Articles

RSS
  • My favourite 8 records of the decade - Part 1

    14 déc. 2008, 15h12m

    With only two years left of this decade, its about time to evaluate what has made it exciting. Eight records for eight years, not that this means every year will be represented, necessarily. The term best has been precluded by favourite as that makes it a bit more subjective. Which is nice. So, onwards and upwards, in no particular order. To start us off, an under-appreciated gem...

    Pearl Jam - Binaural



    Not a surprise. The second best rock album of the decade saw Eddie Vedder and the crew at the peak of their powers with an album that distils all of the band's influences to create something that wouldn't be out of place in the back catalogues of Pink Floyd or The Who. Sleight Of Hand is a brooding, sonic masterpiece that ebbs and flows like cross-town traffic before culminating in a crescendo of Vedder's cracked vocal and wailing guitars; it sounds like it could knock down buildings, whereas Breakerfall is over before its even begun, a smash'n'grab record, swirling by in a cluster of charged aggression and pinpoint noise.

    "When we looked up the word 'binaural,' it meant to listen with both ears. So it seemed like a fitting title for the album" - Stone GossardBinaural sees Stone Gossard produce some of his best work on a Pearl Jam album, including Of The Girl (more on this later). Gossard created polar opposites in Thin Air and Rival; as Thin Air explores the emotional release of being in love, Rival is Gossard reflecting, attempting to understand the mindset of a killer and those they touch, in the barren aftermath of the Columbine massacre.


    American News Report at Columbine

    While the naysayers would point to tracks such as Gods' Dice or Evacuation as a sign of the album's inconsistency, it is worth understanding the fragility of the band in the face of uncertainty and change, something which is approached in both Light Years and Nothing As It Seems. While Gods' Dice is by no means Jeff Ament's key contribution to Pearl Jam's history (that would be Nothing As It Seems), the swirling mess it became is emblematic of a band cutting loose and playing their full hand, refusing to buckle or capitulate to petty infighting or external pressures, as their contemporaries, and heroes, such as The Beatles did.

    "There is a lot of music out there that is very easy to digest but we never wanted to be part of it" - Eddie VedderThis is not to say that the album didn't suffer a troubled genesis. Jack Irons' departure saw Pearl Jam recruit their fourth drummer in six albums, former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron, whilst lead guitarist Mike McCready went into rehab for an addiction to prescription drugs. To top it all off, Vedder had the music for the songs that would become Insignificance and Grievance, but no lyrics. And nothing was forthcoming. And then Vedder swore himself off the guitar; then he set eyes on a ukelele.

    Soon Forget would habitually be forgotten, sandwiched as it is between Sleight of Hand and the focussed, destructive distortion of Parting Ways, but for its innocent soul, betrayed by a darker set of lyrics as Vedder waves goodbye to a man of destitute greed. He holds wealth, but he is a man without purpose, truly insignificant.

    At the prompting of producer Tchad Blake (Binaural was the first Pearl Jam album not produced by Brendan O'Brien), Binaural is an album that focusses wholeheartedly on moods and feelings, whether those are the highest highs (Thin Air) or the crushing lows (Light Years, Parting Ways). Indeed, the mood of fan favourite Sad (originally called Letter to the Dead) was deemed too "pop" by the band, according to Ament, and was cut, as was the Blake-endorsed Fatal. Although both of these tracks would get the eventual release they deserved on Lost Dogs, its difficult to see how the album could have been considered worse of if these tracks had been included. A straight swap with Gods' Dice and Evacuation would see little argument about which is the best studio album - Binaural by a knockout.


    The true meaning of Light Years

    Binaural's original tracklisting:

    1 Breakerfall
    2 Insignificance
    3 Evacuation
    4 Letter to the Dead (Later renamed as Sad)
    5 Rival *
    6 Grievance
    7 Light Years
    8 Of The Girl *
    9 Thin Air
    10 Nothing As It Seems *
    11 Fatal
    12 Sleight Of Hand *
    13 Soon Forget *
    14 In The Moonlight
    15 Parting Ways
    16 Education

    * indicates use of binaural recording
    The pressed album certainly flows better, but whether this is due to familiarity is not so clear. At 16 tracks, however, a cull was inevitable, as 2002's Riot Act feels bloated at 15; as above, whether the right tracks remained in place is an issue of personal preference, but the album's quality remains undiminished. The Guardian's dismissal of the album's "duds" in its 2000 review could well include tracks like Grievance and Rival, but the anger and emotion that is prevalent in the tracks lifts them high above Gods' Dice or Evacuation; as Vedder wails on Grievance, "you don't give blood, then take it back again. We're all deserving something more".

    "Because Mike wasn't all there, and there was a 'get-to-know-you' thing with Matt, everyone wasn't on the same page" - Stone GossardThe evolution of Pearl Jam has continued because of their embrace of the past and a burning hope for a better future, and this is apparent in the use of binaural recording techniques on some of the songs, one of the most successful of which is the Gossard-penned Of The Girl. A love story brimming with sweeping guitars that sound like trains edging away from a station platform, a juddering, bluesy mid-section sees the occasional jams of a Pearl Jam live show brought into the studio. Small tremblings of guitar not dissimilar to Jimi Hendrix echo all over the backdrop; a soundscape of buried treasure. Of The Girl is full of mystery, even after the five or so years that I've been listening to Binaural, I've never truly gotten to the bottom of the track, never completely discerned just what it is that creates such an air of abstract detachment that draws you in completely, not unlike the entire album itself.

    "The reason that we went with Tchad Blake is because he provides an amazing atmosphere to songs....So, I think we wanted the artwork to represent that" - Jeff AmentThe emptiness of giant spaces and the feeling of being a miniscule something within them prompted the use of photographs from NASA's Hubble Telescope for the album's cover, inserts and liner notes. Examining these with Nothing As It Seems as the soundtrack creates a dense, crushing feeling that Pearl Jam never really captured before or since: "A scratching voice all alone, its nothing like your baritone" - Nothing As It Seems

    Ultimately, as highlighted by the selection below, Binaural is about a band examining a new direction, and although Pearl Jam didn't reinvent themselves to the extent that Radiohead did with Kid A, the progression from Yield, a balls-out rock'n'roll album, to an introspective work full of elongated tracks and spacially beautiful arrangements (April Cameron's viola and Justine Foy's cello on Parting Ways stand out in my mind) helped Pearl Jam to create their most atmospheric work.

    A fractured, aching masterpiece.

    Key Tracks:
    Light Years
    Nothing As It Seems
    Of The Girl
    sleight of hand
    Soon Forget

    Look further:
    Ten
    Wish You Were Here
    Who's Next
  • Arcade Fire - 16/03/07

    18 mars 2007, 0h03m

    This gig was incredible, nothing more to it, no other way to describe it - as my Dad said about !!! when they supported Maxïmo Park recently: 'these aren't pretty boys; they're musicians'.

    The exact same is true of Arcade Fire. How else DO you describe a band where every member (bar the violinists) seems to take a turn on all the instruments, or has the organ out all night, but never actually play My Body Is a Cage? (You teaser, Win, you).

    From the upbeat mid-pace opener, Keep the Car Running, the whole thing just got quicker, more intense, more intimate, even in a venue like the Brixton Academy. The lucky souls that got Win Butler right up in their faces during Wake Up surely have one of the memories of their lives right there.

    Final thought: people have been talking about Neon Bible in one of two ways: it's too similar to Funeral, so they haven't progressed, or it's too similar, and that's great. I side with the latter. The new songs fit seamlessly with the oldies, and make Arcade Fire the hottest ticket about. Bands like Bloc Party, and their fans, wish they were this good. Arcade Fire don't raise the bar, they jettison it into the darkest space.

    Setlist, 16/03/2007 (up-to-date thanks to peterforever's post! Although I do think The Well and The Lighthouse was earlier... Though I get that and Windowsill mixed up A LOT.)

    01 Keep the Car Running
    02 Black Mirror
    03 No Cars Go
    04 Haiti
    05 Serge Gainsbourg
    06 Black Waves/Bad Vibrations
    07 Windowsill
    08 Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
    09 Crown of Love
    10 The Well and the Lighthouse
    11 Ocean of Noise
    12 Rebellion (Lies)
    13 Intervention
    14 Encore Break
    15 Wake Up
    16 Encore Break
    17 Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)

    NB: The lighting show/camera spotlight things set up on the stage were awesome, lent a great sense of being in an old 40s movie, finally going some ways to explaining their dress sense, maybe...

    Also: http://fallenotbroken.blogspot.com/

    Rather amusing. Some people love their music snobbery. I enjoy it, and it endures, but sometimes... I was having my arms in the air during songs too, y'know missy... Gigs are about enjoying youself. If you're having fun and not physically damaging anyone else, just let it go!
  • Ruby Tuesdays Setlist - 13/03/07

    14 mars 2007, 16h04m

    Me and Nutkin have been guesting for a while, and I thought it was about time I wrote down a setlist as we went through the evening. I think it was pretty good :)

    01 Twelve
    02 Love + Pain
    03 Suspicious Character
    04 Heart of Hearts
    05 Romantic Rights
    06 Count In Fives
    07 One Armed Scissor
    08 Four Kicks
    09 Moving To New York
    10 Second Minute Or Hour
    11 Homecoming
    12 Our Velocity
    13 Goodnight Goodnight
    14 Get Loose
    15 Never Meant to Hurt You
    16 Paint It Black
  • Top 10 Quiz

    12 fév. 2007, 3h00m

    Name your top 10 most played band on Last.fm:

    1 Pearl Jam
    2 The Beatles
    3 Beck
    4 Death from Above 1979
    5 Sufjan Stevens
    6 Howling Bells
    7 Patrick Wolf
    8 The Long Blondes
    9 Archie Bronson Outfit
    10 Bloc Party

    Now answer the questions according to the numbers:

    1. What was the first song you ever heard by 6? Low Happening

    2. What is your favourite album of 2?
    Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

    3. What is your favourite lyric that 5 has sung?
    "Run for your life, for your friends"

    4. How many times have you seen 4 live?
    None.

    5. What is your favourite song by 7?
    This Weather

    6. What is a good memory you have considering the music of 10?
    Repeatedly bouncing into the drummer's brother the first time I saw them live.

    7. Is there a song of 3 that makes you sad?
    Most of the tracks off Sea Change. Also, Nobody's Fault But My Own from Mutations

    8. What is your favourite lyric that 2 has sung?
    "Woke up. Got out of bed. Dragged a comb across my head."

    9. What is your favourite song by 9?
    Cherry Lips

    10. How did you get in to 3?
    My friend Robbie :)

    11. What was the first song you heard by 1?
    I Am Mine

    12. What is your favourite song by 4?
    Blood on Our Hands

    13. How many time have you seen 9 live?
    Never. Nearly did once. Wish I had, I hear they're pretty different.

    14. what is a good memory you have concerning 2?
    Listening to Rubber Soul in the car with mates.

    15. Is there a song of 8 that makes you sad?
    Maybe. I dunno, A Knife for the Girls is a bit down.

    16. What is your favourite lyric that 3 has sung?
    "I saw her; yeah I saw her, with her black tongue-tied, wearing the roses. Fist poundin' on a vending machine, toy diamond ring, stuck on her finger"

    17. what is your favourite song of 1?
    Used to be Black, probably either Alive or World Wide Suicide now.

    18. What is your favourite song of 10?
    Luno

    19. How many times have you seen 8 live?
    Zero.

    20. What is your favourite album of 1?
    Ten

    21. What is a great memory you have considering 9?
    Hearing them for the first time. Kangaroo Heart was, and still is, amazing.

    22. What was the first song you heard by 8?
    Lust in the Movies Absolutely corking track.

    So, what do you, my friends, neighbours, and new visitors think? Do one of your own...?
  • John McArthur. Who?

    6 déc. 2006, 21h39m

    So, I was listening to my recommendation radio, and in between Go and Every You Every Me, I get this guy, John McArthur, with a beautiful piano piece called Arioso.

    Now, McArthur only has one album that I could find on amazon (.co.uk and .com, and only available for £30 from marketplace) and I couldn't find anything of his on any other websites I use, and I just wondered if any users knew anything about him...

    His artist connections are to Earl Wild, Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt... but I've no idea; all I know is that it was sublime classical piano.

    Any help would be appreciated, ta.
  • Is Jeff Buckley overrated?

    4 déc. 2006, 16h45m

    Jeff Buckley. I've been listening to him this afternoon, and, well, frankly, it doesn't really stimulate me that much. Really good music, a voice to die for, and I still don't get it. Lover You Should've Come Over and aside, Eternal Life it's not really much cop.

    Hadn't this been done? I think the fact that he died makes it a far more melancholic album, certainly, it leaves everything feeling unresolved; frustrating, even.

    It doesn't stop me thinking it's all a bit samey. The percussion is very uninspiring. He's obviously influenced a lot of artists, overtones of both Elliott Smith and Muse's future output are prevalent, but I think Buckley's own music owes a lot to Pink Floyd and, on Mojo Pin there is something very similar to Once, in my opinion, with the ominous, almost tribal, rumblings within the tracks.

    Maybe he just owes too great a debt to Tim Buckley, who can say? But, I feel, he joins my personal list of musicians who gain some holistic aura through death: Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Layne Staley and, of course, Jimi Hendrix.

    I'm not one to dismiss the work of The Jimi Hendrix Experience or Alice in Chains, but I do feel that Nirvana and The Doors are bands that have gained unnecessary exposure and, again, in my opinion, unworthy adulation, seemingly more through absolute fuck-up frontmen, as opposed to the actual music. And that's what people seem to forget to focus on when they talk about these sorts of musicians. In fact, people often talk about the beauty and sadness of Buckley's songs, but I don't think there's anything there I haven't heard in Pearl Jam's music. In fact, Eddie Vedder's personal strife regarding the loss of his own father strikes a similar chord with me. The similarities between the two men is striking.

    On the music front though, I just don't get it. Does anyone else feel like this? Or am I the only one? I'm, beginning to feel that he has more in common with the scene of the early 90s than people might suspect. As I sit here listening to Dream Brother I am reminded immensely of some of the songs from Superunknown. Bizarre. Fell on Black Days carries huge arcs of Buckley-esque guitar. However, it's important to remember that Grace came first.

    The fact that he's cited as such an influence reminds me of something I read, where a guy called Tryptonique told of how he listened to Queen out of respect, before realising that he didn't really care for them either way. That's really how I feel about the majority of Jeff Buckley.

    However, his Dad reminds me of some of The Rolling Stones's stuff. Very like Street Fighting Man, is Move With Me... This has become a little bit of a mess. But I hope people understand what I'm getting at.