URGH! A Music Blog


Music Takes Me…Where, Exactly?

Posted in Dance,Music Reviews,Stonebridge by M on July 7, 2007

Stonebridge - Music Takes Me

There’s a new Stonebridge album on its way: Music Takes Me! Due to be released next week, it is instead widely available for your illegal downloading pleasure. Fire up those torrents!

Music Takes Me is absolutely worth your time. Stonebridge pours his Nordic SmoothTM over each track, just like he did with his previous full length Can’t Get Enough. The new album is just as listenable—however, it may be only one-quarter of a great album.

But what a quarter! The first three tracks are killer! The title track is a very strong start. It’s breathy vocals are more breath than vocal, letting Stonebridge’s production take command immediately. Plus, the silky rhythm of “Music Takes Me” and “Close to Heaven” reveal just how nasty and insistent the beats of the third track—the megahit, Erire Obano-blessed single “S.O.S.”—really are. Stonebridge shows these songs off at their best.

After that? Nine perfectly respectable tracks that don’t have nearly the same magic.

That’s not as bad as it sounds: any song from this album could hold its own mixed at a club—or even in track order as background music driving on the freeway or fucking. Butnone of the tracks retain any distinction; they don’t announce or inform any of the forthcoming music.

Big deal, right? Top singles on an unexciting album are still top singles. And Stonebridge’s production is still as smooth and soft as tracing your finger over the top of a hotel room pillow. Music Takes Me has lots to enjoy, so get out there and enjoy it!

Bonus Questions From Illegal Downloaders With No Liner Notes: Is Therese on this album? Is DaYeene? If they are, I can’t place them. And they helped make Stonebridge the success he is today! Don’t forget the ladies, man!

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Guetta Love!

Posted in Dance,David Guetta,Music Reviews by M on June 26, 2007

David Guetta - Pop Life

I listened to David Guetta‘s new album Pop Life this weekend. Short review: it doesn’t quite get all the way up the hill!

Guetta’s Just A Little More Love was a surprisingly terrific album. I went into it knowing that the singles were excellent, but I didn’t expect Guetta to keep up that quality and lush production for every single track. There wasn’t one bad track; even the unnecessary David Bowie remix was surprisingly well done.

Based on the monotonous first single “Love is Gone”, I didn’t have the same high hopes for Pop Life. Guetta still has a strong sense for the album form; every track is tight and never lost my attention. This time around, though, everything felt perfunctory. There were no new, exciting highs!

Guetta does try some new directions, but they mostly fizzle out. “Never Take Away My Freedom” is like if the Funky Green Dogs were asked to do a song on the Braveheart soundtrack—stealing a riff from Ace of Base along the way. It’s just surreal. Meanwhile, the song “Winner of the Game” seems to mix the generic pop-rock of today’s bands with imitation Type O Negative vocals. It’s certainly unique, but it doesn’t get us anywhere.

On his second album, the unfortunately named Guetta Blaster, Guetta put out my favorite fake Depeche Mode song: “The World Is Mine.” On his new album, he comes up with “This is Not a Love Song,” which if anything is fake Armand Van Helden. I don’t want that!

Let me repeat, Pop Life isn’t bad! Each track is solid, but Guetta’s great hooks and unique production don’t develop into full-fledged songs. There are rewards here, but just one great song would juice up the entire album. Pop Life feels like a missed opportunity.

Next time around, Mr. Guetta, give us a killer single!

Gabriel & … Kansas?

Posted in Dance,Gabriel and Dresden,Music Reviews by M on April 4, 2007

Gabriel & Dresden

Sadly, not all dance covers of decades-old pop songs can be winners. Case in point: Gabriel & Dresden‘s cover of “Dust In The Wind”.

That’s right, the undying Kansas chestnut—the second song you learned to play on the guitar (the first was “Ziggy Stardust”)—is now a lugubrious dance single!

Part of the problem is that vocalist Molly Bancroft has no rock passion. She doesn’t have white boy soul; she just sounds tired.

G&D didn’t do themselves any favors by slowing things down either. Case in point: you may have seen the Alanis Morrisette cover of “My Humps.” Alanis slows down the Black Eyed Peas hit a lot, but she fills the space she creates with her quirked-out “Alanis-ness.” It never feels empty, and some of it is genuinely haunting. Bancroft’s vocals don’t have the same effect, and Gabriel & Dresden’s instrumentation might as well have cartoon tumbleweeds strolling through.

Better luck next time, guys! I hope this isn’t only because I made fun of your “pirate ships and fairy tales” lyric in “Tracking Treasure Down”. My bad!

[INSERT OBLIGATORY JACK SPARROW PHOTO HERE]

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I’m So Ecstatic!

Posted in Dance,Music Reviews,Ultra Naté by M on April 3, 2007

Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet in Spaceballs

M: You idiots! Why didn’t you tell me there was an Ultra Naté cover of “Automatic” by The Pointer Sisters?!

URGH Staff Member: I’m sorry sir! It’ll never happen again!

(M proceeds to twist his nuts using the Schwartz.)

Ultra Naté in a web ad for Grime, Silk & Thunder

That’s right, Ultra Naté is awesome! I loved The Pointer Sisters original (a fine, future-tinged counterpoint to their “Neutron Dance”), but this “Automatic” is a deliciously dark work of electronic dance. The remixes by Digital Dog, Paul Jackson, and the Monkey Brothers are all decent, but nothing is as smooth and powerful as the main mix.

This makes me hopeful for Ultra’s new album Grime, Silk & Thunder! According to her MySpace blog entry, the album comes out at the end of May and features prior singles (“Love’s The Only Drug” and “Freak On”) that I definitely dig. Stay tuned!

Bonus MySpace Nonsense: Ultra’s MySpace page includes the usual MySpace chainjunk, including a service endorsed by name-brand DJ Danny Tenaglia! Semi-famous people spamming each other! Wake me when Richard “Humpty” Vission starts using Twitter.

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Bronski Repeat!

More 80s!

Jimmy Somerville in concert.  Photo by Michael Weiner

This time it’s a group called Blue Ray mixing together the vocals of Jimmy Somerville from Bronski Beat‘s “Why” with the famous introduction to Yazoo‘s “Situation”. They call the result “You & Me”.

The main mix alone isn’t all that great. Somerville’s repeated “You and me together fighting for our love!” only takes you so far; this isn’t much more than a mash-up. Besides, Axwell and Steve Angello took on “Why” last spring (combining it with “Small Town Boy”) to better effect.

Luckily the remixes for “You & Me” are top-notch. You already know about my love for Haji & Emanuel; awesome as always, their solution for an unremarkable track is…add more bass! And it works!

The best remix could possibly be the Kenny Hayes Blue Sphere Remix. It is hilariously over the top. Hayes ignores “Situation” and lays down the most serious trance chord progressions making it sound like your life depends on Somerville hitting his high notes. It’s a ballsy move, but then again, Bronski Beat was never a tongue-in-cheek band. Good work, Kenny!

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What’s Your Damage?

Posted in Kosheen,Music Reviews by M on March 27, 2007

I tried last year to enjoy the music of Kosheen. I love two singles that are covers of Kosheen songs, but never got into their original work. As you can see from the links I encountered, this makes me evil!

Many months later, the good people of Kosheen have a new album: Damage!

The album cover to Kosheen's Damage

Too bad it isn’t any good. Damage does nothing to budge my opinion of the group.

I know, I know, Kosheen isn’t trying to rock out or anything, but even mellow electronic music needs to have something distinctive. Damage tastes like a manila folder. Siān Evans spouts inane lyrics in a colorless voice. Each song—each chord change even—is tediously uncreative, beginning with faint faint synthesized strings followed by outdated drum machine patterns. Kosheen honestly seems afraid of their own instrumentation!

The album’s first single is the second track, “Overkill”. I suppose it’s distinctive. Because Siān actually raises her voice. And there’s an electric guitar.

I don’t hate Kosheen for lacking flavor; they can do what they like. But I honestly can’t see any reason to recommend their work. I have a similar problem with Moloko, who only seemed cool when Mousse T got his hands on them.

When the inevitable remakes of songs from Damage come around, who’s gonna pump some life into these tracks? My vote is for Dave Guetta. He’s been “dancin’ and cryin'” lately. Kosheen doesn’t inspire either.

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The Look, The Lips, The Tits, The Taste!

Posted in Dance,Hed Kandi,Mason,Music Reviews,Princess Superstar by M on March 8, 2007

A scene from the bootleg video for Mason vs Princess Superstar Perfect (Exceeder)

A month ago I acquired a delicious Hed Kandi compilation. The last few such compilations were snoozy, indistinguishable house collections, but Hed Kandi Twisted Disco proved to be delicious fun! Even an unnecessary remake of “Party All The Time” doesn’t harsh the buzz!

One standout was a track called “Perfect (Exceeder)” by Mason vs Princess Superstar. Not until last week did I discover: this is a mash-up!

Mason’s recent vocal-free “Exceeder” has become a conjoined twin to Princess Superstar’s late-2005 release “Perfect,” and the match is delectable. Think about what happened when Phunk Investigation got their hands on The Ones“Flawless” and you have an idea of the diva goodness I’m talking about. “Exceeder” has bouncy synths on top of a body fortified with the bass sounds house grew up on. Mason’s got some muscle! Add in Princess Superstar’s spoiled-girl vocals and the pair are ready to hit the beach and kick sand in a nerd’s face! Check out the “bootleg” video on Princess Superstar’s site.

Run out and import this Hed Kandi compilation now. And even though I don’t know what the original version of “Perfect” sounds like, import that, too!

Bonus Version of Exceeder: A dance interpretation of the song by somebody’s iDog!

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Unsound System

Posted in LCD Soundsystem,Music Reviews,Pop by M on March 8, 2007

Oh, LCD Soundsystem, I know you’ve pissed me off in the past. “Daft Punk Is Playing In My House” was not playing in my house, nor were your other works. From your self-titled album, only “On Repeat” charmed me to any extent. It made for good jogging music.

But I can’t stay mad. As far as I can tell your realsoonnow album Sound of Silver is more of the same sparse, repetitive instrumentation paired with Beck-with-a-headcold vocals. The lead-off single “North American Scum” is the very definition of retread. But it’s not so offensive.

The song builds very well into a neato guitar riff that stays crunchy even in milk. Vocals are a mixed bag: James Murphy tries out some falsettos like he’s been reading The Darkness for Dummies (not so hot), but he brings in a female vocalist to shout out “NORTH AMERICA!” like she’s Kim and Cindy from The B-52s (always hot).

Give it a spin, kids! I’m hoping that LCD Soundsystem becomes (to me) like Cake: a band with a unique sound that I can respect even if I don’t listen to them all the time.

Oh, but Mr. Soundsystem? If the rest of Sound of Silver sucks, we’re so breaking up.

Seamus Saved My Life Tonight!

Posted in Dance,Music Reviews,Paul Emanuel,Seamus Haji by M on February 23, 2007

I put off listening to the CD single for Seamus Haji‘s “Last Night” for a while. I was cautious. I knew it wasn’t a Traveling Wilburys cover—but it wasn’t much more exciting. Yet another take on Indeep‘s “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life”? Haji can do much better than this!

Luckily, Haji and his partner in crime Paul Emanuel don’t disappoint! Their main mix isn’t as adventurous as their past efforts, but it’s still a tight and powerful take on this well-worn disco chestnut. And when they strip out the vocals on their dub, Haji and Emanuel really let loose.

Even the other remixes are more than up to spec. I’ve never heard of Cedric Gervais and Second Sun, but their remix starts as a pleasant thumper and builds up to an exciting finish. Funkagenda‘s smooth electro-beeps never catch fire, but are worth the listen. So tainted was this disco song in my mind that I even doubted the venerable Saint Stonebridge! I should be flogged for my disobedience. His remix for Haji and Emanuel’s “Take Me Away” paled to their main mix, but here he brings in his patented synth skills and more than meets the high standards of Seamus and Paul.

One quibble: Stonebridge provides an unwelcome accent to the speech of the life-saving DJ. After the eponymous turntablist says, “away goes trouble down the drain,” Stonebridge plays the sound of a flushing toilet.

Unnecessary!

A toilet.  Photo by Sven-S. Porst

Vague, Depressed, and Artsy

Posted in Music Reviews,Rock by M on February 7, 2007

Tuned Into Music has a succinct review of the new Damon Albarn supergroup The Good, The Bad & The Queen. But I can make it more succinct.

Whatever. It’s dreary.

Thank you.

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