Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pink Floyd's "High Hopes"

While known for their highly elaborate stage set-ups and mind-boggling light shows, prog-rock veterans Pink Floyd's video clips also deserve mention, if only to underscore the painstaking attention to detail invested in each promo.

A particularly noteworthy Pink Floyd clip is the one for the epic "High Hopes", taken off their effectively final album, 1994's "The Division Bell". More of a carefully thought-out short film than a proper, regular promo, "High Hopes" is akin to a pictorial retrospective of Pink Floyd's history, incorporating familiar images of bicycling academics, rolling Oxfordshire landscapes, deserted country mansions, crumbling statues, billowing giant pennants, giant teddy bears and sunsets. Peruse it here. Alternatively, check out a truly masterful live-in-the-studio performance by Pink Floyd frontman David Gilmour and his band here.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Inarticulate Speech of the Heart

When mere words fail you, it's time to turn to songs like these, which can better express the inarticulate speech of the heart:

SKY BLUE AND BLACK - Jackson Browne
DAYS CHASING DAYS - Stephen Cummings
SURF - Roddy Frame
SECRET WORLD - Peter Gabriel
BESIDE YOU - Van Morrison

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Talking Heads: "Girlfriend is Better"

Extracted from Jonathan Demme's acclaimed concert film of Talking Heads' "Stop Making Sense" tour, this manic, kinetic but strangely controlled performance of "Girlfriend is Better" must surely rank as one of the most compelling stage routines ever performed.

The star of the show has to be brilliant frontman David Byrne, who, by putting on one of the most hyper-agitated dance acts ever staged and an outstandingly frenetic vocal recital, aptly displays why, back in the day, he was one of the most illustrious showmen in the business. Check it out here.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Blue Monday

Since it's an exceptionally dreary Monday morning, this is just about the perfect song to soundtrack it. New Order's evergreen synth-pop standard from way back in 1983, the cheerfully glum "Blue Monday":

How does it feel to treat me like you do?
When you've laid your hands upon me
And told me who you are?

I thought I was mistaken
I thought I heard your words
Tell me how do I feel
Tell me now, how do I feel

Those who came before me
Lived through their vocations
From the past until completion
They'll turn away no more

And I still find it so hard
To say what I need to say
But I'm quite sure that she'll tell me
Just how I should feel today

I see a ship in the harbour
I can and shall obey
But if it wasn't for your misfortune
I'd be a heavenly person today

And I thought I was mistaken
And I thought I heard you speak
Tell me how do I feel
Tell me now, how should I feel

Now I stand here waiting

I thought I told you to leave me
While I walked down to the beach
Tell me how does it feel?
When your heart grows cold?

Friday, September 15, 2006

"Do the Evolution" by Pearl Jam

One of the most compelling animated video clips ever made, Pearl Jam's promo for their ferocious 1998 punk pastiche "Do the Evolution" is a decidedly disturbing one, to say the least.

Graphic images of the less savoury aspects of modern technology, human bondage, fascistic regimes, internecine warfare, unethical bio-medical experiments, demagogic leaders, religious oppression: nothing is spared in this unflinching castigation of humanity in general. Have a look here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

When The Cure Went Electronic

While the world may know Robert Smith and his band of merry men as veritable Goth-rock icons, they have experimented with other styles, from the tentative jangle-pop of the early days to the enthusiastic synth-pop of the mid-1980s, with some spaced-out detours into jump-jazz, nursery-rhyme ditties and even woozy mariachi.

And from the mid-1990s onwards, The Cure started dabbling in various sub-genres of electronica, adding another dimension to their basic sonic blueprint. Here are some notable examples of the electronically inclined Cure:

A ferocious drum n' bass ditty featuring regular David Bowie guitarist Reeves Gabrels on his trademark modified guitar squalls, this is very much characteristic of the late-1990s jungle movement. It's still an interesting diversion into otherwise unknown territory for the band.

Originally written for "The X-Files" movie soundtrack, this slow-burning exercise in trip-hop is enriched by some ominous synth-string orchestrations and a suitably desperately gasping vocal from Smith.

This cover of a well-loved Depeche Mode single is a glorious Technicolor mess of mutated electro-pop and sample-centric big beat. Easily the most colourful single the band has ever done.

CUT HERE (2001)
A staid, almost by-the-numbers New Order-informed track that is redeemed somewhat by the interntionally retro synth chords and fizzy guitar grooves.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Depeche Mode: Humorists

While not usually known for their sense of humour, the three members of electro-pop institution Depeche Mode did display a surprisingly considerable amount of mirth during their interview on British music programme "The Big Ones". Dave Gahan was reservedly droll, Andy Fletcher was mockingly witty, and Martin Gore was a virtual laugh riot. Check it out here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Video for "Sky Blue and Black"

I'm posting about Jackson Browne's absolutely devastating love song "Sky Blue and Black" again...but this time, it's in reference to a video clip someone made that uses the song as its backing track. While there isn't an official promo made for "Sky Blue and Black" (despite the fact that it was officially released as a single in 1993), an enthusiast put together a montage of 9/11 and NYC-related images and set it all to the accompaniment of the tune.

Of course, the song has nothing to do at all with the incident, but it's still a pretty good video all the same, with the incongruous but workable juxtaposition. Plus it also features a thoughtful spoken-word introduction by Browne himself. Take a look here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Great Opening Tracks

The opening track of any given album is arguably the most important song on the work, since it usually sets the tone and sensibility for the proceedings to follow.

While most chart-friendly albums would be front-loaded with the most obvious single (so as to provide an instantaneous hook for the listener), weightier records tend to open with a more considered song that prepares the palate for a fuller course. Here are some notable opening tracks that successfully introduces the rest of the album:

COME TALK TO ME (Peter Gabriel: Us, 1992)
Skirling bagpipes, textured synths, resonant percussion, Armenian wind instruments and a traditional Russian folk choir comprise the temperament of this paean to communication breakdowns, a fantastic beginning to Gabriel's most confessional work.

AURA (The Church: Priest = Aura, 1992)
A cinematic epic worthy of inclusion on a peak-era Spielberg flick, this bizarre tale of a stranger in a strange land is The Church's awesome psych-rock take on mid-1970s Floydian prog-rock. Ominous string orchestrations merge with intuitive guitar work to make up a superb opener to the band's msot rounded effort.

PLAINSONG (The Cure: Disintegration, 1989)
As Goth as The Cure can ever get, this doomy burst of tinkling chimes, funereal synths, cavernous drums and slow-motion guitar filigrees signal the inevitable slide into hopelessness as personified by the band's aruable magnum opus.

KARE KARE (Crowded House: Together Alone, 1993)
Basically a narrative description of the windswept, bucolic surroundings in which Crowded House's final studio project was recorded, this acoustic and slide guitar-led tune introduces a veneer of pathos to Neil Finn's archetypal melodic songwriting.

ON THE WESTERN SKYLINE (Bruce Hornsby: The Way It Is, 1986)
Filled with a palpable sense of expectant optimism, yet tempered with a knowing sobriety, this mid-tempo number features some of the brightest-sounding guitar and synth textures ever laid down on a heartland-rock record.

REGRET (New Order: Republic, 1993)
A poignant yet heartening opener to the most contentious album by the Mancunian veterans, this perfectly poised, superbly toned guitar-rocker would be the last great New Order song in about a decade.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Another Side of Simple Minds

While most would instantly recognise Simple Minds stadium anthems like "Alive and Kicking", "Waterfront" and the inescapable "Don't You Forget About Me", there is another side to the veteran Scottish outfit that casual fans might not be familiar with.

This is a Simple Minds that purveys a restlessly experimental, electronica-influenced art-rock form that is a far cry from the lighters-aloft singalongs of the mid to late 1980s. Here are some prime examples of this atmospheric, evocative synthesised sound:

I TRAVEL (1980)
Processed, assaultive guitars flail around hyper-kinetic electronic pulses, underscored by Jim Kerr's uncharacteristic frenzied yelping. Death disco at its most paranoid and martial.

LOVE SONG (1981)
A sturdy electro-bass undertow anchors some random guitar bursts and glittering synth flourishes. The band's accessible take on Kraut-rock.

Boldly aggressive and arrogantly assured, this early-era hit is marked by ringing, angular guitar riffs and bristling proto-industrial rhythms.

An icy, elegantly frosty tone poem that brilliantly updates the band's nascent electronica-informed blueprint. Charlie Burchill's middle-eight guitar break is as stately as they come.

Resonant guitar chimes stride forward confidently with a burbling synth-bass foundation, backing up Kerr's most revved-up vocal performance in years.