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Album Review: Scouting For Girls – Scouting for Girls

 
By on Wednesday, 10th September 2008 at 12:36 pm
 

Since Scouting For Girls exploded out of radio speakers with the likes of ‘Elvis Ain’t dead’ and ‘She’s So Lovely’ the piano has experienced a new found fame in the pop world. The way Roy Stride uses the piano as though it was an extension of his very person is what makes each track so very infectious. There is no way one can remain seated in the presence of such energetic reliance on the keys to accentuate his happy, slightly rasping lyrical delivery; add that to the sumptuous strumming of Greg Churchouse on the bass and the oh so hungry domination of the drums by Peter Ellard and you have a recipe for musical addiction.

Once it is understood that the band’s aim is to get you addicted you realise that variety is not necessarily essential rather; repetitive, recitable rhyming sets are vital, once you have that all you need is for the instrumental delivery to be fuelled by an unparalleled hunger and the masses will bow down, and bow down they did. Each and every single is an infectious blend of key-fingering, capable bass handling and dominating drum delivery, unfortunately they all sound very similar. Not necessarily the same but the formulaic set of ingredients does not allow for deviation and so the pop trio don’t even try to test the waters, but hey if it isn’t broken, what’s there to fix?

Ultimately if you are seeking out the next best driving album, this one should definitely be part of the selection, your muscles itch to jump and run around as though you’ve scored the winning England goal. With the sour state of affairs at the minute, such an album is not only a breath of fresh air but a canister of the stuff, ready to deliver each and every time on each and every track. You can slap this CD and spin around the front room with your Nan and know it won’t offend, similarly you can leave the album on while your 3 year old does their colouring and know they won’t be reciting any questionable lyrics.

It’s not an album that is all about the diction, nor is it all about the music, it appears to be all about the delivery and they get it right every time, perhaps this is why some have slated the group, their overload on happiness even when the words being sung should be tugging at your heart strings, the guitar strings just won’t let you lose that smile. The ‘ooh whee ‘ backing vocals on started on ‘She’s So Lovely’ forcing your mind back to the days of Cliff Richard and the Beach Boys and summers ‘On the Busses’, continues through onto ‘It’s Not About You’ and you know what it doesn’t get tiring, unless of course you are trying to sit in staunch seriousness.

All in all this album like a few other pop sensations at the minute, not taking itself too seriously and by doing so they have been able to approach the creative process with a carefree nature which reverberates throughout the songs and continues to do so throughout ones senses whether they want them to or not. There should be a warning on the CD’s case about the addictive nature of the contents within, that it should be played with caution as once you have succumbed you will not be able to get the tunes out of your head and lord forgive you if you don’t know the lyrics as humming and ‘dum dum dee-ing’ will no doubt get you some funny and no doubt annoyed looks!

 

Album Review: Kid Rock – Rock n Roll Jesus

 
By on Tuesday, 9th September 2008 at 1:13 pm
 

Kid Rock hasn’t ever really shone on our side of the pond, well not for his musical capabilities, more or his rumping, humping and to-ing and fro-ing with Pamela Anderson, so having his video plastered all over the music box is somewhat of a shock to our systems. That said is not quite unpleasant, it is in fact an enjoyable diversion to the modern pop that repeatedly floats over the airwaves. By leaving the fluffy, simple Simon lyrics to the other genre merging artists out there, he gives his listeners a chance to ponder with him on some of the more serious topics out there.

This is apparent on his track ‘Amen’ where the line “our nation’s race relations got me feeling guilty for being white” shows that there is more depth to him than singing swinging and being merry with the ladies. It continues onto the chart topping ‘All Summer Long’ which is a light hearted reflection on yester year’s innocence; you have to smile at the line “we were trying different things and smoking funny things”, surely that is the true essence of the adult summer holidays.

By the time you reach ‘Roll On’ you realise that there is true diversity on this album, his soft nature seeps through on this track as his mellow gruffness serenades your ears. This song is appears to be a reflection of his current person; seasoned on the spices of life with a splash of old school rock fusions making for a well rounded, capable artist able to marry all the ‘best bits of music’. He won’t even allow the song to finish on a low note, the sax and the piano both battling out to reach the listeners soul on the deepest chord.

If you think this is an album that sees him turn his back on his rock beginnings you’d be sorely mistaken, you just have to listen to ‘So Hott’ to realise that lines like “I want to f**k you like I’m never gonna see you again” will always be present on a Kid Rock album. How can you deny the skill of someone that isn’t afraid to insert “Nazi” into a song and follow up with the ability to rhyme it with “yahtzee” and finally “paparazzi”? If lyrical dexterity of such clear calibre does not get your juices flowing and you then perhaps the slower more sensual ‘When you love someone’ is more your cup of tea with its choir style conclusion adding once again another dimension to Rock’s repertoire.

The same can be said of ‘New Orleans’, what a wonderful fusion of jazz, blues, soft rock and country essences. This song quite literally lifts your spirits and your derriere from its current position and places it a good few feet notches higher. It is jam city central on this track and you gotta join in, if only with a shoulder shimmy or two. The spirit and soul in this song is undeniable and of all the songs on the album this is probably the one that is most likely to get the household up and forming their own air band, complete with ‘screw-faced’ air guitar recitals and furious drum pounding with those professional yet imaginary sticks.

After such energy you have to wipe the sweat off your brow and get ready for the heavy bass lined ‘Don’t Tell me U Love Me’, a mellow yet powerful medley of intermittent scratching and choir-clappy song that leaves the listener somewhat baffled as to what genre box to place. Admitting defeat, it falls into the simple box of ‘good-song genre’ as there really is no definitive genre e-fit for it. Kid Rock’s ability to fuse so many different sounds has been called comical by some, I think he displays the ingredients of a truly classic album and artist. There is no way one can review this album without giving ‘Half Your Age’ its just dues, this country inspired comical slur on Pamela Anderson is a hilarious listen, refreshingly honest with possibly the chorus-anthem highlighting the plight and desires of all men; “she’s half your age and twice as hot”.

Any album that can catapult you back to yesteryear with a smile on your face, fast forward it to the consciousness of today’s woes with determination and grit. All the while scaffolding interesting and intriguing lyrics on a melee of beats, guitar grime, pristine piano playing and an all natural feel that is unrivalled by many other artists.

 

Album Review: The Ting Tings – We Started Nothing

 
By on Monday, 25th August 2008 at 7:11 pm
 

I am decidedly torn on the Ting Tings album, their debut album We Started Nothing is by no means their first attempt to break into the pop world. Katie White the female ‘ting’, has tried her luck before with girl group TKO but was painfully rejected. Her second attempt was part of the three piece ensemble that was Dear Eskiimo, a group that also had the other ‘ting’ Jules De Martino but once again they were kicked to the curb.

The Ting TingsSomeone up there in executive music land must have been smiling, no grinning down on these two, for they refused to lie down, the heavy artillery that Columbia records pulled out for these two was more than impressive, Mike Pickering and the US super heavy weight producer Rick Rubin came together and were able to persuade the duo that they had something that no other pop band on any shore had to offer. To be fair they were right, you throw in some Bjork style catchy annoyance, add a pinch, no throw in a bucket load of subliminal repetition and the pot that is the Ting Tings has started to bubble. The recipe is far from over, some random lyrics that despite all reasoning are still able to penetrate your mind’s enjoyment sphere and you find your shoulder twitching, at this point all is nearly lost, the Ting Ting’s revolution is close to completion.

As the CD spins away in your machine, you find you want to join in, you want to scream at the thinking part of you that is trying to reel you away from the edge of reason after all in which lyrical world is a verse starting and ending with “don’t you be a traffic light” followed by one that does the same with “don’t you be a round-a-bout” considered good music, when the lines between barely amount to audio fluff? And yet, I repeat and yet, your feet are shuffling and doing a slide that is reminiscent to a toddler trying to avoid a puddle because even your muscle fibres are refusing to adhere to your conscious commands. Herein lies the genius of the Ting Tings, their music is an abolition of reason, it’s a return to the simplistic days of early teen-dom, where music was about jumping around your bedroom while thrashing your head in all directions.

To attempt to dissect this album using conventional literary mediums, after all they have inserted the lyrics on the album sleeve will leave you with nothing but question marks and a vacuous region where substance should reside. It’s quite simply pop, it grows on you like bacteria on cheese, the flip side of bacteria is when its properties are harnessed you get Yakult the friendly bacteria that does your stomach a host of good! Can the same be said of your senses, unfortunately yes, or fortunately so if you’ve shelled out the £8 odd pounds for the musical coaster as despite the annoyingly repetitive nature of every song on the album it does force you to crack a smile and send you back to a simpler time when all things were settled with a bag of sweets and a marble.

 

Album Review: The Elementalists – Crazed Maniac

 
By on Tuesday, 19th August 2008 at 5:33 pm
 

The Elementalists‘ fusion as a group is really apparent in their album ‘Crazed Maniac’, the beautiful blend of hip hop grime, rock, with a sweet synthesis of electronic extras and a set of decks thrown in for good measure does beautiful things to one’s senses. From the outset the listener’s attention is captured, starting with the tongue in cheek ‘Talk to the hand’ all the way through to the dark gothic sounds of ‘Reel 68’ the group are able to maintain not only their hunger for the right fusion of each member’s efforts but do the same for their audience.

One literally sits on the edge of their seat with ears pricked, eagerly anticipating the next guitar solo from the more than capable Stu Brew. And when their not being tickled by his fingering of his instrument, Brew’s sweet delectable strumming compliment the lyrical delivery of the lead vocalist Elmo to form a musical marriage to be proud of. The mêlée of musical moment makers sets this album up as well as the group for hopefully a wonderful future.

The soft rock style of their second song ‘Bad Times’, shows another dimension to Elmo’s vocal capabilities, highlighting to their audience that he is more than your run of the mill UK mc trying to ‘make a difference’ with his lyrical ability. He caresses the track with raspy chords and choruses until he is ready to hand the baton over to KRL on the decks, who handles them well for a brief minute before inviting the whole group to join in the jam session. In an instant you are thrust into a jazz infused bar, and your foot starts a tapping and soon after you notice your head is nodding hard to the beat that speeds and slows until it reaches its final crescendo.

I love the line in ‘Crazed Maniac’ – “wearing corduroy even though a new style of jeans is in”. possibly sums up the approach of the group as a whole, they are far from conventional, streets away from the nearest, grime, meets soft rock, greets jazz, says hi to blues and please don’t forget the introduction of synthesised sounds concoction out there. The list of sounds included on this album is a testament that there really are no conventional boxes to squish this group into, the minute you get comfortable with an approach, take the soft infusion of jazz and blues on ‘Pills’ and before you know it your senses are being rocketed out of their comfort zone and catapulted into the dark grime and gothic sounds of ‘Reel 68’.

Within this song, you are left not quite knowing what to do with your listening faculties, do you allow the guitar bass and swishing drum beats soothe your person or are you chilled to the bone by the manic laughter that manages to crawl all over your senses. Just as you are about to decide an infusion of blues style guitar strumming is introduced to the track and your body is jolted up by the concerto of dramatic yet directed drumming, accompanied by some serious deck manipulation. There is no opportunity to rest on your laurels with this track, your senses are forever being manipulated, your preconceptions challenged and by the end of the listening experience, all you can do is sit back, exhale and then start again.

Very few albums can be listened all the way through, let alone be put on repeat just to catch what you missed the first time around. Their hunger resonates throughout each track, the question in anticipation of their next album is; whether they plan to iron out these kinks that are somewhat reminiscent of the classic crackle you hear on an old school LP. Rather than hold on to their hunger and harness its energy will they favour for a smoother sound?

 

Album Review: Estelle’s Shine

 
By on Thursday, 14th August 2008 at 7:32 pm
 

Estelle is back with her second album following her 18th Day LP which had a lack lustre receipt from fans, crawling to number 35 in the charts. With time in the USA and the nestling under the wing of the neo-soul-serenading John Legend she presents a record that has a lot to boast in the way of features and power-house producers such as Will.I.Am and Wyclef Jean. Unfortunately a move in this direction begs the question, does their potent presence highlight an incapability within the star herself?

Perhaps it was under the advice of Legend that such a move was made, but she confidently silences her critics with the explosion of her first track ‘Wait a minute (No Substitute)’. Despite the fact that this track didn’t even make the top 100, its sound is a sweet reminder of Estelle’s clear capabilities to handle herself on a track, comfortably rhyming over the horns, as well as lacing some softer tones with her singing throughout the chorus and closing.

She follows this with ‘No Substitute’ where the heavy bass lines compliment her sweeter side as she strums her lyrics over the claps and beats produced by Wyclef Jean with a sassy sample from none other than George Michael’s Faith. She continues her roll with the smash hit American Boy, a guest appearance from Kanye West, helped catapult this track to world domination. Making use of his typically predictable simple Simon lyrical style with its slow purposeful drawl delivered over a club banger beat made this a highlight of the album.

Once you’ve completed the first quarter of listening it is nice to note Estelle’s ability to croon comfortably between the genres. Venturing into neo soul territory appeared to be an effortless manoeuvre for her, as does the intricately lacing of rhythmic rhymes that remind her listeners of her West London roots. These not only force a smile but possibly invite a nod of approval for those that thought her trip to the states would have introduced an unfamiliar and unwanted accent.

Kardinal Offishal makes an appearance on Magnificent and invites listeners to turn the lights down a notch or two as we seemingly head into the more intimate part of the album. If your other half is with you when this song comes on its time to throw a scarf over the lamp, jump up and slow grind or two step, whatever your rhythm this song will cater to it, even in the absence of a dance partner, cup your slow ice melting drink, close your eyes and do the shoe shuffle with a happy hazy smile on your face and all is well.

Unfortunately if you’ve been sipping on your juice, Come Over may soothe your senses into a sleepy state, not necessarily a good thing if you want to listen to the rest of the album. By the time you reach this point in the album it is hard to ignore the Lauryn Hill similarities, her ability to shimmy between a lyricist and songtress with such ease is inspiring and somewhat infuriating, is it really fair to house all this talent in one frame?

Had Estelle stepped up as a neo soul artist then perhaps the slow soul filled jams would be recognised as the powerfully personality infused tracks they are, however on the back of American Boy and the song’s presentation of one of her dimensions there is a strong chance many will feel the album takes the ‘wrong’ turn at Come Over and that is struggles to regain its ‘oomph’, even the Motown influenced track Pretty Please(Love Me) with powerful input from Cee-Lo and some nice piano playing from Legend himself this song may come a little too late for those that expected an entire album of floor and rump shaking tracks.

I love how her final track acts as a wake-up call for her listeners who may have lulled into a dreamy daze compliments of the numerous mellow melodies. Shine may prove to be one of the favourites on this album, mainly because of the way it reminds her audience of all that she is, her un-dillutable London sound as well as her refusal to be compartmentalised into any one genre. All in all the album has a little something for everyone, jazz listeners, soul-sound chasers and the hip-hop hungry will find something to bob their head to on this CD.

Copyright © Onome Okwuosa 2008. All rights reserved.

 

Usher – Here I Stand / Album Review

 
By on Monday, 21st July 2008 at 7:27 pm
 

Where does one start when reviewing the likes of an Usher Raymond album, perhaps with the units sold? No, that’s not a true reflection of the quality. Perhaps by the heavy duty collaborators? No still not a gauge for substance. Perhaps with the title? Yes, you see a lot can be seen of an artist by what he chooses to name his potential masterpiece.

Here I Stand, now what can one glean from a title such as this? Possibly an attempt to ‘man up’, show the world that he is no longer the boy that demanded things were done ‘My way’. Then again, he could be showing the world that he’s made huge advancements from man child making slip up mistakes that required a whole docket full of ‘Confessions’. So there he stands, a man with a wife and child in tow to add credence to his newfound status, the question is; does the album reflect that? Does this album show him to be the man he so desperately wants the world to see him as?

Our first glimpse into this new found ‘manned-up’ Usher comes in the form of a pondering crooner questionably titled ‘Forever young’, the questionable aspect is who exactly is his opening track directed to, his wife, his audience or his precious son? Does it matter, well yes, as first impressions are heavily weighted when it comes to importance, without clarity at this early point one is forced to ruminate over whether the rest of the album will be lacking in specificity and definitive direction.

Luckily the second glimpse we get comes in the form ‘Love in this club’, a simple club bobber, one that even when completely inebriated, heavy bass lines will help keep your person bobbing in the right direction. Unfortunately that’s about all that its good for, unless one is looking to get schooled in the art of what not to say if trying to make light conversation and snag that Betty in the corner. Offering her your skills right then and there on the alcohol slimed floor may not be the best way to get those digits, but hey if it works for him, then you might be in with a chance! Add the slow fused diction of Young Jeezy and perhaps you might get the opportunity to do the “R rated” in the club as well.

Now that you’ve left the humping that happened in the club, one would assume you’d need a rest; not if you’ve gone home with the Usher-man. No, once he’s gotten you home the serenading continues and despite its upbeat tempo, this song is NOT, I repeat NOT about sex, no it is about the “true makings of love” and the creating of “moments that will outlast the world”.

Now if you’re not all sexed out, I mean exhausted from all the “moment making”, then gear up for ‘Trading places’, yup, it’s another round of doing the grown up. I have to say this track does crack a smile and a bit more head bobbing, actually no its got a shoulder shake thrown in that I’m sure is inspired by the strong string work being strummed by TEK from NFE. His solo heavily aids this track into becoming possibly the most memorable of the album.

And then there’s climbing mountains, much like Frodo of Lord Of The Rings, you begin to look down at your watch and beg that he’ll reach the top sooner rather than later and at this point the album needs some rescuing as your senses begin to switch off, including the pass me the bucket ode to his son, we get the love, we feel the love but seriously…seriously Usher…SERIOUSLY!

To all those that were able to comfortably listen beyond this point I tip my hat to you, chances are, like me you had to take a break, put it on pause and prepare yourself for the rest. Usher’s 4 year break may have something to do with why this album feels so long-winded and drawn out, perhaps he should have split it in two and maybe release the rest of the track as ‘bonus’ tracks on his ‘limited edition’ version and then do it again for the ‘platinum edition’.

Copyright © Onome Okwuosa 2008. All rights reserved.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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