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As a huge boxing fan I often stumble on tracks about boxers, one such track was "Boom Boom Mancini", a track about former WBA Lightweight champion Ray Mancini. I decided soon afterwards to explore the man who recorded that track, a man called Warren Zevon.
As far as I was aware he was some incredibly obscure artist who did a song about the popular Mancini to gain some sort of attention, instead however it turned out he was a hugely influential recording artist and song writer who actually had a career spanning from 1969 to his death 2003 of peritoneal mesothelioma.
Although Zevon's influence was massive on the music industry with people associated with him reading as a who's who of the music industry with the likes of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Dwight Yoakam, REM, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles (amongst many, many others) his actual commercial success was relative poor. Despite the poor sales he did manage to break into the US top 40 once with the memorable "Werewolves of London".
It was using "Werewolves of London" as a starting point that I managed to fall upon Zevon's third studio album, "Excitable Boy", an album recorded 1977 and released early the following year to genuine success reaching #8 on the billboard charts and eventually going platinum in the US.
The album opens up with "Johnny Strikes Up the Band" an easy to listen to track that has an almost radio friendly light rock feel to it. The song is catchy enough as an opener though really pales in comparison to what immediately follows it which are quite truly a trio of excellent, if somewhat dark, songs.
The first of the dark tracks is the wonderfully titled "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner", a dark story about a Norwegian mercenary who battled in the Congo before having his head shot off by a supposed ally. The song goes on to explain that the headless Roland is still roaming through the world and still turning up at various conflicts and using his Thompson gun. Although the story, at least how I've explained it is convoluted it's genuinely hilarious and brilliant through out.
Following on immediately from "Roland..."is the title track "Excitable Boy". If "Roland..." is lyrically dark then "Excitable Boy" really crosses the line as Zevon sings about a character who can only be described as "disturbed". The songs content may be a little too extreme in it's humour for some though for others it'll be hard to not smile through out as the macabre word play of Zevon.
The last of the dark trio is the aforementioned "Werewolves of London", the most famous of Zevon's tracks. The song is nothing short of hilariously odd as he sings about a Werewolf reading a Chinese menu, a "little old lady" who was "mutilated late last night" and even asks about the Werewolf's tailor (I kid you not). Ignoring the excellent lyrical content the backing music it's self will be recognisable to many as being very similar to Lynard Skynard's smash hit "Sweet Home Alabama".
After the fun and dark humour of that trio of tracks we then get Zevon flipping things around as we get a slow love ballad in the form of "Accidentally Like a Martyr". The track feels somewhat out of place with the preceding tracks though shows there was a deepness to Zevon as an artist as he shows a genuine self awareness of himself as a person.
If the ballad hadn't shown that Zevon was more than a one-trick pony then "Nighttime in the Switching Yard" certainly did as he threw in a dance track. Unfortunately as a fan of the darker work of Zevon this track seems a bit like filler rather than anything of real quality and although it's a acceptable enough dance track it really feels so out of place on the album that it's hard to figure out what it's even doing on here.
The album has it's second ballad in the form of "Veracruz" a song about the US occupation of the Mexican city in the early part of the 1900's. In terms of purely being a ballad this is a much better on than "Accidentally Like a Martyr" even if it is less deep in terms of the artist.
"Tenderness on the Block" is the album's 8th track and is another more serious song talking about the relationship of a young girl. I'll admit I'm not a huge fan of the track though it's a completely acceptable song and it's difficult to complain about Zevon being a little bit more serious than he was in the earlier part of the album.
After a number of more serious tracks the album ends on a more fun high with the catchy "Lawyers, Guns and Money", a song that seems to be about cold war paranoia with Zevon mentioning a character who "took a little risk" and has ended up "hiding in Honduras". The track, like the dark trio, is very much a darkly humoured track which shows Zevon's ability to by dark yet also very easy to listen to.
Now whilst I've openly said I didn't like the ballads or the dance track, it's hard to actually slate the album. Yes some tracks were poor and felt out of place though they served a purpose, they let the humour of stand out tracks really stand out. It would have been all too easy to have had 9 dark rock sounding tracks that sounded similar, instead Zevon broke up the album brilliantly, oddly meaning that the "bad track" were "good".
Interestingly some 21 years after the album was released it was remastered and had 4 extra tracks with it including "I need a Truck", an alternative version of "Werewolves of London", "Tule's Blues" and "Frozen Notes". Whilst the alternative version of "Werewolves.." is interesting it's difficult to really compliment the the other bonus tracks
I'm one of those weird people who loves to at ice cream at any point in the year. Despite the cold weather I've been making the most of Sainsbury's recent offers selling off various Ben and Jerry's and Haagen-Dazs ice creams at a knock down price.
Generally I've been lucky in my choices and picked flavours that it turns out my partner doesn't like meaning I've managed to have full tubs to my self but my ran out recently when I purchased a tub of Haagen-Dazs Strawberry Cheesecake for £2.22 (yes I know, bargain!) and found out that the other half liked it just as much as me.
Haagen-Dazs is seen as one of the premier ice cream brands and the inflated prices, that match Ben and Jerry's, and although I hate saying this it's with good reason. The ice cream has used top of the range ingredients since the company was formed way back in the 1960's. The costly ingredients have see the product having not only a premium price but also a premium quality which sees the flavours really standout whilst the texture is smooth and the ice cream seems to melt gently in your mouth.
In the case of this particular flavour the ice cream has in bits of actual cheesecake in it (sadly my girlfriend has been picking out the cake bits because she's a pain in the backside) with a strawberry flavoured swirl through out the ice cream. The combination of strawberry, cheesecake and ice cream shouldn't work I admit but yet it's an amazing combination that sees the ice cream melting in your mouth around the biscuit whilst your tongue is pleasured by the strawberry flavour.
Although the pot is small at just 500ml it's an enjoyable amount that can either be eaten with a movie or a sports event or spread over a few nights (at least if your eating it solo...) though it should only be treat as a treat (unless you can often get it at £2.22).
With an RRP of around £4.45 it's a product that I'd love to buy at full price though sadly can't excuse myself for spending so much on ice cream. At £2.22 however the product is an ideal weekly treat instead of a bottle of premium beer or a magazine.
Yeah it's not the healthiest snack out there but in terms of flavour and quality there really is very little out there that matches this creamy delight...now I just need to find a place in my freezer to hide it!
Like every little boy I used to be a big fan of professional wrestling watching the likes of The Undertaker, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin tearing up the WWE (and formerly the WWF). It was through wrestling that I first heard of American rock band "Saliva", a band that had formed in the mid 1990's and really garnered widespread acceptance via their link to the wrestling world. In fact it was their link to wrestling that really saw the band making their name with a number of their tracks becoming the walk on songs of various wrestlers.
Formed in Memphis, Tennessee in 1996 the band released their first album, the self-titled "Saliva" the following year to notable success on the back of their own work (they self published the album selling over 100,000 copies before a major label took them on).
Some four years after their debut album Saliva were back in the studio to record and release their follow up album "Every Six Seconds". It was this album that saw the band first linking up with the wrestling world with tracks "Superstar" and "Click Click Boom" both being used as theme tunes for huge WWE shows in 2001 and 2002.
In late 2002 the band released their third album "Back into Your System" which again got connected to professional thanks to "Always" (the album's first single) being used for yet another major WWE show. By now the link was obvious that Saliva and the WWE were going to be always linked in my head and it was no surprise when in 2004 the WWE used "Survival of the Sickest" form the band's fourth album (also called "Survival of the Sickest") and then in 2007 the bands track "Ladies and Gentlemen" (from the band's fifth album "Blood Stained Love Story") was used, yet again by the WWE.
The bands link to the WWE didn't stop their however with "Don't Question My Heart" being used for the WWE's "ECW" show and "Hunt you Down" being used for a major show in 2009.
With all these links it's fair to assume that when I saw the track listing to Saliva's best of album "Moving Forward in Reverse: Greatest Hits" (released in 2010) I recognised more than just a song or two. In fact I think I recognised almost half the album from my watching professional wrestling and it's fair to admit that it's those songs that stand out with the albums clear highlights being "Superstar", "Click Click Boom" and "Always". All three of those tracks bare a real angsty teenage boy feel to them with a rocky sound that sounds a bit like Papa Roach with balls.
Sadly however aside from those tracks the album is a bit of a mixed bag with some solid tracks, such as "Raise Up" and "Your Disease" which shows the same angsty streak as those mentioned above and some really toothless tracks such as "Rest In Pieces" and "Family Reunion" which are really shockingly dull and overly...well...wimpy for lack of a better term.
With some 14 tracks here it's fair to say that it's not an overly long album (54:05) though in all honesty there is only a handful of tracks deserving to be on the bands "best of" with almost half of this album feeling pretty average and worth skipping. I understand that the band didn't have many genuinely great songs though I'd have expected better than some of the filler on here.
If you're like me and remember the band due to their links to the WWE then you may well have a nostalgic feeling listening to some of the tracks here, though sadly aside from those tracks you'll feel a bit non-plussed by a band who want to sound like angry men whilst appealing to childish little boys. I'd swiftly recommend a listen to the stand out tracks (Superstar, Always, Click Click Boom, Raise Up and Your Disease) but then I can't really recommend people to buy an album for 5 tracks, especially not a supposed "best of".
Earlier this year I hunted around second hand stores looking for the original "Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing" before finally picking it up in Cash Converters for the very tasty price of £12.99. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with the game, despite the online community being all but dead due to the age of the game. Some 6 months after buying the original game I found out a sequel was on the way and made some very clear suggestions of what I wanted for my birthday from my other half, thankfully she got the hint and ordered the game from Amazon for release date! Despite her ordering it for release date, it didn't arrive until the following day, however it didn't take long for me to make up for lost time as I whacked the game in to the console and get straight off to playing.
For those who haven't played the original. The original was a kart based racer involving mascots from various SEGA franchises, in a similar mould to games like Mario Kart, Diddy Kong Racing and Crash Team Racing. The cast of the game was a classic line up from SEGA's past involving characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Tails, Knuckles, Alex Kidd, AiAi, Billy Hatcher, Beat, Amigo, Opa-Opa and Ryo Hazuki and combined those characters with levels based on the SEGA games, for example the Sonic games and the House of the Dead games. It was genuinely brilliant and quickly became one of my favourite games.
The sequel continues along the same lines as the original combining the SEGA franchises with racing, however the game builds significantly on the ideas of the first. No longer are you restricted simply to karts but you're now every character is able to transform their kart into both boats and planes via passing through certain on track gates (hence the "Transformed" part of the games title). Each of these vehicles manages to handle differently adding a whole new experience to the game and the player will have to master all 3 of the vehicle modes for most of the courses in the game.
As well as the straight racing mode (GP mode) of the game it also features a variety of other modes including "World Tour" mode which is full of short but fun challenges, such as "Battle Races", "Versus", "Traffic Attack", "Sprint" and "Pursuit". It's in World Tour mode that you will spend much of your time playing the game and unlock most of the games hidden characters (including the likes of Vyse, Gillius and Joe Musashi), and whilst it's challenging it's also ridiculously addictive (as my girlfriend has been finding out since the games release).
The games other modes include the always interesting "Time Trial" mode as well as the online game play which features both a straight racing mode and battle races. At the moment the online community is growing, though isn't as big as that of games like COD and FiFa, however you shouldn't struggle to find a competitive lobby at the moment.
In terms of the games depth and modes you'll be very busy if you intend to unlock everything in fact with over 20 hours play time I've only managed to complete 45% of the game so for most they will certainly get their money's worth from the game both online and offline. In fact if you want to "upgrade" all the characters in the game (done via earning experience) you'll spend hours just doing that and unlocking the mods for all the characters.
As well as the variety of courses and characters that really build the games core, we also find an amazing sound track that takes the immortal tunes of SEGA franchises and places then beautifully in the game. Tracks from so many franchises are used here that it's hardly worth listing them, but like the courses you will find yourself recognising them time after time. In fact whilst I'm mentioning the courses I'll just quickly talk about them. They are often wonderfully crafted and dynamic, changing in the racing, for example bridges being knocked down, or a world being blow up as you race around it meaning every lap feels different. Not only are the courses dynamic but they often feature various short cuts and places that need exploring just as much as racing.
Now after all the praise on the games courses, characters, depth, addictiveness and sounds I need to come to the games major flaw, the AI. On the harder difficulties the computer controlled racers seem to have unfair advantages, for example if you knock a computer character off the course they seem to take less time to recover than you, in fact hitting them with weapons often seems to do little more than allow them to go even faster. This does feel a bit frustrating at times and makes you feel slightly cheated, especially with some of the toughest challenges where you do everything only to see a car whizz past you on the finish line.
Also the games only other point of contention for me is the games weapons seem to lack the charm of their Mario equivalent. In fact can anyone tell me what a blowfish has to do with the SEGA games? The weapons, including ice, the aforementioned blowfish, rockets and twisters (amongst others) all have a use but they all seem very-none Sonic when they perhaps could have used things like "Stars" (from the Sonic games) from invincibility, or a shield to protect against weapons (instead of their "Glove" pick up). However this is admittedly only a minor complaint and the game plays no different weather you're hitting someone with a rocket or with a shell.
At just £25 (yes it really was released this cheaply!) this was really great value for money and is one of the stand out racing games currently available on any console. Played either by yourself (world tour mode), split screen with a friend (pretty much any mode in the game) or online you'll be kept hooked and you'll be genuinely enjoying racing. In fact it's hard to think of many games this addictively challenging currently available. It's a genuine joy to play even if at times you do feel like throwing your controller out of the window.
Note-If you pick up a "Limited Edition" version of this game, you unlock a free downloadable character "Metal Sonic" and an extra course. Also if you change your consoles date to 25th December, you will be treat to a secret gift!
As a man myself (at least I was last time I checked), I feel I am in a perfect place to give some examples of ideal presents for guys. Thankfully even with out knowing about other guys we have a lot of general interests which are easy to cover, and with so many of these general interests you are almost certainly going to find that ever guy has at least 1 of them.
Firstly media. This is arguably my biggest single interest though is also the widest one so the most likely one that any single guy will fall into, in fact it's such a wide category that both guys and girls often fall into it. By media I mean film, music, magazines and games. You will almost certainly find that everyone will have something in those 4 categories that you can get them.
Whilst it's simple enough to get them a game, a CD or even a DVD a better choice, quite often would perhaps be to look at alternatives. For example a 2 month subscription to Netflix comes to around the same price as a new DVD (£11.98) and yet it's fair to say any normal guy will find that a 2 month subscription to Netflix will keep them a lot more entertained than single DVD. Likewise a subscription to a magazine, whilst more expensive could also be a perfect idea as could a year's Xbox Live or even a subscription to a music streaming service such as Spotify.
Of course not everyone needs any media, but everyone needs clothes. Sadly everyone's fashion tastes are different so clothing can be a difficult area to buy for. If you know the person you're buying for well, you may know what sort of clothing they would like, however sometimes things aren't that simple and you may need to resort to just getting really basic simple clothing, for example black socks (trust me almost everyone wears socks!). If however you can't help with clothing directly, you could be a little impersonal and instead buy some sort of vouchers for some where like Topman. With a voucher you've effectively gone "I'd like you to have some clothing, but I'll leave the actual choice to you", which some may like, and others may not, but the thought is there.
Of course clothing isn't the only option and instead you could appeal to their sense of smell instead of fashion and get them toiletries. Sometimes a nice aftershave can mean a lot, especially if the guy is the type to go out on the pull or go for dates with his other half. Like with clothing this can be a little tricky if you don't know the guy though the well regarded brands (Diesel for example) can be generally be bought at an affordable price.
Another good option and a very general option is alcohol. This year I'll be getting my grandparents various alcoholic drinks, for my grandfather in particular I know to get him a whiskey of some sort, like wise I'm assuming I'll be getting some random premium lagers (think Bitburger, Tyskie or Peroni) however for others it may be something more like Bailey's that tickles their fancy. As long as you know what sort of thing the guy in question drinks this should a really good present, however make sure you're not being a beer drinker some alcopops because they will laugh at you.
Of course for your none drinkers you can still treat their tastes buds with things such as expensive chocolates (think Lindt, Guylian, Ferrero Rocher and Thorntons) or even some sort of expensive sweets. However maybe an even better option is to pay for a meal for the person at a restaurant they like (you may even wish to share the meal with them if you're direct family or the guys partner).
For some people however they may want to splash out and give the man in their life a once in a life time chance and pay for them to do something special. This could be something like a holiday or alternatively tickets to a show, a concert or even a sports event. This again would depend not only on the guy in question but also price and what their upcoming schedule looks like. For example there is no point in buying a Manchester United fan tickets to see Leeds play Crystal palace or buying a rock fan tickets to see Neil Diamond. Make sure the gift here is appropriate as it can be a very expensive gift, especially if it's not the sort of thing that they would appreciate.
Whilst some of these suggestions are quite expensive you can also take a cheaper option and go with little stocking fillers. Things like a multi-function knife, or headphones are always appreciated, though even a silly thing like a huge novelty mug (thanks hun!) can be a perfect gift as long as you know the guy will use. In fact that's the key to any present, make sure it will be used!
Of course if none of those present suggestions work you can always go for the reliable old option of slipping a few quid in a card and letting them decide what to do with it. This may not be a very personal option though it is an option that will never fail if you're not that close.
Recently I moved in with my other half and although she can cook, I really can't. In fact if it wasn't for her I'd be living on soup, bacon sandwiches and beans on toast. Sadly however I have a pretty unique sleep pattern and she can't always be available at 3AM to make her delightful curries. My grandparents, knowing my cooking abilities, gave us an early Christmas present, a new Tesco MT08 Digital Microwave, meaning that , even at 3AM I can eat!
The microwave, coming in simply black and white looks the part of a cheap microwave, there is no pretence here of it being a high quality item expected to be able to last a life time or being able to do some of the things a high price microwave does. However it suits our kitchen which already had a white kettle, a white toaster, a white fridge and a (broken) white washing machine. So in terms of looks it's sort of what you expect, simple but it's a microwave, not a picture.
In the box is a microwave (yes stating the obvious) and the instructions, though being a guy I sort of skipped the instructions and just realised it's controls were very similar to my mothers microwave and as a result very simple. If you need the instructions you can use them, though I've hardly looked at them knowing how it works anyway. There is only 5 buttons on the machine "Power", "Auto Defrost", "Clock", "Start/Quick Start" and "Stop/cancel" along with a wheel which allows you to set the time, power and defrost weights all very straight forward.
In terms of it's size it apparently holds 17 litres which looking around does seem rather small with many being 28 litres or even 38 litres (who needs to microwave something that large?). Though saying that it does fit in our biggest plates meaning we can microwave any left over meals, as we recently did with some kebabs after a long night. Though I imagine if our plates were any bigger we may struggle to get them to rotate properly on the spinning plate thing.
Whilst it's size may be an issue to some people, it's certainly not the issue that has bugger myself, instead it's the power, or rather lack of that has bugged me. It's only 700 watt which is, in all honesty very poor. Due to the relative lack of power it's struggled to warm some things properly. It did the kebabs perfectly fine, however it's made having things like Horlicks (heated milk in the microwave) incredibly annoying as it simply doesn't heat the milk properly and microwave burgers (Rustlers) can also be temperamental.
After a quick look on Tesco's website the microwave costs around £40 which is I guess what's to be expected of a relatively limited microwave. Whilst it's limited (in both size and power) I think personally, it'll do someone like me fine overall. It's not got the features like a grill that some more pricey microwaves have got, it's not big and it's not powerful, but it does tend to get the job done...even if you do need to whack an extra few seconds on here and there. As long as you get used to tacking on a bit of extra time, you'll find this to be an acceptable, but cheap microwave.
Energy efficiency B
Power levels 5
Size 258 x 440 x 345 (all mm)
When it comes to musicians who died too young we can list name after name after name. Be it Matthew Jay, Amy Winehouse, Tim and Jeff Buckley, Bon Scott or, well numerous other examples. For me though the most untimely death in music history happened in 1974 when British folk singer-songwriter Nick Drake passed away aged just 26.
By the time of his death Drake had released just three albums. None of them had been commercially successful though all were genuine works of brilliance, something that wasn't truly realised until many years after his death when they have since returned to much acclaim and much, much higher sales than they had in his life time. It's fair to say that like any true artist Drake wasn't really appreciated until his work had been given time to really settle.
His debut album "Five Leaves Left", released in 1969 failed to garner any real success until it was re-issued in 1987 (and then again in 2000). Since it's re-release it has gone on to receive massive amounts of acclaim with many labelling it as one of the greatest albums ever released and in fact this is shown on metadatabase Rate Your Music which ranks the album in the top 60 of all time. A year after "Five Leaves Left" was originally released Drake released his second album, "Bryter Layter". Like his debut the album was hugely forgotten until a re-release years after it's original run though, after a 2000 re-issue was lauded over with masses of praises.
Drake's final studio album was 1972's "Pink Moon". Like it's predecessors the album was largely ignored (though it did receive some praise) until a reissue decades after his death which helped the album sell high amounts, in part also helped by the use of the title track in a notable television advert by Volkswagen.
Talking about the title, it's fitting that the album begins with it. "Pink Moon" is one of the more upbeat sounding songs on an album that really shows how melancholy Drake was, at the time he was suffering with deep depression (it was to be depression pills that would cause his death in 1974). The song, with strong guitar and Drake's solid folk vocals is really the perfect start to the album which quickly lays the singer bear open with the openly personally "Place To Be" (track 2 on the album). Although at it's heart it's a man and his guitar, the lyrical content is deep and needs to be heard a few times to really see just what a wordsmith Drake was.
With track 3, "Road" we see Drake going from strength to strength with a wonderful track that sees his vocals almost roll from off his tongue with true delight. Although the track is a bit on the short side it's really a highlight of what folk music is about and is a track that really showed what Drake could do with just his voice and guitar. Thankfully "Which Will" sees Drake continuing to show his exceptional gift of amazing with just his voice as he shows just how amazingly bare his emotions are.
If there is a weak track on the album, for me, it's the fifth track "Horn" an instrumental piece that really leaves me feeling very much like it could have been left off the album, thankfully however it is the shortest track on the album lasting just 81 seconds. The album quickly returns to form with the brilliant "Things Behind The Sun" a track that sees the pace quickly increasing with a swift folksy track that also comes in as the albums longest track (3:55). "Things Behind The Sun" is one of the tracks that sees Drake pushing his vocals slightly though he never comes close to losing control of his voice in a track that really is once again an example of his complete control of things. It's by now you realise that Drake wasn't just a competent musician but he was a really, really talented one and it's fair to suggest that although he often doubted himself he knew he was really damned good.
On the original vinyl release, "Things Behind The Sun" ended the first side of the album before we kicked off the second side with "Know" a track that slows the album back down. This is a track that I want to like but something about the guitar (which sounds loose and badly tuned) sort of puts me off being a big fan of it. The track to me anyway, sounds like Drake playing about in a studio and sadly probably reveals more about his unhappiness than his actual musical ability. The musical low of "Know" doesn't last long as Drake is back on form for the excellent "Parasite" a track that again sees Drake's ability to share a dark and haunting story in song form come to the fore in a track that is full of imagery. This is by far one of the most haunting tracks I remember Drake doing and it's this feature that will leave you tingling down your spine.
The mid point of the second side of the album is "Free Ride" another track that has a slightly quicker tempo (though by no means is "fast"). The quality of this track isn't necessarily Drake's vocals or guitar for once though is the almost catchy feel of the song which will hook you, especially with chorus, which really likely have you perking your ears up just to listen to. This is perhaps the most "radio friendly" song on the album, other than the title track.
Short track "Harvest Breed" is the albums penultimate track. At just 95 seconds long it whooshes past though leaves a lasting impression thanks, once again, to Drake's almost super-human ability to capture the imagination with just his voice and the guitar. The album then ends on a real high with "From the Morning" a track that has the same core sound as many of the other tracks, though features positive sounding lyrics and is almost a happy ending to what many feel is Nick Drake's best studio album. Whilst I wouldn't go as far as to agree with those who do feel it's Drake's best album it's certainly a very solid album.
Musically this is brilliant with only 1 real weak track ("Horn") and 1 weaker track ("Know") the rest however are at such a standard that very little can be compared on an even measure. The voice, the guitar, the lyrics are all exceptional throughout the other 9 tracks. Sadly however the album's biggest issue musically is that it may be too bare for some with it literally just being Drake and his guitar. If you can get past the fact that he's not accompanied at any point in the album you really should be able to enjoy this from start to end.
The fact you can enjoy it from start to end actually brings us to the real bugbear with me, it's less than 29 minutes long. The average length of a track is well under 3 minutes (with only 3 of the 11 tracks actually going over the 3 minute mark) and this sort of makes it feel like the album flies past a little too quickly. The previous releases from Drake measured in significantly longer (39:09 for Bryter Layter and 41:43 for Five Leaves Left) and this feels a little too short for me to think of as highly as the previous albums.
Don't let the length however take away from one of the really seminal folk albums. This isn't fun, this isn't happy and it's not exciting, but what it is, is brilliant, harrowing, haunting and made by a supremely talented musician who was sadly taken well before his time.
I'm a huge fan of weird cover songs, in fact if you go through my music library you'll find things such as Russian covers of Eminem, Rock covers of Lady Gaga and Lounge versions of Black Sabbath. With this in mind I was hugely happy to find that comedian and actor Ade Edmonson (Bottom, The Young Ones, Filthy Rich & Catflap) was actually in a cover band of sorts called called "The Bad Shepherds".
Formed in 2008 when Edmonson bought himself a mandolin and joined forces with Troy Donockley, "The Bad Shepherds" have become a bit of a cult folk band covering punk songs with their own, very unique string lead folk sound.
The band released their first album "Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera!" (a method of counting sheep up here in Cumbria), in 2009 and a year later released their follow up, "By Hook or By Crook", again keeping with a shepherd's theme.
The 9 track album starts with a cover of the Sex Pistol's classic "Anarchy in the U.K.". Unlike the original, which is angry and spiteful, this is a solid relaxing folk rendition, hugely different in sound and in performance as "The Bad Shepherds" show their musical talent in dragging you along a a very bizarre journey. There is no attempt to scream or shout with resentment at the queen but instead to let the song be heard.
"Anarchy in the U.K." is followed by a cover of The Members classic "The Sound of the Suburbs" (which originally reached #12 in the UK back in 1979). The track is again a slower rendition of the original and lacks the anger, but makes up for the change by being a much clearer, enjoyable sound. True it won't get you're blood boiling like the original but it will make you realise the message of what the original was trying to get through lyrically.
The album's third track is a cover of XTC's excellent "Making Plans For Nigel". Although this track has similarities to the original in pacing and the vocals the track is again vastly different from the original thanks to the excellent backing music which is a true delight. The sounds of various "olde" style instruments (including the mandolin and a whistle of some sort) give it a somewhat late 1800's type of sound which you could almost expect to see played by a bunch of farmers on a summers day.
Next to come is a cover of "Friday Night, Saturday Morning" (no, not the BBC talk show best remembered for the Monty Python incident) a track that was recorded the Specials (though it may have been recorded before they did it...). The track is a similar pace to the version by The Specials and whilst not one of the albums best tracks it's a solid listen and very easy to listen to. Sadly I didn't much like The Specials version of the track so I'm not surprised I wasn't a big fan of the cover, however at well over 7 minutes this simply goes on far too long for me.
Thankfully after the over-the-top version of "Friday Night, Saturday Morning" we get back on the right track with a thoroughly enjoyable medley of tracks from The Ramones ("Ramones Medley"). The tracks included in the medley are "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue", "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment", "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker". Although, like the rest of the album, all the songs are recognisable, they are all massively different from the originals with only the lyrics really remaining.
Track 6 sees the band covering The Smiths with a rendition of "Panic" in what could well be the albums stand out track with pipes and mandolin sounding brilliant and Edmonson's vocals doing a great job of taking the job from the enigmatic Morrissey. In terms of songs sounding like their original, this sounds the most like the track they are covering with only really a notable change in the instruments but almost everything else remains the same.
Following "Panic", we see the band covering Motorhead's anthemic "Ace Of Spades". Having heard numerous versions of this track in the past, I would liken it to the acoustic cover used in the TV advert a year or two ago, though it's not quite that simplistic or even quite that good. The combination of instruments is again the stand out factor though sadly Edmonson's voice simply cannot match that of Lemmy which shows as the track doesn't quite match what I'd like to have seen. Despite saying that however, the track is very good and well worth a listen.
The album's penultimate track is a cover of The Buzzcocks' track "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)" a song that is still one of my favourites. Originally this track reached #12 in the UK charts though has been covered numerous times, with the version by Fine Young Cannibals reaching #9. The track is hugely different to the original with the tempo taken way down and a real change in where the song seems to go. It's no longer a punk charged anthem but almost a tender folk song about lost love. A brilliant cover of a genuinely fantastic track.
The album finishes with a cover of The Clash's exceptional "White Riot". Although the cover could never match up to the original it does try hard and in parts is a brilliant attempt at putting a different spin on a very well known track. Thankfully due to how well known the song is, you'll almost certainly be singing along with the catchy chorus. Sadly, due to the short length of the original (less than 2 minutes) this version does appear to go on a bit too long (4:23) as the band just shove filler music into the track.
Despite just being an album of covers it's hard to complain about this with the tracks being covered in such an original way. Although the emotional anger of many tracks is gone the actual tracks themselves are brilliant and are thoroughly enjoyable through out with only a couple of issues of "pacing" really troubling the albums. Whilst it's perhaps fair to say that Edmonson's vocals aren't as strong as many of those he is covering the overall sound of the album is so different that rarely matters (with only really the "Ace of Spades" covering showing that up thanks to Lemmy's own slow acoustic version).
If you like things that are a little quirky, a little different and aren't trying to imitate others than this is well worth checking out. If however you're someone who knows what they like and how things are supposed to sound I would suggest you're best off giving this a miss.
One of my favourite British performers of recent years has been young singer-songwriter Laura Marling. Marling popped on to the British music scene just a few short years ago as a teenager with a mature sounding folk-pop sound that belied her age and a worldly lyrical that again made her sound older than she was. Surprisingly her debut album "Alas, I cannot Swim" (2008), didn't sound anything like what one would expect from a completely unestablished 16 year old and instead sounded like the work of an experienced artist who had been there and seen it.
Following the success of her debut album Laura released the highly acclaimed "I Speak Because I Can" (2010). Like her debut the album sounded much more like that of an older-singer songwriter than a youngster who was still perfecting her craft. This was shown in much of the praise she had got that had compared her to the likes of Amy Winehouse and just a year later (2011) Marling released he third album, "A Creature I Don't Know".
The album opens with the folksy sounding "The Muse" the track that really sees Marling continuing the powerful-female folk vocal sound of her previous albums. Accompanied by little more than a guitar and a piano Marling's vocals and lyrics really shine here as she performs with a slightly more produced sound than some of her earlier work. Although she always sounded older than she was, this track almost introduces you to "grown up" Laura, with not only her mature sound but also a more honed overall feel.
After the solid opener, it's little surprise that Marling's vocals continue to shine and the album's second track "I Was Just a Card" continues to blow you away as Marling's vocals again impress. Alongside the vocals, which are really set to impress, the track really has a simple feel with only the most stripped down of backing music. This is where Marling really impresses as she doesn't feel the need to hide her voice, instead forcing the listener to listen to her. This stripped down sound appears in it's most blatant form in the albums third track "Don't Ask Me", a song that really is little more than just Marling and her guitar in a deep and wonderfully crafted tale.
The album's fourth track "Salinas" is another example of Marling and her guitar doing almost all the talking. There is nothing smart or complicated about the music (despite it getting a bit busier sounding in places), though the lyrics really start to show their class here as Marling starts to show herself us as the next "Dylan" with a wonderful ability to tell a story. This ability to tell a story is evident again in the album's fifth track "The Beast". Although it's the longest track on the album at just short of 6 minutes it's a track that really shows Marling's excellent ability to pace things. It'd have been easily for the track to go on too long but Marling keep you grabbed throughout with her vocals, her story and the seriousness of the track.
After two wonderfully brilliant songs in regards to lyrics, Marling goes back to the simplistic for the lyrically straightforward "Night After Night". Despite being lyrically simple, it's another track that is perfectly paced (good thing as it's a touch over 5 minutes) and once again shows off the young lady's talent to keep you hooked with her voice and her simple music.
The album continues to show off Marling's vocal ability with "My Friends" a track that appears to want to show a different side to the songstress with out going too far from her comfort zone. The song does throw a few new things your way as a listener but at it's heart it's still Marling, a guitar and the word mastery of a young woman who is growing up. There is perhaps a bit more bite here than there has been in some of the earlier tracks though overall it's Laura doing what Laura does so well.
Although "Rest in the Bed" sounds like much of the album, dependent on Marling's excellent vocals, clever lyrics and simplistic music, the album really has a kick with penultimate track "Sophia", a clever track that slows down the pace into almost an orthodox folk song. This is, for me, the stand out track on the album and the richest overall song which seems to really step out of the shadows of many of the other tracks. The track has been compared to having a sound similar to Joni Mitchell, high praise indeed for not only the track but the artist at the middle of it.
The album closes with it's shortest track, "All My Rage" (a shy under 3 minutes) a fast, up tempo folk track that sounds like Marling just having fun with her music rather than doing anything too serious. This sounds like a light hearted and fun folk track, though the lyrics themselves certainly aren't too fun. This is a really fitting way to end the album on a high.
Although much of the album is quite samey with just Marling and her guitar it's hard not to be impressed throughout with the talented performer who really turns the screw in the final couple of tracks to complete and album that's worth listening to from start to end. It's not on par with her debut by any means but it's a solid album and is worth a listen to especially if you liked her earlier work or you like folk.
If you can see this available for £5 I'd advise snapping it up, though with just 10 tracks (or 11 if you by the album featuring the itunes bonus track "Flicker and Fail") I wouldn't spend much more on it.
Cuban-American darkwave artist Voltaire (real name Aurelio Voltaire Hernández), released his fourth studio album "Then and Again" in 2004, following the success of his third album "Boo Hoo" which featured his most famous track to date "BRAINS!". Unlike many of his albums "Then and Again" sees Voltaire in a more serious mood as he sings mainly about love rather than the demons and zombies that he is better known for (though they do make an late appearance in the album).
The album starts off with "Crusade" a song that shows the immediate seriousness of the album. Although the track has several references to dragons and a slightly medieval sound to it, it's certainly not got the fun feeling of a number of Voltaires other tracks and instead appears to be a bit of an anti-war track more than anything else. It also appears that Voltaire is showing his anger towards religion with a hint that the song is also against the Christian Crusades (hence the title) though I may be reading between the lines slightly there.
The second track on the album will be much, much more familiar with most out there as it's a cover of The Cure's classic "Lovesong". Whilst I don't think Voltaire's version is quite up there with that of Robert Smith and the rest of his crew the track is pretty close to the original and Voltaire doesn't try to change a very good song instead recreating a similar feel, and sound to the original.
"The Happy Song" is the third track on the album and is another song devoid of the fun I personally expect of Voltaire. Sadly after two solid tracks this is a bit of a disappointment and although the chorus may have you singing along after a few listens it lacks the sparkle that it really needs to be memorable. It's almost like he's done a very good song, then deliberately sucked the life out of it to give a pretty tiresome experience, which is a real shame. After the dreary and overly-long "The Happy Song", we get the slightly better "Wall of Pride" a song that whilst still not "fun" is a slightly quicker track and much more bearable. This track, oddly, makes me think of a Nick Cave track, and whilst I like Nick Cave (who doesn't?) this feels like it's still missing something. "Welcome To The World" is the mid-point of the album (track 5, of 9) and is again a slow, serious sounding track that fails to really inspire me. Although it does show more life than "The Happy Song" it doesn't really do it's self any favours by sounding like a man on some really strong sedatives.
Sadly after 3 rather tiresome tracks in the album I could under-stand people thinking this isn't actually worth a try, however it suddenly picks up with the excellent "Believe", a track that is certainly laced with Christian imagery. The track, although still slow, is a much better song and one that's worth listening to. It's much catchier song than the previous 3 and whilst there are religions images, there is also a second story of lovers (or friends) that gives the track a very solid reason to listen to it.
The albums 7th track is "Halló Elskan Mín" (which translate from Icelandic as "Hello, My Dearest") and is partially sung in Icelandic (one of a number of languages Voltaire has sung in in the past, along with Spanish, English and Japanese). Although the song is a bit weird for some, it's certainly a solid track from beginning to end and is much better than the trio of sleep inducing tracks in the middle of the album.
The penultimate track on the album is "Born Bad", a track that does, to some extent, show Voltaire's ability to be a story teller in his songs. Although it's still a painfully slow and unexciting track it's not the worst on the album (though I think that says more about some of the tracks on the album).
Thankfully we get a glimpse of "the real Voltaire" at the end of the album with the genuinely brilliant "Goodnight Demonslayer", a song that shows the fun, horror side of Voltaire. Whilst the track isn't catchy or fast paced, it's a very fun track full of brilliant imagery as if a father is singing a nursery rhyme to a child and trying to re-assure to child that they can sleep. This is the standout track on the album, and it's just a real shame that it comes so late in the album that I actually imagine people will have given up on it well before they hear this.
With just 9 tracks on the album it'd be easy to suggest that the album is too short, sadly however the opposite is true with 4 or 5 tracks in the middle really dragging down the quality. The opening 2 tracks and the final track are really the only ones that I'd advise making an effort to listen to, and when 60% of an album sucks I can't recommend anyone to go out and buy the whole thing. The seriousness of much of the album is sadly too much and as a result it's a rather dull album.
The old phrase "You learn something new every day" held true for me in a recent conversation as a goth friend of mine they mentioned "Voltaire". To me "Voltaire" is a French philosopher however it turns out that it also happens to be the name of a Cuban-American song writer who goths have been big on in recent years.
When my friend mentioned that it was "goth" music I was apprehensive however as they are fans of musicals and said that I should give "Voltaire" a listen I did. Surprisingly I found myself instantly in love with the quirky fun sound of Voltaire so have decided to review some of his albums and spread the word around here.
"Ooky Spooky", is the fifth of Voltaire's studio album's. Released in 2007 it followed up on Voltaire's more serious album "Then And Again" (2004) and built on his success from working on "The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy" (which used his song "BRAINS!").
The album opens with "The Land of The Dead", which was written for Nickelodeon's TV Movie "Billy and Mandy's Big Boogey Adventure". It's a soft rock track that mixes a cabaret sound (Voltaire's signature sound) with a catchy lyrics aimed at kids and a huge dose of fun. It's an opening track that is designed for kids and has various references to different "horrors" (Zombies and the such) and it a very fun opening track that should get your attention, even if it does feel a bit short at just 118 seconds.
After the very child friendly opening track we get "Zombie Prostitute..." a song that keeps the "horrors" theme from the previous track though adds a slightly more explicit undertone with references to, well, sex. The song is again catchy and full of humour, and if you listen carefully you're bound to have a giggle at various points in the track.
The catchy nature of the album continues with the wonderfully titled "Cannibal Buffet" which will almost certainly have you singing along with it during the chorus. As with the previous tracks it actually sounds "fun", it's not a track that even tries to take it's self seriously.
Things take a step up in pace for track 4 "Day of the Dead", a high tempo track based on the Mexican festival "Día de los Muertos" which is celebrated at the start of November. Again the song will have you giggling sporadically at the lyrics which are again laced with dark humour and although they shouldn't suit the cabaret style of the song they oddly do. For me this is one of the albums stand out tracks and is really worth giving a listen to even if you're not a fan of cabaret or "gothic" music.
After the quick previous track, the album slows down with "Blue-Eyed Matador", another track that seems to take more than a little bit of it's content from Mexico. The track is certainly one of the albums slowest tracks and a real chance to catch your breath after the fast and energetic start to the album. Whilst it's not one of the albums high points, it's certainly not a bad track, though it does feel a bit like a slow filler track. Sadly however the follow up track "Bomb New Jersey" is a song that fails to really achieve it's aim, and whilst I realise it's a song about Voltaire's own childhood in New Jersey (which he disliked) the song just falls a bit flat.
Thankfully the album gets back on track with the Star Wars themed "Cantina" a track that is given a bit of an odd country-and Western meets Cabaret feel with a clear "Tear in a Beer" sound. It's not as catchy or as fun as the early tracks on the album but it's certainly a track that will make all Star Wars fans giggle with references to Chewbacca's poo amongst other things. This is certainly not a song for the kids, though in all honesty, they wouldn't get the dirty references (thankfully).
Track 8, "Stuck With You" is another slower paced track, this time featuring Amanda Palmer of "The Dresden Dolls" as both Voltaire and Palmer bounce off each other in a wonderful duet about a failing relationship. The track combines not only religious under-tones but also a very abusive relationship in which both seem to not only hate but violently attack each other but yet, come the end of the track both admit that it's nice to have someone.
The album returns to the fun, "horror" theme of the opening tracks with "Dead". Although it's not as catchy as the first 4 tracks it's a welcome return to the theme that made the album so enjoyable to begin with, before it drifted a little bit. Sadly this track doesn't quite reach the standard of the earlier tracks, however it's again laced with religious references (including some very clever anti-God comments, that I think all religious people should ask themselves).
The album finally gets back to being about pure fun with the albums penultimate track "Reggae Mortis" a track that is again catchy, fun and lively and will have you both tapping your foot and singing along. Whilst parts of the song can go on a bit too long, the overall track is incredibly fun and a welcome return Voltaire singing about fun horrors with out trying to make a point (as a few of the other tracks do).
"Hell in a Handbasket" is the finale of the album and starts off as a pure curtain call styled cabaret track though it doesn't take Voltaire a long time to turn it into a catchy toe-tapping fun track. As with much of the album the links to the dead are clearly evident though it's a song that doesn't take death seriously which makes it so enjoyable.
Despite much of the album being linked to death, "Ooky Spooky" is a fun filled album which takes a dark humoured at death . Although the album does seem to lose it's way in the middle with one or two weaker tracks, there is enough truly enjoyable, catchy cabaret here to keep anyone satisfied. I'll admit I wasn't expecting much when I was first told to give Voltaire a listen but having given him a listen I have truly enjoyed his stuff and would advise everyone else to give "Ooky Spooky" a listen.
English Singer-Songwriter Luke Haines has had his name on the periphery of the Britsh music scene since the later part of the 1980's and early 1990's due to his work with various groups including "The Servants" and "The Auteurs". Though it wasn't until 2001 that the enigmatic Englishman first got around to releasing a debut solo album, with the release of "Christie Malry's Own Double Entry OST" (for the the movie of the same name).
Just a month after the release of "Christie Malry's Own Double Entry OST", Haines got around to realeasing his second solo album "The Oliver Twist Manifesto". Unlike his debut that was Haines releasing a debut album with no outside interest, so he wasn't limited to the tracks that were were wanted for a films director.
The 11 track album opens with "Rock 'N' Roll Communique No 1", a soft track that shows off Haines' lyrical mastery. The track has some clear roots both Brit-pop and although it's a nice opening track to start an album it doesn't grab you as a track that really should have started the album, instead that's left to the second track "The Oliver Twist". The track not only has a more bitter sound, both vocally and lyrically but also a much more "listen to me" feel about it, as Haines self-references ("There's a young British artist in the room"). You can see that Haines is more than a little bit bitter about missing out on the success of the Brit-pop movement, something he certainly helped start.
Track 3 is probably the most "catchy" track though also probably one of the albums weakest as Haines sings about British artist Sarah Lucas, in the track "Death of Sarah Lucas". Sadly this is a real down point in the album as Haines' usually sensational lyricism vanish for a track and although catchy it lacks the magical spark I've come to expect of Haines' work. The dip doesn't last long as Haines regains his clever word play and his wonderful story telling for "Never Work", a track that sees Haines return to form, even if the track does, end a little bit too early.
Arguably the albums most toe-tappingly enjoyable track is "Discomania", a track that again sees Haines lyrical mastery come to the fore though one that also shows a toe-tapping beat and a track that reminds me somewhat of The Lightning Seeds (who were one of my favourite bands), albeit it an angry Lightning Seeds. The music basic is quite happy sounding though if you give any attention to the lyrics the song is anything but happy happy and it's one of the albums real stands out.
The album's pace immediately drops following "Discomania" as we get to "Mr & Mrs Solanas". This track is about feminist Valerie Solanas, who is best known for an attempted assassination on artist Andy Warhol and references various various people involved with the art movement (specifically 3 from the situationist movement). The track is lyrically brilliant as long as you make an effort to actually look into it, which is one of Haines' biggest downfalls as an artists in a way, in that he's probably too clever for his own good. Aside from the links to the art world, the track is somewhat sinister in sound and well worth a good listen with the lyrics in front of you.
"What Happens When We Die" is another track that sounds slow although it only lasts 2:09 and it seems even shorter due to the amazing amount of story that Haines fits in to the track lyrically. Were it not for the slightly morbid nature of the song (death) this could well have had some radio play back in the day as it's a wonderful little track.
In the album's 8th track, "Christ" we see Haines on a real ego trip as he compares himself to Jesus time and time again. For people who listen to Haines in detail we will all know that he's a self-referential type of song writer but this is one of must egotistical but also one of his most incredible tracks. He seems to have no trouble with blaspheming "Arse licking Christ" in a track that may leave a bad taste in the ears of some listeners, but for those willing to just accept it as a soft-dakr pop song they will find it thoroughly enjoyable.
The album's longest track is track #9, "The Spook Manifesto" which runs to almost 6 minutes (5:44). The track is given an almost warbled sound throughout as Haines attempts to almost do an electro-ballad. Sadly the track has numerous issues, not only is a bit too warbled for my liking but it sort of sounds like "The Pet Shop Boys" hallucinating and doesn't really go anywhere or do anything other than make you wonder where your skip button is. This is certainly one of the albums few weak points. Sadly despite a return to the simplistic sound for the album's penultimate track "England vs. America", the track sadly just falls flat.
The album's final track is the album's title track "The Oliver Twist Manifesto" and is by far and away the most self-referential track on the album as Haines talks not only about himself (repeatedly) but also the album "All these songs about Christ, spooks and personal vendettas". It's fair to say that this song is almost Haines's version of Eminem's "Whatever You Say I Am" and it really sees him letting lose on what he really thinks of peoples views of him. If you look at it for what it is (an angry song, sung in a less than angry manner) then you will genuinely enjoy this, though it's easy to see why some may hate the self-indulgence that Haines has given himself.
Overall the album is really solid. Sure there are 2 or 3 weaker links (usually too many in an 11 track album) but the quality of the others really is brilliant. For some however it's not the weaker tracks that will be the problem but just how self-indulgent and self-referential Haines is through-out the album. If you look away from, or view the self-references in a humorous way then you will genuinely be able to enjoy this. If however you end up getting lost in Haines-on-Haines action you will quickly be turned off.
In the late early 1990's Luke Haines looked like a star in the making with his band "The Auteurs", arguably the first "Britpop" band and a band expected to go a long, long way. Sadly for Haines (and the others involved in "The Auteurs") things weren't to go the way the band would have liked, however for Haines it certainly wasn't the end. In fact since the break up of the original "The Auteurs", Haines has gone on to release numerous albums, both under his own name and also with various other projects, including Black Box Recorder and Baader Meinhof.
"21st Century" man was the 15th studio album from Haines in one guise or another and was released in 2009. Although it lacked major commercial success it did garner, like Haines has through his whole career, a cult audience as well as widespread critical acclaim.
The album starts with the soft "Suburban Morning" a track that immediately allows you to get to terms with Haines' vocals and musical style as well as his incredible lyrics, in fact in terms of lyrics, Haines is up there with the best of them. Haines is not only poetic in what he says but also deep and hugely impressive in terms his imagery and this song starts the album off in an excellent manner.
Things step up a gear when Haines gets to his next track, "Peter Hammill", a more up tempo sounding track that takes it's name from the lead member of prog-rock band "Van der Graaf Generator". Although it's a hard hitting track than the opener, it's an equally brilliant track that has a wonderfully catchy hook and you can. Hammill isn't the only "celebrity" mentioned on the album with German actor Klaus Kinski also having a song named after him with track 3 being "Klaus Kinski". It's probably fair to suggest that "Klaus Kinski" is the albums stand out and, like the albums opener, it's a slower track with deep, meaningful lyrics.
The album's fourth track is "Love Letter To London" a track that makes numerous references to England's capital. Whilst it's not as good as the earlier tracks for me, I imagine if you're from London you will get numerous references that the track makes. In terms of the tracks sound, it's again a soft, though one that seems to finish sooner than you realise.
In terms of the albums most catchy song, it's fair to say that to "Wot A Rotter", a track has an addictive sound, a toe-tapping beat and by far the catchiest chorus on the whole album. The track, an almost "radio friendly song" is catchy despite having scathing and angry lyrics despite the somewhat calm and intelligent delivery by Haines. If you're a track to nod your head too and sing along to this is the one.
"Our Man In Buenos Aries" is the album's most self referential album as Haines not only mentions himself by name ("Mr Haines, where have you been") but also by his own image ("White leather shoes and a Panama hat"). Like much of the album the lyrics are full of imagery as Haines paints gorgeous pictures with his words and again his deliberate delivery is solid has doesn't waste a word here and if you actually give the track the time it takes to sink in, you will be genuinely rewarded with one of the most interesting tracks on the album.
If "Our Man In Buenos Aries" is the most interesting song on the album, it needs to be said the most interesting title of a track is "Russian Futurists Black Out The Sun". Oddly I can't help but feel that this was almost certainly a James Bond theme tune in an alternate universe where the cold war has continued. The track has a genuinely futuristic feel and although the track is given a thoroughly bizarre title it's a brilliant song and well worth a listening, even if it does get a little strange towards the end.
After our jaunt to Argentina and Russia, Haines comes back to where he knows best with "English Southern Man" another song that is likely a little bit better if you're from the south yourself. The track is an up-tempo track that certainly has it's roots back in the 1990's Brit-pop movement with a much richer sound than a lot of the simplistic tracks that scatter the album. Whilst it may have a little bit of an "old" sound to it, this is another track that could easily have gotten radio play, much like "Wot a Rotter".
The album hits its low spot with the penultimate track "White Honky Afro" which, whilst catchy enough to be worthy of a listen is really nothing too special and it's not something that even nears the quality of the rest of the album. It's thankfully the albums shortest track (2:09) and is over quickly enough, though is certainly not worth listening too.
Despite the poor penultimate track, the album does recover well with title track, "21st Century Man" the final track on the recording. Like much of the album, it's musically simplistic allowing Haines' vocals and lyrics to carry the track, which they do well. The track, like much of album does references various things, such as Thatcher closing the mines (and many other things from the late 1900's), Haines' own birth (in the 1960's) and even black and the moon landing. The track is certainly a high to end the album on, and in fact it may well be why "White Honky Afro" is on the album, it gives the album a dip so that the final song is memorable.
Overall the album is genuinely top notch. Whilst it does take a notable dip with "White Honky Afro" the rest of the album is brilliant and has not only Haines' brilliant delivery and amazing lyrics but also a bit for everyone. With simplistic sounds, the occasional catchy riff or chorus, and references to so many things that you actually end up listening out for things you recognise. This is what music, at it's best, is about!
Review title take from "Klaus Kinski"
The past week or two I've been trying to extend my musical tastes by listening to different bands and even styles of music, sadly however I always seem to end up listening to alternative rock at the end of things. Thankfully (for me anyway) alternative rock seems to be a huge genre with thousands of bands and every to often I discover a new one that I like (be it for a song, album or the band as a whole).
This past week or so I stumbled upon Australian 2-piece "Faker", lead by lead singer Nathan Hudson. Apparently "Faker" have been around for well over a decade (forming in the mid 1990's), though they were slow to really make any sort of an impact with it taking until 2005 for the band to release their first album, "Addicted Romantic".
Although "Addicted Romantic" was highly praised in the media (with one Australian journalist describing it as the Australian album of the year) it sadly failed to gain a huge amount of sales, only reaching #44 on the ARIA charts (the Australian Album Sales chart). Despite the somewhat disappointing chart position the album did see the release of 4 singles, including "Hurricane" which reached #21 in the Triple J Hottest 100 of 2005, beating the likes of "I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" (#50) by the Arctic Monkeys, "I Predict a Riot" (#35) by the Kaiser Chiefs and "Fix You" (#26) by Coldplay.
Thankfully for Faker, "Addicted Romantic" wasn't the end of the line and two years later the band would release their second album "Be the Twilight", which debuted at #37 on the ARIA charts, before climbing to #24. Not only did the album chart better than the bands debut album, but it also achieved a sales mark, reaching gold status in Australia (meaning it had at least 35,000 sales).
The album kicks off on a high with with the first single from album, "This Heart Attack". An anthemic and catchy indie-rock sounding track that really will have you singing along and tapping your toes through out. Not only is the track the album's stand out track but it's also a perfect way to start the album with a hugely energetic feel that grabs you and forces you to press the repeat button time and time again. It's catchy sound and addictive feel saw the song praised not only by critics but also by listeners as it reached a lofty #5 position in the 2007 Triple J Hottest 100.
After the great opening track, the album continues in the same vein with the second track "Are You Magnetic?" Although not quite as energetic or as fun as the albums opener the track again has a really addictive and anthemic feel to is and is really enjoyable from start to end. Sadly however From here the album does start to go down hill, though it's to be expected however when the album starts with 2 genuinely great, fun tracks.
The album's third track "Killer On The Loose", which not up to the standard of the albums opening two tracks does, for some reason, remind me of songs by "The Cure". It's not quite as hard hitting or energetic as the first two tracks but is a very solid track in it's own right. It's then followed by equally solid (though not spectacular) "Sleepwalking" a slower track that allows Hudson's singing to come trough more than the driving musical sounds of the albums opening tracks. "Sleepwalking" also sees the album contain several profanities, so may be a track that you'd want to avoid you're kids from listening to if you're that way inclined.
The fifth track on the album is "Lazy Bones" a song that could easily have been released in Britain in the mid-90's with decent radio play thanks to the similarities to many of the bands around in the era. It's another energetic song and one that has a genuinely infectious chorus that will have you hooked after one or two listens. Although it's certainly not as good as the albums opening tracks it is a very decent song and one of the albums "non-single" highlights.
Track 6 is "Voodoo Economics" a rather raw sounding indie-rock track that is another song that could have been released in Britain a few decades ago to good success. As with much of the album, the chorus is just flat out catchy though the rest of the track does fall a little bit flat for me. That's certainly not to say it's over-all a flat song, but the the chorus is clearly the only part of the song that you'll remember from the first listen.
"Kid, Please Try Harder" is track 7 and the albums longest track and one that sounds like it it could easily have been by "The Maccabees", who interestingly released their own debut album "Colour It In", just months prior to Faker released "Be the Twilight". This is a slow, soft "indie" ballad type of track that give the album a bit of a break and allows the listener to catch their breath. Sadly however it doesn't just stand out as being a "breather" but also a bit of a weaker track, lacking the energy and catchiness of the bands better tracks.
Thankfully the album gets back up to speed with track 8 "Don't Hide" another track that has a British indie feel to it. It's another toe tapping track that's driven by it's energy more than anything else and as a result it does feel a bit weak in comparison to it's catchier brothers and sisters on the album. The high tempo feel continues in to track 9 "Lost and Found" which has quite a bit more to it than the previous track and has Hudson spitting out the lyrics angrily through out in a a much better track that shows the band don't just need to depend on their hard hitting energy.
The album then takes a bit of a change with "Dumb Mistakes", a track that really tests the lungs od Hudson as he fires off the lyrics in a never ending machine fire delivery. The track is still, at heart, an indie-rock track but the vocals and delivery of Hudson are simply tremendous here. The song isn't as catchy as some of the others but the energetic guitar riffs are still a staple of the track.
The penultimate track on the regular versions of the album is "Radio Lies" a track that seems to lack some of the energy of some of the bands other tracks, though it still remains a quick, hard hitting track driven by the guitar and Hudson's vocals. The song isn't as catchy as numerous other tracks on the album, though it's a solid enough track to listen to. It's then followed by the "regular" album's final track "Death Beach Party", a track that has a more relaxed feel than most of the album. It's again energetic but it feels like a much more restrained energy that the band has control of.
Now you may have noticed I twice mentioned the "regular" version of the album there. That's because the "iTunes version" of the album featured and extra track, "Hit the Light" another catchy and energetic track that is perhaps worth getting as long as the "iTunes version" won't cost significantly more than the regular version. At the moment Amazon sells both versions of the album for £7.49, so I'd advise getting the one with the extra track.
The album also has a third version, entitled "Be The Twilight (Enter The Twilight Zone)" which doesn't features "Hit the Light" but instead features an additional 10 tracks. Whilst most of these are remixes or acoustics there are two new tracks on it. " Pet Sematary (Acoustic Like A Version Performance)" an acoustic sounding track that is a nice bonus with great lyrical imagery, though nothing amazing and "Deathwish (Acoustic)" another acoustic track that strips the energy from the band though shows they can do brilliant short ballads. Amazingly this version of the album is also selling for £7.49 on Amazon and is certainly the most complete version of the album in my mind.
For the price the album (especially the "Enter the Twilight Zone" version) is well worth a purchase if you enjoy indie rock, alternative rock or just really energetic music. The opening two tracks are clearly the stand out tracks (and their acoustic versions are also brilliant) and whilst there is a weaker track or two, the the album never becomes too boring simply due to the fact too much is happening. This is seriously worth a purchase.
Me and the missus recently moved in together (yay go us!) though unfortunately we moved into a completely unfurnished place meaning we've had to buy all our items. First we sorted out the bed and then we decided we needed a couch (our floor is ridiculously uncomfortable sadly) so that we could watch TV with out getting numb bums. After a quick discussion we decided we'd get a sofa-bed as I have a weird sleep pattern and she has to be up early in the mornings.
After a look around we settled on getting the Click Clack Faux Leather Sofabed. Originally it was priced at £199 though we fortunately stumbled on it, on Asda's website for a much reduced price (which from memory was around £129), a price that we were happy to spend on what appeared to be a lightweight but durable sofa-bed.
A few days after making the order we received the the couch from the delivery team who had little idea what the item was inside a relatively small box until we told them. When we said it was a couch they were mildy surprised and helpfully carried the box upstairs for us. We were left with the assumption that the couch was going to be tiny as the box it's self was small for a couch, though upon opening the boxing we discovered that it certainly wasn't small, just folded and de-legged, with the legs sitting in the box needing to be attached with the packed screws and Alan keys.
After some 20 minutes we had attached the legs and finally, after 2 weeks of not having a couch, we had somewhere, other than the floor to sit down. As all guys however I wasn't quite satisfied with sitting down and wanted to explore what the couch "could do". The first thing we discovered was that both parts (the left and right) could recline independently of the other. This allowed me and my other half to sit at different angles to each other. The couch has 3 levels of "reclination" (it's a word now!). It has upright (like a normal couch), reclined (about 60 degrees) and flat (for using as a bed) with the reclining done by merely pulling the back of the couch forward and "unlocking" before putting it into the position that you want. Very easy to use.
After having played about with the reclining function I decided to finally sit still and then came across the first issue with the couch, the thing was a little bit hard on the bum. No where near as hard as the floor (thankfully) but it still didn't have a great deal of give sadly and as a result wasn't hugely comfortable unless you reclined it and put plenty of your weight on the back. This seemed like a notable issue to me, however if you use a cushion this problem quickly disappears (thankfully).
Other than being a bit unforgiving on the bum the couch was spacious with easily enough space for me and the other half as well as her stuff (uni books, purse, various other items) or 3 people (we've managed to have 4 of us on it so far). This sort of space is great even though we've rarely had visitors as it means we can both use our laptops (her for work me for....stuff) with out too many issues of banging arms or anything.
Of course the reason why we bout the "Click Clack" is the fact that the sofa's other function, was of course being a bed. To set the sofa up as a bed you need to slide out the legs from the back (which are covered by a zipped section) and then recline both halves flat. Very easily set up and takes about 15 seconds to move from sofa to bed (or bed to sofa).
As a bed the sofa is remarkably comfortable, more so than as a couch (bizarrely) with easily enough space for 2 people to sleep on it. I've often slept on the couch with no difficulty at all, in fact often feeling it's easier to sleep on than our actual bed. However I do need to advise folk to put a blanket down as the faux leather does like to stick to skin and can sting a bit if you need to "pull yourself off it".
Whilst on the subject of the faux leather, we've found it to be durable (no markings at all after 5 months of having it) as well as very easy to clean, in fact most things just wipe straight off with no issues (which is great as the missus is a ridiculously messy eater). This means it's incredibly easy to keep looking good as new and it'd be hard to know we'd used it if it wasn't for the groove of my backside.
As well as being easy to clean the couch is also very lightweight and easy to move. We've had to move it a few times to play the Kinnect and it takes seconds to move it where ever you want and back. I think if we needed to it'd only take minutes to move it from room to room due to how easy it is to move.
Overall I'm glad we got it. Sure it's not an amazingly perfect or comfortable couch by it's self (though it is certainly comfy enough for a sit down) though with some cheap cushions (or pillows) it is comfortable enough considering the prices. It is, as mentioned above however, a very comfortable bed and something that is fit for either a friend staying over, the kids or the guy who likes to stay up until 6AM watching boxing.