Three albums to muse over

One of the delights of driving – and I have to say there are not many – is using the time to introduce myself to new albums. My drive to work takes at worst 80 minutes. That is probably an album and a half. Additionally, I listen to BBC Radio 6 Music. Particularly influential is Mark Riley, one time band member of The Fall. It was through him that I first picked up on Pond, an Australian ‘collective’, located firmly in a modern psychedelia shorn of  flower-power nonsense. Pond_coverOn hearing the track Zond, I investigated further and watched the accompanying video. I have not looked back.

When the CD, Man it Feels Like Space Again, arrived in the post (the local HMV music store did not have it), I positively trembled in anticipation. The first track, Waiting Around for Grace, had all of the driving ingredients. It is loud with guitars, fantastic percussion and keyboard. A couple of verses and an extended instrumental ending, not dissimilar to Zond. At the other end of the album is the title track. It is a mini opera spanning 8 minutes with a guitar riff and melody stitching it all together. The keys change as the mood of the song dives into what must be despair of some sort. I’ve read and watched a number of reviews of the album. Common amongst them is criticism that Pond are not great song writers and the slower tracks do not work as well as the full-on sound assaults – which accounts for most of the tracks. The fact is, one cannot hear the lyrics, certainly not while driving and the CD does not have a lyric sheet. I suspect I did not buy a psychedelia album for its meaningful lyrics. What I would say is, despite frequent key changes, this is one of the most feel-good albums now in my collection.

The same could not be said of Bjork’s Vulnicura. Again, much has been written about this album as it Bjorkrecords the months before and after her split with her long-time artist partner, Matthew Barney. I inexplicably have all of Bjork’s studio albums and am one of the few people suggesting that Lars von Trier’s film, Dancer in the Dark (2000), in which  Bjork starred, is a masterpiece (Bjork is an appalling actor). I have also seen her twice, including her Biophilia show in Manchester in 2013. So, again sat in my van heading to work, this album at 58 minutes fills much more of the time. It needs to be listened to carefully (there is a lyric sheet). The lyrics are painful, though wrapped around what seems to me at least to be seductive melody interspersed with techno percussion. A number of tracks, including the opener, Stonemilker, have string arrangements that are just sumptuous. Stonemilker, to some extent summarises the mood. Taken literally, and 9 months before the split, she likens her efforts to getting milk out of a stone. Her partner becomes more and more unresponsive. It is extraordinarily personal. One feels a bit like a compulsive voyeur. The mood picks up a shade towards the end. Bjork invites Antony Hegarty to sort-of duet with her on one of the more non-linear tracks, Atom Dance. Hegarty’s voice always seems to have a peculiar mix of uncertainty and freedom in it. It works well on this album. The final track, Quicksand, has lyrics including, “if she sinks I’m going down with her”. That’s as optimistic as it gets. Goodness knows what the subject of this album, Matthew Barney, thinks about it.

MarinaAnd then finally, the ever incipient Marina Diamandis, trading as Marina and the Diamonds. The new album is Froot. It is the follow up to the techno Elecktra Heart which works well in the van. A kind of guilty secret. I should not like it, but I do. I was originally taken by her track Hollywood but soon found myself perplexed by her excrutiatingly unique voice. What the voice really needed, I thought, was good songs. Unfortunately, they continue to elude her; though that is not to say that this album is bad. But put to the van test, it lost my attention as it progressed. Though Savages towards the end has much to recommend it. The lyric “Underneath it all we’re all just savages; Hidden behind the shirts, ties and marriages; How can we expect anything at all?; We’re just animals still learning how to crawl” raises an eyebrow. Ultimately. Diamandis’s lyrics need a few more years’ life experience. The voice remains distinctive, but maybe it does not suit pure pop? Bjork is not a bad role model in that respect.

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1 comment so far

  1. […] reviewed their 6th album, Man It Feels Like Space Again, a couple of years ago. Everything I said there is valid for this gig. The songs are probably not […]


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