Hole – Miss World: Why I’m torn.

This isn’t so much as a review as it is a… pondering, if you will. Well part review, part ponder. This is something I shouldn’t like but when I listen to this song and judge it by its own merit -I like it. I almost find that embarrassing to admit because I really don’t like Courtney Love. In fact I could say I hate her. I think she’s an attention seeker in the worst sense. Moreover, I’m a big fan of Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, and in my humble opinion I do believe there is something potentially in the conspiracy theories that she had him killed. Anyhow – that’s just subjective opinion and not really relevant to the music of Hole as an artist. Be fair, Clare! It’s just I find it hard to fully enjoy a track whilst I’m still wondering if the singer of said track is a killer. It’s quite a shame really because Courtney Love does actually have a good voice for rock/grunge styles. A really good voice to be perfectly honest. I love her grungy, hoarse sort of tone. And it doesn’t just sound good on more brash numbers either – Miss World is more acoustic in places and she still sounds really good. I rather like the lyrics too which deal with self image. It was released as the first single from their second album Live Through This. Interestingly the album artwork of the record depicts the winner of some sort of beauty contest (or something similar) so I can only assume the theme of self image is a recurring theme of the album. I like records to be conceptualized like that in all honesty. As a random bit of trivia, the B-side to Miss World is a cover version of one of my all time favorite songs: Echo & The Bunnymen’s Do It Clean. I digress however. I have to admit I’m even surprised myself I’m typing a rather favorable post for Hole. A few months ago I swore I’d never even attempt to listen to them because I just can’t abide Courtney Love as a person. I have to give credit were credit is due though – I think I’ve judged her musical output far too soon. You’re not going to convince me to like Courtney Love anytime soon, but if I can separate my dislike of her and her antics from her recorded output (which are two separate things I guess) then I may have found the most unlikely band to enjoy. Time will tell.


Things I’ve been doing this week: The Ramones.

 I’ve only listened to punk for about a year. I started off with the two obvious bands: Sex Pistols and The Clash. I ventured off into trying out other bands such as Stiff Little Fingers and X-Ray Spex. One band that I didn’t try out though was one of the key punk bands – The Ramones. Until recently. In the last few days I’ve decided to do an album a day of theirs until I’ve listened to all of their studio albums. So far I’ve heard their first two albums. It’s funny because a lot of the songs have a very similar sound, but there’s something very likeable about their music for me. It’s just so catchy and there’s no faffing about – it gets straight to to the point and bang. Boom. Next track. It’s a refreshing change when you listen to a lot of dance music which often feels like it takes forever to get going. I’ve listened to The Ramones and Leave Home. Of the two, I definitely prefer Leave Home. The Ramones did get really samey for me as a whole album (although I liked most of the songs) but on Leave Home you can hear a definite progression in sound. Having said that I’ve yet to hear the albums that feature my favorite Ramones songs so far – like Rockaway Beach for instance – so I’ve a feeling I’m going to enjoy their subsequent albums even more!

Thoughts on Glastonbury lineup

A few nights ago I was surprised when the acts for this year’s Glastonbury Festival was announced. For whatever reason I wasn’t expecting to hear the lineup for a few weeks yet. Anyhow, that was a bigger surprise than the actual acts that got announced I’m afraid.

Arctic Monkeys
For me, this one is just very… predictable. I have to admit that I do think they’re a good group and no doubt will be excellent live – I thought they were terrific at the Closing Ceremony last year. Having said that I’m a weekly reader of NME and their constant praising of the group does grow weary. I think they’re good with some undeniably great songs but I don’t think they’re as incredible as people make out. Besides, they headlined not so long ago in 2007, I do think it’s not a very original choice for headline act to be honest.

Mumford & Sons
This one just surprised me. I don’t dislike them but I wouldn’t call myself a fan at all. I also think that headlining the Pyramid Stage two albums into a career is a bit steep. I know The Killers headlined Glastonbury in 2007 when they had only released their second album a year previously but let’s be honest: The Killers have a better sound for headlining the likes of Glastonbury than Mumford & Sons.

The Rolling Stones
The one pretty much everyone knew about. Having said that I’m pleased Rolling Stones are headlining. I do like most of what I know of their material – which just boils down to the classics I’m afraid (I may need to rectify that though). I think it’s a very appropriate celebration of their 50 years in the music industry which is a phenomenal achievement if I’m honest. Looking forward to seeing their performance to be perfectly honest!

It’s funny. I don’t dislike any of the acts as such but I can’t help but feel that other than The Rolling Stones there’s nothing much to really make me excited. I do like a lot of the other acts confirmed: Phoenix, Primal Scream, Hurts, Vampire Weekend just off the top of my head for instance. But considering the music comebacks we’ve had this year and last: Stone Roses, Bowie, Blur being just some examples I can’t help but feel the headline acts (other than Rolling Stones) could have been so much better.

Pet Shop Boys – The Last To Die (Debut performance)

Well in the last few days Pet Shop Boys commenced their new Electric tour in Mexico. Even more excitingly, they debuted two new pieces of music: an original track entitled Axis and finally the emergence of the Bruce Springsteen cover they’ve referenced a number of times: the cover is of Last To Die although for one reason or another Pet Shop Boys have called their version “The Last To Die”. It’s obviously hard to digest everything in a track from a fan recording but from first listen this does sound like a good cover. I will admit that I wasn’t bowled over by it although fan recordings virtually never show a track off to its full potential. Having said that I did really like the chorus. Even if I do find it rather hard to get a good grasp of a song when listening to unprofessional recordings (especially when they’re the only sources available at a certain point in time). That said Pet Shop Boys have always been consistent when it comes to covering songs so I don’t see why The Last To Die should be any different – it actually sounds reminiscent of The Killers in a way based on the recording I heard. I would never have expected them to cover Bruce Springsteen though so I would be interested to hear just what made them cover it. I wonder if it was a potential update to U2’s Where The Street’s Have No Name cover that they did although The Last To Die doesn’t even have half of the pomp their U2 cover did. In any case the pictures that I’ve seen from Electric tour (not to mention the set list) seem to suggest its yet another high quality show from a most terrific live act!

Madonna – Bad Girl

Despite being a firm fan favorite (and probably my favorite Madonna album) – Erotica took years before it slowly began to garner respect for the music contained on it. Many of the songs on Erotica rank as some of Madonna’s absolute best, and Bad Girl is no different. A largely forgotten single but it remains a hidden gem and is backed up by one of her greatest videos. One of the great strengths about Erotica is that it isn’t an album that sounds like how you would expect and Bad Girl is a prime example of this. From the title of both song and album you’d expect Bad Girl to be brash, sexy and vibrant (much like the lady herself). It’s not quite like that. The song is a mournful ballad actually. The narrator of the song is deeply hurt over a relationship that although has ran it’s natural course she is struggling to move on from. Her defense mechanisms against the hurt and the pain is to drink & smoke excessively and sleep around in various one night stands. All of which is extremely self destructive behavior. It becomes a vicious cycle really as the narrator is well aware that her behavior is ultimately not going to get her anywhere and if anything it makes her even worse – thus making her employ these various coping mechanisms even more and so forth. Ultimately the song’s core theme is self destruction. It’s far removed from being in any way a sensual song. If anything it’s the counterbalance: it highlights that love can consume us in the best possible way but in this case its the worst possible way. Every time I listen to this song I get a feeling the only conclusion is self destruction. The video only serves to highlight that too. The video probably does enhance the song to an extent (although it’s still a great song regardless.) I will dissect the video in another post but in short I honestly think its one of the best music videos ever. Sadly the Erotica controversy dented single/album sales and it became Madonna’s first single to not make it into the top 20 in her native US. It fared better in the UK (reaching #10) but that was still slightly lower than usual and on a worldwide basis the song wasn’t as a big a success as previous singles. It fell off the UK chart rather quickly which caused Fever to be released as a UK single only a month later. Sadder still the song has never featured in any of Madonna’s tours – it only was ever performed on her January 1993 Saturday Night Live appearance. It’s a truly fantastic song that I wish received more attention, as it is probably one of her best ballads!

Joy Division – No Love Lost (Original version)

This is one of my favorite Joy Division songs, although it’s definitely not one of their more known songs. Two versions of No Love Lost exist – the original version and then a rerecorded one. The original version is the more commonly known version and was recorded in December 1977. It was recorded specifically (in the group’s second recording session) for their first release – the An Ideal For Living EP. It was also subsequently released on the Substance compilation and the Heart and Soul boxset. In May 1978 the song was rerecorded for inclusion on their proposed debut album (which was shelved). This was then released with various other early recordings on Warsaw. Out of the two versions – I prefer the original by far. As it was first recorded in 1977 it does have all the hallmarks of a punk song. As such its not quite as atmospheric as much of the material on the group’s two studio albums. Although the introduction of the track does show a band evolving away from mere punk style music, I think. If I’m being honest I find it more atmospheric than the second version – which sounds a little bit too polished for me. The second version also contains lyrics not found in the original but it omits the highlight of the track. What makes No Love Lost (and what gives the original version its atmospheric edge over the second for me) is the spoken part. The spoken parts of the song have been lifted from the book The House of Dolls: the same book that introduced the band to the term Joy Division. It’s certainly a unique element in a Joy Division track and I do love Ian’s voice as he recites it. Initially I thought this was pretty much forgotten unless you are a fan of the group although LCD Sound-system and The Horrors have both covered the track. In any case No Love Lost is a great and underrated Joy Division track!

New music: Primal Scream – It’s Alright, It’s OK

So in an exciting bit of news yesterday Primal Scream unveiled the first proper single from upcoming album More Light (scheduled for release in May). I love Primal Scream – they have released some brilliant albums over the years and I think they’ve never got the respect they deserved. With that in mind I had high hopes for their new material. I didn’t like 2013 on my first listen but it’s grown on me and now I like it quite a lot. Having said that, It’s Alright, It’s OK is just gorgeous I think. I haven’t been able to stop listening to it. It’s got a beautiful summery tone (the perfect contrast to the horrible snowy weather that’s causing problems in Northern Ireland right now). In some ways it reminds me quite a bit of Movin’ On Up from Screamadelica – it has incredibly upbeat lyrics to go with the arrangement. It also has a choir thrown in for good measure – which you could also find on a few tracks from Screamadelica. Although from what I’ve read about the album I don’t think it’s going to sound like Screamadelica at all. The album does sound like its going to be quite an experimental record so I was surprised that this track is actually quite an accessible radio friendly one. It’s a great song and my favorite single of the year so far. If the rest of the album is as good then More Light could be a sure-fire contender for album of the year in my eyes!

Happy birthday Damon!

Today Damon Albarn turns 45. I absolutely love Damon – he’s been involved in so many great bands/projects from Blur, Gorillaz to The Good, The Band & The Queen and others beside those three. Honestly I think he is pretty much the most creative and forward thinking British musician of the last 20 years or so (perhaps one of the most creative ever). He’s covered so many sounds and styles – Blur have a wide range of genres by anyone’s standard covered in their music and yet they’re only one facet of this great man’s body of work. A true talent. Happy birthday Damon!

Madonna – You Thrill Me/Erotica

Widely touted as one of the highlights from her Confessions Tour. It is the second song of the disco segment (the last segment) of the tour. The song hadn’t been performed live on her previous Drowned World tour so the reemergence of it in the Confessions tour set list was a welcome (if surprising) inclusion. As you can tell listening to it, it’s vastly different from the infamous single. Many of the lyrics aren’t found in the famous single version either. The lyrics (for the most part) that are used here are actually from a very early demo of Erotica. I’ve seen the demo on youtube with the title “second original demo”. In the supposed original demo though she doesn’t sing these lyrics. There’s been some debate about the legitimacy of the demos and The Rain Tapes (collection of Erotica era demos) so I can’t say for sure what demo is the correct one. What is sure though is that these were demo lyrics. From the different versions I’ve heard I personally don’t think the Erotica arrangement and these alternate lyrics went together well at all – I don’t even think the original Erotica lyrics and these You Thrill Me share a similar tone really either. I absolutely love the disco remix of this live version though – it’s softer than the original version (which I still love too). It actually has a very different tone to the original I think too but it’s just as good and many fans actually prefer this live version. I think both are brilliant in their own ways and it’s one of the finest examples of Madonna’s stellar ability to take already classic songs and rearrange them in a different way for yet still make them as enjoyable. A great performance, probably one of her best ever really!

Pet Shop Boys – Violence (Unreleased Hacienda version)

I’ve been meaning to post this one up for a few days. Whilst doing research for my previous post on the Please version of Violence, I stumbled across this mix on Youtube. I had never heard it before and had no idea if it was an official mix or fan-made or whatever. The skeptic being that I am opted for the latter though. I did some research online, and on the ever reliable Geowayne.com it stated that there is a mix called Extended Hacienda Mix that is indeed official but it’s unreleased. According to the same site the mix can also be known as the 12 inch master too. I can only assume that this must be a very rare mix – I have quite a number of Pet Shop Boys bootlegs containing rare mixes (both official and unofficial) on my hard-drive but this one is not contained in any of them. Nor have I ever seen it on any other bootleg mentioned in fact. I’m not even sure if it was the first version recorded and they disliked and decided to modify it or anything. I know literally nothing about it really. I’ve never seen either Neil or Chris mention it in interviews either. Anyhow – it’s a pretty decent mix. Truth be told, my favourite version of the song will always be the released Hacienda version that served as a B-side to I Wouldn’t Normally Do This Kinda Thing. The unreleased version is a bit more of a standardized club song of the era – I could imagine it being used in the Hacienda nightclub actually. Honestly I do think the arrangement kind of clashes with the lyrics – it doesn’t feel as natural as the released version in my opinion. It’s pretty cool to see this unreleased mix, although I prefer the released version hands down!