Category Archives: Songs

Bloc Party – Mercury.

After the ominous countdown appearing on their website, coinciding with the third anniversary of the 7/7 bombings – oh, they are so relevant, those Bloc Party beatmakers – it transpires they’ve recorded a new song that they’re far too proud to hide or conceal any longer. After an amusing drop-in from Kele in the Radio 1 studio, Mercury received its debut play, and I’ve uploaded a decent quality radio rip in the widget on the right hand side.

What do I make of it? Very simply, it’s a progression on Flux, with added brass and no discernible guitar. That said, it’s got that immediate breath-catching appeal that has blessed many previous singles from the band. I get the same feeling from it as I did upon hearing The Prayer, which I maintain is one of the most daringly impressive moves the band ever made. I’m not yet convinced that Mercury is anything more than a fad-orientated cash-in, particularly since the band have said their next album will combine the rawness of Silent Alarm with the experience of A Weekend In The City – this new song sounds like the band’s nu-rave interest combined with a burgeoning love of excess and pomp, as typified by their giggle-inducing (but ultimately successful) collaboration with a choir at the Electric Proms recently.

Mercury is highly danceable; displays a fondness for Auto-Tune which is at first cringe-worthy, and then bores a hole in your head so catchy it’s difficult not to smile gleefully; and features a brass section clearly transported from Hercules and Love Affair. The bass is frequently droning and fuzzy; Matt Tong has lost none of his propensity for murderous drumming, and, importantly, the whole thing is completely devoid of the over-processed, over-flattened, over-compressed production style (courtesy of Jacknife Lee) that made A Weekend In The City such a lifeless affair at times. Rumour has it that the band’s third long-player will be produced jointly by Jacknife Lee and Paul Epworth, the latter of whom made Silent Alarm such a thrilling listen – on the back of Mercury, I wish the band would dispense with Lee’s services with immediate effect. 

If the rest of the forthcoming album displays similar levels of experimentation, and doesn’t fall back on the metrosexual-lifestyle-clichés that quickly grated on the previous LP, they may have pulled off quite a coup.

Update: Sean Michaels, writing in The Guardian, suggests that with Mercury, Bloc Party have gone all trip-hop, and should consider moving to Bristol. I disagree on several counts. Michaels refers to the appearance of trumpet blasts as a clear sign of the band’s new predilection, but trip-hop never uses trumpets in this manner. Furthermore, the pacing of the song is far too driving and upbeat to be considered trip-hop, particularly when compared to the grimy, spongily-paced songs on Massive Attack albums. If this is a response to that same band’s anti-trip-hop album, Mezzanine, which is what Michaels insinuates, then the Queen might as well be a reptilian alien life form. Mercury couldn’t be less like trip-hop. Even Kele’s vocals are utterly in contrast to the soulful, velvety vocals oft found in songs by Portishead or Massive Attack. The drums are far too raw, and are certainly not buried beneath twenty layers of grime and decay and reverb and delay. There isn’t even a regular bass line in Mercury. Suffice to say that Bloc Party have definitely not gone trip-hop.


Beck – Chemtrails.

While I don’t think every album Beck has made is consistently great, I have always applauded him for the great songs he writes, and his love of working with innovative producers to give each album such a unique fit and finish. Odelay was probably his most consistently enjoyable album: though it encompassed a wide variety of styles and song structures, the delightful cut-n-paste samples from The Dust Brothers gave everything a slightly cronky, slightly wonky, very much alluring feel. 2005’s Guero was, in part, a return to that style – after all, Beck was working with the Dust Brothers once again – but, for me, most of the second half of the album melded into one homogenous lump, leaving the album sounding very front-loaded. While Earthquake Weather and Missing were two of my favourite, and most inventive, songs of that year, tracks like Scarecrow and Go It Alone were fairly anonymous.

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MuxtapeI’m in the process of uploading my first playlist onto Muxtape. If you haven’t used Muxtape, it’s all in the name: it’s a mixtape on the internet… and I’m not really sure about the ‘Mux’ bit.

Anyway, here it is, for your aural delectation:

“Love Is A Province Of The Brave.”

How to describe this initial foray into sequencing a mixtape? It’s quite a moody affair; very sonically dense and sludgy in places, and, by the end, it’ll probably have exhausted you somewhat.

(Thanks to Cocoa Grove for the cassette icon, released under the Creative Commons License.)

Hercules And Love Affair – You Belong.

[Updated to include the official video for the single and release date!]

One of my favourite albums so far this year is the eponymous debut from Hercules And Love Affair. It’s a wonderfully sprawling, decadent history lesson in dance music and, as certain critics have noted, charts the rise and fall of gay culture, which occasionally hints at the crises of AIDS and drugs. More prominently though, it’s the fantastic music that makes it so great. In certain songs, the DJ supremo who’s behind the band, Andrew Butler, weaves in more futuristic ideas, but, for the most part, it’s big time nostalgia of all things Giorgio Moroder, Arthur Russell, and a smattering of Chicago House.

Underpinning quite a few of the tracks are the delightfully spine-chilling vocals of Antony Hegarty, of Antony and the Johnsons fame, and it his fractured, kaleidoscopic backing vocals that turn You Belong into one of the album’s standout tracks. I believe it’s going to be released as a single on the 7th of July, and I hope it gains a wider audience, partly because listeners will be afforded the opportunity to hear the throbbing lead vocals of Nomi, an enchanting vocalist sure to gain in reputation this year.

I have a feeling the B-side is going to an interesting remix of the track from Riton, which you can hear in the widget on the right-hand side of this page.