May Reviews

There are some great releases for the month of May – none of which were actually in my pile for Clash – and I’ll endeavour to get round to some of them fairly soon. However, see below for the four I did spend time with.

May 11

CULTS – ‘Cults’ (IN THE NAME OF/ COLUMBIA)

Maximum jangle with artwork resembling old iPod adverts? That’ll be Cults then. The punchy indie exuberance pervading this record is its calling card but beneath the surface there’s a whole lot more going on. ‘Go Outside’ and ‘Abducted’ have done a fine job of luring in an excited audience and the album is a largely satisfying experience. The sugary swing of ‘Never Saw The Point’ conjures the curious notion of Mazzy Star after six litres of supermarket cola while album closer ‘Rave On’, with its gloriously undulating bursts of euphoric wall-of-sound pop, suggests there’s a little more to this duo than simple indie club thrills.

A likeable album this, which goes some way to delivering on the promise shown on their early singles. It certainly suits a bit of sunshine but, like so many things, its lustre does fade after regular exposure. When it’s good, it’s very, very good but it’s the sort of album that my fifteen year old self would have bought, raved about for a few weeks whilst playing almost nothing else and then filed away, likely to be ignored for years to come. It’ll be a fine soundtrack to the coming months but make sure you go into the relationship knowing that it won’t be forever.

CHANNEL IN CHANNEL OUT – The Author And The Narrator’ (KARAOKE KALK)

The ‘albums you could make a good EP from’ pile is a curious beast. There’s enough there to like, but you’ll never fall in love. With its pointedly simplistic electronic noodling and reserved, whispered vocals, ‘The Author And The Narrator’ has a certain naive charm. Each track possesses a nice little idea somewhere, but rarely much more. By knitting a few of these tracks together you could create something pretty special but, stripped back and with its slightly undercooked innards on show, it feels a little like an abstract demo collection. Fucking splendid song titles though: ‘Invalid Entry And The Enchanting Word’ being the best.

I do love the Karaoke Kalk label – they release all kinds of weird and wonderful records which might not otherwise have an outlet – but this one didn’t quite do it for me. Worth flicking through if any aspects of the above description intrigue you but I very much doubt you’ll find more than a few tunes you really want to hear again. The titles really are great though.

May 11 2

SKELETONS – ‘People’ (CRAMMED DISCS)

Co-mixed by Animal Collective producer Rusty Santos and incessantly restless, ‘People’ is an album which commands your attention before leaving your brain in tatters. So wilfully perverse are the majority of the tracks here, you wonder how many hours of music could be made by unpicking the ideas tossed away in seconds. Meanwhile, the lyrics are enthralling, telling the tales of a victim of gang violence, a shop worker crushed in a stampede and somebody who invented a story of surviving 9/11. It’s hard not to wish they were set to something a little more, well, listenable, but this is still a curiously captivating record.

I really, really don’t understand this album. Now, I know that’s an odd thing to say in that we don’t generally pause to think whether or not we understand what a record is about, but in this case I think it’s appropriate. What is it aiming for? Is it meant to be so utterly difficult to take in? Either way, it feels like one of those records that everyone gets except you. As it is, I’ve not heard much yelping about it so I might just be being a little paranoid. If you do actually like it, please let me know why.

VARIOUS ARTISTS – ‘Nigeria 70 – Sweet Times’ (STRUT)

If you had the pleasure of either of the previous two volumes in this series then you’ll have some idea of the instant adrenalin shot contained within. Bung it on the headphones for your walk home from work and you’ll feel seven foot tall and pretty damn important. Collecting together some utterly hypnotic funk and soul nuggets, vintage crackle intact, ‘Sweet Times’ ranges across psychedelic strung out workouts to the tight swagger of Tunde Mabadu’s ‘Viva Disco’. With all of the tracks never previously having been released outside of Nigeria, this remarkable treasure trove of tunes is open for business. Pay it a visit.

A good ‘un, this. The sort of thing I used to buy from Selectadisc (R.I.P.) when browsing the compilations section in the soul/jazz/funk section. A good listen when you’re in the mood but not the sort of thing you’re going to be playing on a daily basis. Apologies for the cheesy ending but I figured, if they’re going to change it to make it cheesy, I may as well do it myself and get the punctuation as I’d like it. The aforementioned ‘Viva Disco’ is well worth Spotifying which, on a side note, is bloody good value for money even with a monthly subscription. The idea that it’s not is propagated by morons and vagabonds. Whether it’s such a good deal for the artists, is another matter…

2011OTR

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