wallet full of holes

Somehow, there's a new Fountains of Wayne album on the way.

I must admit, after the embarrassment of 'Traffic and Weather' I was initially not terribly excited. However, they appear to have learned from their mistakes and the material that they're previewing the album with shows our power pop heroes back on track.

That's the fantastic album art over there, and you can pre-order the album direct from the label in the now standard myriad of value-added packages. (I went with the LP/poster/t-shirt bundle, of course. If I'm not mistaken, this makes only the second Fountains album available on vinyl.) All pre-orders come with two preview tracks - opener "The Summer Place" and current "single" "Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart" - as well as a (for now) exclusive bonus track, a cover of The Moody Blues' "The Story In Your Eyes". Both of the album tracks are great - a callback to the more folky/laid-back moments from 'Utopia Parkway' or 'Welcome Interstate Managers'. Obviously a full-on return to the insanely hooky power pop of the debut would be preferred, but I'll take what I can get. (I must have known I'd stumble across this - I listened to the self-titled album today for the first time in years. It has aged very, very well.)

If you don't want a physical copy - you're apparently out there, even if I don't understand it - you can head over to iTunes for two "singles" - "Someone's Gonna Break Your Heart" and "Richie and Ruben", the latter being the best of the bunch so far. Both comes with exclusive artwork if that's your thing - both of which would look excellent as 7" single sleeves, but I'm not holding my breath.

I am suddenly very excited for the back half of 2011.

[UPDATE: The official site states a 7" for "Richie And Ruben" backed with "The Story In Your Eyes" will be out on July 18th. That was unexpected.]


boys, you're spoiling us

Two Sound of Arrows singles in one year?

Relax! To compromise for this wealth of material released within a 12-month period, they've decided to re-release pre-Geffen single "M.A.G.I.C." - now just called "Magic" - on August 1st or August 14th, depending on where you look. It'll be a 12"-only deal again and come backed with a now-standard pair of remixes; this time from Tom Staar and Chad Valley, whoever they are. (It's gotta be better than fucking Tiësto, right? Right.)

I will admit I was too afraid to listen to the original "M.A.G.I.C." in the post-"Into The Clouds" excitement, being scared off by the too-twee-for-its-own-good "Danger!". So I can't say how it sounds in its (presumably) new version, but the video looks something like this:

Sadly, it doesn't continue the 'Never Ending Story 2011' theme that "Into The Clouds" and "Nova" had - unless you look at this as the non-book part of said Story, but even that is a bit of a stretch - and the song itself is a bit precious with its children's chorus, but I also wasn't sold on "Into The Clouds" initially. I'm still optimistic for the album.


bears hugs are my radar


is essentially this:

That's OK, though, because it's still pretty fantastic and a good time. I'm curious to hear more.

pop perfection: 'Coming Up'

'Coming Up' is perfect. It's where Brett realizes that, at heart, Suede are really just a big dumb pop band and sets out to make their big dumb pop album. It's ten tracks long, which is the perfect length for a pop album, fact. As Mat Osman is quoted as saying in the new liner notes, it is their "album to do your hair to", and that's really about as high a compliment I can think for it.

The album has a certain sound to it, which I will admit took me a bit to come around to. It's produced within an inch of it's life - a bit treble-y, perhaps - and Brett's vocals in particular have so many effects on them that it hardly sounds like him at all. In the grand scheme of things, though, it all works - if you're going for pop perfection, all the flaws have to go. It's a bit like the porn star image version of Suede, if you will, all tarted up and ready to go.

Song-wise, this is the only time that they got the track list exactly right; every song is where it needs to be for maximum impact. There are some amazing songs hidden away on the b-sides, to be sure, but none of them would add to the overall effectiveness of the album if included. Lyrically things get a bit - ahem - lazy, but that also avoids the over-reach that marred the first two albums. This is POP people, we want to hear about filmstars propping up the bar and being the litter on the breeze and shaking our meat to the beat and all that. At the risk of repeating myself - too late - BIG and DUMB and POP are the words of the day and 'Coming Up' delivers in spades...even the "heartfelt" moments compare true love to drug classes and watching car crashes while eating sandwiches.

This is, ultimately, the essence of Suede in 10 easy to digest song-lets. Brett states in the 'Dog Man Star' booklet that if he could only be remembered for one musical document it would be that, but he's a fool - 'Coming Up' is surely the one to be proudest of.

Bonus material time! Seven demos follow the album, and as far as demos go they're an interesting listen. The "Saturday Night" demo is the same as on the original single and I'm fairly certain the "Filmstar" demo is the one from the 7" but I'd have to dig that out to double check, but the others are getting their first release here as far as I can tell. (Actually, "Lazy" and/or "She" may have been released on the flips of some of the cassette singles of the era, but not having them I can't compare. Anyone? Also: CASSETTE singles. Big. dumb. pop.)

Following them are the three left-over b-sides from the 'Dog Man Star' campaign. They're all fantastic - "Asda Town" is a hidden gem as it was left off of 'Sci-Fi Lullabies' and was impossible to track down for a very long time - but they don't belong here. We've gone over that, though... (Side note: "Asda Town" is one of the tracks that was edited down for space constraints and features a very early fade out compared to the original.)

Disc two collects sixteen of the seventeen(!) new studio tracks that were released on the CDs for the five singles from the album - Neil's solo track "Digging A Hole" is missing, but you're not really missing much there. Most of these you probably already have on 'Sci-Fi Lullabies' so you know that many of them are as good as what made the album. (They just don't fit on the album, right? Right.) "Europe Is Our Playground" is the original b-side version not the re-recording from the compilation - I've never really been able to tell the difference but I've also never compared them side by side - and both "W.S.D." and "Feel" get edits for space. "W.S.D." is a real shame as it's a decidedly non-Suede song, a really great groove-based track - that gets a bit lost with the last two minutes of instrumental freak-out getting chopped off, not to mention you miss out on Brett literally going barking mad - while "Feel" is still too long at almost half of its original length.

My vote for best b-side - and, possibly, best overall track - of the era? "Money", no question. Yesterday I commented to a friend how it sounds like 'Too Fast For Love' if the Sunset Strip was located in London, and even though I'm not entirely sure I can tell you what I mean by that, it's meant as a compliment. (UK hair metal maybe? I don't know.) Anyways, that it wasn't chosen as one of the encore b-sides on the recent album gigs is a crime as it would go down a total storm live. (Have they ever done it?)

We only get one extra track this time, a rehearsal room recording of an unreleased song called "Motown". It's a total racket and not much of a song - not that that really stopped them at this point, "Young Men" or "These Are The Sad Songs" anyone? - but it's refreshing to listen to as an un-produced demo after the complete overproduction of the album and b-sides, and it's a nice reminder that this was a band that was re-discovering the joy of playing together again. Like the disc one demos, probably not something you'll listen to repeatedly but it's nice to have.

The DVD gives us the five promo videos and they're all perfect for the album if a bit boring to actually sit down and watch. The best bit is watching Neil in the "Beautiful Ones" video stare at the camera with an "I don't give a fuck" look while holding down one key for an extended period of time. Perfection. There are also extra videos for "Europe Is Our Playground" and "Shipbuilding" - neither are terribly exciting - plus the now standard bonus concerts: the professionally shot gig that the live tracks from the "Filmstar" single came from featuring Neil Tennant, and yet another bootleg quality show, this time from the 'Dog Man Star' tour featuring the live debut of Richard Oakes. Again, it doesn't belong here and the quality on this one is the worst of the shows so far, so that's a bit of a miss even if it does have historical significance.

'Coming Up' is the only perfect Suede album and even though much of the material on this set was already available, this has been my favorite of the remasters so far.


wired for light

The Whip have finally come forward with information on their long-in-the-works second LP - which, if you were keeping track, we should have already. Anyways, 'Wired Together' - fantastic name - will be with us on September 19th. Over there, you can see the fabulous artwork - part peacock, part tribal mask, part wave form, right?

As part of the deal, you can pre-order the album on CD or digital from the band and get immediate access to five tracks, which are also available for streaming from Southern Fried's Soundcloud. If we've learned anything over the years, it's a bit dangerous to commit to a format before you know all your available options and there is plenty of time between now and September 19th for all kinds of crazy special editions to be announced. While I certainly want to support the band, I refuse to buy this album a million times like I did the first - and, more recently, the Mirrors album - so we're going to hold off on that pre-order option until we have more information.

Have a listen, will you?

The Whip: Wired Together (Sampler) by Southern Fried Records

Hm. First, it's kind of weird that rumored first single "Keep Or Delete" isn't included, but whatever. Also, I'm a bit disappointed that I don't love it more. Granted, my expectations are a bit impossibly high - and the delay hasn't really helped things any - but I did expect a bit of love-at-first-listen rather than the cautiously-optimistic-like that I'm feeling. As Joe puts it: "They feel so polished.", and I couldn't agree more. Especially considering the Jagz Kooner production and the gritty-as-hell demo version of "Secret Weapon" we got last Fall, everything sounds a bit slick. However, there's plenty to enjoy and we shall wait to reserve judgment until we have more time with it...and the rest of the album, obviously.

Happy Monday.


oveerreach: 'Dog Man Star'

After years of not being able to articulate what exactly it is that bothers me about 'Dog Man Star', it hit me this morning: it takes too long to say what it has to say and, in the process, dilutes its effectiveness.

"But that's the point!", you cry. "It's not the relatively simple pop album the debut was, it's supposed to be big and epic and long and full and all those generally-accepted signs of a 'masterpiece'." Fair enough - but the band, while very talented and full of potentially good ideas, aren't able to pull it off.

The problems start right at the beginning. At its core, "Introducing The Band" is a complete non-song, and dressing it up as a Middle Eastern-inspired tone poem does it no favors, especially since the band clearly as little-to-no experience with or adeptness at said style. Instead of making the listener perk up from the get-go and say: "here is the start of something different and great", it causes me to perk up and say: "good lord, this is ridiculous in all the wrong ways." Remember, Suede are at their best when they're ridiculous - it's what makes their best songs so great, right? - but there's a good and a bad ridiculous and this nonsense is firmly in the bad camp.

It starts the proceedings off on the totally wrong foot and it takes the album a bit to recover. I used to think I did not like "We Are The Pigs" - empty chest-puffing and fake hardness! - but it's actually that I don't like "We Are The Pigs" in context. It's like a sponge, I guess, absorbing everything around it. On it's own, it's actually a pretty snappy little single - a bit of a rougher "So Young", if you will. So, score one for the re-examination.

Finally, things get truly started with the one/two/three punch of "Heroine", "The Wild Ones and "Daddy's Speeding". The latter is the only moment on the entire album where I feel the band steps outside of their comfort zone and is able to pull it off. It sounds like the aftermath of a car crash, daring you to keep listening even though you know something awful has happened. I have no idea how they pulled it off when they screwed everything else up so badly, but well played.

"The Power" is a nice palette-cleanser but is a bit fluffy and very out of place on the album. Seeing that it's the only one that wasn't totally completed with Bernard, I have no problem nixing it. It would have made a lovely non-album single, bridging the gap a bit between Suedes MK1 and MK2, but it wasn't to be.

"New Generation" and "This Hollywood Life" are fantastic stormers that I've always liked, so yay. Then they fuck it all up again with the brick wall of the album, the point I was almost never able to make it past before. First you've got "The 2 Of Us", which could be beautiful except it goes on for way. too. long. Bernard may be a whiz with the guitar but he's - at best - a passable keyboardist so we don't need him banging out basic chords while Brett repeats the same three lines over and over for five minutes. There's a nice break in the song about 2/3 of the way through that would have made a fine stopping point, but again they pushed it too far and ruined it. Way to go. If you can make it through that, you've got "Black Or Blue" to contend with, which is just awful. Again, Brett is a fine vocalist but it's not like he has the greatest voice in the world, so we don't need him pretending he's auditioning for the lead it some opera, singing in a clearly uncomfortable falsetto and trying to hit every note ever discovered all at once. Ugh.

Finally, you're rewarded with something listenable. "The Asphalt World" was hidden from me for years because I could never make it to it. My listening method with these reissues so far has been to tackle the bonus disc first, to give me a little insight behind the albums before I approach them again, and this one on its own was a revelation. While I think "The Wild Ones" is my favorite on the album, I can actually agree with people for once and say that this is the cornerstone.

Of course, they then botch the ending with "Still Life", itself a fantastic song once you strip away the zillion piece orchestra auditioning to score the next blockbuster. On the bonus disc there's an instrumental/orchestral version that works fine as a piece of incidental music - or, perhaps, soundtracking man's exploration into space or something - but as the overblown finale at a patchy attempt at greatness it's just another miss.

Clearly I still don't find this album to be the masterpiece everyone says it is. I don't understand how you can look past all of its glaring faults and find greatness. The band had it in them - there are flashes here just as there were flashes in the first album material - but their reach far exceeds their grasp and they fall flat on their face just as much as they succeed, if not more often.

As far as bonus material, the set delivers a lot but not nearly as much of interest as the first set. (I imagine my view of the album clouds my judgment on that, but there you have it.) There are 5 demos on the main disc, all of which are worth a listen but I doubt you'll find yourself returning to. (Fun fact: some of the original lyrics to "Introducing The Band" were recycled for "WSD".) Disc two - which is actually full this time, so that's nice - collects "Stay Together" and its b-sides as well as five additional b-sides from the album's singles. A few gripes - "Stay Together" is advertised as being the "long version" but is inexplicably has the last minute totally chopped off. (The true full length version would have fit.) Also, did "Eno's Introducing The Band" really need to be included? Yes, it's part of the story and a track that was released, but surely it falls under the "not a full band recording" line that was used to explain the omissions of "Digging A Hole" and "Weight Of The World" on the 'Coming Up' and 'Head Music' sets. That's 16 minutes of bonus disc that could have been put to better use. Finally, the moving of "Asda Town" and the two "New Generation" b-sides to the 'Coming Up' disc to preserve the original band line-up on the set is just nonsense - it's totally rewriting history and does not give the full overview of the album these sets are attempting to give. It was explained as an imperfect solution but that's a total cop-out - they belong here, not with 'Coming Up'.

Following those we've got six additional bonus tracks, ranging from slight - the barely one-minute long French version of "The Power" and the aforementioned orchestral version of "Still Life" - to genuinely interesting - a true outtake in "We Believe In Showbiz" - to the two pieces that have hardcores salivating: original unedited versions of "The Wild Ones" and "The Asphalt World". (Except Brett has said that "The Asphalt World" was edited down from 18 minutes of rehearsal tapes, so the naming is a bit deceptive.)

On the DVD, we've got the much maligned "Stay Together" video (I don't get the big deal, it's clearly better than some of the first album videos), the 'Dog Man Star' tour films (they claimed they were previously unreleased on DVD but weren't they an extra on the 'Introducing The Band' DVD?), plus a pair of fan-shot bootleg videos. The first comes from a show at the end of the first-album tour and features early versions of "This Hollywood Life", "We Are The Pigs", "New Generation" and set-closer "Stay Together". Like the video on the first set, there are cuts between songs and the audio is not great, and in this one you can tell that songs are clearly cut as you get the last 10 seconds or so of "She's Not Dead" before they begin "So Young". Perhaps the footage was unusable? A little clarification would have been nice. The other set is a four-song acoustic in store from earlier the same day - the highlight of which is Brett getting visibly pissed off and screaming at the crowd to "FUCK OFF!" to constant requests for "I Want Your Sex". Fantastic.

It's often wondered what could have been if the band had been able to hold it together and the Anderson/Butler partnership had expanded past these two albums, but I've never once cared: if they had, it's very doubtful we would have ever gotten their true masterpiece, which is coming up next. (HA!)


better late than never, I suppose

If 'Coming Up' was available right now, I have a gift card that would have its name on it to get me through the wait.

Also, weak not giving us the bonus demo of "New Generation" that UK iTunes got, but what else is new with the US getting digitally screwed?

Where are 'Head Music' and 'A New Morning'?


I think I get it: 'Suede'

One of the features on the DVD portion of the 'Suede' Deluxe Edition is a live performance from the week after "Animal Nitrate" was released as a single and, therefore, about a month before the album itself was unveiled. The recording itself is a bit of a disaster - captured from presumably the back of the club by a hand-held video camera, it continually zooms in and out on the stage. Sometimes it focuses in on one individual band member - usually Brett, prancing around the stage initially in a lacy white woman's blouse until the audience rips all but a sleeve off, which he finally removes himself and throws to the screaming throng, itself unintentionally hilarious and worth the price of admission alone - and sometimes capturing the heads of the crowd frantically bobbing up and down excitedly to the band giving it their all. Despite not being what you'd expect from a professionally produced product - the audio is quite muffled and clearly not even remotely touched up in the studio, there are sharp cuts between songs presumably to save battery and/or tape space, the video itself ends halfway through "To The Birds" leaving the band in a permanently unfinished performance - for me it is the best part of the package. Watching the video, the excitement of the band at the time finally sunk it, I finally understood why they mattered. Even watching on a television screen while sitting on a couch 18 years after the fact, the energy of the band was captivating and I couldn't take my eyes off the screen. Even more important than that, the promise of the band was there - they had, at the time, released three incredible singles backed with six impossibly strong b-sides, and almost all of the "new" material played during the set suggested they were going to carry it through to the full length.

Except, of course, they didn't. Another feature on the DVD is a modern interview with Brett and Bernard about the album and its creation, and one thing they mention is the important of the singles and particularly b-sides at the time and how that tied their hands a bit when it came to assembling the album. While it certainly wouldn't have been unheard of to re-use one or two of the b-sides from the first two singles on the album, they wanted the singles to stand on their own and were now faced with writing songs as good as "My Insatiable One", "To The Birds" (both called out as songs Brett wishes he could have put on the album) and "He's Dead". Everyone involved seems to think they were able to, but the continual mention of "I wish such-and-such had been put on in place of this or that instead of relegated to b-side status" suggests that they weren't quite as successful as they'd like to think.

Here's the thing, though: I now also understand that the imperfection of the album is part of what people love about it. You're not supposed to get everything right the first time out - even a band wish the promise, talent and vision they clearly had at the time are bound to fuck something up.

This package gives you the whole picture. The admission that they had painted themselves into a corner and this was how they chose to get out opened my eyes a bit to the album, and I can see it how they and others have seen it for years. It's a bit like Smashing Pumpkins' 'Gish' in a way - far from perfect with obviously lower quality material being put on in place of stronger, previously released material, but an incredibly honest picture of a young and talented band. It's never going to be my favorite Suede album and I still don't understand the strong emotional connection people seem to have with it - it's a series of over-the-top glammed-up pop songs about sex and drugs when you boil it down - but I can appreciate it in a whole new way after spending more time with the era.

Bring on 'Dog Man Star'.


dance to the beat of my drum

Girl pop and I have been on the outs for a few years - after the not-so-good last (final?) Girls Aloud record, the embarrassment of the Sugababes' 'Sweet 7' and the Saturdays not being able to follow up fab debut 'Chasing Lights' with anything resembling even the lows of that record, I checked out.

Well, check back in because we have a winner. Nicola of Girls Aloud has finally premiered her debut solo single, the Diplo-produced "Beat Of My Drum". I never thought much of her in the group - though, truthfully, I also never got involved enough to be able to tell them apart - but the pre-release buzz on this has been perfect. Here we go:

If I'm going to be honest, when people go on about "M.I.A. is SO this" or "Robyn is SO that", this is what I expected to hear each and every time but never did. It's also where I had hoped Girls Aloud would have gone after 'Sound of the Underground' instead of the cartoonish-mega-pop they eventually became the masters of. (Not that this isn't cartoonish in its own way, I suppose.) Visually, the clip has the one thing that every "good" Girls Aloud video has - terrible choreography awkwardly danced by girls who look like they are using their brand new legs for the first time - so two thumbs up for that. All around, a fantastic first time out for Ms. Roberts.

Beyond this, there's a Dragonette co-write on the album which we're obviously all about, so yay.

(Of course, the new Saturdays single sounds like a Fergie outtake, so girl pop isn't entirely in the clear.)


and just like that, there's a new Kaiser Chiefs album

The other day, seemingly out of nowhere - though apparently they had been talking about it for weeks and I just wasn't paying attention - a new Kaiser Chiefs single was out there. Entitled "Little Shocks", it is the perfect single to come back with after a few years rest - it sounds exactly like the Kaiser Chiefs while still bringing something new to the table, in this case a throbbing atonal keyboard-led beat. (No, really, it works.) The video, as music friend Dean pointed out, is Suede's "Electricity" part 2, which is certainly not a bad thing. So, all around, a win.

This morning, also out of nowhere, there's a new Kaiser Chiefs album. Entitled "The Future Is Medieval", it's not just any album. Instead of the "name your own price" model others have tried in the past few years, this is "name your own album": you can preview the twenty songs the boys have put together for the project, pick your ten favorite and plug them into the album in any order you want - literally plug them in, the Flash animation is quite cute - design the album cover from a given palette, pay £7.50 through a Paypal account and bam, there's your version of the fourth Kaiser Chiefs album. Not only that, but if someone doesn't want to go through all that hassle and chooses to simply purchase the edition of the album you put together - also for £7.50 - you get £1 of that deposited into your Paypal account.

My initial reaction is: "neat!", and also: "what if you suffer from complete-ism and need all 20 tracks? That's at best 2 copies of the album you have to put together and there goes £15." I do think it's a neat concept and the band says on the FAQ that they were interested in seeing what the fans did with the material, strongly suggesting that there will be a "proper" version of the album forthcoming.

I'm curious to see how this develops. I wish I didn't have to work all day so I could play Kaiser Chiefs album creator.