Thursday, 21 July 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #15 Classic Album: Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights

Written 21st July 2011:

Classic Album: Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights

Year of Release: 2002

The Band: Paul Banks (Lead Vocals, guitar), Dan Kessler (lead guitar, backing vocals), Carlos D (bass), Sam Fogarino (drums)

So today's classic album, comes from another band that hails from New York, which at-the-time of the album’s release was possibly at the centre of the Indie music map after The Strokes came, conquered and re-juvenated the guitar garage-rock scene in 2001 with their debut album 'Is This It?' (which I may also do a classic review for at some point). Following closely in their footsteps in 2002 was this debut effort from Interpol and with the band hailing from the same city, they were already early anticipated comparisons to The Strokes, but if the truth be told this album is a whole different animal completely to 'Is This It?' which hopefully this review will highlight, but I will draw at least one striking similarity with the aforementioned band in the conclusion of this review.
Turn on the Bright Lights

1. Untitled
2. Obstacle 1
3. NYC
4. PDA
5. Say Hello to the Angels
6. Hands Away
7. Obstacle 2
8. Stella was a diver and she was always down
9. Roland
10. The New
11. Leif Erikson

So 'Untitled' gets 'Turn on the Bright Lights' off to a steady start with its tingling-like guitar riff, slowly becoming accompanied by bass player at the time Carlos D (great name huh?!), who has previously left the band, rhythmic bass line joins and this is certainly not the last time we get this steadily built-up combination of guitars and bass on this album, before lead-singer and guitarist Paul Bank's haunting-like voice first surfaces on the album about 90 seconds into it. It's a slow-pace of an opening track but the steadily built layered sound of guitars and bass indicate that we're only getting warmed-up here. Second track 'Obstacle 1' confirms this assumption with sharp-angular guitars between Paul and lead guitarist Dan Kessler both battling hard for the listener’s attention and the pace of the album instantly picks up while still continuing with the dark and menacing themes set throughout this record. We're next then slowed-down again by 'NYC' with its haunting guitar-riff throughout and Paul's Goth-like vocals, but this is actually a complement to the track, as this is real 'hair-standing-on-the-back-of-the-neck' stuff already and only by the third track of the album! The track continues as we hear Paul's bleak and honest views of that, at the time and possibly still, famous musical Capital in The States and how he had become disillusioned by it after spending so many years growing up there.

'PDA' again moves the album up a few gears with another fast, frenetic guitar-driven track to catch the listener’s attention. Paul’s lyrics hint at a tongue-in-cheek poke of a person’s possible relationship with a psychiatrist with lines such as “You’re so cute when you’re sedated” and “We have 200 couches when you can sleep tight, sleep right”. If the album has not hit top-gear by the end of this track we’re certainly start speeding towards it with 'Say Hello to the Angels'. The track starts with guitars steadily building for the opening 45 seconds or so before another one of Carlos D's, now famed, and perfectly timed bass-playing rhythms carries the track to a whole new-level. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album especially when Paul is effortlessly reeling of lyrics "On silent parts, the parts that birds love, I know there is such a place..."

'Hands Away' really slows the tempo of the album down again, after the last rollercoaster of a track. Another track on the album that is really built up steadily with guitar riffs and bass, Paul's vocals are kept quite minimal on this track and it almost stands as an instrumental track for the record, but to dismiss it for just simply being an instrumental would be a mistake by the listener in my opinion. Next we have 'Obstacle 2', a bit more of a slowed down affair than its earlier relation ‘Obstacle 1’. Paul’s vocals in particular are very much more distinct on this track than any other previously.

As Paul next announces "This next one is called 'Stella was a diver and she was always down', a song-title which I'll let the listener decide it's unglamorous way-of-life meaning behind. This for me is simply the stand-out track on an album which has already featured some big-hitting guitar tracks on it.  Again another track laced with moody, tingling guitar rhythms and a thunderous, military-like drumming rhythm throughout by drummer Sam Fogarino, this track has a real epic, yet at the same time almost-tragic-like feel to it, yet it seems to surprisingly merge both elements so well. I don't think I'm doing this track justice with my comments here, but you'll see what I mean when you hear it and I’ll say that I think most listeners will be gripped from start to finish throughout upon first hearing it.  With a sharp-edgy riff opening it ‘Roland’ launches into a frantic, pogoing effort with a nice distant-like affect used here on Paul’s vocals to complement it.

‘The New’ starts off with a simplistic guitar opening and just steadily plods along inoffensively to the listener. It builds to a nice melodic chorus and flows comfortably for the first two verses before the now familiar darker-tone of this album takes over in the more complex-side of the second half of this track, with a savage guitar riff becoming exposed throughout this part of it. Album closer ‘Leif Erikson’ is but of course another slowed-down, dark and moody affair, yet this really sums up the sound and mood that the band clearly set out to achieve with this debut record and although that may sound like a negative approach for an album, I really believe this is a record you should give several listens too, to fully appreciate it’s true charms and hidden-depths.

So in summary of re-visiting an album that is now coming up to 10-years old how do I still rate it? I'll be honest and admit that I've only recently got into Interpol myself over the last few years or so and I think if I did buy the album at its time of release (something I really wish I had done now to be honest!) I think I may have overlooked it at somewhat at the time, especially in the shadow of The Strokes back then, and possibly given this album a still respectable 8 Obstacles out of 10 back in 2002.

However, as I bought this album afresh with no major expectations at the time and was thinking "Yeah I'll give this a spin and see what Interpol are like then…." I soon found myself coming back to this record time and time again on a regular basis and quickly found myself hooked on its dark-brooding songs interspersed with fast-archaic guitar tracks. I had at last found another new obsession with a band from New York! I really still believe this album holds up strong even today and I’m even going to award it an unprecedented 10 'Stella’s' out of 10 for a listen by even today's guitar-record standards. For me this is an album that simply stands up and won't let itself be ignored! It even gets better with each subsequent listen thereafter, with a quick listen again this morning re-confirming this for me.

While I commented in my 2nd paragraph that this album followed shortly in the footsteps of The Strokes and was a very different sounding album to 'Is This It?', the one striking similarity that I think that makes both band's comparable, apart from both hailing from New York, is that they have both successfully defined a guitar sound and made it their own with their debut albums and then subsequently followed their debut albums up with another 3 great albums each. This is without question for me an album fans of bands like The Smiths, possibly Oasis, even The Cure and of course The Strokes must have in their record collection! You may find, like me, you'll soon develop an (un)healthy obsession for the band and will be inclined to pick up their subsequent follow-up albums 'Antics', 'Our Love to Admire' and the recently released eponymously titled 'Interpol' all of which I would also recommend, but for me this debut effort is still the definitive Interpol record!

Turning on the Bright Lights

Track 2 - Obstacle 1

Track 5 - 'Say Hello to the Angels' (Live at Brixton Academy 2010)

Track 8 - 'Stella was a diver and she was always down' (Live in 2002)

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Flynndie Reviews - Blog #14: Kaiser Chiefs - The Future Is Medieval

Written 2nd July 2011:
Kaiser Chiefs - The Future Is Medieval

Right time for the latest installment in my line of Flynndie Reviews and in today's episode I'm going to cover the recent album release by the Kaiser Chiefs, 'The Future Is Medieval'. Before we move onto the tracks on the record itself, I'm just going to cover the most excellent promotional work the band did for their 4th album release, which I personally thought was a unique yet brillant idea to promote an album, especially for a record that the general public had previously not heard much about.

So the Kaiser's returned to the scene with this previously unannounced album 'The Future Is Medieval' which caught most by surprise. A promo track 'Little Shocks' was given some airplays on the radio, before the band placed snippets of 20 potential tracks on their website, before allowing fans the option to select their own 10 tracks of choice, choose their play-list for their selected tracks and even design the cover for an album! I have never previously seen such a creative manner of promoting an album release and thought it was a real credit to the band to attempt such an ambitious project! I decided to get involved with the fun idea and after giving the 45 second to a minute track samples a few listens I made my own bespoke version of the 'The Future Is Medieval', which you can feel free to check out via the link at the bottom of this review.

Anyway, after such a unqiue album release, there was still such sufficient demand for a full CD album release. The previously 'fan-made' versions were download only if you had previously decided to download another person's copy, but in most cases after paying £7.50 for a choice of tracks, I suspect most fans like myself would have made their own track-listing version and album cover. So this review covers the 'definite' CD version that is now available and opens with previous promo track 'Little Shocks'.

So the album opens with how I would describe as a steady 'creeping-along' type of melody, with the familiar plinky-plonky keyboard sounds in the background to give the track a real Kaiser Chiefs feel to it. As the track 'creeps' along it builds to a big sing-a-long, rock chorus which in true Kaiser Chiefs fashion is very catchy indeed. I really like this track, it's a good opener for the album and shows the maturity the band have reached with such a well written song and particularly chorus. 'Things Change' follows with a funky drumming opening, accompanied by keys and far out-space like sounds, and although that description may sound like this track is really 'out there' the funky beat at the heart of the track actually holds it together well. Throw in an 80's sounding-guitar strum midway through the track, and despite being an eclectic collection of sounds this track actually works and complments opening track 'Little Shocks' well.

'Long Way From Celebrating' continues with another funky melody pulsing through it, before a fast and furious chorus bursts into the track and I can see this being one the band will use during their 'live' sets to tour this record. Next up we have 'Starts With Nothing', with a repeating jagged guitar, and a distant effect used on Ricky Wilson's voice. It's the first track to really steady the pace of the album so far. This is another track where I feel the band has attempted to show a more mature side to them, with it's deep-sounding guitars and I think the track is actually about a disappointed contestant who has left a quiz show unsucessfully emphasised by the lyrics 'You start with nothing and you leave with nothing' and the line 'Yes that is my final answer'. The track finishes with guitar sounds that actually reminded me somewhat of the BritPop classic 'Champagne Supanova' by Oasis and is a nice way to close the song.

At this point I still think the album has not quite got a definitive 'focus' or 'theme' about it that I can think of which moves us nicley on to fifth-track 'Out of Focus'. With a slightly menacing guitar sound to open the track with, and spookily backing keys to it, this track has a really nice flow about it and sits well on it's place in the record, the chorus in particular is very-catchy indeed! 'Dead or in Serious Trouble' is up next and picks up the pace of the record again with an almost battle-off-duel between guitars and keyboard! I think this track in particular has real old-school Kaiser Chiefs feel to it and certainly would not find itself out of place alongside tracks from their debut album 'Employment' and this another track I can see making up part of the band's 'live' set. Next up with have 'When All Is Quiet'. I really like this track, it has somewhat of a bit of a 'Madness' feel to it the way it kinda bounces-along, while the later duel backing vocals give the song a bit of a 'Beach Boys' vibe to it too! For me it's the melody and the pacing of the track that I really like about this song, which all seems to fit perfectly for it.

Next up we have the track 'Kinda Girl You Are', which bearing in mind the previous track had a somewhat 'Beach Boys' vibe to it, opens with an almost guitar like 'Surf Wipe Out' sound. This song was previously unavailable from the initial 20-tracks that were made available from the band's website ( The track coasts along at a fair old pace and rhythm, and standing at 2 minutes 37 seconds long, is one of the shorter, more instant type of track to make up this record. 'Man of Mars' soon slows the pace of the record again with a real-trippy like, 'far-out-there' sound about it, and a nice guitar-solo thrown in about halfway through it. The track as whole has a lot of sounds thrown around it and is cleverly layered when listened to carefully.

Track 10 'Child of the Jago' is another of my favourite tracks, with a simple yet catchy guitar hook flowing through it, Andy White is fine form on guitar for this one while Ricky is also on top-form with his vocals on this track in my opinion. This is very-much a likeable and instant track in my opinion with a nice solo at the end of it and the line 'The Future Is Medieval' helping to build it. The first thing the listener will think of upon hearing the opening of 'Heard it Break' is 80's synth! This has a real-retro feel to it and is very keyboard-synth heavy yet is very catchy indeed! The unique sound of the track finds me struggling to find any easy comparisions to the sound the band have created on it, which is a credit to them. 'Coming up for Air' is another slow-burning, yet very distinctive effort like a few of the previous tracks on this record. Again this track for me shows that the band are certainly maturing in their sound with piano and violin also thrown into the mix on this, possibly the big ballad of the album.

The 13th and final track, 'If you will have me' is actually my personal favourite track on the record. I'm a real sucker, to this type of raw acoustic heartfelt song and this is one of the best of that particular type I've heard in a while. With a nice, soft melody throughout and backing violin this is a real beautiful track and rightly closes the album in my opinion and was even also my choice of album closer on my version of the album I previously made up. Great minds think a-like eh?! However, that is not all as if you keep listening the band have sneakily thrown a secret instrumental track on as a bonus on the album, so keep an eye out for it if you want to catch it, it again has a very space-based theme to it in my opinion with it synth sounds and guitar riffs, but listen out for it and give it a judge yourself.

So overall I really like this album, but my main gripe with it I guess is that it very much feels like a large collection of songs thrown together, rather than a record that seems to have a defenitive focus, flow and theme to it. However, surely this was fully the intention of the band in the first place?! With such a unique release given to the album even allowing fans to choose it's tracklisting how could the band possibly put together a track-listing that would create such a defintive theme for the record? And it's the previous unique album release, and the subsequent demand for a 'definitive' version of the record that has helped me draw my conclusion that the is an album full of well written tracks, that although may seem disjointed at times, still make up a great record and return to top form of the band in my opinion! The open approach of song-writing has really brought out some of the most mature song-writing the band have done to date and I'm quite happily going to give this record 8 Jousting Knights out of 10, which possibly would have been higher if the record had that bit of cohesion it just lacks due to it's creative launch process which I think the band should rightly be applauded for having the balls to do! Overall this is a good return to form for them so I'd recommend the album especially if you previously enjoyed the band's 1st two albums 'Employment' and 'Yours Truly, Angry Mob'.

Always Medieval

PS. If you would like to see the original 10-track version of The Future Is Medieval' I put together (which does flow nicely as a collection of songs in my opinion, heh-heh! ;o) ) you can find it here:\addicteaddick