LCD Soundsystem – Big Ideas

A new LCD Soundystem tune is a big event for this blogger. This one has spread like wildfire over the internet, taken from the soundtrack to 21. The tracklist contains other such luminaries as MGMT, Broadcast, Amon Tobin and U.N.K.L.E. as well as Rihanna’s obnoxiously catchy Shut Up And Drive: a proper guilty pleasure that one. Anyway Big Ideas is more similar to LCD Soundsystem-era Murphy than the more recent stuff, and a darn sight more poppy too. Yes, it starts with skittery high hats and then a suitably flexible bassline joins in the fun, but apart from that this isn’t LCD-by-numbers. It finishes with a glitchy guitar sound, more akin to DFA cohorts Hot Chip, quite possibly Al Doyle’s influence there. Anyway, it is a good track, and nice to see that there is new stuff being produced.

The film borrows the true-story of a group of MIT students who employ a sophisticated card counting system to beat a big casino. I doubt it will be as good as the documentary aired by BBC Horizons last year that featured the actual perpetrators, but still.

Download here / Buy 21 OST here

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Frightened Rabbit – Head Rolls Off

Lead single from the Glaswegian group’s second LP The Midnight Organ Fight, due April 15 on the FatCat label. A great slab of good auld Scotch indie, very much in the vein of The Twilight Sad or reflecting Idlewild’s calmer moments. The single is up for grabs from March 3.

Download here / Buy here

Live Review: Los Campesinos! at Kingston Works

First things first, The Works is a dive. Housed in a cavernous space in the centre of teen-drinking capital, Kingston, the club looks like it is more used to nights of ‘banging’ house and bland Euro-trance than be-cardiganned indie hordes. Because of this, the stage is cramped and the sound is truly dreadful. On the upside, big kudos to Banquet for trying something like this in the otherwise barren music landscape that makes up South-West London.The first couple of bands grab my attention, but in the wrong way. The openers, 4 or 5 Magicians unfortunately sounded too bland, and their banter went on too long. Next up were Johnny Foreigner, who to be honest weren’t much better. The four people I’d dragged with me on the promise of good music were distinctly unimpressed, and we retired halfway through their set to a nearby quiz machine…

My credibility as a font of musical knowledge lay squarely in the seven Welsh laps of Los Campesinos! who thankfully did not let me down. Barely fitting on the tiny stage, they set about making a mockery of the soundsystem, glockenspiel notes ringing clearly through the fuzz, Gareth and Aleks yelping and soothing the lyrics. Already leaked to the net, and the band not seeming too mind too much, a great chunk of debut LP, Hold On Now, Youngster, was played and devoured by the enthusiastic crowd.

The singles-so-far provided the obvious highlights, Death to Los Campesinos! and International Tweexcore Underground sounded fantastic, with the undeniable pinnacle being reached with the superb You! Me! Dancing!.  The band ended with old favourite Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks ringing through the massive space, triumphant in the knowledge that their album, illegally gained or not, worked wonders live.

MP3: You! Me! Dancing!
Download here / Buy here

Hot Chip – Made In The Dark

Hot Chip return to a scene with high hopes for their third LP, distinctly new territory from that encountered when releasing 2006’s Mercury-nominated The Warning. That album was released to an audience largley unaware of their charms. Signing to DFA probably helped in the hipster stakes, but the massive expectancy surrounding Made in the Dark can largely be attributed to two huge singles: Over and Over and Boy From School. These two great tracks helped mask some of their parent album’s weaknesses: length, derivation and oh-so-clever lyrical flourishes.

Made in the Dark shares some of those weaknesses, certainly the album is a few tracks too long. Strange too, is the proliferation of slower tracks. Not all of them are bad, the title track is a sweet soul number, with a vocal playing to Alexis Taylor’s fragile delivery. In complete contrast, the record comes out of the traps at a breathless pace. Out At The Pictures and the two advance singles, Shake A Fist and Ready For The Floor are frenetic, itchy tunes; the kind of thing that the group does so well. I still have a problem with the middle of Shake A Fist, a little too much on the ‘cool’ side for me. Of course, Shake A Fist  finishes brilliantly with a fantastic menacing synth rush.

Hold On is one of the LP’s highlights, conforming to the scratchy guitar and disco bass formula, extending it with funk rhythms: as if they have been learning about building great dance tracks from their US label boss, James Murphy. Hold On props up the second half of the record, much as No Fit State did on The Warning. When Hot Chip fail, they do spectacularly: Wrestlers and Bendable Poseable are just poor, both suffering from weak production and questionable lyrics: does anyone need a song made up of wrestling terminology? Certainly, Wrestlers particularly contributes to the second half slump, common to the three LPs they have released thus far.

Which is a shame, as when Hot Chip are on form they are a great band. Indeed, there is much to like about Made in the Dark, especially the first half. I’m sure that Taylor and Goddard are aware of what people see Hot Chip’s strength as, and respect to them for attempting something different, something that bodes well for a productive future. That doesn’t help the feeling that they could have done better with this record, especially given the anticipation surrounding it and their obvious continued potential.

Live Review: Richard Hawley / Maps 12th February, Astoria

So, to the Astoria for (ashamedly) my first live show of the year. 2008 has kicked off to some promising new music (Black Mountain, Sons & Daughters, Blood Red Shoes) and also some disappointments (I’m looking at you Hot Chip), so it was going to be interesting what two of 2007’s highlights could offer up. These NME bashes are always a bit of a strange coming-together of acts, my first one back in 2002 saw one of the first London appearances of the Futureheads backing I Am Kloot and The Cooper Temple Clause. The Futureheads were awful. I Am Kloot and TCTC were amazing. Using this logic we decided to miss Vincent Vincent and The Villains, although I’m sure I caught them at the first Insomniac’s Ball and didn’t rate them.
Maps had created one of the most accomplished debut albums of 2007 with the excellent We Can Create, and having conspired to miss them at Reading was looking forward to finally catching them live. James Chapman and his live band had some way to go to recreate the intricate soundscapes of the record in a live setting, fielding an array of keyboards and electronic boxes to this end. The performance didn’t disappoint, the band launching straight in with album opener So Low, So High and continuing with a set drawing solely from his Mercury-nominated debut. The highlight, as with the LP, is the stomping It Will Find You, robbed of it’s scattered electronics ending yet still powerful, with the guitars and keys soaring and spiralling calling to mind My Bloody Valentine or Spritualized.
Richard Hawley, also Mercury-nominated, came to the velvet curtain backed stage oozing a 50s retro-style, replete with slicked back hair and sharp suit, band attired to match. A strange one this, a magazine (nay, comic) seemingly fixated on seeking the ‘new’ without care for quality, hosting a gig headed by a performer from without their demographic, playing music firmly rooted in tradition four decades past. Credit, then, to both NME for recognising quality beyond the age of 21, and to Hawley for taking it on with such gusto.

The air around the audience befitted the boudoir-style of the stage, couples in arms expectant of the bruised romance for which Hawley is famed. They got exactly that, opening appropriately with Valentine. Finishing that came our first glimpse of tonight’s secondary act, Hawley’s acerbic wit. Introducing Roll River Roll he claimed to have written it about the great Sheffield flood of 1864…In January of last year. “Never mind”, he continued, “at least all them people who won speedboats on Bullseye got some use outta them”. Fantastic banter, relayed in the kind of easy Yorkshire accent so affected by today’s Arctic Monkey-infatuated youth. More banted was inflicted upon a poor chap, off his rocker on Red Stripe, who attempted to engage in conversation in a break…”I don’t know what makes you tick”…”I hope it’s a fucking bomb” finally ended an escalating heckling session.

Back to the music, and the band certainly seemed to be having as much of a good time as the audience, belting out tune after tune of stories about addiction, unrequited love, Sheffield and sex. Highlights included recent single Tonight The Streets Are Ours, Hotel Room, The Sea Calls and aforementioned Roll River Roll. It was with seemingly genuine humility that Hawley bade his first goodbye, thanking the audience for choosing this gig out of such a wide choice. Indeed, it was a pretty last minute decision to plump for this rather than New Young Pony Club across at Koko. Hawley returned for an encore, accompanied only by an excellent harmonica player to begin with as they played a cover of Ricky Nelson’s Lonesome Town. The full band returned for three further tracks, culminating in a superb rendition of The Ocean from 2005’s Coles Corner LP.
A great performance then from Hawley and co, giving truth to the cliche that things improve with age. A shame not to hear too many tracks from my favourite LP, Lowedges, but as the man put it “This is my new album“; a barb towards the endlessly-wittering guestlisters that NME had probably brought along. It made a real change for a performance to be based around songcraft and musicianship rather than image and posturing, a band who actually looked like they were enjoying themselves. I hope the NME were paying attention, although I doubt it, they probably spent the night listening to be-cardiganned idiots whistling Grace Jones tunes in the lavatories thinking now this is new music

The Greatest Number 1s…Ever! Part 2: Atomic

As the 1970s gave way to the 80s, New Wave was splicing. Talking Heads had found African rhythms and Brian Eno. Blondie had gone in a different direction: disco. Moroder had stamped his authority over another of their hits, ‘Heart of Glass‘ and the style was evident still in this epic cut, although produced by longstanding producer Mike Chapman. The track is build around an instantaneous riff, driving disco bass,  siren-esque vocals, a blistering breakdown; ‘Atomic‘ not only represents a high-point for Blondie, this is simply one of the greatest dance tracks of all time. And my favourite ever number one.

Atomic‘ hit number one in the UK in February 1980, remaining at the summit for two weeks. This was pretty much Blondie at the peak of their chart powers, only four singles followed before an acrimonious split in 1982. The track came to my attention first through a cover by Britpop also-rans Sleeper, lifted from the soundtrack to Trainspotting, a version devoid of the creeping sense of danger the original posseses. The sheer brilliance of ‘Atomic‘ has been further spread by it’s inspired inclusion on GTA: Vice City, whose soundtrack encompasses the very best (and some of the worst!) sounds of the early 80s.

Download here

Blood Red Shoes – You Bring Me Down

 This week’s single of the week is a re-release of the great ‘You Bring Me Down‘ from Brighton duo Blood Red Shoes. Spiky guitars and a smooth vocal combine to make something akin to a young, slightly less angry Sleater-Kinney. As Drownedinsound suggest, there may not be much permanence to this song’s charms but for the minute I can’t get the refrain out of my head “I’m leaving, I’m leaving, I’m leaving…” out of my head. A full album is due out soon, something to look forward to I reckon.

Download here / Buy here