New Music Through Old Ears: Pixies in Beatle Park

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This week entertainment editor John Turnbull brings us a new EP by a highly respected punk band, a live album by one of the biggest groups in history and a remix album that has a reasonable expectation of sucking…

New Album by an Old Artist

The Pixies — EP1

 Perhaps most famous as the band that Kurt Cobain was trying to sound like when he wrote Smells Like Teen Spirit, The Pixies are one of those bands that most people have heard of, but couldn’t name any of the band members or songs.

In case you’re ever asked this important hipster question, here’s the answer; The Pixies are led by singer/guitarist Black Francis, also known as Frank Black. Black is supported by guitarist Joey Santiago, drummer David Lovering and bassist Kim Shattuck, who replaced original bassist Kim Deal in 2013. The group formed in Boston in 1986, went on hiatus in 1989, got back together a couple of years later, broke up in 1993, got back together in 2003 and then spent the next ten years doing reunion tours.

Debut album Come On Pilgrim was released in 1987 and contained two of the band’s most enduring songs about incest, Nimrod’s Son and The Holiday Song. Follow up Surfer Rosa continued the dark themes, with mutilation, voyeurism and mental illness keeping it off commercial playlists everywhere.

After the release of commercially successful but too-polished-by-half album Doolittle, the band went on hiatus as the relationship between Black and Kim Deal soured. This was brought to a head when Black threw a guitar at Deal during a concert in Stuttgart, Germany. Deal went off to form The Breeders, while Black went on a solo tour, playing for gas money as he drove across the US. The band eventually got back together, but Deal and Black weren’t exactly happy bandmates.

Apart from 2004 single Bam Thwok and the odd cover version, EP1 is the first new music from The Pixies in over 20 years. Released through the band’s website, the EP features just four songs, or five if you’re lucky enough to get the bonus version with single Bagboy.

While it’s great that the Pixies are back together and I’m hoping to see them at the summer festivals, unfortunately the songs on EP1 are a mixed bag.

Bagboy is unremarkable and somewhat dull, while second single Andro Queen is a mournful dirge. On the upside, a mix of catchy melodies and clever lyrics drive Another Toe and Indie Cindy to near-classic Pixies status. Almost.  

All in all EP1 isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. Worth a listen for Pixies fans.

Best tracks: Indie Cindy, Another Toe

Sample lyric: ‘No soul, my milk is curdled, I’m the burgermeister of purgatory.’ (Indie Cindy)

Verdict: 5/10 — I like your old stuff better than your new stuff.

New Album proving a point I made last week

The Beatles — On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2

As it’s only a few weeks before Christmas, naturally there is a new Beatles album in stores.

This one isn’t a Greatest Hits (although there are plenty of those out there is you need them), but rather a collection of classic recordings, cleaned up with the magic of digital technology.

The first Beatles Live at the BBC album came out back in 1994, featuring 56 songs played live on air from 1963 to 1965. Many of the songs were cover versions that the band had played during their time in Hamburg as well as early hits like Ticket To Ride and I Feel Fine. The album also featured snippets of conversation between the band members and oh-so-hip BBC DJs, giving a bit of insight into why the band became so popular with teenage girls — the young Beatles were charming, man.

 Nineteen years after the release of the first BBC Live album and 43 years since the Beatles called it a day, we’ve got The Beatles — On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2.

Why? Because you demanded it!

Well, maybe not you specifically, but someone like you.

The good thing is, On Air isn’t a shameless cash grab. Well, it’s not only a shameless cash grab. The sound quality is impeccable, particularly considering the vintage of the recordings. Most of the songs are catchy, with only a few clunkers thrown in to show that the boys were human. It’s a lot of fun to hear these future musical legends bash out cover versions of proto-rock classics like Long Tall Sally and The Hippy Hippy Shake.

Listeners who prefer to hear The Beatles play their early hits won’t be disappointed, as the lads rip through classics like From Me to You, I Want to Hold Your Hand, and I Saw Her Standing There.

 On Air would make a good Christmas present for fans of classic rock, or indeed anyone with ears.  After all, what ear-bearing individual doesn’t like The Beatles?

Best tracks: Roll Over Beethoven, I Saw Her Standing There, Lend Me Your Comb

Sample lyric: ‘It’s not a sin or a crime.’ (John Lennon — Pop Profile)

Verdict: 8/10 — a very nice album, from some very nice young men.

Album I Expect to Suck

Linkin Park — Recharged

Before I start this review, I’d like to be clear — I actually quite like Linkin Park.

They’re fantastic live, and their albums generally have a few ‘mix-tape worthy’ songs. From early singles One Step Closer and In The End, to more recent tracks like Burn It Down and What I’ve Done, I like their blend of non-threatening, commercially friendly, not-too-sweary rap-metal.

Then, now and again, Linkin Park release a remix album. And to my ears, Linkin Park remix albums tend to suck. They first did this back in 2002 with Reanimation, which remixed tracks from wildly successful debut album Hybrid Theory. While lead single Pts.OF.Anthrty was vaguely listenable and accompanied by a cool animated video, the rest of the album was a mix a bleeps, bloops and loops that left me cold.

Fast forward eleven years and we’ve got Recharged, an album full of remixes from the album Living Things. It’s produced by Mike Shinoda and uber-producer Rick Rubin and features guest appearances by DJs you’ve never heard of, including KillSonik, Datsik and Tom Swoon.

By stripping out the guitars, drums and most of the vocals, Linkin Park remix albums lose any touch of Metal and become a sort of hardcore Dance. In fact, with the contributions of guitarist Brad Delson, bassist Phoenix and drummer Rob Bourdon reduced to random notes, it might be a bit of a stretch to call Recharged a Linkin Park album at all.

Lead single A Light That Never Comes is an original track, produced by Shinoda and electro musician Steve Aoki. If you like this song there’s a good chance you’ll like the album — and good luck to you.

Back when Nu-Metal was a thing, some people accused Linkin Park of cynically selecting their name so they could be on the shelf next to Limp Bizkit. This placement almost certainly now works in Limp Bizkit’s favour, with fans of Linkin Park picking up the new Bizkit album and asking the eternal question:

‘Are these guys still around?’

Best tracks: A Light That Never Comes (Rick Rubin Remix)

Sample lyric: ‘Doof doof doof doof doof.  Wikka wikka doof.’ (Pretty much every track)

Verdict: 3/10 — might be good for a dance album, I’m not really sure.  Not my bag.

Ch-check it out…

Catherine Traicos and The Starry Night — The Earth, The Sea, The Moon, The Sky

Sydney-based singer/songwriter Catherine Traicos has a stunning voice, combining strength, fragility, passion and reserve. Winner of the 2012 Unpaved Female Artist of the Year, she has released two solo albums (2009’s The Amazing and 2012’s In Another Life) and one disc with her band The Starry Night (2011’s Gloriosa).  

Traicos sings a mix of styles from Blues and Roots to Alt-country and Folk, with a good dollop of Lounge music thrown in for luck. This diversity of styles makes The Earth, The Sun, The Moon, The Sky a treasure trove of discovery — flourishes that were inaudible on first listen gradually reveal themselves from the deceptively simple instrumentation.

At times reminiscent of the sultry Susie Diamond (Michelle Pfieffer’s character from The Fabulous Baker Boys) Catherine Traicos and The Starry Night sing music to listen to late at night, music to drink wine to, music to listen to while you’re contemplating your place in the universe.

 Verdict: 7/10 — well worth a listen

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