Saturday, 30 June 2007 0 No Reply

THE RAKES - Ten New Messages (2007)

The Rakes new album sounds like it was recorded with the same instruments and amplification as Bloc Party, but happier, like Franz Ferdinand. At least, you feel this in the mood of the songs and in their lyrics.

The Rakes plays listen-able, dance-able rock. It's a great addition to your MP3 player. But it's rock with enough energy guitar too, with an important amount of the new 'classical riff guitar' that plays only quavers (were The Strokes the first?).

Another characteristic of their music is a singer with a mature voice that sometimes sings tired and some sound effects that appears in a couple of songs. The female voice in “Suspicious Eyes” gives more texture to the short disc of forty minutes long. The conversations over the melodies are a good trick, better than the typical voice-over.

Ten New Messages has entertainment as its vocation. This is very different in comparison with other new British bands with similar sounds who cannot liberate themselves from the melancholic and their dark vision of life. Maybe The Rakes have the same view (in fact “Down with Moonlight” sound like a Placebo song) but you can see that they had fun recording this LP. The Beatlesque melodies are a case in point.

The opening track raises your expectations. “The World Was A Mess But His Hair Was Perfect” is a funny song that reminds you of Tony Blair's cynical smile as he said everything is OK in Iraq, but it's really talking about the simpler things in your life, like how many times you accept your bad fate (“sometimes troubles finds you no matter what you are”) just hold on waiting quietly for your lucky day.

The expectation is met with the single “We dance together” and other highlights like “Trouble” and “When Tom Cruise Cries” that talks about cynical friends too, quoting the film Magnolia (a honorable mention to the sample of an interference produced by a cellular phone being too near to a radio).

The quietest song “Leave the City and Come Home” was the best option to close the LP, which makes you to play the album again.
Monday, 18 June 2007 0 No Reply

PAUL MCCARTNEY - Memory Almost Full (2007)

At the symbolic age of 64, Sir Paul McCartney has released his new solo album Memory Almost Full, recorded in the way that he likes most: alone, or almost alone. He plays all the instruments by himself (except for the strings) and does all the voices by himself too.

There are many interpretations of the title Memory Almost Full which you can find in a sea of reviews about the album, but for me it’s just the evidence of a man in his third age thinking seriously about his death (“The End of the End”), looking over his shoulder at the long and winding road that he had taking (“Ever Present Past”, “You Tell Me”, “Vintage Clothes” and “That Was Me”).

But also the title Memory Almost Full is about the feeling of his soul after his painful divorce, so tired after that old deal because he really loves that woman (“Gratitude”).

Before listening I was thinking about this album like the last part of a third millennium trilogy with Driving Rain and Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, but I was surprised by the album that reminds me of the best moments from Wings, with some musical déjà vu of the Flaming Pie.

Can we expect something really new from Paul? Hard question, looking back in retrospect. Press to Play sounds new compared with his first eighties albums, although for me the lowest point on his solo career was Press to Play. On the other hand, the amazing Run Devil Run was really something new compared with the albums released in the last 20 years; furthermore it was a vindication of the rock and roll after the decaffeinated CHOBA B CCCP album.

Asking again, Can we expect something really new from Paul? Yes, Memory Almost Full is a bit different, more fresh, more rock, more raw, and more emotive than the last albums, but of course it has the typical Macca clichés and it has the same musical tips which we love in his music. This is what we want: his charming voice in the emotive song (“You Tell Me”), his powerful and hoarse voice in the rock tune (“Nod Your Head”), his unbeatable arrangements and his infinite talent to play bass, guitar (great solo on “House of Wax”!), piano, and drums.

Let me quote: Paul collaborated with Ringo on Vertical Man, and while they were mixing the album, Ringo said to Paul with a little disappointment, “hum, it sounds like The Beatles” and Paul answered, “hey man, you’re a Beatle!”. Paul didn’t have a problem sounding like his old records, because what he is, is what he is (“Vintage Clothes”, “That Was Me”).

Now it’s time to disagree a little with Sir McCartney, I don’t like “Dance Tonight” as the opening of the album, even more, I don’t like this track on the album. After the kicking rock tunes that opened the last albums (“Lonely Road” and “A Fine Line”) I was waiting for a stronger tune, specially after he announced that he would work with David Khane as producer. “Only Mamma Knows” would have been a better option than this monotone track that could give you a lazy preview of the album.

This is not an album to introduce a new audience to Paul, but the most successful songwriter alive hardly needs that. This is just the album that fans were waiting for, thousands of fans all over the world.

Published on Blogcritics on 18-06-2007

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Wednesday, 13 June 2007 0 No Reply

THE DEARS - No Cities Left (2004)

When you listen to the opening track of No Cities Left you may think that Jeff Buckley has come to life again … and this feeling rules the entire LP, the third in the The Dears musical career.

How important is the first track? Usually you pre-judge an LP from the first song and usually the artist tries to give you a preview of what's to come, sometimes they raise expectations and use a little track (an “intro”) to introduce the first song. Is “We Can Have It” a good opening? At first listen, I would say yes. It has an emotive musical development, but if you attention to the lyrics you can feel so much sorrow and frustration (“Someone somewhere says they've got it all / But that's not even what we want / Not even close”). If you listen to the rest of the album, the songs are easier to listen to.

Personally I prefer as a first track a song that takes risks like “Pinned Together, Falling Apart” with its messy intro (reminiscent of Pulp's This is Hardcore).

On the next tracks the British influences appear. It's so hard to postulate if it's Suede, Pulp and Blur, or Morrissey’s band that have influenced The Dears the most. Maybe they took musical ideas from all of them. Sometimes, it seems, they took more than just the ideas though. For example, the arrangements of the fourth track “Don’t Lost the Faith” are too similar to “There is a Light That Never Goes Out”.

The lyrics dramatically cover all aspects of life: the new high stress tension that can lead to an unsatisfied adult life (“Don't Lose The Faith”), reminiscing about a kiss that eventually broke your heart (“22 The Death Of All The Romance”), worrying too much about the little things (“The Second Part”), and the dream of breaking out of your mundane everyday life. (“Imagining and planning out the course of both our lives”).

No Cities Left is a good LP, full of melancholy, sadness, and passion. It's only weakness is it becomes a catalogue of the alternative brit pop cliché, using intros, arrangements, and vocal work that always reminds you of songs you have heard before.

It may seem like a new concept, but in reality it's not new at all if you thing about the use of samples. At least it's a different development.

Published on Blogcritics on 13-06-2007

Also available on LexisNexis
Friday, 1 June 2007 0 No Reply

INTERPOL - Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)

The debut album from the NYC band INTERPOL sounds like it was recorded on the green grass lands of the UK. It has the same melancholy feelings of many British old bands and the powerful and messing guitar of the new bands like Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party. However sometimes it reminds you of The Pixies, specially on the solo guitar track “The New”.

But there are two musical elements that rule the LP. The first is a kind of dark mixing. Although some songs are strong rock tunes, you don’t want to dance, you can feel the weight of the emotions on the tracks that pass one by one slowly like a big and heavy wheel climbing up a hill.

The second musical element is the way that the singer of the band does his job. Without a good register, he sings like he was rushed to say all the words his soul needed to say, like now or never. Sometimes he puts more words than the musical timing allows, and sometimes faster. He finished the phrases after the instrumental line had completed leaving some strange space without singing, like mute notes. Paul Banks sings, forgetting the pop rules of how to build a perfect song.

But the LP flows naturally with little surprises, maybe with the exception of the longest song (“Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down”) but this track is like an abstract of the musical ideas of the band. The second longest track (“The New”) doesn’t justify its length of six minutes either.

Talking about the lyrics, they are focused on a man flattened by a lover that “Was A Diver And (She) Was Always Down” that is the object of all his devotion and desperation, almost all the songs talks about it (“Untitled”, “Obstacle 1”, “Pda”, “Say Hello To The Angels”, “Obstacle 2”, “Stella Was A Diver And She Was Always Down”, “The New” and “Leif Erikson”) Maybe I should quote the songs with different lyrics.

It’s not easy to recommend highlights from this LP, although one guide are the singles (“Obstacle 1”, “NYC”), but I can pick up a couple with good lyrics, like “Leif Erikson” and “Obstacle 1”.

Published on Blogcritics on 01-06-2007

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