, but never lose their own uniqueness. These cultured devils release their debut album, the appropriately-titled Our First American Friends, on Hassle Records. The trio are led by singer/guitarist Joe Prendergast, backed up by fleet of foot drummer David Catmur and recently-recruited bassist Damien Gabet. If you’re new to them, imagine the fragile voice of Mew, the rickety guitar riffs and solos of Biffy Clyro, the eclectic atmosphere of Stars, minimalist approach of Grizzly Bear and the precision drumming of Reuben all gaffa-taped together and you may be getting somewhere. Then graft on a massive wad of distortion and listen through a Walkman whilst jogging until the amalgamation skips and tics like its undergoing electroshock therapy and season to taste.

Your Bed is Kind of Frightening bounces from sunny pop vocal harmonies to Biffy-esque strikes of staccato distortion and tempo changes then back again, piggybacking an excellent bassline which carries the verses along. The surrealist lyrics (“carousels, emit your fumes”) casts Prendergast as literate and enigmatic, an impression at odds with Tubelord’s largely American-influenced sound which at times verges on the bombastic and crisp production of Silversun Pickups. Synthesize is a case in point, being a dose of unashamed alt-pop with a chorus at least as massive as Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies, all frantically chopped octave slides and fluid arpeggios. In case you were in any doubt that the singer sounded like Jonas Bjerre from Mew, he lays it on with a trowel throughout the stuttering Stacey’s Left Arm, which starts like Mew or Mogwai and ends in spasm like Be Your Own Pet’s Fuuuuuun. He Awoke on a Beach in Abergavenny (not to be confused with I Woke Up on a Beach in Aberystwyth on Johnny Foreigner’s recently-released new album) begins with another atonal Biffy Clyro-endorsed riff but also recalls mid-period Nirvana in its loud-quiet-loud dynamic and powerful performances. But not the xylophone bit. Tubelord might be as heavy as you need in places, but there’s no denying that they’re also pretty twee at times. These schizoid tendencies are played off against each other to the most thrilling effect so far on this track, with xylophone quickly followed by the album’s heaviest riff before the pedal is kept firmly to the floor until Abergavenny’s conclusion. This is reiterated in I am Azerrad’s jangly intro, quickly kicked to death by the rest of the track’s ‘distortion turned all the way up’ approach.

The Wasp Factory-aping Somewhere Out There a Dog is on Fire follows Your Bed is Kind of Frightening, landing with a thud and immediately beginning to glisten brightly, with a spritely rhythm section performance and Prendergast’s voice and guitar twinkling on top. It’s loud, it’s heavy, but it certainly isn’t dumb; Tubelord seem to know instinctively when an idea is nearing the limits of its welcome. The track ends up banging on about tin men, stomping along in truly Ted Hughes or Antony Gormley-ish style. Night of Pencils is a testament to the bands musical creativity, lyrically comprising a collection of odd and awkward phrases which would sound daft in a lesser song. But more often than not they somehow come off as sounding great; coy and lovesick in the correct places, anthemic and cheerful when appropriate. A quick hammering-on intro guitar riff and we’re already in cryptic territory at early doors; “Mavis told the truth, I’m the one for you”. Later on, Night of Pencils’ main hook ends up as, “We’re bigger than Memphis, you only exist when I want you to”, which sounds suspiciously like something Fall Out Boy would come out with. But in the wider context of Our First American Friends, it clears the ‘this guy doesn’t know what he’s on about’ fence lands firmly on the ‘oblique and interesting’ side. Tubelord move from unstoppable thrashing to eventual controlled powerchord stabs without a blink, displaying this tendency most impressively here. Propeller is appropriately titled given its driving bassline, and swirls around to encompass the listener like a tropical storm, the sky darkening as Gabet’s bass coils tightly around a galloping drum roll. A mocking breakdown ushers in the tranquil eye of the storm, which is followed by a fiddly guitar riff before the track hurtles conclusion-wards, head down.

Our First American Friends seems to calm down a great deal towards its end. The quiet acoustic Cows to the East, Cities to the West may not come close in length or grandeur, but more than matches Mew’s Comforting Sounds in terms of scope. The title track rounds out the album, thrillingly attempting to reconcile the introspection of Cows to the East with Night of Pencils’ distortion-strewn, dinnerplate-eyed cinematic wonder, capturing Tubelord’s manifesto of awkward alternative rock with poppish sensibilities and pretensions amicably. No matter how many times it breaks down, it can never quite escape Prendergast’s feelgood sustained chorus notes, not even when it lulls into a 50’s melodrama, Good Night-style ending. Although Tubelord may wear their inspirations on their sleeve, an identity all their own shines through, proving them to be more than mere rip-off merchants. From its title onwards Our First American Friends discloses a thirst for exposure, and will surely gain them just that by proving more than the sum of its parts. Tastefully arranged influences are all well and good, but Tubelord have made the extra leap to crafting something truly original out of them.

9 out of 10.

Sonic Dice score: 5 out of 6

Night of the Pencils on Spotify
This is much cooler than the emo dorks it may remind you of in passing; sing along without guilt, “We’re bigger than Memphis…”

Hassle Records
Tubelord on Myspace
Tubelord on Last.fm

Johnny Foreigner – Grace and the Bigger Picture [Album]

Posted in Album, Review with tags , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2010 by David Hall


Originally published at Sonic Dice, November 2009.

If you haven’t seen hard-touring Birmingham three-piece Johnny Foreigner live yet, you may want to consider getting out more. As if they needed an excuse for another jaunt on the road, they team up with another credentialed-up producer Alex Newport to release Grace and the Bigger Picture. The acid test for this second album however is beyond the customary dizzy sugar rush, will you be inclined to dig it out for a spin this time next year?

Opener Choose Yr Side and Shut Up! acts as an appropriate metaphor for the duelling boy/girl vocals that never quite resolve themselves. With the line “And it starts like” Johnny Foreigner are off with a pop and a whizz; it starts like how it continues really, all slow bent notes, stop-start metrical foolings, widdling guitar fills et al. Security to the Promenade may be slightly more accomplished, but essentially follows the same template. Sometimes you’ll find the criticism that there are no hooks to a band’s music; if anything, JoFo are only guilty of incorporating too many hooks; Security to the Promenade for example ends up sounding like a random bunch of phrases which are intoned slightly louder or more tunefully than the backdrop. “Bath-room floor!”, “Holiday heaven!”, “Student union!” are pretty much the catcalls that define the track. Nothing much else sticks in the melee (or should that be puree?) of v-flicking guitar fills, crunching proliferations in volume and hyperspeed drumming that randomly hits brick walls. It collapses into a giant pothole only to emerge spitting a stream of water the other side for a final thrash. Great fun, but once it’s over, it’s over; a perfect indie moshpit soundtrack it might be, but it seems to evade the memory unnervingly.

The honest-to-God truth of the matter is that if you’ve heard one track on this album, then you’ve pretty much heard all of them. That being the case, it’s useless to really focus on the album track-by-track; it’s fun, but it’s repetitive and some might whisper just a little pointless. Fair enough there’s a giddy thrill to be had, and I doubt the band themselves would profess themselves to be any more than musical hedonists. Therefore, the only logical place to turn is those tracks that stand out, barging free of the stagefront scrum for a breather. Illchoosemysideandshutup, Alright begins sweet and quiet before a controlled apex of noise is reached; it’s all over a little too quickly however and is treated rather like an interlude than the proper track it probably deserved to be. More Heart, Less Tongue, beyond the ‘we’ve been to all these countries that you haven’t and didn’t like it’ sentiment, bravely tries to stick with its waltzy piano line. It’s an awful lot more restrained than most other tracks – a pair of tiny chaotic and dissonant breakdowns not withstanding – and is the most impressive thing on offer here, showing real signs of songwriting maturity. That said, the ‘sick of being homesick’-inspired “Oh! Seven! Fuck it! I’ll call tomorrow” line is infantile, bordering on genius. The Coast Was Always Clear most accurately recaptures the spirit of the still-to-be-bested-even-now Choose Yr Side and Shut Up, with Alexei Berrow quizzing “Who’s watching the coast? Who’s watching the coast? Who’s watching the coast and who’s watching you!?” ever more frantically. It unexpectedly spaces out into a resonatingly empty section of serenity before eventually working itself back into top gear to end frothing at the mouth once again.

Returning to the ‘different-sounding’ tracks, the promising moderation shown in More Tongue, Less Heart and The Coast Was Always Clear’s after-the-jump instrumental ending point to greater achievements in future from JoFo. It can be argued (and has been for the entire previous page) that they really need to get past this idea that everything must be played as quickly and hit as hard as possible. Johnny Foreigner are skilled in the art of self-reference, both with regard to Grace and indeed the bigger picture. Their little self-contained universe is hinted at in the inclusion of previous release titles (“So it started pretty, arcs across the city” goes Choose Yr Side), and recurring motifs… well, recur… throughout the album. The “some summers” refrain of Feels Like Summer crops up at The Coast Was Always Clear’s climax and question-retort relationships clearly exist between Choose Yr Side and Shut Up!/Illchoosemysideandshutup, Alright, More Heart, Less Tongue/More Tongue, Less Heart. A clear sense of the band’s identity and their little self-created microcosm is appealing. Then again, they’re difficult to like at times, often coming across as somewhere perilously close to obnoxious; the ‘woe-is-us-we-tour-hard’ songs can’t fail to grate, as astutely observed as they sometimes are.

Grace and the Bigger Picture is another one-dimensional joyride through the neon-graffitied council estate called Johnny Foreigner, a realm of blaring sirens and people shouting at you and beating you about the head with sticks. Therefore, there are complaints aplenty; it’s not very well rehearsed or produced, and more precision and polish wouldn’t have gone amiss. The quality doesn’t exactly lurch, but at least undulates noticeably at times; Kingston Called, They Want Their Lost Youth Back is ‘fuck-off-that’s-awful’ bad, for example. More time should’ve been spent on it as a project, more consideration given to the impressions the songs make upon the listener. It’s no coincidence that Criminals is the album’s first single, being its most memorable moment, with a chorus bordering on… gasp! Catchy! From the album title upwards, JoFo are focussing on the long term, but they really need to question what it is they’re providing their listeners with. It’s all very well to be the soundtrack to a drunken slam dance in a securityless venue, but quite another to be worthy of repeat listens at home. If one of those hoodies with panels from old comic books on it could make noise, they’d sound like Johnny Foreigner; all random explosions devoid of context and snippets of dialogue in disembodied speech bubbles. I guess they live and die on whether that description appeals to you or not.

6 out of 10.

Sonic Dice score: 4 out of 6

Choose Yr Side and Shut Up! on Spotify
A head-spinning introduction which the album never tops; arming you with no more than a pair of glowsticks, it sends you reeling into a neon-daubed indie disco never to be heard from again.

Best Before Records
Johnny Foreigner on Myspace
Johnny Foreigner on Last.fm