Monday, April 21, 2008

Moby: Last Night

Written by Fumo Verde

I’ve heard some jams from Moby on KCRW over the years and thought I would take a stab at reviewing his latest CD Last Night. I was never into the rave scene or into clubbing all night long (although believe me, I love the drugs), but that thumping bass line vibrating the floor along with masses of hot sweaty people does nothing for me. Though I never attended any of these types of parties I do have to say the music, at an audible level and with a fat bowl burning, always gave me great ideas for surf videos.

I’m not going to lie and tell you that I know each lick or track Moby sampled from, but they all had a late ‘80s/early ‘90s feel. “Every Day is 1989” says it all right there with a Gloria Gaynor-type of howl singing “Every Day I Got To ….” This hook, of which the last part I can’t make out, is mixed over a quick-tempo, high-pitched electric snare drum sound pushing the beat. I can just see it now, glow sticks waving around the blacklight-lit dance hall, someone puking over in the corner from some bad X. I’m glad I listen at home. Did this track bring me any vision for a great surf video? No, and neither did the very next one “Live for Tomorrow,” just another Flashdance flashback with too many of the same lines repeated over and over and over. But the jam after that, I did like.

On “Alice,” the first sound begins with the slow entrance of a singular voice, “My head keeps turning/ Turning like Russian Roulette / Thoughts are like bullets/ I can not do this/ Do this/ Do this.” It caught me, and the next thing I know I was dropping into a sick barrel somewhere tropical. With a hypnotic hook being broken by quick fire rapping, jumping back to the hook, it breaks again with a more climatic tempo that peaks then drops you back into that hook once again, which drifts into an even slower rap to finish off the jam. As the music closes, all I’m dreaming of is the soft shoulder of the wave and making my exit. I also enjoyed “Sweet Apocalypse,” an all-synthesized instrumental. What gives this jam its outer orbital funk is the sound of a single keyboard repeating the signal given to the mothership in the movie Close Encounters, just as “Mothers of the Night” feels like it’s all the break-up music from those John Hughes’ films I grew up watching.

The only other track I liked was the “hidden” track, which sounded like an after-hours jazz club. From what I gathered this album was a night out on the town and if you are the type of person who parties from ten p.m. to eight a.m., then you could see this whole night unfold before you. For someone like me, who if I do stay awake late it’s because of the History Channel or CSPAN, it just sounds like a bunch of re-mixes I already heard. I checked around to see what other critics thought, and they are bashing the shit out of it. I didn’t think it was that bad of an album; as for background music, it’s great to screw to.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Kooks: Konk

Written by Fantasma el Rey

The Kooks are back with their sophomore release Konk, delivering more of the same rocking brit-pop that helped them sell millions of copies of their debut album throughout the world. The lads deliver twelve new tracks that swing and sway from the opening vocals to the closing guitar strum. The Kooks (Luke Pritchard vocals, Hugh Harris guitar, Max Rafferty bass, Paul Garred drums) continue to write their own songs and perform them with a flair all their own.

Fueled by catchy guitars hooks, a solid, funky rhythm section and Pritchard’s unique vocals, The Kooks never stop driving the pace of their songs straight to your memory. Their songs are short and to the pop point, making them easy to store, even though some of the new tunes tap the four-minute mark! The music gets you moving and the simple lyrics force you to sing while the vocals make you feel the tune as you take it all in. The songcraft skills of these young men are awesome. As I’ve said before, these kats at masters of the pop song while remaining true to their rock roots.

The sound of Konk, recorded at Ray Davies’ Konk studios, keeps to the path taken on The Kooks debut album Inside In / Inside Out. Blending perfectly the Beatles/ Kinks 60’s vibe with the Smiths/ Morrissey 80’s dance-floor feel. “Always Where I Need To Be” hints at Moz’s “First Of the Gang To Die” in its guitar runs while “Gap” and “Love It All” bring images of Smith’s guitar-slinger Johnny Marr to mind. Keeping the groove alive are “Do You Wanna” and “Stormy Weather,” both are drum filled and bass thick, begging you to hit the local dance hall, especially the mean bass intro on “Stormy Weather,” which has nothing to do with the street-corner, vocal group staple song.

“Mr. Maker,” “Tick Of Time,” and the bonus hidden track “All Over Town” bring in a rockin’ country/folk-sounding acoustic guitar and loses absolutely nothing as far as push and drive are concerned. The Kooks never really slow the pace of Konk even though “Tick Of Time” and “All Over Town” are quiet ballads.

Rounding out the CD are “See The Sun,” “Sway,” “Shine On,” “Down To The Market,” and “One Last Time.” From start to finish The Kooks second CD doesn’t let up, holding your interest with each song. There is also a bonus disc, Rak, that is available as a companion to Konk and is only offered in physical format and in limited quantities. It looks to be a cool collection of songs recorded that did not make the album and alternate/ demo versions of a few of the Konk tracks.

Konk is one of those albums that I can play over and over again, never skipping tracks and often pressing the repeat button to hear one of my favorite tunes just one more time before I shut the stereo off. I’m glad I took a chance on these Brits over a year ago on their first outing and look forward to what they have in store for their next album. Could it be, seeing that it will be the third album that The Kooks will follow other great rock bands of the past and put out what we like to call the “departure record?” Who can say? All I know is that it will find its way into my collection no matter what.