Nice Rac’

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LONG time listeners to my honest opinions will know that I really don’t understand the stratospheric rise to the top of The White Stripes.
Sure, some of the songs are good, for example Blue Orchid and Fell In Love With A Girl, but for the most part I find them mediocre at best and tone deaf at worst.
However The Raconteurs are not just Jack White, so I approached their sophomore long player with open ears – and I’m glad I did, as said ears are still ringing with monstrous riff after monstrous riff.
Everything here is rooted in the rock and roll hall of fame, and although Jack White’s trademark stop-start-stop-start composing is still in evidence, with Brendan Benson‘s 70s guitar licks filling in the gaps and a full rhythm section backing up you can see what White’s songs sound like with meat on their bones.
And therefore the resulting Consoler Of The Lonely, although nothing new, is well worth becoming acquainted with.

Schtick of Rock

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LEGENDARY East Coast producer Pete Rock’s sixth album, NY’s Finest, sees the hip hop stalwart seemingly going through the motions.
Aside from his solo LPs, Pete Rock has previously done production or remixes for a star-studded list of people that reads like a who’s who of hip hop in the past two decades – 50 Cent, Public Enemy, The Fresh Prince, Slick Rick, Common, Busta Rhymes, KRS-One, Rakim, Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, Micheal Jackson, Gang Starr, Naughty By Nature, the list goes on and on and on and on…
The problem is that with this impressive body of work Pete Rock’s jazz-tinged laid-back production style has become so indelibly imprinted on the genre, his trademark sound now sounds bog standard.
The result is the tracks on NY’s Finest, as good as the beats are, are only lifted from this catch 22 situation when the MCs are up to scratch.
Hence when outstanding rappers like Ghostface Killah and Redman take the mic, things look up, and when more run-of-the-mill guests and Rock himself take on the vocal duties, the album falls down again.
Unless he reinvents himself, Pete Rock may be forever caught between a rock and a hard place.

A good question

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ABSTRACT rapper Why?, real name Jonathan Wolf, is a man who poses many musical questions.
In the genre-defying Alopecia his lyrical flow, which lies halfway between rap and the ramblings of a madman, similar to Anticon labelmates like Doseone, is laid here over beats which veer more towards indie rock than hip hop.
And the lyrics themselves are almost surreal, and at times distressing – you really don’t want to know what Why? claims to have witnessed two Germans up to.
Even the upbeat songs start with lyrics like “I sleep on my back as it’s good for my spine and… coffin rehearsal”.
Quite honestly, I have little or no idea what Alopecia is about, but I really want to listen over and over again to try and find out.

Kooks hit it on the nose

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ALTHOUGH it may be a continuation of the band’s winning formula which landed the Brighton band a whopping six hit singles in 2005 and 2006, new LP Konk is still not a case of too many Kooks.
That said, Konk is undeniably a progression for the band.
Inside In/Inside Out, glorious and radio-friendly as it was, was still rough around the edges and also led to po-faced muso types accusing the band of “selling out”.
This time Luke Pritchard’s group have produced an album with a moodier fell brimming with subtlety, professionalism and hit singles, in the forms of tracks like Always Where I Need To Be and Gap.
There may be less wide-eyed joy about this album, but in it’s place the blinkers are on and the Kooks are down to business.

The name’s Blonde

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RAPPER and philosopher Snoop Doggy Dogg once mused: “Ugly girls don’t sell records.”

Although Tha DoggFather may have had a point to make on the shallow nature of the music industry, there are always exceptions to the rules.

How else can you explain the continuing appeal of the likes of Bjork, PJ Harvey, Michelle McManus…

Okay, scratch that last one.

However The Long Blondes are the opposite – frontwoman Kate Jackson may have sailed high the NME cool list and on the pages of glossy fashion magazines, but the straight-down-the-line Blondie influenced nu New Wave of the turgid Couples proves there is also a lot of style over content knocking about in the charts.
And you don’t need an ugly rapper to tell you that.

A shining example

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NEON Neon, the unlikely collaboration between Super Furry Animal Gruff Rhys and leftfield DJ Boom Bip, proves the spirit of the 1980s is still glowing strong. Pilfering its constituent parts from the decade that taste forgot, concept album Stainless Style tells the story of John De Lorean.
The motor mogul shot to fame in the 1980s after building the Delorean car immortalised in the Back To The Future trilogy, before going bankrupt and being coerced into drug smuggling by the US Government, who then tried to send him to jail for it.
As you can imagine, this lively tail has resulted in an even livelier album, featuring guest spots all over from the likes of The Strokes’ Fab Moretti, The Magic Numbers, Har Mar Superstar and Spank Rock among others.
From the Miami booty bass of Raquel to the Jan Hammer-esque I Told Her On Alderaan to the outrageous Sweat Shop, as they used to say back then, it’s boss.

Jets veer off course

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THE Mystery Jets are more riddle than rocket on sophomore release 21.
As the title would suggest, the album 21 sees the band maturing from the shambles that was the promising yet messy Making Dens.
However where songs like the brilliant Young Love, a pop-perfect duet with Laura Marling, and the eighties-tinged Two Doors Down show a band with a yearning for mainstream acceptance, others, like opener Hideaway, are a slipshod mix of increasingly-outmoded influences from to James to Phil Collins.
You get the feeling that this London five-piece are a bit of a a rubics cube – in the hands of a producer who’s done this sort of thing before they’ll slot into place, but until then they’ll just be a frustration.

REM step up a gear

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WITH their new album Accelerate, amazingly the band’s fourteenth studio outing, REM may again be back on track.
After stalling somewhat with their two previous, ponderous offerings, Reveal and Around The Sun, Accelerate heralds a return to form of sorts for the group.
True, nothing on this album stands up next to their glory days – and at times the album sounds like a pastiche of the likes of New Adventures In Hi Fi or Automatic For The People – but who else is producing mainstream alternative rock of that quality these days?
Hopefully this is the sound of a band moving back up through the gears once again.

Gnot bad

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GNOT to have heard of odd couple Gnarls Barkley by gnow would be crazy.
The peculiar pair – Cee Lo Green and Danger Mouse – gnot only hijacked 2006’s singles chart for almost a fifth of the year making Crazy the biggest hit for a decade, but have featured in projects as varied as Gorillaz, Kelis, Danger Doom, The Rapture, Goodie Mob, Carlos Santana and Lil Kim.
So it’s gno surprise that most of The Odd Couple, out on March 24, is a professional, polished piece of hip hop and soul.
What is a surprise is that there is gno outstanding track in the ilk of Crazy that you could pick out instantly, and on some tracks, such as Going On, Danger Mouse’s production is almost off kilter.
The result is an album that, while pleasant enough, is probably gnot going to send the charts loopy again.

Frock rock five – Killer tunes

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IT’S a mystery to me how The Kills manage to come across so aloof yet so intriguingly smutty.
Heaven knows, if I could do it, I would – I only seem to manage arrogant and annoyingly childish.
However Midnight Boom, the trans-atlantic pair’s third long-player, is effortlessly dirty as a mudwrestler yet remains cool as a frozen cucumber.
American singer Alison Mosshart’s Karen O-esque vocals drip over Brit guitarist Jamie Hince’s gritty, no frills guitar work throughout the album as if the pair could at any moment down tools and get both slapping and tickling.
No wonder then that the half of the group that is Hince has bagged himself a supermodel in the form of Kate “musician, you say” Moss.
Midnight Boom has also had the critics drooling, only over tracks like Cheap And Cheerful, Tape Song and URA Fever, and is set to deservedly explode into the mainstream to boot.