I have listened to your new album 'The Gods' a number of times now. I have also been reading a book about Don Simpson, the legendary and vice-addled Hollywood producer who is responsible for inventing the 'high-concept' movie (think Top Gun through to Con Air). He pulled no punches, and my comments are inspired by his philosophy.
|The Original Don, Simpson|
In terms of the material, I was immediately taken by a number of real choice cuts. Real powerhouse summer blockbuster soundtrack tunes. Songs you could hear the babysitter next-door singing, songs that could make you a lot of money, songs that could make you a real someone…
At the same, though, there was also a lot of flab, a lot of weak creative shit. In particular, 'Popular Little Street' struck me as a lazy and rambling exercise in sub-Albarn world music holiday guff. I suggest that it be kept back for the true fans to find in horror at a later date, perhaps buried deep in a 'warts and all' retrospective. That shit won’t sell.
The real problem is a bigger one. YOU HAVE NO STORY! This is the worst mistake you can make…
People want something to follow, guys. They want to hear about a boy who grew up without a father, and then had his life turned around by some tough love from a male authority figure, like a cop or something. What are you selling these people? How are you gonna take them away from their day to day bullshit? There is just such a diversity of themes and styles on the album, and this makes finding a clear narrative arc quite difficult.
I hope you appreciate my feedback. In the meantime, I'll invoice you for my efforts.
A Mean Salmon
|A Mean Salmon|
A smooth and lively song with a contemporary edge, and this makes it a perfect opener. The DIY vocal effect in the chorus is gonna make you famous.
2. I DON’T DO DRUGS (I JUST HAVE FUN)
A party classic whose upbeat tempo and funky keys continue the vibe of 'Trending' but ratchet things up a notch or two. This will be a hit at all drug parties.
|I don't do drugs, I just make cheese|
This is one of the standout tracks on the album, combining a classic 'Good Living' sound with an even sharper use of arrangement. It is the song I'd give the girl who's got it all. I think it follows 'Drugs' well with its fruity backups, but it also introduces a new sombre note, which might serve as an effective bridge into the less overtly happy material to follow.
That said, the outro is too long. It is expertly paced on its own terms, but its length does risk relegating the track to late on in the album, which would be a real pity given how strong the actual songwriting component of the track is. If you wanna do yourself a favour, you’re gonna want to shorten it so that it can be brought forward without disrupting the pace of the album.
4. WHAT CAN YOU GIVE A GIRL WHO'S GOT IT ALL?
With a shorter outro 'The Queen' would flow smoothly into ‘The Girl Who’s Got It All'. The guest vocals immediately help signify a change a gear, and the steady 1980s sound and melody carry the listener through to a plateau that has been prepared for in the preceding tracks. This is where things start to get real.
5. SAN PELLEGRINO
The immediate use of piano and drums here lull the listener into thinking that everything is back to normal, but the first signs of dissonance on the guitar set the scene for the eventual reversal in both lyrical and musical content. You like your holiday and your pesto pasta, but you're coming home...
This is one of the more sensitive songs on the album, and I think it follows well from the admission about holidays and good living that emerges in 'San Pellegrino'.
My first impression was that this was a stodgy and ugly piece of shit. I also wondered why the vocals were so bellowy. Was it a conceptual experiment? Kill the artist. Anyway, I eventually found myself humming the chorus, so the songwriting is actually good. I have positioned it here because the harmonica gives us a way into the harder material.
8. SHED A FEW LAYERS
A real winner, combining speed, snarl, and smart take on the ritualistic release of rock club revelry. A million bucks. A day.
9. HOW WE USE OUR BRAND
I don't understand this song. The melodies are really good in parts (such as the choruses, where 'it's all a waste of time'), but it doesn't really hang together. It is just too disjointed in every possible way. Again, maybe it is meant to be a high concept thing, but I wouldn't turn this into a movie.
|How we use our family brand|
A weird but good one ... I see splashes of melody and harmony periodically blinding an uneasy and threatening donkey.
11. POPULAR LITTLE STREET
This street will never be popular.
12. SAN PELLEGRINO (REPRISE)
A good movie ends with an image that remains like a splinter in the mind of viewer. You have to stab them in the ear.