Well, January sure disappeared fast. While I haven’t got anything that I wish to blather on at you about for 2000 words, I do have a few things I want to talk about briefly.
My first record purchase of 2010 was not a big-name, international release – it was, in fact, the debut album by York locals Glass. At seven tracks long, ‘album’ seems a bit of a misnomer, but the record does clock in at just over 32 minutes – and even with double the number of songs, Johnny Foreigner’s Grace And The Bigger Picture wasn’t much longer than that, so I guess that complaint isn’t valid.
Anyway, Glass make dark and moody rock in the mould of Interpol or Editors, with a very narrative slant – there’s even an intriguing backstory about a young boy creating a machine that can transmit art through time. There’s something familiar and yet also new about the band’s sound, splicing their rockier influences with synths and strong harmonies to create something that feels quite theatrical. On record, the band’s vocals are a lot clearer and more prominent in the mix, drawing more attention to the often cryptic lyrics. Generally, this is to the band’s benefit, but occasionally it dampens the impact of their sound – ‘My Elan’ in particular lacks a little of the impact that it has when used as a stirring conclusion to the band’s live show. This is a minor gripe however, and overall this is a strong debut from a very promising band. If you’d like to find out more, check out the band’s website, where you can also purchase a copy of the album for a very reasonable £5, should you so desire.
Supporting at Glass’ album launch were another local favourite of mine, The Blueprints. They’ve recently added a new dynamic to their sound in the form of keyboardist Tom Williams. How does this sound, you ask? A little bit like this:
Lovely stuff, no?
I was going to write a full review of new album For The Masses, but after reading a few other reviews I realised that they’d already said most things that needed to be said. So, in brief then: Hadouken! have produced another decidedly meh album – in fact, it’s noticeably worse than Music For An Accelerated Culture. Musically, it spends most of its time in thrall to The Prodigy and Pendulum – the former, at least, isn’t a bad thing, but they don’t feel like they’re distinguishing themselves from their influences in any significant way. Elsewhere, there’s a Michael Jackson pastiche (even James himself has said that ‘House Is Falling’ has definite shades of ‘Dirty Diana’), and the opening track sounds like some sort of cobbled-together Frankenstine’s monster – drums from Klaxons’ ‘Two Receivers’, guitars that would fit on any Lostprophets track, and that electronic choir sound from Editors’ ‘An End Has A Start’. The end result strives for epic but just ends up feeling a bit flat.
James seems to have adopted a grime MC-aping, aggressive tone for most of this record, but it just sounds like he’s trying too hard rather than being in any way believable. It doesn’t help his cause that lyrically, the record veers from vague attempts at ‘anthemic’ (‘House Is Falling’, ‘Lost’), through completely banal (‘Mic Check’), and finally all the way to utterly laughable (‘Ugly’). That last track is particularly worth of mention, with James spitting “I’m gonna fuck your face up!” before delivering the bombshell: “It’s ugly like your sister!” – an insult that will surely go full circle back to the playgrounds it was plucked from. For me, it’s this pathetic sort of bravado that sums up where Hadouken! have gone so very wrong with this record. Gone is any wit, any sense of wry humour, any knowingness – largely replaced with tough-guy posturing, aggression and dumb threats. I can’t say that I was disappointed with For The Masses, as I had no particular expectations of it anyway – but that said, the days when ‘That Boy That Girl’ was fresh and exciting now seem like an even more distant memory.
Is it mean of me to take the piss out of lyrics written by groups who obviously don’t speak English as a first language? Not if the group in question is Plasticines, I’d argue. I pointed out the inanity of ‘Barcelona’ in one of my very first posts, and now they’re back at it again with ‘Bitch’ – a song whose opening lyrical gambit is (I kid you not) “I’m a bitch/when I brush my teeth”. What would that involve exactly? Spitting all over the mirror so the next person has to clean it up? Squeezing your toothpaste from the middle of the tube? Honestly.
It gets even better/worse though, as the second verse begins with the line “I’m a bitch/when I walk my dog” which clearly frames the singer as one of those types who leaves their mutt’s shit lying around for some unfortunate person to step in. At least when Meredith Brooks was a ‘Bitch’ she was lots of other things as well, but you, Plasticines? Well, you’re just bitches. But don’t take my word for it:
If she’s “a bitch in disguise,” what is she disguised as exactly? A hot French girl*, singing about how she’s a bitch? Brilliant, NO ONE WILL EVER GUESS!
*No offence intended if you are hot/French/a girl. Well, unless you are actually a bitch.
These New Puritans
I had a listen to Hidden when it was up on These New Puritans’ Myspace, and found myself rather intrigued. Their new material has a more sinister feel than the jittery post-punk of their debut, with orchestral flourishes mixed with their more familiar electronic sound. So, while I haven’t picked up the album at of yet, it’s probably a contender for ‘Album Of The Month’ – or at least “best record released in January”. Then again, I haven’t actually listened to many records released in January, so that’s not saying much so far. Decide for yourself – first single ‘We Want War’ gives you a good idea of what to expect, and they’re also offering album track ‘Orion’ as a free download via Drowned In Sound.