Today I listened to Add N To (X)' 2002 album Loud Like Nature. A year after this came out the band split up. I miss them. Over the course of 5 albums they developed from cold, analogue synth porn fetishists into something deeper and warmer and more psychedelic. I love their use of electronics as rock instrument. Lots of electronic bands "rock", but these guys (OK, two guys and a girl) crafted shredding electro punk that hit me in a way that no one else did. I dug how they gradually morphed their style, and for me Loud Like Nature was their peak. When it came out I was amazed that it didn't generate more buzz/airplay/sales. The record is a dense, trippy soundscape that goes from Gary Glitter stomp to nightmarish soundtrack music. In between is sandwiched downtempo hippy grooves, screaming punk rock and experimental art pop. It is an engaging and challenging listen. I think its pretty catchy too. Here it is five years on from it's release and I'm still playing it. Here are three prime examples why...
Chaka Khan is set to release a new album next Tuesday. Funk This is a collection of new songs and covers, all produced by Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. Where 2004's Classikhan was a set of songbook standards backed up by the London Symphony Orchestra, this set is a return to the r'n'b and funk of her 30 year past. Who better than Jam & Lewis to make it all sound good. And sound good it does. The vibe is old school but sounds very 2007. The originals are funky and gritty (the duet with Mary J. Blige), and there are some nice ballads (including leadoff single Angel). Then there are the covers. She mashes up a couple of old Rufus songs on Pack'd My Bags/You Got The Love which also features Rufus guitarist Tony Maiden. She covers her peers - Joni Mitchell's Ladies Man and Carly Simon's You Belong To Me (a duet with Michael McDonald). The influences are where I'm really feeling Chaka, as she takes on Hendrix' Castles Made Of Sand and Prince's Sign O' The Times. The Hendrix tune is smoking, with lots of dreamy backtracked guitar and a wailing solo. Chaka lets the vocals smoulder, and it really suits the song. The Prince song hits all the right notes and sounds fantastic. It's a no brainer really, with Jam & Lewis having been in on the Minneapolis sound since the get go. Chaka gets in the big vocal workout, and it's glorious hearing her multitracked. This album is a really welcome return for Chaka, and it will be interesting to see if it gets press/airplay/chart success. Go buy it next week.
I've had some time to tinker with the blog today so I updated the blog roll. A bunch of you have disappeared, stopped posting or no longer link to me. Today I bid you (the dead links) a fond farewell...
I got this Manu Chao live in concert mp3 in the inbox this week from Because Music. Very enjoyable.
Simon over at Spoilt Victorian Child Records sent me a couple of absolutely blazing tunes from a forthcoming self titled EP by Texas quartet Ringo Deathstarr. The EP is available as a download tomorrow from the SVC site, then hits CD and the other digital retailers on October 29th. If you love the JAMC and MBV then you will love these offerings.
I've been a bit negligent around here lately, so here's a funky playlist of the hotness to brighten your weekend. Here's the line-up; Kanye cops Steely Dan's Kid Charlemagne. A US bonus track from SMD shows the synthpop spirit of the early '80s Human League/Yellow Magic Orchestra living on. A remix from the Midnight Juggernauts bonus disc strips it down to the gnarly bass riff. Chaka and Mary J. battle it out over a rhythm track that Beyoncé or Amerie would love. The Go! Team is an old school electro remix from the US bonus disc. Enjoy.
Manu Chao is back with a new album called La Radiolina. The former leader of Mano Negra ("the French Clash") has taken six years to follow up 2001's Próxima Estación... Esperanza. That album was stylistically similar to its predecessor Clandestino, a nomadic anarchist's journey through Latin, dub, reggae, rock and folk music, all mixed up with Manu's political messages about the state of the world. Neither of the albums rocked in tradition of classic Mano Negra. La Radiolina takes that into account, and is a welcome return to a more rocktacular Manu. Lyrically he is still political, ranting against Bush and being a humble spokesman for the impoverished of the world. Several musical motifs reappear throughout the album, and his vocals remain impassioned and worldly. Minimalist rockers, blues jams and folk songs are given a sonic makeover as all kinds of noises burst out of the background. It is a heady, urgent call to action on a gobal scale. The first three songs on the record are a great indicator of what your getting into, so listen up and then go and get a copy of this for yourself. You won't regret it.
Prefab Sprout's second album Steve McQueen would probably make it onto a list of my top 25 favorite records of all time. Originally released in 1985 and produced by Thomas Dolby, it has been remastered (by Dolby) and paired with a second disc of newly recorded acoustic versions. The reason I checked out this album in the first place was because of Dolby's participation, and I remain glad that I did. It is a lush, dreamy album of pop songs detailing love and heartbreak. Singer/songwriter Paddy McAloon's influences range from Broadway show tunes to the '60s pop of the Brill Building writers to Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello. You get the idea - sharp, literary and musically complex. According to the liner notes this is really Dolby's album; "I gave him a huge collection of songs (some dating back as far as 1976), and almost all of the ones he picked were written in 1979, long before Swoon (the band's debut). I had no opportunity to test out any of my ideas about layers of sound. I had to get somebody who knew about that, someone on the technical side who was also a good keyboard player." Dolby fits the bill to a T, with his trademark synth sounds and production suiting the melancholy of the songs perfectly. And what songs! Bonny, Appetite, When Love Breaks Down, Goodbye Lucille #1, filled with sharp emotion and even sharper melodies, the kind of songs that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up and you arms gooseflesh-y. My brother and I once had a discussion about this album and we determined that it's first 6 songs (side A of the vinyl version of the album) make it one of the best "sides" ever produced in pop music. I still think this true.
When Dolby was working on the remaster last year he wrote on his blog "I am in Los Angeles remastering Prefab Sprout’s second album ‘Steve McQueen’ which I produced for them in 1985. It sounds INSANELY good. Many writers and music afficionados list this among their top LPs of all time, and listening to it for the first time years, I have to agree. Even if I was objective, I would agree. It’s a stunner! The fact it was never successful in America is one of the greatest crimes in living memory. Paddy McAloon’s voice; those chunky guitar lines interweaving with soaring piano; Neil Conti’s tastful drum grooves; Martin’s melodic, inside-out bass; and Wendy Smith’s breathy bittersweet harmonies, all combined in a magic formula that was at once soulful and challenging. If you never heard this album, I urge you to seek it out. You won’t regret it. And, if you like my music, please know that you don’t have a complete overview unless you own this album and 1990’s ‘Jordan: The Comeback’–because these two works are as close to my heart as anything I’ve ever put out under my own name."
Dolby's remaster suits the record well and was a great choice for the project. His familiarity with the material makes it easy for him to preserve the vision of the original. The accompanying disc of acoustic remakes strips all of the production, focusing on the songs themselves, and some of the versions are arranged quite differently. I love these songs, and its cool to hear the difference, but I think I will always prefer the album versions. Today I share two of the most swooningly gorgeous songs ever, and I heartily recommend that you go out and pick up this remaster for yourself!