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Old 03-07-2013, 12:13 PM   #1721 (permalink)
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Leave a light on --- David Soul --- 1997

I'm not sure what the message is behind the opener, "I drink", but it starts off like a cross between Tom Waits and The Doors, then Soul's vocal is virtually acapella in a folk style, a troubador sitting in a night club pouring out his woes. It's a lot more mature and almost angry, a major shift from his first two albums, though whether this has been a gradual change over the previous two also I don't know, as I have no intention of listening to all of his albums. Can't imagine any children's songs on this one! Great horn work on this song, then we're into "Jazz man", sort of a rocky track with vibrant guitar and a nice bassline and a happy boppy piano. Seems like in a complete reversal from his second album Soul wrote all of this one, every song, though to be fair details on his music are damn hard to come by, even from his own website.

"Tearing the good things down" is a slow, laidback acoustic ballad, similar to much of his earlier material from the seventies, though the subject matter is far more bitter and angry than his previous, mostly starry-eyed, naive efforts. Seems our David has learned that the world is a cruel, tough, unforgiving place and wants to express that through his music, which is no bad thing. "Mean old woman" is all right but a bit boring, trying to evoke the spirit of the blues but I believe falling short, then "Sailor man" is a contender for standout, a great heartfelt ballad with acoustic guitar and mandolin. Until, that is, it for no apparent reason bursts into some sort of flamenco dance, with attendant faux Spanish accent, and then goes back to how it began. Why? What in the name of sanity was the point of that, David? It was worse than when Lionel Ritchie's "Say you, say me" unaccountably bursts into an uptempo dancy bit right in the middle. Completely pointless and out of place. God damn you David, you ruined what could have been the best song on the album!

Jesus! He does it again at the end, going quite mad with Spanish guitar, castanets, mariachi trumpets and the whole damn thing. Complete mess. After that, the title of the next song must be taken with a grain of salt, though "Trust me" does start off like a nice lounge ballad, quite easy-listening in tone, and seems to feature a duet, though who the woman he's singing with is I don't know and haven't been able to find out. Again it's okay but nothing terribly special, in fact it's several levels down from his best. Sort of a sub-Christopher Cross vibe to it, and it's followed by "Simple life", whose opening line contains the title of the album, and is in fact a rather nice ballad, quite lives up to its name. I'll take a chance and assume this isn't going to suddenly jump into some mad salsa rhythm. If not, then so far it's the standout for me. It has a guitar solo that's so close to Mark Knopfler's style that I would wonder if he guested on the track? Probably not.

His old interest in reggae from the first album comes back then in "To a heart that's true", which I must admit I would have expected to have been a piano or acoustic guitar ballad. Shows what I know. He also gets in all his Elvis references, throwing in song titles like "Heartache hotel", "Blue moon" and "Love me tender" and, uh, "Return to sender", even doing an impression of the King. Oh dear. Anyway, on we go. Not too far to go, thankfully. Nice piano intro to "Dance with life", sort of reminds me of a cross between The Divine Comedy and Barry Manilow. Yeah, I know. "Come to me" is a nice little ballad as is "Our lives" though a little more on the lounge/easy-listening side with some interesting flute work. Everything kicks back up then for "I'll be doggone", with some blazing piano work and a great fun vibe, excellent horns and Soul sort of sliding back into his (bad) Elvis impersonation. Still, it's pretty soul man (oh god did I really say that?) stuff.

The end of the album, and effectively the last songs David Soul recorded, bit strange to be honest. You have the song "Money" bookended by two short piano instrumentals, each thoughtfully titled "Piano bit". Hmm. Was he getting bored at this point and just wanted to finish the album? I never think it's a good idea not to put at least a little effort into naming your songs. Hell, even call them "Piano bit one and two"! ANyway, the first is a power-piano bash at the keys, real jam material but probably would have been better had it been left off the album. The aforementioned "Money" is another uptempo soul track, with the either really unfortunate or tongue-in-cheek opening line "I'm only in it for the money"... more great horns and a cool funky bass line drive the songs. Still, to my mind it does sound a little like our David is getting bored and tired now, and perhaps knows this will be his last album. He has other fish to fry: TV is calling, as is the stage and many other offers. The final track, the one that brings to a close David Soul's music career, at least on record, is forty-three seconds of piano almost identical to the first "piano bit". Why, I ask? Why? "Money" would have been a pretty effective closer. Oh well, I guess if you're hanging up your mike for the last time and you've made your money, why not have a little fun before the curtain comes down?

TRACKLISTING

1. I drink
2. Jazz man
3. Tearing the good things down
4. Mean old woman
5. Sailor man
6. Trust me
7. Simple life
8. To a heart that's true
9. Dance with life
10. Come to me
11. Our lives
12. I'll be doggone
13. Piano bit
14. Money
15. Piano bit

Since calling time on his music career, David Soul has gone on to star in other TV programmes, some movies, has been involved in many projects in the West End, having relocated to London, and has also indulged his love of motor racing, appearing on the popular show "Top Gear". Although it would certainly seem music was a big part of his life, he seems to be managing all right without it, and although his popularity reached a peak in the late seventies, he's still in demand now, even appearing on Fosseytango's album as a guest as recently as 2012.

All of which is great for him. But what we're concerned with here is, do we categorise him as a bandwagon-jumper? Let me explain the criteria for such a label, as I see it:
1. The artiste needs to have come to music as a secondary career. Check, with a caveat. Although David Soul made his name in TV, and later moved to music, it was music that first gave him his break in the late sixties. So he was already acquainted with the business, if only in a small way. Therefore he gets a thumb up on this.

2. The artiste needs to have mostly or all covers on his or her album, and the hits they get should probably be covers too. As far as David Soul is concerned, though he had covers on his albums none of them were hits, so he gets a thumbs up on this, as his hit singles were all original material.

3. The artiste would generally be expected to recruit cronies, "guest stars" to play on his album, either people he or she has come to know through the world of TV and/or film, or his own personal friends who he calls in to help him out. David Soul never did that, not once, so another thumb up for him on this.

4. The artiste needs to exploit his "newfound musical fame" for all it's worth, signing sponsorship deals and doing advertising campaigns. Note: this does not, in my opinion, include charity work or ads made to highlight worthy causes. Again, I see no evidence of Soul having participated in this sort of exploitation of his fame.

5. The artiste tries to score points off his previous fame, by things like titling his album as being "X from that show" or whatever. In fairness, Soul capitalised on his "Starsky and Hutch" image, even if he didn't refer to it specifically, so we'll give him a cautious thumb down on this one.

6. Once the hits dry up, the bandwagon-jumper will then abandon ship. Soul stayed at his music career, on and off, twenty years after the last hit, so give him a big thumb up on that.

7. The artiste will most likely only sing, and will write no songs. Thumb up for David Soul then, who played guitar and wrote songs, even if half of the time we wish he hadn't bothered! At least he tried.

So, all things taken into account, we have
Thumbs up: Six
Thumbs down: One


Result: David Soul, while primarily a TV and film personality, briefly dipped into the world of music and had hit singles, but being already a musician he stuck it out as long as he could. When it looked like nothing more would come of his music he put it to one side and concentrated on other things. He did not milk it for all it was worth, and though the hits are still occasionally played on radio and included on compilation albums, you'll find it very hard to locate and buy any of his albums, even the big chart successes.

Verdict:

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Old 03-08-2013, 02:44 PM   #1722 (permalink)
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Old 03-09-2013, 08:37 AM   #1723 (permalink)
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Lore --- Clannad --- 1996


When I were a lad at school, the very very odd time something interesting would happen down in the gym --- a place I feared and loathed, being a skinny, unfit, specky, not at all sporty and easily embarrassed kid --- would be at weekends when they'd screen movies we could see for free and of course there'd be the expected school play every year. But one year Clannad came to play at the school. Being what, about fourteen at the time I turned my nose up to them. Who the hell are they? I regretted it ever afterwards, especially after "Robin of Sherwood" hit the telly screens and then "Harry's game" made them household names, even though they were already that in trad circles. I've always wanted to get more into their music, so now's as good a time as any.

Leaving aside the obvious albums, the ones with the hits and discounting "Legend" (the soundtrack to RoS) as I've already heard it, many times, I've gone for this one. Why? I dunno. Like the title, it's in the nineties which gives me a better chance to evaluate how they developed after the "big hits", and well that's about it really. First of all, for those who don't know, the band name is pronounced "klawn-odd", coming from the Irish "clann", for family. Yes, the word clan comes from it. Look at that: you're learning things already!

But to the album. Clannad have always been characterised by the angelic voice of Maire ni Bhraonain, also known as Moya Brennan, sister to Enya, and here is no exception as a ghostly atmospheric "Croi croga" (kree crow-ga) opens the album, and no I don't know what it translates to: croi is Irish for heart, so something heart, but Irish was always taught in schools with the least amount of interest or enthusiasm by the teachers, almost as a punishment, so that you just rebelled against it by default and refused to take it in. Some of it has stuck though, and I'll attempt a few of the other titles, though not all (thank god) are in Irish.

"Seanchas" (story I think) is far more upbeat and almost contemporary, with some nice uileann pipes and sax, twinkling piano and lovely vocal harmonies, while "Bridge (that carries us over)" rides on the singular vocal talent of Maire, soft and silky, almost a hymn. Slow and stately, it has a sense of powerful grandeur, some great but restrained electric guitar and low whistles, and those same whistles open, accompanied by low booming slow drums, "From your heart", which if possible slows down the tempo from the previous track. Maire never seems like she's ever in any danger of forcing her vocal; it seems to flow as naturally as water from a rock, slipping down and irrigating the dry land with its honey-soft tones. She really often more breathes the song than sings it, and it's a very relaxing and calming sound. Lovely tinkling piano just adds to the tranquil vibe on this song, and I must admit so far this album is exceeding my expectations by quite a way: not a (as we say) skiddly-idle in sight, ie no reels, jigs or the like.

I'll reserve judgement for a few more tracks, but so far I'd have a hard time categorising this as Irish traditional music. It certainly doesn't fit in with the likes of Planxty et al. At best I'd say newage or just celtic, though "Alasdair Maccolla" (no I don't know who he is! Stop asking me questions!) comes closest with a sort of ceili chant, a kind of nearly bossa-nova beat and probably ranks as the first track I don't like. Bodhrans. Not mad about bodhrans. It's short though, and leads into another soft ballad in "Broken pieces", which again almost sounds like a contempory song with some truly beautiful harp work from Maire. Now, if I remember my half-learned Irish, "Trathnona beag areir" (tra-no-na be-yug ah-rare) means something like a little afternoon yesterday, or something like that. Anyway, it's a lovely little acoustic guitar ballad --- sung in Irish of course, but when you have a voice as beautiful and soulful as Maire's, it really doesn't matter. Conjures up images of the Kerry mountains and the Shannon river with the evening drawing in as the sun sets.

"Trail of tears" has a kind of ominous feel to it, with some choral vocals and nice whistles then it ramps up a little on the back of some sprightly piano and harp, though I could probably do without the predictable "Native American chorus" near the end. Sounding the most like "Harry's game", "Dealramh go deo" (not even going to attempt that one) is another slow atmospheric and hypnotic track, with yet another gorgeous yearning vocal from Maire and a sweeping, lush soundscape laid down by keyboards. Some almost spinechilling vocal harmonies just make the song. A strong vocal then for "Farewell love" and a surprisingly upbeat tone given the title, then the album closes on a lovely uileann pipe and harp instrumental called "Fonn Mharta".

TRACKLISTING

1. Croi croga
2. Seanchas
3. Bridge (that carries us over)
4. From your heart
5. Alasdair Maccolla
6. Broken pieces
7. Trathnona beag areir
8. Trail of tears
9. Dealramh go deo
10. Farewell love
11. Fonn mharta

It's easy to see why Clannad have lasted as long as they have --- thirty years plus now: although they follow the basic traditions of Irish and Celtic music, there's a fairly varied mix in their music --- new age, ambient, folk, even the odd bit of rock or dare I say pop? --- and it all comes together really well. They're accomplished musicians, that much has never been in doubt, and Maire's voice has the capability of transporting you to a calmer time and place, somewhere safe and green and warm, where her voice just washes over you like the sigh of the waterfall in the distance, or the sussurating breath of the wind.

In a word: magical.
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Old 03-12-2013, 01:42 PM   #1724 (permalink)
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Stop! --- Sam Brown --- 1988 (A&M)

What do you do when your father is a successful rock star and your mother also sings? Born into a musical family of note, Sam Brown contracted the music bug early in her life and began singing mostly backing vocals on some famous albums by people such as The Small Faces, Spandau Ballet and Sade, later taking the step to record and release her own music. This was her debut album, and sadly in terms of commerciality, though it is a good album the title was prophetic: this hit the charts but none of her later albums did. A protracted legal battle with her label over artiste's rights on her third album led to her forming her own label and releasing "43 minutes" herself. Her big, and only, hit single from this album was the title track, which is a great little song and really showcases her stunning vocal talent.

There's a big swaggering swaying cold rocker to start off, elements of Simple Minds' "Waterfront" in the guitar as "Walking back to me" gets going, and to be honest her voice is good on this but it won't really become apparent how good it is till a little later. It's a goodtime, upbeat song and has some nice backing vocals, with guitar provided by her brother Pete, and Sam herself on piano, then "Your love is all" is a darker little piece with a lovely bass line and some atmospheric keys. Kind of stutters along a little for the verses and has, to me, something of mid-eighties Judie Tzuke in the chorus. Some pretty hard guitar too, though this time it's not Pete Brown who provides it.

That takes us into the title track, her big hit single which you've probably already heard at some point. With a breathy vocal almost Monroe-like, it's a slow, sensuous ballad that finally gives full vent to the weapon that is Sam Brown's voice. Some fantastic orchestral backing gives the whole thing a very forties-style feeling, but even then the strings almost fade away under the power of this unique voice. When she hits the high notes it's truly something to hear. The amount of passion and longing Sam puts into this song makes it worth the price of the album on its own. A word for the orchestra though: it really does add extra punch to the song, as do the soulful backing vocals, but the other real high point of the song is the stupendous organ solo in the middle, courtesy of Bob Andrews. Powerful song, but in a way it overshadows the rest of the album by being so much better than most of what else is on it.

Another point to consider is that we don't just have here a girl singing songs written by someone else. On every track on this album Sam co-writes, except for the one short track she writes herself, so this is all her own music. "It makes me wonder", while also being an perhaps unwitting nod back to Led Zep, is a slowburner with an almost gospel tint that again for me treads heavily in Judie Tzuke territory (whaddya mean, who? Just for that, watch for a feature soon!) and then halfway through like the train in the lyric begins to pick up speed and ramps up the tempo as Sam's voice again scales the heights. The god that is David Gilmour pops up to rack off a suitably stunning solo in "This feeling", which also has a nice accordion opening. One of the other standouts, it has a really nice squarking keyboard --- squarking? It's a word I made up, prefectly cromulent --- passage running through it, almost China Crisis in feel. Another great vocal from Sam on a smouldering little ballad which, while not anywhere as hot as "Stop!" (nothing on this album is) still comes across as one of the better tracks. Well, the mere presence of Gilmour would assure that, but it's more than just that.

Personally, silly as it may seem, I love the forty-five second "Tea", the only song Sam writes on her own. It's quirky, it's different, it's funny and it's clever. And... it's over. "Piece of my luck" then is really jazzy with a slick bassline and some sexy horns (ooer!) and takes everything back to that forties feel, slow, sultry, sexy, moody in the best way possible. "Ball and chain" on the other hand has a slick funky feel to it, almost Art of Noise in places, quite stripped-down (who'd like to see Sam stripped down, eh?) with a great guitar riff running through it. Crazy little vocal in it that reminds me of M's "Pop muzik" too. "Wrap me up" has a very new-wave synth line in it and indeed Sam sings in a sort of new-wave fashion on it too. Very busy rhythm going on. Great guitar solo too, sort of reminds me (does everything have to remind you of something, Trollheart? Yeah. Wanna fight about it?) of Dave Stewart's solo in "Sisters are doin' it for themselves", then the other amazing ballad, standout number two by a mile is the superb slowburner "I'll be in love", with a scorching guitar line from the returning Gilmour and ghostly piano, the latter played by herself. A truly stunning and smoking vocal performance from Mrs. Brown's little girl: a musical wet dream and no mistake.

An interesting segue from this to the next track, as the former ends on a sort of heartbeat sound and this then morphs into a shimmering drum roll which brings in a pretty stark opening for "Merry go round", which is characterised by heavy, thumping drums and a sort of swirling strings sound that runs through it. Very different to her other work on the album, and it ends on the upbeat, quite commercial "Sometimes you just don't know", which would have made a good single but wasn't selected. Nice almost progressive rock guitar line with a low-key vocal on the verse then it cuts up on the back of some soul-style drumming and backing vocals. There are three extra tracks on the CD, but as a) two of them are covers and b) the original listening experience I had was on vinyl, and this is then where that album ended, I won't be featuring them, as per my usual rules.

TRACKLISTING

1. Walking back to you
2. Your love is all
3. Stop!
4. It makes me wonder
5. Your love is all
6. Tea
7. Piece of my luck
8. Ball and chain
9. Wrap me up
10. I'll be in love
11. Merry go round
12. Sometimes you just don't know

Although her second album had a few minor hits on it there was no further solo success for Sam Brown, but she was and is highly prized, both as a backing vocalist/duettist and as a songwriter. She continues to collaborate with the cream of rock, providing backing vocals for Pink Floyd on the album "The division bell" and writing most of the late Jon Lord's second solo album . She has also teamed up with the Beautiful South's Dave Rotheray and under the name Homespun has recorded three albums. So she will never starve. It is a pity though that the promise shown on this album was never completely allowed to flower into what it could have been. The death of her mother would have been a turning point, both in her life and in her career, and indeed it was then that she decided to set up her own label, looking to exercise more control over her work.

As a debut this album speaks volumes. It's just a pity that after the initial roar, as it were, the rest sort of faded away in the background, like the slowly-disappearing echoes of a shout now almost inaudible.
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Old 03-15-2013, 08:50 AM   #1725 (permalink)
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Push the sky away --- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds --- 2013 (Bad Seed Music)


Yay! The first review of a 2013 album!

Alright, settle down, settle down...

I've already related in my review of "The good son" that it was through this album that I first got into Cave, and worked forward from there. I bought his earlier albums, but due to their darker, harder-edged feel, some with almost an element of punk in them, I've had trouble getting into albums like "Your funeral, my trial" and "From her to eternity". Seems I got into Cave at just the right time, for me, as he was just moving into a more sedate, perhaps slightly more mainstream phase with "The good son", and this mostly continued through subsequent albums, though his last ones I have not been on the whole that impressed by.

There were three words that came to mind when I heard this album for the first time, and they were "The boatman's call". If any album depicted Nick Cave at his laidback best, that 1997 album was the one. Every track was slow and laconic, almost lazy, and to some extent it's the closest Cave comes to being described as easy-listening. Even at that, you'll never get away from the darkness in Cave's music, and "The boatman's call" is full of such stark imagery, as indeed is this. To some degree I would have put 2001's "No more shall we part" as the natural progression from "The boatman's call", but even that album had some hard, punchy tracks on it. Of course, the one followed the other so the similarlity between the two is not that surprising.

But it's been twelve years now since "No more shall we part", and Cave has issued three albums during that period --- one a double --- with this being his first new album in five years, so to hear him as much as returning to the style of both those older albums is both interesting, gratifying and perhaps a little mystifying, given what came out on "Dig, Lazarus, dig!" and parts of "Abbatoir blues" too. The album also marks the end of three decades plus of a friendship and association with Mick Harvey, who departed the band in 2009.

Looking for inspiration for songs, Cave says he looked on the internet, particularly social media and articles on Wikipedia, and you can see that influence even in the titles of some of the songs, not to mention the opener, "We no who U R" (also no doubt referencing the deplorable treatment the English language has received at the hands of the internet and text speak). It's his belief that the easy access to stories and articles on the web have made us more liable to believe that which prior to the advent of the internet we might have been more sceptical about, and also that we assign far more importance to things which should really carry less weight with us as a civilisation. Facebook updates, anyone?

The soft opening on Fender Rhodes to "We no who u r" is indeed very reminscent of "Into my arms" or "Lime tree arbour" from "The boatman's call", and it's a relaxed, restrained song with Cave's dark, gruff voice as ever the focus of the song. He's always had a great eye for metaphor, and here his comparison of tree branches to hands may not be original but it works really well: "The trees will stand/ like pleading hands" possibly gaining more weight when he sings about the trees' destiny to burn. There are a variety of female backing vocals, and they work really well, softening the somewhat harder snarl of Cave's voice.

Often it's pointless trying to decipher Cave's lyrics as they can be quite obscure and sometimes mean more than one thing, which is I think how he intends his music to be. Here though I think the title would lend credence to the possibility of this either concerning online bullying or the efforts of megacorpoations to gather information on us all through our browsing and our buying habits. The lyric itself does not reflect this, talking of nature and peace, but I wonder if it's that simple? Some interesting loops from Warren Ellis then lead in "Wide lovely eyes", another slow song of stark beauty as Cave sings of the fine line between fantasy and reality, between fairytales and the real world, and places where they can both collide, till you're unsure which is which.

Like a dark prophet wandering through a blasted landscape, or a lost angel surveying what has happened to the world, Nick Cave slouches through this collection of nine songs, taking note of how bad things have become, wondering what hope there is for humanity, and finally shrugging his massive shoulders in a manner familiar to those who know his work: it's the world, what can you do? People won't change. Ellis's familar violins open "Water's edge", and I'm reminded of songs like "The hammer song" and "The weeping song " from "The good son", as well as "Song of joy" from "Murder ballads". When Cave whisper/growls "You grow old/ And you grow cold" you do indeed feel a chill. Thomas Wydler's rolling drumbeats are almost an afterthought running through the song.

"Jubilee Street" owes a lot of its melody to "Brompton oratory" (yes, again, "The boatman's call") with a sort of ticking beat and a laconic guitar line, and Cave almost speaking the vocal rather than singing; it's like a kind of narration, as if he's making a documentary with musical backing. When Ellis's violin comes mournfully in though the song really takes shape, and I can also hear elements of U2's "All I want is you" in here too. But to pull away from the constant references to "The boatman's call", this album though almost completely consisting of slow songs, possesses a dark atmosphere and a sense of menace and brooding that album did not. It's a terrible beauty, a dark symbolism, the mumbled, muttered voice of an old-ish man more cutting at times than the newest bright young thing in music could muster. This is the old hand, the master of the macabre, the man who smiles as he kicks you in the teeth and tells it how it is, turning and leaving you to bleed out in an alleyway without a backward glance or a single thought.

"Mermaids" either mocks all religions or says they're all acceptable, hard to be sure when Cave is being sarcastic sometimes, and when he's singing in earnest. The song rides along on a lovely piano line, almost like a wave on which the eponymous creatures swim. Soft percussion again, but these songs aren't built for loud drumming; it has to be minimalist, gentle, almost feather-light; just a suggestion. Returning Bad Seeds member Barry Adamson, replacing longtime bass player Mick Harvey, outdoes himself in the bassline for "We real cool", and the song hangs on his pulsing rhythm, with Warren Ellis adding light and shade with his superb as ever violin work.

More narration from Cave as he relates the process of writing "Jubilee Street" as we head into "Finishing Jubilee Street", an almost slightly funky twist to it in the percussion and chiming guitar, and some great backing vocals from the various singers. Cave has never been above a bit of sardonic humour though, and in "Higgs Boson blues" he seems to poke fun at the CERN research laboratory and their search for, and apparent discovery of, the "god particle" as he sings "I'm drivin' my car down to Geneva/ ... Who cares what the future holds?"

The song runs on pretty much the same few chords all the way through, but it's Cave's voice you concentrate on as he as much as preaches, reeling off pop culture references like there's no tomorrow --- Hannah Montana, Amazon, Robert Johnson and of course his old sparring partner, the Devil. The album ends on the title track, another soft yet edgy laidback slow track with some really fine loops and some great violin, and perhaps the message that you need to be your own person (push the sky away) and not just follow the crowd.

An accusation that, no matter what he does, is never going to be levelled at Nick Cave.

TRACKLISTING

1. We no who U R
2. Wide lovely eyes
3. Water's edge
4. Jubilee Street
5. Mermaids
6. We real cool
7. Finishing Jubilee Street
8. Higgs Boson Blues
9. Push the sky away

So, only nine tracks. Value for money? Well, when every song is so lovingly crafted as these are, and when they each tell a story of our modern world and how intrinscially broken it is, I'd have to say I'd take these nine songs over anyone else's twenty. For me personally this is a return to the Nick Cave I know: I wasn't blown away by "Nocturama" or "Dig, Lazarus, dig", though I did like the double album from 2004, even though it had its faults. But this is the sort of thing I've been hoping to hear from Cave since I first spun "No more shall we part" and knew I was listening to something special.

It's been twelve years, but I finally have that feeling back again.
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Old 03-17-2013, 11:40 AM   #1726 (permalink)
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Take the crown --- Robbie Williams --- 2012 (Island)

Once upon a time there was a boy called Robbie. And he was a bad boy. In and out of rehab, battling addictions to everything from alcohol and coke to disprin and Lucozade (!) Robbie was certainly the man least likely to emerge from the breakup of Take That as the last man standing. While within the group he wrote little, sang less and was famously (or infamously) described by that bard of the verse Noel Gallagher as "that fat dancer from Take That". Yet in 1996, after the breakup of the band and some time after he had already quit them, Robbie embarked on a solo career that resulted in a rise to fame that could really only be described as meteoric.

"Let me entertain you", he grinned cheekily, and all the girls (and some boys) giggled and blushed and said "Yes please!" Robbie has released eight solo albums between 1997 and now, with this being his ninth. There's a lot of energy and youth on this new album, and while that's good (and sells well) it comes across to me as somewhat playing to the gallery. Williams is after all now approaching forty years of age, but here he's singing and writing (or at least co-writing) as if he's still seventeen. I just think it shows a lack of maturity and a resistance to getting older.

See, the trouble is that yes, Robbie was a maverick, a loose cannon, a bad boy, but that was then and this is now, and fifteen years later he seems to be in a sort of Peter Pan mode, refusing or finding himself unable to grow up. The album is predictably full of sly digs at his "enemies", with lashings of his famous ego on top, and while there are some good, even great songs on the album, it's all a little hard to take seriously.

Opening on "Be a boy", it's a high-energy, uptempo pop song with that annoying "Whoa-oh-oh!" chant that seems to be everywhere these days. Robbie has been carrying one massive chip around for fifteen years now and it doesn't look likely to fall off his shoulder anytime soon, with little digs like "They said the magic was over/ They said I was losing it/ I don't think so!" just really serving to reinforce the insecurity that has seen him party, blag and womanise his way through his career.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm a fan, although it may not seem like it from this review. In fact, I'm preparing a whole piece on his career for transmission later this year. But I like artistes to grow up and show some maturity. When you're pushing your fourth decade it's time to stop playing the teeanger. To slightly paraphrase Fish, "Pulling seventeen with experience and dreams/ Sweatin' out a happy hour/ When you're hiding thirty-nine..."[/i] and you would think that after having sold what, seventy million records and having countless number one singles and albums, a pop icon on both sides of the water and easily eclipsing the success of his parent band that Robbie would be happy to put the mistakes of the past behind him, but no, he's still at it, as we find in the second track, "Gospel", where he sings "I drink to you/ You always wished me well/ And to those who don't/ Go **** yourselves!" He did something similar on "I've been expecting you", where he added a litlte message to one of his teachers who told him he would amount to nothing, and back then you could forgive that: the guy was on top of the world, rather unexpectedly, and ready to give the finger to anyone who said he wouldn't make it. But that was a long time ago. It seems however that rather like Father Ted in the Christmas Special, he's still settling old scores, and to be frank, it's getting boring and stale.

The energy and effervescence in the new album is partially due to his pairing up with young Australian songwriters Tim Metcalfe and Flynn Francis, and indeed the production of Garret "Jacknife" Lee, whose work we mentioned in our recent review of Two Door Cinema Club's latest album "Beacon". But youth and energy are all very well, if you're young and energetic. Now I guess you'd have to give Robbie the second part --- his concerts rarely disappoint, and he puts his all into them, and you can tell he loves his music --- but he's no spring chicken anymore. And though much of the songwriting concerns lessons learned, there's a sense of naive partygoing and bedhopping that just doesn't ring true when the guy singing the song is coming closer to what we generally term middle-age.

It's a shame really, because these criticisms do the album something of a disservice. It's a pretty good record really, though I feel not a patch on his earlier efforts, and the opening two tracks as detailed above are catchy, well written and played. Either, or both, could and probably will be hits. However it's the third one in that is in fact the hit, the lead single from the album and already a number one for him, and this is where I have yet another problem. I think it's possible "Candy" has only done so well because Robbie Williams fans, starved of any new solo output by him for three years, would probably buy anything he released. So is that a proper measure of the single's worth? To quote himself, I don't think so.

Only one of three tracks on the album to be not written with his newfound mates Metcalfe and Francis --- who are surely going to be a double Guy Chambers for him in the future --- it's in fact co-written with his old mucker from Take That, Gary Barlow, and Jacknife himself. It's quite an annoying song, I must say, though infectiously catchy. It rides on a sort of children's chant/nursery rhyme, which I can only really describe as "Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah nyah-nyah!" You know the sort of thing; you hear children singsonging its like in a hundred games they play in the street. It also bounces along on a kind of summer/pop beat with a little of calypso in it, and it is, to be frank, fairly throwaway, not what I would have expected the first single to be, but there you are. It's one of those songs that although you may hate it, won't bloody get out of your head. Which is, I suppose I have to grant, the mark of a good pop song.

And so it goes. "Different" is a good bit more mature, a fuller song with some nice orchestration and a desperate plea to be given another chance. It has that familiar Robbie Williams sound identified with tracks like "Strong" and "No regrets", and is a very decent track. It's followed by "**** on the radio", which is where it all breaks down again. The inclusion of such a song may seem a bold move, but if you're expecting a searing indictment of the state of popular radio airplay and current trends in music, well, get ready to be disappointed. Back to the writing pair of Francis and Metcalfe, and the song exists solely on its "cheeky" title, which Williams gleefully jams as many times into the chorus as he can, repeating that chorus also whenever it's possible, while emphasising the four-letter word.

It's almost like a kid who has discovered a bad word, and makes a point of using it as much as possible. Okay, the sentiment is there, but the lyric doesn't support the title, and I can bet, "brave" as the title may be, this won't be released as a single, or if it does, that word will be changed to something more palatable, because radio listeners and the general public don't want to hear the word ****, er, on the radio, do they? But the biggest irony about the song is that it is dancy, throwaway, forgettable pop pap, exactly the type of thing Williams appears to be attacking in the lyric. Perhaps this is intentional and it's a clever dig at himself, saying look at me, I'm no better than the people I'm slagging off: we all have to make a buck. But again, I don't think so, and I believe the message, if indeed there is or was intended to be one, is lost in the totally substandard song.

And yeah, it won't get out of my head! Like many of these songs, even the ones I consider really bad, I just keep humming them in my head. Dammit! They are catchy though.

This is the point where it all begins to slide a little downhill really. "All I want" and "Hunting for you" (is it my imagination or does he sound like he's singing "Tonight I'm horny for you!"?) are not bad songs, per se, but they're unremarkable and I don't really find them sticking in my head. I must say though the former gives me pause in a way, as I notice that everything about Robbie Williams is, well, about what he wants. In fact, if I go back through his catalogue, I find it hard to find one song that's not written about him, or from his standpoint. I can't find a song he wrote about someone else --- even "She's the one" refers back to him --- and it would have to be said that quite contrary to the title of his 1999 compilation album, the ego has a long way to go before it lands anywhere.

Ironically, tracks like the previous one and "Candy", which I would consider far inferior to either of these two, make more of an impression. There is however some hope when "Into the silence" comes around. With a lovely soft low keyboard intro and a rattling, jangly guitar it's a strong, powerful song with a certain sense of U2 about it, and probably if I'm honest one of the standouts, if not the standout on the album. The same can't be said unfortunately for "Hey wow yeah yeah", which is as terrible as the title makes it seem, total written-in-nine-seconds-what's-next territory; probably go down a storm on the dancefloor. It's interesting though if only for Robbie's terrible Beastie Boys-style rap!

Then there's an attempt to finish strongly with "Not like the others", which again catalogues Robbie's many conquests --- "Got lots of lovers/ You and me/ Are not like the others" --- as he attempts to persuade the current woman in his life, or in his bed, that she's special. Oh- kayyyy.... For me this kind of jumps back to "Monsoon", from "Escapology", with a twist: there he was berating all the girls he had slept with who then went on and sold their story to the rags, whereas here he's more or less admitting that he just uses women. Hmm, big revelation there Robbie. Maybe it's meant to refer to his recent marriage to Ayda Field, and with a baby daughter now to think of, perhaps he's re-evaluating his lothario lifestyle?

This could be why he ends the album on "Losers", which features a duet with someone only credited as "Lissie", who I'm sure people cooler than me will recognise and know who she is, but it's the acoustic track on the album, as there often are on his recordings. I don't know why: maybe it's an attempt to legitimise what is essentially a pop star as a bona fide rock star, but "I've been expecting you" had "She's the one", "Sing when you're winning" had "Love calling Earth" and the last album I heard from him, "Escapology", had "Sexed up". Okay, they weren't exclusively acoustic but they began and mostly continued on the acoustic guitar, certainly not your average pop instrument.

There are, however, certain problems I see with this song. First, the lines don't scan at all. The lyric seems uncomfortable, ill-fitting, almost as if it was written and then music shaped around it but not very well. It's stilted, halting,unsure of itself. I can't actually blame Robbie for this, as it's the last of three tracks on the album not written by him, and the only one in which he has no hand at all, the song being penned by Barbara and Ethan Gruska, a cover of the Belle Brigade's song off their debut album. Maybe that's why it doesn't fit, as it's the first time I recall Robbie including a cover version on any of his album ("Somethin' stupid" notwithstanding: that was on a covers album in the first place) and it just seems out of place.

But even apart from that, and allowing for the fact he didn't write it, it's hard to take a guy seriously when he sings about not being bothered about making money and being popular any more, when his current net worth is around ninety million and he's the idol of half the world. Rings a little hollow, to me, and almost comes across as arrogant and something of a put-down. It's beautifully sung by this Lissie person, no doubt about that, but overall I find it a very awkward song, both to like and even to listen to, and I feel it closes the album very badly.

TRACKLISTING

1. Be a boy
2. Gospel
3. Candy
4. Different
5. **** on the radio
6. All that I want
7. Hunting for you
8. Into the silence
9. Hey wow yeah yeah
10. Not like the others
11. Losers

But in the final analysis, what I say or think is not going to matter one bit to Robbie Williams fans. The album has already hit the number one spot, has already gone gold (platinum in some territories) after only two months, and looks set to be one his biggest-selling and most successful albums to date. I find it weak in places, good in others, occasionally great but for me it's not a patch on "Escapology" or even "Sing when you're winning", and I think he's taken the easy path here, penning (or co-penning) catchy pop ditties that will play well on the dancefloor and dominate the radio for the next few months no doubt.

I'd preferred to have seen something more mature, but then, I guess that's why he is where he is, or where he wll soon return to, and why in the end, it seems only natural and inevitable that he will indeed take that crown he has his heart set on.
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:58 PM   #1727 (permalink)
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Okay, let's be fair about this. I went to the Batlord's house. I sneaked in while he was headbanging away to Suffocation or some other noisy nonsense. I wired up his super-powered "Inconsiderate Bastard" (TM) Mark VI's to some C4 and slipped his favourite High On Fire album into his CD player. I retreated to a safe distance and watched through my high-powered binoculars. Sure enough after a little while the strains of "Fury whip" burst across the neighbourhood, scaring mean dogs and stopping more than one pacemaker, then almost immediately there was a loud bang and a flash and when the smoke cleared there was nothing but a large crater where his house used to stand.

Ah, but then...

Out of the smoke, coughing and spluttering, a cartoon-like figure emerges, blackened beyond recognition and with his hair spiky from the blast, reeling about and still clutching his favourite headphones, and says "Man! Whatever that **** I smoked was, I want MORE! THAT was ****in BITCHIN!" Then he turns around, sees his house was gone, shrugs and says "**** it, I hated that ****hole anyway! Time to visit Devin Townsend and go on another bitchin' time-travellin' adventure!" And he staggers off into the smoky distance. Jesus! Is the guy the Metal Terminator or what? Guess you really can't kill a True Metalhead!

But --- and this is the important part --- I tried, as the destruction of his entire block will attest to. So come on Gods of Metal! Cut me a break! Let me this time, for once, come across a band I can actually talk about and review. I've been searching for months now and the last proper band I got was Sauron: everything else has been either unsigned or disbanded, or else so unknown that they don't even have a single YouTube video, let alone an album. With all the good metal out there, surely I must be due to happen across a proper band on my random travels? Huh? Huh?

Nervously I push the "Random Band" button, like someone fearing an electric shock, wait a moment and....
Oh for the love of Satan! Why me? WHY ME? ANOTHER unsigned band, but not only that, these guys are broken up, too! Sigh!

But wait, there may be some hope. I see they did actually get to release one album before splitting. Is it available? Let's go a-huntin'... Oh great! There are two other bands who both use this name, both metal, both in the US --- and both still playing apparently. Well, with confusion like that in the air it's highly unlikely I'm going to happen across the proper one here, and as all three bands seem to use a pretty similar logo... ah hell, let's just chalk this up as another fail and move on.


No, that's not the sound of me headbanging! Well, sort of, but I'm actually banging my head against the wall in frustration! What come up next is a band from Slovakia (yeah) who have two demos (great), one released in the year they formed, 2005 and the next the following year. So, seven years later, no album guys eh? Let's see if you got onto YouTube even...

Well, surprisingly, they do. So let's do them for now. They hail apparently from Bardejov in Slovakia (no I don't know where it is, nor do I care) and have as I say but two demos to their name, the second rushed out presumably to capitalise on the, um, failure of the first. Since that last demo, 2006, nothing has been heard from them yet good ol' Encyclopaedia Metallum has them listed as "active", and who am I to argue? What is interesting, quite funny in fact is that if you go to the first demo, from which the below YouTube comes, and click "lineup" it says "band members: none". First in my experience; an album made by nobody. Backtracking though I do come across notes on two members, each of whom are so poor it would seem that they can only afford one name each. Ah, the fall of Communism hit us all hard, did it not?

FYI the lead (only) guitarist and so-called vocalist is known as Jarldrahn, while his mate on bass prefers to be called Svantovith. Indeed. Luckily I can drill down further into their biogs and unearth the priceless information that they are both male. You don't say. Of course, as you might expect, Legion Obscure (in case you couldn't make out the intricate logo, that's what they're called) are a death/black metal band. Would you seriously expect me to come across any other type in my random searches? Their lyrics concern barbarism, domination and prophetic visions, apparently, though not prophetic enough to see they weren't going to get anywhere with this trash, it would seem. However it does seem to have prophesied that they would remain obscure, so maybe there is something in that...

This is the video, the song taken from their first demo released in 2005 and entitled "Synovia Slovanskej Zeme" --- it's the title track! I'm a little confused as the track starts off with the sound of a wolf howling, and the neighbour's dog is also barking outside, though to be honest I'd rather listen to an album by him than a full song from these guys! I'm not hearing any vocals, unless they're pitched outside the realm of human hearing, though there is some sort of gutteral growling going on that I can hear now; totally drowned out by the mad guitar. There's someone playing drums too, though they're not mentioned in the entry. Oh well.

That was fun. So let's give it another go and see if we can find a proper band to review, shall we? Must we? Yes, I fear we must.

This, in case you haven't already noticed over the last few months, is really beginning to get on my nerves! ANOTHER unsigned band, split up, with a demo, and EP and a "split"(?) to their name. They come from the good old US of A and seem to have been active, if that's the word, from 1995-1996. Oh yeah, they're death/thrash metal. Or were. Probably all work as bank clerks now. Let's see if they've left anything behind to mark their passing...

Ooh! Apparently they have. From their first demo, released in 1995, which had the rather grandiose title of "Keep your dogma out of your de-kathoder" --- not a clue what that means --- this is called "Two dogs in a race (Murder song)"...

Yeah. After that I feel like committing murder! Oh okay, for those who simply must know, Kathode were the inappropriately-named Eric Prozac on guitar, Andrew W.K on drums and vocals and Jeff Rice on vocals, with two other guys, Mike Williams and the poor Shawn, who like the boys from Slovakia above seems to be able to afford one name. These two are shown as "unknown", so I couldn't tell you what they did in the band or how they contributed, but it's a safe bet they didn't play harpsichord or cello! Movin' on...


On my last effort this time out, it seems I may actually have hit paydirt. This band are signed, have albums and are still alive! Yay! Mind you, they're shown as playing "pagan black metal". Boo. At any rate, since they have albums and it would be hoped they would be available in some shape, let's go the whole hog on them.

Just before I get to that, a quick comment. Yes they appear to have material available but being a tight-fisted old git I don't want to pay, so I tried to download a torrent of their discography. Rather appropriately, my torrent client shows a black spot, which usually means the torrent is not going to download for me. And checking back I see that yes, I have a "getaddrinfo failed" message, so so much for that. They seem to have a good few YouTubes though so I won't be starved of material for them, but good or bad I'd still rather have a full album to review. Not that I'm shelling out eighty cents for one, you understand, but as my unofficial family motto says, "Sic gratis mea" --- if it's for free, it's for me --- so I'll continue with a few more torrents before I give up. Meanwhile, here is some music...

Better yet, here is the bio of the band.

Band name: Kampfar
Nationality: Norwegian (Fredrikstad)
Subgenre: Pagan Black Metal
Born: Officially 1994 but really 2003 (see below)
Status: Active
Albums: Mellom skogkledde aaser (1997) Fra underverdenen (1999) Kvass (2006) Heimgang (2008) Mare (2011)
Live albums: None
Collections/Anthologies/Boxsets: None
Lineup: Dolk (Vocals) F
Ask (Drums, vocals)
Ole (Guitar)
Jon (Bass) F

Seems that the band began life in 1994 but after releasing two albums they split up, and it wasn't till vocalist Dolk (why can't these people afford a second name? Something must be done!) joined another band and met Jon that they resurrected Kampfar in 2003, thus explaining the large hiatus between their second and third albums. One thing I read about them that I do like is that their music is inspired by my favourite of all mythologies, Norse. But then you'd expect that, considering where they hail from. I have no illusions though that I'll be hearing anything like Manowar or Virgin Steele here: black metal is not my thing and I'm not expecting to particularly enjoy this, just survive it. Although...

Reading an interview with Dolk he seems to categorise and describe Kampfar as more "Norse pagan folklore metal", so perhaps it won't be as bad as I had feared. Kampfar apparently is an ancient battlecry warriors used to shout before plunging into the fray, and roughly translates to evoking the king of the Norse gods, Odin or Wotan or Woden. Seems like the band sing in their own native tongue, so like my review of Tyr's albums this may not be too easy, but sure we'll give it a go. At least there are albums to choose from. Speaking of which, how is my download doing --- Gaah! Failed again! Well, let's get a sense of them via the You of Tubes...

Hmm. I'm disappointed to hear Dolk is a growler/screamer, because I have to say the music behind him is not at all bad and I think I could get into it, but listening to a full album of this may be difficult. I'm also faced with the problem of not being at the moment able to download anything from them, and though I could buy one album to review I'd rather not now that I hear his voice. I mean, eighty cents is eighty cents in these hard financial times, ya know? I should partner up with the Batlord on this really: I'm sure he'd be able to PM me some albums. Then again, his setup as he says is really basic so the chances of that are actually nil. Plus he's currently off waving parts of his body at dinosaurs or something, or calling Tomas de Torquemada a puff. Maybe Unknown Soldier? Ah hell let's just go for it: sod the expense!

Oh wait just one tension-popping moment! Grooveshark has just come to my rescue! There's a full album --- yoink! And it hasnt cost me a cent, red or otherwise!

Fra Underverdenen --- Kampfar --- 1997 (Napalm)


Okay, so the other good thing about this is that the album only has six tracks, so it shouldn't take too long to review. It's their second, and the one that led to the hiatus, so I think on this you just get Dolk and recently-departed (from the band, not this Earth!) Thomas. Yeah, that's it: Dolk adds drumming to his vocal, er, talents and Thomas handles guitar and bass. I could hazard a really bad guess at what the title of the album means --- lady of the forest? --- maybe not, don't know, but there is at least one of their only two, so far, songs in English on this album, so that will be a help.

I must say I'm surprised at the pastoral guitar opening of "I Ondskapens Kunst", but then Dolk roars and the song takes off, on sharp guitar and pounding drums. Nevertheless, it's no heavier than any other metal song I've heard to date, and without the screaming of the mainman I could probably enjoy it. Yeah. It just kicked up into about ninetieth gear and Dolk in addition to growling all over the place Dolk is pounding the drums like a man on a mission. Oh dear. The guitar work from Thomas is pretty sublime though, even at this speed. It certainly rocks along, and if any song could be said to take you completely by surprise in a sudden change, this is it. It's quite long at just over seven minutes, though not the longest on the album. It's got a real catchiness about it and were it not for the annoying vocals as I say I could probably enjoy this. More than halfway through it again slows down and what sounds like piano but certainly isn't comes through before Dolk slams his foot back down on the accelerator and off we go, charging into a wall of sound.

There's no doubting the prowess of Thomas on the guitar though, and he must surely be a major loss to the band, having parted company with them in 2010. Next up is another seven-minuter, "Troll, Død Og Trolldom", which starts off like something out of "Lord of the Rings" with what I am reliably informed is a didgeridoo (you know, that thing Rolf Harris used) but quickly powers up into another speed metal scorcher with attendant screeching vocals from Dolk. No idea what he's singing about (trolls, presumably, and not the internet kind one would assume) but Thomas again puts in a fine performance on the axes, handling lead and bass with equal aplomb. Completely fooling me, the song fades down to nothing in the third minute, there's about a second or two of silence then it comes back up on dramatic, harder guitar, slower and with a vocal so deep it sounds like our man Dolk has descended to the Underworld and is shouting up at us from there. Not sure whether I prefer (if prefer is the correct word) his screaming or his growling, but at least there's not so much of it in the "second movement", as it were, of the song, and we can concentrate more on the talents of Thomas.

Great little solo from him in the fourth minute, until that is Dolk spews all over it like some sort of lunatic screaming, and so the song winds on, gaining a little in tempo now but not quite as fast as it was at the beginning. I guess you have to give the boys some credit: it's a lot of noise and not the worst music to be made by just two guys. Probably needs a mellotron though... Thomas takes over for the last minute more or less, the song instrumental apart from a few grunts from Dolk, then we're into "Norse", the only English language track on the album, not that it makes any difference as you still can't make out what Dolk is singing! Some backward masking starts it off, then a frenetic guitar riff blasts the song along in almost power metal territory while Dolk does what Dolk does. Very catchy, if I can use the word, melody, especially if you ignore or shut out the screeching, snarling vocals. Still, as I say, the guy could be singing in Norwegian here too for all the sense I can make of what he's singing.

When Thomas is allowed to cut loose his guitar for once sounds bright and clean, and in fairness Dolk seems to have discovered that drums will also work if you just hit them; you don't have to batter them into submission. It's almost a boogie blues beat as the vocalist plays with his new toy with the wonderment of a child who has just realised that great as the box is, there's something better inside it! Mind you, that doesn't last long and like that same child Dolk is soon back playing with the box, pounding it, kicking it, jumping up and down on it, anything that will make the most noise. Thomas, almost ignoring him, continues playing what has become some fine neo-classical guitar, and whether he's wasted in the band or whether Dolk is (for me) the weak link, the two are almost complete opposites of each other to my ears.

Hold on to your pikestaffs, because "Svart Og Vondt" is the longest track, edging the eight-minute mark, and starting with another big howl from Dolk (oh goody!) then moving along in a rhythm that reminds me in places of Iron Maiden's "Quest for fire"; the drums have managed to get a reprieve and Dolk is again trying them out as an instrument and not something to destroy. Really, if there was a way to strip the vocals out of this album I think I'd quite like it, though then I guess it would be something different altogether. I just don't have much respect for people who think they can sing when all they do is growl and roar, but then that's just me. Dolk is probably considered a really good vocalist in his genre; just not for me. Thomas on the other hand is an excellent guitarist, and I would love to hear an instrumental song on this album to really appreciate his sound and his technique. I doubt we'll get that though. With a howling, laughing roar Dolk is off again; I think I heard the word "suffering" in there (though probably not as this isn't in English) and if so, I know how he feels.

Luckily enough it's not too much later that it all fades down and away, but Dolk ain't gonna let me off that easy, and "Mørk Pest" (emphasis on the pest part!) bursts upon us with another of what I'm seeing now to be his characteristic roars. Great hard hammering guitar from Thomas and it's mid-paced, if such a description can be applied to this kind of music, with almost a sense of progressive metal lurking in there somewhere too. In general it kind of thunders along with Dolk sounding angry really. One thing I do find odd, even funny about most of these tracks is that they fade. I really don't expect metal of any kind to fade: it usually ends on a hard guitar chord, scream or yell, or even a roll on the drums. But fade? Still, that's what happens with ninety percent of what's here. That didgeridoo is back to open the final track, which is also the title one. A much more restrained, almost whispering Dolk for a few moments anyway and a nice sense of suspense and buildup in the song, the shortest at just over three minutes and the closest it would appear to an instrumental on the album. Almost laidback, which is not a word I expected to use with this band at all. With the barest minimum of input vocally from Dolk it comes out as my clear favourite for obvious reasons, and a good one to close on.

TRACKLISTING

1. I Ondskapens Kunst
2. Troll, Død Og Trolldom
3. Norse
4. Svart Og Vondt
5. Mørk Pest
6. Fra Underverdene

So what do I think of this band? To be honest, they're probably about the best I've come across in my six-month search so far. Despire the annoying screech and growl of the vocalist I'm conscious of some real talent here, and the fact that this is the product of only two bandmembers is laudable. I wonder what their other albums, with now a four-piece, sound like? Sadly, the voice of Dolk will mean I never want to listen to another of their albums, unless it's instrumental or he somehow has changed his style. But as a metal band Kampfar are certainly interesting, and not one you soon forget. I mean, how many other bands in this genre, never mind subgenre, can boast the usage of an Australian aboriginal native instrument in their repertoire?

And therefore, really on the strength of their diversity and the fine guitar work of Thomas, and despite the jarring, don't-shout-at-me-I've-just-had-six-pints voice of Dolk, I'm proud to be finally able to award one of these random metal bands a reasonable cleaver rating.

Oh, and thanks, O Metal Gods! Finally...
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Old 03-19-2013, 10:36 AM   #1728 (permalink)
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I'm sure most artistes try to be as original as they can, particularly when it comes to song titles, but there are bound to be those times when a title is used by another artiste, or has already been used previously. Sometimes, quite often in fact, this can be spread across several quite separate genres, so that a certain song is unlikely to be mixed up with another from a totally different genre. But sometimes similar songs will crop up in the same, or close to the same, circles. These are the ones we look at in this section.

If you mention the song "Sail away", most people of a certain age will think of this one, though there are rather a lot of songs that possess the same title.

Sail away (David Gray) from "White ladder"

Spoiler for David Gray:

One of the big hits from his most successful album, "White ladder", this song is a slow, acoustic laidback piece that just makes you think of, well, sailing away without a care in the world.

Sail away (Chris Rea) from "King of the beach"

Spoiler for Chris Rea:

Another slow and lazy ballad (come on, you didn't expect any of these to be headbanging rockers, did you?) this song rides mostly on a lovely little piano line and some smooth slide guitar from Rea, but whereas Gray's song is one of escape, and of two people escaping together, Chris's is a sadder song, as he watches his lover sail away without him.

Sail away (Creedence Clearwater Revival) from "Mardi Gras"

Spoiler for Creedence:

Certainly more uptempo, and going right back to 1972, Creedence also had a song called "Sail away" on their last album. As you might expect it's not so much a ballad as the others above, and again it's a song of escape but more of one man turning his back on the world and just leaving it all behind. Rather appropriate, given that this was their final album.

Sail away (Pet Shop Boys) from "Nightlife"

Spoiler for Pet Shop Boys:

Not strictly speaking on the album but released as the B-side to one of the singles on it, this would appear to be a version of a (very) old song by Noel Coward, given the PSB's upbeat treatment, with honking synths and clicking drum machines but still betraying its age.

Sail away (Kenny Rogers) from "Love or something like it"

Spoiler for Kenny Rogers:

Crossing the genres even further, this was released by country legend Kenny Rogers on one of his early albums. It's got a toe-tapping upbeat sound about it, and more optimism than some of the other songs that bear its title. It also has an opening riff that is curiously reminscent of Orleans' "Dance with me"...

Sail away (Randy Newman) from "Sail away"

Spoiler for Randy Newman:

Back to 1972 again for a classic from Randy Newman, with full orchestra and almost an anthem from one of his very early albums. Also later covered by Joe Cocker.

Sail away (Great White) from "Sail away"

Spoiler for Great White:

Yes, even a rock/metal band wrote a song called "Sail away". In fact, like Randy Newman above, though twenty-two years later, they also used the title for one of their albums. Again it's not a headbanger, not quite a ballad but with a nice sort of country-ish feel and again a very familar opening --- Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson"? I'm not kidding!

Sail away (Ten) from "Return to Evermore"

Spoiler for Ten:

There are far more songs written with this title than you'd expect, and I could probably feature twenty, but we have to draw the line somewhere, so I'm bringing this to an end with a song from one of my favourite bands you never heard of. This is a lovely ballad with some fine piano and a great guitar solo.
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Old 03-19-2013, 05:09 PM   #1729 (permalink)
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Do you really listen to albums by David Soul and Kenny Rogers?
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Old 03-19-2013, 07:58 PM   #1730 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Unknown Soldier View Post
Do you really listen to albums by David Soul and Kenny Rogers?
Hey man, I've listened to Boybands! Like, all the way through! Whole bloody discographies, or near as dammit! Soul and Rogers hold no fears for me!

Seriously, no. I decided to check out David Soul because of the whole "Bandwagon" thing, but like many of my articles encompassing a large discography I didn't listen to all his albums. Mind you, I had to listen to three, so as to be able to review and comment on them. I'd say they were generally ok but I wouldn't be inclined to listen to them again.

As for Kenny Rogers, I just looked up the different songs with that title and grabbed as many diverse ones as I could. I listened to the song as it played, but otherwise no, I'm not a Kenny fan. I'm not saying I wouldn't listen to his work for an article --- in fact, soon I'll be delving into the world of Johnny Cash, and I did review Kris Kristofferson's latest --- but country in general doesn't do a whole lot for me.
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