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AM I ALONE IN BEING OUT OF STEP?

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I like my 80s synth-pop and I like bands who pay tribute to it in exciting and innovative ways. I was therefore keen to give Singles by Future Islands a try given most reviews upon its release as well as reviews of music in 2014 raved about it.

The first time I ever heard of Future Islands, despite this release being their fourth studio album, was when they featured in a guest posting from S-WC back in April 2014. He was looking at bands whose name began with the letter F and he wrote this:-

Talking of great records, a few weeks ago Future Islands released Seasons (Waiting on You), which is right now holding firm as the best record I have heard this year. Yup better than Happy by Pharrell Williams.

Just after the release of their fourth album Singles the band were invited on to the Letterman Show and there they played ‘Seasons’ and delivered a performance so staggering, so jaw droppingly fucking magnificent that all of a sudden a big secret had been let out of the bag. Put ‘Future Islands Letterman’ into a search engine and you will understand.

I took SW-Cs advice. There is no argument from me that it is one of the most spellbinding things, from a musical context, that I’ve ever seen as part of a TV programme.

Later on in the year, Aldo caught Future Islands playing live in Glasgow and included Seasons (Waiting On You) as one of the tracks to go with his review-of-the-year piece. And so, I was very happy when in a mainstream record store last week (tracking down a DVD boxset on sale) to spot that Singles could be bought for just £5.

The record open with Seasons. It is a beguiling and interesting opening. As the live clip demonstrates, Samuel T Herring croons, swoops and growls his way above a tune that is very atypical of some of the very best synth-pop bands of the 80s. I really do like Seasons…..it’s a cracking bit of music while the vocal has you dredging your memory banks to come up with a comparator but in the end you conclude that he is unique, although the one name I couldn’t shift out of my head was Cee Lo Green.

The next song to come out of the speakers is Spirit which musically struck me as a cross between Vince Clarke era Depeche Mode and OMD but which vocally annoyed the hell out of me without me really being able to explain why. Come track 4 on the CD and I’d got it…Herring reminded far too often of the vocal gymnastics performed by Mick Hucknall’s MOR pap when the record buying public went crazy for them.

In short…other than the opening track, this record is a real letdown bar one or two snippets of music that were interesting – Light House (track 7) has some nifty guitar work reminiscent of New Order on their early 80s albums. I accept that it would be near impossible to maintain the high expectations from the opener but the sad thing is none of the other nine songs really come remotely close. I just found it really boring and unmemorable. I thought back to A Flock of Seagulls who had one great single and very little to back it up – but we found ourselves more than three decades ago noticing them and talking cos the frontman had a great and strange haircut while today we have noticed and are talking about Future Islands cos the frontman does crazy wee dances and is passionate about his vocal delivery in a live setting.

Maybe my expectations going in were too high but I found the record to be no more exciting than any new record by Coldplay and I am at a loss to understand why so many folk are creaming their underwear over something so lifeless, dull and dreary. When the record ended I just felt it had consisted of one of two constant and repetitive drum and synth beats – either uptempo groove or even worse lumpen slow stuff which would be a great cute for insomnia.

Singles has had folk raving about in throughout 2014 but I reckon come 2016 most folk will look back on their fawning reviews and be embarrassed.

I very rarely use this blog to pen negative stuff – if I’m not a fan I prefer to say nothing at all. There’s plenty of vinyl and CD in the collection that I haven’t ever mentioned this past eight and a bit years for that very reason. But given this is a time when I seem to be so out of sync – you’ll struggle to find anywhere a bad word said about this record – I’m going to make an exception.

As I said at the outset, I really do like my 80s synth-pop and I like bands who pay tribute to it in exciting and innovative ways. Future Islands, on this showing, do no such thing.

Try these instead:-

mp3 : White Lies – To Lose My Life
mp3 : Ladyhawke – Magic
mp3 : Delphic – Doubt

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT…THE F-WORD

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f-word

Tim Badger chose the letter F…

Three of my favourite bands start with the letter F – these are The Family Cat, Four Tet and Fucked Up but the rules state that I can’t post the same band twice, so I have to skip over these bands, so this week I have gone for a bit of electronica, a bit of old school indie and what is definitely my favourite song of the year so far. I also know Tim Badger quite well and he mailed me and said, that the ‘F better contain Weekender by Flowered Up, as it’s the best song by a band beginning with ‘F’ ever’. He’s wrong. As usual. That honour goes to I Want to Know what Love Is?  by Foreigner and secretly you all know that I’m right.

Firstly I want you to have a read of something…. Finished laughing…Good. Now swap the word UB40 for the words Fuck Buttons and this story becomes instantly more believable. I would love to read what happened to Anna Webster’s ears after she attended a Fuck Buttons gig. I can see the quote now ‘I left after 45 minutes because my eardrums had exploded and my bottom lip had come loose from the pounding non stop beat’. By the way I love Fuck Buttons and would probably consider it an honour to have my hearing permanently damaged from one of their live shows.

For those of you who don’t know, Fuck Buttons are two piece from Bristol that formed in 2004 and are heavily influenced by Aphex Twin and Mogwai and you will hear that from the sound that they create, a sound that was once described as something akin to the noise made at the end of the world. If this is true then it is perhaps only fair that their music was chosen to feature in the Opening Ceremony at the London 2012 Olympics. Just before the queen jumped out of the chopper with James Bond, if I remember rightly.

Their third album Slow Focus was released last year and a brief hiatus whilst Ben Power from the band worked on his Blanck Mass side project (also excellent and worthy of your attention). It certainly didn’t disappoint and featured heavily in the end of year music polls that we all find so interesting. I don’t think there is anyone out there right now doing anything as adventurous and as aurally stimulating as Fuck Buttons. In the past they have used old Casio keyboards, power tools and karaoke machines to make music with, who does that! Their sound is difficult to categorise, they make sensual exhilarating and majestic music, lets put it that way. The track I’ve posted The Red Wing starts with a simple percussion beat and then they just add layers and layers to it – you can almost see the percussion shrinking away in the background to a tiny pinprick. Once they described their name as ‘Playful and Abrasive’, that describes the music perfectly.

mp3 : Fuck Buttons – The Red Wing

It’s difficult to follow Fuck Buttons with anything but let’s try some old school indie. I first heard How Do I Exist? by The Frank and Walters when I walking to local shop when I lived in Plumstead.  Regular readers will recall that I was burgled whilst living there and to be honest I didn’t much like the place. I used to get CDs sent to me all the time, my job was to review them and hope so paper published what I thought of them.  I’d been into The Franks when I was younger, but had kind of ignored anything released after the terrible After All record.

So I was sceptical – I’d even pre written the review, ‘It’s the Frank and Walters. Buy something else instead, you won’t regret it’ or something equally rubbish I think I’d written. Then on a stroll down the road to buy some biscuits, listening to a cassette on a Walkman, it came on. A gorgeous string inspired tear stained wonder of a record and then you remembered, that The Franks made great records, records that if you put them all together would soundtrack a very good summer (apart from After All, that is terrible). ‘How Can I Exist?’ is as close to perfection as the Franks ever managed it is bursting with more truly heartfelt emotion than most bands ever manage in their careers, yet it avoids sounding pompous or overblown. It makes me wonder how on earth they managed to fall off the radar when they made records as great as this.

mp3 : The Frank and Walters – How Can I Exist?

Talking of great records, a few weeks ago Future Islands released Seasons (Waiting on You), which is right now holding firm as the best record I have heard this year.  Yup better than Happy by Pharrell Williams.

Just after the release of their fourth album Singles the bad were invited on to the Letterman Show and there they played ‘Seasons’ and delivered a performance so staggering, so jaw droppingly fucking magnificent that all of a sudden a big secret had been let out of the bag.  Put ‘Future Islands Letterman’ into a search engine and you will understand.

Take the singer – Here is this guy with sensible clothes on, a receding hairline and dancing like he is at a wedding and he is delivering absolute pop perfection on a TV PROGRAMME  that doesn’t happen and he doesn’t give a wet one in a spacesuit how uncool he looks because after that we will all look him, dance like him and pretend we can sing like him. He knows that they are destined for big massive epic things, the thing is, he could be you or me (well the chaps among us). What does it sound like? Reader, this is the best song New Order never wrote. If Barney Sumner wrote this in 1987 we would still be talking about it to this day. That’s what it sounds like.

mp3 : Future Islands – Seasons

Next week its the turn of Q,

Oh and I was joking about Foreigner.

S-WC