Author Archives: Rachel_E_Holmes

Wonderlustre

I’m not quite sure why I decided to review one of my guilty pleasures in the public forum, but I seem to be something of a glutton for punishment, so I’ll go with it.  Skunk Anansie, the soundtrack to the angriest of my teenage years re-formed earlier this year for a tour after a spate of unsuccessful attempts at solo careers, in September (perhaps misguidedly) releasing Wonderlustre on the back of the nostalgia.

The opener, ‘God Loves Only You ‘ conjures the unsavoury atmosphere of 70s porn in the elevator of Hotel California, complete with jazzfunk bass, a moustached drum machine, and smooth over-produced vocals.  ‘My Ugly Boy’ notably revives Stoosh‘s ‘We Love Your Apathy’ to the letter before making the uncomfortable transition to ‘Over The Love’ which made me realise that I definitely am.  ‘Talk too Much’ tries to recover the angst-ridden cool of Post Orgasmic Chill when it would have been much better left unsaid.  ‘The Sweetest Thing’ is bearable.  The stomping and pouting ‘It Doesn’t Matter ‘ is a little too like a glamrock refashioning of Scissor Sisters for my liking.  ‘You’re too Expensive’ takes this a step further by adding a splash of mockney EMO for our listening displeasure, and ‘My Love Will Fall’ reminds me of late Alanis Morissette, which isn’t intended as a compliment.  ‘You Saved Me’ is insubstantial and largely inoffensive.  Then, one may be ‘Feeling the Itch’ of abrasive distortion, but it is perhaps the best song on the record.  Perhaps they should have followed their own advice in that ‘You Can’t Always Do What You Like’ – they did, and it clearly wasn’t a good idea, although it could provide Britain with a marginally edgier Eurovision entry.  Finally, ‘I Will Stay But You Should Leave’ should be repeated to them, with emphasis.

Buy the record if you have no regard for taste, originality, or honesty and simply wish to unsatisfactorily indulge misguided nostalgia.

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The Good Natured

The first thing I found myself wondering when I visited the myspace page for The Good Natured was why on earth every aspiring “alternative” artist lists Japanese Pop as a generic descriptor for their music which bears little to no resemblance to such oriental greats as Shonen Knife.  Perhaps I was biased from the start, but it really didn’t get any better once the audio began.  She sounds like a characteristically insubstantial jelly wobbling around in the mould of Bat for Lashes and Florence + The Machine with the vocal capabilities of a toddling Lily Allen/Kate Nash hybrid.  Reading the reviews of the Your Body Is A Machine EP, it is difficult to conceive that Rory Carroll is anything but deluded in the assertion that ‘we may finally have a female artist who exists in a land without gimmicks, affected Mockney accents and gigantic quiffs,’ since that appears to be precisely what she delivers.  Alright, so perhaps she is actually a Londoner, but that doesn’t mean that her Cockney isn’t to be mocked.  The bizarre ensemble of instruments is little other than gimmicky, although it is difficult to tell (and largely irrelevant) whether or not she has a quiff.  Her lyrics are, on the whole, dire and tautological.  Rose is by far the best of a bad bunch.  I’ll give her a few years to grow a pair… of lungs, that is.

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Hell

Of all of the things I would have imagined Hell to be like, the notion that it would be pedestrian would never have crossed my mind.  However, Tegan & Sara have effortlessly (or so I hope) achieved this, with ‘Hell’ the new single from their pending album, Sainthood, to be released on October 27th 2009.  They have suddenly become a teenybopping, guitar shredding, lyrically inept, duo.  Although, it is possible that this is what they always have been and I am suffering from a very specific attack of amnesia.  Regardless, whilst they proclaim themselves “not ready for a big bad step in that direction” (admittedly about something different and more abstract), they seem to be trying to morph into a prepubescent manifestation of The Organ (note the very instrument dangling in the backing).  Maybe it is time for one to get ‘over it and over them.’

Preorder the album with all its excessive hype and extremely pretentious paraphernalia here, or do something enjoyable instead.

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Alpha Mummy

Just take a moment and brace yourself against the realisation that this is not a post concerning another impending and wholly implausible Hollywood blockbuster starring Brendan Fraser, but rather the utterly disgusting title for The Times’ new blog-child.  One must say, although it is simply “not done”, that this baby is hideous.  Visiting the site for my weekly leeching of the infamous Women’s Section, I noticed that Alpha Mummy is now wedged between dating and fashion (which is, after all, woman’s place, aka The Home) on the menu bar.

Astonished, I tottered, taking my first steps towards the shiny new object, then puked adorably as I reached it.  Meet Alpha Mummy’s “team”:  Jennifer Howze, mother of one and stepmother of one, is Lifestyle editor of Times Online.  Eleanor Mills, mother of two, is the Saturday editor of the Times.  Caitlin Moran, mother of two, is a columnist for The Times.  Sarah Vine, mother of two, is a columnist for The Times.  It reads like episodic propaganda from Francoist Spain.  Children give you worth, women.

Apparently, Alpha Mummy, ‘is the blog for mums and dads who work, used to work, or want to go back to work one day (as if looking after children isn’t work enough),’ but its content ostensibly deviates from this goal, with these mythical father figures making occasional and brief appearances.  Surely the title similarly promotes exclusivity?  ‘[C]onversations on the blog aren’t restricted to parenthood and playtime,’ but deal with diverse other topics such as sex and dating.  However, one is reassured that bloggers ‘talk about everything that affects our lives as grown-ups with families, careers and intellects,’ none of which appear to have done the writers any favours.

‘In early September,’ the “team” asked their readership about ‘experiences [they] had with sexism, and the results were surprising’ in that, at least in my humble opinion, they somehow managed to overlook the woolly mammoth in the room which goes by the name Alpha Mummy.  Seemingly, the belief is that they have in some way embarked upon an empowering mission, when in reality their endeavour can never exceed its own limitations.  In principle, a sensible  site for parents with young children could facilitate liberal education, but whilst such arenas are restricted to the likes of Alpha Mummy, the sexist values they propagate remain engrained.  Alpha Mummy’s ‘strategy,’ when approaching the inevitable moment at which a child begins to curse, ‘is low-key “correction”,’ stating that such ‘words are for grown-ups and they’re not very nice to use.’  Well, perhaps everyone should implement their advice in not misusing words, like sexism, that are for adults, and should be used sensibly.

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Life on Earth

Despite having recently obtained not one, but two, calendars to aid me in my time management, Tuesday has again become Wednesday without notice.  So, this week, what is rapidly becoming Tapes on Twednesday shares with you, or perhaps introduces, Tiny Vipers (aka Jesy Fortino) and her new record Life on Earth released on July 7th 2009.

Flicking through the Belfast Telegraph whilst visiting in September, I noticed that Tiny Vipers, with whom I had become acquainted by way of ‘On This Side,’ a song from her previous release Hands Across the Void, was playing at the Black Box in the heart of Belfast’s emerging Cathedral Quarter.  Quaint in its monochrome modernity, with an array of matchless furniture, the occasional whiff of fresh coffee, and drifting scent of heavy metal, a free gig could scarcely have been better.  After what one must politely term a disappointing supporting act,  Tiny Vipers sidled onto the stage, perched delicately on the stool, began to pick out a melody, and, eyes closed, captivated the audience to silence within a couple of bars.  Needless to say, I bought the record on the way out of the door.

The concert had much the same effect as the album, in which the songs smoothly and unnoticeably merge into one another.  Opening ‘Eyes Like Ours’ with the words ‘do you recall when the world was still young?  Just a small town…I heard that you walked across its borders into the unknown,’ it would have been difficult to express my sentiments about this record more exactly than by that very description, and with ‘eyes full of wonder’ I continued, entranced.  ‘Development’ follows with delightful cadence and rhythmic picking, curiously juxtaposed with the destructive drive of the lyrics.  ‘Slow Motion’ first hints at the potential for harshness in Fortino’s tone, only to find the track easing itself into its place, followed by the earnest existentialism of ‘Dreamer’.  Recalling Virginia Woolf’s The Waves in asking ‘what can we learn when we can’t understand?’ it  ends like a modernist novel.  ‘Time Takes’ and ‘Young God’ are not as noticeable, but neither are they out of place preceding the epic ‘Life on Earth’.  If Patti Smith wrote poetic or dramatic theory, it would sound like this.  ‘CM,’ ‘Tiger Mountain’, and ‘Twilight Property’ all appear to draw on the American folk tradition, with their eerie native harmonies and haunting echoes.  Aptly concluding with ‘Outside’, Tiny Vipers asserts that the problem with life is you can’t do it twice, and with this record, she doesn’t need to.

Please support Tiny Vipers by going to see her on tour, and by buying her merchandise here.  Also, become a fan and get updates on Facebook.

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July Flame (Overture)

After such a great delay it seemed only right that, instead of a Tapes on Tuesday posting, I “pen” a suitably belated Tapes on Twednesday.  A hectic summer found me flailing in a music-less abyss akin only to purgatory, which I hear is torturous.  However, I have now regained access to civilisation by way of the internet, and cannot envisage a more apt (if rusty) resumption of our services than by sharing a pre-released two-track taster of Laura Veirs‘ new record, July Flame, available on January 12th 2010.

The first of these, ‘I Can See Your Tracks’, revisits the country and bluegrass terrain of the earlier records Troubled by the Fire and The Triumphs and Travails of Orphan Mae, and, although exhibiting the worrying symptom of unnecessary and dangerous hints of the woes of Fleet Foxes in the chorus, ‘some kind of crazy wind’ appears ‘to chase them into oblivion.’

The title track, July Flame,  speaks more of Year of Meteors, layering the oneric effects of ‘Galaxies’ with the sheer simplicity of ‘Magnetized’.  ‘Sweet summer peach, high up the branch, just out of my reach,’ Veirs laments, and I join in asking July Flame, ‘can I call you mine?’

Not until January 12th 2010 (unless you are in North America, that is).  Please purchase the record and associated merchandise (I bagged myself a songbook, the Two Beers Veirs EP I missed out on when she toured, and a July Flame t-shirt) from the Raven Marching Band website, which is the most direct way to support Laura Veirs.

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Blue Lips

As the sensible readers amongst you will already know, Regina Spektor has announced the release date for her new album ‘Far’ as 23/06/09.  I love Regina as much as the next crazed obsessive, but what should have been the most pleasurable 3 minutes of my life for the last year, the myspace debut of the album version of ‘Blue Lips’, instead bordered on despair.  My expectations of unadulterated, lusciously flowing piano were smashed to smithereens at the moment in which the fancy producer appears to have decided that Regina, The (pension-collecting) Eagles, and a Gypsy Kings cover band with swine flu would be a musical delight.  The result is approximately 45 seconds of pure bliss almost erased from memory by a calypso ‘Hotel California’ played by hispanic gypsies with palsied rhythm.  Let’s begin to hope that she tours alone…

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