Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New : Alcest - 'Les voyages de l'âme'

I've had a rough few days recently so it was a real thrill to come across something fresh and new that captured the mood so nicely - the latest issue of Terrorizer prompted me to check out the latest from French post-BM stars Alcest and it's a real joy to behold. These guys started out playing shit-ripping black metal about a decade back but have since then evolved into a more sensual, considered take on the genre - in fact, aside from moderate swathes of harsh vocals on a couple of the tracks here, you'd be hard pressed to find anything on this album to remind you of Darkthrone and co.

Some reviewers have labelled these guys 'shoegaze black metal' which perhaps misses the point slightly - there's passages on here that remind me of the more romantic end of shoegaze, à la The House of Love or perhaps more poignantly Terry Bickers' post-HOL offshoot Levitation (check out their lost gem 'Nadine' here) but this has more in common with Justin Broadrick's Jesu project or, dare I say it, post-hardcore stormbringers Cult of Luna. If Jesu is essentially Justin distilled into album form (melacholy and sensitive but still coming from the same guy that recorded 'Streetcleaner'), Alcest is frontman Neige's soul laid bare - heavy-hearted and romantic, free of spite and more focussed on redemption and lucid headspace. I've rattled on about Jesu and Cult of Luna to plenty of people but ultimately they're never going to be entirely palatable to folks who get put off by the harsher elements of metal and punk - I wouldn't anticipate any such problems with Alcest though, this is mellow at the front end and only scathing in glints below the lush surface. One to listen to whilst coming round from a weird dream about someone you fell in love with back in school if you like, laced with regret but ultimately a warming experience. I started out lost on planet headfuck when I put this on for the first time and by the end of epic finale 'Summer's Glory' I was ready to take on the universe. Go forth and bag this one without further ado.

Check out : 'Summer's Glory', eight minutes of King Kong gorgeous.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The crappest music videos of all time

Hi folks,

My time spent meandering curiously around YouTube has resulted in a number of fine musical discoveries, gems unearthed that otherwise would have surely lain dormant and undiscovered for years to come. But no such searches are made without certain unpleasant side effects. My voyage across the vast ocean of music promo clips inevitably shook loose a few turds from the underbelly which floated unattractively to the surface to be inspected in full lurid detail. And there were some absolute scudders in there, let me assure you.

In the interest of being balanced (and, dare I say, positive), I've set about putting together a list of some of my favourite music vids of all time but as per usual it was easier and a lot more fun to pick my least favourite ones first. So here's a selection of some of the worst music promo clips I could drag up from the depths of YouTube - feel free to add any more I might have missed.

10. Pat and Mick - Use it up and wear it out

Here's a real stonker to get us started. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these two gents, Pat and Mick were London-based radio presenters in the 1980s who decided that their talents would be put to good use releasing aerobic pop revamps of yesteryear's disco classics. Mick is the one in the oversized jacket that looks like a disgruntled estate agent who's been dragged along to the office Xmas party against his will, Pat is the tall one in denim sporting what is possibly the worst haircut to have ever existed since the birth of mankind. Though their intention is clearly not to be taken entirely seriously as a musical prospect, this still merits its place on this list for the sheer rubbishness of everything and everbody involved. The duo's lipsynching is embarassingly off-kilter, the assembled dancers represent acid house culture as seen through the eyes of a balding advertising executive and the whole thing looks like it was knocked together in half an hour for the overall production value of a packet of crisps (check out the camera swinging off-set at 3:09!). The somewhat lacklustre performance from both vocalists doesn't exactly help, nor does their 'child-molesting uncle at a wedding' style of dancing and even a series of somewhat desperate comedy costume changes from Mr Sharp late on can't save this from toe-curling crapness - Pat appears wholeheartedly convinced that we are all laughing with him rather than at him and his daft hair and shit-eating grin. Nevertheless, enough of the record-buying public fell under the duo's charm for this turd of a single to reach number 22 in the spring of 1990 so it obviously appealed to someone. Let's just be grateful that Chris Moyles hasn't followed in their footsteps and started making his own records, he'd probably make this sound like fucking Led Zeppelin in comparison.

9. Joshua Kadison - Jessie

There are certain tell-tale signs that a video is gonna suck from the get-go and the sight of a bronzed gonk in a silk waistcoat playing upright piano on the fucking beach is as clear an indication as you could ask for that things are going to get pretty rough. Barefoot and sporting freshly-conditioned shoulder length locks, Kadison gets his smoulder on as he recounts his lover's flights of romantic fancy into the camera and gazes plaintively out to sea. This shit is so earnest that you almost feel it'd be harsh telling Josh that you'd rather spend four minutes sitting in a bathful of diarrhoea than have to listen to his gacky sentimental pizzdrizzle of a song ever again, let alone have to watch the equally nauseating music video. He genuinely seems to think that thousands of viewers are going to applaud him for 'bearing his soul and sharing his musical vision'. I personally would rather lean into shot and blow him off his piano stool with a blunderbuss full of cow dung before chopping his instrument to pieces with a fire axe and telling him to stop being such a pussy. 'Jessie' indeed! As for the lyrics, what kind of dork calls his cat 'Moses'?? Do you have a hamster called Jehovah as well???? And as for your bird calling you up in the middle of the night wittering about moving to a Third World trailer park with her at the drop of a hat, I'd tell her to fuck right off and not bothering calling back until she'd sobered up! Rather predictably, the Germans loved this tune so much that they kept it in the charts for over a year solid, but then what do you expect from a nation of lederhosen-clad coprophiliacs?

8. Gazza and Lindisfarne - Fog on the Tyne (Revisited)

Football/music crossovers are generally the source of some pretty dreadful records, but even against such a mediocre backdrop this one stands out as an outstandingly work of utter shite. Given that Gazza was the most mercurial talent of his generation and was about to win 'Sports Personality of the Year' when this was released in late 1990, you'd have thought the video budget would have stretched to more than four minutes of him goofing around onstage in a piss-stained shell suit flanked by a fairly haggard looking Lindisfarne along with some footage of them all galavanting around Newcastle on a drizzly Saturday afternoon. There aren't even any clips of him playing football - instead, we are treated to side-splitting clips of Gazza playing his leg like it's a guitar, gurning into the camera and leading a dance routine that looks like a stag party in Marbella after fifteen pints of Skol. At least he doesn't get his arse out. His rap delivery isn't exactly stellar either, although he's still a better MC than Dee Dee Ramone. I have a theory that the inherent crapness of this video was infact totally intentional - as Kevin Keegan points out, Geordies don't go for high culture, they like it cheap and cheerful (don't take my word for it - ask these guys) so a tinny remix of their local folk anthem with Gateshead's finest rapping about sausage rolls over the top was always going to go down well. Thankfully, aside from one minor follow-up hit in the wake of this single's success, Gazza has stayed away from the music business in more recent years preferring to spend his time managing lower-league football teams for about a week at a time, pinballing between rehab clinics and attempting to befriend local mass murderers. On this evidence, it's surely time well spent.

7. Vanilla - No way no way

If you trawl far enough back through the archives on this blog, you may well come across a series of articles I wrote on girl/boybands of the 1990s - it's due a bit of a polish, I might re-post it sometime soon - and somewhere in there are this lot. For those of you who don't remember the split-second in 1997 when these four trolls were briefly in the charts, Vanilla were either a music industry in-joke or a genuine attempt to crack the girlband market gone horribly, HORRIBLY wrong. The singles charts were dominated by female pop ensembles such as All Saints and the Spice Girls who had racked up a string of hit singles and become omnipresent media personalities - predictably there were various attempts to cash in on this phenomenon such as Ireland's B*witched, Manchester's Cleopatra and Vanilla from......Essex. It's unclear what the marketing strategy behind them was - neither musically gifted nor conventionally attractive, the quartet were presumably selected for their 'girl next door' appeal (or, perhaps more accurately, 'girl getting fingered behind your local bus shelter after three litres of white cider' appeal). Their promo video only accentuated their inherent trashiness, depicting them clad in day-glo swinsuits and trowelled on make-up (despite the fact that they're at a swimming pool) warding off potential suitors with a coquettish 'don't get fresh with me!'. Heaven forbid we should make such assumptions ladies - surely women such as yourselves expect to be serenaded by moonlight or wined and dined in the finest restaurants before compromising your dignity? This aural and visual abomination was either the result of some industry competition to create the worst pop band to actually score a hit single (a rumour which persists to this day) or otherwise a thoroughly misjudged attempt to tap into a cultural trend. Either way it's a pretty disparaging spectacle and one that's earned them a permanent fixture on the 'worst record of all time' lists alongside Black Lace and Mr Blobby. Mind you, they say there's no such thing as bad publicity.

6. David Hasselhoff - Crazy for you

Let's face it - in the United States of Shit Videos there would only be one choice for president : Mr David Hasselhoff. His recent career resurgence on the back of several knowingly ridiculous promo videos masks the grim reality that, back in the day, the Hoff was no laughing matter. Having scored a massive hit in Germany the summer of 1989 with his zeitgeist-nailing 'Looking for Freedom', this was his follow-up single which scaled similar heights in the Fatherland but failed to chart anywhere else. Watching the video it's not hard to see why. Soundtracked by a robust Europop stompalong, the video sees the Hoff majestically zooming around on his Harley in lurid technicolour before getting stuck on a rollercoaster thanks to his mischievous pet dog. Shitty video effects like the motorcyle jump cuts and some mildly psychotic screen lettering late on make this a true assault on the senses which is only augmented by the music's apparent aim of driving the listener to the brink of insanity with its rumpeting marching band synths and some key changes that make me want to gouge my own eyes out in sheer despair. This is just so impossibly awful it becomes almost traumatic to witness - I'm practically reduced to tears watching this crap, yet it's just not possible to avert your gaze for even the slightest instant. Even by the Hoff's own standards this is excruciatingly bad - musically it's fingernails down the blackboard and visually it bombards you with enough gaudy colours and bombasticly camp bravado to provoke an aneurysm or make you throw your own TV out of the window. Compared to this the video of him attempting to eat a cheesburger shitface drunk while his own daughter cusses him out is comfortable viewing - this is the Hoff at his diabolical worst.

5. Steklovata - Novi God

Think you've seen some shit so far? Folks, you ain't seen NOTHING yet. Let me introduce you to Steklovata, Russia's contribution to the world of boybands. I can't find much online about the group's history but on this evidence you have to wonder whether they were selected at random by a board of blind (and possibly deaf) record executives. Eschewing the standard attire of their decadent Western counterparts in favour of a look based on jaundiced dole monkeys hanging around your local needle exchange kitted out in clothes from the British Heart Foundation bargain bin, they certainly stand out from the crowd (indeed, it's reassuring to know that you don't even need a full set of teeth to get into a boyband in Russia). No expense has been spared on the video either - lavish computer graphics from a ZX Spectrum game circa 1986 provide the backdrop for a dynamic dance routine consisting of them reluctantly bopping around in fraternal fashion. I can't understand the lyrics but the more I watch this video, the more I find myself thinking that the two smaller guys are new arrivals at a Russian prison pleading for the other two big blokes to go easy on them when they take them off to the shower block after they've finished filming. Perhaps any Russian speakers out there could enlighten me? In any case, this little gem has clearly experienced a resurgent success due to the numerous Eastern-European parodies available on YouTube so maybe they'll be touring again soon. I have to admit the song is rather catchy too, even if I still think the lyrics are about prison sex.

4. Honeymoon Suite - What does it take?

Remaining in the cultural backwaters of the music world, let's take a trip to mid-80s Canada for our next treat. Honeymoon Suite were apparently quite the domestic success story back then with their brand of inoffensive soft rock, though for some reason they never appeared to reach global megastardom. This might have something to do with the fact that their music is so lame it makes Bon Jovi sound like Cannibal Corpse, but you could also point to their fuck awful videos for further proof. 'What does it take?' is my personal favourite for its cack-handed symoblism and hideous fashion sense - it make have been 1986 but there's still no excuse for the state of these fuckers. I'm going to be generous and assume they had some kind of running bet for who could grow the worst mullet when they filmed this video - I think my vote goes to the guitar player (check out 1:05 to see it in its full glory). The oh-so-subtle visual depictions of the trials of domestic partnership aren't exactly great either - there's nothing more risible than seeing a band trying to infuse their video with a clever subtext only for it to trample over everything like a drunken elephant with a flashing neon 'MESSAGE!' sign on its head. And don't even get me started on that fucking perspex piano. Fellow viewers on YouTube don't seem to share my scorn for this particular video though, declaring that it 'brings back great memories of growing up in 80s Canada'. Yeah guys, I'm sure that was a BLAST.

3. Jan Terri - Losing You

I'm not sure exactly what credentials you needed in 1993 to make a professional music video - I'm fairly sure plenty of the indie bands I liked back then couldn't afford to make a promo clip so it's somewhat difficult to understand how this one ever saw the light of day. Jan appears to have had a record company behind her on this plus a dedicated video crew including someone responsible for 'hair and make-up' who must have gone on to great things since then - whatever role she had in dolling Jan up like a 3ft tall bondage warthog in a blond curly wig surely deserves recognition. It'd be mean to pick on Ms Terri for the fact that she's not exactly blessed in the looks department but it would also overshadow the not inconsiderable issue that she's totally tone-deaf. Even the crappy 80s synths can't mask the fact that she sounds like a badly oiled door and her delivery is so unenthusiastic that you're wondering whether she's singing about mislaying the love of her life or the TV remote control. Nevertheless, her talents seem to finance a luxury lifestyle featuring limousine travel and romantic escapades with Hells Angels, so who I am to judge? She may look like Gimli from Lord of the Rings crossed with a 50 year old Ukrainian prostitute but she's out there showcasing her talent and that's all that matters.

2. Take That - Do what you like

Take That's immense success over the course of the last two decades has been the result of them (or rather their management) catering to the tastes of their target market - for the 1990s read pre-pubescent girls, for the 2000s read fat legal secretaries wishing they were 17 again. However, their debut single way back in 1991 appeared to cater to an entirely different market. If you haven't already experienced the promo clip for 'Do what you like' (and to be fair they've made no attempt to hide it), it's worth setting aside a few minutes to potentially have your image of the quintet distorted forever. There's no subtle pandering to the gay market going on here, this is the sort of stuff that's usually seen only in sticky-floored Amsterdam porn booths - Gary Barlow and co frolicking around in tassled leather, indulging in homo-erotic jelly wrestling and licking lemon curd off each other's nutsacks (OK, I made that last one up). This is so fucking blatant that they might as well have grown Freddie Mercury tashes and filmed themselves dancing Maypole style around a giant plastic penis. Unsurprisingly, the single stiffed at #81 and the group swiftly adopted a marketing strategy catered towards little girls, one which paid dividends - almost exactly two years after the single's release, 'Pray' netted them the first of 11 #1 singles. So let this be a lesson to aspiring hitmakers - having someone film you cavorting around in a studded jockstrap whilst smearing whipped cream on another man's nipples might seem a bad idea at the time, but these are the sacrifices it takes to become a true musical legend.

1. Wilson Phillips - Hold on

After such a landslide of rhinocerous dung, my choice for worst offender on this list may come as somewhat of a surprise and an anticlimax. Let me explain myself. Though it doesn't feature poorly choreographed dance routines, cheap special effects, garish colour schemes or disturbing leather-clad food fights, 'Hold On' makes me grimace in utter disgust more than all the previous videos combined. This insipid slab of early 90s balladry and its accompanying promo clip embody everything I hate about American pop music - all bright white teeth, wholesome landscape shots and simpering declarations of self-belief. Despite the lyrics acting as a paean to the disheartened and needy, nothing makes me long for the encroaching apocalypse more than this nauseating wet fart of song and its shitty fucking video. I hate the hideous fucking clothes, I hate the whining naivety radiating from the face of each of these three harridans and I hate the beachside march of strident self confidence as the song's coda erupts like Beelzebub evacuating his bowels after 38 pints of Guinness and vat of undercooked seafood. I can only sit through this hideous vaginal belch of a video by imagining Poseidon rising enraged from the ocean and skewering these three hags on his trident before slow-roasting them over the nearest volcano and feeding them to the flying monkeys of Satan whose high-pitched cackles as they scatter the bones of Wilson Phillips to the four breezes finally drown out the unholy din of the song itself and leave the world in blissful, exhalted serenity. Aaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Anyway, that brings us to the end of our rollercoaster ride of visual excretion. I hope you enjoyed it (OK, 'enjoyed' might not be the right word but I hope you found it vaguely stimulating) and please feel free to use the comments to point out any glaring omissions. And if you feel I've not done Wilson Phillips justice, I'd just love to hear from you.