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New releases 27 September 2010

A bumper crop this week as bands gear up for the pre-Christmas rush. Yes – it’s that time already.  Deerhunter (pictured) release their new album ‘Halcyon Digest’ to much expectation. It’s joined by Mark Ronson’s new album ‘Record Collection’, as well as a disappointing new release from Neil Young (‘Le Noise’) and the return of Tricky (‘Mixed Race’). Continue reading

You only hear what you want to hear

Two friends of mine attended MGMT‘s Glasgow shows this week. Friend #1 was left deeply unimpressed by what she saw:

“They were dreary. They looked like they would rather be anywhere but on stage and listening to the stuff from their second album was like watching Stars in Your Eyes as each song sounds like they are ripping off a different band. They need to decide who and what they are and stick to it

It was like watching five or six different bands on stage with most of them being pretty shit.”

Yet Friend #2 was far more upbeat, reporting:

Show was great – the set was fab, they played a good selection off both albums plus a Jesus and Mary Chain cover. They were really having a good time on stage, and were very interactive with the audience – much more so than any of their previous gigs. The applause at the end of their set was deafening.”

Continue reading

The Wednesday What’s New – Tame Impala

Psychedelic music, when done well, is astonishing. Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Moby Grape, Spiritualized Electric Mainline…wonderful, life-affirming pieces of astral magnificence. You neither needed to be there or on drugs to enjoy them. But it’s become an abused term, as so many bands lacking both talent and discipline have decided – usually when off their tits on strong, decent quality narcotics – that they had to, like, push the boundaries and experiment. So many atrocities are commited in the name of psych-rock. One only needs to look at the clusterfuck that was MGMT’s last album.

So it’s nice to be able to bring you some really great psychedelic music. Tight, strange and tuneful, this is ‘Solitude is Bliss’ by Tame Impala. The debut single from their new album InnerSpeaker, it’s a superb, rolling pop song with its head in the clouds. Enjoy.

What’s Going On – News Nuggets

Much like the beat, news from the world of rock and pop just can’t be stopped. And much like the feeling, we just can’t fight it. So instead we just report it. Here’s all the stuff you need to know.

You actually don’t. Not really. What, we look like Kate Adie to you? Continue reading

MGMT – Glasgow Barrowlands

Hmmmnn. If ever a band were an enigma wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a garish jacket, then it’s MGMT. From arriving earlier this year with the superb single ‘Time To Pretend’ it’s been difficult to make up your mind about them. Half of debut album ‘Oracular Spectacular’ instantly grabs you as being the most exciting stuff you’ve heard in years, while the other half takes ages to reveal itself. On their June tour, they were a perplexing mix of wonderful and wank, superb pop songs interspersed with pointless wig-outs and self-indulgent jamming.

The Barrowlands, it must be said, is not a venue which lends itself to posturing. A last-century ballroom in a very rough part of Glasgow – outside resembles Saigon circa 74 – it has a unique charm, a sprung floor and great acoustics. there is also an overwhelming smell of cooked meat, but we’ll let that pass. The band take to the stage looking a lot more like a proper rock band than the kids playing dress-up we saw in June. Hell, the guitarist looks like he wants to be in Slayer.

They’ve a lot to be confident about; the album has shifted units, and for those who prize such things, Andrew Van Wyngarden has made it into the Top 5 of the NME’s Cool List. (He has also made one of our regular contributors 5 ‘Celebrities Allowed to Sleep With’ Laminated list, an honour in itself.)

But being MGMT, they can’t do the easy thing. We’re started by a couple of perfectly decent, perfectly executed album tracks which are fine. Again, a bit of a tendency to jam with no real intent comes through, but by the time ‘Weekend Wars’ starts, with it’s keyboard refrain which is eerily reminiscent of Granddaddy, they have stepped up a gear.

‘Time To Pretend’ is simply brilliant, bulked out and shaking the whole venue. ‘Electric Feel’ is a terrific pop song, like David Byrne writing the soundtrack for a film about Studio 54. There are a few new tracks which sound in the embryonic stage before a superb rendition of ‘The Handshake’.

The band go off, then deliver a rousing performance of new single ‘Kids’. However, those of us who have checked the schedule coming in know that they have 15 minutes worth of time left, no songs left to play and we’ve seen this before; yes, it’s the interminable 15 minute keyboard based jam! Seriously, why do bands to this? It’s self-indulgent piffle and if anything, actually takes away from the momentum they’ve built up in the last 75 minutes. If you want to pleasure yourselves lads, so it in private, eh?

So a very difficult band to make head or tail of. When they are good, they are very, very good and when they are bad they are horrid. Luckily they are more the former than the latter tonight.

MGMT – Edinburgh Liquid Rooms

Artifice – ar·ti·fice – noun
1.a clever trick or stratagem; a cunning, crafty device or expedient; wile.

MGMT on record are an interesting hotchpotch of different music styles, a rich of fusion of sounds and ideas. As they emerge, the suspicion that they are still playing at the rock star thing rather than living it lingers; the keyboard players is dressed as a tribute to Boy George, Wedding Singer-style, the bassist looks like Dr. Teeth, the singer has a 70’s style headband and the bassist drew the short straw and has to wear the Hair Bear bunch perm. It’s almost as if they got together and drew lots as to which 70’s cliché they should play. As they launch into ‘Electric Feel’ they resemble nothing so much as the fictional band ‘Stone The Crows’ from ‘Almost Famous’.

The gig, in keeping with MGMT up till now, is a curious mix. When they are good, they are very, very good. ‘Electric Feel’ is fantastic, slinky and sexy, causing the sell-out crowd to get sweatier. ‘The Handshake’ is a stomping, yelping beast of a song live, all sinewy elegance and crunching guitars. When they are bad, however….well, they really are. Too many songs sound like tossed-off Bowie tributes. A ten-minute cosmic jam set-closer is interminable. Indeed, MGMT’s biggest problem at this point in their career is that they don’t know who they are yet, and sometimes are too busy taking time to pretend that they are their idols than simply being themselves.

But, and it is a big but, when they get it right, they really do. There hasn’t been a better song released this year than ‘Time to pretend’ and I’m not sure there will be. Set closer ‘Kids’ is fantastic, a twisted Disney song bounced along by a twinkly electric beat. Even at that, the band try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by launching into a ‘spontaneous’ three-keyboard widdle before leaving the stage. Less is more, lads.

Overall, an interesting gig by an interesting band. Lots and lots of potential here, but not the finished article yet. And, if I can be so bold, I strongly suggest that their record company employs a stylist.

MGMT – ‘Oracular Spectacular’ Review

I don’t cook a lot, but one of the things I know is to be careful how many ingredients you put in. Not enough and it’s too bland; too many and it can be a bit of a mess. The key to a great meal is to get it just right. It’s a rare talent. it’s why we let celebrity chefs on TV rather than treating them the way we treat the guy who flips the burgers in McDonalds.

Musically, MGMT have gone for a lot of ingredients. Indeed, sometimes on ‘Oracular Spectacular’ it’s a case of spot-the-influence as they go hurtling past. There’s a pinch of Flaming Lips, a lot of Bowie, some Scissors Sisters-sounding disco, a soupcon of the Beatles more far out Eastern experimentation, a knob of early Roxy Music and even a dash of Grandaddy’s more widdly sonic inclinations. All topped off with a lightly-baked crust of Jagger-inflected vocals. And some of it is very, very good. When they get it right, it’s delicious. When they get it wrong, it’s jam. And in music, jam is much more fun for the musicians than the kids. Think of those godawful fuckabouts at the start of Jools Holland.

Opener ‘Time to Pretend’ is surely one of the singles of the year, if anyone cares about such things anymore. It’s just brilliant; a multi-coloured kaleidoscope of a thing, going all over the place and still staying in shape. A great lyric too, reflecting on the pitfalls of stardom but the inevitability of wanting it. And in ‘let’s get some heroin and fuck with the stars’ they have a slogan for a t-shirt I’d buy. Similarly, ‘Electric Feel’ is a pulsing bit of noughties disco, ‘Kids’ is just a great song to get down to and ‘Weekend Wars’ cleverly sends up weekend drug warriors. After that, a lot of the tracks rush by in much of a muchness. On some, like ‘Pieces of What’, there’s just too much going on for your head to take it all in. Some of the songs, while never lapsing into unlistenable, are just too jumbled to sit together as great songs. The second half of the album also sounds samey, which the first does not. The exception to this is ‘The Handshake’ a creepy little Disney tune twisted just that one part left of the dial. Very reminiscent of Grandaddy’s ‘He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot’ it’s the last hurrah of an album full of great songs, but not a great album. And let’s face it, MGMT won’t be the last band to topload their debut.

But that’s a point to be remembered – it is their debut, and one they can be proud of. There is a lot going on with this band, and a lot of potential on display. You emerge after an enjoyable listening experience thinking that their next one might well be THE one. Definitely a band to keep an eye on, if not quite Michelin starred just yet.