woensdag 12 oktober 2011

Cock Blockin' Isn't Allowed

Five years after the release of Stadium Arcadium, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have put out its successor, 'I'm With You', and in doing so they have marked the beginning of a new era for the band. Ever since guitarist John Frusciante's departure from the band in 2009, fans have wondered not only who would fill the gap, but most importantly also how it would influence their sound. In early 2010 it was Josh Klinghoffer, longtime friend and collaborator of John Frusciante, who was officially announced as his replacement. And he does not disappoint.

Wonderfully minimalistic album cover
After a brief chaotic and disjumbled beginning, Monarchy of Roses sets off with pumping drums and a misschievous Anthony Kiedis, building up to the chorus where the song takes a surprising 180 degree turn into a very clean and polished disco-style track. Josh Klinghoffer's funk riffing takes a humble backseat in the mix, giving more room for the ever impressing Flea's basslines. Factory of Faith continues in a similar uptempo fashion, allowing Klinghoffer to gradually step more into the limelight. His flanger laden funk guitar comfortably reassures us that all is well. He is without a doubt not only a great guitarist, but his trademark textural approach also proves him to be a strong musician in general. Josh knows his place, and with impeccable timing is able to not only add to songs, but also embraces the importance of taking a step back.

Arriving at Brendan's Death Song, the album shifts a gear back with it's acoustic guitar intro. Slowly building up for several minutes, it proves itself to be a very dynamic track, climaxing near the end with Flea, who is all over the track with his stunning basslines. He is not only integral to the band, but establishes himself as the absolute star of the album with an infinite supply of juicy, thriving and boisterous basslines for Josh to weave his guitar licks around. Meanwhile, Anthony Kiedis also finds his place. His vocals are very genuine and inspire a sense of nostalgia, whereas the first two tracks at times come across as slightly forced. This is also where the album really takes off. It builds up strongly until we reach Goodbye Hooray, without a doubt the most intense song of the album. Right off the bat we are faced with a thundering riff and frantic rhythm section, culminating in an over-the-top guitar solo,something that many fans have taken for granted when listening to the Peppers.

Lyrics booklet with great pictures
The album comes to a screeching halt at Happiness Loves Company, where the piano makes its humble entrance to the album. Sadly this is also where 'I'm With You' fails to pick up again. Although 'Police Station' and 'Even You Brutus?' are good tracks, no momentum is to be regained for the remainder of our listening experience. It is applaudable for them to broaden their horizons by introducing an instrument previously unheard in their repertoire, but disappointingly it has not further enhanced their sound. Album closer 'Dance, Dance, Dance' tries to bring us back to our feet, but it does not succeed, resulting in an anticlimactic ending.

What we are left with is still a good album, but it could have been better if a few tracks had been cut, 'Annie Wants A Baby' and 'Happiness Loves Company' in particular. Josh Klinghoffer is undoubtedly the best replacement there is for John Frusciante. Although his textural approach has shown us many great new possibilities whilst staying true to the Peppers' unique sound, it has also lead to there being no really memorable guitar riffs and few guitar solos. All in all, 'I'm With You' is a good introduction to Josh, but at times comes across as slightly subdued.


vrijdag 26 augustus 2011

They're taking the Hobbits to Gare du Nord

Recently I've had the pleasure of going abroad for a week. A three hour train ride took me and my better half to a metropolis not only rich in history, astounding monuments and great food, but sadly also in overcrowded subways smelling of urine, dubbed television shows (I now understand why most of them lack a proper understanding of the English language) , and worst of all, those women who wave their hand right in front of your face and who after probably thousands of rejections still do not understand that nobody wants to sign their bloody petition. I am ofcourse talking about the city of love, Paris.

Bad photoshop of actual events

With great pleasure I strolled down the Champs Elysees, witnessed the grandeur of the Notre Dame and bought some great new records at Galerie Lafayette. After several days had passed, I was however to be faced with the inevitable. Whilst slowly traversing down the parisienne walkways, I could not help but feel intimidated by my nemesis arrogantly towering above the rest of the city, bearing witness to my every footstep like the eye of Sauron. With each step taken towards the iron giant, I came closer to realizing that this was really going to happen. A standoff between the Eiffel Tower and me. Now here's a fun fact: I am afraid of heights.

As with most things in life, there is a certain irony to this. I am six feet and three inches tall. If I was any taller, I would probably be afraid to look down at the floor as well. Here is another thing that has struck me as peculiar. Why are the most interesting things in a country almost always abnormally high? The Empire State Building, the Burj Dubai and the London Eye (thank God I went there last year instead of this year) are all immense physical structures, and I prefer not to go anywhere near them, let alone experience their bedazzling heights. Screw New York, next year we're going to Legoland.

There are more than threehundred steps on the staircase leading to the first floor. The first few steps were easy, but it was gradually getting harder. I told myself not to look down, but my subconscious knew better, resulting in a severe tickling of the belly, and breathing not unlike that of Darth Vader. With my sweaty hands I firmly clasped both the railing and, well, my girlfriends hand. After what seemed like infinity, but in all likelihood was more along the lines of five minutes, we arrived at the first floor. Proudly I strutted around and rejoiced in taking in the spectacular view of the Trocadero amongst others. Most importantly, I did not break down. I did not lie on the floor in fetal position. I did not foam at the mouth. One thing remains true however. One does not simply walk into the Eiffel Tower.

woensdag 10 augustus 2011

The great Frith made the world, and also Steve Jobs

*For reasons further explained in the remainder of this blog, names of suspects have been changed due to privacy issues, until their guilt or innocence has been proven.

Yesterday morning I awoke after another long and satisfactory night of semi-hibernation. Using what little energy left inside of me, I rolled over to my right and leaned down to grab my iPad. Seeing one of only a few power outlets is located next to my bed, I thought it to be a proper location for recharging purposes, to ensure many pleasurable early morning news-reading sessions. Repositioning myself into a comfortable and ergonomically correct position, I unlocked my iPad and noticed something peculiar. The battery was almost dead.

Surely it must have been me at fault. Like a child trying to jam his wooden rectangular toy into its uncorresponding circular socket, I frustratingly started ramming the adapter piece into my iPad. Still no response. After brief further investigation, I had found the reason for my agony. Tiny scratch and bite marks rendered the apparently very fragile piece of equipment useless.
Youthful suspect Bill Gates*

Given the evidence, I had a certain individual of the rabbit kind in mind, but I still needed clarity. I walked downstairs and stood eye-to-eye with our culprit. As time stretched in seemingly infite ways, tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood up straight like a mob of meerkats scanning the surface of the Kalahari Desert. Anger was surging through my veins and wicked thoughts nearly got the best of me, until in the back of my mind I started hearing Art Garfunkel singing Bright Eyes, conjuring up long lost images of hares in terrible agony (Watership Down has one hell of an impact on an angsty 16-year old).

After turning the other cheek I headed downtown to replace the tampered-with original. Woefully, I soon found out that a new cable would set me back a whopping thirty euro's. Several lessons are to be learned from this peculiar day. One: Steve Jobs is a ripoff. Two: Bunnies prefer Windows. Third: The price for replacing a cable is higher than the price for replacing a bunny.

zondag 24 juli 2011

Beauty will destroy your mind

At 9:45 am this morning I was awoken by the ringing of the doorbell. Which would be unforgivable, were it not for the fact that I had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of our local mailman. Rushing downstairs armed with nothing but my favorite boxers, my slightly less than abnormally haired belly and the keys to my house, I carefully opened the door. A halo of light surrounds the orange messiah. It is indeed the mailman, with in his hands the physical manifestation of my aural desires. He knows this. I know this. Our glances meet fleetingly, we exchange our greetings and the typical transfer proceeds. I close the door, and with great delight rid myself of the cardboard casing.

It is nothing less than one of Radiohead's latest vinyl releases, the Supercollider/The Butcher single. Although the dark artwork is in line with their last full-blown album The King of Limbs, its content is surprisingly different. Supercollider takes us on a more than seven minute long (their longest track since Paranoid Android in 1997) journey through a wicked soundscape, which starts off with a simplistic electronic beat and bassline. It isn't long before equally eerie piano chords echo from a distance and slowly assume a more solid position in the mix. We are then seized by vocalist Thom Yorke, known for his distinctively fragile and haunting voice, setting off into obscure realms, questioning existential matters indirectly through his fragmented lyrical style, leaving the listener open to many different interpretations. On the other side of the record, we find The Butcher. Whereas Supercollider had seen the light several times in live performances since 2008, The Butcher is a completely new track exclusive to this release. There is a big emphasis on the marvellous rhythm section, combining both actual drums and electronic beats, and on top there are the regular Yorkisms being scattered throughout the track. It is a strong companion to Supercollider, despite being dissimilar in compositional aspect.

For many fans, Supercollider/The Butcher is not only a breath of fresh air, but it also reassures them that Radiohead still has it. Five months ago they once again divided their fanbase with the release of The King of Limbs. While many were yearning for another album drenched in emotion, The King of Limbs proved itself to be a short and humble anti-climactic album, driven by electronic beats and stale guitars, lacking outspoken passages and scarce in actual choruses. It most definitely has it's charms and their continuous departure in different musical directions is applaudable, but it's hard not to prefer the more dynamical Supercollider/The Butcher instead of the somewhat stagnant King of Limbs.

Feel free to share your thoughts and recommendations below.