Another month – so it’s time for a quick rundown of the ten tracks I think you should all hear. It’s a rather wider range of music than I’ve been posting of late, too, I think.
Track Of The Month
Arizona’s The Strand are one of those bands that seemed to have struggled to be fit into one corner or another. Crossing the divides between industrial, industrial rock, goth, and then there is the steampunk-esque image that they’ve had for some years. I don’t exactly know what Steampunk music is meant to sound like, and judging on how different the various bands that claim to be Steampunk are, I’m not sure anyone else can agree either. Anyway: I first came across this band through a stonking remix of I Hate My Fucking Job that has remained a fixture of my DJ sets for years now, and now their new album has arrived (which the band were kind enough to send me a digital copy on promo). True to form, it covers a number of styles, and for me this is the real killer track – a dual female/male vocal attack and a bouncing, raging electro-industrial backdrop that shows (once again) that so much more can be done with a 4/4 beat than just yet another aggrotech clone.
Four years away, and it would appear that the time has been spent wisely. These French tech-metallers made a heck of a splash with their first worldwide release From Mars To Sirius, and have since become a big name in the metal scene, not only from how good their live shows are reported to be, but also from the fact that they don’t just get sucked into demonstrations of technical wankery for the sake of it – their songs have actual melody, and meaning, as well as moments that have jaws on the floor as you wonder “how the fuck did they just do that?”. In other words, not a lot has changed here – that reaction still occurs at least three times during this track, the title track from the forthcoming album, and it is also a tune that sticks in your head. Seriously looking forward to the album.
Go Right Ahead
The Hives were one of the stars of Wireless last year, by virtue of being a great live band, and managing to perpetuate the idea that they are the greatest rock band in existence – which having seen them, it was hard to disagree. And again, after a few years away, they are back to remind us again. This song opens with handclaps, throws in a horn section but is otherwise their usual, brilliantly knowing garage rock. The fact that the horn section brings back memories of the mighty Rocket From The Crypt does this song no harm at all, either…
Another 20th Anniversary, but I have confess that I would have otherwise kinda forgotten about this somewhere along the line. Also, I never actually had this album first time around, despite knowing most of it. Anyway, it has been a welcome reminder of just how vibrant and interesting the alternative scene was in the early-90s for this to make Album of the Year in the NME in 1992 – something I could hardly imagine happening now. Anyway, this was Bob Mould taking his HÃ¼sker DÃ¼ background into a more melodic, radio-friendly direction with quite spectacular results. And of the singles, I think this is still my favourite – five minutes of cascading guitar riffs and vocal harmonies that seems so appropriate for the early days of summer.
Noise Inside My Head
Back for his seventh full album, Tom Shear’s electro project shows no signs of stopping anytime soon, but frankly as long as he continues to release songs of this quality he can continue as long as he likes. There seems to be a never-ending supply of glorious, hands-in-the-air anthems from him, and this is yet another. You know the drill by now: a dancefloor beat, introspective lyrics and a chorus to die for (you’ll be singing along after the first listen). No other artist in this whole scene comes even close to how good Tom Shear is at doing this, and when he finally does decide to the retire A23, the scene will be all the poorer for it.
B-Maschina (Iron Sky Prequel)
Iron Sky – The Original Film Soundtrack
The choice of Laibach for the soundtrack of Iron Sky made a whole lot of sense – even more so when we saw the trailer and this, now ten year old, song rose out of the battle footage. A reworked version from the one that opened WAT, this is perhaps even better. No changes to the words – the lyrics not far off detail Iron Sky’s plot anyway, of course – and they’ve reworked the musical arrangement a bit, with the choral section, when it finally arrives, having a monstrous impact (and it was utterly spectacular live at the Tate Modern, too). There is a quite a bit of activity in the Laibach camp at the moment, with Laibach Revisited finally seeing the light of day in the next month or two.
Love On The Run
Ok, so who honestly expected Dan Gatto’s post-Babyland work to be in the realms of romantic synthpop? And, for that matter, for it to be this good? We got an inkling of what was to come from his brilliant early-evening set at Kinetik 4.0 last year, but a year on the sound has been refined somewhat. This album is quite soft on the beats, but they aren’t really the focus – it is Dan’s distinctive voice, and the damaged tales of love, loss and desperation that make up the album: and this is the most brittle of the bunch, a slow, moody crawl that is even darker than the rest of the album. Quite a brave career turn, in the circumstances of his musical past, and one that pays off brilliantly. (Note to self: I really need to get ’round to writing a review of the album at some point).
The Fiends Who Come to Steal the Magick of the Deceased
At the Gate of Sethu
Ah yes, the most dedicated Egyptologists in (extreme) Metal return with another blast from the tombs. If you know what to expect, I’d be surprised if you aren’t already sold, but just to be sure: one of the finest technical death metal bands in existence who just happen to be fronted by an Egyptologist, resulting in their lyrical themes being based around this, or occasionally Lovecraftian themes. It makes them sound even more heavy and oppressive, and certainly lets them stand out from their peers who simply tell hackeyed tales of death, by comparison. This song – the first released from the forthcoming album – is a sandblasted four minutes of brutal death metal, with enough mosh-friendly parts to give you whiplash, but then there a few headspinning moments of brilliance too – in particular the break to an acoustic guitar after the intro, allowing a quick breath before it is blasted through the wall by the riffs returning.
My Head Is An Animal
A band we stumbled across (thanks to a tour guide!) while in Iceland, it transpires that not only have they made a big splash in the Icelandic music scene, they’ve also had the highest chart placing ever by an Icelandic band in the US (#6 in the Billboard 200). And listening to them, it isn’t hard to see why. A folksy, whimsical sound not a million miles away from Arcade Fire, but with lyrics that are less obtuse and more, well, plain odd. I’m now kicking myself for not buying the album while in Iceland, as it isn’t out here until late July. It should also be noted that their other US hit, Little Talks, has a quite charming and strange video.
Fear Factory return, again, this time as effectively a two-piece with others assisting: so Burton C. Bell and Dino Cazares – although with Rhys Fulber producing, adding electronics and co-writing most of the songs, it could be argued that he is actually a member of the band nowadays. His hand is plainly obvious in the sound, too – everything honed down to an industrial, mechanic precision. The opening, title track is frankly one of the best FF tracks in years, mainly because it doesn’t deviate whatsoever from their mid-nineties template. So that is sweeping electronics, pummelling drum rhythms, savage guitar riffs and that uneasy feeling that with the rise of the machines, mankind is utterly fucked. Single Recharger, aside from the melodic chorus vocals that drag it down a bit, is just as blistering.