90’s College rock heroes Buffalo Tom are set to return with their latest album Skins on March 7 (March 8 in the US). It’s their eighth album, and features guest Tanya Donelly, also a college rock hero, who was a member of contemporaries like Throwing Muses, The Breeders and Belly, before she went solo. The band are still the original trio as well, namely Bill Janovitz (guitars and vocals), Chris Colbourn (bass and vocals) and Tom Maginnis (drums).
Two tracks from the album are doing the rounds; ‘Arise, Watch’ has (apparently) been doing th rounds since the end of last year, while ‘Guilty Girls’ has just been released via Spin.com
So, not only are Gang Of Four back with a new album, so are Wire!
…except, while Content is Gang Of Four’s first album in sixteen years, Wire may have gone on hiatus over the years, but they have been back together since the mid-eighties in some form or another. And sure, Wire are probably best remembered for their opening salvo, the trilogy of albums that was Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154, they have continued to produce great singles and albums. If at the very least you haven’t heard songs like ‘Kidney Bingos’ and ‘Ear drum buzz’ then shame on you, frankly.
Album opener ‘Please Take’ is deceptive, sounding slight at first until you realise that -like say, Scritti Politti’s ‘The Word Girl’- it is a hugely angry song. ‘Please take your knife out of my back/and when you do, please don’t twist it.’ There is definitely a je ne sais quoi Wire sound, and even if this album lacks the oddness associated with their earlier work, the ‘Wire sound’ is here in spades. Pinpointing what it is is the trouble -yet whether it’s the dreamy guitars of ‘Adapt’ or the lyrical matter of factness of ‘Please Take’ or the controlled feedback of ‘Two Minutes’ -it’s definitely a Wire album. And that’s a very good thing.
Sure this album doesn’t explore weird terrain in the way that their early work did, and I’m not entirely sure how many new fans it will win them. But as someone who loves their work, it’s a fine album, and good to have it.
I don’t think I understood why this was such an improtant record as a ten year old in 1987, I just liked it at face value. I didn’t grasp about the significance of sampling techniques or anything like that…but it was great.
And eventually I owned it on 12″.
It was infinitely better watching the video (my brother and I discussing how much it must have cost -and me explaining that they probably didn’t rent the space suits) than the sight of two men hunched over their turntables on The Roxy and Top Of The Pops.
Actually, dance culture frequently suffered on Top Of the Pops. not that it wasn’t featured – just that regulations meant that certain samples couldn’t be used and what have you.
Driving into work this morning, there was a discussion on the local radio about which decade would you most have liked to have lived through.
The fifties were winning -but more to do with people’s perception of fifties America which has been shaped by Grease and Back To The Future, apparently; and absolutely sod all to do with living in a Britain where rationing was still in place, and austerity was the name of the game (don’t laugh folks, cos all cliches turn full circle).
I on the other hand, rang in -and got to hear my dulcet tones on air (apparently I sound much more scottish on air than in real life, according to my friend Keith who heard me) -and said the seventies.
Now, I’m well aware that the seventies had their downsides – and I don’t mean fashion either – but for music it would have been awesome.
Well, not Tony Orlando and Dawn or Peters and Lee or Demis Roussos (like duh) but this would have been awesome to see.
The last time that Gang Of Four released a new studio album, in 1995, Britain was in thrall to Britpop, Tony Blaire seemed like the promised Messiah, and the internet was something that seemed almost like a novelty. ‘Post-punk’ seemed so long ago. And yet, there were bands who had gone on to become amongst the biggest in the world, all of whom were indebted to Gang Of four, and amongst them were Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM and U2.
Fast forward sixteen years. Politically, so much has happened that the final page of Animal Farm resonates ever harder. the internet -mostly for the good – is a powerful force in most people’s lives. And musically? Well, just as at the end of the eighties music critics and journalists started to suggest that Revolver was a better and more important album than Sergeant Pepper, so they have started to argue that post-punk was actually more important than punk; crucially that Metal Box was actually the album that Lydon should have made just two years previously and that Nevermind the Bollocks wasn’t all that important.
And Gang Of Four? Well, Entertainment! sounds ever more like a blueprint for much of what has come under the heading of indie-alterntaive (often morphing into stadium filling) over the last thirty years. It still sounds phenomenal thirty years on. The aforementioned Chilis, REM and U2 have continued to be high profile acts, but along with them, bands like The Rapture, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and Editors have a clear influence that can be traced back to Gang Of Four.
So Gang Of four have their place in the history books. And it’s great to report that their comeback album looks likely to cement rather than detract from that. It isn’t Entertainment! part 2. However, it is better than the pointless rehash that was the Return the Gift album.
What’s great about it is that it is a great album that sounds like a rejuvenated Gang Of Four. Founder members Jon King and Andy Gill have come back with an excellent album that sounds like Gang of four with innovations. ‘It Was Never Gonna Turn Out Too Good’ uses a vocoder to surprisingly but surprisingly good gothic effect. ‘She Said You made a Thing Of Me’ sets out its’ stall as an album opener with impressive effect and ‘I Party All the Time’ sounds like a loud cough to remind U2 where the blueprint for Achtung Baby came from.
The song titles sound classically Gang Of Four, too. This is not the sound of a band desperate for a comback at any rpice or a last hurrah. Rather a band who are reenergised and rejuvenated adding another album to their already fine cannon of work. At thirty five minutes this may seem a short album to some, but there is not fat here, only lean.
Content is released on January 24 on Neu Gronland.
Now I don’t know if these guys -Surreal -are going in for the competition, but I do know they have already got the thumbs up from both Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson. Surreal are Laurence Allen, who writes and performs all the vocals, and producer/multi-instrumentalist Tim Rowkins, who takes care of the music.
This was the first track of theirs that I played and it blew me away. Excellent use of samples, and nice to have a band who a) were not being sycophantic in their email and b)actually gave me something more than just a myspace address to follow (which is really quite irritating).
British Sea Power -‘Valhalla Dancefloor’ (Rough Trade)
It’s quite impressive to be able to report that BSP are five albums and ten years into their career.Whilst sometime labelmates like Messrs. Casablancas and Doherty (and their respective merry men) have seemed to hog the limelight at times (not always for the music in the case of the latter, either), BSP have got on with the business of being a great act on vinyl and live.
Whilst Valhalla Dancefloor doesn’t particulrly deviate greatly from what they have done over their previous albums, they give the impression that they are having far more fun than they have ever done before. Their songs are becoming ever more anthemi but -and this is the really good part -a)never descending into bombast and b)never soundling like a meat and 2 veg rock band.
BSP have always understood that experimenting and writing songs are not mutually exclusive ideals. Thus the first two tracks on the album ‘Who’s in Control’ and ‘We Are Sound’ tear the place apart, there are also tracks like ‘Baby’ and ‘Once more Now’ that are more reflective.
It’s not to say that this will be the album to catapault them to being a stadium-filling band, but I truly hope that this album will take them up another rung or two of the success ladder. It certainly deserves to.
Well, the good news is that the word is spreading. The Scotsman reckons that they ‘ deservedly follow in the footsteps of groups like Aereogramme, Biffy Clyro and newer friends and contemporaries like the Xcerts.’ Praise indeed.
The band are just about to release their second EP, entitled Vessels & Veins, which will be released on February 21. And doing the rounds now as a free download from the forthcoming four track EP is the song ‘Lungs.’
Not only that, but they are heading out on tour again as well:
February 24th: Mad Hatters ,Inverness
February 25th: Tunnels, Aberdeen
February 26th: Vessels & Veins EP Launch, Sneaky Pete’s – Edinburgh
March 3rd: The Green Door,Brighton
March 4th: Chichester Inn, Chichester
March 5th: Blueroom, Blackpool
March 7th: Tommy’s Bar, Cardiff
March 8th: Boogie Lounge, Cheltenham
March10th: Bull & Gate, London
March 11th: Milo, Leeds
March 12th: The Captain’s Rest,Glasgow