Category Archives: Music

Stranded here on planet earth…

image

A spaceship from another star
They ask me where all the people are
What can I tell them?

I tell them I’m the only one
There was a war but I must have won
Please take me with you…

#stevenwilson #porcupinetree #asmartkid #dawn

Pet Shop Boys – Their 10 most addictive songs!

psb
The Pet Shop Boys are an incredibly talented and witty duo from England who started out pretty much when new wave music was at its peak in the mid 80s and are still going strong today, having survived the alternative 90s and the indie 2000s. I recently found their double disc hits collection titled ‘PopArt’ at an amazing price of only 60 rand. So I didn’t think too much before getting it. Already had their single disc compilation ‘Discography’ but this double disc one was too good to miss at this great price. I’ve been listening to these 2 CDs continuously over the past few days and so decided to put together a Top 10 list of favourite songs. Here it is:

Can You Forgive Her?
This was a fantastic song accompanied by a bright and colourful CGI video that came out during the peak of my music obsession years in the early 90s. I could not get enough of this song back then and I still cannot get enough of it now. It is probably my number one favourite of theirs.
Fav lyric: You drift on to the strangest dreams of youthful follies and changing teams. Admit you’re wrong, oh no, not yet. Then you wake up and remember that you can’t forget.

Being Boring
I love everything here! – the quiet hushed lower register vocals, the relaxed medium-paced tempo, the warm nostalgic lyrics… This came out in 1990 and it really sounds it. It definitely has this vibe of leaving the 80s behind and stepping into a new darker world of the 90s. This same feeling exists in other songs from this era too like Jealousy and DJ Culture.
Fav lyric: We were never holding back or worried that time would come to an end. We were always hoping that, looking back you could always rely on a friend.

Left To My Own Devices
This one has some interesting experimentation with a symphonic intro and outro for an otherwise fast-paced electronic track. Interesting lyrics too, which are sung in a sort of storytelling style that I really like.
Fav lyric: I was faced with a choice at a difficult age. Would I write a book? Or should I take to the stage? But in the back of my head I heard distant feet, Che Guevara and Debussy to a disco beat.

Suburbia
This classic 80s track wonderfully describes how it is like living in the suburbs, complete with dog barking noises and police car sirens.
Fav lyric: Break the window by the town hall. Listen, a siren screams. There in the distance like a roll call of all the suburban dreams.

Se A Vida E
I love this happy tune about enjoying life and having fun with the people around you. Set to a Latin American style beat, this one is bursting with optimism and… life, really. That’s the way life is!
Fav lyric: So don’t search in the stars for signs of love. Look around your life, you’ll find enough.

Rent
A dark Depeche Mode like tune, it tells the story of a somewhat dysfunctional couple in first person. With addictive synths and backing vocal Ooohs, this is a delicious little 80s track of theirs.
Fav lyric: You took me to a restaurant off Broadway to tell me who you are. We never ever argue, we never calculate the currency we’ve spent. I love you, you pay my rent.

Yesterday When I Was Mad
I am a sucker for Eurodance music. There, I said it! But this is how it would sound if it were intelligent. Packed with witty lyrics and a high speed dance beat, this one is loads of fun!
Fav lyric: Then we posed for pictures with the competition winners and argued about the hotel rooms and where to go for dinner. And someone said “It’s fabulous you’re still around today. You’ve both made such a little go a very long way.”

Go West
This is one of their most popular songs and it is actually a cover of a Village People number. But to be very honest, I prefer the PSB version. The video for this single was all CGI and colourful, similar to all the other videos from the ‘Very’ album.
Fav lyric: There where the air is free, we’ll be what we want to be. Now if we make a stand, we’ll find our promised land.

West End Girls
This was the very first hit single that still sends chills down my spine with that rush of synth in the intro and the wonderful lyrics that makes me want to visit London’s West End at some point in my life.
Fav lyric: We’ve got no future, we’ve got no past. Here today, built to last. In every city, in every nation from Lake Geneva to the Finland station.

Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money)
This is actually the first PSB song that I ever heard, thanks to being exposed to the Grammy ’87 nominations. Opportunities is a very witty and practical song about making money. But there is a heavy nostalgia factor too for me over here. With great vocals and an exhilarating beat, this is definitely a classic!
Fav lyric: You can tell I’m educated, I studied at the Sorbonne. Doctored in Mathematics, I could’ve been a don. I can program a computer, choose the perfect time. If you’ve got the inclination, I have got the crime.

Making song requests on the radio

TGIF!… I haven’t blogged anything in almost 2 years. Seeing that it is Friday and I have something brewing in my head, let me write about it…

Sometime last year, thanks to my wife, I discovered this really cool local radio station that plays only old music (for us old people). Actually, this station plays a ton of 80s and 90s popular music… stuff from my teenage years, hence my affection for it. It is called Mix 93.8 FM and it broadcasts from Midrand. They play 60s and 70s music as well, but hardly anything from the present day.

So I totally got into listening to this station during my work commute. And at least a handful of times, I was tempted to call in and make song requests. One or two were played, one was forgotten (or ignored) and another one was replaced with a more popular song choice. All said and done, this is radio after all. The popular song choices will always win compared to the more obscure fan favourites. I think I requested something fast-paced from U2 and dropped the song title ‘The Electric Co.’ as well. They ended up playing their standard station favourite ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ which isn’t fast-paced by any stretch of the imagination and not at all what I requested for! Still, I was happy that they played a good song from one of my all-time favourite bands. But would it hurt if they venture out a bit, away from the typical classic rock anthems that have been played 16 trillion times already?

In other words, if I want to listen to R.E.M.’s ‘Disturbance at the Heron House’, my best bet is to dust off my CD copy of ‘Document’ rather than wait for it to be played on the radio. That said, every now and then it is refreshing to hear random songs played by a radio DJ. For instance, this morning Mix FM played Steve Miller Band’s ‘Rockin’ Me’ which I have to say I quite enjoyed listening to despite not caring much at all for Steve Miller Band’s music in general. But I hadn’t heard that particular song in several years and it was nice to listen to it.

A personal music collection trumps everything but it is still nice to have a good radio station on every now and then.

Suede – more 90s nostalgia!

I was really into the whole Brit Pop scene in the 90’s but it was Oasis and Blur that captured my attention the most and I apparently missed out on the band that started it all. I did know a handful of Suede singles but they were limited to ‘Animal Nitrate’, ‘Trash’ and ‘Beautiful Ones’ pretty much… oh, and ‘The Wild Ones’ although I couldn’t really recall how the song went but vaguely remembered the video. Anyway, a few days back I suddenly felt like discovering more of their music and so downloaded their ‘Singles’ compilation from 2003. I was briefly considering buying their much-hailed self-titled debut with a cover of the androgynous (but quite obviously lesbian) kissing couple.

But no matter what the so-called purists say about how Greatest Hits compilations and Best Ofs don’t really add true value to your music collection, I decided that the ‘Singles’ disc will give me a good overall view of Suede. What if I got the 1993 debut and didn’t like half the album or something?! It is possible. It has happened before. I never could, for the life of me, decipher the most praised alternative album of all time, My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’. Maybe I wasn’t listening hard enough amidst all the guitar distortion and shoegaze noise. But I digress.

Suede’s ‘Singles’ is a pretty damn good collection of their work. (Don’t ask me why they’re so obsessed with lesbians… I do not know!) It neatly encompasses highlights from all their albums including the last one in 2002. I am not a big fan of the haphazard order though. I prefer listening to a chronologically arranged selection from the artist’s first album all the way to the last one. But at least this collection starts with their best songs from the 90s. From the sleazy sounding ‘Film Star’ to the cheerful ‘Positivity’, the melodious ‘Everything Will Flow’ to the catchy riffs of ‘Can’t Get Enough’ and ‘Electricity’, there’s a lot of variety here. It’s not all Bowie-inspired neo-glam rock. ‘Film Star’ will always remind me of Eddie Izzard’s 1997 stage show ‘Glorious’. That’s where I heard it first. I still have to warm up to some of the songs here, especially ones from the late 90s and early 00s. But overall, it is a great single disc representation of this band.

The B-52’s!

Music doesn’t always have to be serious. The B52’s are a great example! For years I only knew their biggest hit ‘Love Shack’ thanks to constant rotation on MTV back in the early 90s. Around 2008 I discovered more of their music after suddenly deciding to buy their greatest hits CD titled ‘Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation’.

Take for example the lyrics of the song ‘Strobe Light’…

Is that you baby? Yeah!

Got something to tell ya. Oh, what?

I wanna see ya tonight.

I want you to walk in the door.

I want you to lay on the floor.

Cause tonight’s the night.

We make love under a strobe light.

Underneath the strobe light.

Wanna make love to you under the strobe light.

Wanna make love to you under the strobe light.

Strobe light, wooooooah, strobe light, wooooooah, yeah!

Here’s the YouTube link:

Strobe Light

It is such a random, casual, quirky and crazy song and it nicely encapsulates what they’re about. So, contrary to what some people may think, rock music is not always about serious subjects and bone-crunching power chords or guitar solos! There’s a lot of fun stuff out there too.

Here’s another funny one of theirs called ‘Song for a Future Generation’:

Wanna be the ruler of the galaxy

Wanna be the king of the universe

Let’s meet and have a baby now!

Wanna be the empress of fashion

Wanna be the president of Moscow

Let’s meet and have a baby now!

 La! La! La! La! La!

La! La! La! La! La!

La! La! La! La! La!

La! La! La! La! La!

Song for a Future Generation

One song that I really like of theirs, which is not featured on the Time Capsule hits collection is ‘Revolution Earth’ from the 1993 album ‘Good Stuff’. Sure, it sounds more like a Kate Pierson solo recording but it is just so divine. She has a lovely voice!

Revolution Earth

More proof of her great voice can be found on R.E.M. songs like ‘Shiny Happy People’ and ‘Me In Honey’. I love it! This is my kind of music.

The Early 90’s – an exciting time in music

When people get nostalgic about music, they love talking about the pure carefree pop of the 50’s or the experimental psychedelic rock of the 60’s. While I do enjoy a lot of music from those eras, nothing beats the early 90’s for me. It was the start of my teenage years, the growing-up years. We got satellite television in 1991 and I was suddenly exposed to a ton of interesting music videos on MTV, back when it was still music television! So here’s a list of some of my favourite albums from the early 90’s…

1991:

U2 – Achtung Baby

Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes

R. E. M. – Out Of Time

Guns n’ Roses – Use Your Illusion I & II

Michael Jackson – Dangerous

Pearl Jam – Ten

Soundgarden – Badmotorfinger

Nirvana – Nevermind

Metallica – The Black Album

 

1992:

R. E. M. – Automatic For The People

Annie Lennox – Diva

Deep Forest – Deep Forest

Alice In Chains – Dirt

Bon Jovi – Keep The Faith

 

1993:

Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream

U2 – Zooropa

Depeche Mode – Songs Of Faith And Devotion

Enigma – The Cross Of Changes

 

1994:

Alice In Chains – Jar Of Flies

Soundgarden – Superunknown

Tori Amos – Under The Pink

Live – Throwing Copper

Oasis – Definitely Maybe

Pink Floyd – The Division Bell

Indus Creed – Back with a bang after 17 years!

When I heard that the premier Indian rock band from my teenage years had reunited and were going to come out with a new album called ‘Evolve’, I could hardly contain myself. I was so happy that I messaged friends and family on facebook about the good news. I even went to their official website and listened to an interview of lead vocalist Uday Benegal in the hopes of getting clues on what they were cooking up on the new album. Then the release date came and of course, the CD was not available in SA… no surprises there. Wife to the rescue!! She was making a short trip to India anyway, so I begged her to get the album for me. Hence it has taken me a couple of months to physically get this album and listen to it, in case anybody is wondering why I am writing this review a little late.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the music. When I listened to that interview back in April I heard Uday saying that they were listening to a lot of Porcupine Tree and that ‘In Absentia’ was one of his absolute favourite albums. Now that I have listened to ‘Evolve’ at least 3 or 4 times, I see where he is coming from. Opening track, ‘Fireflies’ sounds exactly like something Steven Wilson would come up with. From the haunting melody to the subdued echoed vocal style, it is obvious that these guys love Porcupine Tree to bits! And of course the fact that Tim Palmer (mixing engineer for the likes of Pearl Jam, U2 and Porcupine Tree) worked on this album only makes it even more obvious. That said, ‘Fireflies’ is a lovely song and I would like to think that they were going more for ‘inspired tribute’ and less for ‘blatant rip-off’. Track 2 truly delivers with the epic-sounding and anthemic ‘Dissolve’. There are several qualities to this song that I really enjoy – the offbeat percussion in the verses, the guitar solo after the second chorus and lyrics like “No more to run, I am one with my destination” and “the ocean is calling… I dissolve into the blue”. After that enjoyable 1-2 punch, track 3 ‘The Money’ goes into somewhat experimental territory for Indus Creed. It starts with a very unique-sounding electronic beat followed by interesting drum rolls and has Uday singing about somebody stealing money, shaming the whole community and what not. The lyrics here are fairly mediocre and quite repetitive. But it serves as an interesting diversion before returning to full form on track 4. ‘Take It Harder’ has a fantastic opening and build-up that explodes into an easy sing-along chorus. This medium paced rocker has great atmosphere and guitar.

Moving on to the second half of the album, ‘No Disgrace’ talks about the perennial mad race to be first at everything in life. This is a topic that is very relevant in India especially and I can think of at least 2 instances where it has been discussed – the song ‘Jame Raho’ from film ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and the central theme in the movie ‘3 Idiots’. Incidentally, both films were products of thought-provoking actor director Aamir Khan. Anyway, musically ‘No Disgrace’ is very progressive. There are influences from the likes of Rush and Dream Theater all over the place. Took a while to grow on me but now I totally enjoy this track. I particularly enjoy the lines “Did they take away your dreams? Douse them all in kerosene. From the crowd you watched them burn. Maybe someday this world will learn… that there’s no disgrace in losing the race”. Track 6 ‘Come Around’ is lovely, has a very unconventional structure to it but seems to drag on a bit at the end. Nevertheless, it’s a nice melodic ditty towards the end of the album. The next song is a slightly funny one titled ‘Bulletproof’. It changes the pace a bit with rapid fire vocals and a rocking rhythm. Not my favourite but not bad either. Finally, the closer on this seemingly short 8 track album is the aptly titled ‘Goodbye’. This song has just the right qualities for that nostalgia-tinged feel-good farewell.

Overall, I have to say that I’m quite impressed with this effort despite some obvious influences from other bands here. Also, I appreciate the fact that they mixed things up nicely and did not strictly follow the “verse-chorus-verse-chorus-guitar solo-final chorus” formula. And more than half the album is filled with songs that are longer than the average 5 minute length. There is equal parts experimentation along with their classic style of late 80’s/ early 90’s rock. A job well done! Here’s hoping for more music in the future.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Smashing Pumpkins ‘Oceania’ – Brightly optimistic and reminiscent of early years

Billy Corgan is back! But I shouldn’t add “… with his band of misfits” cos that only applies to Axl Rose, right? Anyway, here’s a little bit of back-story. In 2007 he suddenly decided to bring the old band back together, but funnily enough he did not inform them. So, only drummer Jimmy Chamberlin came back. Nonetheless, the duo charged ahead with an album titled ‘Zeitgeist’ which tried very hard to bring back the rawkk of olden times. It didn’t quite succeed and aside from a few bright spots, the whole thing sounded like a formless mush of modern hard rock. The dream pop element that I loved so much was missing.

Coming back to 2012, Billy has recruited all new band members: guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Nicole Fiorentino and drummer Mike Byrne and set out on an ambitious 44-song set called ‘Teargarden by Kaleidyscope’ of which this first one ‘Oceania’ is just a part. Phew!! .. But bombast and delusions of grandeur are nothing new to Billy. Their most popular (double) album ‘Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness’ could almost be compared to a sprawling art exhibition on a grand scale. Sure, there were fillers in there but I respected his vision for experimentation and art rock a la Pink Floyd. Those otherworldly qualities are thankfully back now.

‘Oceania’ is a bright and optimistic sounding tribute to their classic blend of heavy metal and dreamy psychedelia that they used to do so well! Right from the first track ‘Quasar’ it is evident that the old Pumpkins sound is back. The song is a delicious mix of crashing drums, distorted guitar and 60’s psychedelia. Mentions of Krishna and Om, plus an opening that sounds like a modern day version of ‘Cherub Rock’ only seal the suspicion that this is a celebration of everything ‘Gish’ and ‘Siamese Dream’. After that burst of energy, they deliver a second punch of delight with ‘Panopticon’ which does take a little bit more time to seep into you. Then come the strings of ‘The Celestials’, a lovely ballad which rocks almost as hard as it flows beautifully to end on a sustained solitary distorted note. As the album ambles along, there are many interesting sounds in tracks like ‘Violet Rays’, ‘My Love Is Winter’ and ‘One Diamond, One Heart’. When we get to ‘Pinwheels’ we are immediately hit with a gorgeously sunshiny opening that lasts for a good two whole minutes followed by soft acoustic guitar. Great stuff this!

Next comes the epic title track which is like the Pumpkins’ version of ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets’ I guess. Took a while to grow on me but I really dig the prog rock tendencies of this song now. Halfway through, Billy stops singing suddenly and the song fades into a dreamy soundscape of distant drums and crazy guitar solos. After that comes the wonderfully chilled out ‘Pale Horse’. One of my favourites on this album, it is easy to get into and completely relaxes the listener. This whole album is just so happy-sounding… I love it! And none of it is cheesy. That’s the best part! As we approach the last stretch of the album, there are some tight rocking songs like ‘The Chimera’, ‘Glissandra’ and ‘Inkless’ which are quite enjoyable musically. These take longer to get used to though, than anything on the first half. Finally, the closer ‘Wildflower’ is okay. Didn’t like it all that much at first but now I can appreciate the music here, although Billy’s singing drones on a bit – a quality in his singing style I was never that big a fan of.

Nevertheless, colour me surprised! After their several tumultuous years as a changing band, I did not really expect or hope for an album as sunny and glowing as this one. Looking at their discography as a whole, nothing will probably top moments like the last 2 minutes of ‘Hummer’, the skipping sighing beat of ‘1979’ or the entirety of ‘Mayonaise’ but I can confidently say that ‘Oceania’ is one of their best efforts that I have ever listened to.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Apocalyptic Love – Not much here beyond the interesting album cover

When Slash’s debut solo album came out a couple of years back, it sounded like a lot of fun. And it was! There was not one vocalist but several well-known names including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy Kilmister, Chris Cornell, Iggy Pop etc. as well as more mainstream ones like Fergie and Adam Levine. How he got them together and played his guitar as the common thread uniting them all was pretty cool. Though some said that there was no coherence, I actually thought the variety of voices on the album made the whole thing interesting to listen to. And it had several solid songs too – memorable ones. This time around he has decided to stick with only one of those vocalists, Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge and the result is not the same. I did enjoy Myles’ contribution on the last album quite a bit, especially the song ‘Back From Cali’. But somehow on ‘Apocalyptic Love’, he sounds kind of indistinguishable from other mediocre vocalists and more like a second rate Axl Rose. On fast-paced tracks like ‘One Last Thrill’, his high pitched yelling is almost unlistenable!

And it is not just the vocals… the tunes are not very memorable at all. There is a typical Guns n’ Roses-like rock groove going on in many songs but there are hardly any stand-out riffs. Save for the somewhat catchy opening title track, many of the songs just don’t go anywhere. There are many instances where the song starts off nicely and sounds promising until the chorus begins. And then it doesn’t deliver much, sort of falls flat. Also, there is nothing exciting or new about the song structures here. It is the standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-guitar solo-final chorus formula. Sure, there are a few moments here and there that sound interesting and even some that, dare I say, attempt to relive former glories of the Illusion days but it all sounds like stereotypical hard rock.

The crux of the matter is that what made Guns n’ Roses great in their heyday was a combination of all band members coming together with their different styles and blending beautifully to deliver some kicking hard rock. You had Slash providing the effortless bluesy guitar solos. But you also had Axl writing those melodious epics like Estranged, Breakdown and November Rain. And then there was that solid rhythm section of Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, Steven Adler and later Matt Sorum. Put together they made one hell of a band! Split apart, obviously the music suffers. Right now Slash is doing his thing well but he needs better support than what he has now. It is the same old story with many rock bands, take for example Pink Floyd. It was the combination of Roger Waters’ bitter cynicism and excellent lyrics along with David Gilmour’s precision guitar solos and dreamy vocals that made them so great. After Waters left they were not the same anymore.

So, sadly the bottom line is that ‘Apocalyptic Love’ is just okay for an average rock album in the year 2012. But if you, like me knows what the Gunners were capable of 20 years back, you would rather be reaching for those albums after a few listens to this one. The guitar god with the top hat may be having fun with his rock n’ f’in roll but there seems to be nothing more than a hard rock-by-numbers album here.

Rating: 2 / 5

Keane ‘Strangeland’- Delicious melodies though a tad predictable

My favourite British pop songsters are back with a new album and they sound happier than ever! ‘Strangeland’ as it is called is a weird title because there is nothing strange about these tunes. It actually sounds more like a return to the lush melodies of their fantastic debut ‘Hopes And Fears’. That is not to say that this is necessarily a step backwards. Here is why.

On first listen, the album sounds like a complete return to their roots. But after a few listens, it seems like most of the songs here are silent nods to bands and artists that they possibly admire. The most obvious one is ‘Silenced By The Night’ where I think pretty much every portion of it sounds like U2 circa 2004 viz. the tinkling and chiming ‘City Of Blinding Lights’. In fact I can totally picture in my head, Bono and the boys covering this one in concert. There is also ‘You Are Young’ which is a lovely, very U2-ey opener. Then there is the song ‘Black Rain’ which is definitely new territory for Keane where they sound more like Radiohead, to the point where Tom’s voice could be mistaken for Thom’s in some parts. But to me it doesn’t feel like a blatant rip-off, more like an inspired salute to the alternative rock veterans. Another one is ‘Neon River’ which reminds me of The Killers, in a good way. Call it coincidence that they too have in the past had a similarly titled ‘Neon Tiger’, not that the two songs are even remotely the same! The similarities lie mainly in the synth usage and the fact that I can picture Brandon Flowers covering this one. The last one reminding me of other artists is ‘The Starting Line’ which sounds a little bit like Oasis, particularly Noel Gallagher’s material. Nevertheless, it is yet another great track here.

There are also other tracks which sound as brilliant and less obviously inspired. For example: The nostalgia-drenched ‘Sovereign Light Cafe’ which is melodic as heck, fast-paced and absolutely gorgeous. It is surely one of my favourites on this album, a classic sing-along that only Keane do best; ‘Disconnected’ which has Tom conspicuously reaching for his low register and going high again in the extremely catchy and memorable chorus; the totally fun rockers, ‘On The Road’ and ‘Day Will Come’; ‘In Your Own Time’, a nice commentary on the sombre state of affairs in the world today (despite some cheesy lyrics) and finally a dreamy mellow closer called ‘Sea Frog’ which is somewhat reminiscent of the silky smooth closer of 2008’s ‘Perfect Symmetry’. The only song that I do not enjoy as much on here is ‘Watch How You Go’. Otherwise, I really like this album. It has a little bit of everything… bits of ‘Hopes And Fears’ and ‘Under The Iron Sea’ mixed in with the synthesizer sounds of ‘Perfect Symmetry’ along with a few new sounds as well, albeit inspired by other bands. No way is it groundbreaking stuff. It is actually Keane playing it safe in their comfort zone. I still recommend it if you are a lover of melodious, anthemic, feel-good music. Rating: 4 / 5