Albums of the Week 3 - 9 March
While the Ivory Tower continues to bleat with a new found sense of lower class purpose, Sleaford Mods are steadily doing what they have always done: representing the people who live for the weekend. Or at least the weekends where they don't have to pull extra shifts to put food on the table. British blue collar artists have an uncanny ability to sum up a situation and relay it accurately and in an enjoyable fashion. Think Mike Skinner, The Sex Pistols, Roots Manuva, hell even Lily Allen seems more in-tune with the downtrodden than 95% of American artists and actors/actresses.
English Tapas may come to us via a shiny new record contract with Rough Trade Records, but it's by no means a grab for attention or radio airplay. The problem with Sleaford Mods has always been the production. Sure, there's appeal and credibility in the DIY-level beats and sparse, empty spaces, but their music would benefit from being slightly more accessible. Alas, there's nothing on this record to prove they're either capable of this or interested in it, which means they may never craft a classic album. That's unfortunate, because the pent-up frustration that Jason Williamson spews forth is about as relatable as you'd ever hope to hear on Spotify. There's gems abound if you're willing to listen, and this particular line from "Moptop" may be the most accurate endorsement of their music ever written or uttered:
"These pleasantries and intelligence are no real match for the spoon and tuppence / Of ale shops and tired minds"
Ironically, this may be the most concise explanation for Donald Trump of all time. As Williamson falls further into a middle age cry for help on "Drayton Manored" and "Carlton Touts", his lyrical barbs only become more relevant. "When life isn't anything til you start drinking there", "Clouds are low, like the general mood / Tempers cooking up from the inside / We are the microwave food / I'm not in the mood". These are vignettes of the daily grind that we so publicly seek to avoid and disown, yet seem to be inherently and inexplicably drawn to. Alas, it's so difficult to do more than nod your head in agreement when faced with Andrew Fearn's Fruity Loops production. The simplicity might highlight the integrity and insightful nature of the lyrics, but it does nothing to inspire you to chant them out loud, or even get up off the couch.
Every now and then, it's necessary for a well-respected electronic act to drop an album that proves they're something more than just skillful producers, that they can create music outside of their realm. World Eater is the first time I've witnessed a marriage between the dystopian and haunting underworld of truly scary electronic music with the fist-in-the-air bromance of EDM. No, this isn't Deadmau5 on downers, it's something much more frightening. It's a bad acid trip in a dirty dance club in an unfamiliar country. It's the void you stare into during a panic attack, set to the latest pop hit. It's exactly what the cover suggests: man's best friend bearing teeth and ripping your mind to shreds.
All the Blanck Mass identifying features are still present. "Minnesota / Eas Fors / Naked" is as impenetrable as their self-titled album, a wall of impressive static noise. "Please" is a giant romp of electronic haze, and "Rhesus Negative" continues their exploration of higher BPM music. They have just created something a little more palatable to less avid fans, and in doing so proven they're true heavy hitters within this genre.
It's kind of exciting to watch the influence of an Australian band all the way over in England. It's almost exclusively the other way around, but Tame Impala have paved the way for modern psychedelia to achieve both commercial and critical success, even if there's only a narrow spot at the top of the ladder. Temples tried to muscle into that spot in 2014 with Sun Structures, but it was a tame (sorry) imitation, a watered down uninspired sound.
Volcano is much more promising. It's lush and unique and feels like Temples are really growing into their own band, unencumbered by stereotype. Alas, it's still quite dull. Tracks like "Oh The Saviour", "How Would You Like To Go?" and "Strange or Be Forgotten" are just some songs, there's no real excitement or reason to attend to them. I'd label them as ambient. This is unfortunate because there are some incredible tracks that really throb on here. Opener "Certainty" is going to be a live staple, "All Join In" is an 80's groove concocted on a drum machine set to funk, and "Born Into the Sunset" starts with a riff, which is something sadly lacking elsewhere. Tame Impala love a good riff, just so you know...
There are blatant African undertones to this album, which is odd, because it's the work of the Spanish John Talabot, and the Swedish Axel Boman. It was conceived over a period of "some days" in Barcelona, and took nearly two years to record. While all of that is pertinent, it doesn't really describe the sound of this album.
Electronic music, the likes of which John Talabot is adept at crafting, is designed for a mood, or a location, or a point in time. Talabot has always been a master of that awful period between 4 and 6 am on a Sunday morning, when the uppers have worn off and the downers are still working valiantly to cut through. Some artists play on this horrible moment, working to instil the fear and lack of comfort in listeners who have never taken more than an aspirin (AKA me). Talabot, and now Boman, instead ride this wave of side effects and mental anguish, encouraging their audience to pick themselves up off the bathroom floor and shuffle moodily to a carefully selected BPM. The hope is the insistent rhythm will help to wash away some of the unpleasantness, and The Night Land is incredibly successful in this realm. There are no outright bangers, although "Samsa" will delight summer festival goers. There's the obligatory midnight driving track in "Loser's Hymn", and the opener "Midnattssol" eases us into the therapy session, like a nice safe sexy benzo. Great record.
Maino knows about realness. Anyone with their head in the New York rap scene over the past decade can identify him as a genuine personality, even if his music career has suffered mutliple stop-starts. His new project is a meld of New York flow and Atlanta production. At age 43, he's actually on the front line with Manolo Rose and Casanova trying to bring back old-school NY rap. Forget Desiigner, and think of Future pre-Pluto. To that end, this EP does the trick. DJ's always complain about wanting to promote their local artists, but having nothing of theirs worthy of the club. Every song on this EP can pull weight in a strip club, and for the old heads sitting up the back, the uniquely Brooklyn flow might just spark a new revolution. You have to start somewhere.
The start of "No Choice" will set your mind at ease. As Durk explains, this isn't an R&B album of crooned love songs, ala "My Beyonce". This is a mixtape capitalising on his solid street rep, taking us inside the more unpalatable yet glamorous dealings of someone still tethered to the streets. It's a decent listen, Durk continues to confirm he's at the very worst a 3rd-tier artist, and at his best worthy of hauling himself up into the second tier.