Posted by: Nick Walters | March 19, 2012

Sounds Of Tomorrow – Today!

I suffer terribly from SAD, and cannot wait for the Spring to arrive. As the nights get lighter my mood improves, and when BST begins, it’s as if a shroud of gloom has been lifted from my mind. Not long now… but back in January/February the darkness seemed permanent, springtime an ancient myth, and summer a parallel dimension never to be glimpsed again. The new Therapy? album, with its themes of mortality and doom, helped to cheer me up a bit, but in those dark days I yearned for the sound of Spring… for the sound of something new.

There was nothing new on my musical radar until March and the new Paul Weller and Wedding Present albums, so I decided to try summat new for a change. I don’t try new stuff often enough, sticking to my own (admittedly vast) roster of bands I follow (looking at last year, I Am Kloot, the Kooks and Patrick Wolf were the only new acts I bought!) so I thought, What the hell? and went off to Wikipedia,  typed in “albums released 2012”, and scanned the list for something to catch my eye.

A pretty weird, random, and perhaps soulless, way of choosing a record, you may think – one usually gets into a band by hearing a single, seeing them live, or by word of mouth recommendation. And you’re probably right, but I felt like trying something totally random and previously unknown. If I liked it, then wahey, if not, e-bay.

And, it worked! The two albums I picked are fantastic, and one of them I absolutely adore.

They share one thing in common – they are both futuristic/retro electro-pop, but done in very different ways. And both are PACKED with TUNES!

The first is Out Of Frequency by Danish band The Asteroids Galaxy Tour. It was the band name which attracted me at first – I mean, with a name like that, you can almost hear the music already! I envisaged something a bit like The She Creatures, but got something quite different. Out of Frequency is pure, unadulterated space pop that could have been beamed back from the year 2212, but it has a sleazy, louche vibe totally at odds with the gleaming jet-pack-assisted future usually associated with this sort of thing. And it is a merciless, pumping, predatory thing,  full of pulsing bass, blaring horns, and the quite amazing voice of singer Mette Lindberg. She is quite shockingly attractive with a vast explosion of blonde hair and a voice that sounds like Amy Winehouse on helium. I was a bit put off by this at first, but over the album her vocal style settles down somewhat, though I must warn you it’s one of those “marmite” voices. The album starts off with an instrumental track (Gold Rush) which sounds like the opening fanfare to a Pride festival, which segues into a song (Dollar In The Night) and then back into Gold Rush again. It’s an odd and rather disjointed start to the album, and sounds very much like it should be experienced as part of a live set. After that, though, there is tune after tune after tune – some of them often naggingly familiar (Major sounds like an alt-universe Madonna) – but ALL of them guaranteed to never leave your head. Listen to Heart Attack, for example. It’s big, stomping, stupid, but by God does it not cheer one up? It’s not all uptempo floor-fillers, though, there’s the urban noir of the title track, the Yello-style Cloak and Dagger and the sinister swagger of Mafia. It all comes to a brilliantly mad conclusion on Suburban Space Invader and Fantasy Friend Forever. So, score one!

The second is Future This by The Big Pink, an English band  I had never heard of before (I later found out that awful Dominoes song is by  them – ho well!). It was the brazen title that hooked me here. Calling your album Future This is just asking for a kicking! But the joke soon becomes obvious when you hear the record. Seriously, this could have been recorded in 1982; if someone had presented this to me as a “lost” band of the 80’s I would have believed them.  The fist track, Stay Gold, is a huge ballad shot through with crystalline synths, and ridiculous lyrics: “Stay Gold! GOLD! Shine the light for us to follow! GOLD!” It’s like something Bono would come out with; and the Spandau Ballet resonance is clearly there; and there’s a Stevie Wonder song called Stay Gold. These are clearly clever chaps (Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell, to give them names) and this is clearly coldly calculated, crafted stuff (but isn’t all the best pop?) Whatever the intent, Stay Gold had and still has a massive emotional impact, for me at least. It’s somehow hopeful and sad at the same time and makes me paradoxically yearn for both the past AND the future! This is helped by Furze’s vocals. He’s a ratty-looking little chap who looks decidedly uncomfortable in their videos, but his VOICE! What a thing of beauty. Always almost on the brink of going out of tune, it’s heroic, and this is best illustrated on Hit The Ground (Superman), the album’s highlight. It samples the Laurie Anderson song Superman and yet turns it into their own thing; it’s very clearly a drug and / or booze song, but it captures perfectly the euphoria of being up and never wanting to come down and “hit the ground” – and the cold shock of realising that there is no “superman” to catch you when you fall; it IS gonna hurt. This song is so good, I can forgive them Dominoes, and their entire first album A Brief History of Love, which is shite – the sort of music Half Man Half Biscuit wrote Look, Dad, No Tunes! to take the piss out of. Luckily, for Future This, The Big Pink realised that it’s piss-easy to make noise and far more difficult to write tunes, so they filled the album with them. Tunes, that is. There is not a duff track here, from the majesty of The Palace, the urban cool of Jump Music, to the urban noir (that again!) of the title track (again!!!) and the rather plaintive closing track 77. I love this album, even if it turns out that its makers are taking the piss – it’s what you hear that counts, and I hear wonderful nostalgic tunes that pull at my heart and with blasts of  synths and crashing drums completely obliterate the Winter blues. Score two!

You know I might try this again, just picking two albums at random . It worked a treat this time! Next time though? We shall see!

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