October 2009

Sometimes you just forget how good a band are. Yesterday, I decided on a change to my listening, and stumbled across a little band called Joy Division. I can’t say they’re one of my all-time favourite bands, nor can I say I know all of their work (I only have the Greatest Hits, not the albums) but every time I listen to them again it amazes me just how special they were. Their sound is so ghostly yet powerful, and any idea that that style of production could limit a band are quickly erased as you listen to their work. They may ply their trade in negative songs, but they cover the whole spectrum of negativity – laments, anger, depression, it’s all there.

Just listen to the two songs below. ‘Warsaw’ is a scratchy, punky bustle of noise. It’s an early song, but it shows the band’s intent perfectly. On the other hand, ‘Auto-Suggestion’ is a shambling beast of a track, the slow drumbeats, Hooky’s insistent, menacing bass, the fevered wails of guitar and Ian Curtis’ deep, sliding vocals add up to make 6 minutes of wonderfully odd music. That one band could make two songs that are so different, and yet so recognisably Joy Division is frankly amazing, and this is why they’ve survived like they have for this long.

Joy Division – Warsaw (YSI)
Joy Division – Auto-Suggestion (YSI)

As much as I love quiet, assured, beautiful music, there’s nothing quite like hearing something loud that just arrests your ears from the moment you hear it. So imagine my surprise when I got a bit of both, courtesy of Bath’s Kill It Kid and their song “Burst Its Banks”. There’s not really a clear way of explaining the sound they create here, but in a completely non-literal way, it sounds as if they’ve taken a heavy metal ethos and applied it to folk music. The song jumps between sheer balls-out riffing, to noisy, Mumford and Sons-esque folk portions to far quieter, more melodic portions (and everywhere in between). It’s an exhilerating journey and Chris Turpin’s incredibly odd, deep vocals (think an angry Antony Hegarty) add another layer of brilliance to the mix. Judging on this song, their debut album Kill It Kid sounds like a very appealing prospect, and I’m looking out for any live dates in Newcastle with baited breath.

Kill It Kid – Burst Its Banks (YSI)

I’m sitting in front of the TV now, hearing the endless stream of power ballads coming from X Factor. I’ve unwitttingly become sucked in this year as my housemates insist on watching it, and I have to say I’m yearning for something similar, but just much, much better – “You’re The Voice” by John Farnham. I fell in love with this song mostly as a joke – it’s used towards the end of one of my favourite comedies, Hot Rod, to amazing effect, but after downloading it for the laugh of playing it to friends, I’ve slowly come to the opinion that it’s easily my favourite “cheese” tune. The chorus is just so incredibly uplifting and bombastic, and the song holds up well after so many years and changes in style to this genre. Take a listen, and once you’ve done that, go watch Hot Rod too, both are absolutely worth it.

John Farnham – You’re The Voice (YSI)


I said it was all a fuss about nothing, didn’t I?

Radiohead – No Surprises (YSI)
The Hives – Hate To Say I Told You So (YSI)

After really getting into them this summer, I had the distinct pleasure of being asked to go and listen to an exclusive play-through of The Flaming Lips’ new album Embryonic last night at my Student Union. Having got their last three albums within a month, and loving each one, I was pretty excited to say the least. Unfortuantely, I have to say I was a little disappointed. My real love for the band tends to be because they manage to use all their experimentalism and noodly weirdness (yeah, that’s a term), but always reign it in. They are that rarest of things, an experimental band with pop sensibilities, an ear for a hook or a catchy riff, something to make you remember the song afterwards.

Embryonic didn’t seem to stick to this ideal at all. Full of freak outs, jams and general messing about, it had so little of that melodic loveliness that made me fall in love so quickly, and I have to say I came away a little despondant. Of course, this was a first listen, and repeated listens are a must, but I can’t see myself falling quite as hard for this album as the others. That being said, it did have its highlights: My favourite song, “Silver Trembling Hands” had already spread over the internet, but its strange screams, galloping drumbeat and echo-heavy vocals keep you hooked throughout, and provide a much-needed injection of energy at the tail-end of the 18-track monster. I’m sure I’ll be buying it, but I have to say, for now, Embryonic is not what I was hoping for.

The Flaming Lips – Silver Trembling Hands (YSI)

A couple of nights ago, I had an incredible experience at a club. I don’t like clubs that much, I prefer to drink and talk in bars and dance to music at gigs. But Newcastle has a special little something called World Headquarters. It has a brilliant history, which you can learn more about by clicking on the website link, but essentially it was set up as a bastion of tolerance and good taste in a city that, in the past at least, didn’t really hold up to either of these things.

There are a lot of reasons WHQ is great. Firstly, any place that has a sign behind the bar saying “You look lovely tonight and it’s fantastic to see you” is amazing. Secondly, they have murals of their heroes (Darwin, Marley, Attenbrough et al) all over the walls. Thirdly, they have rare funk and soul records everywhere. Fourthly, they essentially have no agenda for their music, meaning their DJs (who are, without fail, fantastic) can play whatever they like and generally have a good time with the rest of us. This also leads to incredible mixes like ABBA with Beastie Boys. It’s just a beautiful, wonderful place, and I wouldn’t choose any club over it. If you’re ever in Newcastle, give it a bloody go, it’s incredible.

Beastie Boys – Intergalactic (YSI)

PS. Here’s a brilliant remix/cover that I played at my own DJ set the other day:

Florence and the Machine – You’ve Got The Love (xx Remix) (YSI)