Black Sands by Bonobo (fellatio review)

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(Oooh, such pretty artwork!)

Those who know me personally and engage me about the music I actually like will know to expect three names; Radiohead, Duran Duran and, my love of all loves, Bonobo. In my previous review I stated that the life of a music critic is relatable to that of a prostitute, and if that’s the case then Bonobo is the man I freely offer myself to without the faintest request of compensation. He pleases me in ways few can and he has held my adoration and constant attention since I first discovered him. Spotify failing to load was all the encouragement I needed to rant on this absolutely flawless display of audio mastery.

My experiences of forcing this incredible orchestra of sound to others has proven that the music is something of an acquired taste. Either you can appreciate the subtlety in dynamic shifts, the finely crafted moods and ambience, phenomenal groove and remarkable combination of Lo-Fi and Hi-Fi production or you’re clearly lacking the mentality to comprehend and relate to this stunning display of audio orgasm. We all know of my ability to find fault in an album or piece of work, it’s just a byproduct of being such a fantastical cunt, but I can honestly say I can find no fault in the the album which isn’t better attributed to mentality and personal taste.

Where I usually compare an album I adore to that of an incredible fuck, this album transcends this metaphor to a frankly concerning degree! Were I to relate this to a mere fuck, I would have to count it as a glorious, passionate affair under the influence of both MDMA and viagra for the incredible measure of serenity and spiritual ecstasy the album encourages. The album resonates deeply in me and encourages a resurgence of physical feelings I felt at some of the happiest points in my life.

Where I would normally take time to ram my overly-critical flesh-warrior into every available hole in the album at this point, I struggle hugely with this album. I suppose certain mentalities wouldn’t appreciate this album and people demanding a relatable novelty or a catchy chorus would fail to access this album as it is. It’s not structured or written as one would construct a regular style of music but that’s part of the undeniable charm of the album and the artist himself! To complain the lack of traditional style in Bonobo would be like complaining that the guitar tone in a metal song is too overdriven or that there’s too much blatant Pablo Honey influence in Origin of Symmetry.

Were I to engage in sexual acts with only one person for the rest of my life it would likely be Bonobo. He stands in my eyes as the finest representation of music as an art form, releases a consistent stream of high quality and perfectly crafted music and stands as a beautiful night sky, constantly reminding me of the potential beauty to the musical universe. As stated before, those seeking the novelty and simplicity of a traditionally structured song will not appreciate this to the same level and I would certainly not recommend this to the kind of asshole who’s first defence against any musical opposing opinion is “you clearly know nothing about Metal”. Those with an appreciation for incredible ambient feel, dynamic flow and immaculate production should prepare a delicious cocktail, relax and just embrace the exemplary display that is Black Sands. 

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Rubba Band Business by Juicy J (album review)

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(I think this photo may legitimately be more interesting than the album)

The life of a critic isn’t dissimilar to that of a prostitute. With a total lack of investment in everything I approach, I live an existence of spreading my tight, wet earholes for everything that drunkenly stumbles my way. A pitiful and much regretted exposure to Kanye West’s music had me concerned that Kendrick Lamar may be the only product of quality in Hip-Hop. Rubba Band Business brings my opinions of the genre to an equilibrium.

I initially decided to review Juicy J on the basis that his name has the potential for some easy sexual connotation and the incorporation of some well chosen pre-fixes can add a throbbing and penetrating contribution to my ongoing theme of fucking, but it’s hard to muster that much enthusiasm in the album. Though not lacking in production quality and structural understanding, I find it difficult to get too excited about this album. It’s just another totally serviceable fuck to get you through the day and the mediocrity makes it difficult to form any real attachment or opinion. 

Rubba Band Business is the slutty but still attractive girl you hooked up with at that bar that one time after your ex-girlfriend dumped your loser ass for that sensitive and understanding classmate you always thought was trying to “steal yo’ girl”. It’s just a cheap thrill that you probably won’t remember half as much as when you cried your sissy eyes out over your ex’s updated profile picture with that uppity tory wanker. But I digress…

Depressingly, I was left wishing for a bit more juice from this artist. I feel like a drunkard at a party who concerned my friend with my incredible alcohol consumption and now the bastard is just serving me piss-weak drinks out of fear I’ll throw up over his new suit. Yeah, the drinks taste better but I just want something with more balls

A great album should inspire particular feelings or leave me in profound thought and my lasting thought of this album was thus; “Can Hip-Hop artists stop throwing out the N-bomb so much?” I don’t know if it’s more embarrassing for a crow-faced honky like me to censor myself or not.

Automaton – Jamiroquai (album review)

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(official album artwork from the Automaton album)

And so I return! With an abnormally long absence from writing, I return to write about one of my more anticipated albums of the year and my closest connection to contemporary Pop Music (read into that as you like), Automaton by Jamiroquai! I imagine that Jamiroquai isn’t a name that stands in high regard to most, but as a die-hard fan of anything cheesy and funky, it appeals heavily to me and I am happy to declare that this album flies the same banner as all of their preceding albums – with beats and grooves teasing my adoration for the genre.

To detriment of my dear neighbours, I have decided to review this album at 12:30am and, regardless of social decency, I can’t help but to crank it up and feel the groove as intended by mister Jay Kay. Jamiroquai have long held a place in the hearts of people who respect and love the Funk and Disco genres and they have produced a great many songs which have brought influence in many areas of the Pop scene – with tracks such as Little L and Cosmic Girl still considered classics, despite their diminishing audience.

Discussing this band has always been a bit difficult for me on the basis that they cater perfectly to me as a musician and an individual and few others. Though I love many styles of music, I naturally gravitate towards Funk and cheesy 80’s Pop music – and I can’t expect this niche to appeal to many in the current musical world we live in. I would gladly give a recommendation to this because, in spite of the flaws the album may have to some, it strikes a chord in my heart and I just love it unconditionally. My recommendation would be as shallow as “Do you like Funk, 80’s music and/or a heavy snare sound? If yes then yes!”

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(more album artwork from the Automaton album)

If I were to criticise the album, and I am going to, I would say that much of the album is fairly difficult to connect to on a personal basis, but I feel like it’s not supposed to be a personal experience – it’s supposed to be a groove you flow to and something completely inoffensive that anybody can enjoy. A fan and newcomer alike may claim that the album does little to establish its own voice and do anything fresh, but a fan of the band might instantly protest this in claims that the band never aimed for complexity and depth, with only a handful of songs coming close to communicating a deeper and more thoughtful perspective.

Despite my history with the music, I would totally understand if somebody accused the music of being fairly flat and lacking in humanity, but I would never declare this a reason to dismiss the album. In my eyes, this music represents a different period of society and art in general – a time where we didn’t have to bow to any of the expectations of art that modern society and culture encourages. Maybe I share the opinions of out-of-touch pre-millennials, but I believe we live in a world where all media is monetised and everything is made with the purpose of being sold – when we watch a movie it is being written in the most simplistic and dumb way possible, and contemporary music seems more like some kind of cheap candy than anything else – with each Pop hit being the most blatant off-the-shelf object a song can be. Where older music can be simple, nothing of a previous era feels as much of a product as what is shovelled to us today.

What I mean with that rant is that music of previous musical generations had more heart to it and far more ideas than our current mainstream pop culture allows, and though one might come to such a conclusion when listening to the Automaton album, I believe that the instrumentation and feel of the album does much to imply a more caring and thoughtful approach. The album draws heavy influence from the synth feel of a different era and I would say the album should be commended for not losing sight of what the music was always supposed to be.

My final word in this review would be that it isn’t as worthwhile as their previous albums as a listening experience, but nobody should go out of their way to avoid this album. I can’t sing the praises of Funk Odyssey enough and their entire discography holds a great number of classics, and the character behind albums like Space Cowboy makes for a fantastic investment for one with an interest in Funk and Fusion music – but for those more demanding of complexity and a stronger message I wouldn’t recommend this, I would divert you to OK Computer, like everybody else with a snobby mentality and unchecked ego.

To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar (shameless fangirling)

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(album artwork for the To Pimp A Butterfly album)

Yeah this album didn’t come out this year, but I’m sat in my room now just grooving to the sly and sleazy feel of the To Pimp A Butterfly album and I just wanted the chance to run my mouth about how much I love this album. I have a very long list of albums I should be looking at, but after the travesty that was Tony Conrad I felt like I had earned the chance to write about something that I actually know I enjoy. I have a request to review the Automaton album by Jamiroquai (which I am very excited about) but right now I am more interested in rambling about something I couldn’t stop blowing if Lamar himself asked me to stop.

Where do I even start with this? Well a brief overview, I suppose! Kendrick Lamar is a shining star amongst many right now, as far as I know he has only been in the mainstream eye for a couple of years now and his reputation is doing nothing but grow. The music itself is just a joy to describe, or it is in this album at least: the album combines various aspects of Jazz and Fusion with a smooth and sexy modern R&B vibe to incredible effect. Like Thundercat, my previous musical obsession of this year, it’s more or less a Best Of from all Soul, Jazz and Hip-Hop through the years – a glorious exhibit showcased in a beautiful, state-of-the-art casing.

There is so much to sing about with this album. With ideas and variety and a mass combination of genres, it really does scream colour in a way nothing of its kind does – the only thing coming close being the aforementioned Thundercat, who actually appeared on this album. One seductive bass groove and creativity behind lyrical content is normally enough to make me like a track, but when you use these aspects in conjunction with Parliamentstyle bass imaging and soulful vocal harmonies? Well you have me swimming in the palm of your hands! Lamar performs this frequently throughout the album, the only times I’m not creaming over that glorious Funk being the times I explode violently over the incredible incorporation of Jazz. Serious, the saxophone in tracks like Alright will burn through you.

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(image sourced from the official Kendrick Lamar Facebook page)

Thinking of Alright also brings up the point of the rhythm and the way instruments are suddenly cut out. It’s pure mastery. The way he uses the silence between certain notes, does so much to force the impact of a returning drum beat or bass line and does so much to accent the incredible flow to Lamar’s rapping. Rap and Hip-Hop have always been inspiring genres for me and I respect the rhythmic quality to so many great rappers, but one thing that sets Lamar aside is the way he raps throughout the entire album – incorporating his voice and using it as one would use a percussive instrument to drive the entire ensemble. The creative genius extends to how it benefits the melodies of the harmonies and lead lines by retaining a monotone, freeing space for the phenomenal backing vocals and soundscaping to really soar and experiment to glorious result.

The mentality behind this album feels amazing. Lamar himself feeling less like the star of the show and more of a part of a larger product, making use of the incredible skill, experience and imagination of the incredible musicians he involves. The whole album possesses a wonderful tongue-in-cheek vibe with some parts sounding outright silly, but in a way that enables nothing but pure enjoyment, as evident in For Free? – Interlude and the intro to Wesley’s Theory, however, it seems to resolve in a deeper and more meaningful concept of unity amongst black people in a way that riveted me, held me and wouldn’t let me go until I truly understood the intensity to it.

My only issue with the album is nothing to do with the music itself, but society’s view on appropriation – the amount of times I want to rap along with the album almost seems to ruin the experience when I remember that my own ethnicity allows me little chance to relate to the lyrical content and, regardless of any opinion of appropriation, there is no justification for a geeky white Cornishman to drop the “N-Bomb”.

Regardless, this album is easily one of my favourite discoveries of the year, to the point where I’m saving my first listen and sub-sequent review of the DAMN. album until my birthday. With a combination of great-feeling music and some deeper, heavier concepts in places, this album has so much heart and music like this should be cherished and celebrated. With that I cannot give it a higher recommendation – listen to it, feel it and just fall in love with it.

And did I really make it through this entire review without explosively ejaculating over George Clinton’s phenomenal character, feel and skill? Of course not.

Ten Years Alive On The Infinite Plain – Tony Conrad (album review + angry rant)

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(official cover art for the album, infinitely superior to any part of the piece)

I throw the term “Shit-muncher” around a lot, and it doesn’t necessarily act as indication of a terrible band. In spite of my love of the Rumours album by Fleetwood Mac (one of my favourite albums of all time), I consider them as pretentious hippy bullshit and it falls into the realms of shit-muncher material. This one-track album by Tony Conrad is the perfect antithesis of acceptable shit-munch, being a ridiculous eighty-eight minutes of repetitive drone.  An enormous letdown for me, given as it received a gleaming five stars from Mojo Magazine in their most recent publication. With a description painting the release as a gloriously artistic and other-worldly spectacle, I went in with eager anticipation, expecting a true display of musical ingenuity. Oh how fucking wrong I was…

Firstly, as a disclaimer, I will admit that I have no other knowledge of Tony Conrad and have had no exposure to any of his previous work and, as far as I know, he could be entitled to the phenomenal reputation he has. I also want to clarify that I have no personal grievance with the man and, as he passed in April of last year, I will say nothing to insult his name – I serve only to bring an outsider perspective on the travesty that is this “musical” release.

When I say this is an eighty-eight minute drone fest I am being totally honest with you. Seriously, find it on Spotify and just skip through to random intervals of the track – or better yet, suffer the bullshit I faced by listening through the entire piece! I understand the purpose and creation of a soundscape, I have made many in my time as a musician. I also understand the nature of art and how it primarily serves to invoke a feeling or a story in the mind of the listener and, though I completely respect the artistic message to this, I feel any soundscape should possess something accessible or some form of genuine musicianship for it to be considered music. This piece is music in the loosest possible definition of the word as, technically, it is orchestrated sound – but the most pathetic, pretentious form of it imaginable.

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(don’t let the image fool you, professional and cool as he looks, the “music” is terrible)

With no exaggeration, I claim this as the worst “musical” endeavour I have ever experienced in my life. With bands I detest such as All Time Low being dreadful in their own right, there can be no dispute that they create music with the intention of appealing to somebody or some particular niche, this abomination does nothing but serve the pretentious ego of the creator. A word I heard it described as was “hypnotic” and I guess I can agree, in the same way I consider being repeatedly beaten over the head to be hypnotic, with the only means of enjoying it being means of Stockholm Syndrome, being generally sick in the head or so desperate to be respected as an individual that you will blindly ignore what is a dreadful and insulting piece of shit.

This approach to music genuinely revolts me and the lack of respect for the subject angers me to my very core. Music is a craft that opens one to the the world, reflects the beauty and wonder in all things, gives purpose to people and gives inspiration and identity and when a person releases a turd like this under the title of music it brutally undermines the integrity of musicians and art everywhere. This piece is the perfect example of a description I used to define some of my previous work – “the musical equivalent of throwing shit at a wall and calling it art” and, though I never claim to be exceptional in any respect, I can compare this to my body of work and consider myself a fucking genius.

This approach to orchestrating sound is an absolute disgrace to the musical arts and should be shunned by all. It shows blatant disrespect and almost mockery to what is probably the most incredible and pure thing ever devised by humans and pisses over everything musicians have spent thousands of years making and experimenting with. With a creation which invokes nothing but disgust and indignation, I will proudly announce to the world that this is the worst thing I have ever listened to in my life and maybe even the rest of my days to come.

Bleachers – Gone Now (album review)

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(official artwork for the Gone Now album)

After the last torture I endured I thought I would give myself a break and listen to something completely new, hoping that the sense of discovery would cheer me up and draw me from the foul condition the last album left me in. I don’t feel like I quite achieved that with this album, but anything is a step up from the crap I sat through before.

So I had no idea who this band were prior to my “dart at the wall” approach to picking albums to review. As it turns out, they’re Indie Pop/New Wave band from New York who aren’t as good as their genre is interesting. Starting in 2014, they haven’t received much mainstream success yet – which does surprise me. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel like they deserve more success, they just have that typical Imagine Dragons-wannabe sound that everybody seems to be going for these days and it’s disappointing to hear. As a die-hard fan of 80’s Pop and New Wave music, I had higher expectations of this band and I just feel disappointed.

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(listen to this instead, it’s a good album)

The album started off with a typical and acceptable dynamic, but as it went on it just began to sound more and more like some run-of-the-mill contemporary Pop album with nothing to differentiate it from what it is attempting to imitate, except for what felt like an embarrassingly poor approach to the mixing – evident in the dreadful sound of the kick drum, which remains throughout the whole album. It’s hard to explain, but as the opening song continued the production quality just kept falling. Listening to it, I felt the volume creeping up and down and the inconsistency just threw off the dynamic flow of the first few songs. Continuing through the album, everything just unravelled into an inadequate and poorly-performed mess, with the only original ideas sounding out of place and schizophrenic.

Every aspect was uninspired and a dull example of pure shoddiness, with everything close to good just being an almost direct copy of the aforementioned Imagine Dragons and everything bad just being a cheesy and embarrassing mess. It could be that I just don’t get this kind of mainstream sounding Pop shit, but I feel like it totally lacks any true identity – it seeming more like a reflection of modern Pop music than an actual project. Honestly, through the album I didn’t hear anything I particularly liked until the track Goodbye, and that was purely for the bass line – in fact, the bass line is the only thing I like in the song.

Like some of the albums I have previously reviewed, I just found this to be a really lazy album. With a severe lack of good and well-executed ideas and legitimately poor production in places, I would advocate giving it a pass and finding something better. If you want Indie Pop then listen to Imagine Dragons, if you want something cheesy and electronic then listen to The Ordinary Boys – both offer studio-quality albums and a more immersive and enjoyable feel. If you like commercial Indie Pop but don’t want to be associated with mainstream music because you’re too “alternative”, you should listen to this and then get over yourself, but I wouldn’t recommend this to anybody else. With a total lack of identity, nothing to engage you in the album and generally awful sounding ideas, this release has proven to be a huge disappointment and a dreadfully boring example of mediocrity. The vocals sound like shit for most of the album too.

Last Young Renegade – All Time Low (album review)

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(official album artwork from the Last Young Renegade album)

In my time committed to critiquing music, I have reviewed bands I have had a previous love for, bands I had never heard of and bands that I chose purely for the name or genre alone, but I have thus far neglected to review bands I have had a negative outlook towards before-hand. To this end, I have decided to direct my focus to reviewing a band I have long held a strong dislike for: All Time Low. My initial goals in this respect were fair and professional – to listen to an album impartially, to analyse it for what it is, to understand the appeal and, most importantly, give the band a proper chance. I began to regret this decision from the first ten seconds of the album.

Disclaimer: I’ve never had a positive view on this band, and I sure as Hell don’t now – if you’re a fan of the band then I advise ignoring this slander-fest, this could get messy.

All Time Low are a Pop Punk band who somehow climbed to a level of success not deserved for their level of mediocrity. Forming in 2003, the band almost seemed to form as a means to take advantage of a growing fan base of angst-fuelled teenagers, namely social groups referred to as Emo or Scene Kids – which, as an Emo Class of ’03, I can personally relate to. I can look back now and understand the camp and melodramatic nature of bands such as Simple Plan and Taking Back Sunday, and even appreciate it in certain cases – it was a genre which existed to give social outcasts some measure of comfort, something to relate to and, to a certain extent, offer an identity and place in the world, which I can totally get on board with, to a degree.

Where early bands of this era carried heavy Punk influence, the genre seemed to drift from topics of rebellion and empowerment to personal issues such as getting hurt by girls and general dissatisfaction in life. From the beginning it was clearly a fashion trend and musicians attempting to capitalise on this (such is the nature of music), but it still had a character to it. In time the music seemed to sell out into a more generic, over-produced Soft-Rock kind of style, and with this the movement seemed to lose so much of its momentum and passion. Bands like All Time Low have always flown this flag in my eyes and serve as the true milestone where the movement became truly commercialised. People that read my recent Rancid review will know my opinions on Punk Rock and its history. I think Punk is an amazing thing, but this commercialism and general fashion-oriented attitude is one of the most shameful things the noughties produced. That all being said, this is an album review – so let’s talk about that!

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(“unrelated” image of a turd)

It’s garbage! I usually listen to albums through Spotify, so I am subject to many adverts – and my first issue with this album is that I could rarely notice when the first advert for a Pop album played because of the over-produced sound of the album. When you can’t tell when a “Punk-influenced” band ends and an advert for some mainstream Pop artist begins, you know the band have fallen too far from their genre. I remain just as disappointed by the instrumentation behind the songs as everything just sounds like the most generic thing they could have written, and where this isn’t the case it just sounds like they’re plagiarising The 1979’s and Angels and Airwaves (two far better bands).

The best thing about this album is the length – at a mere 36 minutes, it means I suffered it for around nine minutes less than the length of an actual full-length album and, though I complained the opposite with Royal Blood, this is easily my favourite thing about this release. With Royal Blood I wanted an extra two songs or so because it had some character and potential – with Last Young Renegade I just wanted it to be over all the way through. Another positive for me is that the guitar work in the opening track reminded me of Angels and Airwaves, but that just made me want to listen to them instead!

With whiny and juvenile lyrics portraying a pathetic and adolescent take on heartbreak and generally childish issues, I was crying out for this album to grow up – often rising to a state of near-anger. This genre needs a severe kick in the ass and either needs to get back to what made it so unique and inspiring in its early days or expand into something that encourages true worldliness and personal progression. When you compare tracks like Drugs & Candy to songs like St Jimmy by Green Day you can truly see how far the music has fallen and it’s embarrassing for one who once had such esteem for the genre. When you have a band of people around thirty years of age you expect them to break free of this high-school mentality and release something more developed, if anything to try to ease their fans into the reality of the world and into better things. The band needs to mature and expand into something more and it should inspire the same in their fans – instead, this album shows a patronising outlook towards them, implying that they don’t ever need to grow up and their music doesn’t have to either.