Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A new The View review: Yayness!

I still reach for The View's debut album, Hats off to the Buskers, when I need a bit of cheering up. Their special brand of pep and oddity never fails to lift my spirits. And they have brought it quite successfully to their third album, Bread and Circuses. (We do not speak of their second album, Which Bitch, which made almost no impact on the music scene at all.)
The band has matured a little since their first album, and this brings a new air of restraint to their choons, but the same old quirky joy is still there, as the energetic track Tragic Magic makes apparent. Blondie displays that quirk of lyric that comes so easily to The View. Who else would write, “I bring the tea to the table, but my cooking's always slow”?
Bread and Circuses doesn't veer much from the Hats off to the Buskers, formula, but I have no problem with that since the formula works so well.
Despite sticking to tried and tested principles, this album sounds more Americana than Britpop, as is most effectively demonstrated by Sunday – an oddly triumphant tune that would do nicely in the closing scene of a teen movie.
Bread and Circuses is more melodic, calmer and a little more melodramatic than The View's previous offerings, but it is executed perfectly. While Hats off to the Buskers was steeped in situations unique to British culture, Bread and Circuses deals with more universal issues.
I have to admit that I still prefer the exuberance of Hats off to the Buskers, but Bread and Circuses is an encouraging return to good old The View awesomeness.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fulka The Mystery of the Seven Stars album launch at Tings: Fun folks and fun folk

It was Wednesday and it was fun, fun, fun.

Fulka are just cool. From giving cupcakes to those buying their merch, hiding present packets with suckers and free cd downloads throughout the venue to lead singer Ola Kobak’s doll-like dance moves and the fact that the majority of the band can play the banjo, they exude awesome. However, it is not only this intrinsic charm that will see them – and has seen them – gaining massive popularity. Damn are the folks of Fulka talented!

Bubbly and sassy, Ola sings sweetly while a fusion of the folk and electronic sounds of the band surround her. Soon it’s time for the first instrument swop, one of many these multi-skilled kids pull off. Pretty, while at the same time punchy, Fulka’s songs are full of melody and melodramatics, with a hint of mystery. Simple yet distinctive and multifaceted, their sound is quiet but penetrating. Their album is beautifully produced and world class. It’s available for listening and download here: http://fulka.bandcamp.com/.

The only criticism I have is the lack of smoothness in their act. There were a couple of times where swopping instruments and tuning and microphone issues jarred the sleekness of their performance, but I have no doubt that this will soon be sorted, leaving a playful performance with credibility and class.

The equally talented Isochronous opened for Fulka, playing a tight acoustic set to an attentive and eager crowd which soaked in their polished progressive synth-rock sound gone raw while sitting cross-legged on the floor. Isochronous never disappoint, and when acoustic they add depth and flavour to their already well-rounded sound.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Strokes - Angles: A random electric mishmash of kakness

I can describe the new Strokes album, Angles, in one word: Waaaaaaah!
Man, was I happy that a new album is out. So excited. Really. And then I'm hit with some random electric mishmash of severe kakness. WTF? And, surprisingly considering the sudden high regard for electro choons, the vocal distortion that made The Strokes The Strokes, and Julian Casablancas one sexy bugger comes and goes like someone was accidentally leaning on the button and they couldn't be bothered to fix it. It must be said, that without the distortion, Casablancas kinda sounds like a 16-year-old. NOT hot.
I feel like I'm in some sort of 80s time trap. The depressing drivel on this album could come straight out of some coke-driven, psychedelic lycra-wearing, big-haired producer's wet dream. Bleh, I tell you. Bleh!
I'm all for band development and growth. Artists should try new things. But falling into Boy George's basement is not the way.
There are a few moments of sanity on Angles, where some of the band's previous genius filters through. Under Cover of Darkness – the first single – while nowhere near an accurate representation of the rest of the album, contains the usual seamless drum and guitar agreement, the energetic beats and the deep satisfaction that comes with it. You just wanna sing along. Taken For a Fool is more melancholic, and melodic. It takes a gentle walk down your spine. Gratisfaction seems to be channeling Abbey Road, to great success.
I can't, however, in good conscience recommend buying this album. Download singles as and when they become available. But Angles cannot be described as anything other than a write-off. 

If you desperately wish to assault your ears visit http://new.thestrokes.com/ where, thankfully, the album is streaming. No one has to waste precious cents on this tripe. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

The City is The Desert (In Disguise): Balls to the wall!

You can't help but admire the balls of The City is the Desert. It's one thing for Radiohead to stick an album up on the Interwebs for download 'by donation' – it hardly matters to them if people stiff them and don't pay. But for a virtually unknown band to do the same takes a serious amount of guts and integrity.
The City is the Desert (In Disguise) was self-recorded and is now being self-released. It's an interesting mix-match of genres, which makes it rather disjointed and downright weird (in a nzima way). There are definitely tracks I skipped over after a minute or so of deliberation. There are also tracks that hit my sweet spot dead centre.
The awesome thing about this album, is that there's something to appeal to everyone. At least everyone with taste. If your favourite artist is Lady Gaga, you'll probably be disappointed. But you don't have to download the whole thing. Listen through it, download what you like and make a donation accordingly. But make a donation. Bands like this, that veer from the norm and stand behind their principles, need our support.
My personal favourites are WinterCone (which reminds me of Nancy Boy era Placebo) and The Compass Factory (an energetic 'rip it up' type choon). There are plenty of other interesting moments, ranging from spacey electro weirdness to balls out nihilistic roars.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Alan! Let's Move On - We Now Dream In Colour: A fascinating journey of electro rock (?!)

We at BlindBlimp have been keeping an eye on Alan! Let's Move On since they opened for Lucky Fonz III at Tings an Times in August 2010. Impressed by their energy and skill, and tickled by their name, we knew tabs had to be kept.
To be perfectly honest I was fully prepared to be horribly disappointed by the album, as SA bands often fall flat when recorded, no matter how good live.
I am overjoyed to report my trepidation was for nothing. We Now Dream In Colour, released on 2 March, is a fantastic, cohesive album. It flows effortlessly from track to track, drawing along a fascinating journey growing in strength and power as you travel along. Hell, Woods (track no 9) is downright hardcore. The band has a clear perspective and a crisp, finished sound. I absolutely love it.
The vocals of Louis and Daniel Knoetz harmonise beautifully, and their husky buttery voices are wonderfully juxtaposed with the electro pep that brings that extra oomph to the band. The lyrics are interestingly introspective, seeming to seek a little redemption.
Choons to look out for are Witchita (available for free download at http://alanletsmoveon.bandcamp.com/album/we-now-dream-in-colour and a great ambassador of what's to come), Albratross (less electro, more rock, could be quite moshy live), and Letters to Anna (which reminds me of a cleaner version of the Bloodhound Gang).
The only low moment, really, is Hatchett, which gets a little too electric and is stripped of all integrity as a result.
I really can't emphasise how much I digg this album, and how firmly I believe you would too. But hey, you don't have to take my word for it. The whole thing is available for streaming at http://alanletsmoveon.bandcamp.com/album/we-now-dream-in-colour. Give it a listen and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

RAMfest Jo’burg: Good times on a “grassy fucking knoll”

If you felt like moshing last Saturday night RAMfest was the place to be! With pitiful support for the local acts the mosh pit started off slowly with a few scrawny boys pushing each other around during Not My Dog and ended with Funeral for a Friend demanding a Wall of Death on the “grassy fucking knoll”.

Sadly missing the always-awesome Desmond and the Tutus, and luckily just missing Knave which seems to think copying Jared Leto’s tragic swearing tirades on stage is a good idea ("fuck yeah!" would be their reply), the first band I caught following arrival, beer-getting and cursing the heat was Isochronous. A good, chilled start to the day, the band showed their immense talent with a spectacular set of accessible electronic rock overlaid with choir-singer sounding lead Richard‘s enchanting vocals.

Next, I stumbled upon Dance You’re on Fire on a second teeny tiny stage behind the beer tent on hearing their stellar track Boxes of Tigers being belted out. Upbeat and rocking all the way, the band had the couple of people there going mental.

Following a forgettable set by Zebra & Giraffe, Not My Dog reignited my excitement in a big way. The first gig the band has played in years and they were as awesome as I remember them. Hitting the stage hard and playing classics like Ek is verslaaf and Safari Music, Not My Dog were my personal highlight of the day.

Not being a fan, I gave Van Coke Kartel a skip, but made sure I was right up front for Alkaline Trio and Funeral for a Friend. Both bands meant business, bringing it hard and heavy from track one. The sound was a bit dodgy in places but finally a decent-sized crowd had formed – the first of the day. Alkaline Trio warmed the crowd up with their punk rock punchiness but it was Funeral for a Friend that really brought it. Orchestrating a massive mosh pit circle in front of the stage, the band attacked the crowd with colossal energy and huge sounds.

Aching legs and a sudden onslaught of a bad cough are sure signs of an awesome festival and I woke up with both the morning after RAMfest Jo’burg 2011.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Top 10 TV theme songs

10. I Don't Wanna Be – Gavin Degraw (One Tree Hill)
9. Echoes – The Rapture (Misfits)
8. Californication – Tree Adams (Californication)
7. California – Phantom Planet (The OC)
6. Carry on My Wayward Son – Kansas (Supernatural – Not the official theme, but awesome nonetheless)
5. Bad Things – Jace Everret (True Blood)
4. Straight Up and Down – The Brian Jonestown Massacre (Boardwalk Empire)
3. I Know You Know – The Friendly Indians (Psych)
2. The Big Bang Theory theme – Barenaked Ladies (The Big Bang Theory)
1. Short Skirt, Long Jacket – Cake (Chuck)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

J Mascis - Several Shades of Why: A Bubble of Contentment

Being South African, you'll be forgiven for not knowing who J. Mascis is. But only by other South Africans, and only if you grew up in Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein.
OK, how about Dinosaur (Jr.)? Caught up now? Fantastic.
Having worked on various projects, including Dinosaur (Jr.), Velvet Monkeys and the Fog, this much-lauded, talented fellow has abandoned (temporarily) the band concept and stands on the verge of releasing a solo album, entitled Several Shades of Why. “Huzzah!” the townsfolk sing.
A gentle acoustic album of thoughtful lyrics and soothing melodies, J. Mascis plays host to various equally lauded talents, such as Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses and Suzanne Thorpe of Wounded Knees. Well, maybe 'solo' is a strong word considering the long line of fantastic collaborations on this deeply moving album.
Several Shades of why is melancholic and heartfelt, and something of a departure from Mascis' previous more, um, ear-bleeding offerings. It's the perfect album to wind down to after a long and hectic week. Listening to it, I can picture myself on the beach sipping something deceptively pink and soaking up the rays (melanoma be damned!). I can only wish everyone in the whole world can feel this happy at some point in their lives.
Oh wait! You can. Just rush out and buy Several Shades of Why! Or, more likely get it from iTunes.

The album is set for release on 15 May, but you can give it a streaing listen here: http://www.spin.com/articles/full-album-stream-dinosaur-jrs-j-mascis

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Adele - 21: Initially nothing special, but with growing-on potential

I can't say I'm the biggest Adele fan. The UK seems to be nuts about her (as a triple platinum certification on her debut album, 19, will testify), but I never quite understood it. Chasing Pavements – the big single off the 2008 album – failed to impress and I don't really remember the rest of the album making any headway in SA.
Her follow up to 19 (21 – surprised?) isn't much more impressive. There isn't any obvious growth or development, and honestly Adele herself is a lot more entertaining than her music. 
21 is rather whiny and self-pitying. An excellent album if you're 16 and have just had your heart broken for the first time, but overly sentimental for us calloused grown ups. Like so many female musicians the target market is pretty clearly girls and boys who like boys.
There are, however, a few universally appealing high points on the album. Rolling in the Deep – the current single – is quite catchy, and angry enough not to be soppy. Rumour Has It is a vindictive little ditty and it's gone straight onto my 'favourites' playlist. And then there's the glorious cover of The Cure's Lovesong. Stripped of all the quirk and pep, it makes for a deeply heartfelt song that plucks at the heartsrings.
I hate to say it, but with these songs to keep you listening, the others have the potential to grow on you and this could even become a favourite album – if you're sufficiently heartbroken or sentimental. If your palette longs for something a little more meaty, I'd give this one a skip.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The 12th International Cape Town Jazz Festival - SA at its stellar best

Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding
Jazz is a massive part of South African culture. It has an impressive record for bringing like-minded individuals together, no matter their creed or situation. It is second only to gospel in it's SA popularity.
The SA jazz industry is also streets ahead of, well, everyone else, in terms of artist development, effective punting, and consistent delivery of quality choons. Oh yes, jazz leads the way. It's not surprising then, that even our Prez JZ gave The International Cape Town Jazz Festival a nod when opening parliament in February.
BeBe Winans
Even if you know balls about jazz, there are big names to make the day pass worth it. With appearances from legends such as Hugh Masekela, Earth, Wind & Fire and BeBe Winans, as well as relative newcomers Tumi & the Volume and Esperanza Spalding, there's little doubt as to the quality of ICTJF's offerings this year. High energy and good choons go without saying. If you're not too sure about forking out R500 for an artform you're not sure of, you can always attend the free warm up concert on 23 March at Green Market Square.
Going into their 12th year, the ICTJF has made a name for itself internationally and is a massive draw to tourists. This year it takes place on 25 & 26 March. Tickets go for R369 (day pass) to R499 (weekend pass) and are available from the website: http://www.capetownjazzfest.com/


Wayne Shorter Quartet with Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade; Earth, Wind and Fire (left); Dave Koz; Youssou N’dour; Simphiwe Dana; Ivan Mazuze; Sandra Cordera; Christian Scott; Patricia Barber; Dave Ledbetter and the Clearing; Lisa Bauer; Hanjin; Esperanza Spalding; Hubert Laws; The Flames – Official Reunion; Gang of Instrumentals; Gazelle; Monique Bingham; Danilo Perez & John Patitucci; Jack van Poll, James Scholfield and Hein van Geyn; Guitafrika {Steve Newman, Eric Triton and Alhousseini Mohamed Anivolla; Cape Town Tribute Band {Nick Williams, Wesley Rustin and Denver; Furness} joined by Buddy Wells, Mike Perry, Errol Dyers, Ian Smith and Sylvia Mdunyelwa; Conversations {Victor Masondo, Prince Lengoasa, Kevin Gibson, Mark Fransman and Donvino Prins}; Chieli Minucci; Special EFX; Chuck Loeb; Carmen Cuesta; Cindy Blackman – Santana; Tony Williams; BeBe Winans; Hugh Masekela and Larry Willis; Don Laka; Jazzanova {Paul Randolph}; Feya Faku; Tortured Soul; Orlando Venhereque; Tumi and The Volume; Naima McLean; Songbook {Lwanda Gogwana}; Sekunjalo Edujazz Band; Citie; Chad Saaiman; Mathew Moolman; Lloyd Jansen