Tuesday, 27 June 2006

The size of Earth

Pretty interesting set of drawings that show the size of Earth compared to other planets and stars.

Prepare to feel very insignificant.


Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Album Review: Toy

Toy are UK composer, Alisdair Stirling, and Jorgen Traeen, a producer from Norway. As a duo, their playful tunes mix kids TV and Japanese-style electronica with a touch of Scadanavian electro weirdness.

Opener, Grass Beatbox, will burrow itself inside your skull and stay there for months. It's saccharine sweet melody is irritating and gloriously infectious in equal measure. Later, Valley Cars offers a baseline that sounds like it's being powered by Woody Woodpecker's beak.

Swingswung is a subliminal delight with only what sounds like a cow's "moo" disturbing the peace, while Golden Fish In Pool is incidental elevator music infused with beats, grooves and a stifled trombone, the result of which is the most catchy pop number on the album.

Toy is the mish-mash of a thousand kids' cartoon characters running riot, which might sound as annoying as Crazy Frog on paper, but it's actually incredibly adorable and very charming.

Sunday, 11 June 2006

Album Review: In The City Of Sleep

The Fever arrived fashionably late to the dance-punk scene of 2002. So late, in fact, that their debut album, Red Bedroom, wasn't released until 2004. Unfortunately, by the time they got here, we'd all had enough of the likes of Hot Hot Heat and Electric Six, and the New York five-piece never quite received the plaudits that their brand of jerky, danceable, proto-punk deserved.

For a band whose debut album was most notable for the wailing vocals of their singer, opener, Curtains - a mid-paced instrumental - is somewhat of a curveball. While it's the only track without lyrics, Curtains is merely the first indication that singer Geremy Jasper is no longer the focal point of the band. Where Jasper's temperamental and bratty vocals catapulted over his band mates instrumentation throughout their debut, on In The City Of Sleep, his voice is buried much lower in the mix. It's a brave move, and ultimately a successful one, as it allows the crashing drum beats and elastic bass to come to the fore.

The new approach has also given The Fever the willingness to experiment; while their debt was straight-up dance-punk from start to finish, there's a great deal of invention to be found on In The City Of Sleep. Waiting For The Centipede is a bizarre proposition that encompasses elements of vaudeville and barbershop, Crying Wolf begins like a Fellini circus tune but ends up sounding like London Calling-era Clash, while the beautiful Magnus sounds like a Dennis Wilson lullaby. Later, the band successfully employ a glockenspiel on Do The Tramp and embrace the menacing weirdness of The Butthole Surfers on Eyes On The Road.

Jasper, however, refuses to remain in the background for the album's entirety, but with sixteen tracks, there's more than enough room for him to provide some old fashioned rock posturing. The Secret is probably Jasper and the band's finest moment, but the Little Lamb & The Shiny Silver Bullets, Mr. Baby and Hotel Fantom prove that there's ample skill behind their strut.

Friday, 9 June 2006

Where old Disney rides go to die

Jeff Lange has posted a report from Mouse Surplus, the enormous warehouse that stores all the disused Disney gear.


Thursday, 8 June 2006

John Tenta RIP

John 'Earthquake' Tenta has died at the age of 42.

Tenta's death follows a lengthy battle with bladder cancer.

Tenta had some success as a sumo wrestler before entering the WWF as Earthquake in 1989. His feud with Hulk Hogan in 1990 is one of my favourite wrestling memories.

Tenta is survived by his wife and three children.


Friday, 2 June 2006

Album Review: The Trials Of Van Occupanther

With Grandaddy no more, The Flaming Lips pushing farther and farther into space and Mercury Rev seemingly on a self-imposed hiatus, a gap has opened for a quirksome, melodic, psychedelic American band. Enter Denton, Texas, five-piece, Midlake.

The Trials Of Van Occupanther is Midlake's second album and while their debut, Bamnam & Silvercork, was, at times, primitive, the new album is a fully-realised beast. Roscoe, driven by keyboards and both charming and infectious, is a perfect opening statement from a band who sound much more confident two years on from their full-length debut.

Like Grandaddy - to whom the band are most often compared - Midlake's chief concern, at least on their new album, appears to be a desire to retreat from modern day materialism to a more simple life of honest toil and nature. In the case of the album's fictional titular hero, this means invisibly transporting pales of water.

But while there's a degree of fantasy in the album's midst, singer Tim Smith's lyrics prove that The Trials Of Van Occupanther is grounded in reality. The gothic crawl of Branches gives us the biggest insight into Midlake's world as Smith sings, "we won't get married, because she won't have me", before closing the song with the heartbreaking refrain: "it's hard for me, but I'm trying".

Smith's bandmates have also clearly become more adventurous since Bamnam & Silvercork. Home sees the band adding fuzzy guitar solos to their repertoire, while In This Camp too proves that the band are equally adept at cultivating soon-to-be indie anthems. Elsewhere, Young Bride cascades along on a wave of carefully laid-down percussion and tempered strings, Gathered In Spring's conclusion is deliciously swamped in Eric Nichelson's keyboards and Chasing After Deer is just a lone guitar and Smith's trembling vocals.

Repeated listening of The Trials of Van Occupanther's charming and infectious songs might unveil hints of Neil Young, Mercury Rev, Radiohead and Sufjan Stevens, yet there's no mistaking Midlake's brilliance for anyone else's.

Album Review: Napoleon Of Temperance

Mixing the intoxicated tone of Tom Waits, the incoherent babbling of Wesley Willis and Daniel Johnston's fractured pop, Dave Cloud's star could've shone as brightly as any of his contemporaries. That is, if he had ever left his home state of Nashville.

This may all be about to change for, in April, Cloud left Nashville for the first time and toured Europe with his band, The Gospel of Power, a contingent of caballeros that includes members of Lambchop and Clem Snide.

Matching this bold move, and having recently signed to Fire Records, Cloud releases a new album, Napoleon Of Temperance this June. To familiarise a European audience who might not have previously heard of Cloud, the new album includes his two previous albums in their entirety and throws in a few entirely new tracks for good measure. The result is a colossal 45-track, double CD.

Whether he's playfully toying with Herman's Hermits' I'm Into Something Good or telling of his love for a Honda Superhawk on Motorcycle, Cloud's compulsion is to make noise and play with words with unabashed salaciousness. It's also clear that Cloud savours delivering his words dramatically, as he mixes the raspy tone of an old-time Southern hipster with the elocution of a competent voice-over artist.

Furthermore, despite surrounding himself with musicians as talented as Tony Crow, Matt Swanson and Matt Bach for the recording of Napoleon Of Temperance, Cloud clearly enjoys using his vocal chords as an instrument in their own right. Consequently, two distinct vocals chase each other through Save The Last Dance For Me and three voices speak and sing their way through a variety of riffs on Booty Shoe II.

Cloud also explores the unique qualities of his voice, settling on particularly rich notes or slow vibratos (notably when covering War's All Day Music) or simply playing with the effect created by repeating single words on album opener Vixen... Vixen... Fox... Fox. At the conclusion of the second disc, Evil Dracula Man permits Cloud the chance to attempt B-movie vampire voices.

The production has clearly been done on a shoestring, but while Cloud has absorbed the punk ethic of raggedness, he hasn't absorbed the rage. Indeed, there's a degree of mischief about the entire album, but no more so when Cloud is tackling other artists' songs. He mangles K.C. & The Sunshine Band's Get Down Tonight with a series of Casio drones, but he also croons his way through Gamble & Huff's Me & Mrs. Jones, The Rolling Stones' Let's Spend The Night Together and David Bowie's Moonage Daydream. The Beach Boys' Warmth of the Sun, Bob Dylan's Lay, Lady, Lay, Irving Berlin's Heatwave and a pair of Bee Gees' hits ( (Our Love) Don't Throw It All Away and a string-laden version of How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?) also receive a twisted make-over.

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Album Review: Detrola

Having made their debut with 1990's stunning Livonia album and forged a career of eccentric dream pop, His Name Is Alive branched out in the new millennium with 2001's Someday My Blues Will Cover The Earth, an album which, astoundingly, featured nothing but urban soul ballads, before appearing to go into deep hibernation after the release of their final 4AD album, 2002's Last Night.

In fact, Warn Defever and his cohorts had actually been busier than ever, delivering .mp3-only tracks, EPs and albums. However, the lack of any widely available new material seemed ominous for fans of the Michigan-based collective. Detrola, His Name Is Alive's first album for the aptly-named Reincarnate Music, lays to rest any concerns about the band's existence and is definitely worth the four-year wait.

Rather than tackle a single genre with the eleven tracks on offer, the recesses of Detrola contain hints of all HNIA's back catalogue. The folky torch song vocals of Lovetta Sharie Pippen immediately recall their second album, Home Is In Your Head, while much of the late-night electronica hints at the more up tempo moments of Last Night.

So, within this potpourri, HNIA treat us to Introduction, a traditional spiritual dirge, some New Order-inspired instrumentation on In My Dream, a galloping Vaudeville sing-along (Get Your Curse), Beach Boys' melodies (You Need A Heart), some free jazz saxophone runs (Seven Minutes) and the electro hypnosis of *C*A*T*S*.

As Send My Face sends the album to a bittersweet conclusion, we are left to ponder that the four year gestation might have been required for HNIA to so expertly learn each of the genres they succeed in attempting on this new album. Bewilderingly eclectic Detrola may be, but it's no less enjoyable for it.