Thursday, March 29, 2007

I'll Pull a Simon Reynolds

Sorry, school has been getting me this week. Just haven't felt like writing. But have no fear.

I am really digging a few things right now

Panda Bear's Person Pitch: Man, this album is really something. I knew it was going to be an amazing album. It is just filled with so many sounds and textures. It is one of those crossover albums I feel. A lot of people could enjoy it. People into indie rock to electronic music could appreciate this album.

The Good, The Bad, and The Queen: It's pretty obvious I really dig Damon Albarn. I think the man can't make a bad album. He is filled with ideas. He is always a step of ahead of the game. This album is truly what I was asking for with music. It is melodic, spacey, dubby, rhythmic, inventive, soulful, beautiful, and melancholic in a way. People keep saying this but it is true, it is "Waterloo Sunset" meets dub music. I think Damon stole my #1 spot for album of the year.....again.

Nick Cave- Entire Discography: He is another character that is pretty flawless. I can't tell you the amount of entertainment I find in his music. If you aren't moved or utterly floored by this man lyric's, well I don't know what to do with you. He can make you laugh, cry, shake in fear, and many other things. Not to mention, his backing band is pretty good. That guitarist of his, Blixa, is another enjoyable character.

LCD Soundsystem- Sound Of Silver: The new flawless character of my generation, James Murphy. This album is tied with TGTBTQ. He really stepped forward on this album. The production is so tight and perfect. I don't know how he does it, but his drums are so well mic'd.

CHK CHK CHK !!!- Myth Takes: What a groovin album we got here. Man, the drums on this album just pound right through your skull at times. It is just lovely. I was not supposed to like this album, but it is just so damn good. Listen to it. You will be hooked. This will be the Summer party album.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Classic Album #2

"You lot! What?/ Don't stop, give it all you got!" Jesus, what a chorus! Sandinista is the one of the most underrated albums ever. It is my personal favorite Clash album. It is just so jam packed with songs. Some people would argue it is too long and is sometimes ridiculous. Sure, it is pretty long, and there are some pretty crazy songs on it. But that is what makes it so genius. I think this album kicks London Calling in the bullocks. It is more punk than any other album of the time period except for maybe PIL's Second Edition.

The Clash, at this time, were hanging out in New York. They were still loving their dub roots, but there was another musical genre that was just getting started in the borough of Queens. The Clash got interested in this new thing called Hip Hop. I think it was Joe Strummer that said that "The Magnificent Seven" was their attempt to do a Hip Hop song. Personally, that song is easily one of my top top songs ever. It is easily in the top ten greatest side ones track ones. This song is just one example of how this album is full of so many ideas and textures. Another personal favorite of mine is "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe." This song is filled with Dancehall blips and other noises going in and out. The song is just packed full of energy. That's something about this album that I think was captured so well, the energy of the band.

Dub was probably the number influence on the Clash. People could argue that 60s British Invasion bands were the main influences, but I see much more from Junior Murvin and Lee "Scratch" Perry. Dub has a rebellious sound and ideology with it, and the Clash loved that. On the song "One More Time in the Ghetto," the Clash reflect their dub tendencies. Also, immediately after that song there is "One More Time Dub." That alone is something Lee "Scratch" Perry would do, having an original song and dub version.

Of course we know the Clash as one of the truest examples of punk rock. This album has those songs as well. "Somebody Got Murdered" and "Police on My Back" contain those epic punk characteristics of the Clash. "Police on My Back" gives me chills to this day. There is just so much passion in that song, and you can't help but sing along to it.

Sandinista is easily the Clash's most sonic album. They were definitely expanding their horizons on this album. It has dub, rockabilly, hip hop, and punk influenced songs across the board. To me, this album is what makes the Clash the band we still talk about today. They didn't just sit and play the same old punk rock tunes. They branched out and got interested in other forms of music. The greatest bands all did that. This album is a clash. It's a clash of textures, influences, ideas, and amazing songs. London Calling is their most consistent album probably, but Sandinista is their most interesting and greatest album.

A Nostalgia for World Culture

Today is World Poetry Day. Slate has a gorgeous photo essay. Do look. The four above are my favorites: the top one is Joseph Brodsky standing on a roof in Petersburg when it was still called Leningrad; the second from the top is a man reciting Hungarian freedom poems after a brutal Soviet crackdown in Budapest; the third is an epic reading in an Iranian teahouse; the fourth is Borges the Argentine.

Some More Top 5's

Top 5 Screams of All Time
1. Colin Newman at the end of Wire's "Reuters" (thanks to M. Catalogues for reminding me)
2. Exene Cervenka's rising "Get ooooooooOOOOOOUT!" just before the first chorus in X's "Los Angeles"
3. James Dean Bradfield crying "I AM just a fashion accessooorrryyy!!!" in the Manics' "La Tristessa Durera"
4. John Lydon at the end of "Death Disco"
5. Kurt Cobain building to a mad frenzy in "Negative Creep"

Top Five Moments in a song by the Fall
1. The moment "Totally Wired" REALLY picks up ("can't you see?")
2. That lilting piano in "It's a Curse"
3. That same moment in "Telephone Thing" that Monsieur Catalogues mentioned.
4. The chorus in "Theme from Sparta F.C."
5. The climax of "Touch Sensitive"
Honorable Mentions: all of "Dead Beat Descendant," the chorus in "Squid Lord" where the drums stop and Mark's voices echoes beautifully against Brix's descending guitar riff, the "walk to work" part of "Hey, Student!"

Top Five Songs about life in 80's Britain
1. XTC- "Respectable Street"
2. The Smiths- "The Queen is Dead"
3. The Jam- "That's Entertainment"
4. The Waterboys- "Old England"
5. XTC- "King for a Day"
Honorable Mentions: "Ball and Chain" by XTC; "Spoilt Victorian Child" by the Fall; "No Thugs in Our House" by XTC (they might well have been the finest observers)

Top Five Bass Players
1. Paul Simonon (melodic and inventive, his basslines serve the songs well but don't merely follow the guitar)
2. Jah Wobble (the King)
3. Adam Clayton (the long-time secret ingredient in U2; listen to "Lemon" or "Zoo Station" or even "Where the Streets Have No Name" and tell me he's not essential to their sound)
4. Colin Greenwood (subtle and magnificent)
5. Alex James (like Adam Clayton, he's the secret essential ingredient and very underrated)

Top Five Spring/Summer Songs
1. Tie: "Squid Lord" and "Dead Beat Descendant" by the Fall
2. "She Bangs the Drums" by the Stone Roses
3. "Babies" by Pulp
4. "Radioactivity" by Kraftwerk, The Mix version
5. "Six Days" by DJ Shadow (it was quite fun to listen to that while watching CNN last July)

Top Five Most Badassssssssss MCs
1. Rakim
2. Mos Def
3. Nas
4. GZA
5. Most of the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan

Top Five Spring/Summer Albums
1. Tie: Anything by the Fall/ London Calling and Sandinista! by the Clash
2. Anything Damon Albarn commits to magnetic tape/ Doolittle and Bossnova by the Pixies
3. Pills Thrills n' Bellyaches
4. Since I Left You by the Avalanches
5. The La's

Top Five Soundtracks for future Baz Luhrmann Shakespeare film adaptations
1. Hamlet: "Transmission," "She's Lost Control" and "Atmosphere" by Joy Division; "The Cutter" by Echo and the Bunnymen; "It's a Curse" by the Fall; "Karma Police" and "Everything in its Right Place" by Radiohead; "Bad," "Staring at the Sun, " and "Wake Up Dead Man" by U2; "Blessed Night" by the Howling Bells
2. Macbeth: "The Fly" by U2; "Faster" by the Manics; "The Bell-Hit," "Low Happening," and "Across the Avenue" by the Howling Bells; "Love is an Unfamiliar Name" by the Duke Spirit; "Down by the Water" by PJ Harvey anything by Sons and Daughters of course
3. Henry IV, Parts I and II would have to be an all-English soundtrack: the Kinks, the Stones, Kate Bush, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Jam, XTC, the Smiths, Blur, the Libertines, etc.
4. Othello: lots of dreamlike but vaguely sinister trip-hop stuff, Massive Attack and Portishead and the like.
5. The Tempest: "The Killing Moon" undoubtedly, and lots of ethereal stuff: Kate Bush, Jason Pierce, Radiohead, and so forth...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Catalogues Top Five

All right Mr. Peacock I am taking up your challenge. This will be hard, especially the dancing part.
Top Five Favorite Songs To Dance To
1. LCD Soundsystem - 'Yeah"
2. Juan Maclean- "Crush The Liberation"
3. Sister Nancy- "Bam Bam"
4. Underworld- "Mmm.. Skyscraper I love You"
5. Death In Vegas- "Dirt"
Honorable Mentions- Kraftwerk- "Music Non-Stop", Chemical Brothers- "It Doesn't Matter", Junior Senior- "Shake Yr Coconuts" DFA Remix.

Top Five Political Songs
1. Manic Street Preachers- "Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayitworldwouldfallapart"
2. Scott Walker- "The Old Man's Back In Town."
3 The Clash- "Ivan vs G.I Joe"
4. The Fall- "Free Range" that counts right?
5. Asian Dub Foundation- "Committed to Life"
Honorable mentions The Smiths- "Queen is Dead", Max Romeo "War In A Babylon", Junior Murvin- "Police and Thieves", U2- "Bullet the Blue Sky", Gil Scott Heron- "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"

Top Five Lyricists
1. Ian McCulloch (closest thing to a poet ever in rock)
2. Nick Cave (Bloodthirsty old goat)
3. Bono (fuck off hipsters, read his stuff and try to argue with me.)
4. Shaun Ryder (Twistin' My Mellon Man)
5. Damon Albarn (hits the most personal spots)
Honorable Mentions Thom Yorke, Bob Dylan (Duh), Mark E Smith, Moz, Jarvis Cocker, PJ Harvey, Richey James, Nicky Wire.

Top Five Voices
1. Damon Albarn
2. Mark E Smith
3. Ian McCulloch
4. Thom Yorke
5. Nick Cave tied with PJ Harvey
Honorable mentions Scott Walker, Shaun Ryder, Elizabeth Fraser, Bono, John Lydon, James Murphy, Juanita Stein, Junior Murvin, Colin Newman( greatest scream ever on "Reuters")

Top Five MCs
1. Nas
2. Q-Tip
3. Rakim
4. Mos Def
5. GZA
Honorable Mentions Big Boi, Andre 3000, Raekwon, Ghostface, MF Doom, Plug

Top Five Dream Songs
1. Spacemen 3- "May the Circle Be Unbroken"
2. Cocteau Twins- "Heaven or Las Vegas"
3. Slowdive- "Souvlaki Space Station"
4. The Delays- "Wanderlust"
5. Doves- "Cedar Room"

Top Five Holy Shit! First Listens to a Song that Knocked You Back
1. The Fall- "Free Range"
2. U2- "Mysterious Ways"
3. Franz Ferdinand- "Take Me Out"
4. Delays- "Long Time Coming" (still beautiful to this day)
5. LCD Soundsystem- "Daft Punk is Playing at My House"

Top Five Parts in Fall Songs
1. The very beginning of "Repetition"
2. That part in "Telephone Thing" where his voice go "ah ah oh ah" (you know the part).
3. The chorus in "Sparta FC"
4. The part in "Eat Y'Self Fitter" when he says "What's A Computer!?" ..."Eat Y'Self Fitter"
5. The ending climax in "Touch Sensitive" when the violins come in.

Top Five Summer Albums
1. The Avalanches- Since I Left You
2. Happy Mondays- Pills Thrills and Bellyaches.
3. PIL- Second Edition
4. Kraftwerk- Minimum Maximum
5. The Fall- 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong
Honorable Mention LCD Soundsystem- Sound of Silver and Self Titled, Primal Scream- Vanishing Point, DJ Shadow- Private Press, Interpol- Turn On The Bright Lights (Afternoon Showers material)

Top Five Albums To Listen To While Driving Around a City At Night
1. Burial- Burial
2. A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauders.
3. DJ Shadow- Endtroducing
4. Radiohead- Kid A
5. Lee "Scratch" Perry- Arkology

Top Five Reasons Why Atlanta Is the Best Place to be in the Summer
1. You can't tell if it's sunny or cloudy
2. Rapturous afternoon thunderstorms
3. Humidity thicker than glue
4. Great Orange Glows at Sunset
5. Live near the most active United States Airport (easy travel)
I know some of the reasons seem weird, but for some reason I love them. I know this isn't a music list, but I thought it would be fun.

Sound of Silver

I knew it, I knew it, and I knew it! James Murphy is a certified bona-fide genius. Now that is a term I am not using too often these days. But James is pretty special. First off, he leads the greatest record label in the world right now, DFA. He is a master producer helping bands such as the Rapture. He is easily the best remixer I've ever heard. I usually don't like remixes, but his are amazing. Last but certainly not least, He is the leader of the greatest band of the post 9/11 era. Sorry Strokes, sorry Libertines, you guys lost your nerve. LCD Soundsystem have done something that hasn't happened since the late 1970s. They've created an electronic album that truly moves you. This album is Sound of Silver(applause sign).

Not since the days of Ralf and Florian when they were talking about "Neon Lights" or "Europe Endless" has electronic music made the hairs on my arms stand up. Songs like "Someone Great" and "All My Friends" are two very moving songs. They bring a certain nostalgia and longing that I haven't felt in some time except when Damon Albarn croons. Murphy sings about an ambiguous loss of someone on "Someone Great," and it is utterly beautiful. Now if you remember back to my post in december of last year about how much I love James Murphy's music, I talked about a segment in 45:33 that was just so beautiful. Well, Murphy recycles this segment in "Someone Great" and adds vocals to it. This works just magically. The next in life for the moments of beauty is the other epic, "All My Friends." In it he talks about growing older and not having regrets. The one line that I find just hits the nail on the head is "You spend the first five years trying to get with the plan/and the next five years/trying to be with your friends again" as well the line "I wouldn't trade one stupid decision/ for another 5 years of my life."

I may be young still, and I haven't lived a long life to be in my 30s looking back. Yet, there is something about these songs that truly connect with my soul. It gives me that certain feeling that I get when I listen to Please to Meet Me or Let It Be by The Replacements. I know that seems like a stretch of some sort since the bands couldn't be more different. Yet, Murphy, I think, is a very underrated lyricist. He has captured so many feelings that I have felt: the disillusionment of hipsters, the burden of being an American, the longing of someone, the feeling of wanting to get your life in order, the and so on. These are topics that so many can connect to.

Now for the music. Murphy has gone back to his old ways it seems. These songs, on the most part, are pretty long, which I find wonderful. The songs just grow and evolve like his early singles like "Beat Connection" and "Yr City's a Sucker." Sure when you look at LCD Soundsystem you can say, "Oh well, they are ripping off The Fall, Kraftwerk, Bowie, Neu!, Eno, The Talking Heads, and many more." So what if "Get Innocuous!" borrowing from "The Robots" by Kraftwerk. Damon Albarn once said something like,"The trick to making good music is liking good music and ripping of your influences." This was said in Blur's early years, so I wouldn't doubt him to being a little cheeky. Yet, there is some truth in it. Sure there are some similarities between LCD Soundystem and other bands, but they are stretching things further. They are a junction to all the music Murphy loves. He takes that and pushes it forward. The song on Sound of SIlver just grow and grow into incredible sonic opuses. "US v Them" and "Sound of SIlver" are two fine examples of songs that just get bigger and better by the second. Murphy is the king of sonic textures and arpeggios. The bass lines are hypnotic, and the guitars are placed just perfectly. His 4/4 rhythms never get old with the occasional cowbell. He just layers and layers sound and sound over another.

Murphy also knows his good ole punk rock specifics. "North American Scum" and "Watch the Tapes" reflect his perfectly. Might I add how "North American Scum" fits my mindset on how it is to be in a foreign country as an American. I act shy and unassuming as Murphy mentions to be "all right." These songs have catchy hooks musically and vocally. They are filled with wit and humor. These are when the parallels to Mark E Smith come out. Might I add getting in your car and flooring it to these songs.

Sound of Silver is a more complete work than the first album. It is fuller both musically and lyrically. It just builds and builds. This album, honestly, is perfect. You can't get a much better dance/rock hybrid. I really can't think of an objection to the album. The year is 2007. Ten years ago an album came out with a white cover art and is today regarded as an innovation in music and a classic. This album was of course OK Computer. Could James Murphy created an album of such status as that?You never know. I certainly feel that this album is pretty special and will be talked about for some time.

A Few Top 5's

Apologies for the lack of substantial posts from me lately. Lately I've been--as the wombats of the Okeefanokee say--swamped with alligator skin suitcases full of schoolwork. For fun, and in the spirit of High Fidelity, I thought I'd share a few of my Top 5 lists with you, dear reader. And challenge Monsieur Catalogues to do the same.

Top 5 Favorite Songs to Dance To
1. Grandmaster Flash- "White Lines"
2. Kraftwerk- "Pocket Calculator/Dentaku" live versions on Minimum/Maximum
3. X- "Los Angeles"
4. Gorillaz- "DARE"
5. The Juan MacLean- "Give Me Every Little Thing"
Honorable Mentions: "Too Much, Too Young" by the Specials and "Faster" by the Manic Street Preachers

Top 5 Political Songs
1. The Clash- "The Magnificent Seven"
2. U2- "New Year's Day"
3. The Smiths- "The Queen is Dead"
4. Scott Walker- "The Old Man's Back Again"
5. Manic Street Preachers- "If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children Will Be Next"
Honorable Mentions: "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" by the Clash, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" by that band

Top Five Lyricists
1. Bono (fuck off if you're snickering; name someone who compares to him at his best)
2. Morrissey
3. Ian McCulloch
4. Nick Cave
5. Damon Albarn
Honorable Mentions: Scott Walker, Mike Scott, PJ Harvey, Bjork

Top Five Favorite Voices
1. Damon Albarn
2. Thom Yorke
3. PJ Harvey
4. Morrissey
5. James Dean Bradfield
Honorable Mentions: Scott Walker, Bjork, Elizabeth Frasier, Bono, Mike Scott, Nick Cave, Mark E. Smith, James Murphy

Any thoughts? Other Top Five lists?

Monday, March 19, 2007

2007, Re-Birth of Good Dance Music?

I have been following the Pitchforkmedia Forkast since it started. This could be the greatest for up-and-coming music. I was on it, and the people at Pitchfork have been raving about a certain duo, Simian Mobile Disco. These guys are pretty damn kickin'. I'm not going to lie. Their song "It's the Beat" is in disco house hall of fame with Juan Maclean's "Crush The LIberation" and LCD Soundsystem's "Yeah." The song is just killer. Also, it has guest vocals from one of my favorite lead ladies, Ninja from the Go! Team. Now that should catch you attention. Also this year LCD Soundsystem is coming back with a triumph. And we all know how they are prime hip shaking material. !!!( Chk Chk Chk) released an astonishingly good album, to my tastes, filled with epic dance songs. We also have indie-dance darlings The New Young Pony Club coming soon with an album. I am excited for what is all happening with electronic-esque/dance-rock music this year. It has needed a good re-birth. The last decade has been rather dismal. So for now, I'll leave you with this.

This Week in Music

What a week we have ahead of us. I am so excited I can barely contain myself. First we have Panda Bear's solo coming out. This album should be dreamy and just utterly beautiful. Then we got a re-release of J Dilla's Ruff Draft. This should be exciting considering the resurfacing of a great producer's past work that has been discontinued. After that we have the new Modest Mouse. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of them. I certainly appreciate them, but I just could never get into them like a lot of people. But what makes this album special is that Johnny Marr is playing guitar. So hopefully he will do some great things with them. Also El-P is coming out with his sophomore release. His first album was just wonderful. Hopefully it will be a fine follow up even if Trent Reznor makes an appearance. But what really makes this a big big big BIG week in the French Catalogues is the sophomore attempt by LCD Soundystem. My mouth waters just thinking about holding it. I have listened to the album fully on myspace, and I love it so so SO much. That review will come tomorrow though. So get ready world. Go to those CD stores and purchase, and remember to try and make James Murphy's dream come true of being number 1 on Billboard. We can do it. We owe it to him.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Warmer Weather

These bands always make me think of warmer weather

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Get yourself to an Irish pub.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More St. Patrick's Day fun

Where would we be without the Pogues?

Fisherman's Blues

Continuing with the St. Paddy's celebration, here's a fairly recent clip of Mike Scott and the Waterboys playing a drumless version of "Fisherman's Blues." The song, and the classic album from which it comes, are beautiful enough to make you weep. Not that Fisherman's Blues is depressing; it's some of the most transcendent and stirring music you'll ever hear. And Scott is a master lyricist; he's a true poet in the sense of being a true poet like his favorities Robert Burns and W.B. Yeats. Not in that "Dude, Chad Kroger from Nickleback is a POET!" way.

Live from Croke Park

I know St. Patrick's Day isn't until tomorrow, but we here at the French Catalogues are kicking off the celebration a day early. To open the festivities, here's some band from Dublin playing in their hometown. Pour yourself a creamy Guinness and enjoy:

Note the green light bathing the crowd in this one:

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Springtime Music #3

And Scouse, too.

"Let's take a trip to Rio!"

This isn't a long clip (unfortunately), but it contains one of the best DJ transitions I've ever heard. Watch:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Must Be The Moon

!!! (Chk Chk Chk)'s newest album is quite the surprise to me. The band's previous efforts didn't even make my head turn. I thought the music kinda sounded cool, but I was so very turned off by Nick Offer's voice. When the songs played they just seemed like poorly done Rapture tracks. I thought they were overblown and over-the-top. Basically, I just wasn't buying it.

Lately I have been reading reviews off their newest album Myth Takes (say it really fast or with a lisp and it sounds like Mistakes, funny eh?). The large majority of the reviews have been very positive. So I figured I would seek out some of the songs and give them a listen. I went to their myspace page and listened to the first track that opened, "Must Be The Moon." I was shocked. The pounding 4/4 drum track with eerie, ethereal keyboard arpeggios knocked me back honestly. I mean, I honestly can't tell you how exciting this song is. It's got that LCD Soundsystem drumming but with 90s Big Beat noises. I just sounds wonderful. Nick Offer isn't singing anymore either. He's got the Shaun Ryder talk/whisper thing or whatever you call it. And that always works for me, maybe because I think Shaun Ryder is a genius by accident.

Myth Takes is as if LCD Soundsystem, The Talking Heads, Stevie Wonder, Underworld, and The Happy Mondays got in a room and knocked one out. It's got swagger, groove, and even the occasional female backing vocals (Rowena anyone?). This album is very good, but it isn't a Pills and Thrills or the self-titled LCD Soundsystem. It has a few mistakes itself. On two songs, "Infinifold" and "Sweet Life," Offer stops his chanting/yelping and switches to singing. This just doesn't work. This was the very thing that turned my off to !!! in the beginning.

But please, don't let those two songs turn you off. This album is honestly one of the most pleasant surprises I've had in a while. The rhythm section in this group is just amazingly good. They've got that 4/4 beat going on, but really took me was the deep funk breakbeats that the drummer was producing. All of the people overlapping the rhythm section are actually very inventive with their instruments. There is a lot of reverb at times, which is something that always gets me. It is similar, in a way, to Cymande (my favorite funk group ever. If you haven't listened to them yet, well, you are really missing out). Might I add, the transition from the epic "Bend Over Beethoven" to "Break In Case Of Anything" is just riveting.

Myth Takes is a very exciting album. In the end, that's all I can say about. I just enjoy the hell out of it. I loved the last Rapture album with all of my heart. But maybe, now, they should be taking some lessons from !!!. And If I hear anyone call them Nu-Rave, I will hunt you down and make you listen to Tiesto for 24 hours straight. To me that is worst than death.

Top Top Notch

Nick Cave, Kylie, Shane MacGowan, Blixa....Dylan Cover, too bad PJ Harvey couldn't make it for the performance. I will be posting a late review soon on the new Chk Chk Chk !!!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Which one are you?

I was hoping for something with a little more bite:

As dictators go, you're kind of pathetic! Instead of military coup or systematic persecution to get power, you just happen to be the head of the only party in the UK that isn't totally worthless! While not very impressive it is none the less effective! You can do whatever the hell you like without any chance of getting voted out of office! People know that the only alternative would have them eating their children if they ever got back into power! However, you still think that you are as loved as you were when you were first elected into power… News flash for you: You're not!

What tin-pot dictator are you? Take the "What Dictator am I?" test at

Springtime Music #2

Complete with elephant, leopard, and PLO reference:

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Springtime Music #1

This song always makes me think of springtime, for some reason. So to herald the arrival of warm weather and blooming flowers here in the UK (everyone sing along now):

Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves

Apologies in advance to any of of our Romani readers (I suppose you'd have to have a wi-fi connection in a caravan?):

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Come here and let me feel you"

If you're going to be walking in the woods tonight, do watch out...

High Rotation circa March 2007

Monsieur Catalogues did it, so I figure: why shouldn't I document what I've been listening to recently? I really ought to be passed out asleep right now, but as Lee Mavers once sang...look it up and fill in the lyric yourself. Don't tell me you don't own the La's. Anyway, here's a High Rotation logbook entry, if you will (the ranking is roughly what I think it is, though who knows how many times I've listened to each song):


1. Grinderman- "Go Tell the Woman"
2. Luke Haines and Orchestra- "Show Girl" (Das Capital version)
3. Vince Guardali- "Linus and Lucy" live with band, somewhere in San Francisco
4. The Automatic- "Recover" (most played on my iTunes)
5. U2- "Zoo Station (Live from Buenos Aires") b-side to "Window in the Skies"
6. The Fall- "It's a Curse"
7. The Automatic- "Raoul" (yes I like them a whole lot)
8. Amy Winehouse- "Tears Dry on their Own"
9. Ian Dury and the Blockheads- "Sex and Drugs and Rock n' Roll" (to remind myself what's imporant in life)
10. Walker Brothers- "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore"
11. Manic Street Preachers- "Elvis Impersonator: Blackpool Pier" live
12. Luke Haines- "Leeds United"
13. Madness- "My Girl"
14. Nirvana- "Turnaround" BBC John Peel Session
15. Camper Van Beethoven- "Take the Skinheads Bowling"


1. A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Marauders
2. Grinderman- Grinderman
3. The Arcade Fire- Neon Bible
4. Amy Winehouse- Back to Black
5. The Fall- The Unutterable
6. A Tribe Called Quest- People's Instinctive Travels and Rhythmic Pathways
7. The Automatic- Not Accepted Anywhere
8. Pixies- Bossanova
9. Luke Haines- Off My Rocker at the Art School Bop
10. Manic Street Preachers- Everything Must Go tenth anniversary re-issue
11. Pixies- Doolittle
12. Lily Allen- Alright, Still
13. Miles Davis- Kind of Blue
14. The Fall- Reformation Post-TLC
15. The Fall- Fall Heads Roll

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Good Old Days

Ah, remember the time when the world was new and full of promise? Permit me this nostalgia for a time when...jesus h. christ, it was only a few years ago:

New Yorker Cartoons in the Age of YouTube

It had to happen some time, I guess. Scroll down a bit to watch.

The Feelgood Album of the Year: the Fall's "Reformation Post-TLC"

The Fall might well be my favorite band. I can't think of any other band with more great songs to their name, or more near-perfect albums. Of course, the Fall aren't really a band. They're either a vehicle for the unique musical vision of one Mark E. Smith, or they're actually a multitude of bands held together by the unique musica vision of one Mark E. Smith. The Clash, the Smiths, Blur, Radiohead, and U2 are a bit more coherent in their band-dom.

The line-up who backed Smith in the era of The Real New Fall LP and Fall Heads Roll was one of the very best, comparable to the line-up in the Brix era. These players appear on some of the songs on Reformation Post-TLC, but apparently the band dissolved halfway through recording and the rest of the songs are played by musicians from LA. Luckily Mark's Greek, keyboarding-playing wife, so vital to the brilliance of "Theme from Sparta F.C.," is still here (she even sings lead vocals on "The Wright Stuff"), and I think one other fellow from the previous line-up decided to stick it out as well.

Mark E. Smith is, of course, notorious for sacking his lieutenants and making great albums in spite of them. I can't say that Reformation Post-TLC (the title itself is a slap in the face to Smith's former comrades) is one of the Fall's best, but it's still very good. I only measure it against Smith and co.'s best work because The Real New Fall LP and Heads Roll ARE some of the Fall's finest albums. The gleaming, ferocious, and fun Fall Heads Roll is particularly brilliant I think, one of his/their very best.

The aesthetic of Reformation Post-TLC calls to mind The Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall, Middle Class Revolt, and early tunes like "Rosche Rumble" and "How I Wrote 'Elastic Man'" more than anything else in their catalogue. And what is that aesthetic? It's a highly bass-driven record, and the songs are washed in surf-rock guitar and synths that hover somewhere between Krautrock and Californian fun in the sun. The Fall in their Demented Surfer mode, then. And what fun it is! "Over! Over!" is an exuberant and catchy opening track, with Mark singing and shouting at his most energetic: the song and album actually begin with a truly menacing cackle.

"Reformation" and "Fall Sound" are great noisy romps, and there's even a good country/western waltz (Fall-style) called "White Line Fever." I could go on listing songs that I like, but that would be pointless, really. Reformation Post-TLC is great good fun; like I said, not Smith at this finest, but the Fall in their sub-brilliant mode are still pretty damn amazing. There's not an album this year that will offer better and more amusing company on your iPod as you walk across town, walk to school, walk down the beach, throw a party, etc. I know I'll be listening to it all summer. There's nothing like the diabolical glee of Mark E. Smith.

Correction: Upon further deliberation I've concluded that Reformation Post-TLC will have to be content with runner-up Feelgood Album of the Year. The real Feelgood Album of this year (so far) is actually Grinderman. But Monsieur Catalogues will get to that in due time.

Black Waves: "Neon Bible" by the Arcade Fire

Now that I've had a few days to let the Arcade Fire's new album sink in, I'd like to toss my two-cents into the global discussion (and it is global).

First of all, Neon Bible is somehow more direct and more mysterious than their debut album Funeral. The songs pack a stiffer punch on this one, the melodies are stronger and shaplier, and there are no vocal effects to distort Win's and Regine's (or anyone else's) voices.

None of this makes Neon Bible a simpler affair than Funeral, which contained jagged songs about vampires, power cuts, and a lovely Caribbean-tinged ballad about the Duvalier regime. Neon Bible is lyrically and musically more complex and mysterious than its predecessor. You've probably heard about--or more accurately, probably heard--the church organ, the multi-layered arrangements, the doom-obsessed lyrics, and the abrupt changes in melody and rhythm in some songs. You don't need me to tell you that the Arcade Fire are, first and foremost, a musical and tonal wonder. The interplay of the instruments is stunning: the basic rock tools of guitar, bass, and drums create a driving current, above which violins and pianos and glockenspiels swirl, sometimes dancing in and out of the music like strange spirits over the water, sometimes stirring the music to a fury, Win's and Regine's voices rising through the storm like the songs of castaways and sailors. Win Butler drifts from one persona to another on this album, now making you think of a blind prophet, now of a religious pilgirm, now and then of a disaffected modern city-dweller. The female voices, of which Regine's is the most prominent, act as a sort of chorus, in the old Greek sense...
My pretentious sea metaphors really come from the most haunting and memorable image from the album's lyrics (to my mind anyway): "there's a big black wave in the middle of the sea" from "Black Wave/Bad Vibrations."
A lot of critics and reviewers have emphasized this album's bad vibrations: many have called the album "despondent" or "miserable" while praising its musical sublimity. I can't agree with most reviewers here. The image of the black wave is the best one for Neon Bible, I think: apocalyptic and terrifying, but somehow exhilarating and uplifting. The Arcade Fire's music reminds me of one of Turner's storm- or seascapes, hence the water metaphor. There are black waves and raging storms-on-the-sea in Neon Bible's sound and atmosphere, but there are swirls of colour and light as well. Much like a Turner painting or a Greek or Renaissance tragedy. Albert Camus wrote that tragedy flourishes in periods of history that find themselves halfway-between a religious world of dark and mysterious forces (often violent) and a lighter, more human-centered world of reason and science. The album is called Neon Bible, after all. Modernity, sleaze, and urbanity plus holiness and revelation. Hmm, hmmm?

And yes, I am a pretentious pseudo-highbrow minge-dwelling cunt-ridden flange-cock.

Reviewers all over the world have called attention the album’s aura of sadness and paranoia. There is sadness and paranoia, of course, but as in tragedy it exhilarates us instead of dispiriting us. I don’t feel depressed or disturbed listening to Neon Bible so much as immersed in mystery and awe. There is something cleansing and inspiring about the experience of listneing to it in full.

Oh, you want song titles, do you? Well, my fave tracks are the "Intervention," "Black Waves/Bad Vibrations," and "No Cars Go" (that one ROCKS).

The passion, soul, and sheer musical force and imagination of this album will bowl you over. It's a sure contender for Album of the Year, for whatever that's worth. The only album this year that rivals Neon Bible in scope, ambition, and stunning music is The Good, The Bad, and the Queen. If you haven't already gone out and acquired this majestic album like the rest of the literate world, do so now. And don't get bowled over by a black tsunami on your way to the Virgin Megastore.

Fuck Me Burial's Good!

That's all. If you don't own the album, your late nights are missing out.

Those mid/late 90s and Hype Williams

Remember those days. All man, MO MONEY Mo Problems. Oh, I laugh so much thinking about it. See, to me, those were the days when I first really started watching MTV. Remember those overblown Hype Wiliams's videos with flashy things. Missy Elliot, Puff Daddy, and Busta Rhymes seemed to be everywhere. Elliot and Rhymes were entertaining at least. But damn! I was doing some rethinking a whatnot, and it hit me. First, Timbaland is a really good producer. But we all know that one. Second, I used to really not like this song but now, I think it is so damn good. It is actually amazing how famous it was, considering the minimalism of the track. Here you guys go. Relive those days when Carson Daly was just a VJ and just that.

And here's Busta

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Lions and Motorcycles

Amon Tobin is a man with quite the imagination. To me, the man is a wizard with sampling. He never ever get in trouble with royalty problems because he warps the samples till there is no possible way you can recognize what the original sample was. Also, his samples (at times) seem so chaotic, but you never feel like, "Holy Shit, stop this just stop! There is way too much going on here, too much noise." Then you throw the cd into the "fuck off, I'll listen to later in a month's time when I'm in a better mood pile." Amon has the amazing ability to control the samples into beautiful collages. Mr. Tobin, these days, is almost turning into just an innovator in the study of sound. Sounds pretentious, I know. Yet, he is taking a new approach these days.

Amon has stopped with the sampling of old jazz records and is now focusing on field recordings. His new album, The Foley Room, is a whirlwind of field recorded samples. There are motorycles to lions and tigers roaring on this album. I even heard that there are ants eating leaves somewhere. But please, please, don't think this is just some weird album filled with nonsense. There are guitars, string quartets, and drums. The Foley Room, is like the rest of Amon's albums. It is really fucking cool. Producers lately are throwing away their old approaches to making music and starting a new way. Both Dj Shadow and RJD2 have stopped completely sample-based albums. Yet, these albums have turned out to be very poor efforts. Amon, on the other hand, has succeeded. His new approach is very fresh and exciting.

The Foley Room goes through a wide range of ideas. The first song, "Bloodstone," is a piece mainly made up eastern European strings and melodies then to be confronted at the end by drums toppling over on themselves. The second track,"Esther's," is where that motorycle sample comes in with a fuzzed out guitar, but then kicks off with some awesome dill and bass drums. Never in this record do I feel like I am listening to Squarepusher or Aphex Twin, which to me, is a good thing. I respect those guys, but I could not ever make it through one of their albums all the way through. I can do that with Amon. His albums are steps forward, but there is something organic to all of them. Throughout the album, you'll hear some classic breakbeats( Amon style of course). There is one track on here that is without drums, and usually that really turns me off when it is coming from an artist that mainly samples. Yet, Amon pull this one off. It is filled with Ennio Morricone-esque strings and guitars. Towards the end of the album, there is a track called "Always." This is my personal favorite. On this song there are vocals, guitars, fuzzed out basses, and kick ass breakbeats. This is the most radiofriendly you'll ever find Amon Tobin.

The Foley Room is a success for Tobin. He has taken a new direction in his music and is doing it nicely. The Foley Room is definetly not the first Amon Tobin album you should buy. I would say go with Supermodified of Permuntation before this. Yet, it is a very good album. Tobin is taking some very nice steps forward, as he always does.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

More Tintin

Soon Monsieur Catalogues and I will be posting reviews of new albums like the Arcade Fire's Neon Bible, the Fall's Reformation Post-TLC, and the much-anticipated Grinderman debut. As well as mini-essays on classic albums from the past like A Tribe Called Quest's masterpiece Midnight Marauders. For now, glut yourself on this hilarity:

More and funnier here.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

High Rotation

1. Nas- Illmatic (Listening to it on rediculous levels)
2. John Coltrane- Love Supreme
3. David Axelrod- The Edge: David Axelrod Capitol Records Years
4. Radiohead- Kid A/ Amnesiac/ B-Sides from those years (Haven't stopped listening to em since the day they came out)
5. El-P- Fantastic Damage
6. The Coral- The Coral
7. A Tribe Called Quest- Low End Theory/Midnight Marauders (Too Addictive)
8. Cymande- Renegades of Funk
9. Lily Allen- Alright, Still (Still Can't Stop Listening Since Last Summer)
10. The Streets- Orginal Pirate Material

Non-Album Songs
1. Junior Senior- Good Girl, Bad Boy
2. LCD Soundsystem- North American Scum
3. M/A/R/R/S- Pump Up The Volume
4. Panda Bear- Bros
5. Walker Brothers- Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore
6. Baader Meinhof- Mogadishu (Most Played Song On My iTunes)
7. Burial- South London Bouroughs
8. Burial- Night Train
9. Dropkick Murphys- Shipping Off To Boston
10. Marlena Shaw- California Soul

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Queen of Kick Ass Ladies

I am sorry, but there is no excuse if you don't like this woman. She takes the boys by the balls and shows them how to do it right. Yet, under it all, she is the world's most polite woman. She is just too lovely. I know she dated Vincent Gallo, but we all can't be perfect.

Keeping with the Spirit

Since Mr. Peacock has been talking about kick ass women today in music. I will add one more. This lady is so fucking hot too, not to mention her husband made the greatest hip hop record ever. I present Kelis.

Juanita on a Train

This video finds the Howling Bells in what might be called their natural habitat. One of them, anyway. If the shots of Juanita don't make you weak in the knees you're not alive:

For the record, I think their album was the best of last year by several miles.

More Lily

And since this is the week of International Women's Day (Thursday), why not more glorious pop with two X chromosomes?

Here's Lily on Jools:

And my personal favorite track on her album:

More Amy

Continuing the theme of my last post, here's a priceless clip of Amy Winehouse performing at the recent Brit Awards. Try to convince me that this isn't better than Muse or the Arctic Monkeys:

And an earlier track from her jazz-inflected first album, Frank, which is more compromised by execs and thus not as brilliant as Back to Black. This song is a gem though (and the video was filmed not far from my flat!):


There's a fine article in yesterday's Independent about that phenomenon the music press always describes with the most tedious of thought-clich├ęs: "women in music."

The article doesn't cover stuff like factory-processed pop horror like the Pussycat Dolls, still less the uber-fine but musically uninteresting Beyonce, but the new wave of refreshing and compelling female artists like Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, and Joanna Newsom. The author of this article is quite keen on the Gossip's Beth Ditto as well, but I have to confess that--while respecting her success as a fat tattooed lesbian--I think her killer gospel/soul voice could be put to better use. The article hits on a point that I've always wondered and fretted about: if a woman plans to become a pop star (or more likely some men in suits plan for her to become a star), she has to conform to one of two possible archetypes: the virgin or the whore. Britney Spears played both of these of course...and I think we all now understand where that kind of pose gets you.

There have always been women artists who've refused to play the conventional PR game and found wild success in the underground and to some extent in the mainstream: Patti Smith, Kate Bush, Kirsty MacColl, Bjork, PJ Harvey, etc. Not to mention great all-female or female-fronted bands like the Slits, Blondie, Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star, the Breeders, Le Tigre, and Sleater-Kinney (for my money the greatest American rock band at the time of their unfortunate dissolution). But it's only now that the mainstream press, radio, and TV establishment in Britain is catching up with nonconformist female talent and lavishing attention on it. This is still yet to happen in the USA, I'm sad to say, and the UK is only slowly learning to embrace female musicians who don't feel they have to cover up who they are.

As the article puts it: longer do you have to don a pair of golden hot pants, do five-hundred sit-ups a day, pretend to be a virgin (like Britney) or a whore (like Christina) and/or bump'n'grind against a superstar rapper to score that elusive No 1 hit. No, you can drink yourself silly, fall over, cover yourself in tattoos, be fat (like Beth Ditto) or a self-confessed anorexic/bullimic (like Amy Winehouse), laugh about how many drugs you took as a teenager, sleep with women, sleep with men, swear like a trooper - and then you can write funny, candid songs about doing all these things, and people will buy it. The proof is in the pudding - or at least in the sales figures. Amy Winehouse's second album Back to Black has gone triple platinum, Lily Allen's sparkling ska-pop debut Alright, Still has gone double. And it's just the beginning.

Indeed. This description even extends to a mainstream pop group like Girls Aloud; they make ultra-catchy music and they're not afraid to fall over drunk at awards ceremonies. I tend to admire that.

To my skewed sensibility, some of the freshest and most interesting music these days is being made by women or by woman-fronted bands. From Amy Winehouse's raw and luxurious soul to Lily Allen's witty neo-Two Tone pop, Joanna Newsom's visionary harp epics to the Outback Gothic of Juanita Stein's Howling Bells, the skittering polyphony of M.I.A. to the exuberant dance-nonsense of CSS...not to mention Kate Jackson of the Long Blondes, Ninja of the Go! Team, and those loveable Pipettes. One of the reasons I'm so pleased with the success of Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse is that, aside from making wonderful music, they're both appealing personalities. They both have a way with the one-line putdown, and neither of them are afraid to speak their minds forcefully and exactly. Independent-minded women with colorful personalities are hell of a turn-on , let me tell you...much more than anything about the Pussycat Dolls.

The soulful Miss Winehouse:

And the scintillating Miss Allen:

Great Movie Scenes #1

Best boxing scene of all time:

"Tintin's out here and he looks fookin' fuming..."

Monsieur Catalogues thinks Wes Anderson could make a magnificent film of "The Adventures of Tintin." I have to agree. Until Wes gets on with that project, content yourselves with this clip from the cartoon, dubbed in Geordie.

Disclaimer: If you're reading this from a classroom somewhere, do NOT open this clip until your lecture is over. You'll laugh so much your head will roll off, and that would disturb your classmates.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Busking in the financial district

You're a City banker. You're walking across a plaza in the City or in Canary Wharf on your way to an important meeting with another City banker. You're silently planning exactly how you're going to convince your secretary to go to the pub with everyone after work (what if she brings her boyfriend?). You realize your trousers haven't been pressed in three weeks. And you wander across this:

Do you assume they're just another rag-tag bunch of buskers?

"You're haunting this house with your whiteness."

It's chilly, windy, and rainy in London. The daffodils in Regents Park are coming into bloom, but that's small consolation when the sky insists on slate-grey every hour of the day and double-decker buses are drowning in puddles on Baker Street, never to be seen again. I badly need time with sun, sand, and surf. Camus said "No man makes a failure of his life if he lives in the sunlight." Where does that leave me?

Lost Films, Part Two

Casting tawdriness aside for the moment, I'd like to call your attention to this site, a veritable goldmine of information on bizarre films from the 70's. Many of these masterpieces are lost, sadly enough. Don't you wish that you lived in a world where movies with titles like Work is a Four Letter Word, Black Rodeo, Emperor Tomato Ketchup, Son of Heatwave, and Acid Mantra were readily available at your local Blockbuster? Or Videodrome, as the case may be if you're lucky enough to live in the ATL.

Of all these lost artifacts from the 70's, the one I'm most curious about is Son of Heatwave. The chap at Pimpadelic Wonderland is kind enough to describe the plot:

Jesus returns to earth and performs various miracles (tearing up a speeding ticket; giving a young woman large breasts, leaving everyone with an ecstatic smile on their face). Later he's confronted in the ghetto with comments like "If you really loved those kids, you'd turn them white!" After granting their wish he's immediately chased down the street by an angry mob and escapes by running across a swimming pool as the mob falls in the water. Eventually, a bunch of rednecks nail Jesus to a giant peace symbol and set him on fire. In the end, a bruised and bloodied Jesus grabs a machine gun and declares, "OK, no more Mr. Nice Guy!"
This is fast becoming a series of posts about Lost Films involving Jesus. I promise the third installment will cover a Jesus-free movie; but it IS the Lenten season, after all.
I think I said something at the beginning of this post about leaving tawdriness aside.

Pandas Attack Again!

If you remember back to a previous post, I talked about how great the new Panda Bear song is. Well, now I am going to give you better access to this amazing, beautiful, wonderful, song.

Mo Better Blues

I just was listening to Coltrane's Love Supreme, and it made me think of this movie for obvious reasons. I just always enjoyed this clip.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Power Outage

...followed by sublimity.

Pump Up The Volume

Like the previous post about a great album from the past, Mr. Peacock and I have decided to talk about great songs from the past as well.

I was doing some reading on Eric B. and Rakim (the two men responsible for me falling in love with hip hop), and I was reading about how their song "I Know You Got Soul." In the song, you might remember how Rakim says, "Pump up the volume/Pump up the volume." This line was used for a classic house track called "Pump Up The Volume." This song was a number one hit in the UK when it came out. What made the song very unique was the large amount of samples in the song. It was the first time a song largely made up of samples was a number one hit. The song itself still remains a great house crossover track. It is insanely grooving and filled with a great collage of samples. It is too bad M/A/R/R/S (the artists of the track) didn't go on to make more songs. There was conflict in the studio. Yet, in the end, they created a great dance track that was a step forward in sample- based music and just music. Here it is for all you people.


Sometimes someone you know will tell you over and over that they won't do a certain undesirable thing. Sometimes they contradict their own reassurances and they go and do the undesirable thing. And then all hell breaks loose. And I start to feel like this:

Straight Trippin' Bubala

Happy Purim!

Happy Purim!

French kids at Purim. Have a look at the entire lovely and enigmatic photo essay at Slate.


What's your poison?
An emo glass of water
A cup a' tea, Earl Grey to be precise.
Diet Coke- it's even better than the real thing.
An elegant and dry G&T a la Neil Hannon
A Guinness that I wish actually had been brewed in Dublin
Cheap, brain-rotting vodka
Whatever Hitchens is having
Does it look like I give a damn?
Click a link to cast your vote

Friday, March 2, 2007

Lock Down Your Aerial

Every week, Mr. Peacock and I have decided to talk about a great past album that we think we should talk about. This is entry one.

I remember back in the good ole days (year 2002) when certain artists seemed like the world was theirs and they could do anything. The Strokes seemed infallible and The Libertines seemed like they could take us to great lands and rule them with wisdom and grace. Yet, things don't always come out to play as you'd like them to. The Strokes failed, and that's is all you can say. The Libertines lost their nerve and made us cry. There was another artist who I thought could change music, as we know it, forever. When I first heard of his name, he was a mysterious lad making music in South London (raised in Birmingham). This man was Mike Skinner aka The Streets.

I remember the first time I heard The Streets. I honestly hadn't heard anything like it before. It was so fresh and exciting. It was extremely clever and inventive. Being from the USA, I had never heard of this thing called "garage," so the beats were very unique to me. I remember on the first song, "Turn The Page," how well it set the mood for the album with the strings looping at the beginning and the beats coming in. In the song Skinner says, "I'm 45th generation Roman." I don't know about you, but that line had always just seemed too kick ass. I don't know why. It just does. When I look back on it, if you take away the vocals on "Let's Push Things Forward," you have a dubstep song. Crazy eh? Ahead of its time? Maybe. The interplay between Calvin and Skinner on "The Irony of it All" has always been something that has stuck with me. It is funny, clever, and well.... ironic. One song that just penetrates me, and will continue to, is "Stay Positive." Holy Shit, first off, the beat is k-k-killer. I really do love that one. Also, the subject matter and how it is delivered is just ace. As music has shown us, disillusionment with drugs makes great music. From The Stranglers, Spiritualized, Blur, and to The La's, they all have created great songs about a character that is "mugging" themself about their drug. Mike Skinner does the same.

Sadly, Skinner has fallen to his own lyrics. Golden Rule: Cocaine makes artists make shitty music: Doherty, Oasis, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, and the list goes on. Skinner was a shadowy figure when I first encountered his music. Then he has turn into this celebrity figure like Doherty. His second album was a fine one, but it doesn't have that mythology that lies in the first one. There are so many great stories and ideas on Orginal Pirate Material. The beats were full of texture as well. Skinner has lost it. He is too big. Skinner needs to get back to "street level." In the end, The Streets first album will always be an album that is so dear to my heart. It is as interesting and orginal today as it was a few years ago. When I listen to it, it still "pushes things forward."

Reason #284 American radio is missing out

I'm going against my own expectation about leaving literary stuff out of this blog here, but this item from the Times of London certainly falls under the category of Music.

The Paris-based but Italian-born supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni has recorded an album that sets poems by W.H. Auden, W.B. Yeats, Walter de la Mare, Christina Rossetti, Emily Dickinson, and Dorothy Parker to pop music-- or more specifically, to pop music in the vein of smoky French chanson. Sounds like fun to me. This year is the centary of Auden's birth, and surely releasing an album of his songs (so many of his poems are really songs) isn't a bad way to honor the man. The impressive thing about all this is that Carla Bruni's album of renditions isn't considered some fringe, pretentious nonsense in France. In France and in Germany her album went Top Ten; her first album, Quelqu'un m'a dit, sold more than two million copies in France, Italy, and Spain. Despite the fact that she uses the lyrics of some great English-language poets, she hasn't really been heard from in the UK. Not her fault, of course; the Brits haven't put the lady on the bloody radio yet. The cultivated folks at Radio Three might dig her, but she's yet to go mainstream here. And as for breaking through in the US...well, I think she can forget about it.

Bruni sounds like a classic French chanteuse in the tradition of Edith Piaf and Monique Serf; her voice is sultry and breathy, and her guitar-playing conjures up some late-night cafe version of Django Reinhardt. So, in short, she's a French-Italian model with a passion for great poetry and a voice that will melt you. Watch this short documentary on her and tell me she's not the ideal woman:

A Welsh Church and a North London Winehouse

I have a crush on both of these women. Is there something wrong with me? Feedback would be greatly appreciated.

The fact that they both like a drink (one of them more so than the other, probably) somehow adds to their appeal.

Notes on the Automatic

Fine, Monsieur Catalogues, make fun of me if you want. But I genuinely enjoy this sprightly batch of Welsh lads in their late teens. They play a polished sort of pop-punk-noise, and the frustration in their music is all very adolescent I suppose, but I still relate to it godammit. Perhaps it has something to do with being on the verge of graduating from university: I enjoy a band like the Automatic because they remind me of my angry punk rock-loving (but not exactly dyed, mohawked, and pierced) teenage years, a time I'm pretty decisively drifting away from at this point; and the yelping, the screaming, and the anguished cries of things like "SOOOOOO MUCH TRASH ON THE RADIIIIOOOOO TOOOODAAAAAAY!!!" (from the aptly titled "You Shout You Shout You Shout You Shout") and bites of sarcasm (i.e. the bitter mantra of "Let's go back to work" at the end of "Raoul") correspond to the end-of-university, dissertation-writing mood of stress, bemusement, and terror of the future.

But "identifying" with a set of lyrics, as we sophisticates know, is not reason enough to enjoy a band. Or is it? Who knows? Does it even matter with tunes as good as these? Yes indeed, the Automatic's debut album Not Accepted Anywhere sports not a few bloody great songs. You folks in the UK already know all the singles, but for the benefit of my readers in the USA:

The members of the Automatic are all around 18 or 19 or 20, and the band make-up is somewhat unique. The singer--a pretty chap called Rob Hawkins--plays bass, and the basic guitar-bass-drums intrumental structure is augmented by a keyboard player by the name of Alex Pennie, notable for enriching Hawkins's vocal melodies with mountain lion yowling and for hopping around the stage like a furious marmot. Pennie might be considered the Bez of this band, if you will.

The band claims descendance from Blur, Radiohead, Muse, Ash, and the hardcore-noise scene in Cardiff where they cut their teeth. All these influences are detectable in the Automatic's music, from the caterwauling Telecaster (a stab at Greenwoodhood) to the totally wired mood of the album (Blur, Muse, Ash, etc. in their different ways); but something that makes the Automatic more than just another loud and catchy punk band is what you might call their Celtic soul. Again, feel free to disagree and make fun of me here. But I have to admit my heart soars everytime I hear Rob belt "Convex you bend, twist AND SHOUT!" in the second verse of "Monster"; I am a sucker for a Welshman with an intense voice. The Automatic have the same kind of fire and passion as their fellow countrymen the Manic Street Preachers, and Not Accepted Anywhere is a much better album than either of the Manics's first two. Whether or not these guys have a Holy Bible or an Everything Must Go in them remains to be seen, of course.

The other thing that sets the Automatic apart from other pop-punk bands is the structure of their songs. Everyone in the band seems pretty adept at their instruments, and their songs are full of odd bass riffs that come in and out, interesting sudden changes in rhythm, and as I mentioned some Greenwoodesque noise. The songs have loud riffs and huge spirit-cleansing choruses, but they also make you want to dance. Seriously! There's an underlying groove in the bass and drums that makes them far more danceable than any Cardiff scream-and-feedback ensembles. Good fun.

The most accomplished moment on the album comes late, in the form of Track 11 "By My Side." Honestly, if this song had appeared on PiL's Album, U2's Achtung Baby or Radiohead's The Bends it would be hailed as a masterpiece. In other words, I strongly recommend this CD. It's not blinding genius on the level of a Nick Cave or a Scott Walker, but like I've said too many times, it's great fun.

For now, enjoy some of their videos. The clip for "Raoul" is the only "rock n' roll liberates dull workplace" video where the chaos into which the office desends actually looks like fun. And the one for "Recover" just looks supercool, I think. And it has a pretty girl in it.

Lost Films, Part One

Hello. I'm a new contributor to this blog, and I hope you'll enjoy my blathering.

I have no intention of disrupting the musical focus of this fine blog, but I do have word staight from Monsieur Catalogues himself that I'm free to post on whatever I like. And "whatever I like" comes down to music and movies, mostly. I do like books a whole hell of a lot, but it's difficult to make any intelligent or fascinating remarks about them in the blog format. Or am I being elitist here?

At any rate, for my first post on the French Catalogues I thought I'd talk to you about films. Lost films, in particular. It seems odd (to my mind, really quite eerie) that an entire motion picture can be made, released, seen by a few people, and then utterly vanish. But apparently quite a few reels of films have done exactly that. I just came across Film Threat's list of the Top Ten Lost Films of all time; there's plenty of curiosities here (made all the more curious by their disappearance), but one that especially caught my eye was a 1970s romp called Him:

The title character of this gay porn flick is none other than the Man from Galilee, whose interest in hanging out with the all-male disciples is supposedly more than mere fraternalism. Parallel to this is a contemporary story of a young gay male who finds new spiritualism by plumbing the gayer aspects of the Gospels for his own notion of loving thy neighbor (particularly if he’s a good looking hunky neighbor).
Fun! I have to admit I'm a little disappointed this one can't be located (someone ought to invent a device that detects old movie reels in attics and garages), but there's currently an Internet debate raging over whether or not this film even existed. The only reason anyone knows about Him at all is because in 1980 film critic Michael Medved (Orthodox Jewish fellow who now hosts his own conservative talk radio show, nationally syndicated and very concerned about moral degeneration in Hollywood) mentioned it in his book "The Golden Turkey Awards." Medved's book, apparently, is some kind of guide to really bad movies-- though he confesses that one of the films he discusses is a "hoax" he made up for fun. Many folks, including Andrew Sullivan, suspect the "hoax" film is Him. The only problem with this speculation is that this gent recovered a newspaper ad for Him during its original New York run. It's a mystery, innit?
The only two possibilities here are that a) Michael Medved visited a gay porn cinema in 1974 and took in an "all-male cast" drama about Christ, or b) Michael Medved is capable of imagining a gay porn flick about Christ. Both interesting possibilities, of course.