Peeping Tom, Declan O'Rourke & Rodrigo Y Gabriela
Publisher: Shock Records
Mon, 26 June 2006
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"Eclectic" is a fun word to say and also the best one to describe the range of CDs Buttonhole receives for review from the mighty Shock. We really get a great variety of sounds, which suits me perfectly, because I prefer to listen to all kinds of styles.
This is actually the first music review I've done here at Buttonhole. I previously thought it'd be best to leave at least one section up to everyone else on the team, especially since there was so much enthusiasm from others to do CD reviews initially. But, you know how it is, right? Life can get in the way, enthusiasms can be short lived and if you leave things up to others, they probably aren't going to get done. So, from now on you'll just have to suffer from even more Sammy overkill, as I'll be getting stuck into our music section as well. Don't worry though, Hatchy will still be contributing regular music reviews, Assistant Editor Ninja has already provided a few, Tino (our new guy) will be doing some soon and the other crew will chip in now and then - so you won't have to put up with only reading me.
For my music section debut I decided to go with the whole eclectic theme. So here are reviews of three of my recent favourites from Shock Records, which are all completely different to each other (and rather different to most else of what's out there right now too). Spin that wheel, Mister DJ:
Peeping Tom (self titled)
Faith No More was one of my favourite bands as a teen and (though they've long since broken up) I'm still rather partial to them now. I probably saw them live more than any other act and every show was excellent. They were rather ahead of their time with their sound in many ways, especially on the Angel Dust album (in my opinion their best record).
One of the various standout elements to the band was its front man, Mike Patton. He has a huge amount of charisma, he's very attractive (I know because, for one thing, it is pretty easy to notice even for a hetero dude like myself, and secondly, many females have made this fact extremely clear to me) and most importantly he has a great voice. He's also always been a bit of a weirdo, which appeals to me as well.
Along with his Faith No More work, Patton's been involved in numerous other bands and side projects over the years too; Mr. Bungle and Tomahawk being a couple of examples. The latest recording to feature Mike's vocals is this self titled debut from Peeping Tom. It has been getting quite a bit of attention and is being billed everywhere as Patton's "most accessible work since his Faith No More days". For once though, the PR line is pretty spot on, because I'd have to say that's true. If, however, you're thinking that means he's gone all commercial and "poppy" you needn't fret. I mean, come on, as if Mike fuckin' Patton would ever stoop to that level. This is a rich, interesting record and still unusual enough to be worthy of Patton's name. But it is fair to assume that many Faith No More fans are going to be stoked with this one, because this is certainly the closest to that sound we've heard from Mike since they split.
Peeping Tom's debut recording features many guest stars: Norah Jones and Massive Attack, on the tracks Sucker and Kill The DJ respectively, being probably the best known examples. Unlike some guest-heavy CDs though, Peeping Tom maintains a coherent and consistent vibe as a complete album, rather than sounding like a bunch of songs that don't belong with each other all forced together.
The album has a mellower feel to it than most Patton fans have likely grown accustomed to in recent times, such as his far heavier work with the likes of Fantômas, but it isn't lacking energy. If you're looking for screaming guitar licks, though, you'll have to go elsewhere. The drum and bass (and vocals of course) are generally the focus here, with a bit of the old scratching thrown in for good measure. Actually, Peeping Tom would make for a sweet party CD.
Patton hasn't lost his acid tongue and dark sense of humour either, as evidenced by this line from track 3, Don't Even Trip (probably my favourite song on the album):
"You're still a piece of shit,
But I can look the other way,
Because you're still my friend"
9.5/11 I'm not sure what genre I'm supposed to shove this one into. It has elements of numerous styles. I will just say that, as far as I am concerned, Peeping Tom is the new Faith No More.
Declan O'Rourke: Since Kyabram
Pop this sucker on, sip away on some Guinness and pretty soon your Irish eyes will be smiling. What a lovely surprise this one turned out to be. Apparently Declan O' Rourke has been getting some pretty rave press for a while now, but I've not been keeping up too well with all that in recent months, so I was unaware of him. I just figured I'd give the Irish git a spin, and then move on to the next one. After that first play through, I thought maybe it deserved another go. Then, from the second listen on, well, I haven't stopped spinning it yet.
This is a folk record. Now that I've said that, I'll just wait for a second while all the metal fans and younger readers leave. All gone now? Cool. Yep, Since Kyabram is essentially a folk record and a damn good one it is too. I really dig some folk music, which has stemmed from my love of Bob Dylan (since he started off as a folk artist, though I prefer his work from just after he moved away from it), but it needs certain qualities to win me over fully. First and foremost, since the songs are usually telling a story of sorts, the lyrics have to be good. Declan O'Rourke seems to live up to the Irish poet cliché well; the dude knows how to put words together (though there are a couple of misfires).
He also has a voice that the accompanying Press Release describes as "like chocolate flowing down an iron roof". What the fuck does that mean? I have no idea, I've never tried pouring chocolate down an iron roof and listening intently to the sound it makes. But, if they mean his voice suits his style of music well (and let's just say they do, otherwise we'll be here all day trying to figure it out) they are correct. Old Cadbury throat O'Rourke's voice has a slightly rugged edge to it, which allows him to get away with singing some words that might otherwise sound a touch too...dainty. It is strong and pleasant enough to carry the songs, while still being agreeably rough around the edges. He sustains notes well and has a decent range, along with possessing a skill for enunciatiton and phrasing.
Some of the tracks on Since Kyabram, like No Brakes, move close to pop/rock territory, rather than "pure" folk (if there is such a thing) with some really catchy hooks. I believe this will allow the album to have a wider appeal. Even those people who left earlier in this review might be able to dig some of it, if they gave it half a chance to grow on them (and I believe it does take a couple of listens for that to happen). Speaking of No Brakes, a few of my favourite lines on the CD come from the opening verse of that song:
"Girl do you know what you mean to me,
Or where you come in in my one two threes?
Can you tell what I think when it's you that I see,
Or how I might feel?"
Another of my favourites (despite the clichéd title), Love Is The Way, features a very pretty string arrangement. I can't actually see that song, or the CD as a whole, being too many Buttonhole reader's cups of tea, but I like it. However, there are a couple of songs on here, like Marrying The Sea - Til Death Do Us Part, that only work if you're in the right mood for them and otherwise tend to drag.
Declan O'Rourke - Since Kyabram is one of those CDs that I enjoy a little more with each listen. What I like most about it is that it always manages to put me in a good mood. It isn't exactly a joyful or exuberant record, but for me it has a calming effect of sorts.
8.0/11 This would be a suitable album to put on while you have a nice romantic dinner and a bottle of red (do people still do that?). Or you could play it as you indulge in a few pints of that aforementioned Guinness with a mate and engage in deep and meaningful discussions, solving all the troubles of the universe.
Rodrigo Y Gabriela (self titled)
From Ireland, to Mexico - at least it should be a bit warmer. As a matter of fact, "warm" is a pretty appropriate adjective for this CD. Warm, vibrant, uplifting - you get the drift. Oh, but wait a minute...according to the Press Release in front of me, Rodrigo Y Gabriela are actually an Irish act as well! Still, while they do now reside in Ireland, I believe they are originally from Mexico. Pesky bastards, nearly ruined my intro paragraph.
Rodrigo Y Gabriela is an instrumental recording (meaning it has no vocals, for any dim-witted types who stumbled into Buttonhole by mistake and haven't managed to find their way out yet), which blends together all kinds of influences. Mix Flamenco, Jazz, Rock, Folk and more together and you could easily wind up with a big ugly mess. But, in Rodrigo Y Gabriela's case, you get something special and a kick arse album.
A duo of guitar maestros, Rodrigo plays the lead while Gabriella brings the rhythm. They handle all of the songs, even providing the beats with their acoustic guitars. The CD also features some intoxicating violin work by Roby Lakatos on one of the standout tracks called Ixtapa.
Another song sure to grab many listeners' attention would be Rodrigo Y Gabriela's version of Stairway to Heaven. It is considered comedic, just how many people have covered that Led Zeppelin tune ("No stairway!? Denied!"- Wayne's World), but I don't think anybody will be laughing at this version. It is a unique take on an old standard and they've certainly made it their own. They have also been known to bust out Metalica songs (One) in concert, according to the info I read.
The Special Edition of this CD I received for review comes with a bonus DVD which has, as the Shock website puts it: "Bountiful live footage, interviews and even guitar tutorials!" I must say, the DVD is an excellent extra and I thoroughly recommend purchasing the package that includes it. I'm glad that it is slowly getting more common to pack a DVD in with an album and I wish more CDs did that.
"Pleasant" often equates to rather boring, but I don't mean it that way when I say that Rodrigo Y Gabriela is a very pleasant CD. You don't even have to worry about pissing your parents off with this one (though, if you're a teenager, that's probably more of a detraction). It is easy to listen to, but not in a dull way.
I said that Declan O'Rorke's album would be good for a romantic dinner and Peeping Tom is a good party record. Well, this bad boy would go over well at a BBQ. Play it on a nice sunny day with friends (with some Corona and lemon wedges perhaps?) while you cook a few snags on the barby. 8.5/11
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