19 December 2011

2010 - Other top picks....

Before I start yarbelling about 2011, lets look back at 2010 and the tunes from that 12 month period that, frankly have stood the test of time and the bands that made it great for me.

First up - and top of the list for me is Plumtree.
I know I have written about them before, and I know they split up 12 years ago, but this tune just proves that great music is timeless....
That album is bloody fantastic and was my top play for 2010 - and much of this year.  If you can't find it at a decent price, buy their greatest hits from their band website and torrent "Predicts the future" just for that track.  A flipping superb turnaround 2/3rds of the way through, great riffing and perfect vocals.

Next up - The Breeders.  I got a second wind of them and started listening to some of the deeper album tracks and odder singles.  Like this puppy...
Much like the wonderful Plumtree, but a little more "Worldly-wise" and direct. Instead of talking about company figures which I know little of and care even less, I gave a 5 minute talk on the history of The Breeders. Far more interesting.

3rd - Mogwai.  I have written about this Scottish band before, but really played them to death in 2010. And not without reason:
Proving that too many effects, when used correctly are NOT a bad thing.  Play that all the way through, mellow and thoughtful to full shred in one song.

But what about the one offs? The single tracks that kicked all kinds of bottom? Tracks sent to me, advised by friends or just single tracks from albums that tickled something inside me?

Like Deadmau5?
OK, not such an original or groundbreaking artist, but there is something about that track that really gets to me, perhaps the similarity to DJ Shadow or Daft Punk is what is going on, but I genuinely think it is a standout track.  Listened to 3 of his albums and only discovered 3 track worth rating though....

I think I may have written about Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes already, but if I was making a disc of 2010, this would be there for certain.  Simple, beautiful, memorable.  And it has whistling....

Two artists I had not given much credit to in the past, proved to me that I had missed out on something. No idea how they got together as I suspect their roads may never have crossed in normal circumstances, but a great (couple) of albums of peerless songwriting and performance.

Somebody else I never had much time for - Johnny Lydon.  However after watching a documentary on them, this track sang out to me.  Not just for the interesting structure and a better understanding of what he was trying to do with his voice but also the quote from "Guitar God" Steve Vai who was a session player on this album "Probably my greatest guitar solo on record"

Ugly Duckling - a 93 rap crew from California made a superb album and it took me this long to find it.  I had tracks on tape from way back but had no idea who they were..... Bit like De La Soul with tongue firmly in their cheek....

The Go Team! Flashlight Fight featuring Chuck D - need more be said? It starts at full throttle and continues the same way.  Nice.....

However the musical monument of the year was, for me the Film "Scott Pilgrim Vs the World".  I loved the comic book, loved the story, loved the Director (Edgar Wright was the ONLY choice) loved the film, and the soundtrack.... I think at last count there was 4 albums worth of material released - all of it inspirational from Plumtree to The Black Lips, from the well known (Bowie) to the unknown (Anamanaguchi).  Not the most popular film, but it could not be improved upon.  It is not about music - it is music. Hurrah.

05 December 2011

The Fall - The Classical

Before I get started on 2011 - I missed out on 2010, mainly because there was only two new albums I liked (even less this year) so decided not to do it.

Miserable sod.

So I am looking through a playlist "Class of 2010" this week and picking out a couple.

The playlist is simple - as is my rules - If the track was added to iTunes between 1st January 2010 and 31st December 2010 - it is in.  I then rank it by number of plays.  Fairly straight forward.  This, however isn't one of the top plays.

It does, however need to be heard.

Press Play dammit!

It's a keeper!  Now, if you don't know about, or have never heard of The Fall, you really need to go and visit the Disney website, or something.  You don't need to be here.  Whatever you think of their music - whether "It is a work of sublime genius" or "It's a load of noisy tosh" people have strong opinions on the Fall.

Plusses - John Peel loved them, often saying they were his favourite band - Quote: "They are always different, they are always the same". They are from Manchester before it was hip and have influenced dozens of bands and have released over a hundred albums (29 studio recordings)
Minuses - most of it, you really do need to be open to listen to it.  It is not easy listening.

Thank God.  There is too much music in the world that is just not worth listening to.  It is there to pass you by as clouds in the sky - unobtrusive and ignorable.

This you can't ignore - post punk and with such a "fuck you" attitude that almost is there just to piss the listener off.  Well, that seems to sum up front man and sole continual member of the band Mark E Smith.

This guy:
Not a pretty fellow after a few years the wrong side of the bar, but creative none the less.  Apparently a horrendous man to work for, the through put of musicians in The Fall is astounding - with many leaving and having fights with him even onstage.  He was once arrested for attacking a band member.  He even committed the cardinal sin of fiddling about with the bass players amps mid song.  Les Bell once said if anyone ever did that to him, they would find out whether a Fender Bass could be inserted anally.

However, he also has astonishing support, even from ex-members, none of whom would speak against him.  Is The Fall run like a cult?  He certainly seems to have that sort of following.  For example, what sort of person should read out the results on Match of the day?  A damaged alcoholic?  Probably not, but he did....

The best bit is at the end when he discusses and cuts into the presenters.
So what about the tune - the one at the beginning which prevented them from being signed to Motown (the story being it was the only album he had to had when the president of the label asked to hear them) The lyrics may have had a part to play in that - "Where are the obligatory niggers? / Hey there fuck-face!"

Pounding toms and a cyclical bass line, before Mark Riley strums in with the post-punk guitar synonymous with The Fall at the time.  A great and catchy tune, that would lose so much if Mark E Smiths voice was wasn't as disjointed and seemingly screechingly ambivalent to the the formation of "Classic" song formation. It is this dichotomy between the rather formulaic bass and drums against the guitar and voice that turns the tune from awful into awesome. At parts it could almost be the Cure, others PIL or even Dead Kennedys.

On top of all that he did perform singing duties to one of my favourite 90's songs in much the same vein....

I love the fact that Mark E Smith was on Top of the Pops.
The producers must have been shitting themselves....
A drunk Mr Smith with the lyrics in his hand and Simon Mayo trying to be "above it all".  My god he really deserves a punch in the clacka, doesn't he?

04 December 2011

Frank Zappa - Guitar

I am very tired and feeling ill.  However before the rundown of my "Class of 2011" annual music from the year, I thought I would touch upon my favorite album of all time.

In really quick summation, it is a double CD just made up of guitar solos by Mr Zappa.  Quite quickly you will have decided that it probably isn't for you.  And most of you will be right.

So why on earth was a double CD comprising of just 32 long tracks in existence?  Was it an experiment? Nope.
He had already released the "Shut up and Play your Guitar" Triple album - comprising the original, "Son of SUAPYG" and "Return of the Son of SUAPYG".  Why?
Well, he is just too darn individual as a player. This isn't the same solo heard on the studio version of the track he plays - it is improvisational composition on the fly.

As an avid recorder of all of his shows (apparently there are 4 underground vaults in Laurel Canyon full of every live and studio recording he made) he wasn't short of material. Even then he would play around with it in the studio. During the recording for "Joes Garage" a previous triple album he never recorded a solo in the studio.  He took the solos recorded on the 1980 tour, extracted them from the mix and made them fit into the already recorded songs.  Apparently this would piss off the engineers plenty as they would have to play about with speeds and pitches in order to get them to sync.

But why, still does this exist? In my mind it is simple.  He really is that good. The composition of each solo, when mixed with occasionally odd rhythmic backing tracks is exceptional.  There is nothing else like it.  His knowledge of how to play music along with control of feedback and tonal quality is second to none.

Quite a rarity there - on the album known as "The Secret Carlos Santana Chord Progression" that bootleg version from the 80's shows some really evil fuzz colouring his chops! The fact that the style and content of the solos could change each night is impressive.  Most guitarists would be happy just doing the same old thing, night after night, but he took it as a challenge, if not a resposibility to improvise - and well, regardless of the situation.

To finish with here is a great recording from the 70's - note in the touring band is the Jazz pianist George Duke and violinist John Luc Ponty. Most impressive (apart from his suit) is how animated and aggressive this solo is, taking into consideration they are playing outside in sub zero temperatures....
Screw 2012, bring back the 70's.
Next week - a review of 2011 on what I have heard....