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Black Box Recorder – England Made Me

27 06 2010

Listened: Wednesday June 23

Black Box Recorder is an underground indie band, even in the UK, where they originate. I would say their levels of irony even blow away most of the classic British ironic artists (Belle and Sebastian, Morrissey, Pulp, etc). A single from England Made Me (Child Psychology) has the very singable chorus “Life is unfair. Kill yourself or get over it.” Not surprisingly, this got the song banned from UK radio.

On top of all that, they are good musicians and I love Sarah Nixey’s voice, despite not usually being a fan of the breathy female crooning style. BBR also does a killer version of Jacques Brel’s Seasons in the Sun, which somehow overcomes the straight saccharine tones of the original, perhaps because of the context of irony the rest of the songs provide.

A favorite.

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Blink – The End is High

26 06 2010

Listened: Wednesday June 23

Blink is yet another band I had read about somewhere and decided to pick up The End Is High when I saw it for very cheap. But as sometimes happens, it sat in a pile of unreviewed albums and I hadn’t actually listened to it until now.

Blink are Irish and their music is rock, but some of the beats sound a little dance-music influenced. Interesting to note that because of this Blink’s earlier existence, Blink-182 had to add the 182 to their name for copyright reasons. They’re pretty 90s sounding, quite like early Radiohead. I’ll have to listen some more and see if the songs stick.





Kaiser Chiefs – Employment

26 06 2010

Listened: Tuesday June 22

Kaiser Chiefs are the new Blur, with a slightly punkier edge. Their stage shows are what you might call very energetic – frontman Ricky Wilson is like the Energizer Bunny.

The songs are all full of la-la-las and na-na-nas that get you immediately singing along and tapping your feet and the lyrics are pretty good at painting pictures of love affairs gone bad, potentially violent situations, night clubs, Saturday nights, straight men surrendering to their inner disco dancer…

Wonderfully, I have been very far from home and found myself singing the chorus from Oh My God – “Oh my god, I can’t believe it, I’ve never been this far away from home.” Any song that can spontaneously pop into your head through context is pretty good in my book.





Orishas – Emigrante

24 06 2010

Listened: Tuesday June 22

Emigrante is another CD from my coworker Jim that I had never listened to before. I think I preferred El Kilo to Emigrante, but it’s still very interesting to combine rap with more traditional Cuban music. More listens are in order!





The White Stripes – Elephant

24 06 2010

Listened: Tuesday June 22

I remember the moment I heard the first notes of the first song on Elephant (Seven Nation Army) how shocked I was – the White Stripes, known for having no bass in their songs, were starting their new album with a bass line? Later I learned it was a guitar tuned way down, but still I took it to mean, “Hey, don’t put us in a box, we will surprise you.” I appreciated such bold artistic statements, since it seems few “hip” bands, especially big successful ones, do that nowadays.





The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland

24 06 2010

Listened: Monday June 21

I love how the cover of Electric Ladyland is so obviously a sexual reference. I am guessing Jimi has been caught by the camera in the middle of playing his guitar. But it looks like he could also be in the middle of a sexual act. I didn’t realize until now that the photo was taken by Linda McCartney. Nice!

Clearly Jimi was even farther along in his musical evolution and experimentation with this album. More than prior albums, the vocals on Electric Ladyland can sound very motowny – high pitched crooning like the Temptations. But then a song like Voodoo Chile is still clearly blues-oriented.

Jimi is another one of those guys who could completely both transform and improve a Bob Dylan song – he owns All Along the Watchtower, as he previously owned Hey Joe and Wild Thing, two songs he also didn’t write, but greatly improved upon.

I also love the way Jimi makes his guitar sing with him on Gypsy Eyes and the intro to Burning of the Midnight Lamp is one of my favorite song intros ever, which then proceeds to develop into a painting in sound, complete with the music flowing from left to right channel and back again. 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) also is very much a painting in sound. Beautiful, fitting, and depressing that this was the last studio album he released!





Elastica – Elastica

24 06 2010

Listened: Monday June 21

I hadn’t listened to Elastica since high school and the first thing that hit me was how much this album likely influenced both MIA and Lily Allen. I can easily hear where both of them got elements of their style from Elastica. What also strikes me is how much this sounds like the music Blur was releasing at the time as well.

But both of these comparisons are explained by the “scene incest” involved at the time – MIA and Justine from Elastica were roommates and Justine and Damon from Blur were a couple around this time – after she stopped going out with Brett from Suede. One thing that woman did that bugged me was to undermine her own respect in the industry by going out with famous musicians. I think she was plenty talented on her own, but gave people too many easy opportunities to say she was where she was because she was sleeping with frontmen.

Back in the day, I remember the criticism of this album was that Elastica totally ripped off OG 70s punk band Wire. Apparently there was even a plagiarism case they lost because Connection resembled Three Girl Rhumba too much.

Until writing, I had still never heard Wire, so I went to YouTube to check it out. I agree Three Girl Rhumba and Connection are quite similar in regards to guitar, but there is an extra note thrown in. I am not up on my definition of plagiarism to know if that’s enough. Other than that song though, I don’t see a lot of similarity. It reminds me of how everyone always said Bush ripped off Nirvana. I could never hear that either.