09 September 2012

New Propagandhi album!

Propagandhi, then. Best band of the last decade, pretty clearly. Very few bands have made an album better than 2005’s Potemkin City Limits, but zero have made two albums as good as that and its follow-up, Supporting Caste (2009). And, until it became a decade old, last year, the prior album, Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes, rounded out a quite imposing triptych. Part of the reason why their albums are so good, apart from stunning songwriting, brilliant musicianship and the best lyrics in the business (seriously, if state of the business address ‘Rock For Sustainable Capitalism’ doesn’t make you feel angry, amused or inspired, I don’t know what to tell you), is the fact they take time over their albums. I think their first – a very good example of Fat Wreck pop punk – was released in 1994. Their fourth was in 2009: this isn’t a band afraid to make sure they’ve made exactly the right album.

So when they said in early 2010 that they were working on their next album, I was both excited and cautious. Sure, it’s happening, but when? I emailed them, and their reply in March that year was as follows:
yes, we are indeed working on new tunes right now and hope to be able to record them later this year. so if all goes well there should be a new record in less than 4 years. no promises though!
Then nothing, bar the odd one-minute performance video on Facebook, in summer 2011. So they were right not to promise, and I didn’t realise that email had been so long ago! I thought it was last year. Blimey. The band made a couple of podcasts, which were nice. Then they ended, to be replaced by Escape Velocity Radio, which seems to be about music, politics and stuff. Subscribe to it.

The first episode was actually released on my birthday, which is nice. But I didn’t get round to listening to it until yesterday, which proved to be a foolish move. Foolish because, in the absence of any PR news from Epitaph Records (their new label) reaching me, they announced the release date of the new album – Failed States – on said podcast. And as I listened I thought ‘4 September? That’s in the past!’ and I felt irked at the world, and mainly myself, for letting such a release pass me by.

As I get more listens under my belt – I have had two thus far – I will be better-placed to write a proper review of the thing. But for now I will settle for some initial thoughts. The first song, ‘Note to Self’, is long for them at six minutes, and is surprisingly mid-paced. Granted, the 2005 opener, the ECHO Prize winning ‘A Speculative Fiction’, was pretty mid-paced for the most part too. However, they have since been bringing the thrash, and that Facebook video was pretty face-melting. So I figured it was some kind of compromise to hook the pop punk kids who might pick the album up because it’s on the home of pop-punk, Epitaph.

My concerns were unfounded. Not only is that song a quality piece f work in its own right, but this is the fastest, most furious release they have made since 2001, and probably ever. I’ve not dug into the lyrics yet, but I will in time. It lacks the anthemic stuff on initial listens like ‘Dear Coach’s Corner’ from the last one. But then that last album as a whole seemed to take a while to get into, as well. I was asked today if it’s ‘any good’. The short answer is ‘yes’. How good, though, remains to be seen. I’m just very excited I’m getting the chance now to find out.

I think I have embedded the title track so you may listen.

20 July 2012

Best guitar solo

The Guardian asked the humble plebeian which its favourite guitar solo is. They suggested it might be one by David Gilmour or Jimi Hendrix. Original, right? And the final picks were actually okay. Not as good as mine, but better than the ones that made up the majority of the Tumblr site they published. They all seemed to be Gilmour, Hendrix or Slash.

Mine was either clearly not good enough to make the final 100000 entries, or no actual sorting process was applied. You decide! Here is my humble pick. If it's a little blunt, that's because the size limit was 200 words:

My pick is ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott’s solo from Pantera’s exquisitely anguished ‘10s’. The song itself is ostensibly a ballad, but as fortified with distortion and attitude as one would expect from the Texan metal quartet. The solo is around a minute of perfection: it has everything I want from a lead. It sits comfortably within the flow of the song, an important criterion, but also offers its own take; choosing beautiful, aching melancholy over Philip Anselmo’s lyrical defiance. It’s essentially a microcosm of their often clashing personalities. This isn’t a traditionally flashy solo, choosing melody first and foremost, but its crescendo begins with a quite startling speed run which quickly gives way into heart wrenching high notes. Time stops when I hear this solo; one of many artistic peaks from the late, great guitarist who married Van Halen inspired virtuoso work with modern brutality (which he largely created) while never losing grip on his profound sense of  soul and emotion. 

The song is here!

P.S. Yes, I am blogging once more. 
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