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To Lose My Life
White Lies - CD
17 New from
Depression is, as any aspiring artist will tell you, a very serious business indeed. Articulating the nature of our deepest and darkest moods and making it seem genuinely heartfelt, and not like some teenage strop, is a delicate craft only a few have been capable of. I won't name-drop but you know who they are: awkward, over-sensitive, often witty, sometimes pale individuals whose sole purpose seems to be distilling the misery of the Human Condition into four minute pathos-heavy chunks. White Lies debut album struggles somewhat heroically to achieve this but sadly comes away a little trite and often clumsy at times. There are lyrics on this album that would make a sixth-form poet blush and shrink into his pea coat. Just read the lyrics to `From The Stars' and if you're not chewing your fist in cringe-ridden embarrassment after the second line then you're clearly the type of person who rates The Corpse Bride as a hard-hitting treatise on mortality.
Weaknesses aside, what really does stand out with this album though is its confident delivery. White Lies are so completely brazen about their influences and display them with so much bombast it's hard not to actually get caught up in the throbbing bass-lines and plaintive vocals. Production-wise, it errs on the side of too clean, too polished - personally, I prefer my depression with sharp edges and menace - and because of this, the whole album comes away like a jolly old romp to the Dark Side.
It'll be a long, long time before anyone matches the broken beauty of say, Joy Division's Closer or anything as uncompromising as Slint's Spiderland, for example, but in the meantime White Lies have seen fit to give us a primer version. Think 'My First Depression Record, Vol. 1'. Think 'Prozac Nation: The Musical', starring Denise Van Outen as poor Lizzy Wurtzel and you're just about there. Promising stuff.
Tonight: Franz Ferdinand (2CD)
Franz Ferdinand - CD
19 New from
Franz Ferdinand are a band. Let's get that nice and sparkling clear, shall we? And, as such, bands make music. Sometimes they make a little music, sometimes they make a lot but they always can be counted on to know where exactly they came from. Now imagine, expanding on Armando Iannucci's analogy about how we indulge the creative members of our society, that Franz Ferdinand were butchers. Okay, so they turned up, all neatly dressed and hygienic, in 2004 and they did indeed chop some good meat. They filleted, they minced and they quite possibly even boned a liitle. And we all saw what they had done and we were pleased. The following year, they saw fit to make sausages and even showed us how to spatchcock a game bird or two. Well done, the Franz!
Now, after a long-deserved break, they return in 2009 - the year of the Ox - and suddenly Franz Ferdinand have gone cannibal on us. Gone are the carefree days of the Slap Rump or a generous bit of Top Bone action, now they want to eat you, body and soul. Something dark happened while they were away and now they want your blood. You can hear the pulsating jugular beat in opening track "Ulysses" and then pretty much everywhere else on the album. Flesh tears, tendons snap and bones are stripped clean as we descend into the Danza Macabra, the Zombie Jamboree. And finally (not including the superb Erol Alkan remix of "Do You Want To"), Franz are leading the charge back onto the dancefloors, where all good Pop music belongs.
Franz Ferdinand have never been a dark band, musically or otherwise, but this sees them finally shake off the formulaic "Mr Soft as performed by the Fire Engines" vibe that their previous two albums were mired in. Add to that the fact that Alex Kapranos, while clearly better dressed than 99% of his peers, is old enough to know better and so is possessed with the classier brand of Pop nous that age brings, and we could be looking at a band that will actually stand the test of time. They say you get the heroes you deserve and, in the same month that the NME somewhat pathetically pits a crass anachronism like Noel Gallagher up against Barack Obama as Hero of 2008, God only knows that we need some new ones.
We Started Nothing
The Ting Tings - CD
22 New from
Weeks and weeks in, several listens later and I still can't decide if `We Started Nothing' is the worst thing this over-educated pansy has experienced since Scouting For Girls pooed through his letter box. And this, I'm sure, is the real beauty and the sly pop genius of the Ting Tings debut album. Good Pop is a deceptively attractive creature in that it teases and flirts and nibbles away at you, one juicy bite at a time, never quite giving you enough but always keeping you coming back for more. Bad Pop however, much like an inexperienced lover, is far too over-zealous and just wants to roger you senseless with some borrowed moves, inevitably ruining your best sheets with it's messy, unfulfilled promises in the process.
Now the actual album - is it any good? Well, yes. It's good. It's annoying. It's catchy. It's not great, mind and the Ting Tings are by no means greater than the sum of their parts (even if these are parts 'borrowed' from just about every band to ever exist between 1976 and 1996). With this in mind, I'm not going to bore you with a skull-crushingly tedious track-by-track analysis and how I cleverly spotted the influences (ZE Records - look it up) but, I will say: BE WARNED - there are a few duds here. A few half-formed ideas that don't quite ping in the way intended. Although, in the album's defence, I would say every classic pop debut worth a damn has housed a stinker here and there so it`s not really worth dwelling on. I certainly haven't got time for that kind of introspection and complex over-analysis of the collected works of the TIng Tings thus far. In the unlikely event that the Ting Tings survive to make another album I`m sure they`ll have perfected their technique. They obviously know this and, fully understanding the transient nature of pop and their place in the scheme of things too, just want to enjoy it while it lasts. So whether this is really pop pretending to be indie or indie pretending to be pop or even pop pretending to be indie pretending to be pop, we should just shut up and let IT go.
NME Classics (3CD)
Various - CD
Maybe I'm just getting old (hey - we all are) but I find this latest NME CD just a little on the cynical side. The NME, by its own mandate, is required to have the (cultural) attention span of an Alhzheimer's sufferer, so why on Earth does it thinks its readership would be interested in anything that was made over 30 years ago? Unless it's driven by Rock N' Roll's best buddy - good old-fashioned target marketing and cynicism, eh? All the "old music" you'll ever need in one neat little three disc package without having to 'Ask Yer Dad'. I bet the current NME Editor (Timmy or Jez or Jake) even writes some drivelsome and ultimately patronising sleeve notes about how influential the Clash were on Hard-FI and how seeing his first Stone Roses gig changed his life too. Bleh!
Remember, boys and girls, this is a publication that championed the Enemy! Klaxons? Kooks!? The Bravery!!!?! Bands so ball-achingly average that should mind-wipe technology ever become available during my lifetime I'll be first in line to have their bland, knowingly retro pastiche efforts removed from my brain. And it will probably hurt like hell, but, man, it will be worth it.
So, the album: FIVE stars for the content - after all, there is some very, very good stuff here. Okay, everyone should own a Magazine album anyway. Everyone should know who the hell Richard Hell is. Everyone should respect the awesome soul power of the MC5. I could go on but won't, for fear of gnashing right through my jawbone. TWO stars, however, for the sheer unoriginality of it all. The spoon-fed, prescriptive mentality behind it, that seems to run unchecked amongst this current generation. This album, with it's overly simplistic and revisionist view of how the musical landscape developed, is an insult to any one who considers themselves to be an epicure of fine music.
As a final aside, a good starting place for anyone with a genuine interest in music they haven't heard before would be the Children Of Nuggets boxset. Go find it and I guarantee you will find some New Music and Fast. And it won't be officially sanctioned by a multi-national publishing giant or a sub-editor who still reckons Bloc Party are "The Sex".