Music reviews of bands and artists from Rockhaq
In 1997, I had not yet been born. I will never live in a world where everything – from schools to houses to pockets – isn’t filled with computers. Still, I’m no stranger to techno-paranoid media. Film, TV and music still love to warn us about tech, from Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror to Arcade Fire asking “what if the camera really do take your soul?” on their 2013 album Reflektor. The difference is, now we consume it through devices that know our favourite restaurants, daily commutes and exact location. In other words, Radiohead’s third album OK Computer may be 20 years old, but in 2017, it’s more relevant than ever.
Depeche Mode have always held a very special place in my heart. Whenever I listen to their music I have very fond memories of my time at college. During this part of my life my music technology teacher introduced them to me by recommending their 2001 album Exciter. After doing extensive research into Depeche Mode’s discography, my life was never the same again as I learnt to love and appreciate the electronic music genre.
The album name Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is essentially synonymous with ‘masterpiece’ now. The Beatles’ eighth studio album has been credited with many things since its release fifty years ago, from elevating music to art status to creating the entire rock genre. Of course, with anything this acclaimed there’s a backlash. Many people have concluded that 1966’s Revolver is their true magnum opus. Others have entirely dismissed Sgt. Pepper’s, such as Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention with their 1968 parody album We’re Only in It for the Money or Bob Dylan, who accused it of being “indulgent”. It was even voted the 7th most overrated album in the world by a 2005 BBC listener poll.
So to celebrate the last day of my academic studies, I decided to buy a ticket to one of John Mayer’s only two UK shows at the London O2 Arena. The agonising four hour drive to the venue had me constantly worrying about whether I would miss a bit of Mayer’s set since this was the first time I was seeing him live.
Supergroups are interesting ideas, but they’re often short-lived. Frequently, the members are each the creative force behind their respective bands, inevitably resulting in clashes of egos. Fortunately, Eric Pulido of Midlake’s new indie supergroup BNQT, consisting of Ben Bridwell (Band of Horses), Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Fran Healy (Travis) and Jason Lytle (Grandaddy), have already lowered the bar by labelling themselves “the poor man’s Traveling Wilburys”. The thing is though, as shown in their debut release Volume 1, they’re not half bad.
Pond have a lot in common with Tame Impala. Both are neo-psychedelic rock projects from Perth, Australia. Both have recently progressed from fuzzy guitar driven music towards more synth oriented sounds. They’ve even shared members over the years, including Tame Impala mastermind Kevin Parker, who’s also been Pond’s producer since 2012’s Beard, Wives, Denim album. Yet they sound incredibly different. Parker’s project combines psych rock with gorgeous, melodic and intricate songwriting. Pond, however, freely serve up bonkers, disjointed and indulgent psychedelia. Their seventh studio album The Weather is no exception.
There’s no question that when Depeche Mode released their visionary album Violator in 1990, it firmly established four boys from Basildon as one of the most influential electronic groups in the world. The technical masterclass that was displayed in their predecessor would present Depeche Mode with the colossal task of trying to deliver something as innovative for their sophomore album; Songs of Faith and Devotion.
In 2006, John Mayer had already established his musical career quite comfortably with two successful pop rock albums to his name. However his third album Continuum would lean heavily towards more blues and soul influences. The burning question is would these genres translate well into his previous pop orientated sound?
Music For The Jilted Generation came two years after The Prodigy’s debut album, Experience. Although it was a debut very much of its time, Experience has so many layers and facets to it, so much awareness of the type of samples used, that you cannot just dismiss it as ‘kiddy rave’. AC/DC mingles with LuLu, Kate Bush with Aswad, Run DMC and Arthur Brown. It’s all chaotic, hyper experimental and very, very British. The large succession of single releases from Experience meant that critics did write it and the band off though.
Despite being barely seven years into their career, Australian septet King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are already one of the most prolific bands in neo-psychedelia. By the end of 2016, they had eight albums to their name. By the end of 2017, they’re planning to have five more. Flying Microtonal Banana is the first of these and it’s easily the most fascinating record they’ve put out so far.