Sometimes, not often, but very occasionally, you hear music from out of nowhere that within a heartbeat, slaps you around the face and demands your full attention. While surfing my way around YouTube the other night, with a broadband connection that was so slow it was going backwards, driving me to the edge of reason as I watched that annoying little buffering circle whirling around and around as if to taunt me while absolutely nothing happened, I came across a young man called John Newman. I hadn’t searched him, he appeared in an advert. You know those really annoying adverts that you click ‘skip’ as soon as you are given the opportunity? Well, I didn’t click ‘skip’ because I was captivated. I’d instantly forgotten all about what I was actually searching for because my face had been well and truly slapped! There was this young guy, maybe 20, maybe 22? Fresh faced and cock sure, he was stood at a mic, in an opened collar dress shirt and a suit jacket, with a look of self assurance on his face that surely belied his years. And then he unleashed this voice. Well fuck me, what a voice. For a second my mind couldn’t compute that the sound I was hearing was coming from this kid on the screen. And feel. Wow. This young fella had more feel in one flick of his little finger than most artists can muster up in a lifetime. Singing about his girl who had a habit of stepping out on him. He felt every word. I felt every word. I wanted to find this girl and ask her what the fuck she was doing, hadn’t she heard him sing? I instantly thought Jonny Lang, maybe a little Otis Redding or maybe Stevie Winwood? I couldn’t really nail it, but this voice stands up with the very, very best that Motown ever offered us. I hit repeat a couple of times cos I was instantly hooked, and then I checked out another track he’d done with Rudimental, ‘Feel The Love’, which was apparently number 1 in the UK charts – yeah whatever, I’m shit at chart music, I admit it. It was amazing stuff. I knew I had to blog him. Talent like this comes around so seldom, everybody should hear it. Talent like this is the reason I started a blog. Whether 5 or 500 people hear this guy sing through this page (and it’s way more likely to be the former, lol!) I don’t care, I will consider my job done. Now stop reading and check him out, he’s fucking amazing!
Don’t you just love hunting down new music? I do. For me there’s nothing quite like unearthing a shiny new gem of glorious sound from the undergrowth. Something that catches your attention for one reason or another and really gets your juices flowing, a hook that stays in your head, playing over and over in your mind’s iPod even when you’ve stopped listening and you are off taking a leak or chopping up your vegetables for your dinner. I love that feeling when you have found that gem, and given it a couple of listens so it’s at the point where it’s just sinking in to your consciousness, when the little highlights of any given track or album are starting to stand out and you look forward to them as they approach. Or when the first bars of a new favourite track begin to play, making the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end with anticipation. It’s a bit like that feeling when you are at a gig, the buzz of a restless crowd filling the arena all waiting for their heroes to appear, and then suddenly the lights drop and you feel that surge of adrenalin course through your veins as the first chords vibrate through your body and the cheers and the whistles and the sounds of the band fill the auditorium. Music is such a powerful force.
I envy those that make it, music that is. I played the drums for a while when i was a kid, and loved it, and then picked up a bass a little bit later and loved that too, even at the novice level with which I played there was such satisfaction in nailing a song from start to finish. Incidentally, the rhythm section in any band is the heartbeat of the music and deserves way more credit than it ever gets – just saying. Ok, back to the plot. I know how I feel when i listen to good music, so being able to write and play the kind of music you love must be such a rewarding experience, kinda like a drug, but at the same time cathartic? To be able to turn your feelings, whatever they may be, into music must be like being able to speak a foreign language like it’s your first? I can only imagine how good that feels and it’s something I’ll never know, however I am completely content to stand on the other side and be on the receiving end of the creativity. I love it.
And like I said I love seeking it out. There are so many different ways to do that now. You have to love the internet, it has changed the game completely in terms of providing a platform for talent to be noticed and discussed, for people to get their sound out to the masses and for the wildfire that is word of mouth and social networking sites to turn a spark into a full blown inferno. It used to be a case of reading the magazines, or checking out a tape a friend had recommended. And then MTV came along. People can say what they like about MTV but without it i may never have discovered The Mars Volta, which believe me, would have been very, very bad! I used to rely a lot on things like Amazon and iTunes reviews too, before the days when they offered you a snippet of sound to make your own judgment, and it was always a question of evaluating the opinions of others before deciding whether to take the plunge and invest your hard earned cash into something that, when it finally dropped onto your doormat all wrapped up in cellophane and cardboard, you might not actually like. But now that has changed. Now you can do your research – there are a host of new music finder Apps. You can find something that looks interesting, whack it into YouTube and make an informed opinion. Obviously there are a million ways to ‘rip’ music now too, you don’t even have to pay for it anymore, which I think is wrong (and a topic worthy of discussion all by itself) but I guess that’s the flip-side to all the new found exposure that aspiring artists now enjoy?
So, with all that said, when you stumble across a band that have been around for fifteen years and have effectively called it a day, you can be forgiven for thinking, ‘Shit, how the hell did i miss them?’ I’ve just recently discovered the RX Bandits, fifteen years too late! And that’s really frustrating, cos I have been heavily into The Mars Volta since they formed, and both bands have a lot in common. They both hail from the same part of the world, they both have a free flowing, progressive sound that is pretty much impossible to pigeonhole and absolutely unique to each band, and the members of both bands have numerous side projects that have crossed paths and shared stages and tours and distribution labels alike. So how could I not know about them? Don’t ask me, I don’t know! I guess now the right question to ask would be, ‘How did I finally find out about them?’ Well that answer I obviously do know, and pretty much needless to say it does begin with TMV. Omar Rodriguez Lopez, the prolific genius behind The Mars Volta has several brothers, who have a band of their own called Zechs Marquise. Another fabulous collection of musicians who make the kind of music that deem hallucinogenics completely redundant. It’s described as progressive rock but that really does it no justice whatsoever, because this is nothing like Dream Theater or Rush. No this is something else, this is something on a wholly different level. I don’t know how these guys write their music but you get the impression that it just happens, that when these guys get together the music just spills freely from their being. Their music is completely and wholly immersive, it wraps you in a blanket of sublime weirdness and pulls you into the speakers. The outside world just ebbs away until you are sailing all on your own in an ocean of rich, luxurious, almost ominous sound. It is ear candy at it’s finest. I strongly urge anybody who may stray across this to check out their music. Their first album, ‘Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare’ hinted at the sheer majesty that was to come, and arrive it did in the form of their second full length LP, ‘Getting Paid’ in 2011.
Anyway, getting back to the point, I do really like to ramble for which I don’t apologize But yeah, Zechs came along and as is very evident, blew me away. And as I kept digging, the name RX Bandits kept appearing. So naturally I checked them out and was struck instantly by something that was very special. I kept thinking that they sounded a lot like TMV but different. Maybe a little more fluid, a little less structured and contrived. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that that’s a bad thing as far as The Volta are concerned, it gets levied at them all the time, but I love that about them. And anybody that has witnessed TMV in full flow freewheeling during a live set will know that in that setting they are anything but contrived. I remember the first time I saw them at the much missed Astoria in London, a tiny little gem of an arena they’ve since knocked down to build a fucking railway. Anyway I’d had a nice smoke outside before the doors opened, so i was nicely baked, and they came out and exploded onto the stage like a hurricane with an afro, launching into a ‘De-Loused…’ jam session that had an effect on me like an out of body experience. Sure my body was sat there in that arena, but my head was spinning out into the atmosphere on some kind of Mars induced vortex. It was without doubt the most amazing gig I have ever been to.
But the RXB’s have a more earthy, soulful feel about them. Hints of reggae and ska, mixed with smooth, acid jazzy sounds combining with a constant underlying punky edge, makes them completely unique. Matt Embree’s expressive, soulful voice, he is a wonderful lyricist, combined with musicianship of the highest caliber and songwriting skills few will ever likely match for passion, feel and originality make this band shine out like a beacon of how music should be conceived and executed. It is pure musical brilliance and it hasn’t been out of my player since I discovered it about six months ago. Actually I lie. The only time anything else has been in my player is when, through the RXB’s I discovered The Sound Of Animals Fighting. This post is already two paragraphs longer than I expected it to be but please, just do yourself a huge favour and check out this band, and their third album, ‘The Ocean And The Sun’. For fear of sounding like something out of the ‘Moron Hag Wives of Orange County’ – OH MY GOD! It is as good as anything I own, and I own everything good. TSOAF are a collective of musicians from a bunch of other more established bands, including the RXB’s, Finch, Circa Survive, and a couple of others. I cannot describe it, you just have to listen to it, and because I just love to share the good stuff, you can hear it below from start to finish. Turn the lights down low, skin yourself a nice fat joint and just let it take you to a very wonderful place.
Ok, so in conclusion, cos I need to stop writing at some point (and you need to listen to this music), what exactly am I getting at? Well, I started this post by talking about the joy of seeking out and searching for new music, and then I pondered and continue to wonder how it is, given the way technology has provided us so many new resources to find it, that occasionally we miss out when it is there slapping us in the face, right between the eyes, screaming at us, ‘CHECK ME OUT, YOU’RE GONNA LOVE ME!’ So although it can feel a little frustrating that you were completely oblivious when the music was current, the music we love, when we eventually find it, will always be current to us as individuals, and at least when you come in 15 years late to a band, there is a huge pile of back catalogue for you to feast on and explore and indulge upon like a greedy little school kid in a chocolate factory. So now it’s time for you to get your hands and face and all your clothes dirty, and check out all the lovely sugary sweet chocolate below. I promise you won’t get sick! Enjoy.
RX Bandits – Mientras La Veo Sonar
Zechs Marquise – The Heat, The Drought, The Thirst, The Insanity
The Sound Of Animals Fighting – The Ocean And The Sun
They’re defecting us
They’re extracting us
The world owes me nothing, it’s given me a great deal
Is this emptiness part of being human?
They’re defecting us
They’re extracting us
Away from all the children we can feel the walls that you’ve made
All the fears are mine, paper planes and time (time)
Fly away from all the children we feel the walls that you’ve made
All your fears are mine, paper planes and time (time)
Time is the only distance to the artist and the masterpiece
Running around our business, explaining what I should’ve picked
Sitting in a single chair with papers on the wall
Twiddling your rubber thumbs in a sea of alphabetical
Let your arm break in pain you’ll find the truth
Let your mind escape the burning of logic and proof
(The world owes me nothing. Let’s turn our boredom to gratitude)
I love love love
I want want want
I need need need
I am am am
I love love love
They’re defecting us
They’re extracting us
The world owes me nothing, it’s given me a great deal
Who wrote your words
Who sews your strings
Who built your boats
Who placed your paths
Who wrote your words
Why do I wonder?
Some people never ask, what are you thinking?
Who’s in charge?
I don’t understand French, but if I could,
I would write beautiful songs about horrible things…
because it is said to be the language of love and romance…
and if love didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be any horrible things.
You must care to cry, love something in order to hate something…
You must have a heart in order for it to be broken.
Many people walk in a dream.
They feel entitled to happiness and feel anger when it is not waiting for them.
I know that the world owes me nothing, yet has given me a great deal.
It is our own perception we get to bend and mold to our liking-
once that is accomplished, the reality we once knew begins to change.
My neighbor may be dark and gloomy, but I find it a perfect day to go outside.
I can knock on his door, but that doesn’t mean he will answer.
And I will have to walk away, sad, from his little house
where he sleeps and smokes and drinks all day,
just to escape what he does not yet know.
We find ourselves in little boxes watching little boxes.
We see an edited version of human life, targeted on alienating us as individuals,
to distract us from the seedy underbelly of politics and business.
We are products of a Machiavellian society.
Look at the pretty girl dancing- her hair is so shiny.
I want my hair to be shiny. Look at the man with chizzled features-
use the razor he is using. It will give you the kind of charm that woman crave.
Women will want you. Men will adore you. You will be happy. You will be empty.
Because it is not about the product, but the feeling they try to convey.
And it is not for your benefit, it is for the benefit of the holders of the company.
We must burn our little boxes. We must create dialogue.
We must realize the importance of every moment.
We must turn our boredom to gratitude.
Use your hands, your thoughts, your hunger.
These things are yours and yours alone.
Hi and welcome to my blog about all things music. Well I say all things music, there is the possibility that I might shoot off at a tangent from time to time about anything and everything but essentially, this is a blog about the music I love, and the sounds that have struck a chord with me (no pun intended) and have been a part of my life since I bought my very first record a very, very long time ago. Incidentally, that record was by a band called Five Star, yeah, remember them? Please spare me the embarrassment and don’t try too hard. Yeah, it was bad. But you have to start somewhere and I was very young and my tastes improved really quickly. Ok, so that’s my soul bared within the first paragraph of my first post, this is going really well!
So, why do I assume anybody cares about what I think? The fact is I don’t. Music is as subjective as anything could possibly be, we are all drawn to different styles, different sounds and different rhythms. Musical preference is a very personal thing. But it is a powerful force. it can stir every emotion, it can send you soaring higher than any drug could ever take you, or take you to the lowest depths of your innermost feelings. Wherever it takes you, the connection we forge with the music we love is something that can never be broken, and it can help shape the way we live our lives and see ourselves within the chaos of existence.
Where am I heading with this diatribe? Well, my pen name is a clue to the initiated, and a complete nonsense to those that aren’t. It doesn’t matter either way, but let me shed a little light on why I am here in the first place. The 1990’s were probably the last seminal era of music. Yes, I am biased but I am also right. After a few years of listening to what was basically crap, slowly honing my tastes but really struggling to find a path to follow, the grunge scene hit me and many, many others like a ton of bricks. After a decade or so of cock rock and big hair music (a lot of which had it’s virtues, that’s without question) and pointless pop, I mean seriously, when did pop music ever have any real purpose other than to prey on the unenlightened and fill the coffers of the record companies? Suddenly music became real again. Suddenly the whole scene shifted to a place that was raw and brutal and honest. Bands were making music for different reasons to those that came before them. Bands like Alice In Chains, Nirvana and Soundgarden were baring their souls into a microphone. it wasn’t pretty, it was pretty ugly. But it was real. It was music driven by pure emotion, often dark, often desperate, always genuine. Music driven by such force of emotion could not fail to connect with the masses. Every single one of us that made that connection with this new sound could have been Kurt, or Layne or Chris. They felt how we felt. They conveyed our thoughts and emotions into a sound that reverberated deep into our consciousness, leaving it’s mark within every one of us to this day.
Hence why I am here. There is a new album coming out soon, November 13th to be precise, and the fervour and anticipation, in my house at least, is palpable. Fifteen long years ago the music world was rocked with the announcement that Soundgarden had split. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t such a shock, but I was choked. The album ‘Down On The Upside’ had just months before been released to favourable reviews. It was their fifth studio album and in my opinion in many ways their best. it had failed to sell in the same kind of numbers as Superunknown (an impossible task) but it was an evolution of their sound in a more alternative, production rich direction, enhancing on the sonic soundscapes carved out in earlier releases and taking them to a new, more self assured level. I for one, enjoyed it. So on the 9th April 1997, when news broke that they were disbanding I was disappointed to say the least. It was the end of an era. Alice In Chains, my other favourite band of the time were on hiatus, Nirvana were long gone and Pearl Jam were making good music, but nothing that lived up to the likes of ‘Ten’ or ‘Vs’. The grunge movement was dying a slow, painful death. Nothing lasts forever and expectation is the pass time of the fool, but that does not mean that we cannot lament the passing of something treasured and precious to us. Needless to say those records that had meant so much were played to death over the course of the following years. Layne Staley’s tragic death in 2002 dealt another blow to an already dead movement and save for the likes of TOOL, the music of our generation was long gone, replaced by a new pitiful genre that fused rock and rap and all kinds of crap. Stand up Limp Bizkit ( I mean come on, just look at the name) and Linkin Park.
Jump forward to New Years Day 2010 and the message via Twitter, ‘…The Knights of the Sound Table ride again’.
It was what we’d all been waiting for. There had been rumors, little snippets of suggestion that had us all excited and hopeful that maybe, just maybe Soundgarden would return and save us all from Bieber oblivion. But every feint hope had been shot down or dismissed as nothing but a pipe dream. Then suddenly, there it was, in black and white, like a Christmas present delivered a week late from the mouth of the man himself, Chris Cornell, that indeed music was about to be saved allover again. Ok, so that may be something of an overstatement, we didn’t actually know what he meant, but it had to be good right? Whatever it meant, there was just that slim chance there could be new material in the offing, another small nugget of hope for us all to cling onto like a lifebelt in a raging sea of talent-less shit. And then it was confirmed, new material, a new album, it was gonna happen, it was a definite. The calls of “HALLELUJAH!!” rang from my chair, from fan forums, web boards and music writers alike. It was the news we’d all longed to hear for way too long.
And so to now and the confirmation of an album title, track listing, and release date. November 13th 2012, did I say that already? It’s two days before I turn 38 years young but it’s a date that cannot come soon enough. The teaser trailer is just that, one minute and twenty four seconds of outright, unashamed teasiness. Read into it what you will. Soundgarden have always been a band that have allowed the listener to forge their own perceptions of their music and their lyrics. But it sounds awesome, check it out below. It sounds like they are picking up from where they left off. A little dark, a little alternative, maybe experimental? They are older, wiser, refreshed and renewed. Who knows what to expect? I don’t personally care. All that matters is that the Knights of The Sound Table are back and they are gonna blow us all away allover again!