Posted: April 21st, 2009, by Marceline Smith
(Originally posted September 2003)
Some albums I have downloaded, loved momentarily and then tossed aside without a second thought, never to be listened to again.
The Mars Volta – De-Loused in the Comatorium
To begin with, a brilliant sprawling wailing mess of crazy madness, twitching and staggering its way through a solidly pretentious concept. Boredom eventually sets in waiting for the damn songs to just, y’know, START. Someone should cut out all the good bits and stick them together to make the best 20 minute song ever.
The Faint – Danse Macabre
Always a sucker for bouncy keyboards, foghorn effects, bleepy noises and showing off, The Faint were bound to have some attraction for me. Their gigs the other year with Trail of Dead showed them to be boomingly loud eighties disco goth fun and thus, I assumed, tinny and crap on record. Luckily not though, and Agenda Suicide and Glass Danse (those titles!) in particular sound HUGE. Sooner or later though, it all feels so, so empty. Plus it’s EIGHTIES GOTH DISCO. What was I thinking?
The Postal Service – Give Up
Look! It’s the emo guy from Death Cab for Cutie singing his aww-ain’t-it-cute observational lyrics over some blip-blip bumpy electronica! What a fantastic idea! Well, apart from this song which is a bit lame. And, well, this one too. And, well, all of them except the spunky girl/boy duet. That’s pretty neat. Okay, sick of this now.
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Posted: April 17th, 2009, by Marceline Smith
(Originally posted February 2003)
Righto. Another month, another …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead single to review. This month I have the European release of Another Morning Stoner [Interscope] which has the same tracklisting as the UK release but, get this, instead of three songs from the Peel session you get the same three songs but recorded for Dutch VPRO radio! What a stroke of marketing genius. I had to go to some lengths to get this, ordering online from a Swedish website. Nothing like entering your credit card details, skimming over some incomprehensible Swedish sentences and then clicking OK. Yes, I would like you to add three million kroner in Idiot Tax, thanks! So, is this a worthy addition to my stupidly excessive collection of TOD rarities bought for the express purpose of dragging out a column theme into a third year? Well, yes. Homage is riotous as ever with Jason screaming, wailing and drawling with his usual flailing abandon. Baudelaire I can never decide on. Some days it’s a great pop tune, other days it’s a just…there. This version sounds flat and the vocals hoarse and bored so it’s missing the spark. But don’t worry ‘cos we’ve still got Richter Scale Madness and it’s a topper of a version with Conrad rapping mid-song and some ferocious guitars. Not to mention an extended ending of squealing mentalism, crunched up disco drumming and the sound of broken equipment.
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Posted: April 14th, 2009, by Marceline Smith
(Originally posted November 2002)
Hah. I went out specially and bought the new …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead single so I could review it in last month’s column and then it all got a bit hectic and I never managed to write my column. At the time I couldn’t believe I was spending FIVE POUNDS on a slab of weird looking picture disc containing two songs I don’t even like. I’m listening to it now to see if I’ve changed my mind. Relative Ways I liked at first but I am so bored of it. And particularly when there’s literally three better single type songs on View > Source Code, as the album’s not called. Hardly set the charts alight either did it Interscope? eh eh? Great video though. Blade Runner is still an overlong piece of instrumental arsing about. Apparently there’s good stuff on the CD version including Hot Roman Scandal Action but I was so horrified by the horrendous cover art that I haven’t been able to bring myself to buy it as yet.
Right, onwards with the new stuff I have been sent which has been providing me with some much-needed new listening material since I still don’t have a job or any money. Sob etc.
So, hurrah for Econoline and their new album Music Is Stupid [Seriously Groovy]. I get thanked in this which is always a nice surprise, especially when I’ve done nothing to deserve it and even more so when I get can one over Simon Minter. Haha etc. I like Econoline a lot. They’re refreshingly straightforward which sounds like an insult but when there’s so much twiddling post rock and clever-clever instruMetal around it does your heart good. Full of fuzzy/loud/jangly guitars, and tunes, you won’t likely find a better indie rock guitar album this year. From the fast thrills of I’m Plagued to the impassioned epic-ness of EmV to the quirky dynamics of Buddy Bradley it’s quality through and through. Somehow you get the feeling that the only reason the NME hasn’t gone mental for Econoline is because they haven’t got interesting enough hair.
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Posted: April 10th, 2009, by Marceline Smith
(Originally posted August 2002)
This month’s Trail of Dead record is entitled Murray Street and damn great it is. Oh no, hang on, this is Sonic Youth. hohohoHO, I kill myself sometimes. Aye, so I haven’t bought any Trail of Dead records this month: no albums, laser discs, 8 track cartridges or 7″ biscuits. I haven’t bought a Sonic Youth album in years. Jet-Set Trash and No Star was the last one though I’ve got A Thousand Leaves on tape somewhere. You know why I stopped buying ’em. Yep, All Tomorrows Parties 2000. Sorry to harp on about this but it wasn’t even a studied decision. I didn’t come out of that set vowing never to buy a Sonic Youth record ever again. But maybe it was like aversion therapy. I reach out to pick up a Sonic Youth album and my instincts go ‘NOOOOOO!!’ and I stop short. So, whatever. I wanted this new record, I wanted to go see ’em play London. Money prevented both. Luckily Simon’s whining in his last column got us a copy and so here we are.
Murray Street, as you may have heard, is a return to form. And Sonic Youth really can’t win here. They play a set of avant-garde boundary pushing stuff and we all complain, they play all the hits and everyone digs it but kind of feels pandered to, wondering where the challenge is. Same with the records. We want a return to form, a stop to the Wire-adored side projects and collaborations. And when we get it we think, hey, this is Sonic Youth on auto-pilot. Where’s my challenge? But maybe we should quit complaining and just enjoy ‘cos this is the most fun straight up classic pop album you could want. There’ll be some avant stuff round the corner, take some time off for quick kicks. And, hey, if it’s Sonic Youth by numbers [which is isn’t really, but if it was] then it’s Sonic Youth by numbers. And it’s time to stare out those indie upstarts with a copy of Daydream Nation in one hand and Dirty in the other and say, yeah, Sonic Youth soundalikes? You wish! I’m not going to go through this album in detail – it’s got every cute little guitar trick you’d expect, all those heart-stopping quirks and sparks, the drawling and the sprawling and the tunes, the tunes! If you’ve not bought a Sonic Youth album in a while then go get this and get back in. If you’ve not got any Sonic Youth then here’s a damn good place to start. And next time Sonic Youth visit Scotland can they do a proper show instead of playing third on the bill of the little tent at the hell that is T in the Park? Why why why did they do that?
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Posted: April 7th, 2009, by Marceline Smith
(Originally posted July 2002)
Token Trail of Dead record of the month is a tiny wee five inch vinyl single for promotional use only. It’s the size of a normal cd and only has about one inch of grooved vinyl. Awwww. Unsurprising then, that they’ve chosen two of their shortest songs for this; the riotrock Homage and the gentle brooding Relative Ways Segue. This would be a cute little promotional idea if it wasn’t for the fact that most record players won’t play them!! A concept only a major label would think up – promotional records you can’t actually listen to. Way to go Interscope…
So onto the real stuff. Since I haven’t actually bought any records in the last month I’m actually going to listen to some of the stuff I’ve been sent recently. Oh no, real work!
But then it’s not really work when you get given stuff by good bands for free. So let’s start with Fighting Red Adair who went down a storm at the diskant 020202 gig and have been kicking up a racket in the venues of Glasgow rather a lot lately. Aural Exciter [SSB] is their first release and has a massive seven tracks which is their entire set surely. FRA are part quirky, part straight -the song structure is odd enough to keep things interesting and tuneful enough to appeal across the board with a generalised american ROCK style. Muckraker opens up with some searing metallic guitars and you know they’re badmouthing you when they mutter under their breath. They know it too so they drop the disguise and go full on metal screamout crazy. The instrumental Gatekeeper has a slowly swaggering bassline with chipped guitars and an impressive show of don’t give a fuck eyebrow raising confidence. Killing Line of the Just has a nice line in dual hollering and menacing bassline and Mega-Meat is just mental, managing to fit in about four different tunes, some sinister mutterings and some head battering backup. Nice graphic art style sleeve too. Out soon so get queuing.
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Posted: April 3rd, 2009, by Marceline Smith
(Originally posted May 2002)
The real reason this month’s issue of the diskant ZINE was delayed is of course because the deadline was three days before the new Trail of Dead single was released and I didn’t know how else to start my column.
So, Trail of Dead, they’re fantastic live and to equal this their records would have to jump off your turntable and run riot around your room before kicking over your stereo, stealing your whisky and fighting with some dustbunnies on the carpet. That makes Another Morning Stoner [the Interscope Corporation of America] a bit of a letdown really as it does none of these things even after I taunted it and offered it high quality drugs. Yeah, actually, I haven’t even bought it yet. I’ve tried two record stores so far and neither had it. Nice sleeve though eh?
Okay, I’ve got it now, both formats, chart return shop etc. So let’s slip the walnut coloured vinyl on to my stereo. Another Morning Stoner is still such a good ‘just woke up’ song, the woozy guitars tripping over themselves and Conrad sounding just a little disorientated. Aw. The b-sides are all Peel session songs spread over the formats so the 7″ gets Homage sounding oddly clean and sparky. Where’s the dirt, man? S’weird. Buy this for the FREE POSTER though of our boys looking like teen girl poster pinups. Oh Yes. The CD version is a fancy interactive thing – oooooh. Golly, you can watch the video [which is an ace collage of stuff from the Astoria, Peel Session, Columbia Hotel and arty places in Paris] and it has hilarious desktop wallpaper. The session songs on here are much better – Baudelaire being almost better for the clear vocals and Richter Scale Madness sounding awesome. Big loud guitars, hollering, whooping, thumping drums and one of their best songs ever. Kill! Kill! etc. “Did we pass the audition?”, asks Neil [probably] after? hahaha. I mean, yes.
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Posted: March 31st, 2009, by Marceline Smith
(Originally posted April 2002)
Well, it wouldn’t be a column by me if it didn’t begin with some over-enthusiasms about …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead so it’s lucky for me that there’s a copy of the new album Source Tags & Codes welded to my cd player. First album for Interscope and the major label thing seems to be working well for them, giving them some much-needed cash to make the album they’ve always intended to make. The very first song knocks your socks off, It Was There That I Saw You storming in all guns blazing only to slow into the most beautiful reflective interlude with softly thumping drums and strings and then building back up. And it’s only just starting things off. There’s almost too many good songs on here and every song stands up on its own as a highlight of the album. That’s pretty surprising for a band that has three singers and songwriters, each with their own style. Also makes it very difficult to review this album as I feel unable to leave any songs out here but I must or you’ll all die of boredom and I’ll miss the deadline. Trail of Dead have such a way with a melody and a lovelorn vocal; Another Morning Stoner aches with infectious minor key melodies, catching you up in a sun-warmed dream and the closing title track has a soaring simplicity that clears your head and sets you back on your feet. Days Of Being Wild is passion stripped bare, Jason tearing his heart open while the music booms and swirls around him. And Interscope will be very happy with Relative Ways and Baudelaire which showcase TOD’s abilities with the storming pop rock hit. For me, it all comes together perfectly on How Near, How Far. The gleeful vocals and the intricacy and inventiveness of the drumming would normally be plenty enough but it also has the most beautiful layering. When it all drops out in the middle you can just hear the delicate echoes of strings complementing the guitars perfectly and it would make me cry if I was an even bigger wuss than I am. I told you they’d be the biggest band in the world one day. Now do you believe me?
As well as Trail of Dead, crazy garage punk Olympia band The Mukilteo Fairies managed to spawn a number of excellent new bands from its members including Rebecca Basye’s new band The Emerald Down who have an album out on PopSound called Scream The Sound. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a huge shoegazing fan in the early nineties and this album makes me feel more than a little nostalgic for my teenage years. There’s something about the chiming swirling guitars, lost in layers of effects that’s ever so comforting. The band they remind me of most is Slowdive, especially the echoing male/female vocals on Recondite Astral Traveller. Red Shift is pure dreampop but there’s also a darkness and a sadness through the songs that stops the album being just pretty-pretty. The vocals on Heavier Then Ether, Lighter Than Air are almost chilling in their understated power.
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Posted: March 27th, 2009, by Marceline Smith
(Originally posted February 2002)
I’ve decided to pick out my favourite ten records of 2001 otherwise I’d likely be here all month. As always happens, most of them were released in the last three months of the year but what are you going to do about it…
Fugazi ‘The Argument’ and ‘Furniture’ [Dischord]
The greatest band in the world ever. If Fugazi didn’t exist nobody would dare try to invent them. They’re always developing and yet always keeping their unmistakeable Fugazi sound. I’ll just pick out three songs. Opener Cashout is achingly heartfelt and political; emotive vocals over tumbling guitars. Guy’s Full Disclosure finds him gleefully screaming reams of unintelligable noise before slipping easily into complete POP mode complete with ‘ooh oohs’ and Ex-Spectator has enough guitars and hollering to keep me happy for a long time. And then, just to push the point right home, Fugazi casually released a single on the same day with the Repeater-era Furniture which was possibly the most fantastic reminder of how utterly utterly great Fugazi are when they kick out the hardcore guitars. It makes me laugh like crazy, it’s so great. I don’t know why I’m bothering to write about this really. If you don’t already own both these records you’re a fool. A fool who should be on their way to the record store. Now.
Hood ‘Cold House’ [Domino]
My favourite record of the year and my ultimate winter record. When I walk to work in the morning with the ice and the fog and the sun still struggling to rise in the sky, well, nothing soundtracks this better than Hood. There’s so many emotions here but mostly loss and regret and the changing of seasons. The sound is layered at times, bleakly sparse in others with the loveliest bits of piano and brass. The vocals sounded wrong on my first listen but soon became essential, cut up and treated to complement the understated beats. Take the final track You’re Worth The Whole World for example. The music could be one of Mogwai’s finer quieter moments, all drawn-out melodies and piano then on top of that the vocals seem to have been fed through an accordion adding a whole new oddly skewed angle to the song. Complicated electronic music never sounded so simple and natural.
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Posted: March 24th, 2009, by Marceline Smith
(Originally posted December 2001)
Last month I was whining about the wait for new stuff by …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead. Now, however, I have a shiny new copy of the Relative Ways/Homage EP [Interscope, US only] and I’ve stopped whining. Well, about this anyway. Relative Ways is very much on the catchy side of things, maybe even verging on a pop song. Conrad’s not singing about death destroy kill kill kill but instead about everything being alright and ok. and coming together in relative ways. But he’s also screaming himself hoarse with the emotion of it all and it works out like the next stage on from Mistakes and Regrets. You might get lulled into thinking, ‘well, it’s TOD but a properly recorded major label catchy TOD’ but look out! ‘cos Homage is about to smack you in the face in a hardcore punkrockriot. Always my favourite of the handful of new TOD songs heard live, it’s pretty much perfect on record with Jason’s Olympia garage punk past showing up loud and hard. Then to carry it on you get Blood Rites which is Conrad screaming over some Kill Rock Stars era Unwound guitars. If anyone says TOD have sold out then put this on and laugh in their face. Sadly the last track is an instrumental washout but hey, nothing’s perfect.
Mogwai had a couple of new records out recently which have been well worth money. The long-awaited live favourite My Father, My King on one track 12″ [Rock Action] may well be the record Mogwai are remembered for, the classic, essential get-this-one-first release. In 20 minutes it sums up Mogwai and everything that’s great about them, the statement and restatement of one simple motif, the build-up and the utter wonder of the noise. Steve Albini keeps it all clear and dangerously sharp so there’s no chance for Mogwai to meander too far and it all seems perfectly succint, 20 minutes being neither here nor there. No opportunity for John to try and break your hearing with waves of feedback either so definitely gets my vote. hah.
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Posted: March 20th, 2009, by Marceline Smith
(Originally posted October 2001)
At the moment I’m feverishly awaiting the new stuff by …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. Record label redtape looks like holding up the next album until January but let’s hope that’s not the case as it’s more than two years since TOD released a proper record in the UK. Either way there’s a single out next month which will feature my favourite of the new songs, Homage. They’ve been playing this one at their recent live dates and even let slip an MP3 demo copy to the fans. And it’s a stormer of a song – Jason’s trademark wailing sounding more urgent than ever as the guitars reach a frenetic pace trying to keep up to speed with the pounding drums. Which makes the little dips into downbeat thoughtfulness seem all the more unexpected.
If that’s not enough Jason Reece action to keep me happy [and, quite frankly, it isn’t] then there’s his gothic electronica side project A Roman Scandal. The single Lost in a Scandal [Paintcan Chandelierier] is enjoyable enough with it’s quietly muttered vocals and stuttering drums but for the real fun download the three MP3s from their website. Recorded live, they bubble and groove and you can just picture Jason drunkenly stumbling about like the crazy fool he is, ranting and whooping while the music whirls around him.
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