Friday, 18 June 2010

Kele - Tenderoni

The solo project is that thing that allows members of a band to do their own thing – the things they can’t get away with doing within the entity of the group. That’s certainly what Kele Okereke (formerly?) of Bloc Party has done with his first solo single, Tenderoni.

It’s much different to what I was expecting, despite being highly aware of how Bloc Party have changed their sound from the guitar led indie-rock of Silent Alarm to the more electronic sound of Intimacy during the five years between them. Tenderoni has a much harder, industrial, beat driven sound.

In a way, it could just represent the next natural sound for Kele (yes, he’s dropped his surname) music as the sounds of Bloc Party singles like Flux and One More Chance did move in this sort of direction, but not THIS far.

The combination of industrial bass and beats give it a very dirty feel, even grimy. You can see this being played into the early hours inside various dark underground East End bars and clubs, and it's very easy to dance to.

Of course, with Kele providing the vocals, they are the same style as you’d find in a Bloc Party track. Slightly angst driven themes are still massively prevalent and even if you hadn’t heard this track before, you’d be able to tell that it’s one of Kele’s thanks to his distinct vocal style.

This is a good , if experimental, track and it’ll be very interesting to see what the Kele’s debut solo album – The Boxer – sounds like when it’s released on June 21st. This sounds promising, but ultimately, people will be asking if Kele’s solo work will be as popular as his work with Bloc Party.

The honest answer is it’s too early to tell. Tenderoni may not appeal to those who see Silent Alarm as Bloc Party’s greatest work, but Kele’s expansion into electronic and industrial sounds could open him up to new audiences.

The bottom line is that if you only enjoyed Silent Alarm, then you probably won’t like this. On the other hand however, if you loved Intimacy then Tenderoni may very well be for you.

(Originally written for Gobshout)

Friday, 11 June 2010

My Head Radio - Everybody's Waiting

I’ll come out and say it straight away; I’m not really sure what to make of My Head Radio and their new EP, Everybody’s Waiting. The best way of describing it is possibly electro-jazz-funk-spoken word-poetry (snappy-Ed) . Oh, and the actual band haven’t met, with vocalist Boca Smole based in Michigan while the rest of the band are in The Netherlands. So...yeah, as you can imagine this five track offering is a strange one.

The opener is solid; a cover of Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner which, as you’d expect, is about a diner, or more sitting in one and watching the world go by. It sets the tone for the rest of Everybody’s waiting with some electronic synths, some funky beats and a more-or-less spoken word story. It’s also very American, but that will aseems inevitable if your vocalist, like Smole, IS American.

Despite the American accent, track two – Walking Headz - unsuprisingly, provides a good homage to the vocal style of Talking Heads, which is helped along by the references to the titles of their singles throughout the four minute plus track. Once again a funky beat is laid down and Smole’s lyrics are (once again!) spoken word. Three things set this apart from the opener, firstly there are a lot more electronica, and secondly there is the addition of a jazz trumpet as played by Ruby Redharez. Somehow the combination of these gives Walking Headz a metropolitan New York vibe. Foxy Yayo provides the feminine backing vocals throughout this one.

Gag N Squeal is the funkiest track on the EP and probably the one most likely to be danced too – although you’d still struggle to manage it. The parts are interspersed with some guitar and trumpet work that’s heavily influenced by Latin jazz. Of course, there’s the poetry on top of the music too.

Big Pig is the nearest thing to a ‘serious’ track on Everybody’s Waiting and features the now usual style of bass, beats and spoken word. The lyrics are very clever and take a swipe at the celebrity and image obsessed magazine know what magazines I mean. Love For Us call continues with the jazz trumpet and poetry but doesn’t really stand out much.

So, what’s the verdict? Well, Everybody’s Waiting is interesting, but perhaps My Head Radio are trying to be too clever for their own good. The EP makes enjoyable listening but not in the ‘traditional’ sense. If you just like jumping around to guitars or dancing to beats then you probably won’t enjoy it. However, if you like clever, often meaningful lyrics then you will.

(Originally written for Gobshout)

The Ghost - City Lights

If I were to ask you to name a famous Belgian, you may struggle at first but would probably at least be able to name a Premiership Footballer, perhaps Marouane Fellaini? (yes, he’s namedropped purely as an excuse to show that impressive afro)

But if I were to ask you to name a famous Faroe Islander, you’d probably fail and I’d be cackling, twiddling my moustache – if I had one – revelling in my diabolic victory. However, if The Ghost have any sort of success they’ll probably be the most famous exports of those little Islands.

City Lights is the debut single of The Ghost, two young men from the Faroe Islands. Filip Mortensen provides the vocals while Urbanus Olsen provides the electronic synths. The track opens with a quiet little melody on the keyboards, it’s pleasant and could be the introduction of a children’s TV programme. Things soon pick up with some heavy indie-guitar rock at a high tempo. It’s catchy and energetic and will make you want to move your feet for sure.

Vocally, my first impression of Mortensen was that he was attempting to mimic The View, though this is probably unlikely. His singing is decent enough but it’s difficult to distinguish if he has a distinctive sound from this one track offering. The same goes for the sound of The Ghost in general. City Lights is a catchy, energetic indie-electro-rock offering and is probably performed well live. However, it’s difficult to properly form an opinion of the band on one single alone. Their debut album ‘War Kids’ is released later this month and it will be easier to assess them properly once it sees the light of day.

City Lights comes with four, yes four, remixes. While none of them can really help you form an opinion on the pair from the Faroe Islands, they provide an interesting enough offering. You’ll especially like them if you enjoy dance music or are just a fan of beeps, boinks and other strange noises in general.

This single is worth picking up for the upbeat, catchy riffs and with the full five tracks being almost 28 minutes in length it’s longer than some albums.

Legio - Battles have never been so bland

Before the overlords in the Game-Debate tower handed me Legio to review, I'd never heard of it. The good news is that thanks to this review - and of course Plectrum's too - you, dear reader, know that this game exists. The bad news is that it's nothing special and in fact rather dull. We can make this into a good news sandwich by adding that now that you know Legio isn't very good, you don't have to waste your hard earned money on it.

So, once Legio was installed I set about playing it and discovered it's more or less a board game. You have 25 points to spend on various types of clich├ęd fantasy units - Warriors, Captains, Archers, Priests, Magicians, Giants and Warerabbits - which you place on a small grid. Each unit has various strengths and weaknesses and the aim of the game is to make all of your opponent's troops dead before they obliterate yours through turn based combat.

My whole army (i.e. all 7 of them) was destroyed in my first game. Why? Because there's no tutorial that tells you what troops do what. My priest seemed useless because he wouldn't heal anything, as I later discovered this was because he isn't a ranged unit, which seems strange when the offensive magician is.

The combat itself if a rather dull affair in which you tell your units to move to another square, watch them shuffle slowly across, then they'll attack an enemy unit if instructed. It doesn't help that the combat sounds and animations are extremely repetitive. Archers will make the same snigger before every arrow they fire, the assassin will say the same thing each time he cloaks and opposition units - no matter what class they are - will always say the same thing if he de-cloaks next to them.

So eventually, I won a couple of games of Legio. Then what happened? Nothing, it went back to the title screen. That's it. There isn't a story, you don't upgrade units or level up, you just play two rounds and you've won. But it wasn't a sense of achievement I felt, oh no. I was merely thinking ‘What? That's it?' The ten minutes of gameplay isn't exactly worth the £7.95 asking price. Sure, you can try it on harder difficulties if you wanted but it'd still just be the same old repetitive units, attacks and slow movement. Legio does come with an online play mode, but every time I tried to have a go at this there was no one online to play against.

So that's it really. You pay your money and get a rather dull turn based strategy game on a small grid. To be honest, the battle system in Kings Bounty: Armoured Princess is far better than this - and not only because the grid is hexagonal! There's more depth, more units, more levelling up. More everything!

However, if you want tactical turn based battle...well still don't buy Legio. Invest in a chess set and play with a friend. It'll last longer and it'll be a damn sight more fun than this!


(Originally written for Game-Debate)

Bodi Bill - Two In One

When you’re given an album to review, you can sometimes get an idea of the feel of it by looking at the track listing. Tracks can have bland names or they can be interesting and this occasionally points to what the content will be like. Unfortunately this isn’t the case with Berlin based electro-rockers Bodi Bill and their debut UK album Two In One – the track names are the most interesting part of this.

Be Home Before Dinner is a weak opener – it’s bland, lifeless and very repetitive. It doesn’t have any vocals and arguably goes on for too long. Unfortunately things don’t get much better through the 46 minute long album.

The electro and rock influences don’t come together well at all. Maybe this should have been a rock album, or perhaps the better suited electro album, but it just doesn’t straddle the gap between them very well.

All of the synth based tracks more or less sound exactly the same. Sometimes there is a piano, or what sounds like a drum machine but it doesn’t really improve the quality of the album. There just doesn’t seem to be much to it. God knows when you’d actually play it...Two in One sort of makes good background music but only in the way that you don’t really realise it’s there. It wouldn’t be played in a club because the tracks are too slow and, frankly, boring.

I don’t like being overly critical but I just don’t see the appeal of this album. At least it isn’t bad enough to make me want to put Needles – the name of the albums penultimate track – into any park of my body.

Apparently this band is at the heart of the European Underground. Maybe that’s where they should stay.

(Originally written for Gobshout)