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LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver

The bottom line is that Sound of Silver is a fantastic album, and no one can do modern dance music quite like LCD Soundsystem.

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James Murphy is a dance-orientated Randy Newman. Though their sounds are generations apart, Newman’s “Political Science” and “North American Scum” share a spiritual common ground and the sentiment that America is funny in a sort of sad and scary way.

The difference is that Newman is setting his sights mostly on the government, but Murphy is looking squarely at you. “I hate the feeling when you’re looking at me that way / Cuz we’re North Americans / But if we act all shy it’ll make it OK – makes it go away.” Murphy’s wry socio-cultural isn’t as concerned with the international power of our government; it is instead concerned with the complete lack of international comparison in terms of culture. North American scum are blasé and banal. Here, you “can be in any one of a million new bands!” This criticism also shows Murphy’s self-awareness regarding his own meteoric rise to indie stardom from the New York City rank-and-file (NYC being one of the only North American places given a good review by Murphy).

Surprisingly, considering that LCD Soundsystem has subsisted on a half joke / half tribute song about Daft Punk since their past release, the Randy Newman as dance auteur holds water in terms of lyrics. “Us v. Them” contains the same gloomy – yet witty – narrator that Newman delivered in songs like “It’s Lonely at the Top.” “Cloud, block out the sun over me – over me / And spoil, spoil all the fun, won’t you please? / If you please, please anyone, talk to me, talk to me / All you boys, lonely and drunk, on your knees / Us and them all over again.” Come to think of it, that has a bit of “Mama Told Me Not to Come” in it as well. I believe the title alone of “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down” – let alone the lyrics – makes this argument for me.

Obviously, musical common ground between Newman and Murphy is a bit harder to find. One prefers the role of piano man, the other of dance commander. They’ve both used their talents to unusual ends in the past – Newman scored Toy Story, Murphy remixed Britney Spears – but Murphy has always been an ass-shaker, while Newman has had his ass firmly planted on a piano bench for so long, it’s hard to imagine him without it (let alone dancing). Musically, Murphy is to being a white version of Prince – if you don’t believe me, listen to “Time to Get Away.” The way his voice flies off the handle into a falsetto on “time,” the way he groans “dying,” and the way he calls back to an imaginary Revolution “if you know what I mean” makes the song feel like an alternate reality flashback to Purple Rain. Though I don’t know if Murphy has purified himself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. More like the Hudson River, I would imagine.

All of this is really beating around the bush. The bottom line is that Sound of Silver is a fantastic album, and no one can do modern dance music quite like LCD Soundsystem. Regardless of whether James Murphy is Randy Newman, white Prince, or a combination of both (Prince Newman), he has a capable hand at making intelligent and witty dance music. The man has a promising career in front of him.

(Capitol Records)

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The Ritualists – Painted People

The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music

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ritualists

After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.

“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.

Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.

“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.

There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.

(Out Of Line Music)

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The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk

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The Decline

It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.

Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.

From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?

What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).

Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.

(Pee Records / Thousand Islands Records / Disconnect Disconnect Records / Bearded Punk Records)

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