Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Wooden Finger Five - November 2014

No. 5 No Way – Young Fathers

Who the - ? Young Fathers’ first album ‘Dead’ recently won the Mercury Prize for ‘best’ British or Irish album of the year; apparently it was time to reward hip-hop acts from Scotland. I thought it less deserving than Bombay Bicycle Club, but hell, it was more deserving than Royal Blood. For some reason I like the album tracks where the title is repeatedly chanted in the back-up vocals, such as ‘Mmmh Mmmh’ (it delivers what it promises), and opener ‘No Way’. Overall I found Young Fathers’ music to be OK, and if they do point towards the future of music it’s not in a bad spot, but I think I am still a bit more inclined to your classic rock structures.

No. 4 Satan Speeds Up – King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

For example, like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, who as their name suggests have based their entire sound around late-‘60s/early-‘70s psychedelic rock. They also seem to want to follow a late-‘60s/early-‘70s album release schedule, with five albums in the past three years. I imagine ‘Satan Speeds Up’ as the soundtrack to some Haight-Ashbury cartoon featuring a giant, long-legged red devil wandering across a dark landscape, scaring hippies out of their wits. There’s some Jethro Tull-like flute thrown into the mix for good measure. Plus, King Gizzard’s album cover is so striking that I even selected it as an image for this post over the next group’s, who would barely ever get bumped when it comes to selecting favourite album cover images.

No. 3 Lovely Rita – The Flaming Lips, featuring Tegan & Sara, and Stardeath, and White Dwarves

Psychedelic I said? The idea of the Flaming Lips covering the Beatles’ era-defining ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ is like …
Miley Cyrus’ appearance on ‘A Day In The Life’ has gained the most notice, and while she does a decent job on my one-time favourite track, I prefer Tegan & Sara breathing some life into Paul McCartney’s ‘Lovely Rita’ meter maid ditty. It seems more like what the track might have been like if it had originally been written in 2014, whereas some of the other efforts on the album seem more like The Flaming Lips trying to pull apart and inject some more ‘crazy’ into the Beatles’ tunes. I wonder though is the gender reversal in singing about scoring with a female parking inspector intentional, or did the Lips not even really think about it? (Maybe I’m the only person who’s even given this more than a passing thought…)
The Guardian did a pretty good article on the Beijing indie music scene recently, and it got me to checking out some of the bands mentioned in the article. Most are worth a listen, but the shining light for me is ‘perhaps China’s best indie band’ Carsick Cars. Each of their first three albums is full of good fun rock. But listening to them has reinforced that lyrics barely matter for me as long as the tune is good; the band usually don’t sing in English, particularly in their early stuff, and even when they do I can barely understand them. And even if I could understand the lyrics they don’t seem like they would be revelatory – one of their most popular songs ‘Zhongnanhai’ seems to be about nothing more than smoking a brand of cigarette. Regardless, there are heaps of good tracks on their latest album ‘3’ – ‘Wild Grass’ and especially ‘She Will Wait’ are favourites – really, I could have filled this whole post only with songs from Carsick Cars and the next band, but if I had to recommend one I would pick ‘Reaching The Light’… just.
When talking about And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead’s classic album ‘Source Tags and Codes’ earlier this year I said that every track was listenable, and no track stood out. That description pretty much applies to their latest album, ‘IX’ as well – in fact, it pretty much applies to their entire back catalogue more so than any band I can think of. There are rock solid tunes all of the way through this album – how do I pick a favourite? ‘The Dragonfly Queen’ is reminiscent of Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys, but also sounds better than almost anything that band has ever written. ‘Bus Lines’ is the classic bar song that will probably never actually catch on in bars, albeit classic bar songs do not tend to have the wall of noise that Trail of Dead attach (as they generally do) to the end of this track. The track that sticks in my head most though and the one I tend to play first up is actually the single ‘A Million Random Digits’ so I will go with that. The whole album is worth a listen however; it’s surprisingly almost as good as ‘Source Tags and Codes’ was.     

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