Thursday, 20 February 2014

Top 10 90's Hip-Hop Albums

As the likes of Wu-Tang Clan and Mobb Deep get ready to drop new material on us in 2014, while Nas celebrates his rise to the throne two decades back with the reissue of Illmatic XX, there's no better time to look back and reflect upon the golden age of rap by counting down the greatest hip-hop albums of that decade, and therefore, some of the greatest of all time.

10. Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous- Big L (March 28, 1995)

You're nobody till somebody kills you; Harlem rapper Big L received average reviews when he dropped his debut album in 1995 but nowadays, following his murder in 1999, Lifestylez is heralded as a 90's hip-hop classic, its rightful status in my opinion. L is a lyrical maestro for sure and he flows with surprisingly accomplished vocabulary over sampled production and typical 90's beats, but the standout aspect of Big L's only lifetime release is the very real, visceral nature of the street tales that the New York native spits. A truly underrated classic.

9. Doggystyle- Snoop Doggy Dogg (November 23, 1993)

The irresistible funk and party grooves that oozed out of Snoop Dogg's debut album are what make it such a classic. Following on from Dr. Dre's 1992 classic The Chronic (which you may also find on this list), Snoop and his mentor produced a record that was a relief from the troubled vibes of gang wars and poverty that dominated rap's subject matter at the time; Snoop simply wanted to get high and flow his ryhmes over Dre's delighfully playful production, and he flowed quite majestically it must be said.

8. Me Against The World- Tupac (March 14, 1995)

It'll probably upset the Tupac faithful that All Eyez On Me didn't make it here, but for my money, Me Against The World was the late rap star's greatest work. Without the (forgive me) filler of Eyez daunting double album tracklist, Me Against The World was Pac at his most commercial and accessible, with classic rap ballads like ''So Many Tears'' and ''Dear Mama'' being remembered still among his greatest tracks, while Pac's fear and anger toward gangland troubles was dealt with in ''If I Die 2Nite'' and ''Death Around The Corner''. This was the moment when Tupac welcomed his demons in, confronted his darkest issues and told the world of his deepest feelings in an emotional magnum opus.

7. The Chronic- Dr. Dre (December 15, 1992)

Before Snoop's debut album in '93, he was introduced to the world by Dr. Dre on The Chronic, a landmark recording that went on to significantly shape the landscape of hip-hop throughout the decade. I've always thought it was strange not to credit Snoop alongside Dre as the album artist- he was featured on 13 of the album's 16 tracks, and made Dre look silly with his rhyming skills, but take nothing away from the former NWA man- this is one of the best produced albums in hip-hop history with its innovative, ground breaking ''G-Funk'' sound.

6. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... - Raekwon (Feat. Ghostface Killah) (August 1, 1995)

The defining product of Wu Tang Clan's solo output (alongside the next album down this list) came from Raekwon and Ghostface Killah with the majestic Cuban Linx, an album so rich in story and narrative that it may have been a novel or motion picture in another world. Under their own self appointed monikers, Rae and Ghost set out on a journey to fame and fortune in drug crime game, leading them to quick riches, shady characters, betrayal, revenge and ultimately redemption in the greatest rap story ever told. It's cinematic scope is complimented to perfection by RZA's best ever production, and Rae and Ghost's effortless yet almost impossible flow as they bounce of each other like no hip-hop pairing before.

5. Liquid Swords- GZA (November 7, 1995)

Some of the greatest sounds of 1990's hip-hop came from Wu Tang production genius RZA's basement, and just like Cuban Linx before it, Liquid Swords owes a huge debt to the majestic backing provided for GZA's accomplished raps. Here the Wu get more contemplative and deeper than ever before; Raekwon and Ghost were searching for fame and fortune, GZA was looking for deeper meaning, encorporating philosophical rhymes over a darkened, surreal backdrop that took you deep into the Kung Fu nightmare that Wu Tang's two original founders wanted you to lose yourself inside.

4. Ready To Die- The Notorious B.I.G (September 13, 1994)

When it came to the inevitable Biggy vs. Pac debate that hip-hop heads love to rage over, I was always a Christopher Wallace man, but then again, I don't believe for a second that they were the two greatest rapper of all time either. My reasons for picking BIG are similar to most- exceptional wordplay and delivery, rich storytelling and compelling lyrics, all of which dominate Ready To Die, the ultimate rag to riches hip-hop fairytale. Ready To Die was more accessible than most hip-hop of the decade- rather than the bleak, minimal production that featured in most classics at the time, Biggy was backed by cathcy, almost pop like beats on ''Juicy'', ''Big Poppa'' and ''One More Chance'', all of which led to this being one of the most successful rap albums ever and brought BIG the success he craved and the legacy he immediately deserved.

3. The Infamous- Mobb Deep (April 25, 1995)

The sheer intensity of the blistering, unforgiving 66 minutes of this Queensbridge duo's second album is what makes it such an unforgettable masterpiece; this is the very real sound of growing up in the New York projects and fighting for survival in the game, captured inside a bottle comprised of raw beats, haunting soundscapes, outstanding visual lyricism, hyper agressive flow and true grit atitude. Quite simply, one of the most perfect rap albums ever created.

2. Enter The Wu Tang: 36 Chambers- Wu Tang Clan (November 9, 1993)

How can rap be dead if Wu Tang is forever? 36 Chambers was the start of a movement that changed rap and introduced some of its most greatest, and certainly most memorable stars- from the seemingly possessed, eccentric spirit of Ol' Dirty Bastard to the laid back, stoner rap of Method Man, as well as Inspectah Deck's lyrical genius and the aforementioned skills of RZA, GZA, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, not to mention U-God, Masta Killa, Cappandonna and the Wu's countless other associates, Enter The Wu Tang brought you nothing but raw skill in buckets. The overload of talent on the mic throughout 36 Chambers is enough to overwhelm anyone with even a slight interest in hip-hop music, and it's no surprise that afterwards the Clan went on to craft some of the greatest rap albums of the decade and all time on their own, but there's just something about the spontaneous, instinctive genius on 36 Chambers, all caught inside a basement studio by 9 incredibly gifted individual performers, that makes this album so special and unique. 

1. Illmatic- Nas (April 19, 1994)

The greatest of them all, in my humble opinion. Nas shook the hip-hop world with Illmatic, the most vivid picture of the streets ever painted by a music artist. As the man himself said in 2012: ''It wasn't about being a rap star; it was about anything other than... [it] needed to be documented and my life needed to be told."

And so he told us stories about gang violence, drug crime, jail time, depression and savage poverty, through ridiculously complex, intricate rhymes and flawless lyricism delivered with unprecedented vocal skill. Nas was obsessed with integrity, which meant remaining loyal and true to his roots while creating a powerful, brutally honest picture of his upbringing and surroundings, and his strive for artistic perfection was a vital ingredient in making this the most complete, unabridged product in rap history.

Nas has spent the rest of his career trying with mixed results to follow Illmatic, but the truth is there's no way to replicate that kind of glory; it was a product of its time, and a moment of utter perfection.

Any major fans of the genre will probably want to murder me after reading this list because no two will ever be the same, so before I go I better drop in a list of honourable mentions that came close but didn't quite make the list. Peace!

2Pac- All Eyez On Me
2Pac- The Don Killuminati
A Tribe Called Quest- Midnight Maruaders
Eminem- The Slim Shady LP
Ice Cube- AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted
Public Enemy- Fear Of A Black Planet

Alex Turner Gives Heroic Acceptance Speech At The Otherwise Pointless BRIT Awards

Much like it's American counterpart the Grammys this past January, last night's BRIT Awards was no more than it's usual pointless celebration of musical mediocrity save for a brief moment of brilliance from Arctic Monkey's frontman Alex Turner, who took his acceptance speech for Best British Album as an opportunity to deliver a spiel of epic proportions.

The Sheffield local turned rock superstar has turned heads with his vintage style and retro rock look of late, and he was out in his usual attire as he adressed the celebrity audience with this drunken poetic ramble which reflected the band's classic rock style on their acclaimed, and now award-winning 5th effort, AM :

''That rock & roll, eh? That rock & roll, it just won’t go away.

It might hibernate from time to time and sink back into the swamp. I think the cyclical nature of the universe in which it exists demands it adheres to some of its rules. But it’s always waiting there, just around the corner, ready to make its way back through the sludge and smash through the glass ceiling, looking better than ever.

Yeah, that rock & roll, it seems like it’s fading away sometimes, but it will never die. And there’s nothing you can do about it.''

There was a considerable response to Turner's remarks with many praising his originality and passion, while others dismissed it as a rude or pretentious move. I suppose they were probably waiting with baited breath for a typical thanks to his family, friends, dog, cat and goldfish. If you're asking me though, that's pure class, the like of which we don't hear very often.

In any case, the rest of the evening was spent awarding prizes to a selection of the most boring acts in the UK, with the likes of Sam Smith, Bastille and Rudimental picking up the gold for who cares what, while in some good news, David Bowie surpisingly came away with Best Male following the release of his triumphant comeback record The Nexy Day, while Daft Punk were named Best International Group.

AM came close to the top of Heavy Metal Mouth's Top 25 Albums of 2013 countdown at the end of last year; you can check out my Top 10 Albums here or alternatively, take a look at the HMM 2013 Annual.

Friday, 14 February 2014

De La Soul Are Offering You Their Entire Catalogue For Free Until 12pm Tomorrow... Get On It

De La Soul have made their entire catalogue of music available for free download from their website in celebration of the 25th anniversary of their landmark debut album 3 Feet High And Rising.

The hip-hop masterpiece will be available alongside other classic De La Soul works such as De La Soul Is Dead (1991) and Bulhoone Mindstate (1993), but only until tomorrow noon, meaning you should act fast in order to procure these musical gems. The band announced this download party yesterday, scheduled to last for 25 hours having begun at 11am this morning.

The reasoning behind the band's unique offer is the trouble that fans have accessing De La Soul's music through iTunes and similar music players online due to the band's repeated problems with sampling clearances, an ironic problem considering the group's mastery of sample usage in their production is the very reason for their legacy and influence today.

Band memeber Posdnuos admits that there have been long delays in sorting out their discography, saying that the band is ''working very hard to get that solved'' and pointing to contractual issues to highlight the niggling issues that have thus far led to frustration for De La Soul fans.

Today you can get it all for free though, and Posdnuos wanted to explain why: "It's about allowing our fans who have been looking and trying to get a hold of our music to have access to it. It's been too long where our fans haven't had access to everything. This is our way of showing them how much we love them."

There you have it folks- sweet, free, legal music right at your doorstep. Go get some.

Listen: 5 Weird & Wonderful Covers Featuring Arctic Monkeys, Haim, Chvrches, London Grammar & MØ

It's usually a truly horrifying thing to see classic tunes pop back into the charts covered by X Factor's flavour of the month (yes, I am looking directly at you, Alexandra Burke, for your still unforgivable desecration of ''Hallelujah''). On the other hand, it can be a wonderful thing to hear a great song interpreted by one of your favourite bands, and these 5 recent musical adaptions were perhaps outlandish choices for their respective artists, but make for excellent listening times.

Chvrches- Do I Wanna Know? (Artcic Monkeys)

Chvrches take the infectious rip roaring opening of Arctic Monkeys magnificent AM and strip it back, delivering a synth pop beauty like only the Scottish trio can.

London Grammar- Pure Shores (All Saints)

Come on lads, let's drop the facade, we all know ''Pure Shores'' is an absolute classic. I don't know a single person who isn't madly in love with the original of this song, although I know many who wouldn't be willing to admit it. London Grammar have made it more acceptable to admit your All Saints tendencies here by inserting a cool electronic beat underneath the track.

MØ- Say You'll Be There (The Spice Girls)

Perhaps I'm embarrassing myself at this point, but I also have to admit I've long been harboring a soft spot for The Spice Girls too as well as the aforementioned All Saints. Their 1996 mega hit ''Say You'll Be There'' is given an electronic makeover here by Danish singer MO, who happens to be dropping her debut album this March 10. If this stunningly executed cover is anything to go by, it should be one to look out for next month.

Arctic Monkeys- Hold On, We're Going Home (Drake)

Witness this Live Lounge moment of wonder as Alex Turner provides stone cold evidence of his complete transformation from spotty teenager to sex God as the Monkeys deliver a delightfully funky cover of one of my favourite single from last year.

Haim- Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus)

I've been a somewhat rare advocate of Miley Cyrus' new musical direction in recent times, but for those of who are most definitely anti-twerk, here's something you may prefer, as Haim inject a blast of soul and blues into Miley's biggest hit.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Drake Disses Macklemore For Kendrick Apology Text; He's Dead Right Too

The normally placid Aubrey Graham/Drake has spoken out pretty bluntly about his feelings on Macklemore's apology text to Kendrick Lamar after his Grammy win, claiming ''that shit was wack as fuck''. In other words, the Toronto rapper doesn't approve of Macklemore's decision to share his private message to Lamar online via Instagram, and who can blame him- behold the cringe inducing brown nosing of what follows here:

''You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have. It's weird and it sucks that I robbed you. I was gonna say that during the speech. Then the music started playing and I froze.''

Oh dear, that's hard to take in without a shiver. Yes, this was the exact wording of Macklemore's message to Kendrick, whom he felt should have picked up the gong for Best Rap Album following his release of good kid, m.A.A.d city back in October 2012, rather than himself for his record The Heist with Ryan Lewis.

When asked how he felt about the text, Drake, speaking on behalf of anyone in the world who read that slobbering plea, stated: "I was like, 'You won. Why are you posting your text message? Just chill... if you feel you didn't deserve it, go get better – make better music. It felt cheap. It didn't feel genuine. Why do that? Why feel guilt? You think those guys would pay homage to you if they won?"

Drake was also vocal about Macklemore's decision just to shout out to Lamar, rather than the rest of the nominees in that category: "To name just Kendrick? That shit made me feel funny. No, in that case, you robbed everybody. We all need text messages."

He might be waiting a while for that one.

In any case, Drake plays The O2 this March as part of his live show ''Would You Like A Tour?'', in support of the Canadian's third album, Nothing Was The Same, while Macklemore and Ryan Lewis will be touring their quadruple Grammy Award winning (whether he likes it or not) album in 2014 also, dropping into Ireland at Marley Park this July.

Odd Future A ''threat to public order''; Banned From New Zealand

Controversial rap collective Odd Future have been denied entry to New Zealand having been ''deemed a threat to public order'' by Immigration officials, who yesterday revoked the group's earlier approved visa's. The hip-hop group were scheduled to perform at the Rapture festival while supporting Eminem, but officials denied 6 OF members entry to the country, claiming that the band has incited riots and violence against police officers in the past.

The incident in question took place in 2011 when Tyler The Creator, the group's leader, was alleged to have insulted police officials while they attempted to control possible overcrowding at an autograph signing by the band in a comic book store in Boston. The same year, the group were removed from the Big Day Out Festival in Auckland, with the City Council objecting to their offensive lyrical content, however this time around officials have denied that OF are being refused due to lyrics.

“If we banned people who used swear words, we wouldn’t have many people left in New Zealand,” said Border Operations manager Karen Irwin.

The full statement released by Immigration New Zealand to 3 News was as follows:

"The Immigration Act 2009 provides that entry permission may not be granted where there is reason to believe there is, or is likely to be, a threat or risk to public order or the public interest."

"Odd Future has been deemed to be a potential threat to public order and the public interest for several reasons, including incidents at past performances in which they have incited violence. In one instance, a police officer was hospitalised following a riot incited by Odd Future."

In response, OF manager Christian Clancy tweeted: "sorry new zealand apparently this group of kids that have inspired the shit out of me for the last few years are a threat to society. ... and thanks for the hour before flight heads up. after approving and issuing visas."


While it's true that the band have often provoked outrage with their misogynistic and homophobic lyrics, this seems a tad over the top for a group that possess major criminal records and perhaps hypocritical considering they guy they were scheduled to perform with has probably outdone them tenfold in the controversy department, what with threatening to murder his wife and carrying a chainsaw around on stage.

Interestingly, earlier this year on January 27th, OF member Earl Sweatshirt played the Laneway Festival in Auckland with no issue surrounding his entry.

Tyler and Earl, accompanied by several of their Odd Future cohorts, also supported Eminem last year at Slane.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Experimental Albums: The Good, The Bad & The Misunderstood

What with James Vincent McMorrow discovering a love of synth's on Post Tropical, Bombay Bicycle Club going all electro pop on us and Young Fathers creating one of the early standouts for album of the year with their blend of African tribal music and hip-hop, I'm taking a look back at the best and worst examples of album experiments. The following records either redefined their respective bands in outstanding fashion, ruined stellar reputations or maybe even provided their fans with a piece of work that nobody ever quite got the hang of.

In any case, you can be sure they were interesting. Here are the most daring, illogical and definitely surprising albums in modern music:

The Good

Radiohead- Kid A

Perhaps the ultimate example of a band redesigning and rediscovering themselves, Kid A is the most glorious and triumphant experiment of the 21st century, and one that has influenced countless artists and will continue to for an age. Coming off the back of OK Computer's astonishing critical and commercial success in 1997, band leader Thom Yorke found himself going haywire at the perceived expectation he felt to repeat such a landmark record.

His answer? To craft an album that comprised elements of countless underground, long forgotten and somewhat unthinkable genres of music, resulting in an electronic masterpiece that subsequently caused the music world to pause for deep thought.

The Velvet Underground- White Light, White Heat

The Velvet Underground pretty much created experimental rock music in the 1960's, and their 1968 magnum opus White Light/White Heat defined the experimental album while giving birth to new genres of music through its exploration, most notably punk rock. You can't talk about experimental albums without the first and greatest of them all.

''The Gift'' mashes together an instrumental hard rock jam and a short story about Waldo Jeffers, a young man who tragically mails himself to his long distance girlfriend, while at over 17 minutes long, ''Sister Ray'' deals with  ''a bunch of drag queens taking some sailors home with them, shooting up on smack and having this orgy when the police appear'', in the words of Lou Reed himself. ''I Heard Her Call My Name'' was declared to be the most conventional song on the record... If you've heard it, that statement speaks for itself.

Bob Dylan- Bringing It All Back Home

It may not sound it now, but Bringing It All Back Home was a hugely controversial move for Bob Dylan upon its release in 1965. Confirming Dylan's new found love of electric rock and roll as he was backed by a full band on the first half of the record, fans of the folk legend despaired and protested at this new found love of a heavier sound which would go on to produce some of the greatest albums of the iconic songwriters career. Bringing It All Back Home can comfortably count itself among Dylan's finest works, showcasing a rapid evolution that to this day stands among rock's greatest albums.

Nirvana- In Utero

Arguably this was not an experimental album at all, but the almost metal sound of In Utero was a very purposeful test set out by Kurt Cobain in 1994, designed to scare away fans of Nirvana's seminal pop punk album Nevermind. The breakneck recording of In Utero and its resulting raw production was controversial, and the album was very reluctantly released by Geffen Records following major disputes with the band, having deemed the sound of the album ''unlistenable''. In actual fact this was Nirvana at their most honest and expressive, and In Utero has since been declared one of the finest rock albums ever by several publications for it's definitive picture of Nirvana and their iconic presence, before it was tragically cut short in its prime.

The Bad

Oasis- Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants was, in many ways, the ugly sister to Kid A. Released in the same year, it saw Oasis attempt to explore new territory rather than bash out another Defintely Maybe or Morning Glory, but in spite of their commendable bravery to not bow to expectations, the band's fourth album simply proved that they most definitely should have stuck to their meat and potatoes guitar rock approach. Clumsily employing synths, drum loops and samples throughout its underwhelming 47 minutes, Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants could be seen as one of the first nails in Oasis' coffin, as they struggled to regain their early momentum after the lukewarm critical reception and poor sales of the unfortunate album.

Lou Reed- Metal Machine Music

There's a place for Lou Reed on both sides of this list as many would expect with the recently deceased New Yorker's penchant for experimentation and innovation, both great and terrible. In 1975, Reed dropped a serious case of the later in Metal Machine Music, an album consisting mainly of guitar feedback and other various unappealing noises. The record puzzled fans, who nowadays see the release as a possible joke or the result of a contract obligation that Reed wanted to end on poor terms. Recently, it has received some praise and been cited as a innovative noise album, but if you're asking me, this is simply an experiment gone horribly wrong; 64 minutes of what can barely be described as music.

Chris Cornell- Scream

Chris Cornell and Timbaland sounded like a woeful idea from the offing, but when considered in retrospect it is perhaps surprising that the duo mad such a dog's dinner of this project. Cornell's distinctive vocals are not unsuited to pop/r'n'b music and who better to go to for a producer in this industry than Timbaland with his proven track record of pop hits, but this big budget disaster was simply devoid of any meaning or real direction, instead proving a miscalculated, polished excrement.

Lil Wayne- Rebirth

Many would omit Lil Wayne from this list on the basis that he's always been terrible, but that would be an unfair judgement of a man who has managed to surpass Elvis Presley in terms of hit singles on the Billboard chart, all the while garnering acclaim for releases like Tha Carter III. But Lil Wayne and electric guitars, just like Cornell and hip-hop beats, sounded like a total mess from the beginning. The rapper's 7th album was an attempt to make rock music and featured Wayne on guitar while singing in auto tuned vocals that most certainly did not compliment the already questionable production.

The Misunderstood

Kanye West- 808's & Heartbreak

Kanye's 4th and most polarizing album came at a bad time for the egotistical rapper; he had just upset the entire world by interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the VMA's and been declared a ''jackass'' by Barack Obama himself, and the negative energy that accompanied the hip-hop superstar followed through with a mixed critical reception to the release of 808's & Heartbreak in 2008. Feeding on the crushing personal losses that had dominated his life during recording, 808's saw Ye embrace auto tuned vocals and take a break from the straight up rap style of his original three records, which alienated fans, but the album has proven to be a significant release in recent years, directly influencing major stars like Drake, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd, while West has gone on to drop his most acclaimed and definitive work since.

Intimacy- Bloc Party

The underwhelming response to Bloc party's venture in electronic territory in 2008 was unfair to the band in my mind, as Kele Okerere and company dropped their guitars in order to create a synth heavy concept album about relationships, that drew from the lead singer's personal life troubles. A worthy follow up to two of the decades most acclaimed indie albums, Intimacy was bold and daring in its drastic change of tone, while also lethal in its execution, providing some of the bands best work in songs like the majestic ''Ion Square'', ''Talons'', ''Biko'' and bonus track and single ''Flux'', but its mixed appraisal seemed to damage the band, who went on hiatus afterwards and returned with the indifferent Four in 2012.

Digital Ash In A Digital Urn- Bright Eyes

Conor Oberst peaked in 2005 with the double release of I'm Wide Awake It's Morning and Digital Ash In A Digital Urn, with many commentators declaring him the new Bob Dylan for the intimate, politically conscious folk of the former, but it seemed that the majority of these reviews ignored or dismissed its electronic counterpart, Digital Ash, with its soothing ambient textures and soft electronica. Oberst's poetry was at its finest on both of these albums, and tales of lost love, alcoholism and dark depression were at their most affecting and inspiring over these emotive electro backgrounds, making Digital Ash an album that deserves to be revisited and reevaluated.

Zaireeka- The Flaming Lips

The mind boggling design of Flaming Lip's 8th studio album was a huge problem for many listeners at the time. Consisting of 8 songs recorded on four separate stereo tracks, the album was structured so that when played on 4 different audio systems, it would harmonize together. The album had a glowing endorsement for every outraged detractor, being awarded both a 10/10 rating by NME and 0/10 by Pitchfork. Personally, I still think there's way too much effort involved to care.

Limp Bizkit at The Olympia Theatre (11/02/14)

As they have done their entire career, Limp Bizkit defied the odds last night and packed out the Olympia Theatre last night on their return to Ireland after 4 years away. Nowadays they're recording their seventh (yes, seventh) album, the atrociously titled Stampede Of The Disco Elephants and somehow still attracting audiences worldwide to their live show. Before the gig I pondered to myself about the type of audience one would encounter at a Bizkit gig- newly enticed teenagers (do young people still begin listening to Limp Bizkit these days?) or perhaps those who never got over the first time around, although surely it you'd have to question your life choices at this point if you find yourself still clinging desperately to the memories of that red cap.

But it is the latter who populate the Olympia and just like it was 2000 all over again, Fred Durst is rocking that distinctive baseball cap. The band's entrance to the stage is greeted with a maddening reception from the crowd, and Durst seems to feed off this energy instantly. He asks us ''Are you ready''? I really don't know. Wes Borland, kitted out in his usual elaborate attire, kicks things off with the band at full volume, and in fairness with regards to the setlist, Durst and co. know exactly what their doing and who they are playing for. What we have here is a collection of what I suppose you would deem ''the hits''.

Early on we get tracks taken from the band's two bestselling albums Significant Other and Chocolate Starfish in the form of ''9 Teen 90 Nine'', ''Full Nelson'', the 48 Fuck's of ''Hot Dog'' and ''My Generation'', while occasionally they slip in newer material like ''Gold Cobra'',which the crowd still goes wild to, ignoring the lack of familiarity. Bizkit seem grateful if not shocked about the energy demonstrated by the Irish audience throughout, hundreds of whom form a moshpit that seems to compass the entire floor area, and they go even harder when Durst introduces two incredibly strange song choices mid way through the set. ''Heart Shaped Box'' and ''Smells Like Teen Spirit'' are both covered and both butchered equally with Cobain's lyrics going unheard through Durst's screeched, amateurish vocals but again, they get a tremendous reaction from the crowd, and I'm sure that's the only reason for these two nonsensical covers and their inclusion in the set in the first place.

Just as with their song choice, the band are sensible in their timing too, not outstaying their welcome by any means as they wrap up the set after just 13 songs, the final few of which are undoubtedly saved for last for good reason, with nu metal classics ''Rollin'' and ''Take A Look Around'' bringing things to a hectic close. The latter is of particular note, filled with the angst that represents the band and, just it did 10 years ago, banks on the hatred that Limp Bizkit can be guaranteed they'll get everywhere they go.

And so Olympia fills out after an admittedly premature ending, but the vibe in the air is certainly one of satisfaction; those who came got what they expected, and if you're a fan of the band you won't have been disappointed- Durst, Borland and the rest are still the same musicians they were in 2000 for good or bad, and having come through hell and high water to even still exist today, you really have to give them credit to be on the verge of dropping another record to a still attentive fan base.

As Durst put it himself quite poignantly in a recent, and quite forthcoming interview last year, he's "lucky to be on the mountain; no reason to be standing on top of it." It's 2014 and Limp Bizkit are, for better or worse, still here.


Tuesday, 11 February 2014

''Dead'' Young Fathers - A Review

Young Fathers have been making music since they formed 6 years ago in 2008, but its taken them this long to release a studio album in spite of years spent attempting to break the music industry and wallowing in the underground. A duo of EP's entitled Tape One and Tape Two found some acclaim across blogs in 2011 and 2013 respectively, but the release of Dead this past week should by all rights solidify the north Edinburgh based group as a band not to take your eyes off for the immediate present and future.

Rap Genius introduce Young Fathers by quipping ''Ol’ Dirty chose his moniker because there was no father to his bastard style. Young Fathers earn theirs by making something so fresh it doesn’t yet have a name'', and this proves to be a prophetic and accurate description for a band that seem hellbent on exploration and invention, as demonstrated over the course of Dead's mere 34 minutes of futuristic hip-hop. The group consists of three young men from different backgrounds- Alloysious Massaquoi of Liberia, Kayus Bankhole of Nigeria and 'G' Hastings from Edinburgh, the band's home base, and the origins of each member are fused to perfection in order to create YF's unique sound, which skilfully blends African tribal music and electronic hip-hop beats while tackling social issues and attitudes with provocative lyrics.

Dead kicks off with ''No Way'', a relatively straightforward introduction to the immediately striking production values that dominate the album, however the mild electro buzz that follows YF's lyrics on the opener stand in stark contrast to their dark lyrics, which remain equally devoid of hope and light throughout the following ten tracks. ''Low'' utilizes a similarly playful, delicate texture underneath socially aware verses, and while this penchant for breezy instrumentation over deeper word content was perfected in the 80's by Robert Smith and The Cure, there are certainly no love stories coming out of these Scottish suburbs.

Things get darker music wise as we descend further into the black mass with ''Just Another Bullet'' providing an old school inspired rap track that concerns falling into temptations and ''turning Dorian Grey'' to the sound of a nasty looping synth, while later on ''Hangman'' offers an equally dark insight into the mindset of the young collective, with its apt title reflecting the unforgiving coldness that permeates through to the listener. ''

The blend of Africa and electronica that rules over Dead is perhaps best translated by its midsection- ''War'' is a definite highlight with its falsely soothing vocals while ''Get Up'' up the tempo but certainly not the mood with an uneasy backdrop and horrifying lines to match (''Beautiful corpse/How you lie so still/Another life fufilled'' is just a taste). The best moments on the album come in the oh so sweet and all too brief moments of relief from the decaying, desperately blackened production, and YF deserve huge praise for their ability to pace and measure these tiny cracks of light through their storm set skies. ''Dip'' fills a cynical message on peer pressure with an emotive, moving synth that comes across more empathetic and soft than the instrument is ever allowed to sound on the rest of the record, while ''Mmmh Mmmh'''s menacing vibes cut a raw intro before the introduction of a dreamy texture forces the track to resolve itself into a trance piece, while ''Am I Not Your Boy'' features a drowning, smothering chorus that again invites you in warmly before spitting ''The kid that I once was is dead'' over a shimmering vocal backing.

The haunting ambience of ''Paying'' brings us back to reality sharply, before '''I've Arrived'' ends this just over half an hour project with a song as utterly depressing as any before it, if not more so. It's as though Young Father's want to trick you into leaving on the softer notes of ''Am I Not Your Boy'' before reminding you of just how dauntingly somber they can get, almost as if they've caught themselves by surprise, allowing you to become somewhat comfortable before they consume you whole with their ferocious melancholia. It's a fitting closer, one that nearly sounds like the band announcing their official arrival with their unapologetic brand of morose rap.

It's perhaps tough to listen to Dead's mournful 34 minutes, but it's tougher not to listen again. This is one of the most unique hip-hop debuts in recent memory, and Young Fathers seem like a band destined to break down the walls that they've begun to feel out on their official debut. The original, innovative blend of music captured here could indeed be significant for the future of electronic hip-hop, with the band's production values running as deep as the dispiriting suburban issues they confront over these 11 tracks, but for now Young Father's have crafted a brutally honest reflection of their mundane British lives that expertly unearths exciting new territory in underground hip-hop, and you can be sure that they aren't finished yet if the passion, energy and creativity prevalent on Dead is anything to go by.


SBTRKT Drops ''Hold The Line'', The First In A Series Of Planned Singles Ahead Of 2nd Album

Acclaimed electronic producer Aaron Jerome, better known as SBTRKT, has today dropped the first of what he plans to be a series of 12 inch singles ahead of the release of his as yet untitled second album. The London based musician uploaded ''Hold The Line'' to Soundcloud for digital listeners too.

The planned release of several instrumental tracks will act as ''a transition'' between 2011's self titled debut and it's 2014 follow up, according to Jerome, who wrote to BBC Radio with this announcement, in keeping with his anonymous persona.

"These tracks will form a collection of vinyl 12"s before my next album and its singles, maybe a digital release, too. They’ll be out in a couple of months. All instrumental stuff along the lines of the music I put out on RAMP or the early Young Turks releases, transitioning between my last album and the next one."

SBTRKT's 2011 debut was well received for its blend of dubstep and UK garage/grime beats, while also making great use of fellow London songwriter Sampha on vocals. SBTRKT also released a live album last year, imaginatively titled Live, which featured a headline set at Shepard's Bush Empire in 2012.

You can listen to ''Hold The Line'' here.

Monday, 10 February 2014

''Sun Structures'' Temples - A Review

It's been a mere year and a half or so since James Bagshaw and Thomas Warmsley formed Temples, yet they'd courted considerable acclaim before the release of Sun Structures, their debut album which dropped today. The aforementioned attention that the UK four piece (they added to their number shortly after singing to Heavenly Recordings) were the subject of came from impressive sources, most notably in the form of Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr, who were quick to declare them as the finest young band in Britain following a couple of single release and live support slots for the likes of Kasabian and The Vaccines, while NME followed suit with their usual hype machine, a factor that has both benefited and damaged bands in the past, while also proving accurate and incorrect in equal measure. And so now arrives the time to listen rather than talk, and find out whether Temples really are worthy of attention.

The first three tracks of Sun Structures are enough to understand Temples; they don't simply want to bring the 1970's into present day music, they'd rather go back in time and live out their fantasies in their borrowed era. Opener ''Shelter Song'' was released all the way back in November 2012 and it's easy to see why the hype train followed this almost Beach Boyesque composition; it's a stunning 3 minute pop that's sure to grab the attention of any intuitive music fan. Second comes a title track that sets the tone for the remainder of the record with its unrelenting psychedelic style and retro presence as a variety of instruments swirl around the listener's mind, attempting to recreate the consciousness expanding vibe of its original source to great aplomb, before ''The Golden Throne'' evokes the rock/pop aesthetic of the 1960's in a manner that quite rare to hear these days, with a breezy, stylish nature somewhat reminiscent of The Future Sound Of London's oft overlooked and underrated project The Isness (2002). This FSOL likening follows through with tracks like the bouncy, acoustic led ''Keep In The Dark'' and dreamy vibes of ''The Guesser'' (which also brings to mind Big Lebowski cult favourite ''Just Dropped In'' by Mickey Newbury).

Other influences, aside from the very obvious psychedelic classics, are traceable, with the experimental folk of Akron/Family prominent in album centerpiece and highlight ''A Question Isn't Answered'', with all of its tribal clapping and rising chanting descending into soaring guitar riffs that bring an unexpected and well executed climax. More album standouts come in the form of ''Colours To Life'', another already released single and penultimate track ''Sand Dance'', a wandering 6 minute piece that explores the majority of styles that have been confronted by the band over the course of the album, before ''Fragments Light'' ends on a light acoustic outro with the same drowned, distant vocals that characterize much of these 52 minutes.

Which brings to an end a very enjoyable listening experience for sure, but not a particularly rewarding one in the sense that expectations haven't been so much as met rather than accommodated here. Early singles such as ''Shelter Song'' were exciting for evoking memories of Temples' peers while allowing their own modern indie chic to sneak in underneath the surface, but too often here the band forgo any sense of adventure or expansion, instead settling for repetition as they single mindedly attempt to recapture the spirit of Jefferson Airplane, The Beatles and countless other favourite bands of theirs without attempting to develop their own sound. At times Temples one way approach, in fact their refusal to fluctuate from praising their own rock gods, is pretty charming, while also slightly naive.

That's not to say however, that the band don't do a good job of revisiting vintage territory, in fact they're incredibly adept at crafting Jefferson like songs with an indie twist, and they can count themselves now worthy members of the revivalist movement alongside its leaders and probably Temples biggest direct influence Tame Impala. But the lack of diversity and experimentation shown on Sun Structures is what compresses Temples and threatens to put them in a box of tribute acts where they don't deserve to be, because what is immediately obvious from this debut aside from the source of this young band's style is their technical ability, intelligence and will to create. Ironically, it seems that Temples obsession with a genre renowned for mind expansion has actually stunted their own development and growth.

Overall, what we have in Temples debut is an incredibly vivid, almost hallucinogenic painting of the psychedelic rock landscape, that officially introduces us to an intriguing new UK band. Temples will hopefully now draw from these beginnings and implement their own style further over these retro vibes to continue refreshing and revitalizing the old with the new in greater, more unexpected ways.


Longitude Headliners Bombay Bicycle Club Hit #1 With Electro Pop Experiment ''So Long, See You Tomorrow''

Bombay Bicycle Club have entered the UK album charts at #1 for the very first time in their career with their 4th effort So Long, See You Tomorrow. The English indie act debuted top ahead of acts like Avicii, Ellie Goulding and Beyonce.

Released last week, the band's fourth outing is a rapid departure from the traditional alternative style of their earlier work, instead incorporating electronic influences in order to craft a delightful synth pop album, and the finest record of their short career, which received a glowing review from HMM last Thursday.

The album is currently sitting 8th on our own charts, with Goulding's Halcyon Days in the lead just ahead of Kodaline and Bruce Springsteen, while Pharell Williams' ''Happy'' tops the singles chart.

BBC are touring home territory throughout March before hitting our own Latitude festival in July, having been announced to join the likes of Disclosure, James Vincent McMorrow, Haim and Chvrches this past week.

''It's All Good: The Best Of...'' Damien Dempsey - A Review

2013 was an incredible year for Damien Dempsey. He toured Australia and America on the back of his 2012 release Almighty Love and supported Bruce Springsteen at Kilkenny Stadium before returning to Dublin for a now annual set of Christmas shows in Vicar Street. And now we've got It's All Good, the first compilation of this kind from the proud Dubliner, and one that attempts to encompass his entire career into a the space of a double album. And sometimes that's a problem.

If you're going to listen to It's All Good, the chances are you already know Damien Dempsey's music and what it stands for;  modern day Irish ballads that effectively fuse Irish history and politics with a rebellious attitude has been Damo's niche since day one, and songs of such nature are supplied in bulk on the record, and often make for highlights with their ferocious, passionate delivery- ''Colony'' standing tall as the best of them all. Alongside these self crafted rebel songs are traditional covers of old in ''The Rocky Road'' which the singer-songwriter fills with his own energy and particularly ''The Auld Triangle'', an absolute stable of Irish music that Dempsey makes his own.

But it's not always politics with Dempsey. His unbridled honesty and genuine emotion shine through on reflective pieces like ''Patience'', ''Negative Vibes'' and the suicide ballad ''Chris And Stevie'', a track which Dempsey himself disclosed as being his most meaningful to him when we spoke in a recent interview. Arguably the greatest track of the album comes in the form of an early song, ''Factories'', a simple reflection on Irish life and childhood in the city which is both powerful and tender to anyone who can relate.

However, as with all compilations, the analysis is not so much in the music as it is in the construction of this record and its purpose. As a fan already familiar with Dempsey, his unique brand of patriotic acoustic pieces and magnificent connection with the Irish audience, how does this stand as a release that supposedly defines over a decade of work by the man? The answer is sometimes good, sometimes not so good.

While for the most part every track of Dempsey's that the casual listener (surely the target audience for every greatest hit/best of album) will want to hear is included, the fact that this album compasses a total of 29 songs over 120 minutes makes it a daunting task even for the most dedicated of Dempsey fans, let alone the average music fan trying to introduce themselves to the Irishman. For loyal listeners of Dempsey's music, such an epic release at this astounding length of time may be a blessing, but they may also find themselves at odds with the track listing at times, with even Dempsey himself admitting he found it hard to omit tracks like ''Cursed With A Brain'' and ''Born Without Hate''.

Damo spoke about attempting to gain the feel of a setlist with the order of songs, and while certainly you could imagine an incredible night in Vicar Street with this collection of tunes as the backdrop, you'd also have to dedicate a huge chunk of time on any given night to make it the full way through It's All Good on a single listen, not something that is necessary appealing to most. It's a problem that its perhaps surprising was overlooked in the production process; with most of Dempsey's songs clocking in around the 5 or even 6 minute mark, surely a collection of the bare essentials at just over an hour in total would have made for a more marketable product for Sony, who one can only assume, are trying to gain a larger fan base for Damo with this release.

Ultimately though, this is a collection of songs from one of the more original, heartfelt and passionate Irish performers in recent memory and Damo certainly deserves to be breaking further territory overseas with the release of It's All Good. This compilation should only be the first of several as the singer songwriter develops his palette and follows in the footsteps of other legendary musicians of our country like Christy Moore and Luke Kelly, the likes of which it's not unthinkable that he could be recognized among someday.


An Interview With: Damien Dempsey

Coming off the back of a huge 2013 in which he sold out Sydney Opera House while headlining several major gigs in Australia before touring the US for the first time in 5 years and returning to sell out Vicar Street twice this Christmas, I spoke to Damien Dempsey ahead of the release of It's All Good: The Best Of Damien Dempsey, and two shows in the Button Factory next week on the 12th and 13th February.

So how are things Damo?

Not too bad, a bit of a media circus going on at the moment! The album's coming out in the UK and Australia so I'm doing a load of interviews at the moment. Happy days though, now I can get interviews, I remember a time when people didn't want to talk to me.

How was the tour in Australia last year?

Ah, it was great. I was there twice last year and I'm heading back in March. It's brilliant out there- the Metro in Sydney is quite like Vicar Street.

And what about America?

Well I sold out the Bowery Ballroom, an incredible venue, so things are after building for me over there even though I hadn't been there in 5 years. Everything is building gradually, so while you wouldn't want to be impatient, it's all going in the right direction. Things are getting bigger.

It doesn't come much bigger than playing with The Boss, Bruce Springsteen (Damien supported Springsteen in Kilkenny Stadium last summer). What was that experience like, and the man himself?

A defining moment. He shook my hand, thanked me for being with him and we passed the guitar around. I sang and he sang, it was a great privilege to be asked and to meet him, let alone have a sing song with him. To see how he is and the love he has for his music... it gave me great inspiration.

Absolutely. So obviously at the moment you've got The Best Of coming out, a major acheivment at this point in your career, but I'm presuming that this doesn't mean the beginning of the end.

(Laughs) No, no, we're a long way away from the end. What we had was a 5 album deal with Sony and in the contract they had the option for a Best Of so that's it.

And what about the selection process for an album like this- did you pick personal favourites, greatest hits or crowd pleasers?

Me and john Reynolds sat down and we basically tried to make a setlist. We wanted songs that work blend together, work well and flow. We had to leave a few out like ''Born Without Hate'', ''Cursed With A Brain'' and ''To Hell Or Barbados'' but sure we can always do another Best Of in a few years when I've written more albums.

Is there a track on the album that means the most to you personally?

I suppose ''Chris And Stevie'' (a ballad about suicide on Almighty Love) because it's saving peoples lives I hope. People are talking to other people because of it now I believe, and some have talked to me and said it saved their life. To me, that's the best buzz you can get from any song. It's my highlight of all these years.

Obviously you've had highlights all over the world now on tour in different countries, but you're more experienced than most around the city, so if you were picking, what would be the best venue in Dublin?

It has to be Vicar Street. The way it's laid out makes you feel close to everybody there, and the when you're walking down to stage at the side it just feels like you're about to take flight. The buzz of the place is magical. When the whole place sings together it's great, because it's a room to sing together in. There are other places you can feel cut off, but in there the voices all come together in the middle. It's like one big living room.

Outside Ireland?

Ah, Sydney Opera House. Played two great gigs there and the location is amazing, you've seen it on postcards since you were a kid. Coming down the plane I looked at it and thought ''Jaysus, I'm playing there tonight'', but when I got in I was strangely relaxed and it was just two cracking shows.

With the most prominent themes of your music revolving around Irish history and social inequality, I have to ask where that originally came from; home, school? Family or friends?

I suppose it was the Grandmother. She would have sang a lot of Irish rebel songs. She saw the Rising, she was involved as a kid. Hiding under the bed from Black and Tans and everything. Obviously there was a lot of action at her time growing up.

And when you got into music was it with the intention of singing about these issues, or did this come naturally to you later?

All throughout my youth all I was hearing on the news every night was someone else being killed, and I couldn't have just seen all that going on and not wondered what the story was, you know? I felt the news was so one way and biased with us being portrayed as Irish scum. It made me go and learn our history then. It seems that so many kids these days don't know their history, don't know where they're coming from.

So do you find it's a good medium to communicate these messages through music for a younger generation? And is this why you have such a strong hometown support?

It's hard to know. I try to write songs with hope in them, and to use the positivity that I learned from Bob Marley. When I mix a bit of a lesson in history with a positive message and make a modern day story about what's going on, there's a lot for people to get their teeth into. It's gives me a buzz more so than just a pop song about falling in love or something like that.

Tell us your plans for 2014.

Well, I'm back over to Australia and then the States again before coming back for festivals in the summer and then hopefully recording a new album after that.

So you'll be getting stuck into a lot of festivals?

Big time! I used to just do Oxegen and then I couldn't do another one for the rest of the summer but now I can do all the smaller country ones. (What's the pick of the bunch?) Westport is great, I've done that two years in a row. But I'll be everywhere- Cork, Longford, Tullamore, Dingle, Galway. The more the merrier. I'd always rather do small towns rather than just one big one. It's a great buzz and it's a bit more lawless, the pub stays open later and it gets a bit wild.

Will you be constantly on the go writing new material for an album or do you sit down with yourself and get it all done in go?

I had a few weeks off in January so I was writing a good bit every day. I've May, September and October put aside now for getting stuck in. I want to write a song about bullying on social media and through texting- it must be awful for those involved. It's the worst thing in the world. So I want to give them a message in a song. I hope people relate to it and it's relevant.

For the moment though, enjoy the tour. Thanks for talking to us Damo.

Cheers, slan!

Damien will be touring throughout February and March in the following locations:

12/2 Dublin, Button Factory
13/2 Dublin, Button Factory
14/2 Cork, Opera House
23/2 Belfast, Mandela Hall
27/2 Galway, Roisin Dubh
28/2 Limerick, Dolan's
1/3 Waterford, The Forum

Friday, 7 February 2014

Beyonce Knickers And Jocks: The Perfect Valentine's Gift

Just when you thought she couldn't do any more after the shock release of her universally acclaimed fifth solo album in December, Beyonce has gone one better and released a set of underwear for Valentine's Day.

The pair consist of boxers and short pants inscribed with ''Mine'' and ''Yours'', which can be mixed and matched for the discerning couple.

The minimal design and font is taken from the Beyonce album cover, while a range of sweatshirts are also available containing single word lyrics from the album such as ''Surfboard'' and ''Breakfast'', both taken in this case from Drunk In Love.

To guarantee delivery by Valentine's Day the set must be order by midnight on the 8th February, giving you little time to act on this offer, which is an absolute steal at just 28 euro. Right?

Will Ferrell And Chad Smith Set To Do Battle By Way Of Drumkit

It's long been debated among the music and film community whether Will Ferrell and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith actually both exist or are more likely one man posing as both. Well, the look a like pair are set to get together soon if Ferrell accepts a challenge put forth by Smith over Instagram for both men to have a drum battle.

In the video that Smith uploaded this week he accuses Ferrell or impersonating him and declared ''Drum battle. Me and you. I've seen your skills. You don't got 'em. Let's go.''

The issued challenge comes after Ferrell's appearance on Reddit's Ask Me Anything appearance earlier in the week, in which he addressed the uncanny similarity, writing: "A lot of people think that it's me playing for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But that would be an insult to Chad Smith. The truth of the matter is there is no Will Ferrell. Only Chad Smith", later adding "It was great to finally clear up the fact that I am Chad Smith."

If you're asking me, a drum challenge is a slightly unfair method of determining the greatest of these two identical specimens, being highly advantageous to Smith. Surely there should be some sort of Three Stages Of Hell set up here or something similar, in which the second round involves Smith doing stand up followed by a Steel Cage match for the finale.

Meanwhile, aside from declaring war on his twin nemesis Smith is raising funds for charity, specifically the Make A Wish Foundation, by auctioning his Supebowl drum kit. Nice sentiment, but let's be honest, the guy didn't even really play it.

When it comes time to pick sides in this particular duel, I've got Ferrell's back. He's kind of a big deal.

The Ghosts Of Nu Metal: Where Are They Now?

With the impending return of Limp Bizkit this year and their upcoming appearance at the Olympia next week, let's take a look back to the beginning of the millennium when everything seemed possible for the unspeakable genre that everybody loves to hate, Nu-Metal. Essentially a fusion of rap and alternative rock (arguably born out of Rage Against The Machine), nu metal swept the airwaves and peaked for a brief period in the late nineties and early noughties, destroying all acceptable music taste in sight with its inexplicable mainstream appeal.

Admittedly, I was one of those young teens who lost myself in the craze- a skateboard I couldn't skate, Kerrang! and a petulant attitude were the orders of the day back then, and so that leaves me wondering; where are my former heroes now? I decided to find out.

Alien Ant Farm
Breaking onto the scene in 2001 with Michael Jackson cover ''Smooth Criminal'' and its follow up ''Movies'', Alien Ant Farm released their debut studio album ANThology to commercial success, reaching #1 on US and Australian charts. To be fair, it's certainly one of the catchier albums of the genre, and its near pop-punk style caught the attention of many, as well as their excellent videos (still a relevant medium at the time).

However, success didn't last long with the release of their follow up Truant (2003) not going quite as smoothly (see what I did there?), peaking at #42 on the Billboard chart. Things only went downhill from here though, when in 2005 AAF recorded an album so poor that their label Geffen refused to even release it, resulting in the band distributing bootleg copies of it themselves on tour. Upon its eventual release in 2006, Up In The Attic was a flop, garnering no official lead single or tour.

Since then the band have been pretty quiet, but in February of last year announced that they were attempting to raise funds for a new album through PledgeMusic, an online platform that fans can use to pay the artist directly. Let's see how long that takes.

Deftones were perhaps the most respected act of the nu metal genre, so much so that their fans will angrily insist that they never belonged to such a scene. But the band's music is unmistakably rap metal, it just so happens that it's pretty awesome too. With a trio of Platinum albums between 1995-2000 (Adrenaline, Around The Fur, White Pony), Deftones may not have replicated their commercial success in recent years but they're still releasing similarly acclaimed work, with 2012's Koi No Yokan marking their 7th LP.

Believe or not, Evanescence were an incredibly successful band throughout the past decade. Everyone knows ''Bring Me To Life'', but the album it was taken from, Fallen, sold over 17 million copies worldwide and won 2 Grammys. Really. This was followed by The Open Door in 2006 which sold a still extremely respectable 5 mil, before numerous line up changes and departures (including vocalist Amy Lee) resulted in a hiatus that lasted until 2011, when they returned to debut at #1 on the Billboard chart like nothing ever happened, with their self titled third record. Alongside Deftones, one of the major bands of the genre to have emerged unscathed.

Ah, Korn. The very definition of nu metal. In many ways the genre began and ended with Jonathan Davis and his equally strange friends with names like ''Munky'' and ''Head''. Formed in 1993, Korn experienced impressive mainstream success while also developing a devoted cult following with albums like Life Is Peachy, Follow The Leader and Issues, the three of which were released within the short space of 1996-99.

And from here nu mental effectively kicked off with countless bands attempting to imitate the unique creepiness of Korn's blend of funk, metal and vulgarity, most notably, and most tragically, resulting in Limp Bizkit's existence. Korn continued their success themselves through 2002's Untouchables, but things came to a halt with the release of Take A Look In The Mirror in 2003, as the album took heavy criticism and failed to perform as well as its predecessors. In turn, Davis admitted that the album had been rushed, and the band have released a steady stream of material since which has included successful efforts like See You On The Other Side(2005) and The Path Of Toltality (2011), which was praised for its innovative use of dubstep and various other genres, with critics going as far as to call it the return of nu metal or the beginning of new life for the genre.

Limp Bizkit
Quite possibly the most hated band in the history of music (Insane Clown Posse might give them a run for their money there), Limp Bizkit, against all odds, still exist in 2014. That alone is an achievement itself, but the fact that we're to expect a new album from the band following their current tour is magnificently impressive and surely Durst deserves some form of credit for his instinct to survive the harshest of criticism over the last two decades.

Climaxing around the turn of the millennium with the albums Significant Other and the horrifically entitled Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water, Durst and co. kept rollin', rollin', rollin' until the car crashed in 2001 when the only seemingly talented member of the band, guitarist Wes Borland, decided he was out. Dark times ensued as the band attempted a fourth effort, Results May Vary, for which they didn't, with the resulting record being declared one of the worst instances of recorded music ever. Still, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel and following a 6 year hiatus the band are back on track, having released Gold Cobra to a reasonable reaction in 2011. Judge things for yourself with their seventh album this year, Stampede Of The Disco Elephants. With a name like that it's got to be good... Right?

Linkin Park
My self confessed personal favourite of the nu metal scene, and therefore my Gods when I was 11. Linkin Park and Hybrid Theory pretty much defined an ill advised but necessary period of my young life and in many ways, the band's debut album is really what introduced me to rock music and a lot o great bands further on down the line. I wasn't alone either with millions worldwide following suit, and the band's accessible brand of rap rock made them hands down the most successful nu metal act ever, and one of the most successful bands period post millennium, having sold a total of over 60 millions albums in their 18 year existence.

After Hybrid Theory in 2000, the band found success again with Meteora in 2003 just before it was too late for nu metal, but the end of the genre didn't mean the end of Linkin Park; adapting their style to more traditional rock elements on Minutes To Midnight (2007) the band continued to receive acclaim throughout the US and abroad, before exploring new genres such as electronica in recent times on A Thousand Suns (2010) and Living Things (2012). Nu metal may have began with Korn, but surely Linkin Park emerged as the kings, capitalizing on the movement and pushing onwards after its inevitable downfall.

Papa Roach
''Cut my life into pieces, this is my last resort!''

Yeah we all know Papa Roach, one of many average bands elevated to a higher plain than they were worthy of simply due to the maddeningly popular nature of nu metal itself. Usually a one hit wonder was the source of this popularity, and in this case ''Last Resort'' was actually a pretty banging tune back in the day. 2000's Infest sold over 7 million copies but things went downhill from there as sales began to fall, leading to lead vocalist Jacoby Shaddix cutting the rap vocals all together, which was probably a wise move seeing as Roach are still gaining reasonable sales in modern times; Metamorphosis (2008) hit #8 on the Billboard chart, and 2012's Connection performed nearly as well peaking at #17, in spite of predictably mixed reviews.

Staind were actually a pretty normal, pretty bad rock band attempting to make grunge music throughout the 1990's who decided to capitalize on the nu metal craze in 2001 with Break The Cycle, by far their most successful record, thanks again in large part to a one hit wonder that received endless airplay, the alternative faux beard stroker ''It's Been A While''. There's not much else to say about Staind afterwards; they continued to release average music to crushing reviews (even Break The Cycle was rewarded with a 2/10 by NME) and poor sales, but things came to a halt in 2010 following strained relations between the band and stressful recordings sessions (maybe they realized they were brutal) culminating in a hiatus that's lasted until now. The band are returning to the festival scene in 2014 with intentions of a full reunion, although that seems highly unnecessary to me, and probably the rest of the world excluding the band members themselves.

So what does the future hold for nu metal, if anything at all? Since its effective end in 2002/03, bands have tended to avoid the genre at all costs and any association with it, but if reports are to be believed, we could be on the verge of an unprecedented second wave of nu metal heads. Sparked by Korn's Path Of Totality in 2011 and its resulting acclaim, critics have cited it as a possible new direction for young bands to follow. The likes of My Ticket Home and Of Mice & Men are reported to be leading the charge while old bands, such as Papa Roach make their return. 

Surely not. Is there possibly still life left in this already dead and decaying corpse of a music style? Now that I'm all grown up the thought of another Limp Bizkit seems nothing but frightening, although maybe the kids these days need to welcome an alternative to the Justin Bieber's and Chris Brown's of this world. It certainly didn't do me any harm to rock through my rite of passage as a young lad, even if I sometimes look back with something between a nostalgic glaze and burning cringe.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Lil Wayne Is Bad For You: Teacher Suspended For Using Rap Lyrics In Homework Assignment

An English teacher in Florida has been given a 3 day suspension after assigning students a Lil Wayne listening assignment for homework. The assignment was intended to give students a good understanding of language techniques such as puns, similes and metaphors, however it was deemed inappropriate due to the heavy profanity in the song lyrics.

The song used was ''6 Foot 7 Foot'', taken from Wayne's 9th studio album, Tha Carter IV, and on inspection, it could certainly have been a little too much for this poor gang of 8th graders, who fall into the 13-14 year old age group. Here's what they were dealing with:

''Two bitches at the same time, synchronized swimmers
Got the girl twisted cause she open when you twist her
Never met the bitch, but I fuck her like I missed her
Life is the bitch, and death is her sister
Sleep is the cousin, what a fuckin' family picture''

Ouch. When asked about the incident, school principal Wayne Owens had this to say: "The lesson was for students to learn to identify literary devices. The teacher had already introduced Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare," the school's headmaster Wayne Owens said in a statement. "Students were having difficulty grasping the concepts of literary devices such as: pun, simile, metaphor, so the teacher used colloquial material. This material did not meet the school's standards and was not approved. The teacher recognises that it was totally inappropriate for a school assignment."

The sentiment is certainly to be admired, but perhaps a better choice of artist next time round might be a better idea; surely this man should have been suspended for subjecting these children to Lil Wayne's music in the first place.

Foo Fighters Recording 8th Album With ''Nevermind'' And ''In Utero'' Producers

Foo Fighters 8th album is surprisingly shaping up to be an interesting affair, as rumours circulate that the band will be working with the producers of Nirvana's seminal 90's recordings, Nevermind and In Utero. The band are also alleged to be recording the album in 12 different cities worldwide.

The band began writing material for their 8th release a full year ago in January 2013, and are currently in studio, having Instagrammed pictures of themselves at work in recent weeks, and speaking to Zane Lowe on BBC Radio 1, Dave Grohl claimed the new album would blow people away: "I know what it sounds like and I honestly think the entire concept is really going to take people by surprise and it sounds nuts.

"We recorded something the other day that's unlike anything we've ever done and it starts with a fuse and then it explodes."

Grohl refused to directly answer questions put to him about working with his two previous Nirvana production wizards, Butch Vig and Steve Albini. Word has spread of the possibility of the band using both men since a fan, known only as Wes, claimed to meet Grohl and Vig in a Chicago bar. The source told reporters: “He (Grohl) has been recording with Butch Vig & Steve Albini at Electrical Audio, using a never-previously-used recording technique that’s unique to this analog studio.”

The Foo's worked with Nevermind producer Vig on 2011's Wasting Light, but the apparent addition of In Utero engineer Albini raises all sorts of questions about what direction the stadium rockers could take. Known for it's controversially heavy, near metal sound, In Utero was seen as a challenge to fans upon its release in 1994 as Kurt Cobain attempted to escape the universal fame and acclaim that came with the pop-punk style of Nevermind. Some sort of fuse of these two extremely different styles could make for car crash material or a magnificent blend that returns the Foo's to full power.

We shall see this year, but for now all that is known about LP8 for certain is that it contains 13 tracks (again confirmed through Instagram) and it will be happening in 2014.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

''So Long, See You Tomorrow'' Bombay Bicycle Club - A Review

It would be fair to say that Bombay Bicycle Club have never truly given us a worthy follow up to their 2009 debut I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose. That album was full to the brim with simple, yet charming indie rock that introduced an exciting young UK act and made a promise it couldn't keep. Just 19 at the time of release, it seemed Jack Steadman was destined to push on with and deliver on his undoubted potential as lead singer and songwriter for the group, but the sophomore slump hit hard with Flaws in 2010, an almost all acoustic effort and a miscalculated, confusing step in the wrong direction. The near solo Flaws, with its collection of (truth be told) B-side standard tracks, was then counter acted 3 years ago with A Different Kind Of Fix. This time the band was back in full flow, but again failed to inspire major plaudits with an album that sounded too concerned with success in the safe zone of generic pop/rock rather than searching for any kind of deeper meaning and acclaim.

So here we are at record number 4, and truth be told, it's either time to go hard or go home. One more misstep and Bombay Bicycle Club could easily find themselves out in the cold, but the signs, at least, were promising in production stage. Word of Steadman's travels around the globe and soul searching in India, Japan and Turkey combined with his self professed new love of sampling and tribal chants/rhythms gave reason to expect a new design or reinvention of the band, and that is exactly what we get on So Long, See You Tomorrow, an album which seeks to drastically eradicate the past and begin a new phase for the young four piece.

''Overdone'' kicks off the album with a rising, cinematic opener that already sounds more interesting than any of the ideas summoned over the past 4 years from the band, and establishes a brand new energy to an almost unrecognizable act. The unusual, playful rhythms of ''It's Alright Now'' and ''Carry Me'' continue to introduce this atmospheric, textured approach that brings to mind several possible influences, most prominently and unexpectedly perhaps Sigur Ros, with certain aspects of this spiritual, slightly ethereal approach exposing tinges of the iconic Icelandic act.

Album standout ''Home By Now'' is where things start to get really interesting though- the hip-hop inspired beats of the track are complimented beautifully by light guitar and backing vocals, resulting in a blissed out production of such quality that is totally unexpected of BBC. With Steadman's already uniquely tinted vocal washing over these experimental vibes, the band have really found a nice that deserves further exploration in due time.

The second half of the album is composed of a more delicate set of songs as piano is introduced and utilized to great effect on the uplifting ''Whenever, Wherever'' (not a Shakira cover unfortunately) and especially ''Eyes Off You'', another wonderful piece that stands alongside ''Home By Now'' as the best of the album. This slow burning, Kate Bush like 4 minutes feels like the total realization of a matured BBC,and Steadman sounds well beyond his 24 years for this perfect, sentimental moment of beauty. Elsewhere Luna recalls the feel good groove of ''Always Like This'', one of the band's original and best hits, and makes for the cut choice of lead single from these ten experimental tracks.

For all the talk of Indian samples and tribal chanting, they only come to prominence in the latter section of the record with ''Feel'', but it's nonetheless an interesting technique that fits in effortlessly among the tracklisting, and is another impressive example of vastly improved production. We come to the most conventional, guitar based track of the album on ''Come To'' but even so it retains the otherworldly feel that dominates the record, before the 6 minute title track brings an end to proceedings with its comedown, calming aroma built around a Tetris like beat designed to patiently wash over the listener, marking a drastic difference from the more immediate chart rock of all the band's previous work, much like the record itself in total.

And so, Bombay Bicycle Club complete an ambitious, exciting and engaging 54 minutes. So Long, See You Tomorrow is quite clearly not only the band's best work in years, but their best to date. It's a significant album that could come to define a career if BBC are capable of pushing on and delivering more work in this vain; songs that drip in luxurious textures and rich atmosphere but retain the catchy accessibility of their original source. An unprecedented and rewarding effort, So Long reestablishes Bombay Bicycle Club as a band to watch and showcases a rapid development that was unthinkable 3 years ago through a range of instruments and genres explored fearlessly and expertly on their greatest achievement yet. Against the odds, Bombay Bicycle Club have triumphed.


Nas Set To Drop Reissue, Rarities & DVD Documentary For 20th Anniversary Of Illmatic

Nasir Jones, better known legendary rap superstar Nas, is set to drop a series of projects to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his classic hip-hop album Illmatic this April 14th. Included will be a reissued anniversary edition of the hugely influential record and a bonus disc containing rarities and unreleased remixes.

The special edition will be entitled Illmatic XX and include each of the ten original classics on the album including the likes of ''NY State Of Mind'', ''The World Is Yours'' and ''One Love'', while Nas has already exclusively provided a tracklist to Pitchfork detailing the extra material available on Disc 2:

1. I'm a Villain (previously unreleased)
2. The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show on WKCR October 28, 1993 (previously unreleased freestyle)
3. Halftime (Butcher Remix)
4. It Ain't Hard to Tell (Remix) (promo single)
5. One Love (LG Main Mix)
6. Life's a Bitch (Arsenal Mix) (promo single)
7. One Love (One L Main Mix)
8. The World Is Yours (Tip Mix)
9. It Ain't Hard to Tell (The Stink Mix) (UK single)
10. It Ain't Hard to Tell (The Laidback Remix) (UK single)

In addition to all of this, a documentary entitled Time Is Illmatic will be released this year, which the website states will track ''the musical legacy of the Jones family, handed down to Nas'' while also examining ''the social conditions and environmental influences that contributed to Nas’ worldview.''

For many, Illmatic is the ultimate hip-hop/rap recording of the 1990's if not all time, having been named the greatest album of the genre in numerous publications and best-of lists since its release in 1994. Last year Nas was crowned the greatest rapper of all time by NME, while he is cited as perhaps the most predominant influence on modern rap today by many artists, most notably Kendrick Lamar, who was subject to comparisons with the rapper following the release of good kid, m.A.A.d city in 2012.

Nas will be touring the US throughout 2014, including two major festival dates at Coachella.

James Vincent McMorrow at The National Concert Hall (04/02/14) - A Review

The intimate setting of the National Concert Hall is an excellent venue for any singer songwriter worth their salt, and as I found out last night, a perfect environment for James Vincent McMorrow, who returned home to Dublin in style on a stormy February evening. The diverse nature of McMorrow's duo of albums had many in the audience wondering pre-show whether we were going to hear the acoustic folk stylings of debut Early In The Morning or the electronic beauty of his recently acclaimed follow up Post Tropical. As it turns out, we get both.

On a minimally designed stage, the modest figure of McMorrow shuffles out accompanied by a three piece backing band and immediately gets down to work, delivering an exquisite opening of ''The Lakes'' as the Irishman effortlessly recreates his vocals from the album, before an almost solo acoustic ''Hear That Noise...'', complimented quietly by vocals from the back up trio who almost sneak in behind the track. It's an impressive start that continues with a collection of Post Tropical tracks, most notably ''Glacier'' which utilizes live piano and drum to great effect for a slightly more charged and immediate version than on record, while McMorrow's voice continues to ring around the venue with a stunning vocal conclusion on ''Red Dust''. More debut work soon follows in the shape of ''Down The Burning Ropes'' with its cinematic, building climax before the slow acoustic burner of ''Follow You Down To The Old Oak Tree''.

It takes a while for McMorrow to get used to his audience, with a couple of mumbled ''It's nice to be home'''s early on before he begins to feel at ease and slows things down for some much appreciated interaction with the audience, as he tells us of the surreal nature of this show for him, having lived in a house around the corner from the venue most his life. He's actually a pretty funny guy too; stories of being misinterpreted by Australian teen fans have the crowd in stitches, and a little light relief goes down a treat alongside the mostly somber collection of tunes.

As he begins to get comfortable with the audience, a free and spirited stage persona starts to open up a little more with an intense performance of ''This Old Dark Machine'', before we are introduced to ''the dance section of the concert'' by McMorrow which gets plenty of laughs when the singer-songwriter attempts to do the robot. While maybe not quite as danceable as he'd have you believe, ''All Points'' is certainly one of the more experimental tracks on the second album and a highlight of the gig, but without a doubt the performance of the night goes to ''We Don't Eat'', which is no doubt aided by a tremendous reception from the crowd. The song ends with McMorrow pounding away on a second drum, just another of the various instruments on show tonight, a surefire testament to the artist's versatility.

Just before the set is brought to a close, McMorrow introduces the band- Jill Deering, Jay Wilson and Paul Kenny, who each deserve the strong recognition they recieve from the audience, having provided truly exceptional backing all night, on ''75 instruments'' as McMorrow himself puts it. The band opt to finish in a quiet manner with ''Outside, Digging'' in order to ''settle them down'' and it works for the audience too, with Post Tropical's closing track acting as the perfect comedown and outro for an immaculately timed, well paced set.

An encore doesn't take long however, and soon we're greeted again by McMorrow, this time with just an acoustic guitar and no backing, making for an intimate solo rendition of ''If My Heart Should Somehow Stop'', before another massive favourite ''If I Had A Boat'' officially ends things on a great note. The  vibe afterwards in the Concert Hall is an inherently satisfied one, and it'd be hard not to be impressed with what has just been witnessed as JVM replicates and even betters his sound in a live setting, an increasing rarity these days in modern music. The fact that McMorrow mentions his upbringing around the corner from here may have been offhand but it's a remarkable fact too considering how much this down to earth inner city man has achieved in such a short space of time, both on record and with the natural, raw talent that he displays so passionately on stage. For sure, James Vincent McMorrow is an Irishman to be proud of right now and most probably for a long time to come, a fact that is proven by witnessing his live performance.


Julian Casablancas Debuts ''Human Sadness'' For Film Soundtrack; Possible Return For Strokes In 2014?

Strokes frontman and occasional solo artist Julian Casablancas has provided us with a new track from upcoming film She’s Lost Control. A friend of executive producer for the film Simon Tafique, Casablancas had stated previously that he would contribute to the soundtrack if the movie received the necessary funding following an appeal on Kickstarter.

The film itself deals with a sexual therapist who falls for a client, just in case any Joy Divison fans out there were starting to get excited.

For Strokes fans looking for news on the band however, there appears to be some light in the tunnel with hints being dropped on a possible 2014 release by the group’s usual source of information, Albert Hammond Jnr. The guitarist mentioned as far back as October last year that he and his bandmates were looking to "return to the scene" in 2014 with a follow up to last year's solid Comedown Machine, which received little promotion and no touring.

The band are set for a return to the live stage this summer already though, with a headline slot at the Governor's Ball alongside Outkast and Vampire Weekend in June, hopefully an indication that there are more shows to come worldwide.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Cure Set To Release New Album ''4:14 Scream'' And Embark On New Trilogy Concert

The Cure have announced plans to release their 14th studio album within the next few months alongside a series of live concert DVD’s to boot. Tentatively titled 4:14 Scream, the album sounds like a sequel or partner of sorts to the band’s thirteenth outing 4:13 Dream, which was released to a warm reception back in 2008.

Not a whole lot was revealed about the upcoming album save for the fact that it was recorded at the same time as the band’s previous record, however in addition to the planned release the band have also made plans for another Trilogy world tour, which would be the third of such so far, following gigs in 2002 and 2011.

The first tour consisted of the band performing their original album trilogy in Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodflowers, a series of album personal to leader Robert Smith, while the group delved even further into the past just 3 years ago with a set of gigs dedicated to their first three albums (debut Three Imaginary Boys was released all the way back as far as 1979).

This time around things seem more focused in a pop direction, with The Top, The Head On The Door and Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me being played in their entirety, the likes of which include 80's classics such as ''Inbetween Days'', ''The Caterpillar'', ''Just Like Heaven'' and ''Close To Me''.

A return to our green pastures would surely be welcome following an mammoth set at Electric Picnic in 2012, when Smith & co. played a total of 39 tracks over nearly 4 hours.