No-one’s First And You’re Next
This eight-song mini-album is further proof, if any was needed, that Modest Mouse singer/guitarist Isaac Brock’s afterthoughts are better than most musician’s most inspired moments. This collection consists, in the main, of polished-up tracks that didn’t make the cut for 2004’s Good News For People Who Like Bad News and 2007’s We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, and suggests a creative deck-clearing.
Yet these varied offcuts are of a universally high standard. ‘Satellite Skin’ is classic Mouse, based around a recurring three-chord progression, with Brock’s octave-tracked vocals roaming freely over the top. The speak-sung monologue of ‘Guilty Cocker Spaniels’ could have sat perfectly on Good News..., although the structure does sound like a dry run for ‘Float On’, and the banjo-pluckin’ ‘Autumn Beds’ would be a pleasant country lilt were it not for Brock’s edge-of-panic vocal timbre. The creepy ‘Whale Song’ is an exercise in economy, showing how the band build and ebb without over-playing, ‘Perpetual Motion Machine’ is a two-chord vamp with Brock placed over woozy Salvation Army band brass, while ‘History Sticks To Your Feet’ begins like a looped Notwist single, and the slouching ‘King Rat’ moves from half-time stagger in the verse to jitterbug stomp in the chorus before the collection ends with the sparky ‘I’ve Got It All (Most)’.
In short, it’s no substitute for a new full-length Mouse album, but this should tide us over until one arrives. Which will be soon, right? Right?
Andrew P Street.
The New School Cool
The beauty of the independent record is that it lets you hear the artist as they are – or, rather, how they want to be perceived – unfiltered by the demands of record companies, agents or publicists. If the debut album by local artist Young Vaughn (his second release after January’s The Green Screen mixtape) is anything to go by, however, the man’s actively resisting any kind of pigeonholing at all. From the upbeat, radio-friendly horns on ‘Loser!’ to the gritty, dark fuzz of ‘Death To All Posers’, The New School Cool takes in so many disparate sounds – ragtime samples, metal guitars, drum ’n’ bass beats – that it teeters on the brink of a full-on personality disorder.
Thankfully the album has two things tying it together: Vaughn’s playful, wryly funny, perfectly on-beat lyrics (sample: ‘Can’t touch this, like MC Hammer with no hands/New School Cool, b****, get with the programme’) and an ongoing narrative retelling a fictional day in his life. The latter is reminiscent of The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come For Free, of course. And while Vaughn’s fluidity and wordplay easily outdo Mike Skinner’s flat mockneyisms, A Grand… does have one major advantage: brevity. Clocking in at 28 tracks – 10 of which are plot-advancing skits – The New School Cool is just too big for its own good.
That’s the other side of independent releases, of course – without the constraints of physical releases and the limitations forced by record companies, the temptation to keep feeding your albums until they bloat can prove irresistible. And as brilliant as the production by local boy Swerte is (expect big things from him), we do wish he’d given Vaughn a pair of scissors and a tap on.
But this really is nitpicking; this genuinely good music available for free and there’s not a reason in the world not to give it a go.
Available for free at www.facebook.com/youngvaughnmusic.
Simian Mobile Disco
Early reports on new SMD material via the articulacy of YouTube posters suggested this second album would be as aurally convulsive as the 2007 nu-disco electro rave-up of Attack Decay Sustain Release. The song ‘10,000 Horses Can’t Be Wrong’ inspired such comments as ‘PHAT TUNE’ and ‘Wow you just hurt my brain.’ Apparently this is a good thing, but we’re pleased to report that, although the ascending bleeps induce a hedonistic euphoria, no brain injury was caused.
James Ford and Jas Shaw could have remained members of so-so indie band Simian, but they’re far too savvy for that. They became DJ/remixers and commissioned that little reworking by Justice, who turned an old Simian tune into the funk-licked dance behemoth that is ‘We Are Your Friends’. Since then, SMD’s original material has not only lived up to Justice’s rework, but Ford also found the time to produce debuts for Klaxons, Florence And The Machine, Last Shadow Puppets and two Arctic Monkeys albums. Phew.
Fittingly for such UK music scene linchpins, Temporary Pleasure is peppered with cool collaborators, from Jamie Lidell to Yeasayer’s Chris Keating to Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals. Beth Ditto lends her soulful tones to the sparse synths of ‘Cruel Intentions’, while the hypnotic lollop of ‘Bad Blood’ is fleshed out with Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor. Telepathe’s female duo add bewitching vocal swirl over tribal beats in ‘Pinball’ to close proceedings. Although the LP title suggests fleeting fun, dancefloors and festival tents across the world will soon declare otherwise.
Kim Taylor Bennett.
Sunny Side Up
Yep, he’s the ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’ guy. You know: the guy who’s in his early 20s and somehow has the voice of a wizened, 70-year-old bluesman. And if his debut was an attempt to place the Scots blues singer as a pop star, this time around he’s clearly decided to make a commercial right turn to somewhere he feels more comfortable.
That place seems to be a timeless period where trad music rules and acoustic instruments are king. ‘10/10’ is a lively ska number, ‘Growing Up Easy’ is tasteful harmonies and restrained accordion, ‘Pencils Full Of Lead’ is a stripped back 12 bar blues with a spirited muted trumpet solo, and ‘Tricks Of The Trade’ is a nylon string guitar and a harmony vocal. However this is a remarkably laid-back album and it remains to be seen whether Nutini can be marketed to the Van Morrison set. Still, if you’ve worn out your James Hunter disc and need heartfelt blues, get on board.
Andrew P Street
Available in stores.