Muse – The 2nd Law

(Warners)

According to the Guardian this album is ‘meant to be funny’. Phew. That’s fortunate, because I’ve had to keep pausing it every ten minutes to go off and stifle a fit of the giggles. In fact, reading the Guardian’s review, it’s hard to work out why it received four stars out of five from that most august of loss-posting organs, since Alex’s Petridish doesn’t really seem to feel all that strongly about it one way or the other.

Anyway, I’ve never given a particular fuck about the pop group Muse so I’m probably the last guy who should be writing about them; but then again I do enjoy upsetting people who ought to know better. So here we go. In most ways this album is insufferably shit, and yet in one solitary regard, it’s a work of fucking genius.

If you were to take this record as pure pastiche, allowing that it has not a single original idea to its name, you end up with something incredible. The 2nd Law is the Supermarket Sweep of albums; a madcap trolley dash through the back catalogues of respected classic rock artists like QueenELOHelmetU2Michael Jackson, Wings, Tangerine Dream, Foo Fighters and Skrillex???? *record scratch* wait what

At any given moment on this record, scientists now claim, there are as many as 26 different well-known bands or songs being ripped off. Trying to identify every familiar shred of stolen or derivative music on this record is highly distracting and downright fucking exhausting. I feel like an air crash investigator after a mid-flight explosion, combing mile after square mile of meadow digging up shards of fuselage and engine housing for painstaking analysis back at base. But until we locate the flight recorder, I fear we may never know the full tragedy behind The 2nd Law.

Supremacy is a rejected James Bond theme with a pilfered riff that came from Led Zep by way of Audioslave. That’s right folks, it sounds like it was stolen twice. Panic Station is Another One Bites The Dust crossed with We Care a Lot and an immediately-recognisable hook from Thriller. Madness is just Queen’s I Want To Break Free given an uninteresting electronic facelift and without any of the original song’s subtext. Even Matt Bellamy’s guitar solo sounds about the same as Brian May’s. ‘Is it love or is it madness?’ Oh sometimes we have fights wah wah wah. Who gives a FUCK Matt? Grow up.

Animals is basically Paranoid AndroidExplorers repurposes a melodic hook from Don’t Stop Me Now, and shamelessly too, marrying it to a bit that sounds a lot like You Only Live Twice. Then it only goes and does a Westlife key change for the last chorus. Big Freeze, the very next song, also reminds me of Don’t Stop Me Now, only this time mashed up with Where the Streets Have No Name.

Save Me sounds like Foo Fighters channelling Travis, and Liquid State sounds like Helmet covering Everlong. And the less said about the dubstep bits, the better, to be honest. Ultimately the most maddening aspect of The 2nd Law is all the parts you can almost identify, but not quite. There’s a fucking lot of those. It’s like watching an old film full of dead marquee names and trying to remember who they divorced and when. Shit just gets in the way.

If this record is a trolley dash, then the only question left to ask is whether or not it’s intentional. I mean, it’s got to be. You can’t just nick a bit from Thriller  and then say ‘fuck it, keep it. No-one’ll notice.’ So what are they playing at? Homage? Pastiche? What the fucking hell is this supposed to be, Muse? I’m asking you.

Muse do not respond to hails. No radar contact. Distress beacon active. All souls presumed lost. The 2nd Law is a massive fucking plane crash, and the wreckage is just too granular and too widely distributed for a single investigator to catalogue.

I’m gonna need a team.

www.muse.mu

88 Things We Like More Than The New Soundgarden Song

  1. John Terry
  2. Every other Soundgarden song except that terrible one they did for the Avengers soundtrack
  3. Running out of milk
  4. the Daily Mail website
  5. People who complain about the Daily Mail website
  6. Crywanking
  7. Chad Kroeger and Avril Lavigne
  8. Burning hair
  9. Chinese burns
  10. Boris Johnson
  11. Marmite
  12. First Buses
  13. Hollyoaks plot lines
  14. Having to work as a writer on Hollyoaks
  15. Doctor Who fans
  16. People on Twitter
  17. Being friends on Facebook with your family
  18. Sour milk
  19. Papercuts
  20. Doing a sick in your mouth
  21. John Terry again
  22. Cats on the Internet
  23. Hip replacement surgery
  24. People who think Three Wolf Moon is funny
  25. Thinking this article was a good idea
  26. Mitt Romney
  27. Ashley Cole
  28. Channel 5 news
  29. The Pigeon Detectives
  30. Come Dine With me
  31. Cancer of the puppy
  32. The guy who narrates the X Factor and Come Dine With Me
  33. Following through
  34. Obesity epidemics
  35. Nappy rash
  36. Winter
  37. When your jeans get ripped in the crotch
  38. Press releases
  39. Audioslave
  40. Stubbed toes
  41. ITV Sport commentary
  42. Mucus
  43. the word ‘moist’
  44. John Terry
  45. ITV
  46. Midsummer Murders
  47. Neighbours
  48. Nightmares
  49. Over friendly dogs
  50. Excrement on your shoe
  51. Flooding
  52. Mondays
  53. The new Devil Sold His Soul album
  54. Muse
  55. The Stone Roses
  56. People who like Morrissey
  57. Facebook
  58. Found Footage horror films
  59. You
  60. Bedsheets that come off when you turn over
  61. Light margerine
  62. Low fat snacks
  63. Broken headphones
  64. Children
  65. Glasses without lenses
  66. Ugly people
  67. Being skint
  68. Adverts with footballers in
  69. Not being able to download an album you want the second it comes out
  70. Spiders
  71. Formula One
  72. Richard Littlejohn
  73. Downton Abbey
  74. Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes
  75. Sticky things
  76. John Terry
  77. The special effects at the end of Star Wars Episode II
  78. Still thinking Star Wars is the best film ever into your thirties
  79. Keep Calm and Carry On
  80. The Blackadder Millenium Special
  81. Splitting the Hobbitt into more than one film
  82. Skinny Jeans
  83. Michael Jackson’s last album
  84. Simon Pegg’s career
  85. The Only Way Is Essexmas
  86. Kim Kardashian
  87. Steel Panther
  88. The futility of existence

Colour Haze – She Said

(Elektrohasch Schallplatten)

I love Colour Haze and you should too. Here come about eight or nine hundred words of gushing hyperbole forming a vain attempt to get you to care about this band even a fraction as much as I do.

She Said has been a long time coming. Most Colour Haze records pop up on a cycle little longer than a year or two, but this one has been in the oven for about four years. Hitting ‘play’ for the first time, with shaking hands, I had worries. What if the problems causing such a protracted gestation had somehow spoiled the album? But even worse; what if my own ridiculous, unjustifiably fannish devotion to Stefan Koglek’s trio of Munich hippies meant She Said couldn’t possibly hope to satisfy me? What would I do then?

Of course, like everything in life, it wasn’t worth worrying about, because (SPOILERS) She Said is fucking brilliant.

For the uninitiated, Colour Haze have been producing a sticky and potent strain of bass-rich Kyuss-infused stoner rock since the mid-1990s. In 1999, the line-up suddenly gelled, and the records suddenly began to find their own dimension beyond the simple heavy-hitting dictates of ‘stoner rock’. A steady trickle of releases through the 2000s developed the band’s sound into something really special, while their songcraft and ambition evolved to the point it now becomes apparent an entire kitchen sink’s worth of ideas have been chucked at this album. We’re currently at a point where Colour Haze are said to have inspired (and, via their own Elektrohasch imprint, materially supported) a blossoming new scene of European heavy psychedelia; a second wave of stoner rock, so to speak.

As a statement about the band’s position in late 2012, this record seems softer, more contemplative overall than previous efforts. Earth-breaking riffs aren’t dropped with the frequency they once might have been, but when they do hit, they come on like a breezeblock to the face, all the more striking for the tinkly piano, or the up-tempo conga drums, or the long, protracted, dynamic builds that have preceded them.

What you find more of are arrangements of instruments, lush in their density, combined in unexpected ways, over melodies that are often simple yet heartbreakingly gorgeous. Say what you want about Kyuss and the bands they inspired, it was rare indeed you could call their stuff ‘beautiful’ – though it had its moments. That adjective keeps cropping up all over the place with Colour Haze.

Breath bridges muscular bass and precisely-tapped ride cymbal triplets with guitars that introduce the riff with palm-muted staccato twitches, soon blossoming into a pretty winding lead. It grows, taking us through an easygoing chorus section straight out of Palm Desert. High-register piano notes carry us onward, plinking away over a softly-crooned section, harmonies shared between Koglek and a guest vocalist. When the chorus comes back it’s thicker, carried along by a melodic tremelo lead. But the last four minutes are where it really shifts up a gear, and we’re thrust without warning into a trademark Colour Haze jam that breaks out into a daisy-cutting riff Fu Manchu would be proud to throw down. The overall build is just fucking stunning.


She Said, the opener and title track, seeds a lovely piano refrain among gently struck chimes and ambient background noise – and when the guitars eventually come in, they’re backed by what sounds like classic Doctor Who theremin. Before long we’re tits-deep in a conga-slapping fuzzed-up freakout jam that somehow blends seamlessly into a bit of Latin-flavoured noodling. And then it all boomerangs the other way again, taking us across and back through theremin-country, eventually climaxing with the traditional Colour Haze thunderhead.

Grace is probably the loveliest thing in the whole hour and twenty minutes, and that’s purely down to the string arrangement; plucked notes accent plaintively bowed-strings over an acoustic guitar lick that eventually brings the whole band in. The strings and the guitars trade the main riff back and forth, and then join their voices together to crash away in a spray of tinkling chimes and the same pastoral ambience that introduced the album. It is unspeakably gorgeous.

As promised, I’m going on at ridiculous length. Every single time I’ve tried to encapsulate my appreciation for this band in words, I’ve fallen short. So suck it up, I’m not failing again. I’ve not even got round to talking about the triumphant horn blasts that close out Transformation. I’ve said not one word about the lurching, haunting Stand In… or the funkified jazzed-up two-minute boogie of This which proves that Colour Haze retain full control over their process. They are more than capable of reigning in their sprawling ambition when it is warranted.

I suppose there’s a couple of criticisms to be made of this album. There’s a hell of a lot of lush, moon-shooting orchestration to chew through here, and if what you’re looking for is crunchy drugs band riffs, you may find it rough going just waiting around for the next heavy bit to happen. But the thing with Colour Haze is even when you’re hanging tight, anticipating a bit that’s coming up, it’s always worth sticking around for the build-up.

And undeniably, 82 minutes is a long time to spend listening to a record, but then again four years is quite a long time to spend waiting for one. It’s probably my teenage fan gland speaking here, but to be honest, I don’t think this record is long enough.

Strenuously recommended.

www.colourhaze.de

Devil Sold His Soul – Empire of Light

(Small Town Records)

I’ve never been particularly sold on Devil Sold His Soul, one of the bands to emerge from the ashes of the promising Mahumodo. There’s a lot to like about their brand of post-metal, particularly their penchant for groove laden apocalypse inducing riffs and low end grumble. But at the same time, there’s their tendency to push ‘sprawling epic’ into ‘whingy emo’ territory, something that always jarred a little, the clean vocals straying far too close to Lostprophets-esque haircut metal. It’s like eating a delicious pizza but halfway through a mouthful a tramp sidles up to you smelling of urine and faeces and then that’s all you can taste in your mouth. Even after you’ve given him all your 50p’s and he’s gone back to his bottle of Buckfast your nostrils need a deep clean and that mushroom slice now tastes like a rancid strip of mould.

But they’re a British metal band who don’t make me want to vomit into my own mouth like the likes of Bullet et al, so I’m always willing to give them a chance, even if that chance involves me handling it with tongs and rubber gloves just in case they’ve gone full tilt emo.

So, safety measures in place and into opener ‘No Remorse, No Regrets’, which sounds, well, exactly as you’d expect. There’s a rollicking big riff for a bit, and then it goes all epic and whatnot and then it goes quiet. I close my eyes and wait for the fringey bit, but nope, we’re back into the riff. Hang on, this ain’t half bad. I’m going to take off the gloves.

Too early! Put the gloves back on! Singy bit, singy bit! All of a sudden it’s like I’m surrounded by people wearing dayglo hoodies and moaning about their how their mum wont let them out, except it’s all happening in my ears. Now listen, if you like this sort of thing, I’m sure it is all perfectly competently done, but I’m a man in my thirties now, with a handsome gut and nostril hair to prove it, and if I want to hear whining little teens I can turn on MTV. I have no desire to hear such things welded to otherwise meaty post metal, ruining it all like masturbating into someone’s cake mix.

I could go through the other songs, but that would mean going into detail about the bits where it gets laden down with strings so cringeworthy they belong on the X Factor, manipulating you into crying about some little girl not having a Daddy. I’d rather die than write about the excruciating chorus of ‘It Rains Down’. Suffice to say the balance between good and evil is not going well on the rest of the album.

When you consider that the other half of Mahumodo went off and formed the infinitely more interesting *shels, it really is a shame that it has come to this for Devil Sold His Soul, any trace of originality purged in an effort to go all in for the Fightstar market. If this is your cup of tea, then by all means knock yourself out. Or perhaps scald yourself on said tea. Perhaps consider sterilisation. And pull your jeans up, I don’t want to see your spotty bottom. Just don’t make me listen to this again, please?

Bilge/Tank

Hydra Dead

We don’t tend to do news alerts here on DP, mainly because we’re not on any mailing lists that differ from those of a thousand other blogs, and those blogs seem endlessly staffed by people wanting to turn press releases about dull bands into endless articles in order to generate more hits and more ad revenue and hang on, why don’t we do this again? Oh yeah, we can’t be fadged.

Anyway, every now and again a press release comes around worth mentioning, and tonight I got one from Hydra Head Records, purveyors of half my record collection, saying they are closing their doors. From the press release from Aaron Turner:

Hydra Head Records has never been a smooth-running operation. We’ve spent the majority of our existence excitedly scrambling from one thing to the next, taking on more than we could ever possibly hope to achieve, and never quite finding solid footing in the midst of our self-induced whirlwind of chaos. Though not every second of doing this label has been enjoyable, it has been a very rewarding and meaningful project for me, and I hope for many of the other lives to which it has been directly connected. The fact that it has lasted close to two decades at this point is astonishing, and much has changed during that time – the lives of those directly involved with running the label, the bands and artists we’ve worked with, and the nature of the music industry itself. Though many of these changes have been positive, or at least illuminating, the impact of our history and current industry circumstances are culminating into a slow and somewhat painful death for the label. It certainly isn’t an entirely unforeseen event, but we didn’t think it would come quite so abruptly, or (perhaps naively) ever.

The decision to pull the plug has not been an easy one, and in some ways is a not a choice at all. The simple fact of the matter is we’ve been running on empty for a while now and cannot afford to keep our doors open for much longer. Years of imbalance between creative ideals and financial realities, personal problems amongst the label operators, an unwillingness to compromise our aesthetic standards, a tendency towards releasing challenging (i.e. unmarketable) artists, and the steady decline of the music industry in general, are amongst the chief reasons for our inability to continue. It is a harsh but undeniable reality, and one which we are attempting to confront with as much integrity and grace as is afforded by the circumstances.

For the short term we will continue to operate as we have been, effecting our first step into shutdown this December, at which point we are cutting off new releases from the label. Thereafter, we will be remain operational only in the interest of maintaining our back catalog, with the ultimate aim of repaying our rather sizable debts. Grim though this prospect is, in the midst of it all I still feel an extreme gratitude for everything that has happened and for all the wonderful people with which we’ve been involved over the years. We’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the most unique and provocative artists of the last two decades, many of which have made indelible impressions in the underground, and by extension the larger world of music in general. We’ve also been fortunate to have had the support of a small but loyal following, who’ve constituted the very essence of our life force. We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude and love to each and every person who contributed to making this label what it is – all the artists who entrusted us as the custodians of their work, all the people that bought or listened to our releases, and all the people who performed the various label duties at various offices (and houses) across the continent.

…and this brings us to the present moment, where in all honesty we are in need of financial assistance from anyone and everyone who’s willing to throw us a rope. Though it is highly unlikely we’ll be able to resuscitate the label, we do wish to follow through on the final round of releases to which we’re committed and pay off our debts to our artists and manufacturers. In order to do this we are initiating a massive sell-off of everything we can dig up and produce for the next 6-12 months. This will include discounted bundles of CDs/LPs/posters/etc, represses of certain titles for which we still have parts, test pressings, and whatever worthwhile items we can pull together. For anyone that is able and willing to fund our funereal arrangements please visit our direct mailorder or webstore and pick up whatever you can. Any and all support is greatly appreciated by our remaining team, and will be put to the best use possible.

There is no way to sum up nearly 20 years of incredibly important music, experiences, and evolution other than to say a big heart felt “thank you”, and that we hope this closing will provide an opening into other even more positive and rewarding experiences for all of us and all of you who have been a part of our shared experience. For now we bid you all a very fond farewell….

-Aaron Turner

09/10/12

I think it’s fair to say that Hydra Head represent much of what it is I like about the music scene we all subscribe to. They put out records by bands they genuinely like, provide them with all the support they can muster, but then refuse to make those bands beholden to them. I can’t even begin to list the number of bands that I have gotten into purely on the basis of that little flame logo on the back of the CD, and rarely have those bands been a dud.

A few months back I watched a documentary called ‘Blood, Sweat and Vinyl’, which looked at Hydra Head and two other labels, and it struck me that in these times of dwindling album sales that here was a label that had the right approach. They saw every release they put out as a work of art (and most of the time those covers had artwork to match that ideal) no matter the commercial viability of it. Now, unfortunately, it seems that way has failed.

If I had any money in the world (save for the pennies I throw at DP every now and again to keep the lights on at Pigeon Towers) I’d head over to their webstore right now and throw copious banknotes at it, both to say thank you to Hydra Head for all the great albums over the years, and to get my hands on some of the amazing treasures hidden within. I suggest you go do that now.

Bravo and farewell you magnificent bastards.

Big Sean – Dance (A$$) remix ft. Nicki Minaj (NSFW)

Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass. Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass, ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass. Ass ass ass ass ass ass. Ass ass ass ass ass ass, ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass. Ass ass ass ass ass ass; ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass.

Nicki Minaj has got a filthy mouth on her.

Ass ass ass ass ass ass.

Also the line ‘wobble-de-wobble-de-wop-wobble-wobble’ is a joy, and should make you think of wobbling buttocks. That’s a thing we all appreciate.

Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass. (Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass.) Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass,  ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass.

Hammertime

10/10

OM – Advaitic Songs

(Drag City Records)

Hi.

Remember me? Course you fucking don’t.

Here’s a few words about why I don’t bother writing album reviews anymore: Who cares what I like? Fuck you. This bit shouldn’t even be here, but I’m leaving it in anyway.

OM are good aren’t they? At first blush you think ‘damn this is just some bloke twatting about playing single notes on his bass guitar for twenty minutes at a time’. But then you strap on the ear goggles (RIP MCA) for a closer inspection and you get something you didn’t reckon on; Groove. That’s with a capital-G. That’s what OM are about.

Previous works by OM have tended toward back-to-basics trading of rhythmic ideas between bass player Al Cisneros and ex-drummer Chris Haiku Hakius. Their first three records are an unequivocal statement about achieving a great deal with not very much; apparently simplistic elements coalescing into a deep and complex whole. That guy quit the band though and ever since the arrival of new drummer Emil Amos two records ago, OM have gently diversified their sound to incorporate a couple of well-selected new elements, the most striking of which is the dizzying drone of the tambura.

In fact there’s really only one song on this album that even remotely fits the OM template. Maybe one-and-a-half. State of Non-Return is a six minute wave of bass fuzz, washing back and forth over a crisply accented drum groove, and punctuated by a mournful cello ‘chorus’ section. Gethsemane is a richer composition still, and while bass guitar still takes a leading role, the sound is sculpted around a three minute canticle of angelic voices, giving way to the ebbing and swelling moods of the tambura and the tent-pole right hand of Amos, striking the ride cymbal bell like he’s counting down the end of the universe. Absent the trademark OM fuzz, it’s still a satisfying, intoxicating listen.

Elsewhere, you get Sinai, which treads similar ground to Gethsemane, but with variations of melody and orchestration; Haqq al-Yaqin is even more reliant on strings for texture and apart from the clockwork tick of Amos’ ride cymbal, the drums are entirely supplanted with tabla. Addis foregrounds sumptuous Hindi chants over a similarly understated musical landscape.

The BBC describes the sparing use of distortion as a ‘rude incursion’ into this record, which strikes me as a fucking idiotic thing to say in light of the fact that OM have been making bass sound dirtier than your arse-picking thumbnail since 2005 or whenever. If anything, this album could do with more fuzz, it seems to me. Not that I am complaining; if you want easy-going droning grooves to lose your mind to, good ol’ Al has got you well and truly covered throughout the back catalogue. That the last couple of records have shown an evolutionary step forward in OM’s sound is great news for drugs band fans everywhere. Wherever their travels take them next, I feel certain it’s a place I’ll want to visit.

meaningless arbitrary number out of ten, just read what i wrote you fucking nerd

http://www.omvibratory.com/