Friday, 31 August 2007 2 No Reply

THE KOOKS - Inside In/Inside Out (2006)

Love songs, acoustic guitars, and a charming singer follow by a band gaming to be rock stars, this is the British band The Kooks, a band that like to play simple songs of two or three minutes (with just one exception).

The LP Inside In/Inside Out, the debut of The Kooks has 14 songs, I used to think that was the perfect number of tracks for an LP, seven tracks on each side, but I was influenced by the vinyl format of the 1960's LP. In the tape era, the perfect number of tracks were reduced to 10, but in the CD era this is not a topic. At least you could say that a debut album is preferred not to be long. In this case Inside In/Inside Out is perfect, 14 songs in 40 minutes (by the way, you can actually buy new music on vinyl).

Inside In/Inside Out could be a '60's record, or it could be another immortal gem from the British invasion if their musical ideas were new. But the LP sounds fresh in spite of its collection of '60's musical tips, the bucolic intro tune (“Seaside”) remind me of the acoustic songs of The Beatles, the rock tunes remind me of the riff guitar of The Kinks and some vocalizations, which brings to our ears the sound of The Rolling Stones (specially in the first part of the song “Time Waits”).

Although there is happy sonic presence of an acoustic guitar, this is not a quiet LP. After the bucolic intro, they attack with a strong rock song guided by a precise distortion guitar (“See The World”), this is their best featuring style: a couple of bars, a couple of lyrical lines and then they hurry the catchy choruses. With this style they produce their highlights: “Ooh La,” “You Don't Love Me,” “She Moves in Her Own Way,” and “I Want You Back.” But to be honest discount the intro song and the last two ones, and the rest of the 11 songs all have the same potential to be singles. Inside In/Inside Out is a very balanced LP, without the songs shining over the others.

Taking the distance (and please take the distance) The Kooks have produced a record with the classical line up of two guitars plus bass and drums that leave a smile in your soul, like the perfect Rubber Soul (The Beatles, 1965), the almost perfect Aftermath (The Rolling Stones, 1966), or the less perfect The Who Sings My Generation (The Who, 1965). This occurs 40 years after those albums, in the middle of the digital era, with an infinite range of technical and musical possibilities. Still, the best way to play a song that could break your heart or mend it again is with wood, strings, acoustic percussion and an engaging voice. The Kooks have done it, for goodness sake.

Published on Blogcritics 29-08-2007
Friday, 24 August 2007 0 No Reply

BADLY DRAWN BOY - About a Boy (2002)

The original soundtracks (OST) from movies should be an independent musical genre where one of the requirements could be how well the music reminds you of the feeling of the movie and another requirement could be how many people appreciate the LP without having seen the film before.

I don’t know if it’s a shame, but I saw the movie first. We’re talking about About a Boy, with Huge Grant and Nicholas Hoult. I liked it a lot, especially the scene where Grant comes on to the stage to sing “Killing me Softly” with Hoult, just unforgettable. But the idea is to talk about the music of the film, recorded just by one artist: Badly Drawn Boy. This is unusual in the OST genre.

About a Boy is a good album with sophisticated arrangements and different textures produced by an acoustic guitar, symphonic orchestral support, and some electronic sounds. The soundtrack is well balanced between instrumental tunes and songs done in a folk songwriter style. His mission, to write song for a film, has improved his writing style. I’m talking about the songwriting style of the third millennium like James Blunt or Jack Johnson. The voice of Damon Gough (a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy) is warm and soft; he uses different styles of vocalization dependent upon the songs.

The instrumental tunes catches some feelings from the film, like tenderness and the lazy days, very well. The songs are good enough to be singles, especially “Silent Sigh” and “Something About You”. Growing and loving are the topics of the lyrics (of course, those are the topics of the film): “I bet at your age /That's easier for you to say” on “A Peak You Reach” and “I will take you as you are / Please accept me as I am” on "Above You, Below Me".

This LP came to me a couple of years after seeing the movie and reminded me of the film, but when I saw the film I didn’t have a special feeling about the music (except for the “Killing Me Softly” part). If you need a reference, when I saw Pulp Fiction, after the first scene, when I heard the opening song (“Misirlou”), I said very excitedly to my brother sitting besides me in the cinema: “tomorrow I will buy the soundtrack”. The same when I saw Magnolia on cable TV, after the scene where the song “Momentum” plays I said to myself: “I will download the soundtrack.”

I think that you could love this LP without seeing the movie, but as I said, I saw the movie first and it’s recommendable too.

Published on Blogcritics 21-08-2007
Friday, 10 August 2007 0 No Reply

KAISER CHIEFS - Yours Truly, Angry Mob (2007)

Each time I listen to Yours Truly, Angry Mob, the second LP from the British band Kaiser Chiefs, my mind, in an unconscious way, tries to link their sound with the perfect cross between a new wave band from the 80’s and a brit pop band from the 90’s. Trying to describe an album using the popular knowledge of some famous bands is a lazy and cheap trick that I won’t waste your time trying to explain.

Dancing songs filled with unforgettable choruses, pop melodies, rocking guitars and adolescent lyrics. This is Kaiser Chiefs, a band that “read the papers everyday day” (“The Angry Mob”) and wants to be famous right now! (“Retirement”). And there is nothing better to get their aim across than a couple of smash hits with choruses that have just a couple of words going around in your head (“Ruby” and “I Can Do Without You”).

But not all are dance tunes, Yours Truly, Angry Mob, also features “Love's not a competition (but I'm winning)” that is a nice ballad with the most interesting lyrics on the LP; which is one of the highlights, a perfect song to play on your guitar in your room, alone. Other quiet moments are “Try Your Best” and the shorter track “Boxing Champ”, but those songs cannot change the main proclamation of the LP: get on your dancing shoes! (Oops, any relationship with Arctic Monkeys is a coincidence).

Kaiser Chiefs will not change the fate of the music, they are just trying to record the perfect pop song, and well, sometimes we need a band that gives us a couple of new lines to sing in our cars or in the shower. Quoting their own lyrics “I can do it, I can do it, I can do it, I can do it without you / But it wouldn't be very good”.

I think that they didn’t have problems with that, especially if they are trying to look like a new version of Beatles for Sale (the quoting of LP cover is so obvious), and also trying to sound like a cross between their favourite bands; something like Duran Duran mixed with Oasis, or Spandau Ballet mixed with Blur, or Human League mixed with Suede (finally the old cheap trick comes to me). You can choose your own couple.

Yours Truly, Angry Mob is a fresh LP with songs that stick in your head for a couple of days.

Published on Blogcritics 10-08-2007

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