Track Reviews

Track Reviews: 30 July – 5 August 2012

You know all-you-can-eat buffets? Well, the trick with them is not to fill up with the cheap stuff. Maximize the value of your expenditure by just eating the nice things and disregarding the weighty, filling rubbish.

In the all-you-can-eat buffet that is this column, introductions are weighty, filling rubbish and the tracks are the stuff you should gorge on. The king prawns. The fillet steak. The After Eights.

Crystal Castles – Plague
So, new single from Crystal Castles. And it doesn’t half sound like Crystal Castles. Which is something you can always rely on Crystal Castles to achieve. In fact, they do a better job of sounding like Crystal Castles than anyone else we know.

Plague is a cloud of charged, vaguely apocalyptic 8-bit noise and jagged melodies that viciously jab at you whilst Alice Glass adopts an interestingly schizophrenic vocal tactic. Cooing like a lovelorn dove one minute and screaming like a banshee who has been woken from a restful slumber by the call of an imperfect bladder, and on the journey from bed to basin in the pitch-black darkness of the night has stubbed a toe on the doorframe.

It is exciting. In a run-for-your-life, adrenalin-fuelled, club you across the back of the head kind of way. Plus there’s a bloody-mindedness to their desire to sound precisely like Crystal Castles (and absolutely nothing more) which is strangely endearing.

Bat For Lashes – Laura
There can be few more mournful sounds than that of a single lone wind instrument, faintly parping away in the dim edges of a recording. Like the lonely singleton passing gas in a cinema during the near silent denouement of the latest rom-com, thus ruining any chance of using the emotionally charged climax as a vehicle upon which to find a new partner.

It’s there, on the new single from Bat For Lashes. A mournful accoutrement for a mournful song. The first single from her new album The Haunted Man, the cover art for which has provoked literal howls of disapproval from THE INTERNET. Mainly, we assume, from knuckle-scraping creationists with foreheads the size and shape of a granite slab, who actually think that nudity will RUIN the TINY LITTLE MINDS of anyone who sees it.

Yep, those people. Oh, and Chris Brown fans. But not that our favourite naked load-bearer should care at all. For Laura is a beautiful last-waltz of plaintive keys, subtle orchestras and lyrics that gently embolden the titular heroine. Oh Laura. You’re more than a superstar.

Tulisa feat. Tyga – Live It Up
Tulisa has clearly has decided that now is the time (since Dappy and Fazer’s attempts to provoke change in the global financial markets proved to subtle for the braying masses) for an economic revolution.

“We should pop more champagne this year / Then we did last year”, she opines. As theories go, it’s a good one. 2012’s Finance Bill increased the duty rate on alcohol at 2% above the rate of inflation, so the benefit to the Treasury could run into the billions (dependent on the rate of take up of said policy). Moreover, in addition to the quantifiable monetary benefit there is a more intangible blessing. We associate champagne with celebratory occasions. Ergo, the purchasing of champagne could trick the country’s collective psyche into feeling happier. Endorphins rushing around, the likelihood is we would work harder, buy more. Construction would increase. Spending would increase. Recession could be over.

Live It Up is a rallying call against the economic naysayers. As powerful and as important a document as Keynes’s General Theory was in 1936. “Too much is not enough” she says. Precisely. Precisely.

The Killers – Runaways
There’s no doubt, we like Bruce Springsteen. A lot. As much as The Killers? Questionable. We’re not trying to base a career on it. But then we do have Tunnel Of Love on vinyl. Which is almost the same thing.

Runaways is intently Springsteen-esque. The lyrics. The tone. The wistful, melancholically hopeful escapism. The tumbling momentum. It’s also a little bit U2. Specifically the chiming guitars from 0:46 – 0:57.

Derivative? Yes. But there’s also a certain chest-beating sincerity to it all that gives it an anthemic thrust which is kind of impressive.

Alanis Morissette – Guardian
Alanis once screamed so loudly that Ben Affleck’s head exploded; fitting punishment for his evil deeds as a renegade angel. But now it is she who sports the angelic wings, and she who observes humanity from on high. Isn’t it ironic? (Not really, no.)

Guardian, though, is far from heaven-sent. It’s less the shrill, angst-driven, pube-parading Morissette of old; more the unassuming, hyper-polished identi-pop of Avril Lavigne, Pink, Katy Perry et al. It’s like 10,000 Carly Rae Jepsens when all you need is a Fiona Apple.

Dizzee Rascal – Scream
This is it, guys, the OFFICIAL song of the Olympics, and Dizzee has run with his rare opportunity to draw on footage from the world’s greatest sporting institution… the Rocky movies.

Featuring new Rascal signing Katie Pepper, Scream thuds energetically and carries off its training montage theme with aplomb, but it has an unsanctioned feel about it; more Sly Stallone career reel than anything else. Mind, it’s still preferable to the Spice Girls warbling about being on top of the world.

Tame Impala – Elephant
Woah. Oh. Yeeeah. The new single from Tame Impala is well psychedelic. In fact, on a scale from square, working for the MAN, to acid-powered free-love (and music) festival, it’s standing barefoot in front of the main stage with circular mirrored glasses and a tie-dyed t-shirt.

It’s a bit like B.R.M.C.. If they weren’t so fucking miserable. With an ace rumbling burble of a bassline (which does for the earlier comparisons, echoing faintly as it does of Love Burns) and a magnificent instrumental breakdown bit. Which despite being 45 minutes long, actually fits into a song which is less than four.


Hot Chip – How Do You Do
Yes, they look like volunteers at Comic-Con – odd socks; council specs; hair patted down with a moistened palm – yet Hot Chip continue to produce, package and export some of the UK’s finest pop music.

Moving swiftly on from the slick sci-fi of Peter Serafinowicz-produced Night And Day, How Do You Do is simplicity itself, its less-is-more synths and green screen promo stating in bold letters that music is first, style is nowhere. Which is what makes it so stylish. See what they did there?

The Mountain Goats – Cry For Judas
The life expectancy of a mountain goat is 15 years – or 20 in captivity, obviously – yet singer, songwriter, composer and musician John Darnielle established in 1991. That makes him 147 in goat years.

Cry For Judas, though, is positively vibrant, and strums cheerily in the general direction of 15th studio LP Transcendental Youth. Darnielle, it would appear, is the Cliff Richard of folk rock. Wholesome; evergreen; impervious to conventional weapons.

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