Friday, 23 November 2012

Friendly Fires - Why Don't You Answer?

Also, in the last few days Friendly Fires have released a new track, to promote their entry in the series Late Night Tales. For those who are maybe unfamiliar with that series, essentially an artist is given the chance to compile various tracks from their record collections to create a mix which they feel is at its most effective to listen to at night. Many electronic artists have entries in the series like MGMT, Metronomy and Groove Armada. It's also a traditional feature for artists to record a cover of a song exclusively for their set, hence why we have Why Don't You Answer. The original of Why Don't You Answer was by Eberhard Schoener with Sting on lead vocals and it was released in 1978. I have to say I really like the original although in some ways I think Friendly Fires version brings out more of the intended feeling of the song. In many ways I think Why Don't You Answer embodies the main objective of the Late Night Tales series. It has this dark and moody atmosphere to it and it just feels like something you'd listen to late at night, if that doesn't sound too ridiculous. Its a stark change in direction for Friendly Fires, and it's growing on me with each listen. The change in sound is just highlighted when you compare the sound here to their excellent sophomore album, 2011's Pala. Pala has an exuberant and heady disco oriented dance-pop sound whereas Why Don't You Answer see's them going in a much more experimental and darker direction. What I think makes the track is its deep bass-line, it adds a very dark layer to the track. The bass-line does sound fundamentally quite disco to me but its almost like they've taken their usual disco flourishes and approached it from a very different and morbid sounding angle. I guess I'd describe Why Don't You Answer as dark disco really. The lyrics of the song are as simple as the title suggest, the narrator is torturing themselves that their lover hasn't called. I think the lyrics suit Ed McFarlane's voice very well really. The constant stuttering synthesizer just makes the song sound rather haunting too I think. Its strange, because I'm enjoying this song more and more with every listen but I do prefer more traditional sounding Friendly Fires material. I'm not sure if I could take a whole album of songs in this vein. I've been left worried for Friendly Fires upcoming studio album, which I hope is released sometime next year after reading reports that they're looking to go down the experimental route with their third offering. Whilst artistic development is key I don't know if they shouldn't change what isn't broke. Pala is one of the best albums I've heard in recent times. Having said that, Why Don't You Answer? is a most interesting song that proves that maybe, just maybe they'd pull off an experimental electronic album better than I'd ever thought.

Initial thoughts on Crystal Castles - (III)

So in the last week or so Crystal Castles have released their third album, called (III). Despite the album gaining some very positive reviews I have to say that I've been left rather disappointed with the new album though. As much as I do like Crystal Castles I guess I would be lying if I said they were one of my favourite groups. Although I do really like their first and second albums their low-points for me are so low that it makes me dock them a few places if I were to do a list of my favourite artists. With (III) though I just can't get into it at all. Very few of the songs are standing out to me at the moment I'm afraid. Many of the songs are laden with chimp-punk sounding vocals which I find really annoying and many of the songs have a very glitchy feel. Crystal Castles have always had a very chaotic 8bit sound but at least on the previous two albums melody was still prevalent. Here though for me there seems to be a distinct lack of any real melody on many of the tracks Some of the songs I feel have the potential to be enjoyable to listen to - like Plague or Telepath - but the various effects that are present in many of them just kill my enjoyment stone dead. For me, the only three tracks that I can say I really enjoy at present are Wrath of God, Sad Eyes and Child I Will Hurt You. I'm sorry to say that the rest of the tracks though either leave me with no emotion whatsoever or reaching for the skip button. The album does have a focused sound, I can't fault it for that, but really a lot of it just sounds very samey to me. Maybe Crystal Castles will be one of those groups that I will always have a kind of love/hate relationship with. I fully understand the album is meant to have a vast and bleak sort of atmosphere but for me it feels like a lot of the screamy chipmunk voices were employed to cover the fact that under the surface the album really isn't anything to write home about. I had enjoyed the lead single of the album so much and I thought that it was going to be brilliant, but sadly so far I've been left bitterly disappointed with their third offering. I guess if your into more harsher/darker electronic music you may love it, but as this listener isn't its left me with no choice to say that its one of the most disappointing albums I've heard in recent memory. If my opinions change I will of course post an update, but for the moment I can't see me enjoying this album anymore. Sorry!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Pet Shop Boys in David Bowie show

Last night I stayed up a little bit later than usual to watch The Genius of David Bowie. It was a very interesting show - perfect for someone like me who is developing an interest in David Bowie without knowing an awful lot about his work. It was mainly performances from TV shows mixed in with songs by other artists that he had worked on and the like. It taught me quite a bit of factual information too that I found quite fascinating. It was also very nice to see Pet Shop Boys feature on the show. Their performance together of Hallo Spaceboy (Pet Shop Boys single mix, obviously) from Top Of The Pops was featured. I do love that remix so it was very nice to see them featured. Both avid Bowie fans (Neil even met him in 1972 if memory serves me) I can only imagine how thrilled they were to work with him!

Creation Records documentary

So a few days ago I decided to watch this, Upside Down: The Creation Records story. It was a very interesting documentary! If not already obvious, I tend to have a thing for record labels (anyone who knows me knows that I am besotted with all things Factory related). Creation reminds me a little bit of Factory in a way really for some strange reason. The two do have some links too in a tenuous way, that are touched upon in the documentary. Anyhow, this documentary was both thought provoking and moving in places, especially towards the end. It featured many contributions from some of the key bands of the label, such as Oasis, Primal Scream and The Jesus and Mary Chain. There were some surprises too; Peter Hook from New Order had a rather entertaining brief appearance, and for whatever reason The Divine Comedy were in it. Why that is though, I have no idea. They weren't an act on Creation to the best of my knowledge. Anyhow, this documentary might only be of real interest if you are self-confessed music geek (as I am) but if that's you - or you have an interest in indie music (especially 80's indie music) then its very much worth a watch!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Liza Minnelli - If there was love

So lately I've been delving into a lesser known area of Pet Shop Boys work - their production work. I've been particularly listening to two albums; Dusty Springfield's Reputation and Liza Minnelli's Results. I've really surprised myself at how much I've enjoyed both and Results is fast becoming a particular favorite of mine! The pinnacle of the album for me though I think is this track - If There Was Love. This is one of the tracks that was specifically written and recorded for Results. It's very typical Pet Shop Boys in style I think, it sounds very much like their Introspective era. The arrangement is dance oriented in a way, but it is executed in a very subtle manner. Its definitely got a softer arrangement than Loosing My Mind for instance. Lyrically, the song is very bleak, one of the bleakest sets of lyrics in the entirety of Pet Shop Boys really. The lyrics are utterly paranoid in terms of tone, its as if the narrator feels the world is in nothing but a mess, to the point were they've become disillusioned with it. Indeed they ponder if love really is enough to fix these problems. They've become so disillusioned though that they do even question does love exist to begin with - after all they ask if love exists rather than state its existence as a matter of fact. The lyrics do leave a lot to the reader though - despite asking in the chorus whether or not love is indeed enough to combat the worlds problems no answer is given, so we don't know the narrators view on the subject. Also, the recital at the end of the track is of Shakespeare's famous Sonnet 94. It goes very well with the track I think. Essentially, the sonnet states that those who acquire power and then abuse their position and essentially turn into bad people are far more condemnable than those who never were particularly great or pleasant to begin with. Personally, I wonder if the song is implicitly directed at politicians who get into power and then don't deliver but I could be clutching at straws there. The inclusion of the sonnet was a spontaneous one - one day Neil was searching through various sonnets and the like to find something to read at a friends funeral (the same funeral depicted in Pet Shop Boys b-side Your Funny Uncle) whilst a playback of If There Was Love was on. He came across Sonnet 94 and voila. Personally, I think the song has a message that still holds up some relevance today. Living in the place that I do, and hearing so much horrible stuff about the political conflict here, its a song that makes me think. Northern Ireland is so much better to live in but sometimes things happen and it makes me wonder will the conflict ever completely end. Anyhow, back to the song itself. I think this is a great track, to the point were I would love to hear Pet Shop Boys own version if it exists. Considering that they did record demos for other tracks on Results, like So Sorry I Said its entirely plausible they do have a version of this lingering around in the vaults. Even if they don't, they could always revisit it and re-record it, like they did with In Private. In any case, an excellent song that's as strong as Pet Shop Boys own recordings!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Memory of The Future 7" Announced!

Promo release artwork.
So in an exciting news development last night, the 7" single mix of Memory For The Future was unveiled. Interestingly, they have decided to use the already confirmed mix of the track that was made by Stuart Price as the single edit! I absolutely love Stuart Price as a producer, he has worked with a wide range of artists from Madonna to The Killers. I think the album he produced with Madonna, Confessions on A Dancefloor was her last truly great studio album. He also mixed the live CD for Pet Shop Boys very own Pandemonium CD/DVD set too. Honestly, if I were able to choose the producer for their next album Stuart Price would almost certainly be my choice. With that in mind I had high hopes for the 7" mix and I don't think it has disappointed me! Its much more bouncy and fluid than the album version I think, but it makes sense. To be honest, I'm not sure if the Elysium version - as good as it is - was all that commercially viable. With the 7" version its more poppy and no doubt it was remixed in an attempt to actually crack the Top 40 with their third single. Having said that, in no way does it sound too commercial, the new mix keeps all the integrity and merit of the original but its just been given a poppier lease of life.I can see myself playing both mixes regularly in the long run if I'm honest. It definitely sounds like it could do well in the charts too, but whether or not it does is another case entirely. I think they need to come up with a really good video for it if they want to make it into a hit because I haven't been impressed with Winner or Leaving's official music videos really. It has also been announced that it will be released on 31st December, with details on release formats, bonus tracks and remixes to be on the site soon. In any case, this is a great mix of one of the best songs on Elysium, here's hoping the B-sides will be just as good!

Monday, 12 November 2012

David Bowie - Hallo Spaceboy (CD Single)

I found this in a charity shop around six months ago. I have to admit that David Bowie is a very new artist I'm developing a keen interest in. Really its not an exaggeration to say that he along with Paul Weller are two artists I'm investigating at the moment. Naturally, I loved the remix Pet Shop Boys did of Hallo Spaceboy but when I initially listened to a greatest hits of David Bowie's work, I wasn't sold. I just couldn't seem to grasp it at all. Don't get me wrong, I thought he was talented but he wasn't gelling with me. Something about him made me want to listen to him more though. A few months later, a performance of Jean Genie from TOTP was rediscovered from the TOTP archives after being feared lost and it was broadcast on a vintage TOTP archive show me and mum were watching. It was absolutely incredible and forced me to reevaluate him and give him another try. So I've been listening to more of him and now I think I can safely say he has won me over, he is a brilliant and most interesting artist I think. Sadly, this single is the only David Bowie CD I have so far, but a good greatest hits of his has now become one of my top priorities the next time I go record shopping!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Classic Pop: Issue 1

This is the first issue of a brand new magazine called Classic Pop. For those of you who love 80's music this is a magazine well worth reading! This was one of my main reasons for going into town two days ago. I was convinced that it would be a monthly publication and that I had missed it probably. That was only compounded when I got to Easons (which is excellent for magazines) and it wasn't there. Cue the the disappointment because a friend got it and told me it was a great read. As it turns out, it is released every two months, and as it was released at the start of October it would still be on sale. Wooo! Now, all I needed was to find somewhere that would sell it, which is harder than you'd think because Easons tends to be the best place for more specialist magazines such as this. Anyhow, for some reason on the magazine site it specifies what shops sell it, and Eason's isn't one of them. Thankfully, one shop that does sell it is Sainsbury's and yesterday I just so happened to be traveling past a shopping center near me which has a very big Sainsbury's. As you can tell, they had the magazine. One look at the cover will tell you my main reason for getting this, but there's also a lot of other music I really like in it too. It had amazing full page sized pictures of Kate Bush, Bernard Sumner, Madonna and The Smiths. 6 pages of the legacy and influence of Kraftwerk, a feature on the ZTT record label (which is one of my favorite record labels) and best of all: 10 pages on Pet Shop Boys career. The article was very interesting too! You can tell whoever had wrote it clearly had a good grasp of their work which is refreshing, there's nothing I hate more in music journalism when people write articles on an artist and you can tell that they basically know their greatest hits and nothing else. There's a lot of other interesting articles in the magazine, basically for someone "who's brain is stuck in the 1980's" (which is how a good friend of mine once described me), this is a great magazine. Anyhow, this is a great magazine and will perfectly counterbalance my other music magazine of choice; NME, which is great for more modern music! If you can get this I really recommend it!

Pet Shop Boys - Leaving Remixed

This is a small bit of history for me actually: its my first Pet Shop Boys single! Honestly, this one was a serious shock, I got it in Head which is my preferred store out of the two we have. Where I live the Pet Shop Boys selection - well its not woeful- but as someone who has all their studio albums and the like then its nothing I haven't got. As such, I've only got four out of what must be around forty PSB CD's from the record stores in town: Discography, Disco, Elysium and now this. The selection in both record stores is pretty limited really for Pet Shop Boys stuff. I always check them both just out o habit, but prior to Elysium the last PSB purchase I made in town (discounting vinyls from a now defunct store) was over a year ago. In fact, HMV and Head don't even sell singles anymore so finding this was a real shock. I knew Head had stocked Blur's new single from earlier in the year (which I purchased) but I thought that was because it was a one-off thing. In any case seeing the new PSB one was a surprise. Especially considering they didn't have Winner at all when it was released! When I saw it, I couldn't resist it.They also had the 12" too but it was £8. They didn't have the Chris cover (which is CD 1) but I hope the fact they had this is a sign they will have it at some point!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Electronic - Patience of a Saint

This is the more hidden of the three Electronic tracks that feature Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys. Its the only one that has always been an album track on Electronic's self titled debut, with previous single Getting Away With It only being added on the album on re-releases and Disappointed following some time after the album release. Despite some incorrect attributions, its the only song in the Electronic catalogue that is a full collaboration with Electronic and Pet Shop Boys, as its the only Electronic track that features Chris Lowe. Pet Shop Boys receive co-writing/co-performance credits on this track. The song is definitely a more darker and atmospheric track for Electronic I think. It has a very icy bass line that definitely makes the song have a foreboding atmosphere which is a perfect back-drop for the lyrics. Lyrically, the song is about someone who is an utter hell to live with, quite literally someone who tries "the patience of a saint". However, it might be about two people that are incredibly difficult to live with as opposed to just one. Both Neil Tennant and Bernard Sumner take co-lead on the track and thus it makes Patience of A Saint a duet. Perhaps most tellingly, out of the three Electronic songs that feature Neil, its the only one were they both share co-lead. Maybe that's coincidental but maybe it isn't. It's entirely plausible that the song only features one lyrical persona, so essentially Neil and Bernard are singing different sets of lyrics but the narrator is the same. Having said that, if they are indeed voicing two separate characters then the song is almost certainly about a gay relationship. Its not very obvious which of the two it is; I mean the song doesn't have lyrics that feel conversational between two different narrators. To be honest, both Bernard and Neil have very similar lyrics in terms of tone. If indeed it is two separate characters that Bernard and Neil are portraying then you get the idea that they are just perfect for each other. I mean both lyrical persona are self confessed as being hell to live with. In that cause although they drive the patience of a saint, they make themselves saints for having to put up with each other. It becomes quite moving then in that case I think, and its also a very clever and implicit way of showing how two people are made for each other. The song has one of my favourite sets of lyrics of all time for their ambiguity in this regard. If I'm honest, this was one of the songs on the debut album that I wasn't so fussed about. I just felt that it was lacking something compared to the other tracks on the album. Now though my opinion has completely changed with regards for the track. Not only is it one of the highlights of Electronic's discography (and their high point in terms of lyrics), I'd also say it has a certain quality that I'd find in the very best of Pet Shop Boys own discography. Believe me, I rate their best work highly! An overlooked track with lyrics to think about in my opinion!