Category Archives: Reviews

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories album review

I doubt I’m alone in thinking that everything currently careering off the pop music production line is looking a bit lacklustre next to Daft Punk. Yes, you may be the hottest new boy band, suited and booted in your Sunday best with chiselled jaws, designer stubble and high cheek bones but you’re Human After All. You’re not an awesome set of shiny robots sent to Earth from the farthest thinkable outreaches of the universe, to engage us in a disco-funk renaissance, are you?

Of course not – very few are.

Daft Punk are probably the most enigmatic and magical outfit to have ever seduced the music industry and that title isn’t about to fritter away. If anything it’s snowballed with the release of this spectacular composition.


I, like many others, have been gripped by the fascinating drip-fed marketing stratagem of Random Access Memories. RAM is the French duo’s fourth studio album and the first since Human After All (2005), although they have enjoyed the release and success of their live album, Alive (2007) and the soundtrack to the 2010 Disney blockbuster, Tron, since.

It features an all-star line up from the likes of acclaimed Italian producer, Giorgio Moroder to disco Jedi Master Nile Rogers on both sides of the desk. Fronting three tracks, one of which we’ve already grown to know rather well, is Pharrell Williams – and what a sensational choice of vocalist, I must say.

The album’s heart is captained by the early east coast scenes of disco and soul – ‘four-on-the-floor’ lives on. I’m hearing Chic, Sister Sledge, KC and The Sunshine Band, but they’re joined by some of the micro-genre offshoots that fed from their influences too.

Throughout you’re constantly reminded of the amount of work that’s gone into this stellar release – it’s so polished – every single aspect is a finely tuned intricacy. Every single iota of the fourteen track album has been overturned, observed, examined, buffed up and replaced.

Just when you think you’re being led into a boring and melancholic indie record with Julian Casablancas (The Strokes) featuring the same chugging power chords everyone’s been beating out since Nirvana, everything suddenly explodes into a composed yet electrifying soundscape.

‘Instant Crush’ is all about Mr Strokes’ auto tuned falsettos scraping the rafters of your mind, flanked by dazzling virtuosic solos and complementing slap pop bass. The track rings more truth with Casablancas’ solo stuff (see ‘Left and Right in The Dark’ or ‘The Four Chords of the Apocalypse’) as oppose to work with his world famous New York based group.

Pharrell makes a comeback with ‘Lose Your Self To Dance’, echoing Sister Sledge’s ‘Lost In Music’. It’s the high barre-chords that the 70s disco scene sat on for so long and Nile Rodgers isn’t about to let you forget about that.

To be honest, it’s nothing short of excellent – constantly moving bass rides shotgun next to Williams and Daft Punk sat comfortably in the passenger seats harmonising ascending techno backing. Great metronome claps flirt with a ‘Bille Jean’ drum beat accommodating powerful semibreve raps on the snare.

On the Pharrell note, ever found yourself getting to the end of ‘Get Lucky’ and wanting play it again? Worry no more, as the feature length album version is over six minutes long.

Todd Edwards (celebrated house producer) is introduced with ‘Fragments of Time’, a Jamiroquai-esque acid jazz number, which is awesome for us but I bet JK is shitting his pants right about now. Daft Punk just stepped it up a few hundred gears in your world, buddy. What you saying?

It’s a cocktail of influence and the outcome is a smooth, composed, majestic beast of an album. Every track offers a fresh take on an old idea, but they’re executed with such precision. In music journalism you’re all too often presented with albums that stick to the same tedious theme throughout and you find yourself bored before track five. Fortunately it’s blindingly apparent that Daft Punk know not of ‘tedium’ – it’s not in their vocabulary.

Essentially, the project is like everything you’ve ever known about trance, dance, techno, funk, disco and pop, amalgamated into one elegant and arcane album. This kind of thing hasn’t been done before – Daft Punk were pioneers at the beginning of the century and they’re still pushing all our buttons twelve years on.

Random Access Memories culminates in an immense arpeggio laden drum and bass track that gyrates on the sticky adolescent pelvis of time and space. In one colossal crescendo, ‘Contact’ builds levels on top of itself eventually succumbing to the organised chaos and decadently imploding into nonentity, concluding the album and Daft Punk’s epic five year venture.

Soon to be published with I Are Yeti.

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Tynemouth Fakefest review

Fakefest and North Shields had a lot to live up to after last year’s successes, after seeing the date sold out before the gates even opened. On arrival (4 May 2013) however, it was clear there was nothing to worry about in that regard as the concessions were already abuzz with an excited crowd.

A smattering of local talent decorated the bill finally culminating in an impressive set from The Longsands. Their local following clearly made up a reasonable percentage of the audience front and centre. One fan commented afterwards “We love The Longsands – we’d follow them anywhere.”

To kick off the main event, the Debbie Harry and Blondie tribute act, ‘Blondied’ took to the stage. The open mouthed crowd were treated to four wardrobe changes; each one more flamboyant than the last, as the band went through the greatest hits of the celebrated singer. The enthusiastic gatherings lapped up the professional rendition and were very forthcoming with their appreciation.

“You’re all from the North East, right? I want your cell, I want your social security – there’s just one way, guys” admonished Michelle Hendricks in Debbie Harry’s American accent, before delving straight into ‘One Way Or Another’ to close her set. A truly heart-warming and awe inspiring act. Michelle later told me she’s met Debbie a number of times and that they share not only a taste in music, but height, shoe size and have the same ‘crooked little fingers’.

Kazabian‘ have been voted the best tribute act on the circuit at the moment and have been personally endorsed by Tom Meighan and even Serge himself – “They make venues crumble where we ain’t got time to. They’re awesome.”
After rallying up the highly anticipating crowd the boys showcased an incredible likeness to the original act executing songs from the self-titled album, ‘Empire’, ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’ and the most recent release ‘Velociraptor!’

As darkness drew in around the giant marquee it was time for the headline act – ‘Oasish‘. Before the boys even opened their mouths it was evident that they’re merely a shade away from enjoying a chinwag and a cup of tea with Noel.
Their backline and instrumentation were perfect mirror images, right down to ‘Noel’s’ Union Jack Epiphone Supernova and ‘Liam’s’ Pretty Green parka (admittedly now looking a bit worn).

The group played for around an hour and a half and hit almost every acclaimed Oasis song ever penned. As ‘Liam’ stood behind the microphone, his hands behind his back and his head awkwardly tilted to one side I wondered if I’d moseyed in late, would I have queried why Oasis were playing in North Shields? Unbelievably accurate and very well practiced.

As the crowds slowly dispersed for their return journey, it was evident that throughout the day there had been a certain notion sewn into the ether. A notion that I feel was mutually understood – let’s all get a guitar, learn a handful of chords, buy a hat and start a band.

Find the published version on TyneMet‘s website

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David Bowie – The Last Day album review

Now then, where do I start with this one? I mean, it’s David fucking Bowie. The man’s not even from this planet.

Before breaking open the case, there was an ambivalent uncertainty oscillating in the back of my mind – what to expect? I was candidly hoping it wasn’t going to be a half-cooked record that’s been fashioned purely as an indecent money spinner.

Many vintage musician has walked this re-launch route before – some of the high rollers have included Paul McCartney with I Look Like An Old Woman, Sting with I’ve Grown This Amorous Beard As Justification For Obscure Folk and Mr Bowie’s mate Iggy Pop, with I Never Really Left, People Just Stopped Caring.

‘The Next Day’, however, is on course for a number one slot. If I’m right it will be Bowie’s first number one album in twenty years following ‘Black Tie White Noise’.

After ten years of hush (excluding Bowie’s role in Chris Nolan’s 2006 picture, The Prestige) we, as a fan base, were expecting a lot.
We were teased with the single release ‘Where Are We Now?’ (8 January) to celebrate Big Dave’s 66th birthday but to be honest, I wasn’t enamoured – it was hard work.

You want to adore it because it’s David Bowie, but I’m going to put it out there, it was a bit wet – a grower, not a show-er, Dave. What it really boils down to is the fact that the album itself is a collective, to be appreciated and consumed in one sitting.

If you were to show someone 1/14 of Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, he mightn’t be particularly taken with it either.

‘How Does The Grass Grow’ sticks out like a sore thumb – sounds a bit like the band’s been listening to either too much of The Talking Heads or The Flaming Lips – not 100% on what’s going on there.

Before I even got the chance to consume the full album, ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ was brought to my attention with its accompanying video featuring La Roux’s birth mother (Tilda Swinton). It’s a dark, dramatic yet energetic piece that revolves around the struggle of coming to terms with his inevitable aging. It rings truth as to how iconic Bowie really was – a pioneer, insouciantly traversing time.

‘Dirty Boys’ is everything is says on the tin. It’s sloth like tempo laden with filthy, punchy bass and discordant overdriven guitar slinks lustrously around your ears – really down to earth, with tangible 70s authenticity branded across its arse.

The striking thing about Bowie and his music is that it’s so regal, but at the same time it’s incontestably evident he does not give one single fuck.

This is where ‘You Feel So Lonely You Could Die’ comes into play with the trademark, harrowingly high-end strings that burn passion through the choruses. It’s everything we have come to associate with the man. This one’s a high flyer, in my books.

The most pertinent question is; will it tour? So far, all we have is hearsay but when quizzed Bowie’s wife, Iman, said, “we have a 12-year-old in school, so we’re stuck – we can’t travel. Our schedule is around her, so I don’t know. We’ll have to go visit, but we won’t be on tour with him.”

Bowie’s guitarist however, has commented, “He’s fairly adamant he’s never going to perform live again. One of the guys would say, ‘Boy, how are we going do all this live?’ and David said, ‘We’re not’. He made a point of saying that all the time.”
Only time will tell with this one…

The album was never going to be ‘Aladdin Sane’ or ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars’ but it definitely holds its own as a decade’s silence killer. It hosts all the magnetism and British charm that we’ve grown to associate with David Bowie and it demonstrates his unmatched ability to command an audience.

I doubt I’m alone in saying this – I’ve got absolutely everything crossed that this will put David Bowie back on the road.

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