Monthly Archives: October 2012

Converge “All We Love We Leave Behind” Epitaph

All We Love We Love Behind Album Cover

All We Love We Leave Behind is Converge’s 8th studio record and first since 2009’s superlative Axe to Fall. Shorn of that album’s guestlist Converge have, according to singer Jacob Bannon, “really stepped up our game on this record” and that’s the truth. Their trademark splenetic and spidery hardcore song-writing persists with complex riffs, hyperactive drumming, booming basslines and Bannon’s throat shredding vocals; there’s still fire coursing through their veins but it’s tempered by down-tempo, reflective moods and twisted rock scenery creating a coherent, mature record.

The Massachusetts progressive hardcore four piece have evolved consistently over time but unlike say Radiohead, they haven’t ditched their roots – they’ve diversified without diminishing. Songs like opening one-two Aimless Arrow and Trepasses show they can still blast out a spiky song to compete with the best of them but Bannon’s lyrics recounting the heartache of a life dedicated to music are stark: “to live you the life you want and abandon the ones you need…the ones who love you, the ones who need you more” are what can be “sacrificed in order to survive”. Further songs like Tender Abuse, the twisting turning rage of Sadness Comes Home and the hammer blow of Empty On The Inside leave no doubt about the real pain those sacrifices can inflict. As Bannon explains himself, “Every song is rooted in real life, documenting what I have experienced over the past few years.”

Whilst those songs are firmly rooted in the Converge canon there are a number of left turns on and within tracks on All We Love We Leave Behind. Empty On The Inside collapses and reforms itself halfway through before the mid-album point when Glacial Pace abandons the frantic pace for a song of dynamic contrasts: snaking, almost psyche guitar trading space with a number of crunchy riffs with Bannon roaring the song home. The big departure is the mellifluous yet stygian Coral Blue a mid-paced rock song with its words and Kurt Ballou’s chugging guitar dripping with dread and a big hooky chorus: “Coral Blue grows in you. Coral Blue tells the truth”. A chorus that begat a spaghetti western meets surf tremolo guitar breakdown and squealing outro demonstrating the band’s varied repertoire. Precipice features a similar taste for new tones with it’s thin metallic beginnings building via clanking percussion into the title track’s menacing bassline, circular drum beat and broken refrain “you deserved so much more/Than I could provide/Thank you for loving me and bringing light to my eyes/ All we love we leave behind.”

Time moves on and people and tastes change too but so do Converge – they haven’t rested on their laurels and soaked up the accolades but have developed. Their spasmodic attack, coloured by tempo switches, classic rock textures and melancholic lyrics and their belief in taking chances make All We Love We Leave Behind one of the albums of the year regardless of genre. Converge in 2012; still fiercely intense and inventive but also considered and positively plaintive.

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Led Zeppelin “Celebration Day” Review

As promised…

After devouring Barney Hoskyns’ recent Zeppelin tome ‘Trampled Underfoot: The Power and Excess of Led Zeppelin’ with its from the horses mouth telling of the egos, paranoia and addictions that overwhelmed the band’s collective musical and spiritual being it was a relief to see them in such vital musical form in Celebration Day.

After all the hoopla and press appreciation it was finally over to the fans last night. Those who had seen the band in their formative years in the clubs and theatres, the massive run at Earl’s Court, the outdoor [first] farewell at Knebworth or the lucky so and so’s who were at this momentous comeback and those of us unable to see them in the flesh by dint of birth, geography or ballot system – Zeppelin fans; both the grey and the green, the great and the good, we were all at the cinema to smile together and see the three surviving members of the band – augmented by the late John Bonham’s son Jason – cap the band’s legacy with two intense hours of celebratory performance that finally threw off the yoke of past debacles such as Live Aid and Atlantic Records’ 40th Birthday

Boy, did they deliver on that night nearly five years ago. After that Tampa news item describes how Zeppelin had beaten the Beatles’ attendance record it was straight into the most awe inspiring drum pattern Bonham ever committed to tape: Good Times, Bad Times with Jason playing the drums not the occasion, to coin a phrase. Page tears into the solo but doesn’t hang around long – everything is done with such gusto while the numerous cameras capture the smiles and signals for all to see. Next, the never performed in it’s entirety, Ramble On by-passes any worries one might have about Plant circumventing those old hippie, by way of Tolkien, lyrics. At this point at our screening the staff finally twigged that it was a concert film and altered the volume accordingly. It got LOUD.

Black Dog is imperious and Page sheds his coat and shades for the crackling In My Time Of Dying which has rarely, if ever, sounded better. As a measure of how seriously they took this show playing a track they’ve never performed before and that is never included on compilations is a pretty good one. For Your Life is thunderous with that descending riff and Plant’s refrain of “don’t you want c-c-co-cocaine?” all present and correct. You begin to realise how hungry they are, like a band starting out rather than one where the members are close to drawing their pension.  At this point Jonesy gets behind the keyboards for a funky Trampled Underfoot. Introduced by Plant with reference to its inspiration in Terraplane Blues the song sees the first hint of extended arrangements and improvisation between the instrumentalists but it’s brief and succinct; not the 15 minutes of the mid-seventies and the better for it. The same goes for the dry ice augmented No Quarter, still a wonderfully spooky and atmospheric song. In between, Nobody’s Fault But Mine is flawless with Jimmy’s guitar sounding absolutely God-sized.

Since I’ve Been Loving is short and a little lacking in the guitar and vocal pyrotechnics of old – Plant’s voice feeling somewhat exposed. Page comes a cropper on the solo to Stairway, the song everyone wondered whether Plant would do but he did faithfully. “There are some songs we have to play when we get together and this is one of ’em: Dazed and Confused.” Jimmy’s old solo spot is still long but again, is pared down to the essentials. Of course, in this instance that still means the violin bow shooting shards of carnal electricity through the air whilst Page is enveloped in a pyramid of lasers. It’s immense.

Throughout the film the sound and visuals are immaculate much, much better than my other boots showing you were the time went mixing the recordings. In a nod to 2003’s DVD there are cuts to grainy ‘fan’ footage mimicking the Super-8 shots from Madison Square Garden 1973 – a nice touch. Generally though the film focuses tightly on the stage – we’re spared clapping celebs and hangers-on and by this stage feet are stomping in the cinema and every song is applauded as if it was happening live.

The best was yet to come though after a sprightly Song Remains The Same the dusty edifice of Kashmir emerged sounding to all like the intoxicating juggernaut it is. Page assaults his guitar drenched in sweat from the effort while Bonham holds the whole thing down admirably. The end of the song marks the end of the main gig before the encores. Whole Lotta Love sees Jimmy back on the theremin and nailing the solo in what must be the most concise and hard-hitting version they’ve ever mustered before a valedictory run through Rock and Roll where Jason poignantly takes the final spotlight and the final say on the reunion in the name of his departed dad.

With that, the monkey is once and for all off their collective back. No-one could have asked for more (other than actually being there!) and no-one can be surprised if that is in fact, it for Page, Plant and Jones together as Led Zeppelin. What a finale to a gripping career. You did it, gents!

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Led Zeppelin “Celebration Day” at the cinema

Celebration Day Film Poster

Off to the cinema tonight to catch this film. Can’t wait. Hugely subjective report to follow…

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Moon Duo “Circles” Souterrain Transmissions

Moon Duo Album Cover

Circles is, of course, the most close-fitting and apt title for the 2nd full-length record made by cosmos travelling partners Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips) and Sanae Yamada as the titular Moon Duo; it easily sums up the way their songs progress and how the two members’ contributions flow together like a well mixed drink. The distance between this and a Wooden Shjips record isn’t really that great but if anything the main difference is that Moon Duo seems less rock and more fun.

Songs revolve around fuzz leaden guitars, dusty synths and revolving drum patterns with vocals and melody largely devolved to the background as Moon Duo operate their magical mystery tour on a loop. Happiness and good-time grooves abound on Circles; there are no sonic dirges delivering pin-pricks to stoned bodies spoiling the trip – it’s all very mellow, akin to the final hours of a party experienced through diminishing senses. The album, gestated in the Rocky Mountains and recorded in various locations, takes inspiration from “Circles” an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson; inspiration that can be heard clearly on the lyrics of the title track “The end is beginning”.

Opening number Sleepwalker is suitably dreamy, “Am I dreaming/Am I sleeping?” with its woozy guitar blending with the Johnson and Yamada’s overlapping vocals. Usually, it’s his muffled low-key croon that commands the microphone on Circles with Yamada contributing her vocals sporadically. When they do get it together though, it makes for some of the album’s best songs: the hand clapping Free Action and Trails with its languid chorus and three note hook.

Elsewhere there’s rockabilly guitar bends on the kitsch Circles, slinky rhythms on the purring Sparks with the album’s head nodding red-eyed flow only interrupted by I Can See and its off-kilter, out of place 80’s student disco feel. On the whole, the album wields Johnson’s usual touchstones of 60’s garage, krautrock and freakbeat in a package that swirls together like your grandparent’s carpet for maximum effect just without the headache.

First published on RoomThirteen

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