Monday, 16 September 2013

The Killer's Direct Hits and Shot At The Night.

So, The Killers new single Shot At The Night has been premiered on the Zane Lowe radio show. I didn't get a chance to listen to the radio broadcast myself - but I've listened to the new song twice already. I personally really like it and expect it to be a slow burner. It's already in my head. It's produced by M83 and that's definitely apparent. It's synthy and much more in line with Hot Fuss than Battle Born, which is nice. It's good to see them embrace the synthesizers fully again. It's a good song, I can't see it becoming an all time favourite but it's a lot better than the worst tracks on Battle Born in my opinion. It's mid-tempo though so I hope the other new song on the greatest hits is more of an upbeat number. The greatest hits is entitled - rather cleverly I might add - Direct Hits and on Amazon it's scheduled for release on November 11th. I've read a report that it will be released as a standard edition and a deluxe edition with a bonus documentary DVD. That's in keeping with what Amazon are saying because they do have a version with a DVD on the site. The track-listing and details I've read yet haven't been confirmed on The Killers own Facebook page. I'll have a second, more concrete post once I read absolute official details of the greatest hits. Stay tuned!

On this Day: Kate Bush - Hounds Of Love released.

 On September 16th 1985 Kate Bush released what many (myself included) regard as her finest hour. Hounds of Love just transcends time completely - it's mystical pop crossed with art rock sound makes for a listening experience unlike any other.

The first time I heard the album I was bemused. I had never heard anything like it before and I couldn't comprehend it. The album had... something though. An aura, something that was entincing me back. One day I was listening to the album on a starry winter's night in the car. The song And Dream Of Sheep came on. It's a beautiful lullaby of a song. And as I gazed up at the sky, peppered with stars as I listened to it... it all came together. To this day, the album still remains a firm favourite of mine.

One thing I also find absolutely fascinating is how defiant the album is. Just a mere two days prior to the premiere of Running Up That Hill on BBC1's Wogan show NME published a Where Are They Now? article, one of the subjects of the piece being Kate. Just two days later, the Hounds Of Love era began. Running Up That Hill became one of her biggest hits, and Hounds Of Love her biggest seller. It's also arguably the pinnacle of her career in terms of critical acclaim too. The moral of the story? Never write a great talent off. And really, assume nothing in life. Little did the author of that NME article know that Kate Bush was in her studio, creating an album that would rightfully be seen as one of the all time greats. A personal and professional high indeed. Hounds Of Love really is her opus.

First impressions: The Naked & Famous - In Rolling Waves.

 Afternoon all. It's crazy to think it's been a week already since Sound System was released. I still can't believe I actually own it because time has flown by since it was announced. I watched the full contents of the DVD yesterday, I'll get working on drafting up a post about that sharpish. As for the Madonna MDNA Tour controversy, I've downloaded a copy of the EPIX broadcast. It's so I can compare and contrast the two copies. I saw a US official bluray screenshot yesterday and it looked horrendous. Far, far worse than me. The severity of the issues seems to vary copy from copy. Unacceptable. Anyway, I've got more first impressions from a new album I've heard for the first time:

I've just listened to another album I've been really looking forward too: In Rolling Waves by The Naked & Famous. I had liked their debut album, 2011's Passive Me, Aggressive You. Sadly In Rolling Waves didn't live up to my expectations. It just sort of rolled along (excuse the pun). At just under an hour in length, I felt there was no real standout moment. Nothing on the album impressed me as much as Punching On A Dream from their debut album did. The second half of the album did pick up slightly but. Even then though, it wasn't anything overly special. In fact, the only track I can say I really liked was A Stillness. Everything else made minimal impact on me. There wasn't much variety on the album either. It's listenable, but frankly I have no desire to ever listen to it again. I have to say it's one of the most underwhelming experiences I've had with an album in quite some time. Disappointing to say the least.

That's really it for now, but not for today. There's a retrospective post I want to make also, regarding an anniversary of an all time favourite album. Also we have The Killers announcement coming today so you can expect some sort of post on that too. See you soon!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The MDNA Tour Debacle

Afternoon all, I watched the MDNA Tour bluray in full last night. All I am left wondering is just what went wrong in the production of this bluray and DVD.

For a start, there is a lot of grain. Unacceptable amounts for a bluray really. The start of I Don't Give A Fuck looked awful. Up until Express Yourself grainy shots were featuring in more or less every song After that I felt they subsided a lot but they still cropped up every so often. However - they still seemed to only effect a relatively small portion of shots, which leads me to my next criticism: the camera-work is chaotic.

The multi-angle shots are in utter overkill here. This bluray must have a record for that. It's certainly the worst I've ever seen. To be fair - this show would be a nightmare to film. There's a massive stage, and trying to cover the dancers, the screens, Madonna (of course) and even the crowd is a massive undertaking. The problem here for me is they've tried too hard. As a consequence it feels very disorienting to watch - even during the choreography segments the camera will dart between dancers, crowd and wideshots of the stage. I personally feel that crowd shots took up far too much time, and they were always grainy. Not only that but it's been edited far too much. There's also a lot of Instagram style filters with minimal contrast. I'm not sure if that was the intention, but it looks over-edited and frankly nasty. here's plenty of super-imposed shots for good measure too. There's also far too many slow motion shots for me. It spoils what are otherwise spectacular dance moves. I found it difficult to immerse myself in what was going on. And that's before we get to the sound.

The sound is also poor on this. As I've said before - I'm no audiophile. Having said that this was just flat. When songs like I'm Addicted and Like A Prayer pack no punch whatsoever something has gone wrong. It's not Madonna's performance either. The dance instrumental in Gang Bang actually verged on inaudible. The 5.1 sound is also defective: if you have a home cinema system then this won't work. How can that even happen? I haven't heard the CD yet, but I've heard mixed reviews on that too.

Also the menu simply doesn't work. The only reason I was able to watch it was because of pressing play on the menu. However, I couldn't select the play concert option on the DVD the way you normally can. As for being able to access chapter options or even the extras - forget it. No cursor appears. Also - the menu itself had very poor design. I wear glasses and my bed is situated close enough to my TV and it was very hard to see. If I were at the top of my bed it wouldn't have been readable whatsoever.

It's a real shame this has happened, because the tour itself looked excellent. However this live representation doesn't do it justice whatsoever. Amazon are currently investigating it, and based on what I've read it appears the manufacturers have admitted there have been production issues. For now - I cannot recommend this whatsoever. A dismal disappointment. I'll have more as this situation unfolds.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Collection: Sound System has arrived!

Well, this is the moment I've been counting down to for what feels like an age. Pre-ordered June 20th, arrived September 14th. I can't actually believe it's here, it seems so surreal. At 12 discs, it's by far and away the biggest musical purchase I've ever made. And it is just beautiful. The packaging is amazing. Just as importantly however, the remastering sounds equally as impressive. I'm no audiophile but it sounds crystal clear, and I can hear things I never heard before. I haven't heard an album in full yet but me and my brother (whose equally as impressed) listened to random tracks from it earlier. I have to say I already love the extended version of Sean Flynn - given how much I love the original though that's not really a surprise. It's an utter treat to finally have an official copy of The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too as well. Terrific song. I never in my life thought I would ever see the Armagideon Times fanzines also. It was a stroke of genius to include them (as well as the new one). We haven't watched the DVD yet - that's going to be for tomorrow. I simply can't wait to see the unreleased material on that though. This was totally worth every penny, and I cannot wait to digest it over the coming days!

Clash updates

Afternoon all, it promises to be a very busy day here at my house. I'm sure you can see where this is going: Sound System has arrived! It's at the family business right now (it made for an easier delivery). It will remain there until 5pm, then it will be brought home. Well, both copies really because my brother copy arrived too. We're opening them together so there is going to be some fun in my house this evening. It goes without saying that pictures will be posted.

The other related Clash update is that (perhaps appropriately) I've started reading Marcus Gray's Route 19 Revisited: The Clash and London Calling. I'm about seventeen pages in and already the amount of meticulous research that has gone into this book is apparent. I'm still very much in the introductory stages of the book -at 500 + pages it's definitely not lacking in length. Already I feel slightly more well versed about the significance of train imagery in rock and roll songs. God knows how detailed it's going to get when I start reading about London Calling itself. Numerous reviews have started that the smallest minutiae of the songs are analyzed, explained etc. It's going to be a slow read, but one that will surely prove fascinating and thoroughly rewarding.

That's it for now, but definitely not for the day. It's just a little over two hours to go before I finally get Sound System. I simply cannot wait.

Collection #2: The Clash Hits Back arrives.

Also, the first of the two new Clash releases arrived today. I know, I know, this may be rather excessive. This is just a greatest hits and I already own all the tracks (before even ordering Sound System). One reason I ordered this is it contains a copy of the original setlist, handwritten by Joe Strummer, in the booklet. That may be shallow I'll concede. Also on a personal level - I won't get many chances to enjoy an upcoming Clash release. I better make the most of them when they do happen therefore. Besides, I'd be shocked if there was a bigger release than Sound System. Most importantly though it's handy for when I'm going somewhere and I just want one Clash CD. It's got the best track listing of all the greatest hits in my opinion, so this is still a CD I will get a lot of use out of, even if it offers nothing new in terms of musical content.

Collection: Madonna MDNA Tour arrives (although that may not be a good thing)

So after what feels like waiting a particularly long time, the new MDNA Tour bluray and CD arrived today! I must confess: I haven't actually watched it yet, nor listened to the CD. I deliberately avoided the EPIX Broadcast (bar a few clips) from a few months ago apart from the Paris Olympia show and the Superbowl, I haven't actually watched any live MDNA footage. I've heard rave reviews though for the MDNA tour, so my expectations are even higher than they usually are for a Madonna show. It's also going to be very interesting though because I've seen a lot of complaints about the quality of the bluray. In fact, Amazon UK have withdrawn it from sale, pending a review. I've read that Amazon Germany have acknowledged there is a fault with the bluray too. Truth be told - I'm not one for detecting such issues. Unless they are woefully bad. I mean I remember there being a lot of complains about the Celebration DVD set but - to my eyes at least - the picture was fine. With this though it's supposed to be awful. Of course, I've yet to watch any of it myself  (I'm going to watch a bit of it shortly before bed, but it won't be the full show). I'll be sure to post a follow-on post once I see the show and form my own opinions on the matter.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Reviewed: Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart (Peel Session version)

Love Will Tear Us Apart remains arguably the most well known song Joy Division ever recorded. It's immediately distinctive too, with its soaring synth line. However, whilst I do love the single version I've always preferred this Peel version slightly more. It's from the second (and final) session the group did for John Peel's radio show, recorded at the BBC Studios in London on November 26th 1979. It was one of three songs they performed, the others being 24 Hours, Colony and Sound Of Music. Both this session (and the first) are available on a number of CDs, most notably The Best Of Joy Division and the Heart and Soul box-set. The John Peel session is also significant because it was the first recording of the song! It was re-recorded twice but many fans do seem to prefer this original Peel sessions version, myself included. I personally prefer it because there's a frantic tone to this recording that the more polished single version lacks. I absolutely love that chiming, climatic guitar that comes in about halfway through. This version sounds raw and definitely like a predecessor to the single version. What's striking about it though is that considering this is the first recorded version, the song actually sounds really complete. The single version and this original recording aren't drastically different really - it's obvious they're the same song. Strip away those more polished elements that the rerecorded versions brought in though and it's a significant change indeed. The Peel version definitely sounds less of a pop song. It's more typically Joy Division. I've always felt that the single version sounded a bit unconventional for Joy Division. This Peel version would have fitted in on Closer I think, unlike the single version. For me - it's the definitive version of a classic song.

Collection: PSB Elysium era singles completed!

So, after waiting what feels like ages, the first of the parcels started arriving today! Well, I guess it's technically yesterday because it's early Friday morning here, but you know what I mean. These are the Winner, Memory Of The Future and Memory Of The Future Remixed singles by Pet Shop Boys. I've actually now got all the Elysium era CD singles, a first for me. I don't collect Pet Shop Boys singles (nor any singles of any artist for that matter) religiously. There's simply too many of them. I'll only buy the post Format singles for the new B-sides or older ones if there's a specific mix I really love. The latter doesn't happen often because I think a lot of Pet Shop Boys remixes aren't great. Anyway, I already had both Leaving singles and I needed to get my Pet Shop Boys single collection sorted out and up to date, so I ordered these. I don't mind not having Vocal because whilst I like the remixes on there, there's no B-sides. If Zoverstocks get a copy in I'll order it but I won't be too concerned if they don't. Although because of the new bonus tracks, I've placed a pre-order for the upcoming CD release of the Love Is A Bourgeois Construct single, due for release at the end of the month. I've placed an order for CD1 of Together, and some other singles too actually - they'll be here next week sometime. I'm delighted with these though because I actually loved the Elysium era  in terms of B-sides. I'd have to regard In His Imagination and The Way Through The Woods as two of my all time favourite Pet Shop Boys tracks in all honesty!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Cryptic Killers message and Sound System dispatches!

Good news everybody, Sound System was dispatched earlier today! It's expected to be here no later than Saturday. Relief all round, and the excitement can now start to truly build as I anticipate its arrival. To say me and my brother (who pre-ordered his own copy also) are eager to finally see and hear it is an understatement. There's still nothing in the post yet either, regarding my other items. I'm expecting that to change tomorrow. Of course - I'll post any arrivals here, although that won't be until tomorrow night because Thursday is my busy day. In any case, things are literally on the move so it's all good.

The Morse Code message.
Anyway, there's some very exciting news today if you are a Victim (a fan of The Killers). I'll admit I've not been following the latest news rigidly (shameful). However, a few weeks ago they teased us by saying a big announcement is coming this month. They've also said they wish to commemorate the upcoming tenth anniversary of their first London show (which is in late September). It seems like the two are linked. As they played London's Wembley stadium at the end of June, it would be fitting to release that Wembley show on DVD on this anniversary year wouldn't it? Earlier today their Facebook page posted a cryptic Morse code message that when translated reads as "The Killers shot at the night". It does lend credence to the theory that a Wembley DVD is imminent. However, the October issue of Vanity Fair magazine may have revealed what this announcement will be. In the Hot Tracks section of the magazine they have said that a greatest hits compilation, containing three new songs, is due for release in the autumn. It's highly likely that the already confirmed M83 collaboration will be one of those new songs. To be honest it's most likely the greatest hits. However, I think there may be some sort of special edition with the Wembley show DVD. In any case, expect news this coming Monday (a now deleted tweet mentioned September 16th). I'm intrigued to see what it is, to say the least!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Wonderful new song and wonderment.

Afternoon all, on what is day two of what should be a week of musical madness. So far - it's got off to a disappointing start. I'm due seven items this week, none of them have arrived so far, the postman has literally just came. Worse yet - I've got no official confirmation that Sound System has dispatched. Although there is a chance it may have been. You see, the app on iPhone/iPad etc says "Dispatching soon" but on any internet browser it says "Dispatching now". It's been saying that since Saturday. My account has been charged also, and that only tends to happen when an item has been dispatched. My brother is having the exact same issue with his copy too. I really don't know what is going on. I'm disappointed if there is a glitch in the system to be honest. If not, then it's a disgrace. There's no excuse for taking this long to dispatch something that was preordered nearly three months ago.

Limited edition 12" cover
However - there is a new song that has, quite frankly, bowled me over. Reflektor, from Arcade Fire's upcoming album. I only know a handful of songs by them. I like them so far, and they do a brilliant cover version of The Clash's Guns of Brixton to boot. I was hoping to get into them more with their upcoming album actually. That only looked even more likely after learning it would be produced by James Murphy (aka LCD Soundsystem). It definitely sounds at least somewhat like an LCD Soundsystem track, with it's little electronic flourishes. I absolutely love the percussion parts too. The track definitely bears the influence of Talking Heads too. And just to take things up another notch, they've got an exceptional talent on backing vocals (albeit briefly): David Bowie, no less. I love his brief vocals. On first listen I did really like the song but I felt it perhaps ran a minute or so too long, it's quite lengthy at almost eight listens. On repeated listens though that stance has firmly been diminished.It's got a really lovely groove to it, and the arrangement is very infectious. After learning that the album will be a double album too, I really can't wait to hear it now!

That's all for now, and probably for the day, unless something unexpected crops up. It's almost certain that something will arrive tomorrow, hopefully it will and I'll have an update on Sound System by then!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

This coming week...

Evening all, no real post as such today because this week promises to be an utterly chaotic one with the slew of releases heading my way. I've got three Pet Shop Boys singles, Madonna's MDNA Tour Bluray/CD and of course The Clash Hits Back and Sound System. That's lots of first impressions posts I'll be making this week, and also arrival posts of course. Pet Shop Boys singles and Madonna MDNA items have already dispatched. I don't think the MDNA Tour Bluray/CD will arrive tomorrow. The Pet Shop Boys singles I ordered however I think may just. As for The Clash stuff, I'm expecting it will dispatch first thing tomorrow morning (at nearly 9PM here I can't see it happening tonight). I'm expecting that it will get here on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. I can't think of a bigger week than this upcoming one for my music collection - needless to say I simply cannot wait for it all to arrive. I've also got to try and track down a copy of the Depeche Mode Ultimate Music Guide too. I've got some posts floating around that I'm drafting too, hopefully I'll be able to publish one or two of them in the midst of it all too. See you all tomorrow for day one!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

It's 26, actually.

On this day twenty-six years ago, Pet Shop Boys released their seminal second album, Actually. More polished and accomplished than the preceding Please, the album enjoyed great success. It has since become their third biggest seller worldwide. The singles enjoyed a lot of success too: three out of Pet Shop Boys four UK #1 singles came from the Actually era. Not to mention the unforgettable duet with Dusty Springfield on What Have I Done To Deserve This, itself a #2 smash. Actually stands up as one of the finest synth-pop you could hear. A varied one too, with the pomp of It's A Sin, the haunting Kings Cross, and the deceptive Shopping. Kings Cross is one of their finest achievements as songwriters in my opinion, and I've always felt Shopping (which is about privatization in Thatcher's Britain) was grossly underrated. As you can tell - I really love this album. It's steeped in nostalgia for me as a fan - it was one of the first albums of Pet Shop Boys I listened to. Perhaps shockingly though, it'd be in five or sixth (roughly) if I were to rank my favourite albums. Bare in mind - I'd still give it a 9/10 (or 10 on a good day). That's only because I played the album to death, it and Very were my original favourite Pet Shop Boys albums. Nevertheless, Actually is still a superb record. And who could forget that iconic cover art? Happy anniversary Actually!

First Impressions: Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady

I've a lot of bitty posts to make, mostly regarding first listen impressions of the slew of new albums that are coming out at the moment. I'm trying to listen to a new release a day at the moment to get up to speed. Yesterday's album was Janelle Monae's much awaited sophomore album, The Electric Lady. I've got to admit, this album was brilliant (with awesome album artwork to boot). Like her debut album - The ArchAndroid - it is a concept album. The Electric Lady serves as the fourth and fifth suits in her seven-part Metropolis series. To put it succinctly, it depicts the (fictional) story of Cindi Mayweather, who is a messianic android. In all seriousness, I don't really follow the storyline that well at all - her music is that enjoyable that I get lost in it, and the concepts just wash over me. It's a good thing, right? Anyway, I was apprehensive about The Electric Lady when I heard Q.U.E.E.N. I didn't like it much at all. I have to say that it has grown on me a lot, but it remains one of the weakest tracks on the album for me. The rest of the album is sublime, it sounding both fresh yet decidedly old-school simultaneously. At this stage, favourites are Dorothy Dandridge Eyes, Dance Apocalyptic and We Were Rock & Roll. The album even features Prince, who duets with Janelle on Givin' Em What They Love (another great track). Honestly, I was expecting the album to be good, but not this good. Quite frankly - one of the albums of the year!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Reviewed: Pet Shop Boys - Inside A Dream

Oh, how I love this. It's one of my three favourite Electric tracks; the others being Bolshy and Shouting In The Evening. It's a beautiful dream-scape of a song. It literally envelops you in its luxurious synths, every time I listen to it. Very relaxing, and it's the slowest song on the album. It starts off very ambient (with vauge trance flourishes)in style, before picking up tempo. It does become quite a snappy synth-pop track, but never a total all-out dance number like most of the other Electric songs. It's really no bad thing. I think this might be one of the most classic sounding Pet Shop Boys tracks on Electric really. My favorite aspect of the arrangement definitely is how it embodies the title of the song. The opening chords really do sound like you're in a dream. Even Neil Tennant's vocals have a decidedly hazy feel here, and his ethereal tone just complements the song perfectly. The lyrics to Inside A Dream are ambiguous though, to say the least. More than a little vague too. It's hard to pinpoint just precisely what the song is about really. Neil himself has even commented "I don't know what I was thinking of really" when he wrote the song. The lyrics reference "The Land of Dreams". When I heard that, my gut reaction was that the song is referencing the USA. I've a sneaking suspicion I wasn't the only person that thought the same either. Therefore there's a possibility that - at least subconsciously - the lyrics are about their three month stint in Los Angeles in early 2012. They lived there whilst creating Elysium, although many of the tracks on Electric spanned from those sessions too. Inside A Dream didn't come from those sessions though. It was shortly afterwards. Initial composition began in Berlin, with the track being subsequently completed in London. Of course, my theory on the lyrics could be wrong. Then again, considering even Neil Tennant didn't have anything in mind when writing them, perhaps not. It's certainly plausible that their experiences in LA are reflected subconsciously here. Regardless of the lyrics, I just love the atmosphere of this. Dreamy, tranquil. It's probably the most atmospheric track on Electric. It's divine really.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Reviewed: Pet Shop Boys - Love Is A Bourgeois Construct (Digital Single)

Today I've finally been able to listen to the first digital bundle for Love Is A Bourgeois Construct. A decidedly mixed bag really, here's my initial impressions:

Love Is A Bourgeois Construct (Nighttime Radio edit)
The first remix is the better of the two. Honestly, it's not that far removed from the original. It's just got more synthesizers. It's an inoffensive remix that keeps the essence of the original, something which can't be said for a lot of Pet Shop Boys remixes. Having said that, it does nothing to advance the song either. Not awful, but nothing special either. Stuart Price has done far better remixes than this to be honest.

The first of two new B-sides. It's not awful, but give Pet Shop Boys extremely high standards for B-sides... it's very ordinary. Musically, it's totally Electric in sound. It lacks the impact of say, Shouting In The Evening for me though. The lyrics also don't help, the few that there are. The song is simply an apology to German fans for not being able to speak German. To be honest, the whole song feels like a throwaway. It wouldn't sound out of place on Electric, but it wouldn't stand out on it at all. It's very much the definition of B-side really.

Get It Online
By far the best song out of this package. Get It Online wouldn't fit on Electric really. It's a little bit too retro in sound (it's very Kraftwerk actually). Also, it's far more relaxed and less punchy than the Electric tracks. Like Entschuldigung lyrics are minimal. What's not minimal in Get It Online though are prominent Pet Shop Boys vocals. I have to say I love Neil's vocal work here, and the rather unusual vocal line/effects. It makes for interesting listening. Even addictive listening - Also the subject matter - the dominance of Internet culture - gives it the sort of universal appeal that Entschuldigung perhaps lacks. Not the best Pet Shop Boys B-side by any means, but a worthy addition.

Love Is A Bourgeois Construct (The Penelopes Remix Radio Edit)
Remixes of Pet Shop Boys songs always leave me with some degree with trepidation. Given some of the horrendous remixes that have surfaced on past singles, can you blame me really? Thankfully, this mix wasn't the worst I've heard. Much like the Night-time mix though, it was very ordinary. I did like the last minute of the track though, were it takes a more interesting direction. In fact if the music there comprised more of the mix I'd have liked it a lot more. As it stands, it's listenable but forgettable.

It's an average EP all round really, and the only track I can see myself listening to on a frequent basis is Get It Online. Later on I'll listen to the second bundle, titled Love Is A Bourgeois Construct Remixed. I'm slightly apprehensive about that though because it's got low ratings on Discogs. I'll be back later in any case.

Purchase Ponders: Tears For Fears - The Hurting (30th Anniversary Edition)

Another reissue (along with Nirvana's In Utero) that I'm very much looking forward to this year is that of Tears For Fears debut, The Hurting. I love Tears For Fears, they're perhaps the most underrated group of the 80s for me. I don't have The Hurting at all though, just the deluxe edition of Songs From The Big Chair. A good thing really, seeing as this reissue is being released at the end of October. Anyway, the four disc edition of The Hurting looks very expansive. The first disc is the album remastered, then the second contains various single versions, extended versions and B-side tracks. Those two discs are being released as a two disc deluxe version. Then there's disc three on the deluxe, which comprises of radio sessions and live tracks. The DVD is the concert film In My Mind's Eye: Live At Hammersmith Odeon (filmed December 1983) which has only been available on VHS until now. All together, the four disc version is priced at £33 on Amazon UK currently. It's admittedly quite dear for a deluxe edition of one album. I'm weighing up what version to get. To be honest, I'll most likely get the four disc one. I've never heard/seen any of the live material, nor the B-sides though. In the next few days, I'm gonna watch In My Mind's Eye and the John Peel sessions (if I can find them), then I'll know for sure what to go for. Frankly though the concert performance would need to utterly stink to put me off however. I don't think that's very likely to happen. It's Tears For Fears after all, I have high expectations. Also - on a purely superficial level it looks beautiful. You can tell I love deluxe editions, can't you?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

First impressions: Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks.

So, I've had a chance to listen to the first of my highly anticipated batch of September albums. Nine Inch Nails most recent offering, Hesitation Marks being the album in question. I don't know a huge deal of Nine Inch Nails material. The only other album of theirs I've heard in full is their debut, Pretty Hate Machine, which I really like. I love them when they're more melodic, but some of their material is simply too heavy for me. I guess you say I was greeting the news of their new album with a degree of hesitation (pun intended). They were worries that were quickly put to rest. After being blown away by Came Back Haunted, and later Copy Of A, I simply couldn't wait to hear the album in full. I have to say - I really liked it! To be honest, Copy Of A and Came Back Haunted do remain the stand-outs for me, but that's not to say the album tracks were poor. Honestly I would have been very surprised if the album had have sustained the quality of those two songs all the way through. To be honest, I doubt there's a more accessible Nine Inch Nails album. I guess that may make the album unpopular with more hard-nosed fans. For me though, it's good. It's more melodic than a barrage of harsh electronics, which is a-okay in my book. I liked every song, Find My Way is growing on me in particular. Everything and Satellites being other standouts. The only two I felt were borderline filler were In Two and While I'm Still Here. The irony being? They were the tracks on which Lindsey Buckingham (from Fleetwood Mac) played guitar. I have to admit - I'm surprised at that. I would have guessed he featured on Everything in all honesty. Oh well, brownie points for featuring Lindsey all the same; I do love Fleetwood Mac (and his guitar skills). I'm definitely going to purchase Hesitation Marks at some point, it's a very good album. I'm very much at the beginning stages of my investigation into Nine Inch Nails work, but Hesitation Marks leaves me very much looking forward to delving further into Trent Reznor's alternate world.

Collection: Two lovely unexpected Joe Strummer items.

Yesterday, my Amazon order arrived. My definite last one until next week when the Madonna MDNA Tour and The Clash new releases start arriving. This one actually comprises two (somewhat) rare Joe Strummer items. Last week I was originally planning to order some Clash items on a site I discovered called Punk Rock Shop. Although when I was on Amazon I discovered I could get A Permanent Record for much the same price. It's a limited edition book, so I could imagine in time it would become pretty rare. It was a book I had been after too. It's by Julien Yewdall and is a black and white photography book. He met Joe in 1974 and captured some beautiful shots of The 101ers and early photographs of The Clash. The vast majority are unseen. Worth every penny. Earthquake Weather was the really unexpected one. Along with The Future Is Unwritten soundtrack and the Let's Rock Again! DVD it had been a notable absentee from my collection. That was until my preferred Amazon seller - Zovestocks - finally got a copy of it in last week. I wasn't planning on ordering anything but I simply had to order it as soon as I saw it. In over six months of searching I've never seen a copy from a trusted seller on Amazon. I've never even seen a copy of it that falls below the £20 mark. Due to rarity (it sold poorly and has never been reissued) I figured I'd have to fork out £20 for it eventually. As it stands I actually paid substantially less because Zoversocks are very cheap. To be honest I never thought I would get the album because it's long out of print and copies of it are becoming increasingly rare. It's the same with the Bob Gruen photography book too. I'm rather bowled over that I've ended up with two of the potentially more tricky items to locate from my Clash/Joe Strummer want-list. Hopefully, I can have similar luck with the Bob Gruen book!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Reviewed: Foster The People - Machu Picchu (The Strokes Cover)

Definitely one of the best cover versions I've heard in a while! This is Foster The People taking on Machu Picchu, which is originally by The Strokes. You can find The Strokes' original version on their 2011 album Angles, where it serves as the opening track to the record. As for Foster The People's version - it's from BBC's Radio 1 Live Lounge 2012 compilation.  As for their reasons for covering the song, Mark Foster (rather humorously) offered this by means of an explanation: "The song title sounds like a Pokemon character". I'm not kidding, although he does have a point. More seriously though he did go on to say "It's a rock song we wanted to flip on its head." as well as wanting to give it more of a "psychedelic" feel. I have to agree with him there - Foster The People's version is more psychedelic, especially the last minute or so. The ending is rather different from the original actually. I don't really like the ending of The Strokes version to be honest. It's just too harsh when the song should have a more relaxed arrangement. Other than that though the two versions aren't too dissimilar from the other. It's a rather faithful re-working for the most part really. The original just sounds a fraction more hard hitting, particularly the guitars. As for my preferred version I definitely prefer Foster The People's take on it. It just sounds more natural. In fact, had I not been informed that it was a cover version, I'd have just assumed it was a Foster The People original. The song fits their style with effortless ease. Not only that but it sounds so organic. It's as if their version is the way it originally should have sounded. The vocals are also great too - I love Mark Foster's voice on record but live he's even better still. To be honest, the whole group sound even better live than they do in the studio (and I loved Torches). A fabulous effort indeed; now hurry up and announce the sophomore album!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

New band of interest: Jaws

Birmingham's definitely having a good year music wise. There's definitely a burgeoning scene developing there. There's even a term for it now: B-town. I must say I find that title to be a total embarrassment. Just.... why?  It's not even accurate - Birmingham is a city, not a town for a start. Not only that but the term B-town doesn't even begin to describe the music these bands produce. Which is a lot better than the term B-town itself, thank goodness. Spearheading this wave of music are Peace and Swim Deep. Another group that hail from Birmingham who have particularly grabbed my attention though are Jaws. So earlier, I listened to their debut EP, titled Milkshake.

Released in April of this year, I've only discovered Jaws thanks to the issue of NME released two weeks ago. They were featured in an article about smaller bands worth checking out at the then upcoming 2013 Reading & Leeds Festival. I listened to their Milkshake EP in earnest. It's a compilation actually; comprising all A-sides and corresponding B-sides released by the band up until that point. They have released a subsequent single called Gold though. As for Milkshake, I have to say I really liked it and I'm excited for what the future holds for these guys. Their greatest strength lies in their versatility. Opening track Breeze rolls along at a brisk pace and is very jangly indie-pop in style not to mention uplifting. The second song, Donut however is much more distorted in sound and echoes the sounds of bands like The Jesus and Mary Chain. There's even echoes of shimmery synths on one or two tracks, like Surround You, for good measure. All throughout though elements of melancholy can be found though, mainly in the vocals. I actually found the vocal stylistically similar to New Order's Bernard Sumner. They both have that cold and detached, yet youthful sort of sound. There is a definite mix of styles on Milkshake though, and I wouldn't be surprised that the only way is up for this latest group from Birmingham.

First listens: Franz Ferdinand's latest offering and Joni Mitchell's debut.

Got a load of posts to do today so I'm starting early. I had been meaning to write this yesterday actually, but it totally slipped my mind. I've been having a lot of memory lapses lately actually - I put it down to being exceptionally tired. This increased physical activity is bound to be the root cause. Anyway, I listened to two albums yesterday, both new to me. They very much contrasted too, both in style and the time period they're from. Without further adieu, here they are.

Firstly, a just released album. Franz Ferdinand's fourth record, Right Thoughts Right Words Right Action. It was released August 26th here in the UK. I have to say, I found it a really pleasant listen. Very much in style with their previous records, but very enjoyable. Particular favorites being Love Illumination, Stand On The Horizon and Bullet. I liked every song though. At around thirty-five minutes in length it's also straight to the point and not weighed down by access padding. I'll be honest - the album isn't innovative nor a radical progression from their previous material. At the same time though they've honed their snappy, polished indie-pop expertly on this album. What it lacks in innovation, it more than makes up in enjoyable music. And I do place greater emphasis on the enjoyment factor of a record. There may not be an experimental track like Lucid Dreams here, but does it really matter?

The second album was totally different. Totally the opposite end of the musical spectrum. It was Song To A Seagull, the 1968 debut by Joni Mitchell. Honestly, I have to thank Simon & Garfunkel for this. It's not that they've made me a folk fan but they definitely opened the genre up to me more. I decided to investigate Joni Mitchell simply because I've heard rave reviews about her. I thought the album was pretty good. It didn't knock me out, but I definitely want to keep investigating her work more. My favorite tracks were I Had A King, Night In The City and Song To A Seagull. I did prefer the first half to the second half. Also my interest did start to wane slightly towards the end, but the songs I liked I loved. Initially I was dubious about listening to a full length album primarily because of her voice. I thought it would potentially grate on me if I were to listen to a whole album. Thankfully I have to say her voice is growing on me the more I listen to her! I'm particularly interested to here her more jazz influenced material on Court & Spark. Not only that but - the synthesizer nut that I am - I'm looking forward to hear her electronic material on Dog Eat Dog. I think she could become a favorite in all honesty!

So that's me for now - I do have quite a few posts to come today though so this won't be the last you hear from me. See you later!