Music Criticism’s Not Dead

December 13, 2010

Punk for Posers is a blog dedicated to taking the piss out of music I actually like to listen to.

Why?

Because when you can download any album in a few seconds, the vain thoughts of a music critic suddenly seem less important. I’m probably not going to change anyone’s opinion, so I might as well have some fun with what I’m willing to write.

Liking a band is never about just the music. In that spirit, this site is about all that superficial stuff that accompanies the sound. No objectivity, no guitar solos.

First time here? Start with these:

Angels and Airwaves, LOVE

Brand New, Daisy

So hot right now… Young Offenders Institute

So hot right now… Lily Allen, ‘Our Time’

June 18, 2014

Lily-Allen-Sheezus-2014-1200x1200Cultivating a semi-nomadic lifestyle out of Thailand means that there are both things I miss from my home in England and others which remind me why I left. One thing that curiously ticks both boxes is binge drinking.

As much as I don’t wish to turn downtown Chiang Mai into Chelmsford on a Saturday night, when I hear a song like Lily Allen’s ‘Our time’ I get mysteriously pensive. There must be something ingrained in me.

The song is a perfect ode to weekend warriors letting their hair down for one to two nights a week in order stave off the mundanity of modern existence. It’s simultaneously celebratory and melancholy, much like any good night in a Wetherspoons chain pub:

We just wanna dance the night away
We don’t give a damn what people say
We’ve had enough so turn it up
Tonight we’re taking over
And we will drink ’til we lose our minds
Wanna lose sense of space and time
We’re going through, it’s how we do
Tonight we’re taking over 

That’s about as poetic as you’ll get standing on a red bull soaked carpet.  And if you watch the video it perfectly accentuates both the cheekiness and the remorse of High street debauchery as the protagonists ride through each stage of a Great British Night Out in the back of a black cab.

Personally, I certainly don’t crave a fight outside a kebab shop, but maybe on a primal level as a stranger in a strange land I feel safe when I hear a song about familiar territory. Who knows?

Thankfully the world is getting smaller so I can just look at polo shirts on the River Island website until the feeling goes away.

So hot right now… Paramore, ‘Still Into You’

May 24, 2014

Cover_paramore's_song_still_into_you

To celebrate my decision to return this blog to its original home and let it remain inactive, I’ve decided to put up a few articles I wrote over the years but never published because I couldn’t get them just right. Think of them as b-sides or something.

My love for Paramore ended the day Hayley Williams decided to try being ugly.

A catchy pop punk band fronted by an attractive girl with cool hair was something I could get on board with. But since the Farro brothers jumped ship, I’ve been struggling to enjoy Paramore’s new sound and Hayley’s new look.

The Self-Titled album is clearly a new start for the band and everything from the production choices to Haley’s weird makeup conspires to establish a fresh aesthetic, arguably one that will have them taken more seriously. Commercially it’s obviously working, but it’s not for me.

Personally, I think the only highlight is saccharine single ‘Still Into You,’ which takes the band’s previously effective pop punk and channels it through Cyndi Lauper. The lyrics are about Hayley’s affection for her boyfriend, who I used to envy:

On the drive back to my house
I told you that I loved ya
You felt the weight of the world
Fall off your shoulder
And to your favourite song
We sang along to the start of forever

It’s cute, but a bit presumptuous. Chances are he’s really thinking: “Fuck I wish she’d grow her fringe out and be hot again.”

Album review: Gogol Bordello, Pura Vida Conspiracy

May 14, 2014

Gogol_Bordello_-_Pura_Vida_Conspiracy

To celebrate my decision to return this blog to its original home and let it remain inactive, I decided to put up a few articles I wrote but never published because I couldn’t get them just right. Think of them as b-sides or something. 

“Borders are scars on the face of the planet!” proclaims Eugene Hutz on Gogol Bordello’s latest album. After a day at the Thai embassy trying to get a non-immigrant B visa, I now thoroughly agree with him.

Pura Vida Conspiracy is the band’s usual gypsy punk shtick about how we’re all immigrants really and modern life is a big ballache and all we need to be happy is a guitar and a frolic. Thematically I can really get on board with Gogol Bordello and I loved the raucous sound of their first two albums. But like third release Transcontinental Hustle before it, Pura Vida Conspiracy sort of infuriates me.

The problem is the same one I mentioned in my last review. When you turn the volume up to eleven, there’s not much higher you can go without something coming unplugged. Gogol Bordello are now trying to bring the nuance alongside the noise but even though it really should work, it sadly doesn’t. 

Pura Vida Conspiracy repeats the same noble sentiments about celebrating the world’s cultures and finding human potential but it’s neither exciting nor original anymore. It’s all thrust so obviously into the spotlight that it feels almost like a marketing gimmick. Did you know they happened to do a song for Coca Cola?  The result is rather than communicate the passion and excitement at their core, the band takes another step towards sounding like something Sasha Baron Cohen would spoof.

 

Just look at the cover art. It only took two albums for the band to go from brilliant to Borat.

So hot right now… Mumford and Sons

May 13, 2014

sighnomore

To celebrate my decision to return this blog to its original home and let it remain inactive, I decided to put up a few articles I wrote but never published because I couldn’t get them just right. Think of them as b-sides or something. 

Mumford and Sons are a bit like Instagram – put a retro filter on something shitty and people will think it’s cool.

I’ve noticed that people rarely talk about the band’s music, but rather how pleased with themselves they felt when they were listening to it. Expect to hear stories about the ‘awesome atmosphere in the crowd’ or how they ‘just wanted to chill out, have a glass of <insert grown up drink> and listen to Mumford & Sons.’

Perhaps that is why the band was headlining Glastonbury after only two albums. I dread to imagine the self-satisfaction in the audience that night. I almost wish something catastrophic had occurred to burst the bubble, like if the Waitrose up the road had run out of brioche.

I think the band’s popularity lies in how people seek authenticity anywhere they can find it at the moment because they feel so digitally reliant. Mumford and Sons’ dusty chords provide a perfect middle-class antidote to sanitised modern pop without the burden of having to look beyond the radio. They’re the ideal band for a generation who watch gigs through their smartphone screens so they have evidence they were living in the moment. 

I guess the fact that Mumford & Sons play banjos and dress like they’re on a long wagon journey summons a simpler world where everything wasn’t so easily connected. Maybe the next album will be even more rustic and a few of them will die of dysentery on the way to the studio?

So hot right now… Arctic Monkeys, ‘Do I Wanna Know?’

July 7, 2013

do i wanna know

Depending on your enthusiasm for British music, the following comment is either the supreme compliment or a snort of derision: I think the Arctic Monkeys are better than Oasis ever were.

Yeah, I don’t care about Oasis. And I was never that keen on the Arctic Monkeys to be honest. Until I heard their new single ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ and watched a video of them headlining this year’s Glastonbury.

Whatever it is, I get it now. To the extent that on the back of this song alone I’d wager they’re the best band in the UK at the moment. What is it that changed my mind?

I think it’s lead singer Alex Turner’s new haircut.

The band got big during my first year of university in Lancaster so neither their observations nor their accents ever struck me as remarkable. Basically, if I wanted to hear some spotty Northerner make a cheeky observation about kebabs or nightlife I had only to cross the corridor. I was bored with every sentiment on their first album before I’d even pressed play.

However, after much time spent in the desert with Josh Homme and a new look, the band now remind me a lot less of the dickheads I met queuing outside nightclubs on cold Lancaster nights. I know Turner’s new 50s quiff shouldn’t change anything, but somehow it changes everything.

The music is better too, if you’re wondering. ‘Do I Wanna Know’ is a stoner rock incarnation of The Black Keys with bass that sounds like it’s been coated in Brylcream. It’s just so damn slick. There’s also exactly the right amount of wit and mischief in the lyrics:

How many secrets can you keep?
‘Cause there’s this tune I found that makes me think of you somehow
And I play it on repeat
Until I fall asleep
Spilling drinks on my settee
 

Then there’s the fantastic animated acid trip of a music video directed by David Wilson. Visually, it reminds me a little bit of the hallucination sequences in the Heavy Metal episode of South Park. You know, the one where the boys snort cat piss to get high?

That’s just another reminder of how far the Artic Monkeys have come since life on a Sheffield housing estate.

So hot right now… Avril Lavigne, ‘Here’s to Never Growing Up’

June 24, 2013

Herestonevergrowingup-300x300

The last time this site was funny was the last time there was an Avril Lavigne album out. What does that tell you?

It tells me that some of the best things I’ve written on here were inspired by me passively having a go at my ex-girlfriend. I’ve got a soft spot for Avril so when she started releasing annoying songs about being a massive harlot it was an easy mirror for my own hang ups.  That was all a long time ago, so now it’s out in the open let’s move on as adults.

Will I give a positive and unbiased review of her new song?

Fuck no. For a myriad of new reasons.

‘Here’s to Never Growing Up’ is a nod to the past as well. The video has Avril bounding through high school corridors in her former signature vest and tie combo, then crashing a prom set that could have been taken from an old episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With some guitar reminiscent of her first hit ‘Complicated’ it seems Avril is back to her early noughties best. It’s great.

Then you realise the lyrics are still a little bit bratty and it has the same generic production that every pop song seems to have now and suddenly the room is spinning, clocks are floating past and bump: you’re back in a decade where people say ‘YOLO’ and take photos of their food.

Bugger.

To be honest, ‘Here’s to Never Growing Up’ is a reasonably successful way of blending Avril’s old and new styles and is a fun reference to the sound she started with. But I won’t praise it for the same reason I won’t needlessly rip it apart. I’m just over her. Apart from a moderately amusing relationship with the guy from Nickelback, I’m not sure what she offers anymore?

Artists like Katy Perry do Avril’s new semi-trashy sound better than her and Taylor Swift offers a fresher version of the alternative pop she had on her first album Let Go. In fact, Taylor Swift sounds exactly like what I thought Avril would sound like now. And I’d rather listen to her instead.

So, sorry Avril. Your new song is alright, but we are never, ever, ever getting back together.

Album review: 30 Seconds to Mars, LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS

June 10, 2013

30_STM_-_Love_Lust_Faith_+_Dreams-300x300

‘Up in the Air’, the lead single from the new 30 Seconds to Mars album was recently launched into space. Presumably so it would fall into alien hands and deter intelligent life from ever visiting us. The song ended up on a space station somewhere and I’m sure the crew were just elated when it floated in through the hatch.

I’ve listened to the whole album. Houston, we have a problem.

Love Lust Faith + Dreams is as bad as every 30STM album before it. In fact it’s probably the worst one yet. Adjectives that spring to mind include: grand, indulgent and hollow.

And yet it’s surprisingly compelling.

I think the band’s secret lies in the fact that no matter how mediocre their music, they always employ a very tight aesthetic. I’m a strong believer that with the best albums, everything from the cover art to the production works in harmony. Listening then becomes almost an act of synesthesia and the music resonates visually as much as audibly. Few albums can do this but 30STM are very good at producing an affectation of it. Jared Leto is an actor, after all.

‘Up in the Air’ is by default the best song here with its electronic elements illustrating the band’s signature sound while showing they can evolve with what’s fashionable. The video, no matter how pompous is actually great, further cementing the visual element of Love Lust Faith + Dreams. ‘Conquistador’ sounds a bit too much like Muse and the rest of the music is turgid at best. The result is an album I’d rather look at than listen to.

The Damien Hirst spot painting cover art completes the concept. The piece is ‘pristinely empty’ as one art blogger coined it. When you think of the music like the image, it starts to make sense. Everything here is systematic, blunt and has plenty of white space; simultaneously evocative and shallow; clinical yet telling. Love Lust Faith + Dreams can also be seen as slick, stylistic and clever. But only if you want it to be. It makes sense when you see it as well as hear it. Or maybe that’s just nonsense.

At least there’s not a fucking dead fish on the cover.

So hot right now… Goldfinger, Am I Deaf?

May 14, 2013

am i deaf

Yes John Feldman, judging from Goldfinger’s last album, you are. Fuck it, from the album before that you’d think the whole band had gone full Helen Keller.

This new song is definitely a step in the right direction though.

It’s mostly John Feldman singing about being old and the lyrics don’t tell us anything his hairline doesn’t already. I sort of disagree with the point of the song about today’s music sucking because pop music has always sucked. The difference is that now if you want to find good bands, you have to look harder because they won’t be fed to you on the radio.

But on the other hand it’s somehow reassuring to have one of my favourite bands back. Especially with some good riffs and a topic other than how evil I am for not being vegan. The problem is that when Feldman name checks Black Flag and the Dead Kennedies as bands that helped set his standard for good music, I would name check Goldfinger. As would many of their fans. So for this song not to be hypocritical, the band have to raise their own bar with their next album and show they’re still relevant.

That’s about as likely as a plate of veal appearing on the cover.

Album review: Lostprophets, Weapons

May 11, 2013

LostprophetsWeapons

A lot has happened in the world of fashionable alternative music since I last posted here. My Chemical Romance broke up, Fall Out Boy got back together, and Lostprophets frontman Ian Watkins turned out to be a massive paedophile. That seems to be a suitably low point at which to start writing again.

The band’s latest effort Weapons was released a few months before Watkins’ arrest and full details of the allegations became public. After hearing this album, I’m pretty convinced that trying to fuck a one year old is only the second worst thing he’s done.

Just kidding, obviously! God. It’s not that bad. But it certainly ain’t great. Even though ‘Jesus Walks’ might be the best chorus the band have written since ‘Last Summer’, its lumbering metaphor is far too dramatic for playing on carefree August evenings. The opening riffs of ‘Bring ‘em Down’ make it a decent single, but possibly only because the video includes Ian Watkins being punched in the face. The rest of the album is uninspired at best.

The title Weapons presumably refers to the assault on the pop charts that the band hoped this album would be. Considering that the charts currently consist of Adele and Ed Sheeran, one would think that the Lostprophets could turn up with an empty waterpistol and not be outgunned. Just by not being obese or ginger they should have been onto a winner. Alas, no.

Whether Ian Watkins is a vicious nonce or not, the band have been so mediocre recently that news of his trial is the only publicity they’re likely to get. Which is genuinely a shame, because when I was at school my friends loved this band and some of their work is objectively great. Let’s hope they’re remembered for the good things they did to young people, right?

Update: I had absolutely no idea he’d be found guilty, and for such atrocious shit. I actually want to apologise for this one!

So hot right now… Debbie Harry, ‘Live Alone’

January 16, 2012

Franz_covers_EP

Debbie Harry’s version of ‘Live Alone’ is easily the best thing on the Franz Ferdinand Covers EP. The original song got lost towards the back of the band’s nocturnal reggae album Tonight: Franz Ferdinand because its flirtatious and danceable arrangement didn’t bring out the despondency in the lyrics. That just got sorted.

Where Alex Kapranos had a rather louche vocal delivery, Debbie Harry displays a sorrowful maturity that gives the song an almost Good Morning, Midnight vibe. It becomes a world-weary anthem, suitable for soundtracking a skip or a sob through a romantic city. In this way it brings out the decadence of Tonight… in a more sophisticated way than the original ‘Live Alone’, stirring pride with melancholy and then filming it in black and white:

I wanna live alone
Because the greatest love is always ruined by the bickering
The argument of living
I wanna live alone
I could be happy on my own
Live the rest of my life with the vaguest of feeling

Wherever you are
Whoever is there
You’ll know that I’ll be here
I’ll be here wishing I could be there

If she sounded any less triumphant it’d be absolutely heartbreaking. This song is best listened to when people-watching in a cafe and feeling pensive. Perhaps crying into a croissant.


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