Friday, 7 September 2012

On The House

Artist: Slaughterhouse
Album: On The House
Release Date: N/A

Largely immemorable, both lyrically and production wise

The charm in Wu- Tang Clan's trademark aggression and vicious raps about various criminal inclinations from sexual abuse to killing cops, was that they pulled it off so effortlessly and memorably. Slaughterhouse's "On The House" however, which drops a few days shy of the release of their official album "Welcome To Our House", won't share the same legacy. For all it's try hard dark witted "humour" and forcefully attempted hard- hitting style, it remains for the most part unimaginative and forgettable, both production wise and lyrically. The 14- minute long closer "Truth Or Truth, Part 1" is supposedly personal, but it's likely that you'll be so bored by this point that you'll feel nothing.

Key Tracks: "On The House"


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Dead In The Boot

Artist: Elbow
Album: Dead In The Boot
Release Date: 27/8/2012

This collection of rarities and B- sides unveils Elbow's dark and secretive side

A collection of rare or previously unheard material and B-sides should feel like what it's supposed to be- an insight into the "Behind Closed Doors" workings of the band. It should feel secretive, perhaps a little dusty from years of sitting in one of the band members' attic. It should have the kind of "lost and forgotten" character that an album that gains an official release right from the off could never have.

Ah, what a contradiction in terms! Elbow's own documentation of its rare and B-sided material, "Dead In The Boot", as is the case with the majority of these kind of compilations, will no longer have that secrecy on paper. These demos, rarities, live versions and B-sides are shoved into public view in what could be seen as an uncanny money grabbing scheme. But will these songs lose any of their flavour or character upon release? Unlikely.

"Dead In The Boot" certainly feels secretive, but more than that this is Elbow showing off their dark side. It's easy to get lost in the often transcendental orchestral manouvres present on Elbow's albums and in turn overlook the well practiced emotion (I mean, how many people know that the band's biggest selling single to date "One Day Like This" is actually about Guy Garvey getting over his alcohol issues?). But there's no such loss of emotion here. These songs revel in their subtle character.

"Every Bit The Little Girl" is a pastorally beautiful Tindersticks- esque moment with it's electronically produced clicking beat and xylophone melody. "The Long War Shuffle" is a quietly Southern- fried stomp- along (like a less clunky and industrial Kasabian) that casts a sceptical eye over involvement in brooding foreign affairs as Garvey sings "I'm not getting any younger/ But the soldiers are." "McGreggor" is sparse and ominously nervous throughout, an alienating and eventually screeching keyboard and a slinky percussive click creating the tension.

It's easy to see why these songs didn't make the cut for Elbow's records. The only song here that really fits into their grandiose mould is "Lay Down Your Cross", which sees Garvey begging for sex over a lushous, layered symphony. But maybe Elbow should make room for their darker, more secretive and distant side, because it's certainly potent. In case it never happens though, we should be thankful indeed for this supplement. There is always character behind closed doors.

Key Tracks: "The Long War Shuffle" "McGreggor" "Lay Down Your Cross"


Monday, 3 September 2012

Cancer For Cure

Artist: EL-P
Album: Cancer For Cure
Release Date: 22/5/2012

"Cancer For Cure" proves that EL-P is still capable of works of genius, but may be a little blinded by his own myth

Ever since his earliest releases with '90s experimental hip- hop pioneers Company Flow, EL-P's name has been synonymous with estranged, left field production and vicious lyrical kicks at society. He's been a well affirmed underground hero due to many of his releases. There's two things however that we music fans are all too aware of, but EL-P might not be. Firstly, almost all good things come to an end. Secondly, it is possible when presented with such adoration and minor scale hero worship for a myth to unfurl around you, and the dark edges of self- indulgence begin to surge in on the unexpecting unconcious.

It's probably true to suggest that such metaphorical and philosiphical thinking has been injected into EL-P's work over the years, and as a result on "Cancer For Cure" a three sided coin rears it's mixed- bag head. Those three sides are brilliance, lack- lustre and self- indulgence, and all of them are present here.

It starts off with a fantastic left hook, the blood pumping and pulsating "Request Denied", which after hurtling along with "Fat of the Land"- era Prodigy esque speed and electronics turns into an exhilarating rap- rock build up and climax. "The Full Retard" comes next and is magnificently heavy in its stoned beat and squelching, parping synths. "True Story" sounds visceral and re- vitalising too, opening up with EL-P snarling "You're the cancer/ You're the fucking problem" into a megaphone before the track descends into a juddering, futuristic low- end shuffle.

Yet for all it's macho- artyness, "Cancer For Cure" often falls well short. The try- hard aggressiveness of "Tougher Colder Killer" fails to make much of an impact, which is surprising considering it features a man who put out one if this year's best hardcore hip- hop albums, Killer Mike. "Oh Hail No" fails to be as interesting as it wants to be, and the final two minutes of "Drones Over Brklyn" are a psycadelic synthscape that continues for much longer than is necessary.

There are hints that EL-P may have become a little blinded by his own enigma too. There are moments that could be brilliant, but are ruined by El trying too hard to add grit, most notably on "The Jig Is Up." The song has a grinding, fuzzy and dark synth base, but the lyrics and flow are so stagnant and unimaginative that it sounds TOO improvisational and not too much like a well- figured mind game.

EL- P would love to have us believe that he doesn't give a fuck what we think, and to be fair, that's probably true. When it's not trying too hard, "Cancer For Cure" seems efortlessly brutal and life affirming. These are the well conjured moments in which EL-P sounds most comfortable. With worship though comes expectation, and as sure as I am that EL-P is not out of ideas (as if that could ever happen), there are certainly moments on "Cancer For Cure" where he needs to take a step back and consider the rights and wrongs of his progression.
Key Tracks: "Request Denied" "The Full Retard" "True Story"

Milo Takes Baths

Artist: Milo
Album: Milo Takes Baths
Release Date: 19/2/2012

Nerd- rap prodigy takes chillwave producer's beats as a beautifully passive backdrop to his dpressive, witty and socially deconstructive rhymes

Forget Asher Roth. Forget Chilly Gonzalez. There's a strange irony in the fact that neither of the two names most frequently dropped when the horrible genre title of "nerdcore" is uttered know anywhere near as much about being a nerd as kooky bandcamp champion Milo does. "Milo Takes Baths" is his second mixtape to be released for free via bandcamp (following last year's deeply personal "I Wish My Brother Rob Was Here"), and it's a well- crafted and meditative fusion of self- deprecating honesty, sometimes hilariously sharp wit and a dismissal of universal social convention.

Opener "The Confrontation At Khazad- Dum" sets the thematical standard for what  to expect from the rest of the tape. Chillwave/ IDM producer Baths' glitchy, trippy but beautiful melody is matched with defeatist lines like "I don't have a hip- hop career, I have a hobby." "The Ballad of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy" sees him get even less self- confident, and dabbling lyrical in themes of loss as he intones "I've got these ugly hands so it's impossible to give back rubs/ Since Rob passed it's been hard not to be scared of flash floods".

The nerdyness factor reaches its height on "Lester Freamon toe- taps the Blues", in which Milo simultaneously references Greek playwright Euripedes and Kurt Vonnegut before going on to assert that he's a "slave to all my insecurities." Best of all though is "Prince Abakaliki of Nigeria needs your help", which is a hilarious tale of having an e- girlfriend over a wondrous flurry of hyperactive synths, with the wonderful lead refrain of "I cried in my room on the night my girlfriend wouldn't show me nudes."

In many ways and essences, Milo isn't a hip- hop artist. He's fully aware of the stereotype which befalls him and his peers, but he goes so far in desecrating that and distancing himself from ever being lumped in with that stereotype that he really is an outsider. And there is much of the beauty in his persona in that; he knows he's an outsider, and he wants to be too. In which case, although sometimes ineffectual and monotonous, "Milo Takes Baths" is everything Milo wants it to be. To him, at least, that's all that matters.
Key Tracks: "Prince Abakaliki of Nigeria needs your help" "Hall 2 with Will's singing untouched" "The Confrontation at Khazad- Dum"
Download "Milo Takes Baths" for free from his bandcamp page here:

Sunday, 2 September 2012

New Sounds: Merchandise

Picture of Merchandise
Anglophilia has been sweeping the brains and dreams of many a young American indie band for the past couple of years now, a movement that was (although not started) spearheaded by The Drums with the release of the self- titled debut in 2010. Tampa Bay, Florida trio Merchandise, however, are putting the most refreshing and innovative spin on Island- bashing I've heard yet.
Their latest single "In Nightmare Room", which came out last week, is a fusion of cavernous, echoing Cure- esque lead guitar lines, My Bloody Valentine baiting distortion and vocals reminiscent of the bastard child of Morrissey and Brandon Flowers. It's a hazy, surreal but supremely catchy affair. It is, by most standards, a bonafide anthem, and we can only hope there is plenty more to come.