Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Review: Bloc Party "A weekend in the city"

I am usually pretty apprehensive when I get sophomore releases from bands that produced spectacular first records. Bloc Party is no exception - their first album "Silent Alarm" (Review here) was fantastic - but what of the follow on? Part of the problem bands face is that they have no time to adequately develop and prepare new material because of the touring and promotion pressures of their first record. Hence the sophomore curse.

"A weekend in the city" is a dramatic, powerful record. This is a more mature, complex album than their first. The songs still tell personal stories, and yet retain the almost naive song writing of the first album. In many ways this record is more London/England focussed that the previous record. I imagine that the lyrics will probably mean more to a Brit than to someone else.

Song for Clay - gentle opening lyrics then a driving guitar riff - then the verse with the great line: "dream the eighties never happened". No idea what it means but it sounds good.

Hunting for witches - amazing intro riff, just brilliant. "I'm sitting on the roof of my house with a shotgun and six pack of beer". A song about terrorism in London - a difficult that could sound really lame, but they pull it off.

Waiting for the 7-18. Just a great pop song. Although the main refrain "Lets go to Brighton for the weekend" takes a little getting used to. This is the first song I have ever heard that talks about sodoku.

The uniform. Quite a stark song about fashion, indifference, and self indulgence at the expense of all around you. The first half of the song is quite mellow, then the drums kick in and the urgency picks up. The vocals are complex and dramatic. Like a lot of BP songs, this song doesn't ever really repeat the verse -chorus - verse - middle 8 - etc - formula - rather it moves through stages of varying tension.

On. 80s sounding pop song. Pretty unremarkable, but nicely done anyway.

Kreuzberg. Ditto.

I still remember. I'm beginning to wonder whether I like Bloc Party so much because they sound like they are out of the 1980s. This song is another great pop song. Nothing dramatic, nothing crazy. Just a simple song.

Sunday. "I'll love you in the morning when you're still hungover". What a great lyric.

SXRT. An anthemic end to the record.

Overall a good follow up and well worth listening to. One of those records that gets better with time.

Incidentally, BP are coming to Winston Salem in June.

Review: Cracker/Leftover Salmon "O'Cracker where art thou?

As a band, Cracker has always been alternative rock with country tendencies. Check out the brilliant album "Countrysides" which features the band's alter-ego "Ironic Mullet". "O' Cracker where are thou?" is a greatest hits collection that takes these tendencies further and re-records the classics with a blue grass band. Basically take a bunch of your fave Cracker songs and add banjos, pianos, fiddles etc, and you get the idea.

Some of the songs are quite different from the original and are very refreshing. "Get off this" is great - a lilting acoustic version. "Eurotrash girl" is about as un-euro as you could imagine, although DL's attempt to sing with a country drawl falters after a while. Some of the songs have less of a blus grass influence - for example "Ms santa Cruz County" pretty much moves along like the original, although with banjo riffs through out. The surprise on the record is "Low" with a haunting repeated banjo riff for the intro. The guitar solo, shows Johnny at his finest - with a devastating tone - a heavily overdriven LP - contrasts with the plicking of the banjo and is very effective, although you have to hear it to believe it.

My favorite on the record is the last track "waiting for you girl". This song originally appeared on the brilliant "Gentlemen's Blues". This version is similar to the original but features a beautiful piano accompaniment.

Overall, this album was a very pleasant surprise and well worth getting. You can order it from www.pitchatent.com.