Embrace / Bloc Party / 21gunsalute / Pet Shop Boys / Koushik / Purple Patch
The Rubber Room column is a weekly look at recent and notable releases that don’t fall into the rubric of traditional reviewed material—namely 7”’s, 12”’s, 3” CDs, EPs, cassette-only, DVDs and MP3-only releases.
“Flaming Red Hair” (“Ashes” B-side)
Embrace have never been a band to stand still, but this recent b-side is almost a quantum leap; it nicks the bassline from the scary bit of “Thriller” and uses it as the basis for a wild ride through the side of the band’s psyche that’s always wanted to give in to dark grooves. The verse is deliciously mumbled and obtuse, but there’s still enough of a chorus to sing along with should you so desire. Hysterical keys and electronics partner up with freaked guitars and enormous drums to finish off the heavily-sequenced monster. “Aim low / hit low” say the lyrics. Hitting high.
Cracks (Debut single)
[Captains Of Industry, 2004]
“Cracks” is the debut single by North East England six-piece 21gunsalute, who are slipstreaming through space-country in the wake of Spiritualized turning into a hoary old garage rock band. Acoustic guitars, floating keys and vocals oddly like The La’s are the order of the day on the a-side, while on the b-side “Happy Endings” turns a trick with skittering beats, pianos and growing feedback before working towards a sing-able chorus. 21gunsalute seem half caught between classicism and floating in space; at the moment neither side quite fully satisfies, but there’s enough here to suggest that once the craft and ideas both develop some more, they’ll be doing something special.
Pet Shop Boys
In 1991 Pet Shop Boys finally relented to their popularity and went on a world tour. But Pet Shop Boys being who they are, it was no normal affair. This DVD documents their extraordinary, theatrical Performance tour, conceived by director David Alden and designer David Fielding. Dancers, singers, lavish sets and costumes, a bizarre semi-narrative running order and an array of some of the best, most intelligent pop songs of the late-80s combine in a visual and aural feast that lies somewhere between René Magritté, Gilliam’s Brazil and The Rocky Horror Picture Show in space. It’s a must for music fans and an absolute necessity for Pet Shop Boys fans, and is probably guaranteed to scare the shit out of little kids due to being stupendously psychedelic and bizarre.
“be with” (12” EP)
[Stones Throw Records, 2004]
Koushik Ghosh’s voice and indeed whole aesthetic will be instantly recognisable to anyone who fell in love with Up In Flames, the 2003 album by Caribou (TAFKA Manitoba). Koushik provided vocals and inspiration on fellow Canadian Dan Snaith’s psychedelic laptop masterpiece, and here release his third solo EP. He’s a slow worker, producing only one (very short) EP a year of sparsely pretty half-tunes, some, like “Homage” here, consisting of little more than a breakbeat and some backwards-spun found sounds and lasting not even a minute. “Pretty Soon” drags out an acoustic guitar as well as the jazzy drum samples and fuzz, but is over within two minutes, while the title track manages to sustain itself for four whole minutes. The ephemeral nature of Koushik’s mayfly-like music suits it though; he’s a mysterious, influential character, and it’s fitting that you should only be able to catch a glimpse of the sweet melodies and gentle ideas which compose his soundworld. The brevity of this EP makes it all the more compelling and precious.
EP 1.0 (Demo CD)
[DIY Everything, 2004]
Purple Patch hail from Leicester and their inflammable guitars are attracting the attention of various major labels in the UK. This, a 4-track demo available from their website, mixes up poppy vocal hooks with heavy riffage and Kyuss-esque hollerings on lead track “One Age’s Paradise”, before slowing things down to a stoner groove which slowly escalates into pummelling drama for “Weary”. Occasionally singer Colin Beattie gets a touch too heavy metal, but the twin guitars of Joe Jacques and Tim Hall repeat and burn enough to make his histrionics tolerable. I’m very reliably informed that they are phenomenal live. One to watch.
“Always New Depths” (“Helicopter” b-side)
There are 13 stellar tunes already stuffed onto Bloc Party’s forthcoming debut album, and the fact that they can leave off numbers as powerful as this is testament to how strong Silent Alarm is. “Always New Depths” turns a similar trick to “This Modern Love” and next single “So Here We Are”, building from quiet, pointed openings to a refrain that packs a far more emotional punch than it has any right to, but is perhaps more dynamic than either. Kele Okereke twists a soft, repetitious melody into a chorus of “summertime / has come and gone / all used up with wishful thinking”. A military tattoo and something about being “a work of art” usher in the slashing finale, melted and corroded into electronic twilight over the final two minutes of the song. Alongside “Tulips”, “Little Thoughts” and the remixes of “Banquet” and “Helicopter”, Bloc Party are leaving a smattering of great tracks for diehard fans to fall in love with away from the glare of media attention. The best band in the world right now?