Monday, 14 May 2018

Parquet Courts - Wide Awake! - Album Review

It's me again. This latest album by Parquet Courts is my favourite album of the year so far!

Parquet Courts

Wide Awake!
Release Date: 18th May
CD/LP/DL
Louder Than War Bomb Rating 5
This stunning new album by New York’s finest will set your ears alight with it’s vast array of sound on their finest moment, having honed that clever song writing craft with a little help from Danger Mouse.
Wide Awake! is New York’s Parquet Courts’ fifth record since their formation eight years ago. It’s also their most groundbreaking. It’s an album about independence and individuality but also about collectivity and communitarianism. Love is at its centre. There’s also a freshness here, a breaking of new territory that’s testament to the group’s restless spirit.
In part, this may be attributed to the fact that it’s produced by Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, but it’s also simply a triumph of their songwriter’s art. The songs, written by Austin Brown and Andrew Savage are filled with their traditional punk rock passion, as well as a lyrical tenderness, but are elevated to even greater heights by the dynamic rhythmic propulsion of Max Savage (drums) and Sean Yeaton (bass).
The plan from the start was to introduce new musical ideas previously unexplored by the band. These were varied. For Brown, a few of the touchstones were Grace Jones, The Upsetters, Townes Van Zandt, Parliament and Augustus Pablo. For Savage though, the soundtrack to the sessions in Electric Lady Studios in New York and later at Sonic Ranch in Texas, was different.
“I found myself listening to a lot of ‘80s American punk,” he explains, “I’m talking about Big Boys, Minutemen, The Dicks, Flipper. Bands that were no doubt punk but don’t quite fit in. I’ve always loved the playfulness of Minutemen and Big Boys, and especially the way the latter mixed funk into their sound.”
It all kicks off (wait for it…) with Total Football a punky anthem typical of the Courts and lyrically gives a nod to creative and inspiring individuals and is named after the Dutch theory of soccer and has an almost terrace like chant in the chorus.
Violence is an excellent track with it’s spoken word proto hip hop sound and explores how violence is accepted as casual and part of every day life, ie; the recent shootings in the USA being a footnote. It also has that classic New York sound as does next track Before The Water Gets Too High with it’s clever lyrics and more chilled out beats going back to the ballad like tunes on Human Performance.
Mardi Gras Beads is another ballad type tune and has a mellow stoned out groove with an excellent guitar hook added to give you a rush. It’s a song that Brown says he’s always wanted to write but never had the courage. I love it!
Almost Had to Start A Fight / In & Out Of Patience is my standout track on the album and one of those songs that grab you after one listen. It’s a NY punk stunner that rolls into a Fall like garage stormer which Mark E Smith would gladly put his name on. It ends bizarrely like a live track to introduce the next hit Freebird II which sounds fuck all like Freebird by the way and chugs along nicely.
Normalization starts as a Talking Heads style number but gets far too funky for its liking and makes me want to dance like a muthafucka. My legs are wiggling typing this just thinking about it. Definitely got some Funkadelic in there but punked up.
Next up Back To Earth just totally confuses the shit out of me as it’s nothing like anything they’ve done before. It’s a stone cold dub reggae wonder with brilliant lyrics. It reminds me of the scene from the Young Ones (80’s comedy classic kids!) where the hippy floats back down from the moon after hitting the bong.
Wide Awake! if you’ve not heard it yet is an upbeat funk number with the disco overtones and whistling to give it that party sound which has Danger Mouse written all over it. A tune for the summer festival crowd. Then NYC Observation is a short punk number that takes you through the streets of New York, taking in the sights and smells of the mean streets, and lyrically is, well, a NYC observation!
Extinction is another stand out tune, fusing punk with funk and lyrically the epitomy of what the Courts stand for, songs about emotion and stepping out of that comfort zone to good effect. Death Will Bring Change again changes tract and has a 15 strong Upper East Side boys choir singing the chorus to great effect with it’s lyrics about life and death.
The album finishes strongly with Tenderness, an upbeat song which starts off sounding like George Michael recording with Warren Zevon, a summery funky upbeat number about spreading some tenderness around to everyone leaving you feeling happy in yourself.
I’ve followed Parquet Courts since their amazing debut album. I can honestly say I thought they’d never match the likes of Light Up Gold but this is genuinely their best album to date, ambitious, diverse, one of those ‘you can’t pigeonhole’ bands that keep on amazing me. This is probably their most accessible effort to date and should hit all the clubs with it’s punk funk sound and disparate theme. One of the best albums this year!

You can pre-order the album here
They don’t do Facebook or Twitter apparently…
Words by Wayne Carey who writes for Louder Than War. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Frank Turner - Be More Kind - Album review.

Latest album review!


 Frank Turner
Be More Kind
CD/LP/DL
Release Date: 4 May 2018
The punk folk chameleon is back in fine form with his seventh solo album and it sounds refreshing and summery despite the songs themes dealing with  this crazy world in which we live. Wayne Carey reviews the Frank Turner’s latest outpourings.
Three years on from his last solo album Frank has definitely not been having a break. His gig count has gone up to over 2,100, he’s reworked his old material on the release of Songbook last November and brought back Mongol Horde for a few dates earlier this year.
Turner was halfway through writing a very different sort of album, a concept record about women from the historical record who had been ignored, when he was reading a collection of Clive James’ poetry and one particular line compelled him to re-think his direction. It was from a poem called Leçons Des Ténèbres: “I should have been more kind. It is my fate. To find this out, but find it out too late.” “It devastated me the first time I read it,” he says. “A lot of older, wiser people tend to say things like that, that the things that come out in the wash at the end of a human life are the way you treated the people around you. In the modern world, that’s a lesson that all of us, myself included could do to learn.”
Turner and his band, the Sleeping Souls, were on tour in the USA in 2016 “when the world decided to go collectively nuts” and the songs that make up Be More Kind started to come together. “Somewhere in the record, there’s a convergence of the ideas of personal and political, which is a central theme of the album,” Turner says. One of the driving themes of the album is empathy, even for your enemy. “You should at least be able to inhabit the mental universe of the people you disagree with. If you can’t do that, then how do you communicate with people other than through force of arms, which is something we all agree is a bad idea.” Behind some of the best songs of Turner’s career is the idea that the human race needs to find better ways of disagreeing than screaming each other down. Turner’s last two records, 2013’s Tape Deck Heart and 2015’s Positive Songs For Negative People, dealt with the fallout from a break-up and saw Turner struggling to cover the cracks in his personal life. Now happily in a relationship and living with his partner and their cat, he again set his sights to the bigger picture.
After the stripped-down, live-sounding Positive Songs…, Turner wanted to try a new approach for the record. Originally, he contacted Jenkins and Block at their Niles City Sound studio in Fort Worth, Texas with the idea of recording a white soul album in the vein of Dexys Midnight Runners. He found they were equally enthusiastic when he changed his mind and decided he wanted to record a more rock-led album with tints of electronic-pop. “I have an obscure corner of my music taste where I’m into glitch electronic music and Warp Records,” says Turner. “It’s not an electronic record but I got into arpeggiator synths.” Positive Songs… was cut in nine, intense days whereas Be More Kind was made over a period of seven months, giving Turner the opportunity to turn songs on their head, try different versions and shake up the dynamics within his band.
Be More Kind is a big shift from his earlier material with a lot of experimenting going on using new ideas. It’s definitely no Mongol Horde or Aphex Twin although he has used some new techniques to change his earlier sound.
It starts with Don’t Worry which builds up into a crescendo of clapping and gospel overtones mixed with that familiar FT mantra. 1933 is the closest you’ll get to a ‘punk’ song on the album (besides 21st Century Survival Blues) and is a good sharp witted dig at the politicians and the world in their bubble.
Little Changes is a cracking little pop song and you can tell he’s been listening to 80’s pop for some inspiration. . It started out as a simple folk song about relationships, in particular drawing on his experiences with CBT therapy in the last couple of years – the idea of trying to make small, practical adjustments to your life. A great track for the summer.
Be More Kind is more back to his folk roots and is quite straight forward but hits the heartstrings with it’s beautiful melodies. Lyrically, it draws on Clive James’ poem “Leçons Des Tenebres” and Kurt Vonnegut, and theoretically ends up somewhere simple but powerful.
Make America Great Again is a song aimed straight for the indie pop jugular and is a call to the people to make the racists ashamed again, a good call in these recent times. The sentiment gathered itself as he was on the road in the USA in August 2016, during the election campaign. He’s a huge fan of America, its people and its culture, and finds the current nativist outbreak pretty dispiriting – not least because they’ve so obviously misidentified what’s “great” about America, historically and conceptually.
Going Nowhere continues the theme and is a straight up folk love song. Not all of the album is trying to be in radically different musical territory. The line “In there like swimwear” is an expression that Americans haven’t generally heard before, which Frank enjoys.
Brave Face is Frank’s turn on a road trip style song recapturing his travel across the USA and is a cracking folk rock number. There She Is has lots of influences flying around with an 80’s pop feel and more charming melodies. The stand out track for me has to be 21st Century Survival Blues which is classic FT, the sort of song that got me into his music in the first place, that punk folk sound with clever lyrics. Will go down great live with The Sleeping Souls. I also rate Blackout, good guitar licks and the lyrics about a power cut that gives you the image of the council estate blackouts in the late 70’s and 80’s (if you’re an old bastard like me).
The last three songs Common Ground, The Lifeboat and Get It Right are all heartwarming folk songs that take you to lazy summer days with a cold lager. It leaves a good feeling and you know Frank hasn’t just stalled in the songwriting stakes just yet. This album would be a good introduction to new listeners and has more diversity than his earlier stuff. Another winner!

Pre-Order the album here: https://frankturner.lnk.to/BeMoreKindPR
A nice guy all round and a songwriter to be cherished. Frank Turner is still touring with The Sleeping Souls and you can catch him at the dates below.
May 2018
1st – Southampton Guildhall.
2nd – Southend Cliffs Pavilion.
4th – Leicester O2 Academy.
5th – Oxford O2 Academy.
8th – Hull City Hall.
9th – Norwich UEA.
11th – London Roundhouse.
Jan 2019
22nd – Birmingham Arena.
25th – Victoria Warehouse Manchester.
27th – Leeds First Direct Arena.
29th – O2 Academy Glasgow.
Feb 2019
1st – Bournemouth Windsor Hall.
2nd – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena.
3rd – Alexander Palace London.
The Frank Turner website is  here
He is also on Facebook  and Twitter
~
Words by Wayne Carey who writes for Louder Than War. His author profile is here and you can catch his blog at wayneacarey1970.blogspot.co.uk

Brix & The Extricated / Blanketman - The Ruby Lounge Friday 27th April

My latest live review people!


Brix & The Extricated / Blanketman
The Ruby Lounge, Manchester
Friday 27th April
Back on home turf the wonderful Brix & Co kick out their post Fall new wave stuff to a delighted home crowd and some rather excited stage invaders!
Last time I was in The Ruby Lounge was to see my favourite Manc band at that time (I’ll let you guess…) and discovered a gem of a venue.
This time I arrive just as local support band Blanketman hit the stage. Their frontman is like a reincarnation of Ian Curtis and their dark post punk sound is similar in many ways, not that they are copyists as their tunes prove and they will be local favourites for the future. They do a short set that gets the young and old (that’s me) music fans going and please everyone with their dark pop stuff. They air new single as the encore ‘The Long Arm Of Entrapment’ and Adam Hopper wears his guitar almost under his chin battering those strings and looks intense and brooding with his I.C. mannerisms.

Next up comes the gift of 3 ex Fall members, with Paul and Steve Hanley being the powerhouse of rhythm, added by Jason Brown and Steve Trafford fronted by a Blondie-esque Brix kicking it with style. They play most of their excellent album and have the place bouncing with their glam racket (ha!). Obviously there are a few Fall numbers in there including an excellent Dead Beat Descendant, US 80’s 90’s, and LA. A few new tracks were aired and sound promising. Damned For Eternity goes down a storm and we are treated to a couple of young fans (Emily and Eden who I chatted with later) getting on the stage and getting booted off by security. Hollywood is fuckin ace live as is Valentino and Brix looks like she has a new lease of life with The Extricated. Sadly we’ll never see The Fall again with Mark E Smith so this is like a breath of fresh air knowing that the Hanley brothers and Brix can keep the torch going and play live like this for young and old alike. Highlight of the night for me was New Big Prinz as the encore after a frenetic Totally Wired. Emily and Eden were invited back on stage by Brix and danced like maniacs as she lost her shit to the dynamics of one of The Falls finest moments from I Am Kurious Oranj. A delightful night and a step back in time with some classics thrown into the mix of a great debut album by these Manc legends. Bring on the next album.


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Words by Wayne Carey who writes for Louder Than War. His author profile is here and you can catch his blog at wayneacarey1970.blogspot.co.uk