Saturday, September 24, 2005

Warchild of our time

The Help: A Day In The Life album is released in physical form - you know, the media nobody cares about any more - on Monday after some remarkably quick online selling for something not actually given all that much mass media publicity. What this means is we can legally tell you what the tracks are like before you spend money on the good cause. The tracks by the Zutons - Hello Conscience, pots and pans percussion giving way to their standard issue warped pop shapes replete with rasping guitars and a touch too long running time to get to the enormous pounding finish - and Belle And Sebastian - The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House, a surprisingly skanking effort referencing the Israel situation Stuart Murdoch recently saw first hand - are held back from the CD apparently for a future EP release, which leaves this new tracklisting:

Coldplay - How You See The World No.2: On the surface, much like you'd expect as a piano meanders and builds to an arena sized finish, but there's a certain passion in Chris' voice to go with the sort of politicised lyricism he's still tiptoeing towards and drive in the band that seemed to have gone missing in the X&Y sessions. Mixed by Mark 'Spike' Stent, which probably explains it.

Razorlight - Kirby's House: Starts oddly like an anaemic Magic Numbers before developing into a slightly more developed campfire strumalong, Borrell even letting the others have backing vocals. Then it disappears for twenty seconds and re-emerges with a shiny gospel edge added, as all Razorlight songs are sure to have now. This is the track radio seems to have decided is the only one on the album worth bothering with, which demonstrates all sorts.

Radiohead - I Want None Of This: Much of this new song-erama is Radiohead's doing, of course, having seen a proper version of Lucky stand out in a morass of demos and scraps. This was first track on the download version and you can see why it got moved back, as your pop consumer's going to be put off by something pitched not far from Amnesiac's You And Whose Army, or at least Ed O'Brien's description of that song as like a modern Inkspots. Like that track, it sounds intriguing in the context of an album but tells you nothing taken on its own. They've said they're looking at a full band version for their next album, which might be interesting.

Keane & Faultline - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: Not entirely sure what David Kosten's added to this, given the burbling electronic undercurrent he adds to a lot of guest production spots was on much of Hopes And Fears too. It's a delicate late night vocal in any case with a notably audible ride cymbal, for what that's worth.

Emmanuel Jal - Gua: Ah, tokenism! Fast rising Sudanese rapper and, as no doubt everything ever written about him suffixes his name with, former child soldier multilingualises intelligently about peace over electro-reggae and a female choir. Oddly affecting.

Gorillaz - Hong Kong: Speaking of world music... more like a Think Tank sketch than anything done under 2D and co's name, essentially it's Damon refinding his longing, faraway voice while people mess about with various stringed instruments, someone lets a small child loose on a piano at various intervals and the rhythm section work around the theme of Lambchop's Up With People. It's be perfect for sunlit mountain roads.

Manic Street Preachers - Leviathan: Flagged up by Nicky Wire as the punkiest thing they've ever - ever! - done, but it's no more balls out than the rawer bits of Know Your Enemy, complete with short twiddly solo. No idea what it's about, namechecks for Patty Hearst and Baader Meinhof (FX: Luke Haines spitting feathers) implying something of great significance but not much more than that. Also seems to fade out accidentally.

Kaiser Chiefs - I Heard It Through The Grapevine: Yes, we've heard the Slits version too. It's not quite as dubby as that, not least as they've copied the original bassline and stuck an inappropriate guitar solo in, but it's clear where the influence has come from. It was cobbled together in three hours' recording time, and it shows.

Damien Rice - Cross Eyed Bear: Presumably after hearing James Blunt, Rice has noticeably dropped his voice an octave or two but not done anything about the sparse acoustic. Just as you begin to wonder when something's going to happen Lisa Hannigan arrives - wasn't she supposed to be getting joint billing these days? - sounding oddly like an Irish Chan Marshall, or alternately like she's just got up. It doesn't help the song much.

The Magic Numbers - Gone Are The Days: It sounds like the Lovin' Spoonful, of course, albeit with more of a country swing. Is it also so wrong to mention the Coral's Pass It On at this juncture? What they need at this juncture is something that works on their grittier live sound; what they've provided is almost the opposite.

Tinariwen - Cler Achel: "Tinariwen formed in Colonel Ghadaffi's rebel camps having been violently forced from their Touareg nomadic life by Malian government forces", it says here. According to their Wikipedia entry their style is known as Tishoumaren, or "music of the unemployed", which perhaps makes them a kind of New Deal For Touareg Musicians. Political, then, and clearly there's some theme of regret tinged with anger going on in their funny foreign language and their Jeff Beck style solo, but to the English ear it could as easily be a song for the harvest. The sort of thing Andy Kershaw sticks on immediately before Loudon Wainwright III session tracks.

The Coral - It Was Nothing: A jarring change, I'll give them that. Very much in the recent Coral style, that is to say James Skelly sounding all wistful over mid-paced mod-Merseybeat and making it hard to tell what producers Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley actually did, or indeed why they seem to be regressing stylistically as time passes.

Mylo - Mars Needs Women: Starts off with a squelching bass akin to Flat Beat being played on speakers someone's left an old mobile phone too close to before dissolving into something suspiciously 808 State-esque, all one step up from ambient synths and 303s that sound a bit like birds. Would segue nicely into Drop The Pressure in his live set.

Maximo Park - Wasteland: It's taken us a long time to realise the greatness of A Certain Trigger and this would fit neatly into the closing stages of that album, which is praise actually, full of hidden hooks and false choruses before suddenly stopping at precisely the right moment. "The devil in me made a pact with naivety" Paul Smith relays, possibly while grimacing and leaning to one side gripping the top of the mike stand.

Elbow - Snowball: It could have been risky to come to after Guy Garvey telling anyone who'll listen about this song's political content but it works well, moving over five graceful minutes from an acoustic stripped down form to controlled intensity and an accordion popping briefly by. It might be the closest they've come to Radiohead, the nearest comparison to Garvey's voice being the aforementioned resigned bitterness of Yorke transplanted into a wounded bear of a man.

Bloc Party - The Present: We'd heard a live version of this before which seemed to suggest their new songs were progressing in a more linear fashion, but clearly they've had a bit of a think about this themselves between, well, recording Two More Years (a real grower, but still not staking out the same territory as their earlier singles) and now. Some glacial synths arrive towards the end to root it right in the Cure-like 80s, but otherwise it builds cleverly through the reliable old delay pedal and Kele keeping the histrionics down while Matt Tong does his usual cyclical thing in the background.

Hard-Fi - Help Me Please: Well, this is different. Accompanied by acoustic guitar, the occasional backing melodica and basic drum machine setting, Richard Archer yearns for something better, as usual, and sounds too much like Oasis for that much comfort.

The Go! Team - Phantom Broadcast: You'd be entitled to wonder how a 'band' whose album is carefully made up of many years' worth of sampled beats could get a track together in a day, and it's a challenge they rise to with something approximating a lounge spaghetti Western theme, utilising the live band set-up well (no Ninja, mind). It'll be soundtracking something on the telly in no time.

Babyshambles - From Bollywood to Battersea: The face of modern evil incarnate turns in... well, he turns in a track within a day, which is a start. He doesn't seem to have finished writing proper lyrics in time, admittedly, but as a development to the Libertines' jaunty acoustic side it passes the time and it actually sounds like he wanted to be there and was fully conscious.

George & Antony - Happy Christmas War Is Over: O'Dowd and Hegarty, Boy and Johnsons, to be exact. Doing this song makes a kind of sense, we suppose, if not this version in which George starts off trying to outdo Antony for effort, Antony proves he's conclusively failing by just trying harder and most of the emotional approach of the lyrics gets lost, despite the lovely string arrangement. Still, at least they had fun.

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