Archive for June 2006

Ministry – Rio Grande Blood

OK, so if you’re over 15 and don’t show your underwear in public regularly, Ministry probably don’t class as one of the big hitters. But, these days, they’re probably as influential as Walker.

TBH, looking at their track record, there’s not really that much to expect from this. Recently where they got really gothy, making me wistful for bad Cure records. But, even before that, they never really made a great album, there’s always been at least one complete barnstormer on there. So, the chance of that stonker and the recent return to form of [one of] Jourgensen‘s [many] side project[s] The Revolting Cocks made it worth a punt.

To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never shown my underwear in public, and 15 isn’t even that clear a memory (hey! you wanna try my life?) so this is not intended for me. It fairly rocks, but just lacks that extra special edge that seems to be extinct in 2006. Oh well, only another six months to go.

As expected, we get driving, banging, industrial-metal at it’s finest. And, loudest. And, probably heaviest. It’s Ronseal-rock, so to speak. And, for that (shiver) genre, it doesn’t get any better. But, the reason why Ministry are the archetype of this stuff is their ability to lift it above the myre. (Admittedly a myre they were responsible for.)

So, in between the nosebleeds is there anything of particular interest? Funny you should ask that. About halfway though the title track there appears to be and invasion of the tijuana brass form hades that actually mutates into a guitar solo. Nice. Khyber Pass manages to pull off that indian style stuff rather nicely. Good and hypnotic. Although, it being a song about looking for Bin Laden, it completely passes on the opportunity for an excellent euphemism. Nice, too. Gangreen does the marching chant thing in a nicely stupid manner. Oh, and Jello puts in an appearance, which is always nice.

It just seems that Al is
keeping all his interesting stuff for the extra-curricular activity. Which I suppose is fair enough if this is what puts the food on the table. And, if da kids are going to be listening to this stuff, they might as well be getting it so perfectly (if uninspiringly) executed. (And, it does a better job of tackling the political landscape – albeit in a Kevin The Teenager stylee – than the Pet Shop Boys.)

Maybe…oh, I can’t even be bothered…


Written by Tony Kiernan

09 June 2006 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Records

Scott Walker – The Drift

More timescale nonsense. First album in 11 years. Actually, not that big a deal as there’s been years between his last few releases. But, the innovative and influential Scott Walker is always worth checking out.

Recently on The Culture Show, Walker was describing this album as a more ‘sculptural’ piece than his previous works. This excited me. Some of the best stuff he’s done has an other-worldly feel to it where you cannot put your finger on such stuff as melody and rhythm but it’s still astoundingly beautiful. Most of the previous album Tilt had this writ big. So, taking it further will be mind-blowing. But no. It’s as if consciously doing what he’s always done he completely misses the point. You know, like when you’re walking down the street and start thinking about it too much and end up falling on your face? Or, is that just me?

We don’t even get the sonorous signature vocals. Everything is delivered in a falsetto that although familiar has never been his bread and butter. As inexplicable as it is pointless.

I’ll punch a donkey in the streets of Galway!

Normally any record with that lyric would be worth it for that alone. There’s a point here where a pig carcass is used as percussion. It sounds like someone randomly flinging fistfuls of mince at it. I hope he’s trying to signal that he’s not being kosher and is laughing up his sleeve. But, I doubt it.

Does waiting this long build up expectations too far? Giving your hopes further to fall?

Maybe next time…

Written by Tony Kiernan

09 June 2006 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Records

Pet Shop Boys – Fundamental

Their best album in ten years…

Talk about damning with faint praise!

Of all the music in my collection, the stuff that gets the most raised eyebrows are my Pet Shop Boys records. More so than Meatloaf or Judy. I’ve never been able to work this out. IMHO, they were responsible for some of the best pop records for over a decade period. I even think I was one of the few not to find their NME cover claims (We’re The Smiths you can dance to) sacrilegious.

And, so to Fundamental. Unfortunately named after some political statement they’re trying to make (and not Carry On style innuendo about fundements) it kinda shows that maybe this isn’t their strongest point. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a rich seem of political thinking throughout their whole back catalogue (yes, including – if not especially – West End Girls), but there’s something about this apocalyptic naysaying (The Sodom & Gomorrah Show, anyone?) that smacks of the johnny-come-lately. Even George Michael‘s already covered the same territory as current single I’m With Stupid, and moved on.

So, the songs may seem a little weak (not ‘bad’). And, at points, really really clumsy. Made so, surprisingly, by Neil Tennant’s phrasing. Always a particular style, here it seems as if he’s seeing some of the lyrics for the first time. As if he’s not even tried out how they’re all going to fit with the melody. Really a lazy performance. There’s also a tendency for the words to seem like they were bought wholesale from Thesaurus ‘R’ Us. Particularly on (high point for me, BTW) I Made My Excuses where the use of the word ‘supplicant’ is at best ill-fitting at worst the cringe-worthy punchline to a poorly conceived metaphor.

But, hey! Surely it’s the tunes that count with this sort of thing. Of course. And, despite the presence of Trevor Horn on production, it seems as half-baked as the vocal performance. Whereas in the past they have been striving to escape the limitations of the technology they use (don’t believe me check out Suburbia and compare it to it’s contemporaries) here it’s as if there’s a concerted effort to try an produce some never-existed stereotypical PSB sound.

So, all in, lacking as well. Were this a collection of out-takes, it would be highly repsectable. As an album proper, best in ten years, but only that.

Maybe next time…

Written by Tony Kiernan

09 June 2006 at 1:01 pm

Posted in Records

Ronnie Spector – The Last Of The Rock Stars

In 1999, Joey Ramone produced an ep – She Talks to Rainbows – by legendary Ronettes vocalist Ronnie Spector. His understanding of the power of her voice and her musical background (which the Ramones had been assimilating – let’s not say ‘pilfering’ – from day one) produced something that seemed to herald the end of the century (ahem) and open endless opportunities for the future.

But, Joey’s gone, and it’s taken seven years for Ronnie to finally come up with this hyperbolically titled long player. And, there’s a huge chasm at the heart of it where his presence and guidance should be. The voice is astounding, that’s a taken. Some of the songs are pretty fine. But, all in, it’s that horrendous MOR you only get from artists of a certain age and stature. There’s a horrible showbiz moment on Work Out Fine where she has a ‘dialogue’ with the guitarist. Christ it’s naff, and unjustifiable. A quick squint at he sleevenotes reveal that said strummer is Keith Richards. Now, who gets Richards onto a record and let’s him open his mouth? Actually, who gets him on for this kind of lame-o funk workout?

There is one outstanding highlight, her cover of Johnny ThundersYou Can’t Put Your Arms around A Memory. But, this is taken from the …Rainbows ep, and is given an unnecessary remix here.

The samba tinged Girl From The Ghetto (despite it’s J-Lo undertones) has something that’s kinda lacking from the rest of the stuff. Mind you, were it all like this I’d be bemoaning the pedestrian coffee table nature of he record and wondering why she didn’t try and bring Keef, or someone, in to lend a hand.

Maybe next time…

Written by Tony Kiernan

09 June 2006 at 11:46 am

Posted in Records

Johnny Cash – Personal File

The first of several big hitters purchased this month. During a clear out (let’s not call it ‘pillage’) of the archives of The House Of Cash after Johnny’s death a set of tapes marked Personal File were found. These were dated from 1973 for almost a decade and featured the man himself, his guitar, and his memories. It is a collection of songs from his childhood, religion and career (those never released) often with some down-home hokum introduction while he explains the significance.

And, it’s brilliant. Of course it is. Ok, it doesn’t touch on the Sun Records or American Recordings genius that bookended his career, but it does highlight that at the height of his fame (Vegas, the TV show, huge overblown orchestration) he still had what made him special. It’s probably the period when his voice was at it’s most powerful too, and this bare-bones take only serves to drive home a singular talent.

I just wonder what else is lying in the back of cupboards. The man had a lot of houses.

Written by Tony Kiernan

09 June 2006 at 11:27 am

Posted in Records