Sunday, 30 September 2018
Seamlessly blending native French and our own English in the same sentences of the same lines of the same hook gives Chris(tine) and her Queens one of the greatest gifts in modern pop music. Like the ability to see Sia's pain in how she instrumentally pitches her voice. Or how Taylor Swift can turn a broken heart into a hit record. But even from a Japanese Breakfast to a London Underground there is no electro, experimental synth-pop quite like Christine and the Queens. Hearing Héloïse Letissier levitate and translate between music like she did 808 samples of Kanye West's 'Heartless' interpolated with Christophe's 'Les Paradis Perdus' is as pleasant a surprise as seeing the iron lady of the Eiffel Tower in a golden Paris night light up like a thousand flashbulbs that will end up taking that same picture. But this pansexual 30 year old from Nantes, France is mixing nothing up as she truly finds herself in 'Chris'. The formidable follow-up to the beautiful breakthrough, 'Chaleur Humaine' sees the gender fluid artist crop her locks, slick them back and scrawl out the 'tine' in her name to just be Chris and the Queens. Leaving the only confusion being to whether some of the lyrics to lead, lead strong single 'Girlfriend' are French or "pardon my French". But Chris saves the swearing for in Spanish in a world and time were we have gone from having international fans sing along to songs from the Beatles in perfect English, without translation. To us lost in singing the foreign phrases from international artists like uber famous, South Korean boy band BTS in the same word for word. And like Cash or King Cole making albums in different languages for different countries, the queens' 'Chris' gives us a French and English version of the same record. In a today where language like gender constructs just don't matter.
We've waited a long time to hear from something just like this. And going back to the future in the 80's synth of her 'Girlfriend', Chris sings and swings on a wrecking ball, "I'm gone in a flick, but back in a second/With salted skin, rash for no reason/Boys are loading their arms, girls gasp with envy/F-f-for whom are they mimicking endlessly?/Same old sadness in small lumps on my jaw/For lusting after is the usual freak show/May your girl come, birdie die under this spur/F-f-f-fingers angrily sunk on the jugular, then girlfriend" for all the pop princesses to take note. "Touché" indeed. This album also contains '5 Dollars'. No not some money back in the form of honest Abe, but another stellar single that goes for the scores, singing, "You’re eager and unashamed/I grieve by dying every night baby/Prove them wrong when you get 5 dollars" and dressing up another classic visual for the S&M inspired music video. But forget a safe word, things get real personal and worth more on 'Doesn't Matter (Voleur de Soleil)' with lasting lines like, "Lingering on when they kiss/Leaning towards this abyss/And of lately the only people I can stare/Are the unraveled ones with their hands laying bare" and the potently powerful, "Rage as a fabric, through and through/Like that gaze they used to do/'Cause the suicidal thoughts that are still in my head/Give her that awful side-smile when I lay in bed" showing so much substance beneath the synth style. As Chris takes depression and anger to personal task. Whilst the French 'La Marcheuse' gives even deeper meaning, singing, "J’vais marcher très longtemps/Et je m’en vais trouver les poings qui redessinent/J’vais chercher éhontément/Les coups portés sur moi/La violence facile". Even lost in translation you hear and feel every emotion as it gets into the blood in your blue veins.
Yet for those about to ask Google, we'll save the breath that does the effort of just keying it in as those lyrics mean, "I'm going to walk all the time/And I'm going to force the aggressive looks/I always go in front/I'm waiting to find/Easy violence" and literally so much more. There's depth to the decadence and mainstream defiance as Chris(tine) and the Queens show us that popular music need not be the bubblegum saccharine of those who would rather live their lives for mainstream acceptance, rather than their own individual stance, head and shoulders (word to the shampoo). As a matter of fact the only artist that stands a frame above this is the 'Masseducation' of miss St. Vincent. But with this soaring sophomore, statement album after a definitive debut, when these queens hit trip we'll know whether they become shooting stars sky-rocketing before they flame out. Or legends of music that will forever be timeless. Tracks like the outstanding opener in LCD Soundsystem like electro-funk reply, 'Comme Si' and the domestic violence cautionary tale of 'The Walker' further this notion. Whilst 'Goya Soda' fizzes and pops like ring pulls on shaken cans. But the worn word to the wise of 'Damn (What Must A Woman Do)' brings pure heartbreak over heart strings, pitching, "Let me mourn/The one that corrupted all/How cold she doesn't call, no calls, no calls/Just like before/I'm worn out but I want some more/Naked with opened door/Encore, encore". Stronger than the sweet soul of 'Humaine' and toned up with Cameo and Michael Jackson 'Dangerous' influences from 'What's-Her-Face' to 'Feels So Good'. There are sharper edges here like 'Make Some Sense' to the bolder 'The Stranger' in an album full of instant classics that become as readily recognisable as something you've heard for years by the second chorus. The raw pansexual energy, lust and sweat of this set is stunning. And much more freeing with purity in equality. As this queen of hearts becomes Chris, not only are we given one of the greatest albums of the year, but also one of the most defiant of the decade and most meaningful of her moment in the mainstream. An explosion of feminism, masculinity, sexuality and vulnerability that will touch you body and soul, skin to skin. Feel it. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
On Repeat: 'Girlfriend', 'Comme Si', La Marcheuse'.
Monday, 24 September 2018
How many days? How long did it take before they took a blow torch to Prince's legendary vault of treasures? His hidden gems. His unreleased tracks and albums. His real music collection. Rumour has it that Prince once recorded an entire duet album with good friend and 'American Woman' live collaborator Lenny Kravitz (whose current, cool, calm 'Raise Vibration' album out this month also is the 'Let Love Rule' feeling of peace the whole world needs right now), only to tell him upon completion, "this is just for us"! Can you imagine Kravitz's jaw and cash drawer dropping reaction? But there's something beautiful and sacred about that. The fact that no matter how much we yearn and burn for it, we probably will never hear the soul these two spiritual artists worked on together, personally...and more importantly privately. Which is their right, not ours. And no matter what, it's still out there. And we mean in the musical ether for God's ears only. Not for public, vulturing consumption. Believe me, some things should just be left be. And if you really love the artist you claim ownership to in fandom, then there is something inherently not quite right about the grave-digging, cherry-picking, money-making off the music he probably never intended to release. Which now sees the light of day in a way which should have only been seen with his consent. Still, truth be told we have no idea of Prince's true feelings on this subject to judge his estate. We had a clue with what they did to Mr. Jackson with 'Michael' and his cease and desist reaction to his love symbol being used in his late friend and music rivals posthumous album artwork. Or the Superbowl Halftime Show ('Purple Rain' in the rain as he throws his bandana into the crowd so cool! Thank you musical Gods) legends beyond the grave thoughts of a hologram being used in sync with pop superstar Justin Timberlake's mid-February tribute. Turns out in the end the man who once started a rivalry with Mr. Rogers after the purple one asked how can sexy be back when it never left, performed a respectful tribute fit for a Prince as the city of Minneapolis lit up a beautiful, purple love symbol across the Viking's stadium and the streets of this Minnesota city. Yet still although we should all just let this great man rest in the peace he's earned and not be like these tabloids who still want to exploit the details of this mans death which in rights only belong to his family privately, just to sell newspapers. There's something about new music from this genius that we just want to at least hear even if the game is to be sold and not to be told. Just to keep this mans spirit alive. Even though we all know it could never die.
'Moonbeam Levels' set it all off on the '4Ever' collection of his ultimate greatest hits. Proving that the level of this stars cutting room floor edits could still shoot for the moon. But we already knew this from his B-Sides greatest best that even appeared in concert (most notably 'She's Always In My Hair' and the originals of superstar songs he wrote for others like Sinead O'Connor's, 'Nothing Compares 2 U') and the complete 'The Works'. And we always knew this day was going to come too where we would see the first full release album from a multiple artist discography load of work from a man who averaged an album for each year he was active in the music industry for over three dynamic, dominant, definitive decades. And you thought rap God, Tupac Shakur had a songbook to rival Dylan's. This real king of pop, Prince had it all in any genre and style. All the way down to the acoustics of the bare and beautiful, pen and paper songwriting origins. Forget two turntables and a microphone. All he needs is piano and I and one. And in tinkling ivories for some songs in the key of his life. Prince gets his 'How Come You Don't Call Me', Alicia and Elton John on. Chord progessive fitting in the fact that the artist was about to tour with just that one instrument and his voice before he died two tragic years ago in the same 12 months we lost a princess too, the beautiful Bowie, George Michael at Christmas, saw the Champ fall and got nothing but Trump and Brexit back in return. Beautiful in tribute in so far as in Paisely Park Prince was actually performing on piano after concerts, in private invite only gigs for his fans where all were welcome on multiple nights, despite multiple health problems, days before he died. There was no other way to set off this collection of life after death releases. And in '83, bridging the year gap between his breakout '1999' and his magnum opus 'Purple Rain', 'Piano & A Microphone, 1983' fits in perfectly. Where else could you hear a minute and change version of the eight wonderful minutes, 'Purple Rain' just as grand and a real and raw rework of the 'International Lover' closer off '99?
Stripped down to the bare minerals and as inspiringly intimate as the freedom of musicality and sexuality the M.F. Prince brought to the 80's like with the 'Virgin', Madonna. For all that's going to come out from this artist in the coming years, this is probably and essentially the closest we will ever get to Prince Rogers Nelson. From the opening "can we turn the lights down" request of the piano sharp highlight of '17 Days' there are no smoke and mirrors here. Just like the iconic, dark room, black and white captured flashbulb moment of the albums artwork and now collection classic cover. Featuring the man himself poignantly and pensive, albeit with strength looking into the good light of the make up mirror, with foundation, water and tissues on the ledge of the desk in front of him. In theatre they call this shot and moment 'The Half' (hour) before curtain call. It's arguably an artist at their most vulnerable, before they bare it all. And what better way to capture Prince's most purest performance than this? And in this nine track beauty featuring the signs of the early times of 'Strange Relationship' and the now lead single of his own classic cover of the spiritual 'Mary Don't You Weep', which has been done from everyone from the dear departed Aretha, to the Seeger Sessions of the Boss Springsteen with so much soul. There's so much gold here from the dust of Prince's purple piano. From 'A Case Of You' to 'Wednesday' and the title and album standout, 'Cold Coffee and Cocaine' that gives the visionary blues key to Ray Charles a run for their stimulating substance. But Trent D'Arby delicately floating finally in this cohesive collections closer 'Why The Butterflies', Prince asks his mother, "what's this strange, strange". And it's almost an echoed sentiment here. Because no matter how good and privileged it feels to hear new music from Mr. Nelson. It also feels a little intrusive and off...and not because of the nature of these real and raw demos that without polish are simply perfect. Take it this way, a 'Hit N Run' year before he died this writer somehow at the last ticket and time off work minute got to see Prince live in the greatest gig he'll ever see and has no cell phone away record of. One that also ended with the encore of a piano solo. All I have is a review and the words that could never do justice to the show that just went on from a showstopper on the envelope pushing top of his musical game (you should really hear the last, new music). One that looking younger than ever we had no idea was going to pass just a calender later. Like Ziggy we thought the symbol was going to live for ever. But in a way like Stardust he will...he's just gone on home to his home planet (thanks Daily Planet in 'Justice League'). But the morning after when I thought my review was going to meet poor writing criticism, it actually found an e-mail headed from "the offices of Prince". One graciously saying they actually, amazingly (thank you lord) liked what I wrote, would I use this official photo instead (erm...yes of course!) and would it be okay to use quotes from it on their website with of course a credit (now c'mon man...what do you think?). Now although hoax or no hoax I never saw my name in those official headline lights it doesn't quite matter. I can't help think to this day, "the offices"? Does this mean he saw my review?! Prince?! Does the 'Controversy' cover star even read his own press? I hope so. But now I'll never know. And in someways like the music we'll never hear, somehow that's alright with me. It's more fitting this way. More pure and beautiful that way. In some ways...it's just right. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Key Tracks: 'Mary Don't You Weep', '17 Days', 'Cold Coffee & Cocaine'.
Saturday, 22 September 2018
(Our new column 'The Stream' debuts with a look at South Korean sensation and K-Pop megastars BTS)
Seoul power! When I'm not trying to get this writing dream off paper (yes...we have real jobs), I work in the retail record store HMV (yes...there are still some out there). And this year even though music isn't even the biggest seller (it's a sad day when Pop Vinyls sell more than actual vinyls), between the usual suspects of Ed Sheeran, Eminem, Post Malone, Lady Gaga, Adele, Andre Rieu and Hugh Jackman (ladies and gentlemen did you forget about that soundtrack you've been waiting for?) teenage girl after teenage mother have kept asking, "do you have any BTS"!
"I'm sorry madam! We're not that kind of store!"
Turns out BTS isn't text speak or a medical condition. But in fact a South Korean pop revolution of megastar idols that can even finally get that Psy 'Gangnam Style' song out your heads, hips and the lips of every party playlist requests (C'mon dad! Not again! You said last time ten chin poses ago). One so worldwide huge they are about to be the first K-Pop act to speak at the United Nations. And if you don't think much of that (and you really, REALLY should!) the guys from the Far East have just eclipsed the girl from Nashville. As the video for these idols new song 'IDOL' has just taken over Taylor Swift's youtube record by just...ya know 2.7...MILLION views.
Look what you made them do!
But you have to hand it to their legion of loyal Bangtan Boys squad of (st)fans and their patient, penniless parents. BTS C.D.'s (yes...we still sell these Spotify) have gone from tax like import prices to being sold alongside discounted merch and free posters that elict the same screams these boys produce that lies on the richter scale somewhere between One Direction and more needle leaning towards Beatlemania. You earned it BTS Army! And if you think they're huge here. Just imagine what they're like in their own country. Let alone continent...and the watching world.
Just see them on 'Ellen', Fallon or award show live featuring Hollywood stars like iPod kid, 'Baby Driver' Ansel Elgort with their smartphones out recording and posting like the fans they are. Because like it or not BTS are the pin up posterboys of the hashtag generation. Or should we say the top trend?! And refreshingly in a time where the all Chinese cast of 'Crazy Rich Asians' becomes the number one movie in the country, there's absolutely nothing Hollywood about it all. It's its own entertainment world of wonder. If you thought flicking through the hotel T.V. with Bill Murray in 'Lost In Translation' was weird and wonderful, then wait until you see these crazily colourful and chereographed, coated in candy popping, vivid visuals of music videos featuring digital giraffes, tigers and sharks OH MY!
And when they catwalk that fashion to those dance moves you'll be emulating like 'This Is America', if you thought Harajuku in Tokyo had style then you better shop again in the 24 opening hour city of Seoul. Because these kids look like they raided Prince's wardrobe when everyone else was blow torching his vault of music. Who else can pull off color combos and ruffles like this?! The artist formerly known as! And it's all coordinated like this perfect pop manufacturing. And this Bowie gender fluid look has a real positive message in a smaller world that's finally in some corners becoming more open. These guys dress how they feel...and they are heartthrob adored for it. How's that for respect? And guys if you have a problem with that you wouldn't if it was a gang of J-Pop girls with guitars living out your favourite anime fantasies...just saying!
And after finally adding them to the work playlist to "see" (it's only right) what they're like (normally I try and look cool with some Dylan or Black Keys) much to my co-workers shaking head dismay, I get it. This is why they're rapping (and they actually can...with formidable flow) with queen Nicki Minaj or throwing cakes with Steve Aoki on the dancefloor like "go shawty it's your birthday". As everyone around the globe sings and 'Idol Challenge' dances along, inspiringly without translation after decades of international countries lip syncing in English (except with artists like Johnny Cash and Nat King Cole who amazingly added to their countless catalogues and body of work by recording albums in multiple different languages) to their favourite pop songs. Barriers and borders have been broken. Influence is inspiring when it's not about what makes money, but what makes people happy.
The energy that emnates from their power bar like lift of music will be streaming and surging on your next gym playlist. Replacing aggression with happiness. And forever at the risk of sounding corny isn't that what the world needs right now? As their 'Love Yourself' message isn't selfish in this selfie age...it's all encompassing. These young BTS men are crazy, sexy, cool like TLC without trying to be hard, intimidating or bullying. They're all inclusive and this is exactly what their country or we all need right now. With North Korea playing nuclear hot potato with that spud Trump and that whole side of the continent unaware of the beauty they are going to war with below. It's time for open eyes, minds and hearts.
And these positive male role models are what S. Korea also needs now desperately with depression and suicide rates over there soaring to epidemic levels. Especially tragically with young men and entertainers. You only have to look at late last year and the loss of the lead singer of Shinee, Jonghyun. A man who in spite of his sadness brought so much joy. Or this writer himself whose close friend from over there, having lost a brother a decade ago still feels that puncuated pain. This writer who now is also hopefully himself finally coming out the other side of the worst year of his life. We all need this and see who we've lost to tragedy in these boys' happiness and humanity. Coupled with their poetic lyrics about mental health that can help lift us out of this depression. It's positivity in a time of unfortunately the exact opposite. It's heart and soul from Seoul in a time and trending tide were we all need a little more hope. BTS I'm actually a fan. You yourself should be too. TIM DAVID HARVEY.