Monthly Archives: November 2010

431. Kaiser Chiefs – “Employment”

As mentioned somewhere else here, I have shown sporadic interest in bands who might fall under the Britpop banner.

I was an enthusiastic fan(to varying degrees) of the Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets and the Wonderstuff .  I did own some Blur on cassette, and eventually picked up some Oasis.

I less au fait with the more recent aspirants to Britpop royalty. I missed the Arctic Monkeys bus somewhat. I was there early on for the Kaiser Chiefs however.  Perhaps it was their clever decision to name themselves after a South African soccer franchise, but mostly likely it was the gushing praise they received in the press upon birth.

The praise was justified, as these guys cornered the market for wryly intelligent power pop for a few moments, conjuring up images of the Kinks, along with their more recent brethren.  The songs go well with a pint, and would get many a bad-haircutted pasty lad onto a dancefloor:

As is often the case with debuts, this CD has an abundance of clever, original singles.  Indeed, a more experienced or jaded band might have spread the ideas more thinly from song to song. Oh My God is a surprisingly slow build single for example:

There’s enough on this album to reignite a British bromance…

File under: Good job lads

430. K’Naan – “The Dusty Foot Philosopher”

Not surprisingly a number of my reviews begin with some variation of “I was at a festival and spied…”.  I say not surprising, because discovering new acts is very much a festival raison d’être for me.

K’Naan well and truly fits that bill.  A few days in at a Bluesfest we sort refuge at a smallish indoor tent and were mightily impressed by this Somalian Canadian fellow and his wicked rhyming.

This album captures much of what delighted us.  As K’Naan makes clear on the standout What’s Hardcore? track, his experiences in war-torn Mogadishu makes the gangsta tales from the First World pale in comparison:

K’Naan showcases a real breadth of skills and styles on here.  He shifts from pared back a capella and spoken word pieces, to much more bombastic rocky numbers.  He isn’t afraid to break into song. His roots in poetry and more traditional African music (of course, rapping shares these roots) are apparent.

This is hip-hop at its story-telling best.  It is not a ‘background music’ album, but rather a strong testament to the spread and power of the hip-hop format.

File under: Digging this philosopher’s tome

429. Various Artists – “The Jungle Book” (soundtrack)

The discussion of children’s records reminded me I’d missed a J LP.

When flicking through record racks in second-hand stores, I find it very, very hard to resist old vinyl gems like this.

The 1968 Disney film is a very fond memory from my childhood, particularly because of the antics of that big bear Baloo:

That dance with the tree is probably something that wouldn’t get past the prudish studio types these days.

This album, which only has nine tracks pulled straight from the film (dialogue and all), showcases the audacity of this film. It is filled with swinging bebop explorations, skatting, Gilbert & Sullivan-esque nonsense and class commentary, some lovely orchestration and one of the funniest Beatles impersonations you’ll ever hear (as hippie vultures no less).

It is a reminder that Pixar didn’t invent animation that adults could delight in, and that such films can be made without any use of Elton John or Randy Newman.

In the end it all gets down to the sheer brilliance of that big bear, however’… and one ranga I’d definitely vote for:

File under: Forget about your worries and your strife

428. Kasey Chambers, Poppa Bill And The Little Hillbillies – “Little Kasey Chambers and The Lost Music”

One last pre-K review (actually, I’ve just remembered another J I own – so this is second last!).

I am without children, so I am typically spared the perils of navigating the murky world of children’s music, bedevilled as it is with much that is cloying, aggravating, embarrassing and downright painful.

Sure, there a little nuggets of gold courtesy of them fine folks at CTW (oh, and a J record I should go fish out!), but I am spared all the merchandising masquerading as music that seems to clutter the lounges of so many parents I know.

Nevertheless, I somehow thought it would be a good idea to check out this little ‘family album’ from Kasey, her Dad, and various of their infant family members.

I played it  once upon purchase, shelved it, and was only reminded of its existence by Kasey’s newie, and also seeing Bill and KC performing a track off here (Dad, Do You Remember?) live on stage.

Put succinctly, this album has far too many tracks featuring children singing. They can hold a rhythm quite well, and the sentiments are sweet and well-intentioned (I’d think divorced parents might find Two Houses a useful counselling tool), but there are too few straight ahead country numbers. The title track ain’t bad though:

There are also a lot of mentions of Aussie fauna. I’m guessing it’d work for the 3-6 year old market, and while I am immature, I’m not that spritely.

File under: A Christmas pressie for the little jackaroo/jillaroo in your family?

 

427. Justin Townes Earle – “Harlem River Blues”

Some E action before we get to K…

We’re currently watched the new New Orleans based TV series from the ‘Wire’ gang – ‘Treme’ – and rejoicing in its musical focus.  A thrill from episode 4 was the sight of Justin Townes Earle and his facially hirsute pa Steve, playing the role of French Quarter buskers.

In a perfect world, every single person watching the show would have been going ‘there’s Justin’ in the fashion I was.  This young man should be a superstar of the first order.

This, his third album, continues his evolution into a fully fledged member of my country 1st class (i.e. alongside Lucinda, Gillian, Johnny Cash, Steve, Hank…).

While in the past I’ve lauded the ‘olde worlde’ skills of JTE, on this record he strides more confidently into the latter part of the 20th century.  There is much less bluegrass, replaced by warm, occasionally gospel-like tunes.

The title track is a ripper, with a surprisingly upbeat suicidal narrative. There’s a luscious lament to lost love in NZ (Christchurch Girl). And he plays to my love of railway-songs onWorkin’ for the MTA.

To sense the progress the Son-of-Steve has made, check him wandering confidently into R&B land (eventually, the song kicks in at about 1:30 min mark):

JTE’s on his way down under again in March 2011 (for the Golden Plains festival, but hopefully playing sideshows aplenty).  Go see him (I’ll be stalking him in NYC not long after).

File under: The third time’s a charm

426. Kasey Chambers – “Little Bird”

Here’s another recent purchase.

There was much excitement around our abode at the news of a new Chambers album.  Here is an artist who unites my wife, my mother-in-law and I in mutual admiration.

I was surprised, once I thought about it, how long it’d been since a genuine solo Chambers album. She’d been off collaborating (very successfully) with her hubbie, and also did a children’s album I need to review also.

I’d call this CD a return to form, if it wasn’t for the fact that KC hasn’t really dropped the ball along the way.  Instead this album should be seen as the latest installment in her evolution, whole also capturing much of where she’s been before.

It is an unashamedly country album, but with a modern-pop twist when it takes her fancy. She rocks out superbly on a couple of tracks (Train Wreck is a standout), but also experiments with some old-time bluegrass on a track you’d swear she dug up from some traditional songbook (Georgia Brown – she also reworks the tailend of  Train Wreck into a banjo-fuelled tune).

Not everything works. Nullarbor is too cloyingly twee for my liking, but I’ll accept some misjudged indulgences, because Kasey doesn’t need or like to be told what to do (as the title track proclaims):

File under: Another feather in her cap/stetson

425. Grinderman – “Grinderman”

Before we launch into the letter K, I need to catch you up on some recent purchases from the land of A-J.

Album cover CD grinderman debut Nick Cave review no pussy bluesDespite my pretty extensive Nick Cave collection, I was slow to jump on the Grinderman side-project. It was only when the band’s second album came out last month that I picked this up going cheap at JB HiFi. And was just the sort of raw rock I’d been looking for.

Over the years, I’ve found great joy in the moments when Nick and his highly talented buddies have reminded us that they can let it all hang out, that there doesn’t need to be too much structure, control or pretence to their sonic adventures.  The sheer number of band members, and instruments (especially that piano) have made that a very tough balancing act in Bad Seed land.

The Grinderman set-up with its stripped line-up, and Nick on guitar, allows a lot more free-form, balls out, garage rock.  It’s all rather rough and ready, but with that trademark Cave (and maybe Warren Ellis’ influence) tongue in cheek.

The song-writing (and tone) here has me thinking that Tex Perkins just realised that Nick could be him without trying very hard at all. Indeed, Tex has never delivered a song this good (and this ain’t the best track on the album):

File under: No pretence blues

J = Just a sweet sixteen

J has flashed past me in a similar fashion to my youth, too fast but with little to really regret.

Here’s the top 10 albums from the 16 in this section of my collection:

  1. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – “Naturally”
  2. Janis Joplin – “Pearl”
  3. JaConfetti –“Rainbow Express”
  4. Junior Senior – “D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat”
  5. Robert Johnson – “King of the Delta Blues Singers”
  6. Jane’s Addiction – “Ritual De Lo Habitual”
  7. Syl Johnson – “The Complete Syl Johnson On Hi Records”
  8. Jet – “Get Born”
  9. Etta James – “The Best of…”
  10. Matt Johnson – “Burning Blue Soul”

A victorious effort for the ladies it would seem.

Getting all Web 2.01, I’m launching a new angle: tell me (via Comments) the top 3 albums in the J category that I should own but don’t (and why).  Feel free to go back and comment on previous letters too (click on “Not a Review” under CATEGORIES to see my earlier lists).

I’ll shut out the Js with a clip of a single I do own (perhaps the sentiment is a promise re: this blog and it’s quality):

424. Junior Senior – “D-D-Don’t Don’t Stop the Beat”

As promised, the letter J has been bookended by a pair of Danish pop duos.

There is no long-winded tale of discovery here.  I was just one of the many people who succumbed to being bombarded by the power tracks from this highly contagious bundle of disco-targetted fluff.

There is so much to love about this CD.  The cover perfectly captures the content, which is all neon and bubbly, and inducing of much arm-waving and other silly gestures.

Sitting around at home today reading through academic articles has not been the ideal setting for this collection of tracks.  This is a Saturday night album (or whatever evening it is that the kids do their thang these days).

It is helium-like in its upbeat-ness. The songs have that breathy, rushed jolliness that so few bands manage (think B-52s), over a great set of rhythms.

The two lads obviously have very short attention spans, as they jump from one floor filler to another, chanting choruses that anyone/everyone will yell along to (while ignoring that glam poppers like Sherbet and Bay City Rollers were onto this schtick in the mid-70s).

Somehow, the duo do find time within the 32-or-so minutes to manage to produce a hilarious Dylan meets Beach Boys meets Oasis hybrid on Shake Me Baby.

In the end everyone bought this album for Move Your Feet and it was worth every cent:

File under: Move your feet to your local music retailer

423. Jungle Brothers – “VIP”

Way back before Al Gore invented the internet and digital music, I owned two fantastic albums from the Jungle Brothers on a medium known as the cassette (a.k.a. tape).

These were the first full-lengthers in the JBs’ long career – ‘Straight Out the Jungle’ and ‘Done By the Forces of Nature’. Both were an innovative mix of hip-hop and house music, coupled with a ‘black and proud’ Africanistic thing. They were a distinctive companion pieces to the works of De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest.

This here CD was released more than a decade later, and hits none of the cassettes’ heights.  The JBs’ earlier experiments with the house and dance genres are expanded, as they hook up with a Propellerhead.  This means loads more simplistic chanting than warranted, a higher level of repetition, and very little quality rhyming.

That is not to say this is a tough listen.  It’s all very light and breezy, and you’d have a better than 50:50 chance of getting folks dancing with the majority of the tracks.  The jazz crossover on Get Down is closest to their classic material:

And here’s one of their old gems (as a reminder to myself to go shopping for those two albums on CD):

File under: What does the V stand for? And the I?…