The Sequel to the Prequel

Babyshambles-Sequel-to-the-Prequel-1024x1024Well it came as quite a surprise to me a couple of weeks ago that there was a new Babyshambles album out. After having heard a couple of new songs from the group a couple of months ago I didn’t come across any kind of hype for the new record and to be honest I forgot we were expecting one completely. Then all of a sudden and it’s upon us. Titled The Sequel to the Prequel, this third studio album is the first record the Pete Doherty-led band have made since 2007.

Unfortunately though I found this new record to be rather an underwhelming entity. In the past both of Babyshambles previous records have been some of my most played albums whereas The Sequel to the Prequel and dropped off my listening radar almost as quickly as it appeared onto it. There is a real lack of bite in this record not to mention a lack of Pete Doherty’s sharp lyricism. This perhaps the worst collection of lyrics by the controversial frontman I’ve ever heard and its reflected in the music. While I wouldn’t have minded if the group was changing direction to a prettier sound with a less rock-y feel it seems they are still trying to keep their old slightly punky image with none of the music to pull it off. There are some fun songs on here, the highlight being Dr. No, which has a ska feel to it and really doesn’t sound anything like the rest of the record. And perhaps actually listening to the album isn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be, I still wouldn’t be bored re-listening but overall it just lacks that little something extra to make it really worthy of being called a good record.

It’s may be an ok listen but The Sequel to the Prequel doesn’t have the required uniqueness of the first two Babyshambles records and for that reason fails to hold your attention. A disappointment.

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Deafheaven

DeafheavenIt’s been a long while since my last band plug post and that’s mainly because there have been a lack of awesome bands that I’ve discovered. But when I heard Deafheaven’s new album, Sunbather, a few weeks ago the band immediately became something I needed to talk about. It’s hard to define the bands sound really as it combines elements of a huge amount of genres and also has something that is completely different from anything I’ve ever heard. Having originally been conceived as a two-piece, founding members George Clarke and Kerry McCoy have been through various touring and recording members but have always maintained their unique style.

It would be hard to describe Deafheaven as any one kind of music but due to their screaming vocals and the fact that they’re signed to Death Wish Records it may be they are seen from the outside as a metal band. The problem with this is that any pigeon holing of this band is vastly limiting their appeal. These guys are not a metal band, they’re not an indie band, they’re not even necessarily a rock band; they are a musicians with a clear cut artistic goal that have managed to create music that is so strikingly personal and raw that it can not be defined as a genre of a music only as the art that it is. There first studio album Roads to Judah didn’t have the sublime production that was to be found on its follow-up but it still holds the bands vision and signature sound that you will become accustomed to after listening to one track. It’s their new album, though, Sunbather, that really is nothing short of a masterpiece. It ebbs and flows through speedy metal beats and riffs swarming their way into psychadelic fades and dreamy waves of music. Its bold music that is both brutal and beautiful.

With two great studio albums under their belt and an ever-growing fan base let’s hope Deafheaven are a band that will continue to push boundaries and create great, unique music. If you scroll down I’ve put this new-fangled Spotify play button so you don’t even have to leave this page to get into perhaps the most exciting band of the year.

Comedown Machine

the-strokes-comedown-machine-1363629765Comebacks are a strange thing in the music business, you never know quite what you’re going to get. With The Spice Girls, for example, you get nothing, they sing a few songs at a big event, Victoria Beckham will maintain a face that looks like a slapped arse because she’s so above all the other members and the tabloids will write of in-fighting and hatred. Whereas, on the other side of the spectrum you have someone like The Smashing Pumpkins a band desperately attempting to prove that they can still write good music and not have to rely on their back catalogue. The Strokes’ comeback in 2011 with Angles was a much harder thing to make full sense of, while it contained flashes of a new wave of Strokes music it also couldn’t seem to get far enough away from their old style, it was a strange album; enjoyable but somehow lacking. This week The Strokes followed it up with the release of Comedown Machine, perhaps an album that makes it easier to understand why they decided to come back in the first place.

Right from the off it becomes a lot clearer what we’re getting here. The signature lo-fi style of the bands seminal record Is This It? is apparent throughout and any kind of experimentation that was to be found on Angles is not anywhere to be seen. Comedown Machine has a few stand-out moments where a guitar solo will rip through a melody catchy enough that you find yourself humming along on your first ever listen. There is not a track on the album that I could say I don’t like, but for some reason as with Angles, there is something lacking. With Angles, though, I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong and still can’t now with Comedown Machine I know exactly what it is; there is nothing new here. The record sounds very much like a band on auto-pilot. A band that in their prime re-defined indie music and have a lasting influence as one of the genre’s greatest bands, their initial split came at the right time I feel as their third album, First Impressions of Earth, proved that they all wanted to try something different. As they went off into their separate careers none of them found the same kind of success they had with The Strokes and with Comedown Machine it seems like a band who have caved in to the industry, they don’t want to do anything new because people complain, if they go off and do other projects people don’t care so what they’re going to do is give us what they think we want. They sound like a band bored and uninterested in what they’re doing any more ultimately making The Strokes Mark II rather a shame in the end.

That said the album is still a decent listen even they are on auto-pilot it just a shame that more risks weren’t taken. I could wrong, but from the evidence so far I don’t think The Strokes should ever have returned if they wanted to maintain the status they once had and it’s only a matter of time before they bring out a record that doesn’t get by on the same formula.

 

Amok

AtomsforamokAtoms for Peace are a new supergroup that includes Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Flea of the Chilli’s, Joey Waronker of Beck and R.E.M., Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich and percussionist Mauro Refusco. They’ve been around for a little while, orignally getting together for Thom Yorke’s solo touring then they released Judge, Jury and Executioner way back in 2009. No one really knew what was to come of them but they kept on going releasing the first official single Default in September 2012 having claimed they were finishing off an album all the way back in September 2011. But it hasn’t been until this week that Amok has finally materialised.

It’s not a world away from Radiohead, Yorke’s falsetto vocals are always going to create a certain feel no matter what band he’s in and with the inclusion of producer Nigel Godrich the impeccable, understated sound that makes Radiohead records so great is apparent here too. But there are differences elsewhere. Flea’s basslines bring a new flavour to the sound often forming the base of the tracks particularly in Dropped and Before Your Very Eyes… His influence on the record as a whole, not just in the bass parts, is clear too there’s a constant feel of funk that isn’t really there on a Radiohead record. It’s helped along by the combination drums and percussion both of which are produced to perfection as they ripple away underneath the sparse musicality that is over the top.

There is not one track that’s a let down, there’s not one track that isn’t a great song and it’s hard to pick out stand-out moments because it’s all so good, my only qualm would be that it’s only nine tracks long, it leaves you wanting more but really that can only be a good thing. An early contender for album of the year.

 

Holy Fire

foals-holy-fire-480x480When Foals first hit the scene with debut album Antidote you would have been hard done by to spot anything about them that separated them from the bland indie scene, they broke out with hit single Cassius a song with a chorus so catchy it still haunts my mind, going back to these, quite frankly, boring album its incredibly hard to understand what happened when they followed it up with the superb Total Life Forever. Their second album garnered a Mercury nomination and took the band to a whole new level in the industry, creating songs so beautifully layered the more you listen to them the more you get from them. As Holy Fire is released next Monday the question left to answer is whether that album was just a fluke or whether Foals can continue to push boundaries and rise in power atop the indie scene.

The first single from Holy Fire was release a few months back, Inhaler is a power punch of a tune taking the signature rippling guitars from Total Life Forever and combining them with grunged-up Black Keys style riffs, it is one of the best songs I’ve heard in years. On the album there’s one track that surpasses even though; the juggernaut that is Providence follows a similar structure to Inhaler but the stops and starts make the excitement multiply even more. The rest of the tracks are more similar to the calm nature of their previous album but still have a bit more of a bite. There’s much more distortion to be found here amongst the masterfully produced layered guitar sounds making for a similar sound but ultimately making the album slightly more raw and gritty perhaps signalling the band might move into a more rock-y root in their future.

While I wish not to like Foals because they all seem like twats really, its impossible to deny that they are creating music of the highest quality around today. Holy Fire beats Total Life Forever at its own game and the two tracks I’ve spoken about show how much pent up potential is still within them waiting to come out, I’ve got my fingers crossed that the heavier route is the direction these guys choose to take these twats know their shit.

 

Wolf’s Law

542632_10151281327235783_91241549_nIf you’ve been a reader of the blog you might have read my last post on The Joy Formidable which you should be able to find on the band plug page. It’s been a couple of years now since the band burst on to the scene with their debut The Big Roar, a record which shattered my expectations and make me take notice of the Welsh three piece who pack a lot more bite than the majority of indie bands out there. Last week the group returned with their second album Wolf’s Law.

The albums got a lot of similarities with their last one, juxtaposing grungy riffs with more awkward indie sensibilities and again this record really does pack a punch. It’s not hard to see why these guys are now regarded so highly. My personal favourite tracks are the heavier ones in particular The Maw Maw Song which feels like the closest thing they’ve got to match some of the best tracks on their first album. But ultimately when compared to their debut Wolf’s Law just doesn’t quite match up for me. When The Big Roar came out I’d never heard of these guys and they demanded that I listened to them, over and over again. With Wolf’s Law I haven’t felt that again, I’ve enjoyed, I’ve listened to it a few times but it’s not grabbed my attention enough and it’s release date was a stupid one being one week before the new Biffy and three before Foals two very similar but more established bands. Wolf’s Law is good but it’s not great.