Ok, on to this month’s tracks you should hear.
Or, the second of today’s doses – and the first monthly round-up of this decade.
Track of the Month
The Medication Generation [pre-release master]
I feel highly privileged to have been supplied with a pre-release, near-completed version of the whole album, by some distance my most anticipated album of 2010. Remarkably, it’s now nearly five years since Transhuman first made it’s splash into the industrial world, and my full marks review still holds. And, I’m delighted to say that the new album is also brilliant, taking similar lyrical themes (scene apathy and fashionistas, medication, politics) as before but advancing the lyrics and the music that goes with it to a striking degree. Most of the songs you have already heard have been tweaked (some more than others), but it is perhaps most interesting that the best of the songs are the ones we hadn’t heard up to this point. Which brings me to this. A short sample, and the blastbeats then come through the walls at you. It’s fucking loud, brutally heavy, massively anthemic, densely packed with samples and bleeps, has an awesome cyclic riff across the chorus that would suit Fear Factory in their prime, and is the perfect way to reintroduce Cyanotic in a similar way that Order Out Of Chaos bust the doors down the first time around (this is the opening track). Welcome back, guys!
As with many other “comeback” albums in recent times, I’ve been somewhat worried about how this one was going to come out. Happily, it’s miles better than I could have ever possibly hoped for, and the opening track makes clear what the listener is in for from the off. A thundering, surging four minutes of classic NE-style EBM, McCarthy’s vocals may have mellowed a little (there is no bellowing here), but their musical drive certainly hasn’t. I really should be making plans to ensure I see them live in March.
Talk about back from the dead. A still-seemingly not fully resolved (and rather public and messy) split, the reunion of Burton C. Bell and Dino Cazares, the addition of possibly the best rhythm section in extreme metal (bassist Byron Stroud and drummer extraordinaire Gene Hoglan), it’s a wonder that the music has even had a look-in through this quasi-soap opera. Remarkably, the release of this track onto the internet a month or two back certainly had us paying attention – forget the somewhat turgid last few albums, this is Fear Factory back to form. Blastbeats like gunfire, Dino’s machine-precision riffs, Burton delivering his best vocals in years, and the clear influence of Rhys Fulber’s production and sample work all over it. I’ve heard a couple of the other tracks, and it’s certainly sounding promising – although I have to hope that perhaps they have got enough variety to make the album as good as I hope.
The video may put the song in the background (and the video is not worksafe, by the way), but god the song makes it worth it. It’s a minimal, bass-heavy track that appears to exist solely as a vehicle for Hope Sandoval’s otherworldly voice, not that this a problem, as frankly I’d buy a recording of her reciting a shopping list, her voice is that gorgeous. Unusually for a track that uses pr0n for the basis of the video, the track is considerably more sensual and attractive than said video…
Harmony Around My Table
Falling Down A Mountain
They’re back, and let’s be honest, not a lot has changed. With Stuart Staples’ band, though, this is not a problem. Still a near unique band in the “rock” scene, they owe far more to jazz and soul, and their new album ploughs the same lonely furrow as usual to almost as marvellous results as ever. There is perhaps a little more light permeating their sound nowadays, particularly on this almost sunlit song, with a joyous vocal backing and jaunty pace. Almost the perfect song for me to help hasten spring from the depths of this sodding cold winter.
Stay Too Long [Pendulum Remix]
Plan B may be godawful, as is the original song, but this remix is perhaps a reminder that Pendulum can still deliver the goods every now and again. At least, once you get past the whining vocals. As with all of Pendulum’s roof raising tracks and remixes, it takes it’s time to get going, but as the vocals get more and more urgent, you just know what’s going to happen…and BOOM, the trademark Pendulum sound rips in. Thankfully, that sound is unsullied by emo-esque vocals (by Pendulum or Plan B), guitars and all the unwelcome baggage that weighed down In Silico, and nicely brings us back to the basics of kickass drum’n’bass. More of this with the new album, Pendulum, yes? (And yes, I know it’s been around a while. I only heard it last week, I’ve been something of a hermit since I moved, I guess. This will change, obviously, in time.)
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
For some reasons I’ve been listening to this a lot again of late, and with a new – and possibly last – album due soon, perhaps time to mention just how great it is, again. James Murphy’s project kinda snuck up on me, I missed all the hype like I often do, then stumbled across the track further down the way. And this track really is an utter joy. The indie-electro-funk clash that this is works oh-so-well to make you want to dance, the Daft Punk-headed party he (presumably) fantasises about sounds like the best party ever, and I want to go and join the party. Every time I hear it.
Feed The Machine
I’ve mentioned this band before, but not in any great detail. So, a quick note on who they are: a now long-running industrial band from Pennsylvania, as I recall, and they do a good line in heavy, danceable industrial that is not terror-EBM. Yes, bands still do make this kind of music, and Brainclaw are pretty damned good at it. This track, from their last album (now nearly four years old) I rediscovered again recently, and it’s slamming beats and fantastic programming have me wondering whether I should be playing this in my DJ sets sometime.
I think I should have listened to everyone at Damnation 2008 and gone and seen this band. As, just over a year on, I finally pick up some of their material (thanks eMusic), and it’s wonderous. Yet another post-metal band, few vocals, just heavy, dark soundscapes made broadly within the confines of bass, drums and guitars with some electronics, somehow they are finding a sound of their own. Yes, there are echoes of ISIS and Neurosis here, but the sludgy, grinding breakdown on this track is nearly worth it alone. Now, when are they playing live again?
It was pointed out recently that it has been five years since the release of The Red Album. Which got me scurrying back to go and listen to it again, and you know what? I still agree with this review too. The power of the hurricane force opener Inferno is still marvellous to behold, at a pace somewhere close to KMFDM’s A Drug Against War, but with better riffs and an even bigger chorus. I recently heard early versions of new material, too, and while somewhat different to what was here (and to the ill-fated followup Citizen Stain), it’s still Red20, still maddeningly inventive, and could well make for another great album.