Monthly Archives: June 2011

Hot Fuss: still Killer

Revisiting an album you used to love is a risky business. For whatever reason, HAL came up in conversation recently and their self-titled debut album was duly given a spin, only to demonstrate that with the exception of Worry About the Wind, it hadn’t aged well at all, and that mostly of it was, well, a bit terrible. If it’s an album that held particular significance (as it was, HAL didn’t), it can be absolutely heartbreaking.

But there are those that make it, that still stand up, and happily, one of those is The Killers’ Hot Fuss. Seductively sleazy, it’s perfect synth/guitar pop from beginning to end. The first few bars of opener Jenny Was A Friend of Mine are still hum with foreboding, and somehow excitement. When Brandon Flowers is roaring the chorus, complete with that finishing howl, your heart is most likely in your mouth. And then it’s straight into Mr Brightside, arguably the finest pop song of the last decade, a true modern classic which tells a story of intense jealousy and betrayal and yet also manages to be a shot of adrenalin which makes you feel good to be alive. Seriously – just listen to it and see if your pulse doesn’t quicken.

Oddly, though, the remaining singles are outshone by the album tracks. Smile Like You Mean It is still wonderfully sinister, but Somebody Told Me shines less and All These Things That I’ve Done is, with hindsight, faintly ridiculous. Still great, though, are On Top, the devastatingly sexy Andy, You’re A Star, and Glamorous Indie Rock’n’Roll. The latter is unashamedly cheesy – it features a tambourine and a chorus declaring “It’s indie rock and roll for me” – but it’s still irresistible, and even if you feel like a twat singing along, it’s likely you’ll still have a huge grin on your face as you do so. And tucked away at the end is Believe Me, Natalie, another oddly sinister plea (to take up her last chance to find a go-go dancer), atop thundering drums, growing more desperate as the song progresses.

Oh, wow, have they since gone off the boil (Day and Age will hopefully one day be stricken from the record), but it’s worth revisiting Hot Fuss as a reminder of why we all fell in love with them in the first place. Still as glossy and glamorous as it sounded seven years ago.

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Sunsheeine

In honour of the five minutes of sun Glasgow has seen today, here is a handful (all right, two handfuls) of personal summery favourites.

The Avalanches – Since I Left You

One of the most beautiful pop songs ever committed to record. A swirly, swooning perfect four minutes. 

Badly Drawn Boy – Epitaph

Ah, when Badly Drawn Boy was good. Remember that? This is a gorgeous little sigh of a song, complete with lilting bassline and chirping birds.

Mint Royale and Lauren Laverne – Don’t Falter

Kind of forget that Lauren Laverne used to make music, eh? This is still an absolute gem.

Friendly Fires – Blue Cassette

New album Pala was tailor-made for the season, but this is a particular highlight. Thundering percussion all present and correct, it’s somehow euphoric and half-asleep at the same time.

Delays – You Wear the Sun

Again, from an album with sunshine in every note. One of their finest moments, with shimmering keys and, oh, that voice…

Bombay Bicycle Club – Always Like This

Cycling through a field breezy at the start, turns into its own remix halfway through.

ANR – Big Problem

A heady post-sunset dancing in the garden soundtrack if ever there was one.

Guillemots – Made Up Love Song #42

Red was awful and Fyfe Dangerfield now sings covers for John Lewis ads, but all is forgivable when you remember that they made this too.

Idlewild – Too Long Awake

One of Idlewild’s best intros (SQUEEEEEE! NYAAAOOOOW! EEEEEE!), a wall of noise and serotonin. Was the centre piece of the unjustly maligned Warnings/Promises; lovely acoustic version hidden after Goodnight too. 

Teenage Fanclub – I Don’t Want Control of You

It starts with banjos and a “yeah!”, features a devastating middle 8 and ends with a key change. Beautiful.

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Tied to the 90s

Yuck

Yuck

A worrying thing has happened. Children of the 90s are officially allowed to feel old now, and it stems from the release of the self-titled debut album from Yuck.

Recent years have seen the charts choked with bands who saw that Oasis only needed four chords and ceased to learn any more themselves (hello, Pigeon Detectives), but that in itself harked back decades. No, Yuck’s feat is something else, tapping into some otherness which manages to capture 1996’s shoegazey fuzz and air of desperation to escape, um, anything. Lead single Get Away, equal parts Teenage Fanclub’s The Concept and The Cribs’ Another Number (video here is a fan video because the live versions thrown up by You Tube were mostly unbearable), wouldn’t have sounded out of place between Ironic and 74-75 on LW Atlantic 252. But, perhaps more worryingly, it’s quite good, and brings with it an irresistible sense of comfort. Yep, we’re there: the 1990s are now officially ripe for nostalgia.

Cast

Cast

This year’s Edge Festival (the music off-shoot of the Fringe, formerly T on the Fringe) features gigs from Gomez and Cast, while Ocean Colour Scene, Pulp, Primal Scream playing Screamedelica and House of Pain are all present and correct at T in the Park. (As are Cast, who are also playing King Tut’s in July. 2011’s desire to hear Finetime, Free Me and Beat Mama cannot be sated with just one performance, it would seem.) Cries of “What year is this?” sound in muso’s living rooms, editorial offices and Twitter accounts across the land, and with just cause.  At least Gomez were good: the fact that Shed Seven still, bafflingly, manage to pack venues on a vaguely regular basis is unsettling indeed. The Bluetones packed it in last year, but give it five minutes and they may well be back. Leave it long enough and we may see Gene, Olive and Northern Uproar (1996’s Little Man Tate clad entirely in the Gallaghers’ Knebworth anoraks if your memory fails you) back on the road.

This rash of nostalgia has been blamed mostly on the recession, of seeking comfort in memories of a better time, but that’s perhaps reading too much into it. Isn’t it just long enough ago now? The 80s were seen as retro kitsch from the mid-90s on (brilliantly so in Adam Sandler’s only decent film, 1997’s The Wedding Singer), so we’ve got away with it for far longer than we should have. The problem really is that it’s entirely too easy to fall into the nostalgia trap. Yuck’s Get Away captures that odd mid-90s wistfulness, would be best listened to staring forlornly out of your bedroom window and decorating school books with meaningful lyrics, and it’s tempting to go back and hide inside that feeling, even if just for a few minutes. If it’s any consolation, though, the rest of the album is awful.

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Arctic Monkeys – Suck It and See

It has come round impressively quickly: this month, Arctic Monkeys release their fourth album Suck It and See. But despite their being hailed as one of the finest bands of their generation, your correspondent has to admit to, erm, just not getting it.

Perhaps the gripe stems from the spring of 2006, when you’d be forgiven for thinking there were only two songs in the world: Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy and Arctic Monkeys’ I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor. Glasgow’s ABC, in one night, played each song three times to fevered response. This is not an exaggeration.

But it was easy to see why people fell so readily in love with them. I Bet That You Look Good on the Dancefloor is the sound of promise, of possibility. The video, with Alex Turner casually muttering “Don’t believe the hype”, those thundering drums and that frenetic wall of guitars… As introductions go, it’s faultless. But then the song itself does pretty much nothing: not that it needed to, though, as the work was done in those first ten seconds or so. The follow up single, When the Sun Goes Down, was downright depressing in comparison, a drawling tale of prostitution which oddly sounded like it could have been recorded by Athlete. But it was still number one, and clumsily titled debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not followed it, breaking all records for first week album sales.

Since then, though, their career has been patchier, and there’s no doubt that the excitement has waned. Second album Favourite Worst Nightmare still spawned hits, but Brianstorm gave us little beyond the most grating pronunciation of ‘Brian’ ever committed to record, while Flourescent Adolescent was a silly, clunky nursery rhyme, albeit one featuring lyrics about waning libidos. And 2009’s Humbug, well, did anyone really notice it?

Now, here’s a scary thought: Alex Turner is currently 25 years old. Four albums in five years (and the film soundtrack to Submarine), and he’s still twenty-fucking-five. The band’s creative stalling can’t really be blamed on them getting old.

The frustrating thing, then, as Suck It and See garners the expected positive reviews, is that the key ingredients (volume, pace, youth, an interesting take on what’s going on) are all there, there’s something indefinable that’s just not there. It could be the lyrics: Turner’s way with words is violently hit and miss, and current single Don’t Sit Down Because I’ve Moved Your Chair contains lyrics about doing the Macarena in the devil’s lair and going into business with a grizzly bear, lyrics Noel Gallagher would have hung for. But at least they’re trying to say something. It could be the pervading sense of misery from an extremely rich young guy with a style icon girlfriend. Or it could be the almost absolute lack of variation across four albums. The new album shall indeed be sucked and seen, but hazarding a guess at what it will sound like isn’t a tall order, and that, perhaps, is the lacking magical ingredient.

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