Saturday, April 19, 2008


Pardon my gushing here, but I have to gush about the new CD by M83. For my musical tastes, it gets a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

With "Saturdays = Youth" M83 attempts to evoke the fiery emotions of the adolescent heart throughout, from music to lyrics to packaging. They succeed in crafting a dusky, summer evening album that will provide me with perfect listening for when I contemplate what it was like to be 14 to 17 years old, thinking I was in love but still not knowing how to approach such feelings from any other perspective than that of a child.

This music causes me to think of times in the neighborhood or in the park, particularly those times when the summer evening games of childhood began their evolution into times at once magical, thrilling and terrifying. Something wondrous was happening, and it was all about learning of major changes along the route to adulthood. The subtle undercurrents of sexual tension and longing that permeate "Saturdays = Youth" remind of things I have not felt for years, therefore I find this CD invigorating.

If you like lush electronic musical textures with subtle guitars here and there, soft-edged vocals and some heady grooves you will probably enjoy the way this album sounds. There are few moments of panic here. It is for the most part pastoral and relaxing, but it is nonetheless full of adrenaline due to the inner tension created through the way the music has been written and played.

M83 leader Anthony Gonzalez likes to write about youth, and I believe this album represents not only the band's most musically focused work to date, but also its most focused work in terms of emotions; he and M83 help lost memories of youth come alive. When I was in my early-mid teens, popular music sounded a lot different than what I hear on this disc, but M83 captures some of those past emotions for me. After all, such feelings never really die. If you look far enough down inside, you will find such feelings still hiding, asking to be let out. "Saturdays = Youth" may help you bring some of these feelings up for air. Listen to this CD, contemplate it, and let your feelings breathe.

(Anthony Gonzalez of M83)



This disc is the sound of "I don't give a shit". A number of the song titles appear to have been designed to offend, and the quality of the music itself is offensive in places. Band leader Anton Newcombe sounds like he has gone on a few too many benders recently, as evidenced by this album of mostly long, repetitive drones recorded in various degrees of sound quality with occasionally-out-of-tune instruments (in fact, in one song we actually get to hear Newcombe or one of his band members stop playing and attempt to tune a guitar). I very much enjoy a fair amount of this band's previous work, and I believe Newcombe possesses a certain amount of genius, but after about six minutes through one of the drone tracks I asked myself "Why is he doing this?" I looked at the CD jacket, and noted that the title of the track is "Who Cares Why". If you are in a pissed-off mood and you like semi-grungy low-fi, you might like this CD. Listen to the disc, and you will hear drums that are (undoubtedly) purposefully buried in the mix on one track, vocals buried in a couple of others, and some songs almost sounding as if they were recorded on a boom-box. Other songs are well-recorded and reasonably well-played, but for the most part "My Bloody Underground" sounds like a soundtrack for lost souls.

I am a fan of Newcombe's music, and despite giving "My Bloody Underground" a fairly negative write-up, I enjoy long, psychedelic drones such as these. I can forgive the band for being more experimental this time around, and if Newcombe is deliberately trying to piss people off, oh well. When it comes to The Brian Jonestown Massacre, I have learned after all to tell myself "who cares why" and to just go with the music. Despite this one's shortcomings I am enough of a fan that I give it 3 out of 5 stars, and I suppose that once I have listened to it enough times it will rise up to about a 4.

Maybe the Kooks herald the coming of a new British Invasion. If they do, I look forward to it... let the Invasion begin! I like their newest CD "Konk" and give it 4 out of 5 stars. When I listen to this disc I think of The Kinks in places, and almost of Herman's Hermits at times. The Kooks have a very Sixties-Seventies sound to the songwriting and singing, and while their style represents something of a throwback, they manage to sound fresh and new. The lyrics are a bit predictable, but the singing is excellent and the performance is flat-out fun. I would hope to see this band gain a lot of richly-deserved praise and popularity.

A friend played me a GREAT Kooks song called "She Moves In Her Own Way", and I loved it so much I dashed to the CD store to buy the disc I assumed the song was on ("Konk"). I was mildly disappointed to realize that I had not been paying attention, and the song I wanted is actually not from this disc but is from a different Kooks CD called "Inside In/Inside Out" (released February 2006)... but my disappointment faded after listening to "Konk" a couple of times. So... now I need to go out and buy the other Kooks disc!

SWITZERLAND by Electric Six

I have had a burned copy of this CD for the last six or eight months, but I decided it was time to get a real copy. I give this one a solid 4 out of 5. For anyone who has not heard this band, I can hear various bands in their music, from The Cars to The Tubes to who knows what. When at their best, Electric Six plays loud, powerful rock and roll that invites dancing. The lyrics are somewhat strange, often humorous, and sometimes a bit on the puerile or edgy side. Key tracks on this CD are "The Band In Hell", "I Buy the Drugs", "Mr. Woman", "Night Vision", "I Wish This Song Was Louder", and "There's Something Very Wrong With Us So Let's Go Out Tonight". All are muscular, power-guitar-driven tunes and most have hooky synth lines. This band has a BIG sound! Singer Dick Valentine hollers and sings in a strong baritone, and I would imagine he must be quite a showman on stage. The silliness of their lyrics causes them to veer toward "novelty" territory at times, but their style and musicianship demand that they be taken seriously. Check them out, see what you think!


BEAT THIS: THE BEST OF THE ENGLISH BEAT - 4.5 out of 5, great collection of tracks from this popular ska band of the early-mid 80s. If you like their stuff like "Save It For Later", "Twist and Crawl", "Mirror In The Bathroom"... it's all here.

CURE FOR PAIN by Morphine - 4.5 out of 5. Wonderful sax playing, great vocals and bass playing, solid drumming, good lyrics... hell, it's just all-around good. Smoky, sexy, driving, primal and human.

THEY ONLY COME OUT AT NIGHT by The Edgar Winter Group - 4.5 out of 5. I had never paid attention to this band other than "Free Ride" and "Frankentstein". J.Marquis turned me on to their stuff recently, and I had to buy a couple of their CDs. This one is a classic. Great fun tunes, and impeccable musical craftsmanship! I had always liked their song "Round and Round" but I had never known until recently that it was theirs! Discovering this band has been like a kind of epiphany for me.

THE EDGAR WINTER GROUP WITH RICK DERRINGER - 4 out of 5. Not GREAT like "They Only Come Out at Night" but still VERY GOOD! A couple of the Dan Hartman songs ("Paradise/Sides" and "Cool Dance") really stand out.

VISION THING by The Sisters of Mercy - 3.5 out of 5, though lovers of Goth would probably give it a 5. I don't like this nearly as much as the Sisters' earlier album "Floodland", which for me is a 4.5 out of 5 and contains loud, hard-driving Gothic rock masterpieces such as "This Corrosion" and "Lucretia My Reflection". However, "Vision Thing" has the amazing title track, and it has "When You Don't See Me" and "More" (co-written and produced by Jim Steinman of Meatloaf fame).


Blogger Tom Harper said...

Damn, am I out of it. Most of these groups sound interesting, but I haven't heard of them. Edgar Winter being the exception of course. I remember the English Beat from the early '80s, but I don't remember if I ever heard anything by them.

Edgar Winter is great. I think he wrote and/or arranged some of Johnny Winter's songs.

12:03 PM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

Great reviews, Snave!

12:26 PM  
Blogger Lizzy said...

Thanks for the great reviews. I haven't heard of most of those bands, and I'm always on the lookout for something new.

9:23 AM  

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