Elephant Talk EP – Six Tracks to Start Summer

On my 7th day of university, myself and a couple of friends headed out late, already worse for wear, to the gloriously rubbish bar on our halls of residence, Venue. When we got there, it was closed, but for some reason we bumped into a big group of people from the digs opposite us. When we head back to our halls, and three people we had not met before from the flat opposite followed us. One of them didn’t really speak and we have never seen him since, some wonder if he got lost, ended up in Dewsbury, and never found his way back. Another we did see many times again, then there was the third of these people who followed us back. This guy came with an incredibly indie 2013 look, of denim jacket, chinos and a Hawaiian shirt, was very easy to talk utter shite to, and would not stop talking about the fact his dad was in a band called Kajagoogoo. This man Courtney Askew-Conti, who 5 days later would console me over my first university era romantic failure with the only way 18 year olds could (Jäger bombs and 80s music), and go on to become one of my best friends at university, sharing many trips to our love/hate relationships with our Yorkshire towns establishments.

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Tokyos, a club so bad, it made three middle class students form a hip-hop collective to dis it (Picture: The Mirror)

Courtney has had musical acts before; before he went to university he fronted an Indie Band named ‘Ego Trip’, which were everything a late 00’s indie band made up of teenagers should sound like. Courtney also was part of a  joke amazing three man hip-hop group called ‘The Camele Clube’, which the song ‘Tokyos (What Do You Want From Me) apparently is still played in certain societies pre drinks in UoH. Most importantly to Courtney’s latest incarnation was his short lived 2013 project ‘Terrapin’, which included the Disclosure inspired music, such as ‘To The Lions’, which you can find bellow:

Four years later, after completing a Music Technology degree and spending a year working for Warner Bros music London, Courtney has released his new effort, under the guise of ‘Elephant Talk’. Leighton Buzzards finest has also returned with what is objectively his best work to date. When talking to  me about music as he has done his degree, Courtney often said to me that the most important thing about original music is to sound authentic, and not to be caught down by sounding like someone else, or as a stereotype, but that does not mean reminding you of something else is a band thing. Interpol remind people of Joy Division, that doesn’t make ‘Turn on the Bright Lights’ any less of a masterpiece. And in some tracks, Courtney’s influences do come out. For example, ‘Cabin Fever’ invokes Late of the Pier, who produced one of Courtney’s favourite albums, and opener ‘Recently’ has first album Disclosure vibes which we saw before in his ‘Terrapin’ project.

However, I am delighted to report that the album is full of 6 great summery tunes, where it is clear my friend is having a lot of fun. It comes to no surprise to myself that Courtney could write decent lyrics knowing that he used to just randomly freestyle in smoking areas of clubs, but nonetheless, the simplicity and catchiness of the hook to ‘Too Much’ is excellent. Stand out track is a fight between ‘Take Me Over’, which features a saxophone solo and very slick production values, and ‘Broken Arrow’, where the impressive outro includes the most joyful hook outside Elbow’s album of 2017 so far.

Overall I shouldn’t be surprised that a man who managed to turn Alan Partridge saying “Are you on an E” into a hook for a hip-hop song in first year could create a decent dance record, but it has still surpassed my expectations. I implore all to give the EP a listen, and see for yourselves.

Rudrum Rating: 8.4/10

Elephant Talk EP is available on Spotify, iTunes and Soundcloud Now.

iTunes: http://apple.co/2rdeDWG
Spotify: http://spoti.fi/2qfBn3z
SoundCloud: http://bit.ly/2q6JeFt

If Kendrick Lamar had been based in Norwich

Back when Breaking Bad was the big thing, there was a meme on social media which suggests if it was set in the UK its protagonist, Walter White, would have got free healthcare and that would have been the end of the show. Not (semi spoilers) what actually happened, where Walter set up his own meth business, made millions of dollars, wrecked his families lives and risk his life and the people around him throughout the whole series. Although this jokey meme is a bit too simplistic, it does reveal that if American society wasn’t so f*****, some of their best cultural exports would be a lot more dull. I will demonstrate how worse some things would be if that instead of born and raised in the streets of Compton, Kendrick Lamar would have actually been based in the delightful streets of Norwich.

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Compton may have become a cultural hub for hip-hop in America, but it is equally known; through its music more than anything else; as a city riddled in relative poverty, crime; exacerbated by the existence of the criminal gangs Bloods and Crips; and the crack epidemic in the 1980s. Twin that to the Black Lives Matter campaign, which stresses about the amount of black lives being lost through shootings by both criminals and law enforcement in cities like Compton; it was clearly a gritty place to be brought up; and a clear influence for Kendrick Lamar’s albums, and particularly songs such as “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” and “Alright”. However, instead of being based in Compton, in this article, we will assume instead, that Kendrick Lamar had actually been brought up in the city of Norwich, which in 2006 was named one of the safest cities in the UK, is relatively affluent, and as a rule, not being in America makes the whole social-political system and racial discrimination less terrible than Compton. Meaning Kendrick’s stories about his dead homies would most likely turn into something more similar to talking about his mates getting a bit too drunk on Prince of Wales Road.

This would turn “Section.80” and “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” really into a bit of a Skins episode instead of the brilliant gritty tales of Kendrick Lamar’s life and observations of living in a comparatively violent crime ridden, poor public health, undereducated area of Compton. In Norwich on the other hand, Kendrick and his family would have healthcare to look after them, benefits or tax credits to not lead him or people around him to leading such crime or disease ridden lives (although that may change soon the way things are going) and racial discrimination he would suffer would not have been anywhere near as bad. Actually when I was at a pub there a few weeks back, someone called fifty Syrian Refugees being settled in Norfolk as “too many” so maybe he would suffer the same racial discrimination. I Digress.

This would mean the quite brilliant and now political anthem to the Black Lives Matter campaign “Alright” would never have need exist. Furthermore it would wipe out half the themes so potent and constant in “To Pimp A Butterfly”. Songs such as “Mortal Man”, “Wesley’s Theory”, “I”, and “Complexion” would not sound anywhere near as vital. In fact other songs on that album, such as “Blacker the Berry” may not even exist, as Kendrick would not have experienced the social background which would provoke such impassioned lyrics about race.

On “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” songs like “Swimming Pools” “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and “Poetic Justice” may sound vaguely similar, but other great songs on the album would sound relatively pathetic. “Art of Peer Pressure” would just become Kendrick staying out a bit later than his parents said he could; “M.A.A.D City” itself would instead of telling a tale about how he once saw his uncle shot at by a burger stand or about someone killed his cousin back in ’94; would have just been a story about his uncle getting beaten up once and about his cousins in juvenile court for shoplifting. And then “Sing about me, I’m Dying of Thirst”, Kendrick’s rhymes would not have been about dead friends and acquaintances, it would be about his friends who had ASBO’s once; and another who had to star in a pre-fame Ed Sheeran video for urgent cash. Therefore, my two favourite albums of the last five years, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” and “To Pimp A Butterfly” would have both sounded not half as brilliant if Kendrick Lamar had not been stuck growing up in a city which had been ruined by the American sociopolitical system.

Although the idea of “Good, Kid, M.A.A.D City” being about Norwich does humour me; and that good albums have came from talking about the lives in normal British cities (see Arctic Monkey’s “Whatever You Say I Am, That Is What I’m Not” in relation to Sheffield as an example), it is clear to me that if America was more similar to Britain, we would have lost great art, music and entertainment like Breaking Bad and Kendrick Lamar. So America stay a country of gun violence, racial tension, individualist to the degree of cutting people off and generally repulsive, and your culture will continue to be the only good result of it.

Belated Reviews: Arctic Monkeys-Favourite Worst Nightmare

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DISCLAIMER: This review is rated F for fanboying

Last Sunday was the 10 year anniversary of the release of the much loved Arctic Monkeys album “Whatever You Say I Am, That is What I’m Not”. Originally the plan was to write a review for that album to celebrate its ten years of release. But instead, here is a review of the underrated masterpiece which was its follow up: “Favourite Worst Nightmare”. This album is very special to me, it’s the fourth album I ever brought and is the only one of the first four albums I brought that it’s still socially acceptable to listen to. To add, this is my favourite Arctic Monkeys album and one of my favourite albums ever.

What I love this album, and will stress over this track by track review, is that the band still maintain the energy level, earworm guitar riffs and the Yorkshire whit of their debut album; but in this offering Alex Turner’s lyrics had arguably matured and became stronger; the sound is slightly darker than the original without losing its accessible edge; and it, like the first album, does not have a weak point. Let’s go onto the track-by-track lowdown.

-Brianstorm-

This opener is a relentless two minutes of guitar thrashing, big drums and witty lyrics. It’s probably the closest Arctic Monkeys would ever get to a heavy metal song. But being early Arctic Monkeys it has an infectious rift which has been chanted by crowds at their concerts ever since. Written about a man the band met on tour in Tokyo who had so much charisma it left the members “in awe” of, Turner barks over the guitar riffs, baselines and furious drumming to describe the mannerisms ‘Brian’ and the effects he has on everyone. Overall a brilliant opening 2:50 of the album about A Don Draper-like figure.

-Teddy Picker-

This song really carries from where Brianstorm left off, with frantic pace, an infectious guitar riff and Alex Turner’s Yorkshire accent barking over it all. In under 3 minutes Turner berates the talent contest culture which was/is everywhere in Britain, berating the wannabe pop stars who sign up for the contests (“shouldn’t be surprised when bent over, they told yer, but you were gagging for it”). And of course the song also has the put down at the end which sums up this whole song as a chantable middle finger to X-factor culture.

-D is for Dangerous-

One of the songs on this album which shares characteristics from songs on the previous album. D is for Dangerous is another earworm, and could be interpreted in numerous way. My personal understanding is that its talking about chasing the rush from a vice, which could be gambling, drugs, sex, drink, football manager? anything. But when the song is immensely fun and only 2:16 long it doesn’t really matter what it’s about.

-Balaclava-

Balaclava has a lot in common in subject matter with “Dancing Shoes”, and could even be seen as a sequel to it, but sounds so radically different that Balaclava could be about anything it would still be a banger. “The confidence is the Balaclava” is such a brilliant and simple song line it’s a miracle it had not been used it before. This song more than any is fluid and changing all the way through. from the quick baseline at the start, to the frantic guitars, to the ominous tone of the bridge to the slightly funky outro. This ends a breathless first four songs of the album.

-Fluorescent Adolescent-

One of the best Arctic Monkey’s songs, the band manage to blend a downbeat but nonetheless catchy guitar line into one of the biggest sing-along’s about a woman going through a midlife crisis unsatisfied seeing that in particular in terms of her sex life, her best days are numbered. In the same light of “When The Sun Comes Down” Arctic Monkeys turn a quite saddening topic into a brilliant pop song.

-Only Ones Who Know-

The slowest song on the album, comparable to “Riot Van” on its predecessor. This comparison brings about the reason I think this album is slightly better than “Whatever You Say I Am”, as lyrically this song is vastly superior and strikes out sincerity from Turner only really found in “A Certain Romance” from the previous album. The song at its core is about three people; A girl who has settled for a guy over the idea that she would never achieve true love, believing the initial fierce excitement is enough; the aforementioned Guy who is desperate to capture her heart; and Turner’s prospective, which is basically pointing out that they would all probably be better off on their own to pursue the ideas they had given up on. Personally I believe this song is as hideously underrated as the album itself.

-Do Me A Favour-

Almost a direct sequel to “Only Ones Who Knows”, Do Me A Favour is a tour de force and the centerpiece of the album. At its heart a breakup song, Do Me A Favour still sounds eight and half years after release utterly thrilling building from the-by this album standards slow start to the crescendo of  guitars and emotion by the climax of the song. other than “Love Will Tear Us Apart”, I struggle to think of many songs of the subject matter better than this.

-This House is a Circus-

After the last three heavy on song writing and sensibility, the album gives everyone a break and goes into a nonsensical blast. This House Is a Circus is not about anything in particular (other than drugs probably) but what its effective as is simply being yet another earworm, staying in form with the rest of the album, it sounds slightly dark but a hell of a lot of fun.

-If You Were There, Beware-

This song picks up from where of This House is a Circus left off. This is probably my least favourite song on the album, but calling this the worst song on an album is like labelling one of Cristiano Ronaldo’s feet as his “weak foot”. With relentless guitars and drumming this is still a very strong song, and sounds definitively like it belongs with the rest of the album.

-The Bad Thing-

While many songs on this album share the subject matter of its predecessor, this is the only song which sounds like it should be on it. The Bad Thing is about an all too real sounding incidence of drunken cheating. In fact, this song, like many on the previous album, almost paints the picture of what’s happening that you could almost imagine watching the events of the song unfold. However, it still feels at home on Favourite Worst Nightmare and keeps up the unbelievably high level the album produces.

-Old Yellow Bricks-

The only comment which really needs to be made about this song is the quality of every guitar riff in the song. Every bit of the song is technically so simple to play but together with Alex Turner’s paranoid, Wizard of Oz linked vocals sounds absolutely thrilling.

-505-

This album closes with possibly the best song the Arctic Monkey’s have written to date. Allegedly named after the hotel room number Alex Turner met his girlfriend at the time in after months apart, 505 is a brilliantly touching, life affirming anthem which is quite simply special. Each detail of this song sounds and feels glorious, and highlights one of the key things which makes the band so popular, the fact that every person listening can relate to what Turner is singing about.

 

As already stated before, this is one of my favourite albums ever, this is an extremely biased review caused by how much I’ve listened to the album and how much I adore it. From start to finish it feels that every second of the album is vital, yet doesn’t feel like it’s not long enough. It is tragedy that this album sometimes feels forgotten between the impact “Whatever I Say I Am, That What I’m Not” had when it first came out and the successful reinvention of “AM”. Deep down, for me, and maybe a lot of other fans, probably know song-to-song, this is the best of the lot.

-Verdict-

10/10

Just call me NME.

Belated Reviews: Muse-Drones

I used to love Muse. As a teenager I could listen to their whole discography in one sitting quite happily. Although some of that was down to teenage angst and the fact I had yet to discover Radiohead; or how to talk to women, I still think that Origins of Symmetry, Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations are brilliant albums. In fact I don’t mind Showbiz and even like The 2nd Law and The Resistance in places.

However I appreciated that by the time Muse announced they were making Drones it was an album being made by a band past its prime. But when it did eventually came out, I couldn’t believe how far past their prime they actually were. This album just sounds like a parody of themselves, while at the same time sounding like Matt Bellamy had watched a bunch of Vice conspiracy videos, and drunkenly wrote some songs about it. If you have not heard to album, don’t bother, but here is a track-by-track review.

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Even the artwork is terrible (Photo: muse.mu)

 

-Dead Inside-

Madness rewritten for angsty teenagers obsessed with Kerrang! and foundation. Honestly listen to Madness, check the whole song structure and listen to this straight after. Both sound like Muse attempting to be Queen, both have a weird guitar solo which were obviously recorded while everyone was slightly bored and both have to differing degrees a satisfying bridge before saying the song title again and ending. The difference with Madness and Dead Inside is that Madness sounds more heartfelt and because of it sounds more satisfying because of it. There isn’t much wrong with Dead Inside just that it pails into insignificance compared to the last albums similar lead single.

-Drill Sergeant/Psycho-

If you were going to ask someone to make up a Muse guitar rift it would sound like the rift in this song. First few listens I liked the riff, but now it just sounds like Muse couldn’t think of an actual song structure so thought they should just do anything which sounded a tiny bit like them and convince fans that everything’s ok, because despite the fact its rubbish it still sounds like Muse. And then we come on to the skit and the lyrics itself. Bellamy had obviously just seen Full Metal Jacket, and decided to just rip it off, because anyone who had not seen Full Metal Jacket and didn’t realise it’s an obvious rip off would love that shit. And then the chorus itself; which sounds so lazy and cringeworthy it almost makes me lose faith in humanity. So overall, far from a good Muse song.

-Mercy-

Best song on the album, easily. It is the only song on the album which sounds like it could have been Muse back in their prime; partly because it sounds like a certain single from Black Holes, but nonetheless, it’s the only song on the album I hear and put the sound up a few notches. The lyrics are average  but that has never been Muse’s strongpoint. What this song does do well is using “loud quiet” song structure to effect and actually creating melody which is actually nice to listen to and combining it with a chorus which demonstrated everything which was positive about The 2nd Law. However on a Muse album in their heyday this would still be a distinctively average effort.

-Reapers-

A song which starts so positively for the first 30 seconds with a good guitar solo, before turning to shit as soon as the verse starts; sounding like everything The Resistance did wrong with lyrics bad enough to give “Psycho” a run for its money. It also has a chorus a stupid as “Psycho”. it doesn’t even sound like Muse anymore, the chorus and in fact the rest of the song (minus the first 30 seconds) just sounds like a really bad imitation of Queen and Guns and Roses while performing a really lazy version of satire. Some people criticise bands for not bringing out new albums when they headline festivals or go on tour, I don’t. If you’re writing songs which are so obviously bellow par compared to how things used to be, just do a greatest hits tour and save the legacy. The saddest part is this isn’t even the low point of the album.

-The Handler-

When I originally heard this song, I believed there could be possibly some hope for the album. This song has the same idea of Reapers, in just a selection of guitar riffs Bellamy did when he was bored with some lyrics on the top of it, apart from with this song the riffs are a noticeable improvement, and the lyrics of the song aren’t noticeably bad enough to spoil that effect. Better.

-Defector-

Quite simply the worst song Muse have ever written. It is the worst song they will ever write. It is one of the worst songs from 2015, and 2015 produced this. I would talk about this song in more depth, but it will just cause me to have a mental breakdown.

-Revolt-

Another example of Muse pretending to be Queen and ending up sounding like a parody of both groups. But by this point any sane person would have turned the album off after Defector and not have to sit through this.

-The Aftermath-

After the last two songs, this song feels like a relief. For the first 3 minutes 50 at least, this song is soothing and well paced, until Bellamy decides the song hasn’t sounded enough like Queen and ruins it slightly. Despite this, compared to the last couple of songs this is a let off and holds slight hope for the final couple of songs, although that hope disappears pretty quickly…

-The Globalist-

This is the moment on the album when Bellamy remembers this is supposed to be a concept album and then looked and saw that a classic Pink Floyd concept album thing to do is put a really really long song into it. Not unlike Exogenesis Symphony in places, after a while The Globalist sounds like a waste of time. To be fair to Exogenesis Symphony the only reason that sounds boring after a while is because there are three different parts to it, and I could happily sit through one part at once just not all three. The Globalist however, is boring all the way through, even when something does happen five minutes in, what does happen is what is wrong with whole album.

-Drones-

Killed

By

Drones

Why did they even record this? Well at least it isn’t a reprise of fucking Psycho.

 

Knowing the political climate this is connected to a band with maybe better lyrical sensibilities who were still in their prime could have made it a vital modern classic, but instead we are left with this. This album would have probably not have infuriated me as much if it was an album by some nobody I’ve never heard of or from a band I hated, but no, it had to be a band which I used to be a fan of.

-Verdict-

2.8/10