Monday, November 14, 2005

The Weekly, Volume Twenty Four

Down in Albion (Babyshambles)

I had originally planned to write a full review of this bad boy, but this article at PopMatters basically covers most of what I would've said, and with greater insight about the influence of the Clash than I could ever provide (but don't bother with Pitchfork's highly questionable "review", which mistakes wordiness for depth). As was reported here way back when, I'm a relatively new convert to worship of Pete Doherty. Generally, I find his behaviour boorish and unprofessional (or maybe I'm just annoyed by the constant but dubious attention his antics get him in the British press). By all rights, the man should be in prison. But instead, he's out in the world, snorting lines, cancelling tour dates, and recording one of the most triumphantly ramshackle albums of the year. Down in Albion is just a mess of a record. It's the sea of dirty clothing that obscures your bedroom floor. But this time, when you tell your nagging mother "Yeah, but there's an order to it, a system," it somehow rings true. Doherty and his band take us on a rambling gypsy's tour and stop to greet everyone who's ever influenced them along the way (The Clash, the Rolling Stones and early electric-era Bob Dylan, to name a few); and yet, in commemorating a journey already taken, Down in Albion still manages to be a refreshing souvenir. Put simply, it's unpretentious, even sincere music. I guess a "life of ill repute" just suits some people.

Album #2:
Tragedy Rocks (UK Version) (The Crimea)

Like the Babyshambles record, this is fairly straightforward fare. But where Down in Albion is gleefully rough and disorganized, Tragedy Rocks backs up its slightly derivative but very tuneful nature with a lot of precise instrumentation contained within well-considered arrangements. The album's 10 tracks are uniformly tight and offer great mix of twee pop's unabashedly lovelorn lyricism, the subtle musical ironies of modern alternative power pop (think, maybe, Brendan Benson and his ilk) and the memorable riff-based songwriting typical of the best classic rock. The result is a well-produced, rather cinematic rock sound: mainly guitar-driven, but incorporating some nice, delicate touches as well, particularly the contributions of keyboardist Andrew Stafford -- check out "Opposite Ends" and the Morricone-like "Someone's Crying" for evidence. Though some of bandleader Davey MacManus' lyrics might be considered almost laughable (in "Baby Boom," he sings "You can call me Fred Flintstone / Tarzan king of the jungle / I guess I was a little prehistoric / at your place this afternoon"), he sings them with infectious conviction over some downright fantastic melodies. It also helps that MacManus has one of those intriguingly grainy voices that turn standard pop/rock songs into something a little stranger, a little more vulnerable, a little more mysterious. On Tragedy Rocks, he's not a traditionally strong vocalist, but in the same way that Weezer's Rivers Cuomo is a great guitar player in a band that doesn't call for that particular skill, MacManus seems like he could be a fantastic, tuneful singer if he wanted to be. In the case of Tragedy Rocks, that's not what was called for, and his gruff baritone fits the music perfectly.


Anonymous doginwater said...

Tracks like "Sticks and Stones" and "Killamangiro" show the band's ability to stretch a tune absolutely anywhere they want to take it. Fantastic. And the riffs rock hard, with more than just energy.

(And yes, Babyshambles makes a great case for rediscovering the Clash.)

11/14/2005 8:06 p.m.  
Blogger Punk is Dead said...

Well said my friend. Well said.

11/14/2005 10:05 p.m.  
Blogger the man with no name said...

just got this album.

wow, i totally like the demo version of 'killamangiro' better.

11/15/2005 4:56 p.m.  
Blogger Punk is Dead said...

Can't say I've actually heard the non-album version of that particular song, but I think that the illustrious Mike D. also prefers that particular incarnation of the song.

So I assume you would say the demo is worth checking out?

11/15/2005 6:28 p.m.  
Blogger the man with no name said...

i assume i would say that, and i do.

11/15/2005 8:22 p.m.  

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