Mostly Records – June 2011

by Jim Eaton-Terry

Lady Gaga –Born This Way

Starting by talking about Lady Gaga risks straying into Mostly Pop territory but it’s an album so fair game. That Charlie off Busted thing last month had guitars on and did I complain?

Anyway,  what’s fascinating about Gaga is the distinction between her persona and her actual records.   If you read the interviews, look at the pictures, and watch the videos with the sound off, you’d expect monstrous, futurist pop.  By rights she ought to sound like Björk fronting Army of Lovers.

Occasionally that’s what she pulls off (“Bad Romance” is the best pop single this decade, Judas is a diluted version of the same thing, and “Born This Way”’s homage to Blonde Ambition still sounds as fresh as it did in 1989.)  But when she tries to veer out of the Steinman-meets-SAW template laid down in “Bad Romance”, the results are uniformly utterly dull.  On “Born This Way”, the dullness varies from 1990s Cher B-sides (“Marry the Night”), through the leaden europop of “Government Hooker”, to the final horror of “You and I”.  In this, Gaga does that Mike Yarwood “…And this is me!” thing to reveal a second rate Linda Perry midtempo number. At heart, she’s Alannah Myles

The one song that’s worth downloading for anyone in their ’30s, is “Electric Chapel”.  It’s not a very good song, but I swear that’s ZZ Top playing guitar in the background.  If so, I can’t wait for the video.

Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi – Rome

I was really excited about this idea.  I love a good Morricone soundtrack.  But while it is clearly a beautifully and lovingly created homage to Italian film music, with some wonderful textures, it just keeps sounding like Morcheeba once the vocals kick in.  The whole thing fades gently into the background until Jack White lifts it by being a real pop star on his two tracks.

Lamb – 5

Speaking of fading gently into the background, Lamb’s stock in trade has always, to my ear, been wallpaper – nicely crafted songs over polite breakbeats, with the production seemingly sanded down and varnished to a sheen.  This is more of the same, and I’m sure I’ll hear it in independent coffee shops everywhere later in the year.

Beastie Boys –Hot Sauce Committee Part II

I promised The Ed I would talk about this.  Everybody loves Beastie Boys records, so here’s another one.  It’s quite like the last one but different enough to show they still care.  As always, track 1 blows the doors off (is there any act that does track 1 side 1 better than the Beasties?  “Rhymin’ and Stealin’”, “Shake Your Rump”, “Super Disco Breakin’”, “Ch-Check it out…”) then the rest of the album is a gentle downwards roll.

I feel a bit churlish about this one – it’s by far the most enjoyable thing I’ve heard this month – but if the Beasties’ career is about continuity and solid output (and who, listening to “License To Ill”, would have thought that would sum them up in 2011?) then maybe “more of the same” is the best thing you can say about one of their records.

Frank Turner – England Keep My Bones

Frank Turner, on the other hand, is etched on my memory forever.  All the press seems to mention that he’s an Old Etonian.  Little of it mentions that he sounds like Mitch Benn doing “if Billy Bragg were in UKIP”.  Only, if this can be imagined, less funny than that sounds

This is without doubt the worst record I’ve heard this year and perhaps the worst album I will ever hear.   If you liked the Levellers  for the rickety production and tubthumping idiocy of their sound but were always put off by the vague lefty posturing of the lyrics then, a) you’re an idiot and b) I may have your record of the month right here.  There’s a track called “Wessex Boy” about Winchester.  I’m not sure I need to say any more than that.

Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts

This was pitched to me as an acoustic Sonic Youth album.  Which it is, but which misses the point that it’s absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking.  Stripping away the noise leaves the things I always liked best about SY – Thurston’s voice and his oblique lyrics, and the meandering melodies.  “Circulation”, which takes “Daydream Nation”, replaces the feedback with strings, and turns up the vocals, might be my favourite thing related to Sonic Youth since Goo.

Primal Scream – Screamadelica live

I bow to no-one in being a tedious “Screamadelica” fan – my choice of university was partly driven by the NME cover of Bobby on Brighton beach when “Come Together” came out, and have I ever told you how I’m mentioned in Weatherall’s NME review of the gig where they met?

So there’s a certain touching symmetry in seeing a record so entirely powered by Bobby’s obsessive love of rock heritage that you could build an argument that it’s a starting point for the whole Mojo retromania project, finally getting the full Classic Album treatment.  20 years has blurred the line between revivalist pastiche and genuine classicism.   This year’s wave of Screamstalgia (as Bobby probably wouldn’t call it) peaks with the release of “Screamadelica live!” a CD and DVD pack of their recent tour.  Which sounded pretty amazing, but still not a patch on my bootleg of their 1991 gig at the Event.

That’s it for this month.  Next month I’m excited about the Battles record, vaguely excited about the Bon Iver record, and will at least listen to the EMA record,

Oh, and I totally forgot about

Cults – Cults.

I listened to them, honestly I did.  I think they were a bit like a rubbish Cats Eyes?  To be honest I forgot them before they were over.

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6 thoughts on “Mostly Records – June 2011

  1. Now listening to “Wessex Boy”. It really is a fine illustration of everything that is wrong with the nu folk revival, and yet another perfect reason to hate Mumford and Sons.

    He’s a bit confident that the buskers of Winchester will prefer his song to, say, “Blowin’ in the Wind” in years to come, isn’t he?

  2. And while I’m chipping in, I should say that I’m just as much of a Lee fan as a Thurston fan, if not more, but I do love that album. Jim O’Rourke’s influence is quite evident (“Space” is first cousin to something off Gastr del Sol’s “Camoufleur”), and Beck has obviously kept the “Nick Drake-esque string arrangements” setting on his computer, which is nice.

  3. “it’s a starting point for the whole Mojo retromania project”

    Oh, it’s worse than that. Screamadelica is the record that made house music palatable to broadsheet readers – for that reason it deserves to die a thousand deaths.

    Also, it’s just not very good, and never was.

    1. It’s worth having, certainly – obviously Jack White adds star power to his few tracks but even without him it’s a great listen. Just maybe a bit too polished

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