An album of two halves

Today’s choice of music tried to capture that end of the week Friday feeling with something a bit more mellow; “Gone to Earth” by David Sylvian.

When I got this album I so wanted to like it more than I did but to be honest I found it disappointing. It is probably the best example I own of an album that is made of two halves of very different styles. The first half is in a similar genre to the début Brilliant Trees. However the second half is very different and this is where my disappointment lies. I guess buying this on CD where the two halves are on a single disc doesn’t help. The vinyl version has two separate discs where I would have never played the second disc.

So the first half is very similar to his early work. It sounds more polished and well produced having a really mellow warm sound to it. Quite “peaceful” if that’s a good way to describe an album. The tracks show a different side to David Sylvian’s vocal skills as the songs are generally slower where his voice is at the forefront. “Silver Moon” and “Before the Bullfight” are good examples and the best tracks.

The second half however contains ambient music tracks. No vocals and generally short pieces. Whilst some of them undoubtedly have been composed and arranged very well using a broad range of instruments I find them boring.

Strange Album Cover

Today’s post is about a great album; “True Blue” by The Black Keys.

The Black Keys are another duo made up of an unusual combination of guitar and drums; no dedicated bass player. This album is just the two of them doing all the instruments with a bit of help from their producer. When I’ve seen them live they draft in another couple of guys to help.

Love this album; I think it’s a real hidden gem. A bit different from their earlier work which triggered a few bad reviews. It has a great sound to this album.

The opening track, “Weight of Love”, really sets the tone for the rest of the album. I think it has the touch of a Pink Floyd sound to the drums and guitar. Generally it does have a 70s guitar feel to it but it seems to work. “Fever” was the only single I remember from the album nevertheless it’s a good one; lots of fuzz guitar.

The album cover is quite eye catching as it has a magenta and blue hypnotic wheel on the front. Stare at it long enough and it makes my eyes go all funny. There’s an even bigger fold out version inside the CD sleeve.

A Classic Album ?

The choice for today was keeping with the Queens of the Stone Age related post from a few weeks ago. “Songs for the Deaf” by Queens of the Stone Age.

I knew the track “No One Knows” quite a while before the rest of the album. This track is pretty good and one of my favourites; I love the guitar riff that runs constantly and the key change half way through. However I didn’t hear the rest of the album until it was featured on the Zane Lowe Masterpiece series a few years ago. This is a radio show that plays a “classic” album in it’s entirety on the radio preceded by interviews with the artist and other musicians talking about the influence of the album.

What I learnt from the show was it’s a true album; telling a story from start to finish in the order of the tracks. This is about a drive through the desert listening to the different radio stations that come and go during the journey. It contains snippets of real radio DJs. Another fact I learnt was Dave Grohl was the drummer for the album.

But is it a classic album? I think it’s pretty good. It is quite heavy which is to be expected from Queens of the Stone Age. As well as “No One Knows” there numerous other good tracks with great beats like “Gonna Leave You” & “Another Love Song”. But I love the quietness of tracks like “Mosquito Song”.

Excitement in our house

Today’s choice of music was inspired by BBC Radio 1 announcing who was going to headline their Big Weekend festival in Norwich. It was announced as Muse so in recognition I listened to their live album “Live at Rome Olympic Stadium“.

This has created great excitement in our house as my son is now convinced a Muse tour is imminent. He is a massive Muse fan and uses many of their tracks as ways to practice his bass guitar. I’ve never seen Muse live either so am also keen to get tickets. Plus it is the “good dad” thing to do to get tickets and take him.

The CD is actually a bonus part of the DVD release. So as well as listening to the concert you can watch it at home however the CD has a reduced tracking listing compared to the DVD. Muse are always cited as providing one of the best live shows in terms of its spectacle. The DVD backs this up as it looks like it was pretty amazing however watching it TV is a pale substitute for seeing a band in the flesh.

“Knights of Cydonia” and “Supermassive Black Hole” come across as pretty big stadium rock anthems.

Is this embarrassing?

So during my decorating session last weekend I listened to an album that comes from a band that now seems to be classified as uncool. The album was “Alchemy: Dire Straits Live” by Dire Straits.

This album had come back to mind after seeing Mark Knopfler on TV being interviewed; I think he has a solo album coming out.

I bought this because as a kid at school we had a cool teacher who played films at lunchtime on VHS. He was quite into his music as well and one day he showed the film of this concert. I hadn’t really considered Dire Straits as a band to follow and I’ve never bought or listened to any of their other works. However this live performance really caught my attention. The guitar playing of Mark Knopfler was the fascination; he was pretty good but seemed to have an effortless style on the video. Quite a laid backing player.

The musical style is very rock; quite like the blues in places. As with any of these sorts of albums it is a greatest hits to date collection; which is what I wanted. It’s also a pretty long album at 90+ minutes which was good since I was stuck up a ladder painting and didn’t have to return to select more music.

Having said everything about this album; I can’t stand their later work and in particular “Money for Nothing”. I got sick of seeing the video all the time.

Something very new

I’ve been listening to this new release for a few days. The choice was inspired by seeing the band live when they supported Royal Blood a few weeks ago when I saw them at Brixton Academy. The album is “The Great Pretenders” by Mini Mansions.

Their live act was quite eye catching. They had a good stage presence and caught the attention of many of the crowd which was difficult because their style is a bit different from Royal Blood. The bass player really strutted around the stage and the drummer played standing up. Standing up drummers are a bit unusual I guess, particularly this one as he did lead vocals as well. In fact the drummer is interesting because he is the bass player, Michael Shuman, from Queens of the Stone Age.

My favourite track is “Vertigo” with Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys. It also has guest vocals by Brian Wilson on one track. The rest of the tracks are pretty good; it has a bit of a Beatles psychedelic feel to it. Initially I didn’t pick up on this when they play live but hearing the studio album it’s noticable.

So much hype

So over Easter I did a bit of decorating at home which gave me loads of time to listen to stuff. First up today is something from the past “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

So this band is a good early example of great marketing and what success can be achieved by surrounding a band with hype. The initial main source to this was the controversy over the video and lyric content of the first single “Relax”. I think it was banned by the BBC which is always a good way to get a song noticed by the media. Follow this up with “Two Tribes”, a track about nuclear destruction between USSR and America and you are well on the way to getting huge publicity. I never really knew how much of this approach was the band’s own intention or the record company.

The band appeared to change into a marketing brand in their own right. Just look at the massive phenomenon of the “Frankie Says…” T-Shirts. During the eighties everyone jumped on that bandwagon.

Nevertheless what about the album. Well rumour has it that most of the tracks were re-recorded with session musicians so it’s probably not an album by the actual band anyway. The tracks feel a bit aged now, sounding typical eighties. Still good though and I found it not a bad listen. Towards the end the tracks get weaker and turn into album filler. But of course the album ends with the massive hit “The Power of Love” which gets rolled out every Christmas.

This album did contribute towards my “musical” education. I told a friend at school how the opening track was about 10 minutes long and how unique that was. He was not that impressed in his reply saying that was quite common with music he liked. “Go ahead tell me” I said and he revealed the band “Rush” to me and lent me “Moving Pictures“.