Thursday, 10 December 2009

If you think that's expensive guys - try war!

With thanks to tonight's Question Time for the lovely header.

There's a cracking new tune from Portishead (yes I know, only a year after their last record) available. It can be listened to and downloaded here, with all proceeds going to Amnesty International.

It's great. Upbeat! And still showing some of the krautrock influences at work on Third and the recent Beak> album. Lovely.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

More Kraftwerk bizniss

A few days back I posted a link to my Clash review of the recent Kraftwerk Catalog set. That was the original version, and the one that was published. But I was also asked to produce an album-by-album version to fit in with a larger feature. In truth, I prefer it to the one they went with in the end. Ho hum.

Kraftwerk - The Catalog

You already know Kraftwerk, of course. That’s right, the robot guys. Techno pop and “fahren, fahren, fahren auf der autobahn”. Given that this retrospective box set of Düsseldorf’s finest export has been on the cards for six years now, you could be forgiven for thinking that it might highlight another side of the band with unreleased material. Or, like the Beatles remasters, polish up the old songs and make them sound box fresh and brand new again.

Well it doesn’t. Not even a little.

No, what we have here is a straight up reissue of the canonical Kraftwerk: the eight core albums, including The Mix, but not a trace of their long out of print first three records, or live document Minimum-Maximum. And don’t go expecting any unheard material. This ain’t no Neil Young Archives, son. According to the band this is all they have, and the sole “new” track here is an old remix, slotted into the Techno Pop track listing.

Sure, the remasters are nice, giving everything a deeper, richer sound, but they’re hardly a revelation. If you already own these albums there’s no need to double-dip.

Still, there’s no escaping that this is some of the finest, most evocative and influential electronic music ever recorded. And unlike those mono Beatles sets, you can buy the albums separately. But which ones should you pick?

Autobahn (1974)

Despite what you may have heard, there is more to this album than the title track. There’s the industrial horror of ‘Mitternacht’, and the two parts of ‘Kometenmelodie’ are a clever exercise in light and shade. But really, you’re here for ‘Autobahn’ itself. An unlikely international hit and their most iconic song, it’s compelling for every one of its 22 minutes thanks to that gorgeous melody and Beach Boys aping chorus.

Rating: 9/10

Radio-Activity (1975)

Poor Radio-Activity. Sandwiched between two acknowledged classics, and lacking in any of the hits, it’s always looked like a bit of a slouch in comparison. With shorter tracks and more of a vocal presence than its predecessor, it should be an easier album to love, yet it lacks Autobahn’s joy. Still, the title track is darkly funny and in the album’s electronic whispers, legions of techno artists found their inspiration.

Rating: 7/10

Trans-Europe Express (1977)

Techno overlord Carl Craig once described Kraftwerk as, “so stiff, they were funky”. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the clattering rhythms of this, their finest album. A more diverse record than Autobahn, an album it shares thematic similarities with, it also includes ‘Europe Endless’, a euphoric, open-hearted love letter to the continent and the cynical synthpunk of ‘Showroom Dummies’. Their finest hour.

Rating: 10/10

The Man Machine (1978)

While their previous three albums had proved that Kraftwerk were capable of producing great singles, they hadn’t made an all out pop album – until now. ‘Spacelab’ has a disco groove, which sounds like the missing link between Donna Summer and an old piece of library music, while ‘Neon Lights’ wouldn’t seem out of place on an LCD Soundsystem album. Their most contemporary sounding record, it’s perhaps not as rewarding over the long-term as earlier efforts, but you’ll be too busy dancing to care.

Rating: 8/10

Computer World (1983)

Fans may have been shocked when Wolfgang Flür’s biography revealed that Kraftwerk weren’t really androids, but a gang of horny young men, but it’s obvious here and on The Man Machine. From longing for a “rendezvous” on ‘Computer Love’ to the model about to be taken home, this is sex pop for robot romps.

It’s also the beginning of the end. Computer World is a very good album, but over-familiarity has set in. There’s no shock of the new, as on previous records and this feels like The Man Machine’s poorer cousin.

Rating: 7/10

Techno Pop (1986)

The album formerly known as Electric Café had a troublesome birth, blighted by Ralf Hütter’s nasty cycling accident and with recording dragging out over five years. For the first time Kraftwerk seemed to be struggling for ideas. Sure, ‘Musique Non Stop’ is jolly enough, but did it really need stretching across half the album? Shortly after its release, the Kling Klang studio went into lockdown and members started to drift away. It was the last full Kraftwerk album for fourteen years.

Rating: 6/10

The Mix (1991)

This 1991 disc is the closest Kraftwerk ever got to an official greatest hits package, taking all of their big hitters, except for ‘The Model’ weirdly, and giving them a nineties reinterpretation. Unfortunately, that largely just means adding a tinny house beat. It works on a few of the tracks; ‘Radioactivity’ is transformed into a fairly convincing floor-filler, and ‘Autobahn’ gets to the point in half the time. But for the most part this simply succeeds in making Kraftwerk sound both more dated and conventional than the original tracks.

Rating: 4/10

Tour De France (2003)

For a band who spent so long as innovators, it’s peculiar that their first (and so far only) album this millennium revisits a single from 1983. There are no less than four versions of Tour De France here. It’s nice enough, sure, but hardly in their top flight. Newer songs like ‘Aero Dynamik’ and ‘Vitamin’ are better, sounding how you imagine Kraftwerk. v2.0 should sound – upgraded and more efficiently funky than ever. Still, they’re slim pickings on an over-long and not always compelling record.

Rating: 6/10

Sunday, 8 November 2009

How have I managed to cut my finger while asleep in bed? Answers on a postman please.

Y'know, I'd most here much more frequently if Blogger wasn't such a bugger when it comes to posting hyperlinks. This is my third attempt. Ho hum.

Anyhow, Clash mag reviews of Kraftywerk, Jonny Trunk and The Apples in Stereo. They cut a line about Bah!>">>

Friday, 23 October 2009

"You should know Nick. You got a 2:2."

And hooray for Bonnie Greer and that gloriously icey response to holocaust denying fuck-tool Nick Griffin.

Hello chums! I've been on holiday back up North, which was jolly nice until I came down with food poisoning. Ho hum. Anyhow, here's a batch of reviews by me from the last couple of month's worth of Clash magazine.

Major Lazer – Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do

Diplo and Switch working on a dancehall record should be a mouth-watering prospect – and indeed this gets off to a flying start, full of bass-heavy bashment goodness. Halfway through though and something has gone very wrong. With a tired weed gag, ‘Mary Jane’ kicks off an awful flip side.

So there’s ‘What U Like’, with Einstein muttering “you like it when bad man gives you stiff cock” alarmingly. ‘Keep It Going Louder’ is worse: an auto-tuned horror that goes nowhere. It’s not the only appearance of Cher’s Folly – one track features a crying robot baby.

Judged on its first few tracks, this is a fine thing indeed. Unfortunately, the latter half sounds like a dancehall parody. Seriously, what the hell happened?

Rating: 4/10

ZE 30: 1979 - 2009
Ed Salmon

In 1982 Ze were “the most fashionable record label in the world”. With a roster of avant punk, funk and, in their own words, mutant disco artists, it was no wonder The Face loved them so.

This compilation may look like a fairly straight selection, with tracks from Was (Not Was) and Kid Creole, but there’s an abiding weirdness.

Take Cristina’s ‘Things Fall Apart’, which descends into a rant about Christmas trees. Or Lizzy Mercier Descloux wittering, “You are not tempted to whore unless you want to be whore”.

Ze was always like this, brilliant and baffling in equal measure. This is hugely enjoyable, but you’ll always have one finger on the skip button.

Rating: 6/10

Bibio - Ambivalence Avenue
Ed Salmon

Now this is a surprise… After three previous albums characterised mainly by mutant folk guitar and found sounds, the opening track here sounds very familiar. But hold those horses, young ‘un, as Ambivalence Avenue immediately takes a sharp left turn into warped funk. A couple of tracks later ‘Fire Ant’ reinvents it again, this time as juddering glitch-hop.

The sudden presence of beats and vocals on a Bibio record is startling, but welcome. And Stephen Wilkinson has a pretty impressive range. ‘Lovers’ Carvings’ could easily appear on a Badly Drawn Boy album, while ‘Jealous of Roses’ sounds like André 3000. The result is that Ambivalence Avenue manages the rare feat of being diverse, while maintaining a consistent atmosphere. Impressive.

Rating: 7/10

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Hang along!

Currently in the throes of another bout of Ghost Box obsession this week with the arrival of the new Roj album, The Focus Group's collaboration with Broadcast, and my purchase of their '07 album We Are All Pan's People. In the words of our Prod Ed, I am Ghost Box's bitch. But that's because they're the best label in the whole wide world. Don't believe me? Check the website below.

You can find my Clash mag review of the new Bernard Fevre album here...

Last week I started an episode-by-episode review of the new series of Dollhouse for SFX. See the link below this for episode one,'Vows'. Part two should be up Tuesday/Wednesday, certainly before I head off to Whitby to see my dear ol' mum for her birthday.

BLOG Dollhouse is back

BLOG Dollhouse is back

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Tuesday, 22 September 2009


Because "forward-thinking" labels like Warp make a gorgeous looking and sounding album by Broadcast and The Focus Group available to download today, but don’t release the physical version for another month.

Come on guys! I want the vinyl and I will be pre-ordering it, so how about throwing in a free download instead of making me wait an extra month for the privilege of paying twice as much. Now where's that Soulseek client gone?

Saturday, 12 September 2009


Bleary eyed today, following a great night on the town with the SFX crew and Filmstar's Steve O'Brien. I got home somewhere around 7.30 this morning, tried to watch an episode of Sky, an odd bit of seventies kid sci-fi which, in my admittedly broken state, appeared to be about a magic boy hiding in some leaves. Witchy and painfully hauntological, man. The Ghost Box folks would love it. Gave up ten minutes in and staggered to bed instead.

Anyway, two things that are making me smile through the pain...

1. Beck, proving he's still a genius. He's currently covering a Leonard Cohen record, one track at a time. Last week's 'Suzanne' was a godawful mess. This week it's 'Master Song' which has somehow mutated into a wonderfully bad bit of impromptu hip-hop.

2. Totally stolen from Pitchfork this, but too good to miss. The cover art to Weezer's new record, superbly titled Raditude - a word we should all incorporate into our vocabulary more often, I feel. Just look at that!

Thursday, 10 September 2009



It got to the point a few years back where I just couldn’t listen to The Beatles any more. Ubiquity, the Anthology TV show, Oasis and the horrible legacy of Britpop rather soured the music for me. It took a good few years of scouring my ears clean with Coil, Liars and horrible twenty minute long avant-jazz epics before I could bare to go back again.

I’m glad I did. Never trust a man who claims that the Rolling Stones were better, for that man is foolish, wrong, showing off and probably lists his albums alphabetically. Still, I was sceptical about the new remasters. But, with some birthday vouchers going spare, I picked up Please, Please Me and The White Album.

Please Please Me is dandy, but it's The White Album I was particularly interested in. It's long been my favourite Beatles record (and indeed the favourite of all well-minded folk). It’s really quite peculiar listening to some of these songs again, songs that I’ve known for years, and spotting all the detail that was hidden there all along, buried in the weak 1987 editions. There’s a shrill ‘aaaaaahhhhhhhh’ on ‘Dear Prudence’; background noise on the earlier editions, here it’s really quite unnerving. Likewise, backing vocals I previously thought to be solo efforts are suddenly revealed to be the rest of the band joining in the fun.

But the thing that’s jumping out most from The White Album is Ringo. Poor old Ringo, his stick skills the butt of many a joke. Weird, given that at worst he was still perfectly competent. Here and now he sounds like an iron-clad percussionist Terminator. Rarely showy, but heavy, and exactly the backbone that this band needed.

I don’t normally go in for remasters – I’m reviewing the Kraftwerk box set for Clash at the moment and the difference between the old and new versions is fairly neglible. In the case of the new Beatles editions it really is comparable to the leap from blurry old VHS to a pin-sharp Blu-Ray. Good stuff.


A short review by me of the latest Mary Anne Hobbs dubstep compilation after the link.

Must admit, I’m not too happy with this one. It was written last minute, after a couple of weeks struggling to decide whether the fact that I don’t like wonky very much meant I was too old and past it, or that it was just an inferior compilation, compared to its peerless big brother, Warrior Dubz. I settled on the latter. But then I would, wouldn’t I?

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


One of the more unexpected and delightful career revivals of late has been the re-emergence of Geoff Barrow, returning from years in the wilderness, pretending to be Oscar the Grouch and scowling through Mark Ronson’s living room window.

First there was Portishead’s astounding Third, a record I think we all thought would sound like a poor retread of Dummy, but which instead sounded like the album of 2008. An album, remarkably, that was worth that ten year wait.

Then he produced The Horrors’ Primary Colours (recorded about 30 seconds away from my house, fact fans), drenching it in a fug of sonic dread and despair – and turning a hyped, but underachieving, band into one of this year’s most exciting in the process.

And now he’s started a new band. Beak> sound pretty different to Portishead, but there’s definitely some connections with the sonic palettes of Third and Primary Colours. There’s a little Joy Division in there, and a lot of NEU! and Silver Apples. ‘Backwell’, ‘I Know’ and ‘Iron Acton’ are particularly groovesome, while ‘Ham Green’ takes a weird sludge-rock approach.

Most of album, pithilly named "Recordings 05/01/09 > 17/01/09”, can be streamed for free at, or you can buy it from Barrow’s own Invada Records. And you should.

The Fear

Richard Curtis is apparently writing an episode of Matt Smith’s first year of Doctor Who.

I guess this is good news. He’s a big name writer with his own fanbase and a string of hits to his name. He co-wrote Blackadder fer fecks sake, and it’ll get the press interested. Buuuuut…

He also wrote Love Actually – one of this decade’s more tedious mega-hits. A movie drowning in sentimentality, Little Englandisms and tedious stereotypes.

I’m deeply excited about season 5, thrilled about Matt and Karen and the bits and bobs that I’ve heard, but this gives me a mild case of the collywobbles. C’mon Dickie, make it a good ‘un.

Warning: A big bastard spider after the jump. But a big bastard spider named David Bowie…

“Curse you. Morrisons. Only two letters away from Morrissey, the Lord Voldemort of shit pop.”

- - From The Quietus:

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Friday, 28 August 2009

‘allo, ‘allo.

First post. Finally getting this place in order. Some recent reviews to come soon, and other stuff too. Ooh!