Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bitter pill or grand old time?

On the new Rapture track, "Whoo! Alright-Yeah Uh Huh”, Mattie Safer declares, “I used to think life a bitter pill but it's a grand old time.” A fitting announcement for an album whose chief flaw appears to be a rather one-dimensional insistence on the good times.

Progenitors of punk-funk and largely responsible – along with then co-pilots the DFA – for spawning much of the current indie disco landscape, populated by the likes of New Young Pony Club, Good Books, Klaxons even, The Rapture deliver a slick version of the sound on "Pieces Of The People We Love”. With it they've morphed from barely reconstructed indie squealers with added cowbells, to a precision-tooled guitar funk conglomerate hot enough to lure Danger Mouse into the studio for a couple of tracks. But for all its obvious achievements this album doesn't engage nearly as much as its predecessor.

And somehow they nail the problem succinctly in that one line. The bitter pill is the key - simple hedonism just isn’t enough. So when they drone on about a night on the town in a Ford Mustang on “First Gear”, like a No Wave version of a number from Grease, you wonder what happened to the deviant frenzy of “House Of Jealous Lovers” the fragility of “Love Is All”.

“Whoo! Alright-Yeah Uh Huh” is the album highlight by a country mile - partly because it does the best facsimile of the DFA-produced Rapture on offer – but most significantly because it actually has something to say. Full of bile, Safer lashes out at the girl that accuses him of writing "crap rock poetry" and almost goes as far as fingering the numbing corporate haul of the promotional circuit as “the reason we're so uninspired.” "A party ain’t great cuz the booze is free," he suggests. They come close again on the furious, if terribly over-produced, The Sound which suggests the nightmare of birthing this album from the belly of the world's biggest record label.

When it all finishes with the psyche-lite Chemical Bros retread of “Live In Sunshine" its hard not to conclude that punk funk's getting too dumb for its own good.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

TUNETOURIST podcast 06

Its time for another Best Of as Tunetourist flexes its record shopping muscle and makes a mockery of the notion of music programming by dashing around the globe like a label CEO hooked on air miles. We've got the mighty Spank Rock, an ace Brazilian Tropicalia rarity, NME-darlings Klaxons and We Start Fires, stoned soulman Dudley Perkins and more.

Get the RSS
Just listen to the MPEG

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Some recent highlights

It Is What It Is – Masta Killa (Fat Beats, New York)

The quiet but deadly Shaolin assassin of Wu-Tang renown delivers another 12” of mid-nineties proportions with a fine verse from Ghostface. Nothing particularly new or smart about this one, just a classic style done to perfection.

What You Say Is More Than I Can Say (Isolee Speak & Spell Remix Long End) – Villalobos (Hard Wax, Berlin)

Isolee’s rework of Villalobos makes this a month of mutual remixes for the two powerhouses of reduced dancefloor symphonies - Villalobos having contributed an interpretation to “The Western Edits” from the former’s recent “Western Store” LP. Evidence, if it were needed, of Isolee’s enduring ear for subtle and beautifully crafted house music.

Alexandra – Cassy (Hard Wax, Berlin)

Perlon regular, Cassy, pays tribute to every party bore’s favourite… deep house. There are explicit nods to some fairly disparate elements: MAW, the bass sounds of early Warp techno and Detroit house music a la Serious Grooves.

Cursed Sleep – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billie (Reckless Records, Chicago)

A love song of unsettling, murky depths from Will Oldham’s latest, “The Letting Go”. Magnificently orchestrated and with an epic quality somehow reminiscent of those spiralling, bitter Dylan love-hate songs like “Idiot Wind” and “Sara”.

I Promise – Jeremy Warmsley (Pure Groove, London)

The most complete composition yet from young Londoner Jeremy Warmsley on the frequently brilliant Transgressive label. Programmed marching drums are augmented by wonderful harmonies, acoustic strums and majestically plinking piano and music box elements. So laden with lovely pathos its almost kitsch.