Channing Tatum

(This is from a Tumblr thread where people were defending Tatum. Well, I had to add something, didn’t I?)

He IS brilliant in Hail Caesar, not least because he’s also having sly fun with popular notions about him as an actor. Takes a brave actor to do that and keep on point.

May I also add:

Channing in Step Up

Channing in Haywire

Channing in The Eagle.

You see, I, too, used to be a Channing-hater. Not, like, hugely or anything. But I’d go along with mates when they’d make fun of him or snort if I read film reviews slagging him off.

This was until I actually engaged my own critical faculties honestly. 

I started realising… ‘oh wow, that bloke in Step Up… that’s CHANNING TATUM?!?’

‘That bloke in Haywire… that’s CHANNING TATUM?!?’

etcetera…

And then I realised that what we have in Mr. Tatum is a young actor who can dance, do romantic smouldering, light comedy, horrible secret agent villains and brooding soldiers haunted by loss of honour.

Tatum is a superbly flexible, adventurous and fearless actor. Where other actors find the ONE NOTE and then grind on that fucker for decades, hoping an Oscar will pop out, Tatum will have covered a myriad worlds, creating characters that have zero in common apart from his obviously gorgeous physicality.

I mean, he could just coast by on his looks, couldn’t he? He doesn’t really need to take risks but look at the man’s IMDB: he consistently does.

At the minute, Tatum is PRIME BEEF. He is beautiful and that will limit the roles he gets offered, as it does beautiful actresses (though to a lesser extent, of course, since Hollywood hates women). But Tatum’s work ethic and career arc reminds me of someone…

Here’s young Michael Caine. Pretty, isn’t he? He could have coasted on those looks but if you look at his IMDB, you’ll see an actor who got stuck in. He just acted and acted and acted, which is why we still know and love him now, decades after his equally-attractive comrades are forgotten. Yeah, Caine also did a lot of dodgy films but that’s my point ~ you HAVE TO. You don’t get to be in the Hail Caesars unless you’re also in the Jupiter Ascendings (and that’s no disrespect to JA, I love that slab of dog-gene, royalist bee crazy but I’m in the minority, I know).

We have yet to see the best from Tatum. Think of how great he’ll be when he’s a wrinkly, gnarly, hairy-eared old geezer! Think of the decades of experience of playing a huge gamut of characters he’ll be able to draw from. He’ll be too old for the 20-something romcom lead or the action hero, he will get characters with more layers, more complexity…

True Love

I keep having the most vivid dreams that I’m with my ex and I’m begging her not to leave, like I did in real life when she said she wanted a divorce.

I know that person doesn’t exist any more but when I see her in my dreams, it’s so disturbing. Her skin feels as soft, her smile is as every bit as cute and I remember the last time someone loved me, the last time someone kissed me.

When she wrote to me after my Dad died last year, I was so happy. Not because I had any ideas of getting back together, I gave up on those years ago. But because I thought, maybe, we could have at least some kind of friendship. Also, I knew my Mum wanted to see her, to hear her memories of my father. She gave me an email address in the letter so I emailed her about my Dad, his death, my Mum’s health and… she didn’t reply. That was the cruellest thing anyone has ever done to me.

I never thought I’d still be dreaming about her, so many years later.

Love is horrible. I wish my subconscious didn’t keep reminding me how empty my life is now.

A Beautiful Picture

Now, I’m not a fan of Obama. He’s murdered innocent people with his drones so how can I be?

I am, however, a fan of this photo:

(Source: BBC News)

At the top, you have the crowds for Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

At the bottom you have Trump’s 2017 ceremony.

You know, the neo-Nazis currently re-branding to alt-right talk loudly. Sometimes it’s easy to fall for the hot air and think that those idiots are the mainstream, the majority.

Look at that pitiful picture below.

They clearly are not.

Veronica Mars

SO, I’m bingeing Veronica Mars and I’m too entertained. Like, I expected it to be good but not *this* good. The writing is snappy, the dialogue entertaining, the plots all sewn up with each ep…
 
If this was a Netflix series, I feel like forty minutes of each ep would be her just staring in the mirror intercut with flashbacks, flash forwards, zooming pics of the Horsehead Nebula and insects fucking each other.
 
I’d forgotten telly could be concise and REFRESHING. Not a fucking slog through hours of self-indulgent pseudery, just WAITING FOR SOMETHING TO BLOODY HAPPEN.
Posted in TV

Gargling Other People’s Shit

Friday night, I went to Mosh. The music was good, most of the people were fine. But there was a scattering of people there who I absolutely can’t fucking stand. Fair dos, Derby isn’t massive and the alt scene is basically one hundred people at any one time, you’re gonna bump into them cos this town is tiny. Grin and bear it. Oh, he’s pushed me again… leave it cos the wanker is only 21 and weighs as much as one of my legs. Oh, she’s joining in now… just leave it. Grin and bear it. At least I get prior warning because of the approaching stink of poppers and entitlement.

Then a bouncer came up to me and asked me if I’d been threatening people with a knife. Apparently, a “big black bloke dressed all in black” had threatened some lad and his missus.

Well, the only person fitting that description at all (even though I’m Indian) in the 95% white Mosh was me. The bouncer was actually very good about it; he knows I’m a regular, knows I’m friendly and thus that I’m unlikely to be walking around perforating randoms. I had no problem with him, he’s a good bloke. But, you know, I couldn’t shake it off, it was the shit cherry on top of the turd cake. So, I went home.

Last night, I went to City. It was packed cos Meshuggah had just played upstairs so I knew it’d be great music in the Basement. And it was! Lovely big slab of Gojira, Refused, Beartooth, The Ghost Inside, Parkway, Attila, heavy shits and giggles.

Then this bloke turned up. I don’t know him, don’t even know his name. I only know him from City because he knows mates of mine. He’s one of those types that goes somewhere and makes fun of everyone else that’s there, their clothes, their taste in music. Everything he likes is MORE METAL, everything he’s into is AUTHENTIC. Everything you or anyone else likes is fake and shit. You know the type: narcissistic poseur with delusions of grandeur. Whenever he does this to me, as if I’m in on the joke, I ask him why he’s there if it’s such a shite place. And he does what the considers to be this sophisticated grin like… well… he’s gracing us with his presence.

He’s a fucking wanker but I humour him because of said common friends.

Well, big mistake. 

He’s also a massive druggie. He’s proud of it, drones on and on about it to me even though he knows I’m edge. Finds straight edge funny and quaint and a bit embarrassing because, you know, edge people actually believe in something non-ironically. Last night, fuck knows what loser cocktail of psychoactives he’d ingested but he basically harassed me non-stop. Any time I’d try to dance, he’d hilariously push up against me or push me away from my friends. It got so bad that two or three of them actually started telling him to fuck off and push him away. But, y’know, he’s a big white bloke with all that privilege AND drugs AND his psychopathic empathy-bypass.

Because I X up, because I sometimes wear my straight edge hoody and obviously because I’m often the only non-white in the place, because I stand out, I get this shit a lot. Blokes (ALWAYS men… never women, funny that, eh?) will decide I’m their target for the night. They’ll push me and get in my face and provoke me and grab my female friends. Anything to get a rise.

This is because drinkers and druggies take any sign of edgeness as an implicit criticism: they think my hoody is criticising them personally. Instead of seeing it as a personal declaration, a statement of belief (and, yes, a beacon trying to find other like-minded people), they see it as a slam. So, they feel justified in attacking me at various levels. I’ve even had people try to pour beer into my mouth, for fuck’s sake. I mean, can you fucking believe anyone would be that defensive and aggressive about their own addiction?

So, I did what I always do. Grin and bear it. Don’t get mad, he’s just on drugs. Don’t get mad, he’s probably not always a fucking wanker. Maybe if he was sober you wouldn’t want to gouge his eyes out. Grin and bear it. Eat that shit. Gargle that shit. Yes sir, can I please have more!?

I’m afraid I failed at being Vulcan cos I got too mad and basically pushed him sharply so he careened into the barrier in front of the stage and fell over. Immediately, I regretted it. But this was after 90 minutes of him consistently hassling me and my friends, I’d had enough. We had all told him to fuck off numerous times. He didn’t listen.

And, of course, me pushing him means that he won. He successfully provoked me, which is what he’d wanted to do all night. What I should have done was to go and get a bouncer and get him chucked out.

Well, once I’d pushed him, he was on a roll, the weirdness doubled. So, I just left the club and came home early. I was seething when I did it but I was in control enough to know that it was either leave or actually get into a real fight with him which I would win physically but lose morally.

I have had this happen so many times now, it’s the one pain in the arse of being edge: putting up with dickheads. And the thing with druggies is they never remember they were being arseholes so the next time they see you, they think you’re being off because you refuse to be friendly! Like, half the blokes in Mosh I will not engage with because they have started shit with me when they’re high/drunk. And yet they look at me like I’m touchy or judgemental BECAUSE THEY DON’T REMEMBER DOING IT. Yes, mate, I’m not gonna shake your hand because last time your were out you called me a ‘fat fucking Paki’ and tried to push me over.

ARGHHHHH.

I am sick of this, of having my nights out ruined by other people’s addictions. I have had so many years of this that it just fucking grinds me down. Sometimes I wish there were straight edge clubs the same as there are gay clubs but I can’t think of anywhere in Britain the scene would be large enough for that to be financially viable.

It sucks.

 

Backstrom

Fucking hell…. just tried to watch the first ep of this and, apparently, casual racism is the NEW EDGY on Netflix.

“BUT HE’S OBNOXIOUS, YOU DON’T GET IT!!!”

Oh, but I do. It’s yet another excuse for punch down humour. Why couldn’t he have been an obnoxious black cop making fun of crackers? Why couldn’t he have been an obnoxious female cop with a Male Tears mug?

Because that transposition might actually be challenging.

Instead we get Yet Another White Male braying his “OOH, LOOK AT ME, I’M POLITICALLY INCORRECT” bollocks everywhere.

This is so fucking cliched, it’s only made worse by the irritating score boom-tishing Backstrom’s racist quips like a tiny Richard Hammond sucking off Jeremy Clarkson.

Fuck this show, fuck everyone in it and fuck all the writers.

Posted in TV

Israel Threatens UK Minister

Israel’s ambassador to the UK has apologised after a senior member of his staff was secretly filmed saying he wanted to “take down” Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan.

(Source:  BBC News)

Take down how? Politically? Physically, with an assassination via Mossad?
 
Can you imagine *any* other government getting away with this kind of threat? What if China or North Korea had been caught on camera saying it?
 
Yet, as it’s Israel… free pass, carry on illegally occupying foreign land and threatening senior UK ministers.

White Town, Always

(On seeing this post on diversity in alternative music)

You know, it’s made me ridiculously happy to see my band in this list, thank you!

White Town has *always* been on the outside of the immensely white, middle class indie(pop) scene since I first formed the band in 1989.

The third gig we did (I say we as it was still a guitar band back then), we supported Primal Scream. It was a great gig but my strongest memory is a sneering racist white indie kid asking me if I was there to do the accounts. (This is *after* we’d played.)

Another time, a big act on the Sarah Records label and his cohort of minions spent five minutes laughing at my band name and basically saying that racism was “all in my head” and that I was yet another darkie with a chip on my shoulder.

That’s just a couple of times out of… well, too many to list, really. I’ve left out the actual physical fights with racist Morrissey fans, playing at venues that turned out to be full of Nazi skins… the fact that I recorded a lot of indiepop bands but you never see that in the reverential tomes on Sarah or white histories of indiepop. It goes on and on.

But if you try and talk about this with white indie kids, you get labelled as ‘touchy’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘paranoid.’ All the labels that white people apply to non-whites who won’t stay in their place, who refuse to remain silent. 

Today, indie and indiepop remain overwhelmingly white scenes. The supposed left-wingness of the scene is a superficial lip-service; most of the people I meet are liberals or outright Home Counties Tories. There is the exact same sneering attitude to racism as there was decades ago. If you haven’t got white skin, the same doors remain closed, the gig offers don’t come in and you basically have to put up with shit white artists don’t even know exists, safe in their privilege.

In my frustration at decades of discrimination, I’ve given up on trying to explain all this to white people, even if they’re well-meaning. I haven’t got the time or energy to be a walking google on the history of erasure of non-white people in alternative music. (But start with The Monochrome Set if you want.) Nowadays, I do my best to help young non-white artists in alt bands whether it’s with advice, free recording, production lessons or whatever.

If you’re reading this and you’re a South Asian kid in a shoegaze band or a black kid in a goth band or whatever and you’re feeling isolated and excluded, please drop me a line,  bzangy@gmail.com.

I’ll help if I can! 🙂

Albums Of The Year 2016

Woah! This year I bought 86 albums… so, I’ve had to delete 46 albums I liked enough to buy just to get to the list below. There are NO losers on this list, every one deserves your ears and money!

(Once again, thanks to Robin Newman for spotifying this list)

40. Beacon – Escapements

Floaty, dreamy electronica, verging into synthpop.

39. Kaytranada – 99.9%

Exquisitely languorous beats, sweet, sweet samples. A rare delicacy.

38. Napoleon – Newborn Mind

Yeah, I’m NOT gonna go with the band’s genre and call this “melodiposipassiongroove” but what I will say is that it’s riff-heavy, shouty greatness.

37. Greys – Outer Heaven

Very ’90s yank indie rock, like an angry baby Pavement. I like it!

36. Eefje de Visser – Nachtlicht

Umm, I love this album but since I don’t speak Dutch, I don’t know what Eefje is singing about. Could be “KILL ALL FAT BROWN MEN!” but even if it is, damn, it’s catchy!

35. Blittz, Big Tobz – Case Closed

Another big year for grime and this album keeps up the UK’s stellar standard. Standout track, ‘Nobody,’ transcends genre cliches to deliver a genuinely unsettling, fucked-up love song.

34. Tycho – Epoch

Tycho’s strength has always been the blending of guitar and electronics. That’s in full force here: ‘Local’ just fucking soars…

33. STRFKR – Being No One, Going Nowhere

I dunno if all the desert odyssey back story to this is genuine. What I do know is that this is fundamentally a journey album. It’s a road trip, take it.

32. Ulrich Schnauss – No Further Ahead Than Today

I mean, what can I fucking say? The mastery of synthesis and production… of time and space is, as ever, astounding. ‘Thoughtless Motion’ is Satie with a sequencer.

31. Field Music – Commontime

Any major dude will tell you this is a great pop album. Even if it is a bit stealy, man. I hope they can do it again.

PEG!

30. Russian Circles – Guidance

Wherein Russian Circles approach such epic, dark heaviness that they start bending light. Occasional breathers like ‘Overboard’ are more than countered by battering rams like ‘Vorel.’

29. Loscil – Monument Buliders

This is a fucking heartbreak of an album. Desolate synths, wailing to the skies, insect legs beating out doomed sequences in military cadences.

28. D.D Dumbo – Utopia Defeated

I put this on in my car and asked passengers to guess when it was from. 1983 – 1987 was the result. Yep. But, DAMN, if you love an amalgam of prime Thomas Dolby, The Blue Nile and Sting, you’re gonna love this.

27. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

In the litany of the lost musicians of 2016, Phife Dawg often gets omitted. The added tragedy is that this album, recorded before his death, is the best fucking album Tribe have done in YEARS. 

Political, personal, it is astonishing to see elder statesmen of hip hop not resting but attacking. This is ferocious, righteous and essential.

26. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing

Probably the only thing that qualifies as indiepop on my list this year and it’s because, unlike its genre peers, it deals with reality in its lyrics. Whether it’s musing or outright confrontation, this is very welcome.

25. Frisco – System Killer

Solid slice of tracks, loads of guest spots from people you may have heard of (Skepta? Wiley?) lol. I defy you not to dance to this.

BOY BETTTTTTTER KNOWWWWWW

24. The Operators – Blue Wave

I mean, yes, of course this is ’80s. But look beyond that, see the songs and hear the lights and you’ve got a catchy pop album. And, yes, I did notice a cheeky Operators’ track at the end of a ‘Halt And Catch Fire’ ep, you lil minxes…

 

23. Knocked Loose – Laugh Tracks

Wonderfully heavy, ridiculous tempo changes and breakdowns, lovely shouting. Oh, and PROPER GUITAR RIFFS that make you want to learn guitar and be a rock god. This is one refreshing heavy album.

22. Lone – Levitate

Do you remember dance music that was electronic, that you could dance to? No, not EDM or some other shitty, invented-by-rock-critics genre. HAPPY HARDCORE. JUNGLE. DRUMNBASS. If you want to have a proper rave in your front room, get this album.

21. Masta Ace – The Falling Season

Well, how am I *not* going to have Masta Ace in my best of? It would be impossible. Take just ONE FUCKING TRACK off this album, take ‘Young Black Intelligent.’ From the Souls sample to the tribute Tribe cadences, this one track does more than a thousand boasting albums from modern trap lords. Never mind Torae guesting, or AG or Chuck fucking D… *sigh*

20. Oscar – Cut And Paste

Take the ramshackle lo-fi charm of early Say Hi To Your Mom and couple that with some of the intimate drama of Baths and you have maybe 6/10ths of Oscar. The rest is Oscar Scheller’s gorgeous Newley-esque grumblings and flirting. Obviously, he’s gonna be famous, like proper famous, one day.

19. Skepta – Konnichiwa

….speaking of which, this album is RIDICULOUS. You skip from track to track and every track has killed the club you’ve been in when it’s come on, every track has got people bobbing and singing along.

The sheer power of Skepta, his ability to earworm you to infinity is humongous. This is an album that listens like a best of. And it is!

18. Pinkshinyultrablast – Grandfeathered

Blown-out, magnificent nu-gaze with more than a dollop of neo-psych. But unlike a lot of nu-gaze, there’s also a touch of childhood madness here. There’s an edge of something wild and giggly that you wouldn’t want to give anything pointy too.

I like that menace. More please.

17. Quilt – Plaza

…Speaking of times that never really existed, this album rocks into view and instantly evokes every ’60s cliche every non-American, non-Boomer has about those phantasmetaphorical times. 

The vocal harmonies echo the best of Head-era Monkees, you know, when they went really fucking mad.

I LOVE that this is an upbeat, poppy album. It could so easily have been ambient psych bobbins, pedal-hoarder pestilence.

I mean, ‘Searching For’ has the same golden sorrow of ‘Door Into Summer.’ 

Do you know how rarely that lightning strikes? I cannot give higher praise.

 

16. Bam Spacey – Eden

Again, my Swedish is non-existent so this lot could be singing about stomping babies or punching puppies. I really hope they’re not as this is one of the catchiest synthpop albums I’ve heard in years. It’s beauty lies in its willingness to leave space, space for countermelodies, space for monophonic density to build and also space for space. Well fucking done.

15. Teleman – Brilliant Sanity

I didn’t even know Pete & The Pirates had morphed into this band! As soon as I heard the vocals, though, I was like “WHAT?” and hit that there ole google. And, yep, they’re back but with a leaner, cleaner sound. There’s still the same humour and sadness, as witnessed in opener ‘Dusseldorf,’ which is a glass of water in a desert of TV adverts consisting of infantile acoustic cover versions. 

This is woody, gnarly indie in a style only British bands can pull off: simultaneously laconic and passionate. Did I mention that it’s also very, very, very catchy?

14. Paul Haslinger – Halt And Catch Fire

The soundtrack to the BEST TV SHOW OF 2016 that you didn’t watch, you absolute shitters. 

Yes, I loved ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Westworld’ but ‘Halt And Catch Fire’ was in a totally higher electron shell.

Paul Haslinger’s soundtrack fits the show perfectly but it’s also a great solo listen. The fact that the pieces were written for radically different feels enhances the scope of the album without it being disjointed.

13. ZAO – The Well-Intentioned Virus

If you’ve been reading this blog for THIRTEEN BLOODY YEARS then you may have spotted Zao in my playlists.

So, I was a little worried when I heard about the new album. No original members – what would it sound like? 

WHAT IF THEY’D GONE JAZZ? 

Thankfully, ZAO are still about making a fucking racket. It’s impressive that a band with this history, this age can give the young pups a run for their money when it comes to chunky, grunty riffs.   

12. TRIM – 1-800 DINOSAUR Presents TRIM

It’s a weird collision; Trim and James Blake. I’m a fan of the former and definitely not a fan of the latter soooo… trepidation set in. That this is at number 12 shows that Trim succeeds despite some occasionally very unsympathetic production. 

We all know Trim can do grime in his sleep. His talent is *supernatural.* It’s where he stretches and breathes, where he takes risks that I love him on this record.

I can tell you this: fuck knows what he’ll be doing in five years but it won’t be grime. This is an artist that doesn’t give a fuck in the best possible way.

 

11. Vektor – Terminal Redux

LOOK AT THAT COVER (PART ONE)! Look at it! It’s a burning spaceship! IT’S A SPACESHIP! ON FIRE! 

Then ‘LCD’ (LIQUID CRYSTAL DISEASE!) comes on and frantic 8-bit guitar riffs give way to a heavenly thrash odyssey. 

IT IS BEAUTIFUL, MAN!

I love metal like this, I love its unashamed revelry in the geekiness that’s most epitomised by lonely 13yo boys doodling tie fighters on their exercise books. I love its speed, its energy and the way it’s *exactly* like running downhill full pelt at a brick wall.

10. Wild Nothing – Life Of Pause

“You can’t be sad for everyone,” croons Jack Tatum on the third Wild Nothing album. But he’s going to give it a good old college try, bless him. 

I’ve seen a lot of reviews of this record that glaringly miss the point, saying that it’s trying to be soul or 1970s or whatnot. That’s all bullshit. What this record is, is ’80s DREAMPOP. If you ever sang along with Prefab Sprout, you will be entirely comfortable with this album. 

Similarly, when it does get funky, it doesn’t sound like Chic, it sounds like Japan.

So, in 2016, we have, like the D.D Dumbo album, another great ’80s album. That’s good enough. But then you have a wonderful track like ‘Japanese Alice’ and you become excited at the possibilities of this songwriter. If he can chuck out this singalong loveliness, redolent of prime Bill Pritchard or even The Monochrome Set, where’s he gonna go for the next album?

9. Yussef Kamaal – Black Focus

I hesitate to comment on this as I know fuck-all about contemporary jazz.

BUT

What I do know is that keyboardist Kamaal Williams and drummer Yussef Dayes have created a seductive, groove-based record that has enough repetition to draw me in and enough variation to count as jazz. So much so that I want opener ‘Black Focus’ to last at least three minutes longer than its 4.34. 

Philistine that I (probably) am, I love this record because a lot of it sounds like acoustic drumnbass, hip hop or breaks to me. And that is strange because I fucking hate it when people play electronic music on acoustic instruments (see every session band ever of bored musos). 

The other thing this album is… it’s the best soundtrack to a film that’s never been made that I’ve ever heard. I swear, parts of it capture the muscular deftness of Roy Budd or Lalo Schifrin at their peak. It is superbly evocative, atmospheric music.

 

8. Moderat – III

I actually got the chance to DJ this out and I went with track two, ‘Running.’ It starts with a staccato choir stab interleaved with floaty vocals and a bassless kick. When the bass does kick in, the whole track rears into clay life, like when you watch a tower block being demolished in reverse. As I was playing it, four people came to ask me what it was. If that’s not pop music, what is? 

This album is all about images and micro-moments like that being stretched and pulled as surely as individual phonemes are. We’re listening at multiple tempos, polyrhythms overlapping in 5s and 3s till the inevitable 4/4 heart kicks back into life.

It’s a view of a sunny afternoon through your window as you work. You can see the golden sunshine, it’s orangey red. But when you get outside, it’s gone and you’re in the cold blue.

7. Beneficence – Basement Chemistry

When I say this is a solid hip hop album, I mean it is a unified, cohesive work of art with an aesthetic gamut which does not limit, it expands.

I mean that it’s nineteen tracks, the overwhelming majority of which will get your head nodding in the first thirty seconds, unless you’re fucking dead. The beats are undeniable, the lyrics are existential, the logic is irrefutable. 

There are guests; hello Masta Ace, hello Inspectah Deck, hello Chubb fucking Rock. Just hearing those voices freaks me out. That’s solid.

But don’t ever mistake that solidity for clumping, hobbled weight. This album just flies, every production touch dovetailing minutely to bolster the lyrics and vice versa. Just beautiful.

 

6. Mystery Jets – Curve Of The Earth

If you take a look here, you’ll see some Mystery Jets pics I took when I went to see them ELEVEN FUCKING YEARS AGO. 

Jesus, when did everyone get old? ZAO, Mystery Jets, me… 

This is my fave MJ album. So far. I loved the others, of course, whether its the Duran pop of ‘Twenty One’ or the reflective moments of ‘Radlands.’ But ‘Curve Of The Earth’ takes all of Mystery Jets so far and distills something that’s the perfect MJ album: it is indie, it is funky, it’s dubby, it’s psych… but, ultimately, it’s a great pop record.

Lyrically, it hit me fucking hard. I had to stop listening a couple of times because it reminded me too much of my Dad’s death in April. ‘Bubblegum’ killed me:

I’m always on the outside looking in 

It’s where I’ve always been 

But the edge is where all the sparks fly 

When the wheel spins 

Deep down I know I should leave the past behind
Maybe in time
If only I could learn to let go of the hand that first held mine

In every way I can think of, this is Mystery Jets at their best. Restless, inventive, daring and yet always returning to the emotional power of a superb hook. Without that hook, we drift and become uninterested. Mystery Jets are experts at balancing unfamiliar with familiar, freak-out with hook.

Beautifully written, performed and produced – what else do you want?

5. TEEN – Love Yes

So, when I wanted to be happy this year, when I wanted to sing and dance and leap around a bit, I put this album on.

Because it’s the massed girl vocals, it’s the beats, it’s those basslines that make me just want to invent incredible dance routines. Except I haven’t got the hips to do them cos I’m a boy, bah. 

This is the most cheering, upbeat record of 2016. I used it like a drug when I was in very bad places. This record took me by the hand, gave me a hug and then took me dancing. TEEN get what Devo got, they know how to make synths and guitars jig into place like bits of an an engine. A lot of groups try to do that and fail, quite horribly. TEEN make it sound effortless. They have that RIFF POWER. 

I really hope this album breaks them to a huge, huge pop audience. They deserve it. They deserve to be all over adverts and films. This album is the happy that indiepop mostly fakes. To be able to drink in the real thing is gorgeous.

4. Basement – Promise Everything

I knew this would be in my top albums from the very first time I heard it, months ago. It’s a strange record in that parts of it are the poppiest and most accessible Basement have ever been but it’s also more un-compromising and potentially more alienating to the casual rock listener. 

They’ve opened up clear water between themselves and generic pop punk. This is obvious sonically, where the record echoes grunge and even late Dinosaur Jr. but far more lyrically. There are some top pop punk bands who have never and will never write a decent lyric; every song is the same dodgy shite about how mean girls are. It’s not bad to write about loss but, for fuck’s sake, don’t use someone else’s template. 

Basement make their own way. In ‘Hanging Around,’ they capture that frustrating fucking time we all have where we hate someone but love them but want to keep the fuck away from them but want to be with them. It’s the aching duality they express so well, so horribly. 

The best track is ‘Promise Everything’ which is 2.37 of total fucking agonybliss. You can’t listen to it quietly. When it comes on in a club, it’s destroying to dance to. It’s an angry scab of a song, something you return to not because it feels any better but because you have to, you can’t leave it alone. It’s a fuck you, a declamatory howl of existence:

Win me with a smile,
burn me with your eyes.
Living just to please.
Turn and make me leave.

When I’m high, I’m high.
When I’m low, I’m low.
Hot or cold, it’s going to show.

Promise everything,
until tomorrow comes again.

I won’t ask for love,
I know it’s there just covered up.

When I’m high, I’m high.
When I’m low, I’m low.
Hot or cold, it’s going to show.

Feeling like a child.
Tremble in the night.
I love you but you try,
to kill me every time.

Turn around and end as you begin.

Promise nothing.

Yes. Fuck, yes.

 

3. Kvelertak – Nattesferd

LOOK AT THAT COVER (PART TWO)! Look at it! It’s a gnarly viking god troll rock monster thingy! WITH A FUCKING OWL! ON SOME MOUNTAINS! 

I grew up with metal. When I was a kid, metal was really in the process of being invented. We went from heavy rock and then distilled it from here. Some of that early heavy rock was Rainbow, some was Judas Priest, some was Maiden. 

I believe that Kvelertak are familiar with all those bands. 

Moreover, I believe that Kvelertak have been transported to our time from 1980. And that their manifesto is to remind us when METAL WAS FUCKING FUN and made you GRIN and made you PUMP YOUR FUCKING FIST IN THE AIR and WEAR DOUBLE DENIM PROUDLY. 

Dude, this album is everything that is redemptive, that is cathartic, that is communal about heavy rock. First, it’s the opener of ‘Dendrofil For Yggdrasil,’ with it’s beautiful Yes-like coda. 

And then we have ‘1985.’ 21 seconds in and THAT guitar run makes me just SMILE and and bob my head and, truthfully, cry. I did, the first time I heard it, I cried. I felt this track reach out and punch its way through the cloud of emo Dementors surrounding me, I felt this track grasp me by the hand and say, ‘BRO, IT’LL BE OKAY! NO WORRIES!’ The bastard progeny of Rush and AC/DC, this motherfucker will never let me down. If this track doesn’t get you playing air guitar, YOU ARE NOT HUMAN, YOU HAVE NO SOUL. 

Over the course of the album, Kvelertak repeats the trick of mixing proper shouty vocals with the most stupidly catchy guitar riffs so many times you wonder if they can actually *ever* be un-catchy. They hint at many forebears, a bit of Sabbath here, a bit of Focus there or even Spirit. It’s all good; it’s all good rocking shit. 

Listen to the middle of ‘Svartmesse’ and you’ll hear a tremulous harmony around two minutes, the faintest notes and it’s this kind of detail that makes ‘Nattesferd’ such a deeply satisfying album. You have the visceral impact of the rock but then you have the layers that may not be evident on first listen but slowly appear. 

This is a beautiful record. A gem of endless facets.

2. Mr. Lif – Don’t Look Down

Lif, who I first heard as part of The Perceptionists, returns with more stories that are more concerned with actuality than aspiration, with explanation rather than exhortation. I love the documentary tendencies that Lif, at his highest, excels at. And he’s there with this album. Reminds me of that old quote of Chuck D.’s, saying that hip hop is “black people’s CNN.”

There’s no revelling in the down here, rather an honest, no-bullshit vibe like on the super-hooky ‘Everyday We Pray.’ I mean, how could you not connect to this:

It’s been a bad day, got me feeling shook and I’m looking for
My emotions to stop the plots of this crooked war
Furthermore depression nipping at my heels and I can feel
The sentiments that I conceal, I’m wondering if I can deal
My appeal to a higher power was delayed an hour
Rallied up and took a shower, plus I’m hoping not to cower
Ever been so hungry that your eyes feel slumped in?
Fridge full of food but your soul craving something
Much more touch more thoughts through delirium…

That isn’t a song, it’s a fucking screenplay. 

Tie all those lyrics into Lif’s majestic, don’t give a fuck flow and you have this rotating hyper-tesseract of meaning that has to be concurrently viewed from a myriad perspectives to render up even a tiny proportion of its encoded message. It’s singularity-dense with meaning, it’s lyrical neutronium. 

Honestly, it makes me angry that poets like Lif are ignored when lesser talents get sucked-off by every media outlet extant. I mean, he’s probably not bothered as long as he can make art he loves but it does my nut in. Look at this:

I see codes clear as there’s an ebb and a flow
Extend my arms to cradle knowledge that we never will know
And from my fingertips drips, eclipse
Upon dawn’s lips, nuclear grips on her bronze hips
As she lusts for the dusk the the light becomes cosmic
The beams gleam data? Then prophets switch topics
Stop to just watch it and marvel in awe
If I’m asleep when I hear a beat, it tastes like stars
I’m Pi with these bars, I’m slightly ajar
You want more .one four the decimals of luster and lore
As decibels pour through speaker cones to leave you clones
DNA poem coffers of capillaries & bone
Offer ancillaries and tones that are pliable the sky is too low
That’s why dimensions keep my fires aglow
As the answers float just beyond halcyon
My knowledge drifts as I glimpse at the cliffs of Albion

What the fuck is that? That is beyond pretty much everything on this plane of existence.

 

1. Gojira – Magma

SO… 2016, eh?

What a fucker of a year. 

So many famous people we loved died. Then B R E X I T. Then Trump and his supporters actually sieg-heiling and the President Elect not condemning them for that.

I had all that and my Dad died in April. 

I can say that 2016 has been the worst year in my life this far. Many, many times, I’ve felt like walking into traffic or jumping off something. And one of the reasons I haven’t is this album.

That may sound like hyperbole if you’re not a music fan, if music doesn’t hit you like pure heroin, like it does me. But this year was so dark for me, so relentlessly, meaninglessly horrible that I reached out to music to make a connection. I couldn’t burden the few humans I know with the truth, the whole ugly truth of my emotions. But ‘Magma’ was waiting. ‘Magma’ didn’t require me to censor the worst parts of myself. 

I’ve loved Gojira for years but on ‘Magma’ they take all their prog skill and focus it like a laser. When they’re simple, it’s with an authority, a gravitas that is undeniable and based on their ridiculous technical prowess. You can feel that weight in the title track which pounds along after the eerie tube harmonics opening. They get pretty close to a heavy Floyd vibe here, massed monk vocals and all. 

I love that this record isn’t cartoon heavy; it’s not blast beats and invocations to silly non-existent religious entities. It’s not some Nazi fuckwit gibbering over Pro-Tools. The heaviness is adult, is real, it is comprehensible and that’s how I could connect to it. The pain in this record is where I found solace. The silence is where I found respite.

So I drove round for hours listening to it because I can have it as loud as I want in my car without disturbing neighbours. I could have it loud enough that the kicks shook my guts and that every lead line was like sheet metal being ripped next to my ear. My ears would ring afterwards but, fuck it, I’d damage myself for a hit of that shit. 

‘Silvera’ pummelled me and made me feel better. ‘When you change yourself, your change the world,’ they shouted at me. So I reversed this and changed my world, hoping to change myself. Little by little, this stopped being an album, stopped being a collection of songs recorded in a studio and became the sound inside my head. I would be walking in town and hear the double kicks inside me, I came to need to hear them to stop from panicking if I actually had to talk to a human. 

Yes, this is epic metal. It’s more machinelike than Mastodon, more melodramatic than Pelican but it shares the same blunt, calloused hands, the same familiarity with pain. When ‘Pain’ actually starts, it’s with a chirp of flute and it could be an old rave track about to kick in, under the eighths. Then the staccato kicks hit along with the toms and you’re gone. After the relatively sedate verse, the chorus is flailing fucking mayhem again, the sense of controlled violence erupting into that moment when you know you’re going to punch the wall just to see if you’ll leave a mark. Just to see if you actually fucking exist to anyone or anything any more. 

Thank you, Gojira. Thank you for keeping me alive. 

Israel Ignores UN Resolution

Barack Obama appears set for a final showdown with Benjamin Netanyahu after Israel said it would ignore a UN Security Council resolution and push ahead with the building of more Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas.

Last week, in a rare condemnation of Israel, the UN said it settlements had “no legal validity”. The criticism went ahead after the US decided to abstain, rather than use its vote to veto the measure.

Mr Netanyahu, who has long had a difficult personal relationship with Mr Obama, immediately announced that Israel would not “turn the other cheek”.

(Source: The Independent)

The best news of 2016 was last week’s UN resolution against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. And what does Israel do? Ignore it.

SO – when Iraq ignored UN resolutions, we sent in our military, the US sent in its military.

Will we be doing that here? Will we be defending the Palestinians against Israel’s illegal occupation?

Oh, what a surprise. No. Instead, the US gives Israel another $38 BILLION in ‘aid packages.’

Yes, that makes total sense.