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(I'd just like to point out, that this is a review of the Lush.co.uk website and it's mail order service. I haven't tried any of the products that I ordered as they were ordered as a gift, but I hope you will find this review useful nonetheless, and if I do get round to using any lush products I'll be sure to give them their own review :) )
It's rapidly approaching the time where it will have been a year that my girlfriend and I have been together (an anniversary, if you will). In an attempt to say a big 'Thank You' for the wonderful year, I'm putting together a bundle of gifts for her.
She always mentions that Lush is one of her favourite shops. Whenever we walk past we usually end up going in, a lot of the times just to enjoy the lovely (and a little bit overpowering) smell, she's used Lush products before and says she loves them and is really behind their natural, handmade and friendly ethos.
I went on the lush website and really had a good look around to find some appropriate gifts. The website layout is very helpful, with sections for; new products, bath, shower, haircare, skincare, fragrance, retro (their older products, that are now only available through mail order), and to my delight 'Gifts'
The gifts section is nicely organised into price brackets ranging from under £10 to just under £100. Each gift set is attractively and coloufully packaged with different sets designed to appeal to different people or be appropriate for different occasions.
As lovely as this was, I couldn't find a set that was just right for my girlfriend. So I endeavoured to compile my own little set based on the knowledge of compiled of her favourite scents, textures and product types (yes, I've been doing some listening :) ). With the website organised as it is, it made it quite easy to create a collection that caters for everything.
The site also features a review system which I found incredibly helpful, it's quite brave of a company to let people directly review their products, so I admire Lush for doing that. It swayed me away from some products and attracted me to others. Top Stuff.
I also used the 'wishlist' feature to put my little collection together and remember the ones I'd chosen. The checkout process was fairly standard and I had no problems there.
I was very pleased when the box arrived this morning only two days after I'd ordered it. I opened the box to find an order form ticked off and signed by an acutal human, and to my surpirse the box was packed with popcorn instead of polystyrene (regular buyers will be used to this, but I enjoyed the novely of it), which is inkeeping with their ethic and eco friendly style and I just found that really really cool.
So all in all, a great online shopping experience, thanks Lush!
This is my first food review, so apologies if it's not very good.
Now, I love chocolate. I imagine you probably do too, it's an oft guilty pleasure that brings enjoyment to many. You may have your favourite bars with nuts and layers and caramel or nougat but sometimes, it's truly satisfying to take a bit of a solid bar of plain milk chocolate.
Sainsbury's Basics 100g Milk Chocolate bar costs just 27p! 27 pence! Wow. When learning this you may experience two different thoughts;
1. '27p? For 100g of chocolate?! I shall buy loads!'
2. '27p? For 100g of chocolate?! I must be terrible, surely.'
Both of these are fair, for 27p I'd set my expectations pretty low, and initially I did, but took the plunge and bought a couple of bars. My expectations were blown away, it's really really tasty. I'm not an expert in the field of describing chocolate, as you have probably guessed, but I'd describe this as surprisingly rich, and satisfying, it tastes like there is more cocoa in these bars than similar value chocolate.
Speaking of other value chocolate, I would say that Sainsbury's stands high up above the rest, this bar doesn't have the cheap and grainy texture of the Tesco or Asda equivalent (think really cheap advent calendar chocolate, eurgh!)
As well as breaking off and enjoying directly, this chocolate is great for melting too. I made some choco-rice krispie cakes (the upper limit of my culinary skills) with the sainsbury's basic chocolate, arguably enhancing the great taste of the choc.
I mentioned this bar standing up against other supermarket own brands, but also I genuinely think it's comparable to your more well-known chocolate brands. Don't get me wrong, this chocolate isn't luxurious, but neither does it taste cheap.
A word of warning though, in the sainsbury's traffic light wheel of (un)healthyness (or whatever it is actually called) this bar is all red apart from 'salt'. So, it's not exactly great for you, but we're talking about chocolate bars here, we know what to expect.
Treat yourself to a bar, it won't break the bank, but it will surprise you.
In the years of their existence, Art Brut and their singer Eddie Argos have always been indie outsiders. This seems quite appropriate for a band whose name is the French label given to the 'outsider art' movement. It's almost as if they are trying to dodge the mainstream appeal of their art-rock contemporaries.
However, for Art Brut, being on the outside has evidently given them a lot of song writing scope, and their latest album 'Art Brut vs. Satan' deals an awful lot with Argos' frank and honest opinions of bands and the music industry.
On the song 'Demon's Out' Argos out rightly states 'The record buying public shouldn't be voting' and laments the fact that 'nobody likes the music we write'. On the face of these bold statements you might not take an immediate liking to Argos and his songwriting, but it's his self-deprecation, humour and personal honesty that really make you warm to Argos.
Whilst on some songs, he's complaining that too many bands are sounding like U2 and wishing singers would be the same as they are in their songs. But on others he's showing his love for chocolate milkshake and comic books or telling us a story about being too shy to approach a girl. His honesty makes the song 'Am I Normal' very funny and endearing, he criticises himself in the same way as he does other bands and singers.
In interviews Argos is often asks why he chooses to use a 'speak-singing' technique, to which he will reply that he doesn't choose to do that, he simply can't sing very well. In fact that one time he does try to tunefully sing on this record, it sounds quite painful to listen to, even if he does say 'To sing now would be inappropriate' just beforehand. Luckily, his 'singing' technique lends well to his story telling style of song writing and really gives a great deal of individuality and believability to his songs.
Although Argos and his wit are the stars of this album, that's not to say his band aren't impressive, they are. The songs have more of a rock and roll and punk sound to them than most recent indie bands, and this suits Argos' love of bands who 'press record and play it straight through'. What suits their style of music even better it's the record's producer. Frank Black of Pixies fame was behind the knobs and faders for the recording of 'Art Brut vs. Satan' and his influence is very apparent with a much more rough-around-the-edges sound than Art Brut's previous albums.
Overall, this album is a very fun and surprisingly rocky listen, the songs are not as catchy or pop-sounding as their last two albums, but that's not entirely a bad thing, and the band really gets the opportunity to shine here, rather than being simply a fairly generic platform for Argos' lyrics. I think that in the battle of Art Brut and Satan, Satan is the music industry and recording buying public on the whole, I really don't think Art Brut are going to win, but I think they like it that way, and it makes for a really great listening experience.
A little while ago, I wrote a review of the Flaming Lips album 'Transmissions from the Satellite Heart" and basically went on and on about how great the bands former guitarist Ronald Jones was ('Transmissions.." and this album being the two that he features on.) Well, I'm afraid I might end up doing the same thing again.
This album is ripe with great melodies, both emotional and fun. What makes this album stick out from others (including other in the Flaming Lips catalogue) is it's thick and lush instrumentation. The opening track exemplifies this quite well. 'The Abandoned Hospital Ship" opens with acoustic guitars, spacey slide guitar, feedback noise, piano and the unusual but quirky background noise of a reel-to-reel tape machine. For this album, this counts as a sparse introduction. The track melts into an instrumental based around a simple yet effective guitar melody. It builds and builds, with a guitar solo the crackles and fuzzes as if it were broken, and loud chiming bells.
Although the later tracks on the album really less heavily upon single guitar melodies (apart from the penultimate track, and highlight 'Evil Will Prevail') what we do get is the atmospheric and psychedelic instrumentation, so many layers and noises that you can never be too sure what's actually playing, it almost sounds organic and natural in a spacey kind of way. As you can tell from that fairly weak description, the sound of this album is pretty hard to explain.
But it's this thick texture and atmosphere that weaves the album together into one whole thing rather than a collection of songs. Again, I put this down to guitarist Ronald Jones, simply because the other Flaming Lips albums lack this quality, and it's a quality that is so endearing and appealing that it's a shame that it's no longer there.
Fans of loud catchy pysch-punk are well catered for here. With tracks like 'Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles' and 'Kim's Watermelon Gun' (you'll get used to the mouthful titles) really encouraging you to turn up the volume. Whilst the album is loud, rocky and fun, vocalist and songwriter Wayne Coyne injects a great deal of emotion into the songs, in a way that I can only really describe as nostalgic and sweet.
Both this album and 'Transmissions..." I tend to treat like a completely separate band from the Flaming Lips we know today. I've enjoyed these albums a lot more than any of the other Lips records I've heard and I think you will too if you give them a try.
1. "The Abandoned Hospital Ship" - 3:38
2. "Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles" - 3:27
3. "Placebo Headwound" - 3:40
4. "This Here Giraffe" - 3:46
5. "Brainville" - 3:13
6. "Guy Who Got a Headache and Accidentally Saves the World" - 4:29
7. "When You Smile" - 3:13
8. "Kim's Watermelon Gun" - 3:21
9. "They Punctured My Yolk" - 4:21
10. "Lightning Strikes the Postman" - 2:50
11. "Christmas at the Zoo" - 3:06
12. "Evil Will Prevail" - 3:45
13. "Bad Days" (Aurally Excited Version, Mix) - 4:38
Hopefully it's clear that in this review I'll just be looking at one aspect of Play.com, it's music download section. I hope this is inkeeping with DooYoo rules and suchlike, if not, silly me.
The music download section of Play.com 'PlayDigital' is something that I have been overlooking for a very long time, and I regret that very much, considering the amount of money I've spent on iTunes' broad but flawed download store.
I recently began really shopping around for digital downloads rather than just, quite lazily only using apple's itunes store. I suppose the reason I mainly used this store was that it's built into the music player that I use, a very handy advantage that iTunes have in this market.
I soon found that there were a few other online retailers that were selling tracks either cheaper than iTunes or at a much better bitrate for the same cost. The retailer I was most surprised about the quality of was Play.com. I'm not really sure why I was surprised, I'd used Play.com many times before, and often found that they had pretty good value. I think it's mainly because Play.com hasn't yet really established a big reputation in the digital download business, something I feel it probably deserves.
PRICE was the first thing that really struck me about the Play.com download store, of the three digital retailers that I use (the other two being iTunes and 7digital) Play.com has regularly been the cheapest. For example today I watched the video for the song "Over It' by Dinosaur Jr. I liked it so much I wanted to download it, so I checked all three of these retailers and found that iTunes was charging 79p, 7digital was 99p and Play.com was only 70 pence.
So what do you get for your money? Well you all of Play.coms downloads are in Mp3 format, which is mighty useful as it's compatible with all (you've guessed it) Mp3 players. But you get a Bitrate of 320Kbs, for those not familiar with what this means, roughly speaking the higher the bitrate the better the quality of the sound. iTunes uses 256kbs in it's own AAC format, which is compatible with a lot of Mp3 players and phones, but not all. You also don't get any DRM (digital rights management) that would lock your file from being used on different machines or devices, but most download stores don't have this nowadays, even iTunes has done away with it.
So, essentially, you're getting a better quality sound for less money, sounds great doesn't it? 7Digital uses the same bitrate as play.com but is a bit more expensive.
Albums are equally as reasonably priced on Playdigital, with some charting albums only £6.99. I just had a quick check and Kings Of Leon's 'Only By The Night' is at £6.99 on Playdigital whereas it's £7.99 on iTunes and on 7digital it's the same.
The Playdigital store is also really quite easy to use too. If you're familiar with Play.com and have an account it's even easier, if not, it's a snap to set up.
Once you have you can explore the selection of songs and albums by searching for something specific or recommendation and new releases organised by different genres. When it comes to actually downloading the tracks or albums you want you're provided with a list of your recently purchased songs and you can simply click to download which it does right inside your internet browser. If you're downloading an album it gives you the option of downloading as a whole ZIP (compressed) file rather than having to download each track, which is a nice touch.
Something I don't like about the store though, is the re-downloading, if for example you lose or delete your file Play.com says you can come back to your account and download again, but there is a limit to the amount of times you can do this, and you are not aware of that limit as it changes from record label to record label even band to band.
This is a shame, although this service isn't even offered by itunes, there is a very useful 'download locker' on the 7digital store that let's you re-download at any time.
So all in all, the Play.com download store, 'Playdigital' is a great, good-value and high quality alternative to other download stores, give it a go next time you want to download a track or album.
I purchased the LaCie 1TB as my first external hard drive, about 6 months ago. I wasn't sure how much space I would be needing, but as the LaCie was on offer for £75 for 1TB I couldn't really resist.
The promotional literature for this Hard disk seems to keep reminding us that it was designed by Neil Poulton, someone who I'm not aware of, but must be pretty good judging by the design of this product.
It is rare when talking about an external hard drive that style is a talking point, but in this case it is. It's a sleek black elegant looking case, very very shiny. At the front there is a small strip of blue light that activates whenever the hard drive is turned on, everything else it on the panel at the back (on switch, connectors and vent) making the device very uncluttered and minimalist.
What I will say though, is it would probably be a good idea to have a cleaning cloth with this device, as the shiny black surface has an awful habit of showing off your fingerprints, there isn't a cloth included unfortunately.
So, what is included? well, the LaCie supports lots of different transfer methods, I used the firewire, but it also comes with cables for USB and a few others, I think this choice is great. Unfortunately the cables are very short, which would be fine if you want the hard disk to sit right next to your desktop PC. But I'm using a laptop, and the nearest desk, which was only a short distance away, was too far for the cable to reach.
I had to resort to picking up a slightly longer cable for about £2 from play.com
Not the best of starts, but, the device itself more than makes up for it. Its smaller than the pictures make it look, not as wide as a DVD case, and about the height of two and a half. Nice and compact.
On my mac, it instantly was recognised as a storage device with no trouble and I assigned it to be a backup drive, it's been perfectly reliable ever since.
It's not particularly noisy, you can hear it, but it's hardly noticeable unless you think about it, it doesn't have in internal fan, which allows for a much quieter drive.
Often it is argued that you should only use external hard disks to back up data, and not as extra storage space when you are running out. With the 1TB LaCie you can have both.
I partitioned my device, setting aside 250GB for personal files,HD movies, photos etc. and the rest for backup. I used free software downloaded from the net for this on my mac, but I think there is a utility for doing this without any extra software on windows, not sure though.
For the price you can get the LaCie I would say it is great value for money and has provided me with the perfect first external hard drive.
These heaphones have 40 millimeter diameter, dome-type driver units, long-stroke diaphragms and neodymium magnets for greater power handling and higher frequencies. This, despite sounding very nice doesn't mean that much to me, so I will do my best, in laymen's terms (being a headphone layman myself) to describe what makes these headphones great.
For listening to music these headphones are superb. They deliver a great deal of clarity and one of the better bass responses I have experienced from a pair of headphones. Where typical earphone headphones would lack these cans pack a punch, sounding fantastic at any volume without the fuzz you may expect at high volumes.
One of the main things I love about these headphones is the length of the wire which is easily long enough to allow for TV listening while sitting a good distance away, wheras you of course won't get the range of wireless headphone (for obvious reasons) you get more than enough.
This brings me neatly to watching films with these things. If you want a good stereo experience then these headphones will serve you well. With the same clarity that I described earlier and perfect stereo. It makes watching a film much more involving, and fantastic for not waking up the whole house late at night but still getting a full sound.
These headphones are extremely comfortable on both your head and ears and can sometimes make you forget you are wearing them, they are that comfortable. They're not very tight fitting, this is good and bad, you get a great deal of comfort but often these headphones fall off and clatter on the floor when I lean over or tilt my head, which is a shame.
The long cable can also be seen as a bit of a disadvantage, whereas a lot of headphones with long cables would have a winder type attachment that allowed you to shorten the length, these don't. This will often lead you to stuffing a big jumble of cable into your pocket if you want to use these when walking along with your mp3 player.
These headphones are big, they are traditional "cans" they are not overly subtle. I doubt these headphones would be appropriate for walking around on the streets, but then I don't think that's what you would buy them for. For home use and for delivering delectable audio to your ears, these are very good indeed.
The most recent studio album released under Norman Cook's Fatboy Slim moniker, was a shift in style compared to his earlier albums. Instead of his previous dependence on vocal loops Cook decided to take things back to basics (sort of) and use live instruments and vocals as well as more traditional song structures.
However, compared to those earlier albums, the critical consensus was pretty bleak, with review ranging from the okay to the bad.
When I first listened to this album, about a year after it's initial release, I had a similar opinion, I thought the album was distinctly okay. Nothing special.
Last year though, something strange happened, I listened to the album again (flicking through iPod), and it was brilliant, funky, smooth and relaxing, it was then that I worked out why the album suddenly appealed to me so much more.
I was on my holidays, sunbathing in the Caribbean (I don't mean to sound flash, just giving a bit of important context.). What made this album special was summer, blue skies and sunshine. This album appears to be best served hot.
In the context of a lovely sunny day, this album makes so much more sense, the cover art should have been a dead giveaway. Seeing as it's summer soon, I highly recommend that you go outside pop some earphones in and have a nice relaxing listen to this album.
So, what does it sound like? Are there any good songs?
Well, the shift in style for Cook involved using live instruments (he recorded a lot of live bass himself on this album) and song structures that incorperated 'normal (non looped)' vocal tracks. As such there are lots of contributors to this album.
The most successful I feel is Damon Albarn, the track he features on "Put it Back Together" is the perfect example of what this album is about. There are live instruments, but they're torn up and mangled together, and yet it sounds beautiful, really thick backing vocals and harmonies and just a summery cheery sound.
There are tracks on this album that hark back to Slim's earlier song format 'slash dot dash' and 'jin go lo ba'. A cover of the Steve Miller Band's 'The Joker' featuring Bootsy Collins seems to sit firmly on the side of new Fatboy Slim.
It's the songs that sit somewhere in the middle that are most effective, the previously mentioned 'Put it back together' and the opening track 'Don't Let The Man Get You Down' are standouts.
I feel this album has been painfully underrated and Norman Cook will probably go back to his old roots, or in an entirely different direction but I feel that this experiment really paid off for him, even if not many other people do.
WKD Blue worries me somewhat. There are a number of concerns I have.
The first is the taste, it tastes sickly-sweet, not in bad way at all. If you can remember blue ice pops, it tastes almost exactly like them. This shouldn't be a problem, but what I find with WKD and a lot of other alcopops is that you can't taste the alcohol, at all. It just tastes like you're drinking.. well.. pop.
At 5% alc. these drinks are fairly alcoholic, not too bad, but not a light drink. The taste and the little bottles means you can get through quite a few in a short space of time without really thinking about it, more so than with normal pints.
This got me thinking about who WKD are really targetting with these drinks. They have a fairly low price point, are widely available and have that sweet taste that is reminiscent of childhood. I get the feeling that these drinks are targeted at those who shouldn't be able to buy them, teenagers.
But then, I probably shouldn't be forming my opinion based on who I think the product is marketed for. I should just be reviewing it's taste and effectiveness as a beverage.
So on that basis, it tastes very nice indeed, and you only need a few to get you quite tipsy and thinking it would be a great idea for you to dance.
I suppose that's what any good drink should do really.
On the surface of it, this record seems to be a well-humoured and fairly intelligent alternative hip-hop album, with the overwhelming theme that modern hip-hop is not very good, and these British upstarts are here to sort it right out.
The album starts with a monologue from the duo's rapper 'Scroobius Pip' (presumably recorded at the start of a gig) lamenting a lack of originality in modern music and the way it is marketed and promoted.
From this we launch into opener "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" a highlight of the album for me, it's very catchy and sounds great, and lines like " 'good god damn' and other such phrases, I haven't heard a beat like this in ages" have a distinct britishness but work well within the tune.
The duo's biggest hit "Thou Shalt Always Kill" is where I feel that Pip is being particularly hypocritical, when we compare the song to the rest of the album, and even within the song itself. Pip criticises the self-righteous, but for most of the album he is explaining what is wrong with hip-hop and how he can make it right, and better. He has a very prescriptive opinion of hip hop, he seems to feel there was a pinnacle where it was perfect, and everything since, hasn't been as good. For a man who says "Thou shalt think for yourselves" he doesn't half force his opinion on us.
But the thing is, Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip don't appeal to hip-hop fans, they appeal to indie kids, and these kids already think that hip hop isn't very good and are therefore happy to go right along with what he is saying.
Don't get me wrong, this album isn't bad, at all. Infact the song "Tommy C" a brilliantly crafted criticism of the over use of the word 'beautiful' and tribute to Tommy Cooper, using his death and the way he went out of this world as a true example of something beautiful couldn't be more right.
Dan Le Sac's beats make great use of samples and have a very fun and homegrown sound to them, complimenting Pips distinctive rapping perfectly.
I like this album, I just think it's messages are mixed, I'm sure that won't affect the opinions of their fans at all, and I hope that with time the band will have a more focussed agenda and gain an even greater following.
Chuck Palahniuk is not a man to shy away from the controversial and grotesque (I recommend, if that's the right word, reading his short story 'guts' if you dare). So it seems fitting for him to write a book about pornography. There are themes of confused incest, betrayal, embarrassment, prejudice, and a lot of reference to realising or not realising when you have become old and tired.
The book is set in one room, a waiting room for 600 men, all waiting to be part of a huge pornographic record, being on screen and engaging in a sex act with Cassie Wright, a porn priestess, coming to the end of her career and going out with a bang.
The story is told from 4 perspectives, Mr. 72, Mr. 137, Mr. 600 (a teenager, a washed up television actor embroiled in a gay sex scandal, a famous porn actor doing a favour for an old friend) and Sheila the female organiser or 'talent wrangler' for the event.
I can't help but feel that because of the fairly narrow time span and location of this book, Palahniuk's normal story telling techniques are not implemented as well here.
For example, without trying to spoil anything, one of the book's twists although not directly obvious, is softened slightly by the way that the red herring is spelled out to us and repeated so many times it seems patronising and underestimates the intelligence of Chuck's many readers and fans.
However the narrative style keeps the book very engaging and for me meant I could not put it down until I had finished it (the book is rather short). The way the characters are explored through their reactions and opinions of each other is very interesting to read, and makes this book a very good read.
I drink a worrying amount of this stuff. I'm fairly sure that if you cut me I would probably bleed Pepsi Max (sorry for that imagery).
I have been warned and advised by many about the negative effects of this lovely nectar, I've been told that it can change my DNA by my Mum, but in fairness I think she gleaned this information from the Daily Mail. Even I know that I should not drink as much of it as I do. (I don't really drink a huge amount, or at least I don't think I do).
So why do I keep drinking it? Because my friends (and I do consider you friends) it is delicious, I am aware that that word is over used, but it truly is. It is the only diet cola, or diet soft drink product where "diet" isn't synonymous with "not as nice". What I'm not sure of though, is the difference (aside from taste) between "diet pepsi" and "pepsi max".
Perhaps there is a secret ingredient that gives Pepsi Max the "maximum taste" it boasts and delivers. I prefer Pepsi to Coke, it tastes more sugary and caramel-y, and I prefer Pepsi Max to Pepsi. It's this dual levelled elimination that in my mind elevates Pepsi Max above most other soft drinks. Although if you have ever tasted Mountain Dew, you will know Pepsi Max has strong competition.
I am literally (an often incorrectly used word) drinking Pepsi Max as I write this. I have some more stored in my fridge and a further backup supply in my garage. I have drunk enough Pepsi bottle wrappers and Pepsi Max ring pulls to have entered the "Max it for a Million" competition at least once every day for over a month now.
Either Pepsi Max and the good folks at Britvic are doing something extremely good, or I should be fearing for my health both physically and mentally. If this beautiful juice of the Gods is impacting my DNA, maybe I want to stay this way.. forever.
Buy Pepsi Max, even if you don't want it, you could give it to me.
Oh and with summer coming up, I recommend a nice glass of Pepsi Max with ice, it is seriously very nice on these hot days we're having when you're outside.
It's both easy and difficult to review things that you love, and I absolutely love this album.
When I think about why, different reason pop up. Firstly the songs themselves are poppy and catchy, but wonderfully psychedelic and bizarre at the same time (take a glance at some of the song titles). We get one of the band's biggest hits "She Don't Use Jelly" a suitably catchy, silly and summery single, with child like rhyming couplets that still seem intelligently put together.
The albums poppier songs burst with energy and fun, but a lot of these tracks especially the acoustic-sounding numbers have a real soulful and sweet emotion to them. "It's like at the circus, when you get lost in the crowd, you're happy but nervous" something about this line, and the way it is sung really makes me feel quite emotional.
The guitarist of the Flaming Lips for two of their albums (this and 'Clouds Taste Metallic") was a man named Ronald Jones. Ronald is a tragically underrated guitarist perhaps because he left/was fired from Flaming Lips just before they hit the big time as it were. Jones was very shy and reserved and spent most of his time in his bedroom with a vast range of effect pedals, just making noises and soundscapes. In the years since his departure, the band have used synthesisers and even crazy surround sound listening experiences (look up 'Zaireeka' on wikipedia) to try and create beautiful and bizarre ambience.
On this album, Ronald Jones does all of this on his own with the help of his guitar and many many wild effects pedals. Each track is meticulously decorated and punctuated with sound weaving in and out of the core melodies and vocals. There is not a moment where there is nothing really spectacular and clever going on in terms of texture and sonic range on this album.
Even the softer tracks like "Chewin the apple of your eye" have a lush and almost orchestral sounding backing sculpted with guitars and record crackle.
Now I'm under the opinion that Wayne Coyne (the Flaming Lips' lead vocalist) is not a very good singer, at least not in a more traditional sense. But he is a great transmitter of emotion, energy, youthfulness and a really endearing and warm quality that I can't really describe very well. It's difficult not to like the man, whilst he is not a great singer, when you listen to this album it doesn't both you at all.
On the back of the album, a little scrawled note on the artwork says "better when played at loud volumes" this is so true. After listening to this album on your Mp3 player or computer, if that's what you usually do, give it a blast though some big speakers, the bigger the better for a completely different and extraordinary listening experience.
It's also very difficult to be critical about something you love, and to be honest, I'm still so love-struck by this album, I can't find fault with it. Although I should say that I heartily recommend listening to 'Clouds Taste Metallic' in addition to this album if you enjoyed it.
Now, before I get into the reason I have had to stop using these headphones, I shall make clear that I did thoroughly enjoy using them when I did.
The first thing that strikes you about these headphones, is that they just look cool. The market that Skullcandy have created with stylish headphones is admirable, and putting them on can make anyone look a little bit more trendy. So a big thumbs up in this department.
Now, in terms of value for money, these things have been a bit confusing for me. I picked them up on play.com for £18 last year (the price has gone up since then, presumably these were discounted). However one of my friends, who was buying almost at the same time as me, got the red and zebra print ones (I plumped for the black) for around £40. So I think it depends on the price you get them for really. For £18 they have been great.
And the most important aspect, the sound. It's fantastic. That's no exaggeration, these really opened my eyes. Songs sounded so much clearer and bassier, without sounding overly thumpy. So yes, if your looking for a great sounding pair of headphones, these really hit the mark. What I will say though, is that, at least for me, these Skullcandies have made the difference between different audio bit rates much more noticeable, and have consequently made me hunt out the highest bit rate available for all the songs I have downloaded since.
Finally, here's what has let me down about these headphones, the durability. I only managed to get around 3 months of usage from them before disaster struck. A crack emerged on the rather thin plastic casing that connects the 'can' to the comfortable leather headwrap. This crack got bigger, and has since snapped, and rendered the headphones unwearable.
I initially thought this was a one off case, and must confess that I thought/think it has something to do with the fact that I have quite a large head (not ridiculous, but not small either). However, recently when talking to the friend who bought these for £40, he has told me that this has happened to him to (and I can assure you, he has a very average sized head). So I feel that this warning should in fact apply to everyone.
For the above reason, I can't really recommend these headphones, which is a shame because of the great sound, look and comfort of the product. It can't be faulted on those aspects. It's just the build quality that has let me down.
Radiohead have never been fans of doing things in the conventional way. They have in the past released albums only 8 months apart, released an album without any singles, music videos, or indeed any promotion whatsoever, they have hopped between genres and still left fans and critics alike with their jaws scraping along the floor.
But perhaps more ingenious than any of that, they managed to accumulate more free press than, well... anyone, by announcing their "pay what you want scheme" for the release of their latest album "In Rainbows". This really seemed to spark a huge debate, about whether it was fair to pay nothing at all, and even opened a wider debate about what music is worth.
After all this hype and all the debate about the release of this album, what no one would have wanted was a disappointment.
Radiohead have done no such thing, in fact, they have surprised, by producing one of their, or any recording artists, strongest batch of songs in the last decade.
The glitchy electronic drums that kick start this album like a temperamental engine click-click-clicking into action, sounds akin to the stripped down and experimental Radiohead who spawned "Kid A". Thom Yorke's non-nonsensical lyrics do very little to distance us from this idea "How come I end up where I started" Yorke expels from his mouth in a way that is particularly difficult to describe. It is not a burst of energy and emotion but neither is it a mindless drone, both of which Yorke is well-documented to be capable of.
Once guitars politely introduce themselves into the proceedings however (something that rarely happened in the aforementioned "Kid A") we are pulled into a grove, capable of getting the most cynical and dance floor-intolerant Radiohead fan moving their body to the beat. Of course, as is mostly the case with Radiohead, they will not settle for the conventional. Jonny Greenwood and his band of merry effects pedals, douse this, and every track in the signature layer of "weird" that we have come to know and love. There's even children shouting "yay" and "hey" peppered throughout this delightful tune. The song feels organic, there is no particular structure and the song twists and turns all along the way never sure where it is going, but, when listening to it, you ride the getaway train. I must say I enjoyed the ride.
Right, I feel peculiarly relaxed but also tense after that song, bring on the next one!
Squeezing out of an amplifier that crackles and squeals as it just manages to brace the pain, flows a distorted guitar riff. This is certainly the most single-y sounding track on the album, it's alternative style and rocky feel lend it to the radio stations. It harks back to a Radiohead of yesteryear who produced classic rock nuggets. But this is still undeniably new, it follows a pattern that emerges when you listen to this album. Radiohead have dropped the idea of Verse/Chorus/Verse, they've grown tired of it, and instead aim for dramatic build ups and crescendos. The band throws in alternate timings and structures like an overly confusing game of dominoes. But, to be honest, it's subtle enough for you never to notice if you are just casually listening. It is surely a testament to these songs and Yorke's song writing ability that he can write the most complex and intricate songs that can smoothly wash over you just as a regular 4/4 pop song would.
The end of this particular song clangs and bangs with guitary twangs in a way we've only really heard before at the end of "paranoid android" nearly 10 years ago.
Speaking of 10 years ago, there is another song on this album that sounds extremely like it would fit snugly into the track listing of Radiohead's critically acclaimed masterpiece "OK Computer", "Nude". The reason for this is probably more obvious than one would think. This song dates back to before 1997 and has become a fan favourite ever since it was first played live. "Nude" has evolved many times throughout it's history, but I think that with it's final recording it has blossomed into something truly beautiful, decorated with a subtle swirling string section the piece really hits you emotionally with Yorke simply "Oooh"ing a spectacular melody towards the end, and it's simplicity is what makes it one of the stand out tracks on this album, a difficult feat indeed!
Weird Fishes/Arpeggi, is what shows off Radiohead's complex musical ability, that make some of their tunes more than just alternative songs, this feels like a classical piece. Gentle melodies weave in and out of each other, thick layers of soft guitars gently float through the ether and guide you on your journey through something rather epic. This song is very hard to describe in words, perhaps that is one of the best things about it?
Boasting one of Colin Greenwood's most fantastically simple bass lines to date, (Similar to the bass line that made "The National Anthem") This initially stripped down and laid back progression elevates to a glorious uplifting crescendo, almost orchestral sounding without an orchestra present.
Faust ARP is the peculiar titled, black sheep of the family, in that it is the one track that no-one has any idea about before the release of the album (the rest had been performed live in some from or another). The shortest track on the album it feels exclusively like the odd one out. It's sound is somewhat folky in nature and touts orchestral flourishes, but not used to the subtle, beautiful extent that some other tracks here have achieved. This blend of sounds to me although inherently Radiohead sounds like an interlude, and not a "proper" track. Although hailed as a favourite by some Radiohead fans, to me it feels like an interesting interlude, but nothing much more.
Another organic jam follows, this one however sounds more carefully planned, the sound of a band who have pulled ideas apart, rearranged and sculpted them. Gentle piano and entirely falsetto vocals make this track eerie and maybe alienating, whilst oddly inviting and comforting at the same time, the orchestral breakdown in the middle strikes the listener by surprise, almost sounding like a reprise of Faust ARP but it's slow transition puts this middle section into context, we then realise why it was there, what it did and how it works with the song, we look back upon it fondly, and it completes the song, without this break the song may perhaps have overstayed it's welcome. When actually thinking about it the music up until that point was rather repetitive, but you get drawn into it, it carries you along with it. However, this song remains another highlight of the album.
"House of Cards". Radiohead-esque title? Check!. But this is where it gets different. "I don't want to be your friend, I just want to be your lover" sings Yorke in a... wait! That doesn't sound like Thom Yorke. Those lyrics seem more fit to the Princes and Jacksons of this world. But nevertheless, despite what we have come to expect this is a touching song, it's almost pop music, something Radiohead have shied away from since, well, ever. Of course the romantic sound compliments the smooth and sensual song but, it never really gets anywhere. Whereas the previous tracks on this album have all built up to something big, this one is happy just staying where it is. I can not put my finger on whether this is a good thing or not, but I must say, despite it's odd nature "House Of Cards" doesn't stand out as a favourite for me.
The first single from the album, for it's "proper" release in the new year, "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" captures everything that makes Radiohead who they are today. The song will make you move, but it will also make you think. Energetic enough to dance to, experimental enough to not become generic. Commercial enough to appeal to the masses , alternative enough to appeal to the fans. It's really no surprise that this was picked as the single. It's the stand out track of the album.
"Videotape" the conclusion of this album, is a piano ballad, for "the good times". The repetition of the piano and it's distant feel make the track hauntingly angelic. The perfect conclusion to what has been an extremely memorable listening experience. However, as we take the swirling staircase deep into this song, we find Phil Sellway, who has been flawless on this album so far, whacking his drums lopsidedly and almost a-rhythmically. I know Radiohead are all about subverting the norm, but I think the song is tainted slightly by the "Wha-Dunk" that spasmodically clunks through the song. To me it's what stops the track from being... perfect.
Overall this album feels like a wonderfully orchestrated conglomeration of elements cherry-picked from the band's discography, while remaining something totally new and refreshing. The album is a lot warmer and feels perhaps more personal than earlier Radiohead. A true work of genius, but then, what else would we expect?