Foo Fighters- Sonic Highways Review

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A full disclosure before we start- Foo Fighters were my absolute favourite band growing up. Bar none. I have all their albums, I’ve seen them live twice. I’ve bought the t-shirt and I have a couple of their records on vinyl, despite the fact that I DON’T OWN A RECORD PLAYER. I’ve obsessed over this band. This critique will be too well informed, perhaps alienating. Having said that I hope you enjoy reading it…

Dave Grohl has always been a man of big ideas. And the premise of Sonic Highways, the latest LP from the Foo Fighters, is an undeniably one of his biggest. Following in same the vein of past high-concept Foo Fighters albums like the half-electric half-acoustic In Your Honor or the recorded-in-a-garage-that-is-probably-nicer-than-most-people’s-houses Wasting Light, the band’s Eighth album finds the band invigorating their creative process by recording the album’s eight songs in different cities across America. Not only that but it sees an eight part documentary series accompany it, detailing the recording process as well as the musical history of the city each song was recorded in. The concept alone is enough to pique the interest of the band’s fiercest critics, surely?

The album starts off with Something From Nothing, a song recorded in Chicago. It is, for lack of a better word, a weird song. Coming from someone who has heard every single Foo Fighters song from every single album, including b-sides they have never been so Led Zeppelin-esque in their execution. Is that a Mellotron half way through? Anyway the song failed to inspire originally but is a grower simply because it has so many parts to it that I find I hear something new every time I listen to the song. Some may see it as its biggest flaw however and it’s not one of the Foo’s better singles.
The album picks up though, with the Washington, DC recorded Feast and the Famine. It is definitely the most full-throttle tune on the album, fitting as it pays tribute to Grohl’s hometown and the DIY punk scene he grew up in. Perhaps its most interesting element is its incorporation of the Washington, DC Go-Go music drum beat pioneered by bands such as Trouble Funk, a fact that you could only appreciate by watching the accompanying documentary episode. Nevertheless it’s a great song and a far cry from the proginess of Something From Nothing.

What Did I Do?/ God As My Witness sees the band do their best Queen imitation. It evangelises the passion the residents of Austin, the city it was recorded in, have for their city and its nurturing of artistic freedom. The accompanying episode sheds light on the gentrification of the city however, which many see as curbing the artistic hospitableness it has provided for decades, which as a Londoner I can definitely sympathise with. As the episode moves through the streets, banners of ‘Keep Austin Weird’ are seen and shed some light on the line in the song that says ‘What can I do to preserve you?’. This is an example of the interesting way Grohl has penned the lyrics to the album, drawing on inspiration from the interviews he has conducted with people from the city’s he is recording in. This technique can sometimes come across as a little forced on some of the album’s tracks, but here it works just fine.

In The Clear is another great song, super melodic and catchy. However in my opinion doesn’t utilise the New Orlean’s Preservation Jazz Hall band who appear on it to full affect. I’d never thought I’d say about a Foo Fighters song ‘Needs more Trombone!’, but such is the diversity of the album. Not all the songs are winners unfortunately. The song Outside drags along a bit, as does the Seattle recorded Subterranean, which can’t even be saved by the inclusion of Death Cab for Cutie’s Benjamin Gibbard. The same can be said of the album’s seven minute closer I Am A River, which funnily enough sounds more like a Death Cab song than Subterranean. However the album is saved by its brevity and doesn’t extend to a length that makes it torturous, a fault that I found with the band’s last album Wasting Light.

All in all, the album is a nice enough addition to the Foo’s canon. A final note though, and something that can’t be said about every album: The documentary is better. If you are interested in the history of music and you want to watch a passionately put together piece on the importance of where art comes from, I highly recommend it. One criticism with it however: no episode set in Minneapolis? The home of Bob Dylan, Prince, the Replacements and Husker Du is sorely missed from the creative process I feel. And Detroit as well. Here’s hoping to a Sonic Highways Two.foo-fighters-fb-2

The New Foo Fighters for M&S collection is out now

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Bands That Could Feasibly Be Football Teams

With the World Cup upon us it seems only right that I should write some sort of tie-in feature for Three Chords is Jazz. So at an attempt to be topical here are five bands that have so many members that they could feasibly field a football team. I’m not saying they would be good. But they could.

 

Arcade fire

The Canadian band would definitely be able to field a team with their extended band for their Reflektor tour. Frontman Win Butler would be the heart of the defence because that guy is freakin’ tall. And with his temper he would be like an art-school John Terry. But without being a scum-bag of course.

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White suits aren’t the most practical football kit…

 

Wu-Tang Clan

Throw in a few of their many affiliates and the hip hop legends would be nothing to fuck with. Forget Spain’s Tiki Taka or Holland’s Total Football. Wu-tang’s Shaolin style will be more than a match for any opposition. RZA and GZA would keep the game ticking over in the centre of midfield and Raekwon the Chef for sure would be in goal due to his, lets just say, large frame. The late Ol’ Dirty Bastard would be the Maradona of the team, causing havoc on the wings and raising more than a few eyebrows with the doping inspectors.

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Protect ya neck.

 

Broken Social Scene

Another Canadian Band. I’m fairly certain when both Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire are on tour the country is virtually empty. Their indie supergroup status would roughly translate in football terms as them being as good as a decent league one side. Leyton Orient maybe? MK Dons?

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Pass the oranges! 

 

Odd Future

The LA collective would definitely be one of the more wilder and juvenile teams around, comparable perhaps to the famous Wimbledon ‘Crazy Gang’ side of the 1980s. In defence would be the little and large Mellowhype duo of Hodgy beats and Left Brain, similar to Carlos Puyol and Gerard Pique. Except way more stoned. The captain Tyler the Creator would be up front, but being Tyler he’d spend far too much time tracking so that he could be part of the action. Also, Frank Ocean would cause as much controversy for being one of the first openly bisexual footballers as he did in the hip hop world.

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Team Photo 2k13

 

Parliament Funkadelic

A team that’s getting on a bit but still knows how to turn up, much like almost every Italian side. George Clinton would be a slightly more portly Andrea Pirlo, dictating play from the middle of the park. Probably wouldn’t be a very good team but their goal celebrations would be insane!!!

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Parliament would easily make two teams.

 

 

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Still the greatest music/football crossover of all time…

Coldplay- Ghost Stories Review

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Everyone knows it’s the don thing to make fun of Coldplay. It’s easy to do, they’re a big enough band to take it and it can be rather fun. Especially when targeted at clownish frontman Chris Martin. The band’s new album, their sixth, arrives after much turmoil in the band’s camp. With Martin splitting from long-term celebrity partner Gwyneth Paltrow, something the couple infamously have called a ‘conscious uncoupling’, the band have not been out of the headlines. A more cynical person might speculate overt the convenient timing of the revelation, coming just a few weeks before the band release their new album. Luckily I am that cynical person and I can confidently state that Martin’s split with Paltrow was all a PR stunt to garner interest in the new album. Let the jokes at their expense continue!

 

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Words can’t hurt us…

Getting back to the point, Ghost Stories is largely composed of standard Coldplay fare. It harks back to older albums such as A Rush of Blood to the Head and X and Y and sits very comfortably sonically in between those two albums. The second song released from the album Magic is definitely the best song on the album and melodically is one of the bands superior singles. Its subtle dynamics and understated-ness is indicative of the album as a whole. Equally as down-tempo is album-opener Always in my Head, which introduces the general mood of melancholy that permeates many of the songs.

One song that avoids this general mood of Melancholy is the club-banger Sky Full of Stars. The song is a logical step for the populist band. Upon first hearing it I turned to a friend and exclaimed ‘This sounds like Avicii’ to which I was met with the unsurprising revelation that it was indeed produced by multi-millionaire DJ Avicii. And whilst he has his fanbase, (a considerable one at that I concede), his presence on the album is actually quite depressing, logical given the type of electronic music he makes, but still depressing. Coldplay are not the first established band to draw inspiration from and directly collaborate with new and popular act. However, whenever they have tried it hasn’t ever really come off, bringing to mind the collaboration with Rihanna on their last album. Even co-production from electronica-maestro Jon Hopkins on the track midnight can’t save it from sounding like a Bon Iver knock-off, though admittedly quite an interesting one.

The major dip in the album come in the form of the tracks Ink, a song which sound s like a early-2000s Backstreet Boys song and whose production makes it sound like it was made on a PC running Windows 98. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the track Oceans, a beautiful song which sounds like Jeff Buckley, Mazzy Star and most importantly Old Coldplay. The two songs are indicative of the major inconsistencies that blight the album. Ultimately because of these flaws the album is not one of the bands best, but it is saved by a handful of decent tracks. It is no way near as engrossing enough to hold your attention for long, which sadly means that the most compelling thing about the album is trying to contextualise the lyrics: ‘Is this line about Gwyneth? Is this line about Gwyneth?’

They’re all about Gwyneth mate…

Albums of the Year… So Far.

We’ve reached the halfway point of the year and for music fans now is the time to sit down and evaluate what the past six months has given us. So far 2014 has given a varied body of work to choose from, no bona-fide classics have been released as of yet but the year is filled with solid efforts from a number of bands. Lacklustre efforts from big bands such as Coldplay and Kasabian have been offset by solid efforts by a plethora of artists. Here are a few of my personal favourites:

Mac Demarco- Salad days

Named after a period of time characterised by youth idealism and innocence, Mac Demarco’s third album is antithetically his most mature and sophisticated. Recorded at the aptly named Jizz-Jazz studios, the album still contains Mac’s trademark playfulness, but with a more sophisticated approach to song-writing. Tracks like Passing Out the Pieces and Chamber of Reflection, both based around keyboard hooks add a new diversity to his repertoire and showcase why Mac is one of the most exciting songwriters around.

Real Estate- Atlas

An album so chill it’s almost abrasive. The third album from New Jersey’s real Estate is full of sunny pop tunes with jangly melodies and lyrics of miscommunication with significant others. Despite being released in March this is the perfect album of summer, either relaxing by a pool on some Mediterranean island or supping some mixed berry cider in a park. Highlights include the irrepressible pop of Talking Backwards and the skewed time signatures of Crime.

Damon Albarn- Everyday Robots

The first proper solo effort form the Blur frontman begs the question, if he is going to release solo album this good do we really need another Blur album? Moving away from the cartoonish pop of Gorillaz the album is a more introspective one focusing on existentialist problems of life in the modern world in both the tilte track and Lonely Press Play. But it s not all doom and gloom. Albarn showcases the obvious influence of African music, procured through his various travels to the continent, on the song Mr Tembo, written about an elephant he encountered across the sea in Chile. Sonically and lyrically intriguing, as only an effort from Mr Albarn would be.

Kelis- Food

Harking back to her 2003 album Tasty, the culinary-centric sixth solo album from Kelis is a surprise treat. Filled with well-written songs that draw from Soul, Funk and Gospel Food is a great modern RnB record that manages to steer clear of the current trend of incorporating aspects of electronic music. This is a surprise considering Kelis last album did just that, so very well. It just goes to show how talented and underrated the singer is. Kudos as well must be awarded to producer Dave Sitek who showcases his versatility by producing this at the same time he was producing for Liam Gallagher’s Beady Eye. An eclectic and nostalgic trip that does not disappoint.

Fucked Up- Glass Boys

Fucked Up’s intention on new album Glass Boys was to a write a concise rock record to stand in antithesis to their third and previous album David Comes to Life. And they have done exactly that. Whilst David was written intentionally as a rock opera at 77 minutes, Fucked Up’s fourth is almost half that length. Still one of the nest melodic Punk bands around, the songs are no less grand than on its predecessor. This is truly a drummer’s album that’ll have you flailing your arms at those air-snares and air-symbols an interestingly enough the record comes in a double LP with the second album featuring the each song with the drum track at half time. An albums full of tunes, standouts include Sunboys and Paper the House.

Honourable mentions:

The Horrors- Luminous: A solid but familiar 4th album from the Art-rockers

Warpaint- Warpaint: Great songs but as a whole can be quite jarring and unengaging.

Lana Del Ray- Ultraviolence: Would be good if she wasn’t so lyrically vacuous and annoying.

Here’s to the next six months!

The 5 Best London Albums

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In the immortal words of Drake “All I care about is money and the city that I’m from”. Seen as though I don’t actually have any money however, I spend a lot more of my time caring about the city that I’m from. That city being London. Thus I decided to combine my three favourite things, London, music and lists to create what this introduction is trying to introduce, an index of the five best London albums. What is a London album I hear you ask? Broadly speaking, it is any album by a London band, an album about the city or any album I feel evokes the nation’s capital, its streets, its people, its pollution. And yes I’m including Greater London in the remit, from Barnet to Bermondsey, Harrow to Hackney. Basically any place that has a tube station. Whatever. Read!!!

The Clash- London Calling

Obviously. One of the best bands with undoubtedly their greatest album, no list of London albums could miss the Clash’s seminal London Calling. Tackling social displacement, unemployment, racial conflict and drug use in the nation’s capital it’s both thought provoking and killer throughout. Which is twice as impressive considering it’s a double album. The Title track is also the song most people associate with London, so essentially whenever an American film or sitcom it set over here you will no doubt hear this song playing over a montage of Big Ben and Tower Bridge. Every time. Without fail.

Bloc Party- A Weekend in the City

‘Because East London is a vampire, it sucks the joy right out of me’ sings Kele Okereke in Song for Clay (Disappear Here) from Bloc Party’s second album, equating Shoreditch and its surrounding areas with the L.A. of Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero. This is profoundly familiar to anyone who’s been there a Friday night and its observations like these which make A Weekend in the City a consummate reflection of what it feels like growing up into a young adult in the Great Smoke. Tune after tune of experimentatal post-punk loveliness show for me just how important and transcendent Bloc Party were in the post-Strokes indie scene of the mid-2000s. The Prayer is how every one feels before a night out, surely?

JME- Famous?

Its physically impossible to write an article on London music without including some grime. Is there another genre more indelibly linked to a single city? For JME is definitely one of the smartest grime artists in the game and whilst he may not have the energy of Tempa T or the production of the Wiley helmed Roll Deep, Famous? Undoubtedly makes use of the tropes that grime is so well known for. JME is definitely one of the most well-travelled Londoners which play a big part in his lyrics, for instance in the classic Shut Your Mouth: ‘Live in north, Uni in south, Radio in east, so shut your mouth’ which according to rapgenius translates as: ‘JME lives in north London, he went to Uni in south London and was often on pirate radio at the time in east London so.. shut your mouth’. For this he gets mad love, despite trying to shift limited edition Boy Better Know snapbacks for £105.78 a pop (Leaaave ittttt!)

xx- xx

Silence in the city is hard to come by, so when you get it, it very much takes you by surprise. Equally as surprising was the sombre dream-pop of south-west Londoners the xx’s debut self-titled album. Before they came out of nowhere to take the country by storm and eventually win the Mercury prize back in 2010, the band graduated from he same secondary school that also nurtured the talents of Burial, Fourtet and members of Hot Chip. That is some company to be part of. Purveyors of the most unconventional kind of pop-songs, the band effortlessly captured the feel of late-night/ early morning London, indebted no least by having to record the album in the dead of night at the West London home of the abel XL recordings. Not so much lyrical allusion to the city, but their evocative tones for me definitely makes this an album Londoners can be proud of, mixing elements of indie guitar pop and electronic production to make a sound as hybrid as the city itself.

Blur- Parklife

It’s a little known fact that Blur’s third album was originally supposed to be called London and Noel Gallagher once stated that the finished product sounded like ‘Southern England Personified’. Both these truths serve to highlight how the band consciously (perhaps subconsciously) allowed the city to seep into their music. The 90s may have been the decade of Brit-pop but more importantly it was a time of significant political upheaval in the country, an age of Tony Blair, New Labour and ‘We’re all middle class now’. The subsequent Cool Britannia wave of renewed patriotism in Britain and pride in British Culture is an inseparable association for any band of the time and Blur are no different. However their sardonic social commentary, as evidenced in songs such as Boys and Girls, were lost on their contemporaries (looking at you Oasis) and separated them from the homogenous British lump that was the arts in the 90s. What with the gentrification and whatnot Parklife is definitely evocative of the transitional state of the capital at the time:

‘A malady has taken him over
Coughing tar in his japanese motor
The lights are magic
And he feels lucky
And he’s got money
Shoots like an arrow – oh’

Priceless

Artists in London- Enjoy it while you can!

The Future of the Past or: How I Learned to Love Unoriginality and Embrace the Bass

Let me get this straight. I like my drums pounded and my guitars crunchy. However, with the comparatively restricting remit of rock and roll finding a new exciting band has always proven a problem, especially in a genre that prides itself on both originality and authenticity. It is no surprise nowadays we are increasingly confronted with bands that pass more than a glancing resemblance to acts of yesteryear, but I put forward the question: does it fucking matter? If everything has been done before should we not cherish bands who do remind us of acts we already love and can get our blood pumping regardless? As such, here a five rock and roll bands whose songs sound suspiciously familiar, but are still mad awesome.

The Orwells

When the Strokes came out with This Is It in 2001 the charts we besieged by a slew of sound-alike bands, some good some downright awful. These raucous Chicagoans have the same youthful garage-y energy as the New Yorkers did when the first hit the seen and with the songs to match. As a fan of the Strokes, the disappointment of the last couple of albums means that I’m pinning my hat on these guys to fill the jangly guitar shaped hole in my CD collection.

Parquet Courts

When Steven Malkmus first heard Parquet Courts he mistakenly thought someone was making him listen to early Pavement. The fact that he himself was in Pavement tells us a lot: Parquet Courts manage to combine the witty lyricism of Malkmus and co with the minimal art-rock song construction of Lou Reed. Which is a headfuck in iitself because Pavement were influenced by The Velvet Underground themselves. Hipster Inceptioooooooooooon…

Drenge

Even their name sounds like grunge. The two-piece do make a pretty massive noive, which is surprising consider how they look. Echoes of Bleach-era Nirvana and the singer sounds a bit like Ian Curits if he was from the home counties, you can just hear the sweaty, heaving venues that their songs should be played in their incessant riffs. Great songs, but if I were to give one little criticism please get a bassist. Just do it, no one thinks you’re cool if you don’t have one. The White Stripes are dead, let them lie.

Cheatahs

More grungeyness, but this time with specks of shoegaze which, with me being as unoriginal as their sound, means I am equating them with My Bloody Valentine. Dinosaur Jr also comes to mind, but without the guitar theatrics. Debut album was good, but hopefully their song writing will evolve. But at least they have a bassist.

Royal Blood

BBC sound of 2014 darlings Royal Blood are definitely getting the airplay in the UK, with Zane Lowe heaping his usual thick layers of sycophancy on the Brighton duo on his Radio 1 show. Songs like ‘Come On Over’ and ‘Little Monster’ smack of Queens of the Stone Age at the start of their and the fact that their wield just a Bass and a Drum-kit between them means that comparison with Death From Above 1979 are unavoidable. Another band whom I feel would benefit from some extra instrumental help on stage, you just know eventually they will have to increase their membership for live shows. Just suck it up lads, no one will judge you.

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Oooooh, kill’ em.

The Return of the Prince

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Britain, we cannot ignore the signs. As the sky turns purple and grown men start sporting tiny moustaches and speaking in falsetto it can only mean one thing. The artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince is back. With his new band 3RDEYEGIRL as backup, the legendary singer will embark on a highly secretive tour of ‘iconic venues’ in the nation’s capital. Details so far have been kept under wraps, with the singer only revealing at a press conference at the home of British singer songwriter Lianne La Havas house that tickets for the shows will cost the measly sum of $10. While nothing was confirmed in terms of dates or specifics, he did say he was interested in maybe playing smaller venues like Ronnie Scott’s, the Bag O’Nails Club and the Electric Ballroom in London, a venue he played later that night, performing in front of around 100 in what he dubbed a soundcheck. All this comes after the singer joined twitter under the name @3RDEYEGIRL in August 2013 and released the single ‘Breakfast Can Wait’, with cover art featuring the comedian Dave Chappelle in his infamous impression of the star, a short while afterwards. 3RDEYEGIRL’s first album ‘Plectrum Electrum’ has so far not been given a release date, but aside from featuring the aforementioned single it will also contain the recently released PretzelBodyLogic. So far there is no indication of how long Prince will stay in the country, but you can only speculate that his low key return might be in preparation for a triumphant headline slot at Glastonbury. Either way there is no telling where he will pop up next, just keep a lighter in your pocket at all times, you never know when you might have to hold it aloft to the guitar solo in Purple Rain..

Also, Prince was on New Girl…