Little Red Blogger

This blog looks at radical politics(with a libertarian socialist slant), music and culture. Marx to Mises, Girls Aloud to Steve Reich...

Location: Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Super Furry Animals - Love Kraft Review

This is possibly the best album that the Super Furries have done yet integrating all the wide and varied elements of their sound, and yet again demonstrating their melodic and lyrical gifts to wonderful effect.

As you can tell I’m a long time Super Furries fan having seen them quite a few times over the years it has been a pleasure to follow the anti-Oasis in that they just got better and better over the years growing ever more inventive and ever better song writers with each new album. As a band the Super Furries have seemed at some points unsure as to what direction to take sonically and in terms of their song writing. They combine political awareness and principles with manic off the wall humour and an ability to write a great tune.

The band have always thrived off the playing off of polar opposites when it comes to constructing their songs managing to mutate Country n’ Western into Belgium gabba or dismember a 10cc style love song into a Neu! style krautmetal stomper. This dialectal conversation between differing musical extremes has however become less of a feature of their sound since the excellent Phantom Power with a new influence being introduced into the melange that of sun kissed country rock, taking in Gram Parsons, The Byrds, The Eagles and Crosby Stills n’ Nash into their many influences. One criticism of the band is that they can stray into pastiche or homage of their many influences. As Simon Reynolds once said of The Orb it’s hard to kiss the stars with the tongue in your cheek. The other problem is  that sometimes their radical juxtapositions just don’t work. It is a testament to Gruff the lead singer’s song writing ability that the band can pull of their songs at all or even get away with the disparate genre fusions that they do attempt. This is an inherent risk in their approach to making music, but with each album they have got better at synthesising their Techno, R n’ B and dance influences with their core psychedelic 60’s influenced sound. Where the Beta Band failed the Super Furry Animals have gloriously succeeded.

So that leads us to the question is ‘Love Kraft any good? In short the answer has to be yes, ‘Love Kraft’ is rapidly becoming one of my favourite Super Furries albums with nary a weak song. The album starts with the sound of water splashing as a nameless somebody slips into the pool. This sets the tone for the album with relaxed chilled low tempo numbers ruling the roost. ‘Zoom’ arrives on the scene languorously with a lovely Rhodes style melody line meandering its way through the song. Gruff sounding typically laidback secure in the knowledge that he’s written yet another killer hook laden chorus. As the Super Furries have got more experienced as band, and as unit playing together they’ve got better at layering their sound. Zoom demonstrates this in abundance with the relatively Rhodes and guitar line of the beginning being layered with strings, then choral accompaniment….then comes the brass. Few bands would have the sonic nous to get away with this.

‘Atomik Lust’ reprises the country rock influences of Phantom Power with Gruff sounding the plaintive cowboy backed by Beatles style horns. This is a very catchy little number punctuated by Amon Duul II style noise-outs and squelching moogs. This song perhaps demonstrates how skilled the band have got a fusing genre’s and styles into a cohesive whole and what masters they are of the build-up and breakdown within an individual song.

‘The Horn’ makes me think of Neil Young’s ‘After The Goldrush’ with its simple circular melody irresistibly nagging away at you coupled with a waltzing 3/4 time signature create a ramshackle sound. This song evokes watching western’s on a Saturday afternoon, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne.

‘Ohio Beat’ picks up the tempo slightly, not to a large degree but in a way that’s agreeable yet fits in with the rest of the album. Gentle acoustic guitar strums complement Gruff’s voice well giving a smooth sonic backdrop for the song to work it’s magic. Another song that’s defined by the smooth layering and a gradual build-up of lush sonic detail. ‘Ohio Beat’ by it’s sheer intricate construction resembles a kind of perpetual melodic motion machine, cycling but never stopping fooling the listener into thinking it’ll go on forever. Possibly one of the best song’s that the Super Furries have ever written

‘Lazer Beam’ is where the band leaves the beach and hits the club, squelching moogs make a welcome reappearance along with Bee Gees style choruses and Daft Punk style vocoder abuse. Alternately Stevie Wonder and classic disco are brought to mind along with the Super Furries perennial obsession with mid seventies MOR rock a la ELO and 10cc. This song will become that most horrible of things an indie disco hit with the student hordes be afraid people!

‘Frequency’ is an excellent song dropping down a gear after the exertions of the previous two songs. Sun kissed Cali-style rock bumps along with rather excellent string backing which has been a constant through-out this album. Another lazy melody and well written chorus top this all off.

‘Psyclone’ is built on dance music’s foundations, looped Timbalandesque cod-eastern R n’ B drum lines bump into jangling honky-tonk pianos and rattling tabla lines. The wonderfully orchestrated strings deployed with a lightness of touch enhance the song no end. The song has a ghost-like quality to it bringing to mind ‘Blue Lines’ era massive attack and fellow Bristolian Tricky.

‘Cloudberries’ show’s the gentle reflective side of the band with Gruff sounding mournful and melodically downcast. Just as you start worrying they’ve turned into Coldplay the song mutates typically into a light bossa-nova number to tap your toe to, then taking a sharp right turn into droning choral style terroritory before stopping. Unlike previous albums this is executed very smoothly and although unexpected does not jar in any way.

This album is very much worth getting one of the best things that the band have ever done, a summation, a synthesis and an apotheosis of their unique sound…go get.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Late Feudal Theme Park Opening in Hanworth Norfolk!(Complete with revolting peasants or your money back!). Contact your nearest Judge for further deta

Forget contract feudalism who said the old variety was dead. A case in point being the Hon Robert Harbord-Hamond, youngest son of the 11th Baron of Suffield who recently tried to assert some various dubious property rights over a local village green. This distant descendant of William the Conqueror following in fine family tradition by trying to expropriate yet more common land from the peasantry. Like the supposedly extinct coelacanth this land dispute is a living fossil from which it is possible to see the origins of modern land disputes and the nature of statist property rights and how they act as the building blocks upon which modern capitalism rests. While also pointedly reminding us that Britain is very much not a classless society.

The villagers have asserted their right to own this land in common and use it for their own purposes, while the land owner in contrast like many of his ilk before him sees it as a resource to which he has prior claim. Now any good anarchist or libertarian socialist, unlike the vulgar libertarian flacks would see this attempt by the landowner to appropriate yet more land as inherently unfair and exploitative and as a blatant attempt by the landowner to ignore the prior common claims to the land. Like a pathetic reprise of the great enclosures of the 16th century he tried to fence his way round the property, to which the commons committee was not amused. This story unsurprisingly got a small mention in the Guardian and no further comment in the newspaper in a whole, despite what I see as its importance in illustrating how property rights of the past inform the present.

What this interesting and unusual case does is remind us of the origins of the modern distribution of land in the UK and the ancient conflicts and struggles that have shaped this distribution of the land. It also reminds us of how the ownership of land has always been a concern of the powerful and how it continues to animate their concerns. Possession of land like most assets translates into political power and influence, the aristocracy like large companies and governments have not forgotten this fact. After all they’re not making anymore of it, as the ole’ georgists say!

The majority of people in the UK are oblivious the historical iniquities that seem frozen in time around, it’s perfectly natural to accept the layout of the landscape and division of the land as ‘natural’ or as the result of inexorable economic forces over which we have little influence. This would be mistake and any socialist worth his salt would argue that had certain events gone one way or another things might be very different today(the enclosures being a case in point). Being a materialist doesn’t make one a determinist let alone a pessimist.

Land distribution is the result of deliberate decisions and deliberate exploitation of changing circumstances. As Kevin Carson points out in his splendid class analysis of the transition from feudalism to state-capitalism the people who expropriated the land from the peasantry were the usual suspects who used this transition to extend and strengthen their own power. The mechanics of exploitation may change but the kinds of people doing it have remained pretty much the same. The Baron’s son being a beautiful example of this demonstrating how the aristocracy retain old reflexes and habits when it comes to dealing with the ‘rabble’.

Luckily the Norfolk villages faced the baron’s son down and he has stated that he will be not defending the case in the court. Whether the bad publicity got the better of him or he had a sudden attack of conscience it is a good result for villagers and should alert us all to how the past as so often in this country can become the present.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Beowulf Returns

After acquiring a shiny new laptop I'm back to regular blogging so expect to find a few posts by myself in the next few days.