Archive for August, 2008

Archive: Lights (Album Review)

August 13th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments



6.9/ 10

(Warner Music France; 2006/2008)

Archive’s album Lights is clearly the product of a great deal of thoughtful, calculated studio work and admirable experimentalism. It’s production is a wonderful collage of noise, bliss and weirdness that makes for a fantastic sonic experience. Unfortunately, the band doesn’t match their work ethic with as inspired songwriting, resulting in an album which, though accomplished and interesting, sometimes gives out when it comes to songs that resonate with any kind of humanity or emotion.

Basically, Archive is a lot like Spiritualized but lacking J. Spaceman’s heavenly conviction. Many of their melodies feel uninspired (“I Will Fade”) or borrowed (the Verve/Stones/Spiritualized rip “Veins”…which is probably the album’s best song…not such a bad thing actually…). The singing is tight but it feels unnatural at times, as if there’s a singing coach there giving tips. What the album lacks is “chutzpa”.

I was listening to the first Dinosaur Jr. album today and no, it’s not the greatest album. It’s messy, some of the writing’s not great and the performances are not quite up to snuff, but still, they had chutzpa! They had that essential spark that makes Dinosaur Jr. the great band that they are. Archive’s Lights is sort of the opposite: the writing is sharp, the production solid, the album is well organized and the performances are great but there’s just no chutzpa.

Even with the lack of chutzpa though, the album is very listenable and admirable for what it accomplishes.  The Radiohead-esque songs near the end, such as the moving “Headlights” and “Taste Of Blood”, are affecting compositions comparable in their power with the songs off OK Computer and The Bends. The aforementioned “Veins” has a chorus with backup singers and gospel organ that is actually pretty uplifting. The rest is all just very solid, well-written psyche for the millennium generation.

I have no problem seeing plenty of well-fed Europeans loving this album and band but I don’t see it happening with hipsters here in North America. J. Spaceman’s got a broken heart and he wants SO badly to find g-d and all and Thom Yorke is freaked out by everything because he’s just too smart and cool to be alive but I can’t feel that in Archive. There’s pain in the songs but it doesn’t come through strong enough.

Relating this back to my grand theory of music as the ultimate form of communication between individuals, this album fails to make that connection as no individual voice ever emerges. At the end of the day, Lights’ brightness is limited by it’s lack of idiosyncrasy.


August 13th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week is also from Britain. Maybe the reason I’ve been listening to a lot of British bands recently is because Britain has more literate songwriters than we do in North America, and I’ve been feeling the literate-ness lately. Sure, we’ve got a couple pretty literate guys like Okkervil River’s Will Sheff or Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and nobody’s lyrics can match Dylan, but still. Britain’s got Morrissey, Ray Davies, Paul Weller, Elvis Costello, Hal Davies, Richard Thompson, Mark E. Smith and Van Morrison (er, he’s Irish, but close enough) and the songwriter of this week’s BotW. Which is…


Lead singer Jarvis Cocker is Pulp’s iconic primary songwriter, responsible for hits like “Common People” off their masterpiece album Different Class. Cocker’s lyrics are often hilariously intelligent musings on life, people, romance and sex.  Cocker’s (oh shut up) intellectual take on sex is one of the things I love most about his writing. “Live Bed Show” (off Different Class) is a perfect example of Cocker’s excellent ability to illustrate a character and their particular sexual dilemma with skillful poignancy. He writes “She doesn’t have to go to work but she doesn’t want to stay in bed/ Cause it’s changed from something comfortable to something else instead/ This bed has seen it all from the first time to the last/ The silences of now and the good times of the pastSomething beautiful left town and she doesn’t even know its name./ Now every night she plays the sad game ooh ah ah/ Called pretending nothing’s going wrong oh, oh.” 

Musically, Pulp is a great mix of synth-brit-pop that transcends that genre’s limitations due to Pulp/Cocker’s fanatically tight songwriting and interesting arrangements. Often Pulp has an anthemic sound, with loud crunchy guitars, orchestral synthetic padding (until they got to the Scott Walker produced We Love Life at which point they got real orchestra treatment) and big drums. Cocker’s overtly British singing is inimitable and suits what he writes perfectly; able to convey emotion, humor, sarcasm and sympathy perfectly and always in way that is undoubtedly Jarvis Cocker. 

Recently, Pulp has called it quits and Jarvis Cocker released his first solo album (which is just as good as any Pulp album). If you’re in the mood for something to satisfy the head and the heart at the same time (assuming your not listening to The Queen is Dead all depressed 24/7) check out any of Pulp’s last four albums and/or the self-titled Jarvis Cocker album. Clearly it’s songwriting worth writing about.

British Sea Power

August 5th, 2008 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

This week’s band of the week is from across the pond. They’re a band with a big anthemic sound that’s moving and majestic and will swing your heartache beautifully. I was listening to them on the pod while marching over to my friend Charlotte’s goodbye-bonfire (I’m not going to see her for a good, long time now cuz she’s on a hitchhiking trip across Canada and by the time she gets back home I’ll be up in Halifax) and it was just fantastic. More on their sound in a bit, this week’s band of the week is…


Hopefully many of you already know BSP but if not, you’re in luck, cuz once you listen to them they’ll blow your brains out of your bumholio. These brits released their first album, The Decline of British Sea Power, in 2003 to wide acclaim but not much press over in North America. A shame, because they were totally ahead of their time, playing anthemic indie rock before The Arcade Fire got huge. The first album displayed a love of the Pixies, Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine and it’s first half is more spastic and Frank Black-esque with the second half containing the more drifting, pretty songs like “Carrion” and “Fear of Drowning”. Their second and third albums (2005’s Open Season and 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music?) left behind most of the Pixies influence, with Open Season focusing more on prettier, softer songs and DYLRM basically blatantly attempting to out-anthem The Arcade Fire.

Many of the band’s lyrics are poetic meditations on life and politics. Allusions to water and escaping to the peace of the ocean are quite common as well. Then again, some songs like “No Lucifer” off DYLRM are just random words thrown together with no particular meaning. Regardless, you probably won’t pay much attention to the lyrics other than the one’s that really jump out like “The salt, the spray, the gorgeous undertow/Always, always, always the sea/Brilliantine mortality” in “Carrion” or “Oh it left my heart broken/ It took my breath away/ A lesson open/ A little more each day/ A little eyesore/ A little Nytol/ A little heartache/ A little soothe-all,” in “To Get To Sleep”.

Listen, find someway to hear these albums because they’re huge and beautiful. Get them onto your ipod and go for a run and you’ll feel like the seraphim are uplifting you unto a land of glory. Don’t pay attention to the title of the first album, there’s no decline here, BSP has power to spare.