Stretchpants of the year Part two (Or I thought Ian Paisley was dead. No, wait, that was one of the Everly brothers. I always get them mixed up)

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Our office is so modern and cool. The toilet is a bit whiffy though.

After no sleep for five days, I gorged on sleepytime, sleepynights until I became comatose. I had a dream that I was a music reviewer for a prominent magazine and I had thick rimmed glasses and I drank complicated coffees and had a bike and rode the bike and gave out to traffic and stopped occasionally to appreciate the design, the DESIGN and went to a place and ate really small food and then came back to the office and put my satchel down and stared at the pool table and decided NO and went to the fridge, got an ironic beer and put my B&O headphones on and really liked this new album but couldn’t give it a decent rating, because ratings were just stupid things that Kerrang or the like did and I was cool, look at the step in my hair, I didn’t even like fixies, I preferred retarded huge steel frame bikes from the fucking 1920s, and when my review didn’t even get published, I was like whatevs, because I’m just too fucking lazy to say Whatever. I woke up and decided someone’s gonna die tonight.

Anyway, most classic bands and classic albums originally received lukewarm reviews. If you go back and check out the NME or Melody Maker or Hot Press (Not Sounds, Sounds was great) from the late 80s you’ll be surprised by the now classic albums that were deemed just alright. I will never sleep until they all are mashed.

So, here’s more music thingys that tickled my pits last year (again, for whose benefit?).

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Phoenix: Bankrupt!

See, apart from their pervy president, their inner city disenfranchisement, the rise of the far right in the hearts of the electorate, the national embarrassment of their part in the second world war, their reliance on poor Daniel Auteuil to play a part in every single french movie in existence, their shocking behaviour at the 2010 World Cup, their part in the formation of laissez-faire economics, their waiters, their Gerard Depardieu pissing, their unbelievable inability to finish the job in Irlanda against the British in 1798 and their Johnny Halliday and their fucking bourgeoise, the French are pretty cool.

A perfect example of this is the cool boys of Versailles band Phoenix. Stretch first encountered this lot on the Lost in Translation soundtrack and I thought…ehh, yeah, not bad. The monstrous Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix delivered such classics as “Lisztomania” and “1901.” They’re not the kind of band that I like, but the overwhelming optimistic feeling in their music coupled with excellent musicianship and an ability to drift into cool electronica when they feel cool enough makes them really fucking annoying but likeable as well. Also, their fucking skinny jeans, slouchy but probably expensive silk shirts, their short leather jackets, their singers whiny voice… aw fuck I really probably hate the fuckers. But it kinda drags you in. Bastards.

For Bankrupt, they seemed to have dropped some Hong Kong Fooey acid. The manic “Entertainment” is a frustratingly enjoyable but annoying song and the album just flows from there. It’s a music that throws  a myriad of colours out. As their two videos to date show, they are the kind of band who like things to feel like a perfume ad. Maybe it’s a Parisienne thing, I dunno, but Jesus, models, motorbikes, Japanese people: It all feels like a travelogue for the street on which they live, rehearse and lounge. M83’s “Midnight City,” is the type of song that makes advertising people leave damp patches in their sleek grey suits, and I think that “Entertainment” also might be soon used to sell German cars, expensive after shave and even fucking Tetra Delta.

Still, a very nice album. Although I do feel that if I watched them at a festival, I might grit my teeth as really happy fans with day-glo faces and no sense of self-loathing would screech out of tune to the choruses of their songs with fat Waterford accents. Jay-sus.

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Boards of Canada:Tomorrow’s Harvest

I wrote a piece about this album a while ago which more or less summed up how I felt about it. Click on “Screeching for the dead” which is really fucking long. Here’s a shortened version.

Not as good as Music has the right to Children, better than The Campfire Headphase, sort of the same as Geogaddi, not as good as Twoism. Better than a lot out there.

Actually the above article doesn’t give any of these opinions. The best thing to say about Boards of Canada is that they manage to remain aloof and relevant. No PR, rare public appearances, no ego, yet a loyal and pretty obsessive fan base, bordering on the weird. The music is cult-like and there are grounds that the boys could easily ask their fans to kill themselves and some WOULD die. Justin Bieber could do the same thing, but proportionally, BOC would win out. Although Burial is now running a close second for this ideology. So in terms of potential suicides on per capita basis, I reckon Boards of Canada first, closely followed by Burial and Bieber and then Lady Gaga a distant fourth. However, listening to Robin Thicke might distort this league table and it’s possible said suicides would be changed to actual murder once the charge sheet comes in. What a bastard!

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My Bloody Valentine: MBV

In terms of time, My Bloody Valentine were on par with the changing of popes for releasing music. Dr Funkenstein, Pope Franco has messed with this by becoming a pope who likes Gays and doesn’t like the Popemobile. Stretch wonders what Franco thought as a boy watching JP2 hairing around in that converted ice cream truck all cool like. A young Franco might have though it pretty lame and decided that it would be far cooler to wander around in a cheap piece of shit car, with no bullet-proof glass. He got rid of all the gold and appears to treat the Vatican like his personal squat. Fervent religious believers might actually think he is the devil incarnate, which may be true, as the time of the hipster Pope is upon us. What was that phrase?

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Da Babes gonna love did. Am I right? Yess? Am I right?

“The biggest trick the devil ever played was to convince the world he didn’t exist… and to increase the popularity of 1984 Renault 4 hatchbacks.” I think that was the quote.

Anyways, when known agoraphobic Kevin Shields left the studio after the final mix of MBV, everybody got real excited. They released the album themselves one Saturday night via the Interweb box and expectant fans lost their shit and journalists immediately tried to figure out where in their top fives of the year it would go.

The problem they all had been that the phrase du jour “companion piece to Loveless” stopped this from being whispered as a truly classic album. Which it’s not. Since Loveless, so many artists have ripped off the My Bloody Valentine sound and have made fairly successful careers themselves (M83, Smashing Pumpkins, even U2’s Achtung Baby). So, that sound is not as new as it was back then.

It’s a great album though. I listened to it a few times when it came out. Then left it a few months and went back. It became more relevant then. A true slice of indie that has been missing for years. Less beardy than its contemporaries and with a bat shit nuts leader that only rivals the Pixies for odd frontmen.

Their mind-pitch bending music may not suit a pregnant woman in the heights of morning sickness, but the psychedelic sludge that starts off MBV brings you right back to the early nineties. The tremelo arm is used more here than 1980s metal lead guitarists would and creates a warm sound. Even though “She found now” can’t compare to “Only Shallow” as an opener, it acts as a re-introduction to the band. Or, the “what the fuck did you expect?” song. From then the driving guitars kick in and Shields and Butcher’s inaudible lyrics layer over you and the mind bending begins and you get stuck in it. A beautiful album with unexpectedly cool guitar parts and a haunting feel that makes you forget that half these peops come from Irlanda. When you see posters in Irlanda of Delorentos, Kodaline and the utter dumbfuck that is Bressie, you can’t help feel Irlanda music has gone in the wrong direction these past years. The only solace is that Shields is holding the beacon for something different and special.

The standout track for me is “In another way” a joyous track with a beat laden guitar sound and tribal drums  that brings memories of “Soon.” For this song alone, the album is a little bit of a classic. Just a little.

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Mudhoney: Vanishing Point

Again and again AND again… They’re back, Mudhoney with Mark Arm, a manic leader who looks like the result if you put Tom Petty in a washing machine and left him on for a long spin.

When the whole grrrrunge thing started, it was easy to get carried away with it. I was about 15 and that truly is the time to get carried away with things. With a face with poppable pustules and an insatiable interest in music, cigarettes, soapbar, christmas lights, and growing my hair even greasier, the grunge thing was the next logical step.

BUT, it didn’t actually feel like a movement, because a lot of the bands supposedly involved didn’t actually sound similar. Recently, Mark Arm had a crack at bands who copied the sound at the time, and insists that Grunge was just the sound they called the sounds coming from their guitars. Grunge killed grunge, not that Cobain man. All those bands got signed, they came, they went, but Mudhoney remained and just got on with it.

And they’re still here. There is something very comforting about growing old with a band, whose idea of changing up is adding an odd horn here and there. So, Vanishing Point came out, an extremely tight album with Mudhoney at their mostest. Arm throws every possible shape you can think of, from the blistering “Chardonnay,” reminiscent of their early work, to channeling Iggy in “What to do with the Neutral” and the brilliant “The Final Course.”

Sometimes it’s good that things don’t change much. I still remember in my teens driving home with Ol Papa Stretch and Ol Mama Stretch after collecting my Auntie, a follower of Jesus, in Nun’s clothing. I forced them all to listen to Every Good Boy deserves Fudge. They all hated it so much that the car crashed into an embankment, and we were left all dazed and the stereo couldn’t be turned off or down. A GOP (Irish policia) leaned in the window and demanded to know if any of us had been smoking the aul cannabis. We all shrugged, due to concussion as Mark Arm was screaming “HEY, HEY, HEY, HEY, HEY, HEY…..Whoooo you drivin now?” The Gop became very angry and melted into some sort of liquid metal right in front of us and took the visage of the follower of Jesus in Nun’s clothing that was my Aunt. He screamed like the Nazgul and took off through Crumblin on a stolen motorbike after a young boy and a gay weightlifter. Shit, maybe that was a movie. Ha, I was bleedin baked beans! Wha? (Sorry)

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!!!: THR!!!ER

The singer from this band is an asshole. Okay, let me explain. He knows he’s an asshole. A funky asshole. Danny Glover knows what I’m mean, right Danny?

“Oh yeah baby.”

Anyways, Nic Offer is the guy and at a gig, due to his short shorts, you are never more that about five to ten feet away from his penis. And the way the man dances, the penis might reach you first. He looks like Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show if his make-up was stolen and he was forced on to the bread line.

At Electric Picnic (not THE PICNIC) a few years back, they completely owned the place and Offer was an obnoxious asshole, in fact he was a genius at being an asshole. I suppose to describe !!!, you could describe them as a post-punk, dancey, funky acid band (with a fucking asshole for a singer). To me they are the antidote to the criminally overrated LCD Soundsystem. On a festival poster, they’ll always be down the list somewhere but are unmissable. A friend who doesn’t dance found himself dancing to these guys.

So THR!!!ER came out last year and served up a cocktail of damn cool funky shots into your eyeballs. The great guitar breaks in “Except Death,” the fantastic closer “Station (Meet me at the)” and the pisstake “Californiyeah,”complaining about a place where the bars close before two.  Not much music makes me want to dance these days, but privately in my small bathroom I sometimes throw shapes listening to !!! and freak out because they make you freak out. It’s probably their most coherent (from beginning to end) album and definitely was one of the highlights of that year that this is all about.

Oddly, their albums always get lukewarm reviews by reviewers like the one I dreamt about many words ago at the beginning of this mess. I don’t get it, they are brilliant musicians who know how to make a party sound and use a Crybaby like it was intended. Music reviewers should fuck off, including me. Fuck Off!!

If you missed the part one and are already bored with this one, then go to that one by clicking here:

Stretchpants of the year Part one (Or how did jennifer Lawrence get outacted by a dying French woman and a six-year-old Bayou child and still win an Oscar?)

Stretchpants of the year Part one (Or how did jennifer Lawrence get outacted by a dying French woman and a six-year-old Bayou child and still win an Oscar?)

Miley's year boomed when she had her tongue replaced by that of a Black lab.

Miley’s year boomed when she had her tongue replaced by that of a Black lab.

Stretchy New Year with a barrel of brown acid and Steppenwolf’s trippy oncoming to you.

In a lost year when the only thing that seemed to happen was that thinking man’s crash test dummy Miley Cyrus became increasingly uncomfortable to look at. Irlanda leader Enda Kenny surprised the Irlandese by exclaiming that we were all going to be okay, when in fact it was only he and his friends who were going to be okay. A lot of great music came out, mostly from bands that are really old in Miley’s tonguey head.

Stretch looked at Pitchfork’s top one million albums for inspiration and realised he’d forgotten to write a promised Trainspotting article. Stretch dinnae know half that shit, ken. Stretch thought to hisel. Nae be relevant man na more. ‘s the fuckin skeetles. Ah bah, wha I do knaa es that not a caboodle u that Pitchfawk shite will be anybut fuckin relevant this time next year. Tennants ya!

So, methinks like a rabid munki, I should throw out a few suggestions as to what was nice last year and there’ll be a Stretchcast out on the day whenever the fuck I finish this reportage. Like mah pissant granddaddy before me, I couldn’t but give the peoples what they wanted, especially when they hadn’t asked for it and even more so that they don’t really want it. It’s enough to make ‘mad as a box of potatoes’ Sinead O’Connor’s face tattoos cry.

Jennifer Lawrence though. What the fuck? Right?

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Bonobo: The North Borders

This is definitely not the best Bonobo album, but The North Borders provided a warmth of sound and beautiful sonic sound scape that fits perfectly with Simon Green’s back catalogue. The first song “First Fires” features strings and the mellow (nasal) voice of the brilliant Grey Reverend. From then on your mind is dropped into the album, with the snappy, choppy beats and what sounds like the hand rails of the lifts in my place of employ. In fact everyday I use that lift, I tap out the beat to Cirrus and wonder how Green managed to get into the locked down building and record without the annoyance of our marketing department. For reference, they appear as a beautiful line drawing beside the words “whatevs” and “pointless” in most modern dictionaries. There are odd sounds on this album that make my mind queasy, but end up adding to the general tone.

The soundscape makes you feel like you are wandering through a dense forest while aggressively awesome chipmunks tap out rhythms on hollowed out logs, causing the park ranger to lose her shit and give birth to some horrific synthetic baby. This feeling dies down after a while and once you get hold of yourself, the great but annoying on twitter Erykah Badu appears and starts going “ayaayahayaayahayaayahayaayah” over and over a-fucking-gain. This leaves you feeling spent and harps fly about and you feel downbeat in an upbeat kind of way.

In fact The North Borders is a perfect companion piece to Black Sands and his production values have gone stratospheric. It does take a few listens to get totally immersed and doesn’t work as background music. The album also feels like something an established super-artist would use as a backing track for a dreadful rap or ridiculously over the top gurgle-singing fest. But no pretensions exist in this music and the heady basslines that punctuate songs pull you out of your dark slumber and make you feel all sticky, but y’know sticky in a nice way.

At the end the beautiful Pieces” sung by Cornelia brings you right back down and you exit the album feeling utterly spent, but y’know in a nice way.Listen to it and then buy it.

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Mogwai: Les Revenants Soundtrack

This summer, a weird town in France inhabited by creepy dead people (are there any other kind?) and creepy cigarette smoking French peoples (are there any other kind?) became staple viewing for many. We wondered what the fuck was going on and why that kid was so fucking expressionless. Bleedin Victor wha? As Dubalinese people are fond of saying far too much. Unfortunately a great show was let down by a less than satisfactory ending due to it being a lead up to a second series. However, the title sequence is one of the best of any show and the amazing song “Hungry Face” is an instant red pill.

Anyways, the beauty of the show was the music, written by Glaswegian balding men, Mogwai. The music was a character in the story, according to producers , and it made sense. The band started writing the music after hearing a synopsis of the show and the music was played on set to give that eerie feel.  You were alerted to a scene getting batshit weird by a simple piano or eerie guitar lick. The malevolent, slow-moving cello told you something odd was going to happen and if you stayed behind the couch, well motherfucker, you were just going to miss it. The oddest and nicest song on the album is the almost country “What are they doing in heaven today?” which makes you feel really happy and doesn’t unnerve you like the rest of the album, even though they still are singing about dead people, wha?. Sorry.

Even now, when I listen to Les Revenants on the car stereo, it pulls you into that world and out of the corner of your eye, you expect fog, mad yokes and fucking Victor. I will put on record that I believe that John Carpenter’s The Fog is the only other foggy movie I have seen that has an equally creepy soundtrack for a foggy based situation. This I believe to be true. Ain’t no doubt. Even without seeing the show, this is a cracker of an album.

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Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds: Haunted Head

Kid Congo Powers is a 54-year old man whose CV includes the Cramps, the Gun Club, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Having to go up against Blixa Bargeld on Tender Prey must have been a true life experience. He seems to exist solely in a world where it is always rockabilly/psychobilly Halloween and the expectation that cast members from the Rocky Horror Picture Show would wander into the seedy club where he tends bar. Donning his leather cap he smiles and just makes everyone feel better about themselves. A true hero. I wish I was him, only that he is closer to death than I am, and that is not good.

In this bar, everyone and everybody is weird, kooky and far out, and the mad eyes of Danny Glover will make the music stop when he puts the moves on you. The only way to stop him is to slowly zip up your dress and say you have to go do a conference call. He may not believe this, so be prepared to be sodomised by that angry man throwing his arms in the air and shouting “I’m too old for this shit.” You will painfully exclaim, “Yeah, well this shit is too old for you, bustah!”

The vibe of this album follows on from Gorilla Rose and Dracula Boots, a joyous ode to the Cramps and all bluesy rockabilly done with a smile as you will see from the live show at a French folk festival below. The kind of gig you just wish you could wander into once in a while. A joyous human being. Kudos dudo.

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Fuck Buttons: Slow Focus

I was very excited about hearing this album. The powerful drums of “Brainfreeze” kick in and the world in which the two guys from Fuck Buttons  exist snaps into view. I used to think that Amon Tobin was going to be the soundtrack to the apocalypse, but maybe, just maybe these guys will be ringing in your ears as toads enter your oesophagus while your ear burns in tandem with your bellybutton fluff.

I know there is a lot of great electronica, but nothing matches the power of this. Sometimes it feels like a Michael Mann movie put through a blender; other times it seems to fit perfectly into the stratosphere of David Cronenberg’s early work. Everything is insistent and Slow Focus demands you plug it into your ears which for my munki ears after years of abuse, probably can’t even register every sound Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power are trying to force-feed my aural cavity. (Almost like an audio version of Danny Glover).

My favourite song of the year “Stalker,” is something I dream about. A slow build up and a trip through space at screaming speed until you are washed up in a melty galaxy that is trying to choke you. I know that doesn’t sound like the best situation to be haunting your dreams, but it’s thrilling. Sometimes it feels like that point in an acid trip when your brain can’t take anymore and fucks off, exits the room, leaving you unable to be happy, scared or just ready to piss yourself. Then your brain flips back and you say something mundane like, “Whoa horsey,” and then everything is just alllllllllllllright.

The album finishes with “Hidden XS,” a song that Stretch sings lyrics to. It demands these maudlin lyrics I have created. You hear me, Fuck Buttons. Shit, they’re not listening. Answer you phones!

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Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away

Since I was a teenage munki, Nick Cave has always been God to me. Granted, some of the Kylie and Nocturama stuff left me cold, but for a man who always sounds like himself, no album sounds like anything else he has ever done. That make sense?

After the thrilling noise-fest of the Grinderman albums, Push the Sky Away was like an antidote. Quieter, subtler, but never feeling overly melancholic like “God is in the House” or funky fun like Dig! Lazarus Dig!.

No, this is probably the most complete and tight album Cave has ever done. Not the best album, but it’s a gem. The backing vocals are both grimy and desperate. The Bad Seeds are very hairy and wear cool shirts and slacks, the kind of clothes that would make most of us look like bums. They always wear shades, because fuck it, they are cool and probably don’t see much light through the smoky nite-clubs they call home. Probably my favourite thing at Glastonbury was seeing these guys playing their set before a Mumford and Sons crowd. The fear in the Mumford children’s eyes and the nervous shuffling of their parents as Cave leered and screamed over them was hypnotic. It would be a hard thing to explain on the car journey home.

“Daddy, why was that man so angry and scary?”

“Well Felix, it’s because he is the devil incarnate and he will kill us in our beds if we don’t get home quick.”

“Mummy, what do you think of the foul-mouth devil that will have me seeing therapists until I can figure out why that bad man sang to my face, ‘I’m a bad motherfucker, don’t you know, And I’ll crawl over fifty good pussies just to get one fat boy’s asshole.’? Mummy, mummy?”

“He’s kinda hot though in those pants.”

“MARJORIE!”

Anybut, the rolling “Jubilee Street” about prostitution in London is almost cinematic and the slow burning “Higgs Boson Blues” is quietly epic. It includes this perfect verse,

“Hannah Montana does the African Savannah
As the simulated rainy season begins
She curses the queue at the Zulus
And moves on to Amazonia
And cries with the dolphins
Mama ate the pygmy
The pygmy ate the monkey
The monkey has a gift that he is sending back to you
Look here comes the missionary
With his smallpox and flu
He’s saving them savages
With his Higgs Boson Blues”

I mean, that really explains it all, doesn’t it? What more do you want? I once worked in an office where mention of Nick Cave seemed to cause apoplexy. They said people who listened to him were probably off their meds or their happy pills. They said it in a really obvious, cheesy way. So much so, I was mouthing their words back at them as they were talking. They wouldn’t shut up and kept banging on about Today FM DJ Ray fucking Foley. Ray Foley, Ray Foley, Ray Foley, Ray Foley, Ray Foley in the morning, Ray Foley,Ray Foley,Ray Foley, Ray Foley in the evening, Ray Foley,Ray Foley,Ray Foley…..

That very clean modern room was covered in blood by the time I left…

Mazzy-Star

Mazzy Star: Seasons of your Day

When I was a spotty, greasy haired, paisley shirt wearing teenager, covered in weird and wonderful stains, I was madly in love with Hope Sandoval. I listened to She Hangs Brightly incessantly while I was in love with another girl, thinking, hey, she might be into hanging out and listening to Mazzy Star while smoking hash. Unfortunately, she was into fucking Take That and the Backstreet Boys and all the important emotions that music like that brings. Huh!

Anyway, I retreated to my room and all that that gave me and threw back on aul Mazzy. It still reinforced my belief that Hope was the damn hot woman for me. This floated me through that beautiful summer and particularly while walking slowly (baked) on the beach (baked), skimming stones (baked) and looking off into the distance with meaning (totally baked).

My love for Hope ended when I saw her being interviewed on some weird rock show. I tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried and tried, but eventually pulled clumps of greasy hair off my head and screamed,

“Get  out of your own fucking ass, Sandoval!”

Gawd, she was hard to take. Bullet dodged, says me, wha? Sorry.

So, like waiting for a My Bloody Valentine album, Mazzy Star kicked back into action this year and released Seasons of Your Day. Sandoval’s solo stuff was nice, but uninspiring, so Stretch was very surprised to hear how good this was. It is a really good Mazzy Star album and although she seems a bit scraggy in places, David Roback’s simple bluesy guitar work and MBV’s Colm O Ciosóig’s bass blows every song into the realms of beautiousness, as Will Oldham do be saying.

I listened to “In the Kingdom” and said “Oh” quietly, “this is a really good” to nobody in particular. Then the minor chords of “California” kick in and you realise this is a proper fucking album. So for a while I fell in love with aul Hope again. I was fifteen again, not the bald munki I am now. I was skimming stones (not baked), waving at ducks and swans (not baked) and generally feeling moist. Then I saw a new interview with Mazzy Star…

For fuck sake, 24 years later and she’s still up her own arse. For the love of Jaysus and all his tiny bagel babies!

So, that’s the first part of my ridiculously late music review of 2013. The next installment will come in the next few days, if I’m lucky.

Remember, living in Europe might just make you incontinent!