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.

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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.

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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.

Friend Like Me – Song Of The Day

Aladdin

Today we tragically lost Robin Williams, a comic genius and cinema legend. His films shaped a lot of our childhoods, including mine, so I thought it just made sense to make today’s Song Of The Day be his very own “Friend Like Me” from the Disney classic Aladdin. Growing up in France, I knew all the words in French and then, eventually, I knew them in English: Williams’ genie completely stole the show for me and I loved every minute that he was on screen so this tune was a pure surreal delight. Still is.

Anyway, enjoy this song once more in honour of a true talent who left us much, much too soon.

The Sea Of Memories – Album Review

Sea of Memories

Kinda like the UK’s answer to Pearl Jam or Soundgarden, Bush showed up in the early 90’s, bringing some welcome grunginess to the charts with singer Gavin Rossdale’s gruff tones swaggering away in songs like “Swallowed”, thereby proving that you don’t have to be from Seattle to excel at grumpy rock.

Yes, grumpy rock.

I’m renaming “grunge” as a genre: deal with it.

After a 10 years-long silence, Bush returned in 2011 with the album The Sea Of Memories armed with a new studio and an updated sound. But was it worth the wait? Did the album remind us about how worthy Bush were as a band back in the day or did it cement them as “past it”?

The album received some positive review but the response was mostly mixed, which means that it could have gone either way.

The Sea Of Memories opens with “The Mirror Of The Signs” and, right away, you notice that Bush have introduced a more electronic touch to their established style. As it turns out, Gavin Rossdale’s grungy vocal tones work beautifully with this new, fuller sound. The song itself is a perfect album-starter with its fun, catchy build-up and atmospheric payoff. The great thing is that, as different as Bush’s new sound is, it still sounds very much like them, their identity remaining intact during the entire album, luckily.

“The Sound Of Winter” follows and, although it’s a grungier track as a whole, it also has a lighter, more poppy chorus. It’s a solid single with some great guitar work. The album then gives us “All My Life”, which kicks off with a rockier, sleazier rhythm then delivers another catchy chorus. It’s a simple song but it works.

“The Afterlife” is next and, right off the bat, it’s a more upbeat tune with a build up reminiscent of Oingo Boingo‘s “On The Outside” of all things. The song boasts the best chorus so far and it’s actually one of the best, most accomplished and memorable tracks on the album. It just develops quickly into a really cool tune with a genuinely nice melody.

From upbeat, we soon go to melancholic with “All Night Doctors”, a softer, slower, piano-led song with a pretty melody and great lyrics. The electric guitar kicks in later and the track develops at a perfect pace. It’s a break from the faster songs preceding it but it makes sense seeing as the album’s main hit, “Baby Come Home”, is next and kicks in straight away. This one feels like a win from the get-go: you’ve got cool, moody, well written verses leading you to a very catchy chorus executed with just the right amount of heart and energy. It’s just a great track.

A lighter effort, “Red Light” shows off some versatility from the band as they try out different beats and a somewhat more optimistic mood. It’s enjoyable but, admittedly, but if you’re hoping for something edgy, this isn’t the track for you. “She’s A Stallion” follows and manages to be the most forgettable song on the album due to its lack of shape. It opens with a couple of different beats before settling into a melody you can’t quite figure out. This is one of those songs you’re never sure is going anywhere and it doesn’t, really. It feels more like the type of track U2 would pull off, weirdly enough.

The much more entertaining “I Believe In You” gets us back on track with its more ‘Bushian’, slightly sinister-sounding verses and its paranoid chorus. It’s a solid, especially well-produced track that’s well worth listening to, especially if you’re a fan of Bush’s older sound as this doesn’t stray too far away from that. Song number 10 is “Stand Up” and its cool melody builds up to a hugely fun chorus. It’s one of the catchiest and best of the bunch so, by this point, the album is well and truly back to its heights. Another song that’s very Bush is the next one, “The Heart Of The Matter”: it’s rockier, grungier and altogether edgier. This one should please the faithful old fans, who’ll no doubt head-bang their way through this one at concerts.

And finally we have “Be Still My Love”, not only a beautiful ballad on its own but arguably one of the band’s best songs to date. Much like how Eddie Vedder can scream his head off one second then nail a softer, more poetic track, Rossdale delivers those heartbreaking lyrics in such a heartfelt way that the song can get pretty moving. It’s the perfect song to end on and should leave you on a teary-eyed high. It’s a gorgeous little track I personally couldn’t get enough of.

That this album received mixed reviews is understandable: every time a band disappears then comes back ages later with a slightly different sound, it’s bound to piss off a bunch of people, even die hard fans.

That said, The Sea Of Memories, while a bit of a twist on the band’s usual style, is clearly a return to form and a more than worthwhile vehicle for the band to come back with. It’s packed with catchy, fantastically well put together tracks and Bush somehow still manage to stay true to themselves throughout, never delivering a crappy song on top of it.

I’m happy to give this one 4 Happy Cobains out of 5 as it was a nice surprise and I find myself going back to it every so often.

Good stuff.

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Running Up That Hill – Song Of The Day

Kate BushThe first single from Kate Bush‘s classic 1985 album Hounds Of Love, “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” certainly made an impact back in the day both in the charts and with its minimalist contemporary dance video. The song’s cool thumping rhythm hooks you in straight away and never lets go as Bush slowly hypnotises you with her famously wide range of vocal tones. It’s, quite simply, the perfect Kate Bush song and even though there have been decent enough interpretations of it later on, from Placebo‘s more sinister effort to that 2012 remix, you just can’t improve on the original.

One of the 80’s’ very best: a must.