Wednesday, 23 April 2008

album review - my morning jacket 'evil urges'

god-fearing, reverb-loving hirsute rubes my morning jacket are about to release their fifth studio album, evil urges. will it be this year's thing that everybody reckons is pretty good and worth talking about? GMS investigates.

i thought their last effort, Z, which incorporated new elements such as cod-reggae and christian pop into their howling country-rock sound, was a bit of a miss-step. i think that puts me in the minority, but i'm all for minorities. i hope they win as many rights as they can handle.

on the strength of its cover art, which recalls mansun's prog bombshell six, the outlook for evil urges is not so good. but wait! let's listen to the record.

1. evil urges

a high-pitched beck-does-prince vocal, over a loose, ringing, led zep-style guitar hook. the two work against each other, but it seems to hang together in spite of itself.

2. touch me i'm going to scream

a hazy, neil young type of thing, which would sit comfortably on it still moves. but with a juddering drum pattern, an 80s bassline and a monotone chorus. as if to say, this wouldn't sit comfortably on it still moves.

3. highly suspicious

more prince - 'kiss', in particular. the rest of the band pretend to be robots. sexy robots? i'll be the judge of that.

4. i'm amazed

back to the older sound, this is like a looser credence clearwater revival. a bit repetitive. surprisingly, so far, the 80s are winning.

5. thank you too

playing it straight down the middle, this sounds like a late 70s eagles record, which might appeal but probably won't. lyrically, it's their most straightforwardly earnest work since 'gideon'.

6.sec walking

"left leg, right leg, one leg at a time, i keep on walking". i think this might be a cover of that randy newman song from family guy, except they seem to mean it. the tune is pretty good, though - woozy slide guitar, nasally lead vocal, 70s soul backing singers. conway twitty?

7. two halves

very direct, almost like teenage fanclub or the lemonheads soundtracking a john hughes movie. i quite like that sort of thing, but my girlfriend came in to complain. no john motson, incidentally. how's about a picture to break things up?


spare, fingerpicked, with a vocal that highlights the lyrics a bit too much. as far as songs about sexy librarians go, not half as good as 'the librarian' by hefner. intriguing references to "karen of the carpenters" and "god".

9. look at you

nice but dull. circa 1973.

10. aluminum park

that's "aluminium", if you please. this has a tightly-wound guitar riff, plenty of piano, and a catchy chorus. it's a lot like dennis wilson's solo records, with a bit of cheap trick thrown in. probably the most obvious single, unless they're going to sell the record on the strength of their impressions of morris day and the time.

11. remnants

the jacket get an "A from moe dee for sticking to themes" - this also sounds like cheap trick. but from one of their rubbishy 80s albums.

12. smokin' from shootin'

a nice, reflective ante-penultimate excursion, slightly undermined by clunky lyrics. builds to a jarring chorus pretty well, though.

13.touch me i'm going to scream part 2

the traditional epic closer. not as good as 'strangulation!' or 'one in the same', but very good. starts with NES-style keyboard bloops, and builds steadily, without ever quite letting go. if they ever manage to play a gig in the uk without half the band quitting and the show being cancelled, i'd let them do this one.

14. good intentions

six second blast of nonsense.

in toto

not as good as their first three, but one of the better albums of the year so far. z saw the band experimenting with new styles without much conviction or success, but evil urges shows more commitment and range, making it a far more interesting album. if people decide it's their masterpiece, expect a lot of comparisons to ok computer - both are complicated, packed with jarring elements that nonetheless hang together, and possibly 'say' something or other. it's released in june, by which time i'll either think it's genius or nonsense. probably the former.

my morning jacket - 'evil urges'

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

some sandy denny

sandy denny, who died thirty years ago today, was born twenty-seven days after me mam. she was also a damn sight better at singing. sorry, ma.

fairport convention - 'percy's song' (bob dylan cover, from unhalfbricking)

sandy denny - 'john the gun' (from north star grassman and the ravens)

cat power - 'who knows where the time goes' (sandy denny cover, live at bonnaroo 2006)

judas priest - 'nostradamus'

it has arrived, and it doesn't disappoint:


in case you require proof that "judas priest is number one in metal", head to the heavy metal parking lot:

Monday, 21 April 2008

hanging on the francophone: cross-channel perspectives and the nature of pop

comment allez-vous?

last week an emeute erupted in france, when it was announced that this year's entry to the eurovision song contest would be in anglais. just like lordi. the news caused jean-paul marat to turn over in his bath. just like jim morrison. the song itself is by sebastian tellier, who i think i've heard of. sacre-bleu!

as a rosbif, you might expect me to revel in this news. after all, GMS is well aware that the Oxford English Dictionary is five times as long as its french equivalent, and is full of rock terminology.

mais non! pourquoi, you may ask? well, i thoroughly approve of english pop bands employing someone to ramble on in french in the background of their songs du pop. don't believe me? ecoutez:

tindersticks - 'mistakes' (from tindersticks ii)

blur - 'to the end' (featuring francoise hardy) (buy some blur and francoise hardy)

here's the video for the original version of 'to the end'. it's an homage to l'annee derniere a marienbad, by french auteur alain resnais. to be honest, i found the film itself to be a bit of a pain in the arse.

more fun:

GMS reviews the new tindersticks album

song by toad addresses the issue

Sunday, 6 April 2008

GMS muxtape vol. 1 - talking to god

"at night i talk to god, but he don't say nothing back
i know he's protecting me, but still i stay with my hat"

hello there. here's the new, first, inaugural galactic mystery solvers muxtape. haven't heard of muxtape? it's a thing on the internet. give it a go.

the inaugural GMS muxtape isn't about hats, though. that was just to get your attention. a future one might be about hats. i'm keeping that under my hat.

this one's about talking to god. or jesus. whichever, as the unitarians used to say. singers have been talking to god since they were monks, back in the day. they're still doing it, as far as i can tell. in your face, richard dawkins!

1. blind willie mctell - 'lord, send me an angel'
2. lift to experience - 'waiting to hit'
3. karen o - 'highway 61 revisited'
4. million dollar quartet - 'just a little talk with jesus'
5. segarini & bishop - 'dear jesus god'
6. sebadoh - 'god told me'
7. flaming lips - 'plastic jesus'
8. iggy pop - 'turn blue'
9. kitty wells - 'will your lawyer talk to god?'
10. highwaymen - 'why me, lord?'
11. mavis staples - 'jesus is on the main line'
12. spiritualized - 'lord, can you hear me?'

bonus video: shellac - 'a prayer to god'