Thursday, February 05, 2009

dead can dance - dead can dance

Despite mankind's onward climb towards civilisation there is the sense that the primitive pagan elements of life are never far away, whether it is the underlying violence that simmers in society, erupting in occasional bouts of violence (whether by the knife or by the gun), the superstitions that many continue to practice on a daily basis (however idiotic it seems I cannot go under ladders, put new shoes on the table or open an umbrella inside), or the attraction of simplistic, tribal influenced music, that manifests itself in repetitive and hypnotic rhythms. The kind of music which grabs you in blind reverie and taps into those shadowy parts of your brain which have eluded evolution and the increased sophistication and complexity of modern day living.  And so - Leaping into consciousness with the sound of explosions, ecstatic yelps and compelling rhythms of The Fatal Impact, the debut from Dead Can Dance captures the imagination with the power of its primal borrowings.  Singers Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry yelp, glower, sigh and yodel their way through musical atmospheres reminiscent of the wildest terrain, resolutely earthly but soaring unearthly, seeming to explore the baser instincts of the human psyche ready to burst from the civilised shell at a moment's provocation, as well as its great beauty.  Songs like A Passage in Time and The Trial are dark and elegant, as 'Gothic' as they come; Frontier like the Cocteau Twins had they emerged from the rain-forest.  Despite the shadows they evoke it's not all darkness - the restless shifts of Ocean have a subtle beauty that recalls the sunlight glinting on the waves, whilst East of Eden effects a, dare I say it, jaunty tone that lightens the mood even where the lyrics do not, until the shivers of Threshold return us to the cold.  

To prove their power - The Trial live (1986):

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

See how Goth they are

A bit of Danse Society courtesy of YouTube

Danse Society - Seduction (The Society Collection)

Danse Society are a kind of comedy, electro Goth that sounds like the version of Goth that the Mighty Boosh might come up with given a couple of keyboards, guitars and some very big hair. If you don't believe me, let's take a look at the ingredients: Discordant guitars - check! Dramatic singer, booming voice, pronouncing his words very properly - check! Synth-tastic atmospherics - check! A drummer about to collapse from pounding the drums so much - check! VERY SERIOUS song titles with slightly disappointing lyrics - check! Throbbing bass - check! Black clothes - check! Dry ice - check! (see video posted above for proof)
That's not honesty, that's delusion
There feels to be a lot of love in this collection, even if it does not always quite hit the heights of musical genius, with singles from 1981-1983 released by the band through the Society label. Neither are there any huge surprises here if you have been paying attention to all those electroclash 80s throwbacks well the template basically starts here. 'Clock' starts powerfully enough and continues in the same vein with a simple chiming guitar riff over driving percussion, the singer pronouncing Must get 'Motivation before they stop the clock' which suggests that he must be having the same day at work as I am. 'Continent' goes darkly sci-fi before launching itself into a stomping rhythm, undermined by the disturbing, whispered vocals.
In your nightmares we're all so happy
The stop-start staccato opening of 'These Frayed Edges' segues into a more conventional rock outing, the repetition of 'frayed edges' suggests the want of a more convincing chorus - although the throwaway line about the 'from the future' is what got me thinking about the Boosh in the first place and their future Electro Sailors. They do like a dramatic opener and 'We're so Happy' does not disappoint - the sound of thunder announces its arrival, building to a crescendo with the stamp of synth and drums, when (hopefully) the singer throws away his cape and reaches into the air as he sings forth the first note - yep, it's that kind of song. Yet something seems to hold DS back, perhaps the tempo is a bit sludgy and despite the promises of triumph it never really gets off the ground. 'Women's Own' takes clattering saucepans as inspiration, a sly nod to the housewife's choice of magazine? 'Ambition' 's long, ponderous opening eventually explodes into a decent stab at melodrama, and whilst 'Danse/Move' is another attempt at greatness it unfortunately fails to set the dancefloor alight but we might at least see it smoulder.
That's not love, that's confusion
An album, then, of not-quite-getting-there, yet endearing with it.

Rediscovering the 90s

I decided to go through my CDs and get rid of the ones I never listen to anymore which seemed a little like sacrilege except for the benefits in terms of storage purposes. Already my CD tower is filled to the brim and the rest of the collection must languish in a box on top of the wardrobe so they do not ever stand a chance of getting played. They might as well be taken to the charity shop to be picked up by someone who might love them more than I. Most of the CDs hidden away are from the 90s when I got into the CD buying habit thanks to Record Collector and Fopp in Sheffield. Record Collector had a massive selection of second hand CDs, perfect for skint students and those obscure records impossible to find anywhere else. Fopp too was outrageously cheap compared to the HMVs and Virgins and also specialised in the harder-to-find albums, e.g. anything that is not mainstream. Looking through the box I was reminded of my one-time consuming interest in drum and bass - like Roni Size, Spring Heel Jack and Goldie - and those strange, lolloping, descended-from-baggy bands like Campag Velocet (which appealed to me for the obvious Clockwork Orange influence but who played one of the most poorly attended gigs I have ever seen) and Regular Fries, who I saw live a couple of times and massively enjoyed because they were completely bonkers, one of their instruments being a bird cage festooned with objects. Then there were the romantic dreamers Suede and the Verve, whose fortunes, and ability, fluctuated quite wildly depending on the mental stability of their frontmen, and, of course Pulp, the first 'proper' band I saw live, being introduced to the craziness that is going to gigs (the second, Suede, was even more carnage) and stood 2 inches away from Jarvis Cocker and got very excited, as well as my sister and I queuing outside HMV in Bristol for hours to get their autographs (whatever happened to Sound City?) It's interesting that a few of these bands seem to be absent from iTunes - for instance Dark Star whose song Gracedelica is a tantilising reference on a cassette tape I cannot play, and an unknown band with a song called 'New Brunswick' - so perhaps I will have to wait until the 90s revival proper before I can listen to the 2nd and 3rd albums by the Regular Fries (I only ever thought there was one!). And bis (!) purveyors of beyond-tweeness with their secret vampire soundtrack and eurodiscos, whatever happened to them?

White Lies - To Lose My Life

I was looking forward to hearing the new album from White Lies, the next group of indie kids to have jumped onto the 80s throwback wagon (wow what would THAT look like??). So far I have only made through one song - To Lose My Life - before laughter prevented me from downloading any more. Its not that I don't like it, far from it, its very catchy in its own right. As usual the media are rushing to compare them to Joy Division, originators of the raincoats brigade, however this is a lazy reference as they bear only passing resemblence. I would like to think that Ian Curtis would wince to think that the excruciating lyrics - example 'Let's grow old together / and die at the same time' - was being compared to his poetry! I would suggest that White Lies have lifted their influences more from the Midge Ure-era Ultravox / Duran Duran school of weighty and portentous song-writing, coupled with the bombast ambition of U2 and Coldplay and Snow Patrol and Elbow and Editors and all those bands stuffed with earnest young men, proving too that they can pack out stadiums with their particular brand of melancholy-lite. And that is why Joy Division are the wrong comparison, their grief was private somehow and introspective, whereas White Lies cannot quite shake the sense of hope and optimism in their music, which Joy Division did well to banish entirely.