Archive for March 10th, 2006

Mogwai – Mr Beast

Y’know, it’s not all cowboy hats round my pad.

I’ve always maintained that the two Mogwai singles I’ve previously bought were absolutely everything you would ever need by them. Stanley Kubrick being as close to an archetypal (stereo?) ‘Gwai track as you can get, and the four hour jewish hymn My Father, My King where they kinda opened their game a bit wider. Of course, since then, they’ve been experimenting with more varied instrumentation and even a little Radiohead-esque Aphex Twin ripping off (albeit with considerably better results), and occasional vocals. Still I’ve been happy enough to dust off one of my two singles annually and have a little blast of them. Never really needed or wanted any more.

So exactly what momentary lapse in concentration led me to purchase their new album Mr Beast the other day? I can’t help thinking that the packaging and ltd ed DVD may have swung it. You know the thinking; there’s always eBay.

And, well, it sounds like Mogwai. Lush and epic in all the right places. Occasionally rather moving. It’s the tracks with vocals that are the stand-outs. On Acid Food they get a bit bleepy, and Travel Is Dangerous is the Teenage Fanclub had they gone the way I expected after Everything Flows.

Yeah, pretty good stuff. Although, I’ve definitely got one too may Mogwai records, now.

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Written by Tony Kiernan

10 March 2006 at 4:58 pm

Posted in Records

Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

I first came across Neko Case (well, as a solo artist at least) when her track Twist The Knife was number one in John Peel‘s Festive 50 in 2000 (I got back into listening to him when I bought my flat for some reason – go figure). If you are not familiar with this track, do yourself a favour and seek it out. Amazing.

And, much as the album this came from was OK, nothing quite reached the same giddy heights. Since then she’s worked extensively with the likes of Calexico and, while releasing some interesting work, never quite fulfilling the potential/expectations.

Until now, that is. Fox Confessor Brings The Blood finally delivers the Case we’ve been waiting for. Is this an album of stone cold classics to challenge Twist…? No, of course not. Has she made any major stylistic departures. Nope. Howie Gelb, Convertino et al. present and correct. But, it just all seems so much more coherent this time round.

The styles vary. A Widow’s Toast is a weird take on the southern spiritual. That Teenage Feeling is a dreamy (the only word) last dance at a 50s prom night. The awesome John Saw That Number which can only be described as glam-stomp gospel country, performed by the Pengiun Cafe Orchestra (and, a slight resemblance to Happy Hour by The Housemartins). But, they could only have come from this album.

The band on here are wonderfully subtle. All the drama comes from her vocals everything else backs it up beautifully. Again, I find myself fascinated by the keyboard work. Beginning to suspect this may be come an unhealthy obsession.

Seriously uplifting stuff.

Written by Tony Kiernan

10 March 2006 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Records

Hank III – Straight To Hell

For those of you not in the know (and I know there’s one or two of you out there), Curb Records is a big, big player in the country music world. And they must’ve been ecstatic when they won the bidding war to get to add Hank Williams III to their roster. Unfortunately, after two albums of (just above) average ‘big hat’ fayre (with a slight edge), they kinda fell out. The label didn’t want Hank to get any more sweary or sing more about booze ‘n’ pills. Whereas, he’d been writing stuff like Put The Dick Into Dixie (And, The Cunt Into Cuntry). A bit of a tiff followed. In fact several years of one. So, while Curb sat back sure that the need to eat etc would mean that H3 would cave in, he went out and had the time of his life, forming Assjack, a phenomenal psychobilly trio, and generally being rock ‘n’ roll. (Assjack ‘bootlegs’ sell for ridiculous monies on eBay these days.)

And, so the label finally blinked and here is the third H3 ‘official’ album, resplendent with naughty words. In addition to the label baiting …Dixie (and the handful or other anti-pop-country rants) mentioned above we get a set of classic country themed tales of drink, the devil and heartbreak, often all three at once. In fact I’ve been kicking myself, since I first listened to this, over the track My Drinkin’ Problem (…left today. She packed up all her things and walked away…). Why the hell did I not think of that? Grrrr. Great song, too.

The band on here are great. Sitting somewhere between rockabilly and classic bluegrass. None too polished, and full of energy. OK, we’re not talking any hardcore authenticity, but this is rough and ready enough to carry itself with some attitude.

His grand-daddy would be proud, although his paw would disapprove – which is really how you want it.

Written by Tony Kiernan

10 March 2006 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Records

Neil Diamond – 12 Songs

So, Johnny Cash catches the last train, and Rick Rubin gets out the bumper book of washed-up singer songwriters and picks a name at random. OK, that’s completely unfair. Neil Diamond can probably call up any Vegas casino-resort and demand any amount for a six month residency. But, he never really had the cool of ole JC. Despite being one of the best jobbing tin pan alley writers for a fair whack of years (cf. all the classic Monkees songs). But as a singer, it’s the very-MOR Jazz Singer image that does the phaedo-ness thing. Despite having a fairly decent set of pipes on him, we all prefer other folk doing his songs (just like Leonard Cohen – oh, go on admit it).

So we now have the fruits of his collaboration with Rubin in the shape of the…erm…13 songs on this CD (fourteen actual tracks). Very nice they are too. The production is the stripped back type on the four Cash records, with many of the same musicians. Including the wonderful Benmont Tench on piano – I think he may be my new hero. Nowhere near as darkly portentous as his work on JC’s stuff but still brilliantly sparse and inventive.

Rather unfairly, you cannot fail to compare this record with the JC albums. And, obviously, this is gonna suffer by that comparison (c’mon Rick, Jerry Lee next time!). But, what really gets me is that in small bits this is all great stuff. Two or three tracks at a time it’s amazing. Listen in a oner and it all gets a bit samey. Diamond never really was known for his subtle production and laid back atmospherics. And, this works best where it tries for the size we expect from him (when we get a whiff of the clapalongs and satin shirts). Evermore with it’s brass and strings builds beautifully to near the melodramatic level you’d expect from the man. The second version of Delirious Love, which features Brian Wilson is just completely over the top in bells and sha-la-la’s and brilliantly dotty.

Can’t wait until others start covering this stuff, though.

PS. Who allowed that cover actually get to the printers?

Written by Tony Kiernan

10 March 2006 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Records