Heart Of Gold – Song Of The Day

Heart Of GoldNeil Young‘s only number 1 single to date, “Heart Of Gold” may not have been Young’s favourite of his (nor Bob Dylan‘s, for that matter) since it got so big it dragged him kicking and screaming into the mainstream. It’s still a good song, though, and although it’s been covered hundreds of times, it’s worth checking out Johnny Cash‘s take on it since it also includes The Red Hot Chili Peppers with John Frusciante being fab as ever.

Life On The Line – Song Of The Day

Fad GadgetAt his peak in the 80’s, experimental British New Wave artist Fad Gadget released the song “Life On The Line” as part of his 1982 album Under The Flag which included backing vocals from Alison Moyet. The album was full of the monotone vocals, social commentaries and inventive electronic sounds the band did so well and that particular song was and is just too cool to miss. If that one doesn’t make you go back and check out Fad Gadget’s stuff, I’ll be very f***ing surprised.

Distortion – Album Review

Distortion

Bad albums from The Magnetic Fields are sure hard to find so an album called Distortion which would purposely distort most of its songs sounded like this could possibly be their first misstep.

I mean, there’s no way that an album filled to the brim with feedback could be any good, right?

…right?

Distortion opens with “Three-Way”, a playful instrumental intro with the odd rocky break and people shouting “Three-way!” every so often. It’s random but it sets the tone rather well, plus it gets us used to this new intentionally distorted sound. Singer Shirley Simms then takes on the satirical “California Girls” which amusingly gets darker and bloodier as it goes on. It’s catchy, pretty funny and kinda genius.

This album already looks set to be pure Magnetic Fields wit and inventive musical experimentation and we’re only like two songs in!

“Old Fools” is a slower song sung by Stephin Merritt and it’s a pretty but melancholic one with a sad vibe throughout. It feels like a long, serious, pensive march with Merritt’s usual dark vocal tones making it sound both sinister and hopeful somehow. “Xavier Says” is next and it’s a softer track sung by Simms this time. It’s an enjoyable listen even if the simple melody is supported by all that white noise.

Merritt opens the next one, “Mr Mistletoe”, with some poetic vocals before the song develops into what sounds like a gloomy, depressing Christmas tune. Luckily, the lyrics and melody are spot-on as ever. We’re then back in rockier territory with “Please Stop Dancing”, one of the best tracks on the album and one you could imagine being even cooler covered by a fast-paced punk band. Merritt and Simms both take it in turns to sing this nonchalant little anthem.

“Drive On, Driver” starts off almost like a soft country song with its slow, regular beats and Simms and Claudia Gonson’s vocals harmonising this road trippin’ tune. It’s the closest the band comes to a straight-up folk song on the album. Stephin Merritt opens “Too Drunk To Dream” a capella before this upbeat yet morose love song about boozing to avoid dreaming kicks in. Suffice it to say that it’s pretty awesome.

“Till The Bitter End” is a darker, infinitely more gothic song and Simms’ soft vocals work perfectly with the with the guitar’s occasional blunt appearances. Mr Merritt then gets to be a bit of a crooner with “I’ll Dream Alone”, another heartbreaking love song and my personal favourite track on the album. The song beautifully develops into a genuinely charming, if sad, chorus. It’s, quite simply, a gem and proves just how versatile the band can be: one second clearly joking around, the next showing up with a sweet, heartfelt song you’ll want to listen to over and over again.

Simms sings the ironic “The Nun’s Litany” with its catchy melody and its clever lyrics. It’s similar in tone to “California Girls” in that sense. Of course, the whole thing is still very much bathed in distortion. “Zombie Boy” is moodier, rockier and boasts a glam feel despite not being synth-based whatsoever. Somehow, The Magnetic Fields have managed to channel some New Wave swagger without going down the electro route and it makes for a unique, really cool song. The album ends with “Courtesans”, a soft, nostalgic track with a pretty melody and a reflective tone.

As you might have already guessed from this review so far, The Magnetic Fields have, indeed, pulled it off once again delivering a very good album that’s truly one of a kind. Distortion may be about as distorted as it gets but it’s so well written and the songs are so cleverly put together that it all blends in together perfectly and you quickly welcome its bold, risky concept.

Is it the band’s very best? That’s debatable, but it’s certainly right up there with some of their best work.

That’s 4 well earned Ziggies out of 5.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

Ballade De Melody Nelson – Song Of The Day

Melody NelsonBack in 1971, Serge Gainsbourg released his concept album Histoire De Melody Nelson along with a trippy mini movie regrouping all the songs into a sort of short 28 minute long video musical. It was experimental, sexy as hell and it included some of the artist’s best and moodiest work: the whole thing was like a very American film noir but in French and with a risqué Lolita-style plot. It was very cool then and it still is very cool now. All the songs on the album are well worth listening to but “Ballade De Melody Nelson” is definitely a good place to start.

Classic stuff.

Neighborhoods – Album Review

blink182

About 8 years following the disappearance of Blink-182 from everyone’s radar, the band finally decided to reunite and work on a new album: that album was 2011’s Neighborhoods.

The reviews were mixed for this one so let’s see if that’s justified or if some critics just didn’t get it.

The album opens with “Ghost On The Dance Floor” and a long but effective, fast-paced intro leads us to more familiar territory as we recognise the band’s style pretty much straight away. The chorus stands out as one of the best on the album and injects a dose of sadness to a tune which, it has been suggested, was possibly written with the untimely death of friend of the band DJ AM in mind. “Natives” is another energetic track which begins with a busy, hyper intro. It quickly develops into a moody, almost Placebo-esque angst-filled tune with an ironically calm chorus which somehow works surprisingly well.

“Up All Night” is the first single to be released from the album and it does build up interestingly with a more electronic sound mixed in with heavier riffs and clean vocals. The track works in waves, going faster or slower here and there and not necessarily in the expected places. A moodier chorus could have elevated this one to a more uniformly good song but I guess the fact it’s experimental is kind of the point so overall it does what it set out to do pretty well. A paced drum beat opens the more chilled-out “After Midnight” and, frankly, it’s a weird one to have released as a single seeing as the album includes far better, catchier songs. The chorus here is anti-climactic and simply lacks bite.

As for “Snake Charmer”, it crawls in with a sinuous bass and drums-led intro as a cool, heavy riff kicks in promising to be the perfect concert track. Unfortunately, the verses and chorus are far whinier than they probably should have been and you get a samey feel from the song in general. That said, the rockier parts are admittedly entertaining. The sixth song on the album is an atmospheric, vocals-less intro to the next track and it makes a fair transition.

We get a heavier, rockier start straight away with “Heart’s All Gone” and it looks set to be a genuinely worthy, punky tune… until the way too light and emo chorus. It ends up feeling not convincingly edgy despite brilliant work from drummer Travis Barker and the trio in general who are always musically sound at least.

Then comes “Wishing Well”, the real hit (and should-have-been single) of the album: it’s pure Blink-182 complete with a playful sing-a-long bridge and a very catchy chorus. It’s possibly the most memorable and consistent song on the album, probably because it develops well and ends up being ultimately a lot of fun. Another decent tune follows, “Kaleidoscope”, and this time we get Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge working together on the vocals more directly. It’s a typical track from the band but in a good way.

Now, if you like your songs packed with meaningless sounds like “ah ah aye” and “high ho” then the next track, “This Is Home”, is the track for you. It’s not bad (if nothing special) but it does sound like it was half written by the Seven Dwarves, which is a tad distracting. The beautifully titled “MH 4.18.2011″ (originally meant to be called “Hold On”) sadly never really takes off so the more serious lyrics don’t really have an impact. This is the kind of track that Green Day, like it or not, can pull off really well and although the song does have some nice parts here and there it’s sort of forgettable.

“Love Is Dangerous” goes for a different beat and, armed with a memorable chorus, it somehow manages to be one of the best songs on the album even if I’m still not sure what the hell “Love is DANGEROHS” means. It could just be DeLonge’s odd pronunciation of that last word, though, I don’t know…

“Fighting The Gravity” is a slower, more experimental, still rather angsty track which inventively uses the words ‘This makes no sense’ as a recurring backing motif. Incidentally, the song is a bit messy. Finally, we end on “Even If She Falls”, a track very reminiscent of the band’s past hit “All The Small Things”. It’s an entertaining track and its familiarity should make fans of the old stuff nostalgic as it really is 100% Blink-182 all the way.

Well well, what to make of Neighborhoods?

Funnily enough, the album benefits from repeat listens. I’ll admit I wasn’t a big fan upon hearing it for the first time but a few songs on the album have grown on me over time so I could see fans of the band have a good time with this one. Actually, while uneven, the album is a very solid comeback album for Blink-182 with some hidden hits in there and promising new touches.

However, Neighborhoods really could have used more variety in terms of the songs and bolder, more unexpected moves as a lot of it either sounds too familiar or too tame. Perhaps exploring the electronic aspect could be an idea or just going all-out punk, putting the emo angst aside for a bit?

Also, that good old sense of humour simply must return.

Overall, that’s 3 Teary Punks out of 5.

Teary PunksTeary PunksTeary Punks

Fair effort.

Foot Of The Mountain – Album Review

Foot_of_the_Mountain_Album

A-ha‘s very last full length album before they split in 2010, Foot Of The Mountain promised to be a return to form for the band whose recent work, despite the odd cool song here and there, failed to match their quality 80’s stuff.

Even with their better recent albums, there was always an unevenness about them which took you out of it at various points. For every catchy hit there were five forgettable attempts at a catchy hit.

Can Foot Of The Mountain help A-ha end on a high note, at least?

Singer Morten Harket’s famously good at those, after all.

The album opens with “The Bandstand” and why that one wasn’t released as a single is beyond me as it’s clearly the best track on the album and really sets the wanted tone of the whole thing by feeling like classic yet also modern A-ha. It’s a clubby synthpop tune and a catchy one at that so definitely the perfect starting point. It is followed by the infinitely more upbeat “Riding The Crest” which isn’t bad despite its main hook sounding a lot like an extended ringtone.

“What There Is” is next and slows things down a little with a more paced beat and a longer build up. It’s another very decent, simple electro track with a memorable, softer chorus. It has that nostalgic tone which a lot of older A-ha songs had and a pretty melody so that’s good, at least. It is followed by the title track and lead single “Foot Of The Mountain” which starts off promisingly with nicely melodic verses but the chorus it delivers is sadly anti-climactic. Still, it’s an overall enjoyable, chilled-out track.

“Real Meaning” is song number 5 and it is a softer, cheesier effort. To be honest, it’s very easy to space out during this one. It’s the first dud on the album and is entirely skippable even if it is basically harmless. Another slow track is “Shadowside”, which was released as the album’s third single but, although its build up is a bit soporific, it makes up for it with a genuinely pretty chorus. With a little more energy, this track could have been much better but, as it stands, it’s ok.

Track 7, “Nothing Is Keeping You Here”, another single, starts off sounding a bit like Harry Nilsson‘s classic “Everybody’s Talkin'”. This one is let down by some much too easy lyrics which beg for more thought and imagination. Otherwise, it’s got an alright (if a bit sleepy) chorus and a slightly faster rhythm than the two songs preceding it. The stuff that inspired Coldplay is much more obvious in this one in that it’s… well, rather dull. The album, by this point, is definitely stuck in a lull, though. Another song which suffers from unimpressive lyrics is following track “Mother Nature Goes To Heaven” but, luckily, this is a far better song with a decent hook, a nicer chorus and a build up that actually works pretty well. The song develops at a good pace and, even though it would have been amazing had it been a bit darker, it’s a step in the right direction for the album.

“Sunny Mystery” is a dancier track and more of a departure from A-ha’s usual style but not in a bad way. It’s actually an entertaining song with a nice atmosphere to it, even if the hook is a little weak this time, again sounding close to a ringtone. Finally, we have “Start The Simulator” and it’s a strangely slow one to end on. On the plus side, the slightly sinister ballad has a weird Twin Peaksian quality to it in places (with a Radiohead-style vibe) but the hook is more reminiscent of Big Ben and it kinda goes off track sometimes. It’s not too bad though, it does grow on you.

So was Foot Of The Mountain a worthy album to end on?

Kind of. I mean, it’s in no way as good as A-ha’s earlier stuff but this is definitely a return to form of sorts for the band. While Analogue provided a couple of genuinely good songs but not much else, this one is much more consistent and does include at least a handful of decent tracks with only a couple of misfires.

Foot Of The Mountain is by no means a masterpiece but fans should lap it up and be satisfied enough with it.

3 Ziggies out of 5 ain’t bad.

Ziggy MAskZiggy MAskZiggy MAsk

Mad World – Song Of The Day

Mad World

Long before Gary Jules brought his melancholic version of this song to the world in the film Donnie Darko, Tears For Fears introduced us to “Mad World”, one of their earliest hits. The good thing about this song is that it manages to be angsty without being whiny: it’s a dark track with some pessimistic lyrics and yet there’s an underlying hopeful, if ever so slightly sadistic, tone to the whole song that gives it both edge and a third dimension. “Mad World” is a beautifully written, catchy track and one of the band’s very best so definitely worth revisiting.