Background Guided by Voices (GBV) is an American indie rock band originating from Dayton, Ohio. Formed in the 80s, the band has made frequent personnel changes but has always maintained the presence of principal songwriter, vocalist Robert Pollard. GBV has disbanded & reunited twice in the last six years. However, for this new album, Pollard played every instrument – the first time that this has happened in the band’s history.
Background PJ Harvey is an English musician, singer-songwriter, writer, poet, and composer. With new album The Hope VI Demolition Project, Harvey has now released nine LPs. Harvey wrote the songs during her travels to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington D.C. with photographer/filmmaker Seamus Murphy between 2011 and 2014.
Background Black Mountain is a Canadian rock band from Vancouver, British Columbia. The band is composed of Stephen McBean, Amber Webber, Matt Camirand, Jeremy Schmidt and Joshua Wells. They have released four albums and eight singles.
Background Peter Wolf is an American rhythm and blues, soul and rock and roll musician, best known as the lead vocalist for the J. Geils Band from 1967 to 1983 and for a successful solo career with writing partner Will Jennings. A Cure For Loneliness is his eighth album.
Background A classic rock ’n’ roll devotee who is a little under the radar outside his native New York. A latecomer to the recording game, he released his debut LP at 32 years old in 1980. World War Wille is Nile’s tenth studio album since.
Background Formed in 2009 in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Colesville, Maryland, Two Inch Astronaut is a power trio that blends well the poppier edge of punk and experimental hardcore flourishes. A delicate balance that band members Sam Rosenberg (vocals/guitar), Daniel Pouridas (bass), and Matt Gatwood (drums) serve up with aplomb.
Background Cheap Trick is an American pop-rock band from Rockford, Illinois, formed in 1973, now consisting of Robin Zander (vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick Nielsen (lead guitar), Tom Petersson (bass guitar) and Daxx Nielsen (drums). In its forty-three years of existence, the band has remained true to its musical agenda i.e. a blend of pop, punk and even metal in a way that is instantly catchy and recognisable. This LP is the band’s first without longtime drummer Bun E. Carlos.
Background Bob Mould is an American musician, principally known for his work as guitarist, vocalist and songwriter for alternative rock bands Hüsker Dü in the 1980s and Sugar in the 1990s. Patch the Sky is Mould’s thirteenth solo album.
To be absolutely honest, Chrissie Hynde was one of the first female rock ’n’ rollers I seriously got into at the very beginning of the 1980s. Considering the times, she represented something very different in rock ’n’ roll for a female performer and fronted an amazing band in Pretenders.
The “difficult sophomore album” is a well-worn trope in popular music. It’s the rite of passage that proves that an artist’s early success was no accident. It’s proverbially difficult because it has to sound like the first album, yet different; it has to written in a shorter amount of time, yet be more expansive.
Most bands only have to go through this ordeal once. Britpop stalwarts Suede, however, have had to do it a second time.
The legendary David Bowie thrilled all his fans with his fabulous comeback album The Next Day back in 2013 and diehards have been hoping and praying that the LP was not a one-off. Thankfully, Bowie is back with a new album for 2016 – Blackstar!
Back in the early 90s, when Nirvana were top of the charts, alternative rock became the ‘in-thing’ and suddenly, the so-called ‘corporate rock’ of the 80s was something to be disdained by the grunge generation. Despite being critically reviled, here are seven examples of great rock songs that deserve a revaluation.
The name Kurt brought me back 18 years where Saturdays were spent jamming to “Aneurysm” and “Lithium” at a run-down studio in Yishun. I have always associated Kurt with the frontman of Nirvana but today, I was looking at a different Kurt.
B’lieve I’m Going Down… is Kurt Vile’s fourth album with Matador Records. On the cover, he shows off the bountiful hair of a metalhead, poses like a gypsy guitar virtuoso and wears a pair of skinny jeans too tight for comfort.
I did not know what to expect.
The first song “ Pretty Pimpin” starts with an acoustic guitar picking before he sings about the struggles of self-recognition, in a manner highly reminiscent of Elliott Smith. Shifting into a lower register Lou Reed-like voice for much of the album, he sinks you into the depths of relaxation with lyrics like, “When I go out/I take pills to take the edge off/or to just take a chillax/man and forget about it”. Vile has got good writing chops if you can ignore the ‘stoner’ vibe and dive into his words. In this sense, the album’s chillax direction may work against him as new listeners might let his words drift by .
Overall, this album speaks about finding oneself by being more emotionally aware and going with the flow. Though I feel that Vile himself is in no hurry j – “Give it some time/Give it some time” on his last song “Wild Imagination”.
A good lofi indie rock/folk spin for your weekend.
Brenton recently completed my WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC course. Find out more from KAMCO Music.
Ex-Pink Floyd singer-guitarist returns with a new solo LP that follows last year’s pointless Pink Floyd release – The Endless River – and Gilmour’s previous solo work, the magnificent On An Island (2006).
Sadly, Rattle That Lock – despite the promise of the excellent title track – is not a patch on On An Island and finds Gilmour trying out (rather unconvincingly) different musical styles that are far removed from his solo and Floyd work.
All of which is frustrating because on tracks like the instrumentals “5 A.M.”, “Beauty” and “… And Then”, Gilmour’s trademark guitar stylings shine through and all is well. Elsewhere, the choppy dance rhythms of “Today”, the anti-war balladry of “In Any Tongue” and the sprightly blues-romp of the title track remain the highlights.
Sadly, there are at least four tracks – “Faces of Stone”, “A Boat Lies Waiting”, “Dancing Right In Front Of Me” and “The Girl in the Yellow Dress” – where Gilmour’s attempts at eclecticism somewhat fall flat. Especially on that last named track where Gilmour fancies himself to deliver a pseudo-jazz standard with appalling results.
Presumably, Gilmour wanted to demonstrate his songwriting versatility but only emphasised his paucity in this department. Sobering to realise that it took Gilmour almost a decade to come up with enough songs to produce a new album. Floyd fans will enjoyed the highlights previously mentioned, which makes Rattle That Lock somewhat half-baked overall.
The late Ian Macdonald, one of most influential rock critics of all time, wrote in 2003 that “the essentials of modern popular music were laid down during a period of less than ten years and that, but for some technical innovations leading to various musical diversions (such as reggae, rap/hip hop and sequenced dance music), nothing intrinsically new has appeared since then, all musical mini-revolutions in the last twenty years being prefaced in the products of the sixties, the foundation decade for all that’s followed.”
There’s no denying that the origins of blues-rock, garage, pop-rock, R&B, avant rock. metal, folk-rock and punk rock lie in the sixties but it can also be argued that the seventies were even more influential (especially in relation to the origins of rap/hip hop) or even the nineties (as electronic music became more pervasive). These discussions about the origins of the diverse music genres that make up the landscape of modern popular music will be at the heart of my WRITING ABOUT ROCK MUSIC course to be conducted in two weeks!
On new album The Monsanto Years, Neil Young seems re-invigorated with new backing band Promise of The Real, to deliver one of his feistiest works in recent memory. Rather like Living With War (2006), the politics might be a little too obvious but there’s no faulting the songs that Young and gang have come up with – full of vim and vigour.
Full of country-folk inflected rock ‘n’ roll, songs like “A New Day For Love”, “People Want to Hear the Love”, “Workin’ Man” and the title track come across like vintage Young, except with very modern references (highly anti-corporation rhetoric against Monsanto, Starbucks etc) – which I suspect will endear the evergreen Young to a new generation of music lovers. But of course, for Young, the album reflects the continuation of the hippie dream, which has been part of Young’s raison d’être since the 1960s.
Years in the making but definitely worth the wait. 10 tracks of such instrumental sophistication and erudite witticism that it is barely imaginable that the former cultural desert of Singapore is able to produce an album that absorbs the wondrous legacy of 60s rock and pop so well.
With the songwriting template pioneered by the likes of Roy Orbison, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Band the band have also adopted the production values of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson to deliver a unique aural experience that will please rock scholars and casual music fans alike. An additional distinctive element is the band’s ability to incorporate East Asian sounds and melodies into the mix to create a East meets West amalgam that is surprising and pleasing.
Believe me it’s difficult to point out any particular highlights here as every track is an entity to itself but I will say that songs like the ghostly Beatlesque “Mercy of Cain and Abel”, the atmospheric folky “Patriach”, the country bluesy “Blood the Prize” and the Orbison-Teresa Teng channeling “Honeymoon” certainly deserve special mention.
In an amazing year for Singapore rock so far, this eponymous album is a definite standout and a statement of intent that hopefully will bring forth more exciting music from this wonderful band in the years to come.
CDs and digital albums will be available on cheatingsons.bandcamp.com and CDs also at Curated Records and Roxy Records & Trading.