Monthly Archives: February 2013

Review: Zagar – Space Medusa

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MUSIC NEWS.

Zagar - Space Medusa - Electronica’s strongpoint has never really been vocal prowess. Which is just as well, as Budapest five piece Zagar’s efforts on new single ‘Space Medusa’ certainly couldn’t be described as exemplary.

Their music has featured on both CSI: Miami and CSI: New York, and they have even supported synth legends Depeche Mode, so the band’s stature is, it’s safe to say, somewhat stronger than this song perhaps would suggest.

Fans were given the option to preview the track via a Bang & Olufsen sponsored social media application, which allowed them to unlock samples from the song’s 3 minute 55 second run-time. The only problem with this approach is that, whichever segment you unlocked, the chances are it would have sounded just like the rest of it.

The song fuses weak, heavily distorted vocals delivering slightly incoherent lyrics, with a backing track that sounds like the offspring of an ABC b-side and the kind of music that used to accompany character selection menus on the original Playstation.

Maybe I just don’t get it, but if this is a taste of what the rest of new album ‘Light Leaks’ holds, then it’s presumably going to appeal solely to those who already understand Zagar’s appeal.

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Review: David Bowie – The Stars (Are Out Tonight)

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MUSIC NEWS.

David Bowie - The Stars (Are Out Tonight) - Powered by an upbeat drum pattern, an accoustic guitar part and crackly, fuzzbox lead guitars, ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ is vintage Bowie.

Like previous single, ‘Where Are We Now?’, the track picks up exactly where Bowie left off in 2003 with the ‘Reality’ project. Played back to back with his most recent albums, these two new songs don’t neccessarily offer anything new, but this second single at least shows that ol’ Davey Jones is still capable of having fun.

The lyrics, fantastical as ever, will be poured upon at length for years to come, and at first glance seem to discuss the trappings of fame and a hope for immortality. With an enormous legacy to live up to, ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ is hardly going to rival the outright classics in Bowie’s back catalogue, but this will certainly please the faithful all the same, and like all the great Bowie songs, it grows on you with every listen.

As the song itself says: “We will never be rid of these stars/But I hope they live forever”. With Bowie, there’s no doubt that his music will be near immortal.

Review: The Plea – The Dreamers’ Stadium

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED BY MUSIC NEWS.

The Plea - The Dreamers Stadium - Every year brings a new batch of indie darlings, championed for a moment, then quietly forgotten – whilst a token few go on to international success. The latest in this long line are Irish four-piece The Plea. They have the simplistic name, the pretentious album artwork (simultaneously drawing up connotations of Village Of The Damned and those 1970s safety films they showed you in school), and enough word of mouth to possibly be one of the lucky ones.

Perhaps where The Plea have succeeded most with this album is in emulating their heroes. They’re hardly breaking the mould with this debut, but the results are well crafted, and reminiscent of those who inspired the band to pick up instruments in the first place. Which, perhaps is precisely the point.

The legacy of U2 looms large on their sound, and the band occasionally fall into the same mould of mechanical, staccato guitar parts crunching away underneath overwrought keyboards. But when that works, it manages to remind you why U2 are one of the biggest bands on the planet, with the likes of ‘Staggers Anthem’ and ‘Too Young To Die’ sounding truly anthemic already. Elsewhere, ‘Send It Out’ joins these two tracks in sending television montage makers into a frenzy, with repeated references to New Years Eve despite the song having no discernable trace of Hootenanny.

One highlight is ‘Praise Be’, which showcases a more ballsy side to The Plea, reminiscent of Velvet Revolver in their prime. It’s definite single material, with a bounce behind it it’s impossible not to get behind, though it does feel slightly disappointing whenever the choruses fall back into the stadium epic mould.

There are hints of a contemporary Marc Bolan on ‘I Am The Miracle’, with fun, simplistic lyrics delivered with a nasal croon at odds with the rest of the album at just the right moment – allowing for a welcome breather before lengthy, Coldplay-esque ballad ‘Windchime’. This track in particular is saved by Denis Doherty’s vocals, including canny use of phased backing harmonies at just the right points throughout.

It’s one of the strong points of a production by Chris Potter [The Verve, I Am Kloot, The Feeling], which sometimes feels a little too harsh and overtly digital, particularly in the drum sound. Some of the results are a little too familiar – drawing comparisons to bands Potter has worked with in the past even without knowing this is his work, but when the mood takes him and the band, they can be a surprisingly effective pairing, and this bodes well for future material.

Television montage makers, we’ve just found your new soundtrack – and everyone else may have just found the next big thing.

Interview: Waen Shepherd

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN IN FEBRUARY 2013 FOR THE VELVET ONION

© Waen Shepherd

Pop is ridiculous. A bold statement, perhaps, but at its heart, the very best pop music has a level of frivolity, and the early 80s wave of New Romantics is a perfect example. The era of silly lyrics, big hair and stupendous outfits is facing a critical reappraisal thirty years on, as a new generation of artists hark back to the music they grew up with. The 1980s are suddenly cool, and at just the right time for the return of Gary Le Strange.

Le Strange was the creation of TVO regular Waen Shepherd, whose debut solo live show, Polaroid Suitcase, won the 2003 Perrier Comedy Award for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Festival. The accompanying album – previously sold only on tour – has just been reissued digitally to commemorate its tenth anniversary. Despite being created almost entirely via MTV Music Generator for the Playstation2, the results are a surprisingly accurate homage to a bygone era that refuses to date, and belies its low-fi production. A decade on, Waen is delighted to discover the project has held up so well.

“Like a lot of things,” he tells TVO, from the comfort of his Greenwich apartment, “It’s very difficult to view it objectively, because I’m that close to it. For several years, I became completely numbed to it, having worked on it for so long. At the time, I knew I had substandard equipment, and was pushing it to the limit, but it was important to make it sound as close as possible to the things I was doing a pastiche of. Now I’ve dug it out, I’ve actually really enjoyed it.” Read the rest of this entry