February 2011

I’m not sure how to feel about Tyler, The Creator (and, by extension Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), apart from the fact that I really like the comma in his name. Then again, I’m probably not meant to be able to. From ‘Yonkers’ first line, “I’m a fucking walking paradox. No I’m not/Threesomes with a fucking triceratops” it becomes clear this isn’t your run of the mill hip-hop fare. Equally chanelling the calculatedly insane violence of early Eminem and the surreality of Captain Beefheart, Tyler’s lyrics are immediately recognisable and immediately different from what we’ve become accustomed to from this particular music scene recently by warrant of balancing the essentially morally reprehensible and the oddly contemplative (“Fuck the fame and all the hype G/I just wanna know if my father would ever like me“). It’s no coincedence then that the wonderfully sparse production puts all the focus on Tyler’s deep, relentless vocals, even cutting out completely at the point where he goes truly over the top, before continuing, just as calm as he suddenly becomes. This is measured, intelligent hip-hop made  by a seemingly unhinged man. It could be the (odd) future, it could just be a postmodern prank, it could even be an odd flash in the pan for a stagnant scene. Whatever it is, I think I like it (even if he is “stabbing any blogging faggot hipster with a Pitchfork“).

Tyler, The Creator – Yonkers (YSI)

This post comes with thanks to Pop Headwound

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted here. It’s been even longer since I posted about Radiohead. You will, I assume, have heard today’s news. How did you react? I ran breathlessly around my house trying to find someone who was in/up to tell. No-one was so I rang my friend and ranted at him happily. I haven’t felt like that since… well, since I found out about In Rainbows probably.

Now that the excitement’s sink in and I’ve, predictably, ordered the full “newspaper” set (I learnt my lesson by missing out on the Disc Box last time around), all I can do is wait. It’s unnerving. But brilliant. No indication as to how it will sound, what songs will be on it, how the band have progressed, nothing. It’s like going to see a film when you haven’t heard or seen a thing about it.

Saturday suddenly seems very far away, doesn’t it?

I love Radiohead.

Radiohead – I Am Citizen Insane (YSI)

I’ve defended Cold War Kids for a long time now. Robbers & Cowards is, for me, a flawed masterpiece – the perfect mix of shout-along chorus work and off-kilter weirdness (‘Saint John’s strange shifts in tempo are just brilliant) marred by some slightly plodding areas more than made up for by all the brilliance throughout – ‘We Used To Vacation’ remains one of my favourite songs of all time. The much-maligned Loyalty to Loyalty saw the band embrace the esoteric side of their music a little too much, making for a disjointed album that was dull in some places, but really very, very good in others. And so we come to Mine Is Yours. Heralded by the pretty fantastic ‘Royal Blue’ and the fairly dull ‘Louder Than Ever’, I had difficulty trying to work out what to expect when I first listened to the full album.

No matter what I might have expected – another failed attempt at soul-inflected piano ‘n’ drum stomp maybe, a more conventional indie guitar album perhaps – I never, ever expected whatI’ve been faced with. A soft-rock album. A fucking soft-rock album. Just for a moment, let me put forward my thoughts on soft-rock here; I don’t have a problem with it. I find myself completely indifferent to it beyond being slightly bored. I’m not made angry by Coldplay or Maroon 5 like some – I just don’t think it’s particularly good music. It sort of follows from a generic title like that – soft rock – you might not like cats, but a fluffy kitten is rarely actively offensive.

My problem with Cold War Kids releasing a soft-rock album, and the ensuing anger because of that problem, is in wondering how they ever got to this point of making utterly tepid, meaningless music. Robbers & Cowards was an album characterised by its lyrics – tales of (sub)urban desperation, guilt, even murder. Mine Is Yours sounds like the work of a team of songwriters – there’s no meaning, there’s no thought beyond the surface. The music has followed a similar pattern – any of the ramshackle beauty of the first two albums has been removed in favour of “anthemic” buildups filled with background synth – it sounds more like a down-to-Earth Killers than what I fell in love with – even Nathan Willett’s amazing, soaring tones are bereft of feeling. “Selling out” is a term I don’t have much time for, but it’s the only explanation I can find for this seismic shift – this sounds like a last-ditch attempt at mainstream radio play that the fans never wanted anyway. Granted, I’ve only given the new record one listen so far – but when you’re so repulsed by an initial playthough it’s hard to work up the interest to do it all over again.

I’m angry because I don’t understand. And I’m not sure I can defend them any longer.

Cold War Kids – Something Is Not Right With Me (YSI)

Annoyed by my unnecessarily long break? Here’s some lazy recompence in the form of an Esben & the Witch review I wrote for the Newcastle Courier:

Esben and the Witch would like you to believe in the alternative great white (or should that be black?) hope tag they’ve been generously bequeathed of late. They’d like you to believe that their brand of sombre, slow-burning goth-gaze is what the British public deserves, nay, needs to shake the cobwebs out of the bloated, homogenous indie scene. It’s this sense of artistic self-importance that powers Violet Cries along; a great wave of holier-than-thou bluster.

And that would be fine if it wasn’t all so dull. Opener ‘Argyria’ goes some way towards tricking you that this simply isn’t the case, starting proceedings with a stately, mostly instrumental swell of powerful noise. But it’s all downhill from there once the realisation of quite how one-track this album is kicks in. Swooning Florence Welch impression? Check. Deep, prominent drumming? Check. Unnecessary, but oh-so-trendy synth additions? Check. Far too much reverb? Check. From the ponderous over-indulgence of ‘Light Streams’ to the ponderous over-indulgence of ‘Eumenides’ (hey, if they can do it so can I), the album never quite breaks out of its own carefully-constructed rut. Sure, this might be more “interesting” than a lot of indie music out there right now, but when it’s just no fun, that’s when you’ve hit a whole new set of problems.

The Beach Boys – Fun, Fun, Fun (YSI)