sarandon. the completist's library. wrath records. cd compilation.
napalm death. smear campaign. century media. cd album.
wiley. eskiboy (da 2nd phaze). boy better know. cd mixtape.
lovejoy. england made me. matinee recordings. cd ep.
if, having marvelled at the best peel tribute yet, you wondered whether anyone was making music like that now, then angular minimalist trio sarandon provide the answer. um, it's "yes".
"the completist's library" is their story so far, a tale told over 4 seven-track 7"s. an average track length of 1 minute 22, by my calculations, makes it the second most economical lp this year, behind narcosis' "romance" (1 minute 11, since you ask). put simply, this means more tunes for your money: a honeyed aggregation of bIG*fLAME, the yummy fur and the keatons, with fallish bass, weddoes-ish guitars and, latterly, some majorly ace staccato trumpet work.
as someone who was there and knows, the reason that many of us formed indie pop bands in the late 80s was that it was far easier to teach yourself david gedge's chord sequences than, say, greg o'keeffe's tumultuous fretspanking. not only do sarandon have a mastery of the hard arts of post-beefheart c86ism, but they seem to be getting better and better at it: the most recent ep, "the june bride" (which features cameos from phil wilson and fLAME's alan brown) is the most striking yet.
all we need now is someone to take on the more blissed-out experimental mantle of mackenzies, jackdaw with crowbar etc...
ilwttisott standouts: don't say no. prove it. kitten. virginity.
the new napalm death album, in some ways, is their "cold house". at the heart of it is their increasingly-hardcore influenced take on thrash/grind, the slimmed-down four piece line-up suiting a rawness not too far from venomous concept's excellent "retroactive abortion" set. this on its own makes "smear campaign" almost "leaders not followers part 3", only this time with the classic tunes all being original napalm compositions. but even more intriguing is the way that they still want to stretch themselves.
so. the likes of "weltschmertz" and "in deference" introduce keyboards and female backing vocals. more dramatically, picking up on past cuts like "morale", the last 10 minutes of the cd - the title track and the bonus song "atheist runt" dive headlong into swans-ish industrial territory, replete with doomy, almost choral vocals. some of the guitars on "runt" could be a witness, in their less melody-minded moments. the echoey, slow, drum-led atmosphere carries more than hints of "from enslavement to obliteration" opener "evolved as one": a blast from a past when a three minute song from napalm was a rarity rather than the norm.
don't fret - the m.o. of "smear campaign" is still political anger, channelled mostly through alternately high speed, and groove-heavy, metal epitomised by the tracks listed below - but as a sign of the band's power right now, the willingness to keep testing their audience is welcome. i hope they don't find us wanting.
ilwttisott standouts: fatalist. freedom is the wage of sin. shattered existence.
jme's "boy better know" imprint is probably the best new label i've come across this yr - a series of mixtapes, from the likes of tinchy stryder & jme himself with apparently one from jme's brother skepta in the works - which are not only half the price of yer normal cd, but are just as fresh as the major label grime releases haven't been. the latest in the series is from the original eskiboy - wiley.
to me, wiley's tunes fall into three categories. the first are the in-yer-face, make-ya-dance speed grime likes of "wot do u call it": ably represented here by "eskiboy" and "ice pole". on these, his cheeky chappy patter and same-word rhymes work the most magic.
the second are the icy, introspective, slightly more fractured numbers: still infused and informed by grime but seeing wiley's lyrics more vulnerable, and rhythms more variable. these (e.g. "doorway") were the highlights of his slept-on xl records album, "treddin on thin ice". however it seems that this type of tune has largely er, melted away (save perhaps for "saw it coming", with jammer, jme and others, which is one of only a few of the tunes-with-guests that really works).
the third are the workaday crossover hits, usually co-opting r&b warblers or over-obvious samples: we've had to put up with too many of these, even on the roll deep album. still, it did register him higher chart placings than the solo singles. unfortunately, this body of work is also much in evidence herein. there are more than a half dozen slovenly and unimaginative efforts, like "be yourself" and "i like the way": as well as some halfheartedly okish comedy ones like "carry out orders" and "grim". what this all adds up to is that this is the most commercial, and therefore overall the least exciting, of the many splendoured boy better know mixtapes so far.
also, sometimes you think that wiley doth protest too much - when the 1st line of the album is, "i know you think i got dropped from xl, but that's not the case", and elsewhere he ruminates that, "how can they say my career is over?"... still, its nicely, stylishly self-conscious. like the chesterfields' "best of friends".
so, something of a curate's egg, but an eski curate at least. also, this being boy better know you get a few bonus tracks, including a pointless but enoyably mentalist god's gift freestyle, a musical sleeping tablet from alex mills and best of all, yet another run-out of arch rivals more fire crew's timeless "oi!" truly, every time i hear that song my grin is ear to ear. it should be a bonus track on every album ever released, not just this one.
ilwttisott standouts: ice pole remix. u ain't real (with syer and brazen). saw it coming. so amazing.
lovejoy's delectable ep sees them follow up the sweet highs of their "everybody hates" album with a set that is in the mould of simpatico's wonderful "postal museum" and "club life" singles in the way that it boasts just the right blend of electronics and guitars. "brightness falls" is the epitome of this, a thoroughly modern apotheosis of indie-pop topped off by richard preece's ever-vulnerable vocals, which manage to sigh and swoon at the same time. around them, beaumont-ish acoustic guitars (presumably paul stewart himself ?) trip in and out of softly layered beats, and trim little guitar motifs that could have graced any indie classic of the last quarter century caress yr ears, like waves lapping on the shore at hove.
the rest of the ep sees "are you analogue or digital ?" merge "reproduction"-style synths with early soft cell b-side melodies, "in the rain" sound somehow better here than on the june brides tribute, perhaps because instead of attempting to match the glorious guitar-scratching of the original, it is reinvented as a lovejoy song, full of space and knowing gorgeousness, and "made in england" musically eavesdrop on a snog between harper lee and the cure while preece picks up on quintessential anglo characteristics like twitching curtains and hopeless nostalgia. it's one of the few laments for england which lyrically chimes with my own feelings on the subject.
goatwhore "alchemy of the black sun cult". this is on the new terrorizer cover-mount. great when a band can live up to such a fab name.
new order "truth". "movement" has always been fine, but each day, it gets slightly better.
boyracer "yr unspoken desires". i swear i will get the latest 'best of' soon.
the lucksmiths "the aviatrix". think is off "the green bicycle case ?"
huon. c86. from "hung up over night" on 555 - nowt to do with c86, but few songs get better to the heart of london.