VICE Album Reviews
There is so much music in the world – here's what we think of some of it.
A$AP FERG – 8
A$AP Ferg used to be a fashion student. Then he dropped out of shirt-and-trousers school to become a rap man who sounds like a gigantic, adorable bear. It’s usually a bad idea to sound like you’d rather be rummaging around bins or eating seals or getting your hairy fist stuck in a honey pot, but A$AP Ferg is hilarious and these beats rock harder than a grizzly slashing through your camper top to tear your throat out.
BIG SEAN – 3
Hall of Fame
Big Sean is a testament to a key strategy in hip-hop: if you only have one fan, make sure it’s the right fan. In Sean’s case, it’s Kanye. Dude is like third in Kanye’s stable after Pusha and Yeezus himself. To call that a talent drop-off is like calling the Grand Canyon a giant squat toilet. Yeah, “Guap” is crack, but I guess what I’m saying is Big Sean could actually die in a car crash and I wouldn’t really care unless he wrote me into his will, and even then I would struggle.
GOODIE MOB – 7
Age Against the Machine
I like when Cee Lo tries to shock people with his music for the sake of shocking people. I had to listen to “Fuck You” a few times before I actually believed he was saying “Fuck you” in the chorus, and on this record, there’s actually a song called “White Power”, in which he chants “White power!” over and over again. This is going to start something, be it a mild sensation or a race war.
JACKSON & HIS COMPUTERBAND – 8
The techno Liberace minces back after eight sodding years adrift in ze Ed Banger party zone. Listening to Glow, it’s conceivable that Jackson Fourgeaud, one of the most gifted producers of his generation, has spent every waking moment since 2005’s Smash endlessly fine-tuning each second of this deeply voluptuous record. He’d probably still be gilding away today had Philippe Zdar not wrenched it out of his hands in order to mix the thing. Fourgeaud’s time spent DJing in nightclubs has had a pronounced effect on his music. The elegance and innocence that characterised Smash has been somewhat smothered by the doof-doof of the dancefloor, but when he delivers, as he does with “Arp #1” and “Pump”, the results are stunning. Wow, imagine if the Daft Punk record had been even a millionth as thrilling as this.
NINE INCH NAILS – 6
I always feel sad that Trent Reznor, despite living in California, will probably never get to ride a Segway in public because of his chosen image. Of course, he could paint one black and cover it in broken transistors to make it more Reznorian, but the fact is the whole thing of upright forward-movement just isn’t very Rez, is it? After four years off, reunited with Atticus Ross and Alan Moulder, he’s made a sleek, sharp-edged tribute to his own sense of studio-craft that collides together most of the key moments of his last four albums, from breathy piano plodders to IDM drum skitters to proto-rave. It is not going to change the lives of the unconverted, but when you’ve converted as much of the internet as he has, that’s not much bother.
BEST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
FACTORY FLOOR – 10
Every morning since about 2010 I’ve swung open the windows, whistled a song to the larks and wondered if this will be the day they finally announce the Factory Floor record. Much has happened in these years. Signing to DFA. Going steady with Tim Burgess. And while I can’t help but feel a little sad that they’ve moved on from that precious time where their live shows essentially seemed like an attempt to trepan the entire audience with one red-hot arpeggiated synth, their current formula – essentially, New Order plus Chris & Cosey to the power of Detroit techno – is very much working for me.
JESSY LANZA – 9
Pull My Hair Back
Lanza’s debut album was made with fellow Canadian Jeremy Greenspan of Junior Boys, who a lot of people got very excited about back when blogging about music was a thing. In retrospect, there was something a bit Uniqlo sweater about Junior Boys’ electro-pop. Pull My Hair Back, though, is sort of what they could have been with the right singer. Jacuzzi-stream synths bubble around a rhythmic base that draws on electro-funk and 90s R&B, and Lanza is more than a wilting ingénue, investing these songs with a bold sensuality.
YOUTH CODE – 8
Hardcore kids have been robbing from the goth dress-up box for a while now. A decade ago you couldn’t sign to Bridge Nine unless you had the Morrissey tattoo, black dye job and faded Joy Division shirt. But until recently no one had managed to fuse the actual sounds that came with the look into anything coherent. Hot on the heels of Cold Cave’s Pro Tools redux of Sisters of Mercy comes this dancefloor goth duo featuring ex-Carry On frontman Ryan George. They convincingly spit out Front 242/Meat Beat Manifesto sweat with all the passion you’d expect from kids weaned on youth crew hardcore, daring to imagine what Wax Trax would be releasing in the 21st century. This is particularly effective on the Slimelight-friendly “Carried Mask”.
HOLOGRAMS – 6
Captured TracksThe Captured Tracks Swedish division are a gang of suburban Stockholm kids whose unique selling point to date is that they don’t have any money. All grist to the mill for their slate-grey synth-punk, loosely the sound of some lost 80s anarcho group who dream at night of being carried off by alien spacecraft.
THE ICARUS LINE – 8
The problem with most psychedelic music is that it’s still essentially rooted in this aesthetic of effete 1960s English art students giggling over a cup of magic mushroom tea. Ideally, any authentically modern take should aim for something more contemporary. The Icarus Line recognise this. That’s why they sound roughly like The Stooges if they swapped Iggy Pop for Michael Gira, and their freakier moments broadly capture the sensation of absolutely losing your shit on some ayahuasca you bought from a Peruvian “shaman”, before slowly coming to the realisation that you’ve eaten your neighbour’s pet.
MAINLINER – 9
It’s been 17 years since Kawabata Makoto’s most powerful power-trio blew heads, speakers and eardrums with the Mellow Out album—a record so violent and unsettling that I’m not sure I’ve ever recovered. Taking the “Imagine Blue Cheer playing Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray on an infinite loop” formula pioneered by the Japanese (who else?) stalwarts of the PSF label (High Rise, Keiji Haino) and pushing the sound even further into the red, all rock dynamics here are sheered off into a white-hot burr of feedback and pseudo-meth howl. Nice to see that the intervening years have not affected Makoto’s vision one bit, as the comically perverse feedback intro to the title track proves. Music to be too pinned to the couch to get up to take drugs to.
ALL PIGS MUST DIE – 7
Nothing Violates This Nature
Second time out of the traps for New England filth beasts APMD, led by former Hope Conspiracy mainman Kevin Baker and featuring part man/part machine drum uberlord Ben Koller from Converge. What could easily turn into total Tomas Lindburg worship is saved by some lightning-speed tech assaults and pleasing early-Sepultura cops blended into more measured table-flipping moments. The ideal Christmas gift for that friend who only wears black Vans and a different Cursed hoodie every day.
WORST COVER OF THE MONTH
WHITE HILLS – 8
So You Are… So You’ll Be
To say that prolific space-rock duo White Hills are playing a long game is something of an understatement. Bands who dress like Amish chimney sweeps come and go. Groups replace bits of their names with Wingdings in an attempt to look occult. Serious young men wonder if it’s too soon for them to have an opinion on The Art of Noise. And blithely unaware of this, White Hills simply want to plug in and sound like they’re standing on battlements at sunset playing kraut-blasted drone-rock at the sky like it’s the last day of existence.
GARY WILMOTT’S EYES
DEAD IN THE DIRT – 6
Twenty-two shiny black nuggets of oppressive hardcore grind from this Atlanta vegan straight-edge group apparently out to cross every box on the hardcore bingo card. Crossover factor nil, but that’s OK when “Knife in the Feathers” comes with a breakdown that makes you feel like you could kick over buildings.
TY SEGALL – 5
Depressingly, my attempts to pitch a syndicated cartoon strip about the adventures of an avian psych aficionado named Ty Seagull—He really likes the 13th Floor Elevators! He’ll break a child’s arm for an ice-cream!—have come to naught. Depressing like Ty’s new album, which find the cherubic garage-rock wunderkind trading in the blitzkrieg no-wave of last year’s splendid Slaughterhouse for a selection of beardy acoustic guitar numbers, aka not a good idea at all. Let me know when he’s back covering Blue Cheer using an effects pedal called something like the SuperFuzz Destroyer and I’ll be right with you.
MARIJUANA DEATHSQUADS – 4
Music Rocks Parts 1 & 2
Totally Gross National Product
Ryan Olson of Gayngs trades in ironic soft-rock for this daring and possibly ill-advised collective project that sounds like a commando raid into the troubling depths of Dave Sitek’s psychosis. There’s a certain appealing naivety to assembling 20 of your really fried mates in one room and setting out to expand the boundaries of recorded sound through the medium of wild synth-rock, but if I was there I think I’d be whispering, “Remember, Ryan, less is more” as he bellows, “WHAT’S THAT? MORE IS MORE?” and pulls out a pair of maracas from his psychedelic kaftan.
FRANZ FERDINAND – 7
Right Thoughts,Right Words, Right Action
Franz Ferdinand are undeniably A Good Thing, and not just in regard to the sexual prospects of ageing former art students. Increasingly, though, they give the impression of a band unsure whether to shamelessly re-circulate past glories or branch out in ways that ultimately feel a little unsatisfying. Can’t really fault them for leaning towards the former here – a crisply delivered ten tracks of Blockheads funk and Beatles melody, with nice shirts and choruses apparently designed to be 100 percent singy. But does anyone still care?
WAKA FLOCKA SEAGULLS
BELLE & SEBASTIAN – 7
The Third Eye Centre
As the other British group along with Suede and Oasis who’ve made more than an entire album’s worth of B-sides-that-coulda-been-A-sides, has Belle & Sebastian’s sad, slow decline been consistent on both sides of the 7-inch? The offcuts from their past three albums suggest a droop. There was a time where the idea of Stuart Murdoch narrating a tale of suburban S&M seemed like a great idea, but here it treads the familiar stripper-vicar tracklines of Blur’s “Stereotypes”. By no means all bad, dotted through these miniatures is the sense that these kids used to be brave confessionalists, now they’re just
DIANA – 8
Oh Carmen Elle, you captured my putrid soul at precisely 39 seconds on this album’s opening track. A few seconds with your mellisonant intonation is all it takes. I zoom after you across this glittering encapsulation of the heatwave fuzz that clouds minds mid-afternoon after too many long nights spent glugging booze, tethered to your shapely ankle by a velveteen leash. I want of nothing but to never ever not hear your voice. That’s not too much to ask.
WORST ALBUM OF THE MONTH
THE 1975 – 0
Suddenly feel very old. Clearly, the 1975 are a band aimed at retarded pubescents. QED. But which sort of retarded pubescent? I can’t even tell any more. I mean, who would be interested in this mutant combo of Zane Lowe Biffy-rock and some kind of post-1D boyband mushiness all sung by a haircut who may or may not have every record ever made by The King Blues or even have been in The King Blues? Feel like I may have blinked and missed the past five years of youth culture. Or maybe, perhaps, this is just a woeful touch-all-bases signing by some label mogul even older and more out of touch than me? Let’s hope so.
JULIA HOLTER – 8
Loud City Song
In a world where Miley Cyrus is taking time in a music video to spell out twerk in Alphabetti, no one should be surprised that folk music gets a bad rap. Where’s the bass drop? Why isn’t my ass shaking? Goddamnit, what is this shit? It is not making me turnt, lurnt, skurnt or hurnt. But when a charming, competent songwriter like Julia Holter delivers a lovely record like Loud City Song, it’s a reminder that the problems of one ex-Disney princess coming to terms with her perfect, perfect body doesn’t amount to a bag of high-grade, heroin-free MDMA in this crazy world.
BEST COVER OF THE MONTH
DRENGE – 6
Any sense that a long-playing album might be the ideal format to stretch out and experiment a little with one’s sound seems to have been lost on Castleford brothers Drenge. No symphony orchestra here. Distinct absence of children’s choir. Mind you, we should probably not expect such from a band who peg their influences as “£0.00, ENG vs ARG 1998, Antisocial Behaviour Orders”. Consequently, their debut – a bunch of songs called things like “People in Love Make Me Feel Yuck” and “Face Like a Skull” – sounds like a guitar and a drum kit dumped in a pub car park and ordered to beat the shit out of one another.
KING KRULE – 8
6 Feet Below the Moon
King Krule is one of the first stars of a post-incubation age where all his early projects, his 15-year-old false starts and juvenilia missteps, are already arrayed in YouTubes and MySpaces called things like Zoo Kid and DJ JD Sports. Which is totally fine, and definitely something we’re going to see a lot more of. It’s just that... however many early false starts you have, the bright idea you ultimately settle on should never be: “What it would sound like if you kept Billy Bragg on drunken hunger strike in a sewer.”
KANDODO – 8
Kandodo is essentially a blissed-out psychedelic guitar noise album that comes on in wave after sublime wave. Imagine taking really strong acid but not getting the unpleasant sensation that you’ve always been in that room, no-one’s talking backwards, you’re not in a government experiment with people in lab coats watching you through a one-way mirror, but in fact you’re just lying on your back in the grass in the sunshine, at one with nature, listening to early Spiritualized and eating the world’s nicest Garibaldi biscuit.
NO AGE – 3
Ah, No Age. The band Japandroids could’ve been if only they’d never learned to tune up. Their fourth record has involved our two noisenik LA friends wandering round the studio positioning mics in obscure places. “Using the space like an instrument”, it says here. Guys. Slightly more expensive solution, but... just get a synth? Everyone loves those. Everyone hates hearing you two mucking about in your garage for the fifth straight year, striving for Sonic Youth but ending up more like a sexless Dum Dum Girls. Not sure why these guys seemed important once. Long story short: still don’t know.
V/A – 9
Mutazione: Italian Electronic & New Wave Underground 1980–1988
Hats off to Alessio Natalizia of Walls for digging up some of the most batshit nuggets from Italy’s 80s anarcho-squat scene for this brilliant yet totally unnecessary two-disc compilation of cold wave and post-punk, proving there’s more to that country, culturally, than Italo-disco, prog-rock and the films of Rocco Siffredi. I mean, you can almost smell the dried dog shit and taste the bad speed on Neon’s “Information of Truth” and “Please” by Rats. This being Italy, the land of ridiculous contrasts, there are also serene moments of off-beam majesty, such as Victrola’s “Maritime Tatami” and Doris Norton’s “Norton Apple Software”. If this were a pizza, it would be the one at the bottom of the menu with all the weird toppings that you’re always too scared to order.
ZOLA JESUS & JG THIRLWELL FT MIVOS QUARTET – 7
Zola Jesus goes full Antony Johnson and re-records her big songs with a small orchestra for a special show at the New York Guggenheim. Which is already a slightly strange concept to casual listeners who thought they were recorded with an orchestra in the first place. Any sense of why is removed early on: this is smart, amped-up wailing from the little leather-lungs. Would make an ideal present for a dentist who is really into Zola Jesus but thinks Stridulum II is too menacing to play in the waiting room.
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