Sunday, August 27, 2006

New Order Side Projects

Well, it's been a while since I posted anything (very, very busy) but I'm back with a vengence.

What do you do if you are one of the biggest bands in the world and you're bored? You take some time off and record side projects. Such was the case with New Order. New Order had been a huge alternative rock band throughout the 80's and 90's and in 1996 they decided to take a break. What transpired was a quartet of side projects, with varying success.

Electronic was formed between NO singer Bernard Sumner and the Smiths guitar god Johnny Marr. Their first album, ELECTRONIC, was a nice mix of Sumner's vocals and Marr's Guitar. Mix in some techno touches and even some rapping (Sumner rapping is suprisingly high quality) and you get a really good record. "Getting Away With It" is a great pop song, featuring a vocal aid by Pet Shop Boys Neil Tennent. Other highlights include a rousing techno track "Tighten Up" and the aforementioned rap track "Feel Every Beat". The band has since recorded two more records and will soon release a greatest hits.

(m4a) Electronic -- Tighten Up

(m4a) Electronic -- Getting Away With It

(M4a) Electronic -- Feel Every Beat

Partially due to the success of Electronic and partially due to his own desire to stake out his turf, Bassist Peter Hook formed his own band Revenge. A radical departure from New Order, Revenge was blasted in the press and fans ignored the record. Compared to New Order, the critics might have been right, but as it's own, ONE TRUE PASSION, isn't that bad. Hook is not a great singer but the songs have bite and some real imagination. Hook killed revenge after a follow up EP and formed Monaco. Monaco could almost be a New Order cover band. Hook pulls out all the old basslines and even finds a signer that could be Bernard Sumner's stunt double. "What Do You Want From Me" is the track that New Order might have recorded if they were together at this time.

(m4a) Revenge -- Pineapple Face (From One Ture Passion)

(m4a) Revenge -- Cloud Nine ( From Gun World Porn)

(m4a) Monaco -- What Do You Want From Me?

Perhaps out of fear of beign ignored as the other half of Manchester's favorite sons and daughters or more likely putting some ideas from home down on tape, husband and wife duo Gillian Gilbert and Stephen Morris formed The Other Two. Their album, THE OTHER TWO AND YOU, is pure pop fun. Their isn't a song on it that isn't upbeat and sunny. It's almos the anti-New Order record. Gilbert's vocals on "Tasy Fish" and "Selfish" make me wonder if she shouldn't have been singing more than just back up. (of course, Gilbert is no longer with New Order) Overall, This is a close second to Electronic for quality Side projects.

(m4a) The Other Two -- Tasty Fish

(m4a) The Other Two -- Selfish

So even though none of these bands can replace the original, they are still enjoyable and make for a decent IPOD playlist all on their own.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

More 90's Brit Pop

So it has been awhile since I posted anything new. (very busy with a new job and about a thousand things to do around the house) So for my triumphant return I present you with two bands from England that released albums in the 90's off the excellent Creation records imprint.

Adorable made one excellent album then dissappeared. Here's what I know. 1) They were from England even though the band members' name seem Scandanavian. 2) They released a second album that flopped. 3) Their first record AGAINST PERFECTION is the perfect mix of Shoegazer rock and Echo and the Bunnymen style singing. "Sunshine Smile" is a wonderful pop song with a great guitar intro. "Glorious" is very remiscent of mid 80's U2 and "Homeboy" is probably the best song on the album with an absolute kick ass bass line. All in all, fun stuff

(mp3) Adorable -- Sunshine Smile

(mp3) Adorable -- Glorious

(mp3) Adorable -- Homeboy (highly recommended)

On the other end of the spectrum are the Boo Radleys. This band, named after a character from To Kill A Mockingbird, released a ton of albums throughout the nineties drawing from various style including Beatlesque pop, shoegazer, regaae and punk. The brainchild of guitarist Martin Carr, the Boos had no real success in the states but quite a UK following. their 1995 album WAKE UP! was a radical departure from the early work and was full of very bright, upbeat songs that turned off many hardcore fans. But after a few listens the album really grows on you. "Wake Up Boo!" is pure fluff but in a good makes you wanna dance kind of way. "Find the Answer Within" is just out and out pop and a great song even 10 years later.

(mp3) The Boo Radleys -- Wake Up Boo!

(mp3) The Boo Radleys -- Find The Answer Within

BTW...a few days ago I witnessed the most boring baseball game known to man. I know what some of you might be thinking, aren't all baseball games boring and I will answer that at another time. Lets just say that even though my LA Angels beat the hated Yankees I actually contemplated taking my own life afer 3 1/2 hours just to have something to do. More on this later...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

We all love New Order

So it isn't often that I stumble across not one but two really good new bands that just so happen to share the same name which gets its genesis from one of my favorite New Order Songs. So here is a brief comparison of the two THIEVES LIKE US.

Thanks to the excellent blog Indie mp3 I decided to look into this Houston band Thieves Like Us. Like most of the known universe I was raised on a steady diet of Joy Division and New Order throughout high school and have taken to really enjoying that sounds' revival (Editors, Interpol, etc.) So I was very impressed by what I heard on the bands myspace page. (alas no downloads just listening.) I really enjoyed the track "No Control" which is the most polished and very reminiscent of New Order at their height). "Do Me Right" even does a credible job of mimicking the typical New Order guitar riff. All and all good stuff.

Thieves Like Us MySpace Page (Houston Version)

A Little further to the east (New York to be exact) is another version of Thieves Like Us. Taking a nice mix of early and late New Order as well as a healthy dose of Daft Punk style funk dance this band is definetely more of a party interpretation of New Order. The lead singer sounds just like Bernard Sumner and they use the same staccato, electronic drum style as the boys from Manchester. "Drugs in My Body" is a great dance track and "For Judith" owes a lot to Joy Division. "Sugar and Song" could have come right off of POWER, CORRUPTION AND LIES.

Thieves Like US MySpace Page (New York Version)
Official Website

So the final verdict is that both are really good bands and deserve to continue making music. The question becomes who gets to keep the name?

Buffalo Tom

Buffalo Tom typifies my college music experience. This Boston three piece has been making music for quite awhile now and every time they put out a record I remeber them fondly. I first feel in love with them on their excellent 1992 album LET ME COME OVER, which was their first major label outing. Similar in style and feel to the Lemonheads and other Fort Apache studio bands, Buffalo Tom played music that was both technically powerful and achingly beautiful. Did theseguys strike out some new course in alternative music? Of course not, otherwise more people would have heard of them. Is this record a piece of damn fine music? YES! the follow up to LET ME COME OVER, BIG RED LETTER DAY, is far more polished and radio friendly, but I think the songs included here capture what Buffalo Tom are all about. My particular favorite is "Tailights Fade", an amazing song about heartache, loss and alienation that style gives me chills even to this day.

(mp3) Buffalo Tom -- Mineral

(mp3) Buffalo Tom -- Darl

(mp3) Buffalo Tom -- Tailights Fade (highly rec'd)

(mp3) Buffalo Tom -- Stymied

(mp3) Buffalo Tom -- Staples

Monday, August 07, 2006

One of My Personal Faves

When I was in college I had a mild obesseions with the music coming out of Britian (as evidenced by the numerous British tinged postings already). My friends and I just loved the music that they produced and would make sure to go to LA to catch whatever band made it across the pond. These were some of my all time favorite concerts. There just seemed to be an energy in the room that was lacking with the American bands of the the 1990's. No exception was the band James. I had the priviledge of seeing them at their height in 1994. They had just hit it big with the album LAID and the song "Laid" was all over radio. When I first heard this record I was amazed at the depth of the lyrics and the absolute conviction Tim Booth's singing brought to the recordings. Then I saw them live. Words cannot describe the atmosphere in the crowd and the energy the badn brought to the stage. I swear you could have heard a pin drop during "P.S." it was electric.

The band never had any real US success after that and stopped recording in 2001. but LAID is an incredible record and worth repeated listenings. Recorded with Brian Eno, LAID is a moody, eclectic work of art. "One of the Three" is a wonderous medidation on the nature of spirituality and religion. The layered vocals on "Five-O" create an orchestral feel with single voice. "Say Something" reaches epic heights as the guitars build and build to a climactic moment. Truly, there isn't a bad song on the album.

Shortly after the LAID album was released, the band released outtakes from the sessions called WAH WAH. A very experimental work, echoing alot of what U2 was doing right around the same time, it is much harder to digest. I have included two songs from those sessions that I think are great companions to LAID. It's a shame to see that this great band disappeared, but they left us a masterwork.

(zip) James -- Laid

(mp3) James -- Jam J (from Wah Wah)

(mp3) James -- Honest Joe (from Wah Wah)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Random Myspace Bands

So I had some free time to poke around MySpace for some up and coming bands. As I have said before I try to focus this blog on somewhat older material and leave the newer music to the other excellent writers out there. But I did come across a couple of interesting bands while cruising the net.

Sequoyah Prep School look like they may be about 12 years old. They hail from South Carolina and play acoustic indie rock with an emo flavor to it. They list Jimmy Eat World as one of their influences and that would seem to be a good comparison. They have one song for download, the mid tempo track "About Rain" but I think the best of the four I listened to "LoveHate" which has the feel of one of those songs that just keeps building tension till it's climax (bet this is pretty good live). Well worth checking out.

Sequoyah Prep School MySpace

Castledoor are from nearby Silverlake, CA. Silverlake has had a lot of really good music come out of the area (Beck, Pete Yorn) and these guys seem to follow that tradition. Very soft and quirky music that at first listen sounds very much like the typical indie stuff out today but I have to admit that upon further listens I was more and more impressed. Really like the song "Dove" which starts out very simply and builds to quite a little anthem.

Castledoor MySpace

The Scene Aesthetic are the most popular unsigned band on MySpace. A simple two ice acoustic duo, they have a very nice vocal chemistry and are very good guitar players. This probably would sound great live in some random Seattle coffee shop. Very straight ahead sound with none of the weirdness that comes with a lot of indie music. "Dear Time Traveler" is off their official album so it has the most polished sound.

The Scene Aesthetic MySpace

As always if you have a band and want me to check it out just let me know.

Family Fued

Sometimes the music business can be a fascinating place to observe. Take the case with UK artist Tricky. Tricky gained fame as part of Massive Attack before striking out on his own with his debut album MAXINQUAYE, named after his mother. This is where the fun part comes in. A few years later another artist, Finley Quaye, released his debut album, MAVERICK A STRIKE. During the press coverage Finley insinuated that he was the half brother of Tricky's mom, making Finley Tricky's half uncle. Tricky didn't take to kindly to all this free publicity and in typical rapper fashion recorded a track blasting his alleged uncle. Needless to say, there is little love in the Quaye family. It seems that things have improved over the years and one place I read says that they have even recorded together.

Musically the two couldn't be any more different. Tricky's music is very dark and moody with his signature garbled drawl of rapping mixed oftentimes with angelic female vocals. On MAXINQUAYE, the female voacals were handled by Martina Topley-Bird, who was a teenager at the time. The three tracks here are very representative of his style. "Black Steel" is a great cover of the Public Enemy song "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos". "Overcome" is a blueprint for the trip hop movement (much in the same vein as Portishead or Massive Attack) and "Brand New, You're Retro" is about the most upbeat thing on the album.

Finley Quaye on the other hand is the definition of pop music. After MAVERICK A STRIKE (which was heavily influenced by reggae) he released MUCH MORE THAN MUCH LOVE, which was coproduced by William Orbit. Full of big hooks and catchy choruses it is as bright as Tricky is dark. The first single "Dice" features vocals from Beth Orton. Two other tracks, "Something to Say" and "Beautiful Nature" are full of positive, uplifting lyrics and are very singable. (Random aside; I first heard Beautiful Nature in a Sephora shopping with my wife; ahhh the things we do for love!)

Listen to both and compare to see who you like better. Each is geat in their own way.

(mp3) Tricky -- Black Steel

(mp3) Tricky -- Overcome

(mp3) Tricky -- Brand New, You're Retro

(m4a) Finley Quaye -- Dice

(m4a) Finley Quaye -- Something to Say

(m4a) Finley Quaye -- Beautiful Nature

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Music With A Conscience

Michael Franti has been making music for a long time under a variety of guises. He first started out as a member of the San Francisco band the Beatnigs in the late 80's. When that band fell apart after a couple of records, Franti created the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and recorded the record HYPOCRISY IS THE GREATEST LUXURY, which is one of the great overlooked hip hop albums of the last 15 years. Hip hop has become the voice of the current generation and today has dissolved into a celebration of money, sex and fame. This album is the antithesis of that. Franti takes an industrial style of music and mixes it with socially conscience lyrics on Sexuality, Government action on poverty, and the evils of former Governor of California Pete Wilson. Franti holds nothing back and it makes for fascinating listening. One of the highlights is the track "Television, the Drug of the Nation" which was originally a Beatnigs song here reworked to add snippets of TV Commercials throughout this lament of th evils of the box. Another is a cover of the Dead Kennedy's "California Uber Alles" which samples Jello Biafra's original. If you are into hip hop and are looking for something different this is a good place to start.

Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy -- Television, The Drug of the Nation
Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy -- California Uber Alles
Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy -- Language of Violence

After the dissolution of the Heroes, Franti formed the band Spearhead. While the socially conscience aspect of their music is the same, the style of very different. Taking a much more organic approach to music, Franti opted to record with a live band and use more traditional guitar and drum arrangements. The band is still making records and has some tracks for download on their website.

(mp3) Spearhead -- Yell Fire!

Spearhead Official Site

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

We Wish We Were Coldplay

I like Coldplay. I don't think they are singlehandedly responsible for the death of good music like many other people think. Actually, I have seen them live and they are very, very good. But when Coldplay hit it big in the United States a funny thing happened. All these other bands appeared sounding an awful lot like Mr. Martin and friends. This created a problem for the discerning music listener. How do you sift through all these bands to find something valuable. Here are two bands that I think were just original enough to be Coldplayesque without losing their own identity. Neither had the success (or celebrity marriages) of Coldplay but they still made a few enjoyable albums.

The Scottish band Travis started out making records that were loud and slightly punky (think Arctic Monkeys without the funky rhythm section). Then with their second album, THE MAN WHO, Travis went into sensitive folk rock mode and found some US success. Released around the same time as the first Coldplay record, Travis was supposed to be the bigger band but fate (or bad PR by the record label) was unkind and they never really got a foothold over here. Still the songs had that bouncy feel that comes with good musicianship and quirky lyrics about seeminly mundane things. The single "Why Does It Always Rain On Me" could be a lost Smiths song. Their third album, THE INVISIBLE BAND, was very similar to the previous and that meant they were unable to pick up any new fans. But the song "Side" still has a great chorus and is the kind of uplifting message and sound that would have fit well with a TV Show soundtrack.

(mp3) Travis -- Writing To Reach You (from The Man Who)
(mp3) Travis -- Why Does It Always Rain On Me? (from The Man Who)
(mp3) Travis -- Side (from The Invisible Band)
(mp3) Travis -- Follow The Light (from the Invisible Band)

A slightly different take on the brit pop formula came from Starsailor. This British four piece again arrived in the US at around the same time as all the other big britpoppers. They cam equipped with the standard sensitive singer with the high pitched voice. But the music has a slightly majestic quality. The songs on their first album, LOVE IS HERE, seemed to take off about midway through. You really get the sense that the band thought long and hard about each note. "Poor Misguided Fool" is a wonderous track full of longing and loss. "Love is Here" is another majestic track with a positive message. The band had little success in the States but has had a nice career in Europe where they are preparing a new album.

(mp3) Starsailor -- Poor Misguided Fool
(mp3) Starsailor -- Love Is Here