Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Bombay Bicycle Club - I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose

Having been a mass advocator of these guys since they appeared a few years back, in my peripherals possibly around the time that I was leaving University. I definitely remember seeing them at Glastonbury in 2009, and being blown away by them, as I sheltered from the white hot sun in a hollowed out and halved wooden track casing. Leaning against the cushions with the customary pint of cold, cold cider, I was taking it all in. even my techno-head buddy was all about them within two tracks. But listening to their album ‘I had the Blues but I shook them loose’ was another story. I bought it, but did I listen? Hell no. Irregular downloads and pre-polished beauties kept me going when I got my Bombay phases and needed a fix.

It’s the divide between an established artists cut-glass chimes and vocals and the old grit that gets me. Why would you want to lose that. The same way vinyl has way more character; there is no beating the flaws that are held within an early rendition. But alas, I broke at last and put the album in the CD drawer and explored the entrails. In a stunned tale of difference, it is mature. Perhaps this is what held me back all that time ago? Their innocence and subtle anger, heard in the voice and lyrics throughout even the quietest moments, has morphed into calm austerity that lurks above the feelings reigned in, an atmosphere of armor. Spanning the tracks, more intense feeling spreads across like spilled ink. So when I listen to ‘Magnet’, the lyrics have been hacked and divided between this and ‘Cancel on me’, severing the distraught distaste and a complex love affair, and rooting it in a more sober approach.

His distinct vocals still itch with that unbridled passion, stretching into forlorn disinterest, despair and then back into positive calm, an understanding of fact and fiction. Moments of energy and anger are met with an affected shaking in his voice. Shuddering on the brink of a relapse into the old ways of the Club. It is interesting, like watching someone breakdown, whilst trying to hold it together. This willful edge is met with clashes of snarling snare and pulsing drums in ‘Cancel on me’ as the end is in sight. It highlights that even under this presence of mind there is tumult. Breaks and beats in moments of ‘Autumn’ with pure mixes of indie from the true heyday, latterly forgotten in the haze of noughties ‘Indie’ efforts.

Golden oldie ‘What If’ in its re-dubbed state trips off skillfully spangled riffs and gently hissing high-hats, gliding through the air and meeting head on moments of crescendo where the lament becomes all too much. ‘Giantess’ in its more acoustic state still harnesses the drum machine in a break that is satisfying in the combination of old and new. Soporific and lilting, it differs almost entirely from every other track, but as a foray is beautifully engineered to wind you down after a hard and mostly fast jaunt into this little world. Difficult to pigeonhole as Bombay Bicycle Club are, the feeling of being in a warm bath when you hear them is difficult to escape. It is the one thing you can truly say about them, and its not a genre bound description. They hold you with their odd angled views and intone safety. It feels like purity, though how that is conveyed I don’t know, like magic, or charisma. Some people just have it I guess.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Iron & Wine - 'Kiss Each Other Clean' Review

Released 24.01.11 - Warner Brothers

With a little over three years since the release of The Shepherds Dog in 2007, Samuel Beam brings us the fourth studio album under the name he found on a dietary supplement in a store whilst shopping, ‘Beef Iron & Wine’. Nice. Well, if his 2007 release repined from the elemental folk of Our Endless Numbered Days, this offering entwines both, sweetening the deal with a little tribal timbre which bounds in and out of focus.

The repetitive and resounding quality within ‘Walking Far From Home’ drops you in through a hole filled with feedback, waning as Beam vocalizes over his observations in crowds, setting himself apart from the casual lives that pass. Crunchier qualities are lifted through choired choruses and the strains of a didgeridoo, lightening the mood in moments of clarity.

Beam really shows his respect for those musical greats who have gone before, ‘Me And Lazarus’ and ‘Glad Man Singing’ at times echoing Chris Rea, and perhaps jimmy Page, in the studied riffs and bubbling bass that lay under Sam’s rhythmic lyrical delivery and silky intonation. ‘Monkeys Uptown’ layers this feel with the elasticity of tribal drums, resounding throughout, entwining in chimes and the very image of rain. In other golden moments, there is a definite feel of the fields and golden sunshine of a hazy festival, ‘Tree By The River’ evokes this place in spades, infectious choruses and striking imagery masterfully dispelling any other thoughts from your head.

Inded, the pace changes so quickly throughout it could make your head spin, but with a guiding hand that seems to be present at all times, and the intertwining of those slower moments with bigger, more peopled tracks, Kiss Each Other Cleam is both dizzying and reassuring. ‘Your Fake Name Is Good Enough For Me’ speeds through an opening riff, drawing in flutes, trumpets and the odd strain of a saxophone in the style of an eternal jazz band, before slowly extinguishing each instrument, leaving a more peaceful outtro.

Perhaps the finest moments though, come from those stripped-back tracks where Samuels charming vocals and musicianship come to the fore. ‘Godless Brother In Love’ is one such moment, where the piano plays an endless ebbing tune over which the lyrics soar, entwining with simple chords from the mandolin and a sparse backing chorus. It is both achingly beautiful and optimistic.

So Iron and Wine is back, and not a moment too soon. With a track for every moment, from every facet of Samuel Beam’s repertoire, it combines crystal elements of the folkster we love, alongside the more playful elements which dig deeper into the past, making up some of the present. Needless to say Kiss Each Other Clean inspires philosophical thought in the minds of those who are attuned to it!