And it’s directed by Drew Barrymore. It’s a beautiful looking four-minute recreation of West Side Story based in LA, featuring Chloe Moretnz (Kick Ass) and Tyler Posey (Teen Wolf) as star crossed lovers caught in the middle of a turf war, and it’s got a suckerpunch ending that is actually quite moving (a very rare feat for a pop promo). The song ain’t too shabby either:
Best Coast - “Our Deal”
To see the making of Best Coast’s “Our Deal” go here and you can find their album Crazy For Youhere.
Meet Ssion, the gender bending electro-punk dance band from Kansas City, led by front person Cody Critcheloe. Is Cody a man or a woman? I’m not completely sure, but it’s not important - s/he can be whatever you want hir to be. And as with other current queer artists like JD Samson, Cody likes to play with people’s traditional perceptions of style and beauty - witness the trademark combo monobrow and mustache, a pretty risqué fashion move in these anti-hair-biased times
Ssion (pronounced “shun”) are a full on audio/visual/performance-troupe well known for their live shows and support slots for the likes of Gossip and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Critcheloe has been making a respectable career as a video director on the side, working with Peaches, Liars and Scream Club. Ssion formed in Kansas in 1996 and released their first material in 2003. The band released their last album Fools Gold in 2007 and with it the full length feature film Boy which compiled all their music videos and has been described as a “gay, punk rock equivalent of Forest Gump.” Ssion have taken the step of releasing their new album Bent as a free download for a limited time, and it’s definitely worth downloading. As with Tyler the Creator’s first album Bastard, it’s surprising to hear music released for free that is of this high quality.
Make no mistake though - Bent is pop music. It’s party music, it’s designed for dancing - for those moments at a friend’s house when the sun is coming up, you’ve had a ball, but you’ve got that melancholic feeling that to quit now as it’s can’t get any better. There are shades of very early Madonna here, coupled with the classic mid-80s synth driven sound of the Pet Shop Boys and Eurodisco, all refracted through early 90s NY dance pop like Deee-Lite. Bent is basically the album the Scissor Sisters should have made by now, classy dance music stripped of the chintz (and Elton bloody John references) and honed to a sharp electro-pop point. It’s pretty damn good. So my advice to you dear readers is to let a little bit of Ssion into your life - get Bent.
Ssion - “Clown”
Ssion - “Psy-Chic”
Ssion - “Luvvbazaar”
Ssion - “Credit In The Straight World” Excellent cover of
Freddie Mercury, at Live Aid, Wembley Stadium, 1985
The package, the parcel, the meat house, the fruit basket, the lunchbox, or just plain old junk - call it what you will but the bulging male crotch has a long and noble history in popular music. From the banned-from-the-waist-down wiggling hips of Elvis Presley, to the King of Pop’s trademark grab-and-yelp, all the way up to the nut-busting, skin-tight jeans of the Kings of Leon, VPL (Visible Penis Line) has taken root as a firm fixture right at the very heart of rock’n'roll culture. Generations of hormonal girls (and even some boys) have long stared at glossy posters hanging above moistened teenage bedsheets, and sighed longingly at the thought of what mysterious pleasures lay behind the zippered fly.
Before the internet, before the iPhone, before sex tapes and the widespread consumption of free pornography, a well defined package (visible only through a thin layer of pant material) could be the making or breaking of a wannabe pop Adonis. The times may have moved on, but the crotch still holds a magnetic attraction to music fans. With that in mind, here is a selection of some of the finest packages that rock and pop have had to offer over the last half century:
One of the reasons Elvis was banned from the waist down.
Bruce Springsteen showing you who is boss.
David Bowie in Labyrinth - surely not suitable for kids?
Prince - the man, the myth, the legend.
John, Yoko & Andy engage in a 3way crotch grab. But who’s groping Yoko’s boob?
But, egads, how could I possibly have forgotten Die Antwoord?!
Destroyer is a Canadian band, but it’s also principally the work of singer/songrwiter Dan Bejar. Earlier this year Destroyer released their 11th album, called Kaputt, to a mixed reception. I kind of get why - this is an album that smells of sun tan lotion, so a mid-January release date seems a bit odd.
Ok, first off I have to admit that I am new to this band. This is worth mentioning at the start because Destroyer have been around for over a decade, have released ten albums already, and Bejar has worked with the acts Swan Lake and New Pronographers. The response to this album from the Destroyer fanbase has been mixed, as it is quite a departure from their better known sound. Some have been turned clean off it by the musical reference points (Avalon-era Roxy Music, Don Henley, Prefab Sprout, mainstream 80s soft rock, I even detect a smidgen of Enya in there). But this hasn’t put me off at all - not just because I admit to having a soft spot for that kind of thing, but because Bejar infuses the album with such a strong personality and sense of musicality that he makes it work, especially over the two final tracks that combined last more than half an hour.
If there was one word I would use to describe this record, it’s “Balearic”. The longest-running myth about the British dance scene is that in 1987 a group of DJs went on holiday to Ibiza, discovered ecstasy, and returned to London to start the acid house revolution. The problem with that is that the renowned DJs in Ibiza at the time were not really playing acid house - they played a mixture of different genres that all tended to fall under the British umbrella term “Balearic” (after the group of islands of which Ibiza is a part). In essence “Balearic” was anything that sounded good on a beach, and in practise this could include some music that dance snobs and music purists would find reprehensible (Chris Rea, The Blow Monkeys, etc).
To me Kaputt captures the essence of those musics perfectly. It’s music for lazing around on sunny summer holidays, for playing on the drive to the beach, or after the barbecue. It’s a perfect post-club record too, as the tracks blend seamlessly into one another bringing to mind a more 80s sounding Air, all held together by Bejar’s unique songwriting and delivery. If there is any justice, this will get picked up by dance fans as their new classic comedown soundtrack.
I just thought I’d put up a few under-viewed clips of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark performing on Top Of The Pops in the early 80s—why the hell not? I know we have a few fans lurking out there amongst the readers (and writers) and these could do with a few more views. I have a confession to make though—OMD pretty much passed me by until very recently. I dunno why that is to be honest. Maybe it’s the glut of other early synth bands from the same period whose back catalogs I was more urgent to check out. Maybe it’s my vague hazy childhood memories of the band being that they were not particularly cool. Maybe it’s the connections I can see now between OMD and the haunted Ariel Pink/John Maus sound casting the band in a new light. Whatever. I don’t wanna question it too much. I just wanna enjoy:
OMD - “Souvenir” (live on TOTP)
OMD - “Messages” (live on TOTP)
After the jump “Genetic Engineering”, “Joan Of Arc” and “Maid Of Orleans”
Farris Badwan is lead singer of the British psyche-garage troupe The Horrors, and Cat’s Eyes is his new project, co-founded with the London-based Canadian opera soprano Rachel Zeffira. The pair’s debut album, cunningly titled Cat’s Eyes, has just been released on Polydor, following up their debut Broken Glass EP which came out in January, and it’s really rather good.
What the duo are doing is nothing we haven’t seen before, but they do it very well. Take the dark romanticism of male/female duos like Nancy & Lee, Isobel & Mark, even Kylie & Nick, filter it through the girl-group and 60s pop lens of Phil Spector and inject it with occasional jolts of psyche-rock and you pretty much get the picture. What a lovely picture that is too, a balance of light and shade, of anger and tenderness blended to perfection by veteran producer Steve Osbourne.
Cat’s Eyes is not the first Horror’s off-shoot band. That honor would go to Spider And The Flies, which is Rhys and Tom experimenting with analog synths and Joe Meek-esque production techniques. That too is really good, and floats my particular boat very much. I have to admit I was really wary of the Horrors when the emerged about 5 years ago - I took one look at their haircuts and goth-dandy stylings and dismissed them straight away as another “fashion” act. Their music blew me away though, keeping alive the heavy sleaze-garage vibes of one of my favorite bands from the 90s, Gallon Drunk. Their Primary Colours album from 2009 (produced by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow) took their sound in a more psychedelic/shoegaze direction and straight to the top of the NME’s best albums of the year poll. Now The Horrors have just announced a short string of UK dates for this summer, and their official website says they are currently in the studio.
I eagerly await what they do next, but in the meantime am more than happy to make do with Cat’s Eyes, who have more info (and some free MP3s) at the Cat’s Eyes website. The album Cat’s Eyes is available to buy on Amazon now, here’s a taste of what’s on offer:
Cat’s Eyes - “Face In The Crowd”
Cat’s Eyes - “The Best Person I Know”
Cat’s Eyes - “Cat’s Eyes”
Cat’s Eyes - “When My Baby Comes” (Grinderman cover)
Steve Moore is one half of the band Zombi, who create excellent synth-drenched soundscapes heavily influenced by prog rock and 70s/80s Italian horror movie soundtracks. But that’s not all he does—no, this incredibly prolific artist also records under a variety of names such as Lovelock, Titan and Gianni Rossi and has worked with a dizzying array of highly respected labels. He now has another band to add to that list, Miracle, a more vocal-based, almost poppy project which sees Moore working with Daniel O’Sullivan of the band Guapo. Their latest release is the Fluid Window EP on the House Anxiety label (who have previously released music by The Big Pink). Miracle recently made a video for the EP’s lead track “The Visitor” (below) and have made another track, “Sunstar”, available as a free download via Pitchfork.
As synth-pop goes, this is good. I mean really, really good. In the age of lots of pretenders to the synth-pop throne (La Roux, Hurts, Mirrors, Villa Nah, etc) Miracle sound like the real deal. It’s not just because of the synth fetishism on display here (giving Miracle an instant edge over most modern producers’ software based production), but because their music is positively soaked in atmosphere. It’s very easy nowadays to download a free analog synth emulator, sing over an arpeggiator and pretend to be Depeche Mode. What’s much harder is to capture the melancholy longing in those seminal 80s records—the longing to escape gray modernity into a better future, but with a tinge of fear for the darkness that future might hold. Miracle obviously know what they are doing because “The Visitor” sounds like the best Depeche Mode single since around 1988.
Here are two posts in a row featuring mixes by Manchester acts to brighten up your Monday morning. The first is by the city’s long running Chips With Everything club night, whose music policy is as Catholic as their choice of side dish is conventional. This covers psyche-rock, bliss-pop, rays of West Coast sunshine, and various different shades of the kosmiche spectrum. It’s lurrrvley.
10cc - Worst Band in the World
Giorgio - Tears
David Earle Johnson / Jan Hammer - Juice Harp
Top Drawer - Song of a Sinner
Emperor Machine - Bodilizer Bodilizer
Pearl Harbor - Luv Goon
Eternity’s Children - Mr Bluebird
Dusty Springfield - I Just Can’t Wait to See my baby’s face
ELO - Showdown
The Time and Space Machine - River Theme
Rotary Connection - Amen
The Trees Community - Psalm 46
Von Spar - Collecting Natural Antimatter
Delphine - La Fermeture éclair
Rita Monico - Thrilling (Main Theme)
This little jazz-psyche jam is perfect for a cold, dark and rainy Sunday afternoon. At least, that’s what it’s like here in Manchester, but I bet it goes well with the sunshine too. Or any weather state actually.
If you don’t know Momus, he’s a pretty legendary Scottish indie music figure who has been around since the mid-Eighties. He’s been associated with record labels like Postcard, Cherry Red and Creation. He keeps a great blog, with some very interesting articles and all his latest news, at imomus.
This track is from his last album Hypnoprism (2010, Anagram Records) and features keys from Ben Butler (him again!). Interestingly, Momus made a video for each of the tunes from the LP, and uploaded them one by one, as they were finished, to his YouTube account.
The rest of the album, in video form, is after the jump:
The man who helped usher black pop music into the future turned 52 years old today. With rumor of a new album entitled Androgynine due for release this month, it’s a fitting occasion to harvest his Wikipedia entry for some of the odd and maddening details of his life:
• Prince was named after his [pianist] father, whose stage name was Prince Rogers, and who performed with a jazz group called the Prince Rogers Trio. In a 1991 interview with A Current Affair, Prince’s father said, “I named my son Prince because I wanted him to do everything I wanted to do.”
• Prince’s childhood nickname was Skipper.
• In a PBS interview Prince told Tavis Smiley that he was “born epileptic” and “used to have seizures” when he was young. During the interview Prince also said that “my mother told me one day I walked in to her and said, ‘Mom, I’m not going to be sick anymore,’ and she said ‘Why?’ and I said ‘Because an angel told me so.’ “
• After Tipper Gore heard her 12-year-old daughter Karenna listening to Prince’s song “Darling Nikki”, she founded the Parents Music Resource Center…[which] advocated the mandatory use of a warning label (“Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics”) on the covers of records that have been judged to contain language or lyrical content unsuitable for minors.
• Prince was set to release [The Black Album] with a complete monochromatic black cover with only the catalog number printed, but at the last minute, even though 500,000 copies had been pressed, Prince had a spiritual epiphany that the album was evil and had it recalled, although it would later be released by Warner Bros. as a limited edition album in 1994.
• Prince became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2001 following a two-year-long debate with friend and fellow Jehovah’s Witness, musician Larry Graham. Prince said he didn’t consider it a conversion, but a “realization”; “It’s like Morpheus and Neo in The Matrix”, he explained. He attends meetings at a local Kingdom Hall and occasionally knocks on people’s doors to discuss his new faith. Prince has reportedly needed double-hip-replacement surgery since 2005 but won’t undergo the operation unless it is a bloodless surgery because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions.
• At the 2008 Coachella Music Festival, Prince performed a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”, but immediately after he forced YouTube and other sites to remove footage that fans had taken of the performance, despite Radiohead’s demand for it to remain on the website. Days later, YouTube reinstated the videos, while Radiohead claimed “it’s our song, let people hear it.” In 2009, Prince put the video of that Coachella performance on his website LotusFlow3r.com.
Here’s the man himself talking chemtrails, prophesy, and various other nonsequitors: