The Living Things – Ahead of the Lions (?)

The French Rock magazine Rock & Folk elected this album as the album of the month two months ago and had a 6 page article on the band in the same issue. At that time the album was only available as an import in France…

Ahead of the Lions

That’s quite some hype for French standards, as R&F is not exactly NME, when it comes to new bands…

So what is it all about? The Living Things play guitar-heavy rock music with, for some songs, a heavy dose of psychedelia. The album is recorded (not produced) by Steve Albini. The Big Thing are the the very political lyrics… (“No solution, just bombs below…”).

In my opinion, great rock music can have political lyrics, but political lyrics don’t necessarily make rock music great. The Clash or The Dead Kennedies (as usual, pretty random examples) had great songs and then decided to have political lyrics. In the case of the Living Things, I’m not sure they would get such enthusiastic reviews, if it wasn’t for the lyrics… The music is not bad, even if I can’t help being reminded of the Dandy Warhols in some cases and I won’t judge the lyrics (to be honest I haven’t really studies them in detail).

One thing makes we wonder though: How come a band with such a strong message would want their album to be published by a major label (Sony BMG), with one of the consequences being that they have the FBI Anti-Piracy warning on the back cover, which really isn’t very subversive…

We are Scientists – Much love, little Squalor

I had read a bit about We Are Scientists in different parts of the Internets before, but I really discovered them as the opening act for The Kaiser Chiefs at the Bataclan here in Paris. I am not saying that they were better than the main act (which would have been hard to do) but they did put on a great show.

With Love And Squalor

Taking into account their nerdy name, the ugly record cover and also the buzz created through the blogosphere, I somehow expected something brainy, more influenced by Sonic Youth or Pavement, but in reality the main influence seems to be Weezer. Never judge a book by it’s cover…

So the science we are talking about here is the science of Power Pop, with some light touches of Placebo (Textbook, Lousy Reputation). And I wont judge if it’s science or art, but the result is very convincing. There’s plenty of excitement, and almost every song could be a (hit-)single.

There is nothing profoundly new on this CD, but who cares, this is not meant to be challenging, but fun. It’s a great album and a great live band. What more can you ask for..

The Minus 5 – Gun Album

The Minus 5 attracted my attention by their last album Down With Wilco. The music is kind of timeless pop, with a heavy Beatles influence, although I don’t know any Beatles album, which is as “Beatles-Sounding” as some of the albums carrying that label.

The Minus 5(Aka The Gun Album) +2

The Gun Album (it doesn’t really have a name), continues with sweet pop music, that is very pleasant to hear, with nice melodies and all real instruments. I am not sure if anyone listens to this anymore, but it is very refreshingly non-hip. Jeff Tweedy and Peter Buck are on top of the list of participating musicians. What more can you ask for? Very enjoyable, ideal for a long run or car drive.

Robert Pollard – From a Compound Eye

Robert Pollard probably is an Indie-Rock genius. The problem with a genius is, that he is often not understood by the people of his time. What I am trying to say, is that I am truly fascinated by Robert Pollard and Guided By Voices, but somehow I am not sure I ever really got the music. Nevertheless I have continously bought and listened to GBV albums (I have 6). Now that GBV have ceased to exist, it seemed to be appropriate to check out Robert Pollard ‘s solo-album, to continue my quest.
From a Compound Eye

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Shout Out Louds – Nothing to shout home about

I’ve always had weak spot for bands from Scandinavia and Sweden in particular. In recent years band like The Hives and The (International) Noise Conspiracy have done a good job of keeping the Swedish reputation high. So when I came across the Shout Out Louds, I must admit that I had high hopes.

Howl Howl Gaff Gaff

Howl Howl Gaff Gaff didn’t quite meet my expectations. To me SOL are a bit like the swedish version of Arcade Fire, which, coming from me, is not a good thing. I guess most songs are lighter and less hysteric, but nevertheless. It’s pleasant to listen to, and Arcade Fire fans, who after all seem to be in the majority, should check them out. I’ll pass on to other stuff…

Arctic Monkeys – Don’t believe the hype

Everybody must know, that The Arctic Monkeys are a total music industry sensation, as they managed to create such a buzz, partly by giving away free mp3’s of their demos on their website, that they eventually sold over 360,000 copies of their album in the first week in the UK.

With all this, people overlook, that the Arctic Monkeys actually signed to Domino in June 2005 (!) and much of the buzz probably was skillfully managed by the record label.

What people also seem to forget, is to talk about the actual music….

Whatever People Say I Am - That\'S What I\'M Not Continue reading

New Impressions from The Strokes

When The Strokes appeared on the scene in 2001, I didn’t quite get all the excitement, because their music wasn’t all that new, even if I quite liked it. The Strokes certainly did not invent guitar-based rock music, but their success marked the beginning of the period (which hasn’t really ended yet) where rock music is cool again with young people and the media, which is ok with me, after all.
First Impressions Of Earth

After the amazing success of Is this It the second album Room on Fire was quite good, but didn t really measure up to it s predecessor. So the the question was really open, if The Strokes would continue to live of the formula of their initial success, or if they would be able to truly develop into a mature band.

It s maybe a little bit early to call The Strokes mature, but on First Impressions Of Earth they have effectively succeeded at developing their music. The most obvious change is that Julian Casablanca s voice no longer has the particular compressed/distorted sound which characterized the first the albums. But the music is also more dynamic with much more variety of sounds and atmospheres.

The Strokes have not abandoned the music that made us like them, but they have managed to introduce more variety. The off-beat guitar (I wouldn t go as far as calling it Reggae) on On the Other Side drives an extremely catchy tune and the backwards sounding sounds on Ask Me Anything creates an atmosphere The Strokes weren t known for.

In terms of influence, this time there is much more Television than Velvet Underground.

It s a great album and, it makes me think The Strokes might just be able to stay around for a while, which is just as well for me

PS: For all those who have illegally downloaded versions of the album, you might be relieved to know that Ize of The World does also have such an abrupt ending on the CD. I wonder if this was a trick to make downloaders think that they had a corrupted file

The Kevins

I’ve written about The Kevins before (here and here) and now it’s about time to write a review on the album…

According to their bio, The Kevins are two brothers and the album was recorded in Wichita, Kansas. I’m not sure this should be taken absolutely seriously, but it doesn’t really matter either. The music is sweet pop music, with clean guitars and vocals. Only one song (Crying Bitterly, Painfully) has drums, and even here it’s more irony than serious drumming… The lyrics are basically about the drama of being young and in love, which means that they are not very deep but definetly very cute. So, overall it’s Indie Pop with pretty melodies.

For some strange reason the first comparable group that came to my mind was Nic Dalton’s (ex-Lemonheads) Godstar ; a less obscure and more recent reference could be Adam Green, but really The Kevins have their own thing going, and even if it’s not really modern, it’s really quite good and they would deserve to be a little less obscure (like, how about a recording contract).

If you like the songs you’ve heard floating around on the Internet, I encourage you to order the album.

Ryan Adams – 29

First of all I must correct a post I did a couple of weeks ago. So alive is not Ryans Adams’ latest single, but in fact a track taken off his (poor) Rock n Roll album from 2003. If you follow this link I think you will agree that the communication by Lost Highway is pretty misleading here.

29

29 is the title of the third album released by Ryan Adams in 2005. Strangely enough it was actually recorded in August 2004…

What can you expect from someone who puts out three studio albums in one year, one of which being double? Even more so if the person doing so has in the past published very good (Gold) as well as very disappointing stuff (Rock n Roll, see above). Just like his live shows I’ve seen : Great and memorable in the Trabendo; boring almost unbearable in the Bataclan.

So consistency hasn’t been a strong point for Ryan Adams in the past. I quite liked the two albums he put out with the Cardinals in 2005, and I was wondering what the solo album woud be like. Even more so, as it is produced by Ethan Johns, who was also responsible for Gold.

29 is not a masterpiece but it is above average. Ryan Adams is not reinventing himself it’s more of his trademark melancholic country-folk-blues. It’s nice to listen to, but I wonder if I will take it off the shelf again, once I’ve put it away, as it tends to be more of the same, even if it’s not bad at all.

You end up imaging what kind of amazing albums Ryan Adams would make if he limited himself to one CD every two years. But at least he has found some consistency and will probably continue recording non-memorable, but quality albums for many years to come. A bit like Neil Young nowadays, I guess.