Archive for the 'Music' Category

MY AIM IS TRUE

2011-03-22

[Cover of My Aim is True]There was only one Elvis until Elvis Costello came along, after that people had to add “Presley” to make the distinction.

The name caused a stir at the time, it was seen as a punk rock thing, disrespect, an attack on America, God, Music, and whatever else the loonies could come up with.

I’d heard the name, but it put me off a bit.  I wasn’t exactly intrigued enough to beat a path to Elvis Costello’s work.

It was 1977.  I was supposed to be at woodwork or something at high school, but instead a crowd of us congregated in Floyd’s house.  We smoked and chilled in the living room watching cartoons and idiotic children’s television, like “Rainbow” and “Trumpton”. On the turntable was ELP or Yes, I cannot recall exactly…

I’m not sure if it was Barbara Thomson or Moray Robertson, but one of them changed the LP to  “My Aim is True“, and I sat up as my world changed. What a half hour that was!

Yes, this really is that good. It is one of the few times in my life that I had to scribble down the name of a record and immediately go out to buy it, to have to own it.  It was raining, but I caught a bus on Ayr Rd for Glasgow. I bought it in the “Listen” Record Shop on Renfield St.  I have owned it ever since, in many formats.

Sometimes, when nothing else will do, it hits the spot exactly.  It has very short songs, the songs have intros, verses, bridges and choruses.  There are guitar solos, so it is not punk. The melodies are catchy, and every part is completely necessary — full of hooks and colour.

There is a great variety in the rhythms, and his voice is perfectly matched to everything else.  The songwriting is superb — music and lyrics, the musicianship is flawless, but the secret ingredient is Nick Lowe’s production.  That makes this as perfect a work of art as it could ever be.

It has an energy, a purity of tone and of purpose.  It is as clean as a new whistle, fresh and dewy new. It sounded like nothing of its time, and it still is of itself, a standalone classic.

Costello was poor, so he had to record this album in just four short burst sessions after work, hence his demos would have had to have been crafted to a pretty high degree. I read in Sounds, NME or Melody Maker, that his demos were superb, but it was only recently that I found some MP3 versions, and they are amazing as “unplugged” versions — different in key, but complete and polished beyond what I recognise as “demo”.

I have always liked that approach myself, I love the energy of live takes, that is what comes across in old Motown records, or the Pixies, or even the Jazz stuff I like best.  Through Elvis’s “My Aim is True”, I discovered things about myself, about my base tastes.

[Press release picture of Elvis Costello from 77]For example, I like variety, especially in rhythm, I like dynamics and interest, I like the raw energy of single takes and a well-rehearsed live band putting the song first.  I was shocked to realise the importance of backing vocals; the Attractions were a tight band. I realised that a band has to be slick and sharp, but the whole thing lives or dies with the singer at the end of the day. There has to be something to love or hate about the lead frontman.

“My Aim is True” is a perfect record, the order of the songs, the dancability, the singalongability, the image, the fun, the tears (Alison), the words that resonate with real people with real feelings in a real world.

  1. Welcome to the Working Week [E maj] 1:22;
  2. Miracle Man [E maj] 3:31;
  3. No Dancing [D maj] 2:39;
  4. Blame it on Cain [G maj] 2:49;
  5. Alison [E maj] 3:21;
  6. Sneaky Feelings [G maj] 2:09.
  1. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes [E maj] 2:47;
  2. Less Than Zero [F maj] 3:15;
  3. Mystery Dance [G maj] 1:38;
  4. Pay it Back [G maj] 2:33;
  5. I’m Not Angry [Db maj] 2:57;
  6. Waiting of the End of The World [G maj]3:22.

Only recently did I find out that the Attractions were actually more-or-less a band called Clover that I had seen supporting Huey Lewis or Thin Lizzy. There y’go, who knew? I would recommend this album to anyone who plays in a band — listen and learn!

This is one of the few albums I have always had to have around, that has lasted through everything, I thank Elvis Costello for that, from the bottom of my heart.

[Embedded video of Elvis Costello & The Attractions doing “Red Shoes”  on Top Of The Pops September 1977, YouTube.com]

§

JACQUES LOUSSIER

2011-03-15

I have always loved Jacques Loussier’s piano playing, his interpretation, his sheer talent and inquisitiveness. Now my wife has found him, he’s back in my life in a bigger way.

I guess it started for me when I was listening to “Weather Report” back in the day, and the rival fusion super group was “Return To Forever”.  This led me to Chic Corea, and through a few superb players, like Joe Sample or Oscar Petersen, to the great Keith Jarrett at Kóln 1975. My wife got turned on to Jarrett through this work, and it became a real staple in our musical diets.

It wasn’t much of a leap from Jarrett to the great Jacques Loussier.

I used to have his famous Bach stuff, but now I only have his Beethoven variations, the Allegretto From Symphony 7, and now that she loves it, we share the appreciation.  He is all over YouTube and Wikipedia. He was born in 1934, so he’s nearly 80 at the time of writing this, but he’s still cool. Very Cool.

§

BARRY WHITE

2011-02-20

I know of the “The Long Black Veil” because I dabbled a wee bit in the pub folk scene.  After I heard it a few times I asked whose song it was — a difficult question as I got a different answer each time!  The Chieftains, Nazareth, Lefty Frizzell, Dave Matthews — even Johnny Cash.

If you don’t know this song, you can get a pretty good idea of what it is like just from who has covered it!  The lyrics reinforce this; they are very story-telling, moral and folksy:

[D] Ten years ago on a cold dark night
There was [A] someone killed beneath the [G] town hall [D] light
There were few at the scene, but they all agree
That the [A] slayer who ran looked a [G] lot like [D] me
The judge said “Son what is your alibi
If you were [A]somewhere else then [G] you won’t have to [D] die ”
I spoke not a word though it meant my life
For I had [A] been in the arms of my [G] best friend’s [D] wife

She [G] walks these [D] hills
In a [G] long black [D] veil
She [G] visits my [D] grave
When the [G] night winds [D] wail
Nobody knows, [G] nobody [D] sees
[G] nobody [A] knows but [D]  me

The [D] scaffold’s high and eternity near
She [A] stood in the crowd and [G] shed not a [D] tear
But [D] sometimes at night when the cold wind blows
In a [A] long black veil she [G] cries o’er my [D] bones .

So – imagine my surprise to find “The Long Black Veil” covered by Barry White!

It was on one of my father-in-law’s CDs — a greatest hits compilation of all things.  I just had to give it a spin — and it could well be the soundtrack of the summer! This is now my favourite version, even though it is completely instrumental.  It is so perfectly dated, so wonderfully cheezy: early soul drumming, great fat bass guitar, soulful horns, lush strings, wah wah guitar.  They redid the tune like it was “Shaft“.

I found a link to buy this track for a few pence at Amazon — click here to do that or to listen to a free sample.  Some girl with an afro ought to sing an R&B version of this song based on Barry’s instrumental interpretation.  It instantly transported me back to the very hot summers of the early ’70s “Sigh”!  Check out Barry White in general for this summer – that’s what I might do myself.

I’m big enough and old enough now to be able to admit to Barry White being part of my life tapestry.  His stuff is interwoven into the fabric of growing up — I cannot say I ever bought a Barry White record, or that I know the names of his tunes or albums.  Still, though, he has a strong presence.

As soon as Barry sings, men go into lethario mode.  Barry meant seduction. Hence my ignorance of his work!

Now, it is nostalgia for the oranges, browns and beiges of the early 1970s, and the warmth that era evoked.  It also reminded me that it was the time of the afro, the tan leather jacket, big collars and flares.  That was the time when Black people in America styled themselves, and hustled and shuffled themselves into the mainstream media.  Polo-necks and medallions, side burns and Cuban heels — all appeal more to me than the image of a hoodie with his trousers pulled down with the gusset at the knee, and his underpants showing.  Just shows how wrong things can get!

§

FIRST RECORD

2011-02-12

It’s always a laugh to ask what was the first record bought, or what was the first dance at a wedding (bride and groom).

The first record I bought was Ike and Tina Turners’ “Nutbush City Limits“.

I later played over it/ along with it, so it was one of the first tracks I figured out the key for (it’s in A major).

It’s a basic fuzzed rock’n’roll riff at the start, with a hint of wah wah. It’s warmed when the bass comes in with the clavinet and the triangle heralds the horns back in. The drums turn to a bizarre typewriter sound as the synth does it’s thing.

That synth is what makes the track. It is probably why the track doesn’t get covered much on the live circuit — including weddings.

Hey, I’ve just found out that the guitar might have been played by Marc Bolan. Now THAT’S insane!

Looking back, it could have been worse, so I am quite pleased with this. Mind you, I think my second purchase was “Rubber Bullets” or something equally poppy.

§

THE ROLLING STONES

2011-02-04

[Picture of Rolling Stones' Logo]I might be old, but I still missed the The Rolling Stones era; they belonged to the generation before me.  My elders and betters liked them (and Led Zep, Dylan, Hendrix, Cream and all that); I merely grew up in the 1960s, but they actually lived through it.

As a result, there was no attachment, no possessiveness, no direct association with band of that time — I was too busy with all the mad genius of the 1970s to bother with all that older stuff.

So how come I am such a fan now? Well, it’s an odd story:

In the early 1980s, I had bought an apartment in the city and was fixing it up. One afternoon, I think I was sawing a piece of timber when the doorbell rang.  It was a mate — the singer in my band at the time.  He was known as Jock, but his real name was Anthony.

“Hey man”

“Righto Jock”, I returned to sawing

“What you think ’bout the Stones, man?” He swung his leg over a chair, and sat with the chair back to his front

“Rolling Stones?”

“Yep”

“Why?” I stopped sawing and looked up.

“Well, there’s a spare ticket going if you wanna see them live”

“How much?”

“Free, man.  It’s my cousins, they have money, they don’t care”

“Oh, OK” I said returning to finish sawing the board, “When is it?”

“Now”

“Now? — Wait — what do you mean, Now?”

“Well, they’re both waiting down in the car to go to the gig, man”

“Serious?” I put down the saw and wiped my brow.

“Serious”

“Ah, I’m not ready…” I shook my head.

“Come on — it’ll be a laugh” he said rising to his feet.

“Ok, but I’ll catch up with you — where is it?”

“No, you have to come now”  he looked me in the eye, “It’s in Leeds”

“Leeds? In England?”

“Yeah, and tomorrow — part of a big festival thing in Roundhay Park, whole weekend man, we have beds and it’s all laid on. There will be chicks”, Jock grinned.

“I’ll grab my coat and stuff — gimme a minute”

That is how I saw the Rolling Stones live for the first time.  I grabbed a bank card, some cash, a jacket and my door keys.  I locked up and jumped into the back of a big Merc with a gorgeous blonde girl called Susan Linderman, and we stayed in Leeds in a lovely house that seemed to be a girls’ dormitory.  I’m not kidding, you couldn’t make this stuff up. Gooood times.

The next day at the gig, the sun was out, and I got pretty red.  We drank a LOT and listened to the likes of Joe Jackson.  I grew close and quite fond of Susan as Jock and his cousin seemed intent on talking business deals and gossip about family and folks I didn’t know.  It was sunset when the Stones came on — and they used fireworks once it got dark.

I have to say it was honestly one of the best live shows I have ever seen.  The vibe was amazing, what a crowd! Now — remember, I had none of their records, would probably not have bought a ticket if they were playing round the corner from my house — so imagine my surprise to find that I knew all their material!

There was not a single mystery track, and they were a bloody good band, having a bloody good time too. I found the real meaning of the phrase “guitar lick”; that gig had way more than I’d have thought possible.

The only track I would have said that I’d really liked before this would have been “Tumbling Dice” — but I didn’t even know that it was the Stones, nor that it was from “Exile on Main St“.  I got  “Some Girls” once I’d got home to Glasgow. This was quickly followed by “Voodoo Lounge” and “Tattoo You“.

So roll on years later.  The Rolling Stones were playing Hampden Park.  I got two tickets and took a girlfriend along.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but I cannot remember who she was — even though I do recall that the tickets were extortionate and that I even bought her one of the expensive tour tee-shirts and a program!  Musically, it was a memorable night though — once again the end of another sunny, hot, summer’s day.  Huge hookers rapidly inflated at the stage sides up when they did “Brown Sugar“. Fantastic.

Although they haven’t released new material since 2005, just a few months ago (23 May last year in fact), the re-issue of “Exile on Main St” stormed at No. 1 in the charts — almost 38 years to the week after it first occupied that position.

  • This means that The Rolling Stones are the first act to ever see a classic work return to No. 1 decades after it was first released. In the USA, the album went straight to No. 2.

This spurred me to listen to these guys again, and I can say that I have found the ‘Stones again — and that I can appreciate them properly for the first time.  It’s all probably around the wrong way, but I’m finally “getting them”… it’s not the vocals, the drums, the guitars, odd keyboards or bass — it’s how they work together, somehow.

I kind-of knew that because of the live shows and the buzz — but now I’m actually listening properly — with headphones — and that is a different level from the dancing about overall impressionism.

U2 are NOT the greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World.  Don’t get me wrong, U2 have been around long enough to lay claim to a lot, but the ‘Stones are so much more in all respects. First internet streamed gig, biggest audience at a gig, biggest tour and so on and on.

Even in terms of drama and controversy they win over all rivals — I can well remember the fuss over the video of “Undercover of the Night” (C major). I love this track as it has a fabulous beat and sublime bass licks. It’s got the heat and down-and-dirtiness of ‘Harlem Shuffle‘.

[Embedded video of Undercover of the Night]

As a guitar and bass player, I adore the licks of almost every track they have ever done. “Beast of Burden” (E major) has superb chops.

Start Me Up” (F major) is a bizarre mixture of bass and guitar riffs that seem to have been recorded randomly and thrown together as an experiment — yet it works!  A joy! They even throw in hand-claps and finger pops to give it extra Stonesyness.  Genius!

When I compare the vocals of “Start Me Up” with those of (say) “Love is Strong” (A minor), I am amazed to discover how much a part of the musicality is the vocal.  Jagger is definitely under-rated in that respect; he chooses each word very carefully indeed, not just for the word-play, but for the sound — and the way he delivers them.

Love is strong and you’re so sweet
You make me hard you make me weak…
Your love is bitter if taken neat

Or how about one of the most famous songs ever written:

Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
Sold in a market down in New Orleans
Scarred old slaver knows he’s doing alright
Hear him with the women just around midnight

Brown sugar how come you taste so good?
Brown sugar just like a young girl should

What great sounds, riffs, words! The way he sings “How Come”, and the ambiguity he manages to inject — such as “How Come you taste so good” sound very like “How Come You Dance So Good”.  Amazing — or “Gold Coast slave ship bound for cotton fields” could easily be “Gold Coast slave she bound for cotton fields” — while this can be ingenious, it can also be hilarious, a lot of Stones’ lyrics are unfathomable to the casual listener, and can produce interesting ad-lib fills and mis-heards — on “Brown Sugar”, for example, he sings  “I bet your mama was a tent show queen”, which I always thought was “I bet your mama was potential queen”.  Good grief.  It’s only Rock and Roll, but I like it, like it yes I do.

[Embedded video of Harlem Shuffle]

§

PLATINUM NOTES

2011-01-27

I like playing guitar along with my hifi.  It often means I have to figure out the key of the song or tune. That’s OK, and while I have done dozens of songs in my collection, I still have zillions of MP3s not done.  I can listen to a couple of hours’ worth of stuff in D major for example.

But the thing I dislike the most is when a track is between keys — off pitch. Eugh!  I use to correct this by ear using Audacity, this can change the pitch yet keep the beats per minute the same — but the trouble with that is the preview is just the starting few seconds, and on some tracks the music proper doesn’t start for quite a while.

Now I have found Platinum Notes — a great bit of software.  It fixes the volume and audio graphs (clipping etc), and tweaks the whole track to the nearest proper pitch key.  It makes the mp3 file size jump to about double, but what a difference it makes!  It doesn’t overwrite — it makes a new audio file adding _pn to the filename.  All you do is delete the original later, and remove the _pn to be good to go. It really is worth doing, and is a LOT easier than doing this stuff my ear.

§

JEFF BUCKLEY

2011-01-12

[Picture of the Grace album cover]I love it when you see something by chance on the TV, that stops you in your tracks — and you just have to have more.  This is exactly what happened with the video promo for “Grace” by Jeff Buckley.

I immediately went out and bought the album “Grace“. Thing is, he’d recently died (by accidental drowning in the Wolf River in Memphis USA), so there would be no further wonderfully crafted original music from Scotty Moorehead (his “real” name).  I think there’s a Chet Baker legacy for the quieter ballads, but in the rock music side of things, Buckley is out there on his own — perhaps influenced by Robert Plant, but with lots of added extra influences, possibly black women such as Aretha Franklin.  You listen, you decide!

Over the years I have rediscovered Grace” again and again for the usual reasons — switching from CD to a computer file, the renewed interest in the media (mainly around “Hallelujah” and Cohen, Elisa, Burke etc) a couple of years ago.  But  I have no idea why I didn’t think of looking up YouTube until now.

[Embedded video clip from YouTube of The Last Goodbye]

His voice can give me chills and thrills, and he never plays it safe — the element of right on the edge vocals brings such amazement to me, really — I’ve sung live, I’ve taken chances and they have (luckily) paid off to my eternal immense relief — but to see someone totally risk everything, to squeeze every last drop of emotion, to face public disgrace and humiliation by singing flat or sharp or out of time (or all of the above). OMG. Just wow. It’s crazy, it’s wild, it’s utterly Buckley.

[Embedded video clip from YouTube of Grace – Live]

What a voice — what a guitar player, and what a song-writer!  Clearly Buckley has been a huge influence on Gregory Hoskins and loads more, such as The Antlers.  I can’t listen to “So Real” without thinking of Grizzly Bear, it’s the chords, the mood or something, y’know? But this guy is the original.  I saw a TV documentary about him a couple of years ago — and they reckon he was a blend of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page — now THAT’S an absolutely massive compliment right there, and possibly the best epitaph, I’ll leave it there.

§

MUSIC OF 2010

2010-12-29

Lists like this are ubiquitous. Mine might be different because I talk about other lists I’ve seen, and also because I don’t care if the music was released between certain dates.  It is more important to me to talk about music that I associate with 2010. The music that defines time and place for me.

So this year, I really enjoyed ‘The National’ ‘High Violet‘, and I even did a post on it back in June. I see that this is agreement with a lot of best of 2010 lists I have seen. It got to #11 midway through the year on Metacritic. It did better at the end of the year — on The Recommender AND on the Amazon list it reached #9.  That’s pretty good for them as it might just prove to be their breakthrough work. For me, it just seemed to fit what I needed to hear on headphones at work a lot of the time.

Looking round the lists, there is universal acclaim for the following:

Thing is, they just didn’t click with me.  I just don’t like Kanye West and all that — and I saw Janelle on ‘Later’ and was less than impressed. Not my bag. Same with ‘Arcade Fire’ and ‘Mumford and Sons’ — everyone raves about them, so it must be just me.

‘The Drums’ ‘The Drums’ I took an instant dislike to. I didn’t mind the Mercury winner – ‘xx’‘ – ‘The xx’, but they weren’t exactly great live.

On the other hand, ‘Gorillaz’ (‘Plastic Beach’) – #24 Amazon, #10 The Recommender did click with me.  It shouldn’t have, but it did — maybe because my kids like the videos (especially ‘Stylo’ with Bruce Willis), I’m getting influenced by their enthusiasm. I have actually used ‘Plastic Beach’ to look back at their back catalogue — and with Shaun being on the jungle-based reality TV show, “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”, ‘Dare’ has been getting a lot of listens (in all its many versions), along with ‘5/4’, ‘Clint Eastwood’ and ‘Kids with Guns’.  So — strangely, the Autumn of 2010 is tied in with ‘Gorillaz’!

Similarly, I found the ‘Foals’ (‘Total Life Forever’) – #2 The Recommender to be one of the best things about 2010. It is a fun record as it conjures up a lot of audio memory of music from the 1980s and 90s.

‘Flaws’ – ‘Bombay Bicycle Club’,and ‘Tourist History’ – ‘Two Door Cinema Club’ and ‘WHB‘  – ‘We Have Band’ are worth a mention. They brought the year to an end in a similar vein to the start of the year with Owen Pallett. This is probably down to the weather and the economy now that I think on it.  Good records, good music.

The beginning of the year was marked by amazing amounts of snow for a protracted length of time — same as November/ December.  The ash cloud and banking crisis meant that there was a cold moroseness prevalent.  I started to listen to Owen and ‘Grizzly Bear’, but also to old Chet Baker records.

There wasn’t much going on through spring to be honest.  I delved back into technical guitar music for a while, listening to Vai, Holdsworth, and the jazz theme continued for summer with Hiromi Uehara and Tal Wilkenfeld — and any need for classical for Autumn was met in the form of Danielle de Niese or Wagner.

Looking back now, I would have to say that summer 2010 was about Peaches / Hiromi Uehara / ‘The National’ / ‘Stars’ how bizarre is that!  I took these  on vacation with me, but ‘The Five Ghosts’ by The Stars has turned out to be the summer album for me; it got me through the weeks of rain. ‘Foals’ and ‘The Antlers’ have seen me through all the snow.

Post-summer has been filled with wonderful music from all sorts, ‘Deadmau5’, ‘Magnetic Man’, ‘The Radio Department’‘The Thermals’, ‘Ratatat’, Regina Spektor, ‘Midlake’, Rumer, Joshua Radin, Larry Carlton and ‘Steely Dan’, Eli “Paperboy” Reed, Mike Posner, Rackmaninoff’s ‘All Night Vigil’.

So here’s my top five albums of 2010:

  1. ‘The National’ ‘High Violet’;
  2. ‘The Antlers’ ‘Hospice’“;
  3. ‘Foal’s ‘Total Life Forever’;
  4. ‘Gorillaz’ “Plastic Beach“;
  5. ‘Stars’ ‘The Five Ghosts’.

Here are the oldies that mean 2010 to me

  1. Peaches ‘The Teaches of Peaches’
  2. ‘Midlake’ ‘The Trials of Van Occupanther’,
  3. Hiromi Uehara ‘Time Control’

§

ALL-NIGHT VIGIL

2010-12-24

On of my favourite all-time pieces is Rachmaninoff’s Opus 37, Всенощное бдение, Vsenoshchnoe bdenie, or “All-Night Vigil”. It is useful to know that this is very often just called “Vespers”, but purists get annoyed by this.

If you can get a chance to hear this live, then jump at it.  It is all voice, all vocal or choral or a cappella. It is not Gregorian Chanting in ancient and cavernous monasteries; it was written in a  fortnight in 1915 to raise funds for the war effort, and despite being a big hit, it was banned along with all religious music by the second of the three Russian Revolutions. It is modern and fresh — but still religious.

If you like Samuel Barber, you will most likely enjoy All-Night Vigil.  If, like me, you enjoy all choral music, from Eric Whitacre to Handel’s “Messiah”, you will perhaps appreciate the importance and sheer beauty of the work.

The recording I have seems to have become unavailable; I cannot track it down.  It is by the Tambov Chamber Choir under the artistic direction of Professor Vladimir Kozlyakov — who conducted my recording from 2003. Rachmaninoff was from Tambov, and the choir was started in 1993 by lecturers and students past and present at Derzhavin (Tambov State) University. The last track (#15) is actually a piano piece played by P. Kushnir — Variations On A Theme Of Corelli opus 42. The other 14 tracks are in Westernised Russian, but it doesn’t really matter terribly much whether “Bogorodice Devo, raduisya” means “Hail, Virgin, Mother of God” or not, I do wonder what happened to track 15 (according to YouTube it is “Troparion – Hail, Theotokos”, which Amazon has as “Hymn to the Mother of God”)! It’s pretty difficult looking for stuff when the Conductor might be spelled V. Kozlyakov or W. Kozlyakoff (and variations), Rachmaninoff can be Rachmaninov, Sergei, Sergey, and The All-Night Vigil can be Vespers! Tough One.  Luckily the music — when you find it — is wonderful trance-chill stuff.

Whatever version you get, it is perfect for Christmas mood making!

M ER Y       C RS M A S

§

FOALS

2010-12-18

Album coverThe first time I heard of ‘The Foals’ was when they were nominated for this year’s Mercury Prize.  I got their album, ‘Total Life Together‘, and it is superb. There is of course the famous Twitter fight between The Foals and The Lost Prophets, and that is never a good thing.

The reviews of ‘Total Life Together‘ on Amazon are mixed. Disappointment from fans of their début album, ‘Antidotes‘ from a couple of years ago is always to be expected (it’s not angry enough, not raw enough etc.) — but I have not heard the first album, so I can only go on what I have heard, and on its own, ‘Total Life Together‘ is a great record.  The reviews actually make me less inclined to listen to their immature first album.

Don’t forget, it was the second album, not the first, that got the Mercury nomination.

Total Life Together‘ doesn’t sound like a “second album”, in the sense that “second albums” tend to be full of tunes that weren’t good enough for the début, or that tracks seem unpolished as a result of touring and promoting the début.

Amazon suggests that “people who bought this, also bought…” and listed ‘The Suburbs‘ – ‘Arcade Fire’, ‘Flaws‘ – ‘Bombay Bicycle Club’, ‘High Violet‘ – ‘The National’, ‘Tourist History‘- ‘Two Door Cinema Club’, ‘xx‘ – ‘The xx’, and ‘The Drums‘  ‘The Drums’ — and while that might give some idea of what the Foals sound like, it misses out some of the weirder references I can hear in their work.

The first thing is the album cover — this reminded me of Nirvana for some reason — but they do not sound like Nirvana, ‘Blue Blood’ has a Pixies style bass approach, and there are some King Crimson-y like guitar arpeggios, touches of U2, and even odd quirky guitar chops that sound they they were stolen from Nik Kershaw or Hipsway.  The vocals do strange things with vowels, so that I was reminded of Biffy Clyro! I reckon there could be hip indie music for the older gentleman (like myself). Ahem.

[Embedded video of Blue Blood from You Tube]

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rw6oWkCojpw]

Miami swings! There are interesting soundscapes, sequencer style joggy world-music/ African arpeggios along with a distorted fat bass grunt. Soft punk tones merge with reverb’d team singing and a moogy synth top!

There are lots of dynamics internally and between songs.  To me this sounds very like stuff I really liked when I was in my twenties — especially Hipsway and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions!  Even Hue and Cry!

usual links:

[Embedded video of Miami from You Tube]

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQ90LRaEIt0&feature=channel]

§