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).

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.

Album Review – Painting With / Animal Collective

aveypwcoverAnimal Collective hit their critical and commercial peak with the arrival of Merriweather Post Pavillion in 2009 and promptly followed it up with the indie-artists-textbook-commercial-response by releasing Centipede Hz. Centipede did an excellent job of distancing themselves from whatever new following they had garnered, but it was more to do with where the Collective wanted to go sonically next rather than escape a mainstream audience. For their new album, Painting With, collaborator Deakin (who is often responsible for the noisier moments of AC) has dropped out and we have the Merriweather team of Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist back again, which should send off sparks in any Merriweather fan. And true to the trio’s first real success, Painting With has a bubbly, poppy sound that you could play for anyone without wondering if it would freak them out. It’s less psychedelic and takes more inspiration from heavily textured electronic music, meshing the band’s vocals, synthesisers and percussion for a sound that has more than a passing resemblance to children’s music that’s injected with acid.

One of the best songs featured is ‘Bagels In Kiev’ which takes its time to begin over ambience electronics, but then Avey Tare and Panda Bear’s vocals come in and sing together, which always work because they have unique voices easy to pick apart. The song is very short, especially considering the lengthy intro, but the bounciness and pattering drums carry the song before AC throw in a lyric like ‘These days I’m not so sure who is getting along or if they were before’ to muddy the bright neon happiness in the instrumentation. The band have always been good at making music that sounds like an outburst of pure joy then secretly slipping in lines that are either ambiguous or utterly creepy, and that’s exactly what Animal Collective have done on Painting With. Then there’s the hyperactive ‘The Burglars’ which has vocals at double speed and synthesisers either hum or hop up and down, or ‘Vertical’, which sounds a bit like the Gerbils’ and Neutral Milk Hotel’s Scott Spillane crammed into an experimental pop song, with the endlessly catchy ‘My feet won’t cross the parking lot / The parking lot is way too hot’ outro and themes of height, people that ‘live above you’ and pressure explored.

Has more than a passing resemblance to children’s music that’s injected with acid

But the best song is reserved for the penultimate song – ‘Golden Gal’. It’s a bit like a sister to ‘My Girls’ because it’s so poppy and danceable and the lyrics are deep and perceptive. For example, as the band describe the ‘Golden Gal’, they describe all of the problems that women still face in modern society ‘Different roads not just sexual things’ and ‘You think a gal should feel so comfortable these days / But sex and gender brings some troubles to the fray’. For a band like Animal Collective, you might not expect a song like this, so it’s so pleasantly surprising that they’d write a song as good as this whilst wrapping it in an excellent message. The synths squelch and drop lower and lower on the verse and your stomach drops with it because it’s so dancey. Unfortunately, there are a few faceless tracks on here: ‘Spilling Guts’ has those guts but is pitifully short, almost like they ran out of ideas, and ‘Hocus Pocus’s slower pace and psychedelic squelching can’t quite keep up with its predecessor ‘FloriDada’, which grows and grows with every listen. The singles that AC have released prior to the release – ‘FloriDada’, ‘Lying In The Grass’ and ‘Golden Gal’ are some of the best showcases of the band, it’s just a shame that they couldn’t keep it up on the album tracks as much.

The innocence and darkness metaphors that Animal Collective tend to draw – ‘CBeebies on acid’ or ‘A children’s party on acid’ are very common, but they are rooted in some truth, especially on Painting With. They’ve never sounded this peppy and psychedelic at the same time and the fact that the album hardly lets up on its pace is one of its strengths. If the band stripped down their sound, I don’t think it would work as well and the sound that they have developed has so many nooks and crannies that it’s a sonic wonderland that will reveal something new with every listen. After Centipede Hz, a return to form was definitely needed, so it’s just perfect that the band have returned to their Strawberry Jam / Merriweather Post Pavillion highpoint, except with an even bubblier, squelchier sound.


Funnel Recommends: FloriDada / Bagels In Kiev / Golden Gal

Track Review – Lying In The Grass / Animal Collective

Chances are, you might have already heard ‘Lying In The Grass’, whether you happened to be at Baltimore Airport during Thanksgiving (unlikely, I know), or you tried out the Animal Collective painting app. It’s a conceptual release, sure, but at this point what else is there to expect from a band so confusingly successful as Animal Collective. It has a lot in common with the last single ‘FloriDada’, including dizzying synths and overlapping vocals which stagger the lyrics. It begins with a squelchy vocals and scary vocals pitched up and down, before Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist overlap each other delivering lyrics that once again have plenty of meaning, but are hard to dig into. ‘Lying In The Grass’ is funnily enough, about lying in the verbal sense. Behind the puns and jokes, there’s uncomfortable messages and imagery within the song.

For example, a line like ‘Like a twisted stick, let’s dig through the sick and find a level space’ on the surface could be read as the ‘sick’ as in people, or the more literal meaning. The band encourage making mistakes or lying ‘as long as there’s a light to discover it’ – or doing it to find a clear answer. Difficult topic for sure and there isn’t much precedent for it, but that’s where Animal Collective have historically liked to be. The instrumentals, like always, are dissonant and awkward but somehow come together as a result psychedelic flutes (really) and squelchy beats that shouldn’t fit into any song.


Track Review – King Of The World / Weezer

We didn’t exactly like ‘Do You Wanna Get High?’, but it seemed like Weezer were continuing their comeback from 2014’s Everything Will be Alright In The End. It was ok, at least, and it wasn’t in the same vein of their albums which weren’t such if they were making fun of themselves or were just making really, really bad pop-rock. Fans will be pleased to hear that their next album has been christened The White Album, following their respective Blue, Green and Red albums. ‘King Of The World’ is – surprise surprise – Weezer. Rivers Cuomo slots in the necessary ‘You’d be my girl’ line he’s been repeating since The Blue Album and exists in eternal teenage purgatory surrounded by poppy guitar hooks, ‘why don’t girls like me’ mentalities and dreaming about taking a ‘greyhound to the Galapagos’. This band is over twenty years old, but the hook is still: ‘If I was the king of the world / you’d be my girl’, followed by some woah-ohs which at this point is just a staple of any Weezer anthem.

Weezer even manage to try and tuck a sly political comment into the song, with the line ‘Dad hit you on the hand for holding your chopsticks wrong / then mum locked you in a shed and Uncle Sam dropped an atom bomb’. Ha ha, Cuomo, see what you did there. That’s pretty much the extent of the humour side of Weezer, which has been scaled down considerably since those bloated corpses that Weezer called albums (Hurley and Raditude) were unfortunately delivered to the world when in fact they deserved to be recorded, then immediately decontaminated and buried at deep sea level with the rest of the nuclear waste. In that way, it’s sort of fortunate that Cuomo now only has to make crap jokes every now and again and focus his efforts on crafting what some describe as a song instead of trying very hard to make himself a walking meme.

Album Review – Tell Me I’m Pretty / Cage The Elephant

FINALL-TELL-ME-IM-PRETTY-CTE_TMIPretty_CVR_F2.jpgCage The Elephant made a conscious effort to make an original sound on their 2013 album Melophobia, which resulted in one of their best albums yet. Tell Me I’m Pretty is a little bit more of a low-key release. There’s no standout single like ‘Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked’, ‘Shake Me Down’ or ‘Come A Little Closer’, but the album comes with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys in the producer’s seat, which seems like a natural friendship considering both Cage The Elephant and the Black Keys have a thing for classic rock and blues rock nostalgia. But that’s not where the influences are cut off – Tell Me I’m Pretty likes to rip off other artists so much that the originality that Melophobia brought to the table is wiped away by this clunky set of songs. Heres a handy list of easily recognised artists that Cage The Elephant borrow from: AM-era Arctic Monkeys (‘Too Late To Say Goodbye’), The Last Shadow Puppets (‘Cold Cold Cold’), the Black Keys (‘Mess Around’), the Beatles (‘Sweetie Little Jean’) and the White Stripes (‘Cry Baby’), and this is just half of the album.

If this was the Black Keys, we’d probably let them off. It’s what you’d expect from a band that’s had Jack White on their back for the most of the career, not to mention the classic rock disciples. But it isn’t the Black Keys. It’s a band that made an effort to create an original sound two years ago, and that sound was hard won. So it’s disheartening to see Cage The Elephant take two steps back into the comfort of garage rock where they aren’t too different from the rest of the nostalgia bands gathering dust. Interestingly, the best moments come when the band quiet their rock sound down into the acoustic ‘How Are You True’, which is another Beatles-alike, especially in the classic chord progression and frontman Matthew Schultz’s breathy vocals. But it works beautifully, especially with the strings that sneak in towards the end. On the other end of the spectrum, Cage The Elephant making a good garage rock song is the band doing what they do best on ‘Punchin’ Bag’, which has a blues-stomp to it and ‘Portuguese Knife Fight’ has an Iggy Pop-drawl to Schultz’s vocals, even slipping in a stutter or two into his voice. Fortunately enough, if you manage to sit through the so-so first half, the back end of Tell Me I’m Pretty has more of a Melophobia originality to it which the rest is sorely lacking.

Unfortunately, Cage The Elephant decide to go for an Arctic Monkeys/Beatles crossover for the rest of the album. ‘Too Late To Say Goodbye’ is as if Alex Turner decided to make a Bond song and goes as bad as that sounds. The drums and guitar hook are almost identical to the Jack White/Alicia Keys Bond song, plus the creepy similarity between ‘Too Late To Say Goodbye‘ and ‘Another Way To Die‘, delivered in the exact same way. Then you have the oddball Beatles tracks, with Schultz calling a woman ‘Sweetie Little Jean’ and ‘Cry Baby’s harmonious chorus ‘Cry-ah-eye’ is ripped from the early Beatles catalogue. If you want to get away from the obvious comparisons for a second, looking at the music plainly won’t exactly be of much interest either. The instrumentals are flat, Auerbach manages to wriggle some life into the more distorted guitars on ‘Mess Around’ and ‘That’s Right’ but buries the rest in the mix, apart from those hip-shaking drums on ‘Punchin’ Bag’. Schultz’s vocals are almost always spot on, either taking a softer tone or his rock god vocals for the harsher songs.

The problem with liking classic rock is that you have a limited pool to gather from. It’s called ‘classic’ rock for a reason, but Cage The Elephant are so intent on paying respect to every artist that falls under the rock umbrella that they can’t compete with rock bands pushing the boundaries, such as Tame Impala. Cage The Elephant have potential, they have even more danceability than the psychedelic Tame Impala ever had, so they’re already one step ahead. But where Kevin Parker would get bored of his sound and change it up entirely, Cage The Elephant sound a hell of a lot more antiquated than they did when Melophobia came out. The comparisons are littered about, and though they don’t ruin any of the bands they take from, Cage The Elephant don’t expand on any of the ideas those bands presented.


Funnel Recommends: How Are You True / Punchin’ Bag / Portuguese Knife Fight