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Archive for January, 2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Mars Volta: The Bedlam In Goliath (Album Review)

It’s good to see that The Mars Volta don’t depend on death for inspiration and inspired music. When they first formed after the bifurcation of At The Drive-In via De Facto, their debut Deloused In the Comatorium traced the imaginary narrative of their friend, the late Julio Venegas, as he fought his way through a drug-induced coma (before waking in real life and jumping from the Mesa Street overpass into interstate traffic). The tour undertaken to support that album saw the heroin-related death of their sound manipulator Jeremy Ward and, in turn, birthed the inspiration for their second album Frances The Mute. It might sound in bad taste to suggest it but their third album Amputechture was not noticeably less dense or itchily packed full of ideas and riffs, but it was undeniable that without a tangible theme or concept the album, while it didn’t lack focus, was perhaps was slightly light on soul.

So they have returned to the concept album for their fourth outing; luckily, this time no one died. But the band will tell you that it was a close call. The back story is long and (necessarily) confused but goes something like this. While passing through a flea market in Jerusalem an old man beckoned MV guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez into his antiques shop (the establishment will be familiar to anyone who has seen Hellraiser, or read any Poe or Lovecraft) and sold him a Ouija board, known as the Soothsayer. The talking board came to take the place of a new drug when the band were on a long tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and began put them in touch with several characters including the titular Goliath, a trio of voices belonging to a daughter murdered in an honour killing, her mother and the voice of an ugly and jealous male spirit keen on drowning out the females. So their story goes, the board became an obsession and provided about 80 per cent of the lyrics for Cedric Bixler-Zavala on the album and began demanding payment in kind. After this all manner of chaos broke out around the recording of the album, their long-time producer had a nervous breakdown, band members got flooded out of their homes, entire tracks went missing. Scared that an evil force was trying to break through into our reality, the shock-haired guitarist stole the board back and buried it in the desert.

So they say.

Anyway, as luck would have it, the vinyl version of this excellently unhinged album folds out into your very own copy of a ‘positive soothsayer’, so you too can help fight the bad male spirit, keep Goliath in his pan-dimensional prison and maybe halt the building of a fourth runway at Heathrow as well.

But this story, no matter how preposterous, has been just the tonic for The Mars Volta and spurred them on to even grander sonic experiments and assaults on the senses. For the most part, this is the heaviest record that they’ve recorded and the most far-out as well. Omar’s obsession with free jazz/rock fusion and ‘70s Miles Davis is more fully realised here, calling to mind his highly experimental, self-titled album released on the Dutch imprint Willie Anderson two years ago. Speaking in general terms Cedric’s vocals have been processed, harmonized and twisted out of shape in more ways than you would have thought possible. The Volta aren’t stupid enough to spoon feed you the exact details of their barmpot story, meaning that it’s possible to ignore if you’ve got little in the way of tolerance for Dungeons and Dragons capers with your progressive music, but sonically it acts as the backbone. The berserk opener ‘Aberkinkula’ nails their already well defined acid freak-out sound to Middle Eastern scales like a punk/prog (prug/pronk) The Devil’s Anvil. ‘Metatron’ is hyper-accelerated Lalo Schiffrin in car chase mode before warping into warp-fast computer game theme-styled power metal before skidding to a halt in the more pastoral prog scenery of Aphrodite’s Child. In fact, each track is composed from so many riffs, ideas, styles et cetera that it would literally take you weeks to dissect the entire album, so dense is its structure.

In some ways The Mars Volta are the perfect example of how a band can be successful and still boundary pushing and, it should be said, their shtick is amazing. Buried Ouija boards? Tormented giants from other dimensions? Nervous breakdowns? Ghosts in the machine? This is the stuff of rock legend and it’s made for a brilliant album and, just like The A-Team, this time they did it with no casualties.
(by: John Doran)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vampire Weekend- A-Punk (Music Video)

Kingblind Downloads

Lightspeed Champion – Dry Lips

The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead

Robert Pollard – Love Your Spaceman

Vampire Weekend – A-Punk

Blue Scholars – Butter & Gun$ (Loyalty) [Live @ KEXP]

Chris Walla – Sing Again

RIAA Wants to Increase Filesharing Damages to $1.5 Million an Album, Just for Laughs

The amount that the RIAA gets in statutory damages in filesharing lawsuits is already completely bananas, but they still aren’t happy. The problem? Compilation CDs. A rascally pirate could rip 10 tracks from 10 CDs, say they came from a compilation and then only be culpable for one album. That’s not right! The RIAA would then be cheated out of money they could use to polish the rubies on the ends of their walking sticks!

So what are they doing? Pushing the PRO-IP Act through Congress that’ll increase the statutory damages for compilation albums to a whopping $1.5 million. Yes, if you get busted sharing a soundtrack or compilation album with multiple artists on it, the RIAA wants to count each track as its own album. You know, just for the heck of it.

With statutory damages already so out of the league of the rational and the justifiable, increasing the damages this much might actually happen. I mean, if they could justify $150,000 an album before, is it really such a leap to make that $1.5 million?

The moral of the story? Be careful and don’t get busted
(via Gizmodo)

Modest Mouse, The National Opening R.E.M. Tour

R.E.M. has drafted Modest Mouse and the National as support acts for its upcoming tour of North American theaters and arenas, which begins May 23 in Vancouver. The outing comes on the heels of the April 1 release of R.E.M.’s new Warner Bros. album, “Accelerate.”

Although an official announcement was made today (Jan. 28), the National frontman Matt Berninger spilled the beans during an interview last week with Australia’s Triple J radio.

R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe has been a vocal admirer of the New York-by-way-of-Cincinnati band in recent months, and attended one of its shows in London last year.

Modest Mouse has been off the road since mid-December; the group’s 2007 Epic album, “We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sunk,” was its first to feature former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.

Here are R.E.M.’s tour dates:

May 23: Vancouver (Deer Lake Park)
May 29: Los Angeles (Hollywood Bowl)
May 31: Berkeley, Calif. (Greek Theatre)
June 3: Morrison, Colo. (Red Rocks)
June 6: Chicago (United Center)
June 8: Toronto (Molson Amphitheatre)
June 10: Raleigh, N.C. (Walnut Creek)
June 11: Columbia, Md. (Merriweather Post Pavilion)
June 13: Mansfield, Mass. (Tweeter Center)
June 14: Wantagh, N.Y. (Jones Beach)
June 18: Philadelphia (Mann Center
June 19: New York (TBA)
June 21: Atlanta (Lakewood Amphitheatre)

The Whigs:: Mission Control (Album Review)

“Like a vibration, my reputation is making the rounds at bars,” snarls Parker Gispert, kicking off The Whigs’ second full-length, Mission Control. It’s wishful thinking: For the most part, The Whigs manage little more than cross-breeding the dullest aspects of Strokes-esque formalist garage-rock with the all-volume, all-the-time approach of the Foo Fighters at their least subtle. With drums drained of nuance and guitars always overpowering, the basic song structures sound formulaic. The few songs with radical differences stand out as models of power-pop craft: A brass section makes the title of “I Got Ideas” believable, while stripping down “Right Hand On My Heart” to guitar, drums, and vocals for most of the running time shows terrific promise lurking underneath.

EMI and NY Daily News to give away free downloads

EMI has teamed with the New York Daily News to offer the newspaper’s readers the chance to download two songs of their choice from over 120,000 top EMI tracks. Each copy of the Daily News on Super Bowl Sunday and Grammy Sunday will include a special code redeemable by visiting the newspaper’s website. In addition to the songs of their choice, visitors to the website will receive exclusive access to “It’s Love,” an unreleased track from Ringo Starr’s new album, Liverpool 8. There’s no word yet as to iTunes compatibility, which is the albatross around the neck of any music giveaway. While EMI and the Daily News are both excited about the partnership, they should realize as Amazon has, that until the playing field changes music downloads that don’t go into iTunes often go unredeemed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gnarls Barkley Feeling ‘Odd’ On New Album

Gnarls Barkley has christened its sophomore album “The Odd Couple,” and will release it in April via Downtown/Atlantic. The duo of Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo is still finishing the project, having recently recorded with live musicians in Los Angeles.

There’s no track list just yet, but “The Odd Couple” is confirmed to feature one song previewed for Billboard last summer that finds Cee-Lo proclaiming, “Who’s gonna save my soul now?”

The album is the follow-up to Gnarls’ runaway hit 2006 debut, “St. Elsewhere,” which has sold 1.345 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

As previously reported, Danger Mouse’s production talents will be on display on several upcoming projects, including new albums from the Black Keys, Martina Topley-Bird and the Shortwave Set.

Can serialization save the album format?

The Wall Street Journal is worried about the death of the album format, and has proposed releasing songs serially as a possible solution. The idea of serialization, first proposed in a blog post by Internet millionaire Mark Cuban, was picked up by Jason Frye of The Wall Street Journal, who sees releasing songs over a period of time as extending the life of the album format a little bit longer:

“Dispensing with the album as a consumer item doesn’t necessarily mean tossing it aside as an art form. Do today’s readers think less of Charles Dickens’ novels because they first appeared as serials? Radiohead is an album-oriented band, but wouldn’t its recent experiment with In Rainbows have generated as much or even more buzz if the songs had appeared over time? Would fans of Sgt. Pepper’s, The Wall or American Idiot think less of those albums if the first journey through their component songs had taken weeks or months?”

Serialization is an interesting idea, but worries about the demise of the album may be slightly premature. There are of course fewer people buying an entire album by artists such Rihanna or Soulja Boy, but even if there wasn’t an option to buy a single track from these recordings listeners would be constantly hitting the rewind button. The added sales of individual songs might actually even out, as many more listeners are willing to plunk down a dollar for the new ear worm instead of the ten dollars required to purchase the whole album. Even though this is happening in one aspect of the recording industry, there are still plenty of artists making whole albums worthy of purchase. Despite the iTunes popularity index, it’s hard to believe that fans of bands like Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and the Drive By Truckers are happy buying only the singles from the albums.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Kingblind Downloads

Vampire Weekend:: Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa

Black Mountain:: Tyrants

Black Mountain:: Druganaut

OKKERVIL RIVER:: Our Life is Not a Movie or Maybe

Gutter Twins:: Idle Hands

Grand Archives:: Torn Blue Foam Couch

Iron and Wine – Innocent Bones

BLACK MOUNTAIN- In The Future (Album Review)

There were definitely some Pink Floyd elements in the Black Mountain mix before, but the Vancouver fuds really let the Floyd flag fly on In The Future, from the Hipgnosis-inspired sleeve art to the spacey noodling through epic jams about nothing in particular.

Obviously, they’ve been drinking in all the press hype since the release of their self-titled debut and decided they needed to make a grand statement that would play equally well in sports arenas and open fields of mud to a hairy horde waiting for the Flaming Lips to get onstage. They put their cloudy heads together and came up with the power-chord-slashing and hobbitty keyboard werping goods but wisely didn’t lose all the dirty distortion and strummy acoustic bits. Mission accomplished. The limited two-CD version comes with three extra songs for the same price as the single disc.

Reformed garage legends finally make it to Blighty

Pioneering Seattle garage rock band The Sonics are set to play their first ever UK show on March 21.

The band, who formed in 1959, and helped laid the foundations for modern rock ‘n’ roll with distortion heavy classics ‘Psycho’ and ‘The Witch’, will play The Forum after reforming for north American dates last year.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds announce European tour

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have announced the dates for their first UK tour in three years.

The run of gigs will follow the release of their new album ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’, the band’s 14th, on March 3.

The first single from the album, also called ‘Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!’, will be out February 18.

Tickets will be available from 9am this Friday (February 1).

The band will play the following dates:

Lisbon Colliseum (April 21)
Porto Coliseum (22)
San Sebastian Polideportivo (24)
Barcelona Razzmatazz (25)
Marseilles Docks Du Suds (26)
Amsterdam Music Hall (28)
Paris Casino Du Paris (29)
Brussels Forest National (May 1)
Dublin Castle (3)
Glasgow Academy (4)
Birmingham Academy (5)
London Hammersmith Apollo (7)
Oslo Spektrum (16)
Stockholm Annexe (17)
Copenhagen KB Halle (19)
Berlin Tempodrom (21)
Prague Sazka Arena (24)
Vienna Gasometer (25)
Zagreb In Music Festival (June 3)
Belgrade Arena (4)
Salonika Moni Lazariston (6)
Athens Lycabetus Theatre (7)

Page: No Chance Of Zeppelin Tour Until September

Don’t expect to see Led Zeppelin on the road near you this summer. The current incarnation of the veteran rock act, which reunited for a triumphant Dec. 10 concert at London’s 02 Arena, has no plans to play live — until at least after September, says guitarist Jimmy Page.

Speaking in Tokyo today (Jan. 28), Page said, “The amount of work that we put into the 02, both for ourselves rehearsing and also for the staging of it, was probably what you’d put into a world tour anyway.”

He noted that Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant “also has a parallel project running [with Alison Krauss], and he’s really busy with that project, certainly until September. So I can’t give you any news on anything at the moment.” Page and Krauss released their album “Raising Sand” on Rounder late last year and begin a world tour in Louisville on April 20.

Page admitted that the scale of media interest about Led Zeppelin’s O2 performance put the band under a certain amount of pressure during rehearsals, but insisted the Led Zep chemistry was still there.

“We’d all agreed to take it very, very seriously and have a really good time at the same time,” Page said. “We worked out the songs we were going to play, and it was exhilarating, it was fantastic. Every week was a week to look forward to.”

Page was speaking during Japanese promotion for the band’s recent “Mothership” (Swan Song/Atlantic) compilation. Asked if loyal fans who had bought Led Zeppelin product in various formats over the years should buy “Mothership,” Page replied, “Please don’t — I don’t want you to buy it.”

He explained that “Mothership” was designed to replace the 1999 compilations “Early Days” and “Latter Days,” whose packaging and presentation Page was dissatisfied with.

“The overall packaging just did not have the quality of what we expect from Led Zeppelin and what I think everyone else expects from Led Zeppelin,” Page said. “It just made sense to have something done so we don’t have to think about it again.”

Friday, January 25, 2008

Drive-By Truckers:: Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (Album Review)

At their best, which is most of the time, the Drive-By Truckers deliver some of the most honest and emotionally rich contemporary American rock ‘n’ roll – fierce, lyrics-driven, and deeply in touch with the interwoven coils of country and soul that give Southern music its unmistakable regional character. “Brighter Than Creation’s Dark,” the eighth album from the Athens, Ga., band with Alabama roots, is vintage Truckers for the stories it tells: portrayals, in the first person or the third, of lives far too achingly real and imprinted by such forces as crystal meth, the manufacturing recession, and the Iraq war to warrant the distancing moniker Gothic. The songcraft of leader Patterson Hood and longtime accomplice Mike Cooley is unfailingly intimate no matter how furious the guitar heroics. Yet this is also as sonically diverse a record as the Truckers have made, as bassist Shonna Tucker writes and sings for the first time (the amicable departure of Jason Isbell having freed up a writing slot), while the pedal steel of John Neff offers a sublime and haunting presence. [Siddhartha Mitter]