Monday Morning (Brings The Dawn In)
oulseeking is a regular column at Stylus that hopefully does a bit of what the title suggests, in order to better understand what it is we fell in love with, and, if need be, go a little way towards getting that feeling back.
Today I stuck my iPod on “random” in a playlist of a couple of hundred choice songs from this year. And then I made a list of them, and wrote down what I thought of each. These are the first twenty-something, in order.
“Only Waiting” – The Aliens
Too loud—you can’t hear individual instruments because it’s all squashed and messy and flat. Reminds me very distinctly of a specific Beatles song, although I can’t quite place which one. It’s all in the melody. Mason WAS the talent in The Beta Band, and The Aliens (Lone Pigeon plus the other three Betas) sadly proves that. This is off the Alienoid Starmonica EP, which is completely inconsequential
“Province” – TV on the Radio
I love this, I love the piano and the groove. They’re overhyped, though. As is Loveless, which people keep comparing Return to Cookie Mountain to.
“I Would Have Waited Here All Day” – Lambchop
Written for someone else, a female singer, hence the line about seeing someone’s dick when they get out of the shower.
“Auto Rock” – Mogwai
Nice, perhaps better than I had given it credit for. The drums are still… perfunctory, though, but the build is detailed enough. They’ve been treading serious water since Rock Action.
“Little Death” – Primal Scream
I didn’t realize what this was for a while, because it starts with some subtlety and clarity, two characteristics missing from most of the rest of Primal Scream’s god-awful current album. This is probably the best track from said album, but it’s still no “Kowalski”—or even “Damaged.”
“This Lamb Sells Condos” – Final Fantasy
Probably my favorite song at the moment, the piano part in this makes my heart want to burst. The bizarre lyrics are also incredibly compelling and sad—“His massive genitals refuse to co-operate / No amount of therapy can hope to save his marriage.”
“Sao Paulo” – Guillemots
This is wonderful, still. It may last 12 minutes but it’s not a second too long.
“Get U High” – Roots Manuva
I must admit I kind of phased out when this came on. I was on the train staring out of the window.
“Forever” – The Open
This is so very nearly great. In fact, it probably is great, it’s just the context of the ambitious but heavily flawed album from which it comes that hampers it in my mind’s eye. The trumpet is beautiful, the slow course of the build utterly assured and totally admirable.
“Floodlights” – The Steals
I’ve done some PR for The Steals. They’re good. This is like a pared-down Led Zeppelin with PJ Harvey doing a vague Kate Bush impression on vocals. Moody, atmospheric.
“Yeah Yeah Yeah Song” – The Flaming Lips
Too loud. It hurts my ears. It sounds absolutely appalling, distorted, indistinct, and nasty. I can accept that it was probably a deliberate artistic decision to make it sound this bad, but WHY, WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? At the end a bloke says something like “That was tough, I didn’t make it through it” and I wonder if he means this hideously mixed song rather than some kind of vague and existential trial referred to in the lyrics.
“Song Song Song” – Final Fantasy
I adore this—the violin, the percussion. Owen Pallet is a good guy.
“Tema De Cristina” – Faux Pas
This is great. I’m hoping that you’ve read the review of this dude’s album, and bought it subsequently.
“Is It Any Wonder” – Keane
This is insanely loud. I actually had to skip it, although I quite like the song itself. It starts with a roar of electrified, distorted guitar (only it’s NOT guitar—Keane’s attitude to guitars is like vegetarians who eat soy-based bacon substitute, shaped and seasoned to taste JUST LIKE real bacon; just give in, it’ll stop you looking like a pious idiot), and then keeps roaring, because that’s how you make a song these days. Capitalism demands that you have to make a record intrinsically unsatisfying to listen to, hence compelling consumers to buy more records in the vain hope that one day one of them will actually be worth listening to. When your parents complain that the music you listen to is “just noise” they don’t mean it sounds like Merzbow (although, in a way, they do, because he squashes everything as hot as possible as an artistic statement) and doesn’t have a tune—they mean it’s brickwalled to the point where you can’t actually listen to it if you’re used to listening to music that ISN’T brickwalled. The waveforms LOOK like noise. Look at them. They do. No matter how tuneful.
“Supermassive Black Hole” – Muse
Also insanely loud, but you expect that from Muse. They’re relentless and insane. I have severe difficulty accepting them as a “real” band, because I went to school with them—bassist Chris Wolstenholme was in my science class, Matt Bellamy was the annoyingly affected eccentric kid in the year above—and as such their ridiculously pompous, histrionic and overblown riffs, arrangements, and vocals seem rather daft to me. We went to the same pubs, hung out in the same places, used the same dealer to score weed, and now they’re playing at larger-than-life ROCK GODS. I saw them play in the school hall a decade ago. I can’t decide if they’re awful, awesome, or absurd. Probably all three. Their fans are ravenous little monsters who think Muse are the most original and amazing band on the planet. They sound like System of a Down playing Queen songs in the style of Radiohead covering Metallica. If that’s original, then I guess Muse are original. This is good, proper lunacy. Unlike their current UK single “Starlight,” which sounds like Keane. It used to be that singles were the most exciting, stand-out moments of an album, the WOW songs that would make you want to buy an album. These days they’re… the dull ones, that won’t offend anyone. That Muse of all people are now releasing the boring one as a single is offensive. But I guess it all started with “Unintended.” Which means it all started with The Bends, from which every single, bar “Just,” was a boring pussy ballad.
“For the Trees” – Faux Pas
Just so you know it’s random, the iPod sticks a second song by someone you’ve just heard a song by on. This is still very good, the stand-out from Faux Pas’ excellent album.
“Knights of Cydonia” – Muse
And then it does it again! Melodically this is someone else’s song, something distinct, but I can’t place it. More unutterable lunacy from Muse. Stop over-compressing your records!
“Born Secular” – Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins
This is lovely, I adore the drum solo.
“The Tiger” – DJ Shadow
I only got a minute into this before I had to stop as I’d got to work—when I resumed play at lunchtime I skipped past the remainder, because you can’t start a listening session with a song halfway through. The rapper sucks.
“Black & White” – Shack
There’s some proper “Eight Miles High” guitar nonsense in this. I like it a lot.
“Steady Rollin’” – Two Gallants
This is two guys, one with a guitar, one with drums, playing very low-key Americana stuff. Someone sent it me because they thought I’d like it, and I do. The song itself is melodically of such quality and timelessness that it could be a cover—it feels like I’ve heard it before, like it’s one of those Platonic essences of songs that everyone just KNOWS somehow without ever consciously hearing. I hope it isn’t a cover, because if it is I’ll look pretty stupid saying this.
“The Temple” – Mumm-Ra
Mumm-Ra are a load of kids with some mad ideas. A musician friend of mine wrote a string arrangement for their album. This is the last track from their debut EP (which has a fabulous cover) and starts quietly (literally, I had to turn it up—this is a GOOD thing because quiet music sounds better loud than loud music sounds quiet, and if you turn loud music up it just fucking hurts) before erupting just over halfway with trumpets and spinning wires of guitar. I just hope they don’t flatten their album out in pursuit of mediocrity.
“Who Cares?” – Gnarls Barkley
After Mumm-Ra this is insanely loud, and caused me to turn the volume back down. The GB album is all about schizophrenia, right? Dangermouse and Cee-Lo only made it to pay their mortgages, right, and the schizophrenia is as a direct result of doing something that compromises who you are for money, right? That’s what Deleuze was on about, right?
“There She Is” – Mumm-Ra
More empirical proof of the randomness of the random function. Volume needed to be raised again. This is lovely. The vocals are oddly recorded, a bit scratchy. Gorgeous guitars and sentiment.
“Love Order” – Embrace
This is a big, string-laden disco number, and was the b-side to Embrace’s rather poorly-received (but not that bad, bar the lyrics) football song a couple of months ago. Criminal, really, because this should have been a single itself. Yet another example of boring songs being released as singles while the exciting ones get shunted out of the way.
“Gotta Get Myself Into It” – The Rapture
I am enjoying this a lot. The album, I hope, should trounce Echoes by some distance.