Zombie – Song Of The Day

Zombie

Whether you liked them or not, The Cranberries definitely made an impact around the mid-90’s, mostly thanks to this protest song which earned them the top spot in several European countries. The single was in response to an IRA bombing and, although it made a clear political statement, it was also angry and heavy enough to be lot of fun. It’s 90’s angst at its most bitter and it’s The Cranberries at their best: “Zombie”‘s one pissed-off hit but the world needs pissed-off hits and this is a good one.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Album Review

High Flying Birds

The Oasis split didn’t come so much as a shock as it did a disappointing inevitability.

It’s no secret that Noel Gallagher and Liam Gallagher would butt heads often when it came to writing songs or performing said songs so the news that Oasis’ long run would finally come to an end was something of a long time coming. Each brother spinned-off into their own bands, with Liam keeping the kids (Oasis bandmates Andy Bell, Gem Archer and Chris Sharrock) thereby forming Beady Eye while Noel secretly put together Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

To no-one’s surprise, of course, both bands sounded like Oasis.

The self-titled Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds was the first album from Noel’s new band and the pressure was on to outdo Beady Eye’s album Different Gear, Still Speeding, released slightly before.

Mission accomplished?

Let’s take a look/listen.

The last single to be released from the album, “Everybody’s On The Run” starts things off somewhat epically with an orchestral build-up and choirs. It’s an upbeat song with reliably solid vocals, a catchy melody and an equally catchy chorus. It is followed by another upbeat track, “Dream On”: an effective little tune with another genuinely nice melody. A more than worthy opening overall, I’d say.

“If I Had A Gun…” is an enjoyable love song with a softer first 30 seconds. It does kick things up a notch quickly, though, and soon delivers a memorable, worthy hook. “The Death Of You And Me” is next and it’s a breezy, contemplative song with a really good chorus. Its crescendoes drive us to some welcome trumpets-led jazzy solos which give the whole thing a cool, New Orleans-esque atmosphere.

The oddly titled “(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine” opens with a slow, chilled-out intro in danger of being too repetitive and a bit too whiny but, luckily, the chorus is somewhat more upbeat and the choirs are a nice touch. The song develops well and, after a short break, it ends on a high note. Not too bad. “AKA… What A Life!”, the album’s second single, is one of the catchier tracks on it. It’s simple yet effective and energetic all the way through. Plus, the lyric “I’m gonna take this tiger outside for a ride” is just awesome.

“Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks” somehow gives off a kind of Aimee Mann-esque vibe with its ongoing rhythm reminiscent of that “One” song she came up with a while back. Noel once again delivers a pretty melody and the track has a jazzy, old-fashioned feel at times making it a good B-side piece to single “The Death Of You And Me”. The following song, “AKA… Broken Arrow”, is a softer, sweeter track with one of the best, prettiest melodies on the album. One of Noel’s finest songs in a while.

“(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach” then leads us in with a bluesier beat and ultimately delivers a terrific chorus full of swagger. Some of the later Oasis albums could have used a couple of those, honestly. Finally, we have the atmospheric “Stop The Clocks” which, though it’s musically sound, sadly never really takes off. It’s quite probably the least memorable track of the bunch.

While initially, I did feel that Beady Eye’s debut blew Noel’s album out of the water, this one’s definitely grown on me. Listening back to it, it’s a well put together bunch of tracks and, although Gallagher doesn’t take too many wild chances here, he still drops in enough subtle fresh touches to make Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds feel new and relevant enough.

It’s a tie, I think, between the Gallagher brothers in this first round, though I should give Beady Eye’s first album a new listen, and the irony that, in order to get some decent Oasis albums, the band itself had to disappear is frankly bizarre but sort of sweet also.

That’s 4 Red Hot Chili Fellas out of 5 for the Birds.

Nice one.

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I Just Want To Have Something To Do – Song Of The Day

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Although the album Road To Ruin wasn’t exactly the more mainstream success The Ramones wanted it to be, it was still packed with great songs. Plus, “I Just Want Something To Do” provided us with one awesome little moment of fan service when they finally showed up eating chicken vindaloo in Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, a movie which, up to that point, might as well have been titled “Where Are The F***ing Ramones?!”. It’s a movie-stealing entrance and a very cool song.

Imitation Of Life – Song Of The Day

Imitation Of Life

Although R.E.M‘s “Imitation Of Life” reached the Top 10 in the UK and got to number 1 in Japan, it didn’t exactly rock the US too much. The song did make it onto the band’s best of album In Time: The Best Of R.E.M 1988-2003, though. And rightly so. Named after the movie of the same name, the song is mostly remembered for its random yet completely hypnotizing music video which pans and scans around a busy party scene, zooming in and out of various off-beat goings on in what’s essentially a repeated 20 seconds loop.

Crash – Song Of The Day

CrashThough The Primitives‘ 1988 hit is often compared to “99 Red Balloons” for its similar-ish melody, “Crash” is very much its own track and a really fun one at that.

From the band’s debut album Lovely, “Crash” remains one of the quintessential driving songs, which is why it not only appeared in Dumb & Dumber but more recent road or car movies as well. Tracy Spencer’s moody tones mixed with the rest of the band’s gear-changing but constantly speeding rhythm makes a good old short and sweet track that’s well worth checking out.

Monkey Magic – Song Of The Day

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Japanese rock band Godiego certainly hit the big time with this classic tune which made the TV series Monkey that little bit more awesome. “Monkey Magic” is about as fun and uplifting as a theme song can get. With lyrics like “Born from an egg on a mountain top / The punkiest monkey that ever popped” it is quite simply 70’s bliss all the way. As is Monkey and its iconic opening title sequence, of course.

Here they are performing their opus live:

I Build This Garden For Us – Song Of The Day

I Build This Garden For Us

The second single from Lenny Kravitz‘s debut album Let Love Rule, “I Build This Garden For Us” is today’s Song Of The Day mostly because it’s not one of the first songs that come to mind when Kravitz’s name pops up but it was this little tune which stood out for me from that particular album. It’s a cool, chilled-out track with a catchy hook and a fun, psychedelic video.

Worth a listen.

New Way Home – Song Of The Day

FooFighters-TheColourAndTheShapeFrom the Foo Fighters‘ second album The Colour And The Shape, “New Wave Home” came right at the end of it to end things on an explosive note. The song was my personal introduction to the band and it remains the only track of theirs I tend to go back to every so often. It’s a cool song with a great melody and one of the most memorable breaks out there as the song basically stops before winding back up slowly.

Like the band or not, that’s a good one.

Soirée Disco – Song Of The Day

Boris

If you lived in France back in the mid 90’s and you survived that somehow then you are no stranger to this awful yet irresistible one-hit wonder.

In every way, DJ Philippe Dhondt‘s (aka Boris) “Soirée Disco” is a trashy piece of kitsch nonsense with no real shape or point. But I suppose that’s what makes its unique charm, kinda like how the worst karaoke songs still inspire you to sing along sometimes or how the crappiest Eurovision Song Contest entries are so misguided they become fascinating and basically awesome. If there is such a thing as “endearingly shit” then this tune is it. How a basic disco beat over which a dude called Boris talks about some party he’s putting together did so well in the charts remains a mystery but I’d be lying if I said this one has no nostalgic value at all.

It happened and I was there.

And I… liked it?

Songs Of Innocence – Album Review

U2 Songs Of Innocence

So U2 are back and, thanks to their undying love for all things Apple, the whole world is aware of this.

A couple of days ago, the band announced the release of their new album Songs Of Innocence that same day free for all iTunes and Beats Music customers. Of course, since there are far worse things than a free brand new U2 album downloaded straight to your phone, loads of people promptly downloaded it (me included).

As potentially cool as this whole experiment sounded, I’ll admit I had reservations: for one thing, iTunes is about as user friendly as a chocolate chainsaw so accepting presents from it seems evil since this is clearly just a way for them to market research our asses through a phantom favour. Furthermore, U2’s last album, 2009’s No Line On The Horizon was honestly not very good and neither was that Spider-Man musical, by the way.

Unless hilarious means good?

Whatever, let’s give it a go.

I mean, it’s free! How bad could it be?

The album opens with an ode to Joey Ramone of all people. “The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)” is a strong track with a cool hook, a grungy guitar and a catchy bridge. The chorus, I’ll admit, needed to be as memorable as the rest of the song for it to really have the impact it was looking for but it’s still a clear hit and one of U2’s better recent tunes. Besides, anything paying homage to The Ramones has its heart in the right place and has good taste so no complaints here.

“Every Breaking Wave” is a slower, softer track but it remains surprisingly engaging thanks to an actually pretty melody. Already, U2’s sound seems to have evolved into something interesting and promising again. The next song is “California (There Is No End To Love)” and that one opens with the words “Santa Barbara” used as a rhythmic, repeated lyric. It’s an enjoyable if occasionally cheesy California song and it confirms that U2’s less over-produced sound works much better in that you can actually hear The Edge this time!

“Song For Someone” continues the particularly personal route the band seems to be taking in this album: it’s a sad, nostalgic song which builds slowly but really well. It’s a very typically U2 song and, armed with a strong chorus and an overall solid melody, it out-Coldplays Coldplay, showing these guys how it’s done. The fifth song on the album, “Iris (Hold Me Close)”, is dedicated to Bono’s mother. Ethereal voices open the track and the band delivers a heartfelt song that’ll perhaps be too sentimental for most. It’s harmless enough, though.

“Volcano” is one of the catchiest songs on the album. It’s entertaining and inventive both with its rhythm and its lyrics. Fun stuff. Song number 7 is “Raised By Wolves” and that one opens with a cool experimental beat I’m sure Kate Bush or Phil Collins would have been more than happy with. There’s a retro feel to that one and its chorus is sharp and involving, even if the verses don’t stand out all that much.

We then get a fab guitar-led intro for “Cedarwood Road”, which is much better than the song itself. Whenever The Edge kicks in, the track gets fun again but otherwise, it admittedly doesn’t stand out all that much. A regular electro beat leads the next one, “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight”, and when the vocals finally land it all slowly builds to its soft chorus. That comfort is broken by The Edge’s simple but effective dark riffs which elevate the song to one of the best on Songs Of Innocence. It still ends on a chilled-out vibe, oddly.

“This Is Where You Can Reach Me Now” kicks off with another creative, promising beat. The track is unlike anything else on the album: a war-themed anthem which dips its toe into various styles and genres. Those reviewers criticising U2 for not experimenting probably haven’t heard this one which really is one of their most original songs in recent years. Like it or not, they try something different here and it works. Finally we have “The Troubles” which starts off with vocals by Swedish singer Lykke Li. It’s a less memorable track but it definitely has its moments. It ends the album on a thoughtful, more directly poppy note.

The physical version of the album should include a few more bonus tracks but we’ll get to those another time.

That so many people complained about seeing this album pop up in their iTunes library is ridiculous: not only is this a free album you can totally delete if you don’t like it but it’s a decent U2 album, their best in years in fact so I’d say it’s definitely worth not whining about it too much.

The good thing about Songs Of Innocence is that it looks like the band have learned from their past mistakes and decided to get back to the roots of what they’re trying to convey. The result is a proudly personal album with a handful of great songs and a whole bunch of entertaining and, at the very least, intriguing ones.

U2’s Apple-tizer receives 4 Ziggies out of 5.

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Well, more like 3 and a half but it gets an extra half point for making my currently dull playlist not so dull for a little while for free and out of f***ing nowhere.