Reject Musical Trash

Back in 2009 P. Diddy recorded a track with German techno master DJ Hell called “The DJ”. During its nine minutes, Diddy rallies against DJs playing four minute tracks: “You gotta hit em with that 13/14 minute version, you gotta hit em with that shit where they marinate, where they just engulfed in that shit”. It’s a salient point. Some music is simply not designed to be, as Diddy points out, “A mother fuckin’ four minute version”.

With disco heading towards its big 40th birthday, its stock has never been higher. The genre is deeply set into modern day European electronic music; Patrick Cowley has finally been assigned the pioneer status he was reaching prior to his death in the early ’80s and Daft Punk’s most overt reference to Giorgio Moroder in a career full of them (“Giorgio by Moroder” on their 2013 LP Random Access Memories) rebooted his dormant career to the extent that he’s started a DJ career in his mid-seventies, and is due to drop his first album for over 30 years (beat that, Kevin Shields).

So where does French producer Cerrone fit into this? Well, he was there at the beginning. His “Love in C Minor” came just six months after Moroder’s first significant disco track, “Love to Love you Baby” with his muse Donna Summer, but Cerrone’s stock was and mysteriously remains much lower than Giorgio’s icy futurism and Cowley’s backroom NRG. The cheesy videos and sexist cover art didn’t help (lamentably, that remains with this compilation), but what this collection does point out is that a less synthetic production ethic resulted in lush instrumentation with live percussion (he’s a drummer), and thick basslines that have become house music staples.

Back to the opening point, this collection falls down by the butchering of track length. Many of the original versions went over the 10 minute mark, but here we have them basically cut in half, and it’s a pointless exercise. Let’s put it into perspective – have you ever got off on an edit of “Fools Gold”, “Soon”, “There goes the Fear” or “I Feel Love”? No way, these tracks are just getting going then. The musky lust of “Call Me Tonight” is only just completing its aural foreplay before it fades out, and it’s the same with stone cold classic “Supernature” (which named Goldfrapp’s 2006 album and is also copied, almost riff by riff, by Daft Punk on the aforementioned “Giorgio by Moroder”), wherejust as the swirling riff starts to transport the track to its psych-tronic climax, it pointlessly fades out.

What this collection does offer in return is a collection of his production work. “Phonic” by Cristal is a sci-fi retake of “Magic Fly” by Space (the French disco act, not the dodgy scouse Britpop band) and “Africanism” by his first band Kongas is a robust, tribal cover of Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin”, while the guitar heavy cover of The Animals’ “House of The Rising Sun” is camp, porny, ridiculous and cool.

Of course, as the disco boom died down, so did the careers of the majority of disco artists, Cerrone attempted to branch out into the then new sounds of rap music – check the sickly “Club Underworld” s failure to make “Rappers Delight” into a 4/4 dance track, or rather not.

This collection would lead you to believe that the best of Cerrone is nothing more than a bunch of disposable pop tracks. No way – “Give Me Love”, “Rocket In The Pocket”, “Je Suis Music”, and the aforementioned “Supernature” are some of the greatest ever disco tunes, but instead of the neutered versions on offer here, head to the full sacked swag of the originals.

6/10

After five albums (six if you include the 2002’s OK Calculator experiment prior to becoming a full band), you’re in a kinda personal relationship with a band. It’s a long term thing – by now you’re either hungry for that thrill of new aspects to their sound, or just happy they’re still around.

This is an album that may not have been made, as it’s their first since the tragic early death loss of bassist, Gerard Smith, at 36. After much soul searching and uncertainty about their own future, TV On The Radio decided to continue as a tribute to their friend, with Jaleel Bunton touchingly swapping his role in the band from drummer to bassist, a strength found from within. The two standalone tracks released last year, “Mercy” and “Million Miles”, showed a band undergoing a period of revitalisation, especially after their 2011 long player, Nine Types of Light, was such a subdued affair.

The gradual shift of TV On The Radio’s music from scuzzy art-rock to sleek pop has coincided with the band’s guitarist Dave Sitek’s ongoing rise as a ‘go to’ producer: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foals and Cerebral Ballzy have all received the Sitek golden touch, his skill was a perfect accompaniment to this year’s lip-smackingly good Food album from Kelis, and he even managed to extract a decent song out of a Liam Gallagher’s Beady Eye (albeit just one).

With TVOTR already proven to be a suckers for a love song, Seeds is awash with the stuff. The first words hollered are “How much do I love you/How much do we try/To set into motion /A love divine?” on the opening “Quartz”. It’s a vocal yearning from Tunde Adebimpe backed with some of their most lassic sounds: doo-woop vocals, jittery beats, weird clanking sounds, sampled cowbells, kitchen sinks, their usual kind of thing.

“Careful You” and “Could You” are also cut from the same cloth, the former a mid-paced, dirty electronic mood peace (a revisit to their classic “Halfway Home” cut, while the latter has dual vocalist Kyp Malone pleading “Could you love somebody/Could open up your heart?”) over gorgeous Rickenbacker guitar chimes reminiscent of The Byrds, concluding with parping horns which scream triumph. This is TVOTR at their cleanest; the grimy synths that made tracks like “Wolf Like Me” or “Young Liars” so essential are a million miles from the approach here, but still, these tunes could never be mistaken as ones from a different band.

The nearest thing to their sound of old appears on “Love Stained”, which also happens to be the absolute peak of the album. Musically sullen with skeletal post-punk guitar lines, washes of synth and monotone organ notes, it’s lyrical uplift proving to be an entrancing juxtaposition with a gorgeous impassioned croon from Malone, declaring “In the middle of the light, just wanna be your darlin’/Runnin’ by your side, let me play along”. It’s epic and ever so slightly emotional.

There is, of course, space for dumb punk tracks too; “Winter” is prowling and minimal with crunching guitars backed with that “We Will Rock You” boom-boom-tish drum pattern, whilst “Lazerray” rocks harder than they ever have done. TVOTR remain enemies of genre boundaries, it’s all here, electronica, rock, pop, indie, dubstep, R’N’B, Hip Hop, shattered and pieced back together with eyes tightly shut.

This collection of tracks is pretty much a continuation of Nine Types of Light, and their 2008 breakthrough, Dear Science – tracks on all three albums are pretty interchangeable. This could be dismissed as a band who longer seek new sonic ventures, and true, there are no moments of ‘what the hell was that?’‘ which made 2004’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes and 2006’s Return To Cookie Mountain such refreshing new slants on rock music, no more My Bloody Valentine mixed by The Bomb Squad sounds, no Prince fronting Sonic Youth (con)fusion. But Seeds is a very strong album, even if it may alienate fans of their older synth-led doom-gaze sound. Their loss – this is a triumph that has risen from tragedy, a glittering testament to a fallen band mate who has been done proud.

8/10

Leeds five piece Hookworms’ debut of eighteen months ago quite rightly had many plaudits lauded upon it, for within its mixture of drone, shoegaze, psych, hardcore and post punk, there lied a furious rage lost within the structure of pop music. The subsequent months since said debut have seen them turn into one of the UK’s must see live acts, and with their second long player, their first for Domino Records offshoot Weird World, they seal the deal in recorded form.

Band members are still only known only by their initials, an anti-attention, anti-star stance that’s a typically Leeds attitude, and Hookworms are a very Leeds band: feel free to get involved, but don’t be a dick… you have to be from there to understand.

Musically, there’s not much deviation from what came before, in that it’s another album crammed with great tracks. “The Impasse” is a furious opener – forget the vagueness of psych, this is the most upfront ‘fuck you’ opening track since “Facet Squared” by Fugazi (Fugazi’s musical aggression certainly being evident during the harder hitting tracks here), a musical rage is topped off with MJ’s howling heavily processed vocals, which are, again, almost indecipherable throughout, showing the collaborative approach of a band acting as one, not a lead singer backed by a band.

“On Leaving”, which follows, immediately slows the pace from fury to hypnotic. With a Stereolab-influenced keyboard drone, eastern influenced guitars, it’s the direct opposite of the tune that preceded it, displaying Hookworms at their most melodic. Halfway through MJ muses “Start figuring it out/Nothing stays the same” over an inevitable guitar crunch followed by a gorgeous build up to an epic outro.

“Radio Tokyo”, originally released as a single on Too Pure last year, has been re-recorded and vastly improved. Starting off as a Loop goes pop track, the real thrill is when it breaks down to a one note piano line (almost designed to be extended by another three minutes live), and a creepy spoken word passage where MJ repeats “It’s true/Nostalga digs me out” over and over until it kicks back in and thrashes itself to death.

The Hum is claustrophobic and unrelenting. Even its one moment of true calm, “Off Screen” – which takes its cue from early Verve and Levitation B-sides from 1992 – is covered in a stifling musical scuzz. The skill of the band means there’s still a beauty shimmering beneath the fug, and it’s placed at the perfect point of the album where a moment of calm is desperately needed.

Hookworms have now proved for a second time that you can find beauty within the sound of confusion, and you can be psychedelic and danceable at the same time (the groove based “Beginners” is certainly designed to lose one’s shit to). As was the case with their debut, there are also three short drone tracks – a clever way of making sure that the momentum isn’t lost, there is always the sound (“vi” is a particularly effective way of segueing out of “Off Screen”). These moments could be dismissed as filler, but no way – even if the noise annoys, it’s integral in the same way it was on Spiritualized’s Pure Phase. There’s a reason for its inclusion, but if the band gave us any hints, it would probably just be the first letter of each word.

The Hum is a shattering, all-encompassing experience; there’s climactic rage, broken organs and blank-eyed trance outs. At times it’s like listening to war, but there are also moments of beauty, musical tantrums and periods of bummed out weirdness. The result of all this? Total exhilaration.

The Voyeurs (previously prefixed by Charlie Boyer and) appeared amongst the wave of British indie acts spawned from the 2009 Primary Colours by The Horrors. Since then, there’s been a plethora of kinda psych, Krautrocky, shoegazey indie bands with disaffected malnourished lead singers flanked by guitarists who look like girls. This has led to some fantastic British bands, TOY, Spectres, Telegram, Hookworms, The Voyeurs lie naturally amongst these bands but their debut long player, 2013’s Clarietta didn’t quite match the promise of the singles that preceded it.

This second album, released just eighteen months later is certainly more robust – Clarietta was weedy sounding at times, but Rhubarb Rhubarb rectifies this. Ditching their Velvet Underground go Marquee Moon shtick of previous material, a more British sound is apparent this time; from the Ray Davies influenced lyrical observations using overtly London accented vocals, to the overall sound which fuses early 90’s Britpop with ‘70’s glam, at times a shimmer of Marc Bolan is apparent, albeit a much less sexy version.

Opening track “Train to Minsk” distils the entire album’s influences into one song: Glitter Band drums, crunching guitars, swirling 80’s synths, and a pseudo football hooligan chant of “GO GO” drives a number that is both sassy and smart. Boyer has stated that their debut album was recorded as live, whereas this one is more of a studio album, Clarietta‘s downfall was down to a meat and two veg approach, whereas this time, everything sounds much more considered, from the song writing to the production. “Pete the Pugilist “and “Stunners” are bass heavy and hooky, electronic squiggles here, a jagged post-punk slash there, these are two of the highlights both of which reference pre-Britpop bands such as Kinky Machine and Mantaray whilst sounding as contemporary as Teleman.

“The Smiling Loon” has them operating best: its low paced and gnarly, uses a slicing Joey Santiago influenced riff amongst psychedelic backwards guitar and synths, with a nonchalant chorus of “You say oh crumbs / What have I done /Just having fun”. When Boyer cuts out the wailing indie vocals as he does here, he comes across as the sinister bastard child of Ariel Pink and Syd Barrett; it’s a really appealing sound which they should concentrate on perfecting next time.

“Damp Walls” contains some of the very best sounds here; the closing two or so minutes really showcase how musically tight The Voyeurs are. Urgent, spikey and spooked, it’s the kind of elongated instrumental passage that TOY excel in so well, but here, The Voyeurs show that they’re just as effective as fucked up psych-pop. They repeat this act just as effectively on the closing track “French Fancy”, on which they sneak in a Dennis Wilson in 1977 L.A feeling of coked up decadence.

Elsewhere The Stranglers go camp of “Say You Love Him (And Choke)” shows an ability to bash out a pop track, while the lush and orchestral “May Will You Stop” is the kind of slinky lysergic RnB, we thought only Connan Mockasin was capable of previously.

Rhubarb Rhubarb, despite being a highly accessible record, does take time for its intentions to be made clear. Initial plays may have you thinking it’s just another album by an indie band going slightly electronic; a lot of the touches are textural, and the musical tweaks they’ve made to their sound are subtle. This time round, despite still being pretty transparent with their influences, they are not totally overcome by them, and it results in The Voyeurs making a collection of songs more than worthy of a surreptitious peek.

7/10

The main charm of Wampire’s 2013 debut Curiosity was how it sounded like it was thrown together in someone’s basement after a 48 hour session watching crummy B-movies and smoking headache inducing homegrown. Using that kind of John Maus/Ariel Pink anti-production lo-fi ethic that sounds like a recently found dust covered cassette, sparkling pop such as “Giants” and “The Hearse“ were dumb bubblegum indie pop indebted to The Archies with the one chord aggression of Joey, Dee and the band.

This swift follow up has the duo expanding to a five piece and cutting the schlocky aspects that made them so appealing, the schlock has been replaced with sax – loads of sax. It’s a move which on the whole works.

Lead track “The Amazing Heart Attack” is misleading as an opener as it’s a continuation of the vibe of the previous album; silly sounding, bummed out fun. Its jagged guitars and ’80s synths are OTT, camp, urgent and catchy as hell, and it’s the only track here like this, making the ears beg for more. “Bad Attitude” is a continuation of what The Hives have been peddling for years and “Fly On The Wall” revisits the time in the last decade when loads of indie bands copied that Dr. Dre one note piano line – but with added sax. They’re… OK tracks.

Bazaar operates best when they slow the pace. “Wizard Staff” comes across as RnB transported to San Francisco and “Too Stoned”, undoubtedly a highlight, is full of Pink Floyd pomp and ridiculous Clapton-esque riffiing – two of its four minutes is build up via dramatic piano and Heroes-era Bowie sax wails, but the main part of the track just ends, sounding like it could do with an extra four minutes to back up the epic intro.

“Millennials” is the go to track here. With woozy reverb, vocal pitched up a notch aping female singers, honky tonk pianos and 80s synths, it’s the most psychedelic track here and shows MGMT how to do MGMT stuff. Elsewhere, “Sticking Out” is snotty punk, “Life of Luxury” does that Pavement-goes-country stuff pretty well, and the closer is tentative, vague and electronica tinged.

Bazaar achieves what it goes out to do well, but could do with a few more of the mind-benders they are fully capable of achieving. Next time.

6.5 / 10

© 2010 Reject Musical Trash.

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