Pet Shop Boys – Super

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When we last heard from the Pet Shop Boys, we were treated to an electronic masterpiece in the form of Electric. It is hard to believe that almost 3 years has elapsed since that masterpiece of an album. Super once again finds Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe working with producer Stuart Price. In fact, this album is being called the 2nd in a planned trilogy with Price. To that end, Super continues with the club ready anthems re-established on Electric whist dropping most of the melancholy found on 2012’s Elysium. At this stage in their career – 30+ years, 13th studio album – I think it is fair to ask if the Pet Shop Boys have anything left to say. Super answers this conclusively – yes they do.

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Broken Bells – After the Disco

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Broken Bells return with their long-awaited 2nd record. The reviews have ranged from over the top accolades to mediocre, based on a perceived over saturation of all things related to Danger Mouse, 1/2 of Broken Bells. Broken Bells are an indie super group, or is it super duo? Princess Padmé may have told J.D. in the movie Garden State that The Shins would change his life, but I’ve always been partial to this side project of The Shins lead singer James Mercer and Danger Mouse. Danger Mouse also moonlights as 1/2 of Gnarls Barkley and producer extraordinaire. James Mercer leads The Shins who started out as Flake Music, releasing 1 album under that moniker before The Shins released the album that changed the life of Princess Padmé. The new record leans more towards what we’ve heard from Danger Mouse, with impassioned vocals from Mr. Mercer.

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John Lydon – Psycho’s Path

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Part 44 of a series that will run throughout 2013 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

What does the term “punk” mean? The other day I was driving in my suburban neighborhood and noticed a group of teenagers hanging outside of Starbucks (Dr. Evil’s Headquarters). Does social and monetary status define how we define ourselves? It’s a difficult question to answer, really. I remember in the early 90’s when I was discovering the original punk scene I’d mock those kids who wore Rancid shirts (I probably hadn’t heard of Operation Ivy yet) and blabber on about the Sex Pistols and The Clash. An old friend recently sent me an article on The Onion from 2003 featuring a guy ranting on about how he was a true punk – cause he’d seen the 1996 Sex Pistols reunion show and how could kids in 2003 be old enough to remember that? Sigh. I was BORN in 1977.

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Curry Quiche – 1 Seed, No Leeches

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In the late 70’s / early 80’s the German electronic godfathers of electronic music – Kraftwerk – explored the joys of technology in a series of masterful records. Each blip and beep was celebrated – the sounds of a calculator became a a joyful ode in its own right. Seemingly in a world of their own, it seemed as far away from the social protest music of The Clash as you could get. The mid 90’s brought us Radiohead and their fears of the darker side of technology. #1 records and a fan base that considered (considers) themselves underground, at 10 million strong or so. These are all seemingly disparate elements – bands from a different time & place approaching different topical concerns. Fortunately Rotherham, England’s Curry Quiche have thought to take these elements and concoct them into a musical offering that is wholly original – and entrancing. Continue reading

Black Reindeer – all is good

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“a massacre of the epic – a locked-on pleasure-seeking doom-laden machine gun charge through modern society, and its intense mediocrity and distasteful recent past – beautifully massive in all departments and a right royal fuck-you fingers up to all that is top of the pops” – blurb about the new Black Reindeer album on Stephen Jones’ Bandcamp website

In the mid 90’s it seemed I was chasing down a new Britpop band every other day. It gave me a chance to feel like I was part of a scene and stand around with a few million other outsiders, secure in the knowledge that our chart topping bands were a treasured secret. In those days I relied on import magazines from the UK to give me news about up and coming bands (still do, to a lesser extent). A statement about a Babybird release in the UK music magazine Q caught my eye, comparing the act to The Divine Comedy and Neil Hannon. I made the trek to 3rd Street Jazz in Philadelphia and managed to secure an original copy of one of the 1st lo-fi albums. Nothing like The Divine Comedy to be honest – but it began a life long pursuit of buying anything Stephen Jones released. This has involved Babybird, Death of the Neighbourhood, albums released under his own name, and his latest project – Black Reindeer.

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New Order – Lost Sirens

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Families can be curious things, can’t they? One minute family members are fighting, swearing never to deal with each other again – the next, they are vowing to always be there for each other. I tend to think of New Order in those terms – off and on fighting throughout the years, extended breaks, and even break ups. Somehow, someway – they’ve always come back together to make music that was mostly inspiring. It is no secret that their previous incarnation as Joy Division (minus Gillian Gilbert / plus Ian Curtis) is one of those bands that I discovered early in my teen years and has inspired me to try and forge my own path in life. I tend to frustrate people when they ask what I think of New Order, because my stock answer has always been “I like the bits that sound like Joy Division”. Not entirely true, mind you – but fun to say. So here we are in 2013 with a “new” New Order record, 8 years after the last. The question on the tip of my tongue was “Well, is it worth it? Why bother?” The answer is a resounding yes – this is a classic New Order album (just stop with the mini-album subtitles)

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W Λ n Λ (wearenotafraid) – Flowerheads

The best instrumental music can bring back long forgotten memories, feelings of elation, and Jedi-like wisdom about the future. There is always a time and place for the singer / songwriter album or screamed aggression. But isn’t it nice to follow our thoughts to wherever they may lead us with the perfect music sans vocals? I’ve been very fortunate this year to discover quite a few instrumental electronic albums that not only hold my attention – they transport me to another world. W Λ n Λ (wearenotafraid) out of Venice, Italy  have delivered a stunning masterpiece with their latest record, Flowerheads.

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