Sunday, 15 September 2013

Bastille Day

After I discovered that EDM was a thing and that I had been waiting for this for most of my life I went looking around to see what else was out there. I found Archive, about whom I have previously written, and couldn't believe that I was not already aware of them (they've been going for ages). Anna had previously sent me a rather cool song that mixed Haddaway's What is Love? with Adagio for Strings from Platoon. I liked it and played the hell out of it, duh. But then I wondered about the artist, Bastille, had he done more mash-ups like this?

Apparently, he had, because he had released an album called Other Peoples' Heartache. I looked, I was busy, and I was intrigued but then left alone whilst I indulged with Parralox and Archive a little more, enjoying the strict electronic stylings of this eminently familiar (to me) EDM and how much it mixed and matched with the latest Pet Shop Boys album Electric (and why haven't you bought that yet? Because you should, you really really should, and you won't regret it!). Anyway, I went looking again.

I was not disappointed.

Would you like the full horror?

I discovered that he had, in fact, done two mash up albums: Other People's Heartache Parts I and II. I shall forgive him the totally awful faux pas of using Roman numerals to denote numbers rather than cardinal counts (so as 1 and 2 rather than as 'the first' and 'the second') because his lyrical skill shows he has a way with words that allows him to break rules. Also, I'm not entirely certain that he has broken rules, I suspect that there is much to the work that I don't get. However, there are some potential bum-notes where I can't tell if he's being sarcastic or not.

First track then, Adagio for Strings.

The use of the dialogue from Platoon is very clever as it winds up neatly to the title track and does not prepare you for the sudden veering off into nineties dance music. If there could be more mixes made of nineties hits with those drums then I would be a very happy bunny and would have spontaneously combust in happiness generally. It works, it really works. The heavy drums and the plaintive lyrics leave me in just the right level of melancholy where I can avoid sadness and instead enjoy the beauty of the words all the more.

This leads to What would you do? which is where I am a little confused. If you listen to the song itself then it appears to be a very heart-rending tale of a down-on-her-luck mother and a ruminating on the inequalities of the sex trade and how it demeans women. However, there is a part of the song where he seems to suggest that the problems are all down to the woman of the piece. She retaliates, explaining the darkness of her childhood and how that has helped limit her choices, and then he has a go again. I can't tell if he is in fact having a go at women who give up, suggesting the empowerment of choice is, well, powerful and life-changing or if he is somehow cheapening the experiences "that you can't even relate to" in the words of the song. Meh, it's a song that has me tearing up because I have a Boy too and the thought of him crying and hungry does that to me. Like Threads I suppose, being a parent messes you up.

Then there's Requiem for Blue Jeans which seems to be an original song to the tune of Requiem for a dream and that is cleverly done. I have waxed lyrical about my love of violins and electric music before, and this track seems to have been deliberately made to bring me out to a full eargasm of joy. Listening to it in the car on the long journey home and back to work makes me feel on top of the world. I can lose myself in this sort of track and just let it pluck the strings of my being as long as it likes. It's not my favourite of the double album, but it is very good nevertheless.

Following that we enter an homage to trance in the nineties that I simply cannot help but love. It is my youth and it is a few years when I was in the music scene, it is what I missed at the time and also what I lived. It is essentially love, in many ways. The mixing of Rhythm of the Night and Rhythm is a Dancer seems to make so much sense now that I've heard it but was never something I would have considered otherwise. And his voice is actually a good fit for the lyrics of Corona, yes, I remember you Corona and I kind of miss your sassiness. But this fella does a good job of turning it from candy-dance into something that feels like it ought to have a heavier and more deep meaning. The quotes and the film sections that abound on the album probably help create the milieu too.

The next track, Titanium wins points with me because I was able to identify the quotes from Mulholland Drive without having to look them up. Still a confusing film that I know I never properly understood but it works well enough here. However, it is not one of my favourite tracks and I tend to skip this when driving if I am in the mood to actually listen rather than simply drive. I mean, it works well enough with that backing guitar loop and the subtle drums, but it's not my cup of tea. I don't drink tea. Well, that explains a lot, don't it?

Love Don't Live Here is a nice track. Sometimes I can fall all the way into it and love it and sometimes I just can't be bothered and end up skipping to other scenes. And the track doesn't mind, it's still there when I come back later. I don't hate it, I don't want to eat it and it's all good. It's actually two tracks in one, the first is a standard cover with some clever little flourishes on the electric keyboard and the second is a hard hitting rap with a rather clever little chorus ("Love don't live here/and if you break mah heart/then blood gon' spill here") that I find myself singing along to tunelessly but with a smile on my face. The use of rap on the album is a good one and one that makes me remember why it was such a big thing back in, well you guessed it, the nineties.

I'm not a great fan of Falling. The film quote is too overblown and I'm sure I should know what it's from but I don't. I guess being a parent means that it doesn't resonate with me as much as it perhaps does with those people who are not parents. However, it could also be down to that homage to Twin Peaks which I never saw and I never really got into. As a consequence that background music simply evokes long drives in hot summer sun with my parents who had it on an instrumental tape, all of the songs on which I feel were overplayed so much that I found I could never really enjoy them. Also, the song is very much a 'last track' and fades out too quickly. I want the album to carry on, so part of my dislike for the song may simply be the child in me crying at the fact that the music is nearly finished.

However, luckily for that child in me, there is a second part. And this is just awesome. The second track is where I shall start because the first is just a mash up of the first album, well worth a listen but probably not a good candidate for being torn apart and reviewed. So, this second track, Killer, was one of the songs that I loved in my youth - it is angry and eco-minded. So that's going for it. The distortion of the lyrics and voices works for me and the horns in the background mean that you can crank this baby up and still get on and work on books or something while feeling oh so clever and rebellious in that wonderful way that you can when you are older and less wise than you were in your youth. It's just irrepressible.

This track is sad and makes me want to cry. And I never thought I would say that about a track that is covering No Scrubs. We're all of us trapped.

This one is a good use of a track that I refuse to believe I only know from Kill Bill. The call-back to Vietnam war films works for me too, for many years I would teach the media response to Vietnam (rather than the war itself) and I would use Full Metal Jacket and Platoon and so having them both used on the double album means that I find them like bookends. Also, the sudden pounding of booted feet appeals to my apocalyptic style and preferences.

Forever Ever may be the best track of all time. I love it. I love the story in the lyrics and the way they are expressed. I love the fact that it covers the Fugees and Enya all at once and deliberately plays to both of the tracks rather than simply suggest an urban link to the Fugees or a Celtic link to Enya. I am indebted to the Fugees for showing me the track from Enya, whom I ought to have had the original from before then but never looked. Anyway, that humming background and the use of synth over the top with a rap track that tells such a sad story means it is lovely. It is a track that I could happily stick on repeat for, well, ever. These are the days that bind us/together/forever/these little things define us/forever/forever.

Then there's the song that I loved when the Corrs did it. I was less a fan of the Fleetwood Mac original and I suspect that this has more to do with the Corrs than it does Fleetwood Mac. I love Fleetwood Mac, by the way, I just liked the cover better than the original. And this stripped back version with just a very simple musical accompaniment that turns it into a duet appeals to that part me that liked the Corrs. It is mournful without being soul destroying and sad without being depressing. It is good stuff and strong too. This won't stand a repeat on its own, it needs friends to fully appreciate the nature of the backing being so bare and simplistic, but it nevertheless a good track and I like it at the end of what comes before. These have been well thought out order wise and I get the feeling that the second part of the album does this better than the first, like Bastille was warming to his task and got a better run at this part than the first.

That said, the next track is not a keeper for me. Too much xylophone at the beginning gives way to something that, well, it doesn't do it for me.

Then there's this masterpiece. I don't know how one mashes up Private Dancer with Everybody's Free but this is a pretty good way of doing it. He really milks the bitterness of Tina Turner, which is often missing when the song is played or sung along to, and this works for. There's a raw call here, to revolution and to violence and to anger and to despair. It speaks to that part of me that would quite like to watch the world burn and society be ripped apart. It is a revolutionary song, it goes alongside a number of others that I would blast to gain a following from atop the barricades. It is a banner waving song, the middle switch is what does it, along with the return of those heavy synth drums that remind me of the brilliant live version of Integral fading into Building a Wall by the Pet Shop Boys.

Then there's the American Beauty paean with Kevin Spacey being Kevin Spacey. I think watching K-PAX earlier in the week helped me to enjoy this particular track. Tortured synth further helps the track avoid being doldrums after the one that precedes it (and how do you follow that anyway?). Nothing to write home about but it does for driving or working, background music that can quite happily occupy centre stage if you need it to. An understudy of a track with plenty of leading lights!

The next two tracks ought to be played together. And I have no words.

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