Friday, July 30, 2010

Album Review: The Horrors – Primary Colours

Reviewing 2009’s Primary Colours is a bit like playing “spot-the-influence”. There are a whole lot of influences thrown in here, but I suppose the base material is Interpol twisted through a My Bloody Valentine sieve. Also the fact is that these guys are clearly posh boys. It shouldn’t really make a difference, I am one myself, but it’s harder to empathise with anguished, over-privileged doom-mongers.

The first track Mirror’s Image starts off with some esoteric keyboards and funnily enough is reminiscent of the beginning of U2’s Zooropa album. This is dispelled by the entrance of a confident bass line, a wonderful progression of notes that sounds effortless and this is joined by the guitar doing the Kevin Shields / My Bloody Valentine “waaiirr”. “Is it the way,” he sings, “is it the way she looks at you” and it isn’t, it’s the bassline, the guitar and the synths. It’s a thrilling and exciting way to start the album.

However, it’s a hard trick to repeat over a whole album, as it soon becomes clear that the MBV effect is going to repeated over and over throughout the album, as next track Three Decades illustrates. Who Can Say races along on a bed of Jesus and Mary Chain style guitars and fairground-style keyboards, and is ‘distinguished’ by a cringe-worthy spoken word bit in the middle (“and when I told her I didn’t love her any more… she cried”).

The singer is capable of a whole range of vocal stylings. Brett Anderson is his inspiration on Do You Remember, which doesn’t sound a million miles away from Suede. New Ice Age starts off ominously, with foreboding bassline and synths, building up into a crescendo, bursting into a Chameleons-style number. It’s somewhat ruined by the brattish, strangled vocals though (exhibit A: his howl “the AGONY!”).

Scarlet Fields sounds a lot like a coupling between Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart and Pretty In Pink by the Psychedelic Furs. The bass line is a dead ringer for the morose Mancunian’s track while the singer does a fantastic impression of Psychedelic Furs’ Richard Butler. It works really well. Next track, I Only Think Of You (they’d been scanning Loveless for song titles as well as guitar effects!) sounds like NYC by Interpol but stretched out and ran through the MBV sieve to seven minutes in length.

After the insistent, Spiritualized knock-off I Can’t Control Myself, we are back on steady ground with title track Primary Colours, which has a nice pace and tempo to it, a bit like The Cure with Andrew Eldritch on vocals. Sea Within A Sea is the final and longest track, and is possible the most interesting. It starts quite simply with a simple, repeating bass note which shifts up slightly in line with the vocal melody, then halfway through adds a muted Morricone-style guitar part, before evolving into a Depeche Mode synth track. It actually works pretty well and is a good way to finish the album.

But will I be listening to it in 18 months?

Ideal circumstances to listen: A dingy basement rock venue, full of sweaty bodies and ne’er-do-well’s, while drinking Snakebite. While pretending to be a 20 year old.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Album Review: Mark Eitzel – The Ugly American

This is a deeply strange album. In 2002 Mark Eitzel went and collaborated with a bunch of Greek musicians to reinterpret some of his back catalogue. The Greek instrumentation appears to be pretty traditional in the main, with bouzouki, mandolin and zourna joining the usual guitar, bass and drums.

Most of these revisitations are a good deal busier than the sparser originals, and to be honest, most of them fall short of the originals. Western Sky is one of the more successful interpretations, though the Greek instruments completely dominate the mood, changing it entirely from the original. Nightwatchman is probably one of the best ones here. While I still maintain it pales in comparison to the original, it still sounds mightily impressive, with a soaring melody.

One of two tracks don’t really work. Here They Roll Down sounds quite strange, with instruments wheezing in the background while Eitzel booms away in the foreground. The more it goes on, the more manic and odd it becomes, sounding almost nightmarish by the end. I also figure that Anything, one of the better songs on Invisible Man is totally miscast here. On Invisible Man it was a tale of longing, on a bed of brooding electronica. Here the instrumentation is way too busy, and the whole mood and feel of the song is transformed into something more joyous.

Some of Eitzel’s more sensitive songs feature here (Jenny, Will You Find Me and Last Harbour). It’s not quite butchery, but this album might have worked better without Eitzel involved, as it is these songs are too readily comparable with the originals, and suffer by comparison. It’s a fairly inessential, yet interesting diversion. Mark's Achilles' heel?!

Ideal circumstances to listen: On a boat cruising around the Greek islands on a warm August day, drinking Ouzo.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Album Review: (smog) – Rain On Lens

This is one of the more frustrating Smog/Bill Callahan albums. Released in 2001, with the addition of parentheses () it finds them/him moving away from the country sound of the Puke EP. The title track is a short intro which creates a pleasing foreboding atmosphere, but what follows is a series of ‘plod-along’ tracks which are fine in themselves but a whole album of them gets very repetitive. Each track kind of melds into the next one, and most of them go on far too long at 4 or 5 minutes, with little variation and no choruses.

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with any of these mechanised, grinding tracks, but a whole album of them gets a little dull. Dirty Pants is one of the stronger tracks, kicking off with what sounds like a metal hammer knocking in some nails and then some low-slung growling guitar, but this one actually evolves with a nice violin part in the middle. Lazy Rain isn’t bad either, a Velvet Underground style tale of walking home in the early hours to be greeted by a waiting (waking) female.

Probably one of the best things about this album is some of the titles. Live As If Someone Is Always Watching You isn’t quite as good a song as it is a title, it’s a little more at ease, more stripped down than some of the others, and final track Revanchism I can only surmise is something to do with ‘revanche’ which I gather is French for revenge. This track is almost jaunty, with some horns, and a couple of stops and starts which makes it at least more attention grabbing than the rest of the album.

If this was the first Smog album I had heard I probably wouldn’t have pursued any others.

Ideal circumstances to listen: On a, yes, rainy day walking down a dark stifling tunnel.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Album Review: REM – Fables of the Reconstruction

REM’s third album, originally released in 1985 never received great reviews, and as far as I know is not a fan favourite. It’s not the most alluring of albums, they changed the sound which had worked so well on Murmur and Reckoning and moved to England to record it with Joe Boyd. Replacing the bright sound of its predecessors with a strange kind of lethargic murk, for those familiar with later REM this is a curious beast. The album doesn’t really care whether you like it or not, not like the likes of The One I Love, or even the Out of Time album, specifically Losing My Religion which reaches out and gives you a great big vice-like hug.

Anyway, opener Feeling Gravity’s Pull certainly doesn’t want to hug you, starting with a dischordant guitar which leads into some strings, giving the song a foreboding air. The Peter Buck jangly charm is still here, just overlaid by other things going on. Michael Stipe’s lyrics are as impenetrable as ever, making this a ‘grower’ of an album rather than an instant one. Even hearing it now, it’s quite a jarring first track. Maps and Legends is fairly direct, with a relatively simple chord progression and a great vocal performance.

Driver 8 is faster, with an almost country influence on Stipe’s vocals in the upbeat chorus. It’s one of the faster REM songs in a mostly midtempo catalogue, and certainly one of the most propulsive things her on a mostly blissfully downbeat album. Tracks like Old Man Kensey, Green Grow the Rushes and Good Advices are very pretty, in a looking down at your feet kind of way (as advised by Good Advices: “when you meet a stranger look at his shoes”).

There are faint influences of the Durutti Column on this album (Life and How to Live It) and some rather unfortunate brass-funk (Can’t Get There From Here), but on the whole it’s an enjoyable album.

Ideal circumstances to listen: Walking through a dense forested area on a dry, humid Thursday in September.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Are there any really consistent bands?

In an age of intangible music formats, X-factor here-today-gone-tomorrow clowns, more so-called indie bands than you can shake a stick at, not to mention every second older band reforming, today’s music scene is arguably more transient than ever before.

In the supposed ‘golden age’ of rock, there were consistent acts like the Rolling Stones, Neil Young and David Bowie to name just 3 who had a superb string of albums (especially the last 2) and seemed untouchable. Until the crap one came along.

In the case of the Rolling Stones, this arrived in 1980 with Emotional Rescue, which took some of the disco beat experiments and Jagger falsettoisms from their previous album, the not-too-bad-at-all Some Girls, and fleshed them into a basis for an album. The impact of this was to render them unable to subsequently release any more than 2 more tracks of musical merit, the following years’ Start Me Up and the excellent Waiting On A Friend. And they still haven’t gone away you know.

Neil Young’s case is less straightforward. After a string of almost flawless albums from 1970’s After the Goldrush to 1979’s Rust Never Sleeps, 1981 saw the release of the pretty uninspiring Re-ac-tor (featuring the 9 minute repetitive yawn-fest T-Bone). Since then his solo career has not been totally merit-free (Freedom, Harvest Moon and Silver and Gold all had their moments), though it never scaled the heights of the 1970s.

Similarly with the aforementioned David Bowie. He bestrode the 70s like a colossus, with some brilliant albums (Hunky Dory, Aladdin Sane, Low), some very good ones (Ziggy Stardust) and some critically acclaimed (though overrated) ones (Diamond Dogs, Station to Station, Heroes). He inspired punk, post-punk and even the new Romantics, and invented Berlin as a cool destination for making music. So he could have defined 80s mainstream music. Unfortunately he let it define him. Let’s Dance was the start of it. Commercial as hell, aside from the title track it featured a terribly sanitised version of China Girl, which he wrote for Iggy Pop in 1977, which set the benchmark for the remainder of the decade. He released cheesy albums like Tonight and Never Let Me Down, before forming the noisy and tedious Tin Machine. Since then, he has been less relevant, releasing a series of albums in divergent musical styles, none of which has been awful but few with any really high quality tracks.

I can’t claim ownership of any of the above as I was too young for them in their prime. So what of the next generations of bands. Are there any who have managed a string of consistent albums, without any let downs?

Definitely out of the reckoning: Morrissey (Kill Uncle, Maladjusted, Years of Refusal), Mark Eitzel (despite the quality of the American Music Club albums, his solo albums are generally pretty patchy), The Cure (should never have been allowed release anything after 1989), Jesus and Mary Chain (ditto except fast forward to 1994). Also out would be Sonic Youth - too many dodgy noise experiments, key piece of evidence being their collaboration with Mats Gustafsson, Hidros 3, which consists of little more than noise and some particularly nasty groaning from Kim Gordon.

The Lemonheads released a pretty awful covers album last year (Varshons), and Primal Shame are really just a bunch of chancers. And Lurid (Lou Reed) had the same problem in the 1980s as Bowie and Neil Young. As for the grunge scene, Pearl Jam didn’t keep their initial momentum going, in fact they deliberately pulled back, while Soundgarden were all well and good but I don’t know if Chris Cornell’s credibility will ever recover from last year’s Timbaland-produced Scream.

Arab Strap were a candidate, though I was reminded that they were off the boil sometimes, and had too many albums that sounded the same. And the problem with Ryan Adams, apart from the awful Rock N Roll, was the media attention he received turned him into a pain in the neck really, which manifested itself in some of his music, of which he released too much to even approach consistency.

REM is an interesting one. 1994’s Monster is probably the most bought REM album. What I mean is that, with their critical stock at an all-time high after Automatic for the People, everybody wanted Monster. What an aptly named album though, within months you could pick this up easily in any second-hand music shop (of which there used to be plenty in the mid-90s). They haven’t released anything of note since. But imagine Michael Stipe had died after Automatic for the People, he would be deemed way more important than Kurt Cobain. There were rumours about his health at this time. Thankfully he is alive and well, though if a hypothetical premature death had occurred I’d say he’d have been revered, almost deified.

As for the possibles, the first band that occurred to me was the National. Although the first album wasn’t really anything special, subsequent albums have been way better. Though perhaps it’s them remaking the same album, just better each time? Radiohead would probably be the most obvious candidate, though it’s hard to make a case for Hail to the Thief as a truly enjoyable album. Nick Cave probably counts as one but he’s just so goddamn unloveable really, I can never get truly moved by him. He seems incapable of getting bad reviews though.

Mark Kozelek is probably an example of this, ever since his Red House Painting days, and perhaps Mark Lanegan would count too, no serious mis-steps (in my opinion). Tindersticks would also be one, though it’s probably just for my ears really. Richmond Fontaine are discounted as they don’t really make much impact, and I actually prefer Willy Vlautin’s books, I’d argue that’s where his true talent lies.

The problem is that many bands just make the same album over and over (often with diminishing returns), does that make them consistent? All feedback welcome!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Album Review: The Go-Betweens – Oceans Apart

The Go-Betweens’ third album after regrouping, released in 2005 turned out to be their last. Song for song it’s probably their strongest. Robert Forster was on particularly good form here, opener Here Comes A City has a great jerky, snappy rhythm to it, all choppy guitar and clever lyrics (“why do people who read Dostoevsky look like… Dostoevsky). It's almost like Talking Heads, when Forster goes "hey, hey, hey" before the guitar solo he sounds just like David Byrne. There’s a change of pace for Finding You, a Grant McLennan mid-paced track featuring mandolin, very reminiscent of REM (when they were good).

Both Forster and McLennan are on good form here. McLennan’s are usually more commercial sounding and here it’s no different, any of his songs would sound good in more mainstream surroundings, especially the uptempo acoustic Boundary Rider.

But it’s Forster’s tracks which represent the edgier side of the Go-Betweens. Darlinghurst Nights is the emotional heart of the album, featuring a great descending acoustic guitar riff, full of yearning, matching the subject matter, concerning itself mainly with memories, and a nice Dylan reference in the bridge (“one more coffee then I must go”). He even tries his hand at a semi-reggae piece, Lavender, which shouldn’t work but actually does, helped in the main by the guitars and some cool-sounding lyrics “she’s got a pair of black boots that kick stones she’s got black moods she calls her own”). It’s a straightforward enough song about a girl who “wears lavender, it’s her scent” but it avoids cliché.

Final track, Mountains Near Dellray, sounds enormous, like it’s being performed on the aforementioned mountains, drifting across the valley. In fact Mark Wallis’ production is a little overwrought, as all the tracks boom out of the speakers, both the uptempo ones and the more delicate ones. A subtler production would have been preferable.

Ideal listening circumstances: Driving on a sunny day, late morning in spring, on your way to an event you are dreading and looking forward to in equal measures.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Album Review: Stuart A Staples – Lucky Dog Recordings 03-04

A solo album from Stuart Staples is a curious beast. Or should I say, Stuart ‘A’ Staples. It sounds like Tindersticks with some bits taken out, which is precisely what it is, as he is helped out here by various members of Tindersticks. So not a major departure then, upon release in 2005.

It’s not till the second track (the first is a rather slight instrumental) Marseilles Sunshine, where we hear the lugubrious vocals of Staples. It’s a yearning plea of a song, probably one of the most fully realised here featuring a great bit of guitar in the bridge from Neil Fraser and glockenspiel from David Boulter.

Friday Night is a reasonably sparse track, with light percussion and mainly organ, giving Staples’ vocals great room to breathe and own the song. It’s a great vocal performance, he sings with real sensitivity here.

Many of the other tracks are mere sketches, a lilting refrain repeated ad nauseum (Shame On You, Dark Days) and don’t quite work. It’s hard not to get the feeling that something is missing.

Towards the end there are some more fleshed-out songs, which are very much in the vein of Tindersticks. People Fall Down sounds wonderfully downtrodden. Again the arrangements are not particularly busy, giving space to the vocals. There’s some atmospheric saxophone towards the end, not an instrument I’m particularly fond of, but it works perfectly here.

She Don’t Have To Be Good To Me sounds like the sun has broken through the clouds, clearing the rain away using a nice horn section midway through. It’s relaxed and sounds like a dry run for his follow solo album, Leaving Songs. Final track I’ve Come a Long Way draws a nice full stop at the end of the album, aided by more horns.

It’s an interesting curio, not Stuart Staples strongest bunch of songs, though he sings them very well for the most part.

Ideal circumstances to listen: As ever with Tindersticks-related material, walking along a cobble-stoned alleyway on a rainy, grimy night in late autumn (October/November). Perhaps in a small town in France.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Album Review: Elliott Smith – Roman Candle

Elliott Smith released his debut in 1994, a short album running to just half an hour in duration. It’s largely his breathy vocals and acoustic guitar, with some electric guitar overdubs. The odd backing vocal here and there. No percussion. So it should be awful. Further more only 5 of the 9 songs have titles, the others being No Name #1, #2, #3 and #4.

It sounds very intimate, with every breath of his vocals and every movement of his fingers clearly audible, perhaps due to the 4-track production. The title track sets the tone for the album, with it’s insistent guitars and slightly menacing refrain (“I want to hurt him, I want to give him pain”). Condor Avenue is in a similar vein, and sounds like the raw materials for his later, more well-known material.

No Name #1 and No Name #2 have a more relaxed feel, #2 throwing in some harmonica. What separates this from the usual run-of-the-mill singer-songwriter fare is some unexpected chord changes which crop up all over the album, notably in No Name #3.

It’s a little samey when listened to right through, though final track Kiwi Maddog 20/20, an instrumental, is a welcome departure, with surf-style guitar. The rest of it can be bracketed with Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate etc.

I understand this album has been recently remastered and re-released, which I presume means cleaned up to make it ‘sound better’. Shame. Part of the charm is the little glitches here and there on the album. And I am fond of hearing fingers sliding over guitar strings.

Ideal circumstances to listen: Cliché it may be, but a darkened room in January at about 2am with the ice running down the window… and down your veins.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Album Review: Dakota Suite – This River Only Brings Poison

I’ve started typing a review of this 2003 album several times, and then scrapping it. It’s an album I’m finding very difficult to write coherently about. Which is not to say I don’t like it. It’s probably Dakota Suite’s most complete work, certainly in the conventional ‘rock’ music setting anyway.

Mainman Chris Hooson travelled to San Francisco for a portion of this album, recording with Bruce Kaphan (pedal steel) and Tim Mooney (drums) of American Music Club ‘fame’. There is prominent pedal steel on several of these tracks. The album opens with The Lepers Companion, which features the aforementioned instrument over a slow tempo and Hooson’s languid vocals, setting the template for what is to follow. Boats in a Sunken Ocean is driven by horns and features some prettily strummed guitar.

Most of the instrumentation on the album is quite subtle. Guitars are plucked rather than played, with touches of piano, steel guitar here and there as adornments, as opposed to fighting for dominance. Let’s Share Wounds is one of the busier songs, with electric guitar and harmonium, and there are couple of great duets featuring the vocals of Laura Donohue (Sand Fools The Shoreline, How Safe We Must Seem). The second of these is particularly strong, acoustic guitar overlaid with Kaphan’s soaring steel guitar.

The album is also notable for some palate-cleansing instrumentals (Finished River, Verdriet, Matching Eyes and Hands) usually featuring piano, and occasional strings, harmonium etc.

The Ferris Wheels of Winter is one of the longer tracks at seven and a half minutes. It sounds like sunset, with piano and guitar ‘hammer-ons’ to the fore, before glorious mariachi-style horns come in for the chorus. It continues in this vein till just before the end where we get a great coda of David Buxton and Hooson’s intertwining guitarpicking.

It’s the perfect album for a lazy summer afternoon.
Ideal circumstances to listen: Around 3.30pm on a warm yet overcast Monday afternoon in August, when you’re supposed to be somewhere else but in fact you’re having a peaceful afternoon at home.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Album Review: Mark Eitzel – Music for Courage and Confidence

The dreaded cover album. Cover albums are often a recipe for dodgy music. Theoretically a cover album sees established artists paying tribute to their influences. In reality, it sees them performing pale imitations of much-loved songs in the main. The ones which tend to work the best are where the songs are not particularly well-known, therefore they don’t have a legacy to tarnish and often by covering them it brings them to a wider audience. The likes of Mark Kozelek takes a different approach, ditching the original melody (as he does with his ACDC covers) and recasting the songs as his own.

As a sort of like-minded artist, it was fair enough to expect a decent cover album from Mark Eitzel in 2002. Unfortunately this isn’t it. For long-time fans of Mark Eitzel, this might have been an opportunity to hear him tackle some dark obscurities. Typically he takes a different tack, by covering songs by mostly mainstream artists, from Bill Withers to Kris Kristofferson.

Although for many of these tracks he takes the Mark Kozelek approach, ie composing a melody and shoehorning the song into it, it has to be said that in the main this doesn’t work for him. Many of the tracks (Do You Really Want To Hurt Me, I Only Have Eyes For You, More,More,More) feature electronica which would probably work quite well on its own, but tends to clash with these tracks, leaving them sounding quite odd really.

On other tracks he plays it straight. Ain’t No Sunshine is a largely faithful rendition of the Bill Withers track, but it doesn’t depart much from the original, leaving it merely sounding like a depressed version of the song. Help Me Make It Through The Night fares worse, with a mechanised beat plodding its way through the song. To be fair Eitzel doesn’t do a bad job of singing the song, though he ruins it with a spoken dedication at the end of the track which sounds a bit cringey really. And his choice of Move On Up is just totally bizarre, he’s the last person you would expect to do a karaoke version of this horn-driven soul song.

The most successful songs are the vaguely countryish ballads (Snowbird, Gentle On My Mind, Rehearsals for Retirement) which suit his voice a lot better. In truth, these don’t hold a candle to anything else in his catalogue. I’ll Be Seeing You, is a kind of farewell, Eitzel dropping his register to sound like modern day Leonard Cohen, and works pretty well.

Much as it pains me to say so, this is an experiment which is best forgotten.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

EP Review: Smog – ‘Neath the Puke Tree

Smog released this EP in 2000, consisting of a couple of new songs and some re-recorded ones. The country-tinged I Was A Stranger, originally on the excellent Red Apple Falls album, is revisited here in a slightly more relaxed version, and with Bill Callahan’s vocals sounding more like a late 60s vintage Leonard Cohen, ie deep and vulnerable. Your Sweet Entrance is more familiar territory for Smog, as in it’s terribly sparse and not particularly appealing on the surface, yet it worms its way into your head with a nicely off-kilter guitar riff.

Jar of Sand is distinguished by what sounds like an actual jar of sand swishing back and forth in the background underneath another sparse track, Bill Callahan singing about a “tidepool just deep enough to drown in”. The Leonard Cohen voice is back for the somewhat dark Orion Obscured by Stars, while final track Coacheecayoo is a little brighter, Callahan singing stuff and nonsense over a loping finger picking pattern.

This one is tricky enough to find, probably for Callahan-obsessives only (interesting notion: being obsessive about an obsessive).

Monday, July 5, 2010

Album Review: The National – Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers

The National’s second album, 2003’s Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers was where the band really started off in earnest, as their self-titled debut was pretty unremarkable. Within seconds of the first track, Cardinal Song, you’re transported immediately into brooding, melancholic territory with Matt Berninger’s voice centre stage over slowly unfolding music, as Berninger lays down his ‘rules of engagement’: (“never tell the one you want that you do”). It drifts along pleasantly for 3 or 4 minutes, with hints of Red House Painters and American Music Club until the notes of a piano take the song to a different place entirely and a beautiful violin part takes over, darkening the song wonderfully. It's a brave and uncompromising start to an ambitious album.

The pace picks up with Slipping Husband, with a simple descending guitar part where Berninger sings with heavy regret, calling to mind the likes of Feargal McKee (Whipping Boy), yet with a ‘head full of attitude’ as lines like “dear we better get a drink in you before you start to bore us” illustrate. The music is superb, the band play with just the right pace.

90-Mile Water Wall is gentler, with an acoustic guitar and fiddle. Berninger is particularly prominent on this album in comparison to later albums, his voice really owns many of these songs. There are some really great lyrics here: “how could your hair have the nerve to dance around like that”. The first half of this album is as strong a set of songs as on any album by any band. It Never Happened has a similar feel, regret being the primary emotion as Berninger sings “we look younger than we feel and older than we are.”

Things get a bit heavier and dirtier with Murder Me Rachael, underpinned by a great violin part and distorted guitars and some great, if a little creepy lyrics (“I loved her to ribbons”, “tomorrow won’t be pretty”). The song builds and builds to a climax with Berninger screaming his vocals towards the end. Thirsty is quieter, though no less urgent. Again there’s a fairly simple, descending melody but on this, like many of the other songs it’s the little touches that make the songs: a little violin here, some guitar there and more great lyrics. “Take these girly arms,” Berninger sings, “and ever keep me”, very resonant lines in my view.

The heaviest song is Available, which belts along with driving guitar and heavy drums. It's not like anything else in the National's song catalogue, melodically it’s like Joy Division with added distortion, the verses are underpinned with some filthy guitars in the background. It’s one of the best songs I’ve ever heard, the melody, lyrics and music combine fantastically. There’s a kind of pause in the middle, where the song is almost catching its breath with Berninger spitting out in disgust the line “you… just… made yourself available.” The song then kicks back into gear with even more frenzy than before, until Berninger loses it completely, screaming “WHY DID YOU DRESS ME DOWN, DRESS ME DOWN?” before eschewing lyrics altogether and just screaming blue murder. It’s an utterly brilliant moment, and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time.

The rest of the album isn’t quite as strong, but it would be almost impossible to keep a run of brilliant songs like those. Suffice to say that for the first seven songs alone, this an album to put up there with The Smiths, American Music Club et al. Of course, they are a different band now. Berninger has evolved as a lyricist and singer, and their songs have become subtler, yet I am saddened by the fact they don’t play these songs any more.