Monthly Archives: August 2012

British Theatre Pre-order

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Manchester (UK) based alternative music duo British Theatre are set to release ‘Dyed In The Wool Ghost’ on August 20th. It’s their second batch of songs this year following ‘EP’ back in February. Whilst the combination of singer Mike Vennart’s vocals and the atmospheric ebb and flow of the music bears inevitable comparison with the pair’s work as part of Oceansize (see below), the tone of BT’s songs are generally more low key. Oceansize were one of the most distinctive  British rock acts of the last decade and despite overwhelming critical and public acclaim never quite crossed over from a strong cult following to bigger things. Shorn of the former group’s more metallic leanings these fragile, beguiling, textured soundscapes evoke Radiohead ‘Kid Amnesiac’ period, Bic Hayes ‘Mikrokosmos’ albums, even latterday Talk Talk, yet still retain an appealing character of their own.

 

 

Like what you hear? Point your browser in the direction of BT‘s Bandcamp page (link below) where you can pre-order the 12″ for £7 ($10.92) + shipping or name your price (min. £2.50/$3.90) for the download (mp3 320, FLAC, assorted nerd-friendly formats).

http://britishtheatre.bandcamp.com/album/dyed-in-the-wool-ghost

 

And check out some clips of the boys in more rocking mode with Oceansize below:

 

 

 

 

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Sounds that have been made

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Further to Sounds That Can’t Be Made and The Power of Marillion

The EPK for ‘STCBM’ has now been posted on Youtube (link below) featuring further tantalizing insights into the writing/recording process, soundclips from all the new songs and a few images of the artwork adorning the special, pre-order ‘campaign’ edition available from Racket Records. As the proud owner of previous such editions – ‘Anoraknophobia’ (2001), ‘Marbles’ (2004) and ‘Happiness is the Road’ (2008) – I can testify that these are high quality presentations and guaranteed to appeal to ‘old-school’ rock fans like myself who still appreciate eye candy to go with our ear candy. Need convincing?

Witness the moment ‘Happiness hits the doormat’ for this excited recipent back in 2008:

As for the new record, the official band statement reads thus:

“The mixes are complete and the album will be mastered early next week.

We’d like to thank you all again for your faith during the making of this album and huge thanks to everyone has already pre-ordered the album from us. With over 72 minutes of music and 8 songs we hope it will be worth the wait!

We are gearing up now for the UK tour which starts 9th September (http://www.marillion.com/tour) and then onto what seems like permanent touring until the end of the year. We hope we can see many of you on the road.

It’s been quite a journey so far and we’d advise you to be part of it!”

Find the EPK here:

And if perchance you’re now persuaded to stump up 30 of your hard-earned quids (about 47 bucks) plus shipping then heed the good folk at Racket Records

“Although we will continue to sell the Special Edition of Sounds That Can’t Be Made, only orders received before MIDNIGHT GMT 20th August will be guaranteed to be shipped in the first batch which is expected early September, so please order now to avoid disappointment!
(http://www.marillion.com/shop)

If you only want to buy the CD in retail shops – the jewelcase edition will be released worldwide by Ear Music on September 17th. But do remember that we ship CD’s worldwide so feel free to visit us – nothing makes us happier than packing CD’s :) We hope many of you will receive it before the start of the UK Tour but that’s probably down to the Postal Service!

If you were undecided about ordering the special edition – then please know that the full length interviews and studio footage that you have seen on the Sounds That Can’t Be Made trailer, form an almost 2 hour long bonus DVD that comes with it! So don’t delay, order today!”

Got that covered (2)

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Following on from ‘Got That Covered’ today’s post explores a different angle – hard rock/metal/grunge style interpretations of pop songs. This approach has produced some mixed results: Marilyn Manson scored hits reinterpreting The Eurythmics (‘Sweet Dreams’), Soft Cell (‘Tainted Love’) and Depeche Mode (‘Personal Jesus’) and Alien Ant Farm were similarly successful with Michael Jackson (‘Smooth Criminal’) but I felt Machine Head fell flat taking on the musical brilliance of The Police (‘Message in a Bottle’). Robbie Williams was obviously playing it for laughs when he performed a punk-style ‘Back For Good’ (by his former band, Take That) at gigs, and that’s ok too if it’s done right, though I wonder what was going through Andrew Eldritch (The Sisters of Mercy‘s) mind when he convinced his band to perform Hot Chocolate (‘Emma’) and Dolly Parton (‘Jolene’). Funny, but peculier rather than ha, ha!

So here’s a few interpretations that press my ‘like’ button, as it were; starting with a classic from Genesis‘ stadium rock phase back in the ’80s…

Disturbed – Land of Confusion (Genesis). I’m a big fan of Genesis – their 1992 show at Knebworth was one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen, and the set opened with this song. I’m not 100% convinced by the vocals on this track but the combination of the music and the animation really works. I’ve always thought that the ’80s production on the ‘Invisible Touch’ record was kinda lightweight and that these tracks could benefit from a more hard rock approach. Disturbed prove me right, and in fact Phil Collins referenced this cover during band rehearsals for the ’07 reunion tour

Deftones – To Have and To Hold (Depeche Mode). What’s brilliant about this cover is the way Deftones‘ stoned alt-metal really nails the gothic, introspective tone of Martin Gore’s original whilst taking the song in a totally different sonic direction. This was taken from a 1998 DM tribute album ‘For The Masses’ also featuring versions by Rammstein, The Smashing Pumpkins, Apollo 440, The Cure and Failure amongst others.

Mike Shinoda – Enjoy The Silence [Re-interpreted](Depeche Mode). More of a remix than a cover this one, but a worthy version that casts David Gahan in the role of the hard rock star he wanted to be back in DM’s ‘Songs of Faith & Devotion’ days. The more muscular approach actually suits Gahan’s vocal well and the (official) video clip is just brilliant

Tricky – Black Steel (Public Enemy). Since parting ways with Massive Attack the aptly-named Bristolian has proved to be one of his generation’s most ideosyncratic musical voices, to the point of wilful obscurity. His 1995 debut ‘Maxinquaye’  on which this track appears remains one of his best, most accessible works. Putting the words of Afrocentrist political commentator Chuck D into the mouth of a British woman (his then-girlfriend Martina Topley-Bird) and setting it over Grunge-y guitars demonstrates his skill in thinking outside the musical box. Contrasting greatly with the ‘Trip-Hop’ style with which he first rose to prominence, it still possesses somewhat of a hypnotic, druggy quality.

Empty Spaces – Mushroomhead (Pink Floyd). Not a massive departure from the original ‘Wall’ version, just a little heavier and darker. Mushroomhead got stick for happening to be share some image similarities with the more commercially successful Slipknot – even though neither band was aware of the other until several years into their respective careers – but although they’re both metal bands their sounds are quite distinct and MH are well worth checking out. Like SK, however, they’re Floyd fans, and  I like that this YouTube poster has synched it up with the original Gerald Scarfe animation.

Got The Time – Anthrax (Joe Jackson). Thrash Metal is a prime example of how the wider listening tastes of musicians drive songwriting in new directions. Metal and Punk/New Wave were mutually exclusive if you believed some of the pundits, but Anthrax, like contemporaries Metallica loved both. That’s why we have cool reinterpretations like Metallica doing ‘The Wait’ and ‘So What?’,  and Anthrax‘s ‘Protest and Survive’ and ‘London’ covers amongst others. This take on JJ doesn’t differ much from the original, save for Joe Belladonna’s trademark overwrought vocal (I’m a Bush man, myself) but it’s a testament (no pun intended) to the importance of the Brirish New Wave to the fledgling Thrash scene back in the late ’80s/early ’90s. The sound quality on this clip isn’t great – it’s a live recording and not the best – but I just loved the cute Lego animation, even if a shortage of figures results in an absence of Dan Spitz…

Toxic – Marillion (Britney Spears). What strikes me about this version – and I had the pleasure of being in the audience for this one-off performance at their fan convention in the Netherlands – is that they don’t appear to be taking the piss.

Lay Lady Lay – Ministry (Bob Dylan). Ministry have turned in a plethora of wacked-out and occasionally dubious musical homages over the years, including the kind of stuff you might expect like Sabbath, ZZ Top and The Stones through to left-field yet indubitably appropriate choices like Amy Winehouse (‘Rehab’, natch). This is perhaps my favourite, from the somewhat underrated ‘Filth Pig’ album:

Sticking with Al and co. albeit in a different, tongue firmly in cheek guise:

Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? – Revolting Cocks (Rod Stewart). They’ve messed around with the lyrics a bit on this version, and I like the little snigger on ‘KY Jelly’…

These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ – Megadeth (Nancy Sinatra). Another comedy take on a well known song, also with a few lyrical liberties taken. Apparently, writer Lee ‘The Moustache’ Hazlewood was a little upset about this, deeming it “vile and offensive” and demanding that the naughty song be excised after 10 years of much-appeciated royalty payments. Count-ry singer…

Enjoy, and fell free to comment and/or suggest your own off-the-wall rock interpretations…

Fresh from the vault (8)

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I’ve recently turned 39. Nearly 40 in other words. As someone who’s genuinely never given the passing of years a second thought for most of his life this scarcely seems possible. Neither inherently good nor definitively bad you understand; just In terms of my life as a music lover, it means I’ve lived through a number of paradigm shifts in popular music culture. Rock has gone out and come back in, capitulating and later reasserting itself in the face of a two-pronged assault from synthpop and hip hop; MTV came from nowhere to establish itself as a prime mover in the dissemination of pop and now it scarcely plays music at all; the Rave generation made music dangerous again; the crossover success of ‘Nevermind’ and ‘Definitely Maybe’ forever blurred the line between the rock mainstream and those bands that purported to present an ‘alternative’, and most significantly, rapid technological advances within the last decade have begun to threaten the once unassailable dominanance of the big labels as publisher and distributer of music. The MP3, Napster, vinyl’s slight return, MySpace, YouTube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp…

But today I want to go back to the birth of the CD. Like anybody doing their growing up in the ’80s, I initially faced the choice of building my music collection on cassette or vinyl and to be honest I never really planted my foot in one camp or the other. As a non-audiophile (vinyl’s) superior sound quality has never seduced me: I learned to love music on a cut-price ‘ghetto blaster’, taping promising tunes off the BBC Top 40 countdown or the ‘Friday Rock Show’; forever holding my breath – faintly – hoping that the DJ wouldn’t be so inconsiderate as to speak mid-song. Much of the ‘indie’ output sounded like it had been recorded on a Walkman in a toilet but who cared when the tunes were good (check out the early Sisters of Mercy singles to hear what I’m talking about). I still feel the same way.

But I remember the introduction of the CD very well. It was trumpeted as ‘the next big thing’ and all manner of outrageous claims were made about it: it would still play even if scratched or smeared with jam (did you see than edition of ‘Tomorrow’s World’?);  that the discs themselves would never degrade or wear out; sound quality would improve if you drew around the rim of the disc with a green felt pen; and most tantalising to the record industry: they were ‘uncopyable’.  All rubbish, of course – but we were all sucked in, weren’t we. CDs were the future.

So, 25 years later, I have a collection of several 1000 CDs, but it all started with one, which I bought shortly after my 16th birthday, having just received my first CD player. In those days  you had to tot up the spoils of your part-time job plus any pocket money your folks had seen fit to award you – minus the bus fare into town – and decide what album you really, really wanted any given week or month.

And that day I can tell you I spent several hours overexcitedly vacillating between Stevenage’s five music outlets and a handful of potential new-ish releases before whittling it down to two albums and finally settling on…

‘Cold Lake’ by Celtic Frost.

If you’re any kind of fan of ’80s Rock you’ll know right away that I chose poorly; a real turkey in fact. Swiss metal outsiders CF did some pretty groundbreaking work in the Thrash/Black Metal field back in the day, but CL was an ill-advised stab at a mainstream (which back then meant Glam revival) rock sound and it sucked bad. I was seriously disappointed 😦

What made it worse in a way was that the other contender in my final two was the album that inspired this post – ‘The Real Thing‘ by San Francisco crossover alt-rockers Faith No More. When, awhile later, I finally got to hear that record it was almost as if I’d made a choice between Rock’s cheesy, shaggy-permed, tight-trousered past and its funky, tousle-haired, Nike-d future. Damn.

Trailed by the MTV-friendly, ‘Epic’ single, FNM‘s third album introduced a significant line-up change in new singer Mike Patton from Californian experimental rockers Mr Bungle. Whilst it would be an oversimplification to say that he was the blue-eyed soul boy where previous front man Chuck Mosley was the black punk; his greater range, soulfulness and a more flexible, inventive approach proved to be the magical ingredients which brought out the full pop potential in FNM‘s shouty, trashy, Post-Punk Metal hybrid. His delivery during the the title track, for example, offered a delicacy and dynamic richness beyond anything the band had released previously; clearly showing how a stronger voice could open up new avenues for the entire band. Patton is equally impressive when Metal comes to the fore, on ‘Surprise, You’re Dead!’ and a reasonably faithful rendition of Black Sabbath‘s ‘War Pigs’. Bolstered by far higher production values and kaleidoscopically-bold promo clips (see ‘Epic’, below) the band found their previously select appeal explode.

When I saw them tour the album at London’s Astoria theatre it was something of a revelation to see that half the audience bore little resemblance to the leather-clad knuckle-dragging rock stereotype amongst which I’d taken teenage refuge; yet we all rocked together nonetheless. The barrier between stage and audience was swiftly dismantled in the melee with much the same abandon that FNM crashed pop genres.  Frontman Mike Patton rapped and beatboxed in between more routine, rock-like cooing and screaming; interspersing ad-libbed segments of popular contemporary hits such as NKOTB‘s ‘The Right Stuff’. Such genre-listic cherry-picking was very much the order of the day in the mid-late ’80s when the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Living Colour, Tackhead and Ignorance amongst others worked to blur the lines between rock, hip-hop, soul and funk. No backwards baseball caps and b-boy posturing, just good tunes. There’s a certain sentimentality for me when listening to these songs today, and at the same time they still retain a freshness and distinctiveness which is the hallmark of the best pop music. Epic indeed.

And my personal favourite…