Wednesday 24 February 2016

Field Music - Commontime

I meant to write this a coupe of weeks ago after my first listen.
Initial impressions, and all that ...

And then I listened again and my thoughts changed.
And then again - in fact I've listened 5 or 6 times before finally coming to a conclusion.
Initially, I wasn't too sure - the first couple of tracks ("The Noisy Days Are Over" and "Disappointed") were direct winners sounding like a cross between Devo and Talking Heads with a lolloping funk groove underpinning it.
These two tracks tread similar musical ground, but then the album opens up and I was a bit wrong-footed by it.   I'll admit to be slightly underwhelmed by it, and it took a couple more listens to reveal itself in all its diverse charms.

Plainly, this album focuses on the Songwriting and production - it is a very direct album, and although it took a while to "get", once you're in it is strangely satisfying.  A note of warning however - for all its upfront diversity, and if this makes any sense, its lack of stretch in that diversity can become a little wearing.
It probably sounds better, and becomes more accessible, in mid-summer than the depths of a freezing cold winter, but one can't help but be drawn in.

Excuse the phrase, but there is a wide musical palette here - from the funky-popped-up Steely Dan (It's A Good Thing"), to the plaintive ("The Morning Is Waiting For You"), to the cinematic ("Trouble At The Lights").
Pick a genre, it's probably covered here - ELO, Queen, Steely Dan, 10CC, 70s Laurel Canyon, Yacht Rock,Prog, Jazz, Funk - they all make an appearance somewhere.

Later tracks "Indeed It Is" and "Same Name" smack a bit of filler but are not un-necessary.  The final track is what final tracks should be - "Stay Awake" borders on the epic, but never really achieves this.  A fine song to close the album, but I just wanted it to break out and explode a little.

Is it a great album?  To be honest I'm not sure - either I haven't listened intently enough, or it is just the wrong season for it.
May not be earth-shatteringly great, but it certainly piques my interest enough to explore their back catalogue further.


I'm Glad

Saturday 20 February 2016

Primal Scream - Give Out But Don't Give Up

Conventional wisdom states 'Screamadelica' is Primal Scream's best album.  Whilst the content of the Acid House/Indie crossover album is indeed spectacular, spaced out and can transport the listener to another world, it doesn't top the list.
If not 'Screamadelica', then surely 'Vanishing Point' is the high-water mark?
OK then, it must be 'XTRMNTR'?

Nope, my choice is the Scream album that garners the least love.
Coming after 'Screamadelica', it wrong footed a lot of fans by being an american roots/1970s classic rock album.
Rememebr, this was released in the early knockings of Britpop, and Primal Scream should've been one of the recognised leaders.  In terms of attitude, delivery and performance it met the criteria, but having a Confederate flag ion your album cover just didn't sit right with the mood of the time.
It's relatively poor performance meant the band almost ended up splitting (there were obviously other factors), and it was to be another 3 years before they re-grouped (with Mani from The Stone Roses on bass duties) and released the monumental dub/rock/electro/experimental 'Vanishing Point'.

In short, 'Give Out But Don't Give Up' Rocks like a b*stard, and is funky as f*ck!
and here's why ...

In early 1992, the bands released the Dixie Narco EP.  This EP opened with "Movin On Up" from 'Screamadelica' and closed with the track titled "Screamadelica" (which didn't make it onto the album).  The tracks in between ("Stone My Soul" and a cover of Denis Wilsons "Carry Me Home" gave a pointer where the band were going next, having that swampy, sludgy, rootsy, 1970s Rolling Stones/American Rock sound.  "Screamadelica" was no doubt the main draw for this EP, and despite not being on the album, sounds very much like it should've been (there's even a touch of Blaxploitation Film Soundtrack about the track, just to add further confusion to the listeners ears).

In the same vein the "Movin On Up" is probably the best song The Stones never wrote, this album opens with two more contenders in the shape of "Jailbird" and "Rocks" (with the latter going one stage further and actually nicking a Stones song title too).  Stones comparisons continue with "I'm Gonna Cry Myself Blind", a slow paced ballad with backing vocal from Deneice Williams (who pops up on lead vocal on three tracks later, most notably "Free").
And then George Clinton rides in, and "Funky Jam" does what it says on the tin - rock guitar, funk drums and bass, with a hollering vocal, and all sounding like a cleaned up jam session.
There is more yearning on "Big Jet Plane" and "Struttin" is a damn near perfect Rock/Funk crossover.  And it don't let up - there is more swampy blues ("Sad and Blue", "I'll Be There For You") punctuated with in-your-face funk (title track "Give Out But Don't Give Up").
It is a long album, at just under 60 minutes, but there is nothing here that you (a) want to skip. or (b)wish was just that bit shorter.

After the success of 'Screamadelica', maybe it was too much of a change of direction, but all the way through the band sound like they're enjoying the funky abandon.  More power to them, and yah boo sucks to anyone who didn't "get" it.
Besides, it can't have been too much of a departure because the band went down this path again with 2006s 'Riot City Blues' - this time the critics were on their side though, and that album is hailed as an integral part of the Primal Scream canon


The Rolling Stones are not the only band comparison for "Rocks" - Faces were also mentioned as a reference point.  To neatly bring everything full circle, Rod Stewart covered the song on his 1998 covers album "When We Were the New Boys"

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Too Much Choice or Lack Of Interest?

There is no other way of saying it, but I love music.
Once all the usual, mundane expenses are taken care of (Motrgage, Car, Food, Tobacco, Beer etc) all disposable income goes on the purchasing of CDs, Vinyl and any other music medium (I once bought a stack of 8 Track Cartridges - I have no Player for them, but at least I know I own them).
So, what I've ended up with is a stack of shelves stuffed with whatever music to match any given mood.

Apart from slobbing out in front of the telly, every other activity in the house is accompanied by some music blasting (or even sometimes (rarely) just gently filtering through the air.
My usual routine during the week (because you have to have a routine, don't you?) is whilst driving home from work, deciding upon that evenings soundtrack.  Sometimes I can't settle on a particular choice, so will spend a couple of minutes staring at the shelves awaiting inspiration - that usually does the job and the evening soundtrack is somehow mystically sorted.

However, in recent times I find myself bereft of inspiration.  I have no great desire to listen to anything in particular.  And the 2 minutes staring at the shelves has turned into a 10 minute contemplation on the relative merits of whatever my eyes fall upon.  Discs are withdrawn from the shelf, looked at, ummed and arred about, and then put back.

Have I hit that tipping point where too much choice has become a barrier to decision (and enjoyment?)
Have I really listened to everything I own so much that it has lost it's appeal?
Maybe I should re-organise the shelves in the hope of finding a lost gem?

I've only bought a couple of new CDs this year, but can't say that I'm cock-a-hoop about any of them yet.  Despite near constant listening in mid-January, David Bowie's 'Blackstar' has not burrowed into my head.  I'm reading reports, and hearing others, declare at as a masterpiece.  Unfortunately, I'm not getting that yet (may be another symptom of my malaise?).

But .. I will not give in - another order has been placed with the friendly on-line retailer, and includes two candidates for the "most likely to shake me out of this situation award" - Steve Masons 'Meet The Humans' is due at the end of the month, and 'Commontime' by Field Music.

Not knowingly heard the band until the release of "The Noisy Days Are Over", everything else I've heard by them so far has (nearly) convinced me all is not lost, and hopefully I will be back to "entertaining" the house once again.