>The sound of conflict

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The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

John Stuart Mill, 19th century English economist and philosopher.

 

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

Mahatma Gandhi

War has been a hot topic in the news with events in Libya bringing arguments for and against military action centre stage. I’m certainly not going to dwell on these arguments on a music blog – for fear of losing what’s left of my readership after 21 days of inaction which is tantamount to blogger suicide (in my defence I was busy sorting the aftermath of being burgled!). To return to the point, war has been a subject addressed by many artists over the years and the whole gamut of views have been covered. Edwyn Starr’s ‘War! (what is it good for?)’ stands apart as one of the greatest protest songs in history yet there have also been many gems supporting war. I strongly recommend this siteĀ  which has proved invaluable to me as a history teacher. Josh White’s ‘Berlin Blues’ from 1943 is a superb example of the quality of writing engaged in the propaganda of war. In this blog I will choose five songs linked to the theme of war and offer my views on each.

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>Christmas, Leeks and Sheep

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I’m afraid the White Stripes obituary has sapped my typing strength so I’m not offering a lengthy album review but highly recommend the new Decemberists album. They have made the wise move of getting the wonderful Gillian Welch on board and her vocal compliments Meloy perfectly to create a country sound which reminds me of Heartbreaker (unsurprisingly given the Welch connection) and Cassadega. There is possibly a hint of REM too – if not in the style of music but Meloy’s vocal does have a touch of Stipe in places. (more…)

Published in: on 05/02/2011 at 12:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

>Awful name, decent band

>Just a short little blog – it’s been a tough week back at the schoolhouse and I’m cream crackered. I thought I’d share a little review of the recent album from Philadelphia indie band Dr. Dog. Here goes…

Dr. Dog – Shame, shame

 I heard about this band through passing comments on a couple of blogs and after listening to a few tracks from their back catalogue thought I’d give their latest offering the blog treatment. Dr. Dog are a band who haven’t really made a significant mark in the music world. They have been a group who are easy to like but seem to lack that special spark which makes you love them. In fact in recent years they have received criticism for sounding increasingly polished and having diminishing soul. This is a hugely difficult slide to arrest – if you are happy and content what is there to write about without sounding offensively smug? On this latest effort they have made a conscious effort to amp up the emotional content and reaffirm that connection. So do they succeed? Perhaps surprisingly they do. Lyrically there is a new freshness and a darker tone pervades the album creating a markedly different feel from the quirky, breeziness of previous offering Fate. For a borderline psychedelic indie times at this on this record they plunge deep into country territory which fuels the personal story telling approach. ‘Station’ is a glorious ode to touting which whilst lamenting the repetition recognises the comfortable security of consistent affirmation of your art. ‘Jackie wants a black eye’ could easily be a Bright Eyes album track were it not for the absence of the trademark Oberst cracked delivery. Vocally this is a really interesting sound, harmonies often drive the melody of the music not unlike Crosby, Stills, etc. Dr. Dog operate the duel vocalist approach to good effect – though lacking the bite and frission of Gomez for example. The 60s pop-rock comparisons are less relevant on this album though it would be incorrect to claim a dramatic new direction has been taken. One issue I do take with the album is the odd insistence on fading tracks out abruptly and clumsily. This could perhaps be a product of the uneven nature of the album – a handful of tracks had been written and set aside over the years – and it doesn’t quite work together as a cohesive piece. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be of great concern, but it is when a band is looking to stimulate an emotional connection with the listener. I couldn’t help but feeling that Leaman and McMicken set out with the intention of creating a Richmond Fontaine record yet couldn’t bring themselves to entirely leave the old habits aside. The result is an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable album.

Five out of Ten

(Skip to 4:05 for the performance)