Third class

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NOW this may sound like stating the bleeding obvious, but come April 28 there will be a few depressed fans of Portishead.
For the band’s new album Third, the first studio outing since 1997’s eponymous offering, is a massive departure from the acheingly beautiful trip hop that has become synonymous with their name.
Instead this is Portishead at their rawest – where before the Bristol-based band were brooding, now they are sinister, where before they unsettled now they outright menace the listener.
This is the sound of Portishead suffering a panic attack in an industrial estate in Dusseldorf.
This is the sound of Portishead sitting listening to Kraftwerk in a car being crushed into a teeny little cube by heavy machinery.
This is the sound of Portishead naked and seething in a cold shower after being winded by a burly man.
This is the sound of a band delivering the truly original, instant classic of an album they always promised they would.

New look

TO MATCH the Loughborough Echo‘s swanky new look, which hits the streets this Thursday, April 24, Isaac Ashe’s Sound Advice has also undergone an overhaul.
Whaddya think?
However regular readers – if there are such things here – you can rest assured that my trademark mix of music reviews and other associated drivel will continue in the same, stuck-in-a-rut fashion as it always has.

Beyond the pail

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OSCAR Levant famously said: “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity.”
And although he was referring to himself being committed to a mental hospital, that infamous line is without doubt the one straddled by Buckethead, a man that dribbing oddball Ozzy Osbourne deemed too wierd to be in his band – although Buckethead did manage to get into Guns ‘N’ Roses.
Enter The Chicken, a reissue from 2005 available for the first time in the UK, sees Buckethead – a mysterious creature with a Joe Satriani, Steve Vai level of guitar-playing ability and a KFC bucket on his head – reigning in his experimental tendancies showcased on his 17 previous releases, and everything he’s done since.
Instead here Buckethead welcomes guests including System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian, Iranian singer Azam Ali and spoken word rapper Saul Williams on an 12-track album ranging from Evanescance-esque ballads to ear-shredding guitar exhibitions.
And it’s finger pickin’ good.

Background material

FIFTY not out!
To celebrate achieving a half-century of posts, without the powers that be at Echo towers taking my blog away and slapping my wrists, I have created a must-have, limited edition piece of spin-off Isaac Ashe’s Sound Advice merchandise.
Yes that’s right – Isaac Ashe’s Sound Advice wallpaper for your computer desktop background can be yours, but for one week only.
And as a reader of my blog, you can get your sweaty hands on this delightful adornment for your computer, compatible with both PCs and Macs, by e-mailing me at Isaac_Ashe@mrn.co.uk, stating “I want my wallpaper!”.
But hurry, the deadline for applications is April 24.

Name game

EACH week in the Echo I compile a Gig Guide for the paper of bands and singers and suchlike plying their trades locally, and every now and again a band name crops up that makes me smile.
This week, Pigeon-Toed Orange Peel are playing at the Three Nuns in Loughborough on Saturday, April 19 – how the hell do you think up a name like that?!?
It’s the best one I’ve heard since the Ministry Of Beaver came to town.
If you know of any great band names, funny or foul, clever or plain stupid, local or otherwise, I’d love to hear them – for the record, the bands I played in were called Asbestos Lung and FX-15.

Band Head Off into sunset

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CHOPPERS at the ready – Swedish glam metal band The Hellacopters are back.
Again.
However this outing will be their last – following this album, Head Off, and the associated tour, the group will call it a day.
After 14 years and seven albums, their Sweet meets Alice Cooper garage rock sound is so polished you can see your face in it.
However as a result the leather-clad, glitter-sprinkled pomp is overcooked – there’s no meat on the bones of the songs.
While the music plays, you’re partying with the devil, but as soon as the music stops, the tunes just fly away.

A most greatest EP

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DESPITE the title, System Of A Down‘s Lonely Day EP is like bumping into an old friend.
Poor grammar aside – “the most loneliest” indeed – the title track is a polished, atmospheric track taken from their 2005 album Hypnotize that typifies the band’s stadium-shaking sound. However this is followed by a glut of older rarities beginning with Shame, a glorious cover version and collaboration with the Wu-Tang Clan which sees Serj Tankian stepping into ODB’s larger-than-life shoes.
Accompanying this are System Of A Down’s reworking of Black Sabbath‘s Snowblind and a cover of Berlin’s Metro, and completing the spread is Marmalade, a track originally cut from the band’s eponymous debut.
Although there’s nothing new here for the band’s hardcore followers – which will not dispel the rumours the band are not to record together again – Lonely Day is a timely reminder that the metal landscape is all the more desolate without them.

Not Four Tet’s forté

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FOUR Tet, human name Kieran Hebden, has returned to the studio under the Four Tet banner for this mini album, ahead of a full-length album later in the year.
And it’s clear from this four-track, thirty minute effort that after sharing Tongues with jazz drummer Steve Reid – not a pleasant mental image I grant you – Hebden now has his focus firmly on the dancefloors.
Ringer is a surprising shift away from Four Tet’s forté of chin-stroking free jazz meets cut-and-paste turntablist electronica.
Here the beats are predictable and pounding, providing an unusual anchor for Hebden’s incessant knob-twiddling.
But although the results are, as you would expect from a Four Tet release, abstract and engaging, there’s still not enough in the way of melody to lift this above the mundane over the course of a half-hour – unless it’s 4am and you’re still on the dancefloor, that is.

Thrice in their element

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CALIFORNIAN rock group Thrice‘s now-complete Alchemy Index series of concept EPs has been the perfect showcase for all the band’s elements – songwriting and musicianship, the pulsating and the poignant.
Completing the quartet which started last October with parts I and II, the blistering Fire and the soothing Water, are soon-to-be-released parts III and IV, Air and Earth.
I ducked out of including the first instalment in my albums of the year 2007 at the 11th hour in favour of Dillinger Escape Plan‘s Ire Works, but when I heard the opening tracks of Air I was blown away.
Air is a continuation of more traditional Thrice fair, an alternative rock six-track section with a lighter touch that really showcases the band’s technical abilities, but it’s Earth that really stands out.
A dustbowl of an EP, the band’s songwriting really comes to the fore in the concluding chapter, with a more acoustic, country tinged sound, and tracks like Moving Mountains and Come All You Weary up there as career bests.