Tuesday, August 5, 2008

A couple of reviews...

Liam Finn – I’ll be lightning

Betachadupa were one of New Zealand’s biggest hopes, but their star shone none too bright elsewhere. On the basis of this album this is a good thing; because Liam Finn as a solo artist has much more to offer than when he was hanging out with a bunch of teenagers writing indie nursery rhymes and trying to hide his youth with a big bushy beard.
“I’ll be Lightning” as an album is a boy becoming a man, an artist coming out from under his dad’s shadow. Stuff the rhetoric, it’s just brilliant. It’s an exciting debut encompassing all ingredients of electro, rock and pop and making a big gooey music pie out them.
Standout track is “Second Chance” which starts as though it’s been played on the wrong speed and continues as a simple guitar riff played again and again. It’s a hypnotic little number, with some haunting lyrics.
“Gather to the Chapel” is a gorgeous acoustic ditty, and “Lead Balloon” is quite frankly demented, but in a good way.
He does sing a bit like his dad, and the music does retains that happy Kiwi vibe, but it’s not just something by the son of Neil Finn and it’s certainly not Crowded House by numbers. It’s chaotic yet snug music, and its honest songwriting marks this album out as something extraordinary.

Elbow - Live set @Virgin Megastores New York City.
April 25th 2008

A beautiful sunny day in NYC and about 50 people have squeezed themselves into Virgin Megastores café on the corner of Union square to watch a live performance by the band Elbow.
Arriving onto the stage a few minutes late, the band get settled, and Guy Garvey humbly thanks us for making the effort to come down and see them play on our lunch breaks…then adds “Although we came from Manchester, England so we made more of an effort.”
They launch into their recent single “Grounds for Divorce”, the band sounding very much on form despite the small stage, and the low quality speakers provided by Virgin. Guy Garvey’s voice is something of a gift from the Gods, and it sounds just as stunning today.
He introduces the next song with some more witty comments, and invites the two violinists on to the stage for “Mirrorball”, a gorgeous track. Next, is a song from their previous album “Leaders of the free World”, a track called “Great Expectations”, which Garvey introduces as a song about getting married on a bus.
The next song is dedicated to the “miseries of Alcoholism”. The song “Some Riot“ is one of the tracks from the album “Seldom seen Kid” which is what they are instore promoting. In true British style they don’t even mention the album once!
The final song is the epic “It’s a Beautiful day”(“This song is all about death and destruction…just kidding!”). Before the band start playing, Garvey invites us to join in with the chorus - “So, throw your curtains wide, one day like this a year will see me right” (He even stops to ask in his broad Manchester accent, “Does that make sense? See me right is a Northern colloquialism, it just means keep me happy”). After this quick lesson, the band launch into the song, and when it gets to the final bit, we all sing along as requested. Well, they made all that effort to come over from England to play to us, so it would have been rude not to.
After another rounds of thank yous, its on to the signing part, and if proof was ever needed that Elbow are one of the most unassuming and humble bands on the planet right now, they request another artist’s album to be played as they sign copies of their own.

Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I lay my Head
I like Scarlett Johansson as an actress, but can she sing? No, but that’s only half the problem with the album. It’s a clever idea - covers of Tom Waits’ songs and a duet with David Bowie, but it sounds terrible. I can only think Tom Waits did something horrible to Ms Johansson and this is her revenge.
The first track “Fawn” features no singing, just sound effects looped over a spooky accordion. “Town with no Cheer” is doom laden affair, Scarlett sounding like Siouxie Sioux at her most miserable. It is a song with no cheer, if you like.
The next track is no better. “Falling Down” wouldn’t be able to stand up again due to the weight of the misery Scarlett injects it with, and she just sounds bored on “Anywhere I lay my Head”. So it goes on.
I’m not saying I want to hear happy pop music all the time; I love Morrissey and Joy Division and sometimes sad music is necessary, but this is just simply a bad record. It’s depressing in a 80s Goth Rock way, and Scarlett really can’t sing. She’s like the drunken rock chick at karaoke, wailing out the greatest hits of Lou Reed. Not even David Bowie can save the album from its awful pretensions of cerebral rock music. Scarlett clearly loves her music, but that’s doesn’t mean she should have ever been let in a recording studio. File under “Vanity Project” and keep your fingers crossed she doesn’t make another.

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