Monday, June 30, 2008
As much as I love "Malaria", I found it very difficult to review. It's hard enough to judge an album that was recorded 10 years ago but it's almost impossible to be objective about something you have anticipated listening to for more than a decade. I didn't want my unrealistic expectations to affect my enjoyment of the album, so I prepared myself to be letdown. I wasn't. "Malaria" is a stunning accomplishment from beginning to end. The writing is dynamic, Robyn's vocals are exquisite and the production is superb. Perhaps the biggest achievement, however, is how little "Malaria" has dated. The album holds up brilliantly against anything recorded in 2008. The songs sound as fresh today as they did in 1998, which is obviously a huge indication of their quality. Here are some my thoughts on the tracks:
1. Song 4 U
This sets the tone of the album perfectly with its intriguing blend of genres and beautifully detailed production. "Song 4 U" is a perfect chill out anthem, walking the line between trip-hop and jazz. Think Portishead on Valium! I love the little flourishes, like the quirky squeaking gate sound effects and Robyn's growls. A beautiful and disarming opening track.
2. Got That Kinda Feelin' (Float On) Directors Cut
"Got That Kinda Feelin' (Float On)" was the 3rd single from "Malaria" way back in 1998. I've always adored this song and could never understand why it was so shamefully overlooked on release. Everything about this anthem screams class, from the breathy layers of vocals to the clever sampling of The Floaters' 70s classic "Float On". If anything, "Got That Kinda Feelin' (Float On)" was probably too delicate and subtle for mainstream success. Make sure you check out the stylish video clip (below). This is probably my all time favourite Robyn track.
3. Sick With Love
Time hasn't robbed Robyn's solo debut and biggest hit of its edge. "Sick With Love" is still as raw, confronting and insanely catchy as it was the first time I heard it in 1997. This song brings back so many memories of my teenage years. As a huge Girlfriend fan, I still remember being shocked by Robyn's new sound and even slightly scared of the video clip! I'm no longer frightened of Gothic Robyn, just in awe of her talent. An Australian classic.
4. Love Addiction
The second single from "Malaria" was another stunning slice of homegrown pop. The opening strings give way to a beautifully understated hip hop beat, evoking memories of the fabulous Neneh Cherry. I honestly don't think Australia was ready for this in the 90s. Robyn was at least 10 years ahead of her time. The CD single includes a remix featuring EMF's James Aitken, which generated some buzz for Robyn in the UK at the time. I vastly prefer this version. Check out the funky video clip (below).
"Cry" was going to be the 4th single from the album but was never released despite a video clip being filmed. It's a crying shame - pardon the pun - because this stunning ballad could have been a huge hit. The orchestration is exquisite and Robyn's voice gives me shivers. Robyn should perform this song live more often, I had forgotten how utterly beautiful it is. The long sought after clip will finally be available on the "Malaria" USB.
6. Turn Away
After several mid-tempo tunes, Robyn channels her inner rock chick on "Turn Away". The lyrics are cute ("you spin me out with ya attitude!") and I love it when Robyn shows her wild side. The almost tribal breakdown towards the end is also an interesting touch. Very original and mysterious. Again, this could have been recorded in 2008.
One of the strangest tracks on the album with unusual percussion and vocal layering, "People" is also one of the few songs that I don't really love. The lyrics are obviously personal and I appreciate the message about gaining control of your life but this is a bit of mess to my ears. Robyn's voice gets lost in the madness and there's not much in the way of a chorus. An interesting experiment.
If I'm not mistaken, "Suburbia" was written for or inspired by Robyn's feature film debut as a Bottle-O bitch in "Idiot Box". The lyrics about disaffected youth clearly reflect the film's content and Robyn's character. I really like this song. It's very catchy and walks the fine line between having a message and preaching with fine skill. Robyn would return to this theme with the amazing Columbine shooting inspired dance anthem "Hard" almost ten years later.
Any song that begins with heavy breathing is usually OK with me. "Onion" is a laid back affair with crisp beats and some truly beautiful guitar work. I love the chorus - "you got me cryin' like an onion" says it all really. This wouldn't sound out of place next to recent recordings from Duffy or Adele (if either of those tarts possessed Robyn's vocal ability), the retro sound on display here isn't worlds apart. Quality.
"I already know, baby your IQ is low" has to be one of the best opening lines in musical history! This upbeat number begins with some random chanting and drum rolls before breaking into a perky little pop tune. It doesn't make a lot of sense but it sure is fun.
11. Just When I Needed You Most
"Malaria" closes with another inspired chill out anthem. "Just When I Needed You Most" is clearly inspired by the Bristol based trip-hop sound of the 90s (think Lamb and Portishead) without sounding derivative. It's intriguing to hear a local act dabble in such a specific sound with the confidence to bring their own ideas to the table. A fitting end to a great album.
12. Got That Kinda Feelin' (Float On) US Mix
13. Sick With Love (Josh G Abrahams Remix)
14. Love Addiction (Jungle Mix)[Featuring EMF's James Aitken]
I'm delighted that "Malaria" has finally seen the light of day but also quite sad that such a great album has been gathering dust for the past decade. No wonder the local industry is falling apart at the seems when something this extraordinary is binned in a record company merger. Fans of homegrown pop need "Malaria" in their collection.
Friday, June 27, 2008
For those still living under the veil of ignorance, our saviour first came to prominence as a Playboy model. Given her overwhelming charisma and undeniable star quality, it's no surprise that Tila eventually graced several reality TV shows. The most notable example being the bisexual dating show "A Shot At Love", which Tila claims changed America's views on homosexuality. Somebody hand this woman a Nobel Peace Prize! In addition to banishing homophobia from the face of the earth, this selfless humanitarian also found the time to be the most popular artist on Myspace and managed to launch a pop career. Tila's first single "I Love U" was a stunning urban jam with some of the classiest lyrics in recent memory. I love it but I'm more taken with her second single, "Stripper Friends". I wish I had stripper friends instead of hanging out with clinically depressed retail queens but I digress. The song is actually a cover version but I'm sure the original doesn't boast a blockbuster video clip (above) about lesbian strippers who can't seem to keep their hands off their male clientele! This shit is deep and the song is catchy in the extreme.
After the shamefully lacklustre response to "Stripper Friends", Tila would be forgiven for choosing to concentrate on her television career or humanitarian pursuits but you can't keep a good diva down. Ms Tequila returned with her third iTunes smash hit in April with the brilliant "Paralyze". This tune is a huge change of pace for Tila. An hypnotic mid-tempo groove with some seriously classy faux-Timbaland style production, "Paralyze" is a delicate and surprisingly lovely treat. The video (below) is another slut epic with Tila posing naked in the shower and cavorting with what appears to be a ghost. Who would have thought that American pop music would be saved by a bisexual Playboy model with a little help from the bad dancer from Destiny's Child and Beyonce's mutant sister? 2008 really is turning out to be a weird and surprisingly wonderful year for pop connoisseurs. All of Tila's sex anthems are available on Australian iTunes, so get downloading!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Millie Jackson was a consistent presence on the American R'n'B charts throughout the 70s and 80s, scoring several top 10 hits and receiving multiple Grammy nominations. That all came to a screeching halt, however, with the release of 1989's "Back To The Shit". The fabulous cover caused a scandal but it was the album's shocking subject matter that triggered the biggest backlash. Millie's gutter mouth and saucy lyrics had made her famous but the general consensus was that she had finally gone too far by talking about getting head from lesbians, dildos, morning flatulence, oral sex, douching and "starchy" toilet seats! Time has taken the edge off some of the material but "Back To The Shit" is still outrageous even by today's standards.
A live album comprised of equal parts stand up comedy and music, "Back To The Shit" is more than just a curiosity. It's a short trip to heaven for fans and a wonderful time capsule of late 80s pop culture. Millie J kicks off the show with a scorching rendition of her 1986 hit "Hot! Wild! Unrestricted! Crazy Love" before launching into the opening monologue "Getting To Know Me". Millie makes her intentions clear from the outset by lamenting her failed attempt to clean up her image (on the highly underrated "The Tide Is Turning") and sets the tone for the album by talking about being propositioned by lesbians ("I do like head, yes, but I'm a greedy bitch. I want something to go with it!") and dildos. That bombshell is followed by a beautiful performance of "An Imitation Of Love", one of Millie's loveliest ballads.
The second comedy routine, "Love Stinks", is an expletive filled exploration of the dark side of romance that covers insightful topics such as pissing on the seat (Millie's handy hint - cut up your wig and glue it around the toilet to improve your boyfriend's aim. Think about it!) and skid marks. The proceedings plummet to a breathtakingly fabulous new low when Millie turns her attention to women's bathroom habits on "Muffle That Fart". Ms Jackson goes where nobody has dared to go before or since by discussing her loud morning flatulence. Call it low brow if you wish, I just find it piss your pants hilarious! "I'm Waiting Baby" is something akin to musical comedy with Millie singing about being stood up at a hotel. It's cute but completely overshadowed by the next track, a stunning cover of The Shirelles' "Will You Love Me Tomorrow". Everyone from Amy Winehouse to Laura Branigan has interpreted this classic but Millie's is the only version that stands toe to toe with the original.
"Investigative Reporting" has to be heard to be believed. Millie talks about a very memorable episode of Oprah (involving a woman whose vagina was sown shut by her ex-husband) and tears strips off Robin Givens. It comes as something of a relief when Millie returns her focus to singing and belts out her fabulous top 10 hit "Love Is A Dangerous Game". The song proves to be a short respite from the filth when this fabulous bitch turns her attention to AIDS and safe sex on "Sho Nuff Danjus". In my opinion, they should play this at the beginning of every school assembly. Millie even impersonates Dr Ruth while instructing the audience on how to use a condom. My favourite quip: "Pretend you're Diana Ross, reach out and touch the dick!" I'm sure Miss Ross was not amused! "Sho Nuff Danjus" proves a fitting end to an outrageous but always entertaining evening with one of music's most colourful and captivating characters.
"Back To The Shit" has been out of print for years and was only released on CD in Japan. It's worth looking for a copy on Ebay. "Back To The Shit" occasionally pops up but can be quite expensive.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Audrey Landers is probably best known as the glamorous lounge singer from the 1980s super-soap "Dallas". I vaguely remember being enamoured by Audrey's character as a child but I became completely besotted by her when the series was released on DVD a few years ago. Those fabulous 80s fashions, that big hair and most importantly, the completely random ballads that Audrey would belt out almost every episode. There was just something so utterly captivating about Audrey's beautiful voice. I had to learn more about this stunning goddess and quickly discovered trash credentials that would make La Toya blush. Audrey has done it all - starred in Z grade movies, posed for Playboy (with her sister no less!), released more amazing flop albums than Dannii, recorded duets with her 11 year old son and carved out a niche singing Christmas carols on German TV! It would take a week to explore all of Audrey's astonishing achievements, so I'll concentrate on a few of the many highlights.
Appearing in "Dallas" turned Ms Landers into an overnight sensation and it wasn't long before record producers started knocking at her door. Audrey released her first album in 1983 and it proved to be a huge success in Europe on the back of the smash hit single "Manuel Goodbye" (above). A sweet ditty about the end of a holiday romance, the song reached the top 10 in Germany and remains Audrey's signature tune to this very day. "Manuel Goodbye" was followed by the fabulously overwrought ballad "Little River", which tried to cash in on the country music Audrey performed on "Dallas". It might have been a bigger success without the unintentionally hilarious lyrics about drowning children. Audrey returned to her beloved holiday theme for her next single and scored another hit with the relentlessly cheerful and gloriously camp "Playa Blanca". Make sure you watch Audrey perform the song on German TV (below). Mesmerising!!
Realising she was onto a winning combination, Audrey spent most of the 1980s singing about exotic holiday destinations - proving herself to be one of pop music's true iconoclasts in the process! Some of my favourites include "Santo Domingo", "Summernight In Rome", "Honeymoon In Trinidad", "Guantanamera", "Tennessee Nights", "Hideaway Havana", "Santa California", "Chinatown Is In New York", "Sun Of Jamaica" and the unforgettable "Haiti Cherie". No diva in pop history has been better travelled! Sadly, by the late 1980s Audrey's star had started to wane but she carried on regardless, releasing a string of relatively unsuccessful albums in Germany and Austria. They might not have set the charts on fire but "Paradise Generation" and "Secrets" remain two of my favourite pop albums. Audrey had begun to experiment with her sound, mixing synths and keyboards with her beloved Latin rhythms and tender ballads. Favourites from this period include the blissfully ridiculous "Bella Italia" (music does not get any more camp!), "Silverbird" and the stunning "Never Wanna Dance (When I'm Blue)".
Audrey briefly returned to the spotlight in 1990 with the release of the remarkable "Love Me Tender" (also known as "My Dreams For You"). The album delivered the delightful reggae flavoured single "Sun Of Jamaica" as well as a popular cover of ABBA's "Fernando" - a song that Audrey seemed destined to sing given her penchant for Latin romance. Further highlights include the poptastic single "Shine A Light" and the beautiful ballad "For The Rest Of My Life". However, the true gem is the gorgeous "Shadows Of Love". This catchy pop anthem hasn't lost any of its sparkle - the chorus is addictive, the punchy production holds up well and Audrey's voice has never sounded lovelier.
Audrey followed "Love Me Tender" with "Rendez Vous" in 1991 but the album generally lacks the appeal of its predecessor. While not Audrey's finest moment, "Rendez Vous" does offer several fabulous treats. The singles "Santa Maria Goodbye" (above)and "Monte Carlo" are well worth a listen, while "Ballerina" remains one of my favourite guilty pleasures. An hysterical ballad about a porcelain ballerina that comes alive at night, this sublime trash borders on genius! After "Rendez Vous", Audrey disappeared from the music scene for 14 years to raise children and work in television. She made a comeback with a German language album in 2005 (containing the infamous duet with her 11 year old son) and followed that with another dose of German Schlager in 2006. Audrey continues to perform regularly on German TV and recently appeared on the American television series "Burn Notice". The years have been very kind to Audrey. She is still a vision of loveliness and her voice has only improved with age. Hopefully, the success of her nieces (the tragifabulous girlband 2 Girlz) will inspire her to release another English language pop album. The world needs more sun filled tunes about life, love and fabulous holiday destinations!
Friday, June 20, 2008
ATTENTION Take That. You are a pack of boring, old cunts with bad hair and double chins. It's time to step aside for Billiam before you send yet another defenceless granny into a sugar coma with your shitty ballads and dreary mid-tempo jams. I thank you.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
So where did this Ladyhawke chick spring from? Well, Pip (her real name) first appeared on my radar as part of the Sydney based electro duo Teenagers (check out the excellent "Alone Again") but according to her bio she was already an established performer in her native New Zealand. Since going solo, things have really started to snowball for Ladyhawke. She's joined the Modular fold (the label behind The Presets, Cut Copy, Van She and Muscles) for domestic distribution and been snapped up by Universal UK. They are going with a different first single in Europe ("Paris Is Burning" - released on the 30th of June) but I don't like it half as much as "Back Of The Van". Speaking of which, make sure you watch the fabulous video (below). Bonnie Tyler called and she wants her hair back! This gem was released in Australia on Monday exclusively to iTunes. Check out Ladyhawke's Myspace for more details.
Monday, June 16, 2008
I've written a lot about CC lately, probably because she is the only new local artist I've really connected with so far in 2008. I love her colourful image and her amazing "All The Way" album hasn't left my stereo since it was released last month. Most of all, I respect the sheer size of her balls. CC Martini is doing things her own way without the slightest regard for convention or the chorus of braindead naysayers who diss her every move. Despite my crackpipe jibes (sorry, sweetheart!), CC was nice enough to get in touch after reading my review of her album and kindly agreed to be interviewed for the Blog. CC is just as cool as you would imagine from her music. She preaches the benefits of semen, puts the haters in check and gives us an insight into her stunning lyrics and future plans. Enjoy!
How did you get into the music biz? Is it true you got your big break at a work Christmas party?
I always wanted to be a rock star or a movie star when I was a kid. I missed my first blue light disco to see U2 Zoo TV at the MCG with my Dad and have had stars in my eyes ever since. I was in an all girl rock band in high school called Venus In Warpaint. After school I started a rap duo called Mango & Cream but we never made it out of the lounge room. I began rapping as CC Martini and worked with Tiffany Kommedal and Kent Morris to make an EP which inevitably turned into an album. I did get approached by my record company after a Dangerfield/Indie Initiative Christmas Party gig at the Prince Of Wales. Neil Wedd from the Indie Initiative supported me a lot in the early days and gave me my first few gigs.
Your sound and styling are unique in Australia. How did you create the "CC Martini" sound and look?
I’ll quote Lil' Kim to answer this question. "I’ve been a lot of places, seen a lot of faces. Hell man, I even fuck with different races"!
What are your musical influences?
The Little Mermaid, Phantom of the Opera, Michael Jackson, Salt N Pepa, U2, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, No Doubt, Lil' Kim, Eminem, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eve, The Fugies, Marley and Tosh, Britney Spears, Missy Elliot, The Black Eyed Peas, Jill Scott, Roni Size, Marilyn Manson, Timberland, Justin Timberlake, Gwen Stefani, Rihanna… and many more!
Tell us about the brilliant "My Bush Would Make A Better President"?
I saw it on a t-shirt! Digital Primate wanted me to write a political song. I’m not into music being too serious so it turned out to be a nice balance of the truth and tongue in cheek raunchiness.
If your bush swept to power, what's the first thing it would change?
Feed the poor. Free the animals and save the environment.
How autobiographical are your amazing lyrics?
Ha ha ha, well… like I always say to this question, some stuff is true and some stuff is not. But I like you Mike so I will tell you some inside information. Yes I did really go through my ex-boyfriend's phone like a complete psycho and his computer. I did find all the things I talked about in "Little Black Book"!
Is the secret to eternal youth really your man's potion?
Apparently semen is very, very good for your skin, as it has elements that are "alive", like yoghurt I suppose. Sadly I have none to use at the moment as I am single.
Tell us about the hot videos for "Champagne Taste" and "Double Dutch".
Videos are always very fun to do. They are really a director's medium though, so you can never really control how the end product turns out. It's hard being on a minimum wage because a lot of my ideas get knocked back because of that ugly word I hate: budget! But you know, it's just the beginning, and hopefully they just get better and better with the more experience I gain. I love Missy Elliot's videos, so one day hopefully I will be at that kind of level and have that kind of money to play with!
"All The Way" is fucking amazing! What is your favourite song on the album?
It is always hard to pick your fave song, coz I really do think they are all great and I am very happy with the way the album evolved. I think "I See You" is my ultimate fave, because really we are all softies inside and this song is a love song. It is so vulnerable and innocent, how you feel when you are falling in love with someone and they are just all you think about and all you talk about. That kind of love is really special and "I See You" always takes me back to that moment when I really fell in love really deep. Having said that though my fave song to do live is "Sick Of It". It’s a really fun and tough song to do. And "Dirty Thoughts" is a live favourite too, it’s very naughty and I love being naughty as much as possible.
Will there be a 3rd single and can it please be "Dirty Thoughts"?
Yes there will be a 3rd single but you’ll have to wait and see because I don’t know what it will be yet!
"Be The One" and "I See You" are brilliant. Will you explore a more pop orientated sound in the future?
I think I will always have at least a couple of songs like these on future albums. They just come out. I have a new ballad that will come out next year called "Shake Me Up". I like to mix it up. You can’t just have a whole set of songs where you're givin it out. telling it like it is. The audience needs some time out and so do I, it makes the whole thing more dynamic and more balanced I think.
What the fuck is "Candy" really about?
"Candy" is not really about all that much. Really Tiff and I got stoned one night and wrote it. It's basically about a hot chick girl who likes a super fly boy and he doesn't notice her, because she's hot but not in the dumb-pretty-girl-clone kinda way, and he's such a dandy boy he always has those type of girls around him, so he doesn't realise how hot she is. She's not like the dumb girls going out just to slut onto him, she's on her own vibe and is out for music and drugs, she don't have time for sleeze. So "she no like that she just want to candy" is kinda she ain't gonna fall for the boy's standard pick up lines, she gets it all the time, she just came to "candy" as in party = drugs + music. It all made sense to us at the time! Ha ha.
In one sentence, why should people buy your album?
In one long sentence: People should buy my debut album "all the way!" because it has wonderful stories that will colour your imagination and make you laugh and possibly even make you cry, as well they will be able to claim serious cool cred by being able to say "I loved CC Martini before she was a massive star". Also, I know this is more than one sentance but if people really do like it, by buying it, rather than burning it, will help me as I am a new artist. When I'm rich, they can burn as many copies as they want, I am all for that, but for now the best way to support me is to buy as many copies of my album as you can afford and give them to your friends as presents!
What is your message to all the fuckwits hating on you on iTunes and youtube?
Get something positive happening in your life, then you might appreciate others’ efforts instead of being bitter and twisted about your own failure to begin anything worthwhile!
Spill the beans about touring with Eve. Was she a total bitch?
Eve is absolutely A Grade Star Material. The girl is a Queen. She was really really cool, especially for how hot she is, she could be a bitch and you’d still love her. She is a Lady and it was great to have been able to do just one show with her. The promoters cancelled the whole tour without any explanation. We just all got told it wasn’t happening once we got to Sydney. It was a big disappointment and I feel a little embarrassed that Eve had such bad treatment on her first trip ever to Australia, because the potential of the shows were great, she was ready to rock. But I think she still had fun despite the circumstances. Her crew hung out in Sydney and did MTV and some fashion shows, but she was sad she didn’t get to make it to Melbourne apparently, so hopefully next time she comes out she will be in the hands of some more capable people who really show her a great time, like Australia should be! Come back Eve, we love you!
When are you gracing Sydney with your fabulous presence?
I love Sydney so much and I want to play up there soon, we are trying to work out some shows up there.
Do you have a day job?
Yeah I still have a J-O-B ahhhrg Yuk. ShhhhH!!! Don’t tell anyone. I have been living on my credit card for years and have been in denial about having to get a job as it would distract me from my path, however I need to just get some dollas together so I can get square and go onto the next plan which is to re-locate to New York next March.
When is the CC Martini juggernaut going international?
I want to play in Japan, China, USA, Europe, Africa, South America… ha ha ha ha EVERYWHERE. Soon, Soon, Soon!!! As soon as possible. There’s a few things on the To Do list first, but it’s definitely on the horizon gettin' closer.
What qualities does a man need to get with CC?
We must have the right chemistry. Yang and Yin. To balance each other. That is important. Money – hey it sounds materialistic, but ya really need it. The more the better. A passion for what they do in their life. They must like having and doing Fun. And a sense of humour definitely! Must be able to make decisions and be able to put up a good alternative opinion, I can be a bit bossy and it’s boring always making decisions and being around “Yes” people. I want to be intellectually challenged! Anyone out there fit that description? Ha ha ha…
Available now from iTunes and all good record stores.
Just fucking buy it!
Friday, June 13, 2008
Mercifully, this sorry tale of woe appears to have a happy ending. Solange not only found a niche as a very impressive songwriter (Beyonce's "Get Me Bodied" and Michelle Williams' incredibly fabulous "We Break The Dawn") but she's also back with a new track of her own - and for the first time in her career, she could have a hit on her hands! "I Decided" is breathtakingly good. Solange has obviously spent a lot of time listening to Motown because the song is a veritable tribute to sweet soul music of the 60s and 70s. The glorious Freemasons Remix wouldn't sound out of place on a Supremes compilation! This really should have been the version promoted to radio. The minimalisn of the Neptunes produced original takes a bit of getting used to but it's still very appealing. Make sure you check out the amazing video (below). Beyonce wishes she could come up with something this fabulous! Solange's second album, intriguingly titled "Sol-Angel And The Hadley Street Dreams", is released in August.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Song For You
Got That Kinda Feelin' (Float On) the directors cut
Sick With Love
Just When I Needed You Most
Got That Kinda Feelin' (Float On) US radio mix
Sick With Love Josh Abrahams aka Puretone remix
Love Addiction (Remix)
I'll post more details as they come to hand. I believe there's a big surprise in store for us regarding the format! In the meantime, let's revisit Robyn's amazing and slightly scary "Sick With Love" video clip. Can this iconic track really be 11 years old?
Sunday, June 08, 2008
High & Mighty - 5/10
It's a shame that "Bring Ya To The Brink" kicks off with such a stinker. Produced by Scumfrog (probably best known for his remix of Kylie's "Love At First Sight"), "High & Mighty" is a snooze inducing slice of minimal electro. The song does have a certain hypnotic quality but it seems out of place on such a fun album. I can't decide what annoys me more - the pointless lyrics or the repetitive bleeps. Coming in at just under 5 minutes, "High & Mighty" is also at least two minutes too long.
Into The Nightlife - 10/10
Don't be put off by the album's stillborn opener, things take a massive turn for the better with the sublime "Into The Nightlife". Cyndi employs a team of Swedish super producers to create a slice of dancefloor perfection. This track has everything - feelgood lyrics, an insanely catchy chorus and an electric mix of synths and crashing beats. Pop music doesn't get much better. It's hardly surprising then that "Into The Nightlife" has been selected as the album's second single. With any luck this will be absolutely huge. Make sure you check out the just finished video clip (below). Cyndi looks amazing and her army of dancing gays is extremely fabulous!
Rocking Chair - 8.5/10
I hated "Rocking Chair" the first time I heard it. I initially had it pegged as an exercise in forced weirdness but the damn thing has grown on me like crazy over the past couple of weeks. Basement Jaxx's contribution to "Bring Ya To The Brink" is the kind of overproduced, intentionally disjointed pop song that is so hot right now. It took me a while to get into it but I now love the subtle hooks and eccentric sound effects, not to mention the strange chorus and the spoken breakdown. The general craziness is also a natural fit with Cyndi's kooky side. This will probably age less gracefully than Madonna but "Rocking Chair" captures the zeitgeist of 2008 perfectly.
Echo - 7.5/10
The team responsible for "Into The Nightlife" return for their second contribution but unfortunately lightning doesn't quite strike twice. "Echo" is a fun track but the end result is slightly underwhelming in comparison to the gems that come before and after it. The verses sound eerily familiar to Fedde Le Grande's remix of "The Creeps", which should be a good thing but they don't sit particularly well with the fabulous hands in the air chorus. It's almost as if two completely different songs have been squeezed together. Still, as filler goes, this is pretty good.
What is it with middle aged divas and the need to tarnish their recordings with an unnecessary urban interlude? Cyndi fares much better than most of her menopausal contemporaries and manages to escape with her dignity intact. In fact, "Lyfe" is surprisingly pleasant. The heavy funk suits Cyndi's voice and the lyrics are clearly autobiographical. However, the song just doesn't belong on "Bring Ya To The Brink". An interesting experiment that I hope is never repeated.
Same Ol' Story - 9/10
I've been raving about "Same Ol' Story" for months but after hearing "Bring Ya To The Brink", I'm really quite surprised it was selected as the first single. Not only are there better songs but Richard Morel's intentionally dated production gives a very misleading impression of the album's content. That said, I still love the song. Cyndi's fabulous potty mouth is given free reign and the retro soundscape (with nods to disco and 90s house music) is a lot of fun.
Raging Storm - 5/10
Back to back Richard Morel productions should be a good thing but "Raging Storm" is incredibly tedious. The song has been circled out as one of the album's highlights by many critics for dealing with the fucked up state of the world within the context of a dance song. I'm all for exploring serious issues in dance music but "Raging Storm" is a cure for insomnia. For an example of how to combine politics and dancefloor fabulousness, check out Shakira's brilliant "Timor". Cyndi's five and a half minute sermon falls flat in comparison.
Lay Me Down - 10/10
Kleerup is such a one trick pony. Thankfully, it's a hell of a good trick! "Lay Me Down" basically rehashes Kleerup's tried and tested electroballad formula. All his usual quirks are present and accounted for. The delicate beats are crisply layered and drenched in melancholy. I think he may have even recycled the backing track! Regardless of Kleerup's laziness, "Lay Me Down" still manages to be utterly divine thanks to the haunting lyrics and Cyndi's beautiful voice, which imbues the song with more grace than it really deserves.
Give It Up - 8/10
Producing a song for Cyndi Lauper is something of a step up in the world for Jack Rokka (AKA Digital Dog), who spends most of his time remixing Dannii's sublime chart flops. Not surprisingly, "Give It Up" is probably the trashiest floorfiller on "Bring Ya To The Brink" and I mean that as a compliment. This cheap and cheerful dance anthem wouldn't sound out of place on an AATW compilation with its meaningless lyrics, cheesy production and plodding beats. I like it!
Set Your Heart - 9.5/10
I can't quite decide whether "Set Your Heart" samples Candi Staton's fabulous "Young Hearts Run Free" or simply pays homage to it. Either way, this is the album's most obvious nod to 70s disco with its delicious spoken intro and funky horns. Currently doing big business for Cyndi in Japan, "Set Your Heart" will have you running to the nearest mirror ball by the second verse. I love everything about this from the sweeping chorus to Cyndi's crazy pronunciation. While probably too camp to be released as a single outside of Asia, "Set Your Heart" will no doubt find favour in gay clubs around the globe.
Grab A Hold - 10/10
After merrily exploring dance sub-genres for the majority of "Bring Ya To The Brink", Cyndi returns to her roots for the album's final two songs with breathtaking results. If you removed Dragonette's lovely electropop trappings, "Grab A Hold" wouldn't sound out of place on "She's So Unusual" or "True Colours". The lyrics express a very familiar sense of longing, Cyndi's quirky phrasing is on full display and the chorus is instantly addictive. Kudos to Dragonette for breathing new life into such an iconic sound.
Rain On Me - 10/10
"Rain On Me" is my favourite track on "Bring Ya To The Brink". Electropop has rarely sounded so delicate and elegant. Basically everything I said about "Grab A Hold" applies equally to this. Underneath the layers of pretty beats and bleeps lies a nugget of gold that recalls some of Cyndi's best work from the 80s. I love the sparse production and world weary lyrics but the thing that makes "Rain On Me" so special is the sense of whimsy that, dare I say it, only comes with age. Simply exquisite.
Got Candy - 8/10
Can't Breathe - 9/10
Poor Cyndi seems to be suffering from a bad case of Kylie-itis because both her bonus tracks are better than several songs that actually made the album. "Got Candy" is another cheerful disco flashback courtesy of Richard Morel, while the achingly lovely "Can't Breathe" is the album's only traditional ballad. "Got Candy" is an iTunes bonus track in Australia. Unfortunately, "Can't Breathe" only appears on international editions of "Bring Ya To The Brink". Both are well worth tracking down.
Friday, June 06, 2008
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Failed solo careers lead both ladies to reform the group, albeit with new partners - resulting in two official Baccaras! Maria's Baccara (often referred to as "New Baccara") initially experienced considerably more success, scoring hits with the stunning "Call Me Up" and glorious "Fantasy Boy". However, Mayte's Baccara made an unexpected return to prominence in 2004 when they were robbed of Melodifestivalen glory with their breathtaking "Soy Tu Venus". Make sure you check out the clip of their performance. The moment when the old birds rip off their skirts is Euro camp at its best! It is this incarnation of the group that is about to embark on a comeback in Germany.
I haven't heard Baccara's new album yet but I already know I'll enjoy at least half of it. The glamorously titled "Satin...In Black And White" contains six of their classic tunes, including not one but three versions of "Yes Sir, I Can Boogie"! Personally, I'm dying to hear the reworked versions of "Darling" and "Sorry, I'm A Lady" as well as the new material. Excitingly, the album reunites Mayte with Rolf Soja - their original producer and the mastermind behind "Yes Sir". With Rolf's return and song titles like "Girls Are One Half Of Heaven" and "The Mathematix Of Love", I have a feeling this could be the Euro-trash album of the year! Here's the tracklisting:
1. Nights In Black Satin
2. Sorry, I'm A Lady (New Version)
3. Cara Mia (New Version)
4. Girls Are One Half Of Heaven
5. Yes Sir I Can Boogie (Latin Version 2008)
6. Yes Sir I Can Swing
7. Simply Forget
8. The Devil Sent You To Lorado (New Version)
9. The Mathematix Of Love
10. Sleepy-Time-Toy (New Version)
11. Darling (New Version)
12. (I Don't Want) To Lose Lautrec
13. German Medley (Yes Sir I Can Boogie / Ich bin eine Lady / Dich schickt der Teufel nach Lorado)
While you're in a Baccara kind of mood, check out this stunning rendition of "Sorry, I'm A Lady" from 1977 (below). Mayte is the bombshell in the black dress. Words can't adequately describe how much I love this riveting performance. Their lovely accents, stunning dance moves and fabulous outfits - utter perfection! I really was born in the wrong era. Today's music just sounds so lifeless and shit in comparison. You can pre-order "Satin...In Black And White" from German Amazon. It's released officially on the 27th of June. Be warned, it's priced at a whopping 29 Euros!
Monday, June 02, 2008
I've enjoyed the occasional single over the years ("Pieces Of Me" and "Boyfriend" come to mind) but I never really paid much attention to Ashlee the popstar. I wanted to like her given my penchant for craptastic celebrity siblings with plastic surgery addictions (hello Dannii & La Toya!) but the majority of her songs belong in the same waste disposal unit as Avril Lavigne's entire back catalogue. Needless to say, I was more than a bit surprised when the first single from "Bittersweet World" turned out to be very good indeed. "Outta My Head (Ay Ya Ya)" reinvents Ashlee as the poor man's Gwen Stefani, which I'm sure you'll agree is a huge improvement! Sounding like a cross between Soft Cell and Devo, Timbaland has crafted one of the year's catchiest pop tunes. As much as I enjoy the album's first single, I only decided to buy "Bittersweet World" after randomly hearing "Boys" at the supermarket! I know I say it in every second post but this could well be my favourite song of 2008. People Magazine describes "Boys" as "the best Kylie Minogue song that Kylie never did" and I see the likeness. The playful lyrics and addictive chorus wouldn't be out of place on "X" but I think the obvious influence is Blondie. I love the warmth of the instrumentation and the production is just exquisite. Chad Hugo (the other half of The Neptunes) and Kenna camouflage Ashlee's glorious reed thin voice perfectly, making her sound like a new woman. Fuck off, haters - this is flawless pop!
The rest of the album isn't too bad either. The experimentation continues with the quirky "Rule Breaker", a cute anthem about Ashlee's naughty ways. Timbland throws in a multitude of catchy hooks and the unconvincing lyrics are downright amusing. I just don't buy Ashlee as a bad girl. I'm guessing the most rebellious thing she's done lately is using Pete's hair iron as a dildo. After a hugely innovative beginning, "Bittersweet World" settles into more familiar territory with "No Time For Tears". Strangely, it doesn't suck. In fact,this crunchy mix of guitars and beats is probably my second favourite song on the album. I love the uplifting chorus and the lyrics appeal to me. The album's first real misstep is the ill advised second single. "Little Miss Obsessive" just sounds like every other mid-tempo slice of soft rock on American radio. It's not awful, just generic and uninspired. Thankfully, the same can't be said about "Ragdoll" and the album's title track. I have so much more time for Timbaland when he tries to breathe new life into an artist's existing style (ie. Nelly Furtado) as opposed to carelessly throwing them onto his conveyor belt of lifeless urban pop (ie. Madonna). "Ragdoll" takes Ashlee's rock sound and freshens it up with layers of beats, while "Bittersweet World" adds an element of Madness inspired ska into the mix. Both sound completely different to Ashlee's usual output without turning her into something she's not.
"What I've Become" is one of the more personal songs on "Bittersweet World". Ashlee sings "it's so strange that all these blessings could be a curse", making this an obvious response to all the disgusting haters who ridicule her every move. Keep your chin up, my sweet cherub! "What I've Become" is also of note as the most straightforward rock track that Timbland has ever produced. Things get a little crazy from here on in. "Hot Stuff" is just bizarre - Ashlee opens with the sure to be immortal lyric "I walk into your joint with a hoodie on, don't need a short skirt to get it on" before singing some crap about being drunk and lifting her legs in the air. I love it! Chad Hugo uses every trick from the Neptunes handbook on this memorable number. Not to be outdone, Timbaland's "Murder" (unsuccessfully) attempts to throw in what can only be described as an urban rock number. It doesn't work but it certainly is interesting. "Bittersweet World" concludes with a fairly insipid ballad ("Never Dream Alone"), which is a shame because the bonus tracks are fantastic. "Invisible" was actually released as an American single in 2006 and still holds up as one of Ashlee's best guitar pop anthems, while "Follow You Wherever You Go" has to be heard to be believed! This piss take is sung from the perspective of a stalker, complete with anecdotes about kidnapping a supermodel and several bizarre spoken interludes. "Bittersweet World" isn't a masterpiece but it is a hell of a lot of fun. Treat yourself to this most guilty of pleasures.