vrijdag 31 augustus 2012

Time's all gone. Nick Waterhouse

You can listen to 'I can only give you everything' here.

Wanneer Time’s All Gone van Nick Waterhouse voor het eerst uit de speakers knalt, kun je eigenlijk alleen maar concluderen dat je een obscure soulklassieker uit een heel ver verleden in handen hebt gekregen. Je droomt al stiekem over een oude soulman die door de nodige persoonlijke ellende nooit de kans heeft gekregen om zich te scharen tussen de grote soulzangers uit de jaren 60, maar op zijn oude dag dan eindelijk zijn antieke opnamen heeft weten te slijten en alsnog de erkenning krijgt die hij al zo lang verdient. Het boekje bij de cd zet je echter snel weer met beide benen op de grond. Time’s All Gone is immers gloednieuw en afkomstig van een jonge blanke Amerikaanse muzikant uit California. Nu zijn er de afgelopen jaren wel meer jonge blanke soulzangers opgedoken, maar zelden klonken ze zo rauw en zo authentiek als Nick Waterhouse. Waterhouse doet op zijn debuut geen enkele poging om eigentijds te klinken. Hij maakt op Time’s All Gone een mix van vintage soul, rock & roll, swamp blues en rhythm & blues, die net zo makkelijk een aantal decennia geleden gemaakt had kunnen worden. Het is muziek die raakt aan die van soort- en tijdgenoten als Mayer Hawthorne, Eli 'Paperboy' Reed en Jamie Lidell, maar wat mij betreft klinkt de muziek van Nick Waterhouse een stuk rauwer, compromislozer en oorspronkelijker. Het is bijna of Ike Turner uit de dood is opgestaan en aan zijn zoveelste jeugd is begonnen en dat zegt wat. Waterhouse heeft zich omringd met muzikanten die het soul- en rhythm & blues geluid uit de late jaren 50 en vroege jaren 60 moeiteloos kunnen reproduceren. Het is een baggervet en dampend geluid waarin met name de buitengewoon felle blazers opvallen, maar ook de rest mag er zijn. Waterhouse en een trefzeker dameskoortje voorzien de vurige klanken van de band bijna achteloos van passie- en soulvolle vocalen. Time’s All Gone klinkt als een op een namiddag door een aantal gelouterde muzikanten in elkaar gedraaide set met een aantal soulklassiekers, maar op één cover na is al het materiaal op de plaat afkomstig van Nick Waterhouse zelf. Natuurlijk is het geluid van Nick Waterhouse niet nieuw, maar dat hoeft ook niet. Nick Waterhouse heeft een rauwe en gloedvolle plaat met heel veel soul gemaakt en daar hebben we er tegenwoordig veel te weinig van. Vanaf de eerste noten van Time’s All Gone heeft Nick Waterhouse je te pakken met zijn perfect spelende band, zijn rauwe strot en zijn aanstekelijke songs en inmiddels weet ik dat het effect van Time’s All Gone intens en langdurig is. Precies een week na de moderne soulplaat van ouwe rot Bobby Womack, laat jonge hond Nick Waterhouse horen hoe de soul een aantal decennia geleden ook al weer klonk. Ik kan maar lastig kiezen, maar weet wel dat Nick Waterhouse de beste papieren heeft wanneer de temperaturen de komende weken eindelijk eens gaan oplopen.

Erwin Zijleman

You can order Time's all gone here

or here


donderdag 30 augustus 2012

What kind of world. Brendan Benson

You can listen to 'What kind of world' live here.

For most people Brendan Benson is known because he teamed up with Jack White in The Raconteurs. After two more than just nice albums, 'Broken boy soldier' and 'Consolers of the lonely', the individual members went back to what they were doing before that or new projects for Jack. With What kind of world Benson made an album that ought push him up into at least Euro League if not the Champions League of albums for 2012. A plate of great pop rock songs is served up with influences of at least the last 35 years of pop music present. Even the Little River Band comes by in 'Light of day' in the great singing and matching the best of Crowded House with ease. Pure great pop with a sharp rock edge here and there.

The differences with 'Blunderbuss' Jack White's first solo album, couldn't be greater. (Read the review here.) The combination of Benson and White is a somewhat strange one at first sight. It isn't if we consider the great melodies Jack White is able to come up with under or over the blues, antics and noisy eruptions. Benson is more straight forward and aims for the perfect pop song in the best tradition since Lennon/McCartney. So where White turns towards blues and soul, Benson turns to pop, rock and a little undertone of new wave. The combination of the two worked well, while they both came up with a great solo album in 2012.

What kind of world is Benson fifth solo outing. So far I liked 'Lapalco' (2002) the best, but I think this may change any day soon. What kind of world happens to be a very strong album, that truly takes the listener on a audio tour, through different moods, tempi, sounds and voices. Most songs are up tempo, some remind of The Cars of 'My best friend's girlfriend' and Fischer-Z in the 'Marliese' phase. Just as easily The Kinks come to mind in its 'Low budget' period. Benson is able to come up with strong songs that rock mildly hard.

'No one else but you' takes the album in a totally different direction. Billy Joel? Yes, until we get to the chorus where the song erupts in a totally fun way with horns and a-ha-a-ha background vocals that match the horns. Where the album at first appears to nosedive, in my humble opinion, it's taken a step upwards instead. The rough sounding guitars in 'Come on' are in stark contrast to the previous song, while the final effort, 'On the fence', shows that living in Nashville, Tennessee, leaves it traces on every one. A honky tonk piano and a pop country flavour. An end that is forgiven, as the melody of the song is a true winner.

All in all What kind of world mostly colours nicely within the lines of pop music. As long as this happens with the quality Brendan Benson offers on his latest effort, he can colour this way forever as far as I'm concerned.  The album seems to offer the best Brendan Benson has got to offer and this is a lot.


You can order What kind of world here

or here

dinsdag 28 augustus 2012

Following sea. dEUS

You can listen to 'Quatre mains' live here.

What is it about singing in French that a singer has the inclination to start using this Gauloise tainted voice? Tom Barman, singer and frontman of Antwerp based band dEUS sing-talks for the first time in French and has that characteristic sound to his voice, till he sings the chorus of 'Quatre mains', when his voice turns softer. A bit of a gimmick then? A successful one for sure.

Following sea starts off on a light footing, almost danceable, with a Pink Floyd like rhythm guitar in on corner, echoing 'Another brick in the wall, part 3'. Or so it seems. More on that later. 'Quatre mains' grabs the attention of the listener as different things happen at the same time. A trick that dEUS is good at. It's nearly 20 years ago that the band got attention in The Netherlands with their first album, 'Worst case scenario', as the leaders of the "Belpop" movement of, mostly Flemish, Belgian bands. A string of bands that has not stopped till this day. Following sea is the last in a line of albums of which 'The ideal crash' is still my favourite, with the intense and greatly built up 'Instant street' as absolute favourite.

After a few albums where the band didn't really tickle my fancy, 'Pocket revolution' and 'Vanishing point', Following sea grabs my attention again. There is an under current of tension put into the songs that drives the songs forward, like in 'One thing about waves'. Like there is something lurking about in the impenetrable dark. Despite the lighter tone of songs, that everyone points to, there are these delicious deep sounds hidden in the songs and melancholy lead notes on a keyboard in 'Hidden wounds' that carry me off to uncharted waters. A clear sign that Barman c.s. can write incredibly exciting songs without needing great effects, just by building the tension slowly.

Further on Following sea it is quiet clear that dEUS has shed most of its dangerous sides, but offers its fans beautiful melodies like 'The soft fall' instead. A kind of song that we have heard before from the band, but songs like this are part of "the good life". 'Crazy about you' starts of with a prickly riff, but turns into a love declaration with soft toned choruses, keyboards and a complex sounding acoustic guitar part. In this sense dEUS is exploring the softer side of the band and succeeding.

'Fire up the Google beast algorithm' is more experimental. A stream of consciousness kind of lyric, screaming and shouting in the background sounding like someone is in extreme agony and double tracking of the vocal in a desperate sounding voice. A nightmare put to song? As always towards the end a dEUS album is becoming a bit much for me. I enjoy dEUS best in small portions. That does not take away anything from my generally favourable opinion of the album, that I've played quite regularly in the past weeks.

The summer of 2012 may be turning towards its final stretch, listening to Following sea may keep your summer feeling alive for just a while longer.


You can order Following sea here

or here

maandag 27 augustus 2012

Go. Motion City Soundtrack

You can listen to 'True romance' here. (And a fun video to watch, if you promise to come back and read!)

It's a thin line between liking punk pop with emo overtones and disliking it strongly. It's on this thin line that Motion City Soundtrack finds it equilibrium near perfection. The more I play the record the more I start liking it. The more the nuances the band weaves into its songs stick out and make Go shine. The secret is in the voice of singer Justin Pierre. He manages to stay away from the o-look-at-me-and pity-me strain emo singers put into their voices. And then the band goes way beyond any comparison in this direction with a beautiful ballad like 'Everyone will die'.

Undoubtedly this may have to do with the fact that the band is around for a while. In 2012 the band entered it's 16th year and 11th in the present line up. Go is their fifth album and again released through punk-famed label Epitaph. The music has only slightly to do something with punk. It's simply to soft toned and certainly to soft voiced. Pierre's voice is too high toned to be a punk singer. There also is no anger there. Confusion perhaps, compassion, certainly and moulded by life itself for sure. That these different emotions are laid into his vocal contribution does wonders to the quality of this record.

Musically the band flourishes in melodic, very fine-polished punk pop songs in the best U.S. tradition. From The Cars and The Knack to bands like Weezer and Fountains of Wayne, Motion City Soundtrack follows in a fine line of bands. Just like the best songs of these bands, MCS dares to look beyond a pre-ordained format and varies in tempos, approach and emotions, but always keeps melody and harmonies as its anchors. A nice guitar line as an extra up front or in the back of the mix to explore. On top of it all comes the way that Justin Pierre and main songwriter and guitarist Joshua Cain sing together, assisted by bass player Matthew Taylor and drummer Tony Thaxton, bringing the music of MCS to a next and very pleasant to listen to level.

Maybe everything is a little too licked and overly clean. Towards the end of the album, including the bonus tracks, an undertone of conformity creeps in, a feeling of haven't I heard this before? This is the only flaw as far as I'm concerned as the overall feeling remains one of great pop songs. MCS obviously tries for the perfect pop song and in their own way they've succeeded with flying colours.

In short, this is an album that everyone loving punkpop, powerpop, emo and pop needs to check out. The album couldn't have been named more appropriate, Go (for it!, says Wo.)


You can order Go here

or here

zondag 26 augustus 2012

Een oud olympiër, Alaska, heden…

Ergens diep in de bossen van Alaska woont een man. Op een onbewoond en geheel onbegaanbaar gebied. Hij kapt hout, voor de openhaard en om praktische meubels te maken. Een aantal weken geleden wist hij dat een nieuw bed en een schrijftafel ernstig nodig had. Het leven van lang geleden toen hij tienkamper was, wist hem in dit bescheiden leven uitkomst te bieden. De aandacht, die hij kreeg door het behalen van zoveel medailles in de jaren, maakte hem nerveus en onhandig. De samenleving kon hij niet meer hanteren en een uitvlucht was nog maar het begin.

Het hout voor de openhaard was gereed en voldoende om een hevige winter te overleven. Nu nog het bed en de schrijftafel. Terwijl hij kapte aan de rand van het meer viel de zomerzon langzaam tot aan de horizon. Inmiddels had hij genoeg gekapt om de meubels later tot één te maken. In de hoek van zijn blokhut staan een aantal overlevingsattributen. Speren, hengels en een handboog. In de afgelopen tijd zijn er vele naar hem op zoek gegaan. Tevergeefs. Uiteindelijk werd er gezegd door de media, dat hij ergens in een ziekenhuis was overleden. Hij was zo lang al in dit eenzame leven dat hij niet eens meer wist wat zijn precieze leeftijd was. Verjaardagen, feesten, huldigingen en anderzijds was toen al waar hij niet naar verlangde. Hij wilde gewoon voor zichzelf een daad stellen om op een dergelijk podium zijn mogelijkheden te kunnen toetsen. Waarom?

Dat gegeven wilde hij op schrift zetten in al zijn duiding en allerlei andere complicaties in het leven. Hij vroeg zich af waarom de mensheid blij waren met het behalen van zulke uitzonderlijke resultaten. Ze wilden allemaal zijn vriend worden en samen tijdens de volksliederen bij hem zijn om het te vieren. Het geluk kent een bijzondere donkere keerzijde als men niet dat kan, wat van hem verlangd wordt. Dat wist hij zeker. Zij raken in de vergetelheid. Tellen niet meer mee. Hij had het toch zelf toen gezien, bij een documentaire van Willy Stahle en enkele andere. Omdat hij de taal niet spraak heeft hij het laten vertalen en in zijn toenmalige huis beken. Hij wist er van bewust. Hij keek uit over het meer en dacht. Als men zo nodig goud wil, ga naar de kust en zie onze primaire gouden hemellichaam langzaam zweven aan de horizon, dan is er goud voor iedereen en de gedachte daaraan zijn voor diegene voorgoed gesmeed met klinkende muziek.

Marcel R. van der Kwaak

zaterdag 25 augustus 2012

The soul of Spain. Spain

You can listen to 'Without a sound' here.

Impressive, fantastic, beautiful, lyrical, contemplative. Just a few words that come to mind while listening to The soul of Spain. Apparently there were previous albums by this band, but they passed me by. This one hasn't and I'm the wiser for it.

Spain is a band from Los Angeles around singer, bass player Joss Haden that released three albums between 1995 and 2001. Since 2007 the band performed sporadically in a totally new line up around Haden, which resulted in this new album.

The soul of Spain is the sort of album that deserves intensive listening. Just you and your head phone laying on the coach with your eyes closed. This is that kind of album. An album to unwind with, to build an intensive relationship with, an album to cherish. If you allow yourself the time you'll find Spain takes you on a musical adventure of immense beauty and inner rest. It all starts with the slow 'Only one' and the tempo even goes down in 'Without a sound' with its beautiful clear sounding acoustic guitar to which a piano is added further on. All to great effect in the spacious mix of the instruments.

The electrically charged 'Miracle man' even comes as a bit of a shock towards the end of the album, but sits well as a change of mood before 'Falling' sets the mood right again. Strangely enough 'Miracle man' is not the only up tempo song, but I had forgotten all about that near the end of The soul of Spain. 'Because your love', dark, brooding and distorted shines out like a warning light in the dark, but flares up in its own beauty.

The soul of Spain is the ultimate form of un-hurry. Haden's voice almost has an hypnotic quality. Oddly enough his voice reminds me of Lou Reed, but without the intense rasp. Some songs have a The Velvet Underground quality. Mind the 'Candy says' or 'Sunday morning' variant that is. (I know, both not sung by Lou Reed.). 'All I can give' for example could have been part of the third album of The Velvet Underground without any one noticing. There is a difference. 'All I can give' is more orchestrated and sweetly honed. Also fans of Teenage Fanclub and the solo work of Keith Caputo can find their own on this album. Another album I associate The soul of Spain with is Polichinelle of The Prayer Boat, which has the same sort of ethereal beauty. The last band I like to refer to is Sophia, but this album is much better than anything this band has offered so far, as Sophia sounds harsher.

My impression is that the songs on this album were crafted line by line, note for note, taking a long time before they had the shape we are presented with today. Not unlike Steely Dan, although musically the bands are quite apart. Listen to 'Walked on the water' in the way one single note from an instrument is added to the complete picture, the way the layered violins sound, to understand what I mean. Adding and subtracting is what seems to have taken place here. All to great effect.

Whether the soul of Spain was captured on The soul of Spain, I can't tell. Neither if the lady on the cover, captured in a spotlight in total darkness was the inspiration for all this beauty. What I do know is that this is an album that has to be checked out by all that like laid back and beautifully crafted pop songs.


You can order The soul of Spain here

or here

vrijdag 24 augustus 2012

DeWolff IV. DeWolff

You can listen to 'Voodoo mademoiselle' here.

Young boys grow up fast. In just a few years teenage DeWolff grew from a wannabe seventies hardrock band into a completely convincing emulation of the real thing. On the fourth album the, now young, men have produced an album to be truly proud of. If anything they managed to come up with an album that is as diverse as a Led Zeppelin record in its best days. With songs that are hardly beyond in quality to boot.

Only five years ago Robin Piso (organ, vocals, bass) and the brothers Luca (drums) and Pablo van der Poel (guitar, vocals) started DeWolff and at present they are already one EP, four studio albums and one live album/book down their road. The non-traditional line up of the band, as a bass player is mostly missing, is turned into an asset by the band. As they delve into the well of inspiration offered by all rock bands from the 1967-1977 decade, the best is only good enough. In other words everything punk abhorred is fully embraced by the band. And still there definitely is a punk flavour to the more up-tempo songs on DeWolff IV. They are wild and exciting. While in the somewhat slower songs like 'Black hole raga' there is room for experiment. Almost like the song title suggest, between Soundgarden and Ravi Shankar, where it not that the band takes off in a very trippy direction with all sorts of Mellotron like sounds. Most of the second half of the album dives deep into the hallucinogenic musical spheres of the late sixties with deep organs, wah-wah and fuzz manipulated guitar sounds, sound scapes and fuzzy singing. Has Timothy Leary reached the south of Limburg late 2011, early 2012? It more than looks like it. Whatever DeWolff found, LSD or old records, it has come up with a mix that is worth listening to.

From the hard-rocking start to the trippy ending, the band has my attention, although 'Astral awareness' is one step too far for me. 'Revolution #9' anyone? Luckily it doesn't last as long and DeWolff makes up for this lapse quick with the rocking 'Vicious times'. It's easy to deliver critique and state that everything on DeWollf IV has been done before (and better!). It would be selling these guys short by the mile. This album brings together the best this music has to offer and brings new music of abundant quality in the idiom to enjoy as well. Sounds like the best of both worlds to me.


You can order DeWollf IV here

or here

donderdag 23 augustus 2012

The bravest man in the universe. Bobby Womack

You can listen to 'Please forgive my heart' here.

Van de grote mannelijke soulzangers die tijdens de jaren 60 doorbraken is er helaas vrijwel niemand meer onder ons. Een van de weinige uitzonderingen is Bobby Womack. Womack dook aan het begin van de jaren 60 op, nadat hij samen met zijn broers was ontdekt door Sam Cooke. Het was de start van een eigen carrière (als lid van The Valentinos), maar Bobby Womack schopte het uiteindelijk ook tot gitarist in de band van Sam Cooke. Na de gewelddadige dood van zijn mentor verspeelde Womack al zijn krediet bij de soulliefhebbers door nog geen drie maanden na de dood van Sam Cooke in het huwelijk te treden met zijn weduwe Barbara (en er stiekem ook nog een relatie op na te houden met zijn tienerdochter Linda, die later zou trouwen met Bobby’s broer Cecil om als Womack & Womack uit te groeien tot een "one hit wonder"). De carrière van Bobby Womack verliep door de valse start, de nodige ellende (zijn broer werd vermoord en een van zijn kinderen overleed op zeer jonge leeftijd), ziekte en stevig drank- en drugsgebruik nogal chaotisch. Desondanks heeft Womack de afgelopen 45 jaar ruim 35 platen gemaakt, waaronder veel hele slechte en hooguit een handjevol echt memorabele platen (waarop hij in veel gevallen buiten de gebaande paden van de soul trad). Bovendien is Bobby Womack behoorlijk succesvol geweest als songwriter voor met name Wilson Pickett, maar hiernaast ook voor Janis Joplin, George Benson en The Rolling Stones. Sinds zijn laatste memorabele plaat, de in 1999 verschenen en aan zijn vader opgedragen gospelplaat Back To My Roots, hebben we echter weinig meer van Bobby Womack gehoord, maar deze week keert hij terug aan de hand van voormalig Blur zanger Damon Albarn en producer Richard Russell (die ook verantwoordelijk was voor de verrassend sterke zwanenzang van Gil-Scott Heron). The Bravest Man In The Universe is niet alleen een gewaagde en verrassende plaat, maar ook een van de betere platen die Bobby Womack gedurende zijn lange loopbaan heeft uitgebracht. De verrassing zit hem vooral in de instrumentatie. Damon Albarn en Richard Russell hadden op safe kunnen spelen door de doorleefde soulstem van Bobby Womack te combineren met een authentiek klinkend soulgeluid, maar in plaats hiervan kozen ze voor complexe hiphop- en triphop beats en ijle synthesizers. Dat is een combinatie die me op papier niet beviel, maar in de praktijk pakt het goed uit. De beats en elektronica zijn (een enkele uitzondering daar gelaten) gelukkig niet erg opdringerig, waardoor de fascinerende stem van Bobby Womack alle ruimte krijgt. Bobby Womack heeft niet meer de soepele soulstem waarmee hij bijna 50 jaar geleden doorbrak, maar kan nog steeds heel behoorlijk zingen, waarbij het was rauwe en rasperige geluid alleen maar zorgt voor meer bezieling en doorleving. Hoewel ik nog altijd heel benieuwd ben hoe een geïnspireerde Bobby Womack zou klinken in een vintage soulgeluid, heeft The Bravest Man In The Universe me langzaam maar zeker weten te overtuigen. De plaat is uiteindelijk veel meer dan een boeiend levensteken van een vergeten levende legende en kan wat mij betreft de boeken in als een van de betere platen van Bobby Womack en als een van de grote soulplaten van de afgelopen jaren. De eerder genoemde Gil-Scott Heron overleed niet lang na zijn glorieuze comeback. Laten we hopen dat Bobby Womack er nog een aantal grootse platen uit weet te persen.

Erwin Zijleman 

You can order The bravest man in the universe here

or here

woensdag 22 augustus 2012

1. Sunday Sun (EP)

You can listen to 'Highly respected rebel' here.

Holy moly, is this a poppy record! On the day Sunday Sun played Giel Beelen's morning show on 3FM as "Serious talent", the band offered its first EP for free on its website. After downloading it, I sent a message to thank them and promised a review in return. If anything, I haven't regretted downloading the EP for even one second. 1 is as pleasant as last Sunday's summer sun. Perhaps even a little too warm, but so glad that it's finally there.

Sunday Sun is a new four piece band from Holland; each member with a legacy in Dutch pop music. Koen-Willem Toering (Woost)/guitar,vocals, Yoshi Breen (RubyQ)/guitar, keyboards, vocals, Wouter Rentema (GEM, Laura Jansen)/drums, vocals en Jan Teertstra (Wooden Saints, Laura Jansen)/bass, vocals. With four vocalists in the band harmonies can be built and this is exactly what the band excels in.

Sunday Sun knows its classics. It knows how to craft a great pop song and certainly knows about harmony. The five songs are simply soaked in Beatlesque and Beach Boys like melodies. Signature song Sunday Sun tells all. Sunshine all over the place, with not a cloud in sight, not one tiny hook that could scratch a leg or damage a summer dress anywhere around. 'Daisy' is not just in the band's 'Family tree'. My guess is that she's is going to be in a lot more, as a lot of people are not going to mind adopting her.

Of course the band is not as good as its examples, but then the two mentioned bands weren't as good as we know them now to be with their first singles. 'Love me do' wouldn't have made the cut for 1, as all songs are better. The individual voices can not compare to the Wilson brothers and friends, but hey, who can? It is obvious that good is good enough and the harmonies on offer are warm and spot on.

Other names that come to mind are Fountains of Wayne, Silver Sun but also Dutch contemporaries AlascA. They may even be able to, in time, step into the void Johan left. This just goes to show that Sunday Sun could be going places. With only very slight variations in the timbre of a song they take the listener into another realm. Now it's pop, but punk- or Britpop are just around the corner should they wish to experiment. 1 shows this already in a way, as all songs have a distinct flavour, from pure pop and beat music to rock edged pop and even a real 'Michelle' like ballad. It does bring the question to mind who Sunday Sun wants to be and what its own face is. Only time can tell, but yes, I'm definitely looking forward to EP 2 and 3, that are announced for the coming months. The first instalment simply begs for more.


You can order 1 here.

dinsdag 21 augustus 2012

Scott McKenzie. I.M. (1939-2012)

You can listen to 'San Francisco' here or

'Like an old time movie' here.

Philip Wallach Blondheim died on 18 August and to my big surprise over one minute was spent on the national 8 o'clock news on this fact. There was absolutely no information on Blondheim himself, just pictures of him in some sort of dress singing his one and only, but world wide top 10 if not number one, hit 'San Francisco (be sure to wear some flowers in your hair)' and pictures from a movie showing hippies from the summer of love. (My best guess is from the 'Monterey festival' film.) With all respect, but there plainly was no news of any sort if a one hit wonder gets so much exposure on the main news broadcast of the public, state sponsored channels.

Scott McKenzie was famous for just one song. He did not even write or play on it. John Phillips, a childhood friend of McKenzie by the way, wrote the song for him, played guitar and co-produced the record. In all but his own voice, he piggy-backed on the fame of Phillips and The Mamas & the Papas. The song that has made McKenzie world famous was perfectly timed, in sync with the times and embraced as the song of hippiedom and the summer of love of 1967. Despite all the incredibly good music made that year by other San Franciscan and Californian bands, this soft spoken, clean and neat song, became the hit single everyone could live with. Perhaps even some parents in 1967. It also reached number one in The Netherlands and is a song that is around for as long as I can remember.

Listening back to the song it is quite easy to recognise its hit potential. An instantly singable melody, the slightly longing voice of McKenzie, but it's the driving rhythm of the bridge that gives the song its extra, as it is not just the sticky sweet melody of the rest of the song that convinces me as listener. San Francisco has a bitter sweet quality that makes it special. Almost as if it knows it wouldn't last. And the great orchestra bells that grace the song all along are a special feature. San Francisco is the perfect blend of folk and pop. Yes, just like Phillips' own band.

Phillips and McKenzie went way back. They had recorded singles and albums for a few years before The Beatles blew away the folk revival in the U.S. McKenzie declined the offer to join The Mamas & the Papas and went solo. After San Francisco McKenzie only made two records, 'The voice of Scott McKenzie' and 'Stained glass window'. In the mid-eighties he joined The Mamas & the Papas touring band, but these are the only feats in musical career, which is surprisingly small. I'd expected heaps of unnoticed albums to this day.

The conclusion must be made, that without John Phillips, who maybe did not even get one second of attention in news programs when he died, we would never have heard of Scott McKenzie, let alone learn of his demise on radio and tv. Forever he will be associated with the summer of love and remembered for that soft spoken, but fairly beautiful song that sold over seven million copies world wide and is on every single sixties compilation and will be forever: San Francisco. Yes, a one hit wonder, but a very special one as a whole, albeit very short, era in youth culture is associated with Scott McKenzie and his hit single of 1967.


Some references I found at the Wikipedia entry on Scott McKenzie.

maandag 20 augustus 2012

A wasteland companion. M. Ward

You can listen to 'Clean slate' here.

M. Ward, Matthew Steven, is not a name which is known to the bigger part of music lovers. In the mean time Ward has released eight albums since 1999, released records with actress Zooey Deschanel under the moniker She & Him, collaborated in Monsters of Folk and Tired Pony. Among others. In other words M. Ward is a very busy musician. With his eight solo album, he finally caught my attention full force. This, perhaps belated, attraction started with a small, very nice song called 'Clean slate', which opens A wasteland companion. A song in a very singer/songwriter vein, but not necessarily representative for the album.

The album is eclectic, as it goes off in all sorts of directions and music. At 38 Ward has found the freedom to release what he wants and record what he likes. With the help of many friends and colleagues. The tamer form of rock and roll (going country, Ricky Nelson like) of 'Sweetheart' and 'I get ideas' are great fun songs, with vocal duetting by Deschanel respectively Rachel Cox. In these songs there's a very good balance in lyrics and music. The sexually tensed 'I get ideas' because of "dancing dangerously close", is a fast-paced song driving the imaginary dancers onwards.

The country blues influenced title song is stopped in its tracks it seems and is taken in another direction. A soundscape with classical guitar playing, a muffled audience, hopefully pre-show) in the background. Like we will never know how the song ends. Surprise is allowed for on this record several times. Like in 'Me and my shadow'. It starts after the twist at the end of 'Primitive girl' as a song that could be on a The Hackensaw Boys' record, with a violin and banjo added that is, but then takes of in a rock direction with a fuzzed -up guitar and loud drums. 'Watch the show' has a harsh guitar kicking in, as if The Cure does a cameo.

On A wasteland companion M. Ward sails his album between singer-songerwriter in a Bright Eyes fashion ('There's a key' and 'Primitive girl') to more lightly fashioned pop songs, songs that go in a rock direction, but a song like 'Crawl after you' could have been sang by the the likes of Frank or Dino. Still the album is able to come over as a whole, but barely so. The voice is the common denominator that keeps all styles together. So for less broad minded listeners, it may be hard to take a shine to A wasteland companion. As I was caught by opener 'Clean slate', M. Ward had my attention, where he previously, for whatever reasons, did not manage to do so. Did you notice that I'm offering you that same chance? Take it and you won't be disappointed.


You can order A wasteland companion here

or here

zondag 19 augustus 2012

Lex Hives. The Hives

You can listen to 'Go right ahead' here.

Making albums is not something that seems to come easy to The Hives. Since the band's breakthrough album 'Veni, vici, vicious' in the year 2000, Lex Hives is only its third. 'Tyrannosaurus Hives' (2004) is said to have been rejected by the record label and the end result after that was an album that did not sparkle in any way. It sounded forced and aimed at finding a repeater of the success formula and not succeeding. 'Black and white' of 2008 was already better and on Lex Hives the band seems to have found its stead again.

You won't hear me say that Lex Hives is a top album, nor that The Hives are a top band. What the band does offer is energised songs, excitement and an occasional song that is a lot more than average. Lex Hives offers up more of these songs than their two previous efforts and that is good news for the fans. Live it will most likely be even more fun if the band is able to translate energy into a charged performance.

For those who haven't heard a song by the band before, the band has a punk back ground, but slowly switched to more punkrock fuelled songs. In other words: not just up tempo, angry songs, as they clearly try to find the melody hidden behind the chords. With 'Howlin' Pelle Almqvist as a front man who is able to howl, scream and sing. He clearly knows how to attract attention to himself. Mixed right up front and in the middle, 'Howlin' Pelle shows to the world: I'm the singer. As such he is one of the important features of the band. Inescapable. My favourite line of Almqvist of this album: "My patrolling days are over and I ain't shot somebody since". Well thought up, especially listening to the rest of the song.

On Lex Hives The Hives present themselves in a diverse way. Not everything is straight up and down punk (rock). 'These spectacles reveal the nostalgics' is one of the extremes on the hard rocking side, while 'Without the money' is the complete opposite, as it is a very small and silent song. The band gets away easily with both sides. Obviously the up-tempo songs have the upper hand, but the fact that the band is able to explore new ways in successful ways, opens roads for them to travel in the future.

To me Lex Hives is an album that I'll enjoy in small portions. The whole album is a bit much for me, but most songs sit on my good side, so welcome back The Hives!


You can order Lex Hives here


vrijdag 17 augustus 2012

Oceania. The Smashing Pumpkins

You can listen to 'Oceania' here.

The Smashing Pumpkins is not the band I discovered in 1993 after the release of its second and break through album 'Siamese dreams'. But then again in a way it is the same band. I remember an interview with singer and writer Billy Corgan at the time in which he accused his three bandmates of total passivity in the studio. Between the lines I read two things: one, this line-up will not last for long; two, that Corgan wanted to do everything and have total control over the direction of the band. With the demise of the original band, mostly over drug abuse it seems, the popularity waned, after which Corgan pulled the plug and released a solo album and the Zwan band effort. All to not too much critical nor commercial acclaim. Matt Chamberlain was back on drums, but with Oceania not even he is among the persons accompanying Corgan as The Smashing Pumpkins. So much for the history lesson, what about Oceania?

I'll be straight forward right away: Yes, I like the album, as much as I'm able to really enjoy albums by the band, this is one of their better ones. The Smashing Pumpkins, like most bands of the grunge era, have this sludgelike guitar sounds and singing, as if the music is dragging this enormous ball behind it on an ankle chain. That made it hard for me to listen through whole albums, whether they are called '10', 'Siamese dreams', 'Alice in Chains', 'In utero', etc. (With one exception: 'Nevermind', which is a great pop album in heavy disguise.) Next to that Billy Corgan's voice is not always a pleasure to listen to. Especially if the melody lines are somewhat monotonous. This is dealt with in a very pleasant way on Oceania, as Corgan's voice is dubbletracked by a female voice just under his leads. This sounds just great in several songs.

Oceania brings out the best in The Smashing Pumpkins. Several of the songs are wide mixed songs allowing the songs to breath, which does Corgan's compositions a lot of good. 'Pale horse' is such an example. The song comes alive in the details and the vocal melody. Another example is the title track. Even the guitar battle, with a great effect in which the sound seems to be sucked back into the speaker, at the end is stylish, not aimed at filling the whole sound scape.

At the same time the album brings a few classic The Smashing Pumpkins riffing like the intro of 'The chimera'. There is a main difference. The riff isn't aimed at an audio onslaught, like in the days of old, but at melody. As such the album is in balance. It seems to me like Billy Corgan is quite content with where he is and allows himself to explore his music just a little further than before. This leads to an album that is quite pleasant to listen to, rocks out and holds back at times, which makes the songs that stand out. Yes, I'm surprised in a quite pleasant way, as I more or less had written The Smashing Pumpkins off as something from the past. The band's back, so enjoy it.


You can order Oceania here

or here

donderdag 16 augustus 2012

Island fire. Gemma Ray

You can listen to Songs from Island fire here.

We're delving deep into pop here. Like pop when it was made in the sixties. Island fire offers up a soup of undercooled sixties singers, Nancy Sinatra pop, The Shangri-Las' melancholy, (Lily Allen on a good day) and some great songs as well. Gemma Ray did not just got stuck in the past, but offers her own talent in the blend too, while obviously some part of the production and arrangements could never have been made a little under 50 years ago.

It's not often that I'm writing a review on a singer that has not got an entry in Wikipedia. So all I found at first glances, was that she was born on Berlin, raised in the UK and is active as a singer since 2002. There's also a story that she was stuck on an airport after the Iceland volcano with the unpronounceable name erupted. This feat gave her the inspiration for parts of the album and the album title. Island fire it is, thanks to the Eyjafjallajökull.

A review of the content has to start with the voice of Gemma Ray. It's her voice that contributes largely to the mood of the record. She emulates a form of longing that draws your attention into the album, coolly seductive I'd say. Not unlike Cat Power, Lana del Rey, Norah Jones on her latest album 'Little kisses' and Mary Weiss. At the same time she's more girl than woman. The second feature is the sparse production. Low key bass, drums, guitar and keyboard are the basis of all. Small embellishments here and there. Far from a Wall of Sound production, despite that the name Phil Spector is mentioned here and there in association with Gemma Ray's music. Only in vibe, not in sound. Some songs could have been on Miles Kane and Alex Turner's The Last Shadow Puppets project as Island Fire also has a (deflated) The Walker Brothers vibe. Loads of echo and tremolo in there, with a voice of a slightly hoarse quality, but o so female.

Where most songs are sober, some are less so. The cascading effect of the music and singing in 'They all want a slice' is quiet charming and adds a special flavour to the album. As most songs pass by incredibly slow, it offers a moment of rest in busy times and invites one to really listen. Later in the day with a head set on, Island fire will draw you in to its world. At the same time the album works as music in the background, which is not always the case. There's enough going on to be able to divide attention between daily business and the music.

Gemma Ray surprised me. I had not expected to like the album on the basis of  reviews I'd read. And so curiosity once more won over mind. There's a lesson here, dear reader: Never listen to reviewers, no matter what they say. Let them, and thus me, be your guide, but no more than that.


You can order Island fire here

or here

woensdag 15 augustus 2012

Streets in the sky. The Enemy

You can listen to 'Saturday' here.

Let me call this album punkrock, with tendencies to punkpop. The guitars are there, played very fast with melody lead lines. A pumping bass and hard-hit drums. The slightly shouty way of singing. The whoas in the choruses. The anthem way in which choruses can be sang along to. So Streets in the sky offers nothing new. The standard set by 'Smash' and 'Dookie' is met with great perfection. This means that Streets in the sky has to convince its listener with its songs. And let this be a major charm that The Enemy offers on its third album.

The Enemy stems from Coventry in the UK. This is not a surprise if I take the melodic strength of most songs into consideration. A long string of UK bands from the mid-sixties right up to the present day can be recognised in here. From 'All day and all of the night', 'All or nothing', The Who riffing, The Jam and The Buzzcocks and let's name The Rifles here also as a modern day equivalent. This English songlike superiority is combined with the snotty, here we are and take it as we come attitude of US punkrock bands. This makes The Enemy sort of the best of both worlds.

It's a pure joy to listen to strong, potent songs like 'Like a dancer' and 'Come into my world'. These songs have everything a good rock-pop-punk song needs to stand out. After these great efforts, there's a variation in the type of songs for the first time. 'This is real' starts real quiet and slow, before it's turned into an anthem of The Killers like proportions and 'Baby O'Reilly' like keyboard sounds. It may not be for nothing that the album title comes from this song. The View comes into mind in '2 kids', but the difference in approach to this song, more acoustic and poppy, is what adds to the flavour of Streets in the sky.

Maybe there are too many influences recognisable in the songs, as e.g. I can also add Edge-like guitar sounds. If you want to look for weaker points then it's only there (and the extremely ugly, but attention attracting, cover). Who cares if influences are used so well as here. The Enemy is definitely its own band.

The obvious ability to play with the arrangements of songs is what can only make The Enemy a British band. On Streets in the sky they appear at the top of their form without hardly any flaw or filler. There are many songs to enjoy and sing along to. My attention doesn't waver right up to the last notes and with that The Enemy beats most of the bands I've named. On the other hand they better. If you can't come up with a trump album once in every four years, in which 60's and 70's bands might have made five, as a band you're in trouble. The Enemy isn't. Great album, great songs!


You can order Streets in the sky here

or here

dinsdag 14 augustus 2012

Prior convictions. Grant Peeples

You can listen to ´Last night I dreamed in Spanish´ here.

De afgelopen weken heb ik op zaterdag aandacht besteed aan een aantal minder bekende Amerikaanse singer-songwriters in het rootssegment, die de betreffende week toevallig op de Nederlandse podia te zien waren, maar bovendien een plaat hadden gemaakt die er toe doet. De Amerikaanse singer-songwriter Grant Peeples is op het moment helaas alleen maar op de Amerikaanse podia te zien, maar hij heeft wel een plaat gemaakt die behoort tot het beste dat de afgelopen maanden in het genre is verschenen, wat een plekje op deze BLOG meer dan rechtvaardigt. Grant Peeples is een van oorsprong uit Florida afkomstige singer-songwriter, die via de nodige omzwervingen (Peeples woonde enkele jaren in Nicaragua) terecht is gekomen in het Texaanse Austin; de ongekroonde hoofdstad van de Amerikaanse rootsmuziek. Peeples heeft de afgelopen jaren al een aantal platen uitgebracht, maar het onlangs verschenen Prior Convictions is mijn eerste kennismaking met het werk van de Amerikaan, Het is een kennismaking die naar veel meer smaakt, want wat is Prior Convictions een goede plaat. Op Prior Convictions laat Grant Peeples zich bijstaan door niemand minder dan Gurf Morlix. Morlix begon ooit als gitarist in de band van Lucinda Williams, maar werd uiteindelijk niet alleen haar producer, maar ook die van gerespecteerde muzikanten als Robert Earl Keen, Tom Russell, Butch Hancock, Mary Gauthier en Slaid Cleaves. Op Prior Convictions tekent Gurf Morlix niet alleen voor de trefzekere productie, maar is hij ook verantwoordelijk voor prachtig spel op meerdere snareninstrumenten en keyboards en draagt hij bovendien bij aan de zang. Morlix en Peeples zijn met zijn tweeën grotendeels verantwoordelijk voor het geluid op Prior Convictions, maar de bijdragen van de drummer en vooral de geweldige accordeonist en het gastoptreden van soulzangeres Ruthie Foster mogen niet onvermeld blijven. Prior Convictions bevat een aantal covers, waaronder een fraaie vertolking van Dylan’s Things Have Changed (samen met Ruthie Foster) en een opvallende versie van een song van de eigenzinnige Britse postpunk (!) band Shriekback, maar de meeste songs zijn van de hand van Peeples zelf. Het zijn songs waarin de Amerikaan geen blad voor de mond neemt en misstanden in de samenleving op scherpzinnige wijze aan de kaak stelt. Ook in muzikaal opzicht maakt Grant Peeples indruk. Ondanks de kleine bezetting is Prior Convictions een vol klinkende plaat waarop sobere en meer ingetogen songs worden afgewisseld met songs waarin de gitaren zich van hun stevigere kant mogen laten horen. In al deze songs weet Grant Peeples zo te overtuigen dat de vergelijking met de groten uit het genre zich opdringt. Dat Prior Convictions zeer warm wordt aanbevelen aan liefhebbers van Amerikaanse rootsmuziek zal inmiddels geen verbazing meer wekken. Hoogste tijd dus om deze plaat zo snel mogelijk uit te brengen in Nederland en Grant Peeples binnen afzienbare tijd een Nederlands podium op te duwen. Tot die tijd ben je aangewezen op http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/grantpeeples6 of http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/prior-convictions/id507498986.

Erwin Zijleman 

You can order prior convictions here

or here

vrijdag 10 augustus 2012

Dragon fly. Jefferson Starship

You can listen to 'Hyperdrive' here.

To me Dragon fly in the late 1970's consisted of one side only: the b-side of the album. Which is one of my favourite album sides of all time.

Jefferson Airplane I knew from three songs only, the double a-sided single White rabbit/Somebody to love which charted in The Netherlands in 1970. To my great surprise I found out later three years after the release of the album containing the two songs, 'Surrealistic pillow'. It also was their only hitsingle until the band scored a few hits under the name Starship in the 80ties, being not even a shadow of what they had been before. The third song was 'Volunteers' from the Woodstock soundtrack, that raucous version with Grace Slick shouting "Good morning people"!

After the definite crash of the Airplane in 1972, all band members went on to release solo albums or collaborations with each other. Jack and Jorma in Hot Tuna, Grace and Paul (to be followed by Marty) in Jefferson Starship. Dragon fly was the second album under that name, officially Grace Slick, Paul Kantner. Jefferson Starship. It turns out to have started off as a duo record, which resulted in a band. But I didn't know that at the time. I only got enrolled in 1978 through a double album called 'Flight log' which contained one song from Dragon fly: 'Ride the tiger'. Dragon fly was one of the first albums I bought because of 'Flight log'. It opened the world to a kind of song that I had never heard before at the age of 18 or 19. Long, epic songs about space travel or escape theories, with a rocking violin of 'Papa' John Creach, bold singing and the beautiful piano notes of Pete Sears on a song called 'Hyperdrive'. This 7.30 plus minute long song shook the way I enjoyed music to the core. The rough voice of Grace Slick, the high guitar notes of Craig Chaquico, the voices of Paul Kantner and David Freiberg. The way the songs seems to end and comes back alive again. I more than loved it. It put its stamp in my DNA.

The album is as such a mix of 1970's rock and the space escape vision for the human race Paul Kantner was a visionary on around 1970, mixed with electrified folk and blues as well as some pre-1980's AOR. All but one band members brought songs to the effort, some co-written by non-bandmembers and even a cover, Tom Pacheco's 'All fly away'.

'Ride the tiger' rocks as hard as Jefferson Starship rocked in those days. Paul's riffing away, while Chaquico is soloing all over the place, as is the then already middle-aged Creach. Another feature that is apparent, is that there is no clear lead singer. The duties shared between Kantner, Slick and Freiberg (who together released the fantastic album 'Baron von Tollbooth and the chrome nun' in 1973), possibly to mask shortcomings in Kantner's lead singing, lend the album its massive singing front.

'That's for sure' is almost jazzy, which the band carries off pretty well. The duetting between Freiberg and Slick does wonders for the song. I just love Grace's voice wailing in the distance of the mix. 'Be young you' is a signature Slick song. Slow, intense and piano driven. It can't be called pop, but is a mix of her classical piano training and ballads. Creach's violin playing also seems to be made for this song. At moments almost Middle Eastern in sound. In 2012 I appreciate this song a lot more than in 1978. The same goes for 'Caroline' the only contribution by Airplane co-front man Marty Balin, before he joined the Starship in 1975. The song is clearly a rehearsal for his best song ever: 'Miracles'. 'Caroline' has a jazz like foundation, with rock overtones and shows how fantastically good the three original Airplane members sing together. Three voices that were made for each other.

Side 2 kicks off with 'Devil's den'. Papa John Creach carries (t)his song with his mystery screeching sounds, that are underscored by the wah-wah effects of Chaquico's guitar. The pumping, very much alive bass is by Pete Sears. Slick sings the song with a rough voice, almost unloving and at the edge of her vocal reach, but it fits. 'Come to life' by comparison is a simple up and down rock song. But I just love this Freiberg song. The way the melody of the song goes up and up, with the more mellow bridge in exactly the right spot. The cascading notes of Chaquico's solo and the eerie notes on the violin. The end is a bit off, I'll admit that, as if they couldn't make up their minds and just continued. The lyrics are by Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. 'All fly away' is a fantastic Kantner song, even if it is a cover. It starts off with the creation of tension and expectation. Creach excels and the piano notes are as beautiful as in 'Hyperdrive'. Pete Sears has this spacious way of playing piano that allows time and room for other instruments to fill in and still be omnipresent. Almost caressing the other instruments. And there's a beautiful solo by Chaquico.

The whole album explodes when 'Hyperdrive' starts. The song of the tandem Sears-Slick. It's intensely beautiful, shows great taste. A song that everyone with a love for seventies rock should know and cherish. Again the piano, the riffing guitar line, the violin fills, while Slick comes up with a great, great voice. Backed-up by the band and herself in choruses all over the place. 'Hyperdrive' is the crown to all her creations. Whatever it is about.

And the name of the drummer is John Barbata. Let's not forget who laid the basis on which the rest can play their thing. Dragon fly is an album I still play occasionally and really, deeply enjoy.


You can order Dragon fly here

donderdag 9 augustus 2012

Choice of weapon. The Cult

You can listen to 'Lucifer' here.

In 1986 we had two hits we could dance very hard to: 'She sells sanctuary' and 'Rain'. Man, I loved those singles and could play them all day (and night) long. The bright guitar riff of the former song was so good. But it may be years and years ago I heard it last. Nothing The Cult released since really caught my attention and finally I stopped noticing whether there were new songs or not. Apparently they still played and recorded, but not for me. And then something very surprising happened. At dinner time an mp3 disc was put into the player and I had no idea what was on it. It started with a Dutch singer who surprised me. After that album a hardrocking album started with a man with an ageing voice singing. Every song further into the album there was this little archivist in my mind trying to find the corresponding label. It stayed just beyond my grasp. Till I couldn't bare it any longer: WHAT IS THIS? I was truly, truly liking what I was hearing and wanted to know. That was only two days ago (at least when I started writing this review) and I'm playing Choice of weapon again and again.

Ian Astbury's voice hasn't aged well. It's ragged, blown, shot, but fits The Cult's music in 2012 like a glove. Not unlike Muddy Waters or John Lee Hooker at a later age.With this difference that there's lots more power streaming past his tainted vocal chords. Like Jim Morrison may have sounded like in older age, I think. So the correct replacement for Krieger-Manzarek anyway? On Choice of weapon the vocal melodies are better than any The Cult album I recall, making most songs distinct and fun to listen.

Billy Duffy's guitar playing is just superb on this album. Rocking hard with deep sounds and clear leads. Loads of melody and surprises. Quite frankly, Duffy is all over the place, taking the album to a different level. Where 1980ties The Cult albums tended, in my opinion, to be too uniform, Choice of weapon is all but. Power ballad 'Wilderness now' underscores this observation perfectly. With guitars up front and in the crookes and nannies of the mix.

Come to think of it, Choice of weapon may be the album Axl Rose has been working on to make for 14 odd years and failed to do. A song like 'Lucifer' brings reminiscences of Guns 'N' Roses to mind, with Slash like soloing, but who came first? This album rocks hard, but does not lose sight of the song for one moment. Even the bit dumb starting 'A pale horse' bursts out all shining in a great chorus and bridge.

Producers of Choice of Weapon are Chris Goss and Bob Rock. Need I say more. It's no surprise that this album rocks hard, has loads and loads of melody. Masters of Reality fans will hear just the right echoes to their fancy. Rock has proved that he can blend the best of two worlds into perfect sounds.

Of course, the lead guitar sound is a U.S. 1970 and 80 sound, but I'm not arguing that I'm listening to something new here. Just that The Cult has come up with a very pleasant album, that does right to its heritage and should be able to find new young fans as well. This is a very much alive album. (The deluxe version even with four great extra songs!) With a very potent guitarist and rhythm section and a singer that barely seems to be able to keep up, but does a great job just the same. And the weapon of choice is: (a) rock and (a) hard (one) too.


You can order Choice of weapon here

or here

woensdag 8 augustus 2012

The national health. Maxïmo Park

You can listen to The national health here.

NME opens its review of the latest issue by Newcastle's finest as "a return to form". I can only agree. In the short version I'd say that the songs on The national health are exciting like most songs on 'A certain trigger' and 'Our earthly pleasures'. With a slightly darker layer wrapped over them, which opens avenues for the band to explore in the years to come.

Coming up with a single like 'Apply some pressure' so early on in your career, means that the band is stuck for ever with a signature song that every song following it is compared to and will in most cases not come up trumps. This sounds as negative, the other side to this medal is that hardly any other band writes a song like this ever in their whole career. 'Apply some pressure' is one of the songs of the zeroes, period.

When 'Quicken the heart' came out in 2008, I simply just did not like their third effort and wondered if Maxïmo Park would ever come up with a good album again. The solo efforts of Duncan Lloyd and Paul Smith followed and then, a day after I expressed to a friend that I gave up on a new album, The national health was released. And yes, it's good. Not just good, but a very strong effort that captures everything that I liked about the band in the mid-zeroes and at the Tivoli show in the spring of 2008.

The national health offers several energy-charged songs that compare favourably to all my favourite Maxïmo Park tracks (but one). The title song is a staple to that. With a great, very short guitar solo, perhaps a guitar eruption is a better word, great singing by Paul Smith, but also great harmonising with counter melodies. 'Hips and lips' has a Soft Cell influence through the keyboards as well as other 80s acts. If the tempo goes down or the force of the Maxïmo storms lies down just a little, out come songs like 'The undercurrents' with loads of beauty in melody and playing, in which the keyboards of Lukas Wooller play a more prominent role, with a beautiful, clear sounding guitar motive by Duncan Lloyd to boot.

A four year rest is a long time for a band and especially when the last album was not comparing to the previous two. However, the rest seems to have done the band more than good. The national health in general may not be as good as it used to be, the album by Maxïmo Park is a triumph. A staple of positive energy that ought to get everyone out of a crisis. Paul Smith and his band mates have come up with an album that undoubtedly is one of the best of 2012 so far. Should you have any doubts, set them aside and you'll be rewarded. And please look beyond the absolutely horrendous cover.


You can order The national health here

or here

dinsdag 7 augustus 2012

Boys & girls. Alabama Shakes

You can listen to 'Hold on' here.

So, am I finally up to write a review on this album? Apparently. Earlier this year a lot of people were writing or saying what a tremendously good, even fantastic album Boys & girls is. What a great talent the band shows: The saviours of rock soul. And here I was not getting it. Even after all these months I still do not think this in an extraordinary album. Boys & girls is good first effort by a new band. Alabama Shakes holds a few cards up its sleeves that makes it stick out from other bands. That is something which is not common in 2012, where most music comes from pre fab music shows where audience in the studio and at home only want to hear what they already know, sang by a pretty face. This is everything Alabama Shakes is not.

The first song I heard, probably like most people, is the single 'Hold on', that got some fair airplay on Dutch radio. Not exactly your everyday song. The laid back guitar lines and rhythm are something different. The album also contains these clear guitar leads and riffing. The rough sounding voice of Brittany Howard takes me back to sixties singers like Aretha Franklin, Carla Thomas and other soul singers. The music does so in part also, but not to soul music. There are distinct rock and pop sounds mixed into the soul and even some gospel. A bit like the Fine Young Cannibals did on their first singles, like 'Blue'. Although Alabama Shakes is a lot more unpolished than Roland Gift c.s. ever were. Some songs are more into soul, e.g., 'You ain't alone', which could have been sung by Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett, with some horns added. Brittany Howard is recorded in an authentic way for this song, distant and a bit metallic sounding.

One of the things I really like on Boys & girls is the way the male chorus in 'I found you' sounds like it's recorded in the bathroom around the corner, with the mike before that corner. It took me a while to get used to the voice of Howard, which sounds way beyond her years. That's behind me, as it truly belongs to the sound of the band, which is also rough and edgy. The interaction between organ and/or piano with the guitar is another item that attracted me further to this album. The muffled guitar tones, clear and prominently mixed, are another trademark of Alabama Shakes. Boys & girls holds some real ballads and strong soul rockers like 'Be mine', an almost Janis Joplin outing. Howard's voice is not that strong though. Both sides to the band are convincing and well balanced, although I prefer the bit faster numbers myself more. All in all enough to make me play this album regularly.

As I said, Alabama Shakes are not the saviours of rock and roll, whether it needs saving or not. Alabama Shakes have come up with a good début album, that holds a promise for the future, if the band is allowed to develop the way an indie band needs to develop: by playing a lot, writing songs all the time and releasing albums at a steady pace. This would allow the band to get an own voice and identity, beyond their sixties heroes. If that happens Alabama Shakes will have a true future in tis own right. However, should we have to wait for three years for album number 2, I do not have much hope. Let's wait and see.


You can order Boys & girls here

or here

maandag 6 augustus 2012

The bright side. Meiko

Je kunt hier naar 'Stuck on you' luisteren.

Ik was een paar jaar geleden behoorlijk onder de indruk van het debuut van de Amerikaanse singer-songwriter Meiko. De uit Georgia afkomstige singer-songwriter verraste op haar debuut met heerlijk zwoele folkpop, die misschien nog het best was te omschrijven als Suzanne Vega in een zwoel en zomers jasje. Omdat de lichtvoetige muziek van Meiko ook nog eens vol subtiele verrassingen zat, heb ik de plaat heel vaak gedraaid en ondertussen vol smart gewacht op de Nederlandse release die uiteindelijk nooit gekomen is. In de Verenigde Staten is vorige week de tweede cd van Meiko verschenen. The Bright Side moet als het goed is midden in de zomer in Nederland verschijnen, maar ik zou daar niet op wachten. De kans dat de plaat hier daadwerkelijk in de winkel komt te liggen lijkt me niet zo groot en waarom zou je nog twee maanden op de zomer wachten als je die nu ook al in huis kan halen? Op The Bright Side gaat Meiko verder waar ze een jaar of vier geleden ophield, maar The Bright Side is nog een stuk beter dan het helaas zwaar ondergewaardeerde debuut. Ook op haar nieuwe plaat maakt Meiko weer heerlijk zwoele en zonnige folkpop die in de verte wat doet denken aan Suzanne Vega, maar door de verleidelijke zang en het heerlijke zuidelijke accent een stuk warmbloediger klinkt. Op The Bright Side passeren 11 perfecte popsongs de revue. Het zijn popsongs met hier en daar wat invloeden uit de jaren 50 en 60, die je na één keer horen in je hart sluit, maar pas veel later hun ware gezicht laten zien. Ook The Bright Side verleidt weer makkelijk door de heerlijke warme stem van Meiko en de aanstekelijke melodieën en refreinen in haar songs. Het is deze makkelijke verleiding die bij de eerste luisterbeurten domineert, maar ook dit keer blijken de songs van Meiko buitengewoon knap in elkaar te steken en voorzien van vele verrassende wendingen. De op het eerste gehoor bijzonder aangename instrumentatie zit boordevol invloeden en gaat net zo makkelijk aan de haal met psychedelische pop uit een heel ver verleden als met eigentijdse beats. The Bright Side klink vanaf de eerste tot de laatste noot bekend en vanzelfsprekend, maar zo vanzelfsprekend is de muziek van Meiko niet. Meiko is zeker niet de zoveelste 13 in een dozijn popprinses, maar een eigenzinnige singer-songwriter die haar knappe songs heeft voorzien van een onweerstaanbaar suiker- en glinsterlaagje.  Ik was na één keer horen weer verliefd op de zwoele klanken van Meiko, maar The Bright Side is sindsdien alleen maar beter geworden. Met The Bright Side haal je onmiddellijk de zomer in huis, maar deze plaat blijft interessant wanneer de herfst zijn intrede doet en staat wat mij betreft nog net zo prominent op de agenda wanneer de jaarlijstjes moeten worden opgemaakt. Laat je niet voor de gek houden door de buitengewoon zwoele en bijna onweerstaanbare popliedjes op The Bright Side. Meiko is echt een hele grote.

Erwin Zijleman 

Je kunt The bright side hier bestellen

of hier

zondag 5 augustus 2012

See you in hell. The Resignators

You can listen to See you in hell here.

From the very first a-capella sung notes on See you in hell, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia band The Resignators makes it clear without a single doubt where this album is going to go: major party time! The well-sung intro is the start of an album that never wavers for a minute from a punky ska kind of music that is made to make someone move. When younger in the moshpit, when older just a little more in the back. The Resignators are at the top of their game on See you in hell. Songs are simply spat out at tremendous pace. Within 30 minutes the fun is all over, leaving the listener breathless, but all wound-up to start the album all over again and again. See you in hell has a strong, addictive quality to it.

The comic book like zombie album cover doesn't do the band right, as the quality of the songs on offer go way beyond the comic. Unless it's meant to show that no person can remain still, whether, standing, sitting or lying down (six feet under the daisies) of course. In that case ....

See you in hell is great fun to listen to. It charges the listener with energy and a good feeling all over. All songs have a great rhythmic bed in which the rest of the band can do its thing and excel as they have nothing to worry about or look back at what's happening. No matter that drummer Ben Sharp may barely reach over his drumkit, he's a phenomenal drummer who keeps a tight rhythm despite all other things that he puts into his drumming. He's all over the place. Together with bass player Naf he's the foundation of The Resignators.

Whether the guitar or keyboard fatten the upbeat or weave out into a solo outing, the songs pump on, are propelled forward. Over all this comes the brass section which add greatly to the fun. Unlike Larry and his Flask, who use copper sporadically, The Resignators have made it a staple of their sound, not unlike the 1980 UK ska bands. As a capstone there are great melodies sang on See you in hell as well. Perfect to sing along to. 'Shape I'm in' is the best of all worlds. The song breaths, rocks hard, fantastic lead lines by the brass section, a hard-rockin' guitar solo and a refrain that can only be shouted along to. All comes together in this song. Like Dropkick Murphies at their best.

The fun ends with 'I farking love you (A Frankston love song)', another farking great song. There's just one thing to do while listen to it: move around in a dancing like way and there's a second thing too: you may find you have an urge to sing along. See you in hell is a dangerous album for those that do not like to move nor sing. And an album to travel to hell and back for. No need to stay there, it's enjoyable under all circumstances and in all resorts. "I farking like it (An original Wo. statement".)


You can order See you in hell here

or on their own bandcamp site