Well, this is interesting. Weezer have suffered the most catastrophic career nosedive of any band I can think of (maybe equalled by the Smashing Pumpkins) and their recent live shenanigans seem to have been the product of the fevered meanderings of those rapidly approaching nervous breakdowns. Witnesseth my earlier post with the Kids and Poker Face covers for details on that.

But hark! A new Weezer song! Look at the artwork!

WeezerSingle

Could it be? A Weezer song about romance? No frat-boy posturing? Surely not!

Well, it is. And it’s really rather good. Obviously, it pales compared to anything they committed to tape pre-2000 but it’s still an enjoyably catchy little number on unrequited love. It even reminds me a little of Girl Afraid (strictly in terms of theme only, I hasten to add).

Hopefully the new album is worth listening to also. My hopes aren’t high for that, given the other new songs played on their current tour. At least we have this little dusty nugget. For all interested, it can be streamed here.

Advertisements

Two new Radiohead songs in as many weeks? It certainly looks (sounds) that way. I read a rumour that this song is a leaked Radiohead track. It’s yet to be verified by any trusted sources but that’s definitely Thom Yorke singing.

As for the song itself, I like it. It draws from their Neu! inspirations quite heavily and isn’t entirely dissimilar from Cuttooth, which can’t be a bad thing.

The only thing I find questionable is where this song came from. Is it a new recording or something that’s been dormant for some time? I’m tempted to say it’s new, given the sound quality. It doesn’t sound like a rough demo.

Regardless, I’m sure an announcement will be made shortly.

I’m not used to defending the indefensible. In truth, I’m not accustomed to defending the defensible either. Yet I’ve suffered a tremendous change of heart in recent weeks concerning what is perhaps Morrissey’s most reviled album; Southpaw Grammar.

This volte-face came about as a result of a recent gig in which Morrissey performed Best Friend on the Payroll, a track from this album. I was immediately struck by how well he performed it and, additionally, how good the song actually was. Southpaw Grammar is an album I have owned for several years (recently repurchased in the newly-released special edition) but have never been able to penetrate. Following the gig, I resolved to give it more time.

I am very glad that I did. There is, however, no questioning the album’s inaccessibility. The original release consisted of a mere nine songs, two of which stretched over the ten minute mark. One of these songs, The Teachers are Afraid of the Pupils, opened the album with a sample of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D Minor. Hardly the perkiest or most energetic way to begin an album. Another song opens with a two and half minute drum solo. Furthermore, released little more than a year after the sublimely elegiac Vauxhall and I, the album’s sound is a marked contrast that could only have confused and infuriated listeners. Critically, it was utterly panned. In 1995, Oasis, Blur and Pulp were at the forefront of British pop music. Though all bands owe a debt of influence to Morrissey and The Smiths, none could have sounded more different from Morrissey’s current work. A lacklustre performance of The Boy Racer on “Later…” (an episode in which Pulp also appeared) effectively displays the contrast. The band in suits, giving their all to a thoroughly unmoved audience. Fittingly, the song bemoans the narrator’s passing youth and envy at a more popular counterpart. Morrissey could well have been singing the song directly at Jarvis Cocker across the studio floor.

I’ve always enjoyed The Boy Racer and the new edition of the album has moved it up the tracklisting to serve as a ferocious opener. Yet there’s one song on the album that I had previously never listened to and am now utterly entranced by. The epic Southpaw previously closed the album but has now been moved to the middle of the tracklisting. As such, it serves as a centrepiece of sorts. Seemingly a tale of childhood loneliness transformed into adult longing, in which the paths of two kindred souls are destined never to cross, the song utterly transcends its lyrical obliqueness. Simon Goddard in his new book, Mozipedia, sums it up more eloquently than I ever could; “As a recording, Southpaw stands out as, potentially, the most experimental track of Morrissey’s career: five minutes of pop melancholy, sprinting in search of escape but tumbling helplessly into a trance-like abyss of sedated misery… As his voice finds its horizon and fades away, the instrumental coda’s trembling heart-strings and hollow, hopeless rhythms serve only to reiterate the never-to-be-lovers’ unalterable sorrow”. Not the happiest of songs but it makes the hairs on my arms stand bolt upright every time I hear it. Even Johnny Marr never managed that.

Southpaw Grammar is, beyond everything, unashamedly a rock album. Named for Morrissey’s newly-found passion for pugilism, it is both brutal and beautiful. It’s not his finest collection of songs but as an experience, it’s well worth listening to. The new edition is a worthy addition to any CD collection, with sleevenotes written by the man himself explaining the processes behind the recording. The sense of pride he feels in the work is overwhelming and one any fan should share.

Since his death last year, much has been written surrounding one of Heath Ledger’s final projects, directing a music video for Modest Mouse’s King Rat. The video was finally unveiled yesterday on MySpace (an auspicious platform, no doubt) and, um, I’m not sure if it’s any good.

EDIT: Sony’s lawyers have leaped all over this and disabled the audio. If you’re interested, I’m sure you can find it somewhere else.

Obviously, I agree with the sentiment but I can’t help but feel that it’s a little heavy-handed. Furthermore, the track itself is fairly weak, which certainly doesn’t help. The initial rumour was that the animation was to be handled by Terry Gilliam and I think that would have resulted in a far stronger product. Oh well, there’s always The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to look forward to. Maybe then the man’s spirit will finally be laid to rest.

A much more pleasant and surprising piece of news I read today was that Radiohead have recorded a new song in memory of Harry Patch, the World War I veteran who died two weeks ago. Apparently the song was recorded a few weeks before his death, inspired by an interview with the man heard by Thom Yorke some years ago. As such, the lyrics are all Harry’s own words. It’s available to stream here. A high-quality download, costing £1, is available from the band’s official website, with all proceeds going to the Royal British Legion. I highly recommend. It’s not the best song Radiohead have committed to tape but the passion behind it is strong and it’s been too long since I’ve heard Thom Yorke’s ethereal vocals backed by a haunting Jonny Greenwood string arrangement. It’s probably the best £1 you’ll spend today.

Mary’s Market

August 3, 2009

marysmarket

Time for me to bang on about a song again. This track is a B Side recorded for Stuart Murdoch’s God Help the Girl project. Although, given he takes lead vocal, it sounds like a classic Belle and Sebastian song. In fact, it sounds more like Belle and Sebastian than the band themselves have over the last couple of records.

It’s a gorgeous, throwaway pop tune. It almost revels in that fact. I’d have to say that it surpasses anything on the God Help the Girl album (a fine album, though it is). It’s the perfect little thing to soundtrack a summer romance (the kind of romance that never really gets fulfilled; all furtive glances over the dinner table and mild, muted words of kindness). I have overused parentheses in this paragraph, for which I apologise.

The song is available to stream here and to download here (right click and “save as”, yo). I’d highly recommend you do it. It’s the sort of thing that makes a short skip down to the shops in the sun a little sweeter.

Field Day

August 3, 2009

Field+Day+2009+Picture+3

As a rule, I despise music festivals. The last I went to was in the summer of 2002. I was 18, The Strokes were leading NME’s “new rock revolution” and Andrew WK had recently released his debut album. All in all, a pretty dire time to be alive. Needless to say, the festival in question was Reading, bastion of all that is teenage and wholly desperate. My main memories of the weekend are of stumbling around the festival at night, eyes weeping from all the plastic bags that had been flung onto bonfires and of the lead singer of The Dillinger Escape Plan defecating onstage and flinging his effluence into the audience. That could actually be used as a description of the performance as a whole but sadly, I refer to one single, physical act.

Regardless, I attended Field Day this year with a troupe of good friends (the “core”). A relatively new festival, held in the backwater of Victoria Park (a terrible venue for gigs, yet one that seems so often chosen by promoters). I was a little dubious but given it was only a day-long affair felt it was worth a try. Besides which, the company was so strong that to pass it up would have been foolish.

The line up wasn’t particularly attractive, save Mogwai headlining the main stage and Four Tet (who I missed). Despite this, I saw all of Santigold’s set and was suitably impressed. I also made a point of seeing The Horrors but their set wasn’t well-suited to newcomers and they appeared (or rather, sounded) to be plagued by sound problems.

Terrifying momentary culture shock in a pub beforehand and poor weather aside, I had a great time. There was a shambolic quality to the entire day that rendered the whole experience more charming than the average branded summer rock festival. Although £6.50 for fish and chips served to remind us all that a fleecing is never too far away.

I think this photo perhaps sums it up better than I actually ever could.

IMG_0097

Apple’s placebo

July 28, 2009

Yesterday, the worst-kept secret in technology was officially announced to the world; Apple’s “Tablet” will be released in the autumn.

apple_tablet

My Twitter feed immediately blew up with eBook aficionados both praising and lambasting a device that has yet to be officially revealed or to have any of its actual specifications detailed. The above image is for illustrative purposes only. Mike Cane, who has a very lively Twitter presence, immediately sang its praises from every available rooftop, whereas more conservative sources drew attention to its limitations.

Of course, it’s all hearsay at the moment. Nobody knows outside of Apple how this device will fit into any wider eBook “strategy” they may or may not have. Furthermore, if this just turns out to be a large-screen iPod Touch with no offerings beyond eBook readers already available via the “App Store” then it will be an opportunity that has wholly gone to waste.

Obviously, the “iPod moment” for eBooks is an idea that has been championed by publishers and technology providers for many months now and the fact that Apple are proposing a technology that goes beyond the eInk limitations of previous readers is cause for some excitement. I would certainly be in favour of Stanza on a device with a larger screen and with a reliable battery but for the “iPod moment” to be achieved, Apple will have to implement the successful marriage of form and function for reading that they managed with music. Given their previous pedigree, they’re certainly well-positioned to manage it successfully.

Regardless of what happens, it will be interesting to see what the Tablet offers come its release. Let’s all just try to temper the excitement in the meantime.