Kasabian-48:13 review

10 Jun

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Listening to Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno describe the inner workings of their fifth studio album in an NME interview recently was utterly mesmerising. Granted, Serge might be from another planet, and Tom could do with a few workshops on expressing himself, but the passion is there in the words they use. Tom repeats the word exciting more times than a hummingbird flaps its wings and Serge runs out of superlatives for his bandmate’s vocals.

You can tell that the band truly believe this is the one. The album that defines Kasabian. The record oozes simplicity in a blend of their old and new sounds. Almost in a nod to their early work, 48:13 has more of an electronic element than, say, Velociraptor!, but keeps the integrity of their rock and roll routes. Routes, which, as is the same with a plethora of British rock bands (and the rest), stem from The Beatles. This is particularly noticable in ‘stevie’ and ‘(mortis)‘ with the boys’ melodic tones comparable to that of John and Paul. The opening track, ‘(shiva)’, echoes the resonance of Dire Straits or Pink Floyd. And glimpses of the band’s admiration for The Clash and The Doors is evident.

Yet ‘glass’ hits us at full pelt from a completely different angle halfway through the album. Forget rock and roll heavyweights, and start thinking hip-hop. A grimey, spoken word rap from Suli Breaks, the man who gave his two cents about education a while back, is included on this track, which surprised me but is somehow in keeping with the feel of the album.

I would call this album a concept album; the clash of genres and simplicity being key. Meighan and Pizzorno believe that “less is more” with this album and I can certainly see why: simple album name, simple album cover, simple messages. Even the video to ‘eez-eh’ is delightfully uncomplicated. It is this “stripped back” sound which gives 48:13  its iconic feel, which was a careful and succesful consideration by the band.

Whether the band also decided to release the album to coincide with Soccer Aid to remind us of Serge’s spectacular lob in the event two years ago or not, it is the eccentric singer-songwriter’s musical talent, not sporting, that is salient. The second single (and song) on the album, ‘bumblebee’, was apparently cooked up in the ‘Sergery’ and played to Tom well over a year ago. It is, in my opinion, the perfect festival song.

Imagine: the fluttering of speech from thousands of people around you as you await the headliner act, which this year is Kasabian. You can barely see in the dark but, suddenly, shiva comes rumbling through the speakers for its minute-or-so-duration and then out of nowhere, bumblebee crashes into your eardrums, propelling everyone into a chorus of collective chanting. Ecstasy.

48:13 is a great album. But we never really expected anything less of a band that only produces great albums did we? Kasabian’s strengths can also be their shortcomings though. The pure quality of their music leaves them in danger of producing very similar successive albums. They have counteracted this wisely but in creating such a bare bones album, it remains to be seen whether the substance and integrity of their music remains in tact. The lyrics pale in comparison to the enigmatic West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum for instance.

However, the explosive nature of the band has not been lost, and instead fits seemlessly into an impressive experimental record. The introduction of previously unused elements ensures 48:13 has a unique sound without straying too far from what we know. It might not be their best album in terms of quality of songs but it certainly is their most innovative work yet.

 

Rating: 7.5/10

Clean Bandit-New Eyes review

2 Jun

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Not meaning to brag or anything but I’ve known Clean Bandit for about a year, long before Rather Be reached number one in the singles charts. But I can’t take all the credit. I wasn’t some lone disciple of theirs maniacally shouting at everyone I saw, proclaiming that they should listen to Clean Bandit or they’d be struck down upon their next move. Well I did do a lot of shouting.

But anyway, before we went to Reading Festival last year, my friend and I were checking out the talent of bands we somehow hadn’t heard of, despite our superior music knowledge. My friend told me to listen to a band called ‘Clean Bandit’, a band he said mixed classical music with a bit of rap and a bit of electronica. I was intrigued. So I listened. And heavens above, I was not disappointed, and we were perhaps more excited about seeing them then some of the headline acts.

So there we were, at the newly established Reading dance stage on the Friday at about 3pm, like a pair of derranged groupies, dancing like lunatics and ever since I’ve been waiting for their album. Nine months I’ve had to wait. NINE. I could have had a baby in that time. Don’t worry mum, I haven’t, but we did see their popularity explode when they released Rather Be.

Now, I’m not one of those people who dislikes a band as soon as they become popular, BUT, that whole time I have implored people to discover some of their other songs. Songs like Internet Banking, Dust Clears and Mozart’s House; songs which established their raw talent. And I made sure I played them on my radio show as much as possible. Thankfully, their album was released today and I can now sit back smugly and watch people rave about it.

This is where the self-promotion ends and the review of the album actually starts. Firstly, all of the songs are incredible. What I have always liked about Clean Bandit is how refreshing their sound is. The band themselves dubbed their genre “Classica-electronica“. They seemlessly blend violins and a double bass with electronic music and, impressively, they have managed to introduce this into the mainstream music charts.

I had already heard about half of the songs on this album before it was released as they have been on YouTube for a while and I’m obsessed enough to have made a playlist on my account. That’s cool though right? Of the songs I was yet to hear, one stands out as being as stunningly exciting as songs like Mozart’s House and A+E, which is Birch, the final full track on the album. The low tempo contrasts perfectly with the rest of the album and translates Bandit’s understated electro beats into more of a chilled out song.

If I had to make one minor criticism of the album, it would be purely a selfish one: I like albums that are seemless, with songs that effortlessly run into each other, making the album one journey instead of a collection of songs. New Eyes is the latter, but debut albums are scarcely produced in such a manner and I’m just being pedantic as always.

If you’re expecting every song to be exactly like Rather Be, then firstly you’ll be disappointed but, more importantly, you’ve musjudged Clean Bandit entirely. They have always experiemented with alternative sounds and this shines through on the album. The intelligent infusion of rap, reggae and dance music with classical music is something to behold, a truly original album with only room to improve for such a young band.

I’m seeing them at the Isle of Wight festival in just under two weeks and I know for certain that I’m going to be get a flurry of strange looks directed my way because I will be dancing like a madman once again.

 

Rating: 7/10

Coldplay-Ghost Stories review

20 May

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Coldplay are that band that some people absolutely detest. And it’s not just a hatred where the people think their music’s a bit boring; it’s an intense, campaigning-for-their-removal-from-society kind of hatred. To people who are fond of Coldplay in any way, like myself, this utter contempt for the band is bewildering and slightly unnerving. It’s not like Chris Martin stole these people’s bikes when they were kids so what is it that is so enraging to Coldplay-haters?

I’ve always had a sneaky suspicion that most of these anti-Martins are trying to look cool and hate a band that talks about feelings because that’s really lame. But then Yellow will come on in a bar and they’ll be singing along because it’s a an effing good song. That said, this doesn’t account for the hardcores–those who are probably really normal human beings but turn into murderous, demonic creatures should any Coldplay track play near them.

A dilemma for the ages, perhaps it’s not; but my confusion will only intensify if people tell me they don’t like Magic and its accompanying songs on their new album, Ghost Stories. I first heard Magic on XFM and immediately fell in love with it. The passion in the lyrics somehow perfectly contrasts with the tranquility of the track. And the rest of the album follows this same structure.

For the Coldplay heavies…ahem, by which I mean, those who are disappointed with the new direction because it’s “not proper Coldplay” and will play Parachutes on repeat because “it’s their best album”…this album might not be up your proverbial street. I jest about their complaints, of course, but, with this production of this album, it is perfectly feasible for Coldplay to have two very different types of fans.

The path Coldplay have decided to follow with Ghost Stories is incredibly far removed from their first albums and even up to some of the tracks Viva la Vida. The feel of the album is very fresh. The new sounds Martin and the band have experimented with reverberate around your speakers with a haunting resonance that lends itself to the title of the album.

And I think what makes the sound work so brilliantly well, is the effortlessness of Martin’s voice. On previous albums, he’s been belting out anthems but on tracks ‘Midnight‘ and ‘Ink‘, which is already a personal favourite, the soft but sharp vocals, entwined with the subtlety of the music, make for an alternative but similarly enjoyable listening experience.

The album flows naturally too. Even the transition from the blissfully peaceful ‘Oceans‘ into the most upbeat song on the album ‘A Sky Full of Stars‘ works well. And that is just it about this album, it works. It is understated and easy to listen to.

I might be way off here but I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway: I reckon even former Coldplay-haters could listen to this album and not go on a city-wide rampage for a change. I might suggest that they would even go so far as to like the album but I don’t understand the psyhcology of these people so I could be more wrong about that than anything I’ve been wrong about.

The Coldplay we hear on Ghost Stories is a very different one to Parachutes or A Rush of Blood to the Head. The reason for this can be debated and of course, only confirmed by Chris Martin himself. But whatever the reason, the album is simply incredible. Give it a listen, whether you are a Coldplay fan or not. Because I might go so far as to say that regardless of your previous levels of love for the band, it is like listening to a new band altogether.

 

Rating: 8/10

Tips for new university students

14 May

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Now this might apply most to Portsmouth, which is where I’ve been milling around for the last three years, but I will try to make it appropriate for almost all new uni students, and yes, ‘almost all’ because I’m not a fucking miracle worker, so don’t complain if it doesn’t magically make you the don at Freshers. Also, I’ve written it in list form to make it simpler for you because your brain will probably be adled by copious amounts of alcohol.

1) Don’t be a dickhead

I think I’d use this as number one if I were writing an instruction manual for life in general, and you’d think this would be the most obvious thing ever, but it really cannot be understated. You’re probably going to want to make friends when you move into university. If you’re someone who takes great enjoyment out of not having friends then fair enough, don’t read this one, but I’ve decided you’re now my friend–what are you gonna do about it? Anyway, Freshers week (or fortnight as the case may be) makes people do odd things. You want to make friends but you’re nervous and full of alcohol. So you’ll probably steal a trolley or two and maybe a road sign because it’s err “funny”. But some people might take it too far and do something reeeeally stupid like piss on their new friend’s clothes, or smash up their entire kitchen (remember, these are cautionary tales, not suggestions). So my advice is to yes, enjoy yourself, but don’t take it to the extremes because you’re there for 3+ years, and, unless you want people to remember you specifically as the girl who shat out a window, there’s plenty of time for you to have fun.

2) Just be yourself

Unless yourself is the aformenetioned dickhead, you’re gonna be okay. We’re all nervous at the start of uni, apart from those unnervingly confident people who are probably secretly robots with their anxiety chip removed, so just be yourself and naturally, things will turn out well. The old cliché of “you’re all in the same boat” could not be more apt here. I hate clichés as much as the next person but there is literally no better way to describe it. Believe me, I tried. Hardly anyone who starts first year really knows what to expect. You all just kind of fall into it. And even if you think you’re a bit of a loser and everyone at your old school thought you were too, then that doesn’t matter. People will just be happy to have friends! “Beggars can’t be choosers”. Oh fuck, another cliché…I guess I do those now (Err…while I come to terms with this, please read on). And, more importantly, people grow up at university.

3) Do things

This is a bit of a simple instruction but I don’t think “Go and do things that you might be scared to do because it’ll end up being really good for you” was very catchy. I’ll explain through the narrative of my wonderful journey through uni, from a beautiful butterly into a fucking majestic eagle (I skipped the caterpillar part). At the beginning of uni my naïvety and overall scaredy-catedness (real word, look it up) meant I was a tad aprehensive to try new things and I sort of shuffled through uni thinking I was growing up. But it wasn’t until third year when a friend and I started hosting a radio show that I properly felt like I’d got the most out of uni. I won’t bore you with the incredible life-changing details but the confidence it brought me meant I was ready to grab university by the bollocks and life as well to be honest. So if you want to be a professional life-bollock-grabber like me then I’d advise you to take opportunities that might scare you and (cliché warning) “dive in at the deep end”.

4) Get a balanced experience

Don’t be one of those people. The people who go out every night of the week and ruin their degree because of it. They’re probably fun to hang around with because they’ve been drunk all year but don’t copy their lecture notes because they probably don’t have any. If I were one of these people, I would also not be one of these people because I would have been severely maimed or killed by my mother. But similarly, my mum would have whacked me round the head if I were one of those who spent a criminal amount of time in the library. There’s no point being either of those things because you can have fun at uni without fucking off your education or your social life.

5) Use the resources given to you

Don’t let anyone know this (especially lecturers) but first year is a piece of piss. Enjoy yourself. You only need 40% mostly, which is a big fuck all when you’ve just finished A Levels, so you can pretty much scrape by with minimal work. But, in no means should you accept a 40. Do your best still in first year and if you see any problems with your work, go and seek help. There will probably be some sort of study skills help available. And by jove does this help. My essays were languishing down in the low 50s and to be perfectly honest, I hadn’t the foggiest how to make them better. But then I got FREE help with my essay writing from a university service. If I had swallowed my darn pride and sought this help in first year, I guarantee I would have got a better degree. (Fuck, I do love a good cliché) “Hindsight is a wonderful thing”. And I have selflessly gone through this whole experience for you, young student. I have laid down my life so that you can go forth and enjoy your university experience to the full. And what have you ever done for me, you selfish bastard?

Season Review 2013/14

12 May

City win the league

You don’t need me to tell you how enthralling, tense and adrenaline filled this season has been. It was a three horse race until the penultimate game, despite José contuniously informing us otherwise, and top spot changed hands 25 times.

It was Arsenal who occupied first position for the longest time, putting together an impressive run which saw people running about in apocalyptic style confusion, worried that the Premier league trophy would actually be heading to the Emirates. Alas, they were to relinquish their title challenge, leaving many breathing heavy sighs of relief and telling themselves that they never thought Arsenal could do it anyway.

But then, out of nowhere, the 80s started to re-emerge and Liverpool mounted a serious title challenge. They quickly became the neutrals’ favourites. That is, except everyone from Manchester (and United fans) who would rather have shat on their own necks than seen Steven Gerrard lift the Premiership trophy at Anfield.

But of course, ‘little horse’ Chelsea were there to save the day for you lucky Mancs, because, even though they were definitely never going to win the title, the Blues like to be a nuisance, like your annoying little brother who doesn’t really want to hang out with you, but will quite happily ruin whatever you’re doing for his own enjoyment. Their 2-0 win at Anfield all but ensured Man City were going to win the title for a second time in three years, but could have somehow given Mourinho’s side another shot at the title going into the last couple of games, but they inevitably fluffed their lines against a Norwich side who were ‘trying to stay up’.

Norwich needed a win to fight their way to safety, having seen two teams relegated for sure the same weekend, but seemed content with a draw at the Bridge, despite knowing they would need a SEVENTEEN goal swing on the last day, which was many as Norwich had scored at home all season.

Of course, their final game loss to Arsenal relegated them along with Fulham and Cardiff who were both less than impressive having invested a great deal throughout the season. Vincent Tan finally realised that superstitions mean fuck all in football and that just because Abramovich has been sack-happy, doesn’t mean every maniacal billionaire can be.

Crystal ‘Pulis’ were probably everyone’s second team this year, pulling off more than a great escape under the guidance of the man that has never been relegated, and impressively fighting back from three goals down in just nine minutes against Liverpool to secure an influx of fruit baskets arriving at Selhurst, sent from Manchester addresses.

But the best part about the season, if you ask almost any fan…was a certain small, north-western club achieving a comfortable seventh spot, sandwiched inbetween Spurs and Southampton. Having spent in excess of £70m on two attacking midfielders this season, it turns out (as we all well knew) that they have a player who is more than capable of playing there. A young man by the name of Wayne Rooney is apparently pretty good. Other than Wayne, De Gea and Januzaj, who was understandably excited to play Champions League football because it meant he got to stay up late, Manchester United were incredibly lacklustre this year. You’ve got to feel for David ‘The Chosen One’ Moyes. No man could have walked into that club and bested Sir Alex, especially not in their first season. But no one except United fans really care about that. In fact, I think we all found it pretty funny.

“Look Up”? My opinion of social media

4 May

I’ve just seen a video called ‘Look Up’ which gave me a “powerful message” about social media, essentially saying we get lost in social media. It said we miss important moments, as well as being anti social. But isn’t that obvious? It’s not the social media itself, it’s us and the way we use it. But it’s not so black and white. We can have social media and use it to our advantage. We’re not all robots. The people like that are mostly awkward teenagers. Plus, of course it’s easier for us to communicate when the person you want to talk to isn’t in the room. It’s our social anxieties that make Facebook, Twitter etc. so useful. But that doesn’t mean we’re all going to turn into robots.

Yes, the video was well made. But that doesn’t mean it’s “powerful”. Ironically, the people that will think it is are probably the same as the ones the video targets. Ironically it’s doing the thinking for people, completing exactly the opposite function it set out to achieve. Also, without social media, this video wouldn’t have been able to be viewed by so many. Perhaps it is trying to make the same point I am. But I think this irony will be lost on most. Social media as a tool has been anything but pervasive to society in my opinion. People still know how to interact. We’re not all hooked up to the mainframe, we don’t all run away and hide from those we find attractive. Those who do rely on social media to meet people are missing out. That is one opinion from the video I do agree with.

But that doesn’t happen to us all so I think the video has missed the point. The creators either know nothing about it or a lot and made the video because it appeals to people’s better nature. We don’t want to become robots—it’s a legitimate fear—but like (almost) everything in the media, it’s fear mongering designed to make people scared and keep them in their place. And people are so unaware! THIS is the problem. So many people are blind. They see things and don’t actually assess them themselves. Thou shalt always think for yourself, not just blindly follow the crowd. Analyse things in an intelligent way, don’t just share things that are “powerful” because it says in the title that they are.

Use social media in a powerful way yourself. It gives people a voice. It means less than some people think but at least it’s out there. If you’ve got 100k followers, don’t use it as an ego boost, use it to deconstruct society’s failures. You’ve almost got a duty. Your voice can be used to attack homophobia, sexism, racism, violence. It might not seem like much but it can break down taboos. If homophobes are ridiculed then it becomes less socially acceptable ton be one. Ridiculing is a powerful too. The video utilises this well. But as far as I’m concerned, it is attacking the wrong things. It uses it to get hits and generate income.

If the recognition of the video gains them respect and THEN they use it to criminalise other things then fair enough. But, overriding point: Think for yourselves. Disagree with people. Debate. Use your intelligence to analyse things and don’t blindly consume. But also use social media in a POSITIVE way. I agree, real life is much better but that is so obvious. Plus, this is my personal opinion. Others might prefer it online. Maybe this is just the way society is developing. Or maybe these people have the same crippling social anxiety that affects us all. But good luck to them. If that’s what makes them happy then so be it.

Look at things in a positive way; don’t just let the media scare you into conformity. Use the tools we have developed in a positive way. The internet is the best invention so far. Our generation is the first to use it. We have the chance to set the standard for the next generation and the next and so on. Let’s make it our legacy.

Why the Misfits season finale didn’t make the grade—but was wickedly appropriate

13 Dec

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So Misfits is over forever. On Wednesday we saw Rudy, Jess, Finn, Abi and Alex, the Handsome Barman, leave our screens forever (as far as we know anyway).

I’ve loved Misfits from the first episode, and while I think the first two series were the best, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the new characters, especially Rudy (both One and Two).

I’m sad to see Misfits finish and I’m actually fairly disappointed with the way the writers left it and I shall tell you why.

Firstly, the way the last episode was built up, with the gang going up against the rogue “Jumper Crew” put together by Rudy Two in a “serious error of judgement”, sounded epic and maybe, just maybe, the guys would actually use their powers for once. I mean, come on, seriously?!

In the episode a few weeks ago with the girl who downloaded herself into other people, Jess was in a room with the others trying to hide from the possessed Alex and she really could have done with the power to see through walls. OH WAIT, she has that already. But, instead of using it, she nearly got her eye taken out. Silly girl.

In the end, we did see people using their powers. Well, Rudy’s power is having a split personality personified so he kind of has to use that all the time, and Abi doesn’t actually have a power, and Jess didn’t have any walls to look through BUT we did see Alex fuck a power out of Sam mid-air (well we didn’t actually see the act) and Finn finally use his telekinesis to move something bigger than a toothbrush.

However, the CGI in this part of the episode, as well as when Helen uses her electronic power to kill someone, is terrible. For modern television, it wasn’t even close to what we’ve come to expect. Perhaps they blew the budget on Rudy’s new facial hair.

More importantly though: the story didn’t really go anywhere. No dead probation workers. No actual deaths (because of the whole time travel thing), other than that prick who knocked up Jess, and they’re still dreaming of becoming superheroes, despite the fact that they have awful powers. And, of course, there was the storm at the end. It feels like the whole thing was rushed.

I was expecting the baby to have a power. That would have been cool. Also, what I didn’t understand was, how did Jess send that video back to herself? And how did she know what the guys were going to be doing in a year? It wasn’t her who travelled forward but her alternate self.

But perhaps this was what made it so stupidly appropriate. Misfits has never made sense. It doesn’t abide to the laws of time and space as we know it. And they’re all just generally pretty lame but in an absolutely awesome and hilarious way.

And the crude yet unimpressive way in which Sam dies is so typical of Misfits: it doesn’t need anything spectacular to make the show brilliant. I think back to the way Alisha and Curtis died—neither was akin to Hollywood blockbuster character deaths or even the classic Christmas day death on Albert Square—but why would they die spectacularly? After all they were just people on community service; delinquent youths with no future.

The fact that the main characters had essentially got nowhere since their start of community service, is perfect, even, I daresay, poetic. And, with the new storm, who knows? They might even get new powers and become superheroes. Or perhaps it symbolises (and I think this is the more likely theory) the end of their journey. Perhaps their powers will be taken and they’ll have all grown up and not have their problems anymore. Personally, I hope this isn’t the case, especially as this may mean no more Rudy Two!

You can interpret the whole of Misfits in various different ways with the imagery and symbolism throughout but let’s not go down that route. Let’s all just go down the bar on the estate, have a drink, and hope there’ll be a buffet.

Rudy

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