Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Wooden Finger Five - June 2014

1.       Stevie – Kasabian

Kasabian called their latest album ’48:13’? Who are they trying to fool with this ‘arty’ stance? Tom and Serge disappointed me a little bit with their most recent album, ‘Velociraptor’, which seemed a tad uninspired after the slightly-bonkers quasi-psychedelicia of the excellent ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’. The new album veers back away from trad-rock, with mixed results, but when they get their blend of the anthemic and the trance-like right, as they do on ‘Stevie’, it is Kasabian at their very best. The boys from Leicester also hit the mark on ‘Clouds’ and single ‘Eez-eh’, less so on ‘Treat’ (‘everybody knows I work it, work it like a treat’ – repeat ad nauseum).  

2.       Cruel World – Lana Del Rey
Probably nothing else Lana Del Rey does in her career will hold the same excitement for me that I felt when I first saw the clip for ‘Video Games’ on YouTube – I must have watched it seven times within 24 hours of first seeing it. Her album ‘Born To Die’ was, for me, a bit of a let-down, mostly filled with middling ballads. From my first couple of listens new album ‘Ultraviolence’ seems to me an improvement; there are a few more hooks and surprises in the tunes, and Lana actually has more than one tone in her voice. Opening track ‘Cruel World’ is a good example of this more adventurous stance, clocking in at over six-and-a-half minutes and never really knowing when to end, it is in my view the track on this album that comes closest to matching ‘Video Games’ for atmospherics.   
3.       The Fragile Army (album) – The Polyphonic Spree
I never listened much to the Polyphonic Spree after their first album, and by God, now do I regret it. I regret even more not seeing them perform in the late-2000s, which would be just after ‘The Fragile Army’ album was released. No longer a novelty pseudo-cult in white robes, the Polyphonic Spree had turned into an excellent indie-pop group, using their 20-something vocalists to create some joyous and sublime harmonies for their catchy tunes. Single ‘We Crawl’ – probably the reason I did not pay much attention to this album when it first came out – is actually for me one of the weaker tracks. Better are tracks three through five – ‘Get Up And Go’, ‘The Fragile Army’, and ‘Younger Yesterday’, along with ‘Light To Follow’, ‘Watch Us Explode (Justify)’, and closer ‘The Championship’.
Anyone who has listened to the Horrors’ two most recent albums, ‘Primary Colours’ and ‘Skying’ will know pretty much what to expect from their new one ‘Luminous’. Like much of the Horrors’ output, this is a brooding track that sounds like it was recorded in a tunnel, but this one stands out for its infectious chorus, pleasant synth, and rowdy guitars, that will have you singing along even as you lurk alone moodily in an alleyway.
5.       Love Goes To Buildings On Fire – Will Hermes
Wait, isn’t that a song by the Talking Heads? Yes it is, but it is also the title that Will Hermes has taken for his new book about the New York music scene of the mid-1970s. Most people who are interested in picking up this book will already know a bit about Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, the New York Dolls, Blondie, Television, the Ramones, and Talking Heads themselves. The stories that may be less well-known are those of Grandmaster Flash and the beginnings of hip-hop, and the main jazz and salsa figures of that period. The book even follows composer Philip Glass through the triumphs and tribulations of his four-part opera’ Einstein On The Beach’. Looking behind the scenes of the punk icons was naturally of the most interest to me, but it is good that Hermes chose to take a more expansive view of the city and its music, often through personal recollections. CBGB sounds like it was a real dive. 

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