Saturday, 25 August 2012

Play To Z: All Summer to The Avalanche

Some Observations

Radiohead's "Pyramid Song" off Amnesiac makes life feel incredibly cinematic, and like I should be moving in slow motion while something very sad happens.

Equally, it's hard to listen to "Thou Shalt Always Kill" by Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip without feeling like you want to stop doing photocopying and instead start spitting truth like bullets and burn down the office to the ground.

I've only got a couple of tracks off of Annie's more recent album Don't Stop. Listening to her debut Anniemal makes me desperately want to rectify that before I get to the "D"s.

The "Be My Baby" drumbeat (BOOM BOOMBOOM TSSCH) makes it's first appearance on Kenickie's "Millionaire Sweeper". I'll try to spot it every time it kicks off a track.

In other Kenickie news, the opening of "Come Out 2Nite" will never not make me want to drum along.

At War With At War With The Mystics

  The Flaming Lips are less a band and more an experience. I'd love to see them live, if only to see front-man Wayne Coyne traverse the audience in a giant plastic bubble, or manifest from a swarm of butterflies, or climb inside his own beard, or whatever he feels like doing at that particular point in the evening.

Inside Wayne Coyne's beard

  They bring a sort of anarchistic big top feeling to their music, with absolutely everything thrown at the audience in a free-wheeling sensory overload.

  2006's At War With The Mystics feels, at it's best, like the soundtrack to a rock opera made by people who grew up on Sesame Street. The band have always had a deeply narrative approach to lyrics, and by weaving themes through various songs and creating consistent characters who appear more than once, they create the impression that a larger story is being told. I'm not sure it qualifies as a full blown concept album, but it straddles that divide quite comfortably without ever feeling awkward.

  Where awkwardness does sneak in is in the album's political content. I don't think anyone could deny that The Flaming Lips are a big bunch of hippies, and this album, released in the middle of President Bush's second term, before Barack Obama had emerged as an optimistic, uniting figurehead, is dripping with frustration with the Bush administration's neo-conservative agenda.

  The trouble is, there is very little subtlety or even depth to the politics contained within the record. It essentially amounts to "Hey man, you think you're so great, but what you're doing isn't groovy, and it'll bite you in the ass one day." The album's worst point is "You Haven't Got A Clue" which builds a chorus around the refrain "Every time you state your case/The more I want to punch your face", which is about the most un-nuanced political statement you can make.

  The political content of the record doesn't ruin it, and there's still a wealth of songs to enjoy, but I think it shows to merits of sticking to your strengths. As much as I'm an evangelist for bands pushing themselves musically, The Flaming Lips have never been low on innovation when it comes to their sound - perhaps it's worth them staying on safer ground with their lyrical content.

Rediscovered Gem

"Metrorail Thru Space" by Cut Chemist

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