Who Has The Better Club – Two Door or Bombay Bicycle?

Names, Names, Names

Alex Trimble, lead singer in Two Door Cinema Club, mispronounced the Tudor Cinema when suggesting it as a name for the band, hence Two Door. Would Tudor Cinema Club been as successful? I like to think Tudor Cinema Club decided to go with a completely different sound, probably incorporating ska, rockabilly and grindcore into an accessible pop mix that astounded the nation, before taking a nosedive into their second album and becoming a cult favourite. However, that wasn’t the case, and Two Door Cinema Club are currently on their third album without the help of any Tudors. It’s a bit of a toxic connection to make anyway, Henry VIII put a bit of a black mark on the era.

Bombay Bicycle Club get into the realm of gritty realism by naming their band after a defunct chain of Indian restaurants in London. A comment on dwindling globalisation? An ‘English Tapas’-style jab? A love of standardised Indian-not-Indian food? Possibly, but probably not. A bad punk band could have been born out of this name, but we haven’t got them, and we got these people instead, so thank your lucky stars. It sounds like a good band name, and that’s enough. I’ve also found that for some reason I’m not very good at typing Bicycle as well. Somebody needs to tell the band we say bike now, or if you’re my Dad, a pushbike, which I find immensely funny.

Join The Club

A club for cinemas with two doors? Quite a common phenomenon, probably. In fact, it would be more rare to find a cinema with less than two doors. We’re getting into specifics, but surely at least there’s a front door and fire exit to every cinema. So, we’re assuming these are little arthouse cinemas that show Donnie Darko on repeat. Big cinemas have way more doors, too many, actually. Everyone’s walked into the wrong screening, right? In any case, there is argument that a Two Door Cinema Club is a niche to be filled, there’s probably not too many around.

Bombay Bicycle Club rolls off the tongue better. I’m going to make use of my sub-par English A-Levels here and say that the alliteration is what does it. Shortened, the acronym is BBC – very nice all around, boys. Unlike two door cinemas, I imagine there’s quite a few bicycles in Bombay/Mumbai, especially if we’re taking into account this is Bombay in pre-1995 Mumbai, which surely equals less cars. It’s a much bigger audience we’re talking about here, compared to Two Door’s indie credibility with their oh-so-niche two doors. BBC accept that it’s a fairly big audience they’re catering to, and damn it, they’re ok with that.

How Do The Debuts Stand Up

Both bands have defining debuts. They both had huge singles, Bombay with ‘Always Like This’ and ‘Evening/Morning’ and Two Door with ‘What You Know’ and ‘I Can Talk’. I still remember hearing ‘What You Know’ for the first time and thinking ‘hmm’. Then I heard it again and thought ‘ah’. Then the third time – ‘I am converted to the church of two doors’. ‘I Can Talk’ came next. Here’s a little sidenote, have you ever done that thing with music when you have it on really loud, but the music is quiet and you know it’s going to get noisy, and you hold your breath just before? Just me? Ok, well I remember doing that all the time with the beginning of ‘I Can Talk’. The video is pretty amazing as well. The album was banger after banger as well, the climax in ‘Eat That Up, It’s Good For You’ remains my highlight.

I came late to the Bombay Bicycle Club-club. I’ve missed what was meant to be monumental early live shows. This club are much less fidgety than Two Door were upon their arrival, but deployed a similar sort of clean, jittery guitar tone that would make Johnny Marr very happy. But there’s definitely a propulsion behind their songs that isn’t driven by the same sort of guitar/synth barrage on Two Door’s debut. That’s brought along by the drums and bass, especially on ‘The Hill’ and ‘Evening/Morning’. The debut is more guitar-based than their more recent stuff, but I think we can all agree ‘Luna’ is a certified banger, regardless of a piece of wood with strings on it being absent.

The Trembler And The Trimbler – Who Trills The Best?

In one corner we have the Trembler, Jack Steadman of Bombay Bicycle Club, who sings with the tremble of playing his guitar very fast or being on the verge of tears, or possibly both. In the other corner, we have the less-imaginatively Trimbler – Alex Trimble of Two Door Cinema Club. He’s Irish so he instantly gets points, because that’s just the kind of bullshit place we like to run around here. However, we have to give points to both sides for managing to sing above the sometimes-racket of the other players in the bands, and we have to give some credit there to the mixers (that’s Eliot James/Philippe Zdar for Two Door’s debut and Jim Abbiss/Ian Dowling/Richard Wilkinson and some guy called Barny for Bombay if you’re asking).

New Music – I Give You Power / Arcade Fire

Some people really don’t like this new Arcade Fire song. It doesn’t mess around with its purposeful timing and blunt lyrics, plus being almost entirely electronic. The thing is, Arcade Fire have avoided Neon Bible imagery when it comes to protest music (the organ and lyrics definitely have a Neon Bible side to it), and just gone straight for saying what they mean. The reason ‘Fuck Donald Trump’ became default anti-Trump anthem is because it didn’t mince its words, and that’s why other protest songs from this election – and there’s been plenty – haven’t struck the same chord. Songs that need to call Trump out on what he is, directly, is the key.

Mavis Staples is the trick up the sleeve of ‘I Give You Power’. It’s a complete wildcard, and one that is very welcome. She echoes Win Butler’s protests in a soulful vocal that he just can’t, and that’s why she’s been deployed here. It’s unclear whether this is actually a single from the new album, or if it’s just a spontaneous drop, but maybe this means Arcade Fire are in a political mood, and that’s never a bad thing. Speculation aside, this is protest music and goes beyond trump and goes right for the intrinsic link between right-wing populism gaining power and the intended use of democracy to ensure representation, not abuse of power. Even if that same democracy is what has helped those leaders get into the positions they currently hold, it may also be their undoing, or at least that’s Arcade Fire’s hope.

The 10 Best Albums Of 2016

It’s almost common knowledge by now that music has been exceptional in 2016, even if everything else hasn’t. It’s been inspiring to see so much good music come out of uncertain and frightening times. There’s been a couple of major shifts in the industry too. Streaming continues its rise, artist exclusives continue to drop on platforms like Tidal and Spotify, and we hear the same stories about rock music dying and the music industry not having any money on an almost daily basis. Saying that, when the industry can’t drag itself into the 21st century, there’s a push for alternate ways of distributing and consuming music. Bandcamp and Soundcloud continue to offer alternatives, with some of the best music of the year being born on both. It’s unclear what the music industry will do to come to terms with this new divide, but it’s very clear that the quality of music refuses to drop.

fkntNext Thing – Frankie Cosmos

Next Thing improved in almost every way upon its predecessor, Zentropy. It still clocks in at a punky 28 minutes and contains songs that barely break the minute mark, but that’s all in the charm. Frankie Cosmos albums are like collages, little snapshots of a much broader picture, that when it gets pieced together is a colourful combination of pure ectasy and uncertainty. To hear songs like ‘Embody’, where Greta Kline talks about the ‘grace and lightness’ in her friends, and the happiness of seeing her friends being friends, and hear no skepticism, or sarcasm, is refreshing and for a second, makes me think the world might be an ok place. It’s unashamedly sentimental, and the fact that I have to specify sentimentality as being shameful is pretty dreadful. There’s sad moments on Next Thing, but I find the most rewarding moments are when Kline feels strong and content by surrounding herself with people she loves.

whuHeads Up – Warpaint

Without a doubt Warpaint’s greatest moment yet. They’ve moved away from their more guitar-oriented sound, pared back to their strong bass and drums section and then built on top from there. What you get is a dance-inflected pop-rock album that casts off any sleepiness from their last album for a more immediate version. ‘New Song’ is possibly their best pop song yet and ‘So Good’ and ‘The Stall’ delve into hip-hop in a much better capacity than they attempted on Warpaint. Heads Up sounds like the title; less heads-down swaying, and more heads-up dancing.

aomwMY WOMAN- Angel Olsen

Perfecting a sound, Angel Olsen traced over Burn Your Fire For No Witness in much bolder lines, filling in the folky elements with bluesy ballads and powerful pop like ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’, one of the best singles this year. There had been crescendos from Angel Olsen before (see ‘Windows’), but when ‘Sister’ and ‘Woman’ come along, bearing fangs with classic rock soloing and Olsen declaring ‘I dare you to understand what makes me a woman’ with that voice, it’s goosebump-inducing. A bit like Warpaint, this album was like the one Olsen had been leading up to, to reach a peak in sound. But then again, why limit this album to her peak? She’s got much more to give.

radiohead-new-album-a-moon-shaped-pool-download-stream-640x640A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

There’s still much more to understand about A Moon Shaped Pool, and there’s constant fan interpretations of what Radiohead have offered this year and that’s Radiohead’s big trick. All they have to do is release an album, and there will be talk over the tiniest details. Is it about Thom Yorke’s breakup from his partner? Is it about the rise in nationalism (somewhat confirmed)? It’s probably about climate change too. Maybe there’s no grand arc. But the key to any mystery-shrouded band is giving the illusion that there might be. A Moon Shaped Pool is an unusual album, Radiohead take their time to look back for once in their career, and accept their influence. By doing that, this isn’t their ‘electronic’ album, or their ‘political’ album, but a collection of everything they’ve toyed with. This was their breath out.

ncstSkeleton Tree – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

If there was an album that perfectly captured 2016, it was Skeleton Tree. Nick Cave working through grief by song is nothing new to the Bad Seeds, but this time it was real. Cave spills his guts when he had no reason to, and there’s plenty of credit to be given for an artist that brings the pain of reality into the public sphere. He touches on the real and the surreal, car crashes and the rings of saturn, electrical storms on the bathroom floor and hyenas singing hymns. This was Nick Cave the poet on fine form. You could almost separate the music from the lyrics, but the subtle twitches and groans of the Bad Seeds are the ideal accompaniment to the album.

Leave-Me-Alone-575x575Leave Me Alone – Hinds

This album made a lot more sense in Summer. When I played it at the beginning of January, it seemed wrong to hear songs about dancing in the streets, going to the beach and a general sunniness that covered these songs from the Madrid band. Refreshingly different, born from equal parts love and sadness. Hinds are needed for indie music, not attached to any British or American ideas of coolness or what’s trendy, instead making music that they’d play at house parties for their friends. Close your eyes listening to this, and you can imagine being on a beach in Spain late at night, possibly a bit drunk.

pse200720112007-2011 – P.S. Eliot

I adore P.S. Eliot, so 50 of their songs being boxed together, complete with demos and barely audible recordings was like early Christmas. The album brings together everything the pre-Waxahatchee/Swearin’ bands, bursting with youthfulness, a DIY spirit and perfect rock songs. Personally, I’m more attached to the first album, Introverted Romance In Our Troubled Minds, which gets plenty of demo treatment, so hearing early versions of ‘Incoherent Love Songs’ minus the harmonica, or ‘Hail Mary’ is useful for connecting the dots between P.S. Eliot and Katie Crutchfield’s first album as Waxahatchee. I hope P.S. Eliot go down in history as one of those short-lived punk bands that everybody loves, and this is a pretty great place if you want to hear it all.

d5a30e2eHuman Performance – Parquet Courts

Great follow-up from Parquet Courts. They’ve shifted gears at exactly the right time, using their Parkay Quarts mini-LPs Content Nausea and Monastic Living as a template for a more americana-tinged sound. When Sunbathing Animal came out I was worried that the band had slipped into a comfort zone, so Human Performance is reassuring to hear that Parquet Courts can experiment on their main releases as well as their mini projects. I’m a huge fan of the more mid-paced songs like ‘Captive Of The Sun’ and ‘Berlin Got Blurry’.

gahtbahbHow To Be A Human Being – Glass Animals

Glass Animals have a Vampire-Weekend-from-the-UK thing going on. A group of preppy students playing around with non-Western styles and making a pop dent at the same time. Dave Bayley is a hugely underrated lyricist, slotting in some truly weird imagery about cocaine on ‘Cane Shuga’ and drinking pork soda. There’s also a concept running throughout the album, where every character on the artwork is represented in a song. So what you get is a set of character studies about being a human being. High concept, but it doesn’t get lost in the story. ‘Life Itself’ and ‘Youth’ are some of the best singles this year.

todTeens Of Denial – Car Seat Headrest

This seems like a big success for Will Toledo. It’s fairytale-like: Guy makes a couple of albums on Bandcamp, gets noticed by label, releases a hugely successful album and ends up on plenty of best-of-the-year lists. If that’s not punk then I don’t know what is. It’s been a long time coming for Toledo, and he didn’t simply repeat his lo-fi sound on a larger scale, he brought in a full band and made his mini-epics into actual epics like ‘The Ballad Of Costa Concordia’. I hope he doesn’t get tagged with the ‘depressing indie music’ stamp of death, because there’s a lot of humour in Teens Of Denial, it just comes with a lot of confusion and self-depreciation too.

Shuffle Everything – Vol. 6

We go full on Warpaint overload this week, not on purpose, mind. I have to make the heartbreaking decision between two of their best songs. It was like picking which is your favourite child, and I probably shouldn’t have done it.

Wall Watcher – Sunflower Bean

I can safely say that now Sunflower Bean have actually released a debut album, I like their softer songs. ‘Easier Said’ is one of the best songs of the year, ‘I Want You To Give Me Enough Time’ is heavenly. I remember hearing ‘Wall Watcher’ and being mildly interested in the album after hearing ‘Tame Impala’ on repeat for so long. It’s the heavier side of the band with fuzzed out guitar lines and buzzing bass. Julia Cumming takes over the vocal side, and though the chorus is infuriatingly catchy, it’s a bit plain. I think the handclaps that come along in the last half of the song are fun, and it’s interesting how they managed to marry that heaviness from the guitar with their poppier side that bursts out in colours on ‘Easier Said’

Joyce And Lonnie Fighting – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein (Stranger Things)

Recently I’ve enjoyed hearing songs from TV and film and trying to find them online, and I’m especially interested if it’s an original score – try ‘Macbeth’ and ‘The Child Pt. 1’ from the Macbeth soundtrack, it’s like Godspeed You! Black Emperor minus guitars.  But everyone got a kick out of the Stranger Things soundtrack from Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. You could pick any track from the soundtrack and be transported to a small town in 80s America, probably fighting aliens/monsters. The track is creepy and subtle, building to a climax that never occurs, but leaves you hanging. Let’s hope the duo nail the soundtrack for the second season.

Burgundy – Warpaint

love Warpaint, you may have noticed, or maybe not. I think their new album is the best thing they’ve done since the EP that ‘Burgundy’ appeared on, Exquisite Corpse. The song itself is also exquisite, resting on Jenny Lee Lindberg’s pulsing bass and a repeated guitar line that twinkles. The production is a little weird and kind of muddied up, so when the guitar enters at the beginning it sounds like someone’s put a pillow over the top of it. I have no idea if it was intended or not, but it helps when the bass enters, because your heart just melts completely. It’s fun to see how far Warpaint have come from ‘Burgundy’ to Heads Up, but whatever they do I’m going to defend to the death so they could make a rap-gospel album and I’d love it. Has anyone made a rap-gospel album before? The only thing I can think of is when Kanye said Pablo was, but only ‘Ultralight Beam’ was, and that was pretty amazing.

Red Right Hand – Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds

I cannot hear this song without thinking of Peaky Blinders. It’s a great show, but Jesus, they played this song to death. They even got PJ Harvey to cover it; never a bad idea. It’s the most well-known Nick Cave song, I remember the first time I heard it in the Jim Carrey movie Dumb And Dumber. There’s a reason everyone knows it, it’s pure undiluted Cave. Think of backwater America, looming vampires and murder and that’s what ‘Red Right Hand’ sounds like. The bell toll still sends shivers.

Warpaint – Warpaint

Oh hell. I was so happy Warpaint came along at least once, and now I’m going to have to choose between the two. The self-titled track came along a bit later than ‘Burgundy’, but has the similar post-punky vibe as that song. ‘Warpaint’ takes the crown though, purely because Warpaint had a release under their belt at this point and had a stable and talented drummer in Stella Mozgawa, who contributes to the explosion of sound around the 2 minute mark as well as bringing in a dancey swing that guided them towards the sound that they’re playing with now. The drums are mostly unaffected by the guitar-effect-swirl, which should sound weird but instead you get to focus on crisp drums or those twin winding guitars. By the time ‘Warpaint’ was released, Warpaint were the formidable team we now have.

Best Of The Week?

‘Warpaint’. I nearly did tried to remove Warpaint from the best-of-the-week equation mostly because they were going to top it out regardless, but I’m not a huge fan of ‘Wall Watcher’, the Stranger Things track is over way too son and I’ve heard ‘Red Right Hand’ way too much. ‘Warpaint’ works in so many layers, just listen to how Mozgawa goes crazy towards the end of the track.

Shuffle Everything – Vol. 5

Everyone likes Screaming Females, or at least I think that’s the general consensus. They won last week with ‘Starve The Beat’ (a live performance, no less). We have a slow week this time – no instant favourites jumping out – but Cocteau Twins finally find a way to hook me with their Beach House-isms, or maybe that should be Cocteau Twins-isms?

Unstoppable – Sia

Sia’s second comeback album, This Is Acting, is brimming with pop excellence. The most unfortunate thing about it was that it came with the unofficial tagline of ‘songs other people rejected’ so it came with the assumption of a compilation. Nevertheless, ‘Unstoppable’ stands among ‘Bird Set Free’ and ‘Cheap Thrills’ (minus the horrific Sean Paul version) as a sign Sia is on top form. She just has a knack for writing the perfect pop song, and has the vocal gymnastics to make a huge song. Have you noticed that every Sia song relies on a massive drum sound? Listen to ‘Unstoppable’, ‘Elastic Heart’ and ‘Cheap Thrills’, it’s definitely noticeable.

Lazy Calm – Cocteau Twins

Cocteau Twins are a band I always remind myself to get further into, and never actually do. I’ve listened to Treasure, Garlands and what seems like the go-to Cocteau Twins record, Heaven Or Las Vegas, but it’s never properly stuck, which is weird as I can hear one of my favourite bands – Beach House – in them. ‘Lazy Calm’ is a long-ish song that’s all spacey synths, reverb and Elizabeth Fraser’s ethereal vocals. It begins in an ambient setting before real magic starts. Cocteau Twins do have their own magic, an atmosphere that’s summed up in the title of this compilation – Stars And Topsoil. It’s both up in space and nestled in the earth at the same time. I’d never heard ‘Lazy Calm’ up until this point, but it’s giving me the temptation to back and explore the band more.

Insight – Joy Division

I distinctly remember hearing Joy Division for the first time. This was back in secondary school, when people were starting to listen to Joy Division and the Smiths and wearing the t-shirts, with that hypnotic front cover that seems parodied and reduced to a stereotype at this point. I also distinctly remember hating Ian Curtis’s voice the first time I heard it. It’s grown on me considerably, and when it comes to ‘Insight’ I can’t imagine any other person attempting those bleak words. The song is a bit of a precursor to New Order with its bright synths that somehow manage to work around Curtis – It turns into a sci-fi fest at one point.

Distance Equals Rate Times Time – Pixies

‘Distance…’ is a fairly standard late-period Pixies song. It’s short, punchy, and the most interesting thing about it is the buried guitar sound that comes along in the chorus. I’m guessing it’s a guitar, I have no idea really. The song is about a terminated television broadcast of the Apollo 12 moon landing, but I don’t think it’s just that. ‘Looking into the sun’ screams Frank Black, several times. Maybe it’s a premonition of Pixies’ breakup – ‘We got to get some beer / We got no atmosphere’. Even the album title – Trompe Le Monde – comes from the phrase Trompe-l’œil, a painting technique where the painter uses realistic painting to create the illusion of three dimensions. I always saw that as Frank Black essentially creating the illusion that Trompe Le Monde was a Pixies album, when Kim Deal’s role was much reduced and the band was on the verge of breakup, and so it was more of his first solo album. Maybe I read into it too much.

Come Back From San Francisco – The Magnetic Fields

Our first repeat album comes from an album that was hard to not repeat, 69 Love Songs. Stephin Merritt is replaced by Shirley Simms on lead vocals and it’s a stripped down guitar song, fitting for such a sad love song. Merritt pleads ‘Come back from San Francisco / And kiss me, I’ve quit smoking’ as he tells himself that his lover doesn’t need him at all, but he needs him. 69 Love Songs has a tendency to have some filler tracks (It’s near-impossible to keep the standard high for 69 songs), and though the instrumentation is bare-boned, the lyrics are just as good as the others, even if it lacks a lot of Merritt’s sarcasm and loads itself with heartfelt pleading instead.

Best Of The Week?

‘Lazy Calm’ surprisingly takes the lead. Prior to ‘Lazy Calm’ I saw Cocteau Twins as a bit of a sleepy dream-pop band, but ‘Lazy Calm’ might be my entrance to them properly. I’ll finish off the rest of the compilation and see where it leads next.

New Music – Dead Alive / The Shins

Just in time for Halloween and four years on since Port Of Morrow, the Shins are back with a spooky twist on their Beach-Boys-in-the-21st-century style. James Mercer’s voice is still coated in a sort of heavenly mist that doesn’t sound ‘clean’, but it’s not all fuzzy either. The instrumentation jogs along at a blissful bounce, reminding me of Animal Collective, but if they decided to give up roughly half of their synths and decided to make up the rest of their sound and replace it with tapping on wood. If the instrumentation is happy (in a weird sort of druggy way), then the lyrics are the opposite. ‘So tonight, dance and cry’ and ‘Wash the blood and the guts to the ocean’ sings James Mercer, then there’s weird snatches of screaming and muttering in the introduction too. It’s a good sound for the Shins, slightly tweaked, and still slightly weird.

Shuffle Everything – Vol. 4

PJ Harvey came out on top last week with ‘Rid Of Me’ and after a week of pretty intense songs, there’s somewhat of a calmer week if you don’t count the storming ‘Starve The Beat’ by Screaming Females. Beck returns to compete with Blur for best post-breakup wallowing, it’s pretty hard to beat ‘No Distance Left To Run’ but he gives it his best shot, bless him.

Lost Cause – Beck

Sea Change is many people’s Beck album of choice and you can see most of his material since this album as affecting of what we think of Beck now – more of an acoustic singer-songwriter-type than the no-genre-slacker of the 90s. ‘Lost Cause’ is beautiful and sad and summed up in ‘I’m tired of fighting for a lost cause’. He tries to tear himself away from this person he’s broken up with, but their ‘sorry eyes’ and ‘wounds’ make it hard to ignore. I could just listen to the guitars on this track and the way they weave around each other, but the lyrics are front and centre.

Monday Will Never Be The Same – Hüsker Dü

A throwaway track from the full-to-the-brim Zen Arcade, led purely by piano in comparison to the hardcore punk that Hüsker Dü are famous for. In the context of the album I might have been kinder, but when you get thrown a bunch of interlude tracks you’ve got to remember how important the album format is, and how tracks like this can be welcome relief from full-on bands like this. I checked and ‘Newest Industry’ comes before this so maybe it was a good idea to throw in a piano interlude before getting into ‘Whatever’, which for the record is incredible.

Starve The Beat (Live) – Screaming Females

Live At The Hideout is one of my favourite live albums and is just as good as any of Screaming Females’ albums and has the added benefit of compiling some of their greatest songs prior to Rose Mountain together. It’s tragic that Screaming Females still don’t get as much credit as they’re due, seeing as they’re one of the tightest punk rock bands around. They have the bonus of having Marissa Paternoster on guitar and vocals, who works some guitar magic and screams like nobody’s business. The funny thing is how indebted to classic rock it is – listen to those guitar solos – but is imbued with DIY punk that everyone can get behind. Let’s applaud for King Mike for a second, and now let’s move on.

The Hook – Stephen Malkmus

On a completely random note, I found a CD single of ‘Jenny And the Ess Dog’ in my small town charity shop once, and I really wanted to know who in my town was in possession of Stephen Malkmus CD singles. Anyway, this is from the better Malkmus solo album, where he gets to play rock ‘n’ roll without having to attach the Pavement name and has plenty of fun with it. It’s a lovely, catchy pop song if you can ignore the lyrics about Turkish pirates and excruciating forms of torture. Then again, what do you expect from Stephen Malkmus? It’s the same guy that wrote that the Smashing Pumpkins have no function.

Gold Star For Robot Boy – Guided By Voices

still can’t get into Guided By Voices. I just couldn’t get around how short the songs were, and I’m not exactly sure why I have that problem. ‘Gold Star For Robot Boy’ sounds influential, you can hear a million indie rock bands in that song, in the middle of hyper-accessible pop-rock and horrendously lo-fi production. It’s surprising that Guided By Voices never got bigger than they did, especially in the healthy climate of the 90s they excelled in. Talking about gold stars is a fitting theme for Robert Pollard, he was a teacher at an elementary school at the same time as being a musical cult hero. Imagine all those kids telling people years later they got taught by Guided By Voices. I imagine the lessons would be interesting.

Best Of The Week?

‘Starve The Beat’s live rendition is staggering; six minutes of pure unfiltered punk that sings the praises of technical ability as well as a DIY ethic. The mixing is particularly good for a live performance, boosting those guitars way up and letting Marissa Paternoster go all out. The best rock band around?

Shuffle Everything – Vol. 3

We’re three weeks in, and so far we’ve sung the praises of Stereophonics, fallen back in love with Grizzly Bear and had an excellent selection of B’s. This time M.I.A. gets distilled into 30 seconds and we get into the dilemma of who makes the creepiest song – Arca or Rid Of Me-era PJ Harvey.

Banana Skit – M.I.A.

The very introduction to M.I.A. in album format, but it actually manages to pack a sum-up of M.I.A. into the 30 seconds we get. It’s amazing how M.I.A. was talking about refugee education back in 2005, but it’s only now big news. This wasn’t a one off, M.I.A. would repeatedly talk about issues before they became high profile like when she spoke out about WikiLeaks and freedom of information. The instrumentation is uniquely M.I.A., full of syncopated beats that have an acoustic sound mixed with a more synthetic side. It’s the fusing of the old and the new, the Sri Lankan side and the London side. Arular is pretty amazing, it’s the first album I’d recommend to anyone who doesn’t know where to start with M.I.A. Or maybe Kala, if you want your fix of ‘Paper Planes’.

The Gentle Art Of Choking – My Vitriol

Now here’s a band I don’t know enough about. I know they’re a bit of a cult band, releasing only one album back in 2001 and are currently trying to release another one. It’s definitely a sound of the era, back in the days of the Strokes and the Vines, except there’s more of a noise-rock/shoegaze flavour to it. Points for the hyper-emo title and lyrics: ‘Don’t look at me that way / I know what you’re gonna say / It’s on your face’, but I like the sound of it. They’ve got the bonus of sounding like a blend of every indie rock band from the 1980s onwards, but maybe that’s a bit of a nail in the coffin of making an original bunch of noise. They’re kind of mysterious in a Sunny Day Real Estate kind of way, they’ve even got the one-album-then-silence deal going on.

Else – Arca

Genuinely scary electronic music from Arca, this album in particular makes my skin crawl in a good way. Though ‘Else’ doesn’t rank anywhere near some of the creepier stuff, it has eerie piano keys plonking away and occasionally splashes of noise. This falls into the beautiful category of Arca, but there’s always an uneasy alliance between what is beautiful and what is stupidly scary with Arca, and he loves to play between the two. The lack of recognisable vocals and the use of silence makes songs like ‘Else’ something a bit inhuman, and maybe that’s why I’ve never got into Arca as much as I’d like to.

Rid Of Me – PJ Harvey

Last week we hit the jackpot with Beyoncé on ‘Sweet Dreams’, this week we’ve got the mother of all bubbling tension with PJ Harvey’s ‘Rid Of Me’. This album especially has a kind of restrained fury that’s inexplicably more terrifying than if Harvey goes apocalyptic. Which she does, on the chorus of ‘Rid Of Me’. Ever made the same mistake I did when you first heard the song and it was so quiet that you had to turn it up, and then when the guitars and drums kick in it bursts your ear drums? ‘Lick my legs / I’m on fire / Lick my legs of desire’ and ‘Don’t you wish you never never met her’. The way it bubbles up, you end up begging for it to explode, because you know it’s coming. You aren’t rid of it.

Deny – The Clash

I’ve got a problem with the Clash that I can’t get past. They’ve becoming such a flagbearer of original British punk that they’ve become a bit of a parody. However, saying that, they do have an incredible amount of variation in their music compared to the Pistols (But then again, were the Pistols around long enough to write anything other than snotty punk?). Joe Strummer has a knack for a pop song, singing about the in-fighting within the relatively small punk community. I think the guitarwork on songs like ‘Deny’ sets them apart from just a power chord thrash, even though they do employ that tactic. There’s a section at roughly 30 seconds in where you can hear where the Libertines came from.

Best Of The Week?

‘Rid Of Me’. The song leaves a deep impression, one that might not have been as powerful if not for the muted guitars that build up to the unrelenting chorus. Hopefully we get a less scary week next time.

Album Of The Week – In Rainbows Disc 2 / Radiohead

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Yep, this was released back in 2007, but has made a surprise release on streaming services. The timing is odd, but then again, Radiohead have been significantly more generous when it comes to Apple Music and Spotify recently. It’s also going to be good news for anyone that had no idea this existed – I’d owned In Rainbows for at least a year before finding out there was a second disk. As the title suggests, it’s a continuation of In Rainbows, but has an off-cuts compilation style. That’s not to say these songs are any less good, some of the songs on here, specifically ‘Go Slowly’ and ‘Four Minute Warning’ could have easily replaced a song like ‘Faust Arp’ on disc 1 (the song does nothing for me). It emphasises a creative peak for Radiohead, as always they were overflowing with songs, but it’s hard to find a weak link on In Rainbows, plus it actually sounds like a band that were having fun for the first time in their career. There were no limits by their label, who they’d cut themselves off from, there was the entire ‘pay-what-you-want’ innovation, and nobody had any idea where they would go after the musical collage of Hail To The Thief. In response, they combined the more electronic elements that made up Kid A and Amnesiac with the rock side of HTTF. If anything, Disc 2 gave Radiohead the option to go slightly experimental again, with ambient interludes that recall ‘Treefingers’ spliced with snippets of the In Rainbows sessions. It’s hugely underrated, but maybe it’ll receive some more attention now that it is on a broader platform.

‘Last Flowers’ could have been ‘Videotape’, easily. It’s breathtaking in the same way, incorporating an acoustic guitar over Thom Yorke and a piano – essentially revisiting the ‘How I Made My Millions’ style. In Rainbows is interesting because it was infinitely less political than their last few albums, but didn’t go back to the personal side of Pablo Honey or The Bends because Yorke was also bringing in the more leftfield style that scattered Kid A and Amnesiac. He marries ‘appliances have gone berserk’ with a line so simple as ‘You can offer me escape’ (it’s actually hard to tell whether it’s ‘can’ or ‘can’t’). Yorke can often write songs that require interpretation and reading into, but he also has a knack for a simple line in the middle of more wordy verses, and it can stand out hugely – in a very good way. It’s a shame that songs like ‘Last Flowers’ don’t get the proper album treatment, but in a strange way, isn’t it more exciting to stumble upon ‘Last Flowers’ whilst combing YouTube for lost recordings? Maybe that’s the appeal of being a Radiohead fan, you’ve never found all the gems, there’s always another live version you haven’t heard yet.

‘Bangers + Mash’ and ‘Go Slowly’ will be familiar to anyone who watched the Basement session Radiohead did for In Rainbows and The King Of Limbs. ‘Bangers + Mash’ is the one where Yorke actually plays drums alongside Phil Selway whilst Jonny Greenwood gets the chance to properly rock out once again. ‘Go Slowly’ is the tearjerker where Jonny Greenwood plays those crystalline piano notes. Both show how Radiohead really could go where they wanted to at this point and were under no obligation to either write a scathing political electronic freak-out or a back-to-the-basics rock songDisc 2 serves best as a slowed-down EP that blooms on the piano-based tracks, of which there are plenty. Arguably the guitar works better on ‘Up On The Ladder’ than ‘Bangers + Mash’, despite the emphasis on the distorted sharp teeth of ‘Bangers’. It sounds more menacing on ‘Up On The Ladder’ and with Colin Greenwood’s bass much more prominent it becomes scary. Yorke paints life as a game of snakes and ladders, and I think when he says he’s a puppet, he imagines someone is playing with him in the game, it’s never his choice as to where he goes next, as someone much higher always has the dice. The song could have easily slotted onto Hail To The Thief.

It’s an interesting mini-album/EP. It was the first and last time that Radiohead attempted to do something like this, and that’s interesting. Of course many bands write songs for albums that don’t end up making the cut, but if they are ‘good’, then why not release them in some other form. The only other band I can think of off the top of my head that did something similar was Modest Mouse’s Interstate 8 and Building Something Out Of Nothing. But this feels more meticulous than just a compilation of songs from an era, it sounds like a continuation, and maybe this ‘Disc 2’ system has been overshadowed by the other innovation that Radiohead presented when releasing In Rainbows. Should every band release another mini-album a couple of months after the original with more songs from the session? Probably not, but in the case of bands that are prolific and/or consistently write good songs, it could be the case. Disc 2 is one of the best non-album collections that Radiohead have released, an essential part of what could be considered their We-Have-Nothing-Left-To-Prove trilogy of In Rainbows, The King Of Limbs and A Moon Shaped Pool. Also, while we’re on the subject of In Rainbows, listen to ‘Videotape’ backwards, you’ll have a lot of fun.

Funnel Recommends: Go Slowly / Last Flowers / Up On The Ladder

New Music – Real Thing / Pale Honey

Pale Honey have wasted no time preparing a new album, blending classic rock guitars once again with a rhythm section that isn’t afraid to deploy a Kills-like electric setup or even a cowbell every now and again. That combination brings the roll back into rock ‘n’ roll, it’s something you can actually dance to whilst rocking out simultaneously. It seems so wrong to splice the old and the new so strongly, but it really works and though it’s not original, it’s never done enough (what does originality even mean any more anyway?). It’s got bits of the Kills in, as said before, but the ‘oohs’ and generally the vocals are like Warpaint decided to become a hard rock band. If that’s not enough to get you interested, we don’t know what will.