Slow Music Review: Hot Chip – One Life Stand

There is a theme running throughout my writing; a cold spine of anger and mistrust against the weaponised use of music appreciation. Quite a bloated sentence to begin with. In layman’s; I have a terrible dislike for those who use new bands and songs to diminish your own personal tastes. To make you feel bad for not ‘getting’ music. The classic “You listen to pop? Well I listen to Ukrainian anti-punk that I discovered by rummaging through the vinyl bargain bins on Record Store Day!”. The implication is always clear, they put more ‘effort’ into finding the music and therefore it has a higher perceived worth than my radio friendly hit. It is a personal axe I grind. But the way I see it is that the beauty of music, especially in this new streaming age, lies in it’s ability to reach out across the ages. To move you from the past. Indeed, the whole point of starting this blog was to specifically praise music that wasn’t current and had lost all the hype of the new release. We can see clearer in hindsight and it often makes the discovery of older gems that little bit sweeter. Who cares if I’ve only discovered the joy and talent of Hot Chip now? The fact that I discovered it at all, on my own terms, means more than any limited release ever could.

Like most, it was ‘Over and Over‘ that first introduced me to Hot Chip and though catchy, I didn’t really buy it wholesale. ‘Boy From School‘ was another matter entirely, a beautiful, elegantly crafted interlude that showed that they had a rare talent for subtlety. One Life Stand takes everything I liked about ‘Boy From School’ and extends it over the course of it’s 49 minutes. There is variety and imagination and pitch-perfect patch choices. Most importantly, there is that beautiful discourse between the competing vocal deliveries of Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard. It’s very much an ace to have not one but two distinctive vocalists, it prevents you from ever getting too settled as you never know which timbre will come at you next. In much the same way, One Life Stand is skilfully varied and arranged, as disco-funk and electro-soul make way for haunting doo-wop and traditional indietronica. It’s a hateful term, ‘indietronica’; I think I’ve only ever used it as a stone to bash in trend setters and the pompous. But this album makes me understand that it can actually be a craft worthy of laudation.

The problem with our musical culture is that there are far too many bands and far too many releases for anything to really stand out. A secondary problem then arises once you miss an artist’s arrival, you can’t be bothered to give them a second chance. The moment passes and the industry resents a new champion for us to invest in. So the treadmill grinds on. It happened to me with Hot Chip; the mote I knew didn’t fully grab me so I passed on listening to what came next. Though as I said, just because you didn’t listen to it at the time doesn’t mean you can’t get all fan-boy now. I am made quite the fan-boy. This album is on repeat and just, just beat Thomas Dolby for this weeks topic which is no mean feat. If you don’t know it I suggest giving it a listen and giving it a buy. Until next time.

Oh, before you go could you be a dear and follow me on Twitter and like the Facebook. I’ll love you forever.

Listings: 7 Awesome Eurovision Songs Needed In Your Life

Let’s not mess about, the Eurovision is great. Actually, truly, un-ironically great. All those trendy nostalgia fiends laughing in their hipster bars at the bizarre nature of it all miss the point entirely. It is not to be laughed at, it is to be enjoyed and raised. So in no particular order, here are 7 awesome songs to fill your ears with ahead of Saturday’s final. Hoorah

1. Ruslana – Wild Dances

The second greatest Eurovision song ever and unique to this day; Ukraine’s 2004 winner is a phenomenal riot of primal rhythms, folk melodies and a simply genius pop chorus. It’s stop-start aggression stomps over you with glee and abandon. Listening to it now, I’m so happy I could cry.

2. Måns Zelmerlöw – Heroes

Yes, I know it only won last year and that I’ve already written about it at length. I also know that I am achingly biased as I have more than a passing interest in Sweden. That said, this is still a brilliantly crafted song that holds off the drop until my soul breaks from anticipation. It’s so good that everyone this year is ripping it off. Call it Lordi syndrome. I love it.

3. Laka – Pukosaj

Now for the greatest Eurovision performance there ever has and ever will be: Bosnia and Herzegovina’s 2008 entry, brimming with ideas and energy. That a sizeable chunk of the allowed 3 minutes is dedicated to a slow build-up shows the confidence Laka has in his craft. What a build-up. When it breaks it is as if the clouds are falling after months of drought. I stand under it, mouth agape as it washes the arid past away. The ashes blowing in the wind. The bud opening in the morning light. I could go on. I probably shouldn’t.

4. Sebastien Tellier – Divine

2008 was a vintage year and France’s Sebastien Tellier (a genuinely phenomenal composer in his own right) got into the spirit with aplomb. This performance has everything; a cheery melody, doo-wop backing, golf cart entrance, helium, and singers in beards. Despite this madness, the most interesting and controversial decision was to sing in English, a first for the French entry which strangely makes it more charming than it need be.

5. Pollopönk – No Prejudice

Man, this should have won. This should have won SO bad. Though if you arere going to be beat then you might as well be beat by Conchita Wurst (which in of itself was a phenomenal song). This song makes me so happy; an Icelandic ball of summer and colour and life all wrapped up with the most positive message ever put before Europe.

6. Michalis Rakintzis – S.A.G.A.P.O

Forgive me my personal nostalgia. 2002, I am only 17 and it’s my first Eurovision party. This song starts to play in all of it’s Grecian surrealism and melodic strangeness. I am forever hooked. That is all.

7. LT United – We Are The Winners Of Eurovision

There’s always one that tries to demand the win with tongue marginally in cheek, but this was different. It’s just so simple and charming with a gloriously subtle presentation by 6 suave, middle aged Lithuanians. It shouldn’t work at all. It should just throw all glam rock pretensions onto the pyre; but by the time the electric violin solo comes (from out of nowhere I might add) there is nothing to do. You are broke. I search frantically in my pockets for any spare points I can give them without success. Vote, vote, vote for the winners!

Enjoy your Eurovision one and all! But before you go be sure to like and subscribe and blah, blah, blah. You know how social media works. Here are the click links for Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud. I trust you and your judgement; we wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.

Byeeee!

Slow Music Review: Turboweekend – Fault Lines

Spring is here and with it the boundless possibilities of life and happiness. If you’ve been following the past few weeks as my passion and drive for this project collapsed under the weight of battleship skies and April blizzards; you know it’s about bloody time. The trees are turning green and I’m dreaming vividly again. The warmth of the air and sheer joy in my heart has subconsciously made me switch over to a more summery playlist than the one that saw me through the bitter winter. As I mentioned during my piece on Brian Eno and John Cale’s ‘Spinning Away’; though music shouldn’t really be classed as “Summer” or “Winter”, sometimes you can’t really help it if it ticks all the boxes and enters your life at the right time. No more death. No more eulogies. The sun is shining and I want to listen to shiny sun songs. I want to listen to my shiny sun songs; the ones I forged in my happiest moments. Cycling through my music I come to Turboweekend. Further skipping takes me to Fault Lines. I can’t help but smile.

My love and respect for Turboweekend is slightly more entwined than most. I was one of the few English speakers in attendance when they played London many moons ago, ‘Your Body Free From Mine’ was a staple of my early rryrry sets and I recently finished a rather snazzy remix of ‘Drums in the Dark’. It’s unreciprocated, of course (bar a stolen hug from Silas) though I’m sure they’d work wonders with rryrry given half the chance. If I’m honest, I’m not sure why I’ve taken such an interest. I can’t explain it and I think that’s half the romance. They dropped in my life as a recommendation at a time when I was pretty broken and quickly formed a balm with such gems as ‘Into You’ and ‘Erase Myself‘. There’s a remarkable freedom and joy in their arrangements that set them apart from other keyboard-led bands. It’s just so vital and real. Behind all the production flourishes and electronic chirping of the foreground, there’s a power trio (and now quad) holding it all together. You can hear the movement of Morten’s fingers and shuffle of Martin’s sticks keeping them honest. It’s a music that couldn’t be wholly synthesized alone in a bedroom. This is before even mentioning the soaring quality of Silas’ voice, by far and away the greatest in Scandinavia (if not the world). I’m serious. Bigger blogs than this have re-printed my opinion on the matter so it must have some clout. You just need to hear the break in ‘Multiple Voices’ or the climax of this live version of ‘Into You’ to see what I mean.

Fault Lines released back in 2012 during a particularly hot London summer. At the time I was working at Hamleys Toy Store and having a fairly wretched time as the air-conditioning had broken and all the chocolates were melting throughout the building. The Olympics were on the horizon and the store was a humid mess of mania and discomfort. The sole respite was leaving on my lunch hour, sitting out in Golden Square and listening. By this point my world away from Hamleys was a brilliant place to be as joy had come into my life and filled my soul; the music I discovered during that long summer imprinted itself heavily upon me. Fault Lines did it more than most. It is a nigh on perfect album that is at once both incredibly familiar and utterly unique. ‘Fire of the Stampede‘ hits you with an insidious funk beat that accompanies chords that constantly skirt the boundaries of non-functionality, it’s disconcerting but wholly danceable. ‘Reflections on Chrome’ has the soul of the new-wave running through it and is a prime example of how the live nature of the bass and drums fill the accompaniment with soul. Don’t even get me started on ‘Douglas’ because I’ll go full on fanboy; a gorgeously languid, soulful strut of a piece. I could go on and on about how each song balances delicately between maintaining an individual personality whilst remaining a solid part of the album’s whole but that would read rather dull. Just go and listen for yourself, you won’t be sorry.

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My winter jackets are in the closet and I’m taking the bold risk of leaving the house in nothing but a shirt and trousers so I think we can safely say summer is coming. It looks like it’s going to be a good one and I’ll likely find another album to track it’s ebb and flow which I’ll fill you with at a later date. But for now I am happy to listen to Turboweekend and let all those good, warm memories wash over me. That summer I fell in love with the band. That summer I fell in love with the album. That summer I fell in love for real.

Further reading:

Last summer’s choice album: John Wizards – John Wizards

Two summers obsession: Kashmir – Pedestals

An early post on the wonder of Danish music: We need to talk about Denmark.

What’s in a song?: Prince – Black Sweat

Here we go again. The well rehearsed eulogy which I seem to be presenting every other week. There really isn’t anything to be done except sigh and accept that the big names are leaving us. I was never the biggest Prince fan, you should know that before we begin. He was too impenetrable and aloof for the younger me while my older self never got round to giving him a serious listen. That said, I always knew the big songs; Nothing Compares 2 U, Kiss, Purple Rain, each leaving me with a clear awareness of his phenomenal talent. I suppose we’re all aware of it now as the newscasters explain in detail how surprisingly humble and giving he was behind the eccentric facade. But I just can’t be sad any more. I’ve been sad this whole year and it’s becoming stale and numb. So instead we will celebrate the luck we had in walking the Earth with these giants. We will drink to their memory and dine to the gifts that they gave us. My favourite? Black Sweat.

Prince’s protection of his art and distrust of contractual obligations is almost as well known as his music. Changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol to spite Warner Bros. was just the culmination of beliefs he had held since the early days. Indeed the reason he signed to Warner Bros. in the first place was specifically because they gave him full creative control of his first three albums. In this context it is entirely understandable that streaming was anathema to him, the grazing mentality these services encourage runs counter to his meticulously crafted music. Now, regular readers of this blog will know that I am very much in favour of streaming services and their ability to let music stand on it’s own merits. For the possibility to discover music beyond the norm and the freedom to form your own personal tastes without resorting to taste-makers. But like I said, Prince has my full respect because he never wavered in his artistic belief. Something to commend him by. Unfortunately, this highly micro-managed, aggressively protected catalogue has robbed us of any high quality, embeddable videos of Black Sweat for me to lovingly present between these paragraphs. So if you haven’t already, click here and hit play.

Music is contextual, listen to a beautiful song at the perfect moment and it will stay with you forever. Black Sweat fell on me at the right moment; a beautifully Welsh summer with a whole day of possibilities ahead. Being a student there was only one place to spend it; the pub. A pub with a surprisingly cheap jukebox and large windows presenting us with cinematic views of the Menai glistening in the dappled light. I think I ended up putting Black Sweat on four or five times with each successive play causing my friend (who ‘knew’ Prince) to tell me the earlier stuff is better. I don’t disagree, but this song is an absolute masterpiece. It’s arrangement so subtle, it’s melody so light with a beat so menacing; balanced with surgical precision. I feel like Prince is staring at me, daring me to mistrust his methods and goading a negative reaction. But I can’t give him one. There is nothing that sounds like this. There is nothing that mixes the elements in this way and it hooks me like drugs. I had to buy it, it was the only way. This song became Prince for me; a banner of his talent and a welcoming embrace. I was saddened last Thursday but stand thankful for these minutes. They will live forever.

I hope I don’t have to write another one of these in a while.

What’s in a song?: Spinning Away – Brian Eno and John Cale

This winter has been brutal. This year so far full of sadness and loss. Keeping spirits up against such an onslaught is tough, really tough. I worry that part of me didn’t survive; hardened by the ice before melting away with the snow. This is me now. I have never been so ready for spring and all the promise that it brings, and as the wind warms and brings with it blue sky; it is time to reset. Reset the sadness. Reset the loss. Reset the disappointment and reset our goals. It is at times like this that music reveals it’s true power as an individual song can bring about the change needed to drag your limp bones out of the funk. I’m sure this is the reason why so many of us love music unconditionally. This winter has been brutal, but I’ve found my way out.

What makes a summer song? Many factors, obviously. The strongest of which (to me at least) is when you first hear it. Take The Who; I first obsessed over them one hot summer many, many years ago and now I can listen to ‘Can’t Explain‘ in the depths of a snow drift and be taken back to the warmth. Equally the early solo work by Troels Abrahamsen is winter for me, as I bought it during a particularly dank November. A lesser factor is the instrumentation, playing style or the arrangement; a chilled out guitar line and syncopated back-beat will likely bring out illusions of warmer climates and by extension that of the summer. A further, minor factor is inherent positivity; major chords and uplifting lyrics are culturally wired to herald order, warmth and life. Some songs have one of these factors, some have two; Spinning Away by Brian Eno and John Cale has all of them. It is an ultimate summer jam.

It’s hard for me to forget watching Danny Boyle’s The Beach and hearing the Afro-beat guitar line of Sugar Ray’s ‘Spinning Away’ cover. My mind permanently seared associations of that sound with blue seas and never-ending beaches. I don’t even really like the island notion of paradise, but through the music it became utterly compelling. I wanted to spin in slow motion with a lover, dancing round a fire as the stars filled the sky. Of course, this was many, many years before I met her but the idea was formed and a perfect summer forever tied through the music. That was a particularly good summer; long, lazy and free. In retrospect it was likely my last endless summer, from that point forward my summers became work filled and finite. But through ‘Spinning Away’ (and ‘Porcelain‘, and ‘On Your Own‘) I got to at least enjoy the idyll while it lasted. 14 years later, at an incredibly low ebb, my Spotify Discover throws the original at me. Despite being fundamentally the same as the version I grew to love, there was something about Eno’s detached delivery that super-charged all the hopes, dreams and raven skies I’d bundled around the song. Eno redeems himself. Well played Spotify.

This summer is going to be cracking. A bud of limitless potential waiting to open. I can remember that now.

If you liked this little read then be sure to follow the Facebook and the Twitter. If you want to hear my own songs to gear you up for the summer then click here. You may also like these recent blogs so go mining and I’ll see you next week.

Real Talk: On Musical Collaboration (It’s a RUM DO)

Slow Music Review: Right Said Fred – Up

Slow Music Review: John Wizards – John Wizards

Real Talk: On Musical Collaboration (It’s a RUM DO)

Technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it tries to bring everyone forward towards a brighter dawn; on the other, it leaves some behind. These past few years have seen it split the musical between those who moved and those who lapsed. Often I feel in the latter category; I missed the boat and now the pier has been swept away. In less poetic terms, the tried and tested formula of ‘grind-the-pub-circuit-until-you-get-a-big-enough-following-to-get-a-label’s-attention-to-get-your-song-played-on-the-radio’ pretty much collapsed with the rise of Justin Bieber. Youtube became the main musical entry point, social media became the new artistic quotient and I stood by with my meagre offerings, throwing them on the fire of consumption. Success by any means was limited. When I am low I focus on this and it hollows me out. But then I think of the freedom I’ve been afforded by Logic and Sibelius and all these other little sites and programs that allow me to vomit my ideas into something tangible. The boat of success may have eluded me for now but I’ll be damned if I don’t use these shattered timbers to build something better. Which leads me neatly on to something made almost effortless these days, the art of collaboration.

I’d hit play if I were you

This, if you didn’t quite get the point of this post, is the logical conclusion to all the fraternal remixing and covering between rryrry and Give Blood. Something wholly different yet wholly familiar. I almost joined Give Blood, you see; I desperately craved a band again after years plugging away on my own to no avail. Then life didn’t so much get in the way as change my priorities and I left London. As we could no longer meet up and jam, Will and I decided the next best thing we could do was exchange stems over the interweb and remix each others tracks. It was an exceptionally fruitful experience and set fast the seeds of what is to come. Stems of completed tracks quickly became unheard demos and ideas and before we knew it we had become fully fledged collaborators. The best kind of collaborators. Something made real by the internet and cheap software.

This is a short post, consider it merely an introduction. Lay down, lovers. It’s a RUM DO.

Slow Music Review: Right Said Fred – Up

Writing this blog is never the easiest of things. I often battle procrastination and a severe lack of drive to present these words to you. Always trying to expand your horizons and maybe introduce you to something you missed first time round. The temptation to over-stretch and fall into the regular music journalist cliches of ‘hot new thing’ regularly puts me off my stride. That and this pressing need to show you ‘cool’ artists. But ‘Cool’, much like political integrity, doesn’t exist. It’s merely a communal myth we built around ourselves to replace our antique gods. Surely we should just be allowed to be free to like what we like without judgement if we’re not hurting anyone? Especially culturally. Especially with tastes. I want you to remember this, because you’ve read today’s subject and you’ve made an opinion. Leave it at the door, Boris, it’s time to question all you know. This is Up.

My sister is getting married this summer. It’s going to be a major event. So much so that me, her and Flo (the sibs) are going to have our own private hen party; allowing ourselves to wallow in awesome nostalgia without putting our long suffering other halves through the horror. To do an event such as this justice you need a decent soundtrack. Something fun, personal and great. In times like these (my 30th was a similar affair) we fall back on Right Said Fred. You know them. Of course you do. We can all recall that hot summer of ’92 when ‘I’m Too Sexy‘ crushed the globe in it’s radiant palm. I was an impressionable 7 year old desperate for friends in a class that had recently decided to hate me. But my considerably wiser 9 year old sister had bought Up on cassette having heard the mega hit and it promptly filled all of our time. It became all of time. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that fundamental seeds in my musical obsession were laid down at this time. It was just always on, filling my impressional mind with arrangements, chords and riffs I’d never experienced, and with words that were both highly addictive yet strangely adult. I still remember singing ‘Love For All Seasons’ in my chorister treble with the sibs and taking tremendous delight in yelling ‘Let’s take the phone off the hook/Pull it out the wall’. Still to this day I can place the months by singing it’s climax. Formative years you see.

This is why I never understood the guilty pleasure people feel for this album. It’s almost as if you can only be seen as cool if you come at something from an ironic perspective. I find it all bollocks, there is no guilt in my love. Right Said Fred aren’t some dumb Pop band and Up is testament to the fact. These are incredibly well written songs. Empirically well written songs. The fade from ‘Do Ya Feel‘ into ‘Is It True‘ has subtlety and poise ignored by the ‘Sexy’ lot. The balance of electronic sounds and acoustic riffs is elegant and restrained. Not once is this presented as some cash-cow to capitalise on the earlier mega success (as would often be the case nowadays) for every song has it’s own identity and purpose. This is a work of talent. Hardly surprising considering Richard Fairbrass’s previous work as a bass player for Boy George and David Bowie. There are more ideas here than any 3 previous identikit indie band’s albums. I learned much of my craft from it. For reals. So don’t be afraid. Indulge yourself. This is proper music.

Just hit play. Do it.

Slow Music Review: John Wizards – John Wizards

There are words that get thrown about recklessly within the music press; repeated with such regimented regularity that they stop meaning anything at all. Words like ‘Unique’ and ‘Fresh’ and ‘Daring’. They serve no purpose beyond fattening the beast of the machine and hitting that word count. Don’t get me wrong, there is genuinely brilliant music being produced all the time by genuinely interesting people; but the way the press talks about it you’d believe that we were in a perpetual state of messianic returnings. From a historical-realist perspective, any ‘new’ and ‘fresh’ gains we claim to make are minor and incremental. That’s not to say that you can only be considered a true artist if you relentlessly push the boundaries, as such talk leads you down a dangerous path toward British New Complexity (and nobody wants to go there). It’s just hard sometimes to balance the claims of the press and artists with the resulting music. Everything still sounds the same, even when in 7/8. So the assumption grows that there is no ‘new’ music anymore. The market saturated. Every combination tried, tested and commodified. We’ve literally heard it all before. Well, maybe not quite. Step forward John Wizards.

I came at this album through two entry points; the first, ‘Iyongwe‘ was shared to a mutual Spotify playlist by my buddy almost exactly a year ago. I found it funky cool and interesting but as the weeks wore on I thought no more of it. A month or so later (as if to make a point) my Spotify discover playlist presented ‘Muizenberg‘ and I was hooked. Regular readers may remember it as my stop-gap blog entry written in a Starbucks in central Seoul; a post where I waxed lyrical about how it saved me going mad on the long flight from Sweden. The album bought. The journey began. In all my wide listening and audio travels; in all my academic studies and popular performances, I have never heard anything quite like this album. Scary words for me to admit; a bit like the first time I told my girlfriend I loved her. Words like that still mean something to me because, unlike the mainstream media, I use them rarely. But it’s true, nothing does sound like this. It is unique, fresh, daring and endlessly superlative. I love it.

The most frustrating arguments I have ever had were with disciples of the aforementioned ‘British New Complexity’ school of thought who dedicated their musical lives to fretting over the position of the Avant-Garde, and how they can personally move it forward. The resulting work and arguments put forward were so inaccessible and reductive that they served no purpose beyond making the composer feel better. I see things differently; ‘difficult’ music (i.e. music that actively avoids any sense of traditional pulse, harmony and structure in favour of relentless abstractism) has been done. It is not new or unique and it’s cultural presence (which, admittedly, is a fairly negative one) is strong. To continue down that path is to rake over ashes. No, I believe that if there is a future of the Avant-Garde (and even music itself) then is in complex ideas within accessible forms. This is what I get from John Wizards and this is why this album is so, so strong.

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Each song ebbs, flows and flatly refuses to go where we expect it to. Production veers between the clean precision of dub to the controlled hiss of lo-fi indie, with whichever blend being treated as an artistic extension of the music. The depth within each song is utterly insane; looped mbira samples begin ‘Lushoto‘ before an afropop guitar pattern makes way for a vitriolic saw-wave phrase that raises my eyes in happiness; before the arrangement changes again and sweeps me along with it. ‘Hogsback‘ similarly begins with a guitar pattern that shifts into an incredibly subtle and understated minute playing around with pulse before climaxing into summer. Literally summer. When I close my eyes and see the green apple orchards of a childhood July; I hear that climax. It is heartening to find such skill in arrangement and such playful presentation. It is empowering to be taken on such an unexpected journey. A talent that can balance complex ideas with accessible results is exceptionally rare. We should enfranchise it gladly. This is the future.

Click here for further reading on Cardiacs, a similar balancing act between pop, punk and prog with devastatingly effective results.

What’s in a song?: Iggy Pop – The Endless Sea

Yesterday in a fit of sleep deprivation I came up with a new game, I call it ‘F*ck yeah! Iggy Pop!’. The rules are simple, players need simply take in the majesty of existence and think to themselves ‘F*ck yeah! Iggy Pop!’. I never said it was a particularly good game, after all it’s barely 24 hours old. But it’s a sentence that willingly conjures an aura of sex and danger that I find compelling; a persona I could never inhabit invoked briefly as a selfish pick me up. As an exemplar of life’s possibilities, few can top Pop and few ever will. That’s not to say we can’t push in newer, unknown directions, just that this particularly appealing path has been well charted. The anarchic stage persona is his. The suggestive darkness and lyrical wit are his. The creativity and musical freedom are his. All of us who come after pale in comparison; we lack the influences to fill out the full persona so are left building our petulant aggression on the idea, not the man. But that is what makes Pop so compelling to me, there is great depth in his musical output that exists independent of the stage. Music has always come first to me, followed by text, followed by marketing. It’s a flaw in my musical appreciation but I offer no apologies. Iggy Pop’s music is good. It’s very good. Now, as he begins the process of releasing a new album of songs with Josh Homme, I want to visit one of his best. 1979’s ‘The Endless Sea’.

My route to Pop was via Bowie. James Osterberg was a name that kept appearing in biographies and almanacs relating to the ‘Berlin‘ years and nothing more. Later when I was trawling through everything that Bowie had ever breathed on (I’m an unabashed superfan) I finally heard The Idiot and after endless prompting from my best friend came to the conclusion that it was pretty neat. The same can be said for Lust for Life; well constructed songs performed with gusto and aplomb. Yet the spark wasn’t quite there yet; it would take years of casual listening, Bowie’s endless covers and a slew of rather phenomenal TV performances to open me up wholly. I started looking beyond Bowie and found an artist of similar stature with an output of gloriously poly-stylistic music that prodded my brain as much as my hips. Since then it has not been lost on me that the first non-Bowie produced solo effort is my favourite. New Values just has such a focus of energy and direction that, for all the rackety passion found in earlier works, raises it higher.

‘The Endless Sea’, to me, is the song that best highlights the strengths of this focused production. It is a dark and oily-slick croon on anxiety and societal constrictions that builds and builds till an inevitable break. Metronomic bass ekes out factory floor footsteps and a repeated 3 chord phrase provides the bed for Pop’s glorious baritone to bloom. The relentless atmosphere is claustrophobic and malicious as the synthesizers slowly blend into a violin and saxophone; the plastic becoming organic and the fake becoming real. Slowly the music brings us to clarity as Pop’s desire to run and fold by diving into this ‘endless sea’ turns into a condensed rage against ‘the phony on the take’ he would become were he to follow through with this threat. A moment skillfully supported by the arrangement, mirroring the harmonic change with an expanded instrumentation that catches our minds and makes us listen. But the moment passes, the silence falls and the rage descends. Pop is resigned. He goes home. The cycle repeats itself.

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Artists need to change and evolve as their careers progress else we’d end up in some Brave New World where music exists only for manipulative crowd control. We may think this happens only in the mainstream charts; but it exists in all genres as so often the young seek to literally ape their influences instead of working it out as they go along. You have to work it out as you go along. You can’t remain in boxes and you need to expand beyond your boundaries.The societal role of an artist is to comment on our nature, good or bad, and to make us question the order of things. If we can dance to it at the same time then that’s clearly a bonus. Jim did this. He did it with bells on. All that is left having listened to such craft is to sit back, mull on eternity and mumble gladly; ‘F*ck Yeah! Iggy Pop!’

If Bowie is your thing why not read my three part ode to the master by clicking here.

If you want to know my thoughts on Punk then click here.

If you like new music that’s a bit weird and poly-stylistic then I’d love it if you had a listen to my new EP by clicking here.

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