Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Album Review Compendium (Part 4)

Dead Kenny was looking to replicate the all-important 'guerilla gig' atmospherics when listening to the debut album from The Others, and so decided to play it at random intervals in different rooms of the Parallax View palatial residence at a minute's notice: rock 'n' roll or what? And strangely enough, he surprised himself even further by beginning to enjoy the record very much. Often derided for riding in on The Libertines' coat-tails, Dominic Masters and Co. actually score higher than their over-rated mates by eschewing a perverse obsession with riffing off the more shambolic elements of The Clash songbook in favour of lively, direct, heartfelt and tuneful punk rock more in the style of Sham 69, Angelic Upstarts and, in their more subtle moments, The Buzzcocks.

This then, is not a record for everyone, with Masters' rasping growl and cocky lyrics definitely falling into the 'acquired taste' category, but all that raw passion and energy makes for a welcome antidote to the ironic indie and ponderous progrock styles that are currently dominating the alternative scene. That a song like 'This Is For The Poor' can cause so much controversy and division says much for the way that 'indie culture' has, like football before it, steadily developed a middle-class mindset. Masters has also courted controversy with the comments made in a NME interview about how the New Cross kids could all handle crack cocaine and boasting about the fact that there had been no casualties to date, and yet this can be contrasted with his (more sober?) reflections on the closing track 'Darren, Daniel, Dave' in which he tries with alliterative help from his friends to come to terms with the loss of young life.

Dom is young enough to still be making mistakes (the hackneyed lyrics to 'Lackey' for starters) but it's great to listen to a frontman with fire in his belly and his heart in the right place (many of the songs relate to misfits striving for belonging and a sense of 'community'). Factor in tunes as strong as 'William'; 'How I Nearly Lost You' and 'Stan Bowles' and you have an album that Dead Kenny would have loved when he was fourteen, and in truth, is pretty damn keen on at 40.

The Beat-Up (formerly known as The Beatings) have finally delivered their debut album Black Rays Defence after Kevin Shields only agreed to produce the thing if they knuckled down for a couple of years and helped him build his studio brick-by-brick first. Sadly during that time, their brand of knockabout garage rock with a side-order of punchdrunk grunge seems almost hilariously outre amidst the skinny tie synth-rock du jour. Their lack of pretension is admirable though, as are the immense blasts of guitar that never really let up throughout the running time, aside from the sublime bridge on the album's centrepiece 'The Flame'. Catch them live, if you can.

Dead Kenny has talked about The Fiery Furnaces before, and at some length, but mention should be made of EP a ten track, budget-price compilation of assorted singles (including 'Single Again' and the radical reworking of 'Tropical Ice-Land') b-sides and rarities that have hitherto been unreleased in album format, that many people are calling, with some justification, their most accessible release to date. 'Here Comes The Summer' and 'Duffer St George' have already established themselves as some of Dead Kenny's favourite FF songs ever, and the record definitely benefits from Eleanor's vocals returning to the forefront at the expense of the more experimental leanings that occasionally threatened to moor 'Blueberry Boat'. 'EP' can be currently picked up for a fiver so a certain gift horse is facing you open-jawed right NOW.

Dead Kenny would also like to recommend Funeral by Arcade Fire which he listened to in full for the first time last night. Normally loathe to report on records after first listen, he hasn't felt this confident about the virtues of a debut album since Interpol's 'Turn On The Bright Lights'. Great tunes, interchanging male/female vocals and an unusual sound combine to provide what is certain to be one of the albums of the year amongst UK releases.


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