15 July 2009

Catching up with the Lightning Seeds, Wave Machines, and Kasabian

Here is my attempt to bring myself up to speed, or at least try to. I wanted to give time to some CDs that I did not miss, but just did not have the time to dedicate to them when they initially were released. But as it is the summer, and typical of July and August, the rate of new releases has slowed down a bit, I finally have the opportunity to go backwards a bit. Though I am sure that some of this may be old-ish news, I still wanted to post a few words about these three albums. I have been listening to Lightning Seeds since 1989 (dating myself a bit, ah?), Kasabian since their since their debut, and recently came across Wave Machines when a friend made me listen to them. On face value, it seems odd to be writing about these three bands together, but actually there is one common thread between them: they offer up music that is not a repetition of everything else out there. These three albums are by far distinct and great alternatives to what is the “indie” mainstream.

The Lightning Seeds: “Four Winds”

This is the sixth studio album for the Lightning Seeds, the first since 1999! Ian Broudie (vocalist, guitarist, song writer, and creative mastermind behind the band) has taken his time releasing a proper solo album and producing the works of other bands. Now back with Lightning Seeds, “Four Winds” was released on 18 May 2009 in the UK, and available as an import in the US. And the time away from the music scene has helped to evolve the band’s sound substantially, though not to the point of being unrecognizable. Though the pop sensibility is there, also present is a melancholic, moody feeling throughout the album. This is definitely the Lightning Seeds album that has the most emotional depth till date.

This is not to say that what you get isn’t straightforward pop; what you get out of the Lightning Seeds is pop with more introspection than before. Right from the opening track, “4 Winds,” a sorrowful pop song, Broudie sings, “I guess you got those blues, and when you get those blues there’s nothing you can do.” The mood of the music and the lyrics do not “lighten” up for the lead single, “Ghosts.” A 60’s inspired ditty, miles away from past singles like “Pure,” the song works because when it verges on being just another pop song, the ingenious production (with little sound effects) makes the song fresh and intriguing. My favorite track on the album is “I’ll Be Around,” and not because it is familiar, closer in sound to older material. Lyrically one of the Broudie’s strongest, musically the song is best described as one long sigh. What makes the song is the mismatched elements of the music: from an 80’s beat, to contemporary almost eerie synth sounds, psychedelic guitar playing, and dead pan vocals. But that is Broudie’s talent as a composer and producer – his ability to create a song out of variant threads of genres and ideas.

Broudie has always been criticized as just another producer who wants his fifteen minutes of fame behind a mic. But considering that his track record as a producer is with indie rock, and not obviously Beach Boy influenced music (like “I Still Feel the Same”) with electronic elements, Broudie and the rest of the Lightning Seeds have always offered up something that is distinct and different from the everyday fad. “Four Winds” is no different. The Lightning Seeds avoid all the current clichés (post-punk revival, synthpop, nu-shoegaze, etc…), and instead deliver on their own brand of pop music. Ten years definitely gave them the perspective of going in another direction, and though some old fans are going to scream, “This is not what I expected,” the unexpected is very delightful.

Track Listing:
1. 4 Winds
2. Things Just Happened
3. Ghosts
4. Said and Done
5. Don’t Walk on By
6. The Story Goes
7. On a Day Like This
8. I’ll Be Around
9. All I Do
10. I Still Feel the Same

Keep up with the Lightning Seeds at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is the video for “Ghosts” from the fcowen123 (Universal Music TV) YouTube Channel.

Wave Machines: “Wave If You’re Really There”

Wave Machines is a relatively young band, formed in 2007, out of Liverpool. Releasing their debut album “Wave If You’re Really There “ on 23 June 2009 and really deliver a distinct brand of electropop. As compared to most of the artists out there working on electropop, the album is much more sedate (mature maybe) in sound. Incorporating more guitars in their brand of electropop than most others in the genre, the album may not be a standout against the other electropop releases of the year, but definitely offers a valid, well constructed alternative to the radio ready electropop being produced.

Opening with “You Say the Stupidest Things,” the elementary electro sounds are accompanied with one of the funniest lines of the year: “The day is wasted if you’re not wasted.” In tempo, the song really never picks up its speed, but the song has that Talking Heads quality that gets you to stop and listen and admit, with some guilty pleasure, that you like what you are listening to. The same goes for the rest of the album. “Keep the Lights On,” with its disco overtones, gets you bobbing you head, while “The Greatest Escape We Ever Made” may get you onto your feet. Like many of the synth and electropop bands of the 80s, the music isn’t dance ready but danceable. But what is impressive about the sound here is that there is no attempt at a very “electronic” sound. This is very bare recording, bare production, which allows the melody of each song to speak for itself.

Already, I imagine, the press is slacking them off (I will be googling in a bit to see what is being said), but the reality is that this is perfect lounge music. Ignore the press if they are slacking them off, in the least what you get with this album is a great, head bobbing experience. At most, if you are willing to give into it, you will get whisked away into a quirky world that is entertaining and carefree. Not all music has to be heady, and not all music should be bombastic. Sometimes, quite often, music should just be an enjoyable, carefree experiences that you can repeat over and over – and “Wave If You’re Really There” can deliver that experience again and again.

Track Listing:
1. You Say the Stupidest Things
2. Carry Me Back to My Home
3. I Go, I Go, I Go
4, Keep the Lights On
5. Punk Spirit
6. The Greatest Escape We Ever Made
7. Wave If You’re Really There
8. I Joined the Union
9. The Lines
10. Dead Houses

Keep up with Wave Machines at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Kasabian: “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum”

Out of Leicester, Kasabian has impressed me since moment one and have never disappointed. They released their third album, “West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum” (5 June 2009 in the UK, 9 June 2009 in the US), after teasing us with two singles, “Vlad the Impaler” and “Fire.” Audiences were teased enough to launch the album to #1 in the UK upon release. Though the album’s title evokes the idea of insanity, the band has explained that they chose the title for aesthetical reasons – they simply liked the way it sounded. However, the music is pretty erratic, incorporating rock and electronic to various degrees. I can sum up the album with one phrase: treasure trove.

The biggest surprise on the album is the track “West Ryder / Silver Bullet.” It is a duet with Rosario Dawson. The track is more neo-psychedelic than anything else, what really got me was that I could never imagine Dawson’s voice along side of Tom Meighan’s. The song is eerie, scary even, but it works. (Thumbs up to Dawson for doing such a track!) The rest of the album will keep you as entranced, with a few more surprises. The opening track, “Underdog,” will not ease you into the listening experience – it is going to grab you and throw you into it. “Take Aim,” with its urban beat and building urgency after the orchestrated opening, is perhaps the most hypnotic, infectious song on the album. As a listener you never know what world you are, either the 60’s with tracks like “Fast Fuse” or a spaghetti western with tracks like “Fire.” And as you’re being tossed back and forth between styles, getting more and more erratic, you end at “Happiness.” Avoiding that rock ending, but definitely offering up an anthem, the song is laden with tinges of gospel.

Come to think about it, the album is a bit lunatic, schizophrenic. Kasabian could have played it safe, reproducing the sound and exact style of the past two albums; they could have produced a series of radio friendly songs ready to conquer the pop charts, but thank God they didn’t! “The Wet Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum” may not be everyone’s cup of tea, until they take a good listen to it. It is very hard not to like this album… love it even. What you get here is an adventure through an unexpected, cliché free soundscape that is mesmerizing.

Track Listing:
1. Underdog
2. Where Did All the Love Go?
3. Swarfiga
4. Fast Fuse
5. Take Aim
6. Thick As Thieves
7. West Ryder / Silver Bullet – featuring Rosario Dawson
8. Vlad the Impaler
9. Ladies and Gentlemen (Role the Dice)
10. Secret Alphabets
11. Fire
12. Happiness
13. Runaway – Live, Japanese Bonus Track
14. Cunny Grope Lane – Japanese Bonus Track, iTunes preorder
15. Road Kill Café – Japanese Bonus Track

Keep up with Kasabian at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.

Here is their video for "Where Did All the Love Go?" from the KasabianTour YouTube Channel.

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