Sunday, December 16, 2012

Do The Right Thing.

The Connecticut shooting has brought up many questions. Why did twenty year old Adam Lanza decide to shoot his mother, and then shoot all those innocent children and teachers at the school where his mother had taught? What was going on in the shooters mind? One question that should be brought up is how he did it. Unfortunately this is a question that does not need answering, as the whole world knows exactly how he perpetrated these most heinous of acts. He just picked up the three guns fro his home, that his mother had purchased legally. One of which was a semiautomatic assault rifle. A gun that would be more at home in the scene of "The Terminator" rather than a class room.

So how will America react? They're doing the usual of course. Flying the flag at half mast, showing moving montages of parents with their children, finding heroes within the walls of the school, of which there was many. Obama is coming out and tearing up, governors, both Democrat and Republican, came out to condemn the shooting, but unfortunately and bizarrely their statements were more likely to mention prayer than gun laws.

This is all good and dandy, and makes for great emotive television, but they need to wake up and realize that all of this isn't going to stop it from happening again, and again, and again, as history has proven. Praying to that magic man in the sky isn't going to put a stop to gun related deaths. If that was the case surely America would have zero gun related deaths a year, as opposed to somewhere in the region of 10,000.

When the question of gun control comes into play many will suggest that America has gone too far. That there would be chaos, mainly from the right, if their oh so precious second amendment was questioned in any way. Well I say lets have a discussion on the matter and at least try. When you have people such as Bill O'Reilly asking "Why does this always happen in America?" and pointing towards mental health issues rather than the ridiculous gun laws in the country something is very very wrong. So come on America, do the right thing, not what you've done in the past, which thanks to horrible organisations such as the NRA has been closer to being the "Right" thing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

James Blake. Substance to the Hype

Since music began every once in awhile a musician would come along that would garner praise across the board.  Hyped as the musical second coming of Christ that was about to change the music scene forever. Recently such high praise has been heaped upon the delicate shoulders of a 23 year old Londoner by the name of James Blake. Blake has been composing and producing his own brand of post-dubstep electronic jams for a relatively short period of time. Blake was a live member of London production team Mount Kimbie but, it was around this time last year that I first heard of James Blake with the release of his eps "Air and lack thereof" and "The bells Sketch". These were mostly instrumental affairs with the odd sample of Blake's own manipulated vocal lines used sporadically throughout. The production was perhaps what impressed more so than the content of the songs themselves.

It was Blake's preceding eps that really got the hype train rolling. His rnb sample heavy "CMYK" and a far more low key affair in his "Klavierwerke EP" impressed not only production wise but his odd structures and hypnotic loops really pushed his sound into a direction distinct from his first two releases. By the end of 2010 James Blake was being mentioned on blogs in every corner of the world and with the announcement of his first full length set to be released early 2011 the attention on Blake grew significantly.

With the album released the question is has Blake lived up to the hype? It certainly safe to say that his album has divided opinion more so than any of his eps. Some find it too short and boring overall whereas others say its by a distance the best album of the year thus far. I would agree with the latter. On first listen I was less than impressed but, this is an album that benefits greatly from repeat listens. Also, I have never come across any other album the benefits so much from listening on headphones. I had been listening to the first single, the Feist cover "Limit to your Love", since the videos release in November without really hearing it. The sub bass that really takes over the track when listened to on headphones or quality speakers is non existent when listened to through laptop speakers. The song takes on a completely different shape, a better shape and overall a more aurally pleasing shape.

The hypnotic "I never learnt to share" reaches a climax with a contrast of a sustained high note and a bass tone that seems to bounce around your skull and cannot help but be admired. There is so much detail put into the album that cannot be picked up on casual listens. You need to spend time with this album and your time will be well rewarded with fantastic production and something that was largely absent from Blake's eps, his very impressive vocals. When he gets into his falsetto range it really can be something special. Something that is exemplified in his breathtaking cover of Joni Mitchell's "A case of you".

It was always going to be difficult if not impossible for James Blake to live up to the enormous amount of hype that surrounded and still surrounds him. In saying that I believe he has made the best album of the year so far by a distance. This is in no way surprising as he supplied me with my favorite song of last year in CMYK, and my favorite of this year in the crescendo packed The Wilhelm Scream. I for one will be very excited to see where he goes from here as all of his releases have been so varied stylistically.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come: A Chimerical Bombination in Twelve Bursts (Burning Heart/Epitaph Records)

Ok, since this is one of my favorite albums ever and the fact that the lovely Epitaph Records gave it a very well deserved reissue I've decided to review it. It could be argued that reviewing it is pointless as I've already stated that I love it. Well, this is not for me. Its for you. I hope that my explaining of how good it is and why YOU need to hear it will give you the impetus to go out and seek it.

This is hardcore punk at its finest and we would be living in a fantastically magical world if this actually turned out to be the shape of punk to come. But alas it has been thirteen years since its release and nothing has come close. Now I know some people have a thin ear for this type of music as I did also. The first time I threw the cd on, about six years ago, I wrote it off as nothing more than noise. Its heavy, but in the best possible way. It was noise but a new type of noise that my ears had to adapt to but eventually did. The more I listened and the more I studied the manifesto contained in the booklet I was well and truly on the Refused train and I have not hopped off yet.

The album opens with "Worms of the Senses / Faculties of the Skull". Which starts off with lead singer, Dennis Lyxzen, screaming the sentence "I've got a bone to pick with capitalism. And a few to break", which lets you know exactly what Refused are all about. They're political, they're angry and they are very very loud! "Liberation Frequency" typifies the albums variety and how songs contrast but at the same time play off each other. Where the opener has Lyxzen screaming his little heart out, "Liberation Frequency" has Lyxzen singing sweetly in falsetto for the verses.

 The album is a mesh of genres and was an obvious attempt by Refused to by pass their usual hardcore punk leanings. The inclusion of samples in the lead single "New Noise", as well as "Bruitist Pome #5 " being built entirely on electronics and samples shows the bands blatant intention towards experimentation. At the the time the band did risk and I am sure ended up, alienating much of their hardcore purist fan base that they had built up from their previous albums and eps. But I certainly did benefit from coming into this album with no prior knowledge of Refused. It was unlike anything I had ever heard and as a 15 year old who was listening to Nirvana and Alice and Chains religiously it completely blew apart my musical taste buds and for that I thank Refused. To quote the bands final Communique, "Refused are Fucking Dead". Long live Refused!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

That Catholic guilt

How has Ireland come so far from its good Catholic origins in such a short space of time? Is it merely because of technology and its never ending supply of knowledge that has enlightened us as a nation? Or it could have been that now elusive boom that made us more selfish and greedy as a nation that caused us to abandon those Catholic morals in favor of all those immoral and, well, fun exploits. I would argue it was a combination of both, and that we're all better off because of it.

During the boom the whole country went mental. We were making money and that making of money became the country's religion. In the last few months the country has been looking at the boom in a negative light, and for good reasons. But it wasn't all bad. Whilst going collectively mental as a country we managed to distance ourselves from our "Catholic Ireland" image, which can only be a good thing. Rather than going to church every sunday the country was in bed recovering from the litres of vodka and kilos of cocaine consumed the night before or making that trip to the care doc with that classy girl you met the night before. Because we were so rich we just bought the morning after pill rather than condoms. We were out of control as a nation but as a result we were beginning to move away from the control of the Catholic Church.  We could no longer claim to be the Catholic country we once were. But it's safe to say that the Catholic Church certainly helped us on our journey with their ever growing list of sex scandals and general bigotry and ignorance that can be found in most religions.

Technology has also helped us greatly in this respect. The boom can also be included in the technological aspect of our move away from religion and our subsequent move towards critical thought over blind faith. Everyone now had the money to own a computer or laptop, if not both. People can go on to youtube and type in the names Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins or Bill Maher and thousands of results will pop up with these men talking sense. Well, for the most part anyway. Twenty years ago it would have been easier to find a priest who would admit to lobbin' it up some alter boy, than an athiest in Ireland. I don't have the exact statistic but, the majority of my friends would be athiests and it's mostly as a result of technology. We would not have heard of these people if it wasn't for the internet and its never ending output of information on everything.

People will testify to the positives that the Catholic Church has done. Well I would say that the negatives far outweigh the positives. People often point to the morals of such religious orders as being positives and admirable. Well these were the morals that proclaimed that shame should be brought upon anyone who had children outside wedlock. This directly resulted in an astonishing rate of infanticide in Ireland in the early part of the twentieth century. So, if that is the result of holding the Catholic Church's morals in such high esteem, I would much rather be considered immoral.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Frames and The Redneck Manifesto. A story of credibility depending on your time frame.

I'd like to start off by stating that I am both a fan of The Redneck Manifesto and The Frames; maybe my admiration for The Frames has dwindled somewhat over time as I have grown older but, still a fan nonetheless. The line up for this years Electric Picnic has been announced this past week and both of these fine Irish bands are on the impressive bill. The Frames choosing Electric Picnic to celebrate their 20th year in existence and The Redneck Manifesto have added The Picnic as part of their tour for their new album "Friendship".

 As I have nothing better to do with my time I have been gauging the public's reaction to the line up by scanning through forums, namely the Q & A forum on the Electric Picnic website or as I like to call it "Hipsters Haven". The only problem people seem to have with the line up seems to be the addition of The Frames. A lot of the people on the forum and on other public forums seem to feel the need to let everyone know that they really don't like The Frames, yet offer no reason as to why they dislike them. Which leads me to conclude that they don't actually dislike The Frames, they just think they should or they will be denied entry to Crawdaddy on a Wednesday night; or will be asked to return their collection of skinny jeans and checkered shirts to American Aparral and Topshop. Now I know that a lot of these people might indeed be genuine in their disliking of The Frames, their lead singer has an Oscar; whats cool about that? But, I also believe that a lot of these haters are the people that made their mind up about The Frames from their underwhelming 2004 release "For the Birds" and everything after that; which was, lets face it, shit. But I urge those people to give The Frames another chance and delve into their work pre Setlist. In particular "For the Birds", which is easily one of the best Irish albums ever. As well as "Dance the Devil..." and "Fitzcarraldo ", both good solid albums with hidden gems like "Neath the Beeches", which is one of my personal favorites. 

Now onto independent gods among men, The Redneck Manifesto. This is a band revered throughout the Island for their innovative instrumental doodlings and for just being a damn fine band. Just when I thought my love for these lads could go no further they go and decide to release their new album "Friendship" on Independent label Richter Collective; home of the greatest live band on the planet Adebisi Shank. I have yet to come across anyone who actively dislikes The Redneck Manifesto. I'm sure there are people out there who don't particularly like their brand of genius but, they don't feel the need to let everyone know about it. Which brings me to the question why do so many people out there actively dislike The Frames and the same doesn't seem to happen The Rednecks? Sure, in certain circles its "cool" to dislike Glen Hansard and his band of merry men, also their music over the past, oh I don't know, DECADE certainly has not been up to their "For the Birds" standard. This brings me to my argument. It could be as a result of time. The Frames pretty much have a decade on The Redneck's as far as releasing material goes. I'm sure in the mid to late 90's The Frames were just as loved as The Redneck's are now.

The Frames have been going for 20 years; which is quite an achievement for an Irish band who are not U2. On an Island where great bands such as Whipping Boy seem to become disenchanted with just having success in Ireland and seem to vanish into thin air, I believe that The Frames deserve some credit. Ireland is known for being steeped in a history of story and song as well as all the craic; and Glen Hansard is a great storyteller and a damn fine songwriter; AND he has red hair, Failte Ireland should sign him up. As much as fans of Richie Egan and the crumlin boyos would kill me for saying this, They do draw certain parallels with Glen and The Frames such as just having popularity in Ireland and their frontmen having side projects. Who knows maybe Richie Egan will go off and win an Oscar with Jape and everyone will dislike him and therefore hate the Redneck Manifesto in the next decade. Lets hope not!