Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ska-ky out of her comfort zone

I love rock. I love ska. I like metal and glamrock, I listen to everything from indie-rock to hair metal, so when I was asked to review a drum and bass album, the results may not quite be as expected...

I am sceptical about Chaseand Status’ second album. Their first, MoreThan Alot, won several prizes onthe drum and bass scene, from Best Album to Best Track and Best Video, but it seemed too edgy, with too much of a die-hard, pure drum and bass following for the average mere mortal. For this reason, No More Idols was the first Chase and Status album I’ve listened to, and far from being hesitant, I was actually quite curious. 
With its now iconic Bulldog image album cover, with thatheavy acid-yellow lettering, No More Idols promised more hard and fast,Prodigy-esque anthems. What it delivered was a far more ever reaching taste ofeverything from drum and bass to dubstep, to reggae infused prog rock with anicy shot of 90s trance. Nothing about this album was done by halves, and evenif there is a suspicious amount of appearances from other popular artists (somewould say in an attempt to break into the mainstream) there is more than enoughto justify an almighty progression of Chase and Status’ sound.

No More Idols kicks off with No Problem; a snaking, synth-led tune with some surprising elements - a slightly awkward Jamaican vocal (have you ever heard "it's no problem for me, but it's a problem for you" said in such a polite manner?) and a smattering of African tribal drums. By the time you've heard Fire In Your Eyes (held up by Maverick Sabre) and the distinctly flat Let You Go (which relies completely on Mali's rasping vocals to bring this stale dance tune to life) you think you have this album sussed - it's bringing a bit more dubstep to Prodigy's tried and tested raver anthems, squeezing their formula into a more modern setting, which a heavy dose of talented feature artists.

Then you hear Blind Faith. I spent five minutes and 49 seconds of my life watching the impressively brave video - a home-grown, camcorder-filled documentary of the 90s rave scene. Labelled "groundbreaking," this song and video did not disappoint; it has the youth of the UK chorusing "TUUUUUNE!" every time the iconic "sweeeeeet, sensation" main line filled Radio 1's airwaves (which, let's be honest, was an awful lot.) Indeed, one of the few flaws of this song was the fact that it was horrendously overplayed on mainstream radios... a fate that did not befall the next standout track.

The climax of No More Idols comes during Fool Yourself and Hypest Hype. Plan B's mincing vocals contrast with the thrashing beats and angry chanting of "you can only fool yourself for so long" - it's not difficult to forget the lyrics of this track, as this is the only line. You get the impression that this track would be brilliant live, a real crowd-pleaser, as is Hypest Hype. In name as in nature, this track received a lot of coverage from music press, due to the fact that included samples from the Doors "Been Down So Long" and vocals from Tempah T - a sumise that would put most people off. However, this is in the minority of tracks where the vocals are carefully matched and bring something new to the song, without merely propping it up - although Prodigy has had this covered for about 100 years.

Unfortunately, this is most definitely the peak of the album. Hitz features Tinie Tempah, and tries painfully hard to be alternative and gritty; the video shows shots of grimy council flats, rasta-style graffitti and red-lensed, wild-eyed shots of gangly men with huge pupils and baseball caps. Heavy follows, with the help of Dizzee Rascal, overdosing on dubstep and grinding into one long noise. The lyrics also take a turn for the worse, with deep, meaningful lines such as "there aint no category, I'll just do ya."

Thus the album progresses, in a blur of filler tracks like Brixton Briefcase and the dreary effort from indie rockers White Lies, Embrace. Although these provide a welcome respite from the constant thrash and thump (apart from the technically brilliant Hocus Pocus, which alas lacks the soul and passion of other tracks) they really are nothing to write home about, with the drum and bass duo failing to showcase their featured artists vocals, and instead synthing over them.

The album ends on the track that bought Chase and Status their most mainstream success - End Credits. Plan B's silky, soulful vocal carries the wistful undercurrent throughout the song, with the relatively tame backbeats holding back to showcase the tender string section, striking a chord with every rebellious teenager or troubled twenty-something - proof indeed that No More Idols is an anthemic album for the youth, bringing technical brilliance to the Prodigy's passionate blueprint, bringing drum and bass bang up to date, and showing flashes (sometimes cunningly disguised as noise) of true talent.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Some film and TV that I like

The English have a terrible reputation. We used to drink breakfast tea, wear bowler hats, place importance on manners and men... in essence, we used to be gentlemen. Now the English fall into three categories...

1. The Welly-boot Wankers
This breed of Englishman has a very distinct appearance; he will wear a Jack Wills gilet, perhaps a navy sports jacket, or even a "hoody" on his down-time days (N.B. this hoody cost over £60, or its not even worth buying.) On his feet, wellingtons, or perhaps boat shoes. The female W-BW is likely to be dressed in much the same gear, perhaps a pair of jodpurs or cords, or a Cath Kidson apron if she is in the kitchen, cooking on the Aga ready to serve organic food onto her Emma Bridgewater crockery (sexism intended.) They clip their vowels, but sprinkle speech liberally with the word "mate" or "banter." They play rugby, tennis and polo, unless their on a shoot or trying to find their way to the exit in the gloom of Hollister. Lads are likely to drink Ruddles or Magners ("pear?! Oh mate, they sell PEAR MAGNERS here! I didn't even know pears were, like, alcoholic!") whilst the ladies are prone to the odd glass of wine, perhaps a cheeky WKD at a party, but not the blue one, who do you take me for, some sort of ladette?!

2. The Suburbus Populus
Your average Joe. Joe also likes Hollister and Jack Wills, as he does not like to appear too chavvy, innit, but likes to mix it up here and there with some Adidas, and obviously, OBVIOUSLY, Topman chinos. Do you think One Direction get theirs from River Island?? Well? DO YOU? No. If you want to get the laydees, you've got to go Topman bruv. The average Joe-ette likes her burgundy leggings, gilet and Abercromie and Fitch shirt, complete with a ginormous scarf, to give the impression that one's head is balanced precarioulsy upon one's shoulders. Typical music tastes can range from One Direction and JLS to general Top 40, to your generic Arctic Monkeys and King's of Leon for the truly edgy (ahem.)

3. The Old Eccentrics
Truly rare, this species of Englishman is dying out. To quote a favourite ska band, this category is "for the soldier in contempt of court, cause he believed in freedom of thought. This is for the baby who struggles to talk, but can manage to gargle the language of God. This is for the origami swan, who dared to soar up to the sun. This is for the outcasts, the freaks and the schemers, this is for the last of the dreamers." Um, so maybe that wasn't entirely relevant, but if you are interested, I'd have a butchers at their website, their shit good and brilliant live if you can get manage it!Back to the eccentrics, these are the one's who don't quite fit in, the Susan Boyle's of this world, if you like. Taking a sociological stance, these people are often labelled, fail society's institutions, and form subcultures in order to belong. This brings me neatly (well, not neatly, I fitted this entire blog post around this point) onto the subject oooof... This Is England.

Now I don't want you thinking, oh here we go, another teenage girl trying to be edgy by watching a gritty old Shane Meadows - I genuinely do love this. I love Northerners; I think they have so much more spirit that us down South! If you haven't watched either the film or the two Channel 4 spin-off series' yet, then get on it! You can watch it here. I think Woody and Lol are one of the most overlooked couples of film.

Ohh, sorry, shitty GIF!
One more for the road folks, sorry if it looks like you've accidentally tuned into a FanGirls tumbr...


Thursday, 12 January 2012

Two thousand and twelve

It's rolled around again folks! Unbelievably, I managed to complete all of last years resolutions/bucket list, apart from "achieve a flawless, all-over even tan"... but then being an of the albaster persuasion, this was never really going to happen. 2012 (not twenty twelve, we're not in the military) is a little bit further out there, but I don't think any of them are unachievable...

Yes, this is silly. Yes, it's irresponsible. Yes, my mother will hate me forever if she finds out. But I'm getting a wee little cross, on me chest, for personal reasons innit.

Not a life-changingly, cringe cringe kill yourself cringe bad hairdo. Just one that I'll look back on in a few years and think, what the prick was I thinking?! It's character building.

I know its only 5km, but I really feel like this could raise some money, and its something I want to do, especially for Leukemia and Lymphoma. However, as I am incredibly unfit, I will be undergoing insanely intense preparations (stay tuned for painful updates...)

I will be posting these. Apologies.

The boyfriend is quite keen on Tunisia at the moment (fool! Little does he know, a week alone with me and my semi-obsessive suncream habits, and our relationship will be toast!) but I am swinging the way of an Ireland road-trip with the girlzz. This way we can visit some Uni's out there as well as hitting the pubs, and appreciating the sound of raindrops on a cottage window in the land of the Leprechaun.

So far, I have tickets for The Kabeedies, Sum 41, Coldplay and Reading Festival. Yeah I know. My life rocks.

This is providing trickier than I first thought. Speaking of which, I have a pile of essays waiting, that aint gunna write themselves...

Love, Peace, and 2012 Lovin',

P.S. Oh, and my number 1 new years resolution? Be tasteless. Be rash. Stop thinking things through. Be rebellious. Do stupid things. Get hurt. Get over it. Get too drunk. Eat crap food. Cut all your hair off. Hair grows back. Circumstances change and people leave, but (and I know its a cliche) the one thing that is truly limited in life is the time that we have, and at the moment, I'm not sure if I'm making the most of it.